Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tis the Season
Lift the eggnog and brandy in toast
Laugh a lot...
Dance a little...
Love a lot!
Best Wishes for the New Year
Love Cynthia

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No More Turkeys

Beware of turkeys bearing turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving and remember pass the blessings, please...

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Beyond the ads, beyond the sales, lies the truth.


"Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble." Kathryn Ferguson cackled and swirled a crooked finger, casting a fake spell.

"Rubbish." Lori brushed the invisible hex aside.

"But that was how witches did it, according to Shakespeare." Kathryn protested. "What's more, I saw the movie Hocus Pocus."

"Well, Shakespeare is dead and the sisterhood of witches is still alive and I can prove it." Lori spotted her contact entering the coffee shop. "Quick, hide."

Lori Razzo was investigating modern witchcraft and had found a woman who agreed to take her to a secret meeting of a real coven nearby but only after she agreed to an oath of silence. Under no circumstances was Lori to expose the locale or she would forever pay the price of her tongue wagging. The professed witch glanced furtively around the coffee shop, swayed over to the table and drew up a chair.

Leaning forward, she spoke definitely, "I'll pick you up on the corner of Seventh and Wicker at 5:45am tomorrow. Don't be late."

"5:45am sharp."

"And remember, if you violate our agreement there will be harsh consequences to pay."

Gabriella's stare bore through Lori like a termite to wood. The message understood.

"This should be a hoot," she whispered to herself when Gabriella, the self-proclaimed priestess of the coven, strode out of the shop. "Witchcraft, boo-pucky. I'm so scared."

"Well?" Kathryn poked her head around the coffee bean rack. "Did she cast a spell on you? Wait. Let me look into your eyes. Okay, pupils normal and reactive."

Kathryn plopped down in the chair and Lori chuckled, "The meeting's tomorrow."

"Are they going to put a mask over your head?" Kathryn drank down the rest of Lori's tepid coffee. "Can I come?"

"And get me bewitched?" Lori feathered her short, reddish hair behind her ears. "Stay at least two cars behind in the slow lane, okay?"

The plan set, the two said good night and went their separate ways until the early morning hour.The sun crested over the hills while Lori stood shivering on the street corner. What is the matter with these women anyway? Don’t they know any self-respecting witch meets in the darkened shadows under the glow of candlelight and incense?

An Exhibition pulled to the curb and Lori hopped into the front seat. The vehicle, packed with ordinary women, jerked away from the roadside. The voices escalated as Gabriella maneuvered through a series of continuous green lights on target to the prescribed destination.

"Why this is--" Lori gasped.

The Exhibition screeched to a halt and the women quickly scooted out and marched towards the glass doors. Standing in a single line, they extended arms in front of their bosoms and repeatedly flexed both hands open and shut while chanting, "Open, open, open."

Slowly the locked doors opened and the coven welcomed the witches.

With purpose, the witches entered with a new incantation under tongue, "Charge it."

Lori stumbled onto the linoleum floor just as the doors closed tightly behind the one-way spell. Just like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves she thought. Turning backwards, she read the word "s'nyvreM".

"This is the secret coven?" She said, glaring at Gabriella. "Mervyn's?"

With the wink of a long lash and the crinkle of her nose, Gabriella tugged her by the elbow.

"Hurry, the best deals are gone in the first ten minutes and remember, mum's the word."

"What to wear, what to wear?" The witches chanted as they ran up and down the aisles of Mervyn's, checking price tags and trying on shoes, looking for the perfect price an hour before the store opened.

"A bargain hunt? This is modern witchcraft?"

Gabriella shrugged, "Witches have budgets, too."

"But isn't this Super Saturday?" Lori looked at a store sign.

"Who do you think started that idea?" Gabriella sighed, sarcastically. "Come on, the racks are already getting bare."

Lori grabbed a leather jacket and draped it over her arm. The witches scrambled and fought over sale items and carried armloads to the cash register. Sale after sale rang up at the register, absent of electricity and a sales clerk. Tiny charge slips printed out and faithfully the members of the sisterhood scribbled signatures of credit agreement, interest-free and triple bonus points. Lori laid her purchase onto the counter and watched the magical forces fold and package her selection. Cool. She could get the hang of this witchcraft.

