Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Lazy Shade of Winter

About a year ago, during a shopping mall lunch with my then fourteen-year-old niece, the child suddenly shifted focus from her plate of rapidly congealing lo mien to ask, “Aunt Moi? What is it that you do for a living again?”

I explained to her that I was a writer.

She paused for a second, looked down at the bag holding the latest Stephen King novel I had allowed her to purchase earlier that day, and said, “You mean like him?”

“No, honey,” I replied. “If I were a writer like him, you and I wouldn’t be sitting here eating crap Chinese food and drinking flat Diet Coke.”

We’d be at the Four Seasons in Manhattan quaffing caviar and Cosmos. Or, rather, I’d be at the Four Seasons. The niece would be in boarding school.

Of course, it’s not that bad, writing for a living. It’s just that I didn’t want to glamorize the profession, because I’m hoping my niece ends up doing what any smart kid in this day and age should do upon exiting high school and that is study to become a doctor, lawyer, or computer programmer. A rock star would be good, too.

So, yes, there are advantages to my chosen vocation. Like the unassailable fact that regardless of laughable pay and chop happy editors, writing for a living is like having the universe hand you a never-expiring hall pass to life.

Which means that on any given day, if we writers so choose, we can shower, put on clean clothing, hoist ourselves out from behind our computers and go out into the world, in the middle of the day, while everyone else is slogging it out in cubicles breathing re-conditioned air and counting down the minutes to lunch. And if, like me, you are also a person who regularly likes to go out into the world alone (all the better to focus on the perfume samples at Sephora)? Bonus.

Yesterday was one of those bonus days, filled not just with things I had to do, but with things I wanted to do. Like, first and foremost, stop off at the local Barnes and Noble to see which writers are currently snagging Random House contracts regardless of talent and to purchase the entire three seasons of the dearly departed series, Deadwood. Because not only are S.B. and I major fans of anything related to the history of the American West, we are now in the middle of that mid-winter wasteland known as television re-run season. After fourteen bazillion years of marriage, it is, trust Moi, tres importante to have a set schedule of shared television shows.

Any of y'all ever been to Deadwood, South Dakota? Highly storied place. Not that you'd know it, visiting there today. S.B. and I certainly were not impressed, and I don't think it was just because our visit fell on the day after we’d just finished three excruciating pitches up Devil’s Tower before being forced down by rain. Yes, we were as bruised and battered on the inside as we were on the outside, but, even worse, we'd timed the whole trip to unknowingly coincide with the week before the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Not only were we dismayed to discover that Deadwood is mostly one long-ass tourist-trappy mainstreet, but on that particular occasion it was also teeming with sun-soaked hoards of doctors, lawyers, and stock brokers slumming it for the duration. All wearing ass-less chaps, no less. Shiver. Biker chic is SO not Moi.

I ask you: in what universe is this look even remotely okay?


Back to Barnes and Noble. As I stood in line behind a half dozen other patiently waiting purchasers, I got to wondering: just who in the heck are all these Middle of the Day People who, for some reason, seem to have all the time in the world to peruse the book, DVD, and CD racks at their local bookshop at 10:23 on a Monday morning?

Were they, like Moi, side-stepping a looming 1,000-word feature article on their region’s new septic tank regulations or were they here for other reasons? Like, retirement? I looked around. Only one gentleman seemed old enough. On the dole? Not with that amount of stuff clutched in their arms. Independently wealthy? Not unless pilled fleece has suddenly become the uniform of trust fund babies everywhere and, besides, all those folks hang out up in Santa Fe anyway.

No, all these Middle of the Day People seemed, in fact, to belong to a distinctive category of mid-thirties male all bound by the singular inability to pronounce the sibilant “s” and whose DVD purchase of the day is not the latest teen sex comedy or newly released Saw anthology, but the lone, discount bin copy of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In other words, when not cruising the stacks at the ol' B&N? These guys are at home. In their parent's basement. Writing computer code for the next Dungeons and Dragons.


Enough of that.

Tomorrow: why men should never, ever, and I mean EVER, accompany women on shopping trips.


EmmaK said...

that is one of the most offensive examples of ass cleavage I have seen in many a moon

how I wish you lived near me because we are kindred spirit ladies of leisure. I have always lived the life of a retiree. I know the point of work is to earn money but other than that WHY? You will find me any day of the week at 10 in the morning, in Barnes and Noble, perusing ass cleavage or simply wandering through the perfume dept of Macy's sniffing fragrances

Wendy said...

