Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How I Spent My Vacation...or...I fell in love with Neil Gaiman

My dog, Monty, enjoying some time at the beach

Sooo...I wish I could say it's great to be back but it's not. I mean, come on. I had two weeks of magnificent weather, an empty, tourist free beach, and I'm still in shock over this one -- no desire at all to seek out the internet, even though there was in fact a computer lab at a library two miles away. I didn't even read a newspaper.

What I did read, however, was a short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors, by Neil Gaiman, and I fell head over heels in love with this man. No, no, it's not because he looks like this:

(though of course that doesn't hurt things. Holy cow, even I didn't know he was that hot -- I just discovered this photo by going to Google images. Okay, now I'm really smitten. Note to self: Do not send him a fan letter which will have him worry you are a deranged stalker)

All kidding aside, this was one of the most brilliant collections I've ever read. There is so much intelligence in his work and he's such a mesmerizing story teller that at one point I felt like fuck it, I'm never writing again. Why bother. Then I realized the stupidity of that thought because Gaiman's stuff is to be savored and studied. One story I simply have to post in December is his 102 word flash Christmas piece which he actually sent out as a greeting card and which echoed my anti-commercial holiday sentiments and made me laugh out loud.

ETA: After going to Neil Gaiman's website and snooping around a bit, I now feel like a complete idiot. What, am I the only person in the world who has never read his books prior to now? My god, he gets lines of people snaked around full city blocks when he does signings. He gets something like 100,000 hits a day on his blog. Jesus. I am really pathetic and out of it these days...this is proof. Crap.

I also read Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan. This was another book that had me throwing my virtual pen in the air; it was that good. I had sort of a pleasant problem with Look at Me, however. It's a very subtle satire which I absolutely adore and is torture to pull off without being heavy handed, but what happened here is that the author made me care so much about the damn characters that I wanted more at the end and I almost wished the book didn't take that cynical though humorous twist 3/4 of the way through. But it was so highly original, so well written it made me weep, and I definitely want to check out more of Ms. Egan's work and really, really recommend that book as well.

Oh Christ, now I'm a book critic. But I am sad to say that this vacation was the first time in at least a year I've read two books in two weeks. Between my ex-job, family stuff, and writing, reading has taken a back seat and I realize this can never happen again. It's akin to a musician never listening to CDs for fuck's sake. So next up on my list will be the new Neil Gaiman book of course...only now I see it's a sequel so oh wow, lucky me, I get two treats instead of one because I'll buy them both. Like this afternoon.

Oh, I also read the first Opium print short story collection cover to cover. What fantastic tales! Ones that really stood out for me were My New Jersey Boyhood by Will Layman, I Gave An Apple to My Teacher by Susan Henderson, Arson by Claudia Smith, Cinema by Joseph Young, and Three Stories About Deborah by Rose Gowan. Actually, every single story in the collection is fantastic so please order it and support the indie lit scene. Especially Opium, because it's New York City based and well, they published me and a lot of my friends.

One final writing note: I was recently contacted by Dee Rimbaud of AA Independent Press, and I've also linked her in the column on the right. This is a free, online writers resource which gives detailed listings of over 2,000 literary and genre magazines and publishers. You will also find many useful pages of links such as nearly 800 internet zines. There’s also a page of links to other Writers’ Resources websites. And a page of links to other Writers’ websites (over 100 links so far and growing).

So what else. Oh yeah, back to vacation. It was weird rattling around the place without Julie and Eric and all of their friends crashing which I why I have a huge house in the first place but at least Julie and her boyfriend Matt managed to come down for about 4-5 days and Eric and girlfriend Carolyn visited on a Sunday when Matt and Julie were still there and we all went to Wildwood, which is about a half hour away. Wildwood is one of those places that are great to visit for three, four hours but after that, you want to get the hell out FAST. It's a...errr...sort of blue collar family beach resort right out of the fifties with a boardwalk which not only boasts 3 huge amusement piers but tons of carnival games where you can win a cheesy stuffed animal if you're interested in blowing $50.00 or so throwing darts at balloons only half full of air. But it's total food heaven, which is why I go anywhere, and I feasted on hand cut french fries and real pizza. By the way, what the fuck is happening with pizza? It's either yuppied up with prunes and goat cheese or it's that horrible cardboard crusted Greek stuff. Why is boardwalk pizza so impossible to find anywhere but the boardwalk?

