NaNoWriMo Week 1: So It Begins

Current NaNoWriMo Word Count since November 1:  12,391

Cool, procrastination music video for proper writing atmosphere:

I am thankful for: working from home where I can shout, shout, let it all out without coworkers giving me the side-eye or putting customers on hold. I can cough and cough and cough without missing any work days. I am deeply grateful that I am able to spend my time spinning straw into gold. (Watch the whole bit. You’re welcome.)

Excerpt from a random bit of writing (unedited because knickety-knack and we don’t look back, please refer to #1 and #5, above):

Currants and Cream Catering was having none of it. Loretta herself wasn’t here, but it was apparent that she had a bouncer hired as her representative. The catering commando stood squarely in front of the gorgeous Mr O’Donnell and from what I could gather from peering through the window, was calmly informing him of the error of his ways. I was next in line, and I cowered mostly behind the windowsill, watching in mute horror as Shane had a few words with her.

I couldn’t hear a word because the piano man had obviously ignored the fact that everyone else was in the house now, and he put forth an energetic rendition of Elvis’ “I Want to Be Your Teddy Bear”. I thought I could hear him singing along with his tune, softly. Some people really get into their jobs.

When the commandant was finished, Mr O’Donnell began speaking. I could tell by his arm motions and the cock of his head. As he proceeded, Ms Currants and Cream began to thaw. Her shoulders dropped a little. Her face softened. She took her tightly crossed arms down and put a fist on one hip. I shivered a little in the evening breeze. It wasn’t cold, but I was wet in places that had no business being wet. My toes were swimming in little champagne pools.

“Tiny Bubbles,” crooned the piano man.

The catering queen smiled. Who wouldn’t? Just watching Shane – er, O’Donnell – from the backside was a treat. I watched her nod once, say something dismissive, and take the hand that O’Donnell extended. Her smile grew and she said a few more things before releasing his hand but once she did, he marched away and into the house. We both watched him go and she had to bark my name before I turned back to the business at hand.

She never told me what he’d said, but I was to remain a gainful employee of Currants and Cream Catering at least through the next week. This dinner was the prequel to the main event and if O’Donnell had put in a good word for me, it seemed that she was going to at least keep her word and not fire me until their contract was completed. This meant a wedding. A glorious affair next Sunday at the Hotel Del Coronado itself, the crown of San Diego, the historical monarchy of the coast, the next gleaming paycheck with my name on it.

I left with the catering truck and never saw him again, not even when I peeked through several windows while we packed our boxes and stacked leftover trays in their gleaming perfect kitchen. He was taller than a lamppost with a flaming red top. How hard could it be? But there you have it. Story of my life. What are you gonna do? It was really sweet of the guy. If I couldn’t thank him, I could at least pass on his good karma to the next klutz I met.

I passed the piano on my way out with the last box.

“You can stop now. Unless you know anything from the 80s?”

Tiki torches bounced their light off his smile.

I listened to his tune all the way home in my head. A deep rhythmic, rebellious, perfect for a wedding and my new job, rendition of “Another One Bites the Dust”.

****************

When I told Jen the story, she went nuts.

“You did what?” she questioned, “And Loretta took you back?”

She spooned mashed peas into her eleven month old.

“Loretta is pretty tough about her reputation. I can’t believe it.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” I began, “accidents happen, you know.”

When Your Kids Ghost

In Southern California, October is Fire Season. It comes between School Season and Holiday Season, making it the barbecue sauce between two dry pieces of bread from which all your family dollars have been sucked. You can’t even afford a leaf of iceberg lettuce to cheer it up. Basically, the last three months of the year are like a saltine sprinkled with soot.

The multiple fires over the last couple of weeks have me on edge because I’ve got various children lying in their paths and when they bother to respond to my frantic texts, it’s to say, “Chill out mom. I’m fine.”

“Look out the window and tell me what you see!”

“A bunch of ash falling. No big deal.”

“According to the internet, you are in the evacuation zone. Pack your little bags and come stay with me until it’s over.”

“Mom. When pigs fly. Oh hey! Then it would rain bacon, right?”

