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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Whether or Not Weather Affects Personality


weather - noun - the state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards heat, sunshine, wind, rain, etc. 2. verb - to wear away or change the appearance or texture of 3. verb. - come through a storm 

Weather is a common noun in the English language, so well known and frequently used in fact, that few ever bother to research its meaning. The verb forms are perhaps not as familiar, but language arts teachers in American middle schools might suggest them as "strong verbs," if indeed the "strong verb" is even taught anymore. But I digress. 

At the center of this one-sided conversation as the title indicates is whether or not weather affects personality. I am sure there is scientific or psychological evidence proving that it does via named maladies. For instance, there is SAD or Seasonal Affected Disorder, which my daughter swears she has as documented by her manic depressive experiences in Boston and New York where the climate and atmosphere were and still are bi-polar as well. Now that she lives in Los Angeles, a city of not only angels but extraordinarily, consistently sublime weather, her syndrome is no longer apparent. She only gets manic when confronted with the insanity of the drivers on the 405 and elsewhere. There has been no proof of depression, though, just threats of overt violence that could be explained by the fact that she grew up and learned to drive in Jersey.

Which brings me to my point. Although I have lived here in SoCal for just over a month, I have noticed some patterns as is my habit, good or bad. As is the case in any large city, quite a few of the inhabitants are from elsewhere other than Southern California. So far, I have met people from Brazil, Mexico, countries in Asia, France, England, the Midwest, the South, the North East and Middle Atlantic states. What I tend to see daily is that native Californians are easy to pinpoint in a crowd of foreigners. They stand out simply because they are unusually congenial, sunny. You know, like the weather. I'm not saying the transplants aren't nice; they can be, but their dispositions just aren't as...hmm. Ebullient? 

Case in point, last night I attended a read-through of a play that I will be stage managing this summer. When I walked into the room, only about three unabashed actors were talking, breaking the ice with friendly chatter while the others sat in silence, staring vaguely at their devices. Feeling the contrary vibes, I said to myself, All of these people aren't from around here. And I was right. Only three out of eleven (most likely the chatterboxes) were from California, something I discovered by doing a bit of sleuthing. I looked up the area codes of their cell phone numbers the following day to find that my assumption was correct. Most were from the Midwest. 

So what can I conclude? The weather pretty much everywhere is not consistent, and neither are the affected personalities.  Even when said personalities are in a consistently sunny place, they aren't always sunny themselves because, well, their past environmental conditions jaded them somewhere down the line. 

Weather can and does influence human disposition, but just because you don't live in Southern California or aren't native to the state doesn't mean you can't be cognizant of how you present yourself to others. 

The takeaway? Don't let weather weather your demeanor unfavorably. 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life,  #blog, #blogging, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing, #truth, #LiteraryCriticism, #satire, #society, #real estate, #good advice

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Notes from the L.A. Writing Conference


bumptious - adjective - self-assertive to an irritating degree

Suffice it to say, I have been writing, publishing, and selling books since 1997. Although I would not describe myself as a "successful" writer because success today entails generous monetary receipts, but I have sold 5,000 copies of all four of my self-published titles entirely on my own in a glutted market. As an aside to those colleagues who have self-published recently, in 1997, the market was open to you. Stores in the present that charge you for shelf space in their stores actually used to buy your books and organize signings for you. Yes. You were treated just like a traditionally published author, meaning well. In short, it was a perfect world. Now I find myself looking for an agent like so many of you out there because it is just easier in the long run albeit perhaps not as potentially profitable as you might think. For instance, an agented writer who sells 5,000 copies at $10.00 a copy will walk away with $2,500 to $7,500 whereas a self-published author taking advantage of free on-line e-book publishing could make $20,000 to $35,000 and maintain control of the entire process. I, unfortunately, did stuff my wallet with that kind of cash as I  spent too much on paying printers, reviewers, and Amazon that takes potential profit from you upfront. Yet as I mentioned, things have gotten a little easier for the literary entrepreneur as long as you rely on online resources. 

Today, I shelled out about $350 (everything included, even the two pitches I made to agents) to attend the L.A. Writing Conference held in an unaccommodating hotel (as far as parking and food go) next to LAX. The would-be author attendees were calm, cool, and collected–not a one obnoxiously bumptious. Although it was not my first conference, I gleaned a lot from it (and if the stars line up correctly, maybe representation–keep me in your prayers), some of which I'd like to share with you. 

Just what are contemporary agents looking for in terms of the writing? 

