Thursday, September 30, 2010

"We'll be right back..."

“...two officers shot – we'll be right back – after the commercial...”

That's all she heard before her cell phone began its St Vitus dance across the Formica-topped kitchen counter simultaneously buzzing and vibrating.

The landline telephone on the wall, kept just for emergencies like a hurricane or tornado when things flew through the Florida skies ripping buildings apart and blowing telephone and power lines down, begand to ring.

Charlie, in cranky pre-breakfast mode, whined for attention from his highchair, Oscar yapped his high-pitched dachshund yelp, jumping up at the unusual noise from the telephone and the kettle's whistle began shrieking for attention.

“Now is the time to drop everything and rush down to Pals Auto Mall where you can help us help you into the Last Days of Summer Sale gas-saver of your dreams,” shouted the precocious twin teen daughters of the local used car dealership. Sparkling cars draped with patriotic flags fluttering under the stimulus of off-camera industrial-strength fans, filled the plasma screen. A flashing red BREAKING NEWS banner ran across the top segment, a Weather Alert scrolled along the bottom portion warning of a late season tropical storm, riding counter to the ticker-tape plunging stock market prices.

Baby Angelia wriggled in the cradle of her mother's arm, was shifted to hip-rider mode and that familiar off-balance posture known to mothers world wide, before mom reached for and flipped the lid of the cell phone open, while nudging the wall phone loose from its hook.


“Mrs. Blanker? Wife of patrolman Ronnie Blanker,”a male voice came clearly from the landline phone, while a squeaky female voice echoed the same question from the cell phone juggled in the same hand.

Celia Blanker watched the televisions screen dissolve from a flourish of red white and blue bunting with stacks of dollar bills under a flashing yellow SAVE sign superimposed on it, to a scrabble of SWAT team members, cop cars with glittering strobe lights and Emergency Responders clustered around stretchers and a skin-head reporter, hand pressed to earphone while talking into a microphone and cell-phone, looking wide-eyed and earnest into the camera.

The dual shrieking of the unattended whistling kettle and high-pitched feedback from the telephone in her ear drove home the realization she was at the other end of the reporter's question.

“Mrs. Blanker...are you there,” sirens on-screen and through her telephone's earpiece joined the chorus of noise filling her safe place kitchen.

“Ronnie! Is Ronnie alright?”

“Mrs. Blanker. I have some sad news to pass...”

“And we'll be right back after this commercial break.”

A hearty bellowing voice broke in as the screen displayed a bottle of liquid soap and animated suds while the chaotic but comfortable world of Celia Blanker, Charlie and Angelia disintegrated – between commercials.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Book Week - Almost GONE!

Just in case you (almost) missed it, this is Banned Book Week in the USA.

My last book "Palm Beach Scandals - The First 100 Years" was Banned at the Breakers, Forbidden at the Flagler and Nixed at the Norton ;^))

Saturday, September 25, 2010

STOP PRESS – Booze Sell Books

Robert Macomber (arrowed by the mirror at head table) the keynote speaker at Friday's Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine, revealed one of his marketing “secrets” which have propelled his Civil War nautical yarns, starring Peter Wake, into a successful series of books with a world-wide readership.
Early on in his novelist's career he and fellow Matacha Island neighbor best-selling novelist Randy WayneWhite, were lowering the Plimpsoll line on a bottle of rum, discussing the business.
“I asked why he held signings in clubs, bars and taverns,” Macomber told a SRO audience of authors, pens poised over notebooks. “I was selling and signing my books at bookshops, libraries and museums.”
The audience laughed in anticipation.
“Booze sells books,” the sage had replied, no doubt lifting his glass in silent salute to the strength of the spirit.
Now, world traveler, lecturer, raconteur, writer and military adviser, parties his way into the hearts and minds of growing numbers of fans and followers. Like the snowbirds, both natural and touristy who flock to the “Sunshine State” he has his migratory path mapped out to reap the benefits of strategic marketing.
Check out Macomber's website for the working itinerary of a self-propelled professional writer for an hors doeuvre of how its done, Part of the year he's in the Pacific, part in the Atlantic as a guest speaker aboard luxury liners. At other times he is popping into European, British, Australian and Mediterranean locales, either guesting or questing as he gathers – first hand – knowledge for the setting of his next book.
I'm not going to preempt his smorgasbord of spiels for all occasions, you can do your own research or attend his next launch or partee.
At an upcoming “Pirate in Paradise Festival” (November) in Key West, he'll guide followers around the naughtier parts of Key West before hosting a book-signing party for “Wakians” - nickname of his protagonist's groupies.
Its rough work, he admitted to the throng of eager wannabe block-buster writers, but he forces himself to have a good time despite the 600 or so people, book in hand, waiting for his sacred signature before leaving one of Macomber's parties.
Like the sage said:”Booze sells books.”


