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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.

Sunday, February 23

Winter Olyimpics Finale

Thankfully, the Games are coming to an end. And, thankfully, coming to an end without any terrorist activity in Sochi. Maybe the Russian security was better than I thought it would be or maybe the terrorists just didn’t want to make a statement at this time, in that place. Either way, it’s a good thing. What did I learn from these Games? Now I know what a twizzle is, and no one does a twizzle better than our two golden ice dancers, Charlie White and Meryl Davis. She looks like a porcelain doll and he like Prince Charming, but are they ever elegant when they dance across the ice, with their twizzles impeccably timed.
What else will I take from these Games? The bobsled races seem to depend too much on how the two or four in the sled get started and how well their sleds perform. It would be a more reliable test of the driver’s skill if they didn’t have the initial push, just let gravity begin the run, with one or three sacks of potatoes instead of the one or three pushers, and all the teams having to use the same sled. Then the results would depend entirely on the skill of the driver. Actually, I don’t care how they do it. It’s a silly event. I’m not a hockey fan so the hockey results aren’t as traumatic for me as for the American men’s and women’s teams that lost to the Canadians.
The most interesting thing about the figure skating was the reexamination of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan brouhaha twenty years ago.
Now, Tonya is unattractively fat and Nancy is extremely attractive with steel grey eyes and a set mouth when she speaks of Tonya Harding.
One of the most exciting events is the speed skating around and around the ice palace. I can't figure out how they maintain their balance when they zoom around the corners nearly sidways. Four years down the road we can all go to South Korea for the 2018 Games. I’m constantly amazed at how far South Korea has come from the nation I visited over sixty years ago, a nation with the omnipresent odor of the honey buckets, the barrenness of the bombed out hillsides, the impoverished country villages with their straw huts. Now we find a thriving, democratic nation that produces wonderful automobiles and dominant female golfers. And just to the north, we find the megalomaniacal ruler of a starving nation. Amazing.

Monday, February 17

Pet Peeves


Pet peeves. So many to examine, so little time. Each time I go to any of our grocery stores or to CostCo and see people push a cart to their car, unload their stuff, and then shove the cart up into a bush or flower bed or just leave it in their empty space, even though there’s a cart repository no more than five steps away, I get pissed. I want to rush up before they can drive away and slam a cart into their rear ends. I don’t succumb to the urge, but it’s what I’d like to do. Then there are all the excessively tattooed basketball players, both college and NBA. What statement are they making with all that ink on necks and shoulders? I guess it’s the same as all the long hair and free love and dippy clothes of the Seventies, a finger in the air aimed at the establishment. Then there are the drivers in our senior community. They’re old, yes, but so many of them are so stupid. I’m guessing they were stupid young drivers. They don’t know how to stop at stop lights, or signal turns (or too often forget to turn their signals off after a turn), or signal a right turn and then turn left, or drive faster than 20 in a 45 mph zone, or drive slower than 60 in a 45 mph zone. When all our snow birds are here and our streets and parking lots are overflowing with senior drivers, one takes his life in his hands when one ventures out among them. Thank God I’m one of the non-stupid drivers. A long time ago I wrote a short essay on Pennsylvania drivers who drove me crazy whenever I'd drive to the golf course where I was a member. It was just over the Pennsylvania line from my home in upstate New York, back roads Pennsylvania, and the back country would come out to plague me.

"Pennsylvania Drivers"

Pet peeves, the things that bug us the most. Everybody’s got at least one and I guess you could say I have more than my share. But there’s one that really red-flags me. You see, patience has never been one of my virtues. And Pennsylvania drivers make me want to rip my hair. I have this theory that the only Pennsylvanians who get drivers licenses are the ones who don’t pass the road test.

I live in New York, fairly close to Pennsylvania, but I golf at a course just across the border near Warren, so I spend a lot of time on the two-lane roads from Lakewood through New York and Pennsylvania to the course. And almost every time I’m going or returning, I can count on one or more Pennsylvania caravans—little bunches of three to ten cars all tootling down the road at 43 mph, all bunched up behind the lead car, all doing 43. Not 42, not 44, but 43 right on the money—nobody ever passing anybody else because I swear Pennsylvanians think that’s illegal. So there I’ll be fuming at the back of the pack, and the Pennsylvanians ahead of me—oblivious to me and my anger, oblivious to just about everything—are just as pleased as punch.

