Friday, July 30, 2010

Am I Out Of Line

My other next door neighbor, Hotpants, who's never done a lick of work herself (well, perhaps a lick) has her yard maintained by professional landscapers.  Yesterday, they trimmed the ficus hedges, growing haphazardly, along our shared fence.  Some - a lot - of trimmings fell into my yard and the workers left before I noticed.  A bit irked, I couldn't bring myself to clean up Hotpants's mess, even though there was no one else to do it.  Then, today, they came back for more trimming. 

So, I went outside for a little talk, and politely pointed out what happened.  Keep in mind, communicating with local laborers can be a challenge, since most speak limited English and I speak limited anything else. 

"So," the man said.  "You want me clean up for you?"

"I would appreciate it," I carefully urged, "if, in the future, perhaps your guys might be a bit more careful."

Not sure how that went over.

Too much?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trying To Kill Me? Better Do Your Homework

I have made no secret of the fact I don't like creamy white condiments.  Sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ranch dressing...  The list goes on, but I expect you get the point.  I get teased about this, and people can be almost as dense about it as when asking stupid adoption questions.  Someone recently gasped at the sight of me enjoying pie topped with whipped cream.    Get real.  Whipped cream is a topping, not a condiment.  This kind of ignorance is disappointing, but not unexpected, given today's short attention spans.  And last week's incident involving my sister, a shared plate of fajitas and a gob of sour cream was, at best, a display of inconsideration, yet can be forgiven.  I see her maybe twice a year.  If there are no others in her life who abhor creamy white condiments, I don't expect her to remember to accommodate my quirks, by, say, moving the fajitas she wants onto her plate first and then drenching them in appetite killing goo.

Still, someone out there is trying to kill me.  In today's post (not this post, the US Post - at the post box) was a small sample of mayonnaise.  While mayonnaise, in its intended form, will not kill me (I have ingested it), heated to well over 100 degrees, as anything left in the South Florida sun will be, it can do damage.  The implications are obvious.  But so, too, is the ineptitude of the attempted assassin.

Mayonnaise, in any form, is not going in this body.  Please try again.  And do be more clever next time.

I'm headed to Peru tonight.  I must be cautious.  Strange foods abound, although they do make good butter - a spread, not a condiment.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Things I Miss About Home

I made it.  There and back again.  I'm no Ashley Parker Angel, but it sure felt good to go home again.  And then to come home.  Two different places, home and home, with good and bad about both.

I probably took for granted all the things about Michigan I love so much now, but never appreciated when I was growing up.  Things like:

  • Lakes.  Lots and lots of lakes.  My family always had a boat, so our summers were spent on the Great Lakes.  There are quirky little ports all up and down the coast that shaped my fondest memories of youth.  And then there are the inland lakes.  My sister now lives on one and I spent my brief time there last week enjoying it.  Lakes in Florida frighten me.  There are things in the water that kill.  It took a while to assure myself that wouldn't happen up north, but I soon relaxed.  If I lived on a lake up north I don't think I would own pants.
  •  Daylight.  It lasts a long time.  Because Michigan lies at the western edge of the eastern time zone, the sun doesn't set until close to 10 P.M.  That offers an awful lot of daylight for those fun, relaxing, stimulating, whatever kinds of things you might do.
  • Cool weather.  I heard people complaining how hot it was while I was up there, but it seemed like heaven.  I live in the land of 90 plus degrees and gobs of humidity.  Walking to the mailbox takes a toll.  Not so much up north.  Sure, there are stretches of oppressive heat.  But that's what the lake is for.  And sleeping with the windows open?  A rare treat.
  • Food.  Admittedly, there is food virtually everywhere.  There are however, certain things you can't get in certain places and you don't realize you miss them until you can't have them anymore.  One such food is Sander's Bumpy Cake.  To the untrained tongue, this may seem like nothing more than plain chocolate cake with a fudge frosting infused with, well, bumps, of vanilla butter cream.  Oh, you would be so wrong.  I can not set it up.  Just get thyself to Michigan and have a slice.  Other delightful regional fare includes Coney Island hot dogs, Big Boy hamburgers, Faygo Redpop, Better Made potato chips, and on and on and on...
  •  Familiarity.  Knowing your way around offers more than a feeling of security.  It offers a sense of belonging.  I've lived in Florida ten years and am really only familiar with the places I frequent.  Not so up north.  I didn't learn my way around.  I lived my way around.  I miss it.
This is just a glimpse.  Short as it was, I rather enjoyed my visit, despite having to travel to get there.  And, even though my sister dug her sour cream encrusted fork all through our shared fajitas, I will go back.  I'm just ordering for one next time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vacations Are Hard Work

You would think someone who works in the travel industry, and who by definition, travels for a living, wouldn't mind traveling so much.  However, if you've been following this blog for any period of time, you probably won't be surprised to learn that I hate to travel.  Travel is at the top of my list of least favorite things, along with creamy white condiments, roofs, and ladders.

