SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

I’m a curious guy

In my house I am known as the guy who will try anything once. Have a bizarre hat to try on, I’m your guy. Maybe a polyester shirt to wear just in case the style is coming back? Say no more. Or maybe a really hot pepper to chew on or something ridiculous on my head?

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I pride myself with curiosity and enthusiasm whenever something new crosses my path. But a long time ago I met my match.

My fellow blogger Paul mentioned his dislike for Sushi and when he did it didn’t take long for an old memory to surface.

I hope you enjoy.

 

Sushi Run amok

I live in Eugene, Oregon. It is a town where things live and thrive. Former hippies, protestors, group hugs, tree hugs, rainbow lovers and the hatred of all things concrete. 

But if there is one thing that sadly tops the list of favorites it would be sushi.

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Maybe it’s just me but sometimes I get the feeling there’s a sushi bar on every corner and like a cat running from a pack of wild hungry dogs my urge to run for the nearest hill is instant.

But it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when sushi was just another word. But all of that changed in the fall of 1990. It became known as the day sushi ruined my day.

 

How Could You?

I was attending college in Ashland, Oregon. My best friend and his girlfriend were headed to her parent’s hours for the weekend in San Francisco and they wanted me to come along.

Her family was upper class. Way upper class. They lived in a mansion on a hill. I love San Francisco. I love mansions. I love hills. I also love free food and lodging.

What’s not to love?

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We arrived Friday night with plans to leave Sunday afternoon. The house was huge. The tennis court was cool and the indoor and outdoor pools were….well….really neat and it didn’t take long for the maid and I to be on a first name basis.

The trip had a purpose. The Oregon Ducks were playing the California Bears and we had the sweetest seats in town.

Everything was sprouting roses. Life was rolling along at a fine pace. That is until a permanent wrinkle dented my day.

 

I’m Starving

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We were told not to eat any lunch. A giant feast awaited us after the game. I nibbled on a little breakfast. Traveled to the game and surrounded myself with the rich and passed on all the snacks.

My appetite grew as the game wore on. When it finished we walked through campus and joined our waiting party on the other side.

This was going to be grand. Steak, barbeque chicken or maybe something sauté. There might be dance and with any luck karaoke.

I once did a mean Billy Idol.

I paid no attention to the sign on the restaurant when we entered. I was way too busy enjoying the drink, the company and the laughs.

I could play the part of the insanely rich, I remembered. Park me on a hill, place me in a mansion. Add a maid and the guy who restrung the tennis court and we’re good.

Being young and available at the time naturally I would replace the pool guy with the pool girl.

 

The Food has Arrived!!!

By the time we sat down it was a good five or six hours since I last ate. I remember having a beer and a handful of saltine crackers as I eagerly awaited for the yummy first course to arrive.

It didn’t take long for the food to appear and when it did I swore it was still alive.

I remember something raw stuffed with other raw things. Slices of raw fish dipped in something black. Seaweed, lots of seaweed, and things that smelled like vinegar.

What the hell?

I stared at my empty plate and listened to my stomach complain. Not a steak in site, I whispered to my belly as the people around me filled their plates with raw things dipped in black stuff surround by things I tripped over on the beach.

 

Mind my Manners

I was raised in a home where manners were a high priority. As I accepted the invitation to taste the mysterious objects in front of me I caved in to my grandparents warning and politely swallowed the raw mystery thing whole.

The evening ended with me eating a record number of saltine crackers and a ridiculous high count of beer.

Check that: A whole lot of beer.

beer

When I look back the combination did create a nice blend of salt, dried bread and lots of alcohol.

As expected the evening turned a tad blurry. Apparently I insulted the diners with a handful of homemade sushi jokes. I was told later I was the only one laughing.

My friend cut ties with his girlfriend a few months later. I’m pretty sure I had nothing to do with it. I too had my own ties to cut, that being never to walk past a sushi restaurant again.

But no matter how deep the cut lies the memory of raw fish gliding down my throat is a moment that will last until the end of my days. 

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HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!!!!

Is Social Media Officially Weird?

weird

I was going to start off by using the word dead instead of weird but dead is so final.

Weird is a classier choice.

