Transitioning the Transition; or Where the Hell Am I?

I’m in a peculiar state of mind.

Last summer I talked about transitioning from major depression to “normal life,” but that’s turned out to contain it’s own triumphs, setbacks and pitfalls crisscrossing each other.  So now I’m at the junction of several smaller transitions in the middle of one overarching one:

Ongoing move from working to retired life and the resulting changing identity;

Moving away from intense psychological and physical stress and their conditioned responses;

Dealing with the ongoing residual fallout from the stress and the confounding battle with inertia;

Dealing with the drastically different changes in living environment;

Just deal –

Jodi butts in.  “Hello all!  Judi’s id here.  She does get boring doesn’t she?”

Jada coughs delicately. “This is Judi’s post.”

Jodi waves a hand.  “And if you’ve forgotten, Jada is Judi’s superego which leaves Quiet One over there.”

Quiet One sighs.  “I’ve been calling myself Julie for months.  Do keep up.”

Jodi sighs.  But you’re still so…quiet.”

Julie  nods.  “I speak up when it’s important.”

Jada arches a brow at Jodi.  “THAT, she does especially when you get a bit too rowdy.”

Jodi huffs.  “How was that incident in London too rowdy?  I wasn’t even looking at him!”

Jada coughs delicately again.  “We talked about this, dear.”

Julie chuckles.

Jodi’s mouth opens then snaps shut.  “Well.  Anyway, what Judi was trying to say was – ”

I gape at the trio.  “Hold on now!  London wasn’t Vegas. Nothing happened there we can’t talk about.”

All three stare at me.

I carry on, suddenly feeling insecure.  “Erm, er, so.  Can I continue with my post?”

Jodi tuts.  “But it’s sooo dry.  Can’t we just recap and get on with talking about London?  I love talking about London.”

I scowl.  “I can recap.  I wanted to say that-”

Jodi jumps in.  “She wanted to say that she was depressed being a totally stressed out, mentally and physically sick, broke mess who couldn’t see her way clear, and now she’s a less stressed, mentally better, physically creaky, solvent mess in a new home who can’t figure out where to go next with all the possibilities!  Right Judi?”

Jada purses her lips.  “Wellll, maybe that was a bit… harsh.”

Julie snickers.  “I think Judi means to say that her situation is constantly evolving, but for the better, with small transitions coming fast along the way.  Now she has to learn to adjust to adjusting – learn new behaviors for her new world.”

I sigh.  “Thanks Julie.  Yes, I’m trying to adjust to adjusting and not being able to predict what happens next.  Very aptly put.  It’s such a strange feeling.  Don’t think I’m very good at it.”

Julie pats my hand. “You’re doing great.  As Dr. G. says, don’t rush it. Just consider plans and chart a schedule.”

Jodi sits up brightly. “Okay!  So can we talk about London now?  You know, that Armitage bloke.”

I blink tiredly.  “What?”

A soprano voice sings out. “Have no fear, FAN GURL is here!”

I groan. “Oh no.”

The trio hoot and holler.  “Oh yes!”

 

Yet Another Transition; or Judiang Moves House

calm-movingIf you’ve been following my trials and tribulations over the last 3 1/2 years, then you know about the ups and downs of my illness, the battle, the job fiasco, the retirement, and the endless climb back to a fully functional life.  It caused an enormous financial strain I wasn’t mentally equipped to handle last year.  Then there was a severe relapse this past winter (which I will talk about another time) followed by the financial problems coming home to roost.   Suddenly I was land rich but so broke that friends and family stepped in to keep me afloat and offer grave advice.  So I bit the bullet – it was time to sell.  I called the realtor and signed the listing agreement.  Life came to a standstill while I dedicated all my energies to parting with a place and community I loved and don’t want to leave.

Nine days after signing on the dotted line, the condo was on the market.  Fourteen groups, an open house, and 11 days later, I had a contract.  The final dates materialized: closing day – Sept 5; walk-through Sept 4; moving day – Sept 3.  Two days until I leave; four days until financial solvency returns.  The move will be very bittersweet.  So what will I do now?

Because I won’t have a positive cash flow until after the closing, making final arrangements for a new place is on hold.  I’m in communication with one place and will get the ball rolling the moment the money hits my account.  In the meantime, my stuff goes into storage and I will stay with friends until things are sorted.  Patty the pomeranian is at her foster parent’s house during the transition.  Friends are texting, skyping, calling and making sure I stay focused.  (I’ll have to post later about my friends.  I may not have many, but the ones I have are absolutely incredible.  They are truly good, loving people.  Getting choked up just thinking about all they have done.)

Men have just taken away the sofa that’s just too big to fit properly in apartments.  It was 22 years old, so it had a good life.  It still looks good, so it will give another owner happiness.  The place is 95% packed.  In the next 24 hours, I’ll pack this computer.  Then the movers arrive first thing Wednesday and take away my stuff.  Then I’ll sweep, leave the keys for the realtor, and head to the train station with my suitcase.  It will be an austere send-off but that’s best.  Another door in my life will close, while another opens.  My friends say to look at this as a new adventure and I’m trying hard.

I will try to keep up with you all via  iDevices.

Oh, you may want to look for me on Twitter next week because of… things.  Just sayin’.

Real Life Keeps On Coming

20140721-010904-4144886.jpgThe effort to downsize is turning into an entire series with cliffhanger episodes. After two days decluttering and generating an amazing amount of trash, Condo was ready for part two: the cleaners. Vera the realtor brought in two who only spoke Russian but cleaned Condo within every inch of its footage. A dust mote did not survive. Seriously, it’s not been so clean since construction nine years ago. They put the white glove test to shame. The downside to this pristine-ness is now I must emulate a neat freak and keep it this way until we land a buyer. Gulp. Next, maintenance must plaster and paint cracked hall walls caused by the building settling. This is a like closing the barn door after the horse has gone through but the cleaning availability couldn’t be helped. So now I must hover with a Dust Buster during repairs. Things could get freaky.

Next Pictures Must Be Taken. Simply taking snaps won’t do, oh no. Upscale sales require an upscale photographer. Good grief. So, Condo will sit for its photos this week. Then the listing goes live. Do I get to rest? Of course not; I need a place to land. Enter Friends and Family. Family has me concerned. Friends are having way too good a time scouting.

More later.

Fantasy and Crushes: How Far Is Too Far?

Crush_fotm_xlargeA few days ago, I saw a post on Tumblr, both brave and heartbreaking.  The poster is a big fan of Richard Armitage and spends a big part of her life watching, reading, and talking about him.  She also has a history of depression and uses her crush/fantasies to stave it off.  Initially, she thought she would be happy to know that RA was happy with somebody. But she became “incredibly sad,” as she described, over the RA/Lee Pace rumors, crying for hours.  Then she realized that the rumors regarding Lee Pace himself didn’t distress her.  What bothered her was the idea of RA being with anybody, male or female.  So she could not believe the rumors or any rumors because doing so would threaten her happiness – her survival.  She knew her view was selfish, but she deemed it a necessary buffer against depression.

I found the post to be remarkably honest and brave.   It was a hard admission to make because every fan thinks they want what their crush needs to be happy.  Not many open minded fans will admit to secretly harboring such feelings. As a person with depression, I can totally sympathize with needing to protect what makes one happy.  At times, the need to focus on something and get away from one’s misery can be overpowering and certainly, immersing oneself in the crush, in fandom activities can be productive and rewarding.   Look at the all the creative projects and friendships begun because of this fandom.  Fantasies, up to a point, are an integral part of crushing; it idealizes the person. We think the crush is somehow better looking, talented – special. There’s nothing wrong with this viewpoint.  That’s the nature of crushing.  The poster inserts herself into her fantasies which makes her feel good.  It’s what she enjoys.  However, she wants to protect that lest she falls back into depression.  I can understand her reasoning up to a point but I am unsettled because the poster fails to understand that being so deeply protective and inured in that fantasy comes at a cost.

