The EraserMate Life

Watching the television, I saw an ad for a GelMate pen, and it made me remember, something from my childhood, the excitement of new ball point pen. You might have experienced it, you are a child of 10, and you have been writing in pencil for the most of your life because you didn’t want to be caught not being able to spell correctly, or doing your math problems, you’d make a mistake and didn’t want to have to find the WhiteOut or cross out, and fix the problem. And then, BAM! You life changes when they PaperMate introduced the EraserMate. Mine was such a shade of blue, not too bright, not too dark. It was the perfect blue and black accents to match my Batman childhood disguise. The best part, erasing ink! I loved that pen for the greater part of my childhood. I must have taken it apart a god-zillion amount of times, fingered the spring, took off the cap, unscrewed the barrel, parked it in my mouth like a cigarette to look winsome while thinking of things to write.
Pens in my life are something of a history. My first love was my grandfather’s multicolor pen. Clicking and unclicking, trying to decide which color to use, what to write, where to write it. It was like being part of royalty to have a pen like that. And the few times I was allowed to use it, made me think twice about wasting the green or red ink. They were too special to waste on doodling or nonsense. These were reserved for great observations of a young child, or Christmas lists or the drawing of toys I wanted to present to my grandparents as a subtle sales hint; robot, calculator, pocket radio, remote race car. Black and blue were saved for prose. Immediately, I hated blue, it was so common! Bic was big back then. Cheap and plentiful. But I wanted something special to match me. From then on I would seek out to write in black ink, like a real writer, or so I imagined.
But then the EraserMate came along. Blue ink. How could I love this pen so much? I could erase my poor spelling, a concession would need to be made. There was something so innocent about those days, that I missed, seeing the GelMate commercial. I used to be excited about a new pen. I used to find wonder in the world unveiling itself in front of me. My world then was of school, friends, home, and parents, not of hate and disenfranchisement. Feeling older, worrying about money, and health and the world, I want that childhood wonder and my EraserMate back.

Pants on Fire

I was at a late lunch at a restaurant with Kim this weekend. We were enjoying our time together, as of late she’s been able to go out shopping, walk around, and was getting back to normal after her two knee replacements. So as I said, just got our non-alcoholic drinks when this woman walks up to us, whom I recognize from the car parked next to us, even if she had her head buried in her cell phone, texting.

“I just want you to know you damaged my car when you carelessly got out and hit my passenger door.”

I knew she was lying, but I wasn’t she was not going to be challenged in her advanced state of anger. I am more than compensating so as not to get out of my car “carelessly.” I go out of the way not to bump other cars, it’s the way I was raised. Living in apartment complexes most of my adult life, I’m old enough to know not to damage anyone else’s vehicle, lest ye be damaged as well.

Well, I disagreed. Her voice was so sure that I was the only culprit of this dastardly deed.  She acted like how could I ever live with myself or even enjoy food from now on knowing that I was a cold blooded door damager.  After some more of me denying and her trying to convince me I suggested we walk out to our cars and assess this great injustice that has befallen her. I had insurance and was willing to swap information if there was something I was involved in.

Well, we walk out, and she points out a small dent with a scratch on front top of the front passenger door on her white Nissan Altima, on a diagonal from her mirror, no more than a quarter inch, that was already oxidizing. If we were in some tropical salt air climate instead of a cool day in Pennsylvania in February, she might have had some credence. But for it to oxidize so soon, unless heat was involved, it wasn’t going to happen within fifteen minutes from leaving the scene. Her vitriol was so strong, again, I wasn’t going to challenge her with effects of chemical composition to given the dry, cool air and time for something like this to happen.  It was so high on her car door, I was almost sure there was no way for my car to do it.

I opened my car door, and bam. The hard rubber molding that runs down the middle side of the car like a bumper first hit her car door, much lower than her scratch and about two to three inches short of this proposed  wound. The top and bottom corners of the door were nowhere in proximity to the scar. Physically, unless there was a black line running down her car door where the bumper would have rubbed off, and about an inch of car door also sawed off, there was no way for me to have done this damage.

“There is no way it could have happened. Look.  The bumper would have stopped it.”

