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September 18, 2016 / thackersam

Reply All

no-reply-allSomebody, just the other day, did one of those stupid email things, in which said person should not have forwarded my email to others without forewarning. I could have said – wait a minute, can you just delete that part. I didn’t call the president of the company a dickwad or anything like that, plus the forwarder wrote so much before it, the receivers would be fast asleep before they got to my message. But it was one of those – oh, why did you have to go and do that – moments.

And that made me think of my beloved friend Vicki. Now there was a woman who should have had her reply all button permanently disconnected. Had she really needed to reply all, she would have had to do it the hard way, prompting her to think first. She told me once of a time that she replied to an email from a PTA member to other members and referred to one of the mothers, who was indeed part of the group that received the message, as tiresome (I believe the chosen word was “tiresome” although it could have been something a bit stronger, but not to the “asshole” extent). And of course, she hit reply all without realizing it. I don’t recall the aftermath, but it couldn’t have been pleasant.

For me, she caused some embarrassment when she forwarded an email that shouldn’t nor needn’t have been forwarded, to a friend of hers. I quite like this woman now, have for a long time, and should really give her a call, but initially when she came to work for me as a seasonal writer, I did not care too much for her. It took us all a little bit to get used to her, including my one permanent staff person and other seasonal writer, at that time. I wanted her to come back to work for me the following year and could not find her personal email address. Thus, my email to Vicki. But the email included more than just the request. I told Vicki a story I’m not particularly proud of, but still laugh when telling it.

It was a few years ago when my office was on Wall Street and my tiny department was relegated to three cubbies in a row on the 5th floor. Mine was by the window with my one permanent (and invaluable, I may add) staff person in front of me and our seasonal writer at the desk at the front of the line. I hired Vicki’s friend as a second seasonal writer and due to the lack of space, she was seated at a small desk near the kitchen, out of our view. We didn’t get along well and her squinting at her computer screen reminded me of Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella character from the early Saturday Night Live days. I shared this with my other two people who, being Generation Xers, delighted in their new discovery. Yes, we poked fun at Vicki’s friend behind her back, but luckily, that part was not in the email.

One day I’m sitting at my desk with my fake walls and the window at my back, when someone snuck up behind me and shook my chair. I turned around, but there was no one there. Poltergeists, was my next thought, which quickly turned to something’s up. Someone called out – Did anyone feel that? Only a few of us had and knew it was something. Others, like my staff were unaware. But when I saw that there was no construction going on downstairs that could cause the shaking, I told my staff that we were going down to the lobby, where Ari, the building’s front desk manager and terminal flirt, would undoubtedly know what was going on. Minor earthquake, it turned out. This is New York. We have other things to worry about than earthquakes, but I’d never felt one before, nor since, and though it lasted a nanosecond for me, it was pretty creepy.

I boasted to Ari about what a good boss I was, getting my staff to safety even though we took the elevator down (I swear, I didn’t think of that until we were in the elevator). The smile on my face suddenly dropped to an expression of dismay. “I’m a very bad boss,” I lamented looking at my one permanent staff member and my one seasonal writer, and we all doubled over with laughter, again at Vicki’s friend’s expense, me still bemoaning what a horrible manager I was. Poor Ari had to wait till one of us could stop laughing long enough to tell him what was going on.

We all forgot about her, but it was my responsibility. Fortunately, she was among those who hadn’t felt a thing, and was none the wiser that we had abandoned her. I will say that the incident softened me toward her and I developed a certain fondness for her.

No thanks to Vicki and her poor email habits though. In this case, had she hit reply all instead of adding her friend’s email address, it would have worked out better. I never knew if her friend read my email, or if it bothered her. It was never brought up. It did cause Vicki to get pissed at me for being pissed at her. But that was Vicki, and while I will forever be pissed at her for dying, I wish she was still around for me to get pissed at for the other things, though I’d probably insist that she only be allowed to email in the company of someone in authority.

BTW – I’m a pretty steady 142lbs right now and intend to be securely under 140 by the time I need to make the many batches of bourbon balls that have been requested, which I start rolling each year during the Thanksgiving holiday and eat too many of. Very glad indeed that my friend who runs a bar in Chelsea is safe.

September 11, 2016 / thackersam

The Weird Thing Is

writing-nyxThe weird thing is that I started to slide out of last weekend’s doldrums almost immediately after returning to the routine of work on Tuesday, but was not able to return to the routine of exercise. It’s not that I love my job, but I am easily distracted. But not once did I exercise since the Thursday before last, not even last Sunday. Yes, I confess that I broke my vow to myself that no way, unless I am not at home, would I miss the Sunday evening workout. I can use the wallowing excuse any other day of the week, but when Sunday rolls around, well, buck up kid, turn on the stereo and lay down the mat. Couldn’t do it last Sunday, nor the rest of the week until this evening (I would never let myself hear the end of it if I missed another Sunday). I have however dropped another pound. But that’s not even the weirdest thing.

