Wednesday, July 15, 2009

a story worth finishing.

Currently Listening To: Speak by Nickel Creek
Favorite Lines I Read This Week: "What consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie." - from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Greetings lovelies (and whatever the masculine equivalent of that word is ... handsomes?)

Last night was, as I'm sure you are aware, Harry Potter night. And so of course I was there! I did not wear a Hagrid costume. I did, however, wear my big-nerdy-dark-rimmed glasses. All for you Harry! (And all because my contacts feel like suction cups if I wear them late at night!) Things worth noting:

1. The movie was made of awesome. Easily my favorite of the lot. The best quote of the night did not come from the movie though. It came from Sarah*. I'm repeating this from memory but it went something like this: ".... the only thing I'm not sure about is the salute at the end, after he dies. Their wands had the little lights on the tips and they waved them in the air ... I thought someone was going to come out and play Freebird."

2. I saw a girl dressed as the whomping willow. That was the most creative Harry Potter costume I've ever seen. I think it's adorable when people dress up for movies.

3. I sat beside a crazy person. The girl beside me asked if I could save her seat while she went to the bathroom. Clearly, this act of kindness convinced her she should confide in me later, while her friend went to get snacks. She said something about how he was the only friend she wanted to bring.

I said: That's nice.
She said: He's my ex. He's dating a girl I hate. I'm trying to get them to break up.

Awkward, much? They left the theater holding hands, which probably made her happy. I don't think that's a good thing. I'm not a relationship expert**, and I have no desire to know how things works out for the two of them (more on that in a minute), but I doubt he will break up with his girlfriend for this girl. I think now he's just aware he has a girl who is crazy about him on the side ... a girl he can hold hands with, go to the movies with, flirt with on the phone, etc. Just made her look kinda desperate, I think. Here is my public service announcement of the week: do not be that girl (or guy :). You deserve more than that. Guys (or girls) who string you along that way aren't worth your time. Cut off the lines of communication. Find another friend to go see Harry Potter with (a real friend not a "friend"). The following law is as tested, and true, as the Law of Gravity: If he's cheating on his girlfriend with you, odds are he'll cheat on you with someone else too. I didn't feel like telling her any of this, but I care about you. So there you go. *rant complete*

Just FYI, the guy pulled his wallet out of a leather fanny pack he carried like a purse and had at least two girls into him. Fact: Players wear fanny packs.

Really odd people have a tendency to chat it up with me. I like talking to people. I like it when people are odd in a unique, eccentric way. But I'm like a magnet for crazies, not fun crazies, but wackos. There's a warning signal that goes off in my brain when it's about to happen. The signal was booming last night for a good reason. The girl started driving me crazy go nuts (my peeps and I got there two hours before the thing started). I kept trying to scoot further away from her as she told me more details about this relationship; details I didn't want to know (why would you tell a stranger those things?). I kept pretending I was engrossed in the movie trivia on the screen. I was practically sitting on top of my brother and our friends at one point. I thought the movie starting would be my reprieve.

Of course it wasn't.

She's also the type who likes to interact with movies. I think this is super to a point: laugh, cry, squeal, scream in shock. That's cool. That's why I like midnight shows; people get excited. But don't you hate it when people talk back to the movie in a theater? When they say obvious things because they think you're too dumb to figure out very basic plot points? Every now and then this girl would gasp (not say, gasp) something very obvious. "His motheeeer!". "A death eateeeeer!" If somebody asked Harry a question, she would answer it. Had she been 12 or so, it would have been cute. But she was not 12 and it was quite annoying. I was so close to throwing my Sour Skittles at her and her ex-boyfriend, who kept one hand roaming up and down her leg (the scraping sound his hand made against her jeans was also annoying - it's like her jeans were made of sandpaper) and the other hand in his Nachos.***

4. And yet. The movie was made of awesome. Did I say that already? ... :) It was so dark and sad and then, at random points, hilarious. I can't believe the crammed that much book into a movie so well. It never felt too forced. The actors were spot on in this movie too. I never really notice much about the acting in Harry Potter (maybe it was good before this ... I just didn't pay much attention). But there were several actors in this movie who got to me. Drako Malfoy (Tom Felton?) was a scene stealer, imho. Lavender Brown, Ron's swooning, giggling, obnoxious girlfriend was hilarious. Belletrix LeStrange is so fantastically evil. Sarah and I kept talking about how much the scene changes when she's in it. I think Daniel Radcliffe will do great things after Harry Potter too. He had to hit a load of emotional high notes in this movie, and he nailed all of them. His comic timing is pretty dead on, no? Hermione, Ron, Luna ... they were all bringing it last night. I like how real the love stories felt. It has always interested me that in a heightened fantasy like Harry Potter, the love element plays so genuine and real (some stories go amiss in assuming love has to be epic to be real, dontcha think?). Also worth noting: Slughorn is great, way better and more easy to watch then Umbridge. I think Neville has grown into a really handsome guy. I wish I had Ginny Weasley's hair. And I've always been partial to Ron Weasley. Those Weasleys are too adorable. All of them. They're one of my favorite book/movie families. Go go Griffendor!

