WRITE ON…

Today’s posting is a flat-out advertisement slash venting session. I admit that right away. I don’t want you to misread any hidden agenda on my part.  Since I retired from the radio biz, I’ve written and published eleven books.  I published the books myself because new technologies make it easy and inexpensive, plus you don’t have to sit around for several years collecting rejection letters from literary agents and big publishing houses.

The sacrifice I make for going the independent route is that I lose some of the “legitimacy” of being considered a real author—and maybe even a good one.  The book industry can be a bit snooty at times, though I sense independent authors are beginning to gain some respect despite our still residing below decks in steerage.  That said, it is up to me to do all my own promotion and marketing for my books.  This is no easy task…and a costly one to do it right.

Another loss in going it alone is even more important.  As a self-publishing author it is my burden to find good proof readers and editors to go through my books before they are published.  True, I’ve had a few friends help me out with some of my books, but hiring professionals is ultra-expensive and I simply cannot afford them.  Consequently, it is not unusual to find a mistake or two in my books.

Now, I have no delusions of grandeur.  I have never expected to become a best-selling author with books flying off the shelves in amazon’s warehouse.  Fact is, I sell very few—make that “hardly any.”  This is partly because my books get very little exposure or publicity.  A few family members and friends know my books exist.  Anyone else has to stumble upon them and be lured in by the cover or have interest in the subject matter.   Oh, did I mention the importance of the cover?  Well, that’s actually the topic for today’s posting.

If I were forced to single out any of my books as a favorite, I suppose I would select DEAD LETTER. Indeed, people who have read it have nice things to say about it…and many of them are people I do not know.  I designed the cover for this book, at least the concept, then I hired an artist to produce it.  I knew at the time that it could be an issue, but it portrays such a poignant scene in the story that I just couldn’t NOT go ahead and use it.  If you read the book you will more than likely agree.

The book is sold primarily on amazon.com.  It is such a remote find on amazon that it will show up only if you do a search for it by listing the book’s title ALONG with my name.  If you don’t add my name to the search you will simply get pages and pages and pages of book covers, many containing neither the word, “dead” or “letter.”  Why a search using keywords “dead” and “letter” does not find my book titled, DEAD LETTER yet finds many without those keywords will be a mystery to me no matter how many time I ask amazon and no matter how many times they try to explain something called an “algorithm.” 

Adding insult to injury, amazon rejects all my efforts to advertise and promote the book (even when I pay to advertise) because the book’s cover does not meet their standards.  What??!!  How can I advertise the book if I do not show the book’s cover?  Here’s the rub: amazon fully shows the cover of the book on its purchase page, but it rejects the cover showing up anywhere else.  The problem?  It’s the distant image of the back of a naked, middle-aged woman standing on the edge of a pier. There is no sexual connotation, certainly far less tame than many of the movies that amazon offers among its inventory.  One other interesting note:  DEAD LETTER is printed by Kindle Direct Publishing, an amazon company.

So there you have it—some of the trials and tribulations of an independent author/publisher. By the way, if you would like to learn more about DEAD LETTER, click on its trailer link to the right. If you would like to purchase the book, click on the cover illustration near the top of the right-hand column. And, If you are pursuing a career as an independent author, I offer you one little piece of advice about the cover of your book:  make no butts about it.

*****

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THE FISHING PIER, WHERE HOPE LIES ETERNAL

I am not much of a hunter.  Nope.  Couldn’t pull the trigger on Bambi let alone take down some huge African beast.  Fishing seems almost tolerable, although I still feel sorry for both bait and fish.  Ironically, I have salmon for dinner almost every week.  It is a bit hypocritical that I don’t quite connect the slaughter of an animal with the slick shrink-wrapped pound of hamburger I toss into my cart at the supermarket.

Speaking of fishing, that’s today’s topic.  Both my wife and my son love fishing.  Living a short distance inland from the Florida coast, you won’t find a fishing hole much better than the Gulf of Mexico and its inland waterways. I do not like to fish. It’s smells awful, it’s painfully boring and frustrating if the fish aren’t biting and when they are, I usually pull up something too small to be legal and the hook is stuck in the fish’s eye to boot.  Nah, fishing is not for me.  There is good salmon to be caught at the supermarket and it’s already been cleaned and fileted.

