Wednesday, July 16, 2014

B I N G E

The greatest creative writing gurus will tell you to “write what you know”.   Fair point, gurus.

…and at this thrilling juncture in my life, all I know is how excited I am to get home from work or the gym to return to the couch and snuggle up with my selfless lover, Netflix. With this incredible gift that keeps on giving, I am simultaneously on Season 3 of The Tudors and Season 5 of House, M.D.

Needless to say, life is good.

Each day, you can find me in either 16th century Europe or modern day Princeton, NJ, watching complete strangers meander through the chambers of great castles or through the hallways of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital [additionally, if you willingly or unwillingly spill any of the beans from the next three seasons of House, sleep with one eye open].

Sure, I can tell you that when your eyes are yellowing that your liver is failing and 9 times out of 10 your “mystery” disease just might be sarcoidosis (if not lupus) and you will probably need an echo [echocardiogram], CT, or biopsy to determine what we [yes, WE, the doctors at Princeton Plainsboro] already know…but what do I tell the Creative Writing Gurus when they ask me what I actually know? I’m not a doctor (even though my mother played one on tv) so what authority do I have to write about dear Gregory’s logic when arguing with Wilson? None. And herein lies the inherent beauty (and ultimate horror) of the life of a binge-watcher: faux knowledge and experiences masquerading as actual knowledge and experiences.

Binge-watch an entire season of True Blood? Come out on the other end thinking and speaking in a Southern accent for days

Mad Men? Develop a sudden urge to alter your entire wardrobe and become a functioning alcoholic

Game of Thrones? Similar results as Mad Men with the addition of swords, poisons, royalty and the occasional Man of the Night’s Watch


Which got me thinking, after waking up from an inevitable boredom-induced coma, if someone were to binge-watch my life, what faux knowledge and experiences would keep them coming back season after season? 


-c

Monday, November 18, 2013

Les Anniversaires or The Way the Universe Conspires to Make You Feel Victorious

After my dear-God-here-comes-30 panic attack had subsided, I decided to take action and plan a party for my 26th birthday. Surrounded by individuals from various spheres of my life, laughing, dancing, and drinking together as if they had all known each other since before this very moment, I realized (as the lynchpin of the whole soirée) how incredibly humbling and blissful the celebration of your birth can be.

 In French, the word for birthday is un anniversaire, derived from the Latin anniversarius meaning “returning yearly”. What I appreciate about the etymology of this French word, is the fact that it has very little to do with the singular persona. It simply refers to a specific, recurring unit of time that can be interpreted as a return to a place, an emotion, a gathering of people, or (as we have come to know it) a day.

Some lucky few may find it easy to reflect on their past, or celebrate life with the people they love regularly and thus do not need a predetermined span of time to which they must return. But for those of us who are too often mired within the daily minutiae, the annual return to a consciously reflective state which celebrates still being above ground, or the friends we have garnered, or the past year’s accomplishments, or the fact that you are standing there in the smallest pants size you have ever worn in your life [shameless fitness plug] is precisely what we need to give us the strength to make it to next year’s return.

Taking inventory of all the things that have altered in your life and all the goals you have yet to cross off your Life List can be a paralysis-inducing experience. But the benefit of an annual return is that, with any luck, you will not necessarily be returning to the same place each year. For me, this past year teemed with seismic shifts that altered everything from how I felt to where I worked to how hard I loved to how I viewed the world and my place in it…if that’s not a blog post waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. The fact remains, Chapter 25 of The Book of Me read pretty slowly...almost as if the author was making it all up as she went along. But towards the end, the plot really started to pick up, a clear and concise focus started brewing and by the beginning of Chapter 26, even I was anxious to see what would come next. As a writer, I rarely share my work before I am satisfied with its completion, and similarly, the major plot points of the forthcoming The Book of Me chapters shall remain a mystery…but as long as I am granted continued annual returns I assure you the finished product will be one hell of a read.

I’ll sign you a copy,

~carter 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wordsmiths United



I am what you might call...a traditionalist.
I want my architecture borderline ancient,
my neighborhood infused with quirky history,
my last name changed [eventually],
and my literature presented on pages, not a screen.

