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Online Jigsaws: A poem about my latest addiction

Jigsaw online GoogleOver the past couple of months, I’ve developed a fiendish new addiction: online jigsaw puzzles. I’ve got a lot to say about it, but for now, I’m publishing this poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It went over well with my women writers’ group and at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s in Albany. I hope you enjoy it too. Please leave comments so I know you’re out there! And please subscribe so you don’t miss my next post.

Online Jigsaws

I

Instant jigsaw puzzles in the thousands

Only a mouse click away,

My latest online addiction.

I stumbled onto Jigsaw Planet unawares

At the tail end of a soap opera website

Detailing the latest travails

On General Hospital.

There it was, a photo of my favorite actor,

Michael Easton as Finn shooting up 4-8-16

Michael Easton as Hannibal Finn

The erstwhile vampire Michael Easton,

With his newest leading lady.

One click, and those gorgeous faces

Shattered into loopy fragments.

A few more mouse clicks,

And the lovers were reunited, whole again.

Little did I dream that single puzzle

Would tumble me into an abyss of endless jigsaws,

A time-warped universe destined to suck me in

And drain me of the precious hours

I’d promised to woo my elusive muse.

On Jigsaw Planet, I set up my own account,

Christened myself Jazzy Julie,

Created puzzles cribbed from photos of my life.

Posted them to the site. No one came at first,

But now I’ve got followers.

I follow others in return, anonymous online friends

Who while away the hours shattering wholeness into shards,

Then painfully piecing pictures back together.

Speed is of the essence. Once the timer starts,

The seconds and minutes flash onscreen

Below the puzzle, but peeking wastes precious time.

Instead I focus on the pieces,

Drag them into place.

If it’s a fit, they snap together with a delightful click.

The sound’s a giveaway,

So I keep it low and stealthy,

In hopes my spouse won’t hear.

When the final piece finds its perfect union,

There’s a climactic chime.

Only then do I check my time,

See how high I’ve scored.

With every game, every day I play,

I’m getting steadily better.

Despite the tremors in my aging fingers,

Even when thousands have played the game,

I’m in the top five percent, sometimes even first.

My adrenaline crests, creating a heady cocktail,

Merging with dopamine and serotonin

Flooding my body with bliss.

Awash in satisfaction, I contemplate my achievement

But the pleasure ebbs away too soon.

Just one more puzzle, I tell myself. My muse can wait.

Mired in shame and guilt, I peruse my choices. What will it be?

The Grand Canal in Venice? An array of wines and cheeses?

A litter of golden retriever puppies?

Thousands of options, with new ones every day,

Free of charge, but stealing minutes and hours

From my few remaining years.

II

I’ve always been good at jigsaws, but they bored me

Till Springbok Puzzles came upon the scene in 1963.

Their artsy designs and odd-ball contours captured my fancy.

First came a Jackson Pollock painting.

Untangling its spider webs of hurled and dribbled paint,

I wowed my fiancé and his mother at weekly Sunday dinners

On the upper East Side, refusing to cheat by peeking

At the cover photo. That marriage didn’t survive the Sixties,

And that husband’s now deceased.

A few years later, alone in my Broome Street loft,

I worked my Springbok puzzles

To wind down after days of painting, on nights

When there were no parties to crash. Too hip for TV,

I listened to FM rock. In 1968, I was tripping out

On a psychedelic puzzle designed by Peter Max

When the announcer cut in to announce

That Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.

Fast forward eighteen years, to 1986.

Married once more, a mother,

I’d traded the SoHo loft for a house on sixteen acres,

With a creek that flooded every spring.

Home alone in January, wasted by the flu,

Using a sick day I’d earned at the psychiatric center,

I was working a Springbok at the dining table,

One of the circular puzzles, though I don’t recall which one.

Perhaps the kittens, the pizza with all the toppings,

The antique map of the constellations—

I solved my favorites many times.

The TV was tuned to a shuttle launch.

In my shocking pink chenille bathrobe,

A gift from a discarded lover of years before,

I watched the Challenger explode on live TV,

The forking trajectory of the white smoke plumes

Arcing across the cobalt sky.

I abandoned jigsaws after that,

Sold my Springboks at a yard sale when we downsized.

Today I Googled the company.

Their jazzy website says they’re going strong,

Proudly made in America from 100% recycled materials.

But Hallmark bought them out years ago,

And now they’re heavy on nostalgia—

No more Peter Max or Jackson Pollock.

I could order them online, but I’m not tempted.

