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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.

Friday, November 29

Thanksgiving & The Sound of Music

Thanksgiving has come and gone, followed by that silly Black Friday mania. Why would so many people feel so compelled to go out and fight the traffic and stand in line and fight the crowds and spend oodles of cash on stuff they may not even need, just to get those ridiculous discounts? “Tis a mystery. I’m glad I didn’t have to do it. We had a very nice Thanksgiving (or birthgiving, as one of my Facebook friends called it) dinner provided by our local Safeway grocery store—12 pound pre-cooked turkey, corn bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, dozen rolls, and a small pumpkin pie. Perfect for the three of us, my wife and I and daughter Jeri, and it would have easily fed six or seven. Best of all, the prep for it all was simple and the post-dinner cleanup a breeze. Thank you, Mrs. Safeway. We toyed with the idea of sticking a candle on the pie to commemorate my birthday but decided against it. After eating too much, I don’t think I’d have had enough energy to blow out even one candle, let alone eighty. Eighty might have set our house on fire. But now we’re on the eve of December with a short hop to Christmas and then to another new year. Tempus fugit.

There’s been a lot of hype recently about the upcoming NBC showing of a live Sound of Music, with Carrie Underwood playing Maria. Last Tuesday we went to the Arizona Broadway Theatre, our nearby dinner theatre, and saw Sound, and let me say that the girl who played Maria, Trisha Hart Disworth, would have made Julie Andrews proud. ABT just keeps getting better and better. The show opened with the seven nuns and the Mother Abbess behind a scrim screen, the abbey and castle and mountains on the scrim, a lighted abbey window behind them, four pillars and a high gated fence in front of them, and they sang the vespers a cappella. Enough to take my breath away. Then the fence and pillars exited left and right, the backdrop went up, the scrim went up, and Maria was there, lying on the stage with the mountains on a backdrop, and we hear the oh so familiar strains of the hills being alive. And what a voice Maria had. The sets and costumes and singing were wonderful. The voices of Maria and the Mother Abbess were fine enough for Broadway. I see that Audra MacDonald is playing the mother superior in the live production, and she has a great operatic voice, but I don’t think she’ll be any better than ABT’s Ariana Valdes. Anyone who might read this who lives in our Valley of the Sun should go see this ABT production. It was spectacular.