I have two social medial accounts. Twitter and Facebook. I also have three types of social media friends: The social butterfly, the reserved and the somewhere in between.

Most of them have multiple social media accounts as well and depending on the personality it’s easy to spot those who take it for what it is and those who go a tad too far.

Whatever the case I think we can all agree when you place a bunch of people in the same room sometimes things can get a little weird. If you don’t believe me try coming over to my house during the holidays.

 

Two Different Worlds

I have two Facebook accounts. One is my author page and the other is just plain old me. It’s as if I’m living in two worlds.

In my author page I make sure I’m involved with fellow writers. We’re all on the same page. Everybody creates and nothing needs explaining. It’s a lot like it is here. We all know the writing world and nothing needs explaining.

On my other pages it’s a free for all and that’s where things get interesting.

In the past year I have found myself posting less and less on that page. Let’s just say things can get a tad heated. Most of the topics center around politics, sports or climate change.

In today’s world pick your poison. All of them can be deadly.

My personal favorite was a heated exchange between a dog lover and a cat lover. I’m pretty sure it ended in a draw but I’m sure they’ll give you a different opinion if you ask.

Please don’t ask.

 

All talk and no listen

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Aside from the cat and dog exchanges I’ve noticed something else: Conversations…or should I say lack thereof.

Throughout the week I scan my twitter feed looking for posts with only a handful of replies. I do my best to generate a conversation. In some cases a conversation develops but most of the time it fizzles.

So I asked myself – What’s going on?

Is Facebook and twitter becoming a statement platform instead of a social one? The more I’m around it the more I’m afraid it is.

 

Blogging is the new Twitter/Facebook

For my take, blogging appears to be the new social media. Through the posts I create and the comments you give conversations are born. In most cases they expand through e-mails, private messages, texts and so on.

In the blog posts I create, along with the blogs I visit, I rarely see arguments. It’s a consistent positive, supported environment no matter what the topic is. On some occasions there’s a disagreement or two but it’s nothing heated. It’s simply a different way of thinking where both sides understand and respect.

 

Unfortunately We Need You

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For those of us building a platform, social media is a powerful tool. It can make or break us. The platform takes time and patience but most of all it requires a plan.

Like it or not, we need it.

It also takes one more thing: Weeding out the weird in order to find the good.

So what do you think? Am I wrong? Did I just write the most ridiculous post you ever read or is there an ounce of truth to it?

Have we turned the corner on social media? Has it become a place for statements instead of a conversation?

Are all of us standing tall on our soap boxes attempting to out scream our neighbor with no interest in listening to the person next to us?

I am cautious when it comes to opinion, especially when I’m not sure of the answer. Which makes me wonder:

Did I jump the gun on this or do I have a point? Has blogging replaced twitter and Facebook as the new social media or am I completely off my rocker?

 

I’ll let you decide on that one.

 

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Favorite characters I’d like to hand out with

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I’m a lot like you. I enjoy a good movie and a good book. Give me a rainy day by the window or an evening in front of the big screen and I’ll soak it all in.

It’s a wonderful slice of life.

In most cases when a book or a movie ends I move on to other things. Sure, some of the classics stay with me but for the most part I put them aside and seek new adventures.

I know one person who admits she has an addiction to Harry Potter books. She even went on to complain that the addiction is so bad it has taken its toll on her personal life.

I have never faced anything like that and it’s safe to say I never will but I will admit there are movies and books whose characters have peaked my curiosity.

For some it’s the backstory. The book or movie may have touched the surface leaving us lost in mystery.

For the bad characters I always find myself asking why. Did someone ruin them and if so, what happened?

The other day I did a little brainstorming over the tons of books and movies I have seen. Are there characters, I asked myself, that I’d like to spend a day with?

I didn’t take long to find a few.

Enjoy.

IT – Pennywise: I know what you’re saying. This is a monster. It deserves zero sympathy. This thing is nothing short of our worst nightmare. But still, I always wanted to know why. It’s clearly damaged and I want to know by who. It reminds me of a mean cat who once was a loving kitten but somewhere along the way somebody kicked it one to many times turning it into the beast we know today. If this was Pennywise I’d like to know what it was like before it was kicked.

