October 1, 2010

Plowing through dirt, dust and spelling tests

When I was in the first grade a mean, old crotchety and possibly repressed lesbian teacher named Ms. Tipton would give us spelling tests on the overhead projector. Frank would turn off the lights and for about twenty minutes we’d sit in the dark and scribble the words she’d bark out to the class. After each word, she’d project the correct spelling onto the big screen; quite a dramatic approach to spelling. One afternoon before the lights were turned off, I approached Ms. Tipton.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I timidly whispered.

“We’re taking our spelling test now, get back to your seat,” she snarled with her stale coffee breath.

Defeated, I returned to my chair and waited for the darkness to come. During the test I had trouble concentrating since I was using every cell in my body to hold back the gallon of piss in my tiny bladder. Finally I reached my breaking point and in a moment of utter desperation I let loose. I’ll never forget the warm relief that catapulted throughout my body as the piss saturated my pants. Reminds me of the first time I drank incredibly amazing red wine in Napa Valley – pure bliss flooded through my veins and for a brief moment I was in sync with the ecstasy of life.

The sweet relief only lasted about two minutes and the drenched pants grew cold, leaving me shivering in my chair. I made the colossal mistake of telling my “friend” Heather what had happened. She promptly got up and conspired with a group students, so when Frank turned on the lights and announced, “There’s a puddle of water under Simone’s chair”, another young boy from across the room yelled out, “That’s not water, that’s pee!” Laughter ensued and I was sent to the nurse’s office for my mom to pick me up. But not before Ms. Tipton asked me why I didn’t just leave the room to use the bathroom.

Her inquiry left me baffled. Why would I deprive myself of such a basic human need? Was it my fear of authority, or my people pleasing? That event subconsciously planted an enduring message into my impressionable brain – plow through and ignore your needs. And if you piss your pants don’t tell anyone.

A couple days ago I was hiking on Gridley Trail – turns out the county doesn’t clearly mark the signposts and I ended up on an entirely different trail and got lost without a person in sight. I turned a corner and spotted a dog, “Oh good, his owner must be nearby!” But when that ratty little creature stood up, I realized that was no dog – that was a mutherfucking coyote. I was beyond exhausted after trudging ten miles through the mountains in the high heat for almost four hours and – get this – no water.

I stood in the middle of a path, stranded and dehydrated, and came to a moment of complete rout. I didn’t know what to do – should I walk back and try to find the other trail, or should I forge ahead in hopes to get to a main road? The objective was to walk as little as possible without crumbling to my death. Which direction would be the shorter route? I collapsed to the ground and prayed like a whore in church on that dusty path, my salty face buried in the palms of my filthy hands. Earlier I had come to a breakthrough in my writing, and now my brilliant solution would die with me on the Los Padres Mountains.

The tears stopped, although I don’t think there were actual tears because my body was deplete of water, and I calmed down enough to hear a small voice inside say, keep going forward (you over-dramatic idiot), there’s a road ahead, and construction workers who can help you… I pulled my weary body off the ground and plowed head.

I had just one more panic attack when I came around a bend and the scenery looked exactly the same as a mile back. I thought that evil mountain was fucking with me, as in “The Blair Witch Project”. Instead I trusted the little voice and kept walking until I reached Foothill Road. I heard the sound of a large machine, the kind that moves dirt on construction sites and I wobbled my way onto the private property. I’m pretty sure I looked very similar to Chevy Chase in “Vacation” after he had walked through the desert. Delirious and insane.

“Excuse me,” I gasped to a Latino man next to his truck. “I’m lost. I’ve been hiking since 10 a.m. and I don’t have water. And I’m lost. And I’m freaking out.” My lips stuck to my teeth like Fire Marshall Bill.

“Do you want some water?” He laughed and pointed to a giant orange cooler. They didn’t have cups but I didn’t care, I leaned under the spout and let the water pour into my desiccated mouth. The relief that quenched my cracked lips and erupted down my throat was better than any glass of red wine, pissing after holding it in for too long, and possibly even better than sex. Yes, it was better than sex.

