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Robert Carl Jones note to friends and fans…

Probably should’ve posted this before, but Robert Carl Jones sends his regrets that he couldn’t post on his usual date due to an accident that has put him in an ICU. Hopefully everything will turn out just fine, but he has to wait out some observation for an indefinite length of time. Gifted writer that he is with an impeccable character and integrity, he wanted me to let people know he hasn’t forgotten or ignored them.

— Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

Thomas Sullivan: AGENT BINGO & THE CANNIBAL SNOWMAN

[NOTE: two Facebook friends of mine, Karen Waeschle and Yvonne Austin, have requested that I revisit columns I wrote a decade ago which were lost when StorytellersUnplugged made format changes. This is one of them with the original reader comments included.]

K-Y, K-Y – not “KY,” Sully. “KY” is what Rodan shrieks when it is lumbering out of the ocean or flapping through Tokyo popping tourists for fingersnacks. Yes, my bad in titling last month’s column wrong (KY JELLY & THE HEADLESS SQUIRREL: http://www.storytellersunplugged.com/2016/04/15/thomas-sullivan-ky-jelly-the-headless-squirrel/#respond )Titles aside, last month’s column introduced Cannibal Essays or How to Edit Life, my attempt to inspire writers and people in general to see the content of their lives and to put frames around it. Agent Bingo was supposed to be part of that ramble, but I ran out of space blathering about roaring down the expressway with my arm out the window until a bug flew up my cast. Cast, cast, I said a bug flew up my cast.

That essay was mostly lunacy, life in a funhouse mirror. I was going to balance it off with a switch in tones and some further comments on drawing stories out of events and relationships. That’s what I’m catching up to here.

Most of the time I like to go alone out in nature, but if I meet someone special who I think can get something out of it, I very much like to share it. And to be honest, about half the time that I go out, I wind up meeting someone and sharing it that way. You can make transcendent things happen in your life. In fact, if you’re sitting around waiting for them to happen, you are living in slow motion. As a writer, you must not only learn to recognize life, you have to go out and meet it. Here’s an example of something that had plenty of spontaneity, unknowns and wild cards, but it also arose because I knew it would happen sometime, somewhere and with someone.

Anyone who has read even a little of my writing, knows that exquisite journeys into nature each day are prime resources for me. Whether I’m soaring along rivers of light cascading through autumn leaves in a pristine forest or gliding phantom-like through gluey green shallows in a canoe, I breathe ether outdoors. Naturally, I have special places and things to share, and they hold the potential for indelible memories. For me. And for someone I might invite to an inner sanctum.

Just such an epiphany of elements came together for a friend and me last winter. But part of the point here is that this occasion wasn’t left entirely to chance. It was different from just running into a friend or a stranger, as I seem to do every day on the trails or elsewhere. The latter are terrific but distinctly random: a gymnast rehabbing her knee, a recovering alcoholic who has discovered the runner within himself, a solitary cyclist who has grown away from her sedentary husband, the serious Olympic team contender who wants one more shot before her college career fades, a young architect who reads Ayn Rand while she walks until I show her the living cathedrals of light and motion all around her. Each of them offers me a glimpse of their life and I reciprocate, as if we share a yellow brick road and a Technicolor adventure in an Oz of our own design before returning to the black and white Kansas from which we entered these escapes. These are stolen hours, secret lives where the ordinal things of prescribed days are suspended. It’s very addictive and impossible to adequately describe. But a lot of it has to do with choice: what we talk about, knowing that it is said in a sanctuary that won’t carry over to the rest of our lives, what we see along the way, and how we interact with our surroundings and ourselves. It’s a full sensory press when you’re out in nature, when you’re using your body, mind and spirit to capacity. And there are settings that are just wrong for some, right for others. So I had this set of things I wanted to share, and it had to be with the right person.

Enter Agent Bingo, aka Katie Hilpisch, a young biomedical engineer, who has a literary side to her. We met at a hockey game, and she is one of my muses. I have a number of those, some who failure test my work, like Elizabeth Fortin (who always influences what I am working on), some who inspire thoughts and conversation, some who do not even know they are my muse. Agent Bingo is not my demographic of age or background. That’s a plus. She reads a ton of books. Another plus. She knows where I’m coming from. Not necessarily a plus, but inevitable if you are lucky enough to find a good muse or two that you can utilize close at hand. She is blunt and honest and has no need to prove her insights. Plus, plus, plus. If I dig for her thoughts, she provides them – thoughtfully – but is immune to any leading of the witness I may commit. I don’t remember why I call her Agent Bingo, but she calls me Snowman or Ninja or whatever names we have made up in our correspondence, which seems vaguely set in a pseudo world of espionage and missions. We keep the farce going and share occasional sojourns in the great outdoors, which we both love, or wander bookstores and chill out at coffee bars. At 29, she plays hockey, softball, blades, bikes, triathlons. Until last winter she had not skinny skied, but I guessed she would love it, and that she would feel the rhythm, get the poetry, and add to both.

So Agent Bingo was the right person to share some elements that were gathering that winter, if only she would accept my invitation; and her enthusiasm for the idea when she did accept seemed to confirm that. I knew it would be memorable and that sooner or later I would draw on it as part of my life and my work, if they are not the same thing. And they often are. I stress that this “making of memories” is anything but formal or even dramatic. On the contrary, it is subtle. One of the mistakes I think people make is believing that the high points of their lives center around some distant vacation or organized event. Not that those things aren’t highlights, just that if you need to be orchestrated full symphony like that, then you are missing a lot of duets, solos and combos in the interludes. Life happens. Be there. It is not necessarily over the horizon or glittering with planned perfection.

Planned perfection. There was some of that at the vast and varied Three Rivers nature preserve called Elm Creek the day Katie and I went out. Well, unplanned perfection anyway. It was the night before Valentine’s Day. A full moon. Air as thin as ether. Crystalline snow that makes a caressing sound as you carve through it on cc skis. Animated silhouettes slipping through the trees on wing or hoof or furry pads. Actually, Katie took off from work at noon, giving us time for a little anticipation and spirited talk looking out my window at a frozen lake where eagles make daily visits. Include Christmas visits. Because it was a holiday gift of Godiva chocolates and black cherries in brandy from Eagles’ music legend Glenn Frey and his talented wife Cindy that we stowed in my backpack. The plan was to reach a certain distant deer overlook I knew of where we could sit on a promontory, eat 78% of the world’s chocolate reserves while Willie Wonka lurked in the bushes, and gaze out at vistas of white diamonds and yellow reeds brushing a cobalt sky. But, of course, whatever you imagine, it will be different and better. A short drive and we were fitting rental skis on Agent Bingo, and then we were out on the trails.

She took to it like I knew she would, an athletic natural but heedless of a few soft falls and the breathless challenge. Check out some photos in my free newsletter (email mn333mn@earthlink.net and I’ll send you one every month). We didn’t push it, just enjoyed the climbs and exhilarating downsweeps, pausing on stone bridges or wooden bridges, finding stories in the tracks in the snow, playing an espionage game when I clued her to uncover an overgrown windmill almost invisible in a thick and towering woods. We put the hemorrhaging sun to bed on one horizon and birthed the full moon on another. The latter rose like a luminous pearl over the crest of the trail. Then down phantom blue lanes into near midnight where Agent Bingo discerned a deer I missed in a copse as thick as a pile of Pick-Up-Stix. And now the moon was louvered by cloudy fingers as we reached a high meadow, climbing, climbing, until that “ghostly galleon” sailed free on top of us (shades of Pirates of the Caribbean) and we were sitting on a stone bench.

