Came for the class, stayed for the camp

DNA tests revealed that 67% of my ancestral heritage is British, in fact some from the York area. You can imagine how delighted I was, how fascinated I was, in the PBS series Downton Abbey, and how I am anticipating the upcoming Downton Abbey movie.
Oh, the marvelous Edwardian era, with the excruciating upper class manners and the working class down-to-earth sensibilities; the elegant clothes and the convoluted mores; those gorgeous accents and the stunning Highclere Castle! The love triangles, the fully realized characters, the interactions of the talented cast! The sumptuous sets, the eye for detail in every scene!
What’s not for an Anglophile to love!
Shameless Confession time: I channel surfed this morning looking for “Downton Abbey” reruns on PBS and came across the SyFy channel’s offering of the Sharknado binge-a-thon. Having already experienced “Megatron” Saturday morning in all its hokey glory, I had to watch “Sharknado”. And “Sharknado 2: The Second One”. Am currently watching “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No”. After that there’s “Sharknado 4:The 4th Awakens”, “Sharknado 5: Global Warning”, and “Last Sharknado: About Time”. (No kidding, that is the title.) I just want to thank Ian Ziering for coming up with the all-time goofiest, foofiest batch of mindless entertaining cinematic TimeKill EVER.
That’s essentially the timeline of my life: Aim for Downton Abbey, end up with Sharknado movies, where a character can get all his limbs bitten off and STILL manage to be a hero with his chin, and a barmaid can casually pilot a fighter jet via casual lessons rather than military training.
Final thought: Last night I saw another camptastic Ian Ziering hoot, “Zombie Tidal Wave” about, yes, zombies arriving in tidal waves. Don’t judge me. Pass the popcorn.
And don’t look at me like that, Lord Grantham. Your daughter Lady Mary is the biggest shark of the Noble Class and you know it.
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0615191734_HDRFrom time to time I run across the question, “What is your favorite time of year?” and I automatically reply, “Summer.” It’s not just that summer is a comfortable time for me, as I have a hard time dealing with cold weather. It’s not just because when I was a child, summer was an extended respite from school and a teacher I feared and hated (although that is probably what comes in second.)

No, it is a specific time in my life that evokes tender emotions like few other things in life. The very word “Summer” harkens back to days when I was a child, when we lived in the country and the lazy hazy days drifted into each other like floating branches on a lake. Summer evokes those bright days when the trees were heavy with leaves and the thick warm breeze brought a welcome cool relief to the skin. Each summer day lasted four days’ worth of time to a child of seven. May barely had any school-free days left in it, and August bore white-hot temperatures and the looming threat of school, but June and July bore the best of times for me.

In the early morning hours when dew was still fresh on the grass, the house was usually empty when I awoke. The family was often out in the garden, a fenced-off sloping span of soil where Papa and Mama planted what they hoped would be enough to feed their six offspring. My older sisters and brother would be out helping weed or pluck bugs from plants, or water with the improvised watering sprinkler Papa fashioned from a coffee can. If I outgrew my shoes by summer my choices were to go barefoot or wear the hell-spawn rubber devices of torment known as flip-flops. Oh god I hated flip-flops. The skin between my toes never toughened up to bear the abrasion of the little rubber piece that held the sole to the top straps. Going barefoot meant getting my feet damp or stepping on the inevitable goats-head stickers, neither of which was a comfortable option. If I was lucky Mama might get some cheap tennis shoes at the Dollar General, and I wore those things out going hither and yon.

As the youngest (and unplanned bonus child) I served as family mascot, just another mouth to feed and as the recipient of my older sisters’ teasing. They were close enough in age to neither need nor want to play with me very much, and there weren’t enough Barbies, Midges or rag dolls to go around anyway. Mama and Papa were busy with the worry of how to feed and clothe us all, and playing was the last thing on their minds. Sometimes my youngest older sister Buddy would play with me, because I made up stories and characters – something I had done since I was three – and Buddy liked to hear the stories and would ask questions about the adventures. She sometimes joined in with my stories, but her characters were a lot like her – stubborn, kind of bossy and blunt. Most of the time she let me tell the tales. When she joined the other sisters I was alone again, and I learned to cope.

I found my own playmate within myself that I called Michael. Michael was of course my constant companion, my inner conscience who was much braver, bolder and resourceful than I. Whenever I was puzzled by things that made no sense to me, I called on Michael to help figure it out (“why wasn’t I born a boy, why do I have to be a girl?” — “I’m the boy you are inside. You can be both.”) when I was scared (“I can’t go over there, there’s a wasp nest up on the rafter and I’m scared”- – “Just stay calm. I’ll guide you. It will be all right.”) When I had to settle something in my mind, I talked things over with my inner Michael. Michael kept me from getting lonely, and helped keep my temper in check because the last thing a kid needs to do, is piss off his/her older sisters with a cheeky remark. Michael reassured me during the many times I wondered about Death and what happens when people die, and what’s this God thing all about? Michael helped me explore the human condition (“Why are we poor; did we do something wrong or do people just make up stories about rich people so poor people can have something to look forward to?” — “We didn’t do anything wrong. We’re light-blood Indians; that’s just the way it is for us. Rich people are real but some don’t know anything. People born on third base always think they won the game because they’ve never had to bat.”)

