Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Party, or The Enders Island Sea Monster

One of the great traditions of my MFA program's winter residency is the New Year's Eve party. We all dress up (I'm not much for dressing up so I'm usually one of the more casually dressed people there). It's a great way to enjoy the ringing in of a new year.

Of course it's a little bittersweet for me this residency, being my last one in the program. I'll have to try to pace myself, since I don't want to be a puddle of emotion and consuming large quantities of alcohol can do that to a person.

But there's something more ominous on the horizon -- The Enders Island Sea Monster, otherwise known as Mystie. The sea monster lurks on New Year's Eve, keeping a careful eye out for unsuspecting and inebriated MFAers to stumble out of Enders House to ambush them. It has an appetite for fiction. Grainy footage shows it to have teeth the size of a scimitar, 6-foot-long fins and a tail thicker than a tree trunk. Some say it has tentacles, too.

Mystie has claimed a laundry list of victims. Many poets and fiction and nonfiction writers have never been seen again after the New Year's Eve party. They were not the first to see a sea monster on the shores of Long Island Sound, nor the last.

Thus, this may be my last blog ever. I pray that I'm not among the victims.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Hotel Room

We've had a septic system emergency at our residency. Thus, we're not allowed to use the bathrooms in the dorms anymore.

There are other buildings on campus where we can do certain activities that one would normally do in a bathroom. But we're on our own for showering. Thus, the program and folks at Enders have generously reserved rooms at other hotels in the area, including the Taber Inn.

That said, our rooms are fine and there is no need for me to move, outside of needing a place to shower. So, my friends Linsey and Erin allowed me to shower in their hotel room.

Kinda felt weird, when you're in a program at a Jesuit school that holds its residence at a Catholic retreat, to be showering in a room that two females are staying in. But, of course it was all on the straight and narrow. These are my friends and they wanted to help me out. I still get to stay on the island, but a shower is a 5-minute drive away.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seminar and Reading

Things get magnified when your seminar and reading, required for graduation in the MFA program, are scheduled for the same day.

I woke up at 7:30 with a headache after a curious night of drunk blogging. I couldn't go back to sleep because my seminar was in an hour. I went to breakfast and, for one of the first times ever, they did not have the Enders staples, bacon or sausage, instead opting for waffle day. I clutched an apple and people said they were concerned about me.

At noon, I was informed I had to find an introducer for my 20-minute reading from my novel, so I tapped my former mentor Da Chen. He was already intorducing someone else in another room. We had to coordinate schedules so he could run from room to room.

Both seminar and reading went well. Both were heavily attended and I got very nice compliments. And now I'm finally relaxing after months of thesis stress.

The rest of the residency should be great. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Final Workshop and Seminar

Right now, it's 1:15 a.m. I'm tipsy. And by tipsy, I mean "really fucking hammered."
I attended my final workshop in the MFA program yesterday. Everything went well. I have a novel that is decent but flawed but flawed in a way that I feel like I know how to change it for the better.

Now I'm waiting on my graduate MFA seminar, which will be today at 8:30 a.m. I have a few people I already know who have said they will attend. Wish me luck. I will be much less stressed after that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Night Of Last Residency

For the past week I've been an emotional puddle. I've completed all my coursework for the residency. But this is my final residency. I graduate in a week and a day. So this residency is bittersweet for me. I will have all the fun of residency, but with the knowledge that this is the end.

One thing that has helped is that, with most of the excess work done for the last residency, I'm much more laid back now after a week (or a month) of stress.

The other thing that helped was, when I left home today, I dropped my New England Patriots cup (which I use to drink vodka and other mixed drinks) down two flights of stairs. Potentially traumatic.

When I picked it up, the cup was completely intact. No crack. Not even a scratch. I take this as a good omen.

Bring on the final residency.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Secret Santa

Residency is fast approaching, and I've been stressed out. I still have a lot to do.

I have eight workshop samples to read. (It could be worse. Two days ago, I had all 13 left to read.) I have to prepare for a seminar. I have to write a faculty introduction. I have to write a speech. I have to pack. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, maybe a couple of things.

Luckily, some of my Masshole friends had Secret Santa on Tuesday night. It was very relaxing. I got a nice new book, some Chinese food to celebrate the holidays, and some quality time with good friends.

I'm a little less stressed now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Last night I blogged a little earlier than usual. I was kind of tired and the Monday Night Football game sucked and I wanted to go to bed early.

The next morning, Blogspot notified me that the blog had received 175 page views in the hour after I posted my blog.

175. I've never received that many in an entire day, let alone one hour.

I, of course, appreciate the support. I'm very confused, though. I mean, unless there's a huge, latent contingent of people who hate being told to bring water to the gym, it doesn't seem that so many people would be as impassioned as me about this. Is Blogspot's tracking software defective? Did I put some magic buzzword in my blog to get noticed on the search engines? Would more people read my blog if I posted it at 10 p.m. instead of midnight?

