Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Getting Over Agnes

I just ended a six month love affair with an older woman. It had all the emotional entanglement, breathless energy and exaggerated freedom of a real affair. A writer’s imagination can sometimes work that way.

The affair began innocently enough (don’t they all?) when I started reminiscing about my first real job after finishing college. Before that, came two years in the Army, finally graduating from college, a hiatus to Europe to find myself and finally, a modest retreat back to Minnesota. It was time to curtail my wandering and wondering and get a real job.

I saw an ad in the Minnesota Daily (the student newspaper) for a job opening with the Minnesota Department of Public Health. It was on the University of Minnesota campus, just a half mile from my two-story hovel on University Avenue. The job was for a staff writer to create articles for their newsletter, write press releases and other sundry writing assignments.  To be honest, I think it was the close distance to my pad that drew me to the job.

It was there that I first met Glady. Like every cliché you’ve probably heard before, there was something about her that caught my attention. She was older than me, dressed like a mid-thirties plain-Jane and expressed little that was remarkable about her presence, stance or demeanor. Yet we immediately connected on some strange yet strong level.

She reminded me of my old English Professor back at St. Thomas College who seemed to sense a hunger in me for writing. He was very encouraging and challenged me to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Cool guy, he was. She reacted the same way about my writing.

A while back, I wrote a blog about Glady and that seemed to kick-start something in my brain. That’s what happens when there’s a temporary vacuum in my head between writing projects. I began to imagine what would have happened if Glady and I had had a love affair. In reality, there was never anything between us other than a few casual conversations and general gossip about the office.

At the time, I was dating a Hispanic woman and if Glady had taken an interest in me, I probably would have been too daft to even notice it. Truth be told, I had Susan on my mind.

At about the same time I was imagining Glady and me intertwined someplace romantic, ‘Vella’ appeared in the form of an e-mail notice from Amazon. The technology giant had just come out with their new Vella platform which offered short stories, novellas and novels in serialized form. They invited me to submit some of my works to their platform. That invitation, along with my own rampant onslaught of images crowding my brain, was enough motivation to initiate my romance with Glady…in fictionalized serial form, of course.

I knew if I was going to write about that period in my life and the people who inhabited it, I would have to be careful not use the real names of the people involved. So Glady became Agnes, her gal-pal at work had a name change and our boss, the same. Then I was off to the proverbial (writing) races.

But in order for this affair to work, I had to fall in love with Agnes in my head as well as my imagination; hence my writing became a very visceral love affair. If it was to be real in my mind and therefore (I hoped) in the minds of my readers, I had to feel the emotions my protagonist (me) and Agnes were feeling. Our arguments, deep discussions, love-making and ultimately our conclusion had to be real to my inner soul as my finger-tips tapped out our love story.

The premise for the story is simple enough. What happens when an immature twenty-five year old kid meets and falls hard for a mature thirty-five year old woman? I know opposites attract (50 years and counting for me) but I had to ask myself what else might have attracted this kid to this mature woman and vice-versa. That was the journey my protagonist (and me, in my mind) had to take to make it real and ultimately painfully true.

As a famous song lyrics goes: ‘It was sad and complete…’ and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The affair lasted barely six months and then it was over. I wept in my mind for the loss I felt. It was real and emotional and impactful….like most love affairs. Now it’s time to see if my readers agree.

The way Vella works is simple enough. The first three chapters of any story on Vella is free. After that, beginning with Chapter Four, there is a charge in the form of tokens to read each subsequent chapter. Tokens can be purchased on the Vella platform and there are directions for quantities purchased.

I have posted the first three chapters of my story ‘Agnes, Memories of First Love’ below:

Link to ‘Agnes’ on Vella platform

‘Agnes, Memories of First Love’ is my first attempt at writing a serialized novella for this new Vella platform. I’ve already got several more storylines in outline form if this one takes off.

Falling in love with Agnes was both a satisfying and yet very bittersweet experience. We shared a lot of good times and sad ones too. We both grew and matured as a result and were the better for it.

In the end, it was one of those life journeys that one must take to feel the joy and pain of living when sharing intimacies with another person. It’s a journey I hope my readers will enjoy with the same intensity that I did sharing it with them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

I Have Arrived

I’ve always been interested in real estate. This was long before HGTV (Home and Garden Television) muddied the waters of reality and made real estate seem like a sure bet every time. My first exposure to real estate investing was back in 1965 in San Francisco at the Presidio of San Francisco.

