Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It’s my 400th post, I’m sure my weight is off the charts but I can’t bear to look, and my car just hit 10,000 miles

Wow—this is my 400th post. I’ve always known I’m full of crap, but even I’m surprised at that figure.

Speaking of figures, O.M.G. this partying all summer is taking its toll. I think I got my yoga mat out once since I left Vegas on May 17. Disgusting. The only reason I’m not freaked about seeing Mike this weekend in this horrific body state is that when I told him that I (quite unexpectedly) was coming to be back in town he wondered aloud how he was going to lose 25 pounds before I get there. Whew.

And remember how I had to bring my bathroom scales with me on my cross-country trip so I wouldn’t let my weight get out of control? I think I’ve stepped on them once. That’s fewer than the number of truckers who my sister Lori got to step on them at the highway weigh station on I-40.

We’re still laughing about that trip.

So yesterday my new Scion—which I still totally love—hit the 10,000 mark. Yikes—I just got in on April 2—that’s a lot of miles. (Yes, I know that’s not the only thing with a lot of miles…) Of course, Lori drove about a third of them; you may recall that she didn’t allow me to drive one friggin’ minute during our trip.

Just as well. I’m the first to admit that Lori’s a much better driver than I am. Take a look at this video we made around midnight in the back hills of Tennessee. She’s driving, snapping her fingers, singing, and filming a music video. (Stay with it through the first minute and a half.) I can barely drive and change the station on the radio at the same time.

Not exactly a driver’s ed training film, huh? I swear, we weren’t drinking. That’s just how we are. Just your average 50-somethings. Yup.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vegas-bound news, a reunion, a movie review and a song

I’ll be heading back to Las Vegas next Saturday and will be working virtually from home for two weeks. Not that I actually have a home—although I do have three house keys on my keychain—by “home,” I mean Mike’s. I can’t wait to see him.

The working virtually arrangement is a trial. If it goes well without any major kinks in technology or process, then I’m one step closer to securing this as a longer-term arrangement, which has been a twinkle in my eye for a while now. At any rate, my contract has been extended to the end of October, so if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just return to Vegas for good then.  You and I both know I don’t particularly care for the whole work scene—damn those women libbers!—but as jobs go, this is a good one, and in just a couple of months my beloved co-workers have become family. I’d love to have this gig continue, so keep your fingers crossed.

Also… I met up with three friends from high school Thursday night. I saw Crazy Guy and his wife about 15 years ago at our 20th reunion, Sporty Guy about a year after high school, and the last time I saw Nice Guy was probably at graduation.

Can you pick out Crazy Guy?

God bless them for saying I haven’t changed at all. And for not commenting on the 35 pounds I’ve gained since high school. But honestly, if I weighed 103 now, something would be horribly wrong. Plus now I have boobs, which you know I love to show off regardless of the fact that probably no one should be subjected to 52-year-old cleavage.

How did we get together? The power of Facebook! It was amazing—so wonderful to catch up.

Also… A pretty long (4500 word) excerpt from Bastard Husband: A Love Story has been accepted for an upcoming anthology, Oil and Water... and Other Things that Don't Mix. All proceeds from sales (ebook and print) will go directly to registered charities with an active role in helping to clean up the effects of the Gulf oil spill. I believe I’ve been to New Orleans a good 15 times, so I’m especially happy to be included in this project. Publication date is anticipated to be sometime next month; I’ll keep you posted.

Also… I saw the new Neil Young film, Trunk Show, last week with my son, Christopher. I’m happy to report that I didn’t have to shhhh any fellow moviegoers; evidently Neil Young fans are cultured enough to observe baseline manners of behavior. Jonathan Demme directed it, so you know it's beautifully made. The film is more rock and roll than his 2006 Heart of Gold. At some points, people in the theater were laughing out loud. Not that anything was funny--and they certainly weren't laughing at Neil Young--but because it was just so freakin' joyful to see him rocking out like that.

Finally...  For you Neil Young fans, I'll leave you with a song, "Feral Children," performed by The Blackwell Sinners (Christopher, Courtney, John Rice, and father Chris Blackwell).  It's just audio--no video.  Christopher wrote it and sings--you'll see Neil Young's influence for sure.

