Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dreams Dashed--Part Two

(See yesterday's post for part one.)

So, this morning I awake to yet ANOTHER contest for Paul McCartney tickets on the Mark and Brian Program. This time it's "Celebrity Sell-Out"--where listeners call in with the phone numbers of people whose pools they've swept or clothes they've dry-cleaned.

Mentally, I run through the list of numbers I've collected over the years.

Marlon Brando? Sadly, I think it's been disconnected, and there's no new listing.

Harrison Ford? Henry Winkler? Geez, my TV days are so far in the past, surely these guys have all changed their numbers by now.

Meanwhile, I hear them call the guy who played the little boy on Jerry McGuire. Then they call the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Steve Perry (former lead singer for Journey) hangs up on them. Surely, I can do better than this, right?

I mean, we're talking Paul McCartney tickets!! Don't I know ANYONE??

Then *gasps* it comes to me: John Ratzenberger--Cliffie from Cheers! Remember when I met him two years ago?? I saw him again last week! He'd make a GREAT celebrity sell-out!

Only one thing. Do I still have his business card? And, even if I do *heart deflates* didn't it only contain professional contact info?

But, wait!! I have an email from him, asking me to, don't I??

I rush to my computer, go to my inbox, and sort by date. (Okay, time to haul out the hankies again.) I suddenly remember the great computer crash of July 2006.

Curses. Foiled again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Damn...Sooooo Close

Long-time blog readers may recall an earlier post in which I lamented the tragic turn my life took when I was unable to successfully meet and marry the cute Beatle.

Knowing he's available again, well it seeks like Kismet, doesn't it?

So, I when I awoke this morning to the news that my favorite local radio guys, Mark and Brian, were holding a contest for tickets to one of Paul's PRIVATE concerts, I thought: here it is! My chance at last! Somehow, I'd WIN the contest, SECURE the tickets, and...well...just to be in his presence--surely, the rest would follow, right?

I lay (laid?) in bed, listening to the rules. Starting with the word "IN," the boys would add another word at each break, and all I had to do was come up with the lyric, the song title, and the album on which it appeared. There would be no re-capping of the words already given, they would be given at random, and the answer had to be exact. No more of the lyric, no less.

Hm, I thought. Sounds like a job for GOOGLE.

By the time I had "IN," "A," and "USE," I figured I had enough. Even though 6.0 earthquakes don't get me out of bed before it's time to get up, I dragged myself to the computer and typed in: " in a use Paul McCartney lyric."


About four entries down, some song I'd never heard of that began with "Down in the garden." I hurried back to the radio. A commercial was on, so I hopped in the shower.

(This is the part where you haul out the hankies.)

By the time I emerged, the boys were apologizing for how long it had taken to decide the previous caller hadn't quite gotten it right. That's when I should have rushed to the phone but, nooooo...I foolishly thought I should wait to hear what people were guessing so I'd know I was in the ballpark.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I should have known that if the guy was that close, EVERYONE now knew the song.

Sure enough. The next caller, very carefully recited: Down in the garden...blah, blah, blah...whatever the rest of it was.

Man...there went my dreams.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Ick Factor To the Nth Degree

Caught the latest entry in the "lets-humiliate-women" sweepstakes on TV.

Age vs. Love. Another reality show (and I use the term loosely--very loosely) in which a bachelor seeks true love from among a group of women who don't seem to mind sharing their guy with fifteen others. We all know the drill by now.

In this version, our bachelor is 30-year old tennis star Mark Phillipousis--an extremely charming, not to mention, HOT, guy.

The women? Here's where it gets ugly. (And I don't mean the women.)

In the first episode, the producers trot out six beautiful women, one by one. After the perfunctory peck on the cheek, the first one announces proudly, "I was born in 1967 which makes me 42."

Mark's face falls a bit.

Then, it gets worse. They're ALL over 40. Mark's face falls so far, a production assistant may have to come clean up the mess off the rooftop patio.

Clearly, this is NOT what the poor guy signed up for.

And yet...ever gracious, ever the trooper, he repeats the same mantra over and over: "Pleasure to meet you. Pleasure to meet you." When the 48-year old (who later, off camera, confesses to having a son Mark's age) reveals her age, his eyes widen in disbelief. "You look incredible," he says. For your age is what he means.

Naturally, the women have no problem with Mark's youth. Each believes he could be "the one." Little do they (or Mark) know that the producers have one more twist in store for everybody.

