Stay Safe, Chevy Man

pexels-photo-67088To the black man in the passenger seat of the black Chevy on Cleveland Avenue in North Linden tonight:

I didn’t see what you saw that compelled you to jump out of the car, to put yourself into the situation on the sidewalk, I just saw the passenger door open in front of me, and you heading for the sidewalk, yelling behind my field of vision, demanding to know what was going on:

“What are you hassling him for? Hey! What are you hassling him for?”

Then I saw him, a white man in shorts and a t-shirt, coming for you, his voice moving my hand to the door locks.

“What am I hassling him for?”

And you: “Yeah, what are you doing to him? Are you a fucking cop or something?”

And him, moving toward you, louder now: “Yeah that’s right, I’m a fucking cop! What do you think you’re doing?”

That’s when I saw his badge around his neck and his partner heading for both of you. Right on the sidewalk by my car. Cargo camouflage shorts, baggy white t-shirt, tennis shoes. I didn’t see the badges. It’s dark at 10:30 at night.

I heard you again, but I didn’t make out much, because you were not loud, not demanding anymore, not protecting anyone but yourself. Hands up briefly, turning back to the car. Quickly.

Him following you: “You know what we’re doing? We’re fucking out here, trying to…”

As you got back in the car, him still yelling at you, face getting red. I saw the man then, the one you’d jumped out to protect, stagger a little toward the corner, no longer even a part of this scene. I’m guessing he was drunk, maybe? A little?

The light had turned green a while before, the driver of your car pulled you both away. The cop turned to his partner, guns on their right hips, the ones not facing the street before, and I thought: I’m so glad you got in the car. But I still didn’t understand why you got out.

I followed you through the light and replayed it all in my head. You’d seen something that looked aggressive by one larger white man toward a probably inebriated smaller black man, who was walking down the sidewalk. And you jumped out to protect him. A stranger.

And then as soon as you figured out you weren’t going to be protecting anyone—the same moment I did, I didn’t see their badges either, and ‘yeah I’m a fucking cop’ does identify you as a police officer, I guess—you backed off, got in your car and left.

No aggression, no “disrespect”, no nothing, but ten seconds before you were so forceful. I wonder what you saw him doing. What makes a man jump out of a car to defend a stranger like that?

I don’t know what I think about cops half the time, living where I do. I know some are upright and honorable, and some are aggressive and hostile. Kind of like men. And when I saw this guy, he seemed aggressive and hostile, even after all your words and body language were gone. I know about men, how some of them keep coming after you if you challenge them.

A few minutes later, as I turned down my street, I got scared for you, when you’re at least a mile away, but emotions do that sometimes, catch up to your thinking later.

I’m glad you jumped out when you saw whatever you saw. I’m grateful you’re home now.

Stay safe, Chevy man.

Melanie Moore (again)

I didn’t change my name when I got divorced in 2012. My kids had the same name, they really really (really) didn’t want me to be different from them at all. And I figured I’d had the same name for more than half my life, I probably wouldn’t change it.

Then the kids grew up. Then last December I thought: I don’t want this name any more. IMG_20160217_075909Maybe it’s a part of finally leaving everything behind and really being new again. My boss bought me a giant cookie because she said it’s worth celebrating a new life. (The boss, like everything else in my life, is a gift straight from God.)

I keep putting fka after things. I’m afraid people won’t realize it’s me. Like everything else that’s happened over the past five years, I’m going to lose my identity.

My friend said, nonsense, people get used to it. We’ve had lots of people’s names changing around here. But they got married. There was an event. I went to court by myself and swore I wasn’t trying to cause confusion or avoid the law. The magistrate said that he didn’t know what he’d do if someone said yes, they were trying to avoid law enforcement. Call the bailiff, he guessed? 

While I was at the courthouse waiting for my certified copies to prove my identity, Matt texted me about the new Kickstarter attempt we’re starting next month. When I said what I was doing, he texted: Sweet! are u changing it to some cool Bond Girl name? Then he swore that was a compliment. Matt is considerably younger than me and a boy, so I gave him a pass.