We ate Godiva chocolates and sampled the cherries in brandy, and as if cued to perform, the most eerie chorus of coyotes erupted close by. They do this sometimes. A corybantic frenzy from somewhere just around sunset or moonrise. You never see them. But their discordant howling chimes in suddenly as if their territories have converged or they have found an atavistic trigger in the galvanizing moon. Blood-chilling and beautiful.

And then we were coming off the meadow in graceful sweeps, down into the woods and along a picturesque creek lined with sentinel pines and dotted with quaint wooden bridges. I showed Agent Bingo where beavers were building a dam, and we skied through silent moonlit awescapes you just can’t describe, because that would be only visual and these are palpable to all senses.

Agent Bingo is a trooper. I should be shot for taking her on a two-hour first journey that lasted four. But she never complained, and she was exhilarated – is still exhilarated over the memory a year later. We came back in through a series of runs, knowing we owned the world and maybe the universe. Hard to think otherwise when you are standing steaming under the cosmos looking down an escarpment at an ephemeral white lake. And orange trail lamps beyond, like ordinal spotlights, lead you home, decompressing you back into the black and white world. Except you can never really go home again, as Thomas Wolfe said. My colleagues have been bandying that notion around of late, but in this case, once you’ve been to the White Room like that, a piece of you stays out there.

So that’s another life edit for me, a series of moments savored for themselves but which accumulate simultaneously in my artist’s soul. Like I said, my life and my work are the same thing. It is cannibalism, but it isn’t exploitation. A writer must do this. Though, of course, you don’t have to be a writer to let life penetrate you that deeply. Anyone who wants to live freely, fully, should surround themselves with inspiring places to be and people with light coming out of them to be with. Your companions are as important as your solitude. Ironically, while I was writing this, an email came in from another friend, Mystic Vixen (writer and Stumblebumstudios.com reviewer Jennifer Hairfield) whose connections with nature and poetry are equally eclectic. She writes: “Winter is already coming again. It seems like yesterday…I do tend to follow the fairy path, so when the moon is full and the flesh is willing I let them take over and play. It usually leads to a very interesting evening.” She has introduced me to the charmed backwaters of Oklahoma known as “fairy groves,” and I don’t believe I would have learned that had I not presented her with a Minnesota winter. Is she a Technicolor person or b/w? Do you think she gets it? The quid pro quo of life starts with you if you’re a writer. You’ve declared yourself a chronicler, a messenger, and you cannot be that without at least becoming an observer, and you cannot know the fuller meanings and insights without becoming a participant. “…when the moon is full and the flesh is willing I let them take over and play.” This person won’t miss the poetry if she gets close enough to it, and with a chosen name like Mystic Vixen you already know she will resonate it with words to match the deeds.

Confession. I am utterly bankrupt when I’m mired in formal situations or with individuals who are terminally narrow. They just leave me uninspired. That’s the flip side of finding those special people with whom to spend special times. Maybe that’s selfish of me, and if I were a better person I would be more tolerant, but I cannot stand to waste life. People who resist everything, including ideas, passions and communication are just down time for me. Especially communication, which can even include shared silence but never apathy. Fortunately the people who really don’t open up when you get them one on one are never writers and seldom readers. And if they are readers, then they have a closet wish to escape their narrowness. I try not to give up on people, because the most recalcitrant types have the most passion when they finally yield, but more often the bottom layer is just fear and inhibition – a selfishness as bad as my own.

Is this mercenary of me as a writer? I guess. But it isn’t just mercenary. Always nice when your work and your life are the same thing. I don’t think I’d be different in my life if I stopped writing. In fact, most of my writing is one on one – emails. Definitely not mercenary.

In both writing and life, you have to give in order to get, though. Non-judgmental honesty and sincerity will take you further in understanding people and your own character inventions than will clinical observations you make from behind a wall of your own insecurities. Just a fact. If you can’t disarm fears, don’t expect to get past the foyers of other people’s lives. And you won’t disarm anyone if you aren’t “for real.” Being a writer – the best writer you can be – means living to the max. You just happen to be a mirror of words along the way.

Check out my novel, CASE WHITE, if you will. There’s a free chapter at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O79GQTE . Thanks for reading. Your thoughts are welcome and your attention valued.

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan
www.thomassullivanauthor.com

posted by Sully at 12:10 PM   

8 Comments:

Teresa said…

Thank you, Sully. More than you know, thank you.

5:11 AM  

David Niall Wilson said…

I used to think Sully just went out skiing and blading to meet young women (:

Beautifully done, Sully, as usual…but it would be interesting (just for perspective) to see a similar piece sometime about someone lost on the inner streets of somewhere, gray walls, too much traffic, alleys and backwaters of civilization.

I love nature, as you know…I have my swamp here…but to add to your comments, you can’t write about life if you live out in the woods either…unless you’re Sully or Thoreau…all the characters (the most warped and intriguing, anyway) are scattered through the woods, valleys, and cities….

At least on the blading trail you are less likely to get mugged when perchance you meet…

Dave

6:59 AM  

Sully said…

Thank you, Teresa. Coming from someone who writes as poignantly as you, I feel redeemed today.

And, Davey, thank you for reminding me of my roots. Yeah, the woods came later and you are so right about the vitality of people/stories being vested in urban jungles as opposed to the woodsy type. I lived the streets and alleys for most of my life, and a lot of what I know about people came out of that. I’m going to cut/paste your post in my notes and address some of those instances for future Cannibal Essays.

— Sully (Thomas Sullivan)

10:56 AM  

Janet Berliner said…

Magnificent.

Janet

12:45 PM  

John Skipp said…

Dear Sully —

Magnificent, indeed.

And much as I loved the entire vivid journey, the line that stuck with me hardest was “If you can’t disarm fears, don’t expect to get past the foyers of other people’s lives.”

Just another diaphonous but startlingly apt layer on your already infinitely layered cake.

Thanks for sharing the actual experience of being alive.

Yer pal,
Skipp

12:56 PM  

Frank Wydra said…

Hey Sully, another great post.

But, man, even though you are contagious and your spirit elbows everything else aside, not everyone is you, though I suspect, more than a handful wish they were. It is easy to get wrapped in your exuberance. At the very least the ride will be wild and the course uncharted.

Keep cool, man. Summer is on the way.

Frank

4:40 PM  

Sully said…

Janet, thanks, and I’ve been meaning to suggest about those posts that get eaten up when you “word verify” or try to hit “login and publish”: I lost a lengthy post like that and ever since I’ve simply highlighted what I typed and copied it BEFORE hitting those dire buttons. Only had to use that backup once thereafter.

Hey, Skipp, I’ll bet you get past foyers all the way to the penthouse and the inner sanctums. Me, I usually walk into a closet or get led to the basement. Of course, that beats the bathrooms.

And, Frank, yeah, I know I’m a bit on the edge with some of the stuff I do, but that’s just ’cause addictions build tolerance and I’ve been addicted to nature and physical activity for a long time. Principals apply at any level, though. All you really need is people. It’s like that time in the Bahamas. You and Karen stayed on the beach and counted stars and I played with the sharks, but we all found whatever else was to be found on that island and it was damn near the whole universe.

