Pitch Conference

This past weekend, I attended the New York Pitch Conference. For the most part, my life as a writer is spent in isolation. I don’t mind it. I consider myself an introvert, and solitude suits me. I think many, if not most, writers are like this. But every now and then, we pry ourselves away from our computers and get out of the house/library/Starbucks long enough to show up at writers’ conferences. In a nutshell, the NY Pitch was a rush of excitement and fear and exhilaration and nerves rolled into one, which extended over the course of four, full days. Yep, four days of talking about writing was even better than it sounds. Nerd alert.

Thursday: I knew I’d need to do the unthinkable and call Uber for a ride to the train station. Josh hates Uber. The guy was late and needed for me to give him turn-by-turn directions to 30th Street Station. Yes, the name of our train station is its location. He dropped me off, I hurried to make my train, which turned out, was running 45 minutes late. Of course, this made me tardy for the first day. When I finally rolled in, I’d missed the intro by Michael Neff, the conference director, which pissed me off, but he was kind enough to reassure me it was fine and to just go to my group. I was part of the women’s fiction/memoir group, led by the peerless, Susan Breen. Susan herself had gone through the conference back in 2006, which resulted in her getting her novel, The Fiction Class, published. She knows what the conference is like on both sides of the desk. I feel very fortunate to have met and now worked with her.

We jumped in immediately and read our pitches. I went first. Susan had some bits and pieces of feedback for me. I’d been working on my pitch for a solid month, so I hoped it was pretty tight. But I did get a couple of very helpful comments, which I implemented immediately, and I think my pitch improved as a result. Everyone’s project sounded interesting. Seriously, I could see commercial potential in each one—this was a strong group.

Friday: We started the day meeting as a group once again, pitching to an agent, Michelle. I went first again, and was so, so nervous. Michelle is really smart, super quick, and has a great sense of humor. I read the pitch without passing out. After getting the first pitch out of the way, I could feel myself start to relax a little. Our group debriefed afterward, with Susan offering more feedback. That afternoon, we had the opportunity to meet with an expert to go over the first page of our manuscript. I happened to meet with Susan’s agent, Paula, who suggested something I thought was great—under each title, write a short line that helps establish the world of my novel. Thank you, Paula!

Saturday: This is the biggest day of the conference, where we’ll have the opportunity to speak with two editors. Everyone’s nervous, jittery. Some pace. Some continue picking away at their pitches. Some zone out with their headphones on. And many, myself included, chatted with other writers. I’d met some amazing people this conference, people I probably would not have gotten to know otherwise. Since I’m up last in the first round, I’ve already had a run in the morning and then walked to the studio, so I’m feeling pretty OK. Also, I was so relieved that both agents from the day before were so approachable and genuinely nice, I really felt mostly relaxed and focused on my pitch. On Saturday, both editors continued the “nice, friendly” trend. All of us in our group noticed that each seemed to love writers and books, which is a total bonus at a writers’ conference.

Sunday: Final round with another editor. This editor decidedly hated my book concept. It was not her genre and definitely not her cup of tea. OK, OK, not interested, got it. A book really can’t be for everyone, you know? I had my last one-on-one with Susan, who seemed to think my pitch was really working. By the end, I’d pitched to two agents and three editors, and four out of the five wanted to see more, which was super encouraging. I boarded my train home with a bit of a swelled head, feeling like I had a manuscript that could sell. This was a 180 from the previous year, when I queried agents and all rejected my book. I took a hard look at my manuscript and with the help of a book coach, figured out the problem was with my tone, which meant I needed to do a page-one revision. Back to the drawing board. But after working so hard on the novel this year, I was grateful for all the feedback I received from this conference over the weekend. Now that I’m home, I’m back to querying. I’m feeling hopeful and excited, but that knot in my stomach isn’t going anywhere.

It’s Not Halloween, Jackass

As I sit down to write this post, I realize that what I’m about to say may motivate someone to throw a brick through my window—please don’t—but it needs to be said. Philly, I love ya, but what’s with the sports jerseys, any season, any occasion?

