Sunday, December 21, 2008

Loving the Unliving (having nothing to do with zombies)

You know, it just doesn't pay to anthropomorphize inanimate objects. What? This is not a problem you have? Well, then you're clearly not a very feeling person. Okay, or you're just a perfectly sane person. Fine. I have been known to over-empathize. Even with the unliving. I'm also famous for being an all-around defender. Some people play the devil's advocate, I'm the underdog's cheerleader. I'm getting better at it. I mean at not doing it. Years of ridicule help you get over that sort of thing. (My brother used to tell me that my stuffed plush animals were dead. I'd shout, no, they were never alive, in order to best him. Yeah, so they're dead, he'd counter. That's just a related aside for you.)

But see the inanimate object thing, I don't get ridiculed as much for that because I keep it to myself. Mostly I think I'm over it. As a child it was no good, no good at all my friend. I would take a glass off the shelf then decide I wanted a different one so I'd exchange them. Only to feel so bad for the first that I'd have to take it back again. Even if it was too small for my needs or whatever the rational problem I had with it in the first place was. I distinctly remember trying on a blouse as a very little girl and changing my mind about it then feeling terrible. I think my mom sussed me out, though. I was probably rather transparent. I'm pretty sure we didn't actually buy the unwanted shirt. (Oh god! I feel bad calling it that!)

My sister tells me that she got a pair of baseball pants for her son, but they turned out to be see-through (a design flaw, if you ask me). So she was going to return them and my nephew got all upset about it. She figured him out, too (it must run in moms). Pointed out that he would not be happy on the field with everyone able to see his dainty bits. Or undies, or whatever. So clearly it's in my genes and it's not my fault.

I know there's some reason I brought this up. I hardly think I'd go so far as to begin a blog post without something in mind (no wisecracks from you, smartass.). Oh! Jerry! Jerry my darling baby boy. Sweet sweet Jerry. My 2005 Toyota Prius. (Come to think of it, I once had a cactus named Jerry. Hmm.) I did not set out to name my car, per se, but as I was driving North on the 5 one day when he was young (just passed the Ikea in Burbank), it suddenly came to me: Jerry. I knew he was a male already because all things in my life are men. Except the women. And my dog, although she does have a masculine name. But I mean, well, when you're arbitrarily assigning gender to something, I always make it male. I prefer males. No offense. But the name just came to me, not unlike from on high. (What a waste of on high's time that would be.)

Needless to say, any time Jerry got the tiniest ding or was sick or anything, I felt terrible. But the worst, my friend, the worst came one month ago. My other sister (I don't generally refer to her that way) and I were--wait! Wait just one minute! My sister and I were driving on the 5 North! Good god, what could this mean? Okay, sorry, I'll keep going, but that just blew my mind, man. So Julia and I were driving on the 5 last month and through a series of unfortunate events (many of which I cleverly avoided in a James Bondian kind of way) little Jerry got his ass crushed. Yes, I cleverly avoided the melee in front of me, but I wasn't able to fully avoid the big rig bearing down on us (although I would like credit for hitting the gas the moment I saw it in the rear view mirror). So yeah, Jerry got smushed. But nobody was hurt and he drove away from the the accident with nary a whimper. Alas, the insurance company decided he was financially a total loss. But they did give me a crapload of money for him. Those Priuses really hold their value!

And the thing is, yeah, scary accident, and all sorts of rigmarole and hoops to jump through in the aftermath, and buying a new car and all that, but dang it all if the worst part wasn't the feeling that I'd lost a loved one. I was devastated for Jerry! Jerry, who'd seen me through so much and who, in the end, gave his life to keep my sister and me safe.

Exactly one month to the day after the accident (thank you Farmers Insurance and Longo Toyota) I drove my new car home. Also a Prius. Also blue. But this time with some bells and whistles (not that I didn't love your wholesome simplicity, Jerry). Some people were like, are you gonna call him Jerry II? I found that distasteful. It's not respectful to Jerry and it's not respectful to my new car.

I'm calling him Junior.

Drive safely,

Jo

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ramble On

Hello, stranger. Oh wait, no, I'm the one who hasn't been around. I've been cranky. Naw, not really, not cranky since June; that'd be a whole lotta crank. No, some bad things happened that made me not wanna think, let alone write. Which isn't truly true, because at first I abandoned you for REAL writing! Can you imagine? I was terribly terribly inspired. Even worked my ol' gambit of writing in my head as I fell asleep. That actually works for me. I can write whole sentences in my brain and remember them in the morning.

But then I stopped doing that. I've done some other stuff. Ever since I busted the TV addiction, I've been a reading fool. I love reading, but when I had the general malaise of said addiction, I would fall asleep, sometimes moments after opening a book. Now I can read for hours on end without feeling sleepy. It's like the olden days (my olden days), where I'd deny myself food, water, and trips to the bathroom in order to avoid putting down a book.

But I do think of you guys, especially when someone makes a snippy remark about my lack of blogging. Okay, that really thrills me to no end to think someone wants to read something I've said, but still, the guilt. And I don't want lil' bloggy here to make me feel guilty.

When I was in middle school I had a brown plastic folder that held a legal pad. And it had a pocket or two. Man, I love the accouterments of various hobbies. And as I believe I've told you, I had a goal of writing a novel before the age of 13 when S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders (which I later heard was actually 16 [too lazy to go passed the first page in my Google search], and think of the pressure that might have relieved! Now I'm more on the Grandma Moses time line).

I should probably look back at these posts to see if I've discussed what I want to discuss before. But I don't wanna! Hell, you probably never read that entry anyway. It's just, man, I can write until I'm blue in the face. It's just talking in print (in my world) and dude, can I talk! But, um, yeah, having something to say? Well that's a whole other kettle of wax (mmm, kettle of wax. One time my aesthetician gave me a paraffin soak freebie. SO soothing!).

I think as a child I was super creative and could make up stories with the best of them, but perhaps, as is so often the case with children, those stories were pointless meandering piles of shite. I remember, in fact, the day my imagination left me: I was playing with my Fisher Price toys. I set up the barn. Put up the corral for the horses and lamb. Placed the A-frame next door (as if any self-respecting farmer would live in a turquoise A-frame). It was all laid out. Then I looked at it and thought, now what the hell do I do? That was the moment my childhood ended, I'm pretty sure. I was 34. NO! I'm kidding.

But I must not have been too creative because I remember sitting there with my plastic folder and yellow tablet, pen poised, with not a clue what to write. And I was like 11 or something. I suspect the evil internal editor was already at play. My evil evil Superego who I think of as a dastardly Jiminy Cricket shaking his tiny begloved finger at me. Due to my constantly mentioned years of therapy, that little bug bastard is bound and gag and crammed in a dark closet somewhere. Now I fully accept that I have no story to tell, yet I write anyway. Ah, the glories of modern life and the blog.

It's not fully true, though, because I've had two (count 'em, two!) novels lurking in my head for nigh on 12, 13 years now. (Man, this all sounds so familiar. Did I write this before? I do have a few posts that I started but never finished. Oh hells bells, I'd better go look. Hold on.)

Yeah, I'm so predictable. I did start writing this blog already once. This is as far as I got:

I've been writing. Well, not here (duh). (As children, I feel that we occasionally said, "Doi Hickey," in order to emphasize the degree of our "duh." But wow, that seems real stupid.)

So as you know, you, my darling blog, are here to scratch my itch. And if some people choose to read my scratchings, and are amused by them, well then that rawks, as the kids say. Lately, I've simply been scratching in more private places. (My aunt once announced that she's was,"of the school that scratches where it itches and not where it looks good." That is true about her. I prefer to look good.)

Um, what the hell was I talking about? Oh, so yeah. Okay, I have two novels in my head. Those are probably the only ones. And they've been there for over 10 years, I'm mortified to say. But they weren't "write what you know." They were scary to me. And they meant research. Which I actually have done, to some degree. It helps with the procrastination."

It's telling, is it not, that I left off at the word "procrastination?" Yeah, well, feh. Those two novels. One, to my horror, is a period piece. And part of it takes place in Scotland! Does that mean I'd have to write in an authentic burr? An authentic 1874 Glaswegian burr. 'Cause I warn you, it'd be crap.

The other, while more up my alley, was all idea with no notion of what the hell the contents would be. Until a few years back when I had an epiphany, which allowed me to change the story into "what I know," she said, with written air quotes. I even outlined it!!! Got all my research organized. Wrote a few pages!!! And then set it aside for a few years, as one does. As one lazy sonofabitch does, I should say. A couple of months ago, though, I wrote five or so chapters. And I may well write more soon. Like how vague I am, dontcha? You don't think I'm gonna tell you anything about it, do you? Are you runk? I'm no fool. I've worried all these years that someone was gonna beat me to it, since it seems such an obvious tale to tell.

Anyway, back to writing. I can put sentences together. I can rattle on. Maybe I need an idea man? Some fella all ideas, yet a dullard with words. And I give good dialogue, too. Think of the screenplays I could write! Ho ho, I'm so never going to write a screenplay. Besides the fact that I don't know how, don't wanna. I've jumped on enough bandwagons. I wouldn't respect myself in the morning. Don't get me wrong, I respect the hell out of great screenwriters: some of my best friends are great screenwriters. It's the wannabes I can't respect. Not wannabes 'cause they haven't gotten a job yet, wannabes because they are poor poor craftsmen.