Suddenly, a figure appeared at the glass door, peering in, shocked at the private sale in action.


"You!" A witch cursed towards Lori and pointed a rigid finger. "You told someone of our secret coven."

"No…" Lori retreated on her left foot, looking for an escape. The witches encircled her, grasped hands and slowly started to cast a spell. The cash register clanged, the drawers flung open and shut violently. Dollar signs flashed by in a blur. The sisterhood sang louder and swayed as one. Voices deepened and a lone cackle erupted as the women chanted a few choice mumble-jumbles.

Lori trembled and hugged her purchase. The machine grew hotter, shuddered and spewed out the charge slip. Eyes focused on the intruder and silence overpowered the room as Lori's hand unwillingly signed the charge slip.

"What? $5,031 for a jacket at 34.9% interest. That's outrageous." Lori protested as her pen zagged the "z" in Razzo. "I'll be paying this off forever.

"Gabriella spoke with a wicked laugh, "Month after month after month….pay back's a witch."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Democrats, Republicans, Republicrats and those sitting on the Road of Indecision

First, I think it's great that as Americans we can agree to disagree. Since we represent all corners of the states, it's not a surprise we have different POVs. I'll be the first to state that politics are not my expertise.

For me, I want the Vice President to be able to step up and fill the president's shoes. Many have seen just how quickly this can happen from Kennedy's death to Nixon's resignation. I take the VP as a VIP position. I vote for a team.

As a former soccer mom, single mom and sister of a *special needs* child, I'm not qualified to represent this country. Hands down. I bake great cookies, weave tremendous tales, manage a family single-handed, run a business, and house a host of pets. Although I refuse to gut a moose, I can support a broken spirit, treat a bruised knee and cheer on a team. I'm a mom and that's what moms do. Rally to the cause. Dads, too.

On a side note, I've met soccer moms and some are down right vicious. Not a platform I'd embrace.

As a child I sat on metal chairs in a tiny room as my parents joined with other *special needs* families and were the grassroots advocates for the Association for Retarded Children - a term honored now with gentler and positive terms as developmentally disabled and celebrated with Special Olympics events. Even so, after speaking openly, achieving milestones and acting on boards, my mom is not my candidate for VP. She's my mom.

I don't vote for the gender. Period. I vote for the best qualified, experienced candidate. Promoting Sarah Palin’s *mom* achievements places the gender card upfront and personal. This isn't a media issue. It started behind the podium. Can't have it both ways and cry wolf when it doesn't play your way.

Nor can the Republicans expect us to ignore teen pregnancy as a family issue yet embrace Palin’s Down Syndrome son as the poster child that she’ll step up for special needs children. The current cover of People magazine draws question. Can a candidate use one child for political gain and put the other off limits? It’s a shameful political agenda to use a child as a pawn. Even Solomon just rolled over in his grave. My brother Jeff, a Down Syndrome, just joined him.

Still, I try to learn the facts and find articles that offer claims with supporting evidence. An environmentalist and supporter of animal rights, I found the article Maybe Your Type of Leader; Definitely Not Mine by Ed Kostro supported by facts and fueled by passion. I take note of my findings, cringe at the photo, and catalogue the image into my data bank, forging forward to discover the experience level and balance for a right-hand to the President.

To entice Hillary supporters to Sarah may be the biggest mistake. With no comparison between the two, I suspect Hillary Clinton may be the deciding factor in this campaign after all. Wonder if she was a soccer mom? She definitely can be a pit bull when necessary. More research for me.

Friday night I was at the SF Giants baseball game. On the message board it asked us to guess the night's attendance. The winning number: 38,904.

My friend, Cy, leaned over and said, "Take a look at the bleacher section. That's about equal to the town Palin served as mayor."

One-quarter of a baseball stadium.

Curious, later I Googled the population for Alaska. 2006 census 670,053. Lower than the 2006 census for San Francisco 764,976.

I respect every ones right to choice and to cast a vote for their candidate and beliefs. For me, I'm researching and studying all the issues more than ever to make an informed decision in November. I watched both conventions to be fair and I read, listen and search between the lines.

An eloquent speaker and charmer at the podium, Sarah, I'm not sold that easily.

