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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 in 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, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Sunday, November 29

Our Arbor Vitae

A strange day. I'm here at my computer desk (where else?) waiting for the Cardinals/Titans game to come on. I just watched the Suns whomp the Raptors to go to 14-3, and now the Colts are coming back to beat the Texans. I look out my window at the back yard. The sun is shining but the air is chilly, and the arbor vitae are dancing back and forth in a cold breeze, like bears waltzing. Since we had our arbor vitae trimmed up almost five feet from the ground, most of our critters no longer hang out in our yard. The doves and quail still use them for roosting, but the rabbits and lizards have abandoned us for more favorable haunts in nearby oleander bushes. Even the quail that used to parade through our yard during the day no longer come around. They and the doves still flutter into the upper branches at dusk, settling into the thick branches for the night. "Good night, Mary Ellen." "Good night, John Boy," we hear them cooing. And then the dark flows in and they go silent. Our arbor vitae, eight of them along our back property line, were about twelve feet high when we moved in, hiding us from all but the roofs of the houses behind us. They were one of the main reasons I fell in love with this house when we moved to Sun City West. Now they're twice that high and I love them twice as much.

Good, the Cardinals game is on. Bad, Kurt Warner won't be starting at qb and poor Matt Leinart gets the dubious honor.

Saturday, November 28

Happy Birthday

It’s a cool, gloomy day in Sun City West, looking like it might rain, but this is the Valley of the Sun and we just don’t get much rain here. I like to think of the rare occasions when we get about twenty drops on our back patio roof as Arizona thunder storms. So, it’s a cool, gloomy day in Sun City West. And it’s my birthday. I won’t say how many years this makes, but it’s a bunch. I went to work this morning and could hardly wait to get out of there. Not that it was busy, just that I didn’t want to be there for any length of time. Not that I had anything important to do.

I’m working my way through a novel, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, and don’t quite know what to make of it. I think it must be great, at least the style. The jury is still out about the plot. The narrator, an ex-resident of Windy Gap, Missouri, has reluctantly returned to her home town to cover a story for her Chicago paper, a story about the killing of two young girls, both found at separate times, strangled, all their teeth removed. The narrator is revealed slowly. She’s in her early thirties, beautiful but very flawed from her strange relationship with Adora, her mother. Camille, the narrator, is a cutter and a borderline alcoholic. In her late teens, after the tragic death of a younger sister, she becomes obsessed with cutting strange words into her flesh. Not into her face or hands or feet, just everywhere else, hiding the scarring with high-necked blouses and full skirts and jeans. It’s a classic example of Southern Gothic, with all the typical gothic characters. Stephen King has this to say about it: “To say this is a terrific debut novel is really too mild. I haven’t read such a relentlessly creepy family saga since John Farris’s All Heads Turn as the Hunt Goes By, and that was thirty years ago, give or take. Sharp Objects isn’t one of those scare-and-retreat books; its effect is cumulative. I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them. Then, after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave. An admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights.” I read an article about the author in which she said she never met a simile she didn’t like. And she can cut a simile with the best of them: “When we got home, she’d (Adora) trail off to her room like an unfinished sentence.” “I have one memory that catches in me like a nasty clump of blood.” “I drank more vodka. There was nothing I wanted to do more than be unconscious again, wrapped in black, gone away. I was raw. I felt swollen with potential tears, like a water balloon filled to burst. Begging for a pin prick. Wind Gap was unhealthy for me. This home was unhealthy for me.” I can’t wait to get to those last thirty grim pages.

I got this card from sister-in-law Kaye. She said she couldn't find the source of this quote, so I looked it up on-line. Lots of references but no one claiming authorship. But it's too cute to pass up.


And while I'm in a comic mood, here's a couple of literary one-liners: "A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion." "A backward poet writes inverse."

