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All posts for the month July, 2012

On music and musings.

Published July 31, 2012 by mandileighbean

This morning, I realized that I am going have make some tough decisions soon.  I hope I have the strength and wisdom to do so.

I did a favor for my cousin to release some positive energy into the universe.  I had to drive her to her car at her work in Manahawkin.  We got to the exit and she realized she left the keys to the car at home, so I took her back to her house and then took her back to Manahawkin.

After that, I didn’t do a damned thing but fix my iTunes music library.

As a prompt would be decidedly uninspired as I am feeling to anxious to be creative, I am going to postpone the prompt until tomorrow.

Please don’t be mad.

On sharks in suits.

Published July 30, 2012 by mandileighbean

I really, really enjoy “True Blood.”  I have yet to read the book series upon which the television show is based.

That’s all; enjoy the prompt. 🙂

 

PROMPT: A young man works his way into an apprenticeship with a slick salesman.

PIECE: Alex looked back at his reflection staring back out at him in the glossy elevator doors.  He exhaled his breath and straightened his tie, which had been a gift from his girlfriend.  His mind drifted back to earlier that morning, when Mallory had stood before him on her bare tip toes.  She had kissed his cheek and buttoned the top button of his expensive shirt.  She had flipped the collar up and roped the tie around his neck.  Alex had made some off-color remark about the fabric feeling more like a noose than a tie.  Mallory had displayed an exaggerated expression of shock and dismay, and had swatted Alex playfully on the shoulder.  “Remember what I told you,” she said.  “If it gets too intense, or if it isn’t absolutely everything that you’ve wanted, cut and run.  No harm, no foul; you deserve to be happy.”  At that sentiment, Alex had cupped Mallory’s perfect face in his undeserving hands and kissed her long and good – mostly, he did this so she would stop talking.  It was unmanly to cry, and he had to be serious for his first day of work with Edgar Steenson.

Edgar Steenson was the man every other guy in a suit wanted to be, and who every woman wanted to have on her arm when she stepped out into public view.  He was the smoothest talker Alex had ever heard; Edgar was the kind of guy who could convince Ryan Seacrest that he needed public speaking lessons, and rumor had it that the movie “Inception” was in fact Edgar’s idea, and that he had come up with it while taking a particularly long shit in Christopher Nolan’s toilet.  Steenson was the stuff of legend, the Gordon Gecko of his time.  Lucky for Alex, he had been chosen to be Edgar’s assistance.  Of course, Alex had jumped at the chance to watch the master in action.  If Alex played his cards right, he could be made partner and never have to really work another blessed day in his life.  He could afford to give Mallory the kind of life she deserved.

Right now though, all the glory seemed incredibly far away and all Alex could focus on was that he suddenly felt as if his stomach were going to drop straight out of his anus.  He kept breathing in deep and exhaling slowly, trying to calm himself and keep himself from imagining the million and one things that could go horribly, terribly wrong.  What if he threw up on Edgar upon meeting him?  What if he broke the copier, or the fax machine?  What if he confused some numbers and ruined the quarter, and sent some very important people to jail?  Every movie he had ever seen depicting these particular kinds of suited sharks in expensive looking glass tanks with leggy secretaries ran through his mind.

Then the elevator doors slid open and outside them, just a step or two beyond the threshold, lay Alex’s future.  Another deep breath and he stepped forward.

On Hollywood and the dying standard.

Published July 29, 2012 by mandileighbean

Tonight, I watched “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” with my sister.  It’s a remarkably entertaining and creepy movie that stays with you long after the credits roll.  However, you don’t realize the movie got under your skin until you’re unprepared for it, like if you’re washing the dishes and letting your mind wander, and you have a sudden compulsion to shout, “But you are, Blanche! You are in the chair!”  Maybe that’s just me.

Either way, the film stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two titans of old Hollywood.  According to Tinsel Town lore, Davis and Crawford DID NOT like each other.  After filming “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Crawford was FURIOUS, and took it upon herself to call all of the other nominees, offering to accept the award on their behalf if they won and could not be present for the award ceremony.  The other actresses agreed so when Anne Bancroft was announced as winner, Crawford made the long trek to the stage, making sure to pause just long enough to give Davis a dirty, dirty look.

 

 

 

 

 

Society changes and irrevocably, popular culture changes with it.  As a species, we must adapt or die.  That can be taken figuratively or literally – biological reasons aside, if one does not grow and evolve with society, one becomes an outcast and endures a social death which may proceed the physical one.  I get that – but I think it’s unfortunate when inevitable change alters the better aspects of society.  I’m too young to sound this old, but I miss when a lady was a lady.  It’s trendy now to be trashy; females would not recognize the pictures included about and would most likely recognize J-Woww or Snooki.  It’s unfair of me to become philosophical when really, all I’m saying is that I miss old-fashioned, bitchy Hollywood when glamour covered the more base qualities of human nature.

