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Thursday, August 31, 2006

When Pigs Fly

Recently, I had the most amazing opportunity to collaborate with the brilliant Joshua Brunet on a children's book called, "When Pigs Fly." Josh conceptualized and illustrated the story, then asked me to put the words to it.

Being the busy little artists that we are, we have finished the book and sent our manuscript out to 10 different publishers. We are currently waiting on their replies.

In the meantime, I volunteered at a local elementary school where my friend, Melissa, teaches the third grade. Melissa introduced me to her class as "Mrs. Taylor, who is an Author." The kids gasped with excitement. Their eyes got big and they sat forward in their seats. (Or, rather, on the floor where their little butts were situated.;-)

"Does anyone have questions for Mrs. Taylor?" asked Melissa. Ten little arms shot into the air. (I have to comment here about how bizarely unnerving it is to sit in front of thirty, eager third graders.) The little faces turned toward me, eyebrows raised, hands waiving, and I felt the heat of adolescence all over again. Pick me, pick me, goes the eight year-old brain.

So one by one I called on them, trying to be as fair as possible. The first question was, "What sort of stories do you write?" This was an impressive question. Very pertinent and smart, I thought.

"Well, actually, I've written a story for children. It's about a pig who wants to fly."

Another forest of arms sprouted into the air. I picked the next one.

"I think I've read your story!" came the sing-songy voice, her words crooning like notes. "It's about three little pigs and a wolf."

"Uh, I didn't write that story. But it's a really famous one about pigs." I said in my best teacherly voice. "Good connection." I wiggled in my chair and pointed to the next little hand reaching for the air.

"I think I saw your book at the bookstore!" said the little girl with ribbons. "It was about a pig with a spider."

I opened my mouth, stunned. Then I tried to explain that while that was a really wonderful children's story called, "Charlotte's Web," it was not, in fact, the wonderful story I had written.:-/

I gathered myself and tried for a fourth question. I pointed to a boy in the back row with a bright red soccer shirt.

"I think my friend has the movie of your book. 'Babe'--" he began.

Without skipping a beat, Melissa stepped in and took things under control. "Uh people, Mrs. Taylor's book isn't for sale - yet. So you probably haven't seen it or read it anywhere."

This of course only made me sink lower in my chair!

Here's to flying pigs and feeble attempts at inspiring kids.;-)

Professor Taylor

Well - don't know what I've gotten myself into now, but here goes!

Classes start next Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

King's Canyon

Just wanted to share some pictures of our camping trip to King's Canyon this past weekend. The weekend came to an abrupt hault at 9:30 on Saturday night, when a black bear walked into our campsite and started raiding our Bear Box. Yes, we left it open. It was our fault.

She was totally habituated to people. So comfortable, in fact, that even after all of our screaming, honking horns, and flashing headlights, she still didn't run away. She crawled, whole body, into the bear box and started eating the food. When she was finished, she ran off with a bag of ice and waited in the bushes a few feet behind our tents. The children (and a couple of adults) were so freaked out there was no use trying to stay. We left that night.

But the rest of the trip was lovely.

King's Canyon River, next to our campsite

Patty Cake at the Campsite

The group.

Sitting by the water at Boyden Cave.

"The water stinks!"

Conquering the Mountain at Boyden Cave.

Dwayne and Christin inside Boyden Cave

A very beautiful but cold river.

Our crazy friend Drew jumping off of Muir Rock into the beautiful but very cold river.

My crazy husband jumping off of Muir Rock into the beautiful but very cold river.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Devil Wears Kiton

Sometimes, we don't understand the things we do until several months later. Sometimes, the decisions we felt so compelled to make do not explain themselves until years have past. I don't know about you, but there have been a couple of experiences in my life which I have yet to understand.

One of those experiences was my nine month stint at an international film financing firm in Beverly Hills. It is hard for me to even reflect on it. I think this is because I feel the tension of something that has yet to be processed, has yet to be made clear.

