Reading Red Flags or If you feel like you’re going to throw up, just leave.

April 24, 2013

I’ve just had the absolute worst dental experience ever which was confirmed to me not only by a yelp review (seen after the appointment) calling the him the absolute worst dentist ever but also by this I might have to throw up kind of feeling happening in the region of my mid stomach. Another thing this yelp review said is the only reason you should go to this dentist is to write about it so he did. And now, so will I.

This is a lesson in red flags.  Red flag number one. Today 11am there was one other patient on the sign in list and the date next to that name was yesterday at 11am.  I almost questioned whether or not the date today was yesterday’s date instead because it seemed so unusual to me that no one had come to the office since the day before.  But because the office was so close to the coffee shop I went to this morning and because I thought that was a sign, I stayed.

Red flag number two.  I had to take a full set of X-rays even though I said I had a full set of X-rays in the past year and a half and I wanted to minimize the number of X-rays I have and could I just have a cleaning.  The receptionist told me that the kind of radiation their machine puts out was exactly as safe as going out into the sun one day and that she could use the machine every day for 10 days and be just fine.  That sounded like something I hadn’t heard of before so I felt a little compelled to give it a try.  But when I questioned further she said to me that even pregnant women had X-rays so I shouldn’t worry so much and I said out loud but more to myself: that isn’t true.

OK when you’re saying things to yourself but out loud is when it’s time to just walk out.  Which I did but only after I went to the doctor and saw him sitting in a wheel chair with an amputated leg and felt his not so fresh breath on my face and let him get mad at me because, “please it’s 11:30, time is passing!”  So why did I walk back in just a few moments later, you might ask? Because I hate the dentist and I didn’t want to take my whole day finding another one and besides which how bad can it be.

Answer, very. When then doctor was reviewing my sheet of my health history with me I noticed that his left hand was shaking.  And he was talking to me like he was giving a performance, beginning with – Ms. Kramer, have you seen the movie Kramer vs. Kramer.  I saw it in London in – and he paused to see if I could guess the year – and when I didn’t he filled in the time with the word – eighty….and then dragged his voice out until I said two.  Eighty two, yes, he said, very good.  And he said that was a good time, a very good time, when things were good and the leg was still there, gesturing toward his waist.

Then I stopped counting the flags. My eyes glazed over.  I started feeling nauseous.  Are you sure you are OK, he asked, but for the first time, any breakfast? as if that a banana milk shake in the am would have helped to put me at ease.  How is a dentist going to perform his service with a shaking hand? Can I trust a dentist with stale breath?  And why is he called everyone Momo?

Which he was.  First his receptionist was Momo and then the dental hygienist was Momo and then finally, when his hands were in my mouth, I was Momo too.  The trouble is that I do think this dentist was very knowledgable.  He saw things in my mouth that were a little unique and showed that he cared “See these holes, these are genetic and they happen with people who like lemon or acid” but because he kept micro-managing his dental hygienist to make up for the fact that his left hand was shaking the side of the mirror into my gums, I just don’t want to give him any credit at all.


You’re A Writer

December 26, 2012

You’re a writer, Jonatha said, as if I had asked.  Although maybe I had, not directly, but with that sappy ass look I had been displaying every day since we arrived.  Do you like me, the look asked, as if that’s what’s I was here for to begin with.

Esalen.  A summer camp for adults.  Complete with the ice cold glasses of milk poured from white plastic utters of stand alone fridge at the side of the dining hall.

There’s a darkness around you, she said.  I feel bad for you, but it’s good for your writing.  And then she was gone leaving me standing next to a toasting machine in constant motion as if waiting for someone to feed it a slice.

There had been lots of lonely that week.  Those pacific coast cliffs carving out endless space around me, tearing up the edge of the ocean and raising up into the night holding up that endless matt of stars.  My mouth gaping open that first night, head cracked back, like I could catch one in my mouth as it fell, splattering bright marks across the sky.

I talked to everyone but got to know no one.  Except Sam. I had wanted to braid my hair with hers the instant she spoke up in our group.  I’m throw up in my boot nervous, she had said by way of introduction.

We sat in that fish bowl of a room, all twenty-seven of us.  One set of windows pointing out onto the ocean, the other up into a small sharp shooter poking lodger set in the hills. It wasn’t unusual to walk into a room like this one in the evening and find a figure communing with the dark.

I had driven up with a thin gray-haired woman, small and stylish, with a fresh flower set in her tightly wound bun.  The car had no AC and she did not give a damn.  I was late meeting her and so was the other woman who drove up with us, a cafe owner.  The fourth woman was just married and enthusiastically signed up for courses, first this one and then one at the French Culinary Institute of New York.

