A MOMENT WITH WALTDSGIRL
Waltdsgirl and Walter at Gulf Shores, Alabama
It's so nice to be back in the Natural State. Arkansas is so pretty, especially in the fall. There are few things as beautiful as driving along the country lanes and seeing the foliage changing from green to orange and brown as winter sets in. As I drove through only a small part of the 1.8 million acres of the Ouachita National Forest, with the Boston and Ouachita Mountains in the distance, I was humbled by the sheer splendor and majesty of so much untouched wilderness. Now, I understand this state's nickname.
I spent some time here years ago when I had the pleasure to meet our own Anicole (A Moment With Anicole), and it's nice to be back in the south. There is something refreshing about places where the streets are rolled up at 7 pm, people actually stop and say hello to strangers, and patriotism still runs strong through the veins of its citizenry.
Arkansas lays claim to quite a few famous people. Among her more notable native sons and daughters are Helen Gurley Brown, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan from 1965 to 1997; American porn star Gauge; James Robert "Jim Bob" Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting fame; John H. Johnson, the first African-American to appear on the Forbes 400 list; and Charles Portis, author of the 1968 classic Western novel, True Grit. Add to this list YPF's very own Waltdsgirl.
I met up with Waltdsgirl after her shift at the hospital. We met in the hospital's cafeteria; I got vanilla pudding with that little dollop of whipped cream in the center, and Waltdsgirl got a strong cup of hot tea. We looked for a place to sit, but all of the available tables were filthy. Why are hospitals—places that are supposed to be sterile—always so dirty? So, with snacks in hand, we wandered back down the corridors, toward the courtyard. As we walked, I spied the art on the wall. Some of it was quite exquisite; some of it...well, let's just say I was glad I was in a hospital. Waltdsgirl explained to me that the paintings were created by local "artists." We went through the doors at the end of the radiology ward and alit into a cheerful, sunny courtyard. There were two ginormous oak trees on either side of the courtyard providing ample shade on this particularly warm autumn day. We sat at one of the several picnic tables and commenced our conversation.
JC: Let's begin, like most of my interviews, with the basics. Tell us where your username comes from.
WG: It's pretty simple, really. My husband's Walter, and I'm his "girl."
JC: Now, thanks to Twitter and short attention spans, please tell us in 140 characters or less about yourself.
WG: I am determined, dedicated, devoted, complicated, and compassionate. I'm also a nurturer and animal and nature lover.
JC: While your describing yourself, please tell us, if you were a fast food, what would it be?
WG: A burrito.
JC: And if people still used CBs, what would your handle be?
WG: That's easy. Sparky. That was my handle when I was a kid. My dad was in a CB radio club. A lot of great memories from those days!
WG: Oh, no. I am originally from El Dorado, Arkansas. I moved all the way up here for my job at the hospital. The people are so much nicer here than where I was working before.
JC: And what is it that you do here at the hospital?
WG: I am the manager of Diagnostic Imaging and an X-ray technologist. I have also worked in ultrasound and the heart catheterization lab.
JC: That's very cool and sounds like quite rewarding work. It must be nice to help so many people. Good for you. Let's move into the realm that everyone is most interested in…photography stuff. Since your camera defines who you are in this hobby, let's begin with that. What was your first camera?
WG: A Canon AE-1 was the first camera I bought for myself. That was about 30 years ago. I still have it. Unfortunately, I never used it to its full ability because it was too expensive for me to learn manual techniques when using film.
JC: And what are you currently shooting with?
WG: I have a Canon Rebel EOS XSi. My only glass is the 55mm lens it came with and a 75–300mm telephoto. I love my camera. It more than suits my current level of photography now.
JC: Tell us what your dream kit would consist of.
WG: Right now, I am fine with the camera I have, but I would love a macro lens and a 500mm telephoto lens. I won't let myself dream about better right now. I have too much to learn with what I have.
JC: I can definitely relate to that. Let's get back to learning more about the real Waltdsgirl. Tell us, what is your favorite restaurant?
WG: Steak and Ale. We no longer have one here, but it was phenomenal.
JC: There was one by my grandmother's house. I never made it there. How about your favorite genre of food?
WG: Fourth of July.
WG: Paris. It's the most beautiful city I have ever seen.
WG: The Louvre.
WG: Classic Rock.