The constant whirr of cicadas was the White Noise of my childhood summers, and I immediately associate the sound with the pleasures of warm weather play. The whirr promised a harvest of spent cicada exoskeletons clinging to the rough bark of the surrounding trees. In our Oklahoma countryside cicadas were everywhere. I gathered buckets upon buckets of locust husks so I could make up stories about the Great Locust Army battles: the shed skins of the creatures looked like otherworldly beings that faced off on my dirt yard battlefield. I picked out the largest skins to act as generals, and they clashed in epic battles. Oh the carnage; oh the gallantry of the exoskeleton ranks as they marched forth to victory or defeat!

The hot afternoons meant occasional trips to Sand Creek behind our house. None of us knew how to swim, which was fine because Sand Creek didn’t have enough water to swim in, and the hotter the summer the lesser the amount of water in it. We could wade with the best, though, and we wandered up and down the creek from up where the neighboring farm strung a fence across the creek, to down where the creek ran under the blacktop through a culvert. I was not allowed to go to the creek alone, and my sisters weren’t supposed to take me any further than the fence or blacktop. They explored all over the acreages on their own (never letting Mama or Papa know, of course!) but as long as I was in tow, they obeyed the Rule.

When I think of it now, I’m astonished that we were never bitten by snakes. My sisters were careful to check out the deeper spots in the creek to make sure there were no water moccasins or copperheads or rattlers, but Papa had prepared them for life in the country. Running across a snake would have been more of an adventure to them. (“What will I do if I see a snake, Michael?” — “Run like hell; I’m going to.”)

We had no running water, so the cold fresh well water brought up from eighty feet below ground was a constant task for everyone – everyone but me. I was never allowed to do the things my sisters did, and they occasionally expressed their displeasure that I never had to do chores. I wanted to, but I was a painfully thin child and Mama was afraid I would get tangled up in the well rope, or the heavy tube of water would pull me off my feet and I would plummet head first down the well shaft. My sisters agreed that yes, that sounded like something The Kid would do, so they didn’t complain about my lack of water fetching. I was not asked to do the dishes or sweep the four rooms of the house, either. It was enough of a task for Mama to keep my sisters from fussing with each other every day over who did the dishes the day before; she did not want to include a fifth voice to the chorus of complaints. As a result, I never really learned how to clean a house.

(I still find it highly amusing that my ex-husband thought every female knew how to keep house, as if the ownership of a uterus also granted the natural instinct to sweep, mop, cook and sew. He found the one girl in his life who had no inclination whatsoever to want to learn, either, and in his ignorance and baseless assumption, married me since he thought I would. He grumbled and complained that I was a lousy housewife. “Well, I didn’t marry a house,” I told him. “I married you, and apparently that’s punishment enough for both of us.” Michael and I had successfully melded by then.)

Summer evenings were hot and sticky, where even the refreshing splash in the creek earlier in the day, did not help. My memories of this time of day are filled with the recall of card tables sitting outside on the lawn, where my parents and sister Buddy and maybe visiting aunts or uncles would play card games or dominoes. We might have just had a fine dinner of fried chickens and light-as-air sweet rolls, washed down with Lipton’s tea in colorful aluminum tumblers. Ginny and Lela would get some good melons from our landlord’s garden. He didn’t mind, he invited us to get some. A few watermelons from a 20-acre melon patch did not make even the slightest of dents in his harvest. The family cut open the melons and ate the sweet juicy red flesh, and partook of the nightly Melon Seed-Spitting Contest across the backyard. The domino pieces clicked during the sometimes rowdy games, and sister Annie might get out her guitar and play to the deepening twilight. I sat back in awe as the nightly light show of lightening bugs appeared, their little tail lights winking and blinking to our amusement. We caught them in glass jars with holes poked in the lids, adding water and berries and leaves to feed them. Someone usually let them go free after a while; no one wanted to kill a beautiful lightening bug.

Then as the stars came out, Annie got out her star charts and we all went out into the 40-acre field in front of our house to look at the sky. In those days, moonless nights were pitch black – there was no light pollution from neighboring towns as there is now. The Milky Way Galaxy stretched across our heavens like the marvelous display that it is, and we identified constellations and planets to our hearts’ delight. Whippor-wills emitted their mournful cries, and we hushed our voices so we could hear them. To this day I long to hear the whippoor-will call. They are shy birds and, like the Milky Way, are elusive in the increasingly populated countryside.

Some nights we slept on cots out in the yard, when the house was too hot for the open windows to bring in enough night breeze to make us comfortable. If the mosquitoes were thick my sisters tossed sheets over themselves to ward off the pests, which sort of made the whole night-breeze business rather moot. (“What’s the point in sleeping outside for the breeze if you can’t feel it through the sheet, Michael?” — “I don’t know. Your sisters are inexplicable.”)

