THE BEACH

Last week, I discussed movies, one of my favorite pastimes; this week’s topic is The Beach where I spent some of my most enjoyable summers.

During childhood, after a cold, snowy, New England winter and a slushy spring, the weather would grow deliciously warm.  At June’s end, unburdened from school, we would chant, “No more lessons, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”  Do children still voice that refrain?  I have no idea.

For our family, summer usually meant a lodging at Nantasket, a five-mile expanse of glorious sandy beach located on the Nantasket Peninsula in Hull, Massachusetts.  The ocean bed was so flat, it was possible to walk way out, through a long stretch of shallow water, before finding ourselves over our heads. In between sets of waves, breaking against our small bodies, we could paddle around with little worry of being dragged under water by the tide.  And the waves were perfect–large enough for a joyous ride, but never p0werful enough to slam us to the bottom.

August was different; then the Atlantic brought tricky undertows that demanded respect and caused mother’s to watch carefully.  Even so, the flat ocean bottom made it easier to maintain ones footing and escape to flat ground.

At all times during the season, the tide could carry you sideways a hundred yards or more, and when you emerged from the water, completely bewildered as to your whereabouts, the family blanket often proved difficult to locate–especially on Sundays, when visitors crowded the beach, blanket to blanket.

In the first few days, most of us suffered blistering sunburns, which peeled and morphed into deep tans. Years later those early sunburns frequently developed into worrisome skin problems, but back then, who knew that my freckled skin would produce unwelcome dark spots and potentially dangerous skin conditions.

The routine would be: wake-up, pull on a bathing suit, eat breakfast, walk a block or two to the beach, swim, play gin rummy, swim, learn bridge, knit, rip out knitting mistakes, swim, walk home for lunch.  On the way back to the beach, we would buy an orange Creamsicle from  the ice cream truck, then spend the afternoon repeating the swimming, the knitting, the card-playing. At day’s end, we would stand under an outdoor shower to wash off the sand.

CREAMSICLE

After dinner, we would play more gin or stroll Nantasket Avenue to mingle with the crowds and buy sweets from bakeries that remained open until late in the evening.  I had my first experience with exotic food, when my sister took me to a Chinese restaurant called, Priscilla’s (of all names) to eat a strange combination of Chop Suey dinner along with a delicious hot blueberry pie and ice cream desert, for which Priscilla’s was famous.  I’m not making that up.

Today, January 29, we are blessed with a sunny, 77-degree day, and since I relish the sun in winter more than any other time of the year, I will save the subject of beaches for another blog and steal out to the patio.  My Dermatologist warns against spending too much time in the sun, so, these days, I indulge myself for only fifteen minutes.  How sad!

WATCH FOR FUTURE BLOGS ON BEACHES.

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MOVIES

I love movies; I always have. I remember watching the new, in-color musicals, Saturday nights at the local passion pit (drive-in), Sunday movies in a theater full of college compatriots.  I remember standing in line for hours to see “Star Wars.”  I’d never do that now–though I know that young people do all the time.  I’ve heard that some even camp out.

During my childhood, movie theaters were grandiose displays of art deco excess; we referred to the Loews theater as “The Palace.” There was something wonderfully comforting about being ensconced in the dark womb of a theater where you could enter into the lives of others. In fact, the movie, “The Lives of Others,” is one of my favorites.

I now enjoy today’s  super-sized (though more impersonal) movie theaters with their giant screens and fantastic cinematography. In addition to standard movie fare, they offer taped performances of Symphony Orchestras, The Metropolitan Opera, Shakespearean plays, and more.

And when I watch Netflix movies on a big-screen TV with surround sound, I like being able to pause the film for breaks or fast forward through the violent scenes in such movies as the Steig Larson series. I can watch half of a three-hour opera one night and view the rest another time.

Today I’m venturing out to see “War Horse.”  At two hours and thirty-six minutes, it may be an endurance contest.  But I can’t wait for the movie to be available on DVD; it’s essential that I view all  the contenders, so I’ll be in the know for the Academy Awards in late February.

If I return home feeling sore, there’s an ice pack waiting.

