Monday, July 05, 2010

Um, Oobleck, anyone?

I went to a 4th of July party yesterday at Sylvia’s house, and it featured a deep fryer. When you have a deep fryer at a party, everyone reverts to a frat guy mentality hey, what happens if we throw THIS in there!?

At a previous deep fryer party (Sylvia loves her deep fryer), I brought pop tarts (recommended by a co-worker), which went over exceedingly well. This time, I brought onion rings (obvious), Zingers (the grocery store’s contract was with Hostess, and not the Little Debbie brand of my youth) and a few candy bars, because I keep hearing about deep fried Snickers that you can buy at the State Fair. I don’t like Snickers (no peanuts in my dessert, please), but I like Three Musketeers and Milky Ways, so I brought those too.

But something wasn’t working. I wouldn’t classify it as Horribly Awry, nothing alien-like emerged from the deep fryer and took over lower Los Angeles. But any dessert stuff we threw in there wasn’t working. I suspect it had something to do with either the temperature of the batter, of the temperature of the dessert. Maybe both needed to be cold, maybe just one of them needed to be cold, not the other. Sylvia promptly blamed her hubby for not reading the directions to her properly as she was preparing the batter.

But no matter what dessert we submerged in the batter – candy bars, pop tarts, apple fritters, brownie bites – the batter wouldn’t stick on it when it went into the deep fryer.

The batter itself looked like Oobleck, as most batters do...

What, you guys don’t know what Oobleck is? Wha-huh?

Oobleck is the stuff that coats The Kingdom of Didd in Dr. Seuss’s book Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Synopsis – King Derwin of Didd wants something different to happen with the weather, and his court magicians then make Oobleck, a green vicious substance that gets all over the kingdom and mucks everything up. Everything’s going to hell, until Bartholomew, the page, suggests to King Didd to say “I’m sorry” to break the court magicians spell. Once he does, the sun comes out and melts the Oobleck away.

I have very vivid memories of me and sister Agatha in the kitchen, mixing the pancake batter from scratch, according to my Mother The Phone Harpy’s directions. We’d lift the mixer up from the bowl, and watch the batter drip off the beaters in long plaster of Paris type drips, and we’d chant “Oobleck, Oobleck, OOBLECK! YAAAAARRRRRRR! OOOOOOOBBBBBBBLLLLLEEEEEEEECCCCCCKKKKK!”

Yeah. We were weird.

I mention this because I was thinking about Disappointment. No, no, nothing specific. CALM DOWN MOM!

Everyone’s got disappointment in their lives right? Sure, you do. Doesn’t matter how successful you are, there’s always that nitpicky something you didn’t get.

It’s midway through the calendar year, and time for an assessment, accompanied by alcohol of course. My writing goals are exactly on track, I finished new drafts of Striped Tiger and Polka Dotted Platypus. I’m embarking on writing my first TV pilot, we’ll call it Red Llama, we’ll see how that goes.

But there’s always disappointment. It’s nothing new. Disappointment in people who don’t respect you, disappointment in people who let you down, people who continue to take advantage of you, disappointment in doors that have closed on opportunities that didn’t work out for you, disappointment in deep fryers. This is life. Get used to disappointment.

But as I’m watching a random Ho Ho bob to the surface of the batter bowl, and as I’m watching the batter stretch thin and tear, forming gaping holes where chocolate Ho Ho spots are peeking through, this oh so brilliant thought occurs to me:

Disappointment doesn’t stop me. It only coats me.

I’ve been doing this too long to stop. Writing, living in Los Angeles, breathing, existing, whatever you want to call it. There is no other option than to continue forward.

My Boot Camp instructor was telling us about his experience running the L.A. Marathon this year. He said something to the extent that “You feel like you’re dying. You’re running and dying. But then you realize it’s mile twenty, and there’s only six more miles to go, so what the hell, might as well hang in there.”

I’ve been in Los Angeles long enough to say what the hell, might as well hang in there.

So no, disappointment doesn’t stop me. But it sure as hell coats me. Like Bartholomew’s Oobleck, it coats me, it cakes layer after layer of cynicism, of resigned sighs, of exhaustion, of once again lifting up my head and choosing hope. Ministers love to say that choosing hope is a revolutionary act. Not when you’ve been doing it as long as I have.

To believe, against all odds, that someday, some positive result will come from all the work you’ve been putting in for years and years. Hope isn’t revolutionary to me. It’s a given. A knee jerk given, the bastion of the weary who continue to trudge forward, with layers and layers of disappointment oobleck on them. Hope feels more like an afterthought. If you’ve got a checklist to go down, Hope comes somewhere after Sharpening Your Skill Set, Setting Forth An Achievable Plan, and Strength For The Journey. Successful people believe in Hope because it’s easy for them. They’ve already got the momentum.

All it takes is one honking piece of GREAT NEWS to shatter the calcified layers and to get me going faster.

So once again, I lift my head up. And trudge on. And on.

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