Summer was berry-picking; summer was using the fleshy side of our hands to make roadways in the sand so our plastic horse figures would have a place to stand. Summer was biting into sun-warmed red tomatoes fresh from the vine. Summer was running through the 40-acre field on the lookout for the landlord’s cows as they lumbered by. Summer was climbing the stacks of hay bales in the barn. Summer was pouring out the chicken feed in patterns on the ground so the chickens would spell out words as they ate.

Summer was boldly colored flowers at Honor Heights Park in Muskogee. Summer was long hot trips to Muskogee to visit sour-faced aunts who did not like me, or to visit happy laughing aunts who did like me. Summer was visits from Uncle Tommy, our most favorite of all relatives, and going to visit Uncle Orville who had twinkling blue eyes and the kindest smile and laugh in the whole world.

Summer was noodling for catfish in the river under the watchful eye of our Papa. Summer was hanging out clothes to quickly dry in the hot breeze. Summer was catching grasshoppers and playing with Papa’s hunting dogs. Summer was finding abandoned kittens in boxes on the side of the road and nursing them back to health. Summer was effortlessly tanning as brown as a stone, unaware that white people worked hard at achieving this goal.

Summer was going shopping for clothes and shoes in August; summer was knowing as the youngest there would be no clothes handed down to me that ever fit properly, and going to the Dollar General store was an absolute must for us all.  Summer was the yearly shearing of my hair to keep me cool all season, only to have hair that was not quite long enough to pull into a ponytail by fall and thus having a Bushmaster Hairdo upon return to school.

Summer was listening to the Top 40 on the radio and learning all the British Invasion songs by heart. Summer was listening to my sisters harmonize, and then laugh at themselves when they hit all the right notes and sounded good. They had too much modesty to boast on their abilities, but they all had/have fine voices.

Summer was the exhilaration of the sudden fierce winds of a summer storm, the terrifying sickly green tint of a tornado cloud, and the heavenly smell of rain-soaked earth after the storm passed. Yes, yes that’s it.

Summer was heaven on earth.


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The Hallucination of Days Gone By

used 2 b my playground (2)If there’s one assumption I dislike, it’s the assumption of many from my Boomer Generation that ours was the best, most wonderful childhood time of all, when we enjoyed so many things that today’s generation does not.

You’ve seen the memes; there’s often a photo of some kid swinging in a swing or walking down the road with a ball glove hanging off the bat the child has leaning against his shoulder or some equally Opie from Mayberry image, accompanied by a long-winded whine about how great childhood was back in the late 50’s through the early 70’s. The text claims a halcyon youth of going outside to play and not coming home until dinner/ Mama called us/ the streetlights came on; of riding bikes all over town or playing with other kids without parents around; of going swimming in the lake or local pond with pals; of drinking water out of the family garden hose; of Mom whuppin’ our tails if we misbehaved; of chanting our belief in Country and the Christian God in the same pledge; of whimsically catching lightning bugs in a jar, of the joy of playground equipment that is now removed as unsafe; of getting up a game of sandlot ball – that sort of thing. The text usually ends with the complaint that kids today spend too much time on cellphones, or are rude and don’t appreciate what they have. (The fact that the people writing these complaints also spend an inordinate amount of time on cellphones, escapes them.)

I’m here to tell you, the good old days weren’t as good as the hype and it’s false to claim they were. They were pretty good, I’ll grant you, but they were ripe with challenges and problems too. There were just as many perverts out there preying on unprotected children as there are now, and lo and behold, a large percentage of these perverts turned out to be family members. This sort of thing wasn’t as widely-realized then as it is now. We’ve developed the culture of neighbors snitching on parents who let their kids out of sight for more ten minutes, because the media and social platforms took the ugly truth from family whispers behind closed doors to public awareness. We’ve gone from the injustice of institutional racial segregation to white people calling 911 to report the offense of people of color – gasp! – for simply existing in the caller’s presence. The perception of “the good old days” is seldom seen that way through the eyes of people of color.

People who grew up getting slivers of wood and subsequent infections from old merry-go-rounds later passed laws to replace the wooden models with metal ones. Little kids used to beg big kids to push the merry-go-round faster, only to be flung off it like water from a centrifuge. Eventually the metal ones were removed because kids were getting second degree burns in the summertime on them. Kids got their fingers pinched in swing set chains, or swung so high that if they weren’t careful they’d pop out of the seat like a champagne cork or tip the whole swingset over – some Boomer kids did it on purpose for the thrill of it. Parents didn’t want their kids to get their arms broken or their heads concussed or their bodies paralyzed, so the equipment was removed or replaced with things that required parental aid. Little kids could swing safely but tweens and teens often have no equipment their size to use. Even when they do have something their size, today’s grow-up-quick society chooses to mock kids who want to play like kids. The Boomers had a sizable childhood but their children are pressured into becoming mini-adults too soon.

