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Kmart recently launched a new ad campaign for Christmas that features two happy shoppers “giffing out.” I know what you’re thinking: Kmart still exists? If you’re not thinking that, you’re thinking: What the hell is a gif? Well. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite time wasters.
A “gif” is an image format. Unlike the boring “jpeg,” a gif format supports animation. Basically, you can turn any video into a repeating image that repeats and repeats and honestly grows funnier the more it repeats.
Who has time to turn videos into gif files? I have no idea, although I often wonder because they show up so fast. You see something funny on the news? It’s probably a gif before the show even reaches your TV. I mean, these people are fast—like, faster than a Cumberbitch with a camera at The Hobbit premiere.
For me, gifs exist to make me laugh—and they do, often. And who doesn’t need a laugh, right? I’m not a computer nerd, but I did laugh at the new Kmart commercials. I say bravo to them for being hip with computer folk.
True, there are those who think the “giffing out” commercials are immature–but laughing at gifs is immature, so the advertising makes perfect sense.
Thanks honestly to all the insane fangirls, comics, and internet-obsessed who give me the gift of gif. Merry Christmas to me!
In honor of Thanksgiving, I post an excerpt from my recently completed novel, “Something about a Ghost.” I’m thankful the novel is done; I’m also thankful to already be working on another. Happy reading, and HAPPY TURKEY DAY!!
“Something about a Ghost” - Excerpt by Sara Dobie Bauer
My feet are bare, and the floor feels cold. I move only to pull an orange and brown afghan off the back of the couch. I wrap my legs in the scratchy material and use my fingertips to check the melted makeup beneath my eyes, but there’s no hope. I don’t have enough fingers to clean all the black from my face, my face that still feels puffy and is probably still red.
The man returns, with two steaming mugs in his hands. Despite the makeup ghost on the front of his chest, his dress-shirt is still tucked into his gray slacks. His clothes are tailored so tightly, I’m surprised he can breathe—but of course he can. Only skinny, tall men can dress like this, and if he is anything, he is skinny and tall. He’s also just brought me chamomile tea with milk and honey. I’m so accustomed to English Breakfast, I can smell every note of this sleepy time stuff. And just as my feet are cold, so are my hands, so I wrap them around the mug and say, “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.” He sits on the floor next to me but first has to kick the coffee table away to have space. “How are you feeling?”
“No reason to.” He takes a loud sip of tea.
“I don’t cry.”
“I do,” he says.
“I’m not saying it’s a weakness; I’m just saying it’s not my thing.”
“Keep it that way. You look horrible when you do it.”
I set my tea cup on the table to the right of the couch: the one with the lamp made entirely of antlers. I have to pull up the bottom of my dress to be able to straddle him and run my nails down the front of his shirt. “You’re going to have to get this dry-cleaned,” I say.
I trace the black circles where my eyes were, right between his pecs. There are smudges of brown and orange from my concealer and bronzer. There is even a tint of red at his sternum, where my open mouth sobbed against him.
I work free the first button and the second. I lean forward and kiss the skin I reveal—pale, pristine, with just a smattering of hair. His body is so warm beneath my chill, and I get even warmer when he reaches beneath the tulle of my dress and pulls my ass closer with the palms of his hands. Even sitting like this, me on top, his torso is so long, he can reach my lips without me having to bend forward at all. With his tongue in my mouth, on my father’s living room floor, I feel like a high school girl just home from prom.
He leans forward and tilts me away until he can find purchase on his knees. He lifts me enough to shift our positions so that I’m on my back in the center of the living room, and he’s next to me, his hand on my bare arm and his hot mouth on my neck. I reach up and hold onto his hair. I do love that hair—the soft, thickness of it—but tonight, there’s styling gel in the way, and I laugh a little when my fingers stick. I latch onto the back of his neck instead, and I pull his mouth up to mine. He tastes like honey.
He has to fight through layers of tulle, and I have to wrestle with a built-in slacks belt—which, in the end, he unfastens—before we can finally make love, fully clothed, on the rough tile floor. The chill of the tile against my back battles the heat of his body on top of me, and the sensation is more pleasant than painful. I might have scrapes on my back tomorrow; he will surely have bruised knees. But at the moment, all I can do is drown in the scent of him. I can lose myself in his movements between my legs, the weight of him, and oh, God, the taste of his lips, like clover in the fields near Flagstaff.
Suicide Girls. Blackheart Burlesque troupe.
There is something really hot about a chick with black lipstick and tattoos. I’m fake punk; I know this. I wear dark lipstick, makeup, and tight t-shirts with snarky sayings. However, I also clean up well and look very nice in a white dress. Oh, and I only have one tattoo. I couldn’t be a Suicide Girl, but oh, how I would like to be!
I attended Suicide Girls’ Blackheart Burlesque at the Marquee Theater in Tempe. Initially, I bought tickets because I love burlesque. Only secondarily did I look into the Suicide Girls, although as I understand it, the majority of my male friends knew about them already.
Suicide Girls is a website, created by two Portsmouth, Oregon, folk who wanted to see “hot punk rock girls naked.” To be a member of the website, you must pay, and it’s become an international phenomenon, now based in Los Angeles. There are books by the Suicide Girls, as well as movies and a tour.
Priddy Suicide. Pardon my drooling.
The Blackheart Burlesque show is a little different than the tour, because not all Suicide Girls can dance—and the BB girls … they could freakin’ dance. The lead cast of the show was only four ladies. I could have gone for more, but the four did not disappoint—Priddy Suicide, in particular. Talk about a hot chick. Yipes. Each of the four women was different: different colored hair, different tattoos, different body shapes. What did they have in common? Severe confidence and an edge.
The Blackheart Burlesque was very much about nerd love. Since I’m a nerd, I appreciated all the cultural references. This wasn’t a stupid strip tease. This was everything from The Big Lebowski to Planet of the Apes to Star Wars. True, Star Wars in g-strings with duct tape over nipples—but Star Wars!
I was about six rows back, but the front couple rows got covered in everything from fake blood to whiskey. And how could I forget the birthday cake? At one point, the MC covered her breasts in birthday cake and let the audience lick frosting from her fingers. Priddy Suicide even poured whiskey into her own mouth and then spit liquor into the awaiting, open mouths of her fans.
Half the troupe was British (hot). But of course, Priddy, the whiskey-chugging, foul-mouthed, ample-breasted redhead, was American. Thank you.
The Suicide Girls are not about dotting letters with little hearts. They aren’t about being sweet or shy. Although burlesque is the art of tease, this was teasing with a fist to the head. Whenever you open a show with Bjork’s “Army of Me,” what can you expect? Nothing less than one kick ass performance from four kick ass women who chew men up and spit ‘em out like bad sushi.
The Suicide Girls do Star Trek.
Brad vs. Brad.
My father has always considered me shallow. (Like he can talk; he used to judge college girls’ outfits from my apartment window in Athens, Ohio.) Daddy’s right, though; I am shallow. Look at my husband. However, I would like to point out to my father and to all of you … I’m not the only one.
This came to my attention most recently thanks to a box office flop.
The Fifth Estate is the fictional-based-on-fact account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s rise and fall as conspiracy theorist and (arguably) American terrorist. According to the Huffington Post, this film, released October 31st, is “the biggest wide-release flop of 2013.” The director blames Assange and his underlying omnipresence in the media.
I blame a blond wig, brown contacts, and a funky accent.
The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch—my current Hollywood crush. (I like to keep one around; gives a girl something to look forward to in movie theaters.) Cumberbatch—or “Benny,” as I call him—is best known for the BBC’s Sherlock and his role as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness. He’s also best known for black hair, icy blue eyes, and a voice that Britain’s Times likens to “a jaguar hiding in a cello.”
Now. Take these things away from Benny, and what do you have? A lanky, odd-looking, British nerd who can act.
How is this even possibly the same dude?
This was The Fifth Estate’s mistake. To play Julian Assange, Benny had to look like the guy—and he did! In spades! But as Cumberbitches (Benny fans), we don’t want to see him looking like Julian Assange. We want to see him looking HOT. Ergo film floppage.
Now, let’s discuss Little Favour.
Little Favour is a short film, released today on iTunes, starring dear Benny. In the film, Cumberbatch has:
- Shaggy, black hair.
- Bright blue eyeballs.
- A DEEP … BRITISH … VOICE!
So far, word of the short firm has spread like a computer virus on all forms of social media. According to Empire Online, it is the highest selling short in iTunes history, even before its release!
Every Cumberbitch the world over probably has a copy already, and he/she has watched the short film a dozen times. (Well, er, I have, at least.) Anyway, Little Favour made me realize how shallow I/we really are! I mean, we say we love this guy, but we won’t go see him in a blond wig, will we?
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to admit to prodigious superficiality. Additional examples:
- Brad Pitt: Saw him immediately in Seven; skipped Twelve Monkeys.
- Val Kilmer: worshipped him in Tombstone; had no interest once he got fat.
- Ryan Reynolds: will watch even bad, bad movies just because he’s in them.
I don’t want you to think I feel bad about this. I don’t. I’m very proud that my husband has earned the nickname “Hottie McHotterson” amidst my girlfriends. I acknowledge my Benedict board on Pinterest almost solely includes pictures of him with black hair (he’s actually a ginger). I am shallow, and well … I’m okay with it. But I’m not alone.
Why, Val? WHY???!
Ana’s niece went through men like vampires went through bags of blood. Ana would know; her immorality spanned centuries. She and her “family” had a strange arrangement. She shared the wealthy Bauer bloodline but was the only immortal in the clan. The rest of the Bauers came and went, generation after generation; yet, each generation accepted her. Each generation understood what she was and welcomed her. She was often invited to Christmas, birthday parties, and celebrity balls. However, Ana kept her distance—until Mary was born.
