22 April 2006

The best thing ever

One Saturday a month, I have a day that makes every other day of the month pale by comparison.

I volunteer for a writing mentorship program called WriteGirl.

The program works like this: teen girls are matched with adult mentors, who are professional women writers. Most of the mentors have interesting jobs like writing for TV or movies or books or magazines, unlike yours truly. There are a few of us corporate/technical types in the mix.

The mentors meet with the girls one-on-one an hour a week to work on writing. All of the girls who have been through the program have gone to college, every single one!

Once a month, we all get together to work on our writing - together. Everyone does the exercises, everyone participates. It is a day of energy and sharing and encouragement and fun.

Every workshop has a theme. Today's was dialogue.

I should probably mention that this program would be great anywhere, but having the workshops in Hollywood gives us an edge that turns a bit surreal sometimes.

One of our guest speakers today had written a few movies (along with her writing partner) that you might have heard of. Ella Enchanted. She's the Man. Ten Things I Hate About You. And a little thing called "Legally Blonde."

The other guests were writers on the shows "The Shield" and "Angel" among others.

So they all gave us great dialogue advice, then we did some exercises where we wrote dialogue. We ended by writing a two-page scene.

Then they brought in actors, who acted out the dialogue the girls had written. Some of the actors were young up-and-comers and at least one was a well-known star.

They got up and brought the girls' words to life with total commitment and off-the-hook talent. It was electrifying to see the scenes acted out - these are young girls who have all the usual teen anxieties about whether they are ok or not, and suddenly they have real liveactors performing their words and a crowd of about 75 cheering for them...It is like a prayer revival in its intensity.

I was mentor-for-the-day to S., a ninth grader from Compton. When one of the actors came in, she got all giggly and blushy and told me she had had a crush on the guy when she saw him in the movie "But I'm a Cheerleader." She kept saying "He's so cute!" under her breath.

After the workshop, I asked her if she was going to talk to him. "Noooooo!" she said, blushing madly. "It's your one chance," I said.

"Noooooooo." She wouldn't do it.

As he was walking out, I said "This is S. and she is a big fan of your work."

He could not have been more gracious. She was shy and cute and giggly and starstruck. He hugged her and took several minutes to talk to her. He asked all about her and what grade she was in, and he told her that next year when he came back, she should ask for him and he would perform her scene. He told her that a couple times.

Can you imagine? Being 13 and getting to meet someone from a movie that you have had a crush on and he wants to perform your work? How cool is that?

I'll bet she was walking on air when she took the Metro home. I know I drove down the 101 grinning like a fool.

20 April 2006

A sudden loss of control

Sighthounds: Greyhounds can never be trusted off leash. A loose greyhound is a dead greyhound. A greyhound has no street smarts when it comes to cars. By nature of a sighthound, greyhounds can run at speeds of up to 45 mph and will chase fast-moving objects.

Goldie is a greyhound/lab mix. She is much like a greyhound in every aspect except her weight - for her size, she weighs much more than a greyhound.

She has 3 basic modes: sleep, eat, chase. She loves a walk more than anything, and I love to walk her and give her freedom to look around on a long retractable leash. That means I have had literally hundreds of instances of her chasing something at a high speed with me unable to stop her. There I am windmilling and flailing along behind her or giving up and dropping the leash.

But today was special. Today is a day that will live in dog walking infamy.

Question: What do you get when you mix a sighthound, a cat, a busy intersection and a dog owner with an overfull bladder?

Yes, that's right, dear readers, I have gotten to the point that every blogger gets to eventually: embarrassing bodily fluid loss.

She saw a big fluffy black cat right at the intersection of Main St. (literally) and La Avenida (even busier than Main Street) and took off RUNNING after it. I tried to hold her back, but the leash popped out of my hand. She briefly dashed out into traffic, in front of a cop car, then veered back over a wall into a grassy area, with me chasing her as fast as my fat short legs would carry me. The leash wrapped around a pole and she came to a halt, but by then it was all over.

My dog made me pee my pants. In public.

I don't know if it was seeing my dog dash in front of a police car, or me running with a full bladder, or fear, or what.

Some creatively messy tying of my jacket around my waist hid the evidence.

By then it was getting dark and it was a long, damp walk home. knew that, even though I hadn't been planning to, I was doing laundry tonight.

18 April 2006

Better than sex

Seeing the person who has been dangerously zooming in and out of lanes of heavy traffic pulled over by a motorcycle cop...aah.