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The day…..Of the Eclair

There may be something behind the theory that certain traits are passed on from one generation to another.
Back when my mother ran out of Demonstrating gigs, and before she worked for the Alston corset company fitting large ladies into the waistline of their dreams, she took on a temporary job at a teashop, as a waitress.
Mother was pretty good at many things – but co-ordination was not one of her strong points. As the youngest child of eight, there was a very short period of time my Grandfather considered her for a stage career. He had been a sometime music hall pantomimist, then a cyclist on a six-man-machine speed racing with a French indoor track team, and later a London taxi driver. He did not take Noel Coward’s advice to “Mrs. Worthington”, and two of my mother’s siblings actually made money as a sister act on the stage, for a while.
MY mother was in, and out, of a chorus line before you could say “Exit – Left”. She had the legs for the work, they just did not want to work in unison with the other girls. Between World Wars I and II, while the rest of the bob-cut girls did high-kicks with their Left foot – she opted for the Right foot. And vice-versa.
But she could talk, Talk, TALK without fear of being browbeaten. That ability led to her becoming a prized ‘demonstrator’ at the Ideal Homes Exhibitions, held at London's Earls Court, and on the road selling everything from an electronic ‘VitaPhone’ – a massive lump of machinery with dials, flashing buttons, and handles for the brave to hold onto to determine (sans doctor) whether the duped member of the public had a healthy heart, good blood flow and a chance of an active sex life – to lipsticks and perfumery.
When things were flush, financially, she would treat me and my school friends to a birthday bash at ‘Bondolfi’s’, a posh tearoom which specialized in sticky buns, cakes and éclairs. Half a century later, surviving friends still recall those parties.
What most of them don’t know is, during a financially dry period years later, when retailers no longer believed her claim to be ‘39-years-old’, she found a job at Bondolfi’s working as a waitress. It was short-lived career. She memorized the menu, and had the patter down straight, thanks to her theatrical background , but her co-ordination gene was missing.
The story goes, one day as her station filled up with blue-rinse ladies, and their pin-stripe-suited hubbies, Mother plonked the three-tier cake tray onto one of her tables, and an errant éclair slide off to kerplop into the lap of a gentleman with a large corporation.
Quick as a flash, with a mind to save her potential tip, Mother scooped the éclair from the gent’s lap. And vigorously began rubbing the spilled cream-filling from his trousers. The pink-faced gent, blushing to the crown of his bald pate, wriggled in great agitation. The squeals from his wife finally alerted Mother to the full picture.
There she was, in a crowded tearoom, down on her knees obliviously rubbing the poor man’s crotch to his great embarrassment, and the delight of all seated nearby.
It is probably just as well I recalled that incident when, as a boy serving in the Royal Navy, I spilled soup into the lap of First Sea Lord of the Admiralty - Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Mother may have saved me a spell in the brig


Monday, September 20, 2010 case you wondered's Marie holding forth from the podium giving How-To tips to St. Augustine's published and wannabe writers.

Who You Meet Today Could Be On CNN - Tomorrow

Had lunch Saturday with the”true crime genre” husband and wife writing team of McCay and Marie Vernon, following their talk to the Florida Writer's Association St. Augustine group.

Hurricane Patties, the pirate-themed waterside restaurant in the mainland side of the Intracoastal Waterway, was busier than usual for “Pirate's Day”. A blasting rock band, pirates and wenches in Johnny Depp look-alike outfits, worked the tables while we tried to talk.

Marie, a former journalist up north in Washington, D.C.-Maryland area, contributor to he Christian Science Monitor and mother of six before becoming the widowed Mac's second wife. He was a psychologist and homicide forensic expert, specializing in deaf and mute patients, author of seven books and 200+ articles on the subject. The specialist school in his hometown of St. Augustine, boasts Ray Charles as one of its alumni.

