Sunday, January 30, 2005

Harlan Ellison, Matchmaker

 ?, John, DM, McNevin, Fax, ? and PeterHere are some of the people of Clarion '77. I can no longer name them all, but that's John in the khaki shirt. Mike McNevin Hayes (correction: Mike Orgill) is the guy hugging the black-shirted D.M. Rowles, and, on the other side,  Fax Goodlife. No, I'm not making this up! The guy with the sideburns is probably Peter, or possibly Rand.  I'm not sure about the other two. Dave Deacon and...Lester? TJ? It's been too long.  Sorry.

So anyway, I was accepted as a student of the Clarion Worksop for 1977.  Under the terms if my agreement with my dad, I worked as an enumerator for R.L. Polk from May until the end of June.  Clarion started July 3rd, for six weeks. I got to East Lansing by bus and by train, not necessarily in that order.

The first night, there was a get-acquainted party at the home of the late R. Glenn Wright, the M.S.U. prof in charge of the workshop.  I don't think John had arrived yet.  People introduced themselves, but I didn't really connect with anyone that night.  I was lonely and a little scared.

The workshopping began the next day.  Robin Scott Wilson, founder of Clarion, was there the first week to get us started.  The first material workshopped was everyone's submission manuscripts.  Chapter One of The Tengrim Sword went over okay, but not great.  People had a lot of criticisms, and a lot of questions I couldn't answer yet.
Dungeons and Dragons in the hall.I was introducing some of my fellow Clarionites to D&D the afternoon that Harlan Ellison arrived for Week Two. It was not a successful game, and I think at least one of the players was tripping at the time.

Harlan arrived, and posted a set of rules. I don't remember it all, but a big one was no drugs.  There may have also been something about keeping cigarette smoke "away from good old Harlan." I'm not sure about the nature of the prohibition, but the "good old Harlan" part is a direct quote.

I'd met Harlan before, in connection with his speaking appearance at Syracuse University the year before (which is a whole story by itself), and again when I showed up outside his house one rainy day to take a picture or two.  What can I say?  I was young and foolish.  Harlan's opinion of me was that I was a fan, which in his lexicon was not a good thing.  Once he saw some of my writing, he upgraded me to "amateur."  Well, I couldn't let that stand!  I was determined to prove myself to my favorite writer.  At the end of the week, I turned in a story called "Rivals," in which an angry fat girl uses magic to switch bodies with the pretty girl in the next dorm room.  Harlan left a note on his way out, saying nice things about the story.  It ended by saying that I was a writer after all: "Just flense yourself of the fannishness and amateurism, and you may just make it."

Harlan demonstrates who should wear the hat.  and how to wear it

and proudly displays his handiwork.
By the time Harlan arrived, there were two male Clarionites I had my eye on.  They were both smart, and interesting, and unattached to female Clarionites.  Peter turned me off one day by showing a side of himself I didn't like.  That left John. Like me, John Blocher had a weight problem, but that didn't matter much to me.  In fact, it was probably a plus. He was smart, and funny, and talented, and he seemed to like me.  He even liked Howard the Duck. He didn't like my writing, but oh, well, that was a genre thing. Harlan asked me one day whether I was interested in one of the guys.  When I said yes, he said, "Well, then go and get him, girl!" Come to think of it, he may have used the word "woman" instead of "girl."

Harlan was a lot of fun, but also stressful and exhausting.  He ordered me to read Remembrance of Things Past, and threatened not to talk to me until I'd at least read Swann's Way.(All these years later, I still haven't read it.)   He suggested thatI cultivate a Liv Ullman image, strong and silent.  He went out to restaurants with us,and played mind games on us by pretending not to like someone's story, just to see whether we would fall in line. He even hosted a Synanon-style game one night. This consisted basically of people attacking each other. John wisely declined to attend this, but I was accused of - well, let's not go PG, okay? When I refused to fight back, Harlan said, "You may be too gentle for this game, Karen." Well, yes.  I was.  Still am, for that matter.

But I did take Harlan's advice in one thing.  I started hanging out with John Blocher, whom Harlan had labeled a "dilletante."

Next time: Ayjay and Pete, Kate and Damon.


Photo credits: I may have taken the top one.  Mike Orgill (see comments) took the black and white ones.

Related entries:

Less Gullible at Six Than I Am Now (Updated)

Teenage Crush? I Didn't Have...Oh. Maybe I Did

Technorati Tags: Harlan Ellison, Clarion

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Fiction: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Thirteen

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.Joshua Wander's story is too long to summarize here.  Please see Part Seven for the story up to that point, and Part Twelve for the rest. Links to earlier installments are at the bottom of this entry.

Part Twelve: Chris/Josh insists on going to see Professor John Grayson. He and Rachel both think he's probably at the lab rather than the funeral home. Indeed he is. Josh and his friends find Officer Hennigan unconscious outside the lab. Leaving his friends behind, Josh goes through the door to confront Grayson.

Part Thirteen: Experiment

Cindy Farrell was in Rachel’s old chair.  She was tied to it with a thick orange extension cord.  RCA cables bound her wrists to the arms of the wooden chair. Three large electrodes were taped to her forehead, already surrounded with red burn marks. Her eyes were open, and she looked frightened. Her head jerked slightly as she saw me come in, but she said nothing.

John Grayson was standing precisely where I had stood the day before, during the final, fatal experiment.  In one hand he held a small control box, its leads running toward Officer Farrell’s head. With his other hand, Grayson was playing with flashing blobs of light, dabbing at them as if they were finger paint, making them flare out of sequence with the strobes from which they came. He was facing Farrell, not me, and he was laughing.

“Let her go, Professor,” I said.

He looked at me, angrily but without surprise. “Ah, there you are, Stein.” His tone was half snarl, half mock welcome.  “Returning to the scene of the crime?”

“There was no crime,” I said.  I nodded in Farrell’s directions.  “Not until now, that is.”

“Oh, no?  What about the murder of my wife?”

“You must know by now that it was mostly epilepsy that killed her, not me. That?s why I?m here, to make sure you know that I didn?t murder her.?

?Oh, no?? he said again.  ?I saw what you did, Stein.  I have it all on videotape.?

He flipped a switch, and a video tape recorder whirred.  Images appeared on a large tv atop a metal stand. There I was with Rachel, reenacting the last moments of her life in miniature through the miracle of the new technology.  I hadn?t even known that the experiments were taped.

?You were playing with light, like this,? Grayson said by way of narration. He illustrated his point by matching my recorded movements, creating nearly identical lighting effects. ?My wife went into convulsions, but you kept on doing it.?

According to the tape I had indeed kept going?for all of two seconds before I noticed Rachel's alarming jerks and twitches, and scrambled for the off switch.

Grayson stopped the tape. ?Your light show killed my wife.?

?I really don?t think so,? I said. ?I?m sorry I didn?t react faster, but I really think it was the strobes that did it.?

I agree, Rachel told me.

?Let?s just test that theory,? Grayson said.  ?This young lady has sat under the strobe lights for at least ten minutes, with no obvious ill effects.  Let?s just see what your light manipulation does to her.? He resumed playing with the lights, but he kept one finger on the button that would fry Farrell if she tried to get away.

?Are you crazy?? I said. It occurred to me that Grayson shouldn?t be capable of doing what he was now doing, not unless he?d already conducted the same experiments on himself as he had on me. ?Never mind; I see that you are.  Let her go, Dr. John, while you still have solid hands with which to untie her.?

?In the middle of my experiment?? I think not,? Grayson said.

?The experiment is over,? I told him.  ?Officer Farrell won?t die as Dr. Rachel did, because she doesn?t have Rachel?s condition.  You don?t, do you?? I asked Farrell as an afterthought.

Farrell shook her head.

Sounds were coming from the other side of the door. I guessed that Farrell?s partner was finally awake.

?If you keep on like this, Dr. John?assuming they don?t arrest you first?you?ll be like me, unable to exist materially in this world,? I said. I thought it best not to mention other worlds.  ?Is that what you want??

