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Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Entente, Ians, and Shakespeare


entente - noun - a friendly understanding or informal alliance between states or factions (Google). 

Lately, the entente has populated the domestic as well as foreign news. Due to the unmitigated wrath of Hurricane Ian, two normally politically unfriendly factions–Democrats and Republicans (namely President Biden and Florida governor Ron DeSantis)–are expeditiously seeing eye-to-eye in terms of relief funding: Biden being the giver, DeSantis being the receiver of the dollars. Ironic as it may seem, natural disasters affecting human life and interactions tend to motivate ententes albeit the human equivalent, war, often causes the opposite: strife among the warring factions as well as neighboring states that are forced to take sides. And then, there is the smallest, most personal entente, that which is made between friends or relatives, that might also prove pernicious or perilous. 

Those of you who follow me (both of you) know that I belong to a book club of former colleagues. For October's selection, I, whose turn it was, chose Ian (no relation to the hurricane mentioned above) McEwan's Booker Prize-winning novel Amsterdam that involves a pact between two close friends, Clive, a well-known classical composer, and Vernon, a respected journalist. At the novel's entrance, the men interface at the sparse funeral of their mutual lover, Molly, who at a relatively young age, contracted an unnamed, fatal disease similar to ALS. As he fears a similar fate, self-possessed Clive decides to involve Vernon in a bleak entente: should he fall victim to a terminal disease, Vernon must agree to call in the British equal of Dr. Kevorkian to end Clive's life a.s.a.p. to prevent any unwanted suffering. Eventually, a reluctant Vernon does decide to sign the dotted line of agreement, but only if Clive consents to do the same for him. As Drama will have it, at the turning point, the two find each other in a political debate, which does irreparable damage to their friendship. The end, as you might have already guessed, is far from agreeable. In fact, it is a wonderful example of situational irony. (I'd love to spoil things and tell you what happens, but I'm hoping you'll read the book, which is under 200 pages and highly digestible, but probably not while imbibing champagne, a wine that figures into the plot.)

When a pact of any kind is mentioned, particularly one involving money, I tend to find the nearest exit as soon as possible. William Shakespeare's "Neither a borrower nor lender be/For loan loses both itself and friend" (from Hamlet) is the one quote that has stayed embedded in my memory for good reason. Ententes involving the loan often turn sour as the borrower, who is often a friend, forgets he is the borrower and usually absconds with the funds, forgetting the original terms. Which is why when push comes to shove and I feel the urge of altruism or am backed into a corner, I tend to give food rather than cash. Why? It is a pure need rather than a want. Most people who consistently rely on relations or acquaintances rather than a legitimate bank to make ends meet are usually guilty of poor decision-making regarding their own lives. Rather than learn from their mistakes, they keep making them, knowing that they can always depend on the lender, the friend or relative, to be at their beck and call with wallet open and the willingness to be forever generous. I am sure that if you are reading this, you know exactly what I mean as you have "been there, done that" and couldn't afford to buy the T-shirt after it was all over.

The takeaway: There is nothing wrong with giving, but there are ways of being magnanimous without enabling. An honest entente need not involve anything controversial that might test the love between you and someone close to you. It could be as easy as, "The next time you find yourself short of cash, give me a call, and I'll cook you dinner." Feel free to borrow the line. It's on me :). 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life, #literature, #blog, #blogging, #books, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #history, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #good advice, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing, #HurricaneIan, #Shakespeare 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Excrement and the Like


excrement - noun - waste matter discharged from the bowels; feces (Google).

Like many of you out there in cyberspace, I live in what is known as a suburb, a residential community on the fringe of an urban metropolis. My neighborhood is composed of single-family dwellings housing mainly young families. I can't quite fathom this myself, but when people find themselves marrying, having kids, and moving into homes like mine, they invariably feel that the experience of nesting for life cannot possibly be complete without the acquisition of a cat or a dog or both or multiples of one or the other. Don't misunderstand me. I respect and appreciate creatures great and small; it's their owners–the irresponsible ones–with whom I often have a problem. 

