Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Faith is like electricity. You can’t see it, but you can see the light. November 28, 2008

So I’ve just started reading the book, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” A few unrelated people mentioned it, and the ideas got stuck in my head. Before I knew it, I was on Amazon putting it into the shopping cart. I’ve only gotten through the first couple chapters, but already it’s quite clear that the author is a major advocate of an idea she calls “morning pages.”

Get up each morning – every morning – and write three pages in your own handwriting. They can be about anything so long as it’s three pages. And if you have nothing to say, you can write “I have nothing to say” over and over until you fill three pages.

That’s a little bit how I feel today.

I have nothing to say.

I have nothing to say.

I have nothing to say.

On the other hand, I haven’t started my morning pages process yet, so (in theory) starting tomorrow I will blow your little mind with the intensely creative and amazing things I will have to share. Allegedly.

I also must warn you that I am (for reasons unknown) entering into yet another ‘out there’ period of my life. I have been ‘out there’ more than once,  but I always seem to gravitate back to the (boring and predictable, but non-strange and thus strangely comforting) middle. The norm. However, the mere fact that I felt compelled to purchase “Mastering Remote Viewing – Remote Viewing, Third Eye, & Astral Projection” should serve as fair warning that my interests are once again moving toward the fringe.

I have a real love/hate relationship with the fringe. I love the idea that there’s magic in the world and so many things that we cannot easily perceive or sense or know, but that can be accessed if only we knew how. I love the idea that we’re all here with a purpose and to some extent the meaning of our lives is to discover and uncover our gifts in order to share them with the world.

At the same time, I hate that I have no proof. Nor does anyone else. I can’t see it or touch it or validate it beyond a shadow of a doubt. To believe in ‘the other’ (any other, really. Including that widely accepted by milliions) requires faith. And faith requires courage.

That stated, I am nothing if not a courageous soul. So I think in the end my curiosity will win out. I may never gain infallible proof, and I may end up believing in things that other people regard as kooky or even nuts, but a little mystery keeps it interesting. And if it turns out that there really is a whole magical world out there? What a wonderful ride that would be…

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Sleep habits of the disenchanted November 20, 2008

So when I first got home from Turkey, I was widly jet-lagged and fighting to stay awake at 2pm.

Now the pendulum has swung dramatically the other way. I’m going to bed at 2am and rising at the equivalent of 7pm Istanbul time. What a difference three weeks makes.

Stepping back and looking at the situation objectively, I think I’m suffering the effects of no job, no schedule, and no real responsibilities. It’s fun for a few weeks, but there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that would like to see me get my @ss in gear and develop a plan for managing my time.

Part of the problem is that I can dick around like nobody’s business. If there were a “who can waste the most time surfing the internet” competition, I could very possibly take home of the gold. Ditto for channel surfing, magazine flipping through, phone chatting, book skimming, and dog tug of warring. Alas, this is not how best selling novels are created (at least I doubt it), so starting next week I am developing a time management schedule and sticking to it! And calling all the people I need to call! And writing back to all the people I need to write! And commencing my plan for world domination!

To quote the famous time management expert Alan Lakein, “Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life.”   Amen to that.

 

Things that make running a marathon look easy November 4, 2008

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.”  John Steinbeck

 

 

This is where I’m at with respect to writing a novel in one month. Except less positive and more in touch with the ‘sick sense of failure.’

 

 

Thus, to motivate myself through this ‘adventure,’ I’ve combined Mr. Steinbeck’s wisdom with that of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Starship Enterprise. My mission statement has come out a little something like this:

Focus on one day at a time, explore strange new worlds, and boldly go where no wo/man has gone before…or die trying.

 

 

I printed it out and stuck it on the bathroom mirror, but if that doesn’t provide sufficient oomph, I may have to move on to writing myself a manifesto. A manifesto that can hopefully be worked into the book so as to satisfy the quantity of writing required for the day. Or a manifesto so long it becomes the book. Like the Communist Manifesto, but without the words bourgeois and proletarian. And with a philosophy wherein I still get to keep some private property, like my dog and my clothes. And that doesn’t require me to emulate a crazy Karl Marx hairdo (acknowledging that barring the unexpected, I cannot grow a beard.)

 

 

And now you see how I can spend two hours in mock debate with myself or digressing about things that have nothing to do with anything and not writing the great American (or whoever will have it) novel.

