Monthly Archives: October 2009

Laura Goes Screed-Free About Her Great Virtual Life

Well, it’s really been a month or two of screeds.

First there was Joel Olsen’s viral screed-fest: the eff-word filled rant about not wanting to effing read anyone’s effing script.Then there was “established writer” John Scalzi’s “On the Asking of Favors From Established Writers” – yet another enraged “established” writer bitching about being asked for favors by “non-established” writers. (Note: Laura has never heard of “established” writer John Scalzi, but she wouldn’t want to ask him to do her a favor and tell her who he is because then he’d put her in his next screed about people asking “established” writers for favors.)

Then, not to be overly self-branterential, there was Laura’s Comcast Brants (called her “Comcast Jihad” by a Twitter-friend).Not to mention her screed about having Turkey Neck. And turning into a Masshole.

It’s been a stressful time:  back to school, battling religious ambivalence and cooking phobia during the Jewish holidays, and trying to figure out the rest of her career-life with lots of great new work coming in — Laura could go on and on and on here with the stress-triggers — but one thing has been a truly solid rock for her to lean on:

Her virtual life.

Laura’s sure there are tons of screeds she could link to on the downside of Twitter and Facebook and all the other social networking sites we all waste far too much time engaging in, but she doesn’t want to link to those screeds because while they’re certainly true in most ways — sitting around refreshing her Twitter page twenty times in a row to see if she has any more followers, for instance, is of course a fucking ridiculous way to spend those few spare minutes in between updating her status on Facebook — they’re not true in other ways. And those other ways are the kinds of strange magical connections Laura’s made over the past few months on these sites that have truly saved her and inspired her.

She’s written about some of these virtual friendships in past brants, but when Laura was thinking about her virtual connections in aggregate — the ones on Facebook and the new ones on Twitter — she was truly astounded and grateful for how these people have, in spare seconds and minutes through the day and night when Laura hasn’t had time to actually socialize in real-time, helped her.  Really helped her.  With support and understanding, humor, and incredible expertise.

Let’s go to a few incontrovertible examples.

1. marci150newThis first example is actually one of Laura’s favorites.  For many reasons she’s sure you’ll see when she’s finished.  She’s written at least once about Marci Alboher who used to have a fantastic NYTs career blog semi-based on her extremely helpful and timely book, One Person/Multiple Careers, and who is now a guest blogger for Yahoo on her new blog, Working in the New Economy. But she hasn’t yet branted about what happened at the end of the summer.  Laura and Marci became acquainted through Twitter (@heymarci), when Laura answered Marci’s query for interesting website bios.  After mentioning a few author friends, she mentioned her own bio, and Marci ended up liking her bio enough to cite it in her column about (what else?) how to write a good bio.  Laura and Marci both thought this was swell – a win-win for both of them – and it became even sweller when they realized they had a great friend in common, super-cool musician writer Jen Trynin who wrote the incredible rock-memoir Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be. Just as Laura was enjoying the small-world-ness of that connection, something even better happened.  Laura’s agent had expressed concern about her overly familiar voice and her overly frequent use of the “F” word in a recent brant: Laura was trying to branch out to get new and different kinds of writing projects and her agent was afraid that prospects would be turned off.  So Laura immediately took down the post in question and went straight to her regularly scheduled shrink appointment.

To Laura and most writers, voice and the F word are reallllly big deals, so Laura was thrown into a panic: while she wanted to have the freedom to say what she wanted, she also wanted to get work; and, while she wanted to get work, she wanted to have the freedom to say what she wanted.  Laura’s shrink was helpful in the initial deconstruction of this torturous conundrum, but it was when she was leaving the appointment and walking to her car that she got an email from Marci:  Where was that post?  She’d told someone about it and that person wanted to link to it…

Now, Laura has never met Marci, and yet there she was, on a summer Friday, in the heat and buzzing-buggy afternoon humidity, typing wildly on her Crackberry from her car still parked in front of her shrink’s house, telling Marci all about her Big Brant Issue:  her agent’s concerns, Laura’s somewhat competing goals: work and voice, voice and work.  And as Marci typed back — that in her opinion the brant in question didn’t strike her as being offensive or jeopardizing her chances for work, and wasn’t that the job [and perogative] of a writer — to have a voice? — and wasn’t total honesty and authenticity in blogs what got writers noticed these days? — Laura realized how amazing it was. That no matter who was right or wrong or what the correct answer about any of it was:

She was getting real time career advice from one of the foremost career-advisors on the planet in her hour of extreme need!