Pick-up games of sandlot baseball or half-court basketball were replaced by parents who wanted more structure for their children, “fairness” and to prevent bullying. The parents remember the camaraderie of team play and passing their free time with sports, but they also remember the humiliation of not getting picked for a team, or the pain of getting picked on by the neighborhood tough, and all the fistfights between opposing teams who disputed a play. While these things are looked upon now as “things that toughened us up” the circumstances were changed so life wouldn’t be quite so tough for progeny.

Catching lightning bugs fell out of favor as ecological awareness coaxed parents to decry the cruelty of sealing bugs in jars to die because the Boomer generation didn’t always poke air holes in the lids. Economic development of the Boomer generation made habitats less and less available and it’s hard for the average kid to find bugs in their neighborhoods anymore. Fishing dried up when ponds were filled in so developers could build housing and strip malls and roads. Empty pastures were turned into subdivisions. Kids today can’t play freely because the Boomer generation continued to develop every square foot of open space for commercial use.

Sure, we drank water out of the garden hose when we were kids – but then mold and bacteria made parents realize garden hoses were gross as hell. Rather than make the child walk inside the house to the sink, the kids were encouraged to use bottled water the parents bought. The plastic bottles are a bane to the environment but convenient for families to simply discard used bottles than bother with going inside to drink water from a reusable glass that must be washed. By all means, let’s champion convenience over practicality, and perish forbid responsible housekeeping. But using the sink for drinking water is impractical or even dangerous in several municipalities now – just ask the people of Flint, Michigan. Boomers in office do not see the need for keeping drinking water safe if they prefer to respond to financial graft from corporate entities with irresponsible ecological practices.

Our parents may have ‘given us a whipping’ when we misbehaved and our teachers had a stronger say in classroom discipline, but one person’s idea of just punishment is not everyone’s. There are so many instances of beatings and starving and abuse by “whippings” the argument for corporal punishment is dangerous for children in the crosshairs of an unstable parent or teacher. Teachers were able to give grades according to the quality of the work until the Boomer Generation decided children should not experience negativity and took away teacher authority in the classroom. Boomers opted for teachers to crank out acceptable standardized test scores rather than teach children personal responsibility, how to reason and think independently, and that failing a task is not the end of the world and can even be a motivation for improvement.

Taking God out of the classroom did not ruin school discipline. God is still in the classroom and children have always been free to believe in whatever they choose, whatever denomination or religion or non-religion they wish. If parents can’t be bothered to teach their religious beliefs at home, then there is no reason to expect the school to expend school time to do so. Public schools are not in the indoctrination business precisely because they are public, and the practices of one belief or denomination might be far different from another. Ultimately, parents have to be responsible for their own offspring. Let public schools teach children to read and write and create and academically reason, and leave religion at home or at the worship center of choice.

Do you see the common thread running through all this? The reason we Boomers don’t see the sort of Idyllic Childhoods we had being enjoyed today, is because we Boomers are the ones who changed everything. We decided to take away the playground equipment we had as kids. Our Boomer generation created the Politically Correct society we now have. We replaced free playtime with heavily structured and regulated activities where parents hover anxiously around precious little cherubs in case they get a boo-boo, and then sue the pants off of any and all when a boo-boo happens. WE did this, Boomers. We got into power and made “a better future for our children” so tightly regulated and so heavily guarded and stubbornly enforced, that WE robbed our children and grandchildren of the “fun” we had as children. So don’t give me that whiny long-for-the-good-old-days pout, when it was OUR generation who changed it. You can’t have it both ways.

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A Peaceful Place

The little boy trudged in the neatly-tended grass, trying to keep up with the longer legs of the surrounding adults. The sun was high in the clear blue sky, but no one skipped or played.

It started with a phone call one evening that made his mother cry and his father very sad. He asked what was wrong but all his father said was, “It’s all right, Roman. Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed.” There was no bedtime story, just a kiss on the forehead and a closed door.

Roman went to daycare the next morning as usual. When he came home he watched DVD’s on the bigscreen TV in the family room while Mama and Daddy spoke to visitors. A babysitter came so Mama and Daddy could go out the next night. They were dressed up as if going to a fancy restaurant, but they did not look happy about it. Roman heard “it’s better this way” and “he didn’t have to suffer” from guests but they never explained what or why. It was strange and frightening to Roman.

“Grandpa will explain it, when he comes,” the boy told his toys.

Mama wore black and Daddy wore a suit with a tie. They dressed Roman in the little suit and tie he wore at Easter. “You’re growing up so fast,” Mama said, and a sudden sob escaped her throat.

“Why are we doing this?” Roman asked.

“We’re going to… to church,” she explained.

“Already? Boy, time flies!” Roman heard grown-ups say that. Mama’s lips curled into a smile and her eyes crinkled at the corners the way they did when she was amused, but it did not last.

The living room was full of strangers, people who knew Mama and Daddy but most of whom Roman never met before. One of the guests was a lady Mama worked with at the school down the street. She gathered Roman into a big hug.

“Oh you poor little baby. I know you’re going to miss your Grandpa so much,” she cooed.

