Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How to win friends and influence people.

According to my mother, who would know such things, I started talking when I was nine months old. I’ll save you the math; this means I have been talking for a very, very long time. If you do something for a very long time, aren’t you supposed to get good at it? At least once a week, I end up making such an ass out of myself conversationally that the only thing I can hope is that the listener, upon leaving my side and shaking their head in dismay at my total lack of conversational graces tripped and fell, doing no great harm but causing them to forget the previous three minutes of their life. If this were so, I promise I wouldn’t ask for anything for my birthday or Christmas.

About two weeks ago, Daughter and I went to cheer on friends who were competing in gymnastics. One of the girls competing at an advanced level caught my attention by being very good and considerably younger than the other girls. Upon closer scrutiny, I realized she wasn’t as young as I thought she was, but was a dwarf. Whatever challenges this put in her way, she was an exceptional athlete, strong and airborne and cleanly defined in all of her movements. All of us watching applauded a little louder as she did the ending salute to the judges.

Last week, I took Daughter to her art class and as I was walking out, I saw a mother standing outside, watching her younger daughter play. We had talked before, but we had never discussed the fact that she is a dwarf, as is one of her children, at least partially because I suspect she already knows. For reasons known only to the god of chaos who rules my brain, I felt compelled to walk over and tell her about the gymnast I had seen compete. About two sentences in to my sports analysis, something which I like to think is the teeny, weeny, socially-adroit quadrant of my brain spoke up.

“Quinn,” it said calmly, “just because she is a dwarf doesn’t mean she has any interest in other people who are dwarves. That’s like assuming you would want to hear about other people with mostly-green eyes. Or, perhaps more accurately, people who start stupid and slightly offensive conversations. And, by the way, I think calling them a dwarf is rude.”

The other 99.98% of my brain screamed in terror, “Augh! You’re right! Then what is the less-offensive term?”

The other part sneered, “I’m sure I have no idea. I think how one handles it is not to bring it up at all. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to try to burrow my way out of your head through your ear and live in a less-humiliating brain.”

The mother had patiently waited through my blatherings, and then we reached silence. Anyone with sense would have slithered away, claiming a colonoscopy appointment. But not me, because I cannot leave a conversation when the last words made me look like an idiot; I have to cleanse the palate of the listener with something banal. Luckily, I had the dog with me, who was being petted by her daughter.

“Oh, there you are!” I bent down and said to the dog, as if he had not been leashed to me, but off on a bicycling tour of the Pyrenees. He thumped his tail, and then looked over my shoulder and barked fiercely, a sound I have only heard once before. I turned and saw a woman standing in the middle of the sidewalk, mumbling to herself. Turning back, I comforted the dog and said to the other woman, “She must be mentally ill. He gets upset by the mentally ill.” He barked again, and I turned to see her walking towards us, no longer talking to herself but dragging one leg behind her. I said cheerily, “Or she’s just disabled. We haven’t had him that long; maybe he finds the disabled upsetting as well.”

We all bathed in the uncomfortable silence, broken only by the sound of her foot sliding along the ground, her soft mumbling and the dog growling threateningly. The woman with whom I was speaking glanced around for someone else to break up this folie a deux.

My socially-adroit brain cells, all six of them, sighed and said, “That was your dignity-saving move? Can’t we just leave and hide under the hedge until the class ends?”

My brain, eager to save the day, swung into action and before I could throw myself on the lawn and hope to muffle the sound, I blurted out, “It could be worse, I guess. I had a dog I adopted when he was already an adult and he was always aggressive towards African-Americans. At least there are fewer mentally-ill or disabled people than African-American people.”

We stared at one another in horror. My brain shouted “Wait! I can make her forget all about this! Let’s tell her about the time you accidentally walked into that store which sold accessories for men who liked to dress as babies and be diapered! Tell her about the size 50 ruffled rubber diaper covers! Tell her they were bigger than she was!”

I glanced over into the parking lot and spied a person. Waving frantically, I shouted “Yes, here I am! I’ll be right there!” The gardener, removing his leaf-blower from his truck, waved at me tentatively. I turned and said “I am so sorry, I have got to go.” Both of these were the truth, as I am sure was her response of “Oh, it’s okay. Really. Don’t rush back.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Training Day.

