Lowcountry Boil finaled in the Golden Heart in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category!
Things have been intense lately. I’ve been traveling almost non-stop. Here are a few highlights from the road:
- Last visit to Indiana, while we were on a side trip to Amish country for pickles, the police raided our hotel. They brought the drug dogs and everything. Seems one of the locals had rented a hotel room to hang out at the pool and smoke some weed. Someone must have reported the smell. This was big news here, as we’re in a very wholesome, family-oriented part of Indiana .
- Last trip to Jasper, AL, we NARROWLY missed an F-3 tornado, which formed virtually on top of us, then moved on to the next county where it did a lot of damage. I love Jasper, but I am SO not going back there in spring or summer. The Husband has strict instructions he can only work there in fall and winter.
- On a happy note, the hotel in Jasper now has a Belgian waffle maker. The Queen of Pain now has a few waffles to work off of me when I get home.
- I made a quick trip home to Faith, where I spent most of an entire day chauffeuring my dad (who is young and perfectly able to drive himself) to various doctor’s offices so he could talk to the poor receptionists and nurses about this curious coating on his tongue and throat. Now, most folks will call and make an appointment to see the doctor. Not my daddy. He doesn’t like dealing with the automated answering machines that require him to press one to make an appointment, et cetera. He just drops in. To his credit, this has proven to be effective in that these nurses will do ANYTHING to get him to stop showing them his tongue. I can relate, which explains why I was driving him on this fool’s errand.
As exciting as all of this is, the number one reason I’ve had no time to blog is that I’ve been busy lurking over at Do the Write Thing for Nashville where I’ve been busy plotting my strategy for scoring some of the goodies.
I had my heart set on the manuscript consultation by none other than Janet Reid. I’ve had a little ebay experience, so I strategized waiting until the very last minute and placing one bid–but WAY before midnight last night the bidding got too rich for my bank account.
Then, I set my sights on five days at Kari Lynn Dell’s ranch in Montana–only to be quickly left in the bidding dust. This one is still open, and a bargain for anyone who has ever wanted to go to Montana. I think the bidding closes at midnight tonight.
I hear that tomorrow Barbara Poelle and Holly Root have a combo meeting at RWA or BEA going on the block. I’m glued to my PC. but I have a sinking feeling this one will go for big bucks as well.
Y’all check it out–there’s a lot of great stuff being auctioned for a great cause!
Okay, yes, I know…that rocket left the launch pad a while back. But, unlikely as it may seem, it continues to thrust ever further into space…the final frontier. I’m getting loonier. I have proof.
Today was dermatologist day–always traumatic. I have a skin malfunction that basically ensures I’ll never grow out of the oily-occasional-breakout-teenage phase. On the up side, oily skin gets fewer wrinkles. Anyway, today was a follow up, which I have come to believe translates to, “The day you have to go to the doctor so he can get his cut on the office visit before refilling your prescriptions.” I don’t hold that against the dermatologist. I think most doctors operate that way, and who can blame them? They have vacation homes to pay for.
Today, I also had a mole check. I bet some of you see where this is headed. I am one of the very pale skinned women who slathered themselves with baby oil and iodine and baked for hours to a bright, lobster red trying to achieve a suntan during my teenage years. Since I grew a brain, I have also had several accidental sunburns. So, once in a while, a dermatologist looks me over for suspicious moles.
This was my first general mole check with this doctor. Some of you might recall the dramatic, very specific mole check that brought me to this good man. So does he. Which possibly explains why this appointment was mysteriously bumped several times due to emergencies.
After a general chat about my teenage skin, why I need to use sunscreen, et cetera, kindly doctor Harper (not his real name) left the room so Nurse could drape me. This is where I take off everything except my underwear and she gives me a sheet for my legs, and a swatch of cotton about the size of a wash cloth. She hands me the cloth. “This is for your top.”
I just looked at her.
She took another look and me and went to find a bigger wash cloth. Finally, we were all set, and Dr. Harper came back in. I chattered away about couldn’t he just sandblast my whole body and give it that air-brushed look that models in magazines had while he looked me over with a magnifying glass. Literally.
