Tag Archives: humor

A Pepper and a Carrot Walked into a Bar

I’m excited today because I’ve only got TWO things on my to-do list. One has to do with a pepper. The other has to do with a carrot.

To Do List

  1. Write a blog post for Day 1 of NanoPoblano 2018
  2. Write the final revision of “Mudslide” for Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Today I’ll be able to check off both items on my list with this ONE blog post! And then I can immediately go back to sleeping adding more things to my to-do list.

About NanoPoblano

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to NanoPoblano (a daily blogging challenge that takes place every year in November), and I’ve decided that the key to a good month-long blog challenge is to write about something the READERS care about. I’m really looking forward to doing that.

So, in the comments below, please leave a word or two about what you’d like to read in my November blog posts. I’ll do my best to work all of your suggestions in.

About Mudslide

Mudslide is a story I’ve been working on for Carrot Ranch Literary Community.  It’s a writing challenge designed to torture inspire, educate, and motivate writers.

The Mudslide challenge began with a 297-word story about a mudslide, which then gets pared down — first to 99 words, then 59, and then an unbelievable 9 words, while experimenting with writing techniques such as changing point of view, analyzing important “nuggets,” and interjecting words of emotion.

If you’re interested, you can read those earlier versions by looking at my previous blog posts. Or, you can just read my final challenge below, a 495-word story about a mudslide, cascading all the way to the end of this page.

MUDSLIDE

I sat bolt upright and stared at the bright red numbers on the alarm clock. They stared back at me accusingly, unblinking. Two-fifteen. What had awoken me?

Slowly, it dawned on me. I’d just had that dream again, the one about the mudslide.

I’d had it four nights in a row, ever since moving in with Jake – the man I’d promised to spend the rest of my life with. I knew I should tell my shrink about the dreams, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear what she’d have to say about them – especially if I told her the whole story.

I looked over at Jake, snoring softly beside me. I touched his shoulder; he didn’t move. What – or who – was he dreaming about, I wondered? But I needed to stop thinking like that. Who was I to be jealous? I lay down and tried falling back to sleep, but I was still haunted by images of the mudslide in my dream.

It was strong – a torrent of devastating mud, carrying everything in its path down with it into an infinite abyss. There was no escape.

What did it mean? Was it some kind of a warning? Did I have to start watching my back – again?

I was lying still, but I felt uncontrollably dizzy. Unable to stop my swirling thoughts, I got out of bed, tiptoed from the room, and pulled my phone from my purse. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to try an internet search of dream interpretation.

I’d just Googled the words “mudslide dream” when Jake startled me, coming up behind me without a sound and kissing my neck. I jumped and dropped the phone.

It started buzzing as soon as it hit the floor. I quickly reached to pick it up, but Jake beat me to it. He stared at it a second and then held it out so I could see the screen. Caller ID said “SLIM DUDE.”

The phone continued to buzz in Jake’s hand. Finally, it stopped.

“Who’s ‘Slim Dude’?” Jake asked, not expecting what I said next.

“My husband,” I said, feeling ashamed.

“You have a … HUSBAND?!” Jake said. He’d started out whispering, but his words were choked at the end.

My mouth went dry and I couldn’t answer. Instead, I saw a vision, flashing like a neon sign in my brain. It was my husband’s nickname, the one he’d gotten in prison, the eight letters in SLIM DUDE tattooed on his fingers.

I knew then that SLIM DUDE would never stop calling me, never stop haunting my dreams. SLIM DUDE wouldn’t rest until he’d found a way to worm his way into my head again, scrambling up my happiness, and converting my life into a MUDSLIDE of despair.

And now the worst had happened. Jake knew the truth. I took one last look at him and said goodbye forever to my happy life, giving in to the power of the mudslide.

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#NaBloPoMo2018
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Writer’s Conference Revelations

Yesterday, I attended the 2018 Arizona SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference.

I learned a ton of information about writing everything from picture books to YA, both fiction and non-fiction, and I came away with so many fresh ideas that I think my brain is going to explode very soon. But wait — that just gave me an idea for a picture book called, “My Brain Feels Like It’s Exploding.”

The book sample that I had submitted to the conference was not one of the few chosen for a face-to-face critique by an agent, but I did receive a constructive and thoughtfully-written critique from a knowledgeable and experienced children’s book editor. For that I am forever grateful. So maybe I should write the definitive YA self-help book on “How to Handle Criticism.”

