The Wax Museum

Whatever happened to Baby Jane is starting to happen to me. I’m not talking about serving up parakeets on a platter (not yet), like Bette Davis did to Joan Crawford in that twisted cinematic tale of sisterly rivalry gone to the birds. I’m talking about a jolt far more frightening than any horror flick frenzy. I’m referring to that monumental moment in the mirror when girlish becomes ghoulish (or boyish becomes oyish). Suddenly the look that worked for so long is now so unworkable. The porcelain complexion has faded from translucent to Transylvanian – the wax museum is calling your name.

For men, aging is a simple matter of accepting a bad toupee and stocking up on luau shirts.

For women it’s a little more complex, like having a youthful replica of yourself, courtesy of Madame Tussauds, fitted with a wick, lit with a blowtorch and you get to watch while it melts.

Forget about crinkles and crow’s feet, your complexion will soon resemble a crepe de chine blouse. And that’s the most fashionable thing that can be said about your appearance. When your skin starts to sag more than your sweat pants, you begin to wonder: can housecoats and babushkas be far off?

Your creamy white throat is still tempting, but not in the way it used to be. The resemblance to turkey skin makes you hungry, (what doesn’t?) but now you get to accessorize your wardrobe with wattle.

For the rich and famous, aging poses no problems because looking like a mutant freak is apparently considered chic in Hollywood. For regular humans, however, some semblance of humanoid features is required to successfully co-mingle in society. And besides, the average budget doesn’t allow for anything other than Oil of Olay. Heck, forget about the budget, you pass out at the dentist – are you really going to let someone inject toxins into your body (other than whipped cream and cheese whiz?)

Botox brow and collagen lips may work on the red carpet, but in real life, children are so easily frightened. Cultivating a colorful personality profile is a far more realistic solution for the not-so-rich and far-from-famous.

For men, becoming a spunky geezer is always a popular option.

Single gals can consider the cat lady lifestyle.

Classic choices for moms include: Muumuu Mom – billowy dresses, boufanty hair and bosomy hugs; Manic Mom – glued-on grin, piercing pitch and busybee bravado; Matronly Mom – plump, placid and proper. Or you could go full-out eccentric (Norma Desmond style) and become Madcap Mom sporting age-inappropriate clothes, embarrassing dance moves, and hop-on-a-motorcycle-just-before-you-break-your-hip joie de vivre.

Whoever you are and whatever you choose, remember your new mantra: No one will notice your wrinkies and frownies, if you keep them distracted with cookies and brownies!
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Eileen Mitchell is an award-winning essayist and playwright with recognition from The Robert Benchley Society Thurber House and the Will Rogers Writers Workshop.

It’s the Bomb (worth reposting)

I’m clearly an addict. First it was reading, then cigarettes, then alcohol, then cars, then men, then writing, then fast cars, then fast men, then women, then fast women, then more reading, writing…. Ok, I embellish some. Ok, maybe a lot. Sorry. It’s the fiction writer in me. But I have always been a reader and a writer, in love with words.

Now my addictions have reached new heights: to the FB word game, Lexulous. Which like my other addictions, got me the first time out, now totaling more than 2200 games. I can’t seem to turn away from it, though why I would want to is beyond me.

See, this word game has got a UK dictionary, which is the bomb. Ever hear of Ch? Qi? Qa? Ky? All perfectly wonderful UK words! Which is a big deal to me, because when I was addicted to board games, I was always swearing something like these were words, and the U.S. dictionary was always disagreeing. Now that I’m playing a word game with a UK dictionary, well what can I say but oh joy!

Of course Lex isn’t perfect. First, you can only play this game with your FB friends, so if you don’t join the ‘club,’ you can’t play. Which is very junior high, a place I don’t care to go back to. Second, it’s quite temperamental and changeable (for the simple sake of change, no less), and when it’s totally out of sorts, might be unavailable for the entire day!

But I’ll say this, unlike some of my other addictions, it’s not harmful to me or to others (unless I’m playing Lex while driving – not!), nor is it selfish or jealous. If I want to play a little Wordscraper, Lex or Words with Friends, for instance, it doesn’t get angry and shut down. Plus I have friends who like Lex as much, or nearly as much, as I do. Which makes life a little easier than if they scorned it, ya know?

