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Awkward Moments in Dating: Clumsiness

(image via wikimedia)

When you date somebody at work, there’s a good chance it’s going to cause problems.  As soon as coworkers find out about the relationship, there’s going to be gossip.  If the relationship goes sour, there’s going to be friction.  And if you date a boss, there’s a good chance somebody will get fired.

________ wasn’t the boss, but she was a boss.  You didn’t mess with her.  I mean, you didn’t mess with her at work.  At any rate, she was pissed off at me because I told her that her name didn’t fit her (You can find out more starting here ), and everybody knew she was pissed at me.  Because of that, I was on the receiving end of some office talk.

This went on for about a week.  For a while, I was pretty sure I was going to get fired.  I never got called into an office for any reprimands, but I was pretty sure it was coming.  They wouldn’t fire _______ for the interoffice dating, even though she was the superior.  If I got called in, I wasn’t even going to pretend to have been intimidated into dating her.  I was going to go with the “just friends” approach.  Technically, we hadn’t gotten much further than friends anyway.  We had been about to go a lot further, but I had messed it up with the name incident.  I wasn’t sure the “just friends” would work, but I wasn’t going to blame her.

After a week or so, I started to relax.  I hadn’t been talked to, and if it hadn’t happened yet, I didn’t think it was going to.  I hardly ever even saw ________ anymore.  When we had run into each other, I tried to be polite, but she’d just glance away.  It wasn’t exactly a cold shoulder because she had plausible deniability.  She could always claim she hadn’t seen me.

One morning as I walked into the lobby, the first thing I noticed was that it was crowded and that _______ was there and that she had already noticed me.  She did the quick glance away, and I pretended that I hadn’t seen it.  I cursed myself for not getting to work earlier when I could have avoided her.

And then I tripped.

I didn’t fall, but it was a noticeable stumble.  I recovered my balance but then knocked a styrofoam cup of coffee off a couch armrest.  It spilled on the carpet, and everybody in the lobby had seen it happen.  The carpet wasn’t that nice or anything, but it had at least been clean.  I could tell from the way the coworkers were looking at me that they thought it was my coffee.  They thought that I had just seen the boss (the one whom I had allegedly been dating and had allegedly insulted), and they thought that I had seen her and gotten flustered and then tripped and then spilled my coffee.  Most of them didn’t know I could be clumsy under normal conditions.  Even though _______ and I had been out a couple times, I wasn’t sure if she understood that either.

“Doh!” I said, in a reflex Homer Simpson imitation.  This was back in the early 1990s, and Homer Simpson humor was still seen as new.  It hadn’t gotten old yet, and everybody recognized the reference, even if they never watched The Simpsons.  A few people laughed.

__________ grinned at me as I picked up the cup and looked around for a paper towel.  I thought about using my shirt sleeve.  Of all the times for me to stumble and knock over coffee, it had to be in front of her.

“That twig get you again?” she said.  She bent down with a couple napkins, and I wondered where she had gotten them so quickly.

“I hate that twig,” I said. “And why would somebody leave coffee on the armrest?”

“That was mine,” she said, extending the last syllable with guilt.

“Well, in that case it’s alright,” I said, understanding why she had the napkins.  I started soaking the napkin in the carpet. “I’m sorry I knocked it over.”

“It was office coffee.”

“Ha!  Then I did you a favor.”

We talked for about a minute, but I don’t remember much of what else we said.  I was just glad she wasn’t accusing me of saying she had an ugly name.

“The janitor can do this,” she said as she stood up.

“The janitor didn’t knock it over,” I said.  I was probably making the stain worse, but at least I wasn’t gawking.

“Well, I owe you another favor,” she said.  “Maybe one day I’ll pay you back.” She touched my shoulder and walked away.  I continued dabbing helplessly until a custodian showed up and I sheepishly thanked her.

And that was it.  After that, the office weirdness stopped.  All the awkward silences I got from entering a room were the normal awkward silences.  All it had taken was one positive interaction to clear up the air.  Nobody ever gave us funny looks when we were together.  We never talked about what had (almost) happened.  Instead, we had a bunch of appropriately friendly conversations about business matters.   _________ was promoted and moved to another office a few months later, but it had nothing to do with us.   As far as office dating goes, it could have ended a lot worse, but there were a few awkward moments in there.

I’m sorry this story wasn’t more dramatic.  That’s how life is.  Sometimes it’s just awkward.

