Saturday, May 31, 2008

SELF-IMPOSED DEADLINE: Monday, June 16, 2008

My maternal grandmother kept a wall calendar from Marietta Savings & Loan Bank (in the days of savings & loan banks) hanging from a brass picture hook in her dining room. At the end of each day, this interior decorator would mark through that day's date with a red marker, as if to say, "Whew. Another day behind me." I always thought that was sort of a sad way to look at life, as if she were doing time here on earth. She also dreamed of living in The Bronx and sitting on a window sill as she tossed empty beer cans into the street below. But I digress.
As I announced Friday, this blog is, like the South, undergoing Reconstruction. But unlike the Reconstruction of the South, this won't take 13 years. All is ask for is 16 days—16 days for you to mark off your calendar as we press forward and build a bigger and better blog.
After much thought, the address will remain the same—I hate moving, but I love to rearrange furniture and paint the walls. It makes me feel like I have new surroundings and helps me cope with PMS. Same goes for the blog. But I will do more than rearrange pieces. I will have new stuff alongside some of the old stuff that I can't bear to part with. Like that wooden high chair in the corner of my dining room.
So ... until Monday, June 16, feel free to browse through the archives. You can mark off the days on the calendar, if you'd like ...

Friday, May 30, 2008

What Happened to Scott McClellan? Career Suicide, That's What; and Blog Takes a Turn (Friday Roundup)

London Bridge is falling down, falling down ... OK, so it's not actually LONDON Bridge you hear crashing into the water below. It's a lot of figurative bridges going poof! Up in smoke. Pieces breaking into the deep waters, littering the roadways. These are the bridges that Scott McClellan is burning all over the world. He has officially made himself the Least Likely Person to Get a Real Job Ever Again, a pretty big shift from Golden Boy With the Dream Job.
Who hasn't wanted to point out a former employer's faults and poor decisions? Who hasn't wanted to tell an ex-boss to "kiss off"? But when your former boss is the leader of the Free World and you write and publish an attack on his administration and that book is distributed worldwide (during an election year, no less, when awareness and interest are heightened), you had probably better get used to the idea that your standard greeting is no longer "Hi, I'm Scott McClellan, former press secretary to George W. Bush," but "Good afternoon. Would you like fries with that?"

This blog is taking a sharp turn (and let's hope we don't get lost) ... We've gone from 0-100 in no time flat. Just five months and (almost) 100 posts later, and it is time for a little reinvention. Confession: I am a very lazy blogger. I don't do as bloggers do. The most successful bloggers (and "successful" is a very relative term, we all agree) spend a lot of of time leaving comments on other blogs, hosting contests and give-aways and navigating the political course that is Blogging. Their blogs are not always--but sometimes--a showcase of writing talent, but are meant to be a very fun form of communication and networking. It's a constant exchange of give-and-take, with a heavy, heavy emphasis on the give. Done correctly, they garner hundreds of comments, which serve as their feedback, their emotional paycheck. And then there are bloggers like myself. I average between 80 and 100 visitors each day and am lucky to get seven or eight comments. Here's one theory recently proposed to me: "Your posts aren't posts. They're complete stories. There's no INVITATION for feedback or comments."
"Is that bad?"
"No, not if you don't care about feedback."
"But I don't want to pass NOTES, for Pete's sake, I just like the writing part of it."
And that led me to the revelation that, hey, I somewhat care what people think, to the extent that I like to entertain them, but am I willing to provide a play-by-play of my day, of my brilliant kids and their kid-like lives, of my very mundane family life? Am I willing to copy and paste song lyrics and provide links to youtube? In a word, am I willing to sell out just to keep a blog alive?
The answer didn't come easily, but ultimately, I sputtered out "no."
If I were to be completely honest (and I am always completely honest), I'd rather just write. Editing and writing are all I've ever been paid to do, other than that unfortunate stint at Krystal in high school, which would make a nice blog post, by the way. I like to write blog posts, throw them out there like chunks of bait. If I get a bite, fine; if not, I'm content just sitting here in this boat with my rod and reel.
However, unless you're Dooce or some similar blogger, blogs don't pay the bills. For me, I am free to do with this space whatever I want because no one is paying me to do otherwise with it.
So, here's the deal: In order to prevent this blog from becoming Just Another Blog, I'm going to steer it in the direction of becoming something else. Perhaps less of a blog, more of a regularly updated website. I'm shutting it down, temporarily, and will reboot with a new product in a new format. If you are in my address book, you'll be among the first to know when it is born. If you are not in my address book and would like to be updated, you can find my e-mail address in my profile. Please sign it as if it were a guest book.
In the words of Brian Doyle Murray:"We like to send out a mailer." (Spit.)

