You kinda had to be aware of the first Denis Leary song in the mid-nineties to appreciate the beauty of what happened on CBS the other night.
And Denis Leary released “I’m an asshole” and it was funny because life was sufficiently good enough (for those of us not fighting a war in the Gulf) that we had time to get annoyed by the little things he mentions. It’s a song, he tells us, about the American Dream. In reality, it’s a song about how the American Dream has made us assholes.
He just didn’t realize it the first time, and neither did we.
So, Top Local Chef, an event created by LocalShops1, has asked me to return as a “celebrity” judge for this year’s event. Now, I’d debate the “celebrity” bit, but not too much, because last year I had a great time eating all the things. ALL of them. I want to eat them all again this year. So, come April 26, you can find me in the Gulfport Casino, seated up front among Carlos Hernandez, Janet Keeler, Isabel Reis Laessig, Channel 10’s Mark Rivera, and Pipo’s chef Ramon Hernandez. That’s right, you can pay to watch my awesome table manners. Also, you’ll get to eat, too, which is really why you should buy the tasting pass (of course, watching me try and stuff it all in makes for some good entertainment as well).
In preparation, I’d like to say I’m cooking lots of things, but right now I don’t have a kitchen. I do have some lovely roughed-in wiring, delightful exposed wood, and the chance to see what concrete block looked like the year my house was built. That’s actually another post for another day, when I can laugh a little more about the architect who was TEN DAYS LATE getting us plans to remove a load-bearing wall… Seriously, don’t get me started.
Anyway, what I am doing in preparation for the event is retooling the food blog fellow foodie (and former volunteer test chef for Cooks Illustrated) Tiffany Taylor and I write, AphroditesHearth.com. Right now, it’s hosted on Blogger, and it looks fine but since I started working on this site in WordPress, I’m a convert, and every time I hop over to Blogger to post something, I just get frustrated at what I can’t do. The problem is that I bought the domain on Blogger, and moving the back end stuff is a royal pain in the ass because Google doesn’t . The blog looks fine if you go look at it, but I want it to look better, and for that to happen I can’t use Blogger. For me not to use Blogger I need to draw upon knowledge I haven’t used in over 12 years, and, well, if my brain was a MacBook, that would be no problem.
My brain is not a MacBook. These days, my brain isn’t even a first-generation iPod. No, my brain is more of a Rio mp3 player – remember those? Yeah, me neither, not really, and when I went searching for the link I was shocked to see they were still around. But I digress (totally serious about the brain issues, guys, it’s like pudding up in here some days.)
It’s OK that I don’t remember it all, because Kelly Wright knows everything. I can’t thank her enough for offering me savvy DNS-type advice. This isn’t an ad, because I doubt she reads this and doesn’t know I’m doing this, but if you need web stuff, she’s who I suggest you call. She’s also the one who has retooled the Gulfport Historical Society web site, worked on Reef Dog Gifts and Grooming, the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, and a host of other web sites that look great thanks to her delicate hand. She also has an awesome dog and a great mural in her bathroom, but that’s not the kind of thing most of her clients know. I just think it’s awesome and so I mention it. This is a blog, not a Fortune 500 prospectus. If I want to talk about bathroom murals, I can. So there.
So what have we learned? I like to eat, I like to write about eating, and Kelly Wright is awesome for helping me so you’ll enjoy reading all the food things on Aphrodites Hearth. You can go the web site, of course, and I hope you do, but also please help me out by “liking” it on Facebook, too – and that’s where you can see how great it looks once I work out all this back end bullshit. Which will be this week. Pinky swear.
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.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Fake Buddha Quote
Resolutions seem like a bad idea to me, as do plans, because they map a linear direction and so often in my life the best paths have twisted me along in a decidedly non-linear fashion.
However – and I really want to say this without sounding too “authentic” because even the notion of that word and its current meaning make me want to throw up a little in my mouth – I have found that verbalizing my intentions helps me make them happen. The biggest case in point? My book. An honest-to-God, printed and bound, a-publisher-will-pay-to-print-this, I-have-a-contract, book. It doesn’t have a title yet, but I’ve written it, edited it per my editor’s specs, and I suspect by the end of this year, I’ll have a hard copy in my hands (as should all of you, of course!). That book happened because I said, “I want to get my master’s degree in Florida Studies and write a book about Florida and get a book deal” and even though it wasn’t a plan or a resolution, saying it (to other people) helped reinforce my drive, and every step I took pushed me down the path that led to me
sobbing with agony over revisions my editor wanted working with a bricks-and-mortar publishing house and getting a contract for my travel narrative about Florida.
If it worked once, it can work again, right? After all, it has worked better than anything else ever has, including the carefully-laid plans of my twenties. So, in that spirit, here’s a list of things that I will do. Not necessarily in the coming year, but – you know what? Yes, in the coming year. Why leave myself an out? So, because if y’all know what I’m doing, it will motivate me (because I’m apparently lazy on the inside but also big on doing what I say I will do), here’s my “This Will Happen” list for 2015:
Finish, edit, and self-publish one of my three mostly-completed novels
Every year I participate in National Novel Writing Month, which means every November I attempt to write a 50,000-word novel. So far, I have written three novels you could call “90% done” (exclusive of the editing, of course.) Inspired by my friend, fellow Florida Studies classmate, and published author Jon Kile, I have decided to self-publish those three books. I don’t know until I dive into editing the first novel how much time I’ll spend editing it, so I hesitate to say “I can self-publish three books this year!” but I can say I will publish one of them. (How well it sells is all on you, people!)