I noticed he was paying a lot of attention to a red place on my shoulder. He measured, frowned, and made some notes. “How long has this been here?” he asked.
I told him I really couldn’t say, but why was he asking?
“Is it a scar?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. I thought back, and couldn’t imagine how I would have gotten a scar on my shoulder. I didn’t recall ever injuring it.
“It might be a cancerous spot,” he said, in a tone like he was saying we might have a shower later this afternoon, “or it could be a scar.”
Now, I’m thinking, this guy’s a dermatologist, and with a magnifying glass, he can’t tell the difference between a scar and cancer? But I say, of course, “Let’s get that sucker off of there right now.”
He frowned at me. “It’s really just something we need to watch.”
“Watch?? Why? Just take it off.”
“I’ll check it again in fours months, and we’ll see if it’s grown any.” He knew I’d have to come back in a month to get the refills on my teenage skin prescriptions, but he wanted to check what MIGHT BE CANCER in four months??
As you probably can guess, I did not take this well. I began to hyperventilate. “Dr. Harper, really, what’s the down side to removing something that MIGHT BE Cancer right this very minute?”
“Well, this is the type of thing we see every day. We really just need to watch it,” he said, in that father-knows-best-voice.
“Listen, Dr. Harper, I’m a little nutty”–like he didn’t know that already–“and I really think we’ll both be better off if you just get out the scalpel and get rid of whatever that is on my shoulder, because otherwise, I will lie awake and worry about it. I will obsess about it. I will drive everyone I know crazy.”
He sighed. Deeply. “You know, I really wish I’d said, ‘Hmmm, looks like you have a scar on your shoulder.'”
Again, I asked him what possible downside there was to removing the thing.
“It’s like when you go to the doctor, and he tells you that your cholesterol is high, and we need to watch it.”
I persisted. “What’s the downside?”
“It will leave a scar,” he said. He really said that. About this time, he started furiously scribbling my prescriptions.
I was flabbergasted. “But it already looks like a scar, and it MIGHT BE CANCER.”
“You wouldn’t have a doctor remove your appendix just because it might give you trouble,” he argued.
I smiled, triumphantly. “Oh yes I would. I already have.”
He cocked his head and squinted his eyes at me. “Well, if they were already in there…” He stood up and handed me my prescriptions. “See you in a month. I’ll take a look at it then.” He started rushing out the door. Over his should he said, “There’s a lot of things we could all be worried about. Forget about this and pick something else.” So now he’s my psychologist, too??
I stewed on the way to the pharmacy.
I stewed all the way home.
If he wouldn’t take the thing off, I’d find a dermatologist who would. Too bad the quack I used to see left town without notice. He’d lop anything off I asked him too, without so much as blinking. Why, he’d once taken off three or four moles in one office visit. One on my stomach, two on my arms, and… it stuck me like a thunderbolt… one on my shoulder.
The thing I wanted Dr. Harper to remove was the scar from where Dr. Left-Town-In-The-Middle-Of-The-Night had removed a mole years ago.
Y’all know how bad my memory is…
At least I can tell myself that until I go back for my teenage skin follow-up, which is a good thing, because we leave for tomorrow on vacation with my mamma and daddy and my sister and her husband. We’re going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and will be spending time in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park. My family has little patience with my insanity. If I were to exhibit signs of obsessing about this mole/scar that MIGHT BE CANCER, one of them would likely drown me in the Snake River, or throw me out of a hot air balloon.
I’m already on my sister’s list because I packed a skirt, and that was not on the approved wardrobe packing list in the professionally bound trip book she prepared for us. Y’all probably won’t believe this, but she’s much crazier than I am.
I don’t do sad. I don’t like to see sad movies or read sad books. And I really don’t write about sad things. Disturbing things, sometimes, but never sad. There’s far too must sad in reality. I like my escapism pleasant. And truth be told, I write to escape. It’s like creating this alternate reality that you can climb into where you control everyone and everything. There’s not a doubt in my mind that there’s a clinical name for that, and somewhere, folks like me are locked up for their own protection and that of others.
