Live Specimens

You’ll note this image is NOT taken from my keyboard… No. Not happening. Ever.

Labor Day weekend was a blast. We had 3 of our 4 children. I could tell you about taking them to the Kipona Festival in Harrisburg. How my kids got a taste of a real city, the nightlife, a walk to City Island and spitting from the roof of a parking garage—you know, the important things in life. Or the visit to TomoJoe’s and about the silliness of children, or the in-jokes of the adults. How Tomo and I always have opinions about something going on, or why the term “brain bleach” will never die. Instead, I think you need to hear about the bug

It came skittering across Tomo’s patio and Manda pointed it out. We were all surprised by the size of this ant-type-thing (probably a little over an inch long) and Bob thought we should capture it. A cup, a baggie, and several nervous jumps and squeals later, and Bob and Mark had captured this “mutant ant.” We all looked at it and commented how it kind of walked with its ass in the air. It was interesting, placed on the corner of the pool bar… and promptly forgotten.

When we left Monday afternoon, Bob retrieved the captured bug. I raised an eyebrow, “Really? It’s coming with us?” And it was explained to me that he needed to check it out further and google it and whatnot. Fine. It’s in a cup, inside a large baggie, inside an old coffee can. Okay.

And we hit the road, and again forgot about it.

Until the boychild screamed like a little girl and pointed to it crawling next to him near the window. I hopped out of my seat and dove into the back, rolling the window down in an effort to just flick it outside.

I missed.

It fell.

It landed somewhere in the back seat and three children immediately started freaking out. Two were old enough to unbuckle and do a little search and destroy dance, as witnessed by the pictures. One was trapped in a carseat and just kept mumbling things like, “I’m terrified,” or “Kill it… please kill it.”

Bob laughed hysterically as he continued to drive and we all searched for the strange fuzzy ant. The children could not be calmed and we pulled over.

Three kids piled out of the car with speeds I didn’t know possible and the two of us looked all over. We flipped seats down, we moved things, we could find no bug. Someone pointed out the narrow spot under the seat that actually opens to the ground below and we presumed it had fallen or crawled through there and was some where on the highway behind us. We piled back in and continued home. The kids all voicing their thoughts from the backseat.

“Daddy… we need to buy a new truck.”

“You know Bob, they’re giving cash for clunkers.”

“Why was that in here?!”

As Bob and I chuckled and watched the road we listened to such gems as “someone hold me” and “I don’t like bugs anymore.” Mark and Carson talked about never sleeping again and then both went quiet as they started to zone out. Manda’s eye were heavy as the busy weekend and hum of the highway began to take its toll on her. Hell, even I was slouched down and comfortable and debating co-pilot fail… Until Manda screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

Seems the gigantic bug wasn’t gone. Seems it was crawling on her arm. Seems it was no longer an interesting fuzzy ant with pretty colors. Manda flicked it. It landed on the back of my seat and Mark squished it with a metal thermos. It fell to the floor… and flipped back over, alive and fine. Manda screamed again. This was the kind of scream that makes parents react, and Bob pulled over so damn fast I almost got whiplash.

Again, three kids piled out with a speed that amazed me. I’m not even sure who unbuckled the little one, or if they just tore him free on their way out.

I grabbed a pen, because it was handy, and stabbed it. It flicked its butt at me and ran under the seat. Bob noted, “Hardy little fucker, isn’t it?”

Manda is no longer screaming at this point, but is crying and hysterical, repeatedly gasping “it was ON me!” I was in the back, Bob was in the front, and we were both frantically trying to locate the strange fuzzy red ant under the seat, while the children danced and panicked from the shoulder of the highway. A scream told us where it was and we looked in the direction of the wordless pointing finger. I grabbed my shoe and ground into it. It laughed at us and ran under the dash. Bob ran around the other side and we tried to locate it behind the console. Pen in hand, because it IS mightier than the sword, I started jabbing at the darkness to get it to come out the other side. With no results, I said, “screw it, we’re smoking it out!” and I lit a cigarette and started blowing smoke into the darkness behind the console. It came out the other side… and went under the carpet.

