I am not lucky, so don’t you dare say I am.
I had this thought last month while driving home from an almost-all-expenses-paid trip to the Florida Keys. TV5, from Quebec, had me down to talk about the nature of Florida tourist attractions. They paid for my room and my expenses there and back. I paid for my food, except a local historical society director bought my dinner.
For those of you playing the home game, this two-day trip is, in essence, my dream. So while driving home along the Tamiami trail, drunk on saltwater and high on sunshine, I had the passing thought, “I am a lucky son of a bitch.”
My next thought followed immediately, and it was supremely angered by the first thought: No, I’m not.
To be clear: I don’t have bad luck. I’m not unlucky, not by any means. But me being down in the Keys, or having a book deal, or being able to write for a living, has nothing whatsoever to do with luck.
Let’s be clear: I love my life. Every damn day I wake up, delirious with pleasure that I don’t sell insurance or work for a government agency (any more). But I didn’t stumble upon it; I gave up a lot. And I worked hard.
Which was not always the easiest choice. For those of you who think freelancers sit on their ass all day, cherry-picking the best assignments… um, no. It would be a much easier life if I went back to a nine-to-five job.
I’m not built that way. And that’s OK. I love my life, but not because it’s easy.
I’ve earned a master’s degree, and despite what some people say (“Oh, you have a master’s degree in Florida? What was your thesis, eating key lime pie?”) I worked hard to get it. I spent a lot of money and went without going out after work (because I had to read five hundred pages a week, on average), didn’t go on “regular” vacations because every trip was a field trip (yes, I loved them. That doesn’t make them less work), and had to find something new to say about Florida for my thesis (no, it couldn’t be on Florida Man).
As for the book? After having one publisher ignore me completely – and I mean completely, I didn’t even get the courtesy of a form rejection letter – I prepared a proposal package that was more research and writing than most people do to get a bachelor’s degree. And after THAT, after I had a contract, I had to rewrite, then edit, then deal with advance reviews and decide which parts of those were worthwhile and which weren’t, and edit again. And meanwhile – let’s not forget – I still had to work, because only about three people have ever made a living being an author with a conventional publishing company. One is Stephen King, one is the chick who wrote those fake bondage “shades of whatever” books, and one is a guy in Tacoma pretending to be James Patterson. That’s it. So on top of the idea I may never get more than a couple thousand dollars from this book which, by the way, has been my dream since I was nine, I still had to freelance, which means I still had to find work that would pay me.
And I did. But not because I have been lucky. I have worked when other people played, I have written about things that made me want to set fire to my eyeballs (incest, rape, murder, you know, your garden variety injustice), I have gone without the trips to wherever most people my age without children get to go.
To be clear, I don’t regret a moment of it, only that it took me so long to give up a conventional life to pursue this one. I am happier than I ever imagined. I do what I love, and it’s OK that I will never be wealthy or have a company-supplied pension. I am living my dream.
I write about Florida, and sometimes people pay me to come talk to them about Florida. I write about Florida, and, more and more, people pay me to write about Florida. This year, I’m also working on a series of fiction books about – here’s a shock – Florida. El Cap has offered this year to me as a gift to me, and I accepted.
This is my life, and I am blessed beyond measure. Blessed, happy, deserving, dedicated, determined… use almost any word you wish.
Any word but lucky, that is. Luck isn’t a factor. It never has been.
And on this beautiful morning I wake up thinking of my friend J.T., who so frequently likes to quote Hunter S. Thompson to me. I grab a cup of coffee and while my brain is warming up, I idly search and find:
“The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
– Hunter S. Thompson
This, of course, leads to me searching for other quotes about the edge, thinking I’d find some sort of scientific-type things. Instead, I find Yo-Yo Ma:
“Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there’s got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together.”
So then I click on the word at the bottom of the box that says “forward” and I get this:
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
– Lao Tzu
So, of course, I Google Lao Tzu, because I know the name and I haven’t had enough coffee yet to know why. Ah, yes, the father of Taoism. This, of course, leads me to Google “Taoism quotes”, which returns a quote from The Tao of Pooh, so I Google “Tao of Pooh quotes” and I get this:
“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to be happening this way,’ and trying harder to make it happen some other way.”