If I were smart, I would've blogged early again today so that I could see if this is a trend.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spin Class Discount

As part of my efforts to get back to the gym more often, I decided to go to a spin class.

I haven't been to spin in almost a year. There was a really good spin instructor but she left because her real life got in the way and she couldn't reconcile classes with her work schedule. About the same time I began working with a personal trainer and it didn't seem as necessary to spin.

There was a new instructor when I walked in. Normally I never bring a bottle of water to the cycle room. I'm a lousy multi-tasker. I find it awkward to try to spin and drink water at the same time, and there are plenty of water bubblers in the gym than I can use afterwards.

"Where's your water," the new instructor, Linda, asks me.

"I don't have any," I say.

She reaches into her pocket book, grabs a dollar and gives it to me so I go out to buy a bottle of water at the cooler.

The problem is, a water bottle costs $1.25. I return to the spin room and drop the dollar at the instructor's feet.

"Where's your water?" Linda asks.

"The water costs $1.25," I say.

"I can't let you spin unless you have water," she says. "Go back out there and tell the you're getting the spin class discount."

This is ridiculous. Someone probably joined my gym, went once, overextended him/herself, nearly passed out from exhaustion and sued the gym for his/her trouble. Now I have to pay the price by having spin class run like a dictatorship. I go back out and get the spin class discount. It's not worth making waves. Besides, Linda said I had to have water to spin. She didn't say I had to drink the water.

Class starts as normal. The water sits in the bottle rack, untouched. I wonder if Linda will stop class and order me to take a sip of water. It never happens. She seems oblivious that I go through the whole workout without drinking.

Everybody wins. I get a good workout. Linda gets to run class the way she wants. I get to avoid drinking water until after class. I'm drinking the water as I write this. Best of all, I got the gym class discount.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Great Scheduling

I've always said, the NFL is the best sports league in the world. It's financially stable. For the most part, they do things right. This has been a season full of exciting games and record-breaking accomplishments. Almost every game is worth watching.

And when they're not, the NFL makes sure there are contingencies.

Last Monday night, the NFL made sure a dull game with little playoff implication between San Diego and Jacksonville was on the same night at A Charlie Brown Christmas. So I could watch Charlie Brown without worrying about missing anything.

Tonight is an even worse Monday night clunker -- St. Louis at Seattle. The Rams are mathematically eliminated, the Seahwaks could sneak in as a wild-card team if about six other NFC teams lose all their remaining games.

But lo, ABC comes to the rescue again, with my fifth-favorite Christmas special,  I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown, is on.

It's a Christmas miracle. Thanks, NFL.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Semi-Triumphant Return To the Gym

It had been building up for 97 days.

I hadn't been to my gym since Sept. 3. I know this because it's been so long that I lost my swipie-card for the gym, and when the guy behind the counter ran my information the screen showed Sept. 3 as my last visit.

The past three months have not been good for my physical fitness. Some personal turmoil in September and my thesis in October and November conspired to keep me away. Sometimes in life you have to prioritize, and I had to put the gym on the back burner. The unfortunate side effect is that I'm much flabbier and fatass-ier than I was Sept. 3. It was all the more disappointing because I'd lost a decent amount of weight over the past year.

Friday I made my return to the gym, at which time I discovered that I couldn't find my swipie. They gave me a new swipie, but I was still nervous. My gym has a cool program where I can work with a small group of fellow gym members and a personal trainer for free. I didn't know if the others at the gym would judge me, and didn't know how long I'd be able to work out before fatigue got the better of me. Five minutes into the workout, my right tricep began to ache.

But everything returned to normal. I got through wind sprints, crunches, manmakers and a bunch of other exhausting exercises with only a couple of 30-second breaks. I'm sure I wasn't as good at them as I was Sept. 3 (and I'm already a little sore, which usually doesn't happen until a day or two later), but to a certain extent it'd like riding a bike. Most importantly, I didn't die.

I'll try my best to get to the gym four or five times a week in the next two weeks before my residency. Life is returning to normal, and it's worth it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2 1/2 Pages

Readings are always nerve-wracking. Partially because I always kind of wing it and wait until the last minute to figure out what part of my novel I'm going to read. Partially because it's a long drive to Fairfield.

Yesterday, I also drove a long way in a pouring rain. I got to the Fairfeld bookstore, drenched, and hen I dug out my piece I realized it. I had decided to read 2 1/2 pages and I only brought 1 1/2 of them with me.

Luckily, I also brought the second copy of my thesis down too (I was supposed to bring it down last week and forgot). So I took out the missing page, trying to be extra neat since it is a thesis page, and was able to perform my reading as normal.

We almost got hit by a car after the reading, but other than that little miscue it was great to catch up with everyone again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Club Millionaire

So I joined Club Millionaire at the beginning of the fall TV season, which earns me points for answering Who Wants To Be a Millionaire  questions correctly. If you collect enough points you can win stuff (which I don't really care much about) and possibly be invited to be a contestant on the show (which is more interesting).