And while this may seem contradictory, let me state with absolute clarity that I love my job.  The life of an airline pilot is far and away the most enjoyable life I've ever led.  Not that it always was, but where I work, and the company I work for, have played a huge part in creating the first job I don't hate.

Having said that, I still don't like to travel.  Let me be clear.  Working is not traveling.  It is work.  There is no stress involved.  I don't make hotel reservations, or rent cars, or wait in long lines for security, boarding, etc...  I go to work and I come home.  The minute I step off that plane, I leave it all there.

Vacations, however, are a different story.  I stress, like there's no tomorrow, over the most minute detail.  Especially if it is a flying vacation.  I would much rather drive anywhere.  Or take a boat.  I bring this up because I am facing my first actually scheduled vacation in more than three years next month.  Due to the uniqueness of airline crew scheduling, I've managed to stretch my one week into 15 days off (I'm shooting for 16.)  I have no plans.  I considered making plans, then Prissy Bower and his wife announced they were coming to Florida that very week.  Saved me the hassle of travel.  Perhaps Prissy and I will take a day at Universal Orlando.

The bigger problem, I'm afraid, is this week.  Once again, due to the uniqueness of airline crew scheduling, today is day one of seven in a row I have off.  Mrs. Sarcasm chose this week to visit her family in Michigan and I feel an obligation to join them.  I would very much like to see my sister, who lives in a lovely home on a lake.  But traveling to places where you know people always lends itself to that undesirable, guilt-stricken need to make an effort to see everyone.  And there goes any chance for relaxation.

I'm quite relaxed at home, in fact.  While Mrs. Sarcasm has been gone since Saturday, I told her I couldn't possibly get there before Wednesday.  I'm hoping for some natural disaster before then.  Otherwise I have to reserve a car; prepare family felines for a few days on their own; travel standby, or by a ticket and then feel guilty about spending money when I can fly for free.  And there are people coming over.  Have to be available for family gatherings.  See old friends.  Drive past the house where I grew up.  Visit the family barber........................

Ugh!  I wish I had to work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

SAQ - Sarcastically Answered Questions

I haven't blogged much about our adoption.  Here's the latest update:  We're waiting.  Could be a while.

In the course of life, however, I do occasionally mention our adoption plans.  Such was the case yesterday.  I was flying along, and the conversation turned to family.  Inevitably, the question came up, "Do you have any kids?"  I do not, and answered accordingly.  Then he asked, "Are you trying?"  This, I thought odd.  Not only was a stranger inquiring about a rather personal and intimate affair, but in doing so, implied there are only two options regarding children.  To have them, or to be trying to have them.  There is, of course, the third option, to which Mrs. Sarcasm and I had long stood firm, but no longer do: we don't want any kids.  So, sensing what might come next, I took a breath and announced that we are adopting.  The next question out of his mouth was right on target.

"How much is that costing you?"

Really?  Is that really something I'm expected to answer?  And do you, a total stranger, really believe it's any of your business?

So, as we've gone through this process, the stupidity of the general public has come up a few times.  It is reality that we will face ignorance along the way.  We will be what is known as a conspicuous family.  Because our child will be from South Korea, they will, in all likelihood, look very different from their parents.  This, it seems, is an invitation to all sorts of Stupid Adoption Questions, which I, fitting this blog, have decided to call Sarcastically Answered Questions.  Keep in mind, these answers are only reserved for the most blatant ignorance.  If someone is genuinely interested in the process, I am glad to educate them through informative discussion.

If, however, you are simply an ass...
Q. How much is adoption costing you?

A. You know all the plastic surgery you need?  Not quite so much as that.

Q. Will your Korean baby have an accent?

A. Since the baby's room will be yellow, we're thinking purple accents.

Q. Don't you want to have real children?

A. Real children are too much work.  And these fake ones are dishwasher safe.

Q. Do you get to pick the child you're adopting?

A. Oddly, it's a lot like a pet store.  The kids in the biggest cages are the most fun.

Q. What do you know about their real mother?

A. Quite a bit.  I've been married to her for 14 years.

Q. Can't you have your own kids?

A. Our Korean will come with ownership papers.

Q. Will your Korean eat American food?

A. Only fast food.  And only Asian Chao.

Q. Can you give it back if you change your mind.

A. Only with a receipt.  Much like Coscto.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How Much Is That?

I'm not talking currency, but words.  There are a great number of words in the English language with just a modicum of clarity to their meaning.  Quite a few are seldom specific.  And when I say a few, I'm guessing just a bit.  How many is a few?  Let me take a moment to ponder.