When I first met JP, the man who hired me, I told God "I can't handle another rejection. I have wanted to be in the film industry for so long. I can not handle another 'no.'"

This time, I got a 'yes.'

On September 1st, I drove to Beverly Hills, my stomach a sting of nerves. I parked the car in the wrong part of the garage. I took the wrong elevator to the office. I wore the wrong shoes, but I started, none-the-less. I got along very well with the five men in the office. They liked working with me, and I like working with them, but I still hadn't met my boss, the owner of the company.

He was in Europe when I was hired, and it was another three weeks before he pushed his way through the door, flinging it open in a particular way that I would come to recognize as his "entrance." He sped across the carpet, dragging his Kiton heels in a determined way, which was his signature walk. It was as if he would rocket into flight if he didn't keep his feet pinned to the ground.

JP leapt from his desk, and handling David with agility, turned him toward me. "This is Christin," JP said. David's hand jutted out from beneath his jacket.

"Welcome. You must have really impressed these guys! They're hard to please." I was mute with intimidation. I mumbled an answer, blushed pink, and flopped back into my chair. I was relieved when he turned his direct gaze from me back to JP.

My learning curve started immediately. David called me into the office, "I need reservations with S--- at Matsuhisa. The German investors are in town next month. Find me something to do with them in LA. Get my mother reservations at Le Meridien or the Peninsula. Take my car to the car wash, but I need it back by 12:30 for my lunch with P-----. Oh, and get me directions to The Ivy. JP does those little buckslips things. I like them."

I was thrown head first into a world of fancy restaurants, hotels, international travel, and expensive entertainment. Two or three words were enough to spin me into a frenzy of work. Half the time I didn't know who he was talking about, or how to find the places he asked for.

In just a few months, I learned that being an executive assistant is one of the hardest jobs around. To be a great assistant you must push the boundaries of your personal life out and out until they encompass your employer's world. There is no going home. There is no leaving for vacation. Your time is his time, and your energy is his to spend.

On Valentine's Day I ordered flowers for David's wife. On my vacation home to Indiana, I got a call from David in France who was in a fury over his Cannes Film Festival registration. I did everything from wrapping Christmas presents to making his daily coffee. It is so hard to be perfect, but perfection is the lowest common denominator as an assistant. It is simply a MUST. No questions asked.

And still, in the middle of this frenzy, I never quite caught on to what was expected of me. I wanted my job to be an office job that I could leave behind when it was time to go home. I wanted it to fit neatly into a 9-6 schedule and to stay tucked away when it was time for me to do homework, or spend time with Dwayne. This is where the trouble began.

In May of this year, I walked into David's office and sparked a conversation that made the next several days of my life click out like dominoes. I could tell he was upset with me, but he wouldn't to tell me what was wrong. Finally, in the quietness of his office he leveled with me.

"In the first few months you were doing great. I thought you were really going to catch on. But now you've hit a plateau. I need someone who can run with the ball, who can see into the future and anticipate everything that's going to happen. This company is growing, and I've got to manage these guys and a lot more pressure. I need someone that can manage this office for me. Free me up."

I sat quietly, letting his words pour over me like hot lava.

"I'm just not sure you're the right person for the job. There are a lot of things you do well and we don't need to go over those things, but my two biggest critiques are that you're too hesitant and too needy."

My future at SCC opened up before me like a movie.

"I'm not looking for a change," he said, but I didn't believe him. He had been so blunt with me that I assumed he was done with me. I found out later, that I was wrong. Somehow, David was trying to motivate me, but the dominoes were already falling. I understood something in my gut that I haven't been able to articulate until now.

I wasn't willing to let go of the quiet places in my life where David couldn't reach me. I wasn't willing to make SCC my priority, and for that reason, I needed to leave.

At a recent interview, the employer asked me, "What has been your biggest failure." I couldn't bring myself to tell him, but I knew the answer in my heart. SCC has been my biggest failure. It was the first job I ever took that I didn't finish to completion. David has been the first employer that I've completely let down.

"This makes me sad!" David said, when I turned in my resignation. "I hope I didn't chase you away." I could only shake my head and say "This is my decision."

I can still see David's Kiton shoes and hear the way he used to drag his feet across the carpet. I used to jam my feet into all kinds of uncomfortable high heels and leather shoes when I worked there. It has been a singular relief to go back to flip flops.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

America's Secure Energies

"This has ever been the fate of energy in security; it takes to art and to eroticism, and then come languor and decay." -- H.G. Wells

Is Mr. Wells right about this? The idea is that when man has conquered every need in his world, he will grow "stupid." With out the challenge of necessity or danger, his intellect will dwindle to something like the dim horizon at twilight. When his energies can not be spent on survival, they will be spent on distraction (ie entertainment - art and eroticism).

When I read this quote, I thought of America. We are certainly one of the most secure nations in the world. But do we fit Wells' perscription of "energy in security?"

I mean, take entertainment. We can't deny that while actors, directors, authors, models, and sports figures may not be the wealthiest people in America, they are certainly the most notorious. And how much import does our society place on sexuality? Do we spend our energies on eroticism?

I personally think that Wells is right, when we are totally comfortable we grow weak. Just take your body for example. Without the discipline of excercise and eating properly, we get flabby. However, I don't think that humanity will ever reach a point where they have mastered the earth or society completely. We live in a broken world where things constantly tend toward decay and corruption. New things go wrong, new diseases appear, new enemies rise up.

We have been relatively secure in America for the last decade. No real threat of an outside attack has existed since the Cold War. Here's a thought for you: Based on Wells's theory, do you think the possibility of terrorist attacks might be a good thing? Does it present something to turn our energies toward, other than art and eroticism...?

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Yelping Anniversary

Dwayne and I went sea kayaking on Friday, in celebration of our fourth anniversary. While we were paddling around Marina del Rey, we ran across two sea lions.

"Look Dwayne!" I called over my shoulder. "There are two birds under water up there." (I don't know why I thought they were birds. I soon figured out what they were:-) As we got closer, we slid over one, just inches below the water. "Watch out!" I said, afraid it might tip us.

The second sea lion was in reaching distance of our kayak. I could have tapped it with my paddle. It was rolling over in the water, and apparently unaware of our presence. When it rolled over and caught a glimpse of me grinning down at it from the kayak, it yelped and splashed away.

I was so startled that I yelped too. And there we were - two yelping creatures startled by one another.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Body Boarding: Reflections on Being Cool and Not Cool, on Having Fun and Not Caring

Dwayne Body boarding at Hermosa beach.

How do I explain this? If you are really cool, you surf. If you're a kid, you boogie board. If you're from So. Cal., you surf. If you're a transplant, you boogie board.

"Uh Christin, boogie boarding is what kids call it," my So. Cal. boss once told me with a sardonic grin. "If you're over twelve, you 'body board.'"

But really there's not difference between what I do on a boogie board and what a kid does. Surfing takes athleticism and real skill. You have to have balance, strength, and speed. Body boarding, on the other hand, is easy. You just plop your body onto the board and let the waves carry you in. That's what kids do.

I have seen a native Californian "body board," as it were. And it was pretty impressive. Dwayne and I stood on the peer and watched as he bounced along the waves with the surfers. When he caught the crest of one, he popped up on one knee, as if he were proposing to the ocean, and rode almost to shore before skillfully dismounting the wave.

After three summers of body boarding, I still can't dismount the waves. I end up riding all the way onto the sand like a beached seal. More often then not, I end up scrapping my knees and writhing around in the sand trying to get up. Just the other day I slid onto the beach, only to find myself blinking at two sets of veiny feet. I looked up to see two tanned, very cool, frat guys looking down at me. Yeah, there's no cool way to roll off your boogie board.

All that to say, Dwayne and I love body boarding! We know we're not cool, but we have tons of fun doing it. And until either of us learns how to surf, we'll just keep riding the waves home on our little neon orange and blue boards!