Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Open Letter To Senator John McCain ...

Dear Senator McCain:

Really?

Do you really expect the American public to accept that Arizona had to pass landmark bigotry because the Obama administration has failed to "secure our borders."

Seriously? You're going to try to lay this one on Obama?

I know you hate the man. I know you think that he wasn't supposed to win the election, you were.

But you've been in office since the early '80s, representing a state that's long had a problem with immigration.

So, in all those years, why haven't you found a solution?

I'm sure it's a massive problem that lacks a simple remedy, but, you see, Obama's been a little busy.

He's in the process of reforming health care in America, which others had tried to do for, oh, about 100 years.

He's overseeing two wars he inherited from George W. Bush. You're a military man. You may have noticed, though it pains you I'm sure, that the war in Afghanistan has achieved far more successes – if there is such a thing as success in war – under Obama's administration to date than in all of Bush's tenure.

He's trying to ease the economy back from the brink of collapse, and doing a pretty good job, don't you think? Sure, unemployment is still high, but we both know that unemployment lags in a recovery. Businesses have to get back on their feet before they can start hiring again. But stimulus funds are being returned, with interest. The Dow is up. Heck, even GM has repaid its loan five years ahead of schedule.

He's trying to help Americans stay in their homes, because a market flooded with foreclosure properties isn't good for the economy, the banks left holding the mortgages, neighborhoods that see property values fall, or for anyone, really.

He's trying to enact regulatory reform, to rein in the madness that Reagan unleashed on the world when he deregulated the banking industry. Sure, let those fine folks regulate themselves. They're a bunch of stand-up guys, right? They'll do the right thing, right? Oh, um, oops.

Of course, he's running into a lot of resistance from your party, Senator. You and your colleagues aren't blocking financial-reform legislation. The legislation's not finished. No, you're not even letting the Senate talk about reform.

Gosh, that seems kind of anti-American, don't you think? Refusing to let others even talk about how to fix a massive problem?

But this letter was intended to be about immigration.

I'm sure you're doing your part, Senator. I'm sure that you call ahead to any establishment you're planning to visit in your home state and get assurances from management that there are no immigrants on the payroll, right? I'm sure you've never eaten in a restaurant in which an immigrant has bussed a table or washed a dish. I'm sure that you've never eaten a fruit or vegetable or piece of meat that's been harvested or butchered by an undocumented worker. Good for you.

Since you're obviously the standard to which we should all aspire, then, perhaps you should share with Obama your comprehensive solution to our immigration problem. You have one, right?

Don't worry. Obama's a good guy, despite the fact that you've convinced yourself of quite the opposite. He'll give credit where it's due. Remember that summit you guys had a while back, when you addressed him and his response was, "That's a good point, John." You seemed pretty surprised that he agreed with you. You were all ready to fire back with your next argument, but that Obama, he went ahead and said you made a good point. Imagine that.

I tend to stay rather abreast of the news of the day. So I'll look forward to hearing about your plan to address immigration on a federal level, where it should be addressed. You're certainly right about that.

Thanks for all you're going to do on that front.

Better late than never, right?

Beth

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jeff Phillips ...

I was not a cheerleader.

In junior high, I tried out for the pom-pom squad. That was a short-lived experience.

But now, because I can, and because short skirts are not involved, I am happy to be a cheerleader for family and friends. And, for that matter, folks I don't even know.

I'm happy to blog about people, places, and things. I'm not compensated for any of it, nor do I want to be, not here. But if I run across an artist or product that I love, I'm eager to tell others.

Which brings me to my friend Jeff Phillips.

Jeff is an analyst by day – analyst as in "technology," not as in "tell me about your childhood" – but he likes to walk around armed, with a camera, to shoot images for a collection he calls crowdspotting.

Images like these:






I love the silhouette of the woman in the image above. She looks like the silhouette of the female form on the mudflaps of trucks. Which is what Jeff saw when he shot that, too.

Jeff's work will be part of a couple of shows opening this week and next. And you can follow him on Facebook: look for "crowdspotting".