Why bother, when I can surf the web

And capture an infinity of puzzling images for free?

Besides, my cat can’t bat the pieces off the screen.lunesta-on-printer-7-27-14

Donald, the cock of the walk: inside a twisted mind

Bashing Donald Trump is a popular pastime among the writers I know, especially the poets. Wondering what I could add to the flurry of fiery condemnations, I decided to try writing from the point of view of The Donald himself. As the author of mysteries and suspense novels, I love getting into the heads of my villains, including vampires and serial killers. But who knows what lurks deep in Donald’s twisted mind? What in his gene pool or his family history has made him the scary monster he is today? I have absolutely no idea, but here’s one possible take on the subject.

Donald the Bantam Rooster speaks his mind

It’s the Year of the Rooster—chinese-year-of-the-rooster

Melania just told me.

The Chinese New Year fell on January 28,

Just eight days after my coronation.

What’s that you say? Inauguration?

Big deal—what’s the difference?

Either way, I’m finally Emperor.

I’m cock of the walk—

I’ve got a lot to crow about.

This can’t be mere coincidence.

New Year, New America—

See, even the Chinese are bowing down to worship me.

They named the New Year after my sign.

Me, the Sun God. I like the sound of that.louis_xiv_of_france-by-rigaud

What’s that you say? Louis XIV used it first?

Wasn’t he the guy who built all those palaces

And filled them with gilded furniture?

I learned about him from Ivana

When we were furnishing Trump Tower

And Mar a Lago. Hey, that’s a good comparison,

Me and Louis, but my buildings are much bigger.

Besides, wasn’t he a scrawny little wimp?

I watched the Netflix series. Sad.

What’s that you say, Jared?

The Rooster’s not my sign? What is it then?

The Dog? You’re kidding, right?chinese-zodiac-dog-year-of-the-dog

Intelligent, honest, obedient, loyal?

No way! How dare the Chinese Zodiac slander me?

Maybe we should nuke them, whaddaya think?

Go ahead, make my day. Bomb them to oblivion.

No more “Made in China” clothes.

A trade bonanza!

What’s that you say? The Fire Dog,

Because of my Birth Year, 1946?

Same as Bill Clinton? Even worse.

That filthy horn dog, screwing all those

Tasty bitches while lying Hillary looks the other way.

Compared to mine, those bitches were skanky.

Remember Monica, that pathetic porker?

A five, and the others were eights or nines at most,

While mine are always tens.

Just look at my daughter Ivanka—donald-ivanka-trump

No, don’t, on second thought.

If Jared could read my mind, he’d kill me.

What’s that you say, Jared?

I’m only kidding. Can’t you take a joke?

What’s that you say?

The Year of the Rooster is especially bad luck

For those born in the Year of the Dog?  

What utter crap! I don’t believe a word you say.

The truth is always lies.

Matter of fact, you’re fired!

I wrote this poem three hours before last Monday’s Poets Speak Loud, the monthly open mic at McGeary’s Tavern in Albany. Thanks to Mary Panza, Dan Wilcox, and Thom Job of Albany Poets, who have kept this event going over the past ten years. The deadline is always a powerful incentive, especially since I know my work will be met with applause and (when appropriate) laughter.

The poem went over well, so I read it again last night at a private party for poets and their significant others. Once again it met with hilarity. Afterwards, people told me it was refreshing to hear something about Trump that was actually more funny than terrifying. One woman told me I’d be great on television. Hmmm…is YouTube in my future? Maybe, if it will help me sell more books.

The week of The Taint

Thor_Father Christmas with goat wagon by_ronchironna

I’m working on a new post about this week between Christmas and New Year’s, but I’m not quite ready to publish it–a little too gross and gloomy. So in the meantime, I’m sharing this from last year. Warning: it’s still gross in spots, but at least it’s less gloomy.

Norwegians have a word for the week between Christmas and New Year’s: romjula. The closest we have in English is the word Taint, meaning it ‘taint Christmas any more, but it ‘taint New Year’s either. I’m indebted to Rex Smith’s December 26th essay in the Times Union for this information, which inspired me to undertake some further research about this interlude in the darkest days of winter. I’m especially interested because of my Scandinavian heritage—I’m ¾ Norwegian and ¼ Swedish.

The theme of last night’s Poets Speak Loud open mic at McGeary’s Tavern was “holiday hangovers,” so I decided to write a poem about my findings. My research uncovered another meaning for “The Taint,” a meaning not fit to print in a family newspaper, but totally appropriate for the traditionally bawdy end-of-the-year event hosted by Mary Panza. In the version below, I’m highlighting the dirty bits in magenta, so you can skip over them if you’re squeamish.

