Fractured Facade

"A fathers death...a daughter's life...a sociopath's vendetta...FRACTURED FACADE ...a novel written as memoir. Only $4.99 and available exclusively on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited members read for free! Click here for direct link.


THE VALENTINE'S DAY CURSE -- A Short Story, Free everywhere...except on Amazon (boo! hiss!) where it's $.99 to buy! Click here for direct link! Let them know it's free at these stores and they may price match it! Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books...more to come.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Virginia Beach

My daughter and I just returned from an impromptu trip to Virginia Beach. This was my fourth or fifth time during a span of 45 years. Frankly, I didn't care what beach we went to as long as there was an ocean crashing within spray mist distance. We checked into the Best Western Plus Sandcastle (click here for Trip Advisor review) whose desk clerk very kindly changed our room from the one in front of the elevator and ice machine, to up another floor and far down the corridor. This was the view from our balcony. Perfect.

This is how we felt upon arriving.

The smell and sounds of the ocean cut through our bleakness fairly quick.

Even if I'm not a kid, and would never go on any of those death traps, I mean rides, just the sight and sound of others having unbridled screams of joy, or terror, makes me feel tingly near an amusement park. This is probably from my Coney Island childhood.

In the past I've found Virginia Beach to be tacky and dirty. I was pleasantly surprised how I found it this trip. Oh, it's still tacky, but definitely not dirty. Sanitation workers patrol the strip constantly, emptying out the mostly already empty trash cans, and extinguishing lit butts with their gloved hand, then tossing them into trash. The city must have a problem with cursing because there are "no cursing" signs, expletive symbols with a red slash going through it, on the street poles. What's up with that?

What the city is now providing, new from the last time I was at the beach, are all different sorts of street performers in the parks, the main strip, and the side streets. Some are pretty pathetic, but there were quite a few impressive artists, and this troupe was our favorite. They are the Kenyan Safari Acrobats. They performed a half-hour from their touring two-hour show.

Now, this fellow was quite impressive with his balancing and holding himself ramrod straight on those wooden chairs. You know how strong you have to be to accomplish that? He was really cut, but not in that obscene muscle bound Bobo way.

Now, don't try this at home...

How low did he go...pretty freaking low. They were amazing, and I loved watching them dance to the African beat, not that rap crap, but the continent's songs. It was fun walking the strip, but it got old after two days. The girl is almost 21, but not in Virginia's eyes, so I can't report on any of the bars or such establishments. I can tell you about the restaurants.

One thing I cannot understand is how can a city whose whole existence is built around the sea not have exquisite seafood? Heck, after a while I would have accepted decent seafood. Every restaurant we went to I tried some sort of fish. I'm from the mountains, so if I;m at the seashore I crave something short in supply, fresh seafood locally harvested. Not one place delivered. The only thing that came close was the shrimp and crab cheese dip at the Mexican joint, and with the minuscule amount of shrimp and crab in it, I'd say it was the cheesy part that was a hit.

We went to this one restaurant, Big Italy, and I have to say, as a New York Italian, I was slightly offended. It was so cheesy, (not the good imported stuff) and cliche. Can you imagine being a chef in a "nice" restaurant,  having the sea lap at your feet, and yet serve previously frozen clams in baked clams casino? They were so chewy and disgusting I spit them out in my napkin. I told the waitress they were the worst clams I ever had, and asked her to find out if they were frozen. She didn't report back. We may be tourists, but that doesn't mean we don't know good food. Well, after experiencing a Japanese seafood buffet, maybe too many tourists don't.

Although I had hoped the seafood would be as fresh as it is in Maine, New York, or Florida, it wasn't even close to what I get in Roanoke, but that's okay, the beautiful beach trumped everything. It's so much wider and cleaner than I remembered it. I was fine just bobbing in the ocean,  chilling in a chair, reading a book that wasn't for research,  or flipping through a Vanity Fair magazine, but others were more adventurous.

See that dot? That's on the internal lens I believe. It gets worse when I zoom in.

Still there. POS camera.

