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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, October 31

Happy Halloween

Tonight is my most dreaded night of the year. I know, I know, it's just Halloween, one of the favorite nights of the year for most of the kids in this country. But not for me. And even when I was a kid, my memories of this night didn't involve going from door to door begging for candy. And we didn't go to any expense for costumes. I can't remember if I ever went out in costume. I do remember one Halloween night when I went to a party and bobbed for apples. That's it, my only childhood memory of any Halloween.

After we got married and had a family, either Rosalie or I accompanied our children out to make the rounds of nearby houses. I'm pretty sure it was Rosalie most of the time, if not all the time. And I was assigned to stay at home and answer the door to hand out the goodies. It always struck me as an orgy of sugar greed. A Halloween Scrooge, that was me. But what I most dreaded was what could happen to my house. I had seen the kind of innocent and not so innocent mischief some kids loved to indulge in, especially the ones from our little outlying farm community of Busti, New York. The first few years after we moved to Upstate New York, I would see the messes in the middle of Busti, toilet paper all over, hanging from overhead electric and phone lines, wound around parked cars, an upended outdoor toilet on the central green. And tales of houses egged. Oh, yes, the threat of egging. No more the simple soaped windows as the trick. These little buggers were much more expert tricksters. And they were the ones I always feared. "Let's get Mr. T's house," I always envisioned some of them saying, chuckling together as they said it. And it never happened any of the years I taught high school English in Lakewood, New York. Not once.

But even now, years later, living in a childless community, where no one ever knocks on the door looking for candy, I still hate to see this evening's approach. I hate all the hype on tv about costuming and decorating houses and warnings about nastiness hidden in the candy. "Bah! Humbug!" I say.


Why was Gertie the witch unable to get pregnant? Because her husband Igor had a hollow weenie.

Thursday, October 29

Cat Tale

     Thanks to Jo Hall, columnist for the Mobridge Tribune, for her tale about a sick cat. It’s just too good not to pass on:
     An elderly lady called the vet to advise him she had a sick cat. “His eyes are dull and he’s listless, just mopes and sulks all day and he won’t eat,” she said.
     “I see,” said the vet. “You’d better give it a cup of castor oil and I’ll be out about three this afternoon to have a look at it. You may have trouble giving that castor oil. With your left hand, force its mouth open and pour the castor oil with your right.”
     The old lady had quite a struggle with the cat but her efforts were highly successful.
     At three that afternoon the vet knocked on the door and asked, “How’s that sick calf of yours?”
     “Calf? Why, I have no calf. I called about my sick cat.”
     “Cat? Did you give it that cup of castor oil? We’ve got to do something about this mighty quick or you’re going to lose a good cat! Where is the animal now?”
     “I don’t know,” she responded. “Last time I saw him he was taking out across the cornfield with nine other cats.”
     “What in the world was he doing with nine other cats?” asked the vet.
     “I don’t know for sure,” she said, “but I think he has formed an organization. He had three of them digging holes, three of them covering up, and the other three were out looking for new locations.”



     Our weather took a dive last night, falling to 41 degrees when I got up, with a probable high today of only the low sixties. Brrr! This isn't the Valley of the Sun I know and love. I complain while people living in northern climes would kill to have a high in the sixties. I guess I've become a weather wimp in my old age.

Wednesday, October 28

This Is It

We just saw the Michael Jackson film This Is It, gleaned from the nearly 100 hours shot during rehearsals for his London tour. We arrived forty-five minutes ahead of show time, thinking that it would be a near sellout, but we shared the theatre with only about two dozen people. What might have been another teary-eyed replication of the overlong television coverage following his death was instead a moving tribute to what might have been. Michael showed every one of his fifty years, was obviously way underweight, wasn’t quite up to his non-stop dancing and singing from previous years and previous tours, but he still showed enough of the old magic to make this film a must-see for anyone with even half an ear for his music and his influence on a whole generation of singers and dancers. I never realized until I saw this film just how much of a perfectionist he was, how much he was in command of every choreographed move by him and his backup dancers, how every note had to be timed exactly as he heard it. I was never before much of a Michael Jackson fan, probably because of his eccentric lifestyle. But I’m now a fan of the singer/dancer/performer I saw on This Is It.

Tuesday, October 27

Dance Is Back.

