April 30, 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

Derby article went out yesterday morning. Short, sweet, and to the point. It will be up on Femmefan either Tuesday or Wednesday, so look for it. It’s called “Kentucky Derby 2007: The Horse.” I think this year’s field is much less wide open than the past few years.

I took the train in around 10 AM yesterday. A woman accompanied by three boys under the age of ten was on the train. One was her son, who was in a wheelchair; the other two were in her care for some reason, the smallest barely beyond toddler. I helped her get them on the train. We all sat together in facing seats and I made up a story to keep them entertained, giving each of them a magical power. I included the tattooed guy sitting beside us because he was so obviously listening. I may well use it as the basis for one of the train stories.

I wasn’t pleased with having to stand in line for 40 minutes outside the NYPL, and then having to walk the length of the library on a broken foot and down several flights of stairs to the PEN event.

One Neil Gaiman wanna-be (but without the intelligence, the humor, or the gentleness), in full black regalia asked me why I wasn’t in black (I was one of the few in line who was actually wearing a color). My response was, “I’m secure enough in my intellect not to need the uniform.”

However the even itself, “Voyage & Voyeur: Travel and Travel Writing” was magnificent. Moderated by Paul Holdengraber (there should be an umlaut over the “a”, but I can’t get the key code to work), the panel consisted of Alain de Botton, Ma Jian, and Illija Trojanow. The discussion (sometimes a debate) was what travel writing really IS – which is not, necessarily, a list of good deals and sightseeing. Inner and outer landscapes, getting to the depths of a place and the self, etc., etc. I agreed with much of it, disagreed with some of it, was fascinated by all of it. De Botton made a point about many people who are disappointed with travel experience because one always brings oneself. I agree, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I rather enjoy bringing myself along when I travel. The exterior cacophony is quieted, being out of my – well, I don’t exactly have a routine as a freelancer, but the usual daily chaos – and I can hear the inner voices. I can recharge the well.

Of course, the trip tomorrow is flat-out running away from the stresses of the past months – I want to pretend they don’t exist for a few days. It’s simply escape. Plus research for a Sean/Elle story and probably a backdrop for a novel, sometime in the future.

There was a lot of pushing and shoving at the book table, but I managed to purchase Ma Jian’s The Noodle Maker and de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy. I didn’t get to the stack of Trojanow’s books, and will have to hunt them down later. De Botton was kind enough to sign the book for me, and then I limped out. By now, it was far too late to cross over to the east side and up to the seminar I wanted to attend on Exile – but I was still to full of this seminar to be able to concentrate properly anyway. There were so many points to think about – far too many for a blog entry – that I decided to take the afternoon to enjoy them.

I meandered down Fifth Avenue, from the library on 42nd Street to Union Square, down on 14th Street. For some reason, standing on the broken foot hurts, but if I walk carefully, I’m okay. Good to know, since I’ll be doing some hiking on Thursday.

Once at Union Square, there was some sort of performance chaos going on within the park, and I needed some solitude, so I ducked into the B&N (not the best choice). It was packed and noisy. I found another book of de Botton’s, The Art of Travel, which I picked up (the one relevant to the seminar). I also picked up Bernard-Henri Lévy’s book American Vertigo, which I’ve wanted since it was first published, and Jeremy Mercer’s memoir of his time at Paris’s Shakespeare & Co., Time Was Soft There.

Laden down with far too many books (now THERE’s a surprise), I continued wandering down to Cloisters on E. 9th St. and had a café au lait and cappuccino cheesecake in the garden.

I set part of Tapestry in that restaurant, and it was nice to re-visit it. It’s where Nina is first introduced to Tom.

I started reading The Art of Travel, and I will forever associate it with the scent of dill wafting over from various brunch dishes. It’s an excellent book, and I found myself having a conversation with it – agreeing with parts of it, disagreeing with others. I think I travel differently than most people – which is probably why I’m not being hired by the slick travel mags! I’m not that interested in the spa at the Hilton – I’m interested in what’s available at the market and how people use it.

Wandered back to the B&N on Astor Place – big mistake. Packed, a pick-up joint, and people shouting at each other across the floors like we were in some sort of carnival. Ick. Kept wandering westward to Washington Square Park, where jazz played and magnolia blossoms wafted on the wind.

I sat and read there for awhile, until it got too cold. I’d hoped to stop in to Posman’s books, but it’s no longer just off Washington Square. Kept on going to 8th Street, headed east again. Stopped at Cosi for a coffee, and then it was time to pick up my tickets and get in line over at Cooper Union.

I left B’s ticket at the box office, got in line with my ticket, and continued reading, which was a much pleasanter way to wait. I got a good seat and saved one for B. She arrived soon after, having jumped a cab after getting out of work on the show. We settled in, and listened to the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which was given by David Grossman, who was then joined by Nadine Gordimer in conversation.

Again, it was astonishingly inspiring. He talks how the stress of daily trauma affects the life and the work, and how the desire is to someday return to something “normal.” Gordimer strongly believes that, no matter what, the social/political/daily traumas must infect and affect the characters. And Grossman spoke of the responsibility of the writer to show people that there IS another way, that there ARE other choices.

Again, the emphasis is on craft and content and responsibility to humanity, not on marketing. Salman Rushdie came on stage towards the end, to close the festival, and the emphasize that there’s room for all kinds and genres of writing, and there’s NEED for all kinds and genres of writing, but how important it is to keep these international connections and discussions going beyond the festival. And he’s absolutely right.

I was reminded again of working with the Core Freedoms/Freedom To Write program just before the holidays, writing cards to imprisoned writers all over the world. I remember the shock I felt writing an address to a labor camp in Vietnam. I’m grateful that I’m not in that situation, but I’m also aware of how spoiled I am in this life, and my responsibility to try to make the world a better place through my writing. That doesn’t mean everything has to be serious and with a Greater Purpose. But it means emphasis on content rather than market.

During the “Voyage and Voyeur” discussion, the point was made, several times, how it’s easier to tell truth in the context of fiction, which is something I’ve believed for years. People connect when it’s part of a story and part of a character about which they care.

These past days gave me a lot to think about as far as how I want to shape my work, my career, and my literary life.