I had a choice of two activities for Friday evening. Yes, that is weird, but still not the weirdest. I could go to the weekly write-in I kept meaning to check out, or I could attend the annual to-do by the river, thrown by the tenant’s association of my large complex that was promoted as honoring Chuck Schumer, but the day of turned into an honoring of local officials instead. Don’t be disappointed, but I chose to write over free food and drinks, and over going home and being a lump, AND not exercising. Focusing on the class itself and not the more unpleasant than dangerous midtown west neighborhood where the class was held (see, no tangent), I will say that the class was not what I expected or hoped for. I knew it was two hours of writers writing to prompts, if they chose, and reading aloud, if they chose. I would choose neither. I went for the atmosphere of writers as a brain prompt to start an article that needs to be written. It’s a swell and timely story, but no, we are staying focused.

From the description of the weekly event, I pictured a larger room, chairs lined up facing front, and more people allowing me my anonymity and the “don’t bother me, I’m writing” air that I emanate. I had no intentions of participating, even when I stepped into the small room with the tables set in a hollow rectangle layout that was filled to capacity with 14 people, plus the teacher. Too intimate, but not entirely bothersome. I opened my laptop and started writing the beginning of the article, even after the less than inspirational prompt of “lipstick” was given. The noise level in the room of the air conditioner, sirens passing outside and an inconveniently timed garbage pick-up, plus the acoustics problem I’ve always had, made it hard for me to hear a lot of what was being read, and the teacher had to coax the majority of us first-timers to read. She was much better at listening and providing positive feedback, very good in fact, than she is in coming up with writing prompts.

We had a break during which plastic cups filled with about two shots of white wine were available and an odd array of snackies: some cookies and unrelated sweets, pretzel sticks and yesterday’s crudité with a dip that may have been hummus. Then someone brought out something quite different that turned out to be jerk chicken. With my plate of pretzel sticks and two baby carrots, and double-shot of wine, I went back to my seat and to my article, but instead of writing, I socialized with the woman seated next to me. No, we are still not at the really weird part. I decided to put the article aside as I had a pretty nice beginning down, and participate. However, instead of using the equally lame-ass prompt “dilemma” I used one of my own. Lines often pop into my head out of nowhere, and often for no reason whatsoever, and the most recent one – “Barbara-Ann woke up yelling ‘Is this going to be on the test,” seemed to be worthy of a stab at a story that I could write in 15 minutes.

I am an exceedingly slow writer, and in these situations have never produced anything with an ending, but I made a point of letting Barbara-Ann take me along with her thoughts and at the one-minute warning, I wrapped it up. The teacher again had to coax people into reading, wanting to hear from those of us who hadn’t already read, and yes, this is the really weird thing, I volunteered. I wasn’t at all nervous, and probably made more comments afterward than anyone else did on the inconsequential piece. There were no oohs and aahs at my fabulous writing skills, and I didn’t care. I felt a sense of accomplishment, but still not overwhelmingly so. It just felt natural. What have I been so apprehensive about all these years? I don’t read, never have read anything I’ve written in front of more than one or two people, and even that’s rare. The one time since college when we have to make presentations, I have read aloud was a year and a half ago when I read the short piece I wrote about Vicki at the gathering for the one-year anniversary of her death. And even that started with the line that I would rather get a Brazilian wax in Macy’s window than speak publicly, which fortunately got a laugh. Progress people, progress. Just some pit stops along the way.

Aside – I want to acknowledge this day. I have my story of that day 15 years ago. We all do. But there are much more important stories to tell of 9/11, and mine is more of a conversation.

BTW – I have come to the end of another notebook dedicated to the blog, which was started three years ago from just about now. And long after the original intention of exercising to my album collection A-Z ended when we came to ZZ Top, I still have no idea what I’m doing. So thanks for playing along.

September 4, 2016 / thackersam

Empty-Headed

Empty headed

It was more than half my life ago now that my brother died of AIDS. 31 years on September 7th to be exact, five days after his 33rd birthday. I feel it every year, the melancholy from the double-punch. And I’ve written about it and him before, but ever so briefly and hidden at the end of a post. He was Davey to me, David to his friends. I should write about him, but it comes with a lot of turbulence, created by neither of us, and it’s hard to separate that out. Perhaps I am feeling it stronger this year because of my own health issues, and the aftereffects of all the pre-operative tests. (Beware MRIs with contrast. I now know what had caused my problems with my feet that started when I had the contrast eight years ago and has now gotten so much worse.) Or perhaps I’m just being a big old whiny baby. But, nothing else is on my mind tonight, that I care to write about, so this is it. I did find this neat picture to illustrate my empty-headedness.