So You Think You Can Dance is finally down to the final twenty dancers and last night they put on a special that highlighted the twenty’s particular dance skills without the competition. Wow, this twenty look way better than past years’ crops. Neither I nor the judges can figure out how anyone will get dropped. I’m guessing the tappers may be the first to go. As Nigel said, the tappers will have to conform to other dance styles rather than their partners trying to do tap. They have three tappers, three ballrooms, three hip-hoppers (one of whom is a crumper), four jazz contemporaries, and the rest sort of combinations of other dance styles, mostly just contemporaries or traditional with lots of background training. This opening show also showed us how their new stage would operate: lots of different lighting effects. The twenty did an opening number that was sensational. I kept thinking what a great place to showcase talents that would otherwise never be seen by anyone but the few who actually attend Broadway shows. And they’re all so attractive. Aren’t there any ugly or even average-looking young dancers? The rest of the show broke the twenty up into their specialties and let them do their things. Now I can hardly wait for the two-hour show where they compete with partners. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Cat Deeley looked long-leggedly gorgeous in a tiny sparkly black dress that came down to mid-thigh? Not that I really notice such things.


Here she is, not in the black outfit, but this one's about the same size. 

And another, just to show the dress, not the legs (because I never really notice such things).

Sunday, October 25

Work Golf

I used to go to the course to play golf. Now, I go there to work golf. I haven’t played for a long time, and the work I now do sometimes borders on the laborious. Five years ago, whenever I heard those folks older than me complain about all the yardage they’d lost over the years, I’d scoff and think, “I’ll never let that happen to me. I’m in good shape and just as strong as I ever was. Yeah, that’ll never happen to me.” Wow! Was I ever wrong.

I can still hit my drives and fairway metals pretty well, although not even close to where I used to hit them (just five years ago). And I’ve noticed a twenty-yard drop off in each and every iron. I used to hit an 8-iron 150 yards. Now I’m lucky if I can hit a 6-iron that far. It’s hard for my heart to listen to my head when I select a club. My heart keeps saying, “C’mon, you can hit it that far. You just have to try harder.” Yeah. And the harder I try, the shorter it goes. Another odd thing about my irons: I can hit a 6-iron straighter (though shorter than I want) than I can hit a wedge. The shorter the distance to the pin, the more off-line I hit it. Odd and really distressing. But it’s more than lost yardage or irons off line. I once was considered a good chipper and putter. Now, whenever I’m faced with a pitch or chip, it feels like I’m holding a snake, a wedge rattler or cottonmouth. And the more I think about all the chunked and bladed chips, the more likely one or the other is bound to happen. I think chunks are worse than blades. At least a bladed chip goes forward, but a chunked chip can sometimes go only a foot. Really embarrassing.

Then there’s putting. The hole has shrunk to about half the size it used to be. And there are some days when it’s as small as a silver dollar, or maybe even a fifty-cent piece. I’m now a man who is, no matter how long the putt, trying to two-putt, to avoid the dreaded three- or four-putt. I can’t seem to keep my eyes on the ball until it’s well on its way. I just have to see how bad I’ve missed it. Way too often it comes up way short and I hear one of my playing companions say, “You didn’t hit it,” and I want to say back, “God, I know I didn’t hit it! Do I look stupid?” But I never say it for fear he’ll come back, “Yes, you do look stupid.” Then the next time, my hands will simply explode into the ball and I hit it disastrously long. When that happens, usually there’s just stunned silence from those watching.

My friends all say I only have to give it some time and I’ll get over this slump. But I’m pretty sure it’s not a slump. It’s a view of the future. When the work gets too painful, I’ll give up this idiotic, frustrating, damnable game. Oh yeah, I’ll probably be dead before that happens.

Saturday, October 24

Homer

I'm just finishing a book called Homer's Odyssey about a tiny blind, black cat. Blind, you say? Right after birth and abandonment,his eyes became so infected the vet to whom the kitten was taken had to surgically remove them, then stitch his lids shut. And how does one find anyone willing to take a tiny blind kitten? Gwen Cooper, the author, saw him and was so soft-hearted she took him. And Homer, named for the blind Greek poet, turned out to be almost totally unaffected by his blindness. You'd have to be a cat lover to fully appreciate this story, the strange and wonderful things Homer does despite his blindness. We have two cats now, after a long series of cats during our lifetimes, and although neither of them is as brave or sensitive as Homer, we think they're pretty special.


