Five Things For Which Life Is Too Short

I am not entirely sure how this post came about, but probably because I’ve been reading several really good novels, and then the inevitable stinker came along. It wasn’t even inevitable, it was self-induced. I knew it was a stinker when I started it. Bah. Life’s too short, thought I. Especially when life (as I know it) could be a whole lot shorter than I realize.

You never know.

Here’s five things life is most likely too short to do:

Long StoryLife is too short for a long story. Don’t you inwardly cringe when someone says, “It’s a long story but…”. To me, this marks the beginning of an upcoming period in my life where I’m going to be irretrievably bored, and will live precious minutes that I can’t get back, listening to something I’d rather not hear. Unrecoverable time. If the long story is a good one then quite possibly the time spent listening to it could be worthwhile, but ninety-nine-point-seven percent of the time, if someone says this, you’d be better off requesting an induced coma.

spongecupLife is too short to drink cheap wine. This is usually said when that first bottle (the one with the label on it which in no way suggests there is wine inside) is first tapped and allowed to “breathe” before dribbling two ounces into paper-thin, stemmed glassware which could hold a twenty-ounce Frostie with room to spare. The burgundy-colored liquid is swirled and examined for “legs”, the aroma breathed in, before that first teeny nip. The one where the lips are pursed on either side of the glass so as to not soil such a delightful accoutrement with anything one might deign to put on one’s lips. Fast forward two hours. Life is now not too short to drink cheap wine, if that’s all that’s left. The guests are now imbibing the more questionable adult beverage from bottles with labels picturing three-headed cows directly from Spongebob Squarepants cups. This after the unforgivable party foul — that of smashing three or four wine goblets during that little ruckus over by the barbecue pit.

TattoosLife is too short to blend in. After closely examining this phrase, it’s probably true. Those of us who are still keeping score — who has the biggest house, who stays in the better hotels, who has the most expensive car, wins — are probably guilty of blending in. To me, this says, don’t do what everyone else does, do your own thing, be different, do the things that cause Le Eyeroll Magnifique. Who wants it written on their tombstone, “Here lies Mary, She Blended In”. Well, actually, no one has shit like that engraved on their tombstone anymore. A lot of people get cremated and don’t even have a tombstone. And if they do have one, they probably prefer pictures of Angels with Wings.

Stuffed mushroomsLife is too short to stuff a mushroom. Some things aren’t worth doing. How much can you put into a mushroom? Just a little bit, and before you can stuff it you have to core the insides out of all those little fungi. It’s important that they be no larger than what can be popped into one’s mouth in toto, lest you squirt mushroom juice directly onto your neighbor’s Gucci cotton-poplin. Pick a different Hors d’oeuvre. Break out the Cheez-its someone, and spare me from having to poke something into a half-inch opening. I don’t have that much tolerance for boredom.

Valley of the doolsLife is too short to read bad novels. Ah, here it is. The justification for this blog post. Last post, I said I was going to read Valley of the Dolls as an example of what not to do. Got about 15% of the way in (one sitting) and decided: Nope, nah, not gonna do it. To deliberately read a novel that you know is bad is kind of like going to an Adam Sandler movie. You know what you’re getting into, yet you do it anyway. Thinking about those hours of my life that I couldn’t get back after I’d read VOTD, and considering I’d read it once before forty-n years ago and thought it was pretty stupid then, isn’t my idea of an intelligent decision on how to spend time. I’d just done that with Fifty Shades, and that writing was on par with this latest attempted read. So, no thanks, Ms. Susann. RIP, but I’m not reading any of your books. I got what I needed from the first ten pages.

Spongebob Photo credit: origami_potato / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Tattoo Photo credit: * raymond / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

More Scam Spam Fun!

Email ScamSince I had a bit of a virtual romp with Olga a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been receiving some other types of interesting propositional emails from people.

Some like this one from 楊惠君.

Disclaimer: This is an actual email, copied and pasted from my Yahoo email account. It was not altered in any way, in order to make it more ludicrous or humorous. I did not compose the email sent by Mrs Vina Long.

From: “”楊惠君”” <yhj888@masterlink.com.tw>

To:

Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013 5:51 PM

Subject: From Vina.

.

Hello.

I am Mrs. Vina Long an aging widow suffering from cancer, a long time illness. Before my late husband died we had no children. I have some funds I inherited from my late husband. I will ask my attorney to prepare the necessary document to transfer the funds from my husband online offshore account and property to you. I want you to help me with this as I am very sick and cannot do this myself as I have to make my last wish come true. I have an estate in Medford NJ (USA) and a total sum of GBP£4.3Million (Four Million Three Hundred Thousand Great British Pounds Sterling) in my late husband online offshore account, which I have instructed my attorney to transfer the account of the person I have decided to make my next of kin. I need you to sell the property in Medford NJ USA. And 30\25 of the total sum should be transferred to any orphanage home. I need a very honest and God fearing Christian that will use the fund for God’s work, I found your email address from the internet and decided to contact you. Please if you would be able to use the funds for the Lord’s work, kindly reply me back.

Thanks again for you concern and Stay blessed.

Mrs Long

vina-long001@live.com

.

This is terrible! My heart goes out to Mrs Vina Long! O the unfairness of it all, widowed, suffering from a long cancer illness, having no one to bestow her fortunes on! What could be worse. I ask ya. Just what could be worse.