Also I couldn’t think of any Bond Girl names. Until a friend reminded me of Pussy Galore. Melanie McMuffins another friend suggested. That’s going to be my new pen name fo’ shizzle.

I have lots of stuff to change. It is confusing, even though I wasn’t intending it to be. I didn’t own anything when I was twenty. I own a lot of stuff now.

My books are still in my old name. I’m going to switch all that over too eventually.

Because this is me now. Melanie McMuffins.

I mean Melanie Moore. It feels fabulous.

 

Kickstarter #AmWriting

I didn’t participate in Nanowrimo 2015, mostly because I forgot about it. I was feeling like I slacked off, but then I was glad I had, because of what happened Thanksgiving week.

belts on cutting mat

It has come as a surprise to me that for some people, writing doesn’t come naturally, if it comes to them at all. I read an interview with Nora Roberts years ago where she said, “I thought everyone made up stories in their heads,” and I thought, Wait… everyone doesn’t?

Last week, I’d been trying to figure out what to get one of my kids for Christmas when I saw Matt Skunda at a Bible teaching. Matt’s a leather worker, and I knew from Facebook that he’d been working on something I thought my kid might like. (Very cryptic, I know, it’s not Christmas yet and my kids read my stuff.) I figured I might as well spend my money with him. Win-win, right?

Wrong. No one has wanted to sell me something less than Matt did that day. I just looked at him for a minute, because I’d never before needed words to persuade someone to make something and let me pay him cash money for it, so I was stumped.

I guess he got tired of me looking at him, because he explained himself.

“I’m trying to launch this Kickstarter campaign, and I’m completely stressed about it. I’m stuck, because it’s all this writing to do, and I have absolutely no gift for writing.”

I hardly know Matt, really. I bought something he made me once (back when I could talk him into selling me things). I know a little bit about him, and we’ve chatted a couple of times at different things. He was going to teach me how to shoot guns so that I could write about it, but I never got around to it, because I stopped writing that story and didn’t need to shoot guns anymore. The offer was still on the table, but it’s not like we’re friends or anything.

I’m sure everyone reading this is good at something, better than most, maybe, and you’ve probably experienced being able to help people simply because you are good at something. I’m also sure you’ve experienced needing to not help everyone with that thing. Because you can’t say yes to everybody, or you’d never get your laundry done.

So I sat and looked at him for a minute, that stress he mentioned all over his face, and I told myself this wasn’t my problem, and to keep my mouth shut, don’t say anything, just don’t speak at all.

“I could probably help you with that,” I said. “I’m a writer.”

I’m also terrible at listening to anyone, myself included.

“I’ll buy you dinner,” he said. “Or lunch. Or anything.”

Or you could make me that Christmas present I asked for in the first place.”

Deal struck, and my Thanksgiving week began with a six hour marathon of writing my very first Kickstarter project. I felt like that was forever, but Matt said he’d spent three weeks trying to do what I did in a couple hours. (He will never be nicknamed “Giver of the Compliments” by anyone’s standards, but that one worked for me.)

Square CropKickstarter talks about how you really need a great video, and it’s true, and he had that already. But you still can’t explain much of anything without words. The first chunk of writing hours piled up because it took a lot of Matt’s words to explain what he was trying to do so I could write about it. It wasn’t just about selling really nice leather belts, it’s about selling those belts to fund a job-training program for teenagers in Columbus, Ohio. The one thing I did know about Matt was that he’s been passionately involved in working with kids in the city. Over the years, he started seeing a gap of knowledge with the kids he mentored – they didn’t have the skills to get and keep jobs. And that was going to stop every forward movement they tried to make. But to do something about that, he needed money. So he started a business. I saw all the plans, all the models, the spreadsheets, the websites.

And oh my, the belts. You’ve never seen such belts.