― Benjamin Hoff, Tao of Pooh
Which, of course, leads to a perusal of Winnie the Pooh quotes, including “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– A. A. Milne
I click “similar quotes” and get Dr. Seuss:
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
– Dr. Seuss
And that, my friends, is how you get from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to The Cat in the Hat. Six degrees of separation between the man who said “It never got weird enough for me” and the man who said “Being crazy isn’t enough.”
Well, perhaps that’s not as shocking as it seemed at first.
Some people in this world are Thelma and others? Well, they’re Louise.
“Afraid that she will be prosecuted, Louise decides to go on the run and Thelma accompanies her.” (source)
I am so not a Thelma. I am not the one who is persuaded. I am the persuader.
Case in point: My new (ish) iPhone.
Wait. Let’s back up for those of you playing the home game (a/k/a, those of you who don’t know me in real life.) I break things. Usually only things that cost me money to replace. Currently I own three Apple products. This morning, two of them had cracked screens. That’s not bad luck; that’s Cathy luck.
In March, I switched cell phone companies. To avoid getting nabbed for fraud (keep reading), let’s call the company “Dash Wireless.” (I know if you’re actually reading this, I’m not fooling you, but I have done no small amount of SEO copywriting and know this change will keep web bots from returning this post on searches for, um, Dash.) So I switch to Dash, and I, being clumsy as hell but also having learned from 41-plus years of being me, well, I buy the insurance. Because I kind of need a phone, as much as I hate it so much that when you call me, odds are your ring is the Darth Vader theme. Don’t take it personally; I just kind of resent being shackled to a phone. I am at the mercy of text, voice, and email. We used to live in caves, people.
Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes, Dash. And insurance. And me, of course, dropping my phone. I sigh. I try for many months to make do, but the nature of the break along the back of my phone is that it’s somehow puffier, and my ear develops an inconvenient habit of muting the call/launching FaceTime/disconnecting the call, so I finally cave, pay the $200 insurance deductible – the Dash rep told me it would be $50, but whatever, there’s a cost associated with being me and of course it’s not $50 and of course I have no proof she told me that – and get my new phone.
I get this phone as El Cap and I are headed to Tennessee for a few days, so by the time I activate the phone, I’m in Macon, Georgia and have almost no reception. Same in Tennessee. When we get home I realize, um, hey, the only way people can hear me is if I talk to them on speaker phone. This, of course, is wildly inconvenient for those around me, so I call Dash and get directed to the local Dash store, where they look over my phone, agree that it’s a refurbished piece of junk and I need a new one. Of course, the crappy warranty refurbs they offer are back ordered, so they give me a bunch of paperwork and tell me I’ll get one in no less than a week, likely more.
That was December 15. Later that day, of course, I drop my phone and crack the screen. Because of course I do. I opt to take a wait-and-see attitude, because hey, the damn thing wasn’t working anyway and maybe I’ll catch a break. So yesterday my new phone – the one I couldn’t get three hours before I broke the screen on the non-functional one – arrives. I go to the store but never even get to sign in because the woman in the Dash reception area sees my screen and tells me I can’t get my warranty phone unless I pay another $200 claim to the insurance company.
“But I already paid that and y’all sent me a phone that doesn’t work. This one,” I say, gesturing to my phone.
“But the screen wasn’t cracked.”
“But it didn’t work anyway. I paid for a phone, the phone you sent didn’t work, and you said you couldn’t repair it, so what does it matter? I still paid for a phone that works and you sent me one that didn’t.”
“It doesn’t matter. You can finance a new phone if you’d like.”
I sighed (which is what I do a lot instead of opting to lose my shit) left the store, and called the insurance company, where two minions told me my situation certainly was frustrating, and I could get a new (read: refurbished) phone for $200. I tell them they’re not getting any more of my money (because at this point I’m pissed at myself, pissed at the Dash representative, and not at all happy with the condescending bitch on the phone who fails to see the difference between “frustrated” and “furious” and the pretense of “pleasant” is long gone) and hang up the phone. At this point I’d like to note I am sorely missing the days of slamming down a receiver (on the sort of phone that would also eliminate some of my other problems.)