Thanks, all!

— Sully (Thomas Sullivan)

8:19 PM  

Mark Rainey said…

I’m addicted to nature too; I like to get away from anything resembling humanity as often as possible. I agree with Dave, too — you’ve got to experience all that other life to get your -real- material.

Great stuff, as always…

–M

10:11 AM

 

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395

Robert Carl Jones – IT’S IN THE SEEDS

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert Carl Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

Living in New York was a Chinese National named Cheng Le, who hatched a murderous plan. He wanted to obtain a supply of ricin and sell it to others. He went to the right neighborhood and talked to the right person. The right neighborhood was one that included what is referred to as a “dark web.”

A dark web is basically a number of criminal marketplaces that sell items such as drugs, firearms and hazardous materials. Its websites are visible to the public. Its IP addresses, however, are not, they being hidden by an encryption tool known as “Tor.” The right person was one who sold ricin, a poisonous substance that is not only strong, it reportedly has no antidote.

Le had a several dozen conversations with the person he had found in the dark web neighborhood. They revealed much about Le and his thoughts. It is indeed fortunate that his contact was not a ricin dealer, but an FBI employee.

According to published comments made by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, “In Le’s own words, established at trial, he was looking for ‘simple and easy death pills’ and ways to commit ‘100 percent risk-free’ murder.”

Thanks to the FBI, Le was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Castor oil is commonly used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It is produced from pressed seeds of castor plants (Ricicinus communis). A great many persons have benefitted from its use. The internet even lists “20 strange, but effective, everyday uses for castor oil.”

Ricin is related to castor oil, but there is no ricin in castor oil.

Thomas Sullivan: ELECTRIC PURPLE & HALF OF EVERYTHING

With all the correspondence I have going back through decades it’s not hard pulling out questions for a Q&A column. But for a specialized Q&A column like this one that deals only with favorite things, the search takes longer. Moreover, the answers in some cases have changed over the years from when someone wrote the question. Double moreover, almost certainly no one gives a hoot about some of these generalizations that had relevance in the context of personal correspondence, SOO-O…I’ll try to include some extra info that may be of interest to friends and fans along the way…

Q: [TN?] Why do you like Christopher Walken? I think he’s weird.

A: Exactly. As in writing, characters come to life through their eccentricities. Walken’s odd pauses in dialogue, arresting mannerisms, and counterintuitive physical expressions are great character developers in his roles. You see the same thing in Gary Oldman, Jack Nicholson, Bette Davis, Brad Pitt, and sometimes Johnny Depp among others. Walken does it effortlessly, and that’s what I find arresting. (Also, he looks like my dad…)

Q: [UK] Who is your favorite female singer?

A: Currently Taylor Swift or Adele.

Q: [Shaker Heights, OH] I liked what you wrote about synesthesia. It’s strange how colors relate to things in our lives. Do you have a favorite color?

A: Electric purple (unrelated to Prince). But anything with a glow or a pulse stirs a sense of magic in me. Luminescence, iridescence, phosphorescence – I used to call them “trauma colors,” though I don’t really know why except that they hint at hidden worlds and excitement. Guess you could say cheap, tawdry neon attracts me like a moth.

Q: [Can’t find the question, and maybe it was in a conversation, but I recall being asked about my favorite Broadway show and live theater star]

A: Hands down, my favorite Broadway show is Phantom of the Opera. Sutton Foster (multi Tony award winner) was not in Phantom, but I’m a big admirer of hers for personal as well as objective reasons. She used to call me her #1 fan going back to when she was 11 and in my son’s professional child actors troop. I have many stories from those years that testify to her sterling character and talent; and now her ability to project energy and emotion is legendary among theater royalty.

Q: [Boston, MA] Who do you think are the best male and female authors?

A: “Best” has many measures, and I must fudge this, but for my tastes I very much admire Vladimir Nabokov and Annie E. Proulx. Both can write about nothing and find the universe therein. They do it with an elegance and an ease that is virtually peerless. Proulx has the added virtue of simplicity. Nabokov, quite the opposite, is wonderful for his deceptions, double entendres of infinite variety, and incredibly rich prose. Proulx reaches out to you, but VN makes you chase him. Pedantic, obscure, full of self-told jokes, Nabokov could care less if you hang on for the ride. But the journey’s the thing! And his is art for its own sake, very much shaped by the depthless magic of his perceptions. Both Nabokov and Proulx have one foot anchored in insight, the other soaring on flights of poetic imagery.

Q: [Scottsdale, AZ] Is Glenn Frey your favorite singer?

A: Yes, and in part for what I said about Sutton Foster. Our personal friendship cast a light into his genius that I’ve been privileged to witness from over his shoulder. Plus, we also share a drive and admiration for perfection. The man had a phenomenal ear for discriminating levels of sound. I used to tell him that he could hear a fly masturbating on the wall in the middle of a march. Now, I don’t know that that’s a particularly useful talent as far as flies go, but it was fundamental to his ability to write, arrange and express music. Glenn was eclectic. He could pick out the best of everything – people, things…and above all music.

Q [Cape Girardeau, MO] What’s your favorite quote?

A: I haven’t written it yet. Bwahaha! Bad, Sully – not even original. Well, I’ll give you a bit of self-propounded wisdom that sounds super obvious but becomes ever more meaningful the longer I live. Essentially it’s this: YOU HAVE CONTROL OF EXACTLY HALF AND ONLY HALF OF EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU. It’s a simple statement of what the world visits upon you and how you choose to receive it. But the implications of that are enormous. Recognizing and accepting what you CAN’T control is the first step in becoming free of that Jr. high game we all play to protect our tender self-esteem wherein we demand lip service and maintain appearances. And if you truly do escape the prison of appearances in your adult life (few do), then honesty and truth are within your grasp. But here’s a painful truth you may encounter along the way: most people would rather rationalize deceptiveness or live outright lies than risk losing aforementioned lip service and appearances. Facades, after all, prop up security in the social order. Pretenses, however, do not prevent people from creating hidden lives in order to survive (many do). All that said, it’s just as bad to miss truths by being overly cynical. That could cost you a lifetime of happiness. Escaping across your own moat and tearing down paranoid defenses is at least as critical as detecting insincerity. Anyway, not trying to control anything but what’s inside me is the wisdom in charge of my life. Pretty innocuous sounding, huh? People seldom get the implications when you communicate that, because it’s counter-intuitive. They think you have surrendered half the battle in human relationships. But what you’ve really done is freed yourself from facades in a game of quid pro quo. Your truth – the part of life you control – doesn’t change with someone else’s words and deeds. And that makes you real, free of ulterior motive, and capable of truth in life, love and discovering the world.

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395

Robert Carl Jones — BUT IS IT ARSON?

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert Carl Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

*******

It is not rare for a person to attempt to hide a crime by setting fire to whatever might be used as evidence of the crime. Sometimes, in an effort to ensure possible evidence is destroyed, fires are set in a number of locations. A forensic case where there had been four separate fires in the basement of a house was assigned to an arson investigator. In view of the plurality of fires, past experience immediately led the investigator to suspect that the fires had been set and that they had most likely been set by the owner of the house.

