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THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 25—The Stephen King Books

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 25: THE STEPHEN KING BOOKS

My cousin Maryanne, left, and me at Thanksgiving at my house in 2010. Maryanne is the reason I write scary stuff today.

It’s hard to believe that my father let me read books like The Andromeda Strain, The Word, Jaws, and Catch 22—but I was forbidden to read any books by Stephen King.

I never really thought to ask him why. I suspect now that—because none of King’s books were ever in our house—it was because my father didn’t like King’s writing; I don’t think it was because of the craft, necessarily, but because Dad didn’t really seem to gravitate toward anything scary (in fact, all I heard from him when he was alive about my work was, ‘why the hell are you wasting yourself on all this dark stuff?’). Big on spy and contemporary thriller and science fiction, I think King never struck Dad’s fancy. My mother loved scary stories—but wasn’t a reader. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw her read anything but The Bible and those great old 1970s feel-good things like Anger is a Choice and The Less is More Cookbook.

I lucked out, though, and got to read King’s work at one of the most impressionable times in my life—between the ages of ten and thirteen.

Because I had an older cousin who had a shelf full of his books.

Every Sunday for the first 14 years of my life, we went down to have dinner at my Aunt’s house in West Haven. My cousin Maryanne and I didn’t really get along when we were kids. But that would change one day when I was in her room, looking at the books on her shelf. I don’t remember the conversation, but I remember asking her about them. She pulled out Cujo.

I was instantly fascinated by the cover art: I had been attacked by Doberman Pincers in our neighborhood when I was so young I was terrified of any dog, even hers, who was really no more than a friendly excitable puppy at the time.

“Wanna read it?” she asked.

At first I wasn’t sure if it was a trick to scare me (remember, I said we didn’t get along well for a number of years).

“It’s really good,” she said. “You totally won’t be able to put it down.”

I remember feeling a pit in my stomach—I was afraid of getting caught; you’d think she was offering me crack or something, like if I dared open that book I’d ruin the rest of my life. But anything that promised to be too good to put down was too tempting to resist. And oh, that cover art (someone somewhere said that fear and fascination are tied together, and I’d have to agree). I dove into Cujo.

So, every Sunday thereafter, while the women would talk as they cleaned up dinner and my Dad would either be talking or watching sports, I hid out in Maryanne’s room reading every King book she had. She even went to the trouble to put paper bag covers on them, so that if one of my parents walked in they wouldn’t know what I was reading.

It was shortly after that I started writing scary stories, and once I started writing scary stories, the only things I wanted to read were scary stories. Once I got into my late teens, I was allowed to read whatever I wanted, so that became easier. In fact, once I went to college, Dad would always buy me books—and ironically, many of them were Stephen King. I read Nightmares and Dreamscapes (which contains one of my favorite short stories, “Rainy Season”) on a long car drive to Lake Placid, New York. I read Night Shift when I was working at the URI Security Office in the summer of 1992 (that was totally creepy; the office was in the basement and I was usually only with one other person and he hated me). I read Delores Claiborne when I was married to my first husband and we had no money for cable.

The rest is history. As for Maryanne, we’re really close now. We love all things dark and scary, not just books. We love to get together and watch horror flicks like Gargoyles, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and Poltergeist. And we usually do all of that when she’s staying at my house helping me get ready for a party.

The cover of Cujo, the very first Stephen King book I ever read.

The hardest things to get rid of were my books—and I still kept many, don’t worry. But these King books weren’t the ones I read in that darkened purple shag-rugged room full of glass unicorns—they’re copies I got at tag sales years later, so I’d have them in case I ever wanted to re-read them. It’s the memory of those secret afternoons that I want to keep alive, not the books themselves—and since many of them are King’s classics, I can always get them another time.

Of course, Maryanne is such a collector of King’s books that she has all the copies that I read from. So they’re still out there. But for right now, it’s time to say goodbye. They went to a library book sale this past summer.

The cover of Carrie, which was the second book I read. I recall little of it, other than that I couldn’t put it down, and that I was really grossed out by the shower scene and all that blood—but on the other hand, I could understand it. At that time, we had just started the whole ‘taking showers after gym class’ thing in school, and I was often teased because I was larger than the other girls.

Pet Sematary scared the living hell out of me—mostly because we had a cat, Cuddles, for many years, who just before I read this disappeared. Dad insisted Cuddles had run away, but dense, creepy woods surrounded our property, and I was convinced then—as I am now—that he lied and that cat is buried someplace in those woods. While I was reading this book I was haunted by visions of the dead cat coming back in middle of the night.

The VHS of Pet Sematary. I bought this second-hand at a video store up at the University of Rhode Island, and made the mistake of watching it one night on one of my long security overnight shifts in the summer of 1992. The guy who hated me did manage to put his feelings aside and walk me home after work, but I remember jumping at every sound. I’ll eventually get this on DVD, so I figured, why keep it?

Christine didn’t scare me as much as the others, although the idea that a car could have a personality terrified me—especially when I thought of the old green 1970s Pinto we had. Dad told me he’d gotten rid of it because if someone hit it in the back end it would blow up.

Firestarter was the only one of those first books of his that I read that didn’t feel like it fit—I remember not really understanding the whole scene with the parents and how they’d hooked up (for those of you who know EXACTLY what’s going on in the book and may be sitting there saying, ‘there’s no scene like that,’ I don’t remember books well, which is why I re-read them. It’s often the images in my mind I recall best. I haven’t read this book in thirty years, so all I’m recalling are a few vague images my mind invented to accompany the words).

What’s funny about Salem’s Lot is that I don’t recall any of it. I’m not really surprised—I’m still not a big vampire person, book or film-wise.

Actually, I’m not getting rid of this—it’s rare now, I think. It’s the April 1997 issue of TV Guide that printed a never-before-published prologue to King’s The Shining called “Before the Play” in honor of the new made-for-TV miniseries that was airing that week. Charles was out somewhere—at a play rehearsal, maybe, I don’t exactly recall—and I was home alone. I had just gotten divorced and moved out of a tiny one-bedroom I’d shared with my ex into this brand-new house that was bigger than the one I’d grown up in, was totally isolated on three acres up a long, dark, winding drive, and contained very little furniture so my voice echoed everyplace my went. I couldn’t wait to read King’s prologue, so I sat up on my bed and started reading—only to be left terrified to reach over the space between my bed and the nightstand. Just as I’d swallowed my fears and was doing that—to turn on an extra lamp—Charles walked into the house and yelled, “Hello!” I totally screamed like I was being stabbed. I slept with the lights on for weeks after that—and I was 26. So why am I showing you this as part of The Goodbye Project? I tore out the pages that contained the prologue and threw out the rest of the magazine.

