Monthly Archives: August 2011

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 24-TRAVEL SIZES

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 24: TRAVEL SIZES

Video: Sometimes, it’s hard to get rid of that collection of travel sizes because holding one in your hand can bring back all the magic of those first moments of a trip, as this video of my friend Meghan and me exploring our room at the Contemporary Resort in August, 2008 suggests. (Note: Some adult language; we were a little too excited to control ourselves.)

Who hasn’t taken at least one of those cute little shampoo bottles or wrapped soaps from a hotel room? I think most of us snag them because we think they’ll come in handy when next we travel (especially with the change in airline regulations over the last decade)—but then, inevitably, they end up in some drawer or box with all of the other ones we’ve accumulated over the years, and before we know it, we have a pile of travel-sized soaps, shampoos, shower caps, make-up removers and sewing kits that are doing nothing but aging and collecting dust.

I have a huge tub of travel-sized toiletries, and I realized when I was going through them that I wasn’t saving them for future use—when I travel, in fact, I bring all of my preferred products, just in smaller containers—I was keeping them because each invoked a memory of a pleasant trip.

Because of that, I couldn’t bear to throw them out, no matter how old they were. So I decided, instead, that I would start using them on a daily basis. Not only did I discover that it saves me some money (it’s going to take a long time to use everything up)—I found that the specific smell of each product brought back a memory, too, as in the case of the Disney Resort products. One whiff of that lotion or soap, and I’m at the Polynesian.

Below, some of the items I’ve collected over the years and the fond memories they conjure.

These date back to the Howard Johnson’s in Niagara Falls, Canada, August, 2001. Charles and I were on our way up to Thunder Beach in Ontario to visit some friends, and we spent the night in a HoJo there.

The flyer for the hotel in which we stayed in August, 2001, where I got the shampoo/conditioners.

Niagara Falls at night. That was the very first time I’d seen the Falls for real (as an adult—I think I was 4 the first time and have no memory of it whatsoever). It was completely breathtaking, and definitely spawned my love of Niagara Falls kitsch as well for the short-lived television series Wonderfalls, which aired on Fox in the Spring of 2004 (a really interesting tour of the show’s shooting locations is here: http://www.wondertour.org/)

Me, left, and Charles on Thunder Beach, Ontario, Canada, August, 2001.

These were available in the Walt Disney World moderate-level resorts in 2005 and 2006. I haven’t started using these yet.

The back of the wrapping of the bar soap that was placed in moderate-level resort WDW hotel rooms in 2005 and 2006.

The shower in Room 1750 in Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort (the Alligator Bayou section), September, 2005. This was the first time I had stayed in an on-property resort since the 1980s, so it was very magical for me. You can see the soaps/shampoos on the edge of the tub.

Charles, left, and Nathan, right, accompanied me on that 2005 trip—the last time we drove. Here we are getting ready to pull out of our driveway and head for Walt Disney World in September, 2005.

The shower in Room 1745 in Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort (the Alligator Bayou section), September, 2006. That trip was special because it was the first time I’d been to the Disney Parks with my sister, Missie, since 1987. You can see the soaps/shampoos on the ledge.

At left, my niece, Andi—that September, 2006 trip was her very FIRST time at Walt Disney World in Florida—and, to the right of me, my sister, Missie. One of our goals was to have a photo of the three of us taken in each country in the World Showcase. Here we are clowning around in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion.

In 2007, Disney changed the design of its resort toiletries. Here is the bath soap.

I’m using this soap now, so I was able to open it and get a shot of the Mickey Mouse profile carved in each bar. I’m surprised at how long this soap is lasting, seriously. I opened it up at least four weeks ago, and there’s still plenty left. And if anyone knows how much I love suds (I like A LOT), then you know this says a great deal about the fact that Disney puts soap bars in their hotels they’re pretty certain will outlast the average stay.

Here’s the matching facial soap and shampoo.

Half the fun of staying in one of WDW’s on-property resorts is the way the room’s amenities are presented. Here is what Nathan and I found upon check-in to Room 1721 of the Port Orleans Riverside Resort (Alligator Bayou side), September, 2007.

Our first night in Walt Disney World in 2007, Nathan and I had dinner at the Concourse Steakhouse in the Contemporary Resort; part of the magic of eating there was that the monorails whizzed in and out of the building while you dined. The Steakhouse, sadly, is gone now—it’s a huge quick-service area. I’m sure you still get all the magic of those speeding monorails above you, but let’s face it—there’s just no romance in a quick-service.

I got this toothbrush during my stay at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World in August, 2008; mostly, I really loved the art on the box, which is why I never opened it up and used it. Given The Goodbye Project, however, I figured I had to let it go sometime, and so I used it on my August, 2011 trip to Austin, Texas, to visit my sister. I was surprised when I opened the box and the toothbrush was wrapped in plastic—and included a tiny (I do mean TINY!) tube of toothpaste. The toothbrush now sits in my travel kit, ready to accompany me on my next out-of-town jaunt.

Notice that the design of these packages matches that of the toothbrush. These are from my May, 2008 stay at the Polynesian Resort—however, I don’t think there was a design change from the 2007 packaging; rather, I think I remember reading someplace that WDW’s Deluxe Resorts (i.e., the Animal Kingdom, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness, and Yacht Club) carry a slightly higher quality brand of product and packaging (if anyone knows if this is true or not, please write to me).

A close-up of the 2008 Deluxe Resort soap.

A close-up of the 2008 Deluxe Resort lotion. In 2008, the shops in the Deluxe Resorts carried full-sized soaps, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and shower gels for purchase…yes, I brought home a few full-sized ones to enjoy and used them up a long time ago!

Towel art in Room 3317 at the Polynesian Resort, May, 2008, where I got some of the Deluxe Resort soaps/shampoos pictured above.

My friends Jennifer Winston (now Mayette), left, Rob Mayette, center, accompanied me on that May 2008 trip to the Polynesian. Here is a shot of us getting ready to go to the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. The pair got engaged on that trip and were married in 2009.

A spread of the toiletries in Contemporary Resort Room 4428 (in the A-frame tower). My friend Meghan and I stayed in that room in August, 2008.

My Goddard College buddy Meghan, right, and I raise a toast at a bar in the Polynesian Resort, August, 2008. We arrived during a hurricane, and it was raining, so we decided to “Drink Around the Monorail Line”—meaning ride the loop among the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian and stop at each bar for a cocktail. It really was a lot of fun—and the next day, despite the fact that it was raining, we went to the Magic Kingdom and there were NO LINES. We did like nine E-Tickets in something like an hour and a half. Amazing.

If you’ve ever bought stuff at The Body Shop, then you know you never walk out without some neat little samples of their newest products. My friend Heather, from my college years at the University of Rhode Island, and I splurged on stuff at The Body Shop every time I visited Newport for several years (that store is closed now). I’m just starting to rip through the hefty stack of samples now.

