Thursday, September 27, 2018

Zuh Cow

Zestful Blog Post #283

Some of my favorite imperishable quotations are from people’s grandparents. My friend Linda was musing on wisdom from her German grandmother:

“Linda. Linda. If you dun’t learn to milk zuh cow, you dun’t haff to milk zuh cow.”
Think about it. Not learning something excuses you from dealing with it, and that can be liberating. I mean, I’ve watched cows being milked by hand. Sometimes they smack you in the face with their damp, urine-scented tail. Good morning!

Cunningly avoiding learning how to do something can indeed be liberating. Most grandmas are not stupid. But being helpless, we know, can also backfire: Beyond not being able to get milk when you want it, think of all the young executives in the ’70s and ’80s who resolutely refused to learn how to type. Ambitious women especially were warned away from learning how to type, because typing was for assistants. If you typed, you were pigeonholed into a subservient role. That was the thinking. But then—“Wuh-oh. What’s this new computer thingy on my desk? It gots a keyboard! Wuh-oh!” We had a generation of executives who were clumsy on the keyboard and therefore inefficient because they didn’t learn to touch-type with all ten fingers. I mentioned a couple of years ago here that one of the best things I ever did was take a typing class in high school with a scary bastard perfectionist teacher. I use typing here just as an example. It could be plunging a clogged sink, sewing on a button, starting a campfire, reading a paper map for God’s sake, even pumping gas.

Do we want to be dependent on others? Sometimes, hell yeah. But it’s a game of subtlety and judgment. Grownups deal with whatever shit they really have to. I think Linda’s grandma really meant: Figure out what you really want in life, and screw everything else, because life’s too short to get slapped in the face by a cow.

What do you think? Are there things where you just go “To hell with that!” and why? Or, have you an imperishable quotation from a grandparent to share? To post, click below where it says, ‘No Comments,’ or ‘2 Comments,’ or whatever. If you’re having trouble leaving comments on this or other blogs, it’s probably because third-party cookies have been turned off in your browser. Go into your browser settings and see if that’s the case. Then turn them on again in order to leave comments.
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

New Books from Pals

Zestful Blog Post #282

Now and then a pal publishes a book! Here are two recent ones I’m happy to share out. Congratulations to Bev Prescott and Neil Plakcy.

 2 Degrees by Bev Prescott

In the year 2092, climate change has transformed the face of Earth. Storms, disease, famine, thirst and war show no mercy on the living. Sharon Clausen, a self-reliant farmer, has a secret apple tree—a tree that keeps Sharon and her wife, Eve, fed. 

The only other people who know of her secret, or so she thinks, is Dr. Ryan, a long-time confidant, and his wife, Areva. Once a month, Sharon and Eve travel from Maine to Boston to trade apples with Dr. Ryan for Eve’s leukemia treatment. Everything suddenly changes when Eve is kidnapped and the Ryans are murdered. Sharon learns that her best kept secrets are known and coveted by a man known as the Strelitzia—a coldly practical villain.

Sharon sets out on a harrowing journey across North America to rescue Eve. Along the way, she teams up with an Inuit refugee boy, a stray dog named Erik the Red, an eccentric former school teacher, a jujitsu master, an Argentinian opera star, and a brilliant scientist who leads an alliance of eclectic people known as the Qaunik. Together, this ragtag group battle horrific storms, an unrelenting desert, terrifying criminal gangs, feral humans, and the Strelitzia.

In the end, Sharon must face her greatest challenge—risk all that she loves for something much greater than herself.

Buy it HERE.

 Neil Plakcy Survival Dying Art

Special Agent Angus Green is still in his twenties, and his red hair and good looks often make people underestimate him, but he’s a smart, fearless cop who believes in the FBI motto: Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.

Fort Lauderdale retiree Frank Sena is working with pawn shop owner Jesse Venable to retrieve a painting stolen from Frank’s uncle, a gay Venetian killed during the Holocaust. Angus volunteers to help Frank, and discovers Venable is the subject of a task force looking into smuggling immigrants out of war-torn countries in the Middle East.

Angus, who knows nothing about art and speaks no Italian, may be in over his head as he is assigned to befriend, and ultimately betray, Venable. But with the help of his Italian-speaking brother and his art-loving boyfriend, he may be able not only to retrieve the painting, but solve a smuggling case and potentially save thousands of lives.

