Stick This Holiday With A Fork – It’s Done

Once upon a time, we had a perfectly good holiday.  It was steeped in tradition, as holidays tend to be.  It was non-denominational and based upon the universal notion of pausing to take stock of how much each of us has to be thankful for.   How could it possibly be ruined?

I’m not talking about the Thanksgiving when Aunt Glenda drank too much wine and subsequently wet herself.  Nor am I referring to when Jimmy Jr. and Cousin Earl stirred things up over at the kid’s table when they staged an epic farting contest.  Those events are called “memories” people, and given enough time, they can become ones we cherish (though Glenda may not fully agree).

One sure way to ruin a holiday is to let time-honored traditions be replaced by new things, which may or may not turn out to be tradition worthy.  Here are just a few ways that folks have managed to make hash out of our beloved turkey day:

Tradition: Cook an elaborate meal, centered around a sizable turkey, which fills the entire house with a its intoxicating aroma while roasting for hours and hours.

Replaced With: Deep fry the turkey out in the driveway, investing as little time as possible.

Result: Congratulations on taking the turkey cooking chore away from Mom so she’s free to bend the elbow with her sister Glenda.  In doing so, you’ve unwittingly pinned the responsibility of turkey cookery on Uncle Phil, who is also known as “Nagasaki Phil” for what he’s done to various cuts of beef at 4th of July barbeques.  The timeless aromas of roasting turkey have been replaced by the scent of several gallons of heated oil intermingled with a hint of gasoline from the lawn mower which sits adjacent to the propane tank by the shed.  As an added entertainment bonus, there’s a chance Uncle Phil will live up to his nickname and light the dog on fire.

meme from the net, where humor goes to die
meme from the net, where humor goes to die

Tradition: Taking time off to reflect on what we’re thankful for.

Replaced With: Squandering precious vacation hours on rampant consumerism.

Result: For many, Thanksgiving has already become nothing but the day before Black Friday, wherein we immediately discard being thankful for what we have and focus instead, on what we want.  Since Black Friday can’t come soon enough, America’s heartless retailers have started having stores open on Thanksgiving itself for even deeper discounts.  It’s only a matter of time before even deep fried turkey and instant mashed potatoes will not be quick enough for the schedules of bargain crazed shoppers – precipitating the change over to Wendy’s Turkey Gobbler Wrap with a side of fries.  At this rate, Halloween will eventually become the start of the Christmas shopping season with Thanksgiving being demoted to the unofficial midpoint of gift buying frenzy.

If your bank account looks like this, you need to stop watching the Cowboys get their asses kicked and go do some shopping!  Rumor has it Romo jerseys are going for bargain prices.  (Image from picsbox dot biz)
If your bank account looks like this, you need to stop watching the Cowboys get their asses kicked and go do some shopping! Rumor has it Romo jerseys are going for bargain prices even before December this year . (Image from picsbox dot biz)

Tradition: Scores of special side dishes are made and brought by family members from far and wide to accompany the turkey.  Oftentimes, these rare culinary gems are only seen on Thanksgiving, due to the closely guarded nature of secret family recipes and the labor intensive realities of making Grandma’s famous creamed onion and mashed rutabaga casserole from scratch.

Replaced With: Increasingly simple and/or instant dishes which require little more than adding the right amount of water and knowing how to use a microwave.

Result: It stands to reason that if you’re going to deep fry a 22 pound turkey in 13 minutes, you can’t spend hours and hours in the kitchen screwing around with the sides.  Besides, gourmands agree that the taste of deep fried meat is best complimented by instant mashed potatoes, Stove Top Stuffing, Pillsbury dinner rolls and of course, a freshly opened can of cranberry sauce.