Yep. You guessed. Cue the 20-year olds.

They arrive in all their skimpy-clothed, toned & tanned, glory. The 25-year old (the one I'd like to kill first, if you don't mind) says: "I hope I'm not dating when I'm 40--y'know, all desperate for a man. I mean, how pathetic."

Gee, think it's pathetic at 40? Try 53.

At the close of episode one, Mark has dispatched one of the 40-year olds off to what we can only presume is spinsterhood. Then the host does the big reveal. "Your choices have just gotten a whole lot younger," he promises with a gleam in his eye. A curtain falls and there stand the youngsters, posed like hookers at a porn convention.

And...cue voiceover: "When the 40-year olds find out about the 20-year olds, the claws come out!"

Oh, goody. Just what women the world over can't wait for.

By the way, using numbers is a bit cumbersome, don't you agree? I guess that's why the Producers have coined these nicknames...The Kittens and the Cougars.

Guess which one is which.

P.S. I'd write more, but I gotta go run and watch episode two.

Wink ;)

Could someone please sneak into my bedroom in the middle of the night and surgically remove the extra skin in my eyelids?


Keeping my eyes open is growing tiresome.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Public Service Announcement For Men

Guys? Listen up. I've got a tip for ya.

It's summer. It's hot. Women are wearing all manner of backless dresses and tops. This, however, is NOT AN INVITATION to lay your slimy hands all over our naked backs.

Unless, of course, you're impossibly good looking and filthy rich.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Shit Hits Fan to reflect on one of Life's lessons without being accused of unprofessionalism...

Oh, hell...does anyone really care what I think about my former publisher's intention to file bankruptcy? (Note the clever way I didn't name them so this post won't show up in Google searches.)

Let's be brief about the boring (but probably juicy) part. And, come to think of it, let's not even go into my opinion of which of the following probable causes I blame (and let's be clear, I don't subscribe to them all--just listing the ones people are talking about):

1. Lack of leadership at the top
2. Lack of communication
3. Mismanagement
4. Lies
5. Deceit
6. Authors who bashed their former publisher
7. Going into print without knowing enough about it
8. Authors as executive editors operating under aliases
9. The state of publishing in general
10. The state of Epublishing, specifically

Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, what does this mean for me?

Um. Not clear. Yes, I have a letter on the publisher's stationery stating that the rights to Stealing Amy have been returned to me. BUT...did they have the power to confer those rights when they had already put the bankruptcy plan in motion? Maybe not.

How can another publishing company buy the rights to books and contracts in a bankruptcy proceeding? Easy. They're considered "intellectual property" and are virtually the only assets a publishing company has.

What about my contract? Doesn't it state that in the event of the publisher's bankruptcy all rights revert to the author? Yep. But Federal bankruptcy laws supercede the contract, and apparently this clause ain't one that stands up in court.

And on and on...until it all shakes out, I'm not going to venture a guess as to what will actually happen.

In the meantime, should I do something with Stealing Amy? To tell you the truth, I'm in no rush. Particularly with an epublisher. Now, that's not to say I have anything against epublishers. Some authors do very well in that format. But IN MY OPINION, they come in two flavors: those who are PROLIFIC, and those who write...shall we say...SPICY.

I'm neither.

I truly don't think epublishing is the place for me.

Lesson learned (oh, there are soooooooooo many others).

Here's the really sad part. In the eyes of RWA (Romance Writers of America) I'm now a published author. Which is funny since my "book" was "out" for about four months and you don't even wanna know (read: I'm not going to tell you) how few copies sold and/or how little the first royalty check was (and how large or small the one covering April through May would have been--I'll never know). So, I feel a bit of a fraud. At the conference next month, for the first time, I'll be wearing the badge that signals I'm a PAN (Published Author Network) member--oh, God. SUCH A FRAUD.

And now for some good news...or should I post this separately? I sold my FIFTH short story to True Romance! Squee!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Serendipty--or Just Good Sense

Triskelion Publishing announced its intention to file bankruptcy today, FREEZING ALL CONTRACTS. Authors are scrambling to get their rights back, citing the language that says, in effect, that rights revert back to the author under these circumstances. I tend to side with the author who is cautioning that the contracts are actually property, just like any other asset--and therefore subject to claims by creditors.

Maybe I'll blog at length about what I think happened or didn't happen in the future. I'm certainly no insider, but I have opinions about this company in particular and the epublishing industry in general.