When one is so close to death, any ounce of pride is shot out the window, and I had no problem begging those men to please give me a ride back to my car because, “I would rather curl up on the side of the road and die than walk another inch.” They laughed and while I appreciated they got my humor, I really just wanted a fucking ride. The dude on the plow truck spewed off directions to get me back to my car that sounded a lot like a shit ton of walking. I looked down at my feet and sighed, “Fuuuuuck.”

He saw my resignation. Also, he realized I wasn’t going anywhere, so he jumped down and walked to his truck to give me a ride. Good thing he did because my car was three miles away and there was no way I would have made it back. I had already gone 13 miles. I was done.

Some new lessons were ingrained in my brain to replace the old ones that definitely are not working. I can safely say from now on if I ever go hiking I’ll bring water and possibly a cell phone (maybe a gun for random coyotes or sabertooth tigers).

The real lesson learned: Stop pushing myself so hard and depriving myself of basic human needs.

Had I listened to my body I would have turned around long before and with a clear mind stayed on the right trail back to my car. Instead I drove myself to the brink of delirium and made a poor choice that landed me down a path of potential doom.

I’m glad my mom never taught me not to talk to strangers because one saved my life that day.

Thanks, Cory – may you always have plenty of dirt to plow.

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

September 2, 2010

It’s a wrap

In a couple of weeks I’ll be wrapping up this acid reflux inducing freelance gig and heading up to Ojai for a month-long retreat where I plan to write my ass off. Or not. I may just sleep all day long. Take meditative strolls along the mountain paths. Nap. Stare off into the pink horizon. Play guitar. Nap. Eat healthy foods. Let’s face it, I’m going up there to check out and isolate from everyone.

This retreat is the ideal way to quit life without having to kill myself.

While away, I don’t know if I’ll do blog updates because I need to work on my novel I’ve neglected these past seven months. And if all goes well with a very important meeting next week, well, I could be working on a movie script. Honestly, the main agenda is: 1) getting the fuck out of Los Angeles for an extended period of time and 2) not working in advertising for a little while.

(Dear God, if you are reading my blog, when I say “a little while” I actually mean “forever". As you are well aware, I’d love to get out of the ad game altogether because I’m old, exhausted, and mildly suicidal. And I just said “ad game” – do you see what I've turned into? If I do have to continue working in a field that makes my heart cringe and my soul shatter into tiny fractions, I’d appreciate working in a less toxic environment, one that doesn’t cause me to get severe acid reflux and horrible bouts of depression. p.s. If I do sell the movie script, I’d be incredibly nice to people, even homeless people.)

So anyway, the nights get pretty cold up in those mountains and I’m going to need some sort of outerwear to wrap around my weary, old lady bones. I considered a poncho, but immediately pictured Drew Barrymore, and while I enjoy her whimsical attempt at acting, that’s not my style. I was thinking maybe a Snuggie because I will need the use of my hands for all of the writing I plan to do between naps, but I don’t think I can bring myself to buy that retched thing. I’ll probably just cut a hole out of the middle of a fleece blanket and wear that on those chilly evenings.

As I work out these important details, I’m curious if any of my readers (the two of you) would be interested in updates regarding my adventures in Ojai. Something to the effect of – ‘here’s what I discovered today’. Although, I’d probably post the same thing every day: “Today I realized how much I love not working. Oh, and naps are fucking incredible.”

I’ll probably do some random postings. I don’t know. I might be too serene to be snarky. And nobody, especially me, wants to read sappy, peace-loving horseshit.

p.s. Per my last post, have you been counting the exorbitant amount of times people incorrectly use the word “like” in a sentence. It’s awful. When I catch myself, I deliberately start the sentence over - as punishment for sounding stupid.

Can you picture me on a mountain top in a Snuggie?

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

July 15, 2010

An excerpt from "Letters from the Dead"

“I miss you,” he says from the couch.

“What do you miss?” I am confused and not sure why I’m sitting on my old loveseat in the Culver City house I left behind years ago. The couches are in the same position, facing each other. A giant mirror hangs above his couch. There are many mirrors here, yet they are void of any reflection.

“I miss playing music with you.”