Despite all this, I go fishing much more than I wish to.  When Rosemarie goes fishing I usually schlep along.  First of all, I am a duty-bound husband who doesn’t like his wife traveling alone.  Secondly, see first.  So, I carry the bait bucket for her and a chair for me.  She fishes, I sit.  Like a kid in the back seat nagging “Are we there yet?” I am constantly asking if it’s time to go yet.  

One of the more favorable places we go fishing is the fishing pier.  I have spent a good portion of my life accompanying Rosemarie to a fishing pier.  There is one just a short drive from where we live.  It’s a phenomenal place for people-watching. With that in mind, I have made some observations: people go to the pier either to actually fish or sightsee.  There are more of the latter.  These are couples or whole families with grandma in tow.  The unexpressed goal is to walk out to the end of the pier.  This is the destination of just about everyone who sets foot on the pier.  It is here that the newly arrived will oooh and aaah at the glistening ocean water and the horizon off in the distance, then turn around and walk all the way back to the beach. Oops, almost forgot, this particular pier generates a crowd each evening and rewards it with the best seat on the water for sunset watching.

The other group of folks on the pier—including Rosemarie—have come for an entirely different reason.  These are church people.  To them, the pier represents the Cathedral of Hope.  In fact, I have found that the fishing pier truly envelopes the entire concept of hope.  Every person who walks its planks with rod in hand does so with impassioned hope and anticipation. They expect their efforts will result in a bountiful cluster of wiggling fish destined for the dinner table, accompanied with bragging rights.  It rarely happens.

On the fishing pier, hope lies eternal. As for the fish?  Well, the great majority swim away to live another day.  This is life on the fishing pier.  The people who engage its fantasy are exceptionally friendly and supportive of each other.  Bait and gear, and anything else for that matter, are readily shared.  Cheers and envy are exchanged if an actual fish is harvested successfully.  And when it is, motivation to fish on is stimulated and hope is heightened even more.

The fishing pier is host to, and nurtures, what is truly an exclusive angler’s society.  There is no entry fee or loyalty pledge needed…just rod and reel, a twitching shrimp as bait and the ever-optimistic anticipation and hope that this will be the day.  I am not a member. Eventually, I fold my chair, grab Rosemarie’s bait bucket and walk back to the car.  My hope is that the Dairy Queen we pass on the way home, will still be open.  

*****

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THE ANNUAL MEMORIAL DAY “CORRECTION”

Originally Posted on May 27, 2017  by Marc Kuhn

American cemetery in Normandy,France.

Many Americans routinely spend their three-day holiday weekends with family, sometimes traveling or just gathering for a special meal or picnic. Many others go shopping because retailers looovvvvveee  to run sales during a holiday weekend.  Such are the activities of many Americans this weekend as we honor Memorial day.  Notice I said “honor” Memorial Day, not “celebrate.”    “Celebrate” is not the correct term for this particular holiday.   Fewer and fewer Americans understand that.

Each year at this time, I hop up on my soapbox to remind many in the younger generations, and I’m sorry to say some of my peers too, why “Happy Memorial Day” is simply not the proper greeting to use for this holiday. With that in mind, here again for 2021 is my annual posting for Memorial Day…

arlintoncem

I am a traditionalist.  You remember the song, Tradition, from Fiddler on the Roof, don’t you?  “And how do we keep our balance?” asks Zero Mostel.  “I can tell you in one word,” he says–-“Tradition!”   Now, when it comes to certain holidays, especially the patriotic ones, I went to the School of Normal Rockwell where I learned how to observe them.  That said, here is my take on Memorial Day.

Cem3

First of all, many of you have it all wrong.  This is NOT a joyous occasion that we are honoring this holiday weekend.  What was originally called Decoration Day was established by a group of Union Army veterans in 1886 following the Civil War.  The former soldiers thought it would be appropriate to set aside a day to honor those Americans who had died in service to their country.  Veterans of the Confederate Army did likewise on a totally different day.  Eventually, the two holidays merged into one, now called Memorial Day.  It is held on the last Monday of May.

