Category Archives: New Jersey

Stop thinking

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I need a true vacation.

I know, I know. Everyone says that. Everyone wants to be somewhere else, everyone wants to be relaxing and having a good time. I know. The thing is that I haven’t had a true vacation in a really long time.

I go back to NJ when I have time and money, but the entire time I am there I’m visiting people, doing things, running around… I’m not taking lazy walks in the woods. In 2011 I had the best trip back there b/c I arranged group get-togethers to see people to be more efficient and it worked out well. I had time to go kayaking at the Manasquan reservoir with K and her sister; we went to Belmar to lounge around on the beach another day. For once, I didn’t try to fit too much in. It was awesome.

But since then, my travels have all been for a purpose. Drove out to LA for teh Writer’s Conference in October; that was nice, but it was a tight schedule the whole time I ws there and I had to deal with the anxiety of pitching to agents. Went back to NJ right after Hurricane Sandy– yeah, that definitely made the trip stressful. The next vacation days I took were when my Dad came here to visit for 10 days, and we all know that was a stressful time. We spent a lot of money, energy and time trying to entertain him and keep him busy. And trips for work definitely do NOT count as vacation. No friggin’ way.

There’s a reason I need some time to run away for awhile. My mind is busting at the seams from all of the thinking I’ve been doing. I just changed my depression/anxiety drug cocktail last month and that was a tough ride only b/c my body was reacting to the chemical shift. At one point, when I was technically on 3 drugs at once for a couple of weeks, I was dizzy and forgetful as hell, and even worse, I was seeing things just out of my line of vision. One day when I hung out with R and T cruising estate sales, I completely saw Hurley out of the corner of my eye twice that day. I knew he obviously wasn’t there, but the fact that my brain was making those images appear so clearly definitely freaked me the hell out.

Now I’m evened-out, for the most part. But brain chemistry aside, outside forces are making my synapses fire overtime and I’m worn out.

Here are the main things I can’t seem to stop thinking about:

1) NO LONGER QUERYING MY BOOK. My longtime friend S read my book “In My Blood” and returned to be a scathing, no-holds-barred review. He sent me a full 20 pages of specific notes! I was overwhelmed, but ultimately relieved and excited to have someone just break it down and tell me what doesn’t work, WHY those things don’t work and some general writing-wisdom notes here and there to help me improve my writing structure, tone, characterizations and descriptions. I can’t tell you how much I think I needed exactly this. I have had a strong feeling that something was off about my book but damned if I could pinpoint the problems myself. I couldn’t tell if I was being overcritical of myself like usual, or if I just couldn’t see anything clearly anymore because I’ve been so close to the story for so many years now. Either way, having someone who had never read any of the previous versions read through this with a critical eye changed everything.

It would take me so long to get into details of what S explained to me, but suffice to say I agree with the majority of his critiques/suggestions. I’ve decided to stop sending my manuscript out to agents, entering it in contests or submitting it to independent publishers. It’s currently off the table.

Meanwhile, I am revising it from the floor up. In short, I’ve created an improved, tighter plot that is easier to explain. I’m taking out the diabetes cure thing. Zachary’s no longer imprisoned on an island, as a lab animal. Now, he is 20 and just ended his 2nd year of college. He wants to be a vet and will be interning at a SeaWorld-like park over the summer. He has a secret skill –he can understand the thoughts of animals. He can’t get them to understand him back. Yet. But one day he figures it out and it changes so much for him. And, in his experiences at the SW hellhole, he sees the whales and dolphins don’t belong there. He meets up with a Paul-like character and begins to become an undercover activist. Things get more dangerous all the time, and he risks exposing not only his secret talent but the secrets of the Coalition, a think-tank his parents are a part of and is responsible for making him what he is. On top of that, he’s fallen in love with a fellow activist and his actions are putting her in danger, too. He’s branded an eco-terrorist by the end of the book. THIS is the story I have been trying to find. THIS is the story I am passionate about and the way I can get my message across now.

