Friday, December 30, 2011

high school volleyball, friends, and dogs

emily, on her way to tsfat. winter 2007.

i picked emily because she was the only dog at the shelter in harlem who was not barking and jumping up and down when we walked through the room of cages. she was the only dog who looked pathetic, as if nobody would ever pick her, as if she didn't expect anyone would even want her. it was almost like she'd given up hope of being chosen. that was what made me decide i had to have her--even after adam offered to go to another shelter or to come back another day.
"no--this is the one," i said. the shelter worker took her out of the cage on a leash and we brought her to the yard out back. adam walked her around but i was a bit nervous. i'd never had a dog before.
now, i knew what it was like to be picked last for teams in gym class. i knew what it was like to have the other kids not think that you were a loser per se, but to be aware that just because you might make the literature gymnastics team because you could balance shakespeare and milton, while bouncing chaucer around, didn't mean that you could do the same with a dodge ball. and the truth is, i couldn't.
at some point in high school, probably in eleventh or twelfth grade when i had finally realized that i was part of a really great group of friends and i could settle in to being me, i chose volleyball for my gym class instead of modern dance (which was probably a relief to anyone who had to bear witness to my eternally ungraceful self attempting to do plies and back attitudes and random leaps across the floor in time to mr. goring's tribal drumbeats.) it was possibly in my second or third cycle of volleyball that i was chosen as a team captain. finally, i felt, i had the power to make some sort of a difference. i didn't choose the jocks for my team. i chose the people i trusted, the people i knew would make good teammates, the people i knew i could count on. i chose my friends, all of whom were pubbies (we spent our free time in the publications' office, putting together the various newspapers and magazines that circulated within our school,) and all whom i could depend on. the jocks just sort of stood on the sidelines, waiting to be picked, loudly sucking their teeth when they finally knew what it felt like to be picked last.
i wore the bruises and welts on my arms with pride. i spent our class tournaments smiling as we lost game after game. the sense of pride in our sportsmanship, the sense of joy in our lack of accomplishment, the sense of overwhelming love i felt for my teammates--my friends--was just unreal. my lack of competitiveness was probably just as unreal. playing well was important, but having fun was more important. and even more important than that, was knowing that the people on my team were picked first because to me, they should have been first all along.
when i picked emily, i knew she had to be mine. she was the real underdog. she wasn't the floppy-eared cocker spaniel who some doe-eyed family would adopt based on the cute factor. she was the dog i was meant to have, the dog who gave me the chance once again to not leave her standing alone at the side of the gym while the popular kids got picked first.
for twelve years, emily gave me that gift of remembering what is important in choosing friends. i look back fondly over my sweet puppy's full life, and i thank her for all of the memories, the love, and for allowing me to choose her for my team.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

it's that time again....

bells jingling, snow falling, faces smiling.... eight nights of pyrotechnics, decorated trees, and of course all of the drinking and pill-popping you're doing to get through this time of year--how could you not love it? and if you thought it was great before you started turning tricks in order to pay for that new video game system/american girl doll/iphone/random appliance, well, there are now some interesting new alternatives to those waaaay too typical gifts! and what are they? you ask. well, i'll tell you....

bec's short list of  interesting gift basket ideas 

having trouble finding a gift for that one friend who is terribly anal? how about a bathroom basket? each bathroom basket comes tightly packed with your choice of toilet paper: cheap and scratchy, soft and shreddy, or expensive and tufted. but that's not all you get! no fewer than five specially selected enemas will be included (in their original packaging, of course!), as well as a lovely array of tucks medicated pads and hemorrhoidal cream. but wait, there's more! because we understand that some people are just extremely uptight, we have included, for their sitting comfort, disposable sanitary toilet seat covers. these would have been great during the plague!

know someone who is tightly strung? or maybe he/she is stringing you along, perhaps? how about the string basket? all baskets include a variety of string products, including: silly string in fun colors! (colors may vary), dental floss, tampons (yes, they can be used to decorate your tree!), antique red and white or blue and white bakery string from the metal canister that used to hang in allenby's bakery in brooklyn, some nice thick ropes (great for role play and/or for reenacting the exodus), string beans, and guitar strings!

