Sock It To Me

It was beginning to appear that her interesting face covered a most uninteresting mind. – Anne Perry

He would look at you as is he were really interested in all you said. Hcropped-photo1.jpge never seemed to be merely polite. It was almost as if he were half expecting you to turn out to be special, and he did not want to miss any opportunity to find out. – Anne Perry

Don’t mistake a street address for where you actually live. – Ruth Reichl

Art is what we call the thing an artist does. It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters,
what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human. Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist. – Seth Godin

“So was that the reason you left Herminia?” Miss Prim said.

He looked at her in silence for a few seconds, as if trying to guess what lay behind her question.

“I think you didn’t really love her,” she said.

“No, that’s where you’re wrong,” he said firmly. “I did love her. I loved her very much. But the day came, or maybe the moment, I don’t know, when I realized that she was asleep, whereas I was fully awake, absolutely, and totally awake. I’d climbed like a cat up onto a roof and I could see a beautiful, terrible, mysterious landscape stretching out before me. Did I really love her? Of course I did. Perhaps if I’d loved her less, cared for her less, I wouldn’t have had to leave her.”

“I thought the religious were closer to other people than anyone else.”

“I can’t speak for anyone else. I only know what it’s meant to me. It’s been my touchstone, the line that’s split my life in two and given it absolute meaning. But I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. It’s not easy, and anyone who says it is is fooling themselves. It was catharsis, a shocking trauma, open-heart surgery, like a tree torn from the ground and replanted elsewhere.

“And there’s something else,” he continued, “something to do with looking beyond the moment, with the need to scan the horizon, to scrutinize it as keenly as a sailor studies his charts. Don’t be surprised. My story is as old as the world. I’m not the first and won’t be the last. I know what you’re thinking. Would I turn back if I could? No, of course not. Would a newly awoken man willingly go back to the sleepwalking life?”

–         From The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Calvin says, “Oh brother, what have you been drinking?” beagle

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Top Will

I just returned from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

I’ve been going there for 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go from the company.

Will is still a staple – barely. He’s hanging on by his thumbs from Juliet’s balcony.

He can’t be fired because he has top billing.

But they’re trying. Cleo

Shakespeare is not a go-to author for most young people.

I admit even in my day I didn’t take Pericles to the beach.

So they’re marginalizing Will and inserting musicals.

This time it was Guys and Dolls.

So what.

But the young loved it.

And that’s what it’s all about.

The next generation.

I’m so sick of hearing this.

It’s as if the world will topple if the young aren’t drawn into the things we love.

I say let them create their own fun and leave Will to hoof it on stage for our sake.

Besides, we’re paying for it, they’re not. They don’t have any money.

Calvin says, “‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.'”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Friend

I met a woman I instantly fell in love with. Her name is Cordelia Spencer and she’s a retired family therapist of 30 years who now wants to spend her time writing mysteries.

She’s moved out of the Bay Area for Southern Oregon where she’s among her kind – writers, actors and impersonators.

“Having spent so many years listening to patients I feel I can become them,” she says with a chuckle.  “Oh the stories I can tell.”ashland trees

Her one companion who is allowed to distract her is Maurice, a 2-year old Cardigan Corgi who was bequeathed to her by a patient who died.  You will find Maurice with a wary eye constantly by her side. “At first I was angry at having to take him, but he’s become my best friend. I suspect he plotted his way into my heart.”

Cordelia and Maurice live in a condo overlooking a beautiful park filled with trees and a roaring creek. They have no furniture in the apartment except for a bed and a computer table for Cordelia’s laptop. Cordelia prefers it that way. She spent 30 years in a home with a husband and two children surrounded by clutter. Now she has the space she craves and likes it that way. Maurice, on the other hand is not so sure because he spent the first two years of his life on silk sheets and enjoyed a pampered life. Since being adopted he’s had to learn to be a dog.

So far Cordelia has been unable to write a word. Every time she opens her laptop her children call or a friend drops by. And they usually need help. And Cordelia can’t say no.

Calvin says,”I have to meet this Maurice character. Silk sheets? Are you kidding me?” beagle

 

 

 

 

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

I had an interesting ride home on the subway this week.

My car was packed. Lots of people standing. A young mother and her child in a stroller came on. She positioned herself by the door and hung on.

In no time flat her baby boy, no more than 2 years old, began bellowing.

She ignored him.

His voice got louder.

The mother looked down at him and just stared.

The child began to yell. Big goldfish tears ran down his cheeks.

Mom stood there motionless.

Tension was rising in the car.