Here's Dusty, looking guilty about my finding him sleeping on some towels on our washer. Well, not really guilty, since he can pretty much do whatever he wants.


Squeakie, whenever she sees an open suitcase, assumes she's going to be able to go along with us, even though she'd really hate a plane ride in a suitcase.

Thursday, October 22

Writer's Block

I’ve hit a wall. I just can’t think of anything I want to write about. I’m into my next novel, Happy Valley, about thirty pages deep, but I can’t seem to bring myself to get back at it. I'm also out of pet peeves or observations to write about for my Blogspot. Writer’s block or cramp or something preventing me from putting words on paper. I wander around the house, looking for something to do other than reading another novel. No sports on the tube, nothing in the afternoon I care to watch. I might begin the task of putting my books in order, especially the ones out in the garage, but that doesn’t sound very appealing. I could begin my project of going to all the elementary schools in the area and showing them Life in the Arbor, pitching it at them in hopes they may want to use it in their fifth grades. But that would just open the door to more disappointment about selling any of my books. Man, I’ve had a lifetime of disappointment about that endeavor. I guess I’ll take a shower and get a haircut.



Wednesday, October 21

I found in our Arizona Republic paper this morning an ad for Walmart’s food section, Supermercado de Walmart. Supermercado de Walmart. Just that, not even an English translation. Supermarket of Walmart. And it angered me again, just as it does whenever I go to vote and the ballots are in both English and Spanish, or when I see almost all official forms from the state in both languages. I even noticed not long ago a large sign outside one of our elementary schools in the area, one side announcing upcoming activities in English, the other side announcing them in Spanish. Granted, Arizona has a large Hispanic population, some second or third generation, many first generation, both legal and illegal. Since English is our official language, why must we cater to those who have come to live here (both legally and illegally) by allowing them not to have to learn our language? I can’t see Mexico doing the same for English-speaking transplants to their country. It was never done for those millions of people who emigrated to this country in the past. If people wish to live in this country, they should be expected to learn English and to speak it and to write it and to understand it, not the other way around.

Tuesday, October 20

For the first time in seven seasons, I watched Two-and-a-Half Men last night and couldn’t muster so much as a smile, let alone a laugh or two. It was more embarrassingly awkward than funny, with Alan and Charlie engaged in rapid-fire insults throughout. Even Jake finally called it quits and told them he didn’t want to see either of them anymore. “Tain’t funny, McGee.” And in this episode, we saw nothing or too little of the others that made this show so good—no Rose, no Evelyn, no Dr. Herb, one 20-second scene with Berta, one short acerbic scene with Judith. I realize that most sitcoms run out of gas after seven or eight seasons, but this one came to a jarring halt. It might be that when shows starring a child see that child grow up and out of what was originally cute and funny, the show dies. The jokes about Jake’s stupidity and eating habits are now more cruel than funny. And Two-and-a-Half, like too many other sitcoms these days, is now too much into masturbation, urination, defecation, passing gas, and rampant sex with everyone and anyone (and, I guess, I should include “anything”). “No longer funny, McGee.”

Sunday, October 18

Sunday again and I'm suffering through another Cardinals game. They're still leading, but who knows what the second half might hold. Well, they just scored again and now lead 24-3. That should be enough with only one more quarter to play. Oh, man, I just put a jinx on them. They lose now and it'll be my fault.

Nothing new to write about. Still no sign of sparrows.

Tuesday, October 13

Television Observations:

On last Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” a small band of thrill seekers were seen jumping off cliffs, wearing what they called “wing suits.” These suits were designed to make the divers look like flying squirrels, with nylon material stretched from wrists to waist and between the legs from waist to ankles, allowing them to achieve lateral speeds up to 140 mph, the thrill being to see how close they could come to the cliff sides as they sped by. It was that lateral speed and the proximity to the cliffs that created the thrills. Oh, yeah, a vomitous (I know, I know, there is no such word, but you get what I mean.) thrill, I would think. Sort of like sky diving without the cliffs, and, like sky diving, concluding by opening a parachute to bring the diver to a safe and quiet landing. In their search for ever more dangerous thrills, I can see this band of merry men working on a landing without the parachutes, sort of braking their landing speed by a series of up movements before touching down. Wow! I’ll leave such things to younger, stronger, more daring folks than I.

