Grace, Fully Living… Sneak Preview

Pity poor Grace Tyler. She’s turned 30, she’s newly single, lives with a kitty who’s a real “fraidy cat” and she works putting ads for laxatives into magazine mockups. And of course, her younger brother is wildly successful in business and the apple of their mother’s eye. Her nerdy best friend from school is a blooming entrepreneur and the one man who seems to understand her is gay. The one man she’s wild about, she can’t seem to hook up with in the post-Y2K, pre-Iphone era and when she does, injuries and illnesses seem to follow along.

Can Grace find happiness? Or a good coffee shop to satisfy her caffeine-loving man of her dreams? In the manner of Bridget Jones Diary and He’s Just Not That Into You, we present the forthcoming novel GRACE, FULLY LIVING. A sneak peak… here!

 

 

The next morning, as per usual at 9:10, Labeth was leaning against Grace’s cubicle partition, travel mug in hand.

So the green soup is a go, along with the green bread, green cookies, top ten ways to make green beans and shamrock shakes recipes but I’ll be damned if we have room for the green rack of lamb. Figure I’m saving us a lawsuit dropping it anyway.”

Can hardly wait for the ‘Easter Eggs-citement’ issue.”

More green in my wallet, less in our magazine is my motto.” She sipped from her coffee and pulled a face. “That new chick at the coffee shop must be putting the shampoo she’s not using on her hair in my coffee.”

That’s the same one you called a ‘sloth’ the other morning?”

I said she moved like a sloth. And smelled like one too. But she shouldn’t have been listening in on my phone call…”

Everyone in the cafe has to listen in when you pull that thing out, Miss Moneybags!”

LaBeth grinned despite herself. “Cellphones are great! When are you going to join the 21st Century and get one?” Before Grace could answer, she added what had become her usual refrain since Royce had become history. “Or get a boyfriend. Or at least a guy to bump the headboard with and make you forget about that piece of turd whose name I refuse to speak?”

Bump the headboard with? God, I’d have a cast on my head- that thing’s solid oak! Besides,” she added perkily, “that guy I was telling you about from the ski store called me last night!”

Broken Jaw Bruce?”

Doug! Doug the Canadian.”

Canadian? Is he a hockey player? What’s he doing here?”

Looking for the girl of his dreams maybe.”

So are you going out for that coffee with him?”

Grace looked away. “Well, sometime…I told him I was real busy at work right now.”

Like you even think about ad spacing after 5 PM! Girl, I swear I don’t get you…”

I want to see him. I just don’t want him to see me like this. Crutches? Ain’t no way I’m getting my cute jeans on over this cast. How’s he even gonna see my butt if I’m in baggy trackpants?”

Put on ski pants and hope he buys into the ‘Sportsy You’ concept?”

The redhead rolled her eyes.

Say, my mother’s neighbor’s son just broke up with his wife. He’s a poker player or something. Maybe a cowpoke. Anyhow, he’s like 35 and not bad looking. Maybe you could come to dinner with me and Mom could invite…”

Did you not hear a word I just said?”

Have it your way, Four Legs!” With that she wandered away to her cubicle. Singing “One Is The Loneliest Number” all the way.

Grace turned back to her computer and began “March-ing Into Spring”. LaBeth’s section had been uploaded and she was able to fit a chewy antacid banner ad nicely beside a green Irish stew recipe like a hand in a glove. Next she flip-flopped the full page Campbell’s (Not green!) soup ad back and forth between recipes pages or between “Ask The Chef” and a feature on Ten Things To Do In Your Garden Now (To Be The Envy Of The Block Come July). She glanced at that article. “Prune those bushes” made her think again of beavers which led her mind back to Doug the Canadian. Should she have played her hand and been more effusive when he called? She sleepwalked through the ad placement for much of the rest of the morning until she came to an ad for a pet food brand that had the tagline “Feed Your Doggie With Style” which of course took her mind back to the Christmas party and the coatcheck room.

***

She’d been a bit self-conscious of her breath – well, a bit self-conscious, period…when was she not?- after the hors d’oeuvres that consisted of pearl onions and some sort of pate or spread she’d not encountered before but which seemed to be comprised largely of garlic and some sort of fish placed on a cracker. Ironic that her boyfriend played Metallica and schmoozed for a living while she helped women create the perfect meal, the perfect cocktail, the perfect home for the man to come home to, yet it was his company that put out the lavish, surely Emeril-approved spread. She recalled the year before her office party had a stack of pizzas delivered to go with the trough of icy Pepsis and Old Milwaukees.

