Branching Out

January 24, 2011

Part of my mad science baking kit

In order to achieve success as a mad scientist, it is important to have the proper tools for your relative branch of madness. Of course, measuring success is all in how you measure it, really. Maybe a batch of brain cookies came out looking like smush, but still tasted delicious. In that regard, as long as folks could stomach eating the treats, they were successful. If, however, you made green cupcakes with the intent that their devourers would “get a wicked case of the groops,” but instead got a case of the “pooples,” then it would be a failure.

My favorite branches of mad science right now are baking, knitting, and creative writing. It seems like it’s good for me to pack in as many things to do in the day as possible, because it really helps to combat icky things like seasonal depression.

I’ve decided to branch out a bit in my sciences, to get even more science-y, and of course, much madder. In addition to knitting, I’ve added on some advanced crafting tasks to my list of things to do, in addition to learning more than just a handful of knitting stitches/patterns. Baking, I’ve moved on from cakes to the “Art of Tarts” which is actually the name of one of the books I’ve been referencing for tart ideas.

Lastly, the branch of creative writing. I’ve been thinking about research and triggers. Triggers get me churning out the word machine, but then research gums up the works sometimes. It’s so easy to get stuck in a pattern of clicking the next link, and then the next, and so on, letting time slip away. So I’ve been watching math/science videos on a pretty great site, and trying to alternate between reading a work of fiction and then non-fiction. Good readers make for better writers, and honestly, television and the internet have made me a lazy reader.

Triggers are very much experience-based: taking a walk and seeing something that sparks an idea, or working thoughts out while on the walk. Or going out with friends and having ideas sparked by their conversation, or people watching, or an idle comment that floats across the room. Ideas are everywhere, and it’s so easy to miss them when you’re constantly turning your thoughts inwards, documenting instead of living. So living a little more will be interesting, right?

Flocking Together

January 5, 2011

He's such a hoot!

You know what they say about birds of a feather, right? Yes, they flock together.

It’s one of the most annoying punchlines I hear at my night job, to be honest. I have this regular guy, see, and he tells this joke all the time. If I thought for a second he was savvy enough to find this blog and actually take the time to read it, I wouldn’t mention it. On second thought, maybe he’ll find it and read it and oh, miracle of miracles, stop telling the stupid joke!

And then maybe I can stop having to pick feathers out of my teeth once a week, but ah, I’ve said too much.

Re-focus, Roxy… okay, so about the bird in my sketch. This cute little guy lives over at The Boneyard, which if you’re not from Scurvytown, you might not know is pretty much the happening bar around town. There are other places to get tanked, of course, but a classier sort of clientele is found stinking up the joint at The Bone, and it’s within spitting distance of work, so quite a few of us are frequent customers there before the night shift starts.

Anyway, the owl’s name is Holmes, and he’s a sweet little fellow. Apparently, I am in the minority on this one, but what can I say? I’m an affable dame. It’s a wonder I don’t have all manner of woodland creatures helping me to get dressed each night before my shift, like on one of those princess cartoons. At least that’s what Holmes’s owner, Catty Broadsides, likes to tell me, and in some alternate reality where I’m not a call girl, I like to think she’s right.

Tart Weekly Tart 1

January 3, 2011

The very first thing you should know about this project is that it is haunted. I thought it would be a great idea when it first occurred to me that I could spread a celebration of tarts throughout an entire year. I didn’t, however, consider how difficult that might be when you’re surrounded by ghosts.

This is also something I overlooked when I purchased the slightly run-down bar in Scurvytown. I thought it would be a great adventure, owning a bar and grille in this quaint little resort town on an island of the same name. Mostly, it has been a bit of a nightmare, and that is primarily because of the ghosts who haunt my bar, The Boneyard.

Battling heartbreak the way I have, pretty much my entire life, I am of the philosophy that there’s nothing wrong with buying yourself flowers. Unless of course you try to have fresh flowers sitting on every table of your bar and grille in a place that is overrun with ghosts.

As you can imagine, the ghosts are not fans of fresh flowers. Instead, they are much more impressed by flowers that look like this:

Dead Flowers for Ghosts

I have adapted because of the ghosts and their many daily demands. I am pretty sure that theme will be a prevailing one as I get deeper into this project.

As I bake my way through the year, I thought it would be fun to celebrate the fruits and vegetables while they are in peak season. I thought about January, and nothing really excited me. The other morning I was eating a banana in my cereal, and I realized that banana pudding sounded delicious. “That’s it!” I declared, excitedly, “I’ll do a celebration of pudding!”

