Sunday, July 1, 2007


Avalon Theater, Corvallis, Oregon, closed its doors for the last time last night. Targeted at folks who enjoy independent films that don’t necessarily feature high-tech gadgetry and over-the-top budgets, the Avalon was a pleasant break from the big multiplexes with their mega-hit films and over-priced tickets and snacks. I’m pleased to say the Avalon went out with a loopy, fun-filled bang.

Three performances were scheduled for the final day. Part celebration and part money-raiser, the proceeds were to be used to pay back-rent. At 3:00 CINEMA PARADISO was shown. Then at 6:00 and 9:00 pm THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW was to play. Hard to believe TRHPS is now 32 years old. It might be fun to take a trip down memory lane. Perhaps it will make no sense at all. Perhaps it will seem really stupid and dated. Perhaps it will make me feel older than dirt. Perhaps we’ll have a dandy time.

When we arrived at 5:30 for the 6:00 show, there were already people in line, wearing their costumes, carrying their props. Paul, the owner, came out about 5:45 and said CINEMA PARADISO was running a little late, so probably our show wouldn’t start until about 6:15. A little after 6:00, his staff came out with bottled water for everyone in line. The next update stated the show probably would start “somewhere around 6:30 or so.” This announcement was accompanied by popcorn and an explanation of what had happened with CINEMA PARADISO. Paul had received his copy from his distributor. When he ran it, he discovered the film was damaged and there wasn’t time to return it to the distributor and have a new one shipped. So he went down to the local DVD rental place and picked up a copy. Who knows what version this was, but the darn thing ran 3 hours! I’ll bet it was the Director’s Very Self-Indulgent Cut. Just a wild guess.

Finally, the CINEMA PARADISO audience exited the theater, looking as if they had just awakened from hibernation after an extremely long, harsh winter.

I had never been to this theater before, but I was absolutely charmed. Restaurant booths lined the sides of the theatre. There were several rows of standard theatre seating, but there were also couches and recliners. We found a particularly comfy couch at the back. The décor was just fun: crystal chandeliers hanging here and there without apparent rhyme or reason, a table lamp hanging upside down from the ceiling, its base affixed to the ceiling. Think a 60’s psychedelic coffee house mixed with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and you pretty much have the flavor of the place.

When the movie started, I could have sworn it was 1975 again. The audience shouted the same lines, had exactly the same props, wore the same costumes. It reminded me of an oral history that had been passed down from generation to generation. The list of props included rice, newspaper (preferably The Cleveland Plain Dealer), water guns, lighter/flashlight (I noticed last night, several participants opened their cell phones for light), noise makers, rubber gloves, confetti, toilet paper (preferably Scott), toast, bells, playing cars, condoms. “Let’s do the Time Warp Again…”

Just as the movie reached its climax, the projector broke down! Nobody screamed and yelled and had some stupid temper tantrum. In fact, Paul came out and asked if the audience would scream and yell as it might prompt them to work faster.

I know this could never have happened in L.A. People there are too impatient and equipment break-down of any kind is simply not tolerated. Dollars to donuts, some fool would file a lawsuit. The good folk of Corvallis, on the other hand, simply made every little inconvenience and delay a reason to prolong the party.

I’m so glad we had the chance to see the Avalon before it closed. Leaving, I turned to take one last look. I swear I could feel years and years of memories lingering there, as reluctant to leave as I was. Perhaps they will demolish the building – oh, I hope not – but those memories will live forever. Thank you, Paul! Thank you, Avalon!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Excitement mounts as Beijing prepares for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. Certainly one of the reasons for this anticipation is the inclusion of Grocery Shopping as an official event.

In a nutshell, there are two phases to the competition. In the Compulsory round, the competitor is given a list of 48 grocery items, and she must locate and place them in her shopping cart. Whoever gets to the check-out line first wins that round. In the Artistic round, whoever takes longest at check-out, wins that round. The scores are combined to determine the winner.

In order to prepare the viewer for this event, we have taken our cameras (actually, we don’t have cameras, but it sounds pretty lame to say we have taken our pens and notebook) to Dubuque to follow Donna Dilbert, America’s great hope in this event, as she trains at her local supermarket in her quest to bring home the Gold.

When she entered the Piggly Wiggly, the staff and customers cheered her on. Go, Donna go! She was all business as she tested the cart, checking each wheel, making sure they all went in the same direction, not one of them veering off on its own agenda. Proclaiming her cart fit, she grabbed the grocery list from the store manager. As she studied it, the crowd’s enthusiasm grew. Go, Donna, Go! With a dazzling smile, Donna, mentally prepared and psyched, was off.

She snatched items off the shelf, tossing them into the cart, never even slowing down. Her pace was fast and steady. Whomp! There go the bagels! Whomp! There goes the casaba melon! Around the end of the aisle to the frozen food. Whomp! Sara Lee Cheesecake. Yum! Frozen okra. Bleck!

And then Donna stopped. A troubled expression frozen on her face.

“What is it, Donna?” an adoring fan asked.

“Capers,” Donna said. The moments were ticking away. Tick, tick, tick. “I don’t know where capers are. I don’t know what capers are.”

There was stunned silence. The fans had never seen their girl stopped before. Tick, tick, tick. They knew they couldn’t tell her the location. Suddenly, as if by divine intervention, a stock clerk piped up. “Wow, Donna, then you really are in a PICKLE Yep, a real PICKLE alright.” Picking up on his clue, Donna beamed and dashed off to the pickle aisle. She had lost valuable time. In a gutsy strategic move, she placed her cart sideways across the aisle so other shoppers couldn’t get past. She spotted the elusive capers, tossed them into her cart and was off again.

