Trees in Winter

Oh, tree, once so full and green with leaves. How small you look now, with a single squirrel dropping acorn shells from your thinnest branch. How he balances on the lightest end, snatches his treat before it falls and flips back to safety nearer to the trunk, where he can rip that spare meat from its shell, and shed the rest to the ground.

Which is bare, too, you know. Bare and crumpled with dry, winter’s leaves that crunched beneath my feet as I came to you in the way of withered and dying things. At the stoplight, I spotted two faded butterfly wings, folded together like an overlarge purse before a polite departure. By the riverbed, which is always more stone than water, a bird nestled down into its coat, puffed itself into a ball and shivered into the wind. Shaking, I set my things down here, where my numb fingers could safely peck at the keyboard, a small defense against the advancing front.

But now I must leave, tree, as the air is cool and growing colder and it is time for me to slip back into a cave of my own. In the spring, we will both have fresh haircuts and emerge youthful and blushing to embrace the season.

Will this same squirrel join us then, or will he have leapt far away from here in his hunt for survival, ending his journey somewhere unknown to you and me? I cannot answer that, tree. But I look forward to seeing you then, and, too, all the furry rascals that call you home when times are good and the weather is fine and we are all so full of life and cheer.

 

Get Yo’ Debate On, Austin Style @theAustinot

The other day, for one of my many freelance writing gigs, I wrote in an article that businesses should post regularly to their blogs in order to develop the most devoted following. Posting two days in a row and then not for another month or so simply won’t do.

But, after all, I am a writer, and that means I’m great at recommending things in articles and not taking my own advice.

Which is to say, for my second post in two days, I’d like to say, hey! Do you know about the awesome Austin blog, the Austinot? Well you SHOULD because, it’s packed full of delicious info on everything there is to do in Austin, quirky and otherwise. I had the pleasure of meeting the blog owners at a local event here in Austin, and wrote a story on the awesome Austin event, Dionysium, which you should all check out tomorrow if you’re in town and up for some verbal fireworks.

So, without further adieu, I bid you check out the article HERE, explore the Austinot far and wide and get yo’ debate on!

The Beauty in the…HOLY CRAP!

The other night, I stopped at the gas station after a long, hard day. As I was waiting for the tank to fill, I stared up at the moon, so sharp and bright in the cloudless sky, and I tried to appreciate the beauty of the world. My eyes fell to a lamp post, where kamikaze bugs slammed against the plastic, fell toward the ground, turned around, and tried their luck again. So eager and determined in their futility.

I tried to write a poem in my mind, to feel the world like I used to when life was slower. Find pleasure at least in words if not in the dry, cracked ground, in the sweat staining continents into my t-shirt. I tried to see the Seattle green in the wrinkled leaves, to see the mountains thrusting jagged snow-capped peaks into the gray sky. The cool of the lake against my skin. Quietude beyond rain-smeared panes.

The gas pumped on, and I began to feel at one with the earth.

And then a MASSIVE cricket the length of my finger and as thick as an OTHERWORLDLY BEAST dropped hard onto my neck and chirped triumphantly.

I dropped the pump, shouted “HOLY CRAP!” and flailed from one end of my car to the other.

And that was the end of that.

ATTENTION: Leah Kaminsky Will Be Implementing a New Potluck Policy

Friends, family members, and Henry, our friendly neighborhood cat, I have a confession to make. I have a deep, dark, dirty secret I’ve been keeping from public view. But first, I have to say…

love potlucks. I really do. In your twenties, potlucks are an excuse to be with the kind of family you hypothetically want to birth in your thirties but not before you’re done taking risks and having fun. I love choosing recipes for this family, putting my sweat and blood (the best kinds of spices!) into dishes, feeding friends, and having an excuse to get together with the people I care about. I love getting to be in people’s lives in such a regular way, to create those places of laughter, love and support. And I love love LOVE the food.

But there’s that deep dark secret. Yes, here it comes. I can hold it back no longer. I stand here in front of you today, one woman against the world, opening the contents of her mind for all to see. Friends, family members…Henry.

There’s only so much potlucking a woman can freaking take. Let me explain.

When I moved to Austin and got my first potluck invite, I was over the moon.

I knew this would be a great way to make friends. And I like friends. I like them a lot.

Plus, the people I met at my first potluck were awesome. They were smart, they talked politics, they loved delicious, healthy organic food, they did the coolest things, and they were mostly all in a similar stage of life as me. Read: They were headed somewhere, but still kind of figuring it out. I had found my place, and I had no qualms about cooking for them.