Maryanne and me at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, New York, September, 2010. She is trying garlic ice cream for the first time (so I guess I got to introduce her to something new, too!) Going to the festival has become a tradition for us over the years, and when we come home, we always have a few drinks and watch some scary movies. In 2010, we watched that old 1970s made-for-TV movie turkey Gargoyles.

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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.

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.

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.

How the Disney Records Died a Long, Slow Death (THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 18)

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 18: How the Disney Records Died a Long, Slow Death (or, The Disney Records, Part 1)

The Disney records were so integral to my childhood afternoons I frequently carried them all over the house; Above, me, 3, with my Song of the South. The woman behind me is my grandmother (we called her Nana), who lived in Daytona Beach, FL, but came to visit every Spring. Photo taken May 19, 1974.

I don’t think I have to explain to anyone how seriously collectors take their passions; Disney Record Collectors are no exception.

I was never a Disney Record Collector and probably never will be, but I owned several Disney Records when I was a kid—and now it’s time to say goodbye. But what’s interesting about this story is that I almost didn’t get the opportunity to say goodbye.

Let’s first review the system for rating record condition as published in R. Michael Murray’s The Golden Age of Disney Records 1933-1988: Price Guide for Disney Fans and Record Collectors:

“Current grading standards range from the ultimate collectible, a “still sealed (SS)” copy of the record, to those records graded “poor (P),” which are in terrible shape, suitable only as Frisbees or as a “filler” copy until you can obtain one of a higher grade…In general, the grading system and the short-hand notation used in descending rank of collectability, are as follows:

Still Sealed (SS)

Mint (M)

Mint Minus (M-): Sometimes noted as Near Mint (NM)

Very Good Plus (VG+): Sometimes noted as Excellent (EX or EXC)

Very Good (VG)

Good (G)

Poor (P)”[1]

The few Disney records I had left, according to the rating system above, would have fallen into the P- – category and wouldn’t EVEN make it as a Frisbee: they were loved by the hands and imagination of a precocious, lonely little girl (who sometimes purple-crayoned her very first “short stories” in them); then they were passed on to siblings, and let’s just say boys will be boys; over the years, the books were constantly masking-taped, the records themselves glued (yes, I swear, when one broke in half my mother GLUED it back together, I KID YOU  NOT!), the arms of the record players weighted with quarters or half-dollars in an effort to “gloss over” the ever-growing number of skips and scratches.

Then, as we got older, the toys and instruments of our childhood were stored—and not well. The records were either shoved in paper grocery bags and set in a mildew-infested environment: the damp, dark below-ground rooms of my father’s house, or stored in the attic crawl-space, which, due to bat infestation, collected amazing amounts of guano.

In the late 1990s, Dad decided it was time to “deal with” the bat infestation in the attic. Any professional he called in wasn’t going to be able to get to the problem, so Dad made me, my sister, and my brother clear out the boxes of junk that were up there*—my dead mother’s shoes dating back to the 1970s, old Halloween and Easter decorations, books, bedding (ew! The thought of that makes my flesh crawl!)…and half of the collection of Disney records (which I thought was the whole set). We, of course, pitched absolutely everything and never looked back. I know—makes you want to cry, doesn’t it? Because I had no memory of what poor condition those records were in at that time, I was a little angry, especially since I knew the bats would never appreciate their Disney-quality crap-receptor.

*Do NOT ever attempt to go anywhere near bat guano on your own; I believe it’s considered hazardous biological material. Call a professional. My father was out of his mind, and we should not have been allowed in that attic. In fact, for the amount of guano that was up there, we shouldn’t have even been living in the damn house. We were probably breathing it in for years. However, the three of us are still alive, free of health issues, and not carrying any bat-related diseases as far as we know. We got lucky. You might not.*

After my father passed away in 2008, I was routing through his den, which was full of mildewed books, and I discovered a paper grocery bag shoved in the back of a cement-floored closet. I got on my hands and knees to pull it out, and nearly choked at the clouds of mildew and dust coming off it. When I peeked inside, I was shocked to find not just Disney records—but the ones I’d most loved from my childhood. I was so happy to see them again that even though they were in a shape that could be hazardous to one’s health (God help you if you pulled these things out and had asthma, you would have been dead), I couldn’t throw them out. So I shoved them in a trash bag, taped the bag closed with Duct Tape, labeled them “Kristi’s Disney Records,” and threw them in a bin, which eventually went into storage in my very clean, very dry, and very brightly-lit basement.

When I finally unearthed them for this Goodbye Project, I literally had to wear a surgical mask so I could breathe to clean them up enough to photograph them.

Needless to say, they went into a trash bag as soon as I was finished. Sad—but like almost every other neglected thing in my parents’ house, the better choice was to chuck them.

Here’s a tour of what I had left. Enjoy.

3903: "Story and Songs from Bambi," 1969; covers with both inner and outer pockets. If M- condition in 1997, it would've been worth $20.00. Note: Booklet art is painted.

STER-3948: “The Story and Songs of The Jungle Book,” 1978; has a matte booklet with inner pocket and color back cover pictures; yellow rainbow label. If M- condition in 1997, worth approximately $15.00. Note: Booklet art is painted.

3917: “Story and Songs from Lady and the Tramp,” 1969; back cover is green with pictures of inner picture booklet; if M-condition in 1997, worth approximately $20.00. Note: Booklet art is movie cel.

This cracks me up. My mother somehow felt the need to write my name in the inside covers of all of my albums—yet at the time I was the only child in the house. This implies that, although I don’t remember it, I probably took the damn things out of the house—such as to a friend’s, or to Show-and-Tell at school, or to grandparents’ houses or whatever.

3906: “Story and Songs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” 1969; cover of Snow White sweeping; painted booklet art. If in M- condition in 1997, worth $20.00.

3908: “Cinderella,” 1969; pink cover with mice sewing dress; painted picture booklet (there was also a movie cel version). The painted picture booklet version, if in M- condition in 1997, would go for around $15.00.

3909: “Alice in Wonderland,” 1969; green psychedelic cover with eleven-page painted art work booklet; red label (there was also a movie cel version with a purple label). If in M- condition in 1997, the painted booklet version would go for about $15.00.

3910: “Story and Songs from Peter Pan,” 1969. Painted booklet art. If in M- condition in 1997, worth around $15.00.

STER-3995: “The Story of The Aristocats,” 8/1970; features Robie Lester, Phil Harris, and Mike Sammes Singers; Sterling Holloway narrates. If in M- condition in 1997, worth around $20.00. Note: Booklet art is painted.

