Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Me and Saint...and a Short Story

Me and Saint.

Saint…and Me.

Handsome, older gent with a sharp tongue and a rapier wit…and Me.

We met a couple of years ago on an authors’ website. Frankly, he was in awe of my writing talents. That was what drew him to me, originally.

It was understandable…it happens to me all the time.

Once he got to know me--well.  It was plain there was no escaping my particular brand of charm. 

Saint and I have participated in several games of “Writers’ Tag” in the past. Most of our co-authoring included other writers who participated in the stories. Some of our writing was good… and some of it was EXCELLENT! 

It ALL needs to be edited.

Earlier this year, he and I had an opportunity to write a short story together. Just the two of us.

Me and Saint.

Saint and Me.

The only rules? We had to limit the story to 20,000 words… and we couldn’t ‘collaborate’.  Not really.  Saint would write a portion and then I would have to pick up where he left off--trying to make a coherent, entertaining, somewhat-believable addition to the story.

Then he’d have to follow my lead and do the same.

We decided (Me and Saint) to share this short story on GAG. It is in its raw form—almost completely unchanged from when we originally authored and posted it.  Unedited and for the most part--unpolished.   However, I have taken the liberty of ‘asteriskizing’ it. Saint’s vernacular can be a bit…ah…“colorful” and since GAG doesn’t have an ‘adults only’ block, we (Saint and Me) thought it best to substitute the occasional **** for his occasional ****.

I’m going to try to upload a post a day—maybe more—until the whole of our light-hearted, off-the-cuff short story is on GAG.

We hope you enjoy it.

If not, please direct your complaints to the handsome bearded gentleman from Tennessee. He’ll happily listen to your concerns and send you on your way with an asterisk or two.

Stay tuned for “Bee Dazzle”, by Eugene Saint and Kaz Pease

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Home-Town Boy Goes Home

A friend departed, today.

David Turner of Shirley passed away and his death was a sobering blow. Dave was only sixty-four. By all accounts, this man was too young to die.

It was just last summer when I met Dave for the first time. The date was July 1, 2010, to be exact. My friend Larry Gilles, who lives on Russell Island in Brisbane Harbor off Australia’s eastern shore, traveled to Maine for a month-long vacation and he stayed at my parents’ camp in Elliotsville Township.

Larry also grew up in Shirley—a tiny village a few miles from Elliotsville between Monson and Greenville—and he’d known Dave since they were young shavers attending Shirley’s community school. In addition to growing up together, the men had something else in common. They were both veterans of the Vietnam War. I was stunned to realize how many young men from that tiny village went to fight in Southeast Asia. Larry. Dave. Bill. Neal. And many others…

Dave seemed a little bit shy, during our first meeting. Every time I pulled out my camera, he showed me his back or grinned self-consciously and held up his hands.  I had to be contented with rear and side shots.

The three of us sat down by the pond—Larry and Dave enjoying coffee brandy and milk while I got a caffeine buzz from my Diet Mt. Dew. That day, Larry cooked for me for the first of many times; grilling sausages and peppers and onions for us. I’d worked that morning and then drove the 70 miles to camp to mow the lawn. That was part of the deal… if Mum and Dad let my friend stay in their camp for a month then it was my responsibility to keep the place mowed while Larry was there. So… knowing I had a job to do, I chatted with the men for an hour or so and then went up to camp to change into my ‘grubs’… what I call the ratty old clothes I work in.

When I came out of the camp, Larry and Dave were standing at the back of my truck, tailgate down--looking for all the world like they thought they could be helpful. Prior to the opening of the bottle of coffee brandy, that might have been a possibility. But there they were—two old friends who hadn’t seen each other for five years--and they were partying. I smirked as I watched them try to figure out how to unfold the tractor ramps…and then shooed them back down to the picnic area to enjoy their reunion.

Two hours later, I was finished; the rider and the push mower were loaded back into my pick-up; and the Shirley boys were feeling no pain. I envied them and wondered at the special bond they had—one which would allow them to connect so comfortably after such long absences. Listening to them, it was like they’d never been apart. We’re not all so lucky as to have that strong and wonderful bond.