My current tome of choice is David Foster Wallace's magnum opus, Infinite Jest. Now, I am not sure if I just have one of those faces you can't help but bother while it's deeply engrossed in belles-lettres or if the 1,079-page, footnote laden, encyclopedic text really is that marvelous to behold, but I cannot tell you how many people, while on my morning commute, have approached me about investing in an e-reader.
At first, the consistent interruption while reading an already complex novel was purely bothersome. But as the comments continued, it became a reluctant game I would play called: Let's See How Many People Say Something Today...
Yesterday morning, while boarding the T, one individual told me he had received Infinite Jest, a few months ago, as a gift and [noticing the placement of my bookmark] wanted to know if I had any tips for getting through it.
I realized then, that for a self-professed bibliophile [and teacher!], my reaction to this whole please-stop-bothering-me-during-the-few-moments-I-have-to-myself-to-read-in-peace-haven't-you-ever-seen-a-big-book-before thing was all wrong.
The fact remains, that whether donning scrubs, a business suit, a grocer nametag, baggy pants, active wear, or a T-driver's uniform, not one person asked me why I would read a book of that size voluntarily, they simply questioned the most efficient way to do so. They were intrigued, moved to say something, and [dear God] it was literature itself that got complete strangers talking.
I did my best to convince him that if you could just muscle your way through to page 223, you won't want to put it down. ..And suddenly we were engaged in a discourse over preconceived literary notions. When did recreational texts become synonymous with relaxation and auto-pilot reading? Why aren't cognitive challenges valued outside of a space where you can receive a grade for it?
Spark Note Version: Nerd-alert/Bookworm Heaven
We are not meant to live in isolation. Even a solitary event like reading is a measured and calculated social interaction between you and the author. At times, we simply need to take a step back from our planned personal moments and realize that perhaps this moment is the one in which we were meant to engage.  If the works of art we so enjoy were destined to live in a desolate vacuum, they never would have been created in the first place.
Life [like art] is not about detachment, it is not about how many trolley stops we can get through before the next person interrupts our myopic views of how this specific instant should play out. It’s about discovery; it is the knowledge that you are not the first [and you will certainly not be the last] individual to appreciate this text. And that the more you engage others, the more you become the reason this piece of art will never be extinguished.
Wordsmiths and logophiles unite,
~carter

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Acrylic Nails, Boxing, & The Unwitting Quest For Something Real



I had a goal: Become Smaller. Minimize. Take up less space. Turn inward on myself and realize I do not need all of this weight to, in fact, live.

But somewhere between the loss of pound 1 and the closer side of pound 30, I recognized that my world had been enhanced. Made fuller...more rounded and the only thing to become less has been my pants size.
Shameless Smaller Pants Size Plug

As the only woman in the boxing gym, my painted toe nails [we don't wear shoes on the mat],un-chiseled physique, [and let's be honest] breasts, stood out like well..breasts in an all male boxing gym. I had heard boxing was an excellent total body conditioning workout and while Females Welcome At Every Session flashed across their webpage, the raw and Million Dollar Baby-ish atmosphere clearly deterred the average lass. Let us be clear that I am in no way switching careers to become Laila Ali, Jr., I simply wanted to try something new.

Now, I won't come right out and scream Chauvinist or Sexist at the evident surprise on the men's faces as I kept up the combinations with them, hit the heavy bag with them and "planked" them under the table...hell, I was surprised too. But I will say when I heard the words "I didn't expect you to be good" I knew I had to come back and get better.

Weight loss is about getting smaller, right? Becoming more demure, inward, less...We females do it to become a more "girlish" weight, to fit in smaller sizes, thus widening the gap between femininity and masculinity, no? Along with these fallacies, I was under the impression that weight loss would let my natural beauty shine more fully.

What an idiot.

Natural beauty is there all along. How you perceive it, however, is entirely psychological.

After my first session, I went to the nail salon to have my acrylic nails removed, thus exposing my natural nails for the first time in eons. Aside from the practicality of short nails in boxing gloves, I wanted to take a small, tangible step in the direction towards natural beauty.

It starts from within...way in...like cerebellum deep.

Once I stopped identifying long nails with beauty, just as I stopped identifying boxing with brutishness, I discovered my own definitions of "beauty" and "femininity".

Femininity is synonymous with strength. Beauty is the ability to work in the sweltering heat, pass another human through your body and return to work because "maternity leave" wasn't invented for your color yet. Beauty is recognizing that when there is something you want to alter, you have the ability to accomplish it, because to be "girly" is to understand the world is yours for the taking.