Now I think I'll call my mom, place flowers on my dad and brother’s graves, and celebrate my Giants win and together with Democrats, Republicans, Republicrats, Middle of the Fence and those sitting-on-the-crossroads, mourn my 49er Niner loss.

And tomorrow on to the other candidate…Joe Biden.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Soar with the Best

"Be like the bird, who

Halting in his flight

On limb too slight

Feels it give way beneath him,

Yet sings

Knowing he hath wings."

-Victor Hugo

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Naked Ladies Survive Fire

Prized real estate where egrets and clapper rail tip-toe in the pickle weed; a place where a Marbled Godwit is your next-door neighbor and mustard plants create a fence line. Waterfront property and a home with a view of the San Francisco Bay puts the *fine* in the define of location. I look for the human directional to paradise.

The only sign advertising this location: East Bay Park District. No motorized vehicles. No firearms.

A protected habitat I enter the Pacific Flyway and wetland area. My iPod plays George Strait and I pick up my step. My stress clears and characters and dialogue whip through my thoughts. Midway between a fight and torrid love scene, I stumble on remnants of a grass fire.

Off the trail, I wade through the charred shrubs, the grass crunches underfoot. The smoke and spent embers outline the skeleton of the home that once was and wasn’t. The dry grass the carpet and the thistle the decorations, the open décor an understatement at best.

I study the charred remains of a ten-speed. Upside down, the wheels barely move with the whistle of the afternoon wind. Licorice bushes and a small tree provide shelter in place of mortar and brick. Driftwood borrowed from the nearby wetlands, the only visible furniture.

A vagabond.

An avalanche of cracked bottles – Vodka, cheap wine and mediocre beer – the scrapbook of someone’s life. Didn’t do Martha Stewart proud I note. Empty cans of tuna, beans and soup rust in a heap. A bottle of Gatorade is buried under the garbage. At least, the homesteader was trying to be healthy.

Under the ash a singed box of cigarettes. I kick the open carton and frown – the dropped-cigarette-on-the-couch syndrome. Only here the couch was red flag flammable, a tinder box of ripe twigs. Too bad.

I take a closer look at the far southwest corner. By the stench, I find the deposit zone for human waste. An untidy bowl moment, I move north and try to cough the odor away. A sweet aroma tempts; a familiar exotic scent that lures men to kiss behind our ears. Intoxicating and aphrodisiac the fragrance begs me to come closer.

What’s this? Naked Ladies dance.

Pink, fringed on the tips, they sway with a rhythm of beauty and grace.

Survivors of the fire.

Beyond the scorched bulbs the ladies sweet perfume fragrances the area. Surprised, I stroke the flower and run my fingers along the trumpet shape. I change my music to Chris Botti, sit down on the blackened earth and reflect.

For now I can forget about the price of gas, foreclosures and traffic congestion. With my hands I form a box and frame the image. Yes, this is the perfect place for a window. Maybe a table to my left. Wonder if I can get free WiFi? A tiny field mouse scuttles nearby. Definitely not part of the deal.

Warned of my presence, a jack rabbit lopes through the brush. His intentions clear, he has no plans to be the guest of honor at my next meal. No problem. I hear rabbit taste like chicken. So just what does chicken taste like I wonder?

The Naked Ladies trumpet touches my shoulder and I hear the petals sing, “Stay.”

I recall the sign at the entrance to the shoreline park: No motorized vehicles. No firearms.

Doesn’t say a thing about a tent and a sleeping bag.

Or better yet a two-man tent. Maybe even a naked man. A theme I learned from the Democratic convention – dream big and make it happen.

I nod to the Naked Ladies and say, “Thanks, I think I’ll stay awhile.”

One can dream. Big.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Romance Writers of America Sizzle in San Francisco

In need of a hormone rush other than my own mis-wired ones, I hop on BART and head to the San Francisco Marriott. I can’t imagine a *hotter* place to be than the Marriott’s lobby or to loiter at the bar bombarded by romance, sex and temptation.

No, the Marriott isn’t the hot spot for singles in the City. This week it’s better. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) are celebrating their 28th annual conference at the downtown hotel July 30 – August 2.

As an author, I discovered sometime back that romance writers put the define in fun. Especially at conferences. Every workshop is a moment to market, to tease and showcase the playful personalities of the word crafters who tempt, taunt and tantalize the reader page after page. Not to mention the cover art.

One step into the lobby and a palatable energy embraces me and I exhale slowly. With my meno-no-longer-in-pause, I greet the first woman with a conference tag and introduce myself. From Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland to Texas warm handshakes and friendly hellos tell me I’m in the right place. Hundred of attendees fill the lobby. I feel the heat. I search my purse for a paper to fan the flush.

More than the need for a sensual ride and peer connection, I’m here to support the Readers for Life program. Over 400 authors are on hand to autograph books, pose for photos, and promote literacy programs. The books donated by the various publishers are as varied in romance genre as the creators. With proceeds going to charity, I’m ready to open my pocket.

Entering the large conference room, I’m overwhelmed with the number of tables, countless authors, and animated chatter equal to a 6.7 quake on the Richter scale. Immediately, I recognize fellow authors: Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. More so, I wander up and down the landscape of tables and note names unknown to my book shelf.

Intrigued by the title, Kiss Her Goodbye, I pick up a novel by Robert Gregory Browne. Not only does his warm personality capture my attention, I’m drawn in by the first sentence and I’m sold. A native Californian like me, I snap his picture. A rare find.

Up and down the aisles of authors I wander. Listed alphabetically I’m lost in this new frontier of romance that reaches beyond the lust and sex of the past. Book after book, the works are rich in prose, plot and characters.

After ninety minutes, I arrive at XYZ neighborhood. Breathless, I need a rest and notice author Connie Brockway, idle at her table.

I glance at her book, Skinny Dipping, and say, “You must write humor.”

Her sparkling smile and vivacious personality answer the question before her words. I kneel by her table and for the next few moments we chat, author to author.

Up to a little Skinny Dipping, I add my dollars to the charitable event. We hug for a photo spot of like-souls – humor people are like that – exit with a smile and I return to my ABC exploration. Dont' we look happy in our photo opp?

No question, author Lisa Gardner, is a definite on my hit-list and Hide tops the pile.

Marketing trinkets of Hershey kisses, bookmarks, magnets and lavender heart-shaped lights highlight the displays. Author Kira Sinclair promotes “Sinfully, Sensual Romance” with sugared-vanilla bubble bath and the offer to “Relax with a Steamy Read!” I note the bottle is just the right size for two. Smart girl. I accept her offer, talk awhile and promise to do my best but I’m not sure how one relaxes while reading a steamy read. Have to get back with you on that.

I hurry to catch the E-list but the two-hour event ends before I cross the HIJK border. And Barry Eisler’s so cute. Damn.

In line Leena Hyat, Author Sound Relations, treats me to an Arnott’s TimTam, a “must” chocolate for romance writers and I’m good to go the distance to the cashier. No question, I’m refueled in more ways than one.

Soon, I’m back in the lobby. The liveliness in the room intensifies and shows no sign of quieting. Friends old and new relax in the lounge and bar area, Cosmos and bottles of red wine the common choice for the respite before the next day’s workshops. Conversations are over-the-back-fence casual and genuine.

Outside, the fog creeps through the streets. I board BART and decide to read Kiss Her Goodbye. A hard cookie to crack, I’m hooked from the first page and immersed in the adventure. I almost miss my train station. Robert Gregory Browne is a rare find.

Back home, I check the RWA conference for next year in Washington DC and read membership guidelines. Curled on the bed, I flip through No More Bobs and consult the cast, “So what do you think guys? Romantic comedy and a flight to DC?”

Monday, June 30, 2008

New Orleans welcomes the National Society of Newspaper Columnists

June. My calendar marked and my bags packed, I’m off to the 32nd annual National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference. From the west coast, east coast and in between, newspaper columnists travel across the nation and gather at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. The theme: New Orleans, we haven’t forgotten…

We spend considerable time immersed in Katrina info as shared by many columnists in post-conference columns and blogs. For three days, we renew friendships, listen to Katrina stories of devastation and reconstruction, and taste the fabulous food of New Orleans.