Monday, November 23

Law Shows on the Tube

Over the years I’ve watched a bunch of lawyer shows, way back to The Defenders in the Sixties, with E. G. Marshall and Robert Reed, a very good show as I remember it. And after that, L. A. Law with Corbin Bernsen, Susan Dey, Jill Eikenberry, Jimmy Smits, and Blair Underwood. Another good show that put the law and lawyers in a good light. Not that all lawyers aren’t good and honest people, just that so many of them aren’t, acquiring the public image of sleaze balls who’d do about anything to earn a buck, ambulance chasers looking for liability claims.


 

The Non Sequiter is painfully funny, painful because it summarizes the opinion many people have of lawyers. The Practice tried to change that view., with Dylan McDermott, Lara Flynn Boyle , and Camryn Manheim heading a law firm that defended down-and-outers. Last season, TNT brought us Raising the Bar, with a cast of lawyers working for the prosecution and others as public defenders. Great acting from a group no one would recognize from previous appearances, great scripts, moving conflicts between the prosecutors and the defenders. And this season, Julianna Marguiles stars in The Good Wife, with Chris Noth as the bad philandering husband, an Illinois state’s attorney convicted of using state funds for his philandering with a hooker. This show is one of this season’s best, mainly for Marguiles’ role as the betrayed wife who goes back to her earlier career as a lawyer. Her investigator, played by Archie Panjabi, is a wonderful addition to the cast. She’s tough, cynical, and capable. The two of them unite in winning decisions for their clients, most of whom can’t afford a capable lawyer and would get lost in the legal system without the help of Marguiles and Panjabi. This is a show well worth watching.

Friday, November 20

Frank Sinatra

I’ve been a Sinatra fan for almost sixty years, first finding him shortly after he won an Academy Award for his supporting role in From Here to Eternity in the early Fifties. He had been the darling of the bobbysoxers in the Forties, but I never much cared for that part of his career. But I bought all the albums he put out from about 1954 to 1964, after which we could hardly afford to buy extras like albums. That is until I finally retired and we moved to Arizona, after which I could hardly contain myself, buying everything I could find that Old Blue Eyes put out. The total is mind-boggling. I thought at one time I had nearly all of them. Not even close. I now have 63 albums, eight of which are multiple disc albums, one of which is a 20-disc compilation of all the songs he recorded for his company, Reprise Records. I think I may have about three-quarters of all the albums he’s done, many of which are no longer available. I own very few of the pre-Capitol records, mainly because I don’t think his voice was very good in those early days. It was just too thin and reedy, sort of the way he was built back then. In the Fifties (the Capitol era) his voice took on that depth of maturity—vocal abuse, cigarettes, and booze—that gave him that distinctive Sinatra style. Of course, he always had a unique talent for vocal timing. But it’s the voice I find so interesting. Then in the Sixties and Seventies when he was really aging and getting fat and still abusing his voice, the quality gets even richer. Even into the Eighties he was still the King as far as I’m concerned. His audience diminished because he wasn’t able to win over many of the younger generations, and the public appearances went down and the recording slowed down. Then in the Nineties, lo and behold, he comes out with Duets I and Duets II, and they sold like hotcakes. Too bad, because they’re more curiosity pieces than quality productions, curiosity over the aging Sinatra and a voice that now sounded very much like a seventy-five-year-old man, one who’d spent the majority of his life smoking and boozing and living dissolutely. Some of the old numbers he tries to do on the two Duets are downright embarrassing. But when he’s good, like on the vast majority of songs he’s done in a lifetime, he’s so good it makes me want to cry for the loss of Frank’s life and talent.

Wednesday, November 18

Get Even Songs

I've been thinking about that old chestnut of popular music, unrequited love. More than half of all songs must be devoted to this category. But there's a sub-category given over to the idea of "getting even." The first that comes to mind is that sixty-year-old standard by Gloria DeHaven (Remember her? Remember that sexy little beauty mark she had on the right side of her upper lip?) called "Who's Sorry Now?"

"Who's sorry now?/Who's sorry now?/Whose heart is aching for breaking each vow?/Who's sad and blue?/Who's crying too,/Just like I cried over you?/Right to the end/Just like a friend,/I tried to warn you somehow./You had your way./Now you must pay./I'm glad that you're sorry now."

Another one is the oldy but goody, "Goody, Goody."

"So you met someone who set you back on your heels./Goody, goody./So you met someone and now you know how it feels./Goody, goody./So you gave him your heart too,/Just as I gave mine to you./And he broke it in little pieces./Now, how do you do?/So you lie awake just singing the blues all night./Goody, goody./So you think that love's a barrel of dynamite./Hooray and hallelujah,/You had it comin' to ya./Goody, goody for him./Goody, goody for you./I hope you're satisfied, you rascal you."

But the bitterest of the bitter, the epitome of this sub-category, has to be Tony Bennett's "I Wanna Be Around."

"I wanna be around/To pick up the pieces/When somebody breaks your heart,/Some somebody twice as smart as I./A somebody who/Will swear to be true/As you used to do with me./Who'll leave you to learn that mis'ry loves company,/Wait and see./I wanna be around/To see how he does it/When he breaks your heart to bits./Let's see if the puzzle fits/So fine./And that's when I'll discover/That revenge is sweet/As I sit here applauding/From a front-row seat/When somebody breaks your heart/Like you broke mine."

Ah the pain of sweet revenge. If anyone can think of others like this, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 17

Good and Bad Writing

Vocabulary exercise: Misogyny almost always obviates progeny.

I know good writing when I see it, but I don't always want to read it. You have to work so hard at it, and I've gotten too lazy in my old age. Faulkner could just drive me crazy he was so hard to read, yet I could see it was great stuff. Hemingway was easier but still no walk in th park. I recognized how carefully Hemingway chose his words, little words, to be sure, but still within sentences built like a Frostian stone wall, each stone handled and pondered over until just the right shape was found to fit just the right hole. Faulkner's sentences were like strings of Christmas lights taken from storage before treeing, all tangled and with some bulbs burned out or missing, two or three strings plugged together in a frustrating maze. Who needs to work that hard at reading? Every now and then, I do, but not often. I hate careless writing, stuff that comes too easily, to the writer as well as the reader. Some writers become so satisfied with commercial success, they give up the labor. I can spot it in a minute. James Patterson wrote very well in his first three or four years, then he discovered the joy of commercial success and built himself a prose machine, cranking out book after book, sometimes as many as four a year, many of the recent ones written with a variety of other writers. And it's all like bland pudding with little nutritional value or taste. To mix my metaphor, it's like Milk Dud prose--soft and sticky and finger-messy, and it gives me a belly ache after just one box.

Sunday, November 15

Stray Thoughts

I think I now know why I drank so much in my youth, especially at social events: I was always so uncomfortable with small talk that I had to keep my hands occupied . . . and it was nearly always with more and more drinks. It might have been easy for a naive young South Dakota lad to become an alcoholic, but I don't think it was ever in my makeup. I didn't want to give it that much time. Booze is a full-time occupation.

* * * * * *

I love a good joke but I think I may have had my fill of them now. Every day I have a menu full of e-mails from well-intentioned people who believe I need the latest ream of jokes they received somewhere on-line. I don't. Please, if you're one of the senders, stop sending. Thanks, but no longer thanks. It might be different if a friend or acquaintance spotted a joke they thought was so good and so perfect for my personality they just had to send it on. But not twenty or thirty jokes sent not only to me but to several hundred other people they're just sure will really enjoy them. That's a little like getting a Christmas present that required no thought or personal attention. Sort of a universal gift. No thanks.

* * * * * *

The nature of hate is that it does absolutely no one any good. The object of one's hatred isn't any worse off for it, but the hater often finds his own soul poisoned, life gray and grainy, nights sleepless, tension in the belly that just won't go away, a whirling in the brain as he gets so caught up in the hate he forgets about all the good things in life.

