Archive for September, 2013

The Fall 2013 To-Do List

Okay, so I did my earnest/serious soul-searching/retreat and I’m deep in the swing of autumn, humming along, busy as a bee, la la la. But it isn’t all hippie productivity or any other kind of productivity! Things should be fun in addition to big-picture epiphany type of stuff, right? So here are some of the more delicious experiences I want to have and mad skills I want to hone for this season. How is your fall going? What would you like to experience in the next few months before the holidays descend upon us?

Go to the Halloween Frightfest at the Amusement Park and Scream My Head Off on Rollercoasters

This is, like, category-one level of importance and priority for this fall. I need to get myself on a rollercoaster soon! What I love about amusement parks is that they have absolutely no utility in them; there’s like no way to make riding rollercoasters my career, my hobby, my side gig, whatever. You go to be amused! I just want to scream and be thrilled and hurled upside down and whipped around, a primal childlike experience. I prefer going in the fall over the summer to an amusement park — I like feeling bundled up in a rollercoaster, you know? Plus, it’s not as hot and there’s something really wonderful about wandering in an amusement park on a crisp fall weekend day.

Start on the Great Adventure That is Real Estate

So I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to be looking at buying a house soon, but like many things, I find real estate to be overwhelming, like the way I imagine taking a trip to Lagos, Nigeria must be overwhelming. It is so unabashedly grown-up, this whole buying-a-home thing, but it’s time to line my ducks up in a row, put on my big-girl panties and channel my favorite business mogul or something so I don’t feel intimidated by banks or the like. Plus, I get to explore the whole weird world of houses and finally understand why people are so riveted when they play “Househunters International” on the TV playing in the women’s locker room at my gym.

Develop a Repertory of Meals

I enjoy the process of making food, though I don’t consider myself a foodie by any means. Nor do I have aspirations of foodie-ism. The type of cook I’d like to be is someone who can just open their fridge, figure out how to make a good meal of what I have there — and then parlay that into a few other meals to stretch out into the week. The type that doesn’t waste food and can turn what would normally be leftovers into the base of something really new and delicious. I’d prefer to be that type of cook with a kind of old-school practical housewife savoir-faire, but a little more Kinfolk-y aesthetic perhaps. (I admit I have a Kinfolk weakness.) So I’ll be experimenting a little, going beyond the bits and bobs I can already make, looking to create a few menus of meals, just five or six recipes I can master and just have at my fingertips to nourish myself and my loved ones.

Make Art

This is so mind-blindingly obvious but a few weeks ago, I remembered, “Hey, I used to make a lot more visual art type of stuff…and it was fun and good for me.” I think I began working under the assumption that in order to be a “master” of writing, I’d need to focus exclusively on my writing and let things like film and photography and design fall by the wayside. It was like, “Gee, I work full-time and I blog and I write fiction and other things…am I going to fritter away my increasingly rare free time on something outside of that?” But now I realize what a nice release it is to be visual, a way to recharge my writing batteries while still engaging in something creative. So I’m hoping to tap into that visual side again…I do miss it.

Go Riding Out on the Trails

I’ve been riding steadily since spring, and I feel pretty good at being able to ride out at least at a walk or trot, no matter what the saddle, route or horse (though the crazy ones still kind of scare me). But there’s nothing better than heading out across a field in the sunshine and wind. I plan on taking side trips to various trails in the area to ride, enjoying both the company of a lovely equine friend and the most beautiful time in nature.

Make Jams and Jellies and Heck, Even Mulled Wine and Cider

I am really intimidated by canning! I like the idea of preserving things and making cute jars of compotes, chutneys, jams and jellies, but then I read the instructions for canning and I’m like “Aaaaahhhhh! Botulism!” Or maybe I retain some childhood trauma from reading Meg’s botched experiments making currant jellies in Little Women. But I plan to get over this hurdle and at least make a few jams or two in time for the holidays. I feel like jams make nice little holiday gifts, no?

Go Somewhere

Somewhere, anywhere! Thinking somewhere in the south, or West Coast….we shall see. Where should I go in the U.S., dear friends?

Write Another Novel

I have so many crazy book-story ideas in my head and they’re all bottlenecking in my brain trying to get out! I’ve been chipping away at an ambitious idea for most of the year, but I think I’m going to bang out something more discrete and less sprawling for Nanowrimo…something for my nieces and nephews to read, something really fantastical and adventurous and exactly what they’d love to read. I’m outlining and planning, and even taking a YA/MG fiction class now…I’m excited!

Look of the Week: In Which I Wear a Fedora

So I finally gave HBO show “Girls” a chance. I had seen probably half of the first season when it came out, but didn’t really keep up with it, so I forced myself to watch the first two seasons in their entirety. It was okay, just another case of struggling between liking the secondary characters and not being able to stand the main one — similar, interestingly enough, to my relationship to that other iconic woman-centered HBO show “Sex and the City,” which I wrote about in my All Things Glorious and True and admitted how much I hated Carrie Bradshaw. Overall, though, Girls is amusing and it makes me glad that I’m not in my 20s anymore. I like the problems and issues I’m reckoning with now better.

It’s so weird because Lena Dunham herself can be so adorable (when she’s not conflating veiling with fundamentalism in poor jokes about Middle Eastern women’s sartorial traditions.) And yet when she’s acting as Hannah Horvath, I’m like, Noooooo. So I’ll watch Girls, but I’ll get up and do something else a scene is Hannah-dominant (unless she’s with Adam Driver, who I think is kind of a genius actor, along with Zosia Mamet.) Oh, and I love how Jenna, the British bohemian party girl, dresses. Particularly how she wears a hat. And so I got inspired to break mine out.

