Except for the Dead Guy and Minus a Few Cousins

I’ve been re-editing a book I wrote and published via Booktrope a few years before they went out of business, The Graduation Present. Of the plot, Colm Herron wrote:

A hapless hopeless romantic American girl called Riley O’Tannen heads for Europe to get a taste of the old world and instead encounters her drunken uncle who keeps a mistress, her randy aunt who keeps a gigolo and a dead CIA man whose boss is a raving homosexual.

Which is what happened decades ago except for the dead guy and minus a few cousins.  Such is the dilemma when your write a “semi-autobiographical” piece.

I did travel to Germany unprepared for the realities of life in an occupied country.  I did have to pry my uncle from the bar every night and listen to my aunt sing the praises of her lover’s magical tongue “oh what it could do …”  My uncle’s boss was rumored to be a CIA operative, and he was a dead ringer in looks and manner for Truman Capote.  But, as to the rest, well, I could say time has warped my memory but the truth is, a bit of imagination was applied.  Perhaps too much.

When you write a book with at least one character recognizable to family and friends, be prepared.  

“You made me out to be quite the putz,” my uncle complained shortly after the book was published. Ironically if he’d read through to the end and not just the first couple of chapters he would have realized that Riley O’Tannen was the putz and not him. Still it gave me pause.  I know writers who will not base a character on someone they know until that person was dead and gone. Even then, it’s difficult.  

“And how about that evil burgermeister. I don’t remember him,” my uncle continued.

“I made him up.”

“Then that other story about me pimping you out for dinner…”

“The truth.  You said ‘look at all those lonely officers. They’d love to take a pretty girl to dinner. Why should I have to feed you all the time?'”

Number one travel book when I first went to Europe.

“I don’t remember.” Sadly he didn’t mention the people who were missing from the story, my young cousins neither of whom survived unscathed from that time. When you tell a semi-autobiographical story those are the choices you face.  Who to spare and who to expose.  Uncle Bob, who now preaches the gospel of Trump in a Walmart parking lot down in Tampa, has repented and been saved. He’s never without an eight ounce glass of gin and makes gross jokes about women’s body parts, but in the church of the almighty Trump all you need to do is speak in tongues and all is forgiven.  Plus, he was born with a teflon hide.

Happy Hour at the Officer’s Club, Worms Germany 1970

And the dead man?  He’s here with me now. He sits with eyes tunneling into the night sky as we ride through Switzerland time and time again and see no stars, just a cold and apathetic landscape. Toward the end, he’d been relegated to a seat at the table reserved for those with frozen boots who couldn’t move on. They are the best people for a writer to know.

I relieved him of his misery.  I killed him.  I let him die in a place where he’d known happy times and not in a Veteran’s hospital. And that’s what writers do. But should we?

Diamond box

From a young poet.

tin hats

Mouse of mine,
I’ve made for you a maze.

Impenetrable diamond box beneath the earth,
swaddled in the sweltering magma like
the immortal star under a blanket
you have always been.

So safe, warm and concealed
beneath the shifting plates
the winding roadways,
shivering mountains.

As far as the roads of Agartha will take you
from the violent apes and their
precious gates
to heaven and hell.

Monkey of mine,
there are hot springs and peaceful beings-
as many ripe kiwis as a boy could eat.

Mr. Golden Sun is just a sweet song away
with a rainbow necklace that you can wear
and a glowing crystal crown
from the icy end of a meteor
for your precious royal head.

When it is time to sleep,
you and me and daddy makes three
will pillow fight with fluffy clouds,
flying like jets that will never cradle missiles.

We will crash…

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The Spoon Apocalypse

My paternal grandmother believed that at some point in the near future the world would be bereft of spoons.  To prepare her grandchildren for the coming apocalypse, we all received spoons for Christmas, that is until Cousin George, then over six foot eight, pooped on her prophesy. I believe his exact words were “Get your head out of the vodka bottle Grandmother.”

“Oh what a wonderful spoon, Grandmother! Now I’m prepared for the Spoon Apocalypse.

Through all my travels and relocations, my spoon collection has not fared well but I still have the first one she ever sent me. It’s a sterling silver teaspoon with an etching of the Moorhead Minnesota Public Library.  I always assumed it was just something she picked up at some antique store, but through the miracle of the internet, I believe it had some other meaning to her besides the spoon prophesy.

Moorhead was my Grandmother’s home until her father died and her mother married The Judge. Probably a wise thing for a young widow with two small children to do but The Judge was a controlling nasty pants who didn’t allow his stepchildren to talk of their father or paternal aunts, uncles and cousins still living in Moorhead. That town always remained a life that could have been if not for the Spanish flu.  As a freshman in college when the library opened, she probably also spent a lot of time there.  At that time, the University of North Dakota at Fargo catered to the study of animal husbandry and improvement of soy bean crops and not to the study of something so useless as English literature.  So the spoon wasn’t just something she wrapped in foil and sent to her granddaughter (or maybe it was and I’m just a fruitcake)

After Grandmother’s death my aunt sent me this odd assortment of her utensils. Note anything odd?

 

There’s only one fork and who needs that many butter knives? Or pickle forks.