Their latest book (Deadly Charm) published by Kensington Press, is an exploration of the motives of a less likable student, Patrick McCullough, the only known deaf serial killer.

In shopping for a publisher, the Vernon's short-listed. Kensington Books as number two on their list. The true-crime genre specialty pros opted for the Vernons' first offering (Deadly Lust): story of a local lad (William Darnell Lindsey) who'd been bumping off ladies around town to get his jollies.

They quickly learned there is a “carved-in-stone” formula for a successful true-crime book: it has to have a beginning, middle and end with no doubts about Good Guy and BAD guy. And the villain ALWAYS gets it in the end.

Uniquely,”Mac” had known the second killer from the age of five to his violent death at 42.

Ironically, he also knew the first killer too. When Mac was a lad with a newspaper route, he had delivered newspapers to the serial killers home.

We shared a common thread,I told him. One of my newspaper route customers turned out to be a British spy for the USSR.

But...that's another story.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Don't Forget the Doggies - When you Quit Smoking!

All to often human smokers forget man's best friend when they quit smoking.

Dogs go through withdrawal too when those conveniently placed coffee-table-high snacks disappear, along with the ornate ash-tray glass, plastic or metal packaging cigarette butts are presented in:
The open-mouthed china frog – gone
The lighthouse-and-rocks motif ceramic seaside gift – gone.
The slightly chipped rock-crystal ashtray/paperweight from aunt Matilda's estate – gone.

Man might be gulping down No-Nic pills like tic-tac breath sweeteners, and scratching at the itchy Nicco-Gone patch, but bowser's boring a hole in the living room carpet spinning in circles to reach the newly activated hot-spot itch on his rump.

Nobody included him in the withdrawal equation!

Deprived of his nicotine fix his appetite to fill the void will increase in proportion to his Master's waist-size. Nothing will escape his rutting for food; pet food, people food and disgusting combinations best left out of a publication fit for family-consumption.

Its up to Master to look out for his best friend's health and welfare. Activities - to exhaustion - can occupy minds craving one more hit.
Frisbee – the competitive version. Not just the usual backyard crew (kids and the other-half). Try the local park where degrees of aggression and expression can be expressed, without the threat of imminent divorce as a consequence.
Jogging - of the “25K Marathon for the Cure” kind (pick your disease) would keep one on the go, and give those living under the same roof some relief.
Swimming - Forget the pool-laps or Cross-Channel stuff. Take the plunge, and your passport in a zip-lock baggie. Strike out for the USA. The breast stroke is SO sissie, and the Australian Crawl can be exhausting.

Take a tip from man's best friend – dog-paddle!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Comparisons - Voice to Text System

Day One of “The Dragon” (Naturally Speaking 10), converting speech into text, was quite successful.
In a near miraculous move I managed to install the program onto my laptop with no major hiccups.

This from someone who stands in front of an open refrigerator for minutes, trying to figure out how to get to the food within a new high-tech pretty package.

Online, on-screen step-by-step visual instructions guided me through the process: make sure the headphones are comfortable and the microphone is located – just so – before speaking and enunciating each word.

There was a set piece to read so “The Dragon” can recognize my voice and determine the position of the mike could pick it up. Apparently it sorted its way through my accent accumulated via private and public school slang, mess-deck chat, newsroom gossip and mid-Atlanticisms. And, this was a surprise, “The Dragon” scanned my “My Documents” files to pick up my style.

Hope its broadminded enough to handle the R-rated stuff. I think the rating-graph spiked!

I skipped the test-run read-and-write exercise, cut to the chase and read off the back-cover blurb from my book “Palm Beach Scandals – The First 100 Years” which I’m planning to re-issue in e-book form - see earlier post.

A comparison of the actual text, followed by the, “as read” text ready for editing, can be seen below FYI.

An Intimate Guide to Palm Beach…

It takes you by the hand through the rich bounty of scandals recorded during the first 100 years. Stories buried in yellowed newspapers, old courthouse records, private correspondence. Much more than a sound-byte. The real Palm Beach stuff. Read between the covers about:

Roxanne Pulitzer -- the “strumpet with a trumpet” who made a shocking trial a rich writing career.

Sir Harry Oakes -- his pal, the Duke of Windsor, Myer Lansky and the Murder Mystery of the Century.

Merriwether Post -- the Queen of society and the queer goings on at home.

