News to use

Generally, I don’t write “week in review” pieces.


It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it’s just that there is no way I can compete with the deliciousness that is Entertainment Weekly.

This week, however, has played out like a drunken bar fight between Snooki and Courtney Stodden, all caught on video by a Blackberry Storm. So, here’s my attempt to be the TMZ thorn in EW’s side:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Breaking news: Mari gets rejected!

As you may recall, I applied to Lesley University’s M.F.A. program for creative writing for stage and screen. After months of checking the mailbox and rummaging through envelopes like a beagle looking for a dead duck, the librarian took over the mailbox duty. I think she grew tired of finding our bills scattered along the entrance of our building. We agreed that if I received good news, she would immediately tell me and if it was a rejection letter, she would place a bottle of delicious orange-flavored Grey Goose vodka in the freezer. So, for three weeks, I checked the freezer only to find other frozen animals. Until Monday.

I found a goose in the freezer and a Dear John letter on the table. I didn’t polish off the bottle because I’m waiting to hear back from Queens University of Charlotte.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mari involved in a traffic incident with a pussy cat!

It was a rough Tuesday morning. A horrible rain storm accompanied me all the way to work. Driving in stop-and-go traffic I noticed a kitten run across the highway, dodging and weaving cars. It made it all the way across and stopped at the concrete divider that separates the North- and South-bound traffic on the Palmetto Expressway, narrowly escaping a horrible fate. Before I had time to process what I had just seen, right in front of me a kitten appeared from under the car in front of me. Completely intact, all four wheels had missed it, as it strategically placed itself in the center of the lane. Without thinking, I got out of my car and grabbed the soaking wet fur ball.

I placed the kitten on the floor of the passenger seat, next to my softball cleats, bat and glove. It stared at me with its bright blue eyes, trembling, with only the sound of the windshield wipers swishing away the rain.

“Hi,” I said.

“Cat, I have bad news, I couldn’t grab your brother,” and with that, I started crying.

“I’m sorry, cat. I don’t know why I’m crying. I got my period yesterday and I also got a rejection letter from Lesley.”

“Meow,” said the cat.

This made me sob uncontrollably.

“Oh my God, I don’t even know what I’m doing. I can’t bring an animal to work! No offense, cat. But, seriously. I don’t know what’s going to happen with you. I can’t promise I can bring you home with me. The librarian is allergic and I don’t like hair, which, I know, is weird because I have hair and I’m really bad about shaving my legs.”

I grab a tissue and blow my nose.

“I’m sorry. You’ve been through a serious traumatic event and here I am blabbering. Your shaking so much little cat. Let’s relax with some NPR.”

I turn on the radio and as soon as the kitten hears the booming voice of Renee Montagne, it crawls under the passenger seat.

“Sorry! Sorry!” I tell the cat while scrambling to turn off the radio.

We drove in silence until we got to work. She would occasionally meow from under the seat, just to let me know she was okay. Inside the garage, I grabbed her once again and wrapped her in a sweatshirt I had in my trunk. Hoping no one would notice, we boarded the elevator, but she meowed just loud enough for a co-worker to hear. I uncovered the kitten to show her the source of the meowing and before I knew it, the entire floor came together to help. I went down to the cafeteria to get milk and coffee (coffee for me). And, by the time I returned, someone found a box, another person was drying the kitten with a towel, and another had claimed her as her own.

Driving home that afternoon, I expected to see a kitten jump out in front of my car again. No such luck.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exclusive! Mari listens to music!

Some mornings I remember to pack a lunch. Every morning I remember to pack my Mac. I place it right next to my work laptop (a PC) to make it feel inadequate. Seeing the Mac reminds me of my brief stint at an ad agency and reminds me of all my unfinished scripts, treatments and short stories. It also functions as my people blocker. I plug-in my white ear buds to this machine and it helps me drown out all of the chit-chat, phone calls and conversations that surround me in an office open-floor plan.