1. Concise, dense language with minimal tropes (such as similes and metaphors) and adverbs (Stephen King doesn't like them either). As someone with a master's in creative writing, I disagree, but apparently practically nude syntax sells. F. Scott Fitzgerald's books might never have gotten a sideways glance in 2024. Thank Goodness he published a hundred years ago.

2. Too much in the way of scenes and little in the way of summary. (Don't let dialogue take over.)

3. Stay away from trite gimmicks like dream sequences.

If you are in the process of querying agents, remember to...

1. Watch your tone. Don't be overly familiar. No one wants to know that you have been writing since you were two.

2. Do your homework to find out what goes into a query. Make sure there are no typos.

3. Mention comps in your query even if the piece is fiction.

4. Start blogging and connect with organizations on-line that feature writers like yourself.

5. Know your audience. 

6. Put time into your synopsis. 

Ultimately, be disciplined, maintain a sense of humor, and be open to criticism. Do not even think about giving up until you have received at least 100 rejections. (Hint: What is selling right now is psychological thrillers and romances. If you have a fantasy, step in line as most of the pages entered for critique at the conference belonged to that genre.)

Good luck to all pursuing this avenue. Is it tough? You betcha. It isn't a route for the squeamish hitchhiker to thumb down. 

#advice for writers #publishing advice #writing conferences #L.A. Writing Conference #self-publishing #traditional publishing #literary agents 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

L.A. as a Parallel Universe of New York?


parallel universe - noun - a world conceived of as coexisting with and having certain similarities to the known world but different from it in some fundamental way (Google).

In the early 1980s, I knew New York well as I worked and lived in Manhattan. Obviously, over a period of roughly fifty years, it has grown into something other than what it was back then, something indefinable, at least to me. At present, I reside in Los Angeles, nearly 3,000 miles west. Even though I have been a resident for just a week, I can say that these American hubs are the same, only different...parallel universes in a sense. 

What are the similarities? For one, there is commonality of origin. Just about everyone I have met here so far either was born in the New York Metro area or arrived here relatively recently, cementing my theory that L.A. is just a suburb of New York, a grouping of cities tied together by freeways at the southern end of the continent, a continuum of vast, uneven topography. To exemplify this observation was a cashier at Target from Brooklyn who actually admitted that he missed the weather in New York; for some unfathomable reason, he was actually mourning the loss of snow shoveling. To which I replied, "The grass is always greener" or in his case, whiter (with snow). Yet only a native New Yorker would complain about the near perfect atmospheric conditions in L.A. Another similarity (other than the recent earthquake in the suburbs of New Jersey, which seemed to come as a gift direct from SoCal) would be the traffic. Most in New York would swear that the traffic is worse here; but for the most part, it is the same, the difference being that there is equivalent volume but fewer roads merging into each other, accounting for the jams. Yet if you migrate here fully prepared for the stop and go, go and stop on the 405 or the101, PCH, etc., it isn't irking at all, well, not terribly so anyway. It is just another test of patience. As for the cost of living, it is pretty much the same albeit the gas is more expensive here (and you will pay a lot for car registration) and the utilities, yet the apartments are cheaper (and much nicer as many come with pools and fitness centers at no extra charge). Some restaurants are not as expensive as New York eateries; however, car washes are twice the price albeit experts will wash your car by hand. Give or take, everything balances out. 

Conversely, there are a few noteworthy differences. One monumental dissimilarity would be in the disposition of the inhabitants. Perhaps due to the prevalence of sun, individuals here are kinder, more polite. And like the sun, they shine; their ebullience sparkles. While some envious New Yorkers condemn L.A. congeniality as "fake," it feels pretty real to me. Unlike most New Yorkers, liberal or conservative, people in L.A. seem to take the climate crisis a lot more seriously and work to curb it. For example, the garbage collectors here go through your trash with a fine-tooth comb. If there is something in the circular file that doesn't belong there, you receive a warning and a checklist of what you can or can't include in it. In addition, the DMV requires all gas cars, no matter how new, to go through a smog test for sixty dollars at places that look like they used to be gas stations. Although this has nothing to do with the environment– even though I have been driving for fifty-five years (I started when I was ten...don't ask)–I had to take a written driving test like I did when I was seventeen in Jersey. And it was hard being that it was on nearly one hundred pages of material. Apparently, some of the laws governing the roads here are outside of the norm. In terms of these polarities, balance doesn't come into play.