This post isn’t about whether any truth to the Rich/Lee rumors will ruin fans’ fantasies. It’s about when crushes and attendant fantasies flip from rewarding to detrimental.  In my opinion, the poster’s objective of throwing herself into the fandom to stave off depression is only a temporary bandage.  What I find unsettling and heartbreaking is her desire to not temper fantasy with reality or face her issues.  What will she do if RA publicly states he’s with somebody?  Should she simply wait for her fantasy to implode to the detriment of her mental health?  Is this the route crushes and fantasies should take?  How far is too far?

I believe crushing should always be tempered with the here and now.  It’s important to enjoy oneself but stay grounded in the process. It’s one thing to say that crushing makes one happy, but another to totally rely on that person as the primary source and call it survival.  Disappointment is bound to happen because a crush is only human, fallible. Remember when I said fantasies are good up to a point?  Yes, they are as long as they don’t seek to harm anybody including oneself.   If a fan sees that his or her fantasy is bound to cause self-grief, then it’s time to step away, reassess what is happening, and take steps to deal with the real issues.  Crushing is supposed to be a joyful enriching experience, not lead to depression and tears.  The poster has already reached the point where crushing had turned detrimental; her willful denial is just delaying the inevitable.

What if the fan can’t let it go?  What if things have progressed to total devastation at the thought of a fantasy being ruined?  After 20 years in fandom, I believe the answer is simple but hard to do – walk away and get help.  Yes, leave the fandom until some equilibrium can be regained.  Time and again I’ve seen it as the only viable solution.  It’s possible to become so enmeshed in a crush, like the poster, that a fan can lose touch with the initial objective.   The poster will survive even though she thinks she won’t;  she’s too locked in the jaws of depression to see it now.  But hopefully with the guidance of trained mental health professionals, she will have achieved better perspective and control of the depression.

Looking at the bigger picture, I’ve seen many occasions where it seemed fans either needed to take a break or leave the fandom to determine what they really want.  Flame wars and heartlessly vicious arguments on forums are the biggest red lights.  Both signal that fans have become so deeply invested in the crush that the coin has turned from beneficial to detrimental.  So, be it Rich/Lee rumors, rumors in general or any other vicious bone of contention, if raging, crying, and depression enter the picture, it’s time to assess how far is too far and change course.

 

Happiness

The man stood smiling, nodding, murmuring thanks.

Thank you.

More hands reached out to deliver congratulatory slaps on the back.

Thank you so much.

He felt like a bobble-head as faces -both friendly and unrecognizable – swam in and out of his vision.  The after party’s din rose, signaling the arrival of another cast member.  A hand thrust a glass of water into his.  He took a grateful sip, cooling his parched throat.

Oh thank you.

A voice called into his ear – the red haired bloke holding up his smartphone – “So you want to hear what the critics said?”

The man blinked.  What, press reviews already? His stomach clinched at their mention.  He wasn’t ready.  No, he was but – no he wasn’t.  From all the kudos around him, things had clearly gone well, but still.  He opened his mouth to answer when another face swam into view. Who was he?

Thank you.

The bloke chuckled, launching into the many preliminary tweets. Ah yes, Twitter – no more waiting for morning after print reviews.  Above the noise, the man head “astounding,” “masterful presence,” “great performance.” His eyes grew round.  They liked him, they really liked him!  He didn’t think his face muscles could smile or his head nod any harder.  It was all good.  He’d done it!  He’d worked years to reach this night.  He’d really arrived.  He allowed himself a moment to savor it all.

But now that the verdict was in, he felt – past tired.  He must have hobnobbed with everybody in the ball room and back stage at the theatre.  Oh damn. Frowning, he rubbed his forehead.  Well, everybody but his fans who’d been waiting at the stage door.  He’d tried to get to them but the autograph hounds had pushed forward, blocking most of them.  He’d had so little time. Damn it.  He hoped they understood and forgave him.

Another hand at his shoulder.

Thank you so much.

He took a deep breath as exhaustion from the four hour play washed over him. He ached.  The faces seemed to press closer, the din grow louder.  He felt light headed and oddly unreal.  Air.   He needed some air.

***

He leaned against the hotel’s facade, breathing in the cool night air, the claustrophobic feeling receding.  Despite the throng of press and people inside, the Strand was peaceful and almost empty.  One or two cabs whizzed by.  Nobody stood around except for him and the doorman who’d glanced his way a few times.   The man nodded at him and looked away.  He would stay out here for a few minutes then head back in before they came looking for him.  Right now, he would just enjoy the solitude.

“Excuse me, sir.”  The doorman appeared at his side.  “Don’t mean to bother but I think those are for you.”

Long stemmed red roses lay carefully placed to the side of the steps.  The man walked over and picked one up.  What was this?  Tied around the stem was a piece of paper stating “JustGiving: £10, much love.”  He retrieved another. “JustGiving: £15, with love.”  And another – “JustGiving: £5, all our love.”  His confusion cleared.  Of course, these were from the fans!  Each rose must represent a donation to his charities.  Stooping, he quickly retrieved every one.  As his arms filled with flowers, the exhaustion fell away.  He stood, a giant smile on his face.

A perfect bouquet.

Thank you,  he whispered.

*****

Congratulations to Richard Armitage and the cast and crew of The Crucible.

 

The Allure of the Accent; or RA Goes Okie

british accentYears ago in the film Love Actually, British Colin Frissell can’t find a girlfriend at home. So he journeys to the U.S. in search of one. To his surprise, he finds himself a hit with American women the moment he opens his mouth. It seems American women dig British accents. Of course, this was hilarious to me because I’ve been exposed to British accents since I can remember. (I blame PBS and my mother’s undying crush on Laurence Olivier). So this phenomenon didn’t really surprise me, although my crushes on British actors have been totally incidental. Naturally.

Flash forward to last week. A few of us were chatting about the latest Into the Storm trailer and analyzing what we could of Richard Armitage’s American accent. While I couldn’t separate his voice from the background noise, a few said they thought the accent pretty decent. Then I heard something to this effect:

“As soon as he spoke American, he lost part of his sex appeal.”

My mouth nearly fell open at the heresy before my inner anti-fangurl exclaimed “that’s right, he’s British!” One chatter recounted how one favorite actor’s sex appeal leached away the moment he spoke in an American accent (dreadfully). This brings me to another meandering thought: it that why Americans are so keen on foreign actors getting American accents right – is it because of the aural dissonance, or the resulting perception of declining sex appeal? They’re just not that hot without the Queen’s English?  There’s no real reason why this should be except maybe prove the adage “everything is greener on the other side of the street,” or pond, as the case may be.  I picture RA trying out a Chi-caw-go accent with me listening incredulously and wondering what I ever saw him. Would I beg him to “speak British” again?   Could that possibly happen if I were wearing a blindfold?

I can’t decide how I feel about RA sprouting an American accent. I do know what if he fails to impress in the few scenes, I won’t be able to take him seriously the rest of the movie.  It sets my teeth on edge to hear an accent done poorly.  Truly, I’ve reacted the same way with other actors.  But will I find him less sexy? I don’t know yet.  Maybe the wet shirt will make up for that.

What do you think?  Honesty will get you kudos.  Total heresy will get you cookies.

 

 

Midnight

Miiiidniiiiight… Not a sound from the pavement…

The Man strode away, hands in pockets as the music on his iPhone barely drowned out the klunk of his boots.  Behind him, the theatre Stage Door light clicked off, plunging the lane into half darkness.

Has the moon lost her meeeeemory?  she is smiling alone…

He sighed, pulling out the earbuds.  Of all the songs to pop up on his playlist, this would be it.