I can say, with relative certainty, that a few is more than a couple.  Couple can be defined as two.  That is clear.  And while a few is vaguely more than a couple, it is, to a degree, less than some.  Which is a far cry from a bunch.  Of course, there are a whole host of other words whose meanings could be debated for some time.

One of my favorites is 'moment'.  Just how long is a moment?  I will wait, for a time, while you think about it.

I like to use words like these when making promises.  I once worked for a wretched woman, about whom I can say, she never broke a promise.  She never made a promise, so she certainly never broke one.

In my job as an airline pilot, I'm often expected to speak to the traveling public, be it a routine welcome aboard over the PA, or an update on a delay.  Vagaries are my lifelines.  If we are experiencing an extended delay, I can say, "we expect to depart in a moment,"  and I will never be wrong.

That's why I like these unknowns.  No one can ever accuse you of dishonesty, if they can't define what you say.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Boomer Expo

Sweet Holy Moses!  What a day!

Understanding the use of exclamation points is frowned upon, I expect you’ll recognize the importance of their appearance to open this post.  What I did today is not something I would, or for that matter could, have foreseen myself taking part in.  Yet it was real.  All too real.

A writer friend named Jeanne Krause was having a book signing.  I headed on down, knowing only the information contained in the preceding sentence.  Had I any notion this book signing was part of Boomer Expo 2010, I could have at least prepared.  Somewhat.

But what preparation would have been appropriate?  For Boomer Expo is not your average hotel convention.  White hair, (in addition to silver, blue and fluorescent red) walkers, hove-arounds, and confused anger surrounded me.

“Where can I get some water?” an old lady shouted at me.

“Did you try the drinking fountain, near the restrooms?” I asked.

She threw up an annoyed hand and shuffled away.

There were celebrity impersonators.  Sean Connery and a dude dressed like Marilyn Monroe. 

You could buy those chairs that raise up to help old people stand.  And if you’re beyond that point, there was even a booth with a casket.  Oddly, the Neptune Society was a no show.  Too much competition?  Seemed like their kind of crowd.

Oldsters abounded.  And they were pushy.  When you don’t have much time left, politeness must be sacrificed.    Sadly, not too many were in a rush to buy Jeanne’s book.  They asked about it.  Seemed quite taken with her display.  Jeanne had set out some candy and they swarmed the table like locusts.  The candy didn’t make it.  Jeanne had even decorated her booth with some Mardi Gras beads.  Someone swiped them.

I found the whole thing rather amusing.  Not so my companion, another of our critique group members, who claimed to be the same age as the Boomers, but insisted she was not of their ilk.  She wanted desperately to leave, lest their behavior rub off on her.

I’m not doing it near the justice it deserves.  I suggest you see it for yourselves.  Four busloads of old people running rampant has to be experienced to be appreciated.  If Boomer Expo shows up in your town, do check it out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

To Query

I'm looking up that hill again.  More like a sheer cliff face, rising 4000 feet, straight up, beyond which dark clouds loom, rain drops plop against my eyeballs and the mud beneath my feet starts to churn.  I'm getting sucked in.  Anchored to the rock that chips away with every thought I might actually have any semblance of success.

It's query time again.  Almost.  2/3 of my beta readers have given me their thoughts, and I must say, it makes me somewhat nervous.  For the most part I took their suggestions, and they have made my story better.  Yet both returned huge chunks; pages; chapters even; with no comments whatsoever.  I'm not that good.  I can't be.  I am, however, most interested in hearing from the last third, she who has never seen my work before, but offered an encouraging note after the first chapter.

So, I'm sitting here, unable to do more with what I have and it occurs to me that it's time to start researching agents once again.  I'm daunted.  I went through this a year ago, generating mild interest, but alas, no offers.  How have tastes changed?  Who's moved on?  Who hasn't?  And, nagging at me, who, who once rejected me, shall I dare query again?

I know it's not done.  Once rejected, move on.  But a slight change to the title; a major re-write; and a spiffed up query letter just might make it past this summer's intern, who wasn't there the last time.

What say you?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dusting Off Those Old Scenes

We all have them.  We writers that is.  Old scenes you've torn from a manuscript as too much filler.  Assuming we all live in the digital age, most of these old scenes should still be lying around somewhere on your hard drive.  So my question is, is it okay to revisit these scraps from the cutting room floor and breathe new life into them for a new story?

I've just finished a massive re-write and had to cut a lot.  Most of the scenes weren't poorly written, it's just that the story changed and they no longer fit.  I had a hard time letting some of them go.  In fact, I dumped whole storylines and groups of characters.  I can see them easily popping up into later works. 

The next question is, is that lazy?  Will it be harder to write a story with these scenes in mind, or are we better to let them die, so the natural writing juices can spring forth with newer, better stories?