I can remember sitting around a table in the middle of our barracks, talking to a couple of entrepreneurs who were soon to be discharged. They wanted to stay in San Francisco and get involved in real estate. Their objective was to start a business that focused on flipping old Victorian side-by-sides in a neighborhood they felt was on the upswing. This idea of flipping, outside investors, capital outlay, financing and ROI was totally foreign to me but intriguing nonetheless.

This was long before real estate became a speculative sport like gold and silver and antiquities. Now the field includes collectables (American Pickers, anyone), Bitcoin, Meta, NFTs, etc. I was transferred to Louisiana shortly afterwards and never kept track of those two fellows. If they were successful, I’m sure they retired early and are now lounging on some Hawaiian Island.

So I don’t watch a lot of HGTV. The cable channel is really like Oxycontin for the masses – stimulating but it makes outcomes appear more believable than they really are. My own experience with real estate investing was a lot more plain vanilla. Never a lot, never very fancy, but solid and reliable. For your average HGTV watcher nowadays, it would have seemed boring as heck.

The one show I do enjoy watching is ‘House Hunters’, both national and international. It gives me a pretty reliable gauge of home prices around the country, assuming the show isn’t a repeat from years past. The home buyers seem pretty average and believable. None of the individuals or couples seem to stand out from one another. Until now.

Something is going on with the series and I can’t put my finger on it. Whether it’s a trend, deliberate subtle messaging, or a new direction; the series has, on four separate occasions, shown couples of a certain demographic deliberately seeking out their ‘dream home.’

That, in itself, is nothing unusual. What is unusual is their very pronounced (loud and vocal) desire to find a home that speaks to their success. They want a home that says: 'I (We) Have Arrived.' These house hunters have been very focused and deliberate in stating that the house they seek must show status among their peers, wealth (supposed), and a brick and mortar façade that stands out in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like a 60’s television version of the ‘Beverly Hillbillies.’ Nouveau-rich status seekers wanting to make a statement. It is simplistic and dumbed-down; often bordering on unreal or sketchy scenarios. There seems to be a message here, but I guess I’m too daft to get it.

‘House Hunters’ is probably the most realistic show on the channel even if some of the real estate agents shown seem to be competing for attention right out the clown car.

On one episode, the real estate agent changed her outfits seven times during the house hunting process, each outfit more revealing than the last. I was certain by the time they got to ‘closing’ it could have been held in a clothing-optional resort. I guess if she couldn’t make it to the ‘Bachelor’ or ‘Survivor’ or ‘Big Brother,’ then HH might have been a suitable consolation prize for her. I know there is always an entertainment value added to these shows but sometimes it can be a little over the top.

Another series ‘My Lottery Dream Home’ falls into the same kind of trap. ‘My Lottery Dream Home’ follows lucky lottery winners seeking to buy their first home. The host (my wife loves this guy) dresses like a clown and acts the same way. His primary job is to remind these lucky folks that they are now millionaires and can do or buy whatever they want. And, more importantly, that they deserve it.

I still haven’t figured out the motivation behind these deliberate attempts to send subtle messages in the shows themselves. Of course, I’m not a producer and I don’t care about ratings. Still, it would be nice to have an honest presentation instead of a structured, manipulated storyline.

We seem to be at a point in this country where many consider housing to be an inalienable right along with education, public health and protection from harm (fire and police). It’s an interesting perspective and one that deserves further discussion and debate. I’m just not sure that housing as status and gambling as deserved earnings is the right approach to take. But then again, that’s me, Mr. Plain Vanilla.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Better World Books

I love books, I always have. But now the pandemic has changed a lot of my old bookish routines. It’s not that I don’t read as much. In fact, my intake of vernacular material has grown exponentially since COVID began almost three years ago. The need is still there, but satisfying that need has changed directions.

Fortunately, part of what has changed is the length and breadth of material that I now consume on a weekly basis. In the past, I would go to our local library every couple of weeks, grab something interesting off the shelf and consume it as time permitted. Now, after almost three years of an altered lifestyle and most libraries being closed or restricted in their lending material, I’ve chosen an alternative pathway that proved to be better than most libraries I’ve patronized in the past.

