“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

New Years Resolutions on Coconut Drive
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We are definitely one of the most over-achiever, Type-A families I know, and a sign of this is what we do every New Year's Eve. We all separate for half an hour or so and contemplate, then write down our goals for the upcoming year, separating them into three different classifications: personal, professional/school, and travel.

Then, before we share those goals with each other, we take out the PREVIOUS YEAR'S goals and read them out loud, verbally grading ourselves on how we did. We all praise each other on the successes and then discuss how and why we missed meeting other goals. If someone missed an exercise-related goal, for example, then the three of us will ponder how that person might have tweaked his/her life to reach success. It's all very constructive and helpful, humbling and energizing.

Over the years, we've gotten smarter at making these lists. In the earlier years we all had 30 or so goals, but our lists are usually now about 15 items... sometimes even shorter. A few years ago I wanted to spend more time nurturing my relationships with friends and family, and it was very important to me, so this was my only goal ... and because of that focus I was able to do a bang-up job being Mr. Kind-and-Social that year.

So... tonight I will be looking at these goals, which I penned last year:

-Drink in moderation, which means one cocktail per work night or no more than three on a weekend night, and only one weekend night of drinking.
-Be more attentive to Carol; spoil her as I spoil Haley
-Waste less time online
-Read at least two books per month.
-Call my parents at least once a week
-Help Haley find scholarships and apply for them
-Reconnect with Tommy Herman (old high-school buddy)
-Benchpress max of at least 260
-Canoe at least two Bluway trips.
-Bird-watch at Corkscrew.
-Get Haley to understand Credit Cards and show her statements MONTHLY

-Do well enough as guest lecturer at University of South Florida that I get a good reference
-Finish Novel #5

-Boise/Oregon trip
-Rainforest in South America
-Burlington for Thanksgiving (my hometown)
-Some sort of Everglades immersion
-Day trip to Lover's Key (an island off Fort Myers)
-Portsmouth, NH with Carol
-Midwestern college-hunting trip

I must say: At first glance, this might be one of my worst years in history. I usually attain 40-60 of them. This year? Well ... I'll tell you later.

An unfortunate tradition in our house ...
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

... Dad wears his Alvin the Chipmunk slippers every Christmas morning.
They are a size 10, given to me by a college roommate decades ago. My daughter has said that, when she marries, she will force her husband to carry on the tradition.
Poor fellow.

The things men say
Monday, December 29, 2008

I was in the front yard the other day with my wife when I looked at our hedge of arbicola bushes and said, "It's time to trim those things. I think their work is done."

The plants line the sidewalk in front of the house, a good eight feet tall now. I planted them because, when we first moved into this house at the end of the block on the water, the neighborhood seemed to think that this yard was their private park, and we had people poking around our house like chattering squirrels at all hours of the day and night. I've since heard that the previous owner of this house was very laid-back about this ... but not me. I believe in respecting ones property and staying away, especially if the people in the house refuse to put up window treatments and like to walk around in their underwear. (Hey, we're ON THE WATER, and we want to SEE THE WATER, okay?!?!)

So not only did I plant the hedge, but I also planted some bougainvillea bushes at the end of the sidewalk, nearer the water, and let them grow wild. Now, those of you who don't know much about bougainvillea, let me say this: Though those fuchsia blooms are pretty, it is a NASTY, THORNY plant that, I'm certain, was the model for the thistles that grew over Sleeping Beauty's castle. It says one thing: Look but don't touch! Seriously, these thorns can penetrate car tires.

Anyway, my wife questioned me cutting down the hedge.

"I think it would look better shorter," I replied. "And besides ... we don't need it anymore. People stay away now. We have established dominance at the end of the block."

She smiled and repeated the last line. Yeah, I must admit ... it's funny.

But true.

Some species pee to mark their territory. Others plant high, thorny hedges.

Another reason I like facebook over myspace
Saturday, December 27, 2008

The latest invitation on my MySpace page: "MS. BLaQ-gAl would like to be added to your MySpace friends list."