She was not happy with this set of facts presented to her, and the Goth pixie-haired woman stomped away without a word.

I stood alone in the parking lot wondering what her motives in this were?  Such a tiny scratch and dent, hardly even something to look at.  It might even have been caused by a rock kicked up from the road it was so small. Why would she go through all the trouble of tracking me down when she had to know I didn’t do it?

Time to Sack Up

I haven’t been on here lately. I’ve been busy and really didn’t have anything to talk about.  Not true. Last year with the presidential campaign, you couldn’t say anything without pissing off someone. I’ve held my tongue and will keep holding it. I’m sure you aren’t interested in listening to what I think. That’s just one of the things that we will just have to keep to ourselves. Politics brings out the worst in people because everyone believes and is right on some level.

The election was swift retribution for either party. Whether the Russians were involved in some fashion is moot when more than half of electorate didn’t show up to decide who was going to hold the highest office. Why would two major parties pick candidates whom most of the country hated?  I’m sure historians will explain this in the future.

I’ve been working on Girl, Friend. It’s a fun little romp that needs a lot of work, but as of today, I’ve finished the third draft for printing. I’m hoping to pick it up for reading later at the Mifflin Writers Group.

Mariline came back from the editor. There is something so grounding as getting a piece of work back from your editor. As much as I worked on it, they found a lot that needs to be added, changed, edited, etc. I always think I’ve written the perfect book and when I get it back, it has twenty or so plot holes and all 400 pages of line edits. I can’t even imagine sending it to an agent. They would throw it in a pile with the rest of the crap. But I’ve resigned myself that some day I will write the perfect novel, maybe not this year, but I have a whole ton of years left to realize my dream of being a widely published author. I’ve tried being the hare, now I need to work on being the tortoise.

Happy New Year!

EJ

I’m Not Good Enough

Despairing businessman with his head down resting on his arms on his desk as he contemplates the hopelessness of his position

How many times in your life have you said these words?  I hear it all the time with writers, “I’m not good enough to write a novel/short story/poem/book/screenplay/etc.” Many writers have this fear. Everyone has had this fear. If you read bios of Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, some of their greatest classics would have never made to the publisher if they fell to this distortion of themselves.  There is the classic story of Steven King, after going through so many drafts of Carrie, throwing the manuscript into the trash, only to be rescued by his wife. Not good enough. I’m not saying writing is easy, it’s not, even for the most masterful. There will be times when you will want to throw things, goof off, check your Facebook status, but one thing you can’t do is quit.

I’m reminded of a time when I really wanted to learn how to play piano out of high school. I struggled for years. I didn’t have money for lessons, but I got myself a keyboard.  I knew chords from playing my grandfather’s electric organ, I thought how hard could it be. Playing chords is easy. Keeping the baseline with my left hand was like learning brain surgery. I practiced and started making up songs when I could play. A chance evening of boredom had me watching an infomercial on playing piano changed my life. I sat back down the next day, and things changed. I picked up playing rhythm guitar after.  I played for many years, afraid to go anywhere and afraid to play with anyone. I wrote songs. I wrote a musical. I tried my hand at just about everything except playing in front of people or with others. Cut to age 36. I started a band. Was I good enough? I was about to find out. The first person I interviewed was a lead guitarist, Ron.  Ron was much older than me and he had been playing in bars since he was thirteen and lied about his age. I picked up a lot of what he did, just by watching, hearing. We played together for some years as others in the band dropped out or moved on. I had a ball. Was I good enough? I got the greatest compliment from him when he said I wasn’t, “that bad.”  I tried. I learned. I was good enough.

The moral of the story is if you don’t try, you will never know. What if you had said that as a child learning to walk? We’ve all witnessed children learning to walk and know their first steps are tenuous at best. With repetition, we learn to walk. Learning to talk is the same way. It’s when we interact with others we begin our fears. That’s when we create our doubts that we are, “not good enough.” What is your definition of good enough?  New York Times best seller good enough?  Article in the New Yorker good enough? How about you’re worthy of your own praise good enough? Isn’t that what we are all looking for?

