We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog

Irony is when I tell my readers how much I appreciate them, then my internet service provider craps out, so my readers can’t read all the nice things I have to say about them. Sorry for the inconvenience. They also seem to have misplaced my emails from the last few days. I got some bookmark requests Friday, which I’ve sent along. If you requested a bookmark Saturday, could you please resend your address and I’ll get it right out to you. Send to info@restaurant-e-guide.com My internet provider seems to have fixed the bugs on my website, so we should be back to monkey business as usual.

You’re awesome!

When I started my website a little over a year ago, I had two regular readers (thanks Mom and anonymous). My website looked like it was designed by vandals. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about web design, online friends, and spider solitaire (medium difficulty level).

I just want to take this opportunity to thank all my visitors, readers, and commenters for your encouragement and support. As a small token of my appreciation, I’d like to give all my readers a signed bookmark (blue ink, so you know I didn’t just use a rubber stamp). To get a bookmark, just go to info@restaurant-e-guide.com and leave me your address. I’ll get it in the mail to you right away. Then when I’m all famous and stuff, you’ll be able to say you knew my way back when …

Thanks and virtual hugs to all of you!

That’s why we can’t have nice things

First, I’d like to give a big shout out and thank you to the makers of Febreeze. My cat is currently playing with the belt of my robe—looking darn cute. This is the same cat who decided yesterday to use my couch as a litter box. Little wretch!

I thought that when the kids left home, I’d be able to get some nice furniture: the kind that comes from a store instead of somebody’s basement or garage sale. Turns out that an empty nest is no guarantee that your prized possessions will be immune from the seven plagues of Egypt. The Egyptians revered cats, so don’t try to tell me there weren’t any ancient couches used as scratching posts.

Not to worry. After pet odor eliminator, Febreeze, steam cleaning, and more Febreeze, my couch smells marginally better. I guess I should consider myself fortunate that the cat hasn’t figured out how to drink from a juice box.

I see shows about hoarders and think, there, but for the grace of God go I. In spite of their annoying characteristics, I love cats. Their independent spirit and failure to come when called is rather endearing. Could I become the woman living in a single-wide trailer with twenty-seven feline vandals? I could be about to find out.

My best friend is moving away in a few weeks. My husband is considering taking a tour of duty in Afghanistan for a year, and I know that he can count. If I have more cats when he comes home than I did when he left, he will notice. So I must be strong. My husband is counting on it, my furniture is counting on it, and I don’t think Wal-Mart stocks enough Febreeze if I start taking in strays.

Public Enemy #1 - Considered armed and dangerous

Grammatical gripes

In the classic work, Dante’s Inferno, hell is made up of rings, each one with a punishment more terrible than the last. For example: Cigarette smokers are consigned to the fourth ring, where they will forever have to roll their own because of soaring prices on their favorite filter tips.

“I feel sorry for the much maligned –ly words,” she said wearily. I just got my manuscript back from my editor, and was dismayed to see the number of adverbs which must get the axe. When did we decide that in writing, adverbs belong in the fiery abyss of hell?

I personally have nothing against jauntily, quickly, and quietly, yet I’m sent on a search and destroy mission to eradicate all such offensive language. I get the impression from my editor, that if I use an adverb after dialogue, I open myself to almost certain alien abduction and vigorous probing.

I read a blog recently, in which the writer tackles the “absolute” rules of writing.

Thou shalt not use an adverb

Thou shalt only write what thou knowest

Thou shalt not write unless ye be in a place that serves overpriced coffee

That last one is problematic in that I invariably spend my first five minutes there trying to figure out why the smallest size cup is called a “tall.”

But I digress.

Agents want to see descriptive verbs, so I have little choice but to pull out my Thesaurus and try to decide if saying something loudly should be written as “exclaimed, vented, asserted, spluttered, articulated, growled, or proclaimed.”

So weigh in and let me know what your favorite adverbs are, your least favorite grammatical rule, or what size I should order if I want the largest cup of coffee.

How to write funny

I’m preparing my notes in advance for when I become a rich and famous author and am asked to travel about giving lectures for big fat consulting fees. At the end of this blog you will be asked to complete a survey, ranking me on a scale of one to five. Please feel free to fill out twenty or so. You can get creative with the names you use, although I. M. Hurling has already been taken.

For those of you who would prefer to take a nap during this blog, you can move to the back of the lecture hall now. We’ll wait.

Let’s break down how to add some humor to your writing:

  1. We laugh at what surprises us. Lists are particularly good for this. I like to use “the rule of three.” You can do this by using two perfectly reasonable things to illustrate your point, then throw in something totally off the wall for the third.
    1. I think that all seniors with their original hips should take up ballroom dancing. You’ll learn the box-step, the dip, and the fastest route to the emergency room.
  2. Irony should be in every humor writer’s grab bag. The Hitchhicker’s guide to the Galaxy is all about the quest for “the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.” After seemingly endless searching, they come up with the rather disappointing answer: “forty-two.”
  3. Exaggeration and understatement are valuable tools.
    1. Dave Barry is a master of exaggeration. … the taxi has some kind of problem with the steering, probably dead pedestrians lodged in the mechanism, …
    2. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is an epic battle between King Arthur and the black knight. When Arthur cuts off both of the knight’s arms, he answers, “Tis but a scratch.”
  4. Developing a strong sense of humor starts with examining what is funny in yourself. Our flaws make us laughable.
    1. I find that it’s important to keep a positive outlook whenever I’m climbing behind the wheel of a couple tons of steel. In all my years of driving a motorhome, I’ve only ripped the tailpipe off once, and those traffic cones had it coming.
  5. Circle the wagons.

