Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The End Of The World

The Mayans predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012 but few seem to be taking this latest apocalypse all that seriously.  A great many skeptics have pointed out that the Mayan's can not be taken seriously since they couldn't even predict the collapse of their own empire.  Consider, however, that they, in fact, did just that.

Suppose, back in the day of the Maya, there happened a fellow whose job it was to make the calendar.  It was his life's work.  In fact, he never did anything else.  He toiled away day after day, year after year, chiseling away on a stone tablet that would forever mark the days and nights.  He knew nothing else, never socialized and was really out of the loop on events of the day.

One day, he was in his workshop, surrounded by stone chippings and discarded calendars he'd messed up.  In walks an acquaintance with his head hung low.

"What's the matter Jose?" asks the calendar maker.

"You mean you haven't heard the news?" asks Jose.

"No I haven't heard the news.  When would I hear the news?  I'm in this workshop day after day.  I never meet anyone, so I never go out.  No one ever visits me and I don't have any friends.  I've spent my whole life working on this calendar and I'm almost up to 2013.  So just when do you expect I might have heard the news?"

"Sorry pal, but you might as well stop.  Word just came down our civilization is going to end.  We probably won't make it past 1300."

"You're kidding me.  That sucks."

"Yep.  Wanna get some tequila?"

And that was likely that.  So give the Maya some credit when the world doesn't end.  They did have their priorities straight.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I'm going to give it a try.  Wish me luck.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Jamaican Mario

A couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from Jamaica.  It was Mario, wanting to talk to his auntie.  Sadly, I knew neither Mario, nor his auntie, which made it impossible to hook them up together.  This was a wrong number, you see, but Mario sounding friendly enough, stayed on the line.  We chatted.  I told him I was in Michigan and the next thing you know, he asked me to send him some girls from Michigan.

I had to ask for clarification because I don't have a ready stable of girls to just send off to Jamaica, or anywhere else, on such short notice.  Unfortunately, Mario didn't offer the kind of details that could help me help him.  I needed to know what kind of girls he wanted. 

Nice girls, he said.

What did he want to do with them? I asked.  This seemed to throw him a bit.  It seems I was a bit presumptuous in thinking that any of my business.  Or perhaps he felt I insinuated he was planning something untoward.  Whatever the case, it didn't make my task easy.

I needed more information.  What were Mario's interests?  Where in Jamaica does he live?  Did he know a former student of mine, who claimed to be a big party thrower in Kingston?

I'm still unclear.

But today Mario called back.  This time it was not a wrong number.  I hadn't as yet, sent the girl he'd requested and what was the delay?  Again I asked for more details so I could find just the right girl.

Mario wanted to know when he should call back.  I let him know I'd be busy working on it and it could be a while.  I want everything to be perfect after all, so I will call him with the details.

I fully expect this to be an ongoing thing.

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Wrong Shoes

This is what happens when you haven't been to work in a month, the phone rings at 4:46 in the morning and you get dressed in the dark.  I suppose it could have been worse.  They are at least the same color.  The funny thing, aside from having worn mismatched shoes, is that I didn't even notice until after I'd taken them off.  I mean well after.  I wore them all day, kicked them off in my hotel room and lay on the bed for a spell.  It wasn't until I went to put on my sneakers and sat in the chair next to where these shoes had landed.   Even then I didn't notice they were different.

Some time back I wrote about my hooks.  You may have heard of heel spurs, little hooks of bone on the bottom of your feet.  I call mine hooks because that's what they look like on an X-ray.  They're terribly debilitating, to the point where the only remedy I foresaw was double foot amputation.  Instead I wear custom molded orthotics that have rendered my disability nearly moot.

So when I sat down to put on my sneakers, I noticed one of my black shoes was missing it's orthotic.  This troubled me greatly because they're not exactly cheap.  It didn't seem possible it could have fallen out of my shoe.  I certainly hadn't taken it out myself.  I supposed my son may have found it during one of his soirees into my closet, but even then he would have had to go into my shoe and worked the thing out.  Not something a boy of 13 months is likely to accomplish easily.

