I'm Just Saying…

April 24, 2016

The Meditation Cushion Provocation

A meditation cushion inspired this post.

Not meditation.  The cushion.

If I hadn’t been provoked, I wouldn’t have made the observation. Maybe I should have called the post, The Meditation Cushion Observation.

Too late now. I’ll come back to that in a minute…

Writers observe. Everything. It’s in the job description. That’s a good thing.

Or is it?

Instead of being in the moment, we’re standing outside it, watching.

I think we do this because our heads are filled with characters running amok, like a non-stop house party where your rude guests keep you up all night, and then ignore you anyway. Writers are captives to these pesky, yet much loved boarders. We would be lost without them, so we’re always looking for material for them.

Playwright and screenwriter Phoebe Ephron, mother of my idol, Nora Ephron, had a particular writing philosophy: Everything is copy.

I believe it.

I think I had been  observing for copy long before I realized I was doing it. Take, for example, my father’s funeral. I remember it well…

There we all are, sitting in solemn silence as the rabbi gives the eulogy.

And then the beeper goes off.

The rabbi’s beeper.

Twice.

At the time, in the middle of my shock and grief, I think… does this happen at other funerals? Do other families have the memorial service for their loved one interrupted by a beeper?

The beeper belonging to their chosen clergyman.

Twice.

I bet they don’t.

Nope. Just my family.

Later, when time had passed, I didn’t look back on this event with bitterness or indignation. No, I thought, “I need to use this in a story.”

Is that good? Not sure.

Even The Rodent Materialization Excitation of 2012 has been used for fiction fodder.

Sidebar: you will never find Disney’s Ratatouille on my DVR.

Ever.

So what can I do?  It’s futile to fight it. I’m wired this way. But I do wonder…is something greater at work here?

As soon as something untoward happens, my friend Rebecca automatically points the finger at “The Universe,” (when she’s not sighing, “Jesus take the wheel”). This “Universe,” this ethereal something or other, doing something or other in our lives, is seen as a culprit, up to no good. But I do wonder, could “The Universe” be helping me by sending the odd, the unusual, and the downright shitty my way?

After all, I do need material.

Is “The Universe” putting me in these situations, forcing me to examine human nature—and providing copy?

So back to The Meditation Cushion Provocation

I’m taking a certification course as a Meditation Instructor.

I order a meditation cushion for my practice. I use a delivery address other than my home.

I’ve used this address many times. No problemo.

I get a message from Amazon. They can’t deliver my meditation cushion to my chosen address.

I contact Amazon customer service (which is awesome, by the way) and speak to the rep (who is very nice).

We have a conference call with a rep for a  Carrier Who Shall Remain Nameless (Also nice. Not helpful, but nice).

I am waiting for my meditation cushion, I say. Deliveries have been made to the given address before, I say.

I get “the speech.” Do you know about the speech? It’s the one that tells you your customer satisfaction is about to nosedive right into the toilet.

“I don’t know why the driver made deliveries to that address in the past. He should not have done that.”

Yes, Yes he should have. He should have done it now. If he did, I would have my meditation cushion.

The Amazon rep is a trooper. Seriously.  She’s in there working for a win-win solution.

Thank you Amazon sales representative. Thank you for trying to help me get my meditation cushion.

“We can deliver the package to a holding center,” says the rep for the Carrier Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Awesome. I can get my meditation cushion.

“For pickup you need to present legal identification with an address matching the address on the package.”

And we’re a no-go on the meditation cushion.

I give it one last try.

“Can I give you a different address for delivery?”

“The sender has restrictions on the package.”

Impossible. This is a meditation cushion. Meditation leads to liberation. Restrictions are the antithesis of meditation cushions. Abhorrent. Anathema. No-No’s.

“I’m not allowed to accept changes of address,” says the rep for The Carrier Who Shall Remain Nameless.

That’s a  negative on the meditation cushion.

As my temper goes to boil, I have a thought…

Hmmm, what would happen if I went batshit crazy right now because I can’t get my meditation cushion?

Would my kickass Amazon customer service representative find it odd that I study meditation and go batshit crazy because of non-delivery of my meditation cushion?

Would she conclude meditation is ineffective and a waste of time if I scream, “I WANT MY MEDITATION CUSHION, BITCH!”

I don’t do that.

But hey, I think, what if I write a story where someone DOES go batshit over non-delivery of their meditation cushion?

I may not have my meditation cushion but I have a kickass scene idea for a story.

I may not have my meditation cushion but it’s been a great day, creatively speaking!

Yay for creativity! Way to go Universe!

I cancelled the order.

Someday I’ll tell you about the doctor’s office incident.

You can remind me. Just mention “The Octogenarian Xenophobe Encounter” and that should do it.

Someday I’ll use it in a story.

Yup.

Thank you, Universe.

I think.

 

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December 16, 2015

A Little Twisted Christmas

For many, Christmas is a time of appreciating the good fortune and wonder of this life. It’s a happy time of festivities and joyous celebration. One is surrounded by friends and loved ones, feeling as if they belong and all is right with the world.

Yeah. Whatever.

For myself, the holiday has come to symbolize a very special moment; the moment I realized  that while not everything is wrong,  things aren’t quite — right. Something is always slightly askew, off kilter, out of place.

All the time.

And it’s gonna stay that way.

Let me explain what happened…

I am 19 years old, attending the yearly Christmas Cantata at our local church. The auditorium twinkles with a sense of gravitas and magic, the house of worship dotted with holly and ivy. Decorative iron stands with red ribbons are strategically placed on each side of the center aisle. At the top of each stand sits a single candle. The scene is set for a celebration of the babe in the manger, complete with live farm animals.

