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July 24, 2016 / thackersam

Cat Scratch Fever


I had prepared a 900 word essay about my trip home on Monday from the IWWG conference, which had some beautiful tangents and stories within stories. It included the end of the trip that had me departing from the #1 train on the other side of the highway from where I live, in a violent rainstorm and my decision to enthusiastically forge ahead arriving home sopping wet to Max, my cat, who thinks I can make the sunrise as this awful scary storm ceased 10 minutes after my arrival when I hadn’t been home for four days, and then the sun came out. It was a lovely story. I had picked a picture of Gene Kelly from Singing in the Rain. Not the lamppost still, which was under consideration, but the close-up of his smiling face as it was pelted with raindrops. But as you can see, that’s not Gene Kelly, and this is not a happy post.

When I got cancer again, I wrote that I didn’t want my blog to revolve around it, but that’s what was going on in my life. I needed to unload, and I thank all for the support I received. And now I can move on. I also told myself, when I posted my one politically based post “The Producer” this past February, that I didn’t want the blog to go political either. But as with cancer, shit happens. And shit is happening. And it is cancerous shit.

This I say this without apology – if you do not see the similarities with what the trump thing is doing and how Hitler, with his fear-mongering and hate-filled rhetoric, rose to power, you are ignorant. If you support that whole thing, you are stupid, to put it in the kindest term I can think of. If you are well aware of this evilness and support it anyway, you are stupid, mean, greedy and self-centered.

To Muslims and all others being attacked by this trump thing, I do not judge you by the terrorists that claim your faith, nor by the bad people who cross borders to do bad things, which I am not denying, nor should you, but please don’t judge us, Americans, by the trump factions. Unfortunately for those of us who think with hearts and minds, the loudmouth, hate-filled, hateful liars who are only in this world for their own satisfaction at the expense of others, gain the attention.

Oh and by the by (not to be confused with BTW) I don’t like Mitt Romney, I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney and probably have less than a handful of friends who did. I didn’t condemn them, and suppose that we all could have lived through a Romney presidency. NOW, I have a new-found respect for him as a person who can stick to his principles and recognize a truly bad man. Right on, Mitt.

Okay done, except – Hey Republicans – you have your own celebrity followers. Why the constant controversy over your use of songs by people who do not agree with your political views. This has been going on for a long time. Reagan did it. But the use the spiritual George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun,” by the trump thing, when George would be one of its biggest opponents, is just plain icky. I just hope if he’s not too busy, George is strategically planning the hocking of a big-old heavenly lugy that will nail that slime with slime. (Don’t be messin’ with our Beatles). So in keeping with the music theme of my blog, may I suggest to the trump thing that it looks to one of its supporters for an appropriate theme song. I think Ted Nugent must have some songs in addition to “Cat Scratch Fever,” though I personally don’t know of any. And perhaps the eloquent Scott Baio has put out an album as some TV actors have done. He does have a way with words.

BTW – I don’t know if anyone is interested at this point, but even though I did not exercise AT ALL this week (did today-felt good), I am one pound and one week away from my current weight goal, and I have been scolded for my baggy clothes.

July 17, 2016 / thackersam

What Are You Writing

Early morning at IWWG

Me and my good friend at the IWWG summer conference where we learn to write good.

Here we are on the first morning after both of us had a relatively sleepless night due to the frigid temperature in our suite. This is my attempt to take a selfie of the two of us together at breakfast. It was the best I could do. Okay, there was one photo in which parts of our heads were not cut off and she looked beautiful, but I looked like I had just caught the bus in from Hag City instead of Port Authority, and we just cannot have that. Please note the necklace she is wearing. I made that for her more than a dozen years ago and she still wears it.

Brief background – we met in August of 2002 in the waiting area of Amtrak with about a hundred other women waiting for the early morning train to Saratoga Springs. The International Women’s Writing Guild annual conference had already been held for a couple of decades each year at Skidmore College, and this was the first year for both of us. We’ve been friends ever since. At that time, there were just two trains to Saratoga Springs. Its train station was a small dilapidated building and the platform was a yellow stepstool. We all had to be in the same car so we could exit out one door via the stepstool. In subsequent years, they rebuilt the station so it was bigger and quite nice, and they invested in another yellow stepstool so all of us women with all of our bags (I travel as light as possible) could be helped off the train through two doors. Progress. Also over the years, Skidmore overhauled their cafeteria so that the cafeteria experience was amazing. I got a lot of writing done in it. I think Skidmore outgrew us and even after a long, swell relationship, they pushed our group out in favor of newer groups (Skidmore must be a man). The whole setting of the campus was really perfect for us, but for whatever the reason, the 30 year relationship ended. The Guild tried other campuses and then there was that big upheaval at the top that caused a humongous rift in leadership and membership, but here we are now at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, and aside from the freezing rooms, it looks like it may work out fine. The cafeteria is nice, the food is good, but it’s no Skidmore. However, it’s no Brown either. We had tried Brown University one year and the food sucked so royally that I ate hot dogs at least once a day as it was the only edible choice. Mind you, I have not had a hot dog in years, even with the hot dog vendor outside my apartment complex, and it is something that I would use as a reward.

