Halloween at the Steins

Halloween at the Steins

 

Things were abuzz in the Franklin Stein household on Halloween. Franklin’s wife, Mary Shelly, was hosting a party.

Shelly usually did all the work for the soiree herself, but this year she asked her friend Elvira to help. The girlfriends agreed: a sit down dinner was out; a buffet was in, so guests could mingle. No elaborate seating charts and worrying about who wanted to drink the blood or eat the brains of a fellow guest.

And while Franklin would normally be watching football or gardening by moonlight, tonight he made a rare appearance in his wife’s kitchen.

“Shel, do you want cheese on these?” Franklin said.

“Yes, Muenster,” she said.

Franklin poked around in the refrigerator but his hands were so big he couldn’t grab the tiny packet of cheese. He pulled the whole drawer out and dumped it upside down. Packages of meats, cheese, sticks of butter and a plastic sheath of vacuum sealed brains scattered on the counter-top.

Shelly watched him from the corner of her eye as she arranged a platter, determined not to say anything. This is Franklin’s way of helping, she said to herself.

He ripped open the package of cheese and an entire pound of sliced Muenster flew across the counter. He slapped his gigantic palm down to stop it from skittering to the floor. He cut the Muenster into huge chunks with a knife and plopped them on each tongue sandwich. The sandwich tops teetered at strange angles on a large silver tray.

“How’s this?” he asked.

“Cuddle bear, you’re so helpful,” she said. She pulled his arm until he leaned down. She kissed his cheek. “Would you put it on the buffet table next to the fried crickets?”

Franklin grunted his agreement. He walked into the dining room with the tray balanced precariously between his hands.

Shelly started to gather up the spilled items when the door bell rang.

“Trick or Treat Shelly,” the woman on the porch said. The skin tight fit of the woman’s black dress was accentuated by her long black hair and lovely face.

“Vi, it’s great to see you,” Shelly said and gave her friend a hug.

“Hi Vi,” Franklin said. “Love the dress. Where’s D?”

“He can’t make it; he’s working graveyard shift, as usual.”

“Franklin, do you want to watch the game? Vi and I can handle the kitchen.” Shelly said. Franklin grunted and lumbered off to the living room.

Shelly took a pitcher of blood from the refrigerator and poured a glass for her guest. Vi took a sip. “Shel, you know my favorite blood type is B+? You’re such a dear.”

“What are friends for, right?” Shelly said.

She opened the refrigerator and pulled out festive bowls and platters with a variety of treats. There was bone marrow, sliced brains, blood sausage and pearl onions on skewers, hummus and baba ghanoush with pita chips, and a pot of ghoul-ash. Shelly prepared the secret family recipe given to her by Franklin’s mother. She put the stew on the stove to warm it.

Vi took each vessel and arranged them on the buffet table. When she came back to the kitchen, Shelly was stirring the pot with a wooden spoon and crying.

“Shel, what’s the matter?”

“I don’t know…the smell of the stew reminds me of the old country, when Franklin and I first got married. We’ve been together so long, he hardly looks at me anymore Vi. I hold these parties so he can see his friends every year, but I hope he also notices how much I care about him.”

“Oh honey, don’t try to figure a monster out, it doesn’t work.”

“But we used to be so…frisky. At our house in the countryside, we used to play a game. I’d run around the bedroom with a pitchfork and a candle shouting ‘Get the monster!’ Franklin loved that; ever since we moved to the suburbs he’s always going on about football and gardening. Vi, we’re becoming regular people. It’s terrifying.”

“Listen, I’ve been with Drac for 42 years, he met me when I was thirty-eight. I was just a baby. Do you think it’s easy being the seventh wife? No. He’s Transylvanian and I’m American, so there are big cultural differences. But we’re still together.”

“It’s hard with Franklin, he doesn’t talk much. Half the time, I’m trying to decipher his grunts.”

“It’s not easy for anyone Shel, but keep at it. Tell Franklin what you want. He’s not a mind-reader.”

Shelly sniffled. “I suppose you’re right.”

“Well of course I am. Now wipe your eyes girlfriend, you’ve got a party to host.”

The guests started to arrive. Mr. and Mrs. Mummy came first. The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe slipped in the back door and haunted the kitchen for a while. Then there was David the werewolf with his British girlfriend along with David’s zombie friend Jack and Jack’s wife. Finally, the headless horseman made a grand entrance with a freshly severed head, which got a big laugh.

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By midnight, the guests had consumed most of the food and everyone had found their chatting partners for the evening. The doorbell rang again. Shelly was preparing the desserts, so she asked Vi to get it.

Vi opened the door to find the Jersey Devil with a half-empty bottle of tequila dangling from his tapered red claws.