Tuesday, November 26

SYTYCD

Both of us were still feeling uneasy about our trip into downtown Phoenix for the SYTYCD show. We left at 5:30, assuming about thirty minutes to get to the theatre where we’d park and then find some place nearby for a light dinner. Wrong on almost all counts. It was dark by the time we’d gone only a few miles, and our unfamiliarity with Phoenix made it more like forty-five minutes. Lots of traffic, most of which was going the other way or the trip would have been even longer, but what seemed like an endless line of light in my eyes made the drive difficult. After half an hour, I put aside my male pride in never needing directions and stopped at a Circle K to ask how much farther to Van Buren St. Another mile or two, the clerk told me Middle Easternly. We drove on, found our turnoff, found the parking garage, and got parked by 6:20, with cars and people all over the place. And the people were all streaming to Comerica Theatre. We decided we wouldn’t have time for a cocktail and a bit to eat. Instead, we got in a line of several hundred people waiting to get in. Security guards checked all bags and purses for suspicious stuff like guns and explosives, but I think it was more for spotting forbidden bottles of water and soda. Just like at baseball stadiums, Comerica wanted to sell you five buck popcorn, five buck bottles of water. So I grudgingly bought both as a substitute for dinner. Comerica, like the garage next door, looked brand new—very high ceiling, seating on two levels with a balcony above, and lots of seats, all really small and close together with very little leg room. We found our seats, heaved a sigh, and sat with our bucket of popcorn and one bottle of water. We had nearly an hour before the show was to begin, so we munched and watched people-watched as they come in. Two huge girls sat down two rows in front of us. One of them was so big-butted I didn’t think she had a chance of fitting in one of these tiny seats. But she oozed her way in, flesh sort of flopping out on both sides. I pitied the poor lady who was seated next to her. If the world’s unluckiest person were flying cross country, this girl would be the one who’d be sitting right next to him in the aisle seat with another just like her in the window seat. The people kept coming in and the seats kept filling. I could only guess what the capacity of Comerica would be, but lots and lots of seats. I looked it up this morning, 5,000. Now our seats were dead center, but back so far the stage looked tiny. And I paid $48 apiece. I’m guessing the seats in the lower section nearer the stage would have been quite a bit higher. And when everybody was in and seated, it looked like it was at least 95% filled. That’s a bunch of people and a bunch of money for this show. A very young girl was seated next to Rosalie and another next to me. They had to have been interested in dance to sit so quietly and attentively through the two-hour performance. Finally, Nigel Lythgoe appeared like Oz on a large screen at the back of the stage and got it started, telling us what we were going to see, who all the dancers were. Then the music began and the fourteen dancers all danced down the aisles from the rear and onto the stage, where they did a lengthy number to “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Then it was almost an hour of steady dance numbers, mostly doubles, some group stuff, and all ten of the finalists doing a short solo. Choreographers from the show introduced some of the numbers via the big screen—Sonya Tayeh (she of the strange hair styles and body piercing), Tyce Diorio, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, Mandy Moore, and Travis Wall. Most of the dance numbers featured the winners from season 10: Amy Yakima and Du-Shaunt Stegal (Fik-shun) as well as the two runnersup, Jasmine Harper (she with the legs that go forever) and Aaron Turner (the husky tapper that learned how to do it all). A short intermission and then another hour before it was over. The only things missing were Mary Murphy and her screaming and Cat Deeley and her blond beauty. It was exciting, it was moving, it was great dancing, with great music and lighting effects. But the performers were so very far away. I found that during the solos, when each dancer was shown on that large back screen, I was watching the screen instead of the live dancer on stage. As with sporting events, watching it on the tube is closer to the action than any seat in the house. So too was this performance. The one thing that sitting in one’s house watching televised football or basketball or So You Think You Can Dance can’t duplicate is the energy of the crowd. We and the other 4500 or so people in the audience cheered and applauded and ooed and aahed together whenever a dancer or dance number did something spectacular. That togetherness felt good. But I’m not sure it was worth the time and money we invested in it. I’m glad we went, but neither of us will make such a trip again.

Monday, November 25

iPad & Other Stuff

I’m learning. Fighting my way through the intricacies of my new iPad Mini. Saturday I figured out how to get the iPad synched with my computer through iTunes and transferred nearly a thousand music tracks. And I now know how to get on line, where I went to Lulu.com and downloaded all my books at 99 cents apiece. Then on to Amazon where I bought the new one by Sandford, Storm Front, and one I’ve been looking for by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl. And I think I’ve mastered the tiny keyboard even though my fingers seem too large for the tiny keys. Now I have to get acquainted with Siri, the lovely lady that Big Bang Theory's Raj fell in love with. I don’t know what she can do for me, but it will be nice to hear her lovely voice. Then I went to the apps store and downloaded half a dozen, the Weather Channel, a couple of news outlets, and some games (free cell and Sudoku and a few golf). The next thing I have to learn: how to take pictures and videos. Then I’ll have it all and except for the writing I do on Word, I’ll be able to semi-abandon my computer, the beast that keeps getting slower and slower every day.

This past weekend was a really good one for Arizona sports. First, AU simply crushed the Oregon ducks. Then ASU maybe didn’t crush but certainly bruised UCLA. The Cardinals really did crush or maybe even smashed the Colts. And the Suns won their seventh game, this one over Orlando. This may have been the most successful weekend for Arizona sports ever.

Tonight we’re driving in to Phoenix to see the finalists from this season’s So You Think You Can Dance do their stuff. It should be fun to see these kids live and right there in front of us instead on the tube. I must confess, though, that I have some misgivings about getting to the theatre. I’d rather not have to drive into Phoenix simply because it all seems so complicated and somehow threatening. We see on the news these horrific stories about drive-by shootings and accidents and muggings and car-jackings. I know, I know, that’s just the negative news every big city has to show us every night. But still, we’re old, and we worry about such things happening to us. But we’ll be all right, and the show will be spectacular. I’ll let you know how it was tomorrow.