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WASTING TIME

It’s scary to think how much time I waste.

In that vein, I made a list of the activities that are major time-wasters in my life.

One of the worst offenders is THE YAHOO PAGE.  There, I am enticed into reading stories and watching videos, I can well live without.  And I find more and more of them each time I click on the page.

Then there are all the useless emails I spend time deleting, but in spite of my efforts, the list grows.  And since I’m a pack rat, by nature, I keep thinking I must hold onto that funny little joke or that appetizing recipe I’ll get around to making someday–even though I don’t cook much anymore. Costco and Trader Joe’s do that for me.  And now that Fresh and Easy and Whole Foods are coming to the neighborhood, I may never have to cook again.

I particularly resent time spent filling out forms to order on-line or send for rebates.  As for the latter, inevitably the rebate form doesn’t go through, and I end up having to call the provider–which in itself is a major time waster since I have to fill out more forms to get them to call me back or chat with me on-line.  We all know that the frustration doesn’t end there.  Usually, the person manning the “help” line speaks English with an unintelligible accent, and we have to muddle through or beg for a supervisor.

My printer constantly jams, and I have to take the time to unjam it.  I live in fear that it  will never unjam–and then what?  It’s too heavy for me to ship or carry back to the store. Again, I sometimes have to call the “help” number to solve the problem.  Also, when the the cartridges run dry, I have to fish out the instructions for loading the new ones–not to mention the time spent ordering or buying replacements.

Currently, my bedroom TV won’t turn on, and in trying to fix the problem, I strained my back and split a fingernail, which is still painful.  If I climb up on a stool  and turn the electrical strip on and off, the TV behaves, but since the malfunction keeps happening, I’m going to have to call an electrician.  I could go on endlessly.

I cheer myself up by remembering that in the old days, women washed diapers by hand, trudged out to the well for water, and chopped wood for the fire–among the myriad back-breaking chores that were necessary to sustain life.

Nevertheless, I resent wasting precious hours that could be spent on READING and WRITING.

On the bright side, these complaints have provided today’s topic for my Blog.

Thanks for listening.

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HOMONYMS

Last week, I tackled the subject of Homophones, and this week it’s Homonyms.   As I’ve said before, words fascinate me.

Unlike Homophones, which I discussed last week, Homonyms sound the same, and they are spelled the same way, but they have different meanings.  Take for instance the word adder, a person who adds; an adder is also a deadly snake.  If you step on your CPA when he or she makes a mistake on your income taxes, you might be sent to jail for battery.  Whereas, if you step on an adder-the-snake, you will surely die. I’ve been told that adder snakes don’t attack.  They just lie there waiting for you to put your foot on them.  So watch out the next time you go to Africa and choose your CPA carefully.

Speaking of battery. A battery is used to provide an electrical charge in all sorts of devices, but as stated in the previous paragraph, it also results in a legal charge as in assault and battery.

More Homonyms:  If you alight from a horse or a pedestal, you are descending; if you are simply alight, you are on fire, and you’d better get help quick.

An arm is a weapon or an upper limb. That one sounds logical.

Bail is an interesting word. It means guarantee or security and when set, an arrested person is released from jail; a boat which is bailed out is emptied of water.  The word bail is commonly used for related reasons.  A person who needs an alibi might ask a friend to bail them out.  And, upon leaving, people say, “I’m bailing.”

Box is another word with several meanings and usages. It means: A case with a lid, A small evergreen shrub, and to fight with fists or gloves.  It would be confusing to say the box (evergreen shrub) arrived in a large box (container), and I had to  box (fight with) the box (container) to get it open and remove the box (evergreen shrub).

Enough of this nonsense; there are hundreds of other Homonyms, and I’m only up to the B’s.  so I’m bailing as well.

Hmm.  I wonder what I can dream up for next week to confuse my readers?

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HOMOPHONES

What better way to start the new year than to tackle the problem of homophones.  No, homophones are not phones for men only and have no relation to the word homophobic. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  As such they trip up writers–well-educated or not–whose brains trick their hands into typing or writing the same-sounding but erroneous words.