The church is packed. The parishioners are bedecked in their finest attire (something I don’t think the Holy Foundling concerns himself with but who am I to say? I know nothing).

An usher seats my mother and me at the end of the pew. I have the aisle seat. I glance around, taking in the elegant bacchanalia as the orchestra and choir file out As the conductor raises his baton and the chorus of melodious voices rises in unison, I exhale and slip out of my coat. I feel a rush of relief course through my body. The evening will take place without incident.

Silent night, Holy night…

And then…

Out of the corner of my eye, I see them. The usher manhandling a small, wizened man down the aisle. He’s a cross between Bilbo Baggins and Mr. Magoo; and he’s trouble. I can tell.

All is calm, All is bright…

“I don’t wanna sit here,” Bilbo says.

I direct my Jedi mind trick at the usher. That’s right, you don’t. I need to seat you somewhere else.

“Sure you do,” the usher responds, shoving the senior citizen into the pew, forcing me to scoot over. To this day I think he tripped the old man into the seat. Seriously.

I think to myself: Jedi mind trick my ass.

So there I am, sitting next to my little Medicare Man as he huddles in his coat, hat in hand, literally.

My participation in the celebration now consists of the following inner monologue: DO NOT LOOK AT HIM. DO NOT LOOK IN HIS DIRECTION.

Round yon virgin, mother and child…

I hear mumbling.

I feel him lean in.

What am I supposed to do? Ignore him?

What would Jesus do?

I turn. I look.

“My wife, oh my wife. I ‘d like to kill her, my wife.”

I nod. As the choir carries on in song, I do a recon of the sanctuary. Anyone else being terrorized at the yearly commemoration of the birth of our Lord and Savior?

Nope. Just me.

Holy infant, so tender and mild…

I spend the next two hours listening to the chorus on stage AND the chorus next to me.

“My wife, I want to kill her, you know. I just want to kill her.”

Sleep in heavenly peace…sleeep in heavenlyyyyy peeeeaaaace.

So I went to a simple celebration of the Christ Child and there I received a sign.  I’m on the wrong side. Of what you may ask?

Everything. Whatever it is, it’s NOT going to work out.

On the ride home I relate the ramblings of Bilbo to my mother. “And the only thing missing from his tirade was ‘It came to me…my love…my precious…'”.

“He was mentally ill,” she said.

“Yes,” I cried. “And he was sitting next to me! Why do these things always happen to me?”

My mother sighs.

Oh, oh I see. Yup. Second generation, carrying on the tradition.

Fa la la la la, la la, la, laaaaa.

October 5, 2015

What I did on my Fall (Book Research) Vacation

I just came back from a vacation in Burlington, Vermont. I like Vermont. I’ve been there before. That’s one of the reasons I chose to use it for some scene settings for The Fixer series. I took day trips, finding places that will be useful for the books. For example, I visited a museum, and a farm. I saw sheep and goats and baby cows at the farm. I didn’t pet them, of course, because, you know, yuck. I think I’ve said all I need to. I took a boat ride, too.

Yes, my vacation/book research trip was a time to recharge the creative juices and come up with new ideas. I found it to be a pleasant, non-stressful, and relaxing experience.

Until my cell phone died.

No, I don’t mean the battery died and I needed to recharge the phone.

I mean, the cell phone died.

Think Monty Python and the Dead Parrot sketch. The cell phone was no more. It had ceased to be.

Shit.

There was a lot of this:

 

giphy

But, (and I want points for this), not this:

 

peter-finch-als-howard-beale

And definitely not this:

 

Okay, there was some of that but it was on the INSIDE.

Let me admit it now: I am not a technologically savvy person. At all. I use a computer because no one makes word processors anymore. I grew up with twelve channels on television, phone booths, and vinyl records. Vinyl. Does anyone remember vinyl????

Having said that…

While I don’t use 90% of what a cell phone can do, I am attached to my cell phone. I may not Instagram or Snapchat, but I do text, tweet, and Facebook post. I check my email, I take pictures AND text those pictures. I’m connected. My phone is never far from me, always within reach.

So, I’m in my hotel room when my phone wants to do a software update. My phone does what it wants without consulting me. I don’t like that.

So it updates.

And then everything goes to shit. How do I know something is wrong?

Because it keeps restarting itself over and over again.

And then there was some of this:

lily

NOT on the inside.

I tried to be reasonable about this. I wasn’t in a far off land, in the untamed wilds. I’m in Vermont. The state is classified as civilization. They have malls. I can verify this. I’ve been in one. Loss of my cell phone will not leave me wandering aimlessly, clothing shredded, hair disheveled, begging by the side of the road for some Good Samaritan to take pity on me. A few hours earlier, I had just eaten a breakfast of hot cakes (with real Vermont syrup), two eggs scrambled dry, and a fresh fruit plate.

Clearly, this industrialized nation, first-world problem does not qualify as a call to go to DEFCON 1.

But I don’t have my phone.

Listen to me: I’m not connected. Do you understand? The lines of communication have been severed. I’m cut off, do you hear me?

Cut. Off.

Just last week, I was driving into work, listening to the DJ’s conduct an experiment: they didn’t touch or even look at their phone for an hour.

Child’s play, people. Child’s play.

Now I’m sitting in the hotel room, bereft of my phone, flipping channels on the TV. I watch Dr. Oz instructing a woman to wrap up her phone and bury it in a container of rice (don’t ask me why, I turned it on in the middle of the segment). Then he gives the woman a cup of tea to ease her emotional anxiety because she doesn’t have her phone.

Cup of tea my ass. I started drinking. A lot.

