I was going to try to take a photo of me sitting in 7th grade Algebra class wearing only my underwear, but it proved too difficult.
Sometimes, when the mood strikes me (or when I’ve been beaten down by the constant whining) I let my son choose his own special food at the grocery store. There is no need to read the label on this item—it’s pretty much a guarantee that it will be full of high-fructose corn syrup, numbered food dyes, or trans-fats—or quite possibly all three. But he’s seven, and I’m a sucker.
And so, that is how the can of Easy Cheese ended up in my house. Because what’s more fun to a seven-year-old boy than eating “food” from a spray nozzle? Holistic mommies be damned!
It all seemed so easy—my son was happy and amused, and I’d thrown him a handful of multigrain-grain organic crackers to give the whole experience a hint of nutritive value. And then I dropped the can on the floor.
It took a mere five seconds for the pressurized can to discharge its entire load, erupting in a cheese-like fireworks display two feet into the air and turning my kitchen floor into an edible Jackson Pollock.
So if anyone from Kraft Foods is reading this, I suggest you put the following warning on the can. “CAUTION: Easy Cheese May Cause Unexpected Hardships, Particularly to Those Consumers Who Don’t Like to Mop Their Kitchen Floors.”
Anyone who has ever achieved greatness will tell you they’ve had more failure than success. That it’s not about the stuff that knocks you down, but your ability to get back up again. That the winners in life are simply the ones who never quit.
And though these platitudes are true, they never seem to be enough to soothe me from the initial sting of rejection. One moment, I’m happily skipping along daydreaming of my impending triumphs. The next, rejection catches me like a root in my path, sending me headlong into that murky trough of depression and self-doubt.
Over the years, I’ve found that the quickest and least painful way to pull myself from that post-rejection mire is to grab hold of a new idea. A better idea. An idea that fills my daydreams and makes me want to get up in the morning. Much like falling in love with someone new is the quickest way to get over that last awful break-up, falling in love with a new idea with a new idea can really take the sting out of rejection.
Of course, there’s always the chance that this great new idea won’t hold up over time. Or maybe it does, but over the months (or years) of hard work on said Dream Project, the rose that once smelled so sweet inevitably loses its bloom.
But there’s nothing like those first few pangs of infatuation with my new brilliant idea to help me forget about how those numbskulls failed to see the genius of my last brilliant idea.
Song of the Week: “Everyone Deserves Music” by Michael Franti
The title says it all. And if you haven’t seen Michael Franti in concert, he gives one helluva show.
YA Author of the Week: Kody Keplinger
I had the pleasure of scoring an ARC of SHUT OUT at BEA in May. Oh, and did I mention it’s signed by the amazing Kody herself? Keplinger is smart, funny, and talented beyond her years. Not only will SHUT OUT be a huge hit, I think it just might help an entire generation of teenage girls learn to speak more honestly about sex.
TV Show of the Week: BREAKING BAD
Finally, it’s back! This is as close as TV gets to Greek tragedy. Aaron Paul & Bryan Cranston make me so invested in their characters I get anxious just thinking about them. Who knew a show about crystal meth could be so beguiling?
This morning, I wrote the Acknowledgments page for the back of my book. Throughout my writing process, I’ve kept a running list of the people I wanted to thank, so that part was easy. But the truth is, I’ve been practicing my public thank you’s in my head for a very long time now. (see essay below)
It’s an Honor Just to be Nominated
I descend from the airplane onto the tarmac at Cannes in a gauzy white dress. My skin is the color of milk because I’ve fanatically used the SPF 90 every goddamn time I’ve gone outside for even ten seconds, but the effect is flawless. I look like a snowflake. And like a snowflake I gracefully drift down this set of metal stairs, and like a snowflake, I too have a unique imprint, a singular beauty. That’s how they’ll describe it in Daily Variety. I am at my thin weight, about the size of a skinny Oprah (which we all know isn’t truly skinny but is great for Oprah). “A zaftig snowflake,” the Hollywood Reporter will later say, uncharitably. So maybe I’m more like a Medium Oprah, but at least they got the snowflake thing.
Halfway down the airplane’s aluminum steps, a gentle wind billows my dress as if on cue—not in a Marilyn standing over the grate kind of way, but more like the winds are heeding the call of the enchantress, like in a Stevie Nicks video. I stop then, and smile at the reporters and fans crowded below, tossing my long auburn curls in their direction. It is a restrained smile, the kind that says, “No, it doesn’t really mean anything to be here, to have my film in the running for the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the fluff, the chocolate glaze on the éclair of life. Go home and kiss your children tonight. That’s what’s really important.”