This isn’t the only time that clumsiness has affected my dating life.  If you’re disappointed in this episode,  here’s a clumsy moment I wrote about a few years ago .   But I’ve had much worse moments, I promise.  I’m just building up to them.

Literary Glance: The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

You might have heard about The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer even if you’ve never heard of The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer.

Over the weekend a headline from a New York Times book review ( Is Your Plane About to Crash?  Write a Farewell Note and Eat It ) made a bunch of news aggregators.  It’s kind of a morbid headline, and hopefully nobody will need the information, but the headline was a bit misleading because the article was more about current bestsellers and author profiles (including Brad Meltzer) than the note-eating itself.

Typical New York Times misleading headline clickbait tactic.

Anyway, that little note-eating tidbit/factoid is mentioned in an early scene from The Escape Artist, and it’s gotten a lot of publicity.  Even without that fun fact, The Escape Artist has a heckuva good start.  I won’t go into the details because a certain New York Times book reviewer might have revealed too much already, but if you like suspense/mystery thrillers, this could be a good one.

As good as the opening chapters are (you know I’m going to complain about something), there is some distracting exposition dialogue.  Almost every author suffers from bad exposition dialogue.  It’s tough to avoid.  Authors have to get a lot of information to their readers quickly and want to do it in an interesting way.

In this scene, the protagonist Jim “Zig” Zigararowski, a U.S. military mortician(?), is prying information from an old FBI agent friend Waggs (who is probably going to get killed in the book soon… I’m just guessing, so it’s not really a spoiler).  This dialogue sets up the old friendship, but also clumsily gives background information to the reader:

‘Ziggy, I love you, but do you have any idea why, when the corpses come in, you’re the one who gets all the facial injuries?”

“What’re you talking about?”

“Don’t play modest.  If a soldier gets shot in the chest, they get assigned to any mortician.  But when someone takes three bullets to the face, why does that body always go to you?”

“Because I can sculpt.  I’m good with the clay.”

“It’s more than talent.  Last year, when that marine was hit by ISIS rocket fire, every mortician said it should be closed casket- that you should wrap him in gauze.  You were the only one stubborn enough to spend fourteen straight hours wiring together his shattered jaw, then smoothing it over with clay and makeup, just so you could give his parents far more ease than they ever should’ve expected at their son’s funeral.  But y’know what that makes you?”

“Someone who’s proud to serve his country?”

“I love my country too.  I’m talking about your job, Zig.  When you take these horrors-lost hands, lost faces, lost lips- you make them more palatable, y’know what that makes you?”  Before Zig could answer, Waggs blurted, “A master liar.  That’s what every mortician sells, Zig.  Lies.  You do it for the right reasons- you’re trying to help people through their hardest times.  But every day, to hide these horrors, you need to be a first-class liar.  And you’re far too good at it.”

Zig went to say something, but nothing came out.  Closing his eyes, he turned his back to the body.

All this information is most likely important to the reader, but that dialogue wasn’t very good.  I don’t think the author (or the editors) read it out loud.  It sounds clunky, and people don’t usually talk in long, clunky paragraphs.

If I had written this (and I’m just a blogger), I would have put the background information in Zig’s thoughts while Waggs was speaking to him.  Waggs would mention how the soldiers with the facial injuries go to him and that triggers Zig’s thoughts about the effort he puts into his work and what that makes him.  To me, it would have been more believable.

Don’t get me wrong.  The first couple chapters of The Escape Artist are still really good, borderline great!  I don’t know what the rest of the book is like, but I’m interested enough and the pacing is good enough to keep reading.

I have to tell you, though, if I’m on a plane and I see people starting to eat paper, I’m going to get really nervous.

Is Butthurt a Bad Word?

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I never put much thought into the word butthurtButthurt is kind of recent.  I never said it as a kid.  I’d never even heard of it until recently, and if I’d never heard of butthurt when I was a kid, then it must not have been a thing.

But butthurt is a word now. I’ve heard adults and kids say it.  I can’t believe adults say the word butthurt, but I guess it’s been around long enough for opinions to have been formed about it.

I overheard somebody at work respond to the word butthurt by saying that butthurt was homophobic.  I wanted to eavesdrop, but conversation just shut down after that.  I didn’t even have to enter the room to kill the discussion myself (I have that talent).  Nobody in the room asked why butthurt was homophobic.  Instead, I eavesdropped on uncomfortable silence.  Nobody at work, including me, wants to be homophobic.  Even the guy who said butthurt got shut down by the accusation of homophobia.