Parallel or not, the universes known as New York and L.A. will always have their arguable pros and cons. The truth of the matter is that both cities are magical enough to fall in love with at first sight. If you can't afford to live in either, at least you can visit. From what I know, there are about thirty flights going back and forth between the two cities daily. If you book in advance and don't mind flying steerage, you might pay below $300, which is pretty cheap, all things considered. Flights might even be a bit less to either depending upon where you call home in the U.S. Wouldn't it be nice to formulate your own tale of two cities? 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life,  #blog, #blogging, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing, #truth, #LiteraryCriticism, #satire, #society, #real estate, #good advice, #LosAngeles, #NewYork

Monday, April 1, 2024

Side-Stepping Pedantry to Get Along With New Neighbors


pedantry - noun - excessive concern with minor details and rules

In this current vastness wherein political correctness rules, pedantry has pushed its way into the populace, particularly real estate attorneys. If you have been following this recent short string of blogs, you have probably figured out that I am selling my house to two nouveau yuppies, now labeled Millennials. Although they are wet behind the ears (meaning young in case that idiom escapes you), I like them. It is their legal representation that leaves little to love. Why? One word: PEDANTRY. 

Okay, okay, I get it. The lawyer is doing her job, and Goodness knows that in this climate of litigiousness one with the master key to a law office has to be extra careful. But to what avail? 

Case in point: As any lender must have a property surveyed before a mortgage can be offered, on Monday, an industrious set of two uniformed surveyors flagged my property in hot pink plastic price tags sans prices and measured every inch and boundary of my lot with their collection of transit levels, tripod rods, bluetooth laser distance meters, etc. Just when I thought I'd make it to the end of the game (the closing) without any more complications, two days later, I received a call from my attorney, informing me that two of my three neighbors have been encroaching on my land. One unknowingly erected a privacy fence up against my own privacy fence three feet onto my property and the other, a relatively new neighbor, put up behind my fence a children's play set, half of which is taking up four feet of the portion of my backyard that I can't see. Ugh. Getting the one neighbor to remove her fence was easy albeit I had to rely on an ex-boyfriend to do the job; however, convincing the other one that the survey was/is indeed accurate and he would have to move the one side of the swing set that his kids never use anyway, was a herculean feat. I struck out, but my real agent agents seemed to make it to first and second base. Who knows if they will manage to find their way to home plate. After much cajoling on the part of the agents, the disgruntled neighbor promised he'd move the set but was inordinately angry at the buyers, exclaiming, "That's no way to start out, bossing a new neighbor around. I know I won't ever speak to them unless they come over here with a peace offering." Perhaps he made a valid point.

Adverse possession laws aside (because they require thirty years of proven encroachment in New Jersey), I realize that the lawyer is thinking that if some child falls out of the jungle gym portion of the set, it might just be the buyers' responsibility to cover hospital fees. But isn't that what homeowner's insurance is for? If the neighbor's kids don't even use the monstrosity, is it worth starting off on the wrong foot with someone who is probably not going away for at least twenty years? I don't know about you, but I say to heck with pedantry. Messing with minutiae is just aggravating to everyone except for the one doling out the aggravation. "Don't sweat the small stuff" may not be advice that legal eagles embrace, but perhaps their clients should remind the professionals that stepping outside the bounds of pedantry and making concessions to insure domestic tranquility between neighbors may not be such a bad idea. 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life,  #blog, #blogging, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing, #truth, #LiteraryCriticism, #satire, #society, #real estate, #good advice

Friday, March 22, 2024

Veneration and its Converse: Renting an Apartment as a Retiree in Los Angeles


veneration - n. - great respect; reverence

Although I have probably touched on this before, I feel I must state the obvious one more time: veneration is rare these days. It used to be that if you were a halfway decent person (meaning kind, compassionate, etc.) had money in the bank, the world was your oyster. Well, let's put it mildly, if you consider yourself to be venerated today, chances are you may have the attributes aforementioned, but you aren't sixty five or over.

Over the past weekend, I was hit with ageism head on while trying to rent an apartment in Los Angeles. Mind you, L.A. likes to bask in the often obfuscated light of a democratic state, well aware of the hazards of discrimination. In fact, there are placards posted in myriad places reminding the public reader that it just won't tolerate prejudice of any kind. Funny thing, though, every possible example of bias is mentioned except ageism. 