My wholehearted thanks to my friend in Hoot ‘n Holler for her kindness and support from afar.

BTW – There is no BTW tonight.

August 28, 2016 / thackersam

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3

Ian Dury

Let’s stick to music tonight, shall we? And I’ll throw in a little exercise. As we know (newcomers, catch up), my exercise routines almost always start with me singing along with the first three songs from Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel. I am not getting any better, but I am getting louder. Now Linda and I do not sing in the same key or style. And not to be disrespectful, as I’m not the worst singer in the world, but as I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t be surprised that even with her Parkinson’s Disease that keeps her from performing, sounds better than I do. But I’m not a really good singer either. The louder I get however, the more confident I feel, though that is not why I’m doing this.

Remember my step-mother? Of course you do. She has just turned 90 and is just a nutty-person. The last time she called at 4am her time, which is 10pm here, so all’s good, she really ran the gamut. I should come visit, she’s coming over from Holland with a friend to take care of me, AND she’ll be going back home next week. Usually it’s just one or the other or the other. Oh, and now there’s this blowing in of hot air that someone is doing to her. But she sounds good. Voice-wise, I mean. She doesn’t sound like a 90 year old. Her voice is pretty strong and clear, even when she starts talking to me in Dutch, which I don’t understand. It’s like that because she was an opera singer. Mezzo soprano? I think that’s what it was. And she sang professionally throughout Europe. She started her career after leaving her first husband, who was the premier artist of Indonesia (that’s how she and my father always described him, so I don’t know if that is an official title) after he was cheating on her. Well that’s what I thought for years, decades, until my visit last November (see My Inner Selfie) when she explained that he always loved the young women he painted, but this one he wanted to move in with them. So she left him, as did the young woman. There’s more, but this isn’t about him. My stepmother left without taking a cent, so her story goes, which has been consistent, and took a little apartment back in Holland and singing lessons.

I don’t like opera, but if really belting it out helps me to sound strong into my golden years, not to mention breathe better, I will do it. My chanting is getting louder, and longer, as well. I’m sure the neighbors either dread the noise or joy in poking fun at me.

Once upon a time, I did have a pretty good voice. I even took voice lessons about 16 years ago, with the lofty dream of perchance having a cabaret act. I spin a good yarn and there is a song that goes with everything, after all. But then, my voice teacher was a jazz musician, you know, and we’ll just leave it at that.

BTW – Ian Dury. What an interesting songwriter. And he sang full cockney. I heard “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3” the other day on the radio and had to share it with my younger staff members. The millennial really liked it, so I think I’ll turn her on to his other great hits like “Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll,” “Wake Up and Make Love With Me,” and my personal favorite, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.”

And speaking of the radio, on Wednesday, one of the DJs was talking about the Bruce Springsteen concert the previous night or so, which Bruce ended with “Jersey Girl,” but, said the DJ, he didn’t play this song; and then I heard the opening notes to “Thunder Road” (I can name that tune in one note). Really! What! People, what’s my favorite Bruce song? “Jersey Girl” is just a song (and not even one he wrote). “Thunder Road” is epic.

Info for the next pop quiz – Actually “Thunder Road” ties with “Rosalita” as my favorite Bruce songs, number 3 – Jungleland, 4-Out In the Street, and 5-Streets of Philadelphia, even though as soon as I hear the first note and start to cry.

August 21, 2016 / thackersam

The Possibly Three Deadly Sins

sloth

The Seven Deadly Sins always confused me. Really, some seem so minor. And lust as number one? Okay, even if we don’t think of it in sexual terms, it’s just passion. And passion has been the impetus for a lot of great things. If it weren’t for lust, what would we read, and why?  The second is gluttony. Now that’s harsh. Especially since a new salad bar has opened up downtown and for a few days the hot and cold salads were 50% off. And they had some freakin’ good stuff. One day, when I could squeeze in at the hot buffet as it was so understandably crowded, I came back to the office with 2lbs worth of duck (boneless), rack of lamb and prawns, broccoli rabe, roasted cauliflower and another vegetable., but who cares, right? I fed my boss, who was pretty amazed and delighted (particularly since he is a bit on the curmudgeony side), and I had lunch and dinner from it. Yes, I was gluttonous. I kept piling on the food and the only reason I didn’t take any lobster was that it wouldn’t fit. I went back the next and final day of the sale, and returned with more slabs of meat: prime rib, more lamb and pork that was like butter. I now understand what having “the meat sweats” means. Diet set-back of course, but I kind of have no regrets.