OHMYFREAKINGOODNESS. I read your words and feel your sisterhood, sister. I love this job. I love-love-love it, even though, this morning, I got an e-mail (sent to all advertorial stringers) saying there will be less work this year because newsprint is too expensive. I care because now I have to find more freelance, but I also don't care, because I will go to Big Lots all by myself to buy a tablecloth that I will use as a drop cloth to shoot pictures of vintage purses for an article I've pitched to an antiques mag.

But I will also wander the aisles, looking at old candy and expired makeup and irregular Hanes T-shirts. Why? BECAUSE I CAN!

K9 said...

what perfect symmetry today. i mean, perfect. for because of your influence i read a book last night. of popular fiction. once again cementing the sad terrible truth that no good deed goes unpunished. and i was punished. severely. Moi, you SHOULD be at the four seasons.

for the first time evah, i have posted a "book" review. which is rare. for everyone knows i only read blogs, news and conspiracy theories.

on to the ass chaps. he dont even have no chaps. he just cut the ass of his jeans and had his 13 year old cousin/lover draw on his butt with a sharpie.

as you know i am a middle of the day person too. i filled the middle of my day today by taking the offers for cheap new york times deliveries (ive received 3 - 2 at the studio and one at home) and writing you deserve to FAIL on the sheets and mailing them back with their postage paid envelope. ahhh the little pleasures in life are what counts.

my idea of a good wasted day is seeing what birds come to the feeder although i can sure roll with a trip to sephora sixter. i really can.

great post -great post that makes my posts point beautifully. and im not just pimpin' my blog. i mean it.

moi said...

Emma: I know the point of work is to earn money but other than that WHY? Ooooo, that's another tee shirt, right there. Word, girl.

Wendy: I am facing the loss of major el clientele as well, so I can see I'm going to have to get as creative/ambitious as you are. Darn it.

K9: You go, you. Scrawl those Middle of the Day People howls of protest on surfaces far and wide across the ATL.

K9 said...

i lost 99% of my clients 3 years ago. hey so what i fired my rep who promised the clients anything including executing a 22 year old art directors bad ideas only to get scathing reviews of the art SHE wanted

the book goes out like this :

'illustrated by K9'


"illustrated by K9, who was heavily art directed by a moron who had no talent but all the control while simultaneously being fucked over by her "artist" rep"

oh wait. this isnt the all about me forum is it? well i had to cry somewhere.

Boxer said...

*sigh* I am tied to a convential 8:00 - 5:00 work schedule, but I it works for, just like your job works for you. I failed miserably at working for myself in the past when I was an outside sales rep and my boss was in California. Even though I REALLY work myself now, I still need an office and the structure otherwise I'd read blogs all day... wait.

Anyhoo, I loved this post and enjoyed a little spotlight on your world.

Lastly, BWAHAHAHAH to K9's last comment, because that's WHY I left a good paying job and started out with a start-up. Because I was tired of making money for someone else who had no idea what it took to make it happen.

moi said...

K9: If you can't make it all about YOU at MOI's blog, well, then, there's nowhere you can make it all about you. 'Cause I'm all about the all about you. I mean me . . . Whatever. You get my drift.

Boxer: You work for yourself IN your own office. Which means you are in fact a Middle of the Day Person, only you have discipline.

landis smithers said...

i hate to point this out, but the "biker rally" looks suspiciously like the local "gay pride" parade. note the boy in the towel on stage in the background? just sayin.

see, i'm like an editor. adding useless information to "spice up" the story.

moi said...

Landis: Ding dang it. That's what I get for Googling "ass-less chaps at Sturgis" and using the first butt ugly photo that cropped up. Still, not a good look. Under any circumstances. In anyone's universe.

TROLL said...

Trying to figure out why anyone would attempt a film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The book was pretty good but not film material.

My favorite job (ignoring compensation) allowed me to frighten the hell out of people at dawn or earlier and often finish by noon and nearly always by 2 PM

czar said...

Your exchange with your niece reminds me of the job interview for my first (of two) tie-and-jacket jobs. The Big Boss looks at my resume and asks if I'm related to Edwin Land (inventor of the Polaroid Land camera). My somewhat unthought-out (slightly stoned, 23-year-old) response: "If I was, I wouldn't be looking for a job like this." I was hired anyway.

I think the last bonus day I had was in 1983. I envy you.

Even before seeing tomorrow's post, I can say that I agree with you. I for one have no desire to accompany anyone -- female, male, or otherwise -- on a shopping trip.

Can I take a moment for a doggie story? Our 11-year-old Sheltie took off yesterday in early afternoon. My wife noticed she was gone, but presumed she was in the bunker with me. Ironically we had a friend coming over who just lost his 16-year-old Sheltie last summer, and we were looking forward to him seeing our pup.

