life list: funk yes

This is a little story about goals, serendipity, and the difference between wishing and doing.

A month ago, I listed my personal top 40, and on that list was P-Funk’s Give Up the Funk. After a few weeks of listening to those songs over and over, there are some I would drop and some I love even more. “Give Up the Funk” falls into the “even more” category, or the “more and more and more and more!” category.

For reasons I still can’t explain, in late May I was suddenly, strongly, irresistibly seized with the desire to see P-Funk in concert. I’d heard from friends that George Clinton et al provide a fantastic live show; for a few of my friends, it’s been transformative, transcendent. At the very least, it’s full-on funk and fun. I wanted to see it first-hand. I immediately added “See P-Funk live” to my life list.

And — here’s the thing — I also immediately started checking out options. I thought “Gee, maybe they’ll tour sometime in the next year or two, and maybe they’ll come to Boston.” Is it worth a four-hour round-trip to do fulfill a life-list goal? Sure it is!

But it isn’t necessary. I hopped onto George Clinton’s site and discovered to my amazement that
A) P-Funk is currently touring;
B) they’re playing my small city, at a venue walking distance from my home;
C) the show was two weeks away and tickets were still available.

That’s right: because I didn’t spend time wishing and wondering, because I jumped in and started doing, tonight I’m checking an item off my life list: See P-Funk in concert. Oh, funk yes. That’s a little lesson for me: less wishing, more doing.

bubbly count

One item on my life list: drink 100 bottles of bubbly. (And when I reach 100, I might move the goal to 1000.) For the moment, I’m keeping track of the bottles here, which means I’ll update this page every few bottles. (This list is primarily a list of notes for me, so some of the names and events may seem a little cryptic.)

1. The inaugural bottle: shared with AC at her place with J. and The Fella. Baked brie, savory pastries, and Buffy.
2 & 3. Nominally shared with E. (but actually I think I drank most of both bottles) at an impromptu cocktail hour at our place with J., R., and The Fella before going to see The Geek Chorus. Oof.
4. Shared with Gaoo before potluck pizza dinner. A. came over too! Wheee!
5. An evening cocktail party at our place to celebrate the morning soccer match.
6. & 7. Noir Might: Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, and vegetable galettes with R, E, P, and The Fella.
8. AC brought over a bottle of sparkling pink! Very berrylike and fresh, a little sweet, and lovely with the last strawberry late at night.
9. After a two-week stretch of very-sick no-drinking, I shared a bit of a bottle at AC & J’s — the first time J & E joined us for Buffy night! It was also the first wedding anniversary for The Fella and me, and our friends surprised us with a tiramisu festooned with figurines, and an attempt at a happy-anniversary song. So sweet!
10. For a second first-anniversary celebration, a split of prosecco with polenta fries on the patio of the fancy-pants restaurant around the corner. I can check that off my summer list, too!
11 & 12. The first Buffy Might at J & E’s, with AC & J. Gorgeous dinner, great company, lots of bubbly including one that got cork-stuck… but The Fella got it popped.
13. Vinho verde with Gaoo, the sgazzetti contingent visiting from Bulgaria, and Gamma Suzin.
14. The Fella and I had a rare weekday date night together at home, and — to accompany a frankly delicious clean-out-the-fridge dinner — I opened a bottle of prosecco just for myself. That felt like a big deal, to pop a cork just so I could have a glass or two. I think I should do it more often!
15. Another Buffy Night, also Pizza Night. Mmm. The Ploob came along to AC & JE’s too, though he stuck to beer.
16, 17, 18. Buffy Night was Nostalgia Night at E & J’s: an enormous pile of grilled cheese sandwiches, three pots of soup of the evening beautiful soup, and three of us toughed it out through two and a half bottles of fizz. Go, team!
19, 20. Buffy night at AC & JE’s, and an excuse to celebrate the engagement of E & J! Go, team: we knocked back a bottle of cava, a bottle of vino verde, and who-knows-how-many bottles of High Life, the Champagne of Beers.