If you write, you are already good enough. You just have to have some faith in yourself, learn all you can, and don’t stop. Someday you will realize that you’ve always been good enough.

The Life of a Writer

black coffee and a book

The life of a writer is all about the glitz and glamour of the ‘life.’  We all have limos take us to our book signings just as you would imagine.  We all have private jets to take us to Cabo or Bermuda at a whim. Paris and London are just waiting for us to find out about our next book, with bated breath. Paparazzi are clamoring about our personal lives, with photographers waiting to take photos of us at lunch or dinner with the great directors, seasoned actors or Hollywood producers.  My wait staff does my laundry and takes care of my mansion. I don’t spend much time there, I’m always on the go. You would wonder how I have time to write all my books, I’m releasing twelve this year. It a tough life, but someone has to do it. I too was once a simple dime store self-published novelist, only years ago…

5:20 AM. I was laying in bed for two hours after waking from a dream about a kid telling jokes. I tossed and turned until I had to get up for my job, system engineering at a hospital.  I start at 7, but by the time I shower, shave, dress, feed the cat and kiss my girlfriend, I’m on the road at 6:15.

6:30 AM I’m standing in line in the cafeteria, at the hospital. My eyes still haven’t adjusted to the neon lights above and I’ve asked, “The usual.” Yes, I respond and head for coffee. Just the smell has started to wake my brain cells, but the time I return to the line I’ve had several sips and the partial hangover from last nights time “out with the boys” is slipping away. Amen.  I get my western omelet and English muffin (the same thing I’ve eaten for breakfast for the last 13 years here) gets covered in garlic powder and oregano before I pay.  I cover the top with ketchup in a smiley face. The two halves of the English muffin become the eyes.

6:45 AM I’m at my desk stuffing my face and drinking coffee like there is no tomorrow. I’m reading through my Facebook page for things I can post to Online Community Writers and Mifflin Writers Group. Hey, were all writers and we all deserve the chance to succeed. And when I’m famous and rich, I’ll still give back.  I check my email, delete spam. Nothing important to respond to, and I feel truly inferior. I’m planning to work over lunch on my novel, but I don’t even have a clue what I’m going to write about.  This is the scariest of times. Usually, I have some direction, at this point and am chomping at the bit for some free time to write. I’m blank.

7:00 AM – 11:00 AM. I spend time at my day job. I can’t tell you about it without killing you. It’s all HIPAA stuff and I don’t want to go to jail for giving up some protected information. I’ll just say that I’m good, and they are perfect.

11:00 AM I grab lunch as I could down the minutes till I’m planning to write. I create a salad at the cafeteria’s bar, all kinds of greens, carrots, black beans, black olives, a little cheese, croutons, and cranberries.  A scoop of Santa Fe Chicken Salad completes the meal.  Oh, and balsamic vinaigrette.   I pay and head to my desk, finish some work before the bewitching hour.

12:00 I open my draft of Mariline. It’s a good draft and I start reading. I still don’t know where I’m going with it. It’s not singing to me and I’m worried. I put on Radio Mozart and I let his melodies sink in. I’m adding something here and there and suddenly it’s

1:00 PM Make a backup copy of my script. I’m happy I was able to continue, but there is still so much to go. Back to work.

3:00 PM My co-workers and I break for coffee and talk about the things that are bugging us or what new in the cinema.  It’s a refreshing moment to take pause and see the duck that has decided to nest between the buildings on our way to the café.

4:00 PM I’m in my car and I’m heading home. Traffic isn’t too bad. I’m worrying as I speed down the entrance ramp, but I’ve timed it just right, I’m on and heading east.  The windows are down, and the wind is blowing what little of my hair around. 

4:15 PM I’ve gotten the mail and came home to my loving girlfriend. I want to kiss her but with all that coffee my ass will kiss the toilet seat before I kiss her.  I make up for that after I get out of my tie and into comfortable clothes.

5:00 PM Kim and I have been discussing our day and now we are deciding on food or TV.  Television wins out and the ten or so Investigation Discovery Network shows left on the DVR.  Blood, death and murder keep us occupied. I’m pulling out a bottle of Vodka and making a martini while still listening to the announcer talk about more blood, death, and murder.

