Monday, January 21, 2008

Write Now: Childhood Books

Today's Write Now once again comes from the book, "Normal Is Just a Setting on the Dryer" by Adair Lara.

No Books Will Ever Be as Good as the Ones You Loved as a Child

Hmmm. I disagree with this one. I disagree, because in my experience, a true love of books is a love that never lets you down, no matter how old you get. I hope to still be reading and discovering new favorites up to and including the day I die. And I would hate to think that none of those new favorites could ever, no matter how well-written and beloved by yours truly, be able to compete with "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

What I WILL agree with is the idea that a book, once loved in your childhood, will always hold a little space in your heart. That said, here are some of my own childhood faves:

"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster. This is a fantasy book about a small, bored young man who travels on a small car through a toy tollbooth to the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he sets off on an adventure to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason. This book is full of silly puns and wonderful imagery, not to mention bad guys called the Demons of Ignorance. A so-so animated movie version was made by Chuck Jones in 1969. I would love to see a non-animated movie based on this book with today's special effects. It would have to be better than The Golden Compass, no?

"On Your Toes, Susie!" by Lee Wyndham. I came down with a terrible bout of the mumps in elementary school. I was miserable and frankly, bored. My mother scoured the local secondhand bookstore and found this tome for me. It's the story of a ballerina named Susie, who finds her place as number one in her ballet class in serious jeopardy when a little French girl named Mimi arrives. Mutual jealousy and competitiveness keeps these girls as rivals until both end up with the mumps...and both end up being nursed by Susie's mom. Of course, they end up being friends in the end. It's not that great of a story, but because of the sentimental value involved (how long did it take my mom to find a book about a girl my age with the mumps?), it will always be a favorite.

"Stories From Japan" by Edward W. Dolch. I don't remember how I first got ahold of a copy of this book. It seems it was always there, in my home, when I was a child. But once I began reading it, I couldn't put it down. It's a collection of stories of various ages of antiquity. The watercolor pictures are lovely, and the stories are gorgeous. One of my favorites is the first one in the book: "The Willow Tree," a story about the spirit of a willow tree and how she becomes a wife and mother before dying when the tree is cut down for the emperor's bridge. I was so much in love with this story, that I planned to name my first daughter Willow. (This was, of course, before I got married and discovered that Willow Mymarriedlastname did not sound good all.) As I grew older, this book was somehow lost. I spend several years looking for it before I finally won a copy from eBay. It is now a favorite of my son's, and I hope, someday, it will be a favorite of a grandchild's as well.

"Beautiful Girl" by Elisabeth Ogilvie. I wanted to hate this story about a beautiful girl who gets nothing but tsuris for her looks...but it's so charming, I just couldn't. Besides, any book that starts with a precautionary tale about using the word 'persnickety' to your parents can't be all bad.

The Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell et all. Some girls loved Nancy Drew, but she wasn't for me. I was a Trixie gal. My favorite of the series is "The Mystery At Saratoga," although "The Red Trailor Mystery" is a close second. (If you happen to be a die-hard fan, there is a Trixie Belden convention this year...go to for more details. I almost want to go myself...not only is it Trixie, but it's being held in the Smokey Mountains, near to my own hometown. Which is a little odd, when you think about these books actually take place in rural New York. But hey, it's fiction, and poetic license is allowed...)

There are several other books that I remember fondly...but not enough to actually run out and buy it. One was a series of books, if I remember correctly, about a girl who wants to be a trick rider and loves horses. I loved these books and can even remember one picture from it quite clearly...but the title escapes me. It's possible that only one book was about the trick riding, while the others were about life on a dude ranch. Sadly, I can't remember enough about them to know for sure. There are three other books for which I remember the title, but seem unable to find anything else on them. The first is "Circle of Love," a book about a young German Jewish girl named Anna, a Polish soldier named Anton, and how their lives intersect repeatedly and how WWII continues to affect their lives long after they have moved to America. Another is "Carol's Story," a tale about a young girl who survives physical and sexual abuse, alcoholic parents and the foster-care system to become the wife of a minister. It is a moving story, and if I remember correctly, it is a true story as well. I went through some of the same things Carol did, and just knowing that you can move on with your life was a message I really needed to hear. The last book is called "Roxanne." I think, technically, it's a romance novel, which I usually don't like. But for me, the romance aspect takes a back seat to the historical fiction at play. Roxanne is a young girl from a midwestern town in the late 1800's/early 1900's. She runs away to the east coast (I want to say Baltimore, but I'm not certain), marries a glovemaker and moves to the South (Georgia, I think), and then ends up in the Klondike during the Gold Rush there (where she dances for money and is called "Klondike Roxie"). Eventually, she finds stability and true love in San Francisco...right after the Earthquake. It's a story that has stuck with me, and I'd love to find it again. If you know anything about these titles, leave a message for me on this post or email me at I'll be eternally grateful.

Well, thanks for sticking with me for my second Write Now. Adios for now.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Write Now!

Lately, I haven't been keeping up with any of my blogs or writing in my novel. I am under a considerable amount of stress (marriage troubles, health problems, Dad's health is in the crapper, my best friend has a brain tumor and one of my closest friends has cancer), so it's not unexpected. But I do want to be able to write again, and break this lethargy.

I took a creative writing class in junior high, many, many years ago. The teacher would give us a proverb or quote or what have you, and we had to write about whatever came to mind after reading said proverb or quote or whatever. I hated doing it at the time, but now I am beginning to see the wisdom of it.