For now, it's the weekend. Go do as Sheryl Crow would have you do and soak up the sun ...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Bogus, Unwritten Rules of Swimwear

Liberated from long skirts, young women of the '20s wore a figure-hugging wool jersey sleeveless tank suit. Functional AND modest, but how liberating could stockings and wool be in 95-degree heat?


Hemingway found his inspiration for Old Man and the Sea while fishing. He came across an old man adrift on a little boat with a big fish. A classic was born.
Thoreau found his muse along the shores of Walden Pond. At the end of almost two years of solitude, he emerged from the woods with volumes of brilliant works and his newly proven theory of “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.”
I am enjoying a respite along the coast of northwest Florida, where—just one block behind me—the waters of the Santa Rosa Sound carry sailboats and Jet Skiers around in massive circles and invite fishermen to sit along the bridge and cast for cobia, redfish, mackerel and Florida pompano. And directly in front of me, the waves of the Gulf of Mexico lap along the white sand.
A full night’s sleep, every night. The no-schedule schedule. The absence of a ringing phone. THE MENTAL CLARITY. The mental clarity alone was worth the $3.87/gallon to get here.
Just as Hemingway and Thoreau arrived at their creative and philosophical peak, so have I.

Why do some women wear bikinis and others don't?

I have sat here and cannot for the life of me determine who sets these unwritten rules. Body size and shape have nothing to do with it. Women of ALL sizes and shapes sport bikinis without a care in the world. And still, other women of ALL sizes and shapes sit recoiled on the beach, by the pool, in t-shirts and unattractive cover-ups, with brand new swimsuits under them.
In one of her books, Anne Lamott recalls a day at the beach when she witnesses a pudgier, unfit woman—one who is likely past her bikini-wearing days—nonetheless wearing a bikini, splashing in the ocean, playing in the sand, as if she had the beach to herself. And instead of thinking, “Cover yourself, why don't you?” Lamott admits we all could stand to be a little more like this woman. A sing as if nobody’s listening, dance as if nobody’s watching approach to life.
So maybe my inspiration is nothing new. But it bears repeating, don’t you think? That maybe we’re all a little too self-conscious when it comes to the pool and beach? That we have too many nebulous rules?
On a multi-family trip to the beach last August, a group of moms was sitting around the pool, ignoring our children, when along walks the most self-assured and courageous woman any of us had ever seen. She boasted a large (massive, actually) chest and what some referred to as a "beer belly” that would best be suited on a man. An older man who drank a LOT of beer and ate more than his fair share of barbecue. But still, she wore a bikini. A tiny bikini. She was Malibu Mom. Large, yes; confident, absolutely.
She walked the perimeter of the pool with such fearlessness, talking to her kids, chatting it up with her husband, drinking her Coke, it was almost unnerving. Some of my friends threatened to gouge their eyes with pencils. I wanted to stand and applaud. Except for the weight and the girth, I wanted to BE her.
But I am lily white, wildly self-conscious and therefore not eligible for bikini-ness. Like I’m Irish and am allowed to go outside only at night. Bikinis are not designed for people like me. They are designed for women (of any size) who have Ban de Soleil skin. At least that’s what we’re groomed to believe.
I hate that we’re groomed to believe anything. I wish we could all be raised to wear whatever the heck we want and feel good about it. To wear a freewheelin', non-constrictive bathing suit that covers only the essentials. One that you're not constantly pulling and tugging and making sure it lives up to its lofty promises printed on the tag.

Thoreau would have urged women to wear bikinis. "Simplicity," he would have said.

