Have We Met Before?

A light breeze turned the pages of her notebook as she gazed into the distance, lost in the jumble of images floating through her head.  It had been months since she was able to make the trip to her favorite cafe with her notebook, pen, and imagination, but that most crucial imaginative element seemed to be eluding her at the moment.  The only things that she could think about were reports and emails and all of the many tasks that she could be doing to get ahead in the office and a silent, sickening feeling was settling in the pit of her stomach.

With a resigned sigh, she gently tossed the pen onto the notebook and leaned back in the chair to take a sit of her coffee.  The cafe wasn’t the most hip place to be; strictly corporate, truth be told.  The people watching was descent, however, and it didn’t require an incredible drive on her part either.  That being said, it was not uncommon for her to be the only 30 something in the place.  Setting her coffee back onto the table, she picked the pen back up and continued her aimless gazing at the blank page on the table.

The door chimed and she looked up from her contemplation to see a man coming through the door, a warm smile on his face as he called out a greeting to the young man behind the counter.  It was like watching a scene out of a John Hughes movie, with the super popular guy walking into the room in slow motion.  Before she even realized that she’d been staring, he had already caught her eyes.  The heat crept up her face very quickly and she’d never been more thankful that her foundation was extremely good at covering up the red of her embarrassment.  A sly smile lifted one corner of his mouth and with a wink, the man made his way toward the back of the cafe where a small group of people were waiting for him.  Once his back was turned, she let her head fall to her notebook and let out the breath that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

What the hell was wrong with her?!  He wasn’t exactly smoking-hot-male-model material, but she hadn’t been able to look away.  There’d been a moment of recognition and she couldn’t place his face.  Try as she might to get back to her writing, the woman found herself glancing toward the group and the man who was conveniently facing her.  Did she recognize him from the cafe?  He obviously seemed to know the staff well, but was he a regular?

She looked back over toward the group once more and again, he caught her eyes and the two of them just stared.  He knew that she was watching him and she knew that she was busted.  Frozen for what felt like an hour, she looked back down to her notebook and began to write.  Still no story ideas flowing so her composition was a grocery list.  After that the woman didn’t dare look over at him again.  She didn’t particularly feel like having them ask her to leave for making the customers uncomfortable.  Once the grocery list was completed, a fresh cup of coffee was in order.  She got up from her table and made her way to the counter.  As the guy behind the counter handed her the full mug, she steeled her nerves and blurted out her question.

“So, who is the guy that came in earlier- a friend of yours or just a regular?”  Her delivery was sufficiently neutral, but the man still gave her that knowing look that all people have when you mine them for information about anyone of the opposite sex.

“He’s a regular.  That whole groupp, they come in every weekend for a few hours, why do you ask?”

“No reason, he just looked familiar.” she replied and returned to her table.

When she settled back in to the seat disappointment hit square in the chest as she realized that the boisterous group of people had all left along with her chance of working up the nerve to go and talk to him.  The little angry voice in her head began it’s chastising for being a scardie cat and letting yet another moment get away.  This was the point at which she reminded her inner voice that there was a reason that she was in her thirties and single to which the voice responded that she shouldn’t forget that she also had three cats and would be getting a rocking chair and shot gun for her birthday.

There were no stories flowing from her mind, pen, or any other useful instrument at all, so she sat there with her cooling coffee and doodling eyes in the margins of the notebook.  She’d been so absorbed in her own inner monologue that the approaching figure made her jump when he got to the table.  He hadn’t left after all.

“Hi.” She said and immediately began choking on her coffee.

“Hi.” he replied, “you ok?”  She still couldn’t speak so she gave him a weak thumbs up. “Sorry to bother you, but I kind of noticed you staring at us back there and this may sound stupid, but, have we met before?”

“I’m not sure, but you look really familiar.  I’m sorry to have stared, it’s not a habit, promise.” she said.

“You can stare all you’d like,” he replied with the same half smile he’d given her earlier, “May I sit?”

Her heart was now beating faster and she was sure that her inability to respond was clearly plastered all over her face, “Sure.” she managed to croak out.

“Don’t worry, it’s just a cup of coffee.”  he said, sitting across from her and somehow those words untied the nervous knot in the pit of her stomach and she finally smiled back at him.

The King of Swords

She lit the five votive candles in front of her and positioned them around the edge of a black place-mat sized piece of velvet.  A large deck of cards sat to her left, an intricate design of twisting ivy and pentacles winking with the flicker of candle light, and Alana inhaled deeply, then closed her eyes to center.  The cards were her last chance, her only hope.  She cupped the deck between her hands and held them in a silent prayer.