6:00 PM I heat up some Smart Choice food and make a little side salad, still catching up on those murder shows. 

7:30 PM After all that death, I kiss Kim goodnight, and I go into the bedroom and read for a hour. The book in riveting and I’m really enjoying it. 

8:30 PM I fill my CPAP machine. Kiss Kim goodnight and I try to fall asleep. Audrey, my cat, decides that I’m the perfect shoulder to lay on and sniffs my ear and licks my face. Against her best efforts, I’m out cold.

2:00 AM I realize that Kim is in bed with me as I hear her groan about Audrey jumping across her pillow to get to me. Audrey sticks her bony feet it my arm and side as she settles again on my shoulder. Now she’s licking around my ear, trying, I guess to clean up the hairline around it. I’m trying to fall back asleep but there is something gnawing at me about my book. 

4:00 AM There is a scene that keeps going over and over in my mind.  I have to remember it for tomorrow when I’m working on the book draft.

5:00 AM I fall asleep.

5:30 AM DAMN!  I overslept!

That was the life of this writer not too long ago.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Not Knowing

Top view of young businessman making decision

In this, the few hours before the Christmas holiday, every website is giving their list of things you aren’t supposed to know, in lieu of real information:

  • 10 Facts about the Holiday season
  • 8 Things You Never Knew about “Elf on the Shelf.”
  • 11 Ways to Flu-Proof Your Home
  • 10 Of The Most Bizarre Animal Species Discovered in 2015
  • 10 Dishes to Make For Christmas Morning Breakfast

I love it! There are so many articles out there.  I want to learn everything and knowing that Donna Reed’s daughter wasn’t named after Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life (she’s named after her grandmother) will really help me in life if I ever get on Jeopardy.  What more to you need to know about Elf on the Shelf that isn’t already in the title?  Can anybody really Flu-Proof you home if you have kids in child care?  I think not. Even if you are running after them with Clorox wipes for everything they touch.

Some of these facts doesn’t even make sense.  10 Dishes to Make For Christmas Morning Breakfast?  If coffee is not one of them, then fuck you!  Coffee is a dish in my house and it is best served hot.  How many animal species can you remember?  All of the new ones look like the old ones, except there is a new name for them.  10 Facts about the Holiday season?  I’m going to be in my underwear watching It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas Eve while my girlfriend is asleep on the couch.  That is a fact!  All of my Christmas Cards will arrive after Christmas (because I haven’t started them, actually I’m waiting for other people to send theirs so I can copy their return address.) That is a fact!  Oh, Martha has a new cat that’s been added to her card, how nice!  I’m sure Fluffy will be heart broken if I forgot her name.

Ok, enough of the bitching.  Here is my list of things you didn’t know about not knowing:

  1. I was going to write this. This is a given. Someone was about to and I beat them to the punch. He’s a suggestion, write about knowing about not knowing.  I knew that I didn’t know I was not knowing.
  2. This is where the writer tries to surprise you can keep you reading.  75% of people surveyed didn’t know that they didn’t know and thought that they knew. Now you are impressed.  There was a survey.
  3. This one is usually one that you kind of remember.  Some of the people on the Earth are women and some others are men. Way obvious! Even my cat figured that out.
  4. Now it’s blatantly obvious. This is an satirical article. If you didn’t get that, start back at the beginning.
  5. Blah blah blah.  No one reads the last one anyway.

Well, now you know what you didn’t know about not knowing.  If there are any questions, please put them in very small type and email it to yourself.

Happy Holidays!

YIKES!

Studio stock image of miniture toy cars smashed up royalty free

I haven’t been on this website in such a long time. I tell you I’m all screwed up since the office was rained on by a 2 ½ inch water main break. So it’s lunch and I’m usually editing Mariline. I decide not to, check out my blog site and it says that the database is down. I check the system and I can see that I can get into it from SQL manager. WTF? I try to get to the login site and it gives me an error. I copy and paste the error into Google, and soon I have a solution- repair the database. It gives me another error that it can’t repair one table from the database. I freak! I have to restore from backup? I can feel the sweat exiting my pores as I try to think of options. I work in the computer field as a day job. I’ve had 120GB databases to restore at 4 AM after a repair didn’t fix and the backup failed to load. I can to this! I try one more time with fingers crossed. The web site loaded. RELIEF! I run updates and everything is back on line.