3907: “Stories of Uncle Remus,” 1970 as “3907” include “Brer Rabbit,” etc; with twelve-page matte booklet with different text than its original 1958 issue. Booklet art is movie cel; if in M- condition in 1997, worth around $25.00.

3810: “Story and Songs from Robin Hood,” 8/1973; Roger Miller narrates; animated version; stereo. Note: painted booklet art. If in M- condition in 1997, worth around $25.00.

There were two that I kept—my beloved ride-through of the “It’s a Small World” attraction, which I just listened to over and over and over again to the point where I knew how to sing that song in every language they had featured on the album; I managed to clean up the mold and mildew enough so that it was okay for me to store.

The second one I kept is actually in really great shape—“Story of The Rescuers,” with the movie cel art. The reason that one’s okay is because I got it when in was new in 1977 and I treasured it. I kept it on my bookshelf as a kid and all through my teenage years, and I even took it with me to college. So that’s the reason it’s in mint condition and didn’t suffer the same fate as the others.

I also suppose you’re wondering which ones were in the attic when they were tossed. To the best of my memory, here are some others I know I owned:

The Story of Heidi

Pinocchio (probably that 3800-3900 series)

Dumbo (probably that 3800-3900 series)

Bambi (DQ-1203)

Tubby the Tuba and Other Songs for Children about Music (DQ-1287)

101 Dalmations (DQ-1308)

Mickey and the Beanstalk (ST-3974)


[1] R. Michael Murray, The Golden Age of Walt Disney Records 1933-1988 (Dubuque, IA: Landmark Specialty Publications-Antique Trader Books, 1997), 11.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 17-Rejection Slips, Part Two: BURN THE REST!

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 17: REJECTION SLIPS, PART TWO: BURN THE REST!

A rejection slip goes up in flames in my writing buddy Al’s fireplace, February 23, 2008.

In a recent conversation thread on LinkedIn, several writers were sharing the best and worst rejection slips we’d ever gotten. Although I remembered a few of the worst ones (Lunch Hour Stories told me that little boys would NEVER torture bugs or caterpillars, and so how dare I put that in a story?), the funny ones (I once got one that said, “HAVE A HAPPY DAY!” at the end of it), and the best ones (either signed by someone really cool, full of compliments or offering helpful feedback), I knew that I could have more actively participated in the conversation had I not burned—that’s right—burned—most of my rejection slips.

Saying goodbye doesn’t always mean just saying goodbye to objects. Sometimes it’s saying goodbye to an era, a group of friends, even an annual event. In this case, it’s all three.

In the summer of 2003, I founded a writer’s group called Pencils! Writing Workshop in Norwalk, CT (our original website is still up here: www.pencilswritingworkshop.com, although I will tell you that the layout is nowhere near what it was due to the fact that when I set up the site, it was Google Pages, which changed over to Google Sites in 2009). While the group’s main focus was to meet twice a month to critique work, its secondary aim was to create a community of like minds who could gather socially, attend conferences, and embark on writing-related outings.

(Note: if you visit the Pencils! website may see some of the copy you’re about to read over there. It’s okay—I wrote that stuff, so I’m only plagiarizing myself).

One Valentine’s Day in 2005, when the weather had dipped below zero, five Pencils! who had nothing to do decided to gather around a fireplace with a couple of bottles of wine and a plate of pepperoni and cheese. Somehow we got the idea that, because of theHoliday, we should bring our rejection slips and share them.

What started as a share and wallow became a banishment of our angst and negativity toward rejection—after taking a few minutes to explain our frustrations and anger, we hurled our slips into the burning fire.

We couldn’t believe how great we felt afterward—unburdened, ready for another round of submissions. We dubbed the night “The Rejection Slip Burning Party,” and the difference it made in giving us the courage to go forward through another year of submitting our work was so positive we made the party a Pencils! annual tradition.

There aren’t any pictures from that first event in 2005—it truly was a last-minute thing; I think we just all agreed to grab a snack and BYOB and meet at someone’s house at 5 p.m. But it was the start of something that grew exponentially, something to which everyone looked forward—and what was really great was that you could only come if you had submitted your work the previous year and had at least one rejection. Over time, the evening became an incentive—people who never would have had the courage to submit anything otherwise started sending out their work.

So, I share these photos of the four rejection slip burning events we had after 2005, and in doing that, I say goodbye to the era of mid-winter burnings with my writing friends in New England.

2nd Annual March Against Rejection 2006

A screen shot of the 2006 invitation. It was the "March Against Rejection" that year since the gathering had to be on March 4 instead of the usual mid-February due to a blizzard! No matter, we got that fire burning hot -- and our disappointments down to ash!

Al's FABULOUS sparkly fire! He bought the color powder so our unhappiness would go out in all the colors of the rainbow.

Kathryn, humorist and columnist, and Al, science fiction writer and our gracious host. Kathryn went on to pursue her MFA at Sarah Lawrence, have her humor columns published in numerous magazines including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and is now a professor at Quinnipiac College.

Writers at work! Jen, journalist and webmistress; Al, seated on couch; Peter Duveen, magazine freelancer who traveled to the Far East pretty frequently; and Kathryn, who was reading the rejection that pissed her off most!

3rd Annual REJECT-A-RAMA 2007

A screen shot of the 2007 invitation. Once I found I liked this layout, I just did it year-in and year-out and only changed the necessary information and the color scheme. Doing that also provided a “branding,” so that when members received it in the mail (yes, even though we used e-mail, invitations to events were sent via postal—made it more special) they knew what to expect from the event.

The 2007 rejection gathering, held on February 10, was a smash hit and saw a jump in attendance from five people to twelve. Amid shouts of “Burn It!” and some other things not appropriate for the web, feelings of anger, hopelessness and frustration went up in smoke.

The candles at the center of the buffet table.

What would ANY Valentine's Day be without candy hearts?

Hostess Maryann lets her hair down!

Our host, Al. At the time he joined Pencils!,Al was writing short stories in the science fiction and fantasy genres; his short story “Lucerange” was included in the Pencils! Writing Workshop anthology Every Other Tuesday. His most popular story, though, is called “The Christmas Man.” Al is definitely a Christmas enthusiast—it’s his passion, and it spills over into his basement woodworking shop, where he makes ornaments, sleds, and all manner of hand-crafted Christmas gifts. Al has also just completed the third rewrite of a fantasy novel he’s been working on for several years. Since this photo was taken in 2008, he has managed to read nearly all the classic novels including Moby Dick, Great Expectations, The Three Musketeers, and The Man in the Iron Mask. He’s the only guy I know who purchased one of those home library collections and really did read every single one!

