Thursday, January 31, 2008


By James O. Born

I’ve talked about TV and books influencing me to make different choices in my life but in fact, if I had to really consider things, I’d admit that my father was far and away my biggest influence. A decent, reasonable man who was in the Pacific during World War II, was a champion swimmer and attended the University of Miami on a swimming scholarship, my dad valued simple things. He was raised at a time when service and duty were valued by society and I’ve found, despite my best efforts, that I hold these same things dear.

My father never saw combat, he drew bomb charts and suffered many of the same hardships that Marines and soldiers suffered in the pacific theater; illness, mal-nutrition and tropical ailments from rashes to massive insect bites. Not once during my childhood did I ever hear him complain about his service to his country. To this day I often form my assessment of people based on how they complain. Not about the shape of the world but about their lot in life. That sentiment can be traced back directly to my father’s calm, stoic manner.

Occasionally I’ll hear someone say to a cop, “Wouldn’t you rather make some money than go through this shit everyday?” The cop may agree or may not out loud, but the fact is that most decent cops that I know could be a success at any job they chose. Many of the jobs in finance or other private industry would be easy by comparison and offer much greater financial reward but most men and women who enter public safety do it for reasons other than money. Reasons that I think serve them better as they get older. Not only in decent retirement packages but in the knowledge that they did something that helped society.

My generation had no great threat that pushed them into the military, I never worried about the Vietnamese or Iraqis taking over Florida. I had to find my sense of service another way. I also recognize that everyone has their own way of contributing to the nation’s well-being, from feeding the homeless to nursing the sick.

Regardless of how we choose to give back, it is our early influences that guide us. It is a rare day I spend on duty when I don’t think about my dad, his easy-going personality and the things he held dear.

Who influenced you?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eye Candy

By Cornelia

I'm sick of politics and muckraking and primaries. I don't want to hear another word about the State of the Union, or lack thereof.

I don't want to know about the Super Bowl or any kind of sports anymore. And most of all, I am sick to the teeth of this RAIN RAIN RAIN RAIN in Berkeley.

So here is some mindless entertainment for the day. Consider it a palate cleanser. A mental sorbet, if you will.

Old lady or young girl?

Faces? Vases?

How many skulls? Are you sure?

How many people?

How many dolphins? No, I'm not kidding. And young children don't see anything BUT dolphins.

How many faces? If you see fewer than nine, try again.

Where's the baby?

A vision test. If you can't read it, step back from your computer.

Most people see the girl spinning clockwise, at first. If you watch the shadow, she'll start to spin in the other direction after a bit.

Both towers are tilted at the same angle.

A and B are the same color.


Where are these people?

Most Europeans think they're in a room. Most East Africans think they're under a tree, and that one of the women is balancing a box on her head.

Good or evil?

Where's the hidden tiger? This one is REALLY hard.

Have any favorite optical illusions? Give us the URL in the comments.

Clintons Sink in Their Own Muck

Paul here...

I'm abandoning the Good Ship Clinton. (And I wrote those words last week, before the Kennedy Clan likewise lowered the lifeboats).

I voted twice for Bill Clinton and yes, I believe there was a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" to deflate Priapic Bill.

But now, this man of enormous ability and unquenchable appetites has flushed his legacy down the drain. His has trashed his own status as a latter-day statesman and ambassador of good will. The ex-prez has become a red-faced, clownish used car salesman, twisting customers' arms and bad-mouthing the competition across the street. Sort of like Kurt Russell in "Used Cars," but better dressed and not as charming.

The Clintons have misrepresented both Obama's statements about Ronald Reagan and his stand on abortion. Their surrogates have dredged up his youthful drug use and have gleefully inserted his middle name, "Hussein," into their propaganda. The two-on-one bullying doesn't help the Clintons' image, either.

Even old admirers are shocked by the Clinton's destroy-the-village-to-save-the-election strategy. Here's Jonathan Chait, liberal wordsmith and a senior editor at the "New Republic," writing in the "Los Angeles Times":

"Am I starting to sound like a Clinton hater? It's a scary thought. Of course, to conservatives, it's a delicious thought. The Wall Street Journal published a gloating editorial noting that liberals had suddenly learned "what everyone else already knows about the Clintons." (By "everyone," it means Republicans.)

