"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rodney and The Boys

short excerpt from Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen

I can't remember who gave me [Rodney’s] name but I think it was someone in the neighborhood, 'cause he lived just around the corner from me.

One day he sauntered down to my bed and breakfast and knocked on the door...When I open the door, he was slouching against the white wooden entrance way,  looking like a cross between one of Hell's Angels and a Hard Rock musician about to smash his guitar across someone's head. He assured me he knew all about putting up privacy fences. Despite outward appearances, Rodney was intriguing, especially to the writer in me.

After the many unfortunate experiences I’d had with local handymen and contractors, I refused to give him any money up front. No, we'd have to discuss the project thoroughly before that happened.  I asked for a written estimate of the total cost. That was fine with Rodney. He put together a small crew of seemly looking rednecks who rambled into my back yard and began putting up my fence.

The next morning, I walked out into my back yard and found Rodney planted on the deck in one of my plastic lawn chairs. He was barking orders to his crew, who were scattered all over the back yard, his tattooed arms waving back and forth. A blue and white bandanna was tied around his head keeping his long hair in place. Steaming ribbons of hot sweat were running down his suntanned forehead onto his neck, settling into and soaking the rim of his “Motorcycle Boys” T-shirt.  He looked at me through Aviator sun glasses, shielding his eyes from the strong morning sunlight with gnarly hands.

“Hi Babe” He gave me a wave as he turned his head in my direction.

The strong smell of marijuana nearly overwhelmed me so  I found a chair on the other side of the deck and joined him from afar.

“Hi, Rodney. How’s everything going?”

“Fine. The boys are doing great”

I glanced around the yard. The only thing I saw that looked like the beginnings of my lovely privacy fence were ten holes waiting for fence posts. There were five on either side of the yard.

“Rodney, what about along the back? I don’t see any holes there.”

Guzzling down a whole can of cola, he informed me that I had said nothing about the back of the fence.

“We don’t have enough slats for that part” he said.

“Well, we’ll just have to get some more, wont we? Rodney, why would I want a fence that only went three fourths around my yard? First of all, the dog could get out...”

“Lady, that was all you asked for.”

Now I was lady, instead of babe. A warning signal went off in my head.

“ Okay...Okay. But, Rodney, I’m going to need the fence to go all the way around the yard. Can you do that?”

“I suppose so, but we’ll have to wait until I can get some more money, to buy more slats,” he said.

Uh oh, here it comes.

“Don’t worry about that”, I said. “ I’ll just put it on my credit card. You and I can go to the lumber yard this afternoon.” That part, he didn’t like but he went along with it.

Since he only had a motor cycle, I told him I would pick him up at his home in a couple of hours. He was not out in front when I arrived, so I walked around back to where he said his apartment was and knocked. A black skull was carefully painted in the center of the door. Suddenly it opened. There stood Rodney with a can of beer in his hand beckoning me to come inside, his hulking frame completely filling the doorway. I stepped inside. The rancid smell of pot and alcohol immediately accosted me..

Dishes were piled in the sink and I could see that his bed, pushed against the far wall, hadn't been made in a while, if ever. Several guitars lay around the room and a double-barreled shotgun hung from the wall. There were books, magazines and newspapers everywhere and a black leather jacket with nail heads thrown across the faded flowers of the sofa. A large pair of blue jeans lay in a circle on the floor where someone had stepped out of them and just left them there. The TV was playing General Hospital in the corner as loud rock music blasted from a small plastic radio.

“Sorry, Rodney, but I just remembered I have someone checking in in a couple of hours, so we have to get this thing done fast. I’ll just wait in the car”

My heart was pounding as I turned, headed straight for my car, and jumped into the front seat. Taking a deep breath, I leaned my head back against the car seat and tried to relax. Just then, his back door slammed shut and he stumbled out from between the bushes at the side of the house. He staggered slightly and made his way down the path and around to the passenger side of my car.

