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 '.