Saturday, November 23

Ipad Magic

On Thursday, I went to Best Buy to get some kind of tablet for my birthday. After all, this year is a major benchmark in my life and I felt that I deserved an expensive present. In the old days, a tablet was a cheap spiral-bound notebook in which one wrote stuff, a quarter or half a buck at most. No longer. Now it’s a really expensive thing one can write in or do all sorts of things, and it costs about one and a half arms and legs. At first I thought I’d like an IPad Air, the latest Apple to fall from the tree, but I changed my mind when I finally found all the tablets on display, about twenty from various IPads to Windows to Samsungs to Kindles to Nooks, all in differing sizes and capabilities. And every one of those had two or three or four people checking them out, everyone looking much smarter in their examinations than I. I’m not a novice when it comes to computers, but I’m less than a child when it comes to these new, tiny things that seem able to perform magic on their tiny screens. I sort of wandered around, trying not to look too stupid, checking prices, reading the descriptive blurbs about each one. I assumed all of them would have a manual that explained how the magic happened. So, since I’ve always been a quick sell, I grabbed a geek and told him I wanted an IPad Mini, 16 gigs, for just over $300, up to about $360 with a leather cover and tax. I wonder how many spiral-bound tablets I might have bought with that much money. About seven or eight hundred. Then I raced home like a little kid with a new toy. But, I discovered, what a really complicated toy, sort of like that piece of elaborate furniture we bring home in a box, umpteen pieces with umpteen different sized screws and bolts and nuts with the directions in Chinese. I found that I first had to hook it up to my computer, then connect to my Qwest broadband and WIFI. But I didn’t have a password that would allow me to continue the setup. Duh! So I called for help. Since Qwest was a part of my Century Link account, I called them, spoke to Edna, who asked me for all my account details and put me on hold for a transfer to the tech squad. Then, after ten minutes, I got through to a technical support geek named Leonard, who asked me all the same questions about my account. I’m not sure what nationality Leonard was or where he was located, but it sure wasn’t anywhere in the U.S. Oddly, though, he didn’t sound Indian. Is it racist of me to say that? Most technical support for electronic gadgets is in India. Are there young men named Leonard in India? So Leonard, way too fast in language I could barely understand, finally managed to give me a password that would work with my Qwest account. What should have been simple became much too complex—a nearly incomprehensible geek spewing way too many words at me, trying to sell me way too many upgrades to my internet service. I finally interrupted him and said, “Thank you, Leonard. Goodbye,” and hung up. Was that rude of me? I hope not. Then it was back to my IPad with my new password. Yay! It worked. And I suddenly had bells and whistles and sleight of hand stuff I couldn’t begin to decipher: a camera, an Apple apps store (475,000 apps to choose from, some to buy and some free, none of which struck me as something I needed), the ITunes store, maps, magazines, free books (none of which I wanted), access to my e-mails, internet access to any site I might want to visit, a tiny keyboard for texting or filling in information requests. Oh, yes, and the manual? I went to the Apple site and downloaded 137 pages of instructions on how to use this magical platter. That’s right, one hundred and thirty-seven pages for this tiny toy. Now I have to figure out how I can transfer some of my music from computer to IPad, how to download e-books, how to transfer photos, how to take pictures and videos. I’ll tackle all that tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 20

The Bad Boys

Remember when your children were still children, going through that awful transition from two to three? Remember those terrible times when your children became little devils just beginning to learn what they could and couldn’t get away with? Well, our two little boys, Tiger and Tuffy, seem to be in the middle of those terrible twos because they’re putting us to the test. Nothing seems to be too high for them to leap onto, no glassware not under lock and key is safe from their inquisitive paws, no artificial flowers can escape their tiny teeth, no window cords or electrical cords or phone cords seem to be out of bounds for their mischief.. They will look us in the eye and give us that two-year-old’s cherubic smile, all the while thinking about what they might next do to bug mom and dad. Our chairs and sofa tremble at their approach for fear of their razor-sharp little claws. Our house is littered with tiny play mice and round plastic balls and yet there are at least five or six that have been shoved under hutch or chairs or stove. And each time after we fish these lost items out from their hiding places, the boys almost immediately knock them under again. Just like Longfellow’s little girl I wrote about a while ago, the one with the curl in the middle of her forehead, the boys, usually when they’re sleeping, can be such good little boys, but when they’re awake, when they’re bad, they’re horrid. Soon, though, too soon, like all two-year-olds, they’ll pass through this phase to kitty adolescence and then to adulthood. And then, like Charlie, they’ll be mostly model citizens. Mostly. That's Tuffy sleeping in his window seat. Doesn't he look angelic? And Tiger is in his favorite chair in the living room. Doesn't he look angelic? Then there's Charlie, now the responsible adult in the trio, looking aloofly innocent, just as he always does, awake or asleep.