Should I be concerned that my son wrote a song with the lyrics
My parents, they could not raise me up
I was raised by a pack of wild wolves
They showed me how the land can be by home
Now this land I shall forever roam
Up top of the mountain
Is where I sit howling at the moon
NOTHING brings me more joy than watching my kids perform!

Today I'm driving up to the Adirondacks with Connor.  My sister Lori and her husband are camping up there.  You know I'm too Private Benjamin to camp, but I'm good for sitting around in the sun.  It's a gorgeous day.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm not nagging, I'm motivating!

You know how I love to nag you about reaching your goals. What? You don’t have any goals? Then it’s time to do a little soul searching.

How can you possibly get what you want when you don’t know what it is that you want? Maybe you have a vague idea—in that case, drill down! Imagine if you went to a deli and said, “I’d like some meat.” The clerk would probably look at you like you were crazy and then move on to the next customer.  You have to drill down and come up with something more specific, like a half pound of roast beef or a quarter pound of turkey. 

I think the universe works in the same way. The universe can’t send you the people and tools to help you achieve your goals when you don’t know what they are. So in the meantime, you get nothing.  And then once you know what you want, all you have to do is take the steps to get it.  And the universe will support you.

Is it really as simple as that? Pretty much.

It’s been a twinkle in my eye to get some essays on an NPR station for some time now. Last winter I sent an email to a contact at KNPR in Las Vegas pitching the idea, but never heard back and I never followed up. Then I thought about approaching WAMC here in Albany, but that’s about all I did. I thought about it. For literally a couple of months.

Thinking about stuff is great, but it doesn’t make things happen. So one day I picked up the phone and called the station. The woman who answered connected me to Sarah LaDuke, who hosts the morning show. Sarah was open to the idea and asked me to send a few essays. I did. A week later, I followed up and left a message on her voicemail. Within minutes, I received an email asking when I could come into the studio. A week later, the three essays I submitted are recorded and ready to go.

That was pretty simple.

I know you have a goal that’s been simmering for a while. Take that first step today. Right now!

I'll end this post with a snippet of an actual conversation I had last night with my friend Joan, whom we stayed with in New Mexico while on our cross-country trip. Joan had a problem she wanted to run by me.
Joan:  "Thanks for listening, Linda.  I have a good idea what to do now."
Me:  "I hope that works for you, but I don't know why you ask me for advice.  I'm the most messed up person on earth."
Joan:  "Well, you can see how desperate I am."

Now get off your ass. Go make a call.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recording went well!

I recorded all three essays I submitted yesterday and was in and out of the studio in less than 20 minutes. Whew! The producer, Sarah LaDuke, put me at ease immediately and couldn't have been more patient. She said the digital recording technology makes it super easy to edit, and that if I mess up, just take a breath and start the sentence over. Which is what I did. Sometimes again and again.

The spots aren't scheduled; they'll air when they have a gap in the programming they need to fill for a few minutes. Sarah said she can usually give a day's notice as to when they'll air, and they'll be available as podcasts on the WAMC website. I told her I have plenty more where they came from; I'd love to record again. Yay.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Recording some essays for public radio today

A few weeks ago I approached WAMC Northeast Public Radio here in Albany to see if they'd be interested in some humorous essays I've written. They asked be to submit a few and then last week I got an email saying they'd like me to come in to record.

Radio doesn't scare me. (High-def TV is another story.) I had a radio show for three years on WRPI and was one of the first female announcers on WPLT back in my college days in Plattsburgh, NY. But last night as I was running through my stuff, I kept messing up. I swear, I couldn't read more than a sentence without flubbing the words. Plus I know I have a slight lisp--I'll never forget the day an acting teacher suggested speech therapy, which I never did. Please, if I'm going for therapy, don't you think my speech would be the least of it? The bottom line is, pray I'll be working with a patient engineer today. Maybe I should suggest we make a video of the outtakes; it would probably be as long as Gone With the Wind. [Red blotches now forming on my neck...]

I don't know what they have in mind--how much they want me to record or when they'd like to air my pieces. I'm just going to show up and try my best. No pressure, but this would be great exposure for my writing. David Sedaris got his start on public radio!

