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The Comments I’m Not Making

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Department Of Raising Them Right

Dateline: last Friday; circa 4 pm; a Manzanita (OR) grocery store. Three towheaded children watch their equally blond parents taste the Syrah that is offered at the store’s weekly wine tasting. The parents speak softly to each other, in lightly accented English which makes me think they’re originally from Germany, or possibly the Netherlands…maybe North Dakota. 

Spicy,” Mom says, sipping her wine sample. The middle child, a boy who looks maybe five years old, grins up at the store’s wine tasting host and says, “Expensive.”  [1]

 

*   *   *

Department Of There Goes The Neighborhood
Chapter 391

The latest salvo in my never-ending battle against tasteful lawn décor:  [2]

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [3]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

An Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey

Recipe:  Moong Dal

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [4]

   *   *   *

Department Of Naming Your Kid After A Leafy Green Is Child Abuse, IMHO

Dateline: Tuesday evening, circa 7:30pm, our local Costco.  Leaving the store with MH, I do something moiself has never done before. 

 

 

No, not that.  (Holy farting Jesus H. Buddha on a raft – nuns have the dirtiest minds).

There are two female employees at the store’s exit door. What I do is that I look at the nametag/ID badge of the Costco employee whose job moiself had hitherto thought of as Receipt Swiper (the employee who looks at the goods in your cart and then uses their Sharpie Pen ® to make a loopy mark across your receipt).   [5]  Beneath the employee’s name is her work title, which, for some reason, startles me: Front End.

Moiself: “Oh, my!

Receipt Swiper: (looking at me quizzically) “Yes?”

Moiself: “Sorry – I’m just wondering, is there another person in the back of the store with the title, ‘Rear End’ ?”

Receipt Swiper laughs and makes her sharpie mark on our receipt.  The other employee standing by RS’s side also laughs, and I look at her ID badge, which has no title, just her name.  I somehow manage to refrain from commenting with the first thing that comes to mind; instead, I do a double take to make sure that, yep, according to her Official Costco Badge, ®  this young woman’s name is Kale.

(The comment moiself does not make):
“Right on, Sister!”  [6]   My name is Arugula, and this is my husband Radicchio, and our two children are Romaine and Endive.”

 

Why do all the dickheads come to my line?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Go Read This Man’s Essay Right Now

Moiself refers to American writer Walter Mosley’s compelling essay, Why I Quit The Writer’s Room, wherein he describes how he came to quit a new job writing for a network television series after receiving an (anonymous) complaint about his use of language.

I’d been (in the new writers room) for a few weeks when I got the call from Human Resources. A pleasant-sounding young man said, “Mr. Mosley, it has been reported that you used the N-word in the writers’ room.”

I replied, “I am the N-word in the writers’ room.”

He said, very nicely, that I could not use that word except in a script. I could write it but I could not say it. Me. A man whose people in America have been, among other things, slandered by many words. But I could no longer use that particular word to describe the environs of my experience.

Someone else in the writer’s room – HR would not reveal the identity to Mosley – had called HR about Mosley’s use of the N-word (which Mosley had used in sharing an encounter which had happened to him; he didn’t call anyone that word). Mosley’s concern about being censored – “…if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word without the threat of losing my job.” –   led him to resign from that show.

 

 

Some of my most cherished beliefs and opinions I hold and espouse,  [7]  both as a Mere Mortal ® and A Writer ®, have developed over the years because I have been able to hear and read ideas and words that made someone feel uncomfortable – even threatened.

One of the most dangerous but effective kinds of censorship for a writer is when “they” get you to do it to yourself. I’v watched with lip-curling disdain and alarm while claims of authenticity and charges of appropriation have seeped into the literary and publishing world.  The stench of the well-intended, silent-but-deadly admonition to “write what you know” has become “write what you are,” and the cherished ideals of imagination, empathy and craft are in danger of becoming subservient to identity politics.  In this write-what-you-know/are, A & A (authenticity & appropriation) world, an author cannot – or rather, should not – create or even write about certain characters unless the author shares what the self-appointed A & A police deem as those characters’ primary representative markers (hint: “race,” ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability….).

Had I listened to that flaming and festuring turd of suppression advice, the protagonist (and other crucial characters) of my book The Mighty Quinn  could not have existed. Because who was I, a 50-something female, to write about the travails of a bullied fifth grade boy?   [8]

In the ideal A & A regime, moiself, as an able-bodied, politically left-of-center, plant-based-eating-and-cooking, yoga-practicing,  religion-free, English-speaking, healthy, heterosexual, middle-aged, native born American woman primarily of European descent residing in the Pacific Northwest, could only “authentically” write about my tribe.  No 30-something, ALS-stricken, bi-curious, computer programming and ESL-student, cricket-playing, Indonesian immigrant son of Baptist missionary parents living in Utah could – or should – escape the confines of my mind and onto the pages in that stifled world.

