My Fellow Americans

Like many of my fellow Americans, I have a complicated relationship with patriotism.

In college, I minored in history, focusing mainly on early 20th century United States and Latin America. Studying those two surprisingly related topics — well, you don’t come out of it with the greatest view of our nation’s past. It’s a very different perspective than your typical high school course. Our country has a history of doing really shitty things, and an equally prevalent history of glossing over them for future generations.

Because of this (and let’s be honest, probably also because of many, many other reasons), I’ve never been your “rah rah” patriot type. Blind patriotism serves no purpose. Nor does blind cynicism. You study history, it shows one thing clearly: there is a lot of grey. Black and white rarely exist.

If you study past events — if you pay even a sliver of attention to current events — it’s easy to feel like our country has lost it way (if it ever had one to begin with). Jump on in the handbasket, we can all ride to hell together.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to join a group of World War II veterans on an Honor Flight to Washington DC. I’d never been to “the other Washington” before. From what you’d hear on the news, you’d think the city is Gomorrah reincarnated — a hot bed of corruption, the living embodiment of everything wrong with America. Maybe it is. Here is what I saw:

At every memorial we visited, I saw strangers approach a veteran, shake his or her hand, and say, “Thank you.”

I saw a protest in progress directly in front of our nation’s capitol, proceeding unmolested, with no guards or policemen telling them to move along.

I saw smudged handprints on the Declaration of Independence.

At the Vietnam Memorial, I watched a family take paper and pencil and create a stone rubbing of a man named Smith.

Also in front of the White House, I saw a smiling group of people — men, women and children — unfurl a Kurdistan flag and take a family photo.

One thing that’s easy to forget while reading the history books — it’s all made up of people. History if palpable. It’s complicated and evolving. The Americans who came before us did a lot of good — they also did a lot of bad. But if you take a close look at people… I think over the long, slow curve of history, our arc trends towards progress.

United States Post Office.

United States Post Office.

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The White House

The National Archives

The National Archives.

Column on the National Archives.

The National Archives.

DC Metro.

Autumn in Washington DC.

Autumn in Washington DC.

Natinoal World War II Memorial

National World War II Memorial.

World War II Memorial

Ceremony honoring the veterans at the World War II memorial.

My grandfather, World War II veteran.

My grandfather, World War II veteran.

World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial

Washington Monument.

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Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial.

At the Lincoln Memorial, the spot where Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

At the Lincoln Memorial, the spot where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Honor Flight Honor Guard.

The veterans being greeted by an honor guard on their return home.

30/30 Check-In

Here we are, day 15 of my 30/30 Writing Challenge — writing for 30 minutes a day for 30 days to raise money for Seattle’s Hugo House. I’m proud to report that so far I haven’t missed a single day, even though some days were like pulling teeth. A brief check-in, then, on lessons learned from the challenge thus far.

(Oh, and a reminder — the whole “point” of this, aside from creating good writing habits, is to raise money for the awesome Hugo House. If you’re so inclined, you can donate here.)

Lesson #1: It is much, much easier than it sounds like to get in 30 minutes of writing a day. I admit to being a little bit daunted by the number, especially considering how my writing schedule had been going recently. But once you commit to it… you guys, there are 30-minute chunks everywhere. In the morning before work, on your lunch break, while dinner’s cooking. I knew it before, but this has just highlighted the fact — the time is there, if you prioritize. (And here’s the usual caveat how I don’t have kids, I’m sure it’s harder with kids, but you know — same general theory still applies.)

Lesson #2: Earlier is better. Again, this is something I already knew (are you seeing a theme here?). Last year, while finishing the first draft of my book, I got up early every morning to get the time in. Now, I find myself returning to that schedule. There have been two days where I skipped the morning, thinking “Oh, I’ll have time to write later.” Both times, it bit me in the ass. Days have a way of spiraling out of control. The earlier you can check off the writing, the better. Plus, then you have the benefit of already having accomplished something with your day, before it’s even really started. (I find this true with running, too.) I love being able to head into work and think, “No matter what else happens today, I already accomplished this.”

Lesson #3: Getting up early sucks. Look, it just does. Maybe not for some people, but every time that damn alarm clock goes off, I want to smash it over the head and go back to sleep. Instead, I turn it off and roll my sorry butt out of bed. (Related tangent: my dad hated his childhood alarm clock so much that he saved it and, as an adult, used it for target practice. Early-morning dislike, it runs in the family.)