Even though I don’t want to be homophobic, I don’t want to be a chump either.  I don’t want to limit my vocabulary just because somebody has made up a reason to be offended.  If a word is offensive, there has to be a logic behind it.  Emotion alone shouldn’t make a term offensive.

Since I can’t get fired from my own blog, I’m going to try to figure out butthurt.  I always thought (when I thought about it, which just started maybe a couple days ago) that butthurt meant a person had a stick up his/her butt, that he/she was cranky or whiny.

Having a stick up your butt would hurt.  A stick is rough and can break skin, and a jagged edged stick could shred the skin in the sensitive area pretty bad.  I don’t have to experience that to know it.  I have imagination.  A person with a stick up his/her butt would be sore, grouchy, and in a bad mood (at the very least).

I t makes sense to me that butthurt is just a shorter version of stick up his/her butt.  Or maybe it means that the butthurt person had just been spanked.  Either way, being accused of being butthurt wouldn’t have been meant as homophobic.

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s homophobic to think that butthurt is homophobic.  Why would somebody assume that only a certain group of people would be butthurt?  Anybody is capable of having a hurt butt.

It’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with others about a word’s offensiveness.  I don’t think crap should be a bad word.  I don’t think the phrase “throw like a girl” is sexist.  I don’t think hell is a bad word either because it’s a place, and a lot of people don’t believe in it anyway.

I’ve never used butthurt because it’s kind of crude and if I’m going to be crude, I use the classics.  But nobody over the age of 16 should say butthurt.  I think it’s okay for kids to say it because the word butt is okay and hurt is okay.  It wouldn’t make sense to forbid a kid from saying butthurt when those two words are okay by themselves.  Besides, you have to give kids something they can say.

Butthurt might not be a bad word, but it sounds stupid when an adult says it.  There’s a local sports talk show host who uses the term for anybody who disagrees with him.  For one thing, I don’t think anybody cares enough about his opinion to get emotionally worked up to the butthurt stage, so I stopped listening to him.

To be fair, it wasn’t just butthurt.  He did/said a bunch of immature stuff (shocking for a sports talk host, I know).  I’m not boycotting him because he says the word.  I’m not calling all his sponsors and demand they stop advertising on his show.  I’m not telling him not to say butthurt.  I’m not plugging my ears, screaming really loudly, and rolling on the floor in a fetal position (doing all three simultaneously is kind of tough).  I just stopped listening.  And now I’m writing about butthurt.

The sports talk show host probably wouldn’t care that he lost this one listener.  He’d just say that I was butthurt.

*****

What do you think?  Is butthurt a bad word?  If so, what am I missing?

Weekly Ranking: Fiction Bestsellers, 2nd Week of March, 2018

It’s been three weeks since the last weekly ranking, and not much has changed.  Three new books are in the top ten, with one prolific (in his own mind?) author making his usual return, a foodie mystery, and a bunch of longstanding bestsellers that refuse to leave the top ten.

When will readers stop buying these books?

When I ask that question (When will readers stop buying these books?), I don’t mean that readers should NOT be buying these books.  I’m simply surprised that some of these novels have been on the bestsellers list for so long.  When I started this rankings a few months ago, I expected more fluctuation.  I thought it would be more difficult to keep up with all the new novels entering and exiting the top ten, but that’s not the case.  I can’t even do a weekly top ten because too many top tens would look too much like each other.

Below are the best-selling hardcover fiction novels for the second week of March, 2018, according to the New York Times  :

1. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah-

A family in the 1970s tries to start their lives over in Alaska.  Guessing from the title, they probably don’t make a lot of friends.

2.  Fifty Fifty by James Patterson and Candice Fox-

James Patterson and Candice Fox also wrote a book called Never Never, which describes my relationship with James Patterson novels.  If this book drops out of the top ten quickly, Patterson will probably replace it with his next book next week/month/tomorrow.

3.  The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn-

The author was an executive editor (whatever that means) for William Morrow (the company that published The Woman in the Window), so this book had a bunch of built-in advantages going in.  A part of me sees that as a cynical way to publish, but an ex-girlfriend once told me, “You’ve got to take advantage of your advantages.”  She’s probably right.

4.  An American Marriage by Tayari Jones-

Oprah selected this for her book club, so this book will remain in the top ten for a while.  I don’t mean that it doesn’t deserve it.  I just mean that Oprah’s influence will help it.  I don’t want to imply anything bad about Oprah or her influence.  She might be president one day.