Crosses in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

It is tradition that American military graves are decorated this day.  Those in Federal cemeteries in the United States and abroad are usually adorned with a small American flag.  When I was a kid in the 1950’s, I remember seeing lots of American flags on Memorial day.  They were hung on poles or were draped from window sills, porch railings and anything else that one could be tied to.  Almost every household displayed a flag—and I lived in a row-home neighborhood so you can just imagine the sea of red white and blue that ran endlessly down the blocks, one after the other.  Of course, World War II was still very fresh in the minds of Americans, especially anyone who had lost someone in the war.  Most storefront windows also displayed flags back then, not sale signs.

No shining academic record do I hold, but I cringe when I hear a young person today who does not know the difference between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, let alone any of the great conflicts that followed them.  I am not making that up.  I realize that I sound like an old curmudgeon when I criticize “these kids today” who have no concept of the sacrifice their forefathers made for them.  There are many adults too who have gotten caught up in the redundancy of how Americans celebrate their historic events.  As such, we treat all holidays pretty much the same: big retail sales, family gatherings and sporting events.

Jewish star

But wishing someone a “Happy Memorial Day” is…well, it’s just not correct. Think about it. If your neighbor recently lost a son or daughter in Afghanistan, would you feel comfortable wishing them a “happy” Memorial Day?   This is a sad day, a solemn day when Americans should take a formal, structured time-out to think about and pay tribute to the thousands who died so that we and many others who aren’t even Americans can continue living in a protected and free environment.  Unfortunately, a lot of that thought process is gone from this holiday.  Memorial Day does not impact as many of us in the same manner as it once did.  It is no longer relatable to all of us.  It is no longer as relevant.  It is fast becoming a tradition lost…and it leaves us, as Zero Mostel said, out of balance.

*****

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THE INTERNET GAME…BEEN THERE DONE FAT

Forgive me. I’ve done it again.  I didn’t click on the “Skip Ad” button.  Instead, I let some guy in green scrubs convince me he is a doctor who has devoted his life to discovering why traditional dieting methods do not work.  Well, surprise surprise!  I knew that. I didn’t need some Internet doctor to tell me that.  But I let him.  Yep, I even let myself watch his entire presentation.  It was so typical of what seems like hundreds of similar videos I’ve watched on YouTube.

These video diatribes are all the same.  They’re made up of the following elements:

  • An expert, usually a doctor or nutritionists
  • A confession by the expert regarding how he or she was once overweight and tried every diet routine without any success.  Said expert decided to take the matter into his/her own hands.
  • There is some contrived name for the condition you are suffering from. It could be “leaky gut,” “cell hell,” “fat packs,” “flop glop” or whatever.
  • There’s almost always a number involved….5 usually is that number.  The expert explains there are 5 things you: shouldn’t do or shouldn’t eat; should do or should eat. All 5 are then explained in detail.
  • There’s a back story.  This segment is long and repetitive. It explains all the things that are wrong with other dieting methods and why.  It then illustrates how the expert went through all kinds of research and testing that led to several definitive conclusions…once more, usually 5 of them.
  • By now you have just about accepted belief in everything the expert has told you.  You are ripe for pickin’ and the guy in the green scrubs knows it. Time for the big reveal.
  • The expert concludes there is a formula of elements (usually 3 this time) that, when combined, will have you consistently losing weight over the next 3-to-6 months. Considerable time is devoted to explaining the particulars of each element, none of which has a name you can pronounce.
  • Dr. Whatsizname knows that if you have stayed with him this long—and it will seem like half a day–you are ready for the even bigger reveal: the cost! Now, not to worry–the initial price is always outrageous.  But since you have devoted so much of your time to the good doctor’s presentation you are to be rewarded with a special price for today only.  No matter what amounts of your hard-earned money are requested, the final price for a 30-day supply almost always is $49.  If you purchase a 3-month supply, you can get an even lower price.