That’s when I decide to – brainstorm – fix the screen and go back to the store the next day. Except I worry they’ll remember me, so the plan is for El Cap to go in on my behalf (we share an account) and trade in my phone. And then El Cap gets paged to go to work, because he’s a tow boat captain and Saturdays are apparently like Black Friday of boats not working, and I call Thelma.
Oh, that’s not her name, because the first thing she says to me when this is all over is “Is this going to be a column?” and I promised her it wouldn’t and while this isn’t a column, I still probably shouldn’t expose her secret identity because she’s my friend and also game for wacky capers, although, as you’re about to see, she really should be driving the getaway car, not robbing the bank.
I go to Thelma’s house. Thelma, who planned a perfectly relaxing day of reading in a hammock, comes out to greet me and I tell her, “I need you to commit cell phone fraud with me.”
She looks at her husband and her impressionable teenage daughter, sighs (not out of rage, like I do, but because she’s realizing, again, that she should never have me around her impressionable teenage daughter. Or she’s depressed she only attracts crazy people for friends. Hard to tell with sighing) and grabs her purse.
“OK,” I tell her on the way to the store. “You have to be me.” She closes her eyes briefly and gets out of the car with my phone. It is at that moment I realize I do not like waiting to see if the Great iPhone Caper of 2015 will work. I am, for lack of a better analogy, the one who robs the bank. I am a lousy “wait in the getaway car” partner; I’m positive everyone walking out of the store knows I’m trying to defraud the cell phone company (although, in all honesty, I don’t think many people would blame me.) I think of five different things to tell her, but she’s gone and I don’t want to show my face in the store in case they remember me. I then get the brilliant idea to text her, except, hey, I don’t have a phone. I reach for her phone, but I don’t know the passcode, which is actually a good thing because I’m pretty sure the tech, not Thelma, now has my phone and if he sees messages like “play it cool, Thelma!” he might get suspicious.
Ten minutes later she comes out to the car.
“OK,” she says, and she looks pale and wide-eyed and maybe a little ill. “They want to know things. I told them my purse was in the car.” She then asks for my wireless account passcode, the name of my first pet, and my license. I figure either she’s really committed to getting this phone for me or has a master plan to punish me for dragging her into this. I figure if she is stealing my identity, “identity theft” is actually a good enough reason to give my boss as to why I don’t have a phone come Monday, so I write down my passcode and my first pet’s name and hand over my purse.
After she goes in the store I realize we never gave Dash the real name of my first pet, but I have no way to tell Thelma this. It was not a good 15 minutes for me. I kept looking around, waiting for the cops to arrive, because there is no way anyone will believe Thelma is my driver’s license photo and it now occurs to me they may think she stole my phone and purse and that’s when I realize she has my purse. Which is my favorite purse, my Brahmin, and not inexpensive. That purse has never even touched the floor and now it’s headed for some grungy evidence locker. Also, Thelma has all my debit cards and my Discover card and my business AmEx and I don’t even have my phone to call her husband to tell him to bail her out. Worst. Friend. Ever.
But apparently the fact that Thelma looks less like me than Geena Davis does bothers no one in the Dash store, because she walks out of the store with my new iPhone. She gets in the car, hands me the phone, looks at me like she really wants to go back in time and not have moved to Gulfport, and says, “Here is your new iPhone. That. Was. Awful.”
Not ONLY did I give her the wrong secret answer, they actually looked at my license (me: 5’4″, Italian, dark hair; Thelma: NOT 5’4″, northern European, freckles), looked at her, looked at the license, went in the back, came back, went in the back again, and… came out with my phone. I’m pretty sure they knew it wasn’t me but didn’t know how to handle it, and since she did have the phone with the proper serial number, apparently figured, meh, what the hell? This is what happens when you pay people minimum wage, Dash.