“Why? Isn’t Grandpa coming to take me to the Aquarium?” Roman asked.

“Oh my God, that was next week. I totally forgot,” Daddy groaned.

“Why, your Grandpa’s gone to see Jesus, honey,” the lady said. “He called him home.”

“But he’s supposed to come to my home!” Roman protested.

“He’s in a better place.”

Mama hissed fiercely, “We haven’t told him yet! We’ll do it in our own good time!” She knelt down. Roman thought Mama looked pretty in black. The little hat with the funny black netting over her forehead was new, and he gazed at it curiously. “Romie, Grandpa’s… Grandpa can’t come.”

“But why?”

Mama glanced up at Daddy, who shrugged helplessly. “He’s gone to Heaven,” Mama said.

“When is he coming back?”

Mama started crying again, and Daddy helped her to her feet. “It’s time to go.”

Roman went with Mama and Daddy to a long black car. The back door opened and Roman saw a welcome figure.

“Uncle Mark!  Uncle Mark, am I glad to see you!” Like Mama, Uncle Mark had dusty blonde hair and light brown eyes. Roman had black hair and eyes like his father.

“Hey, hot shot. Come sit with me.” Uncle Mark gave Mama a quick hug. “We had a delay at the airport, sis, but I’m finally here.”

“I’m so glad,” Mama sobbed. “I can’t stop crying.”

“Well, you were his favorite,” Uncle Mark said.

Roman promptly snuggled next to Uncle Mark. Daddy asked how the flight had been, how the weather was – things he never bothered to ask about before. Mama straightened Roman’s little tie and smoothed down his hair.

“You’re going to get all wrinkled,” she sighed as the boy squirmed impatiently.

“We’ll be a matched set,” Uncle Mark said as he tucked his own shirttails in a little better. “Mom sends her condolences. Did you get the flowers she sent?”

“Yes. I wish she would have come, just the same.” Mama fished in her purse for another tissue.

“She didn’t think having an ex-wife on hand was appropriate,” Uncle Mark replied.

“Where are we going?” Roman demanded. “Why is Mama crying and why isn’t Grandpa coming? Where is heaven?”

“Oh crap; you told him, didn’t you?” Uncle Mark asked.

“How do you explain something like this to a four-year-old?” Daddy snapped.

“With words. He’s young, not stupid.”

“Well… well yeah.”

Roman sat between Mama and Daddy in the front of a room full of whispering well-dressed people seated in rows of long church benches. Vases of flowers were placed down front, all around a long box with a hinged lid like a treasure box. People greeted Mama and Daddy and Uncle Mark solemnly, and patted Roman on the head before going to sit on the benches. Several people said it was God’s will, which made Uncle Mark snort and purse his lips.

A man stood up and talked about Grandpa and all the wonderful things he had done. It was a long speech mostly about things Roman did not understand, and he grew uneasy. He clamped his hands over his ears and stared at the program Daddy held: In Memoriam, Roman Elliott McMaster.

As soon as the service was over, Uncle Mark scooped Roman up and carried him out to the black car while Mama and Daddy spoke to everyone else.

“Are you okay, buddy?”

“Where is Grandpa?” Roman asked unhappily.

“Grandpa died, Roman. He didn’t want to, but that’s what happened.”


“His heart quit working. Most of the time people are fine but sometimes places in our bodies just don’t work right, especially in older people like Grandpa.”

Roman curled against his uncle, who hugged his shoulders with one arm. “Did it break?”

“Well…no, when people talk about hearts breaking, that just means they are sad. Grandpa’s heart stopped working and it couldn’t be fixed.”

“Why is it Godswill?”

“That’s what some people say it is. But I’ll tell you something, Roman: I don’t like to think of it that way. Grandpa was a good man and I don’t think God would want to take him from us, knowing how much we’d miss him. I think Grandpa just had other stuff to do, stuff that maybe only he could do in a place where we can’t go yet. But we will. We have stuff to do here and then one day, maybe we’ll go do stuff somewhere else.”

“Where Grandpa is?”


“But we were going to the Aquarium,” Roman said tearfully.

“I’ll tell you what: if you don’t mind, I’ll go there with you instead. I’ve got some time off and there’s nobody I’d rather spend it with.”

“Okay.” He paused. “Why didn’t Mama tell me anything?”

“Mama just misses him a lot, Roman. He used to check our homework and go to all our activities, and he’d interrogate all her boyfriends until your daddy came along. Then he decided your daddy was okay enough to marry Mama.” Roman giggled at the playful tone. “He was always there for us. Your mama and daddy depended on his good advice.”

“Like what?”

“Oh… like where to take the car to get fixed, and how to rebuild the back deck; stuff like that.”

“Didn’t he do that for you?”

“Yes he did,” Uncle Mark said softly. “He was a wise man.”

“But you’re not crying.”

“I am. You just can’t see it. People cry differently.”