Anyway, when this blog goes quiet, one of two things is happening: either I’m juggling too many balls and have dropped one, or too many sad things are going on around me. Lately, it’s a little of both. I am trying to do too much. One of my personalities–y’all know I’m slightly schizophrenic, right? And before somebody gets all offended about me making fun of crazy people, just let me tell you that I’m also a hypochondriac. So I’m not sure if I’m truly schizophrenic, or if I’m just imagining it cause I sometimes exhibit the classic symptoms, but, either way, I in no way mean to ridicule crazy people. I am definitely a part of that club, either way you slice it.
I digress. One of my personalities (see above) agreed to be this year’s conference chairperson for the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference. I thought, This will be fun. And it is. It is also a job that I work at 10 – 12 hours every day. This is a volunteer position. I think it was Suzanne that agreed to this–she loves a party. Loves to entertain. This is just like something she’d stick me with. So, I’m busy.
But there’s also too much sadness going on around me right now. But I can’t write about that stuff–I just can’t. And sometimes, it overwhelms me and I can’t escape into my imaginary worlds anymore.
And now the bees. This thing with the bees isn’t sad–it’s scary as hell. On top of being blue, I’m freaked out by the bees. Have y’all been reading about this? I had not heard a word about it. I almost never watch the news. You rarely get good news from Fox or CNN, and I have doubts about how straight a scoop you get from any of them anyway. So I had not heard about the bees.
Then, Sunday evening we we sitting on my brother-in-law’s deck having perfectly grilled steaks when a wasp flew by. I have an aversion to being stung, and wanted someone to kill it. My brother-in-law has a garden, and, who knew, wasps apparently (at least according to him) pollinate some of the stuff he grows. I want to state for the record that I have no knowledge of any of the specific crops in his field. Anyway, he wouldn’t hear of swatting the wasp.
Then, he launched into this (at the time I thought typically nutcase) sermon about how all the honeybees are dying out, which will cause all of our crops to fail which will cause us all to starve. I was rolling my eyes because my brother-in-law, like most of my husband’s family, (none of whom read blogs) are all loony.
Then, this morning, in the Greenville News, which I do read every morning, right there on page 6A–right beside the stuff about Iraq–is the headline, “Bee Die-off Endangers Food Chain,” and a picture of a worried-looking scientist in a bee suit with a tray of dead bees. Even certifiable fruitcakes say something sane every now and again, so you can’t just ignore everything that comes out of their mouths like you might think.
It seems some sort of disease or parasite has caused something called Colony Collapse Disorder. You might know they’d call it a disorder. Apparently, we now have to be politically correct when discussing bees, cause, you know, we don’t want to offend. Anyway, this Disorder is responsible for U.S. beekeepers losing a quarter of their bees in the last few months. According to someone at the USDA, this is the biggest threat to our food supply. And don’t you know the price of honey is going through the roof.
Here’s something else to lie awake and worry about. I’m counting on what usually happens in these scenarios: tomorrow or the next day some other expert will chime in as to how this is a normal, cyclical thing–like global warming–and there’s no cause for panic. And, people like me, who tend to obsess about stuff like this, will grab hold of that like a life preserver and tell ourselves that so we can sleep at night. Whether it has any basis in fact or not.
This past weekend was incredible. Artisphere came to Greenville, and since we live in the west end of downtown, we steeped in culture all weekend long. Awesome. Painters, photographers, potters, blown glass, jewelry from all over. And the music. Blues, Jazz, Calypso, Gospel, African Drum and Dance. It was a sensory feast so sumptuous it was impossible to taste everything. But I tried.
My personal favorites were folksy-soul singer/songwriter Amos Lee, who had a crowd of all ages dancing under a perfect Carolina crescent moon Friday night, and Chocolate Thunder and Shrimp City Slim, who performed at the Blues Cafe–most days known as patch of concrete beside Postcards From Paris. Shrimp City Slim is a great blues band from Charleston. Chocolate Thunder, aka Linda Rodney, who has a set of pipes that rank right up there with Aretha and Patti, sang with them on Sunday.
