Dearest Blog, I Once Was Cool!

Dearest Blog,

I have neglected you of recent. Although I miss you, I cannot say why I’ve gone silent nor when it will end.

It was no fun to contemplate life without this big doofus.

Certainly, I have my reasons. First, I went away for a week of family reunions. By the time I got home, my special buddy, the enormous former kitten Leo, had gone missing, and the next 2.5 days I was in a terrible funk until I found him.

Next, I came down with a cold. It’s on the wane, thanks for asking. I’ve also found myself low on energy vis a vis the government shutdown. My day job paycheck is on furlough as I am a “non-essential” employee; and although it looks like eventually the lost pay will return to me, I don’t know when or how much. The cold and my furlough ennui are probably related. (My very personal response to this week’s Writing Challenge.)

Besides which, I found a tick! On me! Eeeewwww. Which led to hours with medicos, and an antiviral shot.

Meanwhile, I’ve been immersed in my first sit-down re-read of my newly completed fantasy-mystery novel FRAMES. At this stage, I don’t allow myself to make changes, I try to keep a more global perspective and  make notes in margins about what needs to change. The goal is to read the whole book in as few sittings as possible.

Also meanwhile, I confess I’ve been struggling to limit the amount of time I spend reading Pete Townshend’s memoir: it’s kept me hooked through 400 pages so far.

More for the Strange World files. Now the visionary rebel Fela has become a Broadway musical.

More for the Strange World files. Now the visionary rebel Fela has become a Broadway musical.

Then, yesterday, when I thought I would finish my re-reading and reading, instead I got sucked into my son’s impromptu project to organize my record collection. He has recently laid long-term claim to my albums, but sought help organizing them. Alphabetical has never worked for me when it comes to browsing. So we spent many hours sorting into initial piles like R-&-B-rock-intersection or New-York-junkie-music. Some of the sorting stymied me. I mean where do you put Ike & Tina Turner? Sun Ra? Richard Thompson? Should the Blasters LPs stand alongside X because of historical context and abiding friendship, or next to David Lindley, another lover of roots guitar? Guess that’s how alphabetical listings got started…

It was great fun to give my son a few albums immediately. Turns out the 20 y.o.s are getting back into Joy Division, and I still don’t like ’em, so now my son is the proud owner of their first LP. (Mint condition, unlike the LPs I did like.) At one point I was rewarded when he said with bemusement, “Mom, it’s hard to say this but you used to be really cool.” Which reminded me of how I came to write SCAR JEWELRY.


Layers and Pieces

This week’s Writing Challenge wants to see a recipe for moi.

Chop finely and mix:

  • 1 c introspection
  • 1 c imagination (substitute: insight)
  • 2 c empathy
  • 2 c knee-jerk tendency to rebellion
  • 2 c smart-ass remarks
  • 1 c curiosity (substitute: nosiness)

Cover with thin alternating layers of :

  • chutzpah
  • emotionalism
  • tenacity
  • timidity
  • enthusiasm

To lighten:

  • Add friends and children.
  • Fold in ocean air and vistas of sunrise or sunset.
  • Surround with shelter animals.
  • Add concerts, novels, walks, movies, art, or hikes.

Season as follows:

  • Mix skepticism and irony to taste, then double those proportions.
  • Infuse with 1970s punk, midcentury jazz, blues, alt bluegrass, alt rock.
  • Steep in book learning, street smarts, and belated learning from experience.

Garnish with wildflowers.

Serve on a bed of uncertainty.

Holds flavor best outside.

Store separately.

The Gift of Joke-Telling

The ability to tell a great joke is a wonderful gift. I wish I had it. My problem is that I can never remember the damn joke. I remember who told it, how hard I laughed, where I was when I heard it, and tantalizing snippets of the set-up or the punchline. But never enough to tell the joke well. Just the other day, a friend told me a swell joke. It’s already slipping away so let me get it down quick.

A man inherited a parrot when his aunt died. The bird had been his aunt’s great joy and he felt responsible for keeping it, and keeping it healthy. However, it was an unruly and obnoxious bird that spewed expletives at guests and woke him every night with loud chatter. The man made many efforts to control the bird – he covered the cage, he relocated the cage, he offered treats and praise for good behavior, scolds for bad behavior. None of it worked. Finally, in desperation, he stuck the bird in the freezer for a brief time.

Much to the man’s surprise, the parrot emerged a changed bird: humble, chastened, polite.

“I’m sorry I had to do that to you,” the man told the bird. “I hope I never have to again.”

“Understood!” the parrot replied. “And might I ask …

The Daily Prompt: Person of the Year – Philip Marlowe


Marlowe was at his finest in this book.

Detective Philip Marlowe is the person of this or any year, but don’t give him the award. He’ll be a no show at the ceremony and not just because he’s a work of fiction.

Of all the characters I have met and loved in novels, Marlowe is my favorite. I recently re-read his seven novels and found them as fresh and relevant as they were when I last read them, decades ago.

Marlowe has an unswervable moral code. He makes mistakes, he has doubts, but he always knows what’s right and acts accordingly. His morality is personally customized. It may not jive with law or mores but when there’s a discrepancy, Marlowe’s right.

Marlowe despises phonies and looks out for underdogs. He’s smart but he mostly operates on instinct. He’s often alone and frequently lonely. He’ll never be rich and he doesn’t care because wealth costs honor. Not that he’d ever put it like that. He doesn’t go on about honor or loyalty or justice or dignity but he lives his life in ways that promote all four.

As A Spectator Sport, A Bit of a Challenge

(Note: this post has pages, in response to this Weekly Writing Challenge.)

I’ve never been into sports. I’m no good playing them – except Jacks, I play a mean game of Jacks – and was never interested in watching sports until my kids started playing them. Through my kids, I’ve become a soccer fan and I enjoy track meets. Last year, my daughter joined a college crew team. I know zip about crew, as you will quickly detect from this post. For those who know even less: crew teams race in rowboats. There. Now I’ve shared everything I know.

I learned at my daughter’s first crew meet that binoculars are a good idea.


Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words, 10,000 Thoughts

The assignment: write 1k words about this photo.

The assignment: write 1k words about this photo.

HER: “Did you set the timer?” Did she see me? I don’t think she saw me.

HIM: “Ten more seconds.” Gwen is so withdrawn tonight.

HER: “Oh now I hear it ticking. I couldn’t before.” I think she recognized me.

HIM: “How’s the glaze coming?” Is Gwen angry with me?

HER: “Almost there.” She kept staring at me like she was trying to place me.

HIM: “I couldn’t find the cinnamon.” I should have let Gwen finish the custard. I know how much she loves using the torch.

HER: “This place gets so disorganized on our days off!” I should never have let the blonde grow back, she wouldn’t recognize me brunette.

HIM: “Tell me about it.” It’s not just tonight, let’s face it.

HER: “I prefer the nutmeg anyway.” But my God it was five years ago.

HIM: “Let’s hope they do too.” She’s been distant lately.

HER: “They won’t know.” It was a thousand miles from here.

HIM: “I haven’t seen them in here before, have you?” Or maybe she hasn’t been.

HER: “No. No I haven’t.” I thought I was safe.

HIM: “I think the guy at table 5 writes reviews.” Ever since I bought the ring I’ve been second guessing her.

HER: “Really? Reviews where?” Of all the French joints in all the towns in all the world Gary’s sister had to get dinner in this one.

HIM: “‘Chez Le Monde’.” Second guessing us.

HER: “Wow. ‘The mousse of the century’? That review?” Maybe she’s not in touch with Gary nowadays either.

HIM: “I think it might be the same guy.” I’m afraid she’ll turn me down.

HER: “In that case let’s use  fresh fish for a change.” After all, I wasn’t the only one he hurt.

HIM: “Always thinking.” There I’ve said it.

HER: “What did he order besides the trout?” She hates Gary.

HIM: “The tomato aspic, the cold potato leek, and both kinds of mousse.” Stop examining everything fool.

HER: “If he’s not sampling for a review, that is a scary combination.” But she hates me more.

HIM: “Oops. Can you grab me the parsley?” I need to lighten up.

HER: “What am I, your sous chef?” I know her. Even if she doesn’t tell Gary, she’ll ruin things for me here.

HIM: “I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine.” Nothing looks normal under a magnifying glass.

HER: “Deal.” Robert is such a good man.

HIM: “You about ready with the glaze?” I love her so much it’s terrifying.

HER: “Yeah here it is.” Maybe he would forgive me.

HIM: “Mmm. You’ve outdone yourself.” Maybe I should cancel our trip tomorrow.

HER: “I like the mint from the Thursday market.” For years of lies?

HIM: “Are you shaking?”That’s the beauty of a surprise hotel stay. She won’t know to be disappointed.

HER: “Cramp from stirring.” And what happens when he hears the truth?

HIM: “That’s dedication.” After three years together, what’s another few days?

HER: “Or a slippery spoon.” Could he forgive me that too?

HIM: “Trout smells ready.” Or even months.

HER: “I’ve got the butter going.” I’ll bet he could.

HIM: “I like the quality of the new lights. How about you?” Robert you’re a chickenshit.

HER: “Me too.” If anyone could.

HIM: “Forgot to warm the platter.” I could wait forever to ask if her answer is no.

HER: “I remembered.” But what if he can’t?

HIM: “You always remember.” Maybe she isn’t your woman of mystery.

HER: “I do. It’s true.” I can’t take the risk of losing him.

HIM: “I’d like to reinstate the brioche for Sunday brunch.” Maybe that holding back you always feel isn’t because she has secrets.

HER: “This early?” Maybe I’m overreacting.

HIM: “You’re right, last year we waited until July.” Maybe she’s holding back from me.

HER: “I need a new egg. This one is too light.” Maybe it’s not her.

HIM: “Hurry, please.” I can’t wait forever. I’ll drive myself insane in the meantime.

HER: “Hurrying. Without running in the kitchen, of course.” I think I can see her if I look out the window.

HIM: “Of course.” I’ll ask her tomorrow as planned.

HER: “Aaagh.” It’s her. Oh no Oh no what am I going to do?

HIM: “You okay?” Then we’ll know.

HER: “Lot of leg cramps lately.” I can’t go out there again.

HIM: “Should I worry?” She won’t even look me in the eye.

HER: “Only if you need to.” I need the right excuse to stay back here.

HIM: “That egg a keeper?” She is so beautiful.

HER: “Best egg of the week.” I can’t say I’m sick – I just prepared all their food.

HIM: “Okay. Showtime.” She’s a better chef than I am too.

HER: “Wait. Coconut shavings.” I’ll have to cut myself.

HIM: “How could I forget that.” It’s amazing how humble she is.

HER: “Table 5 has given you nerves.” Not bad enough to need an ambulance.

HIM: “Tonight he gets the mousse of the millenium.” When she says she doesn’t deserve me she sounds like she believes it.

HER: “That has a ring to it.” Just bad enough we don’t want the customers to see me.

HIM: “We’ll each deliver a mousse to him. He’ll love it.” You see there is every reason to expect she’ll say yes.

HER: “Here, let’s send some samples to the foursome.” Oh Robert someday I’ll tell you.

HIM: “Brilliant marketing.” I’ll ask her tomorrow.

HER: “You never know who’s at your table.” Please forgive me until then.

HIM: “Gwen! My God, you cut yourself!

HER: “It’s nothing. Throw me that towel, will you?

HIM: “That’s a lot of blood!”

HER: “Stopped now. But it’s all over me. You’d better deliver the mousse without me.” 

957 words. This piece exists because of this Weekly Writing Challenge.