Meeting Stephen Cannell

So this past weekend, instead of working I got to volunteer at Literary Orange, Orange County's premier author festival. It really was quite amazing, despite having any hopes of my ever being published absolutely crushed as I sat in on the "How To Get Published" panel discussion. I got to hear Janet Fitch (of White Oleander and Oprah fame) speak about rejections and writing and life in general, and eat some pretty fabulous food (white chocolate fondue with fresh berries + brownies = yum).

The highlight for me though was getting to meet Stephen Cannell, mystery writer, TV god, and creator of the "A-Team." For my brother and I, as quintessential children of the 80s, many a childhood hour was wasted watching BA, Hannibal, Faceman, and "Howling Mad" Murdoch, as well as other Cannell creations: Greatest American Hero, 21 Jump Street, Baa Baa Black Sheep. So as I'm watching Stephen talk about dyslexia and his fiction writing process (very similar to the way he would plot out his TV shows, he says), I text my brother, "at a talk w/ stephen cannell, creator of the ateam!!!!" He texts back, "get autograph pls!"

Now, at an author event the only courteous way you're going to get an autograph is to buy a book, which is of course the only reason authors even mingle with the masses at these things. I buy a paperback, as I've already plunked down $30 for Janet Fitch's Paint It Black and another earlier in the day. I write my brother's name on a little sticky note, affix it to the title page, and get in line. When I get to the front of the line, there's Stephen with his mirrored sunglasses (oh so Hollywood of him, since we are indoors) and his salt-and-pepper pompadour. I gush, quite embarrassingly, "My brother and I were HUGE A-Team fans!" Yeah, like he's never heard that before. Stephen says thanks, signs my book, and sends me on my way.

As I'm walking away, I take a moment to stop and read that title page. There in black ink it says, "To D-- I love it when a plan comes together. Stephen Cannell." Woo hoo! I honestly can't help but smile, as an image of my brother and I, laying on our stomachs on a heathered brown shag rug, eating Stouffer's frozen lasagna, and staring at that damn television, comes flooding back. Thanks for the memories, Stephen!


Diary of a paintball widow, part 1

Yes, I admit it. I mourn the loss of my dear husband every Sunday. One day a week, my husband leaves me to run around, shoot paint from a CO2-powered "marker", and slide around in mud with other boys (and some girls). He comes home at the end of the day smelling of sweat and sun and that mysterious paintball paint smell that's a cross between cow dung and crotch, so spotted with bruises he looks like he's half cheetah, yet invigorated from his adrenaline fix.

This past Sunday, I spent the latter half of the day at Huntington Beach -- not to frolic in the waves or sunbathe, but to watch him play amateur tournament paintball in the world's biggest paintball competition, the first event of the National Paintball Players League's (NPPL) Super 7 World Series of Paintball. A team member of his even got quoted in the OC Register. If you've never been to a paintball tournament before, it's definitely an odd sight to see -- a jumbled maze of three-story-high nets, vendor tents, and grandstands, music blaring, a million guys (fat, skinny, young, old, you name it) in motocross-like gear, and even the occasional paintball hootchie (just like at a car show!).

I did what I suppose all good paintball wives do: I hung out backstage in the player paddocks, watched from the sidelines (well, at least tried.... I have no idea what the hell I'm seeing 90% of the time), cheered his wins, gave him his space to lick his wounds after his losses, chatted with the other paintball wives about babies and fertility. I'm supportive, I have no desire to play the sport myself despite his urging, and I respect that this is his time to be athletic, be part of a team, and indulge in some quality testosterone time.

But, I would be lying if I said I didn't miss him those Sundays. As a working mom who works weekends and nights, family time is limited. For the first few years of his paintball "career", after I realized that this was more than just a passing fancy, as recreational play evolved into full-on team tournament play complete with names and nicknames on custom-made jerseys, we had a bit of turmoil. We engaged in more "Who do you love more, me or paintball?" arguments than I care to remember. I even admit that I relished the time he was injured and couldn't play for over half a year because it meant whole Sundays together.

However, it was during his time on the DL, that I also realized how unhappy he was without the camaraderie of his boys and his weekly muddy romp. Like any wife with a sports-obsessed husband, be it golf, or basketball, or other more traditional pastimes, I was jealous of what another paintball wife I talked to this weekend called "the other woman." What I've come to realize is that I need to accept the fact that this is what makes my man happy, and even a little bit healthier. He's a handsome, faithful, loving, attentive, and stable husband without a drug, alcohol, or porn addiction -- what more could a girl like me ask for in life? I finally realized (duh!) that instead of sulking and mourning every Sunday, I should be using this time to bond with my toddler, catch up with girlfriends, and shop for shoes without him looking over my shoulder and tormenting me with, "And why do you need another pair of black shoes?"

I suppose I finally have made my peace with my status as paintball widow. Sundays I can now handle with grace. One day a week is just fine. But, if that one day should somehow become two days.... Well, let's just hope, for his sake, that day never comes.