Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Artist

The artist stepped back and looked at the drawing she had just finished—a single stemmed flower arising out of a narrow vase. The drawing was slightly left of center beginning in the lower half of the paper and rising to just above the center mark.
As she stared down at the canvas the artist couldn’t help thinking that her picture needed something else. In fact, from the placement of the vase and flower, it seemed she intended all along to include something else.

But what, and besides, didn’t she always feel that way when she looked at a new drawing?

She went to sleep that night with visions of a lonely flower floating in her head. Tomorrow, she thought to herself, we will find you a friend to join you on that page.

A Tall Tale About a Stellar Visitor

This story appeared in The Los Angeles Times on October 20, 1975 and is the one that frustrated my composition professor so much because he had been trying to get something in the Times for so long. The couple that prepared the Oregonians for rapture are the same ones that cropped up 30 years later as Bo and Peep. I was attempting to poke fun at the whole idea and at the same time pose the question, "How would we or should we react if we really were visited by either a spiritual visitor or an alien visitor?"  I tended to see the man I talked to as sort of a Popeye character.
Looking back it's not much of a story but it was my first to be published and most of the research was done in a bar.

Were those Oregonians better ‘Believers’?
A fictional account of a factual event, which may have been fictional from the start.

I’ve been keeping up with the story of the
20 Oregonians who have left their state with stellar hopes. According to press reports, a mysterious husband-and-wife team paid a visit and enticed them to sell their belongings, and then move to Colorado—in preparation, supposedly, for some future trip into space.

This would be a very hard story for me to believe, verging almost on the impossible, except for one thing. I met the same man—or someone like him—about three years ago in San Pedro. Now I know what you’re thinking but it just isn’t so. I’m no kook or spiritualist or fanatic. Let me just tell you what happened.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Powers Hotel, The Summer of 1967

I’ve lived in Virginia Beach for the past 35 years and have traveled extensively. I enjoy browsing through boxes of old post cards and it never fails to amaze me when I find a picture of the old Powers Hotel.

It was probably an ad that I answered calling for laborers. I don’t know how else I would have found out about the job. I took a city bus downtown to State Street and Main; going right past the Robfogel paper warehouse I had worked at the previous two summers. From there I walked a block or two to the Powers Hotel.

For all its elegance, the hotel just wasn’t needed anymore. Modern new boxes, like the Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson located nearer the airport or the highway were replacing it—boxes that while not as elegant as the Powers Hotel were certainly more convenient and efficient.

What was needed, though, was more office space—specifically more office space right where the hotel was located.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Second Opinion

Writers Weekly puts on a unique quarterly contest open to all writers that is both fun and challenging. Those entered in the contest receive a prompt at noon on Saturday and have 24 hours to write a 500-2000 word short story. The lengths vary with each contest. This is the prompt for their winter contest and my entry, which received an honorable mention.

Blue ice stretched to the horizon, fading into the blinding rays of another waning winter sun. She shivered violently as the shifting mass groaned under her feet. She instinctively glanced down, looking for cracks under the transparent sheen. Suddenly, she tensed and dropped to her knees. Desperately clawing at the ice, she screamed...

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Long and Winding Road

Maybe I was knighting Gus but we definitely
needed better props than a winter jacket, a
beanie and a corny lamp.

In Hell on Earth, a love story I tried to show the crazy twists and turns that life takes us through to get us to where we are going. The winding road I created was the result of sins committed in a different world at a different time with a little assistance from a renegade angel with too much time on his hands. It took about 250 pages to tell the story.
The same story was related to me a while back in the space of one line in an alumni directory with much of the details left out.

I met Gus my freshman year at Lowell Tech and knew he wasn’t your ordinary Gus from the start. The man I came to know by the very trade union, blue-collar worker name of Gus was actually introduced to me as Arthur. He was the only Arthur I had ever known and I remember thinking it sounded kind of hoity-toity.

He attended the vocational school at Medford High in one of the tougher neighborhoods of Boston and made a name for himself by becoming the first student president to come out of the shop classes.

He lived in the dorms but, along with a few other students, came to the house I rented with three other guys every Wednesday to work on the weekly physic labs.

One night, after the reports were completed we were—like Foo Ling, the renegade angel in Hell on Earth—kicking the idea around of causing a little mischief.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why I Buy My Shirts at the Goodwill

I don’t buy new shirts. Price might have something to do with it. I don’t know. The last time I looked at the price of a new shirt was probably 20 or 30 years ago and I didn’t like what I saw then. These days I buy my shirts at the Goodwill store—not just because they’re cheap but also because they have a better selection.

If you’re looking for a cheap shirt in a department store—and I’m only talking relatively cheap—you’re probably looking at a T-shirt rack. But beware. T-shirts don’t come in the sizes that they used to.

Now they come in sizes X, 2X, 3X and Googol-X.  The X size is equivalent to what used to be 40-Long.  The 3X-size is equivalent to what used to be a nightshirt in colonial days and the Googol-X could double as a parachute.

I don’t normally tuck in my T-shirts but in the old days, if I wanted to do so it could be easily done.  It was a way to change a work shirt into a casual shirt the way a secretary might unbutton a blouse slightly if stopping by a bar on the way home from the office.   And if you didn’t tuck it in, it never hung more than three or four inches below the belt. Either way was a very neat look.

Today’s X-Line of T-shirts goes down to somewhere right around my knees.  It’s nearly as impossible to tuck that much material into your pants as it was to squeeze a 4-man Boy Scout tent into those tiny bags they came in.  Of course, you could get the tent into the bag eventually but it required two guys working very hard to roll it very tight and a couple of sticks from around the camp fire to shoehorn them into the bag.