Okay, now, people ... I'm getting these almost daily now ... invites that usually come from one-name sources (Jessica, FunLovingFiona, etc.) Does anyone else out there have the impression that MySpace is a pickup bar for desperate people and prostitutes?

Or am I doing something to provoke such invitations?

Sibling Rivalry: "No, I'M Santa Clause!"
Thursday, December 25, 2008

So, as I blogged to you yesterday, my brother and I have had a difficult path in the relationship department, and I think it's because we are very different people. He was jock, I was scholar. He stayed home to work in the family business, and I left home. He liked to get into trouble in college, and I was a goody-goody who followed the rules.

Yet ... opposites are supposed to attract, right? So we should be the best of friends, right? Why, then, are we so combative? I think I've got this figured out now.

1. We both are arrogant and STRONG in our delivery of an opinion, as if we were attorneys representing God and the Devil in court.

2. It is difficult to gauge who has been the most successful in life because our lives are so different; comparing the high points of our lives would be like comparing apples to porcupines. Therefore, we unconsciously jockey all the time for dominance in our quest to show Dad who is the BEST SON!!

It would be presumptuous of me to talk of his jealousies, but I can certainly say that I am jealous of his intimate relationship with my dad. (Throughout the holiday they smoked cigars together and shared whispers and knowing looks. I realize I can't expect to share that intimacy because I'm no longer part of the family business.)

I also envy how laid-back my brother is; he knows how to have fun while I tend to be uptight and worrisome. He's the nice guy (though with a hot head at times) whom everyone in town loves ... the type of person who gets phone calls on Christmas day from his mentally handicapped friends he has "adopted" over the years. He's got a big heart, in general. Unfortunately, the sibling rivalry between us makes it unlikely for him to share it with me.

We have raised our daughters in very different households ... ours in an East Coast manner and his in a Wild West (eastern Colorado) manner. (You fill in the blanks here.)... And I don't know about him, but I'll admit here that I've always felt competitive with him in the parenting arena because I felt he was always judging me for raising our daughter in a different way. But now that the girls are older (a college freshman and high-school senior) we can see that they both have blossomed into very different but nonetheless remarkable young women ... and now we can tell ourselves, "Well, I guess he did okay after all ... I guess my way wasn't better ... just DIFFERENT."

While together this week, we all watched Fred Clause, a movie starring Vince Vaughan about Santa and his real-life brother, who lived a messed-up life because he'd grown up in his brother's very-large shadow. It got me thinking. Don't we all feel as if we're living in someone's shadow? And doesn't that fuel our competitive nature and rivalries? And who between the two of us -- John or I -- would play the Santa character in the movie? Now in my 40s, I can say I'm not sure how to answer that anymore. And that's why I look forward to a long, wonderful friendship with my brother, as we mellow into middle-age men.

So: I'm going to show vulnerability here and say this loud and clear: I love you, John. I had a great time this Christmas. And guess what? Mom likes me BEST!!!!!

Report from Anna Maria Island
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Okay, I am pleased to announce that: 1. Our rental home on Anna Marie Island has Wi-Fi and ...2. I have found that I'm addicted to this blogging thing so I am NOT taking the week off as I said I would. I feel words bubbling forth, like the fizzy froth from a closed jar of fermenting kimchee.

We are here with my folks and my brother and his daughter/my niece, a freshman at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and I am trying VERY HARD to get along with my brother as we have personalities that sometimes clash like ... well ... like battery acid and human flesh. To help facilitate peace I am NOT DRINKING COCKTAILS! And while this does keep me from getting all inflamed and blustery it does cause my daughter to periodically say, "Dad, are you alright?" And I simply reply, "Oh, yes ... just ... THIRSTY!"

My daughter is finishing up college apps this week, so she is not in the best of moods.

Nice to see my dad. I rarely get to see him. He's one of those workaholic guys who doesn't like to travel, and since I, too, don't like to travel, well this creates long gaps between our visits. He also doesn't email. I'm working on this.

