Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bury This Year. I'm Done With It.

For a few days now, I've been thinking I need to do an end of the year post. Everyone's doing them. Reflecting on all they've done and learned throughout the year. It seemed appropriate I should do so as well. But as the last hours of the year ticked away, I found I had no coherent thoughts to arrange into a proper post. This, I thought, is a problem.

With so many putting off their New Year's celebrations just waiting to read my thoughts, it became an ever increasing burden I wished to shed. Still, what was I to say? How much I've learned this year? Seems overdone, but okay.

  • Even though I already knew this, I learned you're never done, even when you think you are.
  • I learned the value of critiques from people who have never seen my work.
  • I learned how to query.
  • I learned to be numb before opening the rejection letter, or email.
  • I learned no matter how much you prepare; no matter what you do right; no matter how much you want something, others, less deserving, will get it.
  • I re-learned the value of being home.

A year ago, I was lucky to have my job back, based in Puerto Rico and cursing the stars that put me there. I wasn't working much, leaving plenty of time to write, so, of course, I wasn't writing much. There were other things going on in my life, some of which still are, but my perception, and expectations, have changed dramatically.

I never thought I would miss San Juan until I found myself in Atlantic City. In my mid-thirties I slept on a top bunk in a house with seven weirdos I might have nothing to do with in real life. Again, I wasn't working much. (I get paid pretty well to not work, but still...) But there, things were different. My saving grace was the library, a few blocks from that little beach house. If I ever become a published author, I'm writing at least a page to thank the people of Ventnor City, New Jersey. Because they don't read, I had the entire library to myself, virtually every day for three long winter months. It was not only my refuge from the harshest of realities, it was where I got more work done in those three months than in the previous three years of writing.

Schmitty the Pirate and Grimstoke's Curse was in queryland. One agent said, "I like it." I'm still waiting for one to say, "I'll take it."

In the meanwhile, I managed to find my way home. Other failures abounded, but at some point, I learned how to blog. I like it. I really like reading other blogs. You know who you are. Well, some of you may not, but I like yours too. In the beginning, I didn't really have a plan for this blog. There was a vague notion of what it might be, but go back and read my first few posts. You won't find much continuity. As I've felt my way, I've found more focus. I have some ideas heading into the new year. (not the new decade, as some have been saying. That's still a year a way. Go on. Look it up.)

I've made some great blogging friends I'm thankful for. I'm getting back to writing, with Sister Very Pretty to keep me interested. Other things, still secret things, will hopefully come to fruition. Work is still work, but as I like to say, this is the first job I've had that I didn't hate. And that's pretty good. Prettyyy, prettyyyyy, prettyyyyyyyy, pretttyyyyyyyyy good.

So go away 2009. Don't come back. I'm done with you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Would Larry Do #4

Since I'm too busy to do a proper post, here's one I've been hoping to improve for a while. Sorry it's not better. Think of it like an episode of your favorite show not good enough to air on the network but included as bonus material on the DVD.

Having survived my check ride in fine fashion, we headed out to our favorite restaurant to blow off some steam. It’s always crowded, any time of any day. We waited while a rather large group argued with the hostess over the wait time. Not wanting to interrupt the discussion, I stood back until it was safe to approach the podium. Poised to make my move, I heard Mrs. Sarcasm say, “No we’re waiting in line.”

I turned to catch a blur of gold, brushing past my spouse, maneuvering to get around me. She wore a leopard print blouse and spiked amber hair. It looked like she’d missed her last thirty Botox treatments. She was heading for that podium out of turn, and if she got there first, it would add to our wait. Normally I avoid conflict like the plague. I must have been high on adrenalin after fighting simulated engine fires and mid-air collisions. I stepped right in front of the old bag and confronted her straight on.

“No,” I said. “We actually are waiting in line.”

“Well, excuse me,” she scoffed. “I didn’t know.”

Except that she’d just been told.

I got on the list and waited to be called. Mrs. Sarcasm expressed some displeasure at my handling of the situation.

“You’ve got to be nicer to people.”

“Are you nuts?” I asked. “I said exactly the same thing you did.”

“But it was the way you said it. You shouldn’t treat people like that.”

“So...what? I should have let her cheat her way ahead of us to get on the list?”

Just then, another group entered the waiting area, complaining of someone pushing past them to get to the head of the line. I gave Mrs. Sarcasm an I told you so look. The we got seated. A few minutes later, the hostess brought the golden raisin to the next table. I had my back to her, but I could hear every word.

“I couldn’t believe it,” the old lady told the hostess. “I’ve never been treated like that. Never! He got right in my face.”

There was an intensity on Mrs. Sarcasm’s face. She locked eyes with my newest nemesis. Then I heard the old bag boast, “He’s just lucky my husband was parking the car.”

“Did I just hear that right?” I asked.

Mrs. Sarcasm nodded. “Okay. You can be mean.” Then she laughed. “I wonder which one is her husband.”

I turned to see three old men taking their seats. It was the kind of group that takes ten minutes to back out of a parking space. They wouldn’t last long in a light breeze. I laughed at the thought, imagining their toupees flapping in the wind.

“Something funny Bub?” I heard a quivering voice from behind.

Huh? Mrs. Sarcasm nearly spit her drink in my face laughing. I didn’t turn around. If I ignore it, surely it will go away.

“Hey!” he said. “Turn around when I’m talking to you.”

What would Larry do?

(For the newbies, this is the part where I act out what Larry David would do in this situation.)

“Is this for real?” I asked Mrs. Sarcasm. I drew a hand across my face in exhausted annoyance and slowly turned in my seat to face my accuser.

“Excuse me?” I asked. “Were you talking to me?”

“Apologize to my wife,” he demanded.

I looked over the table. There had to be close to a thousand years worth of eyes glaring at me. Now, I wasn’t the least bit sorry. Nor did I want to deal with this when I was there to celebrate.

“Okay,” I shrugged, munching on tortilla chips. “Sorry.” And I turned back to my food. But Mrs. Sarcasm was still facing them, and from the look in her eyes, this was not over.

“Is that how you apologize? With a mouthful of food.”

“No respect,” one old lady said.

“That’s the kids these days,” an old man said. “They’re all like this.”

I smiled and shook my head. South Florida is always interesting this time of year. I followed my wife's eyes as they rose. The next thing I knew, the meek old man was looming over me.

“Apologize,” he demanded again.

“I just did,” I said.

“Not while you’re eating,” his voice rose. “Stand up, and apologize like a man.”

“Are you out of your mind?” I asked. F0lks at nearby tables were starting to take notice. “I told you I already apologized. Remember? It was a minute ago.”

“We don’t accept it. You had a mouthful of chips.”

“Well, it’s a Mexican restaurant.”

“You have to swallow first,” one of his buddies chimed in. “Show some respect.”

“So I can’t have chips and apologize?”

“It’s very rude,” said the old lady. “You’ve been rude since you came in here.”

This from the woman who tried to line jump.

“No,” I said, slowly rising from my chair. “I’ve been quite patient. And I have respect.” I wagged a finger. “I respect polite society, and all of its conventions.”

“Oh please?” she said. “You got right in my face.”

“No. I didn’t,” I shook my head vigorously. “I didn’t get in your face. I blocked your path,” I nodded. “I stopped you from cutting in line. I didn’t get in your face. This is getting in your face.” And then I did.

Pretty soon the wait staff had stopped to watch. The hostess was on her way over.

“You call this respect?” she said. Her husband tried to move me. I backed away, having made my point.

“No,” I said. “This isn’t respect. This is what you do when you don’t have respect. Much like, say, cutting in line to get ahead at a restaurant.”

“What line?” she said. “There was no line. You were just standing there.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Waiting my turn. And you did know.”

“She was trying to get a table,” said the husband.

“We’re all trying to get a table,” I said. “There’s a procedure for that. You have to follow it. If I come in after you, I wait my turn.”