Friday night we work up an appetite as we parade through the French Quarter tagged the Columnists Comb and Kazoo Band. With beads, kazoo and party umbrella, Jenn and Stu Bykofsky, the Philadelphia Daily News, and I pose for a photo opp. Better get us now. It's the only time we stand still. Second-line behind the Storyville Stompers, columnists two-step, side-step and step-on-toes to the Aquarium of the Americas. Adjacent the Mississippi backdrop, we dine and listen to a first-hand witness to the loss and rebirth of the aquarium.

Laughs in order and somewhat needed the columnists kickback in the hospitality suite for camaraderie, nightcaps and Zapp’s spicy Cajun Crawtators.

Boozed out, plump as a piggy and sleep deprived, Sunday I wander with the locals and home-grown and discover that smiles still go on.

Along the St. Charles line, Tamara Mellon waits tables at O’Henry’s Food and Spirits. A young mother of two sons, Tamara, wears the smile of optimism. Residents of Slidell, a hard hit zone of the flood waters, Tamara and her husband John lost their two businesses, sustained major damage to their home but not their spirit.

I’m not sure what the secret ingredients for crawdads, mudbugs and sweet potato fries may be but I suspect the bright, cheerful persona of Tamara has something to do with the extraordinary flavor. Her gracious personality and spunk energizes the afternoon.

Early that evening I join columnists Anita Hanaburgh, the Leader Herald, and LJ Anderson, the Palo Alto Daily News, at the Café Giovanni, for encore Opinionated Vodka Stiletto martinis, the conference official drink.

After several nights dodging Frat Boys, venders and baring a little skin on Bourbon Street for beads - yes, I was tossed one string - a trek to the outskirts of the French Quarter tempts my curiosity. Armed with the names of the best jazz venues and restaurants this side of the quarter we cross the Esplanade for Girl’s Night Out. Destination Frenchmen Street, New Orleans.

Along Frenchmen Street, the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, The Marigny Brasserie and the Santa Fe Mex-tex restaurant extend southern hospitality: chilled margaritas, watermelon mojitos and crispy shrimp. The atmosphere jazzed and gentle; foreign to the hype and colorful people of Bourbon Street, the welcome mat is huge.

One particular funky rustic building, the Spotted Cat, begs us to enter. Above the entry a windsock shaped like a white cat with black spots dances in the early evening breeze. An open-door policy with patrons along the walk and chatting on the street, we accept the invisible invite. Cash only, $4 beer, one drink minimum per set.

Just a columnist’s kind of place.

At the bar rail, I order a Bud Lite and note the balloons, birthday cake and lone sugar cookie with green frosting. It’s someone’s special day.

In a loose white shirt with a black crown with green, purple and gold jewels and a smile as wide as the Mississippi, it was easy to spot the birthday king. Al Carnival Time Johnson. A forty-year icon of Mardi Gras, Al wrote the unofficial song of Mardi Gras “Carnival Time”. Born in the Ninth Ward, the native son lost his home with the high waters of Katrina. With the help of fundraisers and friends, Al’s destination is Musician’s Village.

A birthday tradition, we dig into our pockets, pull out dollar bills and pin George onto Al’s shirt. Soon, he’s joined by Abraham and even a Grant or two. Happy 69th birthday Al.

I watch Diane, the woman next to me move with the rhythm; massaging each note with harmony - somewhat envious of the easy release into the moment. As the saxophonist tops a high note, she accents the shrill sound with the sway of her shoulders and a tap of her foot. Lost in the music.

Still ahead of my alcohol, I’m not ready to lose my California reserve. Yet.

From guys on motorcycles to a woman aided by a walker, exuberant, spirited and poignant, to the woman dancing on the bar, they party. Against the far wall three slot machines yet no players. On stage the jazz revs up and the crowd takes to the miniscule dance area.

Another swig of beer and square of birthday cake, I find myself on my feet, swinging with the beat. Outside the revelers dance under the spotted cat and I realize I could quickly become one with the cat, sashaying my tail and meowing into the early hours.

But the midnight hour nears and like Cinderella at the ballroom we cross back into the French Quarter and transform again into tourists.

At the Café du Monde, we pose for pictures and tip generously. As we sip café au lait and the powdered sugar drifts from the beignets like fairy dust I glance again towards the forbidden boundary and whisper into the balmy night, “I’ll be back.”