Wide Awake in Wonderland

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

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…

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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.

 

Running to Stand Still June 16, 2008

Filed under: Self-analysis — wideawakeinwonderland @ 9:43 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been reading this book – ‘What to Do With the Rest of Your Life’ – about finding or creating the “job of your dreams”. The author challenges you to come up with a list of things you enjoy, and then pare it back to things you love, and then hone that to four or five things you wouldn’t mind talking about, thinking about, learning about, and doing for the rest of your life. That last element makes provides the “Whoa, Nelly!” factor, but I’m pretty sure my list is:

  • Writing
  • Cooking
  • Dogs
  • Philosophy/”The meaning of life”/therapy in that vein
  • Health/Exercise

I’ve nixed dogs and health on the impracticality factors of one and likely poverty of the other. I’m probably too old to go to med school or start a decorated career as a personal trainer. Similarly, I know some wonderful and dedicated people that have helped me train my dogs…and it’s pretty apparent that they just scrape by. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you can have a remarkable and fulfilling life despite ‘just scraping by’ where salary is concerned, I just figure if you’re going to bother to dream big, you may as well start out with the bar a little bit higher than that.

I went for a long run today and was thinking about this “carpe diem” pressure some of us put on ourselves (such as me on myself!): The call or challenge to make every moment matter and live as if this were the last day of your life and if you can dream it, you can do it kind of stuff.  I think, in the mix of being a very sick and twisted society ripe with celebrity adoration, breast implants, reality TV, and athletes making millions of dollars a year while so many people can’t even claw their way above the poverty line, we’ve also created this culture – or at least expectation – of super lives. Look at me, I’m doing it all, and I lost 15 pounds, and I have my own line of frozen cuisine and high heels coming out in the fall!

However, I think in the big picture, it’s not so important to be jumping out of airplanes and have a reality TV show focused on you and fill every single second with really cool, enviable things, as to try to find a way to spend less of your time doing things that don’t matter to you, that don’t make you one bit happier, or that really add no value to your life or anyone else’s. If you look at other cultures, there doesn’t seem to be the zeal to live in multi-million dollar houses or walk red carpets or have everyone else agree that you’re beautiful and extraordinary. In fact, having dedicated rather too much time to wanting everyone else to agree that I’m something special, I can see how empty – and strangely not healing – it is. Even when you get there, it doesn’t work.

With that in mind, my list takes on new meaning. If I were to try to find a way to bridge some middle ground between things I enjoy enough to possibly dedicate a sizable chunk of every day to them and NOT fill the rest of my life up trying to achieve some kind of societally assigned status, chase material things, and worry about what everyone else thinks…then I’d really be onto something.