Best family story to come out this week so far: My now-dead granddad was helping my now-dead grandma hang Christmas decorations. She had him holding up one of those "Merry Christmas" signs over the doorway, when she reached into his pocket for some thumbtacks and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, which came as a big surprise because she thought he'd stopped smoking ... I don't know ... 24 years earlier? She said, "John! What do you have to say for yourself?" And my grandpa, still holding the sign aloft, sighed and replied, "Well, Merry F**kmas!"

A conversation with Santa
Saturday, December 20, 2008

Okay, y'all, I'm going to take a break from blogging for the next week or so as I enjoy my visiting family from Colorado, but before I do that I wanted to recount a conversation I had with Santa last night, who stopped by after getting a load of gifts from The Shell Factory in North Fort Myers. To avoid detection, he wore flipflops, khaki shorts and a turquoise Columbia fishing shirt.

Santa: "You say you've been good, Ad, but I see a lot of gin bottles in that recycling bin."

Ad: "Oh, those aren't mine. I have this neighbor who's embarrassed by her drinking, and she brings them over in the middle of the night before recycling day."

Santa: "And you've still got some problems with the lying."

Ad: "Oh, no, not me. ... Say ... you've lost weight, haven't you? You're looking downright FIT!"

Santa, looking down at his immense gut, then checking his list again: "Okay, then ... Well, let's see here. It says you want a case of vermouth-soaked olives. And those would be for ..."

Ad: "Cooking, of course! Oh, man, we LOVE those vermouth-soaked olives on everything: Breakfast cereal, grits, oatmeal. Boy, we sure go through those vermouth-soaked olives. My daughter eats them like candy!"

Santa sighs deeply then folds the list and stows it in his back pocket. He touches my shoulder, an act of concern, and says, "Are things okay, my friend? I mean, I know your only child is going away to college this June. Frankly, I'm a little worried about you. Your wife's a little concerned as well. I mean, I've read your novels. I know you're a control freak who obsesses over his wife's and daughter's needs. I'm thinking you'll need something extra to fill some big, new holes in your life. And I don't think you should be filling those holes with gin. That's just my opinion."

Ad, poking Santa in the stomach. "Oh, man, you are so FUNNY! ... So FUN-NY!!! Don't you need to be going somewhere about now? Yes. I really think you need to be going somewhere about RIGHT NOW!"

Santa: "Look inside yourself, young man."

Ad: "I do that every day, Santa. I'm a writer. I see too much, therefore I drink too much. Bye, now. I said, GOOD BYE!!!!"

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the subtropics
writers sat up in their underwear, drinking gin and tonics ...

Sh**head finds a new home!
Thursday, December 18, 2008

A few months back I blogged about a strange thing I'd bought for some strange reason:

Yeah, I'm not sure why this guy caught my eye at World Market, but he sure as heck did. And why? What an awful, un-Zen-like face! What was I thinking?
Well, after I blogged about him, a reader and now-friend emailed me, saying we should name him "Sh**head" because he looks as if he's grimacing on the toilet. "I love him," she said. I asked her if she wanted him. She said yes. So she came by the house (with a baby blanket!) and picked him up. No papers were signed. This was a gentleman's agreement.

Not two hours later, I got this from her via email:

Yep, Sh**head getting his first bath. I was told he LOVES bubble baths, and that he's fitting in very well with his two, new human siblings.

Oh...now this just makes me all warm and fuzzy. And just in time for Christmas!

What to put in those Christmas stockings
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I've learned over the years that the contents of Christmas stockings varies from family to family. When I was kid, my brother and I had big, felt handmade stockings with our names on them. In fact, my Mom really did Christmas in a big way, with handmade decorations everywhere. We also had a tree every year that towered at nearly 15 feet tall and required three men for the erection. (Whoops. Maybe I should rewrite that! You sometimes form the oddest sentences while fast-blogging.) On the front port was a lifesize Santa and Mrs. Clause, sitting on the swing. They were made from scraps of paper and cloth, sculpted over large antique milk cans. Absolute works of art, these decorations. My mother was a master decorator and artist, just like the mom-character, Geena, in my novel "All This Belongs to Me."