“Vi, you look amazing.” He kissed her on the cheek and lingered there. “C’mon baby,” he whispered, “admit it – you’re glad to see me.”

She opened the door wider and stepped away from him. “Come in Virgil. It’s just like you to show up after dinner when you’re invited to a dinner party.”

“Yeah, uh, sorry,” he said and shucked off a coat he draped over his wings. He threw it on a nearby chair. “I stopped in Atlantic City for a few games of roulette. When I hit the Turnpike I ran into traffic. You know me baby, I gamble big. Where’s Shelly?”

“Did you know the headless horseman is here?” Vi said, diverting his attention.

“No way, where is my best dude? I’m here, so we can get this party started!” He shimmied his shoulders and his wings shook as he made his way into the living room.

“Okay Virgil, whatever. Clearly you need no invitation.”

Vi came back into the kitchen and rolled her eyes. “Shel, it was my ex! I didn’t realize you invited him?”

“I’m sorry Vi, I should have warned you. Franklin insisted. But Virgil is so unreliable, I never thought he’d make it.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I’m over him and his wild ways. I’ll say a few ‘Serenity Now’s’ and move on. But it’s a good thing Drac’s not here.”

“I keep telling Franklin our ‘special’ friends should be invited to the house separately, but he won’t listen.” Shelly sighed. “I hope Virgil doesn’t break anything. When he and the headless horseman get together…”

“I know,” Vi said. “I can’t believe I used to live with that devil. My life was chaos. It makes me so thankful I’m with Drac.”

Shelly pulled out a silver cloche covered plate from the refrigerator. “This might cheer you up, Vi. I got a dessert especially for you.” Shelly removed the cover and revealed a plate of lady fingers.

Vi clapped. “You shouldn’t have Shel, they look fantastic.” Vi took one of the lady fingers and proceeded to crunch away. “I love how you decorated the fingernails in orange polish, it gives them that extra textural element.”

The two friends cleared away all of the dinner plates with nary a fried cricket left. In the living room Virgil and the headless horseman led opposing teams in a game of charades. Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost was miming the 1958 movie title I Married a Monster from Outer Space but no one could understand him. Mrs. Mummy kept shouting Monster! Monster! but Poe was already on the word space.

Vi pulled Franklin aside and chatted with him. Shelly watched them talking. Franklin did his usual grunting and nodding. When they were done, Vi gave Franklin a hug, and he grinned like a little kid.

Shelly set out the desserts. But before anyone could dig in, Franklin stood up to his full seven and a half feet and said, “I want to say something.” The room quieted.

“Honey, thank you for a wonderful evening, you’ve outdone yourself this year. Let’s raise our glasses to my incredible wife Shelly,” he said.

“To Shelly,” the guests said in unison, raising their goblets of wine or blood.

###

As Franklin saw the guests off for the evening, Shelly and Vi washed the dishes together in the kitchen.

“Vi, you didn’t have to coach Franklin to make that speech tonight.”

“Shel, I knew you would think I put him up to it, but I didn’t, I swear. I told him you two were lucky to be so in love after all these years. He said those things on his own.”

“Come on, really?”

“Yes, really Shel. He loves you,” Vi said.

“You know, Franklin still surprises me sometimes. He may be a big oaf, but he’s my big oaf and I love him too Vi.”

“I know you do hon. It’s getting early, I’m going to try and catch D before he climbs into his coffin. Call me tomorrow.”

Shelly wrapped the left over lady fingers for Vi to take home. The two friends hugged and Vi left. Shelly began to dry the dishes when Franklin came into the kitchen and leaned down to nuzzle her ear.

“Did Vi tell you what she and I talked about tonight?” Franklin said.

“That she was impressed we were still in love after all these years, I know,” Shelly said.

“Shel, of course I love you, but that’s not it. First she said you’re the best friend she’s ever had. Then she said it was time for you and me to rekindle our flame.”

“That was sweet of her, I’m glad you had a good chat,” Shelly said.

“It wasn’t just a good chat, it was great advice. It reminded me of something we used to do.” He went to the drawer and pulled out a candle and matches. His mouth spread into the boyish grin Shelly knew well.

“Let’s make our own fun for Halloween this year,” he said. “I think the pitchfork is in the closet…”

Shelly laughed. “Oh Franklin, you say the most romantic things.”

 

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More Short Film Adventures – Filming the Short!