“Goddess show me the path that I need to walk,” and she began to shuffle.  Once, Twice, a third time, Alana fanned the deck after each round until she did not feel the need to continue.  They had their answer and she took another deep breath before dealing.

As always, the first card representing her was the Queen of Pentacles, which told her that she had at least connected with the deck, she then proceeded to deal out the remaining 9 cards.  Number two, number three, the air grew heavy as though a rain storm were approaching on a very hot day and she felt the hairs on her neck stand up.  Cards four and five went down and she could feel the electric charge building- this was definitely NOT how her Tarot readings normally went.  As she set card number six into place, that card which represented the near future, Alana felt herself jump with the movement of a shadow in the corner of her eye.  Turning quickly to see what was there, she sat facing an empty and darkening room as the sun was nearly fully set.  Her hands firmly planted on the table in front of her to stop them from trembling, she took another deep breath, centered, and continued her reading.

Cards seven, eight and nine went down with nothing more than a slight flicker of flame from the tea lights, but she paused as she reached for the tenth.  The moment that her fingers had connected with the card, she’d felt a burst as though a damn had broken and energy was rushing inside her toward the finger tips touching the final outcome of her reading.  Slowly, Alana brought the card over to its position on the right side of the table and flipped it over.  She was staring at the King of Swords, the card of a powerful man with great determination.  The rush of energy finally overtook her and the room went dark as she lost consciousness, falling forward on the table still clutching the King.

All that she could hear was the soft sound of running water and a breeze rustling through the trees.  The air felt soft and she vaguely asked herself if air could in fact feel soft before dismissing the question.  Through her closed eyes the sun fell upon her face, warming it deliciously while she lay upon the softest grass she’d ever felt.  A slow realization was coming to her that this was not a safe place to lay around, but she had never been so contented and was loath to move.  The rustle of leaves and footsteps shook her out of her reverie and she sat up too quickly, her head pounding with blood flowing out.

A shimmering figure appeared on the pathway and grew more solid with every step toward the clearing and an immense white granite throne.  It was a man, he was wearing a black suit with a black knit shirt, and she could tell that the hair was dark, but his face was still a blur.  The image slowly went from analogue to high-definition as he continued on his way toward the throne and as he strode, she saw the light glint off of the steel of a sword.  She gasped loudly and he turned to look at her, his expression stony and uninterested.  Could he truly be the King of Swords?

“Your Majesty,” Alana says with a hesitant curtsy, “May I have an audience?”

“I will grant your request, but know that everything comes with a price,” he replied imperiously.

“What kind of price?”  The pressure on the back of her neck flared up again and she began to doubt that this place had anything to do with the Goddess.

“The ring, young Alana, where is the ring?” The stony face was now animated with a dark glare directly at her.  She stumbled back and fell to the ground.  Of course this was about the ring!

“I don’t know who sent you, but this is kidnapping, technically,…” she trailed off and he rose, sword drawn and picking up speed as he charged toward where she lay on the grass.  Alana did the only thing that she could think of as she pulled her Athame out of her pocket and drove the blade directly into the palm of her hand.  The pain shot up her arm and as she rolled to her side.  The clearing and the trees and the entire fantasy world melted around her until all that was left was the darkened dining room and her hand bleeding all over her favorite deck of Tarot cards.

“Shit!” she hissed, looking at the wounded hand, “I hate damned hospitals.”

After thoroughly wrapping her hand in paper towels and plastic wrap she went to her bedroom and retrieved a fire safe from underneath the bed.  There was a solid inch of important papers in it, but after a minutes rifling she found it- the ring.  Her grandmothers ring, the last piece of an extremely powerful Crone and Alana was not going to let it out of her sight.  If her mother or whomever wanted this signet, then they would have to pry it out of her cold dead hand.  She took a long silver necklace and slid the ring onto it before picking up her car keys to drive to the emergency room.

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On Being Famous

Let me preface anything said here with the acknowledgement that I myself am in no way, shape, or form famous.  I am but a blip on the radar (if I even show up) of the fame monster.  That being said, I have a LOT of famous friends, in my own head that is.  Some of you may be able to identify with having an incredibly active inner dialogue that is both irritating and enriching in its own rights and I, like many, have a constant stream of conversation going on inside of my own mind.