Belts

Now there’s a Kickstarter to help get the funding to go to some craft shows next summer, then that money will get the training program off the ground. The products are great. The copy is written. The cause is worthwhile. I slept until almost noon the day after Thanksgiving. Then Matt wanted to do a complete rewrite, so we did that on Saturday. I finally know someone more perfectionistic than me, which makes me feel a lot better about myself. It’s been a nice week.

Kickstarter ImageNow, it’s all about seeing that funding bar on Kickstarter fill up with green. We have until December 31. I’m in, so now I’m anxious. I didn’t think I was signing up for that.

I just said, “I’m a writer.”

 

Exactly like Hitch (Except Without Will Smith)

First: You have to excuse me. I got stuck in a physics class and that basically took every bit of my time since Christmas was over. Ergo, no blogging, no writing. I got a B. It’s over forever. Thank God. Onward:

The funniest thing about speed dating is when you ask people at a speed dating event if they’ve ever done this before, the vast majority of them say: No, I haven’t, I only saw it in Hitch. (Note: I’m drawing an extremely broad generalization from the single speed dating event I attended last month. But it Hitch Speed Datingwas funny how many of us said that.)

Here’s why I went: It was way cheap ($10), I wasn’t busy, my friend Angi said she’d come with me, I really want to write something like this into a story someday, and it seemed like it could be entertaining based on the time I saw it in Hitch.

Here’s what I learned: Speed dating is like being the star of your own private party where everyone came to meet you. I don’t mean that like everyone did come to meet me, they certainly didn’t, but when it was their turn to sit down at table 19, that’s what it was like. Dichotomy of speed dating: the draw is that you get to meet a whole bunch of guys in in a very short amount of time… and it turns out that meeting a whole bunch of guys in a short amount of time is freaking exhausting. Apparently it’s exhausting for the guys too, because by the time the last guy collapsed into the chair across from me, he just wasn’t even interested in saying hello to me. (Right back atcha, buddy.)

Picture introducing yourself to someone, engaging in conversation (or trying to) and then talking for five minutes (happily or painfully) and then a buzzer rings and that person gets up, and thirty seconds later, another person sits down and you start all over. Repeat 20 times until you don’t even care if the next person who sits down actually is Will Smith. (That’s so far from true of course, but you understand what I mean.)

So here’s what else I learned. With some people those five minutes took forever. Most of them, I don’t think I’d ever want to talk to again… Or to put it another way, “all the attendees minus two” I don’t think I’d want to talk to again. That didn’t matter much to me at all because of what I learned before I went to this shindig.

Someone told Angi this: they were praying that she would treat every man she met like she would want her boys to be treated by every woman they met when they grew up. In other words, kindly, generously. Like human beings with feelings. I have boys too, older than Angi’s boys, who are ten. Mine are actually out there now, meeting young women, going out with them. Potentially being treated like… well, not like I would hope.

The event wasn’t registered evenly, more women than men, which turned out to be fine, because of the exhaustion factor, since every so often the buzzer sounded and no one sat down at my table. Quick trip to the bathroom once. Grab a beer and have a speed date with the bartender. That was unplanned, he kind of started that, but we went to the same high school, he showed me pictures of his dogs, and he called out goodbye to me by name when I left. I’m keeping him in my back pocket just because I want to see my mom’s face when I bring a guy with double sleeve tatoos over for dinner. And then say he’s a bartender. (There are some significant ways I cannot seem to grow up.)

Once or twice I went over to where the women had brought snacks (not me, I was doing physics all afternoon). And these two women were there, and they started talking to me about how they wanted their money back on the first buzzer. And how all these guys were losers. And how they couldn’t believe how bad they were. And once they started talking specifics, making fun of one guy and I knew who they were talking about, and it made my heart hurt.

The reason the word “Christian” means nothing, is because of people like this.

All I kept thinking about were my boys and Angi’s boys. Meeting women like this someday. And the poor guy who had the bad luck to be sincere and honest around people who he couldn’t trust.

