Simplify, Simplify.

Since coming back to work at Drury, I’ve been reminded of how things get done in a big organization:
Slowly.
I’ve heard the cliche more than once: A committee asked to design a horse will come back with a camel (harhar).

True, sometimes that kind of outside-the-box creativity is spot on (i’m never one to backtalk creativity in the face of rules-following. nuh-uh.) but sometimes you just need a horse.
That’s it.
Not three meetings later.
Now.

This week I’m learning that a committee asked to design a brochure can come back with a novel, and I’m reminded of one of the golden rules of writing: simplify, simplify.
(Another golden rule: throw around Thoreau references as needed.)

Simplicity. The surest way to eliminate sentences that make you gag. Also the surest way to outsmart the English section on the ACT. 99% of the time, the simplest answer is the correct one.

(Pauses for a moment to recognize hypocrisy of own oft-verbose bloggery. Pause, Pause…okay.)

So back to the brochure. In the interest of being explicitly clear, people can turn:
11:30-1:00 Lunch
into
Lunch will be continually served from 11:30 to 1:00

And we will be continually eating it.

An editors’ listserv I subscribe to went apeshit last week over the use of “lagniappe” meaning, something given as a bonus or gift. This group of word-nerds is onto something: there really is something about just the right word.

Who wants a “gift” when you could have a “lagniappe”?
Who wants a boring old horse when you could have a zebra?

(Well, someone who wants a horse, that’s who.)

Sometimes lunch is just lunch.
Simplify.

{an analogy as shaky as my running legs}

Tonight was my first weather-is-nice run since I don’t know when.

To say that I fell off the wagon after the marathon would be slightly less than accurate.

(If my running habits were portrayed in a western-style television miniseries, I’d have fallen off the wagon early in episode 1, in a tragic river-fording incident of some sort. The remaining party would mourn, and perhaps hang a solitary tin-type photo of me in their new Montana cabin, but I would be ultimately forgotten by all for weeks at a time, only to show up in the finale as the gun-toting stranger who saves the day.
That’s how much I’ve fallen off the wagon. Way much.)

Nifty thing about running though, it just comes back. Even in 25 minutes, I can feel myself feeling better.
And I know I’ll continue to feel better.
And while running’s the one time I get to care absolutely nothing about how I look, I know in a while I’ll look better as a result. And my clothes will fit better. (Let’s not talk to my dress pants about the PTSD they’ve been through this winter…you know, pudgy-tummy-stress-disorder.)

The best part is the feel-better starts right away. It makes no physical sense, but I actually feel taller. I breathe a little deeper. My eyes are a little wider.

As of tomorrow I’ve been eating vegetarian for two weeks. (Thanks, J.S.F! I finished Eating Animals and started a new life path. So far so good.) Only setback so far has been the realization that I can’t eat non-breakfast at Steak & Shake without making a meal out of side dishes…
I’m hopeful that between my new eating and renewed running habits, I’ll have enough energy to survive the semester. Stay tuned!

PS–if you haven’t watched the trailer for Eat Pray Love yet, do it right this instant. I’m developing a meaningful long-term relationship with this trailer, it’s so good.

making junk up.

This has been a big week for capturing little moments.

I already extolled the wonders of commercial street antique shops (though I forgot to mention the inscription on the Bridgefield Galleries storefront: “a brocante,” meaning, a flea market in france. divine! Oh, and one of the owners asked if I was on spring break… Bless his soul.)

Next little moment:
I had a near-Larry David experience in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

I spied a parking spot from one row over, just two spots from the front. Jackpot. Only one car was in front of me, a big, red, handicap-tagged cadillac. As in, has the pick of all the close spots he could ever want. And what does he do? TAKES the non-reserved close spot like it ain’t no thing…blatant waste of his handicap-tag and slap in my able-bodied face. I threw up my hands, “C’MON! This guy and his handicap tag took my non-handicapped spot. Anyone?!”
I had to park rows back as a result, baffled and embittered. Injustice.

Other little moment:
Mom has been hanging out with me this week, using part of her spring break to help me pack and do house stuff. Tuesday night we decided to go to Borders for a little peaceful browsing. I pulled into the parking lot minutes before she did, and noticed something was amiss. Cars were lined up along the back curb, a crowd swarmed in front of the store, and a tour bus emblazoned with the image of an angry, beefy man blocked the entrance.
That’s right. I was in Borders with Dog the Bounty Hunter.
Mom, bless her heart, isn’t well versed in the b-sides of reality television, so she didn’t realize what a treat we were in for. While we watched from across the parking lot, Dog’s wife (I don’t watch the show either…so don’t ask me her name) came out to greet the fans lined up outside. “Is that him, that blonde-headed looking thing?” she asked, not taking her now-frightened eyes of of her. (In mom’s defense, the two have similar mullets and sun-ruddied complexions.)
By the time we worked our way inside the store, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much, and it took conscious effort to unwiden my eyes. Snaking between the shelves was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen in a bookstore, many brandishing digital cameras in one hand, whose flashbulbs elicited continual loudspeaker reprimand from the bookstore staff, and wailing, kool-aid-mouthed toddlers in the other.
“Please do not use flash photography. This isn’t hard, people,” was about the fourth announcement I heard.
“What a beyitch,” one fan replied from behind her cellphone camera.
Now I must pause. Let’s be clear: I’m not a nice person sometimes. As much as I admire my late grandma’s maxim, “it takes all kinds,” I question its validity when in the presence of folks whose definition of “book” and “author” and “hygiene” differs so vastly from mine.
By the time Dog and his entourage left the building, my ears were ringing from shouts of “Dog! Dog! Dog!” A final cheer arose as the bus pulled away, and then…silence. Masking tape arrows on the ground, abandoned Big Gulp containers on shelves, and wearied looks on the Borders staff’s faces were all that remained of the oft-toothless throngs.
One employee pushed a broom past me. “That’s more like it,” he said.
“Yes, this is the Borders I know and love,” I replied.
(Beyitch.)

Yet another little moment:
Wednesday night a bunch of us Skinny Improv folks did a workshop with Brian Jack, an improviser from Chicago. If you want to see how rock-awesome long-form improv can be, check out this clip. (It’s from a couple years ago, but he’s the dude in the light blue shirt and tie.)

They’re so good, I want to invent a new expletive to express it. (Like Liz Lemon introduced last night, with “whuck?”) Bill Murray called improv “the most important group work since they built the pyramids,” and otherworldy group-mind like theirs proves it’s true.

Improv is, as we like to say, making junk up. But it’s also about building relationships, making and noticing patterns, creating art in the moment, learning to think without judging or filtering. (Obviously I need help thinking without judgement, see above.) It’s just fun to jam without an audience for a while, and be reminded there’s always more for me to learn.
A big lesson I jotted down: Always DO something. Even if it’s just BEing where you are. Do something.
That’s pretty good advice for life, no?