I’ve noticed, whenever I’m stuck behind a Pennsylvania car, that the occupants really seem to enjoy eyeballing the scenery and conversing with each other. I watch them there ahead of me, their heads bobbing back and forth, looking out the side windows at the countryside, then back to look at each other. Apparently they can’t talk without eye contact. But they never look in their rearview mirrors. They haven't the foggiest there’s a guy behind them about to have a seizure, a guy who at any moment might go berserk and smash into their backsides. They just go on tootling down the road, and in my mind I hear Mortimer Snerd going, “Dum de dum de dum, uh yupp, uh huh, yupp. Oh, hey, look, Ethyl, the Johnsons got a new yard ornament—a stuffed bear bendin’ over the garbage can. Uh, yupp, that sure is cute all right. Goes really good with the mallard wind gauge ‘n’ the butterfly on the garage door. Uh yupp, uh huh, ‘n’ I always hafta chuckle when I see that wooden cutout of the lady bendin’ over the flower garden ‘n’ that cute little wooden schnauzer sniffin’ her bottom. Oh yeah, that’s a good un. Dum de dum de dum. Whattay think, Ethel? Wanna drive on over ta the mall in Lakewood ‘n’ look around? Maybe go ta Ponderosa fer dinner? Let’s see, fifteen miles from here. Shouldn’t take us more’n half hour or so. You game, Ethyl?”

And any time I see a car making some strange maneuver, I can almost count on its having a Pennsylvania plate—you know, the old “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” plate. Whenever I see a car signaling a left turn from the right lane, I go out of my way to check it out. Sure enough, blue plate, and almost always a little old couple in front and another in back, both ladies with carefully coifed blue hair. Or if I get stuck behind a car doing 25 in a 40 mph zone, I just know who it must be. They feel obligated to go ten to fifteen slower than the posted limit. It’s the same principle that applies when they see a 30 mph curve sign. They follow those instructions to the letter—no, I mean ten letters less. And down hills no matter how steep or gentle the grade. Any time I see someone’s brake lights blinking on-off, on-off, on-off going down a hill, I just know it’s a Pennsylvania dingdong.

Just yesterday, going west on Fairmount Avenue, I noticed a car right-turning into Ponderosa. Pennsylvanians love Ponderosa and will drive hundreds of miles from remote Pennsylvania outposts just to come to the one in Lakewood. The car was tootling a nice safe 5 mph for the turn, making a big surprise loop out to the left before turning right.

“Heh, heh, heh, uh yupp. Gotta keep them nervous New Yorkers on their toes, Ethyl.”

Sure enough, true to form—they turned into the Exit, much to the consternation of a driver just leaving.

“Oh, hey, Ethyl, ya see that nice man wave ta us from his car? They sure wave funny in New York, though, with just that one finger. Uh yupp, uh huh, dum de dum de dum.”

Sunday, February 16

Winter Olympics


The Winter Games are about half over, and I must confess I haven’t been watching as much of it as I used to. I like the Summer Games much better. I can understand nearly al the Summer events whereas I either don’t understand or don’t care about too many of the Winter events. Last night the winner in the men’s 1000-meter speed skating was decided by three thousandth of a second. I find that nearly ludicrous. And the American skating team sort of half complains about the new suits they’re wearing, sort of half blaming their poor showing on the suits. Come on, guys and girls, it ain’t the suits that win or lose the skating events. Then there’s the luge and skeletons. I still can’t figure out how much skill goes into those events and how much depends on the sleds. Folks willing to slide down an icy trough at 90 mph with chins only inches above the ice or aiming the damn things with their toes are beyond my understanding. I’d rather watch paint dry than watch all the ski jumping, or any of the curling or bobsledding, or most of the hockey or cross-country skiing or biathlon or Nordic combined. Part of my disinterest is that everything we see is tape-delayed. The excitement of winning or losing has already taken place. And too often we’re made aware of the winners and losers before we get to watch the events. Anyone on the Internet has to look away when that stuff is announced without any spoiler alerts. Even Brian Williams on the Nightly News can spoil a few events for us. I remember how angry I was in watching the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996.
Kerri Strug did that injured-ankle vault to help the American women gymnasts win the team gold. Our local news station just couldn’t wait to tell us all about it . . . about two hours ahead of the taped coverage. I wrote the station a very angry letter, and I’m sure they got a bunch more than one. So, what exactly do I care about in these games? The figure skating, the snowboarding, the downhill skiing, that strange short track speed skating, and the women’s bobsledding in which Lolo Jones is competing.
I guess that makes me a Summer Soldier and a Sunshine Patriot. Oh, yes, and one last Winter comment that also goes for the Summer: I wish they’d deemphasize the national medal counts. It just sounds too chauvinistic, too much national chest pounding when it should be about the individuals, regardless of nationality.

Thursday, February 13

Sochi & Ice Storms


A word about the weather. The Southeast is learning all about ice storms and skating rink highways, and Sochi is learning all about mushy mountainsides that make snowboarding and downhill skiing a dangerous sport.
The tv shots of the ice in Atlanta and most of North and South Carolina remind me of Frost’s poem “Birches,” in which the truth of bowed birches isn’t that boys have been swinging on them but that ice storms have caused them to bend, ice storms that, when the sun comes out and the temperatures rise, make the world look like the “inner dome of heaven” has fallen. Oh, how I love that poem. Love it as much as the Atlantans hate the stuff about which it was written.
And then there’s Sochi, with the Olympic ski and snowboard participants falling on their butts or crashing into safety nets when their skis or boards can’t navigate the slushy slopes.
I know, I know, they all have to face the same conditions, but in these conditions the best don’t always win the gold. Shaun White is a good example. He’d have won if the snow had been snow, if at the bottom of a trick his board had been able to grab the snow as it’s supposed to. Sounds like sour grapes on my part. At least I’m thankful that no idiot terrorists have yet struck these Games. Yet.

