Sunday, September 25, 2011


Overheard frequently in our household:

Cheez: Calm it down, Macaroni.

Me: Not my strong suit, Cheez.

I do not relax well. I can hike four miles each way to get to a beach, but I can't spend more than four minutes just lying down on the beach. Consider me the Prius of personality types. I'm not so much about the idling, more about the recharging.

Now that is what I call a hybrid

So while some people think weekends are for reposing, I think they are for imposing.

Imposing as many activities as I can onto the Mac and Cheez schedule (pronounce it shed-ule, it helps persuade the Canadian).

Yes, I can pack more into 24 hours than Kiefer Sutherland. And I do it without the use of split-screen.

Submitted for your consideration: Friday, September 23rd-Saturday, September 24th:

First, Mac and Cheez bike up a volcano.

Not for any of the usual reasons one bikes up a volcano.

We bike up to attend what is billed as
A Quebecois House Dance and Party--Come and dance French-Canadian
quadrilles, squares, the Lancers, and other participatory dances at a
traditional Quebecois house party called by Seattle's Suzanne Girardot. These dances are similar to American square dances, but they have their own unique Quebecois style and interesting twist to the dance. Please bring potluck snacks and drinks to share. The dance is free, but tips are happily accepted.

We do not know a damn thing about Quebecois music, nor do we know the host of the house party. But I do know that dragging Cheez onto a dance floor to dance dances neither of know is exactly my idea of a good time.

Plus also we do sorta know the fiddler player, a nice Jewish girl from nowhere near Quebec who is so amazing at Quebecois fiddling that (according to my friend Mr. Internet) she played in Quebec's internationally renowned traditional supergroup La Bottine Souriante.

So we dance. We bike home (without peddling--a distinct advantage of living at the bottom of a volcano). We sleep. Mostly Cheez sleeps. I'm a macaroninsomniac, so I get up early, write for a while, and then waylay Cheez as he is about to start shaving so we can try playing Jolene as an accordion-banjo duet.

Why, you may be wondering, would I waylay Cheez as he is about to start shaving so we can try playing Jolene as an accordion-banjo duet?

Because Jolene has only three chords. Whereas Here You Come Again has damn near to a dozen. Which makes Jolene a much better place for us to start, in our quest to form Parton Me, the world's greatest banjo-accodion Dolly Parton cover band (as I hope my friend Mr. Internet will one day proclaim us to be).

Then we go to a house party to hear a band.

This time, there is no fiddler. But we do know the lead singer. She works with our backyard neighbor, who is hosting the party. So instead of biking up a volcano, we stroll through the gate between our yards. Which is about as arduous as volcano biking, given that it involves walking through enough spider webs to take down Peter Parker, Miss Muffet, and Wilbur the Pig.

The neighbor and the singer and most of the guests all work "in social justice." So it's the kind of house party that starts at 11 am and involves a potluck wherein items have labels such as Gluten Free Waffles (contains eggs--s☹rry vegans).

We eat. We groove to the band. We're back home by 2 pm.

Just in time for a craft project.

Because after a summer of staring at the bare-bulb-and-ceiling-fan in our bedroom, wondering if there is anyway to make a ceiling fan not the most aesthetically awful thing imaginable, we come up with . . .
Furry lamp shade! We happen to have all the ingredients (wire, thread, fake fur) on hand, so we get Project Runwacko is wrapped up by 5 pm.

Which leaves me just 7 more hours of Saturday to cram with activity.

How about we, you know, RELAX? Cheez pleads.

Luckily, before I can even answer--and by answer I mean defeat any possible hope he has of getting me to sit still--Little Lord Portleroy phones to ask if we want to go see a band. Because his friend Paige's friend Nick is in town with his band, and Paige has a couple extra tickets if we want to go.

Paige's friend Nick, it is worth mentioning, is Nick Rhodes.

We barely have time to pick out our best 80s outfits (me: purple rose-patterned Betsey Johnson dress, houndstooth jacket and houndstooth stockings, purple cowboy boots; Cheez: basic black with white leather tie, and two-tone black and white Doc Martens), go to a dinner party, and then head to the Rose Garden for our sixth-row seats to the ultimate 80s flashback.

Not that we can sit. Who can sit when Simon Le Bon is convincing me that despite having eaten my way through three parties in the past 20 hours, I am in fact hungry like the wolf?

Paige doles out VIP passes, which means after the show we get to hangout backstage.

