Thursday, May 21, 2009

Torture Techniques for Writers

I'm one of those writers who works just fine in noise. And chaos. I'm great with chaos. So, I can pretty much write anywhere, any time. Silence I'm not so fond of, though. I hear things, distracting things, if it's all quiet. So, I work and write with music in the background. Rock music, for preference.

I also find music particularly inspiring. The right artist, album, or song can rev me for hours, sometimes days or even weeks. I have wide, eclectic tastes in music, so I have a huge music library to choose from. (Trust me, we're talking Empire Records/High Fidelity huge. Combined.)

This is great for me, because it means I can always get in the writing groove merely by turning on the iPod or stereo. It's not so great for my husband. Because he doesn't have the same deep and wide and eclectic musical tastes as I do. So he gets to listen to music he usually hates pretty much 24/7.

But, there's more. When I get on a one song kick, I will listen to that, and only that, for hours, usually days. Weeks isn't unheard of. Yes, you read that right -- one song, over and over and over again, ad infinitum.

The husband shared that this is not only a military torture technique, but apparently a really successful one. One song, played loud, over and over again, nonstop. It's working, making the enemy crack, and is considered a horrific thing to do to a person. To him, my musical listening habits sound like cause for Amnesty International to come and have a chat with his wife about her cruel and unusual punishments.

To me this sounds like I should get away from it all at Guantanamo Bay. A little R&R in a private room with a view, someone else slopping up the gruel, no worries about housecleaning, that one special song on repeat -- I'd have a novel done in like a week.

Years of sports-related injuries have also upped my pain tolerance. I pay money for people to hurt me in order to feel better when they stop. Clearly, I'm missing my true calling.

Ergo, I offer myself up to the State Department. I'll volunteer to go out for some super secret mission. They can rest easy with the knowledge that, if captured, I'll never crack.

Until then, it's time to get some writing done. For some reason, "I'm a Terrible Person" by Rooney is calling my name. Cannot imagine why.


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Saturday, May 9, 2009

How I Met My Mother

My first introduction to the woman who would become my de facto mother was at tax time. I don’t deal well with forms -- which is a story for another time, another blog, and, potentially, another writer -- this is a humor column, after all, not Oprah’s couch.

We’d bought a house and had no idea of what to do to ensure Uncle Sam didn’t just take it right back from us, so we called our realtor, who is also a good friend, and said, “Helen, what do we do?”

Helen, God love her, always knows what to do.

She sent us to Mary, who is a C.P.A. and who also conveniently lived not 5 minutes from us. We’re on one side of the mall, she’s on the other.

So, we made our appointment and trundled over. The hubs was calm and normal, the chicklet was busy doing her homework. And I was in the fetal position. Quite the impressive first meeting.

A couple of weeks later, hubs and Mary were talking and he discovered she and I shared mutual interests in a couple of TV shows and the Old West. So, she and I started chatting about it on email, and all of a sudden, she realizes I’m a normal person. So, we started hanging out, since we lived close and both like to eat, drink and be merry, yet have husbands that go to bed at 9pm.

A few months after this, it was business trip time. The hubs was on his own trip, the chicklet was taken care of, but I needed a ride to the airport. This was before 9-11, so you could still go to the gate with your departing party. Since Mary was driving me there, I suggested she come in, I’d buy us Starbucks, and we could continue talking (something we both excel at) while waiting for my plane to board.

We were in the security line when it happened. The very nice, elderly black lady doing my security was listening to us riff and yuck it up as I opened my Thinkpad and turned it on to prove it wasn’t a bomb. In fact, back in these simpler days, we were riffing that maybe it WAS a bomb and maybe I WAS a terrorist. Good times…good times. Try that now and see what happens to you.

Anyway, as we got off a particularly funny set of ripostes, the lady said, “Oh, it’s so nice to see a mother and daughter so close.” I guess Mary insinuating I was a terrorist fit this lady’s definition of ‘close’.

Mary is older than me, but not THAT much older. I laughed and shared that Mary wasn’t my mother. Which upset the security lady. A lot. “I don’t think you should be embarrassed by it! I think it’s wonderful!”

Mary explained that, no, we were just good friends. Which continued to upset the security lady. A lot. “In this day and age, it’s such a beautiful thing, a mother and daughter so close and such good friends! You shouldn’t be denying it, you should be embracing it!” I thought she was going to cry. Literally. And if she cried, would that not mean other security personnel might take a more personal interest?

So, to keep the peace, I said, “Yes, you’re right, she’s my mom.” Instant relief from the security lady, no special bag searches for me, and we trundled off. As we got out of security earshot, Mary said, “Yes. You’re the illegitimate daughter gave up for adoption because I was only thirteen.”

Her mistake.

Because I latched onto that one, and we riffed on it the entire time we waited for the plane. By the time I boarded, she WAS my mom. I call her Mumsy, at least as often as I call her Mary. The chicklet calls her GrandMumsy at least as often. She and my “Daddy” are great parents -- there when you need them, never digging in your business otherwise, fun to hang out with.

But Mumsy got the better deal. She adopted a full grown adult with a good job and marriage, complete with pre-housebroken grandchild. She reaps the benefits of a son-in-law who is happy to come over and help do things, tech support from both of us, and the joys of a grandchild, without ever having gone through the icky parts of parenting.

And, she scores Mother’s Day gifts, too.

This year, I'm giving her a blog.


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