Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm really good at being mediocre at things.

As the title says, the only thing I seem to be any good at lately is being mediocre at everything.  Granted, my definition of mediocre is probably pretty subjective.  But, before you raise a hand to argue that I'm probably doing just fine, hear me out. 

I have been technically "unemployed" for going on nine months now.  I've figuratively gestated a full-term unemployment baby.  And... I'd like to think that nine months is a whole lot of time to get oneself together, to learn some new things, to change, albeit at a glacial pace.  What have I learned?

1) The first couple of months are really fun.
The first few months after cutting loose from a toxic work situation are FANTASTIC.  And terrifying.  But mostly fantastic.  You're sailing through your life, collecting your unemployment checks and feeling invincible, because you're no longer tied to a situation that was draining you.  You've got all the energy in the world, I daresay I was practically vomiting rainbows every morning while skipping off to the coffeeshop to write.  It was great.  You think that phase is never going to end, that that's what "creative self employment" is always going to look like.

2) The first couple of months are NOTHING like what "creative self employment" really look like. 
At least, not if you're me.  Was I employed creatively?  Yeah.  Was I master of my own domain?  Of course.  But the thing you tend to forget while you're munching your 90th egg sandwich and writing chapter 28 of that LOST fanfiction is that egg sandwiches and LOST fanfiction don't make you any money.  Egg sandwiches, in a fit of cruel irony, tend to COST money, actually.  And, let's be honest, your love for Ben Linus might carry you through a lot of things, but he's not coming to bail you out when your bank account is empty.  You need to do things that actually help your situation. 

3) (counterintuitively) Thinking about money all the time is a shitty way to do things. 
Sometimes you need to sit in a coffeeshop and eat an egg sandwich and write about how stupidly in love with Ben Linus you are.  Sometimes you need that.  After seeing what February did to me, hoo damn, do I appreciate the sweet, sweet sanity of egg-cheddar-sesame bagel and five hundred pages of surly glances and snide comments. 

4) I'm really good at being mediocre at things.
Guess what?  Full circle.  One of the biggest discoveries of... probably my life... is that you actually need to WORK on things to be good at them.  You need to put effort into the shit that you do.  You're all sitting there thinking "well, duh." but this is kind of a big deal to me.  You're talking to the kid who put ZERO effort into schoolwork for the first 12 years of schooling and still walked away with straight-A's.  The kid who had a nervous breakdown after having to TRY to be good at something (literally one thing) in undergrad, and then subsequently sailed through the rest of those four years working on NOTHING and predictably being utterly forgettable at everything. 

Fast forward to... this morning.  (Maybe not quite this morning, this concept has been boiling under the surface for a few days, really)  It's like an epiphany.  You want people to think you're pretty again?  Stop wearing shitty clothes and no make up.  (I mean, by all means, wear shitty clothes and no make up if you want to.  But it occurs to me that I can't remember the last time a random dude catcalled me on the way to the Jewel, and that shit used to happen every. single. day.)  You want to fit into your jeans again?  Quit eating the whole box of mac & cheese in one go.  Also, you're supposed to be training for a 5k.  You want to stop being so forgettable as a performer?  Maybe if you practiced, or watched your acts, or asked for feedback, or did any of the things you're supposed to do? 

I have a feeling it's going to be a ridiculously difficult habit to break.  Partially because it's so ingrained in my being.  Partially because living hand-to-mouth leaves very little room to think about the things that are happening even as far away as the day after tomorrow.  But, really, here's the last thing I'm in the process of learning:

5) Concentrating on living hand-to-mouth isn't really conducive to improving your life situation.
When you're spending all your time worrying about where your rent is going to come from... a week before rent is due... you really aren't spending a whole lot of time trying to figure out how to put enough money away so that this problem doesn't repeat itself next month.  Because that's a fucking fantasy.  If I can't even pay rent this month, what use is it for me to think about next month? 

