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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.

Thursday, May 27

American Idol Fiasco

Lee Dewyze? Over Crystal Bowersox? Say it isn’t so. How can that be? Talk about injustice. Ah well, at least I can now say for certain that I’ve seen the last American Idol ever. I swear on my mother’s grave I will never watch another AL series, never a single AL show. It’s enough that it’s become one of the least classy shows on the tube, but now the viewers come up with this lopsided vote for a guy who might not have even been in the top ten a few series ago.

This latest vote again demonstrated that Idol is little more than a popularity contest. After Dewyze and Bowersox sang their three selections last Tuesday, it was clear to me and the judges and probably the majority of those watching on tv that Bowersox blew Dewyze away. In fact, she may have shot herself in the foot, the one who caused her loss. When she’d finished her third performance, “Up to the Mountain,” she interrupted the judges’ comments before Simon could speak, and told him how much she appreciated him as a judge and his critical comments for her. And then her joke about comedy central in her remarks to Ryan Seacrest. It struck me and possibly those who called in their votes that she was too pleased with herself and her final song, too certain of her victory. Just a hint of hubris that the voters in that last second may have held against her.

We’ll never know. I feel safe in saying, however, that Crystal Bowersox will be quickly signed by a record producer, will lose twenty or thirty pounds, will get her teeth fixed and whitened, and will become a force to reckon with on the musical scene. On the other hand, Lee Dewyze will get lost in the ranks of mediocre rockers.

Tuesday, May 25

Stephanie

Our two cats, Dusty and Squeakie, are getting a little long in the tooth (well, actually Dusty has lost most of his teeth) and are now fifteen and twelve, old enough for us to be thinking about what we'll do when one or both die. Hate to think about such things but we've lived with enough cats over the years to know such things happen. So, we've decided to get a kitten for the two of them to raise, sort of getting ready for the inevitable. Cats deserve to have at least one friend to live with to avoid that awful feeling of aloneness when we're away on a trip or just gone for the entire day. We made that mistake when Stephanie lived with us for her eighteen years. Too often she was alone and we now know, lonely.

I was re-reading some things I had written twelve years ago, just before we brought Dusty and Squeakie home, fairly soon after our little lady Stephanie had died. It brought back all those feelings of loss and remorse, just like it happened only weeks ago.

Wednesday, August 12, 1998

Today has arrived and we can’t put it off any longer. Stephanie still hasn’t eaten a bite, and it’s now five days. We sat around all afternoon waiting for the 4:00 appointment. And then, finally, it was time to go. Rosalie drove and I held our little old lady and she didn’t even get big-eyed, just like she knew what was going on. I carried her into the clinic and one of the girls there asked me what was wrong, meaning what was wrong with my cat, and I literally burst into tears. Like a baby. And I said I didn’t think I would be staying there with her until she died, I just wasn’t strong enough for it. And the one patted me on the back and told me it was all right, that they’d be very gentle with her. And I blubbered a thank you, signed the euthanasia certificate, wrote the check, and got out of there. Oh, Stephie girl, we’re going to miss you so. We got home, both tearing (both meanings of tear appropriate in this context) all over the place, and without a word we both started picking up all her things, all the papers, all the accumulated drinking glasses, the food dishes, the litter box. I immediately thought of one of the Dickinson poems about death: “The bustle in a house / The morning after death / Is solemnest of industries / Enacted upon earth. / The sweeping up the heart / And putting love away / We shall not want to use again / Until Eternity.” Were we ever bustling around, and sweeping up our hearts. Rosalie told me that just before I got home, Stephanie came out of the bedroom and threw up again . . . on the papers. That’s the fourth time she’s spit up on the papers we had in the hall, just like she knew why they were there. No dummy, our sick little lady. So we’ll eat a tasteless dinner, stare at the television until we fall asleep in our chairs, then stumble off to bed to dream of Stephanie. And maybe weep silent tears into our pillows.

With our new kitty, we're going to try to avoid some of the heartache we felt with the passing of Stephanie.

Friday, May 21

City Island

We haven’t seen any movies in a while because there just don’t seem to be many right now that look appealing. Saw Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland almost a month ago and found it nearly completely forgettable. Someone recommended City Island, with Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies. I’ve become a big fan of Julianna Margulies since her role in The Good Wife, finding her Morticia Addams looks on G.W. amazingly attractive, so I was more than willing to see her in this movie. I don’t think Rosalie is nearly as attracted to her as I am. But neither of us was disappointed.