Pencils! supporter and friend Andrea expresses dismay at someone’s rejection story, though I don’t remember whose. She and her husband, Jim, are close friends of Al and were frequently at Pencils! gatherings.

Since this is part of The Goodbye Project, I should probably mention that I still had these paper hearts up until a couple of months ago. Hey, party stores can be expensive, and if the stuff’s in good shape, you might as well re-use it. However, great shape or not, I’m not paying to move these to Florida!

Maryann and I always put out a nice spread, and we always enjoyed shopping together. That year we did typical hors d’eouvres. The half of the table in the foreground is empty because Pencils! members always brought a dish to share, so we had to leave room. I should also note here that Maryann’s talented in her own right—she does beautiful, creative centerpieces and flower arrangements and party theme design.

Vance, who writes mysteries set in the Italian Renaissance as well as shorter nostalgia pieces, kicks off the night with his turn to burn! Kathryn looks on.

I don’t exactly remember the exchange here, but I think Vance and Kathryn had had the same rejection experience with the same publisher. I seem to recall something like that.

Vance presents: "And do you think they'd at LEAST have the courtesy to use a FULL sheet of PAPER?" At left, me, and at right, Kathryn, laugh it up.

Joyce, a memoirist and travel writer who is working on a novel set in the 1950s, expresses her disappointment over a slip from a certain Review.

Al: What's this? We found this yummy box of very expensive cookies on the front porch when we got home from shopping that afternoon, but we didn't know who it was from! "Please tell me," he said, "that one of you dropped this on the way in." We said "no," and of course LOTS of wild theories presented themselves. (We found out later it was VERY thoughtful member Yvonne, who at the last minute could not attend.)

Both Al and Maryann had to take a turn posing with the cookies.

Jen, a journalist who now works for NJ.com, and Vance enjoy a snack.

Cally, who wrote short pieces about a country in which she spent a great deal of time—Greece—is a lot like me—always talking with her hands.

Chatting it up! Left to right, Al, Vance, and Cally near the bar. I just love Al’s expression here. It says it all about what that night was like.

Here’s me, all dolled up in a very appropriate pink and red. I just got rid of those earrings last week, and the hair band three weeks ago—the earrings I’m just not into wearing anymore, and the hair band was broken.

Pencils!’ newest member at the time, Jerry, who writes mystery and crime stories, welcomes Andrea, who’s just been invited in by Maryann.

We never had many leftovers at these parties; it always seemed like it was just the right amount. Here, Cally and Andrea have pulled away from the main crowd in the living room to enjoy some conversation.

I have no idea what rejection story Cally was sharing here, but it doesn’t look like it was pleasant.

Kathryn takes a moment to smile for the camera and show how much better she feels now that she’s gotten rid of her rejections.

I know. Jen is one of my closest friends and one of the things I love about her is she loves to clown around. She totally couldn’t resist posing between these hearts.

Our newest Pencils! member and mystery/crime/suspense writer Jerry, who presents his only rejection slip thusfar -- oddly enough, one from Pencils!, a private e-mail he wasn't supposed to receive! (I reacted a little badly to his first queries about joining the group; I'll admit it. Today, he’s one of my best friends and trusted feedback provider.) Ouch! I was HOSED! Pretty funny. Everybody had a laugh.

Jim, a Pencils! supporter and friend, chills out with a glass of wine.

I just love Joyce’s expression here. She looks like she was having a great time.

Kathryn tells her own horror story. Always funny, even when annoyed!

No, I’m not really that tired—just looks like someone caught me in the middle of a sentence when I was blinking. That was getting on in the evening, though, and so I probably was getting tired. Maryann and I had, as usual, been running around all day getting prepared.


Kathryn heads to the bar area.

Maryann and I would always purchase plates and cups in an appropriate theme. Believe it or not, I just used up these napkins (we’d bought way too many) in the past couple of weeks. One of the processes of The Goodbye Project is using up all those paper goods that everyone seems to have leftover from parties.

Kathryn and Cally exchange stories.

Jen, me: Have some more wine!


4th Annual “Oh Sweet Rejection!” Slip Burning 2008

The 2008 event, held on February 23, was the most well-attended and celebratory burning of them all. Highlights? For starters, somebody got ballsy and burned a bestseller (We have proven over time that just because it is a bestseller does not mean that it has the best, or even decent, writing.) Someone else brought an entire BAG of slips to burn. And the capper? Well, the Pencils! gave me a great big surprise that was so awesome I couldn’t even accurately express my gratitude; basically, I was stepping down from many of my duties as founder and moderator of Pencils! that year because I had my hands full with my MFA.

Your hostesses: me, left, Maryann, right. The party was held at Al and Maryann’s for the third year in a row.

Me, left, and Yasmine, Pencils! supporter and friend. Yasmine is an actress who had come to the party bearing the good news that she’d gotten a part she wanted – so, here, I suspect the two of us are more than a little "winey"!

The 2008 buffet was desserts only—we wanted to do something other than the same old hors d’eouvres. We decided to start the party later, around 9, to make the dessert service work as an after-dinner event. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why we got such great attendance—it was later on a Saturday evening.

The black and white cookies have been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. These aren’t as good as the ones that Dad used to get from the deli down the street every Sunday morning (the guy had them brought up fresh from NYC every week), but they’re close enough. Heck, I only eat the vanilla half anyway. It’s true. I was never a fan of the chocolate.

Hostess Maryann sweetened the deal with lots of sugary goodies!

Yasmine enjoys dessert before the party begins. I remember it was a pretty cold night, so that fire was toasty!

From left, the late David Roberson (standing), Maryann, and Jerry. Dave passed away suddenly in 2010. He was a science fiction writer who achieved the honor of being accepted to Breadloaf, but had many other passions: he was heavily involved in political activities in Greenwich, CT, and had worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center. He had a great sense of humor, especially about SF writing. I miss him.

From left, me, Tom Barker, who writes humor stories as well as science fiction and is now working on writing nonfiction about motorcross, John, horror writer and filmmaker, and Joyce. We’d usually sit around and chat before the actual ceremony got started.

Another view of the guests: the gentlemen waving in the chair is a friend of a Pencils! member, Al (standing against the wall), Dave, Maryann, and Jerry. I can tell by the position of Jerry’s hands that he was expressing a strong opinion. The original caption I’d written for this picture on the Pencils! website reads: Left to right, Michael, Al, Dave, and Maryann listen to Jerry complain about the state of the publishing industry. Why not?

