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I’m accustomed to beach people, having spent two years as one in Charleston, South Carolina. Yet, nothing quite prepares you for the people of Florida.
Florida front yard. Yep.
I went to Longboat Key once when I was a kid—ten years old. I surely did not have the keen observational skills I do now. Now, when I set foot on Longboat, I could people-watch for hours, days, weeks. I’d love to, in fact, because five days of vacation was not enough.
My Aunt Susie—best buddy, maid of honor at my wedding, blood relative—called me months ago and said, “You’re coming to Florida with me. I’ll pay for half your plane ticket.” How could I say no? Last week, we were together for five glorious days of sunshine, booze, and island fun.
Longboat Key is a swanky little town on the Gulf Coast, population 6800. When you’re not seeing mansions, you’re seeing beach condos. And I mean literally, our condo was right on the freakin’ beach. We woke up every morning to blue water, green grass, and pink bougainvillea. We woke up smelling the sea—and my decaf coffee.
Usually, we took a bike ride first thing. We visited the old part of Longboat, where wild peacocks roam the streets. Then, it was to the beach, where the sun was hot but the water was cold. No matter. I still dove in … a couple times. I can’t not swim in the ocean when the ocean is right in front of me.
On the beach, I met Heidi. She’s famous. Everyone knows her. She’s this older lady (upper-sixties, if I had to guess) who still wears bikinis. She has bright, blond hair and over-tanned skin the color of milk chocolate. She walks the beach of Longboat every day at approximately 3 PM, and one day, I even had the honor of joining her for drinks.
At The Drift Inn.
Off the beach, Susie and I ate too much food and one night, drank too much beer. There’s this place near Longboat (in Bradenton) called The Drift Inn. The Drift Inn, like Heidi, is famous in our family, because it’s where my Papa Schwind used to buy liquor (and probably sneak a pint or two). It is the penultimate beach dive bar. You can even smoke INSIDE. When I walked in, some guy turned to me, said “What the <bleep>?” and asked if I was lost. It’s that kind of place.
Susie and I made friends quickly, as we often do, loud, obnoxious characters that we are. By the end of the night, we were practically “regulars.” I even connected with a mother-son pair who’d spent time in Belize on Ambergris Caye. They want to meet Jake and me there next time we go. I mean, if this is not dive bar behavior, what is?
My vacation to Longboat Key was not physically healthy. Almost all the skin on my face has been transformed to possibly pre-cancerous freckles. Due to my consumption of gluten and booze, I probably put on five pounds. My hair is a frizzy mess. Yet, emotionally, Longboat was just what I needed. I needed a week of doing absolutely nothing—worrying about nothing. Blessed, blessed beach town; I miss you already, but I’m glad to be home with my hubbie and my pups. Now, I just need to find a way to bring the beach lifestyle to Phoenix …
As you may have heard, I gave up alcohol for Lent. Sunday, I celebrated by having cocktails … and feeling sick the rest of the night. So yeah, my advice: if you stop drinking for six weeks and then randomly start again, go slow. Surely, though, that is not the most important thing I learned over the course of Lent.
Item One: I suffer from social anxiety disorder. Drinking is a comfort thing. If I’m in an awkward situation with a) crowds, b) people I don’t know, or c) people with too much freakin’ energy, I tend to nurse a beer to make myself relax. I learned through my six weeks of sobriety that alcohol doesn’t really make a difference at all. I can suffer through just about any awkward social scenario, sans booze, by just breathing and being myself.
No alcohol was involved in the taking of this picture.
Item Two: Speaking of being myself, people claim alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes you “more fun.” Well, as many of my gal pals had the pleasure of figuring out during Lent, I’m just as weird, outspoken, and inappropriate sober as I am drunk.
Item Three: Alcohol, although a health food in France, is not really good for me. Over the course of my six week dry spell, I slept better, felt better, and got a heck of a lot more work done. My head felt clearer; my writing grew by leaps and bounds. I became a (prepare yourself) morning person. Talk about an Easter miracle!
Item Four: I like non-alcoholic beer. Seriously. See, there was a family crisis over the course of Lent—the kind of crisis that makes you say, “Holy hell, I need a DRINK!” While I considered a cheat, I reached for O’Doul’s instead. I didn’t need the actual buzz; I needed the taste of beer, and the mere taste of beer took the edge off. St. Pauli Girl’s NA is the best, in case you’re in the market.
Item Five (and probably most important): I have too many idols, and alcohol is only one of them. With the subtraction of alcohol, my new novel became my idol. One idol replaced another, when God should be my first and foremost. I do think this is what Lent is about. We give up something we usually worship in replacement of God in order to focus on Him. I did focus on Him over the course of the six weeks. I spent more time talking to Him and reading about Him. However, I need to be careful, because even when I give up one thing—alcohol, for instance—there will always be something else threatening to take its place … and that something is rarely God, when it damn well should be.
Now, Lent is over. Easter came and went; Christ died for us and is risen. In celebration, like I said, I had a couple drinks Sunday and felt awful after the fact. I might start slow this month—some social drinking here or there. I’m going to stick to non-alcoholic beer when available (weird, I know). I’m going to be myself in all circumstances, plus or minus bourbon or whiskey. And I’m going to be aware of my idol worship, because I owe it all to Him and Lent was a nice reminder of all He has to offer and all I have to be truly thankful for.
The room smelled like smoke and turpentine and something … meaty.
“Disgustin,’” she said.
The Irish painters stood side-by-side and looked at what was once the inside of a man’s skull, now spattered on the wall.
Her partner, Stew, held half a gallon of green, poured into a paint tray with a roller at the ready. “Mate coulda done it in the bath. To be nice, yeah?” His brogue made him sound consistently drunk, and based on the purple rims beneath his brown eyes, he very well could have been. “Let’s give it a go then.”
He doused the roller in paint and went over the week-old stain.
“Oy.” She turned around and covered her mouth.
Instead of covering the blood, the paint made it spread in streaks like an alien sunset.
“That won’t do, will it?” Stew replaced the roller in the paint and set the tray on the flawless hardwood floor. “Gonna have to use brushes.”
“Several brushes,” she added.
He scratched his fuzzy chin, and the sound was like sandpaper on wood. “If you were gonna kill yourself, how would you do it?”
“Booze and pills.”
He seemed taken aback. “Not very exciting, is it?”
“I like booze and pills.” She glanced around the well-lit Upper East Side loft. Streaks of late afternoon sun made old dust dance past crown molding. She realized the apartment would have been nice, if not for the … well … “Do real estate agents divulge a death in an apartment to the next tenant?”
“What kinda coward commits suicide in his own apartment? I would jump out a plane and not open my chute. Maybe jump off the Empire State Buildin.’” Stew made a whistling noise, followed by the clap of his hands. “Splat! Front page news.”
“You wouldn’t really do such a thing.”
“Dunno. Can’t say for sure. You?”
She shrugged. “Never thought about it. Not really.”
“Sure ya have. Everyone has.”
“Dunno.” Stew shrugged.
The green paint on the wall was dry. The blood formed curly-cues like melted raspberry ice cream. “How we gonna cover this up?” She lifted her callused hand and pointed.
“I kinda like it. Very … Jackson Pollock. Let’s put a frame around it and get the hell outta here. I could use a pint. Plus, this place gives me the willies.”
“Go get your effin’ pint.”
“You’re botherin’ me. Come back in an hour.”
“Gladly.” He leaned in and gave her a smooch on the forehead before stomping in heavy work boots toward the front hall and foyer of what had once been a rich man’s home.
Alone, she stared at the makeshift modern art.
It needed something—something personal.
After some deliberation, she dug for a can of gold spray paint among several bags of Stew’s equipment. She shook the can; the click-clack sound echoed like a gunshot in the empty room. Carefully, she added her own touch to the abstract canvas. She stepped back and admired her work: a smiley face with exes for eyes.
Your call: which picture is from the drag show?
Differences between a drag show and a bluegrass fest? There are a few. A drag show smells like cigarettes and glitter; a bluegrass fest smells like weed and nag champa. People at drag shows wear evening gowns and three-piece suits; people at bluegrass festivals wear tie-dye and tattoos. At drag shows, gay men show me pictures of their ex-boyfriend’s sculpted abs; at bluegrass fests, people show you bare skin that’s never seen a gym. See? Differences.
On Friday night, I was honored to attend the Elements drag show at BS West as a VIP (thanks to Ms. Tiffany Brown and dear dancer Dallas). The Elements cast of characters are known nationwide. They’re pageant winners and local celebrities, and I had a front row seat. BS West, however, is impossible to locate. The gay bar is in downtown Scottsdale, where I already get lost. Throw in a back alley entrance (no pun intended), and I was a lost lamb among Scottsdale popped-collar wolves. Anyway, I finally found the place, and I was pleased to find our seats in the very, very front row.
The Elements cast didn’t hit the stage until about 10:30 (way past my bedtime), but I was hopped up on Diet Coke and ready to roll. Opening with a trio rendition of “Stop, in the Name of Love” never hurts, followed by several amazing artists who lip-synched to icons like Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. More than lip-synching, these bitches could dance! I mean, we’re talking Rockette-style kick lines, side splits, back handsprings, and gyrations that would make Shakira jealous. The drag queens were spectacular, gorgeous, meant to be worshipped—and they were, openly, by the adoring crowd, who waved dollar bills like white flags of surrender.
Then, there was Dallas—the one male dancer of the night not in drag. Dallas is an Usher lookalike who, let’s face it, moves even better than Usher. Plus, I’m pretty sure Usher doesn’t have the guts to wear nothing but an American flag string thong on stage. He gave a bachelorette party one hell of a show, and I admit, by the end of the evening, my throat was coarse from screams of animal ferocity.
That night, I dragged my tired butt to bed at 2 AM, but I’ll be back to BS West, because they put on one heck of a good show. The bar features several special events (including the Prima Donna pageant tomorrow), and every Thursday, there’s an all-male dance review. How awesome is that?
Duo de Twang.
From Scottsdale to downtown Phoenix … Sunday, Jake and I attended the McDowell Mountain Music Festival
. We attended last year, as well, but I was excited to discover this year’s fest would take place at the Margaret T. Hance Park downtown. The Hance Park is that mysterious span of green above the I-10 tunnel between Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street. Although I knew the space would be sweet, the lineup is what caught my eye, most notably … Les Claypool.
I first saw Les Claypool at All Good Festival years ago. I adored him then, back in those innocent days of pot-smoking and the occasional magic brownie. He is the astoundingly creative, eccentric bass player of bands like Oysterhead, Primus, and my favorite, the Frog Brigade. When I saw his name on the lineup, I had to be there to see him perform with his new project, Duo de Twang, an acoustic outfit, featuring Claypool and guitarist Marc “Mirv” Haggard.
Not only do these boys have talent, but together, they have charisma. I was blown away by finger-picking, slide guitar, and of course, Claypool’s vocal oddity. Watching the Duo de Twang, my head felt light; it might have been the kids toking up next to us, but I think my happiness was due to the deep, chest-shaking bass of the super-talented Les Claypool.
McDowell Mountain Music Festival has been around for ten years, and it continues to grow. Jake and I don’t quite fit there, because we don’t own tie-dye; Jake doesn’t have long hair; and I don’t have a flowing hippie skirt. However, none of that mattered. The music mattered. The beautiful weather mattered. The weird eight-foot-tall puppets? They mattered.
Yeah, drag shows and bluegrass festivals are different, but there’s one thing they have in common: both venues bring people together. The differences don’t really matter when the commonality is so freakin’ cool.
Hmm. Drag show or bluegrass fest? Tough call.