B. and I wandered over to a favorite haunt of ours, Telephone Bar and Grill, on 2nd Avenue and 10th Street, to get something to eat and discuss all the ideas.

I managed to catch the 10:40 out of Grand Central. However, it was well after midnight when I got home. God forbid Metro North actually run a train. First, the excuse was that the bridge was up and we couldn’t get off Manhattan, so we sat for 15 minutes or so at 125th St. Once we got over the bridge, we stopped in the middle of nowhere for who-knows-how long. I called the Customer Service line to complain and got, “Oh, there’s a train broken down ahead of you. We don’t know how long you’ll be there.” I told them I was sick of something going wrong EVERY day, and this was the fourth time in six months something like this happened. It’s not acceptable. .

The train began to move.

Then, at two of the stops, they had bridge plates up, couldn’t line up the car to the plates, only opened one door – AND NEVER TOLD THE PASSENGERS. So we had to wait for 15 minutes at each stop while passengers scrambled to find the single open door.

The level of incompetence grows exponentially week to week. I’m sick of it. Why should we pay them? They should pay us to ride the damn train. It should not take 2 ½ hours to go 25 miles!

Today, I’m finishing my packing, doing last minute errands, getting the report off for CJ #1, and getting set for the rest of the week.

I think I’ll blog early tomorrow morning before I leave, but we’ll see.

Hope this is a great start to a great week!

Devon

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April 29, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

It was a good trip, but not an easy trip. Nothing like your family to completely tip your equilibrium!

I received the next assignment from Confidential Job #1, along with the notification that the invoice I submitted was approved. Woo-hoo! Guess they like me! I’m still waiting both for payment from Confidential Job #2 and if they’re going to give me another assignment. Another freelance job asked for samples; I sent them; when I got back yesterday, there was the exact same email asking for samples, so I RE-SENT them, with a pointed email saying that’s what I did.

Icelandair fixed the problems, with many apologies, so it all seems good – provided they actually did what they said they did. I have all the paperwork, so we’ll see.

Wednesday night, I took my friend J. to the PEN World Voices Festival – readings at Town Hall. We went in early enough to have a cocktail at the Algonquin’s Blue Bar (one of my favorite places). I had a sidecar – they make the best sidecars ever.

The event itself was amazing! Tonight’s event was “Writing Home”. Salman Rushdie provided the introduction – and, three times, admonished people to turn off their cell phones and some idiot’s phone STILL went off halfway through! The writers reading from their work were: Steve Martin, Pia Tafdrup, Don DeLillo, Tatayana Tolstaya, Saaadi Youssef, Kiran Desai, Alain Mabanckou, Neil Gaiman, Nadine Gordimer, and Salman Rushdie. Each one was uniquely exquisite.

We left walking on air. What a wonderful way to replenish the soul!

THIS is a writers’ conference. A place where writers share ideas and responsibility and use their talents to change the world, to make it a better place. This is an international organization of writers committed to justice, peace, and making a difference in the world, inspiring everyone with whom they come into contact, and I am honored to be a part of it.

THIS is what a writers’ conference should be, rather than what most are – places where wanna-be writers try to find agents for books that will never be written and go to marketing seminars for work that they’ll never finish. Yes, it’s important for conferences to provide the business protocols on a regular basis, both because of the constant influx of starting writers and those who, no matter how many times they’re told, believe none of it pertains to THEM, but there’s really nothing out there for the working writer. Conferences bring together starting out writers and wanna-be writers with best-sellers. There is nothing for the steadily working writer who’s crafting a career – and a life – in the art form without bestseller-dom or spending 80% of the time marketing rather than writing.

PEN’s festival is about craft and content, not marketing. There was a sense of community, of writers and readers embracing each other, rather than a sense of competition and cliques which pervades so many conferences. These are people who want to talk to those who attend, who want to interact, who give a damn. They are confident in their skills and their work and in their sense of responsibility to humanity at large, but also humble.

It was an eye-opening, soul-reviving, life-changing experience.

Afterwards, J. and I went to the Campbell Apartment for another drink and to continue that feeling of well-being (because once we got on wonky, unreliable Metro North, it was hard to maintain).

I’m seriously thinking of writing a book of short stories based on Metro North nightmares. Darkly funny. Because there’s got to be a way to make positive use out of all the pain and frustration this train line causes on a daily basis!

Unfortunately, when I got home, I discovered that I’d broken the little toe on my left foot and it was black and swollen. I knew I’d tripped over something earlier in the day, but didn’t think it was a big deal.

It was. I had to adjust it (all together now – Owww!), ice it, and tape it.

Since I got home after midnight, I had a heck of a time getting up at 4:30 on Thursday morning. We were an hour late starting off for Maine – and I was up, I was packed, but I couldn’t get it together to get out of the house!

The drive up was fine, as always. The Rabbit drives like a dream and loves the highway. We stopped at my favorite Nutcracker Bakery in Newburyport, MA for coffee and a snack, then I nipped in to visit Jabberwocky Books there. If you’re ever in Newburyport, or near it, you MUST visit Jabberwocky – it’s an amazing bookstore and right next to the bakery. Tess Gerritsen turned me on to that place, and every time I go to and from Maine, I thank her for it!

We meandered through lower Maine the way we usually do – did some shopping in Kittery, stopped at the thrift shop in York, the Book Barn in Wells – which is about to close! After 25 years, they are going into semi-retirement and only working online via Alibris. The two lovely frame houses that are the store and the house have been sold to the shopping center beside them. I hope they’re not torn down! I bought my two final books there, and will miss them terribly.

We made our usual stop in Stonewall Kitchen in York. Stocked up on some more of their Wild Maine Blueberry jam, horseradish cream, shallot and champagne mustard, and they had a spicy corn relish that’s so good I bought the biggest jar they carry.

My grandmother had asked us to buy a few things on the way in, so we went to the Wells Food Mart (beside the bookstore) to get things. Then, it was a stop at the wonderful Maine Diner for a lobster lunch, and back onto the Maine Turnpike at Kennebunk. Those Bushes really ought to give the town some money to fix the roads! They can spare it, and the roads are in bad shape!

