Musings in the time of the Corona Virus.

In light of the Wuhan Corona Virus or COVID 19 Virus (whatever you want to call it), I’ve had to be a little more thoughtful about my own health. Over my lifetime, I’ve had bronchitis and pneumonia numerous times and lost about ten percent of my lung capacity. 

I live quite happily in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, the air is thinner here, and I’m quite aware of those around me toting their oxygen canisters. I saw my next-door neighbor live like a prisoner in his home with COPD – oxygen hoses stretching from machines and running the expanse of the top floor of the house until he died. That’s not how I want to go out.

With the wall to wall news coverage or lack of real news, like many, my 34-year-old son is anxious about the situation. The Corona Virus is another virus – another illness set free into the world. It’s concerning, especially to all the people out there with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and compromised immune systems. My son also suffers from chronic respiratory problems, so I appreciate that he’s worried and about me too – but my brain isn’t wired the same way. I’m not a worrier. 

I’ve watched friends and acquaintances fall into fear as the news reports and social media and political pundits that they tune into offer dire warnings and hopelessness. Some have isolated themselves almost completely while others have taken to hitting the bottle a little harder. Fortunately, there are many with level heads that aren’t falling to pieces as they weather this particular storm. 

 Some of the models reported show millions upon millions of deaths – It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s not. The actual numbers are not proving the models reliable. Still, you wouldn’t know it from the toilet paper hoarders. I think if you actually need that much toilet paper – you don’t have THE VIRUS. You’ve got a whole different problem – AND better see a doctor quick before you become a dehydrated husk.   

My daughter works at a specialty grocery store. Longer hours and a perfectionistic attitude make these strange days difficult for a hard worker. She’s upset that they can’t get all they need to supply their customers. Many of which are good-natured about the whole situation, while others, not so much. This week they offered Senior Shopping Hour on Sunday from 9-10 AM, and she told me how grateful the elderly shoppers were to find toilet paper and other essentials. 

Meanwhile, my youngest brother is out in California, caretaking our elderly parents. He can’t find most of what he needs when able to make it out to the grocery store. My sisters and I have taken turns sending toilet paper – which is essential and seemingly non-existent. 

Did you ever imagine we’d be living like this? Surveillance of U.S. citizens, forced isolation, empty store shelves, and favorite local businesses going under because of the state’s lockdown? Me either. 

My other brother is on the road driving a big rig. He has many stories about being on the road during these strange times. Traffic is mostly non-existent, which gets him back and forth faster. But many of the truck stops are closed, he can’t stop and get a good, hot meal at a restaurant, and you can’t drive a big rig through the drive-through at fast food places. It’s illegal to walk up to the drive-through window, so what’s a trucker to do? These knights of the road are moving supplies across the country as well as locally to keep us going. Yet they need support services like – places to park overnight, motels, places to eat, shower, or just go to the bathroom. I think what makes an essential service needs to be re-evaluated, especially if we want them to stay on the job. I don’t know that the powers that be will do what’s right for the truckers – there’s too much political egotism influencing many of our decision-makers. 

The world we live in has changed in these past few weeks. I know some are eyeing this as the new normal, but No Thank You. Too Orwellian for me. I’m not worried that we’ll get through this particular pandemic. The fact still remains that more Americans die every year of the flu, cancer, traffic accidents, suicide, HIV, smoking, alcohol, etc., then of COVID 19. At least so far. We have excellent medical care available in this country, and I thank God for the medical and health workers. They face the impossible daily and come back the next day to do it again. The Corona Virus isn’t going to last forever. Researchers are working on a cure, while others are trying to develop a vaccine. We just have to have a little faith.

My mother is a woman of faith. She’d always say, “This too shall pass.” At least she did before dementia settled into her brain. It’s an old Persian saying, but one of the truths she knew and understood and tried to teach us. I’m so grateful that I did learn that particular lesson.

I just wonder what the repercussions will be for us after this pandemic has passed.


What, are you scared?

Comic, Face, Fear, Fright, Horror, Man, Panic, Retro

Why do some people seem to get a kick out of scary stories? Whether on the page or screen, they stimulate that tingly feeling down your spine. The fact is a lot of us enjoy when our heart speeds up, and we can’t catch our breath… that rush of adrenaline, and all those lovely endorphins. Sounds kind of like falling in love doesn’t it.