“You’re just being a bully,” one of the old men said. “She’s a little old lady You got up in her face.”

Now I had ‘em, so I squinted one eye, raised both index fingers and spread them apart like windshield wipers.

“Okay,” I nodded. “I see what’s happened here. I think, my friends…you hast been deceived. Let me explain what happened in a way your centenarian minds can comprehend.”

“What did he say,” shouted one of the wives.

“This little old lady didn’t just cut to the head of the line – oh no. She actually asked my wife if we were waiting in line. And when she learned we were, that’s when she tried to move ahead of us. I was there, by the grace of God, simply to re-establish order.”

I stood there, arms folded, looking at each member of their group in turn, satisfied I’d made my point. They looked back dumbfounded. I’d surely bested them. It would be a long time before this group tried to line-jump.

“All right,” said the manager, having arrived on the scene. “What seems to be the problem?”

Certain a problem no longer existed, I returned to my meal.

“That is the man who threatened me,” said the old lady in gold.

The manager turned on me with an accusing glare. “You threatened these people?”

“No,” I said. “What I did was ensure that your seating procedures remained in effect.”

“He threatened my wife.”

“You can’t threaten people. This is a family restaurant. No threatening here. You go.”

“What?” I said.

“You leave,” said the manager. “You don’t come here again.”

“Is he serious?” I asked Mrs. Sarcasm.

The old folks were all smiles. If they weren’t careful their dentures would fall out from overexposure. Defeated, I headed for the exit. My wife stayed behind to pay for our drinks. As she made her way toward me, I heard one of the old men tell her, “You’re very pretty. You can do a lot better.”

I can’t be certain, because I closed my eyes to shake my head in disbelief, but I think I saw Mrs. Sarcasm nodding.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mortified

I hope everyone had a happy holiday, and I really hope no one else had an experience like this.

After three days on call, I was pleasantly surprised I didn’t have to work.  So, Mrs. Sarcasm and I made the three hour drive to see my parents.  Having told them it would be at least a month before we might see them, they were overjoyed to the point they offered to clean the dishes whilst we relaxed.  Given their time on this earth was certain to be less than my own, I couldn’t let them waste it on dishes, so I got up to help.  That’s when my mom assured me she was in top-notch health.  Mom had a bout with breast cancer a few years back so I wanted to be sure she was telling the truth.

Now, it could be argued I brought this on myself, but it makes for good blog fodder.  So…

“How are your breasts?” I asked, not seeing my father enter the room behind me.

“What?” my mother screamed.

“What do you want to know that for,” said my dad.  “You want to play with them?”

“WHAT?”  My mother nearly toppled.

“Well,” Dad said.  “That’s what you used to do.”

“OH MY GOD!” shouted Mom.

I didn’t know what to say, or do.  I was stuck in a place between humiliation and uncontrollable laughter.  The stainless steel sink reflected the red in my face.  It  would have been so much funnier had it been someone else.  It couldn’t possibly get any worse.  Then Dad spoke again.

“You used to suck ‘em.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dancing Christmas Lights

I don’t know if I’ll post again before Christmas. I’m finding it harder and harder to come up with worthwhile things to say. At any rate, I thought now would be a good time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. It’s been a lot of fun cyber meeting everyone and getting to know you all through your blogs. And guess what? I’m worldwide. According to the little feedjit map on my sidebar I’m popular on 5 continents. I’ll tackle South America soon. And then…look out penguins.

So here’s a little Christmas cheer for your viewing pleasure. You might have seen this already. I’m not searching for it elsewhere. It’s right here.

video

Merry Christmas! Every One!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hotpants

It's been a while since my last post about the neighbors.  You've met Howard and Moira, but what kind of house would I live in if I only had neighbors on one side?  A corner house, of course.  Ah, those were the days.  Even then I wasn't immune to the oddities of small town life.  Wait til you meet the Herdsmen.  Until then, I'd like to introduce you to Hotpants.

Hotpants moved in right around the same time we did, and as neighbors go, she's about all anybody could ask for.  She lives alone, so there's no yelling, unlike at Moira's house, and we almost never see her.  In the eight years I've lived next to her I've probably had less than ten conversations with her.  But, she's awfully nice.  I'm mean super nice.  Whenever I have spoken to her she's been very complimentary, even to the point of jealousy on how nice my yard looks.  I simply pointed out that I water the lawn appropriately and fertilize when necessary.  She has yet to catch on.  It's as if Howard's filth demons have some nasty little weed demon cousins living in Hotpants's lawn.

But Hotpants's niceties don't just extend to me.  Over the years she's opened her home to a number of men looking for a place to bunk.  I lost track some time back, but there have been a variety of cars parked in Hotpants's driveway over the years.  She's quite the humanitarian.  I'd think one might tire of such everday, or night, entertaining, but she once confided that she has insomnia.  Well, you gotta do something to fill those hours.  And believe me, she's gotten hers filled.

As rare as a Hotpants sighting is, in the early years she was always wearing the same thing.  Hotpants, of course, but also always a phone headset.  Not your bluetooth, sticking out of the ear kind.  This was the old telephone operator thing that went over the head and had the boom mic in front of the mouth.  The weird thing is she always seemed to be home during the day, so naturally I decided she worked from home and needed her hands free for whatever it was she was doing while on the phone.  And there was only one logical conclusion to what that was.  Combined with her penchant for nightly entertainment, that headset told me in no uncertain terms that Hotpants was a phone sex operator.

This was confirmed when she came over one day wearing braces on both wrists.  What does that prove, you ask?  Nothing, in and of itself, but consider the story I heard on the radio later that week.  A woman was suing her employer for medical expenses because she'd developed carpal tunnel syndrome on the job.  You could say she was involved in some rather repetitious motions related to her work as a - wait for it----------phone sex operator.  In her case, a truly hands-on position.

The odd part about that visit from Hotpants wasn't the vindication of my theory.  After all, I'm right most often.  She came over because she was locked inside her house.  How she got out to tell me is a mystery I've yet to solve.  But this was to be a day long remembered.  For on that day, Hotpants invited me inside.

It was all innocent of course.  Unless you consider that she was only wearing a t-shirt and her underwear.  Not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable I chose not to point that out at the time.  She gave me a complete tour of her home, including her bedroom.  She's very neat, which I found a lovely change of pace.  Then we found ourselves in the garage.  You see, we'd had a hurricane, followed by several days without power and, because of her carpal tunnel, she lacked the strength necessary to raise her garage door by hand.  Me to the rescue.

Then she told me that the alarm on her car had malfunctioned and she couldn't disable it.  Now, every time she drives, the engine shuts down after a mile.  Not knowing anything about cars I suggested she plan all her trips a mile at a time.  I'm not sure how that's worked out, but I haven't been invited back since.

I did, on that occasion, notice about a dozen or more DVD players in her garage.  Clearly she has moved beyond simple home entertaining and phone sex and is now mass producing adult videos.  And I say good for her.  The world needs more entrepreneurial women, and she ought to capitalize while she's still got the body for it.  She seems to know it, and takes every advantage to show it.  Once I was leaving for work at about 4:30 in the morning and she was in her yard, in her underwear, weeding.  She waved.  Why not?

Oh, and she's had her Christmas lights up since Thanksgiving and turned them on exactly four times.

Typical.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Police Women Of Broward County

If anyone missed this show, it aired over the summer on TLC.  I found it fascinating, mostly because it took place in 1034452_com_policewomemy own backyard and it was fun identifying the neighborhoods where all the drug busts  went down.  Not that I live in a drug infested area, but I read somewhere that Broward County has the highest percentage of illegal prescription drugs in circulation.

These chicks are all pretty tough cops, and I’m glad they’re on the beat, but of course now they’re starting to cash in on their celebrity.  Our local paper ran a blurb that a couple of these babes are signing autographs at a casino just around the block.  I suppose it beats getting shot at.  Anyone wanpolicewomenofbroward_andrea_beach3na wager how long before Detective Penoyer  shows up in Playboy?