WG: Steven Tyler.
JC: TV show?
WG: Johnny Depp. Is there anyone else?????
WG: MAD Magazine, just kidding!
JC: Card game?
JC: Board game?
[Read the original story here.]
JC: How did you find YPF?
JC: What's your favorite picture you've taken?
WG: I'd have to say my Old Mill picture since I sold a copy of it. Profit is always welcome!
JC: Can't fault the lady for that! And what would you say was the dumbest or most dangerous thing you've done to get the perfect shot?
WG: I guess that would be driving around in the more seedy parts of Little Rock…alone.
JC: Was it worth it? Did you get some decent shots?
WG: Yes, it was worth it because I have found amazing architecture and histories that I would have otherwise missed. I guess I should add one from this weekend…ended up in a parallel universe with what I believe were skinheads. Not worth it at all—no good shots there.
JC: That sucks. So, let's get a little more detail on you. We know you're married, but do you have kids?
WG: Walter has a beautiful daughter, Lauren, who is 19.
JC: You seem to like you work here at the hospital, but if you could do anything, what would it be?
WG: I have a list…archeologist, geologist, volcanologist, meteorologist (in the field, not TV), forensic scientist, or National Geographic photographer. I love research.
JC: Me too. History is so much more fun than people give it credit. And speaking of history, how did you get into photography?
WG: I've been interested in photography since I was very young, but didn't devote any serious time to it until a few years ago. It was after the purchase of my Canon Rebel EOS XSi that the obsession grew. Photography is kind of a natural extension of my career choice too.
JC: I can see the similarity between sonos, X-rays, and photography. In fact, I remember reading about X-ray photography in a recent issue of National Geographic. If you could go anywhere in the world to take the picture of a lifetime, where would it be and what would it be of?
WG: The Galapagos Islands and hopefully photograph a beautiful creature not yet known to man.
JC: So, tell me honestly, just between the two of us, how much did you have to pay JonMikal for your four awards?
WG: An undisclosed amount that he can live off of comfortably for the rest of his life!! (He wishes!)
JC: Seriously, though, which of your 4 award-winning images do you like the most?
WG: I think I am still most partial to the first one. Trudy is the second oldest gorilla in North America at 54. I've always had a fascination with gorillas and chimps.
JC: What's your favorite thing to take pictures of?
WG: Landscape and architecture for the beauty. And animals for the challenge!
JC: Beside photography, what other hobbies do you indulge in?
WG: Reading, horses, hiking.
JC: And which is your favorite?
WG: Reading is probably my most favorite besides photography…goes back to the research thing. I enjoy reading about my interests rather than novels.
JC: So, sticking with the written word for a moment, if you wrote a book, what would the title and subject be?
WG: It would probably encompass my obsessions around photography—landscapes, churches, barns, outhouses, dilapidated houses, turn of the century homes, cemeteries, etc. It would include tidbits of little known history about each place. A title escapes me. That would be the hardest part of the book.
JC: I would think finding tidbits of little known history about outhouses would be the hardest part of the book. So tell us, which do you prefer, email or snail mail?
JC: Social media or just social?
WG: I'm on Facebook, but you just can't replace face to face.
JC: Mac or PC?
JC: Digital or film?
JC: HD or standard?
JC: Cable or rabbit ears?
WG: CABLE! Never so glad to see the ears go away…
JC: Beer or wine?
JC: Skirt/dress or pants/slacks?
JC: Rings or necklaces?
JC: Couch or sofa?
JC: Art or science?
WG: Hmmm…I like using both sides of my brain.
JC: Now or later?
WG: I confess: later.
JC: Beard or mustache?
JC: Back or shoulders?
JC: Long hair or short?
WG: Long hair on both men and women when it's taken care of.
JC: Stick or automatic?
WG: Sticks are so much more fun!
JC: Shoes or sandals?
JC: Day or night?
JC: Baseball or football?
JC: If, God forbid, you should disappear off the face of the Earth right now, what would you hope people most remember you for?
JC: What's your fantasy vacation?
JC: Sticking with fantasies for a moment, if you could invite anyone (alive or dead, real or fictional) to dinner, who would it be?
JC: Where would you meet Twain?
WG: On a river boat on the Mississippi.
JC: And you would serve…?
WG: Steak, cornbread, and fresh vegetables…his favorites
JC: Who is your biggest hero?
