“Schneeballs?”

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Cold morning out here in the real west (no surprise). I’m sad that one cup of coffee is (for good reasons, not the least of which the second doesn’t taste that good) the limit. That one cup is so good…

The chilly draft in my 90 year old house swirls around my wool-socked feet. I have two manuscripts on the table here, and one has been printed into a book. The best part of that is that I spelled the faux title of my own novel wrong. Never mind it’s the name of members of my own family. I’m an endless sense of amusement and frustration to myself.

The thing of printing a manuscript into a book is that it’s very helpful to me in the proofreading process. This isn’t a legit book in terms of formatting and other stuff, but it’s book-like.

It’s been edited professionally, something I wish I had been wise enough to do for Martin of Gfenn. Every subsequent book has had that advantage and it’s major. There’s also the thing (with a self-published book) that each time you need to deal with the manuscript you risk typos. At this point with Martin of Gfenn the typos are mostly spacing problems, still, who wants that?

In any case, yesterday when the book-like-thing arrived I thumbed through it and realized (for the first time) that I like the story. I saw what I have done — I have written a love story that’s not smarmy and predictable. I have created a complex female protagonist with integrity, passion, and genuine feelings. My male protagonist (antagonist?) never overcomes his flaws or sees them; he’s consistently himself and worthy of Aescylus or some guy like that.

When I started this book, I fought it all the way. I didn’t want to write about a woman, and there was nothing about the male hero that I liked.

One thing that happens when a person writes fiction is they soon discover that the people in the stories are not “their creations” at all but the emerge all on their own and demand to be themselves.

But they’re pretty loose about how you spell their names…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/rdp-thursday-loose/

Progress… and Audiences

I’ve finished (finished? ha ha ha ha) the edits on The Schneebelis Go to America aka The Price. It’s been a long haul but I don’t think I can bitch with any justification because no one is making me do this and it’s a purely elective and rather minor activity in the grand scheme. In the scheme of my life, though, it’s pretty important, I guess.

I don’t think the book is very good, but I’ve done what I often do, I’ve gone to a self-publishing platform and I’m “publishing” one copy so I can see it as a book and do a read through in a different format than this screen or 8 1/2 x 11 pages.

I’m still not sure if I’ll go to the trouble of trying to sell it. The books I’ve already written didn’t (and don’t) sell so why would I?

Am I discouraged? No, not in the least. Since 1998 when I began writing Martin of Gfenn (that’s 20 years ago) I’ve gone through a very wide range of experiences as a writer. I suppose it’s a kind of maturation. Martin of Gfenn is my best book, but it still has typos. The other two novels benefited from professional editing. And I consider My Everest to be another thing completely.

I can’t answer for why other people write. I write because I like to, that’s the biggest thing. If it works it’s just a lot of fun. When I was teaching, writing was a thing apart from hours and hours in the classroom, and it was something at which I could succeed on some level. Teaching remained a career where I never got tenure and constantly taught part-time — not my fault, it didn’t mean I was a bad teacher, it just made more sense economically for schools to hire part-time vs. tenured faculty. That frustration and relentless impotence about my future was good training for submitting novels to agents.

But there are other audiences and different successes. A few years ago I decided I wanted my one remaining (in her right mind) aunt, the youngest of my mother’s sisters, to know who I am. I had a very intense feeling she needed to know that I was OK, that I have a good life and a little something about what I do. I sent her Martin of Gfenn which she loved. I followed it with Savior and The Brothers Path and explained that those two novels were fiction based on what I knew about my grandma’s family — my Aunt Dickie’s mother’s family. — our family. She loved The Brothers Path and had her church book club read it.

Her last letter to me was March 2017, and in it, she told me how the book club had liked the book and what was going on in her life. And she asked me to keep writing the story of my grandma’s family. Whether this book is any good or not, my Aunt Dickie would have liked it. She died just before Thanksgiving last year.

 

Words

OK, here’s the deal. “We as writers” need to (mostly) use words our audience can understand without stopping to look them up. That’s the vocabulary imperative for any writer. “Fleek” is not going to make the cut long term or short term, no matter how “fleek” it is. Another important point for us, as writers, is that no words are inherently “bad” or “good.” There are words that are the right words for the job and words that are not the right words for the job. The badness or goodness of a word is not inherent in the word at all, but in its fitness for use.