Case in point: admittedly, I, like many of my kind, am a senior citizen with a healthy portfolio and income coming from several sources. Fortunately, I can afford to lease an apartment in both New York and Los Angeles, albeit not simultaneously. In Los Angeles as in many other hot spots in the U.S., in order to secure an apartment, you must prove that your income is three times the monthly rent, which is not easy if the rent is 3K or more. The main problem, though, is that if you happen to be retired, there is no separate application for you. These conglomerates that own the luxurious resort hotel apartment complexes operate on a "one size fits all" policy. Basically, they are not interested in you if you do not have a steady job that pays you a high weekly salary, not even if you are a multi-millionaire sans an occupation other than gardening and golf. Their computer algorithms are created to accept only those who are gainfully employed, blind to the probable possibility that if they are living paycheck to paycheck, they could get laid off at any time, rendering them unable to pay the rent. Contrarily, New York real estate operates on the basis of common sense. In New York City, you have to prove you have fifty times your monthly rent in the bank, which is hard to do when the average price of a one bedroom is $4,500 (or $225,000 in the bank), of course, but most of the young renters have wealthy parents who can and do co-sign their leases for them. The real estate moguls in the City know that money in the bank pays the rent on time, not an iffy weekly salary. 

As for me, I liked a complex in the lush, tropical, yet pragmatic planned community of Playa Vista just south of Marina del Mar (both in L.A. county) and applied to rent at Runway, a sleek resort-style complex with all of the amenities you can think of in tow. Because Runway's rental application completely disregards retirees, I was rejected not once, but twice. After much frustration, I gave up on renting there (even though the leasing manager finally emailed me offering me the apartment and apologizing for the ineptitude of his colleagues and data base) and signed with a competitor who took one look at my portfolio and said, "You're approved with verification from your bank." Smart man. He did the mental math. 

Regardless of your particular age, it should not be so incredibly hard to rent an apartment these days. And landlords of any kind should not discriminate against cotton tops turned Clairol box tops like me who slaved for many, many years yet cannot boast that they are earning a consistent weekly paycheck. Correct your websites, people in this biz. Add a separate application for retirees or very lucky independently wealthy scions before you continue to embarrass yourselves. You're losing business due to your dearth of common sense. Money is money regardless of its source. That being said, as a new renter, I am still thrilled to be free of all the complications associated with homeownership. The algorithmic aggravation was well worth the transition from money pit to someone else's responsibility. To me, that is a taste of veneration right there.

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life,  #blog, #blogging, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing, #truth, #LiteraryCriticism, #satire, #society, #real estate, #LosAngeles

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Selling a Home? Beware of the Overly Punctilious and Entitled


punctilious - adjective - showing great attention to detail

Anxious to kickstart a new chapter in my life on the West Coast, I decided to sell my home in the Jersey suburbs myself with a generous portion of help from an associate, a former friend, turned beau, turned friend again, who happens to be a real estate agent. Of course, I am paying him something for his time as even one percent amounts to a comfortable chunk when the house is worth 750K. What started as an innocuous pairing of the Bobbsey Twins (I'm dating myself here) has segued into Beowulf and Wiglaf (now I'm really dating myself) as it is NOT easy to sell a house in this age of the punctilious and entitled. In fact, it was probably easier for Beowulf to slay the dragon because after all, he and Wiglaf did have knives, something no respectable seller can rely on when negotiating a sale with the buyer's cutthroat real estate attorney. 

At present, most of the buyers out there are Millennials, a generation that is used to receiving trophies for showing up. Although most of them are intelligent, they seem to get away with doing comparatively little to earn their inflated salaries. Yet it probably isn't their fault entirely as it is easy to "quiet quit" when supervisors' expectations are low. Unfortunately, the lackadaisical attitude has carried over into real estate sales. 

Twenty-five years ago, I was a single mom in my late thirties, fresh out of divorce court with a seven-year-old daughter who wanted to reside in a neighborhood of families with children. I was desperate to provide the right, healthy environment for her, so I bought an old, decrepit house in a solid environment and spent the next 24 years dumping money into the money pit, only to realize recently, much to my disappointment, that no matter what you spend and how much you do to improve your property, it is not good enough for these young, newly wed buyers who see the house as yet another potential trophy. The feeling is if they put up enough in the way of savings and loans and mom and dad's monetary gifts, the house should be picture perfect in every way regardless of its age. Sorry. It just doesn't work that way. Like the human body, no matter the age, continual maintenance is involved. There will always be something that needs attention.

This is a wake-up-and-smell-the-roses moment for all of you nouveau riche Millennials out there migrating from your primitive apartments in Brooklyn to the overpriced suburbs of New Jersey or Connecticut: If you buy a house, no matter how old or new it is, you are going to have to work and spend a lot of money to maintain the the luster of the trophy, no matter how it was obtained. Nothing will come easily. And in ten years, when you decide to sell your Cape Cod starter home in order to buy the McMansion dream, you must realize that even your township of record will try to take you down by dredging up open permits from before you even bought your place and then charging you $150 to inspect areas that have nothing to do with the open permits, only to fail you, again charging you another $150 to return after you have spent even more money to appease them. I just wrote over $500 in checks to my township this past week. Why they need this kind of cash is beyond me. You would think my 10K a year in property taxes would appease them. Think again. As a result of the shenanigans, I am beginning to put a lot of credence in conspiracy theories involving the government, any form of it at all. 