Checking and re-checking, she now had all 48 items in her cart and was off to the check-out counter. What?! She wasn’t first. Donna was now in third place. She could have given up, but she didn’t. Although it wasn’t likely, she knew she might be able to win enough points in the Artistic phase.

Throughout the checkout process, Donna, seemingly relaxed, chatted with the cashier. “Pretty earrings, Laverene. Where’d you get ‘em?”

Fans were shocked. Donna had gone through the checkout process too quickly. This wasn’t the way to win a competition.

Finally everything was bagged. “That’ll be $98.88,” said Laverne.

Then, and only then, did Donna open her purse.

“Oh my,” she said. “Will you look at this? All my change has fallen out of my wallet.” Racking up points as seconds ticked away, Donna scrambled around in the bowels of her purse, bringing up a quarter here, a nickel there. Finally, after eight minutes (Donna’s personal best), she counted out the money. Ninety-eight dollars...and I have the exact change…twenty-five, fifty, sixty, seventy, seventy-five, eighty, eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three, eighty-four, eighty-five, eighty-six, eighty-seven and eighty-eight!” She managed to add another important one minute and thirty-two seconds to her already impressive score. As Donna was about to close her purse, she uttered the absolutely winning words. “Oh, I forgot, I have coupons!”

And that, dear reader, is a true champion!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


It’s taken over five years, but I’ve finally finished my second novel, BOOBS OVER HOLLYWOOD! I should be jumping and leaping and twirling and doing cartwheels. Instead, I just want to retreat to My Beloved Sofa and cover my head with a blanket. Maybe even a wet one.

Alas, it also signals the real beginning of the work.

Now I must write this diabolical document called a Query Letter which will go to agents and/or publishers. The Dreaded Query Letter has very specific requirements: The first paragraph must hook in the reader, compel them to keep on reading. Within one sentence I have to capture not only the meaning of the entire 350-page book but I also have to demonstrate “a unique voice.” I suspect they don’t mean Fran Drescher’s voice. Paragraph 2 is a one-paragraph summary of the 350-page book. Oh sure, that’s easy. If I could have written the darn thing in one paragraph, I would have. It would have saved a whole lot of time and paper. Paragraph 3 is a bio, telling the reader why I am the only person in the entire galaxy who could have written such a masterpiece. Apparently this is not the time to be humble or modest. Paragraph 4 thanks the reader for their time and consideration and encourages them to send for additional material – like the book, for instance. ALL THIS MUST BE DONE IN ONE PAGE!

… I need to find another line of work. Perhaps hod carrier… Now, if I only knew what a hod was…

Secondly, I am required to write a 3-4 page synopsis of my entire manuscript. Strange as it seems, writing a 3-4 page synopsis is every bit as difficult as writing a one-paragraph synopsis!

…or how about shepardess?

Finally, I must check the submission guidelines of every single agent/publisher to whom I am submitting my book. Each agent and publisher has come up with their own diabolical, ridiculous set of guidelines. Some want just a query letter; others want a query letter and the synopsis; and still others want just the first page of my novel; others want to see ten pages, or three chapters or fifty pages; nobody wants to see the whole book; others would like me to do sommersaults backward through a series of flaming hoops while instructing a herd of elephants on the skills required to play the oboe; still others would like me to drop dead. And of course, I must enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. See, you get the privilege of paying their postage so they can tell you that they want absolutely nothing to do with you. This seems to me to be the literary equivalent of pouring salt into a wound.

…maybe a sprinkler of fairy dust?

Okay, I’m ready to do a mailing. I’ve assembled The Dreaded Query letter, my synopsis, and whatever other cockamamie requirements the agents and publishers want. I also have that just-completed 350-page novel in front of me, which nobody wants to see. I assemble, collate, stuff, address envelopes and send my precious book into the world, which by now I am convinced is probably the worst book ever written in the whole history of the world. Actually, I’m not sending my precious book; I’m sending documents ABOUT my precious book.

…maybe putting the Inspected By labels into Jockey shorts?

And now I wait. And wait. And wait. When my writing partner and I wrote our first book LETTERS FROM CLEO AND TYRONE, it took St. Martin’s Press 18 months to get back to us. Good grief, I could have had two babies in that amount of time.
So, the question you must be asking yourself is why, oh why, did you ever decide to become a writer in the first place. It seems way too stressful. And it also seems you could go broke waiting for someone, anyone, to decide they want to publish you. And you would be right. Hmmm… Let me ponder this. This must be some reason I chose to be writer. Hmmm… I’ll have to get back to you on that one. Do you know anybody who needs a hod carrier? Do you know what a hod is?

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Nowhere in any biology class, no matter how advanced, no matter how graphic and lurid, did the instructor discuss how books reproduce. In fact, I didn’t even realize that they did reproduce until I recently had to pack them all for our move to Oregon. Good grief! Where did they all come from? Did I really purchase all of them? If so, when did I become a millionaire? Or, oh my gosh, did I steal them? Did I go to friends’ homes and while they were in the kitchen busily preparing onion soup dip sneak off to their libraries and steal books? Did I tuck them into my jeans? Under my sweater? Did friends whisper behind my back that I had gotten so chunky and lumpy?