In a perfect world, Jeff would be an insanely renown photographer and could walk around all day an artful black wardrobe looking disaffected.

But for now, he's a really nice guy with a job and a camera. And talent to spare.

Images © Jeff Phillips

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Muse Of The Moment ...

A week or so ago, I was trading tweets with Angelo, a Twitter pal, about the walk I'd taken that morning, a walk without coffee in hand.

I am not a morning person. I am far from a morning person. So if I'm going to go walking at 6:30 a.m., I either need to bring coffee along or make Starbucks my destination.

Angelo wrote, "Bring a coffee sippy cup and shortbread necklace for treats along the way...".

Shortbread necklace.

SHORTBREAD. NECKLACE.

Pure genius. I told him so. I mentioned that I have a friend who makes jewelry and that I've long thought about opening a bakery.

To which he replied: "I think I hear a business plan being written...".

I don't expect I'll be going into the shortbread jewelry business, but a one-off shortbread necklace? How could I not?

Angelo told me to take a picture of me wearing it and send it to him, and that's when my brain went a little nuts.

An image appeared in my mind, a black and white, high-fashion image. I wondered if Jeff, my brilliant photographer friend, would be around this weekend to shoot it.

I would need rather remarkable hair. I wondered if J-D would be free, too.

And, of course, if J-D was going to do my hair, I'd want Ronnie to do my makeup.

See what I mean? Most people would think, "OK, I'll take a picture."

Me? I think of three other people to rope into a photo shoot.

Regardless, first, I had to make a necklace.

I thought about making an exaggerated version of the candy necklaces we had as kids. And then I thought I might make a Wilma Flintstone-esque necklace, forming the shortbread into imperfect pearls. But then I'd have to string them, and trying to bore through shortbread nuggets seemed like a bad idea.

So I then I thought that a pendant was in order, which made me think of the medals from the Beijing Olympics, with the hole in the middle.

But I'd put the hole closer to the top of my pendant, I decided. And then I remembered that I had oval cutters in addition to rounds, and I'm a very big fan of ovals, so ovals became the plan.

And I made a recipe of shortbread dough, which is much more like Play-Doh that I'd ever realized (and which I now want to extrude, using Play-Doh toys), and baked up a batch of prototypes, larger ovals and smaller ovals, altering the location of the opening in each.

And then I started thinking about the necklace part itself. I figured I wanted to use satin ribbon, but maybe not. Maybe satin cording. Or maybe a wide width of ribbon, gathered up and tucked through the hole.

I went to the fabric store to look at ribbon and trims. When I get an idea in my head, I just keep going. I bought a few yards of different cording and such as well as a spool of black satin ribbon, which was the winner in the end. (I really need to learn to trust my first instincts.)

And today, I took a shower and washed and semi-styled my hair and put on a bit of makeup and put my laptop on a stack of books on the kitchen counter. (I didn't contact Jeff and Ronnie and J-D.)

And I snapped a few shots. And I discarded a few shots. And I cropped a few shots. And I settled on this:



Then I sent it along to Angelo, thanking him for being my inspiration and shortbread muse.

I love little projects like this, manifesting visions that appear in my head.

One of these days, I'll figure out how they'll allow me to make a living.

Friday, April 23, 2010

'How's Your Love Life?' ...

Jeff always asks.

On the phone or in person, not a conversation goes by in which Jeff does not ask, "How's your love life?"

It's become shtick at this point. He asks, "How's your love life?" and I say, "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff ..." and he says, "Beth ..." in his exaggerated way, and then adds, "Why not?!"

We're not exactly Rowan and Martin (how's that for the opposite of a pop-culture reference?!), but I find it endearing, our little exchange.

And so it was last night. I met up with him before a talk he was giving at a library, and within moments of my arrival and our saying hello, there it was.

I very rarely have anything to report. Sometimes, but rarely.

So he gave his talk and signed a lot of books for folks and we made our way to dinner. I hadn't seen him in nearly a year. How is that possible? Where does the time go?