But here's the thing.  You end up spending all your time taking jobs (ANY jobs) that will pay you a little money right now.  You sign up for that extra day on set.  You take another Stage Management gig.  You sign up for those asanine online websites where you can review songs for a whole 10 cents per song, or sell stock photography, or copywrite in your so-called free time.  You take the job that pays you $20 because you need that $20 RIGHT NOW, instead of using that time to run your acts a few times, or finish your props (FINISH YOUR FANS, MEGAN), or researching who you should be emailing to get more diverse bookings.  (how does that even work?  Really.  I have no idea.  I'm the worst freelancer ever.)

I'm not saying you shouldn't be taking those $20 gigs, because they do add up.  But there's a point where you suddenly realize you're exhausted, you can't remember where the hell the last two months went, and somehow you're still broke.  Maybe I could have just said "work smarter, not harder" and that would have sufficed. 

Maybe that's the biggest irony of all.  For all that I've always been a smart kid, I've never quite figured out how to work smart. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Feminism without a net: Shit, son.

This article has been making the rounds on Facebook. 

Someone else I know posted this on their wall (predictably, a dude), saying it's BS. I said that it was setting a precedent, that it protects women in domestic abuse and/or rape situations. I was told that I was overreacting and blowing things out of proportion because the guy involved in the case directly cited here "was a nice guy and didn't hit her" (But does it even say whether that was the case or not?)

Guess what? I don't give a shit. In fact, I don't give a shit if the woman in this case was a raving bitch, because if you're pregnant, you have a free pass to be a raving bitch. You earned it. The point is this: If you, as a human being, are made to feel uncomfortable FOR ANY REASON, by another human being, it is your right to take reasonable (read: don't kill anyone) measures to not have to be in contact with them. If you're a woman, and the father of your child is making you feel threatened or uncomfortable (maybe he raped you. Maybe he turned into a stalker ex. Maybe he was abusive in some way. Maybe he's Bode Miller. Oh. Wait.), he doesn't waive your right to taking those measures just by virtue of the fact that he stuck his dick in you a couple of times.

 The kicker, of course, is that, once I explained all those things, my comments were promptly deleted from the public wall of the original poster, and then he took to private messages to continue to chastise me for my inability to read and comprehend the article properly.  All this from someone whose grammar is practically indecipherable.  But what do I expect from a person who "wants to get me work" (full disclosure; this is someone with whom I have a professional relationship), but then hangs up on me in the middle of bookings "because he didn't like the terms" the photographer was setting.  As if I can't use my own instincts and voice when I feel like things are heading into an uncomfortable territory.

Oh, man.  Remember when Megan didn't have opinions?  I bet everyone liked me a whole hell of a lot more back then.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing Without a Net: Convergence, ch. 1

Remember how I said I was going to update this thing with my writing?  It goes a little something like this:  


