A Little Getaway

Spring Break is upon us.  School children have been released to the dismay of parents.  Teenagers head to beaches to the dismay of adults.  Teachers breathe a week long sigh of relief.

The Spring Breakers movie has apparently revealed for the first time just what happens on those college and high school vacations.  What’s most shocking is that people are pretending they didn’t know this.  My favorite spring break movie is a golden oldie that I must have seen on TCM:  Where the Boys Are with Connie Francis, George Hamilton, Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss (according to IMDb).

So for today’s song list (mostly retro), I’ll include Where the Boys Are, by Connie Francis.  And some other beachy favorites.

Soak Up The Sun, Sheryl Crow

Margaritaville, or insert your favorite, Jimmy Buffett song

Fun, Fun, Fun, The Beach Boys

I Love Beach Music, The Embers

And then The Entire Soundtrack from Grease.  Just because.

For another version of a little getaway, here’s a very short story I wrote called A Little Getaway.Image.

Darlene checked the bag of stolen make-up as Earl’s Camaro shuddered to a pause outside the prison gates.  Five cartons of Nice’n’Easy – check. Seven tubes of Great Lash – check. One bottle of Jergens for Screamin’ Nina – free, no questions.

Earl put a rubber-band around the gearshift to keep the car in neutral, grabbed the crowbar from the back seat, then scuttled across the back of the car as low as possible to pry open the passenger door for Darlene.  She shimmied out of jeans and t-shirt, pulling her orange jumpsuit on over the Wal-Mart bag full of contraband fitted into the small of her back, right above the prison-issue granny panties.  When Earl reached her door she was ready.

“Damn baby, three hours ain’t enough with you.  I hate leaving you here.  Again.  You call my cell once you make it inside now.  Right?”

Darlene nodded.  “Right Earl.  I will.  You sure you can’t see this bag?”

“Nah baby.  You’re good.”

Earl leaned up against the passenger door, pulled Darlene toward him to give her a final kiss.  He glanced up the hill.  Nothing, just grass and trees and silence.

Darlene kissed him.  “Relax.  I’m good Earl.  I’ll make it back fine before the count.  As long as they ain’t looking for me.  And it seems like they ain’t.  It’s all quiet.”

They both started at the sudden sound of gravel crunching but it was just an old Chevy parking across the road.  A man in jeans and a windbreaker got out and headed toward the house.

“You’re a good man y’know, Earl?  I couldn’t of stood this place another day if you hadn’t of got me this morning.  I needed you in that motel room.”

She pressed her groin against him, hard.

“Don’t forget that.  It’s you I need, this shit for the girls is just extra.”

Earl groaned.  “Girl, don’t do that or I’ll take you right back to the motel and no Wal-Mart this time.”

Darlene giggled and ground against him tighter.  With her head on his shoulder, she could see a mile back down the road.  She heard a growling Harley, saw it approaching.

“Let’s get one of them bikes and just go.  God, I can’t wait til I get out of here for good.  Only a few more months Earl.”

Darlene detached herself and edged up the hill.  She heard the clang of the crowbar as Earl threw it into the floorboard and turned to wave.  But the man from across the road had returned and was looking at Earl too, was talking to him. As he started toward Earl, Darlene recognized Corporal Beatty.

He hadn’t seen her.  She scrambled several yards away up the hill toward the prison.  Beatty was in the middle of the road, shouting at Earl, so focused he didn’t see the Harley hurtling toward him.

“Beatty!  Beatty!  Move!”

Beatty jumped back at Darlene’s shout.  The Harley swerved, continued on.  Beatty shuddered, realizing she had saved him then motioned for Darlene to come down to him.

“Thanks for the shout,” he said.  “But that’s escape.  Two more years.”

“Yeah.”  She put her hands behind her back.

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Exercise

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I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise lately.  Thinking I said, though unfortunately, not exercising itself.  I promise, next week, when it is slightly warmer, I will be back in the 106 degree hot yoga class and showing up for the spin classes and altogether getting exercising more.

I looked up the definition of exercise on the free dictionary and like what I found.  It makes me hopeful — the act of employing and/or putting into play for example.  Perhaps if I employ a plan and/OR put it into play, I will achieve my goal.