everyone has an ocd neat-freak in their lives, right? you know, the uncle who can't stop cleaning? the mother who has bags under her eyes from scrubbing til dawn, but at least the tile grout behind her toilet is clean? the friend you hate because she follows you around with a sponge and a coaster? welcome to the clean panic basket. because every ocd neat-freak should have a clean panic every now and then. it makes the rest of us feel better. all baskets come packed with: an over-filled container of baby powder, a dozen cartonless eggs, an uncapped bottle of purple grape juice, blueberry jam, a plastic bag of red sauce, an uncovered hooker-red lipstick, and thousands of tiny sparkles that fly out all over when the recipient opens the basket--what fun!!

these are just a few items that will make your holiday season a memorable one. so relax, enjoy, and get your specialty baskets before they all sell out!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

of mac & cheese and chocolate pudding

i made cheater pudding last night.
sounds intriguing, until you realize that i just opened a box of my T fine and added the soy milk. but to me, it's cheating. because it's not from scratch. not that i ever make chocolate pudding that's not from scratch. not that i ever make pudding more than a few times a year, when i remember that i can.
i remember going to the supermarket with my mom when i was a kid. we'd walk through the jello aisle and occasionally we'd pick out a box of jello, usually of the red or orange family. but the puddings? nope. never. no way. we just weren't a pudding family. for some reason, jello, made from pig bone-derived gelatin, artificial colorings and sugar, was bound to be a better choice than pudding, made from cocoa, sugar and milk. and that's okay, because we weren't a mac and cheese family, either. in fact, i'd only tasted a box of kraft cheese & mac once, while sleeping over some kid's apartment in the projects. of course, i then figured that if you lived in the projects, you were probably eating kraft dinner. however, i was also fed roast at her house and smurfberry crunch over there, so my worldview was pretty skewed for a seven-year old. let me add that my husband, who did not grow up in the projects, was quite experienced with kraft macaroni and cheese and chocolate pudding, which his mom used to make all of the time.
the next time i had mac and cheese was at my house, when i was in high school and wanted to cook something. i convinced my mom to let me make a baked mac & cheese casserole for supper, from a recipe i'd found in the joy of cooking. (in retrospect, i do believe that the title of that book is a definite misnomer, as the more recipes i tried from there, the less joy i found in cooking, and it wasn't until i branched out to other books did i realize that i could find much happiness in cooking, as long as i stayed away from the joy.) so i grated the cheddar, poured the milk, boiled the pasta, melted the butter, added the mustard. i baked the thing at required temperature for the required time. i made a salad. i served the meal. i realized that i couldn't stand macaroni and cheese.
i attempted mac and cheese again when i was in college. this time with two friends (one whom i later married), a brick of velveeta, and some pasta. or maybe we were just eating it on crackers. at any rate, my stomach was not having it. easy come, easy go.
marriage brought wacky mac at our house and pudding at my mother-in-law's house. chocolate pudding. poured into individual bowls. awaiting eager mouths after whatever meal she served (take out/turkey/pizza/steaks) and awaiting the cream that was balanced on the skin--THE SKIN!!!!!--of the pudding.
my mother-in-law's cheater chocolate pudding brought back a vague memory of me looking longingly at the refrigerated cases at various diners, in which plates of sliced cakes, pies and oh! stemmed glass bowls of chocolate pudding topped with a spray of whipped cream were housed. the one time i ordered one, i was surprised at its texture. it was somewhat gelatinous and smooth, but not as delicate as new jello. it was more like the tougher bottom skin--skin!!!!--that forms when the jello isn't mixed well enough. except that this pudding was thick. at least the top was thick. the rest was somewhat creamy, and not as sweet as i'd have liked. but i had to eat it since i'd requested this as my one desire. i wasn't impressed.
my mother-in-law's chocolate pudding was sweeter and, what i realized later, much fresher. it was made with love and mixed with manipulation, bitchiness and criticism. sure, there was that skin on top. my husband says it's the best part.
last night, i served this pudding. my T fine. it took me until i had kids to realize that there was no such thing as a "T fine" and that the "my T" was supposed to be "mighty." i can't believe they paid advertising execs to come up with that. but, as usual, i digress. i put the bowls on the table in front of the kids.
"it has a skin," A, my almost seven year old said.
"i think that's supposed to be the best part," i replied.
my oldest ate it. my youngest poked at it. my four year old refused to eat it."the stuff in the cups from the store is better," he said. my almost seven year old demanded a different dessert. "it has a skin," he repeated. "it's like butt pudding. i can't eat this." he proceeded to play a song on his armpit.
i tasted it but the word "epidermis" kept popping up in my head, bringing back memories of junior high science classes and the seemingly inevitable reality that maybe i'm just not a chocolate pudding person. i can live with that.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