For all that they didn’t want to admit it, news, especially gossip and rumors, spread quickly among the survivors of Oceanic flight 815.  It always seemed that someone was constantly getting into something here in this place.  Certainly, there seemed to be those whose hands were in just about everything, but I wasn’t one of those.  In fact, my fingers weren’t really in any pies, at least not for the time being.            
                Everyone here seems a little preoccupied by everyone else’s backgrounds, and I’ve certainly had plenty of time to think about my own, so I guess I could stand to share a little.  My name is Tristan Gardner.  I’m from Chicago.  Oceanic flight 815 was supposed to take me to a connecting flight in L.A.  Guess I missed my connection.  If you had seen me on the plane, I was the one blithely gluing rhinestones onto a shoe.  I was telling everyone that I was a competitive ballroom dancer, but that was before I knew I’d be stuck living with them for months.  If I’d have known that, I probably would have told them the truth to begin with.  I’m a burlesque dancer.  I flew to Australia to perform in my very first international burlesque festival.  My performance went really well, by the way.  Too bad my costume is probably now scattered across the entire island.  Every once in a while, I imagine someone (probably one of those Others) stumbling across my bejeweled panties dangling off some tree.  Quite frankly, I’d like to be there when it happens.  Well, maybe not if it’s one of the Others. 
                Speaking of Others, that brings me back to the beginning.  Gossip and rumors had been swirling around the margins of our little beach camp.  Dr. Jack and all the cool kids were trying their best to keep it quiet, and I understood why.  Only one of two things would happen if 40-odd people found out there was an Other trapped in the hatch.  They’d either kill it, angry-mob style, or they’d dissolve into anarchy at the proposition that certain individuals were withholding information, presumably for the good of the group.  Fortunately for me, I wasn’t terribly invested in either of those outcomes.  I knew enough to know that the Others were far from harmless, but my interest in this hushed headline had much more to do with curiosity and less with anger or revenge than most of my fellow survivors. 
                I had kept mostly to myself since the beginning, since I knew enough about myself to know that I process trauma and stress best alone.  I wasn’t as isolated and introverted as some, but while Kate and Sawyer and Jack did… Kate and Sawyer and Jack, I preferred to keep my own company.  I might not even be here to tell you this story, if it weren’t for the fact that Fate is a funny thing.  Maybe the Island had a plan for me after all.  As luck would have it, Claire and Charlie found themselves on the outs not long before my story began, and Charlie moved into a shelter barely within earshot of me.  Assuming I was clever and curious (which I was), and stealthy (which I… probably was not, if we’re honest), I could hear more than the strumming of his guitar at night.  Sometimes, I got advance notice of the juicy tidbits of news that wouldn’t filter down to the nobodies like myself for another few days. 
                It really began the day I found my shoe.  You remember I mentioned I was rhinestoning a shoe on the plane.  Well, in my desperation to get a death grip on that ever-so-useless seat-bottom-flotation-device they tout the merits of in every preflight announcement, I must have let go of the shoe at some point in our descent.  To be honest, I was too busy flirting with death to remember.  But I must have held onto that sucker for a good long time though, because I found it barely a half hour’s trek into the jungle, just dangling seductively from a stalk of bamboo.  It had glittered mockingly in the sunlight and I almost had a heart attack at first, convinced it was the glint in the eye of yet another inexplicable polar bear.  In truth, I don’t even know why I took it back to camp with me, it wasn’t like I was ever going to find the other one, and even if I did, what was I gonna do with them, perform USO shows at the coconut cantina?
                But I did take it with me, and that evening I slipped it out of my shelter and sat by the firelight, turning it over and over in my hands, letting the jet rhinestones flare and flicker in the setting sun.  That’s when I heard them.  Voices.  Charlie and Sayid, sitting barely on the other side of the sandy ridge that separated camp from the tide line.  Their timbre mingled with the crashing of the waves and was half lost, but as I strained to hear, I heard the unmistakable words drop from Sayid’s lips. 
                “There is a man down in the hatch…”
                My ears perked, begging whatever wild force that governed this island to still the waves that obscured their conversation. 
                “…He was one of them.  One of the Others.” 
                I don’t remember what else was said that evening, because I felt my whole self consumed with such intense curiosity.  I knew the gravity of the decision to imprison someone.  I knew that such a decision could shatter the fragile utopian society that we were still clinging to the illusion that we were creating.  But, more than anything, I was terribly curious about what this man, this Other looked like. 
                The only Other I had ever seen was Ethan, but, of course, I hadn’t known about his Otherness when I had seen him, spoken to him.  Even now, barely weeks after he had been outed and shot, I was hard pressed to remember what he looked like.  Hard pressed to remember if there was anything about him that I might have sensed, half-sensed, that might have marked his Otherness in hindsight.  I wanted to see this mysterious man to assure myself that there really was a difference between their savagery and our own. 
                I didn’t sleep that night, but sat up long into the darkness, watching the stars swirl in their most unusual trails across the night sky, formulating my desire to see this captive of ours, to judge his Otherness for myself. 
                By the time the bright shafts of island sunlight pierced the shabby walls of my shelter, I had realized the only thing for me to do was to find a way to get into the hatch.  Now, the first thing you should probably know about the hatch is that it’s about as easy to get into as Studio 54.  Dr. Jack and everybody else who sat at the cool kids’ table had all been there, and I knew of a select few besides who had successfully petitioned for a shower or clean laundry.  However even those requests were being swept aside now, rotation schedules changed, quietly reducing the number of personnel down to the bare minimum.  Still, I had to try. 