Mama and Daddy finally got into the car. They all went to a field that looked like spooky places at Halloween, only it was daylight and not spooky at all. Uncle Mark took Roman’s hand as they followed Mama and Daddy to a hole in the ground and folding chairs set up under a green canopy.

“Not again,” Roman complained. “People talk forever.” After a quiet word with Mama and Daddy, Uncle Mark led Roman around to look at the flat stones in the ground. Uncle Mark read the words on the stones for him: names, dates and sometimes phrases.

“Isn’t this a pretty place?” Uncle Mark asked after a while. Roman looked around at the rolling landscape, dotted with rows of stones all in order.


They paused to enjoy the warm breeze. “Just the sort of place Grandpa liked to go: quiet and peaceful, the grass is always mowed and the leaves are always raked up nice and neat.”

“Yeah,” Roman repeated, pleased to recall Grandpa always took pleasure in keeping his lawn trimmed with a riding mower.

“Some people believe that when we die, we go to a place called Heaven, where everything is pleasant and nothing goes wrong. Maybe that’s so; at least I’d like to think it’s so. Maybe it’s a lot like this place, Roman.”

“You don’t know?”

“People don’t know everything.”

“I guess not.”

Mama called his name. She was nearby and no longer looked so unhappy. She looked peaceful instead. Roman ran to her, and they hugged.


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The Hallmark Movie Channel Drinking Game

SILLY BUSINESS ACTION ALERT! I decided since this is a nice slow Sunday morning in November, I would use check marks in lieu of booze to test The Hallmark Christmas Drinking Game I found online. “The Nine Lives of Christmas” is forty minutes in and so far has 0 drink points. (I know, right? Yet this is a genuine Hallmark Movie so maybe the THC is aware of this game and is making changes HAHAHA! I kid, I kid.) I didn’t know if I would stick it out through the entire movie, but it does star Brandon Routh from the pre-Henry Cavill, post-Christopher Reeve Superman movies, which is a nice change of pace from the typical Cream Cheese actors THC usually hires.POSSIBLE SIP POINT: Gregory Harrison has a supporting role as a wise white-haired supervisor. Yes, perpteual Hallmark Channel star Gregory Harrison has finally graduated from Hot Hunky THC Movie Hero Go-To, to Distinguished Elder Who Dispenses Needed Encouragement To The Hot Hunky THC Movie Hero. Way to go, Gregory! Don’t think of it as being yesterday’s Gregory Harrison; think of it as being tomorrow’s Wilford Brimley.

Okay, just don’t think of it, Gregory. Just cash those Hallmark checks, boy.

ALSO POSSIBLE SIP POINT: the heroine lives in an apartment building called “Angel Arms.” AWWWWW. The adorable; it burns!

One scene had two drinks – jingle bells and Christmas caroling, so it is no longer a shutout. And THCCMDG rule board doesn’t have a key element on its list: an over-the-top evil antagonist, and we’ll have to see if this movie includes another key component: the public humiliation of said over-the-top evil antagonist.

Wow, another drink got earned: Reference to a dead relative. Is it two drinks if BOTH parents died in a tragic accident? Asking for a friend.

Sad to say, it looks like “The Nine Lives of Christmas” faked me out at first but in the end, The Hallmark Channel is not about to produce a movie that doesn’t follow the formula. I’ll stick it out but it looks like I’m going to have to update and embellish the original game to include some key elements.

Mistletoe! and cutesy kiss. We MUST have an updated version of the game:

I have a terrible feeling my revised THCCMDG is going to result in alcohol poisoning.

The last five minutes of “The Nine Lives of Christmas” is, even by THC standards, incredibly stilted. NOBODY would have that kind of dialogue in real life. I took one for the team this morning, but if I were actually playing the game I’d need detox STAT.


Full disclosure: I wrote a based-on-a-true-story Christmas tale called “The Biggest Little Fan of the Red Ball Express” a few years ago. This story was well liked by people who read it, and nearly every remark about it included the phrase “this should be a Hallmark Movie!” It has all the elements: Family in dire straits, the kindness of strangers, an incredible-to-believe outcome that actually happened. I put it in script form but it hasn’t gone anywhere yet.
TBLFOTRBE does not have certain classic Hallmark Christmas Movie elements to qualify for production, I’m afraid. The main family is part Native American, not Cream Cheese Caucasian; they are slap-down impoverished and not upper-middle-class people whose main breadwinner is on the verge of having to depend upon their 401K until they can get another glamorous job; the parents are already married so there’s no cute-meet romantic angle, and the kids are actual emotional, reactive people struggling to survive in a tough environment instead of pretty blonde characters who live in a sprawling, warm, brightly decorated home in a picturesque neighborhood.
I understand The Hallmark Channel wants to offer its viewers a comforting romantic  escapism which is admittedly needed in today’s world. My mother-in-law, an avid Hallmark Movie devotee, admits she is well aware of how a movie will end within the first twenty minutes and is right most of the time. It’s the comfort of a familiar story wearing new clothes that appeals to its audience.
“The Biggest Little Fan of the Red Ball Express” would make a good if unusual Christmas movie, but it wouldn’t meet the Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Drinking Game standards. Only one point, Finish Drink: When the cynic is filled with the Christmas Spirit, would be earned by my script. But really, isn’t that the main point of Christmas?
RBE cover


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What Women Want: Men, Listen Up

I recently read an article called “What Men Want: These Are Guys’ Biggest Turn-Offs.” OH REALLY. Most of the article dealt with appearances and other superficial matters. Well, let’s not allow that to go unanswered, shall we?