ramble on bec

i swear, i need to warn my characters. yep. things are about to get worse. much, much worse. like, mega-hyper-uber worse. worse than tossing trash all over the yard. worse than graffiti on the front door proclaiming horrible things about the main character. worse than arson and things blowing up and a herd of elephants being dropped on the car while dressed in drag (okay, that probably won't happen in this novel) and worse than random drownings and uninvited in-laws popping over during the yearly coke binge. do people still do coke anymore? i can't see the point when coffee has been decriminalized.... speaking of which, i sometimes wonder if my columbian coffee is laced with something a little bit more potent than caffeine. you know, like maybe more caffeine. mega-hyper-uber caffeine. the stuff they were drinking during the cuban missile crisis. speaking of which, that bay of pigs paper i wrote in high school? i think i knew less about the bay of pigs when i finished than i did when i started.
oh, so i was going to warn my characters.
that's ridiculous. of course i'm not going to warn my characters. i may have to warn myself. i hate when i get too attached and then something bad happens and i have to fight the urge to bawl like a baby while melodramatically screaming out "why, oh why must it be so hard to torture people who don't exist in real life????"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

death, disembowelment and writing

i often wonder about the level of cruelty that drives a person to write me to write.
a long time ago, in a different life that i once had, i was told that people who become shochets (jewish ritual slaughterers) and butchers are often driven to do so because they have, somewhere within, perhaps a drive towards violence, or murder, or lust for blood, or any of these bizarre things, and so this field is almost like a safe way of having those desires manifest themselves in something positive, like the killing and cutting up of animals for food. (disclaimer: i have no idea who told me this/where i read this, but i'm tempted to say that it was during a telephone discussion with someone having more jewish knowledge than i did at the time.) it seemed to make sense on some level: a person picks a profession based on their interests. of course, one could just as easily become a surgeon: blood, gore and good deed. whether or not i believe that there is any divine force that enters into this (i do not) isn't the issue. the issue is in cruelty.
i once had a student say to me "wow, this writer is really twisted to come up with such stuff." he was referring to the very last bit of steinbeck's grapes of wrath. (i'm not going to give the end away, sorry.) i've heard the same phrase used to describe stephen king's work. and that of charlotte perkins gilman. i've received comments from people saying the same thing about my own work. one of the best writing professors i've ever had, made the point that one must torture his/her characters. "whatever happens, make it worse. keep making it worse."
so i torture my characters. and sometimes, i make it worse and worse, but i don't make it better. so i torture my readers as well. sometimes i show such cruelty to my characters that i have to stop writing for a bit, just to regroup and remind myself that they're not real.
is it more cruel to be in a profession in which one regularly causes death and dismemberment and butchering and disemboweling? is that a healthy manifestation of whatever cruelty is inherent in the human psyche? is that an acceptable and normal way of acting on it? does one's profession has anything to do with one's personality? how many people in this day and age would gladly take a job clopping cattle on the head before sending them to their death? or, in jewish slaughterhouses, slash a cow's jugular (or whichever vein is being sliced open) with a specific ritually prepared knife in order to kill them?  or is it crueler to be a writer, where one routinely creates characters to torture? and where one may or may not hide bits of reality in fiction, as a way of torturing those who have wronged that writer?
do writers of psychological terror possess a higher level of cruelty than writers of ABC books for kids?
and when i torture my characters, am i more cruel than a butcher/baker/candlestick maker?
are killers of cows more cruel than killers of chickens?
if i still lived in the world of ritual slaughter, would i have been a knife wielding maniac, wearing blood-spattered hip boots and rubber coveralls, waiting anxiously for the next animal on my line?
would meatballs and spaghetti still taste as good?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