Needless to say, when it came time to fill those stockings on Christmas Eve, Mom just didn't have much time or energy left, so she filled them with a pattern of this: apple, orange, lots of peanuts, then a $5 bill. Then another apple, another orange, lots of peanuts, and another fiver or ten. Then, another apple, another orange, lots of peanuts ... you get the picture. These big stockings must have weighed at least ten pounds when she was finished with them.

When I grew up and started my own family, my wife and I decided that stockings would be the most important, most anticipated part of Christmas Day. To do this, we acquire things for them all year long. On vacations, we sneak away and buy mementos. We might put in some homemade "I-Owe-You" coupons for tasks or favors to be done around the house ... or a really nice pair of slippers or a piece of jewelry or CD or small book of some kind. Every person contributes to everyone's stocking, and they only buy things they know that person will really cherish.

I wrote about this on facebook, and a reader from Louisville, Kentucky offered her own amusing experience with combining a new marriage's Christmas-stocking traditions. I quote her directly:

"...Chad and I come from totally opposite stocking-stuffer traditions. In my family, the stocking were stuffed with completely useless but fun stuff - toys, candy, etc. In his, it was all totally useful stuff: toothbrush, travel-size toiletries, etc. Our first Christmas together was interesting; we each dumped out our stockings and were like, "What is THIS???"

Goodbye, 36. Hello, 38.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ad: "Hello, Land's End?"
LE: "Yes, Mr. Hudler! It's nice to hear from you again. Do you need another order of shorts?"
Ad: "Uhm ... yes.
LE: "Next size up?"
Ad: "Uhm ... yes."
LE: "This is getting to be an annual thing, isn't it?"
Ad: "Uhm ... yes."
LE: "I mean, you grow a waist size about every ... let's see here ... about every 14 months ... and then you call us and ask for five pair of our khaki mid-length shorts."
Ad: "Uhm ... yes."
LE: "So that's what you need? Five pair of 38-waist shorts?"
Ad: "Uhm ... yes."
LE: "Okay, then. Talk to you again next year!"

But what would his momma say?
Monday, December 15, 2008

Spotted in a parking lot in Fort Myers, Florida: an immense monster truck with wheels so big the doors were nearly five feet from the ground ... and in the rear windshield, a sign:

"Jack 'em up, boys.
Fat bitches can't jump.
ADDED LATER: Some readers were confused by this. Let me elaborate: The man obviously doesn' t like overweight women ... and he's saying you can keep such women from getting into your truck by jackin' it up high.

Rationalization of The Century
Saturday, December 13, 2008

There's this video billboard thing on a wall in my hospital-owned health club that flashes advertisements in between snippets of medical news. Yesterday's "news" offering was especially funny. I paraphrase:

"It's perfectly natural for grandpa to get into trouble for saying things that make people mad. ... As we get older, the part of our brain that controls inhibitions begins to decline, which makes it easier to commit those verbal faux pas."

Reaction: No way! I've got a better reason: Don't you think it's because older people are just tired of living through multiple decades of day-to-day bullshit? And they've grown weary of concealing their emotions?

I have warned my daughter already: I am going to be an AWFUL old man. I have already been a curmudgeon for 36 years. Lord knows what the future holds.

Beware the Tattletale Jesus!
Friday, December 12, 2008

It's just getting too hard to commit a crime and get away with it these days, doggone it. Imagine this scenario: You kill someone in a messy way, lots of blood all over the place. And you take out the sponge mop and Mr. Clean and get to work and spend a great amount of time and effort cleaning up the mess, and you are VERY PROUD of your thorough job. And then the cops come to the house and use something called Luminol, a chemical agent that causes blood traces to fluoresce under ultraviolet light (Did you know there was a verb version of fluorescent?) ... and you get busted. Damn that Mr. Clean! And he came so highly recommended.