I am so hoping this goes well. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Completely Insensitive Stupid Idiotic Dummy's Guide to Naming Book Titles

I saw these yesterday in the window of a bookstore. I've always said I would never buy a "for Dummies" book or "Complete Idiot's Guide" to anything, just based on principle.

Is it me or are these titles going a little too far?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Is Las Vegas a financial black hole?

I know a lot of you click in here from Hurricane Mikey’s site, so no doubt you’ve read about his plans to leave Las Vegas. Wow, huh? Mikey’s the perfect Vegas character—athough he’d be an interesting character in any locale—and I’m looking forward to his upcoming "tales from the trenches" of casino life once he can really let it rip.

From a strictly selfish standpoint, I hate to see my friend leave, but I certainly understand his decision. Las Vegas is a fantastic place to live, but Mikey wasn’t exaggerating in his post Thursday about the suckiness of the Sin City job market.

I share Mikey's sentiment about working in casinos, and unfortunately, there’s very little corporate presence in Vegas outside of gaming and hospitality. I like to think I have an advantage in that I have a ton of experience in both corporate training and technical writing, so I have two areas of expertise to leverage. Plus I’m free to travel as needed and writing is something that can be done virtually. But the reality is, it took me almost three years to find a halfway decent job in Las Vegas and I was on the lookout practically the whole time I was working in my last position. I can tell you the job market there is as dry as the landscape. Believe me, I’m keeping my fingers, toes, and even my legs crossed in hopes of finding a decent source of income when I return next month.

I’ve often wondered if there’s something about Las Vegas on an energy-vortex kind of level that sucks the prosperity out of people. I don’t have to tell you the Strip wasn’t built by winners; fortunately I don’t gamble more than a few $2 bets on the horse races. Still, my personal financial picture is nowhere as pretty as it was before I moved there; those first three years even exhausted my facelift fund.

It could have been worse. I once met a guy whose wife ran off with a dealer at Green Valley Ranch—after she blew through $60,000. He told me he’d hear the garage door open in the middle of the night as she snuck out. Another guy I met discovered $90,000 missing; his wife even tapped into their teenage daughter’s and her elderly mother’s accounts.

And how about all those people who’ve lost the real estate gamble? For sure, some of those borrowers who got their asses kicked should have known better--what the hell did they think would happen? But there were also some good folks who simply took a mighty painful loss.

Yeah, I wonder about the energy thing. Mikey, I wish you the best of luck.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

So what does Albany look like, anyway?

No doubt you've heard of Albany, NY, and you probably even know it's the state capital. I sometimes wonder what those of you in other areas of the country (and the world) imagine Albany to look like.

Well, imagine no more! Last Saturday Connor and I took a bunch of pictures to show you. We spent the day at the Empire State Plaza in downtown Albany. The Plaza, finished in the mid-1970s, is 98 acres of state office buildings. My friend Tim, whom I'm staying with this summer, works there.

You can kind of see a stage on the left side of the photo. They have concerts and music festivals here (a lot more before the budget cuts). At the end of the Plaza is the Capitol building.

The round thing on the right side of that first photo is called The Egg. There are two theaters in there; it's a great place to see a show.

Here's my boy relaxing on one of the pieces of art. There's art all over the Plaza; the concourse under the area you're looking at is filled with it. Governor Nelson B. Rockefeller, who built this complex, was a big art collector.

It's funny--I have pictures in my storage unit of Christopher and Courtney playing on that yellow thing when they were little. Chris and I used to bring the kids there and they'd run around like hell. In fact, Chris and I walked around the Plaza on one of our first dates. And now here I am with my grandson.

Connor's such a ham. (I wonder where he gets that from?)

I had a great day with Connor; I cherish every minute I spend with him. He'll be a teenager before I know it--I'm so glad I came back this summer to hang with him.

Just north of the Capitol is the Alfred E. Smith (I almost wrote "Newman") State Office Building. This was the tallest building in Albany until the Corning Tower in the Plaza was built. Beautiful Aunt Joyce used to take me and Lori to the observation deck when we were little.

This is the State Education Building.

And here's City Hall.