It made me wonder: Were the conservatives right about Bill Clinton all along? Maybe not right to set up a perjury trap so they could impeach him, but right about the Clintons' essential nature?"

And here's conservative writer Peggy Noonan, writing in the "Wall Street Journal" in a piece, melodically entitled, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do."

"The Clintons are tearing the party apart. It will not be the same after this. It will not be the same after its most famous leader, and probable ultimate victor, treated a proud and accomplished black man who is a U.S. senator as if he were nothing, a mere impediment to their plans. And to do it in a way that signals, to his supporters, How dare you have the temerity, the ingratitude, after all we've done for you?"

I think the talented Jim Morin got it right the other day with this cartoon in The Miami Herald.

I'm done.

I'm through.

You can sink in your own muck. I won't vote for Bill-ary in the general election.

My daughter, Wendy, disapproves of the foregoing. Possessing a more temperate personality than her father, here's her article, "Pearls, Tears, & Pantsuits: Why America Needs a Female President," from the Mommy Tracked website.

Many years ago, I was a newspaper reporter. A bit later, I was the "legal commentator" for two Miami television stations. My daughter and son are both journos. Before each went off to what we used to call J-School, I warned that they'd get a lot of shit in their chosen fields. Here's a young TV reporter at work. I rest my case.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Embarrassing Moments

Patty here...

The west wall of my bedroom is floor-to-ceiling glass. I have window blinds but I rarely close them because my backyard is fenced and secluded. So one day last week after showering, I blithely stepped into the bedroom and locked gazes with the pool guy who was skimming sycamore leaves from my spa.

Me: “WHAAAA!!!????”

He: “WHAAAA!!!????”

I sprinted into the closet and hid behind my favorite 1980s cardigan sweater, wondering why he was there so early and when exactly shoulder pads had gone out of style. After a moment of quiet reflection, I thought, Wait a minute. Why is he screaming? Maybe I’m not as svelte as I was in my 20s, but seeing me in the buff won’t exactly trigger post traumatic stress syndrome.

Then a friend sent me the following article. Talk about embarrassing. We'll let our Florida experts tell us if this is real or a hoax.

Get out of the Car!

(This is supposedly a true account recorded in the Police Log of Sarasota, Florida.)

An elderly Florida lady did her shopping and, upon returning to her car, found four males in the act of leaving with her vehicle.

She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at the top of her lungs, “I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car!”

The four men didn’t wait for a second threat. They got out and ran like mad.

The lady, somewhat shaken, then proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back of the car and got into the driver’s seat. She was so shaken that she could not get her key into the ignition.

She tried and tried, and then she realized why. It was for the same reason she had wondered why there was a football, a Frisbee and two 12-packs of beer in the front seat.

A few minutes later, she found her own car parked four or five spaces farther down.

She loaded her bags into the car and drove to the police station to report her mistake. The sergeant to whom she told the story couldn’t stop laughing. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale men were reporting a car jacking by a mad, elderly woman described as white, less than five feet tall, glasses, curly white hair, and carrying a large handgun. No charges were filed.

Moral of the story? If you’re going to have a senior moment…make it memorable.


Senior or not, got any embarrassing moments to share? What about weird Florida stories?

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Characters & Writers

from Jacqueline

In this post:

What We Can Learn From Movies
The Writers’ Strike – another perspective

Remaining on the subject of the silver screen, following Jim’s post about book-to-film/tv adaptations yesterday, it’s interesting the snippets of insight you can gain from watching a movie, especially when it comes to developing character, or having a sense of staging a scene. I tend to have those a-ha moments when listening to audio books too, but then it’s more of a sense of rhythm, and sometimes a fascination for the way a writer has strung together words to provide an image that touches me to the core. However, back to the movies. Last week we rented “Bobby,” written and directed by Emilio Estevez. I don’t know why I didn’t see it at the movie theater, because I really liked it. I enjoy movies where different characters are brought together in the same place at the same time, perhaps crossing paths with each other, perhaps not. “California Suite,” the film adaptation of Neil Simon’s play (Plaza Suite) was like that. I also like to watch the “Special Features” at the end of a rented movie – you never know what you might learn. This time, it was a comment from the wardrobe mistress (do they still call them by that old-fashioned name? Or are they costume designers?). She said that when each actor comes to her studio, to talk about their costumes for a movie, she asks them about their character. The question that tells her more about the charcter, that guides her in pulling together the costumes, is, “What do you have in your pocket?” Ooooohhhh, that’s a good question, I thought. I have various questions I ask myself about my characters, but that one was good, maybe better than, “What’s in her purse,” or “What’s in that briefcase he’s carrying.” Mind you, it made me think about my own pockets – in the dog-walking jacket: a poop bag, clutch of Kleenex (I’ve had The Cold), three Hall’s mentholyptus lozenges and a lip-salve.

I thought the next few paragraphs would provide a good addition to today’s offering from me. Without shame, I have taken an excerpt from a column by The Independent’s (British newspaper) Terence Blacker on the writers' strike here in America. Blacker is not only a columnist, but worked in publishing for some ten years and has written novels for both adults and children. Here’s what he has to say:

“The strike has been impressive on several levels. Writers are by nature competitive – when John Cheever wrote that "the rivalry among novelists is quite as intense as that among sopranos", he could have been referring to anyone who tries to put sentences together for a living. Yet the American writers' strike has been solid and pitilessly executed. Here, the approach would have been rather more nervous and tentative, starting with a work-to-rule restricting the use of metaphors and similes, escalating under pressure to something tougher – perhaps an all-out ban on adjectives.

But the American writers, in addition to arguing very sensibly that they are owed a decent share of any digital and downloading cash that may be going, have made a larger, incidental point. [Stephen} Colbert's joke about the teleprompter reading his thoughts and dictating them back to him has an element of truth. Until the strike, the ability to read or learn someone else's lines was invariably mistaken for genuine charm or intelligence.

Taking those words away has been a useful reminder. The various descriptions of TV interviewers and frontmen – witty, sincere, perceptive, hard-hitting, sympathetic – should really be presented in heavy inverted commas. An essential part of their act, the back legs of the donkey, was provided by a scurfy, unlovely writer. So were many of the thoughts, quips and insights of the celebrity guests.

The culture is now so enslaved to the image of things, their glossy surface, that even those who should know better fall for the illusion. A newspaper article commenting on the luck of authors whose books have been made into successful films – The Kite Runner, Atonement, No Country for Old Men – included a comment from a publisher who was thrilled that books were reaching a new audience.

As usual, the truth is being turned upside down. It is Hollywood and publishers who should be grateful – the films were successful because one day a person, sitting alone in his or her room, put together characters and a story that would later translate successfully to the screen. In fact, the fate of the Oscar ceremony, currently in the balance because of the strike, might serve as a useful metaphor for most of the entertainment business. Take away the writers, and all the gloss, fame and glamour that money can buy is as nothing.”

And I’ll leave you with that thought. In the meantime, what’s in your pocket – or in the pockets of your characters?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Perfect Adaption to Film

I’m a sucker for mini-series based on books that I liked. Maybe it’s the extended format which allows well-crafted screenplays to capture the deeper texture of a good novel. Once I’m hooked, I look forward to the six to ten hour take on a good novel.

Most recently, Comanche Moon captivated me. It’s based on the Larry McMurtry book of the same name. The novel, published in 1997, is one of my favorites. McMurtry’s unflinching, politically incorrect look at life on the Texas plains is funny, horrifying and brilliant.

The mini-series, which ran on CBS, is a little tamer, even though McMurtry wrote the screenplay and acted as producer. Steve Zahn, playing the character Robert Duvall made famous twenty years ago captures Gus McCrae’s impish, insightful nature. It only hurt me a little bit when my daughter walked in and said, “How can you watch this? It’s so boring.”

The ultimate faithful miniseries was War and Remembrance, based on the titanic novel by Herman Wouk published in 1978. The mini-series, which starred Robert Mitchum, used every scene in the book and much of the dialog. That’s why it ran more than thirty hours. I liked it but it was a little long.