And consider this: Gone are the days when you could steal the Baby Jesus from the manger scene at your neighborhood church as a joke. (We did this once and replaced it with a G.I. Joe) Well, evidently some churches have grown tired of having to replace their Baby Jesus every year, so they're putting a GPS device INSIDE the Baby Jesus. You've been forewarned, boys! Perhaps you should consider the donkey or cow this year?

WWJD: He'd buy the cheap poinsettias
Thursday, December 11, 2008

Readers of my novel, "Southern Living" will know very well that I am addicted to supermarkets. Love 'em. And supermarket chains, especially my local favorite, Publix, usually vary their store offerings from neighborhood to neighborhood. It all depends on the demographics. The Publix near my house, for example, serves a Caribbean clientele, so they usually have severed goat head in the meat case. Another Publix, farther from my house and closer to a community of expensive waterfront homes, has a more varied selection of fresh herbs and more prime cuts of beef. And I choose a different Publix for my cocktail limes because they serve a Latin clientele, and the prices for limes at the lower-demo store are significantly lower than those at the high-end Publix.
The other day, walking into a lower-demo Publix, I saw a stand of lush, medium-large poinsettia plants ... each for just $7!! These would have easily cost twice as much in a higher-demo store. Obviously, it's a supply-and-demand thing. But I did feel a little guilty, making such a frivolous purchase in a store where I've previously "loaned" shoppers a few dollars to help them pay their tabs.

Bad Hair Day
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I was about five years old when the musical "Hair" came out, and though the lyrics were considered somewhat naughty for back then my parents let us listen to it. They were journalists, after all, and our household had a culture that embraced knowledge and fresh ideas, and censorship was obviously looked down upon. My brother read "The Godfather" in fifth grade. The first big adult novel I read was some book called "The Fly Girls," or something like that, which was the story of three horny female flight attendants and all the trouble they got into.

So ... when "Hair" came out in the late sixties -- I couldn't have been older than 5 at the time -- I played it loud and played it often, not really knowing what the lyrics said, but, hey, what catchy tunes, right? Evidently, there was one song's tune I liked better than the others, and I repeated a certain line over and over and over again, singing it in public, at random times. (Remember: family of journalists ... freedom of expression and all that.)

During this time we visited my grandmother in northern California. And at one point, I remember her turning around from the driver's seat and yelling at me, "Don't you know any other song?!" Well, I certainly did ... but at the time I liked this tune the best, so I continued to sing it again and again:

Can be fuuuuun.
Join the holy orgy.
Kama Sutra ...

Sorry, Grandma.

Tent-camping with Teenagers = Great Fun
Monday, December 8, 2008

Okay, so this weekend I helped a friend take his daughter, my daughter and 9 other teenagers camping. And we certainly didn't take the easy way out: Drive two vans and big pickup FULL of gear to ferry, load everything on ferry, unload ferry, load everything onto tram, unload everything from tram, schlep everything to campsite, make sure none of our stuff gets mixed up with the other parties and then ... set up camp. WHEW! And then 24 hours later, do it all AGAIN.

But I have to tell you: It was a breeze. Really. I actually had fun. First of all, when you have that many people to carry things it's much easier. Second of all, one of these nice young men was an Eagle Scout. (Thanks for your help in all matters outdoors, John. And thanks for not making fun of me when I said that the 'mama bug was giving her baby bug a piggyback ride' instead of realizing that I was interrupting a moment of passionate mating.)

Third, these kids are all IB kids. For those who don't know of the International Baccalaureate program, I will tell you it is a rigorous high-school path so difficult it makes the AP track seem downright remedial. These kids have orals, serious, critical papers, and projects that I didn't do until my senior year of undergrad. There's an IB bumper sticker out there that says, "I think, therefore IB." I've joked with my daughter that it SHOULD say, "IB, Therefore I don't sleep."

As a result, they are focused, disciplined and wonderful teenagers. I've watched them view and deconstruct Disney movies, drawing parallels to Shakespeare. They attend origami exhibits. Their cell phones are NOT GLUED TO THEIR EARS, and they know how to have a meaningful political discussion with any adult who is too sunburned to go back to the beach. (Thanks, Aaron! I'm going to try out that almond milk you told me about.)