 

 

Who came up with this NaNoWriMo thing anyway? And why did I think it was a good idea? It’s like a marathon…except much, much longer. With a marathon, at least you know that in five hours you’re either done or you’re going to be hit by a car when they open the course to traffic, which will render you done.  

 

But like any ‘no pain, no gain’ discipline, I acknowledge that it’s unlikely that I will smoothly transition to a successful writing career if I don’t actually write. That only happens if you’re a celebrity with nothing to say, and they probably give you a ghost writer anyway. However, once in a while, they don’t, as evidenced by these horrifying attempts at ‘poetry’ I found while Googling “celebrity books bad.”

From Charlie Sheen’s poetry book, A Peace of My Mind:

…Teacher, teacher, I don’t understand,

You tell me it’s like the back of my hand.

Should I play guitar and join the band?

Or head to the beach and walk in the sand?


Ouch. Can poetry actually hurt you or did my appendix just burst?

Suzanne Somers chose free verse for her book of poems called Touch Me. If you thought the internal monologue of the woman behind the Thighmaster might be interesting, this poem sets you straight:

Organic girl dropped by last night

For nothing in particular

Except to tell me again how beautiful and serene she feels

On uncooked vegetables and wheat germ fortified by bean sprouts–

Mixed with yeast and egg whites on really big days–

She not only meditates regularly, but looks at me like I should

And lectures me about meat and ice cream

And other aggressive foods I shouldn’t eat.

 

 Who would’ve thought? The mere act of reading this crap has renewed my enthusiasm for my own comparative talent, the NaNoWriMo challenge, and the 26 days remaining…

 

Final nail in the banking coffin November 2, 2008

Back in the civilized world of straightening irons and martinis!

Back in the civilized world of straightening irons, nail polish, warm turtlenecks, and martinis!

I was, as you probably recall, in Santorini on my birthday. That night I was in my room when my Skype ‘rang,’ and a good friend of mine was on the other end. I had to hang out of the window of the room to get a consistent wifi signal, but we still managed to have a fairly lengthy conversation.

Anyway, at some point I remember her saying to me that my talents were elsewhere, and if I tried to go back to banking and my old ways/old career, I would have to answer to her. I love that idea, largely because deep inside I know I am destined to do something else, but I worry that the lure of money and security and even to some degree predictability could serve as a siren song.

That is why I decided to make a little physical change.
In 1992, I went off to college at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) intent on pursuing a marine biology career. Marine Biology, it turns out, does NOT consist of riding around in exotic waters with Jacques Cousteau, so I was quickly disenchanted. UCSC has a wonderful Marine Bio program, but otherwise it’s a big hippie commune filled with all sorts of young people with varying levels of emotional disturbance (present company included).

Thus, and perhaps not surprisingly, all my roommates were getting tattoos – usually very large ones across their back or stomach (which I, in all my practicality yet failure to self-edit, mused aloud as to how bad that would look if the recently tattooed young woman ever got pregnant or just fat.) This was the very early days of what is now the omnipresent ‘young people with tattoos’ trend, although Santa Cruz was probably a little ahead of its time in that regard.

I’m a chicken, and I didn’t feel strongly enough about any animal, vegetable, mineral, or word to get it permanently inked onto my person. However, there was also branding and piercing to choose from, so I took the most reversible course of action and had my nose pierced. I wore a small ring in my nose until my mid-20s when a mix of things (mostly work making me take it out, partly the widespread appearance of similar rings all of the sudden, etc.) caused me to take it out for good.

A few months ago, I realized I finally had a word that meant enough to me to tattoo it (discretely – in white ink and where I can cover it with a watch) onto myself. I suppose this is why I tuned into the number of tattoo/piercing parlors lining Istiklal Street in Istanbul the first day I arrived.

However, to my surprise, I found I still didn’t feel it was time to do the tattoo but rather I felt compelled to have my nose pierced again. This is partially because I always liked it and thought it suited me, partly because it can always be ‘undone’ if you change your mind for some reason, and mostly because bankers and banking consultants don’t have shiny things in their right nostril. It was – and now it is – a line in the sand between that world and me. The final nail in the banking consultant coffin.

Granted, I could have gone really extreme and had puzzle pieces tattooed onto my face, but scaring children isn’t really my bag, and I don’t want to drive nails into EVERY career out there. I mean, what’s left when you turn yourself into the guy from Hell Raiser? Circus Freak? Total digression: Do you remember that ad for some kind of phone service where people think that now that they have the service, phone conversations will go differently? And some guy tattooed with big stripes head to toe is calling an Asian man who says, “Sorry Roger. You tiger now.” Every time I saw that, it cracked me up.

