Oh, if only I were as prolific in writing as Williams was in adlibbing!
Once again – glutton for punishment I am, I participated in this year’s National Novel Writing Month or simply NaNoWriMo as many, sometimes cringingly, call it. In layman’s terms I had write 50,000 words of my story/novel in 30 days.
Why 50k and calling it a novel? I’ll let the NaNoWriMo website explain it:
We’ve found that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal for many people, even folks with full-time jobs and children. And, though on the shorter side, it’s definitely long enough to be considered a novel: 50,000 words is about the length of The Great Gatsby.
We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.
As a fan fiction writer I use it motivate me to go for those longer multi-chapter stories in the warren of plot bunnies running amok among the dust bunnies in my head. I am verbose – I know this. I have a fic out there that took over 277k words and eighteen months of my life to tell. So, I at least start the stories and complete them once NaNoWriMo is over.
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo off and on for a few years now. I believe they chose November because here in the States, at least, Thanksgiving at the end of the month throws a huge wrench in the gears of obtaining that 50,000 words. When I first started there were a couple of years where I had not managed my time well and had fallen far short of the goal. Now I try to hustle at the beginning of the month, with a personal goal of reaching the 50k by the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Because I know from experience nothing is getting done that Wednesday thru Friday.
Notice I said try to. I was more than annoyed with myself this year to have only reached 42823 words on the morning of the 22nd. I knew there was no way I was typing over 7k words in a single day. Between preparing for, celebrating during, cleaning up after Thanksgiving my brain just had to accept the fact that not another word was going to be typed until Saturday morning the earliest. Yeah – between family staying the weekend, and I’ll be honest – alcohol, lots of alcohol, Saturday morning at the earliest became Sunday evening before I could write again. It took until last night, but I crossed the Rubicon with 53517 words and two days to spare!
No, this year’s so called novel “Rock Star” is not even close to complete. I estimate another 20k, but a chunk is done, and the was the goal. So now I get to breathe for a moment, pull out the big red editor pencil and go from there.
Let’s see how others are goal tending this Tuesday…
We’ve reached that lovely part of the year where the lion and the lamb start circling one another. Where Persephone reminds Hades it’s once again time for the distance part of their long distance relationship. Where fauna and flora begin their respective reproduction orgies.
We in the northern hemisphere prepare to happily shed clothes, while our southern hemisphere reluctantly prepare to bundle. In the interim Gaea and Bacchus sip fermented ambrosia while they flip coins on the weather temperatures.
Spring is still a couple of weeks away by the calendar. That means it is still officially winter. So at guess who has been in a comfort food mode these past couple of days? Breakfast Wednesday was cheese grits with scrambled eggs and sausage. Thursday’s Dinner was grilled swiss and bacon with tomato soup. And last night I got the brilliant idea to start on one more stew for the winter. My brain is self-wired to think of stews as only a fall/winter weather thing. Thus, I only make stew September through March.
I still haven’t quite learned the knack of cooking for one. So, things like a stew are a commitment to several days of having the same meal before I start Ziploc-ing and freezing. Regardless, I was still in comfort food mood, I wanted homemade stew so I begin Step 1:The Gathering. Do I have everything I want to make stew? Yes/No work out substitutes or things I’m willing to do without (how is it I do not any green peas in the house – canned frozen or fresh? Oh right they’re on the shopping list for tomorrow because you forgot them last week – grrr), and lay everything them out. My small kitchen with minimal worktop space looks like I’m setting up for a cooking segment as I prep. Speaking of which…
It galls me to see cooking segment/shows that lay claims of 15 minute prep/20 minute cook. Yes, Rachel Ray can throw all those perfectly measured peppers/onions/carrots/seasonings etc in a timely matter because she has someone else as sous chef doing all that fun stuff beforehand. Like most home cooks I am my onw sous chef. It took nearly half an hour just to clean and cube the four pounds of chuck roast to bite sized pieces. I still have the onions, potatoes, carrots et al to be done. It essentially took an hour to do all the prep and sear the meat before I transferred everything to the crockpot for the actual cooking to begin.
I should probably mention it was already 8pm when the brilliant idea struck. Thus it was just after 9pm when I finally turned the crockpot on. So low cook for eight hours or cook on high for fours hours. Yeah, who am I kidding? I set an alarm and four hours it was. At 1 in the morning I removed the bay leaves and rosemary, added the cornstarch to thicken the broth and gave it another fifteen minutes before I declared it done.
Please remember all of that was because I wanted stew for dinner last night. At nearing on two in the morning I then grabbed what was left of the cabernet sauvignon that didn’t go into the stew and called it a night -erm- morning.
Day 5 of 31 – Come see how the rest of us are slicing it up!
*🎼 excuse me while I take a momentary interlude to hum a few notes from the chorus of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” 🎶*
Oh, okay I’m back. The moment I thought of the title for today’s slice the music moment happened in my mind. I imagine quite a few of you familiar with the song, had a similar musical Pavlovian response reading, but I digress.
I remembered it is Tuesday and I need to post today as I have not done a slice in a couple of weeks. At the beginning of the year I did say my One Little Word is Persistence. I did promise myself I would persist in being more regular in my blogging. Human nature that while my regular posting is not where I want to be, yet accept it is better than it was.
Only now as I started typing today did it hit me that today is also March 1st aka the first day of the Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. How lovely and fitting it is that this year, the 15th Anniversary of Slice of Life Story Challenge starts on a Tuesday! I’ve been a participant for over half its existence. Oh boy!
Make that an infrequent participant. One where I’ve missed a year or two, but most often do not complete a full month. Like last year where I fell asleep and missed completion by ONE DAY. Oh hell!
Now here am I – I, who has been letting Life! Liberty! and persistent pursuit of simply Living! has trouble remembering to post once a week, has once again signed up with a promise to post every single day for the next 31 days. How’s that for self-gluttony for self-punishment? Yet I cannot help/resist enjoying the challenge each year.
I will dub this the Pursuit of Persistence 2022.
See ya tomorrow.
Come see how the rest of us are sharing slices of our lives!
Many New York City dwellers will happily tout their knowledge of the City and how to get around it.
I am here to say many of those New Yorkers are liars.
Yes, they are the experts who know the optimal place to stand on the subway platform to be in the right car to be let off at the optimal stop at their destination. Key word “their”. It gets proven every time a wrench is thrown onto the their perfectly laid tracks throwing them off course. These are the New Yorkers who know how to get from Point A to Point B and that’s it.
Yesterday morning was prime example.
The train we’re on was being put out of service. The entire train. We are at a station that is not an exchange point. There is no other train coming on another track. Not something anyone wants to hear first thing in the morning. Especially those who, like me, have an hour or more commute one-way and we were barely fifteen minutes into it when it happens. Alas, we’re New Yorkers, we’re commuters such is life now and again.
Naturally, there are no announcements because usually such disruptions are minor, the conductor playing ‘better safe than sorry’ by putting a train out of service than risk something major. The train is put out of service, a few minutes later the train drives away and we wait for the next one. It’s fifteen minutes of griping commuters on average.
This was not an average day. It’s twenty minutes later of angry commuters playing ‘do I stay or do I go?’ as there are no announcements from the train crew or the station to help in the decision making. It all came to a head when NYPD, NYTPD, FDNY, and transit maintenance personnel with their equipment enter the station and the train. Aw hell, that’s a bit not good. NYPD, NYTPD and FDNY, respond to rule out there is no unexpected human element involved when a train is majorly delayed as such (aka no one died and/or a person needs to be removed – it happens). However, when you see the maintenance crew with their gear board the train, then you know the train you got kicked off from is not going anywhere anytime soon. This also means no other train on that track behind it is going anywhere anytime soon.
I build in extra minutes into my commute so I can get breakfast, get to my desk, eat and caffeinate before I officially start my work day. I look at my watch and know I am not getting to work on technically time, but I can still get to work at a reasonable time. I know where to go. Time to reroute myself and get going.
Finally there is an official announcement over the PA speakers telling everyone what some of us have already figured out: Get to the next express station, one stop away, where trains on the center track are bypassing all of this nonsense.
And THAT’S when the lamentations of those above mentioned experts begin.
“I don’t know what to do…” “Where to go?” “They ain’t telling us nothing!”
That was my cue to be quiet. I knew where I was, where I was going and several alternate ways of getting there. Mind my business and get myself going to my destination. Easy right?
Yeaaaah, about that…
An older woman looked to me. She’s one of the several commuters I see almost daily on my train. We know nothing of each other than the fact that we have shared the same train nearly every day for a couple of years now. She looks at me and I can see the barely contained anxiety about to explode as she asks “Do you know how to…”
Annnnnd fuck my life…
Because of course I know and I don’t want her to panic over something so simple as catching a bus to the next train stop and catch the train that is bypassing this stop from there. As I explain exactly what to do I see another woman nearby pretending she is not listening when she most certainly is and dammit I can feel the flashing MTA sign above my head beckoning all the lost souls turn on…
Sure enough, within the next few minutes….
“Go downstairs wait for the Bx4 at the bottom of the stairs right here to the last stop at 3rd Avenue where you can catch the #2 or #5 downtown. Can you walk from here to there? Technically yes, but you don’t want to if you don’t know where you are going. And you clearly don’t.”
“You guys follow me. You two follow him. You follow them.”
“No. Don’t wait for the Bx19 cross town to get to the #1. Take the #2 to 72nd Street it’ll be faster.”
“No, since we’re at 3rd Ave, take #5 to 59th for the N train. It’ll be faster than the #2 to 42nd Street.”
“You’ve got a cane and limping, get off with me at 135th Street and wait for the #3. You’ll have a seat to your Chambers Street stop.”
“If you move down two cars it will put you off right by the elevator at 42nd Street.”
I don’t understand how people have lived and commuted for decades, fucking decades, and still do not know how to get out of their own damned borough without a taxi at times like this. To be fair, I would have been in a cab on my way to work myself were the cost not prohibitive. Alas, I meander my way to the next station like the good employee I am and help a few others do the same. With various directions, words of encouragement, numerous iterations of “thank God I ran into you” and several effusive thanks later, my various temporary charges and I are all off on our respective, if not necessarily merry, little ways.
When the final transheep in my charge exited at Chambers Street, I throw my head back against the wall and let out the aggrieved sigh I have been holding back for nearly an hour. A fellow passenger on the train, not a part of the original mayhem, but has laid silent witness to my feats of transit shepherdess the past few stops of it, looked at me and grinned.
“Gee, I never knew St. Jude was a black woman because damn those were some truly lost causes.”
“Like you have NO idea.” I laugh with relief as my MTA signs turns itself off and I am on my own again for what’s left of my commute. And in spite all of that I was officially only twenty minutes late to work including getting a well-earned breakfast.
I have to say the Oxford definition of persistence “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition” has certainly been descriptive of me and my writing of the last few years.
I can either write blog and poems or read blogs and comment on others, not both, but I persist.
I can either write my own fanfiction or read and comment on the works of other’s, not both, but I persist.
I can also paint or draw, but not both. Unfortunately, that particular outlet has fallen – if not necessarily by the wayside, definitely down quite a number of rungs on the ladder, but I persist.
Yet even while I’m in the kitchen making lemon bars from scratch, I’ll be damned if Erato, Calliope, and even Melpomene won’t suddenly spark an idea in my brain that wants to be written down RIGHT NOW. And naturally Polymnia wants a visual of it that my mind can see, but regretfully my talent and patience cannot always procure to my satisfaction, but I persist.