This is a formidable woman. Not only is she a great singer, but the girl puts on a heck of a show. She tore up that stage dancing, and had a good time doing it. At one point, as an introduction to a song she wrote, When a Man Says I Do, she told us, “I come from a long line of strong black women. And I know, you got to keep your eye on your money and keep your eye on your man…cause if you lose one, the other is most likely gone.”
The punch line to When a Man Says I Do is, “It don’t mean he won’t.” And it’s a great song.
But the thing that struck me about Linda was her stage presence. I don’t think she’d mind my saying that she is voluptuous. More voluptuous than I. And…she did not dress in clothing designed to hide her curves. Her bright pink, black and white blouse did not hang down to the knees of her jeans. And the girl was accessorized. She looked great.
She danced like she had the combined gene pool of Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and that girl from Flashdance. The girl got down, is what I’m saying. And she was not embarrassed one bit by her size. At one point, she slowed it down and sang Summertime, joking, “us big girls got to take it easy.”
Maybe if this whole getting skinny thing doesn’t work out for me, I should consider changing my worldview.
So we were driving home from Jasper, AL, last Thursday afternoon. We timed our departure so as not to hit Atlanta rush hour traffic, congratulated ourselves for planning ahead and put a John Hiatt cd in. We were tooling across I-20, passing an 18-wheeler, when an old beat up pickup truck (complete with all the accessories–gun rack, fresh coat of mud, et cetera–came hurtling up behind us. As soon as we cleared the 18-wheeler, the pickup darted at a dangerous angle in front of the tuck, passed us on the right, and swerved in front of us.
Jim had not finished spitting expletives and muttering something about suicidal morons–this particular one turned out to be a female in a tank top with a ponytail and a cell phone–when a guy that looked like he just stepped out of the board room driving a souped-up hot rod of undetermined lineage passed Miss Armed and Dangerous. Then two more cars and an SUV pulled up even with Hot Rod and Dirty Truck.
Jim scooted back into the right lane and backed off from these maniacs–or tried–but we were on the Interstate, and being passed doing 80 miles an hour. Before we knew it, we were in the middle of about twenty cars that were changing lanes back and forth, passing each other and jockeying for position with maybe 6 inches clearance between them. Something bright yellow that I couldn’t identify–but Jim said was a Chevrolet Nomad–was riding our bumper. As best I could tell, Minnie Pearl was at the wheel. There was nothing we could do but hang out and try not to get run over.
“What are they doing?” It was me that hollered that out…Jim was busy yelling out stuff I can’t post on the Internet–my mamma sometimes reads this blog. “Bunch of morons,” he yelled. Moron is Jim’s pet name for other drivers. He’s kinda stuck on it.
Anyway, cars were zooming by, weaving in and out, and back and forth. Expeditions, Cadillacs, Pickups, an El Camino…cars that looked like they’d been built from parts of 5 or 6 different makes. Toyotas, Volkswagens–every kind of car you can think of. And a camper! Minnie Pearl passed us and waved–not her parade wave, either, but the kind that doesn’t require the use of all your fingers.
Then, I saw the sign.
As in, Talladega Superspeedway, the “biggest, fastest the biggest, fastest, most competitive motorsports facility in the world.” According to their website–which I have no reason to doubt–“Records for both speed and competition have been established at Talladega.”
Suddenly, everything was clear. Everyone in the county was training for a NASCAR tryout. Sure enough, before long we passed the shrine of speed, oddly painted cars and spectacular crashes. The further we got away from it, the more normal people started driving. After a while, traffic thinned out, and slowed back down to 75.
I guess it’s a kind of salute the locals give the race track when they drive by after work. They get within a couple miles of the place, they all start driving like Richard Petty–or whoever. I don’t speak NASCAR.
But I still get it. Next time though, I think we’ll take rush hour in Atlanta over rush hour in Talladega County.
I’m on the road again–in Jasper, Alabama. Jasper is one of the many towns across the country that I would never get to see were it not for the fact that my husband has a job that takes him to places generally not found in Fodor’s tourist guidebooks. There’s nothing wrong with Jasper. It’s a nice, regular town. I just probably wouldn’t have made a special trip.