5.  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng-

Reese Witherspoon has this on her book club.  I didn’t know Reese Witherspoon had a book club.  Why doesn’t the book cover have a giant R on it?  Or would it be a W?

6.  Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke-

Ha ha!  Foodie mysteries!

7.  Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate-

The perfect case for NOT judging a book by its title!  Despite the cheesy title, Before We Were Yours remains in the top ten, week after week.

8.  Still Me by JoJo Moyes-

Still Me is still in the top ten after several weeks.  It must be the original book cover.

9.  The Hush by John Hart-

This is a new entry to the top ten.  After reading the vague title and the vague synopsis, I still know almost nothing about The Hush.  And that’s not necessarily bad.  A reader shouldn’t know much about a book called The Hush until after he/she reads it.

10.  Origin by Dan Brown-

When Tom Hanks plays your main character, you expect your novel to be a bestseller for a while.  Tom Hanks could start his own book club, name Origins as his first pick (which would probably keep this book in the top ten for a few more weeks), and then he can star in the movie.

*****

And there’s your top ten bestsellers list for mid-March.  How long can The Great Alone stay at #1?  How many James Patterson books can make it into the top ten in March?  Find out the answers to those questions (and much more) next week/month!

Literary Glance: Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke

Some people call this foodie fiction.  Others call it a culinary crime novel.  Either way, Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke debuted #6 on the New York Times Bestseller list (hardcover fiction), so I decided to see what this kind of novel is all about.

The food mystery might be a neat sub-genre, but I’m not interested in food prep all that much.  I don’t watch cooking shows, I don’t care about cooking competitions, and when I go out to eat, I care more about quantity than quality.  If I kept reading a book like Raspberry Danish Murder, I’d skim over all the food details, and I’d probably miss the point of the book.

There is an old precedent for culinary crime.  Back in the 1970s, my dad made spaghetti based on some cooking tips he learned from the movie The Godfather.  Very few books/movies are as violent as The Godfather, even non-culinary crime novels.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the point of watching The Godfather was NOT to get tips about making spaghetti.  My father didn’t cook often, but he made a darn good spaghetti, thanks to The Godfather.

Raspberry Danish Murder has some recipes too, but they’re more complicated than The Godfather’s spaghetti.  I don’t think I can make the raspberry danish based on the recipe after Chapter One.  There are a lot of steps involved and a couple ingredients that aren’t in my kitchen cabinets.  There are some precise measurements, and things have to be cut a certain way, and there are a bunch of added notes that looked like more steps to me.  If a recipe involves more than three steps, I lose interest and the smoke detectors go off.  You know, there are some things than an average person is better off buying rather than baking.  I’ll leave the raspberry danish to the professionals.

Maybe this kind of book would be more interesting to me if I cooked or had aspirations of baking.  And I can’t be the only potential reader who likes mysteries but has no interest in recipes.

Plus, there aren’t too many countries where food mysteries would be appealing.  If you lived in a country where food was scarce and you saw a book like Raspberry Danish Murder, you might get mad that other countries have so much food that authors can write frivolous food murder mysteries.  In some countries,  murdering for food might be so common that you would wonder what the big deal was about; of course people would murder each other over a danish.

Keeping all that in mind, here are some other sub-mystery genres that might be more interesting to me and other readers:

  • Fitness murders: A fitness instructor solves murders, with exercise/diet tips between chapters
  • Automobile murders: A mechanic solves murders, with important car maintenance tips between chapters.
  • Contractor murders: A home repair guru solves murders, with home repair tips between chapters.
  • Musician murders: A music teacher solves murders, with tips about instrument basics between chapters.
  • Book blogger murders:  A book blogger solves murders, with reviews of classics and other public domain novels between chapters.

Without the food, Raspberry Danish Murder is kind of bland.  There are a bunch of characters and some of the dialogue is unnecessary.  It’s tough for me to complain too much about this though because I’m not the intended audience.  If you are already familiar with the characters, and they feel like old friends, and you’re actually going to follow the recipe directions, then maybe this book is great!  I’m not the best judge.

I mean, I don’t mind recipes, and I’m sure the Danish is tasty, but when it comes to mysteries, I prefer plot more than the pastries.

*****

What do you think?  What’s more important, the murder mystery or the recipes?  What subgenre would be more interesting to you than foodie fiction?

The Benefits of Being Bald

(image via wikimedia)

Some kid who isn’t my daughter tried to make fun of my baldness the other day, and I told him to stick it.  In the past, I might have been a little self-deprecating about his comments.  This time, however, I made fun of that coiffed punk.  I made fun of him for the time he wastes staring at himself in the mirror.  I mocked him for the amount of money he spends on hair products.  I mocked him for the time he wastes searching for these hair products and getting his hair styled.

I like being bald.  Being bald is easy, and it frees up my mind for other things.  Once a week I spend (maybe) ten minutes with a clipper at a ½’ setting, and if I make a mistake nobody notices.  I don’t need to check my hair in the mirror.  Now I can use mirrors for important issues, like hair in the nostrils/ears and food in my teeth.

I first noticed my receding hairline when I was 28.  It was a demoralizing moment, I admit.  I was strolling through a convenience store with mirrors on the upper walls when I noticed thinning hair at the top of my head.  I had never seen my head at that angle.  Before that moment, I thought I’d had a full head of hair and I was proud of it.  I spent money and time on it, not because of vanity but because it was a rare positive physical attribute.  I’m not the most attractive guy or the richest guy or powerful guy or charismatic guy, so I needed my hair to make myself look like a reasonable catch.  Without my hair, all I had were my height, intelligence, and impeccable hygiene.

The best part of being bald is that I don’t have to worry about bad haircuts anymore.  My first bad haircut happened when I was three and my mom dropped us off at a barber shop that was next to a liquor store.  I was the youngest and the last of the three boys in our family to get a cut, and when the barber was done, I had an unevenly chopped diagonal bowl cut (bowl haircuts were hideous enough, but unevenly chopped and diagonal?), and my brothers had instant entertainment.  When she picked us up, my mom didn’t want to complain to a bunch of drunks with scissors, so we left and never went back.

When I was 14, I walked into a place called The Barber Shoppe.  I figured the barber had to know what he was doing because the word shop was spelled out in a fancy way.  In the middle of the haircut, the guy’s girlfriend burst into the shoppe, cussed him out, and broke up with him right there in front of me.  When she stormed out, the barber gave me a sheepish look, told me he’d be right back, and ran out.  I heard them arguing out on the sidewalk (that had to be a scene!), and I sat there for at least 15 minutes with the towel wrapped around my shoulders and the back of my neck itching.  I could have just walked out, but the cut obviously wasn’t done.  It would have looked funny.

The guy apologized when he came back in, but I didn’t ask him if he got his girlfriend back.  I thought it was impolite to ask about those kinds of personal matters, even if it was his (ex) girlfriend’s fault that I knew about their problems.  I’ve always wondered what happened to them.  It shall remain one of the great mysteries of my life.

After that, I was always paranoid something bad would happen while I was getting a haircut, and bad stuff kept happening, even when I was an adult.  One barber fell down as he cut my hair (nobody got hurt).  One female stylist flirted with me while she was working on my hair, and her boyfriend tried to fight me in the parking lot afterward (even though I hadn’t flirted back).

Another stylist started off by saying I had a perfectly shaped head.  At first, I thought he was flirting, and I was kind of flattered.  A few visits later, that stylist suggested clippers because I might like the clean look.  He knew he was going to lose me as a customer, but the guy was popular.  He’s still around, running a bunch of places so he never needed my business anyway.  What a stud.

Don’t get me wrong; I could grow my hair back if I wanted.  The receding hairline would be obvious, but bald wouldn’t be my defining characteristic.  I grow my hair occasionally just to prove that I can, but the way it grows back now is a problem.  With my receding hairline, I grow only on the sides, which gives my head a triangular look.  Nobody compliments a man for his perfectly shaped triangle head.  A round, ball head gets compliments, but triangles don’t.

I mean, I could grow my hair back without the triangle, but not without buying hair products and spending a bunch of time in front of the mirror.  If I did that, I wouldn’t be any better than the kid I just mocked.  And that would defeat the whole purpose of being bald.

*****

What do you think?  If you’re a guy, what else do you like about being bald?  Even if you’re not a bald guy, what has been your worst hair experience?

Literary Glance: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Here’s the good part about being chosen for Oprah’s Book Club.  The book cover gets the Oprah label, the novel becomes an automatic bestseller, and the author gets to make a bunch of TV appearances (which is great unless the author is really shy, in which case the Oprah pick could cause problems).

The bad part is that once Oprah picks a novel for her book club, then Oprah often becomes the topic instead of the book.  That’s not fair to the author.  It’s not the author’s fault that Oprah picked his/her novel.