I had the opportunity to visit with Dave a couple more times before Larry winged his way back Down Under. I also met Dave’s brother Dan, and my heart goes out to him. Over the course of that month, I met most of Larry’s and Dave’s friends and family: Phoebe and Queenie and Linda and Peggy and their kids and spouses and pals. I may never see these folks again, but they left an indelible impression on me…one of family and simplicity and caring and…home.

The little hamlet of Shirley was Dave’s home, and I know that those who live there—and those who often stop by—will miss David Turner.

A friend.

A home-town boy.

An American soldier.

Setting moon, Elliotsville Township
Shirley Mills schoolhouse
Larry at the Bar-bee and Dave fixing them a drink
Some of the crew from Shirley...
Larry in Shirley Mills, Maine

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Christmas Potty!

It has been AGES since I've held a contest on GAG!  Ages since I've had any type of writing fun, at all.  So...I'm gonna have a contest!

A "Photo Caption" contest.  

I snapped this photo in Kingfield, in the parking lot of "Trantens Too"... a popular convenience store, take-out and gas station.

Surely, you can come up with a funny caption for this photo?  Or... how about this version of it?
I have faith in you!  Come up with a caption, and enter it as a comment to this blog entry.  On December 11th, I'll have my pal Saint choose the one he likes best (unless he enters, himself--which I don't think he'll do...except that the prize is so....unique?  Coveted, even??  Hah!  Well, if Saint enters the contest, I'll have my oldest son Guy choose the winner.  He never reads the stuff his lame-oh mother writes!)

The winner will receive a DVD of the 'comedy show' I performed at Nostalgia Tavern in November of 2009.  Not a single copy of this show has been released anywhere (and there's good reason for that!!)  Listening to myself afterwards was PAINFUL!  Excruciating.  All I can say is... Thank God the crowd was drinking!!
Enter my contest and win--and I'll release one copy of that fund-raising show to you. It will be NON-copyable (is that a word?)  After all, I can't go around being a total bonehead to just anyone, can I?  Ugh...

Please enter.  What have you got to lose? Your dignity?  Nope.  I've got that one in the bag.

Okay!  This didn't work.  So... at the suggestion of one of my Australian friends, who is an expert on...well, to hear him tell the story-- he's an expert on everything that I'm not-- (which allows him a fairly large repertoire!) I'm 'expanding' the contest (and writing a tremendously long run-on sentence, too!)

Below is a photo which will be easy to write captions for--and there is nothing in it to prompt any political zingers.  I guess....  (We try to save those for VOW...)

Here you go.  I'm closing this down on January 8th, and someone will get a prize.
Enter a caption in the comments section, please???

Thank you and Happy New Year from the crew at The F.A.R.M.--where there's Fresh Air and Room to Move!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From Your Lips...

That’s it. There’s no question, anymore. I’m completely and totally unsuited for polite society. Maybe even Society, as a whole.

I simply don’t—can’t seem to—fit in comfortably with others. Oh, my family appears to be at ease in my company… as long as there are no strangers hanging about so that they have to ‘explain’ me. Take me off The F.A.R.M., though?

It’s not recommended.

I was in the State House last week. The Capitol. It’s one of the most majestic and impressive buildings in Maine. Marble floors and sweeping stairways. High ceilings and heavy wooden doors. Lining the walls are portraits of our past leaders and other influential individuals who played vital roles in our state’s history.

The Dome. The Chambers. The Governor’s Office. Definitely “Polite Society”.

I was there in Augusta to record a press conference in the Hall of Flags. Before ascending the stairs to set up my cameras, I used the ladies’ room just down the hall from the Security Officer’s desk.

Some of you may remember my initial encounter with automatically flushing toilets. Ever since that first episode in the Farmington Wal-Mart, I’ve had an aversion towards the things. I take it as a personal insult that the decision of when-to-flush has been taken from me. Who decided that I wasn’t capable of making that judgment all by myself? Who dares claim to be so ‘in tune’ to my washroom habits that they deem themselves a better judge than I?

Having the commode rush and roar without my permission irritates me, to no end—and usually jumps the stuffing out of me, as well.

A friend accompanied me to the washroom since she, too, had been in the car for an hour and a half. We each entered a stall. I have no idea how any other stalls were occupied. It’s never really mattered. After all, I go in… and I come out. Wash my hands, dry them, pick up my bag, and leave.