Well, the funny part, at least to me, is that the other blonde, Detec48484852tive J ulie Bower, often poses as a prostitute, using her big boobs and big hair to nab big douchebags.  One episode showed her heading to her hair salon, and I had to pause the TiVo because, lo and behold, it was right next door to our local supermarket.  Well, what small business wouldn’t want free advertising on national tv, right?

Except I noticed this past weekend, they went out of business.  I wonder why.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Little Bit Of Everything

Perhaps not everything.  That title's a bit all-encompassing.  I do have a bit of housekeeping I've been neglecting, so without further ado...

Thank you very much to Girl with One Eye for the Honest Scrap award.  It's been a couple weeks so I felt I should do my duty and get on with the proceedings.  Here are ten honest things about me:

1.  I would rather have gray hair than go bald.
2.  I would rather not have gray hair.
3. People think I'm obsessed with pirates because I write about them.  I'm not.  I appreciate all the books, but you can stop sending them.
4. I'm also not obsessed with airplanes.  If I hear you talking about my love of flying at my funeral I will haunt you.  I will haunt you bad.
5. I don't like to travel.  I just had seven days off.  I stayed home.  Heaven.
6. I believe everyone should be given an IQ test before being allowed to do certain things.  Like driving.  Or reproducing.  Especially reproducing.
7. I'd like to build a windowless, ventless dome where smokers could live in peace.
8. I believe hunting is for people who live in a land without grocery stores.
9.  All plants and trees have been strategically planted in my backyard with the hope that Mrs. Sarcasm will one day agree to let me build my swimming pool.
10.  I'm the only person in the history of the Central Michigan University student run TV channel to have a show canceled.



Also, thank you to Tina Lynn for the Superior Scribbler award.  Thank heavens there are no rules  (at least none have been passed on to me) that go along with this one.  Still an honor.  With these two awards I'm supposed to pass them on to 15 bloggers.  By golly you're all worth it.  So whoever wants one, they're over on the side bar, toward the bottom.


For those awaiting the results of the Prissy Bower contest, I'm awarding it to Kathy, who correctly guessed that Prissy Bower is German for curtsy.  Curtsy = Kurt Z = Kurtz--Prissy Bower's actual surname.  The story goes that Mr. Kurtz and I and our wives were dining out, and when the waiter saw my credit card he commented that my surname meant something having to do with the less desirable entrails of a pig.  Thinking that somewhat deragatory, I quickly remarked to Mr. Kurtz, who was laughing such that a vein was visibly forced from his skull, that his surname was German for prissy bower.  We then delighted in the creation of a character whose sole purpose was not to entertain but to annoy, and who, as an adult, dressed in a toddler's sailor suit.  I can only await the day I am so downtrodden, having been marked by such rejection I will be forced to thrust Prissy Bower unto the world for all to despise.  Then you'll be sorry.


Finally, I just returned from an overnight in Washington DC.  My captain was all things bad.  Bad breath.  Bad boots.  And buck white socks, which he proudly displayed in the cockpit with his REI hiking boots off.  Just bad.  While he spent most of the time lauding his many girlfriends, in many different countries, most of whom live in whore houses - his words - I was hopeful of getting something to share.  I keep seeing incredible sights from the air, but I also keep forgetting to bring my camera.  Not this time.

With my first airline I was based in DC.  There is an approach that follows the Potomac River south past the monuments before banking sharply to line up for landing.  I've heard it called amongst the most challenging approaches in the world because if you fly too close to the east bank of the river you'll end up in restricted airspace, like say, over the White House, and that may result in a bad day.  For me though, the challenge has always been to get a good picture.  Lest you worry I should have been paying more attention at 400 feet, relax.  It wasn't my landing.  It's a little blurry, so I may ask Mrs. Sarcasm to sharpen it.  She's a whiz with Photoshop.  For now, enjoy the view.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Self-Publishing and Self-Flight Training

I’ve been bothered lately by a trend amongst wannabe authors who don’t have the patience, or perhaps the skill, to make it with legitimate publishers.  There are a lot of writers out there who want to be authors.  I’m one of them.  I would say most who read this blog are as well.  And from what I can tell of the blogs I read, most are like me—waiting for their big break.

Then there are those who feel they don’t need, or want, to wait in line with the rest of us.  And in this day and age they don’t have to.  And that’s what bothers me.  They can self-publish for all the world to read, assuming anyone can find their work.  The problem is anyone can do this.  I can do it.  You can do it.  And, if she had the money, seven-year-old Sammy next door could do it.

Who wouldn’t want a published book?  But here’s where I, and I like to think most writers, split from the self-published crowd.  We re-write, edit, revise, send it to beta readers, and then do it all over again.  If we get lucky enough to find an agent to represent us, my hope is that agent will want further revisions.  I’m not a sadist, but I want to take advantage of the experts.  Agents and editors know what works and what sells and the truth is I don’t.

There’s something very satisfying about reading a book that has been pored over by committees whose job it was to ensure it was the most well-written, best possible story, best product I could buy.  What such guarantee is there from self-published authors?  I’m skeptical there’s any. 

There’s a parallel to this in my real life as an airline pilot.  Unless you come from the military, there are two ways to get a job as an airline pilot.  Both require discipline and hard work.  The FAA doesn’t just hand out pilot licenses.  They have to be earned.  But, in as few as 2oo hours, you can earn a commercial license.  Now someone can pay you, legally, to fly an airplane loaded with cargo, people, or nuclear waste*.

The problem is, there are an awful lot of pilots out there.  And most insurance companies require a lot more than 200 hours before they’ll let a flying outfit add a new pilot to their policy.  This is the Catch-22 of the budding pilot career.  You want a job, but you don’t have the experience to get a job.  So how do you gain experience?  And here’s where it’s like publishing.

I’m a bit biased, in case you couldn’t tell.  I built my hours the old fashioned way.  The hard way.  I flew whenever I could, for very little money, as a flight instructor. 

WHAT?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  YOU JUST LEARNED HOW TO FLY YOURSELF AND THEY LET YOU TEACH OTHERS?

Yep.

That’s one of aviation’s little secrets.  Once you get your commercial license, there’s no minimum required to become a flight instructor.  You just have to prove you can do it.  But believe me, the feds don’t make it easy.  But flight instructing taught me so much more than if I hadn’t done it.  I hated most every minute of it, but I’m glad because of what I learned.  And, I gained valuable experience that you, sitting in the back of a shiny big airliner, need not worry about.  I’ll get you there alive.  I’ll get you there safe.  Someone asked me if I ever get nervous with so many lives in my hands.  The answer is no.  Only one life on that plane matters and that’s mine.  If I make it safely, everyone else is along for the ride.

But, like in publishing, there are those who don’t want to earn their stripes.  And, like in publishing, there are outlets where they don’t need to.  It’s been a trend with large flight schools to offer programs for people willing to spend way too much money.  Certain airlines even have similar programs.  Believe me, I spent plenty on my training.  Once I had my commercial and instructor ratings, I’d spent enough.  Anyone worth working for wouldn’t ask for any more.

But there are those who are willing to pay for a job.  And what employer would turn that down?  Training is expensive.  That leads to people who spend tens of thousands of dollars to sit in the right seat of an airliner while the captain basically acts as babysitter, flight instructor, and single pilot.  After however many hours they’ve paid for, these greenies can point to their logbook and claim to have that much experience.  And the airlines can then hire these people without worrying about their insurance policies.

The problem is, these inexperienced pilots, like the self-published writer, have had minimal oversight.  In this respect, self-publishing is less dangerous, but I hope you’re able to see my point.  I would much rather read a book that I know is the best it can be, just as I’d rather sit in the back of a plane knowing both pilots earned the right to sit up front.

*My first post instructing job was for a cargo operator.  The owner had a friend in need of a biennial flight review, which is required of every pilot.  Since I was  fresh from instructing, I was “asked” to fly with this guy and sign him off.  We flew a load of stuff to the Bahamas and back.  He passed, thanks to some wide latitude on my part, and I signed him off, giving no thought to what we’d been carrying.  He was good for a further two years.  About two years later I read in the newspaper how he’d been arrested for hauling nuclear waste.  Not exactly legal.  The article listed the dates he was alleged to have done this, prompting me to pull out my instructor records.  I missed it by about a month.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Jan Terri Christmas

I give all the credit to Cary at List of the Day for turning me on to music video sensation Jan Terri.  If you're not familiar, come out from under your rock.  As a music lover, I can't say enough about what Jan means to the world, so I thought it was important during this special time of the year, I share this special treat.  Top notch production values.  Inspiring lyrics.  That rock and roll look.  Jan has it all.  Or had it.  Wikipedia says she's dead, but I can't confirm it.  Just be glad we had her for a little while.

Rock and Roll Santa


And if you still want more

Arguably Jan's biggest hit - Losing You


For those still thinking about Halloween - Get Down Goblin


There's more.  I know you want it.
Jan Terri

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Wrote Today

For maybe the first time since August, if I were keeping track, I sat down and actually wrote.  It felt good.  The creative juices were flowing.  Sort of.  Okay, it was only 688 words, but I think I got most of them in the right order.  And I finished a crucial chapter in my work, once again, in progress that sets things in motion for the plot to unfold.

For those who have followed this blog, you may know I wrote a middle grade adventure about a kid living on a pirate ship.  If you haven’t been paying attention, I wrote a middle grade adventure about a kid living on a pirate ship.  That story consumed me for years.  I had JK Rowling-type delusions; plotting out sequels, going on book tours, living on my own pirate ship.  And then I started querying.

Needing a break from all things pirate, I had another brilliant idea whilst visiting some friends over the summer.  My friend Prissy Bower (not his real name, but what I think his surname means in German) and his wife took me to a musical called Nun-Sense 2.  Apparently a sequel to the wildly popular Nun-Sense, which I’d never heard of, it had a cast of nuns.  Well, actresses playing nuns.  Actually, I’m not sure actresses qualifies.  It was a small town production.  Even that might be giving it too much credit.  It was in the high school theater of the town where they make Smucker’s Jelly, and, where I learned, the Amish like Taco Bell.

All that aside, one of the actresses was rather attractive, so Prissy and I took to calling her Sister Very Pretty.  Not long after I found myself chuckling about that name and began to wonder about such a character.  Has there ever been such a creature as a pretty nun?  The Catholic school survivor in me says Hell no!  But the writer in me said, “What if?”

Hence, an idea for a new novel was born.  Pushing Schmitty and the pirates aside, I dove into the world of Seymour Glass, a teacher trying to keep himself from falling in love with a nun.  Like most things in Seymour’s life, he’s not very good at it and the trouble it causes seemed like good fodder for a novel.  Still, even I didn’t know why Sister Very Pretty was a nun.  Once I figured it out, the plot came together.  All that was left was to tell the story.

So, with the problems of real life waning for the time being, I’m back to writing.  And it feels pretty good.  Prettyyy prettyyyyyy prettyyyyyy prettyyyyyyyy good.  Heck,  I might even post something one of these days.

Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out, it’s called Sister Very Pretty.

P.S.  I think I'll offer a prize to anyone who can guess Prissy Bower's real last name.  Hint: think Prissy Bow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My 2007 Holiday Letter

You know those annoying letters we get every year from people who think the minutiae of their everyday life is so important none of us can wait to read about it? Often written in third person, they include such necessary details as the name of Jimmy's third grade teacher or the lot number of the campsite where they spent their summer vacation, and are chock full of waaayy too many exclamation points. I'll admit to looking forward to these, purely for comedic value. I often wondered though, what would people think if they read a letter that contained actual real life stuff? Bad stuff happens. I say we talk about it. So I present to you, the only holiday letter I have ever written.

2007: Dead and Gone!

Wow! Another year has come and gone already. Here’s hoping this letter finds you better off than you were a few weeks back. I skipped the holidays, so forgive the lateness of these greetings, but with the close of the year, I have a complete picture of all that transpired.

2007 found many new experiences that we never thought we would have. Still, as with all things, there are good and bad. So too, was last year.

We rang in 2007 at our neighbors’ annual New Year’s Eve party. As usual, Howard and Moira went all out, with great food and drinks. Andrew the Alcoholic was the life of the party, staying up all night and finally passing out on the beach! Even the baby, (I can’t believe she just turned six!) stayed up past midnight, which she usually does anyway, which leads to a lot of screaming next door.

I started the year at Liberty Airlines. I’d gotten quite comfortable there and all was normal until one night while driving home, a tire blew out on I-95. I managed to avoid a NASCAR style wreck and had the spare on in just minutes. A new skill!

Luckily, I wouldn’t be driving on the freeway for long, as I soon got fired for attending a job fair at another company. Though the firing was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, within days I’d been accused of lying to my superiors, thrown under the bus by the pilot’s union, and found myself working as a lowly charter pilot for a former employer who took pity.

Still, blessings continued as my mother-in-law treated us in February to a rare visit. The girls enjoyed shopping and dining out and got into a huge fight over the use of the F-word.

We did, however, get to travel to Michigan when my grandmother passed away the day before Mother’s Day. What timing! We had a wonderful family reunion. Grandma would have liked it, for as funerals go, it was a great party. Grandma must have been smiling on us too, as the day of her funeral, Liberty Airlines, after several months of negotiations and fearing a lawsuit, offered me the chance to resign with a clean record. Please disregard anything you might have read about my being fired. I have a legal contract stating that didn’t happen.

Work continued. I went on a few job interviews and the rejections flowed. Finally, in June, we were thrilled to see our old friends the Bowers, visiting from Ohio. And what luck! On the first day of their visit, I fell off the wing of my charter airplane, spraining my ankle. I had the whole week off—without pay—to spend with our good friends.

With summer arrived the tropical heat, and the summer concert series. In July we traveled to Dolphin Stadium to see the Police, who it seems were brutally honest about not liking to rehearse. Sure, the seats were bad and the sound horrible. But for $200 plus $30 to park, I got to show off my new skills in the 95° heat when we got a flat tire in the parking lot!

Our yard continued to flourish in the tropical sun. Pineapples sprouted, we planted an orange tree and, after five years, our banana tree finally produced fruit. I soon learned, through extensive research, there are over one thousand varieties of banana, and most aren’t edible.

As the summer charter season slowed to a crawl, I made the difficult decision to take a job with my charter company’s competition. My old boss was sorry to see me go, just not enough to match the offer. So I left them without a charter pilot. And what a challenge this new company turned out to be. I learned from a former Lowe’s store manager named Keith, that I was focusing on too many safety related issues during what we in the pilot world refer to as ‘critical phases of flight’, such as take-off and landing, when instead I should have been turning off lights, learning how to talk on the radio and not pushing buttons so hard. Keith also taught me that it isn’t necessary to declare an emergency if an engine fails in flight, because that’s not really an emergency situation. But what did I know, since I, like most airline pilots, don’t really know how to fly? I soon returned to my old employer with a substantial raise and the offer to become chief pilot.

Soon dark clouds appeared on the horizon of my charter career, as shortly after returning to my old job, an engine blew up forty miles out over the Atlantic Ocean. Keith, it seemed was right about me, for I forgot all he had told me and actually declared an emergency and landed safely.

Once again, things took an unexpected turn as job offers started pouring in. During one week in October, I received three offers and gladly accepted a position with a legitimate airline. I couldn’t wait to resume my airline career; flying with other incompetent professionals who never had the privilege of managing a home building retail store into their fifties.