But it wasn’t just the dying of the phone that made me pop a cork. Nope. It was what came after.

I need to contact my cell phone provider. No problem. I’m prepared. I have my laptop.

And that’s when the universe starts screwing with me.

  1. The wi-fi network is moving like it’s 1999.
  2. I get to the vendor website.
  3. The website refuses to load.
  4. I tap keys.
  5. Nothing happens.
  6. I hit keys with a vigorous, yet controlled force.
  7. Still nothing.
  8. Scripts are refusing to load.
  9. Websites are not responding.
  10. WTF?????
  11. I get a pop-up message.
  12. “Your browser is out of date.”

Of course it is.

Now, it was more like this:

meltdown-gif-lol

Still on the inside.

Why? Because I’m a babypants who wants the f&%@!g laptop to work so I can get my f$%@g phone fixed.

I decide to cool off and email a few people so they know why I’ve dropped off the grid.

  1. I open my email program.
  2. I tap to create an email message.
  3. I enter the recipient’s name.
  4. I can’t type the message because I can’t see the message box to write a message and the side bar to navigate to the message box is not there. It has gone bye-bye.
  5. I can’t email.

And then we moved on to this:

arnold_o_GIFSoupcom

Still on the inside.

I finally find a phone number for my cell phone service provider. I call. The representative is very nice. She speaks half to me and half to herself about what she’s trying to do to help me. I hear things like “Let me just see something else here,” and “Let me just check one more thing…”

I calmly thank her for her assistance and wait for her to finally come back on the line and explain to me there’s nothing she can do and the phone is crapped out and done.

Which she does.

She doesn’t use the phrase “crapped out.” That was me.

I give her the zip code where I’m staying.

There is no store in the area.

Of course not.

The rep explains that since I’ve been a good customer for twenty years (yes, you read that right) and my warranty only expired last month, they will send me a replacement phone, to my hotel, fedex delivery.

I thank her.

“What about my pictures?” I ask.

“Do you have a Google account to backup….”

tangled blah blah blah

I don’t understand a word she says. I translate what she says to mean this: You’re shit out of luck and you’ve just lost everything on your phone.

Why didn’t she just say that to begin with? That I understand.

I use the hotel phone and call my friend Rebecca to tell her, “No I’m not ignoring you or your texts,” and explain my predicament.

Rebecca asks, “Did you back up all your stuff on your phone?”

I explain that the rep tried to explain the backup process to me but she probably could have put her time to better use. Doing anything else.

Rebecca asks, “Do you have a Google account?”

“I think so.”

“Then what you do is….”

elaine%20yada%20yada

“I hear you speaking,” I say, “I know there are words coming out of your mouth but they’re not making any sense to me.”

She laughs.

I deserve it.

We hang up.

I decide to load the latest Internet Explorer version and attempt to send an email.

The universe decides to stand down from screwing with me and I get that done.

There is nothing to do but wait for the phone.

Day One: I feel lost and lonely, unsettled and anxious. I don’t even know what time it is. Who owns a watch? Who needs a watch? I have a phone. Sorry. I had a phone.

Day Two: My comfort level is slowly rising. I’m off the grid. I have no idea what’s going on with Facebook or Twitter. I’m okay with that.

Day Three: I am entering a phone free nirvana of centered calm. I am re-connecting to the human race and it’s a beautiful thing.

And now I was feeling like this:

happy dance

I feel the power. I feel the FREEDOM! I, like so many others, am too connected to electronics. We spend our lives looking down at our phones instead of looking up, looking our friends and loved ones in the eye, making contact and truly engaging in real dialogue and conversation.

This could be a turning point for me, a moment of true change and transformation, a moment of –

The hotel room phone rings.

It’s the front desk calling.

“Miss Rosenblatt, we have a package here for you…”

My phone. MY PHONE!!!!

 

What was I saying?

 

 

 

July 26, 2014

Because I Have To…

A situation came up recently, one of those events that prompts a family discussion while strolling the aisles of Bed, Bath, and Beyond. In other words, it wasn’t a kidney.

A family acquaintance had gotten engaged and the inevitable question of the purchase of a gift came up. I have nothing against buying gifts and sending wishes of many happy returns. As my mother and I are both single, we do an awful lot of gift giving and in the occasional sour grape moment my mother will invariably say what I’m thinking. So… while we were wandering Bed, Bath, and Beyond, we passed the “wedding/fine china/isn’t that picture frame adorable” area.

“So what should we do?” I said. “Should we get a gift?”

“No,” she said. “It’s enough already. We’re always buying gifts for other people. Is anyone buying you gifts? I don’t see anyone buying you a gift.”

(This, I confess, is true. I’ve seriously considered pulling a Carrie Bradshaw and registering myself just to see how the other half lives. And yes, I would adore a gravy boat in case anyone is wondering.)

I was sensing a septuagenarian meltdown coming on. I let the conversation go. However, the conundrum of the gift kept nagging at me. I sent something. The card listed both names. I mentioned this to my mother in passing a few weeks later. This is akin to the childhood ruse of doing something naughty and confessing after five years when no one cares anymore.

“I sent a gift,” I said and before she could respond, I added, “I had to.”

I had to? Where did that come from?

To “have to do something” belongs strictly to the adult lexicon. You will never see a ten year old lamenting to a friend that he ate all his Lima beans for dinner because, “You know how it is Jimmy. I had to.” No, he would say, “They made me.” Semantics, shmantics, There’s a big difference. Huge. Trust me.