Maybe due to the fact that I have a pretty active imagination or maybe due to some form of isolation (still not sure which) I find myself having conversations with the people in my life that take place solely in my mind.  The fact that I may be admitting to some form of weird mental illness is not lost on me, but I don’t think that this is the case.  Have you ever re-played a moment in your mind to try and figure out how you could have acted differently or said something else to make it better, or less embarrassing, or even to simply have changed the outcome to what you’d intended to have happen from the get-go?  It’s like a scene in a movie where the main character is the socially awkward geek who takes the bully out in their own fantasy world.  So, in that context, I guess so long as I don’t act on the majority of it, my sanity is still in tact!

More recently, I’ve found this happening with famous figures.  Let me clarify that I find fame to be oddly detestable.  The fact that fame and infamy are notches on a belt that tell us we’ve succeeded is clear, but the invasion of ones personal space is a ghastly proposition in my book.  The fact that millions of people feel that they have the right to any and all details of your private life that they can find or that because you’re famous, it becomes acceptable to insult and make fun of a person is just absurd.

So, I find myself imagining what a conversation with famous people would be like, outside of the context of their fame.  Sitting around the dinner table and asking them how their day was and hearing the laundry list of mundane responses about trips to the bank, the grocery store, etc…. Ok- so maybe my imagination is just as boring as I am, but I have to contemplate whether fame is in itself actually mundane.

Follow me on this- if your entire life is being watched as it is with the people that we see in the tabloids every day, then how do you do any of these simple tasks without provoking a litany of stories about how you’ve begun a secret affair with the bank teller?  I realize that there are many celebrities who welcome the attention, but I can’t believe that this applies to more than a small percentage of them.

And this is my rational for why I don’t think that I want to meet any of the people that I do follow in the media.  Yes, there is hypocrisy in what I’m saying.  How can I contribute to the media onslaught by reading the crap that they publish and my only answer is, how can you not?  Coverage of celebrities is a ridiculously large portion of what we see on TV and in magazines.  My personal tastes lean toward CNN and the Economist, but each of these media outlets still have profiles of entrepreneurs and actors and singers, which are tasteful, but still qualify as invasive.

If I had the chance to meet any of the people whose careers interest me, will it be a disappointment?  Remember that we are all human and we all have to do our laundry.  By that rational, would I respect them as much if I found out that they hire a maid to do their laundry for them?  Ok, so I’m delving into class-ism, but I hope that you get my point.  There are so many contests running on the radio station this month that involve getting to spend time with a band or an actor and I cannot bring myself to enter them because I know that someone else would get much more out of it than I would.

Maybe my issue is that I know I would want more than I have any right to ask someone who is doing a meet and greet for fans because I have very little interest in their public persona that isn’t academic (i.e.- how does that contribute to the marketing plan) and isn’t that kind of request MUCH more invasive?

So, I limit myself to the imaginary conversations that take place as I’m brushing my teeth or ironing my shirts.  I will let all of the celebrities know that you are very intelligent and wise in my own head- you always provide awesome advise and chastise me when I’m just being a hater :-)

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Monday Ear Worm

Happy Monday to all you crazy kids Googling Decaying Buildings! I’m feeling so very Top 40 right now, but I do think that there are still a few fun ones in here that have been blowing up my stereo and sticking into my head like a Charleston Chew left in the front seat of a hundred degree car.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Still Be Waiting…….

Spring is ending and summer is here, though if you really ask I’d have said it were summer ages ago, solstice be damned.  I’ve been waxing nostalgic about the years when I was in school and living for summer break.  The anticipation of freedom and the promise of adventure that, well, lets face it, never happened for me.  So much of my youth was spent buried in a book that I had this warped idea of what I should have been doing to be the free and adventurous person that I’d always felt I truly was.  The reality of summer was a lot of time spent in the house by myself or at a summer camp or at the local swim club.  If I think hard enough, I could probably come up with something that would resemble an adventure from those years, but for the most part I wasn’t enjoying myself and I really don’t care to recollect the time period.

High School was a bit different.  Maybe it was just that I was too old for willful oblivion anymore, but I was also of an age where I could choose to leave my house and go sit around at someone elses house, so that probably counts for something.  This is when I fondly remember leaving my house late at night with a need to move- to DO something- but not knowing where to go or what to do.  Mostly I would walk around the neighborhood, but frequently I’d go an see if a friend of mine down the street was awake and willing to drive around aimlessly with me or go and get a cup of coffee at the dinner- just something.

As an adult, I’m realizing that this feeling doesn’t really go away.  You simply replace it with a longing to ditch all of your responsibilities and backpack through South East Asia for 6 months (which would be AWESOME by the way).  I personally dream of being nomadic and exploring the world.  Realistically, I know that I would still have the same restlessness regardless of location.  This all begs one question- what am I waiting for?  Any thoughts world?