The thing that unnerved me, though, is we arrived on Sunday evening, April 8th–yes, we traveled here on Easter Sunday. Right after my mamma stuffed us into a food coma. Anyway, April 8th was the eighth (or was it ninth?) anniversary of when an F-5 tornado blew through this part of the country. Not Jasper specifically, but real close by. Now, I’m not sure I’ve told y’all this, but I have had a life-long, blood-freezing terror of tornadoes.
You might be asking yourself if I was raised, perhaps in Kansas, where such horrific storms are common. No, in fact, I was raised in Faith, NC, and as so far as I am informed, there has never been a tornado there, nor anywhere in the vicinity. The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie as a child–perhaps that explains it. Either that, or it was the way my family huddled in the hall every time it thundered, even if it was the dead of night. Mamma would get me out of bed to duck for cover with the rest of the family until the last rumble had faded.
Y’all knew I wasn’t normal, right? Well, there are reasons…
Anyway, I’m right here where this monstrous Act of God transpired–why do you suppose they call such things “Acts of God?” Tangent Alert…
Why are bad things–tornadoes, tsunami’s, earthquakes, et cetera–called Acts of God, and none of the good things? I mean, think about it…the sun came up this morning, and no one else–not even any of the presidential primary candidates–has claimed credit for it, but no one refers to Daylight as an Act of God. But if it wasn’t an Act of God, I’d sure like to know who is responsible, wouldn’t you? I’d like to stay on his or her good side, so to speak.
And what about spring? Things are blooming all over…well, except in the Midwest and Northeast where it’s still snowing. See? All that snow, now, that’s an Act of God according to newscasters and insurance agents everywhere. But wisteria in bloom? He doesn’t get the credit. I find this a puzzlement.
I guess atheists and such aren’t much troubled by the lack of logic here. But, as someone who knows God personally, I’d like to see Him get a little more credit for everything good that happens here on planet earth. All of y’all atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, and what not…you can’t have it both ways: If a tsunami is an Act of God, then by golly, so is the rhythmic surf caressing beaches all over the world right this minute.
I drug myself out of rehab–the kind you go to for sports injuries–and back down Wade Hampton Boulevard yesterday and reported for torture. The Queen of Pain was AWOL, and in her place was Jenny. Y’all remember a while back I told you about Jenny-the-cutest-little-thing?
I knew it was only a matter of time before sweet Jenny morphed into alien Jenny. She has all the right equipment–she’s beautiful, skinny, and can dance like a maniac for an hour without breaking a sweat. And, of course, she was trained by the QOP herself.
Alien Jenny is the closest thing to a Casey-clone that we’ll likely ever see. She put a hurting on me that the QOP would have been proud of. I was into the blue (the section of the exertion chart that’s not actually a part of the chart, but the top border) by song number two. The thing about Jenny is that, while definitely an alien, she’s still sweet. The sweetness oozes out of her while she’s killing you–it’s bizarre, actually. It’s like she’s Casey before somebody gave her the intravenous sarcasm–which, by the way is one of the things I like best about Casey–I don’t mean that ugly. She makes me laugh. And trust me, when you are being bent, folded and mutilated by Casey, you need something to laugh about.
Yesterday, as I was sweating like a Charleston roofer in August, hair all in my eyes, mouth hanging open, face squinched in agony as Jenny pushed me toward a cardiac episode, she smiled serenely, looked out across the class and said, “You look awesome!”I can only guess the rest of them must have looked better than me. I still don’t know how she said it with a straight face with me right there on the front row.
Hmmm… Maybe…maybe sweet Jenny isn’t as sweet as she looks. Maybe she’s just as sarcastic as Casey, but sneaky about it. You know, like those women whose mouths won’t melt butter when they say, “How niiiiice,” but you know what they really mean is something no Southern lady would ever say out loud.
She bears watching, our Jenny. She may be a new breed of alien.
I’ve gotten two classes in this week…I’m doing better. Maybe in the morning I’ll drop in on the caring and nurturing one. If I’m out of traction.
