Cruising the Green of Second Avenue

Wild Child Publishing has issued the second volume of short stories in Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. The tales take up where Vol. I left off — bringing back Klein the Biker, Straight Charlie and Sammy the Madman while introducing new characters stumbling over life’s difficulties in the late 60s. Vol. II is an e-book published by Wild Child Publishing that you can download, save as a pdf (Adobe) file and print. Read both volumes and see that life isn't all that serious. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other online book sellers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Things She Left Behind

Judy complained uncharacteristically of being tired and in pain, and half an hour later she was gone. It was the end of a 46-year marriage in which “she” and “I” became “we.”

The months since then have been a long and difficult, costly in terms of burial arrangements and mental turmoil, and unusually quiet with just half the household noise and even less conversational chatter.

Slowly, I’m uncovering the bits and pieces of her life that I wasn’t aware of. There is loose change in the pockets of her jackets hanging in the closet. Clothes and purses and scarves that still have store tickets attached. Our children’s greeting cards for Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day from years ago. Utility bill receipts from a decade ago.

Tucked in her bedside table were half a dozen hung bau, little red envelopes Asians use to gift children or elders with money on the Lunar New Year. Each contained a $20 bill. These — along with the clothes and purses — were gifts just in case someone came to our house and was celebrating an event. These were stored and ready just in case she suddenly needed a birthday present or there was a surprise guest during a holiday.

All I have left are the things she left behind.

We took Judy home to Northfield, Mass., for burial in the cemetery where she’ll be with my parents, brothers, grandparents and great-grandmother.

And then a curious thing happened. Following the interment service, the pastor came to me and said, “While you were speaking this leaf fell on your shoulder.”

I take it as an omen, that Judy was listening. And I have more to think about now than the things she left behind.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Enjoying the Slings and Arrows

Sorry to have been away for so long, but I’ve been writing. And reading. And socializing. But I had a sudden insight this morning that I’d like to share. I published a humorous satire yesterday on Every Day Fiction. “Brand Management in an Age of Anxiety”, at One of the many nice things about EDF is that the publication invites reader comments and assigning “stars.”

This story garnered 63 comments, and replies to those comments, and replies to the replies — all in 24 hours. Some were quite critical, others uplifting. Some went entirely off the track and was the subject of the publisher’s cautionary notice about do’s and don’ts in commenting. So the insight came to me that reading a story — even a novel — is at heart a Thematic Apperception Test. This psychological test checks underlying motives, concerns, and the way people see the social world through stories they make up about ambiguous pictures of people.

Some readers were turned off by the brand names in my story (even though this was the magnet that drew two superficial people together). Others felt the story needed more editing, that they were “fooled” initially into thinking the male author was a male narrator, and that this wasn’t the “reality” they were expecting.

(In full disclosure, let me note that EDF balked at buying the story until I had rewritten it. Their editorial team was clear in what bothered them, and I corrected the copy so it read more smoothly and clearly.)

My response to these varied reactions is that they’re all simply marvelous. It shows the wonderful diversity of our makeup, our subliminal literary expectations, and the “anchors” we drag with us to a reading task.

I often say I write hoping there will be some one — or more — who exclaim, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve felt that way myself.” This particular insight into reader kinship came to me years ago when I was editing travel guides. I received a letter saying, “I’m wheelchair bound and can’t get out, so I read your guides and imagine I’m traveling the country.”

Those are the people I write for. That stranger out there who comes into my world. The other critics — often right, sometimes wrong — are vastly amusing.