Okay, there it is and it is what it is: usually a thoroughly compelling presentation that is overwhelmingly convincing that you have finally stumbled upon the ultimate remedy for getting rid of all that fat you’ve accumulated over the past few years.  Yep, in 90 days you will weight less, be healthier, and feelin’ a whole lot better about yourself.

Forgive me.  I’ve done it again.  I will check back with you in 30 days.

*****

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THEY’RE BACK. IT MUST BE SPRING

Spring, in case you didn’t notice, arrived a few weeks back on March 20th.  Here in Southwest Florida it is difficult to detect spring and fall. Both seasons slip seamlessly in and out each year without providing any real “ah” moments in weather conditions.  Summer temperatures begin around this time of year and will pretty much heat things up until October.  November through March are the months during which we like to call our frigid friends who live up north and tell them how outrageous the weather is down here.

I do miss spring and fall, however.  If for anything, they provide a sense of timing.  Often it is difficult remembering when certain events took place.  Clothing, annual flowers and changes in temperature concurrent with the changes in seasons provide blips on the radar to help clue you in when and where certain things took place. Where we live memories can get lost in indistinguishable timetables with no particular climate.

Then there are the animals. They left last fall and, much to Rosemarie’s delight, returned over the past few weeks.  We’re talking field rabbits, ducks and a huge flock of birds including Morning Doves, Grackles, Threshers, Blue Jays, Moorhens, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Mocking Birds and Cardinals.  

Now, while all these arrivals have been going on outside, there’s been several departures inside.  It’s been a rough year in our little household because it got even smaller.  Bill the Dog died, Toni the Cat moved to Denver with our one granddaughter, and our attempt to keep three Parakeets thriving in the corner of our kitchen failed miserably.  Consequently, we are pet-free for the first time in years. “Oh happy days,” sez I, although Rosemarie’s sentiments are to the contrary.  She’s totally pet-friendly

But hey now…there are the birds!  Rosemarie’s maternal instincts have taken flight ever since our feathered friends began returning.  Each day she sets out saucers filled with wild bird seeds under the bushes just outside our screened-in patio.  She hangs a bird feeder higher up but most of the birds prefer eating at ground level where they find a rabbit joining them most days.  Rosemarie, meanwhile, has mastered recognizing most of the birds and has even assigned a name to many of them.  They all seem to go along with it and why not?  She’s their meal ticket straight through to next fall. That’s a good feeling.  I know, because Rosemarie took me under her wing years ago.

*****

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The Pipes Are Calling

One of the more difficult problems I have nowadays is giving up a lot of the household maintenance jobs I used to do myself.  Given my new physical limitations there are a lot of jobs I can’t do any more or I can no longer manipulate the tools it takes to get them done.  Good example:  I have some balance issues so Rosemarie won’t let me use the nifty 12-foot ladder I bought for the tall ceilings in our new home.  I didn’t bother to ask about the circular saw.

Meanwhile, we’ve had a few plumbing issues that I would have normally fixed myself had I not become a little disabled.  So, I hired a plumber.  My few plumbing projects turned out to be estimated over a thousand dollars.  Well then, it was time to prioritize so I had the plumber do only one job and that was replacing two leaky water valves feeding the faucet on the kitchen sink.  The bill for that was $285 and I still had an electrician coming in another hour to do some rewiring.

All this was a rude awakening as I pondered the cost of getting everything on my to-do list done.  Part of the kitchen sink issues was the faucet itself.  It’s one of those high arched faucets with a single lever at the base.  The latter is busted.  The entire unit needed replacing.  “Ca-Ching” goes my mind.  If the two valves the plumber replaced were $285 and a new faucet of this type runs $200 or more, how much more will the plumber charge to remove the old one and install the new one?  Hmmm.  I decided to punt for the evening and deal with my little dilemma in the morning. 

To know what’s involved with the faucet challenge you need a little background info.  Both Rosemarie and I have had spinal surgery.  That, along with old creaky bones seasoned with arthritis, have limited our ability to crawl inside the cabinet under the sink, then maneuver into a position that allows full view of the hoses going into the bottom of the faucet and…and…and then being able to manipulate the wrench and other tools necessary to do the job, PLUS inform 911 that one or both of us are down and can’t out of the cabinet let alone get up from the floor. 

