Thursday, 11 December 2014

Where the hell is my muse?

Seriously, where is she/he/it whatever it is that enabled me to write decent stuff?

I've looked under the bed, behind the sofa, in the cupboard and can't find that damn muse anywhere.  It's been years since I've really sat down and written something...anything creative. My writing as of late has all focussed on my fitness or recipes to support my fitness. The creative muse has gone and abandoned me it seems. 

Really? Has it? Or have I just locked it away?

I have a myriad of excuses for my writer's block, but I won't bore you by listing them all. Anyone can make excuses. I hear excuses from my students all the time, but excuses are just that...excuses. They are not reasons. Well, no, I take that back. They are reasons. This last week Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, posted on Facebook, "Excuses are the reason not everyone can be successful.... If you want success then replace your excuses with ambition."

So my muse is lost because I no longer have the ambition to write? Was my muse really just my ambition to write? Hmmmmmm....

I wonder. I wonder if I started dragging out my old work, the pieces I wrote and actually liked or at least tolerated enough to share, would I find that lost ambition and begin to create again? Would it finally make me add more to My Luck With Cars and Boys? Would it make the poetry that dances around in my head tap its way out though my finger tips? Would I finish all those stories that I start but never really complete?

So here goes. Piece number one. I wrote this about mix tapes seven years ago, and it was decent enough for my friend, Richard (hey that's two Richards in one blog post!), to add to Rock'n'Roll 2.0 at the time. This was one of my last pieces of written work before my writer's block locked my muse away.


The Mix Tape As An Expression of Love

I just recently finished reading High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, and it started me thinking about when I got my first mix tape from a boy. We were 15. We, the whole lot of us lil' wanna be punkers, would all get together and hang out downtown in 'Bland' Rapids, Michigan. I was trying to be all cool and show off on his skate board when I fell and scraped my leg pretty badly. After helping me up to a bench, he pulled the tape out of his Walkman and placed it into mine. "I…uh…made this for you last night. Hope you like it." My heart soared. I listened to that tape over and over again. I had never felt so much love while listening to Black Flag, the Butthole Surfers, and the Dead Kennedys before. Every song held a meaning for our relationship. I now had a better understanding of how he felt about me thanks to one 90 minute Maxell.

I loved making tapes and would make individual mix tapes for friends on their birthdays and for Christmas presents. I would spend hours with my music collection all over the floor trying to figure out what the recipient would like and how to best put the compilation together, fading songs into and out of each other. I was quite proud of my work. Inevitably I would call the tapes, "Stuff-n-Things for…" and then try to do something funky to the cover. For lovers, however, the creation of the mix tape was more difficult.

The last compilation tape I made for a lover was about eight years ago. Tapes were beginning to be old news at that point, but my boyfriend at the time had a tape player in his car, not a CD player. Making that tape was an agonizing feat for me as I wanted to give him something he would enjoy with songs that subtlety expressed the growing deep affection I had for him. On top of this, he was moving and I wanted to express some sadness without being too depressing. I didn't want to freak him out or scare him away with an overwhelming display of affection. In the middle of making it I called my friend, Julia, and asked her opinions. Should I put this song on it? Would he think this if that song were on it? What about this other song instead which expresses the same sentiment, but…? Julia is a very patient person.

So, he moved 300 miles away, and we attempted a long distance relationship. Having summers off, I went to visit him intermittently-a little over a week there and then about a week at home. It was during the second or third round of my visits that I began to feel insecure about our relationship. I had a feeling things were not going to work out. Plus, I knew at that point that I would be leaving the country, perhaps permanently. His plans were similar to mine, but our destinations were not the same. Trying to distract myself, I went through his music collection pulling out albums I didn't own. "Make a list of what you like, and I'll make you a tape," he said, and my mood lightened. He must really love me; he was making me a tape.