A more experienced investigator, however, noted that propane was used in the subject house to heat and cook. The observant investigator knew that propane gas is heavier then air, so it could very well have settled in a number of places in a basement and be accidentally ignited. In view of that fact, during a subsequent trial, the house owner was not found to have been guilty of arson.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Propane has an autoignition temperature of 878 degrees Fahrenheit. As a comparison, the autoignition temperature of gasoline is about 495 degrees Fahrenheit.

Propane is a gas at standard temperature and pressure, but it can be compressed to form a conveniently transportable liquid.

One need not worry about the world running out of Propane. It is not a scarce commodity. Reportedly, Marcellus Shale alone is capable of supplying more than two billion gallons of propane per year.

 

Thomas Sullivan: KY JELLY & THE HEADLESS SQUIRREL

[NOTE: two Facebook friends of mine, Karen Waeschle and Yvonne Austin, have requested that I revisit columns I wrote a decade ago which were lost when StorytellersUnplugged made format changes. This is one of them with the original reader comments included.]

They aren’t making peanut butter jars like they used to. Twenty years ago that’s all I would’ve gotten out of last week’s fiasco. But at this stage of my life I got a story out of it.

Authors have to learn to think like that, learn that life is footage waiting to be edited. I meet countless writers who were straight-A grammar students, who read a lot, and who majored in lit in college but who don’t recognize when life hits them squarely between the eyes. They may grasp the obvious macro sources – a grand vacation setting or a tour in the army or going through a divorce or a long illness (if those last two aren’t the same thing) – while missing the countless comedies and dramas happening around them every day.

I’m going to set up a format for future columns here – call it Cannibal Essays or How to Edit Life – designed to inspire people, whether they write or not, to cannibalize their lives for stories. As a writer, you learn to serve your fellow man…with gravy.

The writer in me is like someone I know but whose face I keep forgetting. If I don’t make an effort to remember that he’s there, he becomes a partial stranger – out of sight, out of mind. Take last week when I met myself. Again. I can tell you the mundane facts in one buck naked sentence: it was down-time from wrist surgery, the lawn needed mowing, and I wanted to be outside.

That’s it. Dull prospects and I couldn’t wait to be free of the cast on my arm so I could start living again. The cast was from a second carpal tunnel op on my left wrist, more extensive this time, ‘cause the doc said the last one healed up so fast that the nerve didn’t have time to abate. Oh, I r from the planet Krypton, all right. You can’t slow me down. So there I was slicing up cardboard boxes in the garage with a sling-bladed right hand, using my feet to move the pile. Except that without his cape Superman fell on his ass. Ass and cast. Pile-driver straight down on the healing wrist. The five stitches out of fourteen that popped didn’t become known until the plaster was cut off today. All I knew was that the forearm felt like it had been disconnected from the elbow. Didn’t register as spectacle at the time, but there are dark forces in my life who would pay real wampum to see a film clip of my feet going out from under me galley west as I slashed around like Freddy Krueger in a scream flick.

And it got more humiliating. The week before the carp ‘n’ tuna surgery I had had a little deviated septum op, which was an experience in itself. I had even gotten past that miserable day far enough to see the humor and write about it in my broadcast newsletter, Sullygrams, which go out free to friends and fans. But even that turned joyless, because the sawbones who carved up my nose told me I should snort KY Jelly through my right nostril for two months to help heal the surgery. Now I guess I’ve inhaled KY before (different circumstances), but this is proof that modern medicine was founded by Robin Williams. I am going to end up with a Q-tip embedded in a frontal lobe.

So you get the picture. Aching contusion of mummified jelly sets out to mow lawn. Push mower, but the arm cast is pushable. Mandatory bitching all the while. They are tearing up the street, and there are little utility flags all over the lawn that I try to avoid up and down slopes, while keeping an eye on huge broken branches hung up and threatening to fall from the crown of a basswood tree. I throw a chunk of the latter off the lawn and the move feels like I cast the cast with it. I stop mowing, doubled over in extreme pain. But a redeeming epiphany is coming. Because when I finally get up and resume mowing (now with one arm) what should I chance upon but a headless squirrel. I suspect an ulterior motive directed at me. An eagle or an owl has left it there in my path to run over with the mower as some kind of avian humor, like those crows in the ad for Windex where they close the glass patio door so that the homeowner walks into it. The decapitated squirrel seems to be saying, “You think you got it bad, at least you’ve got something to smile with,” and suddenly everything falls into place. This is funny. Hello, writer.

Really, it’s how you look at things. So now I’m registering the day’s little adventures in the third person like my craft demands, and to keep the ball rolling I decide on a whim, hell, I should change the oil while the mower is still warm. This is because a couple weeks earlier I totaled a Yardman on a landscape timber and the new Toro is on break-in oil.

Now the peanut butter jar. The one-armed man removes his belt and ties it around the mower handle to keep the motor running until the gas burns off. Then, pants falling down, he concocts a Rube Goldberg ramp arrangement to tip the Toro so that the oil runs into a plastic peanut butter jar sitting on the drive. Plastic…hot oil? Yes, Bunky, you did that. When the plastic jar appears to sink into the asphalt while filling with hot oil, I finally get it. “I’m melting, melting…what a world, what a world!”

Up curtain, next fiasco: see Sully run. See him run around to stem the black sea flowing everywhere from the shriveling jar. See him frantically grab bottles, garbage cans, newspapers – black and white, mostly black. Fade to black. Black gold. Hey. It’s okay. I’m a writer; this is material. Ha, ha. The black plaster cast looks like a Rottweiler addicted to licorice has chewed it to bits, but what the hell: fashion statement.

Cheered in the postmortem by my own noble attitude, I decide I can do my usual rollerblading at nearby Elm Creek, one of the country’s largest municipal nature preserves (5,600 acres). So I skate my 16-mile loop, and the cast, of course, gets soaked with sweat against my skin. I hate this. Itchy, itchy. The exhilaration has blanked out the previous part of the day, and I’m back in my “ain’t this a bitch” mode about the wrist. Since the cast has loosened up quite a bit, I usually hit the highway and hold it out the window so that the wind can funnel in and dry my wrist up to where the plaster seals to the forearm. Tooling along at sixty, I suddenly feel something prickly inside the cast. At first I think it’s another chunk of the plaster broken off and stuck in the wrap, but plaster doesn’t buzz.

Are the visuals coming through? Sailing down the expressway with a trapped UFI (Unidentified Flying Insect) scoping out its new prison, half plaster, half vulnerable flesh. Five alarms now. I’m beating the cast against the door to no avail and holding it into the wind as I press the accelerator, hoping to immobilize the UFI with air flow. My remaining stitches are on fire from all the banging and twisting, but I can’t be sure it’s not saber teeth or a venomous stinger, so I’m trying to press the flesh against the cast wherever I feel a candidate lump, and that brings on a Charlie horse from the surgically weakened wrist. When I finally exit the expressway, copious fragments of something black and metallic blue shake out of the cast, along with a shred of red. I’m thinking the Red Baron flew his bi-plane in there and left a thread from his scarf.