You can meme this if you want...what is your "better than sex" thing?

And while we're on traffic, check this nutty video of an intersection in India. Traffic in So. California is nuts, but not THAT nuts.

17 April 2006

Pulitzer Prize-winning (no, not me)

My old co-worker Dani Dodge is part of the staff of the San Diego Union Tribune that won a Pulitzer Prize today for their reporting on the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal.

I was so proud that when I heard the announcement today, I burst into happy tears in my little cubicle at work. I emailed her to congratulate her and asked her the one question a reporter is never supposed to ask: How does it feel>

"Pretty damn good, thank you," she replied.

Dani and I had adjoining cubicles for a while and obviously some of my Molecules of BrillianceTM wore off on her.

No, really, she was the best reporter I had ever met. She had raised a couple fabulous kids AND she had been embedded in Iraq. She treated every story like it was important, which is way more than most reporters do. She was a hell of an interviewer, too - she got inside people's heads faster than Dr. Phil. I always told her I wanted to be like her if I ever grew up.


Yesterday I stumbled onto a blog that I ended up reading for about 3 hours straight. I tried to go do other things and not waste the whole day reading, but the story was so compelling that I kept sitting back down again.

63 Days is the true story of a woman who, during her teen years, was sent by her parents to spend 7 weeks in one of those wilderness boot camps for troubled kids. Her parents were told she would be riding horses, getting back to nature, and learning to love God.

The problem was that the place was run by a bunch of abusive psychos who had no expertise but exhibited sadism beyond imagination. It just proved to me what I knew all along - you can't outsource the care of your family without some seriously bad results.

She's a great writer and has hell of a true story to tell. At least I am assuming it is true. In these days of A Million Little Liars, you never know.

The blog interface is a little weird - you have to go back in the blog history to post #1 then read forward. It's worth it though.

Here's today's Enlightenment Moment ffrom Nando Parrado, one of the guys that the movie "Alive!" was about. Their plane crashed in the Andes and they survived for 61 days before they decided to walk out. After a long day of climbing, they came to what seemed to be an impassable mountain range.
Now, in this lifeless place, I saw with terrible clarity that death was the constant, and life was only a short fragile dream. I felt a sharp and sudden longing...for my father, whom I was sure I would never see again. But despite the hopelessness of the situation, the memory of him filled me with joy. It staggered me - the mountains could not crush my ability to love. In that moment, I discovered a simple, astounding secret: Death has an opposite, but it is not mere living. It is not courage, or faith, or will. The opposite of death is love. How had I missed that? How does anyone miss that? My fears lifted, and I knew that I would not let death control me. I would walk through that godforsaken country with love and hope in my heart.

16 April 2006

And a blessed Easter to you

My shower has been running slowly and I HATE standing in an inch of water by the time I am done. Dran-o has been no help, so I called the landlord to come snake out the pipes.

He sent over his assistant, Randy, yesterday morning. He is a huge man. Randy worked and worked for about an hour, and, covered in sweat, said he couldn't get it fixed.

He said he used to be a plumber and he had never seen anything like this before.

I said I knew he used to be a plumber because I could tell from his sag-ass pants and his visible buttcrack. (No, I didn't say that. But you know I thought about it.)

I said "It's not any better?"

"No," he said. "Now water won't even go down the drain."

Is a tiny String Section of DoomTM beginning to play in your head, too?

Sure enough, I looked at the shower floor, and it was covered with a layer of black muck. Now the inch of water wasn't sounding so bad.

A few hours later the landlord, Steve, came over to try and finish what Randy had started. After much banging and pounding, he broke off his snake in the pipe.

"I'm going to have to re-route the pipe," he said.

My house was built in 1940-something and apparently the plumbing was never really right. It was full of twists and bends and places for greasy hairballs to build up into drain-clogging monsters.

Steve told me his project would probably take all afternoon. I said that was ok since I was going to Mr. Stapler's for the afternoon and night. He assured me that when I got home, all would be well.

Being an early riser, I arrived back here at 8 a.m. to get ready for church.

Steve and Randy were standing in the driveway in their best crappy plumber outfits.

"We have some work to still do," Steve said. "And you can't use the water while we do it."

So I'm sitting here with my Easter bonnet on, listening to the sound of pounding and grinding and the smell of burning metal, clenching my muscles and hoping I don't have to pee until I go to church in half an hour. I'm wondering how a slow-draining shower turned into this debacle. This is my life.

Blessed Easter to you, too.
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