theicingonthecrazycake

When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Moonrise Kingdom and writing clogs

I haven’t written all week: No blog, no fiction, not even a grocery list. It was not the best week, especially down in the trenches of the soon-to-be-unemployed. I had a couple of hand grenades launched my way, including a brief and polite rejection letter from Brown, where I had applied for a Marketing Manager position in their Continuing Education department. I networked my ass off for that job, and still, it got me nowhere.

This week, instead of full-steam-ahead productivity, I wallowed. I danced under the disco ball at my very own (and sparsely attended) pity party. I read. I slept. I didn’t clean my kitchen. The cat is peeved about the overall state of his litter box. I guess I got a little depressed. I did, on a good note, see my doctor (and find out my cholesterol numbers rival those of a Powerball jackpot, and thus, I will be visiting a nutritionist tomorrow). I did Pilates. I did Meals on Wheels, delivering 19 meals all by myself to a bunch of people who were happy to see me. So there was good among the bad, and I have to accept that this is LIFE. Up and down and all around. Keep plugging along.

But the writing still wouldn’t come. I couldn’t even lift my fingers to the keyboard, I couldn’t grasp a pen or even look at a blank piece of paper. Until Friday afternoon, when I played hooky and went to the movies.

Thank you Wes Anderson for pulling me out of my cloggy funk. Thank you for making Moonrise Kingdom. It is brilliant. It is funny. It is heartfelt, bittersweet, life-affirming. It reminds me of an innocent, simpler time and the endless world that seems to spread out ahead of us in our youth, where we can do anything, be anything, unencumbered by the nagging self-doubt, anxiety and baggage that plagues us in adulthood and tends to hold us back.

It also reminded me of a writing prompt from my fiction workshop: Start off with the words “I remember” and go from there. I’ve already done this prompt, but Moonrise Kingdom inspired me to do again, this time focusing on my childhood and adolescence. My reasons are selfish, I suppose. I want to find that innocence. I want to go back and remember the good and the bad. But most of all, I want to figure out when the break happened. When did I cross over the bridge, from guileless childhood to the sometimes cruel/sometimes beautiful reality of the adult world? Or did I ever have a naive, innocent time during my youth? I don’t know if there was ever a bridge to cross.

I Remember

I remember sledding down a hill in Durham, laughing so hard that my smile seemed to split open my face while my cheeks turned crimson in the cold. I remember the move from North Carolina to Florida; I rode with my dad in his beat-up neon-green VW Rabbit, while my mother and brother followed behind us in a rust-colored Monte Carlo. I remember my dad flicking cigarette after cigarette butt out of the window, chain-smoking his way through four states, from mountains to swamps, smoking to the soundtrack of the kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk of the tires hitting the highway seams. I remember the unrelenting damp heat of Florida, juxtaposed to the drier mountain-and-ocean-buffered Carolina heat, It hit me like an unexpected slap, leaving hand-prints on my soul and scrambling my brains like eggs on a searing sidewalk.

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50 shades of shameful, mindless escapism

There was an interesting editorial in The New York Times‘ regular Room for Debate feature last week. In particular, I was drawn to YA author Matt de la Pena’s part of the debate, where he quoted author Franz Kafka’s assertion that a book should wake us up with a blow to the head. He concluded that folks – due in no small part to their gerbil-sized technology-addicted attention spans – are mostly reading crappy, non-literary fiction in lieu of books that force them to think about and face their inner melancholy. And why? Because readers prefer a mindless escape, and ultimately, a way to reach a deeper sleep. No blow to the head needed, thankyouverymuch.

I doubt Kafka has read – unless he’s been reincarnated as a middle-age New Jersey housewife – the bestselling, taking-the-world-by-storm-oh-my-god-they’re-going-to-turn-it-into-a-movie Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I do, however, wonder what part of his body would be struck should he miraculously be able to read it. His head? Maybe not.

Anyway, Pena’s editorial was timely, as I had just put down the first installment of the trilogy – 200 smutty pages into it – to let my English major, William Faulkner and Edith Wharton-loving mind breathe for a moment and read something smart, like the paper version of the Times…my Sunday guilty pleasure.