This is no help at all. I started packing to evacuate on their behalf.

This is why families evolve from Halloween into Oktoberfest. The highlight of the month shifts from Butterfingers bars to beer. We went from sticking candy corn on our front teeth (you know who your are) to watching The Blob while rooting through a bag of mini-Snickers. Those things fly right under the diet radar.

I wandered from the bathroom to the basement, looking for what I will take with me when I go. In the process, I found these. Oh, the good ol’ days when I could make pigs fly.

They are cute little anarchists.

SuperGirl is super unimpressed.

Stinkerbell is also unimpressed.

Where to begin…

Ninja, cowboy, pediatrician, lion…

Red, Snow, Davy, Luke, gator, dragon…

Buzz, Woody, witch, cowboy, clown, pumpkin…

Can’t go wrong with a toga.

A cornfield…

Hope My Sweet Westley doesn’t get hungry.

Bride, clown, Jasmine…and Kung Fu Panda?

NaNoWriMo Because I Hang Out with Crazy People

Lest I feel that dedicating this year to earning a “Novel Writing Certificate” is small potatoes…

Because it’s not enough to spend Tuesday and Saturday mornings driving in traffic for an hour in order to diagram plot points and decide whether my historical protagonist likes her coffee black or with a smidge of stevia…

Because meeting total strangers for the sole purpose of discovering that they are master writers and I am a kindergartner wielding a purple crayon…

They gotta throw “National Novel Writing Month” on top of it.

Did you know that novelists – the guys doing the real deal – have three to four books somewhere in progress while simultaneously coming up with new book ideas to pitch to publishers and they still teach classes, hold workshops, and market like crazy to make the money happen?

Do you know how much work it is to maintain a business social media, website, and amazon presence? No, you don’t, because if you’re smart you’ve hired me to do it for you. I run a freelance writing business on the side to pay for my obsession. That puts me one step closer to crazy town than I thought.

Me: “Don’t you think attempting to write a brand new novel in a single month will distract me from the one I’ve been trying to write for the last three years?”

Teacher/Author: “I highly recommend NaNoWriMo. Especially if you have a hard time with perfectionism.”

Me: “Who, me? Don’t be ridiculous preposterous silly.”

Teacher/Evil Person: “The idea here is that in one month, you sit down and make 50,000 words. That’s only 1,666.66666 words a day. Easy peasy. As long as you don’t edit while you write.”

Me: “But that’s what people love me for pay me to do.”

Teacher/Gastroenterologist: “You can’t keep a good steady outgo if you’re blocking with analytics. You have to relax. Just enjoy the word vomit.”

Me: Simultaneously whimpering and signing up online. My code name is Jolie Guacamole.

If you clean your house before the cleaning lady arrives, you know exactly how I feel.

And if you know how I feel about vomit, you also know exactly how I feel.

Buckle up. You will still get regular blogs in November because I love you, but they will be made ahead of time and auto-post with updates on my progress.

If you have a completely random character, setting, villain, plot twist, vehicle, pet, name, or an especially exciting way to kill off boring side characters, give it to me right here in the comments! Then tune in next month and see how I wrote about it.

Better yet, sign up yourself and join me on the dark side. *evil laughter*

Phobias, Fears, and Flatulence

There are certain October activities that err on the side of dramatic. Anxious, shall we say. I know perfectly normal people who will give up their cold hard cash on purpose to get lost in a dark maze full of professional actors. A pumpkin is inadequate for their anxieties. They need chainsaws. Screaming. Running. And an exit sign.

My idea of a good October activity is to let the house go for the month. I have cobwebs in every corner, dead flies on the window sills, and dust an inch thick everywhere else. Squeaky doors, mysterious footprints down the hall, slimy potions in the fridge. I don’t like to brag, but I have a 3″ slug living in my shower right now. Some people pay good money for this level of authenticity.

But really, what is your idea of scary? What is your worst nightmare? Your darkest fear?