I’m excited about it and have written about two dozen pages so far. It’s flowing so easy and so far, it’s a blast putting my Zachary into an entirely new life. He’s really been living a normal life, with a mother and father. Friends. Schools. Texting on a cell phone. Driving a car. Working to rehab injured or sick cetaceans at the facility his parents run.  I am so happy for him. He’s far from a normal guy, but he is living a good life.

2) MY TARZAN BOOK. At the same time I’m revising my first book, I am writing the first draft of this Tarzan steampunk book. It’s taking a lot more research than I first expected, but without the benefit of total immersion in a mountain/ tropical forest terrain in Western Africa, I have to try to learn as much as I can about the fauna, flora, weather and topography of the area as I can, so I can pull from it as the story flows out. Fortunately, it won’t be long until my MCs leave Africa to fly by airship back to the Jersey Shore around the year 1900. Then, things take on a carnival, amusement park atmosphere and a love story blossoms. It’s also a LOT of fun. These two books are being written simultaneously. That’s not something most writing pros encourage, since you need to focus to write your best work. But for now, flipping between the two almost daily is working for me now. I am hoping to get some kind of advice as to which one to dive into as my primary project. Which one’s stronger and more compelling? We’ll have to see. If you’re interested in reading the first few pages of each book and letting me know which one you are most interested in reading what’s next– please let me know. No pressure, though. Seriously.

3) NEW JERSEY. I can’t get into this in depth with details, but a future move to NJ is now officially in the works. The real estate values in AZ are rising quickly and I can now make a decent profit if I sell my house, and it seems like this trend will continue for awhile. I have to time things right– sell before the selling price per sq/ft begin to drop off– so I can pay off my debts and hopefully have a nice chunk of money for a down payment on something in NJ. Yes, I will probably buy again even though owning a house has been a huge struggle out here for me. That’s b/c it’s cheaper to buy AND I have 4 pets. Who’s going to rent to someone with 4 pets? I’m just not sure I can find something reasonable. Also, my family will be moving in with me at first. They’ll help me with the mortgage payments, and yes, the work around the house. Living together while we all get settled and established makes the most sense. Again, timelines are TBD and I don’t want this news getting around just yet. It could be way too early, and it could backfire if work finds out.

The main thing is that I’m obsessed with thinking about all the steps I’ll need to take to sell, move cross country, buy a new home, find a new job…all of it. It’s a lot to take on, but I want to be home so very much. It’s just harder every year that goes by that I am away from my home. My best friends. You only get one chance to live your life, so I want to live the rest of mine on the East coast again.

4) BURN OUT. My job, man. I feel so completely done with it. I can’t get a promotion, nor would I want to, seeing how people are treated here from the top down. I write the same kind of articles all the time, month after month. I’m so sick of the processes and working with the contributing authors. I feel bored and uninspired and mostly distracted as I think of the other 3 things on this list all the damn day, every day. I know there is more to my writing career than this. This go-nowhere, no recognition position can’t be the end of the line. I can do a lot more than this. I know a lot more. I could turn things around, get new web-based initiatives moving… but the truth is, I don’t want to do those things here. I don’t care enough. I am done. Just now–literally just now– I got a review back on an article I worked on and it’s saying my article is terrible and has no relevence to our readers. I swear to god, I am just DONE. I want to walk out so bad right now. I am not kidding. I’m tired. I don’t want to do this shit anymore. I hope I find something a lot more exciting, rewarding and less spinning-my-wheels than this crap job when I move away. So many more writing/editing jobs in the NY/NJ area, anyway.

Wow, not FIVE MINUTES LATER, I got my second review back and it also says my article sucks. That’s two thumbs-down reviews in 5 minutes.

I’m out.

 

 

 

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Truly scary

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I wish it were different this year. Normally, I’d be all excited and geeked out about it being Halloween. But then, Hurricane Sandy hit, and it changed a whole lot.