Case in point, this Sunday morning, I woke up and headed into my kitchen, looking for something to eat as I tend to do daily. Upon looking out of the window, I spied my next-door neighbor's one black cat (she has two) that had a definite agenda: to excrete excrement on my front lawn right beside my walkway. Now I am not superstitious or am a racist when it comes to humans or pets. Ordinarily, I have nothing against creatures of color, but this black cat I don't like at all. And the feeling is most likely mutual. Would you like a feline that purposely journeyed twenty more feet beyond its home territory just to crap on your lawn that you had paid $2,000 to have reseeded just last year? I'm thinking no, you wouldn't either. To make a long story shorter, after the cat did its duty in a slipshod way (the cats of a former generation used to bury their waste, but not indolent millennial cats), I took a shovel to the poop and placed it in a convenient spot–next to my neighbor's garbage can–where she just might step in it while putting out the trash. I thought it was the least I could do: return what is rightfully hers. Apparently, there are no laws governing the excretions of domestic cats because–and get this–it is assumed that "responsible" owners of cats keep them inside! For years, I have been reminding my next-door neighbor of this unwritten law, but anything I say to her seems to produce the identical response: a smile with a chaser of a laugh. So I'm screwed. 

Then there are my neighbors across the street, who after twenty years of foregoing pet ownership, decided to get a dog for their two teenage daughters who have better things to do (like spending hours on social media) than care for a dog. Because no one wants to walk the alienated mutt, they tie it to a tree outside, permitting it to bark pretty much all day long. (Mind you, the man of the house is a police officer, so you'd think he'd know better.)  I guess I should feel blessed that the dog (ironically named Faith) hasn't figured out how to break free from the chain that binds it so that it can visit my front yard and relieve itself as well. Thank Goodness for small favors!

The takeaway? If you just happen to own a cat or a dog, those of us who don't, can't fault you for adopting a lovable, furry family member, but can you please be considerate and responsible about caring for it? Thanks :). 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life, #literature, #blog, #blogging, #books, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #history, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #good advice, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Seeing Eye to Eye


eye contact - noun - the act of looking directly into another's eyes (Google).

idiom - noun - a group of words with meaning not deducible from the individual words themselves.

English, particularly American English is filled with idioms, expressions, which may or may not contain figures of speech, used enough as to convey specific meanings. The idiom "seeing eye to eye" simply means sharing the same point of view or opinion with another individual. It has nothing to do with eye contact albeit a foreigner who is learning the English language might guess that it might, especially if the person is prone to literal interpretations. Oddly enough, you don't have to connect with someone's eyes in a direct manner if you two share the same opinion although it may help if you want the other person to trust you. Or if you just want someone to take you seriously.

Lately, at least in my line of work, I have been finding that the average person finds direct eye contact to be a bit uncomfortable. In case you didn't already know, I am a professional entertainer by day, a writer of music and prose by night, usually. Most would conjecture the opposite: entertainer by night, writer by day. However, my audiences are composed of people in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and shelters. And most of these folks are asleep by 10 p.m. These well-rested types are engaged, appreciative and don't seem to own smartphones, which is a very good thing from the perspective of anyone in show business as no one in the spotlight likes to compete with screens no matter how small they are. 

Anyway, what I have been noticing lately is that when I look directly into a person's eyes (and gender has nothing to do with it), while singing, the person almost immediately looks away. Just what is that? It's not as though I am DaBaby, rapping away one obscenity after the next just to horrify these aged captive persons. I am usually singing a Sinatra favorite that contains nothing emotionally distressing unless you consider the lyrics in "Witchcraft" a bit too salacious. Would you consider "Those fingers in my hair; that wild, come hither stare; that strips my conscience bare" to be embarrassingly flirty? But the lyrics tend not to make a difference. I could be singing "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day" ("My Girl") directly to someone, and he or she still would still avert his or her eyes from mine. Huh? What is probably behind this odd happening is fear, the fear of seeing eye to eye, perhaps literally or figuratively. 

My advice would be to be brave when it comes to eye contact. Pretend that you are in a staring contest in middle school again and see how long you can stay engaged in a nonverbal conversation with someone using just your eyes. You may be surprised to find out that most people can speak well with their eyes and can reveal so much about themselves sans any words at all. But maybe that's why so many look away. They fear being vulnerable, baring their souls. I kind of think so. What do you think? 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life, #literature, #blog, #blogging, #books, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #history, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #good advice, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Poem About My Father Featuring Synecdoche


synecdoche - noun - figure of speech in which a part represents the whole.

Plaid Jacket

My father was a pattern

of horizontal and vertical,

staid black, pure white – 

and ruby red


that plaid jacket.

Tartan of royal Scots,

it was not

although the Stewart Clan

might recall the kilts

they once wore

if they saw it 


on that clearance rack

in Bamberger’s.

That plaid jacket

could cut the rug

and jitterbug

better than Benny G

could play clarinet.

That plaid jacket

baptized newborn babes,

sat with joy at

the helm of holiday tables,

poised before blinking lights

of evergreen bliss,

inhaled the dry taste of 


on most New Year’s Eves.