Case in point: A friend called my cell phone last week and said only this when I answered: “Please tell me not to buy what I’m about to buy.”
“Go on,” I said.
“It’s a one-piece bathing suit, and the skirt is built in. I think my mother had the same suit in the ’60s.” She sniffed, like she had been crying.
“Put it back. Walk away.”
“But it’s the only thing that fits.”
“That’s not true. I’m three stores away from you. Meet me for lunch, then we’ll go shopping.” Because never is there a better time to try on Lycra than when you have a full stomach and have already spent half your day crying in dressing rooms.
She climbed off the ledge and back through the window and met me for lunch. And then the fun began. I would love to tell you that all our efforts resulted in the purchase of the loveliest swimsuit money can buy, one that hides every flaw and came with built-in self-confidence, but that would be a lie. She tried on every Amy-approved suit in her size and found something defective about each and every one. “This one makes this poke out.” “This one doesn’t cover up that body part.” “This one enhances my white fat.”
And that’s when I asked, through the dressing room door, “Why white fat? Why is white fat worse than tanned fat?”
“I don’t know. It just is.”
“Well, I think that’s terribly unfair. Even if it’s true.” We left half of the store's swimsuit inventory (and an apology) with the dressing room attendant.
So, Amy, what's your point? My POINT is ... why the rules? Why does any of it MATTER? Why do we have such high expectations of swimsuits? Hide this, minimize that, maximize this. These are not Swiss Army knives. These are SWIMSUITS made of FABRIC. They can only do so much.
If Henry David Thoreau were here today, he would probably agree. "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Wear the bikini."

One day, Thoreau. One day ...





Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm Here for You...and Eager to Help

Back in my newspaper days, my friend Greg made this observation: "Hey, all of your stories end in a phone number." I pointed out that my stories were helpful and guided people to resources, organizations and other people who could help further a cause or provide personal assistance of some sort. So stop being so critical and go to a courthouse or something, I told him.

And while Greg was WRONG that "all" of my stories ended in a phone number, I will admit that as a features writer, I relied heavily on the angle that hey, I'm here to help put you in touch with people you can help or people who can help you. Because if you're not helping someone in some way, then what's the point?

The tradition continues in a bloggish sort of way. A recent review of my blog traffic revealed that I remain a source of relevant and useful information. A variety of searches led inquiring minds directly to this site. I hope that I was successful in imparting some nuggets of wisdom that helped make their day, helped finish a school project, helped cure a common illness or calmed a few worries about certain celebrities.

They may not have known where they were going, but they knew they had some burning questions that Google would help them find. In just under 100 posts in the history of this blog, the following Top 7 searches, IN ORDER, continue to blaze a trail to yours truly:

* Bret Michaels' girlfriend/former girlfriends of Bret Michaels
* Drake's Coffee Cake/Seinfeld recipes
* Foods that make you sick/what to eat to make you sick
* Al Gore toilet
* Cindy McCain's brewery
* Kathie Lee's wardrobe
* Florida cheerleaders/cheerleader attack/etc. Oh, my! The quest for more information about the cheerleaders may NEVER end. Many Googlers even ask for them by name, especially that Brittini Hardcastle. They're out for blood.

Less frequent, but equally intriguing, are the following searches:
* A couple of weirdos in the U.K. are on the prowl and searching for a 24-hour peep room. I doubt my Peep Show was what they were looking for, but they did return a couple of times to check out the creative Peeps.
* A fellow Muncho fan asked this of Google: Who sells Muncho chips? I hope I pointed him/her in the right direction.
* "Purposely painful thong." Why, oh why, someone researched this in the first place, I do not know. I would have never thought my name would be associated with a "purposely painful thong," but there you go.

If you landed here and didn't find what you were looking for, perhaps you could contact the following...

Frito-Lay (Munchos): (800)352-4477
Kohler (Al Gore toilets): (800) 456-4537
Victoria's Secret (thongs): (800) 970-1109
Drake's Cakes (Drake's Coffee Cake): (800) 483-7253
Hensley & Co. (Cindy McCain's brewery): visit www.abwholesaler.com/hensley (BTW, Cindy McCain doesn't WORK at the brewery like LaVerne DeFazio; she is chairman of the board. She is very elegant and tasteful.)
Today Show: don't bother looking for a phone number; e-mail instead to today@msnbc.com
VH-1 & MTV Networks (Bret Michaels): apparently, these entities don't use phones, so check out http://www.vh1.com/ to learn more; and go ahead and clear your calendar for about 2 1/2 hours; lots of fun stuff to see and hear; nobody has to know.

(Sorry -- no contact information for the 24-hour peep room. You're on your own. Dirty boy.)