Or there’s #2 definition:  discharging a duty and/or function.  I suppose it is somewhat of a duty to exercise but more of a function.  Putting my winter limbs back into summer function mode.

And then #3 is quite optimistic!  An activity requiring physical and/or mental exertion, especially when performed to maintain fitness.  That definition presumes I’m already fit so I just have to maintain it.  So far, I like # 3 the best.

#4 is pretty much the same but implies an increase in skill level brought about by employing the activity.

#5:  An activity with a specified aspect.  Not sure what that means, but I think it means Bikram is an exercise in self-improvement.  That’s really nice.

#6 is ceremonies, graduation exercises, speeches and presentations.  Those are generally good things.  Although I can’t imagine wearing a cap and gown to either Bikram or spinning, not to mention listening to a speech during either.  However, the Bikram instructor is arguably a presenter.

In any event, I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise recently and all the good things it brings with it.  Now I just need to put the thoughts to action.

1. An act of employing or putting into play; use: the free exercise of intellect; the exercise of an option.

2. The discharge of a duty, function, or office.

3. Activity that requires physical or mental exertion, especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness: took an hour of vigorous daily exercise at a gym.
4. A task, problem, or other effort performed to develop or maintain fitness or increase skill: a piano exercise; a memory exercise.
5. An activity having a specified aspect.
6. exercises A program that includes speeches, presentations, and other ceremonial activities performed before an audience: graduation exercises.
UPDATE:  Since first publishing this a couple of days ago, the Exercise blog has received several likes from fellow bloggers and I posted a college photo of me on the dance team on facebook.  Old photos have a way of pushing don’t they?  So I’m going to hit it on Monday.  And you can hold me to it.
I also forgot to add a song list to this post, so here goes, and I’m starting with the “cheese”:
Let’s Get Physical, Olivia Newtown John
YMCA, The Village People
Maniac, Michael Sembello (from Flashdance and not technically about exercise but come on — gotta be in here doesn’t it?)
Pump It, Black Eyed Peas
We Are the Champions, Queen
And for a book suggestion about exercise, I recommend Gold, by Chris Cleave (author of Little Bee).  Gold follows three cyclists training for the Olympics and entangling themselves in a love triangle to boot.

Waiting

Waiting.  Not my favorite activity.  If a passive verb like “wait” can even be considered an activity.

But waiting seems to be the thematic element in my world today.  I’m waiting on the editors and agent to read my manuscripts.  I’m waiting on spring — we are all waiting on spring!  UK fans are waiting on next basketball season.  I’m waiting on the US Attorney’s office to get back to me on a case.  Waiting on the mail.  Waiting on a check.  

It’s hard to be good at waiting.  Americans in particular seem hard-wiredly disinclined to wait.  In the words of Veruca Salt, we want it now, Daddy!  But whether it’s a check, a romance, a basketball season, a new recruit or a book deal, sometimes I can’t have it now so the choice becomes either to wait or to give up on it.

There’s a wonderful novel called Embers, written in 1942 by Sandor Marai, but rediscovered and published in English only in the year 2000 that delves into the exquisite passion of waiting for years to confront, resolve and avenge a wrong.  On a snowy day like today, it’s the perfect read.

I decided to add song lists to my blog topics in addition to photos and menus, when appropriate.  Some of my favorite songs about waiting:

Watching the Wheels, John Lennon

Waiting on a Girl Like You, Foreigner

Waiting on a Friend, Rolling Stones

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding

 

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March Madness: The Novel

Growing up in Lexington, the daughter of a former University of Kentucky student body president and letterman, it was impossible not to be a Wildcat fan.  Not that I wouldn’t have been anyway.  And March has always been one of my favorite months.  As a kid, I’d fix a big bowl of popcorn with real butter, take it into the living room and sit and watch basketball with my dad.  He would teach me the difference between man-to-man and zone defense, or the three second rule, and try to explain a pick.  Mostly I guess, I appreciate the beauty of the athletic feats and those times when an athlete would exceed his own ability or a team would overcome enormous odds to triumph.

Like Florida Gulf Coast University last night.  WOW.  What a game.  The pass from Brett Comer to Chase Feeler (of Parkersburg, WV:  why didn’t KY recruit HIM?) that resulted in a sky high slam dunk will be highlight reel material for years to come.  Maybe it will eclipse the Laettner shot (one can only hope).

