DRUGS, DIRT, AND PUBLISHING

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A friend of mine who lives in my complex mentioned he had spoken to one of his cop friends the other day. “You still living in the same place?” the cop asked. When my friend said he was, the cop told him, “The drug situation is getting pretty bad in there. Every other day we go in and arrest someone.”

“Well, that sucks,” I said to my friend, which was as profound a statement as I could muster given my utter powerlessness over the situation. It’s not like I can afford to move next month into an affluent gated community. And God knows if my son wants to do drugs later on he’ll always be able to find them, but I’d rather he not be able to find them next door.

In an attempt to pretend like we’ve moved to a different place, I decided to rearrange all the furniture. I like the changes; it feels very feng shui. Granted my Prosperity section is in my bathroom—a very bad place for your Prosperity section to be as you’re literally flushing away your finances—but eh, what can you do?

The high point while redecorating was when my son knocked over a plant full of wet dirt. Wet dirt is not easy to pick up from a beige carpet, even less so when your vacuum is clogged. Ever take apart an entire vacuum? It’s a messy job. After I removed a glob of dust and hair in the hose the size of a football and then put the thing together again, I resumed vacuuming…only to back up into my wine rack, causing one of the bottles to clink against another bottle and break. The entire bottle poured into my carpet. It was one of those situations where you can’t react fast enough to minimize the damage (like when the toilet overflows).

It’s okay. You don’t have to pity me. It’s pretty much par with the way things go for me. The nonexistent optimist in me acknowledged that I was damn lucky it wasn’t the bottle of red that had broken, so all in all, I think that attitude adjustment is great progress for me in the huge, happy bubble that other people call life.

Here’s some interesting publishing news: Harlequin recently sent a survey to its authors asking them for feedback. For those writers who aren’t familiar with J. A. Konrath, you must take a looksie at his blog, because he’s even more of a ranter than I am. He’s also a big advocate for self-publishing. In his most recent post, http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-harlequin-survey.html he rips Harlequin a new one, although it appears that many HQ authors have already done so as well. I was surprised to learn how unfair the HQ contracts were to authors (signing away your rights to a book forever is never an ideal situation for the writer), but since it looks like HQ is finally being challenged, I’m hoping there will be positive changes in the future for authors—although probably not seven figures like Sylvia Day just landed: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/harlequin-signs-hybrid-author-sylvia-day-to-seven-figure-ebook-deal-to-launch-cosmo-mag-ebook-program/

It’s a tough time in publishing. Things are in a state of flux and established foundations are crumbling. With the rising popularity of self-publishing, authors are claiming their power. Publishers are no longer the ones in complete control and they’re losing money because of it. So they’re jumping on the bandwagon by scouring Amazon bestseller lists for writers to sign, and forming digital imprints of their own: http://www.atrandom.com/eoriginals/index.php

I have a Nook. I even use it, although the numbers of times I have grabbed it before soccer practice only to discover it needed to be charged is why it will never be my preferred method of reading. I’m old-fashioned. I grew up with the printed page. The brand-new pages of a book will forever be one of my favorite smells. I love the feel of turning pages, finding my marked place, gazing at the author’s photo.

Perhaps if I had grown up in the digital age I’d feel differently. My sister, 20 years younger, only reads digital books. Going to a bookstore to browse the shelves is just not something she’s in the habit of doing—which is a good thing, considering physical bookstores are a dying breed. Like it or not, digital books are the way of the future.

Do you prefer the printed page or an electronic reading device? Where do you think books will be in 20 years?

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ONE METH HOUSE, TWO, THREE METH HOUSES, FOUR

When I first moved in to my mobile home, my next-door neighbor came over and introduced himself. He then tried to sell me two tarnished silver chains and a used car radio. I politely declined; he proceeded to sweep leaves and talk my ear off, until his invalid mother rang a bell to summon him indoors. In the middle of the night I’d hear him sweeping or watering his bushes, while babbling to himself. Great, I thought, I’ve got a raging schizo living next to me. Welcome to the neighborhood

When you start to see more police than pizza delivery cruising through your trailer park on a daily basis, you begin to suspect there might be a problem. But I was a little slow on the uptake. It took me a few years to realize my ex was an addict and he was living right under my nose. “I’m depressed. That’s why I’ve lost sixty pounds and now weigh 140.” “I’m depressed. That’s why I’m sleeping all the time.” “I’m depressed. That’s why I lost my job, stole your credit card, emptied out our son’s piggy bank…”

Schizo neighbor was eventually arrested. Seems he wasn’t schizo at all. He was just a meth head. His niece and nephew moved in. They turned out to be meth heads, too. The niece would play the same four R & B songs over and over all day and well into the night. The nephew fancied himself a beekeeper. He had five hives along the side of the home. That was a big no-no with the management. Angry bees and small children are not a good combo. They were eventually arrested also. Turns out they spent a lot of their time inside cooking. And I don’t mean enchiladas.

At least I had sanity on the other side of my mobile mansion. Until those neighbors moved out. Then along came the family of seven, with their three Chihuahuas and a parrot that could curse in Spanish. One morning, while getting my son ready for school I glanced out my window and saw six members of the SWAT team with masks on, two German Shepherds, and lottsa cops circling around my new neighbors’ doublewide. Their front door had been kicked in, and the children, ranging from ages five to fifteen were lined up outside.

Oh hell, what now? I wondered.

Tip-off #1 for illegal behavior: If you’re living in a mobile home in the first place, it’s suspicious to be driving a brand-new Lexus.

