Between Patience and Fortitude

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Despite what my weather app informed me about this afternoon–that the temperature was heading toward the low 40’s, I’m still having the feeling that my wool jacket (more of a pea coat) is merely for show.  The cold wind slices through me like a Triscut dips through Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus.

I’m chilled through four layers of silk, fleece, wool and thick cotton flannel.  There’s no cold like New York City cold on the second day of March.  Spring may be three weeks away on the calendar, but it’s ten thousand miles from where I stand waiting for the M3 to take me down 5th Avenue to the Main Branch of the Public Library.  To my back is the Plaza Hotel and behind my left shoulder is Central Park.  Perhaps that’s the source of the cold wind?  The snow-covered Great Lawn?  The ice of Wollman Rink?

No, it’s not the park.  It’s the never-ending frost that clings to my flesh and bones…and mocks me in my ear, saying: “It’s no use wearing clothes, Boy From The North Country.  I’m the cold that will follow and find you.  May as well be naked, my friend.”

I consider this.  A holding cell at a mid-town precinct has got to be warm.

Here’s the M3.  I’m saved from having to make any decisions.  I’m going to a special place in a heated bus.  I step off the coach into several inches of slush from last night’s snow fall.  I push past the tourists.  I’m standing on the third step of the library.  I climb the partially shoveled stone steps, passing between the two lions that guard this monument to culture.  The lions are named Patience and Fortitude.  Someone told me that they were named by Mayor La Guardia in the 1940’s.  The point being that in those trying and harsh times (WWII), those are the virtues that all good New Yorker’s need.  I didn’t have time to fact-check this (when he was the mayor) but the pamphlet says they acquired their names in the 1940’s so I’m going with that version.

FrontOfPublicLibraryLion

[Patience. Or is it Fortitude?]

I push through the revolving doors and find myself in the Astor Hall.  The architect who built this must have had access to unlimited white marble, for that is what I see everywhere I look.  On either side of the great room, sweeping staircases takes me up to the second floor.  I slowly climb the steps, sliding my hand along the foot wide marble railing.  What famous author had his or her hands on this stone?  I’m told that my favorite poet, Bob Dylan, came here to research the Civil War when he was writing a song called, Across The Green Mountains.  Maybe his hand paused where I am pausing.  Perhaps an atom of Bob is still embedded between the Calcium Carbonate molecules of the marble?  Then it occurred to me that he probably took the elevator.  I looked at the dark stains on the white stone.  When I get to the top, I dig for my bottle of Purell.  I make my way to one of the public reading rooms.  [The world-famous Rose Reading Room has been closed for nearly a year.  Apparently, part of the ceiling had fallen.]  I can think of worse things that can fall on your head while you’re sitting in the famous room and reading a boring book.  Like an idea for instance.

But, I’m not here as a tourist.  No, I am here to work on my novel.  It’s going to be a ghost story.  I plan on it being scary and tension-filled, like the half-time shows of the recent Super Bowls.  And, this is where I can get inspiration.  Most American writers of the last 50 years have been in these rooms.  Literary ghosts must walk these halls.  I’m sitting in an oak chair as I write this.  Who once sat here?  Norman Mailer?  Scott Fitzgerald?  Jane Smiley?  Jennifer Egan?

Yes, I’m sitting in an oak chair.  The table is massive and also oak.  There are four of these tables in this room (Room 217, if you ever make the trip.  See the guy behind the glass partition who is in charge of research?  I’m in the corner nearby.)  I look around the room and see many laptops, each with a bright white apple glowing from the silver lid.  Oh, there’s a Dell.  Poor devil.  I have a new MacBook Air and the battery life is 12 hours, but some of those less fortunate have older models.  They need to feed their computers with juice, so the library had positioned power bars in the middle of each table.  Some of these are so overloaded, I worry about an explosion.

WiFi MAYHAM ON FIFTH AVENUE!

I can see the Daily News headline now.  I just hope I’m in the men’s room when it goes.

I find my memory stick that holds all 13 of my completed chapters.  It slides into the USB port like…(I could use a dirty metaphor here, but I do have some standards.)  I’m going to write a frightening chapter.  I need to concentrate on building tension.