I promised to become totally honest with you, and I have done my best to do so in the following prompt.  Enjoy.

PROMPT: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.”

PIECE: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over,” I sobbed to Alyssa in the, thankfully, empty girl’s bathroom across the hall from the library.  I was taking in deep, shuddering breaths and releasing great, broken sobs.  Passing Steve a note and then throwing my arms carelessly around his neck when Kylie, his girlfriend, was only feet away had been a mistake.  What’s worse was that the whole lunchroom had seen the embrace, and that same audience witnessed the inevitable confrontation just a few days later.

All of my secret hopes, desires and scheming had been exposed via an online journal, which I was naïve enough to believe I kept secret.  Word got out that not only did I like Steve, but was trying to break him up with Kylie not so he would go out with me – no, that would be too obvious and logical for me – but so he could go out with my friend Tara.  There had been angry instant messages, brutal anonymous comments on the online journal entries and sordid e-mails.  I thought that was the worst of it and being so young, I believed I was invincible, that the slings and arrows would bounce off this armor I had crafted from misinformation and romantic wishes, and nothing more.

All that changed when I arrived at school.  The very atmosphere of the building had changed.  I could feel the eyes burning holes into my skin, wondering and judging and assuming.  I could hear the tongues wagging, condemning and poking fun at my fall from grace.  At the point, I was narcissistic enough to believe that yes, EVERYONE was talking about and that yes, EVERYONE did know what was going on and that yes, EVERYONE did care.  I was also young and dumb enough to believe that NO ONE understood what that was like.

So when I walked into the lunch room, it became immediately obvious that I could not sit across from Steve and Kylie as I had since September.  I relocated to the end of the same table, but figured the length was enough of a buffer.  Opting not to eat, I made awkward conversation with the acquaintances I had made out of necessity and emergency.  I tried to blend it and start over, put the social blunder behind me as if it had never even happened.  Kylie would not have it that way.

She marched down to my end of the table and screamed at me, leveling completely accurate accusations at me.  She called me names loud enough for all surrounding students to hear.  I didn’t rise to my feet; I only made dismissive facial gestures and loudly called out generic insults.  A few of my friends stood to my defense and it quieted down.  But the next day at lunch, Kylie recited my journal aloud, dramatically reading all of my feelings for Steve, and reading all about how unfair it was that he wasn’t with me.  I looked down the table at him, anxious for a reaction, but I got nothing.  He never, ever gave me anything.

It was all a mistake, and I should have known that right away.

P.S. – The above prompt is a memoir; it’s true, but I changed names and altered details to protect those involved, and absolve those whom I wronged.

 

 

On quotes and cocktails.

Published July 28, 2012 by mandileighbean

I was going through some old creative endeavors of mine, looking for a piece that could be salvaged, edited and then included in the second novel I am doing my best to construct.  I found very little to work with because this second novel is unlike anything I have ever written before, but that fact did not dishearten me.  If anything, it motivates and excites me because it challenges me; I have to be original and innovative.  I cannot rely on old tricks and gimmicks hidden within old, worn notebooks, with pages thinned and yellowed by time.  I have to be someone new and I love reinventing myself.  I believe I’ve admitted before that I hope to always be restless and that I hope to always feel unsettled.  I’m terrified that comfortability leads to complacency leads to laziness leads to waste.

“If you’re just killing time, you can be sure it’ll kill you right back.”

I made a list at the beginning of the summer, and I’ve been able to cross off two items; that’s it.  I’m failing myself – I know that, and I eat to fill the emotional void such knowledge creates.  I hide away in my bedroom, behind paper creations of a life filled with romance, drama, intrigue, connections; a life I wish for.  I can’t live, so I write about it … like those who can’t do, teach – I guess.  I think that’s pretty clever.

It’s weird; I feel like I’m being really, really honest with you (the reader or readers) right now, but I refrain from posting certain pieces because I’m horrified that my deepest desires will be exposed.  Writing is sharing, but I don’t want to share too much.  How much is too much?  Who’s to say?

So I say, eff it.  I’ll share everything.  Go big or go home, right?  But I’ll share lots … after tonight.  I don’t think I could handle it tonight.  I ate a lot of chocolate today and I am feeling particularly vulnerable.

