Prattling about writing and stalkers and Non-Yum

I think I struck a chord with my last post. Thanks, everyone who commented. I really wish it was a comment section full of, “As usual, SJ, we have no idea what you’re talking about.” But life’s not like that, is it?

I have pictures to post this weekend and more writings to make and I wrote for two hours this morning. Boy howdy! Shauny was telling me that she’s using something called 750 Words sometimes. I thought, shit bitches, I am not writing anything close to that! Maybe just a page…. I decided to pay attention to my word count for a couple of days. 1500 one day, and 2100 this morning when I had two hours to write.

Of course, it’s not the word count that’s the primary point. It’s just that it’s fairly easy to knock out and make progress pretty fast. I forgot about this. My mindhack (oh yes I did) for this is to time myself. I started with ten-minute bursts because I cannot justify my way out of ten minutes. Now I am on 30-minute solid bursts where I don’t talk to anyone or look at the internet for “research” or stop unless I really need to. I was really worried about being sick or tired, so if that happens I am going to cut back to ten minutes and see if I can do more from there. The tiniest amount of progress will keep the story fresh in my head.

This story is running on its own steam now–I’ve got it charted (in my head, at least) from start to finish. It’s nice to have one of those periods where you can see it all like a movie and you’re just transcribing what happened. I’ll spend more time this weekend and I suspect it might top out around 20k words in another week or so. I have promised one of my very favorite people that I will put it up somewhere else NOT on iasshole so it has a home and doesn’t get lost and people can download it. The antidote to my mother’s voice in my head calling my writing pretentious is bossy people who I love. Bossing me. The muscle’s coming back fast and it’s like I never stopped now.

Now I have something embarrassing to tell you, which is an unusual occurrence around here, I know. This, however, does not involve things getting stuck in my vagina or whatever, so feel free to wander off. Some time ago I stumbled upon this article, about, yes, Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret. I’ll summarize, since it really doesn’t need to even have an article’s worth of words attached to it. .5 Think about the thing you want to make progress on and do every day. 1. Get a full year’s wall calendar (“year-at-a-glance”) 2. Make an X every day you do the thing you want to do. 3. Don’t break the chain. Now that I am over a week in, it is already hard to think about breaking it.

I have a growing wall of red Xs hanging inside the door of my pantry and it is making me happy. When I walk into work in the morning, I feel like even if I lay under my desk all day (WHICH I WOULD NEVER DREAM OF DOING, COUGH) I would have accomplished enough for the day.

I know what I am writing about after this first story, and then I will have to figure something else out after that, but I have time.

I realized that I have been writing steadily for half my life now. I wrote my first story when I was nine about some cat detectives in the future who have fedoras and Model-Ts except, twist, they are Model-T hovercars. And then 25 years or so later I discovered I basically wrote Meow, The Jury, except shorter. I guess I have always loved noir the best.

As an aside, Jerry Seinfeld always gives me a cringe because when I was a barista in college in Phoenix there was a guy who came in every day, Ted. Ted became very fixated on me and chatted me up most days I worked. He saw me in my terrible Coffee Plantation uniform with my hair in a ponytail every day. I remember Seinfeld was in its last season then, and the media was kind of spacking out about it all and it was kind of idle small talk. This is the time I informally think of as “before pop culture went kablooie” via the internet being what it is today and 50 gajillion cable channels. The splintering. Lots of people were watching Seinfeld.

As an aside within my aside, I was thinking that hardly anyone comes really close to an almost complete overlap in pop culture interests anymore, but at the same time, you can catch someone up in 30 seconds via your pocket computer. So that’s a trade. I realized my Feral Dwarf doesn’t really grok Bugs Bunny references and it may not matter. Bugs Bunny is kind of an asshole. But she can quote Strong Bad, who is an entertaining asshole.