This past Monday, as requested on Memorial Day, I received the official letter conferring the rights to Stealing Amy back to me.

Whew. Dodged a bullet there, huh?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Beyond My Control

Here's a quick lesson for aspiring writers: some stuff is beyond your control. Like titles and covers.


So, here's the title page of my latest True Romance story (July's issue). My title was: How I Turned A Leaky Faucet Into A Marriage Proposal. Silly, I admit...but...I thought it had a kind of retro humor to it.

I failed to factor into the equation that July is "the hot issue." Hence, I guess, the "hotter" title.

I'll first glance, I went....huh??? My sweet little heroine who happens to be a handyman? How'd she get all tarted up? Then I relaxed. After all, it's not like the title's gonna keep anyone from reading it. And unlike when a book is published, I don't have to do a million chats, send out a newsletter, have bookmarks made, etc. Nope. I don't have to lift a finger.

On sale everywhere. Get yours today. (There. I'm done promoting.)

Another reason I'm loving these short story sales.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sometimes Writing is Better Than Sex

Especially when you're not writing ABOUT sex.

Yesterday, I tossed out a story premise to my CPs, saying it had been on my mind for awhile, but I'd never known quite how to flesh it out. Now that I've made the acquaintance of the Trues (how we "in" folk refer to the True Magazines), I decided to revisit it--maybe as a short piece for True Story.

Ever helpful, Carol offered some submission suggestions, then added an idea for where the story might go.


On the drive home, I thought about what I'd need for an ending. How to bring the story full circle with a bang and a punch.


Somewhere between the Reagan Library and the grocery story, I nailed it.

Eager to start writing, I--oops, forgot to do the treadmill thing--sat down to the computer. Oh. My. God. The story FLEW off my fingers. This NEVER happens to me! By the end of the night (with time out for that stupid Pirate show and a little So You Think You Can Dance) I'd written nearly seven pages...AND discovered several NEAT new twists and dimensions. And, guess what? Nary a romantic interlude in sight! (Hm. Maybe that's the key???)

I'm tellin' ya. BETTER than sex.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Letters...We Get Letters...AKA The Paris Post

For some reason, people don’t comment on my blog—they email me. So the other day, niece Mindy asked why I hadn’t blogged about the Paris Hilton saga. The answer was that I was too busy self-indulging with endless accounts of my recent trip to the South. Then, I figured the story had passed.

Stupid me.

Of course, the story drones on.

Last night, The Drudge Report carried this headline: “Outrage Grows in L.A. over Paris Hilton Case”

On top of watching a Larry King interview with Matt Lauer earlier in the evening, I’m finally moved to comment.

First, please. Let me abscond with quotes lifted directly from the CNN transcript:

LAUER: What has she done?

KING: What has she done?

LAUER: What has she done except, you know, get in her car drunk one time and then go get in the car again with, you know, an expired license? It's a difficult question. Why are we so celebrity obsessed? Why do we care who's on the cover of "People" magazine. And why do we care who's on the cover of "Us Weekly"? The answer is I don't know but we do.

KING: It is what it is.

LAUER: It is.

Oh, this is scintillating insight, for sure. It is what it is. One of my favorite new inane catch-phrases.

Let me take Matt to task here, because it’s really, really, hard for me to believe he doesn’t understand the celebrity attraction factor. It’s about ENVY, Matt.

Paris is rich. Paris is beautiful. Paris is young. Paris is absolutely free to do anything she wants, go anywhere she wants, any time she wants. (Well, except for the moment.)

On some level, if we could adopt and self-define those parameters for ourselves, wouldn’t we all like to BE Paris Hilton??

I don’t mean I wanna hang out with Lohan, Ritchie, and Spears at whatever snotty nightclub they frequent…no, of course, given the same opportunities, I’d do something constructive with my think.


I’m just saying.

I’m not rich. I’m not beautiful. I’m not young. I slog through the day job eight hours a day, five days a week, year after year.

Why wouldn’t I be fascinated by a woman whose life is a 180 from mine?

They say opposite’s attract.

There’s your answer, Matt. It is what it is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Score FOUR!

That's right! Last Friday, I received my FOURTH contract from Dorchester for True Romance Magazine. Let's recap, shall we?

MAY issue: "Party For Two -- Catering Our Romance." Got the idea from old high school chum Andi who met her future husband when she catered his fortieth birthday party.

