Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Damned To Hell

I've been home over a week from the authors event I attended in NY.  Since my return, I've had a chance to reflect on some things that happened.

The event at Liftbridge Book Store showcased about a dozen local authors.  Some wrote children's books, others history books or novels.

I had the unusual fortune to be sandwiched between two Catholic women with very strong religious convictions.  Lucky me.

The woman to my left was petite, attractive and friendly.  Never did I see her without a smile on her face.  She looked at the title of my book and asked a few generic questions, but didn't appear to be either interested or annoyed by the title.  She did say her entire education, including college, was with Catholic institutions and made clear that her faith is very important to her.

Her book is titled "Communion of Saints, Talking to God and Grandma".  More about that later.

The woman to my right was elderly.  It was obvious she'd lost a few inches of her original height, as is inevitable when Father Time decides to curve and compress the spine.  She was less than five feet tall with white hair.  As she began to set up her book (a children's book about the Erie Canal), I noticed her hands shook with an uncontrollable tremor.  I gave her my chair and told her I preferred to stand.

She picked up my book and flipped it over to read the back cover.  The look on her face was not one of happiness.

"At what grade did you drop out?" she asked.

"I went K through six," I replied.

She nodded as if that's what she expected to hear.  "Do you believe in Christ?" she asked, unsmiling.

"Yes.  Jesus and I are good friends," I replied, showing all my teeth.

She continued to scrutinize the back cover of "Confessions".

"I damn you to Hell," she said, returning the book to its original place on the table.

I laughed out loud.  I wasn't trying to be rude, but it was humorous.  "You don't scare me," I said, as nicely as I could.  I didn't want to be nasty to a woman old enough to be my grandmother.  "I've been damned by worse," I added.

She turned her back to me and sat sideways in her chair to avoid having to share my space or my air.

About twenty minutes later, she dropped her pen on the sidewalk.  I bent to retrieve it.  She accepted it without a word before turning her back to me once again.

It's only fair that I mention the "What Would Jesus Wear" toy I had displayed in front of my books.  It's a great thing I found in Seattle.  Remember Colorforms?  They were shapes cut out of vinyl and we adhered them to each other, making scenes on a black cardboard background...sound familiar?

The thing from Seattle is similar, but its magnetic.  The pieces allow you to dress Jesus in all sorts of outfits, including a lamb costume!!!  Oh please, "the Lamb of God"??  There's even a crucifix.  The set provides endless hours of fun for those us with a sense of humor.

I'm getting sidetracked.  Before the old bitty damned me to Hell, I didn't say much about the Jesus toy, nor did I play with it, because I didn't want to be disrespectful.  Once she damned me, I suppose I became a little boisterous about the whole "Lamb of God" thing.  In my defense, it was very funny.

She didn't speak to me again for the rest of the afternoon.  I was grateful.

The woman on my left was a joy.  (Her name is Mary Grace.) Although she is a devout Catholic, she played with the Jesus toy, too.  To my extreme shock, Mary stuck the magnetic loaf of bread suggestively between our Savior's legs.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

She, too, picked up my book and read the back cover.  Then she bought it.

We chatted all afternoon and I bought her book, which I devoured on the trip home.  I was shocked to learn Mary is a former cocaine addict and alcoholic.  What's more, she'd been excommunicated from her hometown parish after seeking guidance from her priest.  Mary became troubled after seeing her dead mother...I mean, the woman was dead!  The author was scared and confused.  When she turned to her Church for help, they kicked her out, even getting a restraining order against her.

Fast forward several years, this lovely lady remains a devout, practicing Catholic... but she also speaks with the dead.  Her book explains why maintaining contact with our loved ones who've passed on is NOT against the Church.  If you're Catholic, you're familiar with the phrase "the Communion of Saints".  You get the idea.

I'm not a practicing Catholic; I'm a recovering one.  Having said that, to each his own.  Regardless of your views on the subject, the book is worth a read.  I found it enlightening.

I plan to stay in touch with Mary.  Maybe she can teach me how to get in touch with Aunt Elizabeth.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Travel is fun, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing...

I've traveled over ten thousand miles in the last three weeks and when I crossed the last bridge to my island yesterday afternoon, I swore I'd never leave again.  I'm ever so happy to be home again.

Crowded airports, shuttle buses and cabs interrupt my writing routine.  I'm beginning to feel like an old person who complains that travel messes up their bowels.  I hope at least one of you knows what I'm talking about.

Surely, I can't be the only person who has (or has had) a family member who complains about not being able to poop once they get away from their daily routine at home.  Be honest.

I'm beginning to understand the feeling, but in a different way.

When I'm home, I have a writing routine and the characters in my book run around my head and their story flows out quite nicely.  It's not hard work; "Fat Chance" (my next book) is pretty much writing itself and I feel as if I'm just along for the ride.

But once I get away from that routine, I feel...constipated.  I know the stories are in there, but I can't get them out.

I can't write while in a bus/car/etc, because I'll barf on the person in front of me.  Motion sickness makes it impossible for me to work while moving.

I don't like writing in a crowded airport if the people next to me can read my laptop's screen.  Writing is very private; I don't let anyone read what I'm writing until it's done.  The idea that a stranger seated next to me can read what I'm writing is enough to make me leave the laptop in its case.

But I'm home now and it's like I took a heavy dose of Ex-Lax before going to bed last night, because the stories are ready to come out.

Please excuse me while I take care of business.