Mary was born on Ana’s own human birthday, June sixth. As soon as Ana met the child, there was a connection, and as years passed, she became the “favorite auntie.” Ana was the one Mary went to with her dirty secrets. As a child, those secrets included stolen candy from the grocery store. As a teen, stolen alcohol and messy make-outs with boys at debutante balls.
Although Ana lived in New York—Mary and her rich parents in Boston—they kept in touch over the phone. Then came things like smartphones and Skype, and it was when Mary turned twenty-one that the name Ethan first entered their lengthy conversations.
“I’m seeing someone, auntie.”
Ana had her smartphone leaned against the vanity; made it easier to pretend dear Mary was in the room with her while she sat in her New York flat, upper East Side, sipping a glass of iced blood. She brushed her long, black hair in the mirror and sighed.
“I saw that,” Mary said.
“You’re always seeing someone, dear.” Ana glanced at her young niece, already curled up in bed, staring back through her own smartphone camera.
“This is different.” Mary pouted; her voice whined. No matter her age, she still sounded like a sixteen-year-old. She was a woman, true; a very intelligent woman who would, in the fall, return to school at Brown where she studied psychology. Yet, Mary could never escape the cheerleader she once was, thanks to her Minnie Mouse voice and bright, blond hair.
“Who is he?”
There was a long pause on the line.
“Mary?” Ana looked at the smartphone screen, and Mary’s eyes crinkled around the edges.
Her voice lowered to a whisper. “It’s a secret, and you can’t tell anyone.”
“I’ve never told your parents a single secret.”
“I know. I know. But I think I’m in love.”
“Well. Who is he?” Ana asked.
“His name is Ethan.”
“Ethan?” Ana picked up her phone so she could fully focus on her niece. “Does he have a last name?”
“Is he a prince?”
Ana watched Mary’s flawless face smile. “I wish. Would make things a lot easier.”
“He’s not homeless, is he? A drug addict?”
Mary shook her head, and her voice sunk even lower. “He’s the chauffeur’s son.”
“Mary Elizabeth Bauer!”
“Shhh!” She looked around, as if sound traveled in the castle the Bauer family called a home.
“That’s not love; it’s a fling.”
“Ethan is not a fling.”
Ana shook her head and chuckled. If Mary’s father knew … “How long has this been going on?”
Mary shifted in her bed, laid down on her stomach and rested on her elbows. “A couple months.”
“A couple months hardly does love make.”
“I want you to meet him.”
“Darling, you know I don’t meet your beaus. It’s too much energy to explain who I am and why I’ve been alive since before electricity and running water.”
“I already told him about you.”
Panic welled in Ana’s chest. “What?”
“He knows what you are, and he’s fine with it.”
“Mary.” Ana stood up. “You promised never to tell anyone about me.”
“But this is the man I love.”
Ana paced the luxurious interior of her apartment. Then, a buzz from the front door: blood bag delivery. “Mary, I have to go.”
“I want to talk more about this.”
Ana looked down at her phone, and her beautiful, intelligent, man-eating young niece looked concerned. “We shall, but do not be a fool. Do not tell the chauffeur’s son anything else about me, and do not get caught schtooping in your parents’ home.” She paused and noticed Mary’s sad face. “I love you, darling.”
“I love you, too.”
Ana ended their call. She felt shaky; she finished the glass of blood on her vanity just as a text message arrived: from Mary, of course—a covert photo caught as a man slept in what was obviously Mary’s king-sized bed. He reminded her of Byron, a poet Ana once knew long ago: wild, black curls of hair; pale skin; and a long, faultless neck.
For the first time, Ana saw Ethan.
Over the next few weeks, Ana and Mary rarely spoke. Mary was busy back at school; Ana was planning an extensive tour of Europe, her home country. There were more photos of Ethan, some with Mary included, his arm around her, her lips on his face. The first video arrived early the week before Ana’s trip.
Shaky at first, Ana soon recognized Mary’s dorm room at Brown. The vantage point was from Mary’s bed, and for the first time, Ana saw Ethan in motion. He stood across the room and looked into the full-length mirror Mary kept against the wall. He wore a black suit, and he was much taller than previous photos foreshadowed.
“Tell me you love me, babe,” said Mary’s disembodied voice.
“I love you,” he said.
“Tell me again.”
At this, he glanced back at the camera. “Mary, I’ll be late.” He stood and faced her, trying to tie his tie.
The camera shook some more, danced even, as Mary got closer to Ethan. Ana could picture her, kneeing her way to the base of her bed. “Tell me again.”
“I love you,” he said. He smiled—a lovely smile that revealed matching dimples.
His fingers stopped fiddling with the tie, and he got so close to the camera, his face went out of focus.
It was obvious Mary had trouble keeping hold of her phone, but she giggled when the video went sideways, as she was tackled on her own bed. Soon, all Ana could see were figments of Ethan’s black suit. Then, the video stopped.
Ana found herself dreaming of Ethan. She had but fleeting images of him, from Mary’s photos and occasional videos. She found herself fixated on his neck and his hands. Thanks to a recent conversation, Ana knew Ethan was older—twenty-nine. Was a lawyer. Attended Harvard on full scholarship. All these details danced around his neck, his hands—the things his hands could do to Ana, the things she could do to his neck.
She woke up embarrassed, sweating. She showered after these dreams, guilty for using Ethan’s image this way—guilty for stealing from Mary. What would her niece think if Ana told her about the dreams? Would the pictures stop coming—the videos? But Ana needed both; they had become her only joy. She jumped at every new message from her niece and was disappointed when statements were general, like “Ethan bought me roses!” Ana wanted more pictures of his face. She wanted the sound of his voice.
One night, Ana could not sleep, obsessed with Ethan and the way he might smell. Did he wear cologne? Or did he smell simply of blood and skin? She knew then how much trouble Ethan was in—how broken Mary would be if Ana’s fantasies continued, so she forced herself to stop thinking of him, even deleting Mary’s media messages before being opened.
And Ana would have survived without him, Ethan, if not for Mary’s untimely death.
A wolf on the campus of Brown University? Suspicious, but then again, the wolf was escaped from the zoo. Of course Ana knew all this was a careful smokescreen, fanned to flame by Mary’s own parents. The existence of vampires was not generally accepted; therefore, admitting that a vampire had killed their daughter would put into question the Bauer sanity and the Bauer estate.
Ana stood on the edge of the cemetery and watched her niece’s ivory box lowered into the dark green grass. They had spoken but five nights before—the last time they would speak—and of course, the conversation was about Ethan, although Ana brought things round to school and family and future plans—of which, for Mary, there would be none.
Ana watched her human family, earned glances from but a few because only a choice few knew of her existence, those being Mary’s parents and a few old uncles, cousins. Ethan wasn’t there. But then, he was, away from the casket, away from the cold hole in the ground. She saw his hair first: that unruly mop of black. Then, his eyes: frigid, cold blue, ice. She put her arms around herself to shield his chill.
He was broken, very broken, but since his affair with Mary had been secret, only Ana knew why.
A luncheon was thrown afterward, in honor of Mary. Ana knew her niece would have hated the event: all somber faces, black suits. Mary would have much preferred a celebration, covered in pinks and baby blues.
Ana moved through the crowd, through the immense ballroom of the Bauer mansion, and past the disgusting smell of human food. She disappeared to the empty servant’s quarters, where she knew, thanks to Mary, of a secret entrance to her niece’s bedroom—the entrance only Ethan ever used.
Ana could still smell Mary when she entered: like flowers and sweet spice. Even though the bed was made, the room clean, she smelled something else, too: sex. She smelled the buttery scent of sex and something male. Cologne. The cologne could only belong to him.
The mournful auntie ran her fingertips over her niece’s hairbrush on the vanity. She touched stacks of psychology textbooks. She caressed a dress, tossed over the back of a wooden rocking chair. All so cold with Mary gone, killed by some monster, some blood-sucker who knew the Bauer family history—probably knew Ana.
Then, the door behind her opened. The cologne was more prevalent, as was the poisonous smell of cigarettes. “She didn’t tell me you smoked,” Ana said and turned to find Ethan, half revealed behind the secret door to Mary’s room.
“I don’t. Usually,” he said, alive, not on camera, his flesh right in front of her.
Ana stood at full height and looked at him. She pulled her small, black velvet jacket tighter around her small shoulders. She made a show of brushing a piece of lint from the edge of her dark red, floor-length dress. “Did you want to be alone in here?”
“No.” He shook his head, took a step, and closed the door behind him. He stood with his hands in his pockets, seemingly unsure of himself, although he’d never looked that way on Ana’s smartphone screen.
Ana’s boots made loud taps as she walked toward him. She removed her leather glove and touched his hair, pushed a piece behind his ear. A line of goosebumps began at her fingers and moved up to her shoulder, over her chest. “You’re more handsome in person.”
The side of his mouth turned up. He looked at the floor.
“Am I the only one who knew? About you and Mary?”
He nodded, but as he nodded, a salty tear fell down his face. She wanted to lick it off, but instead, she pulled him into her embrace and put her hand on the back of his head. He leaned against her. He held her in the vice of his long arms and shook in silence as the pain of his loss soaked her shoulder.
“Shh,” she said. Her fingers ran down the back of his neck. “Shhh.”
“Do you know who did this?” he said.
“I have my suspicions.”
“Was it one of you?”
“I believe so,” she said, and he tore himself away from her.
“Why? Why would one of your kind kill Mary?”
Ana shook her head.
Ethan stopped in his pacing, and his eyes found her, his gaze just as chilled as the cemetery. “Is it because of you?”
“Yes,” she said.
He was out of breath, she could see, when he said, “God, I wish I could …”
The expression on his face told her he didn’t mean it, not really, but she could hear the blood pumping through his veins. His anger was like a hot breeze through the room.
“I’m hurting enough,” Ana said.
“How will you find who did this?”
