Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How Many Times We Did It

Okay, by “it,” I really do mean “it.”

This weekend the family was discussing a unique party we had about 13 years ago, a type of party I can’t help but wonder may be the only one of its kind in human history. If you have ever attended a similar one, by all means let me know—I’d love to hear about it.

It was my and Davie’s 500 Party, celebrating our 500 times.

Whenever we tell people about this festive gathering (and no, we don’t tell everyone), the spoken or unspoken question is always, “You keep count?” My ready answer is, “Please keep in mind that I was married for 15 years to a gay guy before my marriage to David.” Yes, I keep count to this day. Kinda funny, but when you’ve been counting up to 500, you really feel like you might as well keep track.

So, how does one hold a 500 Party? Well, you don’t want to be tacky about it. Although…I will admit it was a little tacky for me to sing “We’ve had sex 500 times and we’ll have sex 500 more” to the tune of that 1988 hit by The Proclaimers. But mostly we simply sported our simple “500” buttons and put “500” signs on the lawn.

The only possible controversy arises concerning the involvement of my daughters, then ages 15 and 12, in the party prep. As they were piping 500’s in frosting onto a couple dozen brownies, they were not ignorant of the meaning of the party theme. They were also aware of how crazy (in a completely healthy way, of course) our particular gang of friends would get at said party. But our crew was a bunch of fun-loving, perfectly functional, responsible adults and they were all really fond of the girls. Which is not to say we didn’t consider it best that they spent the night elsewhere.

So, to that mix add food, plenty of beer, and some great 80s music, and that’s a 500 Party.

My older daughter likes to joke that things like this “scarred her for life.” But she was actually no more embarrassed about it than any of the other things that embarrassed her about me when she was 15. As in, “Mom, PLEASE don’t dance.” Her sister said the other day, “I’ve always been really glad that you guys were so open about it, like there was nothing to be ashamed of. It made me feel comfortable talking about that stuff with you.”

And that, really, was the general idea. As much as Davie and I are private about this stuff, and very monogamous and trusting, and as much as we take sex very seriously, we are also big believers that it is nothing to be ashamed of. If a married couple can’t have a couple dozen friends over to celebrate a great occasion like 500, then what is the world coming to?

For me, especially, it was a wonderful and happy thing. I imagine most old married couples take for granted that they make love regularly, but if you are like me, you don’t. There was a time when my acceptance of being married to a gay man (and why I accepted that is a long story) had me convinced I would never have male physical affection, much less sex, in my life again. So I treasure greatly both the number we are at now (wouldn’t you like to know?) as well as the approximately 5,000 cuddle cabs (as we call snuggling at night).

And OMG, as I type this the PC radio is playing that old 500 Miles Proclaimers song. What are the odds of that? I guess I was supposed to tell you this story today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Need You to Help Me Figure Out My Brain

Seriously. I’d like to know if the events of my last 24 hours of reading are as weird as I think they are, and you can help me figure it out.

There are two snippets I encountered in the text that I would like to run by you. I’d just like to know if anyone else’s brain works like mine does.

Test #1:

The story begins with the line:


Just like that, and carries on from there with a new paragraph. Does that one line, “—sentences.” suggest anything at all to you? Anything come to mind?

Test #2:

The story is entitled:

“The Problem of Susan”

Any guesses what the story might be about? Remind you of anything at all?

You don’t have to give these tests a lot of time. If nothing comes to you right away, that’s fine. Now please scroll down aways and find out what happened with my brain.

The book I’m reading, of course, is Neil Gaiman…specifically his collection Fragile Things.

Test #1: In the story called “Strange Girls,” I read the line “—sentences.” and without a moment’s hesitation I thought “finish each other’s sentences.” I found that idea very curious at first, but then I thought, “Well, there’s some amusing irony in finishing someone else’s sentence when it actually ends in the words ‘sentences.’” The passage in question, it so happens, ends like this:

“Sometimes they even finish each other’s—”

I kid you not. And do not fail to notice the double irony (or are we on triple now?) that I am finishing Neil Gaiman’s not sentence, but story. Spooky.

[And I hope Neil will forgive me for spoiling any surprise. Please buy this book and make it up to him, it’s awesome. LOL]

Okay, I can let one spookiness go by unreported, but on to Test #2.

Test #2: From the moment I scanned the Table of Contents of Fragile Things and saw the title “The Problem of Susan,” only one thought came to my mind—Susan Pevensie. The older sister among the four Pevensies of The Chronicles of Narnia fame. It wasn’t weird to me that I thought of it, for to my mind there is indeed a problem of Susan…it’s the eventual fate of Susan that is pretty much the only problem with the Narnia books. I did not for a moment though seriously think Neil Gaiman was going to write a story about Susan Pevensie in order to work out his discomfort over her fictional fate. Then I read this in the story’s introduction: “There is so much in the [Narnia] books that I love, but each time I found the disposal of Susan to be intensely problematic and deeply irritating.” And that was exactly what the story was about.

Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

So this is why I wanted to find out if anyone else out there scored 100% or even 50% on my tests. Just how weird is it that I’m tracking like this with Neil Gaiman’s thought patterns? Now before you call the men in the white coats, let me reassure you. I do not think I’m psychically linked with the man or that we share a brain. Speaking to that issue, I must mention that I found “The Problem of Susan” probably the most horrific (not badly written, but horrifying) story I’ve ever read. That was fully Neil’s intent but he went way overboard in my opinion—I almost couldn’t read it. So sometimes he is, if anything, like me turned inside out.

It does, however, make me wonder. Are we perhaps products of the same sort of imagination (although clearly we imagine quite different things)? Did we just read a lot of the same books? (He did dedicate Fragile Things to my two favorite science fiction authors, Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury.) Or will a good 50% of the population that happen to be fans of Narnia give the same answers on Tests #1 and 2 as I did?

I can’t tell you what it does to a person’s psyche to feel on the one hand like they have connected so well to an author’s imagination—disturbingly well—only to be slapped in the face by that author’s ability to go places you’d never dare and say things you shudder to hear. I am running back into the arms of C.S. Lewis for comfort.

And yet, I just know the next time Neil sets out down some shadowy, thorn-bound path, beckoning me along, I will traipse after him again, hanging on his every word. And occasionally guessing in advance what those words are going to be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Awe Fetish

My, I have become picky in my old age. There was a time, not so long ago, that I could get turned on by a pretty face alone. Okay, a pretty face and a good story. Take for example the character of Sayid on “Lost”: The swarthy good looks drew me in, and the concept of a former torturer from the Iraq Republican Army sealed the deal. (Don’t tell me I’m the only one who has had fantasies of being captured by the flashback version of Sayid.)

A couple years later, I find it just isn’t enough for me anymore. I don’t know if it’s the physical changes happening to me at 51, or the result of my life experiences, or both...but it’s getting so I just can’t get excited without awe. (Davie, don’t worry—husbands are exempt! Not that you aren’t replete with awe, of course.)

This awe fetish isn’t exactly something new. I’ve been into awe ever since I was a teen and in love with Mr. Spock because he was all other-worldly and super smart. I’ve always been a sucker for authority figures, even when it was really a bad idea: like one of the professors at my first husband’s seminary, my boss at the law firm, and my confessor. (Yeah, and he was an archbishop too, not to mention married.) Trust me, not a one of these guys was handsome, much less sexy. But they were, to one degree or another, awe-inspiring.

The guy just has to have something really impressive going for him. It doesn’t matter a whole lot what it is, just that it sparks a little awe.

When I first got interested in hockey, I fell for the goalie on my husband’s favorite team. He was one of the better goalies, don’t get me wrong, but I think I was simply so impressed by the skill it takes to play goal in the NHL that I just glommed on to him. The reflexes, concentration and stamina required by that job just fascinated me. When I met this guy in person I could barely speak, as if I were in the presence of deity. Sometime later he got in trouble with the law and turned out to not really be your most “character” guy, and thus lost all appeal for me. (When the awe goes, so does the desire.)

You are all well aware of my devotion to Les Stroud. Talk about awe-inspiring; well, I’ve done just that enough on this blog in the past. Point is, find a guy who is courageous, a talented filmmaker, and a superb musician, and I’m not sure how ugly you’d have to make him for that fellow not to get me excited. Les is not one bit ugly, and his character hasn’t failed me yet, so he’s one of the few guys currently able to pique my “interest.”

More recently, as you know, I got on my Neil Gaiman kick. (By the way, I finished American Gods and Stardust and just started Fragile Things. I saw “Beowulf,” too—best thing about it was Neil’s screenplay.) Now there are a lot of authors I very much admire, whose work I love to read. I would call Stephen King, John Updike, and William Goldman all genius contemporary authors. But for reasons I can’t explain, they do not provoke from me the awe that Neil Gaiman’s writing does. It may be that he so often has the voice of some charming and brilliant 19th Century Briton, I don’t know. But there is so much richness and profundity in his work, it just blows my mind.

And with me, blown-mind is the ultimate turn-on.

You get the picture: professor, priest, athlete, daredevil, musician, artist...whatever it is in a person or character that makes me feel amazed and humble, that’s what gets to me. I don’t care if he’s drop-dead gorgeous, has six-pack abs, or is an alpha male oozing sexuality. If he has some startling talent, if he has accomplished some remarkable achievement, or if he is simply unique and special and somehow out-of-this-world, he’s my guy.

Now there’s one serious downside to having an awe fetish, my friends, and here it is: People are (oh curse the dreadful truth!) only human. Just as those gorgeous centerfold chicks in Playboy are air-brushed and otherwise enhanced, my awe-inspiring men have plenty of faults as well. I have learned for the sake of my fantasy life not to inquire too deeply into their real lives. Better still, I look for fictional characters whenever I can; Faramir (“Lord of the Rings”) is not going to lose his glamour by turning out to have bet on dog fights or something.