All right, genug. Any minute this caffeine is gonna go wrong and none of you wants to see that.

I think about you all the time. Especially, oddly, when I shower.

I'll try not to be a stranger (insert proper vaudeville response here: ).

Love you!

Jo

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What This Says About Me

So I'm sitting in Starbucks the other day (even though they don't have an apostrophe) reading and drinking my grande nonfat caramel macchiato, upside down, 190º (that is so mortifying, but I felt I had to out myself. Yes, I'm fully aware that I am not a real coffee drinker.), and there is an attractive couple sitting across from me. Automatically I like them, because I'm shallow like that; I like the attractive. They weren't conventionally good looking, I suppose, it was more how they were put together, the care they took in their appearance. Not overdressed or overly made up, just nice. He was in a crisp shirt and tie, she in a simple blouse with a tasteful broach. What delighted me was that they were hmm, 50? I'm not so good with age. Around 50. They both had iPod buds (awkward word) in their ears (that was the delightful part, by the way).

Sitting in comfy leather chairs, the inner arms of each creating a cozy V together, both husband and wife ('cause I'm sure they were married) were reading the newspaper. And what I loved was the way they kept leaning into each other to point out something in their section of the paper that they thought would interest the other. Maybe they were waiting for some meeting. They had that quality of "spending a dash of time." There was a book on each lap, his hardcover and large, hers smaller with a soft cover. Maybe even a journal. This couple caught my eye the moment I walked in. I suspect it was he. Not gorgeous or anything, just striking. Probably the color combo. That Danny Glover dark skin/gray hair thing. Balding, salt and pepper beard. It was definitely that balding head that caught my eye; I love a finely-shaped pate, and nature's chosen color scheme was really working for me.

This is all just to say, I liked these people, simply by looking at them. They looked very comfortable in themselves and their surroundings and with each other. I kept watching them and happily they were too engrossed in their music and their papers to notice me. And as I was reading they eventually put down their papers and picked up their books. I glanced up and noticed the tell-tale sign of ribbons in the books. Oh my god, the books are Bibles. They're actively reading the Bible! And suddenly, it was over. They had disappointed me. They were religious, and so religious that they were reading the Bible in Starbucks. And then I realized they probably weren't waiting for a meeting, they were probably taking a rest from proselytizing. And I detest proselytizing. Clearly some of them childhood Jew studies still resonate within me. Jews don't proselytize, no no no, big no-no. In fact, if you want to become a Jew, it ain't easy. The Rabbi will actually turn you away. Three times, I believe, but these days I suspect that's mostly ritual. And then you have to study like crazy, 'cause that's what Judaism is all about. And like a lot of Jews, I'm full to brimming with the cultural stuff and tradition I was raised on, but I think that "religion" and "faith" business is rather a lot of hooey, and, dare I say it, doo-dah (waggle fingers in the air, when daying doo-dah, please, for the full effect).

I don't fully respect religious people. (I will understand if you don't want to be my friend. I think I'm an ass for feeling this way, I just can't help it. [And don't really want to help it.]) My feeling is, "What's wrong with you that you need to believe in that? What are you missing inside of yourself? And wouldn't you be better served by seeing a psychiatrist and finding all the strength of the world within yourself?" All the searchers I've ever known, all those "spiritual" people looking so very hard elsewhere, never seem to look inside, nor have I ever known one to actually find his or herself. They're looking in the wrong place. Look at yourself, and look to your people (family, and those you consider family. Unless your family isn't worthy, then look to the family you've made).

So, um, yeah, what the hell was I saying? Where did I start? Oh yeah, I'm a lousy judgmental bitch (I really wanted to say cunt, but I worried that would be too startling), who decided what I wanted to about this couple at Starbucks (damn that apostrophe), first good, then bad. And the thing is, they were perfectly happy with their world and their choices, and I don't know them at all. But when all is said and done, I don't care to know them.

(And by the way, said the freaky hypocrite, I regularly thank some amorphous being for all the things that make me happy and content every day. Like reading a book in Starbucks with a quasi-coffee beverage.)

I am awfully fond of you,

Jo

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Uncle Harvey, Alava Shalom

It's made me very very sad that Harvey Korman has died. For a lot of reasons. I know he was a kind man. And fabulously funny. I have adored him for as long as I can remember.

My dad and Harvey Korman were best friends in the Navy. They met waiting in line for Synagogue in, I guess, 1945. Now, my dad is not the kind of guy to keep up relationships over years, but he certainly followed Harvey's career and was very proud of him. While we watched him on TV we felt like we knew him.

I didn't meet him until 1979 when I was just about 10. Our family took an epic western trip, drove across the country, six people in a Jeep Wagoneer. We took a month in August and wound our way over Route 66 and then back again along the northern route. Dad called Uncle Harvey and said we were acomin'. He greeted us with open arms and was warm and funny and delightful as can be, and so "Harvey Korman." He took us to the famous deli Nate'n Al, showed us around Beverly Hills. Kim Richards (of "Nanny and the Professor" fame [and, weirdly, it seems to me, Paris Hilton's aunt]) rolled by on a pair of roller skates and bumped into us. She looked up at Harvey and was immediately dopey and star struck; she'd grown up with him too, after all. We went to his home in Bel Air and his son played Atari with me. Harvey gave us a tour and when we got to the master bath he said to me, "This is where the star makes a doodie. It's all sparkley." I believe I was delighted.

Sometime later Harvey came to Detroit for work and called my dad and we all went to dinner. In fact, I think I answered when he called and I was terribly confused by his voice. It was so familiar, but I didn't know who it was. It's not every day The Great Gazoo calls. I just gave the phone to my dad, thinking for some reason it was one of the teachers from Hebrew school.

One delicious highlight for me came that night at dinner when I made Harvey Korman, a brilliantly funny man, laugh so hard he pretty much flopped his face into his pasta. I don't think it was what I said so much, I suspect it was my delivery. I was very earnestly describing my beloved fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Miller. She was a great teacher, but her serious smoking and coffee habits made for remarkably bad breath, and I remarked on it. I said to Harvey, "and her breath is amazing!" Well, something about the way I said that, my eyes wide and my voice awed, just tickled him. I don't think I'd been trying to make him laugh, but I was so proud of myself that I had.

Not long after that, Uncle Harvey met and married a nice lady and they had a baby and my dad's my dad and they just lost touch. Hell, I'm not even sure they had any communication between 1945 and 1979!

When I moved to LA 13 or so years ago, I didn't feel comfortable calling Harvey and saying I was in town. He would have been thrilled to hear from me, and perhaps even saddened if he'd known that I hadn't looked him up, but it just would have seemed like I was hoping for a leg up in the business and I couldn't bear him thinking that. I would have liked to have seen him, and heck, once I was making a living in my chosen field, that wouldn't have been a problem. But it just didn't feel right, ya know? I secretly hoped I'd run into him somewhere and tell him who I was. That never happened, and now I'm feeling wistful because it never will.

I always felt warm and fuzzy toward him. And I also associated him so strongly with my dad, and not just because they'd been friends. In fact, I've always had a love of what I feel is the Harvey Korman/Alan Alda/My Dad trinity. (By the way, there's also the My Sister/Lucy Ricardo/Madonna triumvirate, but that's a whole other thing.) All three men were tall and semi-lanky, somewhat bulbous nosed, and funny as all get out. And Jewey, even though Alan Alda isn't, but might as well be (Italian and all that, same diff). My dad and Harvey were about 10 years older, though. Both born in February 1927. And both balding. So of course Harvey's death makes me deeply sad not for just who he was, but for how much I associate him with my dad. I'm pretty much counting on my dad never dying, and Harvey running off and dying like that was a bit nervy on his part.

So I wanted to tell you. Harvey Korman was just the man you would imagine him to be. And one time I made him laugh very hard. And I'm very very sorry that he's not here anymore.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hi there

Hey there, tiny dumplings.

Sorry I haven't writ; I've been busy forgetting to. Naw, that's not really true. I'm not sure I had anything to say. No fully formed thoughts yet. And I went to Boston to visit my boyfriend (I know, it's foolish to live 2,980 miles away from the man you love) and when I get out of my routine all hell breaks loose.

The thing I've noticed about my blog is, that while it is me spitting up gorp from my mind, it's not really much about me. Okay, yeah, it is. But I mean I'm not telling you about my daily life. A lot of bloggers tell you about their daily lives. And they therefore write every day. And thank god for them because I get cranky when they don't post. And for some reason they are able to make incidents in their daily lives sound funny and delightful and touching and other crap like that. I'm not sure I could do that and be interesting for more than, um, no minutes at all. While I have the greatest life ever (and I'm fully aware of it, this is not hubris, I'm not bragging, I'm acknowledging and bowing down to), I don't think it would read very well. And I have some friends with children and 8-5 jobs who get very snippy when I tell them about my day.

I'm a little embarrassed by my career. Voiceover artist, as you may recall. When people ask me what I do, I do say it proudly, but inside I'm fully aware that that means I get to play for a living. Happily, when they get all holier-than-thou by asking, oh really, what's your day job, or do you have an agent, I'm able to shut them down with the name of one of the top talent agencies in the country. I guess I'm less embarrassed when I'm poked. And this job wouldn't be for everyone, after all, she said defensively. My old agent said she couldn't understand how I could live without knowing where my next check was coming from. And there are the years of living in poverty before you get anywhere, if you get anywhere. And I drive a lot. Sure a lot of people commute, but at least they have time between drives. I've been known to drive an hour somewhere, stay five minutes, and then drive an hour home. (I do drive a Prius if that makes any of you feel better.) And some people wouldn't be good at it. I just happen to be good at it. It's my weird little gift.