That being said, enjoy the prompt.  I did. 🙂

PROMPT: A woman who’s constantly quoting classic novels meets a literature professor at a cocktail party.

PIECE:

I stepped out onto the back patio, extremely aware of how weak my ankles were when it came to walking in high heels, especially ones hanging on by a thin, thin strap.  The shoes were completely adorable, though – the shade was perfect and worthy of being the topic of any conversation, so I suffered through the awkward tumbling way of walking and the slight pain concentrated in the balls of my feet.  The pain was worth the beauty, and that lesson could be applied not only to life, but to fashion as well.  I think I read that in a book somewhere.

Truth be told, I probably did read it in a book.  All I do is read.  I find it much more comfortable between the pages of a novel than I do seated between other human beings.  Some assume it’s a lonely existence, but it’s not awful.  If you stop and think about it, it’s actually kind of awesome.  My friends are made of paper and ink, so they don’t talk back, they never disappoint and are always there when I need them.  They are not fallible like their flesh and blood and bone contemporaries, and there are no nasty surprises when someone you think you’ve known for years and years decides to be a douche bag seemingly overnight.

That’s not to say I’m a creepy recluse who avoids all human contact, like some Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird).  I talk to co-workers and make small chat when I’m ordering coffee or food.  After all, isn’t the point to only connect (Howard’s End)?  I believe it is, so I do talk.  Unfortunately, I have the habit of constantly quoting from classic literature.  Like that time at work when Brian left his sandwich in the fridge for a solid three months and the stench became unbearable, so I said, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark” (Shakespeare).  No one got it, and that’s fine.  I did something similar at my family reunion, when we were trying to figure out who was sober enough to go with my uncle to the liquor store to resupply our alcohol stores, and I said to my sister, “Either thou, or I, or both must go with him!” (Shakespeare … again)  No one got it … again, but again, that’s fine.  I get that I alienate my audience with specific and sometimes obscure literary references, so I’ve been trying to curb the behavior.

I got invited to a cocktail party by Sara, a co-worker.  I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try and flex – or restrain, depending on how you look at it – my conversational muscle.  I bought the new shoes we’ve already discussed, and a matching dress.  I Googled YouTube videos to find out how to make my eyes look smoky and seductive and actually worked on my hair – I looked good.  Now to try and break into some conversation; I walked from small gathering to small gathering, listening in for a moment or two.  Either the topic was something I found terribly uninteresting, or something I knew nothing about.  I felt discouraged and was about to leave, run for the hills as they say, when I heard someone say, “You just have to keep on keepin’ on, right?  It’s like what Fitzgerald wrote; ‘Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.”

It was a somewhat older gentleman, fashionably dressed in a tweed jacket with elbow pads and heavy slacks.  He was quoting The Great Gatsby, arguably the greatest American novel of all time.  I couldn’t contain myself.  I walked up behind and said, “Doesn’t the end of the quote defeat your purpose, though?”

He turned to me, obviously surprised, but smiling.

I continued, “Fitzgerald says, ‘And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’  We never get where we’re going, but we keep going anyway.  That’s not as optimistic as what you were going for, I think.”  I held my breath at the end, worried that I’d offended him and come off as something as a know-it-all.

But he extended his hand and said, “Hi.  I’m Eric.”

On bowling … seriously?

Published July 27, 2012 by mandileighbean

When I woke up late this morning, my migraine was still present, but not as intense.  It returned full force when I ventured to the mailbox.  I had filed for unemployment insurance on the advice of my father and sister because I haven’t been working this summer and thought some extra money in the bank wouldn’t hurt if I relocate.  However, I did not realize that the Board of Education in Manchester has me on file for the remainder of the maternity leave, which runs through October.  I freaked out because I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to make a fraudulent claim or cheat the system or anything like that.  Truthfully, it was an oversight that I tried to rectify by calling the office but I was put on hold, transferred, put on hold again and was then informed it would take two hours for my call to be answered.  I just sent in the requested document and will try to call again tomorrow.  It stressed me out so much; the pain was in the back of my head, my neck and the small of my back.  My hands felt swollen and numb, and for the life of me, I could not breathe at a normal pace.  I thought I was going to make myself pass out.  My mom kept telling me to relax, to help myself and I couldn’t, and then I thought she was mad at me, so I started crying.  I went and retreated to my bed and resigned myself to just watching the ceiling fan revolving slowly, around and around.  I don’t know why I get so wrapped up in my own head and delude myself into think I am responsible for and thus have control over everything.  It’s kind of narcissistic – I’m so self-involved that it’s killing me; taking a substantial, physical toll on my body.  Or maybe it isn’t as bad as all that, and I’m romanticizing everything like I always do because the haunting reality is that me and my life are mediocre at best, and that scares me because more than anything else, I want to believe that I am unique and deserving of special recognition.