Plus it’s free. No upkeep. No ashes. No cleaning up after. No arguments. No woozy head. No rejections, proofreading, or revisions— just pure word play!

Best of all, Lex has tiles the cats can’t walk across or place their little butts on. Ah, heaven!

So…game on!

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We can be FB friends if you want to play Lex with me. You can also find me at https://www.facebook.com/sjpstories. (Yes, the shameless promoting begins – ugh!)

The Authentic Tragedy of Speedy The Snail

Guest Post by Marc Ross ©2015

Several years ago my wife and I, while living in our first apartment, had next-door friends, Dave and Brookie, who were both frequently out of town. On a Friday I was invited into their kitchen and shown their latest prize, a small snail named Speedy, occupying the bottom of a large shallow bowl. He was, as Brookie explained, a fond pet that she had smuggled home on an airplane. They were once again going on vacation for a week and would I care for him.

“Of course,” I said, unsure of what that entailed. I was reassured that (a) he only needed a few daily drops of water and a pinch of fish food and (b) he would never leave the bowl. I reassured them that I would care for Speedy. They gave me their key and left the next day.

The following is, as best as I can reconstruct, is the letter that I left on their kitchen counter:

Dear Dave and Brookie,

Welcome home. I know that you will both be saddened by the absence of your beloved Speedy. I will attempt to explain.

On Saturday I dropped by and there he was in the bowl. I gave him water in an eye-dropper then gave him a pinch of fish food.

On Tuesday, I noticed that he had moved from the center of the bowl. Just getting some exercise, I thought.

By Wednesday he had ventured further, nearly to the bowl’s edge. That contradicted my understanding of Speedy’s mobility. I shrugged it off and picked him up gingerly by his shell, replacing him in the bowl’s center. Again, water, food, and done.

On Thursday I became alarmed. I could not find him. Detective that I am, I followed his tiny slime trail and discovered that he had suctioned to the underside of the bowl. Again…replace, water, food. I was becoming concerned. Had I been mistreating him or not following instructions?

Friday. I entered the kitchen with no small trepidation and switched on the light. The bowl was empty. As I approached I noticed an ominous vertical trail of slime on the wall. There he was, close to the ceiling. What a desperate effort he must have exerted.

I knew something had gone haywire. I stood on a chair and reached high to hold his shell between thumb and forefinger. He seemed attached to the wall by some force.

I jiggled his shell a bit to break the bond and then…he exploded. His insides had, under pressure, exerted themselves all over the kitchen and me. It was horrifying….like the Manson family had been there only with snails. I washed his remains from my hands and face and, I confess, ran from your apartment.

Judith explained to me that I had to return to the scene to clean it up, that you would both would be home Saturday. I knew that it was something needed doing and I hope you both feel that I did a thorough job in at least that small regard.

It must feel so terrible to lose a pet that you loved. I know I let you down and I feel responsible even though I don’t know exactly in what way. Judith and I wish we could bring him back so he’d continue “speeding” through your lives.

With deepest regrets and sympathy,
Marc

I dropped the hand-written letter into the late-Speedy’s dish and hoped that after this we’d still be friends.

Saturday morning there was a knock our door. I looked through the peephole and saw, however distorted, the faces of Dave and Brookie. Were those tears in their eyes? I opened the door.

They stood before me holding onto each other, my letter clutched in Dave’s hand, laughing that kind of soundless gasping laugh, tears indeed streaming from their eyes. Finally, Brookie collected herself, took the letter from Dave and pressed it into my hand. She managed to squeak out, “We don’t give a shit about Speedy!” Then they collapsed again into helpless laughter…

…laughter that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

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Marc Ross is a playwright, essayist, and actor. He’s had plays staged throughout the Chicagoland area, including The Sedgwick Stories and Button For Nuttin.

Weighing on My Mind

'I'm scared that there's a fat woman outside of me, trying to get in.'

By Guest Blogger: The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

 I’m closing in on losing 50 pounds as we begin 2015, and while I have more poundage to lose, I am close to my goal. Just last night I found a hip bone and my happiness bordered on that of an anthropologist unearthing the hip bone of a prehistoric mastodon.