Bob pulled the carpet back and it promptly turned toward him and hissed. He jumped back, exclaiming “ohhh and it’s pissy, too!” and pushed the carpet back down. He hopped into the truck and stomped repeated on the carpet. Peeling it back again, he found the little bastard, still alive, still pissed off, coming toward him. It got to the edge and Bob flicked it out onto the highway…

Where Bob promptly stomped it for good.

Mark ran around the truck and decided it wasn’t dead enough and ground it into the pavement, making it one with the sole of his shoe. He scraped it off. There was some nervous laughter. And we got back on the road, pulling off the shoulder to a little voice from the backseat saying, “Daddy, run it over.”

No one slept the rest of the trip. There was relived screams and laughter and declarations of “I don’t care about the rest of you, I just didn’t want to get bit” by the littlest one, while Manda talked about how she’d never forget the close-up view on her arm and Mark declared he now hated all ants.

And then we got home and googled it.

It wasn’t an ant. It is a wingless wasp. A solitary wasp that is considered a parasite for the damage it does to other wasp & bee nests, babies, etc. It’s called the “cow killer” because it has a prehensile stinger that is long enough and strong enough to pierce a cow’s hide. A cow’s hide. Their own hide is thick enough to prevent other stinging creatures from penetrating it, making it, yes, hardy. The males have wings and no stinger. The one we had had no wings. It was a female… with a stinger. Which, according to last night’s research, can be as long as their body, coiled up inside, and used only in defense… like say, if you piss it off and chase it around a truck.

And Bob thought he should bring this in the vehicle!

After I watched some youtube footage of this thing besting a black widow spider, and some close-up shots of the stinger, the hippie has solemnly promised to “never bring any type of live specimen into the vehicle again.”

And I know three children who are holding him to that…

Happy Labor Day.

Crazy Bra Day

I straightened out the shoes on the back mat Saturday. I hung curtains on the last few naked windows. I did two loads of laundry, hot glued a broken toy, tightened a loose bolt on the table, checked the mail, hit the store for soup and Kleenex, and played Guitar Hero with my daughter to make the world go away for a while. Yesterday I called my mother, talked to my aunt (which I’ll blog about, because damn), did some research on a novel, actually wrote for a while, watched a movie, made dinner and wished for Monday to wait a day. Throughout the weekend there were twitters from various people, some emails, and a few phone calls.

One in particular made the rest of the weekend just as insignificant as it really was.

So many people are worried about the big picture. They panic about what they can’t control and worry that what they do control doesn’t actually affect anything. Well, screw that. The big picture doesn’t happen without the little pieces. The Mona Lisa didn’t happen without the paint. And what do you suppose it would look like if DaVinci had run out of brown paint? Better yet, if he had run out of brown paint, would he have worried the shop didn’t have more? Would he panic there could be a global shortage of the pigments necessary for that particular shade? Or would he have just gone and found it, controlled what he could, fix what he needed, and then gone back and finished painting that ugly woman. Yeah, I can just see him crying in his beer at a local pub because he ran out of brown and was too afraid they wouldn’t have more, so he never bothered looking. Screw that. He went and got the paint.

That phone call though—the one that made me realize how truly insignificant most of what we do on a day-to-day basis is—really was important in and of itself. And not because it was pertinent to the body on the other end, or even myself, but because it was something more people need to think about. It’s about the little things, and more importantly, the little things you can control.

Most of you have no idea the medical nightmare I’ve been in for two years, because that’s not me. That’s not this blog. For the record, this year is much better than last year was. But I bring it up now for a reason, to tell you what I did during that and ask you all to join me in repeating that insanity. See, I spent the Halloween season of 2007 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. I didn’t know if I was living or dying, how long I had, or even what I had. I spent several weeks being medically raped in various ways by specialists, all while wearing those oh-so-sexy open-backed hospital gowns. I couldn’t control the procedures. I couldn’t control the hospital lingerie. Hell, I couldn’t even control my own body deciding I was the enemy. But I could control my attitude… and I fought back. Every time they put me in one of those nasty gowns, I fought the system with a smile because my exposed butt was covered with glow-in-the-dark Halloween panties. Not exactly what you would normally wear to the doctor’s, right?