Of course, her cancer being a “long” illness rather than a “short” one, seems beneficial. Maybe I can point that out to her.

My heartfelt reply to Mrs Vina Long follows.

Hello Mrs. Vina Long,

I am replying you back and am sorry that you are an aging widow, suffering from cancer (a long time illness). Also, I am aging (aren’t we all?) but not a widow. Cancer is sometimes a short term illness, though, so let’s hope your particular illness continues on for a very long time. We are all terminal, don’t forget this, and perhaps you will outlive the cancer. Meaning of course, that something else will get you in the end. Not a pleasant thought, unfortunately.

You say before your late husband died, you had no children. Does this mean that you had children after he died? If so, that is also most unfortunate.

It is very generous of you to ask your attorney to prepare the necessary document to transfer the funds from your “husband online offshore account” and property to me. I am already quite well-to-do and look upon this as a possible tax problem. Can your attorney advise me about that?

Of course I am willing to do what I can. I have no real knowledge of how to sell real estate or of Medford, NJ. The only thing I can say is, I can put on a killer Jersey accent! So maybe I will fit right in down there in “Joisey” Hahaha!

For the humor, I apologize, but am trying to cheer you in this, your hour of great need. You being so sick and all. Sometimes a laugh helps the spirits lift, know what I’m sayin’?

For my next area of confusion, I see you have decided to make me your next of kin. Can you do this? Could you please adopt me first? I am willing for you to become my guardian. God knows, I need guarding (and guidance) because even though I am old in years, I still behave like an utter ass sometimes.

So on to the estate in Medford. I am to sell the property and 30/25 of the total sum should be transferred to any orphanage home? I am not so good at “the maths” as they say there Across the Pond, but it appears as if this is greater than the price I would receive for the property. Does this come out of the 4.3 Million Great British Pounds Sterling?

Please do not underestimate my honesty. It is utter and complete. Trust me — you can trust me! I live to do these good deeds whenever I hear from people such as you.

As for God-fearing, need we fear God? I have always had a problem with that. I guess I don’t fear Him, so does this eliminate me as your potential next of kin? I am very sorry to have to say this, but, since I am so honest and trustworthy (and trusting too!) I will tell you the truth. So can we just strike out the God-fearing part and maybe substitute God-respecting? Or maybe we could just remove that clause altogether?

I will however, use the fund for God’s work. He works in mysterious ways, I’m told, so maybe God wants me to invest in a hedge fund.

You found my email address on the internet? How did you know I was honest because of that?

I am very grateful and honored to be chosen for this, and to do “God’s work”.

Please write soon, and tell me what steps we need to take to get the adoption completed. I am looking forward to becoming your next of kin.

You stay blessed too, Mom (can I call you that now?) and write soon…

Your Devoted Next of Kin

Okay! I’m all set to become the NOK of Mrs Vina Long, I guess.

Really. Can we stop with this stuff? There is not a person left ON THE PLANET who will not do the triple eye roll at this. Congratulations though, for landing in my Inbox, and not my spam folder. You must be doing something right.

Unfortunately, to date, I have not heard back from Mrs. Vina Long.

How Olga Screwed My Happiness

I received the following email from Olga. The subject line was “your profile to produce on me greater impression”. Naturally, I was curious.

hello lynn!

how are you today? What is your name?
my name is Olga, You frequently are on this site http://www.russiahotgirls.com/ ?
I today wanted to talk to you in a chat
You have yahoo or hotmail ID? if you write to me, ok?
I shall wait from you the letter with impatience

Olga

Of course, I didn’t want to be rude. I answer all emails that are sent to me. Which is why I have no time for anything else. I get a lot of emails! And the more I respond, it seems the more I get. Funny how that works.

When you learn, teach. When you get, give. (Maya Angelou)

I responded to Olga as follows:

Hello there Olga!

I am fine today! Although yesterday I was lesser fine, today more so am I fine.

My name is Lynn, but you already must are knowing it since you say nice hello lynn!

In a chat today I am so liking to do!

I have ID for yahoo, hotmail no ID for me is having. Writing to you now, I will do it!

Not to wait with impatience as now I am sending the letter. With impatience I am also waiting for your nice reply. Hope soon it will come!

 Lynn

I waited (with impatience) for Olga’s reply. Olga must have a few email addresses because the second one was a little different. Yet, I am sure it is the same Olga, my new-found friend! This time the subject line was “Watsup bro”.

You have drawn my attention to a site of acquaintances. I hope, as I shall like you. How I to you in a photo? See here http://www.russiahotgirls.com/. The truth – pretty? 🙂 But in a life I more nice!!!
And as I cheerful, kind, sociable and fluffy! I like to go in for sports, read books, to listen to music. I love winter and summer. I do not love spring and slush.
If I have interested you, with pleasure I shall tell about myself more in the following letter.
I wait for the answer on soethcenljal889@yandex.ru

Olga

Ah, Olga. I can’t click links, much as I’d like to. I just can’t do it.

Dear Olga,

I am drawn with much pleasure to the acquaintances site, as already I know I very much like you.

