My First Grocery Shopping Trip, and My Second, and My Third

A friend, one of those from way back in the old days, picked me up from the airport.  With a light drift of snow coming down, we went the wrong way on Middlebelt Road, but had the chance for a nice long conversation.  It lightened the blow for me of what could have been perceived as my retreat, like the military kind and not the R&R kind.  I hated to have to leave my big city life, and having a friendly voice ease me down from it was better than going back to an empty house in the suburbs alone.

It was late after our detoured drive, so I went to Meijer’s, that perennial favourite of all Michiganders.  Oh the late night Meijer’s stories I could tell, but those will be for another day.  Anyhow, lacking all creativity after the trauma of moving, I got a couple of frozen dinners and happily microwaved them (a luxury I lacked in New York) for a warm meal.

Soon I was at Meijer’s again.  Meijer’s has everything.  Meijer’s is wonderful.  Meijer’s is open 24/7, which well suits my accustomed hours (i.e. late).

You see, in New York you can only buy as much as you can carry; and if you want good groceries, whether you walked or went on public transit, you must budget at least 45 minutes to two hours for travel each way, so that’s a half day’s trek and coming home with sore arms.  It’s such easy living to drive five to ten minutes, and fill my car trunk with anything I want – two 2 litre bottles of  soda, oops pop,  no problem!  I went there again, and again, like I was doing some kind of hoarding of the act of grocery shopping itself with the available resources; my mind still in NYC mode, as in get what you can when you are out, while it’s on your way.

And have you seen the prices?  Ten items for $10 and the eleventh item free?  I spent nearly two and a half hours in there deciding what to get, because I just couldn’t decide.  Ten bottles of Vernors?  (One day I may expound on the lengths I went to to get Vernors in New York, some Detroit never leaves you.)  No, wait, I can get tissues and soups and cookies, too.  It was almost too much to handle.  And milk by the gallon for less than $2?  I nearly had to post an Instagram on that one.  One of these days I’m hoping the novelty will wear off and I won’t be going to Meijer’s every day.


The First Thing I Remember Writing

Motown Writers Blog Challenge 2017 #1:  The First Thing I Remember Writing

I’m going to go backward and makeup the first entry.  I wasn’t around yet during the beginning of this exercise, but it’s a good one.

Somewhere in my single digit ages, there was tripled lined paper, you remember the kind, thin newsprint with the light blue lines, the middle one dashed, and fat pencils.  I don’t have a specific memory to go on with those, but I’m sure that would have been my earliest writing experience.  I do recall painting in watercolours at an even younger age.

The first time I remember really writing, I was about seven or eight years old, reading some age appropriate diary of an historical figure, possibly Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I began keeping a diary.  It was in a steno notebook, the kind with the spiral at the top and the vertical line bisecting each page down the middle as well as the usual horizontal lines with which to keep our writing neat.  I had well spaced cursive handwriting, slightly jagged as cursive was a relatively new skill, but my penmanship was always good.  It was a school assignment, but I kept up with it afterward.

I ended up keeping a diary for most of my life.  There are volumes and volumes, most often on just plain ruled paper, sometimes bound in a notebook, sometimes loose pages in a three ring binder, and a few of those pretty hardbound diary books you could get at a bookstore.  I kept a diary all through my youth.  At the height I was avidly reading diarists too, like Anais Nin, so much so that when I saw bumper stickers with the letters “NIN” I thought there was a revived interest in her, and it took me years to learn of the band called Nine Inch Nails.  I was really glad that I had the vision to record the year I spent in Europe, living the Audrey Hepburn life, as some were wont to label such a venture for a young woman.  There are entries written on a train behind the Iron Curtain and at sidewalk cafes off the Etoile in Paris.

The electronic age brought my journaling to digital formats, but they don’t feel quite the same; the thinking process is different writing longhand than it is when you type.  It’s been years since I’ve had the callus on my middle finger which held the writing instrument in place just so.  Towards the end of my longhand writing days, I graduated to a beautiful, red Montblanc fountain pen.  I bought a leather slip case to keep it protected and a rich, turquoise ink that hinted at the colour of my previous favourite rollerball.

I don’t diary so much anymore.  As much as I liked doing it, I blog now.  I wonder if I may have become unnecessarily verbose, the speed of typing faster than handwriting.  I blog when I have strong feelings about societal ills, or about when I’ve been wronged, or about things I come across that were just a little bit notable (the big things are too obvious, those mid-range peculiarities are more interesting).  The content is a little different too; you diary to yourself, you blog to say something to the world at large.  Perhaps most sadly, my beautiful penmanship has deteriorated to chicken scratch.


What My Office/Writing Room Looks Like

Motown Writers Blog Challenge 2017, #4:  What My Office/Writing Room Looks Like

As a person in geographic transition, I don’t have a fully sanctified and established writing space yet.  But having lucked upon a computer station with functioning audio where I often write, I can tell you what a seminal element of one of the most productive workspaces of my past is.

I spent my college years with my ears covered in headphones plugged into a jambox, a stack of cassette tapes, and Roxy Music’s “Flesh+Blood” album playing continuously.  At that time, I remember I even had to hand flip the cassette when one side was done; the luxury of the automatic side changer hadn’t been developed yet.

I can’t remember even how I came to like Roxy Music, as they weren’t that popular in the United States, but from the aisles of Ann Arbor’s legendary Schoolkids Records, I somehow acquired a collection of Roxy Music, and determined that “Flesh+Blood” was the best one by which to read textbooks and do homework.  Perhaps I was attracted to the stylish debonair of Bryan Ferry, whose “Boys and Girls” album had arrived on this side of the Atlantic.  Anyhow, I do remember even at freshman year, I was cautiously lending my Avalon album to a roommate who found nostalgia in the titular tune.  What a classic that Avalon is; I’ve listened to it a trillion and 99 times and never get sick of it.

Back then, the Walkman was already old hat, everyone had one.  There were discussions of how our music was corrupting our minds (of course), and being plugged in, much to the chagrin of my parents, actually improved my concentration and efficiency with schoolwork.  Around this time or maybe before, the binary hemispheres of the brain were popular topics and it was researched and reported on that listening to music was indeed conducive to learning and thinking.  With Flesh+Blood in my ears, I could devour entire heavy volumes of textbooks in one sitting, understand, and remember them, a feat only a supernatural interference could produce in me now.




What My Book Isn’t About

Motown Writers Blog Challenge 2017, #3:  What My Book Isn’t About

I could do an angry reaction to the supposed things accompanying unfounded assumptions by arrogant others that my book should be about, but I will simply tell you.  My “not about” is drenched in pure envy and jealousy.  Every night when I close the French doors to the bedroom wing of the house I think about it, when I reach my arm around before the rest of me to turn on a light in a windowless hallway, the shadow cast by a many armed cactus that is particularly ominous at the witching hour, and especially when the neighbours’ basement light protrudes a glow seeming to come from the underworld.

Perhaps it is because I grew up in the region well known for its infamous Devil’s Night, or that I am from a culture whose ghost stories are scarier than yours.  It’s that I believe that makes it all the more frustrating that my book is not about ghosts.

I seek it out – watch horror movies, read ghost stories, consume an endless diet of videos and listicles on haunted objects on the internet.  In every city I visit an undeniable favourite is the after dusk ghost tour.

In New Orleans, it was a cliche dark and stormy night, when I captured my first light orb at Jackson Square.  In many a frame of my digital camera there were droplets of rain on my shots, and then suddenly, as if it thought I wouldn’t notice, that spherical gathering of light thought to be the manifestation of an otherworldly being.  It was only on that one shot, surely proof of its reality, even confirmed by the tour guide who was into the academic, historical side of ghosttouring and decidedly not of the costumed exaggeration kind.

In my own city, it had become a Halloween ritual to seek out a deathly activity.  One year I participated in a Victorian funeral at the Merchant House Museum, known to be haunted by the stubborn spinster daughter who kept the home a veritable museum as she lived in it, unwanting to change with the times when electricity and the like came around.  According to her wishes, we walked about the house by candlelight, and in the front parlor, we lowered our heads at the casket.  We viewed the bed, constructed of rope that engendered the phrase “sleep tight” into our vocabulary, where one or more of the family members had passed.  We listened intently at the staff recounting first hand experiences as we watched shadows traverse the walls, car headlights or… we’ll never know for sure.

In Newport, Rhode Island, summer home of the Gilded Age, I spent the most indulgent weekend …staying up half the night watching a marathon of ghost hunting shows.

Heck, I’ve even made up ghost legends for places I’ve visited when I found the local lore wanting.  Ballynahinch, the centuries old castle in the heart of Connemara in Ireland, is one such place.  Warmed by hearty victuals and convivial music, we found a spacious room to take a cooling pause.  My friend took a seat on an overstuffed sofa, and I across from her.  I glanced above her head and a gruesome portrait of a hunt showing more blood and less sport than the usual pleasantry of a living room painting.  It was a very large specimen and immediately became the victim of my overactive imagination when we couldn’t squeeze a ghost story out of the proprietor.

