Monday, August 30, 2004

People ... People Who Watch People

I like people-watching. I do this a lot, even while I'm driving the stupid little half-rusty Escort home from work and I should be watching the road a little more closely because I'm in the smallest, least trustworthy car on the road.

Today I spotted a man walking from one parking lot to another in a small shopping center area along Route 65. He must have been around 50, perhaps a little older. He was dressed in this odd assortment of clothes that just made absolutely no fashion statement at all. I didn't think that was possible until I saw this man today. I mean, everyone's dress makes some sort of statement about them, even if it's "I'm a total dweeb," or "I couldn't match my clothes properly even if they were on Garanimals hangers in my closet," or perhaps "I don't look like the kind of person you want to get too close to without a medium-sized can of Mace."

But this guy was making no statement at all. I couldn't figure out how he dressed himself. Oddly, all his clothing looked clean, so I didn't get a sense of thriftstoreitis about him. But nothing made sense. He was wearing rather white (okay, glowing) sneakers, the kind someone would wear who participates in athletic activity at least once a ... year. But he didn't look like he participated in so much as a chess match in the park with the old guys on Tuesday afternoons.

Above the sneakers he wore a crisply pressed pair of gray Dockers, but with too much pleating in the front to suit him well. Plus, with the sneakers, the overly neat Dockers just looked, well, out of place.

Above that was a silvery, shiny zip-up jacket. It had that '80s tacky look that made me think back to the bad ol' days. (There weren't many good ol' days for me in the '80s. Long story. Let's not go there. Suffice it to say none of it had anything to do with Ronald Reagan, though.)

Under the silvery, tacky/shiny jacket was a red T-shirt with some sort of writing on it. Just a regular-looking red T-shirt. A little bit wrinkly, in fact. And the writing on the shirt was worn, as if perhaps it was a favorite shirt worn and washed so often that it showed its age and then some.

He was carrying a paper bag sideways under one arm and something that could have been a large car part under the other. I don't know why. He didn't look like he was walking to his car. He was out near the road, just walking. Who buys car parts (large ones, at that) for cars they don't have, or, at least, don't have with them?

To top off the look (or lack of it), he wore a red baseball cap on his head -- backwards. Now, I'm sorry, but no one over 12 should wear a baseball hat backwards any more, and no one who's not into hip-hop. This guy was instantly disqualified on both counts.

And yet there sat the ball cap on his head -- backwards. Defiantly backwards. And yet he didn't even know he was defying anything. I could tell. He just put the hat on that way.

While sitting at the traffic light staring at this guy, I fleetingly thought perhaps this guy had a story. I'm a writer; I should be able to figure out this guy's story, or make one up just as good.

Just as I was contemplating the possibility of his alter ego being LL Cool Walter or something, the Alpha Romeo Spider behind me beeped. The light had turned green. I hate when that happens.

I've been home from work for two hours and I still haven't figured this guy out. Do I lack imagination, or does this man defy description because he fits into absolutely no category?

Ehh, he's probably just as boring as he looks, that's all.

Meanwhile, I'm still struggling with Novel #2 (tentative title Don't Ask). The story is there. I just have to pluck it out of me. (And suddenly that sounds incredibly painful.) The stuff I do for my art.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

If It's Thursday, This Must Be Pennsylvania...


Why am I sighing so early in this blog entry? Haven't a clue except that once I start typing, I try to keep moving, and when I haven't a clue what to type, I sigh. And so, I TYPE "sigh" into the text. And you're stuck reading it.

My Novel That Actually Got Finished In January (otherwise known as Gray Area) placed as a Top 20 Semifinalists in the contest, Operation First Novel, co-sponsored by Tyndale House and Jerry Jenkins' Christian Writers Guild. This was in late June. This was also when I attended a writing conference and met a big-time New York literary agent. We seemed to like each other and admire each other's strengths (hers being her cool big-time New York literary agent-thing and mine being, I dunno, writing bad fake book titles like the Kama Sutra Pop-Up Picture Book for Evangelicals).

About two weeks ago I sent her the first four chapters of Gray Area (at her request) and now I sit here in western Pennsylvania biting my nails (figuratively) waiting for her response. We'll see if I can get her attention enough for her to ask for the rest of the manuscript. That's the goal.

And meanwhile I wait.

I got more stuff in the mail the other day. Not dictionaries this time, although this is nearly as exciting. It was a long cardboard tube from the American Library Association, and it contained a promotional poster to advocate reading and libraries done by my homey, "Weird Al" Yankovic (who is holding a copy of a Stephen Hawking book in the poster). Yes, I actually paid money for this poster, and yes, it's hanging here right behind me on the wall of My New Office®.