We got to my grandmother’s, unloaded the car, and filled up the freezer with all the things I’d cooked. My grandmother is too ill to cook anymore, so when I go up, I cook batches of things she and her brother like, put them in microwave containers, and stock her freezer. We also brought her a stack of Large Print mysteries – her eyesight’s failing, so she can’t see to read unless it’s Large Print. I taught her how to run the CD player I’d given her for Christmas so she could listen to the Books on Tape I’d bought (because no one else could be bothered to take the two and a half minutes to figure it out). My grandmother’s cousin and her granddaughter stopped by, whom I’d never met, so we had a nice visit.

We ordered in food from Bob’s Seafood over in Windham, and my great-uncle got a ride in the new car with me to get it, which was fun. We visited and caught up. My grandmother’s Parkinson’s is much worse, but she says it’s better since they switched her medication, so I can only imagine how bad it was in the interim.

My foot was killing me, so I put it up and iced it off and on for a few hours (in ten minute bursts – any more and it hurts the nerves).

Friday morning, I read a colleague’s manuscript (which is GREAT by the way. Not good – GREAT. Any agent or publisher who doesn’t snatch it up immediately is a complete and utter moron and the publishing industry is DOOMED). Meanwhile, I had the laundry going downstairs. We’d brought up two loads of laundry from NY, because we don’t know when we’ll have a laundry room again, and they had some laundry, and since I AM a laundry goddess, I did the whole lot of it.

My grandmother felt well enough to dress and wanted to come shopping. We made a list and went to Shaw’s. I LOVE that store! Ever so much better than many of the stores around here. And everyone’s so friendly and helpful. And it’s set up logically. The matches are with the lighter fluid and fireplace logs instead of in the middle of the dish soap (as in one store here) – and most stores in my area no longer sell kitchen matches “because everyone has a lighter”. So I stocked up on things like kitchen matches and oyster crackers to take back to NY, and got my grandmother’s grocery shopping done, and then ran into Staples to get some 3 hole punch paper (which is hard to get down here, but it’s what I use for drafts because I put them in binders).

Got Grandma back home, the groceries put away, the laundry folded, more work done on the manuscript. Then, it was back to Bob’s Seafood for lobster rolls for lunch (yum). After lunch, I had to head back out because I had to find a place to get keys copied. I have a 30 year old security lock on my door here, which does make me feel secure, but a single key makes me nervous. Down here, key cutters shrug and say they “can’t.” So I thought maybe a more rural area would have more resourceful locksmiths.

I found one, and I learned more than I ever knew about making and matching keys. You know it’s going to come in handy in a story someday. He was absolutely lovely, and I may need to base a character in something on him someday. Of course, I couldn’t test the keys until we got back to NY yesterday, but – they work! Ta-Da!

Did some other shopping (like I needed to spend the money). Came back to the house, finished the manuscript, wrote up the notes, and my grandmother’s sister-in-law stopped by, and we also had a nice visit. Then I started the next assignment for Confidential Job #1, fixed dinner, and helped my grandmother go through some things which I took back here to NY to get repaired – since I’m in wardrobe, I know the places that specialize in these kinds of repairs.

Somewhere in all of this, I ended up with a tick on me, which nearly sent me over the edge, but I got it off and stomped on it before it bit me. Two of my friends have had Lyme Disease, and it’s left them with permanent damage. I’m just glad I noticed it before it had the chance to chomp.

Up early yesterday morning, got my grandmother sorted out, packed the car. We were on the road by 7:30, and stopped in Ongonquit at The Egg & I for breakfast. I’ll be writing about this restaurant soon. The short version: The best eggs benedict I’ve ever had anywhere, and scrumptious coffee. Delightful! Not only is the food great and the atmosphere welcoming, but the other diners were all cheerful and interesting.

Back on the road, stopped in Newburyport for gas. Picked up a Boston Globe, but was halfway across the MASS pike before I saw that I missed my colleague Jon Clinch by MINUTES. He was appearing at 10 AM in Newburyport – I’d taken gas at 9:50 only a mile down the road, but didn’t find out about it until I stopped at a rest area and glanced at the paper around noon! Talk about ships that pass in the night! Jon’s book is FINN – if you haven’t read it, read it. It’s a harsh, beautiful book. I would have loved to stop by and support him.

Stopped in Sturbridge, MA, at Earth Spirits, to stock up on incense and oils. Their quality is so terrific it’s always worth the stop.

Stopped at a bookstore down the street from me on the way in, looking for Jill Shalvis’s latest to take with me on the plane on Tuesday. They didn’t have it. They didn’t have ANY of her books. I was NOT amused. I said, “The reason better be that you’ve sold through them and your re-orders haven’t yet arrived. The next time I walk in here, I expect to see an ENTIRE SHELF of her books!” I bought DANCING SHOES AND HONKY TONK BLUES by Luann McLane and SUSANNAH’S GARDEN by Debbie Macomber, both of which look good. That, along with POISON STUDY, should work for the trip.

The cats were glad to see me. I unpacked, finished the assignment for Confidential Job #1, and tried to get settled for today.

Worked on my pre-Derby article, the manuscript critique, and the report for CJ#1. Got the critique done and out; have most of the report for CJ#1 complete. The Derby piece still needs more work, but I have to finish it before I head for the city this morning.

Today, I’m at the PEN World Voices Festival again all day – I can’t wait. It’s like finding an oasis in the desert. I come out of these sessions so inspired and so honored to be in the company of people like these writers. And most of the attendees are pretty fascinating, too.

I had to move the car again when I came back – the brook’s too high, and, even on Friday, there was some concern of yet another flood.

I can’t really go into the emotional impact of the trip. It’s difficult to see my grandmother, who could always run rings around everyone, grow more and more frail. And, on the one hand, she’s appreciative that I come up and do all the things no one else thinks are important enough to take the time to do, but, on the other hand, she’s always harping on me. She’s proud of all the other relatives and what they’ve accomplished, but I’m the black sheep – and only because I’m not married and not popping out babies all the time. She’s finally accepted the fact that I’ll never get “a real job” and that I’m making a decent living in the theatre and now, switching to the freelancing. She’s stopped telling me that, “well, you’ll HAVE to do something you hate if you want to succeed in this world” and I’ve stopped countering with, “I won’t.”