I have a quasi-obsessive relationship with Erin Kelly’s work. When I see a new book of hers soon to be released, I pre-order it, because I must have it as soon as possible. She is further proof that the Europeans are really kicking our ass in the literary realm.
I first met her through The Poison Tree (which is still arguably my favorite of her books). She’s British; I’ve never been to London, so she painted a world for me in Poison Tree of youthful gluttony, violence, and horror, surrounded by Brit charm and vengeance. How can you not love that? Then came The Dark Rose, another thriller filled with regret, angst, and sex. Do you see a pattern here? Erin Kelly loves characters who linger in darkness, but her books are not downers; they’re just creepy and they have a way of making you squirm.
Her most recent opus, The Burning Air, was only released in America weeks ago. I pre-ordered it (duh), so I had a copy in my hands day of its release. Did I read the synopsis? Nope. The book could have been about two kids playing on a swing set, and I would buy it simply because Erin Kelly wrote it—and when she writes, she doesn’t just put words on a page. She uses words to create images that stay with you for hours, days, weeks after you’ve put the book down.
The Burning Air is no different than her first two fantastic pieces of literature. This one follows the close-knit MacBrides as they plan a weekend visit to the family barn in Devon, following the death of their worshipped matriarch, Lydia. The grown up kids arrive with their children and all their significant others, including a new addition to the family—a strange, quiet girl named Kerry. Together with their father, they plan to scatter Lydia’s ashes at the barn, the place where they spent so many happy days with dear mum.
As expected, things go incredibly awry. I’d love to tell you what things go awry, but of course, I can’t. Where’s the fun in ruining the suspense? I will say … you’ll never see it coming.
Erin Kelly has a telltale modus operandi: she loves jumping around in time. This book takes place in the “present,” but all things that happen in the “present” are based on things (horrible things) that happened in the “past.” Kelly also often jumps from character to character, developing entire segments from different character perspectives. Although she is a genius at both of these literary techniques, her true mind-boggling skill rests in her use of suspense.
Just like in The Poison Tree and The Dark Rose, there are moments in The Burning Air when I had to stop, reread, reread again, and then shout, “Oh, no she didn’t!” I tried to keep Jake abreast of plot developments, but as soon as I explained one aspect, the next day, there would be a new twist, and Jake would be left asking, “But I thought you said <insert character name> was crazy,” when in fact, <insert character name> is completely sane but surrounded by a crazy situation. No one keeps me guessing like Erin Kelly.
Feel free to jump in to this, her newest release. I promise that once you’ve finished, you’ll go back and read her others. Not only can she make guts and gore sound beautiful, but Kelly redefines the phrase “page-turner.”
“WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.”
Would you do it? Would you answer this ad? Sure, there’s a chance the guy who wrote the ad is a serial killer just shopping for victims—but what if he’s not? What if the guy is serious, and you get the chance to time travel? This is the question posed in the indie flick Safety Not Guaranteed.
The whole movie is based on an actual classified ad which first appeared in Backwoods Home Magazine in 1997. The “joke” was written as last-minute filler by an employee of the magazine (Jon Silveira, who is credited in the film as “Time Travel Consultant.”) However, first-time feature film director, Colin Trevorrow, got the joke and ran with it. He says, “I have the original magazine it was printed in.”
Safety Not Guaranteed follows a Seattle journalist and his two interns as they hunt down the writer of this mysterious time travel ad to see if the guy’s for real or just a nut job.
The female lead, Darius, is played by Parks and Recreation comedienne Aubrey Plaza. Our time travel guru, Kenneth, is played by cutie patootie Mark Duplass, known as “Pete” on The League, possibly one of the funniest shows in the world.
Darius has always been an outcast; so has Kenneth. As she delves deeper into her investigation, at the coaxing of her journalist boss, Jeff (played by funny guy Jake Johnson), she builds a rapport with Kenneth. They begin to trust each other, and for the first time in both their lives, they’re actually honest with another person. Is this a love story? Not necessarily, although love is involved. Is it sci-fi? Eh. Do you laugh out loud and feel really, really great by the end? Yes. Absolutely.
Jake and I watch so many violent, dark movies; it’s nice to stumble upon a film with some joy. Just like The League (which is based almost entirely on improvisation), much of Safety Not Guaranteed earns its charm from the improvised one-liners of its comedic cast. Lines like “I have no funk. I’m totally funkless” or “What kind of lasers? I don’t know. I’m not a freakin’ storm trooper” add to the allure.
Safety Not Guaranteed is really about connections, though. For instance, Jeff only accepts the time travel assignment in an effort to get back with his high school sweetheart. Darius takes it because she’s always been alone, always been strange, so why not get stranger? And Kenneth, who is painfully alone, is just looking for a time travel pal. Of course, each character gets a lot more than he or she bargained for, which is why the title, Safety Not Guaranteed, is more than an allusion to an ad in a newspaper.
From the film:
Kenneth: To go it alone or to go with a partner. When you choose a partner you have to have compromises and sacrifices, but it’s a price you pay. Do I want to follow my every whim and desire as I make my way through time and space, absolutely. But at the end of the day do I need someone when I’m doubting myself and I’m insecure and my heart’s failing me? Do I need someone who, when the heat gets hot, has my back?
Darius: So, do you?
Kenneth: I do.
Safety Not Guaranteed is not just a movie title; the line refers to life in general. Taking chances, building relationships: these things are dangerous, because whenever we take a leap of faith, there is a chance we could fall, in love or on our faces. In the end, what happens to Darius and Kenneth? Do they really go back in time? You need to see the movie to find out, but remember, in the world of film and in day-to-day living, safety is never guaranteed.
While reading a book on the back porch last week, I heard something funny, like a high-pitched squeaking. I checked the back yard, but Ripley just stood out there with an expression that said, “I didn’t do nothin’.”
I called his name: “Raylan?”
The squeaking continued. I continued to check the back yard, because I knew he was too small to push through the dog door. As desperation (and squeaking) set in, I hurried inside our house, where the squeaking was louder.
I realized the squeaking came from the couch, or more accurately, from behind the couch. I dropped my book and ran and found our new puppy, stuck between the wall and a huge piece of furniture. How he got inside the house, I have no idea, but he squeaked until I stopped laughing and finally got him the hell out of there.
This is Raylan “Givens” Bauer, named after the Elmore Leonard character featured on FX’s TV show Justified. No, Raylan is not hot like Timothy Olyphant, but he’s two months old and cute as can be. We rescued him from a HALO shelter, and so far, so much easier than raising Ripley.
Is this because Raylan has a role model to look up to? Ripley, although a monster in early childhood, has turned out to be one heck of a great mutt. She’s well-behaved, she listens when I talk to her (I swear she understands English), and she goes “potty” in all the right places. Her behavior helps Raylan; having a backyard helps me. With this, child (dog) number two, I no longer have to get dressed at 5 AM and walk around the neighborhood. This time, Jake and I just open our back door and let the little guy pee.
Perhaps it’s the dog that makes things easier, but maybe it’s me, since Ripley was my very first dog, and I didn’t know how to handle her. I’m better with Raylan—better at breaking bad habits and giving him the occasional love he needs (when Ripley isn’t chewing on his face).
Granted, he sometimes goes into the “Blood Fury.” If you hold him when he’s trying to play, he makes a sound like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. His head spins around, but no pea soup, not yet. He also, for the first week, assumed Ripley was his mother and tried to bite her nipples—a lot—until she finally kicked his ass. She continually kicks his ass, but I think she really loves the little guy. I base this on the fact that she hasn’t just chomped his head off yet (nom nom NOM!).
He’s still really small. The other night, Jake went to toss Raylan on the comforter we keep on our couch (to keep the couch innocent of puppy accidents). Raylan was tossed, but then, little Raylan bounced—bounced right off the comforter and onto the living room floor. I wasn’t there, but I bet he squeaked, because that’s what he does in a panic. Jake apparently freaked and cuddled the guy for, like, an hour. This is why we don’t have human babies.
We’re hoping Raylan grows into his name. We’ve given him some tall cowboy boots to fill and a bad ass attitude to match. Ripley didn’t disappoint, named, of course, for the Aliens heroine. Ripley has a terrifying bark, and grown men are scared to come to our front door because they think she looks “vicious.” Now, it’s Raylan’s turn to grow into a gun-totin’ cowboy. Let’s just hope he stops getting stuck behind the couch.
My brother, Matt, was born four years after me, which means he was born with the nickname “Little Dobes.” In years to come, the nickname would spread amongst my high school and college friends. Little Dobes had his first beer with me, at Ohio University. I think he was fourteen, and one day, he too graduated from my alma mater, making it his alma mater. Little Dobes followed me to Charleston post-college, where we lived in the same city for a mere five months before Jake and I relocated to Phoenix.
Being in Charleston with Matt was special, because behind Jake, Matt is my best friend. In South Carolina, we watched bad horror films together. We partook in several “drinking lunches” that would last several hours and several, several beers. We called each other and met at random bars—glorious to live so close to Little Dobes!
I know he dated off and on during our shared time in Chucktown. He’s a musician—lead singer and guitar player in a band called Gangrene Machine—and chicks dig musicians. There was a short string of groupies, and Matt and I shared a few Seinfeld-esque conversations; for instance, “She has saggy elbows; I have to break up with her.” Well. Obviously!
When Jake and I went back to SC for a week two summers ago, I met a girl named Chambers. We were at the Pour House—a night of loud, musical chaos—so I remember few details, other than the impression that this Chambers person was very pretty, sweet, and not afraid to talk to my parents and give hugs.
A few months later, I received a strange, unfamiliar phone call from Little Dobes. He called while walking home from a bowling alley, late at night. He told me he had fun bowling. There were some pretty girls there, hitting on him. The old Dobes would have stuck around, maybe gone to an after party. The new Dobes? He said, “Sara, I just left. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I wanted to go home, because I knew Chambers would be there waiting for me.”
Safe to say: I knew Matt well enough to know this was a big deal.
If my calculations are correct, it’s been a little less than two years since Matt and Chambers became “official.” I got to know her, really, at my grandfather’s 90th birthday party … which is a lot to ask of someone not related to the Dobie-Schwind collective. Chambers handled herself with grace and style. She helped set up for the party; she helped clean up the party. She introduced me to bourbon and ginger, my current cocktail of choice. Outside the Village Idiot Tavern in Maumee, we shared inebriated post-party secrets. She made me laugh. She impressed me, even more than her amazing artwork—most especially a painting of Queen Ripley the Dog.
Tomorrow, Matt and Chambers are getting married in Charleston. The ceremony will be private, intended for the couple alone. Groupie hearts will break all over South Carolina, and my college gal pals will mourn the loss of a singular Little Dobes. But oh, tomorrow, Little Dobes will graduate to Big Dobes!—although he’ll always be “Little Dobes” to me.
For our wedding, Jake and I received a card from my Uncle Steve and Aunt Robin that read the following: “Remember, a marriage is a garden you are growing together—it will flower, bear fruit, bring great joy—but it takes work! Remember to pull the weeds and lay down a little fertilizer now and then.” Good advice, for certain. So what do I have to say about marriage?
Matt, you once asked me how I knew Jake was the one, and I told you, simply, “Because everything is easy.” You wrote a song about those exact words for my wedding, and I suggest you listen to that song again. It’s no joke, true love is easy. However, no matter how much you love someone, there are still going to be days you want to smack them upside the head.
There will be moments of great despair, when you will have to hold each other up, no matter how hard it gets. There will be moments of great joy—days when you wake up next to Chambers and realize, “Wow, out of all the lonely, wandering people on this Earth, I am no longer one of them, because I have found my perfect match.”