Let me explain My New Office® to the uninitiated.

My 20-year-old son moved out a while back, and we began to use his room as a kind of storage room, piled with banker's boxes of old junk that my husband can't bear to part with but I can't bear to look at. This room is on the second floor and used to be a smallish kitchen when the old huge house was two apartments. This means it has a linoleum floor, kitchen cabinets and cupboards, and a dual stainless steel sink.

Many of the banker's boxes were dealt with but some are now back out in the upstairs hallway, looking forlorn but somehow not out of place in our house (if you know what I mean). We got a couple of conference tables and set them up in an L-shape in the corner opposite the countertops/cabinets. Along one wall I have the computer, flat-panel monitor, and a little inkjet printer (also a boombox). Along the other wall are my freelance proofreading materials: dictionaries, style manuals, Wite-Out, pens (red, of course), an E-gauge, Post-its, etc. Exciting stuff like that.

I festooned the walls with writing awards and medals, the signed "Weird Al" poster from his first show in Canada in '95, a corkboard for notes, and caricatures of three of the kids (Addie has yet to get her caricature done in Vegas). Bookcases, a rolling file cabinet that fits under one of the tables, and some knick-knacks (some of which actually are from my parents, come to think of it), and I'm all set.

On the countertop is a coffeemaker and all the supplies I'll need for that, and a little dorm fridge with creamer, sodas, ground coffee, a coupla beers, and some ice water. Yeah, life is good. I may never have to leave this room again.

Hershey, the ancient Burmese, resides in here too. Well, her food and water dishes, her litterbox, and her new foamy bed reside in here. She usually resides elsewhere in the house and sees fit to visit me when she wants something. Like food or water. Or someone to annoy with her loud, gravelly yelling. It's a good thing she has seniority.

I'm beginning to realize what a rambly entry this is. I'd be embarrassed if I thought anyone was actually reading this thing.

I should probably try to find out why my printer won't print in color, and then see if there is any more word on the upcoming release of Myst IV: Revelation. (Yes, I'm one of those weirdos who plays all the Myst games. I have no life, and I don't like first-person shooters. Welcome to my world.)

I'm looking up at my corkboard and I see a button from the '70s that says "Up With People!" Does anyone remember that gawdawful traveling motivational singing group of "young people" that performed in schools in the '70s and gave us all Type 2 diabetes? Amazingly, I bought a button ... and I kept it for over 25 years.

And I just admitted it in public.

I am so glad no one reads this thing.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hail, the Conquering Hero!

I don't know why I chose that title. I just did. It doesn't particularly excite me. Or you. Or probably anyone on the planet, except perhaps Robin Williams, and if you get that reference, you need a life more than I do.

My parents pretty much bought a house today. That's news because one doesn't just up and buy a house very often. Or very fast. But my parents buy houses fast. They think-think-think about buying a house. Then they plan-plan-plan to buy a house. Then they do the math-math-math about buying a house.

Then they look at three houses and buy the best one. Plunk money down. Buy it. Go back to the old house and start packing, baby, because here we come!

So, in probably just a few short months, they'll be on their way back here to Pennsylvania from gorgeous Las Vegas, where they have lived for the past ten years. And just when I was going to get famous and published and have the money to move out there myself. Figures. Now I can't even buy their house myself for a wink and a smile. Pleh.

Oh well. Lake Mead is 1/3 full anyway, so I'm probably better off back here where we get flooded basements deeper than Lake Mead on a bad day.

Still, the prospects loom large here of an eventual move to West Virginia. Nothing definite yet, by any stretch of the imagination. But, it is in the Distant Realm of Possibility. I'm trying not to be frightened by the thought of knocking out all my front teeth as required by law down there and living in a trailer and storing old car tires on my front porch and using a ratty old tweed couch as patio furniture.

I realize I can write and proofread anywhere, but can a sane person do these things in West Virginia? Oh, the shame. Oh, the horror.

Back to my parents' move.

I've never lived closer than 300 miles to my parents. Well, aside from when I was a child and lived with them. Then I was just 300 miles away mentally, but that's really not the same thing, is it? No, didn't think so. Will they start showing up on my doorstep with cute little knick-knacks they just found at the shopping center that they have to show me? Will my mom start coming over with a Handi-Wipe and some Pine Sol and spontaneously clean my kitchen while she's supposedly here to have coffee and chat? Will my dad come over and offer to fix things that aren't even broken yet, and say things like, "Hey, kiddo, how ya doin'?" and "When's that book coming out?" and "What were the lottery numbers today?"

Ahh, you can take the man out of Vegas, but you can't take Vegas outta the man.