Wuh-oh! I lost track there for a while (not too surprising, I suppose, with all that bubbly swimming around). As of January 2011, I think we’re up to 27 bottles… and a Christmas gift from Mom included two more bottles, one big, one tiny one just for me. Aaaaand there’s a bottle of frizzante Lambrusco (or is that “Lambrusco frizzante”?) in the fridge, waiting for me to get around to it. I bought it for New Year’s Eve, but was taken down by the flu. I rang in the new year with ginger ale, not sparkling wine.

28-30: The Fella’s 42nd birthday party, a 12-hour open house with plenty of food and drink and silliness. While uncaging the cork of the second (third?) bottle, I set it down for a moment to introduce my sister to the assembled crowd… and we were all surprised by a popping sound. That’s right: an uncaged cork can apparently drive itself right out of the bottle and up into the air!

… which I suppose I could have inferred from the necessity for the cage. Right.

31-33. Though our out-of-town guest of honor had to cancel, our friends J & E braved a snowstorm to join us for cocktails and nibbles. We missed you, AC, but E & I soldiered on as best we could, knocking back three bottles of sparkling wine between us. Wowee.

34. SNOW DAY! In this snowy, blustery, blizzardy winter, The Fella has had to work through many many potential snow days… so in February, we decided TO HECK WITH IT and blocked out a day off as our own private snow day. (As it turned out, that was the warmest, sunniest day in months.) He provisioned a stack of movies and bags of food and we snuggled down in a cozy nest in our living room and enjoyed pretending to be snowbound.

35. A tiny split just for me, mixed with pulpy fresh grapefruit juice, enjoyed while The Fella and I had a quiet dinner.

36. Niece A’s 20th birthday party! Beautiful homemade pizza! Hugging! Photos of her trimester in Mexico! More hugging, and still more hugging — the girl’s been away for a TRIMESTER, y’all. I brought a bottle of vinho verde (and very nice for $3.99 — thanks, Trader Joe’s!) to share with Gaoo and Mom.

37. Dinner and movie with The Fella, and I broke open a bottle just for myself! Two glasses a night, two nights in a row.

38-41. “Mad Men” night with R., AC, E., and J. Despite the temptations of rye old-fashioneds and bourbon on the rocks, three fizzy-drinkers plowed through four bottles (including a too-sweet Asti, much improved by a drop of bitters). Nice work, folks!

42, 43. Dinner with Miko and LT at my apartment: spinach and mushroom galette, two bottles of a nice light vinho verde, Samuel James on the stereo, and talk of teleporters and living in the future.

44, 45. Dinner with most of my family: J, M, A, & A; N, S, J, & N; C; Mom; me. Two bottles of vinho verde to go with lobster rolls, corn on the cob, and a plate of farmstand cucumbers and tomatoes. Ahhhh, summer in Maine.

46-50: Halfway there! Buffy Night returns: AC & JE made a trip north to stay over; EB & JL joined us for cold peanut noodles, cucumber and avocado salad with sweet miso dressing. EB brought eclairs, JL brought homebrew! And we worked our way through 2 bottles of champagne and 2 bottles of vinho verde.

And a big bump: The Fella and I threw a Champagne Jam, an all-day breakfast buffet that’s just an excuse to drink pour cheap bubbly (and beer) for all our friends all Sunday long. I bought a mixed case + 1 bottle, an amount of sparkling wine now known as “a birthday dozen.” And we drank it ALL, as well as one bottle that a guest brought. That, plus the three bottles I used for cooking (and a bit of tippling) in the week leading up to the party, brings us up to 67 bottles.

68. Shared between brother B., SIL T., Gaoo, and me on Mom’s patio, enjoying the last lingering bit of summer and the sweet-tart fizz of a cheap but pleasant Lambrusco. B. offered a sip to teenaged L., saying “It’s what wine would taste like if it were sody-pop.” I’ll add that to the growing list of comparisons: cartoon wine, toy wine, candy wine.