I think a friend of mine is correct when he said that, because she made the choice of duty to “give up her art” (she was a talented artist) in order to devote herself to her husband, and then, after he died and her sister-in-law died, to move back to Maine to “take care” of her brother, she resents the fact that I’ve always refused to make the same decision. I’m willing to support and care for the man in my life – but not to the extent of dismissing or giving up my own writing. I won’t do it. And, according to my friend, whether she’s conscious of it or not, she has to punish me for that decision. And the fact that I can make it work.

Most of the time I get so upset and enraged and hurt that I’m beside myself by the time I leave. This time, I remembered the part of “detachment” that yoga always talks about and decided to apply it. I’m not denying that it hurt, frustrated, and annoyed me. But, this time, I decided it wasn’t going to fester, nor was I going to start an argument. There was far too much to do, too little time in which to do it, and I’ve had way too much to deal with in the past months to have to defend my choices to ANYONE. And I could move through the anger and hurt much more easily by not letting it infect me like a cut that wasn’t properly cleaned. It’s almost as though catching and destroying the tick before it bit me was symbolic of the entire trip.

Off to PEN, to waft on the wings of inspiration for the day.

Devon

April 25, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cooler

So, some self-righteous, sanctimonious, smug woman on a writing forum made a comment about how an agent must not be married and have kids and therefore has time to blog. I’m so sick and tired of married women with kids acting like they are the ONLY ones with busy lives. Honey, you aren’t. You’re not that important, and the world does not revolve around you and your kids, although YOUR world might. Get over yourself. There are plenty of people who are unmarried and childless who are making the world a better place, and to give you a world in which to raise your kids.

Mia King is a mother and a writer, and has one of the most balanced outlooks on her writing and family life that I’ve ever come across. It’s so refreshing to hear a writer who is a woman and a mother not use her kids as an excuse not to write. Men rarely make that excuse – although, when they do, it’s “my wife won’t let me” – which makes me want to barf. Are you over 21? An adult? There’s no such thing as a spouse “letting” or “not letting” unless you’re a major wimp or in an abusive situation that you should leave. Again, this is an example of a person refusing to take responsibility for his or her own life.

Mia TAKES responsibility. She balances. She knows that a career she loves does not have to endanger the family she loves. Go, Mia! May your success grow book to book, because you certainly deserve it! Jill Shalvis is another writer who keeps the balance going well – and also has a sense of humor about it.

Mothers who say they want to write should look to those two women as examples of positive ways to balance the writing life with the family life.

Work was fine yesterday. New York was unpleasant – too many people in too small a space, everyone trying to get somewhere. The usual. I’m booked for a couple of weeks when I get back from my trips in May – so that’s good. Pay some bills, replace some money used for the car.

Good thing I don’t have to go in until tonight – Metro North is down – again! Tonight, I’m taking my friend J. to one of the events at the PEN World Voices conference. We’re going early enough to stop at the Algonquin for drinks first (provided the trains run properly).

Verizon came to fix the landline yesterday and screwed up the DSL. When I called to complain, they said it was not possible for me to have working DSL without a dial tone. Then what have I been doing since last Friday? IMAGINING my time on line?

I’m so tired of idiots.

No response from Icelandiar. I am even less impressed with them than I was 24 hours ago.

Trying to get some writing done, after I scour the job boards and see if there are pitches to get out.

I’m offline for the next few days – planned. I’m going to Maine to visit my grandmother –and to do laundry – because who knows when the laundry rooms will be fixed in the building? Not a complaint, mind you – they are working their butts off to get the building back to rights. And they have to scour everything with bleach, because the smells have traveled up the old dumbwaiter shafts (one of those round stick-to-the-wall closet things helps). I checked out a few Laundromats in the area – they’re kind of dirty, and I’m not too happy with them. My friend, at whose house I often do laundry, lost his whole laundry room in the flood and has to rip everything out a renovate, too. I can’t take it to work, because there’s too much show laundry (and I don’t REALLY want to haul laundry on a three hour round trip commute on the train). I’ll hand wash as much as I can here at home, and we’ll play the rest by ear.

I’m doing my pre-Derby article that will appear next week on FemmeFan. Finally, I can reveal my Derby horse – I promised I’d stay quiet until Derby week, so the horse could do its work and mature without additional pressure.

The Plum essays were sent out for a final proof. It looks good, and I’m excited about the book’s release in June. Perfectly Plum – you can pre-order it from Amazon.

Have a great rest-of-the-week, all, and, hopefully, both landline and DSL will be working when I return.

Devon

PS  There are a lot of great moms and writing moms who read this blog.  Needless to say, I do not mean YOU — although you’re probably the ones who then worry you’re being too self-centered when you’re not.  I’m fortunate enough to have attracted a group of generous spirits here.

April 24, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

Three pitches out yesterday; one request back for samples, which immediately went out. More questions to the possible gig in negotiation.

Keeping on top of the paperwork is one of the biggest pain-in-the-ass elements of freelancing.

I still don’t exist as far as Blogger is concerned, so please forgive me, friends, for not leaving comments. Brandy, Rhian, Sue, Melissa, Melissa, Diane, etc., thanks for all the support you always offer. It means a lot.

Managed to spend about an hour in the sun, which was great. Every little bit helps.

Talked to my friend’s mom – they’re not selling, they’re rebuilding, and temporarily living with relatives right now. They are determined not to leave, but to be active in finding a solution for the flooding problems.

Finished the assignment for Confidential Job #1 and sent it off. Whew! That one was tough.

I’m just going to take a moment to say how UN-impressed I am with Icelandair. I had to fire off a strongly worded email this morning (because God forbid they do anything via telephone except leave you on hold for 40+ minutes and on my cell phone, especially, that is NOT acceptable). I booked with them because I heard they were friendly and efficient. They’re hit and miss with the friendly, and definitely not efficient, thus far. They have a chance to revise my opinion – let’s hope they do so.

Still no landline and no idea when it’ll be fixed. It’s fine, as long as the DSL works – but I expect a credit on my next bill! Nine days and counting!