We made it to the lumber yard and bought some extra slats. It was only after we got back home that I noticed the difference. The slats Rodney bought were rougher and had a lot more knot holes than the ones I picked out .They were obviously inferior and cheaper. But by that time I didn’t care. I just wanted to get the damn thing done...

That evening, the crew left after sticking the posts in the holes, leaving thick gravelly cement oozing out from all sides. I knew it wasn’t going to be the best fence in the world, but it was all that I could afford.......

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How I became a food snob: An excerpt from a memoir in progress

...My mother did a lot of canning. If you walked down the basement stairs into the cool, dark concrete, you would immediately encounter giant cocoons of cheese cloth hanging from the ceiling. Underneath each one was a pail into which thick, purple, syrupy stuff dripped for hours. The  smells of plum, grape, and blueberry mingled and hung in the air like a sugary veil. She would make the most delicious jams and jellies from the sweetly sour stuff. I can still taste that special  flavor on my tongue making my mouth water like I’d just eaten a fresh lemon.

  Sometimes the smells changed to the more pungent aroma of vinegar and tomatoes or the sweet comforting fragrance of fall apples as they boiled in huge metal pots on the stove daddy had moved down stairs and planted against the far wall. Shelves lined the wall across from it, a repository for rows of canning jars filled with jams, jellies, beans, corn, and beets all in a row. I can taste the delicious chili sauce and apple sauce.

 During the war, we had an huge Victory garden with everything imaginable growing in it, including canta­loupe and watermelon. In the summer, my sister and I would gather lapfuls of plump, ripe tomatoes and sit in the cool green grass with a salt shaker eating and laughing. We also had a peach and a plum-tree. It was then that I first developed a love of fresh fruits and vegetables ripened in the summer sun.

Although I had been a “food snob” most of my life, staying a purest was next to impossible when we became really busy at the Inn. I just didn’t have time to make everything from scratch, or to can and make fresh bread and granola.

Some of the other Innkeepers had started using mixes, pre­cooked bacon and even precooked omelets. I couldn’t bring myself to do the omelet thing, but I did try a few mixes and started using precooked bacon. I held out to the end on whipped cream from scratch and home-made granola, but eventually gave in. One of our signature dishes is a Quiche that started out as a simple spinach Quiche, but we kept adding more to it and tweaking it so it would taste better. Now it has herbs, spices, and sauted onions and mushroom and is abso­lutely wonderful. My guests tell me it’s one of the best Quiches they’ve ever tasted..........

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Repost: Good advice for beginning fiction writers from someone who writes non-fiction

I do not write fiction, but that doesn't mean that I don't use many fiction techniques in my non-fiction writing. Fiction writing fascinates me. I have even tried it a time or two but I have to say I find it very tedious...all that character development and dialogue...It's just takes too much time and effort, like sculpting a statue or like my She Writes on-line author friend, Meg Waite Clayton, puts it, "...like......making a jigsaw puzzle."

No. I'll stick with non-fiction. I prefer writing journal articles... in and out fast. Maybe do a little research...but that's easy with the internet, Amazon, and the library. And personal essays...writing about something you know and/or feel. For me, that's easy and satisfying, but making up stuff? What a chore. You might think I have no imagination but that's not the case. I can write fairly decent poetry, paint or draw a vase of flowers in the style of Picasso, write and perform an original song, and turn out a pretty good evening meal from left-overs. But I just don't enjoy making up stories.

I like to tell stories, stories about people and events that really happened. And so, when it came time for me to try my hand a larger piece of writing, I decided upon a memoir instead of a novel. Writing a memoir has been a joy. My main goal was not to get published, although I've deviated from that decision since I started writing it a year and a half ago. I'm still not sure which way to go, traditional or self-publishing. Maybe I'll format it for Kindle.

And by the way, the advice on writing fiction I mentioned in the title of this post, a title not geared to the memorist, can be found in the following straight forward, useful and well written article.

Don't Write What You Know by Brett Anthony Johnston: An essay on Fiction written for The Atlantic

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