Two weeks ago on “60 Minutes” Leslie Stahl did a piece on the dumping of coal ash by the power companies, revealing several disturbing facts. One hundred and thirty million tons of coal ash a year require disposal. What does one do with that much stuff that might or might not be a health issue for the folks near the dump sites? EPA studies indicate that the stuff is toxic. The power people assured Leslie that it was no more dangerous than dirt. The disposal opponents said that coal ash contains a variety of bad stuff, like arsenic, lead, boron, selenium, cadmium, thallium, asbestos, and mercury. Leslie visited a golf course that had been built using 1.5 million tons of coal ash, the builders vowing they’d followed instructions to build a barrier beneath the fill and another eighteen inches from the top. These barriers were to prevent any bad stuff from leaching into the ground water. But the lawyer representing folks living near the golf course showed Leslie that the ground immediately under the grass was gray, powdery coal ash. Some of it is used in carpeting and construction materials, even in the production of bowling balls. But most is dumped in unlined waste ponds. A dike protecting one such pond broke in Alabama last year, sending over a billion gallons of gray coal ash sludge to cover some 300 acres of countryside and homes below the pond. How would you like to clean up a mess like that? Another disturbing fact: that 60% of all our electricity in this nation is produced by coal. Sixty percent. That strikes me as needlessly careless. We’ve had decades to develop clean, safe ways to produce electricity: nuclear power, water power, solar power, wind power. Granted, nuclear power was always suspicious because of the potential for radiation leaks. But we could produce all the electricity we need with solar and wind power. In most of the mid-western states, the wind blows almost constantly. The sun shines most of the days in the southwestern states. Why have we been dragging our feet? Probably for the same reasons we still don’t have automobiles that get 100 miles to the gallon.

Monday, October 12

Well, the Cardinals finally won a game, but . . . they didn’t look so good in doing it. What should have been a runaway against the Houston Texans was very nearly a loss. Except for a last minute goal line stand, they would have lost it, after leading 21-0 at the end of the first half. It should be interesting to see how they respond against the Seahawks, who won big-time over the Jaguars. They absolutely must win next week in Seattle.

The U.S. team had an easy victory over the Internationals, especially Tiger, who sort of demolished his PGA competitor Y. E. Yang. I think Tiger had revenge in mind when they teed off, and after a bad chip on the first hole, losing to Y. E., he turned it on and won 6-5 for his fifth point of the event. Now that the Presidents Cup is over, what will I do for a golf fix? I guess, wait for it all to begin again in January. But I still have the NBA and NFL, two painful prospects for the Cardinals and Suns.

I’m just finishing the latest Alex Delaware by Jonathan Kellerman and I can’t wait to finish it. I’ve been a Kellerman fan for over twenty years, but I’m about ready to quit him. Just too much dialogue and too little action. Alex and Milo talk and talk and talk as they stumble around looking for the bad guy. I don’t remember it being that way in the past. Or maybe I my memory is slipping. It could be that I’m rapidly approaching that place where I could happily have only a ten-novel library, reading them over and over, never remembering much two or three novels in the past, each one a new literary experience..

Saturday, October 10

When I was growing up in South Dakota, we had country birds like blackbirds (regular and red-headed), crows, pheasants (lots of pheasants), meadowlarks, kingfishers, gold finch, and sandpipers. And I’m sure there were various hawks and owls, but we didn’t see much of them, or maybe I was just too young to notice. And in town there were a few redheaded woodpeckers, too many cooing and pooping mourning doves, some feisty blue jays, at least one house wren that lived in a tiny birdhouse outside my bedroom window, and robins all over the place doing their cockeyed worm search on our lawns. But by far the most numerous of the town birds were the house or English sparrows. Tiny gray birds whose tiny chirps were so omnipresent we overlooked them (underheard them?).


House sparrows were imported in the mid-nineteenth century in an attempt to rid us of inch worms that did monstrous damage to shade trees. After several failed importations of the bird, several final importations all over the U.S. and Canada were successful, to the ultimate dismay of most people ever since. The tiny birds bred like rabbits, ate seeds and buds and not insects, spread chicken lice and mites and livestock diseases, pooped everywhere. They earned the nickname “winged rat” by their detesters. I’ve always thought they were cute and friendly. We have some here that hang out at the golf courses and will come within a foot or so of golfers sitting on the patio, snatching up bits of dropped popcorn.