My First Page submission was not one of the 15 or so selected to be discussed by the faculty panel, but I gleaned important insights from the panel’s comments about others’ writing. Now that I have those insights, I’m actually glad mine wasn’t chosen to be showcased. I probably would have jumped up, knocked over my coffee, and tipped everyone off that the anonymous, flawed first draft up on the two gigantic screens was mine. How embarrassing that would have been! And now I have an idea for a Middle Grade science book: “Why People Blush.”

I was not sought out by agents wanting to sell my books, as I had secretly dreamed. One agent did ask me for my “elevator pitch” (after I’d delicately broached the subject), but I stumbled through it, and I don’t think I impressed her. Besides, she specializes in a totally different genre.

I didn’t even win a door prize.

But I LOVED the conference. It was stimulating, informative, inspiring, and friendly. I met some really nice writers, agents, editors, and illustrators, and I’m eagerly looking forward to being in touch with them and seeing them at the next writing conferences and events.

Within hours of the conference closing, I was back at it, revising not one but two books that I’m currently working on. And I plan to keep writing and revising and attending writer’s conferences forever. And thinking up goofy book ideas.

 

Pasta Dreams

My post for today is in response to a Flash Fiction challenge by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary Community (see the challenge here). The idea is to write a complete story in exactly 99 words, no more, no less. This week’s challenge was to write a story about PASTA. The following is my first attempt at Flash Fiction. It’s a lot harder than I thought! Thanks, Charli, for the challenge!

“Mary? I’m Dr. Cavat. Please have a seat.”

Mary considered the couch, then chose the stuffed chair.

“What brings you here, Mary?”

Mary burst into tears.

“I see you’re upset.”

“Sorry. It’s just that … I’ve been dreaming about PASTA!”

“Well, sometimes pasta is just pasta.”

Instantly, Mary felt better. After paying, she asked, “By the way, are you related to Dick Cavat?”

“No. That’s Cavett, with an e and two t’s. My real name’s Cavatelli … like the pasta!”

After Mary left, Dr. Cavat lay down on the couch and started dictating:

“I’ve been dreaming about a woman named Mary.”


Have you ever written Flash Fiction? Or would you like to add more to Pasta Dreams? Maybe we can write a sitcom about it!

Zen and the Art of Muscle Spasm Maintenance

It’s been three days now.

Three long, tedious, mind-numbing days of lying in ungainly positions with multiple pillows arranged under, behind, and beside the various and sundry (as in unmentionable) parts of my body. My back is my Achilles heel, and three days ago it decided to kick me in its own ass when I tried to lift a heavy box.

If you’re surprised to hear me talking about my very own back that way, consider this: I’m on the maximum dose of ibuprofen washed down with half a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I’m lying flat on my back with an ice pack tied around myself using one of my favorite, now probably ruined, scarves. My hands keep falling asleep from holding my iPhone up in the air while I type this. My back does, indeed, feel exactly as if it twisted itself around and planted its heel squarely in the middle of its own ass. But things could be worse.

About an hour ago, I made an important scientific discovery: Pleasure cancels out pain.

How did I stumble upon this amazing fact? Well, as we all know, great scientific discoveries are often borne of necessity, and this one is no exception. Earlier, I had been a bit hungry, and my empty stomach needed something in it to keep the ibuprofen company. I’d tried to walk to the kitchen to grab a cracker, but my back rebelled, driving me back to bed in a hunched up fog of pain.

It was too early to gulp down any more painkillers, so I lay there for about twenty minutes until Chuck came home with groceries, and then I asked him to fix me up a little lunch. Even though it meant having to sit up in bed in an even more painful position, I decided to try and force myself to eat something.

I moaned and groaned and finally had positioned myself for minimal food spillage. The food was arranged on a cutting board and balanced precariously on my outstretched legs. I grimaced and resolved to get this over with as quickly as possible so I could go back to painfully lying down instead of painfully sitting up. But at the moment that I tasted my first mouthful of the delicious food Chuck had prepared, my taste buds exploded, and so did the pleasure receptors in my brain.

It was only a microwaveable meal from Trader Joe’s, the kind that looks like an upscale TV dinner. I must have been really hungry, because that Chicken Marsala with Mashed Potatoes (emphasis on the mashed potatoes) tasted like Thanksgiving dinner. And, for that first fleeting second or two while I savored the surprisingly delicious flavors (emphasis on the Marsala), my pain disappeared! It seemed I was incapable of feeling pain simultaneously with pleasure.

Unfortunately, the second that I paused to consider this, the pleasure receded and the pain came rushing in to fill the void. But all it took to send the pain away was another forkful of food.