So after circling my hotel room a number of times, I finally picked up the shoe to examine it closely.  That's when I noticed there was no blood relation between the pair.  I had inadvertently put on an old shoe whilst dressing in the dark.

Now, the even stranger thing is that I didn't notice.  When I first had my orthotics, I only had one pair.  I was constantly switching between work shoes and play shoes.  This got old so I got a second pair.  But during those early days, I remember once going to work and wondering why my shoes were so loose and whether my feet had shrunk a couple sizes over night.  Then I realized I had no inserts at all.

So I should have realized I was wearing no orthotic on my left foot yesterday, but I didn't because the old shoe has a thicker heel than the new one, so even with only one orthotic my balance wasn't off.  When I pulled the orthotic out of my sneaker and put it in my work shoe, suddenly I was walking crooked.

So not only am I walking crooked, I'm walking crooked for two more days.  And my shoes won't match for two more days.  And I failed to pack any t-shirts to wear during layovers.

Not my best trip.

At least I'm not wearing the wrong trousers again.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Really NBC? This Is The Best You Can Do?

The Olympics have begun, and while I really couldn't care less (unless Lebron James cries), it is an event.  The National Broadcasting Corporation, having secured the rights to the games for what seems the length of a Scientology Sea Org contract, is showing the games.  The problem is, they really aren't.

NBC owns of host of networks, including MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, USA, UniversalHD, NBCSports and probably a few others, including two that were added to my cable lineup just this week.  Understandably, although stupidly, the network is delaying the games because London is a few hours ahead of the US and A.  I get that advertising dollars are highest during prime time, but with so many networks, one would think they would find a way to put some of the events on the air.

Oh sure, we got a smidgen of badminton, a bit of boxing and even some cycling throughout the day, but as I write this it is prime time.  With NBC showing a John McEnroe feature about a swimmer, I thought to check one of the other channels.

The two new ones--supposedly added for Olympic coverage--off the air.
Bravo -- Million Dollar Listing
MSNBC -- Lockup
CNBC -- The Suze Orman Show
NBC Sports -- MLS Soccer  (Do I even need to remind them that nobody in America likes soccer?)

I could go on but it seems to see the games we are now forced to endure NBC's sorry Americancentric coverage of human interest stories interrupted by 5 minute snippets of actual competition.

To make matters worse, I live close enough to Canada to see their coverage, but because Comcast now owns NBC, they are blacking out CBC during the games.

Somewhere Ann Curry is shaking her head wondering why NBC is in last place.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

One Year Later...

I may have worn new parent blinders 366 days ago.  Let's face it, my boy looked like every newborn ever.  But I couldn't see it for a long time.  He was the most perfect thing I'd ever seen. 

Today, he still is. 

Happy Birthday Buddy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Soul Patch Or Sour Patch

It’s not often you see an airline pilot wearing a soul patch. You know that little tuft of hair just under the bottom lip in lieu of a full beard or even a goatee? Since most of these dudes are pretty clean cut such a thing really stands out against their pressed white shirt and pilot hat.

A soul patch says a lot about a personality, especially when it’s the only telltale sign of one. A rebel wears a soul patch. The anti-authority, flying by his own rules. He probably owns a leather vest.

And he has bad breath.


Oh yeah. Bad, bad breath. Fills the cockpit like a radiation leak. I turn my air vent to full force and aim it just off my nose to deflect the offense. But even though it is far more powerful than the piddly little thing you poor souls in the back of the plane have above your heads, my airline pilot air vent has little effect.

Making matters worse, he lives three hours from the airport, so he drove all night. Now every yawn drags me further into the depths of toxic hell. I used to live near a landfill and would now welcome a return. My dilemma is multifaceted. If I talk to him, it may serve to wake him up and maybe he’ll stop yawning. But talking is just as bad. And sleeping people don’t yawn. But if I allow him to sleep, I now become a single pilot. Not that it’s unprecedented, just not preferred.

