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Daily writing prompt
What personality trait in people raises a red flag with you?

Never make an enemy of an author. Less than pleasant things can happen. Your fictional self might be suspended above an abyss, besmirched in a sordid scandal, committed to an exquisite ordeal, or sealed in a tomb with no exit.

You say, ” But Lou, you’re a nice guy; such petty revenge is not your style.” Usually, I’d agree with you, but it’s so hard to turn down good material when you have the itch to write a story, and there among the assorted memories are people who infuriated you and who are beyond your actual reach…but not beyond your reach in fiction. So into the witches’ cauldron they go.

It’s not like I write a formal proposal letter detailing their torment through the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno. That’s so crude. But I find ways to make them foolish, petty, dyspeptic, dissolute, asinine, and generally pissmires.

You know the people who infuriate you. The ones who will never let an argument end, the screamers, gum snappers, and those who borrow but don’t return. This week, I am running a $10.99 special on in-laws. You post them, and I’ll roast ’em! I believe in doing well while doing good.


Daily writing prompt
Name the professional athletes you respect the most and why.

I try not to get too personal about sports stars or performers. Their performance is what I am interested in; You will not find fan magazines in my house. I’ll recognize that I like what someone does but not link the name to the number or role. When someone says, “What about Paul Whozee? Great, don’t you agree?” Then they’ll have to explain to me, slowly and in simple words, who they are talking about. After which, I am still left wondering why this is important.

It wasn’t always this way. Growing up, I followed baseball, football, and hockey. I also eagerly followed performers I found interesting. But somewhere along the way, a circuit snapped open, and I found other interests. I lost track of who played for the Bruins, which guitarist played in a band I liked, and who that cute actress was. I paid attention to what they did rather than who they were. As I watched other people build insane cults of personality, I realized my lack of interest in individuals wasn’t alarming. Yes, some people loomed so large in my interests that I had to pay attention to them as individuals: Jimmy Buffet or Dr. John. 

Mostly, though, I’d think, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that actor before.” Or, ” the Bruins lost, that’s too bad.” If you wanted to discuss personality, it would wind up with me nodding idiotically with a slight smile on my face. If you took me out to a sports bar, you’d want to wear a disguise so that no one knows that you’re with the guy who knows no one and nothing.

Now, woodcarving is different. I can identify the work of several of my favorite 19th-century shipscarvers. Just ask me about Benjamin Rush, Samuel McIntire, or Bellamy. I can tell you a bit about the details of McIntire’s tool kit or how the feathers on Rush’s eagled seemed to nestle together naturally. After we discuss that, I’ll tell you about the mysterious way Bellamy simply stopped carving years before he had to. Hey! I bet you don’t know where he got his wood from. 

There’s more, and I don’t have much to do today. Want another cup of coffee? I’ll give you a shop tour and show you the tools, gauges, and templates of the Bellamy eagles I particularly like. You’ll take a raincheck, you say? Sure, just call when you want. Hey? Want to see the library I have on marine carving? No? 

It’s too bad you have to be leaving so soon.

Out! Out, Damned Word!

Daily writing prompt
If you had to give up one word that you use regularly, what would it be?

I use a spelling and grammar checker to clear up the worst of my errors, which occur regularly. But I don’t like to let the program dictate what I say or how I want to say it. I have a love/hate relationship with the darned program. So here is my complaint.

If I used a typewriter, I’d use Whiteout or some other eradicating method to eliminate it, but it’s merely a keystroke on the computer. It’s annoying, and my grammar checker almost always suggests not to use it. But I do, perversely so. I take a nearly obscene pleasure in teasing the program on the peculiarities of my use of the English language. If it were a live human, I’d probably send it into paroxysms of frustrations. 

But it’s merely a program (lucky for me) I use to shape my text into something readable. Once again, if it were aware and capable of understanding my motives, the program might try to have me locked out of the interface or send a goon to break my hands. But it’s no more conscious than a salami at the Deli counter.

So here we are; the one word that the grammar program would love me to stop using is “that” – for emphasis – THAT-THAT- THAT!

Ahhh, there it goes, asking if I’d like to eliminate that wonderful word that I love to use. No!

Oh boy, now I’ve done it! It flagged me for an error of correctness.

That‘s too bad.

The “list”

Daily writing prompt
Are you holding a grudge? About?

One way in which the Catalan showed up in my father was advice. On revenge, it was mixed; a man who seeks revenge digs two graves, or revenge is a dish best eaten cold. My mother merely smiled and reminded me that good things come to those who wait. Neither of them were precisely neophytes about this either, and I’ve realized the wisdom of their counsel over the years. 