JULY issue: "I Turned A Leaky Faucet Into A Marriage Proposal" (tentative title). Got the idea when I met a girl in a bar who worked as a handyman.

AUGUST issue: "Love On Board" (tentative title). Got the idea when friend Juli's high school class took a 3-day cruise for their reunion.

AUGUST issue: "When The Lights Went Out, My Love Life Brightened Up" (tentative title). From an idea I had for a novel-length story.

Now, if I could only figure out how to apply what I've learned from writing 25-30 page stories to the 300+ suckers.

Monday, June 11, 2007

With Apologies to TiVo

I confess. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

I ranted, I screamed. I shook my fist at Marty. "Damn you, and your stupid TiVo! Now the whole world knows what happened, except us."

I fumed as he kept hitting rewind and play...until...we let it play out and realized there wasn't that big a gap between the fade-that-wasn't-a-fade and the credits.


Could it be?

Could it be we'd SEEN the ending?

Yep. Sure enough. No untimely cable outage. No TiVo idiosyncrasy.

Just David Chase.

I like how one L.A. Times writer put it: "In the end, the art of writing is the art of making choices." In the case of The Sopranos finale, what were the choices? Whack Tony, don't whack Tony. Simple, really.

To my mind, before I'd watched the show, the choice was between commercialism and art. Commercialism left Tony alive for reunion shows (or future big screen versions). Art killed him off--like real life.

So, to tell you the truth, I kinda liked the "fill-in-the-blanks" version.

Or, as I read on a blog somewhere, apparently a character once told Tony (I'm totally paraphrasing, here): when the hit happens, it's over before you know it. You don't even see it coming.

Ah. Perhaps we experienced the "hit" just like Tony did. Abruptly. With no aftermath.


Friday, June 08, 2007

The Rest of the Story

So when you wake up on your first morning--make that your first afternoon--in the French Quarter, and you're hankering for some good old bacon 'n' eggs, what do you do? Well, you get in the car and drive to the suburbs, of course. This is the restaurant we found. Don't ask me where we were. At least there were people actually living in the homes in this neighborhood.

A sign of the times, n'est-ce pas? In case you can't read it, that's the stamp of approval post-Katrina, allowing this restaurant to re-open.

Okay, back to the French Quarter. Ann and I decided to take a stroll and we ducked into a bar to use their restroom. Lucky they gave us directions on how to operate the toilet, huh? Polite, too.

Ah, a typical site in the French Quarter! The patio at Pat O'Brien's. We sat inside and were thoroughly entertained by two lady pianists/songstresses. Gotta get me a copy of that song about missing New Orleans.

The most popular T-shirts for sale?

"I drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was gone"
"I stuck it out through Hurricane Katrina, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt, a Cadillac, and a Plasma Screen TV"
"Make levees, not war"

On travel day, at the airport: note the suitcase lying on the tarmac during the thunderstorm. With the naked eye, we could tell the color was green, thus enabling us to relax and laugh at the poor sap it belonged to.

Closing thoughts...

After spending hours glued to CNN during Hurricane Katrina, and having watched some of the updates thereafter, I was glad to take my tourist $ to the Gulf. Plus, I wanted to form my own opinion of what's going on there. Sadly, five days doesn't constitute enough research time to put confidence in my conclusions. But here they are, for what they're worth.

The gulf area got the brunt of "the storm" (as they call it there). That's where you see misshapen palms with their heads torn off, structures half there/half gone, and the ABSENCE of stuff--meaning, if you haven't been there before, someone has to tell you what's missing. This is also where I saw the most FEMA trailers--although, in truth I didn't see that many. Maybe they're further inland.

On one home, I saw the following scrawled: "People living here! Looters will be shot!" Guess that's one of the hazards of occupying a home in an otherwise empty neighborhood. You have to make your presence known.

In speaking with the locals, not once did I hear complaints about the Feds or anyone else. I don't know whether to attribute this to an inherent politeness, or the actual sentiment. I CAN say that reconstruction is going on. Entire condominium complexes are already built and up for sale. Hotels have re-opened, and those that haven't are about to. Maybe the tourists haven't quite come back yet, but they will.

I had to keep reminding myself that for these people, it's been nearly two years. Two long years. So what I was seeing didn't happen over night.