Then my inner critic peeks over the top of my laptop and with devilish eyes and a mocking grin says:  “Who do you think you are?  You can’t write.  This is crap.  You have no talent…go find something useful to do for society, like picking up litter on Staten Island or scraping chewing gum from the subway platform of the B train.”

He’s right.  I’m no Stephen King.  I’m not John Steinbeck.  I’m not even E. L. James.  I begin to unplug my computer, when I realize that I have a 12 hour battery.  I feel so independent.

I must have patience.  Good writing doesn’t come easily.  Just ask Nora Roberts.  No, I must plug along.  And, I must have fortitude.  I must kill the demon inside me that holds my fingers from typing a scene so scary that you will keep the lights on all night.

My fingers return to the keyboard.  I glance at the time display in the upper right hand corner.  They’re going to close in a little over 30 minutes.  Then I realize that I’ve spent all my time writing this blog.  Now I have to pack up and walk back to the hotel on 28th Street.  Only now, my load will be heavier, with all these words in the memory of my laptop.  They were only in my head before I sat down.

In a few minutes, I’ll head to the revolving door.  I’ll pause to open my shoulder bag to show the security guard that I’m not taking the Gutenberg Bible or the Declaration of Independence.  He knows me because I’ve been here before.  He’ll wave me out and wish me a fine night.  I’ll say the same to him.

Then I’ll stand on the third step, between the two lions, facing the rush hour traffic of 5th Avenue.  Maybe I’ll go behind the library and walk through Bryant Park.  I’ll watch the ice skaters.  I’ll try to turn my collar to the cold and damp.

Music will be playing.  I’ll put my ear buds in and listen to Townes Van Zandt.  Or Iris Dement.  Or Mary Gauthier.

I’ll walk down 6th Avenue to 28th Street and go back to my hotel room.

I’ll have a smile on my face as I walk and shiver, along the busy sidewalks.  I’m smiling because this time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting by a pool in San Juan.

The poolside, in the late afternoon, in Puerto Rico.  Now, that’s a fine place to write a scary chapter.

I’ll just need patience to stay out of the sun for a little while and fortitude to keep me from diving too often into the warm deep blue waters of the deep Caribbean.

CordsInLibrary

[Adaptors in the process of feeding. Watching them made me think of Guatemalen vampire bats sucking on a dead goat.]

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[Astor Hall]

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[Two of a thousand arches]

Going Down The River On A Winter Day

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Aboard the Amtrak, Train #238.  Bound for Penn Station, NYC

I can’t sleep in this cramped seat.  It’s 4A, the window with a view of the Hudson River.  But there is no view.  It’s white enough for sunglasses.  I see West Point across the water, barely.  I snap a photo with my iPad mini.  It comes out blurry.  I’m already nauseous from the constant rocking of the coach.  Now, looking at the photo, I’m dizzy again.

We eat an expensive tuna salad wrap purchased in Albany.  Our plastic water bottle crinkles loudly when I pin it behind the tight elastic cord on the back of seat 5A.  The women in 5A is on her cell phone revealing  personal medical information.  I know what hospital her niece is a patient.

My wife is reading on her kindle app. Why isn’t she motion sick?

We’re below Croton-Harmon. The view is worse. Only the power lines glide past. Beyond, the Hudson is frozen to the far shore. A tug boat plows through the icy brine. Another to Penn Station.

I’m having trouble hitting the correct keys with the swaying and jerking of the train.

The sliding bathroom door just slammed shut. A toilet seat slams up or down, I can’t tell.

“Yonkers is the next stop”

Everything I see from the window is snow-covered. Everything I’ve seen for months has been snow-covered. I think I’m in a scene from “Dr. Zhivago”.

My soul has hope, however. It is not as bleak as the passing landscape. On Tuesday (I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon), we will be on a plane to Puerto Rico for a week. Not on a southbound train moving through yet another winter storm.

The river is breaking up into ice floes. We’re ten minutes from our destination. The snow is falling at a slant.

I can see nothing visibly alive outside.

Nothing visibly alive.