Of course you are cheerful, kind, sociable but fluffy I am not sure I am liking, but will try harder! I at sports cannot do, I am sorry to say, as bones are aged and break easily, yet I watch with happiness. I like read books also and music also. When spring and slush I take you to South France for weeks in luxury hotel. I have much to give you!

Very deeply you have interested me, but please send picture personally as I am old and not trusting of links in emails. Sorry! My staff of servants tell me “Do not click on links” and believe them I must since they are well-paid by me and in my employ for twenty years more.

You have not address to me an endearment, of which I am feel very sorry when last time you said dear lynn.

With great fondness, Lynn

Olga returned my email that very day! I was so happy to get it, after we had struck up this nice friendship. Yet again, she had a different email address. This time is was Olga6969@hotmail.com.

Dear lynn,

When hearing from you last time, I cannot believe my luck to have found such a friend.
Fluffy is meaning happy-to-lucky and filled with funny. No more than that!
In spring we go to South france? Can you send me for a ticket? I like to fly first class, do you?
See my picture here. Not sending links as you say you will not click.
Do you know Western Union? They are convenient, and are friends there. You can send money for ticket to me there?

Love to you, Olga

Wow! That happened fast. Olga wants to visit the South of France with me! This is the picture Olga attached.

OlgaPhoto

Lost no time responding to Olga.

Olga,

Western Union is not close with me. Please can you explain it? You to me in the photo will be as an angel who I see before sleeping and as soon on wake. Olga, I am very much liking your picture, and will we be together soon in France? I hope so.

Here is my picture and I am waiting for you to tell me what you think of it!! Please write soon as I wait with your impatience to receive hello from you!

With great love and affection, Lynn

 Here’s the picture I sent Olga:

OldMan

The very next day I got another email from Olga:

Hello!
You have very much interested me.
It will be pleasant for me if you want with me will get acquainted.
It will be very pleasant for me to find the friend or second half through the Internet.
We can exchange photos.
You can write to me the letter on this electronic address Yaroslav.Feduloov@yandex.ru
I wait for your answer.

My name is Olga.
Good-bye.

I do not think Olga and I to South France will go. I am not liking, and I must say to Olga: “Olga, if you are out there you are screwing my happiness!”

Olga image  courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Man on crutches image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Seven Questions About a Very Important Subject

One thing that has always interested me, is people who do things to the extreme. Who take a good thing, or an okay thing, and do it to the extent that it becomes bizarre, unwholesome, and endangers health and happiness.

I was drawn to people who tan too much, who tattoo too much, who pierce too much, who work out too much. Those who stretch their ears so they dangle down around chin-level. People who augment their lips, breasts and butts and once they do it a little, they think “just a little more” until they lose sight of how gross it has all become.

Here are a couple of examples.

Tenk you to my family fodda gym membership! It's been a great six weeks.

Tenk you to my family fodda gym membership! It’s been a great six weeks.

That was some party last night! Hope I didn't do anything I'll regret...

That was some party last night! Hope I didn’t do anything I’ll regret…

But what can you say about that, really? We know people exist who do this, and if you’re like me, you’re kind of morbidly fascinated by what people are willing to do to their bodies.

I googled “extreme” and followed that by every letter of the alphabet, trying to find extremes that one might not necessarily think of. I did find one, “extreme eyelashes” that was pretty cool.

Ack! I hate clumpy lashes.

Ack! I hate clumpy lashes.

But when I got to the letter “i”, I found something veddddy innnteresting!

Extreme Ironing!

What?!!

Extreme Ironing is for real. I am not making it up. People take ironing boards to remote locations and iron items of clothing. According to The EI folks, Extreme Ironing is the “latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”

Here are just a few (there are many more) locations of where Extreme Ironing has taken place:

extreme-ironing4

Extreme Ironing3extreme Ironing2Extreme IroningI have seven questions for our Extreme Ironers.

  1. I note that all the pictures of Extreme Ironers are men. Why is this, when we all know it’s women who do most of the ironing?
  2. Has the shirt been correctly laundered, i.e. stains removed, fabric softened, color-safe bleached when necessary?
  3. Is the ironing board cover clean and in good repair, i.e. no rips, tears or spray starch stains?
  4. What about your iron? Do you use steam? Have you flushed it recently with distilled water?
  5. What if my shirt is permanent press? Doesn’t ironing become moot?
  6. How does it work, when you iron a shirt underwater exactly? Can you do this without getting an electrical shock?
  7. Where do you plug in the iron?

Just curious, you understand. I do think it is a very, um, unusual, concept.

The Body Builder by Slim45hady
Body Art by Frederic Poirot
eyelashes by arsenic

Monsieur Squirrel

My adrenaline is still pumping. I’m afraid to put my ear buds back in to continue with my French lesson since I want to be able to hear what is going on in the house.

So, here I come, up the basement stairs after tossing in a load of wash (all nicely sorted, and shouted-out, and all the dispensers filled with their appropriate liquids), and I’m practicing the phrase “I don’t understand French” (Je ne comprends pas Français!) over and over because it’s the only thing I’m sure of with the French lessons, that I don’t understand French, and I continue up to my second story loft/office and who is sitting atop the file cabinet but Monsieur Squirrel! 

