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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, January 30

Esquire


Guess what I found while rummaging around in my garage. A 37-year-old copy of Esquire that I'd been saving for some strange reason. It's the Fortieth Anniversary Issue, just over 500 pages long and containing articles and stories by nearly all the major American writers of the Twentieth Century--Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, James Baldwin, Dorothy Parker, Sinclair Lewis, Saul Bellow, Thomas Wolfe, H. L. Mencken, Damon Runyon, Ralph Ellison, Tennessee Williams, Ray Bradbury, John Updike, John O'Hara, Philip Roth, and Truman Capote. You might try to identify some or all of those people who appear on the front cover, the three most obvious being Hemingway second from left, Fitzgerald taking a drink from the waiter, and Capote in his oh so neat white suit and hat. I find it a little odd that of the thirty-nine people on their cover, only two are women--Nora Ephron and Dorothy Parker. I guess I must have first obtained this issue of Esquire to use in my American lit classes and then kept it all these years as a curiosity piece that could someday be worth a lot of money. Hah! And just what market would I go to for the sale of this item? I don't know. Maybe on E-Bay where some fool just like me would buy it for five bucks. Or not. I guess, instead, I'll just include it with the books I'm taking to Dysart High School.

Friday, January 29

Gypsy

We went to the Arizona Broadway Theatre to see Gypsy a few nights ago and once again were delighted with the performance. Julie Cardia played Mama Rose to perfection—big voice, great actress. She was on loan from Actors’ Equity and had a most impressive list of credits. This is ABT’s fifth season and the productions just keep getting better—great sets and lighting, great costumes, great pit orchestra. And the people in them are much better than in normal local theatre. The choreography may not come up to Broadway standards, but it’s getting close. And the lead voices are really good, as seen in Ms. Cardia’s vocals. She closed the show with a tour de force (I’ve never before had a chance to use that expression) segment, called “Rose’s Turn,” in which she sings about what she might have been if things had been different, alone on the stage for six or seven minutes, singing, whispering, crying, dancing, acting up a storm, to the final curtain when she blasted us out of the house. What a nice place to go for a great meal, great service, great theatrical performances, and it’s only twenty minutes away.

Wednesday, January 27

More Books & Glimmer Train

I’ve spent the last three days working on the books in my garage, taking books off shelves, opening boxes of books, rearranging them by author, putting those authors I wanted to keep into boxes or empty kitty litter pails, culling out the hardbounds and paperbacks I plan to sell, boxing the paperbacks I plan to take to the paperback exchange store where I’d get a 25% allowance on books I could buy. But then I’d be bringing more books home when I don’t need more books right now. I may have to rethink that last one about the exchange. It’s been a monumental task for someone who hasn’t done any heavy lifting for almost a decade. And the fine Arizona dust I stirred up made its way into my nose and lungs.

But now I’m nearly done. I have only to box up all my books I used in teaching American literature and other language pursuits, the ones I’ve carefully kept in my back room/office neatly displayed in one of my bookcases, waiting in vain for someone visiting us to look at them and admire my taste in books. Never happened, never will happen. I finally realized after fifteen years that it was silly of me to keep them all, silly of me even to have transported them from New York to Arizona in the first place. And now I’m going to take them to Dysart High School, find the English department, and then, like some old prostitute out trying to sell her outdated wares, I’ll see if any of the English teachers would be interested in my old books. God, I hope so. If I had to throw them away it would be like throwing away part of my past, part of me.

One thing that struck me as I was putting my books in order, figuring out what to do with them, was that it was like another preliminary step in getting ready to die. The first step was when we left New York, deciding what to take and what to sell, the discarding of some of the “stuff” of our lives. And now I’m involved in the second step, the second culling out of the unnecessaries of my life. I suppose the third step will be when Rosalie and I begin labeling our “stuff,” deciding which of our children will get what, deciding what items will be put out in that final, uncomfortable garage sale. That’s what my mother did in her 92nd or 93rd year, put little sticky labels on the backs of pictures, chairs, bric-a-bracs, her ever-dwindling “stuff” for her children and grandchildren to take after her death.

