A New Planet [Some Real Life Experiences]

“Look, look,, the planet I made is Nomean People! Nomean!” The girl with long glossy dark hair and infectious smile giggled and showed me the little square she’d drawn on a piece of red construction paper. Our theme that day was space and the solar system, and as one of the activities we had the children invent their own planet, which could be any shape, color, or size they wanted.

One girl made two planets, both in the shape of rainbows, which she cut out and stuck on Popsicle sticks. She wrote her name in large, crooked letters on the back of both planets, but refused to talk whenever we tried to ask her questions. She pursed her lips and raised her chin as if she wanted to say something but was being kept silent by some unseen force. But that was okay; she was having fun and had understood the concept of what we were trying to do.

One of the boys, usually quite rowdy and impatient with the activities we give, made his planet out of black and yellow play-dough-like stuff that we’d brought with us. He told us that everything on his planet was black – the people, the buildings, the sidewalks, the sky, the trees, the food. He found the concept cheerful, though.

Others drew planets that looked somewhat like Earth, or else mashed up all sorts of colors together. They loved inventing, creating something of their own that they could take home and tell their families about.

The girl with the Nomean People planet repeated its name to any of us “big people” who was standing near her. She must have desperately wanted her planet to exist in reality.

All of the Reading

Today has been a reading day. This semester it seems that reading is overtaking writing in my daily activities, and while that’s okay, I’m still glad that I have my post-a-day challenge to keep me writing, as well as my writing class. But today is just one of those strange days where I feel like my eyes have been zooming back and forth continuously, reading one thing or another. One day, I’m going to want to remember the kind of Sundays I had at college, so here is what I read today:

1) David Copperfield while eating my breakfast in my pajamas.

2) The workshop submissions for my writing class. It was my second read, and I had a pen in hand to make notes and marks, but there weren’t many to make on the two stories I read today, since they were excellent.

3) Crime and Punishment, with many post-it notes and a pencil. I’m reading it very closely, for the second time (only read up to page 450 the first time, though, and am reading it again because after conversing with my professor, I decided that it required the kind of reading where I pay attention to little details and make a ton of notes. Which is what I’ve been doing.)

4) David Copperfield again while eating lunch.

5) I was in a writing workshop last year as well, and I’m working for the teacher who presided over that class. He trusts my judgement, which is incredibly flattering, and part of my work for him is reading stories by these two authors he hadn’t heard of till recently and deciding whether any of their stories are good enough to pass on to him and his current (or future) writing class. So I spent an hour reading a couple stories by A. E. Coppard in the one book of his that’s free on Google Books: Adam & Eve & Pinch Me: Tales.

6) Finished reading a play by a guy who was, funnily enough, in the same writing workshop with me last year. I’m going to be directing a reading of this play – an entirely new and foreign experience for me, but one I’m quite looking forward to, especially since the play is beautiful and moving.

Now I’m off to the library to read some more Crime and Punishment.

All of the reading. All. Of. It.

 

A Schedule

Ancient Greece, course number 10110, exam at the New High-School at 4PM. Tomorrow.

That sounds like I’m taking an exam IN ancient Greece. But no, I haven’t learned the secrets to time travel… yet.

The day after tomorrow, Friday, is the day before my birthday. I’ll be going with my friends to a cafe in Jaffa to listen to some jazz and then walk around the flea market.

Saturday, June 26, is my birthday. I’m turning twenty. Last year, I was extremely depressed before my nineteenth birthday, but this year, I don’t feel much of anything. Does it scare me that I won’t be an official “teen” anymore? Yes. Does it scare me that “twenty” sounds so grown up? Yes. Is there a little part inside of me that’s screaming at me to get down on the ground, play with dolls, make faces at boys I don’t like, and stay a child forever? Yes. But then, there are good things that come with age. I can’t think of anything that I didn’t have last year or the year before, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be. Anyway, I have more important things to figure out at the moment – like getting back to health so I can get back to college.

Yes, I’m going back to college – I hope, I think, I want – but not yet. It’s going to be spring-semester. So meanwhile I’m here, until October when I need to send my letters in and proclaim that on all fronts, I’m better.

But how am I going to spend my time? What am I going to do? Well, I have a few objectives, none of which are easy:

1. I’m going to relax. I swear, hand on heart, hand on my favorite teddy, hand on my favorite book, I swear that I don’t know how to relax. Not really, not for stretches of time. There’s always something I should be doing. Something I’m supposed to be doing. Something productive, that looks good on a resume, that will make me busy so that no one will be able to tell me that I’m wasting my time. So, once and for all, I’m going to say NO to that overachiever inside me – I’m going to tell her that I’m taking a break, whether she likes it or not. This may be the one and only time in my life that I’ll be absolutely, 100% free to rest and relax and catch up on my gaming, my reading, my fun. I don’t know if I’ll manage, but I’m going to try. You may think – this is the easiest damn thing in the world, how can this be a hard thing to do? Well, let me tell you, you don’t live in my head. This is going to be a real challenge, and it’s probably going to be the one thing I won’t manage to do.