A display of all the stuff I bought at The Body Shop on an August, 2008 trip to Newport.

Me on the beach in Newport, RI, August, 2008. I believe this was after we’d done our ritual shopping spree.

Heather on the beach in Newport, RI, August, 2008.

These were in my hotel room in Miami in May, 2009; I went there for a four-day writer’s conference at Miami-Dade College.

The pool at my hotel in Miami, May, 2009, where I got the LaSource toiletries.

Me, left, with writers Rashena Wilson, Steve Almond, Tamara Linse, and Nikki Naseer at The Writer’s Institute at Miami Dade College, Miami, Florida, May, 2009.

This massage bar came from Room 645 at the Hyatt Place in Uncasville, Connecticut, just a few miles from Mohegan Sun. My brother Chuck treated Nathan and I to an overnight there for my 40th birthday this past February, so every time I see this soap in the box, I think of that awesome weekend.

Our room at the Hyatt Place in Uncasville, February 5, 2011.

Here’s where the massage bar was displayed. We used the other products while staying there, so I never brought anything else home.

From left, Nathan, my sister-in-law Sana, my brother Chuck, and I enjoy a drink at Leffingwell’s (yes, the crystal mountain) at Mohegan Sun casino in celebration of my 40th, February 5, 2011.

A LITTLE SPONTANEITY GOES A LONG WAY: UP AND AT ’EM IN AUSTIN, TEXAS

Video: A photo montage of my recent last-minute trip to Austin, Texas.

Plans. It seems like my life runs by my Daytimer, and I’m sure it’s that way for most people. Not only because we’re all balancing fifty million things, but also because there’s a certain comfort in always having plans.

Recently, though, my comfort zone had become a little claustrophobic, my routine more than a little ordinary to the point of ennui. I felt like I was a genie who’d gotten stuck in the neck of her bottle—and no amount of wishing was going to set me free.

I was going to have to shake things up myself.

And so, on a whim, I decided to make a Wednesday-night call to my sister inAustin,Texas, and tell her I was coming for a week-long visit that Sunday.

It was such short notice that not only could I not believe I was doing it, it also felt like it wasn’t me who was doing it (you are talking to the girl who books her dining reservations at Walt Disney World not one moment later than the recommended 180 days in advance). At the same time, there was a certain exhilaration: especially since I already had a very busy Friday and Saturday planned, working the New England Horror Writers Booth at Enfield’s First Annual Zombie Walk for Hunger (if you missed it? You can see photos and video from that here: http://wp.me/pIXRs-Vy) preceded by a mini-getaway with Nathan at a Holiday Inn the night before. When was I going to pack? I didn’t have time for laundry, so WHAT was I going to pack? Ask anyone who knows me—if I’ve got a trip coming up, the suitcases or boxes are out and ready to receive cargo no later than two weeks in advance (yes, really). I make lists upon lists. I double and triple check things. If there are items I need, they are purchased weeks before, and all of my small electronics are charged at least four days in advance, except for the camera and the cell phone, which are always charged the night before. I have a process.

For this trip, there was no process. Added to the fact that I’d booked the flight so late that I didn’t have much choice of flight times or airports if I didn’t want to switch airlines. Although I was guaranteed seats on my JetBlue flights, I wouldn’t get to choose my seat, either.

I managed to pack and it was the least amount of stuff I brought anywhere. That should have been, I guess, my very first clue that this was going to be an entirely different experience for me.

And everything got crazier. I had loads of writing work to complete before I left—and I just couldn’t get to it all, so I let it all go, and I surprised myself by suddenly not caring whether it got done or not. The next morning, we left for the airport late (dangerous when that “highway” called I-84 is what lies between you and your destination).

Now, let me stop for a moment—I love to fly (a direct reaction to having been tortured to car-sickness-inducing trips up and down the East Coast when I was a child). I love airports, I love airplanes, and the adorable little snack-bags and tiny bottles and colorful ads promising rest and relaxation and their clean smell.

BUT: because I have never been on a connecting flight in my life, I have never experienced a late flight or excruciatingly boring delays or anything like that. I literally assume that, based on prior experience, when I book a flight, it arrives on time.

We ran into a six-hour delay in Orlando. Not what I had planned. At first I was upset. It wasn’t like I hadn’t brought things to do—writing, reading my copy of Jaws, or watching Season One of The Glades—but I didn’t feel like doing anything that I’d planned to do. So instead, I rode the monorail between concourses back and forth a few times—and when it started to pour, I went outside to enjoy it.

Video: A ride on the monorail at Orlando airport. I am on the phone with a friend of mine but I don’t remember now who it was.

Videos: A classic Florida afternoon storm hits the Orlando airport. I was standing pretty far back beneath the overhang, but I was still getting wet! It was refreshing.

 

After the storm had died down, I went back through security, took a ride back to the gates on the monorail, and grabbed a meal, since I had time to kill.

Video: This is the full ride of the Orlando monorail. The train was empty, so I sat up front to get the full view.

 

Video: Chillin’ out with a glass of wine at the On the Border restaurant in Orlando airport.

 

All of this unexpected activity carried through my week—and although the things I did in Austin, Texas, weren’t what you’d consider earth-shatteringly exciting or risky, it was fun to just not think about the practicality of things, or to think about what was going to happen the next day. We decided to do a Happy Hour on a Monday; we ordered in for pizza; we watched scary movies; we went to the pool at no particular time each day with no particular departure time; we drove around Austin with no destination in mind. There was no plan—and I came home not only ready to get back to work, but a little more content to not be so tied to that Daytimer.

 Video: My niece, Andi, at work on her art.

Videos: Driving around Austin with nowhere in particular to go.

 

If you’ve been feeling a little stuck or burned out lately, consider this: sometimes doing things last minute without any kind of reasonable plan is just what you need to get refreshed.

Me, left, and my sister Missie at Happy Hour at Chuy’s in Austin, Texas. I was drinking frozen peach sangria as part of the restaurant’s Green Chile Fest. Missie was having her usual margarita on the rocks.

PREPPING FOR HURRICANE IRENE: IN CT, A RUN ON CHEEZ-ITS

The end-cap for the Cheez-Its at the Shop Rite in Brookfield, Connecticut, Thursday, August 25, 2011.

The Northeast isn’t usually subjected to scary weather events like Hurricanes. You’d think, because we’re used to preparing for blizzards and ice storms, we know how to stock our pantries: before a snow storm, you’ll see the shelves for bread, milk, and eggs practically empty (despite the baking jokes, I think in the winter it is probably true that some people bake when they’re snowed in). But water and everything else is usually readily available.

Hurricane Irene is supposed to hitConnecticutsometime this weekend (I say “sometime” because they keep changing its arrival time). As of Friday afternoon it looked as though it’s going to be a Category 1 when it hits us, and so even though it’s not going to be as horrible for us as our friends down South (and may even be, as with Hurricane Floyd in 1999, downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it gets here), we are taking it seriously. Shop Rite’s shelves were devoid of water by Thursday night and Home Depot was out of batteries by Friday morning. Offices are distributing copies of Emergency Procedures and phone contact lists, and events are being rescheduled to take place ahead of the storm. New York City is bracing for serious damage, evacuating nursing homes and low-lying areas and even noting the MTA may shut down if Irene doesn’t change course (I have just learned as I’m posting this that they are closing tomorrow at noon, and all five WCS Parks, which includes the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, are closed for the weekend).

But there’s something to be said for bracing for possible disaster when you’re just not used to it, or when it’s so out of your experience it almost feels like you’re in a bad Irwin Allen film.

You do strange things.

I, like everyone else—because I believe it’s always good to be prepared—drank the Kool-Aid and went to the grocery store (okay, and the liquor store, because I really, really don’t want to be without wine) to get some staples. I wasn’t surprised to see the parking lot jammed; I wasn’t surprised to see very few carts available; I wasn’t surprised to see the shelves where the bottled water is kept empty. And I wasn’t surprised to see people’s carts full of Apple Jacks and Wonder Bread.

The parking lot at Shop Rite in Brookfield, Connecticut, at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 25.

Another shot of the parking lot. Normally there are plenty of spots available, even at peak times.

This is the furthest row from the store to park, and even it was full.

Normally, this area is crammed with carts in neat rows. Shop Rite employees do a wonderful job of rounding them up on a pretty consistent basis, so this tells you how crazy everything was.

Thursday, August 25: The shelves where the bottled water is normally kept at Shop Rite in Brookfield, Connecticut.

A close-up of the signs posted on the empty shelves assuring customers that more water is coming.

I was surprised to see the end-cap full of Cheez-Its almost empty and in total disarray.

For a second, I thought I had missed something: were Cheez-Its on the FEMA list they’d e-mailed me at work? Just as I had that thought, a woman rushed up to the end-cap and threw two huge boxes of the Colby variety in her cart.

I panicked: should I or shouldn’t I? Was it absolutely necessary for me to spend five or ten dollars, or could our household endure the storm without them? If I went home and consulted my housemate and he told me that we absolutely had to have Cheez-Its, and I came back the next day, would they be gone (note: there were no signs signaling a restock of this particular item)? Would our chances of survival decrease if we didn’t have them—and what if I bought the wrong kind? I mean, the Colby variety seemed to be rather popular, as did the White Cheddar. Was there something magical about those types? Would having them in my home ensure nothing bad would happen?

Finally, I decided to take a risk and just say no—after all, it’s my first major hurricane since 1991 (which I spent huddled in a bathroom inNewport), why not live dangerously? A little thrill is good for the soul. I decided instead to get four extra rolls of toilet paper (because we might not be able to go outside and collect leaves), Jiffy-Pop (fun on the gas stove!), and Chef Boy-ar-dee Ravioli (which can be eaten cold).

Many stores are re-stocking their water and batteries before the storm arrives, so you should still be okay with that if you’re doing your shopping at the last minute.

But if you’ve waited this long to get your Cheez-Its, you may be out of luck.

My housemate made certain we have plenty of spring water. We can’t water our plants with what comes from our tap anyway, so if we get lucky and we don’t need it, we’ll use it up eventually.

The extra toilet paper—and paper towels. You know, in case there’s a leak in the roof.

Jiffy Pop and other items we never eat.

The deer don’t appear spooked. Maybe this is a good sign?

The color of the sky at sunset on Thursday, August 25, 2011.

The calm before the storm: my back porch, Thursday, August 25, 2011.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 23-Jim Morrison, The Doors

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 23: JIM MORRISON, THE DOORS


Death makes angels of us all
& gives us wings
where we had shoulders
smooth as raven’s
claws[1]

This is not only a famous Jim Morrison quote, it happens to be my favorite. I always took this to mean that when we die people get up at funerals and say wonderful stuff about us, even if we were total a-holes. Let’s face it, no one gets up at a funeral and says, ‘that guy was a totally nasty person.’ A portion of a scene from my unpublished novel Mourning After (keep in mind, it’s a totally unedited raw draft, there may be errors and things which need clean-up):

“See, this is the thing…” I have no idea what’s in the Kongaloosh thing I’m drinking, but I’m having trouble moving my tongue. “…this is the thing that Jim Morrison was talking about, at least I think so, I think there are people that would disagree with me: ‘Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as raven’s claws.’ That poem, just that line, death makes angels of us all, I always thought it meant, like…”

I look up at him. His eyes are watching me and only me. His drink has been drained.

“…that when we die, no matter what kind of an asshole we were, suddenly, we’re this great person. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. And a lot of wakes. And let me tell you something, there are some guys out there who died who were total fucks and then you have to sit there and listen to the daughter or somebody say, “oh, he was so full of life,’ or, ‘he had such a great sense of humor’ or, ‘he loved life.’ That last one in particular is my favorite. Everybody who dies suddenly loves life. I went to one funeral once and they said that about a woman who had hanged herself.” I drain my glass. “I think it would be really cool if everybody were just honest. You know, ‘I hated my mother, she was a bitch. She was always mean to me, and she was a petty gossip.’ Or, ‘My Dad was a drunk and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with his beatings anymore.’”

To my surprise, he laughs.

“What?”

“Nothing, you’re just totally right on, that’s all.”

“Am I?”

And then his mouth is on mine, and I am surprised to feel myself responding, and to stick my tongue into his mouth and taste the sugary drink, and his mouth is cold, cold like he just drank a cold beer, and the people in the room are still talking and then, just then, there is one loud, booming voice that startles us and I turn and look and there he is: OTIS T. WREN, the fake “ichthyologist adventurer” who is often at the club.

“Well, it seems there’s been some hanky-panky stuff around here!” He knocks on the wall. “I thought you were supposed to be keeping an eye out for this kind of behavior!”

Two spotlights flash onto a pair of goofy Amazonian masks that open their eyes and blink start to chuckle. “Hey, we can’t do everything as long as we’re just hangin’ around, huh, huh, huh.”

I first heard of The Doors when I was nine and in the fourth grade. One of my classmates—I don’t know why I associate it with my friend Joel Baglia (it might not have been him, you know, that whole persistence of memory thing), but I do. He had drawn the band’s logo on his notebook, and I wondered what it was. Too embarrassed to ask him, I went home and asked my Dad, and he said, “that’s trashy music, you don’t need to be listening to that garbage. It’s bad for you.”

I took his word for it, and didn’t probe further.

What you have to understand is that we were never allowed to have any music in our house except Broadway Shows and Christian Choir Music—possessing anything other than that was taking a huge risk: if you got caught with immoral rock music that was sure to influence you to do drugs or have sex or God knows what else, you were in a lot of trouble.

It was my brother Chuck who finally figured out how to get the stuff in the back door. He just started labeling his cassettes ‘God Stuff’ or something like that, and you’d stick it in the machine and out would come Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” He encouraged me to do it. “Dad’ll never catch on,” Chuck said. “Trust me.”

Dad never did. It’s why I have tons of rock-infused cassettes in my basement to this day labeled ‘Jesus at the Spring,’ and ‘The Olive Branch’ (once I got daring and called one in particular ‘Water into Wine’).

We did this for years, all through high school. But still I never thought to check out The Doors.

Until, in 1992, Oliver Stone’s movie The Doors was playing at Edwards Hall—the campus’ “movie theatre” on occasion. They would show slightly older films and charge students $2, I think, $3 or $4 if you wanted popcorn or candy and a soda. It was a pretty good deal.

I came home from the movie weirdly fascinated: in a way, it had been like watching a train wreck. Here was this man with all this talent, and he destroyed himself. I wanted to know more about him and why he did what he did.

I don’t remember how, but I got my hands on the book No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny  Sugarman (I had the original 1981 printing; there was a 1995 printing and you can get the 2006 reissue here: http://amzn.com/0446697338). I hadn’t had a chance to crack it open and read it, but I was hoping I would soon because Spring Break was coming up about a week later. I didn’t have any plans to go anywhere—there was nowhere to go, really. I had just planned on staying in Rhode Island and maybe going out with some friends.

My father called me to ask when I’d be home for Spring Break.

“Um…I wasn’t planning on coming home,” I said.

“Well,” he said, “where did you think you were going to go? I have the whole week planned for you. There’s lots to do here at the house and I need you to do a bunch of stuff for me too.”

I remember rolling my eyes. Home was a hole. And home was nothing but work. In fact, I can’t recall a single time I would go to my father’s house when he didn’t have me working: paint this wall, we have to build this deck, go through the kids’ closets and get rid of what doesn’t fit them, we need to clean out the barn, et cetera, et cetera. There was no such thing as a “visit,” and your value as a human being was measured on the basis of how much you got done in one day.

I found myself wishing I had some kind of excuse so I could tell him no. At that time, I was in the middle of producing a play for the campus chapter of Phi Alpha Theta history honor society (more on this some other time). The production of Pirates and Queens was a lot of fun—but a lot of stress.

Part of the cast of “Of Pirates & Queens” on the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut, March 1992. Back, from left: Brian (Pirate), me (Isabella), Andy (Pirate), Christian (Hawkins), Mark (Raleigh). Front: Derek (Drake) and Monique (Catherine).

We were one month from opening. It was constant rehearsals, script revisions, making costumes, and doing publicity among other things—on top of my regular academic load, my position at the school’s daily newspaper, The Good 5¢ Cigar, and my job at the URI Security Office, which was practically an overnighter a few times a week—that was killing me. I needed a break. The last thing I wanted to do was go home and do more work.

I was bemoaning this fact to my childhood best friend Kristen, who had lived up the street from me until she moved to Plantation, Florida (near Ft Lauderdale) in 1984.

“I have to go home and do God knows what, clean the house or whatever.”

“F**k him, you’re twenty-one years old, you can make your own f***in’ decisions, good Lord almighty,” she said (Kristen is the original ‘bad girl’ and still is—can’t wait to get into trouble with her again when I move to Florida!). “Why don’t you come down here? My parents will put you up just fly down. We’ll party and go to the beach and stuff. I have to work, but you can sit by the pool all day and read.”

“I can’t,” I said. “I have to go home.”

“Just lie. Say you have to work. You know that with him that’s the only thing that’ll excuse you.”

I hadn’t thought of that—she was right. With Dad, work was really the only excuse that could get you out of anything. And the only job I had was the Security Office, and I wasn’t scheduled to work over Spring Break. He didn’t have to know that.

“What if he finds out?”

“He won’t. And even if he does, what’s he going to do, take you over his knee and paddle your ass?”

She had a point there—I was 21, like she’d said. I could legally go into a bar and have a beer. I was an adult. If I didn’t want to go home and slave, there was no reason I should. With a lump in my throat, I called Dad back and told him I had to work all week. He bought it. Then I went to the Student Union, bought a plane ticket, packed—grabbing my copy of No One Here Gets Out Alive—and off I went.

Kristen, me at her house in Plantation, FL, March 5, 1992. It was the first time we’d seen each other in eight years.

Kristen and I hadn’t seen each other, at that point, since she’d left in 1984. It had been far too long. When she picked me up at the airport, she had The Doors playing in the car. The song was “The End.”

“It’s the movie soundtrack,” Kristen said as she pulled into traffic. I don’t know what kind of car she had, but it was one of those older, enormous boats that you could fit six people in (it was like a flashback to the time when The Doors might have been on the radio instead of on cassette).

This is one of Kristen’s friends in the front seat of the car (help, Kristen, I can’t remember her name! I met so many people when I was there!). I don’t know what city’s in the background—probably Miami—but we were on our way to her house from the airport. The Doors’ music would have been playing in the background.

“I just saw this movie last week,” I said.

“You can totally listen to it. We can dub a copy before you leave.” (For those of you who don’t remember cassette tapes, at that time, most people had dual cassette players so you could copy each other’s cassettes or make mix tapes. There was no copy protection—if you wanted to copy a factory-made cassette, all you had to do was throw a little scotch tape over the two square holes that were at the top of the cartridge).

The whole week, while Kristen was at work, I slept until Noon, then sat by her pool and devoured No One Here Gets Out Alive.

Kristen out on her lanai with her pool in the background. This is where I would hang out during the day and read No One Here Gets Out Alive.

When I was done reading for the afternoon, I’d swim, and then I’d listen to her cassette. Because I remembered what my father had said all those years before, I was a little disturbed that not only did I love the music—I thought the lyrics were beautiful, haunting. There was something deeply romantic about them; although I understood that Morrison was obsessed with death, there were certain lines that, to me, didn’t have anything to do with death at all. This section from “The End,” for example: “Desperately in need of/some stranger’s hand/In a desperate land” spoke to the isolation and loneliness I’d felt as a teenager, when it was so hard for me to connect with others.

When Kristen got home from work in the late afternoons, or on that weekend, we went tooling all over the place in her car with the music to accompany us. We went to Flea Markets, the beach, had lunch at some really cool joint in Miami, went shopping, visited Vizcaya.

Me at the beach, March 7, 1992.

Left to right: Kristen, me, Kristen’s friend. We’re clowning around in the gardens at the famous Vizcaya, a 1916 Italian Renaissance-style villa (similar to the mansions in Newport, RI).

By the end of the vacation, I felt like I’d been cheated and should have discovered The Doors’ music sooner.

I have many nice memories of that trip—I’d have to say it was one of the most magical vacations I ever had, and I suspect it was because it was the first time in my life I was seriously rebellious in asserting my independence. When I think about that concept, it has an uncanny connection to The Doors as a cultural shift. That period of my life was also three months before I fell in love for the first time and it was a totally devastating train wreck, so conversely, the sun was about to set on the blissful innocence and idealism about love that I’d held since childhood (and you can imagine how much more depth Morrison’s lyrics gained after all of that). It’s why giving away these three books on Morrison is going to be hard, because even if I got them years after that vacation was a distant memory, I associate them with a golden time in my life.

As for No One Here Gets Out Alive, I’m keeping that one. I will more than likely re-read it in the near future.

As for Dad? He never did find out about that trip, and since he passed away in 2008, I’m sure he never will.

I got this at a book sale in the mid-1990s. There is a new edition of this out; you can purchase it on Amazon here: http://amzn.com/0859652467

This is an older edition of this book which I found at a tag sale. What’s really interesting is that someone posted photos of this same edition over on Amazon, and took the time to photograph a couple of pages that were written on in red ink. You can see those images here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/0671210440/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_images_3?ie=UTF8&index=3

If you want to purchase a newer edition of this book, visit here: http://amzn.com/0671210440

This one I bought new shortly after I got back to Rhode Island from the March 1992 Florida vacation—it had just been published a couple of years before, so the bookstores still had it (yes! This was way before the days of Amazon and you still had to buy or order at a book store!) I ate everything in it for breakfast. You can purchase this edition here: http://amzn.com/0679726225


[1] Jim Morrison, An American Prayer. Baton Rouge, LA: Zeppelin Publishing Company, 1983.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 22–Concert Souvenirs

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 21: The Sting Concert Souvenir

Left, my friend Suzanne Zuckerman poses with a The Police pin and a rare Sting tie-in from the 1980s, December 31, 2006. That summer we’d already made plans to see him live in concert up in Hartford. (At right is her husband Adam, who was also going to go with us).

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of getting tickets to see your favorite band or musical artist in concert—especially when you’re going with friends who either love that band or artist just as much or put you to shame.

My friend Suzanne and I have been Sting fans forever. Although we didn’t meet until we were in our thirties, it turns out we had been fans of the Police most of our lives. In fact, although we had a lot in common, that was one of the things that bonded us—I remember the first song by The Police I ever heard was “Every Breath You Take” and it happened to be featured on an episode of Hunter. I believe her first exposure to The Police was something similar.

In 2007, Suzanne and I got the opportunity to see Sting in concert inHartford,Connecticut—and we were ecstatic. We couldn’t wait for the day to arrive, and had grand plans about getting dinner beforehand and what kinds of souvenirs we were going to purchase.

The ticket for the 2007 concert. No, I’m not getting rid of this; in fact, I’m keeping it safely taped into the cover of Sting’s memoir, Broken Music, which I purchased (and had autographed!) at that concert.

Adam on the way up to the concert.

Ready to get on the road: Suzanne, left, and me.

The concert was nothing short of awesome, and there was a special meet and greet set up for the opening act: Fiction Plane, headed by Sting’s son Joe Sumner. Suzanne and I stopped by their table, where they were signing posters. After waiting in a long line, though…they had run out of posters to sign. Although they’d sent someone to get more, Suzanne and I were antsy because we knew that Sting was about to come on stage any minute and we wanted to get back to our seats.

In a moment that was probably beer-inspired, I took off my shirt and told them to sign the back.

They were surprised and laughing about it, but they did it anyway.

The shirt signed by members of Fiction Plane.

After the concert, Fiction Plane was still at their table—and their stock of posters had been replenished, so Suzanne and I each picked one up. Once I got the poster (which I’m keeping), I realized that, although the signing of the shirt was a really cool memory, I’d never wear it, and it wasn’t like I was going to frame it for my wall.

It hung in the back of my closet until a few weeks ago, when I was culling clothing. Despite its uniqueness, I decided to let it go—I’ve got the signed poster, and now that I have the photo of the shirt, I don’t need to keep it. Why keep something you know you’re never going to wear?

A close-up of Fiction Plane members’ signatures.

The poster, which I'm keeping. I tucked it into the copy of Sting's memoir, so it's stored with my books.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 21—The Espresso Machine

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 21: The Espresso Machine

The machine.

I know, it’s just your ordinary (although very high quality) household espresso machine—and one we barely used; whoever gets this will get all the parts in mint condition and even the instruction book (it also comes with a set of gold demi-tasse cups, saucers, and gold-plated spoons).

So what made this hard to get rid of?

Most people don’t pack up their espresso machines and take them to Disney World.

Back in the summer of 1998, my housemate Charles and I were wondering what we were going to do for vacation that year. Eventually, we decided on taking the long drive down to Walt Disney World for a week. We booked ourselves into a Best Western in Kissimmee, packed our clothes—and at the last minute, decided to bring the espresso machine, which, at that time, was the only coffee maker we had in the house (the one I had moved in with had broken just a week or two before and we hadn’t replaced it yet). We figured we were going to need high-test coffee to keep us going so we could power through all the parks, plus Sea World and Universal, in seven short days.

The parts of the machine, as well as the two cups we brought, on the back of the hotel room sink.

When we came home, we bought a new coffee maker, and the espresso machine went in one of those high cabinets that all kitchens seem to have above their refrigerators—and, except for the couple of parties at which we wanted to serve espresso, it hasn’t seen the light of day since. We tested it and it’s fine, but we decided…why keep it around if we only seem to use it every few years?

Still, the espresso machine brings back all the fond memories I had of that trip. So it wasn’t easy to let it go.

Me on arrival at our Kissimmie Best Western. We found out many years later (when we went back in 2005) that it had been bought out and converted to an exclusive resort. From my understanding, it's now abandoned.

My housemate, Charles, knocks back a Mai Tai at Sea World. Because we had the espresso machine back in the room, we COULD drink in the middle of the day and then go back and pump ourselves full of caffeine so we could go back to another park—or to Pleasure Island—at night.

GhoStory Guru: “What Say the Frogs Now, Jenny?” by Hugh B. Cave

I’m a New England girl, born and bred, and so I have a deep love for writing New Englandghost stories—mostly because, let’s face it, the creepy woods, two-hundred-or-more-year-old houses rife with Colonial tragedy, silent winters and pretty-near-consistent gray weather eight to nine months out of the year are the perfect setting for such tales. It’s just too easy.

But thanks to my friend and co-editor of Read Short Fiction,  Robert Mayette—who treated me to the book Haunted Dixie: Great Ghost Stories from the American South Christmas—I’m thrilled for the new challenge in my work when I relocate to Florida in the next few months. From Haunted Dixie’s Introduction—“Into the Shadowy South”—by Frank D. McSherry, Jr.:

“The scary and entertaining stories in this volume are about just such beings—those that defy description—as they wreak their havoc in an equally unclassifiable setting: the American South, where mystery and majesty lurk behind the shadows of the beautiful and the bizarre. Running from the grassy plains of Texas, to the tangled swamps of Georgia, the rolling Virginiahills, the foggy bottomlands of Mississippi, and the stormy coastline of the Carolinas, Dixieis a land haunted by more than just history.”[1]

I’ll start withFlorida’s feature: “What Say the Frogs Now, Jenny?” byHughB.Cave.

There are a few hallmarks which make this a fabulous ghost story, and I can’t go into depth without completely spoiling it (the mark a true craftsman at work), so I’ll be a little vague.

The most striking element is the fine motif Cave has chosen to weave throughout the piece: that of hands. With so many subtle references popping up, it works on the subconscious to create the overall feel of hands reaching from beyond the grave.

The second is the fact that we love Jenny—we feel sympathy toward her; she’s the hardworking, just-can’t-seem-to-get-ahead girl we all recognize in ourselves.

And the third? A shocking twist on the combination of the first and second things I mentioned, and if I explain how it works in terms of literary mechanics, I will ruin everything. You’ll just have to read the story and find out.

Tell you what: if you get the book, read the story, and want my analysis, contact me through the contact page on this website—and if you do, I’ll send you a free copy of my book Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World (why not; let’s have some fun, here!)

This book—only issued in hardcover, as near as I can tell—seems to be out of print, but there are several used copies at reasonable prices available through the Amazon Marketplace here: http://amzn.com/1435104579 But if you’re a ghost story lover, no price should be too high to own this one.


[1] Frank D. McSherry, Jr., “Into the Shadowy South,” in Haunted Dixie: Great Ghost Stories from the American South, comp. by Frank D. McSherry, Jr., Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenburg (New York: Fall River Press, 1994), vii.

How Disney Record Art Affected my Adult Wardrobe…(THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 20)

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 20: How Disney Record Art Affected my Adult Wardrobe (or, The Disney Records, Part 3)

Me, as Alice in Wonderland, with my Dad, Halloween 1974.

I loved playing dress-up. I’m sure many kids do, but for me “dress-up” was putting on a character’s skin—it’s like what they say about acting: you don’t put the role on externally; you let the role internally grow up out of you, and the physical dress itself was just the finishing touch.

I grew up in the early 1970s, at a time when “pre-made” costumes for kids were usually just these plastic shower-curtain-esque things in a box with a plastic mask (I will make the comment here that, even though I was super-little, I was always wondering why Disney didn’t make and sell exact duplicates of the princess dresses. I remember, at four years old, saying to my mother, ‘Mom, they would make SO MUCH MONEY if they did that!’ Of course…we know how THAT ended up!).

But my mother told me not to worry—I could be whatever princess I wanted, because fortunately, she was wicked with a sewing machine and pretty creative when it came to integrating everyday clothing into costumes. I was one of those lucky girls who didn’t have to suffer through a shower curtain and a mask. Nope. I got the real thing. And not only did I get the real thing, I got the real thing that was so well-made I played in it well after Halloween was over.

In those early years, Mom used the art in my Disney Record Album collection as a guide for the costuming. Every spring, she’d ask me who I wanted to be for Halloween, and I’d run straight to my collection to pick out whichever character was my favorite that year. I remember I always had trouble choosing between whoever-it-was and Alice in Wonderland—I think I might have been Alice a couple of times—but I know I was also Cinderella (I played in that dress until, at eight years old, I literally grew out of it, and that was THE. MOST. GORGEOUS. GOWN. EVER. It was totally like her wedding gown. It rocked and I wish I had photos of it), Snow White, Maid Marian, Wendy, and Bianca (for the record, there were a few non-Disney women in there, such as Princess from the 1978 cartoon series Battle of the Planets).

One of the images from the Alice in Wonderland record album that Mom used as reference for the costume.

There’s no doubt that photographing everything from the album booklets brought back all these wonderful memories to the point where it made me reconsider disposal. But one of the things that made the “Disney Album Ditch” finally happen is the fact that as I was studying the album art I noticed something—most of the art with which I was fascinated had something to do with clothing, and that in many ways, my favorite pieces of clothing in the past—and even today—are strongly reminiscent of this imagery I’d been exposed to when I was a child.

In fact, the whole reason I like certain styles and wear them repeatedly is because of the love I had for that particular style as drawn in the record album art.

So you might say that, even if I didn’t have the photos of the images I loved best, and even if I didn’t have the memory of all my mother’s costumes, I’d always have…well, whatever’s in my closet.

Here’s a tour. Enjoy.

This image, as well as the next one, clearly inspired my everyday clothing as well—here, we see the “flounce” of the blue and white dress with the subtle front placket, the belled short sleeves, and the Mary Jane shoes.

Yes, I know my mother bought everything for me, but she obviously had Alice in mind when she put me in this dress, and check out those Mary Janes! Here I am with my parents outside of a restaurant in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1973.

I actually remember this photo being taken in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1973. One of the things I loved about Florida was all of the flowers, and boy did I love that dress. I was actually “playing” Alice in Wonderland and was busy picking all the flowers I could find in her yard. I remember taking several of the flowers, lining them all up on the lanai, and imagining they were singing to me, just like the flowers in the Disney movie.

This image from Snow White inspired a few things—among them my love for bows on the tops of shoes, black heels, and doublet-style blouses (more on these later).

I included this description that describes the previous image because this particular scene was one I liked to reenact while wearing my Snow White costume.

Me in the driveway, winter, 1974. The reason I included this is because, if you look closely at the shoes (even though I have black tights on), you can not only see that they are that “Alice” Mary-Jane style, they have buckles—probably the first time I had embellishments, as Snow White did, on her shoes. These shoes, as I recall, also featured a very low heel.

And now: Alice in Wonderland and Snow White are responsible for the various pairs of Mary Jane heelsmy everyday shoesI have worn over the years.

May, 2001: rehearsing for a production of Company at the Sherman Playhouse in Sherman, CT. I’m second from left and that pair of Mary Jane shoes (actually, they were professional-grade character shoes) I owned and wore day in and day out from 1995 forward. I think they finally bit the dust in 2002. Here, my friend Lori, left, as Joanne, and me, as Amy, sing “Poor Baby” in Act 2.

Here are those shoes again at the “Christmas Cocktail” party—at tribute to a 1960s Christmas—at my house in December, 2001.

February 8, 2003: The replacements for my favorite Mary Jane character shoes that died in 2002. The heels were much higher and they weren’t as well made—I think these shoes only lasted me a couple of years, max—but I learned to be comfortable in them just fine. Here I am on my way out to see a production of the play Ice Box at The Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT.

I was a volunteer at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in Norwalk, CT, from 2001 through the end of 2004—and even though I was running around and on my feet all day, sometimes for eight or nine hours, heeled Mary Janes were my choice for work, too. The guy I was dating at the time used to crack, “You should own something more comfortable, sweetie. You know. Rubber. Sneakers. Flat.” He didn’t understand I was more comfortable running around in heels than anything else, especially for working (then again, there is absolutely a reason we’re not together anymore either—he really didn’t understand very much of anything). Here I am getting ready to go to work at the Aquarium in June, 2003.

August, 2004: While it’s true I wore nothing but black Mary Janes (and pretty much still do), I did purchase one pair of brown special occasion shoes just in case I had to wear something that went better with brown. Here I am dancing at Nathan’s family reunion—we’re doing the “Electric Slide”—but what cracks me up is they’re still just like a Mary Jane, except the cross-strap wraps around the ankle instead of the usual. Apparently I don’t do well at picking anything significantly different.

Me at my friend Kristy’s wedding in September, 2004. This was the next pair of Mary Janes after the 2002 pair bit the dust.

Even my Crocs are Mary Jane style. Here they are in May, 2008, aboard the Walt Disney Road Railroad in the Magic Kingdom in Orlando.

My current pair of Mary Janes, which I bought in Fall, 2010. Here I am wearing them in an old cemetery in Bridgewater, Connecticut, October 2, 2010. We were taking promotional shots for the release of my collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks, Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World. We didn’t really end up using the shots, but the shoes look great!

Wendy from Peter Pan—I loved both the color and style of her nightgown.

Here I am in my own “Wendy” gown—you can see it has a very similar cut and style, except the bow ties in the front instead of the back. That dress was one of my favorites, and I wore it all the time, even to school—I FELT like “Wendy” in it. This photo was taken in 1976—I was on my way to see my first Broadway show (yes, in New York, and as a 5th birthday present—I believe it was the revival of My Fair Lady). That year for Halloween I was Wendy from Peter Pan. I remember Mom modified the sleeves on the dress (she took the lace off, so the sleeves would more closely match hers), changed the ribbon so it was sewn around the entire Empire waistline with no bow, and used the extra ribbon to make a bow for my hair. It was close enough for me to pretend I was Wendy, even if it wasn’t all blue—but even after that dress was modified, I continued to wear it to school until I grew out of it.

Old habits die hard. Here is a blue dress with an Empire waistline, scoop neck, and short sleeves (even though they aren’t elasticized, I think they’re close enough). I bought this dress in 2000 at a thrift store, and it served me for a few Halloweens. Here I am in October, 2000, as the character of Maude from the William Castle film Mr. Sardonicus. That’s my housemate, Charles, as the title character.

Here we are in the cemetery that same year. The dress, like Wendy’s nightgown, is floor-length.

This is one of my favorite images from the Cinderella album, mostly because I love the way her skirt is drawn.

Wendy from Peter Pan. Attraction: full skirt.

Maid Marian from Robin Hood. Attraction: full skirt.

Next two photos: here’s where the influence of those drawings of the full skirts come in. These aren’t the only two gowns I ever owned that were like this, but these are the best photos I can find that illustrate my point.

Me in my gown for The Masque of the Red Death party, November 4, 2000. The party was an Edgar Allan Poe dinner, and everyone came in costume. I was playing Fannie Osgood, so I wanted a long gown—but because I was always working hard in the kitchen and running around at my own parties, I frequently made sure I got something sleeveless and loose. Here, though, you can see the influence of Cinderella’s full skirt. I loved that when I came down the stairs the dress pooled behind me.

May, 1999, at a friend’s wedding. Those of us in the wedding party were instructed to choose our own dresses as long as they were purple or blue—I loved, loved, loved this gown. Obviously the color was inspired by Cinderella and Wendy. But that skirt was awesome—there was a spiral staircase at the wedding’s location, and seriously, I had a couple of glasses of wine and ran up and down the stairs—especially down. It swirled and floated behind me just like Cinderella’s dress in the picture. I remember thinking of the Cinderella image specifically when I was doing that—and was glad no one saw me. You have to admit, watching a woman run up and down the stairs and study how her dress behaves behind her is kind of weird. The wedding was okay…but my happier memories are of running around in that dress.

Here’s that close-up of my favorite image in the Snow White record album booklet again. There were many things about that image I loved, but this time around I’m going to talk about the cut of her bodice—it’s inspired many of my blouses and shirts.

Here’s one of my doublet shirts inspired by the cut of Snow White’s bodice. I have several shirts that are this cut—some in denim, a couple in silk—but I figured I’d photograph one and you’d get the point.

Here’s me wearing one of the doublet shirts (a blue polyester model—you can see I loved them so much I bought one in each available color) at the Danbury Fair Mall fireworks in July 2011. The girl on the right is Madi Gagne, who’s going to college for Marine Biology in Tampa, FL this coming Fall.

Here’s another of my favorites from the Cinderella album artwork—she made washing the windows look elegant, and although those were supposed to be her “poor girl” clothes, I thought her outfit was pretty nice. I particularly liked the brown skirt—and didn’t realize how many tan/brown skirts I’d own in my lifetime, especially to work in.

April, 1988, departing for Daytona Beach, FL. Yes, I’m wearing a tan skirt.

During my tenure at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, all of my skirts were tan. Brown/tan skirts seem to be what I associate with work—probably because of that Cinderella image. I looked in my closet this morning and realized most of the skirts I own are khaki, tan, or brown.

This image and the next, both from Cinderella, inspired my flat shoes—I’m either in heeled Mary Janes or I’m in plain (usually black) flats. Like my Mary Janes, when one pair goes, I just go out and buy another.

I talked about this illustration before when I was discussing my brown skirts, but one of the other details I liked in this image was her flat shoes, the way her feet were poised.

Me and Nathan at the Sunset Drive In, Burlington, Vermont, summer 2005. I’m in my black flats.

Me at a hotel in Lumberton, North Carolina, on our road trip to Disney World, September, 2005. The shoes in the photo are a different pair of flats than the ones I was wearing that summer.

Me in Gettysburg—at Devil’s Den—July, 2007. These are my blue flats, which I still own. The reason I put them in here is because, just like the two pairs of black flats I just showed you, these have bows. In fact, most pairs of flats I own have bows. I believe that comes from the Snow White images I talked about earlier.

Maid Marian from Robin Hood. My main attraction to her gown was its neckline—which I found, as you can see in the next three photos, tends to show up on most of my dresses and/or blouses.

Me at the Bronx Zoo, July 20, 2002. Notice the neckline on my top.

January, 2005, with my friends Jen (left) and Nanette (right) from Pencils! Writing Workshop. I loved that dress—it had not only the same neckline as Marian’s, but was slightly tailored in the middle and flared out to a huge, full skirt—but I accidentally shrank it in the dryer.

Nathan and me at Pencils! Writing Workshop’s 2nd Anniversary Mexican Fiesta Bash, July, 2005. Again, Marian’s neckline.

One of my favorite cocktail dresses—because of its sheer pink cape. The cape is reminiscent of Marian’s headpiece, so I’m sure that’s why I bought it. I actually have a much better photo of me in this dress which can really show you the similarities between the cape and the headpiece, but it’s packed away in a box someplace. Here I am with my friend, Monica Merkel, at one of our parties, August, 1999.

A rack of “Alice in Wonderland” dresses in a shop in Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion, 2006—I remember taking this picture just because I was like, ‘hey, I wish they had those here in my size!’

In 2008, I got lucky—I found an Alice in Wonderland costume for adults (the official Disney version from the Disney Merchandise website, not a knock-off). Of course…I bought it and guess who I was for Halloween that year? There was an adult-sized White Rabbit Costume too, but somehow I doubt my little brother would’ve been thrilled to see that—so Alice was just Alice that year, and I was chasing the white rabbits that existed only in my head.

WHEN ZOMBIES ATTACK AN ICE CREAM TRUCK: ENFIELD’S ZOMBIE WALK FOR HUNGER HUGE SUCCESS, NEHW WAS THERE!

Zombie Bride Linda Nugent, of Ellington, prepares to eat Nathan’s brains! Linda won Best Overall in the costume contest…with good reason. She never broke character, not even when I went to ask her name!

Hundreds of the living dead walked for a great cause Saturday in Enfield, Connecticut at the town’s First Annual Zombie Walk for Hunger…and I was there with the New England Horror Writers and watched it all happen!

Zombies showed up in costume and were decked out by professional make-up artists (see REALLY AWESOME video of that at Enfield Patch here: http://enfield.patch.com/articles/zombies-walk-to-end-hunger#video-7360046).

The walk kicked off with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (which was reprised later on in the day), and, after a 8/10 mile trek, they convened at the Weymouth Road firehouse to enjoy raffles, music, food, a costume contest, and vendors.

The event was a huge success—by the time the Zombies reached their destination, they had raised close to $1000 in cash and had filled a pick-up truck bed with food, which was delivered immediately to the Enfield Food Shelf.

I was not immune for long! Zombie Florist Mary Hale, of Enfield, tries to sink her teeth into me at the NEHW booth (um, I was having too much fun to really even try to look scared).

As for the NEHW, Jason Harris, Stacey Longo, D.G. Sutter, Jennifer Yarter-Polmatier

and I talked with lots of zombies. We sold several books, donated copies of both the Library of Horror Press’ Malicious Deviance  featuring NEHW writer Stacey Longo’s short “Good Night Francine” and my Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World to the event’s Tea Cup Auction, and generally…let lots of people know we’re out there.

Nathan Schoonover of The Ghostman & Demon Hunter Show and A&E’s Extreme Paranormal, who was there to lend a hand (and shot most of the photos below), took some time out to converse with members of the investigators of Paranormal Revelations, a paranormal investigation group based in Northeastern Connecticut.

Enjoy the pix and vids below…for more information on New England Horror Writers, visit www.newenglandhorror.org.

The sign at the crosswalk near the JFK school, starting point of the walk.

Throngs of the undead begin to creep toward town…

Video: Hundreds of zombies are on the move. This video captures the entire brigade, so don’t miss it!

I don’t know who this is but I wouldn’t want to tangle with him, would you?

Mardi Gras Zombie Betty Blackwell, who came all the way from Bridgeport with her husband, Paul, to participate, begins her advance…

…and I don’t think she was too happy about having her undead antics interrupted!

Zombie Walker Rose Myers, left, of Windsor Locks, and Zombie Beetle Juice Janine Rasmussen, of Granby, make their way down the sidewalk.

Zombie Brainiac Sean Spring, of West Springfield, MA, looks like he’s lost something.

Zombie Doctor Jen Clarke, of Simsbury, looks as though she might have been caught in the middle of an operation.

These signs were everywhere…courtesy, of course, of Zombeebobs.com.

Zombie Blonde Dawn Dale, of Wethersfield, struts her stuff.

Zombie Teen Briana Flanagan, of Windsor Locks, dragged one of her feet for the entire mile. Ouch, that girl has guts—in more ways than one!

Flanagan, right, and Zombie BFF Brieanna Minor, of Coventry.

…speaking of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller!” That is just awesome. I’ll bet you the coat really does date back to the 1980s.

A zombie-style bean bag toss on the firehouse grounds.

Zombie Elvis McMahon Fan Bill Chapman, of Higganum. Elvis McMahon happens to be Nathan’s friend’s band. Talk about a small world!

Here we are at the New England Horror Writers booth! Left to right, D.G. Sutter, Jennifer Yarter-Polmatier, me, Stacey Longo, and Jason Harris.

Video: The undead approach the New England Horror Writers Booth.

Shots of our table…

Looks like there aren’t enough brains, so the zombies have to resort to ice cream.

Video: See a couple of crazed zombies attack the ice cream truck!

Daetin Gonzales, of Enfield, Connecticut, rocks the zombie universe as he portrays Harry Wentworth, Ted Danson’s role in the 1982 film Creepshow’s vignette “They’re Creeping Up on You.” Daetin won for best teen costume.

The zombies in the throes of the reprise of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Video: The reprise of the “Thriller” dance.

Horror writer D.G. Sutter, at right: “Who needs brains when there are balloon animals?” At left, his fiancé Brin.

Nathan, left, and NEHW’s Jason Harris take a time-out when things start to calm down.

“Vanity” Accepted for Dark Opus Press’ IN POE’S SHADOW

My short story “Vanity” will appear in Dark Opus Press’ forthcoming anthology In Poe’s Shadow, in which writers were asked to submit a modern tale directly paying homage to or inspired by one of Poe’s short stories.

“Vanity” owes itself to Poe’s little-known “The Oval Portrait,” which is my favorite piece of his. If you’d like to read “The Oval Portrait”—it’s short, in fact it’s under 1300 words—you can read it at www.eapoe.org (The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore’s extensive online archive): http://www.eapoe.org/works/tales/ovlprtc.htm. An extra bit of fun? Check out this 2008 film by DanBrosnan2020 on YouTube, which won an award for achievement by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJxEwIO-KOo

Some other writers have posted that they’ve been accepted as well. James S. Dorr’s “Merryl,” inspired by Poe’s “Ligeia” will also appear; so will Dorian Dawes’ “Loving the Dead,” although I’m not sure which story to which it owes its existence (from an excerpt I read, I’d have to take a stab in the dark and say either “Morella” or “Berenice”).

I can’t wait to have this treat on my shelf…I’m hoping it’s out in time for what we call “Poe Season” in our house so I have lots of fun new stuff to read!

I’ll keep you posted on In Poe’s Shadow’s publication date.

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