I dub him Monsieur Squirrel, affectionately, hoping that he is but a scared, out-of-touch, senile old rodent who has wandered in, through an opening we have yet to discover, and once in can’t figure out how to get back out. This isn’t the first time M. Squirrel has gifted us with an appearance. He once showed up in the basement which is a lot harder to get him out of actually, so I guess I can be grateful I found him upstairs.

God. I’m a grown woman and I’m this afraid of something that probably weighs less than one pound? He doesn’t like me either, and runs into a bedroom. I flail around in the hallway, running this way and that, to and fro, trying to decide what to do. If I go downstairs, I’m not sure I’ll have the courage to come back up.

But wait. He’s more afraid of me than I am of him. And then I think holy shit, then he must be fairly well paralyzed with fear. I know he wants to get out of here as much as I want him out, so let’s work together on this. Coaxing isn’t going to work because I’m pretty sure he won’t respond to sweet talk, and I don’t understand Squirrel so a bit of tough love is necessary. Shouting and stomping and scaring the literal crap out of M. Squirrel, so that he and I can reach an agreement and I can be where I want to be (without him) and he can be where he wants to be (with his squirrel buddies, maybe there’s even a Madame Squirrel).

I am afraid if I go downstairs I’ll never have the guts to come back up, knowing he is up here.

But I go downstairs. I open the back door and the front door wide, so he can get out, and venture back upstairs, heart pounding and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs so he’ll be sure to hear me. When I come back up, I decide to open a window in the master bedroom and remove the screen so he has another escape route.  

Gah! As I enter the room I see him dart under the bed! He has now relocated to my bedroom! I vacate the premises and return to the loft and shout. Get out! I see him (thankfully) run out of the bedroom down the stairs to the first floor, but he (duh, M. Squirrel!) completely misses the fact that he’s run right by the open front door.

I chase him around the living room and it works, or at least gets him into the kitchen where there is another opened door. But he (again) ignores his escape to freedom and decides instead to run along the counter and hop onto the computer desk and then bash into a closed window before he leaps up onto the bar. He plops down from there  to the floor and casually strolls outside. I watch him go and have never been so glad to get rid of a houseguest in my life.

But now I’m still kind of spacey and uncertain about it and I’m thinking, what if he comes back? What if he decides he likes it in here? What if he really is old and senile and looks at this as a nice rest home? A place to spend his golden squirrel years?  

I can no longer concentrate on Lesson 4 of The Pimsleur Approach, Quick and Simple French – there’s nothing quick and simple about French, I’m here to tell you – because now I’m sure there must be a whole Squirrel family in residence. It could be a regular Squirrel Sta-cation for all I know.

Thinking that I might return to some level of normalcy later, I postpone French Lesson 4, but vow to take it up this afternoon, when my heart rate has returned to normal. The French lessons are because I’m leaving for Europe in a few days for a month (London / Paris / Rome), so I’m reading Rick Steves books and attempting to learn some French, since I suspect French people will be nicer to you if you at least attempt to speak their language.  I’ve heard that the French don’t like us Américain(e) much, but then I’ve also heard that isn’t true. Not knowing what to expect, I thought I’d at least try learning enough French to convince them that, though I may be a vile and vulgar Américain, I at least cared enough to learn sufficient French to convince les Français of my stupidity and complete ineptitude with their language.

I will be posting reviews of books for the next five weeks, as I’m not sure what kind of blogging I’m going to be able to do whilst over there, across the pond. These are all good books that readers of this blog might enjoy, and were originally posted at another blog site, Boomers and Books.

While we are gone, I hope Monsieur Squirrel doesn’t decide to take up permanent residence here.

Au revoir!

 Images courtesy of freedigitalprints.net

The Man on The Plane

Yesterday I had to fly. Flying used to be fun, sort of exciting, but as we now know, everything has changed about the experience. Now it’s just, well, tedious. So many things to accomplish before I lay my head down. Or, in other words: Miles to go before I sleep. (I always liked that.)

There’s all the preparation to go. Don’t forget anything. Make sure there’s enough time. Count backwards. Let’s see. Flight leaves at 10:40 so let’s call that 10:30. Need an hour and a half at Tampa International Airport. (Actually, that’s a stretch, you really only need an hour, so I’m probably overcompensating by forty minutes at this point.) Allow thirty minutes for the shuttle to the airport from the rental car place. And thirty minutes to get to the rental car place.

Okay, we’re at the airport. Stand in line at the ticket counter to check two bags. Here, a slight diversion. These are bags designed to be carryons but of COURSE we can’t do that anymore because of silly rules about liquids in 4 ounce containers (thank you Mr. Shoe Bomber!) and other forbidden items which may become weapons, like nail files and miniature socket sets. Check the bags, reprint the boarding passes, show ID.

Next, stand in line to (again) show ID and boarding pass in order to get on shuttle for a one-minute whisk to the terminal. Once deposited safely terminalside, prepare for the TSA IPP (Invasion of Privacy and Patdown). Show ID and boarding pass (yet AGAIN), where a uniformed Security Specialist shines a light on your driver’s license and makes his secret little mark on your boarding pass. Take laptop out of case, disrobe and try to remember whether you need ID and boarding pass again. Try to keep track of belongings, get x-rayed, retrieve belongings, get dressed.