They did, however, make Thelma choose a new nine-million-digit passcode for my account, and she randomly (but cleverly) grabbed my insurance card and gave them my insurance policy number. Which means if I have a phone issue in the future, I can now get a free mammogram. Or when I go for my mammogram, my left nipple will have its own ringtone. I don’t really know how passcodes work. Also, I probably should give that number to El Cap. In case he ever has to call the phone company. He doesn’t need a mammogram. I’m hoping.
(Also, a giant, huge, larger-than-life shout out to Tony at Gulfport’s Cell Phone Solutions, who fixed my screen for a fraction of what the mall guys charge and also, without looking at me in an “I told you so” tone of voice, told me they had great prices on Otterboxes. I now own a pink and white Otterbox, and I will now be bringing my cracked iPhone to Tony every time I break it, which I’m not even going to pretend won’t happen. Because it’s me, y’all. It’s kind of my thing.)
Also, when I told El Cap about this later, he suggested we should have gone to Radio Shack and bought walkie-talkies. This is why I love him. Also, I now totally know what to get Thelma for her birthday.
UPDATE: My mom just read this and sent me an email, which read:
So, Thelma and Louise in action. I should have warned her about the sofa you “returned” when you moved from Kissimmee. I’m beginning to believe you are not really my child.
That’s totally another post, y’all.
I’m on the first official day of leave from my regular gig at the Gabber Newspaper, and I’m supposed to be working. I’ve set my work e-mail to auto-respond and I’ve started ignoring phone calls. It’s also two days before the start of National Novel Writing Month, which should dovetail nicely with my plans to finish my manuscript and get it to my editor so I can get on with my career as a writer.
So far I’ve been on Facebook – just to check – and priced healthcare. I’ve also done a small workout, ran the dishwasher, and finished the laundry. Oh, and I’ve made a grocery list and returned a bunch of calls.
But as soon as I walk the dog, pick up my paycheck, and get to the store, I am totally going to do this thing. And I’m going to make myself blog about it on the regular so I’ll be staring down not only an angry, unrevised page but the collective force of all your derision on top of my own shame and humiliation should I fail. Which I won’t. I’m starting now. Honest.
Just let me walk the dog, OK?
These are simply random Christmas thoughts, not a well-thought-out blog entry, but it’s Christmas Eve and The Most Interesting Dog in the World, Scuppers and Elmo and I are holed up in the back half of my childhood home, my mom and dad are in bed, and I’m not ready for sleep yet. There’s all this Christmas stuff whirling and twirling through my brain, and it won’t likely wind down for an hour or so. I figured I may as well write while I’m waiting.
* Being at my mom and dad’s house at Christmas is frustrating. I love them beyond measure, would die for them, count myself lucky to have been born to them, but I cannot believe that I am their actual biological child. They insist this is so. I feel almost a fish out of water in some ways, but in other ways I know that no one will ever be more a part of my essence than these people.
*Every year I have this moment when I feel like I’m the only one in my life who isn’t traveling for the holiday. Driving to Clearwater totally does not count. When this happens I feel sorry for myself for a bit, then I feel like I’m holding down the fort in the Sunshine State and keeping our Orange Christmas real for us Florida-philes.
*I used to love getting a big pile of presents under the tree. I miss that plastic tree. I miss the paperboard reindeer that used to plaster our walls. I miss believing in Santa Claus. I love that now I just love the magic of Christmas night – somehow it just always feels clear and perfect.
*I’m a grownup with big responsibilities and a real job (OK, I’m a writer, but it COUNTS, dammit!), but I love being with my mom and dad on Christmas. It’s “our” holiday – never was the same with anyone else. It’s been pretty great in the past, but when I’m home, it’s different.
*This is crap, but I’m publishing it anyway, because on Christmas, you get a pass.
I don’t have many close friends, and that’s by choice. I am not a reliable enough friend to have lots of friends. We all know those people who have 50 people they consider “really close friends.” I am so not that person. I’m too cranky, fickle and unreliable to keep up with that many people. The ones I do have matter greatly to me, mostly because they understand I will flake on minor events and often fall asleep at any event that runs past 10 at night.