Little did my innocent mind (almost as innocent as the 22-year-old narrator Anastasia Steele’s virginal world-view before meeting Christian Grey – sadist extraordinaire, billionaire mogul at the age of 28, and apparently the most gorgeous man in the world) know at the time is that it would get shamefully sucked into the 50 Shades trilogy, much like Anastasia gets sucked into Christian’s orgasmic world of exotic sports cars, helicopters and spankings. This series became my guilty pleasure for six painfully insufferable yet pleasurable days. I stand here (relieved? embarrassed? assessing my woefully inadequate sex life and bank account?) done with all 1,500 delicious, horribly written pages, replete (yes, that word is used like 6,000 times in the last installment of the trilogy) with insipid dialogue and a wildly implausible plot line. Yes, Kafka, this trilogy lodged a much-needed escapist blow to my head (and perhaps libido) – a blow that I must confess left me awake and alive, yet stupid (I feel like I just smoked 42 joints back to back to back and had part of my frontal lobe removed).

Speaking of libido, I can’t not talk about The Sex – which sometimes is “vanilla” (Christian Grey’s word, not mine), while other times borders on law-breaking S&M fantasies played out in the “Red Room of Pain” – that has every Christian group and stodgy librarian’s puritan panties in a wad. (And let’s NOT get started on the feminist outrage over this book; it takes two to tango – Anastasia knew what she was getting herself into.)

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Have wheels, will deliver meals

I pulled up outside Marra Food Services this morning at 9:30 a.m., anxious as hell. I was going on a training run with Joseph, who would show me my assigned route, should I decide to take on the work. Anxious because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, anxious about what I might see today, anxious because I didn’t know who this Joseph was — other than what the volunteer coordinator told me over the phone. Would he be an axe murderer? Smelly? An asshole? A horrible teacher?

Anxiety is so stupid sometimes. Joseph was a lovely retired gentleman who couldn’t have been a better tutor. He stood waiting for me as I walked up to the building. He firmly shook my hand, saying good morning, and I was completely at ease.

We walked inside and he ushered me over to the enormous, food-stuffed coolers that we would soon carry out to his car – one with hot meals, the other with cold food (milk, juice, cookie, roll). He showed me how to check off the number of meals/dietary specifications of the people on his route versus the food in the coolers (1% milk vs. whole, special diet needs, only some people wanted juice, no milk, one man who needed his food cut up for him, etc.). Everything looked good and we headed off to his car, coolers in our arms.

As we drove to our first stop (of 20), he explained the detailed notes on the route sheet, next to each meal recipient’s name: some people would leave their own coolers filled with ice packs outside their front doors (because they were either unable to get to the door quickly or they didn’t want to interact with the volunteers), others would be waiting for us, eager to see perhaps the only person they would see all day…to get what might be their only meal of the day. And others had caretakers or adult children that would be waiting to take the food from us.

“For the cooler/ice pack people, they sometimes forget to leave ice packs in them, and if so, we can’t leave the food. It might spoil,” Joseph explained. “If that’s the case, I’ll knock on the door to try to rouse them, but if I can’t get them to the door or they’re not home, I’ll give the extra meal to the next person on the route.”

He then laughed, and said “There’s one guy, toward the end of the route, who leaves hundreds of ice cubes in his cooler. Sometimes all that’s there when I arrive is a pool of water…and then I can’t leave the food for him. I’ll knock and knock, but he never comes to the door.”

Our first few stops were what I called “cooler people,” who had dutifully left their ice-pack-filled coolers by the front door. We packed the meals into their coolers, Joseph would rap on the door, and we would head back to his car.

On our fifth stop, a woman was waiting for us to arrive. As we pulled up, Joseph explained that she had only been on the route for three weeks and that she had baked pound cake for every volunteer who delivered meals to her during the first week. She was thrilled to see us. Joseph introduced me and told her that I would be delivering her meals on Mondays.

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An update to Happy Birthday to Me

You know it’s going to be a good day when you have to wrestle a used condom out of your dog’s mouth during the morning walk. It was on the lawn of a neighboring apartment building. Did they have sex on the lawn or in a car or did they fling it out of one the apartment windows? I’ll never know, nor do I really want to. I hope it was good, though.

Anyway, I’ve been rereading a couple of old posts from last Fall, and I’ve been laughing and sometimes crying. The one that stands out to me the most is my Crazy Cake inaugural post, Happy Birthday to Me. I wrote that post 21 days after the breakup; I’m already a different person than I was then. So in the spirit of realizing that things never turn out as expected, I’ve provided current updates to my original list.

***

#1 – October 2011: I can go three days without showering (but need to wash my hair only every four days). Not sure if all my friends and neighbors would agree…but I promise not to judge if they ever choose to curl up in a ball and eschew bathing.