Y’all knew I’d only make it to Jazzercise one day last week, right? I mean, it was my first week back, and there’s nothing that will wreck your exercise program faster than over-doing the first week. Besides, I pulled something in my left leg last Monday, and did the sensible thing and let it heal.
So, in return, this Monday, the Queen of Pain pulled all my muscles, just to let me know she cares. A while back, I posted a list of the top 10 things you DO NOT want to hear a Jazzercise instructor say. I’d like to add # 11… “You ready for something new?”
This inquiry is normally delivered with an angelic smile and a sarcastic tone. It is code for, “You think that hurts? Try this…” Today it preceded the twenty-fifth time we did inner-thigh work in Casey’s set. Inner thighs and glutes… those were the muscles d’jour. We’re getting ready for short season–the most painful time of year. Colder climates look appealing to me right now. Places where they never wear shorts, like, I don’t know…maybe Antarctica.
I was already in pain before I got to the car–a new record. Usually, it takes at least the drive home for the hurting to commence. By the time I drug myself out of the car and into the condo, I was walking like I’d gone bull riding, and been thrown and trampled. I have hitches in my get-along that will not go away. I’ve had a hot shower, aspirin and bio-freeze–the icy-hot stuff the chiropractor gave Jim when he hurt his back. I sprayed on half a bottle and it didn’t help a bit. I’m considering drinking the stuff
I’m going to look for the Tylenol. You can take that on top of aspirin, right?
Many moons ago, I started this blog–in theory–as a way to hold myself accountable for things I should be doing, but didn’t always get around to. Like exercise, eating right, staying on my writing schedule and living right. Lately it seems like I’m doing everything except those things, ergo, no blogs.
My intentions were good, as intentions often are. When I resigned my spot on the front row at Jazzercise, I told Myra (the caring and nurturing one) and Casey (the Queen of Pain) that I lived too far away now ( 20 minutes down Wade Hampton Boulevard!), and would be taking exercise along the streets of beautiful downtown Greenville. I was going to become a Street Walker.
I envisioned getting up each morning to the sounds of an awakening small city, donning one of my newly-purchased, chic, walking outfits, and power-walking past the shops, cheerily waving at shopkeepers as they opened for business. On my way back to my West End condo, I would stop by Starbucks, order a Venti Nonfat Mocha, and read the New York Times. Then, batteries fully charged, I would go home and words would pour out of me into the computer. It was an artsy vision.
Reality is that I haven’t bought those chic walking outfits, because I refuse to buy clothes a size larger, and I’ve expanded my horizons. When we first moved in, the morning temperatures were literally freezing, and the wind howled down Main Street. Most shops don’t open until ten, so the only folks to wave at were the ones opening the bakery-cafe type establishments that harbored forbidden treats. And along with that Venti Nonfat Mocha, Starbucks was pushing scones, muffins, and lemon pound cake. Also, the hilly nature of our Main Street (not as noticeable when you drive down it) gave me shin splints. And walking, unlike Jazzercise, is lonely. Words have not gushed into my computer.
On Monday, I hauled my sorry, expanded derriere down Wade Hampton Boulevard and reenlisted. Not much has changed…the classes are a little more crowded (it’s spring–bathing suit season looms), and the Queen of Pain, courtesy of her 22-week, completely unnoticeable-unless-you-know pregnancy has graduated to her very first C-cup.
She’s still an alien. But I sure was happy to see her…and Wendy, Connie, Betty, Sarina, Allison and all the other familiar faces.
I should be dancing.
Okay, yes, I know I haven’t posted on this blog since November 1. But I have many, many reasons. Not excuses…reasons. Here are the top ten:
10. I was kidnapped by aliens–not the beautiful-but-flat-chested, Jazzercising kind, but honest to dog aliens–and their Internet does not support inter-planetary communication.
9. One of my multiple personalities, Starla, was in charge, and she refuses to use a computer because she believes that they emit radiation that causes a vitamin K deficiency, wrinkles, and the impulse to ballet dance down Main Street wearing a hat with fruit and combat fatigues, while twirling fire batons and singing Hello Dolly.