One bright spot in my book work: I found on one of the shelves seven quarterly issues of a literary magazine called Glimmer Train. I had unsuccessfully submitted several stories to the magazine and had taken out a two year subscription. It was maybe the most elegant magazine I’d ever seen, elegant in its cover designs, its internal illustrations and original artwork, the quality of the paper. Two sisters, Linda Davies and Sue Burmeister, had started it in 1991, operating on the premise that enough people would subscribe, enough people would enter their writing contests, to make it go. I had no doubt that their enterprise had folded years ago. I went on line just to see if it was anywhere to be found. Yes, there it was, still up and running after nearly two decades. My copies were in almost perfect condition, so I e-mailed the sisters, asking if they would be interested in receiving the first seven issues of their magazine. Linda Davies responded almost immediately. Yes, they’d be delighted to get them, and they’d even throw in a free subscription for my generosity. How nice it was to find a connection to a distant someone who took the time to respond to my query. So unlike the publishing business. So I boxed them up and sent them. And now I feel much better.





Friday, January 22

Books, Books, Books!


I was sorting books in my garage today. Sorting. That's not an accurate description of what I was doing. My garage is overflowing with books and I've been thinking for a long time now about putting them in order. Well, today was a windy rainy day and Rosalie was working, so I started the chore. I have many series of books by my favorite authors, but they were scattered all over the place, some in my computer room, some in the garage in any number of empty kitty litter containers--Ed McBain, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, John D. MacDonald, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, John Sandford, Lawrence Block, Stephen White, Jonathan Kellerman, Kathy Reichs, P. J. Parrish, C. J. Box, Jeffrey Deaver, Robert Crais, Dean Koontz. And that's naming only the most prolific of them. I had to cut out tiny sticky tabs to paste to the covers so I could number them in the series, checking to see which ones I didn't have. This all might sound a little like O.C. behavior. Well, yes, I'm obsessive, I'm compulsive about the books I read. But I discovered in going through them all, how many I could part with and how many I just had to keep. All the John Pattersons (can no longer stand him) went in the pile I'm going to sell. All the Stephen Kings (can no longer stand him), all the collections of short stories I've had since I began teaching (I haven't read a short story in about twenty years), all the odd ball books I've read in the last ten years. I found books I haven't seen for thirty years, all still stored in my garage. I found the text I used for American Lit and went through it to discard all the papers I'd stuck in through the years. I found a copy of poems by e. e. cummings that I'd used with my classes, and with it was this one above that I'd written to demonstrate the cummings' style, the play with the visual aspects of language. Fellow poet Karl Shapiro had this to say about cummings: "This poet is most concerned with the component integers of the word, the curve of 'e,' rhythm of 'm,' astonishment of 'o' and their arranged derangement."

I think my back is going to be talking to me tomorrow. I haven't done any serious lifting for a long time. And I'm still only about halfway done with my project. Oh, yes, and I now know how difficult it is to part with the "stuff" of one's life. What I plan to do with the various series I'm saving? Read them all again. That should take me to the end of my life, at which time I will finally be able to cast them aside.

Thursday, January 21

Cats, Rain, & Parker


Another cat viewing. After all these years of not noticing television, both of them have discovered our television stand. I think Dusty started it. He saw movement above him one evening and got up there to see what it was all about, batting at a bad commercial. I’d agree with him about the bad commercials, but he tends to block our view, so I dutifully get up and shoo him off. And now Squeakie, the follower, thinks it’s a good idea.

We’re in the middle of maybe the most rainfall we’ve had here in the Valley for the past fifty years. Up to five inches in a three-day period. And it sounds wonderful to my ears. But the weather folks prefer to call it a monster storm blowing in from California, and they love to break in to tv programming with “weather alerts.” I find them irritating rather than amusing. I mean, why break in at 4:00 when the local news comes on only thirty minutes later? Couldn’t this news about rainfall wait for half an hour? In a state that sees rain so seldom, I guess it takes precedence over regular programs. I still think it’s silly. It would be different if a tornado was sighted moving toward the viewing area. Okay, that would be breaking news in more ways than one.