* * * * * *

Proper response to the babbling female: "You should give that nasty cut under your nose a chance to heal."

* * * * * *

Description of a bore: It's hard to find many men of his caliber--about a .22 small bore, firing shorts instead of longs, or maybe even dum-dums.

Night Thoughts

The English language is a slippery beast. Non-native speakers (and even quite a few native speakers) have a terrible time deciphering some of our words and their slippery meanings. For example, the old linguistic conundrum “Time flies” shows us how many of our words can be used in different function classes, from noun to verb and back again. To explain further, “time” can be either a noun or a verb. In the first case, the phrase, using “time” as a noun, means that time (or life) flies (goes quickly). In the second case, “time” is a verb in the imperative voice, commanding the listener to time (or measure out in seconds or minutes) how fast “flies” (the pesky little winged creatures) travel.

Another example is one I thought of in the depths of night, one of those half-waking, half-sleeping moments when the mind takes on a remarkable clarity that is almost always lost with morning’s light, like the dreams we have that we try to hold onto after waking but that almost always slip away before we can write them down or even tell them to someone. Here it is: “I lie on my bed sheets” and “I lie on my tax sheets.” The meanings of the two have a way of slipping around, like trying to run in glass shoes on a frozen lake, or writing with quicksilver on wax paper. My night thoughts were more complete than this, but whatever else I thought of is now consigned to that cabinet in the sky where all our lost dreams and thoughts reside.

It's a frigid Sunday morning in the Valley, at least frigid by Arizona standards, not so much so by South Dakota or Upstate New York standards. I see out the window near my computer the wind blowing through our arbor vitae trees, making then sway left and right like overweight dancers doing a slow foxtrot, sun-drenched under a cloudless sky. But I've been outdoors this morning and that wind and the forty-five degrees on my back patio told me it was way too cold for golf. Who needs to work at golf on a day such as this? Not I.

So, I'll sit here at my computer until the NFL games come on to take me away to a place where huge gladiators do battle on their chosen fields, the Cardinals fighting the Seahawks. I just hope the smaller birds can hold off the larger ones.

Saturday, November 14

Pedagoguery

Thought for the day: Isn't it sad that some people can turn on tv and not find a single program that insults their intelligence?

I wrote this little essay a long time ago, for a Halloween in my past. And even though we're now two weeks past that time (my least favorite), I thought I'd include it here for any reader's amusement.

PEDAGOGUERY

As an English teacher, now retired, I’ve long admired the word “pedagogue,” even though I’d rather not be called one. It originally meant a teacher, a leader (agogos) of children (paidos or ped), but has now come to mean a bad teacher. The joy in the etymology remains, though, and the possibilities for creating new words are nearly limitless.

For example, I often thought of my classes as “pedagroups” and their attempts to understand the intricacies of the English language as “pedagropes.” But then, they have their own kind of “pedagrammar.” Some female students too often engage in “pedagiggles,” and a group of them would be a “pedagaggle” indulging in “pedagab.” Oh, how often I wanted to be able to use “pedagags!” An especially childish student was a “pedagoogoo.” The quiet, unobtrusive student at the back of the room was a “pedagoodie” who usually wore “pedagoggles.” The class clown was a “pedagrin,” the class Scrooge was a “pedagrump,” and the class dummy was a “pedagoon” whose writing was often “pedagarble.” Those stomach noises just before lunch were “pedagurgles,” and at lunchtime the cafeteria abounded in “pedagobblers” and “pedagorgers.” An absent student was a “pedagone.” An absent teacher was a “pedagogueagone.” A retired teacher, such as I, is a “pedagogueago.” The bell dismissing class is a “pedagong.”

