Sunday, December 30, 2012

Showering with Barbra


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

My oldest and dearest friend used to tell acquaintances that he “showered with Barbra Streisand every morning,” adding a chuckle and a mischievous smile that underscored his charming character.

Upon retirement, I took up pen and joined myriad writers working on the Great American Novel. Under merciless critique, I endeavor to choose appropriate verbs and nouns to best described the object, emotions and actions of my protagonist and antagonist and to do so with an economy of words. In addition, my mentors incessantly warp my mind with the latest affectation of the pundits of the trade: “Don't tell, show.”

These things merged in my mind this year as I listened to Streisand rip through her hectic version of Jingle Bells, waiting for, begging for her to take a breath. The feverish musical arrangement beautifully reinforces the tone of the lyric, especially the verse, which begins with, “Dashing through the snow...”

You see? There it is! A single word: Dashing! I began to wonder if composer James Lord Pierpont realized in 1857, when he wrote the song, how precisely he captured the substance of the scene, the actions and emotions in that single word. I considered possible alternatives. Running through the snow? Sliding? Flying? Gliding? Racing? Sprinting? Crashing? No, those wouldn’t do. Dashing, the first word of the phrase, captures the essence of the entire song.

Dashing expresses exhilaration. Exuberance. It illustrates a youthful, reckless regard for life and limb. And fun. “Oh, what fun it is to ride. . .”

I’ve heard Jingle Bells hundreds of times, the first time over seventy years ago as a child in our living room, my father playing the piano, my mother singing along. But each Christmas season, it is always my old friend's remark that comes to mind each time I hear Barbra sing Jingle Bells. I remember his chuckle, the impish glint in his eye and the upturned corner of his mouth as he says, “I shower with Barbra Streisand every morning.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Good Intentions


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

My desire to complete The Back Nine, my Work In Progress, by the end of fall was well intentioned. But grand designs collapse under the weight of the volumes of To-Do lists my wife - good woman that she is -  dreams up daily. I suspect that someday I'll get even by making her a character in one of my novels. Just kidding. Really!

I certainly am closer to reaching my goal of getting The Back Nine published but not quite yet. I have an edited (many times) total of 91,325 words. I did manage to get it under 90,000 words at one point. However, that was before I found two glaring mistakes that required considerable rewrite. My timeline had been constructed by a complete idiot. (What's the use of being anything at all if you're not at the top of your game, ergo, a complete idiot.)

The second problem I encountered is not so easy to admit. Not if I wish to maintain my wits. To wit: I was a half-wit. There! I've said it! In attempting to construct a plot worthy of an Edgar award, I outwitted myself. Salvaging my draft from the Recycle Bin (one of many such acts), correction of my unwitting stupidity required no less than three rewrites. My wife, love of my life, was witness to my cries of defeat in which, I suspect, she took great pleasure.

I take pleasure in announcing that I am ready to attempt translation of the manuscript to Mobipocket Creator and then to html. Whether these translations are accurate or not, a complete reading of the manuscript is again necessary to identify errors and purge them. I'm sure my bride will be there to hold my head and my hand.

With the holidays upon us, I will be lucky to find time to complete any more of this. Any incompatibility between programs will bring me to my knees, my head extended, tears in  my eyes, awaiting the fall of the editorial axe.

One additional project (besides Christmas and New Years) that remains before year's end is to get up all the multicolored, almost-microscopic glitters that have suddenly appeared on all my clothes, my hair, my dog, the furniture and the carpets throughout the house.

Perhaps the best I can do at this one remaining point in my sanity is to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!

Oh, and have a White Christmas!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



C. Neuroticus Absolutus

Our snowman knocked
Upon our door.
I asked him what
He’d done that for.

“My feet are cold,
I do implore
A lump of coal
And nothing more.”

His great belly,
Round like a keg,
Hid any sign
Of foot or leg.

Was this a ruse,
Played on the old,
To get their goat?
Maybe their gold?

A bit of coal
To warm his toes
Would melt him down.
He’d come unfroze!

“My dear good sir,
I see your pain.
But give me time
And I’ll explain.

“A fire will warm you
Through and through
But melt you down
And that won’t do!

“I’ve come to like
Seeing you outside.
The sight of you
Fills me with pride.

“The old top hat
Upon your head
Was once my Dad’s
And he’s now dead.

“The scarf you wear
My brother wore
Before he left
To die in war.

“The broom you hold,
Scrub pail of brass,
My mother used
Years ’fore she passed.

“I’ve adorned you with
Things near my heart
My kids must learn
’Fore I depart.

“Things like courage,
Grace and charity,
Faith, love, hope,

“But come into my home
By the Yule log’s light.
I can’t let you suffer.
It’s really cold tonight.”