We were talking about that play this morning during the semi-annual clean-up of Gratz Park, and I was lamenting the absence of the ‘Cats when one of my neighbors reminded me of Sean Woods’ fall assessment of this year’s UK Basketball team.  Here’s what Coach Woods said that caused so much criticism from the Big Blue Nation:

“There’s just a certain way and a certain look Kentucky basketball players should have, and not have such a sense of entitlement. I think today, it’s still an honor to wear that uniform.”

I thought it was particularly interesting given what seems to be the general lack of coach-ability of this pre-season all-star NBA-wannabe team.  Perhaps despite the criticism, Sean was right.

And re-reading Sean’s comments, as well as hearing my neighbor talk about the high-pressure crucible of college basketball that the University of Kentucky, made me think it might be a great setting for a novel.  A talented high school senior with a dad (or grandfather) who played for “State University” comes to play for the team as a walk-on; his teammate is a one and done expected NBA #1 recruit.  They become best friends.  Maybe they witness a crime; maybe one of them commits a crime and the other one is the only one who knows it; maybe the coach asks the walk-on to claim responsibility for a crime the other kid commits so that kid can continue to play.  It all comes to a fever pitch as the University competes in the NCAA tournament, with the pressure mounting round by round, the police get closer to solving the crime.  The more I think about it; the more I like it.

Maybe I better copyright it…..

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The Great …

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With the grand assurance born of generations of exceptional breeding, Jay Gatsby assures star-struck neighbor that one can, indeed, relive the past. That he, Jay Gatsby, can seduce Daisy Buchanan and spoil her with his ill-gotten gains and marry her, reliving the past and reshaping it to align with his own view of his future.

I went to see Leonardo DiCaprio throw his body and soul into the role of the golden man last Friday, the first day of release for Baz Luhrman’s chaotic carnival of a movie. I loved it. I loved Leonardo’s smile, Carey Mulligan’s languid, limpid expressions, Isla Fisher’s drunken hoyden and Joel Edgerton’s physical and mental meanness. The music — eh. I wasn’t impressed with the “1920’s rap” but the feel of the parties certainly honored Fitzgerald’s writing.

In light of the movie, and perhaps some of the thoughts it gives rise to, I’m updating my earlier review of the book.

I’ve always considered Gatsby to be the great American novel.

If it is the great American novel, what makes it so?

Is it the snapshot of America’s own coming of age, the Roaring Twenties?

It is the purely American, up-by-his-own bootstraps tragic hero whose flaw is his own belief in himself; that American ideal?

Is it the concentration on America’s one true post-Native American, native art form?

My book club’s discussion touched on and argued for each of those distinctions.  And there were a couple of people who believed there was no such thing as the great American novel, or if there were, Gatsby is not it.

I find myself in the other category.  In less than 200 pages, Fitzgerald creates a classic love story, two adulterous relationships, an ill-fated summer fling, a self-made man, a seedy, criminal endeavor and tragedies of failure, loss, death and murder.

Most of all, Fitzgerald created a tragic, optimistically flawed hero, who cannot believe that after all he has done, he will not win.

From Gatsby’s brave pink suit to his glittering palace built to win his one true love, I find the novel more compelling with each read and like Gatsby, end reaching my arms to the green light across the bay for greater understanding, comfort; for the happy ending that won’t come.

My menu suggestions are all champagne based.  Champagne with kiwi rounds (in honor of the green light), champagne-poached chicken breasts (Sorry Myrtle, but I had to go there) on a salad of tender, baby greens with champagne vinaigrette, crackers with carraway seeds (are you seeing a punny pattern?).  And champagne cupcakes …. here’s a recipe:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/champagne-cupcakes-with-italian-buttercream-recipe/index.html.

I found this interesting Salon article: http://www.salon.com/2012/11/08/is_the_great_american_novel_still_relevant/

Perhaps, for me the most compelling image, and one recurring image from the movie that worked perfectly, is that of Jay Gatsby, hand reaching nervously toward the water, toward the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. His reach, his vision so far beyond his grasp that he doesn’t know how wrong he is.