As someone who has read every story available on how to lose weight, I’m sure you’d like to know how I did it. You want to see before and after pictures. You want to know if I have found a simple, painless way to lose weight. Well, get used to disappointment. I didn’t find it and pictures are not yet available.

I also didn’t have an epiphany. I simply got on the scale one day and clearly saw that there was no ceiling on gaining weight. Left to my own devices, I would someday morph into SpongeBob Squarepants, except with smaller feet. And I wouldn’t live at the bottom of the sea.

My mom said it best. “You just eat too much.”

“No,” I answered, “I’m just too short.”

We were both right. I’m too short to eat so much. If I were an NFL linebacker, I was definitely eating the right amount.

But for a short, middle-aged woman, a box of Oreos with milk was a little over the top, even if breakfast was a 90-calorie granola bar. I couldn’t climb stairs. I couldn’t get up off the couch. If I fell down, I couldn’t get up. After a couple of hours, my dogs would eat me.

So, I was forced to do this:

I started in July with gastric-sleeve surgery. For me, this was the only way to do it, but it’s a tool, not a panacea. This surgery removes 80% of the stomach so you eat less. You still have to choose what foods you put in your stomach—a Kit Kat bar or nonfat yogurt.

Following Woman with carrotsurgery I was on a diet of liquids for a week, and foods like protein shakes, sugarless jello, and broth for three weeks. I lost a total of 4 pounds. Every day I would weigh myself, and the needle would either go up, or stay the same. It was agony. One month, and I only lost 4 pounds?

But I plodded on. After all, I’m short, old, and have the metabolism of a tree.

Now I find myself on the precipice of success. In retrospect it seemed easy, but if memory serves, it was not. It’s very hard to break the habits I’ve taken a lifetime to form. But it is far from impossible.

I guess that’s the key to losing weight. Don’t give up. Take it one day at a time and if you are honest with yourself on what you eat, you can’t help but be successful.

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The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer (aka Pat Childers) lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs. There have been reported sightings of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game she works on her novel.

In The Middle of the Night….

Compliments of The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

Murray was in a dark, dank warehouse crouching at the end of an aisle in a sea of cardboard boxes. Upstairs, drugs were being bought and sold. Blocking the exit downstairs, 50 feet from Murray, was a tall, determined man with a large gun. The only thing on Murray’s side was the element of surprise.

It was middle of the night for Murray, but middle of the day for me. I had errands to do and his dilemma would have to wait to be resolved. So I left him there in the back of my mind while I sallied forth to the grocery store.

I envy the prolific writer whose typewriter spews page after page of witty dialogue and tension-filled action sequences. My process involves sticking my arm down my throat, grabbing my heart, and ripping it out of my chest. Then I type a few words on the page. Reread them. Cross a few out. Add a couple, and move on.

Meanwhile, poor Murray was still stuck in the warehouse and he had to get out before the upstairs drug guys finished their meeting and came downstairs. I decided he had true boxing skills that he honed weekly with his friend, Hugo.

But by then I had reached him and hit him with a straight right to his jaw. He was taller than me and my blow slipped slightly south, lacking the impact I’d planned. Robo squared up and I barely had time to block a hook to my gut.

I could see him digging for his gun. I switfly lowered my head, swung it up and left, and shattered his jaw. Robo went down like a big sack of sand.

Then, exhausted, I took a nap.

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boxinggirl

The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs. There have been reported sightings of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game she is working on her web site and can be contacted at pat@pjchilders.com.

Shopping the Book

woman_man_thruhoopsBeen jumping through hoops and knocking my head against the wall since the day I finished my book of stories and began the publisher hunt. They call this phase “shopping” your book. And frankly, it sucks. Here’s why:

Saturday, Day 1: Finish Book

9 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Finish going through manuscript proofed with track changes by my very good writing friend, Kevin, who is an awesome editor.

11:00 a.m. to Noon Figure how to save manuscript so track changes don’t appear anymore. Which involved a Google search, a couple of head knockings, etc.

Rest of the day/night: Go about having a life outside of the book, pretending not to think about it.

Sunday, Day 2:  Find Publishers

8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Search through Poets & Writers extensive online database of small press publishers, stopping only for the necessities. Like bathroom breaks.

Why small press publishers, you may ask. Well, many are well-respected universities and presses, plus they’re best-suited for literary manuscripts. In fact, some of the best writers have been published by small press publishers. So, the reasoning goes, If they’re good enough for them, they’re good enough for me.

Monday – Friday, Days 3 – 7: Continue to find Publishers

8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Think about self-publishing while working the day job. Think about the cost, the self-marketing, the decision on which self-publisher to choose. Think maybe…..

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Home. Continue search through Poets & Writers extensive online database of small press publishers for appropriate publishers for my book.

My Criteria for Appropriate Book Publishers:

  • Publishers who publish short story collections.
  • Publishers with current submission reading dates.
  • Publishers whose submission guidelines you can meet.

Which brings more head-banging and hoop-jumping.

For one thing, finding an appropriate publisher is more challenging than you’d think.There’s a whole lot of small press publishers out there, but finding ones that don’t publish only poetry, or only novels, or only memoirs, or sci-fi, or mystery, or romance, or only want historical fiction.. well, as you can see, this subject deserves a whole other blog post.

For another, not all submission guidelines are alike. Each publisher has its own, very specific guidelines. Still, I’ve been through the submission process hundreds of times getting individual stories published, how hard could following a few book submission guidelines be? I soon found out.

Sample Book Submission Guidelines  (underlining mine)

Publisher X:

1.IN “SUBJECT” LINE please type: LAST NAME / FIRST NAME / FIRST 2 WORDS OF MANUSCRIPT TITLE {What if your book title is only one word?}

2. COVER LETTER should include your bio.  {Ok I have one of these.}

3. AESTHETICS STATEMENT must be attached to your email. This is NOT a synopsis or a summary of your plot, although you may include that. It’s a statement discussing your creative process and/or conceptual intent. It’s a description of why your manuscript is innovative, why you made the choices you made, how you expect the project to be read or viewed, what you were exploring, etc. REMEMBER: We’re interested in your creative process as much as (perhaps more than) the consumer product that results from it.   {Really? So your book can suck, but if your process doesn’t….}

4. CONVERT manuscript to PDF. If the PDF is larger than 8MG, please send email requesting submission instructions {Why not just say, DropBox?}

5.IMPORTANT: Our Publishing Contract requires that you have read, understood and agree with our Business Model. Please read it before submitting your manuscript. {They have a Business Model?}

Publisher Y:

Steps to Publishing With Us   
1. Prospective author is interviewed by publishing representative regarding his or her work, interview typically runs 30-45 minutes, and during the interview we ask a series of questions to ensure that your work is a good fit for our publishing model.  {Yikes, I thought my job hunting days were over.}

2. After the phone interview prospective author receives an e-mail to submit the work for review. {How nice of them not to say, “Or not.”}

Publisher Z:

1. We prefer to receive hard copies of submissions via snail mail. {Wait – you mean actual PAPER?} 

Well that’s just a sampling. I could give dozens upon dozens more, but will spare you.

If only I could spare myself. Writing is hard enough. Finishing your book takes months, even years, of rewriting, finding and getting feedback you can trust, more rewriting, lots of re-imagining, removing stories from your book, adding others you were saving for your next book. Lot of decisions, lots of second guessing yourself, lots and lots of hours spent on the book. Still, it’s your writing, and it’s something you love and don’t really consider work.

But this book shopping stuff? There are at least a thousand small press publishers in this database and I spent one week searching through a couple of hundred of them. Result? I found 3 that might consider my book.

So next week, it’s back to the database where, if I’m lucky, I might find 3 more.

Moving in Stages

Compliments of Guest
Blogger, Kevin Standifer

manpacking

I moved to Chicago from Austin, TX just over ten years ago. Now after ten years of learning how to moisturize, shopping for the right humidifier, buying the wrong winter coat and then buying the right one, and never ever finding a pair of gloves that actually warmed my hands, I’ve decided to migrate back to the warmer climes from which I came. Moving is never easy, but this time is probably the worst:

1. I’m not just moving myself, but also my partner and temperamental cat, Minou;

2. The partner had to find a job in our future home in Austin;

3. Our lease here in Chicago isn’t up for another six months, winter is beginning, and it’s the worst time to try to find tenants for an apartment.

We’ve found ourselves moving in stages. The original plan was to move in spring, close to when the lease is up. My partner, afraid that he would have trouble finding work, began looking in September. Two weeks later, he had found a job and needed to move in early October. This began what I’m calling The Stages of Moving.

Stage 1: Denial and Light Arguing

Since we can’t break our lease and cannot afford two, I quickly realize this means I’ll be staying in Chicago until someone takes over it. Meanwhile, the partner gets to move, take the car, explore a new city, get a fabulous new job, and generally have a lovely time (a friend is generously putting him up for the interim). I spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to think of ways to not have to sit around in Chicago by myself. No dice. I pick on him for no reason.

Stage 2: Panic

download-1

Unhappy Minou escaping the mayhem.

I force the partner to help me pack everything in our house before he leaves. We do so in about two weeks, with the exception of the stuff I will need in the coming months. The cat gets angry as furniture and boxes are shuffled around the house. Our living space looks odd and echoes now. Our landlord helps us look for new tenants and issues dire warnings that we won’t find anyone until spring. We cavalierly ignore him.

Stage 3: Candy Store

Partner leaves, which is sad but we firmly believe I’ll be joining him in six months. For two weeks I enjoy my newfound bachelordom, watching movies and playing video games to my heart’s content. I make a point to go to restaurants I’ve never been to, and go to museums I never got around to. Life isn’t so bad. I’ll be in Austin soon! …right?

Stage 4: Okay, Ready to Move Now

The initial fun of being solo wears off. I postpone coming home from work because I don’t like being confronted with the empty house. No one to speak of comes to look at the place. No longer optimistic about moving before 2014.

Stage 5: Panic, Part Two

I realize that even though “everything” is packed, there will be a whole second phase of packing that will take just as long when it comes time to actually move. Clothes. Pots and Pans. The TV and all attached gadgets. Bedding, computers, things in the closets, cleaning supplies, tools, bathroom stuff. I have actual panic attacks. I see things to do everywhere but cannot act on it.

Stage 6: Bitterness

After two months, I realize I’m probably stuck here until winter is over. We’ve bumped back the rental date for prospective new tenants twice. I’m also constantly thinking about all the things I need to do once we do have a renter. Book a flight to move the cat, arrange for my dad to come help us move, cancel utilities, find an actual place to live in Austin, plan a going away party, the list goes on and on. Again, I can’t act until we know.

Stage 7: The Actual Move

I envision this as a joyous flurry of activity, ending in a joyous move to a perfect living space in Austin, full of warmth and sunlight. It will be so glorious, it could only be celebrated properly with a song and dance number. The reality will probably fall slightly short of this, and my furniture will probably get damaged.

So now I wait, and wait, and literally count the days. As much as I’ve loved living here the last ten years, spring cannot come soon enough.

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Kevin Standifer knows a really great two bed, two bath place in Andersonville you could rent. Interested? Contact him at kev1981@gmail.com.

The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer On Reading (worth reposting)

Compliments of Guest Blogger, The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

read meWell it happened again last night. I started reading a well-known book (Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years) and I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t read it. It was just so much pablum. I even checked the end to see if anything happened that I would miss. Nope. And this has become more frequent of late.

Take “50 Shades of Grey.” I’ve found cookbooks more compelling. Now I consider myself knowledgeable about sex; I’ve seen some interesting movies. If memory serves, everybody has the same basic original equipment but honestly, eventually you have to run out of things to do with it. I could probably write a short story, or even a novelette, but to write three books about sex between two people there would have to be clowns and a horse involved.

I couldn’t read “The Life of Pi.” I tried three times and you would have to duct tape me to the couch to get me to try again. The premise was so interesting and I understand the movie was beautiful, but the book was… boring.  I bailed on “The DaVinci Code” halfway through even though self-flagellation is one of my very favorite topics.

I’ve been a big fan of bodice rippers all my life, but I am unable to get past the lack of hygienic facilities on a wagon train, or under the wagon train for that matter. So I cannot suspend disbelief to read them anymore.

I’m looking for that book that holds my attention and makes me think about it when I’m not reading. It holds me captive forcing me to read late into the night. Laundry piles up around me but I have to read. I can’t return calls. It’s all about the book.

Read anything like that lately? I’m all eyes and ears….

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The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs. There have been reported sightings of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game she is working on her web site and can be contacted at pat@pjchilders.com.

The Hapless Vacationer

Compliments of Guest Blogger, Fia Essen

I reluctantly admit I was once a hapless vacationer, charmed by a Greek island and a realtor’s well-practiced tale of tranquil living. I fell in love with a beautiful wreck of a house and simultaneously became convinced I possessed previously dormant carpentry skills. Oh yes, I was almost certain I was one of those people who can build you a shopping mall if you hand them nothing but a length of rope and a Q-tip. Let’s suffice it to say I was quickly brought back to earth with a resounding thud when I fell off a ladder while trying to change a light bulb… so I hired a contractor.

Three days before Mr. Manolis, my contractor, was supposed to begin turning my Greek ruin into a habitable dwelling, I came home from a jog to find a three-man crew lined up in my driveway.

“Hello,” I puffed. “Are you starting today? Did I get the date wrong?”

The three men looked at each other, shrugged, and then stared blankly back at me. I took a moment to catch my breath before asking the same questions in Greek. They looked at each other and shrugged again.

“Okay,” I sighed. “No Greek.”

The almost scarily tall and scarecrow thin man on the left shook his head.

“And no English,” I stated needlessly.

The considerably shorter and much wider man in the middle nodded.

“Italiano?” I tried.

The average height man of equally average weight on the right cleared his throat and said, “Bulgaria.”

“Oh great,” I muttered.

I began the process of opening my very warped wooden front door, which involved a running start and throwing the entire weight of my body against it. Then I headed to my bedroom to call Mr. Manolis. After having called his cell phone a dozen times, paged him and called his office just as many, I gave up. I returned to the crew of three who were shuffling aimlessly around the hallway and said, “You can go.”

“Go?” they parroted in comical unison.

“Yes.” I pointed at the open door. “Go.”

The three of them whispered to each other for a minute. Finally, the human beanstalk said, “Okay. Go.”

I smiled in relief. “Thank you.”

I went back to my bedroom and booted up my laptop. Just as I was about to delete a veritable cornucopia of spam, an earsplitting creak followed by a thud sent me bolting back into the hallway where I found Larry, Curly and Moe standing in a gaping hole where my massive wooden door hung only minutes earlier.

3 Stoogies“What?” I gasped. “What did you do?”

The vertically challenged and rotund barrel-like man gave the front door that was now laying on the floor a kick with his booted foot, and said, “Go!”

Now, almost four years later, I’ve sold the house to another tourist with more optimism than sense… and I’m nearly fluent in Bulgarian.

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Fia Essen

Sofia Essen is the Managing Director and a Change Counselor at Essen & Essen. Change is the theme of Sofia’s existence. Helping people to both deal with change and create it is her specialty. She permanently left the country of her birth before her ninth birthday and she has been on the move ever since. You can find her at: http://fiaessen.wordpress.com/

The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer Survives Vacation

Traffic SignCompliments of Guest Blogger The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer      (aka Pat Childers)

August 22 near Cong, County Mayo  

First day Ireland. Staying at B&B in Cong where they filmed The Quiet Man. Unable to find John Wayne. Weather is actually quite lovely 70 F and mostly sunny.

August 22 near Cong, County Mayo

Conversation:
Me: I forgot they drive on the left here.
He: What?
Me: they drive on the left.
He: Here’s a map. Figure out where we’re going.
Me: No GPS?
He: What?
Me: I’ll figure it out.
He: Oh no a roundabout.
Me: Go straight.
He: What?
Me: That way (pointing)
He: Don’t point. Tell me.
Me: Ok go straight.
He: What?

That’s pretty much the way it’s gone so far

Day 1 into Day 2

Was spent exploring the republic of Ireland’s public health system. A scant 16 hours later we were very pleased to learn no blood clot in my leg, just massively swollen hematoma. Met a lot of nice people though. Spent time on a hospital gurney in the hallway, had blood test and vascular ultrasound and nice little doctor from Pakistan. Cost: 200 euros (260 US). I’m worth it.

Day 3

Can’t go to Cong without a trip to The Quiet Man Museum, not open weekends or noon to 1:00, or whenever they don’t feel like it. The main event is a replica of the cottage John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara moved into, with replica clothes if you feel up to reenacting the wedding night scene.

Cowlowres

Just a note to my Wisconsin friends and family — Ireland has the biggest, cleanest cows I’ve ever seen. It’s as if a cow washer appears before dawn to shine them up and then deposit them on little knolls facing the road. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the quality of the cheese too.

Day 4

castleDlowresCastles everywhere most built around 1140 to 1500. The homes are big and beautiful and the fences are made of rocks. No shoulders on the roads just solid rock fences.

The food has been great. You get a bowl of French fries with everything. I had a pork dinner on mashed potatoes with sides of boiled potatoes and a big bowl of French fries. My grandchildren would love it. Going to Kinvara tomorrow. My leg is getting better.

Day 5

Was a lot of rocks. Drove through the Burren which is a large mountain of rock with a bunch of rocks on top. Then they stack the rocks up and call them fences. But really they are just more piles of rocks.

BurrenrockslowresDay 6

We puttered around then went to Dunguire Castle in Kinvara for a banquet dinner and some Irish songs and poetry. The food was quite good. More potatoes with green beans and carrots and a chicken breast. Reminded me of every wedding I’ve ever been to. The sun came out and we took lots of castle sunset pictures.

Day 7

Was a lot of driving from Kinvara to Dingle Town on the aptly named Dingle Peninsula. The roads are wide enough to fit two small compact cars abreast as long as you don’t open the doors. On the sides are piles of rock fences covered with ivy and bushes. In the center of the road is a white line that marks where the edge of your right hand mirror can reach because you’re driving on the left. The object appears to be to drive as fast as possible maintaining a one-inch margin from the rocks on one side and 0 to one inch on the right. When a tour bus or large farm machinery approaches you grab the steering wheel with both hands and wet your pants.

Day 8

We dingled all over the peninsula today and saw many archeological sites as civilization dates from around 3000 bc here. People built houses called beehive huts completely out of rocks (what else?) that still stand today. It was a totally grey day but wild fuchsia bushes sit atop the rock walls that line the roads and add beautiful orange and red color to the probably bloodstained undergrowth. I will have to photoshop the sun into the pictures.

Day 9

We drove from the Dingle peninsula to Shannon. We had the displeasure of stopping for a bite to eat and toilet at a little place that advertised “burgers and hot pizza.” It was the Irish version of a 7/11. She said there was a toilet next door in the green building. I ordered a burger. She said they didn’t have any. No pizza either. They had hot little pies with a bit of gravy inside so we bought them both. What concerned me was the sign that said “food must be consumed within 90 minutes.” Or what, I thought? Anyway there was no green building, it was blue. And it was locked up. “I’ve been using that toilet all day,” she said. I still want to know what would have happened if we hadn’t eaten the pies in less than 90 minutes.

An update about the weather in Ireland. Generally the mornings are cool and cloudy except when the sun peeks through. Then it clouds over until it sprinkles. Suddenly the clouds dissipate and the sun comes out. Grab your camera and look for the rainbow. Oops too late. It’s cloudy again and warm. Take off your sweater. Your face flushes with perspiration just before a cold breeze makes you put your sweater back on. There’s the sun again, you sly dog. Stay there!! No it’s gone and a gentle rain begins to fall as you put your raincoat on. Time to eat breakfast.

Day 10

The final day of our vacation in southwest Ireland. They have gone a long way toward keeping the Irish culture intact here. The signs are usually in Gaelic and English but sometimes, just for fun, they’re just the old Irish and you are suddenly in limbo because these words are so strange you know somebody was kidding around when they made them up — Oifig an Phoist (post office) or Beag (little). Sadly I never did find the one for toilet.

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The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs. There have been reported sightings of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game she is working on her web site and can be contacted at pat@pjchilders.com.