Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No More Turkeys

Beware of turkeys bearing turkeys


"Somebody answer the phone!" I lug the twenty-two pound turkey into the kitchen, plop it on the breadboard and drop my keys. The phone screams a fourth ring.

"Hi, this is Ned," a husky voice greets me.

"Hi, Ned," my arms ache from carrying in the bulky groceries. I hunch my shoulders to release the tension.

"My company gave me a turkey and if you're, you know, not... "I pause and listen. "I thought I could bring it over and we could have Thanksgiving together." I peek at the frozen tom headless on the chopping board.

"Sure Ned that would be great." I fake enthusiasm.

"I make killer mashed potatoes and gravy." Oh, my stomach remembers - potatoes loaded with sour cream, shredded cheese, whole milk and "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter".

I reach to the cupboard and scout out the Maalox supply.

"How about one o'clock then Thanksgiving Day?" The trap is set. "And Neddy's coming, too. Is that all right?"

"Sure." What's another kid I concede. "Pumpkin pie, okay?"

I turn back to the groceries and make mental rearrangements in my mind for a couple more people on Thanksgiving Day. I grab bags of cranberries and toss them into the refrigerator.

"Buy out the store?" Krista checks through the brown paper packages on the kitchen table. She snatches an orange and jabs a fingernail into the peel. "While you were out Kyle, your hiking pal, stopped by with a turkey. Something about 'he got it at work and thought we might like to have it'."

"A turkey?" 

"I put it in the freezer." Orange peels drop and the fragrant juice lotions her fingers.

I open the freezer door and a twelve-pound turkey wrapped in white plastic fills the left corner. I shove packages to the rear.

"I think he was sort of hoping we'd invite him to Thanksgiving dinner." She rummages through groceries and stacks cans on the table.

"Hmm? Ned and his son are coming." I finger count the guests - two plus four. That's six at the table. I count chairs - six.

"Not Neddy, Mom!" She pops a finger down her throat and gags.

"Stop that." Memory tells me the kid turns my stomach, too. "It's Thanksgiving and nobody should be alone. Besides they're bringing a turkey also."

"But what's that on the breadboard?" The card-special-turkey for $5.99 glistens with frost. "Isn't that a turkey?"

"Afraid so." I tap my finger on the counter, open the freezer door and say, "Move over Tom. Here comes your bud."

"That makes three turkeys." Krista shakes her head. "We're going to be eating turkey sandwiches forever."

"And don't forget the soup." We laugh and remember we hate turkey sandwiches. "I guess I better call Kyle. We'll squeeze him in somewhere."

The days grow long, the shadows play over the sidewalk and Thanksgiving Day arrives. I check the television guide for the Thanksgiving parade time and NFL football. Pumpkin pies cool on the counter, the broccoli casserole is mixed and ready to bake and the first batch of dishes is washed. I scrub and cook for hours.

My sons, Kent and Jake, put a leaf in the table, bring in the picnic table benches, arrange candles and the mood is set.

"Time to get Tom cooking." I say.

A seasoned pro better than the herb stuffing, I pull the knobs from the burners, lift the chrome face off the stove and turn on the oven. I grasp two bare wires, tap them to the metal griddle and hot- wire the oven. The old stove sparks; the gas ignites. I get down on all fours, lower the broiler door and bend my head sideways. I double check, the gas flame flickers - good. I slip the dismantled parts back in place and applaud my survival skills - a master makeshift repairman.

Kent watches the ritual and frowns, "Mom, you're going to blow us up someday."

I bake for hours in the kitchen, apron tied around waist, turkey stuffed and popped in the oven. The crippled stove struggles to maintain gas supply to all the burners and oven. I hear the slight poof on the gas line and adjust the temperature. Poof gone.

Ned and little Ned arrive arms full of goodies. Kyle turns on the football game - a Thanksgiving Day tradition.

"Mom, come quick!" Krista kneels on the sofa and watches through the mini-blinds.

"What's the problem?" I drop my rolling pin, brush flour against my face and run to the living room.

She separates a blind. I bend to peek. "There's a guy coming up the walk with a turkey in his hands."

"Not another one." We stare.

"And he's got a dog."

"You know who that is don't you?" I nudge her shoulder. "That's the single guy down the street. You know, what's his name with the immaculate yard and white fence."

"Ahh…look. It's just a puppy."

The door bell chimes and I answer. Guy and dog with turkey on doorstep, unfair strategy.

"Hi, I live down the street." He extends a firm grip and the dog wags its tail. "I won this turkey at the local department store and since I'm all alone I thought maybe you could…it's fresh." He pushes the lifeless flesh in my arms. "I brought champagne, too."

I stand plump with poultry.

"Boy, something sure smells good." He lingers on the doorstep. "Reminds me when I was a kid and our entire family…did I tell you I'm Italian?" His gaze drops to the ground. "Anyway, we had great get togethers before they all moved away." He pats the eager pup behind the ears. "Now it's just DaShiell and me."

I kneel down and stroke the flaps of skin on the toddler bloodhound. Front paws straddle my shoulders and a tongue tickles my chin. I turn to the man attached to the leash, "And you must be…"


I perch my hands on my hands and wait. There's got to be more. I wait for a pipe and sleuth coat to materialize. Nothing. I gaze at the scar etched along his temple; the rogue hair poking from his brow. Still, he offers no more.

"Well then, come on in Sam. The football game's just getting started."

He ties his partner in crime to the porch, steps in and kicks off his loafers. Clean socks, no exposed toes, good touch.

"Everyone, this is Sam. He's coming to dinner." Hands wave. Sons and male friends root and swear from the living room floor and couch.