He walked me to my car afterward and hugged me goodbye and I headed for home, listening to Brian Ray, my latest musical obsession, most of the way. (See the post below.)

And then I popped in a CD, the song I want to record next, and for a moment, I was listening to neither iPod nor CD but rather the radio.

It was a commercial.

For cougarlife.com.

Yes, cougarlife.com.

No, I am not making it up, though I thought it was a joke. Had SNL made a foray into radio? Had I driven through some fissure in space into another dimension?

I looked it up when I got home. Yep, it's real.

Oh my.

Behold, my dating future. But not.

I've never had any interest in men who are younger than me. I'm not about to start now.

I read this post again this morning, which goes a long way toward explaining, to Jeff and others, why I'm single.

Oh, I do amuse myself so.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brian Ray ...

Years ago, many years ago, more years ago than seem possible, I graduated from high school.

That year, my friend Rob, who was a member of the faculty and who is retiring this year – the impossibility train just keeps chugging down the track – wrote in my yearbook, "Get obsessed and stay obsessed."

And so I did. And I have. About various things over the years, some more healthy than others, perhaps, but very much at the top of the list of good obsessions in my life?

Music.

I listen all day long. I buy more than I should, though less than I'd like. I figure I own about 1,000 albums at this point. I regret – hugely – not sticking with music lessons as a kid. (Damn my mother for being right when she told me I could quit but that I'd regret it. Why do parents have to be so smart?)

Some music barely registers with me. Some music greatly grates on me. But some music, sometimes but rarely, connects with me intellectually and grabs hold of me viscerally, and refuses to let go.

Ladies and gentlemen, for those who have not already had the pleasure, allow me to introduce you to Brian Ray.

I "met" Brian on Twitter on Friday night. Another tweeter whom I follow had retweeted one of Brian's tweets, and I was charmed enough to click over to Brian's page and follow him.

Moments later, I received a message from Brian, thanking me.

"But wait a minute," I was thinking, "a person can't send a direct message unless ..." [insert e-mail "DING!" here] "... that person is following me."

And there, in my inbox, was the alert from Twitter that Brian was now following me, too.

So I replied to him. And he replied to my reply. And we proceeded to while away part of our Friday nights, 140 characters at a time.

Between tweets, I started poking around his web site, reading his bio (a story that starts out at "adorable" and ends up at "astonishing"), and listening to his debut album, Mondo Magento.

You can sample tracks and download a few, which is very kind of him, to share his tunes. ("Vinyl" quickly caught my ear and hasn't let go since. Consider yourself warned.)

When it came to buying his album, I was torn. I really love CDs. Hardcopy. The disc, the jewel case, the liner notes. The modern-day equivalent of the joy I used to feel when I'd save up enough allowance and head to Hegewisch Records to buy a the latest album I'd been coveting. (You may remember this post, "I Was A Pre-Teen Fanilow.")

But I'm also an impatient sort. Digital download and a high-speed Internet connection could be my undoing.

So should I buy the album (from Brian's site, of course) and wait for it to arrive? Or should I just buy the download?

I opted to go old-school and buy the album and wait, figuring the download of "Vinyl" would tide me over until the disc arrived.

But then! Behold! On the thank-you screen that popped up to confirm my transaction? Links to download the entire album and a bonus acoustic track! Of "Vinyl," no less!

Brian Ray had read my mind! And I got the best of both worlds, the instant gratification of the download and the promise of the hold-it-in-my-hands wonder of the actual CD.

So, I've been listening. Generally, I listen to an album once (or twice) through in its entirety, just to get a sense of the overall vibe. And then I start to listen more intently.

There so much homogeneity in music these days, so much same-y sameness, so much production that vocals seem to have become an afterthought. Does anyone really know what Britney Spears actually sounds like? Heidi Montag? Paris Hilton? Even Jennifer Lopez's latest, which I sought out because I wondered how she managed to write a song about shoes, sounds, like, well, what record executives must think everyone wants to hear.

Not me. And not you, too, I reckon.

