Saturday, August 28, 2010

Guilt, it plays a part.

I had an Irish Catholic upbringing brought on by a fiery red haired mother, a McCleland, who went to Ireland, found our roots, brought back a guilt shillelagh and beat us when we didn’t want to do something she thought was appropriate.
Mother Mary, how dare her, made us do things together, go places, see stuff, attend boring family functions like my sister’s dance recital, my brother’s ball games, and go on outings to see my grandparents. I can still hear her, “I’ll be damned if you don’t go. For Christ’s sake Larry, we are a family.”
“Then let him go. Better yet, he already knows how this will play out. Tell us now and save everyone the agony.” That’s what I wanted to say.
One of her favorite guilt trips, I lovingly remember, was when my grandparents were 60 years old and my mother was 40.
“Your grandparents are getting older. They’re not going to be around forever. Its Christmas.” (Insert one: Easter, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day,) You don’t know this son, and believe me, they would never tell you, but they have been extremely good to us.” Which brought more guilt for grouping us together and paralyzing the siblings as a whole.
My grandfather died at 84, my grandmother at 95 so for thirty-five years, in my eyes, each Christmas was “Grammy's” last. My mother is now 76, thirty-six years after realizing life is too short.
I’m very glad my mother bored me to death but the urgency might have been extreme, so at what age should one realize something so important as mortality? I would guess when maturity kicks in, which happens through age or incidences in one one’s life.
I wait for the day us baby boomers say 100 is the new 90 and Mother Mary, still hanging in there, keeps telling me I never call.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Livin' like celluloid

The movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” is getting a lot of attention and it made we wonder which one I do best.
Oh, I can eat. At “all you can eat” Chinese buffets they post my picture at the entrance and when I enter, the owners pull me aside to sternly go over the rules. It’s amazing how slow they talk when losing money is involved. On dates I would quietly tell the woman I was with, “He wanted to make sure we had a good table.”
I once returned to a Mexican buffet and when I walked in, two scared little Mexican kids threw their hands up and ran into the kitchen. Their father walked out a moment later and handed me a large, felt, sombrero loaded with food and told me to just take it and go. I asked, “Are you giving me the hat, too?”
He said, “Si’ Si’, you take all, and please, you a never come back.” Pulling out of the parking lot, I noticed he was still at the door waiting for me to leave. I could swear he had perspiration on his forehead. That date suddenly got a headache and asked to be taken home.
Now “love,” I can look at two ways.
As a teenager I was the red haired kid with personality so I longed for a girlfriend growing up. I had plenty of pretty girl friends that thought I was funny but they hung out to be comforted while they cried about their boyfriend.
Then at twenty, when women wanted a humorous guy, I succumbed to quantity and not quality, possibly to get even or catch up for lost time, so in those cases I wasn’t good at love, or maybe through the years falling in love felt too good. I got married at 45 to the right one.
Now let’s look at “pray.” I’ve had so many ups and downs in my “careers,” that I’ve prayed long and hard. I’d ask for this job or that, often to make more money to try and make ends meet, so I can continue to keep trying. I was stuck on a prayer for a long time in my thirty’s, I called it the “Please Prayer.” I would say an Our Father and then say, “please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please,” it went on until I got tired.
I learned to use the power of prayer early in life as an altar boy, but it was a bit deceptive. I was good at it and won awards but not because I had the calling. I looked at it as another way to be on stage. I’d ring the bells. I’d carry the cross. When the priest wasn’t there, I would get on the altar and pretended I was in the movie “The Ten Commandments,” and could part the Red Sea. I would put on the black and white cassock and surplice and extend my arms pretending I was Charlton Heston and summon the Lord.
“Behold the power of God. I am the way, the truth, and the light, and get your paws off me you dirty stinking ape.” OK, I did mesh up the movie dialogue, which made the other altar boys think I was a Looney tune, but it was fun, talking to the Lord directly.
I don’t know which of the three I’m best at but I do know I’ve eaten, prayed and loved with abandon.
I now pray just before I go to sleep. I don’t ask for anything. I’m just grateful I have supper with my wife.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I need your inner Simon Cowell

This drama stuff can be fun. For this week’s exercise I thought I would delve into why Katie would do such a thing. I hope you make it to the end.