                I remembered someone mentioning coffee.  It had been just long enough that I had resigned myself to the reality that I would never again taste the sweet, sweet drug that was a Starbucks mocha, but the possibility of a real cup of strong coffee with fresh cream seemed like the perfect excuse to make the trip to the Hatch.  At first, I considered finding an escort, but thought better of it.  Dr. Jack and John Locke had been increasingly at odds, especially when it came to the hatch and it’s… contents, so I elected to obtain roundabout permission some other way. 
                “Hey Hurley.”  I sidled up to the camp kitchen, where Hurley was quietly slicing mangoes. 
                “Oh.  Hey.”
                “So… You got a bunch of these supplies from the Hatch, right?”  …Way to be subtle, Tris.
                “…Yeah.”  Great.  He was on to me. 
                “Well…” I wheedled, “I hear there might be some coffee down there.  Any idea who I  might have to bribe for a cup?”
                “I dunno, dude.”  Hurley said, suddenly uncertain.  “Mango?”
                “No thanks”
                “Listen, uh… there’s coffee down there, but I don’t really think you should go over there right now.  The, uh, washing machine is broken.  There’s… uh… water everywhere.”
                “Hurley, do you really think a little water is going to keep me away from the siren song of caffeine?”
                “If you say so, dude.”
                “Great.  Thanks!”  And with that, I took off.
                “Uh… Wait!” I heard him call, distantly.  I was already gone. 
                I was distantly familiar with the path to the Hatch, but I had never traveled it before.  It was longer than I had anticipated, winding and contemplative through the saw grass and underbrush.  As the rustling of the trees lulled my brain and dulled my urgency, it occurred to me that this whole idea was a fool’s errand.  Wasn’t the whole point that the Others looked just like us?  Could hide among us and pass as us at any time?  What did I need to see one for?  Yet, something urged me forward.  This same curiosity that tugged at me the night before, which whipped my brain into a frenzy of dreams, this singular, obsessive thought invaded me.  It was as if the hand of Fate itself was pushing me down the jungle path.  I had to put a face on the faceless enemy.  I was tired of fearing the rustling of leaves and the whispers that might lie behind them.  If I was going to continue to be as apprehensive as I was told I should be, I wanted to know why.  But the late-morning sun soon banished my distant but sudden fear of whispers in the jungle and I was mercifully spared running into either Dr. Jack or John Locke on the journey, narrowly avoiding awkwardly explaining why my taste for coffee had suddenly overpowered my disdain for human companionship. 
                I was greeted at first by what appeared to be a cold, concrete bunker.  Distantly, however, the merry sound of bubbly, 70’s pop music beckoned me onward into a warmly lit space.  As predicted, a pot of coffee was brewing on the countertop, cream and sugar laid out enticingly nearby.  The room was empty. 
                The golden light drew me back to Chicago, where I had spent innumerable afternoons huddled in some coffeeshop or other, wood-paneled or exposed-bricked and teeming with tiny tables or dated armchairs.  I helped myself to a cup and withdrew to the tiny booth at one end of the room.  The artificial sunlight was unexpectedly warm and inviting and I found myself basking in its glow.  In my haste to sink into caffeinated bliss, I almost entirely forgot the real purpose of my visit. 
                In fact, I might not have accomplished my actual goal at all, so lost was I in my illusion of home, were it not for the fact that the record on its turntable fell suddenly silent, the return arm swinging dutifully away and settling back into its cradle.  The silence jolted me back to the present and I rose, curious once more.  I approached the turntable, flipping the record and carefully resetting the needle.                            As the music once again blared to life, the door immediately to my right swung open with a bang, and I found myself face to face with John Locke, eyes blazing. 
                “What are you doing here?” he asked, after a beat.  He had drawn himself up to his full height, towering over me. 
                “I, uh… I heard there was coffee…” I sputtered, indicating the cup in my hands.  It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I had walked right into my opportunity.  Chancing a glance away from Locke’s imposing expression, I saw a glimpse of movement.  My eyes darted into the half-light beyond him, and my gaze was greeted by the intent stare of our unexpected houseguest. 
                He was far slighter than I had expected, small and thin and dirty, his face a patchwork of bruises and his hands bound to the floor.  But his eyes were unsettlingly blue, and they pierced into me such that, even if I had wanted to look away, I couldn’t have.  It was like being struck by lightning.  They were filled with confusion and, as time moved infinitely slowly, with each inch the door closed, an ever-increasing hunger.  He broke my gaze briefly, glancing up at Locke, then returned to my face.  Transfixed, I soon found myself looking at nothing but concrete, the only relief from the spell of those strange, insatiable blue eyes. 
“I think maybe you should go back to the beach.” Locke’s tone was firm. 
“So… I’m guessing the cafĂ© is officially closed.”  I murmured.  Locke simply shifted, nodding imperceptibly toward the door. 
John Locke stared after her for a long time, emotions mingling between rage, terror, confusion.  This had not been part of the plan.
The man they called Henry Gale sat silently for a long moment after Locke had shut the door in his face.  He was still staring at her, even though all he could see now was dimly-lit steel.  He was flipping through his mental rolodex, flashing through names, passport photos, his nimble mind searching the manifest of Oceanic 815. 
                He heard the distant sound of the needle scratching off of a record suddenly, followed at length by a new song, now blaringly loud.
                “John?” He called, after a beat.  He was greeted only with silence.  After a moment, he allowed his shoulders to slump awkwardly.