He’d felt at once exhilarated and exhausted after almost four hours on stage.  Hobnobbing and taking selfies with well wishers left him a bit antsy too, still pent up with adrenaline.  He’d decided to head back to the rented flat, walk it off, while listening to something relaxing.

With each step, the melody from Cats drained him, leaving him oddly morose.  He sighed again.  There was no help for it.   He clicked off the player and walked on.

A couple breezed past him, racing down a flight of stairs.  He glanced up in surprise, taking in the Southwark Tube station, realizing they were racing past him to catch the last train of the evening.  He looked around in slight confusion. Where could he go? He didn’t want to go home just yet.  After a few moments of thought, he turned onto Blackfriars Road and headed towards the Thames.  Yes, contemplating the water might help him sort things.

He had a problem -actually, two problems.

His cast mate distracted him and not in a good way.  Unknown to her, she grasped and groped his legs and thighs on stage in the most ticklish spots.  He always fought hard not to laugh.  Imagine him breaking into giggles while struggling to be stoic and imposing at the same time.  Breaking down like a silly novice. He’d never live it down.  Even his PR people wouldn’t be able to spin that.

But that wasn’t his worst problem.

He might have laughed at the irony had the situation not been so serious.  Like the character in the song, he remembered a different life too, a life filled with agile young dancers, of which he’d been a part.  But he’s left that behind, gone into drama, and not performed a pirouette in 20 years.

He’d forgotten how to dance.

Not that he needed to actually dance in the play but a lot of the actions required full body balletic movements, something he feared he’d lost.  He’d spent three years walking like he had gonads of stone during his long project and now, he wasn’t sure he could shake that.  Watching his young 23 year old cast mate dance circles around him in their scenes had been a revelation and a wake up call.  She was so spry, bouncing off chairs, slinking under his to grab his legs – she couldn’t be more graceful.  And the rest of the cast spoke volumes with each movement and gesture.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to hit that old balletic stride.  He felt rusty, oafish, clunky in comparison.

A jolt at his shoulder. He muttered a reflexive “excuse me” before noting that he’d reached the river at Blackfriars Bridge.   He took the stairs down to the bankside and continued walking east until St. Paul’s majestic dome came into view. Walking over to the railing, he gazed at the London nighttime skyline of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, and city skyscrapers in the distance. The river sloshed in a calming rhythm but did little to settle his nerves.  He gazed up into the night sky, too bright from the city lights to reveal any stars.  He sighed.  His people said he was the “star” but he didn’t feel like one.  He couldn’t even keep up with the portrayal by a girl still in drama school.  He was sure she’d noticed his rusty style – gonads of stone.  Had the rest of the cast?

He thumped the railing in frustration.  Him – an ex-dancer!  It was just too outrageous.

He’d have to get himself together, unlearn the last three years.  Didn’t they know that he was Macavity?   He was a CAT in his former stage life!  Fingers raking his hair, he thought hard.  His teachers told him the best refresher was to go back to basics.  Then that’s what he would do then.  Oh, he’ll show them – he just needed to get the tights and leotard back on to get himself into that right frame of mind again.  He had to set himself FREE again.  Yes, that was it.  He’d go home and get the tights…the whiskers… yes, it was all coming back to him now. He’d practice up a storm.

Running back up the embankment steps, he hailed a cab, his face wreathed in a smile.

Macavity Cat, Macavity Cat, Macavity Cat come out tonight!!!

 

Prelude

The man stared into the dark maw of his duffel bag willing it not to be true.

He scanned the small dressing room where he’d flung the bag’s contents: towel, shaving kit, gray t-shirt, jogging bottoms, dark jeans, new shirt still in the wrapper for the after party –

It wasn’t there.

His nerves ratcheted up another level.

Casting his mind back, he clearly recalled packing it that morning.   He’d gone to the gym – could it have fallen out there?  Surely he would have noticed, but things had been so rushed. Then he come straight to the theatre, to this room and stowed the bag.  Had he pulled it out at some time like a talisman and forgotten?  Closing his eyes, he remembered taking it from its resting place in the bottom of the drawer and carefully unfolding the tissue.  It still smelled spring fresh from the last washing and pressing along with a hint of cedar from the cachet he used to prevent moths getting to it.

It hadn’t started as a habit.  He’d happened to have it the first few times he landed a big role.  But after repeated incidents, he started seeing a pattern. and began wearing it as a humorous half baked superstition. He’d imagined cracking jokes at dinner parties and self-mockingly ascribing his success to it.  Still some niggling, primitive part of him whispered: what if it’s true?  So, he’d gone to lengths to preserve the precious item.  Until now.

Oh geez.

His heart pounded.

Calm down. Just calm down.

He’d been so focused on his private talisman, thinking all during rehearsal when he could hold it, feel it, soothe his jangled nerves.  If ever there was a time for it, now was it.  This was one of the biggest nights of his career.  After not gracing a stage in 11 years, he would do so again in one hour.  Sure, he’d done repertory theatre but  only in ensemble and never as a headliner and certainly not propped up by all the PR.  He was the main event, as they say, the one who could ensure the success of this production; the one whom critics would be watching, poison pens in hand.

Sweat beaded on his forehead.  Was it hot in here?

Here he stood, in the same place graced by such greats as Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.  And now he here he was, audaciously wanting to begin the long climb to possibly taking a place by their sides.

Oh shit.

His stomach rolled.  Maybe it was true what they said about Olivier barfing before every performance.  He felt ill, the small space closing in on him.  Time was ticking away but he had to get some air.  He had to get out.

*****

The man stood hands in pockets outside under the the stage door canopy breathing in the not so fresh evening air.  If the lose of his talisman portended bad luck, it was starting.  He looked up in to the light drizzle.  A few metres away huddled two young women in coats and nice frocks with their damp heads together talking and taking puffs from a fag.  He groaned, mouth watering for the taste of tobacco and smoke. Although he quit years ago, he could really use a fag now.  He ran fingers threw his short locks, shifting from foot to foot.  The rain didn’t help his mood. If anything, he felt more morose and antsy.  It crazy to think he could do this, that he could return to the stage after many years having been only an ensemble player and think he could pull off a headliner.  He should have started smaller – joined another ensemble as a secondary character and worked his way up.  Too late now.  Time to consider what to do when he bombed.

Sigh.

One of the women handed the fag to the other, waved and headed around towards the front of the theatre.  The other took a few more puffs then suddenly looked his way.  She broke into a smile.

Oh hell.  She recognized him and was probably a fan.  He really didn’t feel in the mood for this right now, but politeness drilled into him since childhood forced him to return the smile – if only he could.  His eyes begged “I’m sorry” and he dropped his head.

Her smile faltered as lines of concern replaced it.  She called softly to him.  Hey.

He looked up, expecting a nasty reply for his attitude. Instead, he met two compelling eyes and a radiant confident smile.  Hey, break a leg man, she said.  Giving him two emphatic thumbs up signs and a wink, she turned and walked away.

He blinked, watching her back until she turned the corner.  He thought of the caring and concern in her eyes and the faith transmitted by the two thumbs up.  She and her friend had come to see him, to watch him ply a craft he loved, to enjoy the theatre that he loved.  The place would be packed with well wishers rooting for him, waiting to be transported by him.  He looked up into the rain, letting the drops wash away the paralyzing self-doubt and panic.  He would do what he’d always done – his best.  It would have to be good enough.

He opened the stage door and went inside.