I am grateful that the Executive Producers Ramon Torres and Mike Karp have given me the go ahead to share top-secret backstage candid shots with you all on the making of our film project. 🙂

First, the cast is amazing! We have a talented set of actors playing the five roles in the movie. We had a table reading of the script on April 23rd. Here is the complete cast:

L - R: Ramon Olmos Torres, Jessica Zinder, Lou Martini, Barbara Ann Davison, and Kristoffer Infante

L – R: Ramon Olmos Torres, Jessica Zinder, Lou Martini, Barbara Ann Davison, and Kristoffer Infante

 

And then, this past weekend I was on the set to watch and participate in the filming. It was SO exciting!! It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a film being made, nevermind a film that I wrote being made.

 

It was surreal to see actors speaking my lines, and then when the take was over, having the crew cracking up (the film is a comedy). I was humbled to have several of the actors tell me they loved the script and thought it was funny. I can tell you the actors brought so much to the interpretation, they made whatever I wrote funnier.
Also our director, Hiroshi Hara, is doing an fantastic job!
Here are some candid behind the scenes shots:
Me in the middle being flanked by Kristoffer Infante (Doorman Ralph) and our wonderful Director, Hiroshi Hara!

Me in the middle being flanked by Kristoffer Infante (Doorman Ralph) and our wonderful Director, Hiroshi Hara!

 

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Lou Martini as Allen, the boss!

Lou Martini as Allen, the boss!

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Close up of Lou's lips on the monitor for a very funny moment in the movie

Close up of Lou’s lips on the monitor for a very funny moment in the movie

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It takes a LOT of equipment to make a film, and our crew has been really great including Andy Zou, our Assistant Director in the background

It takes a LOT of equipment to make a film, and our crew has been really great

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Ramon getting a make up touch up and his mic attached. (His character isn't sleeping which is why he looks like that!)

Ramon getting a make up touch up and his mic attached. (His character isn’t sleeping which is why he looks like that!)

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This coming weekend we will shoot the rest of the scenes and complete all of the filming. Everything has been shot on location in New York City, which is such a great backdrop for this story.

Then it’s off to editing for the final “making of the movie” along with the addition of the soundtrack and score and all the other bits needed for final polish.

More on this amazing, wonderful and exciting adventure soon!

Pursuing Greenland – the quest of a global blogger

The first thing I must say is that this post is about hubris, mine of course since it’s my blog.

I’m really proud of the fact that over the past few years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve attracted readers from all over the world. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve had readers from every continent (except Antartica, that I know of…) drop in at some point and read something from this blog.

As you can imagine, the U.S. and Canada represent my most frequent readers, but I have a lot of readers in Northern Europe from countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Sweden … and a few from Iceland and Norway too.

But what about Greenland? Nada!

The nice folks at WordPress light up a map on a report I can pull up with all the lovely reader tallies from each country, and depending on the number of people who have viewed the blog the country color goes from white (no readers) to deep red (lots of readers.)

Greenland looks like a field of pristine snow on my color map … all white.

Country coverage from my blog

But in all fairness, how many times have I written about Greenland on this blog? Until today, zero times. And it’s highly unfair of me to expect the fine people of Greenland to come to this blog and spend their well earned leisure time (you know, after they shovel the sidewalk in front of their house in the dark for the two hundredth time, and feed their sled dogs) reading about me complaining how we’ve gotten “a lot of snow in New York City” this year and “how cold” it is here.

Yeah, boo hoo they must all be saying way up north. We have parts of our place that are above the Arctic Circle, so don’t talk to us about cold, they might sniff at me. I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

And so it was that I started searching around online for news about Greenland, and I found (no, I’m not kidding) GreenlandToday.com.

You want pictures of icebergs and polar bears? They got ’em!

This big boy looks fierce!

This big boy looks fierce!

You want to know which Greenland based designers showed their wares at the Copenhagen Fashion Week and were well received? It’s in there!

Great Greenland designs at Copenhagen Fashion Week

Great Greenland designs at Copenhagen Fashion Week

And what blog post about Greenland would be complete without an image of the Northern Lights? Right!

Northern Lights over Greenland

Northern Lights over Greenland

In short, this post is my shameless appeal to the lovely people of Greenland to come on over and visit this blog … and maybe comment too, if they want to.

Since there are only about 57,000 people living in the country, which is about 20% of the city where I live (Jersey City has at least 250,o00 people) I know I’m appealing to a limited audience.

Still, I believe in the power of the internet and global communications.

Come on folks, let’s make it happen.

California is Not Like New York City

I am prepared to admit a lot of things on this blog, and today, I’m prepared to admit I’m a bit irked. I’ve been on the road for a few weeks, with another week to go so it’s no wonder my patience is wearing thin.

Yes, I’m in California right now on business and I have a complaint. Everyone here is just so damned friendly. As a New York City girl, I can’t tell you how annoying that is.

