Thursday, March 14, 2024

Just another sunny/rainy day in paradise

If Hawaii was a bird, it would look something like this. 

Shiny, colorful with a huge wingspan and a knowing look on its face. 

Upon arrival in Hilo, Hawaii you find immediate confirmation that you've found yourself in an entirely different part of the world. 

So, this blog is the E-version of gathering in our living room, eating semi-stale crunchy snacks, drinking discount wine and listening to the click of a slide projector as we narrate blurry photo’s of our trip to Hawaii. Except, with this version, you don’t have to drive across town to our place, you can drink much better wine and you’re on your own for the weeks-old Cheetos. (click) Here’s the view from our hotel room overlooking the Bay of Hilo. 

I'll share a little insider Hawaiian Island knowledge. The big island earned its nickname name because . . . (anyone? Anyone? You, in the back of the room Spamfamber.) It’s the biggest of the Hawaiian Islands? Mahalo! Good!You win a free lifetime supply of poi. Somebody, at some point had a fit of creativity. The only thing I wonder is why the other islands aren’t nicknamed “the second largest island,” “The possibly third or fourth largest island” and “That little speck on the map nobody bothered to name."  

It really was a lovely spot. The hotel was located on Banyan Drive, named for the proliferation of these unique (and dare I say spooky) trees.

Farther along Banyan Drive was a lovely park. Carolyn spent considerable time wandering its environs while the lazy lump that is Mike lounged in bed, eating leftover Thai curry and listening to the ukulele music on You Tube. 

Another fascinating factoid about Hawaii. The Hawaiian alphabet only had 13 letters. Five vowels, Seven consonants and an okina. Those who thought the okina was a wind instrument often heard accompanying the ukulele lose all the points you gained by your correct guess about the Big Island. It’s a glottal stop. A glottal being a type of bus seen only in Hawaii. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) This limited number of letters explains many of the street names we encountered in Hilo, including Aalalani Place, Ewaliko Avenue, Haaheo Road and Kamahao Way.

I wonder what a scrabble game among the locals would look like. If it’s anything like ours, there is at least one player who will try to bluff a word that doesn’t exist. “Nice try, Poona. Everybody knows there are only 4 a’s in kakahiaka.”

Here's a random sculpture we saw on our way to another beautiful location. You can decide for yourself what it signifies. I'm leaning toward "A view of the inside of Marjorie Taylor Green's mind!" 

On our return trip to Hilo, this time on the much more scenic southern coastal route, we made a return visit to a place we’d stumbled into on an earlier trip to The Big Island.

We ate the southernmost glazed donuts in the United States, burped the southernmost burp in the United States and went on down the road. Life is good. 

All-in-all it was a great trip (We'll overlook the 13 hours spent in airplanes.) But it was good to get home to a week's worth of junk mail and our little dog. 

"Where the hell have you people been? 
You owe me multiple belly rubs!!!"

Monday, January 15, 2024



Carolyn J. Rose


When I was a kid, growing up in the Catskill Mountains, reading Zane Grey and watching TV westerns, I thought of coyotes as wild and elusive creatures. I viewed them as skittish, flitting at twilight from rock to rock, shadow to shadow.


Confession: I also thought of them as ordering an assortment of Acme products in the endless pursuit of a roadrunner. But let’s put that aside.


Years passed, I lived in Arizona, and often spotted them. More often I heard them. And heard stories about them. I began to think of them as clever, crafty, opportunistic, and, okay, even sneaky.


But I never thought of them as panhandlers, hanging out beside a road, hoping for a handout.

And then, back in November, I saw this guy beside a looping dirt road in the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. He sat as if on command, wearing a hopeful expression like a dog begging for a biscuit or perhaps hoping to be adopted.


We joked that if we opened the car door the coyote would hop in. But we knew better than to do that or to offer the crumbs that accumulate on the floor mat.


But apparently, he and his buddies cadged a few goodies from others. On our next visit we noted signs warning visitors not to feed coyotes.


I revised my thoughts again. Forget elusive. Forget skittish. And forget sneaky. But clever and crafty? Sure. Opportunistic? You bet.


