Wednesday
Jul162014

FLIGHT OF THE FUTURE – PAIN

 

             For those of you who do a modest amount of flying, a new method of travel torture may soon be available to enhance your trip.  After driving to the airport, waiting in line for a ticket, waiting in line to show your identification, waiting in line to go through security with your feet unshod, waiting for your plane to arrive late and its passengers to debark and then waiting for the cleanup crew to fluff up and remove the newspapers and candy wrappers, you finally go through the magic tunnel and board your flight  A member of the crew might look at your ticket stub and point you in the only direction you can take - or not!  You find the location of your seat and instead of the usual cramped, stuffed chairs, back compartments loaded with travel magazines enticing you to go to far away places; you see a rowing machine designed for a threesome.  What the...

Airbus has applied for a patent that would entirely change the look and feel of passenger seating on “short flights.”   Looking for new ways to save on space and since passengers are not getting any smaller at this time, a new “down and dirty” concept in seating has been envisioned.   The seat has been replaced with a bicycle-style saddle that folds up when not in use like theater seats and, the fold down table is now nonexistent as  well as a head rest..

At first blush, we might just think that this might be something to try.  Assuming that reduced amenity seating translates into additional savings for the passenger on a short flight, it might be worth it.  No longer would you have to bother your neighbor to return his table to the upright position when you need to get past and into the isle nor would you have to worry about losing coins and such from you pockets falling down into the creases of your seat.  Silver linings can be found if one looks hard enough.

            As I picture these new seats in use I do see a few drawbacks.  What happens if the short trip lasts longer than anticipated a la GILLIGAN’S ISLAND?  Imagine.  The flight crew is left in the passenger compartment with hungry, thirsty passengers with back pain, a few hemorrhoid sufferers keep switching from one cheek to the other, causing the plane to rock back and forth mimicking their motions.  Somehow I see the interior darken and bolts of lightning illuminated outside the windows and rain, always rain, falling from the clouds surrounding them.  Passengers are out of their budget seats, shuffling up the isle toward the frightened stewardess, blank stares on their faces, moans coming from deep inside their tortured bodies.  Or, was I thinking about an episode of TWILIGHT ZONE?

In the spring of 2011, Jerry and I were invited by the folks at Museum Replicas/Atlanta Cutlery to visit India and see first hand how their excellent swords and costumes and many other of their products were produced firsthand.  All hyped up for our adventure, we took flight from Atlanta to Newark, New Jersey where sleet and snow greeted us.  The plane was late getting in by a few hours and then we sat on the tarmac for several more waiting in line to get deiced before the 8000 mile trip.  Once we finally got off the ground and settled in on our spacious half filled home away from home -- empty seats in our row made it possible for us to recline if we so wished -- we passed the time rather quickly reading and talking and trying to figure out my new camera that I hadn’t had a chance to take out of the container.

After 2 weeks of new and interesting experiences that I’ll never forget we returned to the airport in New Delhi and boarded the plane that would take us home.  The bus was full, not an empty seat to be had.  Jerry ended up near the back of the plane and I in a middle seat closer to the front.  The air didn’t feel like it was circulating enough, children were crawling on the floor everywhere and I felt smothered by a rather large man sitting to my right who, by the way, kept the window shade down so I couldn’t see the outside.  All I could see was the large screen on the wall up front that showed the little blip that represented us slowly making its way back towards North America.  This was the first time I didn’t have my husband sitting next to me on the plane and it wasn’t fun.  The lights were turned down low and the crew hid in the back just like parents waiting for their children to fall asleep. 

I tried sitting in my seat, I really did, for at least an hour.  Finally, my back killing me, I grabbed my purse, slid past the sleeping woman on my left and trekked towards the rear of the plane.  As I made my way back I saw Jerry who looked as miserable as I felt and beckoned him to follow me.  An island retreat awaited us in the form of a not fully occupied crew’s lounge of sorts right across from the bathrooms.  There was enough wall space for us to stand and hold hands and talk.  That became our spot for most of the 16 hour flight back home. 

Other than the seasoned travelers who must have taken some really potent sedatives, I don’t think many of the proposed new seating arrangements would have stayed in place on that flight.  I imagine passengers using whatever they could find, unscrewing or unbolting the seats and pushing them out of the way and just lying out on the empty floor, a drink beside them and a plate of food.  Oh yes, a few rows of the seats would have been left in place for the flight crew to relax in and enjoy!