 

 

I do not believe that it should be the object of our political culture to silence those things said that make some people uncomfortable…. if I have an opinion, a history, a word that explains better than anything how I feel, then I also have the right to express that feeling or that word without the threat of losing my job. And furthermore I do not believe that it is the province of H.R. to make the decision to keep my accusers’ identities secret. If I’ve said or done something bad enough to cause people to fear me, they should call the police.

I’m a fortunate guy. Not everyone can quit their job. But beyond that, we cannot be expected to thrive in a culture where our every word is monitored. If my words physically threaten or bully someone, something must be done about it. But if you tell me that you feel uncomfortable at some word I utter, let me say this:

There was a time in America when so-called white people were uncomfortable to have a black person sitting next to them. There was a time when people felt uncomfortable when women demanded the right to vote. There was a time when sexual orientation had only one meaning and everything else was a crime.

(excerpt from Walter Mosley’s Why I Quit The Writers’ Room)

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Telling Your Parents To Shut Up   [9]

The pleasures of walking alone on the beach early in the morning are legion, but the dangers are very real, as per a recent 6:30 am-ish stroll I took along the shoreline near Nehalem Bay State Park. A vigorous and obsessive dog dashed by me, chasing gulls it would never catch; 30 seconds later I made a friendly/offhand comment to the only other person I saw on the beach at that time, whom I assumed was the dog’s owner.  [10]   She turned out to be a wild-eyed, animated, proud ex-Marine determined to engage me in conversation.  In less than 90 seconds she’d managed to turn my dog comment into an opportunity for her to go to LaLa Land – specifically, to speechify about the fact that although she was born and raised in SoCal (as was moiself) you couldn’t pay her to live there anymore (ditto for moiself)…which somehow led to her impassioned defense of California’s Proposition 13….   [11]

He (Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Holmes) did not have a curmudgeon’s feelings about his own taxes. A secretary who exclaimed ‘Don’t you hate to pay taxes!’ was rebuked with the hot response, ‘No, young feller. I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.’
(Felix Frankfurter, “Mr. Justice Holmes and the Supreme Court”,
as cited in Quote Investigator)

I managed to extricate myself from the political harangue chat, but not the memory it invoked. Along time ago in a galaxy far, far away, moiself and MH were in Santa Ana (CA), visiting my parents at a time when they’d just happened to have recently received their property tax bill. My folks were proud beneficiaries of Prop 13   [12]  and they were practically gloating when they waved the bill in front of MH and I and asked us how much we were paying in property tax for our house in Hillsboro (OR).

Strike “ practically gloating” – it was up front, out of the closet gloating. They gleefully pointed out that moiself and MH (who found an excuse to leave the room when he realized where the conversation was headed) were paying over ten times what they were in property taxes.  Although my parents were usually Nice People ® , they mentioned this disparity repeatedly.

I told my folks, sure, like most people I don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes, but I do enjoy the numerable services I receive in exchange for doing so.  I make it a point to look at the entire property tax bill when it arrives…

At this point I was interrupted by my parents, who made the comparison, yet again, of how little they paid and how much MH and I paid  –  with the implication that we were somehow schmucks for paying more.

As I was saying…I look at the entire property tax bill, not just the number we have to remit. I pay attention to how the  tax total is broken out into categories – primary, secondary and community college education; parks and recreation; police and fire and rescue services; enhanced sheriff patrols; clean water services, urban road maintenance….  I think about all the services I get for my $$ and thus am grateful, both for those vital, life-and-community-enhancing services and for the opportunity to share their cost with my fellow citizens…

And so, Mom and Dad, CAN YOU PLEASE SHUT UP ABOUT THIS?

 

 

They were momentarily shocked into silence, which allowed me to explain the reasons for my umbrage.  During that past year, my parents had had several grandchildren in CA public schools…and my folks had also received at least one visit from the fire department and two from the paramedics (due to various “old people” incidents, which included my father accidentally starting a fire in their oven and my mother having two falls requiring emergency medical attention).  Given the publicly-funded services they had directly benefited from, they were not paying anywhere near their fair share of the cost of living in a civilized society. Instead of gloating, how about even a modicum of gratitude? If that’s too much to ask, how’s about just saying nothing at all about your taxes, particularly nothing about how we are paying 10x what you are?

