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.