  1. Men, start by taking your damn hat off when you enter a house, a room and ESPECIALLY when you sit down to dinner. It’s good manners; are you planning to rush off to play Major League Ball somewhere in the middle of a meal? No? Then take off your hat and stay a while. Oh, and if you are at a ballgame in the stands and are wearing your ballcap fashionably backwards and then shade your eyes with your hand because you FORGOT THE CAP HAS A SUN VISOR, know that you just might be mocked for all to see on the Jumbotron.
  2. As long as we are in agreement about finances and your responsibilities are met, go ahead and indulge in your favorite hobby or pastime but don’t make a habit of going overboard on spending. That’s just fiscal common sense. It’s expected of us, so why not you men too?
  3. Don’t bitch at women for gaining weight if you have done the same thing. Just because you can zip up your jeans doesn’t mean we don’t see that ginormous muffin top spilling out over your belt. Try being supportive instead, and that doesn’t mean enabling us. Join us to create a healthier lifestyle and we’ll both be the better for it.
  4. Wash your hair; trim your beard; mow your nose hairs; take showers and use deodorant. It won’t kill you to practice good grooming. Clothes make the man but OMG, slobs just make a mess. And pull up your pants. It is never fashionable to look ridiculous.
  5. Do to others as you would want done to you. Don’t be a bigot or a hater. Be a decent human being. It’s easy. But show us who you really are from the get-go. Don’t behave one way to get our attention and affection, and then switch back to your regular behavior once you’ve “got us hooked.” Don’t be a prick.
  6. Don’t use empty promises if we want to call it quits. If you’re just using a line to get us to stay so you’ll have a cook or housekeeper or bed partner handy, we’ll walk out twice as hard and stay gone. If it isn’t working, we can both start over with someone new. No harm, no foul, no grudges, just lessons learned.
  7. It is not funny to us if you decide to tickle us when we are trying to get in a healthy morning stretch. Tickle when it is appropriate, not when we are doing something you know damn well doesn’t go well with it. And don’t use tickling as a form of torment. Don’t use ANYTHING as a form of torment. A practical joke once or twice is funny, but repeated ‘jokes’ are only funny for one side. Posting videos of it to social media is cruel, so don’t.
  8. Don’t call us names around your friends that you wouldn’t call us when we’re alone. Even ‘playfully’ calling us “Bitch” when your buds are around just to make yourself look like some kind of Alpha Male will get you a dirty blanket in the dog house that night. We aren’t your ‘bitch,’ dude, unless you make us EARN that title. Oh and we can. We most certainly can.
  9. Don’t let your family mistreat us; don’t let your mother or sister or father or brother or other relatives attack us if we’ve done nothing wrong. Stand up for us when you know we’re in the right. If you want to choose your family, that’s cool. We’ll choose elsewhere and your family can KEEP you.
  10. We generally appreciate it when you hold doors open for us, because we know that is you being considerate. We’ll be glad to return the favor as long as you don’t act all butt-hurt that by opening doors for you we’re emasculating you somehow. And remember, some women prefer to open their own doors so let them. “Oh, okay” is all you have to say to them. You never know how many times a door has been slammed in their faces.
  11. Don’t make fun of us if we cry at tender stories or sad movies. It’s our compassion and caring that makes us reach out to others, and where would your ass be if we didn’t? Possibly ALONE.
  12. Don’t diss or mistreat our pets. Don’t expect us to automatically cast our companion animals aside just because you strolled into our lives. Don’t expect us to get rid of the dog we raised from a puppy or the cat we rescued four years ago, just because you feel you’re competing with them for our attention because Hell yes in a way you are. If you really like our pets but you’re allergic we can work something out but don’t assume Fido is on his way out the door.
  13. And GODDAMMIT do NOT pretend you should somehow be first over the children women already have in our lives! Did we give birth to you? Did we struggle to raise you? No, so don’t pout if we don’t hang on your every word instead of attending to the kids. Don’t scream at our children, don’t treat them like little butlers and maids, don’t cuss them out if they make a mistake. They are OUR kids. Walk out the door if you don’t like it. Don’t come back. They’re the ones staying.
  14. And regarding #13, if the children in question are in fact YOUR OWN and you treat them that way – FUCK YOU WITH A LAND MINE. Did you get us pregnant; are those children also your responsibility? Yes, so man up and realize you are King and I am Queen and our children are PRINCES and PRINCESSES in our castle. Treat them with respect and love or you will be dethroned. The same goes for the Queen so don’t think you’re the only one who has to be a good parent.
  15. If you grow tired or restless in our relationship, tell us. If we can’t work it out, then leave and find your bliss elsewhere. The same will hold true for women. It’s no black mark against anyone if a relationship fails; shit just happens and it’s sad. Take what you came in with and leave stuff that wasn’t yours alone. We can sort through the stuff we got together and nobody has to be greedy or spiteful. And if there are children born from our relationship, it is both our duties to help them find their own bliss in life. Neither of us can shirk it.
  16. Respect. We want respect, we DESERVE respect. Show us respect, we’ll show it back. There is no ‘place’ we should remain in if that means walking a few steps behind you so you’ll look in ‘control.’ There is no set role we should play, for life is fluid and conditions change. Show us respect; show us you know we can think for ourselves and make our own decisions with or without your input. We don’t mind advice but we aren’t putting up with orders. You want to give someone orders, join the Army and EARN the rank to give orders.
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President Trump Meets With Steel And Aluminum Manufacturing Industry Leaders Announcing New Tariffs

