The Lame and the Sublime

Yellow cheers me. It’s true – and a reminder that cliches become cliches because they are true.

I approached the topic of the latest WordPress photo challenge with dismay or maybe disdain. Yellow. Lame. Does an orange cat count? Maybe I’ll sit this one out. But then I was out for a walk at sunset and this sky reminded me of how important yellow can be:

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Blue. Black. Purple. Red. At different times, each has been my favorite color. Yellow has never topped my favorite list, but when it’s in a group it always wins my attention and my heart. I decided the sunset was a sign that I should do the photo challenge and I kept my camera out until dark. It was reassuring to know the universe was helping me make life’s big decisions.

At my front window I caught a reflection of the sunset, plus holiday lights in my front room, and a distant glow of bedroom light:

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(Those power lines are reflections; they are not in my front room.)

A patio light had sunset glimpses behind its lattice fence:

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I’ve got lights outside for the holidays, and this one sucked all the sunset out of the view. Yellow is like that:

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On my front door is a wreath with dangling folk art animals. The last rays of sun turned this gator’s scales gold:

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Near the gator hangs a big cat which gleamed yellow-white in the sunset. I could never figure out what kind of big cat this was supposed to be, even before the sun bleached most of the color from its fur:

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That’s one beauty of folk art. Interpretation is loose and never literal.

From my backyard, I watched the sun finish setting over the top of my home and the mountains. That warm glow is from my kitchen:

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(The thick diagonal line across the window is a branch in the foreground.)

So, okay, WordPress knows best and this photo challenge turned out to be sublime.

For my fellow nerds, I’ve used the wonders of the internet to determine that a typical yellow has a wavelength of 570 nanometers. That’s a short wavelength. Only orange and red are shorter.

Now we know.

There is No DOH in Book Marketing (And Yet…) (P.S. Free Book Stuff)

Note to self: When you put a book on sale, or into a giveaway contest, it is generally a good idea to tell somebody.

Psst – the e-version of the speculative fantasy detective novel Nica of Los Angeles is $0.99 through the holidays at Amazon and most other on-line stores. I’m thrilled to report that Nica has been getting some truly rave reader reviews.

Also Psst – you can win a signed paper copy of Nica in this Goodreads giveaway.

These promotions are also part of Read Tuesdaya newfangled answer to Black Friday (not that any question was posed). Read Tuesday is an on-line sale just for books and it happens today, Tuesday, December 9, 2014. (Note to self: maybe next year let people know about this before it is in progress.)

And so my no-love affair with book marketing continues.

Something that has been a blast for me to do, though: I’ve made Spotify* playlists for Nica of Los Angeles and Scar Jewelry. In each playlist is a combination of music the characters listened to, and music that shaped the writing. Follow scperryz to listen – and let me know if the music that writes the novel also enhances reading the novel!

* Spotify is a digital music service and the best ten bucks a month I ever spent. (You can also get a free version with ads; I used that for a long time.)

Oh, and speaking of music, that reminds me of all the cool free -legal!- music downloads at Noisetrade, which now has free book downloads, too. You can download the first half of Nica of Los Angeles on Noisetrade books. (And – for the moment – all of Scar Jewelry!)

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When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, a stray cat has great powers, books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing person cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle with stakes that could not be higher.

Cover for Scar Jewelry

What do we really know about our parents or the way they shape us? For twins Deirdre and Langston, 20, the answer is: not enough. With their father long dead, and their mother now in a coma, they realize they don’t even know whom to notify. In fact, they understand almost nothing about their mother. They delve into her life, and as they do, they uncover secrets that revise the past and transform the future. Set in southern California in the present and in the early days of the punk scene.

The Only Cat in the World

I lost a dear friend today.