Like Quebecois quadrilles, hanging out backstage with the prettiest band ever

(sorry, The Go-Gos . . . maybe if you'd worn as much makeup as Duran Duran, you could have been just as pretty)

is a new one for Mac and Cheez, but we rise to the occasion in true M&C form:

  • Nick tells me and Cheez and Sarah Dougher that we have cool glasses.
  • Cheez tells Nick Rhodes he's covered Rio on the banjo.
  • Nick and Cheez discuss how Roxy Music's More Than This rips off a riff from Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, while I scour the catering spread looking for chocolate (futilely, as it turns out; I begin to wonder if maybe The Go-Gos would have more girlcentric snacks).
Yes, we party like it's only 12 years after 1999.

Meaning, everyone who was cool in the 80s is now in their 40s, if not their 50s. By midnight, we've cleared the coliseum and are headed home.

The highlight of the whole circadian cycle? Probably the point during Wild Boys at which Nick, Simon, etal. segued into a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Turns out, I *can* RELAX.

If RELAX involves a throbbing beat, a full synth-pop band, and dancing in the aisles.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It Takes Two (Wheels) to Tango

Portland is a lot like Camp Granada: They say we'll have some fun if it stops raining.

And this weekend, it/we did.

We *could* have had our fun at Portland's Pride Festival. But that seemed a little mainstream.

Bear in mind, the Cheez and I did live in West Hollywood for six years.

(and when I say "bear" I do mean this guy:

No, wait, I mean *this* guy:


(note to self, where do you place the ")" to close a parenthetical statement that ends with a photo of a topless hairy gay dude? That's an issue they didn't cover in my high school copy of Funk & Wagnalls)

So anyhow, instead Cheez and I did something utterly Portland: Pedalpalooza. Which, if you are too lazy/cautious/immobilized-by-your-mobile-device to click the link, is a two-week festival of biking events in and around Portland. This being Portland, "bike events" can mean things you never dreamed. Mostly soggy things.

But not this:

Yes, bike tango.

The ride met up in Jamison Park, then we biked with tango music blaring (okay, maybe that's not such a big deal) and with portable ballroom dance floor (okay, definitely that is a big deal, albeit one disassembled and folded into neat stacks, then loaded onto a damn sturdy bike trailer) to the waterfront, assembled the floor, and Cheez and Macaroni got their first ever tango lesson.

If you are looking for my usual bike in that film, note that for Sunday at least the leopard had changed her spots, and Cheez and I were riding the tandem.

Because when we left the house, he misheard and thought I'd said we were going on the tandem ride, not the tango ride.

Of course, it takes two to tandem. And to tango. And in fact it took two tandems to tango ride, because another couple showed up on tandem for the same ride.

This is, after all Portland. In any group of forty people, you will find at least 4 (aka two sets of) tandem riders.

Reminds me of the Kinsey report statistic that 10% of the population is gay.

Of course, that was only a general estimate.

In West Hollywood, it was slightly higher, maybe 110%.

In Portland, the lesbian moms also throw the statistic off in terms of 10% homo. But at 4 out of 40 we are certainly 10% bi squared, as in bi-seated bi-cycles.

In other news, I also had a piece in the New York Times this weekend. Because, as usual, war profiteering is breaking news.

Even if it's Civil War profiteering.

But the real news that's fit to upload is in this tango video:

Yes, catch the woman wearing red lacy peds.

Sexy peds, people. Who knew?

I can just imagine Allan Sherman commemorating it in song:
You remember
little Stacey
She's sporting peds that
are red n lacy
on the dance floor
quite a sight
but now the dance floor's
loaded on her bike.

Fun when it stops raining indeed.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

True Facts About Making Stuff Up

What, you may be wondering, is it like to be a published novelist?

Damn good question. Answer: I don't know.

My novel is due out in February, 2012. Which, though it seems like a long ways off for my adoring fans, in the world of publishing is actually quick turnaround. And means I hit the shelves just in time for all your Black History Month book buying needs.

So I am not actually a published novelist. Yet.

I am, however, a professional novelist. As in, I got a royalty check!

From Sweden.

Because, for reasons I don't quite understand, in addition to selling in North America and the UK, my novel has sold in Norway and Brazil.

Yes, I am being translated. Or rather, my narrator/protagonist is being translated:
In the US: free woman of color
In the UK: free woman of colour
In the Denmark: free wøman øf cølør
In the Portuguese-speaking Brazil: free wõman õf cõlõr

(c'mon, if you celebrate the first two sales with a low-flo dual flush toilet, you might as well celebrate the next two with some recycling. Of your jokes)

In the ridiculously long time since I last blogged, I have learned a few things about being a novelist. And because I am such a gifted teacher, I will share them with you now.