You can also find Convergence archived here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cooking without a net: Spruiced up Mac & Cheese

Oh, hey.  Guess what?  Sometimes, I'm known to actually cook food.  (This doesn't happen as often as it should.  See also: Why I continue to be poverty-ridden.)  I'm one of those lucky people who gets a little assistance from time to time, when it comes to my groceries, so I'm lucky enough to be able to put together the occasional chicken pot pie (or the delicious tortellini soup I made last week), but when things are tight, we all revert back to our days as starving college students and pick up boxes of that wonderful staple: nuclear-orange macaroni and cheese. 

I admit it.  I love the stuff.  But I also love not feeling like a broke-ass, so I tend to spiff it up a little.  This is my standard procedure:

1) Make mac & cheese.
2) While boiling noodles, heat saucepan with some olive oil or butter.
3) saute a clove (or two.  Or three) of garlic
4) slice mushrooms (button are fine.  I like the baby 'bellas) and add to garlic.
5) sprinkle mushrooms liberally with oregano and rosemary
6) throw a bunch of baby spinach on top and cut off the heat.
7) drain your noodles.  While they're draining, stick your veggies in the pot with the cheese powder, butter, milk. 
8) put your noodles back in, mix, and consume. 


Friday, March 7, 2014

Etsy (again)

I wrote about my Etsy shop once upon a time, about a million years ago.  At the time, I think I was still (unsuccessfully) selling handmade feather fascinators, with terrible photography skills and very little confidence in my finished product. 

Somewhere along the line, I stopped selling fascinators.  I let my Etsy shop grow weeds and languish empty for awhile.  I just didn't have the energy to keep it up, and I kind of hated making the fascinators when I wasn't really all that sure of what I was doing. 

But then something happened.  I impulse-purchased a box of vintage sewing patterns.  I was fueled by the memory of the box of 70's patterns I had borrowed from one of my sorority sisters in college.  Her mother had what seemed to be a treasure-trove of them, all in sizes absurdly too small for me.  Years of searching finally led me to cave in and buy a box... probably 30 or 40 of them in total, with the plan to weed out the ones I wanted to keep for myself, and then flip the rest on Etsy... hopefully for enough profit to buy another box and do the same thing. 

And then I bought another box.  And another.  And another.  And eventually I amassed enough patterns to fill an entire chest of drawers, plus two boxes in the trunk of my car.  I own over a thousand of them. 