When we arrived on the campus our driver unpacked the trunk and told us all to have a good week, even though we were bound to meet each other again on the expansive sun covered deck where everyone from all classes would meet for lunch, to drink garden herbed water from palm sized glasses with salads of lettuce and figs grown on the grounds.

It was that kind of lunch that made me hungry.  Drew me to that late night snack table to begin with.  Something feeling scratchy and unsatisfied, yearning for comforting foods, pasta, pizza, things that get at the surface level of hunger but never underneath.

So I had walked into the dark dining room late at night, through which one would pass on their way to the moonlight sulfur baths set on the side of the mountain.  I had skulked around that snack table and slathered some peanut butter on whole grain bread with a mini-spatula made to pull alternative butter out of buckets when Jonatha had arrived to do the same.  She in her Emily doll like outfit, her black rimmed glasses, her dark banks heavy across her forehead.

I’m sorry, I think I said, before she left.  Feeling like I must have been a burden to them, the real writers, who I loomed around, in hopes that I could lap up the edges of their confidence by sitting next to them in the heated pools.

Trust me, I’m not wrong about these things, she had said over her shoulder. On the last day of our workshop she left in the morning.  Something about a cat who would need an appointment on the same day when we would sit together on the floor on those oversized pillows and say our thanks to each other, and our goodbyes.

Write Like The Wind

November 5, 2012

Heads up everyone,  it’s Nanowrimo!  That’s short for National Novel Writing Month, for those of us who haven’t already taken the 50,000 word challenge. And for those of us who have, let’s everyone have another go this year.

The call for professional writers to commit to finishing a draft of their novel in thirty days started over ten years ago with a mere 140 people.  In 2011 over a quarter of a million people participated in the event.  But not everyone ends up a winner.

In order to win you must log into the NaNo website and make yourself a username and password.  Use NaNo’s super fun word counter to keep a running tally of your progress throughout the month. That’s 1,666 words every day to you, Mr.

Getting stuck?  Try out the community forums and talk with other members who are well on their way.  Ask them anything from character tips to plotting techniques or just get some extra support if you are falling behind.

Even NaNo knows that a draft is only the beginning.  Don’t just send that sucker out with a agent query until at least the start of 2013.  And if you spend December congratulating yourself for finishing a draft, you may have to wait just a little bit longer.

If you hide from yourself the truth hurts no less

September 24, 2012

I found out that I am NOT a 34C, like I’ve thought ever since I got out of college and started buying my own bras.  Pretty much before that I wore this one set of Victoria Secret bras my mom bought me and sent to me as a care package when I was 15.  Or I wore no bra.

I actually really like no bra best, but not in a slutty way.  If I can wear a shirt that’s like a tank or something that kind of keeps everything held together I will because that’s when I feel most comfortable.  But then again the woman giving me my fitting asked me if I had children.  (as you know, i do not).

Iris Lingerie @ 366 Atlantic, underneath Kimera clothing store is where you can get a fitting too, if your’e into doing this kind of thing in public.  Although the store is more like a nook and there’s not really anyone else in the store expect for you for some reason.  It seems like there’s some rule that there’s only one person that’s allowed in the store at once.

It turns out that I have some kind of concave thing that some women have that makes it difficult to get a bra to sit flat in the center. That kind of made me feel grossed out a little, like there was something there I should want to fix.  To me that represents a folding in, a hiding, a scarcity, a hole, something to fill.

My tendency is to find a meaning in almost anything, whether or not there is meaning there to be found.  The good part is that there’s always another through line to anything that’s happening in real life, an invisible string that seems to tie things together even when you’re not dolling out the thread.  The bad part is that there’s a constant yearning to figure out what it all means which takes one, like me, away from what’s happening in the moment.

Iris says that’s just what some women have, and it’s up to her to find a bra that works no matter what kind of funny thing your body throws her way.  She puts all my info into the computer so that she can be on the lookout for other styles that will fit.  I walk out with a nice bra that I won’t wear that much because that’s my other tendency, to hold off on pleasure as long as possible because there might be some time when I’ll really need it and it will be gone and then what.

Penelope Says

September 12, 2012

Are you married or single, asks Penelope Trunk at the start of our career coaching call.  I have already told her over email that I feel split between the idea of having a child and birthing the baby of a new career.  She has already suggested that I put myself in a position to pursue a family if I wanted to have one.

Long term boyfriend, I answer.  I am crouched over a phone in a conference room at the office I go to every day from 9-5.  The service is spotty and so my face is pressed up against the window as if that would allow me to hear her message any better.

What’s wrong with your current job, she asks.  You’re a project manager so you have to execute other people’s plans rather than make a strategy of your own, she summarizes before I answer. That fine, she says, keep doing that.

