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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Venus Rising

I have emerged. Four days and nights of writing, sleeping, quick showers, quick nibbles, and then back to work to meet a (soft) deadline today. [See last post below.] I did it according to the tempo my body and mind set, so I typed awhile in the predawn and I slept some during the daylight. I escaped once each day to go to an AA meeting and I got up occasionally to stretch and work my body. I have spent much time alone with myself. Too much? I don't know. I reviewed many things from life and played movies the reader may laugh about. I concentrated 100% on my writing project for long periods of time and then took brain vacations wherever I chose to go. I won't approach a deadline in the same way again. Although it worked, it was not ideal for me. We live, learn and modify. Last night I blurted "Finis!" And it was finis - at least this first draft. I got up from the chair, stretched, grinned, sipped coffee. I almost immediately got an e-mail from David. "I'm not recuperating as quickly as I'd hoped from Thursday's surgery. I won't be able to work tomorrow. Can we play it by ear?" I sent back a sincere, "Just get better. I'm totally ready when you are." I thought to put up a post as I'd not done any writing for fun in several days. What I managed to do was put up the appearance of a post with a title from Byron's "She Walks in Beauty . . " and no other content. I can't even blame Blogger. I was just done and ready for insertion of the fork. "Go to bed, Les. Give it all up. This gig is over." And so, I did, French doors wide open to let in the warm night, cats curled up at the foot of the bed, content that their part in my writing marathon was now complete.

I have always enjoyed writing as part of my work, and I have always approached my work both feet forward, "Let's go!" But writing for work used to look different. When I worked for the union, I was acknowledged the writer of post-hearing and post-arbitration briefs in our office. This didn't make me unique. We each had a specialty. Writing just happened to be mine. When it was possible, various labor reps would trade off tasks, making each of us look good in all areas of our work. It was a different era. Our office was equipped with a fine word processor approximately the size of a small condo and an enormous printer that required a monstrous "cone of silence", as we dubbed it, to keep the noise within legal limits. The floppy disks were about the same dimensions as an old 33 rpm vinyl record. We were also gifted, in this office, with a Secretary I and a Secretary II for our combined needs. No Administrative Assistants, yet. These women were "secretaries" and proud of the title. I had served as the Secretary II in that office for years before my meteoric promotion to labor rep. I was likely pretty difficult for the two ladies to please, and in truth, I'd have preferred to boot one of them from her chair and bang at the keyboard on my own as we do today on our PCs. However, I was a true union believer. Each of us had our work to do, and I needed to let the women do their jobs.

My preferred secretary was Chris. She was my cousin's best friend since junior high school and I'd helped her to get the job for which she probably didn't qualify. I met her at the office on Saturdays and helped her get up to speed so she would be able to do the job. She rewarded me by becoming very good at what she was asked to do. On weekends, Chris, Cousin and I were an unholy trio of fun-loving, hell-raising 80s-90s women, residing in the vast 4-square-mile metropolis of Lemon Grove. We thought we were the queen and princesses of that cloistered little world. I could lean on Chris a little with my work demands and she'd dig in for me. That doesn't mean it was always sunshine and roses. She learned to enter the office before 8:00 a.m. and listen for the sound of my music. She could tell my mood by what I was playing. I learned to bring peace offerings and deliver them sincerely - "Chris, you know it's just the pressure I apply to my work." She understood that and loved me anyway. She was in the birthing center with us when Amber was born. Chris and I used a love name for one another when it was time to give a warning tone that we were reaching the end of our good nature: "Sea Hag". Yes, Popeye's Sea Hag, the one with the pet vulture, Bernard. The Sea Hag had always fascinated and repelled me, and it just popped out of my face one day. When others would ask "So which one of you is the Sea Hag?", we'd respond in unison, "She is!" I once found a gloriously beautiful Sea Hag and Bernard action figure in a funky little shop in a mall. There was only one, and of course, I bought it. To my credit, I gave it to Chris. I've searched and searched for another Sea Hag, but I guess I will have to accept that she will only live on in my dreams and on old, old cartoons.

Late in the 80s, I'd sit up as late as necessary, writing for work, sometimes following a 16-hour workday. Hey, I had coffee. I'd drive to Chris' house at 5:00 a.m., tuck maybe 153 pages of hand-written yellow legal pad sheets under her windshield wiper, go home, rest a short while, shower, dress for the day, and land in the office - looking pretty fresh, I think - to find my first draft ready. When I needed to include an infant's needs in my night shift work, I managed that, too, though it took a lot more out of me. Sometime I shall write about the dawn day that I was hurrying to drop the writing off to Chris and accidentally locked my baby and the keys in the car. She slept through it. I nearly melted into a puddle in my driveway. The Lemon Grove Sheriff said, "Lady, if you want us to, we'll break out a window. But the baby is sleeping. Look, you can see her." AAA took an hour to arrive. But I digress. And I think I just told the entire story of baby locked in car. My point is that I could pull the occasional (or semi-frequent) all-nighter, present a good piece of writing, look perfectly appropriate the next day, work another 16 hours of intense enjoyment, and continue on. I thought I was a young Venus rising, but no longer.

Let's see. This time I preplanned almost to a fault. Had the apocalypse come, I'd have been ready. Man, that sounds an awful lot like my mother. I had a fine, fast PC, dual monitors, reference materials and office supplies at my fingertips. I was working on a project that has no right or wrong. I designate right, wrong or appropriate, verifiable or not, anecdotal or witnessed by many who will come forward in writing. There is no element of anyone (like a union member) winning or losing in this endeavor. There is no prior written biography of my subject to be challenged or bested. And yet, it was far more difficult for me to execute than any previous crunch-time assignment. Oh, some of it is that I'm rusty and don't fully trust myself. Yes, I had some concerns whether my recent illness and its artifacts would hinder me. They didn't. And yet, it took a lot out of me. I had to acknowledge it: I am no longer she who was. I can still deliver the goods. It just takes more of me to do it.