 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Bernadette Fox: My oldest daughter has a friend whose mother reminds me of Bernadette. All I have to do is say hi and she’s talking for an hour.

I am fascinated by people so wrapped up in their lives that the outside world fails to exist. There’s something about their energy and the way they see the world I find amazing.

I keep picturing our day at a fancy restaurant in the upper class part of a big city. I do a lot of head nodding and agreeing but say little to no words.

I follow Bernadette to her favorite stores and we end our day with snacks in the lobby of a plush hotel.

But something tells me I’ll never get to know the true Bernadette.

 

Sideways – Miles: This is a rare moment where I found the book and the movie equally good. The book had a better ending where I found Miles to be more complete.

Miles is clearly depressed. I kept having this overwhelming need to talk to the guy. To push him in the right direction and tell him to stop living in the past.

Listen Miles, people divorce. Things happen and stop drinking so damn much wine!

 

The Sure Thing – Walter Gibson: This was a 1985 Rob Reiner film. Gibson was played by John Cusak. It was one of those rare ‘80’s young adult movies that was honest. He reminded me of my friends. Maybe a little bit of me.

Whatever the case I liked how he saw the world. Yes, he was a troubled kid, his priorities a little out of whack, but he meant well and he would have been fun to hang out with.

 

Fargo – Jerry Lundegaard: Of all the characters I mentioned this is my favorite. Jerry Lundegarrd, played by the great William H. Macy, may be the most complex character ever written.

You thought Pennywise was a mess get a load of Jerry.

There is so much back story we’ll never know. What gives with the relationship with his wife? His father in-law? What’s up with the kidnappers?

There is an entire before the movie that could center all on him. If we hung out I doubt he would open up but it would be fun to try.

 

So there you have it. If anything it would be a cool road trip. I wonder if Pennywise knows how to drive?

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My Blogging Neighborhood

This may not be the world’s longest post but it may be the most important one I’ve written in a while.

I had a list of things I wanted to talk about but I put them all aside for the day.

Every now and then I do a little reflecting. There was a time I doubt I could even spell that word but now I find myself doing it all the time.

Call it older and wiser or maybe my brain is getting weird. On the other hand maybe I still have some of the hospital drugs floating inside me. But I’m going with weird.

Weird is the new cool, by the way.

I wanted to take a moment and talk about my blog, or better yet, the people I’ve met because of it.

My goal when I started this thing was to entertain and have fun. I’m pretty sure all of us have the same goals. Some of you are teachers and when it comes to the craft of writing you are the best. Others are entertainers doing your best to make us smile and make our day a little brighter.

For that we thank you.

I am a sociable person, just ask my buddy Jo. By the way, Jo loves a shout out but she never comments. Don’t let her shyness fool you.

When I started my blog I figured my topics would be the most important thing. After all if I couldn’t write anything good nobody would read it.

Somewhere along the way I made an interesting discovery: I was wrong.

As I mentioned I am a social person. Place me in a crowded room and chances are I’ll find my way in the middle of it. I guess it’s the Irish in me. We tend to be a little loud.

But the joy of this blog is you. Sure, I need to write the good stuff and do my best to create interesting topics but I have discovered the true good stuff is talking to my fellow bloggers.

A good laugh, a serious talk, you name it. The true joy is the unexpected and pleasant surprise of the friends I have made.

In a way it reminds me of an old fashion neighborhood where I walk out to collect my morning paper. Humor me. Let’s pretend it’s 1986.

I wave at K.M. Allan as she desperately searches for her morning paper. She can never find it, by the way. I want to help but it’s so much fun watching the search.

Speaking of K.M. she always drops by during taco night. Weird.

As my rambling slows to an end I would like to add one final thought:

We all need a reason to write our blogs and for me the reason is you. It’s an awesome way to meet people from all over the world and because of that we have created the world’s coolest neighborhood.

Many of us dream of that special neighborhood to call home and this is pretty close to that dream.

Thanks everyone!!!!!

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Aunt Dot – Part 2

A while ago I wrote a little piece about my great-aunt Dot, her special vodka and her cold dead hand.

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I was happy to read the comments that followed and the requests for other stories containing dear Aunt Dot.