He gave me the tape the next time I came to visit. He even put some artists on the tape that I had not requested, such as Bruce Springsteen. Being from New Jersey, he is a huge Springsteen fan. While I have an appreciation for Springsteen's song writing talent, I do not consider myself to be any sort of fan at all. However, I found myself listening to the tape over and over again searching for some hidden meaning in the selected songs and their order, and I was disappointed. There didn't seem to be any deep feeling or hidden meaning behind it. It was just a group of songs that all sounded good together, just an ordinary tape like that you would make for a friend. And, indeed the platonic nature of the tape was the giveaway. We broke up on my next visit.

After that I made one last mix tape…for me. It was called "The Ultimate Break-Up Tape." I very carefully selected songs to express the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. It was a kick-ass tape if I do say so myself. I later gave it to another friend who went through a break-up.

And now the mix tape is practically extinct. Its end is due to the onset of Mp3s and the like. Making mix CDs is easy, a bit too easy. It's so easy in fact that you can make the same one for many people. I have a friend who compiles all the music he has purchased over the year and makes a Christmas CD, which he gives to away. While this is a great answer to the traditional Christmas card, it does seem to be about as personal as one of those Christmas newsletters detailing the events of people you only ever hear from once a year. I now make CD compilations for people, but it just isn't the same. There can be no replacing the mix tape with a mix CD. In my opinion the mix tape was a true expression of feeling due to the toil put into the making of it. I find it sad that it has now become obsolete.

I also find it sad that I no longer own a tape player.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

This sh*t just got serious or 10x10=100

It seems as if this blog as deteriorated into random and sporadic posts about sports, politics or my health. I'm not certain when or how that happened, but this post will be slightly different.

This post is not only about sports, my health and politics, but it's also about how long I've lived in the greater London area! Ta-Daaah!

On the 10th of August I will have lived here for 10 years! My how time flies. 10 YEARS! In four years I will have lived here for the longest time I've lived in any city anywhere. Woah! I should become a citizen-oh wait. I did that. I should...hmmm...oh, I know!

I should cycle another 100 miles, because 10 (10th of August) x 10 (10 years here)= 100. And, so that is exactly what I will be doing. This year's RideLondon-Surrey100 is on the 10th of August, and I was lucky enough to receive a ballot place for the second year in a row. Just like last year I will be using my ballot place to raise money for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in memory of my dear friend, Scott Williams. I've set the goal as £100, since 10x10=100, but I'd love to raise more than that.

And now for the serious health sh*t. Last year my completion time for the 100 miles was 7 hours and 14 minutes. Not bad for a middle-aged, beginning cyclist on her first serious sportive, but I'd like to do better. Unfortunately, I've not been taking the best care of myself. I had several rationalisation (stress, friends visiting, buffets offered at courses and seminars) for the decadence I've allowed myself in the last few months, and I feel it. I'm not in the best shape and certainly not in good enough shape to beat my own time. But that decadence stops today!

From today until the 9th of August when I need to carb load, I will not knowing consume any foods containing glutenous white flour or excess refined sugar. I will also not consume any beer or cider. There are three exceptions to this: 1) During matches in the World Cup where the US Men's National Team is playing, but that applies to beer only, 2) On the 4th of July and ONLY if I attend the beer festival in Hersham (all bets are off) and 3) Em's wedding (no restrictions for me on that day, but I'll attempt to be moderate). If I consume glutenous white flour, refined sugar, beer or cider, before the 9th of August, I will have to donate £100 to the BNP.  And that's the political part of this post. Having created such a restriction for myself in the past, I find this VERY successful motivation.  The BNP has never received a cent from me, nor will they.

So there you have it. This post contained sports (London-Surrey Ride 100 and mention of the World Cup), my health (the diet restrictions) and politics, (I hate the BNP) in addition to letting you all know that I will have lived here for a whole decade on the 10th of August.

And now I'm off to get some miles under my wheels.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Genius? Really?!?