Now maybe this all sounds kind of ready-made for the prime-time of the writer’s own journal, but it isn’t. Remember the drill down of vapid essentials: down-time, mowing, going outside. The rest of it is maxing out what I saw, felt and thought about it. It’s not that atypical a day for me. Or you. Whether you are a writer or just a person with a story to relate, something happens to you all day long. The battle for a writer – or for any person trying to put life into focus – isn’t with the physical details. It’s with the interpretation and expression thereof. You have to see the drama and the humor, and you have to feel passion of some type. It comes down to who you are and what you are irrespective of what happens to you. And you can train that to a point. You can learn to put frames around things. Empathize. Apply unjudgmental insight. I stress that you can’t just wear these attitudes like discardable garments. On the contrary, you must be naked. You must be real. You must BECOME that observer and interpreter, wholly open-minded and ready for adventure.

Repeat after me: “I do not want to remain clueless.”

Okay. So you’re ready. But that’s just the internal half of it. Now you have to go out and live. Helps if you have a mentor, companion, relationship with someone who is like that. Kills you if you have someone just the opposite who dulls you down, smothers you and inhibits your potential. Most of the time I have no one. But I’ve had my mentors. Perhaps two. And I attract unusual people like human flypaper. I’ve also been locked into a suffocating relationship that shut me down. But that was my choice. The worst thing is if you miss a catalyst in your life. In my experience, catalyst people are rare indeed.

You can do it with memories, of course, with passive interactions, but there still must be a bedrock of living behind that.

For a long time I thought I just had a very strange life. Incredible things happened to me, I met fabulous people, found myself in unbelievable situations, had fantastic experiences. I was grateful. As a writer, it gave me insights and a sense of the improbable I could never invent. But I’ve come to understand that most people are fabulous, that the unbelievable exists in your own backyard (especially if you have headless squirrels), and that you can dispose yourself to extraordinary experiences if you make yourself that kind of person. The downside depends on the demands of your emotional security. How independent are you? If you escape the norms that stultify most of us, you may lead the crowd but you will seldom be part of it. Accept only the borders or boundaries that you want, and you will sometimes alarm conformists. Or you can just lead multiple lives, which is what a lot of people do. My visa is stamped “Admit Anywhere.” I write. But that’s merely a symptom of who I am.

Oh, dear, this post-mortem of 10Wpeanut oil was supposed to segue into another Cannibal Essay vignette. I wanted to tell you about Agent Bingo and Snowman and a fabulous night last winter, which would have painted another tone to the kind of examples I’m trying to inspire you with, but as usual I’m running way over length, and I have to get over to Walmart’s where Kara, my tight-lipped pharmacist, will sell me KY Jelly under the counter. Next time for Agent Bingo and Snowman.

Thanks for reading. Your thoughts are welcome and your attention valued.

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

posted by Sully at 12:11 AM   

17 Comments:

Rick Steinberg said…

Thanks, Sully, for making me feel better about my own life. That’s a gift!

People live lives. Characters live strange lives. Writers are just plain cursed . . . and thank God for that!

12:54 AM  

Teresa said…

That was a real slice of life, Sully. Funny too. Snorting KY? How do you keep staight face while you do that?

A friend sent me an e-mail wishing me a good weekend. I said I hoped it would be and wished for something cheerful to happen. I got my wish. If the weekend hits a sour patch I’ll imagine a grown man snorting KY. And i won’t tell anyone why I’m smiling. It will be our secret.

2:35 AM  

Sully said…

Ah, Mr. Steinberg, you are bigger than life. How could you not feel permanently good about that? But knowing my little “rah-rah” piece took affect on someone of your dynamic experiences is a hoot for me. Thanks, Rick.

And, Teresa, I know our little secret is going to haunt me, but I claim statutory limits! Had occasion to return to the shnooz sawbones two days after he told me to snort for two months, and he took another look and said, “You really heal fast.” Yup. No more snorting KY. I could qualify that, but I feel a sudden attack of debilitating carpal… Anyway, if I had the wit, I would’ve played Tom Sawyer and convinced everyone it was the “in” thing. Try it, you’ll like it. I like to think some people who read that ARE going to try it. You think?

— Sully (Thomas Sullivan)

3:12 AM  

John B. Rosenman said…

Snort KY Jelly up your right nostril for two months? Man, you are taking a chance when you give me a straight line like that.

Sully, I’m inspired. You’ve given me the ingredients for a story, dude, and I’m gonna write it. As you say, it’s not just what happens, it’s what you think and feel about it.

Thanks for a great piece. Your days are so much more interesting than mine. All that happens to me are goodlooking women who throw themselves at me. There’s not a headless squirrel to be found anywhere.

1:07 PM  

Sully said…

I have not tried to determine the gender of the headless squirrels. Do you think there are prospects there for me?

Anything that inspires a story from you, John, is going to mitigate my sins and omissions elsewhere. I stand proud. Thanks, amigo.

— Sully (Thomas Sullivan)

1:17 PM  

Janet Berliner said…

Delightful essay and you’re so right. It’s all there for everyone. We’re just lucky enough to see it. Person #1 person stands at the deli counter of life, orders cheese, takes the package, pays for it and goes home. Person #2 orders the cheese and is distracted by the toes in the sandals next to him because they are all the same length. He forgets to wait for the cheese, goes home, can’t finish making the lasagna. Cooks something else, something new. His guest turns out to be allergic to one of the ingredients and has to be rushed to the hospital and upon taking off her fancy shoes has, you guessed it, toes all the same length. And….

Read the beginning of THE WATER WOLF and can hardly wait to read the rest. I’ll put it on my website to encourage sales. May it rise on the bestseller list like KY up your nostril, thereby healing your bank account.

Janet

1:59 PM  

Sully said…

See, you’re in an example in kind, Janet. This is why and how you’ve inspired so many luminaries in your life. You see with the eye of unlimited possibilities. Thanks for doubling down on my thesis out there in Las Vegas where — I am convinced — the lights wouldn’t shine without your energy.

— Sully (Thomas Sullivan)

2:31 PM  

mikepaulle said…

Recently a website published the 100 best novel openings. For me ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times’ is still the best of the best.

However, you might consider doing yourself a favor and reading the opening of Sully’s The Water Wolf.

3:57 PM  

Frank Wydra said…

Hey Sully, great story! That headless squirrel, one of the pack that follows you everywhere, a lot like John Irving’s bears.

And what a point you prove! It is possible to capture a slice of the writing life in story rather than essay format. For my money, ten times as powerfrul and square that entertainment-wise.

Cheers, Frank

7:50 PM  

Sully said…

Are you referring to that squirrel on my front lawn that was tripped out on mushrooms? That’s the same Edgar Allen Poe squirrel that was caught in the walls of the house. Will tell that and a few other squirrely stories some time…

— Sully

8:06 PM  

David Niall Wilson said…

If you make a book of your cannibal essays one day, you should make the melting peanut-butter / oil / mower image the cover… (lol). I’ve lived days like that. Once you’ve deteremined you are in one…it’s best to go back to bed and wait for it to blow over…but I admit to snorting coffee through my nose (which is painful) over the mower, oil bit…

Dave

10:28 PM  

Janet Berliner said…

Received a note from Kathy about Charlie. I told her how sorry I was about her loss and how proud of her I was for her love and constancy. Charlie, I know you’re with the good guys, smoking without ill effect and writing and joking and serious. Watch over Kathy and know that we’ll all miss you.

Janet

1:12 AM  

Sully said…

Amen.