Ted, Pat, and Willie -- when the Senior Senator from Massachusetts took the boys out on the town.

Harold Vanderbilt -- the world's wealthiest bachelor and the “Spite Wall” which forced him out of the Town.

Larry Flynt -- the happy “Hustler” who thumbed his nose at society.

 30 –

It takes you by the hand through the rich bounty and scandals recorded during the first 100 years. Stories buried in yellowed newspapers, old courthouse records, private correspondence. Much more than a sound-bite. The real Palm Beach stuff. Read between the covers about:

Roxanne Pulitzer -- lowercase the strumpet with a trumpet who made a shocking trial the rich writing career.

So Harry Oakes -- his pal, the Duke of Windsor, my at Lansky and the motive mystery of the century.

Meriwether post -- the queen of society and the clear goings on at home.

Ted, Pat, and Willie -- when the senior senator from Massachusetts took the boys out on the town.

Harold Vanderbilt -- the world's wealthiest bachelor and the spite wall which forced him out of the town.

Larry Flynt -- the happy Hustler who thumb his nose at society.

-- 30 --

It ain't perfect but MAY save a lot of time typing - hunt 'n peck style.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Rebirth of Writing?

Before I learned to write I had to learn to speak.

And today I might repeat the process. Not because of any life-threatening medical condition, physical impairment or accident which has effected my brain (that I can think of) but due to “The Dragon”.

Its a device which reputedly speeds up the writing process fourfold or more, depending how well one gets along with it, by transferring what one says into digital words, on a screen,in a computer!

Its an alien procedure in the writing process, to my way of thinking, best left to medical mavens and legal eagles eager to get their billing out of the way before rushing off to tee-up.

The process, when it finally catches on in the professional world, will probably eliminate millions of secretaries from the payroll. Dictation, transcription, mailing and tea-making jobs could become tasks of the past. A boost to corporate earnings could equate to massive unemployment – again.

But, that's my normal doom-and-gloom outlook. The sunny side upbeat view is the seemingly impossible chore of reactivating one of my out-of-print books, looks viable.

This book-keeping-writing via computer malarkey for me harkens back to the late 1970's when Sanyo produced a spiffy word-processing CP/M machine, with green words magically appearing, at the stroke of a keyboard, behind a blinking cursor traveling across a blank television-like screen. My computer was prominently displayed on the check-out counter of my Old Book Shop, an incongruous sight in a sea of anachronistic objects.

I soon parlayed its prowess as a database filing system, capable of printing lists of used and collectible books, which could be turned into catalogers for clients, to “The Great American (second) Novel” - still unpublished along with the first.

It did draw the attention of visiting writers, agents, publishers, actors, headline makers and breakers in the business, political and diplomatic world – which initiated conversations that became interviews and eventually articles.(see “Writers Rap in a Bookshop” coming soon). And when the next generation was born – about every other day – was traded up and tweaked to the point I needed substitute post-kindergarten grandsons to install programs for me.

As a result, my book “Palm Beach Scandals – The First 100 Years” was published, featured on national television, became the belle of the fund-raising ball powder-room crowd (some of that powder was just for inhaling), lasted a couple of seasons then went out of print.

BUT with today's digital publishers and trade-paperback sized electronic reading devices, offering everything from the Classics to Tony Blair's blah-blah-blah, I see an opportunity to re-issue those breathless prose to a yearning public.

Problem is, the PW (Perfect Word) program of the word processor I used in the early 1990's to record that copy onto floppies – is gone. Dead. R.I.P

It didn't even rate a Wikipedia note.

My Computer Guys – a real name – came up with several suggestions; some of which I cannot repeat for fear of bruising the sensitivities of you, dear reader, and are actually physically impossible to implement.

My alternatives are to: Rewrite the whole book. Download onto Notebook and edit out all the gobbledygook computereese symbols. Disinter a hard copy of the book and scan it page by page to turn it into a readable file – plus extensive rewrite/editing.

OR – Dictate into “The Dragon”, trade name for a translation/transition system using microphone, headset and repeating “How now brown cow” until “The Dragon” gets the gist of what one's trying to say. (Cockneys, Georgdies and Scousers are going to give it conniptions).

So that's the plan du jour.

Back to Communications 101.

First we learn to speak. Then we – (re)write.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Morning Awakening

Monday Morning Awakening

A Florida fog shrouds pine trees and live-oaks with their clumps of tangled Spanish moss, in a moist post-dawn grip as a result of yesterday's thunder and lightening drenching.


We'll be spared the direct rays of the climbing sun, blanketed somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean 50 miles away, and its searing heat waves for an extra hour or so.
No need for the air-conditioner to crank up into its expensive-sounding
rattle as it fights the heat and humidity of mid-September's last gasp of summer.

The wiseacre pundits, scoring points in their endless morning television banter, will hoot derisively when the ex-surfer turned forecaster comedically assumes the position emulating Igor, from a multitude of late-night Frankenstein skits, to announce the position of our seventh hurricane of the season.

Dripping beads of air-born moisture splash into the new pine deck, retarded by a weather-proofing solution which will probably prove fatal to humans in a few years. A game yellow blossom shows itself on the wilting potted tomato plant. Maybe one last tasty red morsel before biting into a waxen version from the supermarket, later. Purple wild Lantana cascades from its Terra-cotta pot, perched on the white-painted wrought-iron which now supports a wobbly metal side-table makeshift base for the bird-feeder.

Brilliant red cardinal families squabble in a pecking-order of their own making, scattered by the arrival of a blue-jay or interference from mourning doves who prefer its safer climes than nearby fields and alert hunters seeking something for the pot.

Seems to me there's been an added volume of shots, in or out of hunting season, during the past year or so of unemployment, lowered wages and foreclosures. Impatient fishermen, with families to feed, are as likely to clamber up a tree and shoot the shadows schooling in the stream below, as biat a hook and cast a line.

A scratching of nails on glass heralds the return of Basher, mostly spaniel with a splash of chow based on the black spot marking his pink tongue. He will have completed his morning rounds, touring his territorial half-acre boundaries hemmed in by chain-link fence. He's already had his breakfast but it won't stop him clanging the bowl with his collection of metal tags cluttering up his collar, before turning those hopeful dark brown eyes in beg-mode. Passively he'll sit when I dose him with anti-epilepsy pills, knowing there's a dog biscuit reward. It won't stop him emulating the squirrels.

(Ooops...shouldn't have said that out loud – his ears twitched and he tensed to dash out the glass sliding doors.)

Squirrels (soto voce), cats and the occasional rabbit, stimulate his exercise regimen. The tiny town of Interlachen, midway between touristy St. Augustine with its legendary Fountain of Youth and Gainesville, its University campus and Gator football team dominating the city, is a one-traffic-light community which just acquired a four-lane commuter highway divided by a median strip and, a second traffic light.

The heat, unleashed marauder dogs, rustling and rattling in the undergrowth all combine to limit safe spaces to walk the dog. There's a mile or so of ancient-growth live-oaks still intact after the Department of Transportation swept through with bulldozers, front-end loaders and tarmac to transform green swards into blacktop highways, The shaded arch of trees provide a concrete path, past homesteads with grape-vines held-shoulder-high off the ground in organized rows, and cattle clustered around a sink-hole pond of white blooming wild hyacinths.

That route, plus a circuit of a nearby supermarket plaza front and back, where the tantalizing odours of dumpsters tinge the air, are good walking spots for us. I get my daily dose of exercise, and Basher gets his nails “clipped” in an environmentally Green way, on the concrete, at no cost to me.

The first hour of Monday has slipped away. Tea gone, Basher itching to go.

Time to move into the new week before the sun burns through, shades come down and outside activities are dashed for the day.

When the cold snaps arrive I may look back at today with feelings of warm nostalgia.

But to echo Scarlet O'Hara's sentiment, I'll think about that – tomorrow.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Day...A Dog in My Life