Me: I'm here to pick up my iPhone. It was getting the battery replaced. (Hands authorisation form given 30 minutes prior to Apple Store Genius)

Genius: Okay, I just need to see some ID.

Me: (Shows ID)

Genius: Hmmmm... the name on the form here is Paul Smith, and you're not Paul Smith.

Me:'m not. I was just given that authorisation form half an hour ago and told to come back.  I also had the same form emailed to me if you need to see it.

Genius: No, that's fine. I'll just go back and sort this out.

Me: (Gets out iPad. Connects to Wi-Fi. Retrieves authorisation form from email and checks to see that name and all other details are correct on it. Waits. Waits. Looks at Facebook. Waits. Looks at Twitter. Waits. Waits.)

...Twenty minutes later...

Genius: (Comes out and looks perplexed) Is that the iPad you brought in to get fixed?

Me: No, I dropped off an iPhone 5 that needed a new battery.  (Pulls up authorisation form on email and turns iPad around for him to see)

Genius: Oh, I know where that is. I'll be right back.

I was lovely and polite to him for the rest of this transaction simply because I didn't want the poor Genius to feel stupid.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

I have fallen in love with an old friend

but it's probably not what you think.

In general, I like sports, but there are a few I LOVE. However, even with the sports I love, I need to be rooting for a team in order to keep my interest and make me pay attention over an entire season, but I still do love them and can appreciate watching teams I don't root for.  I just don't go out of my way to do that. So anyway, as sports goes I LOVE...

Basketball (MSU Spartans and Detroit Pistons. I used to love the Seattle Supersonics, too)
Ice Hockey (Detroit Red Wings)
Soccer or Football as it's known (more accurately) over here. (Arsenal)

Those were my three...until this year.

American football (I have to call it that or my British friends will jump down my throat about how it's not proper football-they probably will anyway) has never really peaked my interest much.  I found the game a bit slow with too many pauses in between plays.  I always saw cheering on my alma mater, MSU, during football games more of a social event and a good time to be spent with my college buddies. If I hadn't gotten a head's up about certain football games from my friends, I really wouldn't have cared.

It's not as if I could ignore American football. I grew up with it, as pretty much most every American kid did.  I played it with friends in my neighborhood and knew the rules, etc.  However, as I said it didn't really interest me much.  Since I was in the marching band in high school, I had to go to every home game, but I still just didn't care much. After high school I attended MSU. That year we played in the Rose Bowl and I still wasn't bothered. After graduation I moved to Seattle. My ex-boyfriend in Seattle and I lived together for several years, and he was and avid Seahawks fan, an avid football fan in general. I'd be in the kitchen baking or in the bedroom writing or reading and he'd yell for me to come into the living room to see the replay of some amazing touchdown or something. If anything, that just turned me off to American football.

But something happened this year.

I'm not certain exactly when American football seduced me.  Perhaps it was just seeing my facebook feed with posts from my friends back in Seattle about the Seahawks all season, but I would find myself looking up results on the internet when I woke up in the morning or searching for them at my lunch breaks.  Perhaps it was because the Detroit Lions actually won on Thanksgiving that made me start tracking MSU's football results (For me there was a link between these two teams). Whatever the reason, whatever it was, I was starting to really pay attention to American football.

It's as if an old friend from childhood got in touch with me and we started to chat. He started to flirt with me a bit and became interesting. I knew about him, knew him fairly well in fact since I grew up with him, but suddenly the things he was into that seemed dull now fascinated me and he became REALLY attractive.  Now I am in love and in another long distance relationship.

And it's been a good season to fall in love with American football as far as my teams are concerned.  MSU went to the Rose Bowl...and won.  This time I cared so much I screamed at the television until I was hoarse and cried a little when we won. And, tonight the Seattle Seahwaks are about to play in Superbowl 48.  I will be watching over here in London, which means I'll be up until 4am, trying my best to not anger my neighbors.

And so, victory tonight or no, I can honestly say I've fallen in love with American Football.