  1. Creepy Crawlers: spiders, mice, rats, bugs, snakes, cockroaches, worms
  2. Pokey Things: needles, vampires, , splinters, dentists, bees, ticks, Inigo Montoya
  3. Squishy Grossness: blood, vomit, gore, germs, full diapers, basically anything involving a toddler
  4. Big Booms: thunder, barking dogs, fireworks, Instant pots, stereo systems commandeered by your teenager
  5. Squeezy Spots: elevators, graveyards, cubicles, holes, slot canyons, Walmart on Black Friday
  6. Stranger Danger: clowns, aliens, mimes, every Disney character in a bobble-head costume even Winnie the Pooh
  7. Location-o-phobia: airplane, ocean, bridges, space, heights, shark-nados, onstage with Dr Phil
  8. Embarrassment: pushing the “Send” button too soon, raising your hand in a meeting, farting in yoga class

And what are your coping mechanisms?

If you’re afraid of the dark (achluophobia) and going to sleep (somniphobia) because there might be a monster under your bed (teraphobia) and the dust bunnies down there are just as scary (amathophobia), you should put the mattress flat on the floor. Where the dolls can find you (pediophobia).

PS: That doll thing is real. Ask me some day about my Grandma’s house.
PPS: And also my adult children just told me that watching Toy Story scarred them for life. Let’s add another phobia:

9. Badmomophobia: the reason your kids need therapy.

Zoppe: What’s in a Circus?

It isn’t every day you see a guy swinging through the air from a cable attached to his man-bun. But if you do, you’re either at a frat party or the Zoppe Circus.

Zoppe Circus, since 1842

In our continued quest to put a dent in our bucket list, Hubbs and I snagged tickets when a small, Italian family-run circus came to town. Believe it or not, neither of us have ever been to a circus before. Maybe it’s the idea of creepy clowns getting up in my personal space, or the sure understanding that, in case of fire, we’d be trapped like rats in a plastic casserole. My cynical side questioned whether a generation of smartphone junkies would be impressed with real-life danger. Or if, in an age where most circus icons have become politically incorrect, there was anything fun or fascinating left in the tent.

We followed the crowds into the bleachers: dubious affairs made of planks strapped together with rope. An elderly couple sat on the top row, the lady holding a balloon animal and the gentleman enjoying his cotton candy, oblivious to their peril. They either knew what they were doing or no longer cared. So we sat at the very top, too. The show began.

Arial acrobatics, cantering horse tricks, jugglers, accordions. And a clown called Nino. He pulled people from the audience with the single purpose of public humiliation. Did you cry in McDonalds when Donald er, Ronald came around handing out hugs? Yeah.

Nino was all fun and games until the intermission. He disappeared into the crowds and I was just starting to relax when he materialized in front of our seats with a tray full of popcorn, frowning right at me. He ascended, speaking clown words, and gesturing wildly.

Who wore heels to the circus? That’s right. I did. I reached down for my secret weapon when the man next to me stood up and reached for Nino. “Get him!” I thought, ducking.

But the man was shaking Nino’s hand and speaking more clown words and I was about to bolt for the exit when he turned to me and said in perfectly good King’s English, “We know him, we follow his act. Want some popcorn?”

Nino smiled and offered me the tray. There was both challenge and laughter in his eyes, and something familiar that I couldn’t quite identify. I thought about it as I munched my way through the rest of the show.

Who runs away and joins the circus? I considered the qualifications:

Can you touch your toes?

Do you look good upside down in spandex and could you shoot a bow and arrow with your toes if you had to?

Are you afraid of heights?

Can you flip a pancake or toss a pizza?

Are you okay with being a human piñata?

Can you balance school, work, home, and clowns on a regular basis while everyone is watching?

It was a startling moment when I realized that all of my answers to these questions were “Yes”! Turns out, I own a circus. I have five monkeys. I still work for peanuts. And Nino knows it.

The evening ended with a standing ovation. The performances were fun, but their demonstration of solid teamwork, cooperative hustle, and unflinching trust earned my respect. It gave me hope that – with a lifetime of practice – even my family circus can do it. Bravissimo!