Your guests won't believe that it's instant!  It'll be our secret!  (Image from 313merch dot com)
It’s a sure sign that Aunt Glenda’s had way too many white zinfandels when she starts huffing the jar of Instant Shit. (Image from 313merch dot com)

Tradition:  Rivalry football games.  In the halcyon days of my youth, the football teams of neighboring towns would meet every Turkey Day for bragging rights.  Win or lose, we’d return home to the smells of roasting turkey and Grandpa’s White Owl cigar smoldering in the ashtray.  Later, a couple of teams from the NFL or college ranks would square off on the TV.

Replaced With: The NFL has totally taken over Thanksgiving football.  There may still be some other games played, but you’d never know it.  The Lions play someone each year, then the Cowboys play someone else.  This year, San Francisco played yet another game after the other two contests were over.

Result: Now that the NFL has cornered the market on televised sports for this holiday, their focus has shifted to covering even more time zones to create constant grid iron action.  They’re trying hard to land a team in London, and rumor has it they have plans for franchising teams in Hawaii and on a special floating stadium in the north Atlantic.  Let’s hear it for the Fightin’ Cod!

 

 

You can't watch these warriors on Thanksgiving because A. They aren't in the NFL and B. They are presumably busy that day, making green bean casserole. (Image from football dot wonderhowto dot com)
You can’t watch these warriors on Thanksgiving because A. They aren’t in the NFL and B. They are presumably busy that day, making green bean casserole. (Image from football dot wonderhowto dot com)

Tradition: The kiddie table

Replaced With: The phasing out of the kiddie table due to hovering parents who can’t stand the thought of their kids being alone.  Surely there have been kiddie table lawsuits filed claiming discrimination and/or forced segregation as well.

Result: Letting the kids sit at the table with the grown ups inhibits parents from spending the entire meal talking about this year’s strategy for Christmas gift shopping once they’ve finished speed-eating.  This will also give parents insight into what a mediocre job they’ve done teaching the young ones table manners.  Honestly, when Little Brittany bit into that Turkey Wrap without holding her pinkies out, I could have just died.

There's cousin Earl making his "He who smelt it dealt it" face.  The little rascal!  (Image from 999thepoint dot com)
There’s Cousin Earl making his “He who smelt it dealt it” face. You can tell from Jimmy Jr.’s reaction in the background that having whiffed Earl’s air biscuit, he knows he’s finished a disappointing second again this year. Brittany must be upwind of the action.  (Image from 999thepoint dot com)

I’d like to go on at greater length about this sad topic, but the time is already running out for my whining about the ruination of Christmas.  I hope I didn’t give you indigestion.

 

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You Hate Me! You Really, Really Hate Me!

I commented to my long suffering wife the other day about my recently having achieved another landmark in followers.

“Honey, my blog now has over fourteen hundred followers!”

“That’s nice dear,” she replied, but then asked “Does that mean something?”

I rolled my eyes discretely at her lack of comprehension of the nuts and bolts of blog mechanics.

“It means that every time I write a new post, one thousand four hundred and seven people, collectively known as my followers, are notified of this momentous event. They can then scramble to the nearest smart phone, laptop or if they’re homeless, the public library, and hang on my every word.  Despite the publishing industry’s opinion that I have very little to offer in the way of writing skills, there are fourteen hundred people who feel otherwise”

“That’s nice, dear.” she said, already refocusing her attention back to the sudoko puzzle or Kindle or whatever that thing was that allowed her to ignore me.

"..so then Clinton says Obama was luckier than a dog with two dicks!  Yow-za!!"  (Image from businessinsider dot com)
“..so then Clinton says Obama was luckier than a dog with two dicks! Yow-za!!  Now with a quick show of hands, which eleven of you think this was a good post?” (Image from businessinsider dot com)

I sat there, mildly upset that she had not suggested uncorking some champagne to celebrate.  I turned my attention back to my trusty computer and looked at one of my latest posts.  This particular one was a whimsical discussion as to the merits or drawbacks of a dog having multiple penises, as originally suggested by former President William Jefferson Clinton.  Then I jumped over to the stats page.