It’s still surreal that a storm of such force slammed NJ and hit hardest right where I grew up. I realized the majority of my FB friends are from the East Coast, because whenever someone posted about something other than the storm, I was surprised. Over the weekend when they were talking about the storm, I thought it would just be like the other hurricanes over the years: a little flooding along the coast, some trees and power lines knocked down, but nothing major. I remember how we all panicked back in 1985 with Hurricane Gloria. We were evacuated, and went to stay the night at my friend Tracy’s house since they were at a much higher elevation than we were in Atlantic Highlands. And then nothing really happened. I think we got some water in the basement, but that was pretty much it. (And water in the basement at that house was nothing new… happened almost any time it rained hard.)

On Monday, everything became more severe. The flooding was already starting, and spots along the shore were already underwater. People were being evacuated, and I got pretty scared. My sister and I talked to our dad, who lives in a coastal zone only a few blocks from the bay, and he said he wasn’t going to evacuate. He was still of the same mind that this storm wouldn’t be as bad as they were saying it was gonna be. But yeah, as the hours went by and the news kept coming in about how bad it was getting, we got VERY worried about him. (Not necessarily his wife, of course. She could stay in a dangerous, flooded house and we wouldn’t blink an eye.)

Yesterday I had to stay home to take care of my back and sciatic nerve, so I was glued to FB and the internet for the latest news about what had happened back home. It just got worse and worse.

Entire houses were pulled from their foundations and were drifting in the flood water or were blown out to sea. Boats in the Atlantic Highlands marina were thrown up and into the neighborhoods, so several houses actually had damage from boats hitting them in addition to the expected hurricane damage. It seemed like almost every friend on FB lost a tree or even a car in the storm. A LOT of big trees came down. One of my friends posted a photo she’d taken while driving down route 36– someone’s back porch was in the highway. It had been ripped off a house, and was now floating into the road. Crazy!

The photos and videos just make me so sad. I keep getting all emotional and crying, the more I see. I am really upset about Seaside and the other boardwalks, because that’s what NJ is all about, to me. Those boardwalks are so important to all of us in NJ. Everyone went there while growing up, every summer… all our lives. Everyone. I can’t think of a single person back there who doesn’t have very specific memories of at least one or two of those boardwalks. (For the record, my favorites were Seaside, Point Pleasant, Ocean City, Asbury Park and Cape May/Wildwood.) Like, Remember when Asbury was beautiful in the 1970s, and then it went to the crackheads in the 80s? And then it was brought back from the dead in the 2000s by a thriving, passionate gay community? Or Remember going to Wildwood after the senior prom? Or Remember when Kid’s World burned down in 1986, down in Point Pleasant? That sucked! Or Remember going to Keansburg and steering clear of the white trash that congregated along the beach there? But it was worth going there because the games were great, and that italian ice place was the best.

Every single morning from 1993-1997, I drove down Ocean Avenue in Seabright to go to college. We lived in Belford at the time, so I’d take 36 down, over the bridge, and follow that road all the way down to Monmouth. I took that route in particular because as you go east on 36 through Highlands, you can see the ocean ahead. Then you go over the drawbridge and get a great view of the water right beyond the ocean retainer wall. I always looked for whales! I always had hopes that I’d happen to spot a tail or a waterspout in those few minutes I had, but I don’t think I ever did. Sometimes, if the weather was bad, the waves would crash up against the retainer wall, and you’d see water splash up over the rocks! One time, during finals for the fall semester, I remember I was driving home during a really bad storm. I had to detour through Little Silver and Rumson because Ocean Ave. had flooded when the ocean came over the wall. I turned left at the intersection below. It looked like this, back then:

Hurricane Sandy turned it into this:

I am just stunned. It’s insane.