Thursday, February 6

Sochi & Breaking Bad


The Winter Games begin tonight, but it wouldn’t be a game to be in Sochi right now. Putin can say all he wants about the security he’ll have in place, but I’d still be afraid to go there. And not just the threat to my life. Also the threat to my identity and financial records. It seems that the Russian hackers can now grab all that information the minute you step off a plane and use any electronic devices. No wonder they still have so many tickets to sell for the various venues. No thanks. I’ll stay here and watch it on the tube. And if Sochi needs any more snow, we could always send some of ours that keeps falling and falling in the north and east.

I’m looking forward to the team figure skating as something new. Also looking forward to seeing Lolo Jones in the bobsled. Not that I give a shuck for bobsledding. I just want to see Lolo. The women’s ski jump should be good. It’s about time the Olympic committee finally agreed to consider women as being athletes enough for that event. Every year, every Olympic Games, both summer and winter, we realize that women are not fragile creatures who have to be protected from the rigors of a sport that was once considered only a male event. Think boxing and hockey, think weightlifting. Someday we may even see an end to the male/female categories, with mixed competition, the best competitors or team members regardless of gender. Maybe even see male pregnancies. That will finally signal equality of the sexes. Don’t laugh. These days, anything’s possible.

We’re still whistling through Breaking Bad. That really is an amazing series, so many unexpected twists and turns, so much really great acting. Nearly all of the characters have some good, some bad in them (pretty much like all of us). Walt seems to want to protect Jesse but he also allowed Jesse’s girlfriend to die of a heroin overdose when he might have saved her. But she was a menace to his and Jesse’s meth dealing, so he let her die. And Skyler has decided to overlook the money her boss seems to have misappropriated. The lies keep piling up, the tension keeps growing. We’re just starting Season Three. Thank you, NetFlix.

Monday, February 3

James Lee Burke


Several times on this blog I’ve written about author James lee Burke, praising him for his sensory style, for his interesting characters Dave Robicheau and Clete Purcell, for his recreation of the scents and sights of New Orleans and Louisiana. In his latest Robicheau novel, The Light of the World, this one set in Montana, an aging Dave Robicheau reflects on life and death. Here are a few of his reflections:

“At a certain age, you realize the greatest loss you can experience is a theft you perpetrate upon yourself—the waste of days given us. Is there any more piercing remorse than the realization that a person has thrown away the potential that resides in each sunrise?”

“Life had no value if it didn’t contain love. Was there any worse fate than not loving another and not being loved in turn? If the color gray could be applied to an emotional condition, it was a life without affection or human warmth. “

“Age is a clever thief. It takes a little from you each day, so you’re not aware of your loss until it’s irreversible.”

Here’s a fitting example of that sensory style I mentioned, especially when it applies to his beloved Louisiana:

“I have always loved and welcomed the rain, even though sometimes the spirits of the dead visit me inside it. During the summer, when I was a child, no matter how hot the weather was, there was a shower almost every afternoon at three o’clock. The southern horizon would be piled with storm clouds that resembled overripe plums, and within minutes you would feel the barometer plunge and see the oak trees become a deeper green and the light become the color of brass. You could smell the salt in the wind and an odor that was like watermelon that had burst open on a hot sidewalk. Suddenly, the wind would shift and the oak trees would come to life, leaves swirling and Spanish moss straightening on the limbs. Just before the first raindrops fell, Bayou Teche would be dimpled by bream rising to feed on the surface. No more than a minute later, the rain would pour down in buckets, and the surface of the Teche would dance with a hazy yellow glow that looked more like mist than rain.
For me the rain was always a friend. I think that is true of almost all children. They seem to understand its baptismal nature, the fashion in which it absolves and cleanses and restores the earth. The most wonderful aspect of the rain was its cessation. After no longer than a half hour, the sun would come out, the air would be cool and fresh, the four o’clocks would be opening in the shade, and that evening there would be a baseball game in City Park. The rain was part of a testimony that assured us the summer was somehow eternal, that even the coming of the darkness could be held back by the heat lightning that flickered through the heavens after sunset.”

And finally, another of Dave’s thoughts about life and death:

“What is the sum total of a man’s life? I knew the answer, and it wasn’t complicated. At the bottom of the ninth, you count up the people you love, both friends and family, and you add their names to the fine places you’ve been and the good things you’ve done, and you have it.”

I and Dave have a kinship. Too often of late I feel like I’m in the ninth, hoping for the game to go into extra innings. I feel like I’ve still got a few homeruns in me, but at my present age, it’s not likely I can ever hit one out of the park, maybe just a couple of bloopers over the infield or an accidental bunt that goes for a hit. But when I add in all the loved places and loved people in my life, and the good things I've done, the number comes out satisfactorily high. And with that extended sports metaphor, I and Dave say goodbye to whatever readers we have.

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