Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'd like to place an order

Yesterday my sister-in-law announced she had just received a call from her husband's oldest daughter to say "we're fine.  It was scary but we're all safe".  I racked my brain trying to recall if there'd been previous mention of health scare or travel to a foreign country.  Drawing a blank left me saying "huh?" 

"The earthquake," my sister-in-law prompted.  "A short while ago Virginia had a 5.8 quake."

Again my response was "huh.  5.8's are nothing.  Artillery practice at Ft. Bragg can rattle a house better than a 5.8"  Her stepdaughter grew up in Oregon therefore she should know all about earthquakes.  So why was she all weirded out over a little one? 

Today I added a new entry to my list of major differences between the West and East Coasts - earthquakes*.  Allow me to say very tongue-in-cheek, "gee, I found yet another thing they don't have out here."  No baby loafs of cheese and no dry-cured bacon; no flavor choices in SoBe or CoffeeMate, and now no earthquakes.  I'm in half a mind to call the USGS and complain.  The other half my brain is toying with the notion of putting in a request.  Certainly the USGS can't think me any bigger a kook than the local grocery store managers. 

*According to the USGS, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California get at least one earthquake a year magnitude 5.8 or better.  Since 1900 the East Coast has experienced two (2) including yesterday's quake. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Neighbors

Holly and I have been in Fayetteville NC for a little over 2 years now.  Most of that time we've hung out on the front porch in clear view of the street.  I've got my laptop, coffee and cigarettes.  Holly is on a tether to keep her from detaining passersby for a thorough inspection.  (Maybe the TSA should hire her.)  Meaning no disrespect to exercise buffs, and totally meant tongue-in-cheek, I refer to them as "streetwalkers".  Oh come on, you should see some of the outfits they wear.  Still, it doesn't matter if they're covered head-to-toe in thermal fleece or flaunting shiny Spandex, it's my generic term for anybody running, jogging or walking.  Plus it gives me a chuckle when someone asks what Holly is barking at and I say a streetwalker; this is an upscale middle-class neighborhood. 

The neighbors who aren't scared of Holly venture into the yard to greet her.  She is a big girl; twenty-five inches to the shoulder and weighing in at 82 pounds.  Since she doesn't have a tail, cropped too short hence her nickname of Twinkle Butt, Holly tends to come across as imposing.  Mainly she's just doing her job, alerting me there's someone near.  For 2 years I've been answering questions about Holly.  Yes, she's friendly.  Yes,  you can pet her.  She's a Boxer  - Great Dane cross.  Do you think anyone asks about me?

Lately I've learned the neighbors had been leaving me alone because they saw the laptop and thought I was working.  Actually, that's pretty thoughtful of them.  Equally impressive is the range of occupations they've assigned me.  Because I'm frequently seen on the phone the majority decided I'm a customer service or sales rep.  Coming in a strong second is medical transcription and other home-based data entry type jobs.  Far down on the list are: web site designer, stock trader and online party host.  I think that last one came from sheer hopefulness that I could hook him up with a date.  Ah, maybe if he checked the mirror before leaving the house?  Even Holly winces at some of his color and pattern combinations. 

Earlier this year two of the neighbors discovered I write.  One of them has read Desert and has started The Privacy Fence.  I cut her some slack.  She's very pregnant, with twins, due anytime and trying to finish her last term of college before the babies arrive.  Note: remarkably none of the neighbors have assumed I'm taking online classes.  Interesting. 

People on the West Coast who know me always include the following warning when introducing me - "it is highly likely that anything you say or do will end up in a book."  For the record, this is true.  Also for the record, there are 3 fictitious characters in Desert: Kayla, James and Scott.  I changed occupations and last names of everyone else.  I might have used a bit of creative license in regard to physical appearance or marital status but only for the sake of the storyline.  See what you get when you say "I want to be in one of your books!" 

The neighbors here are so naive.  Totally out in the open I've been studying them for 2 years.  I guess they're so used to seeing me I now blend into the scenery.  While I can't say The Privacy Fence is about them, I will admit they gave me the idea for it.  It's simply amazing what I overhear. 