 The writer Neil Gaiman said, “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open, and you will step out into the daylight once again.” That’s how I like to take my horror – in small doses. I prefer a controlled environment, and a horror movie’s a great example of that. 

 Scary films are generally about one and a half hours long. Buying a ticket, and armed with snacks, I settle into my seat. All those childhood fears of things that go bump in the night rush forward. If I’m out with someone, I find I can control my fear response better than when I’m on my own, especially if it’s a good film – otherwise, I have to do a lot more self-talk to keep myself in the seat. Hopefully, the filmmaker has tucked in a bit of comic relief that will diffuse the tension just enough for me to take a breath before the terror rushes back. 

 And, I’m not talking about being grossed out or repulsed either. Watching humans being tortured and hacked up isn’t my idea of a good time. Even if they were stupid enough to go inside that house when I told them not to…

 While I’m compulsively reaching for the popcorn, my brain’s busy checking out the perceived threat portrayed on the big screen. Intellectually, I know I’m in no real danger, but my amygdala needs some convincing. My heart’s pumping and my feet tap restlessly against the floor, as the tension runs through me. My stomach feels fluttery, it’s almost the same feeling I get when riding a roller coaster. As my brain recognizes the threat isn’t real – It drops a rush of hormones and chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and oxytocin. This puts me into an elevated state – I feel happy and, surprisingly, less anxious – able to enjoy the thrill of the moment. The movie comes to an end. The credits roll – the lights come up – and the ride is over. I walk out of the theater, stimulated, excited, and, best of all, unscathed. 

 It’s very different when I’m reading, that’s where the scary gets to me. I don’t seem to have the same regulated emotional response that I have when watching a movie. Turning the pages of a novel, I stir the written words into my own overactive imagination. The story intensifies, and the pages turn faster as I race to the end of the book. I’m suddenly aware that the house is quiet – too quiet… the tension builds. My eyes dart uneasily at the shadows, my nerves have me starting at sudden noises. When the story becomes too intense, too scary, I put the book down. It’s getting dark, I turn on all the lights and switch on Hallmark or the Cooking Channel and hunt for the chocolate – only to settle my nerves. My body’s gone through the same flight or fight response as when I’ve watched a horror movie. It’s received that same flush of adrenaline, but, instead of feeling elated and less anxious – I’m still a little on edge and need to distract my brain. Only then will the frightening images fade. For some reason, when reading, my brain has greater difficulty dealing with the stress of being scared.

 Monsters are generally symbolic. Some psychologists say they reflect our fears or worries, whether we realize it or not. Freud asserted that monsters were created by our unconscious – for me, they have to live in my conscious mind, at least while I’m working on a novel. My writing group finds it amusing that sometimes I have to put a story away because I’ve creeped myself out. I realize that’s a bit perverse. However, as I read through my own work, I hope that readers will enjoy the thrills and chills that evolve in my stories, and want to come back for more. 

It’s another New Years’ Day

I’m so happy that the winter holidays are almost over. People keep asking me what I’m doing for New Years’. My response is usually – “Oh, I’ll probably be spending a quiet night at home.” But in my head, I’m thinking, Nothing. Why?

I know its a big night for many, whether standing in Times Square watching the ball drop or watching it on TV. Around town, the restaurants and hotels are booked, and there ‘ll be plenty of fireworks… I’ve never been much of a partier – my nod to the New Year comes on New Year’s Day with the Rose Parade.

 When I was a young child, my dad would take us to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, to celebrate New Years’. My sisters and I would bundle up in our pajamas and car coats and make ourselves comfortable in the old family station wagon. Dad would find a good spot along Colorado Blvd., stretch out on a cot, and save us a place to watch the parade New Years Day morning with the thousands of other parade attendees. He froze his ass off, sleeping out in the cold night air. Dad could sleep anywhere and soundly enough to sleep through a bomb blast, so the revelers and drunks and tourists wandering about the street didn’t bother him at all. Meanwhile, Mom watched over us as we slept snug in the warm car until it was time to get up and hunt for a bathroom before finding our saved place on the boulevard with Dad.

 The parade’s a mega-event, and when you’re standing on the parade route, it’s a real assault on the senses. The sound of the marching bands passing you by can be deafening. It’s not just the rousing music, it’s the hundreds of feet against the asphalt – as well as parade watchers pounding their feet and clapping their hands to the music. The horses clip-clop down the street with colorfully costumed riders on their backs. Everybody loves horses, and they get a lot of appreciation from the parade watchers. When the beautifully and intricately decorated floats appear, there’s a mixture of oohs and ahhs and lots of applause. 