“There are places to go,” she said. She looked away from him to hide the added rouge to her mouth and cheeks. She realized coming to the funeral was a mistake; being alone with Ethan, a mistake. He was too close, and she wanted him too badly. The scent of his blood now filled the room as smoke fills a chimney, and Ana wanted him right there on her dead niece’s bed.
“Take me with you.”
“No,” she said.
“I’ll find the killer, with or without your help.”
“No, you won’t,” she said to the window that overlooked a lush, green backyard with a maze in the middle.
“Stop me,” he said.
“I can stop you.” The quietness of her tone made the words all the more menacing, but when she gave him another look, Ethan was not afraid of her. He carried the same blind trust as her niece. Even though Ana was a monster, they believed her incapable of hurting people she loved, and by proxy, the people they loved.
“I’ll go out tonight,” she said. “You can come by my hotel room in the morning.” Then, she used speed no human could see. She grasped his chin, and he jumped backwards at her unexpected touch. He knocked into the vanity, and Mary’s gilded brush fell to the wood floor at their feet. “If I sense you anywhere near me tonight,” she said, “I will lock you where no one can find you until this is over. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” His voice shook, and Ana left.
The next morning, she woke to the scent of him outside her hotel room door. She wrapped herself in a robe at the sound of his knock and opened windows, let the light in. Ana did not fear the sun; had not in over a hundred years when she realized she was too old to be harmed.
He looked younger, so much younger, without the suit and tie. “My God, you could be a college student,” she said.
“May I come in?”
She opened the door. She stayed in one of the old hotels in Boston that overlooked a square where witches once hung. Her room was lush, filled with antique couches, flowers in tall vases, and throw blankets for keeping warm in the New England chill.
“What did you find?”
Ana stepped past him, toward the phone. “Would you like coffee?”
“No.” He shook his head.
She hung up the phone. “Nothing. Yet.”
“I’m coming with you tonight.”
“No. You’ll get hurt.”
He took two long steps forward, and he had her back against the wall. “Who cares?”
Ana remembered all the sweaty dreams she’d had of this man—all the times she’d awoken, whispering his name, before Mary was dead, before his skin was inches from her teeth. She shoved past him, but the warmth of his chest lingered on the palm of her hand where she’d pushed him away.
“Mary would care,” she said at the window, facing the street below.
“Do you rush to meet her?”
“I can’t just do nothing.”
She felt him get closer, until he lingered, inches from her back.
“Please, Ana,” he said.
She wanted him to say her name again. She wanted him to beg. To quench her auditory longing, she turned and hugged him around the waist. She leaned her forehead against the side of his chin and took in a mouthful of scent.
She was surprised by the way his tension melted in her arms, as if they were old familiars. Perhaps Mary had shown him pictures, too—of Ana, of Mary and Ana. Perhaps he once dreamt of her.
“Just tonight,” she said. She pulled back and touched his face. So soft, just shaved. “Only tonight will you need protecting.”
She took him to a vampire bar—one where few mortals dared venture, especially without an escort. Ana would be Ethan’s escort, and she would be careful, because he was too beautiful to be left alone. The place was called Vlad; Ana found this trite; having once met the infamous vampire, Dracula, she found him stupid and dull.
The interior was black and red—black walls, red carpet. The place smelled of Old Country church incense and an undercurrent of blood no mortal could detect. Ana took Ethan’s hand as they stepped inside and whispered, “Pretend we’re together,” meaning not friends but lovers.
And he looked the part in a black suit and shirt, no tie. He looked the part: pale skin; bright, wicked eyes. He looked like a man a vampire would love.
Eyes turned when they entered because they were new and easy to admire. Ana dragged him to the bar; ordered a shot of blood for her, vodka for him. They toasted, and after they drank, her lips found the edge of his mouth; he didn’t pull away because he only pretended.
They allowed themselves to be touched, flirted with. Ana noticed Ethan was an old pro—had no doubt spent years being treated this way by many different women. She kept her nose open, waiting for the scent of Mary or perhaps the flicker of a gaze. Surely whoever killed Mary also knew of Ethan, her sexual secret; if Ana saw recognition in the eyes of an admirer, she would know whose throat to slash.
Yet, as time passed, no scent arrived; eyes did nothing but gaze adoringly on Ethan. There was no guilt here. No fear. Only the hope of a warm meal, which Ana was careful to dissuade with her hand on Ethan’s shoulder, her own stare planted on his neck that shined like a moonlit pond. No one doubted he was hers, but perhaps they hoped for a threesome—a hope she shook off when other monsters looked to her with their pleas.
Soon, he grew tired, and she told him it was time to go home.
Ethan trusted her because Mary, his love, trusted her, so there was no hesitation when she invited him up to her hotel room for a nightcap. After the bar, a quiet, relaxing drink was what they both needed. He sat on the couch and leaned his head back. Ana watched him, and her fingers shook as she poured two glasses of wine.
She approached, handed him his glass. His skin smelled like the cologne she now knew well, along with a tinge of laundry detergent on his dress shirt. She ran her hand through his black hair, and he closed his eyes against her touch—not in pain but in pleasure. He was comfortable with her, had proved as much since the funeral.
Then, he moaned softly, and she realized he was asleep. Before the untouched glass of wine could fall to the wooden floor, Ana removed the long stem from his fingers and set it on the lamp-lit table by his side. Her own glass joined his, and she watched him sleep until she was certain her movements would not wake him.
She removed her high-heeled shoes and set them on the floor. She kneeled on the couch and straddled his waist. Still, he did not move.
Ana pulled her smartphone from the side of her bra. She leaned back, on top of him, and saw Ethan through the camera lens. She teased herself with the distance the lens afforded—like all those photos and videos from dear, dead Mary. Ana even took a picture of the sleeping man, for old time’s sake. Then, she moved her camera away to remind herself he really was between her legs.
She placed her petite hands on his chest and felt the warmth there. She heard his heart beat and smelled the blood beneath his skin. Warmth began to spread through her own body, starting in her thighs and up into her stomach. Her head felt light, delirious with desire for this doomed man whose only mistake was falling in love with her favorite niece.
Ana leaned forward and brushed the side of her cheek against his. “Ethan,” she whispered.
She pulled back as his lashes fluttered. His blue eyes looked up at her, confused. “Ana?”
She put her thumb against his mouth. “Shhh. This won’t hurt a bit.”
He tried to stand up, but before his feet could find placement, she had the top two buttons of his dress shirt torn and her teeth against his throat.
He tensed when she broke skin. He whimpered, said her name. His hands pushed against her shoulders until the poison in her fangs spread through his brain and made him lazy in her arms. His head fell against the back of the couch; his arms went limp. He was a six-foot ragdoll, but at times, she felt him pull closer to her—perhaps running toward death to see his Mary once more.
His blood was all she hoped, knew, it would be. Ever since the funeral, the smell of him haunted her. Now, what kept him alive poured down her throat and made her dead heart … beat, beat, beat. Halfway through the meal, she found herself moaning against his flesh, because she knew this was not about death.
Yet, Ethan was near death—very much so. She pulled her teeth away and looked at his face. If she didn’t know better, she would think he was but asleep.
She rose higher on her knees. She used her own teeth to carve a hole in her wrist, and she dripped blood between his parted lips. Her job well done, she fell back on the couch beside him. She licked the lingering blood on her lips—her own mixed with that of Ethan’s.
She sat and waited, but she did not need to wait long.
He was suddenly awake at her side, bent forward, doubled over in pain. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “It’ll be over in a moment,” she said.
His new-found strength was difficult to manage as his humanity died. Becoming a vampire was not a pleasant process, Ana recalled. Yet she was strong enough to hold him, keep him from breaking the room as he fought to escape bodily hurt. When he shouted, she covered his mouth with her hand. She soon found herself kneeling on top of him, pinning him to the couch and holding him in silence.
Ethan’s breath then calmed. His body relaxed. He no longer fought her, and she leaned away, gave him space. “Ethan,” she whispered, and she touched his hair.
“God, what have you done?” He wouldn’t look at her.
“You’ll never lose the woman you love again.”
“I don’t love you,” he said.
“You will.” She pushed his hair behind his ear and saw his profile—wide open eyes and parted lips. “Let me see you.”
After long moments of nothing but background city noise, he finally turned to her. His skin was no paler than it had been before, but his eyes, even brighter. A drop of blood stood out like a beauty mark on the side of his chin; she left it there for him to find, and she held his face in her hands.
“I’ve wanted you since I first saw you,” she said. She kissed his parted lips, once.
“You remind me of someone I once knew.” She thought back to her beloved Byron. “And you made Mary so happy.” She paused. “Make me happy, too, Ethan.”
She still held his face in her hands, and for the first time since they met, his eyes moved to her lips and he kissed her. He was gentle, perhaps testing out the taste and feel of her, until she pulled hard on the back of his neck and opened his mouth with her tongue.
Ana pulled away long enough to say, “Touch me,” before her mouth once again found his.
She thought back to the innocent smartphone video from Mary’s dorm room—a video that ended like this, with Ethan on top and in a black suit. Tell me you love me, Mary had said, and he did.
One thing Ana would never tell Ethan: that she’d killed his precious Mary to have him all to herself. Mary was too unreliable with men; she only would have hurt him anyway.
The End – Happy Halloween 2013
I haven’t seen my husband in eleven days. I haven’t been warm in eleven days, because for the past eleven days, I’ve been in my hometown, Perrysburg, Ohio, and the trip was a mixed bag.
Papa and Grandma Schwind.
Two weekends ago was funeral weekend. We celebrated the life of my Papa Schwind. My brother and I commemorated the occasion with a giddy rendition of Brandi Carlile’s “Keep Your Heart Young
.” As a family, we spent the evening by a bonfire, drinking beer, playing more music, and reminiscing. We “bonded,” maybe as we never have before, because Papa always did have a way of bringing people together.