For those of you Florida-bound-hopeful Boomers who are thinking of trying to take advantage of the current sellers' market by putting "For Sale" signs on your front lawns, think twice. No matter how much you have put into your houses to make them presentable, you are going to have to cough up a lot more because no Millennials want to buy fixer-uppers, for what should be obvious reasons by now. If there is too much to be done, save yourselves some aggravation and sell to builders. To these wet-behind-the-ears buyers, new is always better no matter how well built your Jazz Age, craftsman bungalows are. 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life,  #blog, #blogging, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing, #truth, #LiteraryCriticism, #satire, #society

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A Needed, Avuncular Voyage


avuncular - adjective - like an uncle; careful, heedful

Sometimes it is unsteadying to reach a certain milestone in life and then look back at the past, as the tendency is to compare what was then to what is now. If you are 65 or over and gaze back over your shoulder about fifty years, the differences between then and now are so extreme that they could make you dizzy. Although I make a conscious effort to live in the present, occasionally I drift back into the past when prompted. 

The other day, a gentleman whom I met recently suggested that I watch an oldie but goodie, Carl Reiner's black comedy "Where's Poppa?" (1970, United Artists) on a streaming service. Since the film's cast is topnotch (George Segal, Ruth Gordon, Ron Leibman, Trish Van Devere, Rob Reiner, and Vincent Gardenia), I could not say no. If you are brave enough to follow my lead and take a walk on the unwoke, wild side, make sure you are safely ensconced on a couch for the entire duration so that you don't get a quick case of vertigo from the experience of watching. After having gotten used to a sanitary, woke world, to take in scenes of the opposite got me reeling. Nothing, believe me, nothing about this movie is remotely politically correct. If writer Robert Klane were to attempt to submit his screenplay to any production companies today, he would be laughed out of Hollywood. Cancelled indefinitely. 

In case you are too scared to take the plunge, I'll spill the beans re: the contemporary atrocities in a work wherein cultural stereotypes abound. Warning: there is no subgroup that is not satirized. To start, Jewish men, their wives, and their mothers are ridiculed: Ruth Gordon, a brilliant character actress, plays the insufferable Mrs. Hocheiser, demented mother to forcibly avuncular George Segal (lawyer Gordon) and Ron Leibman (henpecked Sidney). She has them both shackled to their dying father's wish, not to put their impossible mother into "a home," the only sane solution to the problem. George bends over backwards to get her into an early grave, including buying and then wearing a gorilla suit in order to scare her to death. When he meets the love of his life, angelic Louise (Trish Van Devere), a caregiver who answers Gordon's ad for help with mom, he loses patience and informs his brother Sidney (Ron Leibman) that he will throw Mom out of the window if he doesn't take her off his hands. Despite the protests of Sidney's unsympathetic wife, he answers the call but must first go through Central Park after dusk before he can get to Gordon's apartment. While in Central Park, he is accosted by ruffian rapists and muggers (all played by African American male actors, which would NEVER fly today) not once, but twice. Fragile, malleable Sidney himself is forced by the unlawful gang to "rape" an off-duty, gay police officer dressed as a woman who doesn't not press charges, claiming the encounter was one of the passionate highlights of his life, icing the cake that is his infatuation with red roses. There are other subgroups that are criticized, namely American military officers who are depicted as austere, profane, immoral warmongers capable of genocide. Naturally, the film is an unforgiving, biting satire at which audiences laughed only to realize that '70s society needed to change drastically.

And somehow at some point it did a 180. Today, nothing is politically incorrect, nothing is satirized for fear of reprisal, cancellation on social media. Very few have the audacity to take pot shots at what is wrong with society today, even comedians are kept at bay. So it all comes down to us being left to take an honest look at what is going on around us and make a few alterations. "Where's Poppa?" of the 1970s may very well segue into "Where's Sanity?" in the 2020s, a needed, avuncular voyage.

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life,  #blog, #blogging, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing, #truth, #LiteraryCriticism, #satire, #society

Whether or Not Weather Affects Personality

  weather - noun - the state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards heat, sunshine, wind, rain, etc. 2. verb - to wear away or cha...