The thing is, I kind of went there for stories like that. You know, the losers, the dorks, the ones who would make good material in a novel. And I couldn’t do it. I will use that experience in a scene someday, because now I know how it feels to be in that situation, but I will not base characters on anyone I met there. Because this was not easy: sitting down and meeting 20 men in a row, wondering what they thought of you, wondering how you compared, wondering if you were even the least bit interesting. Even if you didn’t care, it’s hard to put yourself on the line like that once, much less twenty times in a row.

And these guys were doing the same thing. I think they were risking more.

Too long already, and I had another goal when I started writing this, but I’m guessing this was what was really on my mind for now:

Be kind. Be generous. It costs you nothing.

Hitch_posterOh, and if you haven’t seen Hitch? You’ve missed. It’s a movie of kindness and generosity, some great dancing lessons, and of course, Will Smith.

Mildly Morbid, Maybe?

I love old graveyards, and that was something I didn’t know about myself until I was in Raleigh this past summer and wanted to go visit Elizabeth Edwards grave site at the Oakwood Cemetery. I don’t know why I got that in my head to visit there, but while those monuments were definitely impressive, what was more interesting was finding these family plots with generations of people who were connected and you could start tracing out the family tree from the headstones.

I’m spending this long weekend hanging out at an Airbnb house (most wonderful) with my daughter (also most wonderful) just reading and writing (not the novel, sadly, that didn’t work out like I’d planned) and relaxing (the three Rs). I’m also trying to beat this fitbit flex 10,000 step light-up torture device on my wrist that I won at work two months ago, so I needed a place to walk. The Airbnb is about a half a mile (1000 steps) from the Evergreen Cemetery in Southgate, KY, which has lots and lots of steps in it (9000 if you get lost by accident. Traveler’s tip: Bring your phone and the gps).

A different world...

A different world…

I walked through about a third of it yesterday and another third of it today. Today I found the older parts including a headstone for one man who was born in 1776, which just takes you aback a bit. I found the family who founded the town, the Southgate family, in fact. I also found a whole big family that started with this guy, James Taylor (not the singer) whose monument mentions that when he settled here the place was “still infested with the wily Indian.”

The whole family was around that monument, and then it spilled over into another family section, joined by the marriage of James Taylor the son (not the singer either). Then I found one with a middle name that matched the family name in the next over section. People got married and stayed with the same people in the same towns for a lot longer by then.

I'm not even sure what a consort means!

I’m not even sure what a consort means!

Or they seem to imply that they never got married at all. This memorial said that Mary Aurelia Mayo was the Consort of Captain Andrew Lewis on the same memorial, which you would think sounds sort of risque. It turns out that this is supposed to mean she died before him. Except that Mary died four years after the Captain, and they don’t have the same last name either. I don’t know much about etiquette in the 1840s but I’m thinking not too many women kept their last names. Still, probably just a mistake in terms. But this was way more interesting while I was in the cemetery thinking Captain Lewis and Miss Mary were all scandalous.

Oh. Sad.

Oh. Sad.

Next up, the sad one. I can’t read the verse on the bottom of this memorial but it’s one of the beatitudes–Blessed are the… for they shall… (And if you’re unfamiliar with the book of Matthew, that’s how all of them start the first and second lines. I think it was the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.) The wear and tear and weathering of old tombstones is quite severe. I imagine when you put that piece of granite down you believe that the inscriptions will be visible for hundreds of years, but they don’t stay in many cases.

Most of the inscriptions on this one stayed, though, and 164 years after the fact, I stopped short, completely saddened. How did Maria die, and what happened to her bridegroom? Had she loved him? Had he waited for her? Or was it an arranged marriage that no one was all too thrilled about? If that was true, and it could have been, did he feel nothing at all except for guilt over feeling nothing at all?