And you have, Little Dobes, found your perfect match. Who else would put up with your guitar practicing at all hours of the day and night? Your lack of daily showers and dirty jeans? Your sad, unfortunate obsession with all things Detroit sports? And who else would put up with your crazy sister who loves you—and will always love you—as more than a brother: as a best, cherished friend?
I’m so happy for tomorrow. I’m so excited Little Dobes has found “the one,” and Chambers, you have found your dude. Remember to always keep laughing. Take time out of every day to be alone together. Plan surprise date nights, even if the date night is just to AC’s for a couple dollar-fifty PBRs. Watch bad horror movies. Marriage is fun; have fun!
Okay, don’t let me ramble on much longer, because I’m gonna start crying over here …. In closing, my brother is getting married tomorrow, and I hope tomorrow is one of the happiest days of his whole life!
Mardi Gras rabble rousers. (Picture courtesy ElephantJournal.com.)
I’m giving up alcohol for Lent. I know; sounds like the title of a horror movie, doesn’t it? Especially coming from me, since as most of you know, I love alcohol. Five PM beer and Cheez-its has been a part of my habitual routine since I was old enough to apply for academic scholarships. I’ve never gone a full month without drinking, so what gives? And why Lent? I’m not even Catholic!
Lent is the approximately forty day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Lent is honored every year in New Orleans, via Mardi Gras season. The intention of Mardi Gras: get as drunk and fat as possible before Ash Wednesday, because then begins the Lenten fast. The idea for Catholics (and many modern Christians) is that Lent is a time of preparation through prayer, repentance, tithing, and self-denial.
During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence in memory of the forty days of fasting Jesus undertook in the New Testament Gospels. In the old days, Lent was serious business and mostly related to food. In some places, all animal products were strictly forbidden. In other places, people wouldn’t eat for days.
We do these crazy things because Easter (contrary to what the media would have you believe) is our big holiday, NOT Christmas. Easter marks the resurrection of Christ—you know, the thing the entire Christian faith is based on. Kind of a big deal. In order to prepare for such a big deal, people like to cleanse themselves and deny themselves something, as God denied Himself His only son.
Our modern version of Lent is somewhat watered down. People nowadays give up things like soda, video games, TV, or sweets (as in the case of my mother and husband this year). Rarely do people get rid of all animal products, and no one I know is planning to carry a cross up Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
Because two beers were necessary at once.
Usually, I do nothing for Lent. I make excuses like, “It’s a Catholic thing,” when in fact, giving something up for Lent is really just a way to remove the idols from our lives—idols that keep us from God.
I have several idols: books, sleep, reduced fat Cheez-its … but alcohol is one of my favorites. There’s something about Happy Hour that makes me happy. Something about good wine and good bourbon that makes me laugh a little louder and feel a little better. After a long day, it’s nice to know a cold beer is waiting for me—somewhere. Which is why I’m giving up alcohol for Lent.
See, I’m not the cleanest Christian. I drink. I love to cuss, and violent horror movies are my favorites. I don’t go to church enough. I don’t “serve” like I should. I hate volunteering, and the thought of going on a mission trip to a third world country gives me the creeps. However, like all of us, I am a work in progress, and despite my badness, God still loves me. I probably give him a good laugh on my really bad days. We have a tight relationship, filled with laughter, praises, and the occasional righteous shouting match. I feel it is time for me to give something back, and what better than one of my most infamous idols: alcohol?
This could be a rough month with school, work, a new novel, and now, a two-month-old puppy. There will be no breaks for a drink at five. There will be no “drinking lunches.” I will have to find other ways to unwind, like riding my super cool beach cruiser, going to the dog park, and well, reading a TON of books just to keep my hands away from the liquor cabinet at 5:30 PM.
This is my first Lenten fast. I’m prepared to grow closer to God. I’m prepared to give a little back, since He did give me life, after all. He gave me a wonderful family, a wonderful husband, and the perfect job. I owe Him just a little bit, so here you go, Lord. Take my idol. Let the Lenten fast begin!
And before you even ask, no, I’m not pregnant.
Hotel del Coronado, 1925.
This blog post was not inspired by Midnight in Paris
, just to be clear. Instead, this blog post was inspired by San Diego and the Hotel del Coronado. I’ve decided I want to take a trip to the Roaring Twenties and live there for nine years—you know, right before everything went to hell when the market crashed in ’29.
The Hotel del Coronado (famous for the exterior beach scenes in the classic film, Some Like It Hot) was a very pleasant part of last week’s visit to San Diego and the nearby Coronado Island, where I had the chance to freeze my feet off in the ocean and see dolphins. I also admired the hotel: a 125-year-old architectural monster filled with crystal chandeliers, dark wood décor, and 1920s jazz music.
Although the hotel made me happy, it also made me sad. Let’s face it: I don’t always like Phoenix. Phoenix considers architecture from 1970 to be “historic,” and after living in Charleston, South Carolina, I have to tell you people, there is nothing historic about the 1970s. Phoenix is shiny and new, and I do have a place in my heart for skull décor and wild graffiti.
However, San Diego made me realize how much I miss walking the streets of Charleston, surrounded by flickering gas lamps, ivy that’s older than me, and houses that were around during the Civil War.
My need to time travel is more than just architectural. I did love the film Midnight in Paris, because not only did it embrace one of my favorite cities, but the movie embraced a golden culture and a specific time: the “Roaring Twenties,” what the French dubbed “The Crazy Years.” It was the era of jazz music, flappers, and the right for women to vote.
I adore jazz music. As you know, I’ve recently developed a girl-crush on Melody Gardot. Then, on the drive home from San Diego, Pandora showed me Koop and Devil Doll: two other modernized jazz/burlesque groups. Most modern music blows. The stuff you hear on the radio is crap. I’d much rather be enveloped by the trumpet of Louis Armstrong or the quavering alto of Billie Holiday.
Then, there’s the fashion. Oh, the flapper gowns! And feathers! If I lived in the Roaring 20s, I could wear feathers—feathers everywhere—and people would think I was cool, not a Big Bird wannabe.
Plus, let’s not forget: in the twenties, men used to wear suits. Sleek, stylish, expensive suits every single day. I love men in suits, but unfortunately nowadays, most men only wear suits when going to weddings or funerals. Imagine Jake in a suit every day. Glorious!
Let us also bask in the decadence. Not only would I fully be expected to swing dance and bust out the Charleston at all hours of the night, but I could get away with slurpin’ whiskey and smoking cigarettes out of a big, ivory cigarette holder. There would be no Non-Smoking sections. I wouldn’t be a pariah for the occasional coffin nail; the behavior would be expected. Okay, so this isn’t the healthiest reason to go back in time, but hell, I feel like we’re all too damn worried about vitamins and vegetables nowadays. Wouldn’t it be nice to be bad for a little while?
I guess we all have an era: a time when we believe we were supposed to be born. My brother, for instance, would have been perfect in the 60s. Jake would have been happy dancing to Hall & Oates in the 80s. I think I would have enjoyed the 1920s. I miss old things, old places, which were easy to find around every corner in Charleston. I love 20s fashion. I love jazz. Literally, of course, I can’t go back and dance with the flappers. However, maybe I’ll start wearing feathers more often. I can easily add some flapper-esque attire to my wardrobe. I can lock myself in my house and listen to the music I like. And I can visit places like Hotel del Coronado—places that make me feel like, yes, I am home.
Whenever I write a novel, certain albums sweep into my life and take my breath away. These albums become soundtracks for the novel, and I do not believe in coincidence in the world of music; I believe in fate, intention, and destiny. How else can I account for the way Melody Gardot understands the characters in my novel and brings them to life through the sultry sound of her voice?
Gardot was born in 1985 in New Jersey, although she is now a Philadelphia native. She began music lessons at the age of nine, and by the age of sixteen, she was playing four-hour piano sets at the local Philly bars. Her life changed drastically when, in 2003, she was hit by a car while riding her bike. The accident caused serious damage, including head and spinal injuries, as well as a broken pelvis. Gardot was confined to a hospital bed for a year, and she forgot how to perform simple tasks like brushing her teeth and walking.
Because of her head injuries, she was left hyper-sensitive to light and sound. No longer would she be able to play loud piano bars in downtown Philadelphia. A doctor suggested music therapy. Unable to sit at a piano, Gardot learned to play guitar while lying on her back in her hospital bed. She listened to Stan Getz and discovered new forms of music—quiet, peaceful music. Then, she found her voice.
She has released three albums since her accident: Worrisome Heart, My One and Only Thrill, and her most recent Grammy-nominated effort, The Absence. I received My One and Only Thrill for Christmas this year—my first experience with Gardot—and as I said, her music has joined the complicated plot web of my current novel.
I love Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, and the beautiful Carla Bruni. But those girls have nothing on Gardot. She utilizes full symphony, like the jazz singers of yore. Her music is soft, gentle, and perfect with a glass of wine—usually consumed in a bubbly bathtub. Her vocals are like an eardrum massage. You just want to sit back and go, “Ahhhhh.”
The highlight of the album is its namesake, “My One and Only Thrill”—a song that sounds melancholy but is not, thanks to lyrics that transform her lover into a lifelong, living idol. Most of her songs are melancholy, though, the lyrics circling around broken love or love that just ain’t right. But that’s jazz. Jazz is twenty percent chipper, eighty percent pain—much like the life of Ms. Melody Gardot.
Learn more about her HERE. Or pour yourself a glass of thick California red and chill out to “My One and Only Thrill” HERE.
She used to smoke cigarettes here, in high school, right after swim practice.
At her parents’ house, she kept her smokes in the back of her underwear drawer in a double Ziploc bag. The older kids told her cigarettes got stale, and since it took her a month to go through a pack, she did her best to keep the tobacco fresh—although she never noticed if they were fresh or stale; it was all the same to her, as inexperienced as she was.
After swim practice, she and Katie met at the corner of their suburban neighborhood. They snuck down the street toward the magical wall of green. They slipped past the gate, plastered with black and orange “No Trespassing” signs. Then, it took some work to get back to “The Hole,” what with all the vine overgrowth and thorns.
That’s what they called it, The Hole: a big old pond in the middle of a rich, suburb, hidden on all sides by trees, thorns, and barbed wire. It smelled like wet moss, and when it rained, there was a pile of old highway concrete where they hid. They crept back there to smoke when school was too rough, parents too annoying, or even the time they thought they were Wiccan for a second and tried working spells. The Hole was their haven, shared only with older kids and their alcohol and weed. Parents didn’t know about The Hole—would have ruined the allure.
Now, the girl is thirty, and she returns home to the news that The Hole is gone. Some contractor is trying to turn it into houses, but his plan isn’t going well. Of course not. Doesn’t he know the ground is saturated with the memories and broken hearts of hundreds of busted up kids? She stands on the edge. The trees are sheered, cut back to meager remembrances. The pond is drained. Papers she burned with the names of ex-boyfriends? Gone. Tears shed for her grandmother’s death? Dried up. Just like the pond. Just like The Hole.
She wonders where kids of the new generation go for escape. She hopes they’ve found an equivalent. She hopes they still sneak out to smoke cigarettes, no matter what the Surgeon General says. She hopes they still seek solace. Somewhere. Otherwise, she thinks, being a teenager would be too damn hard.
I feel so blessed to have stumbled upon a recent TED video by model Cameron Russell. For those of you who don’t know, TED is a non-profit organization, developed to share ideas on an open, accepting platform. “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design,” but the talks often cover a wide range of topics from a broad spectrum of talented, inspired speakers. One such speaker at the recent TEDx Midatlantic was Cameron Russell.