trash and the things i think about

i'm done with capital letters on this blog. that's the main reason why it's been a whole season since last i posted. i was feeling extremely cramped by the formality of the upper case, and it wasn't sitting at all well with me. so i think that now that i'm able to go back to my lowercase comfort level, i will be able to post more often.
i'm currently working on trash, my novel project. it's driving me crazy. i think i totally screwed up the narrative voice, as i have several different voices speaking in first person. however, at times i'll look through certain points and find that the voices are, in fact, quite distinct and maybe it's not awful. so maybe it's not that i should be working in third person omniscient, but that maybe i need to make the voices more unique in the places where that uniqueness may be lacking. the war with the narrative voice(s) is out of control and for a bit was interfering with the plot and subplots. i am working within the shakespearian realm of tragicomedy, so my subplots are a bit bizarre, in direct opposition with the main plot, which is quite serious in nature. however, the two do tend to intertwine at times, so that's a fun mix. there is so much insanity, even with the main plot, that i really am grateful to my friends in law, law enforcement and medicine, who have been eagerly helping me to make sure that my main plot remains believable. 

just to keep it real here, i should provide you with a bit of the important....

a quick list of some of the things i think about when i think people aren't looking

-is there a direct correlation between underwear size and price?
- do clothing designers get a sick thrill out of purposely creating ugly garments and seeing people purchase and wear their creations?
-are the artists who design the designs on toilet paper told that they are going to be used on toilet paper? did matisse start out as a toilet paper artist?
-when will mosquitoes become extinct?
-why don't they make nicer sounding voices for people who've had a tracheotomy?
there are other things i think about, but i need to save something for my next blog post, several seasons from now. the good thing is that maybe i don't have to completely overhaul that narrative voice.

Monday, May 9, 2011

10 Reasons Why a Nuclear Holocaust Wouldn't Be That Bad

I'm not really the type of person to be all gung-ho about war or nuclear holocausts, however, these are things I tend to think about. And I think about them in very unorthodox ways. Then again, most of what I think, and subsequently say,  is quite unorthodox, and I daresay that's why people keep listening. So, since it's been a while since I've posted, and since there have been a few other incidents to overshadow the horrors in Japan, thus forcing it out of the news cycle, I'd say that now is a good time to write the list I've been itching to write since the word "Fukushima" entered my vocabulary.

10 Reasons Why a Nuclear Holocaust Wouldn't Be That Bad
1. Never have a bad hair day again. Of course, it's likely that you won't be having any kind of day again, but you're guaranteed that whatever it is, it definitely won't be a bad hair day.
2. That extra arm-hand combination growing out of your abdomen ensures that you'll never again have to bend down to pick things up. Great for people with bad backs.
3. People with cancer would be cured with radiation. However, people without cancer might actually get cancer. But they'd be quickly cured. Win-win.
4. If you hate your job, don't worry. You're probably not going back.
5. No more seasonal allergies!
6. In debt up to your eyeballs? It's unlikely that your creditors will be contacting you.
7. The world becomes a squatter's paradise.
8. All of those horrible social engagements that you were tied to are now very unlikely to take place.
9. Great hallucinations without the hallucinogens.
10. No more painful visits to the in-laws!

Of course, you wouldn't be able to read Bus 174, my latest story on New Vilna Review....