I have to pull it together and go to the theatre. Not in the mood, although I’m sure I’ll be happy to see everyone. But, with all the chaos, I didn’t get a chance to do yoga this morning, AND I didn’t get in my writing session. Not a happy camper.

Let’s hope my mood improves during the course of the day. I might have to stop in to Godiva! 😉

Devon

Published in: on April 24, 2007 at 8:41 am  Comments (6)  

April 23, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and hot!

It’s supposed to hit 85 degrees today! Nice to stand in the sun for awhile, after all the cold and damp.

Late start today. Acupuncture was wonderful yesterday, although I’ve never had so many needles before. But I feel much better, and I had the first good, long yoga session this morning in over a week. I also came across some new sequences for specific problems that I’m going to integrate into my practice.

I have to finish the assignment for Confidential Job #1 today. This one is a slog – really difficult to get through. The first two were great. But that’s sometimes the way it goes, and it’s one of the challenges of the gig, right?

I have to do some negotiating with a gig I landed last week, and see what’s on the job boards.

I want to spend some time outside in the sunshine as well.

Spooky’s owner returned the carrier last night (a pleasant surprise). If I understood him correctly, Spooky’s back. But the whole point of removing him was to take him to a safe, flood-free environment, so I don’t know what the heck is going on. Well, if he’s back, he’ll be at the door any time. The girls keep running to the door, so it’s likely he’s around again.

Someone’s moved in upstairs (the apartment’s been empty for over a year) – and he’s not light on his feet! 😉 The girls are NOT amused – they keep looking at the ceiling and frowning.

I’m sure we’ll have another city-wide meeting on the flooding, and now that the county and state are getting involved, maybe something will get done. However, if it’s not done by hurricane season – which is, what? Like, June? We’re screwed. You can’t undo 30 years of overbuilding in a month and change.

Fortunately, we have Spitzer instead of Pataki as our governor now, and he’s actually been touring around to look at the damage himself (and NOT just in Mamaroneck, the way Hilary has for photo ops), so maybe something will get done. To answer Yvonne’s question, I’m 25 miles north of Manhattan, on the Long Island Sound.

I want to pack away all the materials for the Plum essay and use that crate for the research material for Good Names. I hope to get back to that, and I have ideas for some short stories spiraling around . . .

Better get to it.

Still no landline (thank you, Verizon), but with a cell phone and the DSL, I’m okay. I expect credit for the days missed, but I can deal. As I said, the guys out in the field are great — it’s the customer service people who need training in dealing with people who’s been through a crisis.

What I really want to do is sleep for about a week. On the one hand, I’m okay. On the other, I’m not. It’s part of the process of dealing with something like this. It’s the people who refuse to even attempt any sort of coping with whom I have no patience, because they put a greater burden on everyone else, instead of pulling their weight. And those who whine the most usually are the ones who had the least at stake and lost the least. If we all help each other, we can get through it and figure out a way to improve things. If some people make it all about them (and they’re not the ones who need the help), it hurts everyone.

Devon

Published in: on April 23, 2007 at 9:33 am  Comments (7)  

April 22, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and warm

Where do I even start? The newspaper took down the photos and the link I posted a few days ago is broken. But the flood was much worse than last time. The water was 6-7 feet higher. It almost entered the first floor apartments.

Standing by my window, watching the parking lot next door fill up was like watching water rise in a bathtub. Once I have some time, I’ll download and post some of the photos. Many of what would be the most striking photos didn’t come out, because the highest tide was at 10:30 PM on the night of April 15, and it was dark. The camera’s flash wasn’t strong enough to illuminate the area.

I moved my car four times. The final time, when the street in front of my building went under water (which hasn’t happened in over 100 years) – we had to wade through chest-high water through the building’s courtyard. We came around the corner as Con Ed cut the power line so we wouldn’t get electrocuted. I asked where I should move my car, and the cop told me up to the train station, because, “if that lot goes under, the QE II’s coming down Purchase Street, and we might as well all get on it.”

By the time I moved the car (less than 10 minutes), the water was too deep to go back through the courtyard. Fortunately, a first floor neighbor was still home and opened her window, letting us all back in through the window.

Most of us helped the tenants on the first floor move their stuff up to higher floors and evacuate their animals. Three out of four apartments on the first floor of our section chose to evacuate. One grumpy old man with his grumpy old cat (she sat in the window and hissed at the rising water) elected to stay; I told him that if there was a problem, he should come up to my third floor place and knock on the door – we’d figure something out.

Inflatable boats came to evacuate the elderly and pregnant, but soon the current was too strong for them. So, anyone else who wanted to leave had to go to a balcony on the second floor of another section (we could cross over the roof). The fire department set down a cherry picker horizontally and positioned firefighters on each side to coax residents crawling along over the rungs on their knees as the water rushed below them.

Meanwhile – my neighbor agreed to take in Spooky since her cat died last week, she had all the stuff for a cat, and it was currently a cat-less apartment. An hour later – she tossed him back out into the hall, with the water rising! What would have happened if his reflexes weren’t good enough to keep him from landing in that sludgy water? I grabbed him and tossed him into the apartment with my girls, where, I must say, he was a perfect gentleman. They were a little surprised, but, other than some hissing, they all got along.

In my world, you do NOT throw a living creature out into danger NO MATTER WHAT. Whether on four legs or two, you just don’t do that.

Meanwhile, Idiot Neighbor is running up and down the stairs screaming because the fire department won’t drop everything and evacuate her and her teen-aged daughter by boat. Now, neither one was ever in any danger (third floor), there was plenty of opportunity for them to be evacuated across the ladder, and they didn’t help ANYONE else who was actually in danger. Instead – it was all about them. She actually expected the fire department to stop evacuating a pregnant woman and an elderly woman who had an oxygen tank and take her out instead. Not after or later – but INSTEAD. This is after, in the flood six weeks ago, I helped her move everything out of the basement, where she stored stuff ILLEGALLY and carried an entire room’s worth of stuff up from the basement to the fourth floor (she carried two boxes). And she couldn’t help anyone?

Her behavior was completely unjustified, and is the culmination of several years of parasitic behavior. She doesn’t respect any boundaries – I’ve asked her a million times not to bang on my door when I’m working unless it’s an emergency, but to call and when I check messages, I’ll get back to her (and at least three times a week it’s because “I ran out of conditioner.” “I don’t have enough milk for my cereal.” “Do you have any paper?” – Not that she EVER reciprocates). I’ve even put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door – and she knocks because “it means you’re home.” I stopped being polite to her when she does that awhile ago, and now – if I never speak to her again, it’ll be too soon.

It was a relief when she was gone.

Of course, by then, there was no power, no phone. But, you know what? Our ancestors lived without electricity for hundreds of years. A few days wasn’t going to be that bad. It wasn’t that cold. Those of us who stayed basically turned the place into a cross between a college dorm and a camp-out. We shared supplies, checked on each other, etc., etc. Later, I found out that it wasn’t the case in other sections of the building. We’re lucky here. Except for that one Idiot Neighbor, everyone else pretty much holds together.

The gas line was still working, so we could heat up water (we had to boil all the water; it was contaminated), and we could make hot water bottles. We had candles, matches, extra batteries.

In our apartment, we actually found a fluorescent lamp someone gave us years ago – it was bright enough to light the entire room, and we could sit up and read with it. And we had batteries for the radio, so we could hear a little bit about what went on around us.

Can I just say CBS radio was inexcusable? To tell us to “check the website” for shelter listings? Exactly how are we supposed to do that when there’s no power? It’s not like the Wi-Fi was working, either.

I was the only person in the section with a working cell phone. I did all I could to preserve the battery in case of emergency, hoping that in a few days the water would recede enough so that I could get up the hill to the police department and recharge.

Spooky cried most of Sunday night. He wanted to get out (being mostly an outdoor cat). But I ignored him, and eventually he settled down. He was fascinated by the morning routine of the girls – watched from a near-by chair as the trio poked and prodded me awake in the morning. He was lovely – ate his breakfast, took his bath, looked out of the window. He scooted into the hallway once when I answered the door, but stopped when he saw the four inches of mud in the vestibule and turned around, asking me to pick him up and take him back to the apartment. I washed his feet (he didn’t like that) – but still, he never really fought.

The water didn’t recede until nearly 8 AM on Monday morning (having flooded in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday). From what we could hear on the radio, the flood waters in New Jersey were still rising.

The usual group of us who band together in a crisis made the rounds, checking on people still in the building, seeing who needed what, etc. Some of the first floor residents came back from the shelter; some elected to stay. Even though New York passed a law saying pets can be brought into shelters, the American Red Cross retains their no-pets policy – which I find completely unacceptable. They did allow some people to stay out in the unheated hallways of the shelter with their pets, but they should be forced to create separate but equal areas. It’s not that hard.

Spooky figured he had a good, cushy gig going. And I think it was the first time he felt he could sleep safely for hours and hours in who knows how long.

My friend J. and I walked down the street to a new pet store, recently opened. They’d gotten all the animals out, but lost all the merchandise in the basement and had two feet of water in the store. I’d hoped to buy an extra cat carrier (I had more cats than carriers at this point), and the owner simply handed me one, when he heard I’d rescued a cat. I told him I’d come back and pay for it when the store re-opened.

At 10 o’clock that night, someone pounded on my door and said, “You have my cat.” This guy, I guess, is Spooky’s owner – although why the cat’s been living in the courtyard for the last five years, and been fed by nearly a dozen people is beyond me. So he borrowed the carrier and is taking the cat to live at his mother’s house. He said he’d return the carrier – but, of course, he hasn’t. And he acted as though I tried to steal his cat. Talking to other people in the building, they can’t figure out why he thinks it’s his cat since he never took care of it.

But if Spooky has a good, safe home, it’s all fine.

Tuesday, I trudged across the street to the train station, got on the train and went to the theatre. I showered there, and recharged my phone, and did my day work, then turned around and came back home. By this time, Con Ed was handing out dry ice, so several people from the building went and stocked up for everyone else.

The girls searched and searched for Spooky. I realize he’s been in and out a lot during the past six weeks after the last flood – but I hadn’t realized they’d accepted him!

We’d hoped to have power back by Wednesday, but no such luck. Con Ed was out of dry ice by then and had no idea where to get more. I found bags of ice at a grocery store the next town over, and, by putting Tupperware containers filled with ice cubes in and around the food, we could keep it cold. Electrical inspectors came and went and threatened and played God, without giving us any useful guidance as to what we could do to get things into a state where they’d give Con Ed the okay to flip the switch for us.

The landlines were still out, except for one woman’s phone in the building. Every time someone called Verizon to report the outage, they acted like it was news the entire town was under water. Although the guys in the trucks were great, Verizon really needs to train their customer service reps to respond in a crisis with both courtesy AND compassion, because they weren’t showing anyone either.

However, some of the people working with the super managed to jerry rig something or other so we got back the hot water. What a huge difference hot water made, both physically and psychologically!

A few of us went out to dinner on Wednesday night, just to get a change of scenery and try to figure out how to mitigate problems next time.

Idiot Neighbor wafted through and tried to start something with me in front of other tenants. I refused to engage. I was perfectly cordial – but I refused to engage. And God forbid she should ask if anyone needed anything or if she could do anything to help anyone.

Still no power on Thursday morning, but that hot shower made a big difference! Again, checking on everyone, restocking the ice, splitting up the tasks, trying to help scrub things down. By this time, I’d moved my car down from the train station back to Purchase St., but I wasn’t going to put it back in my lot until the flood advisories stopped.

Thursday, after dinner, my friend J. and I took a walk around the surrounding neighborhood. Oh, my god. Six weeks ago, it was bad, but this was much, much worse. The entire neighborhood directly next to our building went under water – some houses all the way up to the second floor. Every driveway has a dumpster in it, and people are trying to clear out. Some people have power back; some got the orange stickers declaring their entire electrical systems have to be replaced. It’s heartbreaking.

We ran into friends of J’s – and friends of theirs who happen to be two people with whom I went to high school and haven’t seen since 1980! Bizarre reunion. I like the people they’ve become more than I liked them in high school, which is a good thing.

It was cheering to return from our walk to find out that the power was back on – although by that point, we couldn’t remember to turn on the light switches!

Friday, I discovered that my DSL worked, even though the landline was still out – so I could get back into communication with the world again. Friday night, they jerry-rigged it so we could get some heat and dry things out – which is nice, since by Friday the damp chill had really permeated. The cable came back on by Friday night, which was kind of non-essential. Although catching up on the news was pretty sad. However, as I said, our ancestors lived like this for years. It’s inconvenient, but not impossible. But I admit, as the mod cons come back on – I’m enjoying them!

Got out three pitches and a submission – and heard back a positive on one of the pitches.

Yesterday, I waited for Verizon, who, of course, never showed up, although they promised to be there “between 10 and 6.”

J. and I managed to take a walk around town (someone else had agreed to wait for Verizon for all of us). One of the bridges has a five foot sinkhole in it and has been closed to be rebuilt. Several businesses are devastated. And some are worried because the insurance companies are making noise that they can only enter one claim per calendar year. They better fight that one, if it’s true.

Habitat for Humanity has come in to help people here and in the surrounding towns rebuild. When I get back from my trips, I’ll do some volunteer work with them. I ran into the sister of the woman who was my best friend growing up – her parents have survived this for forty years, but this time, with the water halfway up the first floor – they’re packing up one final time and going. They’ve had it.

The towns upriver don’t give a damn if we drown in the bathtub of their overdevelopment. It’s time to make them care.

I didn’t do much yesterday – the exhaustion overwhelmed me. I’m on my way to the acupuncturist, and then I have to finish an assignment for Confidential Job #1, and start a manuscript a colleague sent. It’s beautiful out, and at least I can enjoy the outdoors a little bit, in all this chaos.

In the midst of all of this, Mia King sent me a lovely, cheerful package from Hawaii, which arrived on Tuesday and brightened things up around here considerably. Thank you, Mia!

And a delicious box from Strand books arrived with the research materials for Good Names.

Off to get poked and prodded into wellness.

Sorry I can’t comment on Blogger blogs – according to them, I don’t exist. I am reading them, though!

Devon

PS Um, Happy Earth Day? 😉

Published in: on April 22, 2007 at 11:21 am  Comments (10)  

Persona Non Grata

That’s what I am, according to Blogger/Blogspot. If you have a blog on blogspot, yes, I am stopping by, but I can’t comment. Because, according to them, I don’t exist.

Guess what? They get to pay for therapy if I start to have identity issues! 😉

Seriously, if you’ve got a blog on blogger and have had trouble lately — consider moving it. They are getting worse and worse. The lack of respect for both bloggers and visitors is quite revolting.

Published in: on April 22, 2007 at 10:13 am  Comments (4)  

Flood –worst in 100 years

To see the devastation in our town, go here:

We just got power back after five days without. No heat or phone or cable (though the DSL is working). I’m okay; mom’s okay; cats are okay; car okay.

Lots to tell, but it’s been a little busy here.

Back soon.

Devon

Published in: on April 20, 2007 at 7:46 am  Comments (15)  

April 15, 2007

Saturday, April 15, 2007
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Raining and cold

I cooked yesterday. And cooked and cooked and cooked: batches of food I plan to take up to my grandmother later in the week; extra in case it floods. Food that can be eaten hot or cold. Ratatouille, leek-and-potato in mushroom sauce, carrot/parsnip sauté, pasta salad with fresh vegetables, chicken, sour cream coffee cake (I wanted to use up the sour cream in case the power goes out. I’ve got some canned food in, extra batteries, and I’m boiling water and filling jugs.

Spooky was here for breakfast, but wouldn’t come in to the apartment (even though Elsa tried to make friends) – so I’m hoping he doesn’t wander too far afield, especially not into the basement.

The car’s been moved twice – now it’s way up a hill, hopefully also sheltered from the winds.

The brook’s higher than my comfort level, and the tide is still coming in.

The county and city managed to get the Reverse 911 out in time, so everyone’s been warned. Hopefully, they’re listening.

I’m said to miss my friend Jackie’s book party tonight, but I can’t see how I could get to the city – or get back.

So, I’m going to hunker down and deal with what needs to be dealt with here. I hope it’s not as bad as the predictions – but we’re all much more prepared than we were last month. I expect the power will go out at some point, so if you don’t hear from me for a few days, don’t worry – just think good thoughts.

I’m hoping to get some of Confidential Job #1 done, and some writing done, even if it’s by candlelight. The Chicago Historical Society pointed me in a great direction for some resources, as did the person from the hotel who answered my request. It’s all very exciting.

And I’m still hoping to head to Maine later this week.

Most overused word in this entry: “hope”. But it’s just what I need.

Devon

PS My taxes are complete and ready to mail – without Turbo Tax – but I’m going to wait until the flood waters recede before sending them out!

Published in: on April 15, 2007 at 9:34 am  Comments (22)  

April 14, 2007

Saturday, April 14, 2007
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and cold

“Expect to evacuate.”

That’s what we’re being told about the nor’easter expected to hit this area over the weekend.

Remember the flood photos from last month?

This is supposed to be worse.

Of course, right now, it’s sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and the birds are singing.

I’m stocking up on supplies, going out for some more stuff this morning, preparing foods that will keep, boiling water, etc., etc.

Moving the car to higher ground.

And hoping for the best.

Devon

Published in: on April 14, 2007 at 9:01 am  Comments (10)  

Friday the 13th! (of April)

Friday, April 13, 2007
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
FRIDAY THE 13TH!
Cloudy and cold

I adore Friday the 13th, and find that I usually experience wonderful days. I feel pity and contempt for the ignorant who fear it. It’s all about creating your own reality. If you decide it’s going to be a day of bad luck, that’s what it’ll be. If you’re so weak-minded that you believe some repressed religious fanatic who calls the day evil – you get the reality you create. A DAY is not evil. What individuals chose to DO in that day is good or bad, depending upon choices and consequences.

ME Ellis over on Nutter’s Gang praised me so beautifully in yesterday’s entry that it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, and please know that you are an inspiration!

The latest issues of The Scruffy Dog Review is out and my topic in “The Literary Athlete” column is “The Importance of Distance.” You can read the article here:

Felt better yesterday by late morning. Met a friend for lunch in Old Greenwich, in spite of the bad weather, and then stopped at Greenwich Library on the way home to stock up on Large Print mysteries from the sale shelves to take up to my grandmother. And, of course, I found a few books that I was interested in as well. They’re only 50 cents for hardcovers and 25 cents for paperbacks, so one can make out pretty well there.

Puttered too much in the afternoon – did some research for Good Names, did some research on a couple of markets to which I’m considering pitching.

Someone’s been swiping my Elle magazines. Now, if someone can’t afford a subscription, I’m happy to pass the mag on – when I’m done. But I’m tired of not getting every other issue because someone’s swiped it, never to be returned, the company “can’t” replace it, and merely extends my subscription. First of all, stealing mail – even a magazine – is a federal offense. Second – I shouldn’t have to go out and purchase every other issue when I’ve paid for a subscription. Third – believe it or not, subscriptions to fashion magazines are part of my business, and I need them to be able to do my work. The thief better hope I don’t find out his or her identity. End of min-rant.

Did I work on my taxes? Surely, you jest!

Sad news: My neighbor called me in tears this morning to tell me her cat died during the night. She is inconsolable, understandably so. He was a dear, sweet cat, and I hope they find out what happened. RIP Marley. I hugged my girls a little tighter today.

I’d started to work on Good Names, but my neighbor’s phone call put an end to that. It was more important to try to comfort her in her loss.

Off to the theatre this afternoon.

The meteorologists are saying we’ll be hit with the worst flooding in years in this area. I’m moving the car. Again. And hoping no tree or telephone pole falls on it.

Devon

Published in: on April 13, 2007 at 8:12 am  Comments (9)  

April 12, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cold and raining

I just got back from checking the brook. It’s high, but hasn’t hit my personal discomfort level yet. I moved the car to higher ground last night, though. If the rain stops at noon, as the meteorologists promise, with the tide going out, I think we’ll squeak by. Otherwise . . .

And on Sunday, it’s expected to flood again.

If it’s like last month, there will be a riot at city hall. One of the frustrations repeatedly voiced over the past few nights – both at the Town Meeting and at last night’s City Council meeting, is that there’s too much talking and not enough action. It’s not that our City Council doesn’t care or doesn’t try, because they do – unfortunately, the towns upriver have made it clear that they don’t care whether or not we flood. I want to know why they are allowed to put lives in danger and what action can be taken against them.

I seem to be fighting a flu relapse somewhat – the headache, aches, unhappy tummy. I managed to talk myself out of it yesterday (something to be said for mind over matter). Got my errands done, got a bit of work done, sent out some research questions to Chicago for Good Names (and one hotel even responded already)!

My next assignment from Confidential Job #1 isn’t that much fun. Rather pedestrian. But, not every one can be glowing and great, can it? I’ll slog through it and give my honest response. But it won’t be easy! 😉

Took the train into the city and managed to spend a few hours with an old friend before his gig at Donnell Library. We caught up on a lot of stuff and, in general, had a really good time. It’s nice when you have friends where, even if you haven’t seen each other in awhile, you can pick up the conversation as though no time as elapsed.

Because of the weather situation, I didn’t get much done on Good Names this morning – not enough to update the word thingy. I tried to put in the Writertopia meter, but can’t get it to work here. And I tried to sign up for the Punkymoods, but, for some reason, it thinks the name “Devon” contains numbers and “only letters can be used to sign in.” If their system is that dumb, forget it.

I’ve got some submissions and pitches to get out today, I have to work on my taxes, and need to hop over to Greenwich for a lunch thingy. (I went to college, can’t you tell from that great vocabulary)?

It looks like Confidential Job #2 is going to keep me around for awhile, but until all “i’s are dotted and all “t’s” crossed – I’m not counting it as a done deal.

Keep your fingers crossed the brook stays within its bounds.

Devon

Published in: on April 12, 2007 at 8:52 am  Comments (8)  

April 11, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Day work was fine yesterday, although the train ride in and out was no fun. It never ceases to amaze me – I love train travel, but this commuter crap is always a nightmare.

Ran into an actor on the street as I left. We worked together on a show a few years ago; he’s been doing another show, and it’s packing up to do a stint in LA. Good for him. Talked to another friend on another show who’s giving me a list of recommendations for my trip. And talked to one of my colleagues who’s taking the leap from the show on which she’s working (much to the shock of her fellow workers) to do an independent film. Good for her!

I’m waiting to hear from Confidential Job #2 if they liked my work on the assignment, or if they decided to go with someone else. Typical LA – they want it yesterday, you deliver, and then they take their time to get back to you. I hope they keep me on, because I enjoyed the assignment. But, if they don’t – shrug and move on.

Went to the Town Meeting last night about the flood and what did and didn’t work. The first hour of the meeting, it felt like we were being treated like a kindergarden class – no new information, and just a waste of time. Then, the Mayor took over the meeting, talking about obstacles and solutions, and plenty of people chimed in their frustration. It doesn’t matter how often the Police Commissioner talks about how the reverse 911 went out and that cars with bullhorns went out – if people didn’t receive the calls or hear the announcement – they couldn’t act on the information. It’s not like anyone would have ignored the information – had they gotten it. And to listen to the City Engineer – we might as well abandon the town and turn it into swampland, because the towns upstream of us don’t give two shits and are overdeveloping, which causes more flooding for us. There’s got to be a way to stop them from putting lives in danger, simply so they can make a buck – our town’s used diplomacy and it’s not working, so it’s time to take the gloves off. None of us are confident about bringing things to a county level – let’s just say my personal opinion of the sludge in the drains is higher than it is of the majority of county-level judges.

But I got lots of oohing and aahing over the new car, which was pretty funny!

And my friend and I drove back, dropped the car in the lot, and then walked to a local place for a quick drink and talk of non-flood-related topics.

I’m tired and cranky this morning, but I just have to get over myself. Got some good work done on Good Names, but have to do some more research; have to run some errands; then, early afternoon, I’m taking the train back into the city to meet a friend who’s in from Scotland. It’ll be fun, but I’m in the mood to stay home today.

Oh, well.

Devon

Good Names – 4,312 words out of est. 100,000

Published in: on April 11, 2007 at 8:20 am  Comments (9)