Thanksgiving was to be the last thrill of the year because my training started the following Monday, I couldn’t wait to eat my mom’s apple pie. But just days before the holiday, my mother informed me if she’d known it was just going to be us for dinner, she would have made plans to go to Michigan as well. Fortunately, Moira got us invited to her friend Ginger’s house. What a great cook. I’m still stuffed!

Sixty-hour weeks became the norm as the year wound down and the Christmas holidays were consumed by my training. We decided to skip the usual traditions. No tree, no gifts, and no sending out Christmas cards. I did get one early present, however, with the news that Liberty Airlines was slapped with an $80 million dollar fine for violating a confidentiality agreement in a lawsuit filed by a rival airline.

It seems we’ve come full circle. As my training came to a close, so did the year. Once again we partied the year away at the neighbor’s and once again, Andrew the Alcoholic left his mark. Here’s looking forward to the New Year and hoping you all have a great 08. Cause 07 sucked ass!

Happy New Year

Matt

EDIT: Remember what you read a minute ago about Liberty Airlines? Well forget it was called Liberty Airlines. That was the fictional name of the real airline that didn't fire me. I had planned on calling it Liberty Airlines in the novelized version I plan to write one day. Thinking I ought to be just a little careful about this, lest there is an actual Liberty Airlines, I googled it. Here's where it gets weird. Liberty Airlines was an actual airline whose name was changed after it was purchased by the actual airline I actually later worked for.  Who knew?  Anyway, go ahead and re-read it, replacing Liberty with the name of your choice.  I'm too tired to think of a phony airline name.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Um…What?

Okay, we’ve all been to at least one wedding with an awkward moment or two.  And certainly we’ve seen those Wacky Wedding Video specials on the telly.  What category this falls into, I don’t know.  Now, there’s no greater hero than Superman.  After all, he’s Super man.  But I think even he would hang himself after this.  So, if you do watch the whole thing – sorry.  So sorry.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Thank You And A Preview

A very special thanks to Girl with One Eye at A Squirrel Amongst Lions, for the Honest Scrap award.  There are a bunch of rules that go along with this, and I'll get to them, I just don't have the time right now.  Tomorrow is my rescheduled check ride and, with any luck, in 24 hours my mood will be significantly improved.  And quite possibly chemically altered.


Also, keep an eye out, in the next few days, for my 2007 Holiday Letter.  I know.  It's 2009.  Stick with me on this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And The Winner Is…

I'll call it a semi-tie.  While no one got it exactly right, Sierra put so much into her answer, I have to give her the win.  And she's not that far off.  And melane got the shovel part right, even if she didn't give the whole answer.  So yay for the new girls!  And welcome ladies.  It's nice to have you here.

It seems this picture caused quite a commotion at school.  So much that Mommy had to send a note explaining it to the teacher.

stipper-drawing-240ds120109
  
Dear Mrs. Jones,
I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer.
I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit.  I told her we sold out every single shovel we had, and then I found one more in the back room, and that several people were fighting over who would get it.  Her picture doesn’t show me dancing around a pole.  It’s supposed to depict me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot.
From now on I will remember to check her homework more.

I might buy the shovel.  Not so sure about the story.

What Does Mommy Do For Money?

Hey!  How about a contest.  I have nothing to offer other than bragging rights, but this was too fun to pass up when I saw it.  A little girl drew a picture of mommy at work for school.  What is mommy doing?



I'll post the answer and winner (if there is one) later today.  Okay tomorrow.  Keep guessing.

Come on.  Everybody.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Meet Moira - Just Don't Look Her In The Eye

Well, you've met Howard, my slovenly next door neighbor.  I figured it was time, at last, to introduce you to his better, ahem, half wife, Moira.  Truth be told, Howard is the better half of this duo.  They moved in about six years ago, replacing another gem of a neighbor I'll get to at some point.  Do keep on the edge of your seat.  That will be worth the wait.

Moira, like so many others, is a transplant to South Florida from Queens, NY.  And, like so many others, she's brought every rude, obnoxious and aggressive manner with her.  These people have given me serious New Yorkitis but I'm starting to think the problem isn't there, it's here.  In fact, when I'm in New York, the people there are much more pleasant than here.  Could it be they cast aside their undesirables to make the big apple that much sweeter?

Whatever the reason, we're over-run down here, and Moira is a perfect example.  She talks tawks with a strong accent, usually in her outside voice.  I think it's her only voice.  Weekends are especially sweet because we get to hear all the yelling that goes on next door.

"HOWAAD!" and "SAMMY!" often punctuate the days.  Now she has a newborn.  Baby Eddie.  It won't be long before she's yelling at him.  Until then, I expect Sammy to take the full brunt since she didn't want a brother, and until now, she's run the household.  Lest you think the yelling is confined to their own home, the following has happened a number of times:

Moira comes over to borrow something, or ask a favor.  It should only take a minute, but an hour later she's still here, spreading gossip, or complaining about Howard's family.  Sammy usually accompanies her because she likes our cats.  Inevitably though, Sammy is ready to leave before Moira and becomes whiny.  She climbs on her mother.  Climbs on our furniture.  Tortures the cat.  We wait for the mother to discipline the child.  Nothing happens.  Sammy's whining grows louder.  Moira ignores.  Finally, Sammy shouts that she wants to leave.  Moira finally responds, "WE DON'T YELL IN OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES!"  Mrs. Sarcasm and I roll our eyes.

Moira has never made a friend she liked, and she's not shy about telling us everyone's faults.  Still, the couple host big parties several times a year.  Oddly, they don't clean the house, but people keep coming back.  Afterward, because we live next door, she tells us how so and so is a drunk, or has a gambling problem, or somebody's wife is going to leave them.  And she doesn't restrict the gossip, or hatred, to the adults.  Most of Sammy's friends are spoiled brats.  Not at all like Sammy.  I have noted that the only kids who get along with others are the ones who have siblings.  So maybe there's hope for Sammy now that Eddie's come along.

One little girl about Sammy's age lives just down the street.  We always see her riding her scooter while her shirtless father walks alongside.  I once asked Sammy why she doesn't ever play with that little girl.

"Because she's a little monstah," answered Moira.

I see.  Couldn't have anything to do with her mother passing away a few years back.

Then there is Linus and Patty, who live two doors down from Moira.  They moved in about a year ago and Sammy became fast friends with their kids, but Moira quickly soured on the parents, who seem as nice as can be and would probably make good friends if we didn't have to maneuver past Moira to see them.  Now, Sammy no longer plays with them, because they, too, are horrible monstahs.  And, for some insane reason, Howard is under the impression Linus "wants" Moira, so she's labled him a pervert.

Seriously, Linus has seen Mrs. Sarcasm.  Not to mention a few other ladies of the block.  Did I mention that when Moira was seven months pregnant she looked no different than when she wasn't pregnant?  That's not a compliment.

Moira worked for Howard's parents until a few years ago when they swindled the old folks out of the business.  She also works part time in the Homeowner's Association office.  What gossip Howard doesn't supply, Moira does.  Everyone's delinquent.  Everyone's irrational.  And everyone blames Moira for their problems.

Moira working in the office has left me in a quandary.  I've described the squalor in which they live  in great detail here and here.  I could never formally complain about it though, because she's the one who takes the complaints.  Now that she's on maternity leave (for as short as possible, according to Howard) I should take advantage of her absence in the office.  But that, I fear, would be a suicide mission.  Moira knows everything about everyone.  And I do not want to be on her enemies list.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Week That Wasn’t

I realize this past week, for most, was one of thankfulness, a time for family and a reason to celebrate.  For me, not so much.

Nothing this week turned out the way I expected, or hoped, it would.  Thanksgiving?  Bah!  Celebration?  Humbug!  I’ve been in a decidedly negative mood most of the last seven days and here’s why…

Something we had hoped very much to happen; which we’d spent a good deal of money trying to make happen; which we had put quite a bit of ourselves into making happen and early signs indicated was indeed going to happen, isn’t happening.  It was a major blow, to say the least, the details of which I will not divulge.    Suffice to say, I was feeling about as low as I could.  The only good thing about feeling that low is there’s no where to go but up, right?