And why not? If I had a choice between chasing a mouse in a muddy field and sitting in the grass waiting for a snack to be delivered, I wouldn’t go for the mouse.



Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Hermit For Hire


Michael A. Nettleton

In ages past, wealthy families might hire a man to live in a hovel on a vast estate. Apparently it was a status symbol of the highest order to employ a hermit. I don’t know what building a hovel involved. Perhaps an early version of IKEA.

I wondered how a Duke or Lord or Viscount would find a suitable hermit. Did his estate manager grill potential candidates? If a grilling took place today, would it look something like this?

(Door creaks open. Burly wild-haired man shuffles in.)

HR: Hello. Thank you for applying to be Lord Bloviate’s Hermit. Do you mind if I use the Hermit to English translation app on my phone?

Hermit:  Sitting, nodding, and mumbling something indecipherable.

HR: (Glancing at phone) I agree. The train service from Bumblegravy is atrocious.

Hermit:  mbrgmbrsucks.

HR: Let’s begin, shall we? My name is Letitia Stiffgarter. And you are . . . ? (She consults a grimy resume scratched on tree bark.)

Hermit: Mfrdfman

HR: Morfor Dlorfman. Right. And what qualifications do you bring?

Hermit: (animated) Snorrrrrrrt.   

HR:  I see. You lived in a cave in the Cotswolds. I’m the first human being you’ve spoken with for the last 20 years. So, you’re experienced at solitude. And what is your specific skill set?

Hermit:  (sounding like he’s listing things) Hng, Ya ha, Ya ha, blnfoopung.   

HR: You’re adept at hiding, jumping out from behind bushes, speaking gibberish and mouth-breathing. Excellent! (She marks the bark.)

Hermit: Schlorppp!

HR: And drooling You’re known for your drooling.

Hermit: (proudly) Schlorppp!

HR: Consistently top 5 worldwide for length of drool. Impressive. Now, if we hire you, the hovel, rudimentary furniture, and scraps from the kitchen will be provided. Will that be adequate?

Hermit: (shrugging) Gooeygoop!!!

HR: Mud. You mostly eat mud.

Hermit: (nods and performs finger pushups on the table.)

HR: And the occasional spider. Got it. When could you take up residence?

Hermit: (waggles a finger) Kaching!

HR:  What’s that? We haven’t discussed benefits?

Hermit: (Nods and mimes using a channel changer) Karrrrdashians. Instagram.

HR: Cable television and Wi-Fi?

Hermit: Kaching!!!

HR: And a salary? Why do you need money?

Hermit: (hums the graduation march)

HR: Kids to put through college. Seriously? I mean you’re a hermit. How did that happen?

Hermit: (shrugs and grins) Grmbgbr! Chick magnet.

HR: Oooh-kay. Well, what are your salary expectations?

Hermit: (produces a card)

HR: You belong to a union? Hermits, recluses and troglodytes local 452?

Hermit: (raises a fist) Schlorrrppp!!! Kaching!!!

HR: Minimum pay is $50 an hour? Double for holidays? (She shakes her head.) I don’t think so.

Hermit: Snorrrrt. Huh!

HR:  You’re in demand? Really? Let’s review. No people skills. Poor communication. Total lack of grooming. Surly attitude. Who’d hire you?

Hermit: (picking up an imaginary telephone and lilts) Ucken!!

HR: Government help line?

Hermit: (gruffly then snorts) Your call is very important to us . . .



Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Dave's Still Not Here

Michael A. Nettleton


You may see me tonight

With an illegal smile

It don’t cost very much

But it lasts a long while

Won’t you please tell the man

I didn’t kill anyone

I’m just tryin’ to have me some fun.


                                                             Illegal Smile

                                                            John Prine

     The last time I smoked marijuana was the mid-eighties sometime. I didn’t give it up out of any sense of moral indignation or fear of it being a gateway to something harder. Instead, I decided I was tired of sitting in front of my computer feverishly inspired by the thoughts pinballing through my brain, only to find, later on, that what I’d written resembled a cross between medieval Bratislavian and monkey drool.