One of my favorite techniques is to end a blog by sneaking in something from … Mr. Hurling, if you continue that, I’ll have to ask you to leave!

Luck of the Irish

Finally, a holiday celebrating corned beef and cabbage, green beer, leprechauns and herpetophobia (fear of snakes). While most of us have waited all year in anticipation of this special day, I face it with a certain dread. It was on St. Patrick’s day of 1989 that I was fired from my job as a bank teller in Florida.

It seems that this particular bank frowned on starting the day with an Irish Coffee, then giving away $14,000 too much to one of its customers. Where’s their holiday spirit? I mean, they recovered the money. No harm, no foul, right?

For three years afterward I refused to wear green and turned down every invitation to go see Lord of the Dance. The fact that the show didn’t come out until 1996 was of little consequence. More importantly, I swore off Irish whiskey and Baileys. There may or may not have been an intervention involved in the latter, but it still totally counts.

I finally made my peace with the Irish, and decided to once again celebrate their lame holiday. I’ve got my Weight Watchers recipe for corned beef and cabbage, and I’ll serve it with green apple juice (see “intervention” above). I’d dress my garden gnomes as leprechauns if I didn’t know that the homeowner’s association would be all over me like white on rice. Damn gnome Nazis!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day y’all!

Erin go Braugh!

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall softly on your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

A pet safety primer

It is obvious to most people that you should keep your dog on a leash so he doesn’t get hit by a car, have your pets spayed or neutered, and keep your kimodo dragon in a proper enclosure. So how is it that we have a TV program with dramatizations of real instances in which people keep flesh-eating lizards, venomous snakes, and tigers as pets?

Even if your pet crocodile is very sweet natured (when he’s not eating the family cat), that’s no reason to let your kid take him for show-and-tell at school. I believe that ostriches in their natural element would rather disembowel you with a well-placed kick than let you scratch behind their ears. I haven’t found anyone willing to test this theory, so it will have to remain conjecture for now.

I feel sorry for the once proud creatures subjected to animal husbandry at its worst. I watched a video clip recently where a woman was demonstrating the proper technique for grooming an opossum. I kid you not, she got nail polish and painted his little possum toenails. The poor little critter had a look on his face that clearly said, kill me now! Who in their right mind thinks like that?

With the exception of reptile owners, most of the eccentric llama lovers are elderly. Capybaras, leopards, bears, and emus are allowed to roam freely through these misguided seniors’ homes. I have trouble getting up from a squatting position without holding onto something, so constantly bending over to clean up penguin poo is just not in the cards. My suggestion is that you check under the sofa for free range hedgehogs before you have tea and cookies at your dear Aunt Maddie’s house.

What I don’t understand is why people would choose to have pets that would happily eat them when their backs are turned. Unfortunately, my cat is not immune to this response. He especially likes to pounce on our feet when we’re in bed and try to chew his way through the down comforter to rip at warm flesh. I’m not tempted to say, “Aww, isn’t that cute!” at 3:00 in the morning.

So what have we learned, people? Be a responsible pet owner and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Your six foot alligator will get pretty testy if you try to flush him down the toilet.

Box of Rocks

I once had a panic attack while dog sitting for my daughter. It was the inspiration for the following excerpt from my book. To set the scene, my main character, Maggie is meeting with her Therapist.

“You think panic attacks are a personal failure?” Sally asked.

“Don’t you? I close my eyes at night, and they play back in my head. Last night I dreamt about designer dogs again.”

Shortly after she quit her job, Maggie had agreed to housesit for her nephew, Derek for a weekend. Derek was the only one of their family and friends who didn’t realize that he was gay. The clues had always been there. He had an impeccable sense of style when he decorated his condominium in Mount Pleasant. His two Shih Tzus, Dolce and Gabbana, wore designer doggie clothes and had color coordinated rhinestone collars to go with their wardrobes.

Maggie had watched The Dog Whisperer often enough to know that Derek’s male, Gabbana was the dominant one, so she felt extra protective of Dolce during her stay. She was still smarting over the feeling of failing at her job, and felt like she had been on the verge of a panic attack throughout the first night at Derek’s place.

At one point, she snuggled Dolce lovingly against her breast. “Don’t worry little girl. I’ll be your Alpha and protect you from Gabbana.” She was wondering all the while how she was going to pull that miracle out of her butt, when she could barely keep her breathing steady. She was trembling violently as she rubbed the side of her face against Dolce’s little head. If she was hoping for some mutual comfort, she didn’t get it.