Publish my grandmother’s recipes
Grandma Rae loved to cook and people loved to eat her food. I had the good fortune to learn from her while her mind was still sharp (she and my grandfather came to live with us when I was 17, so I had plenty of practice by her side). Because my dad was the only one of her children who lived near her (everyone else lived in New York), and also because no one else seemed to care at the time (most of my cousins are younger than I am, which meant I was the only one cooking for anyone on the reg at the time), I took possession of her recipes after Alzheimers made life in a nursing home a necessity. My cousins never had that time with her, and when my cousin Sue asked me last year if she could have copies of grandma’s recipes, I said yes. When I started combing through them, though, I realized I had so much more of grandma than ingredients and directions. I have great stories about her and her cooking, about the dreaded Grandma Mary’s Cake (a/k/a “the cursed cake” that stopped working after my grandmother died), about her recipe for chicken (as dictated to my dad, who interpreted what I can only assume were instructions to rinse the chicken as “bathe chick”), about the way her home smelled at Christmas – these are all things a recipe cannot convey. I inherited her passion for cooking, and to her cadre of recipes I have added my own. I will publish bound copies for my cousins, and I figure it can’t hurt to make the cookbook available as an ebook as well. I already have a Facebook page and a blog I co-author with fellow Italian foodie and friend Tiffany Anderson-Taylor (although she’s way better at posting, which I will improve as work through these recipes).
Publish my Florida travel narrative
I realize this one’s almost a gimme because I’ve done the heavy lifting and secured a publishing contract, but it ain’t over yet – I feel confident I have more revisions coming down the pike. Because this matters so much to me, I count it, because I do intend to do whatever I can to make sure I have this book on bookshelves by this time next year. Oh, yeah, we still need a title, so feel free to leave one in the comments.
Write more for money
I love writing for the Gabber, and I intend to keep doing so. That said, I’ve used the paper as a crutch, held it up as a reason I don’t do much other writing. When I think about it, I must admit: I have no desire to cover the lawsuits on St. Pete Beach when I’m 60 (and trust me, there’s a fair-to-midland chance St. Pete Beach will still be appealing these same lawsuits when I’m 60). The best way to not have that happen is to shore up my other writing and start, as they say in the business world, developing other revenue streams. If that happens because of my self-published books (see how this helps? I already think of them as real things), or because of my published book (which is not really feasible; I don’t know how many of you realize this, but since I haven’t written Fifty Shades of Gray I have a more common publishing deal, which means my publisher doesn’t plan to publish enough copies of my book for me to earn royalties that would allow me to quit my day job) then great. If not, I still have options. I’m getting good at this writing thing, after all…
This is not me saying I want to leave the paper; this is me saying I would like very much to concentrate on the news stories, my column, and my Detours & Diversions, then pick and choose the rest, rather than take a picture – for the 12th year running – of people standing in line to vote on election day.
Get a second book contract
Yup, there’s a lot of emphasis in 2015 on writing. I already have an idea for a second book, and a third, so as soon as the first book is to bed, I will start on a proposal for number two.
Turn my Nikon into an ATM
I already take a LOT of photos (seriously, an average day for me at a street festival is 1,000 photos) and make a small – very small – amount of money taking pictures for people who want their events remembered but not in the “expensive wedding package photographer” type of way. I also teach photography in several locations, but odds are, you didn’t know that because how would you? Which brings me to…
Fix my damn web site
This site is awful; my blog is the only useful thing on it. So I’m going to fix it. Somehow. Because writers, apparently, need web sites, especially if they’re about to have a book or two to sell. You know who else needs a web site? People trying to sell their services as a photographer, or people who think it might be important for their photography students (or prospective students) to access a calendar to see where they’re teaching next.
There are other more personal things I want to accomplish, but I intend to keep them more private. Plus, you don’t care if I manage to knit my cousin’s as-of-yet-unborn baby a baby blanket in time for his birth (the odds are against me on this one), or if I can reasonably increase my protein intake and strengthen my lower back (the odds there improve a bit.)
Want to help me? Right now, other than buying me lots of coffee, there’s not much you can do, except like my public Facebook page and insist everyone you know do the same thing. And don’t forget to like Aphrodite’s Hearth while you’re at it. You can follow me on Twitter and pay attention to what I do on Flickr, and interact with me on all those things and remind me you’re waiting for me to make all these wonderful things happen. Oh, and when I post here that I (finally) have a book you can buy, buy it. If I’m really pushing the wire, think of it as a way to get all your 2016 Christmas shopping done in one fell swoop.
Happy New Year!
So this was my mid-morning. The joys of working from home.
Scuppers caught a squirrel, but failed to kill it. He did, however, bring it through the cat door (of course) while it shrieked like a banshee. Since El Cap’s at work, the job of getting the squirrel out of the house fell to me. What followed was some twisted episode of Wild Kingdom. But not the happy family feasting on prairie grass, if you know what I mean. Here’s what happened after the squirrel entered my home and my life:
Me: “Baby, will you bring me my phone?”
El Cap: “That’s the second time you’ve asked me to do that.”
Me: “Tonight or ever?”
El Cap: “Tonight. I hope this isn’t becoming a trend.”
Me: “When I am rich and famous, I will pay you to bring me my phone.”
El Cap: “No, you’ll be paying someone else to do it.”
I am really hoping this just means we get servants, not that he’s nearing the end of his rope with me. Fingers crossed, everyone. Fingers. Crossed.