I’m not a British bohemian party girl, though, and I would never look good in the billowy silhouettes that Jenna wears on “Girls” that form a lovely counterpoint to the structure of the hat. (Ah, the travails of being short.) So I just wear it with plain clothes, like a simple sweater and jeans and boots, or a denim button-down, leggings and Frye motorcycle boots. (Boots, boots, boots!) It’s kind of a roll-up-your-sleeves look, really solid and practical. I’m like “This feels like a Jane Goodall look!” even though I know she never wore clothes like this — but she’s kind of my paragon of beautifully contributing to the world, and I like to facilitate that.

It’s also funny how people sometimes look at you funny when you wear hats that aren’t baseball caps, at least in my town. It either scares people and they keep their distance, or makes people want to have conversations about it with you. Even the security guard at the grocery store was like, “Nice fedora, lady!” and we talked about how men don’t wear hats anymore, and that’s kind of a bummer because they’re generally pretty sharp. (It made me think about codes of masculinity and class and how they’ve changed, but we didn’t talk about that, sadly.) We also agreed I have a good “hat face” because my face is round-y/oval-shaped, and I thought such fashion analysis was pretty sharp for a middle-aged guy working in a grocery store — but then again, he must see a lot of people all day. He had a very good eye for detail overall. All I know is, I’m gonna wear this hat more often. It gets me into all kinds of minor adventures!

On Squeezing the Last Dregs of the Day

In Which I Give Myself a Guilt Trip, Can’t Sleep and Come to Some Epiphanies About Compassion, Productivity and Insomnia

I’ve been sleeping not so great lately. I do this weird thing where I collapse in my bed at the end of the day because I’m super tired, and I just want to close my eyes and pass out. But my mind races, still in go-go-go daytime mode even though I’m supposed to enter into chill zone. And yet I can’t stop my brain. Did I edit this piece of writing? Did I email So-and-So back? Did I get XY and Z done? I didn’t, so maybe I should stay up just a bit later so i can start tomorrow with that wide-open buoyant feeling, instead of hitting the day feeling already behind. Oh, but I should just go to sleep. But well, wouldn’t it be nice to just get more stuff done?

And it goes on, and suddenly it’s an hour later and I’m still arguing with myself and I really should’ve just gone to sleep — but my internal argument has turned into a major fit of annoyance and aggravation, most of which is directed at myself. Bleh!

As a chronic insomniac, this is kind of bad news because it’s the mental pattern I fell into when I was living in NYC, doing film and school stuff and being that kind of person that runs around and constantly has somewhere to go and has to ridiculously schedule breakfast just to see my friends. The weird thing is that I don’t live like that anymore, so what the heck is going on?


Imaginary Conversations with Isabel Archer

Longtime readers know that Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady is one of my favorite novels. Like the big English major dork that I am, I’ve re-read it many times in my life. I never fail to become fascinated by what is essentially a deep psychological study of one of the greatest characters in English-language literature. That’s a big claim to make, but James captures his heroine Isabel Archer’s transformation from a quicksilver, independent, intelligent ingenue into a “lady,” entombed in societal convention in the worst way possible — through her marriage with a venal, gold-digging gentleman and her own hubris, idealism and egotism. He does it with such genius, precision and deep insight. As you read Portrait, you truly feel as if you are deeply intimate with a character and the movements of her emotions and mind — though she retains an essential enigmatic nature that keeps me coming back to her story again and again.

I most recently picked it up while I was hiding out in my apartment, wandering through my late-summer odyssey of minor yet constant physical pain, during a totally gross, yucky heat wave — which is a really strange time to read The Portrait of a Lady. I always read Portrait in the strangest of times, like at night during the trek through the Thai countryside. I always get something new from it when I read it again — maybe that comes from reading it in the strange contexts, I don’t know.

I had always been fascinated by Isabel’s girlishness, by James’ wonderful characterization of what it means to be an American girl full of vitality, freshness and a willingness to throw off convention to chase after some vague vision of self-determination. But this time around, I became fascinated more by her toxic marriage to Gilbert Osmond, a man of genteel poverty who essentially marries Isabel for her money — unbeknownst to her. He’s highly refined, an aesthete and incorrigible snob, though he can turn on the charm and intelligence enough to convince Isabel he is a viable romantic choice. We’re privy to Osmond and his accomplice’s intentions before Isabel becomes aware of it, which I always thought was an interesting narrative decision. What did Henry James intend by this? The result is that you just can never see the appeal of Osmond — you’re always suspicious of him.

And what he did intend by Osmond? Because Osmond is just not hot. I never understood why Isabel went for him; he’s not sexy by any stretch of the imagination. Even his charm is so thin! I just could never quite picture him, you know? He was more than an idea than a real, living man, but strangely, I feel like this is often true of Henry James’ male characters. (His women are rich, vivid and fascinating, inspiring a lot of different, often conflicting emotions — but his men are sort of just pale toast for me.) Though I’ve read, studied, wrote papers on and discussed to death Portrait, the whole fulcrum of Isabel’s marriage to Osmond has always eluded me in terms of its meaning and my personal understanding of it. It’s like that girlfriend of yours who marries someone of whom you wonder, “Dang, what does she see in him? Ugh!” I often just wanted to shake Isabel and be like, “Girl, you can do better! Don’t settle for that dumbass!”