I don’t know what to do with all those spoons. Perhaps play Spoons.  Have you ever heard of that game?  Apparently it’s also known as Pig and Tongue and it is some kind of variation of Musical Chairs.  The winners of Spoons take a spoon from the middle of the table and the winners of Pig, fart.  (Not really they just touch the end of their noses. Don’t ask.) The winners of Tongue stick their tongues out.  I imagine it’s a game old Judge Nasty Pants would have loved.

Maybe I’ll give the spoons to the Spoon Lady!  Any odd things you’ve gotten as Christmas presents that made sense many years later?

 

Certainty of death, no chance for survival

Thanksgiving night we watched the final episode of the Lord of the Rings as we ate the crab and potato salad.  When the trilogy first debuted, our home was where stockings were opened Christmas morning and then we all walked down to the Art Deco theater at the bottom of the hill to watch whatever had just released.  

We began this Xmas tradition in 1983 with The Christmas Story, a low budget picture that was not expected to do well at the box office and is now a holiday classic. We’d had a rough year and that movie was the perfect distraction.

The next year was even worse.  After a failed attempt at merriment, we hiked down the hill to watch Ghostbusters. 

I can’t remember all the movies we saw in the ensuing years. Generally silly flicks. None were able to make us laugh until we cried. None were as cathartic as the first two. 

By the way, who’s your favorite character in Ghostbusters?  Mine’s the wise-cracking receptionist played by Annie Potts. I love that gal.

To my teenage friends and I, the book The Lord of The Rings was the holy gospel of Middle Earth. It was where we were meant to be and not the Reno High School biology lab dissecting frogs. We’d heard about the analogies to WWII and the Nazis, but had no real understanding of the horrors of concentration camps or the ability of power to leech the soul from a human being. We just wanted to escape the mundanity of our lives.

Now LOTR seems like a warning and is too close to comfort to exit the theater refreshed.  I think we’ll see a comedy instead.  Any suggestions?

Giant Turkey Caravan Headed For US Border

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

Thanksgiving, turkeys, caravan, humor, Modern PhilosopherI don’t want to be a fear monger, Modern Philosophers, but I need to warn you that there is another huge caravan headed towards the U.S. border.

This one, however, is heading north through Maine on its way to Canada.

And this caravan is not made up of migrants fleeing persecution, criminals fleeing prosecution, or terrorists looking to enter the country without detection.

In fact, there are no humans at all in this caravan.

It’s made up entirely of turkeys.

Thousands of them.

The caravan crossed into Maine yesterday, and is making a bee line for the border with Canada.  When asked about the parade of northbound turkeys, Maine Governor Paul LePage stated: “As long as they aren’t hurting anyone, I could care less.  My term is almost over, and I don’t need the headache.”

Maine State Police and the Maine Warden Service have been monitoring the caravan’s progress, and…

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In Flander’s Fields

Today is the 11th day of the 11th month on which we celebrate the ending of the war to end all wars. I don’t think a lot of people really understand how that war (WWI) began. I certainly don’t.  Something about the assassination of an archduke. Today it honors all veterans from all those other wars that weren’t supposed to happen.

Armistice Day means red poppies. If you’re out and about you may run into a veteran selling them. This traditional started with a poem.

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

McCrae was a Canadian doctor who, legend has it, wrote the poem from the back of an ambulance. Poppies leech the blood from battlefields and in the spring, cover the ground with a sea of red. A sight to see indeed, if not such a stark reminder.

My grandfather did not die in France; he returned to his family and lived a long life.The wounds he suffered were not visible to the naked eye. And he didn’t talk about them.

I’m actually quite mortified that a bit of rain has kept a president of the United States from attending ceremonies honoring the fallen of WWI.  It didn’t stop the troops from fighting and losing their lives. Shame on him. 

 

Voting from the Great Beyond

I haven’t been posting lately because I’ve been trying to finish the latest incarnation of Flipka into which I’ve rolled a sequel. Will the sequel answer many reader questions? I don’t know.  Will it be less wacky than the first of which one reviewer wrote:

 

The wacky, utterly unbelievable plot is, however, merely the vehicle for JT Twissel to demonstrate her enviable skill set.

All I can say is, I tried. But how can I write “believable” plots set in a state that elects dead pimps to govern? By a landslide, I might add. 

 

Meet your new legislature Nevada!

Was the other candidate so terrible that the fine citizens of Pahrump are going dig up a corpse and send it to the Nevada legislature?

 

According to this tweet, Dennis Hof, who wrote The Art of the Pimp and was known as the Trump of Pahrump, is going to vote from the “great beyond.”

I know Republicans in Nevada got massacred tonight, but my man Dennis Hof crushed his opponent from the great beyond in AD-36 & we crushed the anti-brothel initiative in Lyon County by about 80%. So pardon me, but I’m celebrating.

Fictional whores celebrating their dead pimp’s glorious victory!

I know those tea party folks have a few wacky ideas, like believing that Donald Trump is the second coming of Jesus Christ, but do they really think the Nevada legislature is going to allow a ghost to vote?  And, how am I going to fit this twist into one of the unbelievable plots of which I am so enviably skilled?