"DaShiell. What kind of name is that for a dog?" I head to the kitchen, arms freezing with turkey, Krista at my heels.

"Babe bait, Mom."

"Ma, I think you better tone down your scent of a woman or something." Jake pokes his head around the corner. "We're running out of chairs."

"Like I said 'babe bait'." Krista scoots pies to the left window corner and I drop the bird on the counter. "Now we have four turkeys." she gasps.

"Krista," I pull her deep into the room of treats and roasting turkey and whisper, "Beware of turkeys bearing turkeys--especially single ones." I pour a tall glass of champagne and the bubbles pop under my nose.

Krista looks at the three men complete with kid and dog cheering the holiday game. "These guys think you're dessert, don't they?" eyes wide with discovery.

With a sigh I lean against the ceramic counter and swirl the gold liquid in the fluted glass. "It also means they're hungry and don't know how to cook."

"Say where's your friend Arlene today? Maybe she'd like to come over."

"Oh didn't I tell you? She stopped in for some cajun wings at the Chicken Palace last week and she met-"

"Not Denny?"

"Worse. She hooked up with Sly, the cook." I grab my chest and swoon against the counter, "She's 'in love'."


"Well at least for this week."

"What about Jodie?" She starts down my list of girl pals.

"Nah, she flew home to Iowa for the holidays." I count again the men in the front room. "Forget it, we're on our own kid."

Shouts and loud clapping travel from the front room. Score one for the favored team; score zero for Mom.

The kitchen phone rings and I tuck the headset against my shoulder. "Hello?"

Happy Thanksgiving." A melodic voice returns.

"Hi Maggie. I haven't heard from you in awhile. This is a surprise." I wink at Krista and motion for her to mash the sweet potatoes.

"Yeah, I know my Dad and I've been busy." The teen stumbles on her apology, "but we, I mean, I was wondering are you making your broccoli casserole today?"

I look through the glass window of the oven door. The casserole bubbles, the edges golden brown. "Where are you going for Thanksgiving dinner, Maggie?"

"I'm making dinner for my Dad and me," again a pause.

"And what are you making?" I hesitate to know.

"We haven't gone to the store yet." Her voice drops, "You know my Dad, 'there's always tomorrow'."

"You haven't gone shopping?" The hands on the clock extend well past 2:00pm. "Would you and your Dad like to join us for dinner?" I swing the cabinet door open and bring out two more place settings. "However, there's one catch."

"I can make a salad. I have a bag of lettuce." The girl pleads.

"Salad's wonderful," I shove my mix of greens back in the refrigerator. "Tell your Dad if he'd like to come to dinner he has to call me first. You know he hasn't called in over five months."

"He's such a putz." We laugh, hang up and seconds later...

"This is Bob. I was just calling to say hello."

"Bob? Oh, hello. This is a surprise." I feign excitement. I drag another bench along the linoleum and rearrange the table display. "I hear you're coming to dinner. Great. Would you mind stopping at the store for a pie?" I nudge Krista, smile and add, "Seems dessert is a popular item on the menu today."

"Sure…" the familiar click of an electronic goodbye.

"Men." Krista shakes her head. "Maybe we should disconnect the phone?"

"Nah, just check caller ID." We nod in agreement. "We won't answer anymore numbers from guys in want of a hot meal."

"Or dessert," she pops an olive in her mouth and laughs.

"Okay, so now we have ten for dinner." I pour another glass of champagne. "And we ain't even Italian."

"Well, at least Kent and Jake will be happy," Krista mocks Maggie's full bosom, "Little Ms. let-your-boobs-hang-out is coming over." 
Ah yes, teenage sons.
The smells of the day take over the house. Ned hauls in his potato offering, Kyle stirs gravy and Sam takes a bowl of water to DaShiell. We wait for Bob and Maggie to arrive.

The oven goes poof-poof-poof.

I check on the turkey. The legs stiff, not wiggling freely, I pop it back in for another twenty minutes. The football game continues.

We nibble on snacks and watch the fire dance in the fireplace. I walk outside and take an up and down peek along the street. No Bob and Maggie.

The hour hits four. We gather for dinner and give thanks. Sam carves the steaming bird empty of stuffing and everyone grabs a fork.

A solid knock on the front door interrupts the meal. Already knowing who is on the other side, I push back my chair and leave my napkin on the seat.

"Hi Maggie," I give the girl a hug, her breasts bare just above the nipple line. "We're just starting to eat. Come on in." I shoot Bob a 'how dare you' look. I swear it flies over his head and keeps going West.

"Happy Turkey Day," he hands me a mincemeat pie, boasts a bottle of Boone's Farm Fuzzy Navel and lands a three-second kiss on my lips.

"Here, let me uncork the wine for you." Kyle greets the newcomer with a corkscrew.

"No problem. I got it." With a quick twist Bob turns the bottle cap and pours the orange liquid into his glass. "Anybody?" He holds up the beverage.

We shuffle chairs and Bob plops down at the head of the table. Kyle, Sam and Ned frown.

"Mom?" Krista swirls her fork in her yams and leans shoulder to shoulder, "I think you have a problem." She glances at the three men.

I cut my turkey and whisper, "it's going to get better."

"Man, that was a great football game." Ned pours gravy over three of the nine items on his plate.

"Yeah, that last play was about the best I've seen in a long time." Kyle relives the final touchdown.

"I didn't think the wide receiver had a chance of catching that ball." Kent motions a long pass with a buttered roll.

"Foosball, foosball, foosball." Bob drones.