Nowadays, The vibe is that “enemies lists” are so Nixsonian. And yes, I do have an enemies list. But it is almost empty.

Time has taken care of what anger could not. At one point, the list boasted a coterie of some of the biggest A-holes I had ever met. But to quote another old saying my dad enjoyed, “Keep family and friends close, and your enemies closer.” My dad liked to keep tabs on those who displeased him. If they were in the neighborhood, he wanted to know where and why. And so, via the internet, I have kept the occasional tab on those for whom I hold in dread regard.

Frankly, it takes too much energy to plot an effective revenge, and I’ve learned that if a person irritated me so much that they wound up on the “list,” they were upsetting others, too. It was just a matter of time before they wound up in the sights of someone they should have left in peace. The list has emptied between that and their eventually coming to their “just rewards” via age.

I’ve confirmed two of my parent’s proverbs on revenge – that it is best eaten cold and that good things come to those who wait. Two out of three is not bad.

But about grudges and enemies, I’ve found that the best way to stay clear of “lists” may be the simple “I’m sorry.” Regret, expressed sincerely, resolves many issues, and disrespect and poor manners fuel anger.


Daily writing prompt
What does your ideal home look like?

You might have guessed that I’d always want a house full of maritime stuff, wouldn’t you? But of course, I couldn’t afford it. So, by and large, I had to learn how to make it. 

Eventually, I started making it for other people, and things got out of hand as the maritime objects around the house ran the gamut from little carvings of boats to large eagles. At last, the preponderance of large stuff wound up as a gallery on the walls of the front porch. No,I was not lethargic in producing many goodies for the ” hopelessly addicted to boats crew” to ogle and demand for home office and boat. 

My wife, in despair, demanded that I pack away some of it because they are terrible dust collectors and were all over the place. So many old pieces from my early days got packed away: anything that didn’t go to shows anymore or anything that I no longer wanted to have shown. You know, the early stuff that embarrasses you. And that’s how this little whatchamacallit wound up packed away.

Over the years, I made many of these as whimsical sales items, and my technique improved. But this was the first one, and it was a little rough. So when things needed packing away, it was first to go. But somehow, it spilled out of a box yesterday during a reorganization. I looked at it, decided I still liked it and may make more. It somehow does not fit the decor of the house as we like it, but it’s whimsical and fun.

The Great Unknown?

Daily writing prompt
Why do you blog?

Traipsing around the internal real estate of your mind for fun and little profit that’s what a blog is. Occasionally, inspiration for my blog comes from what is happening in the broader world, but most often, I am dredging the depths of my own experience and imagination. It’s all from within the skull, baby! 

It’s like a big flea market of assorted goods, and the file retrieval system is a bit obsolete. You never quite know what will bubble to the surface.

Myself, I haven’t been into the lower stacks for a few years. Who knows what lurks there? Every once in a while, something crawls out and has to be beaten back with the big stick by the desk. There are lacunas back there that are large enough to swallow entire short novels of blog posts. Like the old maps, I sometimes draw sea monsters on the darker recesses as warnings that there are leaking ceilings, holes in the floor and awful messes that I left behind ages ago.

Dig around in there at your own risk. But don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Winter Habituals

Daily writing prompt
What daily habit do you do that improves your quality of life?

Over the years, I’ve had to adopt or even create new habits to get me over life situations that otherwise were real deal breakers. There’s a reason why I do certain things at certain times of the year, and while it might be boring to read an itemized list, I’ll cover a few briefly.

It won’t shatter anyone’s perception of me to learn that I get a nasty seasonal affect disorder around the end of January. Fall is OK, and through December, I keep occupied with holidays. But I’ve run out of steam in the middle of January. Although the days are slowly starting to get longer, it isn’t till February that I can see it. This is the time that habits come to my rescue. I spend time with pencil and paper planning new projects for the carving shop, reading seed catalogs, and planning the garden. As soon as the sap starts flowing, I prepare my tapping equipment for collecting maple sap for syrup.

I’ve developed these annual habits for coping with the New England winter. Born a city boy in New York City, they were not things I learned growing up. We had no garden there, and maple syrup came out of a glass bottle. We were steadfast urbanites. But when I moved to Coastal New England, I realized that some of the older folks I met did know a thing or two about getting through winter. I learned to cut, stack, and burn wood for heat, plan my garden, and to tap maples for sap.