After winning the Palm d’Or, the Academy Awards seem like a blur. At first, I consider boycotting them—everyone knows the Oscars are bullshit, I mean “Braveheart”, come on—but then I realized I might actually win, and how would that look?
Of course, no one told me about the limo line. Chances are you’ve never been in it, but I can tell you it’s a lot like being stuck in the George Washington Tunnel at rush hour except you’re wearing taffeta so you can’t eff-ing move unless you want to end up looking like a Hefty Cinch Sack on the red carpet. And if the thought of me walking down the red carpet makes you jealous, don’t forget that I rode all the way from my beachfront house in Santa Monica balancing every pound of my Medium Oprah weight on the back of my neck and my feet so as not to wrinkle the dress. It was like a goddamn core fusion yoga class except at yoga I don’t wear $400,000 worth of Harry Winston diamonds.
“I’m the film’s director,” I complained at one point to the woman dabbing powder on my nose, “do I have to look so fricking pretty all the time?”
“You’re shiny,” she responded flatly.
Next thing I know I’m crying and my living rigamortis posture has collapsed in a pathetic heap on the limousine floor and the make-up lady is apologizing even though she doesn’t mean it because now there’s mascara running down my cheeks.
The next thing I remember, I’m on-stage at the Kodak Theater. I am wearing black because let’s face it, I need too, and my acceptance speech is a hilarious off-the-cuff recollection of my tragicomic limo ride to these very awards! Everyone is in stitches, and I hope they cut to a close-up of Nicholson laughing because later I’ll be able to parlay that into a new fantasy where I rendezvous with Jack in the ladies bathroom at the Vanity Fair party (you know Jack) and he tells me I’ve got chutzpah and that he’d like to do me in a bathroom stall. But for now, I am just accepting this great, great award and people from high school are watching on TV.
After the laughs die down I take a deep breath, look directly into the lens of camera number three, and let the tears begin to flow. Now it’s time to express my solemn gratitude for those who’ve come before me, to thank those who’ve helped me along the way and always believed in me, especially those who are dead now. That you’ve chosen me from among these talented directors is truly an honor. It is an honor just to be nominated.
I have a pet peeve about people who list major issues as their pet peeves. To me, pet peeves should be minor annoying things like Keith Urban’s hair or the existence of Dippin’ Dots. Whereas things like racism or Congress’s inability to put politics aside for the good of the country are actually legitimate problems.
So if you & I should someday run across each other in one of those “get to know you” exercises, sitting cross-legged on the floor in a circle, announcing our names, favorite ice cream flavors, and biggest pet peeves (the whole exercise, a pet peeve in itself) please try to restrain your virtuous self from the urge to say “Cancer.” Especially after I’ve just said “holiday-themed sweaters.”
This amazing caption appeared in my local newspaper last summer and it’s been on my fridge ever since. There should be a word for the mixture of joy, nostalgia, and fraternity one feels upon discovering a well-placed pop culture reference.
To me, this mention of BACK TO THE FUTURE provides so much more than a bit of humor. It’s an affirmation of my tastes and choices, a secret handshake between me and everyone else in the world who uses the term Flux Capacitor on a regular basis.
To me, pop culture has always been about connecting with people. Which is probably why I find it hard to understand people who choose to remove themselves from it entirely. Yes, the popular culture can seem foreign (and possibly frightening) if you are outside of it, or if you’re over a certain age. But you don’t walk into a foreign country with a stubborn refusal to speak the language. You learn a few words so you can communicate. And you may be surprised to discover that what you once thought was weird or unappealing about that culture is actually quite amazing.
Yes, it might look like a shoe, but is feels like a sneaker.
Check out this post from The Daring Librarian
“I was asked recently for a quote by a N.Y. Times editor for their opinion page : Here’s the question: ‘School librarians are on the choppi…”
Today, I am starting a weekly tradition of giving thanks to some of the artists I love most. Thank you all, for being in the world.
Musician of the Week: Rufus Wainwright. His music’s so genius I almost can’t handle it. If you haven’t listened to POSES or RELEASE THE STARS, you need to go fix that.
Author of the Week: Jennifer Egan. I was soooo happy that A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD won the Pulitzer. I mean, I LOVED Franzen’s FREEDOM as much as the next guy, but when it was getting all that hype last summer I kept wondering why more people weren’t talking about GOON SQUAD. And then, suddenly, they were. I love all of Egan’s books, but THE KEEP is one of my favs.
Comedian of the Week: Louie C.K. Why Louie’s show — LOUIE — isn’t as big as SEINFELD I’ll never know. Actually, if we lived in a fair and just world it would be even bigger. I can watch episodes of LOUIE over and over again. And if you can’t see his brilliance, I suggest that you “look with your REAL EYES, not your crazy eyes.”