Entertainment Weekly gave it a lukewarm review, but they seem to be in the minority, with a majority of viewers rating it at least four out of five stars. We’d be among that last group. What a nice feel-good flick. The story centers on the family of Garcia and Margulies, who live in the Bronx community called City Island: their son and daughter, and the young man Garcia brings home from the prison where he works as a guard (correction officer, he is quick to tell everyone), and the lies each of them is living. The audience is privy to all the lies, and we know the climax will be that point when the lies are revealed. The parents both smoke, but lie to each other about it. The son has a secret fat fetish. The daughter is secretly a stripper. The young man is really Garcia’s son by a woman he lived with briefly in his youth. Garcia also lies to his wife about where he goes one night a week, to play poker, he tells her, but he’s really attending an acting class.

The only weakness may be that it’s a little contrived and unsurprising in its outcome, but who cares. It’s so nice to be able to see a movie without having to work through blue language and blue situations, to leave the theater smiling. Go see it. You’ll smile too.

Tuesday, May 18

Illegal Aliens

This current issue about illegal aliens and Arizona’s law regarding illegal aliens has me very confused. I hear now that two-thirds of those American citizens polled are in agreement with the new law, but I’m not sure those who were polled really understand what it’s all about. If the pollsters simply asked folks if they agreed or disagreed with the issue regarding illegal aliens, then I’m surprised the polls didn’t show a much higher number who agreed. They seemed to have been agreeing to the concept, not the law. The scariest aspect of Arizona’s new law is allowing police to detain and ask for proof of citizenship any they suspect of being illegal. That’s too broad a concept and opens the door wide for racial profiling. Would an officer, if he heard a man saying, “I don’t know what it’s all aboot, but I’m agaynst it,” ask to see the man’s identification because he “suspected” him of being an illegal Canadian? I don’t think so.

As I see it, we have two groups of Mexicans who are crossing into the U.S. illegally—(1) the thousands (maybe millions) who are seeking work so that they can support themselves as well as send money back to loved ones in Mexico, and (2) the hundreds (maybe thousands) who are acting as coyotes for the masses coming across, or those working for the Mexican drug cartels bringing drugs into this country. Those in the first group seem to be taking jobs that no U.S. citizen wants, at wages that are well below the minimum wage level and are paid under the table. If that is true, then we must make the penalties much more stringent for individuals or companies who are hiring illegals. If in fact they are working at jobs that no one else wants, then we should have a process by which they could get green cards to work at those jobs, legally and with wages taxed just as they are for American citizens. They should be excluded from our welfare rolls and our medical insurance programs. If in fact we could label these workers and allow them legally to cross our borders, then we would do away with the need for the coyotes who prey on the illegals they lead across. We could then put all our efforts into finding those involved in drug smuggling. If any of those carrying the temporary work visas wanted to become citizens of the U.S., they could do so, just as millions of immigrants to these shores have done in the past.

Sorry, John McCain, you can build a wall a hundred feet high and ten thousand miles long and it still wouldn’t stop those people from Mexico looking for a better life. We have to have a way to allow them in legally.

Friday, May 14

Matthew Hope

I was looking for something to kick-start my reading again, a series I could zip through chronologically. I love to find new writers and new lead characters—honest writing, interesting, unique main characters. Quite a few come to mind from the past: Spenser (Robert B. Parker), Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly), Travis McGee (John D. MacDonald), Elvis Cole (Robert Crais), and Matt Scudder (Lawrence Block). And then I remembered Matthew Hope, a Florida lawyer in thirteen novels by the late Evan Hunter writing under the pen name, Ed McBain. I’d read them all a decade or two ago, and the way time flies, I discovered he’d written the first of them nearly thirty years ago. So I went to my garage stash of books, found the McBains, still had eight of the thirteen (must have given some away to fellow fans), ordered copies of the missing five, and away I went.

I’d forgotten just how good this series was. All are fairly short compared to most novels these days—between 90,000 and 120,000 words—and all are fast reads similar to Parker’s Spensers. Matthew Hope, although not a criminal lawyer, gets involved in criminal cases against his partner Frank’s advice. Frank, a transplanted New Yorker, wants Matt to stick to what they do best, estate and divorce law, where the money is instead of what too often turns out to be pro bono. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales are the link between the first twelve novels—Goldilocks, Rumpelstiltskin, three blind mice, Snow White, Cinderella, etc. The last, the thirteenth written in 1998, is called The Last Best Hope. Fearing the worst, I wrote him a letter:

Dear Evan Hunter, July 15, 1998

Just a note to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your writing over the years. And I mean, a lot of years. And I mean, really enjoyed.
I’m now in the middle of your latest Matthew Hope novel, The Last Best Hope. Since all the previous in the series were based on nursery rhymes and this one isn’t, I’m hoping what that suggests isn’t true. This isn’t really the last and best Matthew Hope, is it? Please say no.
I remember years ago when I attended a teachers’ convention in California hearing the main speaker lead off with a joke: One evening as three staid English professors were strolling home after a meal together, they noticed several ladies of the evening leaning against a building across the street. The conversation during their meal had led them to a discussion of the many odd group terms, such as a "skulk" of foxes, a "charm" of hummingbirds, a "dampness" of babies, a "surplus" of lawyers, a "vanity" of writers. One suggested they have a contest to see who could best name the ladies nearby. They thought as they strolled, and one finally said, “Ah ha! I have it. They should be a jam of tarts.” The others agreed that was a good one. The second then said he believed he could top it. “They should,” he said triumphantly, “be called a flourish of strumpets.” The others quietly applauded his effort. The third then raised his hand and announced, “I believe I should win. They are, as are we three, an anthology of pros.” The other two conceded victory.

And now Evan Hunter gets in the act. “A snatch of hookers,” indeed. Why, that’s as bad as an Anthony of trollops.
Thanks again for the many enjoyable hours you’ve given me.
Sincerely,
Jerry Travis
He responded:



The stories are clever, the characters are rich, the style is good with touches of humor mixed in with the tension. For example, Matthew on his early use of the words “I love you”:

I’m thirty-eight years old, and when I was growing up in Chicago, I had none of the sexual advantages today’s young people enjoy. I was seventeen when the sixties were just starting. I missed out on the permissiveness that followed. A goodly amount of my adolescent energy was spent feverishly scheming on how to plunder the treasures inside a laden blouse, each button the equivalent of a Vietcong division guarding the road to Hanoi, how to slide a wily and preferably unsuspected hand along the inside of a thigh and onto those cherished nylon panties beneath a fortress skirt, how to hide from the eyes of a shocked citizenry the erections that bulged the front of my trousers whenever any girl of reasonably modest good looks (and, quite frankly, even some very ugly ones) sashayed into view. I loved legs, I loved breasts, I loved thighs, I loved asses, I loved girls with a passion that was all-pervasive and overwhelming. And on that perilous road to hopeful consummation, I discovered that the words, I love you, sometimes worked wonders: “I love you, Harriet, I love you, Jean, I love you, Helene, I love you, Melissa,” my fingers frantically working those maliciously obstinate buttons and those diabolical brassiere clasps invented by a mad woman scientist, “I love you, Joyce, I love you, Louise, I love you, Alice, I love you, Roxanne!” Those were the days of garter belts and nylon stockings, soon to give way to panty hose (invented by that same madwoman in her boiling laboratory), and God, the delirium of actually touching those secret mysterious undergarments, the windows of my father’s Olds fogged with the exhalations of singular male intent and determined female resistance, “I love you, Angela, I love you, Shirley, I love you Ming Toy, I love you, Anybody!”
I used the words as cheap currency in a market without buyers.
* * * * * * * * * *

I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

Thursday, May 13

Tiger

What will become of Tiger’s 2010? Here it is, nearly five months along the way and he’s played in only two and a half tournaments, scrambling to a tie for fourth at the Masters, missing the cut in the Quail Hollow, having to withdraw in the third round of the Players Championship. His swing seems to be all over the place, his putts still look good but nothing seems to be going in, and his face registers the pain of it all. The U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is fast approaching, and Tiger doesn’t know what he’s going to do about this mysterious ailment in his neck. He says absolutely it’s not a carryover from the crash on that ill-fated November evening. Who knows? I was convinced that he would come back with a renewed focus, just to show the world that he’s still the same fierce competitor he always was, wanting to stick it in the ears of those who have made such a circus of his situation. But now I see him in those close-up shots television loves, no joy in his shots or the results of those shots, only pain in his eyes. He loves Pebble Beach, he loves St. Andrews. Will he be around for either of them? He’s defending at the Memorial in June and the Bridgestone in August. Will he be around to defend either of them? And what about the PGA in August and the Ryder Cup in October? Will he be there for either of them? I’d like to think he’ll be playing in all the stops I’ve mentioned, but he won’t be if he doesn’t find some way to get his swing back on plane, some way to restore the joy in his eyes. No Hank Haney to help with the swing, no Elin to help with the joy. Ah, well, just wait’ll next year, as we used to say after a rather unsuccessful season of football or basketball. Just wait’ll next year.