And then I remember the Welch’s Strawberry Fruit Snacks in my bag. I’m not normally prone to sharing, but this is a desperate situation. To my surprise, he actually partakes. To my dismay, the solution still eludes me.

At our next stop I must find some sour patch balls. Or Altoids. I’m curious to know if they’re strong enough…

Monday, May 14, 2012

Meet The New NEIGHbors

Perhaps an update is in order.  We bought a new house and moved in a couple weeks ago.  It's a far cry from South Florida and even farther from Howard and the Nazi Homeowners' Association.  We've got a nice big yard at the end of a cul-de-sac, with only one other house and acres of vacant land on either side of us.  And where we had a freeway in our backyard in Florida, in Michigan we back up to a horse farm.

Well, apparently someone left the horse gate open yesterday, because I looked into my backyard and there were the new neighbors, Dazzle and Diesel, munching my grass.  Not what I was expecting but boy it was exciting.  We met there owner too, who also has four other horses, including Secretariat's grandson.  She promised to teach me to ride.  She also showed me how to lead them home in case it ever happens again, which it did today when Dazzle came by for an encore.

Even more exciting, for this blog, is that I seem to have moved into the middle of a neighborhood feud.  This is a great relief after leaving Howard and the hillbillies in Florida.  Seems the horse lady rode a few feet onto the grass of the other house on the cul-de-sac one time and set off a chain reaction of phone calls to the police, registered letters and angry accusations.

Now, both sets of neighbors seem nice to me, but then, I've never lived anywhere without wacky neighbors, so what should I expect?  Hopefully it makes good fodder and keeps me blogging a bit more regularly.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Agent Kristin Nelson In An Elevator

If by sheer happenstance you find yourself in a hotel which happens to be hosting a writers' conference, and if at that conference there happens to be some of the publishing industries biggest names, and if you happen to be a writer who has queried some of these big-named agents, it would behoove you to prepare for the possibility you might happen upon one of those agents.

Preparation means coming up with some sort of pitch for that once-in-a-career making novel you wrote that no agent without brain damage could pass on.  It means being the salesman you don't think you can be when you have to be without which you are nothing more than another writer who wants to be an author but will never be until you nail down that pitch.  It means whipping out that pitch with no notice and dazzling that super-agent so well they see sparkles for weeks.

Sadly, I didn't come up with this advice before needing it.

So, I'm in Chicago on a layover and there is a writers' conference in the hotel.  By gum, I think, I've crashed these things before.  Remember DragonCon?  Why not do it again?

A quick google turned up a list of attendees, including Super-Agent Kristin Nelson.  Wouldn't it be something to run into her, I thought.  Except that my time was limited.  I have to fly later today, so I looked over the workshops to see what would be the best one to sneak into.  Sadly, none fit my schedule, so I headed down to stroll around.

Well who do you suppose ended up in the elevator with me, but Kristin Nelson?  So, not thinking at all, I introduced myself and told her I'd sent her a query about a kid living on a pirate ship.  She very convincingly acted as though she remembered it, to which I quickly called her bluff.

Brilliant move.  Then I reminded her that she rejected it.  Not in a bitter way, just making conversation.  She laughed and told me not to take it personally, which I didn't and don't.

She had to run.  I had to run.  She remembered my name as we parted.  Classy lady.

But boy did I blow it.  Because when I got back to my computer and looked up the query I'd sent, it wasn't to her, but one of her staff.  Nit picky, I know.  Query one agent, query them all.  But it had been a while.  I should have pitched her the story right there.  I'm sure by the eighth floor she'd've been hooked.  Alas!

The point is I was unprepared.  Well I was never a boy scout, but you never know when you'll need those skills.