Since I do not believe I am either a millionaire (actually, I’m pretty sure about that one) or a kleptomaniac, the only logical, scientific conclusion is that books reproduce. Oh, sure, books all look so innocent and chaste lined up back-to-back belly-to-belly in their bookcases. But what happens when the lights are out and they are alone? Well, I maintain there’s a whole lot of canoodling and hanky-panky going on. With Henry Miller, D. H. Lawrence and the Kama Sutra in their neighborhhood, I’m guessing the sex is pretty hot and steamy. The moment the sun starts to rise, they dust off their dust jackets and arrange themselves neatly back on the shelves. Thirty days later, their pocket book children are born.

Now not only do I have to worry about where to store all these books, but I also have to concern myself with who is standing next to whom. I mean, you wouldn’t want delicate hothouse flower Emily Dickinson standing next to James Dickey, the author of Deliverance, would you? Or classy Mary Higgins Clark next to rough-and-tumble Louis L’Amour? I wouldn’t think William Faulkner would have a whole lot to say to Danielle Steel. Real romance, however, might develop between Philip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint) and Erica Jong (The Fear of Flying). I also think Thomas Wolfe and Joan Didion would enjoy each other’s company over a cosmopolitan at a trendy New York nightclub. Truman Capote might get a kick out of Jackie Collins. I can see them attending a fancy costume ball gossiping about everyone under the sun. Samuel Pepys and Dominick Dunne might enjoy chatting over a glass of chardonnay about the famous and infamous. In fact, Capote, Collins, Pepys and Dunne should all get together. I'm sure they'd have a grand old time. Mystery writers might actually form a club where all sorts of relationships might form and flourish: Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Patterson and Janet Evanovich, gritty, gory Jeffrey Deaver and equally gritty, gory Kathy Reichs, Jonathan Kellerman and Faye Kellerman. Oh, wait… They’re already married. I wonder if they met in a bookcase somewhere. Oh, dear. There on the bottom shelf, all by himself, his face against the wall is J.D. Salinger. It seems nobody can coax him to come out and play.

I believe I’ve stumbled onto a phenomenon that requires far more study and analysis. Perhaps Playboy and Penthouse might want to investigate. Or how about a TV special entitled “The Secret Life of Books?”

Sunday, May 20, 2007


TO: Stanley Willis, VP, Critter Development

FROM: Linda Hamner


Dear Stanley:

As you know, I always try to maintain a positive attitude, but as project leader, I would be dishonest if I didn’t tell you how demoralizing this project has been for the entire design team. Designing new critters is becoming increasingly difficult. Chad argued that all the good, useful creatures have already been designed: oxen, horses, camels. All that remains are the whimsical and frivolous. As the only parameters we were given were that it must have eight legs and live in the sea, our work was certainly cut out for us.

First, we had to consider the critter’s shape. Cindy suggested square – a leg at each corner and a leg in the middle of each side. Brad opted for a long thin rectangular shape with four legs on each of the two long sides. Cindy and Brad got into a quite a row, Cindy arguing that Brad’s design was highly derivative of the centipede. She worried the centipede designers, who have always been such prima donnas, would whine we had stolen their idea.

Chad then suggested a triangle, but we couldn’t figure out a way to put eight legs on three sides. In a stroke of genius on my part, I offered a circle as a viable shape. The eight legs could be spaced evenly around the circumference. All agreed that the simplicity of my design was brilliant.

Next, we had to consider the shape and size of the head. The poor creature had enough going against it with those eight unwieldy legs. He didn’t need to be called “pinhead” on top of it all. We opted for a big head. A huge head, in fact.

Next came the body. Since it was getting late and everyone was anxious to get home to watch American Idol, we quickly decided it didn’t have a body. All those legs dangling down from that big old head would surely be enough.

It did occur to me as I preparing this report that the octopus could be used as a decorative windsock for the front porch or patio. You might want to run that by Marketing.

Cindy also suggested adding suction cups to the underside of each leg. She thought if the octopus became a popular icon – like Garfield, for instance – with the aid of the suction cups it could easily be converted in a car window ornament. It did occur to me that unless the octopus was downsized considerably, it would seriously limit visibility and prove to be a driving hazard. Between you and me, Stanley, I thought Cindy’s idea was pretty goofy, but you know how she pouts if she doesn’t get her way so I promised I’d include it in the report.

We did take a quick glance at our next assignment. A kind of large horse-like critter with a ten-foot neck. You’re kidding, right? Chad was predictably upset. We were able to calm him down with a double decaf non-fat mocha cappuccino laced with Prozac. Although I’m more focused and centered than the volatile Chad, I, too, must question what’s next. A tall, leggy orange bird that sleeps standing on one leg with his head tucked neatly under his wing? Or a huge potato-shaped mammal that lives in the Everglades with a propensity for doing battle with Evinrude outboard motors? What a card you are, Stanley! You slay me. You really do.


Monday, May 14, 2007


Jenny, the multi-talented, funny, creative lady over at Miss Jenny's blog, challenged me to reveal seven odd things about myself. Hmmm… How can I possibly narrow it down to just seven? Ask any of my friends. They could list 100 odd things about me.

Well, here goes – in no particular order or significance.

1. In figure skating I can tell the difference between a triple axel and a triple salchow. I know what an Ina Bauer is. I even understand the scoring.

2. I desperately wanted to be an astronomer. Who knew it involved math? So then I decided to be a ballerina. That didn’t work out either, but I’m still crazy about those pink gossamer tutus.

3. I once was a technical writer for a major aerospace company. That fact should strike fear in anyone who knows me or my writing. Just imagine the possibilities…

4. I’m a really, really bad driver. It’s almost heresy to admit such a thing when you live in California. There, everyone thinks they’re Dale Earnhart Jr. – but with better hair and the 8” x 10” glossies to prove it. I was terrified of left turns and parallel parking. I did neither. Ever.