I stood up, cringing slightly as I waited to see whether the toilet was programmed to mind my business for me, or not.



I tried to button my pants. Yes, I said ‘tried’. They were brand-new gray wool slacks and they’d fit me that very morning when I put them on. Of course, at that time I’d stretched out across my bed to button them. I’d forgotten that small detail.

Apparently, I was going to have to exert some effort to make button meet hole. I sucked in my breath and grabbed each side of the waistband…and the toilet flushed! I turned around in surprise. Yes, it was my toilet. Wasn’t it triggered by weight? I’d presumed it was like a land-mine. Assumed that sitting on the seat depressed some activating mechanism…and then--when the weight was removed--it blew.

I scowled at the sparkling clean bowl. I didn’t have time for such foolishness. My friend was out, washed and ready to roll. I gulped in another lungful of air and pulled in my tummy…and the toilet did its gurgitation routine again!

Okay. This was embarrassing. Everyone in the ladies room had heard my toilet flush three times! Did they think I’d plugged it? That I was playing with it? Wasting water? What??

I gave a nervous giggle. I had to get out of there, but I couldn’t leave the stall unless and until I’d zipped and buttoned my pants! Could I? I contemplated the length of my sweater, and decided it was too risky. I had to do up that which had been undone.

I gave a mighty heave. The toilet accompanied my motions by giving a mighty—but resonant--roar. Followed by a rather pathetic gurgle. I chortled… just moments away from full-fledged panic. I sweated and tugged, and tugged once more. I wasn’t going to let that toilet—or my pants—get the best of me!

My friend snickered from over by the sinks.

“Four flushes, Karen!” Like I needed a narrator! Jeepers! “Everything all right in there?”

There are no limits to what a desperate woman can do when terror sets it. The button slipped into the hole, and the zipper was zipped. Breathless, I bent to lift my big carry-all off the tiled floor.

The toilet flushed. Idiot thing! Our tax dollars at work... I glowered at it and left the stall.

Linda grinned at me. She was enjoying herself way too much. I hoped that no one else was witness to my boneheadedness from the other bathroom stalls, but I wasn’t going to embarrass myself any further by waiting around to find out. I quickly washed and exited the restroom.

“REST”? Not hardly!

A couple of days later, I found myself in a business meeting with some friendly acquaintances. The restaurant where we were having the luncheon was somewhat classy, as was the company I was keeping. We strategized, made plans, set goals.

At one point, one of the gentlemen in my party said, “This time next year, we can do twice as much with half the effort!”

That sounded good to me! I said, “From your lips to my beard!”

Five people turned to look at me, which automatically caused my ears to hear what my mouth had just uttered.

What the hell???

“Wait!! I meant ‘From your lips to God’s ears!!’”

Oh, my God! Oh. My. God. What were they thinking of me? Why did those words come out of my mouth when that is NOT what I was thinking??

I don’t even have a beard! Not so’s you’d notice, anyway! Not in classy, ambient lighting!

Arrrghhh! Sometimes, I can’t bear having to lay claim to knowing myself.

But...lucky for me, it looks like this time next year—I’ll only have to enter polite society half as often.

Oh, my God.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

You Are Not Welcome Here

My family doesn’t post our property.  We never have, for as far back as I can remember.  My grandparents owned many acres, as did my parents, and there was never a “No Trespassing” sign posted on trees. 

My husband and I are lucky enough to own 70 acres of forest.  We feel fortunate to be able to step off our front porch and take a walk in the woods and we want everyone to have that same freedom and ability.  When I was a child, almost all of Maine was ‘open’.  It was rare to see a “No Trespassing” sign and Mainers were able to roam the forests and fields and mountains to experience that ‘quality of place’ and quality of life that is so integral to our contentment. 

A shiny silver Ford pick-up drove out of the driveway to our orchard.  That was not a big deal.  It happens all the time in November, since this is the height of deer hunting season.  The truck then proceeded up the road and stopped beside our house.  Since my husband had just gotten into his Blazer to take our son to work, he got out and walked over to the Ford.

He noticed the GPS antenna mounted on the front of the hood.  He asked the driver what was up.

The driver informed my husband that he and his partner were ‘fixing the positions’ of residences in the area for a survey they were conducting.

Mr. Pease asked them who they were working for.

The driver informed him that his client wished for the company's identity to remain confidential.

Mr. Pease said, “Oh.  Iberdrola, huh?”

The men became deer in the headlights.  Kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  They shut their mouths.  Stick a fork in them—they were done!

It’s easy to have the last word when the other party won’t speak—but the words my husband uttered could not have come easy, nonetheless.  He’s the kindest, gentlest, most generous man I know.  But he meant what he said when he told those wind industry surveyors that they were not welcome on our land--that he knew he couldn’t prevent them from using the county right-of-way to invade our privacy or help a foreign company threaten our way of life, but he COULD forbid them from stepping foot—or driving tire—onto our property.

This is a tough battle we’re fighting.  We don’t have anything against those men—not personally.  Those contractors are Mainers who are “just doing their job”.  But as a friend from Vinalhaven said of the construction workers who built the Fox Island Wind turbines near his island home: “YOUR job has ruined MY life.”  Those six words sum it up, powerfully.

That shiny, decked out Ford (and yes, I got the license plate number) that was driven so nonchalantly onto the property we generously share with all was likely purchased with money earned by work done for an industry which is negatively impacting the lives of hundreds of Mainers.

So, no.  We don’t post our property, and unless something drastic occurs--we won’t.  But let this be public notice that anyone working for an industrial wind developer--whether directly, or indirectly as a subcontractor--is not welcome at The F.A.R.M.  If you’re going to try to plot and plan how to sidestep the wishes of more than 77% of the residents of Lexington Township, you’re going to have to do it without our help.  If you don’t care that we have stood together and said “NO!” you will not be the beneficiary of our largesse.  We will not harbor you, we will not welcome you—and we will firmly escort you off and arrange for transportation to the county jail if you come onto our property without having express and written permission from my husband or me.

You are not welcome at The F.A.R.M. and you are not welcome in Lexington Township.  Or in Concord, or in Highland.  Accept defeat, please.  You are not welcome here and I am just one voice of many asking you to respect us and abandon your plans for wind developments in these three communities.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Abundance of Aussies

By now, you all know about my awesome friends Down Under—friends made ‘by chance’ and under the most coincidental of circumstances.

First came Jack—big brother, lifter of spirits, co-writer and major pain in my behind—this man has been the topic of several of my columns, and has even contributed to “Observations” in the past. And when Jack wouldn’t take payment for his editing services on the sequels to Grumble Bluff, many of you helped me settle up with him. You came to a charity benefit night at Nostalgia Tavern and raised $1,700.00 to donate to Jack and Ali’s pet charities: Alzheimer’s Association and Hospice/Home Health Care. You even autographed his poster (which I’m sure hangs in a prominent place in his home!)

Several of you met my “mate” Larry when he came to Maine last summer. For a month I dragged him around with me; all the while listening to him gripe about what a “third world country” this was because he couldn’t get decent cell phone reception in our mountains. The poor man found ONE rock at my parents’ camp he could call out on--if he stood atop it (with left foot held out at a 29 degree angle)--and ONE turn-out between Greenville and Shirley where he could park in order to “phone home”. He pissed and moaned at me endlessly--and I split a gut, laughing at him.

You followed Larry’s “cell-phone saga” to its conclusion. He bequeathed his “piece-of-shite” telephone to Josie-Earl when he left the States, so she could use up his remaining pre-paid minutes. And then--we held the “Battle of Antique vs. State-of-the-Art”. My WWI era Luger 9mm was victorious over the high-tech cell phone; and with 2 shiny bullet holes piercing its metal armor, I mailed the contraption back to Larry in Oz (after a rousing conversation with Australian Customs, who’ve come to know me well [reference “The Great Spud Smuggling Debacle of 2009”]!). Larry was vindicated, and to this day, he says the phone is a great conversation piece--not that he needs any prompting to tell a tall tale!

Yep. Jack and Ali, Larry, Ali g and KK, Dozy and CP, Pete and Naomi. I’ve been blessed with “An Abundance of Aussies” from Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Dozy lets me crab and whine about the cruelties of life and she repays me in kind! We can’t decide which one of us is better at “whinging” (an Aussie term, pronounced WIN-jing). This woman always makes me smile--and she’s responsible for supplying me with the only sexy earrings I own. She's also the only person on earth who has gifted me with elephant dung.  Does she know me well, or what?  (I would have paid good money to see her collect and dry it for shipping!)