Cameron has been a model since the age of sixteen, working for fashion moguls like Vogue and Victoria’s Secret. She is also currently an undergraduate at Columbia University, where she studies economics and mathematics. She is active in the non-profit sector, and she has a blog, http://funnyandinteresting.com/. Basically, she is a stereotype-breaker—never more apparent than in her TED talk.
Cameron Russell, model.
Her talk, entitled “Image is Powerful,” is brilliant. She first addresses the issue of being born with a legacy. Cameron was born white, skinny, and symmetrical. Therefore, she was born lucky—born to be a model. She didn’t do anything to earn her beauty; she was born with it, as are many skinny, white girls, to the detriment of other races. For instance, out of 676 models recently hired for runway, only 27 were non-white.
Cameron goes on to show photos of herself in magazines and in real life. In magazines, she’s a sex siren. She’s wearing designer clothes with perfect makeup and perfect hair. In real life, she wears hippie skirts, her hair in a bun, barely any makeup. She makes the point that the pictures of her in magazines are not pictures of her at all. They are “images,” intended to make consumers believe the hype—hype that we can all be awesome, hot, and confident—when in fact, according to Cameron, models are the most physically insecure people she has ever met.
However, we buy into the image. We think, “If only I had thinner thighs … if only my hair was shinier … if only, if only, I would be happier.” Based on Cameron’s TED talk, even if our wishes to be more beautiful come true, we don’t necessarily feel better. I am a victim of this fallacy. Five years ago, I wore size nine jeans. Now, I’m a size four, and yet, most days, I feel less sexy than I did five years ago. I look in the mirror and think, “I could lose a little bit more weight. I’ll feel better about myself if I do.” I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way.
Cameron Russell, girl next door.
According to Cameron’s talk, 53% of thirteen-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. By the age of seventeen, that number jumps to 78. Seventy-eight percent! We can’t blame the fashion industry; Cameron doesn’t. However, she makes it perfectly clear that what we see in magazines is not real. Photos are airbrushed. Girls are poked and prodded by professional makeup, hair, fashion, and image experts before a shoot. The images young girls covet are no more than fantasies, yet these fantasies appear real, which makes it incredibly difficult for normal women to feel pretty—when we should! We should feel pretty, because we are. We’re also real, which is better than being airbrushed, better than existing as an “image” and not an actual person.
Cameron Russell’s TED talk is an inspiration. I wish her video could be shown in high schools all across America. Her video already has 140,000 hits, and I hope you go and check it out in its entirety. Her talk is not to be missed—a breath of fresh air in our image-hungry, shallow universe. Her talk is an example of bravery, as she stands up against her own career path, but she does so in an effort to change society’s unrealistic expectations of beauty—expectations that threaten the psychological health of young girls and women everywhere.
Check out the video HERE.
Over the past few years, I’ve become an obsessive fan of magic realism and quirky fantasy. Not only do I read it, but I write it; the book I finished in August is classified magic realism. There’s something about the monotony of real life being broken up by, say, a magic wand, or in the case of Stefan Bachmann’s The Peculiar, a half-faery child and falling black feathers.
Stefan Bachmann is a kid, which is borderline disgusting. He started writing The Peculiar
when he was sixteen. (Seriously, you have to resent people who are insanely talented at such a young age.) He currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland, where he attends the Zurich Conservatory. Not only does he write novels, but he writes music, too. He plays multiple instruments, and he composed songs to go along with The Peculiar
, available at the book’s website, http://www.thepeculiarbook.com
The Peculiar is the story of Bartholomew Kettle. Bartholomew is a changeling: half faery, half human. In the surreal world of The Peculiar (set in a fictitious Victorian England where magic is fully acknowledged), changelings are known as “Peculiars,” and neither faery nor human want anything to do with them.
Bartholomew spends his days hiding in his tiny house in Bath (a faery slum) with his human mother and changeling sister, Hettie (who has tree branches for hair). One day, things go haywire when Bartholomew witnesses his neighbor (also a Peculiar) being abducted by a creepy woman in purple. In all, nine Peculiars have gone missing and turned up dead lately, this neighbor being the last.
The English Parliament is worried, which is where hum-drum human Arthur Jelliby comes in. Jelliby would have been fine sleeping in, wandering through a mundane life, but when he makes a scene at the home of fellow Parliament member and faery Mr. Lickerish, Arthur and Bartholomew’s fates are intertwined. They must save the Peculiars, stop the woman in purple, and figure out what’s up with the black feathers that rain from the sky—before the world collapses into magical chaos.
See, doesn’t that sound like fun? Not only is the plotline exceptional, but the writing is, too. The voice is playful on occasion. Then, Bachmann goes dark and spooky. Other times, his words are whimsical. Every page is entertaining. I read the dang book in two days, couldn’t put it down. For me, The Peculiar is a perfect mix of fantasy, mystery, horror, and comedy. The imagery is haunting, for certain, and little kids will be freaked. I’d say reading level is young adult, but the storyline is all ages.
Bartholomew just wants to fit in, but as a changeling, he can’t. Jelliby just wants to sleep in, but with a newfound conscience, he can’t either. These characters change throughout the novel; they learn about themselves and about each other. As reader, we learn about the world of Bachmann—a surreal, glorious place where wolves pull taxis and lamplights are flame faeries trapped behind glass. I can’t wait for the sequel (yes, there’s a sequel). Rumor has it this is a two-book series, but trust me, once you read The Peculiar, you’re gonna wish Bachmann could stretch this thing out for seven.
Family Fun World, c/o Joe Orman.
For the past three years, whenever we visit Jake’s family in Tucson, we drive past what appear to be pastel bird cages off the 1-10. For the past three years, I’ve said to myself, “I wonder what the heck is up with that” but done nothing. This year, on our trip down for Christmas, though, it came to my attention that my husband now owns a smart phone, and voila! Family Fun World.
Family Fun World was one man’s dream to bring an amusement park to Eloy, Arizona. Richard Songers was a construction worker with a dream—to open a park on the land he purchased outside of Eloy in 1995. Initial plans included a drive-in theater, wild animal zoo, race track, and concert venue. Songers apparently ran out of money before the park could open, and well, Family Fun World became a skeleton of unfulfilled dreams. Nothing remains, beyond these bird cages (originally part of a ride called “The Galaxy” from the Magic Mountain Amusement Park in California) and, from what I’ve read, a very angry guard dog.
A bird cage at Family Fun World, Eloy.
What became of Richard Songers? I guess he still lives near Eloy, since one Family Fun World visitor claims to have met the guy. What does he do with his days, I wonder? Has he moved on to the next dream, or does he mourn the loss of the dream unfulfilled?
It’s a new year, 2013. I’m not going to get into my goals (they’re not “resolutions;” they’re goals). I look toward this new year with joy and excitement, because so much can happen in a year. So much can happen in a month! However, there’s been an unfamiliar feeling, too—an invisible finger itching the back of my brain. This feeling woke me up almost every morning when I was home for Christmas in Ohio. This feeling wakes me up at 2 AM sometimes, too. The feeling is fear. Now, I love horror movies. I love haunted houses. I love dark walks with no flashlight. Fear is a feeling I usually embrace, because, like the time I swam with sharks in Belize, fear makes us feel alive. This fear is different. This is the fear of never amounting to anything.
This is the curse of the “artist.” I’m not talking about the movie, The Artist, although the theme fits, as we watch George Valentin sell off his possessions and sink into anonymity. Fear of failure is the curse of anyone with a dream, although artists generally are more susceptible, because we rarely have anyone tell us “good job,” “here’s your promotion,” or “you need a raise.” I live behind a computer screen in pajamas, and although I have a couple essays published, the accomplishment is not enough. I want my novel published, and as I try to sell the one from last year, I work on a 2013 manuscript and hope, because the doubtful voices get louder every year.
What if your book is never on a shelf at Barnes and Noble?
What if you never become that smiling author on The Daily Show?
What if professionally, you never become anything but a marketing copy writer?
What if? What if?
By Kelly Rae Roberts.
I have crushing days of failure. I have days when I pay my career no mind at all. I have days when I don’t want to write and days when I can think of nothing but writing. So here we are, in 2013. What will this year bring? Will that long-awaited call from a literary agent arrive, or will I be crushed beneath the weight of my own terror?
I bought something while we were in Tucson, after passing Family Fun World and spending a good half-hour thinking about poor old Richard Songers. My recent purchase was an ornament from a coffee shop: a painted picture of a skinny girl like me with three words: “create (tell it).” The ornament sits on my desk, because that is what I do. I create and I tell it like I see it. I can acknowledge my fear, but I must also acknowledge a tireless drive to dream. Not even fear can blow that candle out.
I adore the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I always joke about buying a “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” and I love the music. However, most importantly, I love Linus and his speech.
We’re all going to be stressed out in the next week. We’re going to feel miserable for at least a moment. We’re going to want to throttle a family member. When those feelings threaten to take over, listen to Linus.
Merry Christmas, everyone! May you find peace, joy, and love this holiday season!
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
The winter issue of The Gila River Review features one of my essays: “Frankie Forever,” an homage to Rocky Horror Picture Show and how it possibly saved my life as a troubled junior high kid in Perrysburg, Ohio. No, it’s not Christmas-related, but consider it my Christmas present to you anyway.
***Beware: includes explicit language.***
by Sara Dobie Bauer
There’s something about a big pair of red lips—something like salvation. I didn’t know it as a seventh grader at Perrysburg Junior High School, but I was about to find out, following the death of my Grandma Dobie. Grandma and I were close, maybe best friends. She was my babysitter and a constant fixture at Sunday dinners and weekend picnics. Then one day, I came home from school and my dad’s car was in the garage. I knew damn well he should have been at work, and I remember thinking, “Grandma Dobie is dead.” I hated being right.
Before the start of eighth grade, I demanded to dye my hair black. I stole black eyeliner and nail polish and wore huge t-shirts with Kurt Cobain’s mug on the back. He’d killed himself the year before, and I associated with the guy. So did plenty of people, but I didn’t know it. I was too busy raging to Nine Inch Nails. Writing notes to myself that said “I hate you” and “You are ugly.” Using little pocket knives to scrape my skin.
They call it “teen depression.” How was I supposed to know? I lived in Perrysburg, Ohio. The yards were perfect. The clothes were perfect. Everyone was perfect. Except me. I was messed up, but no one in Perfect-ville talked about depression, suicide, or sex.
It’s estimated that one out of every eight American teens experiences depression. It’s considered a national epidemic, and I was the poster child, wallowing in death fantasies, hopelessness, and fear. There were ways to treat my condition, of course: medicines like Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor … the list was endless, but in teens, certain antidepressants had been shown to actually increase suicidal tendencies, so that option was out.
I did see a therapist the summer after Grandma died. He wanted to talk about my dreams and what they meant. I remember how much I hated him. He was fat with a big beard, and he never laughed. He made me angry and nervous, and after sessions, I would bury myself under my bed like some skinny corpse in a tomb. Asshole, I would think. Conventional treatments weren’t working; my parents were running out of choices.
Then, I met Jannelle through church. Our moms were friends, and we shared a bond of introverted misery. It was like she knew, just looking at me, that I wasn’t right. She wore big, white bandages up her arms and around her wrists. She was even bonier than me, and none of her clothes fit, so she always appeared to be drowning. I loved her. I loved her even more when she gave me my first cigarette and said, “You should come over this weekend. We’re going to watch Rocky Horror,” to which I replied, “You’re doing what?”