We are now ready to board the plane but, as usual, we’re about two hours early, having grossly over-estimated the amount of time everything will take. Play the waiting game and listen to lame pages. Will Ruth Quackenbush please pick up the nearest white courtesy telephone? Every ten minutes we are instructed that we are in an indoor clean-air facility and no smoking is permitted. And also a reminder that any unattended bags will be im-pound-ed.

Line up, get on plane. We usually board first, since I’m one of those anal people who has my right mouseclick finger poised at exactly 24 hours before boarding time so we can be part of the esteemed A Group.  The seats are three across, so if it’s a full flight, someone will be joining our cozy little party of two. It was a full flight. Okay, I’m in the middle seat, so let’s make eye contact with someone who is relatively slender and looks like he or she won’t want to make much conversation.

Woman and her husband approach, and she sits across the aisle and he sits next to me. He is a small, wiry sort of fellow with a thick crop of untended black hair. He looks a bit like he is continually on an adrenaline rush. He carries a book which is a good sign.

“Good place to sit!” he says. “More leg room here!”

“Yeah, I guess so,” say I, while I don’t believe there is any more leg room at this particular location than anywhere else.

His wife requests her “reading material” so he stands up in the aisle and proceeds to fumble in a suitcase in the overhead compartment holding up approximately forty passengers waiting to proceed to the rear of the plane where there are still empty seats remaining.

He gets to the material his wife has demanded and hands it to her and settles into his seat. He eats (rather noisily) a peach and half of an overripe banana before the plane takes off.

As we take off and are climbing to 10,000 feet where we can turn on electronic devices, he and his wife pass a small turquoise bottle filled with something that produces a pungent aroma back and forth. It smells a bit like smelling salts. What the…? It’s a bit stinky actually, and they reverently pass it back and forth and inhale deeply the fumes. Does anyone know what this is? I didn’t ask. Something for ear pressure problems? Air sickness? Maybe just good karma?

The flight attendant asks him if he’d like a complimentary juice, soft drink, tea or coffee. He orders a mixture of half cranberry juice, half diet sprite. It seemed a bit demanding to me, that he be served some sort of special refreshments. Let’s just keep it simple, shall we?

Snack? Peanuts and Ritz Mini Snack Thins (only 100 calories!) are offered.

“I’ll have four peanuts,” he says.

Four peanuts! Who says you can have four? You’re supposed to get one! What if everybody on this plane asked for four? He got his four, and later he accepted his Ritz Mini Snack Thins too. Then he proceeded to ask for two refills of his special concoction of cranberry juice and diet sprite. Clearly, here is a man who likes to take advantage of free stuff.

He read, did a crossword puzzle, and then fashioned himself a bookmark. He carefully ripped the back cover of the Southwest Spirit Magazine down about one inch, and bent the page down, flipping the magazine back and forth as he did this, elbows flailing and invading my personal space. Fold, press, run thumbnail firmly over the fold, flip, repeat. Finally he tore it off. Voila! Bookmark!

What?

When we stood up to get off the plane, waiting in perhaps the last line of the day, he said to his wife, “I did some verrrrry deep thinking during this flight.”

I think this guy might make his way into a novel somewhere down the line.

Perigee Moon – Beta Reader Results Are In

An abbreviated post this week. I had a wonderful response to Remembering the Pankcake Man. Thanks to all who read and commented. My father was remembered at his memorial service on April 20, 2012. Many people came to honor him, to tell us what he had meant to them, and there were quite a few tears and even some laughs as we remembered the good days. I will always be grateful for everyone who came and shared their memories.

My husband reminded me of something funny that my father had said to him. We asked him, will you be buried here, next to Mom? And he said yes, he would be. And he had purchased additional plots for my brother and me, to be buried there too, but he guessed that probably wouldn’t happen. Those plots wouldn’t be used, so he was considering “turning them into a family room”. That was so typical of his sense of humor.

At my father’s funeral, the pastor read two poems my father had written. I had no idea. He wrote one poem about golf and another about retiring. They were funny, and witty, and everyone enjoyed hearing them. I never knew he wrote poetry.

The reviews are in from my Beta Readers. I got lots of thumbs up of Perigee Moon (between one and twenty per person). Even though these are my good friends from high school, still they all said they thought Perigee Moon is my best work yet. Every single one of them said it, and it is very gratifying to hear it.

They asked me if these characters are based on anyone, and I had to say no, these characters are truly made up. Maybe some of the characters in my first two books were based (loosely) on people I had known. In this case, that isn’t true. I thought a lot about the characters and how they would interact and what they would think and say. They are fictional, yet I suppose there are people who are just like Luke. Kate and Abby.

I will be fixing up the remaing typos and releasing it for publication in early May.

Remembering the Pancake Man

Today I don’t feel funny and I don’t feel creative.

I lost someone Sunday, April 15, 2012. Someone really close to me, and I knew I would lose him soon but that doesn’t seem to make it any easier. I’d watched him deteriorate through the abyss of Alzheimer’s disease for years, and for the past year have seen his steady decline.

The man is my father, who lived an ordinary life, and the life he wanted to live. He was a better father to his children than his father was to him, which I found quite extraordinary. How can a man be better at fathering than what he had known? My father did it.

He had four brothers and one sister, and was known as the “nice one”. The others were apt to be a part of fights and various altercations in bars and roller skating rinks around town. My Dad was the one who calmed everyone down and got them to see the other side.