For two years after that we were at Yale, which I did not attend, but I hear the food there was even worse than Brown. But this year a big effort was made to restore some of the feel of the Guild from before the rift, and some familiar faces have returned. Plus, this year, we actually had a keynote speaker. Not only did we have an opening night keynote speaker, but it was Nancy Giles. For those of us that watch the CBS Sunday Morning program, it was exciting. She is a frequent guest commentator, and is smart and funny and really tall. In fact, as I was writing this the following morning, just a few sentences ago, she passed by and I was able to tell her how much I enjoyed her speech the previous night. Honestly though, it was too long and she could have used some of her guidelines for writing a three-minute commentary.

I don’t attend the classes here anymore, haven’t in a long time, maybe one or two if I’m awake enough, but I usually sit and write in the cafeteria, or a lounge, or outside. This is my retreat. As it is a conference for women writers, there is an abundance of classes in poetry and memoir, and each time you meet someone new they inevitably ask what you write. In the past, as I had been working on my play for a stupidly long time, I would mention it to inquisitors or the personal essays I’ve accumulated but never wanted to share. Now that I am working toward a more realistic goal writing pure smut (and loving it), I reply, perhaps a bit too meekly, that I am writing erotica. I’ve got to learn to be more in-your-face about it, and say it loud and proud.

There’s no hard alcohol allowed on this campus at all (I used to bring Jack with me and two shot glasses), and the Guild could only supply wine that could only be served by a member of the college food service staff, and if the Guild took out a $2 million insurance policy. Skidmore sold beer and we could drink freely if we chose. The good news is that I got the temperature up in our suite and we slept much better Saturday night. Next month, I’ll attend the Writers’ Digest conference in New York for the third year, where they have three keynotes and lots of classes that I will attend. Nothing on smut, but some interesting crime and weapons sessions. Plus they have a cocktail party the first night.

BTW – this is the first Sunday in a very long time, surgery or no surgery that I have not exercised. Oh, and there’s no dieting while I’m here. I was missing Max, who is being looked after by my lovely facialist, long before I left, but I’ll be home tomorrow and he will then have the opportunity to show me how much he missed me.

Nancy Giles at IWWG

Nancy Giles at IWWG

July 10, 2016 / thackersam

Muddy Water


“They muddy the water, to make it seem deep.”

An FB friend of an FB friend posted the quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that seems so poignant today, not just with our political climate, or any political climate, considering Brexit, but in your basic corporate workplace, or wherever people try to fool one another. The quote could be updated to “They shit in the water to make themselves seem deep.”

I found that Nietzsche also said “Whoever does not have a good father should procure one.” I do appreciate his concern, but for those of us whose fathers sucked big time, how would we go about doing that? Nietzsche said lots of things, I see, but did he have any solutions?

When I worked for the craft gallery many years ago, you know, the one with all the cats, one day I found a slip of paper in my pocketbook that read “Men are a nightmare.” I had my suspicions of who left me the anonymous note, and don’t recall pursuing it to any great length, but it had to have been a colleague with access to the back room who chose to share this bit of wisdom with me. Somewhere in my apartment, I still have that slip of paper, cause you know what? It never changes. And that’s all I have to say about that.

OK – apparently I’m having issues. Let’s move on.

On the writing front, I’m just putting the finishing touches on an erotic short ghost story that’s really pretty dirty. Even I am disgusted.

I’m exercising a little more since the surgery (can you believe it’s over two weeks now?), but have found that as good as I feel, I am still healing and have caused a mighty big stitch in my side (as in an owie) under my right breast. I just have to remember to lead with my left when reaching for the overhead bar on the subway or bus.