The rest of my trip was wedding madness. I have never been a bridesmaid, so this was a first for me. Monday, I assisted dear Vicki (the bride) with program folding. Wednesday, we hit Toledo in a fancy limo for Vicki’s bachelorette party. Thursday, Vicki fought through a hang-over to tie up final loose ends. Then, Friday: the salon visit, the rehearsal at the church, and the rehearsal dinner. By the time the wedding day actually arrived, I felt as though weeks had passed.
Saturday, we got dolled up. We put on our beautiful bridesmaid gowns. We pretended it wasn’t overcast and freezing outside and started the day with mimosas. Then, we all got stage fright and had to do some group deep breathing and prayer before walking down the aisle.
Vicki and Del!
And of course everything was perfect. The ceremony was a dream. Vicki looked like a rich, 1920s bootlegger’s wife—classy and covered in glitz. Her new husband, Del, looked like he wanted to kiss her long before the pastor said, “You may kiss the bride.” And we cheered, cheered, cheered, because Vicki and Del took the first step toward a life together.
There was much rejoicing at the super-fancy reception at Carranor Polo Club in Perrysburg. The band kept us moving all night long. I sang a Norah Jones tune for the bride and groom. I danced with old friends. I was Vicki and Del’s chauffeur at the end of the night, and I got to watch him carry her over the threshold of their shared home. I then fell into my childhood bed without removing my makeup or brushing my teeth; I haven’t done that in years.
I’ve found that I get somewhat selfish at other people’s weddings. Other people’s weddings make me think of my wedding and the wonder it was. My wedding to my Jake was a miracle—could not have been more “us.” I get cheerful thinking about our big day; I get melancholy, too, because I wish we could do it again!
Maybe that’s what this lengthy Ohio trip was about: sadness and cheer.
Sad to have lost Papa; happy that he’s in peace.
Sad to have a funeral; happy to have a wedding.
Happy to have a friend like Vicki; happy that she has Del.
I am also happy to be heading home—very happy. I miss my Jake, and Vicki’s wedding made his absence more apparent. Yes, I slow-danced with friends’ parents at the wedding (ha), but this trip to Ohio was hard without my hubbie. Now, I’m on a plane. I’ll be home soon, in the arms of the man I love.
To my Grandma Schwind: Papa is gone for now, but he’s waiting for you in Heaven, where he’ll give you a huge hug and sloppy kiss when you arrive.
To Vicki and Del: Many, many congratulations on your fabulous wedding and many blessings on your marriage. You’ll always be in my prayers.
To Jake: Baby, I’m comin’ home, and I can’t wait to hold you forever.
Jake and me.
Barney Schwind is dead: the man known across the Toledo area as “The TV Repair Man.” He wasn’t known to me as that. I called him “Papa.”
Saturday night, October 5, Papa passed on. For years, we watched him lose weight, lose his appetite. We watched him physically shrink, the man he used to be shed like clothing on the floor. Yet, despite old age and dementia, he was still Papa, who loved gin and tonics, always had Tic Tacs in his pocket, and did magic tricks with pieces of tissue paper.
Papa never lost his spark. He still yelled, “Sara, baby!” every time I called the house. He still made bad jokes, and I still laughed. He still jokingly held blankets to the side of his face every Christmas and sucked his thumb like a little kid. Despite the dwindling physicality—the mind that forgot my husband’s name—he was still Papa. And we didn’t love him any less.
He’s gone now. He died Saturday night after a huge, Papa yawn. We, as family, are left with many memories of this great man who wore gold chain necklaces on the beaches of Long Boat Key; who visited the Jagermeister tent at the German American Fest to hit on chicks; and who kissed me on the cheek each time I arrived and left his house on Walnut Street.
My family has lost our patriarch; my grandmother has lost her husband. Perrysburg, you’ve lost Barney Schwind. You were lucky to have him for so long.
Papa taught me how to be an optimist every day. He taught me how to have a smile for everyone. He taught me how to love unconditionally—and love eternally. He will be greatly missed … but in a way, I feel like he’s still here, giving me a big Papa hug and telling me he’ll always be close.
(Thanks to the Perrysburg Messenger Journal.)
My short story, “Two Dates,” has just been published by Sliptongue Magazine. Read an excerpt below, and follow the LINK for the full story. Warning: MATURE CONTENT.
Two Dates (excerpt)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
The ginger stood, and God, was he tall. She leaned her upper body back and gave him a funny look.
“We’re very sorry to interrupt your …” He pointed his finger toward the crowd of women. “Uh …”
“Blow job workshop.”
The ginger closed his dark blue eyes and said, “Right. Yes. Sorry.”
“Do you need help finding something?” Angie asked.
“Dude.” The shorter gent smacked the ginger on the shoulder. “They have lingerie. I’m gonna check it out.” Baldy disappeared around a stack of books about tantric sex.
“Are you guys a couple?”
This made the ginger look down at the ground and shake his head. “No. No. Look, it’s my friend’s bachelor party tonight.” He gestured toward the ladies’ underwear. “Not that idiot, but we all went to college together.”
“Uh, no, Yale, and I’m the best man, and I’m not good at this.”
“Good at what?”
He held his hands out to her, palms up. “I need something that would greatly, greatly embarrass the bachelor in public.”
“I think we can make that happen.” She smiled up at the gawky ginger, and he smiled back. “Is your buddy metro? Manly? Homophobic?”
He seemed to consider this. “I think ‘manly’ might be the best of those choices. Much more manly than me.”
“Dude, you’re wearing Armani. There’s nothing more manly than that.”
He raised red-blond eyebrows at her, seemingly shocked by her comment.
“What’s your name?”
“Ben. Short for something humiliating.”
“Well, I’m Angie.” She reached out her hand, and they shook in honor of newfound familiarity. “I have just the thing for your manly pal.” She beckoned him around a corner with a crooked finger. Angie did a slow saunter, her eyes trailing over male enhancement pills and vibrators before she stopped suddenly, and Ben ran into her.
“Sorry. Had a couple pints already.”
“That much …” she laid her hand on his forearm, “is apparent, babe. Now. Here is what you need.” She pulled a gigantic penis pump from a hook. “I mean, probably not what you need personally. I’m guessing you’re too tall to need one of these.”
“You don’t know what this is?” She handed it to him. She watched him read the box, and the more his lips mouthed the words, the more his eyebrows lowered until finally, he laughed.
“This is perfect,” he said. “You’re a genius.”
“I know my penis products.”
He chuckled and bit his bottom lip while looking at her, which made her kind of want to bite it, too.
“What are you doing tonight?”
“I mean after that.”
“Dunno. What am I doing after that?”
He pointed the penis pump toward his compatriot, who, Angie noticed, had a pair of women’s underwear on his head. “Would you like to meet us out?”
“Why? Do you need a stripper?”
Ben’s face crinkled in horror. “No, I didn’t …” He shook his head.
“Oh, my God, I’m kidding.”
His skin turned bright red.
“Oh, he’s blushing!” She reached her palm up and touched his cheek. “You are so cute. Yes, I would love to meet you out. Give me your number.” She smiled, surprised this gentlemanly geek could make her swoon when she was so used to leather and bondage.
Like what you’ve read so far? Full story HERE. (Mature content!!!)
When I was a depressive teenager, my parents hated the black I wore—even my hair. I remember I once snuck out of the house with black eyeliner on, and when my mom finally noticed, she freaked. Granted, I probably looked like a raccoon. That black eyeliner was the first makeup I ever wore.
As an adult, I look back and laugh, because now, those things that made me creepy and “troubled” as a teen have become my trademark. I wear black eyeliner every day, usually paired with dark purple lipstick. I wear tons of black clothes and skulls—skulls galore. Even my friends love this; so much so that when they see anything skull-related, they spend their hard-earned money and buy it for me.
The things that were once exterior manifestations of my depression have become … style.
When I was a teenager, the black hair and dark makeup were cries for help. I wanted to show people how disturbed I was; isn’t that what writers are supposed to do—show not tell? Now, I wear dark makeup because I look good in dark makeup. I have purple streaks in my hair because I like lookin’ funky. No longer does darkness on the outside mimic darkness within. Darkness on the outside just means I’m keeping up with Vogue.
Day of the Dead goth.
The last week has been a week of endings. I finished my novel, Something about a Ghost,
and my grandfather passed away Saturday night. The dark makeup has been smeared by tears that wash in like high tide. My toenail polish started peeling, so I painted them black. I try on three outfits before I put on a black tee and call it a day.
For the first time in fifteen years, it is possible that my exterior mimics the internal pain. When I was a teenager, my grunge-phase call for help was hormonal. I suppose today the black couture and blood-red lipstick are purely circumstantial.
When I was a teenager, I listened to Nine Inch Nails to drown myself in auditory misery. As an adult, their music reminds me of sex. Many things change, but depression doesn’t. I have good days, bad days, but I’ve been fighting this disease since the eighth grade, and there is no cure. There is no magic pill. This has been a week of endings, but not an end to sadness.
I will not be deterred from the way I look. No matter how I feel, I’ll still wear skull jewelry. I’ll still paint my nails black and go total goth for Rocky Horror Picture Show
at the end of this month. I may be depressive, but I still got style. I also still have sadness, and I admit: that teenager in the Kurt Cobain t-shirts still lives inside me. She says hello whenever I buy Urban Decay lip gloss or hear Jim Morrison sing “The End.”
We are who we once were. We change in many ways, but certain things remain the same. I embrace the old me—pay her homage—every time I bemoan another sunny day. (Sunshine can be so depressing.) But I sometimes turn my back on teenage me, too: go makeup-less and lay in the sun.
I am in a dark place for now. The black fingernails and dark lipstick are more than elements of style. Yet, I will move forward, and soon, this pain will pass. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll buy something in a shade of pink.
This is not me. But it’s kind of how I feel right now.
Blood. Sweat. A lot of listening to Amanda Palmer.
And folks, we have a completed novel.