My parents mounted a lame defense of their tax gloating, then quickly changed the subject. Earlier I had noted the ubiquitous stack of Billy Graham Association literature on their coffee table; I remember thinking at one point during the tax talk,

What would your Jesus say about your tax burden? As I recall, according to y’alls scriptures, not only did JC *not* have anything nice to say about the desire for nor the accumulation of wealth, he famously admonished his followers to “render unto Caesar” … Oh yes, but the modern prosperity gospel gives y’all entitlement to make sure you feel fine about rendering the least while others render more.

 

*   *   *

May you be judicious in discerning when to tell your parents to “shut up;”
May you carefully consider what causes you to attempt to censor other people;
May your yard ornamentation be celebrated in your neighborhood…or not;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] The Syrah was $46/bottle. How did the little smartass know?

[2] And who is anyone to argue against such an obvious homage to diversity?

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[4]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[5] Which indicates…what?…their initials, methinks, signifying you are not walking out with an unpaid for HDTV or a 50 pound sack of Kirkland Signature Pirate Booty Puffs.

[6] Does anyone say Right on! anymore?

[7]  And continually revise, as new information comes to light.

[8]  and Quinn’s friends and antagonists, who are a mix of male and female, English, Russian- and Bantu-speaking, religious and religion-free, emotionally stable and physically abused….

[9] And, BTW, why do we tell someone to shut “up,” and not down?

[10] She was not;  she was walking the dog for a friend who was out of town.

[11] In 1978 California voters enacted a “tax payer’s revolt” measure, which amended their state constitution to both limit property taxes and make it extremely difficult to raise them in the future.

[12] Which limited property taxes to 1976 assessed values and allowed very strictly limited increases, the assessment of which, for older folks, could be carried to a new home when they relocated.

The Vacation I’m Not Extending

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And yet, apparently, I am.

On what is usually my blog writing day I traveled to Someplace (r) , Somewhere (r), to do Something (r), and inadvertently left my laptop at home. I did manage to bring its power cord… Which is a nice, if useless, gesture on the part of my subconscious.

See y’all next week.

The Post I’m Not Posting

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If it’s good enough for The Go-Gos, it’s good enough for moiself.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  See you next week, and  Au Vendredi!

 

 

Sure, the Go-Go-s can fake water-ski, but can they do this?

The September Rituals I’m Not Assuming

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Department Of Some Movies Abbreviate Better Than Others

Ticket in hand, I looked for the theater in the multiplex which was showing The Peanut Butter Falcon at 2 pm.

 

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Department Of If You Can’t Stand Misanthropy and/or Curmudgeon-ry
Then Slowly Back Away From Your Computer/ Other Device Right Now, Okay?

Someone had to be the first. Who started this “Fido has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge” thing? And by thing I mean supernatural crap wherein otherwise/mostly sentient, rational and potty-trained adults resort to sickly-sweet euphemisms when reporting on the death of their or another person’s beloved pet.

Now, before you get your incontinence garments in a knot, notice my use of the term, beloved pet.   Moiself, too, has had the heart-squeezing experience of losing dearly loved pets over the years, whether they died via natural (old age) or accidental means   [1] or euthanasia.  But, really:  Rainbow Bridge?  Can’t we just say what happened?  Your dog died; you miss your canine companion, and are sad.

Why is reality not sufficient? Who’s behind this? Something tells me the kind of people who fantasize about unicorns are involved.   [2] 

Disclaimers: The RB metaphor is used by good people with good intentions, blah blah blah. But hey, there are those of us who are trying to watch our lifestyle markers, eat properly and exercise and avoid high fructose corn syrup – which is added to everything these days, including toilet paper  [3]   – and  yet we get hit by these Type-2-Diabetes-inducing images from which there seems to be no hiding.

Moiself was curious/annoyed enough to do a little research on the term.  And by, “a little research” I mean the laziest easiest kind of research possible.  All hail Google search engines:

The Rainbow Bridge is the theme of several works of poetry written in the 1980s and 1990s that speak of an other-worldly place where pets go upon death, eventually to be reunited with their owners…..
The first mention of the “Rainbow Bridge” story on the internet is a post on the newsgroup rec.pets.dogs, dated 7 January 1993, quoting the poem from a 1992 (or earlier) issue of Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League Newsletter, which in turn is stated to have quoted it from the Akita Rescue Society of America.
Other posts from 1993 suggest it was already well established and being circulated on the Internet at that time, enough for the quotation of even a single line to be expected to be recognized by other newsgroup readers…
.
(Wikipedia, Rainbow Bridge entry)

I still want to blame the unicorn people.

 

Whatever floats your boat.

*   *   *

Department Of Other Multi-Colored Bridges That Are Also Not Crossed
By Your Dead Pets, Or By Any Other Creatures, For That Matter

Frequent readers of this blog know that I am not religious, and hold no credence in the existence of anyone’s heaven or hell or other stages of post-reality existence. But I am convinced there is an afterlife, as per these two phenomena:

֎  people live on, after their physical life has ended, in the ways they are remembered by those who love them, and by the impact their deeds (for better, worse, and everything in between) have had on the world;

֎  and also by the fact that my mother has been reincarnated in my cerebellum, or whatever portion of my brain is responsible for time perception.  I heard her distinctive voice via my own proclamation this week:

How did it get to be September already?!

 

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [4]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Inspiralized, by Ali Maffucci

Recipe:  * Vegan Celeriac Alfredo With Broccolini

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

Department of September Rituals

Very occasionally, someone (who doesn’t know me well) asks moiself if I am “still working.”  During the rare times when I am asked my occupation in some formal/legal way (e.g., tax forms), I put down “retired,” for lack of a better option. I feel rather…odd…in doing so. How can I be retired, from anything? Because I don’t really know if I am, or not. When it comes to writing for publication, I am on a sabbatical, which may or may not be permanent…which segues into the September routine I’m (not quite) missing.

September brings the strangeness of being apart from the back to school mode, which I’ve previously referenced (8-24-18)  :

There is something different for me this year, about this time of the year – this particular end of August. I couldn’t put my finger on it, until I realized that Belle’s graduation from college in May (brother K graduated three years earlier) means that for the first time in twenty years, there is no Back to School ® component to my life. The end of summer/resumption of school, the preparation and routine and rhythm of such, it was not so all-encompassing – for both my personal and the family’s schedules – when the kids were in college.  Still, it wasthere.I’ve noticed how “out of it” I’ve sometimes felt, during the past four years, with regards to schedules of other families – including even the approaching of holidays – by not having at least one child with a public school schedule. There was no compelling reason for me to keep track of certain things, and so I didn’t…and then I found myself frequently (and sometimes sheepishly) surprised by the mundane:
Why is there less traffic these past couple of morning? Why are there so many kids wandering around in the early afternoon…oh..yeah….it’s probably a teacher conference/grading/”staff development day” off for the schools….”

But September has other significant ritual associations, for fiction writers. Fall is (or used to be) when writers would send for updated guidelines from literary journals, many of which are associated with colleges and universities and thus have publishing schedules which are linked to the academic calendar. September was back to school housekeeping for writers: what are the Oxnard University Review’s new writers guidelines – same as last year, or any changes? What are their deadlines and estimated response times? Do they want online or print submissions? Do they still have two three month reading periods year round for their three issues, or do they publish bi-annually now? Are there new guidelines regarding manuscript length; will they have any special/themed issues?

Back in the olden days, before even the most obscure of journals had a website, writers obtained this information re the time-honored send-a ms. guidelines-request-enclose-a-SASE method.  All those stamps and envelopes added up to be a financial irritant – not an insignificant part of a writer’s budget, when you consider that the vast majority of the “good” literary journals (i.e., those that actually pay and/or have a circulation above 1000 readers) accept less than 1% of manuscripts submitted.  The acceptance rate for the “other” literary journals – from the obscure to the prestigious, they offer no remuneration for publication other than copies of their journal and, of course, the dreaded promise of “exposure” – varies from 2-10%.

 

(cartoon via electriclit.com)

 

That financial irritant of guidelines requests/SASEs has been mostly alleviated, in that you can now get guidelines from a journal’s websites. But the major irritant for writers about those guidelines – whether you got them via a letter or a computer screen – remained: discovering that a journal had a no simultaneous submissions policy.

(Oh-so-brief- Definition: A simultaneous submission is the submission of a literary work – e.g. a short story,  novel or short fiction collection or another piece of writing –  to more than one literary magazine or publisher at the same time.)

*   *   *

Blast From The Past: the Ongoing   [6]  Department Of Complaining About….

In the past year, reading Facebook posts from writers reminded me of a few   [7]  of the major complaints I had re submitting work to literary publications, including response time and no simultaneous submission policies. Especially infuriating were/are the journals who have a no simultaneous submission policy (i.e. these journals have the audacity to ask for exclusive submissions – as in, they want you to guarantee you are not submitting your work to publications while they are considering it) and also have notoriously long response times, some up to 8-16 months .