When asked about the film Rocky Horror Picture Show, actor Barry Bostwick said, “I just thought we were making a musical.” Well, he was right and he was wrong. Rocky Horror was a musical, released in 1975 to horrible reviews. The film was a total bomb, until one advertising exec in Hollywood suggested the Waverly Theater make it the midnight show. It’s been shown continually in movie theaters ever since, making it the longest theatrical run in history. How did this happen, when the movie was originally such a flop?
In 2005, it was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.” I don’t know about the aesthetic part, but culturally, I get it. Rocky Horror was one of the first films to openly portray a transgender lead male who just wanted to screw. And it’s easy to root for the guy, because who doesn’t want to screw Tim Curry in a corset and high heels? I know I did, sitting on the carpet at Jannelle’s mom’s house that weekend for the popping of my RHPS cherry. As soon as Magenta’s big red lips started singing “Science Fiction Double Feature,” I was hooked, done for, obsessed. I have been ever since.
The plot is simple … in that science fiction, alien porn kind of way. Janet and Brad are college kids who just got engaged. Out for a night on the town, they get lost and end up at the mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, better known as “Frankie”). Frankie is a bi-sexual transvestite from another planet. He’s having a party with all his transsexual alien friends and celebrating the creation of his “monster”—a hunky dude with blond hair who was born to become the doctor’s sex slave. As you might imagine, the innocent virtue of Janet and Brad is soon compromised by Frank’s servants: Riff Raff, Magenta, and Columbia. Of course, they get some sexin’ from Frankie, too, and well, that’s the movie, with some outstanding song and dance numbers and finally, a mansion that takes off and disappears into space.
I recently asked a fellow Rocky Horror fanatic why the film was so important. His response? “The movie itself is not important. It’s the people who are attracted to it.” ….
(Read the essay’s conclusion at the Gila River Review website! And have a very merry Christmas!)
Never, in a million, billion years would I have thought to replace Robert Downey Jr. in my heart. Then, I met Benedict Cumberbatch, and a new Sherlock Holmes was born.
Sherlock is a BBC production, featuring a modernized version of the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mystery novels. The show was created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, well known for their work as writers on another acclaimed British series, Doctor Who. Basically, they were intrigued by the idea of a modern Sherlock Holmes, able to utilize technologies like cell phones and the internet to hone his sense of deduction.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock is played by thirty-four-year-old British actor Benedict Cumberbatch; silly name, sure, but this boy will now and forever be my Sherlock Holmes. Prior to Sherlock
, he is best known for roles in Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy; War Horse
; and Atonement
(the film which convinced Moffat and Gatiss that Cumberbatch would be the perfect Sherlock).
Since the show’s enthusiastic reception by British audiences, Cumberbatch has become a household name overseas. He is quoted as saying, “I am very flattered. I have also become a verb, as in ‘I have cumberbatched the UK audience’ apparently.” Despite the fact that he’s not conventionally attractive, women respond quite nicely to dear Benedict, as evidenced by the Facebook and Twitter “Cumberbitches.” Tagline: “The most glorious and elusive society for the appreciation of the high cheekboned, blue eyed sexbomb that is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch.” And okay, yes, I’m a member. The guy oozes charisma.
Sherlock and the dreaded Moriarty!
Dr. Watson, recently returned from war in Afghanistan, is played by Martin Freeman, who I first saw in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
, followed by Love Actually
. He’ll be playing Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming Hobbit
series, and he is a perfect comic foil to Sherlock’s rude, uncouth, and egotistical behavior.
Other notable characters are, of course, Jim Moriarty (played flamboyantly by Irishman Andrew Scott). Moriarty is so twisted in his utter evil, and even though you gotta hate the guy, you have to like him, too, if only for his repartee with Sherlock.
So far, there have been six hour-and-a-half long episodes, divided into two seasons. Each episode title is a play on words based on the original Conan Doyle novels (for instance A Study in Scarlet becomes “A Study in Pink”). The relationship developed between Sherlock and Watson is stellar, and the mysteries are never easy to unwind. The acting is a certain strong point, but so is the rapid dialogue. Jake and I needed subtitles, and frankly, it was hard even then to keep up with Sherlock’s mile-a-minute discourse.
Comedy mixes effortlessly with violence and drama. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the show is how badass and violent these two pale, British boys can be. Watson is a sharpshooter with perfect aim, and Sherlock is just as willing to give a fist to the face as shake a hand.
There is never a dull moment in this BBC masterpiece—just another example that Europe is winning the battle for entertainment quality. Yes, there are already talks of a season three, set to start filming in March of 2013, since both Cumberbatch and Freeman are currently working on other projects. That means I will obsessively watch the only six episodes I have over and over, because I can’t get enough of the characters, the writing, and the ever-present comic undertones of this, my new favorite show.
Most of you know I finished writing a book in August. I’ve been quiet about it so far, as the editing process goes on, but now, I’m ready to share. Here’s a teaser to hold you over until you buy a copy someday … because you will buy a copy.
What is the working title of your book?
Life without Harry
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Last December, I was without a project. (See “I Quit.”) Then, I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (viewing five-million-twenty-seven), and I realized how much I missed the world of Harry Potter! Images floated around my head, most notably an image of an owl landing on a car windshield in the middle of downtown Phoenix. Why? Dunno, but the image stuck, and well, so did the first scene of what would become Life without Harry.
What genre does your book fall under?
Adventure fiction with a side of magic-realism, romance, and comedy.
What is the one-paragraph synopsis of your book?
Xanax-dependent author Samantha Elliot is on deadline with a literary festival three weeks away when a white owl flies into her windshield and then disappears. This wouldn’t be the strangest thing, if not for the magic wand that soon shows up and the Invisibility Cloak that just happens to make Sam invisible. Then, there’s Paul Rudolph: the office crush who finally asks her on a date. With the help of anti-depressants and her friend, Julie, Sam must navigate an ever-escalating world of Harry Potter and an ever-hotter relationship with Paul while finishing a manuscript before her agent (who might be Voldemort) arrives for the literary festival … and possibly Sam’s head.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hard to say (since the characters are mostly based on real people), but I could see Zooey Deschanel as the lead and Ryan Reynolds as the romantic interest. (Who else is hot enough to portray a character based on my husband?)
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I worked as a publicist for a children’s book publisher for two years, and I currently work as a writer for two self-publishing houses. I know how the industry works. I also know, however, that I need a guide, which is why I’m currently shopping for literary agents.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to?
The magic of Harry Potter.
The humor of David Sedaris.
The fast-paced dialogue of Bunnicula.
The romance of The Princess Bride.
The occasional darkness of The Graveyard Book.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Life without Harry
Drinking Butterbeers at Harry Potter World.
deals with the down and dirty of anxiety, depression, and the loss of a loved one to unexpected death. It is funny (because I love making people laugh), but in order for Sam to be a fully developed character, she has to have an internal darkness … because frankly I have an internal darkness. In order for the story to be well-rounded and complete, each of the characters must go to a dark place and, like Harry Potter, realize that hope, love, and friendship abound.
Why do you want to write and sell a book?
I have a card on my desk that says, “We must play all the keys, seek the tunes only we can hear, and deliver them to those outside our box.” I write to tell a story. I write because I have to. I write because God wants me to write; why else would He have given me the obsessive drive to do so? Mostly, though, I write to give people light and laughter in a world that is growing less and less funny.
I know you’re expecting Part VI of “Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?” Don’t worry; the story will be back Wednesday, but right now, I have something special to tell you.
A year ago today, I woke up in an empty bed. I let Ripley out of her crate, took a shower, and threw on some clothes. I hit up the grocery store and bought a bunch of sub sandwiches, orange juice, and champagne. Then, I said it for the first time to the lady ringing up my order at Safeway: “I’m getting married today!”
While Jake hung at Yardhouse, drinking mimosas with old Navy pals, I drank mimosas at our tiny apartment on Old Litchfield Road, surrounded by makeup artist Stephanie Kain, my mother, my aunt, and a mixture of friends from high school through to my time in Charleston, SC. Susie took a nap in the “office” while I was covered in powder and hair spray.
The veil was the last step. Once Stephanie put all that tulle on my head, it was for real. I was getting married, and soon, within hours. I chugged one last mimosa, and we struggled to get me into my 1996 Toyota Camry without crushing the veil that my mother also wore on her wedding day.
We arrived at WindStar Gardens to a panicked bartender: Where was the booze? Where was the booze? I broke the rules and gave Jake a quick call to ask “Where’s the booze?” Brandon, our liquor guy and DJ for the night, came running soon after with booze. Crisis averted.
Mom and Susie helped me put on my dress and jewelry. I remember I was sweating a little, and in a panic, Susie pulled emergency deodorant out of her SOMOH bag (SOMOH: Sexy Old Maid of Honor). After a quick shoot with photographer Pat Shannahan, I hid in my little bride room. Susie brought me my first Cosmopolitan, and I did my best not to spill anything on my dress. Girlfriends snuck in to visit. I made time to get my dad some Cheez-its (because Dad can’t go a day without Cheez-its).
I wondered what it was like out there, outside my little room. I wondered what Jake was thinking at that moment. Did he need emergency deodorant, too?
Suddenly, Lois, our wedding coordinator, came in with bouquets. I barely remember how beautiful they were, made of white and red roses, wrapped in black velvet ribbon. She said, “It’s time.” Susie gave me a Listerine mint, my handsome daddy took my arm, and we walked toward the door where friends and family awaited my arrival—where my fiancé waited to become my husband.
I know pianist Paul Tipei played “Clair de Lune” upon my entrance, but I don’t remember hearing it. There’s a picture of my dad and me laughing about something, walking down an aisle covered in rose petals, but we don’t remember what. All I do remember is seeing Jake. He looked so handsome, my knees almost buckled. I almost went running to him, because I just had to say it: “Can you believe we’re getting married today?”
The ceremony is a blur, blinded as I was by Jake’s ever-present smile. My brother played a song he wrote for us. The chorus: “I never knew it could be this easy …” And it was so easy, becoming Jake’s wife.
I remember every moment of the reception, through the constant kisses, through the toasts, to the mad dance-off on that warm Phoenix night. Then, there was the rain. As friends and family said their goodbyes, Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” played, and I had to find Jake and dance—dance beneath the rain … “because I’m still in love with you. I wanna see you dance again. Because I’m still in love with you … On this harvest moon …”
I never wanted that song to end, because I never wanted our wedding to be over. And yet, the wedding did end, and something else started: a marriage. The real deal. Love, forever.
It’s been a year since that day. As I type, Jake naps two feet away on our couch. Ripley the dog is shoved up against me, snoring. My little family. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. I’m not worried about “where’s the booze” or emergency deodorant. With Jake next to me, I don’t worry much at all, because I know he’ll always be here with me, ever since we said “I do.” I will always love him; he will always love me, and this … this is just the beginning.
Happy anniversary, my darling boy! You are God’s greatest gift to me.
Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
Part VII (of VII)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
They did as they were told, moving a few feet away from where Marie stood—all except Rupert, who seemed dazed and jolly behind his wife. Suddenly, he clapped his hands. “Oh, this will work out just fine!”
“Rupert …” Bernadette had her hands on her pale cheeks, mouth half-open in shock.
“Dearest Bernadette, did you know we murdered your husband?” Rupert was practically gleeful; Angie noticed he did a little hop before he continued. “Car accident? It wasn’t a car accident. We knocked him out and shoved his car into the Hudson! Marvelous!” He cackled.
Angie could see it took all Jonathan’s resolve to not go running across the room. Meanwhile, Bernadette began to sob, falling to her knees on the floor.
“Why?” Ellis’s voice was barely a whisper. “Why would you do such a thing?”
“Because we want the family fortune, of course,” Marie replied.
Angie was getting tired of the headlock. She struggled slightly, but the gun only pressed tighter against her skull.