What I love about Brian's music is that every track has its own identity. Some are playful, some are rockin', some will nearly break your heart. The lyric "If you're leaving me, won't you take me with you" on "If You're Leaving Me" knocks me out. Who hasn't felt that way?

And through 'em all, the vocals – the soul of any song – are front and center, mixed but not masked.

He surely stands on his own musical merits, but listening, I find myself thinking, "Oh, that reminds me of Jeffrey Gaines" or "That's kind of Sex Pistols." I hear all kinds of artists in his songs, not that he's copying any of them. They're just associations in my ears. There are moments of others, Cheap Trick to be sure, but it's all Brian Ray.

His latest single, "I Found You," launches when you visit his site. As I mentioned to him last night, this track is begging for a video. It's infectious fun, a good summertime, cruising-with-the-top-down track. I think I listened to it about 10 times in a row. And it's playing now, as I write.

He hasn't announced a street date for his next album, but "soon" will suffice. I eagerly await its release. And when it drops, I'm sure I'll write another post.

I'm no publicist, I told him, but I'm happy to evangelize.

I am an immediate and steadfast fan.

Perhaps you will be, too.

Oh, and when he's not recording, he tours with Sir Paul McCartney.

Yes, really.

You can see them, for the first time or again, playing Sir Paul's awesome cut "Sing The Changes" on the marquee of The Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

[Tap Tap: Is This Thing On?] ...

I haven't forgotten about this space.

New post to come, soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Headspace ...

Thursday. It's Thursday. This week has been a blur.

I spent most of the day Monday at the hospital, where my father had surgery. Not a major surgery as surgeries go, but any time general anesthesia is involved, any time intubation is required, it's major enough.

His recovery wasn't proceeding as expected on Tuesday, so insurance cleared him to stay another night, but he wanted to go home, so at 10 p.m., he and my mother left the hospital.

And then, at 1 a.m., he woke her so she could take him to the E.R.

Sigh. Men, do we women a favor, OK? Be pragmatic.

I'm sure it's no fun to spend the night in a hospital. I'm sure it's the opposite of restful. But listen to your bodies. If they're refusing to cooperate with your wishes, it's probably best to honor theirs.

Yesterday, I canceled an appointment, just so I could be nearby in case I could be of any help, and today, he's going to the doctor, even though he wasn't scheduled until next week.

So it's Thursday. And it was just Monday. Time, it just evaporates lately.

Despite canceling my daytime appointment yesterday, though, I did follow through with my evening plans, which comprised a book discussion of The Last Lecture at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, a building in which I had not stepped foot in more than 20 years, and dinner with two of my former Tribune editors, one of whom now works at the school, one of whom still works at the paper, both of whom are married to each other, and both of whom I hadn't had occasion to really talk to in nearly 13 years.

I roped Jeff into the plans for the book discussion, given that he was the author and I was merely one of the editors, and who the hell wants to hear stories about editing?

"So, I said to Jeff, 'Jeff, if this Thin Mints reference refers to the Girl Scout cookie, it needs to be capitalized because it's a proper noun.' "

See what I mean? Not exactly riveting stuff.

Jeff, as always, was funny and charming, even if the whole scene was a bit like "Charlie's Angels," what with Jeff's disembodied voice emanating from a speakerphone on the table, although I look like none of the Angels, and at that moment, wasn't packing heat.

Not that I ever do, in case anyone missed that I was joking. The only heat I pack these days is BENGAY.

Which isn't true, either. But it made me chuckle when I wrote it down.

Who know what goes on in this brain of mine. A few nights ago, I had an awful dream about one of my friends having a heart attack, and last night, I had a lovely dream about meeting John Cusack.

I blame fatigue. I'm tired, but I don't sleep. And there isn't enough coffee in the world.

I might like to try swimming in it. Maybe I'd absorb enough of it through my vast expanse of skin to make a difference. And maybe then I would have the energy to exercise again. Because otherwise, the next time Google Maps takes some satellite snaps of the globe, I might be mistaken for a new land mass:

"What is that?"