Lesson #4: If you work consistently, you get shit done. 30 minutes a day adds up. Prior to this, I had edited 3 chapters of my book. Now I’m up to 7. It took me 15 days to make that leap. Admittedly, the editing is getting easier the further I go (ooph, the beginning of the book was rough, you guys). But this rapid accumulation is an obvious result of sitting down and working.

Lesson #5: It’s about priorities. Lauren at I’m Better in Real Life wrote a great blog post about writing seasons. It’s a reality of life that, over time, priorities shift. You expend more energy in one facet of your life than another. I’m prioritize my writing right now — which means, yes, some other things may drop off a little bit — and that’s ok.

At this point, I’m thinking I may continue the 30 minutes a day, even after the 30/30 Challenge is done. Which, I mean — we’ll see. It’s still early days. I’m halfway there. But really, there’s no downside. Whatever you do, whether it’s writing or coding or creating whatever, consistent work habits are key.

New Coat of Paint, Part 2

Six months ago, I announced that I had finally, finally found the living room paint color: Benjamin Moore Light Breeze. It took me months to find a color I was happy with (along with a zillion paint swatches applied haphazardly to walls), but I landed and started painting. I wasn’t entirely sure about the color at first, but it quickly grew on me. After a few weeks, I was in love.

So why, you may ask, has it taken me six months to finish?

Partly laziness. I’ve been painting the living room / dining room one wall at a time, section by section. Yes, I could have devoted an entire weekend to it and just finished the job, but it seemed somehow easier to steal 2 hours here, 3 hours there, and just go wall by wall.

The larger reason? I didn’t feel ready to commit. What if I made the wrong choice? What if this color — which looked so great in the dining room — looked terrible in the hallway? In the living room? Would it look boring to have the entire living area one color? Would it turn the house into one big room? Was the color cool enough, chic enough, to commit to having it on ALL the walls? WHAT WOULD PINTEREST THINK?

I thought I landed on a solution — the dining room and hallway would be Light Breeze, while the living room walls would be white. It’d break up the space, create some separation. Still, I hesitated.

And then I was browsing Benjamin Moore colors online, and saw a combo that made me pause. It made me “ooh” and “aah”. I asked Byron, and he said, “Sure, go for it.” But I still wasn’t convinced. Had I seen other blogs do something similar? Was this an “ok” thing to do? Would I regret the end result, immediately hate it and realize I could have done better?

Finally one morning, I realized: it’s paint. Just paint. The worst thing that could happen was I wouldn’t like the color, and I’d have to paint over it. That was literally the absolute worst thing that could happen in this scenario.

Isn’t it funny, these small dilemmas that we build up to be so big in our heads?

So this weekend, I finally finished painting.

Benjamin Moore Day's End and Benjamin Moore Light Breeze.

Most of the living room I finished up in Light Breeze — the back wall I painted Benjamin Moore Day’s End. A deep charcoal with blue undertones. It satisfies my original desire for bold color, plays beautifully with the yellow in Light Breeze, and makes the living room feel like a cozy cave. My own little retreat.

Am I in love with it? I’m not sure yet. But it’s done — a decision was made. I went with my gut and forgot all the rest. And at the end of the day, that’s sometimes just what you need.

 

 

The 30/30 Writing Challenge

So, here’s roughly how this went down.

Last week, a group of coworkers and I journeyed up Capitol Hill to attend the Cheap Bear & Prose night at Hugo House. Hugo House, in their own words, “is for writers.” Seattle is a bookish city, and nonprofit Hugo House is one of its most awesome literary enclaves. Named after local poet Richard Hugo, they provide classes, workshops, free events… essentially a hub and supporter for a zillion and two literary happenings. I only recently started attending their events myself, and was so pleasantly surprised by the amazing environment I found there.

Cheap Bear & Prose night was a ton of fun — good people, good writing. I left the evening feeling excited about the great work I’d just heard… and also disappointed. Disappointed in myself for not taking my writing more seriously, for not pushing myself harder, for not being active in the larger literary community. I resolved to remedy that last bit by attending more events and classes at places like Hugo House.

