Friday, December 31, 2010

Love and Rockets, aly

Best. Holidays. Ever.

The only alligator I've seen so far (left)
In 5 hours, the hus and I are going to complete our stretch of low-key holiday cheer (minus the Superbowl - a party we could actually host this year, with a TV that's finally bigger than a medicine ball - Valentine's Day, and Cary's March madness birthday - when he finally catches up to me and has to cut the ageism) ... We'll be heading downtown to ring in the new year the best way we know how, in a favorite place with plenty of liquids.

We have the game plan - the food, the transportation, the day after - all sorted. 2011 may be an odd year that bothers my even-number preferring self, but after zero travel, zero coordination, delicious holiday food I obviously didn't cook, not a speck of snow, and not a single person around to clean the house for besides our sloth-like selves, the close of 2010 will be quite content if it doesn't end in a swirl of sick. Even so.

It's becoming ritual that we begin the weekend with a cheap meal and a trip to Walmart for the next week's groceries. We also have to look at the entire wall of TVs and their tiny, often incomplete or incorrect spec labels, scanning for deals, and then end up getting stuck in entertaining aisles like flowers, bikes, and end-caps home to squishy pillows and musical cards sung by Hoops & YoYo.

We bumped up our grand night out to Thursday this week. So tonight we could take advantage of the childless New Year's Eves that may not last many more years. I really just couldn't wait any longer to try Taco Bell's new burrito. Seasoned fritos inside. Shit fuck yeah. What other treats will they cook up in the years to come? Will I one day eat M&M nachos with my teenager(s)? Some things never need change though. Like the Special K loaf (er, cottage cheese loaf, depending on what kind of Adventist you are) Cary makes me make even though he now knows perfectly well how to cut, mix and bake the thing.

Side note theory - the clientele at our preferred Bell seems to conduct drug deals with shopping bags from the mall next door.

Side note irritant - Publix, our only hope for veggie meat chili and soyameat for the darn loaf doesn't carry either. I'm a little disappointed the pastor here didn't know where exactly to buy canned veggie meat. Shouldn't that be mandatory for ordain-ation?
Hmm, canned meat. Now that doesn't sound so good. Some people like saying, you know, soy meat products are really high in sodium... Thanks. Did you know the CDC reports 9,000 people die every year from food poisoning, which typically involves MEAT... I like meat too though. But here we go: it's good when pilots have high enough blood pressure to keep blood in their brain when they're pulling Gs. So yay, we have an argument. So we special ordered our favorite sodium-filled fake meat - side note of happiness.

To reward the people who have read my blog this year, even just scanned its words and photos beyond tweets and Facebook albums, below is what happens when your aviator husband comes home with all his flight gear; he wants to do a photo shoot. Okay, I know, that's not really a reward - and I'm the one who really wanted to take the pictures.

But there will also be a Lady Gaga-esque Side of Honeydew surprise early in 2011. Stay tuned. (Maybe suck it up and physically follow or share me. Keep commenting - let me know what you want to see next year: title change? (still don't get it?) less about writing? more about marketing? more about sex? lies? videotape?) The unveiling will rock your world. Or just mine. Sorry again. But that's what blogging and reading blogs is all about. Selfishly-oriented observations about life for anyone willing to click, read and hopefully learn and relate - the honest to God good goal of writing.

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine a.m.
And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the earth so much I miss my wife dog
It's lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time
Til touch down brings me round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I'm a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don't understand
It's just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it's gonna be a long long time...

Love and rockets,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Don't you love it when people say to just anyone with a few good or funny stories, you should write a book?

100 posts ago, (yes, I know I should spell out 100 if it's at the beginning of a sentence, but as long as we're blogging and not writing literature, and reading blogs and not newspapers, we might as well keep throwing correct writing to the wind ... So creativity can whistle in easily).


So, 100 posts ago, the first Side of Honeydew was sliced, around New Year's Eve 2010. One year later, my resolution to blog every day turned into more like a couple times a week. But a schedule was learned, habit and style explored. And only now do I fully realize the best things to write about when you're 28 years old are worth living first.

How else would you broach even a pathetic approach to the next great American novel with only a few decades of life under your belt? Like Annie Lamott says, "write where you are, write what you know." As much as writers understandably fight this advice sometimes, when you need to overcome writer's block - often enough to marathon your way through a plot line's thousands of words - the only way I know how is with the most honest writing. This is when your melting pot of experiences and self-deprecation comes in handy. And hopefully rings most true.

