Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gerbils Vs. Barbie Doll Townhouse

Yep, I'm anti-Xmas. I can't say it was one specific incident that led me to throw in the itchy polyester Santa hat. It may be part of my decline into a bitchy, solitary middle-age. Bill O'Reilly's freak out a while back might have been the last nail in the red and white coffin but the first one was ages ago.

While growing up in rural Nevada, my Dad used to shell out pretty big for my presents. It was the one time of year my Mom would pop a fuse if he failed to spend at least a hundred bucks on me. The rest of the time, he conveniently (and thriftily) forgot he had a third child living with the ex-wife far from the balmy golf courses of California.

When I was 10, the big present I bleated for was a Barbie Doll Townhouse. Not that I actually owned any Barbies. (My staunch feminist leanings were beginning to show). I just wanted a place for Johnny West and family to live and a split-level would be ideal so they could park the plastic ponies downstairs.

When I opened my present, I was a little disappointed in the Townhouse. It was two panels of cardboard printed on one side with some plastic yellow pillars to hold up the other floors.

Johnny West and his pardn'rs weighed more than the whole thing. When I tried to seat Johnny in one of the upper floors, the cardboard sagged perilously.

One day, bored with the whole plastic horse/plastic cowboy collection, I left them strewn in my room. I also had my gerbil family out running free range across the Linoleum. I shut the door of my room and went outside to play in the Siberian-like weather.

When I came back a few hours later, I was shocked to find the house completely collapsed. One yellow pillar was under my bed, and suspiciously, an entire section of printed cardboard had been dragged over to the entrance of the gerbil's cage. My Barbie Doll Townhouse had been reduced to a massive pile of carefully shredded bedding by the industrious gerbils.

Sulking and whining, I kicked the gerbil family rudely out of their fine pile of cardboard and took it out to my Mom where she laughed her ass off. She called the relatives and they all had a good laugh too.

I sulked on the couch and threatened to let our tabby cat, Freddy, have his way with my indolent pet rodents.

I'm not sure if there's anything in this besides some gerbil bedding ... but I don't know that I benefited from being brought up to believe -- like every other kid in America -- that Xmas was just about getting stuff. Just stuff. Usually plastic, guaranteed to break or end up in the back of the closet due to dis-interest.

There are only two presents guaranteed to enthrall children for more than five minutes. A shiny set of keys if they are under three and bedtime story books until they are 12.

If I had kids, I'd stay far from the malls and farther from Toys-R-Us. Forget the lead paint scare. Teach them to play without all the plastic.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Vain Attempt at Motivation ...

In an effort to escape the cubicle prairie, I submitted copies of a short story I wrote about nine months ago.

A really old, professor-y guy up at Hugo House looked it over in October and right away said, "Why haven't you been published?"

Then he told me about this sea of (mostly) college-based literary anthologies floating on the edge of the fiction publishing world. This ain't literature you would find in the airport gift shop. But since I am PRO-art/writing and since I am PRO-independent anything, I'm plowing through a few of these, even if they don't pick my story to print.

The most prestigious of the lot is McSweeney's, which was founded by Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius which sat on the New York Times best seller list for quite a while.

The others are:

Hayden's Ferry Review, which I'm reading right now. Not to brag, but the competition in this one just doesn't look that intimidating. Do these writers really all have PhDs in literature?

This one's based out of Purdue University. You can tell by the very serious font.

This one's out of a Texas university. Note the southwestern motif.

This one's out of Boise State U. I didn't know the literacy rate was high enough in the Potato State to support a college English department, let alone an annual literary anthology. I always thought Idaho was full of meth labs, Mormons, people missing too many teeth, pickups and neo-Nazis. Now, if they'd just build a really big fence around it ...

This one's out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which makes more sense. They have lots of time to read in Alaska.

So in six months, hopefully, the SASEs containing rejection letters will began to flow in. Yeah, that was 40 bucks in shipping an' copies well spent.