On Friendship.

Apr 12

The feeling of shared city blocks
and stifled breathless laughter
is enough.

Easy to forget –
easy to forget the word lonely,
the acts of silence
the flood of the spirit
in the days, in the hours.

When play
is no longer mandatory,
or a given.
When clocks accelerate
to the speed of life decisions
and no looking back.

The thing,
the only thing,
that still holds true
to the innocence of bare feet,
sugar highs and brain freeze,
field goals
and shared blankets on bleachers,
is my sweaty-palmed heart
holding yours,
laughing like villains,
hoping we don’t get caught.

-sabrina sikes thornton

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Review – The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost

Oct 06

Review – The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost

When I started this book, I had already heard the author, Rachel Friedman, read two excerpts from it aloud – one of which I completely connected to because of the way she described the feeling of de-boarding an airplane in a foreign country with no job and no place to live. I’ve done that – so I instantly liked her.

But reading further into this memoir of self-discovery through travel, I found her experiences to be way more varied and adventurous than mine were. And I found myself becoming… well, a little bit jealous.

That’s not to say I regret anything I did or didn’t do while living and traveling in foreign countries – I did what I could within my means. But there was that month when, after returning home from London, I thought of leaving for an additional four months in Australia, and ultimately decided not to. But Rachel did – and that’s where our lives diverged.

Rachel’s journey starts in Ireland, where she finds herself avoiding her life back home. Her parents’ divorce, pressure to go to graduate school right after undergrad, and the sea of voices saying “welcome to the real world” were the inciting incidents, telling her to escape. She found an Australian roommate, a job at a bar, and a climate that invited her to stay in on rainy afternoons and read – something she relished. But during this first third of the book, I really didn’t feel that she found her footing as a traveler – as an explorer. She was more focused on running away from her life back home – and less able to articulate where it was she wanted to GO and WHY she wanted to go there.

This all changes when she gets to Australia. It is on this wild continent (that does in fact inspire the most sloth-like of homebodies to HAVE A FUCKING ADVENTURE OR GO HOME) she finally ventures out alone. She views sunrises and sunsets over the red earth at Uluru, she sees dangerous creatures that she never knew existed, and she realizes that she is way more daring than she thought she was capable of being. And she likes it.

In the last third of the book, she really makes peace with who she is as a person – the good and the bad. The adventurer and the one who longs for safety. As her and her daredevil friend Carly traverse “Death Road” – you witness Rachel growing more uneasy with her journey and more at home with the fact that some things about herself will never change. But she’s still up for the ride.

I found myself feeling lots of… feelings while reading this book. Some of it was almost painful in that way that things you miss ever so delicately pull at your heartstrings and make you want to leap from your couch and GO BACK! I kept saying to John, “Really, we need to make sure we can travel somewhere cool and interesting at least ONCE A YEAR. Otherwise, we can’t live a happy life.” I was making inane, silly statements like that during the entire two-week period I was reading this book. John went along with it, of course, but even he could sense the odd desperation in my voice. Because one thing this book does make you want to do is go on an adventure. The way she describes the life she is leading in opposition to her friends back home in 9-5 jobs literally puts a lump in your throat and forces to re-evaluate every step you’ve taken since getting off the plane back to America.

I kept wanting her to come out on the other side of this journey and have some answer for me. Because those parts of myself I found while in London are my most precious parts, and I try desperately every day to hang on to them. And I was sure she would be able to tell me how to live a stable life and still have that sense of adventure – to keep her traveler’s mentality intact while saving for retirement. But she couldn’t. And I think it’s because no one can. The solace that she was able to provide me with was that it is the search – it is the adventure of life that you have to be willing to accept – and it is the everyday challenges that can sometimes be just as harrowing and exciting as riding a bike down Bolivia’s Death Road. It all comes down to how you decide to navigate it.

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Fiction Exercise #1

Sep 22

Instructions: One page. According to Henry James, a writer wrote a novel from a glimpse of a seminary students’ dinner party. Write a scene of a story from a glimpse you have had of a group of people – in a café, zoo, train or anywhere. Sketch the characters in their setting and let them interact. Do you find that you know too little? Can you make up enough- or import from other experiences – to fill the empty canvas?

