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Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series
Christmas season is in full swing now and that means … Christmas movies!
Tell me what movies make the season for you. Be they religious, funny, heart-warming – or “Die Hard” – please share your list with me. And I would appreciate a quick comment about why you like it.
Warning: What you say just might end up in a blog post very soon. And might I encourage you to think of something that might not be on everyone else’s list?
Either leave a comment to this post or message me through social media.
Thanks and Merry Christmas.
Still thankful this morning following a great couple of days with the family at Disney World and with two more days remaining.
I’m also thankful I’m not caught up in Black Friday traffic (which sounds strange considering the crowds we’re dealing with) and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to join in.
So, from now until the time I crawl out of bed next Thursday, Dec. 1, I’m offering all five of my books on sale. These are paperbacks and each will be inscribed (To So-and-So) and signed by the author, me.
I’m pricing them at $6 each with a shipping charge of $4, regardless how many books you order (to be shipped to the same address, of course).
To simplify: 1 book for $10, 2 books for $16, 3 books for $22, etc.
To order, email me at email@example.com or private message me through social media. We’ll then work out which books made out to whom and how to handle the money.
Like I said, this was spur-of-the-moment.
Oh, and you can review all of the books on this page.
My earliest memories of my father are of a firefighter.
Any lucky young boy can take a lot of pride in his dad, but exceedingly fortunate is the lad whose father is a hero not only to him but to the community as well.
I’m not speaking of any particular act of heroism but the status we assign those who make it their job to protect others. I loved it when he came to my elementary school during Fire Prevention Week.
My dad, Alva Martaindale, had a special role when he first became a firefighter. He was one of only two paid members of the otherwise volunteer department. Except for one day off every other week, he literally spent half of his time at the station, eating half of his meals there and sleeping there half of the nights.
This was in the community of Greggton, which at the time was on the border of Longview, Texas. Before I entered first grade at Pine Tree Schools in Greggton, it had been incorporated as a part of Longview and Daddy became a member of the Longview Fire Department. They still worked shifts of 24 hours on duty, 24 hours off.
The station was then where Longview’s Station 5 remains today, on Niblick Street at the corner of Pine Tree Road. It has drive-through bays for the fire trucks and that was key then.
Calls were dispatched by Central Station in Longview, via telephone. They also sounded the fire siren affixed atop a water tower (as I remember) that used to stand across Supply Street from the station.
Whoever was at the station would write the address of the alarm on a chalkboard in the truck bay and then drive the appropriate fire truck to the scene. Volunteers responding to the siren’s call would drive through the station, note the address from the board and proceed to the fire.
Most of my memories, to be honest, came after Longview took over in the late 1950s as I was quite young at the time. In those years (my dad spent 10 years working there), a full crew was four men – always men back in those days – two for each truck. Several years later, the standard became three firefighters to a truck.
We would visit often and I loved doing so. My mother always parked in the back of the station, on Aztec Alley, usually in the large parking lot across the street that served several businesses facing Marshall Avenue. There was also a front door to the station, facing Niblick, but we never entered that way.
Getting in the back way meant entering through the garage and into an office area that held a desk and the telephone. Past that was the dining table and kitchen. To the front of the station was a recreation room with a television and ping pong table. Maybe there was a pool table, too. Through the kitchen and in the far front corner was the sleeping area.
On the opposite end of the building, the east end, was a section that’s no longer there. It was a tower that was – I’m entirely guessing now and you know how perspectives change from youth to adulthood – about three stories tall. It was in there they would hang hoses to dry.
When not on a call, firefighters had chores to keep up with to maintain their equipment. Then there were cleaning duties around the station, including mowing the lawn. Of course, there was always plenty of time for them to harass one another. My dad formed some great friendships at the fire department.
It was a requirement back then that firefighters live within the city limits. Maybe it was within a short distance of the city. The reason, of course, was so they could more easily respond to assist fighting a fire even when they were off-duty. One such alarm I remember clearly.
For some reason, in June 1965, Daddy took just me out to dinner at a café that I recall was on Marshall Avenue in Greggton. I remember it having a glass front and we sat at the counter … but I cannot pin down in my mind the exact location or name.
Of course, before we left home, he told Mother where we were going and she probably had the phone number available. Sure enough, before our food was delivered, she called. The Mobberly Hotel near downtown Longview was engulfed in fire and they were calling in all hands. He left me at the restaurant for my mother to pick up and he raced to the station to help take a truck downtown. Even though I was a self-centered 10-year-old, it didn’t bother me one bit to be stood up because I knew that was what firefighters had to do. To tell you the truth, there was some pride in the fact that he was important enough that they needed him.
The Mobberly Hotel fire might have been the one to come closest to endangering my father.
He was climbing a ladder on the side of the multi-story building when part of the wall or roof above him collapsed, showering him with bricks. Of course, he was wearing his full bunker gear, including helmet, heavy coat, boots and gloves. He may have been sore the next day but suffered no injuries.
He had been promoted to lieutenant a few years before he left, but he balked when they wanted to make him a captain. He told me he only wanted to fight fires, not oversee other people. The pressure for him to accept the promotion was enough that he just quit.
Leaving his job with the city also gave him to freedom to move a little way out into the county where he could do a bit of farming, something else that brought him great joy. He owned a grocery store in Greggton for many years and did a few other things.
However, in his retirement years, if he was asked what he used to do, he answered that he had been a firefighter.