“Hi!” someone will invariably say to me, just in passing, with a full mouth of sparkling white teeth. How vomitous. What’s worse, they really mean it to be friendly and inviting.That’s just icky.

Tonight, I checked into my hotel and the gentleman behind the desk ran through the usual… thingie to put in your car for parking, room key, breakfast information. Then I asked whether they had an onsite gym. Yes, he said, but you have to go outside because it is in the building next door. You walk through the doors on the other side of the fireplace (the one in the middle of the lobby, incidentally) and then you (insert more directions and my hapless look, knowing I was going to get lost.)

Then something happened that could never, EVER happen in New York City or within a hundred miles of NYC. He came out, from behind the desk mind you, and said, “Well, it will just be easier if I show you,” and began walking towards the door to go outside. I followed him in a daze, wondering if everybody gets this kind of service out here.

He showed me exactly where to go, including the hidden elevator on the other side of the courtyard I needed to use to get to the 2nd level, and go over the bridge between the two buildings to get to the fitness center. (By the way: WTF? Why is the fitness center outside and one building over and an outside elevator ride and five miles of courtyards away? I don’t know, but this is how Cali seems to be sometimes with no rain or bad weather, like, ever. ANYway…)

Meanwhile, if that exchange had happened in New York City, it would have gone like this:

Me: Is there a fitness center?

Him – with a sniff of indignance to even suggest that they WOULDN’T have a fitness center: Yes.

Me: Oh great, where is it?

Him: It’s on the map. (vague flit of his hand towards an unintelligable map, with no GPS coordinates for the fitness center.)

Me: I see. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?

Him: Just looking at me.

Him: Well Ms. Deminski, here is your room key and map (sliding it across the marble counter top), the elevators are ‘over there’ (another flit of the hand) and let us know if there is anything else you need, or feel free to speak to our concierge. (Read as: don’t even think of asking me for more help, and the concierge who is on his cell phone talking to his boyfriend isn’t going to be much help to you either. Now move along!)

Ah, New York City, you gotta love it. The fresh cold slap in the face everybody needs from time to time to remind them they are in a big, beastly city that can chew them up and spit them out in a heartbeat. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

You know, people warned me about California. I should have listened to them. Friendly people, beautiful weather, fresh food and smiling faces everywhere.

It’s enough to make this New Yorker homesick.

Duluth – An Anecdotal Ramble

– The Cold –

When I rolled into Duluth, MN yesterday morning it was raining. It felt like Winter just without the snow.

I puttered around and then I crashed – I hadn’t slept well the night before – insomnia on the road sucks more than insomnia at home, by the way.

At about 6:30pm I went down to the in-house bar at the hotel where they were having “Happy Hour.” I resigned myself to this particular purgatory because of the terrible weather, but when in Rome, as they say…

I’d been given a drink ticket, which I cashed in for an oh-so-glamorous Diet Cola Beverage (see previous rants if you’re not familiar with my drinking habits) and sat at the bar. Looking around, there were an abundance of guys, mostly in their 50’s. There were a few sitting closer to me that were maybe in their late 30’s / early 40’s – but no women of any age.

Of course, the prerequisite duel television screens were showing hockey (NJ Devils vs. some other team) and basketball (the Lakers, I think?) My friend Patrick can keep me honest on which games I was ignoring.

– Size Matters –

Now, out here in Minnesota you need to understand something, dear reader. There must be something in the (lake) water. The men are HUGE. Of course, you’ll say, what the heck do you mean by that and why would you bother commenting on it?

That’s my point – these men are SO huge, I cannot HELP but comment on it!

Six-foot-four hulks with giant torsos and tree trunk legs, gigantic paws for hands, and chiseled jawlines. These men lumber about the bar drinking beer, wearing baseball caps and plaid shirts and work boots which have actual dirt on them. The beer mugs they drink from are also huge, maybe one liter of beer per mug? I don’t know – they’re big.

After I settled in – a guy sat down next to me of a “petite” size in Minnesota measures – he was only about five foot ten. He must have been teased as a child in this land of Goliaths.

– Family –

The forementioned gentleman, is a carpenter on assignment refurbishing a nearby retail establishment. He married at 18, when he got his high school sweetheart pregnant and they had a baby girl. Nearly 10 years later they had a baby boy. The girl, who is 22 now, has two children, which means the gentleman I was chatting with was a grandfather twice over – at 38 years of age.

This is not the first time I’ve heard this particular tale in Minnesota. I’ve heard this set of circumstances (girls getting pregnant between 16-18, and then getting married) at least four times in the few days I’ve been here from both men and women. I assume it’s a “thing” that happens regularly in this area. (What else is there to do in the Winter, I suppose but keep warm, right?)