We sat and talked
For hours on end
About good and evil,
The hearts of men.

A happier snowman
I’ve never seen.
His constant smile
Dripped, glistening.

I mopped and wrung
Him out with a tear.
Maybe I’ll see him
Again next year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012



C. Neuroticus Absolutus

O pretty words!
My best of words!
I fought with all my might.

  O pretty words!
The best of words!
I swept them out of sight.

O pretty words!
The best of words!
I cried throughout the night.

O pretty words!
My morning words!
I find that I was right.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

You Guys Are Gonna Love This


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

I cringe each time my wife and I enter a restaurant and the hostess says, “Hi, you guys. How many in your party?” Aaughhhh! Then the server (politically correct for waiter or waitress) says, “How you guys doing?” Forget that missing verb. It’s the you guys that agravates me.
Try as I may, try as I might, I can't remember which grade I was in or the teacher's name, but I do remember what she taught us.
Recall the chart in your English workbook that asked you to fill in the plurals of these five pronouns?
1st Person Singular:  I  1st Person Plural: ______
2nd Per. Sing: You        2nd Person Plural: ____
3rd Per.Sing: He/she/it  3rd Person Plural: ____
            You could have answered the First Person Plural with: me and her, or him and me, as in, “Me and her go to school.” Or as in, “Him and me study English.” While understandable, those would be wrong. Correct answer? We. “We go to school,” and, “We study English.”
The Second Person Plural is tricky, I admit. Since I spent a large part of my childhood growing up in Florida, I was often confronted by the various attempts of my young southern brethren to solve this puzzle. The most common usage was y'all, a contraction of you and all. The problem is, y'all must certainly express First Person Singular because the plural of y'all is all y'all. I hope I didn't confuse all y'all.
Another contender for Second Person Plural is you guys. Guy and guys have a friendly Southern feeling about them. One day, as a newcomer to 1940s Florida, I recollect trying to ingratiate myself with the boys in my third grade class. I plopped myself down at a table, opened the paper bag lunch I’d toted to school, looked around and said, “You guys sure do like yer grits.” Well, I got my ass kicked during the next recess period. Several times.  And I distinctly remember the phrase, “All y'all damn Yankees need to go back up north where you come from.”
Well, if you're still with me, the correct answer for Second Person Plural is: (ta-dah) You. Singular and plural: Unadorned you.
            A giant leap for mankind is required for this next sojourn into proper pronoun usage. He/she/it are not pluralize as hes/shes/its by simply affixing an S as we do with nouns such as cow/cows, pig/pigs and aardvark/aardvarks. No, the answer is not yourn either, which is the Southern variation for the possessive pronoun your. I remember a quip from the Red Skelton radio days when someone said, “You can call me Pee Pee cause I’m all yourn.” Anyway, the correct answer for Third Person Plural is they.
For this egregious trip into the past, I’ll ignore gender and possessive pronouns and the archaic pronoun forms. It was hard enough getting this far.
As for you guys, I keep threatening to cut my tips to servers if they even breathe the word guy or any variation thereof. You guys can thank my wife for my continuing generosity.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Review: Kill Alex Cross

By James Patterson
Review By C. Neuroticus Absolutus

From Chapter 1, Patterson draws you in like a Dyson vacuum cleaner and spins you around in the vortex of a tornado, a fast-paced, deadly mystery. Someone has kidnapped the president’s two children, a bratty older sister and a bright, younger, levelheaded boy. The daylight kidnapping from a private school provides clues that lead the first responders to a drugged out nobody. A time-wasting exercise in futility. Alex Cross, an MPD detective with experience solving a kidnapping is first called into the case, but then kept out of the loop by Homeland Security operatives. A phone call from and a meeting with the first lady leads Cross to run point on the case to find her children.
However, Patterson is not happy with one time-sensitive mystery at a time. He urgently drags the reader to witness an attack on American soil by a secret extremist Saudi sect that calls themselves The Family.
Chapter 41 begins a section called WAR. Silly me, I’d thought I'd been in World War III since Chapter 25!
But Patterson leads and I must follow.
Between the kidnapping and the extremist attacks on America, by Chapter 50, Patterson has me worn to a frazzle, raised my blood pressure 20 points and made me want to throw my work-in-progress novel in the trash. Patterson changes POV often through the book to give the reader a peek into the thoughts of the diabolic kidnapper. But only a peek. Cross knows the kidnapper is toying with him and he’s fuming. On top of that, Patterson has me so enraged at the villain, I want to reach into the pages and rip his heart out. My face reddens with anger and my carotid arteries pulse as the heartless Saudi Family runs over American lives without conscience or remorse. Their only mission is to kill, kill, kill!
Patterson’s headlong plunge through 364 pages will exhaust even the heartiest reader. Jump in and hang on. This literary rocket gets five stars.