2. Having said all that, I don’t want to loll around in bed all day, every day. I just want to do something that I want to be doing. So, my next objective, is to finish the four games I have that I’ve not yet finished, that were expensive, and that I REALLY want to play. You may say what you want about video/computer games, since I know there are many people who are against them. But you know what? To me, they’re stories. They’re stories I get to be in, get to participate in and get to anticipate and wait for what comes next and to be responsible for it. It’s like an extremely interactive Choose Your Own Adventure Book for me.

3. Take drawing lessons and maybe voice lessons. I’ve always wanted to know how to draw, and as for my voice… well, I’ve always been one of those people who sing along to everything – including making weird noises when the horns/piano/guitar are playing. But it’s scary, putting myself, my voice, a deep part of who I am, out there to be scrutinized and looked at and played around with. So this idea is still going around my brain and I’m thinking about it.

….and, the most important of them all:

4. I’m going to write. I’m going to make a schedule. I’m going to put aside two hours a day, every day, starting next week, and during those two hours I’m going to be dead to the world. I’ll take no calls, I’ll see no friends, I’ll make no excuses. Can I get up to make coffee? Sure. If I go on holiday, will I take a break? Possibly. But I’m treating this as a job. Not in a bad way – not at all. This is exciting me almost more than the rest of them. Because if I dedicate, say, half an hour to writing in my blog on an average day, then the other hour and a half will be going towards one of my bigger projects. There are three serious ones at the moment, and I’m going to have to play around with all of them and choose which one I want to be serious about right now. But I’m going to do this. I have to do this. I have to see that I’m able to do this and enjoy it. Because, as every writer I’ve ever heard has said, part of writing is just learning to sit your butt down and write. And write. And write.

**

So there it is. My summer schedule. All wrapped up in four nice points. Now I just have to stick with it.

Being Other

A toss of the hair, a gesture with the chin, a purse of the lips – these will suffice to change a person utterly from one thing to the other. From a shy, timid, slightly awkward person will emerge an attitude, a style, a replica of the actor onscreen. Confidence has nothing to do with it at that point – once someone changes, they’re in the moment and no matter what happens, the attitude will remain, the stance will stay upright and the chin raised.

Such small things, such subtle mind-shifts and twists – on such things hangs the balance of a show. But once a person is out of self, succumbing to that infamous of Greek gods, Dionysus, and loses the identity of the self, then there is no pause, no doubt, no fear. Nonexistent wine gives the head its buzz and the body its confidence; nonexistent masks take over the face and expression; nonexistent muses come and spark drama or comedy at the needed times.

Being other is liberating. The fear before succumbing to that loss of self is overwhelming, almost paralyzing. The moment the threshold is crossed, however, the fear evaporates like a magician’s rabbit – instantly, utterly, although still biding its time somewhere hidden where the audience can’t see it.

Being other is mastering fear. Being other is being free.

Teenager Sarah – Chapter 1

“This old man… he played 8… he played knickknack on my gate… with a knick… knack… patty-whack, give the dog a bone, this old man came rolling home…” I drone on wearily, getting up to ten and then I’m forced to start all over by the fascinated three year-old I’m baby-sitting for.

I can’t believe I took this job. I have to baby-sit for Max 4 hours a day for the next two weeks until the toddler-daycare starts. I’ve already been at this for a week.

I like kids, don’t get me wrong, but Max is so tiresome! Little kids are supposed to like to sleep a lot, right? Well, not Maxi here. No, no, no, Max likes to PLAY: “I play on pony! I wanna play with puzzle! Make up a game, Sarah!” I’ve made up so many silly games, I’ve rocked him on his wooden-pony thing, I’ve helped him with his puzzles, and he STILL WANTS MORE.

At least I’m getting paid pretty well. I’m saving up for a new amp. I’ve got a really small, pathetic one- only 10V. My parents are ok with me getting a bigger, newer and better one, but they refuse to pay for it. They say that they paid for the guitar and the amp I have and that I should be satisfied. So I’m working my butt off in a baby-sitting job because I started looking for decent summer jobs too late and there was nothing left in my area.

“Sarah! Sing that song about the bucket! I wanna hear the funny-bucket song!” Max calls out after the fifth round of patty-whack. I try to understand what the hell the funny-bucket song is, and then I realize and start singing to him.

“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole!” I continue on, singing the Henry parts in a deep voice and the Liza parts in a high-pitched voice, and Max loves every minute of it. He claps along and giggles and repeats “dear Liza” and “dear Henry” in the appropriate parts. When I’m done I open a puzzle for him and tell him that I’m going to make a phone call and that he can start the puzzle without me. He pouts, but starts fiddling with the puzzle-pieces anyway.

I walk to the kitchen and slump myself down at the table. I take the phone and dial Hannah’s number.

“Hello?” Hannah’s mom answers.

“Hi, it’s Sarah. Can I speak to Hannah?” I ask. Hannah’s mom sniffs disapprovingly at the sound of my voice, but calls Hannah to the phone nonetheless.