It’s typical for people to come from large families too. 10 children is not unheard of in these parts. This could be because there is still so much farming going on in Minnesota, and farm families have traditionally needed all the hands they could to run the farm.

Well, I can attest to one thing: these farmboys have been raised up on plenty of milk, corn and beef!

– Ice Fishing –

The gentleman I refer to above goes ice fishing in the Winter. Apparently in order to take your truck out onto the lake in the Winter, with your ice fishing shack in tow, please ensure the ice on the lake is at least 12 inches thick. This will help prevent you, your truck and your ice shack from falling through a giant crack in the ice that will swallow you up and kill you instantly because of the extreme cold.

I would never, EVER come here in the Winter. People simply comment, yes it gets to be 30 below zero in the Winter, and your nose hairs freeze instantly. That’s how you know it is that cold. You know what? I believe you. I’ll skip that experience myself, thanks.

But if you insist, and you must go ice fishing, you need supplies. Among the supplies you need, you should take your fishing poles (these will be placed outside the ice shack and you need a flag called a “tip up” to alert you when you have a fish on the line.) You will need minnows for bait. Oh, you also need beer. A lot of it too. Many fisherman count the fish they catch based on the number of beers it takes to get them. So you might have a three beer fish, or a two beer fish, for example.

Women can come on these ice fishing treks, but it’s well known, according to my source, that they complain about the cold so then you have to lug a propane heater along so ‘she don’t complain too much.’ When I point out that women have less muscle than men and it’s difficult for our bodies to retain heat which is WHY we get cold faster, I get something akin to a blank look. O-kay, well, I tried. Pioneer women sure have their work cut out for themselves…

– Closing Time –

After a few hours of chatting about camping, snow mobiling, and moto-cross, the gentlemen recused himself so he could get some sleep. He woke up at 5am this morning to go back to doing carpentry. At 9:30pm the bar had all but emptied out, because I was informed, 10pm was closing time.

Ahh yes, Duluth.

What a wild town.

12 hour travel fog

Somehow I find myself with a WiFi connection here in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota so I’m going to write a post.

Even though in the depths of my hazy brain I realize it is probably not a good idea.

Well actually, definitely not a good idea.

Oh yeah, this is gonna be a RANT.

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BIG TIME.

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Got up at 7am this morning, puttered around the house making sure I watered the plants, packed odds and ends I forgot the previous night (I still forgot stuff, like the cable that connects my camera and my laptop) and generally girded my loins for what was to come. I knew I had quite the day in store.

Drove to the airport and did what I never do, parked in long term parking. Realized after I got there that it’s astronomically expensive. Oh well. Walked to the bus stop, in a similar way Steve Martin walked to his bus stop in Planes, Trains and Automobiles except I did not fall down a snow bank and no John Candy selling plastic shower rings. (Love that movie.)

Got the shuttle to the terminal. Printed out my boarding pass. Read boarding pass.

Re-read boarding pass.

Realized I was in the wrong terminal. 😦

Got on the “air train” monorail (this is at Newark Airport, EWR, by the way) to get to the correct terminal. Realized, as the train began moving, I was going in the wrong direction. Le Sigh.

Got off air train, then back on, then back off when I finally arrived at the right terminal.

Okay – got thru security okay, got on the flight…non-stop thank goodness. Drank some water. Didn’t take a nap. Looked out the window. Hey, there’s Lake Michigan.

Arrived in Minneapolis, hooray!

Now I am HALFWAY to where I need to go.

Oh, yeah.

Crap.

Got my bag, and headed towards the car rental counter. Found every other car rental company except the name of my no-name car rental company (thank you Expedia.) It turns out, my car rental company operates out of a closet.

I wish I was lying about this.

I’m not.

I walked back and forth, went up and down escalators, searched high and low. Nada. Nothing.

Sooo, I CALLED the car rental company to find out where they were and got directions from the woman INSIDE the terminal to find out where they were.

She was all like, ‘we’re right here, just go down a level.’ I’m like, ‘What? I was just there?’ And she was all, ‘No, you have to keep walking ALL the way down the hall and look to the right.’

What she should have said was look for the closet. The one you can’t find because there is no signage. We’re in there. And then I would have been like, OH, why didn’t you say so?!

O-kay, I find the closet. Sign my life away for the rental car. Get shuttle to the place where the cars are kept. I rented an economy car (I don’t really need to explain that because you already guessed, right?) and when I got there they upgraded me to a Kia Soul in lime green for the same price. Since lime green is one of my favorite colors, and the Kia Soul is pretty cute, I’d say I’m happy for a moment. A little slice of lime green happiness just for me. Yay!

When I think about it now, I should have savored that more at the time – but how was I to know?