The idea of the voluntary “I have to” intrigues me. From when cameth the “I have to”? Shakespeare wrote the “I have to” in his plays. In The Merchant of Venice, Portia is the example of “I have to” with a twist. She is bound by her dead father’s will to accept any oafish suitor who wins a “Price is Right” game of picking the correct casket. However, she devises methods to weed out all of the undesirables until she finds the man she wants. That’s making lemonade out of lemons, in spite of “I have to.”

But what does “I have to” really mean?

Polite Interpretation: I can’t deal with the inevitable guilt. Therefore, I’m going to do this so I don’t have to deal with the inevitable guilt.

Familial Interpretation: I don’t want to listen to (insert family member’s name here)’s mouth, so I have to.

Anxiety Interpretation: What do you want from me? If I step out of line the universe will go off its axis and karma will come back to bite me in the ass.

Every once in a while the world produces people who are not moved by “I have to.” Take Nietzsche, for example. A prime case of the homosapien anomaly that pops up every so often to make everyone shit their pants. Now I grant you the man was a nutbag, and syphilitic (maybe) …and a nutbag. But he didn’t care. His works could be summed up in a tweet:

I don’t give a shit.

I’m better than you.

I don’t have to.

#NietzscheRocks

While we all bitch and moan about how homogeneously vanilla our society can be, there are those that refuse to march to the beat of everyone else’s drum. They don’t have to. But they’re not really saying “I don’t have to.” What they’re really saying is “I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.” But if a large percentage of the population begins saying “I don’t want to” you can believe me that it won’t be too long before we’re tramping dangerously close to Lord of the Flies territory. And that makes everyone shit their pants and go into lock down mode to shut down the loose cannon.

The exemption to this is anyone over the age of 60. I understand liberal use of the “I don’t have to” is one of the few perks with advancing age, or so my mother tells me. She says “I don’t have to” all the time. She enjoys it. I’m even a little excited that someday the “I don’t have to” can be mine as well. It’s something to look forward to; like a little perk to compensate for the sagging breasts and underarm flaps.

There is an unwritten rule of adulthood that people do things because “they’re supposed to” which translates into… you guessed it, “they have to.” Why are they attending the birthday party of the sister-in-law they despise because she’s a gold digging bitch? Because they have to. Why does a daughter-in-law go to her mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving and endure the thinly veiled swipes and insults about her cooking and housekeeping skills? Because she has to. In mathematical terms, it’s like computing the “mean” of human experience. There are enough people doing what they “have to” to offset the rest of humanity who prefer to color outside the lines – in purple. No one thinks about this consciously, of course. No one does something because they “have to” and then thinks ‘Thank goodness I did that. I’ve balanced the negative energy of some batshit woman in Boise who wouldn’t drive her kid to dance lessons.’ No, no one thinks that.

This is not to say the “I don’t have to” can’t be useful. “I don’t have to” has often been a prelude to “and I’m not going to.” as in “I’m being mistreated and I don’t have to tolerate this and I’m not going to.” Technically speaking “I don’t have to” can be a powerful agent for positive change. Let’s be clear: I’m not referring to fighting social injustice. I’m referring to having your brother-in-law living in your basement because he married the wrong woman (and everyone told him not to) and now he’s divorced and the sum total of his assets can be listed on the back of a gum wrapper. Any why is he living in your basement when you wanted a playroom for the children? Because your husband says, “What do you want me to do? He needs a place to stay. We have to.” That’s right, you do.

It was disconcerting to me to discover that adulthood was exactly the way Thoreau described it. The mass of men (and women) do lead lives of quiet desperation; dealing with the first world problems of attending weddings when they don’t want to, going to birthday parties they could live without, staying in jobs they don’t like, etc., etc.,

I have heard stories of my great grandmother, a small, feisty, bun-wearing woman. She had four sons, two of whom she outlived, and a lousy husband who didn’t die so she threw him out. The urban legend goes that whenever my great grandmother spoke of her husband, she would say, “Brenen zolst afn fayer” or something like it, which loosely translates to: “He should burn in hell.” You know what the real translation is? “I’m not staying married to you. I don’t have to.”

Way to go Nana.

January 4, 2014

Against Depth

The beginning of a new year always brings a slew of online articles advising how to start off on the right foot. These quick start guides provide handy blueprints for looking inward, reflecting,  and resetting priorities. These articles speak to our own resolutions to find what matters, do what matters, and make a successful quest for a deeper life. Depth can take many forms: getting in touch with your inner feelings, developing “emotional intelligence,” and learning to make more meaningful connections.

Here’s my problem with that.

First of all, depth always means a change of diet. Why? Depth and Devil Dogs can’t co-exist in this world? I’m not a deep person unless I’m eating flax and kale?  How am I supposed to go on a quest for depth if I can’t get out of the bathroom? I’m just saying. Next up is meditation, the practice of mindfulness. In order to be deep I have to learn to be “present,” at peace with my life as it is.  Look, I don’t have a problem with being a tad less Type A, but I don’t think living like “The Big Lebowski” is going to help my artistic endeavors. For the record, I like meditation but every time I attempt it I nod off. Therefore, I don’t equate meditation with depth, I equate it with Sominex. I’m sure I’m doing it wrong. But these aren’t the things that really upset me about the holy grail of depth.

I take exception to the idea that depth, be it social, emotional, or mental, is such a great thing. Further, in the push to acquire a sense of gravitas about life, we have taken a dim view of shallowness. I admit, we did it to ourselves. It’s no secret our culture has changed from celebrity to celebreality. We went overboard on our shallowness, we jumped the shark, nuked the fridge. By our blatant overconsumption we rendered impotent what was so coy and fetching about all things shallow: its spontaneity, its piquant off-the-cuff cuteness. We are no longer taking a brief, naughty peek into someone’s private life. We’re tuning in to a scheduled reality show about a real person living a fake life. From the Kardashians to Honey Boo Boo, Housewives, Sister Wives, family drama, friendship drama, and relationship drama, everything is scripted and planned. You see how this can suck the joy out of the experience.