I honestly don’t have a problem when fans wear their favorite team jerseys at the stadium or while watching a game on TV. I get it. You’re fans. It’s fun. It’s when I see a grown man in July wearing his Eagles jersey for no good reason other than it’s Tuesday. Or the moron who decides it’s OK to wear his Flyers jersey to Thanksgiving dinner, like it’s his formal wear. No, it’s not formal wear. And that’s not your name on the back. It doesn’t matter that you’ve shelled out hundreds of hard-earned dollars for the thing.

I give a pass to kids. The name on the back of their jersey may be a player they look up to, someone who inspires them. That’s fine if you’re twelve. Not so much if you’re 44. What, are you a big fan of Chase Utley? Do you want to be like him when you grow up? Do you loooooove him? Exactly. Kids also like to dress up as their favorite superhero for the same reasons they want to dress up like their favorite sports heroes. Grownups don’t do that. At least not on a Tuesday in July. When Virginia was little, we took her to Disneyland for her birthday. She was dressed to the nines in her pint-sized Cinderella costume. And every time she spotted one of the Disney princesses that roam around the park, she’d tackle them in an adorable bear hug. It’s cute when you’re three, less so as you get older. Behavior like that gets adults arrested.

There’s definitely a cut off age for costumes, Underoos, and wearing your Spider-Man pajamas in public. I say let’s extend that to sports jerseys. I know, plenty of people dress in costumes sometimes.  But at least the guys and gals who like to dress up as Klingons have the decency to wait for Comic-Con as their occasion. It’s like a social agreement. If you decide to wear a costume in public, people will stare and judge. I know that Julian Schnabel may disagree, but he probably understands he’s being self-indulgent. So unless you’re at work directing the next Diving Bell, put on a real shirt.

Last Chance Workout

The Biggest Loser is back on television. I really thought the show was done after the “winner” of last season, Rachel Frederickson, dieted and exercised down to proportions comparable to a concentration camp victim. She looked as if she had traded one eating disorder when she was 260 pounds at the start of the season for another, when she weighed in at a skeletal 105 pounds for the season finale. Trainers Jillian and Bob’s stunned reactions said it all when Rachel walked on stage for her big reveal during the finale. Josh and I, too, had to collect our jaws from off the floor when she emerged from behind the curtain. It’s kinda scary what people do to themselves for a reality show.

And this season, they’re back at it again, but this time, the show is using obese, former athletes (many of them college, Olympic, and professional athletes) as contestants rather than obese, mere mortals. I think the idea the show is playing with here is that athletes already have bodies and brains that are designed to be pushed to greater limits. They take coaching and discipline well. I anticipate that many of these contestants will see more dramatic reductions in weight and increases in muscle mass than contestants from previous seasons. Their “before” and “after” photos are going to knock our socks off.

The thing is, though, it’s the same show with the same, distorted messages about health and weight. I don’t think that an extra 100+ pounds on a person is healthy, but I also don’t know how healthy it is to lose half your body weight in the course of six months. In Rachel’s case, she lost 60% of her body weight. This season, Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney says that the show provides these former athletes a “final chance to recapture their glory days.” Really? That’s like saying your best days were in high school. Buh-bye, best days. It’s a slow slide to death from here. And the stereotypical messaging about “fat” just keeps coming. During week one, contestants emphasize how “disappointed” and “disgusting” they feel now that they’ve “let [themselves] go.” One poor guy feels he can’t be a role model to his little brother, because he’s fat. Gina, a former cheerleader, says “I feel like I hold the family back because I’m overweight.” Right, because a thin wife and mother is so much better than a fat one. Just ask Christina Crawford, Joan’s daughter.

And by the way, since May, Rachel Frederickson has gained twenty pounds. According to an article in Us Weekly, Rachel, along with The Biggest Loser national audience, also recognized that she was too light at 105 pounds and felt that gaining twenty pounds put her in a healthier weight range. But health isn’t really The Biggest Loser game, even though it’s embedded into the brand’s messaging. No, it oversimplifies health, equalizing it to numbers on a scale, and that’s not healthy for anyone.

Even Parasites Perform a Service

Early this summer, my bicycle was stolen. Some asshole broke into our backyard, took my bike first, came back, and was in the process of wheeling off with my kid’s bike when Bruce, our awesome neighbor, intervened and ordered the intruder to return it. Virginia’s bicycle was saved, mine was long gone. Josh was livid about my bike. Almost immediately, he cruised around the surrounding area, hoping to spot it and reclaim it. We’ve had success with this tactic in the past, as have other friends who’ve lost bikes to thieves. But this time, it was clear. My bicycle wasn’t coming back. And to tell the truth, I wasn’t that torn up about it. Sure, I was upset that a person felt he had the right to break into our backyard and steal our property—that sucks. But the fact my bicycle was gone? Eh…I think I’m OK with that.