I've collected 650-some-odd points and today I tried to get more when I got the following email:

Dear Club Millionaire Members,

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are sorry to announce that, as of Tuesday, December 6, 2011, all activity related to Club Millionaire will be discontinued.  We apologize for any disappointment this may cause and thank you for your participation of the Club.   In the coming months, we will be exploring other options related to development and operation of a new Millionaire rewards program.  Should a new Millionaire club be launched, please be assured that any points you've accumulated, thus far, will be transferred into the new program.

We appreciate your loyalty to "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and hope you will continue to be an active viewer of the program.

What the hell happened? How do you mess this up? What are "circumstances beyond our control" when you're giving away free prizes. I mean, the only other club I'm in is Club Penguin, and that's because my friends' kids asked me to join, and Club Penguin has never had these problems.

This is the kind of mystery that keeps me up at night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Best of the Holiday Specials

Last year around this time I blogged about the 10 best and worst songs of the holiday season. This year I'll switch it up and do the five best Christmas specials.

(Before you complain, in this case it'll be all Christmas, since none on the list are Hannukkah or Kwanzaa of Festivus-oriented, though it's about time someone writes a screenplay for "A Charlie Brown Festivus.")

Here goes:

5) "I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown" -- The obscure little brother of the Peanuts made-for-TV-special franchise, it appropriately follows Linus and Lucy's obscure little brother Rerun as he goes on a quest to get a dog for Christmas. Coincidentally, Snoopy's skinny bro Spike just happens to be up from Needles for the holidays. It's a Christmas miracle!

4) "Prep and Landing" -- ABC seems to roll out a new P&L episode every Christmas and the first one (2009) was the best, but it's good shit. Nice to see a new special that's well done. Wayne and Larry have to get Timmy's house prepared for Santa's arrival. Wayne, who got passed over for  promotion, is sulking and it jeopardizes the arrival. I know it's a cartoon, but this was actually really suspenseful.

3) "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." -- Stop motion animation at its finest from the old Rankin-Bass folks. Like Rudolph and the dentist elf Hermey, I think we've all felt like we were part of the Island of Misfit Toys at one point in our lives. Add to that the stress of making sure Christmas doesn't get canceled, being chased around by the Abominable Snowman, and this is funny and suspenseful. Some of the musical numbers were a little iffy, and I always felt like Yukon Cornelius was a little creepy, but this timeless classic is worth sitting through the whole hour.

2) "Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation" -- I mean, Phineas and Ferb are so well done anyway, but it's a stroke of brilliance to take them out of the usual setting of summer vacation and into winter break. They try to save Danville from being bypassed by Santa thanks to a misunderstand. Meanwhile, Agent P and Doofenschmirtz battle over figgy pudding and bad Sal Tuscany records. Again, some of the musical numbers are a bit goofy, but a great way to spend a December evening. (Ad, actually, there is a Hanukkah reference in this one.)


1) "A Charlie Brown Christmas" -- I mean come on, did you think it was gonna be anything else?

That's what Christas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


In all the chaos associated with my thesis, I forgot that I'm giving a reading of my novel-in-progress Wednesday at the Fairfield University Bookstore (the bookstore formerly known as Borders).

It's 1499 Post Road, Fairfield, Conn., and it begins at 7 p.m.

Now to figure out which passage I'll actually read from.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ambulance Chaser

I get some weird suggestions on Twitter. Last night was one of the weirder ones. Twitter suggested, in my "Similar to you" box, that I follow a personal injury attorney.

I decided to tweet about this. Aside from forgetting to use an apostrophe, I thought it was a good expression of my disdain at the accusation levied against me.

Apparently not. A few hours later I got followed by a divorce attorney. Now everybody will think there's a smarmy side of me. Plus, I'm not married, so I'm not in the market for a divorce attorney.

I'm dying to see how long this attorney continues to follow me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bobby Valentine

I'll give Bobby Valentine credit -- at least he's a New Englander, though he's from the part of New England (southwestern Connecticut) that tends to root for the Yankees.

Bobby V. has a reputation. It's a reputation for taking bad teams, turning them around to the point where they're competitive and then flaming out before they become good enough. It happened in Texas. It happened with the Mets.

Then he went to Japan and won a Japan Series. And then he came back here and became agonizing as color commentator for ESPN, to the point where, whenever the Red Sox played on Sunday night, I had to mute the TV and listen to the radio color commentary.

He's a smart guy. And he knows he's a smart guy. That's the problem. Eventually teams tuned him out.

He's now the manager of the Red Sox. I'm not a fan of this move. It smacks of the Red Sox trying to make a splash again after their epic September collapse, rather than selecting a good manager.

In 2000 I wasn't a fan of the Patriots hiring Bill Belichick either. I wanted the Pats to make a run at Mike Martz, who was the hot coordinator at the time. I'm happy to say I was wrong (really wrong. Barely two years later Belichick and the Patriots beat Martz and the Rams in Super Bowl 36).

I hope I'm wrong again.