The onions and odd meat-paste had made her as approachable as a dragon fresh from hibernation (she distinctly remembered thinking that and wondering if dragons hibernated) but she was sure she had a pack of gum in her coat pocket. She went to look for her coat, before trying to track down Royce, whom she’d not seen for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? Deftly maneouvring between a junior manager in a banana-colored suit and Jag the Sports Guy (a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Packers player stats through the decades, ego of a bear with a voice to match but the body of a junior high student who’d be bullied by guys like, well, adult Jag). Her college year working weekends as a waitress came in handy working through the crowd towards the coatcheck room.

She didn’t end up finding her gum. She did find Royce however, and understand why she’d not seen him for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? She didn’t spy her coat among the many hanging across the room right away but with that Harley Davidson tattoo just above it, there was no mistaking the ass gyrating in front of her nor the piglike squeals coming from its owner. It was less obvious to her who the shapely little ass underneath Royce belonged to; someone pert and short and pony-tailed. She was moaning for “daddy” to “drive it home” which was something Grace had never remotely considered asking despite Royce’s frequent utterance of “Who’s your daddy?” in the throes of passion.

As she played the scene over in her mind she came to realize she never did go back there later that night. Memo to self- go back to that club and see if they still have my coat. I loved that coat. And the gum was quite nice too, I think. The minty-fresh flavor lasted longer than most. Or than that bastard’s faithfulness for that matter.

The phone on her desk ringing snapped her back to the here and now and page 38 with its dog food ad. Dentyne had just changed the photo for their ad. Hello again Page 19, my old friend…

Does The Only Queen We Need Sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”…Not Live In A Palace?

I would have expected more of the royal family.” So said achy Emma Fairweather, complaining loud and wide to the British media about her broken wrist, which could have been much worse, after the car she was in was smashed into by the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip.

Fairweather was a passenger in a car driving along a British highway when it was broadsided at high speed by a Land Rover, driven by Prince Philip. 97 year old Prince Philip. Witnesses to the crash say that Fairweather’s car clearly had the right of way, and was traveling under the posted 60 mph limit, when the Land Rover sped out of the driveway from the royal Sandringham Estate and smashed into her without slowing. The dazed royal driver took about ten minutes to regain his wits, and said he was blinded by sunlight, which Fairweather doubts. It was, according to her ,“overcast”. Photos taken minutes later at the scene would suggest her weather report was more accurate than the prince’s. The same witness does say the prince eventually asked if everyone was OK and headed towards the other car before being stopped by guards or police. A mere 48 hours later, papparazi snapped him again behind the wheel, sans seat belt. The police say they gave him “advice” on safe driving but of course, no charges have been laid. Do you want to be the traffic cop writing out a warrant for the Queen’s hubby?

Fairweather says neither the Prince nor the Royal family have even said sorry. “What would it have taken for him and the queen to send me a card and a bunch of flowers,” she wonders.

Fair question and one which leads to a lot more questions. Like should any 97 year old be motoring around freely? Drunk driving is illegal because being impaired dulls your reflexes and cognitive powers. I hate to say it, but nature does exactly that to very old people. No 97 year old is going to be able to make quick snap judgments and react properly when motoring along at 60 clicks.

Moreover, it makes me wonder why the Prince is driving himself around anyway. The U.S. president, far younger and hopefully more mentally acute, is famously not allowed to drive himself (or herself should a woman ever gets there) around. That’s what the Secret Service is for.

Indeed, perhaps some would applaud Philip for being independent and driving himself where he wants, when he wants.Like an ordinary guy. Problem is, he is no ordinary guy – which leads us to the paradox which shows why royalty is outdated and pointless.

The royals whole point is that they aren’t the same as us. Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton are pretty and from most accounts, entirely lovely young women. But as princesses, if I was a Brit, I wouldn’t want to be standing in the checkout line behind them as they buy tampons. The young princes – William and Harry- both have done some fine charity work and might be very decent young men, but they aren’t ordinary dudes. I don’t want to have them in the neighborhood bar throwing darts and spilling Newcastle Brown Ale on their Levis with the locals who are coming off their shift in the coal mines. If the Queen is supposed to be something above the rest of us, then she should be sitting in some Disney castlein London, wearing a big crown, waving to commoners and adoring tourists, Monday to Friday. Not donning a frock and going shopping at Marks and Spencer’s. And her husband shouldn’t be driving an SUV recklessly around. He should be in some sort of golden pumpkin, being transported along by a team of white stallions.