Heads up Fayetteville!  I've started a new novel and the chances are good that some of you will be in it.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Hearing Voices

I used to think everyone had a few billion personalities in their head struggling to be heard.  As I grew older I figured out that isn't the case and it's best to keep quiet about hearing voices.  Apparently there are members of society who feel those of us who hear voices should be medicated into semi-consciousness. 

Bring on the padded room!  To quote ZZ Top,  "send a straight jacket, something in a shade of grey."

I collect people.  I absorb their personality traits, body language, speech patterns and odd quarks.  One person in your world equals 3, 4, or 17 in mine.  I'll try to explain.  People are multi-faceted.  I have "blanks" living in my head; think artist's blank canvas.  Each filled blank represents particular facet of someones personality.  Maybe it's how someone reacted in a situation, or expression of change brought on by maturing.  Allow me to point out often my voices (filled blanks) are non-gender specific.  You've been saved in my head as a story out of context, yet a story all the same that needs to be told.

Every so often a group of these filled blanks gets together and sets up a ruckus.  The only way to quiet them down is to write their story.  Because they represent real people during the writing process they are real.  Picture if you will, the luxury of having people you care about, living or deceased, together with you for eight weeks or so. 

The hardest part about writing is the period at the end of the last sentence of the final chapter.  Their story is now told.  They recede into the background and I'm left with an eerie, unsettling quietness.  I miss them.  I'm at a loss as to what to do now that they've gone.  It's during this let-down period that I probably should be medicated.  Those of you who don't hear voices - how do you cope?  If the only voice in my head was mine, Holly would move to a different zip code.  I tend to get really grouchy during the let-down phase.  This is not a good time to be pushing my buttons or there will be more blogs like the last two. 

Yes my Twin, I will start writing again soon.  The earth will go back to orbiting the sun and there will be balance in the universe for a few months. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

where's my iPad?

Earlier today I was standing in my bedroom, slightly bent at the waist, hopping from foot to foot because I really had to go pee but was determined to locate a web site password first.  Logic finally took over and said "Hey, take your password book with you and go pee or be prepared to shampoo the carpet."  Picture slap to the head and relief of getting to the toilet in time.   Once seated I continued flipping thru pages in the book looking for the password.  My great-nephew's cat wandered into the bathroom, I looked up and our eyes met.

What do our animals think of our bathroom habits?  How many of us have a full reading library next to the toilet?  Do you use your laptop or iPad while on the throne?  When you're trying to make high score or to the next level on a handheld gaming device, do you just walk on into the bathroom and drop trousers?  Funny how most of us won't talk to someone on the phone while going pee but we will text.

At any given time, while I'm trying to use the toilet my dog, my neice's pup and g-nephew's cat will be jostling for position and demanding attention.  The bathroom is nice sized but believe, it's not big enough for all four of us.  The cat will try to get on my lap.  Not to be outdone the pup will do his best to knock the cat off and take his spot.  In the meantime my dog is head-butting me and complaining.  Finally my dog will chase the pup and cat from the bathroom; the cat usually doubles back. 

This morning as the cat and I stared at each other I got a flash of what he was thinking. "Where the heck is my iPad?"  He has a nice covered for privacy litterbox that's big enough to accommodate an iPad fastened to an inside wall.  He's a cat of the electronic age, much more interested in computers than books or magazines.  Nearly everyday he tries to help me answer email or do research.  I know he's a big fan of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook.  If he had an iPad in his litterbox we might not see the cat for hours.

If my dog learned how to use the toilet her reading materieal of choice would be the Driver's Manual.  From there she'd move to law books seeking a loophole that would pave the way for her to get a driver's license.  State Farm said they'd insure her - if she had a license.  Her next endevour would be to get a Social Security number, mainly because I won't let her use my debit card and neither Wells Fargo nor Evergreen will issue her a debit / credit card without a SS#.  

