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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The Friendly Skies Are Cheap

Flight attendants these days are not a happy bunch.

I noticed on a recent flight on the hipster airline with the purple cabin lights that the 20-something flight attendants were less than overjoyed to be serving us.  cropped-photo7.jpg

Not once did we get a smile with our no-frills cups of water and no peanuts.

They served one round of drinks and went to their jump seats for the rest of the flight to read their e-books. I suppose they would have paid a little more attention to us if the weather had turned turbulent or a bagpiper had walked down the aisle blowing his pipes.

I noticed the same behavior on the flight back home.

And this from an airline that prides itself in innovation and creativity.

I noticed another thing. This airline flies Airbuses and they all need oiling. Every plane I’ve been on squeaks and moans and makes swirling noises like a giant cake mixer. This is especially true at take-off. Landings aren’t any quieter. The landing gear comes down with a thump. First time I heard the racket I wanted off. Now I’m used to it. What is it about European aircraft that they make so much noise?

A flight attendant friend says it’s the low pay that demoralizes everyone.

That may be true. One flight attendant on another carrier makes so little money that she is forced to live in a flop house with 26 other attendants.  Others can’t even find flop houses because they’re all full and sleep in airline lounges, except they’re not allowed to, so they sleep on the floor in the gate areas.

That’s just not right.

If McDonald’s pays $15 an hour, why not the hipster airline? Oh wait. That is the base pay. You get a raise when you turn 102.

Calvin says, “Kennel workers make more than that. That’s why I don’t fly. I like hangin’ with the ground squirrels.” 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 Do Your Real Work

Every so often I write about resistance. You know, the distractions we give in to that pull us away from our real work.

In my case, it’s writing. In yours it could be designing the next space vehicle.

Whatever your calling is, you’re familiar with the pull to distract.

Distractions allure you. Out of the blue you long to learn Latin. Or free-fall from an airplane. Or take tango lessons in Buenos Aires.

Maybe it’s not such a large vision that compels you to drop what you’re doing. Maybe it’s bull-riding lessons, finger painting, or singing with your canary.

Sometimes the distraction is even closer than that.

Facebook.

Twitter.

Pinterest.

Blogging. (Checking your analytics every hour)

Text messages.

Skype.

Video games.

I could go on, but you catch my drift.

The social media platforms are massive distractions! They will absorb you. Consume you. Smother you.

They  also:

Stall you.

Numb you.

Suck your energy.

They’re only a worthwhile investment when you’re building a posse of fans for your work.

Otherwise it’s death to your creativity!

Go on a diet.

Make a pledge to look at these platforms only after you’ve done your work.

Tell a friend to hold you accountable.

And then notice your productivity and creativity soar.

Calvin says, “Yep, when I get pulled off a scent, I end up in a ditch with thorns up my butt.”

 

 

 

 

What A Golden Chair Says About Reading

Everyday on my way home I walk past a cafe that has one gold chair in it. You can’t miss it. It’s one-of-a-kind shiny gold snakeskin faux leather.  It’s by the bookshelf spilling with pre-owned books that nobody reads. The other tables and chairs are functional and boring, and usually filled with customers. The gold chair stays empty.

“I find it odd that nobody sits in it,” I said to Jasmine, my friend at work.

“Oh, it’s because nobody reads anymore,” Jasmine said.

“Like nobody sits down anymore either?” I said.

“Not in that chair, they don’t. They’d be self-conscious.”

“You mean, reading is now a self-conscious behavior?”

“If you’re not reading on a tablet, or your smart phone, you’re dated,” Jasmine said. “Nobody wants to stand out like that.”

I love to read. Real books. The kind with lots of pages crammed with words.

The next day on my way home, I made a detour and went into the cafe. I ordered an espresso at the counter, paid for it, and walked over to the gold chair. I sat down. I looked around. The other customers were engrossed in their conversations. Nobody noticed me sitting there. While I sipped my espresso, I turned my attention to the book titles. One of them caught my attention.

The book was: Historical Rumps on the Gold Chair by Sir Robert Bottoms-Up.

I laughed out loud.

A few people stopped talking to look at me.

Then the chair began to vibrate. At first I thought it was an earthquake. Nobody else seemed alarmed. The vibrations got stronger to the tickling point. I laughed louder. This time more customers stared at me. I looked around me. I was the only one experiencing this. I had a choice. To enjoy the massage or bolt.

What would you do?

Calvin says, “Do you get a free goodie if you pass the 3-minute mark?”

Come Hither

A father and college-age son. At a café.

Dad: Take some literature classes when you get to college. Stories will save your life.

Son: How so?

Dad: You’ll learn how to communicate and you’ll avoid counseling when you’re married.

Son: What if I only want to take science classes?

Dad: You’ll have a tough time as a husband and father. Your children don’t come out of the chute speaking geek. And your wife will need to learn this language in order to know who you are, and she’ll be too busy with the kids, do you want to put her through that?

Son: Geez, I had no idea being an engineer would be so hazardous to my future.

Dad: Not if you mix it up with some Shakespeare, some poetry, and some good fiction.

Son: That will delay my getting out of school.

Dad: I’ll pay for the delay. It’s my investment in your marriage and my grand kids.

Son: Thy should’st not worry, father. I resolve to mark your words.

Calvin says, “That explains why I only speak hound. I wish my dad had recommended Peanuts and Winnie the Poo to me.”

Pre-Viously Loved Books

Since Borders has closed most of its stores in the Bay Area, that leaves those of us, who still appreciate the feel of a real book in our hands, with the option of the second-hand bookshop. There’s two worthy of note: Bibliohead in San Francisco (http://www.bibliohead.com/) and Half-Price Books in Berkeley and Fremont (http://www.hpb.com/).

Melissa, the owner of Bibliohead, is an avid reader and knows her books. I’ve asked her on several occasions to recommend a book in a genre I like and she hasn’t disappointed me yet. I came home this week with two stories: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon.

Biliohead is small, intimate and crammed with good titles for the buyer looking for literature, mysteries, poetry, and music and dance, it’s specialty. Half-Price is larger in space with books that include science, computers, and religion besides literature and mysteries. You’re more on your own there, but you’ll find what you like.

If you’re the adventurous type, and you don’t mind chaos, visit Serendipity Books in Berkeley (http://www.serendipitybooks.com/). It specializes in poetry, first editions and wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling books. As soon as you’re in the front door, watch your step because books are everywhere. And then you’ll meet Peter, the owner, sitting in a grand chair surveying his kingdom of titles.

“I’m looking for poetry by Billy Collins, first editions,” I say.

“Go straight past Literature on your right, then take another right past Drama, then up a flight of stairs, make a left, through the doorway, watch your head there, and go straight through past the kitchen, and in the back, you’ll find Poetry.”

Good luck.

Calvins says, “Looking for a good book is like digging up an old bone. It’s worth kicking up some dirt.”