I present … to no one but myself (for now) … Something about a Ghost.
Buy hey, until I’m ready to send the manuscript to first readers, listen to the song I listened to while writing the final scene.
And remember: “If I love you, it’s not because a ghost made me do it, but because you did.”
As I near the completion of another novel (Something about a Ghost), my feelings are mixed. I’m excited at the prospect of completing a new project—a land speed record for me, a novel in two months. This year, every novel I write finishes faster. In time, I might be Ray Bradbury, locked away in a basement, writing Fahrenheit 451 in four days.
Each time I finish a novel, there is a forty-eight hour period of celebration. Following the celebration comes the depression, the mourning. By completing a novel, I kill my characters. You must understand: when the book ends, so does their story. They will never say something new, do something new. They are dead, and when this realization strikes, I wish I still had work to do.
My therapist suggests I write a letter to my dead characters, telling them how much I miss them. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s an idea. Characters, when you spend enough time with them, become friends, and no one likes saying goodbye to a friend.
In conjunction with the completion of Something about a Ghost, I struggle to come to terms with my grandfather’s ensuing passage. As of last Sunday, the Hospice nurses gave him one to two weeks of life left.
Papa Schwind, 2011, at my wedding in AZ.
Papa Schwind is the grandfather I grew up with in Ohio. My Grandpa Dobie lived far away, in Arkansas, and he died when I was very young, so I identify the word “grandfather” most strongly with Papa. He lives five minutes from my childhood home. He was at my house for every birthday, national holiday, and random Sunday afternoon.
Now, he can’t get out of bed. He recently told my mother that he and Grandma were on vacation—that they would be going home soon. I’ve tried talking to him on the phone from far-off Arizona, but he doesn’t respond. I don’t know if he knows who I am on the telephone. If he saw me, maybe it would be different; maybe not. He’s drugged. He sleeps constantly. He truly is ready to leave.
Everything ends. Life. Novels. Summer. Let’s not forget it will soon be October, and I’m shocked. October is my favorite month of the year—the month of pumpkin-flavored everything, daily horror films, and spooky décor. I am ill-prepared, perhaps because of all that’s gone on this week: the impending loss of not only favorite figments of my imagination but of the man I’ve loved all my life.
In my imagination, Papa and my novel are on a timeline together. I call my family every day; I write every day. Papa fades; the characters in Something about a Ghost will, too. I’ve reached the level of literary maturity to know that finishing a novel carries a lot of baggage; so does death, because I don’t know how I’ll respond when the final phone call comes from Ohio. Will I cry? Scream? Fall apart?
Papa has been sick a long time. The man he was—the man I most remember—is mostly gone. He still smiles. I guess Sunday, when they first thought he was gonna go, he woke up and asked for a cookie. That’s Papa. He’s still in there, but I’ve already grieved. I’ve been grieving for two years.
Everything ends. People say every ending is also a beginning, and this is true. Papa’s life in Heaven will soon begin. The ending of my novel will release my mind and allow me to wander down new paths of creativity. Yet, I do not rejoice at the prospect of these endings. Instead, I feel a daily ache and wonder what beginnings hide in shadows so thick.
I finished reading The Paris Wife recently for my prison book club. The Paris Wife is the story of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and her experience as his spouse while living as a member of The Lost Generation in Paris. The book was excellent: beautifully written, honest, and terribly tragic (as we all know how their relationship ends …). Because of The Paris Wife, I decided it was time to revisit Ernest Hemingway. And God help me.
I decided to pick up The Sun Also Rises, because the bull fight scenes in Pamplona were a huge part of The Paris Wife. I knew, thanks to Hadley’s first person account, that The Sun Also Rises is very true, featuring people who actually existed, who were “friends” of the Hemingway’s. I use the term “friends” loosely because honestly I’m not sure how much any of these people liked each other, which is made even more apparent in The Sun Also Rises.
A small novel, Sun took me way longer than it should have to complete. Not because the diction was difficult; obviously not—we’re talking about Hemingway, a master of using very few words to get across huge thematic points. No, Sun took me a long time to read because I was bored.
Granted, I want to give Hemingway his due. He is a genius with dialogue. He says so much by saying nothing at all. Most of the time, everything is subtext, but it’s brilliant! Brilliant! So dialogue: points! Many points. He understands human nature and is capable of creating an entire, fully realized character with nothing but his or her words. That is not easy.
Yet, I find his work to be boring. I can’t put my finger on it. I suppose, in the case of The Sun Also Rises, the repetition of “another bottle of wine” and “I’m tight” got a little old. They’re all drunk the entire book, which is why the ugliness comes out—why friends leave Pamplona as enemies.
Maybe his descriptions. I don’t like his descriptions. They’re not flowery enough for me. My favorite authors are European—Spanish mostly—and those romance language dudes know how to speak pretty. Hemingway? Not so much, which is part of his fame, part of his allure. Yet, this stagnant use of language was not alluring to me. BORED!
I have another theory: do you think Hemingway wrote for a male audience? Do you suppose, as a female, I just don’t relate? I mean, he was a Man’s Man. He was a a fighter, a drunk, a womanizer. Maybe if I had a set of balls, his work would resonate better, because as a woman, I find his female characters to be quite despicable—and maybe that’s what he intended. No matter how much he loved women in his life, he had a way of tossing them away when the next best thing came around. Perhaps he fits this philosophy into his work.
In conclusion, I gave Hemingway another shot. Did I enjoy myself? Eh. At times. There were brilliant lines: “I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends.” Or: “I was a little drunk. Not drunk in any positive sense but just enough to be careless.” Another: “Cohn had a wonderful quality of bringing out the worst in anybody.” My God, brilliant!!
That said I won’t be going back to good old Ernest. I still have flashbacks of the horror of The Old Man and the Sea from high school, and although The Sun Also Rises was better, I’m still not interested in tackling his body of work. Thanks, Ernest, for being you and for creating a new style of American writing. However, we’re breaking up. It’s not you; it’s me.
Do you listen to music when you create? As a writer, I must say I do not, but I know Stephen King has a penchant for hard rock and metal bands when he writes. What about painters? Sculptors? Dancers don’t count, because you obviously listen to music when you create.
Artists out there: what does music mean to you?
I only ask because I’d like to know I’m not alone. See, every time I start a new book, I slowly develop the movie soundtrack. I’m a geek, right? Like, totally, but for real: every book I have ever written has a playlist in iTunes, complete with the book title and a full list of songs that inspired the project.
Sometimes, the list is built before the book even begins. Other times, the playlist grows as the book grows. Generally, there is a main band that frames the novel. I swear, each time I start a new novel, some band out there releases an album that fits perfectly with my project. Very cosmic, yes? It goes back to the theory that we’re all connected: artists and non-artists alike.
What we do inspires other people even if we aren’t aware—which is, I suppose, why we should be cautious of what we create. There’s a lot of pressure, putting something new out into the world. You never know what effect you might have, which is part of the excitement and part of the danger. But I digress …
This blog post is actually a playlist for my first completed novel Life without Harry (available in eBook). I started writing Life without Harry during the summer of last year, and it just so happened that Florence + the Machine released Ceremonials around the same time. Voila. Soundtrack created. But as the book grew, so did the songs.
I’d now like to share the very special, very personal song list that went along with the writing of Life without Harry. I can even tell you the specific scene where each song belongs. Enjoy some good music today and realize how much music affects you, your life, and your art.
Official Soundtrack to Life without Harry
We Are Young – Fun (Movie Trailer)
Prologue – John Williams (Just because.)
Only If For A Night – Florence + the Machine (Opening Credits)
I Won’t Let You Down – Alex Clare (Kissing in the Fireflies)
Heartlines – Florence + the Machine (Running from Cops on Camelback)
Transatlantic – Silver Rocket (Anywhere. This song fits anywhere.)
Between Two Lungs – Florence + the Machine (Sam Begins to Write)
Arizona – Kings of Leon (Paul Takes Sam Broom-Flying)
Never Let Me Go – Florence + the Machine (The Haboob Chase)
Soon or Never – Punch Brothers (The Final Goodbye to Sig)
Thanks for reading … er, listening. In the future, I think I’ll always include a playlist in the content of my novels. It seems to make the experience so much more personal, for me and my reader. We can not only share words and images but sounds, as well, no matter the distance between us, and I like that.
The Narrows, Zion National Park.
Our last week was spent hiking and camping, immersed in nature. Joined by two of our best pals from out east, Jake and I trekked through Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. We survived two nights of camping at Zion, the first of which involved a bear scare (turned out to be nothing). The second night, the apocalypse descended by way of a thunderstorm that could wake Rip Van Winkle. There was very little showering, less sleep, and miles—hours
I grew up hiking. Every summer, my family would travel to a number of national parks. I recall one particular trip when my dad and I decided to hike a mountain and ended up going off-trail, getting lost, and wandering for much longer than we should have. Yet, back in the day, this didn’t bother me. Back in the day, I could hike for days and days and never tire of the beauty of nature. So now, at thirty-one, what have I come to realize?
I don’t like hiking.
This may come as a shock to those of you who remember the Sara of her early twenties. As a college kid at Ohio University, I used to skip class to drive to Hocking Hills and hike strenuous trails by myself. I couldn’t be stopped. So what happened over the past ten years?
Arguably, I have finally become over-saturated with the hiking experience. Maybe I did too much hiking as a kid, and now, I just don’t want to do it anymore. Or even worse (gulp): I have officially become a city girl.
The view from our campsite.
I might have done better if not for the camping and the utter disgust with my own stink. Jake has often asked about my family vacations from my youth, and he doesn’t understand why my family never camped. We stayed in hotels. I never had a for sure answer to our lack of camping either, but I do now.
First of all, nobody sleeps well when camping. It’s very hard to hike for six hours when you haven’t had a good night of sleep. My parents understood this, which was why we stayed in places with beds and running water. More importantly, after a long day of hiking, I want a shower, a beer, and ESPN. These are behaviors learned from my father, because after a long day of hiking, this is what he did on our family trips.