All the life along the frozen Hudson is there, but dormant until the warmth of spring..

A little like me.

 

 

 

 

Dear Grandpa

George Hotchko

Dear Grandpa,

I thought I’d write to you today.  It’s been such a long time since we had a chance to sit and talk about things.  I have so many memories of you, I don’t know where to begin.  It was so long ago.

Remember when I was a little boy?  You lived with Grandma in a big white house beside a lake in Pennsylvania.  In all the time I was growing up, you never had to go off to work in a factory or a coal mine.  You did all those things before I was born.  You spent your time tending a little garden behind the big house.  Once you showed me how to graft two different apple trees together.  I was amazed when, a year later, I could go out to the tree and have a choice of different apples on one tree!  Your garden had several fruit trees and I remember at the far end of your rows of plants was a steep bank that led up to an old railroad bed.  There was a short path up the hill.  In the far corner of your garden, you had a little white shed.  I think it was once an outhouse, but I was never sure.  There were so many hoes and shovels and rakes, sacks of seeds and old bottles, that I could never see whether there was a potty hole or not.

When my family would drive down to visit you from our house in Owego, NY, we’d almost always find you on an old chair beside your shed, sitting in the shade.  Or, under the big apple tree in the yard…always sitting in the shade.  Every time we saw you, there was a pipe either in your mouth or in your vest pocket.  I remember that you had a strange pipe lighter, not like a Zippo or Bic.  It was silver and round.  It was the size of my thumb.  And, you’d push it together somehow and there’d be a flame to light your pipe.

I would always run up to you and hug you and say: “Hi, Grandpa!”  When I was a little boy.

You’d always say: “Well, if it isn’t little Paddy.  You’re so big now.”

Once my brother and I found you on the front porch…in the old rocking chair.  We begged you to tell us a ghost story.  But you said you didn’t want to scare us.  You said that sometimes when you think about those things you couldn’t sleep.  You gave in one time and told us how you were walking home from a day in the mines and you saw a friend sitting on the stonewall of a cemetery.

“Hey, George,” the guy said to you.  “How about a plug?”

You reached in your back pocket and broke off a plug of chewing tobacco and gave it to him.  You talked with him for a few minutes and then you walked on down the street.  A few blocks away, you stopped in your tracks.  You remembered that the guy had died three months earlier.  You said you’re not supposed to look back over your shoulder when you see a ghost so you ran the rest of the way home.

That story did scare me.  When I was a little boy.

I remember that you always planted potatoes in your garden.  My brothers and I giggled when you told us that for good luck, whoever planted the potatoes, had to pee on the first mound.  And, you always did, but it was never when we were around.  I wondered for years how you managed to pee on the correct potato mound in the dark of night.  Did you hold your flashlight under your arm?

Whenever one of us tried to talk to you, you always leaned over and said to talk louder into one of your ears, saying you were hard of hearing.  But, sometimes you heard us just fine.  My father thought you were “deaf” only when my grandma was trying to tell you to do something.  I still wonder about that.

Well, Grandpa, have I got news for you!  I have a grandson now!  That makes me a grandpa, just like you.  When I was a little boy.

His name is Elias and he is your Great, Great, Grandson!  He’s very adorable. (Did you think I was adorable when I was little?)

Well, I better say good-bye for now.  I’ll be seeing you sometime…someday.  We’ll have so much to talk about.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, you can tell me more ghost stories.  I don’t think I’ll be afraid to hear them when we talk again.

We’ll sit under a tree and I’ll watch you light your pipe again.  I’ll make sure we’ll be in the shade.

I think I’ll go and poke through some boxes for those old 8mm home movies my dad took of you.  I saw them a few years ago.  You didn’t seem to change much over the years.  But, I have.  A few weeks ago, I was visiting my grandson and someone took a short video.  Someday, maybe Elias will look at it and see himself as a child.  And, next to him will be an old gray-haired man.

In the old jerky, flickering films, you were holding me…when I was just a baby.  There is another one when you and I are walking, hand in hand, down the old railroad bed.

I was just a little boy.

Good-bye for now.  See you soon, Grandpa!

