(I’ll share mine if you share yours…)
A little bit ago, I promised to lay bare my guilty pleasure during COVID: my music-filled rabbit holes. So, buckle up and hang on. Here we go!
While writing the Careful-ish sequel, Daughter Of Careful-ish, I was doing “research.” (See also: productive procrastinating.) That process served up a musical genre I never saw coming: Arab heavy metal. I know, right? Who even knew it existed?
Well, the answer to that rhetorical question is: an enthusiastic member of the Careful-ish group on Facebook. Within minutes of sharing what I was listening to, she came back with recommendations for two more foreign metal bands, one from the Netherlands and the other from Israel. Wow. So that’s what I’ve been listening to for the last two days.
Back at the beginning of lockdown, I was bingeing on Christina Aguilera. My psyche was way down in an emotional rabbit hole back then. Between the pandemic, politics and my mother passing, I needed something reflective of what I was feeling.
Christina’s voice and style is so potent and passionate, she was the right tool for the job. But then, the result was I couldn’t sleep. I’d be lying in bed with the lyrics from “You Lost Me” playing in my head on an endless loop.
So, goodbye Christina. Hello, Kelly. YouTube suggested Kelly Clarkson, and who am I to argue with the algorithm?
Back in the day in Hollywood, I used to work out with celebrity trainer Bob Harper. (No, I was not a celebrity. And neither was he. Yet. The Biggest Loser was still a few years off.)
Not long after Kelly Clarkson won Idol, Bob played her hit, “Miss Independent” in one of his workouts. You could tell that others in the workout group weren’t sure if that was cool or not. Yes, she was a TV talent show winner. But was she a real artist?
The answer Bob and I came up with was a resounding, YES. Total artist. Totally cool. So, I went down Kelly Clarkson lane all the way into the trees at the end. That included listening to unknown artists attempting Kelly’s hits. (There’s talent in them there hills.)
After deep-bingeing on Kelly, I turned to my personal tried and true genre: Broadway musicals. How did I not start there? I grew up in a house where Broadway was always on the record player.
Remember my parents? (If you’ve read Careful-ish, you’ve met them.) Every year or so, when I was a kid, they would head up to New York for a weekend. They’d go see three musicals, and come back with at least a couple of new albums smelling of fresh-pressed, music-rich vinyl. So Broadway is in my blood.
After Kelly, I started bingeing Stephen Sondheim. The song “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company is what lead to the scene in Careful-ish where The Joy is pouring Vodka Stingers for herself and Kimi. Really, how do you not love a song with its own cocktail?
Sondheim segued into the Ken Burns documentary, Country Music. The rabbit hole was quickly packed full of all Dolly Parton all the time. That included her work with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Dolly is a musical genius, period. The songs she wrote in 2019 are as good and as relevant as what she wrote back in the 1960s.
After Dolly came another left turn down another deep rabbit hole. One day, my phone rang. The caller ID showed up as “Bacharach.” I have no idea why, and neither did the caller. But he and I started talking about Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick. So, so fantastic.
I not only started bingeing the music, but any and all documentaries I could find about them. (Yes, if you’re wondering, that’s why the banner art for my blog page includes a screenshot of a YouTube video about Burt Bacharach music.)
Right now, while writing the sequel, I started listening to Japanese rock (thank you Benji). And then came the Arab heavy metal.
But now, going down the rabbit hole of writing this post, Christina has popped in again. Circle of life. Are all rabbit holes are interconnected?
During all the time spent in lockdown, you must’ve started listening to something that you didn’t see coming. What is it?
Lockdown means we’re all spending a lot more time alone. Unless, of course, you’re quarantining with a house full of kids. But still, there’s more than ample time to do things you might not otherwise do if someone was watching.
So, let’s get embarrassed together.
The characters in Careful-ish make all manner of “self-grooming” choices that they normally wouldn’t. From the ever-popular “digit in the nostril” to digging out dollops of ear wax to be disposed of later, the rules get lax. But what about me? What have I done when I thought no one was looking? Hmm...
It’s almost hard to think of something. It all seems so normal now.
Got it. I spent most of the summer in the same two pairs of shorts. I own two pairs of denim shorts. One is a traditional blue denim, the other is a light-blue, almost white denim. It got to the point where the blue shorts were for every day. The white ones were for fancy. Like, sitting in a neighbor’s back yard.
I’m here to say, those shorts are now really soft.
And how often was I washing them? I don’t think either pair saw the laundry before they’d been out visiting at least four times. Color me proud.
In a similar vein, it has become normal to sleep in a shirt I’ve been wearing during the day. Hey, it’s already on. And will I wear it the next day? Maybe. Well, OK. I do. The surprising thing is that Mr. Parker never mentions it. So, my next question is, did lockdown make him not notice or not care? Or is he doing the same thing? I haven’t noticed.
All this said, I do maintain some degree of dignity. I never take a phone call without wearing a bra. That’s a rule. It’s been a hard and fast policy since I began working from home over a dozen years ago. (Remember those cheery, pre-virus days?) Having the ladies locked and loaded just makes me feel in charge. But maybe, just maybe, my summer-shorts habit also made me feel in charge. It was neither fashionable nor polite, and maybe not even clean. But damn it, it was my choice to make and I made it. And in a time when our choices have become limited, that brings a kind of empowerment.
How about you? What have you done during lockdown that you would normally turn up your nose at? Or at least laughed at?
Cheers to all of our quirky behavior.
The password is: YES. Not only is it okay to laugh right now, it’s imperative.
So many of us have been through so much. We have friends in the food service industry who have been though the mill. Will their businesses survive? And if they do, will they still be viable? A good friend who’s a doctor on the front lines shared some of the hardships she's seen. Crazy. Then, there are those of us who’ve lost a parent during COVID. So damn hard.
How do we get through today and on to tomorrow? In our house, we laugh. Mr. Parker and I laugh every day. And not that demonic laugh you hear from the evil scientist in a horror film. Real, “That was damn funny” laughing.
Back in late April, my book-club friends in LA were meeting on a Zoom call and I sat in. My mother had recently passed. Lockdown made it impossible to have a funeral, or for me to be with my father. So, getting on a call with these fantastic women and laughing (yes, cocktails were involved) made me feel like myself again. My favorite part of myself, in fact. We all laughed so hard we cried. It was cleansing and positive and a gift. Let me be clear, I had no delusions that everything in my life would now be fixed. But it gave me the energy to press on.
Since then, each moment of laughter has helped me cope. That, and writing Careful-ish. Writing this book was like having an internal gyroscope that kept me upright. And once the characters started to develop and write jokes for themselves, I was even more energized.
So, I say yes. Laughter is a must. Even on my darkest days, laughing has helped me. I hope it helps you too. (It’s free, ya know.)
As of this writing, I've received the first pass of the novel from my editor. A pdf of the book has been sent to the three exceptionally talented people who've agreed to read it. The cover is designed. The swag is on its way.
Because the story revolves around life during COVID, a friend who happens to be in publishing said it was a great idea, and to get it out this fall--a feat of turnaround a traditional publisher could never do. So, from Jump Street, it's been pedal to the metal. As if I needed another business, I'm now in self-publishing purgatory.
I'm okay with that from a writing point of view. I prefer to work fast. It helps me keep an eye on the project at large. But I'm also learning a new business, and that is not nearly as fun to take on at a flash-forward pace. Yet, maybe not knowing what I don't know is a good thing. There's very little time to second guess myself.
Back to the writing part. For some creative people, getting things done during lock-down has been a challenge. I get it. For me, writing this book was a way to feel like I was in control of my life. At least part of it.
Those of you who know me know that my mother passed in early April, and I haven't seen my father since. So naturally, I wrote a comedy, right? But here's the thing: my family has always used humor to get by and to get through. Even in my mother's last days, we laughed. I speak to my father every day, and while some days are harder than others, we almost always laugh. I treasure that.
If you choose to read the book, you'll get to meet my parents. How could I not weave them in? They're damn funny. Particularly when they're not trying to be. I believe that's true of most of us.
Finger crossed, the book should be available on Amazon sometime October 13th. We shall see. These days, life is rarely what we plan.
Hope your endeavors are fulfilling,
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.