Thing #1: Stalking has its upside. About the most important thing you can do as a new novelist is to get a known novelist to read your book and possibly blurb it. This I have done. By happening upon a book signing by a known novelist and asking her, ever so casually, to read my manuscript. Which she agreed to do. Wasn't that easy? Yes! And I only had to travel 3,000 miles to happen upon the signing!

Because you know Portland doesn't have any bookstores of its own.

Hmmmmm is recycling pictures somehow less lazy than recycling jokes?

Thing #2: Stalking, sure, that's okay. But let's not be insensitive.
So when a famous author, or two, or as many as you can land, agree to read your book, it's nice to send a handwritten note thanking them. The only problem with that is my egregious handwriting. Not much point sending a deep token of appreciation in a completely illegible scrawl.

Thus I carefully, painstakingly (as in pain of hand cramps), wrote out my notes. Had the Cheez read them over. Was about to pop note two in the envelope when I *happened* to glance at the back of the card, which had the credit for the image on the front of the card. A lovely abstract quilt. Called There goes the neighborhood.

Maybe not the best way to say, "hello, famous black writer, I am a nice white woman who I swear is celebrating African American culture!"

Thing #3: Maybe it's not Maybelline.
Famous writer the third advised me Make sure you look really good in your author photo. Which I thought I'd done, by asking a friend with advanced photoshop skills to take said photo. And then doctor it.

Which he did quite well. But the doctor can only do so much given the patient. And this patient is impatient with make-up and product and the like.

Do I have to wear a lot of make-up and product when I do public appearances? I asked Famous writer numero quatro (really it is amazing anyone has time to be a best-selling author, given how much time just answering macaronimaniacal queries can take). Are you kidding? she answered. If you do TV, first of all they deal with all that and second of all WHO CARES because you are doing TV! Otherwise, three words: Joyce Carol Oates.

And it's true! Sure, I may not have over fifty published novels and an endowed professorship at Princeton, but damn if I don't have better eyewear and slightly less frizzy hair!

Thing #4: What's in a name? Everything. Starting with name recognition.

So Emily Let-Me-Just-Fold-That-Up-And-Hide-It-Where-No-One-Will-Find-It-Until-I-Am-Dead Dickinson not withstanding, most writers want to be read. And most readers want to read.

Seems like a match made in marketing heaven.

So I keep telling everyone I talk to about my book. Seriously, when I was standing on the admissions line at the Boston Museum of Fine Art behind a sweet college student who left her ID at home, causing me to bring her into the museum as the Plus-One on my museum pass, I told her and all her ID-remembering friends about my book. Which they seemed very excited to read. Except that it's harder to remember than an ID, on account of it doesn't yet have a name.

Or rather, not only one name.

I wrote it with a title in mind. My agent didn't like that title. So she sold it under another title. That I don't like.

No biggie. Everyone told me publishers always change the title. So I figured I'd wait to see what the publisher thought.

And they agreed! That is, they agreed that the title my agent gave it wasn't the right one. Which launched me into session upon session of generating possible titles.

In case you are wondering, titles follow no rhyme or reason. Don't believe me? Check the bestseller lists of late.

There are the one word (or one wordish titles): Room. Doc. The Help.
Then there are the egregiously long titles: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (at least four autumns of which is spent just writing the damn name).
There are the titles that need in a feminist consciousness raising: The Paris Wife. The Tiger's Wife.

And dear hearts, I tried my hand at ripping of each and every one of them. Sort of.

At some point, as I was shouting out title after title, I screamed The Cask of Amontillado.
I believe that one's been taken the ever helpful Cheez noted.
Freaking Canadians, with their penchant for facts.
The OTHER Cask of Amontillado I shouted back.

So to recap: Please tell all your friends/mates/venn/amigos in North America/the UK/Denmark/Brazil toput The OTHER Cask of Amontillado by a certain Not As Prolific But Neither as Frizzy author at the top of their Black History Month gift lists.

Because if I can make it to the bestseller list, you know what all the other authors will be saying:
There goes the neighborhood.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Aflush With Pride With News of Pending Publication

Q: What do Picasso and MacaroniManiac have in common?

It is not a penchant for leopard fashion.

No, it is that our artistic creations have both been sold at auction.

His for $106 million, aka the most money ever paid for a piece of art in an auction.