69, 70. J & E came over for impromptu cocktails including a bottle of Lambrusco, a bottle of Christalino, and a few bottles of J’s homebrewed cider.

71. A bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider shared with SIL T, niece P, and The Fella during a lovely sleepover visit at our place. Hey, if we serve it in champagne glasses to celebrate, it counts!

72. A bottle of vinho verde I opened just for me — an indulgence that I’m finally getting comfortable with — during The Fella’s November vacation. I drank a few glasses during a night of board games, loosening up for An Experiment.

73, 74. An early Thanksgiving with The Fella’s family: I brought non-alcoholic sparkling cider, a bottle of cava, and a stack of recyclable plastic champagne glasses.

75. Actual Thanksgiving 2011: Pajama Thanksgiving at home with The Fella, snuggled up watching MST3K over a vegetarian dinner (plus chicken gravy) and a bottle of sparkling cider. (Yes, I’m counting it.)

76, 77. Christmas dinner at Gaoo’s with A., Mom, and The Fella: ham, scalloped potatoes, beet and goat cheese, roasted squash galette. Piles of prezzies, a kitten and a pocket laser, “Music from the Last Ten Years,” and laughing our asses off over snakes in a can.

78.In the third week of January, I fiiiiiinally recovered from the horrible cold that kept me in bed New Year’s Eve. To celebrate feeling spry again, I popped open a split of champagne to drink with a regular-ole dinner at home with The Fella.

79, 80, 81. The Fella’s now-traditional all-day all-night birthday movie marathon eat-drinkery; we have an open house, noon to midnight (and beyond) for all our friends. I know we went through three bottles of sparkling wine; we may have gone through more.

82, 83. N@, theora55, Miko, LT, and I got through two bottles of Albero frizzante during a Saturday brunch at my home.

84. Visiting The Fella’s family at the beachside cottage, we stopped at the tiny local grocery to stock up for lunch… and picked up a pleasant bottle of prosecco to break out at dinner.

85, 86, 87. AC, The Fella, and I spent an evening eating and drinking (asparagus & pea risotto cakes with red pepper sauce, creamed spinach with sherried mushrooms, rosé and white sparkling wine), talking about long-arc TV shows, and laughing ourselves silly.

88. A fatherless Father’s Day brunch with mother, sister, and niece. Sticky buns. Mimosas. Love.

89, 90. A too-sweet moscata d’asti and a nice poppy, grapey lambrusco for “drinks in the gloaming” with Gaoo and A. Flatbreads and olives and brie and swordfish, mmm.

As of the end of June 2012: ten bottles to go, and we’re only five weeks from the second annual Champagne Jam.

90 – 97. Three and a half broads* + 7 bottles = impromptu slumber party! A showed up with two bottles, R showed up with two bottles. By the time E* & J arrived late in the evening, we were tapping into the first of my three long-fridgerated bottles. Yikes! (E’s late arrival and relatedly small consumption of bubbly makes her the half-broad in this sum.)

98. R arrived for the first of our newly-established monthly dinner dates bearing a bottle of rosé crémant. Two bottles to go to 100!

99. I popped a bottle of Lambrusco for myself, and used a bit of it to cook in the days before the Champagne Jam.

100: Just before guests started arriving for the second annual Champagne Jam, I popped a bottle and made myself my first ever champagne cocktail: brandy, sugar cube, and champagne. It turns out that every character Claude Rains ever played ordered those for good reason: that’s good drinking.

I lost track at the Champagne Jam. We got through easily a dozen bottles, as well as quite a lot of beer and some spirits. I’m going to reset the count at 112, which seems conservative.

113. One of my Health Month rules for August: indulge in a daily act of self-care. Today, I treated myself to a split of champagne — and even asked The Fella to get it for me, to save my aching back the hassle. Thanks for the pretty glass, sweetheart.