Our cat Bop always wanted to be the only cat. Probably only cat in the world, certainly in the household. Those other cats were irksome; unnecessary. She spent a decade demonstrating why she was superior to the rest of her breed. She helped with paperwork:

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She critiqued my writing:

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She kept her spine supple, the better to chase other cats:

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She practiced the art of fine sleeping:

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She lived for thrills. We had an aggressive rabbit, Cookie, who would attack any cat that dared go near her cage. Yet, whenever Cookie went out in the yard, Bop would hang out in the forbidden zone:

Bop grew up to disdain other animals, with one exception. She enjoyed our rabbit Cookie, a bold and aggressive rescue bunny. Bop loved to hang out in Cookie's cage. An extreme sport. Cookie would have killed anybody (not an exaggeration) she caught in her cage.

Bop was smart and affectionate, and friendly with humans. She tolerated the dog. When I walked the dog she would start the walk with us, and run to meet us when we returned. She devoted much of her life to the thankless, Sisyphean task of eradicating other cats from the neighborhood. She mostly but grudgingly got along with our cat Luna, who joined the household from the same shelter on the same day:

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I didn’t want to bring Bop home. She was homely, mangy, and her stomach was distended with worms. When my daughter tried to cuddle her at the shelter, Bop took a clawing flying leap over my daughter’s shoulder and shot away. We caught up to her three rooms distant. My son persuaded us to choose Bop because of her lively personality. Lively became over-the-top! She also became quite sleek and beautiful when she got healthy.

Time has done its flying thing. The girl who holds kitten Bop in that last picture is now applying to med schools. The boy, holding kitten Luna, becomes a father next spring (and along the way, grew several inches taller than his sister).

Luna grew up to be friendly to all other cats. Average Luna with Bop and you get a normal cat.

Big problems arose a couple years ago, when we adopted three new shelter kittens, Bo, Leo, and Arrow:

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As they got older, Luna became fast friends with them. Here he is with Leo, who became enormous:

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Bop hated the kittens and attacked with intent to kill. We were expecting trouble from her, but not so violent nor so persistent. We had to isolate the kittens for many months. When Leo and Bo got bigger, they stood up to her attacks, so – like any bully – she backed off. She still liked to hide behind doors to ambush them, but when she sprang out they would flatten and hiss and the incident would be over. The third kitten, Arrow, remained terrified, which inspired Bop to continue to chase and harass Arrow.

We always wondered whether Arrow and Bop knew how much they looked alike. Here is Arrow (reacting to Bop):

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Here is what Arrow saw (Bop, acting tough):

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Until recently, even the other kittens couldn’t tell Bop from Arrow. We put a bell on Bop for a while, to help distinguish her, but she kept escaping the collars. Too smart for us. Mistaken identities led to many double-takes and ill-chosen encounters. Arrow would run up to play with the other kittens and they would flee, mistaking her for Bop, leaving her with the feline equivalent of a WTF expression. Conversely, enemy Bop would appear and Bo and Leo would run toward her, mistaking her for their buddy Arrow. Bop would hiss or lunge, demonstrating their mistake, and they would flee, looking confused.

A few months ago, the vet said that Bop – only 11.5 years old – had terminal cancer and a few months to live. We all figured that Bop the contrarian would survive for years. After all, Cookie the rabbit did that after a similar diagnosis, and they were kindred spirits.

But that isn’t how it turned out.

Over the last several weeks, as Bop grew sicker, the young cats grew bolder, bringing a ding dong the witch is dead atmosphere to the household. One day, even Arrow felt comfortable nosing around Bop’s special sleeping areas. It made me cry – it was a proof of how sick Bop had become.

Today was Bop’s last day, and it was a tough one, although it concluded with a tribute of a moon that reminded me of Bop’s ultra-white and densely black fur:

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I loved the underside of Bop’s front paws. On one paw, she had all white toes, with one black exception in the middle. On the other paw, she had the opposite coloring.

Bop, you didn’t need to be the only cat to stand out. You were a difficult animal – my difficult animal – and I’ll miss you every day.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Gone but Not Forgotten.)

