Friday, June 25, 2010

On Deck

She glanced over the bow.



No response.

She sighed. No use. May as well give it up. There’s no way he could have survived out there this long. 

No way.



She turned, slowly, so slowly. She took a few steps toward the wheelhouse. She looked back, scanned the horizon.


She kicked the door open and planted herself at the wheel. She hesitated another moment before cranking up the engines.

Done. This is it.

No more.

Last trip.


She spun the wheel, headed toward the mainland.


She never should have left him alone. Never.

She knew better. What a stupid, rookie mistake.

Thump thump thump.

A new sound, one she hadn’t heard from this trusty old scow.

Thump thump thump.

Something bouncing. Metal.


Of course.

So stupid.

She slowed the engine, scanned the deck of the wheelhouse, spotted the revolver.

Sighing, she grabbed it, strolled out of the wheelhouse, tossed it into the deep.

Better clean that stray spot of blood, too, before she made it back to the dock.


Last trip.


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Associates

I loved The Paper Chase. It arrived on TV in 1978 and, a critical darling but ratings nonstarter, lasted only one season.

So, being the kind of person I am, I tracked down the book (by John Jay Osborn Jr.) that inspired it. I read it. I loved it. I read it again. I've probably read it three times over the years.

The show returned to TV for a second and third season on Showtime, and I had the good fortune to have Showtime then and got to watch them all.

I really liked the character Hart, the protagonist, the Iowa boy now struggling through law school.

Did I mention I grew up in Iowa?

Anyway, in the throes of Paper Chase fever, I purchased another novel by the same author, The Associates.

I stuck it on my shelf, planning to read it.

Flash forward two or three decades.

I grabbed The Associates from my shelf last week. I read it.

It's the story of a guy just starting out in a big NY law firm. He confronts some stereotypical partners and falls in love with a fellow associate at the firm, a headstrong divorcee.

The book is written in a chunky, episodic style and suffers a little from being, well, very seventies. The characters, their assumptions, their stereotypes, all belong to another age. It took a long time for me to get drawn in to the novel, and I did end up enjoying it, but nowhere near on a Paper Chase level. If nothing else, its depiction of the pressures involved with working in a big law office made me happy my Paper Chase induced flirtation with going to law school never panned out.

Structurally, I can see similarities to the arc of The Paper Chase - a young midwest guy as fish out of water, romance with a "liberated" gal, a wise but distant mentor, a philosophically minded pal, a race to conclude a big law project, the discarding of traditional values at novel's end. But The Associates just never clicked for me. I can see, however, why the novel spawned a(nother short-lived) TV series, since the set up and broad strokes of young folks versus partners plus political and romantic tensions has a strong appeal (and I suspect L.A. Law somewhat fulfilled this).  Fun fact: the TV series starred a young Martin Short.

As a novelist, Osborn ended up penning one more (which I wouldn't mind reading - I like Osborn's style), then seems to have given it up, remaining a law professor. Kingsfield's shadow looms large, and it seems Osborn ended up trying to step into his creation's footsteps.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Office Politics

She walked by my cubicle without so much as a glance.


Three years together, two years of being just plain coworkers on top of that, and it ends like this.


I stood, peeked over my back wall.


He glanced up, raised his eyebrows in reply.

“Hand me a donut.”

His eyes returned to his screen but his hand held up a Powdered Sugar Delite.


I accepted the donut, held it gingerly, trying my best to avoid sugary dandruff.

Fifteen feet away, she stood at the copier, her back to me. I could hear the CHUNK Wok-Wokka CHUNK rhythm of collating papers.

I judged the weight of the Powdered Sugar Delite, the distance to the copier, the folds in the dark navy blouse she loved so much.

I let it go.

It hit the bulletin board, leaving a halo of sugar on the Equal Opportunity in the Workplace poster, bounced off the top of the copy machine and landed on the break room counter.

She didn’t move.

Her collating job finished. She gathered her papers, plucked the donut from the counter and whirled around.

As she walked past me, she slowed ever so slightly, opened her full lips and shoved the donut into her mouth, licking her lips as she glared into my eyes.

She disappeared around the corner.

I frowned, then shouted. “Made you look!”

Friday, June 11, 2010

KXII Action News Theme!

Back in the mid-eighties, I worked for tv station KXII, channel 12, in Sherman Texas. I did various things at the station, including working on the 6 and 10 news broadcasts.

Here's the beloved (to me at least) theme tune we used back then.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The One That I Want

I’m writing this while listening to the soundtrack to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. I think that tells you a lot about where I’m coming from in this review.

Somehow, some way, lost in the midst of the burbling twitter stream, I began following Allison Winn Scotch. Her twitter presence combines a lot of amusing snarky stuff and interesting, insightful writing-life stuff. And then I found her blog, which focuses on the art and craft of writing.

Since I noticed that she was a New York Times bestselling novelist, I grabbed one of her novels from the library. Now, she writes what some might categorize as chick-lit, which is absolutely a category of fiction that I haven’t really experienced. Her new novel came out last week and a couple months ago she began holding contests to give away advance copies. Well, I managed to, um, not exactly win a contest, but in some other way tricked her into sending me a copy (a little more about that can be read here). So with those caveats, here’s a look at the book.
The One That I Want: A Novel

The One That I Want follows Tilly Farmer, a woman ten years or so out of high school in age but whose life still revolves, in many ways, around that exact same small town school. She works as the school’s somewhat ineffectual guidance counselor, helps put together the big musical production and also plans the annual prom – still the highlight of her year. She’s trying to get pregnant and, in her mind, lives the perfect life.

But then she runs into an old friend, one she really hasn’t associated with since middle school, and is somehow given a strange gift – the gift of clarity. Tilly begins to have visions, very precise visions, of her own future. And she doesn’t like what she sees.

In seemingly effortless prose, Scotch presents a capsule of a life, a very typical life, and the way we can all be tricked by our own preconceptions. Tilly desperately wants her life to be happy and fulfilling, so she has forced herself to believe that it is. Her visions, however, crack open the fa├žade she’s built around herself and reveal the not-so-pretty truth – about herself, the way she treats others, the way others treat her.

“Imagine, if you can, that you are sixteen again.” So reads the opening sentence, and it neatly encapsulates Tilly’s life. In many ways, she IS still sixteen. She clings so hard to her little town, to her little school, to her little life, that she’s unable to allow herself to grow, to really mature. She wants the world to be a pretty prom picture without having to experience the discomfort that led to that pose.

By novel’s end, Tilly’s world shifts. She’s released the narrow parameters within which she’s maintained her family members, allowing them to be who they really are, and, in so doing, released herself to become a fuller person. She’s finally engaging with the world as it really is. And isn’ t that what we should all be doing?

This is an engaging and entertaining novel, great for, yes, reading at the beach. It’s comfortable and well-paced and just insightful enough to make you pause before leaping into the surf.

P.S. I am so dense that I did not realize that the title of the book was an allusion to the musical Grease until three days after I finished reading it.