Without these habits, I’d get tetchy, irritated, depressed, and probably go looking for a fracas. My wife, children, and pets understand that I am a creature of habit during the winter. In the morning, if you see me before coffee, you might wonder what woodland beast was loosed in the house. Without my winter habits, I’m just not sure anyone could live with me during the winter.

Raised Beds

Daily writing prompt
What was the last thing you searched for online? Why were you looking for it?

I am altering my style of gardening. 

Last fall, cleaning out the garden beds, I finally admitted to myself that working on my hands and knees didn’t give the stimulating pleasure that it had. Who am I kidding? It never did. This spring, I began to do something about it by adding several raised cedar beds. At about thirty-some-odd inches tall, no bending or kneeling is required. And kneeling truly is the issue.

The photo is from the spring of the first unit I put together and planted with various herbs. Weeding, cultivating, and harvesting are easy, and I believe that just on that score, I have received a full measure of return on investment already.

I’ve since added two more units and started my late-season sugar peas and spinach in them. With the success of the initial units, I’ve begun to think about what to do with the large main vegetable beds or weed havens. I don’t believe there will be enough soil in the units I’ve bought for crops like squash, pumpkin, or tomatoes. So I’ve been online researching larger metal raised beds of about thirty-two inches in height and between two to three feet wide. Once again, I am thinking about ease of weeding and cultivation.

Beyond no kneeling, however, are concerns with water conservation. I’ve spent years developing the garden soil and should reasonably expect to reuse the soil within the raised beds. I’ve worked diligently on composting, amending the soil for fertility and ability to retain moisture. During dry years, I do not have to water excessively. Watering specific containers and raised beds is more economical than broadcast hose watering. With the new raised beds, I expect to improve water conservation further.

Do I hear sniggers from the non-gardeners? Save your titters, boffolas, chortles, cackles, and belly laughs for when produce prices at the store continue to rise higher and higher.

There is little as lovely as freshly picked snow peas from the garden. And the price is right.

TV and Me

Daily writing prompt
What TV shows did you watch as a kid?

Somewhere I lost the regular television habit. When I launched in 1964, on expulsion from high school, to the 1980s, when we started having kids, I lost the practice of regular watching.

I might catch an episode or two while visiting friends, but my later teen and adult years were TV-free. Some friends think it’s an understatement to say that I lack a lot of shared culture.
Why this big hole where others are filled with warm memories of Seinfeld and Cramer? It’s simple. For one thing, I was very poor, and moved around a lot in the Sixties, and in the Seventies, I had effectively broken the habit and saw no need to reacquire it.

Knowing I was deprived, friends invited me over to watch shows they thought were interesting, and it was a great way to socialize. But I really didn’t see where I was missing much.
The only TV I missed were the group get-togethers we had during grad school when we’d all go out to watch the hockey games at a local bar. There was a camaraderie to those events that could never be replaced.

In 1981, I married my lovely wife, and eventually, a television set entered the living room. It became essential equipment when the kids came along. But by mutual agreement, our kids watched Public Television shows, carefully selected videos, and other adult-vetted materials. Fred Roger’s show made me late to work more than once and was one of the shows I always tried to watch with the kids. You never outgrow your need for a day in the Neighborhood.

Towards the end of the ’80s, I slipped into the world of video production on a part-time basis, and a new reason for not watching TV appeared. Like many people who edit videos, I developed an annoying habit of cringing, calling out, and generally booing edit decisions that I felt were poor. Cut too soon, too late, or use a lousy transition, and I’d holler. Grandiose establishing shots made me mad, but a subtle diminutive edit would have me gushing praise while others watching wondered what I was going on about.

So, for peace in the house, I had to stop watching television – again. 


Daily writing prompt
What’s your favorite time of day?

Once upon a time, I’d hit the sack around when most people left home for work. I wasn’t a night shifter the way ordinary people were. I was a performer and rarely got home before sunrise. Sets would end, and I might head to an after-hours party to listen to jazz or another folksinger play. It was part of a daily sojourn through a lifestyle most people will never understand. Come to think of it, I’m somewhat fuzzy on the details, too; that was a long, weary time ago.

Eventually, I decided that accepting trinkets exchangeable for more food and housing was a better life plan than spending all my time in coffeehouses and clubs. So an adjusted AM time, around seven, is my favorite time to arise, have coffee, cogitate my verititabilities, plan the day, and scribble a post.

My nineteen-year-old self would view me as some grey-haired ancestor, a fate to be avoided, a terminally dull creature, not hip, while I look back on a life full of chapters and see him: a rough but promising beginning.

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