"Where?"

"There. Next to Greenland."

See? That wouldn't be good.

And once again, I'm rambling. Which is a good sign that I should stop typing. And maybe take a nap.

Until tomorrow, then, when I might have a coherent idea for a post.

Or not.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

'Women Food And God' ...

When I was little, younger, a person who was wee, my mom would tuck me in at night and I'd ask her, "What's for brefkiss, mommy?"

I have always been very interested in food.

I grew up in a food family. My mom cooked. From a young age, she cooked. Out of necessity. And so, with that ingrained, she cooked for us. Growing up, I did not eat things that came out of boxes. Brownies were made from scratch, not a mix. Potatoes were peeled and sliced and boiled and mashed, not reconstituted from a box of glittery flakes.

We had store-bought cookies and Pop-Tarts and sugared cereals. She bought sliced bread. But we ate well, meals that mattered, not TV dinners or Swanson pot pies.

Well, no, sometimes we had Swanson pot pies, but because we wanted them, because for some reason she could not fathom, we liked the gummy crust and the gloppy gravy that burned our mouths and coated perfect cubes of questionable carrots and shrouded bits of chicken as elusive as Easter eggs.

Plenty of friends ate Kraft macaroni and cheese. Not me. That was something mom would not enable. If I wanted that crap – and let's face it, it's crap – I had to buy it myself.

I can't remember precisely when food became a problem in my life. In my memory, I was still a "normal"-sized kid in third grade but started getting chubby in grade four.

I just pulled out a series of class pictures and while I'm right to a degree, it wasn't as though I was a skinny kid and then I was a fat kid. My face was always varying degrees of full, but in fourth grade, it's a little bit fuller.

I do remember being on a diet in third grade. I hated it. No child that age wants to eat melba toast.

But my parents could see that I was starting to gain weight and they wanted to nip it in the bud. If I lost x number of pounds – I don't remember what was required – I'd get a 10-speed bike.

I didn't lose the weight. I got the bike anyway.

(I was tall for my age. A 10-speed wasn't such a crazy idea.)

I don't remember why I had started gaining weight. I don't have any recollection of a huge trauma in my life. My grandmother died when I was 8, my mom's mom, and I loved her a lot. But that wasn't a trigger, looking back.

And triggers aren't really the point, anyway. My issues with food today have been built over the last few decades, and identifying one moment from my childhood won't wipe them all away. It's not about assigning blame. I blame no one but myself. I've made the choices. I'm the reason I've been up and down my entire life.

At the moment, I'm up again. Not as up as I've ever been, but definitely heavier than I was a couple of years ago when I was working with a trainer, and definitely heavier than I was four years ago when I was dating G, which was about the same size as I was when I worked at the Tribune and then Thomson, which was also the one time in my life when I didn't recognize myself.

Literally.

I've written about it before but the short version is that I had lost a lot of weight (thanks to stress, mostly) and was walking past a mirror and glanced over, the way we all do, and stopped dead in my tracks. Turned and stared. And could not comprehend that I was looking at my own body, tried to reconcile the intellectual sense that of course it was me, standing there, seeing that reflection with the disbelief that that could possibly be me.

When I gained the weight again that time, I was sure it was simply my psyche's way of forcing me to recognize myself again.

But of the other times, I've come to understand that the weight loss never lasted because it was never about the weight.

And that's why the diet industry persists.

We're all sold on the commercials, of the thin, smiling women (typically) who tell us "When I was fat, I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin," cue the B-roll of a smiling, thin woman strolling by the pool in a fuchsia bikini.

And in that moment, we believe that that's all it will take. Being thin = being happy. Period.

Never mind the reason that we're not already there.

But there's always a reason we're not already there. Or that we've been there before but aren't there now. There's a reason that we've gained the weight and lost the weight and gained the weight and lost.

We all want the magic pill, the magic powder, the hypnosis, the cure.

We want to be told it's genetic, that it's not our fault, that we should blame McDonald's and Wendy's and Oreos and cheese.