But then something happened. As I networked and met more people, I got invited to more events. My social calendar filled up with fun things to do. And I got more work gigs. Lots of gigs. Too many gigs. And then?

Everyone I ever met in Austin decided to have a potluck in the same week. The horror. The horror.

I tried to keep up, I really did, but with how much I was working (am working), the stress of making something good quickly became too much. Soon enough, I felt like I was this girl:

Stephen tried to help, but his tips weren’t all that relevant.

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to see all of these wonderfully diverse friends, but I felt like I couldn’t attend these zillion and one potlucks without putting effort into a dish.

The guilt of bringing something pre-made or not bringing anything was too much to bear. So I just stopped going.

But I miss my friends. I love my tight knit friend hamlets. I love that everybody is so generous with their energy and time. I love coming together over delicious meals. So the only thing I can think to do is to implement a new policy – a compromise built on honesty.

The real problem, of course, is me. I love people and adventures and so I cast a wide net, but then, inevitably, I’m picking quantity over quality, and what I’m really craving is time to hang out with fewer people at a deeper level.

And I feel ashamed just to say all of this, given how lovely everybody is and how much effort and caring I’ve seen. I do hope you’ll keep on inviting me, because I love seeing everyone, and I hope I don’t sound ungrateful or snotty. But I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. So, this is what it is. This is what it has to be. Okay? Okay?

Now…who’s up for takeout?

Houston, we have a book. And hair.

Thanks to all who came out tonight and all who sent support from afar! Tonight was the perfect celebration for a very sweaty, panicked month that packed BIG RESULTS. It was great to see everyone and I can’t wait to see all of your projects on Accountabillibuddy!

And major kudos to Write By Night for hosting, Brian Nicolet for being an awesome writing coach, Adam David for some excellent shear work, my family for listening to me read all 29 first drafts of my first chapter, and STEPHEN LEVY for being the most wonderful, supportive boyfriend a girl could ask for.

And now for my next feat: revising the entire thing!

Oh boy…

Week 4: Don’t. Take. My. HAIR. @write_by_night #blackmailme

If weeks 2 & 3 were all about procrastination, week 4 was all about what happens when a procrastinator realizes they’re completely screwed. Creation out of fear. Specifically, the fear of looking like a bald old man:

I'm assuming that when you shave your head the entire structure of your face changes too.

And so, to avoid devolving into a grumpy old man* with no family, friends, or  rebellious teens looking for a father figure to love him, a fire was lit under my butt.

*Man this automatic keyword thing is a stitch, just go ahead and click on that grumpy old man link and see what the machines have decided is the most relevant page.

A massive, somewhat life threatening fire, kind of like the one they set on Sesame Street when I was a kid because apparently torching Big Bird‘s nest was supposed to teach us some sort of a life lesson.

Look kids! Elmo is attempting to put out a fire that seems very likely to put a horrific end to all of the characters you've come to know and love!

And you know what? It worked. No, not the fire safety episode of Sesame Street. All that managed to do was send me into my parents’ bed for the next five years. I mean the impending deadline of head shave DOOM. My entire attitude changed. I went from this:

To:

And you know what? The world as I knew it didn’t end. Yes, I wrote a lot of  crap. In fact, I believe the crap to gold ratio was a solid 10 : 1.

But some of it was gold. Some of it was so funny, I thought of quitting everything and moving to New York to be a comedy writer. No! A song writer! No! THE BEST WRITER. My usual delusions of grandeur upgraded from something manageable into something dangerous.

Still, a week wasn’t very much time at all, and as March 29th crept closer and closer, I became acutely aware of my fingers’ limitations.

Despite all of my efforts to make time stand still, March 29th came and left. I worked all through the day, and then: 12:01AM, March 30th. I stared at my computer screen. I stared and I stared. I closed my laptop and began to cry.

Join us at 7PM tomorrow, April 19th at Write By Night headquarters (1305 E. 6th Ste 4, Austin, TX) to see either:

  1. My head get shaved (thus the crying)
  2. My finished first draft (thus the crying)

RSVP here.

And for those of you who don’t live in Austin, I’ll be posting an update on this blog, so keep checking back. Until tomorrow! When I can sing “Tonight” and mean it!

Zombie Bugs in Austin, TX

It’s 112 outside when our air conditioner breaks.  It also just so happens to be a Sunday in Texas, so we’ll have to wait until Monday for someone to come out.  In the meantime we turn on the fans and they recirculate hot air through the house as if we hadn’t gotten enough of it the first time.