Fourteen hundred followers?!!  Get yer bikinis on, girls, we're gonna dump champagne over your heads!  (Image from annsheybani dot com)
Fourteen hundred followers?!! Get your bikinis on, girls, we’re gonna dump champagne over your heads! (Image from annsheybani dot com)

The post had registered 11 likes and 141 people had actually read it.  These numbers are pretty typical for my posts.

I have a list of 70 or 80 people who I notify en masse via email whenever I post, most of them are not technically “followers” as far as WordPress is concerned.  The email recipients are coworkers, family members and the receptionist at my urologist’s office among others.  Many read the posts so they can avoid being badgered by me to do so, and at least one coworker has admitted to only reading my blog when seated on the toilet.  Of my 141 hits, I’d estimate that 27 of them were from my stash of these non-follower, peer-pressure readers.

You gave me your email address after I helped you move that heavy piece of furniture, now read my blog post, dammit!  (Image from onlineconnections dot ca)
You gave me your email address after I helped you move that heavy piece of furniture, now read my blog post, dammit! (Image from onlineconnections dot ca)

I try to tag my posts in a manner which accurately guides readers to my work. After all, it’s easy to attract readers from search engines by including content tags like “Bieber”, “Kanye”, “public urination” or “Kardashian” despite the fact that the post was mostly about my fondest Thanksgiving memory.  My tags for the dog weenie post were “Clinton”, “dog”, “lucky”, “two”, “humor”, and “dick.”

If there was a Kardashian in that bucket, I could find some reason to put it in my post and my hits would skyrocket.  (image from businessinsider dot com)
…so then Kanye says to the Beebs, “Yeah and it’s deep too!” (image from businessinsider dot com)

My estimates for hits generated per tag are as follows:

Clinton: 6 hits.  Rationale: Bill, Hillary and Chelsea are still news worthy, depending upon the week’s events.  Funk master George Clinton may have been good for a hit as well.

Perhaps I underestimated the drawing power of da funk.  (Image from ncpedia dot org)
Perhaps I’ve underestimated the drawing power of da funk. (Image from ncpedia dot org)

Dog: 4 hits.  Rationale: Everybody likes dogs, also I noticed Korea was well represented in my global numbers.

Lucky: 5 hits.  Luck and/or being lucky is always a popular concept, though being as lucky as “a dog with two dicks” is still an analogy known only to Bill Clinton and the hill-people.

Two: 7 hits.  Two is a pretty good number.  Everyone knows that one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Humor: 6 hits.  In these dark times, everyone could use a laugh.  They’ll plug words like “humor”, “chuckle” and “guffaw” into search engines and hope for a few yuks to take their minds off of the rumors about lay-offs down at the salt mine.

Dick: 13 hits.  I’m assuming I would have had even better numbers if Clinton had said Obama was luckier than “a pussycat with 17 titties.”

Two dicks!  Get it?  See, he's a Dick, and he's holding up two fingers on each hand.  From the looks of that crowd, he's gonna top 11 likes.  (Image from theatlantic dot com)
Two dicks! Get it? See, he’s a Dick, and he’s holding up two fingers on each hand. From the looks of that crowd, he’s gonna top 11 likes. (Image from theatlantic dot com)

Those estimates account for 41 of my hits coming from search engines.

So between search engines and my personal mailing list I’ve accounted for 68 of my 141 hits.  Assuming no random hits, I can deduce that the remaining 73 hits on my post came from actual followers.

1407 followers minus the 73 who actually read the post leaves 1334 followers who didn’t read my post.  Roughly 95% of my followers didn’t follow me loyally enough to read my post.  Cue the sad violin music and zoom in on the tears welling up in my eyes.  As for the “likes”, 11 out of 1407 followers isn’t even relevant.  Mathematicians could argue that statistically no one actually liked the post.