Tuesday, November 19

ED

A very long time ago, in a country far far away, my wife and others in town were shocked when the 5 & 10 store dared to put a Kotex display in their front window, right out there for the innocent eyes of women and little children to see. Back then discreet men and women never spoke of such things, let alone have them displayed for the whole world to see. How dare the store owners advertise a female product like that, dare to take it out of its brown paper disguise and show it nakedly in a front window. Get out the rails, boys, pluck a few chickens, heat up the tar and ride them out of town.

We’ve come a long way since then. Now we’re bombarded by countless tv ads for ED cures, Cialis and Viagra companies promising aging men that anytime the coital urge hits them they too can sit out in nature in twin bathtubs, basking in the knowledge that they could hump like rabbits with the drop of a little blue pill, warning them with wordy disclaimers that in case their erector sets keep them up for more than four hours they should call a physician. And in case the pills don’t help, they should get a prescription for Axiron or Androgel to increase testosterone. A little dab’ll do ya in each arm pit, and—Voila!—energy and strength and sexual drive like never before. What’s next? Last night we saw an ad for Trojan lubricants. I’m just glad they didn’t show us how and where to apply it. Stay tuned, that’ll soon be on the tube.

Thursday, November 14

The "Esh" Phoneme

When one faithfully keeps a journal for over twenty years, it’s odd how remembered events and thoughts can disappear into the sea of words. I recently mentioned one of my pet English language anomalies—the many different spellings we have for the “esh” phoneme. I know I wrote an essay about it, listing all the words that exemplify the various “esh” spellings. Can I find it? No way. It’s somewhere, but I don’t know where. I’d have to wade through four or five thousand journal pages to find it, and though I’m fond of my own words, I’m not four or five thousand pages fond.

Here it is again, with most of the examples, but not all. It serves my purpose for showing how agonizingly complex English spelling and pronunciation is.
1. “sh” – devilish. So far, so good, the obvious choice for our “esh” spelling.
2. “s” – sugar, sure. Okay, does the “u” after the “s” cause it to come out as “esh”? What about “nauseous?” Is the “s” acting alone or is it working with the “e”? (This word can be pronounced three ways, but the preferred way is with the “esh.”)
3. “se” – nauseous. One way or the other, “s” alone or “se.”
4. “si” – compulsion, expulsion
5. “sc” – fascist
6. “sch” – (Most borrowed from German, but many also from Yiddish) schist, schilling, schmaltz, schmo, schnooze, schnapps, schmuck (Careful who you call a schmuck; in Yiddish it basically means “penis.”), and a double example, schottische (an “esh” on both ends)
7. “sche” – schottische
8. “ss” – fissure, issue
9. “ssi” – mission. Is the “i’ working with the “ss”? What happens when the “i” is removed? You get “misson,” which loses the “esh”; therefore, the “i” must be working with the “ss” to make the “esh.”
10. “c” – commercial, racial, facial, delicious, atrocious
11. “ch” – chute, chartreuse, champagne, chamois (mostly borrowed from French), , Chinook (an oddity which can be pronounced with hard “ch” when it signifies a native American tribe or as an “esh” when it means a warm wind)
12. “t” – novitiate, Horatio, fellatio
13. “ti” – confidential, exemption, motion, palatial (But isn’t it odd that in “palatial” the “c” from “palace” has changed to a “t”?)
14. “xi” – anxious (But odd that the “x” changes to a “z” sound in “anxiety.”)
15. “chs” – fuchsia (a lone oddity in that it derives from Leonhard Fuchs, a 16th century German botanist)
16. “psh" - pshaw (often mispronounced as “pishaw”)