WG: Anyone who puts his or her life on the line for others. Those who have provided our freedom and those who still fight to defend it.
JC: Nicely said, especially since it's still November, the month of Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. OK, switching from being thankful to being evil, If you could ban anyone on YPF, who would it be and why?
WG: Anyone that gives degrading comments on images in the guise of "constructive criticism." I've had critiques on my images, but no one here has ever been anything but encouraging and insightful.
JC: What do you feel you still most need to learn about photography?
WG: Portraiture, lighting, and proper technique.
JC: You've been on YPF for a number of years now, who's work would you say has progressed the most over the years?
WG: Hmmm, perhaps Old Fire Guy. He has really honed his skills, and as Judy says, he "really tells a story" with his images. Particularly his images of people. He truly captures the essence of the person and breathes life into the still image.
JC: What's your best piece of advice about life in general?
WG: Pick your battles. Some things are better left undone or unsaid.
JC: And finally, what's your best piece of advice about photography?
WG: Strive to learn new things and try to see things from a different perspective.
It was starting to get cold in the courtyard, and I could see the neon lights starting to come on in the windows facing into the little yard. Day was turning quickly into evening, and a new crew of doctors and nurses were taking up stations in the hospital as the day shift transitioned into the night shift. Waltdsgirl and I headed back through the corridors, making our way to the main entrance. When we got to the parking lot, we said our good-byes. I watched as her red taillights faded from view; she was heading back to her husband and her home. I turned to my rental and headed to the airport, destination unknown.
A MOMENT WITH JUDY AND SNAPSHOOTER
Judy and SnapShooter at home
Texas. The Lone Star State. The 28th state. The second largest state. Meaning friends or allies in Caddo, Texas is 268,820 square miles and contains 24.7 million residents with 24.7 million stories. This is the story of 2 of those residents: Judy and SnapShooter.
I caught up with the couple one sunny afternoon while passing through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. SnapShooter suggested we meet in the park behind their home between the saber tooth tiger and the wooly mammoth. Fortunately, Judy overruled this idea, and instead we met at The Museum, their cozy home, which they built 38 years ago. It's tastefully decorated with all sorts of curios. They still have their 30-year old refrigerator hanging around. I saw an ancient radio (that's the original way to receive information wirelessly for you kids—and no, it doesn't have a touch screen, it has a dial you have to turn, and it used tubes instead of microchips) that belonged to SnapShooter's grandmother. All around are all sorts of trains ranging from G to O and an N or two in-between. Sitting on the side table next to the chair I'm sitting in is an old buggy lantern. It's glowing faintly, and I can't really tell if it's the way the sun is hitting the lens or if there is a candle or bulb inside. The kitchen door is propped open with an old cordless iron. I wonder if they heat it on the Harvest Gold stove they still have.
We've been talking for about an hour, mostly about trains, photography, and Aunt Millie's button up shoes, which sit in the corner near the stairs. It was a nice relaxing afternoon, the kind that you enjoy because when it's all over you look back and feel that it's lasted hours longer than it really has. It felt like it must have when the Jews fought the Amorites and Joshua stopped the sun from moving across the sky. I learned a lot about this photographing couple.
JC: Let's start with the basics: what does your username mean?
SS: I take really great snapshots.
JC: What 5 words would you use to describe yourself?
SS: Only one…Perfect!
J: Happy, positive, married to Perfect!
JC: What was the first camera you owned?
SS: I honestly can't remember. It was most likely a Brownie.
J: I believe that that is true for me as well.
JC: What do you shoot with?
JC: And what would your dream kit look like?
JC: How did you become interested in photography?
SS: My mother was interested in photography, and I guess I inherited it from her.
J: Are you kidding? I'm married to SnapShooter! Seriously, I've always enjoyed taking what I've always considered to be snapshots…until 3 years ago anyway. One morning after we had a little rain shower, I took my Sony P&S out of my purse and took some close-ups of my roses. Then I emailed them to our daughter. I quickly received a reply saying, "Mom these are as good as Dad's!" Well, after I picked myself up off the floor I took another look at them. They sure didn't look like anything I had ever taken before! Thus The Father's Creations was born!
JC: I'm sure that it was love at first sight. So, Judy, how did he propose?