Of course not.  Because I had my recurrent check ride looming over me for work.  Once a year I have to prove that I actually do know how to fly a plane that, let’s face it, pretty much flies itself.  How hard could that be?  I do it all the time right?  What I don’t do is deal with a myriad of emergencies that I’m expected to know how to deal with should they occur.  The problem is that these emergencies rarely ever do occur.  That’s a good thing, but it can make a pilot a bit rusty on the procedures.  Hence, recurrent training.  Add to that the fact the FAA is scrutinizing every airline’s training program since some inexperienced pilot’s crashed into a house last winter and my stress level rises more than it already was. 

So, I studied all day Monday, even as bad things were happening in other aspects of my life.  I had to put that aside.  Enter Howard, my slovenly neighbor.  While his overweight, over-aged, smoker of a wife is as fertile as Michelle Duggar, he kept asking me for favors I was none too happy to do.

“Moira’s having the baby,” he told me over the phone.  “Can you walk the dog?”

Can I walk the dog?  Can Howard walk the dog?  ‘Cause I have to tell you, I’ve known that dog for nearly six years, and I’ve never seen it walked.  So I did what Howard would have done.  I let the dog out  the back door, once again, stepping over a landmine of stuff.  I can’t even describe it better than stuff.  I had to push my way past a mattress and box spring, on their side, blocking the front door.  Dirty laundry lined the floor.  Its the most disgusting place I’ve ever been.  Every day I’m more incensed at the way they live.  I’m way beyond how.  I need to know why they live that way.  They’ve seen my house.  They know clean exists.  Why do they choose to ignore it?  And why are they bringing another helpless child into that environment?  But I was curious.  Howard had borrowed some tools to ready the baby’s room.  Two days earlier.  I wanted to see how much progress he’d made.  He even encouraged me to check it out, so I wasn’t snooping.  Finished?  Please.  But while I was up there I thought I’d check out the hole in the shower through which he’d fallen.  The shower walls were gone.  I mean…well…gone.  Nothing but studs.  No hardware either.  No spigot, or nozzle, or tiles or anything.  But the guy’s apparently been busy elsewhere.  There was a stack of Playboys on his dresser a foot and a half high.

Well, I had my own studying to do.  Not an easy thing to do when the neighbors are stinking up the bliss I should have been having.  With Tuesday came more studying and more requests from Howard.
Wednesday was day one of my two day training.  The first day is designed to get acquainted with the procedures in the simulator.  I was partnered with a boisterous captain from Long Island I’d never met, who felt the need to tell me, and the instructor, how he once came home early from a trip and caught his wife with another man.  It seemed relevant, given that it was more than a decade ago and he’d been married to someone else for the past twelve years.  He just liked to talk.  On the phone.  With me.  He kept calling, thinking he knew what we should study for the actual check ride, the next day.  Then, out of nowhere, he asked me how long I’d been married and how I met my wife and how many brothers and sisters I had and where they all lived.  WTF?!

Thursday morning.  Turkey day for most of you, but I just felt like a turkey.  Oddly calm, I’d slept pretty well, figuring if I didn’t know it yet, there was nothing more I could learn at that point.  I drove to the Airbus Training Center in Miami feeling confident.  Prior to the actual check ride we were given an oral exam.  The instructor, with a reputation as a real hardass, was impressed.  I aced it.  To make things even better, it was a national holiday.  While the feds have been observing a lot of check rides and failing a lot of pilots, they all took the day off.  My pressure was easing. 

And then the power went out.  Check ride canceled.  Postponed actually.  And guess what?  There’s a new curriculum starting December 1.  The warm up I did the day before?  Not gonna matter.  But do you think they’ll give me another one to prepare for the check ride I’m actually going to take?  Not at thousands of dollars an hour in sim time.  The weight that was supposed to be lifted in time for Thanksgiving dinner?  Heavier than ever.  The writing I’d put off during all this drama?  Still on hold.

And then, something good happened.  I went to work.  Assigned an abnormally long layover – two nights in Tampa – Mrs.. Sarcasm drove over to join me.  It was exactly the weekend we needed to recharge, recover and rediscover life.  And guess what else we discovered. 

Stepford.  Okay, Clearwater.  Home to Scientology and its robots followers.  This is a creepy place, where people walk around in quasi-military uniforms.  Surveillance cameras are everywhere and everyone carries a clipboard.  I’m still weirded out, but it was fun and I’m finally home; finally ready to get on with life.  Sure, I still have to take a check ride, but I don’t know when and won’t worry about it until I do.  That, at this point, is the least of my problems.

Well, this is probably the least.  I just found out somebody is having a  book signing at a Barnes and Noble in January.  I know for a fact he was still on a a first draft in August.  No legitimate publisher works that fast.  He’s self-published and full of BS.  Well, he’s always been full of BS, but now he’s going to convince people he’s a bona-fide, successful author.  Don't get me wrong, self-publishing works for some, but I think, as writers, people should be up front about it.  Unfortunately the general public won’t know the difference.  It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.

I should worry more about the fact Snickers is selling a “King Size” candy bar that is actually two candy bars in a King Size wrapper.  That’s the kind of problem I need in my life.  If that becomes my biggest worry, then all is well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It Might Be Time To Move


I've been thinking this for a while, and this may just be what does it.  Apparently it's not enough to have mysterious holes appearing in my yard.  Now I have to contend with mammoth arachnids as well.

Whilst doing some yard work, I felt something brush against my shoulder and neck.  A quick glance to one side revealed the most perfectly spun web I've seen in awhile, dusted in fine brown pollen.  Then I noticed its maker scrambling away.  But for the grace of who knows what, this nasty thing would surely have sunk its fangs into my neck.




I mean really!  Giant spiders?  There's water on the other side of those bushes.  Why couldn't it be a harmless alligator?  Next I'll probably get into a fight with one of the many pythons slithering through the Everglades.  At least those are big enough I might see it coming.  A guy was bitten by a green mamba a few months ago.  Yeah, I thought they only came in black too.  But greens are plenty deadly, and better camouflaged.  Man, what I wouldn't give for the safety of an igloo right about now.





That's a normal sized baseball, only a couple inches in front of this behemoth.


I really think the web looks pretty cool here.  I'm pretty sure it's a Banana Spider.  Harmless, but terrifying.

The Bookshelf Muse

I have to give a shout out to The Bookshelf Muse.  She got 100,000 hits on her blog over the weekend.  Well, probably not all this weekend, but it's something to celebrate.  And she is.  She's having a Massive Followers Contest where she's giving away some pretty great prizes, including a full manuscript critique.  There are three ways to enter so hurry on over and

1. Leave a comment and mention being a follower.
2. Post a link on your site.
3. Post a link on your facebook or twitter page.

I can do two out of three.  This being my number 2.

Even entering only twice, I fully expect to win.  After all, the Bookshelf Muse wrote a middle grade pirate book, just like me.  Why wouldn't she want to read it?  In fact, everyone save yourself some time and don't bother with the above.  I've got it locked up.

Just kidding.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Howard - A Character Study; And The Letter Q

In my last post you got a glimpse into the life of my next door neighbor, Howard.  Let me be clear. Howard is a good neighbor. He lets me borrow things without question. He looks after my cats when I go away even though he is allergic.  Plus, he is a source of gossip all over the neighborhood. You see, Howard serves as the security director on the homeowner's association board and knows everything that goes on. Which leads me to the bad interesting fun part.

Howard is paranoid to the point of overprotection, watching the neighborhood like a hawk. I expect someday he will install surveillance cameras all over his house. Convinced every one is out to get him he goes to extreme lengths to ensure security.  For instance, he has a chain link fence around his yard with a gate he keeps padlocked, yet anyone wanting to get into his yard could simply jump the fence.  I said he was paranoid, not smart.  I don't know the origins of his paranoia, but they must run deep, for while I've never checked, he seems the type who would keep a lock on his vehicle's gas cap, for fear someone might pour sugar in his tank.