Anyway, I watched with my heart in my mouth as all of the people I love most in the world rode these treacherous looking instruments of death -- I guess they're roller coasters but I dunno, they seemed a lot worse than that. I saw my family turned upside down, their necks snapped back and forth, and then go through it all over again backwards going at like 250 mph. And they actually got off afterwards smiling! I was terrified (and nauseous) just watching them. What makes people like that shit? If I wanted that feeling, I'd rather just drop a tab of acid.

Kidding, kidding.

So yeah, I felt like this matriarch, walking the boards with my almost adult kids and their significant others. It's weird, man. I still feel 19, and I wanna know who this neurotic, overprotective stranger is. Oh wait, I was neurotic at 19, too. Don't listen to me, I'm still high from all the donuts I ate on said vacation. Yeah, that was my other downfall. Ocean City boasts Brown's Diner, who makes quite possibly the very best cinnamon sugar donut in the entire universe. They have this machine which turns them out right before your eyes, and when you get them, they are hot and crispy on the outside and like butter on the inside.

Serious dieting needed here now, though, which I am proud to say I did yesterday. The trick is to also do it today, but I was dumb enough to bring home all this candy...

Getting back to the matriarch thing, like I wasn't feeling old and decrepit enough, I did the typical old lady thing -- I fell. On my last day in Ocean City. I couldn't fucking believe it. Three days later and I'm still sore as hell. But it wasn't entirely my fault. I was upset about two things: One, that it was in fact the last day of my vacation, and second, I was steamed about a remark some dumb woman made. Here's what happened. I went for a final walk on the beach with the dog and really ran him and played catch for about an hour. So by the time we left, he was panting and had sand all over his face. As we're exiting the beach, this stupid broad says to me "Awww....look at the old fellow. What an old doggie..."

Listen, bitch. My dog is only seven. He looks like a puppy. Anyway, of course I just smiled but I got irrationally angry. I love Monty like one of my kids; I don't want to think about this whole getting older stuff in the first place whether it's him or me...I just want to freeze time altogether. I like the way things are right now. My kids are grown up but still living home; I don't have to work 9-5 at the moment and am writing full time (oy...but the way money is disappearing I may be temping somewhere soon), and most importantly, some really exciting stuff is happening music wise for both Julie and Eric which I will get into probably tomorrow because I'm waiting for a certain website to update (she said mysteriously) and of course, my usual problem of needing help uploading new pics to my server that I can also post here.

Anyway, I just realized I went off track. So I'm upset by this woman telling me my dog is old, I sink into this immediate depression, and as I'm walking the dog back to my beach house I'm so aggravated and lost in thought I'm not paying attention to where I'm going and my stupid flip flop got caught on a raised cement block on the sidewalk and I went flying...and I mean flying...through the air and fell flat on my face. Wait, check that. Not flat on my face, I somehow managed to break my fall with both hands and inexplicably, my two big toes. My toes? Well, that's my only explanation for why nothing else bled except those toes, and man did they bleed. So I'm spread out there on the ground, the dog is so nuts he drops the ball from his mouth and starts kissing me everywhere, and naturally I do what old batty women who fall do -- I start crying hysterically and talking out loud to myself. I was like fucking Nancy Kerrigan. "Why me? Why me?" followed by "My toes! My toes!" Luckily there was nobody around because the island is deserted this time of the year so no one had to witness my shame. Now of course had I broken anything, this would have been a major freaking problem but once I realized I could move my legs and arms and had all my teeth, I pulled myself up, wiped my tears, gave another look around to make sure no one saw, and hobbled home on my bloody feet.

As I said, I'm still feeling the pain today but as I look at my dog, all I can say is, that woman needs glasses. Monty is a puppy.

And I really am nineteen.