So I made the requisite rounds in the neighborhood, called the appropriate places, enjoyed a very pleasant (and distracting) evening with our friend, and managed to get some sleep.

We get a call this morning from the vet where local Animal Control takes strays. Our Sheltie had wandered off in an opposite direction from where I usually walk her and at some point during the evening let herself in through the doggie door of the house of a very good friend of our older son (about half a mile away from the house). She had never been there or close to there. But in her meanderings she must have picked up the scent of my son or his friend and followed it right into their house. They wake up, see an unknown dog in their house, call Animal Control, and within an hour, she's back home with us.

pamokc said...

I just want you to know that I was trying to read your blog page and was right at the chaps photo when in walks our cute I.T. guy to hook up a new printer in my office. He sits at my desk and what does he see first thing? Butt cheeks. Oh dear. I guess it is better than the time my friend sent me an ugly naked fat girl and I opened it without looking and went on talking to an Important Person who had come in to see The Boss. Such is my life!

Would love to hear more about your writing sometime!

Aunty Belle said...

WHAT are you DOIN' at B&N ???

Woman, git thee to the keyboard post haste to WRITE that novel we all wanna read even if Oprah woan smooch it.

SOMEbody has to save the literary culture. May as well be Moi, Or Wendy, Or Aunty. Doan ya know that woman who wrote the elephant bestseller--her first book no less- was tossed a million dollar check fer it??

Oh! I could rage on till mid mornin' when B& N opens.

moi said...

Troll: You were a repo man?

Czar: You don't have bonus days because you are way more ambitious than I am. And your dog obviously is going to need all your attention in her dotage :o).

Pam: Used to be all kinds of bizarrely unrelated stuff would pop up during my Innernets searches. Leaving me wondering about the logic of a cyber trail that starts at "recipe for stuffed pork chops with sage and Havarti" to "live Japanese girls fulfill all your fantasies."

Aunty: I'm not sure my fictional noodlings are million dollar check worthy, but I'm trying. Although I'll never give up my bonus days. Never.

Gnomeself Be True said...

I've loved the times when I worked from home. Summers were tough though, with the wife and kids running around, giving me no peace for work.
My wife still describes what I do as "Something with computers."

Doris Rose said...

and that, my dear, is why you are a writer. The ultimate observer and commentator to our own silly season.Thanks for the chuckle.

TROLL said...


Worse than a Repo Man. An auditor!
Monty Python's "Spanish Inquistion" sketch was originally "The Auditor" sketch.

I don't have an email address to send your interview questions to.

E-mail me, so I can do so. My email is on profile.

Wow, that was awkward said...

I love your writing.

moi said...

Gnome: Are you still contemplating doing it again?

Doris: You're welcome!

Troll: Oh, dear. That is worse.

WTWA: Why I do believe you've made me blush. And you did it without once mentioning poop or boogers.

Gnomeself Be True said...

Not really an option anymore. I could never afford the benefits it takes to keep the older son going.
I be a slave to the corporate "man," and damn lucky I got him.

fishy said...

Middle of the day @ Barnes and Noble?!
At the closest B&N to the Pond it is full of 20 somethings in bad clothing and worse "fragrances" wafting along in their wakes. They speak strange babble from fantasy novels and, apparently, believe time on Earth is a punishment. The detachment from reality via gaming, fantasy fiction, weirdo violent tv and techno-geekery might very well be a major factor in how things have come to be what they are. How do you contribute to, or stand up for, a world you don't relate to? Scares me plenty.

I do get out in the middle of the day, one of the joys of being a designer :-) I am not bound to the same ol, same ol day after day. Thank you God!
When I do go forth, I pick antique stores with generous book sections...way more interesting to me than the current mega stores and what I find to read is usually more interesting too! Perhaps things are better at your B&N.

I am with the others,
Really, we need something interesting to read. Just think what an inspiration you would be to all us bloggers in search of authentic conversations. Which, we now have on the internet, with virtual strangers, instead of on our Porches with friends, family, or peers along with a good cup of tea and a home baked goodie. WTH??????

Big Shamu said...

Put me down in the "Write your heart's content Book" camp but don't you dare stop writing the blog.
Multi-task and do both.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Hah, how did I know you didn't earn your living from creative writing Moi?

Well the world of work won't be missing a hamster (ie me) any time soon alas!

Mid-morning bookshop visits are but a halcyon dream as no one even wants technical leaflet authors in my neck of the woods.

Blimey what does that man use for contraception? His clothes??? He needs a check-up from the neck-up!