Dolce started wiggling to be put down. “I’m trying to protect you, you little mutt,” Maggie whispered. Dolce had responded by snarling and truly fighting her. Maggie was stooping to put her down, when MWAP, Dolce landed a right hook directly in Maggie’s eye as she writhed in her arms. Maggie dropped to her knees and clutched at her eye as Dolce slithered out from under her arm to the floor.

Maggie felt like she was drowning, unable to catch her breath between the sobs and the painful constriction in her chest. She was on her hands and knees, mentally measuring the distance to the phone. Dolce chose this moment to pee on her foot, while Gabbana started humping her leg. She tried to drag herself to the phone, with Dolce weaving back and forth in front of her, barking viciously. Gabbana was still determinedly holding on while pleasuring himself on Maggie’s thigh. Maggie gave up and collapsed on the floor waiting for the panic attack to pass, occasionally shaking her leg to try to dislodge Gabbana.

For the rest of the weekend, every time she came near them Dolce snarled at her and Gabbana tried to make a play for a little romantic ankle action. She couldn’t even get close enough to change them out of their t-shirts printed with the words “Cute little bitch,” and “Cute little son of a bitch.” Since then, foo-foo designer dogs and panic attacks had been indelibly linked in her mind. Even now, she felt her chest tighten thinking about it.

Where’s the beef?

I can count the length of time since I’ve had a Taco Bell burrito in decades. It’s just as well, since my daughter insists that their meat is 70% grade F beef and 30% sand. (Please be assured, Taco Bell, that I’m not stating this as fact. Personally, I’ve never even heard of grade F beef, although I have heard of sand.) I’m sure they wash it first, but I try to avoid eating beach by-products. It’s a matter of principle.

In Weight Watchers they teach you that 3 oz. of meat is a piece about the size of the palm of your hand. You can find steaks this size at any hoity-toity restaurants that serve 3 green beans and a sprig of parsley as the vegetable.

The problem is that beef is best served on a bun, slathered with ketchup, mustard, … you get the idea. At McDonald’s, I like to get a plain hamburger, like in the McKids Meals. I do this to try to avoid high caloric Big Macs. The hamburgers are mostly grease, condiments, and bun. Hidden in there is a hamburger patty the size of a sheet of toilet paper.

When did beef become such a rare commodity? There’s never any shortage of cows when I’m driving through the countryside. I’m not able to provide you with proof of that because of a new law in Florida – state motto: Our legislators have waaay too much time on their hands.

In an effort to curb the rising tide of farmyard industrial espionage, you are no longer allowed to take pictures of farms. That means that a roadside stop to take that perfect pastoral pic of sunset over a bail of hay will get you arrested. I wish I was kidding. Of course, the farmers can cite zero examples of the misuse of camera phones to document the misuse of animals.

In view of the timing, I think the Taco Bell fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg. Obviously the farmers and Florida state legislature don’t want us to know that cows are becoming extinct. When your kids roll down the car window and yell “moo” as you drive through farmland, the reason the cows aren’t mooing back is because they are actually cardboard cutouts. While this makes it easier for drunken frat boys to go cow tipping in the middle of the night, it does nothing to get you a decent sized steak at a restaurant.

My recommendation is to put a little salt on your burrito. It makes the sand go down easier.

Box of Rocks

You’re invited to enjoy an excerpt from my current work in progress: a comic murder mystery titled ‘Box of Rocks.’

Bear limped back to his truck, still parked down the street from the building. Could he call it, or what? The rungs on the fire escape had long ago rusted through, and his weight was more than the weakened steel could bear. The drop hadn’t been far, but he had landed awkwardly in a pile of plastic bags, which split open upon impact. He had the wind knocked out of him, and as he was finally able to suck in air, he realized how rancid it was. He had counted at least four rats the size of terriers, and one of those had refused to run away. It was unnerving to see the creature’s black button eyes latched onto him, unflinching in the dark. He had felt something squirming under his hands, and shuddered at the thought of maggots making their way into his pants.

He looked down at his pants. Great! There was a rip that went from his knee up to his thigh, then continued up through his leather jacket. Apparently his clothes had caught on a sharp edge of the broken ladder rung. There wasn’t any blood on his leg, but he gave a shudder at the proximity of the tear to his manhood.

He hobbled around to the front of the building, and was alarmed to see one police car after another pulling up all along the street. Worse yet, a news van was double parked next to his truck. As he backpedaled, ducking around the corner, he nearly bumped into a young couple who were hurrying over to see what was going on. They grimaced, and veered off across the street, giving him a wide berth. He could hardly blame them.

“The perfect crime.” he thought.  At least nobody had seen him enter the building, and they tried to politely avoid him as he left. As long as they didn’t photograph his truck, he wasn’t going to need an alibi for this fiasco.

He smelled like rotting cabbage, his ankle was killing him, and he was pretty sure that there was a piece of gum stuck in his hair. God only knew how long he would have to wait there before the news crew left. A woman walking by paused before him, pulled a dollar out of her purse and pressed it into his hand.

“God bless you, honey.”

In one evening Bear had passed from contract killer to beggar.