All he wanted was to have a family, and be moderately successful, and be able to eke out a living, since he was uneducated (having dropped out of high school at 16 to join the CCC in order to help out his family during the Great Depression).

He was the kind of guy that everyone liked, they knew he’d never cheat anyone, that being known for his honesty and integrity would always be more important than wealth. And he always said he’d been lucky in his life, and that seemed to be true. Whenever it looked like the end of the financial road, as he was starting up his business, something would happen to kick it down the road a little further.

Everyone loved his stories and while not always politically correct back then, he did tell one funny joke. I’ve seen him entertain groups of twenty people with his rendition of the “Dippy Dippy Blue Cheer” story.

I wrote an essay about him, to be entered in a contest sponsored by Real Simple magazine, which of course didn’t go anywhere. I’ve never won anything in my life, not raffles or lotteries or even football pools, let alone a contest where I’d be judged against my better peers. The essay was to be about the first time you knew what love was. Kind of a sappy topic, but I decided to try it.

Here it is, dedicated to my Dad.

 

Pancake Man

 

It was the 1950’s and give or take a year, I was seven years old when I was introduced to the joys of asthma. But this story isn’t about me, it’s about my father, and what happened as a result of my illness.

My dad grew up poor. His family was not wealthy, not well-to-do, not even middle class. They might qualify for food stamps today, but back then they muddled along and each day was a challenge.

He didn’t finish high school but went into the CCC to help the family, then to work in the oil fields, then into the army where he fought in World War II. Along the way, he met my mother and fell in love. After she came into his life he wanted different things. Marriage, family, respectability and hope for a better life.

And he got that better life. We struggled some, but not more than other families. He worked hard at his sales job during the day, and fixed up our rundown house at night, and still found the time to be a devoted father to my brother and me.

We didn’t eat meat every day, sometimes it was a pancake supper. Dad liked to pour the batter onto the hot griddle in shapes. Big pancake stomach, smaller pancake head, dribbled arms and legs. It’s Pancake Man! In his excitement, my brother banged on his highchair and spilled his milk. My mother complained. Oh, it’s just a little milk, Dad said. What can it hurt?

He was the calm one, the patient one, the one to be counted on. What’s a little milk on the floor? He asked. To be fair to my mother, she was the one on her hands and knees cleaning up the milk mess. She wanted everything just so.

My parents took my brother and me to a strawberry farm one afternoon, owned by friends of theirs, a couple who had two kids around our same ages. We, the kids, raked up a big pile of hay in the barn and jumped in it. I tried to ignore the sneezing, and the itchy eyes that came on, but at some point I became very uncomfortable and took refuge in my father’s familiar arms. I was scared and felt bad and was probably crying, which didn’t help the fact that my chest had tightened and I could hardly breathe. My parents were alarmed and we left for home.

I recovered from that bout, but once started, the episodes became more frequent, until I was a full-blown asthmatic. It seemed after that first time, I became short of breath while doing things I had previously done with no problem. I couldn’t run or ride a bike or jump in leaves.

They took me to many doctors, the family physician, the allergist, even a chiropractor at one point, although to this day I’m not sure why that would ever have worked. Someone probably suggested it, and my parents tried everything.

Eventually, a round of allergy shots was suggested. I had bad reactions to the injections and twice ended up in an ambulance on my way to the hospital for a dose of adrenaline. And while I was a bit of a drama queen and enjoyed the attention that being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance afforded me, it was stressful for my family.

What can we do? My parents asked. You might consider a different climate, warm, and dry, without the dampness and the pollen, the doctor said. Mom and Dad thought about it, and discussed it. They also talked to other people who knew this person and that person who had moved to Phoenix, Arizona and it was a miracle, the people said, because the asthma was gone once they got there.

My parents made their decision and sold the house and most of the furniture. Dad hitched up a U-Haul trailer to the old Mercury and we set out for Phoenix. It was exciting for my brother and me, an adventure. We’d never stayed in a motel before, we were moving to a big city, and we would be the “new kids”. We were thrilled, with the mystery of what would happen next.

What happened next wasn’t good. We rented an apartment in a complex of eight, four on each side, which looked like Army barracks, built with concrete blocks, with cement floors painted brown. There was an eat-in kitchen, a living room, two bedrooms and a basic bathroom. It was a dreary place and Mom felt we needed to have modern light-colored furniture now that we were living in the Southwest, so we bought tables and chairs in a color called “blonde”. It seemed ugly to me, uncomfortable and temporary.  

The living conditions were less than perfect, but worse than that, I was allergic to Bermuda grass which was grown in Phoenix because it could withstand the dry climate. I wheezed in Arizona as much as I had in Western New York. It became clear, it wasn’t going to work. We had sold our belongings and moved to a strange city where we didn’t know anyone only to find that I wouldn’t be any better there than I had been “back home”, as we now called it.

It will get better, Dad said. It will get better. 

The refrigerator had a short in it, and could give you an electric shock when you touched the metal handle. It was a random occurrence, but we were always afraid of it. One day my mother had her hands in dishwater and turned around and grabbed the handle and got a shock that literally froze her where she was, unable to move. I pushed her hand away to free her and got a shock too. It was just about the last, worst thing.