*****

The stage assistant rapped on his door. Five minutes until curtain call.  She moved to adjust his costume and stumbled.  Oh, there’s something here by the door, she said and left.  He peered down and there it was.  Picking it up and holding it to the light, he grinned.  The talisman – an old pair of red Calvin Klein briefs, slightly faded and a little stretchy in the waist now, but well maintained.  He chuckled.  Imagine a pair of pants throwing him into such a tizzy.  A bit disturbing and crazy making actually.  But what should he do?  He had no spare pants; should he wear them?  They were still clean and not trod on, not that that really mattered – he’d resurrected worse from his bedroom floor.   After thinking a few minutes, he chucked the pants into the duffel bag.  A check in the mirror decided the issue.

Naaaaah.  He’d go commando and knock  ’em dead.

******

Hey, break a leg, Richard Armitage.

 

Deja Vu

Here is something short and sweet.  Still feeling rusty.  Enjoy!

******

 

The man sat furious but resolute.

He imagined himself implacable, immovable in the face of his plight.  Surely under the grime, coarse scarf and dark great coat, his foes will see the light of his resolve.   He flexed his shoulders, noting the coils of tension.

Ohhhh, it felt so good.

“Okay.  Ten minute break!”

The man blinked as the dark seventeenth century gaol disappeared, replaced by the glaring hot lights of the photographer’s studio.  Hands tugged at the coat.  Smiling sheepishly at the assistant, he stood.  As the garment fell from his arms, he realized how hot and heavy it was actually.  In his mind, it had been a cold brutal winter.  He’d even shivered.

He accepted the offered bottle of water and idly walked over to the refreshment table filled with the usual fare: bagels, doughnuts, containers of juice, coffee.  Ugh.  Too bad he couldn’t have any of it – needed to watch his weight and all that.   Oh, and chocolate doughnuts – his favorite – large, freshly baked, lots of delicious gooey chocolaty frosting.   The tip of his tongue poked out as he leaned over in concentration.

He stood up.  Wait a minute.  He didn’t have to obsess about his weight any more.  He snorted.  His “sex symbol” days were behind him.  He no longer had to ripple his abs in order to get attention at auditions.  In fact, his career had taken just the artistic turn he craved with serious meaty role and no skin in sight.  While filming the trilogy, he’d been more covered up than anything.  The next film left his shirts soaked to the skin but hardly sexy.  He performed a staging and managed to be the only one to keep all his clothes during a racy scene, to his delight.   The last project had him deliciously mangy with long stringy hair, shapeless ragged clothes, and unkempt scruff.  Now he would play a seventeenth century Puritan onstage.  Not a milieu for any nudity.  Come to think of it, he’d not gotten his kit off in years.  Just as well – he was getting to old for that kind of thing.  Not that he’d struggled to be an “artiste” as they say, but it worked out nicely.  No more bum shots.  No more gratuitous half nude scenes.  No more need for chiseled abs.   Bring on the pizza and beer.  His fans might be disappointed, but that was the way it would be now.

He picked up the chocolate doughnut.  His stomach rumbled at the warm yeasty aroma.  Ah, come here my sweet.

“Your shirt, sir?”

The man blinked at the assistant.  “What?”

“I need your shirt.”

Would this require a wardrobe change?  Who knew Puritans were so stylish?  Sadly relinquishing the doughnut and licking his fingers, he fumbled with the buttons and handed over the garment, awaiting the next change.  Instead she produced a bottle, poured a bit of viscous liquid into her hands, and looked up with a faint smile.

“Boss says the next set will be shirtless.”  She broke into a full grin.  “I’ll oil you up a bit and add some smudges to match the face.”

He knew it was useless as soon as the words left his mouth. “But what does this have to do with-”

The photographer breezed by.  “Ah yes marvelous.  This part will focus on the characters vulnerability and defenselessness.  Take your place in two minutes.”

The man stood morose and not so resolute as hands rubbed him down – was she humming?  He doubted vulnerability and defenselessness would first cross fans’ minds.  His frowned.  He was pretty sure he had no half nude scenes on stage.  Didn’t he?  He glanced down at his abs.

Shit.

 

 

On Dropping Out of Sight; or My Multi-tasker is Broken

multitaskingNo, I haven’t dropped off the earth.  I’m still doing pretty well, give or take a few days; and I haven’t forgotten you all while I foray into writerdom.  So what’s happening?  Why no posts?  Well, I have a problem.  It’s worse than hemorrhoids, worse than constipation.  It’s even worse than MENOPAUSE (that’s a whole ‘nother post).

My multi-tasker is broken.

You know, that skill set that allows you to do ten things at once, not well, but still multiple things.  I excelled at keeping balls in the air in the past even when plagued by Winston, the black dog of depression.  However, Winston ran amok this time and broke a few things, mainly what the diagnostic manuals call concentration, persistence and pace.   These abilities are more precious than a Ming dynasty vase and crucial to performing daily functions – like working.  When I retired, Dr. G. and I assumed relief from the stress would help put the pieces back together again.  Well, the answer has been yes and no.  Yes, I can concentrate better, complete more detailed tasks, and work on ongoing projects; the foray into writing original fiction has been better than what I anticipated.

But I can’t seem to multi-task to save my life.  You know, doing more than one thing each day: writing fiction and exercising; writing fiction and dieting properly, writing fiction and blogging.  Things normal people accomplish in their daily schedules.  Now that I’ve progressed to more detailed tasks and I want to, say, write AND blog in the same day, the gal in the control room says: sorry, the multi-tasker is still broken; did you insure this thing?  I don’t even know what that insurance would look like.

Therefore, I’ll blog when I can.  Right now, I’m still prepping for NaNoWriMo which kicks off next month.  Since it’s an exercise in total creative writing  obsessiveness immersion, I don’t expect to be even eating then.  I’m also preparing to formally submit a short story for publication for the first time ever.  Then I’ll wait eight weeks for my first rejection letter ever.  I’m really chuffed.  

But don’t worry, the psych pose wants a summit to discuss problems (the newly named Julie has more to say, to the chagrin of Jada and Jodi); Patty the pom hints at divorcing me if her attention allotment drops any more; and The Man is overdue for another adventure. (Speaking of The Man, I submitted one of his stories for review.  Reviewers that got it loved him; the ones who didn’t asked: why doesn’t he have a name?)  I’ll try to post when I can and see if I can find the warranty on my multi-tasker.

 

 

 

The Fear of Writing or; Upping the Ante

snoopy writingRemember in grammar school when the teacher decided you’d achieved enough gold stars and moved you to a harder group?  Remember your first day in the group when you realized those coveted gold stars would be harder to achieve?  (Well, that’s the way it was back them thar days, so bear with me).  That exact feeling hit me after joining my new online writers’ group.

The group emphasizes writing original fiction, (read: stories with original characters), not fan fiction.  There’s a certain snobbery element attached but I understand the reasoning. The site’s purpose is to stimulate creativity so a writer can spread her wings. This is not to disparage fan fiction writers (indeed, I’m one of them) by saying their stories cannot be quite creative. However, it’s not until a writer branches into her own universe can she take full flight without the encumbrance of copyright issues and the preconceived notions of an audience.

As soon as I joined, I posted examples of my fan fiction. They received only a few reviews. There has not been enough feedback upon which to assess my strengths and weaknesses or even receive validation that I have real marketable talent. So, I felt stymied by a low lying creeping fear. Now that I had talked with writers intent on publishing their works, I heard a niggling voice in the back of my mind. Could I make the transition from fan to original fiction? Could I leave the preconceived world of Guy of Gisborne, for example, and create my own universe? Did I have the imagination? Of course, I should not have compare myself to people who have been honing their skills a lot longer than I have but I know in the publishing world, TPTB make comparisons all the time.

I’ve been reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness for the past several nights. It soothed me a bit not because it’s astounding award winning material, but because I felt good enough to have written that book that an editor thought well good enough to publish. (This isn’t a slur on Harkness, or maybe it is; I could be delusional and unmarketable). Then there’s the 50 Shades of Grey series which in my opinion is poorly written fan fiction, but those books have flown off the shelves. I don’t fancy myself a Maya Angelou or Colleen McCullough but I wouldn’t mind being somewhere in the ballpark some day. I don’t expect to compose a classic talked about long after I’m gone, but I do want to make a living as a published writer.