Love,   Paddy

P.S. Here’s a picture of your Great, Great, Grandson, Elias:

Elias Tractor February 2015

[Photo: Bob Goldstein]

P.S.S. Here’s a picture of your Great Grandson, Brian:

brianboy

The Postman Always Winks Twice

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Sometime in the late 1990’s, my wife and I drove to Owego, NY to visit my aging father.  My mum had passed away in 1992, so my dad was living quietly and alone as a widower in our big rambling family home on Front Street.

Room by room and closet by closet, any objects or artifacts that was evidence of my mother living in the house for nearly 50 years, began to disappear.  And, this is as it should be.  My father had lost his wife and really didn’t need or want to see constant reminders of their 56-year-old marriage.  My mother liked to save things, as many folks of their generation did.  So, it was no big deal with me, when I was a child, to open a drawer in the dining room chest and find several hundred buttons.

However, little things get swept under the rug, so to speak.  When I was cleaning out the house after his death in 2004, I found quite a few buttons in quite a few drawers.

But, buttons do not play a part in the story I want to tell.  This is a father, son and son’s wife tale.  I can attest to you that every word is true, although I may have fudged on the dates a little.  I mean, I’m getting old too, so my memory for certain things is a bit dicey.

On our visits, which were quick weekend jaunts from New York City where I was living, all went pretty much the same.  We’d call him on the cell when we approached Suicide Curve in Binghamton and he would phone in an order from Pizza Hut.  We’d pick it up and head to 420 Front Street.  The rest of the evening would be just talking until bedtime.  In the mornings, I would sleep in a bit and Mariam would get up early and sit with my father and have coffee.

It was on one of those mornings that my wife decided she needed a pair of boots.  She had seen the ideal pair in a Victoria Secrets catalog back in the city.  So, she called from our apartment and arranged to have the boots delivered to my father’s house in Owego.

Well, on this particular visit, things went smoothly.  The boots were waiting at my dad’s house.  Good fit.  Nice boots.  Everyone’s happy.

Several months later, we were again visiting my father.  He mentioned something to us that was annoying him.  It seems that Victoria Secrets saved the 420 Front Street mailing address in their data base.  Naturally, my father began to receive the catalog(s) on a frequent basis.  They would arrive and he would put them into the recycling.

One morning, he happened to be on the front porch when the mail delivery person came up the steps with the bundle for my father.  According to my dad, the postman gave him a wink…a knowing wink. And then another wink.

My father was 84 years old!

My father thought about this for a few days before he realized what the wink was about the almost daily delivery of the Victoria Secrets catalog.  Now, this won’t mean anything to someone who was born yesterday or happened to drop in from Mars last night, but the catalogs had more than a few scantily clad models in very sexy lingerie, in fact, the company is well-known for the way it peddles the bras…it’s nothing short of a PG-13 version of Penthouse. [Not that I would know, mind you, I never saw any of the catalogs, or a Penthouse, Playboy, Mayfair, Swank, Gentleman or Hustler magazine in my life! Certainly not at the $8.99 cost per issue.  I simply had no idea. I spent years thinking an underwire was something on a radio.]

As usual, my wife solved the problem with a simple phone call.  My father was taken off the mailing list.

And, that’s pretty much the end of the story.

It might be worth noting that my father was a frugal man, as many Depression-era folks were.  I often wonder why he didn’t realize that he would never have to shell out $8.99 for an issue of Playboy, when Victoria Secrets came to his house for free.

At least he would have known what an underwire was used for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forever and a Day

 RomanticLove

Absolutely nothing lasts forever.

Nothing lasts forever.

There may be some things that last forever.

One thing lasts forever.

You’re waiting for me in the cafe.  The place beside the old church and next to the cemetery.  The only place in the city where I can sit next to the fire and feel warm…on a night like this.  We have so much to talk about.  It’s been so many years since we’ve had a chance to sit and think of the days gone by.

You’re waiting in the cafe–I just can’t remember how to get there.