My friends always say, “You should turn your books into a TV show or movie.” Yeah, good plan, I’ll get right on that. That is every writer’s dream. At least the one’s with houses and kids and a desire to eat well. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I hear things like “Walking Money is so edgy and funny, I could see it on screen.” I just wish someone other than a Miami cop would say it to me. Maybe someone named David Chase or David Simon.

Some of the best advice I was ever given was by Elmore Leonard when I was just starting to write. He and his assistant, Gregg Sutter, encouraged me to look at the book like a movie with each chapter broken into scenes. It sounds simple but to a novice like me it was the Holy Grail. To this day I can focus on each scene of a novel without becoming overwhelmed with the idea of a larger project. Maybe that way of looking at the novels makes them seem like they would transition to film.

I do dream of that call from my agent asking if I would be interested in optioning either of my series. If a writer tells you otherwise they are probably lying. I’ll wait patiently for the call.

Until that happens I will settle for watching other books I like turned into movies or miniseries.

What are your favortie adaptions and, more importantly, why?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ten Most Wanted: Crimes in Song

1. A No-Frills Version of "Folsom Prison Blues"

2. The Kingston Trio on "The Eternal Triangle..."

3. Olivia Newton-John takes out an unfaithful boyfriend

4. The Widow Who Knew Too Much...

5. The History of Violence

6. To the same tune, "Dulce et Decorum Est..."

7. Jackson Browne and Lady White

8. Furry Lewis sings about Frankie and Johnnie:

9. Bob Marley will only cop to one shooting:

And, finally

10. I'm not sure whether the bigger crime is that described in the lyrics or the ones committed by Bob Mackie

Anybody else have a favorite crime immortalized in song?

Read a Book, Save a Reef

If it's Tuesday, this must be Paul.


So damn many books, so damn little time.
Here's what's on my nightstand, which is groaning under the weight.

"A Gun for Hire" -- Graham Greene

"The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps" -- edited by Otto Penzler

"What the Dead Know" -- Laura Lippman

"The Crazy School" -- Cornelia Read

"Highwire Moon" -- Susan Straight

"Tijuana Straits" -- Kem Nunn

"Magic City" -- James W. Hall

"Last Call" -- James Grippando

And those are just the novels! On the non-fiction stack are:

"The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century" -- Harold Schechter

"A Friendship: The Letters of Dan Rowan and John D. MacDonald, 1967-1974" (Suggested by astute reader and outstanding military lawyer Keith Scherer)

"Wetback Nation: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border" -- Peter Laufer (Why are the titles of non-fiction books so long?)

Jeez, when will I have time to read Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" in the original French? And come to think of it, isn't that title just a tad redundant?

I just finished Michael Chabon's sly and witty post-modern detective novel, "The Yiddish Policeman's Union." Chabon has great fun with Chandleresque similes. The night fog over an Alaskan city is an "orange smear...the translucence of onions cooked in chicken fat."

And this: "The temperature of her voice drops so quickly that ice crystals tinkle on the line."

One more: "The need for a drink is like a missing tooth. He can't keep his mind off it, and yet there's something pleasurable in probing the gap."

What's on your nightstand? (And I don't mean Ambien or Lunesta). ******************************
SAVE A REEF, SAVE THE WORLD --Photo by Craig Quirolo/Reef Relief

Let's talk about reefs. (No, Jim Born, not reefers).

When I lived in Florida, I was an avid windsurfer and snorkeler. I grew to appreciate the beautiful and fragile coral reefs just offshore. When I was researching "The Deep Blue Alibi," I got to know the good folks at Reef Relief, a non-profit organization in Key West. They sound the alarm about our endangered reefs. For more info, and maybe even a Save the Reefs t-shirt, click the link above. They're also looking for some interns.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Take this job and shove it

Patty here…

Back in yon years of yore, I was a rising star in management at a company that had historically provided few opportunities for women. After a bad boyfriend breakup, I decided to leave the area and seek my fortune in Los Angeles. I gave my supervisor a 30-day notice and suggested several members of my staff who were qualified to replace me. He brushed off the news, convinced I would recognize my folly and withdraw my resignation. "Seriously," I said. "I've leaving." Frustrated and annoyed, he made me promise not to tell anyone.