?End up like you?? Grayson asked scornfully. ?That won?t happen.  I?m not like you.  You?re just the guinea pig.  I?m the scientist, and I?ve already moved on from what I learned from using you.  My abilities are far more advanced than yours.  See??  Like Gary Mitchell in the second Star Trek pilot, he shot a bolt of coherent light from his fingertips, aiming it over Farrell?s head.  Wisely, she kept her head down, but she gave a little yelp of fear.

?Your madness is far more advanced than mine, too,? I said. ?I could do something like that, but I wouldn?t.  That?s the difference between us.? It occurred to me that I should be able to use the light to free Farrell somehow, to burn though the cables or something. But after my antics with the phone lines, I didn?t think I had the power?or finesse?to do it.

?Jealous, Stein?? Grayson said.  ?Because I don?t believe you could do it. Poor guinea pig, you?re looking mighty sickly.  Perhaps it?s time to euthanize you.?

He aimed a bolt at me.  I could have ducked, but I took a chance and didn?t. The energy hit me square in what should have been my chest.  Somehow, I felt it.  It felt good.

?Thanks, Grayson,? I said. ?You?ve just given Popeye his spinach.?  I looked down, and saw that I had feet again.  I still wasn?t solid, though.  How was I going to help Cindy Farrell?

Perhaps I wouldn?t have to.  Outside the door, Harry and Jerry were pounding and shouting. I wasn?t sure, but I thought I heard Tim Hennigan?s voice, too.

First things first, though.  I could at least make it harder for Grayson to shock Farrell. Remembering the way I?d once turned Jerry?s radio on from across the room, I concentrated on interrupting the power supply to Grayson?s equipment?in effect, turning it off.  The light that Grayson had been manipulating disappeared instantly.  The hum of the equipment took a little longer to fade, perhaps a second. At the end of that second, I heard the sound of gunfire.  A second after that, Hennigan. Jerry and Onclemac burst into the room.

Well, I've managed to avoid ending this thing for another week. Next time (again): possibly the end of the serial, or almost the end, or the week when I get stuck and it all comes to nothing.  John suggests the following gambit if I do get stuck:

Meanwhile, fifty miles away, a small duck sat on the back of a hippopotamus.

Yeah, that'll work.

The Real Joshua Wander
Joshua Wander: Two Fragments
Joshua Wander Lives (the history of the character)

Joshua Wander on BlogSpot:
Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six  
Part Seven   Part Eight  Part Nine  Part Ten  Part Eleven  Part Twelve

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six  
Part Seven   Part Eight  Part Nine  Part Ten   Part Eleven  Part Twelve

Friday, January 28, 2005

Clarion Auction - and a Hint of My Clarion Courtship

Reminder for sf / fantasy fans:

The Clarion Midnight Auction has started. Bids will be accepted until 11:59 pm EST on Saturday, January 29, 2005.

Click on a name below to jump directly to your favorite author/editor/artist.

Steve Berman   Michael Bishop   Bruce Boston   David Brin   Tobias Buckell

Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren   Ellen Datlow   Cory Doctorow   Harlan Ellison

Neil Gaiman   William Gibson   Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel   Joe Haldeman

The Brothers Hildebrandt   Michael Jasper   Leonard Kirk   Ellen Kushner

Geoffrey A. Landis   Philip Lawson   Bruce McAllister   Judith Merril

Dan Mishkin   Gary Myers   Al Sarrantonio   William Browning Spencer 

Jeff VanderMeer    Howard Waldrop   Martha Wells   Kate Wilhelm   Connie Willis

Note to Shelly and other NASA/Mars fans: one of the items is MARS EXPLORATION ROVER OFFICIAL PROJECT MEMORABILIA**

This benefits the Clarion Writer's Workshop at Michigan State University. Don't anybody bid on the Harlan Ellison book, okay? (After consultation with John, I withdraw this request.)

As promised earlier, here's the beginning of my Clarion story.

John doing...something. Clarion, 1977.Teaser: when I saw the little clipping on the office door of the English prof who was never there, I had no idea it was the first step toward finding my husband, the love of my life.

I was in high school when I first came across the James Blish Star Trek books, rather awful short story adaptations of the episodes. From there I went on to read The Making of Star Trek, and David Gerrold's two books on the series. Those led me to the writing of Harlan Ellison. Before long I was reading as much Ellison and Vonnegut as I could find, plus The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and other magazines, plus a smattering of Asimov and Bradbury and Clarke. These didn't impress me as much as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, which got me reading and collecting fantasy novels under the Ballantine Adult Fantasy imprint. I loved Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, and McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, and Bellairs's The Face in the Frost. Somewhere around that time was when I started on The Tengrim Sword, which decades later turned into Heirs of Mavarin.  And oh, yeah, I joined a local Star Trek club, and edited its fanzine, 2-5YM.

Among the many sf and fantasy paperbacks I bought or borrowed from libraries during high school was one called Clarion III, edited by Robin Scott Wilson.  This 1973 book had short stories by attendees of the Clarion Writer's Workshop, and essays by some of the writers who taught there, including good old Harlan.  There was some indication, though, that Harlan and some of the other writers had no plans to teach at Clarion in the future. That was a shame, I thought.  Nevertheless, from then on I really wanted to go to Clarion.

Me at Clarion, 1977.Fast forward to early 1977.  I was a sophomore at Syracuse University, majoring in TV-Radio and Creative Writing.  Well, in theory I was.  I'd skipped out on a required TV course because it was a) boring and b) the same time as Barney Miller. As for Creative Writing, I'd done well in one such course, and all right in Shakespeare, but I was having trouble getting in to see the head of the Creative Writing department, much less get his formal approval to major in Creative Writing. I made frequent visits to the man's office door, but he never seemed to be there.

It was on one of these visits, circa March, 1977, that I saw a clipping posted on the door about that year's Clarion workshop, to be held at Michigan State University.  When I read the line-up of writers in residence that year, I think I actually trembled.  Robin Scott Wilson, founder of Clarion and editor of Clarion III.  Harlan Ellison, my favorite writer at the time. Algis J. Budrys.  Peter S. Beagle, another favorite, with the added bonus of being a fantasy writer.  And finishing up, Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, who had taught at most of the Clarions to date.  Well, I had to apply, immediately.  That line-up of talent seemed ideal to me, and wasn't likely to be available again if I blew my opportunity for the 1977 class.

So I got my parents' (separate) permission, and I applied. My submission manuscript was Chapter One of The Tengrem Sword.  I was at my dad's apartment when my self-addressed manila envelope came back, as thick as ever.  What a disappointment!

I opened the envelope.  A map of MSU fell out.  I let out a whoop.  I'd been accepted to Clarion!

Next time:  Harlan Ellison, Matchmaker.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Showing My Influences Again


(c) MCA UniversalWeekend Assignment #45: It's karaoke time. Pick a song to sing and explain why you chose it. Note that not everyone sings the song you expect them to sing: I remember being at a karaoke bar one time and watching a six-foot bald guy with a gravelly voice and a tattoo on his neck sing Olivia Newton John's "Have You Never Been Mellow?" And it was brilliant. So by all means, reach for the stars here. This isn't American Idol.

Extra Credit: Recall the worst karaoke performance you ever heard (or, if you're brave, ever performed). You can change the names to protect the guilty if you like.

This is another one of those nothing-to-do-with-my-life assignments, but I'll give it a shot. Listen, I don't drink, and John is antisocial. What are the chances that we'd go to a karaoke bar--ever?  Not gonna happen.  Well, I might, but I don't usually go to restaurants without John (except at lunch), much less to a bar, and John would just about rather have a spike driven though his head than be around karaoke. So.  No karaoke bar.

However, Cool FM's Alan Michaels hosted a karaoke booth at a charity tennis tournament one year.  He's sort of an old buddy of mine, and a mucky-muck with that particular charity event.  So anyway, I did Great Balls of Fire, because I like both the Jerry Lee Lewis version and the Sam Beckett version from the "Miss Deep South" episode of Quantum Leap. It's just fun, and doesn't require the world's most fabulous voice.  I would probably choose it again for the same reasons. There are lots of songs I like better, most of them by the Beatles, but by and large they're harder to sing well.

