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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.

Monday, June 30

Dream Songs & Michele/Tiger

Lately, I’ve risen into those middle-of-the-night moments somewhere between waking and dreaming and heard old songs—very old songs—and I know all the lyrics. The words are all more crystal clear half asleep than they’d be if I tried to call them up during the day. Weird. Last night, around 4:00, I half awakened and started listening to someone sing “I Could Write a Book.” I couldn’t quite make out who was singing, maybe me, but all the lyrics were there. Such a simple little song from a long time ago. At first, I couldn’t even figure out the title. I mean, it shows up only once and not even at the beginning. “If they asked me, I could write a book, about the way you walk and whisper and look. I could write the preface on how we met so the world would never forget. And the simple secret of the plot is just to tell them that I love you a lot. Then the world discovers as my book ends, how to make two lovers of friends.” In my half sleep, I guessed it was a Rogers and Hart song, probably from an early musical, but I couldn’t remember which one. In the morning I resorted to that immense source of information, the Wonderful Web, and learned that, yes, it was Rogers and Hart, from Pal Joey, sung most memorably by Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick, Jr. And then in my inner musical ear I heard both versions. I wonder if I’ll continue to hear old song lyrics in my sleep. I hope so. It keeps me entertained during a rather boring time of the night.

Watching Michele Wie these past few weeks, watching her finally rising to the potential we all knew she had, I wondered what effect her unique putting stance would have on all the amateur male and female golfers who have been watching her. I think there’d be a huge contingent who’d like to try out her ninety degree bend from the waist but are afraid to do so at their local putting greens for fear someone would see them and burst out laughing. And while I’m on the subject of golf, Tiger’s return last weekend didn’t tell us much about how he might do in the future. He and the analysts in the booth called it just rust on his game, but I hope it’s rust and not some physical or mental rot. He won’t play competitively until the Open at Hoylake in three weeks. Hoylake is where he won in 2006, with hard brown fairways and greens, where he chose to hit driver only once in four rounds, instead hitting those famous 2-iron stingers off the tees, keeping his tee shots out of those dreadful bunkers. Maybe conditions will be the same this year. No one can hit long stinger irons as well as Tiger, even when he’s a bit rusty.

Friday, June 27

Current Nonsense

When searching for nonsense in today's world, there's almost too much to choose from. Ah, ha! A dangling modifier in my first sentence. This is a grammatical error when one uses some introductory phrase that suggests the subject of the main clause will be the one doing it. As in this example, who's doing the searching? Well, I am, but I'm nowhere to be found in the sentence, thus the modifier dangles, like a limp penis. And there, I just found my first bit of nonsense, right in my own backyard. Or maybe that should be, "my own frontyard."

Another nonsense, this time not so much silly as simply making no sense.

I watched Thursday's soccer match between the U.S. and Germany. I don't know much about soccer but even I could see that the U.S. got outplayed by a hefty margin, but the final score was only one to zip. And all the newscasters were telling us that it didn't matter as long as Portugal beat or tied Ghana. And that made no sense to me at all. It seems that as long as Portugal didn't beat Ghana by too many points, the U.S. was going into the next round whether they won, drew, or lost. And soccer fans think our version of football is complicated.

Here's a doozy from today's news. On January 30, a female teacher administering a high school equivalency test in the Pinal County state prison was raped, and yet there was no report of the assault to the Arizona Department of Occupational Safety. "It is required to report incidents only in which there is a fatality or more than three people are hospitalized." What?! Here's even more nonsense: She was giving the test with no guard nearby to half a dozen inmates in the prison's Meadows Unit, which houses about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders. No guard nearby. 1,300 sex offenders.

And finally, John Boehner, House Speaker, is suing the Obama administration for its use of executive actions to change laws. What GOPtigoogle and GOPtigoop!

Speak softly, John, but carry a big stick. John Boehner and the GOP are the most nonsensical items on the current agenda.

Wednesday, June 25

TNT's BOOM!