"You don't like football?" Sam plants the question and waits.

"What guy doesn't like football?" Ned scores a point. "Gosh, remember when Montana--"

I raise the bottle high and look to shift the conversation. "More wine?"

I watch the men and study the selection of guys-wanting-to-be-mine.

Ned toting double six-packs of blubber under what might be a taunt six-pack. Not a muscle in sight. Neddy flings a pea from his fork. The pea lands in Jake's hair.

No, not Ned or son.

Bob, lopsided beard, hole in pant's pocket, nice guy but always a day late. Single father of adolescent girl. Non-football fan.

No chance.

Kyle spoons a large mound of stuffing into his mouth. He lifts his wineglass for a fourth refill. His elbow slips from the table.

Sam sits across from me. The late afternoon sun highlights gray strands woven in his thick dark waves. The bulge of his biceps expands the thin cloth of his knit shirt as he passes the Jello salad.

Hmm? Man and dog.

Dinner disappears amid stifled and superficial conversation. We rub swollen stomachs and clear the table.

"That was delicious, " Ned cuddles me from behind and adds, "How about I take a look under the hood of your car. Isn't it pinging or something?" He squeezes my waist and moves in closer.

"That would be wonderful Ned. " I turn, my hands covered with soapsuds and pull back. "I do think it needs a tune-up." He gives me a peck, asks for the keys and heads for the driveway.

Krista dries a dish. "Where's he going?"

"He's going to where all guys go on Thanksgiving after the football games, after the dinner," I nod towards the front yard. "To work on cars. What else is left."

"Mom come take a look," again we peek out the blinds. "Bob's out there, too."

"Not Bob?" I lean back, sit on the couch and laugh tears to my cheek. "He hates working on cars."

"He must really want you Mom."

"Observe and learn daughter-of-mine." I pull open the door and hear Bob shop-talk spark plugs. Ned ups the ante with precise documentation of fuel-injection engines. Kyle contradicts the stats and the conversation escalates.

"This is funny." She stands next to me, looking at the male beast tote its feathers. "Even DaShiell's doing tricks." The puppy jumps sideways in the air and snags a rubber disc.

"And look over there," I point to the over-developed Maggie smiling sweetly at my sons. "She's got the boys right where she wants them." The boys wash and wax her silver Tercel.

'Men." Krista giggles and notes, "Looks like you've got four admirers."

"Yep," I curl my arm around her shoulder.

"They don't stand a chance, do they Mom?" She looks at the flock of men.

"They're great friends, but no," and then with another look, "Well, maybe Sam. Ugly dog. Still -" something about that duo intrigues.

She sports a thumbs-up on my choice.

"What else needs fixing around here?" She eyes the house and turns to me.

"Let's see -- the fence is falling down and the bathroom faucet drips." I chalk up all the repairs and start making a list. "And then there's the stove."

"I'll get the toolbox, Mom." Krista hurries out the backdoor and returns with a metal box.

"Oh Bob," I call from the porch, "Kyle? Do you have a minute?"

I turn to Krista and add, "Thanksgiving's a day to give thanks and remember one can have too many turkeys."

Copyright 2003 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm Not Broken

Reprinted in memory of Mom - July 9, 1920 - October 31, 2011 - who believed in more than a little...
"But what're you going to do? You need to get a regular job." I held the receiver away from my ear as Mom's voice spiked.
Mom, the original fix-her-upper I swallowed my thought.
“You’ve got to fit into the mold.”
“I’m not broken, just broke. Those are two different things." The conversation continued; a circle of unlike minds.
"You should be a secretary."
"Mom," I braced my feet on the floor and prepared for the rebuttal. "I’m not a cubicle kind of person.”
"You've got to work." The words stung.
"I do work. Writing’s a job and I like it." The argument unending, I listened for a few more stanzas of 'your life doesn't meet the norm'.
"You're not supposed to like your job. You need money. How are you going to pay your bills?"
I looked at the pile of envelopes marked 'past due', 'friendly notice', 'forget something'?
"They'll get paid, someday." I shoved the mound of envelopes to the floor. "Just believe in me a little."
“What about the kids?”
A single mom with two sons and a daughter, I was determined to stay at home and make my dual career of mom and provider work. Divorced or not, my kids needed a face to come home to after school and that face would be mine. 
"What about medical coverage?"
"Mom, I've got to go… "My voice trailed away as I put down the phone and whispered to the now silent one, "Quit trying to fix me."
I turned to my pile of work. A brochure needed updating, a manual transcribed, a database reorganized. Granted, not the creative writer I envisioned.  Merely a broom keeper for other people’s words on a page: a cleanup person following prescribed protocols. Meantime, a story churned in my head.
Settled in my chair, I watched the computer screen come to life, greeting me with a cornucopia of icons:  Yahoo, Nero and iTunes smiled an unspoken good morning. I welcomed the familiar images like gossip over a copy machine. The array of characters stared, tempting me to play. Enjoying the break from solitude, I jumped into the game, hit the Internet search key and entered the word – hello. 
Returns of hello in languages known and obscure popped up: Konnichi Wa, Goeie dag and Jou San. A collection of Hello Kitty items blanketed a bookshelf. A site simple in name, Hello by Esao Andrews, superb in design, captured my attention, and I paused to explore the creativity.
Intrigued, I sipped my coffee and noted. I had a friend named Hello.
"Anyone else like me out there?" My fingers clicked the letters in place.
A prompt begged "where do I want to go?"
"I want to find people like me. People who think beyond nine to five, stock options and 401 plans," a tear trickled down my cheek and I thumbed it away. "Someone who thinks it's okay for me to be me."
I hit the Internet connection and typed my question in the search box. The computer hunted and returned with an offer of a personal advice counselor. Nope. Got one of those.
I entered "Writers", hit search and waited again. I dipped a scone in my French Roast, nibbled the dry pastry and leaned, elbows on table, towards the computer. Stunned, I reeled in my chair. What's this?
Hundred of writers. Writers in coffeehouses, chat rooms, workshops, E-groups. I scrolled down the list and clicked into several web pages, discovering sites for grammar, publishers, and freelance jobs. Reaching out towards the screen, my fingertip touched the word writer. A slight current traveled up my arm and I lingered--a connection.
"May I join?" I posted my request, hit send and reclined back in my chair, holding onto the base, exhilarated.
A bright message popped on the screen. "Pull up a chair and stay awhile."
Thrilled, I settled in, posted work and waited anxiously for comments and peer validation. What’s this? I was labeled the queen of purple prose, descriptive repetition and head-hopping. I scrambled grammar and made my cyber classmates pull hair and scream down invisible corridors. Embarrassed, I withered in my seat in the back row of web sites. 
"You have tautology." The message in caps shouted.
"I have what?" I bent for the dictionary, flipped through the alphabet and gasped, "I have tautology."
Recognizing my rusty skills, I enrolled in online workshops, accepted the challenge to clean up my court of illuminating phrases, and forged forward. I learned my point-of-view, story structure and beginnings, middles and ends. Armed with knowledge, I grabbed a seat in the front row of URLs.
Still, I massacred commas and frustrated new friends with fragments and hanging participles. I nosed into a grammar site, polishing grade school skills with bone-headed exercises of independent and dependent clauses. I scribbled and wrote, getting characters out of my head. Confident, I stepped to the plate a player. With the best, I provided feedback, offered suggestions, and soon decided to enter a short piece in a contest.
I typed and created. I printed to proof, drew rivers of red lines on my paper and revised. I ran back to the computer - cut, paste, and delete my mantra. The deadline loomed. Echoes of 'write tight' kept me focused. The hours ticked down. Persistent, I formatted the manuscript, packaged the entry and chased down the mailman--my entry on the way.
The months passed and the list of winners arrived; my first rejection notice tumbled to the carpet. I performed a ceremonial dance to my success; my left hip crippled for days, I downed Tylenol cocktails.
"I'm in the game," I circulated a short note to my friends. "I got my first rejection notice."
Words of support, smiling faces and emoticons tagged the moment. The camaraderie system in place, I sent out a selection of short articles and soon a check arrived. I copied and enlarged the pay-to-the-order document and stopped at the store for a frame. Breathless, I hit "my E-groups" and shared the news. E-cards of congratulations and ‘great job’ poured in from Australia, Mississippi, and New York.
My mailbox burst with rejoicing. Unknown faces in unseen places--present in my heart, we had a party of many in my room of one.
Between congratulations the bedroom phone rang and I trekked down the hallway. I caught my breath as my feet followed.
"I was wondering how you're doing?" The scrape of mom's kitchen chair across the tile floor told me we were in for a long chat. “The ladies at church have been praying just for you.”
“Thanks,” I dropped to the bed and curled against a pillow. "I'm just having a party with some friends."
"That's wonderful. Did you get a new job?"
"I guess I did." I switched ears, the right one flattened by the headset.
"Does this one pay well?" A pause on the long-distance line followed.
"It pays pittance." I gazed at the framed check hanging crooked on the wall. "But it has great benefits."
"That's wonderful news. So you have medical insurance and vacation time?" The excitement in her voice told me I graduated off her prayer list.
Struggling for the answer, I said, "Well, not really."
"Then stock options and a good commute?" She searched for the mix of conventional benefits. "Nice boss?"
"The job comes with a terrific group of friends." On a roll, I continued, "I'm working with writers that think like me. Imagine that?" My adrenaline pumped.
"So you're still broke." I sensed a dip in her enthusiasm, my name back on her prayer list.
"Yes, I'm broke but I'm not broken." I jumped from the bed and affirmed, "I'm complete."
"I don't understand your world but if you're happy then so am I." Mom's unrelenting faith reached across the miles and wrapped around me.
Embraced in her words, I smiled and said, “Mom, I sold my first story.”
 ...she believed in me.
Copyright 2003

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes, Crab Cakes and Low Country Ghosts

Fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, collard greens, ghosts and thunder storms, a Low country Spring time vacation in Charleston, SC scores big. 
Meeting Street

Jestine’s Kitchen,  down-home fried green tomatoes, Hyman’s, hush-puppies and stuffed grouper, Sticky Fingers, simmering peach cobbler, The Swamp Fox, pure elegant dining to Palmetto Charleston beer,  chocolate-covered pecansSavannah Bee Sourwood honey, and Super-duper Extra triple-Strength cat nip for my feline souvenir, it’s a wonder I don’t waddle down the street.  
Southwest Oakland to Charleston, I land on a Monday afternoon on a connecting flight out of Houston. A simple, convenient transport by the Charleston Airport Shuttle not only is inexpensive it provides a scenic tour and comfortable chatter between my new-found travel mates. Price range $12.50/one-way shared ride; $30/one-way single passenger. A best travel tip. 
Not so fresh from the airport, I arrive at the Jasmine House Inn. Rated #10 of 49 Bed and Breakfast Inns in Charleston, it ranks high on my top five list.
Jasmine House Inn Courtyard

Nestled behind the main house, my room is in the carriage house. Carriage house number two. With a lace canopy bed, loveseat and rose-floral wallpaper, I step back into a slower time; a Southern Charm. The second-story room provides a door that opens to the veranda. In my pajamas, I savor my light breakfast – hot-biscuits, fresh fruit, cereal, orange juice and hot coffee – the menu varies daily. Just below in the courtyard, guests dine at the patio tables. A Cardinal perches on the veranda rail in wait of morning crumbs.
Vibrant colors dot the greenery, the humidity level is just under the sweat radar and the night-blooming jasmine perfumes the air. Twelve bites and counting the mosquitoes dine on the bare skin so insect repellant is a must in your side pocket.
Charleston is an awesome City. Deep in history, pride and personality. I feel guilty having Yankee-blood. I'm humbled as I step onto Fort Sumter and reel in the realities.
Tuesday, I’m off and running to my morning tour. The Magnolia Plantation. 24 people on a shuttle, I meet Jan and Dave from BeniciaCA – a mere 45 minute drive from my home – and I recall something about the six degrees of separation.
Magnolia Plantation

Relaxed, we arrive at the gorgeous plantation. With Allen, a ten-year veteran tour guide, we wander the gardens, explore the swamp and are escorted through the magnificent home. A peace wraps around your soul and for a moment you understand the tranquility that surpasses a top Billboard tune.
Much like visiting the home of Jack London, a writer feels the power of nature, and I want for the creative energy that sings in the birds, that whistles in the oaks and that powers the smallest alligator across the marsh to ignite my senses. I’m soaked in the unlimited possibilities of serenity in harmony.
A slower pace than California the early-afternoon settles in for Low country quiet time. Guests of the Jasmine House Inn sip on wine, sweet tea, lemonade and cheese, crackers, fresh fruit and pasta.
Nancy, Care and Me

An added perk, I meet two online writer friends. Care, a new friend from Massachusetts, and NancyBookfoolery and Babble, a longtime online friend.
For over ten years a voice in print but never a real-talk-time word between us, Nancy and I have a layered-friendship built on years of conversations, accomplishments, family triumphs and heartaches. For us, it isn't a social topping of "How are you?" and "What do you do?" Instead, it is an instant embrace and a step into gentle banter and a knowing rhythm.   
Girl’s Night Out, we brave the graveyard for our Ghost Tour. Thunder rumbles in the not-so-far distance as we listen to the Charleston tales of those that lie beneath our feet or not. We snap multiple photos of gravestone rows in hope of capturing an *orb* on print. No ghosts visit my lens but for Nancy, I’m open to what I saw on her shot and we’ll leave it at that.
Intrigued, I note the inscriptions on several headstones that beckon me. I revisit graveyards over the next few days and find some reach out with curled finger and say, “Me. Come visit with me.”
I snap a picture and answer, “I will.”
During my Walking tour with Ed Grimball – hi Benicia Jan and Dave again - we visit the Circular Church cemetery and over Ed’s shoulder yet another grave speaks out to me. I headstone wander later in the day until I find this spot again. General Mordecai Gist.
What’s with these restless souls?
General Mordecai Gist born February 22, 1742 – August 2, 1792 is a third cousin to President George Washington. An officer in the American Revolution, I’m humbled that he chose to sit with me for awhile. A warrior for independence, I’m not surprised his two sons were named States and Independent.
An Internet search quickly adds a photo to the name. Spirited. What do you know? Just proves you can’t keep a good man down; not even in death. 
My new haunts
I pull up another photo from my haunting. I’m face-to-face with the Reverend Reuben Post and his wife Harriott and daughter Frances. Post was not only the U.S. Senate Chaplain he was the pastor of Charleston’s Circular Church. In 1858, the Reverend died from an outbreak of yellow fever but his humor lives on. The three grave markers are chess pieces: the king, queen and the rook. Not exactly scriptural but he guaranteed a top spot on the tourist route for eternity. I think I would have liked the Reverend.  
In a City where ghosts are welcome as sweet tea in the afternoon a nudge or awareness is commonplace. I encounter my first ghost in my room. Either a playful or warped spirit, I awaken to the snap of my window blind. The yellow shade careens taunt to the top window edge. I fly to the window to see what's the matter and I'm trapped between The Night Before Christmas and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
I can see why a ghost would linger
 I tiptoe back to my canopy bed, curl under the cover and decide it is a playful ghost and wish it good night.
As I wait to cross Meeting St. two men idle in front of me. A wisp of a breeze picks up Old Spice cologne and I’m bathed in the scent. One whiff and I know. I’m not alone on the sidewalk. My dad alive in spirit is on vacation with me. Together, we cross the street: the two strangers, me and my personal ghost. I bid hello to the two men as I walk by and say, “I love Old Spice.” 
Every body stand up and crow

Beyond the Market, I discover priceless treasures. Braided horses and roosters.   
Blues and Barbecue Sunset Cruise

The Blues and Barbecue sunset cruise highlights the week. I love the harmonica player and Shrimp City SlimFiery Ron’s Home Team barbecue buffet and the serene sunset over the shoreline. Blues to perfection. Scrumptious macaroni and cheese. A ten for my favorite tour.
Ghosts of the four-legged variety

        Friday, I’m off to Poogan’s Porch for lunch for the best crab cakes, hot honey-buttered biscuits and Poogan’s Punch. No canine ghosts tickle my backbone. Not a wisp of a wagging tale against my leg. No matter. I have my own circle of newfound ghosts.
Yes, I'm really in Charleston

I wander the streets and walk every Southern calorie off and then some. It is a great way to end my stay in Charleston


Thursday, May 26, 2011

American Idol Thanks!

Season ten is now over. Congratulations Scotty and yes, Lauren, too.
Many thanks to everyone who joined in the weekly observations on the shrills, squeals and high notes. I appreciate all your wonderful comments and interaction.
Dial Idol is quiet. And of course, right on with the prediction. My own method of checking the most comments on iTunes, a pale comparison, but it marked the Scotty power trend. Surprisingly, Haley was a strong iTune contender. never faltered. Your charisma captured everyone's heart and your duet with Carrie, a pure gem.
Ah Casey. You were made for Jack Black. Oh so right. James, Jacob, Paul...thanks for all the moments.
Without my friends, I'd be watching alone and wondering if I think I heard what I did or not. East Coast, Midwest and the South, I enjoyed sharing our gentle banter and thoughts. You made each week special and fun.
Here's to a wonderful tenth season, celebrate the summer and let's do it all again for Season 11.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American Idol Yawner

American Idol Top Three proves to be a yawner.

I admit that I’m bored with American Idol. What promised to be the greatest range of talent, fizzled last night. Even after a beer to boost my excitement, the performers failed to light the stage on fire. Not even a kindle of polyester or spark from too much hairspray.

Of course, the annual judge manipulation played out last week with the torching of Haley followed by the standing O. James Durbin fell to the wicked judges’ curse of premature crowning of the title. He also had a double-whacking with the backlash of Haley voters rising to the manipulation. The judges cost James the final opportunity.

Casey, sadly, was the collateral damage of the southern tornadoes.

So that leaves us with three viable contestants: Scotty, Lauren and Haley.

A Kenny Roger song was the perfect choice for Scotty and he sang it well. However, owever, it lacked the intensity and conviction that Kenny bought to the stage. Time. Scotty just needs time to mature.

Frankly, I loved the Lauren from the audition clip. Relaxed, natural and fun. Come back, girl. We miss the down-to-earth southern flavor.

Haley is still a mystery. Her song choices baffle me and although talented perhaps not the next American Idol. Out of fairness I did give her a vote because her final song was cut out in the early stanza as once again American Idol overshot it’s time slot. Sorry Haley.

Here we are crossing into the final stretch and the momentum is gone. The personality and full-package contestants are gone. Suppose we’re so used to frugality that we forget to reach for the full menu.

My exit vote for tonight is pointless.

With the Haley tribe on the warpath, I say its hanky time. Sorry. Lauren.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

American Idol Top Five

Fired-up, prepared for battle, the top five American Idol contestants ignited the stage. Many pitch issues and shrill notes across the board but that comes when you step out of your comfort zone. Good job.

I'm not sure what they had for breakfast but they were energized with every man and woman for themselves. Jacob, James, Lauren, Scotty and Haley - the transformation into warriors is like the fierce playoffs to the Super Bowl.
The inner self is out and exposed. There's no going back to the safe-zone.
I might as well toss the five names into a hat and let them drop to the floor. I haven't a clue who will go home but here's my take:
James - You got a double-whammy of the judge curse. Jennifer and Randy. Like don't hex the man with a projected winner. Seasoned Idolers know how that works out. Exactly how it works out. James, pray quickly. You're still top on my list but you know, the, love, love the gentle soul.
Jacob - A crotch-touch. I saw it. Yes, I did! You manned up tonight and let it go with complete abandonment. This was the new face of Jacob. He's in it to win it.
Lauren - Little Carrie clone who exposed cleavage. I tell you, this is war. Work it, girl. Not thrilled with the second song but you opened your voice to a different range. Nice.
Scotty - I remember the meek Scotty looking for a group back in Hollywood. You've come a long way. Still, there's a cold wall. Perhaps of control. Perhaps of innocence. Maybe not enough life experience but the ice melted when you engaged with your grandmother. Embrace that feeling.
Haley - Getting in a rut. Love your talent. Excellent suggestion by Sheryl to let your voice stand alone and simmer.
Now to go vote. The big question is for who? This is an Idol first. They're all fantastic.
Okay, I decided. Say what? My call cannot go through. That's a positive sign. Finger-blister time. Oh no, my second choice went through right away. Not good. Oh no, it went through again.
Tradition as it is, my exit vote for tonight is Haley. And yours...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

American Idol Top Six

Fired-up, focused and fixated on a win.
Wow! What an evening. American Idol Top Six.
At this point, I measure more than the measure. I look for the song that burns within and percolates under the skin and erupts with complete abandonment and like a wildfire spreads into soul.
Yet..unlike the wildfire where wind and dry twigs play the flame on stage the performer controls the fuel. Stoked, smoked and simmered. Each note sparked and tight within the fire line; an escapee crosses over and for a moment the artist lets in linger and then reels it back.
James Taylor? Where was my Fire and Rain and Sweet Baby James? Oh yeah, not your night.
Cooling the heat, here is my take for tonight:
Jacob - Started shrill but then that fire erupted and your entire body felt the heat. Fantastic. Loved your duet with James. Natural, playful, carefree with nothing to lose but yourself in the moment. That may have saved you tonight.
Scotty - "You've Got a Friend" was the perfect choice. Love, love, love the song and for me, I think you pulled it up a notch and delivered a different aspect to your voice. I'm not sure you have the friends to keep you out of the bottom two. There's still a feeling of disconnect. Take a taste of James' humility. It goes down quite well after the first swallow.
Lauren - Pure southern joy. Start clearing the mantel for your future Grammy. On second thought, buy a showcase.
James - Awesome! Not only do you know how to sing you reach the audience and connect. There's a depth to your personality perhaps marred with scars, a knowing smile, a spirit rich in integrity that commands the stage. You are cloaked in humility and have a genuine caring for your fellow contestants. That is the mark of a man. You're still my number one for all the right reasons.
Casey - Completely different than James in style, voice and venue. In my top three, James has you beat on the human connection.
Haley - Who would have thought you'd still be here and in the top six. You've found your voice. Work it. Not sure I liked the song selection. With so many top Carole King songs why pick an obscure song?
My top three: Lauren, Casey and James
My exit vote: I'm so sorry but I'm afraid it is Jacob. And yours...

Hail to King Trump - Not

It's " We the People..." not "I the Donald."

Just my take...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

American Idol Top Seven

Seven is a lucky number but one is the luckiest of all.

Duct tape, a stolen kiss and more bleeps than from fans at a Raider Game. The family hour is tainted. And the tongue. Steven, Steven, Steven. Good thing my Dad is already in heaven or you'd be the death of him. Potty-mouth.

Disenchanted with the news that fallen contestant Pia will showcase Dancing With the Stars, I wonder why I vote. It appears a winner is already crowned. I don’t like the new rules and guidelines of Season Ten. And I sure don’t want a cross-over of the two shows – yet.

Let’s cross the finish line, folks.

What a week. Paul’s love life. Pia’s love life. Dudes, this is a singing competition. Right Randy?

Now to our Wednesday night special: Paul and the Fallen Beauties. Off-key, out-of-sync, out-of-place. No Steven. We remember quite well why we voted them adios.

Now to cast my vote to the 50+ million across the nation:

Scotty – Over-confident. Maybe there is room next to Paul. You’re swingin’ on a short rope. There’s more to life than a low note.

James – Solid five-star. New dimension to your voice, control and maturity. You’re a complete artist with more to come.

Haley – Mumbled words. Great for Adele not for Haley and the impossible high note. Love your raspy jazz.

Jacob – I disagree with judges. Imagine that. You touched my heart and really made me feel my mother’s pain after his death. Sing me Peabo Bryson. Just once…

Casey – Major contender, sly and versatile. Redheads rock!

Stefano – Yes, I saw it. I felt it. You looked into that camera, eyes wide open and ended on a high note. Very nice change to massage the lines and orchestrate the storyline. Good job.

Lauren – Good news. Rain in the forecast. Dance in the puddles, sing in the rain with complete abandonment and then bring it on home to the finish line. Only can do it.

My top three: Casey, James and Jacob.

My bottom three: Scotty, Haley and Stefano

My exit vote: Haley – for no particular reason except it’s time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

American Idol Top Eight

First, the Pia drama and the judges tears. At this point a great voice isn’t the key. It’s the yes-factor. Jennifer and Steven are rookie judges. Bring your hankies. It’s a tough job. Lesson learned; don’t crown a winner before the contest ends.

America got it right. Good voice, over-rated and over-praised by the judges, the connection was not there. To elevate Pia to the ranks of the best in the business diminished Pia as Pia. She is not Celine. She’s also a rookie. Call it as it is. She’s Pia with a road to pave.

Now to this week’s Movie Night.

Paul – I enjoy your voice when my eyes are closed. Probably good for the radio but the Woody moves distract. Get your marionette strings in order and use them to showcase. Go see Toy Story.

Lauren – You’re already on the other side. Climb higher, climb on.

Stefano – Yes, yes and yes! You have magnetism, charisma and animation. Finally, out of the shadow of the crowned Pia, you shine. Go for it!

Scotty – I disagree with Steven. Note, he never says a negative word. The vocals were off and I’m sorry, you can’t take on George Strait. Only accentuated your immaturity and weaknesses. Go sip a taste of humility.

Casey – Jazz-King. I’m so glad to witness your birth and know you’ll be around for a long time. Can’t wait to hear you ripen into your fullness. Awesome.

Haley – Shake it up. Too much like prior performances. Didn’t like much.

Jacob – Lay me down, brother, lay me down. I’ll be there for you.

James – Heavy man, heavy. Not my thing but you did your thing well.

My top five for this week: Casey, James, Jacob, Lauren and Stefano

My exit vote goes to Paul. And yours…

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

American Idol Top Nine

Let me quit rocking and start the talking…I think I lost a pound dancing on the ceiling. Oh wait; it’s not Lionel Richie night. My brain is pooped trying to figure out if I’ve ever seen the rain on a sunny day?

Ten years and it just gets better. By far, this is the best season. How does one choose? At this point, it becomes more than voice. Attitude, body movements, stage presence, and most importantly, would I attend a concert? When I close my eyes can I feel the music?

Tonight’s take -

Jacob – Terrific vocals and tamed a bit. Not sure the * doing the nasty* comment was a good choice. I rather like the *nasty*.

Haley – Moving in the right direction. You are in your element with your raspy growl.

Casey – Love the attitude adjustment and the willingness to learn, listen and deliver. Still a big contender.

Lauren – Oh girl, you are a woman and in my circle of top five.

James – Pure honest emotion. Always look forward to your moment. Looking forward to the Steven Tyler and James Durbin performance at the finale.

Scotty – Wow the girls, win the boys. Maturity beyond seventeen. You have it all for tonight. Another circle goes to the Southern flavor.

Pia – Grates. No, no, not great. Grate.

Stefano – Somehow the Broadway persona is back. Not a bad thing but maybe not an American Idol winner. I’ll miss you.

Paul – Oh man, can we wind you up and watch you go again? Consider your name circled.

For tonight my top five: Casey, James, Scotty, Lauren and Paul

My exit vote: Stefano or Pia

And yours….