I was very young and you had an uncanny ability to determine when my diaper would be wet.  You would change it for me.  I couldn’t talk to you.  You just knew when it was time.  You held my hand when I could barely walk.  I never said a word.  You cooked my food for a thousand dinners.  You sent me off to First Grade with a clean, freshly ironed hanky in my pocket.  No matter what my grades were, you dutifully signed my report card.  On those many nights when I couldn’t sleep, too many times for a child to fear closing his eyes, you would allow me to sit with you and we would eat crackers with chives and cheese.  The black and white television blinking away in the dark living room.

You were in third grade when I looked over at you–two rows away–and watched while you tried to open an ink bottle.  You pressed it hard against your green school shift.  You’re bangs fell away from your forehead.  Years later, you allowed me my first kiss.  Still later you wore my corsage on your taffeta prom dress.  Then you would find someone else and you broke my fragile teenage heart.

I was curious about the color of your hair beneath your stiff white habit.  Your black rosary hung from your black belt around your black dress–your habit.  You taught us to be kind.  You taught us to feel guilty.  And once, you told me: “Don’t ever be afraid to say no.”  It’s taken me many years to really understand what you meant.

I lit your cigarettes.  I bought you drinks.  I slept in your bed.  We made love under three quilts when the winter was cold and dark.  We sweated on the sheets in August when it was bright afternoon and hot.

I kissed you only once.  I kissed you many times.  I kissed you in my daydreams when you were thirty feet away on the Boardwalk.  Your hair was blonde, then black and red and brown and straight and wavy.  Your eyes were blue, gray, brown, hazel and green.  You were older.  Then you were younger.

You walked down the aisle of a church to meet me at the altar.  We were happy, sad, angry, contented, miserable, joyful and jealous.

We came and went through each others lives.  My hair slowly turned from brown to white.  Your’s from jet black to salt and pepper.  You sang to me.  I couldn’t carry a tune.  We sipped ale in England and wine in France.  We walked on muddy glacier ice in Alaska.  You watched me watching the topless twenty-somethings on a beach in Jamaica.  You never missed a trick.

You said you loved me when I didn’t think I would ever be loved again.  You saved my life, not with a toss of a rope but with a phone call.

You’re waiting in the cafe.  I’m trying to hurry.  I can hardly walk.  When we sit next to each other you will somehow know if I have wet my trousers again.

Is this a hallway or a street in Paris?  I can’t remember.

But, all those memories are so sharp and clear, like everything happened yesterday, or this morning.

You will still be waiting for me, won’t you?  I remember what I said so many, many years ago:

“Nothing lasts forever.”

I was wrong.  Love lasts forever.  We love each other, don’t we?  Still?

Love last forever.  Forever and a day.

CoupleInArmsSitting

 

 

 

 

The Pink Flamingos of the Pacific Northwest

Flamingos

I asked my daughter, Erin, about her opinion of pink flamingos.

“They have their place,” she answered, without taking more than five seconds to think it over.

That place was in a front yard, several blocks from her home in Orting, WA.

My wife and I were walking back from a brief shopping trip to Safeway.  I was carrying a whole pineapple in the plastic grocery bag, it’s spiky leaves poking holes through the word “Safeway”.  The pineapple had me in a reflective mood about the tropics.  I thought of Keith Richards falling out of a coconut tree on a  Caribbean island several years ago.  He was a grandfather.  I’m a grandfather and I was thinking what it would take to climb a pineapple tree.  I wasn’t even sure they grew on trees.  Maybe they grew like really large odd grapes on a rather large vine.  (I’d have to look that up later.)

We were here to visit Elias, my adorably cute grandson, my daughter and her husband, Bob.  My grandson had just turned two a month before.  I’m not going to post a picture of him because he’s so gosh darn cute, I would lose my readers who would just go straight to the photo and then make comments about him.  I didn’t want to use his unbelievable cuteness to simply grab your attention and beg you to follow me on WordPress.  I’ve been accused of similar tactics using a photo of Fluffy the lamb. But a child? Never!

When I mentioned pink flamingos to Erin, she knew exactly what property I saw them standing on.

“Oh, he’s the local “neighborhood watch guy”…”a sort of vigilante”.

I thought of Clint Eastwood.

