Quest in the Southwest: Day One

Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman, planning our trip for us.

Last weekend was B.’s birthday, so we took a little road trip to see friends in Colorado and New Mexico. I got my toes painted Grand Canyon Sunset, stocked up on Barrow beer and HEB fajita meat, and off we went.

We left at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, September 29, stopping at Flo(rence) Do(nuts) for breakfast. The rain came down hard all the way through Lampasas and on and off for the rest of the day. We stopped to see the Great White Buffalo on the square in Snyder and each got a taco from Laredo Taco Company (located inside Stripes convenience stores, for the uninitiated). The windmills outside Lubbock were buried in fog, and we stopped at a coffee shop called Sugar Browns, where I bought a shirt with a buffalo on it for my high school friend, K. Our mascot had been the buffalo, and she had attended law school in Lubbock, though I don’t think the coffee shop was around at the time. I got a Sugar Brown latte and ordered B. a London Fog, which I ended up drinking.

Due to a hankering for chicken fried steak, we stopped at the Big Texan in Amarillo, which is actually famous for the 72-ounce, finish-in-under-an-hour-and-it’s-free steak, but neither of us were interested. We both agreed the Big Texan is “what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war…” or if Texas ever wins independence. The motel next to the restaurant features a wild west facade, creating a small town with four rooms per establishment. I did not see a house of ill repute, nor a saloon.

After a disagreement over whether the mashed potatoes were powdered or not, we bellied up to the bar to sample the house brews. We learned the Whoop Your Donkey Double IPA mixed with the Texas Red Amber Ale is called a Red Ass. I was quite taken with the Bomb City Bock, but as I was driving, had to limit my intake.

I got my traditional pressed penny, Zoltar told my fortune, and the two of us took on the shooting gallery. While I was waiting outside for my gentleman companion, I saw a man dressed as Mario, but, doubting it was intentional, decided it was very rude of me to take his photo. Still, this shot features the Route 66 sign and gets the point across without embarrassing anyone.img_5960.jpg

Leaving Amarillo, a picturesque hay pasture off the highway caught my eye. The round bales stretched for a mile on either side. I realized there were several vehicles parked along the access road and finally saw the graffitied cars planted diagonally in the ground. It was my first time to see the Cadillac Ranch.

Free image from Pixabay. Honestly, the round bales are what really made the scene.

We were listening to The Shining on Audible in preparation for the Stanley Hotel, and I’d also convinced B. to listen to a few selections from my backlog of podcasts. Still, we were about ten hours into the trip and I’d driven nearly 500 miles, so when I started to drift off, I finally had to ask to tap out. B. took over driving duties in what turned out to be Texline, and I missed driving the entire way through Texas by about a hundred yards. I drifted in and out of sleep through that corner of New Mexico, hazily catching the dragon on this building in Clayton, which is one of the coolest facades I’ve ever seen.

This is not my photo. It is from the Six-M Concrete and Metal Art website. They are the ones who created the dragon and a bunch of other cool stuff. Visit them at

I woke up for real in Raton, when we stopped at a gas station and B. had to go inspect an impressive pair of antlers looming out of a truck bed at the neighboring gas pump. It was an elk.

img_6413We climbed up in elevation and came back down into Colorado. On the descent, B. taught me to use my gears to decelerate, instead of riding the brake all the way down the mountain. Feather the throttle, he said.

Our first stop was in Trinidad, where the couple behind us in line saw B.’s I SURVIVED THAI HOT shirt from the late, great Thai Kitchen and started talking about Killeen, where they had been stationed before moving to Colorado, aka Free America.

We made it to Colorado Springs without incident, and B. surprised me with an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed restaurant for dinner. I felt under-dressed and scrubby as we descended into the Rabbit Hole, but we didn’t have to wait for a table and the waitstaff was hospitable. I had a Tweedle Bee spicy cocktail and B. had a Beehive from Bristol Brewing Company, I think. He did order the rabbit, while I went with rabbit food: carrot-ginger-lavender soup and cauliflower mac-and-cheese with tofu. On the way back to the hotel, our Uber driver broke the tie and convinced me not to attempt to drive the road to the top of Pike’s Peak.


Editorial Vision

“Nevertheless, we will persist. I refuse to cancel a pitch meeting on account of that man.”
–Jacqueline Carlyle on #45 in Before Tequila Sunrise (a bottle episode with a very sentimental name)

I’ve been watching The Bold Type, getting in touch with youthful idealism and all that. I like all the girls, most of all Sutton. 

But the character that makes the show for me is Jacqueline: Melora Hardin, AKA Jan Levinson-Gould from The Office, songstress of the most cringe-worthy rendition of Son of a Preacher Man ever.

(Also, Ryan (Pinstripe) from The Bold Type resembles Ryan from The Office. Just sayin’.)

Jacqueline is decidedly not a devil in Prada. She really believes in her girls, and I learned a lot from watching how she lets them do their jobs. When Pinstripe recommends Jane imagine herself in Jacqueline’s chair, that was actually very good advice. Do you want the top job in your company? If not, then why are you there?

I did not know until Episode Nine that the show is based on the life of Cosmo editor-in-chief (not editor-at-large) Joanna Coles. But the Cosmo connection is fairly apparent, as is the Nora Ephron influence.


When Jacqueline takes the weights in the season finale and shares the story of her own rape, I cried. It happened over twenty years ago when she started her journalism career, right when she was about the age of the girls in The Bold Type. Did she think about reporting it?

“Not even for a second. That would have ended my career; or at the very least, defined it […] Me pushing you on this story was misdirected. It was not about you, it was about me.”

Which brings me to the heart of my love for Jacqueline, and probably the heart of The Bold Type, once Jane comes back around.

You have to believe in the publication. It’s the big sister you never had, or whatever. If they are not doing work you can support, not pushing you in the right direction, you have to separate yourself.

I left a freelancing gig a year ago because it became painfully clear I did not share the editor’s vision. She butchered one of my stories to the point that it alienated a source and made her regret trusting me with her story. That, I can not abide.

And thank God I got out, because this is the cover of that publication’s latest issue:

Oh boy. Yes, that is an extremely beige photo shoot. As a formerly entrenched young professional in the community this publication claims to serve, I can confidently say this cover does not represent the diverse, youthful, and inclusive group of career-minded women I encountered every day. All this represents is a limited editorial vision. I’m glad I got out when I did. (There is also a glaring grammatical error: generation is singular. It should be “a new generation of leaders brings fresh ideas.”)

When you’re young and trying to make your name as a writer, you sometimes go along to get along. Once you get a bit older and wiser, you learn how to take a stand. If something doesn’t feel right, by all means get out. You don’t want this on your hands.


“Getting laid off just seems like a good excuse to do something different.”
–Kat, The Bold Type

I’m knee-deep in the layoff episode of The Bold Type right now, reflecting back to the “layoff” scene from The Handmaid’s Tale.

My layoff is over. The department is completely closed. The one girl they left behind to help with the transition has found a new job, so it’s over.

Jane copes with the layoff by getting cold-called for a dream job. Poor Jane. This is why I can’t relate to her. There is nothing but praise for her writing, though the show provides very little justification. “Of course, you’d have your own column.” Of course.

The Handmaid’s Tale

We got an Amazon Fire Stick, which, OMG, changes the entire unemployment landscape. Shows that were previously unavailable to me, like my beloved Canadian soap opera Being Erica, are now a click away. So I immediately binged Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Episode One:

The ear tag. I was just thinking yesterday how I never got one of the cartilage piercings (some girls just looked better in them), and here we have an ear tag with a serial number on it.

Margaret Atwood’s cameo at the Red Center–laughed out loud.

Something from the book, and history–they lock up the Bible so servants can’t read it. The Bible.

The salvaging was done completely wrong, though. That’s not Offred. In the book, that’s one of Ofglen’s shining moments. [Editorial note: within the context of the entire season’s arc, it makes more sense. But we’ve left the book material by this point.]