Really.

What kind of B.S about submitting a M.S. is that?  How did that policy – editors demanding exclusive consideration of your work – even get started?  Imagine going to a job interview where your potential employer said you couldn’t apply to any other jobs until he made his decision (and you noticed you were one in a line of 50+ applicants outside his office door)?

Once I began to encounter that imbalanced policy, I vowed I would not submit work to magazines that declared they would not read ss (simultaneous submissions).

In theory, I refused to support such a monstrously skewed power dynamic.  If editors wanting to enforce a ss policy were willing to practice the exclusivity they expected from writers – i.e. if they promised to only consider one ms. at a time –  then I would promise to submit my work to them and only them.

In practice, my policy in response to journals proclaiming a no ss policy was twofold:

(1) Depending on how obnoxiously self-important the guidelines were written, I either did not submit work to those journals which had that policy…

(2) or I did…but didn’t tell them my work was a ss[8]   After all, they didn’t tell me how many manuscripts other than mine they were considering, did they?   [9]

*   *   *

One of the “reminder” FB posts I mentioned came from NS, editor of the late great literary journal, Oasis (1992 – 2009)  [10]  who is also a writer.   NS’s beef is with editors and journals who waste writers’ time via absurdly long response times to manuscript submissions.  NS – I’ll call him Neal,   [11]   because that’s what his mommy and daddy did – was one of the more efficient and competent editors I’ve had the privilege of working with: smart and  pleasant; down to earth and enthusiastic; no BS.  Despite (or more likely because) of having had the experience of being a literary magazine editor, Neal finds the standard long response times of journals to be maddening, even insulting:

Isn’t it odd how most literary magazines make you pay for the privilege of ignoring you?
 Also:  All you literary magazines who claim to appreciate SO MUCH the men and women who submit to you, prove it. Start by no longer claiming you need 4 months to do what can be done in 4 minutes.

I – and most fiction writers, I’d bet – am fully in NS’s corner on this.  What is it with some journals’ response times – what could possibly be their excuse?  If you don’t know in two months, you will in eight…twelve…even more?  You are not conducting trials on the efficacy and safety of pharmacological treatments for malignant melanoma; you are considering which stories to publish.  Do you like the story, or not?  Does the story “fit” (if you’re that type of journal) with the rest of the material/theme of the issue, or doesn’t it?

 

 

Not all journals were like that. I kept on file the guidelines of a few of the best of what I considered to be Good Examples ®, two of which moiself will share with y’all:

Simultaneous Submissions: We accept simultaneous submissions, since we feel that it’s unreasonable to expect writers to give a magazine an exclusive look at a work unless the magazine can respond within two to three weeks.
We want writers to have every possible opportunity for success, so we’re willing to risk losing a story we want when someone at another magazine may have done their reading before we have, and in that case we’ll be sorry to lose the piece but happy for the writer.

We encourage simultaneous submissions.  It is unreasonable for any editor to ask for exclusive consideration of your work for an indefinite period of time.  There are many good writers submitting quality work.  Unless you have just won a Pulitzer or have an established rapport with a publication or editor, send your best work out to numerous publications you have vetted.  If your work is accepted elsewhere before you hear from us, just drop us an email and we will be very happy for you!

It was shocking to me that the reasonable-ness of these magazine’s respective policies…well…shocked me, when I first read them.  It was a Eureka moment – here are editors who understand and respect writers (and likely are themselves writers, as well as editors and/or publishers).

 

Are we done complaining yet?

*   *   *


May you never voluntarily cross anything resembling a Rainbow Bridge;
May the story of your life provide for a most provocative movie marquee abbreviation;
May you remember that the more you complain, the longer you live;   [12]
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Run over by a car….shudder and ick.

[2] Almost always (or so it seems to moiself) the Rainbow Bridge metaphor is used in relation to dogs, but I’m sure other animals involved.

[3] Just a hunch. I haven’t actually read a toilet paper ingredients label.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[5]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who would eat anything, would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

[6] As in, neverending.

[7] There were many….sooooooo many….

[8] As in, it was already under consideration by another journal, or I’d also planned on submitting it elsewhere.

[9] And yes, it is possible I ended up on the notorious/rumored “blacklist” for doing so.

[10] Full disclosure: my story We’ll Talk Later  (which was included in my short fiction collection, This Here And Now, ) was published in Oasis in 1993.

[11] I usually don’t name names in this blog, unless the namee is somewhat of a public person.

[12] Or actually it just seems longer to everyone around you.