June 2012: As evidenced by my recent post, I’ve whittled successive non-showering days down to two. Hair washing frequency has also improved. Progress!

***

#2 – October 2011: Vodka is NOT food group. Neither are Cheetoes. I don’t think I can look at a martini or powdery yellow salty snack EVER again. Tomorrow I start training for a 5K!

June 2012: What optimistic blather I typed above. Before cutting back my drinking to practically nothing and jumping on the yellow puffy snack wagon 2 months ago, I had stared down the barrel of the Gray Goose and Cheetoes gun many times. I have not trained for, nor run a 5K. But, I have started doing Pilates again. Again, progress.

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#3 – October 2011: My friends rule the world. So does my family (even though they sometimes put the crazy in the icing on top of the crazy cake).

June 2012: Hahahaha. Sorry. Yes, my family is definitely still crazy and entertaining. I do love them despite all the emotional and guilt-laden shenanigans. As for friends, I’ve reconnected with old dear ones and even several people here in Providence with whom I had lost touch. I will never take for granted their kindness and unconditional love. Others have fallen away, sort of disappeared. I don’t know if they were afraid, disgusted, tired of my apathy toward life and my inability to be a good friend, and/or dealing with their own difficult stuff (like me). Like the condom’s origins, I will probably never know.

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#4 – October 2011: Everyone should have a pet. The unconditional love attached to a warm nose and gentle eyes won’t immediately cure a broken heart, but it sure helps a helluva lot.

June 2012: No change on this. If you don’t have one, get thee to the local animal shelter today.

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#5 – October 2011: Exercise is a natural anti-depressant.

June 2012: I still agree. And that’s why I’m still a little depressed.

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#6 – October 2011: Unpacking after packing/reversing a move S U C K S. And anyone who causes that sort of pain is just not a nice person.

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The Job Interview – Parts 2 and 3

Continued from Part 1.

***

Part 2

A balding man in a rumpled gray suit shows me into a large conference room. He has bags under his glassy, empty eyes, which are framed by a mono-brow. He seems ambivalent, bored, robotic.

He leans in close – too close for my one-foot personal boundary rule and not far enough way for me to avoid a whiff of halitosis – and says “I’m the HR Manager, Dick Dickensheets.”

Think bad horrible ugly catastrophic thoughts, like exploding nuclear bombs and dead kittens, I think to myself. Do not laugh. Do NOT laugh.

“We’ll get started just as soon as Sage Green, our Marketing Director, arrives. In the meantime, would you like something to drink?”

Shit. Dead kittens, dead kittens, dead kittens. No, not helping. Men who wear capri pants, men who wear capri pants, men who wear capri pants. Okay, I can breathe now.

I think about asking for vodka on the rocks, but ask opt for water instead. I want him to get out of the room quickly so I can release a roar of pent-up laughter.

He exits the room, leaving a lingering trail of bad breath, and after a 30-second fit of giggles, I sit at the conference room table, tapping my fingers against the glass top and anxiously wondering whether my face is visibly blue based on my Spanx-induced oxygen deprivation.

Two minutes later, Dick arrives with Sage. Alarm bells go off – “runrunrunaway” they shrilly chime in unison. At first glance, I realize that Sage could be a man or woman or in the middle of a sex-reassignment surgery; a foreboding sense of dread about this interview starts to wash over my body.

It is wearing a tight-fitting pantsuit and a skinny tie – both in tropical fruit colors – with a crisp white shirt to pull it all together. Its hair is short, but not too short, fashionably slicked back, as shiny as a freshly waxed beamer and framing a semi-feminine face. Waxed eyebrows? Maybe – could go either way (they do provide a stark contrast to Mr. Dickensheets unpruned mono-brow). There is no visible 5’oclock shadow, although a curious bit of fuzz adorning its upper lip looks like a burgeoning caterpillar. Oxfords with laces and a slight heel. No make-up, wait is that eyelin…

“Hi Beatrice,” it says, interrupting my thoughts. It shakes my hand and says “Great to meet you,” sounding like Lauren Bacall or Kathleen Turner after smoking a carton of cigarettes.

“Good morning, Misterissus Green,” I slur, hoping he is too distracted by my muffin top to notice my poor enunciation. “You can call me Bea.”

“Well Bea, let’s get started, shall we?” Sage says in its raspy voice.

***

Part 3

The jump from the third-floor bathroom window has left my knees bruised and my panty-hose in shreds, but otherwise my body seems to be in working order. I glance up at the mangled, dangling window screen and then look over at the crushed shrubbery I had landed in, realizing – as I survey the large, packed parking lot – that I don’t remember where I parked my car.