Well, here was the first clue: I ask for directions to my location.

Everybody, and I do mean ALL FIVE PEOPLE at the car rental place give me a blank stare and hand me a map. They’re like, hmm, I’ve never been there before, I don’t know the best way to get there. Where is it?

Note: When people who LIVE in the state ask you where you are going because they never heard of the place, this is NOT a good sign.

I’m all like, ‘never mind, I see it on the map, I’ll figure it out.’

Then I get on the road. The road is a highway, which at first is leading me out of Minneapolis. So get this kids – Minneapolis has traffic jams! YES, they do, I swear it – I was in one this afternoon! Crazy.

So I get out of the urban center, and I’m driving along this highway and thinking, hmm, there isn’t much along this highway. It’s flat, and beige-brown with maybe a tree and a McDonalds thrown in every once in a while, but the highway is like that FOR HOURS.

And I’m driving and driving and driving, and when I see two or three cows on a farm site I’m so grateful because there are black and white lumps meandering over the beige landscape.

The drive I drove? Tiring. After all that nonsense in the morning, then more nonsense with the car rental thing… and then four and a half hours of beige, well kids, that was about all I could take.

I got the hotel where the wedding is being held tomorrow and checked in. I decide, in my exhaustion, that I should probably eat something because I suddenly realize I haven’t eaten anything in 12 hours and it probably didn’t help me while I was driving into the beige.

I take the elevator down to the ground floor and walk over to the restaurant – and then I see it. Now I realize why I’m here in the middle of nowhere.

There is a lake.

It’s right outside the ceiling to floor windows just outside the restaurant. And there are two loons swimming in the lake. They’re beautiful.

I manage to score a window booth at the restaurant – which is packed by the way – and just look at the ducks and loons swimming on this magnificent lake with a sandy beach just steps away from where I’m having dinner.

And you know…it relaxes me. All the ridiculous that happened today melts away and it hits me: my nephew, who I knew when he was just a bitty baby, is getting married tomorrow.

I’m glad I’ll be here to see it.

CDeminski’s Blog Fiction Collection

My blog is only a few days away from it’s birthday, which is hard for me to believe. In the twelve months since I began blogging, I’ve posted over 165 items.

I’ve been thinking about how new readers can more easily navigate the blog.

With so many posts, it’s challenging to go through them. Even if you use the tag cloud, the archive pull down menu, or the calendar none of these tools puts lists of things together in an easy to use way.

As a result, I’ve created a new page called the Blog Fiction Collection.

The purpose of this page is to conveniently pull together all flash fiction, prose poems and humor items that I have self-published on the blog.

I hope you’ll go and check out some and breathe new life and comments into some of these postings that are still good reads, if I do say so myself.

A few of these pieces also have audio files attached if you’d like to listen to me read them.

Enjoy!

Happy New York Saint Patricks Day!

My useless super-power

Go Out and Write Something Superhero!

 

There are very few people who know about my useless super-power, but I’m going to reveal it to you, dear readers, right now.

Ever since I can remember, when I hear a commercial on the television with a voice over, or something on the radio, or if I’m in another room (where I can’t see the TV) and I just hear the voices, I can tell who is speaking (and usually I can tell what movie it is too – even if I haven’t seen the film.)

For example, I’m watching TV as I write this and a car commercial just came on. The voiceover was done by the actor who used to play “Burger,” Carrie’s BF on Sex and the City. I don’t even know the guy’s actual name, but I recognize his voice. The commercial is over and I have no idea what brand of car was being advertised.

Bank of America ads? Kiefer Sutherland. (Simply Orange? Keifer’s dad Donald.)

Hyundai? Jeff Bridges.

U.S. Military (or a particular branch, maybe Marines?) Gary Sinise.

Some brand of yogurt I can’t remember? Willem Dafoe.

I can do this all day.

Also, I can catch voices (most likely) even fewer people would know, like Peter Coyote and Keith David, who both do a lot of PBS narration on documentaries, but they also do some commercial television work too. (I love Keith David’s voice, it’s a fantastic baratone.)

So what do I do with this amazingly useless super-power? Not much. Amuse friends who happen to be around when the TV is on, especially when I can pull something unusual out of the hat.

“Oh, remember that guy that played in that movie with Burt Reynolds in the 1970’s? Yeah, that’s him selling that energy drink. Yep, that’s definitely his voice.” Invariably my friend will scrunch up their face and listen, and they’ll be like, “Oh my god! Yeah, you’re right! How’d you do that?”

Well, that’s a national secret. I could tell you, but……

Ways for Neurotic Writers to Torture Themselves – Possibly a Rant

If you are a writer submitting your work around, you know the ol’ waiting game is torturous. You know the drill: spend a few buckets of blood on a new story, then chew off all your fingernails as you edit the thing, re-edit it, then go back to the way it was two edits ago, then re-edit again. You know – just for fun.