The Christmas Goat and the Taint

The Taint—that’s what the Brits call this week that’s neither here nor there.

‘Taint Christmas any more, ‘taint New Year’s either.

A weirdly nebulous time, in northern climes devoted to slothful lassitude,

To wallowing in the doldrums, swallowed up in food and booze.

Some call it the Witching Week, claim you’ve got a free pass to excess

And nothing counts against you during The Taint.

That goes for calories too, so scarf down all those goodies.

Chugalug that eggnog, channeling Miss Piggy.

No fair weighing yourself till New Year’s morning.

Assuming you can see down past your bloated belly,

The digital red numbers will inform you of the penalty for all that gluttony.

Ding dong, the season of the witch is dead and gone,

But you’ll be paying the price in pounds for months to come.

Nude Waking Adonis painting

But speaking of butts, The Taint has another meaning:

The place between the vulva and the anus, that narrow swath of skin

Also called the perineum, that keeps the delicate lady parts

From filthy nether regions. Also the area between the scrotum and the asshole

That keeps a man from shitting on his nuts.

This definition dates from the Renaissance, probably precedes

The tamer version focused on dark December,

And sheds new light on Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.”

Norwegians have less judgmental terms for the perineal lull

Twixt Christmas and New Year’s Eve: Romjula or romhelgen,

From the Norse, means “That does not need to be kept strictly sacred.”

In other words, no guilt trips. Nearer the North Pole,

Cradled in relentless never ending darkness,

They cut themselves some slack, feast on foods like krumkake and nuts,

Smash and devour the gingerbread houses

So carefully built for Christmas. They cozy up at home with family,

Slug down Aquavit, take contemplative walks in winter’s frigid cold.

Norwegians still may “go the Christmas goat.”

Children wander from house to house, begging treats. In earlier times

Folks dressed in shaggy pelts and brandished horns. The glowing yule log

Was once a goat, slaughtered and devoured to celebrate fertility

And ensure good fortune in the coming year.
Two goats pulled Thor’s thunderous chariot across the sky.

Tanngrisner and Tanngnjost by name, they made a fearsome racket

Called Tor-boom. We call it thunder, worship the Norse thunder god

At the multiplex, crown him the sexiest man in the world

As decreed by People magazine, though Chris Hemsworth’s actually Australian.

Hosting Saturday Night Live, he flashed his killer smile

And stashed his enormous hammer out of sight.

In Norway, long before Santa Claus, the fearsome Christmas goat

Brought presents for good children, punished the bad.

The goat is virile, beastly, a satyr, in league with witches or the devil,

A symbol of sexuality. All in all, a hell of a lot more fun and energetic

Than the amorphous, foggy phantom called The Taint

That blankets Merry England in the depths of winter.

I call myself Norse Crone, proud to be Norwegian.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

I’d love your feedback. Please let me know how you feel about the “naughty bits” in the poem. Are they a total turn-off? Too tastelessly over the top? Since I’m working on the sequel to my vampire soap opera thriller HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL, your comments may help me decide how outrageous my writing can be.

The Most Over-Hyped Time of the Year

Three years ago, I wrote this poem and posted it along with some commentary on my blog. Reading it over now, I believe it’s worth an encore.

Only eight days till Christmas, and I’m immersed in the holiday spirit. But there have been past Christmases when I was mired in depression or feeling very “bah humbug” about the holidays. I’m well aware that this season conjures up a wide range of emotions in shades from joy to despair, and that December can be a problematic time for many people, especially those living alone or with emotional, physical or financial problems – and doesn’t that include just about everybody?

For this night’s Nitty Gritty Slam at Valentine’s in Albany,* I wanted to write something christmas-andy-williamsnew to read at the open mic that precedes the actual poetry slam. Tonight’s theme, in keeping with the holidays, is the “Annual Airing of Grievances.” On my car radio, even the country station has been playing Andy Williams’s inescapable “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,”** and I’ve been thinking of writing a parody substituting “horrible” for “wonderful.” But I didn’t want to focus on negativity – not completely, at any rate.

But walking my dog by the lake this morning, I came up with “over-hyped,” and by the time he’d finished pooping, I had the beginning of these lyrics in my head. Feel free to borrow them for your local sing-along.

OVER-HYPED TIME OF THE YEAR

It’s the most over-hyped time of the year.

So you’d better be happy, and best make it snappy

Or people will jeer.

It’s the most over-hyped time of the year.

All your family will want lots of gifts.

So you’d better go shopping, and don’t dream of stopping

Or you’ll cause a rift

If you don’t spring for pricy new gifts.

christmas-mall-shoppers-toronto

(bridge)

There’ll be parties each night and if you’re not invited,

Then you can just stay home and mope.

Drink your brandy-spiked eggnog till you’re in a deep fog.

You’ll wake up a hung-over dope!

It’s the season they sing about snow.

But you can’t shovel white stuff ‘less you’ve got the right stuff.

Head south now, just go –

Oops, you can’t, ‘cause you don’t have the dough.

 christmas-trees-abundant-but-consumers-might-find-higher-price-tags-2

(bridge)

Hang those lights, deck those halls. If being cheery seems false,

Just keep wearing that shit-eating grin.

This will pass soon enough, just hang in and stay tough

Till the January bills trickle in!

(dramatic key change)

But for now, eat and drink, have no fear.

Though this season’s depressing, more turkey and dressing

Will fill you with cheer,

And you’ll gain ten more pounds for New Year! 

christmas-fat-cat

* For more about the Nitty Gritty Slam, visit www.albanypoets.com. This is the last slam of the year, and by next Christmas, Valentine’s will have been demolished to make way for a huge parking garage for Albany Med. Right now, the snow’s coming down hard, and I may not make it to tonight’s event after all. But I just poured some eggnog, and I can always sing this at “Poets Speak Loud” next Monday at McGeary’s. You can find info on that at the same website.

**The song was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle for the Andy Williams TV show and premiered in 1963. It wasn’t an overnight smash, but he sang it every year and it slowly gained popularity. Now, love it or hate it, it ranks among the top ten Christmas songs. Andy Williams died in September, 2012.

Postscript, December 2016. Sure enough, Valentine’s was demolished as predicted, and Albany Medical Center continues to metastasize throughout the neighborhood. The owner of Valentine’s opened a new bar, The Low Beat, on Central Avenue, where the Nitty Gritty Slam lives on. They’re on a winter break right now, but the slams will resume in April. “Poets Speak Loud” is still going strong at McGeary’s, and I was the featured poet there a few months back.

How are you faring this holiday season? I’d love to hear from you. In any case, eat, drink and be merry! You can always lose the weight next year.

low-beat-exterior

mcgearys-tess-collins-at-bar

Tess Collins of McGeary’s

RED ALERT–a poem for the gloom-and-doom folks who think America’s never had it worse

I vowed that after the election, I’d stop writing about politics, but I’m afraid that’s a promise I’ll inevitably break. Last week I wrote this poem to read at the open mic at New World Home Cooking in Saugerties. The reading featured Therese Broderick and Alifair Skebe, both reading from their excellent new books, which I bought, since I believe authors should support other authors whenever possible. I recommend them both.

This monthly poetry event, held on third Thursdays, is organized by Leslie Gerber. He’s taking a winter’s break, but I hope the event will return soon. Meanwhile, there’s still Dan Wilcox’s Third Thursday open mic at the Social Justice Center in Albany.

Julie at Up the River launch April 2013

Reading at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s

If you’d like to hear me read this in person, come to Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s next Monday night. My husband, Robb Smith, will be the feature.

The many open mics in our region provide a wonderful incentive to write new work, then come out and read it for a live audience and the instant gratification that comes from applause.

RED ALERT     

We’re on the verge of Armaggedon.

America’s on the edge ever since

Wisconsin tripped the scales to Trump in the electoral college

And plunged the country into red high-stakes alert.

Eggheads in the blue states are aghast.

Despite their computer-driven polls, their smug predictions,

They didn’t foresee this tsunami exploding

Out of the fly-over states and rustbelt cities

Of America’s heartland.

Me, I’m not surprised. I’m a Wisconsin cheesehead, after all,

McCarthy Laughing by Yale Joel

Senator Joe McCarthy (photo by Yael Joel)

Born in the state that spawned Joe McCarthy

And Jeffrey Dahmer. I remember scary grade school drills,

Sheltering beneath wooden desks with inkwells

And hinged fliptop lids, shielding our eyes

Against imagined radioactive glare

From mushroom clouds we watched in public service movies.

Fast forward to October, 1962, the Cuban missile crisis.