Nonetheless, we made the decision that we would attempt to do the faucet job ourselves. I’ll tell you right away that we accomplished the mission.  Was it easy?  Welllllll, it took half a linen closet of towels, not to soak up water but to cushion my body and prop up my head while I squeezed myself under the sink.  Rosemarie, being the RN that she is, slapped tools in my hands as needed, positioned and held the above-surface parts of the faucet and asked me a thousand times if I was okay.  

So out of our adventure under the sink, blossomed an idea that any of us are free to pursue.  I am sure you are familiar with the “For Dummies” concept that has sold millions of instructional books and video presentations.  Well, as I had to pre-plan how I would attack my faucet challenge, including exactly how I was going to get in and out of the cabinet, work my arms and head around the various pipes, hoses and garbage disposal, and then have a way to get myself standing again once the job was done—all these elements had to be taken into consideration for my age and physical limitations.  Wouldn’t the same be true for all kinds of tasks for people in my stage of life?  Hence, why not take the gazillion “For Dummies” projects and rework them “For Oldies?”   There’s a huge senior market just waiting to re-open their household job jars if they just had a little help with the details…and someone to slap the tools in their hands.

*****


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Picture This

I’ve been purging again. Every few months I declare war on the gazillion files I’ve stored up in my computer. I begin by engaging in a ferocious frenzy hitting the delete button. My photo folder came under special scrutiny this time and while I went through it ruthlessly, there were some pictures that screamed “keep me.” These are ones I’ve taken that turned out better than I expected, or had some personal worth. I like pictures that manage to pry an “ahhh” or a smile from those viewing them. Knowing that I am a very average photographer, these pictures may not impress anyone, but I thought I’d post them here for the sake of sharing if nothing else. At least it’s better than being a captive audience when a a co-worker brings in a thousand vacation pictures. BTW, if you click on the first picture they should all appear in a larger format.

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HOOK, LINE & SINKER

I am not much of fisherman.  In fact, I am not a fisherman at all.  Considering I live in Florida, one of the fishing capitals of the world, I am suitably scorned by my fellow Floridians.  First of all, I am prone to get seasick.  Put me in a drifting boat swaying vigorously in 3-foot swells and toss in the aroma of fish bait and, yep, you will find me hanging over the rail in no time.  Meanwhile both my wife and especially my son would go fishing 24/7 if they could.

Occasionally, I will go with them when they go fishing from the shoreline or dock.  I still won’t fish myself.  I’ll take a chair and something to read and otherwise occupy myself by asking every ten minutes if it’s time to go home yet.  I must be a bit of a nuisance since most times Rosemarie will let me off the hook (pun intended) and not insist I go.  Last night, however, in a moment of temporary insanity, I agreed to join the party.  It was a last-minute excursion that no one had planned for but the evening weather was good and the promise of a nice sunset lured me in (another pun intended).

Our destination was the S.S. Jolley Bridge, so named for Seward Stokley Jolley, the honorable Collier County judge who warmed the bench through the 1940’s and 50’s.   I am told we will fish from under the bridge where the prospects are good.  Now, despite its gleeful name, this is a credible bridge that spans the Florida mainland near Naples over to Marco Island on the state’s southwest shoreline.  That’s Rosemarie waiting for the big one under the Jolley Bridge.

I’ll be kind and not turn this posting into a long, dragged out fishing story other than to say our trip was cut short by hunger.  Rosemarie caught a footlong snook that was too small to legally keep but long enough for a Subway Footlong, I thought.   My son, meanwhile, snarled his line in the rocks and I was blocked from getting a nice sunset picture by a not-so-quaint Marco Island Marina.

The fun part–or should I say the Jolley part–of our abbreviated fishing trip was that I got a few pictures of the nice March weather we’ve been having.  These I will hastily send to my niece.  She’s sitting at home in Denver…in a blizzard.