Circus Circus (and A Menu)

Circus

My sister is having her book club tonight for a discussion of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.  I suggested the book because I loved the images of the black and white circus redolent of exotic spices, magic and mystery.  Despite huge sales of The Night Circus, I guess there are mixed reactions:   my mother said her own book club wasn’t fond of it and my weekly group at the Carnegie Center wasn’t sold on it either.

I admit, the plot is confusing and perhaps the basic love story of two magicians creating a world within a circus as part-competition, part-sacrifice is a bit strange.  But the imagery created by Ms. Morgenstern, possibly due to her years of stage experience, pulled me in and kept me bound to the story.

red scarf

MENU

My sister asked for some help with a black and white menu for her group tonight and this is what I suggested:

Popcorn drizzled with dark chocolate

Bagel chips smeared with cream cheese and topped with black caviar

Steamed white asparagus sprinkled with poppy seeds and lemon juice

Squid ink pasta in alfredo sauce

Chicken breasts wrapped in whole spinach leaves

Black and white cookies (store-bought) for dessert

The only tricky parts of the menu would be the asparagus and chicken.  Trim the asparagus ends first, by holding the end and bending.  Where it snaps naturally leaves you only the tender part of the spear to cook.  You will want to wait to cook them until right before you are ready to serve.  I steam mine in an asparagus steamer for 3 boiling minutes, then turn off the heat and let the asparagus sit for a few more minutes.  Place the spears on a plate, douse with lemon juice and poppy seeds just before you serve them.

On the chicken, use whole skinless, boneless breasts and season with salt and pepper.  Place the breasts on the spinach leaf (or leaves) and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Wrap the leaves around the chicken to create a cooking packet and drizzle the exterior with more olive.  Drizzle, don’t drown.  Then place in a pre-heated 375 degree oil.  Cook for 15 minutes per side.

I would also serve hot chocolate with fresh cream and strawberries to give a nod to the Circus followers’ red neckties.

MUSIC

Tears of a Clown, Smoky Robinson

The Show Must Go On, Three Dog Night

Wild Billy’s Circus Story, Bruce Springsteen

Circus, Britney Spears (UGH, I know)

Circus, Tom Waits

and there’s always the cast albums from Pippin and Barnum

MOVIE CASTING

I’d love to see this as a movie.  Caitriona Balfe who is magnificent in Outlander would make a fine Celia.  And I suggest Hugh Dancy as Marco.

Happy Reading!

 

Pitching

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I spent the weekend in New York City pitching my second novel to major editors at the Algonkian Writers’ Pitch Conference.  As an introductory side note, the conference location was the Ripley-Grier Studios on Eighth Avenue.  Throughout the weekend, actors-singers-dancers were rehearsing and auditioning.  I was tempted to put my name on the audition list.  A very exciting atmosphere.  Incidentally, despite the operatic vocalizing and tap dancing, the authors were much, much louder.  To the point that one of the actors was overheard to say that “I don’t know who they are, but they’ve been here for two days and they won’t shut up.”

The small group of 15 authors led by author Susan Breen that worked together to craft a pitch couldn’t have been more pleasant, interesting, vibrant or supportive.  From memoir to romance, the work ranged widely but interestingly and had, from what I understand, an unusually high response rate from the two editors we know the results of so far.  We are still waiting on two more editors to give Susan their “list” of whose manuscripts they would like to see.

When Peter Joseph of St. Martin’s Press requested mine I was thrilled.  And when Abby Zidle of Pocket Books did as well, I was ready to jump up and do a back handspring.  But a request is still a request and I am attempting to temper excitement with restraint.

New York served itself up as a delicious and varied dish all weekend.  I saw the final preview performance of Christopher Durang’s new comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike with David Hyde Pierce & Sigourney Williams, who made eye contact with me on the fifth row during her bows.  Had drinks at the Palm on 50th.  Dinner at Atlantic Grill and Lincoln in the Lincoln Center — we watched crowds stream in there to see Holland Taylor perform her one woman show Ann (would’ve liked to see that).  Attended the Friday night preview show of Motown:  The Musical and danced in my seat for three hours to Motown classics.  Saturday brunch at Isabella’s included a goat cheese and avocado omelette, french fries and raisin bread.

As always, New York herself is the star.  I’m crossing all my fingers and toes a bit of the sparkle rubbed off on my pitch and the manuscript fulfills the expectations of the editors who requested it!