This brings me back to the fear of having stepped out of my comfort zone by joining the group. I’ve been warned that before I even get to The Book, I need to write – a lot. But over the last several weeks, I wrote nothing. I used to write stories in my head, behind my eyelids, but even that didn’t occur. Feeling a bit paralyzed, I finally poured all this out to the writing group. They all said they felt the same fear. It’s what motivated them to keep improving. Confidence and no fear, they said, would indeed leave me clutching at delusions.

Finally, somebody in the chat counseled that I simply sit down and write. Write less than 1000 words based on a set contest prompt. Keep it simple, change it up, and don’t think too hard about it. Just do it, they said, like the Nike slogan: dredge up anything, polish and post it. Then the big fear and angst would be out there, over and done with. So armed with the prompt, “There was no reason to look back” I finally hashed out an original short story and posted it to the contest. I don’t expect to win, but the whole point is to gain experience writing. Funnily enough, it’s only been three hours and already I’ve gotten 2 very good reviews. Whew.  I’m not sure if I expected to implode had the story not gone over well but I’m happy for the positive feedback.

You know, the chat group was right.  All I needed to get that first story out there.  I feel the flow already.

If you want to read it, it’s here.

 

Doctor, Doctor

“Oh doctor, I have a terrible problem.”  She shifted in the chair, tense and nervous.

He picked up the pad and clicked open the pen.  “What seems to be troubling you?”

“Well, I really don’t know where to begin.”  Her eyes met his only briefly before skittering away.

He nodded.  “That’s perfectly alright.  Take your time.”

She shifted again and sighed. “Do you mind if I lay down?”

He nodded, gesturing towards the nearby sofa. “Be my guest.”

He observed the young woman as she wrestled with adjusting her sweater and skirt all at once.  Clearly she was embarrassed and decidedly uncomfortable. He arched as a brow as she shifted this way and that on the buttoned leather surface.

She grunted, then gave a little smile of apology.  “Sorry, it hurts when I do that.”

A corner of his mouth quirked.  “Then maybe you shouldn’t do that.”

She glanced blankly at him before fixing her gaze on the ceiling. Adjusting her glasses and blinking rapidly, she finally blurted it out: “I’ve got a fetish for older men in cardigans!”

He schooled his face to remain neutral.  “A fetish?”

Her words jumped over each other. “Yes, that’s why the uni clinic referred me to you!  Half my professors are old men and everywhere I look, there they are in cardigans.  I can’t concentrate in class.  All I can think of stroking those soft looking sweaters and feeling the muscles of their arms while they lecture me in their firm authoritative voices, and then ripping them right off.  I know this is weird, Doctor.  I’m simply a wreck!”

He stared for a moment, then began scribbling notes.  The uni clinic had referred him some interesting cases but this was a first.   “So you think this is some sort of sexual compulsion?”

She clutched at her necklace. “Oh, I know it is.  I’ve been this way since I was seven, watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on PBS.  He changed into his sweater every episode.  And when I’d look into those eyes and he sang “Would you be mine?  Would you be mine?” I thought yes, yes, YES!”

His pen paused mid-air. Seriously?  Was he being punk’d?  It would be like the staff to play a practical joke.

He sat forward, allowing the half-smile to break through.  “Tell me more.”

 

****

This slap dash ficlet courtesy of this post here.

 

More This And That; or Striking Matches

writing2No, I haven’t fallen into another Bermuda Triangle, just offline mostly.  But more about me later.

The memorial fund will remain open until  September 17th, which should give those who have been told me they are on vacation more time to contribute.  I’ve noted each and every donation and kept close count.  To keep things honest, I’ll post evidence of the final amount and contribution to JustGiving. (We are talking “I can buy a new iDevice level of giving here, people!  This is truly a marvelous community).

Now, back to me.  The issue of positive versus negative motivation hasn’t resolved yet.   The problem has been breaking old habits and the expectation that only negative consequences seem to get me moving. After a lifetime of reacting to imminent deadlines – it’s due tomorrow; or dire consequences – pay this bill or sit in the dark, it’s very strange trying to become proactive instead of reactive.  I still feel like Pavlov’s dog, trained to react at the first bell tow of doom. Where writing is concerned, pro-action involves looking for the dry kindling and the right fuel to light a fire under me.

To combat the ennui that set in, I started preparing for NaNoWriMo 2013 (National Novel Writing Month).  Although I managed a novelette (The Chest: password is red) in 2011, last year just wasn’t in the cards.  This year seems doable.  But the 50,000 word goal won’t happen without an outline to keep things on track.  I started plotting an ambitious psycho-thriller when I ran headlong into that rusty door blocking Judi’s Door of Wild Imagination.  After flailing around, I whined to a fellow blogger who referred me to a writing prompt app created by a website called writing.com.  It’s a repository and support resource for all things written.  It’s by writers, for writers.  From what I’ve gleaned over the past three days, the constant contests encourage writers to post their work and get it reviewed honestly by others.  More recognition brings more reviews.  There are private reviewing groups and chats.  The point is to get work out before other people.  What’s more nerve wracking and moving out of my comfort zone than putting my stories out there to be judged by writers? I signed up.

I’m hoping this group can provide the oil to pry that rusty door open to writing original fiction.  But baby steps still.

Frotteur

The man couldn’t decide.

He’d ducked into the specialty shop during his break in the photoshoot looking for a few Halloween items. The sight of jack o’ lanterns, ghoulish costumes, and ghosts made from sheets with cutout eyes had arrested his attention when he’d spotted it earlier. Unfortunately, it had also attracted half of London apparently, considering the crush of last minute shoppers that evening. He perused the dimly lit shelves searching for the perfect “something” for his young relative, but what would he like? The narrow aisles offered not much room, and he dodged and shifted as the people brushed past with a rushed “pardon” and “excuse me,” barely heard above the Creature Feature tunes playing in the background. Sometimes contact between strangers couldn’t be avoided like today, but it lasted just a second and was gone. He thought nothing more about it.

He was torn between two plastic tombstones, one saying “RIP Shawty” and the other “See You Soon,” when he noticed something different. It started as a faint brushing of fabric against fabric, then an increasing softness pressing into the middle of his back, accompanied by a whiff of floral perfume. Instead of stopping immediately, it continued, pressing more completely downwards, a ridge of buttons along his spine, past a belt in the small of his back, and along the curve of his arse. He would have sworn that he could feel every indentation and contour of her coat and body, as if he’d not been wearing two tee shirts and a bulky knit sweater. Mmm, nice, he thought for a second. Despite secretly enjoying their proximity, he’d have moved then, lest she think that he was taking advantage. He was a gentleman and clearly, the milling throng had forced her against him.

But just as he became aware of the delicious pressure of her body, a hand rose, lightly brushing his leg. Slender splayed fingers gently grasped his right hip. Again, instead of moving immediately, the fingers lingered. The hand shifted slightly, so that the thumb moved from the jutting bone to the soft area nearer his loins. At once, he felt electrified, as if his jeans and pants had melted away and the finger touched the soft sensitive skin beneath. He gasped at the sensation. A frisson of pleasure shot through him as her finger gently circled the area clockwise, once, twice, three times. Then he heard a husky “pardon” and the hand and pressure at his back disappeared.