Sales were slow, predictably, at first.  I'm one of those impatient sorts who wants things to pick up and be successful immediately, so that was tough for awhile.  I started filling up the shop the August before I left Provision for good... since that was the first time I was threatened with a lay-off.  I thought maybe I could close the gaps and pay the bills with sales at that time.  But I ended up staying at Provision for another 10 months, and I got lazy.  I updated the shop, but not as much as I could have. 

This year though, I've been seeing regular enough sales to pull in about $50 each month.  Not a fabulous number, but hey, the shop pays for itself, at least. 

And, oh.  By the way.  If you're interested in dipping a toe into sewing your own vintagewear, you should definitely check me out on Etsy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things

We have a bit of a departure for me today.  (Although, at this stage, everything is a little bit of a departure.  Cohesion has not yet magically happened in the way I keep expecting it to.)  I just want to talk a little about a few things that I find to add whimsy to my otherwise grey and poverty-trodden life. 

1) Coins that are older than me. 
There is nothing like being reminded of your impermanence on a lazy Wednesday afternoon at the cafe.  I mean that, however, in the best of ways.  This morning's example comes by way of a weathered dime from 1978.  Sometimes you fish into your pocket and pull out change from the 60's, battered and worn, and you wonder what it was used for when Nixon was president.  Did someone buy new shoes?  A phone call to a distant relative?  Eggs?  Other times, it's a quarter from 1980, still impossibly shiny and fresh after 30 years. 

These coins are like people.  Every one of them has lived a different experience.  Some of them come to you covered in gunk.  Some of them are bafflingly pristine.  Some of them may have been carelessly spent on gum or comic books by your own 10-year-old parents.  They might have been unwittingly carried into war, seen other countries, spent three years in the sofa cushions of a suburban household.  But they each have a unique story to which we will never be privy.  And that fascinates me. 

2) Reading the beginnings of blogs.
This is actually the thing that inspired me to write at all this morning.  I have a number of blogs I follow (or... peruse on a somewhat infrequent basis...) and, while I love following these people and hearing about their present escapades/successes/wild failures, the first thing I do when encountering a new blog is scroll ALL the way back to the beginning.  It's not that I feel the need to know everyone's origin story, although that is a powerful motivator in and of itself.  It's that I love the fact that I can identify with everyone's bumbling, stumbling, trying-to-find-their-feet first posts.  Those first months where you write everything because you're shooting-glitter-lasers-from-your-eyeballs enthused about your new project.  The halfhearted excuses why you let your blog languish for a week or two (or a year or two *cough*).  The "revelations" that seem so profound when you write them, but they really aren't, because you're a baby at your craft and what the hell do you know about anything?  Or you do, in fact, know what you're talking about, but so does everyone else in the Western world.  It's oddly reassuring to me.

One of my favorites (of course it is, I'm a photographer, after all) is Jamie Delaine's blog.  She started her photography business when she was 16 and it blows my mind how wildly (and seemingly instantaneously) successful she's been.  She's someone whose writing I have read over and over, in a desperate attempt to attain through some form of osmosis the kind of relentless drive and optimism and enthusiasm she exhibits. 

I'm also fond of the blog for Oz Images Photography.  Her first months of blogging sound much like my own, I feel, and, hey, she found her voice and created a successful business in time. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014


This week may well have been one of the most stressful on record.  I clocked a day on set, tech for one show, and fully costuming a burlesque act. 

It was down to the wire, but I finished the important things, and I rolled with the things that didn't end up happening.  And I learned a few things. Like... that apron I had planned for my burly-q act is totally unnecessary (and also to tie my bustle underneath my corset, because I almost got stuck this week.  O_o)

In the moment, having to finish ten thousand things in the span of about 72 hours is absolutely hellish.  But I say it over and over again, and it's true.  I work best when I'm standing on the edge of a knife.  I don't meander through my projects, I shoot through them with laser focus. 

This week, I'll be spending another day on set, and I have work or job interviews or rehearsal or shows EVERY DAY (except Wednesday.  whee!).  Let's hope we can keep this train moving along.