5. When my son was very young, he said to me, “If Santa brings Christmas presents and the Easter Bunny brings Easter eggs, who brings Birthday presents?” Without batting an eye, I said, “Why the Birthday Goose does, dear.” And he believed me! Then for the next five years, I had to have a friend call him on his birthday and honk.

6. Mayonnaise frightens me on so many levels.

7. I’ve always thought it would be hysterically funny to have a whole wall covered with ears. That’s right. Ears. Then when somebody said, “Oh, if only these walls had ears…” How delicious would that be?

I always said I wasn’t quite right. I double dog dare you to disagree!

Friday, May 11, 2007


Like all adult male children, my son, Brent, doesn’t call nearly often enough. He rarely remembers birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Days or anniversaries. He can look pretty intimidating; he’s 6’4”, “buff,” has some tattoos, which are never acceptable to moms. But at least, no piercings are involved! Whew! Dodged that bullet.

Whereas The Saint and I always have our noses in some book or other, Brent is never happier than when he’s building something or taking something apart and then putting it back together again. But underneath that Harley-Davidson kind of macho bravura is the sweetest, most family-oriented, traditional guy. He’s the one who not only insists on a Thanksgiving celebration but does all the cooking! And can he cook! He and his father have always been competitive, so any family gathering is a contest to see whether father or son prepares the tastiest, most innovative dish while both protest that they’re not competing with each other. Right! Brent’s wife, Karen, and I are the lucky recipients of their competition.

Brent is one of those artistic, creative cooks who leaves the kitchen like a tornado just blew through. The Saint, on the other hand, is unreasonably neat and orderly. An unwashed pan can make him break out into hives. In this regard, he is not unlike “Monk.” Once, at Brent’s house, The Saint thought the refrigerator was “messy,” so he cleaned and organized it. Brent swears that he alphabetized the contents. Might not be an exaggeration.

When his dad, The Saint, was rushed into the hospital for a ruptured aortic aneurysm, the doc told me his chances for survival weren’t good. But The Saint, every bit as stubborn as his son, did survive. Brent just handled stuff for us. Everyday, practical stuff. This is one moment that I remember with great clarity and gratitude. He was horrified to discover I didn’t even have my own ATM card and insisted we go immediately to the bank and get one for me. The bank person told us my ATM card would be mailed to me in 10-14 days. Brent pulled himself up to his full 6-4” height and buffness and said in the nicest possible way, “Oh, she needs it today. I think you can find a way of expediting it, don’t you?” And he flashed that killer smile of his. Of course I walked out of that bank with a fully-operational ATM card.

Lately I’ve been a little blue. Nothing terminal, mind you. Just nostalgic and blue and missing my family. When this lovely Mother’s Day bouquet from Brent and his family arrived, I just sat down and bawled. But it was the good kind of crying. It was the kind of crying that said “He turned out to be exactly the son I always wanted.”

For all the moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day. Delight in your children and hug them tightly!

Monday, May 7, 2007


Working on my scholarly treatise entitled “Weird Stuff as Food” has been an exhausting, frustrating and often heart-breaking mental exercise. If the Really Useless Information Foundation hadn’t provided such a generous grant I’m quite sure I would have scrapped the whole project long ago. However, whatever the personal sacrifices I have had to endure, the mental anguish will have been worthwhile if I can at least trace the origin of the artichoke as food. Who, I wondered endlessly came upon the thorny plant, pricked his finger on the lethal thistle and exclaimed, as he wiped the dripping blood from his finger, “Hot diggity dog, I think I found myself a brand new food!” That just can’t be how it happened. After exhaustive research, I believe I’ve stumbled upon a hypothesis that scholars will agree presents the most compelling explanation

The origin of the artichoke undoubtedly had its roots in Berkeley, California. The artichoke, then called the antichoke, was used as a military weapon. You simply lobbed the choke at your enemy in much the same way a grenade is tossed. The effects of the antichoke could be lethal as it pricked its hapless victim to a slow, painful death.

Socially enraged students of the university were appalled by these death machines and openly protested their use. “Ban the Choke” became their impassioned battle cry. They carried placards, held rallies, but still the warmongers persisted. To their chagrin, the rest of the country paid the protestors no heed. “Just those crazies at Berkeley acting out again” was the national response.

Frustrated, the students were stymied how to draw attention to the problem. Finally, they decided to stage an enormous rally. They thought it was unfortunate that 24-hour cable news shows hadn’t been invented yet. “CNN would have covered this around the clock,” they sadly reasoned. Doing the best they could in those technologically challenged times, they sent out press releases to every newspaper and magazine they could think of and invited the press to a massive demonstration.

When the big day arrived and the media were in place, the students rounded up all the antichokes they could find and tossed them into a giant caldron of boiling water.

Art, a local entrepreneur, hoping he could turn a quick buck at the event, set up a food stand near the steaming pot. Business was booming as he served up hamburgers, tacos and fresh-corn-on-the-cob dripping with melted butter.

By a strange twist of fate, a cooked antichoke ended up in Art’s pot of melted butter. Sensing disaster, Art, in a moment of inspired genius, pulled off one of the leaves of the antichoke, tasted it, and loudly proclaimed it yummy. Soon the students and the press, always up for something new, were devouring the once-dreaded thistle. Surely a momentous day when such an evil weapon can be converted and transformed into a peaceful use.

In Art’s honor, the antichoke was renamed the artichoke. Now, many years later, the sleepy little town of Castroville, south of Berkeley, is known as the Artichoke Capital of the World, a fitting tribute to Art’s entrepreneurial skills. In fact, the town boasts Norma’s Giant Artichoke, possibly the only restaurant in the world built in the shape of an artichoke. I must contact the Foundation about a possible investigation into restaurants built in the shape of giant foods.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


I'll bet dollars to donuts that when you read PUSHING MY BUTTONS (below), you suspected that Khayyam Kayaks was a figment of my imagination (or as my son used to call it a "fig newton of my imagination"). And, of course, you were right. You probably also laughed at the nit-wit who would order a kayak through a catalog when "some assembly is required."

When I was fussing around with that essay, I chose the name Khayyam Kayak because I read somewhere that the sound "k" was considered a funny sound. And who am I to mess around with "the rules of comedy?" Besides, I'm a sucker for alliteration.

So, here I was sitting on My Beloved Sofa, minding my own business, and leafing through an issue of Aubudon Magazine." And what do I find on page 25? That's right. An ad for a kayak that you can order through L.L. Bean's Catalog! And get this. It's a woman's kayak. And here I've gone through my entire life assuming that kayaks were unisexual. Just goes to show you that I know nothin' 'bout nothin '.

Friday, April 27, 2007


When I saw a kayak advertised in a catalog, the whole idea seemed very appealing. I imagined myself idly paddling down the Willamette. No cell phones, no faxes, no roving evangelists. Just me, the water and the sky. Besides, it had to be great for firming up the upper body and arms. It sure would beat schlepping to some smelly old gym where scores of young nymphets with perfectly toned Size Zero bodies were spinning, kickboxing and doing Pilates, which sounds vaguely salacious. And the kayak itself hides that unsightly tummy bulge and ugly thigh cellulite. And who among us doesn’t love the idea of exercising while sitting down?
Impulsively I ordered my kayak. I admit I was a little apprehensive about that pesky “some assembly required” admonition, but then I thought if an Eskimo, weighed down by all those bulky unattractive clothes, can assembly a kayak on an ice floe with nothing to sustain him but a whale blubber sandwich wrap and ice water, surely I could do the same on my patio, armed with a bottle of merlot and my Doritos.
When my kayak arrived, I laid out all the parts and carefully read the instructions. I then eagerly began to build my kayak, stopping often to check my progress and take a little sip of wine. Hours later, I stood back to admire the finished product. Alas, the project in front of me was not a kayak. It looked more like a…picnic table. When I turned it over, it resembled some kind of crazy loom.
I picked up the phone and reluctantly dialed Khayyam Kayak as I finished off the merlot.
“Thank you for calling Khayyam Kayak,” Computer Voice said. “If you are calling from a touch-tone phone, follow the simple instructions and we will direct your call to the correct party. If you are calling from a rotary phone, you might want to consider upgrading your telecommunications system and joining the rest of us in the twenty-first century.
“If you are calling to say your kayak wouldn’t fit through the mail slot, please press 1.
“If you find yourself up the creek without a paddle, press 2.
“If you thought you were purchasing a pair of oxen-like animals from the savannah of Africa, press 3.
“If you would like to order an adorable kayak ensemble, including skort, press 4.
“If you assembled your kayak, and it looks more like a picnic table or a loom, press 5.
“Please enter your zip code.
“Please multiply 1,484 by 27, subtract your credit card number, and enter the resultant.
“We’re sorry all of our customer service representatives are busy helping people more important than you. Please hold and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. If you hang up, you’ll have to start all over again and who knows how long you’ll have to wait the next time.”
Otis and Westinghouse serenaded me with their Greatest Hits. Finally, as day turned to night, Computer Voice mercifully interrupted “You Light Up My Life” and said, “Since we realize how valuable your time is, we are going to terminate this call now.” And suddenly there was that ominous click. I had been disconnected.
I looked at my kayak/picnic table/loom. Maybe I could weave myself a longish tunic that would cover the offensive tummy and cellulite. I flipped the kayak to its picnic table position. Or maybe I could just sit down at my brand new table, have a few more Doritos and open another bottle of merlot.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I’ve been thinking about punctuation and its endless rules, but it’s so boring that I find myself falling asleep in a nonce. (I’m not exactly sure what a “nonce” is, but I’m going to assume that it’s a comfortable, overstuffed armchair with lots of pillows and an inviting throw spread artfully over the arm.)

Period. Comma. Semi-colon. Colon. Quotation mark. Question Mark. Exclamation Point. Parenthesis. Ellipses. Hyphen. Yawn. Even their names are boring and I find myself heading directly over to my nonce. Maybe if they had cooler names associated with personalities we could all identify with… Hmmmm…

The period is bold, aggressive, fiercely committed. We shall call it Arnold The Terminator.

The comma is a much-maligned punctuation mark. It is over-used, under-used and nearly always abused. Although serving an important function, it is always over-shadowed by the flashier, more charismatic Arnold The Terminator. We shall call it Dan Quayle.

The semi-colon, composed of a period AND a comma, is schizophrenic, considered less important than Arnold The Terminator but way more important than Dan Quayle, but at any given moment, in a flash, could transform either into an Arnold The Terminator or Dan Quayle. We shall call the semi-colon Al Gore.

The colon announces that a list or group is following, so pay attention. Consider it the drum major, all spiffed up in a colorful, bedazzled uniform with gold braid and epaulettes smartly marching in front of the band. We shall call it John Philip Souza.

The question mark is a curious sort. Why is the sky blue? How are babies made? Why do they put all those cards in my magazine that always fall out and scatter to the four corners of the room? That could be any normal four-year-old. Instead, though, we’ll name it Alex Trebak, the host of TV’s “Jeopardy.”

The exclamation point is noisy, bossy and annoying. You could name almost any politician or televangelist. Instead, I opted for the AFLAC goose of TV commercial fame. AFLAC!

Quotation marks are the quintessential multi-taskers. They are used for dialogue within novels so the reader will know someone is yammering away; titles of things are often set within quotation marks so you will know the title as already been taken. You might want to call that civil war novel you’re writing something other than “Gone with the Wind;” they are also used to set off something clever, witty or profound that someone else has said. (Goodness, that poor little semi-colon certainly had a workout). You might try to pass the quotation off as your own, but that is considered very bad form indeed. Assuming you’re going to do the honorable thing, you will place the quote within quotation marks. If you’re going to do the dishonorable thing, lose the quotation marks. I thought long and hard about what to name the quotation mark as there are so many quotatable authors out there. Shakespeare springs to mind. As does Oscar Wilde. But then I read this quote: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Yes, yes, that is profound. We shall therefore call quotation marks Mark Twain.

The parenthesis allows the writer to explain something that doesn’t quite fit in with his theme. It allows us to be sloppy and make the reader think we are far more organized than we really are. The left and right parenthesis are endlessly attractive with their sweeping left or right curve. For instance, you could write “Actors Angelina Jolie (also an ambassador for the UNICEF) and Brad Pitt have adopted their third child from a third world nation.” So, let’s call the left parenthesis Brad and the right one Angelina.

Most people have never heard of an ellipsis. They either respond with “Solar ellipsis?” or “lunar ellipsis?” Or else they think it’s some torture device used in a gym. No, no, it consists of three little periods (or Arnold The Terminators), indicating either that words have been eliminated or, more commonly, an unfinished thought. I use them a lot. Because there are always three of them, no matter how unfinished the thought, we shall call them the Three Stooges. And, by the way, it isn’t that my thoughts are exactly unfinished; it’s more like they are unformed and completely out of place.

The hyphen is often used to set off a parenthetical phrase. For instance, you could write, “A Maltese Terrier – a familiar dog at the Westminister Show – is neither Maltese nor a terrier.” It seems to me that a Dan Quayle or even a Brad and Angelina could work just as well. So I would dub this useless, frivolous, redundant mark a Paris Hilton.

Exhausted from this mental travail dan quayle I make my way over brad in a southerly direction angelina to my nonce dan quayle where a stack of books awaits me johnphilip souza marktwain Curious George danquayle marktwain marktwain Silas Marner danquayle marktwain marktwain Military Innovation In the Interwar Period marktwain danquayle marktwain brad Isn’t that a snappy title alex trebeck AFLAC angelina are awaiting me arnoldtheterminator. Hmmm threestooges.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Francie, over at the beautiful SCENTED COTTAGE blog, named my wee blog as one of her favorites to visit. She said such nice things it actually made me blush. She also ever-so-subtly suggested that I didn't post very often. Oops! Too true, I fear. In fact, my very last post was a direct result of her coaxing. Thank you, Francie.

Most of the blogs I visit are hosted by a group of brilliantly talented, crafty women who have the ability to create beautiful, whimsial, unique objects. I am totally incapable of doing anything remotely crafty and artful, so I am very grateful I can at least see what they are up to on their blogs.

Where they play with colorful paints and lace and feathers and ribbons, I usually just play with words and punctuation. Somehow it just doesn't seem fair!

I've selected five of my favorite "literary" sites that you might enjoy, too. I can lose myself for hours here. As it turns out, reading them is much more satisfying than actually writing. Imagine that!

Dennis Coleman's site at Click on his Is It Just Me? My Rants button. He lists the origin of words and phrases. Fascinating!

Frictionary at is a wonderful resource for funny, witty, thought-provoking quotes.

Miss Snark, at Miss Snark is the alter-ego of a New York literary agent. She is witty and smart and has lots of great advice for writers.

A.C. Crispin at is a list of writer scams. Very useful.

And finally, there is The Rejecter at A literary agent talks about all things writing.

Now, I would have thought when I typed these blog addresses, it would have created links. Apparently, it did not. Oh, there is so much I have to learn about this blogging business! But you can link to them directly by clicking on them in Places To Hang Out.


Thursday, April 12, 2007



Oh no! The worst possible thing has happened! I’ve become one of those crazy little old ladies with the tiny little dogs. Bear in mind I’ve had dogs all my life. Large, sturdy, hardy, independent mixed-breed dogs. They were good old dogs, who did normal dog stuff – chewed furniture, hid slippers, chased cars, ate regular dog food out of a can when they were lucky, were bathed a couple of times a year in the backyard under a garden hose. When we went out, they stayed at home; when we went on vacation, either neighbors came in and fed them or they were sent to a kennel.

And then we got wee dogs, and our lives turned topsy turvy. First came Archy, the mega-Maltese. He’s supposed to be 3-5 pounds, but the Archmeister comes in at a hefty 16 pounds. Next came Spenser, a wee dog that looks like a cross between a werewolf and a fruitbat.

The first thing I noticed was that I felt an absolute need to buy them wardrobe. I can pretend I did this because it was cold and little Spenser got all shakey and shivery. But how cold does it really, really ever get in sunny Southern California? Okay, when we moved to Oregon, and it rained and snowed, wardrobe made a certain amount of sense. But if I’m being honest (a practice I do NOT recommend), I have to admit the wardrobe has nothing to do with the weather. It’s just that they look so darn cute when wearing adorable ensembles.