Every summer I decide that this will be the year I utilize my bicycle for around-town errands like a proper city girl. I mean, Philly is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. I envision trips to Trader Joe’s and rides with VA down the path to camp every day. I’d bicycle to cafes, where I’d get some work done over an iced coffee. Our Nissan would simply sit parked at the curb and collect bird poop all summer. This scenario never happens. Philly gets pretty steamy during summertime, and bicycle riding can work up a sweat pretty quickly. I learned this early on a couple summers ago, when I decided to bicycle to a ladies lunch. The restaurant was about a mile away, and it wasn’t even that hot—80s. The ride itself was pleasant. I enjoyed the feel of the wind when it passed through my helmet, as I glided quickly through West Philly to my destination. It’s when I arrived that I started sweating. As soon as I locked up my bike, my clothes clung to my body and when I took my purse off, I had a sweat mark that matched my purse strap across my chest. The helmet, though, is the worst for sweat. When I took it off, it seemed to unlock all of my pores in my hair. I had sweat literally dripping down my face onto my plate for the entire lunch.

Besides the sweating, bicycling around town isn’t all that enjoyable for me. You need to be on high alert if you’re going to bike in the city. Cars, buses, pedestrians, trolley tracks—it can feel like they’re all out to get you. Trying to navigate where I’m going while at the same time determining if the driver yapping on her cell phone actually sees me (or instead will, in fact, make a left turn into me) can really ramp up my anxiety levels. I’d always rather walk. Walking’s slower, but when I allow enough time, I love it. I have the time to look around, people watch, absorb my surroundings. I can do things I can’t or shouldn’t on a bicycle—I can take a phone call, check email, listen to a podcast, sip a lemonade. And if I’m pressed for time? Well, that’s what bus tokens are for.

I wish I wasn’t such a bicycle wimp, but I can no longer deny it. Josh bicycles to work whenever the weather allows. For him it’s convenient and easy. Most of my friends are avid cyclists as well. That’s OK. They can all leave me in their dust. Now that I think of it, I’ve got a pair of rollerblades I haven’t used in 20 years. I don’t want anyone coming into my house and lifting my stuff, but if someone had to, the rollerblades are in the downstairs closet with the wristguards and kneepads.

Day Trippers

My brother, J.B., came to town over the holiday weekend. I always find that when out-of-town guests visit for a few days, we all get the chance to be tourists. We’ve lived in Philly for seven years, and for the first time this weekend, we had the opportunity to be utterly charmed by New Hope and Lambertville, two towns that hug the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware River.

New Hope seems to suffer from an identity crisis in some ways. Is it a sleepy little B&B getaway? A patchouli-scented hippie village? A biker hub? An overtly-friendly LGBT town? Yes it is. J.B., Virginia, and I drove up on Labor Day and landed in New Hope right around lunch time. The sidewalks teemed with tourists, but we had our pick of restaurants and cafes. Like New Hope’s tendency toward multiple personalities, the restaurants aimed to please most palates, which was a good thing for us—two adults and a kid often require a menu with variety.  After a bowl of fettuccine with clam sauce, a heart-stopping salad with steak and cheese, and a mediocre burger, the three of us were off to explore. Most of the boutique windows featured cheesy gifts like fancy soaps shaped like purple fortune cookies and women’s tunics detailed with gold trim. We passed a leather goods store, a cards and gifts store, and too many vintage clothing stores, none of which tempted us to go in. A nice walk, but I wondered how those places managed to stay alive on what appeared to be a high-rent street.

We crossed the Delaware River, stopping for a photo midway that featured Virginia and me straddling Pennsylvania and New Jersey, declaring on Facebook “Two states at once!” Lambertville was just across the river, but tonally wholly different from New Hope. The sidewalks were wider and more accommodating. Benches welcomed tired tourists with a place to sit and sip iced coffee. As a result of poor shoe choice, Virginia was working on two painful blisters, which could have cut our day short. But at Lambertville Trading Company, a quirky coffee shop, two baristas with hearts of gold came to our rescue with a few bandages to help with VA’s feet. They did the trick, and for the remainder of our afternoon, we stopped off at antique shops and a pet accessories place. We even met a couple who were out walking their pet pig.