Monday, March 21, 2011

my radio interview

A while back, in another life, I posted the transcript of a radio interview that I had done and after many years (I posted this on my old blog back in 2008) I thought it would be a great post to share again.
the other day i was lucky enough to be interviewed (by phone) on a prominent new york radio station regarding my upcoming film, "i eat goat." here is the transcript.
transcript of bec's radio interview
interviewer: today we have a very special guest via telephone from israel, bec ______, the up and coming writer who has put together the comedic documentary, "i eat goat," due to hit the indie film festivals this summer. hello bec!
bec: hey! i'm sorry, what's your name again?
interviewer: bob.
bec: hey bob!
bob: hey bec!
bec: hey bob!
bob: hey yourself. so bec, how did you get started in film?
bec: well, it all started one evening when my husband and i were ordering food from this pakistani-italian restaurant and they didn't have lamb karahi.
bob: really?
bec: they asked if i wanted goat. i said, "sure, i eat goat!" and the film was on its way.
bob: now i hear that it's taken you quite a while to put this film together.
bec: we had some production difficulties. first we didn't have a camera. then we didn't have a goat. then we had kids. all the while we were still working on the scripts.
bob: when did you finally get the scripts done?
bec: to tell you the truth, bob, they're still not done.
bob: what do you mean?
bec: we're still working on them. and i'm in the middle of a poetry project as well as my short story collection.
bob: so you have a short story collection?
bec: yes, but it's currently being sent out for publication as individual pieces. apparently the publishers don't realize that my work is much better than the current drivel they've been putting out, but i'm okay with that. i've become immune to failure.
bob: why is that?
bec: what choice do i have? i can't decide who will publish what. i can only produce and hope for the best.
bob: but you expect rejection?
bec: i aim for rejection. that way there are no surprises and i know what to expect.
bob: that's a pretty unique way of approaching a career in writing. what will you do if your work is accepted?
bec: i will promptly refuse to sign any contracts and beg them to reconsider.
bob: interesting strategy, bec.
bec: thank you, bob.
bob: so what's your plan regarding the independent film festivals this summer?
bec: i'm trying to convince the bedouin shepherds here to loan me a goat for this film. so far there's been a language barrier, but they have given me some hashish and two chickens. i'm still trying to convince them that a goat would be in their best interest and they'd make a percentage from the film profits.
bob: well, okay. thank you, bec. it was a pleasure speaking with you, an up and coming writer and filmmaker.
bec: no bob. thank you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Impossible Ass Meets Impossible Head

Happy day!!!! Errant Parent posted my essay, "The Six Secrets of Unstressed Families" on their site! Totally excited because this now puts me in the category of "professional writers."
The past few months have been crazy. I had some work and am looking for another position. I finally submitted Unorthodox! to a theater I've been checking out. Getting their application done was really rough. There were these moments of "who am I kidding?" coupled with "of course I can do this!" but both came at inopportune times, as is often the case with most things, I suppose. I recently wrote a pretty decent review of the film "Trembling Before G-d" for a grad class I just finished and I'd really like to rework the paper for possible publication. Since the film came out several years ago, I can't say that what I have to say hasn't yet been said, but it's worth a try. And I'm hoping that the rest of my submissions are picked up. I'm so glad I  didn't quit my day job to be a writer. Then again, I don't currently have a day job, so that makes things even more interesting. 

Impossible Ass Meets Impossible Head

On a completely unrelated note, it has been brought to my attention that you can tell that a person is waaaaay past their skinny allowance when his/her head appears to have outgrown his/her body in pure bobble-head fashion. You know, when a person seems to look almost too delicate with a head that seems to defy all laws of physics in order to balance atop the neck. I mean, who out there doesn't want to shed a few pounds now and then? Maybe dieting would be easier for all of us if instead of losing weight, we concentrated on inflating our heads, thus making our bodies appear skinnier. This would definitely thwart the prevalence of the impossible ass, a subject I've blogged about on other blogs, as now there would exist the impossible head. I think that the impossible ass might actually help the impossible head to balance on the body that now seems almost toothpick in its existence.  (The image of a person riding on a Segway comes to mind here.) The impossible ass actually does have a degree of usefulness here as well: anyone losing balance because of the impossible head now has a cushioned landing. Nothing like a little extra to pad the fall.
Many people have asked me about the impossible ass. This is where things get complicated. What exactly is the impossible ass? The impossible ass is an ass that just seems like it shouldn't exist, either by virtue of size and or lift (and by lift, I am specifically referring to the defying of the moon's gravitational pull on all things Earth) and believability. Sometimes you have to see something to believe it, right? Well sometimes  even seeing isn't believing.
I hope that clears things up for now regarding impossibility in the ass and head world. There will be more on this at later points and I do plan to post a bit more often than before.