(Ending of last weeks High Drama/Blogfest)

“Honey, this guy didn’t learn his lesson. He met you at sixteen. You’re in high school. He’s twenty-three. He shouldn’t even be near a school.”
“He doesn’t molest little kids, mom!”
“No, he molests big kids!”
“I love him and I’m going to help him! I don’t care what you say.” Katie got up and opened the door. “He’s good to me!”
“But he’s not good for you!”
“Why do you want to be this way? Look… There’s more... I’ll just tell you the rest, later.” The door slams shut.


I met Katie when she was 8 years old. I, being the husband who slept through my wife being told her teenage daughter was in love with a sex offender. I got the news the next morning.
“I swear, Jay, I thought I was going to kill them both, but I was so freaked out, I felt relieved she wasn’t pregnant. Can you believe that? I was relieved?”
“I know what you mean Honey. Thank God. She’s only screwing the felon.”
I was glad I slept. When this idiot, in all his wisdom, told the mother of his girlfriend he made her little girl wait to lose her virginity to a rapist out of nobility, I think I would have hit him. Not for me, for my wife and every person who has ever seen the innocence in a little girl’s smile.
That night no one could have convinced Katie he was the wrong man and that her life was on no simple path. I could have told her not to do this and that loving a guy who has to inform the community when he moves into the neighborhood isn’t worthwhile, or that people will look at her strangely and think she is completely out of her freaking mind, but she would have said, “You’re not my father.” She lived with her “real dad” to attend High School with her friends and she wasn’t about to let him in on the secret. He still doesn’t know “the rest,” that we found out later. I’ll get to that. Her father, I’m convinced would have hurt that man.
No, Katie was well on her way to her style of thinking when I got there. Weird isn’t it?
At 8 she was the typical little girl, a few inches taller, brighter then most, good in school and had the cute little girl antics that would win your heart. She would twirl like others with her arms extended wide, singing, hair flowing outward, but what caught my attention, was that she would spin so fast, out of control and fall down hard on purpose. Like a crazed ice skater, she would spin and laugh always faster than the others until she couldn’t stand. She would then stop. Looking like an intoxicated child. She’d go four or five steps in one direction, then back, and finally fall, sometimes on the pavement scraping her knees or elbows, or slamming into the side of a car, anything close. She didn’t care about being hurt. She seemed to get off on it. When the dizziness wore off, she’d get up and do it again, wildly laughing, smiling and always till she couldn’t control herself. Again, and again, she threw caution in the wind. My thought? “That girl ain’t right.”
I noticed she had an appetite for more with everything she did, and needed more and more to feel whole, so much so that when she and her slightly older brother, Kent, was still living with their mother, I had an idea.
“Watch this buddy. You wanna mess with your sister?”
“Yea. What are you going to do?”
“I notice you sister doesn’t like being left out, and if she thinks we have something and she doesn’t, she’ll want it. I bet I can get her out here just by shaking the silverware.”
“No you can’t.”
“I think I can. Where is she?”
Kent snuck around the corner, went down the hall and came back with a grin. “She’s in her room,” he whispered.
“Is the door open?”
“Yea, but she ain’t gonna do it.”
“I bet she does.”
I grabbed the silverware draw and gave it a shake, real hard. The clinks and clanks of the metal reached the room. Kent and I waited, Kent covering his mouth trying to be silent.
About five seconds later, Katie came around the corner, smiling, her shoulders swaying from side to side, “Whatcha ya’ll doing?”
We cracked up. It was hilarious. She was so innocent sashaying through the kitchen. She knew something was going down and she wanted whatever it was.
As time went on I moved in with Becky, Kent and Katie. We would have breakfast in bed on weekends and we would jump around on the bed, bonding. I mentioned to Becky that Katie didn’t understand that I wasn’t her father and she was hugging and jumping on top of me, playing like any young girl, but I started to feel uncomfortable. I’ve seen what can happen if a boyfriend is accused of inappropriate behavior. A few days later Becky mentioned it to her.