The next morning, I hopped on Hugo House’s website to check out their class listings. And right there on their homepage was the 30/30 Writing Challenge — a fundraising challenge. The idea is this: people write for 30 minutes each and every day for 30 days and raise money for Hugo House. Simple enough. The next challenge was starting October 1.

“That’s a cool idea,” I thought, and moved on with my day.

I went on with my week, my weekend. On September 30 I got an email reminder about signing up for the challenge. “Oh yeah,” I thought, and ignored the email.

And then yesterday, on October 1, I woke up and — essentially on a whim — signed up for the challenge in about 5 minutes.

That’s how I typically sign up for stuff like this — in a flash, on a whim, because otherwise I might over-think it and back down. It scares me a little to commit to this — it feels a bit like going down the NaNoWriMo hole — but it feels right. In the past several months I’ve grown apathetic towards my writing, and I need a kick in the pants to change that. Plus, I believe in what Hugo House stands for. If I can raise some money for a great organization and ALSO get my writing time in? Win win.

I’ll be keeping track of my progress here on the blog (check the right-hand column), using Jerry Seinfeld’s Chain method. I figure if I make it public, there’s more accountability. And if you’re so inclined…

Donate Now

Ok. 30 minutes down. 29 more days to go.

 

Unfocused

Like any born-and-bred American, road trips are in my DNA. Growing up, they were an integral part of family vacations. We never did any truly epic routes — the longest was Seattle to Santa Monica, with a $20 bribe on the line if my sister and I refrained from asking “Are we there yet?” — but there were numerous shorter trips. Bellingham, Oregon, Idaho. The Pacific Northwest was well-explored from the confines of an ’89 Honda Civic.

My parents were pros: a white plastic bucket sat in the middle seat between my sister and I, filled with entertainment. Most of the goodies were designed to draw our eyes outward, past the car window and to the world beyond. License plate bingo, “I Spy”, plastic-coated maps and dry erase markers so we could mark our progress. Inevitably, though, our eyes left the windows and turned to our laps.

“Stop reading,” Dad would say. “Put your book down and look out the window. You’re missing it.”

A terrible problem to have, a child who reads too much. We raised our eyes back to the world , but after a respectful amount of time — after we thought we could get away with it — it was back to the books.

Of course, the problem was that my sister and I were young, and we still had that capacity only truly understood by the young: boredom. Looking out the window was boring. The trees whipping by all looked the same — or maybe there were different, but it took far too long for them to change. Rocks, grass, dirt — we had all of this back home. Looking out the window, there was nothing to do but get lost in your own thoughts. My brain wanted focus.

In adulthood, there’s more than enough to occupy your thoughts. Boredom becomes a concept rather than an actual practice. Nowhere is this more obvious than on a road trip, when you’re confined to a small space with limited resources for hours on end. If you’re lucky enough to be in a stretch of the country that defies cell phone towers, you’re disconnected from internet, too. I now find myself sitting for hours, doing nothing but look out the window. What once would induce boredom brings on something new and foreign; you become unfocused. Not in the way we’re accustomed to in the digital world — not in the way of emails to be sorted through, of pings and dings to pay attention to, of I swear I was about to do something now what was it? That is frantic — a forced unfocus.

This is gradual, natural, a slow progression after days on the road. The smell of pelicans, the sun burning against an SPFed thigh. The very conscious movement of wind over skin, thick and strong as a wave drawn back to the ocean. The uncomfortable yet comforting thought that this will all be here, after we’re gone — changed, changing, but still here. The sea today will not be the same one we see tomorrow.

Of course this doesn’t appeal to a child, who lives in the present and feels acutely the whole wonder of the world. They have no need to gaze for hours at nothing in order to see everything.

Back off the road now, no more transience, I feel myself coming back into focus — edges sharpening, the line between body and air growing clear. Focus is good — it’s necessary to function in our daily lives. But I close my eyes and see the shimmer of air on skin, feel my mind slip loose and drift. We see clearer for being unfocused. Every once in a while it’s good to wander.

 

Lost to California

Snap back to reality. Back in Seattle. For the past two weeks we’ve been transients, driving up the California coast, packing a bag every day and going from motel to hotel. The sort of trip where you forget if it’s Monday or Tuesday (or maybe Wednesday?), where every meal was just brought in off the boat, where the biggest decision of the day is, “Should we stop at this beach or keep driving to the next?”