How long has it been down? How couldn’t I know?

Back To School

Children at school classroom
Children at school classroom

One of the most traumatic days in my life was going to the first day of school. I would work my way into a frenzy, unable to sleep the night before. I’d be so amped up by the time it was to leave I’d be hyperventilating with a paper bag over my lips. My mother took us clothes shopping as the lead up to the day. I’d review my choices, looking over the “new” school clothes and wondering which outfit would make me look cooler. Because I was fat (and still am for that matter) back then there were only two colors for fat people, brown and green. I don’t know why that was. Every season, the same colors were trudged out as if large people couldn’t be colorful. As soon as I was able to get out of the green/brown hell that was my childhood, I wore red and blue like as much as I could. Then there were the jeans; Levy’s were the standard. Their commercials flooded the television and if you weren’t in them, well, you were a loser. It was difficult to look cool in Robuck’s (jeans from Sears), but they were new, and it had the possibility. The hope for me was that the oversized belt I chose would occlude the label from view enough for kids to know me, and not my clothesware. Kids can be so mean at the drop of a dandruff flake. Looking back I don’t see any less uneasiness as an adult, but I’ve worked at it.

Upon arriving, you would instantly know the class bully. He was the kid who had your friend in a headlock trying to get his lunch money. Somehow the teachers would be looking away, as if on cue, like the rest of the class, trying not to become involved in the incident or become the brunt of the next misdemeanor.  Then, there was the pretty girl, who pretended she didn’t know she was beautiful, but there were all these boys around her like drones in a honey colony. She was over made up to look like a contestant in a beauty pageant (or she fell into her mother’s makeup case and forgot to wash).   She would parade herself and her court wherever she’d go. The only thing missing was the trumpeters to announce her arrival.

Friends were very few and far between for me and I understood why. Trying to navigate the popular waters is a difficult time. You don’t want to be seen with the unpopular folks, cause that could cause negative repercussions. Being the pariah is not fun, but being just outside of the circle looking in at the clique you were part of is even worse. At least as a pariah you know you are going alone. Being a once-upon-a-time part of a group looking in seems even more pathetic.

I was neither popular nor part of a clique. I ran an independent campaign. There were some friends that I’ve kept in touch with since my early days of education. I value their friendships.   I cheer for their successes and am saddened for their losses. If anyone would have told me I’d have Facebook to know when my classmates are getting their colonoscopies, well I wouldn’t have joined. But it great to see all of their children’s smiling faces as they ready for their time at school. I hope their parents haven’t told them all they did when they were a kid, but I’d love to tell them.

Forks

Close up view of a kitchen table fork isolated on a white background.
Close up view of a kitchen table fork isolated on a white background.

The place where I work is a large institution. We have three different cafeterias, in which you can have everything from a sub sandwich to rotisserie chicken to pizza straight out of the oven. It’s a state of the art facility with many unique procedures that have patients driving for hours to get here. In my department, we stay up with the latest and the greatest technologies to support the folks above. We are, literally down in the basement with the facilities management and a morgue. And in this state of the art facility there is one epic fail. Forks!

At this time, you will say that we should be using metal utensils that are washed and sterilized to save the environment. And you would be correct, but as the majority of us, we use their plastic forks. Being here for 13 years, I’ve seen some changes. Once the forks were located in the same type bins as the metal counterparts, sometimes they were just in big old box, where anyone could reach in, touch, sneeze or other things to the other utensils prior to you getting one. Perhaps they thought that was too convenient for employees to get to. Perhaps they were losing money on forks. With the advent of the “new” cafeteria, we got new plastic utensil dispensers.  These monoliths are meant to dispense one utensil at a time, which is great for most people when it works within its operating parameters, but now, after a year, they’ve become worn. Beaten. Some of them now eject two or three fork utensils at a time.