(Do what you will with this information, but if you don't read the blog right before this one, this blog will make very little sense.)

We arrived on the first day and I was heartened to see that the other dogs weren’t reading Isabel Allende’s latest novel or in any way indicating their insane superiority to my furry beast. In fact, all the dogs seemed a little over-excited and not a single owner was demonstrating control over their dog. There were ten dogs in the class and within minutes I had learned all of their names because we had all used them, in the sibilant whispers of a convention of librarians:

“Buster, down!”

“Andrew, quit it.”

“Lavinia, leave that chair alone. You’re not even male...”

The teacher entered and the dogs instantly fell into some canine version of shame. Instinctively, they knew she was a) The teacher and b) British. Without ever having seen Mary Poppins, all dogs understand that certain British women are to be adored, feared and obeyed. In bell-like tones, we were told what would be expected of our dogs during the Canine Good Citizenship Test. She then told us what was expected of us in the upcoming weeks; bribes. Lots and lots of bribes.

I reached into my purse, hoping this was her forthright way of letting us know that a subtly-placed twenty in her palm would make her forget all about looking for a decent loose-leash walk, but I was looking to bribe the wrong life-form. In the beginning, we were told, every single thing the dog would do would be rewarded with dog treats. Later, as they understood what was being demanded of them, we would dial back on the treats and hope that some combination of habit and pack-mentality would keep them from shouting at squirrels. But for now, she said, shaking a drum of what looked like large scabs, we needed to come up and get a big handful of incentive.

Of course, my dog the Dauphin can’t eat the cheap treats, because it makes him itchy. I raced to the car and huzzah! There was a bag of his favorite dog treats in the trunk!

[I’m not that organized. They slipped out of the bag when I last went to the pet store. They had been drifting aimlessly in there for weeks. But every time I would remember to grab them, I would open the trunk and they would be hiding behind something and I would think “Oh, I must have taken them in.” Days later, I would open the trunk someplace far from home and there would be the bag of treats, smirking at me.]

[And it did occur to me that if I had put them in the passenger seat, I might have remembered to take them in. But it only occurred to me about ninety seconds ago. And if I had thought of it then, I wouldn’t have had them when I needed them, and he would have eaten cheap treats, and then he would have scratched, and then I wouldn’t have slept, so I think we’re all pretty happy I’m as vague as I am.]

I brought the bag back in, ripping it open as I entered the training room. As I have mentioned before, my nose isn’t the model of utility, but I’m guessing from the canine heads snapping around and gazing at the bag and the Schnauzer who tried to become a dangling earring for me that they smelled pretty powerful. I looked down at the bag and found I had brought in dried salmon strips. I looked down at my dog; he was on his hind legs, his eyes locked on mine, his front paws in something unnervingly close to prayer. It seemed if I was looking for a motivational tool, I had a hit.

The process of teaching “Heel” was fairly simple. Get the dog into the position you want, sing out “Heel!” and take off at a slightly slower than usual clip. Right in front of their nose, you have a handful of treats, which keeps them exactly where you want them. If they move out of position, the lovely food bits go away until you place the dog back into position and head off again. You walk with them for no more than a minute or two at a time to start. I placed two strips in my hand, assuming that would hold us for the duration. Thirty-eight seconds later, having inhaled the fishy splendor, my dog lunged off to finally settle some long-running feud with an Afghan he had never met before. On the next walk, I tried four strips, which lasted thirty-four seconds; he might not be learning “Heel” but he was certainly learning “Bolt your food”.

At this rate, he was going to go through two insanely-expensive bag of treats each class, which would be financially taxing. Besides, that much rich fish in a night was going to lead to Quinn finding out if dogs can safely take Pepto-Bismol. Covertly, I started shredding the salmon down into small bits. Another walk, another inhalation; I shredded into even smaller bits. By the fifth attempt at heel, he was starting to get the idea and I had discovered I could, using only two halfway-manicured thumbnails, break down dried fish to the atomic level. The dog didn’t care, as long as the stink kept coming.

However, I began to notice something. Fish strips can be taken neatly and politely by even the most enthusiastic dog. Fish particles can only be eaten by sticking your tongue into the palm and licking out all those delectable morsels. My hands were now covered in a bumpy paste of dried salmon and dog saliva which dried quickly, leaving a paste not until stucco. Each practice would add a little more to my hand; I now appeared to have been potting plants before class. Although, had I been potting plants, I would have smelled, at worst, pleasingly of the earth. My smell was beginning to count as a distraction to the other dogs.

Finally, we were done. I breathed a sigh of relief; whatever we did next, we still had half a bag of salmony goodness and it couldn’t be any worse than the mitten of salmon I had created. The teacher spoke.

“Now, we’re going to work on meeting a stranger without reacting. Put your dog in a sit, and wait. Our volunteers will come around, ask to pet your dog, pet the dog, and then shake your hand.”

Aghast, I stared down at my hand. A few flakes of salmon fell off on the floor. I tried rubbing my hand on my jeans, but it only seemed to annoy the salmon particules and reawaken the fragrance. Several dogs around me grew distracted. Grimly, I put the dog into sit and awaited my Gentleman Caller. He walked up, asked to pet the dog, and then petted the dog. The dog, stupefied on salmon, ignored the man brilliantly. He then went to shake my hand. I put it out while indicating with my eyes that I didn’t actually know this hand, we just carpooled. Upon sight of my hand, he first daintily tried shaking only the fingertips. Having found dried fish there as well, he manfully squared his shoulders and shook my hand. He then asked the teacher for a bathroom break. Four volunteers and four bathroom breaks later, the class mercifully ended. The teacher sent us home with homework. I dashed for the door, eager to drive home with all four windows open and a car-deodorizer hanging from my neck but I heard her final words.

“Remember; keep using food motivation during practice this week. If what you used worked, keep using it.”

Every day for a week, I would grab the salmon-bag from the odor-proof box in which I hid it and, holding it at arms’ length, I would say bleakly, “We meet again”. The dog would prance and the salmon would smirk.

Two weeks have passed. I now bring dried chicken strips, which are slightly less effective motivation but are considerably less pungent. I’m not as popular with the other dogs, but at least the other owners don’t vote to put me next to the open window and the neighborhood colony of feral cats has stopped trying to mug me.

We're all learning.

Friday, April 18, 2008

With Highest Praise.

In the last two weeks I have been described as looking: 1) Tired, 2) Exhausted, 3) Cranky, 4) Weary, 5) Tired again and – worryingly – 6) Better than I had been looking. And these comments are from women who appear to like me and are saying this to my face. The mind reels as to what is being said behind my back. There is no response to someone telling you that you appear to have walked across the San Fernando Valley pulling a cart laden with your worldly goods. No response, that is, unless you’re me. If you are me, you can say glumly, “Could be worse. At least right now I don’t smell like salmon.”

This began, as so many smelly things in life do, in good intentions. Our dog, as I have noted, is relentlessly congenial, with a genuine affection for all living beings and a overwhelming need to be useful. There is a Four Seasons Hotel somewhere that would love to hire him as a concierge, but until he learns how to really work a phone we’ll have to go with his back-up career: therapy dog.

He would be delighted to be taken to a hospital on a regular basis and allowed to visit sick people. There is only one thing standing between him and him lying on a hospital bed making doe-eyes at the post-operative: the Canine Good Citizenship test. For those of you who have never considered such things, the CGC is a test designed by the American Kennel Club to encourage dog-owners to work towards creating dogs that remain relaxed, alert and social in every environment. Upon passing the test, I could contact one of the groups which arrange for dogs to visit hospitals.

Two months ago, I found a website which listed the requirements he (and I) would have to learn:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

Well, no problems there, I thought. A dog which tries to worm his way under my legs to visit the table of firefighters next to me on the restaurant patio probably isn’t too anxious about unknown people. I could tell you about some friends from my single years who would have had the same impulse toward a table packed with firefighters, but I won’t.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting.

Again, cake. We’ll just bring that natural enthusiasm and yearning to do everyone’s hair down a notch and we’ll be golden.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming.

He’s being judged on whether he’s attractive? Is this a part of the test specific to Los Angeles? Upon further reading, I discover it only means the dog should be somewhere near normal weight, clean and alert. Oddly enough, these have become my standards for myself as well.

Test 4: Out for a walk (Loose lead). This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog's position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler's movements and changes of direction.