“And we all know the family fortune only passes to Crane men, don’t we?” Rupert did a little spin. “And I’m not a Crane man, grandmother; I married into the family, so I don’t count.”
“But what if there were no Crane men left?” Marie continued.
“Yes.” Rupert pointed. “There’s only you, son, and there is someone outside who desperately wants to see you.”
“No!” Angie and Bernadette bellowed the word at the same time.
“In fact, he wants to see all of you. Somehow, dear Marie and I will be the only Cranes to survive the horrible massacre.”
“Because we want the family fortune, of course,” Marie replied.
“Sadly.” Angie looked up to see Marie putting on a fake pout. “All it took was a girl, Jonathan. A girl made you go outside, and now, you’re all going to die because of her.”
“You wanted me to go out tonight,” Jonathan said through gritted teeth.
“Of course I did. It’s why I helped you sneak out, isn’t it?” Marie danced back and forth with Angie. “We dug up the skull ages ago, of course. Have been planning this for years. And as my dear husband pointed out, it’s all working out just fine!”
Angie’s mind spun. Could she work a spell with a gun to her head? Hmm. It was possible. There was that one spell her aunt liked to show off at Christmas when it got cold outside. She might end up dead, sure, but at least she could save Jonathan. Speaking of Jonathan … “Hey.”
The sudden entrance of the witch in the conversation made them all shut up.
“Jonathan. I think I’m falling in love with you.”
“I’m falling in love with you, too.”
“Cool. Just wanted to get that out of the way …”
“How sweet. A Halloween Romeo and Juliet.” Rupert made a raspberry noise with his tongue.
Again, Angie had to think and think fast. First, get the gun off her head. Second, get the gun away from Marie. Third, find the skull and make Brom Bones go the hell away. She hadn’t used telekinesis in a while, and granted, she’d always kind of sucked at it, but it was worth a shot.
In her head, she concentrated on Jonathan and said, “Can you hear me? If you can, blink twice.”
Within seconds, she lit up like a dried out Christmas tree in bright orange flames …
Well, he almost gave them both away when he tripped over his own feet and fell into a table. He did, however, have the presence of mind to blink, twice.
“I’m going to do something that will make your bitch of an aunt let go of me immediately. When she does, take her down, get the gun, and let’s find that freakin’ skull.”
He blinked, probably about four times, she noticed.
Then, Angie closed her eyes and said the words in her head, just like her aunt taught her. Within seconds, she lit up like a dried out Christmas tree in bright orange flames. Marie screamed and batted at her burning clothes. Through the smoke, Angie saw Jonathan swoop past her and tackle his screaming aunt. Bernadette and Ellis watched Angie, horrified, and Rupert went sprinting from the room.
“You can … put out the fire now.”
She sighed, and the flames disappeared, leaving her skin and clothing completely unscathed. Jonathan had the gun pointed at Marie, who lay on the floor, smoldering. Beneath her burnt clothes, Angie saw melted skin, which put a smile on her face. She glanced at Jonathan.
“Can you never do that again, please?”
“Saved your ass, didn’t it?”
Ellis shuffled forward. “Where’s Rupert?”
“He ran upstairs.”
Angie took off, not stopping even at the sound of Jonathan’s voice shouting her name.
“Here. Take this.” He handed the gun to his mother, whose hands shook. “Don’t let her move.” He gestured toward his aunt, who had possibly passed out from the pain. She didn’t look like much of a concern, but one can never be too careful. With the downstairs situation under control, he took off after his crazy witch girlfriend.
Upstairs was pitch-black, so when he reached the top of the steps, he ran right into Angie. “Sorry,” she said. “Aren’t there any lights up here?”
Jonathan flipped a switch to their right, illuminating fancy green and gold wallpaper, a long hallway, and about a dozen closed doors.
“Great,” she muttered.
Luckily, Rupert was an idiot without his wife, and within about two seconds, they heard someone stomping around the attic.
Jonathan’s eyes looked up.
“Any guns up there?”
“Who knows? This house has been in our family since the freakin’ Civil War.”
“If I get killed by an antique, I’m going to be really pissed.”
Jonathan led the way down the hall to the attic door, which squeaked like a ghost when he swung it open.
“Guess we don’t have the element of surprise,” she said.
“Stay behind me.” He turned and pointed his finger right in his face. “I’m sick of you saving me. I’m the one who’s supposed to save you.”
“This ain’t Washington Irving, babe. It’s 2012.”
“Just stay behind me.” He turned and crept up the old, wooden steps. It comforted him when Angie reached up and took his hand.
There was light up there, reflecting off the myriad boxes and dust-covered furniture. It came from a single bulb, lit with the pull of a white string, in the center of the massive room that stretched the length of the entire mansion. There was no sign of Rupert, which made Jonathan considerably nervous.
“Where is he?”
“Shh,” he whispered. When a box moved in the corner, they both ducked, but Rupert still didn’t show his cowardly face. At that point, Jonathan had had enough. “Rupert. Get the hell out here.”
“It was her idea, you know.” His voice came from the direction of the box. “All her idea. I was a pawn.”
“Apparently, the truth serum wore off,” Angie said, crossing her arms.
“Just give me the skull.”
“And you won’t hurt me?”
“What? No, I won’t hurt you. Give me the damn skull.”
It appeared above the box, held in the center of Rupert’s palm like some Shakespearian prop.
“Stand up, Rupert.”
“She’s going to zap me.”
Jonathan glanced at Angie. “She’s not going to zap you.” He lifted his eyebrows at her to insinuate, “Don’t zap him.”
Jonathan elbowed Angie.
“Yes. I promise, you little weasel.”
Finally, Rupert stood up. His hand shook so much, he almost dropped the skull, which Jonathan was quick to grab and hold like a newborn child. He turned to Angie and handed it to her before knocking his uncle unconscious with a fist to the face.
“Nice punch.” She kicked Rupert’s foot with her platform shoe.
“Thanks.” He took the skull back from her fingers, and together, they walked down the steps.
His hand shook so much, he almost dropped the skull, which Jonathan was quick to grab and hold like a newborn child …
“Oh, thank God,” Ellis said when she saw the ancient bones.
“Where’s Rupert?” Bernadette asked. She was calm now, and cold, Jonathan noticed. She looked ready to kill, especially since she now knew how her husband had really died.
“Jonathan knocked him out.”
“Good job, son. Now what?”
“We give him back his head.” He turned away from his mother and grandmother but hesitated at the front door.
Angie was at his side. He could feel the warmth of her skin. Her perfume was back—lavender and vanilla—and her fingertips on his arm, as usual, spread a cool calm through his chest. “What?” she asked.
“What if he still kills me?”
She reached down and took the hand not holding the skull. “Then, I’m going with you.”
They stepped out into the night. A frigid breeze blew the edges of Angie’s black hair against Jonathan’s face, but the air had nothing to do with his shivers. A headless Brom Bones sat not ten feet in front of them, sword in hand, with a cornucopia of dead heads tied to his saddle.
“Oh, my God,” Angie breathed.
Jonathan squeezed her hand and held the skull high in the air. “Brom Bones.”
The horse reared back and screamed at them.
“I have your … head.” He cleared his throat. “Do you want it back?”
The horseman dismounted, and Jonathan realized he would probably have a heart attack before the ghost even had a chance to cut his head off. Angie was practically squeezing the feeling out of his fingers as the horseman stomped toward them, sword drawn, shoulders vacant of a head where some sort of readable expression would be.
Jonathan was sure their number was up. After all they’d been through that night, it was finally time to die. But then, Brom Bones sheathed his sword and viciously grabbed the decayed skull from Jonathan’s shaking fingers. The horrible Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow held up one leather-gloved finger as if to say, “One moment please.” He then walked back to his horse and hid in the darkness.
Jonathan looked down at Angie; Angie gawked up at him.
It was a minute later that the horseman reemerged, no longer headless at all. In fact, he was probably their age, with flowing brown hair, dark brown eyes, and a sour expression on his unshaved face.
As he approached, Jonathan shoved Angie behind him and prepared to be destroyed.
The horseman grunted as he walked and stopped so close to Jonathan that Jonathan had to lean back to avoid the smell of a dead man’s breath. Then, the horseman said … nothing.
Jonathan had trouble swallowing, but he managed the words that needed to be said: “You know I’m not Ichabod Crane, right?”
The man once known as Brom Bones considered this. Then, he made Jonathan jump when he started to laugh—a deep-belly, hearty laugh of a man after two many pints. “You? Ichabod Crane? Ichabod Crane could not run five feet, let alone with the speed with which you ran across yonder field.” He gestured toward the backyard, the scene of Jonathan’s earlier near-death experience.
“Oh. So. We’re good then?”
Brom Bones scratched his broad, furry chin. He blew out a breath of stank air and walked back to his worthy steed. He leapt onto the horse’s back without the aid of stirrups and turned to ride away. Halfway down the driveway, he stopped. He pulled his silver sword from its sheath and spun it in the evening light.
“I was not really hoping to get your head, Crane,” he shouted. “I was hoping to get your whore.” With that, Brom Bones growled at his long dead animal companion, and halfway down the driveway, they disappeared, quite literally, to God only knew where.
Angie stepped forward beside him. “Do I look like a whore?”
“A really expensive whore.”
Over the sound of incoming police sirens, Jonathan asked, “Do you want to get a drink?”
He took her hand, and they walked away from Crane Manor and hid in the bushes when the cops sped by. Family drama could wait until tomorrow. After all, it was only midnight, and for the first time in his life, Jonathan Crane felt safe on Halloween.
… for the first time in his life, Jonathan Crane felt safe on Halloween.
Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
Part VI (of VII)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
She felt herself waking up. She could hear voices, smell the scent of an old, old house. There was Jonathan, shouting about the skull—the skull wasn’t there, he said. Where was the skull?
She moaned in an effort to respond, and his hand was in hers immediately. “Angie?”
She moaned again.
“Please wake up.”
For him, she would. She opened her eyes. His skin was paler than usual, covered in a thin sheen of sweat. She reached up and de-wrinkled the wrinkle between his eyes.
He kissed her hand. “Thank God you’re all right.”
He kissed her hand. “Thank God you’re all right.”
“Are you all right?”
He glanced down at his chest, covered by, she noticed, a replacement forest green sweater. “Thanks to you.”
“Where’s my locket?”
He reached behind her head to the table by the living room couch. The piece of silver fell into her hand, still covered in his blood.
“Very Halloween-y.” She let go of his hand long enough to clasp the bloody piece of jewelry behind her neck. With the cold metal against her skin, she felt stronger again. “It was my mother’s. She died when I was a kid.”
“My dad died a few years ago.” He kissed her hand again, and Angie finally noticed the rest of the Crane family, curled together in a tight circle in the corner.
“What’s Brom Bones up to?”
“Circling the house.”
The phone rang, making them all jump a mile.
Ellis sighed. “I’ll get it.” She left the quiet circle and answered a phone that looked older than she was. “Happy Halloween! … Yes, officer, we’re aware. … I wouldn’t worry your head over it.” She gasped and covered her mouth. “I just meant …. Well, he’s at the house now, so the town has nothing to worry about. We’re dealing with it.” She hung up the phone. “Our undead friend killed seven students, it would seem.”
Angie sat up suddenly. She would have fallen over onto the floor if Jonathan hadn’t caught her. “Oops,” she muttered before standing up with Jonathan’s help.
Bernadette was on her in a flash. “Thank you!” She wrapped Angie in a hug that managed to cut off her supply of oxygen. “Thank you.” She kissed Angie on the cheek.