Having two or three forks thrown at you is disturbing.  I think of that scene out of Carrie, when she uses her powers to hurl knife projectiles at her mom.   Most people, shocked, go into a trance and leave the secondary objects lie on the counter, never to be used. After all, who would pick up a fork or knife strewn a counter? Why was it left there? What bacteria has collected from sitting on that hard marble surface? Did it touch the floor? Why didn’t someone just throw it out? How do you know something didn’t just use the damn thing and miss the waste basket?

There are too many questions to ask.   Forks all over the place. It’s like going into a fork battle ground, like those pictures from the civil war with dead bodies all over. I think I should see Abraham Lincoln standing next to the ketchup dispenser reading his address with a solemn face, and top hat in hand to his heart.

These forks have givin’ their all and they must be recognized. Ejected before their time, they lie here as a reminder of once was. Every time we visit this place we should say a prayer, for the brave utensils that made the ultimate sacrifice. This is holy ground.

 

I can almost hear a cafeteria worker crying softly throughout his speech, as she cleans the counter tossing them gently into the waste bin and then reloading a magazine of forks into the dispenser. The magazine empties again and the cafeteria worker loads another. “Is there no God, here Sir?” she says deep in her chest. Sad eyes. Weakened arms as she loads another magazine, and then the forks are gone again. Cleaning the lost souls from the marble, and wiping down with lukewarm water and germicidal bleach solution with a disgusting cloth. Her shift over and she walks home. “We lost many, but it was their finest hour.”

Elevators

-- they are part of a modern building interior
— they are part of a modern building interior

There is one sure thing in life other than death and taxes, and it happens to be Newton third law of physics, in essence, what goes up, must come down. As one meme that I saw this force does not apply to toilet seats. This is definitely true, in the world of elevators, and why I’m concerned at the two that are at my work.

For the last month, they’ve been tagged as out of service at least once a week. Sometimes it has been several days they were out of service. Sure I could go down to another building and ride that one, which is older than FDR, and takes longer to traverse the five floors (4 plus a basement) than an old person with a walker, a pacemaker, and glasses thicker than a Coke bottle takes to cross a sidewalk.  I suppose the other option, God forbid, is to take the stairs, but you know with the advanced arthritis and stenosis in my spine, walking up or down a flight of stairs puts a lot of pressure on my numb feet. I know, WAH WAH!   I should just suck it up, but why should I have to! You are missing the POINT! The elevators!!!

So they’ve enjoyed plenty of services this month, and I’m concerned. I don’t know if you are as freakishly as claustrophobic as I am, but sometimes getting into an elevator I become aware that the walls are coming in. If I’m not wrapped up in some part of the novel I’m writing and don’t stand in the center of the cab, my mind starts to squeeze body into something from a horror movie. Most times I only have to travel one floor, but I’m feeling like Luke, Leia, and Han in the Empire’s trash compactor. I’ve never screamed. I’ve tried to remain dignified, but my mind is like being in Club 54 on acid, popping, flashing, and swirling around in a circle until we all fall down.

These new issues make a simple ride into another type of hell. I’m spinning the roulette and wondering if I’m going to be lucky ones when the elevator decides to stop working. Then the game begins. I can remember one time that I was in the elevator with my co-worker, heading to the second floor, when, the elevator shot to the Attic, I didn’t even know that the elevator has letters? Like a rocket we raced to the top, then we fell back to the ground floor, and then we shot back to the top again. The two of us glanced at each other’s faces, permanently with our jaws locked on the floor and our eyes turning back in our heads. At some point in this pogo stick ride, it stopped on our floor and we jumped out before it changed its mind. I walked cautiously down the stairs for the rest of the day and hid in my cubical hoping the elevator gremlins didn’t find me.

So here I’m sitting, wondering when these elevators will be back in service.   It’s not the wait, it’s more wondering what is causing them to be out of service.   Is it something simple like the a light went out on the button panel or they are needed for testing how long it takes to get from the bottom to the top, or some poor co-worker fell four stories in a free-fall and had to be pried off the floor of the cabin, and environmental services had to bio-hazard sterilize the interior.

Maybe I don’t want to know.