— Sully

9:56 AM  

Anonymous said…

I read the title and the first line and started cackling. I laughed so hard, my tummy hurts and cheeks are still warm. My son (12) came in to find out what was going on and when I read it out (although there was an interesting moment explaining what KY jelly was for…), he was laughing right with me.

(Do you know how hard it is to read something out loud when you’re laughing?)

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

A newbie

11:29 AM  

John Skipp said…

Dear Sully — THANK YOU! That was SOOOOOO HILARIOUS! I love laughing out loud for breakfast! What a beautiful, beautiful piece.

And yes: isn’t it great to be helpless victims of the old Chinese curse, wherein ALL OF THE TIMES are interesting times?

Every day, I thank God that I’m so easily amused.

Dear Janet — How did YOU know that I forgot to buy the cheese?

And, yes, your vision of Charlie Grant is the one that I like, too. Thank you.

Dear Charlie — SEE YOU LATER, MY FRIEND!

12:52 PM  

Mark Rainey said…

Sully — How much are you asking for the rights to your tube of KY? It’s unique.

This not only slayed me, it gave me that desire to damn everything, buckle down, and write for the rest of the day. The yard, the trash, the wife…all those can wait. 😉

–M

3:42 PM  

Sully said…

Dear, Newbie — Reading out loud while laughing is the most infectious laughter I know. Welcome, aboard. Glad to hear from you, as I think while some people don’t want to take the trouble to make a user name and password, others have the idea that this is just for author posting. Someone on one of the last two columns this week mentioned that — that they were under the impression they couldn’t post here. Contrare, contrare. Hope to see you back.

David, Cannibal Essays in a book — come to think of it, the best-sellers are cookbooks…

Janet, Charlie (and Kathy) are two more benchmarks that have taught us by example how to handle adversity.

Hey, John, “laughter for breakfast” — now there’s a title!

And, Mark, are you SURE you want to keep the little woman waiting? Now that’s really living for excitement.

— Sully (Thomas Sullivan)

4:21 PM

 

 

AllyBird said…

Late to this but Sully thank you so much for that. I can’t drink my tea I’m laughing so much. I live in England and have to make the decision whether or not to move to New Zealand soon. After the headless squirrel I just keep thinking what you would write about possums and the way is suddenly now clear… a need an adventure.

5:24 AM  

 

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

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Robert Carl Jones – FINGERPRINT LIFTING, ITALIAN STYLE

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert Carl Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

******

One might think that firearms that had been handled would be a rich source of fingerprints. Reportedly, however, the success rate of obtaining useful fingerprints from them is only about five percent. Reasons for this include the surfaces of firearms tending to be rough; and their users, especially those who have committed a crime involving the firearms, are likely to have wiped the surfaces of them.

An article written in a forensics journal by Italian investigators described how they had pulled a print from the trigger of a pistol. The pistol bore no record of ownership, which was illegal in Italy.

Following a period of eight months in cold storage, the investigators used both standard and ultraviolet light in an attempt to reveal any trace evidence present on the weapon, but they found none.

They next placed the weapon into a chamber filled with vaporized glue. Reportedly, they were rewarded with a perfect print whose outline had been turned white with polymers. The owner of the fingerprint was ultimately identified, arrested and charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Polymers are substances formed of a large number of molecules, known as monomers, linked to form chains. These exist as a result of natural or synthetic chemical reactions.

Well-known brand names of polymers include Bakelite, Kevlar, Mylar Neoprene. Nylon, Orlon and Teflon. Polymers are generally referred to as macromonomers.

Thomas Sullivan: “IT’S YOUR WORLD NOW”

Sully & Glenn dressing room Eagles concert 1 2013 09-18 0918131740January’s GOTCHA Q&A brought in a lot of response, and so I’ve dug deep into old correspondence for questions with a quirky edge that you’ve sent over the years. Some new ones too. Finishing off is a summary response to many kind wishes and questions about Glenn Frey.

Q [Sandusky, OH]: My shrink says I should write out my sexual fantasies. Do you think there is a market for that?

A: Oh, we can be sure there’s a market, an industry, and a whole lusting planet. But clearly your shrink had other purposes in mind. Maybe you should do this for yourself rather than an audience, then after a little time has passed read what you wrote. Could be it will give you perspective or some sort of relief or separation – whatever your need. On the other hand, all fiction writing is a kind of dream or fantasy, isn’t it? You direct it whether you write for a market or not.

Q.: [Garland?, TX] Did you watch the Oscars?

A: Puh…awards are too politicized for me. Not that they don’t include some recognition based on pure merit, but like sausages they are often stuffed with inferior cuts that someone is pushing. Adding political correctness to the Oscars (as if it wasn’t already there) is like adding yet more categories. Dunno what the fuss is. They should just give everyone in Hollywood a participation Oscar or pass them out according to US census percentages (13% black, 17% Hispanic, 6% Asian, 50.5% women etc. and add for sexual orientation, like 4% gay…or 40% according to polls of young people who derive their perception of percentages from current film/TV). OR…the rest of us should all just go skiing on Oscar night and leave Hollywood to sort out its pecking order.

Q: [Seattle, WA] Do you have a favorite restaurant?

A: Red Lobster for Shrimpfest or Lobsterfest; Outback for Alice Springs Chicken (86 the Aussie chips and sub in a house salad w/house dressing, no cukes, no onions); Leeann Chin’s for fast, quality carry-out; Papa Murphy’s for basic pizza you can build on at home; and Granite City (LOL…because the manager gave me a VIP card – no waiting and a nice discount; also my waitress once bought me a dessert there!…wow, doesn’t that blow your mind that someone at barely subsistent wages would do that).

Q [CA?]: Are you anti-tech?

A: Quite the opposite. I’m going to guess that your question has something to do with my aversion to being glued to a TV screen. I DO watch TV. It’s just that I don’t stop living, and I don’t understand people who simply sit down or lie in bed and watch someone else living. How can you feel or think about what’s going on in your life if you are invested in someone else’s make-believe? A room with a dominating TV in it is like a viewing room in a funeral home. It’s essentially dead to all other purposes. If needing to do things, or at the very least think, create, feel and communicate is anti-tech, then I’m guilty as charged.

Q: [frequent question]: Are you married or have you ever been married?

A: Two kids worth, 23 years before it went to the rearview mirror. I come from a long line of one-off marriages and bachelors. The gene in my family seems to be for either extremely tight marriages or freedom and independence. I’m currently enjoying the latter, or as the saying goes, “Are you married or happy?”

Q: [Newport Beach, CA]: …sorry for your loss [Glenn Frey], Sully. Another leftie creative genius is gone.

A: Left-handedness does seem to correlate or at least associate with creativity. However, Glenn was ambidextrous (which may be an even deeper association with creativity). He golfed, wrote and swung a baseball bat left but played guitar right-handed.

Q: [Many recent emails/messages ask if I was at the private memorial for Glenn Frey at The Forum in California which has been reported in the media and speculated about on fan blogs.]

A: Actually, it was styled as a celebration of Glenn’s life, and I was there. Celebration with music, celebration with stories and laughter, celebration with food – this was life lived large in the key of G(lenn). It was a little surreal, as if all walks of life had suddenly come together, as indeed they had.

No pretenses, no putting on airs, no intrusive media. The invitation said that dress was Glenn Frey standard – “Jeans and a sport coat or a damn fine suit. Players choice!” And the quality of the communication, the music, and the table, as always with Glenn and Cindy Frey, was first-class plus.