Photo from Time Magazine

No one will mourn you, Donald Trump.

When you die – and we all do, you will be no exception – there will be none to mourn your passing. Consider that for a moment.




Your children will not mourn you; they will be too busy scrambling to snap up the scraps of inheritance you leave to them – after the business interests that loaned you money get their portions first. Such businessmen did not become successful by allowing debts to go unpaid.


The Hill

Your children will be only too eager to hawk their unpleasant memories of you because you taught them your brand of hate and how self-aggrandizement sells. They in turn will sell tawdry, vicious tales about you for $19.99 a pop and not bat an eye. But no one will be willing to shelter your older children or make excuses for them or smooth their paths for them when you are gone. Your children will not mourn you. They may very well curse you for leaving them unprepared for life in the real world.



mrs cocksucker

Town and Country

The women who were married to you will not mourn you; they will be too busy penning tell-all books without legal maneuvers preventing the publications. The women and girls you used for sex will not mourn you. They will tell unsympathetic stories about you to anyone willing to listen.



Chicago Sun-Times

Your lawyers will not stop them because no one will force them to file lawsuits. The lawyers will have their own books to write and sell. Don’t think for a moment that they will not: you surrounded yourself with cheaters and grifters and greedy opportunists at every turn. They will not hesitate to cash in on you while you are still warm to the touch.



clipart kidsYour youngest child and your grandchildren will not mourn your bully tactics and malice and petty behavior once these traits, via the disgust and outrage you stir worldwide, become known to your progeny. They, like Hitler’s relatives, may wish to put distance from you and change their names as soon as they are old enough.

The businessmen and contractors who were cheated by you will not mourn you. They will mourn their inability to see justice done by getting paid the wages you denied them. They will sue your children and grandchildren for compensation. They will visit your grave and spit upon it.


 Fortune Magazine

The people who support you at the moment will not mourn you. They who so easily cast aside the Constitution and the concepts of decency and equality for a chance to ride your tyrannical coattails will easily cast your memory aside. No self-aggrandizing mandate will remain after your passing: once you are gone they will have no need of you. The wealthy supporters hold you in contempt for your lack of finesse and embarrassing absence of intellectual reason. The rank and file voters who supported you will find another false god to worship.


NY Daily Post

The politicians and grifters and staffers who cozied up to you when you were alive will not mourn you. They who yes-man you to your face and despise you around the corner, will claim to dance on your grave as recompense for their service to you. They will not mourn a schoolyard bully.


ABC News

They will not mourn the humiliation and stress they bore for the sake of a pitiful career-ending position in your inner circle. Some may mourn the loss of access to the public spotlight but not the loss of servitude to you.




The political strongmen you claim to admire – Vladmir Putin, Kim Jung Un – will not mourn you. They will laugh over your pitiful ineptitude on the world stage. They will scoff at the way flattery so easily swayed you; how your bid for power and prestige blinded you to the puppet you became for them. They will not mourn you. You meant nothing to them but an easy conquest.



Daily Mail

No one will mourn you, Donald Trump. No one will mourn the pitiful legacy you will leave behind. You who have never shown bravery, honesty, selflessness, sympathy or aid, who never considered others as equal to you, who never cared for anything but your own whims and pleasures, can tell yourself whatever falsehoods you wish but the reality is that the world’s majority despises you.




You were born with advantages others never had but you wasted every opportunity to be genuinely worthy of regard. You settled for hedonism and an easy life for yourself even while erecting barriers for people who did you no harm. You postured and demanded with toddler-like behavior, changing the narrative to suit you and throwing anyone under the bus if they did not swear loyalty to you – even when you show no loyalty to others. Your name has already been stripped from buildings and various business ventures, for yours is a name recognized as a toxic element.



People who are decent will lower the flag to half-mast not out of respect for you, but out of respect to the office of the President. The office you hold, the office you betray with each bombastic tweet and each insulting gesture, will be what is held in regard, not you. At the moment of your death you may realize the folly of your life choices but it will be too late to change, and no one will mourn you.

And that, Donald, is a sad summation of one’s life.

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