Tip-off #2 for illegal behavior: Especially if you don’t have a job. (See above)

Tip-off #3 for illegal behavior: If you’re making a hundred trips a day, in and out of the complex, in your brand-new Lexus – trips that only last for six minutes at a time – that’s a little suspicious.

Off to prison goes the dealer dad. And then shipped back to Mexico, because apparently he wasn’t a legal citizen in the first place.

That left only one clean home on my “block” – a corner house, two down from me. Surely there had to be ONE home untainted by meth. (I couldn’t include my own, due to its “meth by association,” thanks to my ex.)

Fraility, thy name is meth. (To paraphrase Shakespeare)

It may have been two years later, but back came the SWAT team, the dogs, and the cops to that last house on the corner. This time the search was due to an anonymous tip regarding the son and his entrepreneurial exploits. I brought his two nieces, ages three and five over to my place while the authorities trashed the home looking for anything that might incriminate him.

“The cops are searching our house for drugs!” the five-year-old informed me, in the same excited tone as she might exclaim, “Santa is on our roof!”

“Yes, I know,” I told her, “but you don’t want to mention that when you go to school tomorrow, ok honey?”

Nothing was found that day, but of course, it’s only a matter of time…

HOLY CRAP I’M FAT!

I grew up wanting to be a model. I worshipped the uber-divas
of my time: Naomi, Christie, Linda, Cindy – no last names needed. As any girl
who’s ever wanted to be a model knows, she must procure the perfect size 0
body.

I came out of the birth canal with hips. Hips that became
even more padded when I went on the Pill as a teenager. (Damn estrogen!) While
I may have been considered thin, I was never skinny. You know the skinny I’m
talking about – no boobs, protruding hipbones, flat stomach, can see daylight
between the thighs. The kind of body that makes men worry they’ll break you if
they lay on you, but women say, “Damn girl, look at you! I hate you. What’s
your secret?”

It didn’t matter that I come from Italian and Polish
ancestry, where having a “child-bearing” body is supposed to be a compliment. I
wanted that unattainable skinny boy’s body that is only possessed by 2 % of the
female population. I never got it, of course. The closest I came was one summer
of modeling school, when I subsisted daily on raw veggies, two lattes, and the ubiquitous
protein powder used by models to stay thin – cocaine.

Barely pushing 5’5”, the only country I was invited to model in was Japan, so I gave up that dream
to pursue a more self-esteem-building profession – acting. Instead of illegal
drugs, I kept myself thin in a much healthier manner. I drank coffee all day to
keep from eating.

To say I have always been somewhat obsessed with my body image
is like saying Kim K. is a bit of a publicity whore.  I have always maintained my weight, even
throughout my pregnancy, because well, I was too damn vain to become fat.

Then came the happy pills…Zoloft, Prozac and Effexor, in
that order, to ensure I didn’t wind up in the psych ward after my ex walked out
on me and our one-year-old son. Take the anxiety and depression I already felt
over being a new mom, pour in 2/3 cup of abandonment, mix with a ¼ cup of
unemployment; top it off with no help whatsoever, add a dash of poverty
sprinkles, and you wind up with one enormous shitcake.

Low serotonin levels usually trigger a craving for carbohydrates.
Here I was, receiving steady doses of the happy hormone, serotonin, and for the
first time in my life all I craved were carbs – specifically in the form of a
cinnamon raison bagel dripping with butter, and dunked in tea. I had one for
breakfast and one for dinner. Each and every day for approximately two years.

One day my sister and I were watching a video taken from her
birthday party. There was a woman in the background wearing a strapless dress.
She should not be wearing that dress with her back fat, I thought, and look at
those flabby arms and – “HOLY CRAP, THAT’S ME!”

That was my A-ha moment. It’s true what everyone says. You
don’t realize the full extent of your fatness until you see a picture of
yourself. I must have packed on a good forty pounds, and the sad part was I
didn’t give a flying freak. I was on meds. Who cared if I was fat? At least I
wasn’t psycho.

Surprisingly, a lot of people cared. Friends and family
actually had the audacity to comment on my extra poundage. They’d say things
like, “Remember when you used to be so thin?” To me, that’s the equivalent of
telling someone who’s been laid off, “Remember when you used to be employed?”
Uh, yeah.

As if I don’t realize I can’t button my jeans anymore. “Gee,
they must have shrunk in the wash.”

My “every woman should be a size 4 or else they’re worthless”
father tried to intimidate me out of my fatness. “Do you know you’re considered
clinically obese?” he demanded, and then proceeded to whip out his medical encyclopedia
to prove his clinical observation.  Any other daughter may have thought, How
sweet. Dad’s concerned about my extra weight affecting my health. Knowing my
father however, made me realize his cutting comments had more to do with his
unrealistic standards of perfection, and the fact that I hadn’t attained them.

“How dare you become clinically
obese and make me look like a failure as a father!”

It was the prospect of getting naked with someone again that
finally propelled my fat ass into gear. If the world were filled solely with women,
I’d probably be 300 lbs. and swimming in a vat of melted chocolate layered with
whipped cream. But I had gotten to the point, after six long years, where I wanted
to have sex again. I knew that if I didn’t get myself back into shape I’d be
doomed to a life of missionary sex with the lights off.

I lost the weight; this time by working out. I may not have
the body I did when I was twenty, but I’m doing okay for forty-three. With or
without anyone’s approval.