To write or to read or to comment or to paint or to bake or to any of the several creative outlets that I try to enjoy has been both a bane and a blessing. A blessing that I can, to highly varying levels of proficiency by my eyes, do all of the above. A bane, because I cannot do all of the above all at once.
I know! I know! How DARE I be only human!
Only human in a small apartment where one corner of my dining room does double duty as my office when I work remotely and my creative writing station for blogging/poems/story writing, another as my painting crafts station, the third corner a multi-utility station and the fourth corner is my window and closet. Oddly enough what my dining table has not been used for in ages is that thing called you know dining.
Still, I can’t / refuse to call it my studio, because I cannot afford, never mind actually fit a kiln in it to pursue the glass and metal creative work that remains in my head.
Though it’s my fanfiction that gets most of my creative time, sans the items in need of a kiln, I doggedly try to indulge in all of my various creative outlets. Thus why I have chosen persistence as my one not-so-little word for this year.
I’m determined to somehow find a balance where my blog does not suffer as much this year as it has in past couple of years. Let’s see just how persistent I can be.
Yesterday was my first official day back in the office. I am one of the first people on the floor and it was lovely to see one of the other early birds whom I have not laid eyes on in over a year. After the pre-requisite elbow touching in place of a hug, the first few minutes are spent catching up. It was a routine repeated as others came in. I spent the day in a bubble of working, reconnecting and organizing as we also make ready for a floor wide restructuring.
Some of it was very familiar: Coming in early, jumping into work, plugging up to my music to focus, not taking a proper break for a few hours; rolling my eyes at the one colleague who insists on wearing ill-fitting shoes that squish and clomp noisily as they pass my desk, staying late to work with a client having an issue, even the extra-long commute home was an annoying comfort of the familiar.
Still, for all its familiarity something about yesterday that felt off and I could not identify it until today.
Yesterday… 🎵 Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so fa… 🎵
Huh? Oh, wait sorry, sorry… brain wandered off for a musical moment, I’m back.
Yesterday, because I was distracted by several things, I had not taken my mid-morning coffee run.
Today I remembered. So off went I to my home away from home, away from home.
While the trip itself was done by almost by rote, it was once I was back at my desk and sipped that did it.
My Starbucks special order, the one thing I cannot get in my neighborhood, was in my grubby little talons once more.
There was a new staff from when I was there last; no familiar faces at all. I handed my phone to the barista and watched her face as she glanced from the phone to the register to place the order and then gave me a silent but definitive are you fucking serious(?) look as she handed the phone back. I especially enjoyed the look of resigned yet annoyed belief when I informed her of the irony that it was a former Starbucks barista who worked at that location, which gave me the recipe.
I have a Keurig with Starbucks k-pods at home, and I love it, but it’s still not quite the same thing because I have that ridiculous order. Yes, my favorite order is one of those orders. When I cannot mobile order, I amuse myself by watching every new barista I hand my phone read the order and then tries, but inevitably fails, to not make a face as they re-read it a couple of times before they make it.
Whether it’s the fancier machines or their precise measurements for the base, it’s just something that I cannot duplicate in my kitchen.
As that first sip slid past my palette and settled oh so warmly in my tummy, I felt it. It’s a small thing, but a needed one.
On March 3rd, Sarah Everard, 33 of Clampham, south London, UK left the home of her friends to walk home. She never made it. Police confirmed that the remains found in a woodland area yesterday was hers.
“She was just walking home.”