Anyway. My stalker. He was quoting classic Seinfeldy quotes at me and trying to make me laugh and whatnot. I was trying to smile and make as many tips off the tightwads who came through Phoenix’s “fancy” mall as possible. [Actual customer quote: "I have socks that are worth more than you."] Of course he inquired about my relationship status none-to-subtly with my five a.m. opening shift buddy, who was a peach and a really hard worker, and reignited my love of hiphop via one of those restaurant satellite stations. You have not lived until you have ground several pounds of coffee for the drip urns in preparation to the morning rush by 5:20 a.m., getting some kind of weird contact high from the powdered beans floating in the air while dancing to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.” Actually, that is a lie. Even if you have not done that I believe you when you say you’ve lived.

So it’s that thing where you have young girl with nametag who is trapped behind counter and is actually paid to smile, or at least not spit at you. Why does this equal consent? When I was younger I really had issues with men in their 50s-60s hitting on me (I know, I know, this is not an uncommon phenomenon), however, it would really throw fuel on the fire when they would pry into my interests and discover I was basically a 50-year-old woman who looked 20. I did things like dinner theatre, martinis, watercolor classes, Frank Sinatra, gardening, and “being in bed by 9 p.m.” Wait, once when I was 21 or so I accidentally drank red wine AND NyQuil within an hour of each other, and had a really far-out time listening to “Sketches of Spain.” (I had kind of a wild couple of months when I was about 27-and-a-half but I am basically back to being 50 again.) I should have said that I was totally like into parasailing and whatever was on the radio in 1998?? Aguilera?? I don’t know. Ted started getting really overt in the guise of (loudly) talking to himself as he would stir sugar into his coffee: “Yeppers, I could really use an SJ in my life.” I am getting freaked out just typing that fifteen years later.

“Does he not have a job?” I asked my opening buddy one morning as we sliced bagels. She had told me Ted was asking about me and what my schedule was.

“Oh no, he used to come in here a lot before, but then he won the lottery and quit his job. Now he’s here every day.”

“The lottery-lottery?”

“Yeah, he’s loaded.”

This made it sadder, somehow. ASU was a stone’s throw away and he could have pulled any one of hundreds of Britney clones there, but instead he was bothering a sweaty, dairy-vomit-smelling child bride who dyed her hair brown on purpose, and not for any smart reason, like covering grey. I just wanted it browner.

One day on my day off I came in to pick up my paper paycheck so I could spend it on sensible shoes or vegetables or something. Ted was sitting outdoors, which was unusual, because he usually sat within earshot of where I would work on the hot machine.

“Hi SJ!” he shouted at me across the parking lot. Ted’s weaselly face lit up as I pushed my goggles up on top of my head and swung my leg over my scooter. Man, this was his lucky week. He got six days of SJ! As I approached him his face changed and became very confused-looking.

“Hey, Ted,” I replied when I got within polite talking distance. I was never one to shout across parking lots unless someone was in danger or something. “What’s crackin?”

“Uh, nothing…” He blanched a little in the toasty Phoenix springtime sun and looked down into his coffee.

“Okay, see you later, Mr. Chatty.”

As I walked into my store I forgot I was wearing short shorts and a shirt I had picked up at one of the only piercing shops in Honolulu in 1996. It featured cartoony, Coop-like scantily-clad women. One was bent over and trussed up with a ball gag in her mouth, and the other woman was flogging her. The name of the shop, which I believe was Sin, was featured over the picture.

Ted rarely spoke to me after that. I should have thought of it months before!

In Other News.

My old boss sent me this picture today and I captioned it. Oh Friday.

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4 Responses to “Prattling about writing and stalkers and Non-Yum”

  1. ozma says:

    OK, I keep clicking away from your post because everything you are linking to is just what I need. I joined that 750 words thing. I read the Seinfeld plan.

    I can’t WAIT WAIT to read whatever it is you write. My opinion is–and I am not blowing smoke–that you are the best writer among all the bloggers on the internet. I’ve been reading you since 2001 or something. It will give me great joy to read any damn thing you put together.

    Also, I’m absurdly excited to know you used to work at COFFEE PLANTATION–But the Biltmore Fashion Park one? And I bet I went there during the years you were there at least once. How weird. What a freaky place. I also went to the Tempe one. And yes, there were terrifying Britneyesque women everywhere. I remember the days you could smoke in the ASU library. I spent many years of my youth there. That was before Coffee Plantation though.