Did you know Albany has such beautiful architecture? There are so many gorgeous buildings downtown; it's an old city.

Here's a bird's-eye view (I didn't take this one). The blue at the top is the Hudson River.

Here's a view of downtown Albany from the highway.

So now you know what Albany looks like! Is it what you imagined?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to the stage!

I did a set Saturday night at Duke’s Last Laugh in Glenmont, NY, just outside of Albany. It was my first time on stage in about four months, and my first time ever on that stage. Here I am with my buddy Dave Kanyan, who hosts the show.

A good host is the key to a successful open mic show, and Dave does a fine job running the stage. Kudos to him—I’ve performed on stages where the host would let drunken or obviously baked comics with no decipherable act drone on and on way past their allotted time. Of course, you can’t control the quality of the comics in an open mic setting, but you can certainly control the quality of how the stage is run. Dave keeps it professional.

I’m happy to report that I did well and after almost seven freakin’ years of doing stand-up (on and off), I’m finally starting to have fun. That’s supposed to be the whole point, right? Like why would you continue to partake in a hobby that doesn’t bring you joy?

Historically I’ve had some issues with stage fright and so the whole notion of having fun while performing stand-up has been lost on me. Fun? What could be fun about putting yourself in front of a bunch of strangers with the sole purpose of making them laugh? What could be fun about possibly forgetting your entire act and having to stand there like a vacuous-brained doofus?

I think I can identify why I’ve had this turning point. In corporate training, we have what’s called a “bag of tricks” that’s comprised of war stories, anecdotes, helpful hints, etc. We pull from this bag of tricks during a training session as applicable to the trainees in front of us. The more training experience you gain, the more you have to pull from.

The same applies to comedy. After almost seven years, I finally feel I have enough material in my bag of tricks. If my mind goes blank, I have something in the bag to pull from. Whereas I used to strictly adhere to my set list, I can now assess the audience a bit before I go up and adjust my act accordingly by pulling from my bag of tricks. I can ad lib more and interact with the crowd more, as opposed to just delivering material as if it’s a speech. This makes a world of difference and makes it much more fun.

Believe me, I have no aspirations to do comedy professionally; it’s strictly a hobby. I’m primarily a writer; stand-up is just a piece of the puzzle that is Linda Lou. But it wouldn’t make sense for me to do stand-up if I’m not having fun. Thankfully, the fun part is finally starting to kick in.

My sister Lori videoed my set, but I need to edit it a bit before I put it on YouTube. Coming soon…

Saturday, August 14, 2010

You know you're having fun when you need to return to the healthy lifestyle of Las Vegas

I’m beginning to plot my way back to Las Vegas. Purgefest 2010 and my summer in Albany has been a resounding success, but it’s already the middle of August and I have to start planning for my return.

My first action item is to secure some sort of employment. I was lucky as hell to find and start a three-month technical writing gig here less than three weeks after my arrival, and even luckier that I have fun as hell coworkers and a boss I hardly ever see. I’m still getting calls and emails from recruiters looking for tech writers in this area—I wish the Vegas job market was as promising.

The ultimate situation would be to continue to write for this company virtually, which I’m definitely going to look into. In the meantime, I have my resume on Monster that highlights my training experience. If it’s not possible to continue with this company, I’d love to get a nice contact training gig. I really am a kick-ass (and fun) trainer and I find training so much more rewarding than technical writing. I’m also able to travel as much as needed, so that should be a selling point. I can work anywhere in the country as long as they’ll fly me back to Vegas on the weekends. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I had lunch the other day with one of my former co-trainers from Fleet Bank. We had such a blast working together—it was great to see him. Stephen is seven feet tall, and I’m telling you it was a real eye-opener to see how people bugged him about his height. No matter where he goes—restaurants, airport security, even just on the street—people stop and ask how tall he is. I mean sometimes literally every two minutes. They usually try to guess how tall he is and then they ask if he’s ever played basketball. (He has.)

Stephen is pretty damn polite, considering he can’t do a simple errand without someone in his face. Seriously, would you ever stop a heavy person and go, “OMG, I can’t believe how fat you are! Wow! How much do you weigh? Like four hundred pounds? Five hundred?”

