Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scenes from a Train, Chapter 206

I love traveling by train. There's just something about it that feels so safe. That, and the rush of colors and scenery that constantly change and shift outside your window, allowing you a glimpse of true American beauty. And the not-so-beautiful, too. But I'd rather dwell on the positive.

These past few days, I took a trip to DC for work, and rather than go through the hassle of flying, I chose instead to take the train down. Yes, it was a six-hour trip, as opposed to the two hour flight from TF Green to Reagan Airport. But when you count the inconvenience of driving to the airport, parking, buying your ticket, going through check-in, waiting for the plane, storing your luggage, boarding...the dread that you get in the pit of your stomach right when the plane is about to take know, the one that comes from a more primitive time, that says, "Man isn't supposed to be up in the air in this giant aluminum birdie!" Well, when you add all those things up...not to mention the fact, traveling by train is cheaper, there's no question that choo choos win, no contest.

Oh, and the people. People are SO much more entertaining on a train! I think it's because you're with them for a longer period of time, and also because they're more relaxed as a general rule, because they know there's no possibility that they are going to be plunging to their death from 60,000 feet.

On the way down to DC, I spent most of the trip sitting across from two buyers for a major retail outlet. One was an older lady with fake autumn frenzy hair, the other was a middle-aged gay with a perfectly flat stomach. The autumn frenzy woman smelled of dentures. They were somewhat entertaining. I would give them a C, overall.

I really hit the jackpot on the way home, though. I was stuck in the middle of a Sheldon convention.

You know, Sheldon, the character from The Big Bang Theory? Pieces of Sheldon were all around me, and there I was, stuck in the center. Stuck with Sheldon, and the companions that keep him out of getting in to too much trouble.

The Sheldon in front of me was a 15-year-old boy with beautiful snow blond hair. It resembled Corb's, all long and flowing and beautiful. However, he also had a severe hearing problem and seemed to be on the autistic side. His father was very protective of him. It was clear from just looking at him that he was a patient, kind, and very tired man. I think he may have once had beautiful snow blond hair, too, but it had faded with time.

The blond boy kept asking his father why they don’t have an air conditioning unit in the kitchen, but only in the living room and bedroom. He must have asked it a hundred times. Every time, the father would calmly lean in so that he could hear exactly what his son had to say, and then shush his son for talking to loudly.

But by far the most entertaining Sheldon was the man in back of me. He was clearly a genius, but it was also obvious he had some rather severe social handicaps when it came to talking with people who aren’t as intelligent as he is. The passenger next to him seemed to be someone he either worked for or with, and you could tell from his patient tone that he was used to putting up with him...and reining him in.

He first caught my attention as I kept bobbing up and down to get things from my backpack. Or put things in. It had been a long two days and I am always forgetting to charge things, and so as a result, I had a cell phone, a Blackberry, an iPad, and a laptop that all needed juice. And of course, I couldn't be bothered to be organized about where the cords all were. So every five seconds, I'd have to stand up and search for yet another cord.

Finally, after the fourth time, I heard him clearly say, "You ever notice how some people pack way too much stuff?"

"Sure," said the man with him.

"You know, they're just going for an overnight trip, and yet they seem to pack as if they're going away for a month-long cruise to Rio. I mean, isn't that crazy?"

"Oh my God, he's talking about me!" I thought.

"Crazy," said the patient man.

Sheldon laughed. "And you think to yourself, what the fuck are they packing all that for, they're not going to--"

"Shhhhhhh! Don't use that kind of language. Quiet down!"
A pause. Then: "How much is the personal property in your home guaranteed insured for?
"Well...I...I’d have to look it up."

"How much is each of your employees insured for, from a liability perspective? Do you know that?"

"About...well, about $600,000."

"I don't think that's very much, do you? I mean, when you get right down to it, that figure might be a little low. $600,000. Have you ever thought about raising it?" But the patient man didn't respond, clearly not wanting to give away and business secrets.

Undaunted, Sheldon decided to switch topics. "You know, when I’m traveling, I like to engage in conversation with the taxi drivers by talking lightly about the general occupational hazards of the job. I find if you engage them in conversation about anything beyond that, they tend to grow aggravated and upset."

"Is that right?"

A pause. Sheldon was looking to choose his words carefully. "I’ve also noticed that—"

Clearly, he was about to hit a hot button. The patient man groaned. "Let’s not start this again, please…"

But Sheldon was not going to be stopped. "I've also noticed that YOU don't engage them in that sort of conversation. Why is that? I have to tell you, when I consider the subject, it’s something that really could use some improvement on your end."

At that point, our hostess came down the aisle, pushing a metal cart. "Refreshments anyone? Pretzels? Light snacks?"

She reached Sheldon. The man next to him politely ordered mineral water.

"And you, sir? What would you like?"

"I would like to give you a suggestion!" said Sheldon. "I think you should offer Fresca as an option. I've noticed that you don't."

"No, we don't, sir."

"Most people don’t know of it as a diet drink, but it's quite good, and it actually comes in three different flavors, these days. Black Cherry. Cherry Citrus. Citrus Lime.
Someone should be told to add at least one to the menu."