(The journalist in me requires I inform readers that almost all this article comes out of memories going back 50 years and longer, recollections from my childhood. Additionally, some of it is derived from my father’s stories. I believe it’s all accurate, but I cannot verify it to the extent I desire.)
Happy Go the Extra Mile Day!
Yes, yet another “Special Day” designed by some organization to promote some product or idea. However, this is neater than, say, National Sandwich Day, which comes up Thursday.
Don’t worry if you’ve not heard of it. Extra Mile America, which appears to be the founding organization, is only seven years old, but it’s making inroads itself – going the extra mile, if you will.
For example, 557 American cities – from North Pole, Alaska, to Safety Harbor, Florida – have issued proclamations declaring Nov. 1 as Go the Extra Mile Day.
We all understand going the extra mile. Even in Jesus’ day, the idea was used. During the Sermon on the Mount, while encouraging a new approach to retaliation, he said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” (Matthew 5:38-41, New Revised Standard Version)
Extra Mile America applies a broader look at the thought of an extra mile, as is revealed in its mission statement: “To empower people to go the extra mile in life … to create positive change in themselves, their families, their organizations, their communities and their world.”
See that? The suggestion is it’s even good to go the extra mile for yourself. And don’t worry. It’s not going against Scripture to take care of yourself, too. Only when you are in good shape can you do as much as possible to help others.
According to Shawn Anderson, the organization’s founder:
“Change is not something that just happens. It’s not something to just talk about. It’s something to create. If we want more out of life, change starts with the person in the mirror and a willingness to ‘go the extra mile.’”
So, today (as other days), be willing to do that little something extra that will improve you and your life, but also look around for what you can do to help others. Finally, this is a great day to pat other people on the back for the good work they do. Who knows but that they need encouragement today and you can help them continue their good work.
I’ve been told I should be on Instagram and, finally, I looked into it a few days ago.
I looked deeply into it because I just couldn’t believe you cannot run an Instagram account from a computer. Well, actually, you can do most things … except post photos!
People have been asking what Leah and I have planned next and now, a year in the making, we’re set to travel to Thailand.
In January, we’ll spend 16 days in Ao Nang on the coast of the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand, some 400 miles south of Bangkok and less than 200 miles north of Malaysia.
Some 350 hours from this posting, people across the United States will complete the process of casting ballots in thousands of different political races. Thousands … but there’s only one we’ve all been talking about and focusing on.
It is important who we choose as president, but probably not quite as crucial as we seem to want it to be.
It’s not like me to plan in advance what to post on this page, but, for some reason, I noticed tomorrow, Oct. 19, is Evaluate Your Life Day.
Whoa! Evaluate your life? That’s a bit more intense than today’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day. It might require a head start to get prepared.
Leah came across something that caused her to reminisce about troll dolls, the wee marvels of marketing that go back to the 1960s. You know them, they’re usually just a couple of inches tall, made of plastic and have long, colorful hair that sticks straight up.
Here are some additional items on my to-do list once I’ve been affirmed as emperor of Earth.
I’ve also added them to the original post of March 13, 2016, so instead of reading these here, you can read all of them by clicking this link.
And if anyone questions your reading this at work, tell them your future emperor requested it.
Empty, then load
If I were emperor of Earth, everyone will be drilled on the proper way to use an elevator. That is, you press the button and step to the side to wait. When the door opens, instead of rushing in, you wait for anyone already inside to depart first. There may also be some instruction on proper eye contact.
If I were emperor of Earth, cutting in line would be grounds for ejection from the planet without a refund.
If I were emperor of Earth, when driving on a two-lane road with a good shoulder, slower traffic would be required to pull onto the shoulder to allow faster traffic to pass. Additionally, passing drivers would be required to give a friendly hand wave or to flash hazard lights to say “thank you.”
Learn what it is
If I were emperor of Earth, one must have medical orders to request gluten-free foods.
If I were emperor of Earth, there would be a hefty tax every time someone writes the plural of his or her family name by adding an apostrophe before or after the S. That’s not what the apostrophe is for.
If I were emperor of Earth, one may refer to pets as children and to herself as Mommy to the pets, but I will require the acquisition of adoption papers.
If I were emperor of Earth, I would require public rest rooms be equipped with alarms. In the event someone uses the rest room and leaves without washing his or her hands, an embarrassing alert will sound.
Donald Trump has his campaign right where he wants it.
Here’s a special notice of something happening off the feed.
I’ve set up a new tab above labeled Expeditions. Here, I intend to gather information about some of the amazing trips and experiences we’ve been able to enjoy. More importantly, it will serve as a central site for future adventures.
Three are posted so far. Just today, to mark the 10th anniversary of my arrival in Antarctica, I put up my journal and a collection of photos from my four months on the Ice.
As always, I covet your comments and encourage you to share that which you think your friends will enjoy.
Today’s feature is one of those stream of consciousness events that flowed from a restaurant going out of business through bean sprouts to what you’re about to experience.
I saw an article that the Carnegie Deli in New York City is closing at the end of the year. I maybe have heard of the restaurant, maybe not, but the article mentioned that it’s known for its pastrami-and-corned beef “Woody Allen” sandwich.
That got me thinking about the sandwiches we hear of that are named after people. That got me to thinking about a sandwich that would bear your name. Hmm, what would it be like?
We’re partying because I’ve already hit my first goal, but, all of a sudden, you’re facing your first deadline. So, it’s a quick celebration.
Pick something that’s a commonly accepted part of everyday life today that did not exist at some point in your memory.