Speaking of weight, one of the reasons I’m looking forward to getting back to Vegas is I need to get in some exercise routine. Mike likes to hike and go for long walks in the neighborhood, and he doesn’t drink so he’s not a bad influence like my Albany peeps (ha). It’s been party, party, party all the time here! Can you believe I need to go to Vegas for a healthy lifestyle?

Last night I saw Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys at Club Helsinki in Hudson, NY.

Great band—I’ve seen them several times in New Orleans—and the new Club Helsinki venue is fantastic. Yup, party, party…

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Brotherly love

(By popular demand)  The pictures say it all...

Boy, that Hazey is a lucky girl to have a brother who loves her so much.  She must have learned the hand gesture from watching me drive.

She's an angel.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It’s your turn to be Dear Abby

No, I don't need advice. Wait, I probably do. But that's not what I had in mind.

One of my many fantasies (of those that don’t involve handcuffs, whipped cream and Denis Leary) is to be an advice columnist. Seriously, is there no greater joy than telling people what to do? Imagine having people actually asking you for guidance! That would be a dream come true.

Did you happen to see Dear Abby’s column in last Sunday’s paper? If you did, I bet you thought of me. Here's how it went.

DEAR ABBY: My son and his girlfriend decided to go to an afternoon matinee. Two older women sat down behind them. When the movie started, one of them began a loud, running commentary to the other.

After a few minutes, my son and his girlfriend moved to seats four rows farther down, but they could still hear the woman explaining step-by-step what was happening on the screen. He turned around and made a shushing sound, and in a loud voice she responded, "My friend is blind and I'm explaining what's happening on the screen."

Other people changed seats, too. My son understood how a blind person might want to enjoy hearing a movie, but her companion should have told her this was a public place and she would have to wait until they go home to have it explained in full, or wait for the DVD to come out so they could talk at home while it was on.

Abby, wasn't it rude to destroy everyone else's enjoyment of the film?-- SUZANNE IN LAGUNA NIGUEL, CALIF
Here’s Abby’s response:
DEAR SUZANNE: Yes. Your son should have taken the problem to the theater usher or manager. Many theaters are equipped with special descriptive audio for blind patrons. If that accommodation was not available, the blind person and her companion should have sat toward the front of the theater or in an area that was less crowded so they didn't distract other audience members. Also, movies with descriptive audio can be obtained at the local library.
Dear Abby seriously thinks blind people should wait until the movie is available in the library?

Here’s how I’d reply if I had my own internationally syndicated advice column:
DEAR SUZANNE: Congratulations on doing such a fantastic job raising your son. Clearly he knows proper movie theater etiquette and I applaud his shushing initiative. Yes, it must positively suck to be blind and not know if there’s a bug on your food or when you’re done wiping in the bathroom, but that doesn’t mean everybody’s ten dollars should go to waste. My beloved Stepdaddy is aurally challenged; imagine if my mother shouted each line of dialogue for his benefit? The situation here could easily have been averted had the woman simply said to her friend, “Hey, I’m blind, not deaf!” and then asked her to relay the essentials of what’s transpiring on screen in a whisper.
Now it's your turn. How would you respond to Suzanne?

And what problem can I help you with? HA-ha-ha!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yesterday at the track

OMG, I'm an even bigger idiot than I thought! I asked Lori to make this video yesterday at the track on my iPhone (which you're totally going to come to hate) and being the freakin' techno-spaz I am, I told her she had to hold it vertically. Yeah, I have a lot to learn. A lot.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This week in pictures from my iPhone

First, there's no open mic tonight at Duke's--it's next week. I'm not sure if I'm going to be in town, but if I am, I'll definitely go up. I'll keep you posted.

I am so loving this new iPhone.  I keep saying all I need in life is my iPhone, my cute little Scion, my Ross Dress-for-Less wardrobe... and this paddle game.  (Does anybody get that reference?)  Anyway, I'm too lazy to write today, so I'm sharing some pictures from the past week. 

Last Saturday I partied the night away with David Byrne of Talking Heads fame.

Not really--that's my friend Randy, but holy crap is he a dead ringer or what?

Look at this handsome guy I'm with. You can see why Mike has nothing to worry about while I'm away.

