Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ground Control to Central Coast Getaway Piece

I guess the strain of ignoring me got to be too much for a certain Long Island-based publication. It took almost nine months, but finally their reserve of indifference ran dry, and they were forced to resort to outright rejection. Today I got back from them not one, not two, but five pieces, the earliest dating from March.

That’s a lot of rejection to process in one day, even if it’s all from one editor. But then again, it’s sort of encouraging, in a way. I had assumed that all these pieces had fallen into the black hole of editorial indifference, but in fact, they were just orbiting in a holding pattern around the editor’s desk. It just goes to show, you never know when ET’s gonna phone home.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And Another Thing

One more reason to hang out at the airport: The international terminal aviation museum. It’s free, and it’s located before the security point, so you don’t have to be traveling to get to it. In fact, I bet a lot of visitors are local. I know that whenever I’m traveling through the international terminal, I’m usually too worried about flight times, meals, passports, pit stops, and keeping track of my various airplane amusements to be bothered with finding the museum. Besides, if I’m in the international terminal, I’m usually headed someplace that’s lousy with museums.

But it’s worth checking out. It’s even worth a trip down from San Francisco on BART. Right now they’ve got an exhibit on the late, great Pan Am. Fun fact: Pan Am’s first-ever scheduled passenger flight, which took place in the early thirties, was a 90-minute hop from Key West to Havana. It cost $50, which must have been a fortune in those days. Interesting, no? There’s more where that came from. Check it out if you get the chance.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Russians Are Coming at Gate 18

I only know a few people who hang out at airports when they don’t have to, but I’m one of them. It’s more fun than it sounds. It’s possible that all airports are decent places if you’re not jet lagged and worried about missing your flight, but SFO is especially good for passing the time. For one thing, it’s easy to get to by BART, which takes you to the international terminal. As soon as you get off the train you find yourself surrounded by parked jumbo jets from all over the world. This is heaven for plane spotters. (I once saw an Aeroflot jet taxi by and almost started tugging on people’s sleeves.)

There’s also surprisingly good food, all of it located before security, so you don’t need a boarding pass. A lot of San Francisco restaurants have outposts there, so you can get wood-fired pizza, sushi, and real coffee. No Pizza Hut or Starbucks here.

And if you’re lucky, you might get treated to a sight like what I saw there this afternoon. As I was strolling from snack bar to snack bar, I was passed by a procession of statuesque young women all wearing long red wool coats. They all seemed to be blond, and fair, with their hair done up in buns. There were about 20 of them, all trailed by smart little black bags on wheels. These weren’t clumsy roller boards like the proletariat drag around; these bags were more like Gucci purses on casters, and they almost seemed self-propelled, needing only the tiniest flicks of the wrist for control, like show horses.

I realized after a moment that there were a few men in the group, dressed in simple black suits, but they were puny and gawky in comparison to the stunning army of women, and had to trot like terriers to keep up. The women seemed oblivious to their presence, strutting a little like catwalk models, and a little bit like they were parading through Red Square. They looked like Robert Palmer girls as dressed by Raisa Gorbachev. A photographer with a blunderbuss of a camera was following them. One of the women in the rear kept turning and frowning at him with an extremely photogenic pout, and I bet those shots sold like nobody’s business.

I wish I could say they goose-stepped aboard a Tupolev and flew off to their conclave in Minsk, but no such luck. As it turns out, they weren’t even Russian. Their bags all said “Virgin Atlantic” in tiny letters, so they were probably just advance scouts readying for Virgin’s low-budget SFO launch. Still, it beats watching canned CNN and eating TCBY.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Five Writing Days Until Christmas

Anyone else have this problem? The one where you call yourself a writer and yet you can’t get a Christmas card out the door to save your life? Here it is December 19, and gaily-colored pen has not yet touched festive paper.

I’d like to think it’s related to the phenomenon of the New York City writer who suffered a paralyzing three-day block trying to compose the perfect “No radio in car, don’t bother breaking in” sign. (Another possibly apocryphal story, but a good one nonetheless.) Or it may be that part of me thinks my deadline is just too far in the future. I think that in the back of my mind, I’m telling myself I can just put on a pot of coffee Christmas Eve, pull an all-nighter, and still make the December 25 drop-dead date.

Looks like it’s New Year’s cards again for me this year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Real Celebrities

Okay, okay you celebrity snobs. I’m sensing that reality TV stars don’t count as real celebrities to some of you. Here, then, is a partial list of actual famous people (defined as “celebrities whose 15 minutes are not yet up) I have sighted in Oakland.

Bonnie Raitt, strolling down College Ave. in Rockridge.
Andris Biedrins, forward for the Golden State Warriors, in the elevator of an apartment building next to Lake Merritt.
Mike Dirnt, bass player for Green Day, finishing up breakfast with his daughter at 9am(!), Mama's Royal Cafe.
Andre Ward, gold medal winner in boxing at the 2004 Olympics, having brunch at the Merritt Restaurant.
Angela Davis, eating at Café de Bartolo, Grand Avenue.

And once I saw Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, waiting for a table at a Chinese Restaurant on College Ave. in Berkeley. Really close to Oakland. I’m counting it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Oaktown Celebrity Sighting

P. and I were driving around Oakland when a guy on a bike passed us. Right, we were in a motorized vehicle and he passed us under his own power. So that's already impressive. Then I noticed that the rider had a prosthetic leg. And the hugest biceps I have ever seen. This rang a bell. So we gunned it and caught up with him on a straightaway and sure enough--it was Chad, Oaktown homeboy, cancer survivor, and tenth person voted out of Survivor: Vanuatu.

I don’t know Chad’s last name. That’s how it is on reality TV. It’s like Brazilian soccer, or progressive elementary schools. No last names required.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Cart Collision

Metal hits metal
Quite a crowd for 2pm
Frozen OJ rolls

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Lackey! Get These Proofs out to the Coast Now!

The mailman’s okay. He came at about 6:40. Like estranged celebrity spouses at the Academy Awards, he and the UPS guy had a carefully choreographed near-miss. So I can stop worrying about him, and go back to my obsessive and unrealistic hope that the FedEx person will stop by my house. It’s not that I’m into the driver; I’ve never even laid eyes on him or her. I just want to be the kind of writer who’s important enough to have materials rushed to her doorstep.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Postman Always Rings Twice. And I Should Know

Is it wrong to be worried about the mailman? I’m worried about the mailman. He should have been here by 1pm, 2 at the latest. Now it’s after 5, and it’s dark, and it’s also getting harder to park on my street. He drives a minivan, but it’s not going to seem so mini in another half an hour or so when everyone starts getting home from work.

I know it’s a little weird to be so obsessed with my mailman. But I don’t have much else to focus on. It’s just me and the cats at home all day, and frankly, they aren’t much for conversation. (They’re indoor cats, too, so they don’t even ever bring me anything.) The mailman making his appointed rounds is the main punctuation to my afternoon. I realize that I know the sound his master key makes opening all of my building’s mailboxes at once, and I can definitely tell the difference between the throaty slam of all five of them and the tinny, lonelier sound of a neighbor swinging her own box shut. And I find myself listening for those noises, because it’s an excuse to get up out of my chair, and while I’m up, maybe tidy a little, take some recycling down to the bin, and maybe get a snack or something on my way back to my desk, since my monk-like powers of concentration probably won’t allow me to get up again for quite some time.

Now it’s almost 6, and he’s still not here. At this rate, the UPS guy (who drives down my street every evening around 6:30) will be here before him, or maybe at the same time, and that might be awkward. I don’t know. Maybe they’re fine with each other.

But I worry.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Vanity Pays Off

Did you ever Google yourself and find out something you didn’t know? This happened to me today. I typed in my name and about five entries down, under the listings for the only other living American Nicole Clausing I’m aware of (she must be a relation, but it’s hard to believe I share genes with an athlete), was a link to the Christian Science Monitor’s Home Forum page. Turns out something I wrote for the 2004 Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference (it won a minor prize) was published on Friday. Who knew?

Fun fact: The Christian Science Monitor is distributed in 140 countries, meaning my name just went to about 120 places that the rest of me hasn’t gotten to yet.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Biiiiillions and Biiiiillions of Submissions

I got two rejection letters today from the same newspaper, and in the strange universe I live in, where success and failure are not governed by the laws of physics, this qualified as good news.

For months now I’ve been sending out fleets of articles to papers all over the country, only to see them fall into the black hole of editorial indifference. The black hole of editorial indifference, of course, is a force so strong that nothing, not even a rejection letter, can escape it. An article that falls into this black hole is doomed. Like Laika the Russian space dog, it’s on a one-way trip, and you’ll never hear from it again.

But the two articles that got sent back to me today, they’re Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. They planted flags in the alien landscape, left footprints, and came back to tell the tale. At the rate I’m going, there’ll be a Best Western on Mars before I actually get anything accepted by the editor in question, but I’m encouraged. Who knows; maybe if I can launch enough of my missives toward his desk, eventually the number of survivors will reach a critical mass--a colony, if you will--and he’ll find it easier to publish my stories than to keep sending them back to me.

The invasion has begun.