Blinded by the Mondegreen light

People who know me and have read “Someone She Always Has Known” look at me askew these days and ask, “So, who are you? Callie, Eleanor, or Jodie?”

“They’re fictional characters,” I explain. “Didn’t you read the disclaimer at the front of the book?”

When their askew looks morph into stares, I add, “Okay, there’s a little bit of me in every character.”

For instance, take Jodie and misheard lyrics. Her admission to Leo that she thought the Black Crowes sang about a “word of diction” instead of “the word addiction” in “She Talks to Angels” came directly from my confused mind.

And Jodie thinking Elton John crooned “I like girls” and not “Island Girl?”

Yeah, that’s me, too.

There are so many more. I could have sworn Billy Joel said Virginia was “counting on her ovaries” in “Only the Good Die Young.”

Ovaries/rosaries. Either one fits.

While listening to “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” I asked a friend, “Did he just say he’s resting his balls?”

“No, I think he said bones,” she answered.

When Heart’s “Dog and Butterfly” came on during a family road trip, I noted, “That song’s kind of creepy. You know, with the dog eating the butterfly.”

“That’s dog and butterfly,” my brother-in-law corrected me.

Only recently did I learn, thanks to a disc jockey, that the lyrics to the Bruce Springsteen-penned “Blinded by the Light” were “revved up like a deuce” and not “wrapped up like a douche.”

But my favorite involves Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.” In the song, the theme to “Young Guns II,” Bon Jovi took on the weary persona of Billy the Kid, who had “an old coat for a pillow.”

Of course, I heard “an old goat for a pillow.”

Coat/goat. Either one fits.

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available here

and here

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In celebration of ‘True Story’

In this conclusion to a two-part peek into my childhood reading choices, we’ll discuss the periodical, “True Story.”

As long as it’s framed in the context of a soap opera, a 1980s’-era miniseries, or a Douglas Sirk movie, I love a good melodrama.

During my tweens, nothing provided me with more juicy melodramatic goodness than “True Story.”

By the time I figured out the stories contained about as much truth as a “National Enquirer” article, I had quit reading them due to a decline in content. But there was a time when I waited with growing impatience for the mailman to deliver my monthly dose of heartache.

On the expected delivery day, I volunteered to retrieve the mail. I had waited a whole month and there was no way I was going to sit back and wait as my sisters creased the pages or smudged them with peanut butter.

“At Last I Know What Belonging Really Means” represented my favorite true story. The photograph that accompanied the confession showed an anguished woman hugging a man in a T-shirt. As I stared at the photo, I thought, “This poor woman endured an abusive childhood, but at last she’s found love. Lucky her. From what I can see of his obstructed face, he’s a cutie.”

That story proved to me once and for all that happiness never lasts. The manipulations of the woman’s abusers/family led to the death of the cutie with the obstructed face and left the woman with no sense of belonging.

Their plight made me cry.

As I think back to the days of reading “True Story” on the front porch or on the bedroom floor, it is not with shame. If a story elicits a reaction from its reader as well as memories decades later, it should be celebrated.

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available here

and here

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Where do mermaids come from?

Tonight, Animal Planet will premiere, “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” the follow-up to last year’s special, “Mermaids: The Body Found.”

I have no plans to watch. Indeed, I only recently learned of these mockumentaries from my niece, a self-described believer in mermaids.

As she pointed out to me, “We have all this ocean. There are mermaids out there somewhere.”

When I countered with facts, she called me a Debbie downer and added, “I still like to think they’re out there, being awesome.”

It’s good to believe, so I will not try to sway her. And, who knows, maybe she’s right. Before I start believing, though, I’ll need answers to these questions.

What do mermaids eat? The diets of ocean fish include other fish, plankton, and insects. But do we really want to think of a mermaid feasting on the still-beating heart of a fish she seized from the water with her delicate fingers? Mermaids are supposed to be mysterious, seductive and classy. They’re supposed to use the right fork and wipe their mouths with linen napkins. They’re not supposed to be role models for Gollum.

How do mermaids use the bathroom? When I posed this question to my niece, she answered, “The same way fish do.” Okay. I’ll accept that. Not that I understand how fish use the facilities, either, but whatever.

Now we come to the hub of my disbelief – mermaid procreation. Seriously, do mermaids have a working reproductive system? What does a pregnant mermaid look like? Does she boast a baby bump? Where does the merbaby come out? How does the merbaby come out?

And, most important, how is it put in?

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available here

and here

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Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Carolyn Keene

Since my admission that I didn’t always know the difference between “Lord of the Flies” and “The Lord of the Rings,” a question has arisen: What did you read as a youngster?

That’s easy.

During my class’ weekly visits to our school library, you could either find me  perusing the burnt sienna-colored biographies that featured true-life stories of famous folk, deciding among Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, or examining the “Nancy Drew” volumes for one I hadn’t read.

Nancy appealed to my inherent nosiness and I appreciated her fearlessness and sense of adventure. She followed the clues even if they took her behind a spiral staircase or inside a moss-covered mansion.

As far as I was concerned, Carolyn Keene wove mysteries more intricate and satisfying than anything on “Murder, She Wrote.” As I beheld the brightly-colored evidence of her prolific literary career that stood before me on the library shelves, I knew one thing: I wanted to be the next Carolyn Keene.

So, imagine my disappointment some two decades later upon learning she wasn’t a real person. The awakening occurred while reading a newspaper columnist’s tribute to the Nancy Drew series. In the column, the writer nonchalantly mentioned that Keene was a pseudonym of several ghost writers as if the detail was widely-known.

It wasn’t known by me.

Recently, a colleague and I lapsed into a conversation about our childhood reading lists. When I learned she also spent much time with Nancy, her boyfriend, Ned, and her best friend, Bess, I shared my devastation upon learning the truth about Keene.

“How could you not know?” she all but shouted. “The series began in the ’30s. How old was this Carolyn Keene person supposed to be?”

“I never thought about that,” I admitted.

And although the resolution of the mystery of Carolyn Keene’s identity once clouded my memories of the books, I now embrace the positive.

Maybe I will be the next Carolyn Keene.

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available here

and here

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Hobbits are people, too

I’m reading “The Lord of the Rings” for the first time.

Why am I just now getting around to it?

For longer than I care to admit, I confused the work with “Lord of the Flies.” It was an honest mistake made by an insect-phobic girl who did not want to spend time with marooned adolescent boys who kill the sensitive kid.

Of course, if I had grasped the difference between the two books sooner, “LOTR” wouldn’t have held the interest of my younger self, either.

It wasn’t until Peter Jackson’s “LOTR” trilogy that I paid any real attention to J.R.R. Tolkien’s story. I loved the movies and always promised myself I’d take the written word journey with the fellowship.

So far, I’m glad I kept that promise.

I can do without all the singing in the book and it’s hard to reconcile that Frodo, who comes across as less hateful and more idealistic in the movies, is 50 years old. So, I imagine him as Elijah Wood and the other Hobbits as their cinematic counterparts.

It makes life easier.

I have a bigger problem with another aspect of the book – Tolkien uses “that” to identify people.

That bothers me.

“Who” refers to a person or a pet, and “that” refers to an object.

It’s a rule.

Nowadays, though, grammarians and writers shrug when confronted with the who/that rule and say, “Either is fine with me,” as if they’ve been asked to choose between Coke and Pepsi.

But Tolkien penned the trilogy seven decades ago.

Did he intentionally break the rule or has it always been as subjective as preferring Pepsi to Coke or Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White?

If it’s the latter, someone needs to explain that to me.

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available here

and here

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Food for thought

One of the ways I developed the main characters of “Someone She Always Has Known” was through their relationships with food. I allowed their attitudes on eating to represent their respective approaches to life.

Eleanor will eat anything and with gusto. Jodie picks at bland food. Callie mixes food to create unusual fare.

When the story starts, Callie and Jodie are vegetarians. Callie eschews meat for humanitarian purposes while Jodie avoids it because, well, it’s food. When Jodie brings home a pizza with extra cheese, Eleanor wonders aloud, “What kind of vegetarian doesn’t eat vegetables?”

Indeed, the other characters’ reactions to Jodie’s dietary choices comprise a running theme. Watching Jodie eat a cookie annoys Callie, Chet chastises her for not savoring a Chinese buffet, and Laura brags on her for finishing a chimichanga.

I tried to restrict Jodie’s diet to unseasoned carbs, but I cheated occasionally. After I imagined Jodie worrying about the residue barbeque corn chips would leave on her fingers, I couldn’t resist.

When it came to Callie’s culinary creations, I tried to think of the strangest possible combinations. In the end, I didn’t have to think at all. When a dinner companion poured ranch dressing on her baked spaghetti, I thought to myself, “Callie.”

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available in paperback here

and here

And as an ebook here

and here

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Sweet child of mine

Of the three main characters in “Someone She Always Has Known,” I relate the least to Callie. That’s right. I have more in common with the angry and rude Eleanor and the depressed and introverted Jodie than with the warm and open-hearted Callie.

In an effort to mold her more in my image, I considered having Callie tell Eleanor – even if only once – to shut up and mind her own damn business. But that wouldn’t be Callie. As Leo observes, “Callie is a sweet girl.” She’s too sweet to stand up for herself and too naïve to believe people she loves and respects will hurt her feelings and harm her heart.

She intends to spend her life spreading joy and avoiding conflict. She achieves more success with the latter than the former. But peace can last only so long, as evidenced by her ignoring the warning signs with Bishop as well as Jodie’s complaints about Tabitha and Paula.

In many ways, Callie lives a world that’s as unreal as the fictional ones to which Jodie retreats. Callie describes Eleanor as “sweet” and Paula as “nice” and resides in a warped reality where roommates don’t harass Jodie and boyfriends never lie.

Bishop once describes Callie as a ray of sunshine. Indeed, other characters are drawn to this sunny young woman who enjoys a dessert with every meal, questions the existence of the “imaginary” equator and confesses ignorance of the “beaver shot.”

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available in paperback here

and here

And as an ebook here

and here

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