It's our super-size culture! It's our sedentary lives!

No, it's not.

And that's the point of Geneen Roth's book, Women Food and God, though you don't need to be a woman for it to apply to you.

It's about our attitudes toward food, gender aside.

But women are more prone than men to fall prey to the endless messages that to be happy, we have to be thin, and to be thin, we have to call Jenny. Or buy into any one of a million other diets.

Well, one look at Kirstie Alley tells you that Jenny doesn't work.

Kirstie ate the food. She talked with her consultant. And then she gained it all right back.

So now she's come out with her own diet plan, which you can buy, of course, and which you will need to buy from now until forever if you want to stay thin.

It never ends.

And it won't. Until Kirstie and the rest of us understand that our weight is not beholden to a powder or a pill.

Yes, some foods are better for us than others. Yes, generally speaking, there is more goodness in a salad than a 40-ounce steak, but that's not because beef is evil or because salad is salvation.

Our bodies need what our bodies need to function. But we fill them to excess.

Roth's book contains the word "God" in the title, which has already led a few of my friends to question whether they want to read it.

Let me assure you that "God" here is not Christian God or any other religious form of God. It can be, if that's how you identify, but for those who don't subscribe to a religion or for whom the notion of "God" chafes, insert "Oneness" or "Spirit" or "Universe" or "Existence" or "Whatever Lies Beyond What Is."

I won't quote from the book extensively because it is not my intent to sway anyone or pretend to know what's most important. Each reader will find what most applies to them. But I will cite this:

We want to be thin because thinness is the purported currency of happiness and peace and contentment in our time. And although the currency is a lie—the tabloids are filled with miserable skinny celebrities—most systems of weight loss fail because they don't live up to their promise: weight loss does not make people happy. Or peaceful. Or content. Being thin does not address the emptiness that has no shape or weight or name. Even a wildly successful diet is a colossal failure because inside the new body is the same sinking heart. Spiritual hunger can never be solved on a physical level.

There's an excerpt from the book here.

And Oprah will feature Geneen on a future show, May 12th is the date, I believe. At which point, it will either be much harder or much easier to find the book in your local store.

But now or then, I encourage you to read it if you've ever struggled with your weight. It is only 200 pages, a slimmer book than I expected it to be, but in some ways longer than it needs to be.

Her message is simple, really: that we need to live in the present moment, that we need to be aware of ourselves and what we need and we need to feel what we truly feel.

A bag of cookies will not eradicate pain, it will compound it. The original pain is not healed by a bag of cookies. It is burdened with layers of cookie-eating guilt and anger and shame.

Roth's is a simple solution that is not simple. To live in the moment, to shed our addiction to food, requires introspection and effort and a willingness to undo a lifetime of what has been done.

But there is no other lasting way. Diets will always fail. Food is not a demon. Food is food. How we use it determines how we feel, physically and psychically.

So when we use it in ways that make us feel ill, the food is not to blame. We need to understand why it is we chose to feel that way.

That is the key.

Once we understand what is behind the choices we make, the beliefs we have, where they come from, why we have them, then we can move beyond them, to eat when we're hungry, to stop when we're full. To choose foods that nourish us, not numb us.

That enable us to truly live.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The 3-Day: Boldly Go ...

My first 3-Day was in October 2001, three weeks after September 11th. In Atlanta. I was not looking forward to getting on a plane.

I thought about not going. I thought about not walking.

"No one would blame me," I thought. "Lots of people aren't flying right now."

Except that my hesitation had a lot less to do with flying than the fact that I was embarking on this strange new thing alone.

My friend Gemma had done an event with one of her sisters, so I had some sense of what to expect from her stories.

But still, not only had I signed up to walk 60 miles, I signed up to do it in another city, and I signed up to do it by myself.

So I thought about not going.

And then I thought about all the people I might disappoint if I didn't, and realized that I was at the top of that list.

I see a lot of comments on Facebook and Twitter from would-be walkers saying that they want to sign up for the 3-Day but that they don't want to do it alone.