Lots of words pass through our world as fads. Some of them are really groovy, but they exist for a short-lived purpose. Sometimes words are employed by the young to separate them from the larger tribe. I get that. I used to be young, and so much of what the older people did made no sense. I now see that youth’s special vocabulary came from a deep (atavistic?) desire to reciprocate the incomprehensibility. Golding wrote about this in Lord of the Flies.

Words are the paints of writing. The reason we make kids learn “big words” is so they have a bigger paintbox. Who knows what they’re going to be when they grow up and stop being groovy, phat, bad, wack and fleek? The right words give personality, place and time to characters in a story, precision to a technical document, clarity to an analysis of an argument. The right word can circumscribe a sunset, hold a mountain range, light up a river. The wrong word strikes a discordant note so abrasive that readers flee.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/13/rdp-saturday-fleek/

What Am I Doing? Quotidian Update 43.2.a6

OK, so here I am, almost 6 months post op from a hip replacement, riding the Bike to Nowhere, walking the dogs, doing weight training, editing my novel. My life is mostly editing (writing?) and physical training. It’s not a bad life, and I’m sure not complaining, but yesterday I wondered “Why?”

I don’t have an answer. All I can say is that I can now do 30 bridges and 30 squats. My physical therapist would be proud of me and pleased I’m doing them. Still, I haven’t told him, haven’t stopped by to say “Hello!,” nothing.

The local ski area — Wolf Creek — is the first to open in Colorado. It doesn’t have a LOT of snow, 20 inches, but I know from experience in California that’s plenty if you’re desperate. The mountains on all sides are white and beautiful. Fall proceeds slowly giving the dogs and me plenty of time to enjoy the changes in the air, the colors of the world. No one is playing golf — though the course doesn’t seem to be closed — and it’s wonderful to be back there and not worry about icky old men with lousy attitudes and their shirts off. Ugh.

But just as I don’t really remember how to run (no, it doesn’t just “come to you”), I don’t remember how to ski, either.

As for the writing, well, I usually sell a book a month, but this month, no, nothing. And now I have this new novel and will soon begin the adventure of querying agents.

I spent more than a week on 30 (slow moving) pages attempting to elevate the pacing. I thought the whole time of Truman Capote who described that kind of writing as giving him “the mean reds.” I totally understand. You sit there in front of your work and you go, “That sucks, but I need it to move the story. Shit, how can I make it less heavy-footed, less pedantic, less ugh…” Next time you pick up a 200 page book that you end up loving, think to yourself about the writer who had to sit there (maybe) and, line-by-line eliminate $90 words and passive sentences and repetition. No, he or she is not a martyr to his/her writing, but damn, that’s really hard, tedious and fucking boring.

Now that things are happening in the novel again, it’s a lot more fun.

So what am I doing? I really don’t know. It’s all rather Quixotic, but what else would I do?

The Schnee(belis) of Kilimanjaro

I got “The Schneebelis Go to America” back yesterday from my editor, Beth Bruno. I must be getting a little better because she didn’t send a truck-load of proofing corrections!

It’s funny how we are. I don’t know if I’m confident in my writing or not, but I’m not confident in my proofreading, so in her comments — email and comment tracking on my manuscript — that’s what I looked for. I fixed some sentences that didn’t make sense to her (that thing of writing for people inside your mind again…) and heard her remarks about a shift in pacing that, ultimately, hadn’t bothered her and even made sense.

I didn’t see the overall remarks about my writing and the story. The good stuff. I think this is because — in my mind — the book is a project I’m refining and trying to get right. It’s not finished.

To my editor, the manuscript came through as a finished story. I woke up this morning understanding what ELSE she’d said and I am very happy.

She asked what my plans are for the book. I told her I planned to give it a shot at conventional publication, and I was grateful for any advice she had. She had some advice, “I just think with the level of sophistication and specialty of your writing, you’d be best served by someone with solid experience in publishing.” Something I never thought of.

This time last year I picked up the manuscript again, my Aunt Dickie’s words calling out to me from a letter I have taped to the wall in my studio, “Please continue writing the story of my mother’s family.” I didn’t like this book at the time. It was hard going and the characters didn’t speak to me, but I loved my Aunt Dickie and that she loved my novels. I had hoped at that moment last fall to finish before Christmas last year so I could, at least, send her a manuscript to read. I was in a lot of pain from my hip at the time, and writing has always been, for me, a good ladder out of a hole. My Aunt Dickie was 93, and that number has a very clear meaning even though she was still independent and fit, walking a mile a day with her dog, driving herself to church and fully involved in life. She died last November, pretty suddenly, from a very aggressive cancer. All I can do is dedicate the book to her — which I have done/will do.