I think only of the heat-of the way my shirt sticks to my body, how every pore is choking.  What I don’t think about are those hard shells I’ve been finding around the bathroom, and how Stephen once warned me that, “We tend to get roaches down south.”  I don’t think about how every time I find one, I know the roaches are upgrading to mcmansions, that they’re saying, “Yeah, we’re just getting bigger and more indestructible NBD.”  I don’t think about the moment I know is coming.  I don’t think about it because I’m too hot.

Somehow I manage to fall asleep, waking every so often to gulp down water and bask in the refrigerator’s cold glow.  By four thirty in the morning, this means I have to make a trip to the bathroom.  As I reach for the light, I think, “I’m surviving this.  I’m surviving.”

Then something hard drops on me from the doorframe.  I frantically reach for the light but am unable to find it in my panic, so I sprint across the hall to my room and flick on that light instead.  Turning back, what do I see? Oh, just one of the biggest bugs I’ve ever seen.  It’s rounded at the front and has a hard, gleaming new shell.  And (pay attention here, because this is important): it can fly.

I race to the kitchen for some paper towels.  When I return, this clearly nocturnal animal is flitting energetically around the bathroom.  I take a deep breath and flail after it.  It’s a crafty opponent and manages to elude my hastily flung net several times before I manage to fit the paper towel over it.  Still, every time I raise it to see if it’s dead the bug just flits about more energetically, cackling maniacally, “Can’t catch me, motherfucka!”

This is going to be one hard bug to kill.

I flail again but I miss it and it does a freedom sprint toward the base of the sink, where I won’t be able to see it easily.  I don’t think so, bug.  I intercept it just in time and push and squeeze and twist like I’ve been attacked by a murderer and this is all self-defense.  Finally, I hear the telltale crack of the shell.  I give it one final twist, then open the paper towel, fearing the worst.

But the beast is felled.

I dump it into the trashcan and stand for a moment panting over the sink, catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  My hair is frizzed and my eyes are wild.  I am a creature of the jungle.  Then a thought hits me.  What if it’s not really dead?  These kinds of bugs have a knack for seeming dead and then popping back up for another flit around the bathroom as if nothing is wrong.  I decide to take another peek into the trashcan, just to be safe.  Sure enough, it’s still there, smashed into many pieces.  I feels bad for a moment, having turned into such a cold blooded murderer.

But just as I am breathing a sigh of relief, something pings me from above.  Something hard.

I look down.  There, making a freedom run for the base of the sink, is another bug, hard shell gleaming into the night.

Looks like this roach hotel is still open for business.  But not for long.

The Best Tailors Have Candy

Here’s a little story for you.  I tore one of the dresses I bought in Martha’s Vineyard and decided to take it to a tailor.  I had a great one in Seattle who shortened all of my jeans.  She worked out of a hole in the wall up north whose ceiling was always in the midst of being either torn down or put up.  It was hard to tell which.  She was a sweet old Korean lady who could barely speak English, and she knew her stuff.  It was a no frills operation, and I was expecting just as much when I sought out a tailor here.

The first tailor I looked up didn’t appear to exist when I drove by, so instead I decided to keep my eyes peeled as I drove home from the gym.  I had really pushed myself on the treadmill, so my shirt and shorts were soaked through, but what would that matter when going to a tailor?  I was just dropping it off, anyway.
As I headed towards home, EUREKA!  A sign for a tailor in a building as nondescript as the one my tailor occupied in Seattle.  But Austin has a strange way of looking funky on the outside and housing Eden on the inside. The first thing I saw when I opened the door was neatly folded, expensive looking ties, clipped to handcrafted boxes.  There was a sparkle to the room, lighting the neatly manicured plants and mahogany cabinetry.  Immediately a well-coifed, slim, elderly Lebanese gentleman with the sweetest face came out to greet me.  He handled my dress gently, folding it this way and that, muttering to himself about cloth.
As he worked, I took a glance around the room and found the kind of framed photos so common in successful small businesses that have been around forever.  Except, the only person framed in these photos was George W. Bush.  There was Dubya at a baseball game, there was Dubya “winning” the presidency, there was Dubya shaking the tailor’s hand.  “Dear Gus,” said one in scrawled black marker.  “You’re the best.  – George W. Bush.”
And there I was, dripping sweat onto his polished floor.
Gus, though, was the best, as was his wife.  Despite my state, they treated me not just like any customer but like a member of the family.  They handed me a ticket, quoted me a very reasonable price, and sent me off with a Mr. Goodbar.
“Thanks!” I said.  “I need this after my workout.”  Then I wiped a line of sweat from my brow and squeaked out the door.
Just goes to show, you never know what’s sitting inside a nondescript building on the side of a busy road.