My heart falls. What worked for me in my twenties – sitting enveloped in a second hand executive chair glued to a computer screen night and day –  no longer worked in my thirties.  And yet my current life – taking the subway into Manhattan just in time to sling my bag over a non-executive chair and head to a 10am meeting  – wasn’t working either.  I wanted a new plan.

I hear myself giving examples of how my tenacious attitude had benefited me in the past and how I would rely on what had worked before to get me where I wanted to go next. I sound like I always sound, smart, persistent, with a tinge of crazy.  I was tired of this voice and yet I could not bring myself to accept that there was a reasonable solution in sight.

To Be Continued…

Three Fair Questions for Siri

September 11, 2012

The iPhone 5 is about to come out and I still haven’t had time to properly get to know Siri, my mobile assistant, included with the release of the iPhone 4S last October.

So I sat down with her for a few questions about the facts of life, the importance of beauty, and the upcoming election.

As it turns out she’s more than a little bit surly.  Can you imagine how an assistant would be chastised for that cheeky response about how I look?  And with such a skeptics attitude too!

Question: Siri, Where do babies come from?

Answer: From Their Mothers. (Wolfram Alpha)

Question: Siri, How do I look today?

Answer: I can’t see you (emphasis Siri).

Q: Siri, What does my future hold?

A: Sorry, Emily, I can’t look for places in Canada

This was not at all what I expected to hear from someone who is there to help.  In fact, if Siri were a human, she very well may have been fired.  Might we not expect the new OS upgrade to come with a little attitude adjustment?

I had a stand off with a man who came to the library and not for the books

September 7, 2012

First I found out how easy it is to reserve a book. Just enter the name of the book you’re looking into a form field on the internet and click to hold the book at the library closest to you. The all you have to do is go to that library and head on down to the hold section and the book is waiting there for you. With your name on it. This is a regularly scheduled public service announcement.

Then I was reminded that there are not just books at the library, oh no.  You’ve also got access to you lastest magazines  wrapped up in plastic covers and red bindings out on display, like in the subway station, only you can look inside. I picked up whatever latest dish there was on Suri and Kate and trekked it along with me into the philosophy room just for a little peak before I started writing. Did she sign a contract to keep quiet about scientology in exchange for a quick and easy divorce?  We may never know.

Finally, it was nice to learn that the library is up date, technology wise.  Can I plug in somewhere, asks a woman standing at the info desk with a laptop and an ETHERNET cable coming from the side. No, you have to use the air, says the man behind the desk, giving a little wave with his hand around his head to demonstrate.  Ok, it’s a little spotty, but who needs the internet when you’re surrounded by knowledge already!

But just as I was getting comfortable downstairs in the fiction section, sitting on some cozy cushioned chairs I found over by the circulation desk, a guy sat down across from me. Or not across from me, rather, but across from the girl that was sitting next to me, also in one of the six cozy living room like chairs. And when he did, he started to moan like there was something down his pants and he liked it.

My neighbor seemed to disagree. Did you hear what was going on, I asked him, after the man got up and left. The man shifted in his seat and seemed like he wished I would go away. Because I wasn’t sure what to think about what was going on, I said. So I was wondering what you heard.

He was talking to himself, my neighbor said, and he shrugged.

Like, no big deal. The moaning didn’t really distract him like it distracted me. For me, I started feeling gross at the bottom of my stomach like I needed to find a new room. When I got up to leave, the moaner got up too, and gave a little laugh like he had won.

Listen. I went back! Because when you need inspiration, and not the kind that involves a sinking feeling in your gut, they’ve got shelves and shelves of the stuff. On one break I picked up Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth, from the shelves and found the perfect quote to start a post on my addiction to knowing the future before it’s arrived:

But also because the library is a place I can go to hear myself think.  And for someone who likes to listen more to what people say about me than what I think about myself this is a gem of a situation.  So much so that I’m not going to let a little moaning get in my way.

Here’s the quote for those of you who can’t wait for after the weekend.  The gist of the story will be something like how I started reading Susan Miller one day and ended up as one of the people who would justify your crazy stories by telling you that’s just what someone with your rising sign would do.  That’s right naughty Scorpios, I’m talking to you.

Gnothi Seauton—Know Thyself.

These words were inscribed above the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, site of the sacred Oracle. In ancient Greece, people would visit the Oracle hoping to find out what destiny had in store for them or what course of action to take in a particular situation. It is likely that most visitors read those words as they entered the building without realizing that they pointed to a deeper truth than anything the Oracle could possibly tell them. They may not have realized either that, no matter how great a revelation or how accurate the information they received, it would ultimately prove to be of no avail, would not save them from further unhappiness and self-created suffering, if they failed to find the truth that is concealed in that injunction—Know Thyself.