It’s a paradox. The more the royals try to prove they’re just like us, the more they prove they’re irrelevant. If they’re ordinary average guys and gals, why does the country give them huge estates, riches and jewels to wear? If they are something of a privileged elite class born to rule over everyone else, they should act like they’re something special… and be prepared to answer a lot of questions as to why their DNA gives them some sort of birthright to rule over all the rest.

Prince Philip is 97. He’s said that badly made items “look like they were made by an Indian” and publicly worried that English students visiting Asia might come back “slanty-eyed.” He’s an anachronism from another age, one most of us would rather turn the page on. Which is kind of representative of the whole concept of “royalty”.

Everyone’s Friend Ellen Is Relatable…But Is She Still Funny?

So, I watched Ellen Degeneres’ new Netflix special, Relatable, a few nights back. Relatable is her highly-publicized return to her roots: the stage as a stand-up comedian. Ellen is such a huge part of our media and public consciousness, it may seem difficult to remember there ever was a time when she was an unknown face and voice struggling for both recognition and a career that would pay the bills.

But there indeed was such a time, and she revisits it rather touchingly in the special. The title itself stems from a question she was asked by a friend (and which makes up the basis of the start of her routine) when she told him she was going to do a stand-up show again. That being, “will people still find you relatable?” With her being a multi-millionaire, corporate spokesperson and internationally-recognized celebrity, could she still “relate” to ordinary peons? Could we still relate to her?

The answer, coming from the Netflix show recorded in Seattle, is yes. She is still relatable. However, that’s the good news. The bad : she’s not all that funny anymore. It doesn’t feel right to criticize Ellen. It’s like kicking a muppet or pouring a pail of water on a kitten. Nasty. Not right. Ellen Degeneres is nice. Everyone says so, and she seems to be one of the kindest-hearted people in the Hollywood establishment. But the fact is, that as comics go, Ellen may be nice but she’s not all that amusing these days.

Which isn’t to say the show was horrible. It had funny bits, and other parts were heart-warming or interesting… ((SPOILER!)) the part about her first girlfriends’ death and her move to a flea-infested apartment for example, are touching and tell us a good deal about her but don’t induce laughter. In general, think of it as being in the room with Ellen as she has a lengthy, meandering conversation on the phone with a good friend.

The problems with the show are well…numerous. The better bits run on too long. The opening bit, about the question of whether or not she is still “relatable”, for example could’ve been a truly funny, snappy little joke but gets dragged out to minutes of her beating the concept (she’s rich and lives in a big house now) into the ground. She says being gay isn’t anything much more important than the dry eyes Jennifer Aniston suffers from, and she might be right. But for a trait that’s not that important, she sure does go on at length about it.

Her observational humor is very relatable – everyone has a junk drawer that probably has some rubber bands and a random AA battery or two in it, for instance – but again, so what? It’s true but it’s kind of irrelevant. Nobody’s going to be falling off their chair, rolling around on the floor busting a gut from laughing “Oh my God, that’s so true…I have a dozen elastic bands in my kitchen drawer too, guffaw!” or “I never noticed there were a lot of side effects listed on medicine commercials before! What a hoot!”. And while for most of the show, she stays very clean and family-friendly, the few spots where she tries to be shocking or raunchy seem just inappropriate and forced. That’s not necessarily something lost on her, when after saying how she never really wanted to be typecast as a “dancer” and then having a lengthy skit of her dancing to a rap song with about half the lyrics being ones which would be censored by network TV, she shakes her head and says “I’m 60 and dancing to ‘Back that ass up.’” Someone thought that was a good idea; you don’t necessarily get the idea that Ellen herself was that person.