At The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, mediums of the paranormal had calculated the night of our tour to be especially propitious and thus there were more than your usual number of psychic types present.  The unhappy homelife of one of our most celebrated authors was sure to result in psychic residue.  Even the extensive number of pets buried on the property surely “left something behind.”  As I descended a staircase to the basement, one after another before me and after me turned as they all noted the undeniable occurrence that had just happened.  One woman lost her breath and had to sit down.  As I asked what they saw, a couple, a man and a woman described something as clear as day.  There was a stir of startled excitement running through the entire group.  And I seemed to be the only one who couldn’t see it.  Yes, that is the sad fate of one who soooo wants to see a ghost.



Why I Write My Genre

Motown Writers Blog Challenge 2017:  Why I Write My Genre

Because I think I’m funny. (haha)  Everyone probably thinks they are funny and sometimes it’s true and sometimes, if we can be honest behind closed doors, we are not (and you probably don’t know who you are).  In recent days, ok, like the millions of others online I e-date, and “sense of humour” is so cliche, every man knows that “a woman likes a man who makes her laugh” but really, do you ever take that advice?  Unless you want me to laugh at the size of your penis in the bathroom mirror…

No my genre is not meant to be sitcom haha funny, one of the original tenets established by one of my early days English teachers is that you have to catch their attention – personally at that time gore was my favourite method of attention catching but describing the full blood fountain in a decapitation isn’t as good as seeing it – so I think that writing might just have to have a little bit of entertainment to capture, and keep, attention.  There are many people out there who don’t choose the eye strain of what they did in the arduous days of school as their preferred method of spending their freetime, so gotta give them something to laugh about – who’d have known that reading could be …fun?

I can’t quite claim to be keen, but I’m an avid observer of people, and well people are funny.  And that’s funny in many different ways – some people are downright haha funny, some people are curious/unusual/strange funny, some people are quirky funny, and the depths of humour of different types go on and on.  While there are myriad types of traits I could choose to observe in human beings, finding humour in them is one of the more uplifting.  In and of itself it’s an optimistic viewpoint.  Yes, some of our most exalted comedians have been manic depressives, but it might have been their efforts at finding humour in life that kept them on the terrestrial side of suicide.

So maybe I’m not funny.  But I got an A in English in college and my prof said that I was good, so that unequivocally gives me the authority to write and call myself a writer.  And I got you reading this far, haven’t I? – gotcha!  Even when I was writing stuff that was mandated to be humourless and excitement-free, someone once sneaked in a review that said my expository writing was “lyrical.”  I once got a down-talking-to for being too “lyrical” – so you know I was hella entertaining.  And maybe a bit delusional, but aren’t delusional people the funniest kind?

As a linguist, just another name for “wordsmith” of different languages, understanding humour is the mark of really understanding a language.  It’s an understanding of the culture around a language, a context, and being able to eek out observations in language that really make me admire a writer.  Did it not make you smile when you really learned Shakespeare to discover he was one creative insulter and full of dirty jokes?

So that’s why I write the way I write.  Hopefully you learned something about life, and maybe I got a chuckle out of you, too.








City Girl Goes Home

At the confluence of several events last year, I made the decision to move to Detroit, back to Detroit.  I’m a traveller.  Not as in the British type (thought I’m a fan of the show “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”), but as in I don’t get culture shock going somewhere new, but sometimes find coming home thereafter a bevy of awkwardness.  So I foresee at least a full year’s worth of nostalgia and a little bit of faux pas mixed in as I reacquaint myself with Michigan after Big City Life.

I went away for college, too, and when I returned people asked, “How was it?”  I thought it an incredibly unfair question to have to describe the most seminal years of your life in a different place within their attention span of one sentence.  So how different is life elsewhere?  You are about to find out.  I guess this is my vengeance, a whole blog’s worth of it.

Which big city?  The biggest, New York.  And as the follow up question usually goes, I lived in Manhattan, at the confluence of a couple of locales you may have heard of too, Central Park and Fifth Avenue.  For those in the know, I can refer to the cooler designation of Harlem, which at the current time is The Neighbourhood; the new Harlem Renaissance is hopping up there.  Non New Yorkers may think it’s the ghetto, but ghetto is the new black – wait that doesn’t sound quite right – just trust me, it’s hip, fun, and cool.