Now, keeping that in mind and jump back to that phone call this weekend. This friend has got some things she can’t control running her mind into circles, her emotions into the ground and her physical strength into extinction (as lack of sleep is apt to do). But she can control a few things. I told her about my Mayo undies and ordered her to go shopping for a crazy bra. Fun color, fun style, beads, bows, whatever. Something she wouldn’t normally wear under her business clothes. And then wear it, and smile inside because she’s controlling something she can. No one knows. They don’t have to. She does.

But it goes beyond her. As I said before, far too many people worry about what they can’t control. And again, screw that. I’m declaring today National Crazy Bra Day. Control what you can. Enjoy the little stupid things that make the big picture more colorful and full of life. Laugh at a bad joke and smile at a stranger… and wear the craziest bra you own under your work clothes. If you don’t own a crazy bra, how about some insane undies? Of course, so the men aren’t left out, we can expand that thought. Wear something rebellious: they make glow in the dark undies for you too! Or go with mismatched socks, a Looney Tunes necktie, a bad hat, whatever. Do it to make a stand for the little things.

Do it because you can.

Because all those stupid little things we can control are important. It’s not the famous painter or the ugly woman in the Louvre that’s important. It’s the brown background and brown dress and brown hair and flat expression with just a hint of a smirk… Ever wondered why she was smirking? Perhaps it’s because underneath that boring 16th century garb, she’s wearing a pair of hot pink bloomers!

Life is a highway

No, there is no country music involved here—and if you even thought that for a moment, you lose two points and go three squares back.  See, I was driving down the highway to my parents’ house for one last day of Magic and sibling silliness with my brothers before they head back to school (19 years between me and the baby… boggles the mind, doesn’t it?!) and as usual I was watching the scenery. Though for whatever reason, I wasn’t looking at the falling leaves and Halloween decorations, I was watching the shoulder of the asphalt.


Scattered along the highway were little bits of people’s lives. A grocery receipt here, a McDonald’s bag there. Sure, most of it is litter, but not all of it.  That mitten could have been a favorite, leaving a little girl somewhere in tears because her purple fuzzy mitten is gone.  Those guys on the fishing trip are going to be pissed when they realize that bump caused their cooler to fly free of the boat. And I can only imagine how upset that woman is going to be when the night chill hits her and she can’t find the fall jacket she knows she packed. Little parts of their lives, tiny pieces of their souls… left behind for better or worse, to be mourned or forgotten.

I’m sure I’ve lost a lot of things along the highway over the years, after all, I’ve been driving for a long time. I only know of one thing though, and thought of it as I watched the baseball cap and unopened envelope go whizzing past. While moving, almost two decades ago, a box fell out of the truck and no one among the friends helping with the move noticed it bounce free of the vehicle. Hell, I didn’t notice until the move was done and I was unpacking. You’ve seen the lone shoe on the highway, right? Somewhere in central Wisconsin, late one summer in the early 90s, an entire box of shoes lay abandoned. Surely toppled and open, its contents were likely spilled for other drivers to cruise past and wonder how and why they were there.

Now, being my shoes, I’m sure you can imagine what it was filled with: high tops, sneakers, little cheap tennies, and maybe even a pair of winter boots. And you’d be right. But I remember that box. I mourned that lost box. Because hidden in the middle of that pile of comfortable tomboy kickers was a pair of bright red strappy shoes that I loved.  I used to buy red just to match those shoes. They were comfortable and flashy and sassy and fun. And I lost them, somewhere on the highway of life. A little piece of me, abandoned on the asphalt but never forgotten.

I’m boxing up belongings again for another move. The road is curvy and with winter coming, could be slippery.  And I still haven’t gotten over those damn red shoes. Maybe I’ll get a closed U-haul this time, rather than risk the open beds of trucks and trailers. I’d hate to risk losing another little piece of me somewhere along the road…

The real world…

…because the perfect world doesn’t exist. Oh, we talk about it all the time, usually starting the conversation (or at least the sentence) with “in a perfect world…”  Why? Why do we bother? We know we don’t live in a perfect world.