    Of course, pot is legal now, so all I’d have to do is duck into the parking lot of my nearest, highly respectable retail establishment, plunk down my debit card for a bag of weed or package of chocolate-covered wacky tobacky, and pick up my habit where I left off. Drive down any street in greater Vancouver, Washington and you’ll see the beckoning signs. MAIN STREET MARIJUANA. THE HERBERY. HIGH END MARKETPLACE. GREENHEAD CANNABIS. I’m sure new stores will proliferate in the future. SPLIFF WORLD. MAUI WOWIE MART. BOGART R’ JOINTS. STONE ME CITY. And so on.

    Rabid anti-pot types will point out several problems with today’s state of affairs, including a direct link between toking and Satan, but here's the problem with legalization from my point of view. They’ve taken some of the fun out of smoking pot by removing one key element: paranoia.

    Getting high in the old days was a vibrant mix of THC, unhealthy snacks, vinyl mindless guitar noodling, and fear. The idea that uniformed men in full battle gear chanting “hut-hut-hut” might break down your door at any minute was part of the adrenaline rush that accompanied passing a tightly-rolled joint around the room. Who can forget the group giggling fit when someone heard an unfamiliar clatter outside and rushed to flush a fully ounce of primo “stuff” down the toilet? Who can remember the familiar note played out when you heard Cheech and Chong’s “Dave’s not here” routine on one of their comedy records?

    And now? Marijuana is just another item on users’ shopping lists. “Green onions, pasta sauce, laundry detergent, and a six-ounce bag of THC infused gummy bears. Oh, and Oreos and a gigundo bag of cheezy-snacks of course.

    Am I arguing that marijuana use is harmless and healthy? Of course not. Every time I observe some kaleidoscope-eyed driver cross three lanes of traffic to careen onto a freeway exit ramp, I fear for the bedlam the high and drunken may cause. As someone who’s worked in the schools (my wife was a substitute teacher for many years) I worry about the impact marijuana can have on young people. It can make learning difficult, destroy incentive, and cause a budding writer to believe typewritten garble is profound prose. But I also believe that turning a personal vice (however unhealthy) into a criminal offense is profoundly wrong-headed.

    What’s the bottom line? Unless the religious right has their way and forces everyone at gunpoint to live pure and God-fearing lives, marijuana stores are here to stay. The best we can hope for is to avoid hysteria and have honest and factual conversations about the harm drugs and alcohol can cause.

    ` But, I profess a certain level of nostalgia for the “high old days.” Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I heard someone rattling at my door. Time to flush a bag of oregano down the john just to be safe.



Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Closing the Book on Writing?

 Carolyn J. Rose


Much as I’ve enjoyed creating and spending decades with characters of all sorts—killers, clairvoyants, ghosts, teens, seniors, substitute teachers, wealthy widows, and orphaned children—I find myself wanting to hang out with those who populate books by other writers.

 Translation: I want to write less and read more.


I was the kid who fell in love with books as soon as I could sound out words, the kid who read with a flashlight under the covers, who wrote stories for cousins and classmates. I was the teen who penned anguished poetry. I was the young adult who spilled details of every relationship onto the tear-smudged pages of a journal. I was the older adult taking writing classes and going to conferences and seeking agents and publishers, then taking the independent road and uploading manuscripts and dreaming up promotional ideas.


Now I’m the gray-haired even older adult with carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatic nerve issues, and holes in my memory where character details used to be. Sure there are notebooks and file cards and character sketches in the computer. With the aid of those I could keep going. But B.B. King’s song about the thrill being gone echoes in my mind.


So I’ve been saying that The Three Shades of Justice: In the Grip of Obsession, will be the last I’ll write. I’ve been telling myself that I followed my dream, that two dozen books is an accomplishment I can be proud of.


And I’ve also been reminding myself to never say “Never.” Tomorrow or next week a compelling character could take up residence in my busy brain, start tugging at the synapses, and insist I return to the keyboard.


Until then, I’ll enjoy engaging with characters created by other writers.


Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Perils of Getting Out and About

Carolyn J. Rose


From the earliest days of wandering tribes, travel has been perilous. Wild beasts. Lack of water. Bad water. Lack of food. Harsh terrain. Raiders. Storms. War.

 Many of those perils, unfortunately, remain. And new elements have been added. An occasional chain motel sadly in need of a good scrubbing and a staff overhaul. Outrageously incorrect rental car charges. And that damn virus.