As 2011 dangles twinkly on the horizon, I think, bring on some more living - because that's the only way I have anything to say that comes close to being anywhere near worth reading. Unfortunately, I draw the line at "fucking and punching," Hank Moody. However, Jhumpa Lahiri - the youngest author thus far to win a Pulitzer at age 32 with the Interpreter of Maladies (2000), a short story collection to boot - is giving me a run for my money. Or lack thereof. Both of which make me want to channel Hank more than ever. Darn scruples.
Speaking of money and morally controversial television, the hus and I are enjoying our best purchase ever with things like Treksgiving (wholesome) and the Dexter season finale (gruesome).

The 52" HD LED Sharp Aquos (1080p, 120 Hz) and Black Friday blue-ray player have me watching television without glasses (maybe 3D one day though), blissfully streaming Netflix, and appreciating things like skin bumps and couch-side seats to Laker games.

It's been worth every second since 3 a.m. that dark morning, even curbside at the Navy Exchange, forced to NaNoWriMo in a small beach chair surrounded by weirdly humid November air.

When there's time - or when we're so sick of staring at computer screens and cockpit diagrams - we laze on our gratefully hand-me-down and luckily plush couches to watch The Next Generation in the best kind of marathon to run. Sometimes Top Gear. The American version is coming along. Sometimes Shake it Up!. When Cary's not in the room. The result is though, I can barely turn on the midget TV in the bedroom. It's painfully small. I best work harder to avoid death by squinting if I ever want to watch TV horizontally again.

With the novel in edit mode, and freelance jobs underway, I picked up a quilting project under the very kind hand of a friend willing to help. It's quite fascinating really. And relaxing. The fabric store filled with happy, knowledgable seamstresses. The hum of the machine. Family Guy playing in the background. It's not fucking and punching, I know. But it's stitching and bitching, as my oracle says.

And Cary picked up Primary Flight Training. The week after Thanksgiving, he began primary school at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field. It's been less intense than API so far, but more of the same. Long days. Heftier studying in segments. A lot of tests this coming week. He's specifically in Training Squadron 3 (VT-3), a Red Knight. And the Knights were assigned the T-6, officially.

He'd kill me for saying this, but the Red Knights wear red T-shirts under their olive green, canvas-y feeling flight suits - and it looks really cute, er sharp; it matches their VT-3 velcro patch and everything. It’s also Christmas-y. This is all very important, you see. For pictures and memories and Top Gun reenactments.

Whiting is home to other cooly named flyer squadrons including the HT-8 Eightballers, made up of helicopter pilots. And the HT-28 Hellions. I seem interested in this now, but when Cary was showing me around Whiting Field for the first time, before his mandatory class on marriage in flight school (hee hee), I just wanted to go eat a sandwich. But I really am proud. And full now. He’s leading an exciting life that one. He should write a book.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Resurrecting Rhett

Outside of a Dog blogger preps for November
Last November was the longest month of my life. Well, maybe second to that last month of marathon training - in effing December or January most likely - when you run 40 plus miles in frigid weather, looking at desolate, frozen fields, which make you wanna kill yourself that much more. And when you make it back inside, and your ears are burning from warming up too fast, and you wanna rip the soles of your feet off so you can rub their muscles better - and your hips and knees feel like crunchy peanut butter and applesauce... Yeah, the 10 days shy of the grand Noah's arc-dom of novelizing period was second to that.

My blue period, like any other's, was inspired - but not without more bumps than snazzy thoughts. The NaNoWriMo community was pretty cool, constant threads of encouragement and write-ins at local coffee shops and bookstores, where unbeknownst NaNoWriMos probably wandered the stacks - and great pep talks from people like Lindsey Grant and Lemony Snicket.

Their words made me wanna keep going. Because I knew I wasn't alone in the whirly writing and reading worldAnd like they say - if you can touch just one person, with even your crappy rough draft of a story or script, even with comma misuse and overused words and errors like forgetting about the dog you gave the main character, be-lovingly name Rhett after Scarlet's beloved. (And here one wastes time marveling at how clever they are at name-giving and hyphenating.) But you still have to resurrect the red, furry guy in chapters 1 through 5. Keep the faith, they say, because the payoff is worth it. And it is. All zero dollars of it.