And then there was Miley. “Twerkgate 2013” was a watershed moment for shallow. Believe it or not, it was not the media frenzy, not even the act itself that highlighted the problem. No, it was Miley’s interview after the “twerk seen ’round the world” in which she pronounced, “Me and Robin the whole time said, ‘You know we’re about to make history right now.'” History. History? That is the shallow of all shallows, n’est ce-pas? Let’s look at this idea of “making history” in context, shall we?

Marie Curie:    First woman to win the Nobel Prize for her research on radiation phenomena – 1903.

Golda Meir:     Elected Israel’s first female Prime Minister – March 17, 1969.

Miley Cyrus:   bumped and grinded her backside up against a man’s genitals at the MTV Video Music Awards – 2013.

I can see it now: someday Doris Kearns Goodwin will write a non-fiction masterpiece covering women who made history. I’m sure the three M’s will be included: Marie, Meir, and Miley. I’m just saying.

I freely admit I am not part of the solution to this issue and I have been subject to more than one crisis of conscience. For years, I was a walking, talking database of celebrity factoids and innuendo, a card carrying gossip whore. Any time someone wanted to know who was getting married, divorced, or cheated on in Tinseltown, I would hear, “Ask Jill, she knows.”

That’s just, like, so, embarrassing.

So I quit. Cold turkey. I got down to the serious business of depth. I read useful books and “literature.” I read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, a man whose shallowness proved to be the death of him, literally. Still, the questions came. No one believed that I had changed. I was insulted. Incensed! Indignant!! No, I do not know what happened with Miley and Liam. I do not know how much post baby weight Jessica Simpson has lost. The names of Brangelina’s kids? Can’t help you! Sorry! Too busy watching C-SPAN and reading David McCullough’s 1776!

And then… I faltered. I did. I weakened. I began peeking at the online entertainment pages. I read the headlines, perused the pictures. It was then that I had another revelation: shallow, like time, waits for no man. I didn’t recognize the faces. Who were these people? When did they come on the scene? Except for the Old Guard (Depp, Brangelina, Clooney) I was a lost soul. Then I saw a beacon, a botoxed guardian angel… Kim Kardashian. My strength returned, my eyes lit up with hope at the sound of that nasal twang…KimYay!!! I was saved. My friends, at that moment I baptized myself in a sea of vapidity and recommitted to a life of shallowocity. I have to tell you, that night I slept like a baby. My mind was as clear as the sky on a cloudless day.

No, to commit to a life of depth is not as simple as a bowl of Great Grains and a few Oms. My deeper, serious, focused heart wants to follow a path of depth and meaning (without the flax). But my brain, my brain wants to soak up E! News and find out if Tori and Dean are going to make it (fingers crossed!). It’s a real problem. Here’s the question: is it possible we need the shallow?  Is it an integral part of how we unwind, dream, even relax? Perhaps the shallow is necessary so humans can take a few precious moments of downtime where the brain doesn’t have to be engaged. At all.

Perhaps we can have our depth and sneak in the shallow too. As we begin 2014 with a clean slate, can there be compromise? I’m willing to do my part. I pledge to turn on C-SPAN… during commercials… I’m just saying.

 

December 15, 2013

The Girl

I always wanted to be “The Girl.” I’m not referring to a specific “Girl” such as “I always wanted to be Audrey Hepburn.” No, “The Girl” is not a specific woman; she’s an idea, a concept. As a matter of fact, it’s only now that I’m able to verbalize the phenomenon of “The Girl.” I was watching Casino Royale. James Bond’s cold heart is melted by beautiful British Treasury Agent Vesper Lynd. In a fit of pique, Bond decides to blow his cover and assassinate his nemesis, Le Chiffre. Bond’s orders to his compatriot René Mathis: “Get the girl out.” In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones stands high atop the side of a canyon, a bazooka pointed at a band of Nazi’s holding the hijacked Ark of the Covenant and Indy’s love, Marion Ravenwood. The nefarious Colonel Dietrich asks, “Dr. Jones, surely you don’t think you can escape from this island?” Indy answers: “That depends on how reasonable we’re all willing to be. All I want is the girl.” It doesn’t end there. Charade, Dr. No, Ocean’s Eleven… There’s the hero…and then there’s “The Girl.”

Who wouldn’t want to be “The Girl?” Who doesn’t want to be with “The Man With The Hat” who can brandish his whip, physically and metaphorically, if you know what I mean. “The Girl” plays into the most common female fantasy, finding the perfect man. Film makes it simple. There are only 120 minutes available. The “love story” portion receives on average, what, 15 of those 120 minutes? Let’s get cracking, shall we? “The Girl” only needs to speak to the hero for approximately five minutes, the average length of one, perhaps two scenes, to know he’s “the one.” Like the perfect pig in a blanket, he’s a manly man wrapped in a Hallmark Card of sensitivity. Macho yet tender! Strong yet silent! Everything is perfect…until the sequel. Have you ever noticed how the hero can always get a new “Girl” to take the place of the original? Just ask James Bond. Women don’t seem to mind. After all, to be “The Girl” is hitting pay dirt. It’s the cheerleader dating the high school quarterback. Is it hard to be “The Girl?” Not at all, For all of the aforementioned perks, all you have to do is give up your identity; be “The Girl With No Name.”