That said, she might not have had an enviable task going back to her roots. A quarter-century or so back she was unknown, now we feel like we know everything about her, so there’s less she can tell us that will take us by surprise. And while her first sitcom was being canceled because not everybody was ready for a lesbian on prime time, another comic was taking over the TV with his own, more cynical “observational humor” which produced a “show about nothing”- Seinfeld. Since then, we’ve had twenty years of comics talking about things like junk drawers and the frustration of getting out of the shower and having forgotten to have a towel ready. Last but not least, while people can be funny and nice too, it’s a challenge.

In this day and age, it seems it’s a lot easier to draw laughter, applause and fans by merely being loud, having expletives make up about half of your dialog and ranting about who you hate. And that goes for everything from the Twitterverse to Washington’s hallowed halls to the “Just For Laughs” floors. I applaud Ellen for trying to take the high road. Yet while she made me and my parents alike all laugh in the ’90s, now she had me looking at my watch to see if it had stopped 45 minutes in. Maybe I’ve changed. Maybe Ellen has. Maybe society has…well, no maybe about that one. Either way, I think I like those old days a little better.

May You Be Smarter Than Your Phone This Year

Hermits Don’t Have Any Peer Pressure” – Steven Wright

I finally gave into peer pressure this fall and got a smart phone. Kicking and screaming all the way to the discount store, I might add. Up until then I’d been the last kid on the block to still have a state-of-the-art – state of the 2003 art that is – celphone generally referred to as a “flip phone” although my particular model didn’t flip… it just looked like a very small, very basic “Blackberry” with fewer keys. It made phone calls. It received phone calls, from within this country at least, and with my choice of four ringtones. It sent and got texts. That is all. Which worked for me.

Until it didn’t. I would have likely kept going with that little device were it not for two things which happened more or less simultaneously. First, the actual phone worked less and less. The battery, which once was an endurance athlete of the power world, often lasting a week without charging, was holding its charge less and less until it had become a 50-yard dasher, sometimes running out of power during relatively short car trips.

Secondly, we moved in October. And even though we are still located in a large subdivision in a metropolitan area of a quarter million people or more, the move of about 8 miles across a city limit somehow befuddled the discount carrier I had. The phone got no reception at home anymore… I had to go about half way back to our previous address before it picked up. I’d know where reception began because I’d suddenly hear the chiming as I drove along and the phone suddenly pulled in a day or two’s worth of messages all at once. Obviously, having a celphone for a “home phone” didn’t work for me if it didn’t work at home!

So I had to go out into the big, bad confusing world of phones and get a new one, and a new carrier with reception to the outer limits of the large city at least, if not the outer limits of the continent. Quickly I came to realize that there really weren’t many “old school” phones out there to choose from and I’d need to make the leap to the “dark side”. The big clunky, messy touch-screen side of the phone world… otherwise known as “my precious baby” to most of the rest of the world.

I had resisted them for a number of reasons. That seems funny when you consider that I was actually an early adopter of celphones in the ’90s, when they were big,clunky and expensive. A combination of a car that was less than consistently reliable, a brief relationship with a girlfriend who lived in a really bad neighborhood and my love of nature – hence frequently going to some remote park areas – made it seem like having a way to call for help 24/7 no matter where I might be would be a smart splurge. So why didn’t I like the newest, best yet versions of them? There were reasons aplenty. Some of them to do with the phones themselves and some to do with the users.

When it comes to the phones themselves, I simply didn’t see a lot of personal advantage in spending extra money to get a bunch of features I wouldn’t make use of. Enthusiasts speak glowingly of the streaming video capability and audio, but I personally generally don’t want to see a movie on a two inch screen and am not so unimaginative or impatient that I can’t stand in a line at the grocery store without watching 10 minutes of the latest Robert Downey offering.

Likewise, the car I drive has a stereo and a CD player; there’s a little stereo in our house (only a pale imitation of the sound system I had when fresh out of college, but that’s a topic for another day) so I don’t need my phone to be my music delivery system. That they have web browsers isn’t a bad deal, but for the most part I like working on my laptop, going back and forth between office software and the ‘net, focusing on what I’m doing, so times when I’d want to be surfing while away from my computer seemed like they’d be few and far between. And they’re big. My old one could fit easily in almost any pants pocket. I-phones, Galaxys, current LGs, not so much. Especially when encased in Army-grade armored cases which of course becomes necessary when one looks at the cost vs fragility matrixes of the multi-purpose devices which make eggs seem sturdy by comparison. Continue reading “May You Be Smarter Than Your Phone This Year”