By the end of the day, we were ready to cross back over the river for some New Hope ice-cream before getting back into the car for our hour-long drive back into Philly. I always love hosting my family when they visit, and the added bonus is that through day trips like these, we get to forget that we’re locals and embrace the opportunity to view the area with new eyes as well. Lucky us.

Winter on the Brain

School, the first concrete sign that fall approacheth, has started for me already, but it hasn’t yet for Virginia, and quite frankly, it’s still pretty summery around here. The weather’s warm and the leaves are green. The day after my in-service, I was back at the pool with Virginia and her pals, no sign that summer was in its last throes. Some of Virginia’s friends are still in day camp or on the tail end of vacation with their families.

But fall is around the corner—I can feel it. Pretty soon we’ll be in the thick of school and homework and after-school sports and music lessons. As the scents of sunscreen and grilled meats are replaced by apples and cinnamon, we’ll be scrambling to make/purchase Halloween costumes and bags of fun-sized candy. And once we start fretting about what we’re going to do for Thanksgiving, I will have finally given in and packed away any tank tops and shorts remaining in my bureau.

And then it’s the impending march toward the winter holidays. It’ll be mid-December when digging our car out of the snow and scraping the ice off the windows becomes our new normal. At least once, I’ll turn to Josh and say wistfully, “Doesn’t it seem like summer was just yesterday? I feel like I could have been sunning by the pool, like seconds ago.” It’s because summer is awesome and winter sucks. We miss summer. No one is wistful about winter. “Doesn’t it seem like yesterday we got caught in freezing rain?” Or, “It wasn’t too long ago that I missed my bus and had to walk home alone on a windy, frigid afternoon without gloves.” We endure winter. And now, at the end of August, I can already look ahead and dread winter. I dread winter when it’s perfect outside. When I’m still wearing skirts and sandals. When I can still buy a soft-serve vanilla cone from the ice-cream truck.

When we lived in L.A., Josh always complained that he missed the seasons. He hated that it was always summer in Southern California and said the lack of seasons made it hard for him to keep track of the passage of time. I think I’m exactly the opposite. I want summer all the time. I don’t find it boring. I also really don’t need the constant reminder that time is passing, especially if it comes in the form of snow and sleet. I grew up out west, and even with California’s more temperate weather, I never had trouble assembling my memories chronologically. But seasons is how it’s done in Philly, and I’ll be better off the sooner I can figure out how to roll with it. Otherwise, no matter the weather outside, in my head it’ll always be winter.

Hello Muddah

Last Sunday I dropped Virginia off at sleep-away camp. I think the most anxiety I felt about actually leaving my 10-year-old behind for a week was when I first signed her up, way back in January. Oh my god, I thought, I know Virginia’s ready for this experience, but am I? No. A week just seemed too long to go without summertime’s daily rituals. When I registered her for camp last winter and looked at my calendar, all I could see was that sad, lonely week in August—no hustle and bustle in the mornings, no lazing at the pool, no cozy reading, TV watching, crafting, or Connect Four. I realized I’d be perfectly happy if Virginia never left home, ever.

I consulted with friends who were parents of veteran sleep-away camp goers. “I’m already so sad about it,” I’d complain. “A week away without my girl—I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.” Every single parent looked at me like I was Benedict Arnold. “Stop it. Quit your pouting. Think about it—it’s a week of freedom,” they’d say. “You can actually go see a movie. In the theatre.” “And dinner!” another parent would pipe in. “You can do both!” I had to admit, dinner and a movie did sound pretty good. And I probably wouldn’t mind a week off from packing a lunch box every day. All right, I decided. Nothing to worry about. Virginia’s going to have a fantastic adventure that week, and you’ll just have to suck it up and behave like a big girl. Don’t be surprised if you even enjoy a taste of freedom for a bit. She’ll be back before you know it. OK, got it.