Then I fully realized the implications of vigilantism and its consequences.  I was thankful I didn’t step off the sidewalk and onto his yard.  I may have been blasted by a pump-action 12-guage shotgun.  I know enough about guns to realize that even an indirect hit would do some spectacular damage to my appendix.

That’s alright.  I never had mine removed as a child like my brother, Dan, who had his appendix operation sometime in 1956.  Everybody in my family doted on him.  They lavished tons of attention on him.  I was left alone, sitting behind the sofa, staying out of the way…me and my intact appendix.  I was the youngest of four boys so nobody really paid much attention to me anyway.  When I was a young boy, my father was too tired to teach me to play catch.  I often stood in the backyard with my mitt and ball…me and my healthy damn appendix.

But I digress.

I stood looking at the pink flamingos.  There were two of them, as tradition dictates.  But both heads of the birds are bent to the lawn as if mucking about in the muck of a shallow swamp.  I thought about what I was seeing, in this yard, in this little town in the Pacific Northwest.  I began to remember all that I had learned about flamingos in school.

There are only four species of these beautiful pink birds that are native to the Americas.  I assumed I was looking at a pair of Phoenicopterus ruber.  I mean, when you think about it, it was an obvious choice.

I leaned closer to the pair and noticed that each one had a black stick supporting its body.  They were perfectly still.  I wondered.  Were these two pink flamingos really alive?  Perhaps the black sticks were meant to create the illusion of life.  I’ve heard of unsavory pet shop owners who have done this very thing.  I recalled the incident of one owner who nailed a dead parrot to the perch and insisted it was just sleeping.

Then again, maybe these flamingos were alive?  The owner (remember, he’s a vigilante) may have doped them and kept them from completing their annual migration.  But, migrating from where? And, more to the point, to where?

At this point I remembered taking my sixth grade science class to the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey on a field trip.  We were all in the IMAX theater watching a film about…I know it had to do with science and there were beautiful scenes of the Grand Canyon, an Ultralight flying into a sunset and herds of elephants (filmed from the same Ultralight) creating clouds of dust on the Serengeti Plains of Africa.  Just before I fell asleep, I remember a scene at a lake somewhere in Kenya where tens of thousands of flamingos were taking flight.  (Most of them were pink, by the way.)  It was very impressive.  Not as good as the opening moments of Miami Vice, but still pretty colorful.

Just before commercial breaks at the Master’s in Myrtle Beach, there were pink flamingos there also.  But, here in the Pacific Northwest?

I began to question my very own sanity.

It all began to add up.  Real live flamingos were Tropical birds and Orting, WA was in the Temperate Zone.  Granted, the temperature on this day was in the mid-40’s F with a near consistent rain.  My eyes narrowed into furrows that depicted suspicion.

I picked a crumb from a Granola bar that had fallen apart in my coat pocket.  I tossed it to the bird that looked like it was foraging.  Nothing.

I’ve been to college so I knew a thing or two about deductive reasoning and junk like that.  I came to the conclusion that this pair of flamingos were made of plastic.

The black sticks were holding them up because otherwise they would fall over.

It all came back to me in a rush as I thought about one of my favorite movies, Pink Flamingos by John Waters.  Seeing the movie drove me on a quest to catalog lawn kitsch.  I knew that the classic design I was looking at was first designed by a Don Featherstone in 1957 when he was working for Union Products.  I was ten years old.  Another company bought the molds and copyright in 2007 and continue to manufacture them.  BUT, you can tell if you have an “official” pair…Featherstone had his signature put on the rear underside of the birds.

I was not going to step on this guy’s lawn and look at the rear underside of his pink flamingos.

There are certain things even I won’t do.

My wife and I continued our walk back to my daughter’s house.  Elias would be up from his nap by now and, if I was lucky, he’d be asking: “where’s grandpa?”  I wanted to be there.

So, when we come back for our next visit, maybe in about a year, I’m going to take a walk with Elias to look at the pink flamingos.  He’s a smart child and will surely know that they are not native to the Pacific Northwest.

But we’ll walk hand in hand…a big grandpa hand holding a tiny 3-year-old boy hand.  If he asks me about my opinion about pink flamingos in the Pacific Northwest, I will answer truthfully: “They have their place.”