I glanced over at my wife, who was so engrossed in the romance novel on her Kindle that she had fallen asleep.  I smiled to myself, secure in the knowledge that for the time being at least, she didn’t know what a total failure I turned out to be in the blog world, despite amassing 1407 followers.  That bottle of bubbly can just keep on taking up valuable refrigerator space until we have something meaningful to celebrate, like Justin Bieber publicly urinating on a prostitute who turned out to be a Kardashian.

This Aint No Vodka Stinger

This poor kid has a giant bug for a pet.  He used to have a cat, but the bug ate it.  (Image from themorningstarr dot co dot uk)
This poor kid has a giant bug for a pet. He used to have a cat, but the bug ate it. (Image from themorningstarr dot co dot uk)

I’ve got a problem with bugs.  I always have.  As a youngster, the magnitude of my frenzied reactions were generally proportional to the scale of the bugs.  The bigger the bug, the louder my squeals and the faster I flailed my arms around like a prepubescent girl on bath salts.

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve learned to suppress my visceral reactions to the insect world.  As the man of the house, I’m expected to dispatch every winged or creeping interloper that comes along.  My wife can sit on the couch with her feet up, sipping a Kir Royale, and direct me to the stink-bug on the curtain or the spider on the ceiling.  I’m obligated to get a paper towel or small caliber handgun and kill the varmint*.  I’ve accepted my role as bug killer with what I perceive to be a kind of stoic grace.  I even managed to convince myself that I’m not so afraid.

Then last year, my wife and I were visiting my son in Mexico.  After a decadent day of tequila for breakfast and sitting on Lover’s Beach for lunch, we returned to his casa to chill out until dinner.  I was getting showered while my wife and son hung out poolside.  Just as my shower was drawing to a close, a millipede came writhing out of the drain at my feet, looking for dry land.  Loyal readers know that I am occasionally prone to exaggeration, so in this instance, I promise to describe this bug as accurately as possible.  It was roughly the thickness and length of a jumbo-size Slim Jim meat snack and had hundreds of churning legs, all trying to get a grip on the slippery tub floor.

This isn't funny!  It's sick!  Does anybody have the number for Child Protective Services?  (Image from scientopia dot org)
This isn’t funny! It’s sick! Does anybody have the number for Children’s Protective Services? (Image from scientopia dot org)

The volume and pitch of the screech which came out of my mouth briefly convinced me that the millipede and I had been joined in the tub by none other than Richard Simmons.  I quickly realized that Mr. Simmons was not in attendance, as I managed to climb wet and terrified from the tub.  I put a nearby trashcan over the millipede and got myself dried off.  Since the house was not mine, I assigned the job of killing the little monster to my son – besides, I needed witnesses of the size and ferocity of this creature to make my son and wife stop laughing at me and calling me the p word.  In the year or so since then, I’ve come to accept that I am still just as petrified of bugs as I’ve ever been.

Now comes news that over forty people have been killed by swarms of giant hornets in China.  The bees are roughly the size of the human thumb (not my exaggeration this time, I read it online).  They can fly up to 25 miles an hour, which is a lot faster than I can run, and as I mentioned a moment ago, their stings can be lethal.  The silver lining to this is that the bees are in China, way on the other side of the globe, far from my home in New Jersey.  I have nothing to worry about.

Nothing to worry about!  This is photo-shopped right?  It isn't?!
Nothing to worry about! This is photo-shopped right? It isn’t?! (Image from slumz dot Bowden dot com)

It’s highly unlikely that killer hornets or their eggs will somehow make it all the way around the world, right?  It should be of no concern that thousands of metric tons of merchandise from China gets unloaded on docks here in the USA every single day.   Surely there are not sufficient nooks and crannies in the average shipping container of radial tires or lead-painted chew toys to accommodate giant bees or their larvae.

Having reread the previous paragraph, I now know that it’s only a matter of time before the killer hornets invade our shores.  I’m taking this opportunity to go on record with the following statement: I hereby resign my position of household bug assassin, effective immediately.  In the event of infestation, it’s every man, woman, child and labradoodle for themselves.  Residents of my home are encouraged to grab themselves a bedroom slipper or badminton racket and start practice-swatting now, before the Chinese hornets arrive.