I think about this phenomenon — a lot. Films frequently focus on a male character as a man in motion. He’s going places. However, the female character, “The Girl,” is in a state of suspended animation. I’m beginning to believe movies are an upgraded, live action extension of a Jane Austen novel—a novelist whose female characters were all perpetual ladies in waiting. In honor of today’s  anniversary of Ms. Austen’s birthday, I think the topic merits examination— and it’s not the first time.

My thesis for my Masters degree explored the lack of the female bildungsroman in female authored literature. The bildungsroman in literary criticism is known as the novel of formation and the character being formed is most often a man (think Pip in Great Expectations). In layman’s terms, it’s the guy who gets all the kick-ass adventures. He learns, he grows, and he discovers his unique place in the larger universe. Conversely, beloved Jane Austen was stuck in a parlor doing needlework and a slow burn while her brothers went off gallivanting to find themselves. Jane Austen waited; and Elizabeth Bennett waited; and Eleanor Dashwood waited. Flash forward two hundred years and Marion Ravenwood is sitting in a bar in Nepal. What is this smart, sassy, resilient, resourceful young woman doing? Waiting for the Man with the Hat. “Indiana Jones,” she says, “I always knew one day you’d come walking back through my door. Something made it inevitable.” The Girl, Exhibit A.

Interestingly enough, while Jane never stopped waiting, she wrote a happy ending of love, marriage and “happily ever after” for her ladies. Essentially, they were each “The Girl” picked out by the perfect man. I don’t blame Jane. Truly, I don’t. But in all these years haven’t women noticed that we’re accepting a romantic premise written by a woman who never married? I’m just saying.

Even if a woman does strike out on her own, the end game is always acquisition of “The Man” that can make her feel like “The Girl.” Films feed us this fantasy in what I like to refer to as “The Veterinarian Effect.” Dust off your VHS copy of  the classic Baby Boom and you’ll find Diane Keaton moving from the thriving metropolis of New York to a sleepy community in Vermont. Lo and behold, she finds Sam Shepherd, the town veterinarian; and he just happens to be single — and perfect. I wish someone had told me about this. If I had known it was this easy to find Mr. Right, I would have rented a U-haul and changed my zip code years ago.

As society modernized, Jane Austen’s “Girl” has been updated to incorporate sexual fulfillment. Thelma and Louise is a prime example of “The Girl” syndrome with a twist. Thelma (Gina Davis) has never had good sex with her boorish husband, Darryl. However, by the end of the movie she is liberated and ready to go over the cliff, literally. Why? Because she had “The Girl” experience of sublime sex with Brad Pitt. “Good God Thelma,” Louise cries upon hearing the news, “somebody finally done laid you right.” Game, set, match. Thanks for playing Thelma. You’re good to go.

As we commemorate another anniversary of Ms. Austen’s birthday, the final irony is society isn’t selling this “Girl” bill of goods to hostile consumers. Let me repeat myself: I always wanted to be “The Girl.” Truth be told, the seed of this post began with my musings over not only Jane Austen’s life and work but my own fear and self-loathing that I had passed the age of the ingénue; I had aged out of being “The Girl.”

And why don’t we admit that being “The Girl” is what we really want? Because it feels wrong to give our identity away, to be “the girl with no name.”  I wonder if Jane Austen felt conflicted as well. Society obstructed all means and opportunity for Jane to decide the course of her life. Perhaps not marrying was her only avenue to exercise control over her destiny. There is another possibility. Was Jane simply afraid to marry? Was she afraid if she made a mistake and chose the wrong man, what little emotional and mental autonomy she had would be stripped from her? For such a vibrant, intelligent woman, it would have been a fate worse than death. It is then noteworthy that Jane had no compunction about encouraging other women on the subject of matrimony. To her niece, Fanny Knight, she wrote: ” To you I shall say, as I have often said before, Do not be in a hurry, the right man will come at last…

There is an endless duality to the lives of women. We remind ourselves that we are not supposed to be the sidekick but rather the heroes of our own lives. All the while, we keep an eye on the horizon, hoping that around next corner, or the next sleepy town, in a twist of fate we will find our “Man With The Hat.”  I may be “The Woman” but in my heart of hearts, I still really want to be “The Girl.” It’s a shame. I have the shoes picked out and everything.

Happy Birthday Jane…

November 26, 2013

The Heart and Sole of the Matter

Filed under: Daily Life — jillamyrosenblatt @ 5:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

This is how it begins…

I’m at work when I decide a lunch hour of retail therapy is just the ticket to turn my frown upside down. I go to a shoe store because, since when does a woman NOT need another pair of shoes? I reconnoiter and after a few moments…

IMG_1042

I had to try them on. Then I had to have them. Standing in the store, gazing at “my” shoes (I had already appropriated them as my own), an entire alternate future unfolds in my mind. I am wearing the shoes, out on my lunch break, or at Starbucks, and I get “the call” from an agent about my screenplay. I go to the city for a meeting.  I’m in the city and it happens: I meet Him, “The One.” He is tall, trim, and handsome (men only come in one size in fantasies, in case you were wondering).  He sweeps me off my feet, gives me a passionate kiss that shakes me to the core of my solar plexus and whispers in my ear...love the shoes.

The meeting goes well with the agent, in case you were wondering. I sell the screenplay, of course. Shoes are equally applicable for romance and career fantasies.