Don’t get me wrong: I had a fabulous time this past week with our friends. We hiked the Narrows, which is my favorite hike, like, ever, because the whole time, you’re walking through a river. Yet, by the time we were finally driving home on Tuesday night, I was so, so done. I was ready for a shower, my bed, my dogs, and yes, my computer. I missed feeling like a girl, so yesterday, my gal pal and me got mani/pedis and went to Ulta for new makeup. I wore perfume. I shaved my legs. I went out in high heels. I was a woman again.
I’m not embarrassed to admit it: I’m now a city girl. I love nature, but I’d rather see it from the porch of a furnished cabin as opposed to through the zipper of a stinky tent. And I’d rather be in a pretty dress at happy hour than on a hiking trail. Ten years ago, I never would have seen this coming, but I now must admit: I’ve become a princess.
I’ve never considered the flashing of breasts to be criminal. If the police at Ohio University, circa 2001, considered the flashing of breasts criminal, I would probably still be in prison. For the next ten years. But I learned something new this past Saturday on the Salt River: showing your boobs in public is, in fact, a ticketed offense—and the cops were ready and waiting.
In the defense of the young ladies flashing their goods, it was “Mardi Gras Weekend” on the Salt River, and by God, what are you supposed to do at Mardi Gras? Flash your goods! The Salt River employees handed out beads as we boarded the buses. Were we supposed to hold on to our beads? Hell no! Beads are meant to be traded for breasts. At least, that’s what we thought.
Yet, as we rode our collective tubes down the river, it became apparent: although marshmallow throwing was highly encouraged, cops were waiting to ticket women who showed their breasts. Not that I was one of them (I was), but seriously? It’s the Salt River. Shouldn’t there be some kind of law about not writing tickets there? Especially on “Mardi Gras Weekend?”
Of course, thanks to Jake, who has been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I learned women are ticketed there for flashing, as well. What, you say? At Mardi Gras in New Orleans? You gotta be kidding me. Drunk people can walk around with open containers legally, but women cannot share their God-given talents? Wrong. Wrong!
I don’t know how the feminists feel about the flashing of boobs, but I have no problem with it. In fact, I condone boob-flashing. Are there many people who don’t?
One of my newly discovered idols is the poetic and super sexy Amanda Palmer. I love her music, and I love the way she won’t take crap from anyone. The London Daily Mail recently covered one of her concerts, and instead of mentioning her music, they mentioned how her “breast escaped her bra.”
Do you know what Palmer did as a rebuttal? She wrote the Daily Mail a song. (Please, watch the whole video HERE. It’s beyond fantastic.)
There are several highlights to this rebuttal, and I quote: “If you’d Googled my tits in advance you’d have found that your photos are hardly exclusive.” Palmer loves her breasts, and she loves to show them. In fact, halfway through the song, recently recorded at a live performance, she removes a kimono to reveal her complete, naked self!
My girlfriend. Amanda Palmer.
I am in no way suggesting we all just walk around naked. Please. No. Yet, I am comfortable with nudity, and this is not “my generation’s” thing. Reveling in nudity and FREEDOM OF BREAST started with the hippies: my mom’s gang, who burned their bras with pride. My Aunt Susie still rarely keeps her girls hindered by underwear.
And why should we? If women want to show their boobs, why shouldn’t women show their boobs? I understand there is a place to draw the line. I don’t think bottomless is the way to go. As Seinfeld proved in the naked episode, there is such a thing as “bad naked.” Flashing our downstairs areas: just don’t do it. However, why not let our boobies fly free?
I am proud to be a woman. I’m proud (though often confused) at the power of the breast. I mean, seriously, boobs are sacks of fat. However, men love breasts. Even I love breasts, and I’m straight and married. Breasts are pretty. They sustain life. They should not be ticketed. Nay, they should be celebrated!
I feel bad for the girls who got tickets this weekend on the Salt River. I feel even worse for women who get ticketed at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s gotta be a shock to be punished for something so openly embraced.
What’s so wrong with nudity? If a woman wants to show her boobs, let her. Give her a high five, because boobs belong to us, and if we want to share them with the men of this world, it’s our choice to do so. Here’s my vote: bare breasts should be legal. If the women of African tribes can do it in National Geographic, why can’t we?
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Unless the book is The Longings of Wayward Girls. The cover is mysterious, beautiful, and it pulls you in. So does the book—even more so than the brilliant cover.
Deviant things always happen in the suburbs, right? So in Wayward Girls, it’s a perfect New England summer when Sadie’s trouble begins. She is a precocious only child on the edge of adolescence—on the edge of becoming a woman, although she’s already curious about “womanly things:” boys, in particular. This summer seems like any other until Sadie and her best friend play a seemingly harmless prank on a lonely neighborhood girl. Soon after, that same little girl disappears from a backyard barbecue—and is never seen again.
Twenty years pass, and Sadie has grown into a wife and mother. She lives in the same, quiet New England suburb and seems to have put her past behind her. But when a boy from her childhood returns to town, the nightmares of that faraway summer begin to resurface, and its unsolved mysteries threaten to come to light.
This is Karen Brown’s first novel. She is a prolific, award-winning short story author, but I’m pleased she made the jump to novelist. The story of Sadie and “that summer” deserve a couple hundred pages, and I read them, hungrily, until the final word.
The Longings of Wayward Girls is a mystery, yes, but the mystery is a small part of the overall plot. Certainly, the ghosts of Sadie’s past haunt her in the future, and the slow unraveling of her childhood summer is frightening to watch—especially knowing what we, as reader, already know. Yet, the greatness of the mystery is overshadowed by the greatness of Sadie’s questioning as an adult.
Yes, she is a wife and mother. Yes, she’s happy … or is she? When her childhood crush returns, she finds herself questioning her marriage and the life she has chosen.
This book is effective on several literary levels, but more so, it’s effective to married women and women with children. Brown successfully makes you relate to Sadie. She does some villainous things, overwrought by confusion; yet, it was impossible to turn my back on her. I felt for her. I wanted to hug her, especially as I watched her wander down literal and metaphorical paths that led deep into dark forests.
I finished this book in three days, because Wayward Girls is impossible to put down. It’s amazing to watch the transition of Sadie from child to woman. Even more so, the revelation of a mystery solved will keep you turning the pages.
I can’t wait for Karen Brown’s next book. I’ll be the girl in line at the bookstore, waiting with open hands. She impressed me, and as a book snob, that’s not easy to do.
Buy the book HERE. And learn more about Karen at her website.
Through the priceless Atria Books Galley Alley, I received a book by an author as yet unknown to me. The book: The Longings of Wayward Girls. The author: Karen Brown. Wayward Girls is her first novel, although she is already a highly successful short story writer.
I was intrigued by the cover; read the book right away. Although I’ll do a full review of Wayward Girls on Thursday, here’s a tease: I loved the book enough to contact the author and tell her so. I even begged her to do an interview on my blog. So without any further ado from me, I present …
An H and Five Ws with Wayward Girls Author Karen Brown
How did you first get published?
As an undergraduate majoring in Creative Writing I wrote stories for class. One of my professors also assigned us the task of choosing one journal or magazine where we felt our work might be published, so I sought out the “periodicals” section of the university library, and the trove of literary magazines collected on the shelves.
At the time these were the venerable journals like Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The Yale Review—and even though I wasn’t sure any of these would take my work, I started submitting to the ones that published stories I enjoyed. I think this professor was keenly aware of the nature of submitting—you want to align your own sensibilities with the editor, and you want to submit to a journal impressive enough that it pleases you to imagine your story in its pages.
Of course I had many rejections. But I also learned that once a story was complete, I should start another, and eventually my stories got better, and a couple of years later I was lucky enough to be pulled from the slush pile of The Georgia Review, one of those venerable publications I’d discovered on the library’s shelves. My first publication was an incredible honor—the journal is beautiful, and has featured so many fine writers.
Who is your biggest literary influence?
I think my influences change all the time—I’ll read something that really resonates with me for whatever reason, and some sense of it always reverberates in my work. But my first biggest literary influence was J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. I read it in Junior High, and was drawn to Salinger’s characters and settings, to the way the stories all feel very large, as if we know more about the characters than he is actually telling. But I was most intrigued by his tone—often darkly funny. Later in college, a professor read us “The Laughing Man” from Nine Stories, and I remembered the book and read the stories again. It is probably the book I’ve reread the most, and each time it is a different experience.
What are you most afraid of?
A fear I’ve long-held, that I’ve never overcome is that of being lost. I’m so leery that I don’t even trust the GPS. I have to map out new routes, and any change in the plan—a detour, a roadblock—makes my heart race and my palms damp. I have vivid memories of my mother, cigarette in hand, at the wheel of our station wagon. All six of us children are loaded in the back, our luggage is tied to the roof, and she is in a panic, trying to negotiate the interstate on the way to the beach. I’ve heard, too, that my grandfather had zero sense of direction. I like to blame it all on a faulty gene. It would be wonderful to embrace the whole “Sometimes you have to get lost in order to find yourself” thing. Maybe one day?
Where do you get your ideas?
Stories surround us, and as writers we learn to become attuned to them. They don’t always exist fully formed—they can be part of places, or involve people we observe. I’ve come to recognize when the story is one I can tell, one that combines what I know, and what I want to know. So most of my ideas come from vague memories of the past, or places I visit, or sometimes a vivid dream. The story unfolds from that—I don’t often know what will go into its telling, or where it is headed. I don’t know what details I’ll discover in the writing of it, or which I’ll pull from memory. It’s a strange sort of combination that occurs.
When (if ever) have you wanted to give up on being a writer?