Let me know what you think if you see it.

I've got more than Harry Potter on my mind today (shock! :). I'm working on several projects (staying awake chief among those projects) and so my mind is crammed full of stuff I don't think is blog worthy. However. I wrote something awhile back that is strangely blog worthy at the moment. Following a project (goal, dream, whatever) through to the end is always a challenge for me. I lose momentum. The passion starts to fizzle. I'm learning commitment is kind of liberating, even if it is hard. I could tie this back into the end of Half Blood Prince, when Harry says he's going to finish Dumbledore's work. But trying to finish book isn't really the same as hunting down a hoarcrux is it? ;)

Regardless ... hang in there frustrated camp counselors! :) Don't give up you dreamy artists! In the immortal words of Journey, don't stop believing.**** You never know what all that dreaming, hoping, and hard work will become. Figuring out what you love, and being brave enough to go for it, is quite a magical experience. No potions making skills required. ;)

There are three Starbucks within close proximity to my house. I know this is nothing for most of you big city people who have a Starbucks around every corner. It's cliche. It's not cool anymore. I get it. I don't care. It makes me happy. For approximately four years now my life has been mostly about constant change. *violins play* Know what doesn't change? Starbucks! It always tastes the delicious same.

I don't frequent the store I call The Mermaid Starbucks (giant metal mermaid on the outside). My avoidance is simple - one of the
baristas there is adorable and a little flirty and when he talks to me I can feel (literally FEEL) my face get red. He has a little bit of facial scruff and a great smile and his hair always looks messy, like he woke up late and barely made it to work. Unlike a few other guys who work there, I'm almost positive he doesn't actually manipulate his bed head. He's cute and I'm a nerd is all I'm getting at. For whatever reason, I get around this guy and act like a moron. Example: on a recent excursion, he told me I had pretty hair. I wanted to say "Thank You" but, when I tried, my voice broke and I said: "Thu-HANKS". It was so classy.

The manager at this Starbucks is a writer (represent!). One day last summer, I retreated to The Mermaid Starbucks to edit
Paperdoll. I looked rather tragic that day; wild-eyed, typing furiously, trying to cover up the dufus parts of my first draft. I would stop occasionally, re-read the paragraph, growl, and re-write it. The manager walked over to where I was sitting.

"Do you mind if I ask what you're working on?"

My first thought was - uh oh. He's going to ask me to leave. I was talking out loud probably. I was mumbling about flux
capacitors and paper flowers and Jesus and it is making his customers nervous. The police will drag me out while Handsome Barista Crush watches, a single tear rolling down his face. It's going to be bad. Thus, I should give this man a profound answer. I'm pouring my heart out on this screen, I'll scream. I'm reworking faulty sentences and silly concepts and ditching metaphors I love but that sound stupid when I read them out loud {slams hand down on table}. I'm bending and breaking grammar rules and justifying every decision {evil laugh}.

My answer to him was {whispered}: Um, a book. {I said it like it was a question. Then smiled.}

"Excellent!" he said. "You look so intense. I love that. I'm a writer too. I'm working on my first novel ..."

And he proceeded to tell me some of the frustrations he had. My word, I have been there. [Am there.] I was jealous too, because fiction has always been my first love, my not-so-secret secret obsession. My escape. I wanted to get back to it. It was fun talking characters and plots and pacing again. He was so encouraging and told me it made him happy to know writers came there to write. How sweet is that?

The other day I stopped by The Mermaid Starbucks. My Handsome
Barista Crush was not working. My writing manager friend was.

"Hey," he mumbled when I walked up to the counter.

He shoved some scones in the glass case. He fixed a display someone bumped into. He came up and punched in my order. Usually he's very animated. That day he was in sad robot mode. He leaned down to wipe up spilled milk in the floor. So appropriate. So metaphorical.

I wondered if he was having issues with his work too. Maybe not. But let's pretend he was.

"It's your writing isn't it?" I would say. "You feel stumped? Frustrated? You're at the point, past the half way mark,
past sixty thousand words, and now you're thinking you should chuck it?"

At this point, I would stand on my toes and lean over the counter so he could hear me. "The characters are getting to you aren't they? You love them. You had this great story mapped out for them and then they started doing their own thing; they started saying words you didn't put in their mouths. You wonder if that means you're a good writer or if that means you're losing your mind? Does your writing embarrass you sometimes? Do you read what you just wrote and cringe? But then other times you read it and love it so much you call and read it to your best friend? I feel sorry for my friends. They'll be out shopping for
Swiffer refills and I make them stop and listen to some dumb paragraph I just wrote." I would laugh then. He would smirk.

"Do you still start to mumble or change the subject when friends ask you what you're working on? I do that too. All signs point to QUIT, don't they? Been there. Am there. The only reason I keep writing is because sometimes I get so drunk off the story, I love it. If I don't finish it, it will break my heart. That makes me nervous too. Writing isn't always cathartic for me, like it is for some people. It isn't always easy for me, and some people say it comes easy. I feel compelled to do it but more than some sick compulsion, I just love making stories. If I don't write, I get nervous, sad, and grouchy. So you know what I think?"