When Oprah picked The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen, Oprah became the topic.  Part of that was because Franzen acts like a prick sometimes, but still.  When A Million Little Pieces by James Frey was chosen by Oprah, she became the topic . Yeah, Frey’s memoir turned out to be maybe fiction, but that’s okay because now he writes YA lit under a new name, Pittacus Lore, so everything worked out okay.

A couple weeks ago the novel An American Marriage by Tayari Jones got selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, and the book reached #2 last week on the New York Times Bestseller List for hardcover fiction.  An American Marriage is pretty good so far (I’ve read only a chapter).  I can see why Oprah Winfrey selected it (and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way). It starts off with some background information, including several cultural references from the 1970s and 1980s.  In the first few pages the narrator references Good Times (1970s) and A Different World (1980s).

I haven’t seen Oprah referenced yet, but she could be mentioned later.  Oprah was starting to become popular in the 1980s.  She wasn’t iconic yet.  She wasn’t giving away cars yet, but everybody knew who she was.  I knew who she was, and I never watched her show.  If I remember correctly, in the 1980s Morton Downey Jr. and Geraldo Rivera had the big talk shows, but Morton got too crazy, Geraldo got hit with a chair during a brawl (plus, Al Capone’s vault was empty), and Oprah stepped in with a more dignified show.  It got weepy and sappy sometimes, but nobody got hit with chairs.

I was wondering, though, if an author referenced Oprah Winfrey in a novel, would it be unethical for Oprah to choose that book for her book club?  I’ve written about a bunch of stuff that happened in the 1990s, and I’ve mentioned Oprah, so it could happen with an actual novelist.  If a literary author wrote an Oprah reference in his/her novel and Oprah loved the novel, it might put Oprah in an awkward position.

If I ever wrote anything that got me invited on Oprah’s show/network, I’d feel funny about it.  This is even without all my nervousness.  I’d probably panic and dry heave, which would be embarrassing, but even without that, I’d feel funny.  I used to mock Oprah’s show at its peak.  I especially made fun of those episodes where she gave away free stuff.

“What a bunch of freeloaders,” I’d scoff at the audience’s cheering whenever they got free stuff.

Just so you know, I was aware of these freeloaders only because of my wife.  My wife loves Oprah, watches her network, subscribes to the magazines, and takes Oprah philosophy very seriously.  I can mock Oprah only in certain situations and moods (which means rarely).  Years ago my wife tried to schedule Oprah tickets for one of those freeloader episodes, and I gently made fun of her her for it.

“If you truly loved Oprah,” I said, “you wouldn’t care which episode you got tickets for.”

She said that somebody was going to get that free stuff so it might as well be her.

That is how civilizations collapse, I thought, but it was okay as long as Oprah was giving her own stuff away.

Don’t get me wrong; if Oprah gave me free stuff, I’d take it.  And I’d thank her for it.  And I’d probably stop mocking her for giving stuff away, just out of politeness.  If you accept free stuff, you shouldn’t make fun of that person anymore.  I’d just find a new target.  I can always get back to James Patterson.  That guy writes way too many books.

Maybe one day Oprah will pick a James Patterson book for her Book of the Month Club.  My head would probably explode.

Dang it!  I really was going to write about An American Marriage.  I was.  I mean it. But when Oprah picks a book for her Oprah’s Book Club, Oprah often becomes the topic.

Old Things That Are Tough To Explain: The Sunday Newspaper

Before the internet came around, Sunday newspapers were the best!  I don’t just mean that the Sunday newspaper was better than other newspapers.  I mean Sunday newspapers were the best!   They were better than television.  They were better than movies.  They were better than most relationships.  Even hyperbole doesn’t do Sunday newspapers justice.

The Sunday newspaper was giant, and you could sling that wrapped paper over your shoulder like you were Santa Clause.  Once you took that newspaper out of its wrapping and started reading it, it would be impossible to put back.  It was like trying to fold a baby and stuff it back into its mom.  It just doesn’t work.  But why would you want to?  The Sunday newspaper was awesome!

The Sunday comic strips were the best.  They had more panels and were in color.  If you were a cheapskate, you could collect them and use them as wrapping paper for gifts if necessary.  During birthdays and Christmases in the 1970s and 80s, everybody knew which gifts were from me because of the colorful comic strips.  I even cut and taped the comic strip wrapping paper so that you could read the strips while the gift was wrapped.