New Orleans/French Quarter
After we crossed the bridge over Lake Ponchatrain on our way into New Orleans, I noticed an eerie site. From the elevated highway, I could look down into miles and miles of everyday neighborhoods passing by. Nothing too unusual...until I realized they were empty. Unoccupied. I'm not sure where we were exactly, but it doesn't matter. I gather a lot of the outskirts of New Orleans look this way. Seemingly undisturbed, but uninhabitable. Then I realized that in many, motorhomes stood in the driveways. It's just the weirdest sensation, though. I kept thinking about how the destruction caused by an L.A. earthquake LOOKS so different from the destruction caused by a flood.

Billboards for debris and mold removal lined the highway.

Once we got into downtown, I didn't recognize the New Orleans I'd seen on the news two years ago. There sat the Superdome, so innocent. Nothing like the beacon of doom I expected. We took Canal street down to the river, and aside from what looked like any other major American city downtown rennovation--mostly street repair and some empty buildings--nothing struck me as odd or different.

I already knew the French Quarter had survived "the storm" largely intact. Maybe there were fewer tourists than my last visit (which, coincidentally, occurred at the same time of year), but they're returning in larger numbers every day. One night we engaged our waiter in quite a lengthy conversation. About 25-years old, he evacuated with his wife, mom, asthmatic grandma and assorted others to Tennessee for 9 months, and was surprised to discover how much he missed his hometown. When asked at what point they'd gotten out, he told us that because of the fragile family members, they always evacuated as soon as the threat became known.

Smart people.

Although he expressed little love for either the Mayor of New Orleans or Louisianna's governor, he also said something I haven't forgotten: "New Orleans is BETTER than it was before the storm."

When I asked in what way, he said: "There's less corruption. We're under a microscope now; everyone's watching."

Hm. Food for thought from a hard-working young waiter.

Oh, shoot! Almost forgot one last story!!! One last MUY IMPORTANTO PHOTO! Okay, so it's not--as Ann and Marty would put it--life altering...still, it PAID FOR THE TRIP!!

If you squint, can you see?? I wasn't even gonna gamble that night...but a progressive video poker slot called my name...suddenly, a sign flashed in the middle of the screen: CALL ATTENDANT! CALL ATTENDANT!

Had I broken the damn thing? Had I done something wrong??

Then I noticed the royal flush.


Not a bad haul for a trip to the Gulf.

**Updated: Thanks to niece Mindy for calling to my attention the fact that although I masked off my address...uh...I left my social security number and driver's license visible. HELLO! Calling all identity thieves!!!!

Crossing the Lake of Doom

...or...Getting the Pokeys on Lake Ponchatrain

Thursday, June 07, 2007

High Roller Dan

So now we're really going out of order. Oh well. Let's hop into the "way back machine" and zip back to last Friday, shall we? Y'know...the episode I described as requiring a security escort?

We arrived at the Island View Resort and Casino in Gulport, Mississippi around 2 o'clock in the afternoon and promptly sat our butts down at a Texas Hold 'Em table with dealer George, then Vicki, then George, then Vicki...well, you get the picture. We were there AWHILE. Meanwhile, Marty was building a rendition of the twin towers with chips and Ann wasn't doing so shabby herself. Uh, me? I'd have been better off just forking my cash over to Marty and Ann.


We finally left the table (after Marty got us food comps!) and looked for something else to play. Hm. What do we see but a crap table with a $5 minimum? (Just our style.) Only problem--it was packed. And trust me, there's nothing more intimidating then squeezing in between a bunch of tall men who are singularly focused on winning the big bucks. (Being blonde and female doesn't count in this instance!) Anyway, Marty convinced us to elbow our way in, then left to do "his thing"--whatever that turned out to be--I never really heard.

We placed our meager $5 bets, and I glanced down at the shooter--a guy at the opposite end of the table with only a couple of chips in his rack. Suddenly, a man two spaces down from me throws the shooter some chips. "You need some money in that rack," he tells him.

All-righty then. We gots us a TIPPER.

I put him about forty. He had one of those weak, receding chins, and bleached blond surfer hair. Flowered shirt and khaki shorts. And mucho de $1000 ($1000!) chips in front of him.

This could get interesting!!

It came time for me to shoot the dice. I had a pretty good run going, but various people kept stopping by to distract Surfer Dude (who's name turned out to be Dan). Then...I dunno...I guess I hit our point or something, 'cuz suddenly, he flipped me a $100 chip. I made a faint stab at politely refusing before shoving that sucker into my rack. Another time, he sent two stacks of fives over.