"Wow. Three flavors?" The hostess laughed politely. She was clearly a people person.

"I knew it back in the days when they only had Citrus Lime."

"Well, you should tell someone to add it to the Amtrack menu."

"I surely will, sir."

"I would do it myself, but I have 8,000 things a day to do. 8,000 things. I have no time for letter writing. Otherwise I surely would do it myself. By the way, do you know what the best day is for traveling on an airplane?

"Tuesday," groaned the patient man, trying to get his friend to shut up.

The hostess took the hint, and started to wheel her cart off.

It was at this point that a man in business suit decided to sit next to me, so I lost interest in Sheldon for a bit. Which was just as well, because he excused himself and headed off for the dining cart.

The man next to me was young in appearance. Kind of foreign looking, but a sweet face. He was talking on the phone as he sat down, and his voice seemed pleasant. "Oh, this might not be bad at all," I thought.

Then he started picking his nose. Oh,egad!

He stopped after a while. I politely looked away as he dug around for mineral deposits. I adjusted my seat so that I leaned toward the window.

Then I started to smell a strong smell of vinegar. What the--? Was it the man behind me? No, he had just ordered mineral water. Sheldon wasn't back from the dining car yet.

Oh, wait. It couldn't be.

Cautiously, trying not to be noticed, I looked down at the guy next to me. Sure enough. He had taken his shoes off.

Oh, egad. Three more hours of stinky feet? How was I going to be able to stand this? What an odiferous affront to the senses this was. Could it get any worse?

That's when Sheldon returned from his travels.

"Hey there," he chirped to his friend. "I figured you'd like a nice chorus of 'Do you know the way to chardonay?' By the way, I was just wondering, have you ever considered examing life from a phenomalogical standpoint?"

That was it! With a cry, I jumped out of my seat and fled the curse of stinky feet and eggheads. I could take it no more. I ran down the aisles, babbling about mineral deposits and the three flavors of Fresca and the occupational hazards of taxi drivers. I reached a locked train door, vowing never again to travel by train, yanked at the door, and--


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Open wide.

So, for some reason, I've been thinking about writing erotic fiction. Just to clear the palette, after the perfectly innocent little play I directed.  
I know, I know, I REALLY need to work on rewriting one of my YA novels, at my agent's request. And I know, too, that one could not possibly write YA if one has published a dirty book or two. At least, under the same name. Even so. The hunger exits, like a demon in my soul.

I once tried to write a sex book, and had a blast doing it. It was called "Ready, Willing, and Horny as Hell." I blew through two chapters before I decided to call it quits. I based the protagonist on my friend Mary-Beth, who at that time was attending a Catholic university. I re-christened her Maria Batista, an innocent freshman schoolgirl attending stately Santa Emmanuel college. In the first chapter, she was an innocent virgin whose sexuality curiosity is awakened by the amorous advances a kindly old football coach.

Keep in mind, this was many years before Jerry Sandusky.

In the second chapter, having discovered her passionate love of the loin, she decides to return the favor by having a foursome with three college boys she encounters in one of the school bathrooms.

That was about as far as I went. I handed the chapters to my friend Mary-Beth, we had some fun reading through it, and then I put it away with all my other writings, where it has never been seen again.

It was fun, but perhaps there's another approach. That book was pure porn, after all. Perhaps I could rework things, and take out some of the porn, to make it somewhat respectable. Something a housewife could be seen reading after the kids go off to school. Perhaps I could model my erotic fiction after the currently popular series "Fifty Shades of Gray."

I'm thinking of calling MY version of Fifty Shades of Gray "The Summer of 69." Get it? It's a double entendre. Snort, guffaw. It's both a Brian Adams song (without the comma) and also, the entire point of the book.

Well! The entire point, with a twist. You see, in my book...the Summer of 69, available soon at a book store near you, my heroine...

(or, hero, I'm not sure which.)

Oh, hell, I'll make it a heroine. There's more money in straight sex. Right?

Anyway, in MY book...The Summer of 69, available soon at a book store near you...well, if book stores still exist in a year or heroine decides not only to embark upon a summer of mutual oral satisfaction...BUT decides she wants to take 69 lovers, too, before the summer is over. Get it? So, the title has THREE's kind of like a dirty version of 300. Except 231 less!

I would write 69 short little chapters, too. 69 happy endings. Or maybe not...I'm thinking I might actually give it a little plot, and make my girl race against the end of summer to meet her goal. Maybe she's only at 13 when the end of August arrives, and she has to end the whole thing in an orgy with a football team. Just like Maria Batista.

And if you like that...that is, if my naughty Summer of 69 book gains some word of mouth....well, who knows what would come next?

I could set off a national craze. Whole flocks of people would set upon creating their own summer of 69, inspired by my work. Frauleins, postal clerks, rabbinical students, lobster men. In the gay world, of course, the whole book could be re-enacted in just one afternoon.

Oh!  And that's only the beginning, of course. Then there are the SEQUELS!

That's right, sequels.

Just wait until you read my version of the 700 Club.