That day, the day my mother had nearly been electrocuted, my father cried. I will never forget that day. He came in from work, and she was in tears and I was sick with wheezing. He wept. I had never seen it before and realized he felt deep disappointment, and regret, and fear that there wouldn’t be anything that could help me. And utter sadness that it had been a mistake and it wasn’t going to “get better”.

That was the day I first knew about love. I looked at my father, my strong, invincible father, as he sobbed at the kitchen table, and I felt such an overwhelming love for him, my Daddy, that my throat tightened, and I couldn’t talk about it, and I couldn’t feel anything but that, and I knew I’d do anything to make his tears go away. If only I could not be sick anymore, that would make him feel better.

We went back home. We’d only lived in Phoenix one month. My parents looked at it as a learning experience. That if they hadn’t tried it, they would have never known for sure, and would have always wondered, what if? We muddled through those years when I was a wheezy kid, then adolescent, and I stayed away from dogs and cats, and dust and pollen, and hay and strawberry farms. Until, when I was a teenager, the asthma nearly disappeared. I was one of the lucky ones who “grew out of it”.

I never really appreciated my parents when I was young, as many children don’t. I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t know there were families who fought, who abused each other, who didn’t support one another. My father was always the strong one, the funny one, my tall, good looking Daddy. He became successful in his life, and he was always a faithful husband and the best father any child could ever hope to have. He was a perfect father. There was nothing he did wrong, not once. But I didn’t think about how much I loved him until that day, when he needed to be loved, when he couldn’t be strong for us any longer, and became vulnerable and defeated and lost.

He taught me to tie my shoes, and now I help him tie his. My father has Alzheimer’s, and is in the mid-stage now, that dreadful time between knowing and not knowing. He is afraid, and confused, and I would give anything if he did not have to go through this.

I think about that day, when he cried, nearly every day now. He’s probably forgotten it, but I never will. The day I learned what love was really all about. When someone else became more important than myself. When his needs trumped mine. When I thought, I really love this person, my father.

Every child should have such a father.

 

B. B. “Clink” Voorhees (May 31, 1922 – April 15, 2012)

 

 

 

 

The Flu Yields a Good Book Review

Last week I hinted at the end of my post that I felt like I was getting the flu. Well bring it on! Let’s get this flu thing going and over with, shall we? Not so fast, the evil germ-vermin said. We think we’ll hang around for awhile. And they did, those little buggers, free-loaded for six days before giving up.

Rarely does this happen, that I get anything that lasts more than a day. And some may find the following unbelievable but before I retired, I used to hope for just a teeny spot of flu, maybe enough that I could spend two days groaning and collecting sympathy, without (and this is the caveat) feeling guilty for calling off sick at work. Just a couple of days to watch On Demand movies, or read, while drinking tea.

This time though was a little more than I would have wanted, ever. I was feverish for days, and I’d doze and think I’d slept for hours yet only a few minutes had passed. I hurt and remember thinking how I was going to have to explain to someone (and I had no explanation) how it felt and make them understand the connection between the pain and the fever, and if I couldn’t explain it, then I was never going to get better. Weird fever dreams when you tend to overanalyze everything and focus inwardly to such an extent that the illness becomes your existence, it’s what you are, at least for awhile.

The best I can describe it anyway.

I’d previously downloaded an ebook called January Moon, by Maureen Gill, onto my Kindle, because of the title and a good recommendation, so I read it. I had considered titling my new novel February Moon because I didn’t think anyone would know what Perigee Moon meant, then I decided to go with Perigee. The closeness of the titles was compelling.

Check the cover.  I think it is kick-ass. After I read it, I thought the cover couldn’t have been more perfect.

I thought what a good time to read it but started the book thinking, there are a lot of clichés in this book, which is something to which I have a particular aversion. Some of the characters are clichéd too, the crusty old four-decade police force Lieutenant, ex-marine, chain-smoking, irreverent. Then there’s the handsome thirty-something cop, not someone any bad guy would want to an up-close encounter with, yet oh so sensitive, who is engaged to the beautiful professor who never wanted a relationship with a cop because (of course) her father is an ex-cop and wheelchair-bound after taking a bullet in the spine during an altercation with someone desiring to evade the law. Stuff like that.

But the story kept me interested. It was a page-turner, and I was hooked enough to keep going until I was so committed I could not wait to get back to the book. I found editing errors, and still didn’t care. Nothing could dissuade me from reading it, because it was a damn good story. The author knows so much about the FBI and the Illinois State Police and the Chicago City Police and the Medical Examiner’s Office, that every line about these agencies is credible.

I found there were a plethora of characters and I had just the smallest trouble keeping them straight but not enough that I got horribly confused.

There was action, something happening on every page. Rich surprising characters who do things you would never expect them to, believable dialogue. And an interesting thing about the dialogue, Ms. Gill made use of almost no attributions (he said, she said), which I found interesting. Very well done for the number of characters involved.

And the dog. What a lovely story about him, and he deserves his place on the cover photo.

This is a good example of a plot-driven novel. If you’ve got a great story and characters to care about, you’ve got a winner and that’s what this novel is. I guess we of the character-driven novel have one strike against us, in that if our characters suck, our novel sucks too.