A few more examples of the way English can mystify people seeking to learn our language. “Sew” and “few” look like they should be pronounced with the same vowel quality, “oo.” But “sew” is like “so” and “few” is with a diphthong that sounds like “eee-uw,” that sound of disgust when we see something yucky. And “gone” and “dawn” rhyme, but their spellings are dramatically different. Then there’s the “mb” problem, words that use this spelling but which choose to make the “b” silent, and each time, the “o” that’s trapped in front of it changes color: “bomb”- “ comb”-“tomb.” How’s that for inconsistency?

Tuesday, November 12

Phoenix Sports & Old Hookers

Last weekend was great for Arizona sports. Or maybe I should say for Phoenix sports since AU got busted by UCLA. But the ASU Sundevils squeaked out a win over the Utah Utes, the Cardinals came from behind to squeak it out over the Houston Texans, and the surprising Suns slapped the visiting Pelicans up alongside the head to move to 5-2 and in first place in the Pacific Division. All the talking heads forecast the Suns to win no more than twenty-one or –two all season. Even the Vegas bookmakers had them winning only eighteen. But they seem to be fooling everyone. New coach Jeff Hornacek has to be partly responsible. He’s got them playing tough at both ends, just as he did in his playing days. I hope next weekend sees as many bright spots as this last one did.

Last Saturday I went to my book signing with anxious heart, a little like stage fright. I was afraid it would be a negative repeat of my other failed attempts to attract readers to my books. And it was. I sat there for two hours listening to my fellow book-signer Gale Leach rapturously describe her books to the few people who stopped by. But no one wanted to hear my rapture. Don Rasmussen, a fellow book-signer scheduled for next Saturday, introduced himself, saying he just wanted to see what it was all about. But then he stood there like a book groupie for almost an hour, just aching to talk about his book. H’d written an autobiography about his life in the military and in coaching and the early days of ESPN. I wanted to say to him, “Are you crazy? Who but your children gives a rat’s ass about your life story?” But I didn’t say it, just let him go on and on about it while I pretended to listen. After two hours of sitting on a very hard chair, chatting briefly with my two faithful golf buddies who showed up, I heaved a sigh of relief and left Gifts to Go, swearing never again to put myself up for sale like some cheap hooker under a streetlight, having all potential Johns pull up beside me, take one look, and go screeching away as fast as their wheels would take them. Nope. No thanks. I’m too old and too disheartened about book selling to go through that again. I’ll just squeeze my hooker legs together and close up shop.

Sunday, November 10

Insomnia

What does one do in the depth of night when one wakes up and stares in the darkness at the inside of one’s eyelids? Well, old English teachers lie there and obsess on the vagaries of English spelling and pronunciation. How, I ask myself, can any non-English speaking person learn to read, write, or pronounce English when we have so many spelling and pronunciation anomalies? I think of “though” and then add a “t” to make “thought.” Okay, two different vowel sounds for the “ou” (“oh” and “aw”) with the “gh” silent. Then I add an “r” to make “through” and I now have an “oo” sound. Now I find a diphthong in “bough” and “sough” (which can be pronounced as either “sow” or “suff” and is obviously related to “sigh”). I heave a deep sigh and go on to “cough” and “tough,” with vowel sounds like “aw” and “uh” and the “gh” so longer silent but sounding like a rough “eff.” And all this is only the tip of the iceberg of the English spelling conundrum. Don’t even get me started on the “esh” phoneme in English. I tried, successful finally, to get back to sleep. Although it was rough, I thought it through, fought for sleep, and then soughed like a bough in a midnight breeze.

Thursday, November 7

Book Signing

This Saturday, November 9, from 11:30 to 1:30, I'll be at a book signing at a little shop called Gifts to Go. I'd really appreciate it if any of you who live in the area and read this blog could come to it, not necessarily to buy any books, but just to support me in this venture and maybe chat a bit. This place is located directly east of the QT just before you enter Sun City. There are a series of shops facing west, Gifts to Go is the northernmost of these shops. I'll be there signing my golf novel Match Play and the children's book Life in the Arbor. Thanks in advance to any of you who drop in.