Anyone else have a similar stupid story?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Long And Short Of Nine Months

My son will be nine months old on Sunday.  The quickest nine months of my life.  Prior to his birth was the longest nine months of my life.  I thought he would never get here.  I had no idea who he would be.  Whether he would be a he.  Or a she.  We called him END Baby, to distinguish him from Our Korean, the baby we had hoped (and still hope) to adopt.  The weekly doctor's appointments.  The fears we would lose him.  The slow realization we wouldn't.  And then came the planning and prepping.  Buying baby stuff.  Decorating a nursery.  Arranging time off from work.  Visits from out of town relatives, eager to meet END Baby.  When all that was done came the waiting.  And the waiting.  And the waiting.

And then...

I was a dad.

Now he can pull himself onto his feet and has teeth.
He says Mama and, quite sparingly, Dada.

That was fast.  Too fast.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lucky 7

Someone out there started a meme.  I saw Erica do it over at Laugh.Write.Play.  I've never done one but what the hell!

Wanna partake?  Go to page 77 of your current manuscript, down to line 7 and post the next 7 lines on your blog.

Here's mine:

Whether or not the so-called Spring Break Senorita is the nun some of these students, some of the boys anyway, have referred to as Sister Very Pretty, the future of this Catholic school, with sagging enrollment, is sure to be a lot more colorful in the coming days.”
The camera lingered on the kids.  As Tony tried to disappear into the crowd, Seymour spied Mike Jeffers.  Tony’s back was to the camera, but it seemed the boys’ eyes locked.  For a moment, but only a moment, Mike wore an expression of fear, hatred and something Seymour did not expect.  Vengeance.  Whoever was responsible, and Mike’s eyes suggested he knew who

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wearing A Strap-On

Every so often I fly around with some goober who thinks he's saving America from terrorists.  Thanks to a giant, collective over-reaction about a decade ago some of these doofuses now carry guns when they fly.  As a result I now have to fear for my life every time I work with one of them.  And I'm not just being Kelly Killjoy either.  A few years ago a John Wayne Wannabe put a hole in the plane when he was fooling around with his gun while at the controls.  That hole could have been in my gut, so I'm less than enthused to have these Silly Sallys strapping one on next to me.

Except most don't actually wear their guns Wyatt Earp-style.  They carry them around in locked cases that I can't even see from my seat, and in some cases I don't even know until day two of the trip when said pilot goes through a different security door from everyone else.  Then I have this conversation:

"Um, weren't you supposed to tell me you had a gun when we started this trip?" I ask.

"Oh, did I forget to mention that?"

And so on.

Well, thank you Mr. Obama.  In an effort to reduce federal spending, there is now a proposal to limit the budget for this ill-conceived program.  Of course the pilot's union is all up in arms (pun intended) and begging our support to keep guns in the cockpit.  They're even soliciting members such as myself to go to Washington to offer testimony.

I'm considering it.  If I could do justice to the image of John Wayne wearing his holster at the controls, which I had the displeasure of seeing not long ago, I could do my part to get rid of these boneheads.

What do you think?  Guns in the cockpit?  Or cocks with guns?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arrgh! I Been Pirated!

Well damn!

You may recall I wrote a book or two about pirates.  It didn't start out that way though.  My original idea was about a band of pirates so bad at what they did as to be laughable.  The only way to convey it, I believed, was as a stop-motion animated movie in the style of Wallace and Gromit or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I was convinced it would be a huge hit, bigger than Finding Nemo, which was a huge hit at the time.  Alas, I realized I was not a Hollywood writer and even if I were, I was savvy enough to realize that whatever I wrote would wind its way through massive re-writes, multiple re-writers and the final project would end up looking nothing like my original idea.

So I made it a book instead.  Which has gone through massive re-writes, although with only one writer, but the final product ended up looking nothing like my original idea.

But somehow, my original idea ended up getting made, although not by me.  Which makes me wonder if I wasn't too loose-lipped somewhere down the line and my idea found its way into the ears of the fine people at Aardman Animation Studios, which is set to release The Pirates: Band of Misfits.