Monday, April 4, 2011

Come Together Columnist and Blogger

Okay, you attended the February 2011 SF Writers Conference and you’re packing for the BlogWorld Expo. Over and over you hear the message: network, network and network. You exchange business cards and rub shoulders with career-building individuals. Names are scribbled on napkins and tucked inside shirt pockets. Perhaps you even laugh over cocktails with a Board Member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and you just know you’re in the right place.

Now’s the time to reach into that arsenal, revisit the connection and network.

Often a Columnist and Blogger work alone. Some days the cubicle isn’t enough and the need to share with like-minds is crucial. We want a sense of community and camaraderie; we search for individuals who think like us; we gain strength when we come together.

Why not join a professional organization designed just for someone like you?

NSNC Membership Board Member and freelance columnist, Cynthia Borris, encourages you to explore the benefits associated with the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. While the annual membership fee is low the perks are high. Beyond the tee-shirt, free promotion for books is just one of the benefits.

Cynthia finds it doesn’t matter if you write for the New York Times, Chicago Sun or on one-ply toilet tissue for a backwoods weekly, you’re all NSNC family.

Yes, we understand. Newspapers are a dying field. That’s why it’s important to move forward into a new tomorrow. Recapture your audience, redefine your journalistic career and embrace a new media. Offline and online. Columnist and Blogger. Together.

Ignite with the spark of like-minds: Dave Barry, Bruce Cameron, Steve Lopez, Stu Bykofsky, Heloise, SF Bay Area columnists Cameron Sullivan, L.J. Anderson and more.

Join fellow members in Detroit as we Rebound in Motown. Share your new releases and special columns. Learn how to rebound and regain your voice. Bask in the Hospitality Suite.

Cynthia welcomes your questions:

Cynthia Borris is the author of No More Bobs, a frequent Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor and freelance columnist. A seasoned volunteer for the SF Writers Conference, she invites you to visit her site for The Wicked Sense of Humor Sampler.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

American Idol Top 11 Again

Well according to the judges, it was an amazing evening. Not sure I agree with the verbiage but there were outstanding notes and praise to mask the shrill ones.

My take for the night:

Scotty – Down in the basement notes excel. Attic has leaks in the roof. Needs work.

Naima – An original and quirky. Same thing, new tune old sound.

Paul – Love the softer side and control. Enhances and rocketed you to a new level.

Pia – Perhaps a dose of Casey humility is in order. Still not a buyer. Something’s missing. Not inching up the staircase.

Stefano – So glad to see you step away from the Broadway theatrics and move out of your element. Great job!

Lauren – Are you Carrie Underwood’s little sister? Grammy sound good? Like Hockey?

James – Still chartered for the winner. Confident, steps it up, humor. Commands the stage. You got it all.

Jacob – Redefines soulful. He’s so full of soul and emotion; he’s spent at the end of a performance. You reeled it in and tamed the drama.

Casey – Redheads rock! Redemption equals humility. You wear it perfectly and wrapped it around our heart. Good call on the haircut and a shave. Framed your face, added maturity to accent the humility. You’ll be back just not the unruly curls.

Thia – Daniel’s traveling tonight on a plane but he’s not alone. Thia’s at his side waving goodbye.

Haley – Lost in the moment. Can’t ask for more.

My exit votes go to:

Thia and Namia. And yours…

Thursday, March 24, 2011

American Idol 11

After a long day, I settled in for an energized night of Motown tunes. With my note pad ready, I jotted down eleven numbers and waited for the hour to unfold. Like any good scorekeeper, I have a rhythm to my markings.

Number followed by name:

  • Check mark for a vote.
  • Line through name means contestant is scratched for the night. No vote.
  • Circled name is high on the list and gets multiple votes.

At the end of the show last night, I studied my chart. Little to no markings. Not a single scratch. That’s good. Or not. Six checks and one circle. Not a single wow moment.

Maybe it was me. Maybe it was the singers. Maybe it just wasn’t a stellar night. I didn’t get in the groove, mood or anywhere in between.

I chalked this theme week to ho-hum and based my decision on which singer would I pay to see. Who captured my visual senses and moved me along the stage and beyond?

My take on an evening that didn’t make the cut:

Casey – again you delivered the goods. Soulful vibes ignite from the tips of your toes to the untamed curl in your beard. Excellent.

Thia – Heat Wave. Perhaps in a few years when you know the heat, but this wasn’t the right choice. A young soul with an old song. Too theatrical.

Lauren - a fresh air of youth

Jacob – my one circle and side note: All The Way! Each word was caressed, massaged and in control. Can I package this man and take him home?

Stefano – You selected one of my favorite songs. Can’t believe you’ve never heard it before? Hello is rich with emotion. Slow it down on the retake and send Lionel Richie a bottle of Scotch. Or better yet your Mama with dinner. Study your tape, slow-mo, rewind and get out of your box.

Haley – You go girl! Redemption. A song performed with complete abandonment and hunger.

Scotty – Not sure of your comfort level beyond the basement note. The South will rise and vote but not the West Coast. Take it up and work it.

Pia – Humility will enhance your performance.

Paul – Still pitchy but who cares. The voice of Rod Stewart with the charisma of Kenny Loggins. The guitar is a great partner. Now swivel like Rod and bring it deeper.

Naima – Spirited, entertaining, joyful but ditch the dance.

James – What can I say to my Santa Cruz guy? You capture the audience and every week step up the delivery. It’s going to be awesome to watch you, Jacob and Casey spar towards the finale.

Based on the singer I’d pay to see or not, my exit vote for tonight is: