Live Your Passions – Charlie Costello

IMG_1102I’m off to jolly ole England for a couple of weeks with my husband and sister – seven days seeing London and four days touring the rest of the country. During that time I very much doubt I’ll be able to conquer my fear of the iPhone long enough to do any blogging so I’m planning to re-post reader favorites while I’m gone, beginning this gentleman’s.


Charlie Costello, III

I’ve known Charlie Costello for quite some time now.  He’s a fabulously talented photographer and master gardener who also works tirelessly on causes aimed at saving our oceans.  In Burma Bikes he combines his passions for both the Burmese people and their bikes in a beautiful, high quality edition worthy of gracing any coffee table or library.

So you can imagine my surprise when he liked this post – #rukidding – so much he thought it should go viral.   It’s about the time I looked up from a gynecological exam to see this sign: tweet_0001

Now, I seriously doubt Kaiser would want me to tweet my experience while in gynecological stirrups!

During exam LNP says “Irregular moles.” Me: “In my…?” LNP: “Yes.” #OfAllPlaces! #kaiser
Dermatologist happens to be nearby. I ask “What happens if the moles are…” “We’ll freeze, cut or burn.” #OMG! #kaiser
Dermatologist: “False alarm.” LNP: “You look pale.” #duh #kaiser

But anyway, Charlie’s a great friend and in his honor I’m posting a couple of spectacular photographs from his book Burma Bikes.  




His photos are currently on display in the Presidio in downtown San Francisco (the Tides Foundation gallery).  Click below to learn more and Charlie and his photos:

Next time, other reader favorites.   If you have a favorite and don’t mind being my guest on this blog, please let me know!

Five Weddings, No Funerals

Weddings are such interesting affairs….


New friends

Sometimes you meet new friends. Sometimes you act silly with old ones.


Old friends

But, something always goes wrong, despite all manner of planning. And let’s be honest.  Don’t we all attend weddings hoping to see something go awry? Thinking in our evil little minds how cool it would be if the best man got drunk and said something wildly inappropriate in his toast!  And aren’t we just a wee bit disappointed with weddings that go exactly as planned?

At my brother’s first wedding, the amateur cameraman inserted the film backwards, thus there are no pictures of the event, which is just as well. It was such a hot day that two bridesmaids fainted at the altar. I was the only one left standing in my fuchsia frock, sweating like a pig.  I couldn’t wait to get out of that chapel until I realized that the adjoining reception hall was also not air-conditioned. Let me tell you, a four layer wedding cake does not fare well in temperatures hovering around 103 degrees. The frosting melts and it slides.

My sister got married in a church in Virginia City Nevada.  Virginia City is known to old-timers  as the hangout of the Cartwrights, owners of the  Ponderosa, a cattle ranch just outside the town as depicted in the 1950s television show “Bonanza.”  Of course, as any Nevadan can tell you, there are no large cattle ranches outside of Virginia City, especially any which also border on Lake Tahoe!

If the Cartwrights actually owned that much of the north shore of Tahoe they would have been able to buy Switzerland.

The Ponderosa. If the Cartwrights actually owned that much of the north shore of Tahoe they would have been able to buy Switzerland.

My father was in charge of  transporting three things up to Virginia City: the bouquets, the bride, and the matron of honor (me).  My father was absent-minded  and therefore rarely entrusted with important tasks, however, my mother thought this to be an assignment even he could not bungle. Ha! He fooled her. He arrived at my mother’s house a little early with a bottle of chilled champagne he thought would relieve the stress of the upcoming event and we drank it. Guzzled would probably be more accurate.

It wasn’t until the organist began the Wedding March that I realized we’d forgotten something.  I had nothing to hold in my hands. I wiggled my fingers together a few minutes before it dawned on me – we’d left the bridal bouquets in Reno, a forty-five minute drive.

“Psssst! No flowers!” I whispered to the folks sitting at the rear of the church. Giggling they passed the “pssst” up to the front, alerting my mother to the catastrophe. She hastily pulled a few daisies from the arrangements at the altar and brought them back to us, all the while scowling at my father.  Did I mention my parents were divorced?


Me getting “done” for my daughter’s wedding.

Wedding disaster #3: My daughter decided to get married in Hawaii.  Also during a heat wave.  Thus, when it came time to get my hair done, I begged the stylist to pull my unmanageable mop up and off my neck.  Of course, it refused to cooperate.  It took several thousand hairpins and three cans of ultra strength hair spray to get it into shape. During the wedding I could feel melting plastic rolling down the back of my neck. After the wedding I should have removed the pins and washed my hair but alas I flopped into bed drunk and exhausted.  I awoke the next morning with my head glued to the pillow case. Strands of hair, which had escaped the my coif formed a spider’s web across my nose, eyes and lips which stuck to my skin like crazy glue.  I couldn’t hear a thing.  Thankfully none of the many geckos running around our rental house fell unto my head during the night otherwise I would’ve looked like a lizard-headed Medusa.


Mighty suspicious looking sunglasses, son!

At my son’s wedding, in tiny Hudson New York, heat was not a problem however the day of the wedding the cellist, who’d come out from the west coast to play at the wedding, was arrested and taken to the police station  (think Mayberry RFP) apparently because the sunglasses he wore matched the description of a pair worn by a local robbery suspect. Luckily the cellist had a day job back in Reno.  He was a fireman.


Anna in front of the factory

During the reception the skies let loose.  Thunder and lightening shook the old factory where the wedding had taken place, followed by a hard rain from which the sieve-like roof provided little protection.  Luckily it was a brief downpour.

All in all my brother’s wedding in Reno went very smoothly.  Mother was a bad girl, of course, refusing to sit where she was supposed to. But everyone expects a bit of bad behavior from Mother.



Hashtag Anipal


Rocket (grandcat) helping me blog


When I first started blogging I vowed I would never write about animals.  It just seemed way too easy to put up cute pictures of cats and dogs and blabber away about their antics instead of seriously blogging.  Besides, there are probably a zillion people who blog daily about animals much more competently than me.  They’ve even created the hashtag “anipals” in order to find other pet lovers in the Twitterverse.


From “Man Training 1.0”


Patriotic dogs from “Dog Daze”

It didn’t take long before I broke my vow.  In total, I’ve blogged about animals over ten times.  It all began when my husband’s attempts to train squirrels backfired, leading to  Man Training 1.0.  After that, well – I fell off the wagon.  Soon I was blogging about the pooches at our small town Fourth of July parade, the mourning dove who sits on a branch of the tree next to me waiting for the return its dead mate, a chickadee suspected of eating the ears off my chocolate bunny, and, finally, cats.

Well, not all cats.  Just the stray we dragged into the house one rainy afternoon covered in mud, its long fur tangled into dreadlocks. Upon capture, first it yowled, then it ran downstairs to hide under a bed in the basement for two weeks.  We set out food, water and a kitty litter box (we had taken care of cats in the past) which he would only visit if we were nowhere in sight. But at least, thank God, he knew how to use the litter box.


Pretty Kitty pre-capture. The poor thing only weighed 7 pounds despite all that fur.

The first time we took him to the vet, we had to shut the door to the room where he hid, turn over the bed and chase him around till finally cornering him, again with the pathetic yowl of defeat.  At the vet’s we warned the doctor he was not a nice kitty but Pretty Kitty, as we then called him, turned out to be the perfect patient.  Evidently he has a split personality.


Trying to type one handed.

He was such a fetching cat that we were certain someone was looking for him and did the usual posting at the Animal Shelter, etc.  We heard tragic stories about people who’d been looking for their cats for years but alas, Pretty matched none of the descriptions, nor did anyone come forward and recognize his picture. So, now he’s become my writing companion.


King and cat from Bing images

Stephen King once said “… it might be that the biggest division in the world isn’t men and women but folks who like cats and folks who like dogs.”  Plenty of people have both cats and dogs and seem to love them equally but it sounds like he’s not one of them.

I was surprised to learn how many writers I wouldn’t have pegged as cat folks actually were.  Here are a few quotes from renowned cat loving writers.  See if you can match the quote to the writer:

  1. “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.”
  2. “There are no ordinary cats.”
  3. “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.
  4. I’m going to have a much harder time one day, months or even years from now, explaining why I miss the meanest, grumpiest and most dangerous cat I’ve ever encountered.”
  5. “Holding up my purring cat to the moon, I sighed.”
  6. “Books. Cats. Life is good.”
  7. “Have had to shoot people but never anyone I knew and loved for eleven years. Nor anyone that purred with two broken legs.”
  8. “Cats can be very funny, and have the oddest ways of showing they’re glad to see you. Rudimace always peed in our shoes.”
  9.  “I write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.”
  10. The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live ten times longer than if you have ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever. It’s truly ridiculous.”
  11. “I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.”

Hemingway and cat from Bing images

Your choices, in random order: a. Ernest Hemingway b. Mark Twain c. Edgar Allen Poe d. Colette e. Jack Kerouac f. Jean Cocteau g. W.H. Auden h. Joyce Carol Oates i. Edward Gorey  j. Neil Gaiman k. Charles Bukowski

Course, if you visit this post: Renowned Authors Inspired by Cats – you’ll know the answers but I bet you’ll be surprised. (well, maybe not by Hemingway)

GAston pensive_0960ps

Gaston, my dog crush.

I was surprised that so many writers were cat lovers because a dog will lay wrapped up at your feet while you write.  A dog won’t climb on your lap, shove its butt in your face and knead your breasts with its claws.  Maybe it’s because dogs have a tendency to worship their owners whereas cats can sense our frailty, our insecurities and self-doubt. Cats also know when you must take a break from your all too serious attempts to write, a profession they rightly view as a life threatening disease.

Let your Characters Eat and Pee!

A confession: I generally don’t read best sellers unless given copies which isn’t that often.  For example, the last best seller to land in my hands wasThe th-1DaVinci Code by Dan Brown which I found to be an interesting, albeit fast read (some of the chapters are only a page and half long and they all end in a cliff hanger) but my first thought upon reaching the last page was:  “Holy Crap! Don’t these characters ever get hungry or have to pee?”