Because here's what I learned over the course of 50,375 words in no particular order (wink) -

  1. Writing is all about you. And them - those like you. Who want to read what you write because they like what you do, whether they admit it or not. It's fun. Pure and simple. For everyone involved. Clean and wholesome. Well, kind of.
  2. Ideas gathered over months, even years, can be very helpful when you have writer's block. Names, places, phrases, situations. String some of them together, weave them in - for stuff that resonates and carries your plot from one point to another. Take a break. Go people watch. Visit another city, another house. Because the world on pages mirrors the living no matter how hard we may try to fight it.
  3. Person (you know, first, second, third) and tense are important to decide early on. But if you wanna change your mind, go for it; that's why God invented Search & Replace, and applications like Bean - Mac freeware made with writers in mind.
  4. If you think you've got the right stuff, or, more importantly, just absolutely love typing your whimsies into a glowing screen for a couple hours a day, it might be worth trying out or investing in another program or two that can help you map your story - so you can avoid having to bring dogs back from the dead, or skip a date you promised, or miss out on a character that would have been a dream development, or a thought that could be the very last poignant sentence before THE END.
  5. Don't edit. Don't criticize or chastise. Don't worry about people reading it. Just write what you know, where you are, and what you like - you can answer to the peanut gallery later when you're paying an agent and editor to do that for you.

Now I raise my non-stemmed wine glass to the people who kept me going. Kept asking, kept counting right along with me, kept overly inflating my amateur ego. Thank you oh minds I love to pick, actions and stories I love to mimic. Keep on. Live long and inspire.

Aly Lawson's first novel, The Innocents, will be available at the Lawson house come spring, in the form of a freebie, keepsake proof - which I will probably hide upon anyone visiting with the potential of asking after it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lemony Makes Writers Snicker (and feel a little bit better about themselves)

What follows was written by Lemony Snicket as a pep talk to NaNoWriMo participants in our November 2010 novel's final days of creation. With only two days left, Lemony's words are all that's keeping me sane.

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it's nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every Web site and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies - what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one's entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient - the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for?

Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares?

Think of that secret favorite book of yours - not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they'd never understand it.

Perhaps it's not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you'll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop.

Most people are not writing novels, which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jetpacks soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor's waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your novel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it.

Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power.

Extinguish it, so we can get some sleep.

I plan to quit writing novels myself ... sometime in the next hundred years.

Lemony Snicket is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo to Grant Birthday Wish

The gods of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) will be with many next month, hovering in their minds and creaked necks - their raw mouse wrists - as they attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's approximately 5.5 pages per day to reach the goal of having a 175-page work of fiction in hand by November 30, midnight.

Thirty days and 30 nights of literary abandon, they say. Freakish novel writing for an amateur at best, I say. But if the body gods will carry me 26.2 miles without forsaking me, maybe the NaNoWriMo gods won't either.

A week ago, I turned 28. The Day of Disappointment in the Seventh-day Adventist histories. My parents even picked the date. So did the Adventists. Growing up, every school morning devotional with my mom and brother over orange juice or cocoa and bread, which landed on my birthday, had the Great Disappointment as the topic of choice. No cool story about Susie's stolen ice skates or Robbie not giving in to peer pressure. Nope. Just about how we got it wrong.

My birthday sometimes turns into a disappointment. Because I have such grandiose expectations like zero zits and double rainbows. I love surprises and gifts, sweet text messages and cards. I love flowers and jelly beans and signs the people I love GET me. I love that most remember and mark the day of our birth as special, something worth celebrating, indulging. It's a day to be alive. A reason to paint your fingernails or get a haircut, drink an entire bottle of wine or spend 13 hours fishing.
Self-oil-changing on base

It seems like we're always on a budget though. Because we are. But this year we drove down to Destin - for dinner and music on a boat covered in white lights; it motors out of the bay and into the Gulf in a perfect line, to avoid the water sometimes only 3-feet deep. The invisible canal is marked with red lights on the left, green on right. Each light post has a pelican sitting on it, camped out for the night, the red or green glow shining through its thin bird feet. Watching this from the decks is the best part of the booze cruise for 80-year-olds.

Cary is going home to California before his primary training starts immediately after Thanksgiving. I’m staying home in Pensacola, taking my new Mac mini, double monitor setup - with a Bootcamp PC tucked safely inside for work - for a true spin. Working and writing. Zero distractions. Probably home for the entire series of winter holidays due to few frequent flyer seats and Cary’s devildarned schedule. The holidays will be prolific.

