“We left the Packard on the street and took
two rooms at a boardinghouse where the wallpaper
slumped and the lightbulbs buzzed and browned.”

Isn’t that wonderful description? Sparse, but a picture immediately forms in my mind. I love especially “lightbulbs buzzed and browned”. It’s from So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. A book that I’m enjoying a lot even though it’s taking me forever to read it. (Not the fault of the book.)

Just wanted to share. That is all.

On Tap-Dancing Monkeys and Time Machines

My gym was packed tonight. I had to wait ten minutes just to use one of the lowest-on-the-totem-pole cardio machines: the stairmaster. Which can only mean one thing: Happy New Year!

We’re a few steps into 2009 and, personally speaking, so far so good. My husband and I rang in the New Year by making a nice dinner (don’t ask me what—it’s only been six days and I can’t remember. But it involved the stove and more than three ingredients, so it was real fancy pants) and watching Back to the Future. Boy, that movie holds up well. And the soundtrack: awesome. I think I need to put Huey Lewis and the News’s Power of Love back on my gym mix. I could have sworn I’d seen the movie somewhat recently but as we watched it I realized there were a lot of parts I’d forgotten. Huey Lewis’s cameo as a judge when Marty McFly and his band try out for the school show, for example. And: “The Libyans!” And: “Great Scott!” Or Marty McFly’s 1955 mom calling him Calvin Klein because she thinks that’s his name sewn into his underwear. And how excellent Crispin Glover was as his dad.

From a writer’s perspective, and as someone who is working on a mystery, I particularly noted how well small details were planted that come up later for an important storyline or for comic effect. Enough attention is drawn to the small detail that you notice it, but the main focus is on something else in the scene so when it ends, that’s what you’re left thinking about, not the small detail. For example, in the beginning of the movie Marty is talking to his girlfriend Jennifer. They’re walking through the town square and in the background there’s a table of people trying to raise money to save the clock tower. One of the fundraiser people interrupts Marty and Jennifer’s conversation, so you definitely notice the fundraisers, but they’re just an aside. It’s Marty and Jennifer’s conversation that is really carrying the scene. Marty’s worried about his musical future, they’re making plans for a special date. At the end of the scene Jennifer’s dad shows up, and she has to leave. She needs to give Marty her grandmother’s phone number so she grabs a flyer from the fundraising table, writes on the back, and hands it to Marty. He tucks it in his pocket and the flyer is totally forgotten until he pulls it out in 1955 and it provides Marty with the answer for how he can get back to the future. I was marveling at how well that was executed, because things like that can easily come off as too convenient or coincidental, but this really didn’t.

We also saw Jersey Boys last Friday, which I’d seen once before, but it is so worth seeing multiple times. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fantastic musical. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. There’s a lot of swearing, so it’s definitely not kid-friendly. But it’s very well done. Creative staging. Funny. Well-told story. The first time I saw it I was surprised at how many of their songs I know and like. I was like a broken record to my mom: “I didn’t know this song was theirs. . .”

I guess I’ve started off 2009 with a lot of nostalgia and looking back, haven’t I? 80s movie and one of the great boy bands of the 60s. Odd since this is the traditional time for looking forward and goal setting. I’m a big time list maker, so usually I’m all over drafting up my resolutions. I opened up my file of resolutions for 2008 recently and was surprised to see that not one thing on the list could be checked off. Not one! Which gives me pause in drafting up a new list. I’m inclined to go one of two ways. I’m thinking along the lines of this:

1. Wake up every day.
2. Go to sleep at some point.

Or this:

1. Adopt an orphaned monkey.
2. Teach him to tap dance.
3. Get on America’s Got Talent with your tap-dancing monkey.
4. Win America’s Got Talent.
5. Impress David Hasselhoff so much that he asks you to sing a duet with him on his next album and film a video featuring the tap-dancing monkey.
6. Turn David Hasselhoff down, but take a picture with him for next year’s holiday card. Score!

Right? Either aim so low I’m sure to succeed or so ridiculously high I can look those superior resolution achievers in the eye and say, “What? How about you try to find an orphaned monkey in Colorado and tell me how well that works out for you.” I’m onto something here, aren’t I?

And now, for a little mix of nostalgia and present(ish) day all wrapped in one musical ball of fun. . .

Biff sings!

High-Five Friday

Five things that made me smile/laugh/happy this week:

1. Yesterday when I checked the mail, it was all holiday cards.

2. First snowboarding day trip of the season last weekend. We did our favorite weekend routine: Pack the car the night before, roll out of bed at 5:30am, get on the road by 6. Get to the ski resort around 7:30, have coffee and breakfast, be at the lifts first thing when they open. Snowboard until we’re pooped, head home early afternoon, and beat the traffic. It was an excellent day of snowboarding–3 inches of snow the night before, and a light snowfall while we were out. It stayed around 30 degrees so it wasn’t too cold. And I hardly fell at all.

3. I spent most of Sunday baking holiday cookies while snow fell outside and holiday tunes played in the background.

4. We went out to dinner with friends and their toddler-age daughter kept pointing urgently down the aisle whenever Santa was mentioned, like she thought he was in Chili’s with us. We finally realized that she was pointing at an elderly woman who sat with her back to us and had white hair and wore a red sweatshirt with a white collar sticking out. She also made me laugh with this crazy little dance she’d break into at random moments. (Our friends’ daughter, not the elderly Santa-look-alike woman.) And another funny: Our friend the father asked her, “Who’s the man, Sammie?” clearly expecting her to reply “Daddy!” but instead she gleefully tapped Big Bird on her placemat. And also, the look of both amazement and agreement on her face when she and I were looking out the restaurant window at the cars in the parking lot, and I told her that the blue car was probably Cookie Monster’s because they are both blue. Kid time is always a highlight of my week.