But, if we did live in a perfect world, I would have gotten something done yesterday. I would have written and edited Nate’s manuscript, and felt productive.  What did I do instead? Oh well, I played the “this is how a writer gets nothing done” game.

Wake up, get coffee, get comfy, open laptop.

Enter children. Close laptop. Yes we’ll play magic today—later. No we’re not buying a lizard. Yes clean your rooms. No you cannot have chocolate ice cream for breakfast. This is where I start wondering why must they always ask me all the silly questions. Me, with the laptop open, the notebook and pen at the ready, and serious look on my face? While their father sits on the couch, sucking coffee, chain smoking, surfing channels, completely available for them and their questions. IDK.

Children leave, reopen laptop, email comes in. I MUST check the email, because I have a bazillion submissions out there and a few people I’m waiting to hear back from, and (truth be told) I have a weakness. I am completely incapable of ignoring email. Email is not any of those people. Email is JFB, hours before she should be awake. “Coffee’s on. Come.” Ok, so I’ll go have a cup of coffee with her and find out what’s going on that’s got her out bed so early, not a problem. Because we’re friends, and that’s what friends do. When they sense something may be wrong, they drop what they’re doing and go.  I’ll just finish this email to my brother…

“Your phone is ringing.”  Crap, JFB was serious about “come.”

Close laptop, sprint to kitchen, grab cell phone from purse. It’s stopped ringing. Look at screen, that’s not JFB. Hmmm but this person doesn’t call often and considering the last email, it might be important. Call back. Get machine. Hang up and debate calling back because they may have been on the phone talking to my machine. Phone rings. Answer phone to crazy person screaming and spewing and ok… so I need to have some long distance coffee for a moment. Sit down, talk on phone.

Get off phone. Grab smokes, turn to door, house phone rings. JFB is going to kill me through the phone wires this time, I just know it. Caller ID shows mom’s house. Ok, that last email was my brother and I don’t know if he’s at his place or mom’s place, so maybe it’s him.  Answer phone while heading back to laptop because I’ll need to reference stuff for the brother. Instead, it’s mom. Ruh-roh.

“Are you calling to yell at me?”

“Nope.”  Whew. Ok, talk to mom. Find out about dad’s hospital visit, discuss tattoo, comment about blog, check in on life, kids, work, family, reserve a night at the bed & breakfast (mom’s house) for the next convention plane (she lives by the airport that is 1-1/2 hours from me), and other random, rambly, normal mom and me phone call type stuff. Then get lectured for not writing and working on The Neighborhood (because she knows all about that one and wants it finished and sold and published). I wait for the irony to sink in, it doesn’t. Email comes in. Check it. Laugh. Share it with mom.

Do you need directions??

Exit house through back door—immediately take a left
Follow sidewalk past red vehicle—enter alley—Take a left
Follow said alley for roughly 6 seconds—take a right
Follow smell of coffee—enter house.

Really, it’s not hard

JFB would really like me to come have a cup of coffee now. Mom says go, hangs up. Grab smokes, close laptop, head to JFB’s (check how many seconds it really takes in the alley because JFB likes to make up numbers and I’m curious to see how close she gets). Talk JFB off ceiling, offer smokes instead of oxygen and get her breathing back to a normal pattern. Discuss all the other things that have happened today to prevent me from working. Get yelled at for not working because she doesn’t care about The Neighborhood and would really just like me to get done with that and start working on White Picket Prisons (because she knows about that one).

Go home. Make lunch/dinner for family. (It’s Sunday, football is on, this means it’s Packer Soup day. Translation: Packer soup, sliced cheese/sausage and crackers, and sandwiches as they want, need or otherwise throughout the day, aka Football Food Grazing) Do laundry. Clean up shredded paper towel that puppy thought was a good time. Fill coffee cup. Open laptop. Phone rings. Caller ID tells me this time it is my brother. Close laptop, talk to bro. Cover many subjects and talk to both brothers, as one is in the background screaming responses to the other’s half of the conversation. Enter kids. But mom! Ok fine, we’ll go look at the lizards.