At first I couldn’t think of any. Most of her years were spent as a nurse in Eastern Washington. It was during the later years of her life that she moved to my hometown in Western Washington.

 

Pictures, Trucks and Parties

One day I was thumbing through an old family album when a picture stirred a memory. A group of relatives stood in front of an old truck parked in a familiar park.

I noticed several pictures of that same day and before long another memory of Aunt Dot came into focus.

I was knee deep in high-school. Sixteen, maybe seventeen. It was late spring. May, I believe. Or possible June at the latest.

Somebody came up with an idea of a family reunion on my grandmother’s side.

 

The Grand Arrival

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Note: Aunt Dot was not Lucille Ball but when I think back this is how I see her.

It was a typical get together I’m sure many of you have experienced. There were relatives I knew, combined with those I barely knew. The usual comments – My how you’ve grown/you look just like you dad – followed by uncomfortable silence wondering what else to say.

Aunt Dot’s arrival consisted of the usual fan fair. She was second in line in a family of ten. Admired by some, scared by all. And then there was me.

For those reading this for the first time she adored me. To this day it’s still a mystery.

Her husband’s, past and present, were in attendance. As for her special vodka, keep in mind this was at least a year before I had my first taste.

The reunion was like any other. Grownups rehashed old memories. Little kids played and I discovered a distant cousin who had the most beautiful eyes I ever saw.

As the hashing and rehashing rolled along a tiny wrinkle came our way.

 

Beautiful eyes, Vodka and tiny glasses

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Nobody knew when it happened but when her older sister Emma shouted the news that Aunt Dot was missing her husbands, past and present, along the rest of us sprang into action.

Her eight sisters and one brother called out her name. Her nieces and nephews searched behind trees and bushes.

And I?

Did I mentioned the cousin with the beautiful eyes?

Aunt Dot’s love affair with vodka had a long family history. My earliest memory came as a child when we were her guests at a fancy restaurant. I was confused with her choice of beverage. Water in a tiny glass. My confusion grew as her face turned red and her laughter increased. At times, I noticed, she’d laugh at things that weren’t funny.

 

Aunt Dot and the grass stains

The search party ended not long after it began when my grandmother calmly called out – ‘Oh, here she is!’

With the help of her husbands, my vodka smelling great-aunt was pulled up a grassy hill that she had earlier rolled down.

Uninjured but a tad sleepy and a tad green from the grass stains she was gently placed in the back of my grandfather’s truck on top of an old mattress.

As for me?

Needless to say, I never saw my beautiful cousin again. I wonder if she thinks of me.    

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Happy Friday Everyone!!!

The First Draft Decision

My Troubled Kid

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All of us approach draft one in our own way. It’s like meeting someone for the first time. Some of us tip-toe through the introduction while others are eager to jump right in.

A few weeks ago I received good news from a friend that she had completed draft one. It only took her six weeks and a few bumpy roads consisting of minor scrapes and bruises and the occasional trip to the emergency room.

Other than that it was a marvelous success.

I replied to her with the proper congratulatory e-mail full of smiley faces and pretend hugs. The day got worse when another writer notified me of her first draft completion as well.

This one outdid the first one. Five weeks and not an injury in sight.

 

And then there was me

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With the completion of book one I ventured on to book two. In my mess of notes I had several story ideas in front of me. I knew I could only choose one. Unlike a few who can write two novels at the same time I’m a one novel writing kind of guy.

 I took my time with the choice I would make. As you know writing a novel is a long process. It is a relationship and as with any relationship it’s wise not to jump in before giving it some serious thought.

I narrowed it down to two choices. It didn’t take long before I saw something.

 

Good vs. Clumsy as hell

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Of my two choices one of my ideas was somewhat easy in terms of first draft. The puzzle was laid out. The pieces in place and the dots easily connected. I could see the beginning, middle and end as easy as I could see the leaves falling off a nearby tree.

I would finish it in five weeks. Six tops. Maybe a month if the path was smooth. I could contact my two showoff friends and do a little boasting myself.

Then there was my second option. The puzzle not so clear. The dots not so bright and the storyline not the smoothest of travels.

But something caught my eye.