Fifteen days of panic. Sure we’d be blown to smithereens,

I begged my boyfriend to marry me, STAT. Day by day

We huddled by the tiny black and white TV,

Waiting for news of our annihilation. Already lovers,

We didn’t need to put a ring on it to make it real,

But marriage was the be all and end all in those cloistered years

Before the Beatles ushered in the Swinging Sixties.

Meanwhile in Flushing Meadows out in Queens,worlds-fair-1964

Robert Moses and his millionaire buddies

Were throwing up the 1964 World’s Fair atop the Corona Ash Dump

Immortalized in Fitzgerald’s Gatsby.

Crazy to plan ahead, I thought. The human race would be exterminated

Before the fair could open. And if by some miracle we survived,

I knew I’d never live past thirty.

Yet here I am at seventy-five. The human race has muddled through.

With any luck I’ll die of natural causes in a decade, two at most.

I won’t be here to witness the mass extinction

Brought on by human greed and folly.

Plagues, drought, floods, famines, and the battles that they’ll bring—

So many ways to trigger our destruction,

It boggles the mind, outstrips the imagination,

Puts the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to shame.

.

And so we meander on, blinded by our denial,four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse

Until the media vomits up a demon.

Skin and hair of flaming orange,

Sprung from the towers of Mammon in Manhattan

To spew his venom and seduce

The denizens of the red-state heartlands into thinking

He actually gives a shit for their survival.

Everywhere I turn, everything I hear or read,

Proclaims America’s panic.

Look out! The sky is falling!

Disaster lurks at every turn inside the Beltway

Where all those monstrous politicians

Wallow in the swamp, gnashing their alligator teeth

And chomping down on liberals.

The true blue states on both our coasts

Will fall into the oceans

While the right’s red tide rolls forward,

Drowning those who dare to fight it.

But me, I’m much too old to panic.

Somehow we made it through the age of nuclear terror

And lived to tell the tale to those who care to listen.

I hope and pray our country will survive

The bloody red onslaught of the coming years,

And come out even stronger in the end.

I may wield my words in the coming struggle,

But our children and their children will have to bear

The burden of the battle.

As for me, as Phil Ochs sang before he killed himself,

I ain’t marching anymore.

phil-ochs-i-aint-marching-anymore

Twas the Night before New Year’s

New Year's clock midnight

Wishing all my friends and readers a joyous New Year! I wrote this poem two years ago, in the nick of time to read it at the Albany Poets’ POETS SPEAK LOUD open mic at McGeary’s Irish Pub. Nothing like a deadline and the prospect of a friendly, enthusiastic audience to get the creative juices flowing. The same open mic inspired the poem about the Christmas Goat and the Taint that I featured in my previous post.

My reflections and resolutions haven’t changed much since then, so I’ve decided not to change a word. But amazingly enough, I can actually see some progress, so I’m celebrating the positive changes in footnotes.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE NEW YEAR’S

Twas the night before New Year’s and all through my mind

Skittered thoughts of tasks undone and goals left behind.

New Year's apple and tape measure

Those fifteen new pounds I acquired this year*

Mean a new resolution to diet, I fear.

Those favorite noshes I thought wouldn’t matter

Have gone to my hips and I’m looking much fatter.

But giving them up? No, that’s out of the question,

So don’t give me all those nutritious suggestions.

No fasting, no juicing, no broccoli or tofu,

No counting of calories – to that I say screw you!

So bring on the pizza, the cheddar and brie,

The yummy dark chocolates to build more of me!

And bring on the box wines, the reds and the whites,

To lessen the chill of these cold winter nights.

 

Still, I can lose weight if I work out a lot,

Hit the Y every morning, get rid of my pot.**

But it’s so much more pleasant to languish in bed

With my cat on my lap and my tummy well fed.

Lunesta with mouses 6-13

And my house is still messy, it only gets worse,

And probably will till they come with the hearse.

With cobwebs and closets with clothes overflowing,

And huge piles of books that I can’t resist stowing.

And everywhere paper is stacked up in hills,

Unread magazines, catalogs, unopened bills.

I solemnly vow that I’ll throw stuff away,

But what if I need it some bleak rainy day?***

clutter books and papers

Not my clutter!

I could banish the clutter if I hired a maid,

But sadly I guess she’d expect to get paid.

Still, I could afford it if I sold more books,

But marketing’s harder by far than it looks.

And I still haven’t finished my brilliant new story,

The first of a trilogy destined for glory.****

 

So many distractions, they tempt me away

From the tasks I’m determined to tackle each day,

From the far better person I know I could be

If I didn’t procrastinate, weren’t so damn lazy.