Once I began to write regularly I knew I’d never give it up. Even when I couldn’t write all the time, when work or life interfered, I knew I would get back to it, that writing was waiting. Someone I met at a reading recently said that if you’re really a writer you are one for life.
WHY are you a writer?
I thoroughly enjoy making things up. I always have. It’s like playing house as an adult. I like crafting the words on the page—putting them together so that they create worlds the reader can enter and live in for a while.
As an endnote: Any advice for a novelist looking for representation and/or a publishing house?
I never fully understood what revision was until I wrote a novel. For me, it wasn’t the story or the characters but the structure—the way the story was presented—that posed the most trouble. You have to be open to telling the story the best way, and sometimes the best way—the one that allows the reader access—isn’t the method you’ve chosen.
I’d advise anyone writing a novel to have a handful of careful, like-minded readers take a look at the draft, and then to be open to their feedback. Carefully crafted query letters are also vital. You can’t acquire an agent or an editor until you’re able to attract them to your story, and provide a strong manuscript when they request it.
(To learn more about Karen Brown, visit her website: http://karenbrownbooks.com/. Full review of The Longings of Wayward Girls will be posted Thursday, but if you can’t wait … just go buy it now. You won’t regret it.)
About the Book:
Cover by Katie Purcell.
Xanax-dependent author Samantha Elliot is on deadline with a literary festival three weeks away when a white owl flies into her windshield and then disappears. This wouldn’t be the strangest thing, if not for the magic wand that soon shows up and the Invisibility Cloak that just happens to make Sam invisible. Then, there’s Paul Rudolph: the office crush who finally asks her on a date. With the help of anti-depressants and her friend, Julie, Sam must navigate an ever-escalating world of Harry Potter and an ever-hotter relationship with Paul while finishing a manuscript before her agent (who might be Voldemort) arrives for the literary festival … and possibly Sam’s head.
How to Get Your Copy:
Life without Harry is available in ePUB, MOBI, and PDF formats (thanks to tech goddess Beth Rich). Either leave a comment below or email me to receive your free copy. Just remember to specify your preferred format!
Why Not on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo …?
Because Life without Harry references the Harry Potter series, I unfortunately came upon copyright issues. Ms. Rowling does not take kindly to people tossing her characters about (which is respectfully understood), so I am not legally allowed to sell my book online. Instead, I’m giving it away here on my blog. I might not make money from my novel, but I have to share Life without Harry: its characters, its message, and its love for all things Potter.
I met my husband four years ago today. I consider August 14th the luckiest day of my life.
What Can You Do?
Tell your friends to come over and request their free copy.
Also, I know I can’t sell Life without Harry. However, I can ask for “Obsessively Driven Novelist” donations. As most of you know, I’m a professional writer. I spend the day in my pajamas behind a computer. I talk to myself, like, a lot, and I’m alone for hours on end. Writing is my first love. However, this love of mine is lonely and often thankless. Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Too true. But what if you spend a year bleeding … and never get bandaged? If you feel like contributing to the “Obsessively Driven Novelist” cause, head over to my Paypal and toss me some pennies. This passionate writer-person thanks you.
I’m accustomed to beach people, having spent two years as one in Charleston, South Carolina. Yet, nothing quite prepares you for the people of Florida.
Florida front yard. Yep.
I went to Longboat Key once when I was a kid—ten years old. I surely did not have the keen observational skills I do now. Now, when I set foot on Longboat, I could people-watch for hours, days, weeks. I’d love to, in fact, because five days of vacation was not enough.
My Aunt Susie—best buddy, maid of honor at my wedding, blood relative—called me months ago and said, “You’re coming to Florida with me. I’ll pay for half your plane ticket.” How could I say no? Last week, we were together for five glorious days of sunshine, booze, and island fun.
Longboat Key is a swanky little town on the Gulf Coast, population 6800. When you’re not seeing mansions, you’re seeing beach condos. And I mean literally, our condo was right on the freakin’ beach. We woke up every morning to blue water, green grass, and pink bougainvillea. We woke up smelling the sea—and my decaf coffee.
Usually, we took a bike ride first thing. We visited the old part of Longboat, where wild peacocks roam the streets. Then, it was to the beach, where the sun was hot but the water was cold. No matter. I still dove in … a couple times. I can’t not swim in the ocean when the ocean is right in front of me.
On the beach, I met Heidi. She’s famous. Everyone knows her. She’s this older lady (upper-sixties, if I had to guess) who still wears bikinis. She has bright, blond hair and over-tanned skin the color of milk chocolate. She walks the beach of Longboat every day at approximately 3 PM, and one day, I even had the honor of joining her for drinks.
At The Drift Inn.
Off the beach, Susie and I ate too much food and one night, drank too much beer. There’s this place near Longboat (in Bradenton) called The Drift Inn. The Drift Inn, like Heidi, is famous in our family, because it’s where my Papa Schwind used to buy liquor (and probably sneak a pint or two). It is the penultimate beach dive bar. You can even smoke INSIDE. When I walked in, some guy turned to me, said “What the <bleep>?” and asked if I was lost. It’s that kind of place.
Susie and I made friends quickly, as we often do, loud, obnoxious characters that we are. By the end of the night, we were practically “regulars.” I even connected with a mother-son pair who’d spent time in Belize on Ambergris Caye. They want to meet Jake and me there next time we go. I mean, if this is not dive bar behavior, what is?
My vacation to Longboat Key was not physically healthy. Almost all the skin on my face has been transformed to possibly pre-cancerous freckles. Due to my consumption of gluten and booze, I probably put on five pounds. My hair is a frizzy mess. Yet, emotionally, Longboat was just what I needed. I needed a week of doing absolutely nothing—worrying about nothing. Blessed, blessed beach town; I miss you already, but I’m glad to be home with my hubbie and my pups. Now, I just need to find a way to bring the beach lifestyle to Phoenix …
The full eBook download of my first novel, Life without Harry, will be available Wednesday. Until then, something to whet your appetite …
Life without Harry
by Sara Dobie Bauer
Samantha Elliot was talking on the phone in the car on a Tuesday when she hit a large, white owl in downtown Phoenix. At least she thought it was an owl. They never found the body.
Her agent, Elaine Umbert, was on the other end of the line. Screaming. “Changing Hands Bookstore called me about a promo event once your new book is released. Me. Why would they call me?”
Sam had no idea, other than to say, “Well, you are my agent.”
“Not good enough.”
“Then, I have no idea?”
“Isn’t the owner a friend of yours?”
She used to be, before Sam acquired an anxiety disorder and basically stopped writing; not that her agent knew that. Her agent thought Sam was almost finished with book number two. See, Elaine Umbert was a positive thinker.
“I just need to know: is the book almost finished?”
Sam honked the horn on her 1996 Toyota Camry twice and shouted, “Stay in your own lane!” There was no one in front of her, but she needed a distraction.
“You know, JK Rowling was never behind on a deadline. You like her, don’t you?”
“I love her.”
“And can you imagine what would have happened to her if she failed to deliver? What if Harry Potter seven never happened?”
“She would have been burnt at the stake as a witch.”
“Exactly.” Sam heard a telltale inhale-exhale, which meant Elaine was smoking again, somewhere in San Diego. “So just …” she sighed. “Finish the damn thing, and fast.”
“Stephenie Meyer rushed the last Twilight book, and everyone agreed it sucked.”
“You don’t suck, Sam. You can’t suck.”
“Yes. I can.” She turned her car onto Seventh Avenue on the way to her gym and almost rear-ended a handicapped driver, which made her scream and slam on the brakes.
“Sam! What is it?”
“I’m driving in downtown Phoenix at lunch hour. I shouldn’t be on a phone.”
“I’m almost finished. Look, I’ll be there in three weeks, and the manuscript will be done, and we will make an announcement at the literary festival.”
Sam stopped at a red light and refused to say “yes” to any of those things. “Uh … uh …”
A man in a black pickup truck pulled up next to her. He nodded and smiled when he noticed her looking at him, but she was really noticing his obnoxious mariachi music—which gave Sam an idea. She reached for the radio and turned to one of the high-100s. When she found the proper brand of Mexican, she turned up the volume and started to shout.
“Elaine! Some gang-bangers just pulled up next to me. I really need to get off the phone.”
“I think I see a gun!”
“I’ll call you later!” She hung up, wondering if her little act was enough to keep her literary agent distracted at least until tomorrow.
First, Sam turned down the music. Then, when the light turned green, she waved at the guy next to her and kept driving. If she got to the gym, she’d be all right. At the gym, her anxiety went away, beat beneath the soles of her running shoes. At the gym, she didn’t think about the manuscript, behind deadline—the manuscript that sucked, really. She just ran and ran and didn’t wonder if her fifteen minutes were up, because if anything, Samantha Elliot was famous: one of the rare best-selling authors who appeared on the late shows and with her favorite, Jon Stewart. But that was all two years ago.
At the next stoplight, she glanced through her windshield into the clear, blue Arizona sky and realized, huh, the sky was not clear blue. The sky was mostly blue, but a rim of dark clouds poked out between spaces in skyscrapers. As the light turned green, her fingertips returned to the radio to check the possibility of a coming storm in October, but as she did so, someone whispered her name—“Samantha.”
A white blur descended on the car. Sam thought it was all true, what the Bible said. The Rapture was in Phoenix, and an angel was there to take her away. She was mistaken, of course. Instead of some divine being, Sam recognized a round, flat face; big, yellow eyes; and a wide open beak Sam suspected was saying, “Shit,” before an owl crashed into her windshield.
Sam closed her eyes and shouted something like, “Whathfub!”
After the thunderous thwack of the bird’s carcass, her eyes opened and she watched her windshield crack-crack all the way across. She didn’t realize she slammed on the breaks until she got rear-ended, followed soon after by the sound of a million horns.