The kid was screaming even louder.

Out from between people’s legs a little girl, dressed in a pink hat, emerged and stood in front of the boy. She looked up at the mother as if to say, “Aren’t you going to take care of this?” She held in her hand a large opened bag of Cheetos and offered it to the boy. photo(131)

Instantly he was quiet.

He shoved his arm into the bag, extracted a Cheetos, and began to chew on it.

The little girl disappeared.

Mom never said a word.

The subway car made it’s routine stops, people got off, the crowd thinned out, a seat became vacant and mom sat down.

The little girl appeared again and offered the boy some more Cheetos. He plunged his arm into the bag and retrieved another one.

Mom never said a word.

I went back to my book and when I looked up again, Mom and son had gotten off the subway.

I’m not going to comment on the mother. For all I know she wasn’t the mother, but a babysitter. Or if she was the mother, she was in a frightful state of mind. Probably numb from the struggles of life. And in her shoes I would have reacted in the same manner.

What did make an impact was how a simple gesture of kindness can affect a whole lot of people.

It also showed me how powerful a child can be in the midst of a tense-filled moment.

Calvin says, “If I had been there that little girl and I would have wolfed down that bag of Cheetos together, tossing the occasional one to that boy.”beagle

The Roar of the Fog

This is Fergus in the header picture. I’m allowing him top billing for a while. Not too long, mind you, otherwise you’ll forget me, and I couldn’t bear that. So this is his fifteen minutes of fame.

I didn’t think I’d like Fergus when I first met him. To begin with, he was furry. Then there was his pedigree. He didn’t have one. He also was humorless, all business if you know what I mean. I suppose his stint at the pound turned him into a serious dude. But then he struck it rich. He was adopted by a woman with a heart as big as the sky and he’s become almost human. I swear there are times when Fergus is sitting quietly by the window observing the fog rolling in off the ocean that he looks like a university professor.

“Calvin, did you know that fog doesn’t come on little cat feet?” he said one evening puffing on his pipe as we watched the sunset.

“That’s shattering news, dear fellow,” I said. “Here I thought cats donated their paws every evening to produce this stunning effect.” photo168.jpg

“Carl Sandburg would be disappointed at your lack of appreciation for his Fog poem.”

“Did he live in San Francisco?”

“Chicago,” Fergus said moving into the living room, circling twice on the Persian rug, and settling down.

“Then he knows nothing of fog,” I said. “Fog comes rolling in, and it descends from the top down, not the other way around.”

“So how would you describe it if you were a poet?”

I poured myself a brandy and paced the room. Fergus watched me from under his strawberry blond lashes.

I disagree with Carl Sandburg
The fog doesn’t come creeping in on little cat feet
But comes barreling down the hillside
Like a locomotive arriving into a train station.
If cats were involved
The fog would hiss and spit and claw and yowl and make a terrible fuss
Like they do every night under my window.
With arched backs and glowing eyes
They’d move in jerks and fits
Down the mountain
The fog emerging like long strands of paper
From a shredder.

My performance silenced Fergus. He puffed on his pipe and let out plumes of smoke.

I curled up into a neat heap on a silk pillow and waited.

“You live in a noisy world,” Fergus said with a sigh.

“True. What about my poem?” I said.

“It’s clear you don’t like cats.”  beagle

The Street Crazies Aren’t Always People

My everyday morning commute to work is your typical jammed-packed-full-of-bodies-on-a-train experience. Nothing romantic or inspirational about it. I serves me well for characters in a story, for recording dialogue, and for picking up nuances of personality.

This morning, however, I met a character that made me laugh out loud.

His name is Buddy.

But Buddy is no ordinary personage.

He’s an English bulldog with panache.

I’ve seen Buddy before. He’s usually on the other side of the street with his owner, in an enclosed area between two buildings, barking at an orange ball the size of a watermelon. His owner is usually on his cell phone, so Buddy has to wait to get his attention. Hence the barking. Then his owner kicks the ball and Buddy waddles after it with more barking. His barking sounds more like snapping with a smoker’s voice. It echoes down the street and commands attention.

This morning I heard the snapping before I saw Buddy. This time he was on my side of the street. I rushed to catch up to him.

Buddy didn’t have his orange ball. Instead he was cruising down the street on a skateboard. 

That’s when I laughed out loud.

I caught up to him at the curb waiting for a car to clear the street. Buddy seems to know about streets and curbs and traffic because he was waiting patiently there. His skateboard had flipped over, exposing the four orange wheels. It seems orange is Buddy’s favorite color. He snapped and gnawed on one of the wheels.