TNT’s new slogan—BOOM!—is so appropriate for the kind of shows they’re putting out now and in the past. They should have had it years ago when The Closer first appeared on the tube, causing all viewers (especially men) to fall in love with Brenda Leigh Johnson and the lady who portrayed this slightly wacky L.A. cop, Kyra Sedgwick. Their string of successful shows makes TNT the most watched, best creators of tv drama of all the networks. The Closer morphed into Major Crimes, with all the characters from Closer except Brenda Leigh, Fritz (Jon Tenney), and Will Pope (J. K. Simmons). We were fearful that MC couldn’t make it on its own, but it has, and it’s still one of our favorites, despite last week’s episode which was slapsticky silly, a plot mistake that Closer sometimes made, but one that the Major Crimes writers should beware of if they hope to keep their viewers. I look at some of the shows that were dropped before their time, shows with great scripts and great actors: Saving Grace and the off-the-wall character Grace Hanadarko played by the original off-the-wall Holly Hunter, Ray Romano’s Men of a Certain Age with such an original plot and characters that too many viewers bailed out on it before it deserved to die, and Southland with its violent realism about L. A. cops. All three great, all three canceled when they should have been renewed. Now we have this season’s crop of shows that look good: The Last Ship, Murder in the First, and one that opens in August with what sounds like another winner, Legends. Falling Skies is the only one we haven’t watched that we should have. I think the science-fiction plot turned Rosalie off and I went along with it, even though I’m an old sci-fi fan. What’s left? Perception, with the schizophrenic professor played by one of our favorites from Will and Grace, Eric McCormack; and Rizzoli and Isles, with the gorgeous Angie Harmon as Jane Rizzoli, and the very pretty (but not as pretty as Angie) Sasha Alexander as Jane’s sidekick Dr. Maura Isles. We and the rest of the Rizzoli and Isles watchers were wondering how they were going to handle the tragic death of Lee Thompson Young, who played Jane’s partner Barry Frost. We were as shocked and saddened as everyone else when we heard that Lee Young had killed himself. The season opener gave us the news that Barry Frost had been killed in an auto accident while he was on vacation. And then this week’s episode, entitled “Goodbye,” faced the problem of how to treat Barry Frost’s death as well as the death of the young man who played him, Lee Young. How would the cast manage to portray his death without simply breaking down?
They did it and did it very well. It was a memorial to the character Barry Frost as well as a memorial to Lee Young. It was about grieving and getting through the five steps of grief, with the important one of crying. The entire cast finally wept, both scripted tears as well as the real tears of the actors. And I joined them with held-back sobs but tears silently running down my cheeks. So I shout “BOOM!” to TNT for giving us so many worthwhile shows, even the ones that make me cry like a baby.

Sunday, June 22

Gone Girl

I finished Gone Girl and am not sure if that was the finish or if I’d lost a few pages. This book is odd for any number of reasons. I’d first suggested that Flynn’s style is what made the book tick. But I’ve since discovered that it isn’t the author’s style that makes it, but the style of the two main characters, Nick and Amy, or Tick and Tock. The plot’s structure is two-fold, alternating between Amy’s view, beginning seven years in the past, in diary form, to Nick’s view, with a number of flashbacks, on the day of their fifth anniversary, the day Amy disappeared, is “gone.” A sample of Amy’s diary style:

“I must look on the bright side. Literally. I must take my husband out of my dark shadowy thoughts and shine some cheerful golden light on him. I must do better at adoring him like I used to. Nick responds to adoration. I just wish it felt more equal. My brain is so busy with Nick thoughts, it’s a swarm inside my head: Nicknicknicknicknick! And when I picture his mind, I hear my name as a shy crystal ping that occurs once, maybe twice, a day and quickly subsides. I just wish he thought about me as much as I do him.” Don’t you feel for Amy’s plight?