After a while, you get confused. Is the story better the way it was 3 versions ago, or if you combine the ending from 2 versions ago with the beginning from 5 versions ago would the characters seem more developed? 7 versions ago the sentence structure seemed tighter, but this last version it seems looser. But which is better?

Of course, once you completely and utterly HATE the story, you know it’s ready to be sent out to editors who you expect will hate it equally as much as you do. You gird your loins and go out to Duotrope to find places where you think the story might possibly get massacred, or maybe the editors will just slit its throat quietly in a dark alleyway (uh-oh, I’ve been reading too many Court Merrigan stories, sorry…) or perhaps your story will come back with a terrible virus if the editor is really mean and says something a little encouraging. Oh hell…

THEN you have to look at the story cross-eyed for two weeks and start plucking and reshaping its eyebrows, but before long you’ve shaved half its head into some wierd half-mohawk, and of course you soon realize you have to shave the other half of its head and then it’s not the story you started with at all … but maybe this one is better?

You’re not able to send it back to editor three who was slightly encouraging in their rejection because they didn’t ask for a rewrite, they threw the raw meat back at you and said to filet it a different way and serve it to someone else.

Oh, mother of all parrots.

All of this is actually the norm. No, really, I mean that. It’s pretty much par for the course. At least for me it is.

But lately, I’ve come up with new and daring ways to torture myself all on my own without the assistance of an editor.

If you’ve gotten this far, you writers who are addicted to the masochistic tendancies we all share, for god’s sake please look away now. Don’t read what I’m about to say, because it’s a great way to make yourself crazy.

(Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

So just for fun I go to my list of submissions and look at submissions that are more than four weeks old. I start at the bottom, which means a submission labeled #1 – the item that has been waiting longest for response.

Then I go back to Duotrope and see what is the average number of days to acceptance or rejection. Then I go back to the list, as if it was my very own personal crystal ball, and figure out if I should have heard back yet.

If I’m overdue for a response, I send a polite inquiry to find out if, maybe, perhaps, the editors have been fighting amongst themselves whether or not to accept my piece or a piece by Jhumpa Lahiri. (Hey, this is my blog and my fantasy so back off, M-kay?)

Now here comes the maddening part. Sometimes, the staff will write me back with a cryptic one or two sentence note saying, yeah we’ve still got your story hostage over here, we’ve tied it up in the backroom and we’ve water-boarded it repeatedly and its not talking. We’re moving on to the pliers and fingers next. In other words, we haven’t made up our minds and we’ll let you know when we do.

In the world of neurotic writers, and by “the world” I mean me obsessively checking email 100 times a day, getting this “your story is still under consideration” note is not enough to do a happy dance, because it’s not an acceptance, and yet, YET, it’s not an out and out rejection either.

It would never, ever occur to me that the editor’s dog got bit by a squirrel and they are off at the vet and that’s why I haven’t heard back, or maybe they’re off doing the very mysterious things editors do in their free time (hahaha, I said editors and free time) and not spending their every waking moment thinking about whether or not they’ll accept my story or not. No, in my fantasy life, that’s all they think about.

And since it’s all they’re thinking about – why can’t they Hurry Up and Make a Decision before I gnaw through the cable connecting my laptop to the internet?

Please, writer friends, for the sake of your health: Do Not Try This At Home.

Humor: Steal Team 5.99 Goes Shopping

Steal Team 5.99 Goes Shopping

Good evening, this is Brenda Spivens, Channel Three News, reporting.

Six men clad in black in what appeared to be Steal Team 5.99 uniforms crashed through the skylight in the United States Mall today. Shards of glass rained down on bystanders waiting in line for fried chicken, pizza and pixelated ice cream from the future. The owner of the Buddha’s Joy Chinese food stand said she heard the sound of a helicopter just before the crash.

The men rappelled down to the center of the food court where they were seen opening backpacks. They unfolded numerous black paper bags with black twine handles with “ST5.99 Shop-Op” printed in gold lettering. One man, who seemed to be the leader, had a map of the mall with several locations circled in black. All six men synchronized their watches at the team leader’s command.

Four of the men were observed entering American Buzzard Clothing while the remaining two stood outside the entrance. They informed shoppers the store was on “lock down” and brandished automatic weapons and threatened to immobilize them if they attempted to go inside to try on tee shirts or jeans.