Mine, for a very nice advance for a first-time novelist, aka somewhat less than $106 million.

Q: What do Queen Elizabeth II, Her Royal Highness, and MacaroniManciac have in common?


Once again, not about the leopard.

No, it is that Lizzie Deuce and I are both worthy of a pre-empt in the U.K.

She, pre-empting whatever happens to be scheduled-pronounced-sheduled on British telly, with coverage of anything newsworthy the palace does, such as going to war over the Falkland Islands or bidding farewell to her ex-daughter-in-law or bidding a fonder farewell to her corgies.

And I, for my novel, which yes dears, not only sold North American rights at auction this week but also UK rights in a pre-empt.

Which means that while some readers will be devouring the story of Mary Bowser's journey from slavery to being a free woman of color, others will get Mary Bowser's journey from slavery to being a free woman of colour.

This is VERY VERY VERY VERY exciting news.

Needless to say, the Cheez and I are celebrating.

By installing a new dual-flush, low-flo toilet!!!!

Only kidding.

Really our neighbor Don installed it.

Of course, going greener (regardless of whether you are going number 1 or number 2) is only one of the Portlandish ways we celebrated.

We began by paying a visit to Mecca.
NOTE: that is a Union kepi, not a Confederate kepi.

My slogan being not the South will rise again but rather the Mac will read again.

We dressed up from the kepi down, and had friends over for an impromptu cocktail party.

But mostly, we've run around the house screaming.

Still, just in case we hadn't screamed it loud enough for you to hear wherever you may be:


The novel will be out in early 2012. Between now and then, I need to do final edits based on my editor's comments.

And, according to my friend Sue, practice saying things like, Thanks, Terry, it's great to be here.

And figure out what leopard print goes best with blue kepi.

And of course start writing my next book.

I'm not 100% sure what it will be. The footnote from history angle was clearly the big hook for the first novel. But for the next one, I'm thinking maybe something Cubist. And trading in that kepi for a beret.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My State of the Disunion Address

I know, I know. I have been pathetically inept at blogging. I apologize. It's not that I don't love you and miss you and want to blog to you. It's just that I've been away.

Far away.

In the nineteenth century.
Wait a minute, that's not my Civil War uniform.

It's my Pie Liberation Army apron. Worn whenever I must defend the Union of Crust and Filling.

Suffice it to say, I am not one to dessert my post.

Not unless the infantry band is playing a rousing chorus of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lard.

But let's get back--way back--to the Civil War.

Which as it turns out is late-breaking news. As in, the New York Times is sesquicentennially blogging the Civil War in real time.

Inasmuch as they had blogs, or computers, or even electrons back in 1861.

Well, I guess they had electrons. They just didn't know it. Like some sort of subatomic halitosis that their friend were just too polite to mention.

Let me be clear: I am a normal, red-blooded American.

Which means the Civil War bored the hell out of me when we had to study it in school, just like it did you and every one else.

So how did I become so obsessed with the conflict that I now receive form letters addressed to Dear Civil War Enthusiast?*

*NOTE: I don't actually receive those letters. They are mailed to me. But if the Cheez gets to them first, he grabs them and runs around the house mocking me.

Let me tell you, when you are being mocked by a Canadian, you know you have fallen low.

Anyway, I became obsessed by the Civil War while accidentally writing a novel. About the Civil War. Which I've been working on, on and off, for, well let's just say I could have fought the Civil War in less time.

So Ulysses S. Grant me a few more minutes of your what-the-heck-you're-already-screwing-around-on-the-internet-time and surf on over to the New York Times to see just how groovy and interesting the Civil War can be, when served up with a healthy portion of MacaroniManiac.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Who You Calling a Pussy--or a Faggot or Dyke? Gather Round for CUTE KITTENS AGAINST QUEER-BASHING!!!!

I know Barack Obama. I worked with Barack Obama. And my kitten is no Barack Obama.

She is a lot cuter. Even if she does look like Edward G. Robinson.

But one thing my kitten and Barack Obama have in common: both star in videos about the rather un-cute but unfortunately timely issue of the harassment and bullying of queer teens.

So far, Obama's video has gotten a few more viewers.

Okay, I know. He's THE PRESIDENT. It's a big deal when he speaks out like this.

But how hard can it be? He's got writers, videographers, press people--and an opposable thumb. My cat doesn't have any of that. She doesn't even have her sparkle ball toy. It got knocked under the fridge days ago, and with my bad back, I ain't going in after it.