Greed, which is really the only thing on the list I whole-heartedly agree with, and think should be at the top of it, comes after these two innocuous indulgences. I’m sorry, taking all that food was gluttony, pure and simple and had nothing to do with greed, which is a very bad thing. Then comes sloth. And that has some merit. Sloth is really quite self-destructive. Oh, it’s okay to be lazy once in a while, but sloth, well that’s a lifestyle, and a demon I battle. Also the impetus for this entire composition. I know you’re wondering – what the dickens is she going off on now. Well, that’s the dickens. I am slothful.

The whole Seven Deadly Sins thing came about post-Bible, and was probably invented by some guy who could never get a date and is based on societal views on morality. Their severity was based on the belief that these particular sins would lead to other immoral behavior, ergo – Deadly. So I think we can safely assume that this smiley faced guy or gal, who is probably very popular in the sloth-world, was named for the sin, and not vice versa. But the sloth is not lazy, the sloth is just so exceedingly slow that when you see them move, you understand why they got pegged with this moniker (it’s really so painfully slow that you just want to yell “move” at them, much like I do to the tourists in NYC). And apparently they sleep more than half a day, and even when awake, they often remain motionless. As this is the way of the sloth culture, how could it be considered laziness? This information, BTW, is from National Geographic, not Wikipedia. But boy those sloths look happy and content.

A website I found that is “all about God,” quotes Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Okay – I tend to agree, but according to the descriptions of the so-called seven deadly sins, this sounds like it is referring less to the listed sins, and more specifically to a person oh say… just like Donald Trump (see what I did there, I got political). Now, if the seven deadly sins were these attributes as listed in Proverbs: murder, lying, a heart that devises wicked schemes, etc., I’d not be complaining. So, did someone get it wrong? Shouldn’t then the seven deadly sins as we know them today, actually be on the list of six things God hates? And which sin was slyly stuck on to the list to make it seven? Here is the list and descriptions from this particular website. You can make your own assumptions, cause if it were up to me, the list would be whittled down to two or three sins and one self-destructive behavior that is not self-destruction if you are an actual sloth.

  1. Lust – to have an intense desire or need.
  2. Gluttony – excess in eating and drinking.
  3. Greed – excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness.
  4. Laziness (Sloth) – disinclined to activity or exertion: not energetic or vigorous.
  5. Wrath – strong vengeful anger or imagination. (Me – Nothing wrong with a little vengeance when needed, except when taken too far. So perhaps this could remain on the list with an asterisk.)
  6. Envy – painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. (Me – Could lead to theft, which leads to violence, so that being said, this can remain on the list without an asterisk.)
  7. Pride – quality or state of being proud – inordinate self-esteem. (Me – The Heave-Ho!)

As an added note, when speaking with the ex late this afternoon, and of the sloth, he told me of a scene he saw from the animated movie Zootopia (we think it’s Zootopia, neither of us have seen the movie), in which a DMV employee is a cartoon sloth. I’m just going to STM on that one. (DMV-Department of Motor Vehicles; STM-snicker to myself).

BTW – The sloth, which likes to hang out in and around water, is often so sedentary that algae forms on its coat giving it a green tinge. Which brings to mind the adage, Don’t Let Moss Grow Under Your Feet, or of course, A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss. And there we have our music reference for the night. Two in fact.

August 14, 2016 / thackersam

Sex & Knives

Knives

This weekend was the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. Year three for me. Before I tell you my highlights, most of which came in the form of author Steven James, who is really funny, let me start by getting my gripes out of the way, both of which happened the morning of the first day. I started the conference by attending “Sexy, Savvy, Sensational Romance,” a panel of romance writers, all female, no surprise. I thought I might get some idea of the crafting process and what is now acceptable sex in a romance novel, even though there’s no romance in my current project. The session was mostly about the business side, but the five women were all great and entertaining. Sex was mentioned once, and that was it, just mentioned.

I sat in the second row of a smaller meeting room, three seats from the wall. Halfway through the hour long session, a woman steps over the others in my row, excusing herself to get to the seat against the wall. She was then followed by an older woman who sits next to me. Within mere moments , the older woman’s phone rings. I side-eye her, thinking she is going to turn it off, but no, she answers it! AND – She turns her head and phone toward MY right ear and says “Allo?” To which I, in a sharp whisper immediately snap, “Can you NOT do that.” She got up and left. Idiot! WTF? She did not return. (Lucky for her)

The next session was ladies’ mystery writer Jane Cleland in the auditorium. actually a large complex of rooms. A lot of seats. Loads and loads of seats. Jane’s seminar was the exact same one she gave last year, which was in a smaller breakout room, and the more intimate setting suits her better. She likes to give formulas. That works for her.

