I honestly believe I was a resident of Seattle in a past life. And not just because of things like free gum, fish tossing and some of the coolest graffiti I’ve ever seen (although those are all good reasons). There’s just something about Seattle that strikes a chord in me more than any other place I’ve lived or visited — from Dallas to Atlanta, NYC to Anchorage. Without question, it’s the main reason I chose Seattle as the setting for my crime novel while I was still living in Atlanta back in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
I’ve been to Seattle four times over the years, the most recent being last week as part of a writing road trip that included stops in Cannon Beach, Ore., for a special three-day conference for writers to “Get Lit at the Beach,” (That’s “lit” as in “literary,” folks) and then on to Seattle for some final research as I finish my book AND to attend a Chemical Brothers concert with my oldest son. (Warning: If you click on that link and have ingested any type of Mary-ju-wanna, you’ll be sitting there a while.)
In the highly competitive world of unpublished mystery novel manuscripts (it’s a thing), one can never be too careful. Which is why I keep each chapter of my new book, No Safe Harbor, under wraps, cellophane and occasionally my bed until… well…
Saturday mornings at 9 a.m., when I post it for the whole world to see (apparently it really IS a small world.) So, sure, maybe I am overreacting. And maybe the teddy bear I gutted and stuffed with a Go-Pro aimed at my desk 24-7 is a bit much. But hey! It’s a M-Y-S-T-E-R-Y novel! Doesn’t this add an element of M-Y-S-T-E-R-Y by making it a secret until it’s posted? It’s so secret, in fact, that I make our dog leave the room while I’m writing each chapter in this final draft.
Sure, drafts one through three — who cares? I even let a stray cat into the room for that.
It’s been more than 80 years since Clarence Birdseye, inspired by ancient food preservation methods used by Arctic Eskimos, made history by introducing the very first frozen food option: “Savory Caribou on a Stick.” Though his first selection was met with little enthusiasm, Birdseye persisted and eventually created a line of frozen vegetables that many of us are still gagging on today.
I, for one, am still unable to walk past lima beans in the frozen food section without getting the dry heaves. This reaction stems from my childhood, and a spoonful of lima beans I’ve been trying to swallow since 1973.
Unless you’ve been hermetically sealed and stuck in a freezer, you already know March is “National Frozen Food Month.” Coincidentally, I should mention this happens to fall in the same month as “National Ear Muff Day,” “Extraterrestrial Abduction Day” and “National Pig Day,” meaning that, for anyone whose pig happened to be wearing ear muffs at the time it was flash frozen by alien abductors, this is a big month for you.
Much like my reading a book about transitioning jerkily into someone’s mid- to extremely-late 40s (perhaps even early 50s), I now, at the age of 57, offer proof that I am habitually late to every cultural phenomenon (not counting the release of Star Wars in 1977, thanks to my mom). This often leads to awkward moments with family, friends, acquaintances and the occasional stranger thumping cantaloups next to me at the supermarket as I share my excitement over a newly discovered movie, TV series or musical talent.
“Have you heard that song The Year 3000 by this group of kids called The Jonas Brothers?!? They’re really great!”
“I’m sorry, were you talking to me?”
“Yes! Have you heard of them? They’ve got another song called…”
“Lovebug? Hello Beautiful? Mandy? Yeah. They’re like in their 30s now. And married. Were you in a coma or something?”
After seeing my latest post offering survival tips for parents attending high school bowling tournaments, Lynn at “Life After 50” asked to see photos of how one of my tips — bringing a lifeguard chair instead of a foldable chair — can improve your viewing experience.
Here are just a few examples of how the experienced parent can avoid the rush for a good seat by showing up anytime they want… as long as they have their own lifeguard chair…
Why rush to stand in line at 6 a.m. when you can bring your own “Best Seat In the House?!?”
Today, in anticipation of the upcoming junior bowling leagues next month, I’m passing along a few tips to parents who may attempt to suffocate themselves with an empty bowling bag after listening to 24 lanes of crashing pins for five hours. Especially if, for personal reasons, you aren’t comfortable spending those hours drinking in front of teen bowlers.