Inside the store, one panicked sales clerk kept telling one of the Steal Team members his butt didn’t look big in the pair of black jeans the Steal Team member tried on–to no avail. The man pulled out a bowie knife from his tool belt and offered to wear the clerk as a pair of pants instead. The clerk and Steal Team member finally reached a compromise when the clerk found a pair of acid washed pajama jeans on the sale rack.

After completing Phase One of their Shop-Op, the Steal Team went to Bubble and Body and demanded to wash their hands with the latest Vanilla-Mango Breeze body wash collection. One of the Steal Team members did not like Vanilla-Mango Breeze and wanted Ocean Mist instead, but Bubble and Body was out of their most popular brand of body wash. The enraged Steal Team member shot up a display of Strawberry and Raspberry Body Butters which created a dangerous mess.

Several clerks slipped and fell on the laminated faux-wood floors that became slick with these products. The Bubble and Body shop is now closed indefinitely to repair the damage and the clerks have been provided with retail therapists to help them through the trauma.

When the mall cops finally arrived, the Steal Team members were drinking smoothies, exhausted by their rampage. The cops handcuffed the men and led them away, some of whom were seen weeping with gratitude. Please, I can’t take any more, one Steal Team member was overheard saying, the sale signs, the nasty clerks, the fluorescent lighting, the muzak, it’s all just too much.

PBS NewsHour coverage of the 42nd Republican Debate

 PBS NewsHour coverage of the 42nd Republican Debate

Jim: This is Jim Lehrer and welcome to the 42nd Republican Debate which will be broadcast live tonight from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. PBS will provide coverage of this historic event and my co-presenter for this evening will be Gwen Ifill, along with commentary by our very own Mark Shields and David Brooks.

Jim: As you know Gwen, now that Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, John Huntsman, Rick Perry,  Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have dropped out of the race due to poor polling and lack of majority support in the primaries from their constituents, the GOP has taken some pretty dramatic steps to find new candidates to put up for the 2012 election.

Gwen: That’s true Jim. I never thought I’d see another Presidential run by Ronald Reagan in my lifetime, especially since he’s dead.

Jim: Yes, we’ll have some Constitutional scholars on the program post-debate to discuss the legal merits of the 2012 Reagan candidacy, but let’s face it Gwen, the pols in Washington have been eating this up. It adds a level of excitement we haven’t seen in politics since, well, since 1980.

Shields: Jim, you’ve got to admit, Reagan looks good tonight. We all heard the rumors about Nancy resurrecting him and no one believed it, but if anyone could bring the former President back to life for another run for the White House, its Mrs. Reagan. That said, it’s going to be a hard road for the Reagans, especially since Ronald Reagan has already served two terms as President.

Jim: – Smirking –

Brooks: Given where the GOP stands today, and the Tea Party’s extreme right-of-center view, I don’t think any of that will matter Mark. Reagan doesn’t stand a chance of convincing a 2012 Republican base that he’s their man, no matter how much of an icon he’s become since he passed away in 2004.

Jim: Mark, the real question on everyone’s mind tonight is who else will be debating Reagan? Who do you think the GOP has up its right sleeve?

Shields: Rumor has it, Jim, that old Tricky Dick himself may be making an appearance on the podium tonight.

Jim: President Nixon?

Shields: Yep. The GOP is arguing since Nixon never got to finish his final term in office that he should be eligible for another second term.

Brooks: I hadn’t heard that, but it wouldn’t surprise me Mark. Nixon still garners tremendous respect from Republicans. After all, wasn’t it Nixon who lead the way in wiretapping without a subpoena? This was a trend later made popular by George W. Bush. Also, Nixon never cheated on his wife, which has always gone over well with the base.

Gwen: – Incredulous look at Brooks –

Jim: Okay, aside from the dead Presidents, who else does the GOP have for the debate tonight? Gwen, what have you heard?

Gwen: A source close to the White House says that Barack Obama may, in fact, be the GOP candidate Jim, but no one is confirming it publicly.

Jim: Pardon?

Gwen: Jim, many are saying Obama is the best choice the GOP has right now. He could easily beat Reagan, as we’ve discussed, and it’s pretty likely he’d kick Nixon’s skinny white butt too.

Jim: Gwen, I…

Shields: I wasn’t going to say anything until it was confirmed Jim, but Gwen’s right. Barack Obama is almost definitely going to be the GOP nominee. He’s got all the right credentials: he’s kept Gitmo open, he’s signed laws allowing the unlimited detention of Americans, and he managed to keep both the Iraq and Afghani wars going long enough to satisfy even the most hawkish neo-cons in the GOP.

Brooks: I have to agree with Mark and Gwen on this one, Jim.

Jim: Well this may be a first in American history folks, a sitting Democratic President will also be the GOP’s nominee. Let’s tune in now as the candidates have filed on the stage and hear what they have to say for themselves….