Sam knew she was supposed to pull her car to the side of the road in the event of an accident, but all she could think was, “Gotta find that bird.” She opened the driver-side door and stepped out. Cars whizzed past on either side. The driver behind her vehicle shook his fist and cussed in Spanish. Sam ignored him and scoured the pavement for a dead, white owl.
But the owl had disappeared.
(See Wednesday’s blog post for full Life without Harry download information!)
Harvey Prince’s delicious Eau Flirt.
This past weekend, me and six of my best girlfriends from Ohio University took a reunion trip to Nashville, Tennessee. Along for the ride was Harvey Prince’s wicked perfume, Eau Flirt.
Perfume company Harvey Prince was founded by two brothers, in honor of their mom. Her love for things honest, pure, and beautiful inspired their first scent, Ageless, intended to make women feel younger. See, that’s the thing about Harvey Prince: their products don’t just smell good; their products utilize aromatherapy techniques to give power to every potent potion.
Eau Flirt, for example (our constant companion in Nashville) is intended to make you feel fun, flirty, and daring. According to their website, Eau Flirt is a “magical scent that flirts for you. Its warm, tempting notes of pumpkin pie and lavender are irresistible.” The stuff smells amazing, and well, the seven of us Ohio gals got an awful lot of attention in Nashville just by wearing this scent that’s good enough to gobble.
Admittedly, Nashville is a tourist destination. We were lucky enough to stay at the fancy Union Station Hotel (the old train depot), within walking distance of the main event: Broadway. Broadway in Nashville glows multi-colored neon. Live music pours from every open door, and even the bouncers are friendly.
Union Station Hotel lobby.
True, I was disappointed with the lack of dancing. I was ready to two-step until my feet bled, and although I did acquire some pretty impressive blisters, the dancing was sub-par. How do guys in Nashville not know how to two-step? Probably because we met very few native Nashvillians. Most people we met were a lot like us: there for vacation. We ran into people from Italy, Australia, California, and even one dude from The Bachelorette. Let’s face it: a group of seven attractive women are prone to meeting a lot of characters, and I’m sure the Eau Flirt didn’t hurt.
Personally, I was most fond of the more divey bars out near Vanderbilt University, where I could actually sit and just gab with my girlfriends without screaming my guts out. The crowds on Broadway were a bit much for a little lady with social anxiety disorder.
I’m still recovering from an amazing time with amazing women and Harvey Prince’s amazing perfume. We were true adventurers of Nashville. We hit different neighborhoods, different scenes. We talked to people of all shapes and sizes. We listened to country … and I don’t even like country.
Yeah, I wake up every morning with Carrie Underwood songs in my head. (I look forward to that stopping soon.) But I have to face it: I just saw my college girlfriends four days ago, and I miss them already. When’s the next reunion? We’ll be sure to invite Harvey Prince along again for the ride!
Feelin’ flirty and fun on Broadway!
There are these girls I know: six of them. I’ve known them for years. We have a nickname: CTF. We’ve never told anyone what our acronym stands for; not even our husbands. We met in college at Ohio University. Then, we were eighteen; now, we’re all over thirty. This weekend, we will converge upon Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville better be prepared.
Ohio University is one of the most infamous party schools in the country. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Princeton Review ranks party schools based on surveys of 122,000 students during the last school year. We’re ranked, this year, at number three, thanks in part to our irreverent Halloween celebration. Every Halloween since 1974, the city doubles in size. The main drag, known as Court Street, closes down. It is a street party that rivals Mardi Gras.
Coming from a party school is only a fragment of CTF’s binding factor. When the seven of us met, we really had very little in common. We came from very different backgrounds. For instance, I went to public school in the Midwest, which meant I’d been drinking since eighth grade. Two of my gal pals attended an all-girls Catholic school, which meant drinking was like a shiny, new, favorite toy. One of the CTF clan even came to us from Florida. Poor girl; talk about culture shock!
Yet, we found each other. We thrived. Some years, we lived together. Some years, we didn’t. Yet, there were the parties. There were the bars. There were hung-over breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. It was like there was a huge magnet above OU that kept us coming back to each other. Apparently, that magnet spreads across the entire United States, because this weekend, we reunite for CTF 2013.
I live furthest away, which sucks. Some of my girls get to live in the same city as each other (Charlotte and Cincinnati). They get to spend as much time together as they want, dang it; meanwhile, I’m out here in Arizona, present only via email and the occasional Skype. Well, no longer. This weekend, I will give out copious hugs. I will lift my glass in celebration. I will be back with my girls.
The fact is we’re older. We’re married. We have kids (or dogs). We no longer drink twelve beers in one sitting or play the infamous “Drinking Jenga.” Yet, when we’re together, it’s as if nothing has changed. No time has passed. Do you have friends like that? I hope so.
There’s something magical about my girls. When we’re back together, we don’t miss a beat. There is very little talk of our jobs. Very few questions like, “So what have you been up to?” Instead, we dive right in.
We rehash the time Caroline broke the table in Cornwell. We recall the time Katie tried to escape our apartment on her twenty-first birthday because she wanted to DRINK MORE. The time I broke my foot while camping. The time Megan wrapped herself in toilet paper in Washington Hall. Kari and Nicole’s “Toxic” dance. I’m sure we’ll even fondly recall the naked, dancing man who used to do cartwheels on his roof across from our apartment on Court Street.
This weekend, I’ll be in Nashville with women who changed—and saved—my life at Ohio University. Women who I have no fear of losing, because I know they’ll always be there. Even if we don’t see each other for a couple years, we’ll still be CTF: a title once earned and kept for life.
Camping is a yearly tradition among our group of friends. Every July, we head up to Bear Canyon Lake. We even use the same campsite, and we joke about murdering anyone who tries to take our spot. After all, we do have guns and shovels.
This year, we arrived safely. Our campsite was empty, so no murder necessary. Jake and I delayed in setting up our tent. Instead, we worked to set up the tarp shelters we like to prepare, just in case it rains. We string up huge pieces of blue tarp between trees. We secure them with bungee cords. Then, we open our first beers—no matter that it’s only noon.
The storm arrives over Bear Canyon Lake.
This year, as soon as the tarps were secure, the first beers opened, the sky turned black. Puffy, white clouds were shoved to the side, and the sky opened. The rain poured. We were … unprepared. Certainly, the tarps were set up, but we didn’t do the best job with them—especially when you consider the rain was coming in sideways.
I stood on a cooler and used my head to lift the tarps higher. This became a problem when dime-sized hail threatened to knock me out cold. I rolled up my jeans to try to keep them dry. I kept my beer safe by chugging. I watched my friends, who still looked hopeful the storm would pass. Meanwhile, the dogs and children looked miserable. We put Ripley on suicide watch.
I’d like to tell you the rain stopped and the rest of the weekend was dry, but I’d be lying. It rained all weekend. We never went swimming in Bear Canyon Lake. We spent Saturday afternoon locked in our cars watching movies on computers. And yet … I had an absolutely amazing time.
From last year: dry and happy. This year: soaking wet … but happy, too!
I don’t know what it was. The rain? The constant alcohol consumption? Perhaps peeing in the woods? Whatever the reason, the despair of the past few weeks was literally washed away.
This past weekend, soaked to the bone, freezing, I laughed harder than I have in the past month. I adored every thunderclap. I wallowed in the sound of rain on our tent at night. And the smell—like wet moss and autumn in Ohio—brought even more peace than the overabundance of whiskey.
I’m not suggesting you go to Seattle when you’re depressed. I’m not suggesting twenty beers per day. However, there’s something about getting the hell away from your computer, getting away from the business of life, that inspires joy. It helps to have a pal try to shotgun a beer and pour it all over himself instead. It helps to have friends who have made shit-talking an art. It helps to have puppies keep you warm at night.
Sometimes, all we need is nature and literally nothing to do for two days, to make everything okay again.
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Last week, a friend of mine admitted she’s been begging for a fight. Anyone will do. She’s been trying to pick fights with her boyfriend, work colleagues, people in other cars on the I-10. She’s not well.
Yesterday, my psychiatrist was totally off his game. When I explained to him that I’d been depressed lately, he asked why, and I told him a bit about my situation. His response? “Wow. That sucks.” He’s usually more eloquent.
Change the facial expressions on these guys, and you’re in Phoenix.
The revelations of these two normal, successful, functioning adults have led me to a scientific discovery here in the Valley of the Sun. … We suffer from SSAD: Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder.
You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding. Whereas the rest of the country is enjoying longed-for sunshine and warm temperatures, we’re hiding in our homes. We turn pale and ghostly in the summer, because damn it, this is the one time of year it’s too hot to lay by the pool.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year.” If memory serves, last year, almost precisely to the day, I was depressed—so much so that I headed to an emergency psychiatric clinic. And here I am again (no, not at the clinic) but in the same general funk.
You might be surprised to know, spring and summer Seasonal Affective Disorders do actually exist. Common symptoms:
• Trouble sleeping
• Poor appetite
• Increased sex drive
(Funny: you never hear anyone complain about that last one.)
If only we needed umbrellas in PHX …
My friend who wants to desperately fight someone? Obviously irritated, agitated. My doctor? I’m guessing he hasn’t been sleeping, because psychiatrists don’t usually make their patients feel WORSE after a visit. Me? I’m an anxious insomniac who has be force-fed.
Summer SAD is a shock to me. I had no idea the condition actually existed, but if it was going to exist, Phoenix would be the perfect place. We’re the most ass-backwards place in the country when it comes to seasons. I mean, seriously, who else in the country dreads summer and can’t wait for winter? Where else do you hear people say, “It’s too sunny today. I’m sick of the sun?”
Nowhere! Because when we say things like that here in Phoenix, we sound completely, ragingly mad! Yet, we do say them. We long for monsoons and cloudy days. By the end of August, the I-10 has become Road Rage Central, and it’s too hot to make the walk to my car … in the garage.
My eyes have been opened to the truth. In Phoenix, Arizona, we suffer from Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder. I dare you to prove me wrong.