Meanwhile, I gave notice at my apartment and started packing. A week before I was due to leave town, my boss still had done nothing to target a replacement. I confronted him with the cruel reality: I was really, truly out of there. On my last day of work, I cleaned out my desk and walked out of the office for the last time, knowing that when Monday rolled around, the people who worked for me would see that I was gone but they wouldn’t know where or why. I was leaving to chase windmills with no going-away lunch, no sappy greeting card, no heartfelt goodbyes, no closure. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

To me, burning bridges seems like a questionable management style. It makes more sense to acknowledge the contribution an employee has made and wish them well. I've been working since I was 13, so I've had a million jobs, or so it seems. For me, change is the natural order of things, especially changing my work environment. I’ve never been overly concerned about security or attempting the impossible. Why else would I have chosen a career as a mystery novelist? When considering the next great adventure, I always ask myself: What’s the worst thing that can happen? Failure? Less money? Big deal. The riches I have are in the experiences I’ve gained.

Here are a few of the jobs I’ve had and quit with no regrets: babysitter, bakery counter sales, receptionist, secretary, fruit warehouse worker, research assistant, temporary office worker, juvenile detention group supervisor, administrative assistant, waitress, manager, actor, cellulite wrapper, caterer’s assistant, Easter bunny at a children’s party, personal assistant, nanny, sun tan salon counter sales, consultant, and administrator.

Your turn. Have you ever had a wacky job or a bad job breakup?

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Up Close & Personal

from Jacqueline

Patty’s recent post about the writer having to be a bit of a techie struck a chord with some of our readers at Naked Authors. I was pondering this business of how many jobs a writer really has, when, lo and behold, I received an email from the hard-working publicist who is organizing my book tour and rooting out what they call “media opportunities.” She was after something personal.

With so many books coming out each week, if you hadn’t realized this before, increasingly, it’s not your book, your hard work, that the media is interested in, no, it’s YOU. And if you want the media to notice, your book needs a hook that’s personal to you – something, anything. In my experience, most of the writers I meet use their background in some way, so we can all hold a conversation and draw some personal threads back to the story to provide a hook for the press release.

However, when it came to AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE, published in a few weeks, fresh blood was needed to pitch the book. They’d done the story of my grandfather and the Great War, of the daydreaming that led to my first novel, and they’d done the story about the accident that gave me time write that novel ... blah, blah, blah. But they needed more, something new, some little nugget to go out with. I can understand that, I’ve been in sales, marketing and PR. And I did have a story. A really quite inspiring family story that I drew upon to write this book. But it wasn’t my story. It was my parents’ story, and I wasn’t comfortable about sharing it, because sometimes, if you give an inch, a mile is taken.

A few years ago, someone in the publishing industry told me that, increasingly, a book is signed based not only upon the quality of the writing, but on the author’s ability and willingness to take a full and complete part in promotion. I wondered what might happen if you’d just written the great American novel, but had no teeth, a hunch back and hated flying – would you be rejected based on your “ability” to undertake promotion?

I’ve always worked hard when it comes to the book tours etc, because I consider myself so lucky to have been published, so blessed to be doing what I’m doing, fortunate that my publisher sends me out on tour. Even if it wears me out, that’s OK. However, one thing that makes me cringe, is when things get too personal. When people ask questions that are nothing to do with my book, but are to do with family, for example, or my personal history. It’s hard, because on the one hand, heck, I am so happy that people have turned up to hear me talk about my book, but on the other hand, I’ve had situations where I have wanted to run a mile. After one event the bookseller said to me, “I couldn’t believe people asked you such personal questions – I was shocked.”

Some of that comes with the territory of being from somewhere else (sorry, don’t mean to offend, and I’m sure this happens in other countries) because when you come from somewhere overseas, people tend to ask questions they wouldn’t dream of asking their neighbors. After all these years, it’s water off a duck’s back, and I’m good at deflection. But on the other hand, I wondered why it was happening. At one special event during my last book tour, I attended a dinner arranged for book groups from the bookstore in question. I wasn’t asked one question about my book or my work as a writer – it was all personal (“How many kids do you have?” seems to be a favorite and is one of the softer questions. I don’t have children so I sometimes feel like apologizing – “Ooops, sorry, forgot all about kids ...”)