And, as befits October 31, the little creatures out trick-or-treating this year in their “pedagarb” are “pedaghosts” and “pedagoblins” and “pedaghouls.” And when we hear their “pedagroans,” we all pretend to be “pedaghast.”


Thursday, November 12

Book Sale

It’s that time again. You know, time for the holidays and Christmas gift-giving and all that good stuff. If you’re looking for something different to give to a friend or child or grandchild, why not consider one of my books. And the price is right--$10 for either paperback or hardbound. And the author (me) will even sign it. Now, where else could you get a signed copy of a book by the author? Who knows, maybe someday they’ll be collectors’ items (or not).

Let me know, either by e-mail (jertrav33@aol.com) or mail (12606 W. Flagstone Dr., Sun City West, AZ 85375) or face to face whenever you see me. I’ll get a book or books to you one way or the other.

Matchplay (a golf suspense novel) paperback only
Dust of Autumn (a murder/suspense novel) paperback or hard bound
Prairie View (a South Dakota suspense novel) paperback only
The Black Widow (an Arizona/Las Vegas murder/suspense novel) paperback only
Life in the Arbor (a children’s novel set in SCW—for about fifth-graders) paperback or hard bound
A Baker’s Dozen Plus Two (a collection of short stories and essays) paperback or hard bound

If you’d like to read more about any of the books, you can go to my website: www.jerrytravisnovels.com. If you’d like to sample any of my other ramblings, you can go to my blogspot: www.jerrytravis.blogspot.com.

Not much else to write about. I wonder what Sammy Sosa is doing with the new lighter skin. I guess, as the columns say, he just wants to take over for Michael Jackson.

And a pet peeve or two. I guess those folks who choose to blow their noses at a restaurant really disgust me. I mean, that's a rather personal thing to do and it doesn't need to be done in public, especially when I'm eating one or two tables away from the blower. How about shopping carts at the super market? It frosts me when people (old or otherwise) cart their groceries to the car and then shove the cart up onto a curb or just leave it beside their parking space. How old does one have to be not to simply take the damn thing back to the cart storage? It makes me want to smash my cart into the side of their car as they're pulling away. I never do it, but I want to.

Tuesday, November 10

DMV and Millionaire

Rosalie and I went to the DMV to renew our drivers’ licenses just after noon today, and were greeted by a roomful of people also there to do their DMV business. We filled out papers and after taking an eye exam were given a number for line waiting. But not just numbers in a numerical sequence, instead, numbers preceded by letters: A, B, I, J, L, M, N, and others I don’t remember. Then we sat and waited for our numbers to be called. But neither we nor anyone else could figure out how many were ahead of us, the lettered numbers called out bouncing all over the place across the alphabet. Why would they do that? At least, with a straight numerical sequence one could determine how far down in the line he/she was. Was this a plan deliberately created to keep us in that linear dark? I think so. I wonder what psychologist came up with that plan. An hour and a half later we both had our new licenses, with new and even uglier photos than our previous licenses held. And on the way out we had to dodge by an old gentleman who was soliciting signatures for a petition protesting animal mistreatment. Also soliciting contributions after a lengthy description of what the petition would accomplish and how the contributions would be used. We love our animals and don’t want any animals mistreated, but we already give $21 a month to the ASPCA. So we did our dodge.

We’re both avid Who Wants to Be a Millionaire watchers, watching both daily shows, the early one with reruns and the later one new and live. And we were both anxious to see how they would conduct the Millionaire tournament they’d been hawking for the last two or three months. This was to be a contest among the ten highest winners over that two or three month time, with one of them guaranteed to win the million. We both assumed they’d have each of them going through the fifteen questions to see who would win the most, and that one would win the million. Wrong. At the end of the Monday show, one of the ten got a chance to answer a million dollar question. But—and here’s a gigantic but--if they answered wrong, they’d forfeit what they’d won on their previous show. I was shocked, puzzled, and finally angry at the stupidity of their setup. The woman who had to go first chose not to lose her original $50,000. And I can well imagine that the other nine may give it a long look before they too decide not to risk their previous winnings. I love Meredith Vierra, but if it was her idea to do it this way, I love her a lot less.