These two have also completely changed the way we travel. We don’t go unless we can take them. This eliminates travel on airplanes, trains and buses. I used to have book shelves filled with thrillers, mysteries, women’s fiction and humor. Those have been replaced with titles like “Travelling with Rover,” “Fido’s Favorite Hotels” and “Dining Out with Pooch.”

For hotels, Archy and Spenser have been most happy with the Holiday Inn Express in Corvallis, OR. They’re especially partial to the walking trail beside the Willamette River. They meet the nicest dogs there.

There’s no place finer for canine dining than The Forge in the Forest in Carmel, CA. Here, they are immediately presented with a water dish, kibble and treats, and a doggy menu. What’s not to like?

For lower-end dining, they fancy Quizno’s, where they can get a bowl of turkey for a buck. Such a deal!

And, of course, with a Maltese, a groomer is de rigeur. Archy gets fluffed and folded every month. While Archy is at the groomer, we bathe the fruitbat in the kitchen sink, with scented shampoos and specially-formulated conditioners. On Grooming Day, Archy and Spenser look like they just stepped out of the pages of “Dogue Vogue.”

Today, as I was preparing their dinner of brown rice, carrots, broccoli and chicken gently sautéed in butter and olive oil and lightly seasoned with salt, garlic and rosemary, I happened to catch my reflection in my spatula and noticed that my bangs were hanging into my eyes, my hair was shaggy and spikey. I looked like a cross between an Olde English Sheepdog and an Irish Wolfhound. For the love of Mike, I definitely could use a trip to the groomer. But that will have to wait. I grabbed a Pop-Tart for myself and headed out the door, for you see, Archy and Spenser are looking forward to a nice ride and a proper lunch.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


When we lived in Los Angeles, we were apartment dwellers. The extent of our gardening was throwing a geranium in a pot and putting it out on the never-used patio. If we noticed it was seriously drooping, its little arms stretched out, pleading for water, we would water it. But that was all we did. No food. No barbequed spareribs. No creme brulee. No fertilizer. No TLC. She was an independent, self-sufficient geranium. Without any assist from us, she was a survivor.

When we were looking for a rental in Philomath, OR, we stumbled upon a delightful brand-new duplex. It was clean and fresh and sparkly. There was a room that was shaped exactly like a funnel. It served no discernible purpose other than as a conversation starter. The Saint and I were both taken with that room and just HAD to live here.

The Earnest Young Landlord said in the interest of full-disclosure, there was something he had to show us. He dramatically opened the blinds onto the patio. And there it was. A backyard. A big backyard. A big backyard that was entirely mud and weeds. Now, to be completely honest, some folk wouldn't consider it huge, but if your frame of reference is one potted geranium, to us it seemed like Tara. The Earnest Young Landlord was apologetic. He wasn't a gardener either. He just wanted us to be aware of it.

And so we thought, well, gee, how difficult would it be to plant a garden of some sort? The backyard sloped at odd angles so a lawn seemed out of the question. The Saint didn't relish the idea of vertical mowing. We started hanging out at nurseries, eavesdropping, asking endless questions. It turns out that plants are a very diverse lot with very strong likes and dislikes. Some plants preferred morning sun, some preferred afternoon sun, some would rather be in Aruba. One liked to be moist all the time; one liked to dry out completely between waterings and another one fancied a tanning salon . This one liked bone meal, the other one thought there was nothing finer than a grilled cheese sandwich. And then they all had different lifespans. This one would die at first frost, one would be resurrected after the last frost, and yet another would go to Palm Springs for the winter.

Okay, too many choices. Too much information. We bought daffodil bulbs. Lots and lots of them. The Saint followed directions slavishly. He planted them mid-November, placed them four inches beneath the ground, fertilized them.

And then we waited. While daffodils were blooming all over town standing up tall and straight, saluting and celebrating the beautiful new season, ours bloomed and...well, drooped. We'd stare at them for hours, offering them words of encouragement, playing soothing music. We coaxed, cajoled, juggled, did cartwheels. Nothing. Just droop, droop, droop.

I believe the only viable solution is to close the blinds and forget the concept of a garden. Maybe the daffodils will do better if left to their own devices. Maybe they need privacy. Maybe they're depressed. And just maybe we should take up another hobby.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Several years ago, my husband, The Saint, and I found a delightful restaurant in San Diego. It was a seafood joint called Point Loma Seafood. The fish was fresh, the prices cheap, and the place was always packed. One evening I noticed a photograph on the wall. It was a photo of seagull legs and feet. I found this endlessly amusing.
This was very much on my mind when we took our first trip since Winter over the coastal range from Philomath, OR to our favorite beach town of Newport, OR. I was determined to get that elusive shot. One would think I would have more important, more meaningful things on my mind. Alas, I do not.
On a deserted jetty, we found a whole herd of seagulls just standing around, apparently waiting for their close-ups. Hunkering down on the ground, I took shot after shot of seagull feet. Suddenly, a voice startled me. "What're you doing, woman? Why are you taking photos of stupid seagulls?" I looked up and there was a grizzled old guy, carrying a fishing pole. He looked for all the world like someone who should be featured on a package of Gorton's Fish Sticks. "Further," he continued, "it looks to me you're not getting a picture of the whole gull -- just his feet." I smiled. "Yes, that was my intention," I said. He studied me for a moment. "You from Callyfurnia?" he asked. "Why, yes I am," I chirped. "Figures," he said as he wandered off, shaking his head.
Exhausted from our extreme photographic efforts, we went to Mo's in Newport. Established in 1944, Mo's has been serving up delicious clam chowder and other seafood dishes to people from all walks of life. Because it's such a tiny little restaurant, you eat at communal tables. You might be sitting next to a diamond merchant from Amsterdam, a cowboy from Wyoming or two travelling evangelists.
As The Saint was studying the menu, he erupted into loud, hysterical laughter. "You find the menu amusing?" I asked. In recent months, we have discussed that we are both way too easily amused. He nodded, tears of laughter running down his face. "Look!" he said, pointing to an item on the menu. It said. "Cioppino. A seafood stew served with a rich Italian." That's exactly what it said. The waitress came over and asked if there was a problem. The Saint said, "Can we take the rich Italian home with us?" She explained it's been on the menu like that for years. She didn't know if the original typo was intentional or not. What amazed her is that although many folk order the cioppino, they almost never comment on the "rich Italian."
As we tucked into our clam chowder, we congratulated ourselves. A shot of seagull feet, clam chowder and a rich Italian. How could a day possibly be more perfect?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Problem With Lying...