Howard works for a liquor distributor and has lots of promotional items in and around his home.  Among these are neon signs he keeps on his back porch along with a small refrigerator for beer and wine.  Its the type with a glass door so you can see what's in it.  But Howard never turns on the fridge or the signs because he's afraid the neighborhood kids will sneak through his yard, see the booze adverts and steal something.

This, however, would require them to maneuver a yard so frought with obstacles it is only slightly less nauseating than the inside of Howard's house.  There is an expensive swing set nobody plays on, because Howard's seven-year-old daughter, Sammy, can't keep any friends.  This is of course because every other child is a terror, or has obnoxious parents, or possibly because Sammy is a spoiled brat, but I have heretofore neglected to mention this theory to Howard's wife, Moira, because she is the last person I would want as an enemy.

Over the years, Howard's lawn has been host to a variety of expensive purchases that never saw more than a single use, but that have left large circles of dead grass.  These include a bounce house, an inflatable swimming pool, a slip and slide, and a hot tub which I'm grateful has never been used.  Howard's grass is long and weedy, disguising myriad piles of dog poop no one has ever picked up.  This does not stop Sammy from running around the yard barefoot.  After all, anything she tracks inside the house will hardly be noticible.

Now, I've struggled with ways to describe the inside of Howard's home.  It is a challenge, but the best I've come up with is this: At least Fred Sanford had a reason for all that junk.  Howard and Moira have never thrown away anything.  Unfortunately, it's not just the junk.  It's dirty.  Greasy.  Sticky.

Howard has a penchant for mispronunciation, famously saying things like, "I'm installing new gran-NITE counter tops."  "There was mold in the bathroom, so I sprayed it with disinfecterant."  "The crabs in the fish tank are there to eat the allergy."

Ah, the fish tank.  Now, I edited out a lot of description of their house.  It got a bit wordy and I realized I could sum up this whole post with the following anecdote.

Some years ago, Howard got himself a saltwater fish tank, which he pridefully stocked with lots of rocks, and two fish.  Howard's care of the fish tank resembled that of his home in that, quite quickly, it was taken over by parsites growing on the rocks and allergy algae growing on the tank walls.  Neighborly as I am, I enjoyed feeding the fish when Howard and Moira went on their many vacations, be it in their RV, or countless trips to Disney World and the Disney cruise ships.  After all, as Howard explained, they have to take Sammy to Disney as often as possible while she still believes its real.  Yeah.  A giant, felt mouse in a tuxedo.  Seems real enough.

At any rate, one day they were telling me of just such an impending trip, when I offered, as usual to feed the fish.

"Nah," Moira told me.  "The fish died a couple weeks ago." (that's in bold for a reason.)

Well, I was still bringing in their mail.  So, fighting my way past a swarm of ants on the front porch, I held my breath as I entered, preparing for the assault of stale air and dog.  Stepping over boxes and toys, I weaved my way through the amassed junk, catching a glimpse of the family portrait, etched in a block of crystal, past the massage table; spinning around the slot machine and beyond the vase my wife and I stealthily placed in their midst several years before.  We never heard one thing about that vase, so we're still not sure if they know it's there.

Finally, I spotted the fish tank, still in its place like a memorial to a child who passed too soon.  The water was still in the tank, but it was a swirl of liquid black, impenetrable to mere human eyes.  It was a chilling, unforgiving, and sinister, almost pastel, black.  I stepped toward it for a closer look.  And nearly stepped on the dead fish.

Any one else might have been shocked, but I've come to expect this sort of thing.  Should I have picked the carcass up?  Probably, but I was only responsible for the mail.  I don't know how long it stayed there.  Maybe the dog eventually got it.

And that, in essence, is an overview of Howard.  Moira is another story.  A scary story.  Don't tell her I told you.  Or will tell you.  Or, at least, plan to tell you.

"But wait," you say.  "What about the letter Q?"

Right.

Have you ever been to a nude beach?  Or watched the HBO series Real Sex.  Sadly none of these things turn out as titillating as their potential.  It's usually ugly people doing things only pretty people should do, ruining the very thing we want to see the pretty people doing so that we can no longer enjoy it when the pretty people do it.  Which leads me to...

Last night Mrs. Sarcasm had a bad dream in which she was in the yard talking to Howard.

"He was only in his underwear."  She was shaking.

"Topless?" I asked.  And yes, I'm using topless to refer to a man because he has big boobs.  And not the kind I want to play with.

"Yes," she said.  "He was topless."

Unfortunately, I've seen it in real life, so I shuddered.

"And then his unit slipped out," she said.  "He looked like the letter Q."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who's Your Shower Groomer?

Can you say awkward?  You would if you lived next door to my neighbors.  I've resisted posting too much about real people in my life, for fear they're somehow going to stumble upon my blog.  Or worse, I send them an email and forget to delete the link in my signature.  But this I could not resist.

A few minutes ago my neighbor, Howard, came over to borrow a saw.  It seems his wife is pregnant and he wants to get started on the baby's room.  He's planning chair rails, window moldings, fresh paint, everything and a kite.

Of course, Howard can't just stop by, borrow something and leave.  He has to tell us all about the problems in his life.  Over the years I've learned how his parents favored his sister over him, even sending her to an expensive private school, while Howard schlepted through with the publics.  I've learned all about his parents divorce, and how his father liked to gamble.  I've heard complaints about all his friends, the residents in our community (Howard inserted himself onto the association board a few years ago), and, just this evening, that his pregnant wife lost her mucous plug.

I have no idea what a mucous plug is, but for a woman 8 1/2 months pregnant...oh didn't I mention that?  Yeah.  He's just now getting started on the baby's room.  This after telling Mrs. Sarcasm he couldn't do it last week because he was having a vasectomy.  Kinda personal, don't you think?  And besides, she's overweight, 43 and a smoker.  Oh, and their seven year old sleeps in their bed.  That should be birth control enough, but she is, after all, pregnant right now.  As she has been for nearly nine months.  Apparently Howard's been too busy until tonight, when he walked in to my house and announced that the mucous plug was lost and the baby was due any day, so could he please borrow my saw to start on the room.

Then he dropped another doozy.  There's been a bathroom in a state of dissarray for a while now, and I mean years, and he finally fixed it.  So, while his pregnant wife was showering, he told us, he had to help groom her, but fell through the wall.  I guess he didn't test the drywall.

Did I mention he weighs around 350 pounds and she probably tops 200 when not pregnant?

Now picture them together in the shower.  And he's grooming her, whatever that means.

Why he feels no shame in sharing these types of things, I'll never know.  And I don't want to know, because its now fodder for my blog.  That's right.  I'm starting a new feature all about my neighbors.  And believe me, this just skims the surface.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

To Warm Your Cold Hearts

For those of you up north, suffering autumn's bitter bite, I thought I would share a bit of the finest the Sunshine State has to offer.  Of course down here, it's only the tourists who don't know to use SPF 30 or higher.  And yes, we snicker behind your bright red backs.

So, if winter gets you down, be thankful you're not these idiots.

Some of my favorites. 












No one this white should go outside













Further evidence men should not wear bracelets.











Leftover from Halloween.











We know this guy's American. 
Europeans wear socks with their sandals.



Can you say ouch?











Was this a catcher's mitt?  Golfing glove?
Madonna style, fingerless lace?












Sleep well.











I don't know what's worse - the wife
beater he was wearing; or this...thing.



My favorite.  She's not burned, so much
as just done.

See the rest here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Would Larry Do #3

Since it's been raining televisions inside my home I headed to the nearest home improvement superstore.  There I found a diminutive associate to whom I explained my predicament, expressing my desire to repair the rather sizable hole in the wall from whence the telly departed.

