Tuesday, December 31, 2019

12/31/19: Endings and Beginnings

The last day of and exciting and sometimes exhausting 2019. Herman and I made three big trips this year, including a blowout trip to South America—Peru, Chile, Patagonia, and Argentina; we walked another 800 kilometers across northern Spain; and topped it off with a magnificent trek through central Bhutan and central India. Travel-wise, it was one of our most memorable years. And all that travel overshot our yearly budget by 100%. Ouch. 

Our one disappointment this year was the death of Herman’s father, Lincoln Chin, in November. He passed while we were traveling and we couldn’t make it back for the service. Fortunately, we knew it was coming so Herman made time with dad and said his goodbyes before we left for Thailand. Still, it became a punch in the gut when we received word. 

In reviewing my 2019 resolutions and stated goals, I found I failed miserably to achieve any but a few. I made progress on all of them, but came up short. The two goals I achieved was walking the Camino across Spain and refocusing my writing from fiction to writing in my journal. So, I’m now feeling like a failure, but am resolved to make each one happen this year. I will turn this failure into success. 

Tonight, we are hosting our annual surf and turf dinner party with Ben Wong, Jim and Rob, and Donny and Mark. Looking forward to catching up will all of them and ringing in the New Year with old friends. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

12/29/19: Book Review: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

As the Civil Rights Movement begins to heat up in the American South, two African American teenagers are sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. What transforms for them there binds them to each other, and will affect everything they do, think, and dream of for the rest of their lives. 

The Nickel Academy juvenile reformatory was billed as providing physical, intellectual, and moral training to troubled young men. Instead, it was a nightmare. This is a raw tale of survival. The characters are fictional, but the Nickel Academy and the horrors committed there are real. 

Their daddies taught them how to keep a slave in line, passed down this brutal heirloom. Take him away from his family, whip him until all he remembers is the whip, chain him up so all he knows is chains. A term in an iron sweatbox, cooking his brain in the sun, had a way of bringing a buck around, and so did a dark cell, a room aloft in darkness, outside time.
After the Civil War, when a five-dollar fine for a Jim Crow charge—vagrancy, changing employers without permission, “bumptious contact,” what have you—swept black men and women up into the maw of debt labor, the white sons remembered the family lore. Dug pits, forged bars, forbid the nourishing face of the sun. The Florida Industrial School for Boys wasn’t in operation six months before they converted the third-floor storage closets into solitary confinement. One of the handy men went dorm by dorm, screwing in bolts: there. The dark cells remained in use even after two locked-up boys died in the fire of ’21. The sons held the old ways close.
The state outlawed dark cells and sweatboxes in juvenile facilities after World War II. It was a time of high-minded reform all over, even at Nickel. But the rooms waited, blank and still and airless. They waited for wayward boys in need of an attitude adjustment. They wait still, as long as the sons—and the sons of those sons—remember.  

This novel is brilliant in every way a novel can be brilliant. The writing is impeccable, creating a voice that is both powerful and haunting. The characters are fully realized. The story is dark, extraordinary, imaginative, and heartbreaking. More than once I felt like I’d been punched in the gut, yet I couldn’t put it down. I loved and hated this story. This is a brave and needed book written by a rare talent at the top of his game. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

12/28/19 Procrastination

Spending a quiet morning trying to get motivated to return to writing fiction. I’ve have a story half-written that I put on the shelf a few months back, letting it simmer in my head while I trekked across Bhutan and India. I’ve been back home three weeks and I keep avoiding returning to the story. It’s not writer’s block. It is purely a motivation issue. I’m content to read other authors’ works rather than put my nose to the grindstone and craft my own tale. This is something I’ve not experienced since I began writing twenty years ago. Hopefully as the new year dawns, so will my impetus.

Had a slow day yesterday because of too much wine consumption the night before. I was, however, feeling fine by the time Herman and I joined our closest friends for dinner at John Henry’s restaurant. When we first moved to Palm Springs John Henry’s was my favorite dinner spot. But two years ago the ownership changed hands and the food/service quality took a nose dive. It has gotten so bad that last night will be the last they see of me. I’ve grown tired of being disappointed by them. 

Insight of the Day: Things change. You accept it, adjust, and move on. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

12/25/19: Christmas Day

Herman and I enjoyed Christmas cheer and a lovely ham dinner last night at Jason and John’s home. We began the evening’s celebration at Mike and John’s house with cocktails and snacks with several of our closest friends, and then swung by our home to pick up Trek before going to J&J’s dinner party. 

We had a delightful thirty minutes chatting with J&J before their neighbors joined us, Earl and Will. From that point on, the evening took a turn. Earl was quiet and seemed an attentive listener, content to suck on is vodka while letting the conversation run its course. His partner, Will, became Earl’s exact opposite. Will took over the conversation to the extent nobody could get a word in edgewise. Will was extremely Australian, somewhat drunk, and after twenty minutes was very annoying. By the time we sat down to dinner all I wanted was to wolf down some food and leave. 

This was the first party that our hosts extended an invitation to include Trek, and he became the centerpiece of the conversation, charming everyone. Indeed, for the first hour Will could talk of nothing but everything he knew about dogs. 

In spite of Will holding court, Herman and I did enjoy ourselves. J&J were amusing and the dinner was delicious. We have become much closer to J&J over the past year, and we really enjoy their company. And I have to admit I loved spending Christmas Eve at two homes that went all out with Christmas decorations—decked out trees, tinsel and balls, carols. It was all lovely. Herman and I have never put up a tree or made any kind of holiday fuss. We don’t even exchange gifts. So to spend a few hours surrounded by Christmas cheer was like taking a step back into childhood. 

Today is the calm between the storms. In the last few weeks we’ve attended a dozen parties, events, and dinners. The holiday season has kept us busy almost every day. But today we have no plans. Today is a rest day, because tomorrow Ben Wong arrives. That means eight days of nonstop dinner parties and outings. So today we will rest and enjoy being together in our home. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

12/24/19: Christmas Eve

Today, Christmas Eve, marks Herman and my eighth anniversary living in our Palm Springs home. This begs a moment of reflection, a moment of looking back. But to be honest, these eight years flew by at warp speed, so much so that looking back is difficult, other than to smile and sigh contentedly. It seems only a few winters ago we showed up here with a truck full of wall art and a car crammed with camping gear. That camping gear became our only furnishings for the first two weeks in this house because the movers didn’t deliver all our home furnishings until January 7th. I guess they didn’t want to work near the holidays.  That was fine by us. It gave us two weeks to paint walls, wax floors, and clean every nook and cranny before we filled the house with our junk. And we were so happy to be here that we didn’t mind camping in an empty house. It was a new adventure, and it felt like we were starting out with nothing—no possessions, no history, nothing weighing us down or slowing our steps—but each other and the love we shared. 

So many things changed for us after our move to Palm Springs. I sometimes think that my life began that day we moved into this house with our air mattress and sleeping bags. It felt like everything that came before was a preparation, a time in a womb to teach and prepare me for this birth into my happy years. And I think the biggest change for me as been the steady decline of my striving to become a popular writer. It could be this house, this city, or simply old age, but I’ve become comfortable with who I am and what I’ve accomplished in my sixty-six years of striving. I’ve come to the truth that I don’t need to publish more books or make more money or become better known. I don’t need to entertain people with my stories. I don’t need to do anything other than be a loving husband and a caring human being. That’s enough. That idea is what I carry into our ninth year in this house. What I’ve done, what I am, is enough.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Book Review: The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith

Book Review: The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith
Publisher: Arcade (April, 2019)
Pages: 320


Set in 1992 Poland, Jay Porter, an American FBI agent, is asked to assist in a multiple-murder case in Warsaw. He teams up with a gay, African-American, CIA counterpart, Kurt Crawford to investigate three murdered Russians that may have links to stolen nukes. When a fourth Russian body is found, new clues allow Jay to piece together a complex puzzle that involves high-ranking officials, local police, and even Jay Porter’s new Polish love interest. The deeper Jay digs, the more sinister things appear, because all clues point to someone assembling a nuclear bomb capable of wiping out a city and undermining the stability of the entire region. Jay’s biggest problem: he doesn’t know who he can trust.

Smith excels at crafting a post-Cold War Warsaw. The descriptions are vivid and mesmerizing, making the location one of the main characters. The writing was crisp, the dialog spot on, and the plot has all the twists and turns to keep the reader, at least this reader, guessing what will happen next. Indeed, clues and information are doled out in a very tantalizing way.

I found some of the investigative methods and situations implausible, but they did make for an interesting read. My only serious complaint is that I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likable. I found some rather interesting, which kept me reading to the end, but my lack of attachment in the characters put me at a distance from them, and thus at a distance from the story. That said, it is a complex puzzle that I enjoyed solving.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

12/19/19: Cleaning and Cooking

It’s been a busy day so far. I started off wanting to cook a big pot of Minestrone, and then clean out the shed. That along with spending a few hours writing. But Herman had other plans. While I was reading ten pages of My Life by Bill Clinton (I try to read at least 10 pages each morning after breakfast) Herman began the purge of our kitchen cabinets. I finished my reading quickly so I could help him. I didn’t expect him to clean out much, but was astounded when he began bagging up almost everything in the lower cabinets where we keep all the junk we rarely use. He went from cabinet to cabinet, cleaning out stuff we don’t need. We filled seven shopping bags of stuff to give to Revival. We also trashed a great deal of other stuff that has been taking up space for several years. It because a liberating experience for both us. It felt so good to pare down to only what we need. We have now done this to every room in the house, including our clothes closets. The only thing left to do is our storage shed, and I hope to purge that this afternoon. 

Before we got to the shed, I dug out my Minestrone recipe and my soup pot and got to work chopping and dicing. It’s the first time I’ve made Minestrone, and I had a good recipe as a roadmap, but I was also winging it some. Herman, of course, couldn’t let me do it all my own without butting in. He feels the kitchen is his domain, so any time I make soup, he’s got to contribute, telling me what to add or how to do something. It pisses me off that he can’t just step away and let me manage on my own. But for him, he wants it to be a thing we do together. What he insisted on this time was that we add chopped leeks and sausage to the pot. I didn’t have a problem with either, but I still wish he could back off and let me learn on my own. 

By the way, we each had a bowl for lunch and it was awesome. I’ve loved each of the soups I’ve made so far—split pea, navy bean, lentil—but this Minestrone turned out to be the tastiest yet. It’s not my favorite, but I do think it has more complex flavors than the others. It was so good Herman asked me to make a pot for our New Year’s party feast. For that soup, I want to start it by making my own chicken stock from scratch. I can’t wait. 

The afternoon was spent cleaning out the storage shed. Again, I was shocked at how much we gave to Revival/Goodwill, and how much else we tossed in the garbage. In fact, will filled the container. And we had an unexpected and welcome surprise. Years ago, when we came back from a long vacation we realized that our scuba diving fins, two pair that cost us $200 each, were missing from the outdoor storage box where we keep the pool equipment. We searched everywhere, and when we didn’t find them we assumed that someone had stolen them from our yard while we were away. We felt violated, knowing someone had entered our space and taken our possessions, and we’ve been bitter about that ever since. Every time we go on a long vacation we think about somebody breaking in and stealing our stuff. But the good news is, we found them in a box at the bottom of a pile in the storage shed today. It brightened our spirits, knowing it had been our mistake. We were never violated. The funny part is, that even though we are purging the house of everything we no longer use, and we haven’t been scuba diving in eight years and don’t plan to ever do it again, we were so happy get our fins back that we decided to keep them even though we don’t need them. Ha! We humans are such funny creatures.

Insight of the Day: Sometimes is pays to hold on to things you don’t need, simply because they make you feel good.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

12/18/19: An Historic Day in Washington

Today, the US House of Representatives will vote on impeaching Donald Trump. I’m confidently we will not get the votes in the Senate to remove Trump from office, still I feel pride that the House Democrats are bring this president’s foul behavior to light, and showcasing his misdeeds to the American people. I pray it makes a difference in the upcoming elections, not only for removing Trump from office, but also for removing many of the GOP Trump lackies who are protecting him. We live in interesting times. 

Yesterday Herman and I completed the Purge. We went through every room of the house, every drawer, every closet, and also the garage and the storage shed, and trashed or gave away everything we don’t use on a regular basis. We are now down to only owning things we need. I have no words for how liberating that is. It’s not that we were pack rats, but after eight years of living in this house, we accumulated a ton of stuff we don’t use, need, or want. Now we are down to essentials. I want to make this a yearly event, to purge what we don’t need before the new year arrives. 

Herman and I spent a quiet night at home last night, watching an absurd action movie on Netflix. I think there is a problem with action movies, in that each one has to have more spectacular stunts, more shit being blown up, and more bad guys being killed than any of the previous action movies. And they have gone waaaaaay too far, to the point of being absurd. It’s no longer entertaining, it’s simply ludicrous.

Today I plan to devote this morning to writing, and the afternoon to reading. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sunday, 12/16/19: Start of a New Week

Yesterday was a do-nothing day. I helped Herman in the yard for a few hours, but didn’t accomplish much more than that. We did watch The King with Timothee Chalamet and Sean Harris. It was outstanding, both in terms of production quality and acting. I was very impressed with Chalamet’s performance. I think this will be a breakthrough film for his career. The film was a little slow going at times, but held my interest and built into an interesting finish where ideals outweigh outcomes. 

This morning, I read a dozen pages of My Life by Bill Clinton, and came across a speech he gave at the 1992 democratic convention that impressed me with its simplicity and eloquence:

Tonight every one of you knows deep in your heart that we are too divided. It is time to heal America. 
And so we must say to every American: Look beyond the stereotypes that bind us. We need each other. All of us, we need each other. We don’t have a person to waste. And yet for too long politicians have told most of us that are doing all right that what’s really wrong with America is the rest of us. Them.

Them, the minorities. Them, the liberals. Them, the poor, them the homeless, them, the people with disabilities. Them, the gays.

We’ve gotten to where we’ve nearly them’ed ourselves to death. Them and them and them. 

But this is America. There is no them; there is only us. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That is our Pledge of Allegiance and that’s what the New Covenant is all about….

Somewhere at this very moment, a child is being born in America. Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family, and a hopeful future. Let it be our cause to see that that child has a chance to live to the fullest of her God-given capacities…. Let it be our cause that we give this child a country that is coming together, not coming apart—a country of boundless hopes and endless dreams; a country that once again lifts it’s people and inspires the world. Let that be our cause, our commitment, and our New Covenant. My fellow Americans, I end tonight where it all began for me: I still believe in a place called Hope. God bless you and God bless America. 

Insight of the Day: Simple and eloquent trumps flashy and bombastic every time.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Halloween Is Over

I’m not a fan of Halloween. Getting dressed up in costumes has never been my thing, although I often have found it fun and interesting to see other people get creative in coming up with new ideas for costumes. But during this time of year all the movie channels play horror movies, which I’ve never been a fan of. I’m always glad when Halloween is over and we all move on. 

I did see something new this year. While taking Trek out for his evening walk at about 5pm, we passed the elementary school, and in the parking lot were a dozen or more cars parked in two rows with their trunks open. Twenty costume-clad kids were going car to car, where parents gave them candy. I found it sad that parents are so protective these days that kids are not allowed to go door to door in their own neighborhoods, that they feel they must stage a pathetic little parking lot affair for their kids where there are as many adults supervising as there are kids participating. I remember the excitement of running door to door, unsupervised, with my friends, being wild and free, and sometimes getting in a bit of trouble on this one night of the year. Then coming home with heaping bags of candy to count our booty. Sadly, I suppose those days are gone. 

Insight of the Day: People are growing more and more afraid, hence more protective. But that will lead to a generation growing up who never take chances, never run wild.  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

An Excerpt from Surviving Immortality by Alan Chin

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest novel, Surviving Immortality, is available in paperback and any eBook format, at

Dreamspinner Press Publications https://tinyurl.com/y7kffs4a

This story is purely fictional and not based on real people or true events.

This is a story of discovering the fountain of youth, and the upheaval that breakthrough brings to our slightly craze, slightly paranoid, overly greedy society.

When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his formula until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.

Before he disappears, his stepson Matt is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt learns that world peace might not be his stepfather’s only goal. There may be a darker purpose at work. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?

This is the story of human greed and man’s lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of one young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.

This is a story of hope.

Kenji knelt before him and rested both hands on his thighs, squeezing tenderly. “I need to go out to get the ball rolling on your passport. You can’t leave this room.”
Matt Reece nodded.
“I’ll bring back food and antibiotics to reduce your fever. I’ll pick up some clothes and shoes too. Western duds and cowboy boots are too conspicuous. And I’ll need a picture for the passport.”
He pulled his iPhone from his pocket. “Stand here and try to look cheerful.”
Matt Reece stood where Kenji pointed. Kenji snapped five pictures.
“But what about my green skin?” Matt Reece asked.
“They can photoshop that.”
Matt Reece dropped back in his chair. “What’s happening to me?”
“Your body is going through changes, things I’ve seen before. I’m sure you’ll be fine once your body acclimates. You should be back to normal by the time we leave.”
And if I’m not?
Kenji knelt before him again. “What name do you want?”
“You need a new identity. We should make it Canadian, rather than American, unless you can fake a British accent. Foreign passports cost more, but they’re safer.”
Being asked to give up your name is no small thing. Neither is the notion of forsaking your nationality. He had already abandoned his home and family, his horse, and now he needed to lose his clothes. To give up more meant losing all his personal history. What was left? Combined with Kenji’s suggestion of baby food, he felt newly born, a mound of clay waiting for the sculptor’s hand. He tried to think of a suitable name, one that might bolster his courage. He thought of Cain, whom God marked with a different color skin and chased from the Garden of Eden. As appropriate as that seemed, it didn’t sound suitable for a first name. He glanced around the room, groping for inspiration. His eyes passed over the vacuum cleaner standing in the corner and moved back to it. He focused on the name in red letters.
“Kirby,” he said. “Kirby Cain, from Saskatchewan, Canada.”
Kenji turned to follow Matt Reece’s gaze. “It’s lucky that vacuum isn’t a Hoover.” He smiled. “Okay, if you can say that fast ten times, then we’ll go with it.”
Matt Reece stared at him, not caring if they used that name or another.
“I’m kidding,” Kenji said. “Kirby it is. And from now on, I’m Yukio Toranaga.” He stepped to the traveling bag, lifted his wallet and American passport, and tucked them into his pocket. He also pocketed a packet of hundreds. A moment later he was gone, leaving only a whisper of the door closing.
Matt Reece leaned out the window. He watched Kenji cross the street and hold out his hand for a taxi. He wondered why Kenji didn’t use Consuela’s car. It was parked on a side street four blocks away. But he recalled Kenji saying they needed to abandon it. Being on the run was a constant burning of bridges, leaving no link from past to present.
A cab pulled to the curb, and Kenji sped off into the morning traffic.
Matt Reece pulled back into the room. On the table between him and the television sat a stack of magazines—Vanity FairArchitectural DigestTravel + Leisure. He snatched up the T+L and flipped through the pages. He stopped at a picture of a tropical beach with a Speedo-clad man walking out of the water, still glistening with drops of the sea. He admired both the man and the beach. He tore the picture from the magazine, folded it twice, and carried it to his pile of clothes in the bedroom. He slipped the picture into his jeans rear pocket and fished his grandfather’s watch from the front pocket. The hands had not moved.
It crossed his mind he might feel better if he dressed. He slipped into his T-shirt, socks, and jeans and stepped into his boots. He did feel better, so much so that he lifted his Stetson off the back of the chair and placed it on his head. Standing in his hat and boots, he almost felt himself again.
He shuffled back to the living room and switched on the TV. The screen showed a demonstration in Washington, DC, people holding signs saying Death Before Disarmament and Kill the Infidels under pictures of Kenji and Consuela. People shouted threats. The CNN coverage switched to a mob at Vatican City setting fire to a large devil—with horns, a tail, and a picture of Kenji’s face plastered over the head.
Matt Reece couldn’t sit down. It seemed impossible to relax in the midst of all that hostility. The faces were livid and hate-filled. He wondered if this was how people looked at men being taken to the gallows or electric chair. A minute later he realized he was not half-wrong. Anderson Cooper described the fatwa placed on Kenji and Consuela by the Iranians, and their suspected alliance with the Vatican.
Cooper turned to interview a stock-market analyst about the nine-hundred-point drop that morning at the New York Stock Exchange. An upbeat expert urged investors to buy into this temporary dip in the market. Cooper cut him off in midsentence. “And just in,” Cooper said, putting his hand to his earpiece, and spoke with a note of drama. “CNN now has substantiated evidence that the prime minister of Israel has placed a thirty-million-dollar bounty on the heads of Kenji Hiroshige and Consuela Rocha y Villareal.”
It was the holy mission of the faithful—Muslims, Christians, Jews—to destroy them.
The search would, no doubt, be massive and move quickly. The life he had led to this point was of no use. Knowledge of raising animals and riding the range wouldn’t help. To survive, he needed new knowledge and fresh skills. He and Kenji were caught in the eye of a hate storm, the focal point of the world’s collective rage. Kenji had transformed into a priest to protect himself. Who could he become?
The screen showed mob violence breaking out in several cities—Islamabad, Paris, New York, Oslo, Beijing, Moscow, Delhi, Tehran, and Sydney, Australia. The toll of injuries and deaths was shocking. In Houston, police had fired on a crowd, leaving fifty-three dead and more than two hundred injured.
Britain and Israel had severed diplomatic relations with the United States. “Curiously,” Cooper said, “the White House confirmed rumors that it was not President Harrington who broke off these associations.”
Being raised on a ranch, he never knew until now that the world could rest so squarely on the acts of a single individual. The sheer weight of public opinion began to crush him.
He heard children yelling on the street below, and it somehow merged with the mob on the tube. It seemed like the throngs were downstairs ready to set fire to the building.
He punched the remote, and the TV switched to CNBC. It showed a mountain cabin that he recognized, Consuela’s cabin, only it had yellow barricade tape over the front door. A reporter was saying the body had been found only hours after the grisly murder.
“Consuela,” he whispered. His memory replayed their departure yesterday morning, how odd it seemed to leave without saying goodbye, taking her car, and leaving her stranded.
Consuela was dead. It was a fact, a simple truth connecting other truths. All he had to do was follow the facts backward and see where they led. He consulted his inner reserves and realized he had taken part in murder. He was a teenager, who believed all life was sacred, now as guilty as biblical Cain, and how ironic his choice of new names.
He avoided consciously blaming Kenji, but in the same heartbeat he knew he had to get the hell out of there before Kenji returned. He needed a plan, to change whatever lay in front of him. He tried to take a calming breath but came up short.
He leaned forward, planted his hands on his knees, and sucked air into unyielding lungs. He felt a familiar pressure in the back of his esophagus, and he coughed, long rasping coughs that clogged his windpipe with mucus.
“Oh”—he drew a shallow breath—“fuck.” He dropped the remote as a nervy rush pushed him into a survival response. He had to find a place with enough air, and quickly.
He ripped open the front door and ran for the stairs, already dizzy from lack of oxygen. He flew down to the first floor, unaware Groucho was following him.
He dashed into sunshine. Several people on the street backed away. Groucho whimpered at his side. Heads turned in unison to stare at him. It was alarming to be so intensely visible at the moment he felt most vulnerable.

A homeless person crouched on the pavement a few feet away, scratching distractedly at whatever was crawling in his beard. He shouted, “Praise the Lord. The little green men have landed. Take me to your leader!”

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Book Review: Lie With Me: A Novel by Phillippe Besson, translated by Molly Ringwald

Publisher: Scribner (April, 2019)
Pages: 160

Besson’s story follows the lives of two men, starting in high school(1984), picked up again in 2007, and again in 2016. The lion’s share of the story takes place in the HS period where the two have a sexual awakening with each other. What starts as a purely physical relationship morphs into something more. Still, during this time living is a small rural town in France, the boys must hide their growing love. The story continues to focus on the boys as they approach the time when they are deciding what's next with their lives. Each faces a time of personal angst trying to come to grips with their sexuality, cultural norms, and whether they are at peace in their own skin. The last two time periods are the results of their decisions and reflections of what could have been. The last chapter, although the shortest of the three, is perhaps the most powerful, and the most distressing. 

Written like a memoir, the characters come alive, and the reader, at least this reader, came to understand and appreciate the depth of emotions of these men caught in a time and situation where they had to fight for scrapes of happiness that never seemed to last long. 

This was a quick read but I found it encaptivating, mostly because of Besson’s lovely, sparse writing style. While reading this story, I often flashed on the novels Call Me By Your Nameand Brokeback Mountainbecause of the similar storyline. 

I can recommend this book, but if you’re a reader who demands a HEA ending to your romances then you will be sorely disappointed.

Monday, August 26, 2019

My buddy, Trek.

Yes, it’s National Dog Day again. Here's my buddy, Trek.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Dinner Parties

Herman and I have given two dinner parties in the last week, both with eight guests, which included several of our dearest friends. I so enjoy treating people I like to a mean and good conversation. It’s always such a treat. I think Herman enjoys it even more than I, even though he has to do the lion’s share of the work. The one thing that shines through during these events is that we have wonderfully interesting and loving friends here in PS. It’s a true blessing. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

★★★★★ Book Review: Surviving Immortality by Alan Chin

Reviewer: Edward C. Patterson
Publisher: DSP Publications (June 2018)
Pages: 432

Powerfully fast-moving with now-relevancy

I know I can rely on a good read whenever I open a book by Alan Chin; and Surviving Immortality is no exception, except it is exceptional. With a believable spark, Mr. Chin presents us with a world devouring itself when promise has given it its greatest loss for hope. All the inchoate faults of humanity, ready today to strike our civilization to the core, leeches out when confronted by a mind shattering development and a simple, lethal condition. Surviving Immortality is masterfully rendered into a work long lingering after the last pages.
The characters are complex, each with their own demon, but honest to their convictions; so much so, there are no heroes, and those who appear villainous can be redeemed by their good intentions. The main thread of the story his told through Matt Reece’s point of view, although all the characters get their turn; but it is Matt’s intense purity, a purity despoiled by circumstances, which unfolds like a night flower in moonlight. Alan Chin crafts an action adventure and psychological political philosophical tale, if there could be such a genre, keeping the pages turning until those pages disappear and time is lost. The elements in the work, and those effecting Matt Reece, are all about us today just waiting for the spark to ignite them. Mr. Chin strikes that spark.
I am a fan of Alan Chin’s other works, but this one combines all the signature touches of them all — ranch life, storms at sea, tropical islands, police procedural, Buddhism, sexuality and a lust for travel. He even includes doffs to his latest wanderlust — Machu Picchu. The world he presents is hisworld as much as ourworld. The arguments are current ones, and I’ll not spoil your read by mentioning them, but whatever opinions you have on those topics, Surviving Immortalitywill not fail to engage you, even if you wind up talking to your night light at midnight in bed. 
Needless to say (but I will say it), I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a powerful fast-moving work with now-relevancy from a major author who contributes to our contemporary literary legacy.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Dying of Too Much Life

While reading Will and Ariel Durant’s history of Queen Elizabeth, I came across a beautiful passage:

Rumors moved across Europe that she was dying of cancer. But she was dying of too much life. Her frame could not bear any more the joys and sorrows, the burdens and blows of the relentless years. When her godson, Sir John Harington, tried to amuse her with witty verses, she sent him off, saying, “When thou dost feel creeping time at thy gate, these fooleries will please thee less.” 

Insight of the Day: Even if you are writing something as dry as 16thcentury history you can still make the prose enchanting. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

A person asked the question, "Why are people so hostile towards President Donald Trump?"

I saw this on my FB wall, posted by a good friend, and it so perfectly summed up my opinion of our president that I had to post it. Thank you Chris O'Leary for this incisive article. 

A person asked the question, "Why are people so hostile towards President Donald Trump?"
Chris O'Leary: 
Before you pass my answer off as “Another Liberal Snowflake” consider that
1.) I'm an independent centrist who has voted Republican way more often in my life than Democrat, and
2.) If you want to call someone who spent the entire decade of his 20’s serving in the Marine Corps a snowflake, I’d be ready to answer the question what did you do with your 20’s?
Why Liberals (And not-so liberals) are against President Trump.
A.) He lies. A LOT. Politifact rates 69% of the words he speaks as “Mostly False or worse” Only 17% of the things he says get a “Mostly True” or better rating. That is an absolutely unbelievable number. How he doesn’t speak more truth by mistake is beyond me. To put it in context, Obama’s rating was 26% mostly false or worse, and I had a problem with that. Many of Trump’s former business associates report that he has always been a compulsive liar, but now he’s the President of the United States, and that’s a problem. And this is a man who expects you to believe him when he points at other people and says “They’re lying”
B.) He’s an authoritarian populist, not a conservative. He advances regressive social policy while proposing to expand federal spending and federalist authority over states, both of which conservatives are supposed to hate.
C.) He pretends at Christianity to court the Religious Right but fails to live anything resembling a Christ-Like Life.
D.) His nationalist “America First” message effectively alienates us and removes us from our place as leaders in the international community.
E.) His ideas on “Keeping us safe” are all thinly veiled ideas to remove our freedoms, he is, after all, an authoritarian first. They also are simply bad ideas.
F.) He couldn’t pass a 3rd-grade civics exam. He doesn't’ know what he’s doing. He doesn't understand how international relations work, he doesn’t understand how federal state or local governments work, and every time someone tries to “Run it like a business” it’s a spectacular failure. See Colorado Springs’ recent history as an example. The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise And that was a businessman with a MUCH better business track record than Trump. We are talking about a man who lost money owning a freaking gambling casino.
G.) He behaves unethicaly and always has. As a businessman, he constantly left in his wake unpaid contractors and invoices, litigation, broken promises, whatever he could get away with.
H.) He is damaging our relationships with our best international friends while kissing up to nations that do not have our best interests in mind. To his question “Wouldn't’ it be great to have better relations with Russia?” The answer is Yes. But it is RUSSIA who needs to earn that, who must stop doing the things that are damaging to that relationship, or we are simply weaker for it.
I.) He has never seen a shortcut he didn't like, and you can’t take shortcuts in government. “Nuclear Option, Remove the Filibuster, I’ll change the Constitution by Executive Order…Don…what happens when you remove the filibuster and the other side retakes the majority in the Senate? Suddenly want that filibuster back? What happens if you manage to change the Constitution by Executive Order and an Anti-2A President wins the next election?
J.) He behaves and has always behaved as an unabashed racist. Yes, I’ve seen your favorite meme that claims he was never accused of racism before the Democrats…Absolutely false. Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2019 See the Central Park 5, the lawsuits and fines resulting from his refusal to lease to black tenants, the 1992 lost appeal trying to overturn penalties for removing black dealers from tables, his remarks to the house native American affairs subcommittee in 1993. The man sees and treats racial groups of people as monoliths.
K.) He is systematically steamrolling regulations specifically designed to keep a disaster like the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis from happening again.
L.) He speaks and acts like a demagogue. He sees the Legislative and Judicial branches of government as inconveniences, blows up at criticism no matter how deserved and actively tries to countermand constitutional processes, not to mention attempts to blackmail and coerce people who are saying negative things about him
M.) His choices for top positions, with the exception of Gen. Mattis, who is a gem, have been horrendous. A secretary of Education without a resume that would get her hired as a small town grammar school principal, A secretary of Energy who didn't know the Department of Energy was responsible for nuclear reserves, an EPA head whose biggest accomplishments to date had been suing the EPA on multiple occasions, an FCC head who while working for Verizon actively lobbied to kill net neutrality, and an Attorney General who thinks pot is “nearly as bad as heroin” and asked Congress for permission to go after legal pot businesses in states where it is legal. (There goes that great Republican States rights rally cry again, right? *Crickets*) An Interim AG after Firing his First AG who’s appointment is probably unconstitutional.
N.) He denies scientific fact. Ever notice that the only people you hear denying climate change are politicians and lobbyists? 99% of actual scientists studying the issue agree that it’s real, man-made and caused by greenhouse gasses. Ever notice that every big disaster movie starts with a bunch of politicians in a room ignoring a scientist's warning?
0.) He does not have the temperament to lead this nation. He is Thin Skinned, childish, and a bully, never mind misogynistic, boorish, rude, and incapable of civil discourse.
P.) He still does not understand that the words he speaks, or tweets, are the official position of 1/3 of the US government, and so does not govern his words. He still thinks when he speaks it’s good ol’ Donald Trump. It’s not. It’s the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. You have probably spread a meme or two around talking about how no president’s every word has ever been dissected before…YES, THEY ALWAYS HAVE. It’s just that every other president in our lifetime has understood the importance of his words and took great care to govern his speech. Trump blurts out whatever comes to his mind then complains when people talk about what a dumb thing that was to say.
Q.) He’s unqualified. If you owned a small business and were looking for someone to manage it, and an unnamed resume came across your desk and you saw 6 bankruptcies, showing a man who had failed to make money running CASINOS, would you hire him? He is a very poor businessman. This is a man it has been estimated would have been worth $10 BILLION more if he’d just taken what his father had given him, invested it in Index Funds and left it alone.
R.) He is President. But he refuses to take a leadership position and understand that he is everyone’s President. Conservatives complain about liberals chanting “Not my President” while Trump himself behaves as if no one but his supporters matter.
S.) He’s a blatant hypocrite. He spent 8 years bitching Obama out for his family trips, or golfing, or any time he took for himself, and what does he do? He was already on his 20th golf outing in APRIL of his 1st year in office. He constantly rants about respect for the military, yet can’t be bothered to attend the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day because of a little rain. (And that excuse about Marine One not being able to fly in the rain is HILARIOUS.)
T.) He’s a misogynist. It's not really ok in this day and age to be a misogynist, but it’s not a huge deal if you’re a private citizen. It’s a pretty big deal if you hate half the people you’re elected to lead. The disdain for women seeps out of his …whatever…. and he just can’t hide it.
U.) Face it. In any other election “Grab Em’ By the Pussy” would have been the end of that candidate’s chances. Back in the 90’s I used to marvel about how Teflon Bill Clinton was. I no longer do. The fact that he managed to slip by on that is as much a statement about how much people hate Hillary Clinton as it is about what is wrong with politics in this country right now.
V.) He has one response to a differing opinion. Attack. A good leader listens to criticism, to different points of view, is capable of self-reflection, tries to guide people to his point of view, and when necessary stands his ground and defends his convictions. Any of that sound like Trump? His default is not to Lead, its’ to attack. Scorched Earth. The Jim Acosta reaction is a good example. There was no defense of his convictions when Acosta was asking him repeated questions about his rhetoric on the caravan. His response was to attack Acosta.
W.) He takes credit for everything positive while deflecting blame for everything negative. Look at him with the Stock Market. He’s been bragging about it since day one, and to give credit where credit is due, speculation on coming deregulation early in his presidency did fuel some rapid growth, but to pretend that it’s all him, that we’re not in the 9th year of the longest bull market in history and THEN, when the standard market volatility that deregulation inevitably brings about starts to show up? Yeah. Look at yesterday. Hey! Stock Markets losing because the Democrats won! Do I need to bring out the Stock market chart for the last 10 Years again?
X.) He emboldens the worst among us. Counter-protesters are slammed into by a car while countering actual Nazi rally, and the response is there’s fault on “Both Sides” The media is at fault for a nut job sending them and Donald’s favorite targets pipe bombs. The truth is not all Republicans, not all Trump Supporters are racist, fascist lunatics. Many are just taken in by the bombastic personality and are living in an information bubble made worse by the fact that they unfollow anyone and ignore any source of information that makes them feel uncomfortable. People on the left do that too. The Biggest problem the right has right now is that the worst of the Right is the loudest and the most in your face, and the actual right, especially the Freaking PRESIDENT needs to be standing up and saying No. Those are not our values.
Y.) He seems to think the Constitution of The United States, the document that IS who we are, the document he took an oath to support and defend is some sort of inconvenience. He demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of Constitution, from believing he can alter the 14th through executive order, to thinking The free exercise clause in the first amendment somehow supersedes the establishment clause (not that he really understands either) or that the free exercise clause only applies to Christians. Or his attacks on freedom of expression and the press. He repeatedly makes it clear that if he’s read them, he does not understand Articles 1–3, and that’s something he really should have before he took the job, because they’re not going away.
Z.) I’ll use Z for something I do blame him for, but the rest of us have to carry the blame too. Polarization. This country is more politically polarized than I can remember in my lifetime. Some of you who are a few years older than I may remember how it was in the late 60’s when construction workers in New York were being applauded for beating up hippies, I think it’s pretty close to that right now, but that was before my time. And he is the cause of much of the current level polarization, but also the result. It didn't’ start with Trump. We’ve been going down this road I think since the eruption of the Tea Party in the early years of the Obama Administration. I do hope the tide turns before it gets much worse because the thing that scares me more than anything is what if that keeps going the way it has been? "
*snagged from a friends wall:

Monday, July 15, 2019

Finally, Back At Work

Today, for the first time in two months, I returned to my computer and began to write. It’s been so long that my fingers are having trouble typing because of lack of practice. 

The reason was not writer’s block. I’ve been traveling in Europe for the last two months. Three days in Paris, thirty-five days hiking across Spain on the Camino Norte, a week in Porto, Portugal, a week in Palma, Mallorca, followed by another three days in Paris.

It was a long a beautiful trip with my husband, but I’m happy to be home again with my dog and my writing. We’ve been back almost a week, but it’s taken that long to get the house and yard back in shape so that I can take the time to work. It’s mindboggling how much can change in a couple of months even when nobody is here to create a mess. But now that’s all done. The refrigerator and pantry are stocked, the yard is trimmed, the dog is sheared and happy we’re back. Now I can work.

I can’t say how I’ve missed sitting in my office, exploring my mind, working on projects. I think it will be a long time before anyone can blast me out of here again. 

Insight of the Day: There really is no place like home. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Why I Walk The Camino de Santiago

On the eve of flying to Europe to walk my second Camino de Santiago, a five-hundred-fifty-mile trek across northern Spain, a friend asked why am I walking this a second time. And that is a difficult question. 

First of all, we are taking a different route. This time we follow the coast, rather than cut inland. Next, unlike so many religious pilgrims, I am not walking to find God. To find God you must look inward, not outward. I am not walking to attain Enlightenment or any other spiritual state of being. I am not walking to get or become anything. I’ve spent a lifetime becoming. I’m done with becoming. If anything, I would like to unbecome. 

I am walking the Camino to experience it—to see that area of Spain up close and personal, to mingle with the locals and the other pilgrims, to eat the food and drink the wine, to work through the blisters and the backaches, and to do all that while sharing the experience with Herman.

Will it make us stronger? I can’t say. That is not my goal, so it is unimportant. Will it bring us closer together? That is also not my goal, and therefore unimportant. My goal is simply to do it. To live it day by day, step by step, meal by meal. Herman and I will share this adventure, and hopefully we’ll be thankful each step along the path. 

While thinking about the why, I’m reminded of one of my favorite passages in literature:

The very posture of searching, the slow movement with head down, seems to draw people.
“What did you lose?” they ask.
“Then what do you search for?”
And that is an embarrassing question.
We search for something that will seem like truth to us; we search for understanding; we search for that principle that keys us deeply into the patterns of all life; we search for the relation of things 
one to another. . . .”
– John Steinbeck, Sea of Cortez

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Finished Editing One To Another

I’ve not posted anything in this log for a few weeks because I’ve been focused on finishing the edits and updates to One To Another, trying to complete the edit before we travel to Spain for our second Camino. Today, I’m proud to say, I finished editing. It’s a relief to know I’m going to walk the Camino without any unfinished business with that story.

Once I return from Spain, my focus will be to write a non-fiction account of my first, and possibly my second, Camino. I will want to go through One To Anotherone more time, with a focus on cutting out unneeded words. I assume it will take two months for the last edit, so I’ll be done with it in the fall. Then I will decide whether to send it to my publisher or not. We’ll see.

I was thinking I wouldn’t send it, but I believe the story is really good and well written. Perhaps it’s my last fiction. Perhaps not. 

Insight of the Day: It pays to focus on one thing at a time, and get it off your plate.