And so, I am going to start that writing exercise here on ZPT. My hope is that it will help break this writing slump I seem to be stuck in. You'll know the post is such an exercise, because I will title them "Write Now."

My first platitude is from the book Normal is Just a Setting on the Dryer by Adair Lara:

Bald Men Are Sexy

Bald men are sexy. Hmmm. I think it should read "SOME bald men are sexy." There's a big difference between Jason Alexander and Patrick Stewart. I think that in order for baldness to be sexy, the bald man has to be confident and he has to resist Bad Bald Guy Remedies. We all know what those are: the toupee. Hair plugs. The dreaded combover. The Caesar. Smelly lotions and creams. The silly tiny hat and bandana look (yes, Bret Michaels, I'm talking to you). Spray-on hair. These Bad Bald Guy Remedies actually make the men who use them LESS attractive. Which is a sad irony, as these men spend countless amounts of money to make themselves look good in spite of the baldness, when in reality, all they really needed to do was embrace their folically-challenged head and get some confidence and self-esteem. Just as the giant rhymes-with-Delores (Seinfeld reference) declared in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut: "Chicks dig confidence." And we do.

So which bald men are, in fact, sexy? For me, the list has to begin with the super-yummy Christoper Meloni, of "Law & Order: SVU fame." Anyone else remember the episode in which he stripped down to his tiny blue underwear? (My, oh, my. If you missed it, well, thank goodness for YouTube for making that Bald Guy Sexy Moment available for Meloni fans to watch over and over and over again. Pour yourself a glass of your liquid refreshment of choice, turn down the lights and click here: Little Blue Briefs. Enjoy!) Meloni is bald and sexy because he presents himself with a great deal of confidence, courage and that little twinkle to the eye that says, "Try Meloni and you'll never go back." Women are suckers for that twinkle. I married the man who twinkled like that at me....Even Meloni's turn as the boil-covered Freakshow in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle didn't dimish his sexiness. A less-than-confident bald guy would balk at taking on such a role. Meloni not only took the role, he obviously had a great time. You've got to respect a man who is willing to play ugly and have fun doing it. But it's his role on SVU as the tempermental Detective Stabler that really brings out the tiger in the bald man. It brings out another side as well: the family man who loves his kids. And there are few among us who can resist THAT!

Another Bald & Beautiful man is LL Cool J. Now, most of my close friends are probably saying: "What? Are you serious?" This is because I have often, and loudly, expressed my opinion about men who are too cut, particularly men who have six-packs. I know most women find big muscles and six-packs very appealing, but in general, I do not. Six-packs look to me like tumors under the skin. It is just not attractive to me in the least. I always think of the old television show "V," when the woman had the alien baby. Not my thing. Now, I don't mind a few muscles or a man who is a little toned. That can be quite nice. But when a man has worked out so much, the veins are sticking up and out of his arms and even worse, his neck....he's lost me as an admirer. I find it unnatural and repulsive.

But there is always one exception to every rule, and the exception to my "no muscle-bound alien guys" rule is LL Cool J. He's got the best example of bedroom eyes I've ever seen. When he kisses his fingertips and makes the peace sign, it's enough to make any woman melt. And that voice! I am a sucker for voices. Most women say they notice a man's eyes first, but for me, it's the voice. A sexy voice goes a long way in my lexicon. And LL Cool J definately has that sultry, girl-I'm-gonna-make-you-scream-like-a-banshee-on-Spanish-fly voice. If you need proof, check out the soundtrack for the movie Beavis and Butt-Head Do America for his cover of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody": "I'm the best when it comes to making love all can take it, girl." Makes you want to take him up on the offer, doesn't it? Even his name is sexy: LL Cool J stands for "Ladies Love Cool James." On anyone else, it would smack of hubris. On LL, it's just the honest truth.

Next on my list would have to be the before-mentioned Patrick Stewart. This is another case of a bald man with a lot of confidence and a sexy voice to boot. Ah, that accent. And speaking of Beavis and Butt-head, Stewart is a big fan and reportedly has one of the largest B&B memorabilia collections on record. You've got to love a man who is sexy and has a great sense of humor. Make it so, baby. Make it so.

Here are a few honorable mentions:

Now I certainly cannot leave out Montel Williams. The talk show host and I disagree on many MS-related issues, but there is no denying that Montell is one good-lookin' man. It's also nice to see a public figure with MS still working, still sexy. Gives us all hope. Someone who practically embodies the "bald is beautiful" ideal is Taye Diggs. Who didn't do a double-take the first time they saw him? Seal is also a hairless adonis, a fact that led to his current career of impregnating supermodel Heidi Klum ("nice work if you can get it," says my husband). Another sexy man with little hair but a great voice is the great actor Sean Connery. Like a fine wine, that man just improves with age. Another "Star Trek" bald hottie is Avery Brooks (also of "Spencer: For Hire" fame). I'll visit Deep Space Nine any day for a glimpse of him. Ed Kowalczyk of the band Live deserves a mention for his lack of hair but certainly no lack of sex appeal. And finally, tennis-playing hot-head Andre Agassi (insert tasteless but still funny tennis balls joke here).

Bald men are sexy. Yes, Ms. Lara....they certainly are.

Some links:

Ten Hot Bald Celebrities

Bald Men are Hot! article and poll results

Bald R Us website
This is a support site for bald men and the women who love them...the page I linked you to above includes a great post on all the fun things you can do with a bald head. This is a great website, definately worth checking out.