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1. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Rookie Mistake, last added: 7/29/2014
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2. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

0 Comments on Rookie Mistake as of 7/29/2014 12:28:00 PM
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3. The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern | Book Review

Readers will instantly fall in love with Maggie. Her narrative voice is smart, funny and clever, which makes her a highly entertaining, endearing, complex, triple threat.

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4. Four People and a Playwright Looking for a Decent Play

This was a time-waster while developing characters in my play, "Gin..." As the playwright plodded along adding and deleting dialogue, the characters of the play began to show signs of rebellion - at least they thought it was rebellion since they weren't exactly sure what a rebellion was. It's a longer piece but an enjoyable light one. It's cut and pasted from Word so ignore the formatting.


By Eleanor Tylbor
 
 
AT RISE:      
 
Four women are seated on fold-up chairs around a card table, absorbed in adjusting the playing cards in their hands. Bowls of popcorn and soft drink cans litter the surface of the table. On the other side of the stage the playwright (JULIE) is sitting at a computer desk, arms bent at elbows, staring out into space. She works the keyboard as the characters recite their lines
 
BRENDA
In case anyone cares, something is about to happen…very soon now…could even be momentarily…I can feel it…
                         Lays cards down on the table and thrusts remaining card in the
                         air for all to see
 
(Cont’d.) Victory is at hand – or inmy hand, in this case! Oh I’m a winner all right!
CHARLENE
                         Shoving a hand full of popcorn in her mouth
 
Goof fo' you. Paf me de drink, Miffi
 
BRENDA
Didn't your momma teach you it's not nice to eat and talk? Then again for some people, a full mouth is part of a lifestyle. Isn't that right Mitzi, honey?
 
MITZI
Jealousy will get you nowhere, sweetie.  At least I'm not a dried up where it counts!
 
BRENDA
Touchy! I was merely commenting to Charlene that well-bred people don't speak with their mouths full! But then being that you’re a multi-tasker…I mean handling more than one person at a time…
 
MITZI
Breeding comes naturally in your family, doesn't it? Did they forget to give you your cube of sugar today? Clop your hoof once for yes and two for no
 
CHLOE
(to herself)
Bicker, bicker…bicker, … It would be nice to have a quiet game of cards for a change without throwing verbal knives at each other
 
CHARLENE
I think I'm close to calling Gin…
 
BRENDA
I would stay out of this if I were you, Chloe. Is your brother eligible for parole, yet?
 
CHLOE
I'm gonna start calling you Bossy, along with the other "b" word that rhymes with itch, and usually associated with a female dog! I try to be nice to you and what do I get in return?
 
                         CHLOE stares into space for approx. 10 seconds in silence
 
What do I get in return? Does anybody know?
 
CHARLENE
Do we guess?
CHLOE
I don’t think so. My mind is a complete blank. Is that normal?
 
           Pause of 10 seconds while they all stare out into space
 
CHARLENE
I’m waiting

BRENDA
Me too. What are we waiting for?
 
MITZI
Some words and sentences I think

 
BRENDA
(puzzled)
Don't blame me for what comes out of my mouth. I just say the words. I don't create them. By the way, Chloe, what's your brother in for this time? Armed robbery or is it murder? I didn't mean to say that…or maybe I did…I’m not sure
MITZI
I really don't know why but I feel compelled to tell you…
 
                         Stands up and leans over the table towards BRENDA
 
BRENDA
(standing up)
What? Anybody?
 
MITZI
Why am I standing? I mean, what's my motivation? Could somebody tell me, please?
 
CHLOE
So sit down if you’re not sure. My philosophy is when in doubt – don’t
 
MITZI
Don’t what?
 
CHLOE
Um - I dunno. Take my word for it and just don’t. That’s all
 
CHARLENE
(excitedly)
Gin! What’s supposed to happen, now?
 
BRENDA
I’m not sure but I think something important is gonna happen. I can feel it in my bones. Does anybody have any ideas?
 
MITZI
Well…for starters, we’re all holding these hard pieces of paper in our hands
 
CHLOE
I wonder if that’s significant. What do yours look like, Brenda?
 
BRENDA
Let’s see… White background with red and black thingies…
 
MITZI
Thingies?
 
BRENDA
I dunno what you call them but they’re pretty, though. And there are numbers in the corners
 
CHLOE
Same here! Go figure!
 
MITZI AND CHARLENE TOGETHER
Ours too!
 
BRENDA
Okay. We’re making progress here. Hey! These are playing cards
 
 CHARLENE
You think?
 
 BRENDA
I know for a fact! Those words just popped into my head!
 
CHARLENE
So you say. You could’a just make them up on the spur of the moment to impress us
 
BRENDA
Have you ever heard me use them before?
 
CHLOE
I never heard them in my entire life and that’s the truth
 
BRENDA
Then you’re all just gonna hav’ta take my word for it! These things are called playing cards
 
MITZI
Let’s say you’re right. What about them?
 
BRENDA
I dunno…What comes next?
 
CHARLENE
Y’know - I’ve been wondering if I should be eating popcorn or maybe change it for something else like, candy for example or ice cream
 
MITZI
All you think about is food, food, food! There are more important things in life
 
BRENDA
Really? Like?
 
MITZI
Well…there just are. I feel it

 
CHLOE
Sometimes, I get the feeling like I'm a puppet on a string or something, bowing to someone's wishes. Do any of you ever get that feeling?
 
CHARLENE
I said, ‘Gin’! Hello? I'll try again. Gin… Gin… Gin!
 
ALL TOGETHER
So?
 
CHARLENE
Darned if I know. We show up every day and twice on weekends holding these playing cards in our hands. Why I keep asking myself. Why am I here? Why are we all here? Sometimes I yell out,  “Gin!” out loud but nobody answers. Shouldn’t somebody answer me? I’ve been screaming that word for the last six months. Always the same words and lines and then I call out, "Gin!"
                         Stares out in space and babbles to an invisible person
 (Cont’d.) ‘…she tries to make the others understand but they just stare at her blankly…she must determine the reason for her very existence…’
 
BRENDA
Who are you talking to?
 
CHARLENE
I really can’t say. Suddenly a bunch of words came tumbling out of my mouth for no reason. It's not the first time this has happened
 
BRENDA
Ask Mitzi. She knows all about objects in mouths
 
MITZI
I'm so sick of your sexual innuendoes, Brenda
 
CHLOE
Why do you react that way whenever the word “mouth” is mentioned?
 
MITZI
It’s not that I want to but I feel I have to. It’s as if I don’t have any choice in the matter
 MITZI stands up with hands on hips, leans forward until her face  is directly in front of Brenda

BRENDA
Yes?
 
MITZI
And…um…something else…
 
                         Moves away from table, hops up and down and starts
 shadow boxing, fists waving in the air
 
(Cont’d.) I took a self-defense course! My hands are lethal weapons!
 
                         Cuts the air with side of hand
 
CHLOE
And that means…?
 
MITZI
You are so not with it.  It means…it means…
 
BRENDA
Oh pllleeze! She doesn’t know
 
BRENDA
Let's settle this once and for all! C'mon – right here and now
 
MITZI
Fine with me…what are we supposed to do next?
 
BRENDA
Just… keep hitting the air and dancing around I suppose
 
                         BRENDA and MITZI spar, fists jabbing the empty air
 
CHLOE
                         Stands up and places her purse strap over her shoulder
 
That's it! Nobody seems to care that I have yelled “Gin!”…whatever that means, but I'm sure it's important.  I don't know about you all but I'm leaving! Anybody else gonna follow me?
 
 MITZI
                         Attempts to attract the attention of the playwright
 
Hello? You up there? Could you stop staring at that screen for a minute? This isn't working for me at all. I'm sick-and-and tired of being a slut with a one-track mind. This play of yours is a bunch of words with no plot or direction and it breaks every playwriting rule in the book. Where's the protagonist and antagonist?
 
CHARLENE
What are you complaining about? My character is insecure, indecisive and naive, and those are her strong qualities. How'd you like to have those? I'm smart, you know! I am very smart… I think
 
BRENDA
Off the top of my head, I would guess that part of your problem is that you're a minor character, while mine plays a major role and more attention is required to develop Brenda, properly
 
CHARLENE
See what I mean? How come I can't be the smart one for a change?
 
CHLOE         
With all due respect Charlene, honey, I don't think you have the emotional range to assume an analytical role of deep thinker, like we do. Right ladies?
 
                         CHLOE and BRENDA together:  ‘I dunno’
 
CHARLENE
It's just not fair! Every day I hav'ta play the part of a simple minded female when in reality, I got it up here (points to her head) I think this is what makes the words come out
 
CHLOE
You see, Charlene, sweetie, my background lends itself to being a character with class…one of the rich, beautiful people, while you – well dear - let's just say that you have interesting words in your sentences
 
CHARLENE
I'm as good as anyone here! You're all forgetting that we are the sum total of the playwright's vision. Hey – I can talk smart too! Why can't we take turns being each other?
 
MITZI
Let's not forget here that our origins are a computer memory chip. The only rich and famous person we're connected to is Bill Gates. I say…we walk. Are you with me, ladies?
 
VOICE OF PLAYWRIGHT (JULIE)
Is there a problem?
 
BRENDA
 
                         Hands on hips, facing direction of playwright
 
We got your attention, huh? We've had it with these crappy lines! We're bored of being portrayed as vacuous women with blank minds. We're people too! We have feelings and we hurt and…
 
JULIE
May I remind you that you're nothing more than a bunch of words strung together to make a sentence? I make you who and what you are and I can eliminate you all with a push of my forefinger and a delete button. You're only communicating with me now because I'm exploring dialogue choices. You're all a figment of my imagination
 
CHARLENE
No need for threats, here, dear. There's only so much that characters can take and we've reached the end of the line, so to speak. Do you like that, ladies? End-of-the-line?
 
CHLOE
Trés wit-ty, my dear
 
JULIE
What should I say? I've re-written and re-written you all at least two dozen times and no matter what I do, the dialogue sounds… wooden. And don't even ask about the plot, or lack of one, thereof
 
BRENDA      
That's because you really don't really believe in us, do you? Deep down inside you're toying with the idea of deleting the text and starting a whole new play that will move in a new direction. Do you know what it's like living under that threat? I'll tell you – it's very disturbing
 
PLAYWRIGHT JULIE
Did I write that? I don't remember writing those words…
 
CHLOE
Now there's a perfect example of what I'm talking about! We never know where you're gonna take us next, right ladies? It's like…there's giant hands hanging over the stage dangling precariously, ready to strike at a moments notice.  It's the uncertainty of the delete button that gets us down!
 
MITZI
For example, why do you always make me as an over-sexed whore? Maybe it would be good to be an upright female for a change.  Not necessarily a nun or anything but an intelligent woman who has a direction and purpose in life. Not somebody who dresses in clothes three sizes too tight. Let Charlene assume that part for once. Wouldn't you like that, dear?
 
CHARLENE
I'll pass but I know where she's coming from! In spite of all your attempts at re-writes, you still make me out like an empty-headed - duh! I want to be respected like the rest of them, except Mitzi…no insult intended…
 
MITZI
None taken, dear. I'm used to it by now
 
PLAYWRIGHT JULIE
I never realized you all felt this way
0 Comments on Four People and a Playwright Looking for a Decent Play as of 7/27/2014 10:06:00 PM
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5. Floating In Pants

I don’t have a grand list of phobias. But of the things I fear, I’m pretty sure sharks top the list. As a child of the seventies, Jaws really did me in. I love going to the beach and being in the ocean, but constantly find myself scanning the horizon for a fin. I have been deep-sea fishing and enjoyed it even when I heard the eerie music in my mind and braced for the impact from the imaginary megalodon shark about to ram us from underneath.

I’ve been reading the book, In Harm’s Way, which is about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II. A few years ago a survivor of the event, Edgar Harrell, spoke at my children’s school on Veteran’s Day. His story was amazing. If you don’t know what happened, the ship was sunk by a torpedo and since they were on a covert mission, no one knew to rescue them. This led to the largest recorded shark massacre in history. While I am fascinated by the situation, it leads to all kinds of issues. Could I survive such an event? Take the sharks out of the picture, am I ready to float in the ocean for days?

Then I remembered! I have been trained to use my pants as a flotation device thanks to the Uncle Sam. That was over twenty-five years ago, though… can I still do it?

I decided to test my skill. After all, I fly over the ocean sometimes, I might need to use this someday. It pays to be prepared. The weather is perfect – why not? To my closet to fetch a pair of dungarees. In order to do this right, I have to be wearing them. If I survive the wreck, I won’t have my carry-on. Into the pool I go fully clothed.

First observation, it is hard to tread water with shoes on. You would think they would be an aid as paddles (especially my size 13’s), yet they tend to be more of an anchor.

Second, it is difficult to stay afloat and remove your shoes. Always wear slip-on shoes or flip-flops if there is a high probability of emergency flotation.

Third, taking off your pants in the water can lead to some rollovers – it is tricky to both hold your nose and disrobe.

Forth, tying off your pant legs is fairly easy. Inflating them while staying topside is not. I am not asthmatic, but I must have the lung capacity of a baby armadillo.

Fifth, you should always wear a Jethro Clampett belt. I am ditching leather for rope immediately. That will be the only way to secure the waist tight enough to hold air.

shark pants

I am happy to tell you that should I ever find myself in the ocean with pants, I will likely live to tell about it unless I see a circling fin. The trial was a complete success. Quite proud of myself, I exited the pool and would like to share just a few more observations. Unlike me, you should probably choose a friend, relative or close neighbor’s pool, not a nearby community pool. The reason for this is you will find wet pants that have been used as a flotation device are nearly impossible to untie and put back on, which makes for a disquieting two-mile walk home.

Oh, and you should probably notify the police or get a permit as if you are having a fireworks display or parade. They take a dim view to a wet, pantless man walking home late at night.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on Floating In Pants, last added: 7/24/2014
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6. The Art of Recommending Books

Because I’m an author as well as a writing instructor and a reader, I’m often asked for book recommendations. Sometimes I’m asked to suggest books that are like my books, while other times I might need to think of titles that are good for a certain age range or in a specific genre.

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7. Saying Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.

In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.

I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”

What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.

A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.

Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.

Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.

Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.

Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.

Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.

So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.

Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?

Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?

Loneliness_(4101974109)

 

No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.

 

 

Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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8. Elegant Elephant, Arrogant?

elephant450 2

..A PERFORMANCE YOU’LL NEVER FORGET

… although a  repeat performance may depend quite heavily on the tightrope’s tensile strength.

………………………………………………………………………..

The Illustration Friday theme of the week is “repeat.”

So.

You know.

This.


4 Comments on Elegant Elephant, Arrogant?, last added: 7/24/2014
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9. Arks to Go II - the Flood

 A FRIENDLY RE-CALL
by Eleanor Tylbor
 
 
SCENE:   ANGIE'S APARTMENT.

AT RISE:  ANGIE IS WATCHING TV, ALONE.  PHONE RINGS
 

ANGIE
Hello?

NOAH
Guess who?

ANGIE
You have the wrong number

(She disconnects. Phone rings once more)

(cont'd. ANGIE)
Not again... Hello?

NOAH
We seem to have been disconnected...

ANGIE
Not really

NOAH
This is Angie, right?

ANGIE
Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Depends who's asking

NOAH
I get it! You're joking with me, aren't you? Of course you are. 'hahahahahahah' See? I have a sense of humor

ANGIE
I'm not trying to be funny, I can assure you

NOAH
Oh...sorry 'bout that. I thought you were. Anywaaaay... so whad'ya think about all the rain we've been having? Think somebody is trying to tell us something?

ANGIE
I'm not in the mood for another one of your philosophical lectures, Noah. I'm gonna disconnect, now.

NOAH
I feel you're upset... Joe busy, is he?

ANGIE
I'm watching a movie. Alone. By myself.  What does that tell you?    But since you asked, Joe, as  many have before him, has moved on

NOAH
No problem-o. Would you like me to look up his new address? I have access to everyone's number on the planet...

ANGIE
I don't want to discuss this with you. Good-bye...

NOAH
Your voice tells me something is wrong

ANGIE
Something wrong? You have to ask me if something is wrong? You interrupted what could have been the perfect romantic evening by showing up at my door

NOAH
It was a friendly visit. I thought we could get to know each other before embarking on our trip

ANGIE
Excuse me? A really old guy with straggly long hair and a white beard dragging on the floor, dressed in army fatigues and smelling of animal dung, shows up at my door and starts asking my date questions about the next flood and his experience in building arks. What do you think he'd do?

NOAH
Would you like me to call him and apologize? Perhaps I could make it up to him by offering him a ride on my ark

ANGIE
What ark? You don't have an ark, Noah! Remember? Now if you don't mind and even if you do, I'm going to make some popcorn and...

NOAH
Popcorn? I LOVE popcorn. I'll be right over along with a friend or two...

ANGIE
I don't think so... Hello? Noah?

(DOORBELL RINGS. SOUND OF ELEPHANT AND MONKEY CAN BE HEARD)

(cont'd. ANGIE)  No...please no...

(Angie opens the door. Noah is standing outside)

NOAH
Hope you don't mind that brought along a few friends. They get a little crazy without supervision. So? Where's the popcorn? Tell me, Angie - have you ever thought about adopting a pet?

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 



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10. Scenes from Life: a Short Play-ette AT THE SUPERMARKET:

THE FRENCH BREAD
by Eleanor Tylbor


SCENESUPERMARKET BAKERY

AT RISE:  A FEMALE SHOPPER ARRIVES IN THE BAKERY AREA. LOOKS OVER THE ALMOST-EMPTY BREAD DISPLAY


FEMALE SHOPPER
(quietly to herself while squeezing all the breads)
This is like...so pathetic. Bread is at least two days old and this one is broken in three places. Who would buy it

(another shopper arrives)

SHOPPER 1
No bread, yet?

FEMALE SHOPPER
A couple of left over 2-day old breads.  They should remove them

SHOPPER 1
(bending over to look)
That happens as a result of shoppers squeezing the breads to see if they're fresh. Too many fingers pushing in one spot and the breads break in half Look - you can see the finger indentations.

FEMALE SHOPPER
Um...yeah...I see...but how else can you tell if the bread is fresh?

SHOPPER 1
Problem is that everyone squeezes the bread in the same place and this is the end result. Some shoppers have no respect for others. A squeeze here and a squeeze there...

FEMALE SHOPPERS
(uncomfortable)
Of course you're right... Looks like there's fresh bread baking in the oven. I love the smell of fresh baking bread. Don't you?

SHOPPER 1
...they'll end up having to throw out the bread of course. Disgusting with all the starving people in the world!

FEMALE SHOPPER
(looking even more uncomfortable)
Beautiful weather we're having. It's about time what with all that rain

SHOPPER 1
It's those same people that open up the strawberry boxes and exchange berries to make sure they have the best one's.

FEMALE SHOPPER
Disgusting! Some people...! Did you happen to notice if the strawberries on sale, perchance?

(another shopper arrives)

SHOPPER 2
Bread not ready?

FEMALE SHOPPER
Nope. Guess the bakers aren't rising to the occasion (laughs)

(the other two shoppers stare at her)

(cont'd) A little humor while we wait...obviously very little...

SHOPPER 1
We were just discussing how people over-squeeze the French bread to death causing it to break in half

FEMALE SHOPPER
Oh look! Here comes the baker. 'I'll take two white baguettes, sil vous plait'

BAKER
Attendez - c'est trop chaud

SHOPPER 1
What he say?

FEMALE SHOPPER
Haven't the slightest idea. I memorized my sentence from a French phrase book when I planned a trip to France

SHOPPER 1
Two whole wheat breads, please

FEMALE SHOPPER
Sil vous plait

SHOPPER 1
What?

FEMALE SHOPPER
That's French for 'please'

SHOPPER 2
Same for me

BAKER
Too hot. You must wait ten minutes for cool

FEMALE SHOPPER
How about you hand it over and we'll blow on it?

BAKER
Par-don? I know understand

FEMALE SHOPPER
A joke. You know...ha-ha-? Any-way, how about those over there on the trays? They look cool

BAKER
They are freeze. They must bake in oven

FEMALE SHOPPER
Look baked to me. Do they look baked to you, ladies?

SHOPPER 1
If he says they're not cooked... Why would he lie?

FEMALE SHOPPER
I dunno. Maybe he's saving them for friends. Look...sir. I'll take my chances with the hot bread. I promise you I'll be very careful. Really. I respect your French bread and won't abuse it. In fact, if you just put it in bags and hand it over, I'll put it in a safe place in my shopping cart where it can cool off, while I shop. I'm sure the other shoppers will also respect your bread. Right ladies?

SHOPPER 1
I can wait.

SHOPPER 2
Me too.

(SHOPPER 1 AND SHOPPER 2 walk away)

FEMALE SHOPPER
If you would give me my breads?

(he hands over the breads. She grabs them from the middle and they bend in half)

(cont'd) Oh no! A catastrophe has occurred!

(she replaces the broken breads in the empty bread display)

BAKER
Madam - your breads!

FEMALE SHOPPER
(pushing her shopping cart away
Neh! Changed my mind. You bakers take your breads so seriously


0 Comments on Scenes from Life: a Short Play-ette AT THE SUPERMARKET: as of 7/19/2014 3:17:00 AM
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11. The Hallmark Conspiracy

I hate greeting cards. Oh sure, I’ve been touched by the sentimental commercials. Maybe I shed a tear, maybe not. But they didn’t inspire to me buy a card or like them.

The only cards that resonate with me are blank cards. In this day and age, if someone takes the time to write their own thoughts out and mail it – that is a treasure.

What greeting cards really say in their flourishing font is: “I’m lazy!”

Write this in your card: “I was too lazy to set a few minutes aside to put my own thoughts into words, so here are some prepackaged, canned, inauthentic thoughts that a wanna-be romance writer who hasn’t shaved in weeks and smokes big cigars in Spokane thought were relevant just for you, my sweetest. Please say ‘Awwwww’ and kiss me.”

Frankly, greeting cards are disingenuous at best.

 

When I was a kid, they were just speed bumps to the present. Oh sure, I would pretend to read them on my way to disemboweling the wrapping paper that stood between me and the gift. I liked the ones Aunt Eunice would underline so I could skip most of the words – kind of a cliff notes version. Later in life, she began underlining every word, including the price and printing information – which made it less helpful. Of course, by then she was wrapping up ten year-old toasters and place mats for presents, so haste was less of a concern.

Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you

-Henry Kissinger

Greeting cards and I have a turbulent history. Since I am negatively disposed against them, they do their best to shame me at every turn. Instead of bowing to their convenience and paying the price, I try to take the time to write personal notes, especially to my lovely wife. But there are instances when I run out of time and am forced to rush into the store and get one. When this happens, I treat it like a commando raid – rush in, select the victim, and get out before anyone gets hurt. I choose based on color and frill, often neglecting  to check the sentiment inside – time is what I lack, anyway. With that method, it is pretty easy to stay away from sympathy and get-well cards, but sometimes (okay, most of the time), the sentiment of my selection doesn’t match the occasion or is age inappropriate. That is where The Hallmark Conspiracy comes in.

Take this week. This week marked her birthday. I had a great present in advance, but completely forgot the stupid card until the day of. So I put on my camo, blacked my eyes and descended upon the grocery store. Although every fiber of my cheap being steered me to the 99¢ rack, I’ve been warned about those and went all out – $3.99! I found the birthday section, saw one with a cute little boy and girl on it and dashed out of the store.

Here is what I got:

image

Hastily altered in the driveway – think she noticed?

 

Mis-shelved! The card was mis-shelved! I swear I was in the birthday section!

Swine greeting cards!!!!!!

Someday society will truly be paperless and I won’t have to deal with these verbose phonies. Until then, I’ll shred a few in effigy and steer clear of the aisle altogether.


Filed under: Don't Blog Angry

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12. Whose Word Crimes?


Yesterday, "Weird Al" Yankovic released a video for his song "Word Crimes", a parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines". Since a lot of people I know are language folks of one sort or another, I saw it flow and re-flow through various streams of social media. But I had qualms.

I love Weird Al, and he's been a formative influence on my life, since I started listening to him when I was a kid. (My entire sense of humor could be described by three childhood influences: Weird Al, the Marx Brothers, and Monty Python.) I also think the detestable "Blurred Lines" is ripe for ridicule and attack. And I like words.

But how are we to understand the speaker in "Word Crimes"?

Most people I saw who shared the video seemed to identify with the speaker. This is not as disturbing as people identifying with the rapey speaker of "Blurred Lines", but it reveals a certain cruelty in the feelings of people who want to be identified as linguistically superior to other people. A tinge of cruel superiority is essential to grammar pedants, and "Word Crimes" reveals that again and again in how it characterizes people who commit such "crimes". On his Facebook page, Jay Smooth listed these characterizations:
"raised in a sewer"
"Don't be a moron"
"You dumb mouthbreather"
"Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head"
"you write like a spastic"
["spastic"?]
"Go back to preschool"
"Get out of the gene pool"
"Try your best to not drool"
Hyperbole in service of comedy? Or your (not so) secret inner feelings?

It's interesting to follow the comments on that Facebook post as well as on the Grammar Girl post that Jay Smooth linked to. Various interpretations and arguments come up, including the common complaint that it's just comedy and you shouldn't take it seriously (a pernicious attitude, I think). I don't know exactly what Weird Al intended with the song, nor do I particularly care (it's a clever song, with fun animation in the video) — it's more interesting as a kind of Rorschach test: Do you identify with the speaker in the song? Do you enjoy the cruelty and want to replicate it?




Usage pedantry is not harmless fun. It is ego balm that stokes a sense of righteous superiority. Typically, it's indulged in by people who don't have a deep interest in the history of language or the complexities of linguistics; instead, they like rules, because rules allow them to set themselves apart from the people who don't follow the rules. Usage pedants enjoy living in an intellectual gated community. Some will even refer to themselves as "Grammar Nazis", thus unreflectively siding with one of the most evil systems in the history of humanity. (And these people say they care about language! By the way, if you want to vomit, do a Google Image search for "grammar nazi".)

Typically, too, usage pedants are white people, and these days often ones who in some way or another identify with nerd culture. One of the commenters on Jay Smooth's Facebook page linked to Tim Chevalier's post "Can Geekiness Be Decoupled from Whiteness", which makes a number of useful points, including:
I think people who have been bullied and abused tend to use rules in the hopes that rules will save them. ... But it’s easier to like formal systems of rules when those rules usually protect you. If you live in a country where the laws were made by people like you, and are usually enforced in ways that protect you, it’s easier to be enamored of technical adherence to the law. And, by analogy, to prescriptive sets of rules like “standard English” grammar. It’s also easier to feel affection for systems of rules when people like yourself usually get a say in constructing them.

Not all nerds are abuse survivors, so perhaps other nerds (as adults) value rule-following because they believe the key to their economic success. From there, it’s easy to jump to victim-blaming: the line of thought that goes, “If other people would just learn and follow the rules, they would be successful too.”
Pedants need to feel superior, and displaying their (often inaccurate) opinions of grammar, usage, style, and spelling is a way to access such feelings of superiority. My life might suck, but at least I'm not one of those horrible people who splits infinitives or uses numbers in words!

There are crimes of language, but they are not the crimes the pedants police — they are the crimes of obfuscation and propaganda, the crimes that lead us to dehumanize each other, to exploit each other, to oppress each other, to hurt and kill each other.

Pedants don't typically get to those crimes. Indeed, often, by proclaiming their unwavering devotion to tradition, they perpetuate such crimes.

The stuff the pedants denounce may be violations of standard English. Or stylistic preferences. Or pet peeves. Talking about such things and discussing our particular perspective on them can be clarifying and can lead to more precision in communication and more knowledge of how language works. But we need to be aware of the assumptions underneath our prescriptions, the motivations for our pedantry. In my courses, I encourage students to abide by proofreading guidelines, but I also try in those guidelines to justify why I require them, and I work hard to undermine any sense of those guidelines being either eternal or immutable. They are guidelines for the situation that is our class, and are useful information for students who are adjusting their writing to the audience that is me, the guy who grades each student at the end of the term.

If you feel the need for rules, though, here's one for you, a famous one from Kurt Vonnegut:
Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—

"God damn it, you've got to be kind."

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13. Illustration Inspiration: Bob Shea

Bob Shea has written and illustrated over a dozen picture books including the popular Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and the cult favorite Big Plans illustrated by Lane Smith.

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14. How Did We Get Here?

If, by the title, you are expecting to read a philosophical debate about the origin of man, you have come to the wrong place, my friend. Portsong isn’t that deep and neither am I. Being somewhat near the ocean, one cannot dig in our fair town without hitting marshy, useless saltwater. Likewise, if you dig into me, all you get is blank stares, a shrug of the shoulders, and an incoherent grunt or two.

I do like blogging, though. It’s freeform nature resonates with me. If someone stood over me and gave me specifics (AKA – school), my pen would quickly run dry. With my blog, I can do whatever I darn well please. Sometimes what I write strikes a chord with people and sometimes a piece stands on an island of loneliness – a masterpiece waiting to be read and appreciated (or not).

I don’t obsess with stats, but I have my favorite thing to check. I like seeing where people come from in the world and how they got here. Many times, the only listing is “unknown search terms”. But every once in a glorious while, I get to see what people Googled to get here… and I laugh at them.

It’s all in the title.

ob·fus·cate [ob-fuh-skeyt, ob-fuhs-keyt] verb (used with object)

  1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.
  2. to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.

 

Everything in red is exactly as typed (misspellings and all)3892771349_0b8c6f5cc7_z

Take for instance some poor kid doing a report on the civil war. He typed: colonel and from yhe south and got to a post about Colonel Birdwhistle from my books.

One kid wanted to know if andrew jackson electable today and found out that I think Andrew Jackson was a presidential man’s man.

Women still Google Tom Selleck:                did tom selleck have curly hair & are there a lot of women who don’t like tom selleck?   I wonder what they thought about:  Tom Selleck owes me an Apology.

Here are some other funnies:

you like a pirate                     He’s a Pirate 

thou shalt now curse          Thou Shalt Not Curse at Missionaries

what dogs get fined when they get runned over              A story of my dog, Winston

leggings via brazil            Prospector Dances & Brazilians in Leggings

stuff under sink at hospital         Hospital 101 for the Incurably Immature

what is irony ice cream     Irony & Ice Cream

I find this one alarming: touching sleeping teen. If their intent was bad, I hope Don’t Poke a Sleeping Teen pacified them.

I have no idea where this person went: meat loaf progeny

By far, my two favorite were these:

This is one search, so I don’t know why the phrases were paired together:

“job physical” “prostate exam”   Either way, I’m sure he enjoyed Shaking Hands with your Urologist

And the chef d’oeuvre! A real gem! The Magnum Opus!

Yes someone got to my blog by typing:

youfart  

Although he hasn’t found the space bar, I feel like Can You Fart at Cotillion was written just for him.

 

 

Subterfuge? Prestidigitation?

I don’t know, I just like coming up witty titles.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Michael Keen

 

 

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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15. How Did We Get Here?

If, by the title, you are expecting to read a philosophical debate about the origin of man, you have come to the wrong place, my friend. Portsong isn’t that deep and neither am I. Being somewhat near the ocean, one cannot dig in our fair town without hitting marshy, useless saltwater. Likewise, if you dig into me, all you get is blank stares, a shrug of the shoulders, and an incoherent grunt or two.

I do like blogging, though. It’s freeform nature resonates with me. If someone stood over me and gave me specifics (AKA – school), my pen would quickly run dry. With my blog, I can do whatever I darn well please. Sometimes what I write strikes a chord with people and sometimes a piece stands on an island of loneliness – a masterpiece waiting to be read and appreciated (or not).

I don’t obsess with stats, but I have my favorite thing to check. I like seeing where people come from in the world and how they got here. Many times, the only listing is “unknown search terms”. But every once in a glorious while, I get to see what people Googled to get here… and I laugh at them.

It’s all in the title.

ob·fus·cate [ob-fuh-skeyt, ob-fuhs-keyt] verb (used with object)

  1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.
  2. to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.

 

Everything in red is exactly as typed (misspellings and all)3892771349_0b8c6f5cc7_z

Take for instance some poor kid doing a report on the civil war. He typed: colonel and from yhe south and got to a post about Colonel Birdwhistle from my books.

One kid wanted to know if andrew jackson electable today and found out that I think Andrew Jackson was a presidential man’s man.

Women still Google Tom Selleck:                did tom selleck have curly hair & are there a lot of women who don’t like tom selleck?   I wonder what they thought about:  Tom Selleck owes me an Apology.

Here are some other funnies:

you like a pirate                     He’s a Pirate 

thou shalt now curse          Thou Shalt Not Curse at Missionaries

what dogs get fined when they get runned over              A story of my dog, Winston

leggings via brazil            Prospector Dances & Brazilians in Leggings

stuff under sink at hospital         Hospital 101 for the Incurably Immature

what is irony ice cream     Irony & Ice Cream

I find this one alarming: touching sleeping teen. If their intent was bad, I hope Don’t Poke a Sleeping Teen pacified them.

I have no idea where this person went: meat loaf progeny

By far, my two favorite were these:

This is one search, so I don’t know why the phrases were paired together:

“job physical” “prostate exam”   Either way, I’m sure he enjoyed Shaking Hands with your Urologist

And the chef d’oeuvre! A real gem! The Magnum Opus!

Yes someone got to my blog by typing:

youfart  

Although he hasn’t found the space bar, I feel like Can You Fart at Cotillion was written just for him.

 

 

Subterfuge? Prestidigitation?

I don’t know, I just like coming up witty titles.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Michael Keen

 

 

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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16. The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

Chock-full of Holt's trademark hilarity and hijinks, The Outsorcerer's Apprentice has overlords, underlings, and an unsuspecting young hero who might just change everything, including reality itself. Books mentioned in this post The Outsorcerer's Apprentice Tom Holt New Trade Paper $14.00

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17. Environmental Book Club

Today, my little lads and lasses, I have something different for you. An adult book for our club.

Home to Woefield by Susan Juby takes a cliched memoir subject, the city person getting back to the earth by moving on to a farm, and makes it funny. And she makes it funny without making any of her characters into ridiculous jokes.

Prudence Burns is seriously into sustainability but not having good luck with it in New York. She thinks a great opportunity opens up for her when she inherits a pretty much good-for-nothing farm in Canada. Prudence isn't totally ignorant of how to make a go of it in an organic kind of way, and she's a hard worker. She also earns the good will of all around her. Her problem is that she's overly optimistic.

With the farm she also inherits an elderly hired hand, who's not a great deal of help. She soon takes in a young alcoholic recluse whose main connection with the world is through the celebrity and metal blogs he runs. The three of them also end up with a preteen and her chickens.

These characters could have ended up as cliches, especially the preteen. She could have easily fallen into the wise-beyond-her-years stereotype. Instead, she is a damaged innocent. The elderly, foul-mouthed Earl and the equally foul-mouthed young Seth are also damaged. All these characters benefit from Prudence's can do sustainability.

This is the first book I can recall coming across that I think is comparable to Saving the Planet & Stuff  in that it finds humor in the struggle to live environmentally/sustainably without degrading those who are making the effort to do it. Prudence is not the butt of any jokes here. She recognizes them.

Juby is the author of a number of books for teens or that are marketed to both teens and adults. I'm reading Getting the Girl, whose main character seems like a younger Seth (my favorite from Home to Woefield), Seth before he suffered what he believed to be a humiliation he could never recover from and hit the sauce. I expect to be trying Alice, I Think soon, too.

Home to Woefield was recommended by a friend, by the way. Word of mouth.

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18. Poking Fun at the Enemy

One can learn so much from children. Too often, in our haste to exercise control of every situation, we grown-ups unfortunately root out their innate curiosity and creativity. We drive from point A to point B without noticing the roadside art, whim, and fancy of the trip that is not lost on the childish mind. There is joy to be had in every journey.

I have recently learned you can poke fun at even the vilest of enemies. If you haven’t had a run with my current foe, hold on – cancer will find you somewhere. I don’t wish it on anyone, but unfortunately it worms its way into everyone’s life at some point whether through family or acquaintance. The Myers clan is relatively new at this contest. There is no rule book or instruction manual that I can find. No article 7, subsection 34b that tells us we can’t fight this demon with a joke and a smile.

Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from drowning in tears. While my bald, frail daughter lays in what was formerly my bed, at times, she seems to find ways to make us smile.

Take for instance a little wresting match with her sister when she attempted to apply a surprise atomic wedgie, but was blocked by the classic counter: the roll onto the back. Rather than move to a frontal assault, she poked her lip out and meekly proclaimed, “But I have cancer.”

With that, her sister waved the white flag, accepted defeat, and soon left the room to repair the damage to her drawers in private.

*****

Just the other day while urging her to drink more water to avoid dehydration and the inevitable trip back to the hospital, I declared, “If you don’t take a drink I’m going to sit on you.”

Her immediate response, “The doctor says you can’t sit on chemo patients.”

Touche, young one! Touche!

*****

 

Yes, we might be behind shoddy castle walls with little defense besides a catapult and barnyard animals, but we have our smiles and cheery hearts. The enemy can’t take that away.

Now leave before I taunt you a second time!

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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19. Reviews in Tandem: THE SHADOW HERO by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Welcome to another installment of Reviews in Tandem, where we both have our say about a book we've each read in an informal back-and-forth discussion. This is going to be a shorter review than many, because it's a graphic novel, and it's too easy to... Read the rest of this post

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20. Running to the Guru

“Four miles down, two to go.”

It seemed like the third time I’d told myself that very count. Mileage wasn’t passing. People were, not mileage. A short six miles was turning into a torturous climb under the sweltering Georgia sun.

And then, I saw him!

He came toward me walking confidently with both hands shoved in his pockets. His dark hair with streaks of gray hung well below his shoulders – unkempt, but not messy. Although there was no breeze, it seemed to wave behind him majestically like a flag in a hurricane.

In the brief moment he stood before me, I saw in his eyes a certain combination of peace, sagacity, and happiness uncommon to this world. He smiled slightly, but not at me. No, he radiated carefree joy – I was just a party to it. His turned up mouth revealed lines chiseled by years and somehow, if possible, even his eyes smiled.

He wore nothing special – wrinkled khaki pants, dirty sandals, and a grey t-shirt far too big for him that simply said, “Whistler”. I sensed he was above making clothing choices and didn’t consider what his appearance told others.

I must remark that I typically don’t notice much about others on my runs. I wave and say hello to fellow runners. I try to smile, but I don’t really look at them. That said, I was mesmerized by this gentleman.

When we passed each other, I realized that I had finally broken into my last mile. How? What propelled me? I had been running in quicksand all this time, never making progress and suddenly a mile ticked off! How did that happen?

The heat became stifling at 5.5 miles, but with the finish in sight, I soldiered on. Plodding, pushing, slogging until I nearly fell out with two tenths of a mile to go. And there he was again. Seated at the bench that marked my final turn. How he got in front of me I have no idea, but there he sat – smiling at me. This time I was certain he was smiling at me… For ME!

I collapsed ten feet from him and crawled on my hands and knees toward his bench, ready to thank him for helping me through the tough part of the run and hoping to learn something… anything at his feet. Just when I began to speak, he held up a finger. At his command, nature seemed to come to a stop. Birds didn’t chirp, frogs hushed, and rabbits ceased their noisy hopping.

When the time was right, he began to laugh – a slow, deliberate, infectious chuckle that I felt contained a slight mocking tone.800px-Guru_rimpoche_at_samdruptse

“Why do you laugh, Guru?” I asked, my voice taking the tone of Grasshopper.

He cocked his head back and roared. “You have not completed your run,” he mocked.

“Yes, yes,” I pleaded. “I have gone six miles.”

“Observe your watch,” He instructed between peals of mirth. “You are precisely 1/10th of a mile short.”

I frantically searched the screen of my GPS watch. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

He was right. How did he know? I looked up, only to find he was no longer there. His laughter still hung in the air and haunted me – but he was gone. Where he went, I know not. I both hated him and wanted to be his best friend at the same time – I’ve never been so conflicted.

I wonder if I’ll ever see the guru again. I want to, and then again, I don’t.

Next week, I’ll run a tenth over my goal and show him!

 

***************

This was a  little writing exercise I concocted, built around an interesting man I saw on my Sunday run. Can you picture him?


Filed under: From the Writer

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21. Running to the Guru

“Four miles down, two to go.”

It seemed like the third time I’d told myself that very count. Mileage wasn’t passing. People were, not mileage. A short six miles was turning into a torturous climb under the sweltering Georgia sun.

And then, I saw him!

He came toward me walking confidently with both hands shoved in his pockets. His dark hair with streaks of gray hung well below his shoulders – unkempt, but not messy. Although there was no breeze, it seemed to wave behind him majestically like a flag in a hurricane.

In the brief moment he stood before me, I saw in his eyes a certain combination of peace, sagacity, and happiness uncommon to this world. He smiled slightly, but not at me. No, he radiated carefree joy – I was just a party to it. His turned up mouth revealed lines chiseled by years and somehow, if possible, even his eyes smiled.

He wore nothing special – wrinkled khaki pants, dirty sandals, and a grey t-shirt far too big for him that simply said, “Whistler”. I sensed he was above making clothing choices and didn’t consider what his appearance told others.

I must remark that I typically don’t notice much about others on my runs. I wave and say hello to fellow runners. I try to smile, but I don’t really look at them. That said, I was mesmerized by this gentleman.

When we passed each other, I realized that I had finally broken into my last mile. How? What propelled me? I had been running in quicksand all this time, never making progress and suddenly a mile ticked off! How did that happen?

The heat became stifling at 5.5 miles, but with the finish in sight, I soldiered on. Plodding, pushing, slogging until I nearly fell out with two tenths of a mile to go. And there he was again. Seated at the bench that marked my final turn. How he got in front of me I have no idea, but there he sat – smiling at me. This time I was certain he was smiling at me… For ME!

I collapsed ten feet from him and crawled on my hands and knees toward his bench, ready to thank him for helping me through the tough part of the run and hoping to learn something… anything at his feet. Just when I began to speak, he held up a finger. At his command, nature seemed to come to a stop. Birds didn’t chirp, frogs hushed, and rabbits ceased their noisy hopping.

When the time was right, he began to laugh – a slow, deliberate, infectious chuckle that I felt contained a slight mocking tone.800px-Guru_rimpoche_at_samdruptse

“Why do you laugh, Guru?” I asked, my voice taking the tone of Grasshopper.

He cocked his head back and roared. “You have not completed your run,” he mocked.

“Yes, yes,” I pleaded. “I have gone six miles.”

“Observe your watch,” He instructed between peals of mirth. “You are precisely 1/10th of a mile short.”

I frantically searched the screen of my GPS watch. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

He was right. How did he know? I looked up, only to find he was no longer there. His laughter still hung in the air and haunted me – but he was gone. Where he went, I know not. I both hated him and wanted to be his best friend at the same time – I’ve never been so conflicted.

I wonder if I’ll ever see the guru again. I want to, and then again, I don’t.

Next week, I’ll run a tenth over my goal and show him!

 

***************

This was a  little writing exercise I concocted, built around an interesting man I saw on my Sunday run. Can you picture him?


Filed under: From the Writer

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22. Copycat and a Litter of Other Cats

Copycat
Author & Illustrator: David Yow
Publisher: Akashic Books
Genre: Humor / Cats
ISBN: 978-1-61775-270-4
Pages: 160
Price: $23.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

The letters “C-A-T” form parts of dozens of words in the English language. Using this as his premise, David Yow has combined his love of both cats and puns in Copycat and a Litter of Other Cats. This unique book shares a cat-inspired phrase with Yow’s drawings of cats in situations representing the pun.

Grumpy Cat, Felix the Cat, Top Cat and Sylvester the Cat make guest appearances, joining Alley Cat, Tomcat, and Bobcat in this parade of bright-eyed cats. Copycat is a fun and whimsical book that any cat lover will enjoy.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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23. Scenes from Life: a Short Playette THE CHERRY PICKER



SCENES FROM LIFE:  A SHORT PLAYETTE
THE CHERRY PICKER
by Eleanor Tylbor
 

SCENE:   PRODUCE DEPT. OF SUPERMARKET. PEOPLE ARE GATHERED AROUND A DISPLAY OF CHERRIES

AT RISE: A WOMAN APPROACHES THE CHERRY DISPLAY, STOPS AND STUDIES THE PEOPLE GATHERED AROUND

 

FEMALE SHOPPER

Excuse me…um…can I get in here?

 (people ignore her)

 
(cont’d).  FEMALE SHOPPER

Excuse me, people…could you make space for me?

 (people continue to ignore her)

 
(cont’d.)  FEMALE SHOPPER

Hello? Earth to cherry pickers! An outsider would like to join you all!

 
(FEMALE SHOPPER moves her shopping cart forward and gently runs into someone)

 
CHERRY PICKER 1

Ouch! That hurt!

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

I tried asking politely to get close to the counter but everyone seemed deaf to my request, so I had to take things in my own hands or with my shopping cart as the case may be

 
CHERRY PICKER 1

You could have tapped me on the shoulder, y’know

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

Would it have made any difference?

 
CHERRY PICKER 1

Probably not but you could have tried

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

Good price for cherries. Guess that’s why there’s so many people hanging out here. Hmmmm…where are the plastic bags. ‘Anybody tell me where the plastic bags are?’ Anyone want to give an opinion?

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

(mouth full of cherries and oozing juice)

…are…none…left… Have to…ask…manager for…more…bags

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

Are those cherries you have in your mouth?

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

…uh-huh…

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

Would it be presumptuous of me to assume you didn’t pay for them?

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

…hav’ta taste them, first…

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

You do realize that in some circles that would be considered stealing

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

Everybody does it

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

And that makes it right? What are you doing! Did you just spit out that cherry pit back into the display?

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

Yeah…I mean, I didn’t wanna dirty the floor or anything. Somebody could slip and hurt themselves. Anyway, everybody does it

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

But…your saliva has germs, which you are depositing on the cherries

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

What else am I supposed to do with the pits?

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

You could refrain from tasting the cherries or at the very least put them in your pocket and take them home with you or something

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

Everyone else is doing it. Check out the display

 
(FEMALE SHOPPER looks down at the display of cherries)

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

Oh Gawd! |You’re right! To think I was about to put my hand inside there

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

You’re in luck. Here comes the produce manager with a roll of new plastic bags

 
PRODUCE MANAGER

‘Okay everyone -  move aside! I’m gonna clean up all the cherry pits at the bottom! Not healthy.’

 
CHERRY PICKER 2

Aren’t you going to take a bag for cherries?

 
FEMALE SHOPPER

Somehow I’ve lost my taste for them. There’s a sale on strawberries on the other counter, if only I can get near it…

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24. Dangling Feet & Screws by the Pound

Nearly every winter I have had to trap a flying squirrel or two in my attic and send them packing. Fortunately, I have a walk-out attic easily accessible from my 13 year-old’s closet. When she was an infant, I went on a hunting excursion and learned a valuable lesson – Don’t walk on rafters in socked feet. Yup, I slid right off the rafter and ended up perched on a 2×10 with half of me in the attic and half of me in the family room. Two of my kids and my nephew were watching a Christmas special and all three instantly yelled, “We didn’t do it!” to my lovely wife who stood looking up at my dangling feet.image

I’m not sure if I caught the little critter on that trip, but it did force a trip to the hardware store where Hershel works. Hershel is the best. He’s a little old guy who is slightly stooped from years of hard work. He can fix anything better than anyone who comes in the store, but he is never condescending about:

  • a) your lack of knowledge or
  • b) your stupidity for breaking whatever you came in to fix.

Hershel: Morning Mark, what can I do for you?

Me: I need some drywall.

Hershel: Big project? (His eyes light up! He loves big projects – not only because of what he can sell you, but he also lives vicariously through his customers’ building experiences.)

Me: Nah, actually a really small one.

Hershel: Well, the smallest we’ve got is 4 x 8. They’re in aisle seven. Follow me.

I don’t follow and he notices.

Hershel: What’s the matter?

Me: Nothing smaller? (I look down and estimate the size of my feet, adding an appropriate amount for overage.)

Hershel knows instantly: Where’s the hole?

Me (eyes still low indicating appropriate shame): The den.

Hershel doesn’t flinch or betray just how dumb he thinks I am. Telling me how much patchwork I have in store, he leads me to drywall area and loads me up with tape, mud, sandpaper, screws, and ceiling paint.

Hershel: Once Betty checks you out, go round back. Beside the dumpster, we’ve got lots of broken pieces of sheetrock. You just pick one out and take it with you.

Me: But I really only need about four screws. You sure this is the smallest size?

Hershel: We sell ‘em by the pound. That’s just one pound – smallest we got.

I wondered what genius came up with selling a countable product by volume, but yielded to Hershel’s judgment and headed home. A few days of work and the hole was patched – good as new!

This all leads me to the 4th of July weekend. We are updating the 13 year-old’s room, making it more teen and less little girl. This necessitated a few trips to the attic to store things. You guessed it, I missed a rafter.

Can a house really be considered a home until you’ve broken through the ceiling… twice?

A trip to the store. Hershel, slowed but still knowledgeable and helpful, stood leaning against the wall as I entered.

Herschel: Hey there, Mark. What can I do ya for?

I’ve long gotten over embarrassment over mayhem and destruction I’ve caused in my home. I confidently replied: I need some drywall.

Herschel: Where’s the hole.

Me: It’s in the garage this time. I’ve got the screws leftover from the last time and I don’t need your mud and tape because I don’t care how it looks. (I look at him pleadingly).

He knows what I want, laughs, and says: Sure, go round back and get you a piece… and be more careful next time.


Filed under: Dad stuff

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25. jack the castaway

by Lisa Doan Darby Creek / Lerner  2014 Smart kid, dumb parents, and a menacing whale shark! What more could a kid want from a book?  Jack is a sheltered kid on the cusp of puberty living with his Aunt Julia safely in Pennsylvania. Or at least he was living safely until his Aunt met with misfortune and Jack was forced to call his world-traveling parents home from their latest scheme,

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