Ofglen was married to a woman!

Episode Two

June was an assistant book editor! And a preacher’s daughter?!? Maybe? “My father’s parish” can mean he belonged there or he led there.

“Would you like a cookie?” “Aw, isn’t she well-behaved?”

Three Little Birds…and Tears for Fears. Excellent music choices this episode. One of the instructors at my yoga studio has three little birds tattooed on her shoulder.

Episode Three

Barr & Monroe publishing? “You can’t work here anymore; it’s the law now.” That layoff scene had me shook.

So my publishing department was just shut down at work. Eleven people: ten women and one man. The man was immediately offered another job on campus. None of the women even received help from HR to locate another position. They kept one clerk for a few months to help shut the place down and gave her the work of three people to do.

I had to rewind because I though Alexis Bledel’s hair was Rory-Gilmore-short in the first scene and we were looking at two different prison sentences, but it was tucked into her shirt.

Episode Four and Five

Started applying for jobs.



the country girl (1954)

I just went through and published the drafts I had saved in this blog over the past three years. This last one is a bunch of quotes from the movie The Country Girl, the source of this blog’s name. It was Grace Kelly’s ugly movie, and everyone knows going ugly will get you the Oscar. I feel like this period of my life has been my own ugly movie–it may not look great on the outside, but I’m going to come out of it a winner and go on to become fucking royalty.

– She wasn’t always like that.

– I know.
They start out as Juliets and wind up as Lady Macbeths.

– When I first met her, she was as fine a person as you’ve ever seen.
She had background and breeding.
She had a nobility about her that made me feel proud to be with her.
I was a good deal older than she was, but it didn’t seem to matter.
She wasn’t a flighty kid.
She had a poise and dignity that was ageless.

Those first few years, I never knew a better life.
A wife who was everything I’d been looking for.
A son who was smart, healthy.
Then our son died.
I came home from the theatre one night a couple of months later.
This kid, I don’t think she ever had a real drink in her life before.
There she is, stretched out across the bed, dead drunk,
her wrists cut and bleeding.
She was jealous that I had my work, something to live for.
She felt she had nothing.

Inside of a year, she was a hopeless drunkard.
In an effort to give her some purpose in life,
I made her feel that I needed her in my work.
I let her pick the songs I should record, the shows I ought to do.
She started taking over everything. She became very possessive.
She wanted to make the decisions, had to be with me all the time.
Whenever I was away, she acted as if I’d run off with another woman.
She had fits of depression.
One time she set fire to a hotel suite.

That’s when I hit the bottle.

Work Hard and Be Nice to People

[*This is a draft from a year ago.]

Networking is yuppiespeak for “talking to people.” Some people do it well, some people do it poorly, and some don’t do at all. One of the reasons I have risen in the ranks of the Local Yuppie organization is my ability to talk to people–because sometimes it seems like I’m the only one willing to do that.

I’m not even that good at it. I was an extremely shy kid, but Ireland cast a spell on me and now I have the ability to hold a conversation with anyone. Yes, I have kissed the Blarney Stone, which sure and begorrah has given me the gift of gab, but the true credit belongs to the Irish pub, where I learned how to talk to anybody and everybody.

One of my biggest complaints about the Local Yuppie organization is that they can be a little cliquey. I remember when I first started coming to events, before I had actually joined, how difficult it was to even identify the members of the board, let alone get them to talk to me. Some of them were outright hostile. I actually enjoy getting under people’s skin, so rather than scare me off, that actually motivated me to get more involved. There were a few events where I showed up just to see how badly I could piss off the ones that clearly didn’t like me.

All this, and now they want me to be president. Not because I’m the best person for the job, but because they didn’t build a sustainable organization and now no one wants to run it. I’ve heard other young people in the community complain about feeling unwelcome in the organization, and I know it’s true because they did the same thing to me at first. For people who are less contrarian than me,  that’s a total turnoff. The organization doesn’t grow because most people don’t choose to hang out with assholes in their free time. We get enough of that at work.