That plaid jacket

would not miss the vows

of love,

the kiss of which would 

linger in the air like pollen

when spring folded into summer,

summer into autumn,

autumn into winter.

That plaid jacket

fell into its final 

resting place

in a comfortable casket 

on Christmas Eve.

#poem, #in memory, #poetry about love, #love poem, #poetry community, #new poetry, #new poem, #synecdoche 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

It's All in a Rainbow


rainbow - noun - arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere (Google).

I don't know about you, but I have always appreciated the symbolism and artistry and magic of a rainbow. It is God's palette of colors that human beings have associated with superficially unrelated abstract concepts and have reproduced visually probably since their first glance of one. The rainbow has been connected to luck, hope, promise, peace, equality, new beginnings, and internal life. In 1978 after Harvey Milk commissioned him, Gilbert Baker, a Vietnam War vet, artist, designer, and part-time drag queen, created the rainbow pride flag just in time for San Francisco's annual gay pride parade ( Ever since, the LGBTQ community has seen the rainbow as a symbol integral to its identity. Yet Baker wasn't the only painter to duplicate the rainbow. In fact, the fine artist Norman Adams realized fifteen on canvas (Google). My personal favorite rainbow portraits are those that children create on paper. I have always poised to enjoy their anonymous pastel colored chalk designs on the concrete of sidewalks and macadam of streets. They generally remember to include all seven colors (the number seven being mystical in itself). 

The appearance of an actual rainbow during or after a significant event can be viewed as a sign or coincidence: A sign if you are drifting on a spiritual plain, coincidence if you choose to live the material world. I know that during my daughter's high school graduation in 2009, two rainbows surrounded the football stadium that cupped in its hand administrators, parents, the graduates, the concert band and chorus. The rainbows were so magically timed that not one of the attendees, I'm quite sure, thought of them as a random occurrence. 

Unless you have been in hiding from all things digital or analogue, you already know that Queen Elizabeth II, the only British monarch that any of us under 97 have ever known, passed away today. Above Windsor Castle, after the announcement of her death, a rainbow graced the sky. It made news internationally despite the naysaying bourgeois or apostates who would rather label the event "coincidental." I am sure most of the Brits who have loved QE2 best saw it as a mark most likely of the Queen's eternal life or the foreshadowing of a new beginning. I'm guessing King Charles III just might be contemplating the significance right now. As well he should. I'd like to think that God must have saved the Queen and felt He needed to write proof in pretty colors for all to witness so as to assuage the grief of a nation. 

The takeaway? May you never cease to notice and ponder the wonder of the rainbow. 

#word-to-words, #slice-of-life, #literature, #blog, #blogging, #books, #editorial, #reading, #vocabulary, #history, #ReadersMagnet, #spilled thoughts, #good advice, #personal-essay, #writing community, #writing 

Monday, September 5, 2022

The Red Eye: Profit versus Propriety


propriety - noun - condition of being right (morally) or fitting (Google).

I love to fly, or at least, I used to. I started being a passenger on commercial jet planes when I was about five. Believe it or not, I still remember portions of my initial, pseudo-Wright-brothers' entry into the skies as–like theirs–it was a tad traumatic. My family (my mother, father, sister, and I) were on a Pan Am Boeing 707 bound from New York's Idlewild (now JFK) to Bermuda. Being that we were a few thousand feet up from the Bermuda Triangle, we hit unexpected turbulence, which sent me searching for the "puke bag" located in the pocket of the seat in front of me. Not pretty. But fortunately, that's not all I recall about that flight. There were also a few positive attributes: models called "stewardesses" who knew the meaning of "customer service," meals that looked like TV dinners served with actual stainless steel utensils that my mother would pocket along with the plastic salt-and-pepper shakers, multiple magazines to read (not that I could, but there were always the photographs at which to gaze), blankets and pillows to get lost in after reclining what seemed like twelve inches back in the seat. There were no rollers shoved into overhead compartments, only hand-carried luggage stored below, and a lot more space between the rows–all for no extra charge (not that I was paying the fare anyway). In short, flying commercially in the early 1960s was a kind of free-floating-above-the-clouds heaven, perhaps reserved for those who could afford it.

Fast forward nearly sixty years. I still fly, but the experience isn't quite the same, thanks in part to People Express, a no-frills airline that sprang up in the 1980s that set the pace for all airlines today. Okay, granted, taking to the "friendly" skies is a lot less expensive today, yet the adage, "You only get what you pay for" pretty much says it all. Flying is trying, sort of like being stuffed in a crowded public school bus winging its way through the troposphere. Even beneath that image is the red eye, that last flight that departs after midnight and gets you to your destination at wee hours of the morning when you'd think the airport would be empty, but it's still packed with even more travelers who want to save a few more bucks by taking the first available planes out. Yikes! 