8. I’ve been on a Top Secret mission for Homeland Security.
7. My dog ate my laptop.
6. I’ve spent every spare moment exercising.
5. I’ve eaten so little that I was too light-headed to type.
4. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and multiple family birthdays in rapid succession.
3. We finally sold our house, and downsized to a condo 1/3 the size and it is quite time consuming to rid yourself of 2/3 of your belongings, but you can only fit so much stuff into 1,400 square feet.
2. I’m in a funk because of the move I thought I wanted to a downtown condo, walking distance to everything, including all my favorite restaurants and the Starbucks where Renee Zellweger was hanging out until The Greenville News chased her off–and the hotel where George Clooney is staying during location filming for Leatherheads. Not that I’m a star-stalker–I mean, I’m sure they’re very nice people, but honestly, I get no thrill out of close encounters with celeberties.
1. I’m this year’s chairperson for the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference, and while this is a volunteer position, it is taking more of my time than any fulltime job I have ever had in my entire life–not that I’m complaining–au contraire–most days it’s a blast.
Okay, those last four were for real.
I’m on the road again this week. Chattanooga, then Morristown, then back to Chattanooga. Sunday afternoon, as we were passing through Hendersonville, NC, we stopped to get something to drink at a convenience store. On the counter near the register, there was a covered box with a sign that said, “Individual Cigarettes, 25 cents.”
You have to need a shot of nicotine bad if you can’t afford a whole pack, but will spend one of your last remaining quarters on one. Apparently, there is a market.
Thank God I was never able to cultivate a cigarette habit. I tried once, back in my stupidity-rich twenties when I had several thin friends who smoked and looked sophisticated (right) with a cigarette between their long, fake-nail-tipped fingers. I thought smoking might alleviate some of my stress eating. Fortunately, I despised cigarette smoke too much to make that work for me, and eventually grew out of my idiot phase.
But you know that’s got to be a powerful addition when people in dire straights will spend a quarter for a cigarette when four quarters will get you a hamburger off the Wendy’s value menu.
One of the perks to traveling with Jim is that I get a free USA today delivered to my door every morning. Yesterday, one of the big stories was the case of a janitor in Oregon who died in 1997 after smoking three packs a day for forty years. A jury found that, while he was partly liable for his own death, Jesse Williams was influenced by the decades-long campaign by cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris to discredit emerging evidence that cigarettes caused lung cancer. The jury awarded his widow $79.5 million in punitive damages. Phillip Morris, naturally, appealed, and the case has made its way to the Supreme Court.
I’m normally an advocate of personal responsibility. I’ve always held the opinion that there’s enough evidence that cigarettes are very, very bad for you, and if you choose to smoke, and you get cancer you have no one to blame but yourself. I also think folks who sue McDonald’s for making unhealthy food are idiots, no offense.
But Jesse Williams didn’t grow up in the same era that I did. He, from all accounts, genuinely believed that “they wouldn’t sell them if they were bad for you.” I hope Mayola Williams gets every dime of that $97.5 million.
And I hope that someone finds a better use for tobacco than smoking it. Because I grew up in North Carolina, where big tobacco lives, and I don’t want to see a lot of folks out of work. But corporations with A-list lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to put whatever they put in cigarettes that entices people down to their last few dollars to pay a quarter for a cigarette.
Why not just legalize every other addictive, life-destroying substance?
Besides, second-hand smoke gives me a migraine.
I know I rag on Casey, The Queen of Pain, a lot. But she really is sweet. Except when she’s causing you intense pain by insisting that you do things with your body that The Good Lord never intended–just so y’all know, the laws of physics dictate that I cannot put weights on this chest and do sit-ups. Or when she has the microphone and thinks of some bit of entertaining sarcasm at your expense. Frequently, the pain and the sarcasm are delivered simultaneously. But I digress…she’s sweet, really.
Like just this morning, knowing that I am in a hotel room somewhere in rural Alabama and thus unable to report for torture, she emailed me a link to download Jazzercise podcasts, especially designed for the traveler. Frequently I have lamented to Her Royal Agony that I need a DVD of her toture sessions–I mean class–so I can Jazzercise while traveling. I knew it wouldn’t be Casey (or Myra, Diane, Wendy, Julie, Donna, Jenny or Michelle) on the podcast, but I thought, “Hey, why not give it a try?” So I did.