“Hey, no biggie. I like the guy, too.” She nodded at Jonathan. “So. Who else knew about the skull in your backyard?”
This brought a noticeable air of tension to the room.
Ellis glanced at each member of her family in turn. “Only the people in this room, dear.”
“So which one of you dug it up?”
“Ange …” Jonathan put his hand on her arm.
“What? You’re thinking it, too. I know Grandma is.”
Angie noticed despite the circumstances, Ellis smiled at her friendly epithet.
“How dare you come into our house and start pointing fingers?”
“I don’t like you, Rupert. I think you’re a little weasel, with your weasley moustache.”
“Watch your mouth, witch.” Marie stepped forward, and even Jonathan seemed surprised by the ice in his aunt’s voice.
“Okay, everyone calm down.” The authority in Jonathan’s voice made them all shut up. “I guess it’s worth asking. Does anyone in this room know where to find the horseman’s skull?”
In the silence, they heard horse hooves and the sound of a sword on tree-trunk. Apparently, Brom Bones was bored and sharpening his weapon.
Jonathan sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You do?” Ellis seemed hopeful from her seated position.
She noticed her spell book on a nearby empty chair. She picked it up. “I need to use your kitchen.”
“What for?” Rupert demanded.
Angie hugged her book to her chest. “A truth serum. Ellis?”
The old woman pushed herself up from her seat. Angie noticed she was looking older already, after the near loss of her grandson and the basic unraveling of her big, happy family. Nevertheless, she guided Angie to the kitchen, followed closely by Jonathan.
“A truth serum?”
Angie threw the book down on an updated black marble island and began turning pages. “Mmhmm.”
“How long does it last?”
She started digging through cabinets for cooking spices, along with wine and a sharp knife. “I’ll make one that only lasts a couple minutes, although some of them have been known to last weeks.”
“That would suck.”
“Telling lies lately, Jonathan Crane?” She raised her eyebrow at him.
“No, but it’s nice to have a filter, especially with you around.”
“Don’t tell anyone about the blood,” Angie said. “People get weird about that.”
“Oh, really?” She leaned her elbows on the counter, knowingly flaunting her breasts. “And what would you tell me if you didn’t have a filter?”
“I guess we’ll find out in a few minutes …”
Angie was a speed demon at potions, always had been, thanks to the teachings of her aunts, who were masters of the ancient art. Thankfully, Ellis had a well-stocked kitchen, although Jonathan looked away when Angie cut her own flesh and added a drop of blood to the mix. “Don’t tell anyone about the blood,” Angie said. “People get weird about that.”
Jonathan didn’t have words to respond.
Angie carefully poured the completed potion into six rocks glasses, if only to be fair. She felt that if she was making the Crane family take the potion, she might as well, too, in case they suspected the witch of some evil intent. She used a fancy silver tray to carry the glasses into the living room, where everyone waited, none too excited at the prospect of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
“Okay, everyone, take a glass.”
“I refuse to drink some witch’s brew,” said Rupert, twirling his moustache with a finely manicured finger.
“Then, I suspect you, Rupe.” Angie smiled.
He indelicately snatched a glass.
The rest of the room followed suit, and Angie lifted her glass in a toast. “Okay, bottoms up. Question and answer begins as soon as you swallow.” She closed her eyes and took her shot down first; it tasted like Italian food gone bad—real bad.
Everyone was wincing when she opened her eyes, and she immediately pointed at Ellis.
“Ellis Crane, do you know where the skull of Brom Bones rests?”
Her eyes were slightly dreamy as she said, “No, dear, but I once spit in a casserole dish for the Rotary Club because a woman on the potluck committee slept with my husband.” She gasped and covered her mouth.
“Guess it’s working.” Jonathan rubbed his forehead.
Angie was on the move. “Bernadette Crane, do you know where the skull of Brom Bones rests?”
“No.” She appeared to be biting the inside of her lip to hold something back. Angie moved on to Marie just as Bernadette blurted out, “I’m not a natural blond!”
Angie pet her on the shoulder, but before she could ask Marie much of anything, the black-haired broad had her in a headlock with a gun against her head. “Stupid, meddling witch!” she shouted.
Jonathan took a step forward, and Angie felt Marie’s arm tighten around her throat.
“You take another step, nephew, and I’ll throw her outside.”
He stopped moving.
“Marie?” Ellis stood, frozen to the spot. “What are you doing, Marie?”
“Everyone, just back up, or ding dong, the witch is dead.”
(THE FINAL INSTALLMENT GOES UP FRIDAY!!! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Halloween romp! I know I enjoyed writing it! Cheers!)
Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
PART V (of VII)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
Jonathan dragged her inside, where the whole family rapidly began to appear at the sound of uninvited guests. Angie noticed there were only four of them in total: the one called Aunt Marie; a well-dressed man with a moustache, probably in his mid-fifties; a forty-something lady with Jonathan’s bright blue eyes; and finally, a petite lady with white hair, glasses, and a frown, who had to be the Crane matriarch.
“What on earth were you doing outside?” The little old lady moved faster than any old lady rightly should.
“It’s my fault, Ellis.” Marie stepped forward. “I helped him sneak out.”
“Sneak out? On Halloween?”
“Baby.” The blond moved past grandma and lifted her hands to her cheeks. “Are you covered in blood?”
“Right. Can Angie use the bathroom? I’ll explain.”
“I think I should probably be here when you explain.”
Jonathan glanced down at Angie, holding her massive, leather book of spells. “Right. Well, this is Angie, and I snuck out to see her, and um … well, the Horseman, he’s real, and he’s trying to kill us, but Angie’s a witch, and …”
“Jonathan. You’re doing a shit job.” Angie addressed this family of strangers, all of whom looked practically murderous. “Look, the Headless Horseman from a fictional short story is actually real, and he’s down in Tarrytown killing people trying to get to Jonathan. So please tell me you have a protective spell on your house, because if you don’t, I’m a witch, and I need to get started right now.”
Surprisingly, it was the intimidating grandmother who stepped forward, took Angie’s blood-soaked arm, and gently said, “Come along, dear, let’s wash you up.”
“But … he looks just like … or Jonathan looks just like …”
Angie looked over her shoulder at a blood-soaked Jonathan and was surprised to find he still looked attractive, despite what might have been a piece of another man’s skin under his right eye. She then allowed herself to be coached through the house, past expensive-looking antique heirlooms and a room full of deer heads—which gave her the creeps.
Then, there was a long hallway of paintings. Angie recognized the elder woman by her side, Ellis Crane, among them, but then, she recognized someone else.
“Hey.” She stopped. “Is that …” She pointed at a particularly striking young man.
“But … he looks just like … or Jonathan looks just like …”
“Yes, the resemblance is quite significant, but he does have his mother’s eyes.” Ellis led her on, as if the creepy similarity between a long dead ancestor and a very living college student was run of the mill.
Finally, they found a bathroom bigger than Angie’s entire apartment. Ellis took the book from Angie’s hands and set it on a decorative, marble table. She then pulled a washcloth from beneath the sink and began to wash Angie’s face.
“I’m certainly glad Jonathan snuck out to meet you, honey. I was beginning to think he was a homosexual.”
Angie bit her lip to stifle a smirk.
“And a witch, no less.” Ellis glanced at the rather sizeable square of leather on the nearby tabletop. “Quite a big spell book for someone so young.”
“It was my mother’s.”
“Ah.” Ellis put her hand on Angie’s head and smiled. “What a lovely girl.” Then, she leaned forward and whispered, “And yes, the house is protected by many spells, but I do hate scaring the younger ones. Most people aren’t as comfortable around witches as I am.” With no further warning, Ellis put the washcloth down on the sink and left Angie quite alone.
Jonathan paced the living room, hands on his hips. He jumped at every noise, while the rest of his family merely watched him walk around. Grandma Ellis came back, followed closely by Angie, who was no longer covered in blood but who still hugged her spell book as if it in itself would save all their lives.
Jonathan watched his uncle approach the little witch. “I’m Rupert, by the way, Jonathan’s uncle. Marie is my wife.” He gestured to Jonathan’s aunt, who waved politely from a plush white chair in the corner.
“Sorry. Introductions.” Jonathan put his hand on his mother’s shoulder where she sat on a pink paisley couch. “Ange, this is my mother, Bernadette.” He watched his mother stand up and clasp Angie’s hand.
“Very nice to meet you. Sorry about the circumstances.”
“Me, too,” Angie replied.
“I’m surprised we haven’t had any calls from the police.” The room turned to face Ellis, who was peering beyond the curtains and out into the front yard.
Jonathan looked toward Angie, who’d suddenly gone a couple shades paler than usual.
“I have to call her. Tell her to stay inside.” She shamelessly reached between her breasts and pulled out a tiny black cellular phone before she disappeared back toward the bathroom.
By now, Rupert, too, stood at the front window. “Ah,” he said, “We have company.”
“When he pulled back the shade, he was more than horrified to see the Hessian …”
Jonathan heard the horse hooves before he reached the window, followed of course by a house-shaking burst of thunder. When he pulled back the shade, he was more than horrified to see the Hessian with about a half dozen decapitated heads attached to his black saddle.
Jonathan promptly threw up in a nearby potted plant. When he was finished, he glanced back at his family. “Let’s not tell Angie about that.” He gestured to the sad looking fern.
“We won’t, dear, but you might want to wipe the blood off your face.”
Rupert offered him a handkerchief, which he accepted, gladly.
“What’s going on?”
Jonathan didn’t want to tell her, but he didn’t really have a choice. While wiping his face, he turned to Angie and said, “Is everyone okay?”
“They’re drunk, but they’re fine. Why are you all standing by the front window?”
“Well, because there’s an angry horseman outside, dear.” Ellis dropped the curtain and sighed. “I think it’s time we told them the truth.”
“Ellis,” Marie hissed.
His grandmother approached him and put her hands on his upper arms. “How about a drink?”
As a collective, they followed her to the library, where rows of books were challenged by rows of multi-colored liquor bottles. She chose a scotch—one of Jonathan’s favorites—and poured an inch of gold in each glass. Jonathan took his back like a shot, and when he lowered the glass, he realized Angie must have, too, because the entire family stared at them. Ellis poured them a second round and gestured to the leather furniture around the room.
Angie didn’t ask before she lit up a clove. Jonathan gave her a sidelong glance, knowing she’d left her purse at her own apartment. When she noticed him watching, she pulled a second clove from between her cleavage and extended her hand to him.
“What else are you hiding down there?”
“A lighter.” Which she presented and used to light up. No one complained.
“Well. Jonathan. Darling. We’ve never told you the truth about your great-great-great-grandfather. It was just too soon, and you were too young. It’s a secret to be shared by adults.”
“This doesn’t sound good.” His shoulders were tense, and Angie lit his cigarette before he could even ask. In fact, when he looked around the library, he noticed everyone was tense … and avoiding eye contact.
“Ichabod Crane was, well, like you, very handsome. He was a travelling teacher of sorts in Sleepy Hollow, and he caught the eye of a local girl by the name of Katrina Van Tassel.”
“Van Tassel? Like from the story?”
“Yes, dear.” Ellis nodded at Angie. “But you see Katrina was already engaged to a local boy, Brom Bones. When Ichabod tried to woo her nonetheless, it was quite a scandal, but woo her he did, and well …” His grandmother’s eyes looked up to the gold-encrusted ceiling. “Well, it started kind of a feud between Brom and Ichabod. So Ichabod cut off Brom’s head.”
“What?” Jonathan felt the sudden urge to stand.
“Yes, well, it would seem that Washington Irving and your great-great-great-grandfather were good friends, so they made up a story as a joke and told everyone in town that Brom had left in a huff, never to be seen again.”