I can understand that. It's a big commitment, and knowing that you'll have someone alongside you provides a lot of comfort.

But as I tell everyone who's wavering: You won't be alone. You'll be with about 2,000 other walkers. And at least one of them will become one of your new best friends.

For the 2001 event, I met people at O'Hare, I met people at Hartsfield, I met people at the Marta station, I met people on the bus. Before I'd even arrived at Day 0 (there used to be a Day 0, before computers became such an integral part of the experience), I'd met my tentmate.

We were sitting together on the bus. "Do you have a tentmate?" she asked.

"Nope," I said.

And so we were tentmates. And walking partners, too.

And that's how it's gone for every walk since then.

I've never signed up to do it with anyone.

One year, I met Catherine on the route. I was walking alone. She was walking alone. I found myself coming up on her on a wooded path. "How's it goin'?" I asked. (Most people on the 3-Day will ask you how you're doing when they pass you on the route.)

And we started chatting. She was from Dallas and had decided to sign up in different cities each year.

Two days later, she met my family at the end of the route. We met her sister.

And every year, we exchange Christmas cards and letters, and contribute to each other's fundraising.

Another year, I started the route with a woman (whose name I can't recall at the moment, because I am old), but after lunch, I wasn't feeling well, so I sat down to wait for a sweep van and she continued on. But then I felt better, so I got up to start walking. I never did run into her again, but when I got to camp, there was a woman in my assigned tent, chatting with some other folks standing outside.

"Hi, my name's Beth. I'll be sleeping six inches from you tonight," I said. She introduced herself. Erin. And her cousins, Shel and Mike.

The next morning, they invited me to walk with them. And we finished the event together. They kept me going when I wanted to stop. (Blisters.)

And we're still in touch, too.

Then there was the year I was put in touch with Jen, a fellow walker who lived near me. We had been asked to do a workshop for walkers in our area, so we met in advance to hash out a plan. Jen was walking with a large group that year, and they adopted me from the get-go. I'm in their pictures from that weekend. Lovely women, all. I walked with Tina that year. I ran into her in camp last year. And this year, I hope to see her again.

Two years ago, I sat next to Mary on the coach from the hotel to Opening Ceremonies. She had signed up to do the event with someone who backed out, so she showed up alone.

As we were chatting and waiting for Opening Ceremonies to begin, Amy appeared at our side. And the three of us entered the route together.

We met a fourth woman along the way, and she and Mary paired up, walking and chatting, which left Amy and I to go at our own pace.

Amy and I walked together again last year, along with her friend Ronnie.

And I am proud to say that Amy has become one of my dearest friends.

All of which is to say that while I understand everyone's desire to sign up with a friend, don't hesitate to sign up alone.

Between area training walks and the 3-Day Expo and heck, maybe even just shopping for the right shoes, you'll meet other walkers.

And even if you don't, you'll meet walkers on the event. Trust me. Say "hi" to anyone wearing a credential and – presto! – you might have just met your new best friend.

People on the 3-Day are among the nicest you'll ever meet. They're very quick to welcome single walkers.

I know. I've been one of them, almost every time.

For about 10 minutes.

Amy is taking this year off, so I'll be walking "alone" again. And that's fine. I know I'll meet someone new and interesting.

And even if I find myself alone one the route for a while, that's fine, too. It's nice to have the solitude sometimes, to think about your life and the people for whom you're walking, and to remind yourself, with every step, that you're doing something bold for three days, and that if you're capable of walking 60 miles, you're capable of doing so much more.

So, to those who are wavering, I heartily encourage you to sign up. Today. Do it right now. And know that that's the first step of an awesome journey. And that there are other walkers who are signing up, too, who are wondering if they'll meet anyone on the event.

And the answer, of course, is yes, they'll meet someone.

They'll meet you.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Untitled ...

I don't have a post in mind. I'm just of a mind to write a post.

It feels strange to have not written for a week. Last Sunday's post just fell out of my brain. I had one sentence in mind and the rest made itself known while I typed. Sometimes it happens that way.