The investigation will take him from the sun-drenched rooftops of Venice to a private yacht speeding down Fort Lauderdale’s New River. Along the way, he’ll learn the true meaning of survival.

Buy it HERE.

If you’re a subscriber to this blog or to my newschat, do let me know when you’ve published a book, and I’ll shout it out one way or another, OK?

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Half an Hour to Dramatic Improvement

Zestful Blog Post #281

Here's something to try for the hell of it. (Have you done something for the hell of it this week yet?) I swear if you do this you will write about your world with greater confidence and pleasure. Even reading this will help you.

Go to your favorite coffeehouse and sit with your notebook. Relax your jaw. Which should prompt your neck to relax. Which should prompt your shoulders to relax, and so on down. You’re welcome. Without moving from that spot, write down everything you can sense. Open all those chakras or whatever they are and write down what you're seeing and sensing, head to toe. Don’t judge anything, just describe it.

What do you see? Start with the place and write it. Floor, walls, ceiling. What do you see through the windows? Is it day or night? What is the quality of the light—is it bright, muted, pearly, golden? Maybe it's blue, or maroon! Look into the shadows. Notice how different the light is there. Describe it. What do you hear? What's playing on the sound system, if anything? Is it loud or quiet? Do you know the tune?

Next, the people. Who's there and what are they like? What do they look like, what clothing? Who's talking and what are they saying? What are their voices like? What else do you hear? Doors banging open and shut as people come and go? Beeps from the machines behind the counter? Cell phones? The paddle fan squeaking slightly as it rotates overhead? What's that squeak like? Focus on one sound and write it thoroughly.

What do you smell? Probably a great many smells are coming together. What is the bouquet of the place? Are you smelling coffee, maybe sweets, maybe something like the mop-water disinfectant that sort of lingers very slightly beneath everything? A whiff of strong perfume or aftershave trailing behind someone like a wake from a vessel?

 What are you eating and drinking? Maybe a roll and some coffee. Describe the flavors. How does each one taste separately? Consistency, texture, temperature. How do they mingle together in your mouth? What else can you describe about how they taste? Do the comestibles (love that word) bring up memories, like Proust's madeleines? What are they?

[could be beignets...]

Does anything else you're experiencing bring up other thoughts, memories, feelings?
What are you sensing bodily? What is your chair like? Is it interacting with your thighs and butt in a satisfactory fashion?

How's your posture? How does the back of your neck feel? Has your jaw re-tightened? Can you sense air currents on your face? On your hands? On your legs if you're wearing shorts or a skirt? Describe the air currents. Where are they coming from, where are they going? Is your body sore or tight anywhere? Don't judge anything, just describe it. Are you wearing a watch or jewelry? A ring? Can you feel the jewelry on your skin? The weight of a necklace on your collarbones?

Finally: What are you sensing beneath it all? I believe in the sixth sense, or intuition. Is there a general mood in the place? If so, where's it coming from? Are the baristas a happy crew? Why, do you suppose, or why not? Is there a little corner of negativity over there surrounding that frowning customer studying his phone? Is there something creative happening over there between those three people talking excitedly? Is there something in the spirit of the place that brings you in? Something you can sense but not label? Write it as best you can and see what happens.

How do you feel beneath your exterior? What is your deepest state right now?

What do you think? Have you ever done something like this? How did it go? To post, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever.
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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Full Emptiness

Zestful Blog Post #280

I once overheard a professional golfer say, of good putting technique, “You’ve almost gotta go brain-dead to get it perfect.” Which is so totally Zen, so totally about quieting your mind to allow terrific performance to happen. Can you be a great putter without practice? No. But you can be a crummy putter even if you practice a lot, but habitually psych yourself out when on the course. “Is that the right line, for sure? Let’s set up that way. On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong. Oh, heck, I’ll stroke it anyway. Can’t think about it all day. Aaannd…dang.”

It wants to go in so bad.

There’s a line from a song in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! that goes, “Never have I asked the August sky, ‘Where has last July gone?’” Is that somehow Zen too? You bet it is: complete acceptance of what has been, and total presence in the now. No regrets. (The song is “Many a New Day”.)

Lessons for writers? Yeah. Sometimes I really need to remind myself of that golfer and that song.

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