But still, telling you about my day would be dull. Or just weird. I'm self-indulgent enough to write a blog, but not so much that I want to tell you every incident from my day.

I just like the opportunity to chat with you in our mostly one-sided conversation.

So if I haven't posted, it's 'cause I really don't have a damn thing to say. And you don't want me to write when I don't have a damn thing to say, because then you get posts like this one. (insert sheepish noise here)

I am awfully fond of you,

Jo

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Had to share.

I love this. It's right up my alley, and perhaps yours as well.

"Before She was a Ghost"

And you think that is good? Man, you should read her novel (check out the rest of the blog).

Love you!

xo

Jo

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pre-Sleep Insanity


I'm fascinated by Sleep Paralysis. So much so that I will now regale you with tales of it. I didn't make Sleep Paralysis a link just now because I wanna be the one to tell you all about it. Because I'm fascinated by it. I believe I've already mentioned that.

So, have any of you ever heard of it? I secretly hope that you haven't, but that you've experienced it, and now I will officially be blowing your mind by explaining to you a crazy phenomenon that has haunted you all your days. Or not.

Before I knew it had a name, I called it Pre-Sleep Insanity. I didn’t know it happened to anybody else so it never occurred to me that there might be an official term (and I love official terms. Official terms mean you're not crazy. Or not that crazy.). I was out with a friend of my brother’s a while back. They’d been roommates in Japan. Somehow we got on the subject of Pre-Sleep Insanity and he said, “Oh, that’s kanashibari.” Mind blown. What?! You just drop the K-bomb like that? This is a known phenomenon? All Japanese people know about it?! 'Cause this guy is an American, and even he knew the Japanese word for it. Apparently it’s common knowledge in Japan. And I’ve since found out, in Asian culture in general (well, okay, one Vietnamese guy told me it was a known entity in his culture).

Now that I know the name, I’ve found a bunch of stuff on the web about it. (Well, hell, I hadn't actually done a recent search on it. Now that Wikipedia exists, of course there's an entry on it! Dang I love the Internet.) A Dr. Dement (I swear) at Stanford has a website. He says:

“Sleep paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset or upon waking.” It almost always happened to me when I was nodding off.

This is the even creepier part:

“In some cases, when hypnagogic hallucinations are present, people feel that someone is in the room with them, some experience the feeling that someone or something is sitting on their chest and they feel impending death and suffocation. That has been called the 'Hag Phenomena' and has been happening to people over the centuries. These things cause people much anxiety and terror, but there is no physical harm.”

It’s the closest I’ve ever been to being haunted.

It happened to me a lot in college. Which makes sense according to the research because it can happen when your normal sleep patterns are messed up. And in college, naps ruled my world. I would regularly fall asleep while reading some dull tome. And that’s when they’d get me.

Now it’s not when you’re nodding off and you’re still sort of awake but you are dreaming too and you trip over something in your dream and you flinch in real life. That’s not it. That’s just falling asleep.

I had this fabulous professor for a class called The Ordeal of the Union. John Mills Thornton. He was a genius but wrote an exquisitely dull book: Politics and Power in a Slave Society. Reading it nearly killed me. Sometimes in one session of attempting to read it I would fall asleep four or five times. And each time I’d have Sleep Paralysis and try to yank myself out of it. And try to keep it from happening again. But I’d be too drugged by the book to just get up and change positions. See I was reading in my Pier 1 Papasan chair. You know those dish chairs? And I think it was that and the book that were fucking me. I’m just gonna try to describe what happens.

There’s a lot of different ways it’s happened to me. I’ll fall asleep on my back and I’ll feel my hands fall through my chest to rest on the bed beneath me. That’s no good.

You’re in it, and after it’s happened a few times you know you’re in it. And it’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t really hurt, but it almost does. And you can’t move. Sometimes you think your eyes are open. Sometimes you think you’re moving a little and maybe even making noise, but you’re not.

I watch them there ghost TV shows. Many times I hear someone describing their encounter (or, their alien abduction, for that matter) and they're giving a textbook description of Sleep Paralysis. And the "experts" interviewing them have clearly never heard of it. So, therefore, it must be ghosts.

I've even had an out-of-body experience, but I knew full well what it was. I was in college. I dozed off on the bottom bunk. This is what appeared to happen to me: I stood up, walked to the door of the dorm room, looked back at myself asleep on the bed. I knew it was Pre-Sleep Insanity, as I was calling it. But I'd never been able to "balance" it like this before. Walk the fine line of being the boss of it, without coming out of it. I started to walk down the hall and as I got a few doors down I lost it and whooshed back to my body. This feels nothing like a dream. It feels exactly like being awake. Even if you know what's happening, it still feels like being awake.

For me, it takes physical effort to get out of Sleep Paralysis. There is only one way I can describe it. It's like someone wraps his hand around my sternum and pulls. And you kind of gasp and you're out of it. It doesn't hurt, per se, but it's wildly uncomfortable. And that moment before you succeed in coming out, it's like your wrapped in Saran, except you can breathe. It does feel sort of like suffocating, like your lungs aren't properly inflating. And what especially sucks is if you're so sleepy that you snap out of it, but then slip right back in. It's like being an oxygen deprived yo-yo. Not that yo-yos are normally big breathers.

I'd like to describe some of my most memorable Sleep Paralysis moments. I will describe these events as if they are actually happening, but please recall that they were only happening very very vividly in my brain.

I'm around 22. I'm in a hotel in New York City. There for a business trip that I don't wanna be on. Very lonely. Afraid (of the business, not of the city or hotel, although Barton Fink clearly had the room next door to me). I want to say it's the Pickwick Hotel, but I may be making that up. The lobby is vaguely fancy. The room, however, is a tiny brown bathroomless Coen Brother's special. I go to sleep. (Okay, all that actually happened outside of my brain. This is where the paralysis starts.) Shortly thereafter I hear someone fiddling with my doorknob (that sounds dirty). Then the door opens. Slowly. I can't open my eyes. I hear someone walk in. Quietly. He (because it's a he) comes over to the bed. He's standing over it. I hear him breathing. I can't open my eyes. I can't open my mouth. I sense him lean over me. I feel his breath on my face. I can't scream. And here's the only thing that didn't ring true. In fact, maybe it was a sign that I was falling from Sleep Paralysis into sleep and a nightmare, if that can happen. As I tried to scream, I was foiled by a butterscotch candy in my mouth. Then I came out of it. Now if you haven't experienced this, you'll say this was just a bad dream. But it's nothing like a dream. It's exactly like reality. And happily, even though my brain fully felt this was happening, my mind sorta sorta knew it was Pre-Sleep Insanity.

Another time I was in ye olde Papasan chair. I was reading Mills Thornton's book. This is where the insanity starts. The TV was on (it wasn't). It was Oprah. I could see the TV, but the rest of the stuff that happened I couldn't see. And it's similar to the hotel thing. I assume this is the hag phenomenon. And while we're at it, people think the hag is on their chest. I think this is the weird paralyzed lung/sternum grabbing thing I feel. Anyhoo. There is a person in front of me. I can't see him. I think it's my boyfriend at first. Then I know it's not. He leans into the chair. I hear him breathing. He puts a hand on the rattan on either side of my head. I hear it creak. I feel the chair give slightly from the pressure of his arms. He looms right up to my face. I feel his breath on my face. I don't care for this (i.e. scared shitless). I "get myself out of it."

I don't think this is the same thing as "night terrors." I can't be bothered to look into that because I think it only happened to me once, if ever, and it involved an Asian man, a squirrel, and me flying out of my bed and "coming to" cowering in the corner. I think this is similar to the times back in the day when my sister would wake in the night and decide all electrical appliances were evil and unplug her clock radio and electric blanket. She would oversleep. She would be cold. And she would have a vague memory of her late night brush with demonic simple machines.

I don't know why I've always yearned to discuss Sleep Paralysis ad nauseam. I think because so few people know about it. And it's the kind of thing that is an epiphany for those folks who have experienced it but have no idea what it is. My mom said to me when I mentioned it to her, "Oh yeah, that used to happen to me when I was a kid. You'll grow out of it." And I did seem to. Or else I'm just no longer sleep deprived and napping in uncomfortable positions. I sort of miss it. And I will sorta be gleefully happy if it never ever happens again.

Okay, I'll let you go search the web about it now. Hell, now that I've written this post so chock full of "facts," maybe I should read that Wikipedia entry myself.

Anyway, don't you think it's cool?!?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Words that please me.

I carry a small notebook in my purse in case I have a sudden need to write a thought. Not usually a creative thought, more often the price and dimensions of an attractive dining room table or how to say "Amsterdam has 88 beautiful canals" in Dutch (Amsterdam heeft ocht en tachtig prachtige krachten.).

In this little book I started keeping a list entitled "Words That Please Me." "Please" is a key word here because it's the sound of these words and their effect on me that I care about. How they make me feel. How they make my face feel when they're pronounced. Some of them need annotations, which is maybe cheating because the words should stand on their own, but it's my damned list so shut yer trap.

You may notice a theme.

Tiny
Chubby
Sheep
Pudgy
Cheese (especially when said by my sister when imitating Wallace of Wallace and Gromit.)
Chewy
Modest Mouse (must be said together, although Mouse on it's own is not bad.)
Dinky
Shpilkes (as said by my friend David when he sorta pops his P with his big lips and pronounces it the way my father says most Yiddish words, with an EE sound on the end.)
Birdie
Chirp
Squirrel (when said by an Englishman.)
Peachy
Fluffy
Furry
Fuzzy
Arf (said in a chirpy staccato way.)
Plump
Nutmeat
Peep (this is an important one. Good word to peep out when you're all full of energy and have to let steam of your lungs.)
Delicious (really drawn out with a juicy SH sound like my film and literature professor Hugh Cohen says it.)
Budgie
Cram
Cheeky
Worm
Floppy
Sleepy
Itchy
Chunky
Plop
Tweet
Probe

This is an ongoing list. You may note many EE sounds. Is this because my father likes to make words extra cozy by tacking on that sound? Yeah, probably. Some of them probably have warm fuzzy associations for me. But a lot of it is how your mouth and tongue and cheeks and lips work together to make the sound. Say cheese out loud. Really draw out the EE. Chew on that CH sound. Doesn't that feel good? I think it feels good. But then again, making sound is very important to me. It may not be that way for everybody. I find the act of making sound physically pleasing. Soothing. A relief. Small sounds and deep sounds and high sounds and groaning sounds. And singing. Singing is my balm in Gilead. I always wanted to learn to play the violin because the sound of the violin makes me feel the way I feel when I sing. I thought if I could combine these things I'd be in heaven. (Can't play the violin because besides the fact that it's hard to play, I can't keep my left elbow bent for more than a few minutes due to nerve damage from breaking my it when I was four. But really, was that necessary to write here just now?)

Noise. Good noise. Just singing Ahhhhhhhhh. Such a pleasure. A physical pleasure. Why is that I wonder? There must be some physiological reason for this. Does it release endorphins? I don't know. And maybe it's just me. I come from an odd sound-making family. It's in me blood. I have a calling for voiceover, which is weird, I know, but let's just be grateful the nut's got an outlet for it and got work.

I'd like to apologize to the words I've forgotten to put on my list.

You got words you like? And what about making noise? Do you like making sound come out of your throat (wow, that sounds suspect)? Is it just me? I'm okay if it is. I'm fond of me.

And fond of you,

Jo

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mariah my ass.

I hate wind. Hate it! I DON'T CARE FOR WIND, PEOPLE. And oh the wind last night. It woke me. Then it kept me in the grips of its creepiness off and on for hours.

There are a few tall scrawny palms nearish by. The wind hits them first. Way high up the trees rustle like insidious pom-pons. That's how you know it's coming. Then it hits my house. The screens shake, then the 83 year-old windows shudder in their sashes. Then the temporary paper blinds scrape against the sills; 83 year-old windows don't keep out the wind.

Every few minutes I make note that I'm holding my breath and lying there rigid. I breathe. And I fall in and out of sleep and have weird dreams. And I get up and unplug my computer and tell the dog, no it's not time to get up yet. And I think about digging out my earplugs from the drawer a foot from my head, but that might mean turning on the light, or at least lifting my arm and besides, when I do I only find one and then the dog wants to know what's going on and it's just not worth more effort. No, actually it really would have been worth it, but I wasn't in my right mind.

I'm not particularly afraid of anything specific about the wind; I'm uneasy. Only way to describe it. And it's just the sound of the wind with which I have a problem. And I even know why. You would think knowing why would somehow make it all better. Doesn't.

March 20, 1976, 7:18 pm. My brother and father and I watched a tornado travel across our backyard. It wasn't really our backyard. It was in a field beyond our backyard, but I assure you, it looked like our backyard. It was so close, in fact, that it wasn't a funnel, just a perfect white cylinder whose top we could not see. It wasn't white, I found out later. It was pink. It was full of fiberglass from the roofs it had been tearing off. I think it was very nearly dark out, or it was just so dark because of the storm clouds. It had stopped raining. It had stopped anything. It was quiet and green. The tornado warning had ended at 7:00. The three of us were opening a can of sardines. I know. It doesn't take three people to open a can of sardines. Not even two. I was only six, though, so I was hardly a person. As my dad rolled the lid back he said, as fathers are wont, make sure their eyes are closed. Then something happened. Let's say it was the sound of several locomotives or a swarm of bees, as they say in song and story. I have no memory of any sound. But something made us look up. And there was the tornado, methodically traveling left to right across the window's view. My 11 year-old brother, who was terrified of tornadoes, said, "Dad, is that a tornado?" My dad said, "Yes." And they went back to the sardines. Camera tightens in on me, standing just behind them, eyes huge. Then they whip their heads back up, the lights go out, and my dad shouts, "Hit the floor!" He may not have said that, because it sounds ridiculous. But that's what I remember. He probably said something like everybody get down on the floor.

We crawled into the long hallway at the center of the house. There's no basement, so this was our only choice. We met the rest of the family there. I sat next to my mom. Our Newfoundland paced and whimpered and I kept trying to wrangle her in because I didn't want her to leave the hallway. We may have had pillows over our heads, taken from the nearby bedrooms. I don't remember any sound. I'm sure there was nothing but sound. I do remember thinking that I just might die. I thought it rather calmly. And it's the only time in my life that I've ever honestly thought I might possibly momentarily die.

I just know that if I ever heard a tornado again in person, I could get over my wind problem. I know it made the stereotypical sound because my mom heard it and ran to the window (yes, you're not supposed to do that) to watch. Hell, she was 35. Younger than I am now. I'm sure she thought it was cool. I think it's cool. To hear a bunch of trains and just know it's a tornado? That's kind of cool. I can say that because nothing happened to our house and none of us was hurt. A girl died a few blocks away and my best friend's house imploded, but that didn't happen to us. Our tornado experience had all the thrill and horror without any lasting effects. Except of course that I seize up in a strong wind.

I recently Googled our tornado and found this site. It made me feel special. For your information (when looking at the map), my childhood home is a dash north of West Maple Road between Orchard Lake and Middlebelt roads. You'll note that the pink arrow of the tornado's path goes right through our backyard. Sorta. It's nice to have things confirmed in print. Pink print.

So yeah. Wind. Don't care for it. And this pesky Santa Anna Wind gives me migraines, damn it. No tornadoes though. But earthquakes make an ungodly sound. Seriously. You can't win. (on rereading this I noted that I'd originally typed, "You can't wind." Nice.)

Glad I don't live on The Prairie,

Jo

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Results

Is it too early for results? I don't think so, not when your treatment worked immediately. This business of not turning on the television? REMARKABLE! Look at me remark on it! I am freakishly full of energy. My house is both clean and neat. I have fresh fruit. My email in-box is almost empty. I feel like the greatest person ever. Well, I secretly nearly always feel like the greatest person ever, but lack of TV has made me vocal about it. I do seem to be getting a bit of a meegraine (as my old English boss used to say it), but I blame THE WIND.

Now I'm gonna go read for as long as I damned well please. Or at least until my head explodes. I could take some preventive medicine, which of course is the only thing that might put a stop to this meegraine. But it seems so reactionary! I'm gonna see if food helps first.

I love everybody!

Jo

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I never promised you a rose garden.

Listen, I told you I was an undisciplined writer; I told you the very first day. I only write when I need to spew, and unfortunately, not always then. I probably would have been happier to have written a while ago. But maybe it's better I write today. Today is a fascinating day.

But let's talk about before today first. So, geez, what was it, two weeks ago? I inadvertently had a seven course dinner party for 12 people. That's not as horrifying as it sounds; I just had to provide the house. I was sort of a last minute venue, but here I have no danged dining room table and they were having to rent a table anyway, so why not my place? I needed an excuse to clean it and I was excited for the company of the chef and his girlfriend and eventually the guests. I took several days to clean the place (many of which were spent watching TV and thinking about cleaning it). Then came the Saturday afternoon of said chef and girlfriend preparing the meal (he'd actually been preparing it since Monday). Clearly this man is a nut. But a delightful talented one. 84 plates of food served; nice lunatic to be. The guests weren't my invitees, but I like them all nonetheless. And we had assignments of wine to bring for each course. May I mention each course, by the way?

Shallot Pork Rilletes, Dijon Parsley Butter

French Onion Soup, Comte and Thyme Crust

Sautéed Skate Wing with Nicoise Tapenade, Fennel Onion Confit

Ruby Grapefruit and Tarragon Sorbet

Chestnut and Mascarpone Agnolottii, Celery Root Truffle Purée

Herb Crusted, Frenched Rack of Lamb, Cassoulet of Winter Beans and Rosemary

Chocolate Terrine, Pistachio Creme Anglaise

Again, nice madman to be. But oh, that food . . .

Needless to say, I slept in on Sunday. Couldn't face the kitchen. My sister and b-in-l came over that night to take home their chairs and wash their glasses and take them home. That helped start the ball rolling. The next day the chef came and took home all his many dishes and pots and pans. Took them home dirty! Because it made more sense to do that and put them in his dishwasher then washing all that crap by hand at my place, lord knows. So I could have really gotten down to brass tacks that night. But I didn't want to. Nor did I want to on Tuesday. And herein lies a message about procrastinating. On Wednesday I sprained my ankle. Kinda badly. I mean, not too badly. Enough to fuck me up for a week but not much more.