Anyway, a Turkish man who spent time in Australia (so his English was very good, but the accent nearly unfathomable) did the piercing for me on Tuesday night. It’s subtle, but if you enlarge today’s picture, you can see it. It has been healing well, despite the questionable mix of products used to clean it.

Yesterday I learned that the clear fluid I am to use several times a day to wipe it down is sold in the U.S. as nasal spray. The pharmacist told me I could boil water and put a little salt in it, and it’s the same thing. Nice.

In their defense, I also have Betadine – the orange stuff they put on skin before doing surgery. If you’ve ever had a pet spayed (or any other major surgery), their whole belly comes home covered in the stuff. That at least actually qualifies as medicine of some sort.

Anyway, as I mentioned, from day one it’s healed remarkably, and that’s probably why I didn’t think it through when I got a facial yesterday. The weirdest part about that, is that I woke up ‘practicing’ explaining that the pierce was new to someone who didn’t speak very good English. When I realized what I was doing, I caught myself thinking, “That’s crazy. You’re back in America. You don’t have to go through all that any more.”

But I spoke too soon. Irina, the lovely woman who did my facial, is Russian and so-so on the English. Although she seemed to understand me, she managed to pull the thing out of my poor nose THREE times during the initial face wash. Holy crap!

It got worse from there. This is really gross, and not a feature of facials that I enjoy (and may come as a horrifying shock to the men out there), but part of a facial is that they clear your blackheads. Manually. Like in a manner that they tell you NOT to do when you’re a teenager. And it hurts. And it REALLY hurts when someone spies one 2mm from your brand new piercing and goes to town contorting your nose in 300 excruciatingly painful directions.

Tears rolling down my face, I finally had to tell her rather ferociously that we were DONE over there. No more touching the right side of my nose for ANY REASON. If it bursts into flames – don’t touch it. If a small alien pops out of the nostril – don’t touch it. If the voice of God booms into the room and commands you to touch it – DO NOT TOUCH IT.

The facial proceeded without further incident. I went home, and was a little freaked out, but I cleaned up with the nasal spray and Betadine and all is once again well. And although there may be banks – or at least a liberal credit union or two – that would still have me despite the pierce, in my own mind it serves as a further commitment to changing my life and finding a way to make a living at something creative. Plus – I think – it’s cute.

 

Time zone!? I refuse to bow to your fascist time zone system November 1, 2008

I don’t even care that you’re turning the clocks back on me an additional hour. I ENJOY the fact that my body thinks it’s bedtime at noon. I PREFER to feel like a zombie and sleep only four or five hours a night. Isaac Newton only slept four hours a night. And Michaelangelo. And he was a genius. Sure, he lived and slept in the same clothes day after day after day and was legendarily stinky. Who has time to shower up when you’ve got masterpieces to release from stone?

Speaking of masterpieces, today is the first day of November. Which also means its the first day of NaNoWriMo. Which also means I should spend some time starting my novel. However, I’m still easing my way back into ‘the real world’ which has made me wildly unproductive. Do you have any idea how many clothes I have!?!? A lot. And accordingly, copious amounts of time can be spent leafing through them and picking out the perfect outfit. And combine that with washing my hair and applying the wide variety of lotions and potions at my disposal, and it’s mid-afternoon before I even get out of the house. Color me shocked, but I kind of miss the simplicity of living out of a little backpack. When your options are limited, you’re a hell of a lot more efficient.

In the same vein, and without a doubt, the primary challenge of the upcoming month will be maintaining my focus and putting a consistent effort toward getting my writing career off the ground. One of the key instincts I have is to do something every day – be it send an e-mail, place a call, mail off a short story, or attempt to assert some Jedi mind-control over Oprah. If I succeed, I promise to use her for good, not evil. Like adopting orphans with physical disabilities and putting my novel in her book club. That stated, if she starts robbing banks or selling plutonium to the North Koreans, it’s not me. I swear.

As for doing a 180 and crafting a career from, well, hope and a prayer, if anyone has any advice or input in this regard, I’m all ears. For many years I worked from home, so drive and discipline aren’t a problem for me…it’s spending my time on stuff that will actually (possibly) be fruitful. Or maybe I could conduct my writing like improv comedy? Everybody contribute some words and plot twists, and I’ll write you a story from it! If you what you would pick for your last meal if you were on death row and thus able to accurately predict your last meal.