Last night, when I finally decided to throw in the towel, I stepped into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. Of course, I got a look at myself in the mirror, "the writer at the end of the project". Oh, it wasn't quite as bad as death eating a cracker. But it was pretty bad. I felt as if I might smell kind of cobwebby like an old lady, and I looked - oh, yeah - like the Sea Hag, with or without Bernard perched upon her shoulder.

April Alliteration - Alcohol
My month-long musing about my alcoholic journey
Happy ending ~ 100% possible
Installment 5

Fast forward to April 16, 2011: The AA meeting I attended was something else altogether. Saturdays are not de rigeur at the club, so it helps break any tendency to complacency and forces me to try other things. The Feather Meeting intrigued me. The AAs there appear almost 100% to be breakaways from the enormous biker gatherings in appearance and presentation. I would say most of them have many, many years of sobriety and AA experience. A huge "bong" (sorry, no other word for it) of sage is burned in an abalone shell and passed one to another, the smoke purifying the environment. I detested the smell of the burning sage and after the meeting, my clothes and hair reeked of it, but I held in. An eagle feather is passed from one AA to another as each speaks. One holds only the beaded handpiece, and not the actual feather. There is no evidence of the Big Book or any other AA publication, but I must underscore that these AAs are veterans and recite entire pages of the Big Book from memory, so I wasn't too offput by that. "god" is universally referred to as "the creator". I have no problem with that. Going around in the circle, the AAs talked about stuff one hears at every other AA meeting, but then I was struck by something I didn't care for very much. These renegades, these outlaws, these very-far-from-mainstream folks are extremely rigid about their own little version of the AA "talk circle" and its "rules". There is all manner of bad juju surrounding the utterance of a curse word while one holds the eagle feather. One man supposedly committed this sin (I swear I did not hear him swear, and I was paying attention!) and all manner of grief and finger-pointing ensued. This was intriguing to me. Across the campus at the middle-of-the-road group operate all the freedoms I've come to associate with AA. And in the room populated by the wild bunch, restriction and required orderliness and rule-following. This intrigues me. And I marvel that I've now been doing this long enough to form opinions and preferences for certain meetings.

Something that charmed me: Two somethings, actually ~ Sunday afternoon, I pounded the keyboard in temperatures of more than 90 degrees outdoors. "Hmmmmmm, " thought I. I savored the first iced coffee of the season! And ~ I lost weight during my writing project! No, no, not the difference in weight effected by whether or not I am sporting a pencil behind my ear. Real loss. I wasn't a slave to The Bean, either. Go figure.


  1. Since you're writing about an Andy Warhol protege, have you talked to anyone connected with Interview magazine? That was a magazine Warhol founded and edited. Probably had nothing to do with the subject of your biography, but you never know. Anyway, congratulations on getting that first draft done.

    A while back I saw a book at Barnes and Noble that had reprints of the whole Sea Hag saga as it appeared in the Popeye comic strip of the 1930s. I wanted to buy it, but it was a bit too pricey.

  2. @ Kirk ~ VERY good re: Interview magazine, Kirk. Let me see, how to say it on blog. There are a number of sources I'd love to tap into, but that are seemingly dead ends. SO many people have died from The Factory days, etc., even though they were only slightly older than I am. But, we plug along.

    FYI and my own reminder: that was a first draft of only one application of the information I'm writing. Ultimately there will be print formats, an online presence, and more. But for right now, it's just the first of the first. Nevertheless, "done" is a nice word.

    In my experience, those nice editions at Barnes & Noble usually end up in the Bargain Books at a price even we regular human beings can afford. I buy from that section almost exclusively. I'll have to watch out for the Sea Hag. Kind of like a family album!

  3. HOORAY! I'm very happy for you and this major accomplishment.

  4. @ CramCake ~ [Grinnin'] I surely do thank you for that. I have no sense of smugness, but I do feel good about completing tasks, hitting my marks, and being satisfied with my work. I'd lost contact with all of those things in times past.

  5. I think pulling an all-nighter is not practical for me, my mind or my body any more, though seven years ago I did them regularly!

    I tried numerous times to read your Byron quoted post....it's one of the poems I memorised years back...anyway, the muse must have been busy inspiring you.

    The AA meet variety is fascinating.

  6. @ Rachel ~ Yes, I have to think of more acceptable ways to work now, too. It was a revelation to me.

    AA IS fascinating, Rae - I learn something from everyone I meet there, at any meeting. People can make AA an addiction, too, and I want to avoid that. But I know it's where I need to be right now. In a week I will have 6 months sobriety! Today when I left my meeting, a veteran ran after me to say, "You're speaking right out of your gut. You're an example now." Imagine!

  7. Good for you! I love hearing about people reaching their goals, even if it was a "soft" deadline. It gets me motivated to reach a few myself! :)

  8. @ Matt ~ I thank you for that! I needed to have a few little successes, following a long dry spell. It felt good to hit my marks, no matter the accommodations needed to cross time and space.

  9. Good job. I love this:

    I am no longer she who was. I can still deliver the goods. It just takes more of me to do it.

    Sums me up pretty good!

  10. @ Jenny ~ Thank you! You know something perverse? I LIKE the she who is now. She's all right. Few miles on her. Not bad, altogether. Able to pull out a winner from time to time. That's OK enough for today.