The rest of these examples are much shorter, but no less, in Laura’s mind, meaningful:

2.  3284404245_c35b7255ee_mThere’s a whole bunch of food bloggers on Twitter that Laura follows – which might seem strange, given Laura’s long-documented cooking phobia and ambivalence (she can cook, but she’s afraid to, or doesn’t have time to, or, deep down, thinks she can’t cook) – but it’s greatly desensitizing (in a phobia-managing way) to read their 140-character tweets about cooking and recipes and food throughout the day.  Last Friday, Laura was cooking up a storm — it was cold, she had a cold, and she just felt like it — and one of the things she was making was chicken soup with matzo balls.  At the last minute she decided she wanted to add rice to the soup (Ben likes rice in his soup) but of course Laura got all weird about not knowing HOW to add rice to the soup: was she supposed to cook it first and then add it?  Or could she just add it, uncooked?  She didn’t feel like going through a zillion cookbooks (another weird thing about Laura — all the cookbooks for someone who rarely cooks) or getting her stupid slow Macbook all greasy by looking all over or for the answer.  So instead, she wrote to one of her favorite food bloggers, @SimmerTillDone, (whose blog is her question.  Within seconds, Marilyn Naron, from Lawrence, Kansas, whom Laura has never met but with whom she’s had great brief Twitter exchanges, gave her the answer:  she could do it either way (which is kind of what Laura thought).

3.  bookcover_lgThen there’s a whole bunch of writers on Twitter who, quite simply, could not be nicer, funnier, more supportive, and lovelier.  There’s the very talented Hyatt Bass, author of The Embers; there’s Allison Winn Scotch, author of Time of My Life; Deb Copaken Kogan, author of ShutterBabe and Hell Is Other bookcover-TOMLParents,  Jane Green, the author of, well, you know, like 14 or 15 or 25 novels, and a few others.  The main cheerleader of them all — and Laura means cheerleader in the absolute best sense of the word, is Julie Klam, author of the uniformly praised memoir, Please Excuse My Daughter.  Laura has gotten great messages of support on Twitter from this group of writers she’s never met (most of these gals have never met, but most of them have the advantage of being able to meet since they all live in NYC), but one of her most favorite exchanges took place this summer.  Laura was just deciding, after a long and somewhat involuntary hiatus, to try to start writing again, and the thing she wanted to try to write most was a kind of memoir-type thing about moving back to where she grew up.  Feeling completely lost and inept and out of practice and all Do I dare to eat a peach?, she wrote to dckogan-210-Hiop_final_coveJulie Klam and got a few wonderful and encouraging emails from her:  again, Julie is someone Laura has never met, yet she was getting memoir-writing encouragement from someone whose memoir she adored.  As Ina Garten always says, “How fabulous is that?”


[Julie Klam]

There are more stories, and more examples, which Laura will undoubtedly remember and kick herself for not including here, but she’ll add them to another follow-up brant when she does.  In the meantime, Laura hopes you’ll share your stories of wonderful virtual friendships with her or on your own blogs.  Because, isn’t enjoying social networking sites better than screeding about them?



Design Flaw


This is a photograph of a Volvo C30–the kind of car Laura got a year and a half ago.  It’s one of the reasons she got any semblance of her groove back, whatever that means, and while she’s a little embarrassed to admit that she has always derived a little too much pleasure from attractive cars, she has to say that after having spent practically a whole year in bed after her surgery, getting this car gave her a real jolt.

Of course, it’s kind of a “young-person’s” car — meaning, because it’s a two-door, low-to-the-ground hatchback, you need the abs and biceps of a 40-year-old to get in and out (Laura’s 47 and her abs, well, let’s not go there). It’s not a sofa-sized-boat-like station-wagon, or a mini van, or an SUV (the latter two of which Laura is proud to say she’s never driven — not that there’s anything so great about admitting to having driven a station wagon) — and it’s kind of a drag sometimes, with Ben, having to have him climb in through the big heavy door, then push the seat forward so he can climb in back.  Kind of like the old days of Hebrew School carpool when somebody’s mom had a Chevy Nova or Dodge Dart — two-door coupes where you were constantly pushing the front seat-back forward in order to climb into the back and then out again. Only this isn’t the 70s anymore, and any perception of difficulty when it comes to cars and driving (what?! only two cup holders?!  what? no built-in GPS?? what?! no automatic iPod charger?!) is jarring and kind of unacceptable.

Not that Laura’s complaining.  Like she said already, she loves her car, and up until a few weeks ago she almost never saw other C30’s on the road.  She had the smug pleasure of not only driving around in her groove-supplying-mobile, but also feeling like she was really special because no one had the same car.  Sure, every now and then, a C30 would pass her on the highway and another goofy Volvo owner would smile and wave and honk — Hey! We have the same car!! — but most of the time she could go for days without seeing another one like hers.  It was especially convenient for parking lots — namely, for finding her car in a parking lot full of Nissans and Toyotas and Hondas and BMWs.  Her car didn’t look like the others and it made it was a lifesaver when she forgot where she parked.