We traveled the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1, a classic stretch of road that hugs the sea. We rented a convertible and drove from San Diego to San Francisco. I had done parts of this drive before, but never the full thing. California has a strange, magical pull over me, and I wanted Byron to experience that magic.

What I wrote last year is still true:

Everything down there just seems scented with a kind of forgetfulness — like there is nowhere else in the world to be, nowhere else in the world you should be.

I really think I temporarily lost my mind down there. It may still be floating around somewhere off the California coastline. I assume it will meander back home at some point, back up to Seattle, but for now I’m content to let it wander.

USS Midway in San Diego.

Starting in San Diego, visiting the USS Midway.

USS Midway in San Diego

Beer in San Diego.

Three local IPA’s.

Birds at Torrey Pine State Reserve.

View from Torrey Pines State Reserve.

View from Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Vroom vroom.

Great blue heron at Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.

Will Rogers State Beach

Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica, where we used to swim with my grandparents.

Will Rogers State Beach
Will Rogers State Beach

Pacific Coast Highway

The last green in California.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay.

Morro Bay

Moonstone Beach

At Moonstone Beach in Cambria, we stumbled upon the prologue to The Birds.

Pelicans at Moonstone Beach
Pelicans at Moonstone Beach

Pelicans at Moonstone Beach
Sea lions.

Big Sur.

Entering the crazy twisting Big Sur.

Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur

We stopped at the Henry Miller Memorial Library and started chatting with the young woman at the cash register. She was from the Netherlands and had just arrived in Big Sur yesterday. She'd been driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in her van, liked it where she was, and decided to stay. That's the kind of place Big Sur is.

At the Henry Miller Memorial Library, we learned the young woman working the cash register had just arrived in Big Sur the day before. She was from the Netherlands and had been driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in a van when she entered Big Sur. She liked it and decided to stay. Now she’s working at the library. That’s the kind of place Big Sur is.

Big Sur

Big Sur
Yellow flowers at Big Sur

Redwood trees in Big Sur.

Even little Redwoods tower.

Juan Hiquera Creek in Big Sur

Point Lobos State Reserve

Landscape artist Francis McComas called Point Lobos the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” I’d have to agree.

Point Lobos State Marine Reserve

I was SURE this piece of kelp was a sea otter. 100% sure.

Point Lobos State Reserve
Point Lobos State Reserve


Point Lobos State Reserve
Harbor seals at Point Lobos State Reserve
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Eucalyptus trees.

Eucalyptus. My favorites.

Highway 80 in California

2015 Chevrolet Camaro

Our valiant ride after 600+ miles.

Quarter horses.

Pit stop to a family member’s horse ranch in northern California.

Quarter horse.
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Summer Book Reviews

This past spring, I read so many books I had to split the reviews up into 2 posts. Summer? Let’s just say that the state of my reading list reflects how summer went for me. But THAT’S OK. Summer is the season of beach reads and page turners and “guilty pleasures,” so I certainly won’t feel guilty about how many books I did or did not read.

(I should note that there are 2 other books not included here that I tried to read, but I abandoned them both around the 50-page mark. Life’s just too short for books you aren’t diggin’, friends.)

Desert Notes by Barry Lopez

Desert Notes by Barry Lopez

After driving to Washington desert country this spring, I decided to finally, FINALLY pick up this book. Lopez is like some sort of demigod among nature writers, and any environmentally minded lit major beams at the very mention of Desert Notes. I’m actually rather surprised I never read it in college, given the number of professors I had who were in love with Western American literature. Apparently I needed a trip to the desert to be in the right state of mind to pick this one up. (A good book is not only good based on its own merits, but based on where you are in your own life, as well.)

And after all that lead-up, the book was… good? A very different read for me. Objectively beautiful writing. There’s no plot to speak of; it’s the power of words and descriptions that draws you in, dreamy and wandering. While this type of writing may not be my typical cup of tea, it’s still good to branch out and see what other genres have to offer. It inspired me to write a short, weird little travelogue — you never know what may inspire future work. And now I would REALLY like to go check out the Alvord desert, the desert that inspired this book.

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

While browsing Austin Kleon’s blog, I found this snippet he wrote about Leonard: “His books are my reset button, where I turn when I’ve stalled out and I’m bored with my books, and I just want something awesome that won’t annoy the shit out of me or leave me hanging.” I felt the need for a reading reset, so I decided to give Kleon’s method a shot. And I have to say, it pretty much did the trick — this was just a plain ol’ fun book. Good dialogue, likable characters, simple prose that drives the plot forward. Many people would classify this as a “junk food” book, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty damn good writing.