Diet and Weight Loss – Feh

Music – and I am actually referring to music of this very decade – in this very century – Confused by why, as their sounds are similar, I really like Lake Street Dive, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band not so much, I did a modicum of research. Without disparaging the latter, and concentrating on the former, I will say that you’ve got to love a four-piece band that sounds like much more than just a singer in mom-jeans with one of the most phenomenal voices and presence, a bass-player playing a stand-up bass that looks like she’s had it for some time, a swarthy, enthusiastic drummer and a guitarist that looks like he’s from Minnesota (no offense meant, he’s just very blond and looks Scandinavian). They all harmonize well, and who doesn’t love a good dive bar, from whence their name (Note – their name is for a street that, in their opinion, consisted of many dive bars, in all places – Minnesota. I swear it was just a guess. And the guys name is Olson.). I don’t know if they will be good to exercise to, but I think I will look for one of their earlier CDs (also of this century) in the discount racks.

Memories – I had a pleasant memory about my mother the other day that made me smile. And now I can’t remember what it was. It was her birthday on Thursday. She would have been 88. My step-mother turns 90 on Friday.

July 3, 2016 / thackersam

Different Drummer

Diff Drum

I know I said that I didn’t want the blog to be about the cancer thing, but bear with me, it’ll be over soon as I will continue to forego any follow-up treatment. My surgeon had called me the night before my post-op appointment with him one week after the surgery. He didn’t want to wait to tell me the good news, that he got everything and that the post-surgery testing of the two tiny lumps and the two lymph node samples he removed, in one incision, mind you, came back negative and we didn’t need to do any additional surgery. I already knew that. However, yes, I was impressed with the one incision, as he was exceedingly proud of it. In fact, I hope what he has learned from slicing me open will benefit others.

When I told him how good I felt after the surgery and how I made Gilda take me home via subway, he replied “Well… you’re different.” Yeah, I guess that’s true, but I can’t believe he’s not met anyone like me in his many years as a breast cancer surgeon (and he’s no spring chicken), someone who questions the recommended treatment, and takes my own circumstances into consideration when making a decision that just doesn’t seem logical to those in the medical field. I choose to roll the dice, right now, and who knows, if this happens again, which it just might, I might make a different decision based on a different set of circumstances.

BTW – It is my strong belief that once you come out on the other end of a less than pleasant event, you should do some self-pampering. You don’t actually have to wait, but my surgery kept getting bounced around due to what I now deem as unnecessary tests and way too many mammograms, that I had to keep rescheduling my monthly facial. And you know I love my facials. I finally went on Friday and feel so refreshed. Then on Saturday, after letting all the lowlight accumulation grow out passed my earlobes and letting my hair grow down my back, I decided it was time to go for the lowlights again. It was nice to have that natural feel of my hair again, but it was too grey and not grey enough to sport the long look without my looking like a nutty old lady most days of the week. My Italian/East Indian/Mystery roots cause my hair to frizz in the summer and lay flat in the winter.

On previous visits to my new hairdresser, we discussed what I envisioned, what she could do, and yesterday we did it. She kind of nailed it, too. I now have a lovely head of salt and pepper hair with a natural skunk strip down the front. I would call it perfect if I believed in perfection, but for a 60-year-old broad, I look pretty damn good. In fact, I was so upbeat about it that I put on make-up, watched Trainwreck for the umpteenth time, and drank hot sake on Saturday night. Yeah, that’s kind of sad, but considering the meshing of the three activities, plus the new hair, I was more than fine with it. I would have taken a selfie, but I’m still vain and shallow enough to think I’m better looking than in my pictures, particularly those I take from my phone. Actually, I did take a selfie and proved my point.

Happy Fourth to all!

To my friend in Hoot ‘n Holler – Check your mail this week.

June 26, 2016 / thackersam

Cancer is not a sentence. It’s a word.

Cancer is not a sentence. It's a word.

Cancer is not a sentence. It’s a word.

I have a thing about words. For example, while they are pretty obsolete, you should know ergo and ilk and use them correctly, but never with a straight face. Ergo gets a flourish, either in tone or gesture, and ilk should be spoken with a very hard K. And I believe you should only use the word supercilious to describe someone who would use the word supercilious.

I like irk. For me it’s kind of onomatopoeia-ish as it is often the sound I make when irked. And of course if you describe someone or something as irksome, no doubt about it, you are irked – more than annoyed, but it’s hardly worth your time and energy to be angry. My admiration for the word nevertheless has been noted time and again during these blog years, cause c’mon, it’s three distinct words linked together as one that is politely dismissive. How could you not like that?