Got it? An easy one would be the Internet. Even my daughter can claim that. Personal computers go back a little further. Refinements in medicine. Communication. You get the idea.
I’m going with calculators.
We’ve almost completed our drive back to our winter home in central Texas after working this summer in western New York and we are so thankful for the Interstate Highway System.
“You, yeah, you. Wanna get in on the ground floor of something new? Oh, yeah, it’s perfectly legal. Of course I’m sure.
“Yep, it takes a little money, but there’s no risk. I guarantee it because you’re giving it away. What’s there to understand? You’re not betting on a scheme; you’re giving away money to support an artist.
“Sure, you get something back. You get more art. And a warm, fuzzy feeling. What’s not to like?”
Yes, I just used a make-believe character to make a major announcement. Why? Because the real me cannot believe that real people like you would actually contribute hard-earned money to subsidize the writing I do online and in my books.
But I’ve been assured such people exist. Therefore, my shady friend would like to announce that there now exists an online site where fans of my writing can become a patron.
You will find details at https://www.patreon.com/stevemartaindale, along with a video where I explain what’s going on. Yes, a video. Yes, with me in it. Shocking, I know.
In an extremely small nutshell, patrons can contribute anything from $1 a month on up. Also, being a patron earns one special privileges. If you’re interested, check out the page.
We’re about halfway done pulling our RV back to our winter home in Central Texas and, at times, that reality gives me pause. It happened today at an Interstate rest stop in Illinois.
Upon returning to the truck, I let Leah into her seat and then circled back to eyeball the RV as I headed to my side. As I walked by the RV – all folded in and compact-looking – I thought, “This is our home, all of it, right in this little box.”
We’re in our fifth year of living fulltime in a 31-foot fifth-wheel RV. Earlier today, Leah commented that she’s continually seeing that we need even less “stuff” in our lives. It’s something we spent years working toward.
But I’m not really talking so much about minimalism here as life on the road.
Toward the end of our drive today, we encountered a traffic backup of more than a mile. After gradually working our way to the source of the problem, we found one of those nice, big motor homes with a blown out front tire. A massive tow truck was hooking up to it because the front end was rather torn up.
We can imagine the feeling. Most everything you own is riding in that RV and now it’s being towed to a shop. Your food is going to the storage yard. Your bed is being locked up. All because of a blown tire.
That being said … we still love it and don’t see an end to it anytime soon.
However, it’s certainly not for everybody. What we do would drive a lot of people crazy. Some folks think we’re crazy.
And maybe that has some little something to do with why we like it.
We completed our fourth summer of seasonal work yesterday.
As we were walking through Darien Lake Theme Park, the western sky put on a glorious show for us. Thanks for the memories.
At the end of any such temporary endeavor, the most common question is, “You coming back next year?” Almost everyone understands our answer.
“That’s not the plan, but never say never. The idea is for us to experience someplace new.”
Leaving is always a mixture of feelings, but we each time find positive things as we move forward.
See you down the road.
I told you yesterday how much I’ve enjoyed pulling together a couple of random quotes to post each day, but there’s something about it that’s a little troubling.
I want to know if you experience the same thing.
To find the movie and television quotes, I use imdb.com – the Internet Movie Database. For years, I’ve enjoyed this amazing Website. I have been faithful about rating movies when I see them and have even spent time to find old movies I’d previously seen and rate them. One reason for doing that, to be completely honest, is to help me remember if I’ve seen it or not.
For example, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Leah will watch a bunch of what I call Hallmark movies. It happens again around Valentine’s. And, at any point in the year, she may turn on a cheap sci-fi movie – definitely non-Hallmark.
My degree of watching these movies varies. If one catches my attention, I’ll try to keep up with it while I’m on the computer. Regardless of my level of interest, I’ll rate it, even if I have to ask Leah to help determine what to give it. Then, next year, she’ll mention a movie, I’ll look it up and say, “Nope, we’ve seen it.”
But back to what troubles me.
Going through the movies I’ve rated, I’ve been picking out some and looking through the quotes section on IMDb. And it’s like I don’t remember any of it.
That’s not quite accurate. Take “Iron Man 3,” from which I pulled a quote to post today. I knew I had seen it, but couldn’t recall anything specific. Reading through the quotes, I think, “Oh, yeah, I remember that scene.”
Or do I?
At least “Iron Man 3” was three years ago. We watched “Deadpool” earlier this summer. I gave it eight stars, so I liked it. But all I can remember right now is that the central character dropped a lot of clever one-liners.
Please tell me you have the same problem. Sometimes, at least.
The past few weeks, I’ve taken to tossing out a random quote a couple of times a day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
I’ve got to tell you, it’s been fun.
It’s been an assortment of movie and TV quotes with song lyrics and another odd thing or two thrown in there.
Without further ado, here are several of them.
“Who are those guys?” Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“You’re soaking in it.” Jan Miner as Madge in 27 years of Colgate Palmolive commercials.
“We are the federales … you know … the mounted police.” Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”
“And when you finish doing that, bring in the dog and put out the cat.” The Coasters in “Yakety Yak”
“Do you think she woke up one morning and said ‘I think I’ll go to law school today’?” Victor Garber as Professor Callahan in “Legally Blonde”
“I’m in a hurry to get things done; Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun.” Alabama in “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)”
“You think, DiNozzo?” Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in “NCIS”
“Well doggies!” Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies”
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption”
“Actually, it’s perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.” Robin Williams as Armand Goldman in “The Birdcage”
“Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won.” Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi in “Gandhi”
“Hemingway said, ‘Every true story ends in death.’ Well, this is a true story.” Jack Warden as George Halas in “Brian’s Song”
“Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock in “Airplane!”