It’s called Better World Books. In short, I’ve discovered a discount wholesaler of books of every subject matter, genre, form, and interest. All online, BWB allows me the time and comfort of an easy chair to peruse thousands, if not millions of books to buy, all at a deep discount.

For me, the secret was being exposed to books I would never have found on my own. In the past, I had certain library stacks I would always visit and peruse. I seldom ventured over to new areas of interest. Now with the comfort of a cup of coffee, a relaxing chair outdoors, and plenty of time; I can spend as much time and focus as I want to visit, examine, ponder, and finally decide whether or not to get a book that has caught my attention. I can also travel across genres, formats, categories, and subject matter as my mind wanders across this new online literary landscape.

The subject matter I’ve chosen recently covers a wide range. Listed below are just some of the categories I’ve selected books from.

American history

Western history

World history

Business and finance



Americana music





Military history


Real Estate

Urban development

Health and Wellness

Maybe that explains my wide-ranging and sometimes eclectic choice of stories to tell in the form of novels, plays, and screenplays - and now children's books. BWB has provided me with a smorgasbord of thoughts and ideas from which to gleam my own take on a wide range of story material. It’s a journey I probably wouldn’t have taken if it hadn’t been for a pandemic and the ease of the internet. Even with libraries opening back up, I’m sort of stuck on BWB and the journeys it can take me on now and into the future.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Over The Top

After a hiatus of two years because of COVID-19, the annual Palm Springs Modernism neighborhood tours are back. Sharon and I have been docents for these home tours since they began. It’s a great way for us to see select Indian Canyon homes and enjoy their artistic venturing into new home styles.

Modernism Week is a signature event held every February and very unique to Palm Springs. It attracts thousands of modern architecture lovers from all over the country and the world. There are a host of events to showcase and highlight the very best of modernism designs and trends. There are art fairs, a modernism yard sale, vintage car show, lectures and films on historical Palm Springs architecture, as well as many events at the convention center. One of the highlights of the week are the neighborhood home tours.

Beginning in the mid-40s, architects originated a design movement specific to the greater Palm Springs area. It became known as Desert Modern. Their buildings featured groundbreaking techniques such as post-and-beam supports, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a wide array of colors to match the surrounding mountains and desert. Now famous architects such as William Krisel, E. Stewart Williams, Albert Frey, William F. Cody, Richard Neutra and Donald Wexler were among the masters of this design.

Our neighborhood was included in the home tours this year so Sharon and I once again volunteered to be docents. It was a great opportunity to meet more of our neighbors and peek in on the lives of the design-conscious, artsy-types who created these one-of-a-kind homes.

Most of the home owners are warm and wonderful folks, truly modest in their accomplishments and extremely welcoming to all their guests. A few are snobs without credentials who think they’ve hit a homerun from third base. We’ve been lucky to have had fun, accommodating home owners whenever we’ve been docents.

It was fascinating to see what had been done to these retro houses and how the other half lives. Most of the homes were owned by interior designers…no surprise there. Each was a designer’s delight. Stunning is not too strong a word to describe some of those settings.

The house where we were docents had been totally remodeled and was stunning in its décor. It was a fitting tribute to the glitz and glamor that many imagined was old Hollywood. Older visitors seemed genuinely interested in the tales of its past occupants. The newer ones just liked the mid-century design. So it goes in the land of fact and fiction, rumor and innuendo - but always a good story to tell.

Over the years, we’ve had the privilege to visit those homes most people would never see. I think it’s fair to say that most of these artistic palaces are ‘over the top.’ One particular home that Sharon still talks about had two complete kitchens and then a separate catering unit set up in the garage with oven, stove, microwave, frig, etc. Fair to say, the owners liked to entertain a lot.

I took a lot of pictures of those six homes and thought it would be fun to share just a few of the images of the ‘lifestyle of the comfortable and accomplished.’





Another home tour ended and we retreated to our more modest, comfortable sojourn in the desert. It’s certainly not ‘over the top’ nor Hollywood regency like most of those homes on the tour were. Instead, it’s a reflective habitat where Sharon can paint and I can write and we don’t have to worry about the newest in design challenges and keeping up with our neighbors down the block.