A sample of Nick’s style:

“I began imagining how it might happen. I began craving her [his mistress Andie’s touch] touch—yes, it was like that, just like a lyric from a bad ‘80s single—I craved her touch, I craved touch in general, because my wife avoided mine: At home she slipped past me like a fish, sliding just out of grazing distance in the kitchen or the stairwell. We watched TV silently on our two sofa cushions, as separate as if they were life rafts.” The beleaguered husband with the inattentive wife.

Oddity number 2: just when we think we know these two, we find that we don’t know them at all. You’ll have to read it to find out how.

Oddity number 3: The time lines converge in the middle of the story, Nick’s moving through the days after Amy’s disappearance, and Amy’s diary entries moving up to the present, with the tension building, building, up to that moment. And then we begin again, Nick in his present and Amy now out of the diary and into her present. And the characters shift into new territory.

I think I may have to read this novel again, just to see how Flynn accomplishes this legerdemain. Now you see it, now you don’t.

Saturday, June 21

Tiger, Lucy, Lexi, and Michelle

Good news, Tiger is going to play next week. And just watch the tv ratings soar. It’s especially good news because this must mean he’ll be playing in the Open and the PGA, and I can get back to viewing golf with more than one eye. The LPGA is playing its open at Pinehurst 2 this week, and thanks to some fortuitous occurrences, the ladies will be have the most viewers they’ve ever had. Why? It’s being held on the same course (although quite a bit shortened) on which the men played for the U.S. Open last week; we were fascinated with seeing the 11-year-old Lucy Li swing a club (very well, by the way); and on Saturday, the two LPGA bombers are paired in the final group, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson. Young Miss Li has put the whip and the snap back in “whippersnapper.”
I can’t remember what I was doing when I was her age, but it certainly wasn’t playing in a major golf tournament. She played very well, despite a few, as she refers to them, big numbers. And her post-play interviews were delightful, this tiny, but oh so poised little girl eating an ice cream bar as she discussed with the media how she had played. We’ll be seeing more of Lucy Li in years to come. Then there are the other two golf prodigies—Michelle Wie, whom we all thought a decade ago was going to accomplish Tiger-like goals, and Lexi Thompson, known affectionately by her brothers as Twinkle Toes because of the way she finishes her swing, up on both toes. Michelle Wie finally looks like the player we expected ten years ago.
Lexi Thompson, only nineteen, is simply a joy to watch as she swings with abandon and swing-fury. This pairing today should really be something.














Friday, June 20

Acceptance

Every day I find more and more things that are less and less important to me. That’s such a negative admittance, isn’t it? But you’ll notice I said “things,” not people. The people I care for are still important to me. It’s the “stuff” of life that I’m pushing away. Thoreau, from the very beginning, never let his life be weighed down by possessions. I’m only now, late in life, finding the truth in what he preached. “Our life is frittered away by detail,” he tells us. “Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” Well, I’m getting down to just a thumb-nail. All the books I brought with me from New York, the books I had when I was teaching English, the books I loved for all my life, are now gone. Nearly all the books I now have are the latest by thriller authors I read as they write them,-- buying them, reading them, then passing them on. After Rosalie finishes with them, I give them to friends who just love free books. All the music I collected and put on my hard drive is now gone. I saved all the tracks on mp3s, but when I try to download the music onto my new computer, it accepts only part of them. And I don’t even care. There are now so many different avenues for listening to music that one doesn’t need cds. I have music channels on tv; I have Spotify on my computer; I have countless internet radio stations. I feel myself pulling away from the things I used to love, especially golf, a game that dominated most of my life. Now that I can’t play it the way I once did, I don’t seem to care as much and I find it easier and easier to stop playing. Sounds like a slow slide to oblivion, doesn’t it? Friends from the past, friends I’ve made here in Arizona, are all moving to the background, either through their deaths, their failing health, or a discontinuance of what brought us together in the first place. And I don’t seem to miss them. My mother told me a year before she died that virtually all her friends or people she ever knew were dead. Some relatives still around, yes, but no one else. She was ninety-three then, legally blind, living alone in a small apartment with Meals on Wheels delivering most of the food she needed. Her life diminished more and more with every passing day. I think she was more than ready to die when she finally gave up the ghost at ninety-four. No Dylan Thomas raging, just acceptance. I’m beginning to understand that attitude.