Sunday mornings were the best mornings, better even than Saturday!  Before going to church, I could spread out that giant paper, drink my coffee, and read the paper section-by-section.  I had an order.  Headlines, sports, comics, opinion, entertainment, living, and then whatever.  Every section was 2-5 times larger than normal, so the whole paper might take a couple hours to read.  I could drink a lot of coffee in two hours.

I usually felt pretty good after reading the Sunday paper because I took my time and drank a lot of coffee.  But that coffee sometimes struck when I was at church.  If I had to get up in the middle of the service to use the restroom, I’d get dirty looks.  I could have sneaked out during communion without many people noticing, but that kind of defeated the purpose of going to church.  So I usually waited it out and prayed for a short sermon.  I think everybody prays for a short sermon, even if they don’t drink a lot of coffee before church.

My best friend in high school hated to read, but he could look at the Sunday entertainment section and memorize the entire week of television programming, even with the cable channels included.  That Sunday paper kept my friend from getting “tested.”  No kid wanted to get “tested,” even if he/she needed it.  I’m sure my friend’s parents were thinking about having him tested, but that entertainment section proved to them that he could read just fine.  Thank you, Sunday entertainment section!

One of my letters to the editor got published in the opinion section of a Sunday paper 25 years ago, and I was so proud that I kept the whole section.  It’s yellow now (cheap newsprint) but still intact.  Looking back, I sounded like a crank.  I think every letter written to the editor sounds like it was written by a crank.  To their credit, the newspaper editors didn’t change anything, so all that crankiness was mine.  Now that particular newspaper no longer exists, but I have a blog, and I still sound cranky when I write.

Even though the Sunday newspaper still exists, it’s not such a big deal anymore.  People might still look for coupons or inserts.  People might still read the giant comic strips in color.  The multi-paged opinion section might have some interesting viewpoints.  The internet has all that stuff now.  You can find your own coupons.  You can choose which comic strips to read.  The internet is filled with plenty of opinions.

With the internet, every day is Sunday.  There’s nothing special about the internet on Sunday.  Maybe the internet should do something special on Sunday just to bring back that feeling.  Maybe the internet should go black&white for every day except Sunday.  It’s too late for that, though.  Everybody has been spoiled by all-color internet every day of the week.

Since the internet has replaced the newspaper, the internet should think of a way to make Sundays cool again.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s cool that every day can feel like Sunday.  Maybe we could just turn off part of the internet for six days and use it only on Sunday.  That would make the Sunday internet special.  Nobody would want to shut down the internet every day, but it would demonstrate how awesome the Sunday newspaper was, because that is kind of hard to explain.

*****

What do you think?  What was your favorite part of the Sunday newspaper?  What else can be done to make Sunday an awesome day?

Awkward Moments in Dating: Office Talk

(image via wikimedia)

I knew the redhead from the office was going to talk.  I didn’t trust her.  That doesn’t mean that I distrust all redheads.  I’ve trusted several redheads in my life, but I didn’t trust this one.  She was a talker, a really charming smooth talker, and she was really good at gaining your trust and then stabbing you in the back with gossip.  She had acted like she was on my side at the restaurant (for more details, start here ), but that had been just so she could ply me for more information later on.  Even though I was pretty gullible in my mid-20s, I knew enough not to trust her.

Yeah, I was stupid enough to date a higher ranking female coworker, but I was smart enough to distrust the redhead.  That shows you where my emotional/social intelligence was.

Anyway, the redhead talked (I wasn’t around when she did it), so everybody knew that _______ and I had been dating.  In my college days, guys would have asked a bunch of personal (and inappropriate) questions.  They would have asked if ________ did this or did that or how much initiative she took or how crazy she got at certain times.    But I don’t answer those kinds of questions.  I don’t do play-by-play.  I’ve never done play-by-play, except in high school when I was telling lies about fictional girls from other schools.

I guess I should apologize to all the fictional high school girls I lied about when I was in high school.

I’m sorry.

I would also apologize to my high school friends to whom I lied, but I can’t believe that they actually believed me.

Anyway, my coworkers were more curious about why _______ was angry at me than they were about our dating.  “What did you say to her?” one guy asked.  Another said, “I can’t believe you said ________ is an ugly name.”  I kept repeating that I had never used the word ugly.  One morning when I stepped into a crowded elevator at work, I announced loudly (for me), “I never said the word ugly,” and everybody in the elevator laughed.  That’s all I was known for.  I was the quiet guy who was dating our boss until I said she had an ugly name.

If this had happened today, “I never said the word ugly” would have become an office meme.  And I hate meme humor.  Meme humor is like low-hanging fruit.  But to some people, saying meme humor is low-hanging fruit is probably as offensive as saying ________ is an ugly name.