And then I wrote a little post about John when I returned to the hotel after his wake and a very odd dining experience, but then again, when you're eating in a restaurant that never closes, "odd" tends to be baked right in.

My Monchhichi/Tom Jones comparison doesn't really count as a post. That was just the result of the weird way my brain works sometimes.

So here we are. Assuming that you're still with me. I wouldn't blame you if you'd already clicked over to LOLCats or decided to knock someone off in Mafia Wars.

Are people still playing Mafia Wars?

I just felt like writing today. I felt like writing yesterday, too. This post, technically, is leftovers. I started writing it yesterday and then saved it as a draft because it wasn't hanging together, not that this revisitation of it is making any sense.

So here I am. On the loveseat in the living room, clacking away, very aware of the fact that this post may never see the light of day. Sometimes – not often, but sometimes – I write posts just for the sake of writing, not for the sake of publishing. Sometimes, there are words pent up inside me and I have to write them down.

I was thinking yesterday about words and people who use them well.

Years ago, I was with my friend Dave at his studio, and as we headed to the elevator – no doubt on our way to get coffee, which is really all we ever do, not that I'm complaining – he asked if I had any gum.

I always have gum.

I dug into my purse to retrieve some for him and he said, "My gum's just not violent enough lately."

Don't you just love that sentence, that utterance?

"My gum's just not violent enough lately."

We both chew the same brand and flavor, but he had mistakenly bought Peppermint instead of our usual Polar Ice. Polar Ice is indeed far more intense than Peppermint. Polar Ice kicks sand in Peppermint's face.

Or, put another way, flavor-wise, Polar Ice is violent.

But I was so charmed by that description. I can think of no other friend – or foe, or stranger, for that matter – who would think to describe gum as violent. But Dave would. Dave did.

And that's one of the reasons why I love him. We have music in common, but all I can do when it comes to music is appreciate it. Well, I can sing a little, too, but he can write music, a feat which blows my mind. Words, though, words I know. So I'm pleased to have friends who love words, too. A lot of people don't seem to give words much thought, but they're magic to me. Fascinating. Utilitarian in some ways, artful in others.

And sometimes, entirely inadequate.

Like now. When I'm well aware that what I'm writing is coherent yet really makes no sense.

There's no reason for this post. I just feel the need to write.

It's like excavation, getting word rubble out of the way as I dig down toward a solid idea.

Ideas, though, as I've said before, are like mercury: The more you try to grasp them, the more they slip away.

Last week, sitting at a bar in a Thai restaurant in Easton after John's funeral, I mentioned that to two new friends. One of them wisely suggested that the key to mercury lies not in attempting to capture it but in attracting other metals to it.

I wasn't much of a fan of chemistry back in the day, and a quick review of mercury on Wikipedia didn't explain all I wanted to know, but I like his idea regardless of its actual viability.

Chasing an idea? How does that make any sense? Won't it always be ahead of me? How will I gain ground? If I could catch up to it, what would I do? Tackle it? Or would it come with me willingly?

No, I like much better the notion of attracting the idea to me. It's much more agreeable. I've had many ideas before. I don't know why I got it into my head that this time, I needed to pursue one. That's not how writing works for me. That's never been the case. Like the post I referenced earlier here: I had one sentence and the rest just fell out of my brain. But that first sentence just appeared in my brain. I wasn't sitting still, fervently trying to think that particular thought. No, I was walking down the stairs to switch out loads of laundry and suddenly, there it was.

How funny to realize that the key to this particular puzzle is to stop puzzling, to understand that an idea will come to me when it is ready. In the meantime, I just need to live my life in whatever form that takes each day.

And do some laundry. And when the laundry's done, wash the dishes. And then Swiffer the floors. And then dust ... everything. Trust me, everything is dusty.

The idea will arrive when the idea arrives, but in the meantime, my house will be spotless.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Oh, I Do Amuse Myself ...

Is it just me, or does Monchhichi bear a striking resemblance to Tom Jones?