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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

TIME TRAVEL




     When it’s time to write, I pack my mental suitcase and embark on a journey to another time, another place, another world—sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. Characters introduce me to their friends, family, lovers, and enemies. The place sometimes reminds me of somewhere else—perhaps somewhere I lived in the past. A place I dreamed about or passed along the way to somewhere else. Perhaps a spot on a map I studied or a figment of my imagination.
     The way to discovery can be hard. Obstacles loom when and where you least expect them. I wonder if I will make it—if writing The End at the end of a story or novel is worth the struggle. A contrary protagonist often insists on going her own way—we argue a lot. The antagonist isn’t the mean character I intended; I find he’s managed to unearth my admiration for his cleverness, his charm. A lot needs to change and I have to change it.
     “I’ll help you,” he whispers in my ear.
     “Don’t listen,” she says.
     “Quiet. Both of you. I’m the writer, I’m in charge and I have to do some serious thinking.” Do I really believe I’m in charge?
     I begin again. Where are we? Where did the journey take me? Is the place rich or barren? The people complacent or miserable or reasonably content? What period of history are we in and how does it affect my characters, my people? Who are my characters? Rich, poor, somewhere in the middle? Are they in want or do they want more? What do they need? What do they seek? And why? Why? Why do they do the good, the bad, the unintended? What are they looking for and what am I looking for?
     I take a long walk and try to clear my head—no cobwebs allowed. I decide to read but all that thinking had tired me; the book drops from my hand. The table-lamp is still on when I wake the next morning. I reach for the pen and pad next to the bed and begin writing.

Bests,

Elise
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Friday, August 26, 2016

NATIONAL DOG DAY





     On National Dog Day I’d like to share a few memories of Jackie—the Pavlova of Toy Poodles. She weighed just under seven pounds and looked like an emaciated mouse when soaking wet but she was able to jump from the floor to the top of the Murphy bed in the theatrical hotel we were staying at when we brought her home from the kennel. My husband said a dog would never sleep with us but by the third jump he gave in and Jackie claimed the middle of the bed while we were pushed to the sides by her little paws. She could also jump to the top of the dining table when tempted by home-made rice pudding or baked beans and we had gone to answer a phone call. If she stayed with my mom, she turned up her nose at dog food and was fed lamb-chop, steaks and ice cream for dessert-had my mom well-trained.
     She was offered a job in a small production of “Wonderful Town,” but suffered from stage-fright although when a tenor sat down at the piano after dinner she howled right along and when on the road enjoyed the Christmas party we threw for all the dogs in the company. Jackie always knew when we were taking her to be groomed and would refuse to move when we were two blocks away. After she had received her beauty treatment she strutted all the way home though she hated the girlie ribbons placed on her ears. Her taste in males was interesting—she preferred big, muscular dogs. The type you might see featured in a kennel romance.
Jackie passed on when she was almost sixteen. We miss her.

Bests,

Elise

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

WINDOWS





     When I was a kid, my mom and I took the train from New York to Richmond, Virginia to enjoy the southern hospitality of my dad’s 

family for a week. I spent the long hours of travel gazing out the window, wondering about the lives of people who lived in tumble 

down shacks situated near the railway. Sometimes I could peer into windows without shades and get a glimpse of a table or a wood

crate, a baby being held close to a thin body. Boys waved to the train as it passed, I imagined they were wondering where we came 

from, what we would do once we arrived at our destination. Sometimes the boys ambled past accompanied by an all-American dog, 

occasionally rough-housing with each other. Once I spied an elderly man sitting on his porch, newspaper covering his face, cane at his 

side. He woke as we passed and I thought I saw—perhaps it was my imagination taking over—a dark look pass slowly over his 

sun-burnt face.

     A boy—maybe my age—sat swinging his legs at one of the station where the train made a stop. I smiled but he ignored me. When 

he  stood and I saw he wasn’t any taller than me and weighed less. Did he want to get on the train and leave his town, move to another 

state, see the country, find out about the world. Find someplace where there was plenty to eat, and more to see than trains rumbling 

past. A shinier future. Something he could believe in. The train passed fields--I saw a cow lunching on grass--my first cow and a horse 

as bony as the boy and I wished, wished I had the power to make his life better.

    
     Some days I take the bus at Port Authority and watch a kaleidoscope of humanity rushing through on their way to who knows 

where. People stopping for a minute to pick up a free newspaper. Military personnel and police studying everyone who passes. 

Teenagers talking on their cell phones, ignoring everyone trying to get by. Derelicts opening the heavy doors that lead into the 

concourse, holding out a hand hoping for a tip that would buy them a coffee or something to eat. Men and women in suits, carrying 

leather briefcases and looking important—are they bankers, lawyers, engineers? Women with accents that make me try to guess which 

country they left to make a home here. Aides? Housekeepers?  A visitor taking a bus to a hospital or home to visit a sick friend or 

relative.

     I want to know more about them all, their lives, their hopes, their dreams and when I get home I will sit at my computer and make 

up a story that will tell me about their lives.

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