My only qualm — the whole time I was reading, I couldn’t get the movie version out of my head. I haven’t seen Get Shorty in a LONG TIME — yet with each line I read, there were John Travolta and Gene Hackman, delivering all the dialogue. Which is not the WORST thing in the world, but I like to form my own visions of book characters. Next Leonard book I pick up, I’m going to choose one where I haven’t seen the movie.

California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan Lepucki

Oh man. This book. I have feelings about this book.

I was one of the many people who pre-ordered this much-hyped book after Stephen Colbert promoted it on his show. I ordered it for two reasons: 1) any boost for independent bookstores is awesome, and I wanted to be a part of that (I chose to order from Parnassus Books, myself); and 2) the book itself actually sounded totally up my ally. Dystopian speculative fiction set in California? Yes, please!

California starts out strong enough — Lepucki has an interesting writing style, fairly straightforward but with the occasional poetics thrown in for good measure. She did a good job depicting the relationship between Cal and Frida, the young husband and wife at the center of the book — their relationship is far from perfect, but it is believable. And then… things started to turn a little south. As it nears the finale, the book begins to suffer from “showing vs. telling” (one of my biggest writing pet peeves), but I was willing to look past that to see where it went. It IS an intriguing plot line — I flew through the whole thing pretty quickly.

But the ending. Oh god, I HATED the ending. I can’t remember the last time I actively disliked a book ending so much. I finished and may have actually said out loud, “THAT’S IT?” I won’t spoil anything here, because that would just be lame — but if anyone else out there has read this book, I’m very curious to hear other’s reactions.

All that said — I would still be interested to read a second book from Lepucki. This one had a bit of “first novel” syndrome about it, but she’s clearly a talented writer.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Speaking of Parnassus Books — a friend of mine recently went to Nashville, and I told her she should visit this bookstore. Tara, bless her, DID stop in, and while she was there texted me: “Which Ann Patchett books should I buy?” You see, novelist Ann Patchett co-founded Parnassus Books. I had to confess that I had not read any Patchett, but that This is the Story of a Happy Marriage was well-reviewed on Goodreads. After this shameful exchange, I decided I should remedy this and picked up the book myself.

I can now retroactively recommend this book with 100% confidence. Patchett is primarily a fiction writer, but for years she earned her bread-and-butter by writing nonfiction magazine articles. She selected and organized the best of those articles for This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, while also writing two new stories for the compilation — one about writing called “The Getaway Car” (highly recommended for all you writer folk out there), and another story about the birth of Parnassus Books. The other articles focus on marriage, divorce, dogs, re-marriage, family, friendship. If these seem like broad themes — well, yes, they are, but Patchett writes about them with such specificity that they seem new. She’s an incredibly talented writer, and beyond that? She just seems like a nice person. You finish a story and think, “Why are Ann Patchett and I not friends? We’d be great friends.” I’ll definitely be picking up more of her work.

(Can I mention, too, how much I adore that book cover? Great design, that.)

What did you read over the summer? Any delicious guilty-pleasure reads? I’ve kicked off my fall reading list with Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, so I think the next season is off to a good start…

Summer Slipping

Last Friday, I took the ferry back from Bainbridge and watched a red sun slip behind the Olympic range. A perfect moment in a shamefully beautiful corner of the world — but something was amiss. I turned to a friend and asked, “What time is it?”

She looked at her phone. “7:45. Too early for the sun to be going down.”

Bainbridge_Sunset

Quickening days are the first indicator of what’s to come. I love fall, don’t get me wrong — turning leaves and snuggly sweaters and low light cutting through crisp air. It’s a season of unwinding, preparing for dormancy. After the go-go-go of summer, fall is a much-needed letdown.

But I’m not ready for dormancy. Somehow when I had my back turned, summer slipped away.

The hammock colony stares at us from the backyard, neglected, colorful cocoons swaying with no occupants. House projects remain only grand ambitions. The local lake taunts from a distance, unvisited. Edits to my book — oh man, remember how I was going to have that done by July 1? HAHAHAH.