Ann shot next. Same thing, except he shoveled more chips at her. Maybe her run was longer. Maybe he liked her better. (Pout, pout) I felt righteously gypped.

About eight o'clock, Marty stopped by to gather us up for those comped dinners, but when he saw what was going on, he joined us instead. Yep, we completely BYPASSED dinner.

Anyway, the rest is history. We each shot a couple more times over the next several hours with the same result. At one point, after Marty had the dice for a particularly long time, I heard Dan mutter, "I just won $30,000 on that guy's roll." No WONDER he was tipping us!!

Finally, Dan the Man called it a night. And so did we. Uh, after all, it was about 4 a.m.

And all that cash weighing us down was adding to the weariness...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I'll try to caption these, however, Blogger doesn't seem to like it when I do. Above is the view from my hotel window. I think it's of the back bay in Gulfport.

Beach across from the hotel; this is where Harrah's used to be before "The Storm."

Hotels left over. The one in the foreground's kind of a mess and not open. We stopped at the other one at 4.a.m. and paid $20 a piece for a burger and fries.

Pool at our hotel...where I contracted lobster feet.

Mike and Randy at the bar in Mike's suite
In the one with the chairs, I was supposed to be artfully draping my leg; in the one at the bar, I "artfully" draped my hand so badly it looked grotesque so I had to crop it out. No, really. It looked like a case of MUTANT HAND. Must've been all that sun and alcohol.

Pics, Day One

Me and my guy, Anderson Cooper.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Fouth Seatmate

Okay, there are other vacation stories to tell…but this is the one on my mind for the moment. Those of you who’ve been following the bouncing ball will recall descriptions of seatmates one and two. Seatmate number three—well, he slept throughout the one-hour flight from New Orleans to Dallas, so I’m afraid he blew his stab at blog immortality.

But then there’s seatmate number four. The one from Dallas to Burbank.

As I made my way to row three, I noticed he was already there and seated. A chintzy-looking white hat with a feather in it sat like a badge of honor on his lap. I slid into my seat, deposited all the paraphernalia about me, and smiled hello. A little self-consciously, he smiled and said hello back.

I judged him to be mid-forties to fifty. Not bad-looking. Rather tan...sparkling blue eyes, and an easy smile. In short, he looked like you and me.

Then he took out his cell phone and dialed a number. “You’re not gonna BELIEVE it,” he said on a giggle. “I’m only three rows from the front! All I have to do is walk up the aisle, turn a corner to the left, and I’m off the plane!”

The exuberance was a clue.

“These people in first class are GENEROUS,” he said. “They already gave me a glass of water!”

A few minutes later, he repeated his location. Three rows to the front, a corner turn to the left, and he’d be off the plane. Like it was nothing short of a miracle.

After he clicked the cell phone shut, we began to chat. As it turned out, we had plenty of time, because suddenly a storm devoured the airport, shutting us down indefinitely. As the rain, wind, and lightning swirled around us, I learned that Steven’s original flight (from Houston to Dallas on the previous day) had gotten cancelled over and over. Finally, he’d been forced to call his cousin who’d retrieved him from the airport for one more night.

I guess, to make up for the inconvenience, American put him in First Class. On the third time he described how close he was to the front, I dared a glance around and caught a wink from the guy sitting behind Marty and Ann. It was nice to know people around me shared the glee I felt on Steven’s behalf.

So, I realized now, that Steven was…well…slow. Nice-looking, big heart, engaging…but, slow. The kind of person you wanna look out for.

The kinda person you wanna help have a good time.

Like I said, I listened to the stories…I made the appropriate sounds of encouragement and awe when he related the most insignificant observations you’ll ever hear about a trip to Texas. I scrutinized all of his photos (printed from the computer by his cousin who IS A GENIUS!!!) and asked follow-up questions. I took videos out the window, then showed him the playback on my camera, which thrilled him to no end. When Ann pointed out the lone piece of luggage, lying askew on the tarmac, all but forgotten by the baggage handlers in the pouring rain, Steven and I laughed about the poor sucker to whom it belonged.

Finally, the maelstrom outside cleared. We got ready for departure. Steven held onto his hat like it was the Hope Diamond. He must have checked five times to make sure he’d turned his cell phone off as instructed. Once we got airborne, he had to use the restroom. I left my seat so it wouldn’t be awkward for him to climb past me. When he returned, I did it again.