Work in Progress Update


C. Neuroticus Absolutus

I last reported that I had 70,000 or so words already written and could do 1,000 words a day for the next 20 days and I would be close to finishing my WIP The Back Nine. Well, a thousand words a day is perfectly achievable if you can lock all the doors, unplug all electronic distractions and keep your wife off your computer. It seems that Spider Solitaire is addictive. Hmmmm. Anyway, I managed to make it to 77,381 words this week and figure I've got another 8,000 to13,000 words yet to go. Not that it matters how long an eBook is. They certainly aren't priced by the word. In this same time frame, I've read James Patterson's Kill Alex Cross, kept up on my emails and posted a couple of blogs.As any writer will attest, we go through periods of production and then periods of not so much production and hope to achieve some positive balance at some point. I'm still hoping.

Up to Our Asses in Alligators

C. Neuroticus Absolutus

  We walk our golden retriever along the well-manicured thoroughfares that wind their way around the eighteen holes of the golf course our condos call home. Our dwellings rise a modest three stories along the Intracoastal Waterway amidst spindly pines standing incredibly plumb in soil whose tiny grains of sand were once boulders of great mountains that once towered along the Carolina coast protecting the inland forests from ravaging hurricanes and salt air.   Many of the friendly residents get to know each other and socialize on their dog-walking excursions through the neatly planted flora. For the newer residents, especially those who mumble their names when they introduce themselves in deep North Carolina, Jersey Shore or other foreign accents, we merely refer to them as, “Lassie’s mom,” “Abby’s mom,” or “Sun Tzu’s” dad until we get to know them well enough to ask,” Just what the hell is your name, anyway?”
With rare exception, our furry children get along quite well. There’s always someone or something interesting to sniff, squat or hike a leg on.
We have the usual Southern critters that live in the patches of scrub oak: possum, raccoon, foxes, gray squirrels, black- and-white-faced squirrels rabbits and, of course, an Audubon Field Guide full of birds of the South. Around and in the ponds―water hazards, in golfer parlance―are snapping turtles, ducks, geese, an occasional Great Blue Heron, white egrets, cormorants and, a recent addition, alligators.
The geese and ducks nest on the banks of these strategically placed ponds. Residents with pond views from their porches or balconies enjoy the parade of mama goose and her goslings, or mama duck and her ducklings. And it’s a delightful sight to watch feathery processions stop vehicles as they cross the roads, their little butts a-wag, following Mom’s comforting clucks.
Still, as charming a sight as they are, the ducks and geese are the bane of golfers. “I’m so sick of stepping in goose poop I swear I just want to take a nine iron to them.” That’s nice-guy golfer talk for, “Next time I come here, I’m gonna carry my 12-gauge in my bag, get me a couple of them and boil the filthy bastards in a big pot!”
My thoughts are, “Hey, you got eyes. Watch where you’re walking.” Or, “Keep your damn ball on the fairway, dude.”
I’d probably speak out except that, as a friend says, “they’ve got NRA stickers on their bags and bumpers.”
So, this past year, at least for our golf course, enter the alligators, instant saviors of golfers and their expensive footwear. We still have some geese, but they just congregate along the banks of the ponds, apparently intelligent enough to recognize the danger in those two beady eyes that lock on and follow their every move.
I can’t understand the intolerance of man when it comes to sharing the land with the creatures native to the environment for centuries before humans decided they needed two-hundred golf courses along the Grand Strand of South Carolina.I finally saw one of the scaly critters sunning on the banks of the 18th hole as I walked my thirteen-year-old golden. I prayed he wouldn’t see the gator and start barking at it because neither he nor I can run fast enough to get from the grocery store ice cream freezers to the cash registers without the whole quart melting. I took my dog home, drove back to the clubhouse and informed the manager that he had a four-and-a-half to five-foot gator soaking up the afternoon sun not 50 yards from his door.
“Yeah, we know they’re there. Called the appropriate agency to get them removed. They come out here, looked them over and said they weren’t big enough to move.”I went back to my car wondering just how the hell big does a gator have to be before being considered a big enough threat to have it removed? Ten feet? Twelve? Four-hundred pounds, maybe five?
Or is it determined by how many pets it consumes, or little children?
Of course, the golfers don’t want them removed. “They keep the ducks and geese off the course.”
Thank God nesting time is over for the year. I dread what will most likely happen next spring.
But life goes on.
Oh, and sometimes, in complete irreverence to select neighbors, we covertly refer to them as “Benji’s or whats-its-name’s asshole dad.”
Of course, it’s rude. But, that’s what you get for not having an NRA sticker on your bumper.