OK.  So if you’re like Laura, you’re always waiting for the “but” when you’re listening to a story — especially to a relatively boring story like the one she’s been telling you about her C30.  And the “but” here is this:

There’s a design flaw.

The design flaw, which you can’t see from the photo, is that the front of the car is really really low to the ground.  So low to the ground, that probably the first week she got the car she hit one of those cement parking space blocks which made a really awful sound of metal scraping on cement sound that Laura had never heard before. By the second week she did it again, and by the third or fourth or fifth week she’d not only scraped the bottom of the front end but actually partially dislodged the front right bumper and bent it a little.  During a routine service trip to a nearby Volvo dealership, they managed — amazingly enough — to pop the bumper back in, and Laura was thrilled that she wasn’t going to have to pay some ridiculous amount of money to get that stupid bumper fixed.

Especially since it wasn’t really her fault because it was a design flaw.

So yesterday Laura takes her C30 in to that same Volvo dealership — drops it off in the morning for an oil-change and as they’re processing it and checking it in, the guy at the front desk makes a big face and asks her what happened to the front of her car.  So she tells him.

And then she adds:  “Well, you know, that low-front-end thing: it’s a real design flaw.”

You’d think she had said something really ridiculous, like — she can’t even actually think of what she could possibly have said to elicit the look the guy gave her — he practically laughed in her face — and, in fact, later on, when she picked up her car and was the last one there (there was also the matter of the pesky “check engine” light they had to figure out), the guy, who by now had become pretty friendly, actually admitted to Laura that he thought the “design flaw” comment was really funny.

“We had a good laugh about that after you left,” he said.

Oh really!  And thanks for sharing!!

Laura felt oddly validated: she sometimes suspects people have a good laugh at her expense after she leaves places, and this time, it was absolutely confirmed.  She left and all the guys at the Volvo placed laughed at the fact that she had the audacity to blame the giant front right lower bumper dent on a design flaw rather than on her lack of parking skill. She couldn’t help but think that it was one of those car-guy things — laughing at the pathetic lady-driver — but maybe they were taking umbrage at the fact that the pathetic lady-driver wasn’t taking responsibility for her own actions (as opposed to just finding her lack of parking skills laughable).

Laura feels like she spends most of her time taking responsibility for things that are her fault (a list too huge to start here) so on this one she’s just going to allow herself a fucking pass.  Design flaw or no design flaw, the front end is too low to the ground and she knows the minute she spends a ridiculous amount of money to get it fixed, she’s just going to do it again…

Ben on the Drums

So Laura takes a week and a half off from Branting (she was kinda busy) and the first thing she posts is video of Ben on the Drums.  This was video taken by her friend Simone at last week’s School of Rock “Guns ‘N Roses vs. Motley Crue” [sorry for the lack of umlaut] concert at the Middle East Club in Cambridge on Sunday. There was also a performance on Saturday at Johnny D’s in Somerville but Laura barely remembers that one because she was kind of Klonned-out:  she’d lost her Blackberry earlier in the day and the thought of having to buy another one — you know, for around $300 because that’s what they charge you when you lose one, not when you sign up for service and get the great cheapo deal — completely sent her over the edge.  She had a complete meltdown in the stupid Shaw’s supermarket in Brighton where she left it, went home, continued her meltdown, then took a Klon before the performance.  While trying to sleep it off in the parked Volvo in front of Johnny D’s 30 minutes before the performance (don’t worry: Brendan drove, parked, checked on her, gave her more time to sleep), Brendan informed her that he’d found her phone: he’d brilliantly texted her lost phone and some guy texted him back: he’d found the Blackberry at the supermarket, was going to turn it in, but was afraid it would just get stolen.  So they arranged to pick up the phone later after the concert at a pizza place in Waltham where the phone-finder-guy worked.  Laura was overjoyed — but completely Klonned out — so her joy felt hazy and rubbery but joyous nontheless.

But back to Ben.

There’s more video that Laura’s going to post as soon as she gets it — a threat! — because there’s a song, “Welcome to the Jungle” that Ben played the drums on and Simone’s son (“Middle” is what she calls him on her blog so Laura won’t use his name here) sang on.  It’s great — GREAT — and she can’t wait to post it.  Laura doesn’t even feel uncomfortable with her shameless child-promotion: she refuses to feel guilty for being amazed by — and wanting other people to be amazed by — Ben’s talent on the drums.  I mean, he’s only nine years old!!  Of course, the other kids in the video are also super talented — Joe Dias (singing/guitar), Ike Sweetnam (guitar), Richie Garceau (bass) — so Laura doesn’t want you to think she’s singling out Ben for any other reason than this is HER brant and she’s allowed to single out her kid here.  But entitlement-of-bragging-and-branting aside, Laura thinks he’s just phenomenal and she’s incredibly proud.

More branting — about topics other than Ben-pride — later…