Tuesday
Jul082014

THE YEAR OF THE BEATLES AND YOUNG LOVE

 

I watched the Beatles 50th American Anniversary Special a week or so ago.  Ringo and Paul each took the stage and performed separately and then they came together for the last few minutes.  It was great seeing them and hearing them once more but I couldn’t help feeling sad for those of us who spent the 60s listening to their tunes  with our friends and family who are now no longer with us.  How many of us sat there that night, alone, remembering better times, special times, exciting times watching  this program and reminiscing about our lives, lives just starting out in 1964 with a loved one who is no longer near except in our hearts.

                The classic movie that was the inspiration for all the music videos, “A Hard Day’s Night,” is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year as well; remastered and digitally spiffed up to appear once again on the large screen.  I have a VHS copy of the movie which Jerry and I watched often but now, it sits down in the basement without a VHS player to make it work.  The movie was shown on television recently and I had a good time seeing it again.  Paul’s grandfather is easier to relate to as you get older. He certainly was clean.

                “A Hard Day’s Night” was showing in a theater near my home and I, like most girls my age, obviously wanted to go see it.  Along with seeing the movie I also wanted to see Jerry.  In 1964, Jerry and I were friends – good friends – but were not dating.  My parents didn’t think I was old enough to go out with boys and I wasn’t ready to break it to them that this was going to happen and that the boy it was going to happen with was Jerry.  Thinking of a way around a confrontation with my parents, at least for the moment, I casually mentioned at school, in front of Jerry, looking right into his eyes, my intentions to be at the Marquette Theater for the early showing of said movie.  I took matters into my own hands and did what any red-blooded American girl would do.  To make sure nothing could sidetrack my mission I even volunteered to take my young nephew to the movie, thus putting my sister on my side as she saw the opportunity for a quiet Saturday afternoon. 

                Things went off without a hitch.  I got my nephew ready in plenty of time and we walked the few blocks to the theater.  A line had already formed and as we walked past those already waiting, I saw no one that I recognized.  We got to the back of the line and I gave my nephew his quarter for admission.  Remember, this was 50 years ago; I had to pay 75 cents to get in.  Luckily, the doors hadn’t opened yet and there was still time for Jerry to show up, I hoped.  It was a warm, sunny, Chicago afternoon and my nephew wanted nothing more than to get inside, out of the sun and the heat.  The line started to move.  I panicked.   I resigned myself to the fact that without Jerry there I could scream if I wanted to and sing along without looking like a dork.  Okay, that worked.  Anyway, I reminded myself that George, the cutest, most lovable Beatle of them all would be up there on the screen, larger than life, larger than on our 18 inch TV screen at home.

                I looked back, scanning the crowd.  There he was.  Not George Harrison, Jerry.   Did he see us?  Was he hiding from us?  He came because I’m here, right?  Are his parents with him?  I grabbed my nephew’s hand and hauled him with me to the new back of the line, telling him to keep his mouth shut, or else.  What a surprise to see Jerry waiting to see the movie way over here, in my neighborhood!  We waited in line together and I introduced Jerry to my nephew who promptly punched Jerry in the stomach.  I couldn’t get mad since he had been used and abused for this covert operation and did keep quiet about how we had been up front near the box office, on the verge of entering the cooler environs when I had dragged him back to suffer in the outside world still more.

                We had a great time, the three of us.  Jerry and I held hands but tried not to make it too obvious to “you know who.”  My plan had worked.  We did start dating shortly after this and yes, my parents said no up until the moment Jerry knocked on our front door.  A teenage victory was ours and it felt good.  We were rebels!  Later, when we had our own teenagers...

                Life was at a turning point back in 1964.  We argued over who was the best Beatle or what other groups from England were groovy and how much shorter could skirts go.   We watched Shindig and Bewitched and The Man from U.N.C.L.E on our television sets.  Cassius Clay soon to be renamed Muhammad Ali, TKOs Sonny Liston and becomes the Heavyweight Champion of the World.  Ringo has his tonsils removed and Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave President Johnson the power to take whatever action necessary to defend South Vietnam against Viet Cong forces.  G I Joe emerges as a popular action figure and the FTC rules that cigarettes need health warnings on their packages.  The Civil Rights Act passes.  Race riots and college campus demonstrations become common occurrences.  A 9.2 magnitude earthquake hits Anchorage, Alaska on Good Friday and the Disney movie “Mary Poppins” hits the big screen.  The Beatles are invited and attend Queen Elizabeth’s birthday party.   Life was rushing faster than the space race.

                These were the days before “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll” turned us, made us a little less naive and perhaps hardened our hearts a bit.  Things were happening around us and over us and to us.  We lived life and were quick to change along with it.  Hell, we had fun in 1964!  All we needed was love!

 

Sharon

Wednesday
Jun252014

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

I wasn’t going to write about this but I’ve been stewing over it for the last week and I guess this is the only way I’m going to finally get past it.  So, please bear with me. 

 

            Around two weeks ago, I needed to make a grocery store run as the usual – milk and eggs and cereal - were running down and I was bored and wanted to see other people in the air conditioning and bright lights of our large, major grocery store.  A little background here; in our town we have two grocery stores, one a small establishment with a few chains throughout the state and one humongous store with a gazillion counterparts scattered through the country.

            The small neighborhood store carries the basic items necessary along with a very small deli section where you can select your meat and two sides to go or sit at the two or three table provided and eat there.  All the people who work in the store have always been pleasant to me and most courteous.  Their meat department is outstanding with a butcher that actually cuts the meat and you can see him through a large glass window doing so.  There are not a lot of frills there but you can walk in and get what you need and get out without much hassle.

            The “other store” boasts a floral department, a sushi section, deli and bakery, a housewares section, books, magazines, office supplies, etc. and etc.  The store is bright and inviting with music and great smells coming from both the flowers and the rotisserie chickens.  Rarely do you not encounter someone you know that you can take a moment to say hello to.  It’s like a small shopping mall close to home.

            About two weeks ago I shopped at this large store and was hustled to a checkout isle hosted by a very efficient young lady and an equally nice bagger.  When I received my receipt, I was told that I could take a few moments and answer some questions online about my experience in the store.  It was pointed out that I would receive some fuel points and so would the employee who checked me out.  Never having done one of their surveys, I went for it. I don’t think they want me to ever go there again.

            The first part of the survey asked questions about how I would rate various aspects of their efficiency and my overall customer satisfaction.  Out of five different categories, I gave them all one less than perfect.  When asked in another part of the survey why I had not rated them higher, I responded that this was a grocery store and the ratings that they had wanted from me would have been for something far more important than finding the eggs in the correct department.  Maybe a Broadway musical being preformed with free food and drinks would have helped them get closer to their ideal perfect score.

            Then the survey went on to questions about the store’s TASTE OF MEXICO promotion.  When you first walk into the produce section you are bombarded with displays of fruits and vegetables with huge colorful signs celebrating their country of origin.  This did not enhance my shopping experience or induce me to break into a Flamingo dance while juggling Avocados.  What happened to Robert Vaughn promoting the goodness of California’s Avocados? 

I found these signs everywhere.  I guess the survey wanted me to be impressed with how international my food selection had become.  When given the space to do so, I told them that all they had impressed me with was their pointing out to the consumer how dependent we have become or can be on foods grown outside of our own country and that I would try to only purchase those foods that originated in the United States either from their store or from another store that might think it more important to keep our money and our jobs here.

The last part of the survey had to do with my level of excitement as to the amount of money saved with their “New Low Prices.”  Through the use of the store card and special savings you are expected to look at your receipt and utter words like “Wow” and “Gee Wiz.”  Sure, I’m not saying you can’t get stuff on sale but let’s be realistic.  If you buy meat or produce on the last day they’re allowed to sell it and it’s marked down, they shouldn’t be able to make a big deal on your receipt as to the money you saved without the store thanking you for purchasing it before they have to get rid of it.  Also, if you buy a bottle of wine and the receipt shows that you just saved over five dollars and you know that every store in the area, including convenience stores, sells that same bottle of wine for just about the same amount as just paid for it, where is your “big store” getting its information?  I didn’t go to that specific store to get that bottle of wine, I just happened to be there shopping for other things and picked it up.

Well, I did get my 50 fuel points and I hope the checkout girl got hers.  The store is still standing a week after my tirade and nothing has changed.  I don’t think I bought any food that didn’t originate in the US and I bought that same bottle of wine and received a fantastic saving of $5.20.  My receipt thanked me for shopping with them and, it did not asked me to go online and take a short survey!

Have a great day!     