“Look Honey. When you’re playing and wrestling with Jay you’re going to have to put some shorts on. You’re not going to be able to play in a nightgown. OK?
Katie, confused looked at her mother and said, “But mom, he doesn’t have to worry. I’m just a little girl.”
“I know you are honey, but you’re getting older and this is what we’ll have to do from now on, OK.”
“OK, Mom.” She understood what Becky meant.
I eventually married Becky and she mentioned that of her three kids, the oldest daughter being married and out the house, Katie, now ten, never seemed to be satisfied, always wanting more of something or things weren’t just so, weren’t correct, the right size, color, weren’t exactly what she asked for, or fell short of what she expected. I thought this was odd. Not having kids of my own I didn’t know any better and that some children are this way. “She just didn’t understand the world yet,” was my thinking. “She’ll grow out it.”
One afternoon sitting at the dinning room table with Katie, she was complaining about something, I don't remember, when I thought of telling her the story about how to look at life. There was a glass of iced tea on the table and it was half full so off I go about how to look at all things relevant.
“Katie, do see that glass of tea and that it’s filled half way up?”
“Yea, I see it.”
“Do you think that glass is half empty or half full?”
“I don’t know.”
“No. What do you think? Would you say that glass is half empty or would you think of it as being full?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, here is how you should look at things.”
I’m now on a roll. I have her attention and I’m laying it down thick. I tell her everyone in life has to look at the bright side, find the good in all situations; there is a silver lining behind every cloud and if you can think of life this way, you’ll have disappointments but only a few and the world will be a much happier place. Hell, I impressed myself.
When I finished my spiel I said triumphantly, “So Katie, do you understand what I’m saying, about how to look at things? Is that glass half empty or half full?”
She looked at me, then the glass, and thought for a moment. She shook her head and said, with a you are one stupid ass smirk, “I don’t even like tea anyway.”
That spoke volumes.
I watched her grow older from afar. She stayed with her father one summer at 13, because Becky wouldn’t let her go on the Internet and talk to a boy 19 years old. That fall she moved in, along with Kent, to attend High School with their friends. We spoke to them often and had them on weekends and although she had the discipline to attended school and make good grades, we heard how, “Kent, was a Prince, and I have to do house work, and I don’t have good make-up. I don’t have anything I need and everybody hates me.”
One weekend we were picking up the kids and Becky mentioned that when Katie gets in the car it’s the same every week. I said, “I bet you by the time we turn the corner she will complain about three things.”
“You’re on,” she said and the two wonder kids jumped in the backseat.
“Hello, my lovely children, how was your week?”
Kent sums up his in one word, “Fine.”
Katie, disgusted, said “Dad wouldn’t let me go Samantha’s.” Becky and I looked at one another and the corners of our mouths turned up.
I said to the back of the car, “What about band? How’s that going?"
“The band director doesn’t know anything. He hates us. He has us playing stuff from the Wizard of Oz. That’s so lame.”
Becky shakes her head from side to side and I hold up two fingers.
We’re almost to the corner and it looks like I’m going to lose the bet so I stop at the stop sign but a car isn’t coming. I know Becky will think I’m trying to stall, so I take one last shot. As I turn the corner I say, “Maybe you should have played the Wizards of Waverly Place.”
“Oh God, Kent watches that show. Dad won’t get me a TV for my room.”
In time I understood what Becky meant. Nothing ever seemed good enough. We even imagined her going to friend’s houses and saying, “I’d love to eat with you. My mother doesn’t give me food.” “Oh, I have to wear these clothes. My parents bought me garbage bags.” Or, “Yea. We went to see Brittany Spears. We had back stage passes but it sucked, she didn’t let me sing.”
Katie had everything she needed but not everything she wanted, poor, unloved, Katie. Deep down I knew, one day she would meet a son-of-a bitch who would tell her exactly what she wanted to hear and on the table her glass would be half empty… with iced tea.