I’d been so successful in putting the week of sleep-away camp out of my mind that it was only a few days before camp, when I realized it was almost here. Sleep-away camp had sneaked up on me. Before I knew it, Virginia and I were in the car on our way to Woodward, her duffel, sleeping bag, and heart pillow stowed in our trunk. And when I got home after dropping her off, I felt a little lost, a feeling I haven’t quite been able to shake all week. The house is so much emptier without Virginia. I’m getting a ton of work done—almost too much, really. I can sit and work at my computer for hours until Jazz finally has to sidle up to my leg, imploring me with his one eye, that this dog is not just going to walk himself. When I wander downstairs to start dinner, any urgency to cook evaporates. It’s like my single days when I was perfectly happy to make “dinner” out of chips and salsa and use my oven for extra storage. This week is not terrible, though, either. Since I’m not exactly cooking much, Josh and I have enjoyed eating out more. We get to watch Orange Is the New Black well before Virginia’s bed time. And we’re seeing a play in the middle of the week. We haven’t done that in more than a decade.

This strange, new freedom is coming to an end—Josh and I will pick Virginia up early on Saturday. I know that from stalking her camp counselor’s Facebook page that Virginia is having a great time during this week of independence. I can see her joy in her easy smile, photo after photo. And that joy is hers. I’m really happy for her. She’s probably learned a lot about herself, grown up a bit, too. I hope that I will get better at learning to let go, when Virginia wants to do this all over again next summer, but for two weeks instead of one.

Upping at the Ante

I’m revising my novel and am at the point in the story when my protagonist discovers her inner athlete for the first time, and I must say, it’s fun pretending to be in her shoes. Nora finally runs one lap in two minutes. I know, multiply it by four and that’s an eight-minute mile, which is not exactly an Olympic-qualifying time, but for her, it’s the fastest she’s ever run and quite an accomplishment. She felt like she was going to die and dry-heaved a few times as she crossed the finish line, but she did it. For me, it has been a long time since I’ve felt that swell of pride and accomplishment for physical feats, and I miss it. I think the last time I felt anything close was losing the baby weight after I had Virginia. And believe me, it’s quite a comeback going from being about as active as a slug for nine months to walking and jogging like a normal healthy person. It was also ten years ago.

I have middle-aged friends who take up running for the first time or give boxing a try or start to get into those at-the-crack-of-dawn boot camp programs, and I listen to them in the early stages as they complain—”I hate getting up at 5:30 every morning” or “my muscles are sore” or “ack, my knee!”—and know that this pain will be temporary. When they stick with it, I watch their new sport transform my formerly exercise-ambivalent friends into budding athletes. And as happy for them as I am for getting into bad-ass shape, I can’t say I’m not a little envious. They get to discover what it’s like to get strong and fast. And as they continue every week, they see improvement. After years with the sport, though, I know they’ll reach a plateau, just as I have. Running certainly still makes my body feel good and keeps my mind sane, but after 30 years of running and counting, I don’t have that high that some of my friends get from their early-morning boot camp sessions. I might get a bit of a buzz from a better-than-average race time, but I’m finding that the challenges with running evolve the more I do it. And if I’m really being honest with myself, the fact that I’m getting older probably isn’t helping either. Peter Sagel, the host of Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me on NPR and an avid distance runner wrote about this issue in an article in Runner’s World a couple of years ago. He was training for a personal best marathon time at the ripe old age of, gulp, forty-six. He poses similar questions about being an over-the-hill runner that I’ve been struggling with as well: “Were my best days behind me? Would the rest of my career on the roads be about different goals—like running my most cheerful marathon, one with the most high-fives from the curbside crowd?”

So I guess the question is, is the cure for beating the exercise plateau blues to increase the ante to achieve the high? Like, should I try for a personal best for a 5K? 10K? Pull a Peter Sagel and go for a marathon PR? Do I dare train for a Boston Marathon qualifying time? Even train for an ultra-marathon? I know I’ll never have the athletic potential I had in college and in my twenties, and I need to make peace with that. I don’t think I’m there yet.

My Vegetable Dilemma

I hate winter. And in the depths of the winter months, I look ahead to spring and summer with unwavering optimism. “I’m going to run 30 or more miles per week!” “I’m going to sort through the dozens of boxes and bins I haven’t touched since we moved two years ago!” “This year, I’m going to rise to the challenge of our vegetable share and figure out a way to prepare all of the items we receive each week for my family to consume.” This all sounded totally doable in February. Now that we’re well into August, I am failing the grand plans I made six months ago, and in no way more so than with our vegetable share. (Half share, actually. It’s truly pathetic.)