The word lead instead of led crept into one of my short stories and eluded an assortment of readers until one sharp-eyed friend caught the dastardly error. I once received an email critiquing me on the subject of punctuation–among other sins.  The writer told me to loose something or other then went on to say that it seamed to her that. . . .

I used the utmost restraint in not pointing out her own errors.

Examples of four way homophones are: wright, right, rite, and write.

Examples of three way homophones include: are, hour, and our.

Two way homophones abound: Nose and knows; made and maid; knot and not; weight and wait; way and weigh, etc. etc.etc.

Sew four those of hue who reed erroneous homophones in my blog, please give me uh brake and do not send me male.

Happy New Year two awl.

Cynthia

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CHRISTMAS BIRTHDAYS OF THE FAMOUS

December 25th–another birthday!

I’m in good company. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Washington Irving were born on December 25th, as was Sir Issac Newton, Clara Barton, Anwar Sadat, Humphrey Bogart, Tony Martin, and Sissy Spacek.

And, believe it or not, Robert Ripley was born on Xmas.  (Forgive me, I couldn’t resist).

So far I’ve had two celebrations–both held on the kind of bright and warm Southern California day that we savor in December.  The first was breakfast at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott with friends who have been sharing birthdays for at least the last fifteen years.  Of course, we are much changed; we now color our hair, except for one woman, who has fashionable grey streaks in her dark brown hair that looks terrific. We enjoyed the glorious ocean view, laughed and had as much fun as ever; the alterations in our respective physiques and complexions notwithstanding.

I had my  second celebration at a french restaurant in the Marina with friends who docented together at The Laguna Art Museum.  My swimming pool-sized bowl of mushroom soup filled me up so much, I barely touched the sand dabs, which I took home and enjoyed for a delicious dinner, but I made room for several bites of tangy lemon tart.

I calculate that I still have four or five more celebrations to go–two with friends who also share late December birthdays and are happy to have an excuse for a lovely lunch.  At this rate, I’ll have to look into the new 02 anti-oxidant based diet.

Today is another gorgeous 77- degree day.  I’d better finish up and step outside to soak up the sunshine.

Happy Holidays to all.

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Garrison Keilor’s Writer’s Almanac

I look forward to  email’s from Garrison Keilor’s Writer’s Almanac. In addition to a daily  poem, the site includes tidbits of information on the birthdays of famous writers and poets along with remembrances of happenings on that particular day.

On December 16th I enjoyed reading about the birthday of Sir Noel Coward, born in 1899.  He not only wrote 50 plays, but was an actor, director, singer, and composer. He also wrote two volumes of memoirs.   The Almanac’s short bios generally include information that piques my interest or makes me laugh. In the case of Sir Noel Coward, I chuckled at his saying, “I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.”

December 16 is also Jane Austen’s birthday, and I’m sad to learn that knowledge of her personal life is incomplete since her sister, Cassandra, burned or heavily edited much of Austen’s correspondence after the author’s death at the age of 41.

Oh deed most foal!

I was startled to learn that the great Mark Twain did not speak kindly of Jane Austen.  He is quoted as saying, “I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Out of curiosity, I searched the web for more on the subject and came across a web site for the book, Jane Austen For Dummies, by Joan Elizabeth Klingel Ray, PhD.  Who knew of such a tome?

In the book, the author  takes issue with Twain’s quote, saying,”Every time he reads, Pride and Prejudice? What’s wrong with this picture?  If Twain hates the book so much, why does he keep reading it?

She goes on to surmise that Twain actually liked Austen and only made nasty jokes to annoy his novelist friend, William Dean Howells, who praised Austen frequently and enthusiastically.

I will add these fascinating insights to my already cluttered brain and  eagerly await  the Writer’s Almanac for December 25th to learn which famous literary artists share my birthday.

Until then . . . .

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Birthdays

Birthdays have been problematical for me–even when I was younger.  When people check my ID and note my birthday, they always light up and either  say,”Oh, “A Christmas birthday, how wonderful!  Or they say, “Oh, a Christmas birthday–you poor thing; you must get cheated out of presents.”