(Thanks for your time, Simon.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hi, Drama. Let’s get in a Blogfest/Giveaway.

I usually go for the joke but this week, all laughing aside. This wasn’t my young life. When I was a teenager I couldn’t get laid in a monkey whorehouse with a pound of bananas. I did have a first cousin who made a dumb decision and do remember the After School Specials.

The pounding on the door awoke Becky Rolland. It was the loose glass actually, that higher pitched rat-a-tat making that distinctive noise in an old house to create urgency. With her husband next to her, children came to mind. “Christ, what now?”
Slipping out of bed she went to the front, peered out the curtain and on the porch was Katie, the seventeen year old and her boyfriend, her daughter’s first love, the guy who says exactly what a young girl wants to hear.
“Mom, let me in! We gotta to talk!”
“My little girl is pregnant,” raced through her mind.
Becky opened the door and allowed them to enter. Dressed in her robe she tied the belt tighter and pulled the chain on the lamp. The young couple took a seat on the sofa and Becky, uneasy, sat on the edge of the chair a few feet away. Katie explained.
“Mom, I haven’t been truthful. Please don’t be mad. Cade is going to get arrested if you don’t say he lives here.”
“Um, run that by me again.”
“I know. I know. We lied. He’s been in trouble and he is older than twenty.”
“Damn it, Katie."
“Please, Mom. I need your help. He got his girlfriend pregnant when she was sixteen, but he was only twenty then and they were in love.”
“Wait. Wait. Hang on a second. He did what?”
“He got his girlfriend pregnant and went to jail but he didn’t register when he got out.”
“When was this?”
“Three years ago.”
Becky's eyes traveled to the skinny, wormy, undeveloped piece of crap and imagined grabbing him by the throat, pushing forward and crushing the back of his skull against the wall behind the sofa, but the question came to mind.
“Are you pregnant?”
“No. I’m not pregnant. I’m smarter than that.”
“Katie, you were sixteen last week.”
“But Mom, I love him.”
“And, I love your daughter, too.”
Becky glared at Cade and felt her hands clinch but Katie interrupted.
“Look Mom, I know what you’re thinking. We didn’t have sex till after I made seventeen. I promise.”
“That’s supposed to make me feel better?”
“That’s true, Miss Rolland. She wanted me to, but I made her wait.”
Becky looked at Cade with a piercing contempt that rattled him, “I suggest you not say a word and get out of my house. Katie, you stay right there. I’m not finished with you, yet.”
Cade immediately got up to leave and looked back. “You coming?”
“Mom, I knew you wouldn’t understand!”
“Honey, this guy didn’t learn his lesson. He met you at sixteen. You’re in high school. He’s twenty-three. He shouldn’t even be near a school.”
“He doesn’t molest little kids, mom!”
“No, he molests big kids!”
“I love him and I’m going to help him! I don’t care what you say.” Katie got up and opened the door. “He’s good to me!”
“But he’s not good for you!”
“Why do you want to be this way? Look… There’s more... I’ll just tell you the rest, later.”

To read others in the High Drama Blogfest:

To read my work in this months POV Magazine:

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm not stupid, I'm new.

“Where once she had little girls, she's been supplanted by Beyonce, Gaga, and Rhianna.”

I read that on Dateline Hollywood, she, not being the average American mom losing her tween daughters, but J-Lo, who might take Ellen’s place on American Idol, some say a much needed career move. Her last movie didn’t do well and she lost her record contract with Sony. I’m sure she’ll be fine since that kind of thing happens in show business. “The hard part is staying there.” Celebrities say that when things aren’t going well.
How does a writer keep an established audience? I’m not stupid. I’m new. I would think a writer could be over shadowed by the latest young phenom or readers could mature. It certainly seems it could happen to YA writers, as with J-Lo and little girls.
At a writer’s conference, I heard a remark about subject, content, and the “next big thing.” The speaker, a published author, said, “Whatever is going on now, in two years you’ll read about it.” My thought was to write a vampire book within the Tea Party. I’d have clan of middle aged white guys drinking blood with Viagra chasers, the women constantly tired, but always giving in to lust because, “them little devils are so damn cute.”
I could delve into YA and do a story about a young man in the hood who is an outcast because he wears his pants too high. He falls in love with the vicious gang leader’s sister who has no arms and strives to keep her pants up. My two MC’s become entwined in a love story, Romeo and Juliet, a West Side Story with hip hop music. Actually, It couldn’t be a musical because the cast would have to use one arm to keep their pants from falling to their ankles. Jazz hands could not be used in the extremely way off Broadway hit, “Pants On The Ground.”
I know. I could pen a mystery about a lawyer, who for some reason doesn’t want to sue, struggling, because it’s against his nature, a Gulf Coast story where BP’s billions are everywhere and the third-generation legal eagle won’t take advantage of all the money floating around. He loses his father and brothers and finally his wife and kids. Widowed Granny is the only one on his side. It’s not pretty.
Yea, I’m putting my ear to the ground, pedal to the metal, nose to the groin stone, or something like that. If I start writing about the presidential election now, in 2012 I’ll know if that writer was right.