Bad news a few days ago: Robert Parker died at 77. Another of my favorite authors bites the dust. First it was John D. MacDonald taking with him all future Travis McGee adventures; then it was Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter) taking with him all the 87th Precinct as well as Matthew Hope; and now Parker, taking with him the one-name Spenser and Hawk, and Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, all gone to that big library in the sky. Who’s next? Will it be Dutch Leonard? Will it be Lawrence Block? Those guys are both getting a bit long in the tooth, but with advances in medicine, maybe they’ll both outlive me and I won’t run out of their books before I run out of time.


Monday, January 18

Playoff Football & The Golden Globes

We’re down to four teams left in the NFL playoffs, with only the Jets sort of out of their class, but then I thought they were out of their class against the Chargers and look what happened. The one next Sunday between the Saints and Vikings will be the best of the lot, but from what I saw of the Saints last weekend, I don’t think Favre and the other Minnesotans can do it. And speaking of Bret Favre, that last touchdown with less than two minutes to go had the color analysts fighting over what’s okay and what’s not okay. Terry Bradshaw thought it was wrong, running up a score needlessly, and Jimmy Johnson argued, “If you don’t like the score, play harder.” I’ve always had a gripe about baseball’s unspoken rule concerning running up a score. There seems to be some magic number you reach in the late innings that disallows you from stealing bases. The same with football. If those who think running up a score is wrong, then why not have a mercy rule in baseball and football? Any team having what should be an insurmountable lead in the seventh inning or the fourth quarter should be declared the winner with an early conclusion to the game. You think that’s ever going to happen? Not likely. And how many times have we seen a baseball team score ten runs in the ninth inning to win by one run? Often enough to disallow a mercy rule. And how often have we seen an NFL team score two or three touchdowns in the last two minutes of play? Often enough to disallow a mercy rule.

We watched the Golden Globe Awards last night, not so much because it was going to be great but because it was about the only show in town. It was okay. And it’s always nice to see the stars out in their finery. The women’s gowns leaned heavily on black: Meryl Streep in a classy floor-length black; Kate Winslet pretty much the same; Julia Roberts in a black knee-length (she should have gone with floor-length); Halle Berry in a—whoopie!—black gown with a bunch of flesh showing in front; and then there was Helen Mirren, looking spectacular in the classiest gown of the evening, a black off-the-shoulder sparkly black floor-length. Cameron Diaz would win my vote for ugliest gown of the evening, a crimson thing with puffy sleeves. Ugly! The men were all okay in whatever they wore. I tend not to notice the men as much as the women. The one exception to that, however, was the strange outfit Mickey Rourke wore: cowboy hat pulled low, black gambler’s shirt and pants, cowboy boots. What was that all about? The acceptance speeches were all pretty good and relatively brief. The strangest of them was probably Robert Downey’s non-acceptance speech. The best of them was probably Jeff Bridge’s in which he thanked his father for pulling him into the business. The most lucid of them was James Cameron’s acceptance for Avatar being named best picture. And then there was Drew Barrymore’s drama-queen attempt to sound nervous about what she was going to say, an imitation of Meryl Streep’s earlier and classier acceptance for Julie and Julia. I was all right with most of the selections, but I wanted Clooney and company to win more recognition for Up in the Air, and they seemed to come off as second best all around.

Sunday, January 17

Playoff Football & Victoria

The Cardinals can set records for most points scored (51-45 over the Packers), but also for most points allowed in two playoff games in a row—90. Wow, from that first Saints drive to tie it at 7-7, I knew it was going to be a long day for Arizona. And it was a very long day indeed. The only bright spot was that the Saints didn’t run up the score, because it certainly looked like they could have gotten it into the sixties. The Saints team that showed up against the Cardinals looked good enough to beat anyone else in the league, call it the Brees/Bush combine. And Drew Breese looked like he should have won the MVP this year.