Women at work who had never talked to me started saying hi to me.  They weren’t hitting on me or anything.  That would have been stupid because _________ was in charge of a department and she was already mad at me just for the name misunderstanding.  But women were probably intrigued that the nondescript quiet guy had been going out with the boss and had pissed her off.  ________ cared enough about me to get mad at my comment about her name.  Women can get intrigued by a guy who can bring out that kind of passion, even if it had been unintentional.  I kind of liked the attention, but I knew it was for the wrong reasons.

Coworkers were talking about me, I was sure, but it was all behind my back.  I never walked into a room and killed conversation (at least it happened no more frequently than usual).  It wasn’t like that.  It’s just that I could feel the vibes.  The vibes (maybe it was paranoia) said people were talking about me behind my back.

I was uncomfortable with coworkers talking about me behind my back.  It’s not as bad as being watched, but it was still awkward.  If being watched used to mean you were being hunted, then being talked about at work could mean you’re about to get fired.  And I didn’t want to get fired.

Dating coworkers was frowned upon.  I thought I was going to get fired.  I knew the powers that be would never admit to firing me because of __________.  They would just find something to nitpick and use that as a reason.  You can find a legitimate reason to fire anybody if you look closely enough, but I was determined to not make it easy on them.  I made sure I was early to work every morning.  I stayed late.  I worked through lunch.  I never announced that I did all this, but I made sure that I was seen by the right people at the right time.  I thought of a good idea, and I gave somebody else (in a position to fire me) credit for it in a non-slimy way.

After a week or so, I thought maybe I’d be in the clear.  ________ hadn’t talked to me for a while, and none of the powers-that-be had called me into their offices.  Coworkers had stopped asking me questions.  I was so relaxed that one day I got to work only five minutes early.  I’m sure you know how that goes; the bad stuff usually happens when you let your guard down.

And I’ll get to that bad stuff in the next episode.

In other words… To be continued!

Weekly Ranking: Fiction Bestsellers, 3rd Week of February, 2018

The problem with doing a weekly ranking of bestselling fiction is that the rankings don’t change much from week to week.  The 1st week in February looked a lot like the last week of January.  Then the 2nd week of February had some changes, but that was Valentine’s Day week, and blogging wasn’t my highest priority (blogging is a hobby, not a business).  Last week, however, brought a bunch of changes, to the hardcover fiction bestsellers.

Below are the best-selling hardcover fiction novels for the third week of February 2018, according to the New York Times:

1.  The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

If you’re going to have your fictional characters start their lives over, Alaska seems to be the place to do it.

2.  An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Don’t be scared off by that giant O on the cover.  It’s not the author’s fault that Oprah Winfrey chose this novel for her Oprah’s Book Club.

3.  The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

It’s supposed to be the next Gone Girl, but some people don’t even think Gone Girl was the next Gone Girl.

4.  Still Me by Jojo Moyes

If the book cover looks really familiar, it’s not you; it’s the book cover.

5.  Look For Me by Lisa Gardner

The first chapter has a really gruesome murder in it (but that murder also seems really far-fetched and illogical, even for a fictional gruesome murder).  I think this book might appeal to readers who like really far-fetched gruesome murders.

6.  Night Moves by Jonathan Kellerman

I’m old enough to see this book and automatically start humming a Bob Seger tune.  And it’s been years since I’ve even thought about Bob Seger.

7.  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This has been a bestseller for 22 weeks, and I still haven’t figured out what book is about.  It’s not the book; it’s me.

8.  Origin by Dan Brown

Who cares about historical accuracy?  Dan Brown has a new fictional conspiracy, and Tom Hanks needs a new movie role.

9.  Dark in Death by J.D. Robb

Eve Dallas is a great fictional name.  When in doubt, give your character a city or state for a last name.

10.  Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Cheesy title.  Cheesy cover.  It’s been on the bestseller’s list for 22 weeks.  22 weeks on the bestseller’s list overrides the cheese factor.

*****

This is not a bad selection for a bestseller list.  There’s no John Grisham, James Patterson, or Stephen King.  There’s a decent mix of literary fiction, murder mysteries, thrillers, and something that I’m not even sure what it is.

What do you think?  Do you miss having the John Grisham/James Patterson/Stephen King novel on the list? How long can Little Fires Everywhere and Before We Were Yours stay on the bestseller list?  What city makes the best last name?