Como Se Dice “Better Late Than Never”

What the hey-ho, let’s start with a gratuitous video.


I have always loved school. Except for high school, of course – as an adult, I discovered that nobody I respected had fared well in high school, so over the years high school distress became one measure of simpatico. In fact, during my kids’ freshman year I feared – wrongly – that one of my twins might enjoy high school.  (Don’t get me wrong: I expected good grades, attendance, attitude; I just didn’t want them to limit their futures by enjoying the experience.)

But I digress. When I was a kid, I liked to play school but my friends wouldn’t say the same. When I played  teacher, I wanted them to do homework. Really. Assignments due. For some reason none of them agreed and soon my play classroom was empty. Slackers.

But I digress. After I graduated from college, I took many stray classes over the years to pursue subjects that interested me. I eventually and belatedly got hooked again and went back to earn a master’s degree.  That proved to be enough school for me. Bastante!

And yet. I always wanted to be fluent in Spanish. I love the way Spanish flows and zooms; the way you don’t say “I broke a dish” but instead “the dish broke itself.”

I wonder how close I could get to fluency? Language classes take so long to get moving, over so many terms – that has daunted me from starting anew. But if you can recommend an on-line Spanish class – drop me a comment with the details!

(The Daily Prompt wanted to know what subject could get me back to school.)

Staycations Away From Home

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 2.52.24 PM

Not somewhere I’ve stayed nor want to, but it might be affordable. (Photo credit: UrbanPhotos on Flickr.)

My favorite kind of traveling is to plant myself somewhere new and stay for a while, to get a sense of what it would be like to live there. I’m not drawn to monuments or tourist meccas, even though I know those places get famous for a reason. I’d rather wander neighborhoods, sample restaurants, find hole in the wall stores. I’ve been to Manhattan maybe 8 times, and I can’t tell you what the Statue of Liberty is like but I can give you a carefully assessed ranking of my favorite bagel joints.

A whirlwind tour of ten countries in ten days sounds awful to me, while ten days in one spot sounds like a good start.

There can be two problems with this approach. First, when you tally all the places you’ve been, the list does not grow very quickly. Second, if you plant yourself in the wrong place, you get to know a place you, well, don’t want to get to know.

I can’t be the only one who travels like this – am I?

P.S. In Manhattan, my favorite bagel joints are:

  1. Ess-A-Bagel
  2. Murray’s
  3. H & H.

(This post responds to this Daily Prompt.)

Unforgettable Lines

In yesterday’s post, I noted that I can never remember a joke’s punch line. That got me thinking about  lines that perpetually run through my head. Here are just a few. How many of these do you recognize? (answers on page 2.)

  1. I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the woman.
  2. I’m a stranger here myself.
  3. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
  4. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
  5. Is there anything you have forgotten to tell me?
  6. To be lonely is a habit, like smoking or taking drugs.
  7. You can lead a horse to water but only very rarely can you drown him and get away with it.

Self Reflection

(Today’s  Daily Prompt says: finish this sentence…)

When I look in the mirror I

  • am reminded of hopes and fears
  • see my mother, my sister, my son and feel awe at those family ties
  • suffer flashbacks to other eras and haircuts
  • struggle to take in my full reflection rather than its parts
  • feel familiar yet surprised
  • think I need to smile more
  • wonder what others see.


Canine Kindness

True story from some friends…

Peaches was a rescue dog who liked being the only dog. A big, arthritic German Shepherd, she had the air of a retired police dog (though she wasn’t one). On walks, she avoided other dogs, and when house guests visited they had to leave their dogs at home.

One night on a walk, she suddenly dragged her people across a street toward another dog. They feared her attitude had worsened and that she was about to pick her first fight. Instead, she stopped next to a morose stray and sat down. Never had a dog looked as unhappy with freedom as this stray did.

The stray was short and funny-looking, with a barrel chest and a long pointy snout. The people named her Edna and – with Peaches’ clear permission – they brought Edna home. No one ever answered the Lost Dog signs they plastered around the neighborhood and so Edna joined the family. Peaches continued to tolerate her until Peaches succumbed to various old-dog ailments several months later. 

Edna lived for many more years, delighting all who met her with her goofy, gregarious, and loving ways.

Edna looked like a cousin of Frankenweenie.

Edna looked like a cousin of Frankenweenie.

(Written for today’s  Daily Prompt.)

My Top Ten Risks (Whfff! Crash! Boom!)

Pavlof Volcano, Alaska, 2013

You see the plume and … do you run toward it or away?