Thursday, June 19

Old Food, Old Spices

I was hungry for something but I didn’t know what, just that boredom that comes from too much tv or reading or staring mindlessly out a window. So it was more a cure for boredom that an actual hunger. I found a small pack of sliced turkey breast, but it was a little slippery when I tried to take out a slice. Been there longer than I could remember. Some six or seven bananas that looked really sorry—black and mushy and just waiting for a trip to the disposal. A half full (or half empty, depending on your optimism or pessimism)) quart of milk. I opened it and sniffed it, and saw on the top “Sell before 6-7-14.” Since it was now almost two weeks past that date, pessimist that I am, I poured it in the sink. We now buy too much food that doesn’t get entirely eaten, too much that goes into some oven dish that’s enough for six people, but since we’re only two, we have a two-meal leftover that we never get around to eating. I’m amazed that more old people don’t die of food poisoning. Maybe they do and just get misdiagnosed by the attending physician. How many canned foods do we have in our cupboards that have been there way too long? The other day I found way back behind some cans of tomato sauce a Little Debbie cinnamon bun, plastic wrapped and hard as a frisbee. Sorry, Little Debbie, we misplaced you. In the other far corner of the pantry cupboard are four containers of hot-and-sour soup mix I bought on line about three years ago, tried once, and discovered that the preparation wasn't worth the effort. Did I throw it away? Nah, who knows when I might reconsider the preparation thereof? Several years ago, I remember finally throwing out a package of vegetable Jell-O that we’d brought with us from New York. It had been in the cupboard here for at least twelve years and had been in New York for a few years before the twelve. Would package Jell-O ever go bad? Probably not. But it’s been years and years since they’ve even made such a product, and why why why would we have packed it up with other kitchen items and brought it with us? That led me to an examination of our spice collection. Too bad spices don’t stamp their bottles and boxes with expiration dates. We have one very suspicious box of corn starch (dusty top, faded front), three boxes of baking soda, three bottles of ground cloves, three half-filled containers of chili powder, three of minced onion, two of parsley flakes, two of ground mustard, two of Italian seasonings, two of cinnamon, two of ginger, and one each of stuff I don’t have a clue about what they’re for or why we’d have bought them in the first place: dill weed (Did I ever eat weeds in any dishes we created?), cream of tartar (to make a fish sauce? But why would we buy that when the grocery store sells it read-made?), ground oregano, ground cumin, rosemary leaves, sage leaves. See? All stuff that only a gourmet cook would need. And way back on a high shelf there was a dusty-lidded jar of beef bouillon with only about a teaspoon remaining. I can’t remember ever needing a jar of beef bouillon for any reason. And why all the duplicates of so many spices? Well, obviously, because whenever one of us tried a new recipe, we didn’t check to see if we already had a called-for spice, just went out and bought another. We now have literally enough ground cloves to supply a household for several generations. In our wills we should specify which child will get which spices. That’d serve ‘em right for all the gray hairs they’ve caused. Here, Mike, for you, all the chili powder you’ll ever need. For Laura, three bottles of ground clove, and for Jeri, the Travis cache of cinnamon. Idle thoughts while I go to the store for a quart of milk.