I would recommend this book to anyone. You can find it on Amazon or Smashwords. It is immensely entertaining. I can just see this as a movie, and wouldn’t be surprised to hear it’s been picked up for the Big Screen. Let’s see, Clint for the older cop and maybe Ryan Gosling as the younger?

Kudos to Ms. Gill and this is her debut novel! I am truly impressed and will forgive clichés. Without so many of them though, and the editing errors, I would give this novel 5*****.

In other news, another turn at editing The Infamous Flyer (Savon Spa opening Spring 2012 in Chicago). I hope everything is satisfactory now because my frustration level is way high. Not only do I struggle with software I don’t quite grasp, but my laptop has memory issues, I keep getting a popup – “WARNING!! You are running low on memory! Quick! Save your work to prevent data loss!” (Perhaps not the exact verbiage.) I calmly close the popup but it is annoying. Plus it still has other issues, in that sometimes it can’t “see” my Verizon Hotspot router which sits a mere 24 inches away, or it can’t “see” any networks at all, or it suddenly disconnects for no reason. And it still has the jumping cursor problem too. AND, it has a VISTA operating system which is utter junk.

A new PC is a big investment in time, what with getting everything off the old and onto the new, or re-downloading and re-registering and re-learning and re-configuring.

I’m going to do it – getting a new Samsung. It has an I7 processor (whatever that is only it must be better than the I5) and 8 GB of memory and I forget how much disk space, but it’s enough disk space to, if not “choke a horse” at least cause him to sputter a little.

My new Samsung shall become a beloved member of my electronics family, pampered and lightly touched with my cyber-affection.

The GIMP, CreateSpace and a Great Basketball Euphemism

Yes, last week’s post is really not happening until this week. I could make excuses, and say, but wait, I heard that more people read blogs on Monday than any other day of the week although I’m told they share more on Friday. It makes sense. Monday is a reading day (quiet, introspective, Monday-blues and can’t quite get into the workweek yet), and Friday is happy time. Time to party! Time to be free and share!

Maybe that’s not it, just one mad women’s assessment. I use the word “mad” to mean both crazy AND angry.

Someone I am close to, well, okay it’s my daughter, is opening up a new salon in Chicago. It’s to be the Savon Spa and is on Halsted St. in the heart of beautiful Lakeview. They will offer a variety of services, (things I never do) like spray tans, and facials, and something called micro dermabrasion (doesn’t that sound painful?), nail care, massage, stuff like that.

At one point I must have had a weak moment, or a moment in time when I needed to inflict intentional pain on myself. I can help you! say I. I have some photo editing experience, I’ve designed book covers, and cards, and even tee-shirts. Maybe I can help with your computer-related needs. Okay, says she (and her partner guy). How about helping with business (appointment) cards and a flyer?

Sure, say I. I can do that.

What was needed was a full blown graphic artist (not me) so I quickly learned that my sophomoric little package wasn’t going to work. Not to worry, I’ve also got The GIMP.

GIMP is not for everyone, and probably not for amateurs like me, but it is open source and it does everything except bring your pipe and slippers (two items I do not need anyway). It’s a great package. Here I am again, plugging great software. I can’t believe that The GIMP is available for a free download, it does everything that other sophisticated graphic design tools can do.

What a learning curve. What frustration. What a drag. Here is a picture of the finished flyer.

I have been tweaking and YouTubing and reading documentation and trying things for several days now, so while I like to write funny posts, I don’t feel particularly funny.

More optimistically (see, I could have said “on a lighter note” and that would have been a cliché), I have five copies of Perigee Moon coming, and will mail these out to my Beta reader group. They will arrive in a day or two. I did the final formatting over the weekend, when I wasn’t working on the freaking flyer and trying to figure out why my image couldn’t be moved, or the clone tool wouldn’t work, and trying to understand layers, and alpha channels, and a myriad of other stuff.

This stuff is all in my brain now, but if I don’t use it, it will disappear, as I make room for more subjects that I am required to learn.

Back to the novel, when I did the final preparation of my internal file, I had to go back to a post I wrote, about how to use Word to do your formatting and then create a pdf file, which can be directly uploaded to CreateSpace. So simple, to do, these fine CreateSpace people have made it easy on us poor not-worthy-to-be-published-in-any-traditional-way authors. Yeh! Here’s to CreateSpace.

I couldn’t remember how to do it, and so it’s a good thing I wrote that post, so I could go look at it again. This is the second time I’ve done that, so it’s valuable to me, if to no one else.

So on to my third topic. I heard a great basketball euphemism I thought I’d share.

This was back a couple of weeks ago before we were at Final Four, it might have been Elite Eight, when the interview took place. OU (Ohio University) hadn’t gotten so far in many years, since back in the 70’s and here they were. Finally! We people in Ohio were happy that our Ohio teams had survived.

OU has the dubious distinction of being The Biggest Party School in the Country. If you want to major in binge drinking, go there. A basketball player was asked about a previous win and if he had celebrated and here’s what he said.

“I must apologize that i didn’t contribute more to the elimination of distractions.”

That’s a very nice way of saying he drank himself silly, I guess. Got wasted, gooned, toasted. I thought that was a very nice euphemism. He is certainly a very politically correct young man.

Yeah. I don’t feel funny. Instead I feel like I’m getting the flu.