We’ve all had moments where we feel stuck… things aren’t going the way we want to and it seems like it’s never going to turn around. As a writer, I fight like hell to get through those moments. Moments where the words don’t come or if they do, they’re not the ones I want. Working on my latest play has had its highs and lows—the highs of feeling proud to do something outside of my comfort zone and the lows of not knowing if I can actually DO it.
Well, during one of those lows, I found myself venting to my coworker and friend, Monica. I told her that I knew what was wrong with my play—I just didn’t know how to fix it. She suggested taking a break from the play and trying a fun writing exercise to use my imagination in a different way. One of her suggestions was to pick a noun for every letter of the alphabet and then take ten of those nouns and use them in a short story.
At first, I thought, “How is that going to help me?” But at that point I hadn’t written anything in weeks and I was willing to sprint down the street naked if it would help my creative juices start flowing. (Well almost naked – it was January at the time so it was probably too cold for nudity.) I was pleasantly surprised to discover by doing what Monica suggested, I was reminded of why I love writing. It’s fun! Not only that, I get to tell my story, my way!
The wacky story that came out of my writing exercise might not be perfect, but it’s mine and I am so grateful to Ms. Monica Hanofee for pushing me to explore other avenues of creativity outside of my play. She is a courageous, dedicated performer (who has a kick ass voice, by the way: http://www.monicamaryhanofee.com/media/ ) and she taught me inspiration doesn’t always strike in the way we’ve decided it should happen. Sometimes we need to go out and get it wherever we can find it! And if that doesn’t work, smack inspiration right across the face and let it know you’re here and you want to create!
Here are the ten nouns I chose for my short story: Apple, domino, frog, hammock, luau, mountain, pyramid, robot, telephone and watermelon. Enjoy, everyone, and I hope the rest of your week is filled with inspiration!
A Luau in the Middle of Winter
A luau in the middle of winter… in New York City no less? Seriously? And why was I the one assigned to bring a watermelon? Am I reliving my days when I incessantly watched “Dirty Dancing” with my college roommates? I can just see myself now, walking into the apartment as I quip, “I carried a watermelon.” But alas, I doubt there will be anyone as hot as Patrick Swayze to serenade me with “She’s Like the Wind.”
I guess I should be happy to have younger friends that still want to have luaus. My college friends, on the other hand, spend their weekends driving their kids to swim classes, gymnastics, cheerleading… shoot me now. Every time I talk to one of them on the telephone, I get bombarded with “Guess what so-and-so learned to do this week?” YUCK.
So the day of the luau arrives, and I get dressed up in my full Hawaiian regalia. I’m wearing a grass skirt, a bikini top with a lei and my cutest rhinestone flip-flops. This is quite an accomplishment, considering it’s TWENTY degrees outside. The party is on the Lower East Side, aka Hipster Hood. It’s an older building, and there’s a project across the street. Someone is standing outside yelling up at a window, “Loretta! Loretta! Why don’t you answer me and get your ass down here?” I don’t know who Loretta is, but I wish she would answer him, before he turns around and sees me clicking down the street in my flip-flops holding a gigantic watermelon.
I safely make it to the front door of the building and buzz the apartment. To my dismay, the building is a walk-up and the party is on the fifth floor. By the time I make it to the front door, I feel like I climbed a mountain. I’m getting too old for this shit. Please, someone open the door and hand me a Mai Tai immediately.
The door opens and the apartment is full of fake palm trees and colored lights. There’s even a little kiddie pool in the middle of the room. A part of me wonders if there’s a pig somewhere with an apple stuffed in its mouth. In one corner of the room is a pile of pineapples, mangos, and watermelons in a pyramid-like shape. I dump my coat in the bedroom and return to the living room and deposit my watermelon on the ground. I see my friend Monica, sipping a drink out of a coconut. She’s dressed in a cute halter dress with flowers all over it. Why didn’t I think of that? My grass skirt is itchy and keeps riding up my butt.
Monica comes over and gives me a big hug. “Check them out.” She points to the corner of the room where two people are making out in a hammock. I smile. “Ah, Alassane. To be young.” We laugh. I look around and remark, “Maybe if I kiss one of these frogs, I can turn him into my prince.” And just then, an amazing guy walks out of the kitchen, scruffy and masculine, and definitely not a twenty-something. “Who is that?” I ask Monica. “Oh, that’s Damian. Sarah’s brother.” Sarah was the party host and that’s all I needed to know. I crossed the room, determined to meet this gorgeous God.
Damian is at the punch bowl, filling his cup. I walk over and gently bump into him. This was always my go-to for meeting a guy. I casually remark, “Oh I’m sorry. I must’ve tripped on my flip flop. Are you okay?” “No worries,” he says. “I’m Dina,” extending my arm. “I’m Damian,” as he shakes my hand. “What a great idea—a luau in the middle of winter!” I enthusiastically say. Damian smirks. “Actually I thought it was kind of dumb, myself, but it’s my sister’s party so what can I do?” Doh. “So you live in New York?” I ask. “No, I live in Chicago.” Well, Chicago and New York aren’t that far apart, I think to myself. Only an hour and a half plane ride, right? “I love Chicago,” I gush. “I went there over the summer and I loved swimming in the ocean and looking up at the skyscrapers at the same time.” “Actually,” Damian says, “It’s a lake, not an ocean.” Doh. “Right—a lake,” I faltered. I felt like an idiot, but I wasn’t ready to give up. Yet. I tell Damian, “Well I had a great time. It’s a beautiful city. Go Cubs!” I try to do one of those girlie giggles, but I sound more like a cackling chicken. I need to get it together and fast! I flash him my biggest smile and say, “Well if you have any free time while you’re in New York, maybe we can meet up for a drink or something.” ‘Uh… yeah… sure,” he mumbles. We stand there, nodding and sipping our drinks. Neither of us says a word. And then, Sarah walks over. “Hey Dina. I guess you’ve met my brother Damian.” “Yes,” I say. “We were just talking about swimming in the lake in Chicago.” “Cool,” Sarah says as she turns to Damian and continues, “Joe’s looking for you. He’s in the kitchen.” “Okay,” Damian replies. He turns to me, “Nice meeting you.” And just like that, he’s gone.
“Your brother is really hot,” I tell Sarah as soon as Damian is out of earshot. “So everyone tells me,” Sarah says. “To me, he’s just a dork.” “Who’s Joe?” I ask. “Damian’s boyfriend. He brought Joe to New York so I could meet him. I think it’s pretty serious.” I stood there like a robot, waiting for someone to push a button and make me do something, say something—anything. Finally, all I could utter was, “Oh.”
I walked back to Monica. “What happened?” she eagerly asks. “Nothing,” I grunt. “Absolutely nothing… Remind me to get my gaydar fixed.” “Oh,” Monica sympathetically responds, as she puts her arm around me. “Your time will come.” “Please,” I say. “If I had a dollar… Well, I should be a millionaire by now. I’m getting out of here.” I turn, and this time my flip-flop really does get stuck, causing me to fall forward and hit a fellow partygoer, who then collides with someone else and so on and so on, until we’re just a bunch of dominoes, falling over one by one. I hit the floor in time to see someone else land face-first in the kiddie pool. Ouch. That had to hurt. My grass skirt was up around my neck, exposing body parts that need not be exposed. What do they say? Pride goes before a fall? Never did the phrase apply so literally, I think.
Note to self: never attend a luau in the winter!