Monday, June 16

Blogger's Block

I think I’ve hit a wall. Not exactly a blogger’s block because it isn’t as though I simply can’t write, but because I don’t have any new things to write about. Nearly 850 posts seem to have exhausted my topics. What do I do? Stop blogging altogether? Take a break from blogging? Write blogs that ramble on about any personal thing that comes to mind? There are people out there who find my blog and read it, mostly from the US, but quite a few also from Russia, the UK, Germany, Latvia, Sweden, Canada, even one from Qatar and several from other remote places in the world. If I stop writing, I lose those readers. But how egomaniacal am I that I need these people to acknowledge me? I’m like a little boy, jumping up and down, shouting, “I’m here! Look at me! Love me! Don’t leave me alone in this chaotic universe!” I scour the news for subjects: Bergdahl’s return from Afghanistan (did he or didn’t he desert?), school shootings here, there, and everywhere, the obituaries of famous people (Casey Kasem dies at 82), sports news (yes, Martin Kaymer really kicked ass, the Spurs really did a number on the Heat, the D-backs can’t seem to hit out of a paper bag, will the US win the World Cup?), suicide bombers over and over again. Will Hillary run? Another war in Iraq? Too many questions, not enough answers. How do I break through this wall?

I guess I’ll just ramble.

Sunday, June 15

Sleep Time

One of the cats came in this morning and held a tiny mirror in front of my face to see if I was alive. I was. When he found out, he left me and I went back to sleep. Sleep is funny. Normally, after I’ve been out for seven or eight hours, I get up to begin another day. I guess my mind is saying that I can’t afford to waste any hours lying in bed like a corpse. This morning, though, after the mirror check, I slept again . . . for almost three hours, my eyes simply whirling around in REM sleep. There seems to be a sleep demarcation line that once you’ve crossed you can sleep and sleep and sleep. In My New York days, I remember Chuck, my song-writing buddy, would sometimes sleep for fourteen or fifteen hours on the weekends. I remember wondering how he could do that, just wasting hours from his life. But we were both young then and didn’t care about wasted hours. It’s a different story now. I almost wish I could be a Ben Franklin and sleep only three or four hours a night. Or even like the Lawrence Block character, Evan Tanner, who didn’t sleep at all, couldn’t sleep even if he wanted to. No wasted hours there.

Saturday, June 14

Moons & Opens & Gone Girl


Not going to happen again until August 13, 2049. I think I’ll probably miss that one. The full moon coinciding with Friday the 13th, that is. I kept watching for crazies who were out howling in the night, but none appeared. The true crazies don’t need any lunar lunacies or triskaideka phobias to send them ‘round the bend. They can just pick up a gun any old time and go to a school or church or mall to mow down strangers. Every day to them is a Friday the 13th.

I’m here in front of the tv watching the 2014 U.S. Open and I see it with one eye only. Without Tiger in the mix my heart just isn’t in it. I’ve been a faithful follower of every major golf tournament for the past fifty years, but without Tiger, who cares? Will Martin Kaymer hold on without choking? Will anyone mount a charge to catch him? I don’t know and I don’t really care. Come on, Tiger, get back on the course so I and millions of others can watch with bated breath to see what magic you perform.

I’m reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. It’s been on the best-seller list for well over two years and I can now understand why. She’s a stylist. The way she writes is more important that what she writes about. The character studies are more important than the plot. Not that this novel has no plot. Amy Dunne has gone missing at the beginning and then we move back and forth between Nick, the husband, telling us in the first person what’s going on in the search for Amy, and Amy’s flashback entries in her diary. With every entry, we learn more and more about the relationship between Nick and Amy. The style’s the thing. We first hear Nick ruminating about Amy, his wife: “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily.” In an early diary entry, seven years in the past, Amy speaks of first meeting Nick at a New York cocktail party. “Anyway, the party is being thrown by one of Carmen’s good friends who writes about movies for a movie magazine, and is very funny, according to Carmen. I worry for a second that she wants to set us up:. am not interested in being set up. I need to be ambushed, caught unawares, like some sort of feral love-jackal. I’m too self-conscious otherwise. I feel myself trying to be charming, and then I realize I’m obviously trying to be charming, and then I try to be even more charming to make up for the fake charm, and then I’ve basically turned into Liza Minnelli: I’m dancing in tights and sequins, begging you to love me. There’s a bowler and jazz hands and lots of teeth.” The characterization of these two in the way they think and speak is what makes this stylistically so good. I think Kate Atkinson may be the best stylist writing today. Nearly everything she writes is so well written, so clever, that it becomes so quotable. The same is true of Gillian Flynn. Most writers today are more interested in the stories they’re devising than in how they write. Nearly all the financially successful writers today crank out one, two, or three novels a year, watching with pleasure how the bucks pile up. James Patterson is the prime example of that. The same can be said of other prolific writers: John Sandford, Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and many others. I’d advise anyone to find Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life or Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl to see what great writing style is all about.