I then took two sips of wine that I’d had the forethought to ask Chuck to place next to me on the bedside table, and this helped matters even more. Then I went ahead and took two, or maybe six, more sips. There. Much better.

I also started thinking about how I really should try to meditate in order to relax my back — and no sooner had I thought this, than again I felt a slight easing of the pain.

And occasionally, instead of thinking about meditation, I just took another sip of wine.

I continued this cycle of “eat-sip-think about meditation-or-sip” (TM) until my Trader Joe’s meal-in-a-tray was gone, and then I was feeling so much better that I decided to write this post about it.

I am now a firm believer in the “eat-sip-think about meditation-or-sip” (TM — or maybe © ) method. And I’m shortening it to ESTAMOS, Spanish for “we are.” It makes a great hashtag.

But, unless you’re determined to get a stomach ulcer, please don’t mix ibuprofen with alcohol. The label says there can be some nasty results.

I hope to be fully recovered from my back problems in time to accept the Nobel Prize for Home Remedies next year. And just to increase my odds of winning, I’m going to try some actual meditation now. If it works, I may change the name of my method to MEATS (meditate-eat-and-take-sips), but I’m afraid PETA (People Enraged by Trite Acronyms) might not like it.

Pepsi Shambo

One of the most touching sights during my 5-week cross-country road trip was this one, a brick honoring the life of someone’s beloved dog:

Plattsburgh-3

I just love the name “Pepsi Shambo.” It’s got a nice ring to it. But don’t you wonder why anyone would give a dog that name?

Wondering this myself, I looked up “shambo” just now, and, according to the urban dictionary, I learned that a shambo is “an efficient and fool-proof mechanism for resolving minor disputes, a/k/a rock-paper-scissors.”

I wonder if good old Pepsi Shambo was used in that manner during his or her lifetime. Perhaps, in the midst of a family argument, someone would shout out, “Why don’t we let Pepsi Shambo settle it!” Pepsi Shambo would trot in (or, in its latter years, perhaps he or she would shamble). I can hear it now:

“If Pepsi Shambo barks once, you have to get a job. Twice, you can just move out.”

No, I doubt that anyone who’d name their dog “Pepsi Shambo” would be that lazy, or that mean. On second thought, maybe the conversation went more like this:

“Honey, I know you really, really want to buy that house, but I’ve got an idea. Let’s let Pepsi Shambo decide! One bark means we’ll buy it, two barks means we’ll just wait until you wear me down, and we’ll buy it then.”

No, that sounds all wrong, too. I’ve got it! I think Pepsi Shambo got its name at the dog pound.

“Let’s let this little shambo decide which dog we take home. Hey, wait a minute, maybe we should take it and name it Shambo!” … “But Dad, that’s what we did last time, and we’ve already got a dog named Shambo, remember? Let’s call this one Pepsi Shambo so we can tell them apart.”

But why Pepsi? My guess is that the dog was the exact color of Pepsi Cola, or perhaps it was the owner’s favorite drink. We’ll never know. But in my mind’s eye, I’m picturing a very dark brown dog with a very bubbly personality, solving all the world’s problems. Boy, the world sure could use the help of old Pepsi Shambo right about now.

And I could, too. I’m currently in the midst of a minor crisis, trying to decide on whether or not to move back to upstate New York. I love it here in Tucson, but I miss my family. My spouse prefers the Pacific Northwest, though, so we’ve got a bit of a dilemma. Are any of you named Shambo, by any chance? Bark once for upstate New York, twice for the Pacific Northwest, and three times for staying in Tucson.

In any case, here’s to Pepsi Shambo, faithful dog. May you rest in peace, free from disputes of any kind. And by the way, congratulations, you’re now on the internet!

Photo credit (dachsund): congerdesign@pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

Bridges in Literature

I’m reading Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. Actually, I’m working my way through all 27 hours and 4 minutes of the audiobook version (21 cds) while driving around town. If you see me cruising down the road while I’m immersed in this wonderful novel, please honk or wave, but not so much that you distract me and cause an accident. One can only concentrate on so much input at once while DWEEB (Driving While Enjoying an Excellent Book).

My favorite part of the book so far has to do with how we see life as we get older, as compared with how we view it from the vantage point of youth. I don’t want to try and paraphrase Russo’s well-crafted prose here, or deprive you of the pleasure of dwelling on the passage of time while screeching to a halt at a stop sign. Just go pick up a copy and read it, preferably the 480-page hard copy version that you can spend some time with while reclining comfortably in your armchair at home. The world will be a much safer place without two DWEEBs driving around in a book-induced reverie.