“Everything will be all right in the end … if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” Dev Patel as Sonny Kapoor in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook to join the fun.
Pick up your feet, please, so I can sweep under here. Yeah, every now and then I have to do a little housekeeping.
There are two things on my to-do list today and I’ll keep them short.
1. Sign up
I’m closing out startup details on something a little different that should be enjoyable for many of you. Before airing it out to the general public, I’ll ask those on my email list to look at it to help make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.
That can happen as early as Saturday morning but as late as next week.
So, if you’d like to get involved and get in on the ground floor, make sure you’re on my email list. Click here to sign up. I do not send out many letters and each one has a link where you can drop out at any time.
Bluntly, if you’ve read any of my books, I would really appreciate it if you would leave even a brief review online.
If you bought it through Amazon, that would be a great place to review it because they will verify you purchased the book and that looks more credible. However, you can leave a review there even if that’s not where you bought it.
You can find links to all of my books on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2cDGlAG. Click on the correct book, click on a link that says “customer reviews” and then “write a customer review.”
Another place to leave reviews is on Goodreads. I’ve not done much to cultivate a presence there, but all my books are listed at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7472257.Steve_Martaindale. Click on a book title to go to its page. Underneath the picture of the cover, there’s a tab you can click to change to “Read” and it opens a page where you can leave your comments.
Do you know of any other place where reviews are (and I’ve not seen them) and/or where you feel they should be left?
In particular, the later books lack reviews, so you might start with Marmot, Sloth or Rose if you’ve read multiple books. I have copied the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and placed them on each book’s page on my Website. This page will take you to all of them.
Thank you so much for helping spread the word. While you’re doing that, I’m going to get that spider web in the corner.
When the topic came up about learning to read and first book memories, I found myself with little to talk about.
One is supposed to have fond recollections of cuddling in a parent’s lap or being read to sleep, but there was no learning to read at home for me. Well, I don’t remember anything about it, but I do recall working through the alphabet and learning to read in first grade. (Note that there was no kindergarten when and where I grew up.)
So, no, I don’t recall having books read to me. I do remember a few Little Golden Books being around, but I’m not sure when that was. It’s possible my brother and I were read to regularly and I don’t remember, but it’s just as likely the books I picture were for my much younger sister.
Whatever the case, I took to reading rather easily in the classroom of Mrs. Follis, but all I remember was Dick, Jane and Sally.
The first real book I can remember reading was “Tik-Tok of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. In the second grade at the time, I’m pretty sure I had not yet seen “The Wizard of Oz” because we watched little television, if we even had one. Therefore, it was much later that I realized the two were connected stories.
Additionally, I really doubt there was much understanding of the book going on. I was more caught up with the challenge of reading this big book from cover to cover than I was about understanding it. No, I do not remember a single thing about it.
By the third grade, I discovered the biography section in the school library. I distinctly remember reading about Israel Putnam, a hero of the American Revolution, and automobile executive Walter Chrysler.
Of course, I’m now writing mystery books, but even those were discovered late in life.
Some 20 years ago, my wife introduced me to Lilian Jackson Braun’s series of “The Cat Who …” stories. I’ve read quite a few of them and they had a direct effect on my series.
Her style and mine are considerably different, but I took from her the idea of writing my stories around a journalist (she, too, had worked in newspapers), and of establishing them in a fictional town in a not-too-specific location (hers were generally set in and around Pickax, located “400 miles north of everywhere,” while mine are in Oldport, somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico).
My appreciation for her inspiration led me to name a city park in Oldport after Braun’s central character, James Qwilleran.
That’s mine; what are your earliest reading memories?
Regina Brett crossed my mind yesterday and I’m glad she did.
Regina is a metro columnist for the The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland. I discovered her several years ago when we both belonged to the same organization. At some point, I slipped from following her columns until yesterday.
It looks as if she’s not writing as regularly as she used to, maybe because she has several other irons in the fire, but maybe because the paper’s cleveland.com Web site is atrociously organized. However, I stumbled across one particular column, said to be her most popular, that was written several years ago.
As she was turning 50 years of age, she published a list of 50 lessons she’d learned from life. Read the entire column here.
Like me, many of you are also reaching those points in our lives where we feel empowered to offer a little advice. Also, we’re probably a little more receptive to good guidance. Two of Regina’s lessons jumped out at me:
Who among you is nodding his or her head in agreement? Who issued a sigh of regret over lost opportunities?
She also reminds me of a quote my wife likes to spread around. It comes from another columnist, one you’re more likely to have heard of, Erma Bombeck:
“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”
Moments are so fleeting that seizing one is such an apt verb. Should you “consider” seizing it, the opportunity is likely lost.
It’s hardly new advice. More than 2,000 years ago, Horace wrote in “Odes” the advice “carpe diem,” usually translated as “seize the day.”
Continuing beyond those two words, Horace wrote, “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” which I’ve read translated as, “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future).”
He is not promoting the frivolous lifestyle mentioned in the book of Isaiah and that Paul warned against in his letter to the church at Corinth, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
No, rather than calling for a frat party, Horace is saying that instead of putting trust in tomorrow to take care of itself, one should do all he or she can now … in this moment … to make the future better.
But, wait. Are Regina and Erma urging abandonment of responsibilities? Burn the candles! Order dessert!
I think not.
Today *is* special. From the 118th Psalm: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
One is not being responsible if he or she does nothing but hoard up nice sheets and fancy lingerie. Too many of us die with an abundance of things and wasted opportunities because we were saving them for a special day when, in reality, we missed occasions to make special the days we had.
Leah and I have taken some chances by choosing to wear purple at an earlier age than most. We continue to do so, but they are well calculated risks we’re willing to take. We have admitted to ourselves that it’s possible we outlive our means of support and spend our final years with diminishing options.
However, we’ll be able to look back on good times without being burdened by regrets about what we might have done.
An image I’ve shared several times in social media (posted above, I cannot remember its origin; advise me whom I should credit) uses a quote from Randy Komisar: “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
A Facebook friend I’ve never met (a friend-of-a-friend and a kindred spirit) continually urges people to “Get out there.”
So, I say: “Seize the day. Get out there. Be eccentric now. And have a second look at that dessert cart.”
I recently came across a comment to a post somewhere: “Some of the nicest people are tow truck drivers.”
While I believe you can find “some of the nicest people” in just about any profession, I do have a wonderful story about a tow truck driver.
It was the August after I graduated high school. I quit my summer job a week early to visit an uncle in Idaho.
This was a big deal for me. My family did not travel much; my father just didn’t care to. So I was certainly spreading my wings by driving solo more than 1,400 miles from home, seeing real mountains for the first time, being entirely on my own in the big, wide world.
I drove my dad’s 1960 Ford Ranchero and part of the logic behind that was its inability to move much faster than 55 mph would help keep me from violating the newly adopted national speed limit. Another “benefit” was the gas gauge didn’t work, so I watched the odometer and refilled about every 100 miles or so, thereby guaranteeing I would stop often.
Now, this vehicle – a three-speed on the column – had a habit of the transmission hanging up. To fix it, we just popped the hood and forced the rods (proper term? I don’t know) loose. Never had been a big deal.
My second day on the road found me in Colorado and my mother was expecting a call this evening. I was running a little late, so I stopped somewhere in Colorado City and called collect to report everything was going great. My aim that night was Colorado Springs, just a way up the interstate.
I easily found the Motel 6 and started up the steep driveway when I saw the “No Vacancy” sign illuminated. I stopped, slammed the transmission in reverse … and it locked up. So, here I was, stuck in a (thankfully wide) driveway and unable to move.
I set the brake really well to keep the car from rolling down the hill once I pounded it out of gear and proceeded to yank on the rods. I grabbed the hammer from behind the seat and banged on them. This went on for several minutes until I decided it was hopeless.
The man behind the glass at the Motel 6 recommended a tow truck driver and let me use his phone. I remember the driver was having dinner and watching a ball game and he told me he would be there soon.
He hooked up to my car and we started a seemingly long drive across town to a transmission shop that worked late. Along the way, I told him my story about where I was headed.
“After this, though, I may have to turn around and head back home,” I said. I wasn’t carrying much money and, of course, no credit card.
When we reached the shop, he dropped the car and talked to a guy he knew. He checked it out and reported it was fine. We decided that it was the force put on the transmission while it sat on the hill that kept me from fixing it myself. Had I gotten someone to match bumpers and push just a little, I could have knocked it out.
As you may imagine, I was elated. My new friend the tow truck driver then tried to settle business with me.
“Is $15 too much?” he asked. “I’ll take a check if you don’t have the cash to spare.”
Wow. Can you imagine? He left home and a ball game, used his expensive equipment to pull me around town, and he’s asking me if it’s too much. Granted, I had no idea what a proper fee would be, but I only saw that my trip could continue.
“No, no, I can spare $15. And thanks. Thank you very much.”
Today is the last regular season day in the theme park where we’ve worked all summer, but it’s special to me for another reason.
After working all summer alongside Leah in a snack bar (which has been fun, don’t get me wrong), I’m finishing out by working today and the next two weekends doing what I did all last year: park sweep. Yes, that’s just what it sounds like. I walk through the park sweeping up and picking up trash.
Many people shake their heads upon hearing that I enjoy the job, but hear me out.
One, I get to work outside all day, even though it can get quite hot walking the pavement under clear skies.
Two, I really feel as if my fingers are on the pulse of the park. Our job this summer had us inside the hotel outside the park and the excitement just isn’t as high.
Three, it’s fun interacting with people. I’ll give directions, talk about the rides, hear their stories, offer to take their photo, etc. It’s just fun watching them some times.
Four, I’m mostly responsible to myself. When someone ordered a chicken caesar wrap, I worried about making it to their satisfaction. As a park sweep, the level of work I demand of myself exceeds what 99 percent of the guests care about. In other words … there is no pressure.
Finally, these last five days are extra special. The boss lady allowed me to name my assignment. This may not seem like much to you, but I love it.
Normally, most sweepers are assigned particular areas in the park. That’s crucial to making sure the entire park is covered. However, you’re in the same area all day. My job will be to roam the park, sweeping wherever the mess takes me. The bonus is that I won’t have rest room duty. Yeah, that’s the one thing about the job I never cared for. Of course, if I encounter a rest room problem, I take care of it, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
So, I’m off to labor. I hope y’all have a great holiday and find joy in your work or chores or play.
You know how I like new experiences.
That’s a neat thing about our summer jobs; I’ve worked in a gift shop, drove a shuttle van, cleaned a theme park and, this summer, prepared food.
Working in food service is not something I wanted to do and only did so because it helped out Leah tremendously. However, it’s had good moments. Two came this past week.
Leah usually takes the orders and I usually prepare them, though we back up each other a lot. One morning, a family ordered a waffle, a breakfast pizza and a toasted bagel. When Leah finished the money part, she came back to help.
She put the bagel on a pan and started to put it in the oven.
“No, thanks, I’ve got it.”
What I’m doing isn’t rocket science, but I finally have become just comfortable enough with things to be able to do them in a sensible way.
The pizza takes a minute or two to prepare and five minutes to cook. The waffle batter is ready to pour into the iron and takes maybe four minutes to cook. The bagel can be ready after less than three minutes in the oven.
So, I prep the pizza and toss it into the oven, pour the batter into the iron, prepare plates and trays for both and then put in the bagel. As the pizza came out, the waffle beeper sounded, but I always leave it in for another 15 or 20 seconds, just enough time to plate and slice the pizza and wrap the bagel. Then the waffle comes out, butter and syrup applied and, voila, they’re ready.
The second opportunity came Wednesday afternoon. The powers that be needed someone to run the saloon in the park from 5-8 p.m. and Leah passed the request to me.
Now, the bosses know I’m not into doing anything other than help Leah, so they may have been surprised when I said I would. But, the fact is, I’ve always thought the job would be intriguing.
So, after an introduction to what to do, I was left all alone peddling beer, malt beverages, sodas, nachos and popcorn.
It was a fast-paced three hours. I freely informed guests this was my first experience and everyone was patient and forgiving, even when I handed over a beer with too much of a head on it. Of course, serving beer to people on vacation should be less stressful than most jobs, right?
One aspect of the job that I’ve never truly experienced before was receiving tips.
The funniest gratuity came from a guy who didn’t intend to do so.
Four fellows in their 30s (yes, I checked their IDs) got drinks, courtesies of the first man. When I got to the last one, he handed me one of his refillable souvenir mugs and I started pulling his drink from the tap. That’s when I noticed something floating in it and pulled out a drenched five-dollar bill.
I held it up and turned to the guy.
“Did you lose something?” I asked.
“Is that yours?” he responded.
“Well, it is now.”
Bottom line, it was a fun experience. Just like cooking breakfast sandwiches, I don’t need to do it again, but it’s rather nice to be able to look back at the time I did.
The Olympics always give me cause to resurrect a personal memory of accomplishment. I don’t believe I’ve ever shared the story so publicly, but I trust our relationship enough to feel you’ll grant me an indulgence to … hmm, OK … to brag a little bit.
Ever since my parents surprised me after school one day in the third grade with a baseball glove and the announcement I’d been enrolled in Little League baseball (note the fact this was my first glove and read into it I had absolutely no baseball experience), I loved competing in sports.
The truth is, I was never much good. I still recall a running, leaping (and lucky) catch I made once while playing right field. I remember the one-and-only extra-base hit I got, a double. But I also remember when our Major League team, the Warriors, won our division and finished runners-up in the city championship tournament. A great contributor, I wasn’t, but I was still part of the team.
Other great teams followed. Our high school football team my senior year was state-ranked. Our baseball team my junior year won the regional championship, as far as we could go in those days.
But my greatest individual athletic achievement came in the spring of my junior year. Someone came up with the idea to compete in the Explorer Olympics. In fact, an Explorer post was organized primarily for that purpose. Fort Hood hosted the statewide event for Texas and several of us participated.
Remember, I had no particularly impressive athletic skills, but I felt some level of competence in many areas. So, naturally, I entered the decathlon.
In the real Olympics and most other world-class competitions, the decathlon – which consists of each athlete competing in 10 different events – is spread over two days. The Explorer Olympics, however, was happening solely on Saturday. Ten events in one day.
As things began getting under way, I saw many talented athletes and began to fear just what I’d gotten myself into. However, when our decathletes were assembled, I found there were only eight of us and, apparently, the others were more like me – capable but not great.
Times and distances have slipped from memory, but I still recall how I placed in each event. The sprinting events were all mine, winning the 100-yard dash, the 220, the 440 and the 180-yard low hurdles. I also won the discus throw rather easily as I was the only one with a clue about how to throw the thing. I finished second in the shot put and pole vault, third in the long jump and tied for fourth in the high jump.
Under a canopy at the track, a chalk board held the point totals for the events. The final competition for the decathlon was the 880-yard run. In the other running events, they had been placing us first and then the others. We were all so beat by the end of the day, someone managed to change the order to allow us a little more time to rest before the most challenging race.
Meanwhile, I carefully examined the leader board. Only two guys had a chance of taking the lead away from me and I developed a plan.
At the start of the half-mile race, I dashed into the lead and set up in the inside lane so I had some control over who passed me. After we completed the second turn, one guy started around me. He was not one of those who could beat me in the point totals, so I maintained my steady pace. On the backstretch of lap two, another passed me and I continued holding back, saving my energy.
As we came out of the last curve toward the finish line, I heard the yelling of the crowd of servicemen and athletes. At that point, I gave it all I had and sprinted to my third-place finish and the gold-colored medal. I still have no idea how close the others were to me.
The winner of the Olympic decathlon is traditionally known as the world’s greatest athlete. Now, I guarantee you, I was under no illusion such comparison applied to my win, but it still felt oh-so good.
Sunday morning, to close out the competition, all of the medalists assembled for a victory march around the track to receive awards from what I understood to be the base commander. The decathletes led the procession. The Fort Hood band played “March of the Olympians.” People cheered.
I mounted the center platform and bent down so some general could hang the medal around my neck – a gold-colored disc on a red-white-and-blue ribbon.
Over the PA system, it was announced: “Winner of the decathlon, Dave Martaindale.”
Really? Dave? Or maybe it was Mike. I don’t remember, but it certainly wasn’t Steve.
Back to reality.
Wow, it’s approaching mid-August already and … oh, my … I’ve not posted anything in three weeks. I apologize to those who care. I do have a couple of poor excuses.
First, our work has been quite a drain this summer and I’ve not made myself sit and write enough.
Second, when I have written, I’ve written on a couple of pieces about Donald Trump. One I started almost two months ago with my theory that he really, really does not want to be elected and is toying with his followers while making sure he’s not in the White House. The other is about the potential benefit from his campaign in the form of newspapers reawakening to play their watchdog roles.
However, let’s not get political today. Maybe later, if you want.
Back to the work thing …
Most of you know that Leah and I have worked seasonal jobs each summer – this is the fourth year – as a means to explore different areas of the country and get paid doing it. This summer, we did most of our adventuring prior to starting work by taking a five-week, 360-mile hike along the Erie Canal. Since then, we’ve been pretty much working and, just like on the trail, we’re working side-by-side.
It’s not the best thing for us to spend all of our time together both on and off work, but we’ve handled it quite well. We’re running a coffee-breakfast-pizza-sandwich-etc. shop in the 160-room hotel on the property of the same amusement park where we worked last summer. It’s only an 8- to 9-hour shift, less than “real” jobs we’ve held in the past, but we’re constantly on the go and “on stage.” Plus, we start and end our shifts with 25-minute walks to and from work.
This is my first experience with food service since a three-month part-time stint working as a cook in Pizza Hut when I was in college. It’s not something I took to easily, but Leah (who has worked in food every summer) has been patient with me. It’s gotten to the point where I feel as if I’m pulling my weight fairly well.
Just like the first three summers, the best part of the job is interacting with the guests. Unlike Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore – where guests come from around the country and many parts of the world – almost everyone here is from either the state of New York or the province of Ontario. Oh, yeah, we have a ton of visitors from across the nearby border.
As such, they are always alerting on our accents: “You’re not from around here, are you?”
Naturally, not all of our customers are as much fun.
A couple of weeks ago, we had an older couple who we independently deduced were from “the city.” That’s a term we’ve found people around here use for New York City. If you haven’t figured it out, please understand that folks around most of the state are not like folks in the city and don’t want you to think they are.
Suffice it to say, this couple was somewhat more demanding and much less appreciative of what we did for them. Sure enough, Leah visited with their daughter and learned they were, indeed, from the city.
We had seen them Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and, apparently, they didn’t spend much time in the theme park because they were always around. Friday afternoon, I said to Leah, “at least our city people will be gone by Monday.”
Except they weren’t … and here is finally the subject of today’s story.
Early Monday morning, the city gentleman ordered something to eat and tried to pay for it with a hundred-dollar bill. Leah explained to him she couldn’t make change just yet. As the morning progresses, you collect twenties and soon it’s no problem, but doing so now would have put her in jeopardy of running out.
It hasn’t been unusual for us to encounter that and we always let them pay us later. It’s a hotel, after all, we sort of hold them captive and nobody has stiffed us yet.
This man fumed, “I’ve never heard of a hotel unable to break a hundred-dollar bill.” He had previously tried the front desk, but they hardly use cash at all up there.
As Leah tried to make him understand that we could work it out later, a man who had been patiently waiting to get his coffee eased into the conversation.
“Here,” he said to the city man, “let me buy you breakfast.”
The fellow was shocked. It was more than $13, not just a cup of java.
“I can’t let you do that,” he said.
“It’s nothing,” the fellow said. “I quit drinking a few years ago. With the money I’m not spending on alcohol now, it’s like I have an extra $13 in my pocket every day.”
Wow, what a nice gesture and it couldn’t have been made to a more appropriate person. The city man graciously thanked his benefactor and accepted the offer.
And then …
He gathered his food to leave, mumbling, “I just can’t believe a hotel can’t break a hundred-dollar bill.”
I came across this quote the other day:
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story” ― Frank Herbert (author of “Dune”)
That has become more and more true of my writing as I’ve delved deeper into the fictional lives of my characters in the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series. But, let’s face it, that’s life.
Most of us see numerous changes in our day-to-day, from new jobs to broken relationships, from new homes to shattered dreams. We might start a new chapter in our lives, but the story continues.
Consider someone you knew well in high school but haven’t seen or heard from in decades. Tell us that person’s story. There’s a point where you stop, but you know that’s not the ending.
Additionally, isn’t that part of the fun of a book?
The story ends and the reader is left to imagine what happens next.
The most drawn-out and over-dramatized rollout of any of my books is finally complete. Yes, “The Reporter and the Marmot” is now available.
The Kindle e-book is up on Amazon right now at http://amzn.to/29RvLrx but the printed version might be a couple of days yet in coming. However, if you can’t wait, you can order it directly from the publisher, CreateSpace, at https://www.createspace.com/6400784.
Now, the only question is whether you notify your friends before or after you pick up your copy of the book.
Thank you for all of your support.
“I’m praying for America to turn to God. Will you join me?”
Thus read a graphic shared through social media. Frankly, it’s similar to hundreds of others, most of which make an effort to sustain the American perception of our country being more deserving of God’s grace than other countries.
I get it. We all want to be associated with winners. We want our favorite sports teams to vanquish its foes or for that performer we love to be adored by others. And I love this example: we so badly want the brand of pickup we drive to be thought better than its competitors that we’ll stick a decal on the back window portraying a cartoon character taking a leak on the other truck’s logo.
So, naturally, we want to be in the best country in the world. And, it being the best country, surely God will love us more and protect us better.
Back to the question. No, I will not be joining you in praying for America to turn to God.
It seems akin to a man dying of cancer praying that his right knee be healed. There is so much more to God’s world than our one, self-important country.
According to population clocks run by the U.S. Census Bureau, at one point this morning, the world’s population was estimated at 7,336,791,070 (7.3 billion) and the U.S. population at 323,961,629 (323 million). That means the American population (no small number of which came here from other countries, by the way) accounts for less than 4.42 percent of the world’s population.
And by world’s population, I mean all of the other people God created. People he loves just as much as he does us. Many of those people also have much greater needs than us.
Therefore, my prayers will continue to be that the people of the world turn to God.
And that they turn to peace. And love. And justice. And understanding. And compassion.
Will you join me?
Let me try to make sense out of this.
We’re visiting different churches in the area we’re working this summer; the fifth one was this morning at First Presbyterian Church of Batavia, N.Y. We were sitting in the sanctuary before services started. Possibly, the organist was playing prelude music, but I’m not certain. My thoughts wandered.
When it comes to knowing who’s who in today’s entertainment world, I’m constantly reminded just how ignorant I am.
The theme park where we’re working for the summer also has a performing arts center adjacent to it and hosts several concerts through the summer. There are some big names coming this year, like the Doobie Brothers, Toby Keith, Joan Jett, ZZ Top and Def Leppard with REO Speedwagon.
In fact, Melissa Lambert performed here Thursday night and … what? It’s Miranda Lambert? Are you sure? OK, so that’s the point.
Take a look at this photo. What do you see?
I enjoy movies and like to see them in the theater, but it’s often a DVD at home. We’re probably about middle-of-the-road in regards to theater frequency. We see films maybe monthly on average, but we’re quite irregular and unpredictable.
And we know what we like in a theater.
I owe an apology to JP fans who have been patiently awaiting the publication of “The Reporter and the Marmot,” so here it is.
I’m sorry for the roller-coaster we’ve been through as a result of my failed attempt to get the book into a special Kindle program. However, there is some good news. The program’s high standards pushed me to rework and fine tune “Marmot” until it became, in my opinion, the best written book of the series.
But then, as you remember, the rejection came literally hours before Leah and I started on our five-week hike down the Erie Canal and I simply filed the book on a mental shelf. I mentioned in a blog post at the time that I intended to rewrite parts of the book and allow the series to end. I’ve accepted that as the logical outcome for most of this time and have now decided …
Nope, next month I’m publishing “The Reporter and the Marmot” as both a paperback and an e-book – just like the others – and at the very end will be the beginning of Book 6: “The Reporter and the Apricot” (working title).
You see, I enjoy JP and the gang. I get a kick out of hearing from readers. And who knows … maybe someday … we’ll hit on a broader audience. If not, well … you folks are plenty good enough.
Thanks for everything. Oh, and be prepared to hop on board as soon as the book is released. If I can make it work out, I plan to open sales of the digital book at a very low price for a short time to give a break to all the folks who did not get a chance to get it free through the Kindle program.
Let’s do this.
We’ve all heard the power of word-of-mouth advertising. Today, I experienced it first-hand.
Our vacuum cleaner is rather old and my wife has been wanting for a while to put it out to pasture, but she’s been reluctant to wade into the research to determine just what would be best.
And then her cousin entered into the equation.
Leah and I were reading recently about a program requiring two people to be on a remote island by themselves for a month. The information went on and on about how difficult this would be for some people.
First of all, we’re not talking “Robinson Crusoe” or “Cast Away.” Program participants are allowed to carry in food and supplies for the month. Plus, there is a house, solar-generated electricity, refrigerator, reverse osmosis water maker and even laundry facilities.
Oh, wait, did I mention the house even has air-conditioning? What’s not to love?
Well, now that I asked, would it bother you much if there is no telephone (unless you bring a satellite phone), no television (not even football!) and no Internet (you know, that thing you’re using right now to read this)?
I would miss Internet, to be honest with you, but not so much television and certainly not the phone. But let’s get real, people, we’re talking one month, like 30 days, like 720 hours. And it’s on a sub-tropical island. Can you say Paradise?
The bigger question here is how comfortable you feel being alone. Or, in this case, a couple being alone. Could you handle it?
I’m continually finding evidence that I’m outside the norm on just about everything and this might be another case. Regardless, I’m really OK spending time alone. And I’m super-OK being with just Leah, though I suspect she wants more interaction than me. But, heck, for a month she could talk to the sea turtles and the birds.
Maybe it’s because I consider all the voices in my head as company. Maybe I’m egocentric. Or maybe I’m too selective.
For example, I love long drives all by myself and I seldom turn on the radio unless I’m getting sleepy. I can spend all day on the computer, writing or just surfing around. And then there’s what many consider the biggie: I even don’t mind eating alone in a restaurant.
So, would you grab at the opportunity to be cut off from the rest of the world, just you and your bestie, for a month on a deserted island?