Monthly Archives: August 2013

Michelle Obama came to me. . .

Maybe it was the fish tacos and too much pinot gris at dinner. Or the craving for dark chocolate and crushed peanuts that followed. Who know why I, or anyone else, spent Tuesday night tossing and turning between fits of waking and sleeping

That was the night I found myself in the living room of an old two-story house with a stoop, its exterior shingled in navy 448px-Michelle_Obama_official_portrait_headshotsquares of asbestos. Inside was a group of people who were dressed as though they were going to church, one that required dresses for women and suits for men. A woman in a royal purple wrap and black patent leather pumps, sat on an olive green couch. She looked familiar, much like someone whose face I knew from Goodreads.com but had never met in real life.

I didn’t know what I was doing in this place more than an hour from my house and feared it was a start-up church, the kind that focused on the Old Testament, perhaps used the New Testament in ways Jesus would not have liked. I’d been done with bad news churches for decades and had no interest in squirming through a sermon that would leave me snippy.

Now, the good news in this story is that these people, all middle-aged and white, had gathered in the middle of nowhere in a starkly furnished house to play a kind of charades that involved no alcohol or shouting. Even the silent gestural clues were modest. Such civility intimated me into silence. I had no idea a party game could be so dull. When there was a break, I plotted my getaway and stood to leave, but something amazing happened before I acted on it. As I opened to door to leave, President Obama and the First Lady came through up to the door and entered. I decided to stay a while longer.

Rather than shake hands or politicize, the Obamas, too, came to play charades. They were crazy about the game. Before taking a seat, Michelle said to me, “I heard about your novel, Cooley & Rose. I want to read it.”

Thrilled – how did she know me? – I excused myself to go to my car to grab a copy, even though, until that moment, I had no idea how I’d driven there. Dreams are like that. Details come when you truly need them. All the way to the car and back, I reminded myself to take a photo of Michelle holding my book, to ask someone to take a picture of the two of us. Once I was inside, however, I was so awed by the power of word-of-mouth, especially the mouth that knew a First Lady, that I forgot my intentions. I left with no recorded memory of the moment, and nothing to help sell my modest indie undertaking. The disappointment was crushing.

And it was the next morning, too, when I woke from my dream. I still wanted those photos.

cover final 3-2-13Note: Cooley & Rose is available as a paperback and ebook EVERYWHERE. If it’s not on the shelf of your favorite store, ask the customer service rep to order it for you.

The War for the Figs — Who Will Win?

I had gone outside and started tying the first of fifty or so shiny gold ribbons on the fig tree when a mockingbird landed on IMG_0190the nearby split-rail fence and started, well, mocking me, as though I were a fool who credited him with less than a birdbrain. I tried to scare him off by duplicating the sound of a shotgun blast, but that came out as a soft pop of air and failed to ruffle even one feather.

He continued to taunt me. I paid him no mind as I moved from one branch to another cutting and tying on streamers. It wasn’t until a blue jay settled into a high bough, cursing, that the idea came to me to curl the ribbons so they might dangle and dance on a breezy day or appear as snakes on a calm one.

Sadly, neither of these threatens a blue jay which loves bright shiny objects. Already she was probably planning to feather her next nest with them, a nest that would be built long after she and her family and friends had eaten the figs and the leaves had fallen and been raked.

I am willing to share, but I have my limits. Several years before an arborist came to prune the tree, three herding dogs barking from the windows of the man cave and long silver streamers twirling under the leaves discouraged wild life from eating the fruit hanging from the lower branches.

This year I had not even gone through a spool of gold before a squirrel leaped from the roof of the house onto a branch opposite the blue jay. That is when I understood two things –these animals, which were not made to mix, no longer feared the barks that came from within our home, and they had formed an alliance to shoo me from this goddess of all fig trees.

Just last year my 89-year-old Gene had made a short video in his backyard of a fox and raccoon eating leftover spaghetti from the same bowl. It was a scene from the peaceable kingdom. No one made a fuss. Especially not Gene, who prefers the food prepared by The Golden Corral to his own.

But I can’t say there will any quiet here for the next three weeks. Maybe if I channeled my Native American ancestors, I would waive ownership of the tree and give into these greedy critters, which will soon be drunk from the sugar fermenting in their tiny brains. But since I, too, have a passion for figs — plain, broiled with prosciutto and cheese or preserved. I won’t.

It’s time to let the dogs out.