Of course, there was also that time at Gallifrey One when Teresa and Tracy and I sang Wouldn't It Be Loverly, not karaoke but a capella, within earshot of a female dealer from the UK. That was fun.

(c) 20th Century Fox.For the extra credit, I can't say I noticed anyone else's performance at that karaoke booth a decade ago (put it this way: it was the year Ray Charles was plugging Diet Pepsi).  Does watching Angel sing at Caritas count?


One class left!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I'm going to have to bail on posting anything new, interesting, or even coherent, at least until tonight, probably until tomorrow. I tried to go to bed, really I did; but illness, insomnia and the new Pern book by Todd McCaffrey kept driving me out of bed.  Today I feel like death warmed over.  I have payroll to do at work, and 1 1/2 papers to write for school by tomorrow.

While you're waiting for me to get my act together, you may want to check out that journaler baby gallery over at Jeannette's Jottings. Nice job, Jeannette!

The good news is that I did think of an appropriate prize for our Holiday Trivia winners.  Jeff, please shoot me an email with your snail mail address.  I'll get those prizes prepared and sent out in the next week or two.  I know--pretty slow, but you know how it is with me right now.

8 days left to finish my degree!



I got the following in email today on another screen name (see? I'm trying to be good!). Basically, it's info on a charity auction to help keep the Clarion SF Writer's Workshop going. This long-running, important workshop helped to launch the careers of many sf and fantasy writers, and is now in serious danger of being shut down due to funding cuts. On a personal note, it's important to me because it's where I met John in 1977.  Here's the info:

Greetings to all!

In just two days, the Clarion Midnight Auction will begin! The excitement is building here at the Clarion office as the opening of the auction--12:00 am EST on Friday, January 28--draws near.

At this time, we would like to express our gratitude to the many generous donors who have given so freely to support Clarion. We truly appreciate all the time and effort that each of you has put forth. Thank you.

We would also like to urge everyone to take a look at the fabulous items that are available for bid beginning on Friday. Photos and descriptions of the items on offer are up on the auction preview page:

Items up for bid include:
~Signed limited editions from Neil Gaiman, Howard Waldrop, and Kate Wilhelm!
~Signed first editions from  David Brin, Michael Bishop, Joe Haldeman, and Martha Wells!
~Signed anthologies from Ellen Datlow, Al Sarrantonio, and Delia Sherman!
~Signed galleys from Cory Doctorow and Jeff VanderMeer!
~Critiquing/coaching time from Bruce McAllister!
~Original comic book art from Leonard Kirk!
~Mars Rover memorabilia AND MUCH MORE!!!

Bidding will open at 12:00 am EST on Friday, January 28, 2005. Bids will be accepted until 11:59 pm EST on Saturday, January 29, 2005. Bids will be taken via email, addressed to Winners will be contacted on Monday, January 31, 2005.

We hope that each of you will take a moment to explore the auction as well as visiting some of the other areas of the Clarion website. Exciting things are happening here at the Clarion Workshop and we are glad to be able to share them with you!

Those who would like more information on the auction may wish to read the attached press release, which has been widely distributed online. Please feel free to share this release with anyone you know who may be interested in the auction and/or the Clarion Workshop.

Thank you for your continued support of Clarion. We hope all is well with you and yours. Have a wonderful day!

All best wishes,

Lister, Mary, and Sarah

Monday, January 24, 2005

Many Me

 Paul asks why people use more than one screen name for the same person.  Is it "identity obfuscation," as Paul suggests? I can't speak for anyone else on this, but my reasons are more practical than mysterious.

When I set up my second screen name over a decade ago, it was not to hide anything, but rather to keep my email and other online activities sorted into categories.  The original screen name, KFB OF PQL, referred directly to my association with Quantum Leap fandom.  The second one originally referred to my being the vice president of United Whovians of Tucson, but with subsequent club elections I changed it to KFB UWOT.  One screen name for QL mail, one for Who mail.  Simple.  The QL one also got the family email and online registrations, and most of the spam.

The same principle applied to subsequent screen names and activities. I set one up for my L'Engle online bibliography and FAQ, another for eBay transactions. Each screen name gave me more FTP space, and a single place to put one compartment of my life--not that it's ever quite that simple. Sometimes I found it necessary to forward something from my Who-life to my PQL-life  Then I started Mavarin for writing-related stuff. Mavarin became the receptacle for all my school stuff and novel-writing and blogging, which aside from office and husband was pretty much my entire life. 

One interest, one screen name.  Simple.  It makes it easier to track down that email from two years ago that related to THIS part of your life. But once I went back to school, and especially once I started blogging, I found that I was checking the other screen names for email once every five weeks or so.  The Who club was mostly dead, and I played hooky from QL stuff as the show receded farther into the past.  I quit eBay cold turkey after one too many hassles, and I blocked the L'Engle screen name from receiving email because kids kept emailing me thinking I was L'Engle. Now I tend to ignore all the old parts of my life, and concentrate on the compartment for writing and blogging and school - Mavarin. The other screen names lie fallow for weeks or months or years. 

But, unlike many bloggers and others with online avatars, I am positively confessional in identifying myself, regardless of screen name. The same goes for the yahoo email account.  It bemuses me a little that some bloggers identify themselves only as "brian" or "MW" or "elkfhEKFD" (okay, I made that last one up).  In cyberspace, nobody knows you're a dog, as the New Yorker cartoon put it, but by and large, nobody cares, either. I've never hidden my identity online (after all, I'm trying to build a writing career here), and to date it's never been a problem.  Then again, I'm not very good overall at keeping my private life private, so I'm probably not the one to ask about the merits of screen name anonymity.

Oh, and another reason people change screen names and email addresses is to try to stay ahead of the spam.  This was more of a consideration before AOL and others implemented spam filters and such.

Karen Funk Blocher (see?)

Everybody's Playing It - Now

John Scalzi and others have picked up on  a link to Atom Smasher's fun error message generator. Well, I'll have you know that I made the following years and years ago, on software meant to connect my Win 95 (Win 3.11?) computer at work to a Unix computer running accounting software:

But what the heck.  I'll play - briefly.  Then I've got to get back to work!

That would be annoying.  But I'd love to have this one:

It would be "you betcha" every time.

I'll post the other ones on my LiveJournal blog.  It's getting lonely.



Also: per Becky's instructions:

Just for Jeannette over at Jeannette's Jottings - Post a photo of yourself as a baby in your journal and leave a link comment in Jeannette's journal. Tell her Becky sent ya.

Okay, but it's a rerun. Top: my dad and me, circa 1957 or 1958.  Bottom: my brother Steve and me, circa 1959.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Mumps Story

Usually I try to make the rounds on weekends, check out all the journals John Scalzi mentions for the Weekend Assignment, and leave comments if I have something to say.  If I like the writing and I'm not too pressed for time, I'll read more entries by that person.  Pretty standard, right?

Well, I tried to do that today, but although I looked at every journal on his list, I left very few comments. Why?  Because most of the party stories were about alcohol.  And even though I understand intellectually that people I like and respect do drink the stuff, sometimes even to excess, I can't take the subject light-heartedly.

It's not you.  It's me.

Let me tell you about it.

after the mumps, before the staph. That's the bed in the story.When I was in fifth grade, the family next door had a girl named Sarah, one year older(?) than me, a boy, Brad, two years younger, and Cathy, who was in first grade.  Brad was an amazing artist.  He used to design Hot Wheels cars on paper, and could draw all the Peanuts characters about as well as Schulz could, at least in my estimation at the time. Sarah was mostly friends with Sue, who lived next door to me on the other side. But we all hung out together at least part of the time, all five of us, when we weren't starting competing "clubs" of two or three members each.

Well, one day I was hanging out with little Cathy.  I don't remember anything we did, just that we were in her back yard.  The next day, my parents got a call from her parents that Cathy had the mumps. So I heard all about mumps and incubation periods.  The next day I went to school and told people that I would be getting the mumps in two weeks.

Two weeks later....

My brother Steve had borrowed my mom's Rambler station wagon to go to a party.  This was about 1967 or 1968, so he was about 17 or 18 years old at the time.  I was 10 or 11.  I had braces, and had reach the stage in the process in which I had to wear headgear at night that hooked onto the braces.  I think I had just had my bands tightened, a rather uncomfortable procedure, if not usually too painful.