Please post if you too have an awe fetish. I fear I may be the only one. Perhaps we can form a support group. I think creating a clearinghouse for guys who inspire awe would be very helpful.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to keep reading Fragile Things and having Neil Gaiman haunt my dreams.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Author's Space...Upgraded

I'm so happy about my new workspace I just had to share.

After saving up for five years we finally replaced the depressing light blue-gray carpet that was in our condo when we bought it (having fallen in love with the place in spite of said carpet). Since my desk, one of those ready-to-assembly jobbers like they sell at Target, barely stayed in one piece during that move, we knew replacing the carpeting also meant a new desk. Well, I saved up for that too! And a new chair! Woo hoo! So take a gander at the before picture (and my pal Cody in the chair)...

And the after picture...

Of course now this means I have to rededicate myself to working at this desk. I'll get busy on that!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Old Flames

This week I made arrangements with The Romance Studio website for an interview that will appear next month, and agreed to focus on my first published novel. The Resurrection of Captain Eternity is a very obscure contemporary romance read by few, but it has a handful of die-hard fans so I like to think it’s decent. Well, since I was going to have to talk about this book, I thought I better reread it quick since it’s been a long time.

Captain Eternity was revised and released in 1998 but in fact I originally wrote it in the early 90s, and it takes place in 1990. That means the title character, whose real name is Fritz, is a guy I fell in love with almost two decades ago. The whole book is a real nostalgia trip, as there is much reminiscing in it about the 70s and of course a real 80s sensibility to it. Maria, the heroine is slightly younger than myself birth-year-wise but her personal history is in many ways a peek into mine.

I hadn’t thought about Fritz aka the Captain in a long time. I still find the guy’s intensity, complexity and extreme self-confidence a little intimidating—but very sexy. It’s funny to be falling in love all over again with a man I invented myself, having forgotten in the interim what he was like. The imagination is such a weird place.

As I read Captain Eternity I have to reflect on other loves from my youth and consider whether or not the me of today would be likewise attracted to them. There are some infatuations that die off in the natural course of things, leaving you wondering what on earth you were thinking. But there are others that seem to abide regardless of the passing of years.

My last great crush of high school was on a guy named Mark. And after almost 35 years I am still not quite over this guy. Every couple of years I try Googling him again, but in spite of his not having a real common name, I can’t find out for sure what became of him. Frustrates the crap out of me.

Mark was an enigma. That was what hooked me on him. He was extremely intelligent and firmly ensconced in the “brains” clique, but he had shoulder-length hair. Now in 1974 only “freaks”—the kids who cared more about pot than grades—had long hair. I wanted desperately to get to know a guy who was all National-Honor-Society-and-Key-Club but had hippie hair. He was also cute in a geeky sort of way, and had a great sense of humor.

I was obsessed with this kid all of my senior year. You know how it was when you were seventeen: if the guy you liked spoke to you, it sent you reeling with joy for the next 24 hours. I remember one basketball away game we both attended right before Christmas break, when Mark oddly made a point of seeking me out and wishing me Merry Christmas. It was my best Christmas in years just because of that.

I know it seems odd that I fell so hard for a guy merely because he was “an enigma.” But keep in mind that being enigmatic is very sexy. There’s nothing like an inexplicable mystery to draw you in (just ask Maria). And, for me at least, when that mystery involves the integration of two apparently opposite qualities, it’s all the more sexy. Especially to a teenager raised as I was. I was a classic “good girl” just a handful of years into puberty, trying to make sense of human nature at the tail end of both the Sexual Revolution and the Vietnam War. I’d spent quite a few years trying to avoid the dark and scary things in life, but was just discovering that sometimes those things are very intriguing.

I was at ease with “brains”; but “freaks” frightened me. And here was this guy who embodied both. I couldn’t have possibly analyzed it this way at the time, but Mark was the bridge from my comfort zone into unexplored territory. He had managed somehow to be like me but also embrace the things I feared. Consequently he seemed a source of power and enlightenment and fascinating erotic appeal. Not unlike Captain Eternity, really.

I suppose my ongoing yearning for Mark is due to the fact that the mystery was never solved, the enigma never explained. There’s nothing like lack of closure to sustain an attraction. Still, I’m sure were I to locate the guy and ask him to explain why he wore his hair long in spite of being one of the smart kids, he would look at me strangely and say, “I liked how it looked” or something equally non-monumental. I recognize that my adolescent imagination (which continues to serve me well today as a romance author) greatly embellished the character of Mark beyond realistic expectations.

I can only dream of finally finding him via Google and Google Images, and learning that he became a brilliantly eccentric mathematician who still has shoulder-length hair.

Ah well…at least my Captain Eternity remains the same enigmatically hot guy after all these years, and always will. See, this is why it pays to be a fiction writer.