I saw The Young Victoria and enjoyed it. Emily Blunt played Victoria from seventeen to sometime in her mid-twenties, after her marriage to Prince Albert and the birth of their first child. It was a typical British period piece, focusing on the political schemes of those surrounding the young girl, who was shielded from all connection with the public from her birth to her eighteenth birthday. But the willful Victoria managed to circumvent all the plots to keep her out of the monarchy and went on, with the help of Albert, to rule for over sixty years, initiating many reforms in housing, medicine, and working conditions. The recreation of mid-nineteenth century England was good enough to merit seeing this film, but the real reason for seeing it is the performance of Emily Blunt as the young Victoria.

Thursday, January 14

Up in the Air

I think I may have just seen the best movie of my life. Or maybe I’m exaggerating in my enthusiasm for this flick, Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. I now understand why so many women swoon over the man. He has maybe the best smile of any male in Hollywood. Alex, his now and then lover whenever they can meet at one plane stop or another, says when describing what a man should be that he must have a good smile. Yes, she says, a great smile. She says this as she is looking at Clooney, who is smiling that Clooney smile.

Hard to describe the plot since it relies more on character than plot. Clooney is a corporate downsizer (one who is hired to do corporate firings) who is happy to spend most of his time and his life flying from one site to another, firing people but making the firing as soft a landing as possible. The firing isn’t why he loves his job; it’s the flying from one place to another, getting the VIP treatment on every flight, on every rental car pickup, on every hotel assignment. He can’t stand to return to Omaha, his home base, where he has an apartment as sterile as his life there. The plot turns on the hiring of an efficiency expert, a young, eager executive that wants the corporation to do the firing on-line instead of face-to-face. Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is appalled by the idea, one part of him knowing how inhumane the idea is, one part resisting it because it would take him out of the air, out of his real life. The best metaphor to describe Bingham’s life is the backpack he uses in his motivational speeches, asking his audiences to load the backpack with all the “stuff” in their lives and then see how much it weighs when they try to strap it on and carry it down the road of life. It’s a Thoreauvian concept, and Bingham is as much a “village idiot” and asocial animal as Thoreau was. But this is his life, and the ten million frequent-flyer miles is his life’s goal. His boss assigns him to take the young lady on the road to “show her the ropes.” The rest of the story involves this trip of self-discovery for all the players—Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), the on-line proponent; Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), the fellow traveler and off-and-on lover; and Bingham, the one who learns the most about his life, or lack thereof. The story is simple but brilliant, and brilliantly told by the three actors, who all deserve to be honored at the Oscar ceremonies coming up.

Monday, January 11

Cardinals and Dreamers

The Cardinals can certainly keep things exciting. But I'd rather not have to squirm and scream during the games. How about just one unexciting lopsided win next Saturday against the Saints. Not too much to ask. But even if they don't win next week, they did a nice job yesterday of shutting up the cheeseheads, and we have a bunch of them living here in the Valley. I remember those four years when we lived in upstate New York, when we agonized over the Buffalo Bills, a team that made it to four Super Bowls in a row, losing all four of them. Oh the pain, oh the agony. I don't want the Cardinals to do the same, but getting there a second time would be nice. So, let's dream on it.

On a trip to the bathroom at a nearby Red Lobster, I noticed a framed saying on the wall: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist believes it will change; the realist resets his sails.” I think I’d like to add, “And the dreamer spreads his wings and rides on it, allowing it to take him anywhere it wants.”

Thursday, January 7

Songs Never Heard

I've been writing songs for almost my entire life, beginning when I was still in high school and then in New York, after my discharge in 1954, when I tried to do it seriously. But that was a failed enterprise. So I wrote songs off and on, collecting them in one form or another. But except for that botched experience with "All Over You" a few years ago and the two songs that were recorded on a demo disk in 1955, almost no one has ever heard any of my songs. I keep the lyrics in a file on my computer and the music in my head, where those notes will die with me one of these days. Here's a set of lyrics I put together two years ago:

"A Little Bit Scared"

He was a little bit scared
And a little bit stupid,
But he put up his dukes
And he took it to Cupid . . .
Who popped him
Right in the kisser
And dropped him.

