Tag: Storytelling

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Graduating from the Schoolhouse

On Oct. 15, 2007, our family of three relocated to San Diego from the metro-Washington, D.C. area. Looking back at my blog posts from a decade ago, I see very little writing about the move and regret not recording the poignant personal history. It’s not a mistake to be repeated. My wife and I will soon change residences—and while the move is nowhere near as dramatic as the last, this missive you read begins the chronicle of our next adventure.

Strangely, or not, the decision to leave the current apartment is fallout from our failed home-buying effort—for the property we call the Schoolhouse (and affectionately, at one time). Anne and I learned enough to know that we aren’t ready to own, certainly not in overly-priced Southern California. As such, staying put for another year looked likeliest option; we have, or had, until October 20 to sign another year’s lease for our second-floor rental of 10 years. 

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Home Buying Lessons from the Schoolhouse

Aug. 18, 2017. I travel back to San Diego after visiting my niece in Long Beach. Meanwhile, two blocks from our apartment, my wife attends an Open House for a cute, Spanish-style property listed for $586,000. Anne tells the seller’s real estate agent that we can’t afford to buy the place—an effective diversionary tactic. But the 900-square-footer is within our means, and we will nearly come to own it.

This is my story of wanting and walking away. I take with me disheartening lessons about the home real estate market. 

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That’s the Mom I Remember

The family is still shocked, following my mother’s passing two weeks ago today. In February, a doctor candidly warned my sister Nanette that Linda likely wouldn’t live until Christmas and maybe not beyond summer. But mom was a fighter, with 10-fold a cat’s nine lives. Despite declining health, and repeated rushes to the hospital, she showed herself to be stout and fibrous—and since Spring she reached a relatively stable, vital plateau, seemingly in defiance of the physician’s prediction. What did he know? Eh?

Among other health issues, Mom suffered acute kidney failure, stemming from diabetes, and underwent renal dialysis several times a week. During her last week of life, the purification process went poorly because of problems with the port used to access her vein. Doctors planned to open a new port, and close the other, on Aug. 3, 2017. Something went wrong, and she started bleeding profusely internally. 

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Goodbye, Momma

The world is full of narcissists, who gain popularity by self-broadcasting themselves, boasting their own accomplishments, and in process taking praise or gaining glory. They are false. Ingenuine. There is another type of character—someone who naturally gives, asks for nothing in return, and (often too rarely) is well-regarded for their generosity. They are true charmers in the sense self-proclaimers pretend to be.

My mom, who passed away today, Aug. 5, 2017, was social through grace and a kind of innate likability. She was short in stature—adult height of four feet, ten-and-a-half inches—but tall in presence. In any room, she easily became the sun around which all present orbited. I often marveled at how people just gravitated to the small woman without any seeming effort on her part, other than flowing friendliness and generosity. Her buoyant, positive spirit, supported by unstoppable, advocating determination, made mom the person others wanted to be with—and to be like. She was authentic. Genuine. 

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The Ring Returns

Yesterday, I put on my wedding ring for the first time in 13 years. The saga starts in January 2004, in an incident described in missive: “Man on the Train“. I got poison ivy—in Winter, no less—after giving a homeless guy money while riding the DC Metro. That was the suspected scenario from my then doctor, now retired, Gabe Mirkin, a well-known fitness physician whose office was around the block from our house. Dr. Mirkin surmised that the homeless dude had residue on his hands and clothes from sleeping outdoors. Brrrr.

I closed the blogpost recounting the incident: “My left hand is so swollen, today I may ask a jeweler to cut off my wedding ring”. And I did, returning to White Flint Mall, where was the store from which my wife and I bought matching gold bands in 1989. The shop had closed, but another jeweler expertly performed a clean hackjob. Whoa, color returned to my finger! White Flint is gone now, BTW. The upscale mall was torn down in summer 2015. WTH? 

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Missing Kuma

Five years ago, Jan. 15, 2012—also a Sunday—our Maine Coon, Kuma, glanced up at me quizzicality before shimmying under the back gate and into oblivion. We never met eyes again. I still feel guilty about his loss. The cat and I had developed a bond of trust, which I betrayed by letting him out at 6 a.m, into darkness—alone. Typically, he left the apartment an hour later with me as see-him-off, down-the-alley companion. Sixteen days later, city workers found his collar in a nearby canyon, leading us to believe that a coyote got our bear, which is Kuma’s meaning in Japanese.