My first suggestion is to invest in a tall folding chair. The taller the better. In fact, consider purchasing a portable lifeguard stand if possible. That’s because getting a prime seat to watch your son or daughter bowl depends on how willing you are to take the life of a complete stranger. Getting a good spot at the bowling alley during a tournament is like the Oklahoma Land Rush; once the doors open, parents stampede (some on actual horseback) to the most valuable territory, i.e., the mid-point between 1) the center of the bowling lanes, 2) the bar and 3) the restrooms.
Parents then frantically stakes their claim by jamming giant folding chairs together until the result is something similar to how homes are wedged together in poor sections of Hong Kong. Should something unexpected cause a panic — such as an earthquake or 300-game — it’s doubtful anyone will survive the inevitable catastrophic folding-chair collapse.
I generally only watch nature shows on television when I want to appear as though I’m educating myself about something important, like the plight of the prematurely balding Rogainian monkey, when in fact I’m actually planning to do an independent study of the REM sleeping pattern on our couch.
However, while watching a documentary about the Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs, Australia, I discovered something I never knew:
We NEED our own kangaroo.
As I watched three babies snuggle together in a blanket and play with each other’s big floppy ears, I inadvertently let out a sound that my wife mistakenly thought was a joyful whimper.
“Was that you?” she asked from the dining room.
“What? No WAY! Ha Ha! It was the kangaroo babies on TV.”
First, let me put your fears to rest; I’m not living in an abandoned train car. I’ve been passing this graffitied relic for quite some time on my travels between our home in Florence (Oregon) and Cottage Grove (still in Oregon), shuffling between newspapers for which I was once editor. As I mentioned a few posts — and yikes, months — ago, I left journalism after 23 years back in 2021. For the next year-and-a-half, I worked as a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service (Motto: Bringing your Amazon packages… Oh, and the mail!). But this past October, I left the USPS after a year of 6-day, 70-hour-plus workweeks with no end in sight. Time with my family had been nearly non-existent and, after coming home one day and finding our dog had been given my spot on the couch, I knew it was time to make a change.
The dog had to go.
We got a cat and now no one can sit on the couch.
Ok, not really. My end game had always been a simple one: Eventually retire and spend my days helping other writers with their manuscripts, short stories, memoirs, etc., IN BETWEEN time spent smooching my wife, making key lime pies, traveling in a fifth-wheel together and making sure the dog doesn’t get my spot on the couch again.
For those who might be visiting for the first time, I should explain that I literally wrote the book on how to fail at writing. No, seriously. It’s an actual book. In it, I drew upon my 16 years as a columnist to offer tips that Writer’s Digest once called “… a shining example of why some writers go on to have successful careers as plumbers…” and what Master of Horror™ Stephen King has described as “The antithesis of precise literary implosion.”
See? I’m shucking an oyster, so it HAS to be good!
But enough with the accolades!
No doubt, many of you have begun formulating your New Year’s resolutions:
“I’m going to lose weight.” “I’m going to drink less.” “I’m going to change careers.” “Ned is going to stop referring to himself in the third person.”
[Warning: This blog post contains gift ideas of an explicitly stupid nature and may not be suitable for some readers. Particularly anyone who might actually consider buying one of these items for a friend or loved one.]
It’s time for a special holiday feature: Gifts That Say Santa is Getting Senile.
As always, we spared no expense when it came to assembling a team of gift experts with the talent and skills necessary for this helpful feature. And, as always, we wasted those talents by spending our entire operating budget of $32 on lottery Scratch-Its. As a result, our plan to provide you with exciting Christmas gift ideas quickly deteriorated into this list of really dumb products that, if given as gifts, will surely lead to more than one hospitalization this holiday.
So, let us begin!
Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Do you have a knack for creating culinary masterpieces? These next two items were designed to turn an average meal into the kind of dining experience people will be talking about for years…