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In degrees

I debated about taking a shower this morning. It was a long debate. A senseless debate, really. If you haven’t taken a shower in two days, it’s probably an opportune time to take one. Remember my muscle memory post? Shouldn’t showering be a muscle reflex (if anything, a reflex from your nose when it smells your armpit)?

Well, apparently it isn’t, at least not for the jobless, the depressed, the shut-ins, those who don’t have an office to go to or a client to meet. And I know several of them right now, including myself. And for some reason, the showering really trips us up. We share in  a community: the community of a lack of purpose and (sometimes) poor personal hygiene. And really, who gives a shit about soaping up your armpits when you lack big-picture meaning – a job, a vocation, a career – in your life?

As I’ve posted previously, I will soon be unemployed. The spaghetti I’m throwing at the walls – through research, writing, online job searching, networking and agreeing to whore myself out for anything that pays at least $20 an hour – is not sticking. So recently, my this-feels-fruitless-job-hunt-I will-be-living-in-a-cardboard-box-very-soon anxiety has grown into an enormous green-scaled, red-eyed monster, who hovers in my shadow during the day and hides under my bed at night. He has really sharp fingernails (talons?) and it hurts when he pokes me in the shoulder to let me know he’s still there. I’ve offered to pay for a manicure, but he’s ignored my offer. I’ve named him Puff the Magic Dragon; it makes him seem harmless…even though some days he is quite the opposite of nice.

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The Job Interview – Part 1

After months of unemployment, isolated from all the living except for a cat, dog, goldfish and orchid, I had taken to wearing sweatpants every day and eating copious amounts of Cheetos. So while it was surprising when I finally got a job interview, it was not surprising that none of my business-appropriate attire fit. Well, my clothes “fit” – after squeezing into three pairs of Spanx and deciding that muffin top was not only acceptable, it was the new sexy.

On the humid, rainy morning of the interview it takes me 27 minutes and 32 seconds to dress myself in 14 layers of spandex and an interview suit. I check my hair and make-up in the hall mirror (hair looks like an already-bad 80’s perm gone horribly awry and makeup is melting), pop half a benzo and head out to my soon-to-be-repossessed car

Driving the 20 miles to the interview, my mind is humming while my makeup continues to slide off my face and onto my neck. This company manufactures the rubber stoppers that are put on chair legs to prevent floor damage. I will be interviewing for the Senior Copywriter position; if selected, I would oversee production of the quarterly rubber-chair-stopper (RCS) catalog, including writing all the copy. Did you know that RCSs come in 325 different colors, and 75 different sizes? And more recently, they had become available in eco-friendly, sustainable materials, like recycled plastic, bamboo, cork, soybeans and bio-combustible cornstarch? (Don’t ask, I don’t know what the hell the cornstarch stuff is either, which given Murphy’s stupid Law, I will be asked about in the interview.) Six materials X 325 colors X 75 different sizes = a lot of scintillating copy to write.

I had applied for this job in a fit of Resume Drunk Dialing.

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Muscle memory

My land-line business phone rang at 1:28 a.m. early Thursday morning. (Do not mock my land-line; I have a very nice iPhone for personal use.)

I awoke from a deep, Klonipin-induced sleep with the thoughts “Who died, who died, whodied??” racing through my head as I tucked into the fetal position between my comforter and a fluffy pillow. By the time I reached the phone – located in the other room – the caller had gone to voice mail/hung up. I looked at the caller ID, expecting to see my parents’ phone number or a call from one of my sisters. Or maybe my brother, telling me the Bulgarian Princess had absconded overseas with my nephew. Instead, I was shocked; the illuminated number had not been on my quickly assembled mental list of potential callers.

It was NEB (now ex-boyfriend), whom I haven’t talked to since last October. Why? And why – after he left no message – did I call him back? Because, stupid me, I still fucking care for some masochistic reason. Did his mom die? Was he sick or had he been in an accident? Was he drunk and finally ready to offer an apology for his douchy douche-bag behavior last year? Did he butt-dial me? Did his new girlfriend, trolling through his phone while he slept, stumble upon my number? I had to know. It’s my nature. For me, ignorance does not equal bliss.

I dialed without any thought, the muscle memory in my fingers typing the number without the need to hit redial. It rang and rang. I got his voice mail. I hung up, leaving no message. Alas, I would get no answer to my “Whys” that night and, most likely, ever.

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