“OK, grandpa,” he’ll say.

Then he’ll point into the distance over his parent’s house at a large snow-covered peak.  Or, perhaps, the peak will be covered, like a bashful maiden, in clouds.

But he will know where to point.

“Mount Rainier is over there!”

“Yes,” I’ll say. “It has its place too”

EliasDrums

[Did you really think I wasn’t going to put a photo of Elias in this post?]

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[Lenticular clouds over Mount Rainier. Photo: Bob Goldstein (Son-in-Law)]

 

The Fabulous Life of a Published Author

Many writers dream of seeing their published works on the shelf of a bookstore.  Think of the heady feeling of walking into a Barnes & Nobel and seeing your name and book among the thousands of bestsellers.  That’s never been my goal in life.  Selling books means you make money and making money means you move into a higher tax bracket.  Who needs that?

Ok, I’ve written four books, and I get a royalty check once a month from Amazon.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours planning, plotting, writing and formatting (my wife did that part) and I actually get something ($) back in return for all that agony of being cursed with such a creative mind.  I make so much in one month that I can now go to a restaurant and order a Caesar’s salad instead of a regular tossed green.  It’s a life of wild self-indulgence.  I now know what it’s like to be John Steinbeck.  I don’t mean this in a literal sense because he died on December 20, 1968.  I now know what Hemingway’s life was like…sometimes I can even understand why he was “cleaning” his shotgun on July 2, 1961.

But I’d like to say that since bookstores are going to totally disappear from our lives in about six years, I’ve gotten more satisfaction from finding my books in the Public Libraries of America.  It is in these great institutions that my volumes will remain on a shelf for all time.  Actually, that’s not true.  I found out that a book’s “borrow” slip where a little grey-haired lady or an English major stamps the due date, needs to have dates stamped on them.  If no one checks a book out (say, twice a year) then the product of your sweat and tears will be in the next Fund Raising Book Sale.

[So if you’re in the Coburn Free Library in Owego, NY and you don’t check out my four books, they will sell them for 10 cents.  Go ahead, walk past me on the shelf.  It’ll be on your conscience, not mine.]

Recently, I toured the Saranac Lake Public Library to check on how my books were doing.  I felt like a famous surgeon making rounds of his patients at the Mayo Clinic.  I was very surprised to find all my books were shelved properly and had a decent number of check-outs.  I was even more pleased at the company I keep on these shelves.  In Fiction, I’m right next to Jennifer Egan, a very famous author and editor of The Best American Short Stories of 2014.

For those of you who are not familiar with Jennifer, this is a recent publicity head shot of her:

JenniferEgan

[Jennifer Egan (no relation), but a guy can wish, can’t he?]

Here’s proof of my claim:

JenniferEganShelf

[There I am…just don’t ask who Lesley Egan is, I have no idea.]

I went over to the Non-fiction section.  Again, there I was, with two books.  This time, however they buried me between two biographies of two relatively unknown individuals.

See what I mean?:

EinsteinEdison

I went straight to a computer and Googled these two people.  I found these images:

einstein-tongue-out

[A guy named Einstein]

einsteinOnBike

[Same guy, but on a bicycle.]

Edison

[The Edison guy with a funny horn-thing. He reminds me of a teacher I had once in high school who also had a sore left hip.]

So, what is the moral of this story?  What is the point of showing you photos of my books, when you can go to your computer and order them all yourself?  Well, you don’t have to go to the library then, do you?  A lot of quiet old men sit and read the newspaper in libraries…for free!  And, chances are, there are no book stores with 85 miles of your home.

But, there is a distinct possibility that you may not like to read and that you don’t really like me very much.  Then there’s always the option of Books-on-Tape.  The only problem is…none of my writing is on tape.

Not to worry, though, if you send me lots of money, I’ll gladly read a copy of my book into a tape recorder…I’ll even mention you by name.  There’s something heady in that, let me tell you.

Maybe then I can afford the extra salsa at our local Tex-Mex restaurant.  Can you believe they make you pay for that?