Category Archives: writing

How to Make Friends and Actively Avoid People.

Morrissey: Social distancing before it was cool.

Everytime Covid seems to be over, I get anxious. Thank Darwin for mutations because this is pretty close to living my best life. But the CDC can shove it. Seriously. Shortening the amount of time you have to isolate for no good and goshdarned reason? I bet it’s a conspiracy to avoid paid sick leave. A conspiracy of whom? You know *looks nervously about* people.

I apologize for including the introvert’s trigger word. “People!” Aaaaaaaaaaaah! Run away! Keep running!

Hello my name is Jessica Mae Lakis, and I actively avoid pe*ple. But I love having friends! I just don’t necessarily want to leave my house. And if I do, can it be outside? I get claustrophobic. And if it’s outside, it had better be about tents, water, nature, and not too many pe*ple. But I do have a couple of knives and a heavy water bottle, two mylar blankets, a way to make fire, and a can of sardines, just in case. I also packed a few books, a journal, art supplies, and cards so we don’t have to talk so much! Ooooo. Is that a fishing rod? Do you think my cat misses me right now? I don’t drink alone! I have a dog. I just wrote her a new song. Wanna hear?

Look, if you know, you know. You’re an introvert. And you’d rather tear your eyeballs out with a spork than make a social commitment, or worse! Keep it! That’s why I mourn Covid, what an awesome excuse. “Oh, I’m sorry but we could potentially kill one another,” became a valid and non-violent excuse for everything. It made the internet the best, easiest, and most cost efficient way to see anybody. What’s up with my toe? Upload picture to patient portal. I need my therapist! Oh hi person I tell my deepest thoughts and feels to via this highly insecure technology. Heck, I even fought a ticket on Zoom.

But, you know I’m human and I need to be loved, etc. So how does a grown human being living in direct contrast with how human beings are meant to live make friends? And enjoy company (on highly specific terms)?

You may say, “get introverted friends.” And I agree. But how does one find these elusive creatures? This is how I’ve managed.

1) Nature: The outdoors are great! But someone may worry about you if you sit by the water too long. Solution? Stick a fishing rod in the water. You can just put a weight at the end. But you are suddenly engaged in a “sport.” And people respect sports. But fishing and camping have made me friends.

I met two of my favorite people camping. Long story short, they heard me say, “curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal,” they watched Stan make fire from a striking stick while lighting a cigarette with a lighter, then a drunk guy got arrested, and we all watched. And they’re a couple, like us. And they fish. I can’t think of better friends! A nerdy couple who leave their houses to be feral, stick a rod in the water and be quiet so as not to scare the fish! Perfection!

2) Groups and forums: Another of my favorite people I found on a Neil DeGrasse Tyson group on the FB. Her profile pic was Data in a sombrero from “Fist Full of Datas.” (Let us open our hymnals to ST:TNG, 6:8.) I’ve become so close to this woman I have never actually met IRL, as it were, that her sister kept in contact with me when she was in hospital. We talk (over the phone!) about living together because we both need a lot of time alone so we could mainly ignore each other.

And, regardless of how niche your thing may be, there is a group or forum or Discord or Reddit Sub just for you! Are you interested in foraging wild edibles in the Shenandoah Valley? There’s a group for that! Mine include the Civilization strategy game franchise. The game begins in 4,000 BC and ends (if there is no other victory condition) in 2050, which is creepy, but not the point. You can play it with others, but as the game’s length and motto “One…more…turn…” suggests, this is a long term commitment to a computer by yourself.

My favorite person I met that way is the girlfriend of Alexander of Macedon and Shaka Zulu. (Little does she know Alex loves me!)

3) Blogs: Forget the performing seals on YouTube! You need to go where no one is cool or makes (much) money from their work. Yeah, I’m talking WordPress! Have you ever read Barack Obama’s writing? It’s stiff. Sorry. He’s not a great writer. He’s an orator. His talent is um conveying…ideas to uh pe*ple…. inspeech uh… in front of… crowds, and… on… television.

That’s why you need to go to blogs. That’s where the heroic meme makers, artists, poets, indie cartoonists, and writers hide behind their words, pictures, and pixels. Just don’t try Medium. I did. Those people want to be influencers. Bloggers know we’re not influencing anyone, and that’s how we like it! πŸ˜‰

I recently made a writing accountability buddy that way. She contacted me through my First Contact page and asked me some writing questions. Before I looked at her page, I wrote back my Writing 101 pre-prepared remarks. Then I went to her site. Oh my goodness! Well, first off, she’s been published. And second off, she’s an awesome writer! Just wickedly funny in a Brit-cum-Yankee, mildly off-balance way that oh here go read her blog!

Now we message each other practically every day. And we make pacts that if we do X amount of words, or post a blog, we get to celebrate with stuff like ice cream, chocolate, Payday bars (So salty! So sweet! So peanutty!). I actively sought out wooder ice, so called “Italian Ice” anywhere that isn’t Philly or South Jersey, and found it! All because of her. And she has great advice for writers too.

4) Oldies, but Goodies: These are the folks that were weird introverts with you when you were younger and having a friend was all the difference in the world. I really am down to essentially one at this point, although there are a few others. I truly wish I were closer to (Max! Go message him. Tell him Jess says he wipes his ass with rubles).

But my far and away favorite old friend is descended from Philadelphia sports royalty. Which meant a lot of time at the Vet and maybe the Spectrum (Rocky fought there). But mainly we talked about books. Especially those about a red-haired girl called “Anne with an ‘e’.” We read all of the Anne of Green Gables books. We cried over Matthew’s death. Sighed over Gilbert Blythe, and cried when the actor from the original Canadian series passed. But “carrots” will never just be a vegetable to we two bosom friends and kindred spirits. And we will crack a slate over your head if you think the new show is better! She’s the sweetest of hearts, and a beautiful soul. My goodness I love her. Just like Anne and Diana!

5) Family: No! Don’t scroll away! It’s OK. But you know how your family is, well, family? But there are a few of you who do the rounds on the family roastings? Those! Be friends with them. Usually they’re your cousins. But aunts and uncles will do. And grandparents! They are your natural ally because you share the same, um, is “enemy” too strong? Their children/your parents.

I had a ton of female cousins growing up. And we used to spend summers together playing in “cricks” (not creeks!), catching crayfish, tubing, learning to Moonwalk, watching 120 Minutes with Robert *sigh* Smith, using their Atari, learning cheers. Not to forget all those secret hand-clapping, rope-jumping, cat’s cradling, and fortune telling mysteries that are surely why boys are scared of girls.

They are generally in the same boat as you. Making the gossip rounds. Which is why none of you tell any of the elder generation anything about any of them, and they don’t tell on you! 🀞🏼

Honorable mentions: Creatives. I recently met a local person who *gasp* I could see any day! They’re prolific and talented, but thankfully very busy, and have their own life. If I run into them at a local coffee shop with good wifi, it’s just a pleasant surprise. Facebook weirdos are usually good, unless they go all toxic on you. The kind you stick with because you like them and they have the dankest of meme stashes. People that live kind of close to you, but are from somewhere else are pleasant as well. They often have outsider insights on offer.

So, that’s how this absolutely, unapologetically weird introvert makes friends at the ripe old age of eh3heejdhejxsnaolrf “I remember the 80s” years old! We’re here! We are happy not to hang out. We need a day of rest between speaking to people or leaving our homes! We can accomplish one thing a day, perhaps! We love our beds! And we’re here to stay.

So, you know, I hear Covid numbers are up again. But I have diarrhea (second best excuse). And my cat’s on fire. So I had better go. Actually I’m regularly positive all these people hate me, but are being nice because they feel bad. But, I can handle that. I’ll just sing to my cat, and talk it out with my dog. I have like twenty books to read, shows to watch, movies to see. And I need to order groceries so I don’t have to be in the supermarket with you know…pe*ple!

PS – Stan and I consider adventure as fishing or crabbing with our dog and not speaking except about the momentary needs of the fishing or crabbing. True romance is peeing on a jellyfish owie.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ€“

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Duck, Cover, Write. Happy Harassment-versary to Me!

Frankie & Lizzy were lovers. Lordy how they did love.

My dog and I were chased around by a gang of ducks today. It was like we picked up a horde of zombies. First it was one mommy duck, with extra mouths to feed in tow, then another, soon they were trailing us around the marina. Eventually, there was a flotilla of duckers in formation honing in on us. That’s when we made our escape.

It was as if they all were telling me something important with one quack. It was probably “bread!” But I remembered: it had been a year since the neighbors’ rottweiler ate one of my ducks. That event that began months of harassment at the hands of my community.

I’m not going to rehash all of that craziness here, a quick look back at my posts since then reveals most of the facts. But it I need a story to start telling myself so I can make sense of it. And, as it so happens, I was looking for a story to tell! Because I hate myself, I always want to write. It can be painful. But hey, writers write, right? Right!

A lot of planning and writing about writing happens when I start a project. I have a system I use, which could probably use some tweaks. The most important part is glueing your glutes to a chair. Because scrubbing baseboards suddenly seems like a necessity when I sit down to write.

I’ve been working with screenwriting a lot. So, let’s do it that way. Ugh. OK.

This is what this process looks like, but like with writing stuff.

First, genre. True Life/Psychological Drama

Now a few words on the theme: Let’s make it something about resilience. Yes! Perfect. Resilience. Resilience in the face of [awful thing].

Now we do a two sentence or so synopsis. This is the basic formula. Protagonist has thing/wants thing, Antagonist does action that gets in way of Protagonist and their thing. Circumstances get worse as stuff happens, and choices are made. But, with the help of x,y and z, Protagonist somehow manages to find/get thing but not necessarily how they imagined it.

Oh jeez, so now let’s apply that to me. Jessica, a troubled writer, finds peace in an old farmhouse with her Fiance, until her neighbors target her for harassment during the modern US Culture War. Being run out of town, she must move and hide fast, and draw upon all her reserves of strength to find a way out, a new home, and maybe a way to tell her story.

There, that’s a start. And I am exhausted! But you got to see a bit of how I write. And its tough for me sometimes. I won’t lie. But it is a discipline that requires working into a habit. But for so long my life was out of control, unruly, and lacking in any expectation of normalcy on a given day. I need habits. I need as much stability and order as possible.

So, all of this should be good for me as I recover and heal from The Year of The Dead Duck. Hey! Working title! You can do it Jess! You got this! Let’s go do this! BEATS CHEST.

So, I guess step one is less scrubbing, more staring at blinking cursor of doom or half a page of scribbled lines.

But, honestly? The thing that makes me feel great about this story is that it ends with “and then she wrote a book about it.” That seems like the best ending to that entire year that definitely was a something.

I’ll describe it better in the book. πŸ˜‰ Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me this far. And to all my zombie horde duck friends, and Frankie, Lizzy and Mary.

-JLπŸ€žπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ¦†πŸ¦†πŸ¦†

A roving gang of ducks where I walk my dog.

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I’m Not Perfect and So Can You!

Jack Lemmon comes clean.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon! Marilyn Monroe! Jazz! Gangsters! Billy Wilder directing! Cross dressing!? Oh yes, Some Like it Hot, 1959, has it all. Plus a heavy dose of humanity to spare. Lemmon and Curtis play jazz musicians who witness a mob hit, disguise themselves as women, and join a travelling girls only band. Only, Tony Curtis immediately falls for the band’s singer, Monroe. He sets Lemmon up with older millionaire Osgood, at a Florida resort, so he can sneak Monroe on board Osgood’s yacht. Only, Lemmon suddenly likes all the attention Osgood lavishes on him. Curtis falls in love with Monroe, and they all gotta get out of town when the mafia comes for a convention, and their cover is blown.

As Curtis, Monroe, Lemmon all pile into Osgood’s boat to escape to his yacht, the truth comes out. Curtis admits he’s just another lousy musician, and Monroe loves him anyway. While Osgood presses Lemmon for marriage. Exasperated, Lemmon eventually pulls off his wig, declaring, “I’m a man!” To which Osgood smilingly replies, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Through all the wacky, frenetic energy of the film, runs a deep vein of humanity. Nobody’s perfect.

I always say we all get at least one vice or major flaw. And if none are apparent, that’s the person with the thumb collection in their crawl space (definitely not thinking of Mike Pence, but Mike Pence!). Those are the dangerous types.

I’m here to announce I’m a nobody who is not perfect. My vice? Vanity. Shoes down in the heels? Emergency! Hair looking scrubby? Pull out the clippers! And yes I DO need a new eye shadow pallette! I’m getting exercise because it makes me feel good (I want to lose weight). Walking and hiking and swimming are great (I hate work out reps). Yoga is its own reward (it rarely makes me sweat).

I can motivate myself to do just about anything out of vanity. Even turn 29 for a decade straight. But let’s look at this “fault” from the other side, shall we?

You silly!

There is a certain part of me that is concerned for how I present myself to others. Which isn’t a bad impulse left alone. How many of the above behaviors just keep up my self-esteem, aside from the actual benefits?

But it’s more than that. This is an urge rooted deep inside me. So, aside from shoes, hair and skin, vanity, my sense of self worth and esteem, force me to reckon with my shortcomings all the time. Writers write. Get writing, Jess! Good people follow the Golden Rule, so hop to it, me! You ingrate! Luke Skywalker cared. Well, I care.

He saved the frickin Galaxy!

Luckily, I’m also lazy! Because I’d probably overdo the vanity thing. I love to have fun. Laugh. Smile. Eat. Drink. Be merry. But even that gets tiring sometimes, and I need to become a hermit for awhile.

When you know yourself, you know your faults and failings. But I am going to suggest that someone super smart, maybe Jung, possibly a Greek? OK. Let’s just say it’s me suggesting that learning to embrace our human failings is the only way to be a better writer, friend, jazz musician, and human being. Because our “faults” are simply our qualities gone wild.

Curtis and Lemmon as “Josephine” and “Daphne,” gone wild.

So when you can identify your faults, which most folks are really good at, you can also zone in on your strengths. Something that’s truly challenging to most people. And if someone denies they have faults, just stand well back and protect your thumbs!

Hey, I’m just a Jersey girl. I vacationed in Wildwood, “Down the Shore.” I went to crummy schools. I had one nightmare of a marriage, and done dumb, hurtful things. But somehow I’ve achieved some things I’m truly proud of during my time here. Leaning into that mixture of confused, flawed humanity, yet desire to be better and do better makes me who I am. And I’m OK with me. Nobody’s perfect.😁

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ˜‡πŸ˜ˆπŸ˜‡

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