The Gift

7 Aug

An orange
left on my
keyboard,
a bright ball
shoved between
enter and delete
where my fingers
grease the most.

Anonymous
sympathy, bribery,
or penance. I wasn’t
quite sure. Perhaps
it was by the only
person who knew
I hated oranges.

Did not get murdered, fall in love, or meet John Candy: The 40 Hour Train Trek

20 Jul

“If you will forgive me for being personal—I do not like your face”—Murder On the Orient Express

Oh Poirot, you sweet talker, you!

I was headed from a writer’s retreat in Seattle (the famous and always inspiring Camp Barry) to my first ever San Diego Comic Con, where I planned to wear a completely inappropriate sparkly dress to what I had decided was geek prom. Book 3 in my Guinea Pig series, The Ferret’s a Foot, was nominated for Best Publication for Kids by the biggest award in comics, the Eisners. HEY MOM! Feel free to cut out this blog post and hang it on the fridge. Right next to that drawing of a goose I did in elementary school. The one where I spelled goose using four different vowels. I was ambitious even then.

It seemed so silly to fly back and forth across the country when the retreat and Comic Con were only three days apart, so a smart friend (who also happened to be my brilliant agent Barry Goldblatt) suggested I might try the train. I’m pretty sure he hoped I would work on some of my deadlines during the trek, and I hoped so to but just in case, I started to collect train-based literature and movies, deciding that if I WAS going to slack and not write, it would be okay as long as what I was consuming was train-based. (My logic is FLAWLESS.)

The first book on my list when I thought of trains was, of course, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Strangely enough it wound up being one of the only things I finished on the train. I didn’t write. I didn’t watch movies. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t listen to music (mostly because, as my friend Molly O’Neill pointed out, I’d be in danger of just listening to RUNAWAY TRAIN on repeat, a pain I don’t wish upon my worse frienemies.)

What did I do for 40 plus hours? I stared out the window. I talked to strangers. I smiled like an idiot. I didn’t sleep because I was afraid I’d miss something, something flying by the window. 2 second sights that made my heart stop. Nature untouched. A random line of hand-painted bi-planes. A row of children standing by a trailer park waving like something out of a twisted animatronic Disney creation.

The Coast Starlight line—train from Seattle to San Diego, a nearly 40 hour journey, winding through cow fields, forests, holes in mountains, deserts, lots of desserts (food was free to us sleeper car folk and believe me I took advantage of that! By my math, I ate so much free food that I made $30 bucks and gained roughly 200 lbs.), and stories from strangers like Roger who was 80+ and had endured 62 years to get the girl. A recent widow, she was waiting for him at the end of the train tracks. In Roger’s own romantic words “my best friend married her when we were young and he just wouldn’t die.”

I’ll write another post with my long list of train books/movies, but after reading MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS I did a lot of thinking.

Not being a huge fan of Christie’s detective stories (I much prefer the more ambiguous mysteries like AND THEN THERE WERE NONE) MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS felt a lot like a train journey: it started off exciting, then fell into a rhythm, one that remained nearly unchanged for much of the book. Poirot sits in one place and interviews people. Poirot sits in another place and interviews some other people. Poirot sits somewhere else (surely this man’s butt must have been sore from so much detecting!) and interviews the first group again. And on and on. With about 10 pages left I was sure that I disliked the book confused why so many had raved about it over the years. But suddenly, as the answer started to unravel, I an involuntary “whoooa” left my body, loud enough for all my neighbors in the crowded observatory car to hear. Each page got better and by the time I got to the last I was totally in love and drunkenly shouting—NOTE: not my fault, I blame Amtrak’s free wine and cheese hour—that it was one of the best endings ever written.

Many days I think about what it must have been like for Christie. To not only be a woman writing in a time so dominated by men, but to be THE most popular writer of her time. Sure people pushed her work aside saying “oh it’s just it genre, they aren’t real books” but her prose is so stunning and the woman is pretty much KING of the kick-ass ending. She even made it in that Guinness Book that every modern child dreams of getting into, with hopes more in the realm of “Fastest Runner” vs “Longest Case of Hiccups” (68 years?!). According to Guinness, the lovely Agatha is the best-selling novelist OF ALL TIME. Not FEMALE best-selling novelist, just best-selling NOVELIST.

I thought about this a lot as I watched the landscape drift. How much Agatha did, and wondering where I’d be without her. ACTRESS, HEROINE, COMEDIENNE. Oh how grateful I am that Novelist and Author are terms that somehow escaped the gender differentials.

Maybe it’s because they never expected us to actually write books.

Yes Comic Con was fantastic, but it was that time I spent on the train with Agatha and Roger and the free wine (Amtrak, what are you trying to do to me!) and the ever drifting landscape that really made me happy to be alive and filled with cheese. Two very, very great things to be.

Fighting Back Against Street Harassment

22 May

This blood-curdling article from Rookie Mag on Street Harassment has riled up a wealth of horrible stories from my female friends, each one worse than the last, making me want to curl up in the fetal position and never leave my apartment again. BUT this past year I made a vow to myself to quit being embarrassed when I got cat-called or harassed. To stop averting my eyes, running away, and giving them power over me.

What did I decide to do? When they make me feel weird. I make THEM feel weirder.

A guy on the train said “Mmm you got an ass that just won’t stop” I replied, with a big smile “Farting?!” Guy on the street said “I could f**k you so good.” I look shocked and replied “Ewe? As in sheep?! You seriously have sex with sheep? Aren’t you worried about barn animal STDs?” (Okay that one was a stretch, but I still weirded him out enough that he backed away from me.) When a guy exposed himself, I fought back the urge to cry or sprint the other direction and instead laughed as loudly as I could, pointed, and yelled for everyone around to “Look at the pervert with the small penis!” Alright, that’s not true. That’s what I WISH I did. What did I really do? Bow my head and pretend I never saw anything. I didn’t get a cop. I didn’t tell anyone. I felt ashamed.

Don’t give them the satisfaction of being the one in power. Make them think twice before they do it again. If they cat-call you, look them in the face and say something they’d never expect. If they flash you, get other people to notice and then find a cop. If they touch you, CUT THEM. The eyes are a lovely choice.

Also the dude with the giant scar will be much easier to pick out in a line-up.

(EDIT: Please note, I’m not encouraging ladies to carry a knife! I’m just saying, if someone touches you in a way that violates you, don’t be afraid to touch back, FORCEFULLY. Nails, even very short nails, can be quite handy.)

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