He turned, open mouthed, as he watched her back, hair and coat floating behind her, retreating through the door and out into the street. Good grief, he thought. First it’s fans stroking his beard; now he was getting turned on by strange women frottering him in specialty shops among the plastic tombstones. What has gotten into him? What on earth would his mum say? At that thought, he chuckled. What would she say, indeed. Turning back towards the shelf, he finally noticed the teen a few feet away staring at him. She arched a brow in what apparently was part surprise, part amusement, as her eyes drifted significantly down and up again, before she engrossed herself suddenly in the fine print on a tombstone.

He looked down and covered himself quickly with the plastic prop.

Oh shit.

****

I totally blame Guylty after her post here. She’s out of control, I’ll tell ya.

Richard III for Dummies: US Edition

KRA 2

Cover by our imitable Jasrangoon.

Cover by our imitable Jasrangoon.  Art by @Flodwyns on Twitter

I’ve been pondering a topic for Richard III week when it occurred to me that the typical American doesn’t know much about the British monarchy, much less about Richard III. The most we know about him is the smattering in history books where he played the dastardly villain who killed the two young princes, looking like Sir Laurence Olivier with a big nose and a hunchback. Oh yes, he was also king of England some time before men wore long trousers. In other words, Americans don’t know much at all about kings or queens unless they were also famous for shtupping somebody i.e. Henry VIII and his six wives; Elizabeth I and her alleged eternal virginity; Victoria who mothered the entire European royalty; her son Edward VI who cut a wide swath through the British society; Edward VII and Wallis Simpson “the woman I love,” etc. ad nauseum. Let’s not talk about George III, the one against whom we rebelled. That’s not to say that some of these monarchs did not majorly impact history in other ways; it’s that the more salacious points tend to stick in the mind, as it were. Or maybe my mind. Anyway, back to Richard III.

As a Richardian ignoramus, I confess that others have detailed his life much more eloquently and knowledgeably than I ever could. So I’ve decided to submit to you, dear reader, talking points you can use the next time you’re at a party or function and find yourself cornered into a historical chat. These points will help you sound knowledgeable, cultured and current – at least as of this April.

Richard III was the first British monarch whose remains were found in a parking lot. (If you want to sound really cosmopolitan – car park). After he was surrounded and killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, his body underwent a series of indignities (read: stripped and maimed). It finally found a resting place either under or what was later the site of Greyfriar’s Church. Eventually the church disappeared, as religious structures tended to do back in the day, and 400 years later a car park appeared. Inquiring minds spearheaded partly by the Richard III Society (yes, he has an international fan club) and under the aegis of University of Leicester pinpointed his remains and exhumed them with much international ballyhoo. This was an historically significant event. When your audience asks why that was so, tell them this: it was a rare occurrence in which a king’s remains were found, scientifically identified, and used to possibly corroborate, refute or otherwise contribute to known historical accounts of the battle, his life, and the times in which he lived. If you audience clamors for more, impress them with these points:

As stated earlier, history has painted Richard III as a royal bastard – meaning a really nasty piece of work. But, remember that history is written by the victors (his successors the Tudors), and it benefited them to blacken the image of this rightful king, a man they happened to have killed in a rebellion. There is no evidence that Richard was any more evil or benign than any other monarch in those bloody, Machiavellian days. Although the victors attributed to Richard the orders to have the two little princes (his nephews Edward V and Richard, Duke of York) staying in the Tower of London killed; there are no corroborating accounts to substantiate the rumors other than the fact that Richard benefited by being the next in line to the throne. As it was, the Council had invalidated the marriage of Edward’s parents, making him a bastard and ineligible for the throne. Richard, Edward’s uncle and protectorate succeeded him to the crown in 1483. In the interim, the princes disappeared and allegedly were never seen again; their remains have never been found. So, it was easy to finger him as guilty by opportunity and circumstance.

Richard III has also been been painted as a ugly, misshapen git who took his frustrations out on the unsuspecting world. While scientific study of his remains reveal he did have severe scoliosis of the spine, but it did not seem to impede him in battle since eyewitness accounts reported he was an able swordsman.  Nor did he have a withered hand or club foot as rumored.  As for his looks, comparison of portraits of him during his lifetime, and depictions after his death suggest that painters actually attempted to subtly render him uglier to accommodate his newly minted image as the harbinger of evil. Channel 4 broadcast two specials about him including a digital re-creation of his face taken from his actual skull which revealed an average face, not an ugly mask. As for his supposedly ugly exterior reflecting an inner twisted mind, some accounts before his death portrayed him as a good lord with a kind heart for the common man. After his demise, it appears the same eyewitnesses suspiciously switched to the victors’ side. In other words, Richard may have fallen victim to a slur campaign by those who sought to legitimize their claim to the throne, mainly the Tudors who followed him. William Shakespeare later immortalized evil Richard in his play, Richard III, which has endured for centuries.

Lastly, to leave your audience in awe, discuss the anthropological significance of discovering undisturbed bones yielding information on stature, diet, disease, and effects of environment. For example, his diet as a wealthy nobleman would be rich in meats, exotic spices, and confections than a peasant who would not have such access. Yes, British cathedrals contain the remains of other royal figures, but the Church of England is loathe to give permission to exhume and test them. Hence, testing and identifying Richard’s bones accorded the perfect opportunity to corroborate historical accounts. Interesting, eh?

So in a nutshell, you now know a few salient points about Richard III to impress your family and friends, give or take a factoids. If you can’t also remember details that he was 1) born in 1452 and became one of the richest and influential noblemen of his time; 2) remained married to his wife Anne Neville without a breath of sex scandal; 3) ruled from 1483 to 1485; 4) died at the Battle of Bosworth Field and becoming the last king to die in battle on home soil since 1066; 5) and lie buried under the Greyfriar’s Church in Leicester, do remember that he was a 15th century monarch killed in battle, whose remains were discovered under a car park in the ruins of a razed church, and that he will be reburied next year in Leicester Cathedral with the pomp and circumstance befitting a king to the tune of 1 million pounds.

But seriously, if somebody says, “well, that’s all interesting, but why should I care?” remember this: history is not static; it’s alive and ever changing. What we learn today casts a new light on what we think we know about the past. And what we learn from the past impacts what we do in the future. It’s all linked together. Because of that, it’s important to obtain as accurate as an account can be, given the circumstances of the times. After all, historians and anthropologists will be excited about our bones, and lives 500 years from now; we would want them to get it right.

Right?

***

Hold on there!  KRA 2013 Week is still celebrating.  Rush over to the KRA fan initiative website here for more and take part in the yearly quizz.  You can sign the petition here.

 

42

The man was in happy denial today.

The leaves dappled him with sunshine as he jogged through the woody section of the park. It was another unusually warm day in London but the trees afforded him some shade. He acknowledged two joggers running in tandem as they passed and casually eyed a street vendor selling one of those delicious hot dogs from a cart.  He considered getting one but continued on.  No, no more gorging;  none of that, he thought.

A thrill of joy shot through him as endorphins kicked in.  Okay, so today marked another milestone into middle age, considered approaching old age by industry standards when even top stars found themselves detoured from romantic leads to secondary character roles, pushed out by up and coming youngbloods.  He felt quite conscious of each passing year just as his career was really taking off.  He dwelled in an in-between world at the moment – almost too old for lead parts but not yet old enough for others in his youth obsessed business.  Sure, he had a few more crow’s feet and deepening lines around the mouth, but he didn’t feel old.  He felt great, blessed with good health, a thriving career, fabulous friends, a loving family. What more could he want? Well, maybe a special somebody, but that would come. It may be a cliche, but his future was bright. No, there was no need to dwell on this particular day. He would continue to treat it the same since turning 40 – just like any other.  Friends had offered to take him out that night, but he’d declined.  He had to prepare the script for audio work tomorrow.  Accompanying rolling nausea and a pounding headache were the last things he needed in the booth.  His friends seemed to understand, although the red-haired bloke had texted they would be at the Club later if he wanted to join them.  When asked which club, the bloke replied laconically that he would know.  He shook his head.  How?