*****

Posted in Family, fishing, social, whimsy | 2 Comments

When it Brains, It Pours

When you get to be my age, you will have accumulated a huge stockpile of memories along with endless databanks full of both useful and useless information.  You will not run out of storage space because the human brain holds more than any amazon warehouse.  Should you later wish to retrieve any of this historical stuff…well, watch out, you could be up all night.  Case in point…

In the wee hours last night, while poking around on the Internet, I happened upon a reference to the 1950’s Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. I Googled it and wound up watching the entire movie.  It was a great piece of nostalgia for me and instantly triggered a bunch of memories:

  • I saw the movie when it originally came out in 1955.  I was 10.
  • 1955 was the year my father bought his first brand new car, a red and white Chevrolet.
  • The ’55 Chevy was the car I would eventually learn how to drive on.
  • Back to the movie…we had the soundtrack for it and I used to play it over and over.  In short time, I knew the words to every song.  I didn’t know exactly how well I knew the words to every song until I started singing along as I watched the movie last night.  It is incredible how the brain can store information that goes unused for over 65 years and then, when stimulated, can poop it out flawlessly.
  • Anytime someone in the family was out of order, namely me, my father would sound his warning by quoting a song that famed Broadway musical actor, Stubby Kaye, sang in the movie…Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.
  • The movie starred then young entertainers Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine and Jean Simmons. Damn, there all dead now.
  • It was cool to see a bunch of then-new vintage cars in one of the street scenes, especially a DeSoto.  I could identify all of them without hesitation.
  • In the movie Marlon Brando sang the song, Luck be a Lady, but it was Sinatra who made it one of his iconic hits through the rest of his singing career.
  • The movie is set in a big city that implies New York. Brando takes Simmons on a dinner date…to Havana!  They make it roundtrip, including dinner and a bar brawl, in one night!  In 1955, one-way flight time from NYC to Havana was over 8 hours.  Go figure.    

Believe me, I could go on, but these are just some of the random thoughts that swirled through my memory banks as I watched this one movie.  The point is, when one looks back at any one event in his or her lifetime, it can unleash an endless pile of tumbling dominos as one memory leads to another.  No wonder I didn’t sleep much last night.  What a kick.        

*****

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OLD TOOLS

I had in my hand today a hammer that has been in my toolbox for as long as I can remember having a toolbox.  And before my toolbox, it was in my father’s toolbox.  And, given the hammer’s appearance, I have little doubt that it also once resided in my grandfather’s toolbox as well.

For someone who struggled to pass Wood Shop in 7th grade, I strangely have an appreciation for good tools.  Over the years of home ownership, I have accumulated quite a few.  I didn’t realize until lately that my tools are like little time capsules.  Each has a story or more to tell. For many, I can trace back to their origins, often recalling the project I was working on that led to their purchase.

I’ve also accumulated a collection of drills, all different sizes.  Most are the newer battery-charged models which are handy to use without having to hassle with a cord.  Nevertheless, I regularly go back to my 1960’s vintage plug-in-the-wall Craftsman power drill when it comes to the tougher jobs that easily wear down the newer drills.  It turns faster and has a lot more torque, perfect for making holes in a dense piece of wood.  That reminds me of something I learned from my father.  He taught me that a good tool will always make the job easier and the results so much better.  Accordingly, I often splurge on tools abiding by the assumption that you usually get what you pay for.

One of my prized tools is actually a paint brush. Ironically, I don’t think a drop of paint has ever touched it.  It’s a very thick brush as you can see in the picture.  I believe the bristles are made of horsehair.  It’s very old too, perhaps one hundred years plus.  It’s mostly been used as a brush for cleaning who-knows-what.  My father used to cut my hair when I was a kid.  When he was finished, he would brush the hair off me with this brush.

I have only a few other old tools that have been handed down through the family.  Most of their value is sentimental.  I am sure my grandfather probably wouldn’t even remember his hammer or paint brush.  No, they had to survive a good number of years to rank the level of appreciation I give them.  Perhaps they will rattle around in the bottom of a toolbox belonging to someone in my immediate or nearby family…or perhaps not.  I sense the same for me!

*****

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