*I know there are people who insist on never killing any living creature.  For the record, no such person lives in my house.  This is an accepted fact and is well known to my dog, who annoys us regularly, but knows when to shut her pie-hole and curl up on the rug.  I take some small degree of comfort in the fact that her curious nature and lack of intellect will likely make her the first victim of invading hornets, thus providing me with an additional few moments to seek refuge and arm myself with a spatula or lacrosse stick.

A Game of Dad-and-Mice

{ The lovely and talented Green Study recently hosted a Christmas story contest on her blog complete with prizes.  It was a gutsy move, as she announced the contest right as most people in the blog-o-sphere were finally abandoning their computers for a few days of holiday cheer and dealing with visiting relatives.  I’m certain there weren’t as many entries as she had anticipated.  As proof of what must have been a sparce turn-out, I was able to score 3rd place (1st place would have required at least two less entries).  My prize booty included a generous donation to the Red Cross made in my name, and a snazzy postcard featuring the Metrodome in Minneapolis.  More importantly, I snagged a few new followers, which are worth even more than postcards in my book!  To those new followers and anyone else who may have already seen this post, I apologize for reposting it here.  For the rest of you, here’s a little Christmas story to make you glad it’s January. Also, Green Study was nice enough to come up with the title of the post for me, so you’ve already read the best part.}

Shake the box all you want.  I hope you don't mistake the sound of those little pie tins rattling around for Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots! (Image from theblaze.com)
Shake the box all you want. I hope you don’t mistake the sound of those little pie tins rattling around for Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots! (Image from theblaze.com)

There was a magical time when I believed in Santa.  It was too long ago for me to recall.  In retrospect, I was such a scaredy cat as a child, I was probably terrified of the jolly fat man.

I come from a family of four boys – each of us only separated by a year or so from the next oldest or youngest.  Since we were so close in age, if one of us found out anything juicy, we’d all know within minutes.

Once we discovered that Santa was actually Mom and Dad, everything changed.  From my parents first unexplained shopping trip after Thanksgiving until sometime Christmas Eve, there was an elaborate game of cat and mouse between us boys and Dad.  I’m sure my long-suffering mother played a role, but we knew that Dad was the strategic mastermind.

The game was simple.  Dad hid our presents until he and Mom had a chance to wrap them.  Then he had to re-hide them until Christmas morning at 2 A.M. when we’d finally be asleep, and he could put them under the tree.

The re-hiding of the wrapped presents was critical, as my brother Chris had nearly psychic abilities of interpreting the contents of a given box merely by shaking, listening and smelling the wrapping paper.  My approach usually involved a slight corner-tear and then clumsily covering my tracks with scotch tape repairs.

Dad had relatively few options for hiding anything, as my brothers and I had the run of the house, and there wasn’t a single locking door.

My parents’ closet was the first place to look.  Between Dad’s sports jackets, garish wide ties and Mom’s “stuff”, there wasn’t much room.  As the only female among us, Mom’s clothing items defied more description than that.

The attic was prime hiding real estate as was the spider-filled closet under the basement stairs.  Due to my lack of bravado, both were good choices.  Still, the lure of toys-to-come could overcome my fear of tarantulas and man-eating, dusty boxes from Nanny’s house.

One year we stumbled onto the motherload.  There were piles of bags from toy and department stores.  We couldn’t believe it!  The old man had really slipped up this time.  There wasn’t even a hint of wrapping paper.  My brothers and I strategized on how best to unload the bags without leaving clues.  We carefully lifted out the first item – an EZ Bake Oven!?  Beneath that was a doll.  We glanced at each other as we slowly realized that these gifts weren’t ours.  We put the girlie gifts back and left, confused and defeated.

We later found out that a coworker of my Dad’s had a bunch of daughters who were probably looking at our baseball gloves and GI Joes a few towns away with similar confusion.  The two evil geniuses had conspired to hide the booty at each other’s homes.