Then she found him there
And picked him up,
Carried him home
In her trunk . . .
Cause ya see,
She was a little bit drunk
And a little bit crazy.
And later on
She was a little bit hazy
How he came to be there.
Was it a one-time affair?

When he woke up
He was a little bit scared
And a whole lot dumber,
So he said goodbye
And he jumped in his Hummer,
And drove away.
He was too scared to stay.

He was a little bit scared
And a little bit stupid,
But he put up his dukes
And he took it to Cupid . . .
Who whumped him,
Took him by the ear
And then dumped him

Back on her lap.
He got a little bitty kiss
And a great big slap
That brought him to his senses,
So he threw up a wall
For emotional defenses.
But it didn’t help at all,
He was just bound to fall.

They were a little bit in love
And a whole lotta happy,
So they jumped in his car
And decided to be sappy
And tie the knot,
And that’s just what they got—
All tied up in kids.

Wednesday, January 6

Golf and Security Doors

A lovely day here in the Valley--about 72 or 73, calm, sunny. And I finally managed to break 80 at Pebblebrook. But I've done it so seldom that I almost threw it away, spitting up on my shoes, choking like a dog on the ninth hole, after parring the first eight. All I could think about was what a nice thing it would be to shoot 36 on the front. Good drive, pull-topped second shot to the left, leave a forty-yard pitch short, chunk the next chip, and then 3-putt for a triple bogey. Choke! And on the back I was still only three over through fourteen. Then I had choke bogeys on the last four holes for a 79. Great, I finally broke 80, but it should have been so much better.

Son Mike came over this morning to put in a security door on our front. Rosalie had decided she no longer cared to answer the front door with nothing between her and the caller but a flimsy little screen door. So she bought a really beautiful white door that an elephant couldn't come through. It's not that SCW is full of muggers and rapists, but we do have a bunch of hispanic landscapers who come around regularly to see if we want our trees trimmed. And though we don't have a prejudiced bone in our bodies, there have been cases of home invasions all over the Valley and an unkempt hispanic at my front door does give me pause. And Rosalie even more pause, especially if she's home alone when the doorbell rings. Mike did a good job, something I couldn't do even if I were healthy. He takes after the Zimmer side of the family. Where I always believed in measuring once and cutting twice or thrice (needing at least two extra boards as backups), he believes as his Uncle Lyle believes, measure three or four times before cutting very carefully. See what a good job he did? See how nice it looks?


Monday, January 4

Movie Reviews

Nothing much to write about so far this year. We had a very safe and sane New Year's Eve and a day as usual on New Year's Day. I went golfing and played so bad that I'm giving it up . . . again . . . for however long it takes to get my sanity and my health back. That left me with a weekend that was pretty usual. I worked till noon on Saturday, then went to Ace to switch the cart for the car. Then on to Harkins to see a movie. I'm way behind in the flicks I want to see. There were others I'd rather have seen, but I knew Rosalie wanted to see them as well. So I went to Sherlock Holmes. Probably more good than bad, but certainly not great. The best thing about it was the portrayal of turn-of-the-century London. London in all its majesty as well as all its muck and grime. Robert Downey and Jude Law made for an unusual pair as Holmes and Watson. Much different than most viewers would expect, much younger and seemingly more given to brawn than brains. The action was exciting and implausible, and there were way too many scenes in which people were walloping on other people, making it look as though everyone can take such wallops with no physical effect, sort of like in the old Westerns where the sound alone of fist to face should have knocked someone into a coffin but never did, in fact no one ever seemed to lose a hat. And there you have it, the good and the bad. It was a movie I will soon forget.

And today, since I was not golfing with my regular group, we went to see Avatar. This one, like Mel Gibson's Braveheart and Apocalypto, I will probably never forget. Avatar and Apocalypto are both memorable more for the special effects and the fascinating settings than for the stories. Also, Avatar was my first experience with 3-D since the very old days of my youth when we had to wear really silly little cellophane glasses to watch really bad 3-D effects. The world James Cameron envisioned and then created was fabulous. The moral lessons were a little too overstated, the battle scenes at the conclusion a little too violent and silly. But was it a movie everyone should see? Yes, a hearty yes.

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