I am guessing you have already heard about the It Gets Better Project -- organized by sex columnist Dan Savage to give teens who need it some insight into how their future might look. I respect that the President, Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Estefan and a lot of other famous people have made videos. But you know, most of those videos seem kind of like a grown-up talking AT a kid, not someone talking to a kid in the way a kid (and teens ARE kids despite what they want to believe) needs.

So even though I have ten thousand other things to do, I spent all yesterday making this:

I hope you'll take 2 minutes, 54 seconds to watch it. And then a few more to post a comment on youtube about it, Facebook it, Twitter it, forward it to anyone you can. Because some place in WhoKnowsWhereville there is someone who needs to hear what it has to say. Someone whose life it might even save. And since my cat is an indoor cat, there is no way she can go out and find that someone to say it in person. Please help the cat and the kid and the world, by passing it on.

Just for the record, though: the kids out there aren't being bullied because their queer. Or "suspected" of being queer. They're being bullied because we live in a bigoted, cruel culture that likes to pick on anyone who's different.

But sometimes being different can make you want to make a difference. Like that scrawny, biracial guy with the funny name. Or that cat with a face only a gangster movie could love. Or the chick wearing way too much leopard who really should be doing her laundry before she heads out of town on a business trip. So please do your part to pass it on.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Greek Bearing G.I.F.T.

My friend Stella Unpronounceableadopolous and her husband Dr. Mensch came to visit a while back. Far enough back that I was flat on my back, still in the depths of ruptured disk-induce pain.

You should really see a surgeon Dr. Mensch said.

You should really meet my friend Silke Stella Unpronounceableadopolous said.

Since the surgeon had a four-week wait for an appointment but Silke was available that Tuesday, she got me first. She even made a house call.

Hello, I am Silke Silke said, arriving at our house exactly on time. Because Silke is German. A German-Immersed-in-Fitness-Training, aka G.I.F.T. May I take your picture?

At this point, I'd been MRIed, ultrasounded, and electro-stimulated. I wasn't about to be phased by something that can be done at any Kmart with a bad floral backdrop and a shag-carpeted hand rest.

So I let Silke the G.I.F.T take my picture. Actually, she took a bunch of them. Then she whipped out a clipboard and started taking notes on every aspect of my posture.

Which it turns out sucked.

My posture, I mean. Her notetaking didn't suck. It was immaculate. She is, after all, German.

And her Duetsche-ishly detailed and diligent denoting clearly revealed that somewhere along the way, I had become as crook-limbed as a contortionist flying coach class.

Luckily, Silke the G.I.F.T could offer more than a packet of peanuts and a complimentary beverage.

Because Silke the G.I.F.T gave me the gift of Egoscue.

(Pronunciation guide: Egoscue sorta rhymes with He toss shoe, appropriate enough given that my inability to tie my shoes had been leading me to toss everything from footwear to hissy fits for quite some time).

Egoscue is not some Eastern European method of torture smuggled out across the Alps.

It was actually smuggled out of San Diego. By Arnold Palmer.

And it's not torture. It's just postural alignment. Which you attain by doing a bunch of exercises with charming monikers such as Hooklying Gluteal Contractions and Frog Pull-overs.

Really, frog pull-over. The closest I'll ever come to my childhood dream of dressing in Garanimals.

(Not to be confused with my adult dream of decorating in animal print, which I am achieving quite admirably).

Silke the G.I.F.T. spent a couple hours teaching me my exercises, which she told me I had to do every morning.

Which I did.

And which--unlike the prescription painkillers, the steroid tapers, the over-the-counter NSAID, and the $1000+ worth of physical therapy--actually worked.

Four days later, I rode my bike twenty miles. Two weeks later, Silke the G.I.F.T came back to take more notes and give me new exercises. Then another week later, she moved back to Germany. But by that point, I'd been to see the surgeon but realized I was improved enough not to need to go under the knife.

Besides, Silke the G.I.F.T. left me in the hands of another Egoscue practioner. Who has been slowly but surely getting me back to a fully functioning back.

Moral of the story: if you didn't believe the American healthcare system is completely screwed up, ponder this: the warmth and sympathy of a German was the best thing that happened to me during this entire medical odyssey. This is not a concept that comes easily to members of my tribe.

But I suppose it's better to have one's simplistic associating of all things German with the Nazis ruptured than to have one's L5-s1 disk ruptured. Henceforth, I swear, I'll stop being so catty when it comes to Krauts.

Okay, maybe not. But at least I'm parodying with impeccable posture.