San Diego Cinderella

On our Italian tour last year, we took trains from La Spezia to Genoa to Milan to Venice, passing Verona on the way. This week for our anniversary, we followed our hearts back. Longing for piazzas, basilicas, and doumos, we decided to revel in the balconies and tombs of Verona and, consequently, the passion, the pageantry, the drama, and the death that is Romeo and Juliet.

I may have mentioned: Italy feels just like home.

I’ve never been to Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theater. Like a star-crossed lover, I always passed by offering terms of endearment and wistful looks but never stopped to embrace it. It was easy to be seduced by Shakespeare. I painted my toenails in anticipation.

I wore the same dress – strictly for the memory – that I wore to the opera in Sorrento. Remember that night? So does my dress. But alas, the pink stilettos from that adventure are no more for this world. I wore the understudy for tonight’s trip to Verona.

Our first stop of the evening was a romantic restaurant on the harbor. I sipped sangria, nibbled chicken salad, and watched the pretty boats sail by on the late summer breeze. In case this was not enough to set the stage, a fat pale moon rose slowly over the San Diego skyline as the sun began its descent in the west. Our waitress presented creme brûlée, a delicately crisped, creamy concoction that curled my toes. A lot. More than average, apparently.

Hand in hand, Hubby and I sauntered from the restaurant, admiring the tiki torches, admiring each other.

“Clomp, clomp, flop,” went something on the sidewalk.

“Flip, flap, flop,” went the next three steps.

And then, without provocation, one of my shoes decided to throw a fit. “I bite my thumb in your general direction sir!” cried my right shoe.

And in the very next step, the entire bottom of my shoe flew off. Off. The valets and restaurant patrons might not have noticed, had I not burst into hysterical laughter. I had to decide: stop in the middle of the sidewalk and retrieve the errant brick or continue to the car walking like I was on a carousel ride.

I guess I did both. Safely tucked into the car, with no time to spare, we drove to the theater weighing our options. Now, I’ve heard rumors that some ladies keep spare shoes in their cars. They probably keep spare feet in their cars. I am not that lady. Neither do I keep crazy glue nor pliers in my glove compartment. Um, or gloves, now that I think about it.

“What should I do? Can I sneak in barefoot?”

The light turned red. A train went by. Another sigh for Italy escaped me, and we kept driving.

“There’s nowhere to park,” said Hubby, “It starts in ten minutes and we haven’t gotten tickets yet!”

I was bent over what was left of the shoes, still attached to my feet, “Go for it,” I grunted, “we’re doing this!”

Looking neither to the right nor to the left, heads high, we hustled from the parking lot to the ticket stand to the entry to some nice seats…and only then did I take a breath and look down.

These were the ugliest flats on the face of the earth. I traced my finger over one thin strap muttering in Italian. The bright moon rose overhead, lending its glow to the outdoor theater lights, illuminating the stage of Verona. The stage comprised of…a sandbox? I flipped through the program.

Apparently, this year’s director envisioned Shakespeare’s tragedy in sand.

All of the actors were costumed to their ankles, and…barefoot. The beautifully talented Juliet sang a rousing rendition of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. Teenagers brawled in the alleys. Adults marched around telling everyone what to do. Romeo slumped along with his guitar declaring that without his true love, life – hallelujah – wasn’t worth anything at all.

The main characters get married whilst still children.

Nobody really relaxes until they’re dead.

And nobody can figure out what all the fighting was about.

Like I said, Italy feels just like home.

As we gave them a standing round of applause, I recalled my wobbly circumstances. What was a pair of shoes measured against an amorous tryst under an enchanted moon? An embrace on the balconies of Europe with Prince Charming?

Prince C hazarded a quick look at my feet and grimaced as a very unromantic thought escaped.

This dazzling night was going to end where all good affairs end: a serious flirtation with a new pair of glass slippers.

Tiki

San Diego at the harbor

Spreckles organ pavilion

Museum of Art

Old Globe Theater

Romeo and Juliet

Sandbox?

Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

From a Certain Point of View

There comes a point in every writer’s week where the print is overpowering, or the words lie insipid on the page like a wilting peony from yesterday’s luncheon. A time where you just can’t slog it alone anymore and fresh inspiration is welcome, even if it means leaving your padded cell desk for the company of other writerly souls in *gasp* public.

In addition to my classes and casual conversations in Point Loma, I’ve discovered a little writer’s meet-up group closer to home. They converge on a coffee shop every Thursday night, throw out a prompt, set a timer for 30 minutes, and off we all go into the sunset. When the bell rings, we take turns reading our bits aloud, enjoying the huge variety of styles, thoughts, and grammarly gymnastics that are spawned by the prompt. It’s just for fun.

Last week, the prompt was, “From a certain point of view”, originally pulled from Obi Wan’s explanation to Luke Skywalker about why he’d “lied” about Luke’s dad being dead. Yeah, rubbish. But we don’t have any rules about opinions, so our examples of perspective were interesting, as we took turns reading around the table.

There was a sad story told in a positive way. An ugly character turned out to be the protagonist. Mine, of course, was a play on the audience. You know I’ve been pulling the twist on you for the last two of blogs (lol). This exercise and it’s results turned out to be a surprising peek into what is lurking in our own assumptive subconscious.

Here is the piece I wrote for “From a certain point of view”. Read it out loud for full effect, because it’s a monologue.

“Maybe you want the soup?

Can you eat it yourself or do you want help?

Here’s a napkin for under your chin.

Let me lift the spoon with you…there, that’s tasty, isn’t it?

It’s one of my better recipes, nice and smooth.

So good for you too, lots of pureed veggies.

Uh oh, there’s the phone. I’ll just be a minute.

Sit right there and wait for me.

What, I can’t turn my back for a minute?

Where have you thrown the spoon?

Look at this mess. Here, I’ve got it. There we go.

How much have we got left? Not much. Here, eat this laaaast bit.

Well done.

Shall we get ready for a nap now? I know I could use one!

Up we go. I’ve got you. Aren’t you getting so strong!

Lift your arms, up and up and up…

Where’s that quilt?

Look how nicely it brings out the blues in your eyes.

So soft. Settle in now, there we go. Let me pull the shades.

Now sleep, my love, and I’ll be in to check on you in only a minute.

Rest tight!”

I read this aloud to the group in as neutral a tone as possible. Then, I asked them to tell me what point of view they, themselves, had chosen as an interpretation tool.

You see, this could have been me addressing my happy eight month old child. Or, this could have been me addressing my silent eighty year old mother who has dementia. Was I a nurse, working with a paraplegic teenager? Was I Annie Wilkes speaking to Paul Sheldon? Was I a doctor in Luxembourg assisting a suicide?

For all you know, without context, this is someone with schizophrenia speaking to herself. Hey, as a mom, I have those kinds of days where I have to talk myself into eating and taking a nap.

It was funny to hear the ideas and discover what a wide range of possibilities the group came up with, and perhaps you came up with your own. I’m also curious whether, as your own point of view colored in what you thought you were reading, your tone of voice changed to fit it?

It’s important to remember that, although writers can create a message – sometimes as clearly as they possibly can – everyone else reads it through the lens of their own colored glasses. A good writer will capitalize on the reader’s assumptions and take everyone for a ride.

Lamborghini or Chevy? Even then, you could be surprised.

The Break-Up

It’s not you. It’s me. That’s what I’m supposed to say, right?

I’m supposed to be tense and feel guilty, find some public, neutral place to break this news to you and then slink away.

*sigh*

Look, we’ve been together for years, but it’s just not the same anymore.

We used to have so much fun together. We tried new things, rearranged the furniture for no reason at all, went dancing. You have always been there for me. Anytime I needed you, you were there, even if I just wanted to watch TV for a while. You never cared if my hair was a mess or my stinky socks landed in a corner.

You taught me so many things about myself. You reflected my insecurities and strengths and without saying anything about them, you gave me room to grow and adjust. Not everyone is so completely accepted.

I admit now, there were some parts of you that I wasn’t interested in, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me. I’m not criticizing you, everyone is an individual and no one is perfect. I loved you for you.

And let’s be honest. There were only specific parts of me that interested you, as well. I know that. I get it. Between us, we had an abundance of material to maintain our relationship. We both gave to it. And we both let each other down once in a while. But we always hung in there during the tough times and made it work. I want to thank you for that.

I’ve heard people say, “You’ll know when it’s time to go.”

And that’s true, but hard to understand until you’ve arrived there.

This year, everything between us was an emotional rollercoaster.  There were times we blew hot or cold and weeks where we just weren’t on speaking terms. Relationships go through that and it’s normal and I wouldn’t have thought much of it in the big picture, except that deep down in my bones, for a long time, I knew that we weren’t going to make it.

I can’t really explain why.

But over time, a numbness crept in and I stopped fretting over us so much because it hurt and I didn’t want to live like that indefinitely.  I looked for other ways that would make me feel happy. Just to see if there really was another way to move and think and breathe.

There always is.

It’s not that you changed dramatically, but time marches on. This isn’t so much about “you changed” as much as it’s that I don’t smile when I see you anymore. Even if you changed dramatically (and I would never ask you to be something you’re not), I wouldn’t be interested.

But the change is inside me. Perhaps I am finally learning what makes me smile?

And that I really want to smile over this big, beautiful life.

This thought is why it all circles around to land on my doorstep.

I isn’t you after all. It is me.

As soon as I release the idea that I have to blame someone or something, there is only truth and peace. This is actually the way it is and it is okay and I made choices and I can keep making choices.

Yes, if you must know, here at the end of all things, I have been cheating on you a little. The guilt doesn’t hurt like it should. I’m just tired of waiting for you to be attractive again.

The fact that I feel no emotion when I say that is very telling. It sounds heartless.  But that’s the point. My heart is no longer in the game. 

And that is how I know for sure.

The emotional rollercoaster has been disabled and dismantled.

There is no longer a game in me for you.

For a while, we were exactly right for each other, and we will always have that.

You don’t need me, either, though it may take you a while to believe that truth.

I’ve already cleared out my stuff.

Thank you for everything. I wish you well.

Good bye.

This piece is about me quitting the gym after a dozen years. But…I mean, I could have been writing about gluten.

School Jitters

“What if they don’t like me?”

She shifted around on the plastic blue booth seat, then fidgeted with her fork.

“I bought a really cute skirt for tomorrow. It’s cheerful.”

“Great idea. You will brighten up the room when you walk in.”

She slumped a little. But we weren’t here to discuss posture.

“I got so much stuff. I spent a lot of money. What if I forgot the one super important thing that I don’t know I needed?”

“You’ll be fine.” I scooped up bean dip with a fat tortilla chip and managed to get the whole thing into my mouth at once, rendering it useless but happy. “You were at this school last year,” I mumbled, “‘t’s not your first rodeo.”

“There’s gonna be a weird kid in the class, I know it. That one kid that waits until we’re all doing silent reading and then tips over his chair or starts tapping the desk or needs to go the bathroom a million times. Last year, kids kept moving things from my desk and it made me crazy.”

“Oh come on, it won’t be that bad. You will all get along great once you show up.”

“I can never sleep the night before the first day of school. I’ll have a headache. What if the alarm clock doesn’t go off and I’m late?”

“This happens every year. It’s just the jitters. You’ll love your class.”

Plates of fajitas, tacos, and a beautiful margarita arrived. Busy silence ensued because we have our priorities straight.

Then she took a long drink of lemon water and looked me in the eyes.

“Remember math?”

“Girl, you’re bringing up Common Core? I graduated as I recall. But I told you so. Well. I told America so. Or something like that, because if we would just stop doing a “new math” every five years and agree on one, single way of learning long division, we would all be rocket scientists by now.”

“I’m not sure anyone is learning anything. Every year there’s a new thing waiting for us and it’s nothing but tests and rushing and watching the clock until I get to go home.”

“You don’t have to tell me; you’ll be tested every five minutes! No crying.”

I looked at her for a beat, “And no cussing.”

“Seriously?”

“Okay fine, what about PE? Lunch? Do they even attempt music or art?”

“We might. I don’t suppose you want to come in and volunteer to teach it?”

We both got a little crazy in the eyes for a minute.

“Nope. Nopity nope. Like I said, I graduated. Everybody graduates sooner or later and there’s no going back.”

“Rub it in,” she frowned, “I only have…” She thought for a minute. I hoped she wasn’t using Common Core to figure it out. “…about a million more years to go.”

Stupid math. I took a drink.

She was shredding her napkin into tiny little confetti bits. “Even lunch is dumb. We used to always line up at the door in two lines. Boys and Girls. Last year we lined up in colors. Red and Blue. This year we’ll probably line up by attitudes: Good Kids and Tornadoes.”

“Take a few deep breaths. Smile. Introduce yourself. All the teachers and kids will love you.”

The bill was paid and we gathered our things to leave. I gave her a reassuring hug.

“You are the most organized, energetic, friendly person I know. You’re going to rock tomorrow. You are the Teacher. And you are changing the world.”

Meteors, Grunion, and Other Unicorns

I’m lying on my back on the new outdoor deck we built this year (by “we”, I mean “Hubby”), staring real hard at the night sky. The Perseid Meteor Showers are on this weekend because my recurring calendar says so, and after years of trying to locate it, I have to say, “Bah, humbug.”

They don’t exist.

Not in the Star Wars fantasy that I’m imagining it to be. I’m expecting a version of lightspeed proportions and the stars are just sitting up there, laughing at me. And that’s okay. The air is cool for August and the little chorus of frogs in the creek have gone to bed, replaced by the occasional screech from an invisible owl. The kids, knowing full well that they can’t control the heavens via remote control, went to bed and I feel a little disgruntled only because these are the same guys who insisted that grunion are worth staying awake for.

And grunion aren’t real, either.

A grunion run by the light of a full moon, traced by following Instagram commentary at 1am on a warm summer night, is a fun way to entertain guests. These elusive little silvery fish swarm random beaches to spawn and if you have a fishing permit, you can catch the buggers by hand and put them in a bucket. What you are supposed to do with them next is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t matter, because no one buys a permit because no one is ever going to find a grunion, let alone touch one, and you spend the wee hours of the morning running from beach to beach with a flashlight and end up at an IHOP getting coffee because it’s the only thing open.

Is that a meteor? No. It’s an airplane. It must be lost. Could be a satellite, maybe.

When I was a kid, I sat up one Christmas Eve, staring out the window, desperately trying to convince myself Santa was real and knowing full well he wasn’t. But, presents. So when a plane went by, red light blinking, I said, “Well, there you go, he’s on the job.” And that would’ve been that, except for after another couple of minutes, an actual UFO went by, defying categorization, and years later, I wonder if it was a Stealth Bomber. I mean, we’re in San Diego.

It’s as possible as the owl that just crossed overhead, a deep black shadow beneath a paler black sky. Massive, silent, beautiful.

Not Santa, so much.

I had a conversation with my kid in the car the other day, and mermaids came up, purely in a scientific way. I mentioned that it was more possible that unicorns were real than mermaids and proceeded to explain the whole lung vs gills issue, followed up with what I thought was an obvious flaw in the system: they must be a fish and only mammals have hair. A real mermaid would have gills, no hair, no nose, and bugging out eyes on the sides of a flatter head. Maybe we’d driven past a Starbucks. The image wasn’t pretty.

This is why my kids don’t hang out with me.

There. That had to be a meteor. It went by fast, over there, in the corner of the sky where I wasn’t really watching. But something moved. Or I blinked. It could have been a shooting star. Oh, whatever.

But a unicorn, that works for me, because my daughter does the tours up at the Safari Park and everyone knows that the scimitar oryx has the body and horns of a unicorn, when it turns sideways, just so, or maybe loses one horn in combat. I’m pretty comfortable with a unicorn myth.

Well, it’s so far past my bedtime that I should start my morning laundry. My back and neck are getting tired.

Wait. What was that? Over there? Oooooooooohhhhhh………

See?