“Sarah? I knew it must be you; my mom had such a look on her face. She’s never going to get over what you – quote unquote- did to me.”

“Geez, all I did was take you to a punk-rock show. Everyone gets bruised and beaten at punk shows! I mean, we were in the pit for gods-sake!”

“I know – it’s her who doesn’t understand. Honestly, you’d think that at 17 she’d be a bit less protective and give me some independence. I had a blast at that show, but she only cares about the bruise on my collarbone and the split lip. Anyways, what’re you calling about? Aren’t you at work now?”

“Yeah, I am, but I needed some respite from the three-year-old’s excitement. Listen, you up for going out tonight? I mean, I don’t have work tomorrow, since it’s Saturday and Max’s mom will be home to take care of him.”

“Sure! Out where? And with who?”

“I dunno… I didn’t really think it through, I just want to get out tonight for a bit. Are there any good shows around tonight?”

“Wait a sec, let me check the paper. Ok, um, there’s a jazz show at the Pallet club, there’s some lecture at the Secret Theater and there’s some band I don’t know at The Slob. I say the first two are a no-no. But the name of this band at The Slob sounds promising- Dragon Blood. It’s only 5 bucks, and it starts at 8, so I can even be home by my stupid 11:30 curfew. You want to check that out?”

“Sure, I’ll meet you outside The Slob at like ten to 8? Ok, great. Oh, and invite Mathew and Steve, they might be up for a good show.”

I hang up the phone feeling a little more cheerful, and waltz back into the living room, ready to take on the incredibly energetic infant.

Back home, I get ready to go out. There’s not much to do: I don’t wear make-up beyond eyeliner, and I dress pretty much the same for every outing: my black jeans, a black t-shirt [generally sporting the name and/or image of a band on it] and my black Converse. That’s pretty much how I dress daily, only with the bonus of the eyeliner.

I head out at seven-thirty and walk towards my meeting place with Hannah. The Slob is this very cool music club. Apart from their folk-night evening, they normally have pretty good bands that play there. I hope my band will be able to perform there sometime in the not-too-distant future as well. It’s the smallest venue around, but it’s a great place to get noticed.

I arrive at the doors of The Slob and Hannah’s not there yet. I lean against a lamp post and look around hoping to catch a glimpse of her or the boys. It’s pretty crowded, which means that this band we’re seeing has some sort of following. There’re actually a couple of girls in obviously home-made t-shirts bearing the words “Dragon Blood” on them in bright red glitter.

“Sarah!” a masculine voice calls from somewhere behind me. I turn around and see Steve. I hug him, and we begin chatting about the last band practice we had. Steve is the drummer, I’m the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Hannah is the lead guitarist and Mathew is the bassist. They always say, form a band with your friends. That’s exactly what I did 4 months ago when I decided that I wanted music to be my career.

A [Stupid] Tale of Two Cats

Once upon a time, there were two cats. The two cats were great friends, and knew each other from the time they were both kittens and were rescued from the street by a nice woman named Debbie. The cats, though generally very friendly, had a recurring argument that they could never resolve: they couldn’t agree which of them had the sillier name.

The one called Shraga would often say “listen to the way my name sounds – it’s so dumb! Shra-ga. SHRA-GA. Just dumb!”

The one called Spartacus would answer “you think that’s dumb? Listen to my nicknames – Sparty, Sparticle, Particle, Spartoosh. All so silly!”

Despite their argument, they usually managed to play well together and enjoy the life they led in the small apartment with the two girly-girls they lived with. The two girly-girls, one older and one younger, both doted on them and spent many hours of the day using odd sounding high-pitched voices when they spoke to them. They would squeal and sigh, but the two cats were content as long as those sounds were followed by the rattle of the box of especially yummy food-treats.

And so the two cats lived in harmony, with only one or two scartchy fights a day, and they were always sure to act very cute around their two girly-girl humans so that they would never need to live hungry on the street again.

Unruly Thoughts

There is a problem I seem to have – while I often know exactly what I want to write about, there are also times when I sit and stare at my computer screen for full minutes at a time, and I ponder. The thoughts run through my head, half finished sentences chasing each other around and around. I abandon one idea and move onto the next, I ditch that one and jump to yet another one. It can be a wonderful feeling, and can sometimes lead to something that I catch hold of and mull over, and that something can eventually blossom into a whole piece.

Then again, there are those evenings where the thoughts never cease to chase each other around, like wild children in a game – each is intent upon making itself heard. But then, as children will do, the ideas abandon their convincing and pleading because something more interesting is going on, or because they’re bored, or perhaps even curious of what the next idea is going to be.

How do writers, real writers that is, deal with this? Once you have a beginning of a story, how do you decide what to do with it? How can a writer, even one with a clear picture of how everything will play out, not be tempted by the dozen odd ideas that can pop into their heads at any moment? I suppose there is some way to focus yourself, but then, perhaps writing at one o’clock in the morning isn’t the time to discover it.