For the uninitiated (read: men), shoes have a direct correlation, a cause and effect in the life of a woman. No man ever put on a pair of Ferragamo loafers and said “My whole life is going to change!” However, for a woman, a trip to the shoe department is like following the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, Ruby Slippers and all, literally. Every pump, slingback, chunky heel, and peek-a-boo toe holds infinite possibilities for a brighter tomorrow. Personally, I’m convinced if I ever get the chance to put on a pair of Louboutin’s I will be born again right then and there. “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”

The female shoe is a shining symbol, a talisman of magical thinking born out of mysticism and folklore. The shoe holds the promise of all that could be, might be. Forget the carriage and the coachman. I’ll take the subway or hail a cab. All I need is the right pair of shoes.

I suppose we can blame Cinderella for this mess. The story didn’t begin with Walt Disney; variations of the tale have been around since the ninth century AD. It has been re-told and re-imagined over the centuries but the theme remains the same: nice girl finishes first, gets the handsome prince, and lives…. happily ever after. And all because of a bitchin’ pair of shoes.

Perhaps the Charles Perrault version “The Little Glass Slipper” explains it best:

“Her godmother then touched her with her wand, and, at the same instant, her clothes turned into cloth of gold and silver, all beset with jewels. This done, she gave her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the whole world.”

You can give us Gucci, lavish us with Ralph Lauren, and bedeck us in the divine Dior, but an outfit is just a shell if you don’t have the shoes. As the glass slipper fits only the foot of Cinderella, so each shoe provides a unique fantasy to each woman that can belong to no one else.

I am a “shoe whisperer.” I can enter a shoe department, scan the area, and immediately zero in on “the one.” I know before I try on the chosen shoe it’s going to fit and it’s for me. It is “my” shoe. The shoe that will make me feel special, beautiful;  it holds the promise, the possibility, and the mystery that I could be wearing it at just such a place and time that something wonderful will happen.

Men don’t understand why women can continuously shop for shoes, why too much is never enough. What’s so special about the female shoe? Gentlemen,  I refer you to Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon when he’s asked about the bird “What is it?” Spade answers “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.” Exactly.

By the way, I was at the mall last weekend. I wandered into a shoe department…

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And I begin again….

October 8, 2013

Things That Annoy Me

Filed under: Daily Life — jillamyrosenblatt @ 7:46 pm
Tags: , ,

Since the title of this essay is self-explanatory (and any further explanation would be…annoying) let’s get right to it, shall we? Today’s topic is communication. People who commit the following faux pas in conversation should stop immediately.

1. “It goes without saying”: Then why are you saying it? If you insist on saying what doesn’t need to be said it can only make you appear like a bloated, self-important blowhard or a sufferer of chronic short-term memory loss. Why else would you be repeating what is painfully evident to everyone else? If you don’t have the aforementioned medical condition, knock off this annoying behavior. Instead, remember the other maxim: “most things are better left unsaid.” So don’t say anything.

2. “Believe you me…”: Which is it? I can do one or the other. I think believing both of us is inadvisable, don’t you? Besides, I don’t like to spread myself too thin. That seems like an invitation to anarchy. For the record, I always believe myself but how do I know what YOU’VE been up to?

3. “I shouldn’t be telling you this..”: Then don’t. If you have to say “I shouldn’t be telling you this…” then “it goes without saying” you shouldn’t be telling me this. You see how quickly the situation deteriorates?

4. “Excuse my French…”: Why? You’re not speaking French. You’re speaking English. Specifically, you’re speaking obscenities in English. If you were speaking obscenities in French, they would sound melodic and pleasing, tripping smoothly off your tongue. Going forward, please adjust your &%# language accordingly with an appropriate phrase such as “Excuse my foul mouthed English.” Thank you.

5. “I think we can all agree..”: How do you know that? Do you know what I’m thinking? I resent people assuming they know how I feel. Maybe I don’t want to agree. Maybe I want to remain stubbornly opposed. Maybe I want to break out into a Groucho Marx impersonation and belt out the song “I’m Against It.” In fairness, I’m willing to consider your request for agreement but I’m going to need your proposal in writing. You’ll have my answer in 7-10 business days. Some people… really… UN-believable.

AND FINALLY…

“I’m just saying…” Yes, yes I am. That is evident to everyone. Yet, we still say “I’m just saying…” after we’ve said it. Which is unnecessary… because… it goes without saying… that I just said whatever I said.

I’m just saying.

On second thought, do whatever you want.

March 9, 2013

A Note About Networking

You know the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Whoever coined this phrase didn’t know he (or she) was the creator of networking. Yay for them. Networking is most commonly applied in the business world. To wit: in order to get anything done, you need someone else. Therefore, you must meet as many people as you can. This is in keeping with the next adage, “No man is an island.” If you attend a networking event and listen carefully, you will hear the soft, melodic lilt of Barbara Streisand singing “People…people who need people… are the…” you know the rest.

For the uninitiated, painfully shy, or anti-social, the goal of networking is simple: he who dies with the most business cards wins. Way back when (or about 5 years ago) people actually swapped business cards. You were expected to walk around with something the size of a wedding album filled with cards. Now everyone has a phone that holds a gazillion bytes of information. More memory, more room for contact information. More contacts, more networking. Yay for progress.

I define networking a tad differently. Network is the process in which you meet strangers. You speak to these strangers for no other purpose than to catalogue what they might be able to do for you should the opportune moment arise. I don’t see doing this. I prefer to build friendships with people I enjoy spending time with. I’m sure Jack Welch won’t be calling me for my opinion on business, or anything else,  anytime soon. I’m just saying.

Networking does not apply solely to business settings. People network socially. That’s why when some people move they have a village to help them. I, however, am the idiot standing in Walmart buying EZ Sliders ™ because I need a bureau moved.  I don’t network well, therefore, I will be moving the bureau by myself. If I networked, I would have a cadre of people to call. I’m just saying.