So, we're in the ocean and this couple brings their shih-tzu in with them. She would clutch her mother's arms whenever a wave would rock them. Her four little legs were doggy-paddling the air. When they placed her in the water she started swimming. They did hold onto her the whole time.  The lifeguard whistled and told them no dogs were allowed. While she was on the beach waiting for the father to get out of the ocean, I called silently, "Bella." She turned and I snapped this shot.

Every morning I would be awoken by the sunrise peeking through a slit in thick drapes covering the widow. The sun was already beating down directly onto our balcony. I loved sitting there drinking a cup of coffee, listening to the crash of waves, my nose sizzling in the sun. It was so relaxing.

By the third day I was able to leave my troubles behind. And then I made a mistake and checked Facebook where I read reports that a major automotive parts company in Roanoke were set to make an announcement. I knew this wasn't going to be good, so I texted my son, who happens to work for said company. Apparently I wasn't supposed to know anything until I got back, but his position, along with many others from four more divisions were being terminated in Roanoke. They are moving them to Raleigh, NC. He was going to be out of a job. I almost preferred that to him transferring to an even more southern state. Luckily Raleigh's ISP provider is Time Warner, and for a gamer that's a deal breaker. And just like that the serenity was gone...

On the last night a major storm erupted. It was wild watching it from the balcony. I was able to only get this one shot because my POS camera would not stop trying to focus.

When I awoke the next morning it was still raining, but the sun was trying to peek through.

And then what I had been searching for, for four days, came into view...a family of dolphins frolicking close to the shore. You can see one of them at the top of the photo below. I finally put my camera down to just watch them. So beautiful and graceful, they immediately lifted my spirits.

Then a huge beam of light fell from the heavens and goosebumps popped on my arms and legs in the eighty degree heat.

I experienced the proverbial cloud with silver lining. Rather than worry about what my son wouldn't have, I reflected on the possibilities of what he could have in the future.

This girl trip was a major milestone for me. This was the first time in 19 years, since we've moved to Roanoke, that I got in a car and drove away alone along the very highways I had convinced myself to fear. I had become so complacent with my husband handling all the driving on freeways, carrying the heavy luggage, being my "protector," that I had allowed myself to think I couldn't drive hundreds of miles without him, "just in case" something might happen. When I conveyed my fears to my daughter before we left that I might panic on the highway or while driving over a bridge or through a tunnel, she laughed at me. "You drive in Manhattan, along the Belt Parkway and BQE, even around the crazy Grand Army Plaza eight lane roundabout, and that was terrifying, so I wouldn't worry about it." She was right, and she probably doesn't even realize how grateful I am that she opened the cage and allowed me to soar just by asking me if I wanted to get away for a couple of days. I feel like my old self again, and the girl feels like a new self. All in all,  it was a great trip.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I #amprocrastinating no more!

Many years ago when I was fighting to keep a cell tower from being erected on church property directly behind my kids' elementary school, one of the church men called me a troglodyte and a Luddite in the newspaper. I don't know if I was more annoyed that a "good Christian church leader" would be throwing stones at me in a public forum, or, that I had to look up the word Luddite. BTW, here's the meaning, just in case you didn't know: 1. any of the textile workers opposed to mechanization who rioted and organized machine-breaking between 1811 and 1816. 2. any opponent of industrial change or innovation. I wasn't opposed to mechanization, industrial change, or innovation; I was just looking to make sure young children wouldn't be directly in the path of radiation. Although I did "save" the kids I made a lot of enemies, and was sure not to be getting invited to any church picnics, or to any of the PTA mom's homes whose husbands worked in telecommunications. Oh well, it was worth it.