Rounding a sharp curve in the path, he could just see the park’s exit in the distance. It wasn’t too far. He would reach it in a minute flat.

Grinning, he picked up the pace.

“…9, 10, 11, 12…”

Finding himself counting steps, he wondered what his personal best would be. He’d sprinted this many times but it had been awhile, before his long project had started at least. Had it really been over two and half years? He’d tried to stay in shape during filming but the long hours made it difficult for him enjoy long runs.

“…24, 25, 26…”

His feet pounded the path as he concentrated on breathing evenly and rhythmically. Joggers glanced at him curiously as he passed them on the right, a striking, tall, fit figure in black Lycra and trainers. He dodged as a stray runner darted in front of him. He grimaced. That lost him a second or two. He breathed deeper, arms and legs pumping. He had to move faster.

“… 34, 35, 36…”

Willing his long legs to stretch farther, he picked up the pace. His cheeks billowed as he strained to suck in oxygen. Instead of the burst of speed, he realized to his horror that the rhythmic breathing had given way to outright panting. Surely he could do this? He was almost there.

“…38, 39, 40…”

Arms and legs no longer in sync, he lumbered off the path into the grass.

“…41, …..42.”

Gasping for air, pace faltering, he stopped finally and grabbed his knees. The bubble of joy popped. He’d always been able to sprint the distance in 60 seconds. Today, he could only manage 42 – to match his 42nd birthday. He groaned and wheezed. How fitting.

***

The man stomped down the pavement towards home.  How had his aerobic capacity slipped like that?  He sighed deeply, willing himself out of the funk.  There was no need to get his knickers in a twist.  Clearly, he’d lost running fitness with all the emphasis on strength training for the films. He needed simply to concentrate more on this part of his regimen. After all, he wasn’t getting any younger.  He would start a new running program tomorrow.  Today he needed get home, put a dent in the housekeeping, run some errands and start marking the script.  Right.

Rounding the neighborhood corner shop, he popped in for a nice cold bottle of Evian for his dry throat.  The shop girl, a slight brunette in intricate braids, cutoffs and a tight tank top, straightened up from stacking boxes behind the small counter and beamed at him.  He suspected she knew who he was no doubt, but she’d never let on.

“Morning!  Looks like another hot one today, yeah?”

The man smiled. Her perkiness was irrepressible.  He placed the bottle on the counter and reached into his pocket for the fiver. The water was ridiculously expensive but his throat felt like sandpaper.

“That’s on sale today.  Only 42p.”

He startled. That was unheard of.  “Seriously?”

The brunette dimpled and cocked her head almost coquettishly. “Seriously.”

Eying her wedding band, he smiled, palmed the change, scooped up the bottle and headed out.  42p indeed.

***

Chugging the water and thinking about the dreaded house cleaning,  he spotted a flea market just opening in a side street from the main road.  He wasn’t aware of any set schedule; it seemed to appear and disappear during the summers.  Not as big as Covenant Garden’s or Notting Hill’s, the market still possessed a fair selection of goods.  He passed a few fruit and vegetable stands before stopping at booth containing retro apparel.  A few loud ’70’s lime green and salmon pink polyester men’s shirts hung from a rope stretched over the top of the booth. Scanning the tables and the overhanging shirts, he lifted the bottle to his lips for one more swallow. His hand stopped suddenly; his mouth fell open.  As a youth, he’d attempted to rebel against his staid conservative parents by buying a pair of tight orange trousers.  That had been as far as the rebellion got because he’d never had the guts to wear the trousers. Years later, he couldn’t remember what happened to that garment. Now, before his eyes, a pair of beautifully preserved orange leather trousers hung on the back wall of the booth.  He grinned widely.

The seller observed the man’s starry eyed smile and matched it with one of his own.  “Ahhhh!  You like it, yeah?  Vintage ’80’s. Impeccably kept.  It’s never been worn!  See, the tag is still on it.”

Handing the item to the man, the seller pointed to the yellowed paper attached to its plastic tie. The small type said: ₤95.

The man examined the trousers carefully.  No, rips, tears, puckers, still supple, not sign of wear – he had to have them.

“How much?”

“₤42.”

The man smirked.  42 again.  “30.”

The seller shook his head.  “42.””

His smile drooped.  What kind of market seller didn’t haggle?  This man couldn’t know him and not his age surely.  “35.”

The seller crossed his arms in satisfaction.  “Perfect very expensive leather trousers.  Half off, innit? 42.”

The man sighed.  The seller knew simply he’d had him from the start.  Pulling out his wallet, the man counted out the notes.  42 indeed.

***

The man stood with hands firmly planted on hips.  The last glance around the sitting room observed the same things as the first four – dust and clutter, but mostly dust.  He looked at the dust motes in the air highlighted by the beam of sunlight through the windows. With no housekeeper, if he didn’t clean it didn’t get done.  Unfortunately, the more frequent and longer absences grew more dust bunnies.  Not really keen to start cleaning, he felt the call of his laptop.  It rested on the desk, the only are he kept  clean and clear consistently.   Seated, he felt suddenly hesitant to log on.  He’d not checked his alias “Alia” in a few weeks.  What would he find?  The day had been constant reminders of his birthday.  Suddenly, he noticed the number 42 turning up everywhere:  items on sale costing something-42p  at the grocery;  a shop assistant stating they’d had 42 iPads in stock the day before but had sold out;  attempting to tip the courier who’d delivered a package and finding only 42p in his pocket.  He wasn’t superstitious but this was enough to give him pause.  For a day spent intending to forget his birthday, this was downright depressing.

Resolute, he logged on and surfed to his alter ego’s blog.  Her last post concerned the pros and cons of his playing a super hero role recently vacated.  Personally he felt indifferent, so naturally Alia was unfavorable.  He chuckled, having enjoyed playing the devil’s advocate in the fan-wide debate.  Scrolling down, he noted the number of replies received and sighed.  He snapped shut the lid.

42 comments.

Good grief.

***

The man sat on the sofa watching his newest toy, a big wide screen HD telly.  The package delivered early yielded a DVD of The Wanderer’s Map to the Universe, the iconic sci-fi comedy which he’d never seen, as well as an unsigned cryptic note saying: “this might help you out.” He surmised that the red-haired bloke had taken pity and sent a clue about the club, in an effort to tantalize him.  He still resolved not to go but a puzzle was too intriguing, so he’d popped in the disc and settled back amidst the dust and clutter.  Delightedly, he realized it starred one of his new pals from the last project.  Not a bad way to procrastinate over house cleaning.

“…we want to know the answer to life, the universe, and everything!  You must tell us.”

He arched a brow and leaned forward. This should be good.

“…The answer to life, the universe and everything is – 42.”

He slumped back.  What?  42!  That number – again? He continued watching the film but felt pretty sure that the ultimate question had nothing to do with the club’s name.  But could it be – 42?

Returning to the laptop, he fired up Google, searching for the newest trendy night clubs. A few seconds later, he found what he needed: Club 42.

He threw up his hands and thought.  Smiling, he finally pulled out his iPhone and texted the red-haired bloke. “Very funny.  I give up, ” he typed.  “See you at Club 42.”

The reply arrived almost instantly.  The man could practically hear him laughing. “9 sharp.”

He’d wear his new orange leather trousers.

***

Happy Birthday, Richard Armitage.  You’re only as old as you feel.  Have a great time.

Portraiture

The man fought the annoying self-consciousness while the photographer reset up his gear quickly. As the assistant pointed the lights at the huge shiny steel door, the man presumed that was his mark. He strode across the black marble floor and stood. Giving his arms a slight shake, he tried to relax. He thought he ought to appreciate the richness of the dark blue suit and crisp black shirt. They screamed expensive and felt it too. But mostly he felt like a dressed up doll in a stiff frock, scared to put a crease in anything, and very self-conscious.