But that night, I woke up and my teeth hurt.  So did my cheeks, my face, my throat, my whole head.  I had forgotten all about the mumps, and was blaming the discomfort on the headgear and the braces. As I lay in bed, trying to decide whether to wake Mom up and tell her about it, I heard the door open downstairs.  Soon Mom and Steve were talking rather loudly on the stairs about the fact that he'd rolled and totalled her car.  Yes, he'd been drinking.  (The drinking age in New York State at the time was 18.) And in the middle of all this sturm und drang, I finally got up and announced, "Mommy, my bands hurt!"  Oh, yeah.  I had the mumps.  I was in bed for a week or more--which wouldn't have been so bad had my parents not chosen this occasion to replace my ancient outer spring bed mattress with a hard, modern inner-spring one.  It was agony to lie on that thing!  Took me years to break it in properly.

Fast forward to Christmas (December 23rd, actually)  when I was in eighth or ninth grade.  Steve was in his first job as a professional computer programmer. This particular day, I had just had a staph infection lanced by the family doctor.  I was in the bathroom, using Betadine and trying to soak in hot water as instructed, when Steve came home from the company Christmas party.  He'd been sick in Dad's car on the way home, and I kind of gather his co-workers weren't too pleased with him. (Let me hasten to assure you that Steve was not in the habit of getting drunk.  These were unusual occurances, which is part of why they were so memorable.)  As I kept reheating and reapplying the washcloths, every few minutes I'd head Steve call out, drunkenly, "Tell Karen I hope she feels better!"

Somewhere in the lower reaches of my brain, I'm sure the following is firmly entrenched on an emotional level:

Someone drunk = Karen hurting = bad things happening.

Add that to the following facts:

* I hate the smells of wine and beer and the taste of alcohol,
* My mom treated alcoholics for a living for years and years at Soule Clinic,
* My high school boyfriend (Dan) was killed by a drunk driver,
* My mom had another car totaled and her neck injured by a drunk one year as she drove home from the Speakman camp, and
* John's mother was an alcoholic,

and I think you begin to understand why I have such a hangup about alcohol. I suppose I could try to overcome it, but why should I?  As long as I'm not putting other people down about it, it seems like a pretty pro-survival trait to have.

So if I don't comment appreciatively about your funny stories of drunken people at parties, I hope you'll understand. 

I'll appreciate you the next time around.


Photo by Joel Rubinstein, 1971.  The mumps was behind me, Steve's Christmas party ahead. That's the bed and the mattress I was all mumpy on, but by 1971 it was much more bearable. The wooden "Love" sign was left over from a hippie costume, and painted in neighbor Sue's art studio / garage.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Fiction: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Twelve

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.
Joshua Wander's story is too long to summarize here.  Please see Part Seven for the story up to that point. Links to earlier installments are at the bottom of each entry.

Part Seven: Joshua (a.k.a. Chris Stein) introduces Harry (a.k.a. the wizard Onclemac) to his friend Jerry, and explains his current predicament.  Jerry tells them that Professor Grayson has accused Chris of killing Rachel.  Unable to touch anything in the world of his birth, Josh asks Harry and Jerry to collect some of his clothes.  First, however, Josh must distract the police who are searching his dorm room.

Part Eight: Josh freaks out the cops, explains why he can't ride in a police car, and leads the two officers into a nearby stairwell. As they try to get a straight answer from him about whether he killed Rachel, a new voice enters the discussion: Rachel's, coming from Josh's mouth.

Part Nine:  Rachel's ghost (spirit, whatever) reveals that she had an unreported family history of epilepsy. She figures she died of a stroke, and blames no one else for her death. Knowing the police can't rely on her or Chris for evidence, Rachel suggests alternatives. Chris corroborates Rachel's story, and then walks away through a wall.

Part Ten: After a short, private conversation with Rachel, Chris/Josh makes his way back to the dorm room, where Jerry and Harry have just about finished collecting some clothes for Josh. Armed with change from the dorm room, they call Chris's father from a pay phone in the hall.  Dr. Stein is worried, and  understandably skeptical about his son's explanation.  Josh drops the human shape of his incorporeal existence in his home reality, and launches himself through the phone lines toward his father in Maryland.

Part Eleven: Chris/Josh arrives at his father's apartment via telephone, and they have a brief conversation.  When he returns, Josh's friends notice that his appearance is a little indistinct, just as the world seems that way to Josh. Despite Harry's warning, Josh visits his mother the same way. This time whenhe returns, his form is even more nebulous.  Nevertheless, he's determined to talk to John Grayson before he loses contact with his original reality.

Part Twelve: Finding Grayson

?We could try calling him,? Jerry suggested.

?Not if Josh is going to ride the phone lines again,? Harry said disapprovingly.

?I won?t,? I said.

?No, I mean, just to make arrangements to meet somewhere,? Jerry said.

?You mean, discuss his wife?s death over a beer at Hungry Chuck?s, while Cranberry Lake plays Ain?t Nobody?s Business?? I said. ?That?ll work out well.?

?Jeeze, Chris,? Jerry said.  ?Don?t be so cranky!?

?Call me Josh,? I said.

?Fine.  Don?t be so cranky, Josh.?

He?s right, Rachel told me.  You are being unreasonable.

?Okay, I?m sorry,? I said.  ?I?m under a bit of stress right now.  But there?s no point in calling him. He?s not likely to be home.?  I turned away from the pay phones.  ?Come on, let?s go,? I said.  I started down the hall, back toward the stairs.

?How will we know where to find Dr. John?? Jerry asked.

?His wife died yesterday,? Harry pointed out.  ?If the coroner?s done with the body, then he?s probably at the funeral home by now.?

?Oh, right,? Jerry said.

I doubt it, Rachel told me. He?ll be at the lab.

?I don?t think so,? I told Jerry.  ?He?s probably at the lab. Unless the police have it locked off or something.?

Harry frowned.  ?Why would he be at the lab??

?He?ll want to find out for himself what happened to Rachel,? I said.  ?He?ll need the lab for that.?


Jerry pulled open the door to the stairwell, and held it open for Harry behind him.

?But the coroner?s report is probably done by now,? Harry pointed out. ?At least the cause of death, if not the actual formal report. What more does Grayson need to know?? He looked at me as he held the door open behind him.  I shook my head, and he let it clang shut as I walked right through it.

?He needs to know whether I killed her,? I said.  ?I remember his face when he saw me with  Rachel?s body.  He?s not going to just accept that it was a medical fluke.?

If you can?t convince him that it?s not your fault, he?ll carry that grudge forever, Rachel warned.

I found myself wondering whether Rachel?s marriage had been an unhappy one.

Yes, it was a bad marriage, Rachel told me. This was a surprise, because I had not consciously communicated the question to her. But I was trying to stick it out anyway.

No wonder she didn?t mind being dead.

Still, this was no time to think about Rachel?s marriage, or even our ability to communicate without the spoken word.  I had two living human beings to pay attention to as well.  They clattered down the stairs ahead of me. I could see the sound waves they generated as I followed behind.

Jerry glanced back up at me as he reached the second landing. ?What will Grayson do if he decides it was your fault?? he asked. 

?Try to kill me, I assume.?

?You really think so?? Jerry asked. ?I mean, he?s a professor and everything. You make him sound like a dangerous loony.?

I had to smile at the choice of words. ?Like me, you mean?  Yes, I really think so.?

?And this is the man you want to see, is it?? Harry said. ?Are you trying to destroy yourself??

?Not particularly.?

Another floor down. ?Then why do you want to see this man??

?I owe him an explanation.?

?If you?re right about his state of mind?and I don?t see any particular reason to believe that you are?then I don?t see how it helps him much.?

Another floor.

?And it certainly doesn?t help you much,? Harry continued.  ?You should let me take you back to Angland right now, while there?s still enough of you for my spell to find.?

?How are you going to do that?? I asked.  ?You can?t even touch me.  Besides, I thought your spell number one went to random worlds.?

And another.