These are the kind of things they did for fun:

We were on Cayo Costa, a barrier island state park off the coast of Cape Coral, Florida. Outside magazine has called it one of the 50 finest islands in North America. These kids spent a lot of time on the beach, using nothing more than shells to dig holes, and ropes and sticks to dream up contests.

Here's what they did at night:

Yup. They played guitar and drums and sat around a campfire, making smores. Only twice did a see a phone used the entire time we were there.

My friend, Kevin, kept us well fed, cooking pasta putanesca and Caesar's salad for 13, which we tossed and served from a plastic trash bag. Next day we had homemade black beans and rice. And these kids ... and I'm not lying about this ... would constantly say things like, "Yes, please, Mr. Hudler," and "Thank you very much," even after I'd shattered my dignity by doing my Pee-Wee Herman imitation and telling them I'd wet the bed the last time I went camping. (Thanks, Haley, for giving your dad so much slack!)

I have never met an IB kid I didn't like. It has become a litmus test for me. And if there's an IB program in your city, and you know of a kid getting ready to enter high school, do him or her a favor and look into it. IB = good person. Spend a weekend with a group of IB kids, and your hope for the future of this country and world will swell. Thanks, guys ... I had a great time. And I wish you all the best of luck wherever you go next year.

Bad news from the doctor's office
Friday, December 5, 2008

Those of you who were following this blog in early fall will remember how I started sharing my nightly "gin count," in hopes that I would feel more accountable for my drinking and, thus, hopefully, STOP drinking so much. Well ... I haven't mentioned it for quite some time, as you might have noticed, and it's because the gin has been flowing rather freely. And this will be coming to a stop.

Even before my doc walked into the room his Cuban-born nurse, who usually flirts with me, let me have it. She looked at my blood-work report and said, "You are bad! You need to stop eating bad things!"

Indeed, Doc confirmed this: Good cholesterol down. Bad cholesterol up.

"What is that level you watch that shows how much I drink?" I asked him.

"Do you drink too much?" he asked me.

"Well, I'm a big guy," I answered. "Too much for you wouldn't be too much for me."

He rolled his eyes. "Your triglycerides are high. That's because of the booze. Now, cut it out. And watch the red meat."

"But I power-lift,"I explained. "I need the protein."

"Walnuts. Almonds. Tofu. Egg substitutes," he countered.

Egad. So ... I have decided to go cold-turkey, in a way. I am NOT GOING TO DRINK ON WEEKNIGHTS. Yes, that's right: Only the weekend.

FYI: A sign of these highly-digital times: My wife emailed me a few hours after the meeting and said, "I hear you got in trouble from the doctor?"

She had been alerted by a friend in Reno who had read my facebook status, where I'd divulged the sad truth!
Everyone now: "It's a small world, after all ... it's a small world, aaaaaafter alllllll ...."

How to host an author at your book club
Thursday, December 4, 2008

A few nights ago I had the pleasure of being asked back for the third time to Sanibel Island's oldest, whackiest book club for a holiday party and discussion of my newest book, "Man of the House." Beautiful artist Pam Rambo (yes, it is her real name) cooked up some nice fish and a salad and some rice that was so black it almost looked like caviar. Very tasty. One of the members, LuAnn, gave us all a pair of little snowman earrings as holiday gifts. ("Those are for your wife, Ad, not you" she said.)

All in all, it was a fun evening, and as always, the conversation drifted back and forth between the actual book and the things that were happening in the lives of these women. That's what makes book-club visits fun ... and certainly interesting. The only awkward moment came when one of the ladies asked if I, as does my protagonist Linc Menner, actually sit down when I pee. I told them that, yes, I often do this in the early morning and middle of the night because, well, a guy's aim just isn't that good when he's not fully awake, and it's ME who has to clean those toilets after all, so why would I sabotage myself? You sit down, and there's no mess. Period. Try it, guys. You'll make your wife much happier.