"Are you going to put the TV back in the same spot?" asked the woman, in rather a manly voice.

Given how well it worked the last time, I considered this question suspect.  Eying my accuser with distrust (since I assumed she assumed me an idiot), I gave a slow, but wide circle of the head and expressed a drawn out, "Nooo."

"Well, you should," she said.  "Now's the time to take advantage of that hole.  Reinforce it with two by fours," she bobbed her head and shoulders in opposite directions.  "Like you should have done in the first place."

Now she truly was branding me an moron.

What would Larry do?

"Well," I began slowly.  I straightened my back, drawing up to my full height, peering over her crew cut.  "I put my faith in the drywall anchors you claim hold 50 pounds.  I used six."

"Really?" she sounded skeptical.

"Oh yeah," I nodded.

"Well, we tell everyone to follow the manufacturers instructions."

"The manufacturer said it would hold."

"Did you test the strength of the drywall?" she asked.

"The strength of the drywall?"

"Sometimes there are weak spots."

"Really?" I nodded, wide-eyed.  "Well, I guess so."

"Right," she said.  "My guess is you didn't test it."

I shook my head, incredulous.  "What test?  I didn't know there was a test."

"You test the drywall for strength," she explained.

"Thanks," I said.  "I get that."

"Well I wasn't sure," she said.  "Since you didn't test it."

"Well had I known...there was some sort of test...I could perform...I would have.  How do you do this test?  Is there a kit?"

"A kit?" she repeated.

"A kit," I repeated.  "Do you sell some sort of drywall test kit?"

"No, I don't think so," she said.  "I never heard of any thing like that."

"What?"  I threw my hands up in disbelief.  "What are you talking about?  You just recommended I do this test."

"Yeah, you test the drywall," she said.  "There's no kit."

"Well then what was I supposed to do?"

"You need to make certain the wall is strong enough to support what you want to hang."

"How am I supposed to do that without hanging something there, like, say, a tel-e-vis-ion?"  Now she had a blank expression.  "It's not like I can just lean on the wall and see if I fall through it."

"Fall through it?" she said.  "Why would you fall through your wall?"

I shook my head in exasperation.

"And by the way," I said.  "I never said I put the TV up on the wall."

"You told me it fell off your wall."

"That doesn't mean I put it up there.  Maybe..." I wagged a finger.  "I moved in and it was already there."  I raised a defiant eyebrow and leaned back in triumph.

"Why would someone leave their TV when they move?"

"I might have negotiated it into the deal," I said.

"Nobody's going to negotiate that."

"Yes they would.  They might.  You don't know what someone might do."

"It's common sense," she said.  "Nobody's going to leave a TV."

"Yes they might," I insisted.  "People leave all kinds of things.  Some people like furniture and they offer to buy it with the house.  Or, what about appliances?  People leave appliances all the time.  You never buy a house that doesn't come with appliances.  Or curtains.  You know, window treatments.  I once talked a guy into a lawnmower, 'cause I was buying his house and didn't have one.  He gave me his lawnmower."

"Who cares about a lawnmower?" she said.  "Where are you even getting that from?"

"Because," I said.  "It's the same as the TV.  I just substituted the lawnmower for the TV.  It's the same thing."

"No," she said.  "It's not."

"It is the same," I said.  "Why isn't it the same?"

"Sir," she said.  "If I have a TV that's nice enough to mount on a wall, I'm taking it with me when I move."

"That's what you might do," I said.  "But you don't know these people.  You never met them before I moved in."

"You're right," she agreed.  "I didn't know them."

"Hmph," I cocked my head.  "I didn't think so."

"But they didn't leave that TV," she said.  "Did they?"

She had me.

"You shouldn't accuse your customers," I told her.  "It's not good for business."

She smiled and pointed.  "Drywall patch is down that aisle.  And new TVs are over there."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Longest Run-On Sentence I've Ever Composed - 1094 Words

My house is falling apart and I don’t know what to fix first because the screen door is broken and the TV fell off the wall and I didn’t even know it happened so it must’ve been when I was gone cause I would have heard it crash, but then maybe I wouldn’t because I’m not always home, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s been up on that wall for almost a year, and I know it’s been that long cause it was there when my friend Angie visited, which I remember because I was excited to have someone staying in that room because no one ever stays in that room and I was even more excited to have someone watch that TV because I had put it on the wall and I know she was here in January because that’s when I got my new running shoes and I know that was January because my birthday is in January and I got my new running shoes right after my birthday, which I needed to do because I was based in San Juan and there was no place in the world I wanted to be less than San Juan but I was based there and living in a condo with five other people, none of whom wanted to be based in San Juan, but we were all there and we were all always there so to get out of the house I started taking long walks and my feet started to suffer because I had old shoes because I always wore old shoes on the road because, let’s face it, most of the time they just sit in a suitcase, but I was really walking a lot, so I went and bought some really expensive running shoes even though I wasn’t running at all because that’s really hard on the joints but walking is good exercise so I walked a lot even though I couldn’t stand San Juan and it was pretty scary in some areas with packs of wild dogs and chickens and some big hills and some mountains, which is the main difference between San Juan and South Florida, but I didn’t walk on the mountains because they were a little far from the condo and I needed to be close in case the phone rang and I had to work, but that didn’t stop me from walking an average of seven miles a day, although one day I planned a fifteen mile walk but I hadn’t planned on getting a phone call at the five mile mark but I took the call anyway since I wasn’t busy doing anything but walking and I sat under a tree but then a bird pooped on my hand so I walked to the edge of the water to rinse off and  underestimated the softness of the sand and sunk in just as a wave broke and my feet, inside my brand new walking shoes, got soaked, so much so I took off my shoes and socks to dry but they were taking too long and I really wanted to continue my walk even though I still had ten miles to go but I figured walking home five miles in wet shoes would still damage my feet so what difference did it make if I walked ten miles so that’s what I did but I sure paid for it in the end because I had lots of blisters and one toenail was purple when I got back to the condo and it was still purple when Angie visited because I remember her wanting to see it even though I was ashamed because I’ve always had really nice toenails that aren’t cracked or yellowing or covered in fungus but just plain smooth toenail colored toenails but this particular toenail no longer looked like that and it soon fell off, which you might think would hurt, but it didn’t because it had died long before and underneath was a plain, nail-less toe which eventually grew its nail back and I’m quite pleased about that because now I can say once again that I have nice toes, but I wouldn’t have if that TV had fallen on my foot and crushed them, so I’m thankful I wasn’t home when the TV fell but I do wonder why it did because it was up there for almost a year and I know that because Angie visited last January and that was right after I put the TV on the mount above the door in the guest bedroom but now its on the floor behind the door, which I discovered last night because I had to get up early for work and went to bed early but my spouse can’t just get in bed and sleep because she has to watch TV or read, both of which keep me up, so I went to sleep in the guest bedroom and realized when I couldn’t open the door, which we keep closed because our cat will pee on the bed, and I can’t sleep in a bed if a cat pees on it but she can’t pee on that bed because we keep the door closed and I couldn’t open the door because the TV had fallen with the mount which broke free from the wall leaving a hole in the wall, but, surprisingly, only a small gouge in the brand new wood floor, which I thought surely would have damaged the TV, but I turned it on and it still works, so now I have to fix the hole in the wall above the door to the guest bedroom and find a new place to mount the TV because the hole in the wall where the TV was obviously won’t support it any longer but that’s okay because the screen door is broken too and I was going to Home Depot anyway to get parts for that, so I might as well get something to patch the wall but I might already have something so maybe I won’t spend as much money as I thought and its possible I won’t spend any money at all because writing this run-on sentence, and then editing it, which seems like an oxymoron, but that is what I’m doing, has taken longer than I thought and It’s almost time for my spouse to come home from work and I know she’ll be upset I didn’t fix anything but I did get up for work at 3:30 this morning, so what does she expect?