Nine Inch Nailed at the Sock Hop

It was one of those Fridays when I felt like I had nothing to wear because there was not one piece of clothing in the closet that made me feel sexy and confident and ready to take on the town.  My makeup was done, the cat eyes were purrfect and my lips were as red as a corvette.  That’s when my friends told me to go naked, so I did.  Mysteriously, by the time that we left the house I found I was dressed in a little white number with gold accessories- kind of reminded me of She-Ra, but it didn’t matter- we were going to the sock hop!

The group of us made our way down the street, in a manner strangely reminiscent of some video we’d seen in the days when MTV still aired those kinds of things.  We laughed, we joked, we pushed each other into oncoming traffic- we were carefree!  It was then that a man stepped forth from the alley and blocked our way.

“Hey, little girls,” he said, smelling curiously like Summer’s Eve Fresh Meadows, “I see that you’re on your way to the sock hop.”

“Why, yes, yes we are, but we mustn’t speak to you- you’re a stranger!” said my friend, who was dressed as Pedo-Bear.

“No, I’m no stranger!  Here, let me introduce myself,” at that moment, my friend’s phone chimed and she’d received a follow request from Twitter.

“Right, well then, we must be friends now!” She said and gave the brightly dressed man a hug,”My friend- what are you doing standing in this dark alley?”

“Well, I’m trying to get rid of these magic cigarettes.  They’ve been specially made for me by the bath salt company, but I’ve recently quit smoking!  I’m just not sure what I can do to get my money back and I’ve got to pay my rent tonight!”  The brightly dressed man was twitching so rhythmically that I thought he was moon-walking back and forth across the alley and my friend threw up her hands tossing her wallet at her new friend.  He then tossed her 2 boxes of cigarettes and ran faster than any skinny white kid since Maniac Magee and one phrase kept rolling through my head- stranger danger.

Taken from Pictureisunrelated.com

The rest of the way to the sock hop, my friends were pressuring me smoke one of these fancy cigarettes, but I’ve learned to live above the influence and continued to sip on slizurp while politely refusing their advances.  It wasn’t until the door man looked at me like a wolf that I noticed my party had not actually made it to the door with me.

“It appears that my friends have abandoned me!  May I please get in for free?” I asked sweetly.

“There’s no cover, love, go right on in!” he said with a wink.

I proceeded to the bar but was stunned at the scene before my eyes.  Millions of glowing, wolf like eyes had turned in my direction and were glaring at me as though I were a side of beef.  I coughed nervously, trying to determine if I could make a run for the door when a blood curdling scream came from the door.  My friends had finally gotten there, but to my horror they’d turned into Zombies in the time that we’d been apart- God Damn You Bath Salts!

They were viciously making their way through the crowd of fantastically good-looking werewolves that I’d found myself trapped by.  Ears flew by me and the white parts of my dress were slowing becoming covered in congealing crimson streaks of blood.  It was then that I noticed one of my favorite songs, Ringfinger, coming from the speakers and over the screams as the wolves began to turn into Zombies and assist my posse with dispatching the rest of the crowd.

  As the screams died down and my friends made their way back to the bar, I saw him standing there on the dance floor, still swaying as through holding the date that the guy next to him was chewing on.  It made my heart melt.  I went over to him and looked lovingly into his glistening cataracts.

“Hi there, what’s your name?”

“LeRoy, LeRoy Lamont,” he replied,”You know that your friend over their ate my fiance, right?”

“I’m so sorry about that, they were given these Bath Salt Cigarettes on the way here and I told them to just say no, but what can you do?”  The zombie chewing on LeRoy’s woman stood with two-thirds of an ear dangling from his tooth.  He’d been dressed like 1970′s Elvis, but had somehow managed to lose the pant part of the sequined jump-suit.

“Hey, Bubba. You don’t look so good. And why ain’t you wearin’ no britches?” LeRoy asked.  Elvis shrugged, groaned, and began to pick his way through the bodies in search of fresher meat.

“Would you like me to walk you home, little lady?”  My dress had now gone completely Crimson and my gold accessories were transformed into black leather.  He handed me a matching crimson cloak from the racks by the door as we walked arm-in-arm back toward my apartment.

And the moral of this rambling and pointless little farce is, well, who am I kidding- there really isn’t a moral, I’m just really bored.  HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE!