To be fair, from what I can tell, they have done it much like I would have, so I can't be too disappointed.  Heck, I'll even watch it with my son when he's old enough to realize Dad once had a good idea someone else made some money off.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Eric In The Myst

My old critique group in Florida had a great mix of folks who wrote a variety of things and offered fantastic feedback.  We also had a fellow I'll call Eric.  Eric passed himself off as the real author of the group because he'd had a book published.

The problem with Eric was that he attempted to turn every group meeting into Eric Night.  It may have been subtle at first, but still annoying.  Eventually, he actually suggested we only talk about his writing.  Someone finally let him have it and Eric stopped coming to the group.

My new group in Michigan appears to have its own Eric.  Again the "published" author who makes every critique an opportunity to point out what he did in his "published" book.  He's loud.  And boisterous.  And pretty naive.

I got a chance to look at a query he'd written to a local publisher.  It was pretty bad and subsequently rejected.  New Eric took offense to this rejection, pointing out the great market that exists for his subject matter and if this publisher was any kind of salesman they would have been able to sell thousands of copies.

I was not the first in the group to point out the tried and true, "but if they don't love it themselves," line, but New Eric would have none of it.  He was the expert.  He should be winning Pulitzer Prizes.  He will continue spouting off his greatness and the others in the group will continue licking it up.

I sense my days in this new group are numbered.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Whitney Houston Story

At the age of 16, I traveled with the family to visit some relatives in New Jersey.  (Yes, I have relatives in New Jersey.  I don't like to talk about it, but...)  My mom's cousin made himself out to be some big time New York City lawyer, only he worked in Newark and pronounced Joe Piscopo as Pis-COP-o.

But he did live down the street from Whitney Houston.  This was 1989, I think, so she hadn't yet become a train wreck but she did have a birthday party coming up and had sent out posters of herself as invitations.  My cousin had one.  I saw it.  Nothing egocentric about it.

Anyway, my cousin was having a pre-party party but was out of ice.  You'd think a big time Newark lawyer could afford an ice maker but he sent me next door with a bucket.  However, as I headed through the woods, I couldn't help but think of a better place to borrow ice.  So I headed up the road to Whitney's house.

This was a pretty hilly and woodsy neighborhood, with winding streets and stately homes barely visible through the trees.  It was the kind of place people respect privacy and where you would never expect to find gawkers or paparazzi or anything else to make you feel unsafe.  And in the middle of it all was a walled compound with a front gate, beyond which one could make out no evidence of a house on the property.

I rang the buzzer.

"Yeah?" came a burly voice.

"I need to borrow some ice," I said.


"I'd like to borrow some ice.  For Frank's party."  Silence.  "I'm Frank's cousin.  He's having a party and we're out of ice.  Do you have any we can borrow?"

More silence.  Then, "Hang on a minute."

Hope sprang forth.  Could it be?  Was it actually possible that I would be graced with glace a la Houston?  Might I slurp that magical, frozen beverage and be blessed with those same heavenly gifts as Whitney herself?  Why, she was probably bringing it to me herself, in hand blown crystal.  No doubt, she'd be so taken with my cool confidence, she would invite me inside.  We would become best friends and she would dedicate her next album to me.

Instead,  a dark-skinned brother standing 6 foot a hundred and weighing well over 250, bulging out of a too-tight Whitney T-shirt came waddling up to the gate.

"What you want again?" he asked.


He nodded and trudged back toward the house.  A few minutes later the buzzer buzzed.

"We don't have any," he said.

And that was that.  Whitney Houston did not always love me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Critiquer's Responsibility

In my last post, I mentioned the new critique group I joined.  While everyone was very nice and it was good to meet new people, I didn't get a sense of anyone's writing, because nobody read anything.  That, in itself, makes it hard to judge whether this group will be a good fit.  It does get me out of the house at least once a month and with my second meeting coming up, I'm left wondering what my responsibility to this new group of writers is.