So this New Year’s, once more I resolve to do better,

Rise early each morning and be a go-getter.

Lose more weight, sell more books, become famous and rich,

So by this time next year there’ll be no need to bitch.*****

*Fortunately I didn’t gain any weight this year, but I’m still carrying those 15 extra pounds I wrote about two years ago.

**I’ve actually got an hour’s appointment with a trainer at the Y this Monday morning to work out a routine on their jazzy new machines, but that’s because the session is free. I’m not making any promises.

***I’m making some progress in clutter busting but taking it slow and steady. My major Christmas present was a beautiful new rug for the area beside the bed, and it’ll be a wonderful place to do yoga and exercise once I get the space decluttered enough to roll out the rug.

****I finally finished and published HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL, and I’m reissuing my previous two novels, but marketing is still a major stumbling block.

*****Two years later, and I’m still bitching. I’m my own harshest critic, but I’m becoming kinder and gentler on myself. 

How about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions, or do you feel you’re better off without them? I’d love to hear from you. Wishing you and yours a new year full of health, happiness and creativity.

New Year's Eve Times Square overview

 

             

Me and My Shadow

Here I am, reading at McGeary's

Here I am, reading at McGeary’s

I haven’t been writing much poetry lately, but I love reading at open mics, and I’ve got lots of conflicting feelings about launching my new book, so I wrote this for Poets Speak Loud, the monthly open mic at McGeary’s Tavern in Albany. The applause was music to my ears. My shadow side is set in italics.

Me and My Shadow

HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL! That’s the title of my brand new book, available at last on Amazon. My state of mind is sunny too.

Watch out, Julie. Hope is just one step shy of mania. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.

Small likelihood of that. I haven’t been manic in years.

Oh yeah? You still dream of being a best-selling author, don’t you?

Of course, but this time it’s totally within the realm of possibility. It’s not like the time I thought I’d collaborate with the President of Bard College and Robert Rauschenberg to save the Hudson Valley. A vampire soap opera thriller – how can it possibly miss?

Vampires have been done to death.

I beg to differ – they’re immortal. Hence, HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL.

There’s nothing new to say about them. Besides, your writing is pedestrian – you’re no Bram Stoker or Anne Rice.

I’m as good as the Twilight author, and a hell of a lot better than that British broad who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey.

Touche. Her writing’s an abomination and her heroine’s an idiot.

Yes, and an insult to liberated women everywhere. But reading trash that terrible gives me hope.

Cling to your pitiful delusions if you must. But soap operas are going the way of the dodo bird – they’re practically extinct.

They still have millions of fans, and that’s my biggest target audience.

Good luck with that – those soap fans don’t read books.

You’re stereotyping a bunch of people you don’t know. Anyway, lots of people don’t read books these days. Even elitist snobs like some of my so-called friends. People who claim to support the arts, but only patronize the artists vetted by the New York Times or the New Yorker. Shell out $11.00 for a friend’s book? Fuggedabout it, as Tony Soprano would say.

Hey, wait a minute, Julie. I’m your shadow side, your Debbie Downer. You’re sounding every bit as negative as me. I thought you were upbeat.

Maybe your cynicism’s catching. Or maybe it’s my Scandinavian heritage – I’m three-quarters Norwegian and one-quarter Swedish. Depression’s in my blood.

Speaking of depression, didn’t you fall into a suicidal funk after your first two books came out and failed to set the world on fire?

Yes, and I can’t afford to fall into that death spiral ever again. That’s why I’m marketing like crazy.

But you hate marketing.

Hate’s too strong a word, and marketing’s a necessary evil. I’ve got to suck it up and grin.

Good luck with that. Anyway, it seems you’re pretty stable all in all.

Maybe that comes with age. Or maybe it’s my meds. Speaking of which, my shrink may be retiring. He wants to work exclusively in nursing homes.

Hmm, that’s interesting. You’re getting up in years, are you not?

Yes, that’s why I’ve christened my publishing imprint Norse Crone Press.

So maybe you’ll get lucky and keep the same shrink when you go to a nursing home. By any chance does he work for The Eddy?

Shadow, you’ve got a warped sense of humor.

You think I’m kidding? I’m just being practical.

Practical’s for dullards. I’m way past practical, and just pissed off enough to banish you from my brain. I order you: begone.

In other words, fuck off.

At McGeary's with my husband, Robb Smith (right)

At McGeary’s with my husband, Robb Smith (right)