    It was the only place to go and write. So yes it was UGH but it was also a cafe. And I still love to work in cafes although I am now thankfully many miles from Phoenix. My theory was that horrible places like that sometimes make people cool simply because the when the boredom sets in it can facilitate a certain type of originality. But maybe that was self serving.

    I love this quote. It makes em want to date you:

    “I did things like dinner theatre, martinis, watercolor classes, Frank Sinatra, gardening, and “being in bed by 9 p.m.” “

  2. Brigid Keely says:

    Yay for writing! Your plan sounds like a good one.

    I had a similar retail stalker, except I was working in a bakery and not a coffee shop and my stalker wasn’t a loaded lottery winner, he was an otaku who smelt of BO and urine and lived in his mom’s basement (literally) and was super into women wearing anime latex masks. I know this because he brought in printed out photos to show me. He also tried to hug me ALL THE TIME and would scold me gently for not being friendly enough.

  3. iasshole says:

    Ozma: Thank you. I wonder if you’ve been Stockholmed, but thank you. Writing fiction is actually working well finally for the first time in my adult life so I am trying to 1. talk about it so people are on notice and expect a product (This is helping in a way I cannot describe really. I have kept most of my writing for many years secret, like Emily Dickinson WHO I HATE. UGH.), 2. not examine it too closely so I don’t get suffocated by my own self-doubts. GOOD TIMES. But thanks, seriously.

    COFFEE PLANTATION. Yes. Now It Can Be Told 15 years later because they are out of business, I guess. Ha! What I did not mention is that sometimes I would make a banana shake and take it away with me after work and my opening shift coworker would give me the side eye because she thought that was theft. We were only supposed to have espresso and juice for free, I guess. I thought that getting up at 4:30 and working til 3 there most shifts meant I could have a goddam banana shake, but I guess that kind of justification is how people end up stealing Learjets or something. POINT BEING I still miss those banana shakes. And I generally do not like banana stuff, but that tasted like real banana. (Strudel’s dad had the Portland flavor, which was Coffee People, which owned Coffee Plantation at the time, and he still misses Velvet Hammers.)

    It all went downhill after she quit to go to art school and they couldn’t find people to cover her shift regularly, so whoever they put in that slot with me would consistently call off or move like a snail when they bothered to show. The manager was not surprised when I turned my keys in after the third day of opening by myself and having people pressed against the door at 6 a.m. with a lot of the shit unfinished. He covered it sometimes but I remember he had new twins and wanted to work a 9-5, which I get.

    And yes to Biltmore Fashion Park. I don’t think I ever bought one thing at another store there, except for the sushi place and Jamba Juice. I remember Coffee Plantation in Tempe, too. I used to visit a friend there in the mid-90s when I was still in HS in IL and we would sit outside by the fountains as you do and the sewer roaches that would brazenly skitter around blew my tiny mind. I don’t think I knew we had ASU in common. I was sad when I transferred from there to the U of Washington, though I think Phoenix was literally killing me. I had a rash that didn’t go away until a week after I moved back to Seattle. It was kind of a socially-cut-off, prematurely old person’s paradise, though. We didn’t even have an answering machine. I think that was the absolute last time you could get away with that. I used to wait around for prospective employers to call me when I needed a job. It was also a pretty good place to get away from drug business and criminals, too, though I soon learned my coworkers had just shifted. Seattle was coke and AZ was meth, of course.

    I don’t remember the smoking thing at ASU. I think I smoked maybe two cigarettes the whole three years I lived there. Now the whole campus is about to go smoke-free! That’s not really cool if you have to live there. insult to injury. Were you there when Arizona Mills was built? A MILE LONG MALL. And two Perfumanias, and a store with nothing but olives. PHEW I have a lot to say about Arizona APPARENTLY.

    Brigid: OH MY GOD. Now I am actually grateful in a weird way. Young women of the world wearing nametags, I salute you. And I hope you get out. Working at Lush was such an eye-opener in a weird way because the clientele was 99% women. And the guys who were customers were mostly not gross assholes. It really makes a difference to your retail experience.

  4. JB says:

    That thing with Seinfeld is pretty succinctly put by dan gable:
    “If it’s important, do it every day, if it’s not important don’t do it at all.”