“You’re telling me … Ichabod Crane murdered someone, and now, that someone is outside, headless.”
Angie stood up, too. “What happened to Katrina?”
“… he caught the eye of a local girl by the name of Katrina Van Tassel.”
“Oh, she married Ichabod. She’s Jonathan’s great-great-great-grandmother. This house was known as the Van Tassel Estate before they got married. Now, it’s called Crane Manor.”
Angie fell back down on the couch. “What an f-ed up family.”
“So if I’m to understand correctly, Brom Bones is the Headless Horseman. Not some Hessian soldier from the Revolutionary War.”
Ellis waved her hand. “Oh, that was just part of the story.”
“Right. The story written to cover up a murder.”
“Precisely.” His grandmother sipped daintily on her scotch.
“So …” Jonathan pointed toward the front entrance. “What does he want?”
“Your head. Probably.”
“Well, it is an unfortunate coincidence that you look so much like Ichabod.”
Jonathan finished his second glass of scotch and put it down heavily on the table. “This hiding out every Halloween in the house, you were doing that because of me?”
“Well, you and every male direct descendant of the Crane line. As you know, it’s your responsibility to keep the family line alive, and you inherit the fortune. Can’t be too careful.” She laughed, softly, until the expression on Jonathan’s face made her stop.
He looked toward his mother. “Mom? He wants my head?”
“Well, there are other options.”
“I think he would also accept the sacrifice of the woman you love.”
Jonathan glanced at Angie, who pointed her finger and said, “I will hex the hell out of you.”
He rolled his eyes. “What’s our other option?”
“We could always give him back his skull.”
Now, both Jonathan and Angie’s mouths hung open. “You still have the skull?”
“It’s buried in the backyard,” Ellis replied.
“Sick.” Angie stubbed out her cigarette in her empty glass of scotch.
“I’m not sure it would work, but it’s worth a try.”
“How are we going to get to it? He’s outside.” Jonathan held his hand out and waved at the front door.
Angie blew out a loud breath of air. “Distraction. I’m a great distraction.”
As she stood up, book in hand, he held onto her shoulders. “You’re not going outside.”
“I don’t have to go outside. You have windows.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. Shoot sparks and shit. It’s what I do.”
“She is a witch,” Rupert whispered into his drink.
Angie pointed. “Hey, don’t judge me, moustache.”
“They burned people like you for a reason, sweet girl.”
Jonathan literally had to get between Angie and his uncle to keep an all out brawl from breaking out, and frankly, he was surprised at the small girl’s strength. “Enough! I’m going to get the skull.”
Well. That managed to stop all discussion.
“Jonathan.” Bernadette stood up.
“Mom, I have to do this.”
She sat back down but would not look at who she still considered her little boy.
“Gram, where is the damn thing?”
“In the family plot, of course. Beneath Ichabod’s tombstone.”
“He knew the way to the family cemetery, not far beyond the house.”
“That is so twisted. Do you have a flashlight?”
“Yes, honey, on the back porch.”
Jonathan looked down at Angie, who he still held tightly in hand.
“Are you sure?” she whispered.
“Do we have a choice?”
“No.” She glanced around the room. “Do we have time for a quickie?”
He smiled and pressed his forehead against hers. “I’ll come back.”
“And I’ll distract.” She dropped her precious book and put her hands on the back of his neck, pulling him into a long, wet kiss that almost made his knees buckle.
When she finally let him go, he shook his head. “I swear you put a spell on me.”
“Well, I didn’t put a spell on myself, so I think it’s just animal instinct.”
The sound of an angry horse huffing and puffing pulled them out of their flirtations and back into a world where a headless maniac wanted people dead.
“Okay. Let’s do this.”
“You kind of sounded like Bruce Willis just then, and I think Bruce Willis is really hot.”
Ellis cleared her throat behind them before Tonsil Hockey, Round 2.
Angie tossed the book on the couch by the front window and opened the curtains. Jonathan watched her turn pages until she found what she was looking for, but it was Russian to him. Obviously, it was the language she’d spoken earlier in the woods, but it was private—a Duncan … er … Good family secret, most likely.
She looked up at him. “Gimme five minutes. And then go.”
Jonathan glanced at his watch. “Five minutes.”
He turned to leave, and she grabbed his arm. “If you don’t come back safe, I’ll kill that mother trucker with my bare hands.”
He nodded and headed for the back exit, his family close behind. As he walked, he could hear his mother’s voice, begging, pleading, but there was no turning back. They were out of options, and if Angie could keep the ghost of Brom Bones distracted, Jonathan could be gone and back quick as a hippie on cocaine. From the back porch, he grabbed the flashlight and a small shovel. Looking at his watch, he had two minutes to go. He took a deep breath. The scotch felt warm and comforting in his stomach, and he could still taste the clove cigarette on his breath.
“Good luck, boy.” Rupert’s thin fingers on his shoulder did not incite confidence.
Jonathan took one glance back at his mother before shooting into the night. The wind whipped against his ears, and the cold air pulled at his skin. He knew the way to the family cemetery, not far beyond the house. There were the wrought iron gates, illuminated by the flashlight beam that shook in his hand. He pressed forward, and of course, the damn gate creaked.
Ichabod’s grave was famous in the family—the only one immortalized in a short story. Also the only cold blooded killer, Jonathan now knew. He slid to his knees at the base of the memorial and started digging. Shovel after shovel, dirt flew up around him in a cloud until finally, he hit something … but that something was not solid. He found an empty piece of cloth where a skull should have been.
And at the sound of Angie’s screams, from somewhere far away, Jonathan knew he was in trouble.
“Shit.” He scrambled to his feet, leaving the flashlight and shovel behind. He was a daily runner—had been all his life—and yet in some nightmare scenario, he felt he could not move fast enough. From his position, he could see his family, waving for him to come closer, faster, now! When he saw Angie shoving them out of the way, he knew Brom Bones was coming.
He heard the horse before he saw it, turning the corner at the back of Crane Manor.
“Shit. Shit.” Jonathan dug in deep to the very bottom of his endurance, but the horse was faster. He saw the glint of sword in the night light, and he did a diving roll in an effort to keep his head. Unfortunately, he didn’t get up fast enough, though, giving the horseman time to swing his sword back and cut a deep gash across the center of Jonathan’s chest. He screamed in pain but then felt a positive presence over him: Angie, with her pale hand in the air.
“Her touch felt like fire …”
In his injured, bloody haze, Jonathan now recognized the words from the forest earlier, and again, the Headless Horseman was trapped in a green-glowing web that made him back away in momentary defeat.
He felt Angie’s small hands under his arms, pulling him back inside the house. He also felt his shirt soaking with too much blood. His breath came hard and ragged down his throat, but he didn’t feel pain. Jonathan took that as a bad sign.
Once he felt carpet beneath his back, he heard Angie’s voice, commanding, “Back up! Give me some goddamn space!”
His eyes found her, kneeling above him. She tore his flannel shirt open and paused.
“Damn, you have a great body.”
He found the strength to say, “Angie, what the hell?”
“Sorry, sorry.” She ripped the locket from around her neck, took it in the palm of her hand, and pressed it directly into the wound that spread from pec to pec.
Her touch felt like fire, and he yelled out again, over the sound of her voice chanting, chanting, something he couldn’t understand what with the searing pain that ripped through his ribs and down his spine. He thought she was killing him until the pain began to subside. As the pain subsided, though, he noticed Angie weave above him. She suddenly fell, face first, against his healed chest, completely limp.
(Have a happy weekend, everyone! Watch out for headless men on horseback! We’ll finish up parts VI and VII next week. Thanks for reading!)
Blog: Sara Dobie's Blog
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- Befriend their roadie, their merchandise guy, and club security.
- Send the band shots of tequila and a note.
- Basically … just show up.
I saw my favorite band of all time last night. I was nervous. So nervous. Why? I was worried I wouldn’t meet them—that they would be so close, here in Phoenix for the very first time, and I would miss them somehow. I felt the endless anxiety over dinner with my gal pals pre-show. Then, we entered the venue, and I talked up the merchandise guy, who said, “Yeah, if you buy them shots, I’ll send them to the green room.” What better than tequila? I mean, we’re in Phoenix, right? I sent them their shots, along with a note with my name. I’m sure my girlfriends thought I was just a nut, but I didn’t care. I had to meet THE PUNCH BROTHERS.
The phenomenal Chris Thile.
I’ve known their music since the band’s foundation, thanks to an amazing performance experience back in Charleston, SC, at the Cistern Yard downtown. Once I moved out here, I pre-ordered every CD, every single. I wrote a letter to their rep, begging they come to Arizona, because they never come to Arizona (something I was not aware of when I moved here, ah-hem). In response to my letter, I got an autographed poster, but still, no word of an upcoming show.
Then, months ago, while enjoying cocktails at Carly’s, I saw the flyer: the Punch Brothers were coming to Crescent Ballroom. I remember staring at the flyer, thinking, “No, it can’t be true. I’m obviously hallucinating thanks to this delicious jalapeno-infused tequila.” Some kind of Mexican agave voodoo? Nay. They really were coming to Phoenix. That night, I bought my tickets: good thing, too, since they apparently sold out.
I’ve been waiting for weeks, counting down the days to December 5th. Then, yesterday, the day arrived. I did nothing productive all day. I got a massage and laid around my house, so panicked was I at the prospect of not meeting the Punch Brothers while in my hometown.
At Crescent Ballroom, after sending my note and the round of shots, I was pretty confident I would make an impression. Then, I waited. The Milk Carton Kids opened for them—a fabulous duo from LA who were equally talented at music as well as comic repartee. Loved them. Then, my boys came on stage, and I’m pretty sure I almost passed out. It was unreal. I mean, the Punch Brothers were three feet in front of me (because I was obviously at the front of the crowd).
Always moving …
The show is a blur. They played a lot of new stuff, some old stuff, mostly upbeat, although I do love their sad ones. Thankfully, they played my most recent obsession, “Another New World,” and their song list gave me a chance to do a lot of clapping, knee-slapping, and general “woohoo”-ing. They have such presence, these boys. They thrive off each other’s energy. They dance around the stage (which made it very hard to get good photos). The audience can feel that energy, and by the end of the show, we were begging for more, more, more. On several occasions, vocalist and mandolin player Chris Thile made the comment, “I can’t believe we’ve never been here before!” I agree. Punch Brothers, Phoenix has been waiting, and we expect you to come back.
After the show, I literally ran into Gabe Witcher, the phenomenally talented fiddle-player who I love. I almost fell over myself trying to make coherent conversation. Then, I turned around, and there was banjo man Noam Pikelny, who I also approached for an autograph and to give extreme kudos. I didn’t see the rest of the band, and I was all set to go home. I left the venue, dejected at not having met, okay, my favorite band member, Chris Thile. That’s when the roadie I met earlier said, “He’s standing outside the bus right now.” In high heels, I ran, damn it, and it was true: there he was.
Me and Chris.
I walked up and said, “I’m Sara. How was the tequila?” to which he replied with much hugging. We reminisced over their Charleston performance years before. He signed my Moleskin and gave me another hug before we had our picture taken together—a fan’s freakin’ dream. Then, I waved and was gone, making him promise the Punch Brothers would one day come back to the Valley of the Sun.
So meeting the Punch Brothers? Pretty easy. Probably because they’re five charming, humble, hilarious dudes, who love good bluegrass and love their fans. I’m so thankful to have discovered them years ago. I’m thankful they came to Phoenix. I’m thankful God made such talented musicians, because the Punch Brothers manage to inspire and entertain with every show. Thanks, boys, for a great night! I’ll see you next time!