Saturday, April 28, 2012

In The City of Brotherly Love

We took I-81 S to I-476 E, bound for The City of Brotherly Love. “We” consisted of me, my charmers and my sister who had a surgery appointment at the Wills Eye Institute, one of the top hospitals in the area for that specialty. I was glad to lend a helping hand to my sister, and I was also excited to be in Philly again after all these years. Excited, but apprehensive. Last time I was there, about ten years ago, I had to fight my way out hanging onto a runaway semi truck ... but that made-up tale is for another time.

We arrived the day before the surgery, and had booked rooms at the Holiday Inn Express on Walnut Street. As I steered the car into the parking garage, I hear, “STOP!” An older black gentleman was running after me. I’ve learned to obey when someone yells at me, so I braked. He looked a little upset and I don’t blame him. Turns out I tried to go the wrong way on the ramp, but he also needed to know how long we’d be staying so he could tell me to park on Level 5.

I thanked him, and we went on our way.

We checked in and carried our bags to the 17th floor of the 20 story building. Ava was fascinated by altitude and the cityscape surrounding us—the buildings towering above us, the surrounding neighbors and birds at eye level, and the cars and people shuffling below like tiny bugs.

Little d reminded me how much she enjoys cities, and I agree. To a point. Nice to get anything you want whenever, etc. But I’m more of a slower pace of life kinda guy.

Tired as we were, we managed to publish the latest Pulp of the Week at BEAT to a PULP while my daughter kept busy pulling out every tissue from the dispenser in the sink vanity then “organizing” them on the floor.

For the two days we were there, we walked the four blocks between the hotel and the eye center. It was a small slice of Philly but we enjoyed the few sights we saw and also interacting with the people. Motorcycle Lady in the elevator, Cashier Girl at Five Guys who suggested Ava should be in baby magazines, Best Bedside Manner Doctor and Nurse Nice at the hospital, Hotel Front Desk Clerk, etc.

If I had based my view of this majestic city on the first visit I would have ranked it rather low but—and here I go with my infamous analogies—Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.” Switch man for city and him for it and those are my thoughts on Philly. I got to know the city a little better and I’m a fan.

Have you been to Philadelphia? Your thoughts? Or what city would you recommend?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Something Missing

It's six at night and I'm setting the alarm clock for 4:30 a.m. I should be writing but nothing is flowing--not even shoddy stuff. I call my charmers, who are visiting Denise's parents, and they are doing well. Little d puts me on the speaker phone and I talk to Ava for a few prized minutes, enough to say the bedtime prayer that my mom taught me: In my little bed I lie. Heavenly Father hear my cry. Lord protect Ava Elyse through the night. Bring her safe to morning light. Amen. God bless everybody. A few more words then I say goodnight.

Damn, I miss them.

I order season three of ARCHER on my Kindle Fire and watch the episode with Burt Reynolds. Funny as H-E-double-hockey-sticks. After, I read a chapter of Charles Bukowski's WOMEN but I don't feel like reading. Not Hank's fault, I'm just read out for the day. A magazine on the stand features Rihanna on the cover. I like her. Pretty face and a helluva voice. Looks like she's starring in a movie and I wonder why so many singers try their hand at acting? The natural evolution of pop stardom?

I haven't checked my book sales in awhile. Is there a chance I've sold a few zillion titles and can pack it in and travel to my girls?


I've sold a little over a thousand in twenty-one days. Not bad but considering I get thirty-five cents a book, I'll keep the day job. No complaints, mind you. Just reality.

Maybe I'll watch another episode of Archer.

I hope your weekend is going well. I'd love to hear what everybody is doing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

With Them

No matter what else is going on, everything is better when I'm with them.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Homeless Woman and the Chickadee Bitches

Grocery day has turned into a smooth-operating routine for me and my wife. I drive and stay in the car with my littlest charmer—she always falls asleep in her car seat on the way—while the original charmer does the shopping. This gives me a quiet moment to catch up on some reading so I never leave home without a book in tow.

We usually go to the next town over to the super mart where poor folks can still get a deal or two on food. Most of the time, Ava sleeps soundly because I've learned to park far away from the hustle and bustle where people are slamming car doors and carts into the return racks, they’re locking their vehicles with that annoying remote chirp, or they’ve left behind a dog to yippity-yap the entire time they’re in the store. Any of which wakes my baby up, then she doesn't get the rest she needs and I don't get to my latest read.

On a recent trip, I tucked us away at the quiet end of a row in the corner of the lot, facing the store so that I can watch for my wife when she’s done shopping. It’s an unseasonably beautiful day for March, and I have my window open to enjoy some fresh air. As I’m licking a finger and turning the page, I see a woman approach my lone outpost. She is pushing a grocery cart overflowing with what appears to be bottles and an assortment of oddities. She is the picture of a homeless woman: rumpled layers of raggedy clothes, no shoes but her feet were wrapped with some gauzy cloth, and scraggly drab hair frizzing out from under a frumpy garden-style hat. She’s hefty and weathered and reminds me a bit of Anne Ramsey/Momma from the movie Throw Momma from the Train but with less teeth.

She stops by my open window.

"Can you spare a couple of bucks?" she says brusquely.

"Sorry, I don't have any cash on me."

She looks at my car and I can sense she believes me. I'm scrunched up in a 1990 Honda Civic hatchback.


"Yeah, sure." I reach into the cup holder that’s overflowing with quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies—I had been meaning to clean it out for months anyhow. She takes a handful that I offer and pours it into the right front pocket of her coat. She seems to soften a bit and says thanks.

She takes a hand off her cart and places it on the car window frame, peering in. "Good book?"

I turn the cover her way. She reads, "Post Office. You're reading about the post office?" Her curled up lip makes me grin.

"It's a funny book so far."

"Why you reading here?"

I point to the back seat with my thumb. "My baby girl is getting some rest. My wife’s inside shopping."

She softens more. "Oh, I didn't see her back there. What a sweetheart. What’s her name?"


"Oh, like the actress?"


"Why I haven't thought of her in years. I liked her in Casablanca."

There’s a quick pause while I decide if I should correct her film mistake. I decide not to, and she goes back to the book. "Geez, the post office. What folks read these days. Enjoy your book," she says with a tone of sarcasm.

And with that, she wheels her cart around and begins making her way to the next row over when she’s almost struck by a car with two teenage girls racing for an open space close to the store. I’ve seen close calls in my life but this near-miss is by a nose hair, and I’m sure if it wasn’t for the surprisingly flash reflexes of the homeless woman, these girls would have run her down. In a typical it’s-not-my-fault response, the girl's lay on the horn while a stream of expletives is unleashed by Homeless Woman.

The girls park and jump out of daddy's car with their perfect hair and tan bods. As they wiggle their way into the store, they look back over their shoulders and flip the bird at Homeless Woman. I'm betting these two have never considered they could be in the same shoes, or cloth, one fine day, but I suppose they're still a couple divorces and several kids from that possibility.

I step out of my car and ask, "Are you alright?"

"Fine. Those little chickadee bitches almost killed me."

"Yeah, I saw that."

"Wouldn't they be surprised if I was waiting for them by their car when they came out. They wouldn't expect that, now would they?"

"I bet not, but I’m sure you don't want any trouble either."

A grin now crosses her face, "Maybe I do." And she turns and leaves.

I see my wife pushing a full cart my way, and I go open the back hatch to load the groceries. I point out my new parking lot friend who’s now in the pedestrian walkway directly across from where the little chickadee bitches parked—she's waiting for them—and as we pull away, I begin telling my wife the story. Two weeks later as I think back on it, I hope that Homeless Woman gave them hell.