He couldn’t apologize enough for the inconvenience.

Next, the flight attendant took our orders for lunch. I think maybe he wasn’t sure what this was all about, so he followed my lead. When the meals were delivered, he got such a kick out of the salt and pepper.

He worried about not having made it back to work on the prescribed day. Maria, his “boss lady” had been very kind, he said, and told him not to worry. Inwardly, I conjured up a fantasy that this nice man probably worked for people who adored and appreciated him. I think—no, I KNOW--I was right about that.

As we got ready to land, Seven’s excitement level grew.

“Is someone picking you up at the airport?” I asked.

“My parents,” he said.

I wasn’t surprised.

But it touched my heart. I mean, his parents must be about the age of my OWN parents. How difficult it must be—at a time in their lives when they should be thinking about someone looking after THEM.

Minutes after landing, Marty, Ann, and I were standing at the luggage carousel, and I’d lost track of Steven. “Where is he?” I asked Ann. “I want to meet his parents.”

She located him in the throng of fellow travelers, and there was the elderly couple who’d come to pick up their son. I marched over and held out my hand. “I just wanted to say hello,” I said…"and to tell you what a wonderful son you have.”

They beamed.

* * *

I’m not a huge believer in God. But as I said to Ann later, I was so thankful that on a flight that sat for an hour in a pounding rainstorm…among passengers who sometimes feel a tad hoity-toity about First Class...I was so glad that He (whoever??) put me next to Steven.

And maybe that jackpot I won the night before had something to do with it. I mean, don’t get me wrong…I wouldn’t have behaved any differently, and I believe in the Golden Rule even without attached rewards and incentives. But still. Something to think about.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

Let's just say I'll be bringing a 1099-G home from The Big Easy!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Context Is Important

Like, for instance, I could write that hotel security escorted us from the Island View Casino on Friday night and it sounds BAD, right? Wrong! We won so much money, they thought it would be a good idea.

More later!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Blame It On Mike

This is what happens when a polite Southern guy pops for drinks all afternoon. Lobster feet.

Okay, so it's not entirely his fault. Maybe I should have been more specific with the sunscreen. Anyway, Ann and I made it down to the pool around 1 in the afternoon. There we met Mike who, after getting to know me, is heading to California where he somehow got the impression there's an unending supply of never-married, childless women.

Mike proved to be a wealth of local information, so it was cool to fire off question after question. If only I could remember the answers. Kidding. I learned a lot. For instance, the rest of the country talks about Katrina, Katrina, Katrina, but Mike went through Ivan which devastated the corner of the South he calls home. He also reminded us that New Orleans didn't so much experience the HURRICANE as the SURGE. It was the GULF (Biloxi, Gulfport, etc.) where Katrina actually hit. Today I think we'll drive up the coast toward Gulport. Ann remembers that nine years ago, she and Marty made a similar trip and she oohed and ahhed over the Civil War era homes with their sweeping lawns overlooking the Gulf. Mike tells us they're all gone. Only concrete slabs left.

I had the local news on TV this morning. It looks like the area is trying to prepare for the worst, but how can they when they haven't recovered from what happened two years ago?? I mean, they were discussing how to get the people in FEMA trailers to safety. By the way, that's what those are--a picture I took with my phone from the hotel window. Mike also told us that there were those who were secretly pleased about some of the devastation because...well...Katrina gave them the opportunity to weed out an undesirable element (my words, not Mike's).
Plus, hey you'd think the land around here would be going for nothing, right? Wrong. If I understood correctly (and remember, alcohol was involved during these discussions), land costs more than ever. It's still waterfront, after all, and this is America! (By the way...that area where the Civil War homes used to be? Upcoming condo heaven.)
Anyway, back to more exciting matters. While we lolled around the pool all day, Marty was hard at work in the poker room at Beau Rivage. After an unsuccessful attempt to win back some money at our hotel, Mike took Ann and I over to meet Marty. We all made deposits then decided to try new surroundings so we scooted on over to the Imperial Palace for some food...and more deposits.
Finally, Ann, Mike and I surrendered for the night while Marty partied on. Since Mike had to leave at the crack of dawn, we all said our good-byes last night. If you're reading this, Mike, thanks for showing us that good old-fashioned Southern hospitality!! We had a blast!
P.S. If this is formatted funky, it's Blogger's fault, not mine.