The normal process of networking looks like this:

networking

In my case, it looks like this:

left out

You see my problem.

Writers are generally assumed to be antisocial. That’s not true.   Writers spend time with people; lots of people. They just happen to be fictional people running around in the fertile playground of the imagination. These fictional people are  interesting, even fascinating.  But they can’t move a bureau. I’m just saying.

When I was a mere foundling, my parents passed along a piece of their sage advice. They said “If you have two or three good friends in your lifetime, you’ll be lucky.” These would be the people you laugh and cry with, the ones you show your worst self to and they still love you.  These are the people who are supposed to move the bureau. Why then would I spend my days talking to complete strangers and collecting business cards that will clutter my purse (and my purse doesn’t need any more clutter I can tell you that)? I wouldn’t and I haven’t. So why this sudden concern over networking now?

I just completed a first draft of a screenplay. Anyone who has written anything can tell you the completed first draft is the stage where there’s a ton of work still to be done but a finish line is in sight. The idea of actually submitting the screenplay somewhere, to someone, now floats languidly in the recesses of my mind, followed by the question, “Do I know anyone?” No, no I don’t. And why is that? Why is it that I don’t know a chiropractor whose sister is a yoga coach who’s dating a personal trainer whose cousin is an aesthetician who waxes  Jennifer Lawrence’s legs? Why? Because I don’t network, that’s why.

I console myself  with the idea that if this whole screenplay thing doesn’t work out, I can always pursue a career in counseling. I can start an association, the AANI – Association of Anti-Networking Individuals. Members will meet once a month and not speak to each other. It will be an opportunity for the anti-social or painfully shy in the community to meet other like-minded individuals… and not network.

I’m just saying.

 

January 22, 2013

Friends, Romans, Cherished Patrons…

I recently received a postcard from a well-known cosmetics company. I purchase products online from this company several times a year. Some people stock up on bottled water and canned goods, I buy my moisturizer in bulk. To each his own. The postcard announced “For a Limited Time Only. 20% Off For Our Cherished Patrons.”

 
Cherished?

 
I am cherished by my health and beauty vendor?

 
Let’s look up the definition of cherished, shall we?

 
cher•ish (chěr’ish) v. 1. To hold dear. 2. To keep fondly in mind.

 
So…we’re saying my provider of facial balms and ablutions holds me so dear they wanted to do something special for me. In fact, I’m held so dearly and so fondly, they’re not doing this for everyone, just “cherished” ones such as myself.

 
That can’t be right. Let’s try this again.

 
The cosmetics company reviewed my buying history. They figured a vacuous platitude and a few bucks off might induce me to make one last purchase before putting 2012 to bed.

 
They were right. I did buy more cosmetics but I must tell you, my purchase was mingled with the bitter taste of cynicism.

 
Cherished Patron????

 
In the 1700’s, our venerable forefather, Benjamin Franklin, dubbed “the patron saint of advertising,” could not have imagined the monster he was creating. Franklin used his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, to advertise goods and products. This included his own ad warning people to choose his stove versus “Brand X,” lest they suffer untold physical consequences. Way to go Ben.

 
I know life is not easy for the Don Drapers of this world. It’s tough to convince people to buy something they probably don’t need and they’re not sure they even want. Unless you’re peddling Apple’s i-products or a BMW, you have a hard day’s work ahead of you my friend. I also know that truth in advertising is an oxymoron (see previous paragraph). However, it’s time to put the personal touch in product and service hawking to bed. What would happen if some of today’s advertising ploys were actually true?

 
Welcome Home…

 
The first one is restaurants wanting you to feel at home. You’re with family. Lovely. If that were actually true, I would show up two to three nights a week, unannounced of course, eat as much as I want, take home enough for my own bacchanal, and leave without paying. They frown on that. Obviously, I am not family.

 
Suggested slogan: We’re glad you’re here. But you still have to pay and we practice portion control.

 
Let’s have a relationship.

 
Remember when banks were vying for your business by trying to be your friend? You’re not a customer. Your bank is not some cold, megalomaniacal corporate entity. No, you and your bank are “connected.” You are simpatico with your financial lending institution. You have established a relationship. Excellent. In lieu of that, my bank should loan me money with no questions and no interest. Repayment schedules should be at my discretion, which could be…whenever. Also off the table are returned check fees and poor credit rating notices. I’ll still take the calendars and the free toaster. Thanks, man. You’re the best.

 
Suggested slogan: We’re your neighborhood bank. We’re here to help. Maybe. Fill out the application and we’ll see.

 
Be Our Guest….

 
Some people enjoy shopping for a new car. I equate the car shopping experience with removal of an ingrown toenail.
The last time I entered a showroom, the sales professional asked for my name.

 
“Why?” I asked.

 
“We like to keep a record of our guests.”

 
Guests? Guests? I bit my tongue. Where to begin? Do you want to take my coat? Is there a powder room where I can freshen up? Where are the hors d’oeuvres? What? No appetizers? I’m not getting lobster ravioli with my two door hatchback with all wheel drive and air conditioning? Since I don’t hear any music and I don’t see the other “guests” kickin’ it on a dance floor, I assume this isn’t a party and I’m not your guest. So it really is a showroom where you expect to “up your commission” since I’m a woman buying a car on her own. I’m just saying.

 
We’re in the twenty-first century. Why hasn’t human kind evolved to the point of telling the simple truth? Instead, we play this round robin game of vendors professing their devotion to us and we lap it up. Have we no self-respect, no principles? If that cosmetics company tries again, will I fall for the “cherished patron” and 20% off routine? Hah!… only if they throw in free shipping… you can’t beat free shipping. I’m just saying.

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