All of this brought home the message of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” We’re never ready to write the story but write it anyway.

He had never written any of that because, at first, he never wanted to hurt any one and then it seemed as though there was enough to write without it. But he had always thought that he would write it finally. There was so much to write. He had seen the world change; not just the events; although he had seen many of them and had watched the people, but he had seen the subtler change and he could remember how the people were at different times. He had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it; but now he never would. Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

So, I will take another break from my blog to work on the novel some more and figure out how my writing is “sophisticated.”

Addendum: I “Googled” “sophisticated writing” and what it means is that the writer does some stuff like avoids the passive voice, uses a varied vocabulary, allows the characters to carry the story. That’s cool. I’m honored if that’s the case. I worked hard for that, and I owe a lot to Truman Capote.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/rdp-friday-truck/

Of Mice and Music

One of fall’s quaint customs is the return of vermin. Mice. Fortunately for me, I’ve had a lot of experience getting the little sons-a-bitches, and I’m determined to win. So far it’s one down and godnose how many remain. It’s a little-known fact that mice travel in malevolent packs and eat bananas

In other news, since I have no story to write at the moment (waiting for my novel to come back from my editor) I pulled out the “never finished story” and started working on it. For some reason, I also decided to listen to The Pretenders, in depth. I have always liked them but I never listened to their music in any profound or concentrated way.

Wow.

It’s always surprising that the best songs don’t make the radio.

I’m in love with their first album. I got hooked by this, “Precious,” the very first song:

Now Howard the duck and Mr Stress both stayed
“Trapped in a world that they never made”
But not me baby I’m too precious
Fuck off

Back in the day when this album was recorded and Howard the Duck Comix came out I was THAT person. As I rode the bike to nowhere and heard this song, I saw me walking down a crowded Denver street in bright red oxfords (not Dr. Maartens, please, it was 1979 or 80) composing a poem in my head. I was on my way to work. I’d bought Howard the Duck the day before and absolutely loved the sentence, “Trapped in a world he never made.” The sentence was echoing around in my “soon-to-be-at-the-law-firm-I’m-a-paralegal” brain.

It’s not nostalgia. I never heard this music before, but like manna from Heaven, the perfect soundtrack for eliminating redundancies from the book that’s never finished, the love stories that couldn’t jell.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/rdp-monday-quaint/

The Wandering Scholars

I’m reading a book written in the 20s at the moment, a kind of literary criticism and history about the Goliards. The writer — Helen Waddell — writes like a waterfall, says little (that I can use), and what she DOES often says in Latin. The writing carries you along like a raft on a river at high flow, and when you get to the end of the page, you don’t know what you read. It’s a kind of verbal feast but wow. Not helping me. Here’s a random example…

O admirabile Venus idolum

and still more significant in promise, the alba of the Vatican MS. of St. Martial of Limoges. The alba is more precious for its Provencal burden than for other merit: it still holds to Predentius, and the cry might be to waken faithful souls rather than sleeping lovers, the enemy in ambush the Enemy of souls rather than the jealous guardian. But in its own exquisit phrase,

“Dawn is near: she leans across the dark sea.”

Interestingly, she’s EXPLAINING poetry that makes more sense than she does. I’m through three of the chapters and so far the book says, Chapter One, “The Goliards (and the entire church!) was influenced by secular Latin poetry more than they like to acknowledge.” Chapter Two, “There was a transitional moment when the Church tried shaking off the sensual (if not libidinous) secular influence, but they really couldn’t do it. They got some lovely lines, though.” And Chapter Three, “A group rebelled against the church rather quietly and wrote poetry intending to mimic Church verses. Mostly this was in Latin, but after a while, they began writing in their own languages. There are some quite nice things in Middle High German.”

The most comprehensible thing to me in the first chapter were two lines of Dante in Italian. This was after a small flash flood of Latin that had left me dumbfounded, so Dante was a relief. I actually thought, “Hey, I can read that!” As the book progresses into territory I know (the Irish monks and scholars, Columbanus and Gall) I feel a lot better, but wonder why no one ever made me read Virgil? What have I missed?