I should have kept the thought internal, because most of the ghosts within earshot laughed at me, and then immediately covered the kitchen in their own special brand of pudding: bright yellow gooey ectoplasm. Ignoring the cackling of, “Taste it to see if it’s bananas!” I set to work scrubbing the kitchen, and brainstormed my January pudding theme. And no, I didn’t taste it.

I started off with a good crust, which I procured from the Smitten Kitchen. My only concern with this recipe is her use of an entire egg. Had I read the asterisk (oops, a rookie mistake which I don’t usually make), I would have started off with just adding in the egg yolk, and maybe adding a bit of ice cold water if it was too dry. Instead, I ended up having to add more flour because the addition of an entire egg made my dough too moist. Easy fix, and it was still delicious, but it could have been a baking disaster.

How to cope without pie weights.

This is what my pan looked like pre-oven, per the directions. I wanted to make a bunch of mini-tarts, and succeeded in that; however, I have since moved up in the world from a muffin pan to actual smaller tart pans. I am very much looking forward to testing them out on this week’s endeavor.

For the pudding, I was going to use this recipe, but decided to take the easier route with boxed pudding. I know, it was a cheater’s move, but at least I used Cook ‘n Serve over Instant!

Must watch this pot for boiling!

It seemed to take forever for the pudding to get to a boiling point, but that is what happens when you have to watch the pot. Pudding involves nearly constant stirring, because of its rather delicate nature, so stir, stir, stir, until that boil arrives. Okay, that sounded gross, and please ignore the fact that vanilla pudding has a pus-like color, because that just makes it worse. I wonder if I’d boiled it a bit longer, if mine would have set better. I shall be testing this out, of course.

3 Ripe Bananas

Next came the bananas, which I had let ripen as in the photo above, not too soft and smushy-gross, kind of perfect cereal bananas. And then, well, this photo speaks for itself:

The ghosts play a mean trick.

Luckily, I saw this before I almost stepped on it. Honestly, the things I have to put up with!

Moving on, I added the bananas when the pudding was still warm, but I think I might have wanted to add them in afterwards, because they got kind of smushy. Anyway, I then dumped the mixture into the baked tart shells, and then added the meringue as per the pudding recipe above that I neglected to make.

Banana tarts!

And for show, just one tart by itself:

A Single Banana Cream Tart

It was utterly delicious! Final note: make sure to serve right away, as the structural integrity of the meringue does not last long! Happy tarting!

2010 was a pretty big year for me. I got rid of a lot of baggage and clutter from my life, and finally managed to find my way onto a better path in life, one that I think is going to take me amazing places.

I learned a lot about writing and probably one of the most significant things is the importance of calling myself a writer and how wonderful it feels when others introduce me to people as “my writer friend.” Name-calling is oddly meaningful.

The act of becoming the person I’ve always imagined myself to be has been downright earth-shattering. As my entire world crumbled around me, while it was incredibly painful, it was also wonderfully liberating. The realm of things I no longer wanted in my life, ways in which I could no longer bear to define myself, slipped away, or crashed to the ground like a broken glass, irreparable. I had choices, like: sweep it all under the rug and build a new self on the crumbled foundation, or, what I actually did, which was demolish the rubble into dust and plant some seeds, which will need to be nurtured as I mature in the definitive act of becoming someone I like.

Such a simple, silly thing, liking oneself, isn’t it?

This brings me to the obligatory New Year’s post. Most times, on December 31st, I’ve felt completely alone, even when I was married to the d-bag, even if I was dating someone, I’ve felt isolated and cut off from the world, in my own little corner of the world. It’s been heart-breakingly lonely, and many times, I’ve preferred this isolation for ringing in the new year all alone, in a crusty old apartment with my kitties.

This year was different. I have an amazing support system of family and friends in my life, and this year, I really felt it. I’m not simply speaking of this one single day of the year, but year-round: I have noticed something special in the relationships I have with my family and friends. I am so very lucky to have great parents, wonderful siblings, and more friends in my life than I have ever thought possible.

And as I gathered around a TV with a group of dear friends, watching the countdown to midnight and the new year, I didn’t think of loneliness, I didn’t think of the bitterness of being single, or any of that old selfish “poor me” bullcrap. I thought about how lucky I am to have lived this long, to have all these wonderful people in my life, supporting not only myself, but each other, through ups and downs, marriages and divorces, successes and disappointments, and everything else.

To all my friends and family, as we turn the page on a new calendar year, I adore you, and I hope that I have been at least a fraction as supportive to you as you have been to me. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have uncovered my self-esteem underneath the pile of rubble that was my life, before I demolished those negative things cluttering up my world.

I look forward to so many more adventures, laughter, tears, successes and dealing with pesky failures that somehow we’ll turn into wins. Alone, I am fearless. I have overcome so much pain and hardship and I’ve done it alone, because I didn’t realize I was so gifted in friendship that I didn’t have to struggle through it by myself. Now that I realize this, I know that we can get through anything, even if it seems to difficult to bear. I don’t have to be fierce in my independence when things get rough because I have this amazing support system, and together, we are mighty.

Turn and Cough

December 31, 2010

The Town Doctor

I am still getting used to this blogging thing, and I’ve been given some more advice. A few of my readers have asked for more specifics on my 5-year contract job. Nice try, boners, this isn’t “Letters from the Contract House,” this is just me, just Roxy Kaye, trying to do something meaningful with her life, trying to get her artwork back out there get back into the world of artists once again.

Excuse me, I shouldn’t have slipped into third person there, it’s a little demeaning, much like the irony in most of the words I post on here. But give me a break, folks, I’m trying to tell the story of Roxy the artist, not Roxy the call girl, okay?

Okay. Deep breath.

Ugh, that reminds me of the perfect anecdote to go with this week’s sketch. Without going into too much detail, this is the town doctor, Doc Popov. This past week, I had to do my first annual check up through the contract house, and it was as unpleasant as the first visit, I am very sorry to say.

“Deep breath,” he said, bowing over me awkwardly. I closed my eyes and tried to go to my happy place, which is what I do when, well, you know. Anyway, then he says, “Turn and cough,” and I am thinking WTF, but I comply, and well, ugh, just beware of this man if you don’t absolutely have to go see a doctor, folks, I am sorry he’s the only one in town.

One more deep breath for me, and I’m off to my happy place. And on that note, happy new year! Hoping these next four years fly by so I can be free of my contract and get a start on my real life, like all of this is just one big dream.

Journal Archives, Post 1

December 28, 2010

Meteor Journal, 1995- 1998

I was digging through my oldest writing journal, and decided to pull out a fun quote and develop it. This journal is seriously starting to fall apart, the spine cracked and the glue no longer holding the pages together. This is okay, because the thoughts are not held together by much, either. What can I say? I was a teenager, and I started writing this journal mere months before my first bout with epilepsy. It gets pretty painful towards the end, actually.

Saturday, August 31, 1996
“And I’d say all life is a Ray Bradbury moonman Mars short story. And I’d say all this as the truth I believe it to be even now.”

I am not sure how deeply I want to develop this quote. I kind of love that I wrote this. I love it as much as I love Rachel Bloom’s Ray Bradbury song.

It’s been far too long since I’ve read any Ray Bradbury, so I am throwing that on my list of things to do this week, alongside “bake margarita cookies, make banana pudding, and write at least three blog entries.”

I think, perhaps, it would be best to leave this quote at that, read some Ray Bradbury, and then write a little short something something afterwards.

Practical Invisibility

December 26, 2010

For a fairly decent chunk of my life, I have felt as though I am invisible. This occurs in many situations, and is most often recognized by myself when I am hanging out with friends. The boys always want to talk to my cuter, thinner, more accessible friends, and I’ve always been okay with that, because I’m usually thinking about at least four different things at once, and prefer not to be pestered with trivial things like caring about what dudes think of me. So while other folks are busy living, I’ve always been the one in the shadows observing, documenting, and inventing fiction, glorious fiction. Some might even call this escapism, and they might very well be right.

A lot of this occurs in a sort of backdoor compartment of my brain. While I’m talking, I’m thinking about other things. While I’m listening to others talk, I am thinking of other things. In this manner, I am never actually “off.” Except for those awful years when anti-convulsants placed their evil little restrictions on this past-time. It took years before the on switch clicked back into place, and I honestly rather hope it is there to stay this time.

The other night, I went out drinking with a bunch of folks, and every once in awhile, someone would turn to me and ask me if I was all right. I am guessing it was because I was a bit glazed over, deep in writing thoughts, brainstorm raging on, sorting out lines of words and organizing future blogs, stories, and ideas. I wasn’t listening, talking, or interacting with the group; I was too busy people-watching, thinking, and writing things down in my head, and occasionally, putting a few thoughts down on one of the notebooks I always carry with me.

Practical invisibility is the term I give to my way of being. Like there’s a point or a purpose to being cut-off or inaccessible to others. I am pretty sure I have always done this, to an extent, and that I always will, but for the last few years, since my marriage imploded (nod to any friends reading this, who tend to react to my mentioning that as “OMG, why are you still talking about that?”), I have tried to be more practical in my invisibility complex. I shouldn’t complain when I am alone, because I am inaccessible; it’s my own fault, and I must therefore hold an unconscious wish for eternal solitude.

It is a difficult thing to express a lot of the time, because friends who have been in long-term relationships for awhile tend to forget what it means to be alone. They forget it so much that they will say things like, “Oh, I envy you and your quiet life, and all the freedom you must enjoy.” Friends who are in newer relationships seem to cast you out, because of the novelty of their situation, and how they don’t want the reminder of being alone. Then there are the other loners, we who could band together, and take on the world, if not for the stigma of loneliness hanging over our heads like glaring neon signs with arrows pointing us out as “LOSERS.”

But hell with that. We’re not losers. We’re braver than most, going through each day all alone, sorting out issues, problems, conflicts, etc., all under this built-up guise of self-sufficiency. Oh, and we may whine and moan, but we have this freedom those coupled up folks tend to lack and throw back in our so-called loser-y faces. Maybe some of us had something we thought was real once. Maybe some of us were lied to on so hardcore a level, that trust seems an impossible thing. Maybe I should break down the 4th wall, look at the camera, and admit, this “some of us” is what happened to me.

I am practically invisible, and I think I like it that way, pulling away from the group, retreating inside my headspace, and writing down words upon words like that’s where I’ll find the meaning in all of this life-crap. This is why I am digging through all these old journals, trying to find answers in old thoughts and building new ideas out of them, making them better, and eventually, I will start to reappear. Even if right now I am only a thin outline, one day, I will attain visibility, and after that, maybe I’ll work on being corporeal again.

First Day

December 23, 2010

It was brought to my attention by someone that I should perhaps post my artwork first and then my vignette afterwards, so I am going to try that this week. My take on that is, “Yay, someone reads my blog!”

This sketch is entitled, “How to Get a Girl’s Number,” and it is of Bertie, the mannequin stationed outside the town doctor’s office. The town doctor is all part of the “day one blues” around these parts, if you happen to be in my line of work and new to the area. My first visit to Doc Popov’s office was confusing, weird, and left me with a desire to never return again, which of course is unavoidable once you’ve signed a 5-year contract with a house and he’s the only doctor in town.

The rules of Doc Popov’s office are thus: if you don’t have an appointment, you take a number. If you do have an appointment, you receive a number in the mail, and if you skip your appointment, the doctor will come to you, and you won’t like it. Also, if you want, you have the option of having a number tattooed on your person as part of the Welcome Center package. Once a number is assigned to a person, from what I understand, it is then taken out of Bertie’s rotation. Most of the other girls at the house have opted for the tattooing, but as I promised my parents I wouldn’t mutilate my flesh until after they’re both deceased, I suppose I will have to be content with making appointments or dealing with Bertie.

When I asked one of my co-workers, Amber Bamber, why she opted for the tattoo, she told me, “Because tricks like a chick with ink, and besides, dealing with Bertie is a major pain in the ass.” Funny, I thought, her tramp stamp of “810” certainly seemed to be like it was a major pain slightly above the ass. I guess we choose our own pain, and in this indecisive and troubling world in which we live, at least some things are still up to us. This brings me back to the irony of tattoos vs. my parents. If they knew what I was doing here in Scurvytown on my “Art Fellowship,” they would probably prefer I got inked instead. I just have to keep telling myself, “It’s only five years, and it’ll more than pay for my student loans. There are worse ways to get by, like selling out to corporate Lost America.”

I mean, had I sold out, I could be working the perfume counter at a major department store in the city back home, and I’d be no better off than Bertie. I’d be forced to work on my art at night, and in the early morning hours, and I’d probably rather sleep after being on my feet all day. Obviously, I can’t tell the future, but I know myself, and I know that 9-5 mentality would crush every last ounce of artistic aspirations out of me. My muse would choke to death on the thick scent of over-priced rose-water bearing the names of washed out pop stars. At least while I am here, I am meeting new people, learning a lot about life, and making so many mistakes every single day that I feel I am getting a more solid education than my 4 years at University ever afforded me. The price-tag on experience is faded so much that no one remembers anymore what it costs.

Journaling

December 22, 2010

Last week, I filled the very last page of a writing journal I’ve been keeping since Fall 2008.

In the early pages of the journal is a little story that I wrote while sitting in the waiting room at my dentist’s office. The story is called, “All Tomorrow’s Pirates,” and it’s about a pirate named Captain Tullis who hasn’t been a pirate for sometime, due to his dedication to rampant drunkenness, and is stuck in the middle of his intervention, daydreaming about his escape from the awkward confrontation.

A year and a half after I wrote that, Scurvytown was born. Funny how an idea festers in the mind until it’s ripe and ready to be produced into something more. I am really happy with the way Scurvytown has progressed. I embraced fearlessness by posting raw content, barely edited (and at times painfully so), because I knew it was a good idea. I always considered those first few posts as “season one” of a fledgling series. I think that taking a little break to re-group and develop some ideas was actually a vital part of the writing process.

Part of the writing process of course is reading a lot and journaling; both of these are things that I tend to slack on as a writer. When I got laid off in November, I decided to re-group my entire life, and that meant starting to do this writer thing right, and that means reading more and writing something, anything every single day (and social media blatherings only count when I need something for my sentence-a-day project).

When I completed those last blank pages in my current writing journal, I was thrilled. Since I recently moved to a new place, I discovered my collection of notebooks that have served me well as writing journals, dating back to 1995, when I was a senior in high school, and had just started taking college classes. I took a photo (but have since filled in some of the gaps with 2 other notebooks I found).

Journaling since 1995

The meteoric journal was a Christmas gift back in 1995, and it is filled with silly ramblings of a teenaged me. The book is half-way filled, and stretches out all the way to 1998. Now, I have since found a writing journal I kept for a college creative writing class from 1997. The saddest entry in this journal is the last one. I have a card from my great-grandmother’s funeral marking the page, and a soul-crushingly sobtastic entry about coping with epilepsy that reveals to me now that I was so very lost when I was that over-medicated.

Next is the blue butterfly journal, which starts in 2001. (Side note- I found a poetry journal that is different from all my other poetry notebooks that actually is from 2000). The blue butterfly book is half-way full and actually has a lot of interesting thoughts about life when I was begininning to pull myself back into the world, working at the glue factory, and applying to graduate school for the first time. I didn’t get in, but I made a waiting list at a very prestigious school in Massachusetts. I feel now that I was lucky not to get accepted at the time, because I’ve oddly developed my writing so much differently on my own than I would have through traditional educational means. I’ve lived my life the hard way, messing up a lot and making a lot of mistakes. I’ve learned so much from these mistakes, that I feel like it outweighs the education I might have received 10 years ago. I am a late bloomer in so very many ways that I truly feel I was not ready for graduate school then, but I certainly am now. Once again, I feel the need to mention how much I love the program I am currently enrolled in at Northern Kentucky University. It definitely is the right school for me, and I found it at the perfect time in my life to complete my metamorphosis from a just getting by slack-about to a serious writer.

The first part of the radioactive pink book is Chapter 13 of my 2004 NaNoWriMo work, “Jane of the Waking Universe.” The title of the work is a Guided By Voices song, one of my favorites. Excerpt: “What was it about dying that made Jane so thirsty?” Cool chapter, it’s called “Blood,” and it’s all about sisters, which is something I know very little about, other than being a sister to 5 boys. Lots of poems and ramblings later, and 2005’s NaNoWriMo also makes an appearance in this journal. I forget the title of this one, but my main character’s name was Mericat Preud’homme, and it was my very first time-travel novel. There is a single entry at the end from 2006, one from 2007, and one from 2008. The 2008 entry is kind of amazing and is what made me realize that I need to do a blog series on the ridiculous and funny things I discover about myself and writing throughout the years.

Oh yeah, that’s right, blog series! Because once this entry hit 600 words, I was already pretty sure there was more to this than a single blog entry can cover. Yay!

Second Chances

December 18, 2010

This post is not actually about second chances, but it is about a brand new finger puppet poem I wrote today.

This poem is called “A Second Chance for Sparks McHooven” and it is about a seahorse named Sparks and his co-hort, a shark named Maximus Finn.

Here is a photo of them:

Here is a recording of the poem, caution, NSFW: A Second Chance for Sparks McHooven

There is a disclaimer at the beginning, due to some content that might be sensitive to some members of the listening audience.

I hope you enjoy listening to my totally messed up subversive children’s stories!

Note: I like the part in the one-take podcast where I mess up Sparks’s name (towards the very end). It sounds like I am foreign and trying to maintain my American accent, but apparently, I am simply clumsy with the talking thing.