Whatever your goal that has been collecting dust on that shelf you only think of when riddled with guilt, If you think you can not accomplish it...think again.

For me, it's cheers to the next 30 pounds, and the unintended, unwitting yet invaluable life lessons I have yet to dream up.

Keep moving,

~carter

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Do Mi Mi. Mi So So. Re Fa Fa. La Ti Ti.

The first time I bought a Maxwell album I was 16, freshly driver’s licensed, and taking every advantage of summertime self-transportation freedom. After spending the day with my devastatingly handsome, and soon-to-be-16-year-old boyfriend [cradle robber!], my voyage back to The Valley through Hollywood allowed me the joys of traffic and radio “seek” button pushing. The dial landed on the most sensual falsetto tones I had ever heard [take notes, Robin Thicke]. Years away from actually doing the deed, I imagined if it was done correctly, sex would make me feel similar to how mesmerized I was by his incredible harmonies and romantic lyrics. Needless to say, instead of driving straight home, my car found its way to the Tower Records [do they still have those?] near the Beverly Center Mall.

Now, before fancy-schmancy car radios displayed the name of the song & artist you are listening to, one had to wait for the DJ to tell you the name of the artists in the previous set, which could take ages if the set was particularly long and heaven help you if you had to sit through a commercial break. I hadn’t the patience. So, when I walked into the store, I found an employee and sang him the part of the song I could remember; he directed me towards the R&B section and asked me to re-sing it for his co-worker who happened to know Maxwell’s repertoire well because his girlfriend also developed swoon-y tendencies when his voice seeped through the airwaves.

I became a fan for life.

As a writer, sometimes you simply need to give credit where it is due and I feel the screenplay of Forrest Gump [one of the greatest films of my generation] sums up my sentiments well: You know, it's funny what a young man recollects. 'Cause I don't remember being born. I don't recall what I got for my first Christmas and I don't know when I went on my first outdoor picnic. But, I do remember the first time I heard the sweetest voice in the wide world.

While Maxwell can not hold a candle to Jenny Gump’s beauty, I completely understand where he is coming from.

To this day, whenever I hear a song from this particular album, every ounce of me is transported to the sweltering heat of that car, to the longing I had to feel about someone the way the lyrics described, to the contentment with all that traffic, prolonging the time I had to experience his music for the first time.

They say elements of life are cyclical. Music, fashion, and trends more generally are said to rise like a phoenix. Just when you never thought you’d see bellbottoms again, there they are on your teenage daughter. Remakes of films and recycling of other artists’ devotion to their craft are making current “artists” wealthy [ex. Michael Bublé, the poor man’s Frank Sinatra]. My hope is that whatever musical cycle we are in gets thrown off its axis soon because I miss music. I miss lyrics. I miss instrumentation. I miss helplessly turning into the parking lot of Tower Records because my soul refuses to go one more day without listening to that song I just heard. So to anyone reading this: If you are a lyricist, a member of an orchestra, a band member, a lover of real music or an in-the-shower-singer, do not stop creating.

With any luck, we are on the brink of a musical revolution and we all need to be warmed up when the time arrives.

~carter

Monday, July 15, 2013

THE DAILY VICTORIES PROJECT

I do not journal. 

I am fairly certain not journaling is the sole sin a self-proclaimed writer can commit. But, in the interest of complete honesty, there you have it: I am a jotter-downer, a blogger, and a list-maker mais je ne suis pas une journal-er

It is no surprise to all who have ears around me that I have embraced the world of weight loss and fitness. This past week, although I ate fairly healthily and exercised, I gained a pound. [I know, I know, call the waaa-mbulance. But to someone who has created a plan and weighs herself every week, on the same day, one entire pound felt like an abysmal failure]. Not only did I feel terribly, I felt terribly about feeling terribly in the first place. Mired in this foolish state, I decided to turn to writing because…well, it couldn’t hurt. I proceeded to write a list of positive occurrences from this week alone: 

1)   I am fitter than I was in high school. Getting better with age trumps peaking at 17.
2)   I have run the farthest I have ever run [in my life] without stopping to walk.
3)   I managed to go an entire day without spending any money
…etc. 