He would look up and wait for my answer.

"I think you should keep going. Finish what you started. Tell the story you love. I could tell you loved it when you told me about it. I think you should finish it." I would nod, agreeing with myself. Convincing myself. He would nod and smile.

I would take my coffee and walk toward the door, where I would bump into my Handsome
Barista Crush. In other stories like this, stories written by better writers, I would grab his shirt, pull him closer, and kiss him. Kissing a stranger could be a classic ending. But I'm not even that girl in my imagination. I don't waste kisses on strangers. In this story, all I get is a tremor of confidence. I would smile at him without getting embarrassed and he would smile back. Even when I looked away, I would be able to feel him smiling.

And then I would get in my car, drive home, and finish what I started.

* Sarah and I saw the movie/waved about our nerd flags in different cities. But we texted back and forth before and after.
** Understatement of the decade.
*** Then he put one hand in his pocket. And the other one playing a piano ...
**** Don't Stop Believing played over the speakers before the movie came on. Crazy Girl beside me flipped out. "I hate it. I hate it when people try to cover journey. That's just wrong! I haaaate iiiiit!"


  1. Natalie, as your editor, I have to say: this post was all over the place tone-wise - humor, seriousness, Starbucks, writerly/romantic advice...and I loved it! Seriously, you're a tremendous writer.

    Does it say anything about me that when you said you wanted to throw your Sour Skittles at her, I thought, "NO! Not the Sour Skittles." It's just...I just think...Sour Skittles are special. Save yours for someone deserving.

    Also, great writing advice. If I ever write anything worthy of publication, you're definitely going into the credits. My favorite line: "Tell the story you love." :)

  2. Just got back from the movie - loved it! I probably won't get around to blogging till tomorrow...or Friday...because I think I'm going to have to see it again. The picture you have posted is one of my favorite scenes.

  3. Question: Was the girl with the "friend" the one dressed as the whomping willow? That would explain a few things. :)

    And totally agree on the cheating with you/cheat on you saga. Right on, my friend!

    Also, glad you liked the movie. Now how long till New Moon comes out so there's a big movie I can discuss?

  4. Movie 3 is the best Potter movie... but this one was enjoyable. We had to make a mad dash for seats and didn't get to sit with the 4 friends we were with... frustrating. We ended up in the last row of the balcony with some woman in front of us texting and talking through the LAST 40 MINUTES!!! Wife shushed her 3 times.

    We ate cupcakes in the park afterwards and they sang me happy birthday. And one of them gave me a fair trade Rain Stick for my birthday... which I threatened to use during climactic moments of the film.

  5. Sarah, I bet my real editor would agree with you about my tone being all over the place! :) Thanks for such a sweet compliment. It's especially cool coming from another awesome writer like yourself. Your devotion to Sour Skittles is chronicled. I too decided they weren't worth wasting on crazy people. Thanks for being another voice of reason :)

    Ruth, looking forward to your Harry Potter recap! That scene was so sweet. One of my favorites as well.

    Mel, New Moon is November. The trailer looks ... well. It looks like you would expect it to look. Have you seen it? I think you would have fun with Potter ... if not the books you should give the movies a go. You can start with the later ones. :) I would be happy to watch some of them with you and/or explain what you've missed!

    J, Azkaban is most definitely my favorite book. As for movies its in second place now but that could just be because this one is new. That Sirius Black is a stud. Sorry you guys got a crazy in your theater too! What is it with people?! It's like they forget they are watching it in a public place or something. Annoying. You should totally have pointed the rainstick and Wingardium Leviosaed her right out of the seat ;) Or just hit her with the stick. Or use the Kenny finger?

    Your rainstick story (fun, btw! That's like a Mad Eye Moody weapon!) reminds me of one of the guys on my team back when i went to Panama. His name was Jeff - hilarious, great guy. I think he was 17 at the time. We were out at a public market. He bought a rain stick. We loaded the bus to go back to the hotel, which took forever. I had to use the bathroom really bad. He kept flipping the rainstick around so it would sound like running water. On purpose. Hilarious.

  6. James Patrick- go update your wife and man blog and tell us all about your overseas travels! I've been checking it for days, and so far nothing.

    Nat, I'll have to ponder the idea of getting so wrapped up in something that I can't quit. I'll get back to you. :)

  7. Melanie... Full name... knew you were serious... consider it done.

  8. Haha, that evil rainstick use...I really want a rainstick. Or one of those eggs with rice in it that you shake with the beat. My friend and I lead singing at church and we've been plotting to get an egg and use it with music. Our church is pretty conservative, but it would be good for them!

    I am not really a writer, but I think I've got some hints of it in my blood. I love stories! I read all the time and I have been writing a story for a really long time that I just pick up sometimes. But, if I have my laptop and I'm in the right mood, I can write for hours. Then, when someone rouses me from my writing-haze to go do something, I feel like I just came back from a trip or something...maybe I'm a crazy too. :)

  9. Rachael, crazy writers are always welcome here :)