People watching is the best show on earth...

Dec 27, 2007

Bathroom Sneak

. Dec 27, 2007
30 Whispers

I am out amongst the after-holiday sale crowds at a local mall. People yawn as they trudge around clothes racks. Some scowl as I wait in line. Merchandise litters the floor in aisles near the cash registers. I finally reach check out and my stomach growls audibly. As I step out into the fresh air, a Soup Plantation restaurant beckons. I approach eagerly, under the spell of delicious soups, salads and breads served buffet style.

The restaurant is only scattered with diners. I'm relieved. I grab a tray and start down the assembly line of fresh food. A couple falls in behind me. The man sighs repeatedly as the woman talks about someone's family drama. She is a slender brunette in jeans and a black turtle neck. She selects lettuce and spinach, piling more fresh vegetables atop the mound. The man is heavy-set with broad shoulders and a shaved head. He wears black sweat pants and a plaid flannel shirt. He fills his plate with Caesar's salad and spoons pasta and potato salads onto it. The woman looks at her husband's plate repeatedly as she's talking. We approach the salad dressing bar and the man pours two ladles of blue cheese atop his plate. The woman chooses raspberry vinaigrette:

Woman: Honey, come on. That's too much dressing.
Man: Oh geez. Not today, huh? Let's just enjoy our lunch.
Woman: Well, you wanna lose weight. I'm just trying to support you.
Man: Do me a favor. Don't be so supportive.
Woman: Well. I'm just saying.
Man: Trust me. I know what you're saying.

We pay for our meals and part ways. After cleaning my plate, I head back to the buffet for some delicious fat noodle chicken soup. On my way I pass the bread island. The man is standing in front of a steaming tray of chocolate muffins. He leans forward, then hesitates. He glances around the island toward the dining area. He returns to the muffins, takes one in each hand and walks opposite of the dining room. My bowl of soup and I peak after him around the corner. He and his muffins enter the men's restroom.

Dec 19, 2007

Santa's Health

. Dec 19, 2007
26 Whispers

I am in the refrigerated section of Ralph's grocery store on my way to the cottage cheese but linger in front of the cookie dough with particular interest in the mini cinnamon rolls. Shoppers whiz by with carts loaded to the brim for holiday feasts. A little girl steps up to the cold case and puts her nose within inches of a roll of chocolate chip cookie dough. She is white and wears a pink jacket with a "Dora the Explorer" graphic. She jumps a little in place and claps her hands twice, smiling. A man follows close behind:

Girl: Daddy! Here! Cookies for Santa.
Dad: Okay, okay, honey. Let's see. Here, these are good. Santa likes chocolate chip.
Girl: Is it no sugar? I want to get no sugar.
Dad: Why? These are fine. Regular cookies are fine.
Girl: No! Dad! What if Santa has diabetic like me? It's dangerous!
Dad: (laughs) No, honey. Santa is not diabetic. Don't worry about it. These are fine.
Girl: Daddy! We can't do that! It HAS to be no sugar.
(The man keeps the tube of dough originally chosen and begins to walk away with his daughter pulling on his arm. A few more protests, but soon they are out of sight.)

Moments later, I cave in to the mini cinni's and am wheeling my cart away when the little girl returns holding a woman's hand. The lady carries the tube of cookie dough. The two approach the cold case, put the tube back and take another. They leave with Pillsbury sugar-free chocolate chip dough, sweetened with Splenda.

Dec 16, 2007

Playing Fetch

. Dec 16, 2007
25 Whispers

I am exiting the freeway on an off ramp that's always stacked up enough for two traffic light cycles to pass. The exit curves around so that as I wait in line to approach the signal I cannot see the intersection until I round the bend. I am not in a hurry and turn up the Christmas tunes on my stereo. Stevie Nicks' smokey voice is singing "Silent Night". I turn the volume up even louder.

Sunset is beginning and the clouds are pinkish orange against the blue sky. I roll down my tinted window to see them more clearly and the cold bites my nose. I close the window and rev up the heater. Still waiting in the line of cars, I start wondering where everyone is going. I am behind a black SUV with three silhouettes in the back seat bobbing and swaying to music, I presume.

I turn the bend and see a man standing on the island at the traffic light, which has turned red again. He holds a sign that says, "Hungry - PLEASE HELP - god bless." He is black, wears gray sweatpants and a yellow t-shirt with short sleeves and a faded graphic. I think he is barefoot but as I look closer I see he wears flip flops. The car ahead of me rolls to a stop for the light and is now next to the man. There is movement inside the car. The passenger window lowers and an arm sticks out holding a burger or sandwich wrapped in paper. The man puts his sign down and walks toward the food, smiling.

Suddenly the arm yanks downward and lobs the burger high into the air. It lands in the brush, about 20 feet from the off ramp. I hear boys' laughter. The man's smile disappears. The light turns green. The SUV speeds off. A boy yells, "Go fetch, man!" from an open window. The car behind me honks. I am frozen, watching the man who crosses the divider and limps into the brush.

Dec 11, 2007

Conditional Love

. Dec 11, 2007
23 Whispers

I'm overjoyed at finding a perfect gift for a good friend and stand in line to pay. After five minutes, I see that I have once again chosen the slowest line in the register bank. Inching forward, I'm finally three customers away from payment. A young Hispanic girl is at my register. She is perhaps 17, wears a red sweater and a Christmas tree pin with blinky lights. Two girlfriends chat in line in front of me, behind the customer currently paying. They are white, one redhead and one blond. Suddenly, the man paying speaks loudly, drawing my attention:

Man: That's not the right change.
Cashier: Uh, I put the wrong amount.
Man: Well, yeah. But the change is still wrong.
Cashier: Huh?
Man: I'm a buck short on my change.
Cashier: Um, I put $200 instead of $20 that you gave me.
Man: I know, I know. I see that. But you still gave me the wrong change. Just take the zero off and do it in your head .
(The girl looks blankly at the monitor screen and bites her lip. The man shakes his head.)
Cashier: Uh, so do what now?
Man: Geez, honey. It's $20 take away $11.79.... So?
(Red blotches form on the cashier's face. She looks nervously at her coworker, who finally steps in to assist her.)
Cashier 2: He gets $8.21 back. Just open the drawer with a void and give him the dollar.

The cashier does as she's told and the man stomps away, again shaking his head. The redhead in front of me elbows her friend and whispers, "God. I hope I don't have a dumb kid. I really do. I wouldn't have the patience. I mean, seriously." She looks about seven months pregnant.

Dec 7, 2007

A Calculated Risk with Santa

. Dec 7, 2007
16 Whispers

I'm braving the holiday crowds in the mall. I take a quick break from my shopping list, buy a cinnamon pretzel and sit on the side of a planter. The line for free Santa Claus photos runs right past me and curls around the jewelry store at the corner of this wing. Children of all shapes and colors wait in line with their adults. Some are excited, others afraid, a few indifferent. The line inches forward and soon there is a toddler in front of me, wailing. She wears a red velvet dress, white tights with little green Christmas trees and black patent leather shoes. Her mother sighs, hands on hips. She tries to pick the child up, who lifts her arms straight up in the air and goes limp. Mom struggles with the dead weight.

A little boy, around four, is in front of them with his mother. He looks repeatedly at the crying girl and then peers to Santa, at least 15 kids away. He wears a red sweater vest, plaid pants and a tiny red bow tie. He grabs his mother's hand and turns to the whining girl:

Boy: Don't cry! Little girl, don't cry. (He looks at his mother, who smiles him on)
Girl: Looks briefly at the boy and continues to cry.
Boy: Stop crying! Santa doesn't like it. He doesn't like it when you cry.
Girl: Cries louder.
Boy: Hey, little girl? You can go before me? (He looks at his mom, who caresses his chin and nods in agreement to the girl's mom.)
Girl's Mom: Oh, that's so nice of you honey. Are you sure?
Boy's Mom: It's okay, go ahead. I've been there. (The pairs exchange places in line.)
Boy's Mom: That was very kind of you, baby.
Boy: It's good! Santa will like me more after her because I'm not crying.

Dec 4, 2007

Child Channels Alicia Keys

. Dec 4, 2007
9 Whispers

In between eavesdropping, I'll occasionally post about the wonders of creativity. I so appreciate it in so many forms - writing, singing, drawing, web design, a new medical treatment from creative research...and on. Creativity in a child can move me to tears sometimes. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because children are such reflections of their parents' love that when I see a confident, creative, vibrant child I feel the life force that lifts them up. This morning I saw creative talent I'm just compelled to share. Gabi Wilson is 10 years old. She plays her own instruments and sings her soul free. Please watch the video and be amazed by this young one's voice and spirit. Goodness is all around us.

You will need to tolerate a short ad before each clip -

Amazing 10-year-old musician
Singing Alicia Keys

This young girl has a musical gift!
On Bass Guitar

Dec 1, 2007

No Christmas List This Year

. Dec 1, 2007
21 Whispers

Tonight it's raining in Southern California. The newscasts all have 'storm watch' for us fragile sun worshipers. We decide to fight the cold with some delicious hot Italian food for dinner and motor over to a popular ristorante down the street. It's Friday night crowded and we're seated in a booth behind another family with young teens. The kids, a teenaged girl and younger boy, sit behind me across from their parents. They are white, the females are blond and the males brunette. The dad talks on a cell as we're seated. The children joke and laugh with each other. Their father cannot hear his caller and tells them firmly to be quite. The call ends and their conversation resumes. After several moments:

Daughter: Mom, at lunch we were all talking about what we want for Christmas?
Mom: Yeah?
Daughter: Yeah, and I'm all, I really really really want a Juke. And Megan goes, me too! Isn't that funny? It's a really cool phone and it does so much stuff!
Mom: Yes, I know honey. You've told me that.
Daughter: Haha! I know but it's just sooooo killer. But do you know what's weird? Megan's friend Jen was all quiet and we're all, 'What are you asking for, Jen?' and she's like, I don't know. So we kept asking her and then she said her Mom said no Christmas list this year. She's not allowed. Can you believe that?
Mom: Well, maybe they're having trouble -
Dad: There's no reason to have financial trouble if the man of the house is a good provider. Simple as that. What does this girl's father do? Does he work?
Daughter: She said her Dad's in Iraq.

Nov 23, 2007

Giving Before Receiving

. Nov 23, 2007
18 Whispers

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in my country. I try to be mindful of my blessings, but easily get caught up in the rush of life during the year. That's why I spend at least a few hours at a local food bank handing out free turkeys and trimmings. It makes me feel good and also reminds me that life is hard for many. I hear a lot of interesting comments at these events, but I see far more in the body language and expressions of those who come for help.

I was there quite early in the morning and so were at least 200 people lined up around the block. The surge of people was a bit scary when the doors opened, and staff reminded visitors to wait their turn. Any aggression was promised to be dealt with by two rather imposing security guards. Still, the hungry people pushed a little, anxious to get their share. It's this behavior from perhaps normally mild-mannered women and men that shows what desperation can do. One person after another held out there arms to receive the single or family meal boxes and quickly rushed out of the store. Some said thanks, others merely snatched the boxes and left.

About 30 minutes into my stay, I turned from the pantry to see an older Asian woman next in my line. She was so slight and so very dwarfed by those waiting behind her. She did not immediately approach the counter, instead looking at me while leaning slightly forward. A white woman bumped her shoulder from behind and said, 'Go!'. I motioned for her to step up and only then did she approach the counter. She walked quickly toward me and kept her eyes downward:

Me: Hi, happy Thanksgiving.
(The woman does not hold out her hands, instead she bows her head several times and clasps her hands together.)
Woman: I am saying to you thank you first. I am saying thank you for my family, very much. My husband is not coming here. He is ashame.
Me: That's okay, ma'am. You don't need to feel ashamed.
(Others in line become impatient and a few try to rush her on.)
Woman: (she turns to the others) Please, one moment. Please. You must not receive so easy. (Back to me) I want thank you and I want thank this country. I appreciate so much this country help us.
Me: You are very welcome and I hope you enjoy your dinner. You and your family.
Woman: Thank you, thank you young lady. I want give you this. I have pray on it for you.

The woman, so small, struggles with the large box for a moment, gets her bearings and walks away. Some watch her leave with curious looks. On the counter is a tiny white Buddha she left for me. Another person has already stepped up for his box.

Nov 20, 2007

Chicken, Dirty Feet and Assumptions

. Nov 20, 2007
7 Whispers

In the midst of Thanksgiving grocery shopping, I took a break at a favorite Mediterranean restaurant for lunch. The fragrant aroma of chicken marinated with cinnamon and other exotic spices hangs in the air. The place is casual, with self seating. After the staff brings your plate, you're left to yourself and the condiment bar. It's moderately crowded with a mix of ethnicities, but mostly white people munch their lunch. I sit at a small table on the periphery and settle in.

There is a middle-aged white couple to my left halfway through their whole chicken special. The table to my right is empty. A few seats down, sit two dark-skinned young men with black hair and big, deep brown eyes. They speak loudly in their native language, which sounds like Malay or a Southeast Asian dialect to me. They wave their hands around as they speak and laugh, enjoying lunch. Both rip into their chickens with their hands and teeth. They wear flip-flops and soon each has kicked them off. They sit with one bare foot resting on the other knee, exposing soles dark with dirt towards me. The couple on my left notices them, also:

Female: Ugh. Look at those two. They eat like pigs.
Male: Yeah. I wouldn't even sit like that at the table.
Female: You bet you wouldn't! Look at those dirty feet. Ugh. Do their wives just put up with it?
Male: Their wives got nothin' to say about it. They probably have to eat the leftovers alone in the kitchen!
Female: Bullshit! I'd never...just look at how they eat. They're so filthy.
Male: Dirty Arabs. I hope we blast 'em all.

The boys, lost in their conversation, suddenly erupt with laughter. One of them burps and they laugh harder. Other diners now stare at them, but they hardly notice.

Nov 5, 2007

No God

. Nov 5, 2007
26 Whispers

I took today off work and strolled on the pier for a while. The sun sparkled on the water and the wind was just brisk enough to remind me it's November in California. There were more people on the pier than I'd expected for a Monday afternoon. Many fished, standing in silence with their poles and staring at the green blue sea. Seagulls circled overhead, squawking and diving after fish guts thrown over the rails by men cleaning their catches.

In the middle of my reverie a male voice says, "Here you go, God bless you" as he hands me a small booklet. We exchange smiles and I thank him. He comments on my St. Jude medallion and asks me if I'm secure in my faith. I say I am. He wishes me well and moves on. He walks to a bench next to a fish sink not 10 feet away. A young man sits there with white iPod ear buds on. The middle-aged evangelist taps him on the shoulder:

Evangelist: Hey, hi. Here you go. God bless you.
Boy: What? (removes ear buds) What's this?
Evangelist: Hi, how you doing? Please read this, it's explains how you can know Jesus Christ personally. Do you have a relationship with the Lord?
Boy: What? Yeah, I have a relationship with the Lord. I hate him, alright? So take your damn papers and leave me the hell alone.
(The young man stands up and hurls the booklet over the railing. It flutters down to the sea)
Evangelist: I'm sorry you're angry. Maybe you can tell me about -
Boy: Maybe you can shut the hell up and leave me alone! There is no God, okay? Get over yourself. Frickin' loser.

The young man jams his ear buds back into his ears, slings a dark green messenger bag across his shoulders and walks off. The bag says "ARMY" on the flap. The evangelist sits down on the bench. A few people stare at him. He looks out to the sea for a moment and bows his head.

Oct 25, 2007

Blind to Reason

. Oct 25, 2007
25 Whispers

Tonight I gave in to a craving for Dutch apple pie and a hot mint tea. I amble down to the coffee shop a block away and hop onto a counter seat at the end. There is one empty stool between my neighbor and I. He is black, maybe 40, with a shaved head, a tight goatee and striking amber eyes. He wears jeans and dark blue pullover. He enjoys a burger combo and talks to his male friend next to him. Two televisions mounted on walls across from the counter both broadcast updates from the California wildfires. After an interview with a home owner crying near the smoldering remnants of her house:

Amber eyes: Man, I am so tired of these damn people sobbing on about their burned up houses. If you don't wanna deal with it, don't live in the middle of the damn forest.
Friend: Yeah, I hear you. Still, though, losing everything. Makes me feel sorry.
Amber eyes: Why? They chose to live there. In their million dollar houses in the mountain.
Friend: Yeah, well, it's nice. It's nature.
Amber eyes: You think it's nice that you're paying to build their houses right back up? 'Cause that's what you're doing. All this, the rescue, everything. We're all paying for it with our taxes.
Friend: Hmm.
Amber eyes: I am tired of paying for other people's problems. Do not live in a forest. Do not have six kids on welfare. Do not make me pay for your problems.
Friend: Damn, you're amped today.
Amber eyes: Yeah, well, it's a bad week. You know I still have not gotten my Worker's Comp check?

Oct 20, 2007

No Signal

. Oct 20, 2007
19 Whispers

Eavesdrop Endings

Copy and paste the below script:

Writers: Click here for meme instructions.

Readers: This is a weekly meme where readers continue this overheard conversation. After reading this post, please close the window to return to the participant's blog and their own unique ending!

Yesterday afternoon I drove to campus to purchase yet another package of material from the copy center my professor insists we need. I am trolling up and down the aisles in one of the larger parking lots, hoping to find a space amid the sea of parked cars. I carefully squeeze around several vehicles 'squatting' in the aisles. They stand off to one side waiting for someone to leave.

I'm about to maneuver around a squatting white sedan when I see a girl walking towards us. I wait behind the sedan, which has clicked its blinker to the left. The girl enters her car, break lights flash, she pulls out to her left, faces us and begins driving forward, clearing the spot. Suddenly, a yellow Hummer zooms in from the behind her and snatches the spot. The squatter pulls forward abruptly and repeatedly honks his horn. The male Hummer driver has already exited the car:

Squatter: Hey! Hey, asshole! That's my spot!
Hummer: No it ain't. It's mine now.
Squatter: What the hell? I was waiting for it. I was signaling -
Hummer: Shut the hell up you wanker, you little girl. Waaaa! That's my spot! Get back in your goon car and get outta here.
Squatter: You're an ass. You and your ugly car suck, jerk!

The Hummer driver is already walking away. He flips the bird to the squatter without a backward glance. The squatter stands frozen for a second, looks back at me and then back at the Hummer. Suddenly he turns, walks back to his car and retrieves a piece of paper. He walks toward the rear of the Hummer and writes the license plate down.

New Weekly Eavesdropping Meme!

0 Whispers

Taking your insightful comments to the next level, I would love to see how you'd continue these posts. I invite you to participate in my new weekly meme. Each Saturday I will post a conversation for the meme, provided I’ve heard one. Write your own ending and post it to your blog within a week by:

1. Copying the meme button code and paste it at the beginning of your post on the ‘edit html’ tab (for Blogger). Other services are similar and you’re probably familiar with how to do this if you’re using something more complicated than Blogger. The button is linked to my initial post that will open in a new window. Readers can click it and read the beginning of the story without leaving your blog. If you don’t want to bother with that, just create a text link to my post at the beginning of yours. My post will always briefly explain the meme for your readers.

2. Write your ending to the conversation however you’d like; as an observer, in first person, as one of the speakers, whatever!

3. Come back to my meme post, leave a comment using the ‘other’ option (not Blogger Account) and be sure to enter the link to your post as your URL. My blog is 'do follow', so your links will be recognized by search engines.

4. Read everyone’s stories and invite them to read yours!

Oct 12, 2007

Last Supper

. Oct 12, 2007
32 Whispers

I'm at a favorite neighborhood coffee shop for a quick dinner. The servers are very friendly and always stand at the ready with endless refills of beverages, condiments, dessert samples and extra napkins. A lot of regulars dine here, myself included. An older man and I face each other, with an empty booth in between. He is white, wears a cap with an American flag patch and unzips a sensible blue windbreaker as he settles in to his seat. He unfolds a newspaper and looks around, acknowledges several servers with a wave and a smile. Within minutes, a young brunette comes over and gives him a hug:

Waitress: How are you today?
Man: I'm alright, honey. How 'bout you? How's school going?
Waitress: Oh, it's going. It's hard. I have two chem classes.
Man: Well you stick with it, honey. You're a smart cookie and you'll do fine.
(Two more waitresses come over, along with a young man)
After more greetings:
Man: Well, it looks like this is gonna be it. I'm leaving Sunday for my daughter's.
Waitress: Oh no, William! You really are leaving us?
Man: If my daughter'll have me. She might change her mind. Haha! It's the best thing, honey. She worries about me.
Waitress #2: William this place will not be the same without you. We'll miss you.
Man: Well I'll sure miss you all, too. And my pot roast dinner!

More staff stops by and exchange well-wishes. The man is jovial and smiles amidst handshakes and hugs. After he's ordered his meal and the waitresses tend to other tables, he lowers his head for a moment. He takes his glasses off and wipes one cheek with his hand. He takes out a handkerchief and quickly dabs at both eyes. He removes a pill bottle from his jacket pocket, uncaps it and swallows the mediation with a big gulp of water. He busies himself with his newspaper and his pot roast soon arrives. As the waitress sets the dish on his table, he places his hand on hers for just a few seconds, then gives it a light pat and winks.

When she walks away from him and toward me, she wipes tears away.

Indulge Me

8 Whispers

Hello everybody, I am kind of excited to have an interview posted on "Blog Interviewer". I got an email from the blog owner weeks ago with interview questions to answer about my blog. I filled it out and sent it off. Thought it was lost in cyber space but today, Eavesdrop Writer's on the site for all the world to see. The site's purpose is exposure and interactive voting by viewers. You can read my interview and give my blog a thumbs up if you like here . It was fun to participate. It's always neat to see your blog on someone else's blog. I will say beware the ads, though. The Blog Interviewer site has exploded with ads lately and it almost hard to see the posts anymore.

There are some cool blogs posted on the site, though. You might find browsing worthwhile.

Oct 8, 2007

Mend Me

. Oct 8, 2007
20 Whispers

I'm standing in the ticket line for the movie, "Into the Wild", this afternoon. The line is about 20 deep and moving at a snail's pace. I glance left and right at my line neighbors. There are a good number of young children bouncing around their adults waiting along with me. There is laughing, little feet slapping cement as they run up and down the length of the lines. A little girl and her brother on my left are slightly ahead of me with their mother. They are white and quite well behaved. Both watch the other children frolic. The girl, about seven, has sandy blond hair in a ponytail with a purple glitter clip. She wears a light green smock with big purple flowers and purple leggings. She twirls her ponytail with her fingers. Her mother suddenly looks below the girl's upheld arm and sticks her finger through a hole in the dress seam:

Mom: Oh, honey, there's a hole.
Daughter: (gasps) Oh noooo! We just got this! I love this dress! Mom you have to fix it!
Mom: (examining the hole closer) Hhhmm. Maybe this was already here when we bought it.
Daughter: Mom! You have to fix it! I wanna wear this to school. Can you fix it? Mom?
Mom: Well don't worry. Yes, I can fix it.
Daughter: I can't wear stuff with holes! They'll make fun of me like the Mexican girl.
Mom: What girl?
Daughter: The girl who wears pants with holes. She's gross.
Mom: Honey she probably can't help that.
Daughter: Well her mom should fix the holes.

We stand next to each other now in our respective lines. The girl looks over at me and I am caught staring. Immediately she folds her arms and clenches the hole in the seam with a little fist. She looks at the ground until they reach the ticket window.

Oct 4, 2007

How Was School Today?

. Oct 4, 2007
18 Whispers

My car is in the shop and I’m on the bus to work today. I enjoy the extra daydream time, but the ride is bumpy. I hold my breath with every screech of opening doors at each stop, for some reason. Most riders read the paper or gaze out windows, lost in thought. Some talk loudly to each other over the noisy engine works. Two teen girls burst on board with backpacks. One texts on a cell phone. Both are Hispanic. Each wear heavy black eyeliner, dark lipstick and school uniform khaki pants, white t-shirts. They take seats in front of me. Their beautiful long black hair flows over the seat backs and nearly touches my knees:

Girl 1: Shit. I’m hungry. You got anything to eat?
Girl 2: Again? You’re always hungry! Are you pregnant?
Girl 1: Shut up bitch! I’m not pregnant but you look like you are!
Girl 2: Whatever.
(Her friend bounces around in her seat, bobbing her head up and down)
Girl 2: Hey! Relax, man. Shit.
Girl 1: I can’t help it. I am pumped UP! I can’t wait to beat her ass! I can’t wait, man!

The bus stops across from a downtown high school and the girls exit. I strain my neck to watch them out the window. They join a group of girls waiting on the corner. Several pat Girl 1 on the back and head. She is jumping up and down pumping her fist in the air.

Oct 1, 2007

Queen of Hearts

. Oct 1, 2007
13 Whispers

I am in the emergency room with a family member today. It's warm and the air is a bit foul. People of all varieties pack the waiting area. Some look miserable, others worried, a few bored. The automatic doors whoosh open and closed again and again. A health care worker cups her hands and calls names above the din, there's no microphone. My relative is called. We go through vital signs and more questions in a tiny room. Then we are ushered further to an area with gurneys separated by blue curtains. The nurse settles us in and we wait for the doctor. After more questions, some pokes, prods and measures, another patient arrives on the other side of our curtain. Besides the nurse, there are two voices, an older woman's and a man's cracked with age and frequent, raspy coughs.

I would never disclose someone's private medical conversation, but I'll share with you tender talk that I hope I will speak myself someday, or more dearly, hear from my own husband:

Nurse: Okay folks, let's see what we can do here. You know the drill...
Man: I sure do, honey. I'm your best customer!
Nurse: (laughs) You sure are and we love you.
Man: Watch out, my wife's right here...
Woman: Come on now, stop joking honey. Rest your lungs.
Nurse: Alright, let's start the questions. (After many routine questions and answers, and nearly as many coughs and hard breathing - ) Have you fallen recently?
Man: Yes. In love.
Woman: Oh yeah? With who?
Man: Next week is our 61st anniversary.
Nurse: Wow! That's something to celebrate.
Man: We're going to have burgers from "In and Out". I took her to a burger joint for our first date. She stole my heart over a cheeseburger. She's my queen of hearts.

His voice cracks, but it's not from coughing.

Sep 25, 2007

Puppet Masters

. Sep 25, 2007
18 Whispers

Today I'm browsing in the designer bag area of Bloomingdale's in Orange County, just looking. The sales lady hardly takes me seriously; she seems to see right through to my practicality. She doesn't ask me if I need help, nothing. Two young 20's come near. Both girls are blond, one with long straight hair and the other with a short bob. Both wear mini skirts and t-shirts. One girl's top says, "Don't hate on me" with a princess crown graphic. The other carries a giant Louis Vuitton bag. Gold bangle bracelets clink with every move. "May I help you ladies?" the sales person says:

Bangles: Yeah. Let me see this one, please.
Lady: Oh, that's a lovely bag. You've got great taste!
Bob: Oooooh! I love it, Stacia! Do you love it?
Bangles: It's alright. Yeah, I like it.
Lady: It's very stylish, honey. Very classy.
Bangles: Yeah, it's cute. Okay, thanks. We'll be back later.

The girls go towards the wallets and I follow:

Bob: You didn't like it? You're not getting it?
Bangles: Nope. I'm gonna tell my dad I'm depressed and he'll give me $500 bucks to go shopping. We'll come back tomorrow.

Both girls continue looking at wallets and openly displayed bags. Bangles's huge Vuitton bag knocks into the edge of a display and two bags fall on the floor. She doesn't pick them up.

Sep 22, 2007


. Sep 22, 2007
27 Whispers

I made a day trip to a local Indian casino yesterday and once there, remembered why we don't do it more often. It's extremely crowded; navigating slot machine aisles proves difficult without constantly bumping into others searching for empty machines. Eager players stand behind those already seated, waiting for their credits to disappear. Finally, I find a machine and plop on the stool, still warm from the last person's rear end.

I begin playing and glance at my neighbors. A petite Asian lady plays to my left, repeatedly moving her hand across the screen with every spin. A big white guy plays to my right. He is about 25, with a shaved head covered with small beads of perspiration. A girl stands by his side, biting her fingernail. He bangs his fist on the spin button again and again. Suddenly, he stands to go. As he does, a short older Asian lady inserts her player's card into his machine before he cleared the chair:

Man: Hey! You fuckin' bitch! You greedy bitch! Wait!
(He snatches her card out of the slot and throws it on the floor)
Lady: I, I, sorry.
Man: I, I, I, I! Fuck you, you ugly chink bitch!
(He steps on her card and kicks it away. He puts his hands on either side of his face and stretches out his features.)
Man: I, I, I hate you fuckin' people!

The lady bows her head a little, glancing nervously at the floor and back at the man. She places her hands together, palms touching, and holds them out in front of her, gently shaking them up and down. Again, she says "I sorry". The man's girlfriend is wide-eyed. She pulls at her boyfriend's large bicep with both hands, urging him away. He looks back at the lady several times while his girlfriend pushes him down the aisle, repeatedly kissing his cheek. He turns and yells, "I HATE you!" one last time before disappearing from the aisle.

Someone has retrieved the lady's card and gives it back to her. She sits down slowly on the stool. She is quietly crying. Security arrives but she waves them away, shaking her head and repeating, "No trouble! No trouble!". They try again to speak with her. Someone brings her a bottle of water. She continues waving her hands and gets off the stool. Her knees buckle and she falls to the ground.

Sep 17, 2007

Thrown Out

. Sep 17, 2007
18 Whispers

I was at the bay yesterday, squeezing one last Sunday out of summer. Laying on the shore with a smattering of others, the calm water mesmerized me almost as much as the beach's rhythmic waves. Young boys cavorting ended my daydream. One is tall and quite lanky, the other is shorter and solid. They are both white and perhaps 13. The lanky one is very pale with short auburn hair. His friend is tan with a buzz cut. They chase each other around, back and forth from the water's edge to their towels on the sand:

Buzz: Ahhhh! You can't catch me!
Lanky: Ha! Shut up! Watch out!
Buzz: See! Told you.
(Outruns Lanky and plops on his towel. Lanky oversteps and falls on his knees.)
Lanky: Hey! Watch this. I'm gonna pretend I'm throwing this to my dad.
(He grabs a football and throws it wildly. Wobbling sideways, it plunks into the bay.)
Buzz: Dude, that was lame!
Lanky: That's what he would say. I don't care!
Buzz: Aren't you gonna get the ball? It's floating away!
Lanky: Nope. My dad would be mad but I don't care. I'm glad he's gone.

Buzz looks back and forth between Lanky and the football a few times. Lanky returns to his towel and lays on his stomach. Buzz runs into the water, swims a short distance to retrieve the ball and drops it on Lanky's back. He stands, takes the football and throws it back into the bay with loud grunt.

Sep 15, 2007

Minimum Rage

. Sep 15, 2007
20 Whispers

I am at the University bookstore picking up my text, thank goodness for Saturday store hours. The campus is scarcely populated; a few students read and chat on the lawns. I park on a sunlit bench and crack open my new $80 (modest paperback) text. Three young boys race up on mountain bikes. All wear helmets and shorts. Two carry Coke cans, one does not. They are white, brown-haired and perhaps 11 or 12 years old. They drop their bikes and climb on the modern art structure behind me which looks like a giant orange slide minus the ladder up:

Coke 1: Yeah! This is so cool!
Cokeless: This whole place is cool. I could spend all day here! All these hills -
Coke 2: Me and my dad ride bikes here a lot. It's awesome.
Coke 1: Hey you guys! Watch this! (slides down the ramp squatting on his tennis shoes)
Cokeless: Whoooo! Sweet! I'll do it!
Coke 2: I love this campus. I'm gonna go here. My dad wants me to go here, too.
Coke 1: Yeah, I'm going here, too. I'm going to engineering.
Coke 2: Where are you going, Justin?
Cokeless: I dunno.
Coke 2: Why not? Where do you wanna go?
Cokeless: I dunno. Nowhere.
Coke 1: What? You have to go somewhere. Otherwise you won't get a job. You'll be poor.
Cokeless: No I won't! You will. College is expensive. I'm gonna work and I'll make money before you guys even.
Coke 1: Yeah, five bucks an hour!

Cokeless doesn't reply. Instead he kicks one of the other's Coke cans clear across the lawn.

Sep 10, 2007

Secret Weapons

. Sep 10, 2007
18 Whispers

I am at my salon for a color and trim. After my wash, I wait for my stylist to finish another client. Next to me sits an older lady getting her roots done. Foils cover her crown. She is white with blond hair on the shorter side. She wears pink lipstick and nail polish. A rather imposing diamond gleams on her left ring finger. A large Coach purse rests on the counter. She chats with her stylist, who continues painting her roots:

Client: Well, that Pavarotti's dead. Did you see that, honey?
Stylist: Who? Uh uh.
Client: Pavarotti, you know, the opera singer.
Stylist: Oh. Was he old?
Client: No he was not. Barely 70. But he had a young gal he left his wife for. Married 30 years and then poof! Off with a young one.
Stylist: No way! Was he handsome?
Client: No he was not. I'll tell you what, honey, a girl's gotta keep things up. Gotta keep our stuff in working order.
Stylist: Hahaha!
Client: I'm serious. These gals lettin' themselves go, carrying these giant butts around, no make-up, plain hair. Whoooo. You're playin' with fire right there.
Stylist: Well,
Client: Trust me, honey. I been married 54 years and ornery as my husband is, he's a happy little boy when a tight young waitress comes around. We're swimmin' with the sharks, honey. You get yourself a secret weapon.

Under the edge of a foil, she winks at her stylist in the mirror.

Sep 3, 2007


. Sep 3, 2007
11 Whispers

I'm at the beach today (again) and it's Labor Day crowded. I'm gazing at the waves when a family bustles by, spraying sand. They settle in front of me and unpack. The couple is white and 40-something. There are two young blond girls, a blond teenaged boy and two black boys, one toddler and one perhaps five or six. These two boys stand back while the girls raid the sand toys, grabbing pales and shovels. The teen tucks a boogie board under his arm and jogs to the sea.

After shouting warnings not to drift to the teen, the Dad kneels beside the older boy, puts his hand on his head and whispers something in his ear. The boy nods his head, takes his hand and the two start toward the water. The toddler screams and wails something incomprehensible. The older boy goes to him and tries to pull him toward the water, too. He cries louder and digs his heels into the sand. The Mother kneels down beside the two and takes both their hands in hers:

Mom: He's afraid, honey. He's just afraid. You go ahead and then you come right back and you let him touch you. Let him touch your wet hands and see that you're okay.

The older boy doesn't say a word. He pats the younger one on his chest and goes off with the father. Sure enough, he comes running back, breathless, laughing, dripping arms outstretched to his brother. All is calm once more. Still, the toddler stays on the sand with the mother.

Hours later, I'm packing up to go. I take in one more look at the sea, now choppy with frothy waves. I notice that this family sits all together on the sand now. The parents and older children encircle the two young black boys; the younger sits in the older's lap. The others have joined hands around them and sit with bowed heads. I hear murmuring, but I cannot understand. Even if I'd heard, I wouldn't post it.

Sep 1, 2007

Purple Eyeshadow

. Sep 1, 2007
4 Whispers

I am at Walgreen's browsing in cosmetics. Flip flops smacking precede two tween girls who rush the aisle, sharing one shopping basket. Both wear shorts and tank tops, one has painted toe nails - bright blue. The other wears a thin pink headband in blond hair. They are animated and chatter busily while fingering different products:

Pink Band: Eeeee! I'm so excited! Make-up changes everything.
Blue Toes: I know! I know! What are you getting for sure?
Pink Band: I get to get one eyeshadow, one lip gloss and one blush.
Blue Toes: But you have to get mascara! That's the best thing. It makes your eyes sexy.
Pink Band: Nope. My mom said no mascara and no blue or purple eye shadow. Only pink or tan.
Blue Toes: Why? What's wrong with purple or blue?
Pink Band: Because only certain girls wear those.
Blue Toes: Huh? What girls?
Pink band: The teenager moms.
Blue Toes: That's not true. Britney Spears wears purple eyeshadow and she's 25.
Pink band: Um...

Both girls move down the aisle, from one brand to another. Pink Band drifts off to the hair accessories. Blue Toes stops at a mirror on the counter. She turns sideways before it and twists her head to look.

Aug 29, 2007

True Love

. Aug 29, 2007
11 Whispers

I hear two male voices laughing at the Xerox machine just outside my office today, a wonderful configuration for listening. People talk louder when it's copying and it's easy to hear. I don't recognize either voice. One is wheezing more than laughing. They are joined by a third male:

Voice 3: What's the joke? Huh? Give it up.
Wheeze: Oh...frick man! sick bastard!
Voice 2: Beautiful! It was beautiful execution. I ripped one in the elevator with my rook. I told him inhale it and love it!
Wheeze: Ahhhh! (wheeeze) and then this gal gets in on the second floor and she looks around and you can just see...
Voice 2: Yeah, it was beautiful timing! I rolled my eyes at her and looked at my rook. She looks at him and he is just staring straight ahead, man. He is dy-ing!
Wheeze: Oh yeah, the best 'vator sting yet. You sick bast!
Voice 3: You think that's great? I'll tell you what. My girlfriend loves to crack one off! Ha! Can you believe it? She thinks it's funny! Ain't no other, man. I got the last one. That's true love, a girl like that.

The Xerox stops. A few coughs and sputtered laughs, then they are gone. Nothing remains, but I take my Fabreeze air freshener and spray it anyway.

Aug 26, 2007


. Aug 26, 2007
17 Whispers

I'm at the beach today. It's humid and crowded, but still relaxing. I close my eyes and listen to the waves breaking. Inside my day dreaming, I hear an odd rustling sound and then, "Oh gross" from a girl to my right.

There are three teen girlfriends sunning together. They are white, two blond and one red head. All three are thin and clad in string bikinis. One reads, "Us" magazine, the other lays on her stomach and the third, who spoke, is sitting up looking to the left.

I look where she's looking. There is a Hispanic lady foraging through a trash can on the sand. She is wearing sweatpants, a dark blue long-sleeved shirt and flip flops. A faded red cap covers her head and a long black braid hangs down her back. Her face is tanned and creased like leather. She drags two white garbage bags stuffed with cans alongside her:

Blond 1: How nasty! That's disgusting. Digging through trash?
Red: Oh I know! And what do they get, like 2 cents a can?
Blond 1: So dumb. I mean, get a job!
Blond 2: You guys! She's poor.
Red: She's lazy. You can get a job if you want one. You can go be a maid if you want.
Blond 1: Yeah, yeah.
Blond 2: You can't if you're illegal. You can't.
Red: Okay fine. Here, watch. "Hey! Can Lady! Hey!"

The red head takes her half empty plastic Coke bottle and hurls it toward the woman, who looks up and shields herself. The Coke spatters out as the bottle arcs in the air. She picks the bottle up and empties what remains in the trash can.

"Thank you," she says.

Aug 23, 2007

A Quarter Right

. Aug 23, 2007
9 Whispers

I am in my doctor's waiting room early this morning. I take a seat and look around. No one is talking much. I do notice an older couple canoodling a bit in seats across from me, near the office door. They are black, perhaps mid-70s. The man is bald, wears a white linen shirt, white slacks and brown sunglasses. The woman has peppery short hair and wears a denim shirt with beach balls on it over red capris.

The man rests his hand on her knee, gently moving his thumb back and forth on the fabric. Her arm is linked through his. I am caught staring. She looks over her red-rimmed glasses and smiles at me. It's a real one, not a tight, quick purse. I return the smile and look away, embarrassed.

The nurse calls a name. This couple rises. The woman steps forward and the man, who has placed his hand on her shoulder, sweeps a white cane before his first step. As they reach the office door, the woman says, "Quarter right" loudly but not annoyed. He turns toward her just enough so both pass through the doorway together seamlessly. She glances back and smiles again at me.

She is proud of him, I can see it. I am certain he feels it.

Aug 21, 2007

So Many Beers, So Little Money

. Aug 21, 2007
11 Whispers

I am at the end of the cheese aisle, fingering aged cheddars. I hear conspiratorial talk in the next aisle, the refrigerated alcohol section. The voices are young males. Bottles clink. I drop my cheddar and roll around the corner, busy myself going through my coupon envelop.
The boys look newly 21. They are white, clean cut, dressed in jeans. One holds a jumbo bag of Tostitos tortilla chips, another a tub of guacamole and the third a big frozen pizza. With free hands, they browse the bottled beers:

Pizza: We've gotta get Corona. It's the beer you're supposed to have with chips and guac.
Chips: No way man. Corona's boring. And it's Mexican. We should get a German beer. Germans make the best beer.
Pizza: How do you know? You're not German.
Chips: Haven't you ever heard of Oktoberfest, you moron?
Guac: Oh yeah man! We're getting this one. Look - its got a skull on it! Ha ha! Whoooo!
Pizza: That's dumb. You don't buy a beer for the logo.
Guac: Oh like you've bought so much beer.
Pizza: Look, we only have $10 after food. We're definitely getting this one. It's two for $4.00 and look how big it is. It's 40 ounces!
Chips: Hey we can get four for $8.00, that's one extra!

All three smile in agreement. Two each take a 40 and the other balances two on the pizza box.

Aug 17, 2007

Vitamin Water

. Aug 17, 2007
7 Whispers

I am buying pork buns in Famima Super Convenience Mart tonight. A young white couple walks down the aisle, holding hands. Both wear all black; the boy is tall and lanky with black hair, bangs hanging over his eyes and sideburns down past his ears. The girl is pale, lips blackened, heavy dark eyeliner, black hair with purple streaks and a small peace sign tattooed on her forehead. They approach the refrigerated beverages and each take a can of "Rockstar" energy drink.

Girl: Ha, vitamin water. My mom wouldn't let me drink those.
Boy: She's a stupid bitch. Frickin' nag. Don't matter what she thinks now, right? Take one. Take two.
Girl: Geez, relax.
Boy: What?
Girl: No, I'm just saying.
Boy: Relax? Why didn't you tell her to relax?
Girl: Come on. She just said there's tons of sugar and -
Boy: Whatever.
Girl: Come on. Come on, baby.

The girl extends her hand. The boy doesn't take it.

Aug 14, 2007

Snake Eyes

. Aug 14, 2007
7 Whispers

I spent last weekend in Vegas, an eavesdropping mecca. While enjoying one of many craps games, this:

A man walks up to the hook spot on my right. He is maybe 70, gray-haired, clean-shaven and smiling through jaws clenching a big cigar. He wears khaki shorts, a short sleeve button down that says, "Bullhead" on the pocket, athletic socks pulled half way up his calves and bright white tennis shoes. A gold medallion shaped like Texas hangs from his neck, in a tuft of gray chest hair.

There is a girl on his left and a girl on his right. They are both exceptionally well-endowed. Not by mother nature, I'm fairly certain. Each hold a beer. Both are blond with very white teeth and glossed lips. One has bright pink nails and a most obvious nipple ring, the other a french manicure. The man lays down a stack of bills. The dealer counts out $5,000, pushes out a pile of black chips and a handful of purple:

Dealer: How are you doing, Wade?
Wade: Real fine, real fine!
Pink: Ha ha ha!
Wade: These are my new friends! Ain't they a hoot?
Dealer: (Smiles)
Pink: C'mon baby! Get hot! Ha ha ha! You're so cute!
French: Yeah! Get super smoking hot, Wade!
Wade: You bet! What numbers do you girls want?
Pink: I want those hard ones. Ha ha ha!
French: I want ALL the numbers Wade! I can't choose. Ha ha!
Wade: You heard 'em boys! Four hundred hard for her and all across for this one.
Pink: Ooooh and the snake eyes, too! A purple one! We love you, Wade!

The shooter rolls the dice, wild-eyed. Seven out. The stick men stack the chips away. Best I can tell, about $1500 is Wade's. Wade laughs. The gals don't.

Aug 8, 2007


. Aug 8, 2007
24 Whispers

This morning I eavesdropped on a moment that has stayed with me all day. It didn't even involve any words. I am at the Chevron station filling up my mid-sized SUV, watching the dollar amount go up, up, upwards of $50. A young woman exits the gas station's convenience mart. She is white, thin, with straight light brown hair in a pony tail. She wears a faded blue t-shirt with a rainbow decal, jean shorts and black flip flops that look too big. She looks straight ahead, very focused.

She puts the nozzle in the car behind me, a burgundy Ford AstroVan with lots of battle scars and no hub caps. While the pump dispenses, she retrieves a big bag of trash from inside the car and empties it into the station's receptacle. Click. The nozzle taps off. She struggles with removing it for a minute and wipes her cheek. She is crying.

She removes what seems like 50 paper towels from the dispenser, puts them in the van, closes the door and sighs. She wipes tears from both cheeks and heads back to the cashier. She comes out and goes around to the restroom, disappearing inside.

I glance in the trash can, there are chip bags, diet coke cans, papers and some used diapers. I look at her pump gauge. It reads $6.00.

Aug 6, 2007

Hello? Goodbye.

. Aug 6, 2007
10 Whispers

I am sitting close to an older lady at the pool today, maybe mid-50s, Caucasian. She is very tan, with an orange tint. In fact, she's head to toe hues of orange. Her hair is yellow-bronze-orange-red, curly and shoulder length. She wears red lipstick and nail polish on toes and fingers. She has a water bottle with a straw but I don't think it contains water. She wears a pink tankini with a belly chain. The whole look just cannot be denied. About an hour into my stay her cell rings, the ring tone is "Brick House".

"Ah, yes. Hi Jerry."
"Not a lot. Enjoying the sun. You?"
"Really? Hmmm. Well, that's exciting."
"Hahaha. You're kidding. Isn't that a kick?"
"Pardon? Oh, no, no I really can't. I've got to be in early tomorrow."
"No, really. I'm sorry. You call me next time, alright Jer?"
"Okay now, well I've got to take a dip. It's hot today. Bye bye now."

The cell clicks shut. She sighs, rubs her face, shakes her hair out.

"I've got to change my number", she says to no one in particular.

Aug 5, 2007


. Aug 5, 2007
0 Whispers

I have a couple in my imagination inspired by Glen Campbell's song "Gentle on my Mind". I try to tell the woman to move on and she simply smiles at me. Drifters can be such alluring characters.

It's knowin' that your door is always open
And your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleepin' bag
Rolled up and stashed behind your couch
And it's knowin' I'm not shackled
By forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind

Aug 2, 2007

Body Spray

. Aug 2, 2007
15 Whispers

Two male officers are talking just outside my office, near the Xerox. I can't see them and I don't recognize their voices. One voice is deeper than average and peppers speech with 'you know what I'm sayin?". The other has some nervous laughter and sounds like he might surf on the weekends:

Deep: Hey, I got some of that Axe shit and my lady is loving it. It's almost like their commercials, man!
Surf: What's that? Axe?
Deep: You serious? Axe, the body spray. Bow chica wow wow, you know what I'm sayin?
Surf: Are you kidding me, dude? You use body spray? Like a chick?
Deep: Hell no. This is a man's body spray. Like I said, my girl sniffs IT UP! She loves it, man. You should try it.
Surf: Uhuh. No way. If I start wearing body spray my girlfriend's gonna think I'm going out on her. All I need is for her to start calling here when I'm working O.T. That would seriously cramp my game.
Deep: Hmm.

Jul 28, 2007

Too Fabulous

. Jul 28, 2007
4 Whispers

Okay, I admit it. I went to see Lindsay Lohan's new movie tonight, "I Know Who Killed Me". I'll spare my commentary and get down to what I heard. Two older teen girls sit down in front of us. Both are blond, long-haired and tight-jeaned. One is wearing big sunglasses in the theater. Both have big leather bags and one wears a black "Bebe" rhinestoned tank top of sorts.

Blond 1: This is gonna be so cool. I just know she's gonna be so good in it.
Blond 2: Oh I know. I'm so sick of all the bullshit they're saying about her in the news. So she has some drinks, who cares? She's frickin 21 years old. Ass bags! (?).
B1: (Laughs) Exactly! Everyone's just yanking her because she's too fabulous. She's so hot and such a good actress. They're just jealous.
B2: Yeah. It's not like she's a criminal or anything. Good thing "Entertainment Tonight's" not watching my every move! Can you imagine? "More under aged drinking tonight at the Wilson home. Mrs. Wilson arrested for buying the booze!"

She looks back, realizing others can hear. I'm looking straight at her. My cover's blown. The previews start, fade to black.

Jul 27, 2007


. Jul 27, 2007
4 Whispers

I am so very pleased to announce my very first blogging award, "The Power of Schmooze", bestowed upon me by Lisa of LifePrints, a very inspiring and positive blog. If you'd like to be uplifted by some well-written posts and interact with a friendly blogger, visit Lisa's site! The "Schmooze" badge is a community involvement award given to bloggers who make an effort to get to know others in the blogosphere. I do enjoy meeting fellow bloggers!

I now may select five other bloggers who schmooze well. I'm still quite new, but I have met some very nice folks who have already made me feel welcome with encouragement or good advice. I hope they won't mind my links here:

Nakalas of Odlum Online, a fantastic web design blog. Nakalas was the first to join my neighborhood over at Blogcatalog and leave a great comment. He has already won the Schmooze award this week from another blogger, but I think he deserves double the schmooze since he contributes thoughtful insights to many.

BNSullivan of Aircrew Buzz, a very informative blog of industry news created for crew members but quite relevant to travelers of all trades. B. N. was the second to join my 'hood and often comments on my discussions over at BC.

Stoneman of History Survey Links, an extensive resource for European history links. Stoneman is very active on the discussion boards and I really admire how he speaks his mind in a respectful manner. He's great at stimulating critical thinking on the boards.

Cat of UltraJam, a combo news commentary/personal journal blog with a very unique, and quite funny, voice. Cat is a crime analyst and often posts about crooks. She has been very supportive of my blog and I know we'd be fast friends outside the 'virtual' world!

Boba of Blackholes & Astrostuff, a fascinating astronomy blog with wonderful photos and posts written in plain English. Boba obviously knows a lot about astronomy and I like how he shares his passion with the rest of us. He also participates frequently in BC discussions and left an encouraging comment on my blog.

Thanks to all for interacting with me. You're all gifted and amicable bloggers!

Jul 24, 2007


. Jul 24, 2007
1 Whispers

I've had a character in my mind born out of this Yaz song for about 20 years now. I hear such desperation and regret in these lyrics, send shivers down my spine. I should just bring her to life, already.

And now it's midnight
it’s raining outside
And I’m soaking wet,
still looking for that man of mine
And I ain’t found him yet
Well all of this rain can wash away my tears
But nothing can replace all of those wasted years
In all of this I tell you I have learnt
Playing with fire gets you burnt
And I’m still burning

Jul 22, 2007

Pants Bandit

. Jul 22, 2007
0 Whispers

I am visiting my parents at their senior living community in Orange County, California. It's a nice, gated complex with live security and lots of conveniences on site. It's also a treasure trove of ideas. There are characters around every corner.

This is not an overheard conversation, but it's too tempting too ignore! I am gathering my Mom's clothes from the laundry room and a man walks in with a spring in his step. He is mid-60s, tan with wavy salt and pepper hair. He wears jean shorts, a green Hawaiian shirt and brown Van's without socks. He has hair on his arms but none on his legs. He smiles at me:

Smooth Legs: Ah, helping out huh?
Me: Yes, my parents don't want to cram machines into their utility closet. But it would be so much easier than this.
Smooth: Yeah, well, I agree with them. Why buy machines when you've got 10 right here? This works out fine. (As he opens a dryer...) Well son of a bitch! Son of a BITCH!
Me: What's the matter?
Smooth: Someone stole my jeans! Son of a bitch! I just bought these jeans. They're Levi's!
Me: You're kidding? What about your other clothes?
Smooth: No, that's all I washed, the jeans. I just wanted to soften them up some. And they're gone!
Me: Are you sure that's the right dryer? (He looks at me, incredulous)
Smooth: Yes I am sure. Look, it's still warm. Look at! Here's my fabric sheet! I'm gonna find that son of a bitch.

Clutching his fabric softener sheet, he pivots left and walks briskly out of sight.

Dingleberry Shame

0 Whispers

I am at the pet store buying supplies for my roommates, my black cat and blue fish. There is a young woman at the grooming counter. She has her cat in a small pink plastic carrier. She waits for the attendant to finish a phone call. When she does, the girl speaks in a hushed tone and I strain to hear.

Groomer: Hi, can I help you?
Hush: Uh, yeah. Well, my cat, she needs a grooming.
Groomer: Okay. Let's see. Is she long-haired? What do you want done?
Hush: Well, she needs some stuff cleaned off. And she won't let me do it.
Groomer: What do you mean? What stuff?
Hush: Ahhh! This is embarrassing. They're, you know, by her butt. Dingleberries. You know?
Groomer: Berries? No -
Hush: No! Not like real berries. You know, dingleberries. POOP. Stuck there in the hair.
Groomer: Oh! Okay! I've never heard of that name. Okay. No problem. Let's have a look.

The cat owner is simply flushed red with embarrassment. I have to laugh and I do. I tell her I battle with dingleberries, too. I wonder how long she practiced that explanation. Modesty's interpretation sure is different for everyone.

Jul 20, 2007


. Jul 20, 2007
2 Whispers

I am at the pool today, with my giant sunglasses and "Who's your daddy?" visor. That can be a conversation starter, which I was up for today. But no one wanted to talk to me. I put my ear buds in and turn up the iPod. About an hour later, I turn it off.

Two girls claim chairs one down from mine. They are early 20s, white, talking loudly. A little buzzed, both hold cans of the Silver Bullet. One is very toned, tanned and quite striking with impressive boobs. She wears an emerald green string bikini, a belly ring with dangly charms and red fingernails. The other is heavier, paler, with burgundy and black hair in a short ponytail. She wears board shorts, a tank top and sports half sleeve tattoos on both arms. A Bettie Page portrait smiles on her shoulder:

Beauty: I am so glad we came out here. I just need to relax.
Bettie: Exactly. You're too stressed. You need to unpucker your asshole (wild laughter)!
Beauty: I might take Monday off, too. I told Mitchell I'm run down.
Bettie: That's good. You should. What did he say?
Beauty: Nothing. He just nodded. Then he asked me about ETCs (?) for Newport.
Bettie: What a jerk. What a jerk! You only work what, 60 hours a week? Fucker.
Beauty: Relax! I'll deal with it. Tuesday (more wild laughter)!
Bettie: Are you going to Mike's tonight?
Beauty: I guess. He says he misses me. He's just horny. What are you doing?
Bettie: I'd rather stay home and make out with you.

Jul 18, 2007

Handsome Kevin

. Jul 18, 2007
3 Whispers

Another song that conjures characters for me, David & David's "Welcome to the Boomtown":

Handsome Kevin got a little off track
Took a year off of college
And he never went back
Now he smokes too much
He's got a permanent hack
Deals dope out of Denny's
Keeps a table in the back
He always listens to the ground
Always listens to the ground

Jul 15, 2007

Sex With Socks

. Jul 15, 2007
13 Whispers

I'm one of those irritating people that sits a bit too close to you at the beach. I only do this to someone with great eavesdropping potential. Today, I sat close to two women with two young girls, one wearing a bikini with bright orange polkadots and a giant straw hat twice the size of her head. She does a runway walk up and down the length of her towel, hand on hip, waving. I just have to hear what she has to say.

The girls are maybe five, white and both brunette. The other wears a "Dora" one piece and sits mesmerized by her friend's performance. The wind blows the model's straw hat off and at once the show is over. The two conspire together and then pick up what look like Bratz type dolls and settle into the sand to my left. I bury my head in my OK! magazine. After some gibber jabber:

Polkadot: Mine is having a baby and her name is gonna be Madison.
Dora: So is mine and she's having two babies and ... (Polkadot interrupts)
Polkadot: No she can't because she hasn't made one yet.
Dora: Yes she has.
Polkadot: No she has not.
Dora: Yeah!
Polkadot: Then say how she made one.
Dora: She just made it.
Polkadot: No that's not how.
Dora: Well how then?
Polkadot: She gets on her tummy on the bed and all her clothes are gone except for socks. Then the boyfriend stands at the end of the bed and unrolls his thing. Then it goes to the girl and tickles her feet. Then she laughs and puts the pillow over her head and when she wakes up there's a baby in her tummy.

Dora is silent.

Jul 12, 2007

Take a Deep Breath: The Hookah Boys

. Jul 12, 2007
0 Whispers

I go to a hookah lounge around the corner sometimes. It's so easy to fade into relaxation and peel back stress on the hookah. It's also one of the absolute best people-watching places. Two male friends and I went directly after work. As we took drags of our mint flavored tobacco, two very young men walked in...

They are quite apprehensive, looking back and forth at each other and the dimly lit lounge. They're early 20s, clean-shaven and white. One is lanky and looks down more than the other, who is a bit round. He leans forward and runs his palms up and down his jeaned thighs. This is clearly the round one's idea. Thankfully, they sit in the alcove next to ours:

Lanky: Dude this is weird.
Round: I know but it's cool!
Lanky: What's cool about it?
Round: It's dark and it's all smelled up in here like fruit - like peach, like smokey peach! It's freakaaaay. It's cool!
Lanky: I'm staying a half hour and then I'm getting on ( of a website?)
Round: Don't be a donk. Don't be a fuckin donkey, man. Girls think this stuff is hot. Eva Longoria likes it. She is smokin' hot man! She is asstastic! I like that word, asstastic.

Jul 10, 2007

Magic Mirror

. Jul 10, 2007
2 Whispers

I'm in a dressing room when two young female voices enter. They chatter back and forth, excited. Hangers clank on metal rods. Girlish laughter. The two crowd into one stall next to me. Zippers unzip, shoes are flung off. A cell phone rings, playing "Party Like a Rockstar" by Shop Boyz. The call's ignored.

Girl 1: I totally need jeans. So bad.
Girl 2: Me too, but I'm only getting shorts today. And my gloss.
Girl 1: Oh my god that makes me think of that song, 'my lip gloss is poppin', my lip gloss is cool!'
Girl 2: My lip gloss is gonna make me pop! Make Ryan pop!
Girl 1: This is soooo cute, but I don't wanna get any tube tops until I get my boobs. I cannot wait until the 28th!
Girl 2: I know. You are so lucky. Your parents are so cool. You're gonna look so hot for senior year!

I have to see these girls. I am long finished but wait in my stall until I hear their curtain slide open. They look just like I did at 17.

A Girl in Trouble

2 Whispers

Songs are great inspirations for creative writing since they are of course, stories set to music. Often, I'm driving along and lyrics on the stereo invoke instant scenarios and snapshots for stories. Every musical era and genre can affect me this way at one time or another.

Romeo Void's "Girl in Trouble":

A girl in trouble is a temporary thing.
There's a time when every girl learns to use her head.
Tears will be saved 'til they're better spent.
There's no time for her to be afraid,
so instead she takes care of business, keeps a cool head.
A girl in trouble is a temporary thing.

Watch music video. (give it a was the 80s!)


0 Whispers

It seems my eavesdropping hobby is not as creepy as my friends think! In "How I Write", author Janet Evanovich, who creates believable and endearing characters, says she eavesdrops for character development (p.5). This is a great little book with keen insights on the writing process from characters to plots to publishing. I highly recommend it.

Don't worry, I'm not using electronic listening devices or slinking under window sills yet. Just putting my two big ears to use and sharpening observation skills. I do carry a tiny voice recorder that I whip out instantly to log details about people I notice. It's amazing how much someone's appearance and mannerisms can suggest things if you're paying close attention.

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