J: Actually he didn't. We just talked. Actually, SnapShooter says that I talked and talked about getting married. But I think we knew we were going to do it.
JC: That's very sweet. Sort of like me and my wife. We sort of knew after our first date. So, SnapShooter, you said that you transferred from PA. Where are you originally from?
JC: And Judy, do you hail from somewhere other than here.
JC: Getting back to photography for a moment, what's the dumbest thing you've ever done to get the perfect shot?
SS: I have no idea! I’m dumb 24/7. Can’t help myself! :)
J: I guess I'm still waiting for that perfect shot!
JC: What's your favorite stuff to take pics of?
J: Nature, Nature, Nature!
SS: Aside from my grandkids, about anything with a motor (lawn equipment excluded).
JC: So, SnapShooter, I'm always curious how people find their hobbies. How did you get into trains?
JC: Do you consider yourself a trainspotter?
SS: Heck NO!
JC: OK, great. I feel like we're really getting to know you, but I think a great way to get to know people is through word association. So, when I say, "Spring," you say…
JC: Smoke box
SS: Steam locomotive
SS and J: [at the same time] Paradise. Heaven on Earth
J: The Father's Creations is the name of my photography business. Nature is God's canvas for His masterpiece! I have always loved nature…trees, flowers, clouds, water, mountains, green grass, butterflies, etc, etc…and as I grew so did my love for nature! Thus The Father's Creations. I take photographs of nature, add scriptures or inspirational messages, and frame them for sale. These are beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces that make lovely gifts or additions to your home or office.
JC: Who would you say your greatest hero is?
J: Actually, I would say SnapShooter is! He is kind, loving (most of the time anyway) , generous, a hard worker, and a perfectionist in his work. He is a great father, adoring PawPa, loving husband, and my best friend. No, contrary to his belief, he is not perfect; but, he does get closer each year! He is a man of integrity and he really is humble (although you wouldn't know it from his answers!) I think he is a fantastic photographer, but he doesn't! I don't think that he really knows what great photos he takes.
JC: That's a very sweet thing to say about your husband. So, who has inspired you most in life?
SS: I guess I'd have to say it was my maternal grandmother.
J: My wonderful mother!
JC: How about your favorite book?
J: The Bible
SS: Any old B grade western.
J: The Sound of Music
JC: Sports team?
J: Grapes and watermelon.
J: PINK…all shades!
J: All good ones are dead.
JC: Aggies or Longhorns?
J: Longhorns…have to support my grandson's school!
JC: Pen or Pencil?
JC: Cigar or cigarettes?
SS: Gave that garbage up 45 years ago!
J: I quit for good 10 years ago!
JC: Hymns or Psalms?
JC: What's your biggest pet peeve?
J: Snobs, hypocrites, rudeness, and definitely negativeness! They all actually go together as far as I'm concerned!
SS: People who can’t keep appointments! People who can't be on time!
JC: After photography, what's your next greatest hobby?
SS: Family. Then things that have motors (lawn equipment excluded).
J: My Granddarlings.
JC: If you had the opportunity to write a book, what would the title be?
J: Thru My Daddy's Eyes!
JC: What is your dream vacation?
J: To go all around Texas capturing the beauty in all the different areas of this great state.
SS: Tour the USA.
JC: What do you still most need to learn in photography?
SS: Composure…perhaps, but that isn’t terribly important to me.
J: Everything my camera does!
JC: If you could be a YPF admin for a day, what changes would you make?
SS: I think I'd make the “Edit” button on a member's own post last permanently and not disappear after a bit, as it does now!
J: Like SnapShooter said, the "Edit" button would always be available to use on your own post and also a 'delete' button in case you post the same thing twice!
JC: What words of wisdom do you have for newbie photogs?
J: Be yourself! Don't try to copy and imitate any other photographer. God made you unique! Look and see all the beauty in everything around you and capture it with your camera to share with others. I like vivid, vibrant colors and my work shows it. Some think it is too saturated, but I like it and it's my style. That is the way I see the world! Trust your eye and what you see through your viewfinder and how you see it. Be yourself and trust your instincts. We all can look at the same thing and see it differently. I am not a "technical" photographer, I like a photo that tells a story to those who see it. I want others to get some kind of 'feeling' from my work. My prayer everyday is, "Lord, please let me see the beauty around me that You created through Your eyes." And He does!
SS: Do your own thing, and don’t try to mimic someone else’s style.
JC: And finally, what insight into life can you offer anyone who's willing to listen?
SS: You are unique. So be yourself. And don’t concern yourself about what you think you are or aren’t.
J: Life is all about choices. It is our choice what we make of it! Do you see the glass ½ full or ½ empty? We can choose to be happy or miserable. We can choose to be positive or negative. We can choose to love or be indifferent. When we choose happiness, love, positiveness, optimism and hope, we will have a full life and be able to bring sunshine into others' lives. The words you choose to speak are what brings things to pass in your life, so speak words of hope, blessings, love and positive not negative words! And always have lots of laughter in your life. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and it so easy to share. Don't judge others; you don't know where they are coming from or what is going on in their lives. Just love them. God says we are to love others, but He didn't say we had to like them or their ways. Just think…a smile doesn't cost you anything, but it is the easiest thing to share and you can brighten someone's day in one quick moment. When you share smiles you reap a healthy harvest of sunshine.
With that final, positive note, I closed my notebook and switched off my recorder. I gave a good long stretch, just as Serena, their cat, did. Unfortunately, I accidently kicked Saydee, the dog, or was that Bitsie…they all sort of look the same to me. I got up, shook hands with my gracious hosts, and walked to the door. I noticed that Dolly, yet another dog—or was that Dudley? Seriously, they really do all look the same to me—was following, trotting along in that dog sort of way. As I got into my car, I turned and waved goodbye to Judy and SnapShooter. It was a good day, and I couldn't believe that the sun was already sitting low on the horizon, casting long, lazy shadows on the streets. I felt good. I got to meet more members of the YPF family, and they were good people.
crap [krap] noun: The stuff you wrote in junior and high school that you thought was really good poetry, only to read it years later and see it for what it is.
[07-14-10 -- Here's a short story I wrote for a website a friend of mine and I tried to start. I'm dumping the site, but wanted to post the story so I wouldn't lose it. Enjoy.]
Kelly followed the lines in the marble of the floor. She marveled at the beauty in the randomness of the lines. She had been working in the bank for nearly three years, but never noticed how beautiful the floor was. She had never been told to lie on the floor facedown before either. Now, as she stared at the floor, trying not to make eye contact with the three men who held automatic weapons in their hands, she distracted herself with following the lines on the floor.
It had been five hours since she had come to work, and four hours since she had been on the floor. New York’s finest had surrounded the building three hours and forty-five minutes ago, about fifteen minutes after she clicked the silent alarm under her desk at the teller window. Santa Clause had walked up to her window and, smiling in that jolly Santa way, had presented her with a note that simply stated that he had a gun and a number of demands. It was hard to tell what he looked like. His white, flowing beard covered most of his face, and what was visible was snow white, and he had very rosy cheeks. His red hat hid any trace of hair, and he wore white gloves on his hands. The oddest things about him were his slight limp and his stunning hazel eyes that looked out from behind his wire-rimmed glasses. As she looked away from the man, she caught a glimpse of two elves knocking out the guard and closing the door to the bank. Although she had trained for this very situation, it was still unreal, and she could feel her adrenaline pumping.
Within minutes of the SWAT team’s arrival, the hostage negotiator had made contact with Santa. By all accounts Santa was as happy and jolly as could be as he calmly explained his demands. He wanted a limousine, an iPod filled with Beatles songs, a digital camera, and a chicken sandwich meal from McDonald’s. He also wanted eight reindeer freed from the New York City Zoo and brought to him. He agreed to release some hostages as each of his demands was met. It was strange to hear Santa asking for things, but so long as there were hostages, it was Captain Markus’ job to ensure a safe ending, for everyone involved. The McDonald’s request was the easiest, and Markus thought it would be a show of good faith on his part to acquiesce. Within five minutes of the food being delivered, Santa reciprocated by releasing five hostages. Next came the iPod, and fifteen more hostages were released.
Inside the bank, one of the elves grabbed Kelly and dragged her into the back where the vault sat wide open and ready to be used for the day. There was over six million dollars in the vault in all assortments of denomination, but the elf took Kelly straight to the back of the vault where something even more precious sat in a glass case. Two months ago, the American Numismatic Society had received a very special gift from a long-time donor who had recently died. In Lady Edith Horton McAllister’s will, she bequeathed a rare gold Sovereign stamped 1876. On its obverse was displayed Queen Victoria in an Indian ceremonial headdress. On the reverse, written in concentric circles around the coin read, “Queen Victoria, Empress of India of the British Raj” in English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and Latin. Only a thousand were minted. The value was almost incalculable. It had taken the curator of the ANS five long years of courting Lady McAllister before she agreed to bequeath the coin to the Society. Two weeks ago, the curator and the executer of Lady McAllister’s estate deposited the coin in the bank for safekeeping until the Society completed its renovations of its security system and displayed the coin in its main hall exhibit.
Without a thought to that, the elf instructed Kelly to open the glass safe in which it rested and to give it to him. She slowly withdrew the priceless artifact and looked it over. She couldn’t believe that she was actually touching the coin. She had read about it for so long in the papers and had heard about it coming to the bank in several staff meetings, but she never thought she’d get an opportunity to see it, let alone hold it in her hands. Before she could collect her many thoughts about the coin and its value, both historical and monetary, the elf had snatched it out of her hand and was pushing her back into the lobby with the rest of the hostages. Before she lay back down on the floor she caught Santa’s hazel eye and gave him a disgusted and disapproving look. The elf calmly slipped the Sovereign into his pocket and took up his position by the door where the uneaten McDonald’s food sat on the security officer’s desk.
Markus had the digital camera in one hand, and a phone in the other. He was talking to Santa, explaining the difficulty in meeting his request to free the reindeer. He assured St. Nick that his office was doing the very best it could, but it would just take time. Would it be possible to release all the hostages in exchange for the camera? With a ho, ho, ho laugh, Santa placidly said that would be impossible. He would release only eight hostages for the camera. Of the remainder, half would be released when the limo arrived, and the rest would be freed when the reindeer were safely out of their prison at the zoo.
As he hung up the phone, Markus picked up another phone and shouted orders into it. He wanted to know how much longer for the limousine and where were they in contacting the management at the Central Park Zoo. Although New York has several zoos, the Captain had, coincidently, just read in the Times that there was a special exhibit appearing at the Central Park Zoo sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden in which eight Lapland reindeer were the main feature. He didn’t think it would be possible to get these animals released, but it was his job to do everything he could to see this ordeal end peacefully: due diligence was the name of the game.
As he hung up the phone, Santa looked around the lobby and selected five hostages. After he pulled them aside, he instructed the elves to lock the rest in the vault. Before the hostages left, Kelly demanded that Santa release everyone. She insisted that the police would not allow Santa and his elves to get away with this. Many of the hostages voiced their agreement, but it was to no avail; they were wrangled into the vault, and it was closed, locking them safely inside. On the outside, Santa, his two elves, and the five hostages that remained sat in silence. Kelly, one of the five selected, again tried to speak with Santa, but after one of the elves put a gun to her head, she, too, fell silent. Santa arranged everyone close to the door. It was important for the police to see that people were still alive.
Outside, they could see the lone SWAT member, wearing a Kevlar vest and a clearly visible empty holster, approach the revolving door to the bank. He slowly placed the camera box in the opening to the door and backed away. Although he was only by the door for a moment, he had taken the opportunity to look inside. He could see Santa and one of the elves pacing. Both had semi-automatic weapons. The hostages were lying prone on the floor near the door. It was impossible to count how many were still in the building, but there were a number, that much was certain. He would report back to Markus that the hostages looked OK for now, but with three men holding rifles, there was no way to tell how long before they snapped and began shooting.
Markus watched as the front door revolved again, and eight hostages came out. All looked both terrified and relieved to be out of the bank. The SWAT team had already moved in and surrounded the released prisoners and was escorting them to the police perimeter. Once out of danger, each was questioned and their statements were taken down. It was hard to get a description of the suspects since they were all wearing outfits that hid their identity. Like the freed hostages from earlier, this group also couldn’t provide many details. Markus was relieved, though, that so far Santa had kept up with his end of their agreement.
After the eight had been debriefed and provided their contact information, they were allowed to leave. Four of the hostages made a beeline for the Subway. The other four each went in four different directions. The two younger men went east and south. Kelly, after making brief eye contact with the older man and nodding, headed west. As she walked she began to think about the twinkle in the older man’s deep hazel eyes. She knew she’d see him again soon. As for the older man, he looked out over the police line back toward the bank, grinned a triumphant grin, and began walking, with a slight limp toward the north.