I will go to my grave with affect/effect issues, but I do have that who/whom thing down. My other senses are affected (autocorrect), like forever confusing eclairs and napoleons, thinking one is the other, and I could never remember which tea I wanted between English Breakfast and Earl Grey. One I like fine and the other not at all. That was one of those things that Vicki remembered for me, and in the two plus years since her death, I’ve not had either.

Have you ever noticed that guys named Dick usually are.

And speaking of good friends (no Dicks), hats off to Gilda, who again took very good care of me on Wednesday. As you can see, I did not die from some freak accident during my surgery. In fact, all seemed to go well and I am oh so very elated to be on the other side of it. I had a completely different post-surgery experience from the last time, when I was so sick from the anesthesia I couldn’t move. I was woken up too soon and because of the nasty weather at that time, and rushed out of the facility. True, we were having a blizzard, however, I had just undergone surgery!

I can go into that some other time, but will say this – speak up! It pays off. They may know medicine, but you know your body. Not only was I allowed to sleep it off this time, but I believe the anesthesiologist slipped something into the concoction to ward off the nausea. Last time they gave me graham crackers I would have sworn were from the previous century, possibly the one before that, and they were impossible to swallow. Gilda said they were just fine. However on Wednesday, when the nurse told me I could leave after I ate, I shoved the graham crackers into my mouth as I was anxious to go. I kept teasing Gilda, who is such an attentive caregiver and read all my instructions while she waited. I would dance about causing her to scold, and I actually made her take me home via subway. I am sore and bruised, but didn’t even bother to get the prescription for pain meds. I am eating whatever I want, and Wednesday evening, Gilda, Max and I had a swell time. And pizza. I would also like to point out that I was diagnosed in February, and more than three months later, there had been no change in the little cancerous lumps that are now somewhere else.

Now when I went through this in November 2012 with my tiny stage one lumps, one in each breast, and decided against all post-op treatments, I suspected that I would go through it again, and expect that this is not the last of the tiny lumps and surgeries. This leads to the explanation of the picture of my chest after the operation. You know I’ve been trying to lose weight and had told the ex that when I hit a comfortable 130, I was going to get my first tattoo. Probably a monarch butterfly, but I’ve got time to think about it. Then when the cancer popped up again, I thought that perhaps the next time, I would have my surgeon tattoo his name across his handiwork. That’s not a tattoo in the picture, merely the indelible ink he used to scrawl his initials across the breast to be operated on. It’s a start. I kind of like the purple.

I had to workout today as it’s Sunday and I needed the music and activity for mental stability as well as the physical aspect, and got to remove my bandage (ick) and shower for the first time since Tuesday night (feel free to insert your own ick). The exercise felt good. Back to work tomorrow.

BTW – Our local news station NY1, has a weekend program called On Stage that I like to watch. One of the news anchors and program contributor Roma Torre was interviewing stage actress, Marin Mazzie, who had just taken over the role of Anna in the revival of The King and I (it closes this weekend). She is also a recent survivor of stage four ovarian cancer, and Roma Torre went through her own bout of colon cancer, so it was a topic of conversation. Coincidentally, I had already penned most of this post on words and cancer, when I heard Roma say that a friend had said to her – “Cancer is not a sentence. It’s a word.” And that seems to be a perfect title for this evening’s post.

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes. Really means a lot. – S

June 19, 2016 / thackersam

The Queen of Tangent City

Queen of HAh geez – I am the Tangent Queen. I’ve always been bad, or good, depending on how you’re looking at it, but now it’s gotten so each of the 27 or so tangents I can go off on from one story, sometimes not even my own, have their own batch of tangents, and so on and so on. Look at how I am in writing – and I edit myself! I wonder if the tangents keep sprouting, could they go all around the world and eventually meet up with each other? Tell me you’ve never thought of that.

Anyway, it’s a possible goal if I look upon my trips to Tangent City as a talent, rather than a curse. It’s so bad, or again, so good, depending on how you look at it, that one merely has to say “hi” and again, not even to me, and there I go. Tangent City. And I am its Queen.

And that brings up that other issue that I know has just occurred to you. Cities don’t normally have Queens, well not the royal kind and not counting the borough where I lived for 30 years. Cities have mayors. Except I don’t want to be the Tangent Mayor. And I also don’t want to be the Queen of Tangent Sovereignty, though I might consider Duchess of Tangent Duchy, but only if I had to give up my crown. But for now, I accept the crown and wear it proudly along with my cynic’s scepter.