5. Christmas is next week and I’m traveling home. Knowing that I will be getting a good dose of family-time and also quality time with my California cats is definitely smile-worthy.

High-Five Friday

Five things that made me happy this week:

1. Snow, glorious snow. There’s nothing that will snap you into the holiday spirit faster than decorating the Christmas tree with a blanket of snow outside. The recent snowfall also means it’s quite possible I’ll be snowboarding this weekend!

2. Online shopping. Almost done with my gift list. Should I be worried that I have my credit card info memorized now?

3. Tim Holtz 12 tags of Christmas. I am totally hooked on this. His explanations combined with the photos make the projects really easy to follow. And I’m brimming with ideas I want to try now. The only downside is squeezing in the time. And it’s a nice blog to look at too, which does make a difference for me. How does he do that rough black frame around the photos, I wonder? I really like how that looks. The photo below is from his blog. It’s my favorite of the tags so far.

4. Rediscovering our holiday decorations. I love unpacking the ornaments and other holiday decorations we’ve accumulated over the years. Last night I was unwrapping ornaments and chattering to my husband and showing him what I’d uncovered: “Look at this one! This one’s so cute. Do you remember this? This is one of my favorites. . .” And he remarked, “This is almost as much fun as opening presents for you, isn’t it?” And you know, it really is. Perhaps because I have a lousy memory and so I’ve truly forgotten a lot of what’s in those plastic storage bins. Two of my favorite holiday tchotchkes that I had forgotten about are pictured above–the wind-up snowman and Santa.

5. Google Reader. I recently discovered this and RSS feeds–I know, I know, I’m late to the party here. I’d heard mention of this stuff before, but it all sounded intimidatingly technical to me. But it’s super easy to figure out, and it is so cool to have all the blogs I like to follow in one place. And as a result of how cool and easy it is, I now have like, twice as many blogs that I’m following than before. But I think I’m spending less time blog reading because with everything in one place, it’s easy to scan what’s new and read only the updates that are pertinent or interesting to me. If anyone else has been intimidated by the RSS/newsfeed/axom mumbo jumbo, don’t be. (And you don’t have to use Google. There are other readers available that probably work the same way, but Google is the only one I’m familiar with.) Before, I had a variety of blogs and websites bookmarked and sorted into various folders. I also had direct links to the blogs I visit most frequently on my Google homepage. It was a decent organizational system, but Google Reader vastly improves on it. Now it’s essentially like an email inbox but limited to the RSS feeds of my choice. I only need to visit one place and now I can see all the blogs I’m following and which ones have been recently updated. I can read the blogs from there or click on a link to take me to the original site. And you can subscribe to blogs even if they don’t have a little “Subscribe” link on their page. Or at least many blogs–I have come across a few that I’d like to add to my reader but can’t. If you look in the url window of the blog you want to subscribe to and you see a little orange square with three white swoops in it, that’s the RSS icon and you can click on that and follow the steps and whallah! Added to your Reader in mere seconds. And once in your Reader you can sort your blogs into different folders to keep them categorized or rename the blog feed. Can you tell that I’m a total nerd over organizational tools?

Happy Friday!

December Already?

Last Saturday, this is what we woke up to. Beautiful way to head into the month of December don’t you think? (Nevermind that today, in the actual month of December, it was in the high 60s and the snow has all melted.) Snowy days are great for bundling up in sweats and slippers, holing up in my office with a steaming hot mocha, and writing writing writing. I’d like to say that’s how I spent this last snowy Saturday, but it’s not. My brother and family were still visiting in the morning and after we saw them off, there was laundry, vacuuming up the feathers from decorating the dog, a general straightening of the house, and I finished reading my friend’s novel in progress for our writer’s meeting on Sunday.

Ace, proud of his feathers
I can’t believe the end of the year is swiftly approaching. Only one more month to check things off my yearly Want-To-Do list. I’ve accepted that many of those things aren’t going to happen this year. (Paint the kitchen cabinets? Not going to happen. Finish the basement? No way. Go to an outdoor movie in Boulder or at Red Rocks? Missed out on that for the year.) Onto the 2009 list they will go. But there is one thing I really hope I can accomplish by the year’s end—finish the revisions on my novel. Over on Cuppa Jolie, a new blog I recently found (via Laini Taylor’s Grow Wings blog), she was talking about setting goals for December in order to stay productive through all the holiday hubbub. I volunteered my goal of finishing my revisions and I have to say it felt good to vocalize it. Throw it out there into the ether as it may be. If anyone in either of my writing groups is reading this, they will be rolling their eyes right about now because I’ve vocalized my goal of finishing my revisions to them for quite awhile now. So stating it in a different format to a different audience isn’t really what’s going to make the difference. I know that. It’s up to me and only me. Prioritizing writing time over other things (like laundry and vacuuming up feathers from decorating the dog), stocking up on bum glue to aid in keeping that butt in chair, and banging on the keys until the revisions are finished. That’s easier said than practiced though, but I’m working on it, and for some reason vocalizing it to old writing friends and new ones too helps keeps me focused on the goal and not tempted by the myriad of distractions that are out there.