Picture DisneyWorld where the frontiers are all intermingled: one minute you’re chatting with Stevie Wonder, Don Henley or Kareem Abdul Jabbar and 15 minutes later it’s Randy Newman, Cameron Crowe or Paul Shaffer. The musical offerings culminated with a rockin’ finale that included the Eagles past and present, Bob Seger, Paul Stanley of KISS, Jackson Browne, JD Souther, and too many others to remember. But the number that got to me the most was the poignant last performance of “Desperado” – the signature song that brought Glenn and I together in the first place. I’d seen the grim and tragic (it seemed to me) presentation of that musical masterpiece the night before at the Grammys, and it suddenly struck me here at The Forum that this was the last time it would ever be performed with the remaining Eagles. There were the dimmed lights and the empty space where Glenn should have stood, and suddenly with the last fading chord the waves of shock and denial ended and I knew with crushing finality: Glenn was gone.

It’s called closure, but it’s never that. Acceptance is what it is. Acceptance and celebration, which is what I felt sharing quality time at the Frey house the next day. Accomplished and capable Cindy Frey is a beacon of positive energy and honest emotion, and the younger Freys have left nothing untapped in the gene pool. Taylor’s muse has all the fire and pz-azz of Glenn’s muse, especially in her writing; Deacon can melt the hearts and rock the socks off any audience; and Otis will charm you with his candor and zest for life. America’s future and the Frey legacy are in good hands. Maybe Glenn said it best in one of his last songs, the eerily prophetic It’s Your World Now:

“It’s your world now
Use well the time
Be part of something good
Leave something good behind
The curtain falls
I take my bow
That’s how it’s meant to be
It’s your world now…”

[I’m also receiving requests for the Sullygram about Glenn, which you can see here: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com/newsletters/02162016.html or subscribe to free monthly Sullygrams by emailing me at mn222mn@earthlink.net ]

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

or follow me on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395

Thomas Sullivan: THE LONE ARRANGER

NOTE: Had intended to get this column up on the 15th before flying to LA for a private memorial of my close friend Glenn Frey, but I dropped the ball. Robert Carl Jones graciously told me to put it up now, so here it is. But do go back afterward one column and catch Bob Jones’ fascinating short piece on suicides and sneakers…

Sometimes the wheel that turns the Universe stops. The earth shudders, you feel a sudden stiffness in the air, and the beat of your heart flatlines. Something profound has changed. A tooth of time has hung up on an invisible gear. The protocols of life take a knee.

As many of you know, Glenn Frey’s passing was just that for me. A close personal friend for over a quarter century, I was not ready to give him up to eternity. In fact I had dreaded exactly what happened with alarming detail on January 18th – the ghastly headline everywhere, photos popping up across all media like an age progression spanning Glenn’s lifetime, 1-minute bios on the nightly news. It was eerily unreal, distant yet strangely intimate all at the same time. That couldn’t be Glenn. Not my friend, so palpably real with a voice infused with as much magic when he spoke as when he sang. But it was.

And for days on end, it echoed. It’s still echoing. So I’m writing this to capture a little of the man as promised for those of you who have been so supportive. But not what you’ve seen summed up already about Glenn and the Eagles, the cross-generational triumphs of almost 50 years, the unequaled sales, the iconography of the world’s most successful band by almost any measure, the fractious demise and inevitable rise again – and again – of this unique identity called the Eagles that Glenn Frey began and led from beginning to end.

Glenn was a jeans and T-shirt guy. Oh, they called him the King of Cool, and Cameron Crowe (to whom Glenn gave lessons on “cool”) has said his movie “Almost Famous” was more about Glenn than any other rock icon, but behind the elegance of jets and cars was a talent who saw it all as a game of Monopoly. Competitive? Sure, he never dodged that. But beneath the tokens it was about people, passions, emotions, and underlying that – the part media coverage never got to – it was about meanings. Glenn “climbed Mt. Moolah,” as he would say, because it was a mountain. The money was just a measure of the altitude. He could throw down hard in negotiations, but I’ve seen him turn down huge paydays (the Eagles going rate for a single performance was roughly a cool million) because it didn’t click with him. You couldn’t buy Glenn Frey, and you couldn’t stop him from giving of himself gratis. He and his talented wife Cindy gave philanthropy a good name whether it was auctioning off their art collection for charity or sponsoring opportunities and hope for others. Often it was hands-on giving. I remember how torn up they were when a young black youth from disadvantaged circumstances who they hosted every Christmas was murdered at age 19.

The crazy thing is that I had never heard of the Eagles until the late 1980s, a decade after their first break-up. Music had gone out of my life in a difficult 23-year marriage, and it wasn’t until a young woman told me I was “Desperado” that I had my first clue. A few days later I saw the song on an album in Kmart, bought it on a whim, and jammed it into the CD on the way out of the parking lot. The first lines froze me to the wheel and I pulled into the alley behind the store. A few days after that riveting introduction, during a taped interview feature by an ABC reporter, I mentioned that I’d love to use the lyrics in a novel I was writing. The next thing I knew, the reporter had gotten hold of Glenn returning from Russia to Boston on the way to a vacation home in Snowmass, Colorado. And soon after that, Glenn, who had apparently read my novel THE PHASES OF HARRY MOON, wrote to say that he and Don Henley gave me permission to use the entire lyrics for free, asking only that I get them correct. On the heels of that bolt from the blue, he called me from Cleveland to ask if I would meet him in his dressing room before a concert in Auburn Hills (Detroit). Do you get a feeling for the geography/itinerary of a rock star? Anyway, he made me look good in front of my son when I needed to, introducing me to the entire concert crowd.

Obscured by all the overhyped drama, you’ll never read about the constant care he took to answer the demands of his life, the lengths he would go to NOT offend everyday people and to repay a kindness. A hard taskmaster, a perfectionist – yes – but generous to a fault. I’ve even seen him fret over not wanting to “stiff” someone who did me a favor. Like many in the limelight, he exercised a sense of justice, and he found that stressful stage to be – like the Hotel California – something he could never quite leave.

He liked giving, he liked to surprise people with gifts. He had an oversized sense of “the moment” and we shared that magic in so many ways. Whether it was putting my son and I up for three days in Greta Garbo’s “casita” at LaQuinta for his 50th birthday party in the company of Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Don Johnson and innumerable other entertainment and sports celebs, or sharing a quiet dinner in St. Paul at the last minute with the love of my life and me, or cracking jokes with him as we sat at the Motown Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon him, or his dedicating a music video (“I’ve Got Mine”) to me and using a line from one of my novels in the lyrics, Glenn’s giving always had an aura of uniqueness around it.

That said, the casual times were no less golden: shooting the breeze in hotel suites that might have a grand piano or a table long enough to bowl on; sitting on touring trunks in the gloom of a cave-like storage room alone with Glenn and Bob Seger talking about private jets the way teenagers once talked about hot rods; sharing a platter of killer ice cream with Glenn in a greasy spoon somewhere in Royal Oak or Ann Arbor; Glenn picking me up in a borrowed Escalade in Crosslake Minnesota and a weekend of sterling conversations in which he taught me the intricacies of the “dogo” (which I finally learned to say instead of calling it a “zither thingy”). That same Crosslake weekend featured many laid-back moments with Cindy and two of their children (Deacon and Otis Douglas Lincoln Frey – Taylor was in Thailand). It was also the only time I’ve been on stage during a concert – hey, the floor vibrates!