Phototravelog: Williamsburg Bridge Walk

The Williamsburg bridge connects Brooklyn with Manhattan and is a marvelous application of Erector Set construction principles:

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My latest trip to New York, I walked the Williamsburg bridge on a dark but lovely afternoon. To my left, I saw its more famous cousin, the Brooklyn bridge, along with the Manhattan skyline:

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On the Williamsburg bridge, the pedestrian walkway is a cage. The human eye quickly adjusts to this and ignores the bars, enjoying the view beyond. My phone camera, however, ignored the bars only in the few places where I could position the camera smack next to the grid, lens between bars:

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Even when the cage is not prominent, the view is cluttered, which adds a distinctive industrial beauty:

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Pedestrians walk above cars here:

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And alongside trains!:

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It turns out the subway is not just subterranean. Here are two trains passing, bread-‘n’-butter, in opposite directions:

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This video almost catches a train exchange. Behind the trains, note some reasons not to drive:

I think I remember reading that a public art project made some pink decisions:

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The public art continues to evolve:

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Underfoot I found my favorite:

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On the Williamsburg bridge, even the eroding asphalt paint looks good:

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(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Angular.)

Modern Hieroglyphs

Deep in the bowels of a public parking structure I discovered this modern equivalent of a cave painting:

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Can you guess what it is? This is a quiz without an answer key, because I dunno. My guess: this is the glue that remains after a sign fell or got removed.

I was in the hospital recently (hip replacement surgery), where one sleeps – or doesn’t – at odd hours. This is what my bed controls looked like at 3 am:

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The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Converge.

Subterranean Fear and Wonder

The New York City subway system is awesome.

Awesome (adjective), causing feelings of fear and wonder – Merriam Webster Online.

I love the New York subway. Sure, it can be noisy and crowded and dirty. Subway cleaning crews are as rare as baby pigeons and they seem to keep missing cesspools like this one:

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On the other hand, sometimes on the platforms there are musicians – damn good ones! – who improve your day with their music, whether or not you toss them any money. And the stations have a grimy beauty, thanks to many generations of tile art:

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When I tell you I’m a writer, I also admit to being a voyeur and a snoop. The subway is a great place to eavesdrop and observe (although it never takes long for input overload to occur). I look at all the people around me – well, one doesn’t look directly, one glances and senses – and I try to figure out who they are, what they care about, what their lives are like. Trains go by, more people framed in the windows, like sideways-advancing filmstrips.

2014-10-07 08.55.30As a novice rider, I took great pride in decoding the station and route map, negotiating the turns and turnstiles and signs — in actually getting where I intended to go. Now that I’ve had some practice, most of my trips are successful, and on brave days I try tricky transfers. Nonetheless, each visit to New York brings at least one time when my target station flashes past, the train doesn’t stop and I realize, oops, I’m on an express train. I get out my subway map app to determine how far out of my way the train is taking me. On the map, white dots show stations where express trains stop.

I have always appreciated the subway, but my current interest falls between preoccupation and obsession. This began on the day I glanced out a train window and saw another train that was at eye level, until suddenly it descended. Or my train ascended. Or both. How many levels are there down here below ground? I wondered, and I still don’t know the answer. When I went to the Transit Museum (yes, I went to the Transit Museum), I asked the bookstore guy if they had any 3D models of the system. He thought that was a cool idea for a future product and passed it along to his boss. In other words, nope, no 3D model.

Use of public infrastructure requires trust and perhaps ignorance. The transit museum exhibits confirmed the engineering brilliance of the system – and showed me the decrepit-looking control box that ran the system until way too recently. When I step into electrical gadgetry that shoots me around underground, I don’t want steampunk involved, thanks.

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At the Transit Museum I learned that New York’s millions of buildings and people are suspended above antique cavities that were tunneled long ago, through stone and under water, by methods crude and jury-rigged. Well, I guess if it were going to collapse it would have happened by now.

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(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Achievement.)