Christmas "Stuff"

It’s that time again, time for the Christmas catalogues to start pouring into our mailbox. My wife and I are old enough that we no longer need to fill our house with “stuff.” In fact, we’re sort of in a “getting rid of” mode, either giving away or selling things we no longer have a need for or a special attachment to. I’ve gotten rid of most of my many cd’s (which was easy because I have all the tracks downloaded onto my computer) and a bunch of my books (which wasn’t so easy as I have, all through my life, bonded with books, taking them to my heart, the ugly ones as well as the beautiful). But that still leaves all the knickknacks we’ve bought over the years—the Priscilla Hillman kitty collectibles from Hallmark, the set of Wildflower Angels representing each month, the many glass paperweights, the crystal sets of assorted dishes too good to use but good enough to keep in our dining room hutch, the paintings by Rosalie’s father and my mother and the wooden carvings by Rosalie’s father. Just stuff, but stuff that enriches our lives. But we don’t need to add to that list, and that’s what such Christmas catalogues offer us, entice us into buying. The latest catalogue, and probably the classiest of the lot, is Signals, out of Ohio. Jewelry, wall hangings, music boxes, unusual clocks and watches, wind chimes, etc. All moderately priced and tasteful. For example, there’s a personalized wall hanging portraying a snowy landscape with two parallel rows of winter trees enclosing this saying, “I can’t promise that I’ll be here for the rest of your life, but I can promise that I’ll love you for the rest of mine.” A bit corny, but the price is right and the sentiment is genuine, even though borrowed. They also advertise three music boxes that are tempting: a harp playing “Music of the Night,” a violin playing “Blue Danube,” and a grand piano playing “Für Elise.” Do we need another music box? No, definitely no. There’s also a sign to hang on one’s front door that instructs visitors, “Doorbell Broken. Yell ‘Ding Dong!’ really loud.” Whimsical, but I love whimsy. And then, of course, there are all the t-shirts and sweatshirts with comic sayings. I love the sayings, but I don’t need any more t-shirts or sweatshirts. The old English teacher in me finds the following clever and cute and accurate:
1. Keep clam and proofread. Loose your cool and it’s easy to make misteaks.
2. “I” before “e” except when eight weird, feisty neighbors seize a surfeit of weighty heifers.
3. The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.
4. Seven days without a pun makes one weak.
5. Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.
6. A backward poet writes inverse.
7. Her bootlegging was illegal, but I loved her still.
8. A tardy cannibal gets the cold shoulder.
9. Never play cards in the Serengeti—there are too many cheetahs.
10. I regret not developing my photographic memory.
11. And my favorite of all in this age of talkers: Listen and silent have the same letters. Coincidence?

Tuesday, November 5

Dental Implants

Yesterday I went to my dentist (a student at Midwestern Dental School) and had four implants placed in my upper jaw. I don't think these young people realize how painful it is to sit in a dental chair for up to three hours straight, especially when the sitter is fast approaching eighty and really really has to pee. So I was there for nearly three hours with four people all having some portion of their hands in my mouth, not necessarily all at the same time, but it seemed like all four had a hand in it--a dental surgeon who was instructing my two students as he cut and hacked and pounded, my head student who was helping by holding my lips open, my secondary student who was manning the water and suction deelybob, and another assistant whose job it was to scrub away the blood on my lips and bottom jaw. I think if one had to devise a method of torture even quicker and more efficient than water-boarding, this might be it. They also did something I wouldn't have dreamed could be part of this procedure, pounding on each implant post with a tiny mallet. The NFL is worried about concussions. Well, dentists who use a tiny mallet on the inside of one's head should also be worried about causing concussions.
I was reminded of the old Dustin Hoffman movie, Marathon Man, in which Dustin is tortured by Dr. Christian Szell (played by Sir Laurence Olivier at his macabre best), who used his Auschwitz dental training to drill on Dustin’s teeth to get him to reveal the hiding place of some diamonds. I’d have given up the diamonds in a flash. You may be wondering why I was having four implants. They're evenly spaced along my upper gum ridge and will serve as anchors for my upper dental plate, sort of snap-on buttons like shirts and jackets sometimes have. I feel much better today than I did when I came home yesterday. But if I had to do it again, I'd pass.