?True, but spell number seven moves any well-defined subject to a well-defined destination,? Harry said.  ?I?ll get you there.?

?Perhaps you will,? I said, ?but not just yet.  I have to do this, Harry.?

Harry paused at the fifth floor landing. ?All right.  If you?re that determined, we?ll see it through.?

?Good.  Thanks.?

?Speaking of determined people, we saw those cops again while you were with your mother,? Jerry said. ?They came out of the stairwell, locked up  your dorm room and left again.?

Fourth floor.

?Did they say anything?? I asked.

?Not to us,? Jerry said.  ?We didn?t draw attention to ourselves.?

?Where did they go??

?Down the elevator.  The slow one.?

Third floor.

?You know, even if Grayson blames you, I don
?t think there?s much he can do to you,? Jerry said. ?He can?t touch you, any more than we can.?

?Maybe not here, he can?t,? I said.  ?But what if he follows me??

Harry looked back at me and frowned. Second floor.  ?Follow you?   How would he do that??

?I?ve been thinking about these experiments that made me, well, whatever it is that I am. Unstable, let?s say.  He designed those experiments.  What?s to stop him from duplicating the results??

?You mean, on himself?? Jerry asked.  First floor.  He held open the door again, and we stepped out into the dorm lobby.  Through the glass doors ahead of us, I saw Hennigan and Farrell drive away in their police car.

?That?s what I mean,? I said.  ?Quiet a second.  I want to try something.?  Remembering the times I?d accidentally heard radio signals without a radio, I looked off in the direction the police car had gone, and ?listened.?

??break-in at the lab where that professor died,? said a voice.

A returning signal crackled into life. ?On it,? said Cindy Farrell?s voice. The sound was distorted by the low-quality signal, but still recognizable.  I wondered whether I?d been distorted in transmission myself.

?He?s at the lab, for sure,? I said.  ?I heard it on the police band.?

Jerry shook his head. ?You are seriously weird, Chris?uh, Josh,? he said.  ?But I believe you.?

We started across campus toward the physics building.  This time I had to angle myself uphill instead of downhill.  It made no difference to me, but Harry was puffing by the time we reached the Quad.

?What gets me is that you?ve been a wizard, or at least an affront to the laws of physics, for less than a day,? Harry said, ?and you already have a mortal enemy. What will you do if he does try to kill you??

?Try not to get killed, of course.?

?Would you kill him??


You?d better not, Rachel said.

?I don?t want to hurt him,? I said.  ?I just want him to know what happened.?

?Maybe I?m naïve or something,? Jerry said, ?but I just can?t believe that Dr. John would try to kill anyone.  I think you?re projecting all this on him, because you feel guilty yourself.?

?I hope you?re right,? I said.

We got to the corridor outside the lab a few minutes later.  The sight of Hennigan unconscious on the floor told me that Grayson was still there, and that Jerry was wrong. Flashing lights could be seen beneath the locked door, and I could hear the familiar hum of equipment.

?Make sure Officer Hennigan?s okay,? I told my friends.

Then I walked?or floated, or flowed?through the closed laboratory door.

Next week: possibly the end of the serial, or almost the end, or the week I get stuck and it all comes to nothing.  Be sure to stop back next Saturday night to find out which!

The Real Joshua Wander
Joshua Wander: Two Fragments
Joshua Wander Lives (the history of the character)

Joshua Wander on BlogSpot:
Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight  Part Nine  Part Ten  Part Eleven

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight  Part Nine
  Part Ten  Part Eleven

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Cheese Story

Note: Noodle is not in this story.  I just like the picture.

John and Noodle circa 1987.  Noodle would have liked the cheese.It was about 1992. John had not seen his dad in roughly 30 years (divorce, parental kidnapping, detectives, new family, blah blah blah and it's not for me to tell the story anyway).  That was about to change. Sometime around Thanksgiving that year, John's sister, Martha, got us to drive up to Phoenix for a couple of hours with her and the elder Mr. Blocher.  And he was just this guy, you know?  There was no big emotional reconnection, no plan for father and son to reenter each other's lives, no fighting, no tears, nothing.  Just some guy John hadn't seen since he was ten or eleven years old. It wasn't until Martie's wedding and the telling of the Michael Jordan Story* that we learned that John's dad was a flagrant racist. That was the last time we ever saw him.

But this is not the Michael Jordan Story*. This is the Cheese Story. John says it's his story, not mine, but I'm the blogger in the family, so I get to tell it.  Anyway, I don't think he ever tells the story in real life.  I do.

So anyway, there we all were at Martie's condo or apartment (whichever it was), somewhere near Metrocenter.  For whatever reason, we decided to go to dinner together at the Phoenix location of La Parilla Suiza. These Arizona-based restaurants pride themselves on serving Mexico City-style food. "All our tacos, meat and cheese dishes are cooked on charcoal or grilled," their meager web site says.  Yes, there are tortillas and chips and guacamole, but it's not all carbs like most Mexican food. It's actually possible to get a Mexican-style steak there.

Did you notice what they said up there about cheese dishes? Aha!  Now we're getting somewhere.

All the menu items at La Parilla Suiza are numbered, so that gringos and gringas (especially snowbirds) don't have to struggle to pronounce the word "queso" correctly.  So anyway, John ordered a #25 (I'm guessing at the number here; it was a long time ago) and  a #5, when he meant to order, let's say, #24 and #5.

One of these was cheese soup.  The other was, quite simply, a large dish of melted cheese.  Queso con queso. The first, John had ordered intentionally, the second, really not.  No meat, no veggies.  Just cheese.

Stolen without permission from The Buffy Trivia Guide.Rather than tell the server he'd made a mistake, or order something else, he ate some of each, filled up on chips and salsa, and called it a meal.  Did he want a box for the rest?  No, thank you; he did not.  A man can only eat just so much melted cheese at one sitting before getting tired of it.

Still chuckling about John's meal of cheese with cheese, we paid the bill and went back to Martie's place.  When the time came to drive back to Tucson, Martie presented us with the leftover cheese, which she'd had the restaurant pack up for John anyway. John laughed and took it--and then snuck it into Martie's fridge.  See you later, Martie!  And off we went.

The next time we saw Martie was about nine months later, and without Mr. Blocher around. Sometime during the visit, Martie gave John the leftover cheese again, having stored it in her freezer all that time.  John made a big show of throwing it away--and then snuck it back into Martie's freezer before we left for home. 

We haven't seen it since.

It's been over a decade.  Martie is married now and living in Hawaii.

I can only assume that the cheese didn't make it to Hawaii.


* That's a pretty good story, too, but it's got kind of a downer ending.

Oh, speaking of John, there's good news today! John got a job! It's just a three month contract, editing technical manuals for a mining equipment company; but it's something.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Party to End All Parties - Literally

not a real party, but real Whovians depicted.Weekend Assignment #44: Recollect for all a humorous story of a party gone wrong. Emphasis on humorous -- Don't bring the room down with a stories that lead to divorces or the loss of a toe or anything (well, maybe the toe one would be okay, so long as it was your toe, and you can laugh about it now). Also remember that here on AOL, we do like to keep things in the "PG" range. You know what I'm talking about here.

Extra Credit: Party pictures, of course! (not necessarily of the same party you write about for the Weekend Assignment. Just, you know, you having fun in a party setting.)

Once in a while, John Scalzi comes up with a Weekend Assignment that, on first glance, seems to have no applicability to my life.  That's when I have to dig a bit, and find a way to write about it anyway.  Sometimes when I do, I come up with something that is meaningful to me, something that I might not have remembered were it not for my stubborn determination to do all the assignments.

This is one of those.

I'm not a partier. I'm shy, I don't drink, and the people I consider my friends tend to live far away. This is not a recipe for hanging out at parties with any frequency at all.

Our front door, Wholloween 1999.But for ten years or so, I was a member and sometime officer of the United Whovians of Tucson, a local Doctor Who fan club that now exists only as an email list (and a loose collection of people who occasionally contact each other in one way or another). We would meet every two weeks to chat and drink soda and possibly eat jicama (oh yeah, we were a wild bunch). Sometimes, for holidays, those meetings would be parties,whichbasically meant more food and maybe costumes (for the Wholloween parties) and decorations.