Reading Bridge of Sighs has gotten me thinking about bridges in general, and wondering how often they’re mentioned in literature, music, and other genres.  Off the top of my head, I immediately thought of Bridge on the River Kwai and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Given that a bridge would be a powerful symbol, representing transition and change, I guessed that the bridge image must be commonplace in popular culture. As is often the case, I guessed wrong.

After thinking very hard (a.k.a. “Googling”), I managed to find only seven books worth mentioning with the word “bridge” in the title:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan
  • A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  • Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

(I just couldn’t bring myself to include The Bridges of Madison County.)

I then moved on to songs, and although there were some Top Ten song lists with “bridge” in the title, I’m only going to mention three here, because, to be honest, the other seven didn’t interest me:

  • Bridge over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
  • Under the Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • London Bridge (Traditional)

Finally, I resorted to adding characters named “Bridge” to my list, and I’m glad I did, because all of them are important in their own right.

  • Walter and India Bridge in the movie, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, based on the books about Mrs. and Mr. Bridge, listed above.

This is important because I read the books AND saw the movie, and the movie has both Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in it, something that just makes me happy for some reason.

  • George Bailey’s bridge in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Okay, the bridge is not actually a character, but if it were a character, its name would most certainly be Bridget, and it would have won an Oscar for best movie prop in a supporting role.

  • Ruby Bridges, the first black child to integrate an all-white school in the American south (Nov. 14, 1960).

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges tells Ms. Bridges’ story in her own words. I think her name is particularly symbolic.

Returning to the subject of Bridge of Sighs, I’m now on cd number 12 of 21, so I’m more than halfway across the bridge, so to speak. This is one of those books that I’ll be sorry to finish. I’ve already become quite attached to Lucy Lynch, its main character. Spoiler alert: Lucy is not at all the way you’re probably picturing him.

So if you see someone in the driver’s seat of a white Subaru Impreza, deep in thought while barreling toward you on the highway, maybe you’d better just stay out of their way, because it could very well be me, on the last page of the last chapter of Bridge of Sighs, possibly crying my eyes out, or smiling, or whatever it is Richard Russo has in store for me, and I wouldn’t want to have to plead DWEEB in traffic court.

 

Hanging Out with Bats

Tucson has a large bat population. In 2008, there were about 200,000 bats living here. Who knows how many more there are now. Most of them migrate north from Mexico in April and stay until October.

By day, the bats hang out under bridges, emerging en masse at sunset for their nightly feeding frenzy. People gather near the bridges to watch the bats take off. Bat-watching is excellent and cheap entertainment.

Several years ago, a small group of folks in Tucson came up with the slogan, “Keep Tucson Shitty,” in response to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird.” They did it as a joke, and it was embraced by another faction who were upset about the sudden gentrification of the scrappier parts of downtown. But “Keep Tucson Shitty” never caught on. Too many people were appalled and resented anything resembling a put-down of their beloved “Old Pueblo.”

I can understand why they would be appalled. I love Tucson’s beauty, its character, its blending of cultures, its mountains and sunsets and desert flowers. The last thing we want people to think of when they think of Tucson is excrement.

However, I think I’ve come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. How about the slogan, “Keep Tucson Batty”? It might just be the compromise this town needs. On the one hand, it lets others know that Tucson’s a nature-loving town that values its bats and supports sustainable lifestyles, while on the other hand it recognizes the scruffiness that sets us apart from Phoenix.

I’ve even written a song (well, the lyrics, anyway) to go with the slogan. It’s sung to the melody of that Cuban classic, “Guantanamera,” with apologies to Jose Martí (Cuba’s national poet who wrote the lyrics originally used in the song).

I call my version “Guano-tanamera.”

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 1:

I am a bat on a mission

For tasty bugs I am wishin’

Rather eat flies than go fishin’

Can’t drive, I don’t have ignition

Can’t fry an egg in the kitchen

But I have perfect night vision

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 2:

We bats cannot go out shopping

For tasty tacos and toppings

That’s why each night without stopping

Out from the bridge we come popping

Over our guano you’ll be hopping

Or all your floors you’ll be mopping

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 3:

Although I look kinda scary

I’m just a little bit hairy

My name’s not Tom, Dick, or Larry

But I can fly like a fairy

Over the town and the dairy

And City Hall where folks marry!

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera.