It works so well that I sometimes miss phone calls and don’t immediately notice if someone is trying to talk to me. So, it wasn’t a surprise that I was surprised by the presence of a co-worker in my cubicle.

“Oh, hello,” I said while pulling an ear bud out of my ear.

She asked, “Can you turn that down?”

I looked at my Mac to make sure my buds were still connected. I looked back up at her, confused. I clicked the volume control twice.

“How’s that?”

“That’s great, thanks.”

As soon as she left, I put the volume back up. I thought, bitch, I saved a cat yesterday. I get to listen to music as loud as I want! But, this only made me sad. I thought about the other kitten. How it surely met its death on the Palmetto. I convinced myself that someone, like me, stopped for it. I mean, I’m not that much of an animal lover and I stopped. Surely, someone else did too, right?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mari has a drink!

“Dear softball players, The field is flooded. All softball games scheduled for this evening are cancelled.”

This was the best news I had received all week. I didn’t have to subject myself to dodging baseball bats nor to the embarrassment of striking out. Good thing I double-booked a happy hour with former colleagues.

Our newly formed all-girl band, The Architers (we’re made up of four architects and one writer),  headed out to our happy hour destination – a gourmet beer place, with gourmet food that the kitchen ran out of, so we were left with just the beer. I had a beer called, “Stone Cold Bastard,” because it sounded tough, but it tasted exactly like my mouth on Tuesday morning. To avoid a repeat of kitten-day, I decided to go easy on the libations and heavy on the Vietnamese food. And, to make sure I was golden with The Librarian (and to cover that stank beer and cigarette breath), I showed up with frozen yogurt in hand.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It’s Mari, bitch.

I woke up to 65 degree weather. I threw on jeans, a grey wife beater and a leather jacket.

That’s right. A grey leather jacket.

I looked especially cool when I went down for my morning cigarette and it was already 78 degrees.

A fellow smoker walked up to me and said, “I heard about the kitten you found on the Palmetto.”

I smiled.

“I found the other one in between the concrete divider.”

That news beat out the email from the softball league, it made me forget about the letter from Lesley and I didn’t even care that I still had my period. Everything that was completely upside down otherwise seemed to fall into place. And, I finally felt vindicated, because, in essence, he had proved a theory that I had surmised a very long time ago: Smokers are the nicest people on the face of the Earth.

Don’t be a drag

The patch
It is on me.

It takes between forty minutes to an hour to write an entry for this blog. When I finish I read it out loud, just once, and then publish.

Before I begin, though, I light a cigarette while staring at a blank screen. On the third toke the blog, in its entirety, comes to me. I lay the cigarette in the ashtray and let the thin plume of smoke rise while I type. A race between the cigarette and my thoughts ensues. I sneak in a drag, or two, while typing with the other hand.

Of course, this was before I decided to attach the patch to my body. This was before I decided to once again walk around with a huge sticker on my arm that reads, “Nicotine Transdermal System 14 mg delivered over 24 hours NCH 0820.” This was before I decided to speed pass step one and go straight into step two. This was…this was the worst decision ever. I mean, great for my health. Sure, lungs are resilient and teeth can always be whitened, which means in a couple of months I’ll erase the damage. But what about writing? Does being a non-smoking writer ruin my street cred? On the streets of Miami Lakes, no less?

A friend suggested I use those chocolate candy cigarettes, Popeye Cigarettes I believe they’re called. And sure, from a distance, the people in Miami Lakes will think I’m smoking, but in a couple of months I’ll reach 50 percent body fat and where does that leave me? On Overweight Street and Grouchy Avenue, that’s where. And, really, no one likes the mean, fat girl. Even Nell Carter at her meanest was still an absolute delight.

Another friend suggested alcohol, which sounds great in theory, but I’ve made it a personal rule never to drink and write. I also don’t drink and dial, drink and text, drink and compose letters, drink and email, drink and Facebook (although tweeting is just fine) – I don’t drink and anything that has to do with communicating. I find it hard enough to be understood, between my accent that doesn’t quit and my patience to muster words. So, putting a pen or phone in my hand may end up similar to an evening with Christiane Amanpour’s younger and way less smarter half-sister who may or may not have dropped a hit of acid before phoning/writing.