Eventually it got to be too much trouble to host these things, and as the club wound down we got into the habit of getting together at public places for a couple of hours.  Sometimes it was at Coffee Xchange at Grant and Campbell, other times at Coffee Etc. at Campbell and Glenn, sometimes someplace else.  (I bet you can already guess where I'm going with this.)

The worst Disneyland New Year's Eve photo ever taken.I think it was at the New Year's 1999-2000 party at Coffee Xchange (John and I were at Disneyland at the time--and here's an amusingly terrible photo to prove it) that the Whovians in attendance had practically a ringside seat for the shooting of some dangerous loony at the corner of Grant and Campbell by the future Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona.  But it was probably for Christmas 2002 that the already-defunct club made its most memorable attempt at a Christmas party and reunion.  The response seemed to be good, so my friend Kevin and I set off for Coffee Etc., full of hope and Christmas cheer.

Total attendance: five. Or was it only four?  Well, anyway, not more than five.

We had a good time, though. We ate together, chatted, and went our separate ways.  That was it.  The club was well and truly dead.

Within a day or two after that, several emails went out to the effect that "We were there. Where were you?"

Where, indeed?

I think there were five Whovians at Coffee Xchange that evening, one light away from the rest of us.  Or maybe there were four there, too.

Fortunately, Dr. Carmona did not show up at either venue that night.


Top: Cover of the final issue of TARDIS Time Lore. Art by Sherlock. Photos by KFB. Actually, the TARDIS door one may be Linda's.  I'm not sure.

I'll Do it Every Time

So here I am again: sitting in my office at work on 3 1/2 hours of sleep, doing something I absolutely should not be doing considering I have so much work to do, and considering that I am virtually certain to lose out on a substantial bonus because I won't have the 2004 books closed by the end of the month.  My right ear is ringing as loudly as ever, and although my cold's a bit better I am far from well.  I just ate a tuna sandwich from Circle K for breakfast.  Again. So what is the problem here?  Why don't I take better care of myself? Why don't I do what is good for me?

Because I have too much else to do, that's why.

I was up (almost) all night because until 10 PM Wednesday evening, I was busy working on the team paper that's due in class tonight.  Only two of my four teammates contributed any text or research to this paper. Probably 80% of the words are mine.  Again.  I think the previous week's paper was more like 90% my words.  And while I was working on this week's paper, Tuesday night and Wednesday night, from notes I did on Sunday and Monday, I was in IM with the one team member I do know.  She is angry that the other people aren't doing their part, and thinks we should complain to the instructor. But no, I think that would only reflect badly on us, as being unable to function properly in a team.  Bad enough that we had to beg our way onto this team in the first place.  Little did we know that two of its members would be such slackers.

So what am I supposed to do?  I've tried dropping hints, I've tried being a cheerleader, I've tried to state my position firmly but pleasantly.  They haven't responded.  They don't need to. They have me over a barrel. If they don't contribute, they know K. and A. and I will pick up the slack, because none of us want to finish our course work with anything less than an A in our final class. J's health is apparently so bad that she's been in the hospital over the weekend. I'm sorry about that, but UoP insists that you either show up and do the work or lose points, no matter what is going on.  I'm willing to cut her more slack than that, but if she's unable to do the work, weekafter week, then she should withdraw from the class.  I'm sorry, but the day my mom died (and you guys know what a big deal that was in my life), I was nevertheless in class, making a PowerPoint presentation with the rest of my team.  Another time, I managed to do a presentation despite literally having no voice at all.  (I made the computer talk for me.) If she's still in the class and on the team, J. should be able to provide at lease a token contribution, a couple of sentences perhaps.  And what is M.'s excuse? If I don't personally call (on top of all the emails) and beg for her input, she's off the hook?

So I put the team's stuff ahead of my individual work, and didn't start my individual assignments (other than the reading) until 10 PM on the night before class.  It turned out that the case study, based on an online simulation about settling interdepartmental strife to bring a product to market, was extremely long and difficult and complex. I finished it at 4:30 AM, after which I took a bath to wind down and give my many medications time to work.  Then I went to bed, still coughing and sniffling and waking John up.  Is this any way to run a life, or a marriage?  John certainly doesn't think so.

Tuoi and her regulars are used to seeing me type papers on the day of class.And of course today, I have to write my other individual paper at lunch, probably at Golden Corral.  Again. Regular customers there are getting used to seeing me typing away in there. It shouldn't be hard.  I'm going to write about the Tyco defendents in terms of obligations, ideals and consequences.

Two weeks from tonight, this course will be over.  After that, I'll probably never see J. or M. again, and what they do or don't do will no longer affect my life. Once that day comes, I fully intend to get adequate sleep, and maybe even get serious about dieting.

Gee, I hope that K., the one team member other than A. who actually pulls her weight, doesn't pick today to start reading this blog.  If she doesn't, I'm sure she'll be ticked off at my public complaining. M. and J. are friends of hers.  So why can't she get them to do the work?

Grumble, grumble.  Cough. Sniffle.  Yawn.

Back to work.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

George: The Rest of the Story

I'm strapped for time tonight (I'm behind on my homework, as usual), so I'll take this opportunity to finish off my tale of outrage and woe from my time working for George twenty years ago.  The following is partly cribbed from one of the ethics papers I wrote last week, and illustrated with the blurry photos of Store #1 that I managed to find tonight.
As you may recall, George is the one who gave me grief instead of sympathy after I did my best to protect his interests while being robbed at gunpoint.  But that's far from the sum of my complaints about my former employer.

part of my contest-winning Prince display George's basic stance was that if anything went wrong, it was somebody else's fault.  He made unreasonable demands, and pounced if you didn't meet them.  Certain favored employees were treated well, while the rest of us were criticized at every opportunity.  "I have to be perfect this week" was something I often said to myself, as I tried to avoid the man's further wrath after some real or imagined mistake on my part. 
The unfair and preferential treatment issue can be illustrated by the bonus program he set up circa 1984.  George forbade anyone to take notes about it (Sue did it anyway), deliberately set the goals so high that certain stores could not possibly meet them, and fudged the numbers so that only two of the six stores got the bonuses--including the small one managed by, you guessed it, his favorite employee.

The morning checklist was another good example of the problems George's employees faced.  This was a list of about twelve or fourteen tasks to be done in each record store each morning, from setting up the register and opening the door to vacuuming and dusting.  To do it all with with reasonable diligence would require about forty minutes of steady work, if nobody came into the store in all that time to demand your attention. So, when George came into a store and said, "Take fifteen minutes this morning to do a really good checklist," he was clearly asking the impossible.

Which leads me back to the other incident I started to tell you about last week:

Where's the sorceror's apprentice when you need him?The Set-Up:

As you may recall, I was managing Store #1 at a time when the company was having severe cash flow problems.  To stock his other stores with records, even though they were catalog titles rather than current bestsellers, George decided to remove all the records, prerecorded tapes and just-invented CDs from Store #1. We then moved the record bins around to create a smaller sales floor, kicking up dust in the process, and stocked it with silk wall hangings, T-shirts and other peripheral items.  I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon cleaning, and then passed this task on to Chris to do all evening as well.

Part of my contest-winning Springsteen display. Note the ticket counter, an obvious target for robbery.The next day, George demoted me from shift supervisor (and de facto manager) to ticket girl, in an attempt to goad me into quitting. The excuse given was that on the day after the record bins were moved, Store #1 was a dusty mess.  I'd dusted my heart out, trying to mitigate the fact that moving furniture after eleven years will inevitably put dust into the air, which will eventually settle again all over the place.  Clearly I was not at fault, but George never let facts or fairness get in the way of a good scapegoating. My ethical dilemma was this: should I allow myself to be maneuvered into quitting, bringing economic hardship on my family but saving George money, or stay and defend myself against the false charges?

The decision hinged on both ethical principles and practical ones:

Ethical Principles:

1. Altruism.  Despite everything, I still felt some sympathy toward George, and knew that his financial situation was poor.  Removing myself from his payroll would help the company stay afloat a little longer.  This would benefit George and his remaining employees, who would be more likely to get their paychecks. However, quitting before I had another job prospect would financially harm another innocent stakeholder, my own husband, John. George was far from innocent, but his employees deserved to be paid.  The greater good seemed in this case to indicate that, as Spock famously said in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few—or the one.”

2.  Integrity.  To make a stand for truthfulness, another ethical value, can be an act of integrity, especially if a person behaves this way consistently. Although I am sometimes guilty of not volunteering uncomfortable truths, I try never to lie to anyone. To allow George to lie about why he wanted me to quit, impugning my workmanship and my truthfulness in process, was an affront to my sense of integrity.  To quit seemed at the time to be condoning his lie, but it could be argued that accepting the demotion and staying on gave the lie equal creedence.

Practical and Selfish Considerations:

Store #1, featuring the Prince display again. Arguing for my quitting was the opportunity to selfishly reduce my stress over a job that had become nearly intolerable, and take a “vacation” from working while I looked for another job.  On the other hand, a self-serving motive for not quitting was a desire to avoid a loss of income.  Another was my psychological need to defend myself from George’s false changes.  It may be argued that refusing to quit was to make a stand for the truth, but there was a selfish component to this stance.  Furthermore, neither alternative was likely to cause to George admit the truth.  In addition, there was a temptation to “spite George” by refusing to do what he wanted, a vengeful, malicious, unethical (but psychologically understandable) response to the situation.

Alternatives and Consequences:

There were only two alternatives in this situation: to quit, or to refuse to quit.  Quitting would have the negative consequence of reducing my family’s income, and the positive consequence (for others) of reducing company expenses, enhancing George’s ability to meet payroll. It also would give George the opportunity to disparage me to other employees, without me around to refute his claims.  Refusing to quit would protect my household income, keep me on hand to protect my reputation, and thwart George’s dishonest behavior. The negative consequences would be increased stress for me, more strain  on company finances,  which would ultimately harm other employees, and the possibility of being fired.

The Decision:

Initially, I told George that I could not afford to quit until I found another job. After this conversation, however, John encouraged me to quit, saying that we could manage without the income for a short time. I called George back and quit. I even wished him luck.  Afterward, I found myself getting more and more angry with him.  I was tempted to call George again and berate him for his dishonesty, but John convinced me to let my previous, “classy” last words to him stand.  (When I mentioned this to John last week, he was amazed that he ever said such a thing.)

The Aftermath:

I soon got a job with National Record Mart, where I was appreciated and treated well. I kept that job until John and I left town on our big trip of 1986, driving around with Jenny Dog, looking for a place where it wasn't winter.

Some time after I Ieft town, George was arrested for check kiting.  In an effort to keep the record store chain going, he and his wife had written over eight million dollars in checks back and forth between two overdrawn accounts over a period of six weeks.  I guess the $4.00 an hour he saved by getting me to quit wasn't enough to save him.


See also:
Bashing George
Robbery, Part Two

Monday, January 17, 2005

Holiday Trivia for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I've just been looking at a couple of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most famous speeches.  Oh man, that guy was an amazing orator, perhaps the greatest of the twentieth century.  I urge you to take a look at some of the things he said. Typing key phrases into Google will bring up lots of copies.  (But answer my trivia questions first!)

I was eleven years old when he was murdered, and even I knew I was a secondhand witness to important history, in an amazing, often horrible year. Vietnam was a big mess and getting bigger, RFK's murder was still to come, and George Wallace was running for president. 

Around the end of that summer, my Mom staged her musical and political revue They'd Rather Be Right. The most touching part of it was a slide show, featuring pictures etched on our memory:  the assassinations and funerals of JFK, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. These were accompanied by the Association song Requiem for the Masses, which probably explains why a member of that group was in the audience for one of the perfomances. 

Mom's major source of pictures for the slide show was Life Magazine.  One of the shots was of the cover about King's death, titled "The Murder in Memphis."  Mom's slide cut off the right edge of the cover, so that it said, "The Murder in Me."  When I objected to this, Mom said she liked it that way, because it would encourage people to consider their own murderous impulses.

Dr. King was a freedom fighter, seeking justice and equality, but he was more than that.  He believed in non-violent means of achieving his ends, a collaboration in which people of all colors could work together peaceably to overcome ignorance and ill-will.  It's an ethic in which the ends do not justify the means, and skin color is no excuse for hatred. 

All these years later, his words are still words to live by.  Too bad that so many of us today are too cynical, too parochial, too angry, to look from his mountaintop or share in his dream.


Holiday Trivia:

   1. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born
       a) on the third Monday in January
       b) January 15, 1929
       c) January 16, 1929
       d) January 17, 1929

   2. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, in one of his most famous speeches, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I have a dream that"....
       a) " day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'"
      b) " four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
      c) " day, down in Alabama...little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."
      d) all of the above, and more.

   3. In saying that he'd "been to the mountaintop" during his last speech  (April 3, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee) before the assassination, King was saying
       a) that he had been metaphorically handed God's commandments for a new age of freedom and equality
       b) that he had reached the heights of fame and accomplishment
       c) that he had seen the metaphorical "Promised Land" of freedom and equality, and was not concerned that, like Moses, he might not reach it, because the people would.
       d) that some day all would see "the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Little Church Blogging

As I occasionally mention here, I maintain two blogs and about a dozen web pages for St. Michael's & All Angels Church here in Tucson.  I just spent the last hour or so updating the main blog and the schedule page, as I do every Sunday night.

As I've also mentioned from time to time, I'm no good at clothing the homeless, feeding the world, electing candidates, helping disaster victims, working for peace and justice, or any of that socially active stuff.  I believe in it, but I'm no good at actually doing it. I'm too shy, I'm too busy, and these are not where my talents lie.

So, next best thing: I sometimes help people who are good at that sort of thing get the word out.

If I were good at that sort of thing, Ila at our church would be my role model.  She's involved in all sorts of causes, but one of the main things she does is raise funds and supplies and volunteers to go down to Guatamala every year, where a large number of displaced Mayans struggle to survive in communities far from ancestral lands, in places not suited to growing their traditional crops.  I don't really have a good grasp of all the issues involved, but they are an oppressed people, and part of the reason why the second largest group of illegal border crossers in Arizona (after Mexican, of course) are Guatamalans. 

Anyway, I was over at Ila's house yesterday (on her front patio, actually, because I'm horribly allergic to cats and she has two of them), scanning in some of her Guatamala pictures.  A sample of her pictures, and her accompanying text from several sources, are below.  To learn more, see the St. Michael's schedule and ministries pages.


Guatamala Project - Pictures & Update
Summer Work, 2004.
Ila Abernathy & Nurse Sarah Roberts.
Photos: Ila Abernathy

Guatemala Project remains an ongoing, open ended, head-in-the-clouds and toes-in-the-mud, practical exploration of the provocative question asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Its strengths are continuity (the "intercambio" began in 1993), flexibility, respect for indigenous cultures and indigenous self determination, the collaborative nature of the work, and you.

Auxiliary mayor of Cabá presents an Ixil huipil (handwoven women’s blouse) to Ila, with thanks from the community. In addition to helping meet health needs in the communities, the Project purchased 100 pounds of beans, rich in iron and protein, for distribution in impoverished Cabá and Tsicusalá.

Photo by Ila Abernathy

Sarah uses a hemoglobinometer purchased with funds from Episcopal Community Services in Arizona to check for anemia. “Sharps” safety container and other items were donated by WorldCare. Carondelet St. Marys added prenatal and children’s vitamins, other medicines.

Photo by Ila Abernathy

Francisco (homemade violin) and Angel (guitar) play for us in front of the little clinic, Cabá.

Photo by Ila Abernathy

Pedro helps Juana to cross the river between Pal and Santa Rosa.

Two invitations:
Join a St. Michael’s Lenten work detail March 1st -11th.
“Adopt” one of the communities and cover Project costs in that location.

Unión Victoria is a coffee finca located in a temperate, mountainous area of Chimaltenango southwest of Guatemala City. The setting is visually spectacular, but the finca is old, coffee prices plunged at the time of resettlement, and corn, central to Mayan diet, culture, and religion, doesn’t grow well. People are struggling to survive.

Project Coordinator - Ila Abernathy. St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church 602 N. Wilmot Road, Tucson, AZ 85711, (520) 886-7292,

St. Michael’s Guatemala Project is an ongoing, non sectarian informal partnership with the Maya of the CPR Sierra [Communities of Population in Resistance of the Sierra] that continues a relationship begun in 1993. Focus areas include community health and health education, advocacy, arts and culture, mutual learning, and commitment to indigenous self determination.

Child's drawing, El Tesoro 31 de Mayo, Uspantán, Quiché 

Maybe I'll Post Something Cheerful Later Today

Blame this on the radio show New Letters on the Air. I'm not feeling particularly morose, really!

Visiting the Stone

not taken today, but you get the idea.It rained last week, but the grass is dry,
Faded, almost white, waiting
For another season, or
Better, artificial rain.
It's thick and sharp, hardy,
Ugly grass, meant largely
To keep the dirt in place.

The stone is dry and clean.
No mud, no blown dirt,
Hardly any leaves of grass cover
Name or dates, notes or masks,
Scroll or colorless rose, or
The nine engraved words, sung
So many years ago.
I sing them again, softly,
As she did before she died.

I don't talk to her, except
For an embarrassed "Hi, Mom."
I pause, and get
The long-handled-brush
From the back of the car.
I brush away the few stray leaves,
And then I drive away.

KFB, 1/26/05

"So don't be sad; there's nothing more to say."--RAJ, circa 1970

"Why does everything you write have to be so gloomy?" - Mom, circa 1974.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Holiday Trivia Answers 76-111

 Okay, here's the last batch of Holiday Trivia answers for the holiday season.  Sorry for the delay--I've been busy!

Question Seventy-Six: On the first three days of Christmas, what did my true love give to me, according to Bob and Doug McKenzie?
    d) three french toast, two turtlenecks, and a beer in a tree
    It  took them a few verses to think of putting the beer in a tree, however.

Question Seventy-Seven: Which candle in the Kinara is lit first on the second night of Kwanzaa?
    b) the black candle, representing unity
    Trick question. a) the first red candle, representing self-determination, is lit for the first time on the second night.  But the black candle is always lit first.

Question Seventy-Eight: Who were the Holy Innocents?
    a) the children slaughtered by King Herod in his failed attempt to kill Jesus

Question Seventy-Nine: On the fourth day of Christmas, what did my true love give to me, according to older versions of the song?
    b) four colly birds
    which means four collared birds

Question Eighty: What is represented by the four calling birds (or whatever), according to a discredited legend about The 12 Days of Christmas being a secret Catholic catechism?
     b) four gospels

Question Eighty-One: The fourth night of Kwanzaa celebrates the principle of Ujamaa, meaning
     b) cooperative economics

Question Eighty-Two: In different versions of the secret catechism theory, the five golden rings (or gold rings) for the Fifth Day of Christmas have been wrongly reported to refer to all of the following except
    d) five ring-necked golden pheasants
    That's apparently a real interpretation - the first seven days are all birds.

  Question Eighty-Three: The Twelve Days of Christmas end with
    c) Epiphany

Question Eighty-Four: Aside from being the Sixth Day of Christmas and the Fifth Night of Kwanzaa, December 30th is
     b) Rizal Day in the Philippines
    The Shire calendar has Yule, but not December.  A Paris hotel named for St. Lazare happened to have an advertised special that ended on 12/30.  And as far as I know, there is no official birthday of the blues--but I could be wrong! (Update: Sarah tracked the birth of the blues to W.C. Handy waiting for a train, sometime in 1903!)

Question Eighty-Five: The fifth night of Kwanzaa celebrates the principle of Nia, meaning
     b) having a goal or purpose

Question Eighty-Six: When was the first formal New Year's Eve celebration at Times Square?
    a) December 31st, 1904

Question Eighty-Seven: The sixth night of Kwanzaa celebrates the principle of Kuumba, meaning creativity. Part of this principle is the idea of doing doing "as much as we can" to benefit the community.  This night is also celebrated with
      b) a Kwanzaa Feast (Karamu)

Question Eighty-Eight: What year did DickClark first host Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve?
    b) 1972

Question Eighty-Nine: What year did the ball first drop in Times Square?
     c) 1907

Question Ninety: What did the city of Indianapolis introduce on 12/31/38 to combat drunk driving?
     c) the "drunkometer"

Question Ninety-One: Who was most associated with New Year's Eve before Dick Clark's annual gig got started?
     c) Guy Lombardo
     But I remember Captain Kangaroo introducing the parades when I was little.

Question Ninety-Two: Who helped to develop the song Auld Lang Syne as we know it?
     d) Robert Burns

Question Ninety-Three: The designation of January 1 as the start of the new year was first established by
    a) the Roman Senate in 153 BCE

Question Ninety-Four: Why would I pick today to mention the Frosty the Snowman TV special?
     b) Frosty's first words are "Happy New Year!"

Question Ninety-Five: Which of the following parades does not take place on New Year's Day?
    c) the parade of the Golden Bough

Question Ninety-Six: What is the name of the Rankin-Bass sequel to the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special?
     d) Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Question Ninety-Seven: What year was the first Tournament of Roses Parade?
    a) 1886
   However, Becky found another source that said 1890.  I can't find my original source with the other date, just several with the 1890 date.  Weird.

Question Ninety-Eight: Who or what is a "first-footer"?
       d) the first person to cross the threshold after midnight at at Hogmany celebration (a dark-haired gentleman is thought to bring good luck)

Question Ninety-Nine: Which of the following foods is not considered (somewhere!) to bring good luck if eaten New Year's Day (particularly at midnight in some cases)?
     c)  lobster
Eating lobster is considered bad luck, because of the way it moves backwards.

Question One Hundred: On the ninth day of Christmas, someone's true love received
     d) nine ladies dancing

Question One Hundred One: What did my true love give to me on the 9th day of Christmas, according to Bob & Doug?
     d)  they never got around to the ninth day, but sort of skipped ahead

Question One Hundred Two: On the tenth day of Christmas, someone's true love received
   c) ten lords a-leaping

Question One Hundred Three: Before reaching "the place where the child was," whom did the magi visit?
    b) Herod the Great

image borrowed from's_Crook/Question One Hundred Four: We Three Kings of Orient do we know there were three Magi, and that they were kings?
     d)  from traditions developed in the third through eighth centuries AD. They were more likely Zoroastrian astrologers.

Question One Hundred Five: What's been wrong with my 12 Days of Christmas questions recently?
      c) Pay attention, Karen: you've been running a day ahead in the numbering

Question One Hundred Six: Which of these is not an authentic song about the Magi?  
    d) Hey Hey We’re The Magi

Question One Hundred Seven: What does it mean if you find a thimble in your slice of Epiphany cake, at least according to St. Michael's and All Angels Church (and I'm sure they didn't make it up!)?
       c. you're supposed to bake the cake next year
      Okay, maybe Father Smith freely adapted the tradition to this.  As Becky said, other traditions about the thimble exist.

Question One Hundred Eight: What does Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night have to do with Epiphany?
    c) Wild behavior in the play echoed Epiphany revelries in his time.
It may have been first performed on a Twelfth Night, but probably not in 1602, more likely 1601.

Question One Hundred Nine: Alleged relics of the three Magi are kept in a cathedral in
    b) Cologne
    At various times they were also in Constantinople, and later Milan, but they ended up in Cologne. However, Becky says some went back to Milan.  Clearly, I need to rewrite this question.

Question One Hundred Ten: What is the full name of Epiphany in the Episcopal calendar?
      c. The Epiphany or the Manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles

Question One Hundred Eleven: Besides the arrival of the Magi, Epiphany celebrates
     a) the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Jesus
     All three events are sometimes depicted in triptych (three panels).


Winners, Questions 1-111:
Becky Y: 95 of 111, for 85.49%  95 / 111
Sarah K:   59 of  111, for 53.15%
Jeff: 34 of 111, for  30.63%

And the prizes?  I don't know!  But I'll think of something.  Suggestions, anyone?