 By the time the last parade entry brings up the rear, you’re feeling warmed by the sun, and your belly is sending you hunger pangs. The crowd begins to fold in on itself. Many people get up and walk away, as if they’d stopped by chance to watch the show. Others meticulously gather up their gear and the kids and try to remember where it was they parked. Then there’s the long walk back to your car.

 After the parade is over, you can go over to the lot where they park the floats and get a close-up view. On television, those floats look big and beautiful, but up close, they’re enormous! Every flower, petal, and seed is put on by hand, and the work is stunning. They are genuine works of art. You can’t smell the fragrance of the floral work watching on the TV – but in person, WHEW! It’s overpowering.

 Having watched the parade on television annually over the last several decades, the memories all blend together. I can only recall the feelings of the sights and sounds of those family adventures. Well, that and going to my grandmother’s house to eat Menudo.  

 I did make it again to the parade when I was in high school with my church group. It was a bunch of teenagers and a couple of adult chaperones. As exciting as the idea of staying up all night sounded, it didn’t turn out to be much fun spending the night out on a cold street along with the drunks and panhandlers. We were tired and grumpy by the time the parade began… and I think it was the only time I didn’t enjoy the big event.

 Many years later, when my own children came along, their dad would take them to see the parade. He had a friend who had offices on Colorado Blvd., and they were able to watch the extravaganza from the rooftops. It was a great way to avoid parking hassles and the crowds of people on the parade route. And from their vantage point, they could see everything. They still remember those adventures with their dad.

 Though I left California years ago, I watch the Tournament of Roses Parade every year on the television. I still choke up as I watch the Air Force flyover, the Marine Corp Color Guard, and the Marine Corp band. I look forward to some of the marching bands and floats, and can’t wait to see what the two Cal Poly University schools have cooked up as their entry. I ooh and aah and applaud until the very end. Corny – I know.

  That’s the way I start my New Year. Oh, and I always have a bowl of Menudo at breakfast – it’s tradition. After that, I call my folks and wish them a Happy New Year… Then I get on with my life.  

 For me, that means keep writing. I just finished my book DEAD RINGER and sent it to my beta readers. In a week, I’ll meet with my writing group and have them go over the copy one last time before it goes for publishing. I’m also going to be working on my next book – (which was my first book) BLACK CAT. I’m doing a rewrite. It’s a good story but has too many words. My blog needs regular entries, so I’ll be agonizing over those also. It probably doesn’t sound like a lot to you… but I’m not a great multitasker. For me, it’s a lot.  

Happy 2020. My wish for you is the same for me…

Don’t make excuses. Pursue your dreams.

Putting Myself Out There

I’ve told stories most of my life. Yes, even the kind my mother told me were wrong and shouldn’t tell. As the oldest of five siblings, I was always looking for a way to escape my real world. Mom introduced me to books at an early age. A reader herself, she knew the power of stories as a means to escape. I devoured stories and went through almost every book in my mom’s collection. At school I read endlessly in the library, and couldn’t wait for those days the Bookmobile would drive into the schoolyard with even more books to borrow. When I discovered the public library, it was like being given the keys to the kingdom.

As a Baby-Boomer, I am unapologetic about being a TV addict. Its a whole other wide world of stories. In my house, we watched a lot of family-style entertainment, but my favorites were the shows like Thriller, Chiller, The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Creature Features, and Night Gallery to name a few. I became so enthralled with these old horror shows that my parents would use them as leverage – If I didn’t do my homework, or wasn’t being nice to one of my siblings I wouldn’t be allowed to stay up and watch that night’s favorite.

I know now that many of our best horror writers contributed to these shows, but at the time I simply enjoyed the outpourings of their broad and twisted imaginations. Their stories have been an influence for me to write my stories.

While my own children were growing up I fantasized about being a writer, but simply didn’t have the time or the energy. It’s taken me many years to arrive at a point in time where I can take the time to write. I have no excuses. Now that I’m here, I want to put myself out there and not be afraid to share my stories. Fear is a theme in my writing – it’s something that’s held me back from a lot of living – I refuse to let it stop me now.