Maybe I can just replace the cigarette with a hat. So, instead of lighting up before every writing session, I can just put on a hat. That will certainly give me some writing street cred. Especially if it’s a skully or a beret or a fedora, even. I’m getting really excited about this idea. Why not a tiara or a crown? I think I found my cigarette replacement. Hats it is!

Now all I need is to retrain my left hand to stop reaching for an imaginary cigarette and type alongside my right.

Floppy hat
Floppy hat? Mmmmaybe.

A super bad romance

As a child my parents never made an issue of my weight, unlike most of my friends. They never had nicknames for me like “gorda” or “flaca” or ever said, “maybe you shouldn’t eat that,” or “honey, your face is so round we can serve dinner on it.”

I don’t know if it was because I was average or they were just too self-involved, but I really never thought about it. It was all very natural that I ate Jello Pudding for breakfast – the chocolate and vanilla swirl flavor. And my lunch was half of a loaf of Cuban bread sandwiched with cream cheese and guava paste and down it with my version of Coke float, which constituted of soda mixed with condensed milk.

I guess it didn’t show as much as I was obsessed with working out with my dad. My mom, who freakishly never sweat, not even on hot days, was very supportive of our exercise regiment although she never participated. While we were working out in the backyard with free weights or that all-in-one Solo Flex torture machine, she would make us a tall glass of Minute Maid orange juice made from frozen concentrate. It was juice that came in a container much like the one that Pillsbury uses for Crescent Rolls – only this one didn’t pop and it had to remain in the freezer. She’d add a spoonful of the orange, frozen gook to each glass, added water and ice and two spoonfuls of sugar and bring it out to us during our cool down.

My dad would have his with a cigarette. I would have mine with a cookie.

Carlton 100’s. Keebler Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies.
My dad.

Both of us, addicts. His teeth were yellow from the nicotine and mine were black from the Nesquik chocolate powder I would eat with a spoon right out of the bright container with a Bugs Bunny impersonator on the front. But, we co-existed at a time when cigarettes and high fructose corn syrup were not that bad for you.

Many years later, during my junior year of high school, with the help of the cutting edge technology of the nicotine trans-dermal patch, he finally quit smoking. Previous to that he tried everything from hypnosis to poking holes in the cigarettes. I was really proud of him. Until he started eating my cookies. And it didn’t end there. He ate all the guava paste and the condensed milk. He drank all the soda and stopped sharing his concentrate orange juice. And, when he noticed that he was no longer able to fit into his polyester pants, he started drinking Slim Fast shakes. Only, he’d have them with his meals. Sometimes, he’d mix it with a Frosty from Wendy’s to “water it down.”

Rummaging through the cabinets hoping to find my sugar fix, I found a secret pack of Carlton 100’s. Naturally, with all food gone, I started smoking. After hacking and puking, I noticed I didn’t have a craving for sweets. When those ran out, I bought my very own pack of Marlboro Lights illegally and, didn’t crave another brownie again. I was slim and cool and ready for college. By the time I was a freshman, I had nearly two years of secret smoking under my belt, so I quickly graduated to a pack of Parliament Lights a day.

When I was happy, I smoked. When I was sad, I smoked more. When I was stressed, I smoked the most. I would take breaks from workouts, from sex, from work, from showering, from class – just to have a cigarette. I would smoke while putting on make-up, while jogging, while eating – and the one that’s hardest of them all, the one that still makes me crave a cigarette – while writing. Every time I had a cigarette in my mouth, you could be certain my dad had a cookie in his.

Cameo Creme Sandwich Cookies. Parliament Lights.

Our lives would have been better and our addictions much more controlled if only some fucker would’ve invented a cookie that you could light up and inhale.