I spent last Sunday at Saratoga Race Track with my grandson, Connor; my son, Christopher; and his girlfriend, Ketti. What a gorgeous day!

Hey, look--Hulk Hogan was there!

Not really--that's just some nut dressed up as the Hulkster. I think. I mean, he wouldn't dress up like that in real life, would he?

I took this pic of my sister Lori Thursday night on her way to a Red Knights motorcycle club meeting. Bastard Husband himself sent her that shirt a couple of years ago.

I took this from the window of a conference room at work yesterday. I'm sure my readers from all over the world are wondering what downtown Schenectady looks like.

Sorry, no pics of Hazey this week. But I'm telling you, she's cute as a button.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Look, guys--it's as simple as this!

"And thus, dear students, we have arrived at the formula for understanding women."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why I'm a better woman than Mary Todd Lincoln

Like the rest of the world, I love the Geico commercial where Mary Todd Lincoln asks Abe if she looks fat.

Talk about perfect comic timing!

Reminds me of this dress I bought at one of the four Ross Dress-for-Less stores I hit while I was in Vegas last month. Like everything I try on/buy/have in my closet, it would fit soooo much better if I were 10 pounds lighter. Specifically, 10 pounds lighter around the middle.

Just about nothing looks good in the dressing room mirror, don’t you agree? But you know how sometimes you buy something even though it’s on the cusp because you’re hoping that when you get home and try it on with different shoes or a different bra it’ll actually look okay? That was this dress.

And so I brought it home (meaning Mike’s house), coordinated it with the best shoe/bra combo I could come up with, and modeled it for him.
Me: “What do you think? Am I too fat for this?”
Mike: “Yup.”
Me: “Yeah, totally… that’s what I thought. It’s too tight around the middle, right?”
Mike: “Right.”
Mike: “All you’d have to do is lose a couple pounds and it would be fine.”
Okaaaaaay, thank you so much, darling, you can stop right there.

Mike: “Just do some sit-ups. That’s all it would take.”
OMG, are you really in the top 1 percent of the 1 percent of people in Mensa?

Mike: “That wouldn’t be too hard. Right?”
No, that wouldn’t be hard at all. In fact, maybe I’ll give up beer and ice cream and have a goddamn stalk of celery for lunch instead of a slice of pizza because God knows it would be just as satisfying.
Mike (sensing he may never engage in intimate adult relations again) (with me anyway): “You want me to be honest, right?”

Me: “Yes, I do. Thank you, honey.”
And there lies the difference between me and Mary Todd Lincoln:

I didn’t go out and hire an assassin.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Comedians with balls

I’m planning on doing an open mic Saturday night at Duke’s Pub in Glenmont. I haven’t been on stage in about 4 months, so there’s a good possibility I could totally suck. This place is new to me and I don’t really have any new material; I’ll be spouting out the old crap. I just don’t want to get too rusty. Come on over if you’re not doing anything!

You’ve probably figured out that I don’t exactly love doing stand-up; I’d much rather get in front of people as a speaker who happens to be humorous than as a comedian who has to be humorous. But I am so diggin’ Louis C.K.’s new show, Louie, that I’m starting to get inspired.

I’ve been a Louis C.K. fan for quite a few years now, and like almost all comics, this guy is one brave mo-fo. Talk about pushing comedy to the limits, and on TV no less. Last week he opened his show with a bit where he’s responding to a heckler. It’s funny, awkward, vulgar, and brilliant all at the same time. Amazing.

In the new Joan Rivers movie, which I’m evidently talking about ad nauseum, there’s a scene that shows her handling an indignant heckler who shouts, “Hey, my son is deaf!” after she makes a Helen Keller joke. We then get to watch the master as she pulls the audience over to her side. So well done.

But back up. If that guy is so friggin’ sensitive, what the hell was he doing at her show in the first place? You can’t go to see Joan Rivers and expect her to stay inside the politically correct lines. Same with Louis C.K., Rickles, hell... just about any comic. Any that's funny. How would comics even have an act if they had to worry about offending someone in the audience? If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, right?

It takes a lot of balls to do comedy, people. And sometimes (ironically), some of the biggest balls belong to the women.