I’m doing it again, aren’t I?  I’m thinking too much and am about to trap myself in my own head, right?  Damnit; I’m a glutton for punishment, dude.

The picture to the right accurately illustrates what my migraines feel like.  Unfortunately, it does not accurately depict my features.  My teeth are far from straight and my eyes are a muddy kind of brown, a shade that would make a domestic goddess hurl if it were plastered against a new, white carpet (which is my subtle way of hinting that my eyes look like poop).

Tonight’s prompt is about bowling.  Now, I have nothing against the sport or the people who participate, but I do not play it.  I have no desire to bowl, really.  That’s somewhat amusing because the last two times I’ve gone bowling, I’ve done really, really well.  I defeated someone who was in a league and a boy who was trying to impress me.  Figures, right?

Enjoy it if you can, but I won’t blame you if you don’t.

PROMPT: A man aspiring to be a pro bowler loses to his young daughter.

VERSUS

PIECE: Bob was sitting at the end of the designated lane in a grotesquely-colored and wildly uncomfortable, plastic chair.  The chair was one half of a pair and sat before the dated computer monitor and accompanying keypad that allowed bowlers to enter their names and, if need be, adjust their scores.  The scoreboard had been expertly composed by Bob, who was not putting on the required bowling shoes, which always felt too large, smelled bad and looked clownish.  Despite the obvious drawbacks, Bob loved bowling.  He had recently gotten it into his head that he not only could but should become a pro bowler.  He had been getting closer and closer to bowling a perfect game during league nights, and was making quite the name for himself on the local circuit.  Enjoying a day off, he decided to bring little Melanie down to the lanes with him for some practice.  It’d be beneficial for the dream he was embarking on, and it would be nice to spend some time with his youngest daughter.  Melanie had trotted off to find a pink, perfectly-sized bowling ball and now she was returning, sweating and panting from the effort.  “It’s heavy,” she complained, cautiously stepping down the two steps.  Bob went rushing over.

“Mel, if it’s too heavy, you can’t bowl with it,” Bob said, smiling.

“But it’s the only pink one I could find, Dad! Please let me use it!  Please!”  Her brows were gathering at the center of her forehead and her bottom lip was slowly sticking out further and further.  Bob was no fool; he knew a storm was fast-approaching.

“Okay, okay, you can use it,” Bob soothed.

“Yay!” Melanie erupted, now beaming.  She dumped the ball onto the contraption in the middle of the lane and looked expectantly up at her father.

“You’re going to go first, okay kiddo?  We just have to wait for the bumpers.”  Bob looked around anxiously, searching for an attendant he could flag down.  Upon requesting and paying for the lane, he had mentioned that he needed the bumpers for his young daughter.  That had been some time ago, at least ten minutes, and there were no padded rubber bumpers on the lane.

“Why do we have to wait, Daddy?  I don’t need bumpers, and you definitely don’t need bumpers.”

Bob’s smile returned, wider than before.  “Are you sure you don’t need bumpers?  You liked playing with them last time.”

“I’m a big girl now, Daddy.  I don’t need them, I promise.”  Melanie was at her cutest when she was pleading and Bob understood it was dangerous.  It was okay now, when she was seven and Bob was the only man in her tiny universe, but one day, all that would change and he’d be in a world of trouble.

“Okay,” Bob acquiesced as he always did and probably always would.  “Go ahead then, little darling.  It’s your turn.”

Melanie stepped up to the start of the slick, wooden floor.  She held the pink bowling ball in both hands and though she was clearly struggling, she stuck out her bottom lip and attacked the line at something of a gallop, sliding to roll the ball down the lane after swinging it back between her legs for momentum.

The boll rolled dead center, crashed into the pins and knocked them down – every last one.

When all was said and done, Bob had scored an 80.  Melanie had scored a whopping 152.

Next week, Bob wasn’t at the league games.  Instead, he had stopped at a department store on the drive home from work, and purchased a chess set.  He thought maybe he could be the next Bobby Fisher.

On migraines.

Published July 26, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today, I went to Indian Hills High School in Oakland, New Jersey for an informal orientation.  I met two other new hires to the English department (one was also named Amanda, but luckily, I’m one of the few Amandas that go by Mandi) and was introduced to the curriculum.  I am in love with the curriculum; it has fluidity to it and the chosen novels are awesome.  The building is large, beautiful and technologically progressive.  The anxiety I’ve been feeling as late is now churning and turning into an emotion more akin to excitement.  There’s also a new kind of optimism; I’m not so worried anymore.  I feel ready to take on challenges.