His agent had setup this personal photo shoot, stating his new image overhaul required the expertise of a renowned photographer. The man knew nothing about photography but if the amount of high tech gear and number of assistants signified the best, then this man was one of them. Assistants turned the klieg and box lights in his direction. The man squinted. He never enjoyed taking pictures at any time. It was alright for PR productions; he could inhabit a character and forget the cameras. But for these personal photo shoots, it was an endurance test. He simply wasn’t a person to put himself forward in personal photos. Some of the past photographers had simply pointed a lens and expected him to do something. He never understood what they wanted him to reveal in a glance. He was just – him. They would call out directions: “smile,” “turn your head this way,” “smoulder,” and he would go through the motions not knowing if he gave them what they wanted or if the whole thing resulted in a disaster. They’d never said it was a disaster naturally, but a cursory glance at his flat doll figure in the stills told him the story. No, he wasn’t a fan of these photo shoots. How long was it anyway?

He shifted awkwardly, feeling suddenly the weight of his arms and hands. His hands- he never knew what to so with his hands. The hot lights beat down. A droplet slid between his shoulder blades. Oh please don’t let him sweat these posh duds, thought the man. Give some direction, anything to take my mind off this thing. He caught the eye of the photographer who cocked his head and picked up a digital camera with a long tether to a laptop.

The photographer stood and regarded him. “That’s a good spot. Stay there.”

The man nodded, happy for any direction.

The photographer continued to regard him, a quizzical crease in his brow. “Look, let’s try something different. Think about a scenario: you’re at a friend’s party standing with a group of people. A woman you’ve seen but never met is across the room. Your nemesis approaches her. Show me how you feel.”

The man blinked. A scenario – yes, he could do scenarios.

As he visualized, the lights and cameras and gear faded away. He heard music, laughter and bustle of conversation around him. He smiled at a sad joke before catching sight of her. She was here, across the room. She looked ravishing in a dark frock, matching her swept back hair. Her hesitant glances around the room told him that she didn’t know many people here. Her eyes alighted on him and flittered away. Maybe he should go introduce himself. Her eyes flickered back. No, wait he shouldn’t seem too over-eager, like a wolf pouncing on the first lamb in the door. He should be casual like, yeah. Sliding his left hand into the pocket of his trousers and crossing one foot over the other, he casually leaned back against the wall. Her eyes moved back and watched him. He lifted his chin and smiled charmingly. Shall I come over?

Suddenly a real wolf loomed at her elbow. The man knew the actor. He was a douchebag and unprofessional to boot. The woman smiled up at the actor and kissed his cheek. Oh, she knew him! The actor seemed a bit touchy feely, lightly caressing her arm, her elbow. The man felt conflicted, torn between staying put or trying to claim the ravishing woman and getting rid of the tosser pawing her. He glowered. He smouldered.

“Fabulous,” whispered the photographer.

 

[Thanks to Guylty for the inspiration here.]

 

Life Is Good; or, What’s Happening To Me???

Happy PillsRemember when you’re in a particular mood, everything you see and hear reinforces that mood?  I’m in an extended version of that.  I take five medications to keep myself even keel.  For two years as the number of pills rose and fell, I groused that I had to take even one.  Eventually, as the number crept up, I became resigned to the idea of ingesting medication cocktails, something which horrified me since my job dealt with mainly failed therapeutic and pharmaceutical attempts to gain “normalcy.”  I referred sarcastically to them as my “Happy Pills” because they weren’t actually making me happy.  The idea of being upbeat and happy was as alien and weird as my perky friend chirped when my backpack was stolen in London: “well, we’ve never been to a British police station before!”  (No, I didn’t smack her).  However as the depression receded, I realized that the little compressed rolls of chemicals really were my happy pills.  Now I’m horrified not at the number but at the niggling fear that I might have forgotten to take them.  (That’s usually just a momentary fear of relapse).

happyThis has been the lock screen on my iPhone. I found the smiley faces in an app program and edited the words.  The old me would have found the picture corny and nauseating overkill; adding the words would have been inconceivable.  Now both the picture and words have meaning.  Each pill says that I need and must not forget them; if they fail, then there will be other pills to take their place.  They aren’t a cure or a panacea; only a means by which I can live life fully.  The words remind me to live that life and appreciate it, no matter how small the activity.  So each morning when I wake feeling contented and exhilarated, I revel that feeling.  If my new sheets feels especially soft, I roll around in them.  When I opened the blinds finally and washed the bedroom windows after three years, I felt pride in the accomplishment instead of fixating on the dirt and the cobweb.  (Yikes!)  When completing a task, I congratulate myself.  When speaking to a neighbor, I smile.  When petting Patty, cheer that she’s happy, healthy and groomed.  I concentrate on the positive side of things.  So I understand my friend a little better now.  While I might not bounce to the police station, I do stay “GOOD morning” to people and mean it. ***

*** Don’t worry.  I’ve got a gallon of Snarky Pills on the side too.  I’ll take one tomorrow.   SHHHH!

 

Monday, Monday: Update

updateAs some of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook may have noticed, I’ve been socializing my heart out this summer.  Reconnecting with the world has been a bit scary but fun: scary because I always feel a little trepidation that there might be awkwardness or resentment after letting so much time lapse; fun because I discover the fear is all in my mind and the relationships pick up as if we chatted last month.  Summer is half over and I still have two trips and four get-togethers to go, not counting the usual treks to the burbs.  It’s funny. While depressed, I felt all alone and couldn’t remember knowing anybody hardly.  Now, I realize my social web is much broader than I recalled.  Mental illness truly is a hideous liar.

As you might have guessed, my mood has been rock solid stable for two months and counting.  It seems Dr. G. and I have found the Holy Grail, otherwise known as the right medication cocktail.  I’m chuffed.  Patty, my little Pomeranian is too.  She’s been happy and talkative (which may or may not be a good thing).  At least she’s enjoying all the attention she’s getting from visitors.

There’s been another development.  Once the depression receded, I realized my vision had worsened.  Thinking I simply needed new glasses, I visited the optometrist, who alarmingly sent me to the ophthalmologist. It turns out that my cataracts (at my age!) had accelerated; vision in my good eye has worsened to the point that I need the thing removed.   The first surgery is scheduled for late October.  If all goes well, the second surgery on the left eye occurs about a month later.  They will implant corrective lenses so that I might not need thick glasses for the first time in my life.  So, there may be a silver lining in yet another dark cloud this year.

2013 has been a hell of a year and it’s only July.

Still More Beardy Horde

One of my pals (INSTIGATOR!) sent this graphic:

Save the beard

The Graphic of Utter Bollocks

It’s posted by Save the Beard in the Love for the Beard group on Facebook.  Apparently there’s a beard and mustache competition in August.  I hear people travel to these contests, even abroad. Interesting concept.  The beard phenomenon is trending now; at the past Oscars, every other movie star wore one. Sheesh. It’s not a good time for a lukewarm beard person like myself. Even the fandom’s beardy horde continues to expand.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against beard. A well groomed small beard looks distinguished on the average man.  I just think they do nothing for good-looking men, and in fact, take away a little something.

Before you start sniggering, Richard Armitage is the ONLY good looking man I’ve ever seen to be the exception to the rule.  He’s got the perfect beard facial line and his square jaw and round chin make a great platform for a baby beard.  (Baby as in just grown in, not teenage straggle.)   So yes, I confess that the man rocks a baby beard.  When it becomes too hirsute and unkempt like during the Captain America premiere, then the rule kicks back in again.

See, I can be reasonable.  Some.

Here, have some pretty.

There's a beard?

There’s a beard? Courtesy of RichardArmitageNet.com