Sunday, November 8

Sunday Sports

It was a good day for Arizona fans. The Cardinals won, whomping on the Chicago Bears (although they looked like they wanted to give it away in the fourth quarter) and the Suns won, over the Washington Wizards (and they won going away). My day would have been complete if Tiger hadn't played the front nine like a bumbling idiot, going four over from the sixth through the eighth. He got some back on the back nine, but the sixteenth hole, a short par-4, sort of epitomized how the day was going, for both Tiger and Phil. They both drove it nearly hole-high to the left, into a little greenside swale, Tiger in the short rough with a pot bunker between him and the pin, and Phil just into the long stuff about the same 15 yards from the pin. Phil hit first, a full swing, and the ball went nowhere. I mean, nowhere. He either topped it deeper into the rough or he went right under it. Either way, he had an even tougher shot next, which he sort of chunked onto the green about twenty feet away. Then came Tiger, who hit a high lob . . . halfway to the pin and into the bunker in front of him. Two extremely unlikely shots from the world's number one and two players. They both managed to save par, but the scene was memorable for how awful it was. Phi went on to win the tournament, the WGC in Shanghai, beating Ernie Els by one, and tiger placed out of it in fifth or sixth. Where oh where was the Tiger whom Phil couldn't beat? This one made two in a row for Phil over Tiger.


Saturday, November 7

Play Golf

Not long ago I wrote that I wasn't playing golf, I was working golf. And only three days ago I had given much thought to just hanging up the clubs, either forever or at least for three or four months. Well, anyone who knows me knows it wasn't going to be forever. But I had just shot a 90 with so many stupid mistakes I wanted to throw up. And then yesterday, on recently overseeded greens and fairways, I shot my age, a 75. Now I love golf again and I've decided not to put the clubs away. But that assumes that I'll be able to play well the next few times out. The golf gods are even now reading this, and the next time out they'll probably just kick my ass. I'll keep you posted on this site.

Wednesday, November 4

Anything Goes

Last night we and four friends went to the Arizona Broadway Theatre for a performance of Anything Goes, Cole Porter’s music from the 1934 production. Again, wonderful food, great cast, elaborate set design. The story is 1934ish dumb, about a strange set of characters aboard a ship sailing from New York to England: a gangster, a wealthy debutante and her mother, a nightclub singer, and a wealthy New York businessman and his stowaway assistant. Hope is the debutante, the stowaway Billy’s long-lost love. Unfortunately, she is now engaged to a wealthy Englishman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. After a series of comedic happenings, Billy manages to win back Hope. Meanwhile, Billy’s friend, Reno, manages to seduce and win Lord Evelyn. All this happens while Moonface Martin attempts to escape the law and Hope’s mother strives to maintain her social status.

The set had to cost a fortune, which attests to the financial success of the ABT in its fifth season. We keep rooting for the theatre to succeed because we love to be able to drive only twenty minutes to a great evening out. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s well worth it. We’ve never had a bad meal there, and the shows just keep getting better and better, more and more professionally done. Two numbers stand out: the conclusion of Act One, with the cast doing a frenetic tap as they all sing “Anything Goes”; and another lengthy tap number along with “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” Both numbers featured Reno, the nightclub singer, blowing the audience away with her especially big voice, reminiscent of Ethyl Merman. In addition to the two songs mentioned above, you’ll also hear such oldies as “I Get a Kick out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Easy to Love,” “It’s De-lovely,” and “All Through the Night.” If you’ve never been to the ABT and want a night out, with a meal as fine as anywhere in the Valley and a show that’s almost as good as any Broadway performance, try the Arizona Broadway Theatre. You won’t regret it. Shows run about five weeks. The next four up this season are A Christmas Carol, Gypsy, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera.


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