 I’ll get to some of that later, but first a few positive reflections on our trip to Upstate New York.

 The flight was tiresome but smooth and the deep-dish pizza at the Chicago airport made the long hike to our gate worth it. The dining choices in Washington were, for someone who can’t digest red meat, not choices at all.

 But anyway, the next morning we headed to Herkimer (The sound of the word makes Mike grin) to meet friends and cruise on the Erie Canal

No mules were harnessed for our journey; a motor on the boat did the work. And we weren’t required to get out and open or close the locks.


After a stop at Constable Hall where we touched a piece of history—a paperweight gifted to the first owner by Alexander Hamilton, it was on to Alexandria Bay

There we boarded a ship bound out through The Thousand Islands to
Singer Island and a mansion/castle. 87 steps up to the top floor. I was powered by feelings of relief that I didn’t have to clean the place or pay for repairs. (Think millions. And then add millions.)


Still enjoying great weather, we drove through the Adirondacks to Woodstock where we visited friends and family and where the rain caught us. 

Still, we forged on through the storm to see what was once, but is no longer, the world’s largest garden gnome—a gnome outstanding in his field.


And then we returned to find we’d been billed for turning our car in 150 miles from where we actually handed off and a day later. I expect we’ll be contesting that for weeks.


And, when the fever and sneezing kicked in, we discovered I had a souvenir of the trip I didn’t want—covid. I’m better now. Not 100%, but strong enough to take on that rental car company if I need to. And, in a few weeks, I expect I’ll be ready to start planning another trip. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Trading Cards I'd Like to See


Carolyn J. Rose



Forget trading cards touted by a former president. Forget game cards and those featuring baseball heroes. Forget cards promoting movies and T.V. shows.  

Here are a few I’d pay or trade for.

Phone numbers to bypass automated systems. If you’ve ever wasted hours trying to break out of an endless loop, been shuttled to the wrong department, cut off while explaining your problem, or transferred so fast you get whiplash, these are a must. Bypass numbers allow access to actual humans with listening skills, no mandated scripts, and expertise to resolve your issue.


Plumbers, electricians, HVAC repair personnel, and others willing to work evenings and holidays. Even if you never find yourself in desperate need of someone to fix a leak or get your furnace running again, a friend or relative will. The trading value of these cards never diminishes and spikes in cold and hot weather.


Used car lots where you’ll actually get a fair deal. In addition to photos and directions, these cards include translations of used-car-speak terms such as “low mileage” and “pre-loved.” Cards also advise what not to say when shopping. A subset includes photos of salespeople who don’t withhold added charges until your pen touches the contract signature line.


Stylists who should never cut your hair. If you’ve ever paid way too much for a haircut that made you look like a pair of eagles decided your head was prime nest-building territory, you’ll want these cards.   


Door-to-door scam artists. You know the ones, the guys who claim they’re with a crew working nearby and have tools and extra time to give you a great deal. Cards also include teams selling magazines you’ve never heard of, folks who claim they install solar panels overnight, and those collecting for refugees in a country that isn’t on any map.


Teen body language. A face-to-face conversation with a teenager may involve more physical expressions than verbal. These cards, with full-color photographs, interpret twitches, eye rolls, shrugs, and more. They also offer translations of some of the latest teen-speak words and phrases.


Bad bosses. Cards would depict the nitpicker, the clock watcher, the insecure and paranoid, the endless-meeting manager, the guy who disappears in a crisis, and the supervisor who expects you to sacrifice weekends and cancel vacations. Cards would also offer tips on how to spot bad bosses during the interview process.


Clothing outlets with true sizes and realistic fashions. These outlets cater to those who aren’t actors or models. Their sizes actually conform to your measurements instead of being too large or too small, and their styles are for those who want jeans with more fabric than holes.


I don’t get it cards. If you’ve ever puzzled over a cartoon, or wondered about a reference on a TV show that set off the laugh track, these cards are for you. Not only would they explain a drawing or an actor’s comment, they would also explain why you might find it amusing or relevant.


As a bonus, cards would be laminated. This would extend their life and allow them to be used for household projects such as leveling tables or loiding locked doors.