When I look back over the summer, the only thing I can remember doing? Work. Work consumed all, bored into every facet of my brain, and while I wasn’t paying attention, summer ticked on.

I know, objectively, that that’s not true — I did things other than work. I spent time with friends and family. I took a beach trip, got some fly fishing in. Why, next week we even get to go on a vacation — a final “hoorah” to end the season.

But I swear when I woke up yesterday, it was June. Last night I wrapped up in my heavy sweatpants and hoodie. This morning when I got up for my morning run, 5:45 had gone dark. I blinked and three months disappeared. That’s the long con of time, isn’t it? It tricks you into thinking it’s infinite, but as you get older, you stop paying attention for just one second and half a year is gone.

Manzanita Adventure Weekend

This past weekend Byron and I packed up the dog and the car headed down to the Oregon coast. We met up with a group of my best college friends — and I just about exploded with nerdy glee when my new camera arrived just in time for the trip. I realized a few weeks ago that my old camera is now technologically outdated — the photos it takes, they just ain’t lookin’ so hot. So based on some friends’ recommendations (thanks, Lauren and Hen!), I took the plunge.

Oregon proved to be the perfect testing ground. Sun, beach, epic trees… what more could a gal ask for when trying to figure out the difference between shutter speed, F stops and ISO?

Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford. Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Peaches and blackberries. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Neahkahnie Mountain. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Neahkahnie Mountain. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

View of Manzanita Beach from Neahkahnie Mountain. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford

Louie the Dog. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

 

Rockaway Beach. photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Swimming at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Sunset at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Sunset at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Sunset at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

If you get a chance to visit the small sleepy town of Manzanita, I highly recommend it. It is a magical beach in a special corner of the world.

The One Glaring Problem with “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Spoiler-phobes, this post should be relatively safe for you — there are a few minor plot points discussed, but nothing big.

I’m going to start off by saying that Guardians of the Galaxy — the new Marvel flick starring Andy Dwyer, erm, I mean Chris Pratt — is FUN. Just pure good entertaining fun. I haven’t grinned that much in a theater in a LONG time. Go check it out if you haven’t, it comes highly recommended from this camp (and literally everyone else I’ve talked to who’s seen it).

That said — when Byron and I left the theater and got in the car to head home, I turned to him and said, “You know what my one annoyance with the movie was?”

“What?”

“They didn’t let Zoe Saldana’s character DO anything.”

His immediate reaction: “I KNOW!”

Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, billed as “The Deadliest Woman in the Whole Galaxy.” This is well established in the movie, her supposed deadliness. She’s been programmed since childhood to be an assassin — she’s even been surgically modified to be more of a Badass Killing Machine — and the viewer gets the impression that she’s unstoppable.

UNTIL she meets Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, aka our main hero. And then apparently she can’t do anything.

Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, she meets Quill and can’t even steal a small orb from him. Because she gets knocked out by a raccoon. I mean, a kickass raccoon, but still. Raccoon vs. Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy? Come on. Throughout the rest of the movie, she gets saved by Quill not once, but twice. Once the cogs of the movie start turning, Gamora seems to exist to either a) motivate our hero, or b) serve as his new love interest.

Which just… UUUGGGGHHH.

Gamora’s character made me immediately think of this article by Tasha Robinson: “We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome.” Robinson’s article starts out with an example from another movie — but this quote applies directly to Gamora as well:

She’s wise. She’s principled. She’s joyous. She’s divided. She’s damaged. She’s vulnerable. She’s something female characters so often aren’t in action/adventure films with male protagonists: She’s interesting.

Too bad the story gives her absolutely nothing to do.

Robinson gives a checklist to see if your female character perhaps fits the bill of the Trinity Syndrome — “the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene.” Gamora hits a lot of the marks.

(Credit where credit’s due — Gamora DOES have a big fight scene at the end of the movie. But that felt weirdly anticlimactic to me after everything else.)

This may all seem like minor quibbling. And it kind of is — I really DID enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy. But I’m annoyed because it was SO close to being a perfect movie. There was so much potential for Gamora to be a really kickass character. Instead, she’s given wooden, exposition-laden dialogue and serves as a catalyst for our hero. Excuse me, but I think I’ve seen this play out before.

Maybe there’s still hope. There’s obviously going to be a Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Maybe they’ll give Gamora something really kickass to do in THAT movie. You’re ALMOST there, Marvel — I know you can do it.