I think this is why I love wandering through cemeteries, even though I do think there’s a morbidity about it. In between all of the standard dates and numbers and facts of life, there are these bits of real history of real lives — he was born in Wales, England but died in Newport, Kentucky. That’s quite a journey for one life. I got to ponder that for today. But there’s something about the history of cemeteries that I think is passing by us. It’s similar to what I saw in a stationery shop window in the Short North of my hometown (On Paper). The owner has been collecting old envelopes and made them into these large wreaths. They’re postmarked and addressed, sometimes just to a single name and the town — Washington, DC. Can you imagine? It’s a dreamy display, that makes you think and wonder what was in those envelopes once? What are their stories?

We won’t have that someday, not anymore. And just as people don’t write letters that stay around for decades, people don’t live and grow old and die in the same places, and so there is no permanence attached to their cemeteries either. No this family melding into that family and then into that one for a century or more.

And there will be no more wandering through and stopping to breathe in the history that would lead a man to make sure this one truth about one woman was known forever.

To me...

To me…

My daughter singing at her school exhibition.

This was a triumph for her for personal reasons. I’m probably biased too, but I think she did a great job.

Arts and other financial sorrows

I almost always miss the big Columbus Arts Festival, and last weekend was no exception. This year, my absence was due to an out of town guest, quadruple graduation parties, and one very fun wedding, where I danced a lot and also tried unsuccessfully to get Joe Biederman to stop calling me “dude”. And I played softball Sunday afternoon, which was my first appearance on the field since approximately the last millennium. I could not be happier that my Sunday afternoons now include playing softball, though I cannot be sure my team feels the same way.

Facepainting, teenage style.

Facepainting, teenage style.

This weekend, however, while hunting for something to do because my sister has graced us with her presence, and I don’t want her to think Ohio is a boring state and never return… hmm… Okay, I at least want her to think that if she hangs out with her sister and her niece and nephew it’ll be entertaining, even in Ohio. Anyway, I found out the Worthington Arts Festival had not bypassed me, and so fulfilled both something-to-do-Saturday-afternoon function and finding-both-Christmas-and-next-year’s-birthday-presents-for-difficult-to-shop-for-maternal-parent function. Super cool.

According to my three relations accompanying me today, I consume enormous amounts of time at arts festivals. I disagree, of course— we were not in Worthington any longer than it takes to sit through Lord of the Rings, not that I would ever do that again unless the bribe money ran at least four digits. Here’s the reason I have a hard time walking away from festivals—my artistic abilities consist of stringing words together into something resembling halfway entertaining stories. That’s all. It’s not super complicated or even difficult, actually.

Times Square

Times Square

But today I bought a print from a woman who had designed a Kaleidoscopic camera lens. I mean, seriously? Some of them weren’t circular, the way you’d think of a normal kaleidoscope, but still, I thought that’s what I was looking at on the walls of her booth. It wasn’t until I asked her though, and then of course how that worked, and where the photos were taken, and then well, she has a few grown children and some dogs too… She had a few really cool prints with fruits and vegetables, but the only one I picked up was the non-circular kaleidoscope print of the lighted up signs of Times Square.

“It doesn’t really match anything in the house,” I said.

Michelle said, “No. But it matches you.”

True that, baby girl. True that.

I don’t usually wish I had more money than I do, except when I’m writing too-small checks to Malaria No More or the India Gospel League or the Innocence Project. I seriously don’t care that my car is older than two of my children or that my kitchen floor is almost as old as me. I mostly don’t even notice that stuff.

Here’s what I wish. For another 3,000 in the bank to buy the sculpted map of the world by a girl from Canal Winchester who spent a month building it… which I would give to Sam who just fell in love today as he did with maps and globes more than a decade ago. Or a grand for the four foot wide photograph on canvas of the rocks in the river as the water rushes over them. Or omg, even an extra 50 bucks for the old window a guy turned into a writing board that you can use with chalk markers, writing instruments I’d never heard of before, demonstrated with a funny to-do list on the window, clearly missing the obvious— that this invention would be the coolest vehicle ever for plotting out sequences of a novel.