BTW – In keeping with the blogs’ music theme, Pete Townsend can still write another opera, and Roger Daltry can still sing it (for you young’uns, that’s The Who – the remaining two Who), and if they make a movie of it, I would be pleased as punch to have Tina Turner play my character of The Tangent Queen. (I hope I don’t have to explain that Tina played The Acid Queen in the movie version of The Who’s rock opera Tommy.)

That surgery thing – it’s scheduled again. Wednesday. And yeah, I’m feeling a bit anxious.

Acid Queen

June 12, 2016 / thackersam

Sunday Cynicism

Cynicism quote GBSI’m looking forward to going to the IWWG conference next month.

Before ever going away the summer conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild, which at the time seemed like something only real writers do, I attended a couple of their much smaller conferences held in the City. I must have written about that before. That was in the last century.

It was a big deal for me to go to one of those as well, traveling into Manhattan from eastern Queens. I liked these weekend conferences and the attractive woman who started it all, although she had way too many kumbaya moments going on. I was uncomfortable going around the room before the start of both days’ sessions, and having each attendee stand, say who they were and give one word to describe themselves. Butterfly, Optimist, Rainbow… were some of the words I remember. I hate this kind of crap. I played along, but did not feel confident enough to say the word I wanted, so instead, when it came my turn, I said “survivor.” I didn’t mean in the cancer sense as not only had I not had cancer back then, but the term survivor to particularly describe someone who has survived cancer, was in its infancy. I used the term just to describe all the other stuff I had not only survived but continued to move forward through. Slowly, yes, but forward nonetheless (I love the word nonetheless. Isn’t it great?) So, survivor fit then too.

The next day, yes she had us do it again. When it came back around to me , I stood, said my name and explained that the day before I had wanted to say cynic, but thought it was too, well, cynical. I got quite a few chuckles.

That woman who started the whole IWWG thing, was even worse at the annual fest that took women writers and goddesses to Skidmore College for a week. She had one those Tibetan gong bowls and numerous flags which she presented to all the people who came from different countries, having them come up as she called there name to collect their particular flag. My first year, there were about 1,000 attendees. All this gathering of women stuff took up too much time at the evening gatherings when most of us wanted to get to the announcements by the late great Annie, and the readings that were usually a hoot. We all loved, that woman that started it all, and still do, and what she did was lovely, really, just long. She was eventually booted from her creation, as sometimes happens, causing a big to-do a few years ago from which the Guild has yet to recover. And it may not. It looks like this year they’re actually pulling out all the stops to bring back some of the old feel of the conference while showing a new direction. The numbers have been ridiculously down since the dissention. But I’m excited and hopeful for this year.

Am I still a cynic? Of course and with more and more right to be. Without going into detail, no surgery scheduled yet, and the further tests have exacerbated the thing with my feet. I’m getting pissed, but I won’t go off on a rant, tonight.

Though I maintain my pride as a card-carrying member of the group, I do try to deal with the negative aspects of my cynicism by working on  the assumptions that I’m not going to like “it.” Like prosecco, for instance. I prefer my wines very dry and am not into effervescent types. In my time, I have tasted a nice champagne or two, but it’s not up my alley. I have never had prosecco and from what I know of it, have an unproved bias against it. I’ve also have a bottle in my refrigerator for what could be a year or more, that Gilda brought. No one has wanted me to open it,  not even Gilda, so the other night I thought, hey, I could do with a glass of wine, and remembering what the cheap Trader Joe’s cabernet sauvignon tasted like, I wasn’t interested in trying that brand’s pinot grigio that stood next to the untouched prosecco. So I did it. I opened the bottle against which I’ve held a prejudice, and not just because there are hearts on it. It had the champagne cork (Trader Joe’s had a twist off top), poured clean not fizzy, and had a nice clean aroma. And it tasted like swill. So, there you go.

Since trying new things out of my comfort zone is on my agenda, I strayed today from Tribeca’s Kitchen, and while I cannot say I will never again stray, I did try a more traditional diner down this way in the Financial District, and can report that I shan’t be dallying with them again.

BTW – After breakfast and finding hits and misses on my Sunday outing to another part of downtown Manhattan, I came home and really discovered John Oliver. I think I watched five episodes, all that was available On Demand. He is incredibly informative and incredibly funny. To my delight, while he had us all laughing at the newly elected president of the Philippines, who is likened to Donald Trump, Oliver referred to him, not as a “fucking moron,” which would be the funnier choice of word, but he called him the more frightening “fucking monster,” forcing deeper thought on our part. I love that kind of humor and straightforwardness. I would have gone for moron. Plus, in researching President Elect Rodrigo Duterte, he’s a much bigger dick than Trump. Pardon my French.


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