That’s me, kicking off the festivities.

Burn, baby, burn! All flames burn hotter following a good long smolder...

I love this picture; it’s such a nice shot of the thing literally going up in flames.

Dave smiles for the camera. I really miss him. We used to have the most interesting conversations about the state of science fiction and tons of other things.

Joyce. It looks like she's hearing something horrible, doesn't it?

Roger. At the time he joined Pencils! he was working on a memoir about his retirement. It was his first burn with us, and it looks like he’s enjoying it! He had a few things to burn, too...good ones. We like those!

Now THAT'S the spirit! An entire BAGGY! Way to go, Lon Prater, sci-fi and horror writer extraordinaire! Yes, he’s the one who brought the whole bag of rejection slips, and it was incredible to watch. Lon now lives in Pensacola, FL, so I’m looking forward to being in the same state. Maybe we can get some kind of horror organization going down there, since at the moment, I don’t think there is one.

Joyce—it looks like I caught her by surprise.

John shares...this was a particularly important one, if I recall...

Is Maryann having a little too much fun?

John had lots to say...and more than a couple of things to burn. Just look at how happy he is! I'd say this is gleeful.

Roger socks it to 'em!

Left to right, Al, Yvonne, who was writing an ecothriller, and Dave watch things burn.

Lon's got piles...he's only just begun...

My pile of things to burn.

Lon gets started…lots to burn…

It's Joyce's turn...and boy does she have her say!

Maryann listens in.

Dave's got yet ANOTHER great story!

Lon and Roger share a hearty laugh. I believe it was during John's rejection story. Which had a fair element of $%^&*#@ you in it!

Dave tosses some of his in the fire.

Dave had a true winner...the rejection slip in his hand was his fault, he says...because he never changed the name of the magazine in the letter he sent out. OOPS!! I know I've done that at least once...maybe twice...depends on how much I've been drinking...

Dave brought quite a few that year, as I recall.

Jerry shifts the party’s focus—the group gives me a “goodbye” and “thank you” gift!

I’m standing in the archway with John and Yasmine, watching Jerry, and clearly I’m clueless.

Pencils! Writing Workshop outdoes themselves…

Well, here it is…the big surprise. Jerry headed the whole thing up, and the story goes way back to December, when Jerry apparently sent out an e-mail about surprising me with a gift — and he didn’t realize one of my other e-mail addresses was on the “cc” list!  I did read the e-mail, but discreetly ditched it and said nothing.

At that time, my Dad was really going downhill. In fact, I came home pretty depressed on a Friday night…my family was descending that weekend, the weekend before Christmas, to go spend time with him in the hospital. I stopped to get the mail and there was a card in my mailbox from Pencils!. I thought it was going to just be a Christmas card.

I was so overwhelmed with happiness when I opened it to see everyone’s signatures…and a gift card for Disney (they all know I go to Disney World at least once a year!). I just started to cry. Good tears! Here’s what I received on that cold, depressing day. I’ve gotta tell you, there aren’t really words to express how brightening and emotional this was. It made me realize that I’ve got the best thing in the world…good friends. And they’re hard to find.

In case you’re wondering, “Kaye” is my nickname. Several people know me by it, and when I move toFloridait’s likely the nickname I’ll use.

Here’s the envelope the Christmas card came in. The return address is Borders Wilton, where we were meeting at that time.

The front of the card.

The card’s interior. What’s really cool about this is the group did it through Zazzle, and so all of their signatures are different. It was a great way to do it, since Pencils! members were from a widespread area—everyone could e-mail whatever they wanted to say to the coordinator and whoever it was could order the card online.

The card’s back.

The Disney Gift Card Cover.

The Disney Gift Card Interior.

The Disney Gift Card Back.

Now, fast forward to our rejection slip burning on February 23. They totally shocked me with this other gift — because they realized that I had probably seen the first gift and therefore wasn’t surprised enough, the card and gift card in December were just a “Decoy!” Several Pencils! members pointed out that Jerry is so good at this stuff that if he wanted to overthrow a country, he could probably do it.

What did they give me? Well, besides a REALLY cool card with pencils on the cover –which meant so much to me because it just proves that great art comes from great people — it was another gift card to Disney World, and dinner with Lorraine Warren — someone I’ve always wanted to spend time with but never got the opportunity!

The card’s cover. I love the whole idea behind this card cover, because we had a slogan among ourselves: once a Pencil!, always a Pencil!

The card’s interior.

Disney Gift Card Cover.

Disney Gift Card Interior.

Disney Gift Card Back.

Lorraine Warren Gift Card Front.

Lorraine Warren Gift Card Back.

So, here’s me, being stunned:


After the big surprise, there was another one. Jerry decided to burn a bestseller. With good reason. The first few sentences were so poorly written, why pass it on to anyone else?

Jerry, on why crap should not be allowed to exist -- although, he didn't really need to justify it. At least, not to us!

“This is a piece of crap,” said Jerry, blithely. (Every tag line in this book had an adverb like that. I swear to God.)

Our hosts, Al & Maryann, yukkin' it up!

Bestselling crap in the fire! And, oh, what a nice pile of rejections it had to fuel its deserved demise...


5th Annual Rejection Slip Pyre & Potluck 2009

This was Pencils!’ last rejection burning event, and it was held at my house inDanburyas a luncheon on March 14, 2009. Several Pencils! were in attendance, but having it inDanburyallowed some other writer-friends who live locally to come on by and share in the festivities.

The lunch!

At right, Kay Cole, a Pencils! member whom I met through the original Truth & Lies writing group that met at Barnes & Noble in Danbury, and me.

Tom Barker, and, at right, Henderson Cole. Henderson, at the time, was working on a science fiction novel, but he had also published a book on theory and wrote many opinion pieces that were printed in The News-Times (our local paper).

The favors. Anyone who’s been to any kind of party at my house that has to do with a theme can tell you there are usually favors given out.

Nathan—who was pretty much responsible for Pencils!, and funny enough, Pencils! is responsible for us. In June, 2003, he was the Community Resource Manager for the Barnes & Noble store inNorwalk. He scheduled our first Pencils! meeting for July 15, 2003. That’s the day Nathan and I met. The rest is history.

Tom enjoys a soda.

Henderson breaks the ice and is our first presenter. Here, he presents a rejection slips from (if I remember correctly) a publishing house for his book, which, at that time, he had already had published with another house. Persistence pays off!

Obviously I’m horrified by Tom’s rejection story.

Me, presenting.

Tom chucks his stuff in the fire.