Though Glenn suggested I come on tour a couple of times, I never had that pleasure. I’ve met him coming in on a private jet in out-of-the-way airports, and I’ve toured the tour buses (the term elaborate doesn’t do them justice) that transport “roadies” and staff across stateside itineraries, and of course I’ve enjoyed many sound checks and concerts backstage, but Crosslake was the Full Monty of total exposure for me. It began with Cindy’s father serving up Glenn’s unvarying pre-concert meal (burgers, and in those days a throat-marinating swallow of Blue Nun) at their residence on one of the lakes, and then we hit the stage. A sudden downpour at the outdoor venue gave me another special experience, as I wound up in a room at the Manhattan Beach Hotel with Glenn and the band while they kept nimble rehearsing different phrases through the rain delay. Then it was back on stage for Deacon’s debut, and at concert’s end a mad dash for the waiting Escalade. Glenn took the wheel and drove like James Dean until we made good our escape back to the house. A perfect “fourth encore” sealed the memory.

There is something I like to call “the Walt Disney touch” – an unerring radar for the eclectic. Glenn had it. Genius? Unquestionably. “The Lone Arranger,” as he was sometimes called could separate out the best of everything in music, production values, art, talent of any stripe, or for that matter in skills from any walk of life. This included cuisine. Whether we were sitting at a card table in his dressing room or eating special filets at Manny’s Steakhouse, the food was always fit for a king. I’ve never eaten better than when we feasted on what his personal chef would serve up.

There wasn’t much in a material way I could give back, but I’ve always been honored to share his confidences and to articulate perspectives or analyze dilemmas he might pose in our private conversations. We were each other’s confessor in the deepest sense. Glenn had a way of speaking as if he were announcing magic. Gonna miss that hushed voice saying my name with the excitement of a pending adventure when I picked up the phone.

And did I mention laughs? More than anything, Glenn loved subtle wit and wry humor. He had an ear for that and for style of delivery. That was a medium of exchange between us. I could always crack him up. I remember telling him a story at breakfast once and Cindy looking at him in alarm because he was laughing so hard that he couldn’t catch his breath. “Cheer up!” I said as he was coming up for air, and that put him back to gasping until he finally had to leave the table. He held his own in storytelling, and sometimes the theatrics weighed in heavily. Once, when we were talking about parenting, he even sang a whole song to me a cappella right there in a fancy restaurant to explain male psychology. Don’t remember the novelty lyrics except that they involved “curing” characters like Richard Speck and Hitler.

Glenn’s business savvy guided him to trust the right people. Cindy, Tommy Nixon, Jerry Vaccarrino and uncountable others behind the scenes organized and executed a vast interface with the world. Glenn didn’t like the computer and dictated or handwrote almost anything he sent, but I’m sitting here reading an old email which may be one of the few he pecked out himself on a keyboard. He begins with a double “Mayday!” and asks me to call the Dog House (studio) to help him write liner notes, which I sometimes did for a box set or tour promo. We shared a sense of psychology and style in writing. Shaping the right words is as close as I’ll ever get to know what it was like to create those fabulous classics that he and Don Henley, Jack Tempchin and a few others penned into immortality.

Devastatingly, in the end not even business manager Irving Azoff, who marshalled eight of the world’s top specialists to Glenn’s side in his last illness, was enough to make my friend immortal. Thank God Glenn left music and his legend to ease the loss.

I regret taking so few photos, but I’ll include a few below. Other than personal photos Glenn/Cindy sent me, and a video taken at his 50th birthday party and maybe the Motown Lifetime Achievement Award, I don’t think there’s much out there. Backstage photos are a no-no, but I mentioned that to Glenn once, and he said with that hushed understated humor of his, “…we can break any rules we want!”

Breaking rules. That’s what creativity does. Glenn Lewis Frey personified that in a way that made him an original among originals. If you’re still reading this unapologetically long tribute, let me close with something I posted on Facebook:

The world has lost a man it knew well and a man it hardly knew at all. I knew both in the personage of close friend Glenn Frey, and my life is immeasurably enhanced because of it. Glenn hid a lot of pain for the last third of his life. Pain didn’t fit his drive for perfection. I remember the last time I saw him. We were in his dressing room after an Eagles concert, along with his personal manager Tommy Nixon and his young son Otis. Glenn was upset because a cue had been missed in the blackout between two songs in the concert – a finger pick was supposed to be placed in the frets of the guitar that Glenn would switch to in the dark. When it wasn’t there, he had to perform the next number without it. Now in the dressing room, he expressed his displeasure with a colorful phrase. Immediately his young son said, “that’s a bad word, and you shouldn’t say that.” I tried to hide my smile, but I could feel Glenn’s eyes on me as he softened. When I finally looked at him, he took my hand and ran it over his. I had known for over 20 years that he suffered from RA, but I couldn’t believe the distortion it had caused to his hands. No words, no complaining. He just wanted me to know why he needed that pick. How he played keyboards and guitar to continue expressing America’s most iconic anthems in concert no one will ever know. But that was Glenn and the music and the band that he fostered and led over five decades – the most successful band in history. I’ll be writing more about Glenn and the Eagles from time to time (email me at mn222mn@earthlink.net if you aren’t on the free mailing list and would like to be), but for now please know how grateful I am for the emails, messages, phone calls and comments of condolence and support. … As you once wrote to me over a quarter century ago, Glenn: “…isn’t it great when the Big Fella brings people together like us?” It was. It still is. Eternity would be impossible without you.

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

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Robert Carl Jones – SNEAKY SNEAKERS

Tom Sullivan here, just letting you know that if this appears under my byline, it’s because the tech gremlins in Bob Jones access to SU are acting up and I’m posting this for him. The following is 100% from our illustrious encyclopedic compatriot Robert Carl Jones! …

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans.

******

Picture yourself enjoying a leisurely walk along a sandy beach on a bright, sunny afternoon. Warm, clear water laps at the shore, tempting you to remove your shoes and wade for a bit. An object in the water catches your eye, and shortly washes up onto the sand. It’s a sneaker. Being curious, you pick it up and look at something inside. Instantly, you wish you hadn’t. It contains what appears to be the remains of a human foot.

The shoe had been made to fit a right foot. A few days later another shoe containing a foot was found some miles away. Both shoes were made to fit right feet. A few months later, yet another right, foot-bearing shoe was found on a nearby island. Within a period of five years, a total of 11 floating shoes were found. Most contained feet. One would probably begin to wonder who or what might be separating persons’ feet from their bodies and why. Was an insane killer with a foot fetish to blame?

No. The only persons found to be responsible for the sneakers were those having psychological problems, were known to be missing. and were wearing sneakers when they committed suicide by jumping into deep water. Also, there were no tool marks found to indicate tools had been used to remove any feet. Additionally, feet recently found were still attached to leg bones. In time, natural decomposition would have set them free.

Why were only sneakers involved? Forensic investigation revealed a relatively simple answer. Separated sneakers were usually lighter than regular shoes, and therefor tended to float. They have been found in many places of the world. Their occurrence has been sufficiently common to have earned a fitting name: THE NIKE PHENOMENON.