Well, actually, I feel like shit (pardon my French).  I have the WORST migraine in the world (excuse the hyperbole).  I suffer from severe complicated, or complex, migraines.  According to Mayo Clinic, “With a ‘complex migraine’ symptoms can include weakness, loss of vision, or difficulty speaking in addition to a headache – often mimicking a stroke.”  My parents took me to the ER a couple of times because they were scared, as was I, when I couldn’t tell them my name or my birthday.  I went to the neurologist about a year ago, and she said these attacks were brought on by stress.  She emphasized how it was important for me to learn how to relax and how to stop worrying.  I have yet to learn how to do either of those things.  All I do is stress, worry, wonder and overthink.

Writing and listening to music helps me unwind and I promise I’m doing both … but I’m doing both while lounging.  No prompt tonight; a thousand pardons, ladies and gentlemen.

On the similarities in breaking through and breaking up.

Published July 25, 2012 by mandileighbean

I didn’t sleep last night.  In fact, my wearied head didn’t crash against the pillows until around 4:00AM.  Why such late hours?  What could have possibly been so enthralling, so engaging that it kept me up until dawn was but a few hours away?

I was writing.  I was writing the beginnings of a second novel, not just another prompt.  I haven’t done anything like that, or felt so excited by an idea, since I started writing Her Beautiful Monster, and that was years ago.

Whatever I decided to do professionally and no matter where I move – no matter where September finds me – I am ecstatic that I broke my dry spell and that I am truly back to doing what I love.

I hope what I wrote above doesn’t put too much pressure on tonight’s prompt.  Mainly, tonight’s piece was a hell of a lot of fun.  Enjoy!

PROMPT: A high-priced prostitute suspects that one of her best customers is falling in love with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PIECE: Candi had only just escaped to the ladies’ restroom in the upscale restaurant that Carl had brought her to for dinner.  The napkins were made of soft linen, as were the tablecloths, and it made her nervous as hell to wipe her mouth because they were clearly so expensive and the trashiest thing in the world – the absolute trashiest thing – would be for Candi to leave a smeared trail of bright red lipstick on the napkin.  That’s what Candi was though – she was trash.  She was a prostitute and no matter how many times she insisted that “high-end” come before the profession, it didn’t change anything.  Night after night, she would tart herself up and exchange pleasantries – social niceties, can you believe it? – only to end up on her back with a stranger inside her.  What kind of life was that?  What was she doing, really?  Candi suddenly discovered she was having difficulty breathing in a smooth, even pattern.  If there was one thing Candi prided herself on, it was her ability to stay strong – she didn’t rattle.  She rushed to the nearest sink, her high heels clicking against the beautifully tiled floor, and turned the faucet on.  She used trembling hands to cup water and throw it on her face, using a sparing amount so that the makeup that had been so expertly applied would not run or be washed away.  After all, a naked prostitute was more vulnerable than sexy.  Candi needed all her engines firing and she needed to have all of her tools in her arsenal ready to go.  That was the thing about Carl; he was constantly catching her off guard.  While the change of pace excited her in a way she thought she’d long be numb to, it was also dangerous.  In her line of work, there could be no surprises.

What could she do though?  How was she to know that Carl was going to take her out once she had been dropped at the hotel?  She shouldn’t have gone, but Candi wasn’t as strong as she liked to believe when Carl flashed his pearly whites and asked something of her.  He had charmed her, sure, but things were going farther than that.  He had brought her here for dinner when they could have easily ordered room service and remained hidden and discreet.  Carl kept clearing his throat like he was nervous, and he kept fiddling with the silverware folded in the fancy napkins.  Why was he nervous?  Candi had a sinking suspicion that he was going to ask something impossible.  She feared that Carl was in love with her, and had hatched some insane scheme that involved him saving her, carrying her away from her life of sin and regret in strong, toned arms before a stunned crowd of seedy onlookers who applauded the effort, but slowly – very slowly.  She splashed more water against her face.

Candi was an idiot; she had nothing to worry about.  She was certainly not Julia Roberts and Carl was absolutely no Richard Gere (but when she told the story later on to friends, she’d make the analogy innocently and swear it was accurate).  This was not a movie and she was not about to be whisked away to anywhere besides a high-priced hotel room.  Patting her face dry with a cloth towel, she smoothed her dress (in an attempt to make it look longer and elegant, rather than short and scandalous) and returned to the table.

Carl was not in love with her, no way, no how.

Right?

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