Sharon

Tuesday
Jun172014

SURGICAL STRIKE or the 3 RAMBOS

The first SURGICAL STRIKE book came about because of a phone call.  We were in our office doing what ever we were doing and we get a call from the office of that big movie producer I told you about last time.  Once the connection was made, our friend the producer says, “Jerry, I want you to write a story for me with 3 RAMBOS.”   He wanted a yarn filled with action and shooting and heroic men living on the edge. 

            Yep, we took the bait, dropped everything else and spent a lot of time coming up with a story.  We gave him what he perceived he wanted that day and I think we did a pretty good job.  Three RAMBOS with different personalities all united to fight terrorism.  Coming up with a plot was as easy as reading the day’s headlines.  We sent him our synopsis and detailed outline along with weaponry ideas and anything else we felt could be helpful.  I imagine everything is still sitting on a shelf somewhere or in a dead file along with probably thousands of other ideas.

            We had fun coming up with all this but realizing that the likelihood of anything ever happening to get it on a big screen or little screen or, for that matter, any screen was remote, we decided to shop it around as a book.  An editor at Bantam Books liked the idea and gave us a contract for not one but three books based on these 3 anti-terrorist RAMBOS.  Written at a time when we still believed that America would not stand down to terrorism and that we must fight the good fight because we were the good guys and proud of it.  The 3 SURGICAL STRIKE books have been reprinted by Speaking Volumes.  www.speakingvolumes.us

 

BTW:  PARKING SPACE 32D   Have you heard that the parking garage in Rosslyn, Virginia, where “Deep Throat,” leaked information about the Watergate scandal to Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward, is going to be destroyed?   A developer is going to replace the 1960s office building and parking garage with a 28 story residential building and a separate commercial building offering retail and office space.  “Deep Throat,” later identified as Mark Felt, the former deputy director of the FBI, gave information to Woodward over the course of a year, which eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.  Felt was able to keep his identity as “Deep Throat” secret for 30 years.  I wonder how many tears will be shed for the demise of this historic spot.

 

Sharon

 

Thursday
Jun052014

HOW DID WE WRITE THAT STUFF part 2

            Sometimes writing can take you to interesting places.  We were a couple of books into the SURVIVALIST series and hoping to get a contract for some more, seeing as how we felt we had plenty of story to work with.  Then, the contracts we were hoping for did arrive, along with a note saying that they were urgently needed back in the publisher’s hands.  Could we sign them and overnight the paperwork that same day?    At this time, there was no Express Mail service in our town and we had to travel to a town about thirty minutes away that did offer the service.  It was getting late in the day, Jerry got behind the wheel and drove off and I started reading the contracts.  The first one I looked at was missing a page or two.  Damn!  I thought, hopefully, since each contract was in triplicate, the missing pages were stapled in with the other copies.  No such luck.  I went through three copies of three separate contracts with no luck.  Pages were missing from them all.

            Our mommas didn’t raise complete fools!  We turned around, went home and got on the telephone to our editor who in turn put us on with one of the publishers.  Turns out that they "misplaced" some of the pages when they were making some changes and suggested we fly up to New York and sign the contracts in their office and take in a day or two of sightseeing, all at their expense, of course.  We couldn’t pass up the offer and made all the arrangements necessary.

            It turned out that a very well known movie producer was interested in making a SURVIVALIST movie – hence the contracts for additional books in the series.  If we had blindly signed the contracts as they had been sent to us we would have had a tough time getting any action out of the ensuing deal. Instead, we got to meet with the producer and his staff along with our publisher and participate in the deal.

            Things turned out well for us.  Not only did we make a little money – emphasis on little – we met some interesting and really nice movie people, got to sit in on a private screening of Jimmy Cagney’s last movie, visit the Guggenheim Museum, go to a Broadway matinee staring Lauren Bacall and shop at Macys Department Store!  The only disappointment was that Jerry wanted to visit the bar Mickey Spillane used to frequent and found out that it had closed just a few years before our visit.  We also got to meet our editor and created a much better working relationship and we got a handle on how many stories are optioned for movies and how few are actually made.

            We came home to life’s usual realities and settled back into our writing schedule, but, stopping to ask each other, “Do you remember when we saw what’s his name?  He looks so normal in real life.  I thought that cab driver was going to kill us all!  When he told us to think thin when he was driving in between traffic lanes on the way to the airport, I though he was kidding!

            Ahh.  New York, New York!

 

Next time I’ll tell you how this visit was the birthplace of the SURGICAL STRIKE three book series.

 

Sharon