Five hours after the limo arrived, Markus realized there was something wrong. With each of the other demands, Santa had released the hostages within an hour. This time there was nothing but silence. Fearful of what might be happening in the bank, Markus ordered his men into the building. They found the remaining hostages safe within the vault. On the lobby floor, they found a Santa suit and two elf costumes neatly folded. In the trashcan was a rag filled with stage-makeup, and on the counter was an envelope addressed to Captain Steven R. Markus. In it was a Christmas card that simply read, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
[07-14-10 -- Here's a short story I wrote for a website a friend of mine and I tried to start. I'm dumping the site, but wanted to post the story so I wouldn't lose it. Enjoy.]
The coughing convulsed his fragile body. As he leaned to the side to spit the blood and phlegm into the pan beside his bed, he saw them all looking at him in horror. He tried to smile, but even that hurt to do. He could feel every nerve ending in his face stinging with pain as the edges of his mouth twitched up. He knew they wouldn’t believe him that he was doing ok, but he felt that even now, even at this point, he still had to put on the show. He had always been the strong one. He had always made sure to be positive and upbeat, no matter what. So, why now, at the end, should he be any different?
It was nice to see them all there. They hadn’t all been together in years. Ever since Susan died, it was harder and harder to keep them coming by; the Thanksgiving table grew smaller each year, as did the Christmas table and the Easter table. But now, as he lay there, with tubes connected to so many parts of his body, they all came together. It was bittersweet; something like this had to happen to bring the family back together.
It wasn’t always like this of course, not when Susan was still alive. She had such a power over the family that everyone would want to come and spend as much time as they could. It wasn’t that they didn’t like him; oh, no, not at all. In fact, they loved to be around him almost as much. But, Susan had some sort of charm that threw an invisible net around the family and kept them closer than he was able to in the intervening years.
It’s funny how lying in a hospital bed can bring back so many strange memories—memories you thought were gone forever. As he looked at his children sitting next to him, his eyes fell on the scar on Bobby’s cheek, almost imperceptible now after 30 years, but still there. And in that moment, it all came back to him: it was a brisk autumn day in 1979, and Bobby was almost 4 years old. Susan was sitting on the porch swing. It was all she could do these days as her bloated belly prevented her from doing much of anything. Ellen would enter the world in less than 3 weeks. It was such a beautiful day, and everyone was smiling and laughing.
He and Bobby were playing in the front yard. He was throwing a ball and Bobby was chasing it. As Bobby ran for the ball (he was still too young and uncoordinated to catch it), he tripped and fell. Without warning, his giggling turned into a screeching that is the bane of every parent. He ran toward his crying son faster than he thought he could and saw nothing but metal and red liquid. There was blood everywhere, and Bobby appeared to be beating his face with the rake. It all happened in a second, but now, looking back, he felt that it took longer than it should have for the pieces to fall into place: there was Bobby lying on his back screaming, and the rake lying on top of him: one of the tines of the rake had pierced Bobby’s cheek. He could see the end of it inside Bobby’s mouth every time the boy cried. He scooped the boy up with the rake still attached and ran to the car. He remembered yelling to Susan that he would be back soon. At the hospital, they said that it was a clean wound, and not as bad as it looked; the blood had mixed with the tears and saliva, so it looked like more blood than there really was. A tetanus shot and 4 stitches later, Bobby was home and fast asleep. Now, Bobby probably had no real memory except from what they had told him over the years. The scar had faded between then and now, and it had no lasting affect on the boy. Why did he think of that now?
Ellen, there she was too, and with her was Charlie. They were going on their 3rd year of marriage. No one really thought that they would make it, but Charlie was doing better than anyone had expected. He was now working as the manager of the grocery store down the street from their house, and had been at it for over 3 years. He thought that was probably the longest Charlie had ever held a job, but he had to give his son-in-law credit; when Charlie approached him to discuss marriage, he was concerned that Charlie couldn’t seem to keep a job. Charlie swore that he would do whatever it took to make a proper home for Ellen and their children. Now, Charlie was living up to his promise. He smiled to himself as he realized that his son-in-law was growing up, and was confident that he would make a decent father one day.