Hang up with bro, pack family into car, go look at lizards… Or not, because the pet shop is closed. Console boy child, promise to go tomorrow, go home.

Unplug phone. Make more coffee. Open laptop.

“Mom, you said you’d play.”

Close laptop. Play several games of Magic with kids. Stop playing, more laundry, homework, smile and nod at (ex-)hubby and pretend to be absorbing even a single word, showers all around, bedtime.


Open laptop. Work for twenty minutes. Muse replaced by guilt monkey. Close laptop, pull out Nate’s manuscript and orange pen. Get coffee, get smokes, get cozy. Plan to edit until it’s done—after all, I don’t have to dayjob the next day.

Wake up face down in manuscript pages.

The next time someone asks if I’ve gotten any work done and I reply with, “No, life got in the way,” and they get that confused look on their face… I think I’ll refer them to this entry.

The Misadventures of a Writer’s Spouse

I was actually going to blog about my Nana and how we celebrated her 90th birthday with a huge shindig at my mom & dad’s (thank god it didn’t rain or there would have had 98+ people in their house).  But I’m only using that as the lead-in now… When I wasn’t playing the role of paparazzi, I enjoyed watching Nana as she watched everyone else. There were friends from way back, now-divorced-from-but-still-adored ex-inlaws, and of course, relatives in all shapes and sizes.  The party went without a hitch and grandma had a blast.

And then the partygoers went home and we brought out the fireworks and margaritas and brandy slushes (and Magic decks, but that was later and a whole different blog).

It wasn’t quite dark yet, but that was ok. We set Nana up in a chair in the driveway, and the immediate family gathered around her, sitting on coolers, chairs, vehicles or the ground.  My brother David was in charge of the mass amounts of fireworks that my sister and I had separately procured this summer. My youngest brother, Chris, started out on water duty with the hose, but his reaction speed made better firemen out of slugs and he was replaced by my niece’s boyfriend—much quicker on the draw and always willing to help. My (now ex-)husband occasionally helped with the lighting of fireworks.

We had “emits showers of sparks,” silly things like frogs (because fireworks should look like frogs?), some that flew (including one that popped out a little parachute with no one on it) and even a few loud, useless strobe effect fireworks that were quickly banned to prevent a group seizure. And the coup de grace, the Birthday Egg of Depression.

A firework that had been purchased the year before for my sister’s birthday that was so silly [thus the name it had earned] she ran out and grabbed a few for this year. Shaped like an egg with what looks like candles for a fuse, it sings and melts. Well, it plays “music” without vocals. But it does melt. It’s made of plastic and as the sparks spray out, the heat destroys the plastic. The song? Here… recorded for your enjoyment, because it is just so sad (thus funny, but maybe that’s just my warped family).  The second egg was hosed before it melted and this apparently stopped it from melting the part inside that plays the music.  The tinkling of warped birthday tunes continued through the entire evening—finally ending with a sledgehammer and severe giggling because it just wouldn’t stop. But it was the first egg that we need to discuss.

The Birthday Egg of Doom.

It melted, as designed, and turned into a green lump on the pavement. As we learned later with the continual tinny sounds of Happy Birthday from the second one, melted doesn’t always mean done. It should also be noted that a lack of sparks doesn’t always mean done. And as my ex-hubby went to light something else, the Egg of Doom gave its final performance:  a loud pop, followed by him jumping back several feet.

“That’s going to leave a mark.” He declared through the hand that had instinctively gone to the injury. As he pulled his hand away, he and the rest of the group saw that it would indeed leave a mark, as his palm and mouth were covered in blood.  He spoke and I don’t remember what he said, only that his teeth were completely covered in blood as if he’d been in a massive fistfight.

This is why fireworks should only be done with adult supervision. So that you have someone available to get the first-aid kit. A washcloth, some paper towels and baggie of ice later, he was back in the chair next to Nana—no longer helping with the evil fireworks. It was one of those injuries where several of the women suggest stitches and the men claim it’s just fine. His teeth were intact and it didn’t get his good eye, so he was happy enough to take the gaping wound in his lip and pride and sit to watch the rest of the fireworks with an icepack.  The evening finished out, the parents went to bed and the two younger generations played some Magic.

On the way home the next day, the swelling had gone down and it no longer looked like an open wound.  Seems there was a spring inside, found later by the children, that had smacked him dead in the lip at mach 3. What looked (the night before) like one of those flesh wounds that results in a flap that you set back in place hoping that it will re-seal, was simply a circular gouge. Still quite the sight, but not as bad as we’d first feared. He mentioned it felt like it was drying out and he was afraid it was going to bust open when he talked and be one of those injuries that just never heals, so when we got home he went in search of the Neosporin.

From behind the corner of the bathroom, as he was supposedly applying salve to his lip, I heard a string of curse words that made my Sailor’s mouth look like that of a Buddhist monk. No really. You know how I talk, especially when agitated, and this was enough to put my best efforts to shame.

“What did you do?”

“What the hell is this?! And what’s it doing in the first aid box?!”  He held up a tube that yes, if you were blind and going for shape alone would resemble Neosporin.

“Oh noooooo…that’s Compound W!”  Yes, my (ex)husband had put wart remover on an open sore on his mouth.

He wiped it off with Kleenex, ranting about the fact that it shouldn’t be in the medicine cabinet, while I giggled and tried to explain that it was medicine and was therefore exactly where it belonged.

“Use soap and water.”

“It shouldn’t have been in there.”

“Just clean it off.”  I have now left the room because I’m likely going to get things thrown at me for the giggling. When it’s not life threatening, we laugh around here.  Hell, our motto at the fire pit is, “Remember, we laugh and take pictures before we run for help.” And gee, we learned that from Nana, who, when I was about 3 years old and fell down her stairs and gave myself two big ole black eye, ran me to Sears for portraits. Have I ever mentioned how I love my family?

“My lip’s numb.”


“What’s this stuff do anyway?”

This confuses me.  He has apparently never heard of or used wart remover gel (this particular tube was purchased for the girl child).

“Well… You put it on, it dries, and then it EATS the flesh underneath it.”

“Oh wonderful. Now I’m going to have an even bigger hole in my lip!”

“Just clean it off.”

Still numb, but thoroughly cleaned and with no signs of that telltale “whiteness” that comes with the dried gel, I call it safe and decide we don’t need to call Steve at poison control (yes, in my house, we know the names of the different shifts at the 800 number—a few hours earlier and it would have been Jeff).

Across the alley a while later, I share the silliness with the crew of the fire pit—of course.  He doesn’t find humor in this, everyone else does.  After some friendly ribbing he gives me that look, “Don’t you dare…”

I cannot count how many situations over the years have ended with “do not use that in your writing” or “don’t you dare blog about that.” But this time, I can’t be a nice wife or a good wife…not when it goes from bad to worse like that.  And to think, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to blog about this week!

God is a DJ

Yeah, I know it’s been used, but stick with me, there’s a really good reason for that title.

I’ve been doing a lot of contemplative thinking lately.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m working on a fresh novel and my mind is in overdrive, or if age is turning me into a more somber, introspective person (no laughing).  More than normal, I’ve been paying attention to details.  The obvious particulars, the little forgotten or overlooked tidbits, and the way they all blend together to make the big picture. I can’t have a conversation lately without noticing how someone’s lips move or their eyebrows arch.  The way people stand in various moods and modes strikes me as just as important as the words they’re sharing, and sometimes tell a different story—occasionally begging you to ask for the real story. I’ve been enjoying this and absorbing, making mental notes for character development and strengthening dialogue, when I realized it’s those same insignificant details that make memories.

Memories are tricky things, and I often wonder how the brain decides to keep this little stupid bit of knowledge but throw that one back into the sea of the forgotten. For instance, I read the road signs for every cabin we passed on the way, but couldn’t tell you what any of them are now. But this isn’t about that, this is about what makes those memories come to life.

The memory isn’t just a turtle; it’s the way that Frank’s tail sluiced the water, and how he made me feel that day.  Memories aren’t glossed over and lumped under a heading, like “we walked through the graveyard.”  Rather, they’re made up of the tone and words and the way we giggled because we scared ourselves, and all the little nuances of how we did that.  The details remind you of what made that time special, or that moment important.

And lately, I’ve caught myself digging for details in an attempt to flesh out memories.

Beyond just paying attention to real time details, I’ve pulled out old journals and dug through ancient photo albums. Yes, I’m purposely trying to tap into a particular period for the tone of this novel and opening myself up to that, but I’ve noticed something about the memories that are slapping me around lately.  I find the memories are not just of a younger time or in some cliché happier time, but of a time when innocence meant not realizing you were.

The journals and photos help, but I find that true memories, rich with detail and emotion, are usually triggered by something innocuous and unexpected, rather than forced and pulled like a puppy who doesn’t really want to go in the kennel.  I’ve had smells bring me right back to a childhood apartment in Texas like we left yesterday, rather than thirty years ago.  Certain words or phrases will pull an abandoned thought from the depths of my “not quite forgotten” stores and images will play across my mind like snapshots.  And apparently, music is also a trigger of mine.

And if ever I was looking for details, I found them today in the randomness that became a pattern on the radio.  Multiple stations, in a variety of music styles, all brought something with them.  This song reminded me of that time, that song of this person, and on and on.  After the first few I thought it was interesting and remembered being a heart-broke teen who believed the radio hated her.  Now I have to wonder if there really is a god and he’s trying to say something through 80s hair ballads, some modern country, and even a hiphop here or there.

Because of one car ride I remember some forgotten details of my forgotten life.

Pink Floyd reminded me that there have been other trips through graveyards, including flashlight tag with the gang.  A happy memory in itself, but one which brings with it a sadness at the loss of one of us a few years ago and a loneliness because I’ve lost touch with the crew in general—I still think of you all occasionally, Wally, John, Tom, Jim, Joanie, Mary, etc., and hope you’re doing well.

Of course, as is the nature with free-reign thoughts, that memory led to another graveyard.  This one visited in the light of day, as my mother took the wheel and drove us around while I researched, plotted, planned and bounced things off her for a story I was working on.

Skid Row flashed the big screen from the college cafeteria across my mind, where they had overplayed the video for the song on the radio. And that connected to the memory of (a different) Jim tossing pennies at the dorm windows to let us know he’d arrived after hours and needed the doors opened for him.  Which led to his favorite drinks, and Gilby crawling into closet shelves, and making a mess out of my mother’s laundry room sink—as we turned a redhead into Alice Cooper for a Halloween I’ll never forget. Gilby. I lived in his hometown. I did for several years. Yet I never looked his mother up to say hello.

And it continued, this radio of memories, for two and a half hours on the way to the campground.  We paused at the Harley Davidson shop so I could find myself a new hoodie that didn’t say Horror-Web on it (and the new one isn’t even black, Nick!), and what greeted me when I got back in the truck? Lyrics that bring back a specific event, and artists that remind me of certain friends—memories and details on every note.

Again, I wonder what exactly the cosmos are trying to tell me.  If I had to guess, I’d say someone, somewhere, is holding a big sign that says, “Pay Attention!”  So I am. To everything. I hope I don’t miss the message.

But we’re pulling into the campground now, so I’m tuning out for a few days. I plan on fishing, writing at the dock, and walking through the woods listening to the echo of recent words as they roll through my head in an attempt to be properly sorted into my memory banks.  The radio will be there when we get back. Or maybe I’ll snag the boy-child’s iPod for that walk in the woods…

Find Me Elsewhere

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— · Merrimack Valley · —
Halloween Book Festival
TBA 2020
Haverhill, MA

— · Scares That Care WI · —
Racine, WI