An issue came up a while back that has been a problem before: when to hyphenate?

My issue was with the word fund-raising, used as a noun (although that may not make a difference). I prefer the more modern “fundraising”–so do the New York Times and the Associated Press–but I need a better reason than “it sounds old fashioned” to justify the edit. Gregg’s manual suggest treating compound nouns as two words unless the dictionary says otherwise, and lists fund-raising as a hyphenated example. It looks like nonprofits frequently argue over this term as well.

Grammar Girl, my go-to guru, has focused her hyphenation podcasts mostly on adjectives, such as the time CNBC ticker writers appeared to be squabbling over the issue: “Is the glass half full or half-empty?” In this case, no, you do not have to hyphenate, but she is sure to emphasize that there are many exceptions to the rules of hyphenation.

Compound modifiers are often compound adjectives, like you are applying the adjective as a single unit to a noun. And it’s important to ask: will the hyphen, or lack thereof, affect your meaning? If you’re feeling wrinkly, you may need to re-press your jeans, not repress them like bad memories.

The terms designated in Gregg’s are “hyphenated,” “spaced,” and “solid.” Solid is my favorite descriptor of a word, and it’s the one I’m trying to push for fundraising.

Other words I’ve had questions about were heads-up, clean-up, proof-reading and copy-editing (the title of one of my graduate courses) and, a bizarre attribute that came up in a tipsy conversation: odor-aware.


Literary SJP

“I’m really very literary. I’ll sit down and read a whole magazine, cover to cover.”

Sarah Jessica Parker just announced the first book she will publish for her SJP for Hogarth imprint. This is not the first time a celebrity has gotten her own publishing imprint. Lena Dunham’s launched last year, and a quick search reveals Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp, and Oprah Winfrey all have their own imprints. I’d read about Derek Jeter’s around the time he retired, and am not surprised to see Anthony Bourdain has one as well. There’s lots of commentary out there about how boutique publishing is now just part of a celebrity brand. You prove yourself to be a tastemaker and a thought leader.

I am still wanting to see the day Jessa Crispin gets her own imprint. It doesn’t seem like something that would interest her, but I’ve always imagined her somehow infiltrating the system, planting herself in a corner office with a bottomless budget, and publishing really weird shit while drinking whiskey and smoking a cigar with her heels up on the desk.

That’s not really what sells books, I guess, and the publishing industry as I always imagined it doesn’t exist anymore. The story goes, it was a gentleman’s game that permitted women to while away some time until they got married, everybody enjoying three-martini lunches until Amazon came along and spoiled all the fun. I don’t know for sure; I wasn’t there, and I’ll never get the chance to find out.

Still, we got books out of the deal. The business of books has always baffled me. A mentor-type who has had a long career in finance asked me about work the other day, so I babbled on a bit about ebooks and sales and not knowing how to price anything and then he commented, “It’s fascinating to follow a market, isn’t it?” That comment cracked open something in my head. Books are a market, like any other. Volatile, subject to whims, and vulnerable to outside influences. It’s art, yes, and I’ve always known that, but even fine art has a market.

Exploring the intersection between the two is what took me to grad school. The program was a masters in literature and publishing, for heaven’s sake. Literature and publishing. Art and commerce. Does what it says on the tin.

Four years later and I’m still sitting here, twiddling my thumbs because I’m just NOT SURE. I still don’t know what all this means. It’s my writing style to a T: do a bunch of reading and research and throw a few interviews into the mix but never get to the bloody point. If I were to take a step back and apply the lessons I’ve learned in journalism, the obvious question to attack would be “How does one get rich through books?”



[*I wrote this post in January and just now found it in my drafts.]

My New Year’s Resolution (besides quitting smoking) was to fail spectacularly at something every week. The idea was to inoculate myself against a fear of failure while simultaneously forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

The fact that I struggled to remember what the Week One failure had been was in itself a lesson in letting go. But I went through emails, texts, and calendars until my browser history jogged my memory.

Week One:

Tweeted at Jenny Bicks, Sex and the City writer, and panicked/rejoiced so much when she responded that I didn’t read her tweet closely and answered the wrong question.

Week Two:

Got rejected for a job (didn’t even land an interview) by a nonprofit the same day I had tickets to attend one of their fundraisers, so I got to see the person who wrote the rejection email and the person I would have been assisting basking in their smug, cool job glory.

Week Three:

Got bamboozled into buying new tires for my car after having a blowout. Was so puffed up on the fact that I’d changed the tire by myself that I neglected to practice smart consumerism and marched in there ready to spend $800.

“Whereas the name Buffy gives it that touch of classic elegance.”

IMG_4549I attended Jessa Crispin’s reading at BookPeople on May 11. I’ve always been a fan of Crispin and had just finished Why I am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto that day.

The audience, mostly female and younger than I had expected, listened as Crispin read aloud some critiques of the book and responded. She then took questions, one of which essentially asked what entertainment do you find acceptable? (One of the more quotable quotes from the book calls modern feminism “a decade-long conversation about which television show is a good television show and which television show is a bad television show.” Which is hilarious.)

It came out that Jessa Crispin does not consider Buffy the Vampire Slayer feminist, mainly due to the savior complex that plagues every superhero movie. She then joked that she could feel the audience turning against her and quickly changed the subject.

Since I just finished watching Buffy in its entirety for the first time, I was part of the wave of support for the feminist reading, which I admit did not sit well with me until the Beer Bad episode. [Spoilers follow.]

I. Beer Bad


Everyone hates Beer Bad; I thought it was hilarious. Not gonna lie, what screamed “feminist” about this episode for me was the cave slayer clubbing a dude over the head. Up until this point (and this is Season Four) I hadn’t really gotten the feminist vibe from the show. Yes, Buffy was a female hero and kicked ass and did it all 20 years ago, but her movie counterpart had done the same thing five years earlier. (I was a huge fan of movie Buffy. I dressed as her for Halloween when I was 10 years old. I drew my girl power from Kristy Swanson.) I really enjoyed Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting in this one, though. She always got to do a lot of physical stuff as Buffy, yes, but the body movement here was different and showcased her range.

Want beer

Buffy’s first college relationship was a bad one. A shitty, stupid situation in which we have all unfortunately found ourselves at one time or another, made worse by the fact that she just couldn’t get over him. Parker’s douchebag behavior does give Riley an excuse to punch him, which is awesome. (I also like Riley. A lot. I cried when he helicoptered away from Buffy and I hate that people hate on him. He’s the Aiden–you haters realize that, right?)


But before Riley clocks Parker in Episode 4:7, Buffy gets a shot at him in Episode 4:5 and I don’t know why, it just worked for me. Must have appealed to my troglodyte instincts. Plus, there’s a craft beer theme (in 1999, no less). Foamy!

II. Power


Here’s the thing: wherever you are in your feminist journey, keep going. Some of us are further along than others. Case in point: I’m 34 and I just figured this out. Buffy was 20 years old when she learned that she was the one with the real power.

Power. I have it. They don’t.

This bothers them. It’s why they attack you and try to make you feel inadequate–because they are afraid you may realize that they need you more than you need them. And the day you figure that out, you’ll be free. It’s not the same as Buffy undergoing the council’s impossible review, but when you quit participating in the systems that oppress you, you’ll see how badly they needed to you to comply.

Bonus: “That’s Riley-speak.”

III. Every Girl

Every Girl

I cried so, so hard at this. And I hated all of the potential slayers. I hated them in the house, I really hated them when they kicked Buffy out of the house, and I was glad when the cockney one died. Still, when every potential slayer in the world got tapped at the same time, I cried like a baby, especially with the little girl at bat.

This is what destroys the savior complex of the show–the idea that it was all leading toward a dispersal of that power, that every one of us could be strong.