If you can manage to sleep on a red eye, you have a rare talent that I envy. A week ago when I was forced to hightail it to Denver to take the red eye to Newark because I didn't want to pay the 1K roundtrip to hop on a more convenient nonstop from Bozeman to Newark at a decent hour (whew), I observed the body language of the passengers who were dozing, and it wasn't a pretty sight. In fact, if animals were forced to sleep in the same position, the Humane Society would be spending time in court with the airline industry. Since the seats no longer recline any more than an inch back in economy, adults of all shapes and sizes were and are forced to remain vertical, leaning forwards to press their heads against the hard plastic of the area above the tray tables, a pose far from comfortable or even proper. 

Obviously, I could go on, but I think you already know the despicable fine points. In short, life in a capitalistic society like ours is not about propriety or anything close to comfort. It's all about profit. Sadly, the airlines are only thinking about how many bodies they can squeeze into each fuselage to generate the billions, not about how they can make the bodies feel like human beings, like the last bunch in the air used to. I can't help but feel that there has got to be a better, still profitable, yet decent way of delivering to the aloft public. Stepping back to the "good ole days" somehow in order to move forward might be a viable solution. 

#word-to-words, #spilled thoughts, #vocabulary, #good advice, #personal essay, #vocabulary, #blogs, #blogging, #entertainment, #books, #literature, #slice of life, #writing, #writing community,  #ReadersMagnet, #life tips, #editorial 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Doppelganger from Another Generation


doppelganger - noun - biologically unrelated lookalike or a double of a living person (Google)

Admittedly, I haven't been reminded of or contemplated the word doppelganger (sorry about the lack of an umlaut over the "a"–my computer doesn't know German) since I taught Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to my eleventh-grade Brit lit students, seemingly eons ago albeit it was just P.P. (pre-pandemic) as opposed to Po.P. (post-pandemic). Protagonist Frankenstein's creation, the monster, was not so much the science student's double but a paranormal phenomenon (an extension of the denotation). But I digress.

In reality, we've all encountered lookalikes or near lookalikes here, there, and everywhere, people who remind us of others. Generally, we acknowledge them casually with an exhalation of brevity, a comment, "He looks so much like so-and-so," and then move on to inhale the next face sans a second thought. But what if we were to see an overly familiar face–an exact duplicate of a face we knew decades ago–a face that might evoke bittersweet memories that catapult us back in time to relive them? 

I had this experience last weekend while attending a wedding reception in the mountains of Big Sky, Montana, meaning in the middle of nowhere. The trumpet player in the band was the doppelganger—a near double of my high school sweetheart, a pianist, my first bonafide love and first bonafide heartbreak as he wound up leaving me (I wanted to wed the cheater) for his college girlfriend to whom he is still married at present. Because everyone, including me, thought her my lesser, it took my severely wounded ego years to heal. I felt I could never forgive him for leaving me for someone not nearly as perfect for him as I. 

Oddly enough, the trumpet player's look and overall dress (so much like my ex's), didn't remind me of the pain of loss. It did the opposite: all I could recall was the beauty of the relationship, one flashback after the next. The pleasant reverie accompanied by a soundtrack of Macie Gray must have provoked a smile as during a pause in his playing, the trumpet player caught my expression and smiled back, my love's smile, the one I had experienced on a daily basis 45 years ago. It was at this instant that I knew that somewhere down the queue of years, I must have forgiven him in earnest–the unforgivable one who had slashed my heart with a stiletto, the one who had married a woman who was and still is just right for him after all. 

The takeaway? Like in my case, sooner or later, something or someone–perhaps a doppelganger–will enter your life unexpectedly and reel you backwards in time. Your nostalgic sensibilities will click in, and you will be taken on a carnival ride that may shake you up into believing you have a long-term memory for a reason: to treasure the past moments that left you breathless with joy, not disappointment or resentment. 

Forgiveness: Wow! What a concept :) !  

#word-to-words, #spilled thoughts, #vocabulary, #good advice, #personal essay, #vocabulary, #blogs, #blogging, #entertainment, #books, #literature, #slice of life, #writing, #writing community,  #ReadersMagnet, #life tips, #editorial 

The Entente, Ians, and Shakespeare

  entente - noun - a friendly understanding or informal alliance between states or factions (Google).  Lately, the entente has populated the...