Ali g is a shining light—always kind, generous, and a little (okay… a lot!) irreverent. He gives excellent advice, and I appreciate it all the more when I ignore it, and regret it, afterwards. He’s educated me about the wild, testosterone-charged world of Rugby, and he’s made me fall in love with Australian folk singers. He’s a favorite uncle, a wise friend, and a mischievous troublemaker. I can’t wait to look into his smiling eyes.

Peter W. is my absent-minded professor—brilliant, gentlemanly, and generous to a fault. And CP is so much smarter than I am that he makes me completely comfortable in my boneheadedness! I know I can’t compete with him, so there’s a certain relief and consolation in acknowledging that I don’t even have to try.

Yes, I’ve been blessed with an abundance of Aussies.

Coincidences. Flukes. Some of the links tying me to these friends are beyond belief… but I’ve already told you about the gossamer strands of fate that connected me to these wonderful people. And now…I’m going to mention another amazing stroke of luck.

I was wandering the aisles of Trantens’ Store…grubby in my sweat shirt and pants; having come from packing boxes and moving furniture at my office. I was feeling a tad ‘down-in-the-dumps’—and a little sore and tired. Pushing my cart, I passed behind a gentleman in the bakery aisle just as a loaf Pepperidge Farm whole-grain bread slipped from his hands. He quickly recovered it before it fell to the floor.

“Slippery stuff, huh?” I said. (You know me…silence is NOT an option.)

I’m not sure what the fellow said when he responded, but my ears have grown accustomed to the unique articulations of my pals Down Under. Those three or four words the stranger spoke infused me with a sense of well-being.

“Is that an Australian accent?”

It was. And that’s all it took to set me off. In typical style, I proceeded to (in all probability) tell the poor bloke the story of my hum-drum country life. At a minimum, I peppered him with questions, and told him about my Aussie pals. Soon, we were joined in the bread aisle (aka the “toiletries, peanut butter and Stove-top Stuffing aisle”) by his companions Heather, Barb and Norm.

It turns out--Allan grew up just around the corner from where Jack lives. Not kidding. Right down the road. (You know how big the continent of Australia is, right? It’s HUGE! What are the chances, I ask you!??) And there were other coincidences, too. I was grinning from ear to ear when I left the store, and I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Jack. And Larry. And…well, everyone! I’d entered the supermarket dirty, dusty and down-in-the-dumps, and I departed with a smile. What luck!

Today I received a surprise gift. I can’t adequately express how delighted I am. Two weeks ago I spoke with Tracy at the Irregular, who told me “an Australian” had dropped off an envelope for me. I knew it had to have come from Allan and Heather…for how many Aussies are there in Kingfield on any given day (besides our good friend Rosemary at Daisy-A-Day Flower Shop)? Before I could retrieve the envelope it had passed from family member to family member until finally—today—I was able to take possession.

What a delight! Standing in my parents’ kitchen I opened the envelope to find an original painting by Allan English! It is lovely…wondrous, colorful, peaceful; a true reflection of “home”. These Australian visitors had been drawn to our town from 10,000 miles away by the descriptions and photos of our autumn foliage; and while here, Allan perfectly captured the view seen through a window of the Kingfield house he rented.

These visitors are long gone. They left town to travel to Maine’s beautiful coast, and then they planned to visit Nova Scotia before heading back to the southern hemisphere. I only spoke with them for a few minutes—in the middle of a busy grocery store--but in that short amount of time, they enhanced my life. And now I have a permanent reminder of how small this old world is—and how lucky we are when we connect with people who, it seems, were in the right place at the right time—just when they were needed.
Photos: Aussie flag: G. Dowling
Jack on Moreton
Jack on Moreton--after fund-raiser in BAR (i.e. pub, i.e. tavern....!!!)
Larry and Kaz
Luger and Larry's cell pone
Dozy and African elephant (in AFRICA!)
Ali g and KK in Papua, New Guinea
Pete W. and Larry in NSW
Allan English watercolor from window in Kingfield, Maine, USA, October 2011
Photos I've taken at The F.A.R.M. in the past, which I thought might give evidence of what a wonderful job Allan did capturing Maine's autumn...