Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I've Been 27 for a Day. What's Next?

A few things change for a birthday. My mom, who's usually on the computer by the time I wake up, usually after 8, let me have it after I finished breakfast yesterday. I don't mind not getting on right away, and in fact, I don't really have an aching need to get on right away, since I'm not at that point of beginning to write one of my books. Still researching.

Lunch was a great surprise. Meridith made a plate of her incredible deviled eggs, and with a container of Dannon Greek Yogurt (Blueberry), I was ok with seeing my diet go straight to hell. That's fine for this week, since it also includes whatever my sister chooses for her birthday dinner tomorrow, and one day of the weekend spent at Ventura Harbor Village, and Andria's, which has the best clam chowder I've ever had. Mom asked if there was anywhere special I wanted to go, and I thought of Universal CityWalk, but there's nothing really there that attracts me, nothing that I haven't seen the last time we went. Then I thought of the Getty Center, and I went to their website, but no current exhibits spark anything in me like when we saw the food-centered photography and those panoramic photos of parts of New York City.

Meridith came up with the genius idea of something for both of us, something that we both really like, and that something is Ventura Harbor Village. It's so peaceful, taking you away from everything that could possibly be bothering you. Since nothing is bothering me and I intend to keep it that way, I fill that extra space with pure pleasure, and Ventura Harbor Village has got a lot of it on hand for me. Not just Andria's, but the arcade on the same property, with a few pinball machines, including "The Simpsons", and the shops all around that sell trinkets that feel so organic to each store. Maybe some were made in China and shipped to those stores, but not all of them.

I waited until Dad and Meridith got home from work to open my hefty gift. I opened the card first, which was a pop-up drive-in movie theater, with cars that had vanity plates such as "I-8-Cake", and the screen had a popcorn box, hot dog, and a piece of cake, and when you pull the tab on the side, back and forth, they move. I love that my parents know me so well, that even with movies being of less importance to me now than they used to be, I still love things like that. But being that books have taken a much more central position in my life, I'm hoping for a book-related card next year. That was an appropriate card, though, considering that my first book was mostly movie-related.

And then I opened the gift. I knew about it, but I was still surprised. It was a stack of bibles written by Neil Simon. Four volumes of all of his plays. This is the writing I worship, such as right at the beginning of "The Odd Couple", in which one of Oscar's friends is frustrated with how slow another is shuffling the cards, and says to him, "Tell me, Mr. Maverick, is this your first time on the riverboat?"

These books will be worn down by heavy use before time. I flipped through random pages, read random lines, and I laughed each time. I don't intend to try to emulate Neil Simon when I begin writing my own plays. In fact, yesterday, I got an idea for a one-man play about the end of power. Political power. I know there's a lot of that in the history of Richard Nixon, but I want to do something different, and the research I'm doing about the history of these presidents as men is a great opportunity to also do research for this possible play. When I read Neil Simon's works, I look for how he implements his unique brand of comedy, his sense of rhythm, his attention to his characters. And I learn from that, much like I'll learn from the one-character and two-character plays I intend to read to get a sense of that form to apply to my own sensibilities.

My birthday dinner was perfect: Cheese quesadillas at Chronic Tacos. And as I sat at that table, while Mom, Dad and Meridith were still eating, I felt completely serene, which I hadn't felt in quite a while. That's not to say I haven't been happy, but more that I wasn't sure what to do next, at least before beginning the research for these two books. But now I not only knew what to do in my writing life, but also how I wanted to do it, and the pleasures that are to come in the many books I intend to read for research. Right now, I'm reading "An Object of Beauty" by Steve Martin, which I started yesterday after finishing "Baltimore Blues" by Laura Lippman. Since that wasn't a work day for me, "An Object of Beauty" carries over from then, but when I finish it, I'm going to pull out one of the dozens of books I have on hand for this project and get serious about this. After all, I've now got a day less than three years to see one of my books published by the time I'm 30.

My birthday cake was more than I had ever expected. I had only expected a banana bread loaf, as the recipe indicated, the one that I had printed out for Meridith. But as with her deviled eggs, she made this one a masterpiece: A banana loaf cake with the walnuts I had picked out for it nestled inside. As it cooled after she took it out of the oven last Sunday, the middle sunk, but that didn't matter to me. She and Mom had put strawberry slices in the middle along with a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar. My sister and I are of the same school of thought: It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be. However it exists, we appreciate it. That's how we do.

The evening was pretty quiet. Not a whole lot to do in this valley, and it was already getting late. I had to put together the freelance writing job newsletter I always do on weeknights, and we watched "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune", just like any other night. And I like those nights. I don't need extravagancy. Saturday or Sunday at Ventura Harbor Village is enough for me.

Tomorrow is Meridith's birthday. Mom and Dad get a one-day break in between. I was going to get her purple bubble wrap, since she loves it (both purple and bubble wrap), but I'd forgotten to research who sells it and for how much. So I'm thinking that besides the book I bought her ("Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition" by Andrew Friedman), I'll cover Adam Lambert's "Glamnation" CD/DVD set that came out today that she really, really wants. And I'll think about purple bubble wrap for her birthday next year, but actually remember to get it.

So now I'm 27. The major changes in me have come from the weight loss and not so much from gaining another year. 27 feels like a comfortable middle, like when you sit in the middle of a slightly sunken couch that has become more comfortable from years of continual use. You open a book, and it's like your own tropical beach, your own stateroom on board an opulent, immaculate cruise ship, a kind of a view that only you know about.

I don't plan to just cruise through 27. I have a lot to do. But I don't have a lot to worry about. Yes, it would be ideal to be brought in as a substitute campus supervisor, but as I've heard it from Dad, when a regular campus supervisor takes a day off, they have to take that day as a furlough day, which means they don't get paid, and a substitute campus supervisor can't be called in. So the staff is just left one person short for that day.

It bothers me, because I'd like the money that comes from that day's work, but it doesn't consume me. I read, I write. I do everything I've always wanted to do. So I'm good. And I know that one day, there'll be a good career to come along to keep me in good financial stead while I write. Either as a campus supervisor, or something in books. That's all I want.

I'm only thinking about 30 in relation to my goal. I'll consider it more when I get there. 27 feels nice, more stable than 26, another layer of maturity added on from what I learned from being 26. Like rings in a tree stump.

So now it's time to see what I can do with 27. And I hope it'll be a lot.


  1. Thanks, Ms. A! A birthday wish from you is like a day filled with laughter, which pretty much means I've just gone back to your blog to read that chili thing again.