It all started in the mid-80's. I was working in New York, missing my California home. A friend had just opened a chic, trendy animal collectible shop in chic, trendy SoHo. Stuffed animals of every stripe were there. "And what animals do you collect?" my enthusiastic friend asked. Actually, I didn't collect any stuffed animals, but I felt obligated to purchase something from her. Not teddy bears. Too predictable. Same with kittycats. Nothing disgusting like an armadillo. And most important, I didn't want something that was so popular that I would feel obligated to be in the shop every week buying another panda or koala for my collection. "Hedgehogs," I blurted out. "I collect hedgehogs." I don't know where that came from because I don't ever recall seeing a hedgehog and I had absolutely no idea what they looked like. My friend looked perplexed for a moment, then a huge smile eruped. "We have a hedgehog, but only one." Perfect, I thought. She came out with a critter that kind of resembled a small possum. "Look at his perfect little porcelain nails," my friend proclaimed. "How adorable," I mumbled. And so I had a hedgehog. One hedgehog. I certainly thought that was the end of it. But, of course, that was not to be. Word got out that I "collected" hedgehogs. Since when does one hedgehog constitute a collection? Every birthday and Christmas thereafter, people have gifted me with hedgehogs: stuffed ones, plaster of paris ones, crystal ones, lead ones. I even have a suede purse shaped like a hedgehog, and sometimes, just to be contrary, I actually wear it! Just recently we moved to Oregon, and for one moment, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to dump the hedgehog collection. But when it came right down to it, I couldn't do it. So, after all these years, of a pretend-collection, it occurs to me that I really do have a hedgehog collection and I'm darned proud of it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I Got Old; I Didn't Get Dumb!

Do young folk really believe that when grey hairs start sprouting from your head that the grey cells simultaneously fall out the back of your head, following you around like a bad case of dandruff?

The other day I was in the electronics department of Target, wanting to purchase a 5-disc changer. I said to the young man behind the counter, "Please, sir, can you please direct
me to the 5-disc changers?"

"Certainly, ma'm," he said cheerfully and led me to an impresssive display of...well, boom boxes. "Here you go."

"But these are boom boxes," I said. "I want a 5-disc changer."

"They're the same thing. Just different names. Maybe you called them 5-disc changers when you were younger."

"When I was younger, I didn't call them anything, because they hadn't been invented!"

"They've been around forever. You probably just weren't familiar with them."

"Au contraire, mon ami," I said. "In the whole history of the world a boom box and a 5-disc changer have never, ever been considered the same thing." I could feel the volume of my voice increasing and developing that strident quality that sends neighborhood dogs fleeing. "That's as stupid as saying an electric can opener and a Mixmaster are one and the same thing." I do believe I was pretty much shrieking at this point.

"M'am, you need to calm down." I think until this point he thought he was just dealing with a harmless little old lady.

"And you need to stop being such a patronizing, uninformed jackass. I'm taking my business to Circuit City. The folks over there are bright enough to know the difference between a boom box and a 5-disc changer." With that I thwomped him over the head with my walker.

I hope he's learned that harmless little old ladies can turn turn into crazy old ladies with anger management problems in a New York minute.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I recently had someone read something I had written. They didn't know a word I had used and suggested I change the word. What?! As a writer, am I supposed to keep track of each reader's words? Oh, I think not. I am not responsible for supplying the reader with a dictionary; nor am I responsible for their ignorance!

Please Meet Spenser For Hire

Spenser, a rescue dog, is of indeterminate lineage. When I first got him, he was a year old and weighed in at about 6 pounds. Skinny and frightened, he did not look like he had had a very good year at all. He was a bundle of fears and nerves. He just knew folk were out to hurt him. People would make strange ewwww kind of faces when they saw him. WHAT IS HE? I used to tell them that his mother was a fruit bat and his daddy was a werewolf. From the looks on their faces, I think they actually believed me.

Spenser is six years old now, and he is a contented happy dog, who has doubled in size. His best buddy in the world is Archibald McNalley, who is his hero. They make a very handsome couple: black and white, ebony and ivory, salt and pepper. Now a robust 12-pounder, he is very protective of his family. If anyone is going to harm any of us, they're going to have to get past Spenser, Vigilante Dog.

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

And to think I didn't even know what a blog was ten minutes ago, and now I have one! Ah, modern technology. Almost -- but not quite -- as good as a grilled cheese sandwich!

And now I have to figure out what I will do with this wondrous new toy. Here I can write my silly, goofy stuff; I can rant and rave; I can show off the two best dogs in the whole world. The Amazing Archibald McNally, a singularly gorgeous Maltese, and Spenser For Hire, a dog of indeterminate lineage who looks like a fruit bat and a werewolf got together to create this masterpiece.