Each Tuesday, with a canvas bag slung over my shoulder, Jazzy, the one-eyed wonder dog, and I walk to pick it up, praying that the contents will be at least something I recognize. Tomatoes? Yes, I not only know what to do with those, all three of us like them. Sauces, soup, pizza, sandwiches, salads—we’re all on board with tomatoes. Same goes for red potatoes, though I do find it challenging for us to get through all the red potatoes when we’re given a sack of them three weeks in a row. Fortunately, potatoes keep well and don’t pose a rotten vegetable emergency if we can’t eat them within a week. Kale I recognize and know how to prepare, but Josh and Virginia have a tough time choking it down, even in chip form. Kale is a primary item that I stuff to the back of the vegetable drawer, where it quickly wilts and then rots. The worst is when we get something we don’t even know what to do with, or don’t even really recognize. I don’t want to do a lot of research on my food. I’m busy. I’m also lazy. I just don’t have time or the will to figure out what to do with gold cylindra beets. I know, I know, most of the time you can roast just about anything, but egads, roasted, again?

Right now, zucchini is the bane of my existence. I roast it, sauté it, bake it, shave it over pasta, blend it into pesto, bake it into bread…and I don’t even really like zucchini. But week after week, despite heroic efforts to use the squash, I end up throwing out more than we can consume. Tuesday, I got six more zucchini in my half-share box. It never ends. But the thing is, is it does end. Sooner than I’ll want it, the temperature will drop, the days will get shorter, and I’ll have to put all my shorts and tank tops away and bust out my long pants and sweaters. The challenge of the weekly vegetable share will come to an end just as fall hits its stride. And I’ll miss it. And come February, I’ll start to get excited about it all over again.

Pay to Pray

A woman stopped me on the street last week, when I was walking home from running errands in Center City. Hot and tired from the walk downtown on that humid day, I was just a couple of blocks from my house and looking forward to gulping down my first of at least three glasses of water. I regretted not wearing my hair in a ponytail, and a thick mass of unfettered hair stuck to the back of my neck and stray wisps clung to my cheek and chin. The woman looked as if she were in her late 60s, and she was well-dressed. She looked about as fresh and unbothered by the weather as I felt unfresh and completely bothered. “Excuse me,” she said. “I’ve started a new business.” “Oh?” I said, disarmed by her friendliness, but already looking for my exit line. “Yes. It’s a praying business,” the woman replied. “Do you pray?” Preying business is more like it, I thought. She extended both hands toward mine. “No,” I said, recoiling. “I don’t want to pray, but good luck.” I started to walk away. “You don’t believe?” she asked. I was caught off guard. Strangers don’t usually ask if you believe in god or what religion you are, and her brazenness flustered me. “No I don’t, er, we’re a Jewish home,” I blurted. It was my standard line for Jehovah’s Witnesses who make the rounds every week before closing the door in their face. “Good luck with your business,” I muttered, walking away quickly.

I knew that was the wrong answer almost immediately. When a stranger asks you if you believe in god, the answer is “None of your business.” But in my ingrained need to be a good girl, a nice girl, someone who obeys the rules and does as she’s told, I attempted to answer her outrageously personal question. If she had asked me how much money I made or at what age I lost my virginity, I’m pretty confident I would have looked at her like she was crazy and kept that information to myself. I’m a grownup. I don’t have to be liked by everyone. And I certainly don’t need to be liked by the woman who has a “praying business.”

And of course now I think, what would she be up to praying for, anyway? Is everything on the table? “I need to pray for someone,” I might ask. “Sure, we can pray for anyone,” she’d say taking my hands in hers. “Great,” I would reply. “I’d like to pray that the horrible principal who got my husband fired and almost, single-handedly ruined his teaching career gets hit by a car.” “Um, no,” she’d say, visibly uncomfortable. “I’m not sure that’s what prayer is for.” “Sure it is. I’ve prayed countless times for harm to come to this woman, but it’s not working—yet. I think I just need some help.” I’d wink at her conspiratorially. “The power of prayer, right?” The woman takes a beat and meets my eyes. “That’ll be twelve dollars.”