We’d made a classic blunder and under-estimated our opponent.

Dad seemed especially jolly that Christmas morning.

A Gem From The Momma’s Boy Archives

In an ironic fashion twist, the author is wearing a plaid shirt in this photo from the vault.

When I was a little tyke, I was a Momma’s boy.  My three brothers were way more rough-and-tumble than me.  They knew I’d cry at a moment’s notice and cling to Mom like the giant baby I was.  My parents and brothers just accepted that I was a wuss, despite my massive size.  We’ve all got our character traits, and some of mine were hanky-intensive.  Think Baby Huey with eczema.

In the many decades of hard knocks I’ve had since then, I’ve outgrown the sensitivity (or so I’d like to believe), turning into a tough, ornery old cuss, which makes recounting this story all the more difficult.

Despite their acceptance of my wussiness, I occasionally managed to surprise even my brothers by going above and beyond the high standard of cry-baby-osity which I had set the previous week.  For the record, I wasn’t just prone to tears, I was incredibly affectionate when it came to my mother.  I think Mom so enjoyed having a little love-bug around the house, she tolerated my crying fits in fear that if she tried to toughen me up, she might lose her little snuggle bunny in the process.

One day, my mother had to run an errand of some sort.  Someone was in charge of my brothers and me, I don’t know who it was, but it damn sure was not my Mommy.  She was gone.  She’d left the house in her Tartan Plaid skirt and a spiffy white blouse.  I missed her so deeply whenever she left the house that within five minutes, I would convince myself that I would surely be an orphan by morning.  She’d never come home, and I’d be sent to foster homes or orphanages or whatever.

I never took the time to consider that my Dad was still sitting there in the kitchen, busy on a crossword puzzle or grading papers, or that any number of grandparents, aunts and uncles would have taken us in.  Nor did I consider that running to the supermarket for a loaf of generic Wonderbread or auditioning for a community theater production of “Don’t Drink The Water” would likely put her in death’s crosshairs.  I wasn’t one for logic.  I was too busy planning for how I’d make it in the big, cruel world without the unconditional love of Mom.  It was all I could do to hold back the tears at the thought of it.

My brothers and I were out screwing around, looking for Indian arrowheads and 4 leaf clovers in our small, dusty yard in the North Jersey suburbs, which was devoid of any such rarities.  We were just killing time in an era when the black and white Sears TV was almost never on during the daylight hours.  I think one of my brothers had taken to poking a dead bird he’d found with a stick, while the other two watched.  I had drifted toward the sidewalk and was busy avoiding sticker bushes and killer butterflies.

I was undoubtedly trying to keep my mind off of my mother, who had been missing an eternity by that point.  For those who cannot yet tell time, an eternity can happen pretty quickly.  In fairness, for one who’s only been around for a handful of years, an hour or so is actually a pretty substantial fraction of his life.

I lifted my glance from the sparce clumps of crabgrass and saw the most beautiful sight; the Tartan Plaid skirt and white blouse walking right toward me!  I sprinted on my little spindly legs toward her, flinging my arms tight around her thighs, holding on for dear life and never wanting to let go.  I’d been saved from certain orphaning!  After a moment, I was puzzled at the lack of sound from my brothers.  Surely they’d seen her too.  I pulled my face from the scratchy plaid skirt and looked back over my shoulder, and saw my three brothers standing there, the dead bird no longer holding their collective interest.  They were staring at Mom and me with a collective look of confusion and surprise.  Not understanding their expressions, I turned my face upward to search for an answer in the face of my dear mother, only to discover that I was hugging a man.  He had an orange, furry beard and mustache and wore an odd, plaid hat which matched his skirt.  Until that point in my young life, I was unaware that men of certain cultures will occasionally dress up in kilts.  He was looking down at me with a facial expression not terribly different from that of my brothers.  His orange beard and bushy eyebrows made him look especially terrifying.

I released my bear hug on this stranger and ran from him as though I’d seen a fire-haired ghost, tripping and stumbling back to the relative safety of the yard.  My brothers had either figured out that I had mistaken a big, bearded Celt for my mother or that I was hugging a strange man in a kilt for no reason.  In any case, they were rolling in the grass in fits of hysterical laughter.  The big scary man straightened his kilt and scowled at us for a moment before walking on his way.

After a time, my mother returned.  Life got back to normal until the next time she had to run an errand.  My saving grace was that true to form, within a week or two, I’d outdone myself and replaced the stranger-hugging episode with yet another even more embarrassing exhibition of foolishness or crybaby behavior.  My brothers likely still recall that story, but they’ve got so many other ones to choose from that it might never come up again.

Blog-Garage Sale – A Call For Duds!

Look at all this great stuff! I wonder if I can get the smell of Indian food out of this cool crock pot. (Image from jobsallover.com)

I think most bloggers will tell you, we have lots of junk stored in our mental garages, or as WordPress likes to call them our “Draft Files”.

I’ll have a momentary spark of inspiration about a potential topic, scribble down a sentence or two, give it a title, then hit “Save Draft”.  Sometimes it’s the title itself, sometimes it’s the idea, but something in there merits my hitting the save button.  Subsequent revisits to the draft do not shed much light on why I ever thought that dog of a topic ever had any value.  So it sits in the draft file collecting dust like a singing big-mouth bass mounted on a plaque.

It’s time for a blog-garage sale.  Next Saturday morning, 7/14 around 8:00 AM Eastern time, I’ll put five of my drafts out on tables in the driveway known as my blog, in hopes that  someone will take these clunkers.  Shoppers will be able to get them for a fraction of what I paid (which was nothing), and save me the trouble of tripping over that pile of ideas on the floor by the back door.

The drafts, just like their snooty over-achiever cousins, the finished posts, are bargain priced at zero dollars.  Still, in my garage-sale state of mind, I just can’t bring myself to just throw the drafts in the trash.  If I can’t find someone to take these off my hands, I’m just going to have to throw these things out, along with this broken beach umbrella and that crappy old bureau that my grandmother said was an “original Chippendale” – Come on Nanny, I’m pretty sure didn’t have male strippers back in the olden days.

Everyone knows that the more people’s junk treasures there are at one of these sales, the more carloads of strange people will show up and browse.  Therefore, I encourage my fellow bloggers to bring out your duds.  Pick out a few lame ideas from your own drafts file and add them to the shady driveway also known as the comments section of this post, or email them to me at dlovett54@gmail.com.  I’ll post them all in next Saturday’s Blog Garage Sale post.  Once they’re on the comments section or in the post, they’re fair game for anyone who’d like them.  If you email them, I’ll be able to post them without attaching your name if you’re that embarrassed by them.  Think fondly of me as you hit the delete button beneath the draft, ridding yourself of those once sparkling ideas which are just depressing to look at now.

As for you non-blog writers, enjoy this creepy glimpse into the raw creative process of your writing heroes.  Be warned though – Seeing these turds before they’ve been honed and polished will undoubtedly take some of the magic away from your reading experiences in the future – kind of like seeing Johnnie Depp without his elevator shoes and make-up.

The first rule of thumb at blog-garage sales is not to wonder whether someone has some sort of mental disorder -“idea hoarding syndrome” or “bad taste” are two of the maladies which often spring to mind.  Just glance at the junk on the tables, and if nothing suits you, nod and smile then move along.  Be sure to check back later, I’m hoping more people show up and bring their garbage treasured ideas.

One last request.  In the event that you trash-pick one of the draft ideas from here and later write a post with it, let me know about it.  I’ll try to let folks know via my blog.  Who knows, you might end up with a Pulitzer, or at the very least, maybe snagging a few more readers.

Silence Everyone, I’m Writing My Book!

“I’m writing my book

I can’t think of a more wildly pretentious thing to say.   For extra snooty points, I should always refer to it as a novel.   Either way, it’s certainly way more hoity-toidy than saying “I’m working on my blog post about Gilligan’s Island”

Hey numbskull, I’m thinkin’ here! Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk (Image from 1Up.com)

That being said, I’ve been working on a novel for several years.  For the record, my “work” on it has been sporadic at best.  It’s not unlike someone buying oil paints and a canvas and proclaiming that they’re “working on a painting”.  The canvas is all set up on the easel, the tubes of paint are laid out next to the palette, the brushes are ready and willing.  Six months later, the entire tableau sits there inert and is covered with a thin coating of dust, the canvas still about as blank as Sarah Palin’s resume.

Last week, I went to the beach for my annual 7 days of vacation.  I told myself that since it was a vacation, I would not be writing my blog.  I was going to spare my family the sight of me hunched over the laptop all day and night typing some annoyingly self-absorbed blather and then forcing them all to read it.  Besides, it’s nearly impossible to work on my skin cancer and type at the same time, I’d end up with white frown-wrinkles running across my rather expansive forehead like elevation lines on a topographical map of Mars.

I opted for a more noble pursuit during vacation, I’d work on writing my book – I’m sorry, my novel.

I typically start my vacation days up by 5 A.M., standing knee-deep in the Atlantic watching the sun come up while not catching fish.  This year, I managed to forget my fishing equipment entirely in the frenzy to pack everything else we own into the car.  Not to worry, I’d still get up at 5, but spend my quiet morning hours writing instead.  I pictured myself out on the deck, the cool morning breeze swirling the steam from my nearby cup of coffee as I wrote chapter after chapter.  When the rest of the family eventually stumbled out of bed, I’d click “save”, shut down the laptop and start cooking breakfast, changing diapers and putting sunblock on them – the family members, not the diapers.

Sounds positively romantic doesn’t it?

My first morning on the deck proved to be less than successful.  It turns out when you’re situated two blocks from the ocean to the east and two blocks from the bay on the west, there’s lot’s of condensation on the furniture at dawn’s early light.  I went back inside on tip toes and found towels for the chair and table.  I sat myself down and flipped open the laptop.  Sadly, there was enough early light in the sky by then that I got lots of glare on the screen, and more than a few bugs.  If you want to see a “no-see-um” just have them land all over your computer screen.

I shifted to Plan B – moving my coffee, laptop and funky-bad-self into the living room.  I got cozy in a large armchair, propped my feet up on the ottoman, took a sip of coffee, and opened the file.

I knew better than to think that I’d just start writing, so I busied myself reading what I had so far.  Before long, I had found some redundancies and inconsistencies.  I reworked a few awkward sentences, moved some things around.  As for putting new words on the screen, I didn’t get to that before the rest of the family started getting up and requiring my attention.

The days ticked by as I tried unsuccessfully to get some actual writing done.  I had switched from the upholstered chair to the dining room chair with the computer on the table top.

Finally, after four days of trying, I was able to write a little bit.  Not multiple chapters, but some pages.

I realized what actual writers already know; writing is work.  It’s not supposed to be relaxing or something you do because you have some free time.  It’s not necessarily easy to do.  The end result will hopefully appear fluid and engaging – the effortless telling of a story – but there’s sweat behind it.

Unlike many pursuits, like boatbuilding or biomedical research, writing a book is something that anyone can say they’re doing.  Go steal yourself a legal pad from work, or open a new Word file.  Name it “book project”, hit save, and you’re a self proclaimed author.  On some level, that’s exactly who I am.  More correctly, that’s who I was.  I am vowing right here before my massive population of blog readers  – all 16 of you –  to not tell anyone that I am writing a novel, until I have actually written at least 3/4’s of one.

I’m going to hit “publish” now and rid myself of this post so that I can focus on my novel.

When I’m done with my novel, I’m considering taking a break from writing to try my hand at boat building or working in oils.