Beating the year-end blahs.

hgpslugslug.2.23.jpgI’ve been feeling like a slug lately.

Which is pretty ludicrous, when I consider everything that I’ve tackled in the past month or so:

definenaughtly

I made my own holiday cards.

I went back to Letterpress Central for open studio time, which means Cindy and Gary let the inmates run the asylum for a few hours. I had already come up with what I wanted the cards to say, and I was keen to use a script typeface I had seen on a previous visit … but it turns out naughtyit was available in only one size, so I rejiggered the design on the fly to accommodate the larger-than-planned face. It was also my first two-color design, which means I set up the press and tackled the red “Naughty” first, then cleaned the press and set up the black “Define” afterward. The script typeface is designed to run at an angle, which required some finesse in setting up the chase, which is usually locked in at right angles. Plus, I discovered during my test prints that they had inadvertently provided me a wrong letter: Look closely above, and you’ll see that what appears to be an A is actually an S.

dryingAfter a quick swap, things were back in business, and I ended up printing more than 60 cards. For more of a heavier, DIY effect, I printed on chipboard, which I bought by the sheet and had cut into a uniform size that’s roughly the same size as a CD when folded … but I ended up not folding the cards I hand-delivered because I liked the oversize dimensions better without the fold.  The chipboard requires a few days for the ink to fully dry, so I spread out the cards in our spare room before I headed out on my next adventure.

empirestateA

I went to New York for a week.

It was time for another work trip, so I packed up my stuff (and tacked on a personal day) and headed to New York. One thing that amazed me—twice—was how easy it was to be so focused on where I needed to be going and totally overlook where I was, in a forest-for-the-trees sort of way. The first time, I was coming back from a meeting and knew that I needed to get back to my hotel and change before a client dinner, so my only concern was making it to the subway. But right before I headed down those stairs, I happened to look up and realize: “Holy crap — it’s the Empire State Building.” (See photo above.)

It happened again when Meathead and I were meeting my friend Catherine for dinner and drinks. She had suggested The Breslin at the Ace Hotel, but a number of factors worked against us: She hit an hour’s worth of traffic coming in from New Jersey, and the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so we decided we would eat separately, then meet for just drinks. So while Meathead and I were wandering around looking for a place to eat, smartphones on Yelp, we almost trod upon a guy who was standing stock-still on the sidewalk. “What the hell?” I almost said. “What are you looking at?”

empirestateB He was looking at the Empire State Building, which we were standing literally across the street from. Again, a case of looking down, down, down so much that I totally missed what was up and around.

Oh, and we saw The Mystery of Edwin Drood, featuring Chita Rivera. I am not a fan of audience participation, and it turns out that in this production, based on an unfinished Charles Dickens novel, the playgoers vote to decide which character is the villain. (Dickens died before that part of the play was written.) They tally the votes by section, and even though the cast takes express pains to point out that in a mystery, the character that you have been led all along to assume “did it” almost never is the killer, the majority of people in our section voted for that very character. “How stupid of people are we sitting with?” I asked Meathead as they raised their hands. “This is what’s wrong with America.” Luckily, the theaterwide tally favored another character, so when the play resumed, the cast finished the production with Not the Obvious One as the killer.

(P.S.: The last beloved diva of theater that I saw live was Eartha Kitt, who performed with the Phoenix Symphony. She died shortly thereafter. I don’t want to imply that I’m some sort of angel of death, but it wouldn’t hurt Chita Rivera to check in with her doctor.)

lencariouThen, leaving the theater, we ran across this poster advertising that night’s musical performance by Len Cariou, whom I recognized because he appears on CBS’ Blue Bloods (and the network is one of my clients). But it took my theater-obsessed friend back in Phoenix to reveal that I was missing the bigger point: “He was the original Sweeney Todd! I can’t believe you didn’t see him!” (Me: “We had tickets to Edwin Drood!”) Also performing live, earlier in the evening at that same theater: Tom Wopat, whom I adored on The Dukes of Hazzard. I really have to pay attention to that place, to see if I recognize who’s going to be performing in February when I return.

latenightIn the interim, I texted one of my clients from the street the shot of Len Cariou and said: “Leave me alone, CBS! I am off the clock!” … and then, to make it even more entertaining, I turned the corner and ran into the theater where CBS tapes Late Show with David Letterman. “Seriously, I mean it” I texted her again. (“Muhahaha!” she replied. “Wait until you attempt to head back to the hotel and notice a CBS Outdoor logo on an ad above the subway entrance!”)

Luckily, I was always distracted by the Empire State Building. …

_2012_SweetTalk_Cover

I compiled/designed/distributed my holiday discs.

I’ve made a compilation disc every year since 1998 and distributed it to friends. This year I tried a new idea and placed the PDF covers and liner notes on Dropbox, along with the MP3 files, but it turns out that even in a download age, most people still prefer receiving a hard copy of a real gift. (Which I had planned for—I’m in the habit of making 50 copies of each, and they still go like hotcakes.) In my Tribune days I used repurposed photos from my style shootThe-CarsAlbums as the cover images; this year, long separated from fashion shoots, I used pictures from a M.A.C. ad campaign and then picked the discs’ titles based off the imagery. (Doesn’t it look like the woman above should be talking on a phone, saying not-so-sweet things? It feels like the modern, more sexually aggressive  version of that classic album cover for The Cars. (My sister had that album and I loved it. So much of my musical tastes came from having older siblings.)

kidsbooks

I rocked at helping my fellow man.

For one, our workplace did a book drive for the patients at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, so I headed to Bookman’s with the intention of picking up just a few beloved titles — specifically Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, which I couldn’t get enough of when I was a kid. (Especially the poem about the girl who slept with her glasses on so she could see her dreams clearly.) But when I got there, I couldn’t stop picking books that I either loved or knew would be appreciated. (And a few titles like The Grouchy Ladybug and The Day My Butt Went Psycho just naturally appealed to me, along with a Golden Book authored by Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Sadly, it is about a grandma on a scooter, and nothing more titillating.)

For another, Smarmy Bastard organized a trip to Kmart with his friends where we played Secret Santa and paid off layaways for families whose accounts were in danger of being returned to stock (RTS) for lack of payments. We ended up paying off a dozen accounts for a total of more than $2,300; the clerk at the store was literally splayed across the register, sobbing, by the time we left, and she hadn’t even started calling the families to tell them the good news.

But despite all that …

I’ve still been feeling like my life’s stuck on repeat, with nothing really notable happening. I’ve been a slacker at the gym, and there are days when all I want to do is stay home and read magazines, or play mindless interactive games like Bejeweled. I could see how I could easily turn into a recluse.

habituallychicSo it was a pleasant wake-up call to receive an early holiday gift from my friend Sharyn. The present itself—the book Habitually Chic: Creativity at Work—was delightful, but what really made it was the gift note. “To the most creative (at work and at home) person I know.” I haven’t even removed the shrink wrap yet, but I’m already feeling more inspired and upbeat. It’s a good reminder of the power of a positive word or two.

WHAT SAM WORE: 12-27-12
The shirt: V-neck sweatshirt by Polo Sport,
a remnant from my Trainer Brian days.
(So that makes it at least 10 years old!)
The pants: Skinny-cut corduroy trousers, from Uniqlo, New York.
The shoes: Sneakers by Skechers, from Last Chance.
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