Until this afternoon, a week and a day since spraining my ankle and two and a half weeks since the kitchen was destroyed, I've lived with a filthy room that smelled of lamb. But two things happened today that were fully motivating. One, my ankle is healed enough that I can stand on it for prolonged periods of time (long enough to clean said kitchen and wash all the dishes that have piled up in a week). And two, I had an epiphany at the shrink.

Now I have to work hard to come up with anything worthwhile for the shrink; we did all the juicy stuff years ago. These days we do what I believe they call growth therapy. I go every three weeks. We gab. He schedules my appointment at lunchtime so I can partake in the spread with which the drug companies shower the doctors (the drug companies rule the world, by the way, and we should be afraid of them. We really need to reform how our healthcare dollars are spent, man. And we need universal healthcare, but I digress. I'm perfectly happy to eat Pfizer's sushi.). I'm still learning how human beings work and how they communicate. It's fascinating. I learn new stuff about people and the world all the time.

So now and again over the years I've mentioned to the shrink my dislike of my abject laziness and procrastination and occasional excessive napping, etc., etc.. He never really understands it because he feels I'm far from lazy. But I must have said something today that made a light go off over his head. "You have a television addiction," he says. "Boy howdy," I say. "You couldn't have mentioned this 10 years ago?" He tells me he clearly thought too highly of me for it to occur to him. But you read and you paint and you this and you that, he says. Yeah, I say, but there are still a million hours in the day and I do most everything with the TV on in the background. And I turn into a couch potato and I don't do the things I want to do and the things I have to do. He had no idea I used the TV as I do.

Dude, I've lived alone for a hundred years. I like noise. I turn on the TV. I try to pick something engaging enough, but not so engaging that I'll sit down and watch it. But I do often sit down and watch it. And I'll feel compelled to do something with that time. Play Scrabulous. Floss. Knit. Busy work for my hands. But it still makes me feel crappy and unproductive.

The shrink mentions how TV these days is a babysitter, and I'm like, these days? (He didn't even have a TV until he was 16.) I'm like, dude (I recount stories this way. I most assuredly didn't call him dude. Come to think of it, though, I certainly have done), I'd come home from school, make myself something to eat and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening watching TV. Actively not doing my homework. I have distinct memories of watching Lost in Space reruns thinking, man this is boring, but there's nothing else on. God forbid I should actually do something else. True, I also read voraciously and talked on the phone and must have done some homework and hung out with friends and the like.

My shrink points out that there is a difference between watching a program and watching TV. He tells me that TV addiction's a real thing and it sucks the life out of you and makes you lazy and tired and unmotivated and miserable. He was preaching to the choir, boy-o.

I accomplish all sorts of stuff on the weekends. And in the morning. Because at those times I'm listening to NPR! I'm the most productive person ever! I will happily get up at 6:00 and listen to Morning Edition Saturday until it stops at 10:00, even though the show repeats! But man, if I turn the TV on, party's over. It's not that I have too much time in the day (ever heard anybody complain about that before?), it's that I've lost the will to fill it with engaging things. I haven't lost the engaging tasks - they're all there - I just lost the forward motion to do them. I'd be full of energy in the car on the long way home from auditioning at my agent's office (where most voiceover auditions are done), laying out my plans and schemes, the mouse beside me furiously scribbling his to-do list. Then I get home, turn on the TV and quickly everything gang aft a-gley.

But today, with my new found knowledge? I stopped by the library after the shrink. Got a massive pile of audiobooks, as is my wont. Came home. Didn't turn on the TV. Put an Agatha Christie novel on. Cleaned the hell out of the kitchen, occasionally breaking into that task to play fetch with my Wiener Dog. Called my sister. Read. Wrote this. True, in my kitchen cleaning zeal I completely spaced an audition, something I have nightmares about actually doing. This is only the second time it's happened in 12 years, so I'm not too horrible a person.

I'm a fool of energy, I love life, love you, love the lack of lamb smell. I may watch a soupçon of stuff I've Tivo'd before I go to bed. But then I'll be watching TV as I like to and deserve to watch it, as a kicking back at the end of a full day. I'll be watching specific programs in which I have an interest. And the nice thing about this addiction is it's easy to cure. I just don't turn on the TV, which, in turn, means I don't sit down and never get up again.

And why, you may ask, in those eight days of elevating and icing I couldn't have posted a blog? Dude, I was watching TV.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Fame

So I live in Los Angeles, right? Well, Glendale, okay, but I can walk to Los Angeles in under five minutes, so there. But we gots lots of famous people here, right? I can't wrap my brain around fame. Specifically, why "regular" people think famous people aren't regular. Don't get me wrong, I don't think famous people are regular, but I can't figure out why.

When I was a little girl (specifically that girl in the picture there) I wanted to be famous. Well, no, I take that back. I wanted to be an actress or a writer or a singer and I wanted a big-ass audience. A lot of actors go into the business to become other people because they don't much like themselves. But I love me (because really, is there any blogger who doesn't just adore them little selves?)! I simply wanted to be me all over the place. I wanted to play for a living and invite others to play with me.

As I got older (and more aware of anxiety disorders) I became a bit more wary about the whole thing. I don't remember specifically what aspects of fame had a red flag for me, but there were some. I wondered if I could be the boss of my fame. Maybe not have to do publicity (I was getting pretty savvy there in lil' ol' Michigan). Woody Allen seemed to have some control of his fame (pre Soon-Yi). Not that I was gonna be Woody Allen, but could I keep a low profile like him?

Then Rebecca Schaeffer was shot in the chest by a stalker in the doorway of her apartment building. She was almost famous. Dude, she lived in apartment building, fergodsakes. She was a regular 21 year-old actor just starting to get somewhere. I was 19. That got me over "fame" in one swell foop. I decided writing was the career for me.

Until I discovered Voiceovers, that is. One of its many pluses was that I could be famous and no one would know who the heck I was (although I have since learned that many of my animation friends have some pretty creepy fans). And the thing is, you've heard my voice. I've been doing this for 12 years and I assure you in that time you've heard me on the TV or radio or at the movies. That's famous enough for me. I am regularly delighted that I made the choices I did.

My first cousin is famous. You may not have heard of her because you may not be the right demographic. In many ways she may be more famous for her beauty and style than for her film and TV work since she really hasn't been doing it for that long and only has so much work under her belt. But if you've been on the cover of magazines, yer famous.

Now this is my little cousin we're talking about. She's the closest thing I've ever had to a younger sister. And since she's always been beautiful she was a jewel of a plaything when I was a kid. I actively remember her sixth birthday. She's the first "person who is younger than me" who I really remember being a dinky child. So does her being famous change the way I feel about her? Did she suddenly become different? I don't know. I'm very proud of her. I think she's good at what she does, and in fact always getting better at it. But I've also seen through her that fame sucks. Not that I've heard her complain; that's just my take on it. But this woman is not that famous, yet she has virtually no privacy. Paparazzi take pictures of her walking her dog. Tabloids print hilariously untrue stories about her. Someone decides she's chubby, when she's the tiniest little thing. Someone hears a conversation of hers on the street and it ends up in a magazine. Complete strangers decide they love her or hate her - her as an actual person, not a character - without knowing a thing about her. And lord knows I do that with stars. Clearly I'm just as bad as the rest of the "audience."

I sat next to a very attractive actor at a play last week. He was delightfully sweet and chatty. But I was definitely extra excited by him than I would have been by any other delightfully sweet and chatty very attractive man who sat next to me at a play. Why?! I regularly see very very famous actors at my agency. Sometimes they even talk to me. I don't behave like a fool. Outwardly. Inside, I behave like a fool. Why? (I'm sure a professional has made a study of this phenomenon. I'd like to know what they came up with.)

If tomorrow, one of my dear friends got a sitcom job and it suddenly turned into something like Friends, and they were catapulted to stardom, would that change how I felt when I was with them? I don't effin' know! And I don't like that I don't know and I don't like that I might feel different. This is assuming that they are no different. And I like to think that my closest friends would not uncharacteristically become complete assholes just because they got famous. I like to think I can pick 'em better than that. I think famous people who are assholes were assholes when they were nobody.

I guess it all comes down to my concern that I'm shallow. And I am shallow, lord knows. But am I that shallow? Is there no water in the pool? I have to constantly remind myself: these people are just actors. ACTORS! Hell, I'm an actor! And honestly, many many actors are as bad as the stereotypes say they are. They are dumb, they are hollow, they are selfish. Not all of them, certainly. But it's a weird career choice, one often selected by the ego troubled. I must just remember that. It should be my mantra. "He's just an actor, he's just an actor. He's no different from my dentist." But then again, my dentist reminds me of Errol Flynn and has freakishly famous patients. He might not be a good example. I have an odd reverence for dentists.

Clearly troubled,

Jo

Friday, February 22, 2008

Carb Loading

I was just on youtube.com watching clip after clip of David Gates. Now I feel all, I dunno, nostalgic, sad, sweet, cozy.

If they were playing music in the labor room when I was born, it really must have been Bread. I don't think there's another sound that conjures my very earliest memories so strongly.

I didn't even know it until recently. I bummed some music from my brother-in-law's collection, as is my wont. I remember thinking, hmm, seems to me I like Bread (toast is maybe one of my favorite foods, but that's a different post all together). So I'm on the red-eye a couple of months later and I can't sleep because beforehand I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to sleep, and well, there you have it. I thought, iPod, let's give that the old college try. So I curled up in an impossible ball against the window, dialed through my song selections, saw The Best of Bread, and selected it. Sigh. It was dark, the plane was quiet except that it was incredibly loud. And suddenly amorphous memories of my first years came swirling into my brain as David Gates sang "Make it with You." I could have cried. And then "Everything I Own," which an old boyfriend of mine used to sing super plaintively and I always loved it, but without that David Gates voice, I didn't truly recognize it.

On the airplane I swam in and out of consciousness and memories and comfort. In fact, I suspect that's where the roots of this blog, um, took, uh, root. I've talked to you about nostalgia. Sorta. I'm not always crazy lost in thoughts of my youth, I swear. And again, I say, I'm not enamored of youth; it's overrated. But it is a nice place to visit. And I've especially been enjoying visiting pre-youth, before I have any solid memories, just flashes. Driving down leafy winding roads to Elizabeth Lake where we swam every day in the summer. The car radio, I believe, planted these song seeds deep in my brain. Many of the memories Bread brings back are from driving. CKLW, the soundtrack of my life, summer early 70s, Detroit suburbs. Driving to my mom's salon where she got her weekly bouffant. Driving to my grandparents' house. Interestingly, summer memories, never winter. Winter, fall, and spring seem to have their very own memory triggers.

You wanna know what started all this? I was watching "The Goodbye Girl." Remember the song? As soon as the credits rolled and that insanely distinctive voice filled the room, I was back with my sister Megan mooning over Richard Dreyfuss.

Well then, what do I want you to take away from all this? I guess I want you to have flashes of memory yourself. Not so much memories of people or events, but of ambiance, of feel, of warm wind through the car window, feeling snug with your big siblings around you, soft lake water washing up around your toes.

Oh yeah, and apparently Quinn Cummings has a blog. And she lives in my old neighborhood. Thought that was kind of cool.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

On Penmanship

I'm vaguely obsessed with handwriting. Not in a graphology sort of way (although this guy I dated for seconds in college dabbled in that and told me I must be a crazy person because my first name slanted hard to the right and my last name was straight up and down. Apparently it's not supposed to do that. He's a movie producer now. And chubby.), just a "golly that's beautiful" way.

My handwriting's always been crappy. My mom's is lovely and feminine and simple. My oldest sister's is a fancier version of it, and my other sister's is a simpler version of it. My dad was told that being left-handed was evil, so they made him write with his right hand. Needless to say, his writing is not wildly legible. My brother's writing looks like a tiny tiny chicken with inky feet minced across the page. He's left-handed like my dad, but grew up in a modern age in which it was not considered a mark of Satan. (Interestingly, he rotates the page so much to write, it's basically vertical, and when he writes in Japanese, which he can actually do, he writes it horizontally. Wacky.)

I wanted to write like my mom and sisters, but alas, no, I wrote like a boy. A young boy. A young retarded boy. (Sorry if that's not PC. I swear, some of my best friends are retarded.) And instead of teaching me how to write better, my teachers just gave me low grades. I'm not sure in what grades one was actually given letter marks for handwriting instead of just checks in a box. But I got Cs. They didn't even notice that I was holding the pencil wrong! It wasn't until high school that a friend pointed it out. Sheesh!

I started to describe to you just now how I was holding my pencil, when I remembered this is a visual medium. So I grabbed my camera. My hands are actually quite beautiful (she said, humbly), but they appear to be rather nicked up (and chewed up) in these pictures. I chew my cuticles, okay! You wanna stop reading my blog because of it? Fine! I also chew the inside of my cheeks, which is giving me wrinkles, but my boyfriend chews his cheeks, too, which makes him perfect in every way and means I don't have to stop doing it. So there.

Here's how you're supposed to hold a pen (I don't know where that Advicor pen came from. I'm not advertising for it.):

Here's how I was holding my pen for most of my life:


Ya think a teacher might have noticed that I wasn't even holding my writing implement correctly! (or that I was chewing my damn face and fingers off!)

My elementary school principal, Mrs. Kjolhede (pronounced CO-heed) (you can not imagine how far and wide I've looked for the spelling of that name. It's actually sidetracked me from finishing this for about 24 hours. It began some serious "where are they now" thoughts which may lead to some future blogs, you lucky bastards.) had exquisite handwriting. Epic in its beauty. She told my mom that she'd always hated her penmanship and had taken a correspondence course in order to relearn how to write. Ah, how this intrigued me. Even at eight I knew I was going to have to someday take my own cursive education in hand.

In high school I had this substitute teacher. Don't know his name. Balding. Beard. Professorial. Only had him a couple of times. But one day I glanced at his notes to our teacher on a legal pad. Oh my god! Dude was writing in copperplate! It was a dream.

Let me emphasize, not calligraphy, copperplate. I wanted to write like that! It was only when I became an adult that I realized it would be ridiculous to write like that. Can you imagine? That man was certainly eccentric. And I'd always have to write with a fountain pen, which would make me inky because I'm the kind of girl who gets inky.

So one day several years ago I was reading Martha Stewart Living, which is basically like reading an encyclopedia (in a good way) and that dear woman told me about books on penmanship! That article would have been in there quite a while ago because I'm five or six years behind on my MSL. And I was poor at the time, so the books (which I couldn't find in a store) were on my Amazon wish list for a few years.

You know why this came up? I was watching "Woman of the Year" with Katherine Hepburn and toward the end she picks up a cookbook which has been inscribed to her by Spencer Tracy's character's mom (can you imagine Spencer Tracy having a mom?). The inscription is so simply and beautifully penned. It reminded me that my studies had gone by the wayside, so I hopped up and got my book and started practicing for the first time in years while I watched the TV.

I originally wrote my "before" sample on January 8, 2002, according to my workbook. The fabulous "after" I wrote on February 16, 2002. It's really heavenly. I'd scan it to show you, but that smacks of effort and I already took pictures of my hand, what more do you want from me?

Sigh. I really do want to always have beautiful penmanship, even when I'm scribbling off a quick note (which is pretty much all the writing I do these days). I must practice. And I really must practice because I have some issues. When my young friend Sigg was diagnosed with dysgraphia I was like, wait a minute, I have that! I do not have it bad, and it only barely hampered me in school. As an adult I've noticed it when taking classes. It rears its ugly head in Dialect class (remember, I'm a voiceover artist) where it's hard enough taking notes, but when your hand is a nutcase, it's even harder. It's like my hand has schizophrenia. It hears voices. I leave out letters but then just as quickly go back and squeeze them in. And cursive generally isn't even an option because as my pen sweeps (my pen never actually sweeps) through the connector my hand can't tell it which way to turn next. Silly hand.

And why does this matter? (to me, certainly not to you. Can't believe you're still reading. Fool) I do believe penmanship says something about you. Don't get me wrong, I think what it generally says about people is incorrect. It's not a great way on which to base a first impression, but we still really notice it. At my high school reunion Buffy Schechter reminded me that I often complimented her handwriting and wanted to use it as a model. And I always had a girl-crush on Buffy which may well have begun with her penmanship. And she was lovely (still is) and kind and seemed very grown up.

My dad is a lawyer. He's very good at appeals work and therefore is assigned a lot of it by The State. So he's not a criminal lawyer, but he gets a lot of mail from prisoners. And for some reason that I'm sure sociologists have studied, without fail prisoners have great handwriting. In fact, it's almost girlish. Very neat. Round. In pencil, 'cause that's what they're allowed. Needless to say, it breaks my heart, but that's beside the point. Criminals (and my dad assures me they are criminals) have better writing than me!

Okay. I'm pretty sure that's every thought I've ever had about handwriting. Isn't blogging something? It's amazing how it allows nitwits to indulge themselves. I'll go stir my Cream of Wheat now and go practice my penmanship. I think I need a fatter pen. I think I'm a fatter pen kind of girl.

I am awfully fond of you,

Jo

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spam

Okay, I'm pretty sure none of these are original thoughts, but I finally have to vent about spam.

I don't have a penis. I DON'T HAVE A PENIS! And if I did, I assure you I'd be perfectly happy with it. And if it was having issues, I'd talk to my doctor, thank you very much, not YOU!

I understand that your subject headings have to be crafty, but why must your message content be written by chimps?

We don't have any mutual friends. And I'm a girl, by the way. A GIRL! I DON'T HAVE A PENIS!

Do you really really think that I'm going to fall for email FROM MYSELF! Do you think I think I'm sending myself important email?

I AM NOT AN IDIOT! Nor do I have a penis. Have I mentioned my complete lack of penis?

One time I got spam from my dead great aunt. And no, that didn't fool me either. Although I am assuming that was just a huge coincidence. Although honestly, how common a name is Mitzi? (speaking of that, once my caller ID said I'd missed a call from Rab. Irwin some middle initial Groner. Rabbi Groner from Detroit?? Why would my childhood Rabbi be calling me? I called my parents. Turned out my Rabbi Irwin Groner had a different middle initial. It was just a wrong number. A different Rabbi Irwin Groner. Weird.)

And the thing is, what do these people really hope to get from me? I suppose some are fishing for identity stuff. But all that spam, are they having success with that?

I'm against the death penalty for any reason. But when I'm King of the World, I will glory in hypocrisy. I will put spammers to death. I might even wear a penis suit when I do it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Deep Thoughts

Sometimes, when I glance in the mirror, I have existential moments. All right, I don't know if they're existential moments! And I'm pretty sure if I looked it up I wouldn't understand the explanation, so I ain't gonna!

Today at the gym I was doing the classic stand-and-hold-your-foot-behind-you-at-your-tush stretch in the privacy of the hallway to the women's locker room. The hallway is mirrored on one side. I checked myself out to make sure my knee was pointing straight down. Then I looked at my face. Perfectly happy with what I saw. A bit sweaty, no make-up, but I'm extremely fond of myself so I was pleased. But I'm not always sure that's how I picture myself. Do you ever look in the mirror real hard? Like if you look hard enough into your eyes you'll really truly see yourself? I wasn't standing close to the mirror, so I wasn't eye to eye. And I am NOT a deep thinker. But I'm looking at that chickie in the mirror and trying to connect the thoughts in my head to the face I'm looking at.

Maybe that's not in any way clear. That's why I don't teach philosophy. But I think I would like to expose you to some of my (dum da dum!) early poetry! And by early? I'm talkin' 11 years old, baby! I would never torture you with the DRECK I wrote in college.

Now here we have a selection from "10 Poems" by me, Language Arts, 2nd hour, Mrs. Resnick's class. I'm pretty dang sure that was 1981. It's typed on onion skin paper. Corrasable Bond.

Thought
Have you ever sat down and thought?
Thought about, if you were born to someone other you would not have been you.
The only thing real about you is your mind and your brain, the rest is just
an outer layer, a shell surrounding you.
You are just like anybody else except your mind and your brain . . .

I'm pretty sure these "deep thoughts" came from looking in the mirror just like this morning. I don't remember having angst during this early period of "thinking," just, hmm, wonderment?

Shall I torture you with another? I shall. Because three out of ten of these things are in this introspective vein and that fascinates me. And it's my blog.

Some of these poems have check marks next to them that the teacher made. This next one doesn't. I think that suggests she thought it was crap.

Birthdays
It's your birthday, is it really, or is it just a made up thought?
Are you really older, has a year really gone by, or is it just the
power of suggestion?
You may be older on the outside, but you're not on the inside.

Am I torturing you? Come on, don't you think these are vaguely impressive for an 11 year old? I'll have you know Iris Resnick gave me an A+!

One more and then I'll let you go.

Mind
What lies in our inner self?
Do we have love in our heart or hatred?
How do we hear?
How do we speak?
Is there someone inside us pulling our strings?
When our strings break, will we live on?

Now that is some heavy queer shit, huh? Don't worry, I believe I was generally a goofball most of my childhood. When MacDonald's introduced their QLT (Quarter pounder, Lettuce, and Tomato), my family started calling me that, insisting it stood for queer little tyke.

Maybe this isn't a good post to come back from vacation with. Maybe you'll never come back. Maybe you never came back anyway. Maybe I'm just whistling in the dark. Maybe I shouldn't think so hard.

xo

Jo

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Not a Post

I'm going to Boston. And I'm not taking you with me. It's not that I don't love you, I just gotta pack light.

See you next week,

Jo

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Welcome to Glendale

A reader (I have readers!) requested another tale of my neighborhood. Unfortunately no one’s been killed, as far as I know. Okay, that was a terrible thing to say. I only said it because I thought it would be funny and now I feel kind of bad. But not bad enough to erase it.

I can tell you about Glendale’s fascism. I don’t actually know if it is fascism because I’m too lazy to look up the actual definition, but I like to call Glendale a fascist state because it sounds good and it’s all about the sound, baby.

I didn’t even realize I was buying a house in Glendale until I noticed the trash cans were mauve and not black. And then I was a little embarrassed, because apparently I’m a huge snob and there’s something, just, I don’t know, uncool about having to say you live in Glendale. I don’t even have a problem living in the San Fernando Valley, because I happily lived deep in The Valley for years, back in the day. But there is nothing geographical that divides Los Angeles from where I live in the southern tip of Glendale; to go from Atwater Village (in LA) to my neighborhood (Adams Hill) you just cross a road. How's that a valley? And, since I live on the border, I feel like I’m misleading people if I just say I live in Glendale. They ask me something about my city and I can’t answer it and I look like a dang fool. I work in Los Angeles, I eat in Los Angeles, I shop in Los Angeles, my friends live in Los Angeles. Geez, no wonder nobody talks to me in Glendale.

Now what am I going on about? Mm, fascist state. Glendale has rules, but they don’t tell you when you move in. Now when I moved in my house had some simple, attractive landscaping. What I didn’t know was that the sprinklers had been off during escrow so by the time I got there, the plants weren’t happy. And the grass had clearly had its day. I figured, ya know, we’re going into the rainy season, this lawn needs work, why waste water and money on it? Why? WHY? Because one day you will get a terrifying letter in the mail telling you you’re in violation of everything Glendale has ever dictated! And you have 30 days to correct it, or woe be unto you!

For example: "Glendale requires that all front yard areas be fully landscaped and maintained in a neat, orderly manner. At least fifty two percent (52%) of the front yard must be landscaped. All yards and parkways must be fully landscaped with live plant materials, irrigated and maintained in good condition at all times. All trees and shrubs should be trimmed away from any building or structures; the property should be free of weeds and overgrown vegetation. Paving in the front yard area is limited to driveways and walkways."

And the thing is, how does the city know if you’re in violation? Sure, they conduct inspections, but I think they only do that once a year. Generally, YOUR NEIGHBORS TURN YOU IN! Nice. Neighborhood. To live in. And you gotta believe me, my neighbors turned me in. With a vengeance. And when it took me three tries (and a couple years) to get a landscaper who actually did the job (and did it beautifully, god bless the dreamy Nick Tan), I assure you, my neighbors’ vengeance was mighty.

When the last bit of thyme was nestled against dove gray flagstone, my neighbors began pouring out of their houses to introduce themselves and say how lovely the garden is and blah blah blah and this that and the other thing. And I smiled and said thank you, but in my head I shook my fist in their faces and thought, “You lousy piece of crap, I’ve lived here three years! Where are my Jell-O molds!

I’m gonna go get coffee now. In ATWATER!

Love you,

Jo

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Smell of Spring

I moved to LA in September of 1994. And it rained like it was nobody's business. People kept apologizing to me for the weather. It was the first year of El Niño and it rained like it was Michigan or something. But I didn't mind. It wasn't snow. And it reminded me of home.

I had a newish friend who lived in Ojai and I had a terrible crush on him. When I was bored at my very dull temp jobs, I wrote letters to him and various other friends. Actual letters. That I printed out and mailed. Or, dare I say it, wrote by hand.

This is a letter I sent him once. (And I know how incredibly queer [i.e. corny] it was to write such a letter, but I was a literary twit. And he was appreciative. Or pretended to be. And what I wrote in my previous blog entry reminded me of this and I thought you might like it. Here goes:

The smell of spring reminds me of my mother.

In May and June my best friend Jenifer and I would ride our bikes to school. We’d meet halfway between our houses and then off we’d go. My mom, in her robe, would walk with me to the end of the driveway. (Our driveway had never been sealed after it was first paved, so over the years it became very gravely. After long drives, even if I was asleep in the car, I could always tell we were home when I heard the wheels crunch on the salt and pepper way. It toughened our feet in the summertime and hampered roller skating. I can hear my bike’s tires slowly scrunching down the drive.) The outdoors was magical, like it is only at certain times. Like a Friday morning at 7:15 in May in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The air all yellowy-new with the sun. Kind of cold. The magnolias blooming and their pink and white petals falling much too soon—they always opened too early, never waiting for that last killing frost. It smelled good, like my mom and the sun and spring. Like dew and grass. It smelled like the morning, like quiet.

I’d be scared to leave my mom and go riding alone down the long street that would curve so I couldn’t look back anymore to see her wave. But she did always keep waving ‘till I rounded that bend. Maybe even after, who can say? And there would be lilacs. And I would be afraid some bad person would get me before I got to Jenifer. My ears would start to feel very cold and my head would hurt, just like it still does when a cool wind sneaks into my ears, even on an early summer morning. I’d probably be a little late and Jenifer would meet me at the end of my street not bothering to stop at the halfway point. Then we’d ride together on our shiny ten speed bikes. No, then we probably still had the hand-me-down banana-seat bikes.

We’d always have sore throats and be thoroughly winded by Wellesley Court so we’d stop there and rest before the big hill at Buxton. These are the subdivision roads of my neighborhood, roads I could traverse in my sleep at one time, but now down which I haven’t been in years. We’d cut the corner at Nicholas and what was that street? I think I’ve jumbled them all by now. But we’d sneak through someone’s driveway to cut that corner. We always were careful, just as our mothers had admonished when they waved goodbye. No, I’m sure Jenifer's mom never troubled to see her out. But mine did, with concern on her face.

And when we got to school our silence was broken as so many other kids milled about at the bike racks. And by that time the good smell and memory are over anyway, because mostly the vision is of my mom, and the end of the driveway, and the golden misty quality of the light, and the placement of the houses on my childhood street, frozen that way. Before Mr. F went to jail and sold off the lots on either side of his big old house, and before some angry people burned down a house on one of those new lots, but after the boy in the house across the way molested me, but before I told my parents the whole story. And anyway, it was before a lot of stuff, and after other things, too. But even here, far across the country, in the middle of winter, I smell that Michigan morning and I am reminded that I have always been loved, have always loved, will always be loved.