Street food in Paris – a croque monsieur – who could possibly resist?

I wouldn’t make a very good Dan Brown heroine. No man on earth could drag me around Paris without stopping for something to eat – I don’t care how many murderous religious zealots were chasing us.

Which brings me to the topic of today’s blog – food.

There must be eight zillion food bloggers out there. Some are deadly serious, others seem to be trying to out silly each other.  For example:

  • Kaffekokarkokboken. Visit this blog if you own only a coffee pot and yet want to make goulash.
  • Thug Kitchen“Eat like you give a fuck.”  Their motto reveals what you’ll be getting into!
  • The Food Whore,  “Food I lust complete with recipes.”  Such beautiful photos that you’ll want to be a food whore too.

All three of the above blogs have catchy titles but are actually very serious about their recipes.  However, I’m not sure about these two: Ugly Food and Cakewrecks. I’d pass on them unless you have a hankering for barbecued bat and hideous looking cake!

I’ve resisted the urge to blog about food, only giving into temptation a few times:

Joel's pumpkin pie - he makes three of them at Thanksgiving and doesn't share.

Joel’s pumpkin pie – he makes three of them at Thanksgiving and doesn’t share.

  • In Oyster Stuffing Blues I complain about traditional Thanksgiving foods, including oyster stuffing and mincemeat pie. My inspiration was the smell of the pumpkin pie permeating the house.


And I’ve already mentioned My Life in Tuna Noodle Casserole, one of my most viewed blogs for all the wrong reasons!

Food is a part of life unless of course you’re Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu. (the hero and heroine of The DaVinci Code) My advice to any writer out there is to let your characters eat and pee!  Your readers will appreciate it.




The Pink Slice of Blog Pie


My very imprecise chart of blog subjects – the pink slice is about writing!

I have noticed that many of my fellow bloggers like to discuss the art of writing which I appreciate as they actually do have something interesting to say. However, as you can see from my handmade and not very scientifically accurate pie chart, it is a subject on which I’m loathe to give advice.  (Yes, I am dorky enough to have created a pie chart based on the content of my blog postings.)

In my defense I have attempted a couple of posts on the writing experience:

My rosy cheeked boy!

My apple cheeked “innocent” lad of 18!

In “The Pits of Meaningless Despair” I compare sending my first novel off to the editor with abandoning my apple-cheeked baby boy at college for the first time. Oh, the horror! As any writer or artist can tell you, our works are very much our babies.  To launch them into the big, bad world is very frightening indeed.  Will the world be mean to them, or kind?  Probably the former.  Poor babies.

Off with her head!

Off with Jan’s head!

In “Haunted by Words” I complain that my characters have dragged me down to Wonderland where I am no longer in charge.  Not that I ever was, but some days my characters are even more cantankerous than usual.  Of course I love cantankerous characters so it’s partially my fault for inviting them to the tea party.


My writing coach

In Teahouses, Madams and Shoes I attempted to explain my “writing process.” All writers apparently must have a writing process and a favorite place to write – a room of their own, so to speak.  My process involves a pile of shoes and a Jane Austen doll.

Madams entered this discussion simply because I’d read an intriguing remark by William Faulkner in this interview with the Paris Review. He claimed that the best environment in which to write was a brothel.  The girls sleep during the day, thus it’s quiet in the early morning (his time to write), and at night there are plenty of diversions to break up the monotony.  Who knows if he actually worked as a landlord in a house of ill repute, as he claimed.  I’m fairly certain prostitution is a crime in Mississippi.  Not only that, if you read through some of those interviews, you’ll soon realize successful writers get bored answering the same old questions and tend to respond with – how shall I put it?  Ah yes – sarcasm.  Sarcasm and silliness.


Quote4In Nevada, where  I grew up, prostitution is a taxed and regulated business so it seems more likely that a famous writer might find nirvana in that state.  However, were said writer to take up residence in a brothel today I’m quite certain they would both use it to their full advantage. Imagine the ad on the internet:

 At the Moonlight Bunny Ranch – Nevada’s finest whorehouse! – you’re promised a real satisfying time (winkie, winkie) while listening to Cormac McCarthy read from his new book, “No Country for Old Whores.”  

Ah yes, someday, mark my words, the prospects of more publicity will drive some already famous and wealthy writer to take up residence in a whore house. Who will it be?  James Paterson or Stephen King?

Finally, on the writing experience,  “Sigmund Freudicon At Your Service” and “Release Anxieties” both describe the insanity following a book release when you face the grim reality that writing a book and going through endless edits are not enough. Now you must pester your friends and family to death for reviews because, unless you have at least twenty reviews, your book will sit on the shit pile forever. Okay, I went more than a little crazy, I admit it. Now I realize it’s not really true. I know many authors with thirty five star reviews whose books are not exactly flying off the shelves. So I went and blew a whole bunch of friendships for naught!








Next: Food, the dark purple slice of the blog pie.