It is only for these friends that I will do certain things. I will go places I would never go on my own and attend events I would never seek out if left to my own devices. They don’t ask much of me, and, for the most part, they all let me sleep peacefully when I nod off at parties, so I figure the least I can do is support them at the things that matter to them. By “support” I mean, of course, show up and stay awake only after I’ve whined a little here.
Amanda is getting married, and while the wedding itself should be pretty wonderful, today is her bridal shower. At it’s core, it’s a bunch of my closest friends getting together and eating cake. That part is all good. Cake, friends, presents… I love it.
But there will also be games. For those of you (men and Maricris) who have never attended a bridal shower, let’s talk about those games. Simply Wedding Stuff says this about those games:
“Before you get down to the serious business of ceremonies, vows and such, be sure to include some lighthearted bridal shower games to the agenda. All generations will enjoy a rousing round of bridal shower bingo or try their hand at a challenging bridal shower word search game.”
Bridal shower bingo? Really, Simply Wedding Stuff? I think what bothers me more is not that they’re trying to get me to believe that, but that someone actually wrote that, presumably with a straight face.
Bridal Shower Games A to Z sells a “finish the bride’s phrase” game. I think I could really have fun with this one, and I’m hoping that if we’re forced to play games, this one’s on the list. The game goes like this: you’re handed a list of words with blank spaces after them and you have to finish the phrase. So, if it says “Holy _______,” I would fill in “Holy shit, I just got that $600 mixer I wanted!” and if it says “Champagne ______,” you should complete the phrase “makes me throw up unless it’s the really good stuff. That one may not be so bad…
Of course, you always run the risk of the inevitable “make a wedding dress out of toilet paper” contest, whereby you break into teams. Each team chooses one lucky lady to be the model who will wear the wedding dress her team designs out of toilet paper. There are no words to describe the hideosity of this game. If you’ve never experienced it, count yourself among the lucky.
The Maid of Honor Guide actually has the audacity to say their games are better, and perhaps they are. But, really, what are we, 12?
1 – Wedding Night Hand Game: This is a game your guests won’t really understand until later on when you explain it to them, but that’s the idea! Have a bridesmaid, ready with construction paper and markers, instruct guests to place the paper on the floor and trace their hand with the marker-they can’t bend their knees. The bridesmaid should write down everything the guests say as they try to bend over and draw their hand. Later, you explain that the point of the game was to find out what the bride-to-be will say on her wedding night. You’ll get classic soundbites like, “Gosh, this is harder than it looks!” and “Oh! This hurts!” You probably won’t be able to get through the list of quotes without dissolving into laughter. .
Really, this whole site is a treasure trove of things that make me shudder, including “What’s in the sock” and “Pick the Groom.”
Bottom line? I love Amanda and am truly delighted for her. I love that I get to see everyone today. But please, please don’t ask me to bend over and trace my hand. I beg you. Oh, and one more pearl of wisdom about games from Simply Wedding Stuff:
“Everyone secretly enjoys being part of this long standing wedding tradition.”
I promise you, Simply Wedding Stuff, I keep no such secret. My secret? I’ll have a teeny-tiny flask of vodka hidden in my purse for when you want me to make a wedding dress out of Charmin.
A note from Management:
Today we’re just trying to fix the human error that sends these posts to Twitter and to Facebook. This wouldn’t be an issue if Twitter and Facebook weren’t already pretty chatty with each other. So, this is a test, performed by the Twitter/Facebook/RSS Test Octopus. Because RSS clearly isn’t.
Why octopus? It’s simple, really:
The wombats couldn’t fix it, so we fired them and hired otters, who promptly went on strike for “better working conditions” (they wanted to work in the water and we told them no because it’s bad for the MacBook Pro; they also TOTALLY misunderstood the concept of clamshell design.)
So we fired the otters (yes, I know, but Florida’s a right-to-work state and screw your otter union) and brought in octopus, who should be able to fix it four times faster.