The latter usually proceed to tell me their own sad story, or they mention family members with December birthdays–and even anniversaries–who miss out during Yuletide.

In growing up, because my school mates were on vacation that day, I only had one  birthday party, held two weeks before. On the plus side: the nuns at St. Vincent’s hospital  were ecstatic when my mother gave birth to me on Christmas, and though people are busy this time of year, friends tend to remember my birthday.

After I married, my family traditionally gave me at least one important birthday gift along with several others and feted me at a lovely restaurant.  For the past few years, I have been luckily enough to  enjoy many celebrations.  So far, I have five or six already lined up.  These celebrations help me overlook the problems that come with each additional birthday: more wrinkles, shrinking height, extra pounds, and more aches and pains.

But I  love my new writing career,  and by January, four short stories will have been published during this past year.

So it’s all good.

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GRAMMAR AND LANGUAGE THAT MAKE ME CRINGE

Frank McGowan and I have been exchanging emails that bemoan the poor use of grammar, and recently he wrote: “One thing that’s been bugging me is the apparent disappearance of the indefinite article ‘an’ before nouns starting with vowels.  Somehow it’s now showing up everywhere, even in print. Today’s Boston Globe had the phrase ‘a ex-player….’  Needless to say, I intend to bring it to their attention.”

I heartily concur with Frank, and I told him to give the newspaper hell.

Frank also wrote: “Two phrases that set my teeth on edge are the least amount and the  most amount.”  Of course, the correct wording is the lowest amount and the highest amount, but I bet most people don’t know that.

I’m particularly bugged by the improper use of pronouns and subjects.  We are surrounded by those who use I instead of me and he instead of him, after a preposition.  Example:  He gave it to I.  That really hurts–especially when the miscreant is a Politician or a Newscaster, who graduated from a prestigious institution of higher learning.

Regarding subject misuse: how many times have you heard someone say, “Me and Him went to the store.”  That is just plain wrong on two counts.  The sentence should use the proper subjective personal pronouns, He and I and politely put the other person first, as in “He and I went to the store.”

Another pet peeve of mine is saying he or she don’t instead of doesn’t–unless, of course, we are enjoying vernacular speech, such as in the song, Old Man River.  “He don’t plant taters, he don’t plant cotton.”

However, many educated speakers do deliberately use the words ain’t and gonna–as in,”I ain’t gonna do it, no way no how.”

Publications or ads now tend to omit verbs. I.E. To report a robbery 911.  What happened to call, or dial 911?  Will the omission save money or time, or is it just plain laziness?

Here’s a funny train announcement.  “All doors will not open.”  Does this mean a person is stuck on the train forever like poor Charlie on the MTA ?  Using, “Not all doors will open.” is far more reassuring.

Reporters have been known to say, “The worst city hit by the storm.”  Think of the insult to the city.  First it’s hit by a terrible storm, then it’s called, “The Worst city. To avoid hard feelings, the reporter should have written, “The city worst hit by the storm.”

Enough for now,

Cynthia

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An Eventful Month

My stomach is still full from Thanksgiving food, but my mind is empty–except for dwelling on the the events of November, which still has five days to go.

My car was totaled in my recent accident, which happened just two days after I spent over a thousand dollars on engine repairs. That hurt! So in dealing with the at-fault-party’s insurance, I scrambled around to collect and fax them my considerable repair bills of year ’11. For those I was credited with a paltry $500 plus bucks.

Then, after said insurance company gave me their best (?) offer, they told me I had to return my rental car within three days. So there I was on Black Friday buying a car. The good news is that Black Friday is supposed to be the best time of the year to buy a car, and I did beat out the Kelly Blue Book favorable price by $250.

I like my new car, and I’m sure I will love it as soon as I figure out how to use the various accessories. In the mean time, I’m driving it like an LOL in fear of hitting or being hit again.

Another piece of good news: On December 22nd, my story, Ethiopian Heartache will be published in the Winter Solstice issue of Mused-TheBellaOnlineLiteraryReview.

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