Sunday, November 3

When She Was Good

When She Was Good is a most unusual novel by Laura Lippman,. Or maybe I should say, it contains a most unusual main character. Helen Lewis is a prostitute who becomes a madam and runs her escort service like a well-oiled machine, making sure her “girls” are protected from disease as well as customers, or “clients” as she likes to refer to them. And she extensively screens the men before accepting them as clients, most of whom are influential movers and shakers in the Baltimore and DC areas. She is almost entirely a self-made woman, never graduating from high school because her abusive father insisted she go to work instead of wasting her time in school. But she reads and reads, thinking if she can’t get a normal education she’ll get one on her own. When she was eighteen, dancing, both pole and lap, she was living with Billy, an addict and a loser, but it’s there that she meets Val Deluca, who takes her in, supposedly only temporarily. But he pimps her out and she works for him until he’s sent to prison for killing Martin, the young man he’d been grooming as his second in command. But since Helen (now renamed Heloise) has such good business acumen, she takes over the business and runs it better and more profitably than Val did. Helen, or Heloise, is a remarkable character in that she’s in a dirty business but she’s such a good and intelligent person who treats both her escorts and the clients with fairness and respect. Lippman is a sneaky good writer, nothing flamboyant about her style but she has her moments. Let me show just a few examples:

“Heloise feels as if she can pinpoint the exact location of her heart. It is like a pigeon caught in a chimney, flapping its wings, desperate to get out, blind in the darkness.”

“She really does look fine. If one didn’t know of Sophie’s former glory, she might even seem reasonably attractive. But the lusciousness is gone. She’s like a piece of fruit on its way to being overripe. There’s no visible decay, but you wouldn’t want to bite into her for fear that the sensation would be mushy and mealy.”

“They were a self-contained unit, together almost sixty years, not even particularly perturbed by the infrequency with which they saw their grown children. They were like two trees that had grown together, and they would probably topple together. “

Anyone who likes well-written thrillers should try some of Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series or any of her stand-alone novels.

Friday, November 1

Tiger Woods

Forgive me for beating this drum again, just as I have for so many years. All you Tiger haters out there won’t like what I have to say about the man, especially after he showed the world his feet of clay with his infamous sex scandal. In the years since Tiger’s father died, and in these past three years after Tiger’s domestic screw-up, Tiger’s career isn’t as certain as it once seemed to be. Granted, it’s still pretty great, but just think what it might have been, what it still might be. Tiger’s father devoted his son’s life to becoming the best ever, and Tiger went along with it to an unbelievable degree. What must it have been like for the other tour players during that first decade of Tiger’s career? Playing for second place most weeks, I guess. I hope I live long enough to see how it all plays out. By the end of last season, he’s won 79 PGA tour events, only three behind Snead’s 82 (but some of Snead’s are questionable at best), and Snead, like Vijah Singh, played in nearly every tournament that came down the pike, many with weak fields. Tiger plays in only the most prestigious tournaments, with the strongest fields. What if he’d decided to play a thirty or thirty-five week schedule per year? He could easily have won another three more each of the past dozen years, bringing his total to somewhere around 115. The number of records he holds is remarkable—number of years as top money winner, number of cuts made, number of consecutive cuts made (142), number of consecutive weeks ranked as number 1, number of consecutive PGA victories in a row—7 in 2006-07, 6 in 1999-2000 (second only to Byron Nelson’s 11 in a row). He’s won 27.2% of the tournaments he’s entered. His influence on the tour has been tremendous, almost single-handedly increasing the amount of prize money now available to tour players. He played probably the best golf anyone has ever known in that magical year of 2000-2001. He was then king, and his reign continued for nearly the entire first decade of this century. And then he blew it. But maybe he can right the ship and regain his title. He was and still might be the most powerful figure any sport has ever seen. Paul Azinger once said he thought Tiger was the greatest athlete of all-time, an assessment I’d have to agree with.

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