I was talking to another writer about this and she suggested that it was because I had told stories about my grandfather, and in leaving the door ajar to details of my family, my history, people wanted that thing wrenched wide open. Hmmmm. Heck, I’m only little old me, a writer, I mean, it’s not as if I’m – heaven forbid – Paris Hilton! Mind you, I concede, here at Naked Authors, we’ve all shared personal stories at one time or another – does that mean we’re fair game?

So when I received the request to divulge some of the personal inspirations behind a certain group of characters in my novel, I was on the fence. What do I do? Help the publisher pitch the book and leave the door open and without a guard? Or do I just roll out the usual details and keep my own counsel?

As it happened, I figured I could handle the personal questions – I’m a grown up, I can deal with it, even though I do feel those boundaries tweaked at times. But it wasn’t just my story. So, I gave the publicist the potted version – and I should add, we’re not talking about any big skeletons in the cupboard here, nothing juicy, just some history that’s a bit different, and might be misconstrued. Then I told her she couldn’t use a thing until I’d asked my parents if they minded. “Sure,” said my mum. “Your father and I don’t mind at all.”

Yet it all begs the question: How much of a public person do you need to be to sell a book? Even though I might share family stories here in my Naked Authors posts, I’m really quite a private person. In a way it all comes down to personal comfort. I’ve become used to the bookstore appearances and I love meeting the people who enjoy my books enough to buy them, and the booksellers who value them enough to stock them – it’s a privileged position to be in. Once upon a time I would shake in my boots and the room would spin at the thought talking to a crowd. However, as well as being a techie, per Patty’s post, how much of a marketing whiz does the writer have to be? Jane Austen would probably roll in her grave – but I bet she’d write a great novel about it all.

PS: My friend and writing mentor, Barbara Abercrombie wrote about being a "marketing whore" (her words, not mine!) on her blog recently:

Yep, it goes with the territory - along with working on your craft - if you want to keep being a published writer.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Police Brutality !

Writers get used to is other people telling them what an easy job it is. People often say, “Oh, I’m gonna write a book too.” Luckily, I had the best training for putting up with inadvertently insulting comments. It’s called police work. A job where everyone who ever saw Law and Order or CSI thinks they are qualified to be a cop. The best essay I ever saw on this is posted below. If anyone knows the author please let me know so I can give credit and my appreciation. I heard it was an officer with the L.A.P.D. but I have been unable to confirm it.

I may have posted about this before. If I did, I apologize. Patty Smiley sent me the link at the bottom of the post. It’s a joke answering machine message for a police department but echoes many things that cops face. It reminded me of this essay.

So thanks, Patty for coming up with this week’s blog.

Cop Harrassment author unknown

Recently, a California web site ran an e-mail forum (a question and answer exchange) where the topic was "Policing the Community."

One of the civilian email participants posed the following question:

"I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to continually harass people and get away with it?"

From the "other side" (the law enforcement side) a cool cop with a sense of humor replied:

"It is not easy. In California we average one cop for every 2,000 people. About 60% of those cops are on patrol, where we do most of the harassing. One- fifth of that 60% are on duty at any given moment and are available for harassing people. So, one cop is responsible for harassing about 10,000 residents. When you toss in the commercial, business and tourist locations that attract people from other areas, sometimes you have a situation where a
single cop is responsible for harassing 20,000 or more people each day.

A ten- hour shift runs 36,000 seconds. This gives a cop one second to harass a person, and three -fourths of a second to eat a donut, AND then find a new person to harass. This is not an easy task. Most cops are not up to it, day in and day out. It is just too tiring. What we do is utilize some tools to help us narrow down those people, which we harass.

They are as follows:

People will call us up and point out things that cause us to focus on a person for special harassment. "My neighbor is beating his wife" is a code phrase we use. Then we come out and give special harassment.

Another popular one on a weeknight is, "The kids next door are having a loud party."

We have special cops assigned to harass people who drive. They like to harass the drivers of fast cars, cars blasting music, cars with expired registration stickers and the like. It is lots of fun when you pick them out of traffic for nothing more obvious than running a red light.