Shameless Self Promotion

I’ve always found the idea of “Shameless Self Promotion” to be a bit of an oxymoron.  Why should we be ashamed of promoting ourselves and our own personal brand?  A fantastic blog article by Nathan Hangen points out, very aptly, that there is a big difference between promoting and “self-adulation”.  He is mostly referring to the difference between bragging about what you’ve done and giving people an idea or vision to follow.  I ultimately think that he’s right.

Let me refer back to my favorite example of my ambivalence toward self promotion- 30 Seconds to Mars.  As I’ve said before, love or hate the music, you cannot deny that these guys have nearly perfected the art of self-promotion and creating a vision for their extremely loyal fan-base.  Whether that is a result of the cult of personality that Jared Leto inspires or from not being terrible musicians or from being able to provide an exciting show while on tour, I don’t know.  I’ve never actually been to one of their shows ;-)  The question that I keep asking is- would this be a good model for other aspiring artists, musicians, writers, etc… to follow in order to achieve some level of success?

It really doesn’t matter if your art is good or bad, but it does matter greatly if people are buzzing about you.  There are plenty of songs I would never have played unless someone else had told me about them.  Even more so, there are hundreds of books that I would never have picked up if I hadn’t read a good review of it.  With the ever flattening and globalizing world, we have less time to spend weeding and sorting through the media onslaught of stuff and there is an exponentially larger amount of product on the web for us to look at!

Everyone is advertising something these days.  I can’t seem to go 20 minutes without having my inbox full of junk mail or someone sending me a coupon of some sort for things that I have no desire to purchase.  But, this model works because for every one of us who throws it away, there is a chance that someone will be inspired to go out and buy!  The name of the game is volume and that hasn’t changed for decades- you all remember the onslaught of fliers and bulk mailers when we all still received letters from the post office.

To put this in perspective- there are over 7 billion people on this planet, most of whom have some sort of access to the internet or TV or some form of social media.  Let’s say that you are trying to sell a novel (or whatever else you’d like to sell) and it’s an e-book.  You now need to reach the millions (or more) people out there who read and who have an e-reader, so what do you do?  By the way- You also feel a need to make a bit of money on this proposition and you are not pricing your novel too high, let’s say $2.99 per download.  If you only sell 1000, then you’ve made $2990 and this doesn’t even cover the cost of self publication (even in E-Book).  You have a problem of volume and need to expand.

This is where the buzz comes in.  If people get to talking, then they will tell their friend and that friend will tell their friends, etc and so on, but the same applies whether you are good or bad.  For the sake of longevity, it would help to be good at what you do, but even 1 hit wonders made a little money on at least 1 song ;-)  The same concept applies in business; a satisfied customer will tell 3 friends where an unsatisfied customer will tell 3000! (Here is the book by the same title)  It takes more money and effort to constantly bring in new customers than to retain loyal ones and this applies to artists as well as businesses.

What 30 Seconds to Mars has done is to create a cult like following by providing “Echelon” only special events and options to people who have joined the mailing list or liked their Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter.  Why is this ingenious?  Because it is :-)  For all of the people who ignore their mailings, there is another group who are enticed by the offer to be a part of something, to feel special, and let’s face it- all customers want to be made to feel appreciated and special.  They want to feel like these larger than life guys care about them as individuals and that they understand whatever it is the listener thinks they are suffering through.  It is human nature to want to be a part of a tribe.  The other part of their success that doesn’t hurt is the fact that they are good looking men, and Jared Leto has had an eternal following of teenagers since the early 90′s.  They went into this endeavor with a bit of an ace up their sleeve, but were able to continue being successful because of the distance that they consciously put between the band and the previous Leto “Brand” associated with his acting.

From the literary side, there are quite a few successful authors who have published books under a pen name.  Most notably, Steven King and Anne Rice have both been published under multiple pseudonyms and the only explanation that I’ve ever read to explain this move is that what they were publishing had the potential to alienate their loyal readers.  The same really doesn’t apply to music, but there is always the potential for a side project to influence people happiness with the original artistic endeavor.

So, this rambling all started with me wondering if the 30 Seconds to Mars business model (I’m sure that there is another name because these guys didn’t invent this concept- I just don’t know it!) can be applied to any type of Shameless Self Promotion and I can’t see why it wouldn’t.  Social Media is free advertising, but you also need to find a way to catch people’s attention.  This is where my ambivalence comes in.  I’m not a person who is comfortable hyping myself up in any way, but to some extent, that is how you need to proceed in order to hook the customers and keep them coming back for more.  There is a fine line between promotions and bragging, but if you don’t leave the women wanting to take you home and the men dreaming about you, then you haven’t hooked them.  It’s all about selling yourself and your vision to the masses.