It may be a while before the blog is blogged. The wannabe book will take priority. But if the dreaming well is dry, and the creaks and wrists become too testy, it may be time for some keyboard lifting and non-novella words. Besides, where else does one write about the Lost in Translation wig for Halloween, or the plans to whisk Cary away to Disneyworld with whiskey, or to one of the last launches of the space program. Where else would the logs of life be published without strenuousness or compromise.

But the smell of a blown out birthday candle is one of my favorites. Time to make my own wish come true, 3 days and counting. Then lift-off.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Go Forth, Television

The 2010 fall season of television kicked off with a bang. A big one.

Since the world of freelance means PowerPoint presentations on Hong Kong time and novel writing at noon, I find myself more myself lately with DVR stints glued to the box that should be a flatscreen.

Naturally, I had to reserve a spot in my blogoworld for a review of this pleasingly even numbered and high-keeled season of comedic and dramatic entertainment that spans the back-to-school bustle, calm weather, my birthday, and Halloween.

It's half over, fall 2010 television, and, as it should be, that's making me panic. I mean, we've already had the midseason, two-week breaks in shows, which make me want to grip the throats of the actors - push down the writers' pencils - and unleash my full wrath on the big wigs in charge of building intensity. (The people who need to come find me.)

Like Cary and I say, 'lock 'em in a room and make them create.'

To sate my appetite, and wet yours, these are the air wave polished gems that deserve full attention, no blogging or Facebooking.

The Big Bang Theory
Even if only the intro song played for me once a week, it would suffice as my happy pill. I entered the show at season 4, upon little bro-in-law's recommendation. I will not leave. I had to catch up. I had to find out why the elevator was broken. Why Kaley Cuoco was drawn to these boys with beautiful minds - man nerds. I had to hear every smart in more ways than one comment that Sheldon had to say. Let the nerd inside us all reign. Who doesn't understand why a world without USB ports isn't a world at all.

30 Rock
Need I say more. It goes like this...

Cool person: Did you watch 30 Rock last night? (This person really wants to share some funny lines like "Help! I need to get all these swears out of my system, you stupid assholes.")

Uncool person: No, I don't really watch it.

Cool person who's becoming annoying: What?! It's like the best show ever! ... Just watch it. From the beginning if you can. Like everything else.

Uncool person: I don't really watch T.V.

Cool person: Well, shit.

Running Wilde
This new comedy's 30 minutes goes by much too fast. Will Arnette, Felicity, a girl named Puddle, and a next door neighbor named Fa'ad stir up a lesson in giving and taking every week. There's opulence and an ongoing game of existential hide-and-seek. There's a going green and a tree house, science projects and school dances. And Felicity wears really cute clothes. There's price fixing - a liter of soda costs $100 to Will, but he doesn't realize his heart-in-the-right-place butler is pocketing the change because Wilde Oil has made Will wealthy enough to make a dent in our debt. It wins the ALY for best new comedy series.

Dark Blue
This is included even though the timing is a little off. But the trailers were off-putting. So in between the summer lull and fall TVbusters, I started TiVo-ing it with a TiVo. The shows were grizzly and surprisingly not too much. Well, sometimes they're too much. But it's okay. McDermott is back. And there's this kick-ass girl cop Jamie. And Dean, Ryan's brother Trey from The O.C., is the token hottie who's not too token-looking. Hottie-driven shows are important as you'll see. And Casting usually tries to please all orientations. (Mea culpe for all the references lost on TV haters and indifferencers, but you probably haven't read this far so nevermind.)

The Vampire Diaries
You new it was coming. WB slash CW and all. The vampire show that serves as fang-lover life support until True Blood returns next year, and the first installment of Breaking Dawn hits theaters. It is young. It is cheesy. But it's decently scary, full of surprises, and filled with shots of hot bodies, blue eyes, and black nail polish. The team gets credit for choosing veins and fangs over constant good looks - and alluding to werewolf nudity. The cherry is the fast becoming token bad boy hottie with funny or ominous lines. The true question is, how does Elena's hair get and stay that straight and shiny?