Wednesday, May 12

Tom Selleck

Good News, Bad News. The good: that Tom Selleck is continuing his role as Jesse Stone, the aging, half-alcoholic police chief in Robert B. Parker’s series set in Paradise, Massachusetts. The bad: that with Parker’s death, this series of made-for-tv movies may be at an end. Back to the good: that Selleck was producer and co-author of this last episode, called No Remorse. Suit and Rose are running the department alone, because the town council has suspended Jesse and banned them from even speaking to Jesse. The story line involves two cases, a series of armed robberies of convenience stores in Paradise and what appears to be a series of three murders in Boston. Jesse is helping his old Boston buddy Healey as an intuitive assistant on the Boston murders. And he’s also helping Suit and Rose with their case, knowing that they will need to solve it to keep their jobs. Some viewers object to the darkness of this episode, missing the light banter so typical of Parker’s style. I disagree with the objectors, finding the character, as Selleck has defined him in this episode as well as the first four, to be perfectly in keeping with Parker’s original intent. And I hope there will be at least one more in Selleck’s repertoire before he’s done with it. I simply have to see him and Suit and Rose back on the force together, and Jesse’s growing love for Reggie, the setter with the biggest, most mournful eyes since Boomer. That would be truly good news.

Tuesday, May 11

Two-and-a-Half Men

Some tv shows know when to bow out gracefully, seeing the writing on the wall long before the wall comes crashing down—The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, Mash, to name only a few. Not so Two-and-a-Half Men, which has devolved into a vehicle that now appeals only to young viewers enamored of toilet humor and sexual innuendo. But, now that I think of it, it’s more sexual blatancy than innuendo.

And now, according to tv news, Charlie Sheen is jumping ship after this season, leaving the rats behind. Things were never the same after Rose was written out. Now they seem to be reduced to just Charlie and Alan and occasional tiny scenes with Jake and Berta. Now we see less and less of Evelyn, Judith, and Herb. No more Chelsea, no more Kandi. Where oh where are the part-time comics who kept the ship afloat through five seasons? Where’s Jane Lynch, Carol Kane, Jenna Elfman, Martin Mull? What became of Robert Wagner and Martin Sheen? All gone, and with them, nearly all humor, leaving most of us with frozen, embarrassed smiles on our faces. They have two more seasons already contracted, with no Charlie Sheen. Maybe they can move the truly funny guys from Big Bang Theory as a lead-in to what will probably be One-and-a-Quarter Men, but I’m afraid even that won’t help induce me to watch any Sheen-less shows.

Monday, May 10

Debt, Tall Guys, & Oil

A few observations about current affairs:

1. I hate seeing the commercials on the tube regarding debt reductions. The folks are all so pleased to announce that they had a $34,000 credit card debt and through the wonderful efforts of “Debt 10000,” they had to pay only $12,400. And others echoing the same pleased result for their credit card debt or their state or federal income tax obligations. “Whoopie!” they are all saying, “look how much I got away with.” And then there are the lawyers specializing in bankruptcy. Once upon a time, declaring bankruptcy was a major embarrassment, considered on the same level as declaring to the world that you had syphilis. Not any longer.

2. The Phoenix Suns finally got the Spurs monkey off their backs, hammering the Spurs in four straight games. Which leads me to the old argument about who are the greatest NBA players. I say, no big man in the center can be considered great unless he can make free throws. I remember the contortions Wilt Chamberlain had to go through from the free throw line. He may have been a great scorer, but then, he was huge for his time, simply catching passes under the basket or rebounding under the basket and then throwing it down. If I were seven feet tall with an arm span of ten feet, I could also stuff the basket with abandon. That wouldn’t make me a great player, just an inordinately tall one. There are others in the past, but I’ll complete my argument in the present. Shaquille O’Neill would have everyone believe he’s “The Greatest.” Well, he’s not. He’s just a huge tree camping in the middle, and he, like Chamberlain, can’t shoot free throws worth a hoot. The same goes for Ben Wallace, Dwight Howard, and Tim Duncan. They can’t be considered great athletes or great basketball players if they can’t make free throws. Steve Nash is a great basketball player.

3. And a quick note about our ridiculous dependence on unfortunate sources of energy. BP is criminally responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf. They should have had so many safeguards in place that this oil bath couldn’t have happened. But it did, because we make it too lucrative for oil companies to find rich oil fields and then pump oil out in the most profitable yet dangerous ways. Our reliance on coal is also stupid, sending men miles underground to bring up coal to be used in power plants, which then leave behind this gray sludge that gets dumped in huge toxic ponds, just waiting for disaster to happen. Where are the efforts to find safe sources of energy—wind, solar, vegetable oil?

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