114. For dinner with Mom, the Montana family, and Gaoo, A., & S., I brought a bottle of Albero (vinho verde? frizzante? something lightly sparkling in a long tapered bottle) for an aperitif over mussels. It was astonishingly perfect: lightly sweet, tangy, and with just a hint of depth. It played nicely with the mussels and bread and oh so much garlic.

115, 116. Quesadillas and two bottles of vinho verde with R. & E. before we stepped out to attend some filmmaker friends’ new-studio open house! Then back home, where we opened another bottle of wine and I whipped up emergency dinners: nachos w/ black beans, avocado, and cherry tomatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cream of tomato soup jazzed up with wine and sherry and curry.

117. A bottle of prosecco popped open just for myself, to celebrate a disappointment… because disappointment means I’m trying. And that is worth celebrating.

118, 119, 120. Dinner and season 5 of “Mad Men” with R. & E. Here’s where the thousand-bottles-of-champagne project crosses over with the abundance project: after dithering around about what to serve and when to shop, I whipped up the entire dinner from odds & ends on hand: squash (on the shelf) roasted with garlic and wrapped in galette dough with the last bits of Parmesan and some caramelized onion (in a jar in the fridge), spinach salad with chili-glazed almonds (kept in a jar in the freezer) and dressing made of reduced orange juice (always on hand), and green beans (freezer) with smoked paprika breadcrumbs (freezer). Dessert was three gorgeous gelatos brought by R. and accompanied by a box of fancy almond wafers that I — you guessed it! — had stashed away in the cupboard.

121. Not a bottle, but a can of Sofia Coppola sparkling wine broken open at 11:30, November 6th, 2012, to celebrate Obama’s reelection to the Presidency. The Fella, an inveterate beer drinker, took a token glass with a generous sip in it, and we shared a simple toast: “Forward.”

122. Christmas Eve with The Fella’s family, a bottle of champagne shared with my MiL, following my SiL’s peach sangria.

123. A bottle of the same the next day at Gaoo’s Christmas dinner: prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and mushroom pot pie.

124, 125, 126. At The Fella’s birthday party 2013, I lost count. I’m going to conservatively say, oh, three bottles.

127. S. came over for mezze, vinho verde, and a documentary on GIANT SQUID.

wow, I don’t know how many I’ve missed, but it’s been a few dozen. I’ll round it up to 150 for this important bottle:

150. A split of champagne with dinner to toast my first paid writing ever, Tidings of Comfort and Joy: Alternative Christmas Movies for The Toast.

summer goals

Here in northern New England, we’ve had a pleasant stretch of unseasonably warm days tempered with cool nights. It’s enough to make me look forward to summer, traditionally my least-favorite season.

This year, I’m going to make sure I bask in the pleasures of summer. As a little spur, I’m making a list of summer goals:

Note: a friend recently asked how my summer goals were going, so I thought I’d check off a few here. Updates are in italics.

Keep my swimsuit at the ready, along with my leopard-spotted towel and my big-brimmed hat, so I’m ready to swim anytime. Oh, yes! I kept them hanging on peg in our front hall, which reminded me that SWIMMING IS GOOD. I only managed to swim a couple of times, but with squealing, squirmy, happy children and teenager, which is about the best thing ever.

Cocktails and polenta fries on the patio at my favorite neighborhood restaurant. To celebrate our first wedding anniversary, no less! The Fella took me out to the patio for polenta fries and a split of prosecco, then we wandered a few blocks and I took him out for beer and tapas. A perfect evening.

Lemonade, limeade, ginger beer. Fantastic fizzy lemonade, deliciously low-rent limeade-slushy margaritas, and homemade ginger beer.

Always keep a little cash on hand for yard sales and farmstands. I have to admit: I haven’t managed to buy one single thing at a yard sale this season. Still, this is a resolution well worth keeping, if only for the farmstand tomatoes.