The first obstacle was an educational one. I am (while not computer illiterate) somewhat behind the times. In my world, podcast = ipod = Apple computers. I have an IBM Thinkpad. So, I followed the link the QOP sent, went to the Jazzercise site, clicked iTunes, and got the scoop. I know, I’m behind.
It took me a while to download and install the software. Software that is Apple derivative has a somewhat different look and feel than that which is IBM derivative. Anyway, I got that done, went back to the Jazzercise site and downloaded the five available podcasts. So far so good.
It wasn’t intuitively obvious how to start this stuff up after it was loaded, but finally, in a box so small I had to get out a magnifying glass, Shanna Missett Nelson, daughter of Jazzercise founder Judi Sheppard Missett, appeared. Now Shanna, like her mother, looks like your stereotypical aerobics instructor. Perfect, right down to the hair and makeup. At least that’s how she looked in the little box with my magnifying glass. I tried making the box bigger, but every time I tried, the whole shebang locked up and I had to start Shanna over.
For authenticity, they taped these podcasts in actual hotel rooms. Shanna demonstrated the first exercise, using a hotel room chair. Now, her chair was not exactly like mine: mine has wheels–it’s a desk chair. But I thought maybe it would work. This was foolishness.
I sat on the edge of the chair, just like Shanna demonstrated, and put my hands on the seat. But just as I lowered my VOLUPTUOUS derriere for the first of ten reps of some strange variation of a pushup, the chair rolled backwards, slamming against the wall, and I landed with a loud thud on the floor. The two ladies who were cleaning the room next door came running. They knocked on the door, yelling “housekeeping!” Evidently they couldn’t hear me calling back that everything was okay–or didn’t understand what I was saying–so they used the pass key and came on in.
By this time, I had picked myself up and was limping towards the door. They looked around the room a little curiously, and asked (I’m guessing here) if I was all right. Their English was limited to the words”housekeeping”, “towels”, and “have a nice day.” My Spanish is limited to “taco,” “burrito,” and “chimichanga.” I pointed to Shanna in her little box, but they weren’t curious enough to come see what was on my computer screen. Who knows what they’ve seen on other laptops left open in guest rooms. They backed out of the room, no doubt wondering what in the name of common sense I’d been doing.
Okay, so my first session of Travelcise didn’t go smoothly. But as soon as I purchase a tube (looks like a jump rope, only made out of rubber) –which I need for the next exercise in the set, I’ll give it another go. Meanwhile, maybe I’ll hop on that treadmill downstairs. After I finish editing a short story and ice my bruise. Maybe.
Hey y’all. Sorry it’s been a while. I’m still writing, still VOLUPTUOUS, and still trying to grow in the former area and shrink in the latter. But things have been hectic lately. I’m a volunteer for the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, and we just had our annual conference this weekend in Myrtle Beach. Actually, to be accurate, I’m on the board of directors, and this year, my assigned task was door prizes and auction items.
Now, if you think about it–and I have, trust me, given this a great deal of thought–it is moronic to sell things to raise money to help support the organization while simultaneously giving stuff away. But we do it. Every year. And by golly, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right. So this year we gave away a ton of stuff. And we sold a ton of stuff. And I’m exhausted.
Writer’s conferences are a fantastic way to invest in your development as a writer. I’ve been to a few over the last several years, and it’s incredible how much you soak up, especially from the social events. Just being around a bunch of literary types gets your creative engine all revved up. And it’s amazing how generous successful authors, editors and agents are when dealing with crowds of writers who just have one quick question that takes 20 minutes.
Anyway, the conference was a success, and this week I’m traveling with Jim. We’re in some corner of Alabama that I was previously unfamiliar with, about an hour outside of Birmingham. I plan to catch up on sleep, writing, and reading.
I’ll catch up on Jazzercise next week. Hopefully I’ll still be able to fit in my clothes by then. I’ve been stress eating a lot. Yeah, I know, Diane…There’s no way I’ll catch up now.
But we had a lot of door prizes.