 

Rapping It Up

Day 30 of the Nano Poblano (a.k.a. NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month) challenge is finally here! Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and thanks to the “cheer peppers” who made it all happen and cheered us on by “liking” our posts. I read the posts of my fellow bloggers religiously and learned so much from all of you.

I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, even though some days were a little rough. Somehow, I managed to eke out 30 different pieces, including:

  • two posts made within 15 minutes of midnight
  • one post consisting of only one sentence
  • two posts that were nothing but questions
  • one that included a video of me singing and playing guitar
  • a poem made up of 14 shorter haiku poems
  • many other posts, some with a bit of history, some just plain silly
  • no cat photos, and only one post with pictures of what I had for lunch

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed NanoPoblano, I’m looking forward to a little down time in December. (Did I just say down time in December?) This year, for the first time since I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for December to get here. I mean, I literally couldn’t wait. As soon as I returned home from New York yesterday, I changed both of my wall calendars to December without realizing that I was two days early.

There’s one thing I meant to post this month and didn’t. It’s a little embarrassing, but here goes: I don’t know how to rap. I don’t know much about it and I think I might be terrible at it. I’d like to learn, though, so that maybe I can use it in my songwriting projects. But how do you learn to rap? The same way you can learn almost anything these days: YouTube! I watched a few videos and I learned that some rappers (I think it’s called freestyle?) compose on the spot by thinking ahead to the end of the phrase before mentally writing the first line. I decided to try it, so I looked around the room for inspiration. I was in the kitchen. On the table was a glass, some cheese and crackers on a plate, and a vase of flowers. I grabbed my pad and pencil, and here’s the result. I may not win a Grammy, but if I make you smile it’s all worth it.

I had no support, I had no backers,
all I had going were these tasty crackers

I needed a genie to grant me three wishes
instead of all these glasses and dirty dishes

I wanted to be strong, I wanted magic powers
or maybe just a bunch of beautiful flowers

I had me some treble, I had me some bass
but I needed something else, like a flower vase

I asked that genie, pretty pretty please
can you bring me some money, or maybe just some cheese?

And on that note, I’m rapping up this edition of loristory. Happy December!

Featured image photo by Anita Peeples

img_2134

 

 

Tangled Up in New Headphones

“Oh what a tangled web we weave …” Sir Walter Scott

“Tangled headphones are my pet peeve …” Loristory

About a week ago, I was about to head out to the gym. As I mentioned in a previous post (“Gonna Be Some Changes“), listening to music at the gym is my antidote for boredom and exhaustion while trying to maintain an upright position on the treadmill. So imagine my panic when I couldn’t find my headphones!

I dug through my purse, my pockets, and my gym bag, to no avail. Where could they be? They had come with my new iPhone and I really, really liked them because the sound quality was good and they stayed put in my ears. (Did I just type Putin? No! Put in!) Let me rephrase that. My headphones stayed in place in my ears. Some of the cheaper headphones (like the ones you buy for $1 on airplanes) are constantly falling out. If you try wearing them on the plane then you risk the chance of having to elbow your seat-mate every few minutes while searching for errant earbuds. They most definitely would not stay in your ears while exercising at the gym.

My headphones were what motivated me to even go to the gym. Without them, I might as well just cancel my membership. But then I remembered that there was a Best Buy on the way to the gym. I drove there and found a new pair of iPhone headphones, identical to the ones I had lost. They cost $30. I told myself that $30 was a small price to pay for good health and reluctantly handed the clerk my credit card.

I’ve been to the gym a few times since then and I used my new headphones each time, storing them in a special pocket of my purse so I would not lose them.

Last night I decided to clean out my purse. What did I find? Kleenex. Old receipts. Pens. Pencils. Lipstick. Gym padlock. Tangled web of wires. Wait … what?

headphones

Yes, folks, what you see above is not one, not two, but three sets of headphones. (Did I mention that I also have headphones for my iPod that I carry in my purse in case I want to watch TV at the gym? They don’t fit in my new iPhone because … Apple.)

Somehow, my new iPhone headphones found my old iPhone headphones (and my iPod headphones) deep in the dark recesses of my purse pocket, and all three sets bonded. Literally. It took me about 5 minutes to untangle them. And even though I knew they were probably meant to live together forever in harmony, I took things into my own hands and came up with this ingenious plan:

headphones all 3-2

We’ll see how long that lasts.

Shweta Mehrishi Sharma‘s NanoPoblano post yesterday about lost keys inspired me to tell my own version of “Lost.” Do you have a “lost” story of your own? I’d love to hear it!

 

Badge 2017