Oh, WB. I can't help but love you. Cary, keep your phfs to yourself. These people gave us the new Buffy and Dawson's Creek. Now they're giving us an old youth, er young adult, spy femme action drama. The star's name is Maggie Q. How cool is that? Add Dylan from Desperate Housewives as the tough, willful recruit with secrets shared and not; an all grown up Shane West; and a boss man from 24 - and you get a nice little piece of cake. The indulgence is in the suspended disbelief that good ol' Maggie Q wanders around in a tech-ridden loft wearing a J. Crew-ish nightgown between the operations her skinny minny legs carry her too. But the overall plot is intriguing. Because the more it moves along, the more I can see Dylan and Shane getting together. And having babies.

The Showtime show with a hunk and bite. It has blood without the gore. Cussing without the senselessness. There are twists and turns and guest stars with roles so intense you can't blink. The kicker is that it makes me wanna give up my firstborn for a writing gig on it. Any show that does this is a keeper. Season 5. Julia Stiles has me hooked on Lumen. Lumen and Dexter. Doesn't that sound cool together? More babies, please.

I feel like this show deserves a more substantial review, with substance. But the best I can think to convey at blogworthy length is that Michael C. Hall is it. Carries it. And I like how he dresses. Wow, I am not sounding critical at all. But once I know the writers and creator are in sync with what I and like fans want, it's a guaranteed good time. And isn't that what television is all about. We want a killer central character, writing that don't quit, and a storyline that indulges out every fantastical whim. As Liz Lemon would say, Blamo!

Veronica Mars
This won the ALY for best new Netflix 'Watch Instantly.' I remembered watching bits of it in college, admiring Veronica's ability to head to school and into a sleuthing stint head to toe in Brass Plum bling and string. But I'd forgotten how the whole glow of the show, the cool apartment and detective dad and office, the laptops and messenger bags, the courage and coyness of Veronica - was much enviable and admirable. It's a contemporary Nancy Drew with a believable convertible, friends that rally George and Bess, and, oh yeah, visuals.

Marie Antoinette
This won the ALY for best movie channel debut. It didn't compre to the theater version because Sophia Coppola's colors and style, and arguably captivating quiet, need the big screen - but it was the best movie to watch while writing. Sophia inspires. From The Virgin Suicides to Lost in Translation. The best way to be distracted. There's something to be said about pink poker chips covered in champagne and frosting, high fashion, and girl power, that makes you want to write your own.

Choice Commercial
This season's run of Levi's commercials branded "go forth" is a little breath-catching and artsy fartsy American. Award!

My life as a mediocre sitcom...

The novel grocery cart; it corners like it's on rails.

The toothpaste is gone! Give it up.

What you get when you lose low card punishment games. 45 minutes. On your head.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bawwlls and N'awlins

A week ago we attended our first Navy Ball. But there aren't any umpire dresses in stores these days, and Cary doesn't call me Mrs. Lawson, and there wasn't organized dancing that involves holding high fives and walking in circles while giggling and avoiding eye contact. But I guess it was okay.

Naw, it was better than okay. We walked in a little wobbly due to a pre-party celebration, and I had to steer Cary away from a "make out" session in the museum IMAX theater. (I'm beginning to wonder if a writer's flinching honesty is wise when it comes to a naval officer's career - I may have to do some deleting and censoring once he has wings growing out of his back ... But until he has people actually answering to him, let's go hog wild, shall we?)

By night the Naval Aviation Museum is the same. Besides the stoppage of tours and IMAX movies and people under three feet of course. They cleared a spot in the north? south? east? west? wing. Smarty pants probably moved a couple jets around under the orders of the party planners. There were paper lanters I think. Wobbly. Pictures. Dancing. The usual centerpiece that makes it so you can't see the person across from you.

My dinner plate came with steak AND fish AND mashed potatoes. Well that solves everything now doesn't it. There were Oscar dresses and hair. And cocktail dresses, and dresses with just one strap. And while the guys were itching for the after party, or after nap, I realized I was too. Because they do a really nice, respectful memorial to Medal of Honor recipients and other great people from wars across time, but it takes a really long time. And they also have special entrances and exits for different groups of people like, well, I forget, and it's accompanied by this soft, short chiming that sounds like the doorbell to heaven. And it was cool and musical. But like I said. Wobbly.

So we left the ball for New Orleans. Well. We stayed up until three and then slept in 'til three, and then went home and slept some more. And then left for N'awlins. Happy Columbus Day.

We brought the tri-pod and stayed at a La Quinta (translation: behind Denny's) a few miles from downtown. But La Quinta rocks in my book because pets can stay, free of charge.

Our goal is to rid our brains of the imaginary New Orlens (not a typo - how I pronounce it now) and replace it with the real one. The real French Quarter (uneventful) and Bourbon Street (eventful - and smelly without the Venetian charm). The Mississippi River. Which we didn't even know was there, except we were walking along the water, listening to people shout, "Hey, that dog has three legs!", when a girl walks by on her phone and says, "I'm walking along the Mississippi." Ohhh.

I look up food reviews and Cary makes a reservation at Domenica, since it supposedly has the best pizza in New Orlens. The special is. It has tiny steak and gorgonzola and caramelized onions. It's like filet mignon (since that sounds like really good steak) smothered in a very mild blue cheese the texture of ricotta, visited by sweet, tangy veggies and a blistered crust. We ask our server for nightlife tips, but instead of heading to hear music that probably would have been the highlight of our trip, we wander the borders of cemeteries (if we ever run out of cement and marble, we should know where to go) - and then we go back to the hotel and watch National Geographic Explorer's The Science of Dogs.

I think my favorite parts of the trip were the tunnel on the 10 ... (It's so weird, I could take that interstate all the way to our house.) ... And seeing where Hurricane Katrina happened. While I never got the satisfaction of seeing water lines everywhere, better picturing the N'awlins world underwater like in a movie, I did learn a lot more thanks to Cary and Google - and I feel better about the Saints' story; they really do deserve to kick some ass. And recovery, in many senses of the word, is possible.

The week continued in a whirlwind as Cary worked the Starbase Atlantis kids camp on base at Whiting, and I finish my first freelance project. Good thing, because I'm going to need HBO back when the withdrawals kick in, and we need a second computer so I don't have to keep hoarding this one. Cary comes home, wanting the computer, but I give it to him eventually because he tells me funny stories about the kids during his day.

Little girl who has a crush on Cary: "We're moving to Hawaii!"

"Cool. Can I come?" (maybe he has a crush on her)

"Hm. I don't knowww. I'll have to ask, I guess."

"How long are you going to live there?"

"Oh not long - a couple weeks, or a year."

"You can move over to that extra seat if you want."

"Or youu could sit there."

We also found out this week that Cary's primary class up date has been moved up. From February to November. Glad I never plan anything beyond one week these days. Like ball shoes and road trips.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Britney, Bitch

Cary officially finished API (if you still don't know what that is, Google it; I'm not even providing a link) the day before yesterday. The last two weeks of air, water, and land survival training are under his belt. Having been strapped, slam dunked, twisted, pushed, dropped, deprived of air, and shown how to rub two sticks together (shown but not really honed), he is being debriefed today at his new duty station, Whiting - and this time, it's labeled "permanent" (which means reimbursement moolah for any of our moving expenses).

Okay, here's a video to explain the last six weeks of Cary's life - because I realized Google, myself, and Cary can't even decide what the acronym API stands for.

I appreciate a man who can fly a plane and jump into survival mode with a dozen other hard asses as well as esteem a pop diva. We settled in for Fox's Glee Tuesday night, the long-awaited Britney Spears episode with cameos and a dance-begging soundtrack. It was the highest rated series episode to date. The last TV show that grew in week two when compared to premiere week was Seinfeld in 1993 (audience age 18-49). It was also the number one trending topic on Twitter.

It's cool to be a loser.
Courtesy of
The top selling artist of the decade also knows how to ride with the punches. Forget the head shaving, umbrella poking, and odd, quick husband choice - not to mention the child endangerment - 63 million albums later, she can still make a good manager choice. Last spring, Spears' manager Adam Leber tweeted to fans "Do you guys want to see a Britney Spears episode on Glee?" Six million fans said yes in less than 10 minutes. (Talk about cheap, effective marketing. The Social Network movie might be incomplete without Jack Dorsey.) Ryan Murphy, Glee creator, got interested. You'd think American Idol creator Simon Fuller would take the hint.

Watch the full episode if you missed it, or watch it again, and follow the cast member Brittany's new Twitter account @BrittanyGLEE if you like offbeat comments akin to Creed's on The Office.

As we drive around later in the week, looking at mountain bikes, Tempurpedic beds, and longing for bigger, better electronics, we listen to Britney Spears' greatest hits and try out Mellow Mushroom.

It's a pizza baker like California Pizza Kitchen but with some differences like a menu page of hoagies and a menu page of calzones, and a menu page packed with beer names. And the pizza names and tastes are at least a little different and therefore my favorite, new. Plus, the sodas come in ginormous cups, those red ones that are plastic but meant to look like glass - but huge - so refills are few, and the soda is a more efficient and a less annoying bottomless. There's also a magical looking mushroom fountain that should grace the Teacups ride at Disneyland; it's the center of the back patio where we sit. And there's a rolling ball fountain out front that Cary can't stop playing with. Hm.

We end up at a dollar store, picking up some raw hide bones for Butters. I get distracted by cat toys, holiday dishes, and fairy wings. But we manage to leave with just the bones, following a car out of the parking lot that has a plastic sheet as its rear windshield. It billows and snaps as the car picks up speed. I don't need Mythbusters to tell me that's not aerodynamic.

I see another bagged window - just the back, little triangle one as usual - at the Asian diner Siam, a new favorite that's close to home. It's not just the good food, prices, cleanliness, and more than friendly service. It's the pineapple fried rice. It's got like all the food groups covered. The grain. Pineapple and raisins for your fruit. Cashews and chicken for more of your protein. A garnish of tomato, cucumbers, and cabbage for your veggies. Not to mention the stems of green onion. And some oil for energy (or lip moisturizing as my brother likes to say). Moreover, the chicken l'orange I tried at Yum's, a Chinese food dive I found in the midst of errands, in no way compared. I only got a couple bites down before I couldn't fight back images of bad meat.

When he gets home, I tell Cary about Yum's and how we need to go back to Siam. He briefs me on his debrief. February will probably be the latest point in time that he'll class up for primary pilot training as part of Training Air Wing 5 and hopefully get the new T6 over the old T34. But planes are planes, he says. So the next few months stretch out before us. A weekend in New Orleans. Holiday plans. My first official freelance project starts up next week. So maybe he should take a turn at making me lunch and cleaning the toilets. In that order. I'm back to being a working diva now, bitch.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jump In It

Friday I drove around with my eyes dilated. I disposed of my disposable sunglasses before I stepped outside. The fluorescent lights of the mall-way outside Lenscrafters isn't bright at all--I don't need these while I try and juggle my also useless receipts for paying nothing. Chuck! Go through automatic doors. Ahhh! It's so bright! So this is what the vampires have to deal with.

Courtesy of Florida Employment Lawyer Blog
By Saturday morning my eye muscles are finally back to normal. A few hours, my ass. We crawl out of bed to go mountain biking at the University of West Florida - where people keep trying to tell us where to find the popular mecca of trails for mountain bikers, a sprawling web of loops off a trailhead mysteriously lying somewhere on the outskirts of campus. The guys have been looking for weeks. After I tucker myself out on trails that probably bore the rest of the group, routes including a long road jaunt that involved hills which lead to that puke feeling, we find it - behind a series of parking lots, a building, and work shed.

We balance our bikes across some half a mile of narrow boardwalk, extending over a swamp where people slowly paddle orange and yellow kayaks around the bend and into the trees, and where there are still no alligators in sight. (How long do I need to live here before one graces me with its presence?!) We get off the boardwalk where there's a gap in the railing. Several yards of grass and spindly trees later, there looms the giant trailhead map. Level color-coded lines trace routes that will entertain for months. My butt bones are sorer just thinking about it - a good sore, and I bear with Cary a few more miles until I force him to take a shortcut back to our truck parked beneath the university's water tower.

Aly: Why do we even have water towers?

Cary: It's like, hey, we have water. (He makes a water tower holding his arms straight up and cupping.)

Aly: That's dumb.

Cary: You are so gullible.

Aly thinks: Shit. (And then Cary continues to explain why we really have water towers.)

We wait in the bed of the truck, in the shade and warm air, until our partners return for a Waffle House stint, where a chocolate chip waffle and grits disappear off my plate in 10 minutes or less. The slight ups and downs, sporadic roots and fields, and hopping a couple broken logs that would be no more than a bump to most anyone else make me think I should fork over the cash and jump on my own bike. Coming in last ain't bad if the reward is feeling like I'm pedaling through New Zealand to the tune of Youthgroup and a chocolate chip waffle is waiting at the finish line. Good marketing and my healthy appetite can get me to do just about anything.

Speaking of. I've done extensive research for us to get the cheapest satellite TV service for our needs - but I was bummed to find out DirectTV did this commercial instead of Dish Network. The script. The actor. The mini giraffe. The boob rubbing. The dogs playing poker. It may be in part due to the Superbowlish effects, but this is a hit, which Cary exploited on Facebook already yet failed to include the commercial in its entirety, and therefore its beauty.

Yes, the mini giraffe and case of the Russian giggly legs are the kickers. But DirectTV did what many marketers are afraid to do - jump in it. Push the envelope. And do it well. And if you hate clean cliches, go balls out. Just execute the shit out of it. The best writer. The best actor. And most important, tap the best brains at your organization, which may not be in the marketing department.

Dirt grits and grease smears wash down the shower drain before we head to the National Naval Aviation Museum and 33rd Annual Pensacola Seafood Festival. I finally learn (never ask me to recite though) the difference between and how turbine and internal combustion engines work. We sit in an old plane. Cozy. Smelly. We sit in a newer plane. The T34 (though the newer T6 will soon be used), a training (hence, the T) plane Cary will jump in, in a few. I ask dumb questions. Cary continues to tell and show me the same thing over and over about engine "cans." I'm still confused obviously. On our way out, we drive around that area of base and see where the Blue Angels park their cars and their planes; where the naval flight officers (Gooses) get their primary training (while Cary and other student pilots go to Whiting Field for theirs); and then we "stumble" upon this bad ass SAM (surface to air missile), what NFOs hunt down. Enemy heat.
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

Grouper fish (more than what it was cracked up to be), hush puppies (not what they were cracked up to be), a cup of boiled peanuts, and half a fennel cake later (powdered sugar plate licking included), we return to bed and watch Boise State take Oregon State. Boise - they jump in it too. Into that blue, blue field.

Monday, September 20, 2010

We Were Born This Way

Do your parents and/or sibling(s), even childhood friends, still view you as your 12-year-old self? Does your spouse or lover or boss only view you as the person you are, and not the person you've become?

When I used to ask my dad if life got better, or if I should enjoy [insert stage; e.g. middle school, puberty--or the lack thereof--or, what felt like the grips of mean girls akin to a Courtney Summers young adult novel], he said, you have something to look forward to--he said it convincingly, but slowly and cryptically, as usual. Hm. I think about that at least once a year. And starting with my year abroad in college, he was right. It just keeps getting better. Wiser. Secure-er. Exciting-er.

With each new life step--steps that mean you get to organize your own bookshelves, till your own garden, part your hair however you want, wear your favorite T-shirt over and over if you want--you pave your own way. But there's even more--I know it's hard to believe--but there is. You get to pick exactly who you hang out with. What you do on the weekends and in the evening. What you do and who you live with. Whether you play the piano or on the computer. Whether you sit there and do nothing or run around like a tailless lizard. We could go on and on, couldn't we? Steps that lead you away from annoying people and into the arms of people who haven't had the chance to annoy you yet. Into a state with seasons, or a place that skips the shitty ones.

But the dark side of a new moon is that your accountant wants proof you tallied your invoices right (good idea); your workplace demands consistent excellence and sweetness; your newfound friends need to know you're not a snob or a prude or an idiot; your in-laws want to know about the baby stage; your neighbors about the dog that barked and is now three-legged; your new lunch spot your new usual. New, new, new.

So it's a toss-up, between nostalgia and newness. And as we age, the former seems to get worse. The memories and catchphrases repeated too often. The throwbacks to the good 'ol days and the obsession with death. Enough. Politicians are always fucked up and music is always pushing the envelope.

Image courtesy of Fridinger BBQ 2.0
We were born this way, baby, Lady Gaga growls pitch perfect as she claims one of her 8 moon men at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and preludes her next album. Though I walk the precipice of artist intent, I daresay, we were born screaming and imperfect, stuck but in an oyster. We grow into humans that choose meaty rib cages or Paradoxical organics and vegan foodstuffs, create companies like Lockheed Martin, and question everything, including the end of the world and why it's not fun to hang out with people who suck the life out of knowledge and objects, therapy and conversations and charity.

Grow with grace, little monsters. And keep asking, "How did I get here?". Because you don't want to end up but be reborn.

Courtesy of Dezign with a D