Wednesday, June 11

To Squizzle or Not to Squizzle


Squizzle. For whatever reason the mind does such bouncing around on the edge of sleep, this word popped into my head around 3:00 a.m. a few nights ago. Squizzle. The word exists only in my family’s jargon dating back to my childhood and probably back to the childhood of my older sister and brothers. There is no such word according to Webster. It’s a verb, to squizzle, and means the same as to urinate or, in the vulgar, to piss. The Roman aristocracy said “urinare” and the hoi polloi said “pissiare.” English speakers tend to devise all kinds of euphemisms for various bodily functions and body parts. Instead of urinate, we have pee, peepee, go potty, go toi toi, tinkle, go to the bathroom (but not to bathe), go to the restroom (but not to rest), go to the washroom or lavatory (but to wash only after we’ve tinkled), and, of course, piss (an echoic derivation from the sound our tinkling creates). Then there are all the slang terms (not all euphemisms) for “defecate”: shit, crap, dump, poo, poopoo (parallel to pee pee), and move our bowels. Body parts. For mammary glands we have boobs, tits, jugs, melons. For a penis we have cock, dick, pecker, hose. The socially acceptable “penis,” from Latin, is just so . . . tiny, whereas the vulgar “cock,” from Anglo Saxon, is large and hefty. Even the voice elevates when one says “penis,” and goes down an octave when one says “cock!” (with an exclamatory mark suggesting that large, Anglo Saxon organ). Testicles are tiny, gonads a bit larger, but balls are grapefruits. And now back to the ladies, who have vaginas, also known as cunt, snatch, pussy, bush, poontang. All such flattering terms. And now I’m back to squizzle. I’ve had enough wine that I think I need to go do that.

Wednesday, June 4

South Dakota Flight & Cell Phones


Tomorrow we’re flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor for a really short trip to South Dakota for the interment of my brother’s ashes. He died last December and was cremated, but wanted his ashes to be buried in the family plot along with his first wife and their young son, both of whom were killed almost fifty years ago in a tragic plane crash. So, nearly the entire Travis clan is converging on this tiny prairie town, Mobridge, SD, for the service. It’s really more about a reunion and a celebration than a funeral, as I’m sure my brother would like it to be. I’m the last sibling, but with all the nephews and cousins and kids and their kids and grandkids, we should add up to nearly seventy. And it will very likely be the last time we see most of them. One final get-together before we say our last farewell to our old hometown, our last goodbye to most of the people in attendance. Just another of the doors that must be closed before mine and Rosalie’s doors close. But that won't happen for many years to come . . . I hope.

I’m still trying to figure out all the elements of our new cell phones. One thing I didn’t know: that even when turned off, a cell phone can still wake itself to ring out a set alarm. Just to see if I knew what I was doing, I went to the alarm setting and set it to ring at 4:00 a.m. That’s what time we need to get up for our 7:00 flight out of Phoenix tomorrow, but I had set it a day ahead of time. When we went to bed last night, I made sure my phone was turned off. At 4:00 a.m. I heard a phone ringing in the living room, ringing fifteen times. I counted them off. Went back to sleep, thinking the wakeup was over. Nah. At 4:05 it did it again . . . and again at 4:10, at which time I stomped out to the living room, turned the phone off, put it in the back room, went back to bed. At 4:15 and 4:20 and 4:25 and 4:30 I could hear the distant, subdued ringing. At 4:35, as I lay there waiting, there was only blessed silence. The phone got tired of trying to get me up. Now I know better than to use it as an alarm clock. I wonder how many other things about my new phone will try to drive me crazy. I don’t have all that far to go . . . to crazy, that is.

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