A Dog in my life

Scottie, a black and white knee-high Heinz-57 variety terrier, was the first dog I truly related to.
His owner was Malcolm Lakin, a school friend from private school days, when we were both in short pants the first time around. His ‘Master’ was Min (Mrs. L) who wielded the frying pan and pots on the stove of their house-cum-bed and breakfast home two blocks from the seafront in Eastbourne, shortly after WWII.
Mrs. L took care of the eating end of Scottie, I seemed to end up at the wrong end cleaning up his mess, and Malcolm got to romp and throw ball at, or to, his pet.
Malc, Scottie and I were virtually inseparable through the pre-acne years. We’d explore the neighborhood, and all its back-alleys and shortcuts, scour the beaches at high and low tide rummaging through the flotsam and jetsam seeking treasures, salvage, or driftwood, to turn into swords, dud or live mines to throw stones at, anything to liven up playtime.
One of our favorite haunts was the barricaded and barbed-wire protected Redoubt, a prominent pile of masonry marking the eastern end of the esplanade which ranged from the foot of the South Downs from Holywell for three miles. Originally erected to deter Napoleon’s ambitions to conquer England across the Channel, it had been re-fortified against the next dictator with ambitions, Hitler, during WWII.
There was only one ‘official’ way into the Redoubt, across a wooden bridge spanning the 20-foot-deep dry-moat to the fortified double gates.
Malc and I discovered a couple of other ways in, clambering down the side of the moat using a combination of driftwood and ‘liberated’ lumber from bombed sites as a makeshift ladder down to the floor of the moat. We were of a size (smallness) to be able to slip through a slit in the solid-brick walls of the Redoubt, and gain access.
The interior of the circular building was segmented like a cross-section of an orange; each connected, but able to be defended and separated from its neighbor. The core of the structure was open ground, with a water-well near the center. Above each of the arched ceilings of the segments were gun emplacements – no guns – facing openings in the battlements.
We knew the layout intimately; found the ‘secret’ opening into the storage area of the Town Council’s deck-chair storage center, brass cartridge cases and general ‘stuff’ we’d turn into impromptu guns, rifles and/or swords – depending on the ‘game du jour’.
Scottie, unable and unwilling, to scale our make-shift ladder scaffolding, would bark for a while then take off on his own explorations. I think it was about that time he discovered how to ride the town buses. He’d spot a queue near a bus-stop, sit patiently while people fussed over him, then hop on board with the throng. At first bus-conductors assumed he was with one of the two-legged passengers. When they found he was free-loading, they’d chuck him off. He always found his way home.
After a while just about every bus-driver on all the routes in town knew Scottie; and would allow him to hang out with them.
One day, while Scottie was off exploring, we heard a dog barking from OUR moat.
We peered down and spotted a hefty dog yelping at the foot of our ladder. The dog was as big and heavy as either one of us. No way could we haul the bugger up – even if he’d let us without taking a chunk out of us.
We couldn’t leave it there – and we couldn’t go to our favorite playground while it was still down there. Pensioners patrolling the promenade began to take notice of us. It wouldn’t be long before some nosey-parker made their way over to the noise and commotion and discovered our ladder.
“Hang on here, I’ll go an get the police” I told Malcolm. He wasn’t too thrilled. “Rummage around to find some stuff to add to the ladder. We’ll tell ‘em we just built it to rescue the dog.”
He gave me a sort of look which was repeated several times, that day, as first the police, then the RSPCA people heard my story before mounting a rescue effort.
They took our names and addresses, filled in a report, demolished our access to the moat, and warned us off the property.
At least we didn’t end up in jail.
But a week or so later we both received an Official-looking letter in the mail, commanding us to appear at the Town Hall, such and such a date and hour…”pursuant to the incident which occurred…”
We anticipated everything from being sentenced to Borstal School for (BAD) Boys, to a caning in front of our respective schools, based on the contents of the summons.
Dressed in our best, we showed up at the right place, at the right time. Only to find we had been named ‘Little Heroes’ for coming to the aide of the trapped dog, were made honorary members of the RSPCA and (begrudgingly) presented with a Certificate and half-a-crown each by the Police Chief.
We couldn’t wait to rush away from officialdom and find a way to spend our reward.
Hambley’s the Toy Store facing the railway station, had lots of things for sale.
But, of course, the one thing we had to have, couldn’t possibly live without, was twice as much as we could afford. For one each, anyway. It was a Complete Sherlock Holmes Detecting Outfit, complete with Large Magnifying Glass, Fingerprint Dust, and Invisible Ink for Secret Letters. They were five-shillings each. Our total life-savings! We couldn’t possibly exist with just ONE between us; the fights would have been terrific – and how could we exchange ‘secret letters written in Invisible Ink’ when only one of us had the liquid solution.
Right next door to the toy shop was the Swiss Chalet café. The aroma of baked coffee beans, and fresh-brewed coffee, wafted across the nose-twitching heads of crowds who tried to by-pass the temptation. Coffee held no allure to us, barely old enough to drink tea; but the sight of sticky buns, cream-filled éclairs, and sugar-sprinkled strawberry-jam swiss-rolls, was a sure-fire magnet.
While we drank our lemonade, and scoffed up the crumbs from the plate of confections placed before us, we discussed ways and means to buy those detecting outfits. Two tweedy ladies, seated nearby, seemed to get a good deal of amusement out of our eating habits; grasp doughnut, point at mouth, shove, swallow. It gave me an idea.
“Yelp out and start to cry when I kick you.”
Wide-eyed, Malcolm could not respond or question the instruction with a full mouth, before I kicked his ankle under the table.
I thought he’d choke. Guess the fodder went down the wrong way. He got awfully red in the face, his nose started running and his eyes flooded with tears.
One of the tweedy ladies flew from her seat, gave him a hefty slap on the back, and glared down at me.
“What did you do that for?” she demanded of me.
“It’s his fault. He’s lost our Reward Money for saving a dog and now we can’t pay for the feast….” I tailed off as I realized all heads in the strictly adult community had turned toward us, ears perked, whisperings mounting as the bush-telegraph reverberated around the crowded café.
In a jumble of words, back slapping, coughing, sneezing, up-raised voices, flashing of the RSPC Certificate, the tale of heroic Rescue – followed by the loss of our Reward, and suddenly six-pences were being tossed onto the table from all directions. Our fortunes had turned.
By the time we left the Swiss Chalet, we couldn’t face another donated éclair, sticky bun or jam-roll for weeks afterwards. Our pockets jingled with donations, our bill had been paid – and we sped like bullets next door to the toy shop to buy the coveted Detective Outfits.
We were unwrapping the contents of the packages, discussing whose fingerprints we would first take, when the repeated sound of a familiar bark overpowered the curt comments of adults rushing for busses and trains as they brushed past us.
We both looked at each other, then at the buses lined up alongside the railway station. There was Scottie, yelping at us to join him, while holding the bus-conductor at bay from ringing the bell to send the bus on its way.
Mostly, a true story!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Buyer Beware - The Cons are Out There

I'm annoyed at myself for being duped into buying something online without carefully reading the small print.

The perceived “book” – promoted complete with colorful cover and teaser excerpt – was only a few dollars. The purchase was motivated by three purposes: It was a Florida writer's publication. It was an E-book. It would be the first electronic book I'd ever ordered.

After (seemingly) years of on-line and cocktail chat about the radical changes in the publishing world, the decline of hard-copy tomes and the rapid demise of old book sales in the bibliopole trade, I finally opted to “meet the enemy”.

I managed, without the aid of a 10-year-old, to negotiate the maze of instructions and chatty distractions on the publishers purchase page, logged in name, address, shoe size and credit card number of PayPal (a misnomer with its own hurdles), and completed the purchase.

I was feeling pretty good at only spending half-an-hour or so at the keyboard, with a minimal of error messages and only one swipe at the dog yelping to go pee, before the screen instantly indicated: IT was THERE!

Where “there” was only took a total scan of all my files, revision of search order ( Name, Size, Type, Modified) and another nail-biting ten minutes – after the screen message indicate “file is downloaded” (dummy) – before locating the text.

BUT, the size of the file and its instant download onto my clunker computer, rang little warning bells in my brain. Less than a day, no phone calls to India, and I had managed to purchase an online book. Nah!

True to form, when I settled down: with cream-cheese laden bagel, coffee at hand, dog streaming out the door, and ready to read the screen load of copy, it hit me.

It wasn't a book I'd bought for less than three dollars – it was a short story!

I will probably enjoy it – once my wrath has simmered down and I read beyond the teaser page. In the meantime, I feel duped. If my experience echoes around the reading world, I wonder how many P.O'd people like me will opt to only buy what they can see.

Plans for my own ebook are on hold – again.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Perfect Pair

By Jack Owen

Strains of Mendelssohn’s familiar Midsummer Night’s Dream wedding march floated across the congregation. Gossipy guests quickly assumed their places on either side of the aisle, their attention focused on the groom and best man.
Music blasted full strength as the organist spotted the bride and her father emerge from the vestibule in his rear-view-mirror, braced for the customary torturous advance through the gauntlet of rank and file opposing families and friends, to the altar.
Honey-blond hair peeked out under the bride's white lace bonnet. Her pale pink complection glowed, a confident smile on full lips as she glided down the aisle indicating recognition with a majestic inclination of her head.
The tall, chisel-featured groom ran a hand over a thick head of black hair then turned to watch his bride approach. He rubbed a finger alongside his perfectly proportioned nose to ward off the itch of a pending sneeze, then smiled to display strong straight white teeth and wink at his mother nervously watching from the front pew.
She sighed and bravely fought the tears back as the handsome pair stood facing each other, their hands linked briefly before the ceremony started which would join them together forever.
@ @ @
At the reception, mothers traded memories.
“She was such a Tom-boy when she was little,” gushed Sally Matterly. “I remember the times she came home with scratches on her legs.”
“And my Mark was such a devil, always getting into fights,” countered Becky Waters. “I thought I would die when he came into the kitchen with his nose all bloody.”
“But she settled down after she got interested in fashion modeling,” prattled Sally.
“My Mark too. God, the expense of it all, isn’t that right Harry?” she turned to her shambling balding husband who snuffled a non-committal reply before plunging back into the reception throng, his bulbous nose following the aroma of champagne-brandy cocktails.
“Expenses,” shrilled Sally.”All those years of orthodontics bills we had to foot.”
“You too?”
“And the modeling schools for make-up, and poise and bearing,”Sally flowed on. “Why, she couldn’t walk a straight line before the school took over. But they trained her to point her feet inward.”
“Just like my Mark,” Becky insisted. “And such suffering he had to go through with that plastic surgeon. It should happen to my worst enemy.”
“Oh?” Sally's eyebrows arched.
“Yes, his nose. He was always into fights. But who wants a male model with a broken nose? So the surgeon corrected it for him. But first he had to break it again. Such a perfect nose he’s got now.” Becky peered at the crowd,”Not like Harry’s hooter.”
They glanced across the reception from their vantage point of a raised alcove, at father and son laughing together, toasting the bride.
“Who was the surgeon?” Sally asked, a slight quaver crept into her voice.
“The man recommended by our orthodontist, what’s his name. Hammer, Hymen, Holterman, that’s it. Dr. Myron Holterman. Wonderful man.”Becky gushed.
“That…that’s who attended to Mary,” faltered Mrs. Matterly. “When did Mark have his cosmetic surgery?”
She held her breath, dreading the answer.
“Three years ago now,” a frown creased the forehead of Mrs. Waters. “What’s the matter Sally?”
“Nothing, nothing at all.” And to herself yet. But she remembered Dr. Holterman’s before-and-after comparison catalogue, and that tremendous broken bulbous proboscis he had honed into such classical lines.
A splendid nose, not unlike her son-in-law’s.
@ @ @
Sally Matterly’s sobs, silent as they were, shook the ancient double-bed.
“Sally, what’s the mater now,” boomed Sol in exasperation. “It’s all over now, you had your cry hours ago. Just get some sleep. Tomorrow’s a working day.”
She snuffled into her pillow, the mattress wobbling like a reducing machine as she fought to control her sobs.
Sol placed a hand on her head and stroked her hair, then patted her gently on the shoulder. “Don’t take on so. They’re a lovely couple, a perfect pair, and they’re in love. They’ll have beautiful grandchildren for us.”
A tortured cry broke free from her.
“They won’t, they won’t. And it’s our fault. I told you we should have met the family before they came here for the wedding. We won’t have grandchildren, we’ll have freaks!” her voice rose into an hysterical shrill pitch.
She had said nothing about Mary’s red hair or her squint, after Becky Waters revealed her son Mark wore a back-brace to counteract his stopped posture.
The perfect pair was married now with God’s help; and the assistance of surgeons, orthodontists, chiropodists and opticians. But all she could see in her mind’s eye was the picture of a red-haired, freckle-faced, crossed-eyed, buck-toothed, bulbous-nosed, bandy-legged, hunch-backed grandson.

Basher meets Earl

Right on time for Labor Day Weekend, we had a couple of hurricanes working their way toward the USA. Earl decided to brush along the Atlantic coast scaring the Carolinians onto the mainland.
Florida surfers got their jollies from swells generated by 100+mph winds following the Gulf Stream north. I took Basher to the beach; he brought much of the beach (sand) back with him!