In the meantime, I need to go chug a few espressos, watch a horror movie, and take a cold shower in order to convince my body clock that it’s not half past midnight. Wish me luck!

 

It’s always good to have a backup plan October 27, 2008

In case you were starting to worry about my job prospects based on my faith based plan to transition to a writing career, you may be relieved to hear I’ve gotten some alternative offers. Saturday I received my first marriage proposal of the trip. Should things not work out for me back at home, I have been invited to live out my days running a cheap hotel in Bodrum, Turkey. This arrangement was suggested during the ride to the airport, along with pleas not to leave or to return immediately after the marathon. At first I was offered the role of business partner, and then my impending departure encouraged him to put all the cards on the table. When my young suitor sensed I wasn’t going to go for it, the ante was upped with promises of regular picnics, fishing trips, and all-night clubbing with the hotel guests in the summers. I’ve hit an age where all-night sleeping is WAY more appealing than all-night clubbing, but I guess this is one of those differences that keeps things spicy?

If you think it sounds aggressive – if not preposterous – to propose to a hotel guest you’ve known for less than 24 hours, then you clearly haven’t spent much time in Turkey.

I had heard the men were pushy in their zeal to sell carpets, trinkets, and fish dinners – and they are – but I seem to be attracting an additional level of attention. For those of you that aren’t naturally aggressive and would like to try these moves on the next interesting female you see, I offer this step-by-step outline:

  1. Make eye contact and stare into her eyes as if you are trying to bore into her very soul. Think about pictures you’ve seen of Charlie Manson or Saddam Hussein and try to emulate that semi-insane and super intense ferocity

  2. Continue stare for as long as humanly possible while simultaneously mustering courage for step three

  3. Break the ice with a cheap and easy pick up line. “Where are you from?” is exceedingly popular, but innocuous. You won’t be original, but you probably won’t send her into a high speed run in the other direction. This is also best-directed at someone you’re pretty sure doesn’t live next door. If you want to mix it up, some other options include:

      • Are you from Heaven?
      • I would like to make your holiday better.

      • Do you know this word, “Gorgeous?”

      • My friend and I have a bet. Are you from <<<insert country here>>> (helps if you have a friend)

      • Buy her a mussel from a street vendor (I fell for this one, and that is how I met Octopus Man)

Octopus Man was no doubt the worst of them, although Carpet Man and Blue Mosque Man were contenders. And, in the hopes you will find it entertaining and perhaps educational, I will share the moves and highlight the fumbles.

Carpet Man: 21 or 22 years old – Stopped my friend and I on the street outside a carpet shop in Sultanahmet. We cannot remember if the pickup line had to do with where we were from (my recollection) or “Can you tell me the most famous thing about Turkey?” The latter line was used at some point, and I guessed carpets and then kebap, but the correct answer was “hospitality!” We were then invited in for apple tea (they all try to get you with the apple tea). However on this occasion, my friend seemed open to it (probably the cold and rain as much as anything) so I went along with her.

I sat on the far end of the couch, and left her with the middle, next to him. Other young men emerged from elsewhere in the store or on the street, and wanted to discuss American politics, the U.S. banking system, and how long Slovenia has been on the euro. Carpet Man seemed disgruntled and moved to the other end of the store to look at a newspaper. At some point, the discussion turned to hammams (the Turkish baths), and where we should go.

A voice that sounded like a robot announced, “I give good massage. I give good massage.” Carpet Man was back in the action. “You do not waste your money on hammam. I massage you best.” We declined, and he waved me over, “Come here. I give you massage. You no like, you leave.” Then he tried to get me to go upstairs because “he had something to show me.” Yikes. What am I? 15 years old?

At this point, I was glad I hadn’t drank the tea (which tasted like hot apple cider). I’m such a paranoiac that after one sip I realized that if he’d slipped something in it, I wouldn’t be able to taste it. Then I noticed that my friend had drained hers dry – one of us needed to be sober enough to get us out of there!

The massage offers were endless, and he eventually placed himself on the arm of the couch just inches away from me. “I’ll massage your legs!” he cried out. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m really horribly sore in my thighs…but there’s no amount of sore that would cause me to go for that. We got up, and as we were walking out, he commented that I had very nice legs, grabbed both my calves, and pleaded for us to come back tomorrow.