“I miss parts of you,” I answer softly, looking at my feet, avoiding eye contact.

“The others aren’t like you.” His voice is scratchy and choked up. He holds back tears.

“What am I doing here?” I walk to the window and gaze at the front lawn. The front yard has turned into a vast sea of hills and valleys, stretching for miles.

“I asked you to come back.” He stands up and approaches me.

“I don’t want to be here.” I move closer to the front door.

“Let’s go for a ride.” He touches my shoulder.

“There’s nowhere to go.” I open the door.

“Don’t leave me,” He begs, with streams of tears rolling down his boyish cheeks.

“You were the one who left.” I exit the house and step into an empty gray silence that encases me like fog.

I walk into the desolate valley before me, carrying rocks in my hands. A familiar throbbing pulls at my throat and pulsates in my chest. Waves twist and swim in my stomach. Bitter bile fills my mouth. This pain is familiar. A thick cloud of eerie silence hangs over my head. The air is hazy and motionless like before a storm. I want the clouds to break open, split right down the middle. I squeeze the rocks tightly in my hands, slowly descending into the valley, dropping fragments from my clenched fists with each exhale. My hands are now empty. There is only open space before me. I am alone in the valley.

Note: I will be publishing Letters from the Dead in the next week or so, and wanted to share a sample of the work. The book contains 100 essays based on my dreams. Slightly different from my blog Simone Says..., yet still dark and disturbing. 

Keep writing. It saves lives.

April 13, 2010

Regulations are the leading cause of rebellion and chicanery

I grew up in a suburb of D.C. where selling alcohol was prohibited. Funny thing is, everyone within the 3-mile radius of Kensington ended up a drunk, or worse. I used to blame the town for my troubles, until I came across a photo of my younger brother. It wasn’t until Peter pointed out the Playboy nonchalantly sitting on the table next to my infant brother, that I decided maybe I was being too hard on K-town.

My parents did the best they could (I guess) and I love them, but the combination a backwater country girl and an Italian city slicker, makes for a very confusing upbringing. It’s a miracle their three kids graduated from college (barely), never went to jail (well, one of us might have been arrested), or damaged any property (not true, I caught some stuff on fire). I find it astonishing that they would leave me charge whenever they went to Atlantic City to gamble away our college fund. They were fully aware of my ineptness for giving a shit about anything, so why would they leave their other two children (who they liked a lot more than me) and their beloved home in my care? I think they were on drugs.

When my folks went to the movies, I’d invite friends over to guzzle as much Milwaukee's Best as we could in two hours, so you can imagine the utter debauchery that took place when they left town. Or maybe you can’t. Maybe you were a good kid and obeyed your parents. Perhaps you didn’t start stealing your father’s cigarettes at the age of ten, or raiding the liquor cabinet when nobody was looking... If you were a golden child, then you won’t understand how something as innocent as a birthday gathering with five girlfriends could end up with your younger sister puking up gallons of wine coolers (along with a wad a gum that we swore was an undigested French fry) on the living room rug, a broken window, footprints on the wall, holes in the ceiling and cigarette burns on the floor.

The last time my folks left me in charge (and it was definitely the LAST time), I had a big party. It wasn’t much fun for me because I spent the entire night cleaning up after everyone, like a street sweeper removing every last bit of evidence. By Sunday morning the house was sparkling clean. To avoid any unnecessary grilling, my sister and I left before our parents returned (note: I have no recollection of my brother’s whereabouts). We were at a friend’s house watching Dirty Dancing for the 100th time when the phone rang…

Our friend muffled back some laughter and said, “Simone and Adrienne, your mom found two roaches and a roach clip. You need to go home.”

After a brief moment of panic, I devised a lie and called the house, “Mom – it’s not mine. It’s Jonathan’s.” Jonathan, bless his devious little heart, was our go-to scapegoat anytime we got caught for anything. And it was believable because 85% of the time he was guilty. Poor bastard, he didn’t stand a chance in our neighborhood.

“Come on, Simone, do you think I’m stupid?” My mom was completely irritated (um, YES – you’re the one who left your 16-year old alcoholic, pothead, hopeless wreck of a daughter in charge...)

“Mom, if it was mine, don’t you think I’d do a better job at hiding it?” That was a true statement –I was a stealthy little bitch.

“Either way, the house is entirely too clean, I know you had a party when I told you not to. You’re on restriction. Get home now.”

This was nothing new - I spent the majority of my high school existence “on restriction”, and a lot of good that did for the cause. I really don’t know how to end this blog because I’m still trying to figure out if Jonathan set me up. Moral of the story - don’t smoke pot, or smoke it. Whatever. It’s legal in most places. Except Kensington.

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

January 14, 2010

Why Social Networking is Vital to Our Survival

I’ve been offline for a week to focus on my book, but mostly because I needed a break. During this time I have contracted some deadly disease that has knocked me on my butt and kept me in bed for days. My dog won’t come near me, and poor Peter has had to run out and buy me stuff. Is there nothing more attractive than a man who steps up? I almost asked him to marry me a couple of times, but realized I should wait until I look and smell less like a swamp creature. Plus he’s been avoiding eye contact and it’s tough to ask someone to marry you if they won’t look at you.

This past week as I lay on my deathbed coughing and aching in excruciating pain (my brain actually hurts from coughing), I’ve realized how important social networking is for me – for all of us, really. First of all, I’m pretty sure it’s not a coincidence that I suddenly became deathly ill the moment I stepped away from my various websites and went off the grid. Incredible insights came to me, like how little I care about anything or anyone when I’m not connected to the internet. It’s apparent that without social networking I would die alone.

I made a list of why I think social networking is so important for our survival:

1. Keeps us physically healthy (this could be a coincidence, but I’m not taking anymore risks)
2. Teaches us to be altruistic by simply clicking a button to join a cause (great for self-worth)
3. We get invited to events we’ll never attend (it boosts our self-confidence to be included)
4. Endless supplies of potentially humorous videos or articles (laughter is the best medicine)
5. Stretches our creativity to come up with witty one-liners (challenges others to be more interesting)
6. Increases awareness about how much worse things could be (gratitude is good for the soul)
7. Continual updates on kids’ pooping and vomiting patterns (helps to deter population growth)
8. Alerts us when our friends are isolating and encourages us to reach out (brings us together)
9. Reminds us to wish Happy Birthday to people we hardly know (recognition boosts our confidence)

I’m still extremely sick and the medication is taking up a lot of my energy, but I’m sure there are hundreds of other reasons why social networking is vital to our survival. My final wish is that my near death experience has enlightened some of you as to how lucky we are to have these amazing technologies.

p.s. Peter edited this for me which is why there aren’t any curse words, and I apologize for that.

(editor’s note: the p.s. is bullshit!)

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

January 5, 2010

What would John Steinbeck do?

John Steinbeck is one of America’s most well known authors – he wrote books that were required reading in most schools and he won a Nobel Prize for Literature (this was back when they weren’t just giving those things away like candy). I was amazed to find out that Johnny struggled with his writing and questioned himself often. In fact, he wrote a book of letters about how much he didn’t want to write the book he was working on, and he believed it to be crap. Oh, the book? East of Eden. So not only did he write an incredible novel, but he also profited from his journal of procrastination. Super genius.

If Steinbeck could get away with finding distractions and still be successful, I thought taking time away from my novel would be okay… I wrote a blog and read it to Peter, and he says, “that sounds like you”. Clueless, I ask, “what the hell is that supposed to mean?” He says something about how my writing is always centered on me. Really? When’s the last time you wrote a blog? Oh, that one last year about the half-monkey people who were shackled and walking into a death camp – because that’s what people want to read… (I didn’t say that last part out loud). I shake my head and smugly say, “well, yeah, I’m a narcissist.” Then he wrinkles up his forehead and comes back with, “you’re not a narcissist; you’re more like a solipsist”. I bite my tongue and nod because I can’t remember what that word means, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a compliment.

1. Philosophy. The theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist.
2. Extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.



Perhaps procrastination was a novel idea for John Steinbeck, but I don’t think I can pull this off. I’m going to stop now and work on my next chapter.

Keep writing. It saves lives.