One of the worst things about yesterday was not being able to get in touch with our Dad. None of the phones were working. Miraculously, a girl I know on Facebook messaged me and offered to walk over and check on my Dad! I was floored that she would do that. I haven’t seen her in over 20 years, since we were in Girl Scouts together! But I guess once a troop member, always a troop member, right? She went to his house and let him call me on her cell phone. He was so happy and incredulous that he could call us! He had no electric since 8pm Monday night, no phones or internet…nothing. Fortunately he has a gas water heater so they could still take warm showers. But there’s no sign as to when the electric will come back on at this point.

I finally heard from Kristen this morning. She’s in the dark, too, and she’s not even on the shore. They have no electric or phones either. She finally got cell service after driving around for awhile. She said it’s so trippy, how everything is dark and everyone’s learning to live “like it’s the 1700s or something.”

And if all goes according to plan, tomorrow I will be there, staying as a guest in her 1700s-style house.

That’s because T and I are going back for her friend Amy’s wedding on Saturday.

We’ve been planning the trip since July or so. No one had a clue this would happen. As of right now, Amy’s wedding is still on (fortunately, it’s a smaller wedding at a restaurant) and our flight to Newark is still on schedule. What kind of NJ we’ll be landing in is another story. Nothing’s on schedule, nothing is working out.

The schools in Middletown will be shut down until November 13.

Kristen warned me to bring lots of warm clothes because they have no heat, and don’t expect a hot shower. They’re boiling water to bathe in. This is so crazy…! We don’t know if the electric will come back on while we are there, or not. How frickin’ weird is that?! It will be like camping. In suburban NJ. It’ll be like that show Revolution. I hope it won’t be completely apocalyptic, but we’ll see how it goes. As of now, the looting is starting, sadly. It’s really, really scary and disgusting.

But people are pulling out the kindness in droves, though. Left and right, friends who fared better than others are offering to help anyone who needs a place to stay or a hot shower. Some men are driving out in their trucks to bring water or batteries to people who need them, or offering to cut apart fallen trees. No one’s asking to be paid, of course. It’s definitely heartening to witness all of this on Facebook right now. It’s such a community back there, it really is. I mean, my friend from Girl Scouts absolutely did not have to offer to do that. I hadn’t even considered asking anyone to go check on my Dad, thinking they all have problems of their own! But yet, she still did ask, and it made such a tremendous difference for my family.

I absolutely love New Jersey. I always have, of course. And you guys who read my blog know how serious I have been about my love, for awhile now… and how I want to move back home soon.

This tragedy almost makes me want to move back even more.

I can’t explain it. It’s just that I feel a pull to be there, to help it bounce back, to help out people who might need it… people who would help me, or have helped me. I don’t even know most of my neighbors out here in AZ, and I never have. And the ones I do know are weirdos that freak me out. I couldn’t imagine people out here pulling together to help each other if a catastrophe hit here. What I think would happen would be much more of an “every man for himself” situation, with people hoarding supplies and leaving town as soon as word came that there was trouble coming. They’d probably even leave their PETS behind, if the foreclosure crisis was any indication of people’s behavior when they are forced to leave their homes. It’s just different out here. No one has long-term roots. It would be very nice if I was wrong about the community-factor kicking in… if people did turn out to be helpful to others even if they had nothing to gain by doing so… but I swear to God, I can’t imagine it. It’s very different out here. (I know it’s the same story in Vegas, Cupcake Blonde, right?) Must be something about cities that are migratory and not full of a stationary population. Mehh.

So, I don’t really know what to expect when (and if) we get to NJ tomorrow. I will take lots of photos, for sure. Part of me doesn’t even want to go anymore, knowing the whole trip is going to be strained and sad.

But I do know that T and I have some incredible friends there, and they’re taking this so well. I know we’re going to find ways to have fun, and we’re going to laugh really hard like usual… it’ll be so good to be there with them.

I wonder if NJ will ever look the same again. I mean, will the boardwalks all rebuild? So many structures cannot be replaced. I got all teared up when I saw a photo of the merry-go-round at Keansburg, crushed by a building. Where do you go to get a new carousel, for Christ’s sake? Who knows? Anyway, I really do have high hopes that things can and will get back to normal at some point in the future. Hopefully not too far into the future, but still. It has to happen.