Rob Mayette, fellow writer and friend of mine since childhood, presents his rejection slips. Just a few months later, we would start up the magazine Read Short Fiction. In fact, I’m thinking that some ideas for Read Short Fiction may have been discussed later that night, after most had left.

Leon, a poet who had been with Pencils! since its inception in 2003.

Rob presenting.

Rob presenting.

Nathan chills out and listens in.

Jen has a laugh.

Henderson listens to Rob’s story.

Leon, left, and Kay.

Rob.

The fire. Nathan is great at building fires, so we had a nice one going!

Rob gets rid of his rejections!

Nathan had pens for everyone in the group. They were nice expensive ones.

Nathan gives out his pens.

Maureen, photographer, stopped by later on to have a glass of wine and put a cap on the final Pencils! Rejection Slip Burning Event.




THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 16-Rejection Slips, Part One: KEEP YOUR FAVORITE!

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 16: REJECTION SLIPS, PART ONE: KEEP YOUR FAVORITE!

The current binder I use to keep track of my submissions. For a long time, I had five or six very large four-inch binders that contained rejection slips and acceptances going all the way back to 1992. I no longer have them; this is the only tracker I keep now, and I clean it out frequently.

The inside of the binder. Each sheet protector holds two submissions, unless there happens to be too much correspondence connected with one submission so there isn’t room for a second.

Are you a writer? If you are, do you remember your very first rejection slip? I do, and although I knew it was somewhere in my files, I wasn’t sure where. While going through everything I own and getting rid of stuff, I came across it in a file marked “Special Letters.”

I know, it doesn’t seem like a writer’s first rejection should be held in such high esteem, but to tell you the truth, this one was so magical because of where it came from and what it meant it is my earliest memory of writing-related correspondence.

It was 1985. I was fourteen years old, and had been writing short stories since I was five or so. The only places to which I’d ever “submitted” my stories were to my teachers (pretty much the only people who supported my writing besides my friends, my Auntie Del, and my cousin Maryanne), or to my elementary and middle school writing contests or magazines.

My favorite television show at the time was the new Twilight Zone series, which had just begun airing on CBS on Fridays as part of the Fall Line-Up (remember THOSE?). I had watched the original Twilight Zone whenever my mother had it on, but this new, updated series was much more hip to my teenaged eye. After watching a few episodes and loving the endings of each, I got the thought in my head that a short piece I’d written might make a nice fit for this TV series (oh, man, did I understand NOTHING back then!). I typed it up on the old manual typewriter I had at the time, somehow got my hands on CBS’ address (remember, there was no Internet; I probably looked it up in a huge directly in the library), wrote a letter to go with it, hitched a ride to the post office with my Mom so I could get stamps (she wanted to know what the stamps were for, I told her I was sending thank-you notes), and mailed it from school.

I kept a copy of the letter I sent.

Here’s the cover letter I sent with my story. I know, it’s pretty badly written and stiff. I have to say, though, I was gutsy for 14. Then again, I didn’t know there were rules, let alone what they were. Had I NOT been ignorant of the way these things worked, I probably would have been too terrified to send in anything at all—and it’s unlikely I’d be where I am today. PS-You can read the story in the next photo, but I don’t think it has the ‘twist’ ending, nor do I think it’s well-written or complete in terms of conflict or anything.

Here’s a copy of the story. It’s typed on onion skin erasable paper.

About a month later, I came home from school and opened the mailbox—and was surprised to see a familiar logo: that of The Twilight Zone TV series! I was shocked I’d gotten a response that fast (remember, this was the world pre-e-mail and pre-Internet). And it had also come from an entirely different address than the one to which I’d sent it. I set down my book bag, fished the letter from the mailbox, and, at first, held it in my hands in disbelief. There was a name typed underneath the logo: Rockne S. O’Bannon.

The envelope that came in the mailbox.

The back of the envelope. I find it interesting that the address from whence it came is completely different from the one to which I’d sent it.

Wow. Rockne S. O’Bannon himself had typed his name under the return address! Yes, of COURSE I knew who he was. His name appeared on the credits as the series’ story editor, and he’d written one or two of the show’s segments. Other writers for the series included names of people whose stories I read all the time, like Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury.

I opened the letter and, even though it was a rejection—and it stated my story hadn’t even been read—I wasn’t disappointed. Rockne S. O’Bannon himself had written a personal letter on his letterhead to little old me! And he was even nice enough to send back the self-addressed, stamped envelope, which meant I could re-use the stamp (of course, I never did; I wanted to keep my prize intact)!

The letter I received from Mr. O’Bannon. It’s typed, on a typewriter—undoubtedly the most modern one available in 1985—and is on a dark gray 100% Cotton 32-lb. stock.

My story was returned to me in exactly the condition I’d sent it. It was quite obvious it hadn’t been read.

The SASE he returned. I’m not sure if you had a choice in what designs on the stamps you wanted back then, but I find it amusing it was a whelk, which means if I DID have a choice, I probably deliberately picked it for good luck.

So there it is, my first rejection. That letter should have crushed me, but instead, it fueled the fire. Because to a lonely fourteen-year-old kid who didn’t get any support for her writing from her parents, this was not a rejection: this was communication. This was response.

I started looking up magazines and sending my short stories all over the place. I became addicted to checking the mailbox, to receiving rejections, or even just ‘we don’t accept fiction, read our guidelines’ from those invisible, God-like beings called Editors.

I attribute my entire career to Mr. O’Bannon’s letter.

What’s more interesting, though, is to think about what I’d done, as well as the response I got, in the context of my own maturity, how things have changed in the submissions process over the years, and how my experiences during those years have altered my once-naïve view of it all.

As I’d mentioned in one of my photo captions, I had no awareness of rules. No awareness of ‘type it this way’ or ‘this is how you write a business letter’ or ‘oh my God, you do NOT send your unsolicited ideas to television!’ Being my fiancée works in television, I understand now it’s an entire process that, in itself, has changed since the 1980s—and had I not been ignorant, I probably would have been too embarrassed to send anything. It was a true case of ignorance is bliss.

What I also find amazing is that at that age I just had no fear. I had no fear of anyone saying ‘no,’ but it seems like, when everyone did say no, I somehow just accepted it as “part of the business”—well, it certainly couldn’t be because my stuff was BAD, right? There had to be some other reason, yes! My typical teen arrogance, in essence, saved my ass—I never questioned the quality of my own work. I was really lucky I started when I was so young and bold and naïve, because that attitude never changed. It just grew and matured along with me (now I certainly do understand that yes, my stuff can be bad). But I’ve been submitting for so many years it’s literally become routine, like paying bills. Yes, once in awhile I have that stab of disappointment because I got rejected by something I REALLY wanted to get into, but it goes away with a glass of wine and then it’s on to the next. I often wonder, if I hadn’t started all this when I was ignorant and bold, would I still be doing it now? After all, I know adults today that have all their writing hiding in drawers because they’re afraid of rejection. Would I have been like them?

Something else that, in retrospect, is amazing: this letter, in the days before e-mail and Internet, got where it needed to be and came back in just about thirty days. First, it was sent to a general address for CBS in Hollywood. No name, no attention of, nothing. The fact that someone at CBS opened it, took the time to read it, probably had to figure out where the hell it was supposed to go, and THEN took the time and effort to make sure it got into Mr. O’Bannon’s hands is incredible to me, especially when I think of how our world now is so fast, so computer-based, that I suspect sometimes snail-mail that isn’t specific is just tossed at a lot of places.

Second, Mr. O’Bannon HIMSELF then stopped what he was doing to actually peek at the envelope’s contents, recognize an amateurish cover letter composed on what-was-even-then-considered an outdated, shitty typewriter, recognize that this was unsolicited material—and still sat down and dictated a courteous, respectful, professional, NOT condescending and polite response to his secretary to type up and send back to me. My letter was part of three people’s normal course of business. I was on a to-do list. What’s amazing about that? Well, first, we know now that submissions of any sort have to go through channels. Guidelines must be followed. If you don’t do it right—and especially if you send unsolicited material that could be potentially a legal land mine for them if your idea is ever used and you notice—you’re likely to not get ANY response at all, let alone one that had some thought put into it AND made a point to be considerate of the recipient’s feelings.

Which brings me to my next point: Mr. O’Bannon’s kind response was my very first experience with rejection, and I’m glad it was. In the years that followed, every once in awhile I’d get one that was nasty (yes, really), or vague, or upsetting in some other way (like full of misspellings), and I’d think, ‘gee, if this one had been my first rejection instead of Mr. O’Bannon’s, I wonder if I’d even be doing this at all.’

So, you’re asking me now what this has to do with The Goodbye Project? I’ll tell you in Episode 17: REJECTION SLIPS, PART TWO-BURN THE REST!

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 15–Handbags

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 15: HANDBAGS

 

Are you a shoe girl, or a bag girl?

I’ve always been a bag girl. I can own three pairs of shoes and they’re all black and almost the same, but bags? I could have bags for every occasion and a bag to match every outfit. In fact, my handbags, at one time, took up four times the space of my shoes.

Every few years—and many years before I started The Goodbye Project—I’d go through and clean out my tubs of bags without photographing them, which now I regret, although I’m certain there are many photos of old handbags I used to wear in the backgrounds of several photos.

I kept one tub of bags with which I just can’t part—ones that are all in good shape. Here are the last few I’m letting go, and the memories associated with them. They’ve already been donated, but I’m proud to say each was in very good shape enough to donate. I don’t ever donate stuff that ripped or grubby or damaged, so whoever gets any one of these should be pleased—each one has a lot of life left in it.

Dad always filled our stockings every Christmas (I have to admit, the last few years he was alive I was filling all the kids’ stockings and he was filling mine, although a couple of years I bought stuff for myself and stuffed my own). He gave me this case for Christmas in 2006, and I carried it for a few years until it split apart. Because it was his last Christmas when he was able, I just couldn’t bear to throw it out, so I kept it for awhile. Now it’s time to let go. I tossed it. It was in terrible condition and I couldn’t in good conscience give it away.

Here’s the case with all the other stuff I got from Dad. You can see the case was filled with items—travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, some band-aids, and the like.

This was one of my favorite bags; I bought it in 2001 at Old Navy, and it became a favorite, especially during Fall and Poe season. It was especially appropriate for autumn in New England.

Me, November 3, 2002, at Poe Park in the Bronx. I had gone to visit Poe’s Cottage and was carrying the sweater bag that day. At that time, the bag was new—I think I’d only owned it for a couple of months, which would make sense, because Old Navy’s Fall line probably would have been out in late August.

I loved the bag so much I carried it through the winter. Here it is on February 23, 2003, in a hotel room in Mystic, Connecticut. It was my annual Fear & Loathing birthday weekend at Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, I forget which one we did that year. You can see there’s a journal inside it—I never went anywhere without one at that time in my life.

Turns out the sweater bag was lucky! I won a couple of hundred dollars that weekend at the slots. This was when they still took quarters (now, everything is on a card). It’s fun to win still, but it’s just not as much fun as seeing all those quarters come flying out of the machine. Notice I won on the Titanic game—I have an obsession with Titanic, and we’ll be talking about that in future episodes. This was taken Sunday, February 23, 2003.

I loved this fur bag. I purchased it at Old Navy probably after Christmas in 2000, and the only reason I say that is because I know it was a winter favorite in 2001. At that time, I had a faux fur coat, and this was a perfect match.

Me in 2001 in a hotel room in Mystic, CT. This was another of our famous Fear & Loathing weekends—we’d go to the casinos to celebrate my birthday. This was just before dinner February 2, 2001—we ordered pizza from Angie’s, which is a really great pizza place in town. You can see the fur bag at the left of the picture.

That same February weekend in 2001, only this was on the Saturday, just before we went out to hit the casinos. The fur bag is at the left of the photo; behind it, my red IBM Hunter Thompson typewriter. Yes, I even traveled with that damn thing.

Part of the reason I was probably attracted to the fur bag was because it reminded me of something a woman might carry in the 1960s. At that time, in the early 2000’s, winter was a big deal in our house, and on snowy nights we’d spend time watching a lot of those old turkeys like Winter-A-Go-Go (my favorite) and Ski Party. Above, Heather, me, and Walter, at right, at the annual Beatnik Party that was held every year up at one of our friends’ houses in Bridgewater. I was carrying the fur bag that night; it was the perfect compliment to my outfit. Photo taken March 1, 2001.

In the early 2000’s, just as there was an annual Beatnik Party, there was an annual Winter-a-Go-Go Party. The Go-Go Party was usually in January; the Beatnik in February or March. Here, at 2001’s Beatnik Party, Heather and Holly check out the “record” set I made—basically, a scrapbook of that year’s Winter-a-Go-Go party in the form of records. I carried the fur bag to the Winter-a-Go-Go party that year as well.

Here I am in Kaitlyn’s house with John of Loki Graphics, New Year’s Day, 2003. If you look behind me, you can see the fur bag—it was, along with a small tote bag, all I brought. Charles and I were hanging out on New Year’s Eve by ourselves, we called Kaitlyn, and she said, ‘get in the car and come here.’ So we did. It was totally last minute; we were out of the house and making the two and a half hour drive in just under 10 minutes flat. It’s one of my happy New Year’s Eve memories.