The thing is, she LOVES this stuff, just plain LOVES it. She gushes like a, oh, I already said that.

She, herself, is an interesting woman, and I wish I could have known her. She was born in China; her parents missionaries. So far she has compared some lines of some poems to some lines of some poems by the Chinese poet, Pai Chuyi. I know his story and his work, so for me that was a log to hold onto in this torrent of words. She must have had incredible linguistic abilities, too.

In a way, she seems to be the Jackson Pollack of thought, but I know it was a different world in 1927 when she wrote this book. People read differently and many had a classical education. And my needs as a writer? Facts. But I know facts are scanty for life in the 10 – 13th centuries, it’s just that I have this THING of showing how NOT dark the “Dark” Ages were. Maybe they’re dark because the people and their lives are buried under time’s detritus and we (too easily?) accepted a random Italian painter’s definition of the Renaissance? (My opinion…)

The book is good exercise for my lazy brain. I keep imagining these young disenchanted clerics and their “amoral” lives, the moment they stopped writing their irreverent verses in Latin and started writing in (that bastard!) Italian and (that barbaric language) German. I imagine them going, “Fuck this!” (which I wanted to write in Latin but Google Translate is NOT helpful giving me — as Latin synonyms a range of NON-synonyms such as “Fortuna”).

But maybe it wasn’t like that…

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/wednesday-rdp-feast/

Bliss

Chilly mornings out here in the real west. This big cup of hot coffee is (sometimes) the best part of a whole day. It’s always a major enhancement. I’m sad when it’s gone, and I have to give the cup to Dusty T. Dog (who is salivating at my feet waiting for it). All he gets is whatever has stuck to the sides of the cup, but he likes it. I think it’s a bonding thing.

During my long blogging hiatus I finished my book and sent it to my editor, Beth Bruno. She’s a writer’s editor not an editor like Maxwell Perkins or something. She helps me find typos and inelegancies of writing and that sort of thing. She’s awesome. Very helpful, thorough, and kind. I like working with her very much.

Long long ago (like 20 years) when I first sent manuscripts of Martin of Gfenn to agents, I got a rejection that was a folded a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet off paper that said in big black letters written with a Magic Marker, “Get an editor!” Big black letters and all, I didn’t know what he meant. I mean, was I NOT an English teacher? A WRITING teacher? Seriously?

But he was right. I should have been alert to hubris, but like many heroes (ha ha) had not yet encountered my fatal flaw face-to-face.

Meanwhile I’ve done my tasks. I have compiled a little spreadsheet that is a list of possible agents for The Price. I’ve written a pretty good query letter. I have done my chapter summaries, my synopsis and an introduction to the book.

I know that self-publishing is an option, but (as with all my books except My Everest) I want to give it a chance out in the big world.

~~~

In case you want to know what my coffee is, it’s made in Colorado. You can order it online. I bought a 5 pound bag a couple of months ago. I’ve tried their “sampler” and ALL of it was delicious. You can actually tell the different roasts and origins apart. Because of the way it’s roasted, it’s relatively low acid, too. That’s all for my sales pitch. 😉

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https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/friday-rdp-coffee/

 

Inspiration

My high school art teacher was mostly (where I was concerned) nasty and inept, but once in a while he said something worth hearing. One of these things was “Don’t depend on inspiration. Art is 98% work and 2% inspiration.”

I now know he probably didn’t invent that saying, but he’s right, though for myself, I’d give inspiration a few more percentage points. I find there are two moments of inspiration; there’s a moment when you get an inspiring idea and there might be a moment in the midst of working out the idea that you are inspired again, inspired within the work you’re doing. This happens to me all the time. I think a lot of writers/artists can be inspired BY their work. I hope so, anyway, because it’s the best.

For nearly two years (I think?) I’ve been writing what I’ve called “The Schneebelis Come to America.” It’s been pure drudgery most of the time. The protagonist I found unlikeable. I didn’t want to write a female heroine for many reasons but mostly because, right now, a female heroine almost MUST be a certain type of female. Since the Schneebelis (and their adventures) are based on my own family and its history, and I would have stayed in Switzerland, and would like to be there now, I kept getting a little angry them for emigrating. And, the damned thing was (is) a love story. I didn’t want to write a love story.

But I had to write it. I felt not only compelled but IMPELLED (impaled?). It was the strangest inspiration I’ve experienced. Once in a while, I’d get to it and the story would go somewhere and then it would just kind of die in a pool of my resentment over any one of those problems.

And then…

Before my hip surgery, I contacted a woman — Beth Bruno —  whom I’d hired to edit Savior and The Brothers PathI wanted someone to read it and tell me what they thought was missing. I think in my heart of hearts I KNEW what was missing, but I just didn’t want to write the damned thing any more and was hoping for absolution OR “Gawd, woman, this is awful. Put it away FOREVER.”

What I got was:

I must say, this is a touching story about family with its focus on marriage and how two people in love can still find it impossible to move ahead because their life goals are so different. Love doesn’t conquer all after all. They explore difficult issues of love, loyalty, compromise and taking risks at various choice points in their lives.
The reason I think it deserves a longer ending that allows the story to develop further is that I don’t think enough happens after the family reaches America to give the reader some sense of whether the trip was worth it or not. The fact that their passage wound up being on a death ship only makes letting the survivors cope for a few weeks that much more important. Otherwise, the loss of Verena and Elisabethli is for naught and teaches Hans Kaspar nothing at all. The part about the ending that I do like is seeing Conrad come into his own and go forth into the future with a sense of purpose and readiness to create a family that honors Verena’s memory.
Again, I found myself caring deeply about these people because what they are going through is so real — not only from the standpoint of your wonderful writing but also from the historical truths they portray.

 

OH well. We then had a phone conversation. After that, I was inspired.

So I went at it. Most important, I went at it with a not completely clear brain (it takes a while for anesthesia to fully leave an older person’s system) and not caring at all about the outcome. I really had nothing else to do. My main jobs have been regaining my physical ability and integrating a new dog into the “pack.”

As I worked, the work started to inspire me and the time I had spent writing blog posts went into the story.

Inspiration is a drug. It’s very intoxicating and no one who’s in the throes of it thinks clearly or has an objective mind. Inspiration just feels SO GOOD. One of these days I felt the whole day had been a dream — it had been a day of successful writing, fifteen minutes on the Elliptical trainer at physical therapy, two dog walks (with three dogs, there are those days) — not a special day, but when it ended I really felt I’d dreamed the whole thing. It seemed to have had no hours or minutes in it.

Yesterday I finished it and I was in love with the ending. That’s the thing about inspiration; it feels a lot like infatuation. You wonder, “Will it last?”

I wrote my editor and said, “I did it. I have an ending, but I’m not telling.” I wasn’t sure. I wanted to sleep on it. When I got up today and read it, I was LESS in love than I was yesterday, but I was happy with it.

I thought about Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet which is a very wise piece of advice for anyone? Writers? Young people? and I read it first in a bookstore in Denver in Larimer Square in the early 1970s. I thought it wrote it for ME it was that apt — it’s (I now know) that apt for a lot of people. It’s a collection of letters he wrote to a young poet (duh). He warns against “Living and writing in heat.” Inspiration is “heat” — and a wise person will give the products of that ecstasy time to cool

The thing about writing — and unless I’m doing it I don’t think about it — is it is a solitary thing. When I first moved here and was finishing The Brothers Path and I didn’t know anyone, it was easy. Now I know a few people and I like them, but in the midst of inspiration, I don’t have anything in common with anyone. I’m living in a world peopled by beings that are from my imagination (and some dogs). It’s hard to have a conversation when there’s already a bunch of them going on in your head — some with yourself (“Is this where the story really goes next or am I forcing it?”) some between the people in your imagination…