I just read an article about the sparrow, reporting that the birds are disappearing all over the country. And no one seems to know why. It reminded me of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring from the early Sixties. Her book wasn’t really so much about the death of all species of birds, but a protest against our use of DDT. Our use of insecticides has made our lives better and safer, but the reduction of insects may have had some affect on the numbers of our insect-eating bird species. But probably not much, and none on the sparrow, which is not an insect-eater. Since reading the article, I’ve made it a point to look for sparrows around our town. Almost none. Still a few on golf course patios, still the occasional one flying overhead at CostCo. But no flocks, no ubiquitous chirping. I invite any readers, wherever you live, to scout around for sparrow sightings. I hope this tiny bird doesn’t disappear entirely from our midst. I would miss the little winged rats.

Tuesday, October 6

The only things worth reporting on lately: 1. we paid off our mortgage last Saturday 2. we're in the process of having both bathrooms tiled. Doesn't sound like much, but to get the the mortgage monkey off our backs is wonderful. The folks at the bank weren't nearly as happy about it as we were. The last thing they want to see in this economic crunch is a paid-off loan. We also wanted to make the last improvements on the house, which included tearing out the old and awful carpeting in the two bathrooms. Only one last thing that Rosalie wants to do: put in new carpeting in both bedrooms. That will happen in a month or two.

Sports news. Diamondbacks baseball is over. Whoopie! The Cardinals didn't lose last weekend. Why? Because they had an off week and didn't play. NBA basketball is just around the corner. I don't yet know if that merits a "Whoopie!" or a "Who cares?" The Suns could be very good this year or they could go the way of the Diamondbacks and make me and other fans moan in despair. With their run-and-gun style they should be fun to watch even when they lose. And, finally, the President's Cup begins Thursday. That's always a good watch, maybe not quite as exciting as the Ryder Cup, but a close second. And I'll get to see Tiger on the tube.

Saturday, October 3

I just dashed off and sent a letter in response to a column by Selena Roberts called "Tiger, Tiger, Burning Out" in the October 5 issue of Sports Illustrated. Let me know if you disagree or agree with me.

Dear Selena Roberts,

You don’t seem to know Jack about professional golf or golfers, especially Tiger. You called his six wins this year “whistle stops?” Let’s see what those whistles were: the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, The Memorial, the AT & T National, the Buick Open, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, the BMW Championship. All of them against fields with most of the top forty golfers in the world. The U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee is a whistle stop, the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro is a whistle stop, the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open is a whistle stop. Tiger doesn’t play in them; Vijay Singh, the meat hunter, does.

Tiger is thirty-three, the age when most good golfers are only then beginning their strongest years. You said that Tiger is no longer “menacing.” Ask any of his fellow competitors, and they’ll all agree, he’s still menacing. You said he has “fragile knees.” You make him sound like he’s made of glass. He could probably crack walnuts between those fragile knees.

I’m predicting that by age forty, Tiger will have won three more green jackets, three more Opens, two more U.S. Opens, and two more PGA’s. And that’s a conservative estimate. If he decides to play beyond forty, he could wind up with a total of thirty majors. I hope I live long enough to see that happen. I hope I live long enough to hear you eat your words.

Thursday, October 1

I've been busy trying to finalize a family tree of Rosalie's mother's family, and I keep coming up with such odd Scandavian names. For example, her great grand parents were Ingeborg and Olof Olsdotter. And Olof as a name keeps reappearing as a female, whereas Olov is male. And then two generations later there's an Olof Edvin, who is obviously a male. Odd. Lots of Gustav's and Gustaf's and Erick's and Kristina's. It's interesting to catalog all these names, and to try to jar memories of those still living to recall all the relationships and dates and oddities of those folks in the past. These details can be interesting only to those of us still here, and it's necessary to get as many facts straight aa are still possible. I mean, if you don't know who you were, how could you possibly know who you are?

I just got in the mail the new Barbra Streisand cd, Love is the Answer. This is the one produced by Diana Krall. What a union of thirteen gorgeous songs sung by the best female ever, backed by one of the sexiest voices ever to sing a note, Diana Krall. "Here's to Life" is a track I first heard by Shirley Horn, and Barbra pays tribute to the late great Ms. Horn. Then there's the Alan and Marilyn Bergman "Where Do You Start?", music by Johnny Mandel, just about the saddest song about love's breakup ever written. I recommend anyone who loves great vocal music to get this album. Barbra may be getting old, but she's like fine wine, the older, the better.

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