And that's the end. It could use some editing, but that wouldn't be honest. What a queer mother fucker I am, huh?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Muddy Hillside

So. Frank E. Doherty Elementary School. There were two playgrounds: The Upper L and The Lower L. I don't know if L was spelled L or what. I'm assuming it meant level. The Lower L was for kindergartners through third graders and The Upper L for fourth and fifth. Now, Doherty is on a lovely plot of land in beautiful West Bloomfield, Mich. That sounds like I'm being facetious, but I'm not; most of West Bloomfield is really quite delightful. Doherty especially. You drive up a longish driveway lined by pine trees on at least one side. The other side might just be regular trees. Through the stand of pines on your right you can see the big field area of the rather massive Lower L playground. Then the school presents itself, nestled comfortably in the landscape. There's a cul-de-sac designed, my mother felt, by a mad man (once those buses were in there, you were trapped). If you go off to left of the school there's a small parking lot at the base of a rolling lawn (where we played kickball). It was a good place to park and neck when in high school. That lawn then melded with The Upper L playground which swept down to a fence, a river (stream?) and the woods behind. There was a path through the woods that led to a big field and then to a subdivision. Just before the woods ended and the field began there was a snowball bush from which I stole huge white puffs for my mother in the spring. They say the woods were haunted, but when don't they say that?

Why the hell am I giving you this tour, she muttered to herself. Oh yeah! Okay. In the spring it rains in Michigan. (In the fall, winter, and summer it rains in Michigan.) The Lower L playground had it's own hillside, a bit more steep then The Upper L's rolling lawn. And it wasn't so much lawn because it was more constantly covered with children. (Why did this subject come into my head this morning? Oh, I know. It was already 66 degrees in the house when I got up this morning. It's been raining (gleefully) in LA this week. This is a good thing. It makes my garden grow. And it makes me happy. The world looks good and smells good and reminds me of home. But it's been much colder in the mornings before today. And when I let the Wiener out the back door, the air was soft and it smelled just like my youth.) (This reminds me of a letter I wrote to a guy I had a crush on when I first moved here. A bit of a lyrical description of a moment in my childhood. I'll look for it. It might interest you.)

In the spring, the hill was mud. My best friend Jenifer (yes, just the one N) and I felt that we needed to create roads to help the water drain down the hill and out the front gate. It did not need us to do this. But my, it was oddly satisfying. We spent every recess (three a day) climbing up and down, dragging the heels of our boots to make canals that connected to other canals and so on and so on. It was a messy job. The mud caked high on my hand-me-down boots. They had zippers which became useless. For a while at least, that wasn't much of a problem because they were too big. I remember one staying sucked in the mud while I kept moving. Stepped right out of it. I stood there on one leg, my little white-socked foot waving in the air until Jenifer rescued me. She was good like that.

The tenacity with which we worked on our public works project was astounding. I suspect our tongues were planted securely at the corners of our lips, to ensure the world of our determination. It was so satisfying watching our girl-made river rush out the front gate as directed by our heel-dug troughs. We may or may not have been yelled at by the recess monitors. And our mothers, for that matter. And, truth be told, this might have just happened on one day. But I don't think so. I think it was an epic project, like the Big Dig. I think our work was never done.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Empty your mind.

My first instinct there is to say, "Don't tell me what to do!" Which of course I never mean, but it makes me laugh. Like when someone says, "Have a seat," and I respond, "Don't tell me what to do!" They're always so shocked. (FYI, you can pretty much always tell me what to do and I may well just do it. I'm the youngest.)

So, empty your mind. It's a thing in Yoga. Now your instructor knows that that is very difficult to do, so she/he encourages you to address thoughts as they come and go, but don't get fixated on them. Just acknowledge them and let them pass. HA! Well, actually, I am way better now (insert Zoloft comment here). I can often focus on my breathing, the deep in and the deep out. Sometimes I can do that for up to, say, one breath cycle. Then my mind wanders. But I bring it back!

What I've noticed now is that my mind tends always go to the same places. Yes, if I'm really really obsessing about something, I may go there. Like when I first started getting close to my boyfriend and I couldn't stop reciting his fabulously complicated German/Polish name over and over again like a mantra - a very attractive and distracting mantra.

But no, I mean very specific places every time. I suppose it makes sense that when class is starting and we're breathing and I'm emptying my brain (all over the floor) that I go to the old YMCA in Ann Arbor, Mich. That's where I first began Yoga in, I'm gonna say, 1993. And then I think of my boyfriend at the time. I'm gonna call him John, what with that being his name and all. We took Yoga together. I don't ever think of him, except in Yoga class, which means I think about him all the time. But that's okay, he was a nice guy.

I don't just go to the Y, though. I go to certain areas of Ann Arbor. I go West (???) on Liberty (???) (Dude, I haven't lived there in 13 years.). I always go West on Liberty. But the Y was in the other direction, so why am I going to this side of town? I picture myself out by Stadium Way. I think about the Thai restaurant there. And I also inexplicably think of my sister's (and my) friend who was our age but rather scandalously married a MUCH older, albeit sexy, professor. Why do I think of her? And her house? And sometimes I think about my brother's old girlfriend who stayed a family friend and who was "very wealthy" by her own admission and lived in just a lovely apartment on, maybe Liberty? and it had lovely French doors. Or lots of windows. Or glass in some way. I do think she and the professor-marrier both lived on a similar route, but route to where? Where has my brain been going in Ann Arbor for nigh on 15 years?! And do the ears of these people tingle at least once a week when I'm thinking about them for a few fleeting seconds in Yoga before I acknowledge them and let them float away?

For a few years I thought of my most recent old boyfriend during Yoga and I didn't care for that. And that happened because one instructor used to take us through guided meditation and describe a golden light flowing through our bodies and my sister Julia once told me she pictures it more like a golden liquid not unlike the scrolling back-lit beer sign on the wall at the club 14 Below in Santa Monica. I think she said that when were were actually at that bar, because just pulling that sign out of her ass like that would have been odd. And one time we saw my old boyfriend (though he was current at the time) play there and it was the first time I'd seen him in a while because he'd been touring and I gave him the scarf I'd knit him and it looked very good on him and he was standing in front of that scrolling back-lit beer sign with the golden liquid flowing through it. I don't even go to that same yoga teacher nor does anybody guide my meditation but for years I was still thinking of him against my will. I don't anymore, which pleases me.

I also think of the first time I ever learned a specific move in Yoga every freaking time I do that move again. (I'm gonna say "time" a couple of more times here: time time time.) What I remember are the phrases my teachers used (and what's freaky, though comfortingly consistent is that other teachers use those phrases sometimes, too.). I remember Mary, my teacher at the Y telling us, when in a forward fold, to hang our heads like a grapefruit on a stem. For 15 years I've repeated that to myself when hanging my head. It's very helpful. Really stretches your neck. And every time I go into downward-facing dog I remember when Beverly (the guided meditation user) first put her hand on my upper back and smoothed it to get me to relax it down and forward. I still have Beverly ghost hand there. And being told to imagine I'm between two panes of glass when in triangle pose. That's actually a pretty common image. My new English Yoga teacher (she's English, not the Yoga) said that very thing this past Monday. And in final resting pose, I want to shout out to my fellow students that it works really nicely if you imagine you're in a rapid flowing stream floating on your back and someone is gently cradling your head in their hands. It's so handy, I want to shout to them. I don't, of course, because that's just not Yoga (like that's ever stopped me before).

So, thank you ladies and gentleman, that's where I go in Yoga: Ann Arbor, Mich. It's a lovely place to visit. I recommend you only go in the Fall or the Spring (the weather, you see, is generally god awful).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blogs More Interesting Than Cereal Boxes!

I blame my sister Megan for the McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal up my nose. 'Cause the thing is, I like reading. If I don't have something else to do with my eyes, I like to be reading. And lately, because after three years my DSL seems to be working continually (way to jinx it, ass), I've been sitting with the lap top at the kitchen table when I get up in the morning. Okay, it's really due to my obsession with Confessions of a Pioneer Woman and now checking to see how many people are reading my blog and sometimes checking to see if I've posted a new blog, but to my horror I'm caught up on The Pioneer Woman and bitch only posts like ONCE a day, and really there's only so many people (three) (naw, I'm kidding) reading my blog, and going to my own blog is, honestly, useless. So I thought I'd actually read the blogs Megan recommends, hence the oatmeal in my nose. 'Cause Finslippy was talking about a stinky book she got out of the library. And instead of putting down my spoon, I just kept eating and laughing. And I want to say to you, just say no to eating and laughing.

But golly reading blogs is way more interesting than the cereal box (even though how cool is it that I actually KNOW the woman on my All-Bran Buds box [a cereal I can highly recommend. It's like tiny delicious pieces of Styrofoam. And your colon will be thrilled!]. It's Kat Sawyer who was at my old voiceover agency. I see her picture a lot. She's a very attractive "older" woman (read: not very old) who I believe at one point actually had hints of gray put in her hair on purpose to succeed in a different acting age group. And she's nabbed it. I've even seen her hanging above the prescription counter at Target. Not in effigy, though. That would be weird. Just as a "smiling woman" in a photo.). The thing is, you can only read a cereal box so many times before you lose your will to live. And don't get me started on a tube of toothpaste. Sometimes you're just desperate for reading material.

I should go now.

xo

Jo