Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving at the Golden Corral

This Thanksgiving, my mother announced that we would be going to the Golden Corral for our big dinner.  What a change in pace!  I had been used to reserving space at a church or a gym, and having the traditional meal complete with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and sometimes ham (everyone bringing their own dish).  But this year was going to be something new.

On hearing the announcement, two things immediately came to mind.

#1) That scene from "A Christmas Story" where they went to the Chinese place for Christmas, and they sang "Fa ra ra ra ra."  Would we be the only ones at the Golden Corral while everyone else stayed at home eating their traditional dinners, napping it off, and watching football?

#2) When would the Golden Corral employees go home to their families?  I know that some people say: "Don't worry about the employees.  Golden Corral is open and even advertises their Thanksgiving dinner.  The employees are there on their own free will."  But this is faulty reasoning in a lame attempt to make oneself feel better.  I know a lady who works at Golden Corral and is unable to attend church because they won't let her take Sundays off.  (And you know somebody has to feed all those hungry Protestants who grab brunch after church on their "day of rest.")

But then, I understood my mother's decision.  Consider all the pros: no cooking; no washing dishes; no leftovers; eat all you want and what you want; big enough to fit a large party.

There are also the cons: the food is not homemade; no turkey-salad sandwiches over the next week; other strangers will be there with you; could be more expensive.

Then the big day came.  We all met at the Golden Corral and Holy Moly!  The line went out the door!  I couldn't believe it.  All visions of "fa ra ra ra ra" vanished.  I never knew that people actually did something different than the traditional dinner at home!

It took us fifteen minutes just to get to where you pick up your drinks.  We paid for our own dinners, and wouldn't you know it?  Golden Corral charged the special Thanksgiving rate.  I heard Mister Krabs of Spongebob fame back in the kitchen.  "Ka ching!  Arghh argk argk argk argk argk!"

There we were--all twenty of us holding our drinks--waiting to be seated.  The waitresses started putting together a section in one of those glass rooms.  After about five minutes, they told us that someone else grabbed those tables.  We were standing there with our drinks for over twenty minutes!  (Well, my wife came up with the awesome idea of resting the drink trays on a ledge.)  Yet, it was hard to get angry because of concern #2 above.

It was noisy all over the restaurant, but luckily, inside the glass room, it was quiet enough to where we could all have pleasant conversations.  There was always someone up getting more food (which I suppose is true in most Thanksgiving dinners).

I started with a soup and salad, while my brother-in-law got a taco bowl.  Then I went for my "Thanksgiving" plate.  Wouldn't you know it?  There was a line for the turkey and fixings!  The turkey was okay, but nothing like how my wife cooks it (nice and dry - yum!).  The dressing, mashed potato, cranberry sauce, and rolls were good.  They always have good rolls.  Desserts were okay.  I didn't even try the chocolate fountain, though it seemed everyone else did.

We were there for over two hours, and it was all fun.  It was good to see family again.  There was a lot of laughing and the usual pouting kids and the poopy diaper.  What Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without those?

When we left, the line to go in was still going out the door.  It was all over for us.  We had survived, and it wasn't all that bad.  Though, I really wanted to hear somebody sing "Fa ra ra ra ra."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Many Discouragements of Being an Aspiring Writer

Yes, I realize I risk sounding like Luke Skywalker on one of his whinging binges, but I've had a really hard couple of months in the writing world.  I started this blog to detail the steps in becoming an "established writer," and no honest account would be complete without a big complaint-filled post.  So, here goes nothing...

Life sucks!  I am this close to giving up (I'm holding up my thumb and index finger).  When you're only an aspiring writer, you're nothing but big in your own head.  Nobody wants to publish you.  Nobody wants to read your stories.  You might as well stick with your day job and be a work zombie till the day you die.

  • Rejections everywhere:  This is one area where I excel.  I can see the first readers shaking their head when they see my name.  "Oh no, not again.  Come on, Melvyn.  Is this the best you can give us?  Say hello to our form letter rejection."  If only I knew where I was failing to connect!
  • It takes so long, and no results:  I could easily spend an hour writing one of these blog posts.  After putting together what I think is a useful article, I check the stats the next day and see: "4 views."  That's all?  When I ask for comments, going for more reader participation, I might get one or two responses.  Whooo!
  • The world doesn't need another writer:  Look at all the books at our disposal.  Name any random topic, and chances are you'll find a book that fits that need.  My stuff?  Whenever I describe my two finished books, I get something like: "Oh, that sounds like 'Face Off' in space," or "That's 'Touched by an Angel."  In other words, my drivel has already been written.
  • Life is so busy:  First, there's the day job.  It eats up 40 hours of my precious time every week.  45 if you count the lunches, and 50 if you also include commuting time.  There's also church and family and community.  With all these responsibilities, if I did everything I was "supposed to do," I'd get no sleep.  And then I'd still have no time to write.  Sometimes when I do have free time, I'm exhausted to do anything except relax.  NaNoWriMo?  Eesh!  Not this year!
  • Depression loves writers:  I don't know why, but depression seeks out writers like tornadoes love trailer parks.  Maybe it's all the rejection letters we get.  Or perhaps that brain defect that makes us want to write and write and write also makes us depressed.  Do you know why they don't hold writers' conferences next to cliffs?  Because it would only take one writer, and then you'd have lemmings!
  • I don't have enough money to break into the business:  The NCWN held their big annual conference this past weekend.  I didn't go, because I just can't afford it right now.  I've even had to temporarily stop my movie review trips.  Today's economy is stressful and makes it much harder to spend money on conferences, books and the like.  I know they say you don't really need to pay a dime to get published, but I don't believe it.  You pay to enter conferences where you might meet an agent.  You can sometimes pay extra to force an agent to sit with you for a 20-minute session.  You can pay for classes that might increase your chances of getting published in a particular magazine.  You can pay an editor when you self-publish a book that might get your book cleaned up enough to sell millions.  In other words, no money = "don't even think about it."
  • Other writers are better than me:  I was reading one of my fellow aspiring writer's blog, and he was celebrating a relatively big short story sale.  He stated that it was after some 20 rejections.  At first I thought, "Wow!  I'm not up to that many on any of my individual stories.  I just have to keep submitting."  But then I kept reading.  He gave some excerpts from his rejection letters, which were all "warm" rejections like: "We really like your style, but this doesn't fit our magazine.  Send us something else."  Well, good for him.  I've only received one non-form-letter short story rejection, and it was a "cold" one.  In other words: my stories plain suck.
  • It would be so much easier to give up:  I love video games and puzzles and math problems and rainbows and reading books and watching movies and TV.  If I just removed the stress of having to write and get published, I could still live out a fulfilling life.  Of course, no one would know who I am, but is that really so important?  I bet other aspiring writers wouldn't mind if I gave up.
Yes, if you are like me--an aspiring writer who has nearly zero credits--then you have most likely experienced one of the above.  It sucks, and it's so easy to come to a grinding halt and not push forward.

I wish I could say I'm in a position where I could say, "This is how I came out of it and became an established writer," but alas, I'm still in it.  So, I'll just pretend I'm an established writer and try to give this advice:
  • If you're nobody, then nobody cares what you do.  Think about it.  If nobody knows who you are, you have no deadlines.  You don't have busy book signing schedules and all those other things established writers have to worry about.  If you fall flat on your face, who's going to laugh at you?  You'll just die one of those lonely deaths where no one hears a tree land on your grave.  So, you might as well give it your all, right?  Go corner that agent in the elevator!
  • You really think you're going to stop writing?  Face it.  We aspiring writers have that brain defect I mentioned earlier.  We have so many stories and ideas floating around in our heads, and if we don't stop writing our heads will explode (followed by a lonely death--remember that tree on your grave?).
  • The day job isn't all that bad.  It pays the bills.  If you're happy with your job, it can actually free up time.  Since you're not constantly chasing dollars, you can relax and write.  Whoa!  What's that on the floor?  A dollar!  Oh, yeah!
  • So what if no one's reading your blogs?  When you become famous, all your devoted fans will go back to ALL your wonderful past blog entries and read every word.  Don't think of it as attracting attention now, but rather that you're setting up the stage to give your fans a ton of free stuff to read when the time is right.
  • Depression?  It comes in cycles.  Since you're a nobody, it's okay to take a break when the chips are down.  Go play some video games or whatever you do best when you can't do anything else.
  • Those other established writers?  Jealousy gets you nowhere.  If someone else is doing better than you, figure out what he's doing right.  Get into his head and leave nothing behind.
  • Giving up isn't permanent.  As long as you're still alive, you can still write.  Has it been years since you touched a keyboard?  Perfect!  That means that all those magazine editors that you've been bothering have either moved on to bigger gigs or are dead by now.  Green blood!  These new guys don't know what's about to hit them, do they?
Well, I hope that helps.  Feel free to comment and add your own whingings.  Let it all out!