It’s New-fuckin’ Joisey! Only the strong survive! 🙂

Monsoon rains, promising winds of change…

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I feel quite happy right now. This has been an exceptionally good, peaceful weekend. First we had lots of rain yesterday, which dropped the temperature down to an incredible 79 degrees! My sister and I got pedicures and waited out the rain storm–which was more like a true monsoon storm than anything else– by wandering around a shopping center and getting soft serve ice cream.

Today, it was still cool out in the morning so I was able to open all the windows and turn off the A/C for awhile. Ahhhh! I called my Mom and we went to the movies. We saw “Brave,” which was absolutely adorable and well done. I highly recommend it! I also recommend not reading much about it beforehand, because that’s what I did in this case and it totally helped make the movie feel more magical and the story unexpectedly touching. Plus it is gorgeous. My Mom just kept gasping quietly and leaning over to whisper, “Oh, it’s that beautiful? Amazing!” at many of the scenes. She doesn’t go to the movies very much at all–like once a year– so she just gets into it and appreciates the experience. I love that.

After the movie, Mom and I went to dinner. And that’s when the best part of my weekend happened:

Mom: “I could kick myself for selling the condo on Middlewood sometimes.” (That was in NJ before we all moved to AZ)

Me: “Yeah? Why? Do you wish you could move back to NJ?”

Mom: (Nods empathetically) “Oh, yeah. I mean, my friends are all there, ya know? I like the winters out here, but the summers are getting to be intolerable.”

Because she said this, I was finally able to tell my Mom about the plan to move away. Finally. I haven’t wanted to say anything to her b/c she usually talks about how much she loves living in AZ and in the past, when I’ve mentioned moving back to NJ, she’s been kind of discouraging about it. She hates the NJ winters so much, and she talks about how expensive it is back there. But to hear her talk today and be so positive about my plan was just… the best!

I told her NJ is my first choice, because yeah, I would love to live near my friends and family again so much. I mentioned Oregon, too, and she was even interested in that option. She mentioned Seattle, actually, and said she’d heard how beautiful it is there. I made her laugh by saying, “But Mom, if you move there, you’ll never sleep again. Never. You’ll be sleepless,” and she took a minute before getting my lame joke. (She loves that movie.)

Overall, I’m just feeling so much lighter and excited to have it out in the open and to know she is completely on-board for this when it happens. She wants to split the moving costs (one van) and would be interested in either rooming with me for awhile until we both get on our feet back there, or if we definitely go back to NJ, approaching her old best friend about renting the mother-in-law suite in her house, which has been sitting empty for a couple years now. Wow! That would be amazing if it worked out.

Next, I have to talk to my Dad about it. It would help if he knew, because he might be able to scope out a few rentals in the area once it gets closer to the time I move. (I’m still thinking early June 2013 at the moment.) That 1851 house is still for sale, by the way. The price dropped another $3K this past week. Yeah, I’ll admit I am a little obsessed with that particular house. I don’t want to buy–I want to rent, and not have homeowner responsibilities anymore! But damn, rentals are not as plentiful out there as they are in AZ for one thing, and the monthly rental rates are much more than a mortgage payment would be. Yeeesh. I don’t know what will happen yet! But I love it. I’m excited about the unknown!

Well, I’m off to wash all my fruits and veggies for this week (the first part of the week, anyway) and get to bed soon. I’ve been staying up way too late, researching real estate (rentals) and the job markets around NJ and, yeah, Oregon a little bit. I have to quit daydreaming and get things done in the now, of course. It’s just been lots of fun to let myself get excited about the possibilities. I’m very optimistic that by this time next year, I’ll be in a different state, feeling all keyed up and nervous about having just moved and trying to get settled somewhere completely different. It will be sweet.