I didn’t sit anywhere near the front of the room, the large room, and was off to one side with an empty seat on either side of me. Of course, about 20 minutes in, some older guy decides he has to step over fellow audience members and PLOP down next to me, clipping my right thigh with his girth and without apology. Idiot! WTF?

Those are the gripes.

The afternoon sessions were swell. Author Steven James, who, because I was sitting in the first row of the auditorium for his first session, chatted with me before he began about my search for a McDonald’s to get a large coffee for a buck, on a 94 degree day in New York City. They took the coffee away long before sessions started in the morning, and before I got there. What could I do? Besides, he listened without judgment, I think, and seemed more impressed that I held in my hand the evidence that my quest had been successful.

His session on breaking the rules was great (a nice contrast to the previous session), as was the next session on crafting a thriller on which he was a panelist. So was the weapons guy, Ben Sobieck, and the next day, during the weapons guy’s talk on weapons, I was the quickest to raise my hand when he asked who wanted a free copy of his book. I have plenty of books, we all do, don’t we? But this one is on weapons and while the main focus is guns, it’s got a whole juicy section on knives, and as the intimacy of killing with a knife rather than a gun goes nicely with my main character’s sexual proclivity, I’m tickled pink to have this book.

Day two of the conference included another session by Steven James, and the reason I rave about him is that he is very funny and entertaining, but he writes in the same “oh neat, let’s see what the character does now” way that I do, and seems to write for his own enjoyment as well as that of others. He, like me, allows his characters to lead him to where they’re going with fascination. Honestly, sometimes my main character really surprises me. And Steven James has been successful with it, so there’s that. I should mention that last night’s keynote speaker, David Baldacci is a really good speaker. I love when writers can speak like they write, with the appropriate pauses and of course confidence.

The highlight of this morning’s half day was that I arrived in time for coffee. Regardless of a less than wowsome Sunday conference-wise, I am stoked and have been getting more plotting done as I reevaluate what I have created in the story so far, even though I’m a “pantser” (as in seat of my pants). I am just so damned damaged though. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish anything or do anything beyond that (remember, I have finished my play). But I do know this. I write first and foremost because I like it. I derive much glee from it. It entertains me. And once in a while, it entertains others. That is not good enough for me, however it’s a passion and it’s something that I’m good at. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pick out a knife.

BTW – Did you know that it’s hard to stab someone in the chest because of a little thing called bones, and that if you want to slash someone’s throat, you should never sneak up on them from behind. If you need to kill someone – and I just mean a character in a book – I recommend The Writer’s Guide to Weapons. It could be prettier (the photo of the knives is not from the book), but it will let you know when to use clip and when to use magazine. And Glock’s don’t have safeties.

August 7, 2016 / thackersam

Act Naturally

Paul & Ringo2

Thank you Paul and Ringo for growing old with us. And thank you for giving me something to write about this evening, and to be thankful for, and not be all consumed with the craziness going on, nationally, internationally and internally. Greed is not good. And remember that you know your bodies better than they do. So I chant – Paul and Ringo, Paul and Ringo, Ringo and Paul. Ohmmmm. No, nothing has happened, that I know of. I’ve not heard of anyone being sick or another reunion. I just love Beatles. They make me feel good. Safe.

“Act Naturally” is a Buck Owens song sung by Ringo, and was the B side to McCartney’s “Yesterday,” which would not make my top ten Paul McCartney songs, even if we limited it to those he wrote as a Beatle. BTW – Trouble-Buddy emailed me the other day to tell me of her recent musical trip down memory lane, and my friend from Hoot ‘n Holler allows me to bounce my story ideas off of her and responds with an encouraging “keep going.” They make me feel good, too.

Maintaining the current weight, and will start the push back downward tomorrow. Next weekend is the Writer’s Digest annual conference in NYC, and they have some cool sessions this year. I am particularly excited about the one on weapons, and hope to have another dead man soon afterward. The victim has already been established and ideas are popping up and getting down in writing.

This is less of a BTW than an Aside the Point, but due to the heat lately, I have come to the conclusion that if you live in a one-room apartment, you should never skimp on the kitty litter. Think aromatherapy.

And this is an Aside the Point to the Aside the Point, but my Siri doesn’t know me anymore. What’s worse is she doesn’t even seem to care. Indifference really hurts.

How does one act naturally? It’s not easily defined.