Stonefruit in a pouch! Hey, I forgot all about this one! Well, maybe next year.

Go to a ballgame at the local ballpark. Buy The Fella a beer. Oops. Maybe next year!

Always carry bubble juice, for impromptu bubble-blowing parties. We can thank The Fella for this one: knowing we were going to babysit my nephews for an afternoon, he zipped out to the store and picked up a giant bouncy ball, juice, and a biiiiiiig jar of bubble stuff. What a guy!

Stop buying cheap white wine. Start buying cheap sparkling wine. Drink it. Often. Oh, yes indeed.

Eat that lobster roll! Not yet — but for this one, I’ll prolong “summer” as long as it takes. IF I have my first lobster roll as the leaves turn, or as the frost nips in… in my mind, it’ll still be summer.

edited to add:
Take the short but hilly path, not the longer and sketchier but undeniably easier street route. (This refers to an actual hill and an actual shortcut, but if you read it metaphorically too, you’re not wrong.) Yes!

Write every day. Don’t worry about writing well: write every day. You can always edit half-assed writing; you can’t edit what you ain’t wrote down. Yes! Sort of!

Do my some physical therapy every day, not twice a week. I’ve actually managed to do a liiiiiiittttttttle bit every day, which is saying something.

AC, who helped me start achieving my goals by emptying a bottle of cava with me last night, added one more goal for me: sangria on the neighborhood Promenade! Can do! In the works!

edited again to add: I’ve just added “Drink 100 bottles of bubbly” to my life list. Starting about ten days ago, the count is up to three; 97 to go. And when I get to 100? Well, maybe I move the goalposts to 1000.

what you know

Just a few notes, discouraging and otherwise, on writing fiction:

Neil Gaiman discusses the difference (if any) between fantasy and fiction. Does your instructor look down on genre stories? “Best bet is to set your fantasies in the here and now and then, if challenged, claim to be writing Magical Realism.”

Jane Espenson eavesdrops and provides us with a quick, vivid example of how simple dialogue establishes characters and dynamics.

Strange Horizons, the fantasy fiction web magazine, details some stories they’ve seen too often, and follows up with some horror stories they’ve seen too often.

Joëlle Anthony lists 25 repetitive elements in young adult fiction.

Why are you writing, anyway? I bet you don’t have 101 reasons to keep writing. Here’s 101 reasons to stop writing.

Is your protagonist a Mary Sue? Here’s a handy test.

Do all of your stories end with Roy Orbison wrapped in cling film? You’re stealing this guy’s bit.

resolute

Several of my friends undertake penitent post-holiday resolutions (jog every morning! fit into my high school jeans! abstain from all liquor! elimate all unnecessary spending immediately!) for the New Year. And for some of them, this draconian approach proves fruitful.

Others become so disheartened by their failure to adhere to the near-impossible constraints they’ve established that they give up entirely, dive headlong into a vat of premium ice cream and bitter invective (ew — invective is sticky!), and wallow there until March.

I fall in the second camp. Accordingly, when I plan to better myself or my life, I establish goals more gradually and incorporate them into my life, and when I remember to make New Year’s resolutions, I make certain that I can achieve them. This year’s resolutions:

- find more occasions to drink champagne.*
- sing more. (Sorry, everyone.)
- eat more eclairs.

*I’ve already fulfilled the first; we attended a marvelous New Year’s brunch where the hosts urged mimosas on us again and again. I accommodated their demands to drink. I am nothing if not gracious in these matters.

update, for those who yearn to know: The Fella and I spent New Year’s Eve nursing our colds by lounging sedately in bed, him at the head reading and me flopped toward the foot watching season 1, disc 1, of House, M.D.. Then he clambered over to kiss me in the middle of an episode. Only after my gratifying response of “huh?” did I glance at the clock: exactly midnight.
He’s the romantic in this home. I’m just the beneficiary of it.