And then there was Rhonda. She sat on the edge of her plastic chair slowly rocking and dabbing her eyes. She was so young, so lost. She was only 10 when Susan died. She took it the hardest, he thought. She was so young, and he didn’t know how to handle it himself. He tried to stay strong and keep up his confidence, but it was hard to do as he watched her get weaker and weaker from the cancer and the treatments. It was all he could do not to break down in front of the children, let alone help them be strong. Rhonda left days after the funeral, and only sporadically called, usually when she needed money. He always came to her with it when she called. He always tried to talk to her, but she pushed him away every time. He only hoped that when she got older it would get better. It was ironic that it was this, an almost exact encore that brought her back. He looked at her; she looked so much older than 16. He wasn’t sure if it was the makeup, or the hair, or perhaps the clothes that hid nothing of the baby growing in her stomach. She looked as young and beautiful as her mother did on that same autumn day, and he could picture Rhonda swinging on the porch smiling in the cool sunlight.
He coughed again, but this time it didn’t stop, and he couldn’t breath. His eyes rolled up in his head, and he barely heard Charlie and Bobby yelling for the doctor. His last image was of Rhonda squeezing her belly and crying. He felt Ellen’s hand on his arm. Then there was calm as the medicine coursed from his IV into his veins. The world slowly came into focus, and he saw Rhonda climbing onto a gurney and being pushed out of the room. He smiled as he thought that he would live long enough to see another grandchild. He closed his eyes and settled into his pillow. He could feel Bobby and Ellen each holding a hand, and he was more content than he had been in a long time.
As he began to drift into a peaceful sleep, he could see a white fog growing thicker. He heard voices and saw old friends and family drifting in and out of the mist. Even in the dream, he could sense that the end was near. In the room, his two oldest children felt his old, callused hands grow limp in theirs. Those hands that had once been so strong were now light as feathers.
In his dream, the fog cleared and the voices faded. There was nothing but darkness, and calm. There was a sense of perfect calm and peace, but there was also a rushing wind sound, it was cool at first on his face, even pleasant. Then it became cold, even chilly. He could hear all kinds of noises coming from every direction. Clanging. Screeching. Chanting. In the end, there was darkness and a cacophony of noise.
Then there was light. At first it was a pinprick. Then it grew, and grew. In the beginning, there was an unbelievable amount of light, and cold, and noise, and crying.
I like to read. I like to write. I like to travel. So, when I called National Geographic Magazine a few months back to start my subscription, I decided to accept the offer the operator made me: for an extra $5, I could also receive National Geographic Traveler. To be honest, I'm still not sure I really like the magazine, I do very much like one of the regular contributors, however: Daisann McLane. It's her easy-going writing, with just enough quirk to it that I long to throw it all away and gallivant across the globe. For instance, in this month's issue, she talks about how wonderful it is to have your laundry done (or to do it yourself) in foreign countries. I'm used to stuffing my dirty undies in the plastic bag the hotels give you for laundry service so they don't touch the clean clothes in my bag. Since I travel to FL so much and may be stuck there for longer than I anticipate, I have come to regularly pack more than I need...it never occurred to me to actually let strangers do my laundry. I think I might have to try it the next time I'm away! Thanks, Daisann!
Asparagus is great
You know what you just ate
and for some terrific
Each time you micturate
Here we go. New Year’s Eve and Day have come and gone, and now it’s time to get down to business with my New Year’s Resolutions. Below are all my resolutions, in no particular order, for 2008. Let’s see how many I actually do:
- Buy a new suit
- Cook more, eat out less
- Find a new job
- Finish my 10 year old article
- Get angry less
- Get back to doing research
- Go to the Gym
- Keep "It" up for another year
- Learn a new language
- Lose 30 pounds
- Make a new friend
- Read a classic
- Start my book
- Take a class
- Take more pictures
- Tick off something else on my “Things to Do before I Die” list
- Travel to a country I’ve never been to before
I heard a great metaphor the other day.
I was at an event on Capitol Hill commemorating Vietnam veterans. One of the speakers said:
Back then, people didn’t like the song. They didn’t like the conductor, and they took it out on the musicians.
As I type it, it actually sounds a little cliché, but there is still something quite poetic about it, and I’m sticking it on here so I won’t forget it later.
oh how i love to write
more than i do to fight
but for a girl
and a chance to score
you know there's a chance that i might