Objective: To find out if you can make much out of little. If you can, great. If you can’t now, don’t worry, you might later, or you’ll have to get your stories from other materials.

What I came up with:

As I read an excerpt aloud, the hot, crowded bookstore pulses with energy both familiar and a little overwhelming. In the corner near the coffee table books filled with pictures of London bridges, my father stands with his new wife, and laughs nervously every time the passage makes reference to his divorce from my mother fifteen years ago. The new wife stands with champagne in hand, looking be-dazzled and be-decked, with high hair and even higher standards. I will never accept her.

Over by the maps, a spritely college student with eyes that bore through my existence is chattering excitedly, pretending to whisper but clearly trying to interrupt my reading. A tall blonde who had previously been handing out business cards for her travel blog glares at the sprite, and shifts her weight so that the sprite is now forced to stare directly at her shoulder blades. I am grateful.

Nikki, the bitchy yet simultaneously likeable store owner is trying to find a specific book on Rwanda for the one person in the bookstore that doesn’t know a reading is taking place. “I’ve been looking everywhere,” she says as she stumbles over my frail mother, seated in the front, looking terribly desperate and lapping up every word that comes out of my mouth. My poor cute mother.

I finish the excerpt and look up, waiting for applause or awkward silence, and receive the latter for three elongated seconds before the former reassures me that I’m not a complete fraud. The tall blonde has gotten her business cards out again and the sprite is on the verge of attack. Cheryl, the facilitator and part of the husband/wife team responsible for Marriage on the Run, a travel website dedicated to the art of never living anywhere with your significant other for longer than six months, fishes around the room for questions purposely avoiding the sprite. I start to wonder if the sprite makes regular appearances, or if Cheryl just knows the type.

After a series of obvious questions, as well as some thought-provoking ones and one completely unanswerable inquiry asked by the sprite (it was more of a statement about her trip to Tijuana last year), the crowd applauds once more and starts to spill out onto 3rd Street. A few people linger to buy my book, even the woman who referred to the title as a “pretty shameless marketing ploy… like a lesser Eat Pray Love.” I sign and make small conversation, gritting my teeth as the sprite tells me she’s written several books about her travel experiences but is unwilling to publish unless it’s on her own terms. Bullshit.

My mother and father nod at each other, pose for a family picture on opposite ends of the sidewalk, and I tell them I’ll see them for breakfast and lunch tomorrow, respectively. I gather up what’s left of my books and head to my car, thinking back to how I always longed to be an author who was asked to read aloud.

Check: Can you visualize these people further? Can you begin to hear at least one person speak? If not, go back and find a way of talking that might fit one of the people in the group, and carry on from there.

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New Project

Sep 21

New Project

About two weeks ago I was on my way to meet my friend Ashley for lunch at a Thai place in Glendale. I arrived early and decided to walk around the neighborhood – and came across the most amazing used-book shop! Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t pass a bookstore without going in and getting lost for hours – so of course I decided to indulge myself.

After browsing for awhile and almost purchasing an Eckhart Tolle book about “The Power of Now” (I was feeling a little depressed and kind of in a self-help mood), I decided to come to grips with my fear of jumping back into writing. It’s something I toy with occasionally, yet am afraid to take too seriously because I remember being in college and staring at my computer screen until 3am, begging my subconscious to spill forth the thoughts from my head in some form not entirely nonsensical.

I usually just wrote bad poetry.

But I have thoughts that are DYING to escape – and I long again for that world where I can encourage them to make their way out. So I pushed myself into the Writing section, startling another customer who was knee-deep into a book called “How to write a screenplay, and then cast yourself in the lead role” or something like that. After seeing too many “How to sell your writing” books and becoming a little discouraged – I finally found “The Fiction Writer’s Workshop” – a book of exercises that one can do to exercise their creative brain. It was the perfect find – and I thought it would also be a great aid in encouraging me to blog on a more regular basis.

So, starting this weekend, I am going to do at least one post a week that is a guided fiction writing exercise, followed by whatever writing I came up with while doing the exercise.

And of course, I will try to write blogs about my life and current events from time to time as well. And I still owe Jade that blog about Costa Rica – and I still owe Ann-Sophie that blog about my experience in Fowler. I’m on it.

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