Oh, there it is. I knew this was going too easily. Marvelous dog. Simply wonderful beast. Couldn’t ask for a better companion. But leash manners? Not in any traditional definition. In fact, his behavior on a leash is more like someone who, upon having tossed the grenade, is racing frantically to get behind something solid before it goes off. A dog whose pulling can re-inflame my old rotator-cuff injury cannot be said to be under my control.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd.

Unless any of them are wearing suits made of ham, fine.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and staying in place.

Easy, unless the ham-suit guy walks by and makes a display of himself.

Test 7: Coming when called.

Please. I’m his BFF. Try to make him not come to me when I call him. I could even call him bad words and as long as I said it while waggling my hands, he’d come flying. I've never said it’s a healthy relationship.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog.

That should be easy. You want a reaction? Oh, sister, my dog will give you all the reactions you...

...This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Oh. That kind of reaction; the “lack-of-a-reaction” reaction. Well isn’t that a barking and whining dog of a different color. So far, my most pressing question had been whether it was more embarrassing when he would trash-talk the Doberman who was twice his size and could use him as a loofah or when he’d get all butch with a Maltese, causing the smaller dog to urinate in fear. It was possible we had some work to do in this area.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction.
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.

As luck would have it, if you live in our house, you have some sense of what your dog does when a chair is dropped, or a child does a handspring across the couch and lands right in front of the dog’s nose, or a cat darts across the house for the express purpose of slapping said dog. To be a dog and live in our house is to quickly lose your fear of the new and the loud, but gain a fear of mammals with retractable claws.

Test 10: Supervised separation.

The dog was going to be held by a stranger while I left the room for three minutes. He could move around a bit, but was not allowed to moan or whine or start plucking out his eyebrows or in any way indicate he lacked faith in my ability to come back. A dog that is happiest inhaling the air I exhale had to watch me leave a room and find his inner Zen master.

I read further. To get the Canine Good Citizen certificate, he had to pass all ten tests. In any other world, even in this age of grade inflation, 90% would have been a perfectly acceptable score. In this class, it meant failure. The training would be rigorous, and both the dog and I are lazy. On the other hand, even if he did fail, he'd still be a better-mannered dog than he had been before. And I'm all about my offspring, biped and quadriped, being a fine example of the breed.

I signed up for class.

(Next; we go to class. And the salmon I mentioned before finally arrives.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shouting Across the Divide.

Daughter’s dance studio has an adjacent parking lot. For several hours a day, this lot is an embarrassment of riches, space-wise. If one wasn’t raised right, one might even park across a few parking places. I am never there during these glorious, spacious hours. I am there when the children’s dance classes actually occur, when you’d no sooner find a parking space with your name on it than a square-cut diamond with your name on it.

For five minutes at the top of every hour there is a frantic movement of women hustling their leotarded girls out of classes and into cars, using their stained Starbucks napkins as semaphore flags to indicate that they will be more than happy to surrender their parking space as soon as they find their sunglasses, adjust their seat belt and pop in a DVD for the kids. Otherwise, we all drive up to the front door, eject a child, and wander off into the neighborhood to trawl for a parking space. Sometimes after fifty futile minutes spent driving around the block we just drive back to the front entrance and pick the kid up. I don’t understand why more mothers aren't diagnosed with vehicular bedsores.

I was in the line to drop Daughter off. I glanced in the mirror. Her hand was sneaking up towards her bun.

“Don’t interfere with your hair, honey.”

The hand slid back down again.

“Now,” I said, sliding deftly into a drop-off spot only four centimeters longer than a chinchilla, “do you have your dance bag?”

“Yes,” she said firmly.

“And everything is in it?”


“You sure?”


“All right. All right. I’ll meet you inside, unless...“

But she had already flung herself from the car, found a friend and was heading up the steps chatting about something. I opened the passenger window. Her dance bag looked suspiciously flat and her fingers had inserted themselves into her bun and removed at least two hairpins.


She was long gone through the door, giving no indication of hearing anything I'd said.

A mere twenty minutes later I was the proud possessor of a parking space. I turned to grab my purse from the back seat and saw her ballet shoes, her tap dance shoes, her ballet skirt, one leg-warmer, her water bottle and snack. This answered the question of why the bag looked so empty but raised the more puzzling question: since nearly everything she needed was here, what was in the bag?

[As it turned out, a single leg warmer, a Nancy Drew mystery, and the dog’s chew toy.]

As I walked up to school, another car pulled up and expelled two children who raced inside. The mother opened the window and hollered, “MAKE SURE YOUR SISTER GETS INTO CLASS. YOU HAVE TO SIGN HER IN. YOU HEAR ME…?” Maybe she heard her mother, maybe she didn’t. The girls raced past me and skipped up the stairs two at a time. I watched another mother drive up, and then another. In each case, there was one last urgent thing the mother needed to tell her charges, shouted over the noise of downtown traffic and the haze of pre-adolescence:





I don’t know a single mother who, upon the sight of their child’s back, doesn’t suddenly have one more piece of advice, or chore, or warning. I can’t speak for other parents, but I even do it in the house. If Daughter is heading away from me towards her bedroom I automatically carol “…and make your bed!” I fear that I will watch my daughter walk down the aisle as a radiant bride and the sight of her back will force me to challenge her about the state of her bed. She’s just not going to put me into the nice rest-home after that.

As I walked into the school, my phone rang. I saw that it was Veronica. I snapped it open and said without preamble, “...And wasn’t that dreadful.”

“Yeah,” Veronica sighed, “I’ve been depressed all day.”

That morning, we had joined a friend of ours, Emily, for tea. This was at Emily’s request. She needed support. Veronica and I have known Emily and her family for years. Veronica’s son is good friends with Emily’s younger boy. The older boy is a smart, gorgeous lad with charm to burn and real talents. He also inherited the fuzzy end of the lollipop on a few behavior-related issues, which were diagnosed early. Knowing this, and knowing that the hormonal swirl of adolescence wasn’t going to help matters, Emily spent more time and money than I care to think about to give her first-born child all the emotional and intellectual tools he would need. You’re just going to have to take my word for this. Emily did it all, and it seemed to have worked.

When I last saw the boy he was twelve and he seemed no more or less nutty than any other kid his age. His parents knew who he was, he knew who he was, and he knew when and how to ask for help. There was no way I would have predicted sitting with Emily only two years later and hearing about how drastically and ruinously her son had gone off the rails. The hurt he’s ladling out to his family was etched on Emily’s face. She spent a decade trying to give him the tools to thrive, and right now he’s running away from her as fast as he can, giving no indication that he heard anything she's ever said to him.

Every time we let our children walk away from us, we’re practicing for the time they do it for keeps. And every time we let them go out into the world, even for a short time, some part of our brain thinks “No! Not yet! There’s no way she knows enough. I know for certain I haven’t taught him enough. Did I teach her the eyeball-gouging trick if someone tries to kidnap her? Did I get him to tolerate citrus fruit enough so he won’t die of scurvy? Did I impress upon them how unspeakably fragile I feel when I think about them doing something self-destructive? Does she know how I have never loved anyone on earth the way that I love her? Come back. Come back."

But the thoughts flash by in less than a millisecond and all our brain registers is “Remind him that his book report is in the outer pocket of his backpack.”

I talked to Veronica for another minute but had to sign off. I had arrived at the studio and noticed that Daughter was tap-dancing in her bare feet. I tip-toed into class and handed her all of the objects she'd left in the car. I helped her get into her tap shoes. She whispered, “I can do that myself.” And I whispered back, “I know. Humor me.”

As she stood up and walked back to the line I noted she had redone her hair from the regulation bun into something which resembled a hurricane as interpreted by Doppler radar. I toyed with stage-whispering something about it but decided to let her ballet teacher take this one. I watched my daughter walk away from me, but I said nothing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Let us now praise famous men.

You know what’s nice about catastrophic system failure in your computer? I mean, besides paying the repair guy what you had earmarked for your daughter's wedding? It was all the brooding time I now had. All that time I had been spending on political websites or trying to remember my password for online bill payment or skimming through the J.Crew online catalog could now be spent focusing on the only subject which truly matters: why don’t I know any famous writers?

In my childish innocence of late February I thought I would hand in a manuscript, perhaps a few angels would get their wings, and all would be peace, harmony and promiscuous Nutella abuse until I got my rewrite notes. What I got instead, four days before the manuscript was due, was an email from the marketing department wanting to discuss blurbs, those choice bits of praise written by famous writers that adorn the covers of most books.

From scientific types, I have heard it said that a chicken is nothing more than an egg’s way of making another egg. In this vein, the marketing department of a large publishing house views books as those things writers create on which to place blurbs. The blurb's the thing. Heaven help the writer who doesn’t understand that a successful career will culminate in an obituary which reads: “Famous blurb-getter dies at 98”. I have read blurbs in my life and I am going to assume a favorable word or two from a writer I like has been known to make me pick up a book and flip through a few of its pages, so I read the email in the spirit of someone eager to help in her own modest way, and even more eager to avoid writing her book for a few minutes. Because, after all, how long could this take?

The blurb-questionnaire ran eight pages, single-spaced. Each question was a stomach and ego-shrinking exercise in my finding new ways to say “Uh, no…”

Did I know any famous writers who would like a pre-publishing draft of the book for blurbing?

Uh, no…

Did I know anyone who knew famous writers who would like a pre-publishing draft of the book for blurbing?

Uh, no…

Did I belong to any organizations with name recognition that might have a spokesman who would like a pre-publishing draft of the book for blurbing?


Was I now or had I ever been a member of the Communist Party? If so, would they like a pre-publishing draft of the book for blurbing?

One half of me was toying with just scrawling “NO!” across all the pages in my own blood and the other half of me was dismayed. Wasn’t this supposed to be the marketing department’s job? I mean, they had insurance and desks and when someone from their hometown asked them what they did for a living I’m guessing they said something like “I market books.” So please tell me why I was the point-person on this blurb business?

My agent explained that those people whose names on blurbs actually cause people to pick up the book are a rare breed. They get asked for blurbs daily. I read somewhere that in the world, 3000 books are published every single day. That’s a lot of marketing mavens, sending out pre-publishing drafts. Their attitude is even as tenuous a connection as “Our writer, Quinn Cummings, thinks fondly of the lively conversation she had with your client when they were both waiting for ointment at the pharmacy” might make me stand out from the herd of supplicants. Whatever I could do to help would benefit all of us.

I thrashed. I dithered. I tried to remember the name of that guy at the gym who someone said was a famous writer, then remembered he was famous for writing porn and our audiences rarely overlap, as it were. The marketing people nagged. I had to get this in so they could start doing their jobs which, apparently, had to be done at the same time as I was rewriting -- something about having my blurbers ready if not eager when the manuscript was finally finished. With hours to spare, I banged out my responses. It’s possible I didn’t take the questionnaire in the spirit it was intended. I'll include some of my answers here so you can decide for yourself.

Please list any other books you have written, with publisher, publication date, and type of book.

None. Not a single one. If it helps I have some pithy “To-Do” lists you might like.

Are you a regular contributor to any magazines or newspapers? Has any article/story of yours attracted particular attention?

Newspapers? Magazines? You mean, like someone paid me? Heavens, no.

On a separate sheet, please list any reviewers, columnists or broadcasters that you know to be particularly interested in your work. Check any person that you know personally and please provide addresses where you can.

Not only does this not need a separate sheet, it barely requires an ATM slip. I am a shut-in. None of the above to offer you. My dog groomer has been asking when the book comes out, if that tempts you.

What are your hometown newspapers?

Los Angeles Times. That’s it. We have only one newspaper. That’s okay because no one in Los Angeles actually reads anything but script coverage and InStyle magazine.

Did the book involve any special research?

No. I tried to justify a trip to Italy but a book about how I am a complete idiot didn’t require research at the Villa D'Este. Unless you want a chapter about how happy a complete idiot can be, given enough money.

Principle cities/countries you have lived in (please include dates):

Until I was thirty I never lived further than three miles from the house in which I grew up in Los Angeles. Then three months in San Francisco. And then back to Los Angeles. As you can see, I lack imagination.

Please list any “opinion makers” in your field who should be sent copies of the bound book for word-of-mouth purposes. Please provide addresses where you can.

Well, this is depressing. Not only don’t I know any opinion-makers, I’m not sure I have a field.

I think I’m going to die without a blurb, but at least I entertained myself. Ooh, a blurb!

Quinn Cummings entertains me.- Quinn Cummings