I loved this brown quilted bag; I acquired it in early 2007 and used it up through late August 2010 as my main handbag—when I went and bought an alligator-pattered laptop bag to use, because I was tired of not being able to grab stuff—I’d always have to dump out my whole bag to find what I was looking for, and with the publication of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—well, my already limited time became even more limited, so I needed to get more organized. The bag is still, though, in awesome shape—you can barely tell it was used for three years as an every day bag. It went to Goodwill.

One of the neatest features of the brown quilted bag was its detachable matching wallet.

I also liked the lining on the bag. It is, even after three years of use, in mint condition.

March, 2007. The quilted bag was brand new then, and it came in handy because it was not only big enough to carry all of my every day essentials, but also tall enough to hold files I might need for writer’s group or meetings—therefore, I didn’t have to carry a separate tote. Above, Carol, me, and David Roberson knock back a couple of cocktails after a Pencils! Writers’ Workshop meeting in Wilton, CT. I really miss Dave—he passed away a couple of years ago. He was not only a talented writer, he was a good friend. I associate this bag not only with Pencils! Writing Workshop, but with him. So it is a little tough to give it away.

I headed to Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, in the summer of 2007 to begin my graduate program in Creative Writing. The brown bag, of course, was with me—even though I had to adapt, after eighteen years, to walking all over a huge campus again, so it mostly sat in my room unused in favor of a backpack. At left, McKenna, my dear friend Cyn (who passed away in December 2010), and me take a break on a hot summer day. That was the moment the three of us met, actually. Another reason I’m having a hard time letting go of the bag. But you know what? I’m moving to Florida. I just won’t use it again.

Oh, man, is this ever soooo 1980s. I made this purchase on purpose—I wanted something 80s-ish to wear to my 20th High School Reunion in July of 2009. Why silver? Well, it also had to match my navy blue dress. I had silver shoes and a necklace too. But the real reason I chose this style is because I had a maroon bag back in the mid-1980s—which I referred to as my DeeDee McCall bag, because it reminded me of the bags that character from the TV show Hunter carried—that had exactly the same style of flower and ribbed top.

Here’s the “DeeDee McCall” bag I mentioned in the last caption. Here, it’s being carried by my friend Emily, as she was playing the role of McCall in a scene we were doing to pass time waiting for our parents to pick us up from chorus practice after school. If I had to choose a “favorite bag of all time,” this bag was it. I was heartbroken when the strap broke and I had to get rid of it. This was taken in March of 1985 outside Schaghticoke Middle School in New Milford, CT.

Billy Buckbee, me, and Greg at the New Milford High School Class of 1989 20th Reunion at Anthony’s Lake Club in Danbury, July, 1989. It was the only time I used that silver bag—whoever gets it will find it in mint condition—but it’s still hard to get rid of because that was a very magical night.

Maria Giannone, Me, and Melissa Poodiak at the New Milford High School Class of 1989 20th Reunion at Anthony’s Lake Club in Danbury, July, 2009.

There’s an interesting story behind this one. A friend of mine purchased a gift for his wife for Christmas, 2008—cosmetics or jewelry, I guess—and this bag and purse set came with his purchase. He knew his wife wouldn’t go for it, but knew I would (“you like all that flashy retro stuff,” he said). Of course I was thrilled to get this, and it was my winter 2009 bag—I used it for going out and when I didn’t want to carry the big huge brown quilted bag anyplace. The small purse was perfect for carrying business cards.

Here it is on the bed in my dorm room—Giles 3—up at Goddard’s Winter Residency, January 4, 2009. That was a unique residency. First of all, it was HELL IN THE SNOW. Every time we turned around it was snowing again. We could barely get off campus, it was gray, it was cold, we had a leak in my dorm room (because some idiot decided it would be wise to design the Village Dorms with flat roofs—seriously? In Northern New England? What was he smoking?)…but we also threw the best graduation dance ever—Cyn, me, and Julia did the shopping, so there are lots of funny stories about Cyn (from down south) driving in the snow, the people at the supermarket not knowing how to count, and icing down the shrimp with fresh, clean snow because we’d forgotten to buy ice. The bag accompanied me on that very special day, so those are the associated memories, and being that Cyn is gone now, it’s harder to let this go than it would normally be.

As a treat, here’s what that winter up at Goddard’s January Residency 2009 was like. One good thing about being in SNOW HELL was the opportunity to drink—and then do stupid things like sled as though we were ten years old. Here’s one early afternoon impromptu sledding party. The snow was literally up to our knees. It was hard for everyone to walk, let alone haul the sled back up the hill. Joining me are my friends Charles, Joe, and Julia—and there are a few other classmates as well, but they’re not in the video.

The women of Giles. Left to right, Julia, Julie, me. Amy is across us. Yes, we’re all in lighter clothing, but trust me when I tell you our dorm was hot all the time—some of it might have had to do with the fact that Goddard was doing this experimental program in which they were heating some of the dorms using “recycled” vegetable oil from fryers in Burlington restaurants. The place was hot, we were always thirsty, our hair and skin always felt like it had a sheen of oil on it, and worst of all—we all reeked like fried onions. I’m sorry, I didn’t see that as a “healthy” alternative to regular heating oil. It was absolutely disgusting.

This bag was also an Old Navy choice; I bought it in the late summer of 2005 (I also bought an orange one just like it, as I recall) so that I’d have a bag that would fit my camera, maps and money.

That’s me, September, 2005, in the tunnel under the Railroad Station that empties into Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. That was the first time I used the green bag. What else is significant about this photo? I ended up buying the Splash Mountain full-sized attraction poster at my Dad’s request—he was redoing his bathroom at the time and wanted something to “cheer the room up” (um, it was still avocado green and the over-the-sink cabinets and wood accents were still dark dark walnut, so I really didn’t see much difference when it was done). After he died, I got to keep the poster (the frame broke, which is fine with me since it was—you guessed it—dark, dark walnut! YAR!). The poster is rolled and carefully stored and will grace a wall in my new home in Florida—once I get a really cool appropriate frame for it, that is!

September, 2005. Me wearing the green bag in front of one of my fave current Magic Kingdom attractions—The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. My short story “Charlotte’s Family Tree,” which is in my collection Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World—is set in the treehouse. You can get that book here: http://amzn.com/0615402801, or, if you want a signed copy and I’ll send you some goodies with it, you can order from here: http://haunteddisneytales.com/purchase/

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