“Flip it over,” his owner said.

Buddy barked with frenzy.

“Come on, Buddy, flip it over,” the man said.

Buddy opened his mouth, bit down on the wheel he was conversing with, and with a turn of his head, flipped the skateboard onto its right side. Then he nudged it with his nose, which in his case was his entire face, and pushed it across the street, which by now was empty of cars. Once on the next street, Buddy hopped on, peddled with his front right leg, gathered speed, then climbed on for the ride.

“How did you teach him to do this?” I asked the owner, a man as strong and street smart as Buddy.

“He taught himself. One day he got on it, and it’s been his thing ever since,” he said.

I looked up and Buddy had hopped off just in time before the skateboard crashed into a tree. It flipped over.

Apparently Buddy knows about trees, too.

“He’s getting good exercise,” I said.

“Yea, I’m hoping it will lengthen his life. His breed doesn’t live long, eight to ten years. Maybe with all the exercise he’ll live to be twelve,” the man said.

Then he added, as if talking more to himself than to me. “I don’t know what I’ll do without him. I like him better than people.”

Calvin says, “Buddy sounds deranged. Skateboarding? That’s like a beagle zip-lining with his nose. I’m also not happy sharing top billing with this creature.”

How To Spot a Phony Restaurant

I knew the moment we walked into the restaurant it was a mistake.

El Gordito was proud to be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. It even sported a sports bar.

The owner grabbed me by the arm and walked me and Alf to a booth by a window. He dealt the two over-sized menus like playing cards, and left us. I looked around the room. We were the second customers for dinner. The first was a robust family of six, just finishing their meal. They looked up and smiled.

The owner returned. He was a man in his fifties, with dark short hair, a little black mustache, and quick eyes. He brought a basket of chips and a bowl of red salsa and plunked them down in front of us.

“Somtin do drink?” he said.

Alf suggested a margarita. I said no. This place would front load it with corn syrup and fake juice.

“Ice tea,” I said.

“Sangria,” Alf said.

The owner rolled his eyes and left. He went behind the bar and prepared the drinks. The only TV in the sports bar was flickering a basketball game. How un-Mexican. Where was the bullfight?

The tortilla chips were brittle. They had been fried in lard, a darling of Mexican cooking. I saw myself launching guerilla warfare from my booth with them and perforating the owner and the chef.

“Cause of death: impaled by chips,” the coroner’s report would state.

The salsa was thick, tasteless, and hot. The heat was poor camouflage for its nastiness.

I looked around. The window was covered in drawings of blue, pink and green margarita cocktails.

A couple roared into the parking lot on matching motorcycles. He looked like a mafia don, dark and mysterious behind dark glasses, she like a mortuary hairstylist, petite and curvy with lots of makeup. They were the third victims coming for dinner.

“See, we’re bringing in a crowd,” I said. “We should get this meal gratis.”

The interior of the restaurant was like the country of Mexico stuffed into one small place. Stone walls with paintings of Mexican towns, pottery in garish colors erupted with plants and vines in profusion. The booths and tables were made from rough wood and carved with designs of birds and flowers. Nothing matched.

Maybe if I spoke in Spanish I would win us special attention and we could order off-menu.

I ordered in Spanish, the owner replied in English. He was onto me.

We chose the most authentic item on the menu – tacos al carbon – tacos with grilled steak, raw onion, cilandro and lime. Everything else on the menu came smothered in melted cheese, re-fried beans with a side of lard.

While we waited, a minstrel sat down on a chair, donned a Mariachi hat, and pulled out his guitar. A laminated sign next to him read, “Teeps. Muchas gracias.”

Our dinner arrived. The plates looked like platters. We searched for our tacos. They were hiding under a mountain of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes. They were soggy. It was a scavenger hunt locating the meat. The rice and re-fried beans oozed into everything like an oil spill.

The Mariachi strummed his guitar and sang pathetic love songs that were popular in Mexico thirty years ago. He was off key. He jumbled the words. He switched to classical. He murdered the music.

We picked at our food and ate what we could so we wouldn’t embarrass the owner.

“How’s everytin?” he said.

“Great,” Alf said through teeth full of lard.

I said nada.

The dissonant notes of the guitar engulfed the room.

I began to laugh and couldn’t stop.

“I’m the one drinking the alcohol,” Alf said.

The owner asked us about dessert. I wanted to tell him his place was sugar-coated with lies, enough for a telenovela, but I bit my tongue.

Calvin says, “Food is food. I’d have wolfed down that lard in a heartbeat.”