What I was able to deduce from this enumeration is that while I was blindly focused on a scale’s numbers, the life I was leading was not too shabby. 

[Cue The Epiphany] 

[Enter, The Daily Victories Project]

I know I am not the only person who allows herself to become utterly transfixed by one very specific issue of the day and lose sight of the fact that there’s actually a forest amid those trees. Amassing a list of daily positive occurrences is as close as I will ever be to becoming a successful journal-er and I do not want to do it alone. 

Consider this an invitation, blog reader, to join me in our daily affirmation that at least ONE event [no matter how small] has added a modicum of positivity to our own existence. 

Now, this does not have to be fitness related or fall under a larger theme. Anything from I took a different route to work that shaved two minutes off my commute to My son actually brushed his teeth without my saying so to Nothing of note occurred today but a higher power was gracious enough to wake me can find its way to The Daily Victories Project. 

If you are like me and enjoy having a friend [or a few hundred anonymous internet viewers] to help keep you accountable, I would love to see your #theDVP entries grace the wall of the L.O.T. Blog Fan Page [http://www.facebook.com/lotblog] or in the comment section of this post, for you anti-facebookers.

Let’s do this together.

Let’s go viral. 

...And who knows, perhaps if we are all too busy pinpointing our daily victories, we won’t have the time to violently confront unarmed teenagers, plot the destruction of storied athletic competitions or look upon each other with disdain simply because our skin tones don’t match.
Join The Movement.
#theDVP
~carter 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

...And Miles To Go Before I Sleep

Clad in businesswoman attire and sneakers, my heels remain tucked away in my messenger bag, situated near the umbrella, trail mix, Nalgene, and iPad.

I am a commuter.

Once a phenomenon as foreign to me as parallel parking, [see post dated May 3rd] I have grown to admire the public transportation facet of my east coast way of life. While some benefits are monetary, an element that most commuters take for granted is the chance to engage with [and oftentimes literally bump into] those around you. During my Los Angelena life, the world of human interaction was stunted by metal behemoths linearly trapped on the 405. Any “bumping into” that occurs here is expensive, if not fatal, and altogether an unenjoyable experience.

On the T, however, [or Train to you non-Boston residents] a morning trek into the city becomes a series of vignettes that even the most cynical of early-risers could appreciate:

Thursday morning, I ventured underground to find an elderly guitar player whose voice [note for note and tone for tone] is indistinguishable from Steve Perry’s [lead singer of Journey]. At first I was hit with a mixture of surprise and intrigue, but before my train had arrived, these emotions shifted to heart-wrenching disappointment that this man wasn’t a San Francisco native in the early 1970’s when Journey ached for its front man. Who dictates that his fate was meant for the morning commuters’ enjoyment and not for sold-out arenas? I suppose destiny can be categorized as a future post of its own.

Next up, a tweenager with impeccable posture, high-bun, pale pink tights, loose shorts and wrap-around sweater seemed unforgivably late for her Center Stage 3 audition, as her frantic, doting and less well-groomed mother tried to follow her daughter’s long, elegant strides.

This people-watching Elysium is not simply marked by the ability to catch glimpses into the lives of others, it forces complete strangers to occupy the same space; a microcosm of the exterior world. Amid this congested study in human behavior, every individual’s patience, personal spatial relations, and varying levels of courtesy are tested for the duration of the journey. Class systems and racial homogeneity differ from stop to stop; a frequent commuter may recognize what part of town rests above by taking note of those entering or exiting the train car.

One easily concluded notion is that while on the train, every commuter awaits the start of his/her day’s activities. The commute is the means by which the above ground day can begin. But if we all remain on auto-pilot awaiting our final stop, we miss the fact that life and activity are happening around us.

The ballerina’s mother may not have had time to fix her own hair or check her own appearance in the mirror, but she did not forget a single eight-count of her daughter’s choreography which they recited together repeatedly until their stop arrived. While I will never know what monumental performance awaited her or how well she fared, I pray [as a daughter who has spent years and thousands of miles away from her mother] that this young woman remembers the most poignant moment of her day occurred as her selfless recitation partner put the needs and dreams of her daughter before her own. It is not the destination that matters most, kid, it is the commute. And if you are very, very lucky, you will get to disembark the train with the same loving person who frantically pushed others aside for you to make it there on time.
~carter