I've been added to their emails and over the past couple of weeks gotten some things that really left me wondering what I should do.

The first was a query letter one of them was sending to a local publisher.  This particular guy seems to be the "published author" of the group.  I did some research.  It smacks of self-publishing, which don't quite cut it with me.  The query he wrote was pretty off too.  I realize I'm no expert, but I have gotten requests for partials and fulls, which is kind of the point of the query, I think.  Still, I'm the new guy in the group and, having met these people only once, I don't want to go in there tearing up everything they do.  At least not until they get to know me better.

The second thing I got was two chapters of what the writer describes as her first attempt to write a book.  It needs work.  Lots of it.  But with this, I can help.  The fact that it is a very rough first draft might allow me a bit more freedom with my critique and I don't see any reason not to dive in and help to the best of my ability.

I believe a good critique must contain an honest breakdown of the piece in question.  I don't want to sound harsh, but I want the writer to improve where needed.  I was once told that a good critique will have bad stuff sandwiched by praise.  In other words, "You did this well.  You can improve here.  I really like this."

But this group has been together 7 years and I'm still not sure how they operate.  So I ask, what is my responsibility as a critiquer in a new group?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The New Guy

I found a new writer's group up here in Michigan.  Hopefully it will be a good match.  I really miss my writing friends in Florida and I've gotten such good feedback over the years anyone is going to to have a hard time measuring up.

Having said that, my observations of the new group give me some hope.  For one thing the average age of the writers seems to be well under 60.  Not that there's anything wrong with being older, but I sometimes felt like my writing output couldn't always measure up to my mostly retired peers.

The other, and more exciting, thing about my new group is that there isn't a memoir writer among them.  As a writer of fiction, I've long wished to be surrounded by more of the same for quality feedback.  Time will tell if this was a wish worth wishing.

There were, of course, some other differences I'm not so sure about.  My old group spent its time critiquing.  Whoever wanted to, read about five pages and then we'd go around the room with our thoughts.  It seems this new group devotes an entire meeting to one person's writing.  From what I gather, they have a month (since they only meet monthly) to read several chapters or more and the entire meeting focuses on that one piece.  I don't see that helping me too often when I'm used to immediate feedback on a weekly basis.

Time will tell.  They didn't even do that this week.  Instead they chatted for about half an hour, then spent 15 minutes on introductions.  This must have been for my benefit, since I was the only new guy there.  Then there was a short writing exercise.  Not my thing really, but they did seem rather impressed with what I whipped up in 5 minutes.

So the future looks bright, although I may date around some.  Still, I made an effort to learn all their names, which is more than I can say for the one guy I sit next to for four days in a tiny cockpit.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Howard The Spelling King

Happy New Year!  And happy belated birthday (yesterday) to me.  Now on to important things.

Why is it so damn hard to spell and use proper grammar?  I work in an industry comprised of supposedly highly educated individuals.  I suppose if you didn't know who was sitting up there you might think so.  Therefore, it would behoove you to recall the tale of this grammatically challenged airline pilot who wrote a letter regarding some...oh, who cares what it was about?  The point is he posted it online, and I swiped it and then put it on this blog for laughs.

Come to think of it, that guy is still King.  But my former next door neighbor Howard may be next in line.  This is just a small snippet, but I fully expect further written communication (and really, that's all we have left) to reveal deeper ignorance.

First a little back story:  A few years ago, Howard insinuated himself onto the association board in part because of his fervent crusade against motorized scooters and the hooligans terrorizing the neighborhood on them.  Last week was Christmas, and Howard put a video of nine-year-old Sammy cruising the streets on her brand new motorized scooter. 

When Mama Sarcasm called him out, this was Howard's response, with the fun parts highlighted:

Gas Power Scoters were Banned, they are also illeagle to use in Broward County. Electric Ones that do not excede 10 MPH are leagle  How is Michican?

Anyone else wonder why I'm not sending my kids to school in Florida?