The point of the above paragraph is that  Mr. Churchman might have had a point. I am sometimes "afraid" of new, well, new to me at least, technology. It's not that I don't want to be a part of it; it's more that I'm afraid I will screw up whatever device I am attempting to use. I believe this all stems from the year 1987 when I bought my first computer. It was an Amiga and it cost me quite a pretty penny. I think it was almost $2,000 and all it had was 1 mb hard drive! This was before there was internet readily available, and Google, so I had to follow the directions of the manual (remember when you actually got a manual when you bought something?) on how to set it up. The first thing I was instructed to do was back up the system. It used those hard floppy disks which had to be formatted before anything could be written on it. I really had no idea what I was doing and no one else I knew had a computer so I winged it. Well, in short order, I wiped out the entire computer somehow deleting the operating system and everything else that was in it. I brought the monstrosity back and the clerk said he'd never seen that happen before. He re-installed everything, but after that I became gun-shy every time I turned it on.

Since that time I've had quite a few other computers. Believe it or not, the one I bought after the Amiga, in 1995, a Packard Bell, I still use, solely for payroll. The rest of them have not lasted as long. They were all pc's driven by Windows. I've had Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, & Vista. My desktop, where I composed most of my writings, was XP and I never had a problem with it, until Microsoft and all the virus programs I had stopped supporting it. Of course the keyboard was unreadable. The acid in my fingertips rendered the white lettering gone;  I had to use white-out on the black keys so I could read at least some of the letters. But I was happy with it, until Microsoft said, "Nope, you're not. It's time for a new computer!" But wait, I still had my laptop with Vista, the keys also unreadable and the letter T and U not functioning any longer, but I remedied that with a $5 keyboard that I hooked up via USB. That was okay for a while but then those damn Microsoft updates started in on me again. I refused to install them. There were well over a hundred, and the laptop took forever to load anything, but I knew once I hit install, that would be the kiss of death, just like it happened on a couple of other laptops that came and went quickly after updates screwed them up.

Meanwhile, my muse was starting to yell at me. Every time I'd sign on to Twitter I'd see #amwriting trending and I would think, damn, are all those authors really writing? The only writing I was doing was maybe a blog post here or there, grocery lists, checks, and notes on index cards. The more I researched, the more notes, the more index cards, the more legal pads, the more xeroxes lined my office walls, the more I began to realize what I am really doing with this book is #amprocrastinating. I had a million excuses, but the most pressing one was, I didn't want to begin the book on the computers I had. So that meant it was time to buy a new computer. For someone who has a hard time finding the perfect pocketbook this would not be an easy task.

Both my kids said, "Leave me outta this!" but then offered their advice. My son said he would only help if I allowed him to build me a computer, but I told him I think I wanted to get a laptop. He couldn't help there. My daughter said I should go Mac. She has one and swears by it. My son, a pc man, poo-pooed her, but did understand my reluctance to go with anything Windows 8 related. "Yeah, it sucks." I listened to the girl last year when I dropped some serious dough on an iPhone, and have to say she was right. Although it took me a while to get it, I really did love my Envy 3, Verizon sort of pushed me to the point that I knew I needed to just drop them and go with Smart Talk. I'm glad I listened to her. I actually love my iPhone and even though it took some getting used to I now feel comfortable with it. So when I said I was afraid to go with a Mac, it was the girl's turn to poo-poo me. "You're not an idiot, but if it'll make you feel better go check out MacBook for Dummies." So that's what I did.

And then it happened. I decided I could no longer wait to get started on this book, so I got out my American Express card and used it on a MacBook Pro. I had it sit in the box on the table for hours and the kids laughed at me. It was like I was afraid to open it before reading up on it. Finally, after my husband started goofing on me, I figured it was time. So I asked my son to disable the old desktop and put it away. I cleaned my desk and raised the chair. I unpacked it, opened it up, and just like that, it was up and running! I was able to hook it up to my wireless router and both printers with ease. Didn't even have to ask for help, other than the password for the wireless account.

I'm still figuring it out, but it's not as daunting as I thought it would be. I still haven't synced my phone to it, but little by little I'm getting more comfortable. In fact, this is my maiden blog post on it. No pics, yet. Unlike my old laptop which sat on the dining room table, this one won't. It will remain in my office which has a door that I can close. I'm going to treat this book as a job, devoting a couple hours each day, starting Monday. And when that door is closed that means I #amwriting, and I #amprocrastinating no more! I hope...