The 18-month-old Maine Coon and I were constant companions in our apartment building’s courtyard, where I often wrote news stories on my laptop. I have fond memories of Kuma coming and going, slipping under the back gate. Even now, I still look for him when walking up from the alley or along the street when returning home. I no longer work outdoors, because it unsettles the other cats, Cali and Neko, which want to come out, too. 

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Valleywag May Be Gone, But Its Spirit Lives On

I follow few bylines. Matt Taibbi tops the short list, which also includes Gawker writers Sam Biddle and John Cook. I read them for their biting style and searing sarcasm. But one of the vehicles for their content is gone, and I should have seen the end approaching.

The New Year left behind Valleywag, the snarky insider rag that over the course of 9 years shamelessly scorched Silicon Valley’s power elite. But no more. On December 31st, John posted “R.I.P. Valleywag, 2006-2015“.

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Protesting Greenpeace?

The weather is perfect here in San Diego—what my wife and I call a Maine Day: 22 degrees Celsius and breezy. We hauled off to Ocean Beach, where navigating people busking or begging for money takes almost as much talent as negotiating a kayak through rocky rapids. Sure enough, I looked left and missed the approaching, friendly fundraiser from the right. Smack!

The singing circle of happy people distracted me. Oh no! Greenpeace? Again? Just cut an artery why don’t they and bleed me? But this dude—the one holding the yellow sign—had a different pitch. Greenpeace hires for two-week jaunts, he claimed, and those who don’t meet their quotas are dismissed from service. There be women with kids about to lose their livelihood. Yikes! The small cadre raised money against Greenpeace. 

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Gregory Peck: The Eyes Have It

Apologies for going dark, letting Flickr a Day run on automatic (as I keep about a week’s worth of advanced photos primed to post). Wednesday afternoon, May 6, I picked up my first new pair of eyeglasses in six years, resulting in downward spiral of my vision rather than upwards. I couldn’t much read or write, which is why the absence. My wrong assumption: Customary adjustment period for aging eyes that require severe astigmatic correction and progressive lenses with bifocals. Wrong guess.

I have returned to using my old eyeglasses while the others go out for redo. I see so well, the temptation to demand refund and keep the aged pair is almost overwhelming. Almost. 🙂

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The Bear Cub

On an autumn evening in November 2005, I recalled true story “Somewhere Between Dickey and Rivière-Bleue“, which gives glimpse of Aroostook County hunting lifestyle. In August 2013, I greatly expanded the tale into the “The Bear Cub”, which I submitted to Amazon as consideration for a Kindle Single. Unlike my previous, and only other submission, the retailer didn’t dignify the nearly 5,000-word story with a rejection email.

Last year, I had planned to expand the vignette into a short book with other stories, and some family recipes. that reveal something about Aroostook culture then and now. That project sidelined, like several others, because of blurred vision problems that are in 2015 remedied enough to return to serious writing. I hope to finish the book, tentatively titled Growing Up Aroostook, sometime this year.

For today, I share the text as submitted to Amazon—for your reading education and entertainment. Please note: Because of its length, the Henry David Thoreau book excerpt is italicized rather than put into block quote. Enjoy! 

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SDCC 2015 Open Registration Success!

In theory, I will go to San Diego Comic-Con this year—as a paying customer. For that I am most grateful and for the ease of the Open Registration process. From 2009 to 2014, I attended as registered press, but for some reason my status wasn’t re-certified. There was no formal rejection, just no approval during the typical “within 6 weeks” period after verification document submission.

SDCC’s streamlined process is a grabbag of chance. If you have an active ID on the system (before a cut-off date) and attended the previous year, you receive a code to participate in the registration process. That means using the number and last name to enter the waiting room between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. PST. Anyone in the room when sales commence at 9 o`clock can be randomly chosen to purchase passe(s). Chrome refreshed me to the buying queue about 20 minutes after sales started. 

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Comic-Con Heroes: The Writer

Among the 12 profiles that are the core of my book Comic-Con Heroes: The Fans Who Make the Greatest Show on Earth, the one that follows offers the most interesting content for science fiction fans. The convention isn’t just about superheroes. Sci-fi is part of the core culture dating back to the very start during the 1970s, and it’s even stronger in the 2010s. Because what was niche more than 40 years ago is mainstream, and more, today.

This profile also introduces some valuable historical insight—if 10 years can be considered old, and measured by Internet time it most certainly is. Fans’response to a new sci-fi television show, and their torrenting it, kicked the pebbles eventually unleashing an avalanche of legitimately-available streamed TV programming. So-called video pirates of 2005 are indirectly responsible for there being Hulu, Netflix streaming, and Google’s purchase of newbie service YouTube.