I think the pup would watch movies, maybe TVland too.  The latter because I'm not sure if he's discovered Animal Planet yet.  He'd appreciate an iPad loaded with games like Pong.  He's young, he's a terrier; he's got the whole prey-drive thing going.  Now if he were to team up with my dog they'd own their own PetCo franchise. 

For those of you who have pets and a television in your bathroom - stop right now.  The next time you're cheering for your team or engrossed in CSI while seated on the throne, ask yourself "What is my dog / cat think?"  Are they jealous?  Do they use my bathroom when I'm not home?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tell me a lie

Back in the mid 90s I worked with this gal who fascinated the heck out of me for the lies she told.  For the sake of the blog let's call her Ann.  Personally I think I could use her real name and give her address too because she won't recognize this as about her.  So here's the scene: a specialty electronics assembly company in Beaverton Oregon; swing shift, small crew numbering around twenty.

Ann sat directly infront of me with my friend Rose to her left.  Ann was absolutely beautiful, tall and lean and graceful.  She was in her late twenties and though single she divided her time between living with her dad and her boyfriend.  Did I mention she was beautiful?  Ann had legs up to there and hair down to meet them.  Near as I could tell she was well educated.  Maybe she didn't finish college but she'd had at least a few years.

My favorite memory is of the day Ann used a traffic accident as reason for being late to work.  Arriving over an hour late she crept onto the floor stealthly dodging her supervisor.  Once in her seat Ann quickly laid out her station to appear as if she'd been there for some time.  She gulped down part of her Coke to lend further credence to the time factor.  Then, assured she'd not been spotted by her boss she swung her chair around and related witnessing a traffic accident that snarled a major intersection thus making her late.

Points: she witnessed it; the accident took place past the intersection; Ann was already running late.

After telling the story to me, Ann turned to Rose and told her a slightly altered version basically making the accident more than a mere fender bender.  Rose responded with the appropriate oh's and ah's prompting Ann to emblish a bit further.  I had to bite my lip to keep from grinning. 

Points: the accident location stayed the same but now also included the driveway into a business; there are more cars involved and victims are more seriously injured.

In typical Ann fashion she took the tale from work station to work station modifying it for her audience.  I got Rose's attention and suggested she eavesdrop.  This was going to get good.  There were seventeen people at work that day counting Ann but not counting her supervisor (who was hiding out in reception eating ice cream while doing word puzzles).  By the time the story made it around the assembly floor it somewhat resembled the original tale.  Rehearsal over Ann came back to her seat and waited for her supervisor to make rounds.

I wish I'd had a video camera to record the tale told to her boss.  Ann said she left home on time and took Barber Blvd because traffic update on radio said 217 was clogged due to construction.  Traffic on Barber was moving at a good clip when suddenly out of nowhere an idiot ran a red light.  It was a major intersection; cars were slidding and banging.  Ann stood on the brakes but the guy behind her reacted too slow.  His car hit hers and pushed her into the car in front.  Her forehead struck the steering wheel.  She's feeling whoosy if she moves quick or when she stands up.  Paramedics checked her at the scene.  The police questioned her.  She had to have her car towed.  She borrowed her brother's car to get to work.  But Ann made it to work.  Granted, a few minutes late but she made it - and see, she's been working.  Oh yeah, she forgot to clock in probably due to hitting her head.  Would the boss mind signing her time card?

Come on applaud.  It took nearly twenty minutes to tell the boss the story and another twenty to recap parts of it.  Let's do the math: an hour to rehearse the story and forty minutes to gain the boss' sympathy.  But it's not over yet for Ann still has to go back to all sixteen coworkers and bring them up to speed on the story told to the boss.  Add another two hours. 

Come on applaud.  Ann's been at work four hours and no one but me has bothered glancing out to the parking lot.  Yep, her car was parked in a side row instead of it's normal up-front-near-the-door slot.  By the way, neither her father nor her boyfriend's houses are anywhere near Barber Blvd.