Did you make it to the end of these five paragraphs or more?  I’m dying to know.  Leave me a note to say hi, or tell me the NYPL you like to visit best.

Time Management for Dummies

September 6, 2012

Sit down one morning in a silent place with a notebook and a pen. Make sure your space is clear of all books, cell phones and computers.  Write down everything you want or need to do.

Travel to Spain.  Buy new tennis sneakers.  Take my daughter to the Zoo.  Write a list until you get to 100 items.  If you want to stop writing and start counting you know you have more writing to do.

Make each one doable.  For instance, “Stop drinking coffee” goes into the calendar as: “Pick up a box of green tea.”  Circle the most important ones and put them on your calendar for the coming week.

It might take a month to knock off the first three on your list so be patient.  Hell, it’s taken me six months to get to selling an old projector. Because it’s hard to trade in the person you once knew and loved for the imperfect person you are today.

When you finally get a few things out of the way, give your self a moment to do song or dance or however it is you show happy.  Did you celebrate? Now begin again.

Other People’s Lives

September 5, 2012

A Williamsburg storefront space on North Third houses the Sketchbook Project: a collection of thousands of journals submitted from all over the world. Inside the library there’s a large wooden table complete with library chairs and a reading lamp.  Once you get yourself a library card, a librarian will gather the journals for you from the shelves, two at a time.

Spend less time on the internet, one person writes over and over again on one page with a strip from a tag maker with the same words glued down below. Later on in the same book she writes down a list of women to research: Tina Fey, Miranda July, Queen Latifah, Kathleen Hanna, Parker Posey make her cut. One of the last pages in the journal is a double sided collage of “dudes holding shit.”

Another book I appreciated had every page devoted to significant moments in a girl’s life so far. Being a nerd changed this girl, she writes on one. Falling in love changed this girl, she writes on another page. Getting her heart broken changes this girl, she says on the next.

And a sixteen year old girl created a comic like character of herself to explain to the reader that she “really has no idea what she wants to do in the future.” Her thoughts are illustrated by her character dressed up in different costumes and include her first idea, a mermaid, and subsequent ideas like a writer, library or fashion designer. There’s also a possible “computer person,” and finally, the fantasy of running away to join the circus.

But these are just my favorites. The whole collection is archived online so you can go look at the journals without visiting the library itself. Or you can wait until a part of the present years collection comes to visit a city near you. Either way, there are some gems available for you here if you take the time to explore.

Five Things To Do From 8am-9am That Aren’t The Internet

August 15, 2012

When I stopped checking my email / txt message + blog reports first thing in the morning I found I was more likely to do these five things:

Write at least 750words.

Before I get totally neurotic and explain how to save separate simple text documents titled by date,  I’ll say I don’t think it matters much how you do your 750 words.  By hand. On the computer. Voice recorded with Photo Booth.  It’s just a place to tell yourself the truth.

Drink one cup of tea 

I drink mine with no honey and little ceremony.  One tea bag in some boiling water and we’re off.  To get excited to make your own morning beverage, try buying a special mug you’ll look forward to using when you wake up, either for its color, shape or photo of a toothless nephew.

Read  one story or an article. 

This morning I read one essay from Cowboys Are My Weakness, by Pam Houston, one of three writers that are new and dear to me.  She commented on the inside cover of The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller so I had to fast take and photo of the book with my iphone just to keep myself from making an impulse buy. There’s also a sci-fi issue of the New Yorker (with a story written in 140 word installments by Jennifer Egan) to look through + some John Cheever short stories that make me both sad and happy at the same time.  Soon I may give letters from Saul Bellow a try.

It’s probably best to replace morning reading with meditation.  I don’t know much about doing meditation every day but I know that people I like and respect swear that things they wanted to change in their life did once they committed to meditation.  So stay turned for more on sitting still instead of reading in the morning hour.

Brush teeth, floss, wash face and maybe shower. 

So simple right?  But how many times do you just press that title envelope icon on the bottom of your phone before you even get out of bed?  Imagine talking to those same people in person with that same breath! Vanity = behavior change.

Take a batch of notecards and write down a few important things, one per card.

Sometimes I have so many left over cards from the previous day I don’t need to write new cards every morning.  If this happens to you, then make your cards or task lists more specific.  So sell old computer on crags list becomes: take a photo of old computer. Something that’s possible to tackle in one day rather than a bunch of days.

Add these all up and you get at least one hour before you even have to do anything online. Sometimes I am crazy edgy to get to the keyboard and sometimes it’s not till after lunch that I feel the need to check in with my pixel perfects friend.  What would you do if you were stay offline for one hour in the morning a try?  If you are a mom, please ignore.

Next time on Five Paragraphs: Rediscovering the library.