Ad's Free French Lesson
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My fancy foodie friend, Petunia, was over at my house the other day, and the subject of farms came up. We both shared our fantasy about being small-scale farmers, which lead us to the subject of killing livestock for eating. Now, you need to know right here that I grew up in a cowboy town in Colorado, where the prime rib was sublime because the four-legged source surrounded the town by the hundreds of thousands, munching away on buffalo grass as they awaited their trip to their maker. Petunia, on the other hand, while she SAYS she "farmed" some sheep while living in England, is a CITY GIRL through and through who is a wine expert and was trained in a French culinary school. Like I said: Fancy. I love Petunia; she keeps me civilized.

Petunia: "If we're farmers, we'll need to bring in an abbatoir for the animals."

Ad: "A what?"

Petunia: "An abbatoir."

Ad, thinking to himself: Why the hell would we need a clothes closet for the animals?

Ad, to Petunia: "What the hell is an abbatoir."

Petunia: "You know ... the way you process the animals. You need an abbatoir to kill them."

Ad: WTF?

Petunia: "Fine, then. What do YOU call the place where you take the animals to be processed?"

Ad, thinking for a moment, finally says, "Oh! You mean a slaughter house. That's what we call them in cattle country: slaughter houses."

...though I do have to admit: abbatoir does sound nicer ... especially if that steak is going to be served with FRENCH FRIES!

Tropical Diary: Post #2665 ... Or: "Hey, Where'd Judy go?"
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

With apologies to my local southwest Florida readers who might have read this already, I feel compelled to reprint here a great story from my local newspaper, The News-Press (written by Glenn Miller):

"The hawk swooped unseen and unheard upon its prey, a defenseless Quaker parrot named Judy Garland, who was only inches away from its owner, south Fort Myers resident Ronda Piccirillo.

It was Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving. As it dived for its attack, one of the hawk's wings brushed Piccirillo's face. The hawk snatched Judy Garland and was last seen speeding over Vassar Drive, not somewhere over the rainbow, toward neighbor Carlene Brennen's house. Judy Garland hasn't been seen since.''I heard her scream,'' Piccirillo said. "So traumatic. Oh, gosh."

Then it was Piccirillo's turn to yell. "I heard her screaming," neighbor Joyce Richardson said. All the screaming by all the parrots and all the humans in Lee County couldn't save Judy Garland.

This was the second parrot Piccirillo has lost in recent years. About three years ago, her pet of 23 years, a parrot named Coca, died. Then on Nov. 7, 2007, Piccirillo's boyfriend, Ron Darling, gave her a new parrot, the one she named Judy Garland, after the legendary singer. Piccirillo, 53, is also a singer. She's a DJ and performs in karoake bars under the name RondaLee. She liked to take Judy out, place her on the branch of a frangipani tree. That's where they were Friday morning.

"I was standing there, talking to her," Piccirillo said. "It was so serene."

Then the serenity was gone. So was Judy Garland.

"There was nothing I could do," Piccirillo said.

After her screaming, Vassar Drive got quiet.

"It was dead silent," Piccirillo said. "There wasn't an animal in the neighborhood making a sound."

Ad again: Surreal, huh? All the way down to the boyfriend's name: Ron Darling. As I said last week, all those Florida crime-writer novelists don't make this stuff up!

Magazine subscriptions: Oh, the deception!
Monday, December 1, 2008

A friend of mine on facebook recently said, "I must be getting old. I renewed my subscription to Savannah Magazine twice during the past two months and was about to do it a third time when I suddenly realized what I'd done."

No, you are NOT going crazy. I, too, have done this countless times. But I have finally figured this out. There's a conspiracy out there. Here's what happens: Many magazines send you a renewal just a few weeks after you've renewed, and you say to yourself, "I thought I did that already," but, of course, you doubt yourself and DO IT AGAIN!!"
You KNOW they do this on purpose; why else would it happen? Those subscription people know we're busy, busy, busy, and they're taking advantage of our crazed, less-than-perfect brains that can't possibly remember everything we need to remember.

So: Does anyone want the rest of my subscription to Muscle and Fitness? I've somehow managed to subscribe through March of 2064.