I do have fifty bucks, but it’s probably going to the Innocence Project because they need it more, and I already have the second coolest vehicle— a bedroom covered with twenty-year-old vinyl wallpaper and a blue wet-erase marker.

I talked to that window guy—he framed his photographs in them too, and that was super cool. And the girl who made the map—some of her stuff is mass produced and on sale at Marshalls. Affordable art, I said, which was actually already on her business cards. (I am a writer.) And I talked to the woman who made some awesome steam punk jewelry that my daughter would like to own all of and the guy who blew glass balls that looked like trees had grown inside them and to the man who made my mom’s Christmas present.

And the hammer dulcimer guy. Of course. We lost Michelle, my musician, to the hammer dulcimer guy and I was sent back to retrieve her, and that ended up like going after the first person who disappeared into the basement in a horror movie. I do not generally expect hammer dulcimer players to double as comedians, but then again, that was not the first time this week I’ve been pleasantly surprised by finding comedians in unexpected places.

Point of blog entry… I was thinking that perhaps as I don’t end up buying much, although I do buy more than I used to, thanks to my ability to keep so much more of my money in the bank for the past 2 years and 7 months what with only my name being on the accounts and all… still I don’t buy that much. So how do all these artists feel about me asking them about their paintings, their locations, their technique, their ideas… And then saying, wow, well, it’s beautiful, thanks so much.

Is that annoying?

Then I thought, if someone wanted to borrow my novels or get them on the days I give them away, or even just read some of these random thoughts I spill out here… and then say, wow, I really liked the way you said that… Thanks so much… and then walk away?

I’m so totally cool with that.

The dualism of my reviews

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Chromebook

I bought a Chromebook. It was $250 and it does everything I need. I’m now writing in Google docs, and surfing the web for information about thoroughbreds and Mexican drug cartels. And how much it costs to fly from Chicago to Lexington, KY, and also how long it takes to drive that if you started in the middle of the night. I can also make a timeline so I don’t forget when my main character went to college on this website called Preceden.com which is free as long as you don’t mind your timeline being public which I don’t because who is seriously going to find it? And if they do, they’ll just think my life includes murdering people.

The Samsung version (3, the one I bought) weighs 2.3 pounds, holds the battery a long long time, fits into a $6.88 neoprene sleeve (wow, I totally forgot how to spell sleeve) and barely gets warm at all. The keyboard is full size, feels a lot like a Macintosh one, which is super nice and very important. The thing fits in a not very large purse.

If I have an idea for something in the book I can be typing it in within 30 seconds, and that includes actually finding the laptop, my son pointed out. We timed it.

This post? I’m typing on a 5 year old Dell I bought for more than 600 that just gave me fits because a control key was stuck down and I couldn’t figure out what happened and I installed Windows 8 on it to keep it running longer… and couldn’t find where the stupid control panel was to see if I’d turned on sticky keys…

Nothing like that has ever happened on my Chromebook. They even took off the CapsLock Key, which I knew about because my brother told me 3 years ago by sending me this Slate article–called Good Riddance.

OH! Google cloud print? Super cool.

I’ve been wanting for years to be done with Microsoft, and I am totally. I’ll hang onto this machine until it dies, so that I can Photoshop my Christmas cards and keep my sturdy Brother HL-5250DN hooked up (so I can print via Google Cloud Print!) but for the most part?

I’m thrilled.

Also, Kroger in Columbus is selling TastyKakes. You’d have to be from Eastern Pennsylvania to know why I stopped and gasped tonight.

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My best review ever

A beautiful, lovely, charming person posted my favorite review ever of Nobody’s Hero. Not only is it far more eloquent than the novel itself, she (I assume) totally got it.

I’m working early hours on my next novel like this but different… and this is why I even think it’s worth getting up at 5 AM for. If you want to help (and I’m so glad you were asking) click the link and then choose “Yes” at the bottom of the review where Amazon asks if it was helpful. That will make this review float up to the top of my review list, rather than something that says I’m on drugs and only my relatives like my stories.

Thanks!