Critical blunder: Excessive aggressiveness

Blue Mosque Man: early to mid-30s – Approached us as my friend was taking a picture of me in front of the Aya Sofia. “I will make picture for you!” was the ice breaker. He worked through the usual rigmarole (where from, how long here, what have you seen), to which I kept replying that we were in a hurry and thank you very much, but no thank you. Then I went back to trying to pose for the photo.

At this point, Blue Mosque Man (still standing next to my friend) starts saying, “She is very pretty. Don’t you think she is very beautiful?” Uncomfortable photo completed, I tried to get us out of there by mentioning that we were rushing off to the Blue Mosque. He said that we needed to hurry, because it was closing soon.

My friend had been in Istanbul a couple weeks ago and went into the mosque at 7pm, so she vaguely implied that she thought he might be mistaken. From there, he demanded to know why she thought he was lying. As we approached the mosque, I stopped to take a photo. At this point, I was pretty sure I heard him ask, “Where are you from? Are you from Mars?” I took a couple pictures as they walked away together. As I just about caught up to her, he turned around and walked toward me. “Oh great,” I thought…and then he walked right past me without a word. When I caught up to her, he had apparently been incredibly obnoxious and even mean to her! This, I think, only works with women who are into being abused.

Critical blunder: Unfounded rudeness

Octopus Man: 25 (he showed us his ID, born in 1983) – You can buy a wide variety of foods from the Istanbul street vendors – corn on the cob, cashews, rice and garbanzo beans, sesame bagels, and mussels. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t feel compelled to try them all. I stopped to ask if the mussels were raw, and the vendor cut one open and presented it to me. “Is it raw? Is it raw!?” I kept asking, but he didn’t speak enough English to answer. He’d already cut it open, so I felt compelled to take it. It was, by the way, totally disgusting. It had all this bumpy stuff – like eggs or something. I like mussels, but this was sick. Are they all that way raw!?!?

Anyway, a guy in a suit showed up and ate a few mussels. When I tried to figure out if I needed to pay the vendor, it was clear that the suit guy (later to be re-dubbed Octopus Man) had taken care of it. I thanked him, and we walked away.

Seconds later, he came up alongside us with the typical questions. His English was abysmal, so we slipped into silence and continued walking. He trailed along all the way. Then he started reaching out via pantomime. “Do you dance?” he asked me. (and if I’d had the words, “Not well” would be the accurate answer. I try to avoid dancing because I have no natural sense of rhythm and am quite a pitiful sight.) We tried to explain about the marathon the next morning and were not partying and needed our sleep, but it wasn’t getting through.

He spent a lot of time on his phone, and eventually communicated that he had friends that spoke good English. He wanted me to come with him to meet them. Obviously this was not going to happen.

I had a list of Turkish words translated into English given to me by Orhan, and I pulled it out to see if it would help. In response to my sorry attempts to communicate, he put his arm around me and squeezed in a “You’re so cute” kind of way. But then the arm didn’t leave. And then he kept trying to kiss my cheek. I kept looking at my friend – now laughing uncontrollably – and mouthing the words HELP ME. I would slip out of his grip, and he would come back twice as strong. I remember reading that if you SCUBA with giant squid they will wrap themselves all around you. The same can be said for young Turkish men who buy you a disgusting raw street mussel.

Anyway, as we walked down the street, my friend got stuck in the role of translator, even though she doesn’t speak Turkish. At one point, he pulled out his wallet, which she understood to mean he wanted to know how old I was. “I’m old,” I told him, “OLD. Too old or you,” but he didn’t understand, and kept looking at me deliriously.

Having been through this the night before with Orhan who had seen my passport and still didn’t believe me, I really didn’t want to go through this again. Octopus Man was telling us that he was 25, and started guessing my age. “21?” he guessed. No. “22?” On it went. When we got to 27, he pulled out his wallet again, apparently thinking we didn’t understand what he was asking.

“Just agree,” I told her. “Tell him anything. I do NOT want to get into this with this guy.”

The numbers started over. Eventually, she nodded to him, “Yes. 26. She’s 26.” He hugged me again in sheer bliss. By now we were to the hostel, and said goodbye. After thwarting yet another attempted kiss, he touched me on the cheek, “Baby face,” he said, smiling down at me, “Baby face…”

No kidding, baby face. You have no idea, my friend. NO IDEA.