 

My Kids

In many ways our stories are our kids. We pay attention to those we worry about the most. We’re happy for the good, responsible one but sometimes we secretly admire the bad one. They have no borders, have zero time management skills and are probably incapable of lying no matter how bad you wish they sometimes would.

So there I stood. My two choices in front me. To my right my one kid had it all. He had friends, a job and no trouble on the horizon. He also paid off his car.

And to my left stood my trouble. She loved the dangerous crowd. She invited loose ends and she was always bumming a ride. To make matters worse I’m pretty sure she was dating the drummer.

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Good God, my kid is the bad girl.

 

The choice was easy

As I separated the pages in front of me I saw my fingers pull certain pages close while pushing others away. Before I knew it I was placing the good kid in a folder promising him not to worry.

I gave my troubled kid a long look. She was full of plot holes, she wasn’t clear what she wanted and she didn’t know where she wanted to go.

But there was something else that drew me to her.   

 

Just like me

Unlike my first kid who clearly took after his mother, the troubled one was all me. She had a good heart, a decent soul and was always forgetting to call if she was running late.

But I knew she meant well.

As I collected my notes and placed her in front of me I knew we’d figure this out. She was a mess and we had a lot of work to do but she was my mess.

So now I wonder: Am I drawn to troubled stories that remind me of the worst I have to offer? Slightly mixed up, hopelessly lost and a laugh that is way too loud.

Probably.

But who cares. Life is short and sometimes a loud laugh is the only music in town.

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SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

American Football

football

For my non-American friends football is soccer and when I think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

You have a foot. You have a ball. You take that foot and you kick that ball. The next thing you know you’re analyzing the situation and after a moment or two you’re yelling at the top of your lungs – “I invented Football!’

It probably didn’t happen that way but since I’m in the pretending mood I’ll say it did.

 

An Odd Shaped Thing

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Out here in the states we have our own football. The ball is a really weird shape. You do not kick it, you do however tuck it under your arm and you run really fast until a dude and six of his friends pummel you to the ground.

When you try to stand chances are pretty high you’ll forget your name, what team you play for and any chance of spelling CAT will be a pipe dream.

Oh and one more thing: Two minutes later you’ll do it again.

 

A Typical College Football Town

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I live in a football town. It is a college town where the players play for free. They are given scholarships and a dream that someday, if they’re good enough, they will play for pay in the NFL and if that happens millions of dollars awaits.

Our team is known as the Oregon Ducks. Green and yellow everywhere.

I originally came from the state of Washington, home of the Washington Huskies and the Seattle Seahawks. This makes me a Husky fan. It also makes my life a constant danger. You see, out here Oregon fans hate the Huskies therefore all of us Washington transplants must hide our allegiance in our hall closet.  

 

Green and Yellow Galore

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Out here there are two types of football fans: Those who love it and those who could care less. 

During the fall my neighborhood is littered with yellow and green flags. The cars are decorated with fuzzy thingy’s of equal color. It’s really fun when it rains. They stick everywhere.

Bumper stickers, shirts, hats and lots of happy or sad people are everywhere. Depending of course on the final score.

Sometimes I secretly envy the ones who could care less. When your emotions rely on an 18 to 22 year old chances are there is something clinically wrong with you.

 

My Heart Belongs in Alabama

I live ten minutes from the stadium but I have never been to a game. Call me cheap or a Saturday couch potato and you are probably right.

But one day, five years ago, a good friend talked me into traveling south to the great state of Alabama where 110,000 football lovers await.

I had such a great time I did it again two years later.

On a side note: I could have done without the constant singing of Sweet Home Alabama from the beginning of the game to the end but that’s another blog post.

 

We’re a tad weird

NCAA Football: UCLA at Oregon

 

Americans are a silly bunch. Our President can cheat on his wife and all is forgiven. Our Government can rob us blind and we slap them on the wrist but if you mess with the game we love you my friend have crossed the line.

For my friends who live far away come on out and enjoy our game. Be sure to plug your ears and get ready to eat a lot and to be on the safe side, root for the home team.

Oh and one more thing: If you come to Oregon be sure to bundle up. We play rain or shine. Usually rain.

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!!