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Today in My History

2000: So Many Books, So Little Time
2001:  Killing Time on the "T"
2002:  The Tao of Biking
2003:  How Much does Muscle Weigh?
2004:  Like Better Teeth
We're On Our Way
2006:  Q&A
2007: In My Easter Bonnet
2008:  Dear Brianna
2009:  Know When to Fold 'Em

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

Books Read in 2010
Updated: 4/6
Cake Wrecks"

Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
(updated 3/17/10)


Bubbles from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.

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No You Can't (John Boehner)
Jim Brochu closes NASDAQ
Stupid, Callous, Homophobic, Hateful Legislation

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Easter 2010

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9 April 2010

There's a frustrating thing about trying to be a writer...so many other people are so much better at it!  I have been listening to lots of audio books lately, since I've been spending so much time in the car, and really paying attention to the word pictures that authors paint, giving you not only a chronicle of the event that is happening, but the sight, the sound, the feel and even the smell of the environment.  That's a skill I have not developed (which maybe one reason why I don't write good fiction).

I recently joined a group for women over 50, called Vibrant Nation.  Just another discussion on a wide variety of topics ranging from spiritual enlightenment to how to be a better grandparent, to which sex toys are best.  Seems like pretty much no topic is taboo.

One of the topics recently started was about journal writing and as a result of participating in that discussion, I was sent a copy of a book called "The Journal Keeper: A Memoir" by Phyllis Theroux. It's a lovely, inspirational book--not in the normal sense of "inspirational" but because of the pictures she paints with her words.  Read this, for example:

Later, sitting in Dorothy Jones' kitchen, I was aware of how the air in her house has the thick flavor of dust, sunlight, old books, fried chicken, and furniture polish.  It is a human, comforting smell.  Clutter is a part of it.  A sense of belonging is another.  It is such a gift to coincide with where you live....

How I wish I could write like that.  Can't you just picture Dorothy's kitchen?  And doesn't it give you already a sense of what her life must be like? Such writing begins with opening your senses to what is going on around you.  I tend to observe in outline form and to write in declarative sentences that tell you what I'm doing, but don't paint a picture of my environment. 

So today I decided to try an experiment.  I was meeting a friend for lunch at the Olive Garden and planned my arrival for about 15 minutes before she was expected.  I brought with me the little red Google notebook that someone gave me a long time ago and just sat there taking in the environment, making notes, and trying to remember what it was like to be there, to see if I could begin to paint such a clear picture for you.  So here goes.

As I climb the steps to the restaurant, I can already hear Italian music playing.  someone is singing in Italian, a song I don't recognize, a voice I don't recognize.

I open the door and standing in front of me is a row of wait persons, all wearing aprons and each holding a stack of menus.  They are clearly waiting for the noon rush. They greet me like Oliver Warbucks' house staff, smiling and looking at me expectantly.  I tell them that I am waiting for a friend and settle myself onto the padded seat of the iron bench that faces out onto the street.  One of the wait persons comes by with a broom, goes outside and proceeds to sweep down the side of the building, smiling as she observes the improvement her work has made.

I continue sitting on my bench, noting, with amusement that a sign on the wall warns about the chemicals which may be present in their food or beverages. which may cause cancer and/or birth defects .  Cover your ass time, I guess.  The sign is surrounded by sepia toned photos of happy people eating spaghetti and one of a woman with a large name tag that reads Lourdana, displaying what looks like an inside out pizza.  I'm guessing it may be calzone.

Dean Martin is now singing "On the Street Where You Live" as the early customers begin to arrive for the noon rush.  A single man enters and is asked if he is with "the other gentleman." The waiter and the man disappear off into the restaurant proper. 

As a recording of "Lover Come Back to Me" begins, sung by a familiar voice who may or may not be Vic Damon, three older Asian ladies arrive, one of whom walks with a cane.  They are followed by two more people for the "retirement party" (they tell the wait staff).  The man is small and his body is twisted and he leans heavily on a cane.  He has the look of someone who may have been a jockey in his younger days and who encountered a few too many horses' hooves.

As Frank begins to sing "The Days of Wine and Roses," I look around at the rough coated walls on which clay lion heads are mounted.  

Families begin to arrive--a man with a toddler, three women (one of whom was clearly Grandma) with several small children.  Grandma carries a purple water bottle and tries to engage the 2 year old in a conversation about her Easter basket. Mom holds a bag of small toys.  One girl has a coloring book and sits quietly coloring while her slightly older brother swings his feet impatiently waiting to get to a table.

The people are coming faster now and a young man stands at the door, holding it open, smiling broadly and greeting each group of customers.  I see my friend climbing the stairs.  I feel dowdy, in my puppy-hole filled pants with my doggie T-shirt, while she looks like she stepped out of a fashion magazine, as she always does.  The difference between the employed and the retired, I guess.

We are shown to a table and told that our server, Ryan, will be with us shortly.  "Shortly" turns out to be "immediately" and we tell Ryan we don't need a menu.  We always order the same thing--salad, soup, and the famous Olive Garden breadsticks.  That amounts to $12 each, including tip, and it's nice not to have to worry about the bill when it arrives.

Ryan turns out to be Mr. Efficiency.  Our soup and salad arrive at the same time and a basket of breadsticks, still steaming from the oven is placed in the middle of the table. The salad is ice cold and filled with crispy ingredients.

Every time Ryan passes by our table he stops to ask if we are doing OK and if he can get anything for us.  It finally reaches the point where you want to say "Just go away, Ryan, and let us continue our conversation!"

The room is full and in one corner is a family with a toddler who does not think it is a treat to have lunch at the Olive Garden and would probably be happier somewhere taking a nap (and all of the diners in the room would also be happy if she were somewhere else...anywhere else!)

Ryan brings our bill and comes to check three times before we have opened it.  When we finally put money inside are are ready to give him back the table, Ryan is nowhere to be found. 

But lunch was good and when we walked into the waiting area and saw it filled with people on all the waiting benches, and others standing outside, we understood a bit more his eagerness to turn The Olive Garden into today's fast food restaurant.



breadsticks.jpg (24393 bytes)

Those Olive Garden breadsticks



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