I remember it was an early summer afternoon, a school day. I was on my way home from the public library; book bag slung over one shoulder, wearing dark jeans, sneakers, a white t-shirt under a red, white and blue plaid with tiny silver metallic threads shirt. I was standing at the curb, under the elevated train tracks, waiting for the traffic signal to change. I noted the car slowly creeping forward as some drivers do when impatiently waiting for a light to change. I was not in the way, I paid no attention to it when I heard a male voice. “You so pretty, bet you’d be even prettier naked. You should let me see.” This was from a man, not a peer – not some boy around my age being horrible, but a man. A grown man who in no way could have thought I was an adult. I had not developed boobs yet. There was something about him. Yes, it was broad daylight, but I was at the corner by myself. There nearest person was a half block away in the opposite direction. I remember worrying: Do I wait until he drives off?Is he going to follow me?Do I need to change directions?What if he gets out of that car?
It was the first time I felt danger from a man. I was twelve.
In my twenties I was married with two sons. I went to the laundry every Saturday morning. One Saturday a man entered and decided he wanted to chat. I decided I did not want to. He insisted in asking for my name. I insisted I was married and not interested, so knowing my name was not any of his – good-bye. He showed up again the following Saturday. Clearly this was my neighborhood. I was pissed-offed, but not entirely surprised he suddenly showed up in my local market. I informed my husband, but naturally my wannabe Lothario was no where about the next Saturday at the laundry. As it turned out within the following week, as I was heading toward my building, a friend spotted me and started yelling my name to get my attention. Naturally, I ignored him because I HATE that, worse – guess who I spotted within hearing distance? However, the damage was done as the friend had reached me and it was clear he was yelling for me. The only saving grace was that Bill was exiting the building as I was busy cursing-out the friend out for being an asshole and why. Bill came up from behind, putting his arms around me, and yelled at our friend “Why the fuck are you screaming out my wife’s name in the middle of the street like that? Have you lost your damn mind?” At that point Bill saw the guy. He looked me, he looked at guy, he looked at me and I tapped the arm that held me in our code we had for problems. He let go of me and headed in the guy’s direction. Suffice it to say the guy was already backing away at the confirmation that I had a husband and said husband was not an exactly a small guy. I never saw him again. While relieved, it pissed me off anew that the asshole did not accept my rejection. He had followed me. He had my address and because of my asshole friend, had my name. It took seeing my husband’s physical presence before he stopped. I had to wonder were I in fact a single woman how long before I may have been attacked. I wondered if he moved on to another woman who was not as fortunate.
When portable music players became a thing, CDs first, then MP3 players, I learned to keep headphones on my head when so I could pretend I did not hear the nonsense thrown at me when in the street. But I never, ever have music playing in case I needed to deal with someone more aggressive who would not take the hint of simply being ignored. But that does not always help.
In my thirties, I texted my husband to meet me at the train station late one evening after hanging out with friends because of the way a man kept staring at me on the train. I had never contacted my husband with such a request before in all the time we were married. The man had exited the train when I had. He was about to follow me down the stairs when Bill appeared at the foot of them and greeted me. I heard as the man turned and went back up the stairs. Neither of us saw him come down the other side, as far as we could tell, before the stairs were out of sight. But we knew, he was going to follow me.
Twice as a widow in my mid-forties I have gotten off the train and jumped in a cab to ride the four blocks to my home because of that feeling. I will say both times, when I explained the situation, both drivers refused to take my money. All in the name of safety.
Many girls learn from a young age to change their behavior in order to try to feel safe when walking alone, because there are going to be times we will be walking alone. That onus is not on boys as such. Personal safety is a constant self-awareness in our daily lives. One we modify constantly. All in the name of safety.
Do I wear a dress or slacks? Do I wear heels or flats? If I wear heels, do I need to switch to a bigger purse to carry my flats? Questions I must ask each time I go out, in case I have to run. All in the name of safety.
Now in my fifties I don’t go out alone if I think I won’t be home before midnight unless I have taxi money. That also curtails where I go because a late night taxi ride across the City can run me up to $70 on top of whatever expenditures incurred while hanging out. All in the name of safety.
Once, I was meeting my husband for dinner at a friend’s apartment after work. I exited the train and headed towards my destination when I heard whistling behind me. I ignored it and continued walking. It became clear that the whistling was directed at me, coming from someone in a car on the street. I refused to look, because that can be seen as an invitation. A car suddenly turned the corner in front of me and I realized it was my husband and he was pissed I had not responded to him. “Why didn’t you answer me when I whistled?” “Do you have ANY idea how often I am whistled at? I can’t afford to so much as look!” That took him aback. For even the men that love us, that care about us, that know us, just do not understand, because the constant harassment rarely happens in their presence.
Some men still do not realize we single women share our addresses – or the addresses of the bars/parks/date locations of where we’re going – with each other via text or WhatsApp, to keep ourselves safe. We set up calls with our friends. “If you haven’t heard from me by X time, call me. If I don’t answer, call the police.” It is every female’s right to not fear walking alone; it is not our reality. Being a woman is constant worry for our safety — walking with keys between our fingers, being on high alert always — it is fucking exhausting.
When we hear/read of such attacks we each live with the susurrus that could have been me. So many women have lit up Twitter in the past few days on the many ways they have harassed and/or felt unsafe. And a constant theme throughout many of the tweets were the words “She was just walking home.”
“Not all men” attack but all women experience the fear of it. And we are so, SO DONE with being told we just need to avoid certain streets or areas, don’t be out certain at times or don’t dress a certain way. Sarah Everard was in bright colors, wearing clothes comfortable for walking the less than hour trek to her home. She was simply living her life. “She was just walking home.”
I’m sure Sarah Everard was aware #NotAllMen, also. She was on the phone talking to her boyfriend during part of her trek. She was not attacked by #NotAllMen. The only thing she did wrong was encounter #TheWrongMan. The one who could not respect one fact:
It’s March and time for the Annual Slice of Life month long writing challenge. A slice of my life each day for today and the next 30 days. It’s the 13th annual challenge: I have participated in several before, but last year I let life get in the way did not even try. Truth be told I had already told a couple of people that I would not this year. Yet here I am.
I am in the process of finishing the final touches for a book of poems that is about fifteen years overdue. The finished product will not be in my hand come the first day of spring as I hoped. It is finally ready to go to an editor which is further than I’ve ever gotten with it before. My next big step after that is the copyright process. I am crossing my fingers to at least have the first galley in hand by the end of April at the latest. Wish me luck!
In the interim I have a couple of out of town trips scheduled in the next few weeks. I should be able to get a few blog posts out of that right? Yes, I am a glutton for punishment to take up this challenge on top of all of this, but it is called a challenge for a reason.
So this conversation snippet happened on the train ride home:
LS: So, angels are good girls that never got caught, Good girls are bad girls who got caught and were sorry for their deed, Bad girls are wicked girls who got caught and were sorry they got caught, Wicked girls are bad girls who got caught and are not sorry – period But then there are wicked girls who can’t get caught because they own up to their misdeed before it even happens, so what do you call them?
As part of the month long celebration of a friend’s birthday. we had a birthday lunch at a Momofuku Noodle Bar. Yes, that is the actual name a small, but popular chain of an Asian noodle bar in New York City. I’ve been to Momofuku a few times now. For a place renowned for their noodles, each time I’ve been there was for their chicken dinner, of which there is not one noodle to be found.
Let me present Delicious Exhibit A: Deep Fried Chicken and Spicy Sweet BBQ Wings, plus salad and tortillas in the covered black dish.
Momofuku Chicken Dinner
Really how gorgeous is that bowl of veggies? Romaine lettuce, mint and cilantro sprigs, with sliced mini carrots and radish. So colorful, it’s a work of art.
There were five of us at the table. There was still three pieces of chicken left over. That has never happened before. We all looked at each other as if to say “How did this happened?” We just couldn’t eat another bite.
Not even this:
Just a little something…
So naturally the birthday girl got to take the leftovers home, sans the little bit above of course.
You won this round Momofuku, we’ll get you next time.