I’ve got a whole list of risks I might take if only I get the nerve or suffer the judgment lapse. In decreasing order of sanity, they are:

  1. get a puppy (training a puppy sounds so unpleasant);
  2. write a novel and publish each chapter on the fly as serial fiction with no future writing in reserve (what if I hit a block? what if yesterday’s chapter was crap?);
  3. form a rock band and perform (what if no one attends the show? what if they do?);
  4. host a live talk show (what if I lose my glib?);
  5. take up surfing (risk of embarrassment is higher than physical risk, given zero chance of my standing to ride a wave);
  6. meet my heroes (what if they don’t deserve that status?);
  7. retire before I’ve got enough income (I don’t need to explain this one, do I?);
  8. sky dive (I be afeared of heights);
  9. become a tornado chaser (what if I drop my camera and miss that great shot of the looming tornado?);
  10. become a volcano chaser (when an eruption is eminent – the mountains themselves are not a challenge to catch);

I note that 8, 9, 10 may alleviate some of the risk in 7.

(This post responds to today’s Daily Prompt  which asks: what’s the biggest risk you’d like to take…and what would have to happen to get you to take it?)

An End to Needless Worry

(Today’s  Daily Prompt says: write a letter to your least favorite trait.)

Dear Anticipatory Hysteria,

We’ve been together so many years and we will both have to adjust to life apart. But there is no question – it is time for you to go. I remember when you first came around. I was a teenager and noticed that nothing I ever thought would happen, did happen. So I began to imagine terrible things, because if I thought of them then they wouldn’t happen – a mental talisman. But the strategy never really helped. The terrible imaginings didn’t prepare me for other bad things that happened instead. Rather, they cost me so much time, energy and peace of mind — and kept me absorbed in misery that never materialized.

My new strategy is to note that I will have plenty of time to feel bad about something after it actually happens, and in the meantime I will do my best to keep my thoughts in the present tense, and to focus on all the positives, including the fragrance of the jasmine and the sounds of birds greeting the morning, as I write this on my front patio.

From now on I will save my apocalyptic imagination for my novels. There it serves me very well and has proved invaluable as I write my fantasy detective series.

P.S. Wherever you go next, please make room for your parents, Worry and Anxiety. Their eviction is in the works now.

All Mod Cons

Elmore Leonard published the novel Pagan Babies back in 2000 but I just read it this week. It is an Elmore Leonard book, therefore the plot is full of cons and double crosses, the dialog is witty, the prose is terse, and the characters are gritty and lively – oddball yet believable.  In this book, Father Terry  leaves Detroit half a step ahead of the law to become a rural priest in Rwanda during the recent genocide. During his first mass, some forty souls are slaughtered in front of him where they have sought sanctuary. After five years, Dunn returns to Detroit and gets caught up in the schemes of local mobsters and with Debbie, an aspiring stand-up comic who just got out of prison for hitting her ex-boyfriend with her car. The ex-boyfriend conned her out of $67 grand and she hatches a succession of schemes to get payback.

On LibraryThing and Goodreads I gave this book 4 stars. It probably only merits 3 stars. Consider the fourth a gratitude star. I can always depend on a Leonard novel to be worth reading.

I really needed a good read after having just forced my way through Quinn by Iris Johansen. My first and last Johansen. The writing was  flabby and weak. All the dialogue sounded just like the narration and I hated the narration. The characters were romance novel cliches crowbarred into a thriller format. And the plot. Oy, the plot. Sensual, fragile yet tough forensic artist Eve quests for decades to find out what happened to her missing daughter, aided by hunky FBI man and former Navy Seal Quinn. One suspect is her hunky ex-lover, former Army Ranger and father of the missing girl, who doesn’t know whether he killed the girl or not because sometimes his brain short-circuits thanks to torture by North Koreans. But he must be innocent because the daughter’s ghost appears to him as well as Quinn and Eve. Aaaaaaaaaaaa. I can’t say why I wasted the time to finish this (I skimmed the second half) except I knew it was a best seller and wanted to see why. I found no explanation. To restore my faith in book buyers, I tell myself that the other two books in this trilogy must be way better. You won’t get me to test that theory.

Johansen fans – I regret if I have offended you. Looking for a positive – we will never compete for her library books!

(This post comes from this Daily Prompt.)

And Then The Doorbell Rang…

doorbell-button-replacement-136 I have spent my adult life deeply agnostic and religion-avoidant, with two exceptions.

My first summer in college, I went through dark times, and at some point decided it would help if I had faith. I would intermittently pray, along the lines of God if you’re there I know I’m supposed to take you on faith but I can’t so if you could please just give me a sign, I will take it from there.  One day, a few minutes after I finished such a prayer, the doorbell rang.