As soon as we post, we’ll know…
I don’t even know why I’m posting. I should totally be packing. We’re leaving in the morning on a three-week trip around the state (Again, I’m gay for Florida. That’s right, I said it. Come and get me, PRIDE!) and instead of packing, I’m writing. For free. Which is fine, because I do this for the love. Totally.
Back to packing (I know it’s only been a sentence for you, but I’ve been on Facebook, played a stupid game, and watched half an episode of Cheers): I am not packed. I mean, I am, sort of, but I’ve packed too many clothes and not nearly enough in the way of toothpaste and the like. I also feel like I should bring some books. Or something. Maybe knitting.
God, I’m pathetic. Actually, El Cap is my savior here. I’m busy packing knitting and textbooks, and he’s trying to figure out if we have room for three types of rum. That makes him sound a lot boozier than he is, but three weeks is a long time, people. Plus, the RoadTrek just ain’t that big, and, well, honestly, I can be kind of a bitch. Truth? When I think about it, I’m shocked he thinks three types of rum is enough.
So he’s portioning out the amaretto for the trip (hey, just because someone likes an after-dinner drink doesn’t mean they have to over-indulge. At least, that’s what I’ve been told) and he goes to throw the bottle in the recycling bin. Which, he points out to me, is all beer bottles, empty liquor bottles, and one two-liter Pepsi bottle (for pizza).
Yeah, it sounds bad to me, too, but I swear, we don’t sit around and drink all night. It was just a week of cleaning out the fridge and dumping stuff out and re-packaging the Kraken (it’s a rum; I don’t actually travel with the Kraken, although how cool would THAT be?) for travel. We don’t normally fill our recycling bin to overflowing with booze bottles, and I am totally not just saying that because my mother reads these posts and is completely paranoid that I’m becoming an alcoholic.
So he brings in the laundry (because, yes, ladies, I am just that lucky) and mentions to me that our recycle bin looks like one of the beach dirties (my words, not his, he’s actually far classier than I am) because of the mounds of empty beer, wine and alcohol bottles. What can I say? How do you combat that? I settle for telling him we’re just like Nick and Nora, only green (this link totally doesn’t make my point; you’ll just have to watch if you haven’t seen it). This does not appear to make him feel better, but I’ve taken to calling The Most Interesting Dog in the World “Asta” now. She doesn’t appear to notice.
So, yeah, once again, not a point to this blog entry. Evs. Stay tuned, though, because tomorrow I start three weeks in a small van with another human, and if we don’t go all Copernicus on each other, it’ll be a good trip. Either way, it’s bound to be interesting.
Note: We really are like Nick and Nora, except we don’t solve crimes. And we don’t drink enough. The rest? That’s us. Totes.
So here’s the problem, if you want to call it that.
Every time for the past few weeks I’ve tried to make a post, I can’t.
People are reading this. Which is weird, really.
I don’t think I should talk about race anymore- from what I can tell, the discussion is doing very well without me, save for the wackjob white supremacists who scare the holy living fuck out of me. My understanding is that the Times is doing some kind of followup on the whole thing this Sunday.
Does anyone else find that odd? You know, that they gave my “lament” (THEIR word, NOT mine) 45 column inches and only mentioned the paper my piece initially appeared in ONCE? Well, OK, I understand they shouldn’t promote another paper, but seriously, guys, how much mileage can one paper get out of something that appeared in another? I guess I shouldn’t find it odd that they want to milk this for all they can, but it amazes me.
See (prepare for tangent or, perhaps, the POINT of this blog entry), this is my problem. I used to write whatever the hell I wanted up here, and about three or four people read it. It was a great way for me to loosen up and get into “real” writing (which simply means writing that pays the bills), and if Shelly or Luci or whoever laughed, that was a plus. But all of a sudden all faceless people are leaving comments, and I feel like I shouldn’t just write about frivolous things because it will seem like I’m making light of everything else.
But writing about frivolous things is how I quiet the noise in my head, and for the past month the noise inside my cranium has approached levels rivaled ONLY by AC/DC in concert. Only not as melodious.
So, just think of all future blog entries as a sign of my empty head. It’s probably not that big of a jump for some of you.