So I’ve spent the last 3 months pretty much alone and, if not alone, somewhat alienated.

Rilke also writes against literary criticism (amen), saying, “Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them,” after which he describes what it means to be an artist:

Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

I’m happy I didn’t force this and that I didn’t give up. I’m happy for the clear eyes of my editor who saw the love story as it is — a love that just wasn’t going to make the people involved happy. I know a lot about that kind of love, which is why I resisted “happily ever after.” The project still needs a lot of work and there are things — research related — that I want to do before it will be finished, but I’m very happy that, finally, the story engaged me and even happier that it engaged my editor in the first place. She saw what I hoped I had written.

***

The photo is of the Hans Herr house in Lancaster PA. He was an early Swiss immigrant — Mennonite — to Pennsylvania from Zürich.

You’re Just a TV Show

“Don’t assume anything. Assuming makes an…”

“Don’t, please, don’t give me that incredibly tired and hackneyed spelling cliché OK? Anyway, I don’t agree. An assumption is just a theory. As long as we KNOW we’re not dealing with facts but something we simply believe might be true, we’re OK.”

“Whatever. You always make a mountain…”

“Stop it.”

“Do you want some more coffee?”

“No thanks. Gotta’ run. Big day at work.”

“Oh right. Your presentation is today.”

“Yeah.”

“No wonder you’re so testy.”

“Argh. See you later.”

Ted closed the front door behind him, got behind the wheel of the big-finned Chevy and drove to the train station. As he pulled into his parking space, he looked up and saw the train was arriving. “Dammit,” he muttered. “I might not make it.” He took the keys out of the ignition, buried them in the deep front pocket of his Brooks Brothers Suit and, taking his briefcase, ran for the train, reaching the platform just as the conductor yelled, “All aboard!”

He settled into a seat by the window and watched the fields and suburbs vanish into low-rent urban sprawl, small industry and automobile graveyards. “You’re just a TV drama,” said a voice apparently coming from the window. “Everything you think is real is just in the mind of a bunch of TV writers.”

“What?”

The images in the window flashed ever faster as the train got nearer the city.

“Watch when you get off the train,” said the voice. “See what happens.”

Ted shook his head, “I must have been dozing,” he thought. “Wow.”

The brakes of the train squealed, and the wheels grated against the tracks. Ted stood up to get his hat and briefcase from the rack above the seat, but there was nothing there. He looked around, wondering how he could have left them in the car. “I was late,” he thought. “I wish Esther didn’t even open her stupid mouth sometimes. I bet they’re in the car.”

When he turned around he was stunned. What was going on? People were — there were so many women most of them in trousers? Young people staring into dark rectangles apparently stuck to their palms. Why? What? “Excuse me,” he said, inadvertently bumping into an immensely fat teenager with plugs in his ears.

He carefully stepped down from the train car onto the platform. Huge panels with vivid advertising surrounded him. “How in hell?” he asked himself. Reaching the station, he headed inside, hoping to grab a taxi and get to the office and away from the weirdness, but even Grand Central Station was different, brighter, lighter, the smokey dinge he knew so well seemed to have been blasted away by one of Proctor and Gambles’ new bleach products. He fumbled in his jacket for a smoke and his lighter. Putting the cigarette in his mouth he shook open the engraved Ronson lighter Esther had given him for his birthday.

“No smoking, sir,” said a station attendant.

“What?”

“That’s right sir, no smoking.”

Ted put the cigarette into the attendant’s hand and headed toward the revolving doors. As he pushed the door away from him he noticed an elegantly dressed old man,  a cigarette butt hanging from his tired lips. As they passed, their eyes connected in an electric glance of recognition. The old man tipped his hat to Ted and nodded. A shiver ran down Ted’s spine. Ted shook his head. “What is going on this morning?”

Outside the station, Ted hailed a Checker Cab at the same moment as a slender woman in a leopard skin pillbox hat, pencil skirt and stiletto heels. “Would you share?” she asked, holding her long cigarette holder away from her red lips

“With pleasure. Where are you going?”

“Madison Avenue.”

***

In my recovery world I needed a compelling TV series to get me through the evenings. Someone suggested Mad Men. I’d started watching it some time ago but didn’t like the stereotypes and the tendency to make people from that era look stupid. I still don’t like those aspects, but I understand the stereotypes were a gate to allow entry for people who were not there. I would’ve been Don Draper’s daughter, more or less.

Watching it has been strange — but it’s a way to kill those hours before bed when the swelling has been worst. It’s also made me think about writing historical fiction. I keep imagining my characters showing up at my door saying, “OK, look, you got some stuff right, but seriously?” I think this especially with cigarettes — which the makers of Mad Men seem fascinated by. Yeah, back in the day, most adults smoked a lot, but I don’t think they would have focused their cameras on the ash trays. It was just how things were, something constantly in the background (not the foreground) of existence.

What was NOT in the background of their existence are Don Draper’s words, “We have everything, right?” In that I heard all the long dinner table diatribes of my childhood about growing up in the Depression and how lucky us kids were to have had everything.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/assumption/