Sometimes you get to really heap the harassment on when you find they have drugs in the car, are driving drunk, or they have an outstanding warrant.

Some people take off running just at the sight of a police officer. Nothing is quite as satisfying as running after them like a beagle on the scent of a bunny. When you catch them you can harass them for hours.

When you can think of nothing else to do, there are books that give ideas for reasons to harass folks. They are called "Codes". Penal, Vehicle, Health and Safety, Business and Professional Codes, to name a few. They spell out all sorts of things for which you can really mess with people. After you read the code, you can just drive around for a while until you find someone violating one of these listed offenses and harass them. Just last week I saw a guy smash a car window. Well, the code says that is not allowed. That meant I got permission to harass this guy.

It is a pretty cool system that we have set up, and it works pretty well, but it's never "EASY".

We seem to have a never-ending supply of folks to harass. And we get away with it. Why? Because the good citizens who pay the tab actually like the fact that we keep the streets safe for them.

Next time you are in my town, give me the single finger wave. That will be a signal that you wish for me to take a little closer look at you, and then maybe I'll find a reason to harass you!

This is Patty's contribution:


Do people tell you how to do your job? Do they think you don't have a hard job? Let's talk about this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Never a Dull $!@%ing Moment

By Cornelia

So Monday morning I was feeling pretty damn good about life. I'd done readings for The Crazy School at the wonderful Book Passage and Diesel bookstores over the weekend and gotten to see lots of friends who were kind enough to come out and celebrate the release with me.

Plus, the magnificent persons at Grand Central Publishing put nice big fat ads for the book in The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle, like this:

and which had me totally kvelling, I can assure you.

In fact, I was in such a good mood by Monday morning that I actually enjoyed spending three hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles--a state of mind which, given my normal world view:

Should perhaps have come as a bit of a warning that I was experiencing one of those Icarus moments--the kind where you think it's this:

when it's actually this:

and you end up wishing you had taken more of this:

or at least had the foresight, back in college, to stockpile some of this:


and this:

(Painter Bruno Fonseca, now sadly deceased)

to get you through the inevitable goddamn rainy days.

Especially the inevitable goddamn rainy Monday afternoons, which suck the most hugely, in my experience.

Remember that essay that got emailed around a few years ago, purporting to be Kurt Vonnegut's commencement address at MIT, but wasn't?

(A sketch by the real K.V.)

In part, it said:
Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.
I didn't even make it to Tuesday, this time around.

Because on Monday afternoon, FOLLOWING my three happy hours at the DMV, I got a phone call at home.

From my husband.

Saying he'd just been fired by the assholes in San Diego.

Somehow, the fact that I'd said, "you know, I don't think you should work for those people, it sounds like they're assholes" a year ago--before he took the job--didn't really make up for the fact that he came home Monday night with exactly one month's pay as severance.

Here are the main facets of the bright side of this occurence:
  1. smug satisfaction that I was so totally right.
  2. free babysitting.
  3. I didn't move to fucking San Diego.
Here is the potential downside:

As Sophie Tucker once so cogently said, "I been rich, and I been poor, and rich is better." I think I actually quoted her a couple of weeks ago on this very blog, when I was feeling slightly less poor.

I don't know... sometimes, you realize you're in a movie, right? And then it dawns on you that, unfortunately, your director is not Frank Capra, but:

which can make you feel:

Or, as my friend Candace used to say, that "there is a God. He's malicious.":

Although I prefer to believe he's just off his meds:

In fact, most days I prefer this guy:

to this guy:

Although I am tremendously grateful that I am here in Berkeley, safe in my house and only worried about money, rather than here:

Sometimes, you need to pull back and get the big picture, you know?

Which I'm trying to do.

But even so, if any of you guys have friends with lots of this:

Please ask them to come to Stacey's Books in San Francisco today at 12:30, or M is for Mystery in San Mateo on Saturday at 2:00 to splurge on this:

Because my children drink a lot of this:

Meanwhile, I will remember the time last year when my husband told me, "you need to give up this writing shit, because you're not making any money at it and I need a homemaker."

And I will smile to myself, picturing this:

And if that doesn't work, I'll just whistle this: