Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Passages - The Death of Robert B. Parker

The word spread today that author Robert B. Parker passed away at his home in Massachusetts.

I'm incredibly sad that his voice is now silent. His and those of his memorable characters, most notably Boston P.I. Spenser, but also Hawk, Susan Silverman, Lt. Quirk, Frank Belson and all of the others who populated his books over the last 37 years.

The Spenser series was his most famous. I started reading this series in the early 80s with a book called Valediction. Powerful stuff and after I finished I immediately searched out the previous books in the series. I was all caught up when A Catskill Eagle was released and this book remains one of my favorite books of all time.

Spenser is an iconic character. A former boxer and police officer, now a private investigator. The man is tough as they come physically with an unwavering code of honor who defines his own rules and lives by them. He has a soft spot for the underdog and will help even the foolish who get themselves into more trouble than they can handle. He'll punish the wrongdoers and straighten out a mess to give someone a chance that they deserve. Those whom he loves, he loves wholeheartedly and will protect them with his last breath.

He also likes to cook, eat, and drink good whiskey and beer. Loves his dog. Loves to read and has a wealth of knowledge to rival an English professor. He's as ready with a literary quote as he is with a smart ass quip or an uppercut.

He's a book character so, in a sense, he will never be gone. I don't have to speak of him in past tense. Yet, when the books already written but not published finally come out, it will be the end of a legend in crime/detective fiction.

I'm going to miss him when there are no new stories left to read.

Mr. Parker, if you're up there knocking back a few with Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet and John D. McDonald, thanks for all the terrific reads.

Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Get Them Out! Get Them Out!

I like to think that I inherited many (some) fine qualities from my parents.

Unfortunately, I also inherited a propensity to problem gums. So, four times a year I have a date at the dentist's office for the turbo-cleaning/scaling routine. Each time the lovely hygenist, who bears no resemblence at all to Laurence Olivier's role in Marathon Man (The man applied dental torture to interrogate Dustin Hoffman for those who haven't seen the movie.) begins by collecting samples from different areas of my mouth. She smears them on a slide and peers at them under the microscope searching for gliders and spinning rods and spirochetes, oh my!

These are types of bacteria that can develop in your mouth and their absence, presence or degree thereof determines whether you're a-okay, at risk or at high risk. The highest risk involves amoebas. Just the thought grosses me out.

After she's examined the slide, she turns it around and points out the different types of bacteria. They look like different sizes of black spots or bars swimming across the screen. So, there they are, proof of your hygenic condition bouncing around on the slide like supercharged, microscopic bumper cars.

I wage a daily battle for good gum and tooth health. My weapons are a hydrofloss that blasts water and an antiseptic solution all over my mouth, between teeth, etc., stamping out bacteria before they multiply. I also use a sonic care toothbrush to add some oomph to the brushing routine.

Did you know that you're supposed to brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day? Most people only average 45 seconds each time. Don't they know they're risking their dental health, not to mention their mental well-being and their financial futures? (I'm not joking about that last part. My first car cost less than what I had to spend for gum surgery, root canals and crowns a few years ago. I once filled out a work leave request by saying, "I need time to attend a royal event because the last time so many crowns gathered in one place a princess got married."

But I digress.

Today while I was waiting for the hygenist to finish examining the slide, I had a couple of thoughts. First of all, no matter how valiantly I battle, there is absolutely nothing I can do to completely evict these bacterial trespassers. The best that I can hope for is that I will only have a low concentration of the least harmful. (That was the case today. Three cheers for me!)

My second thought concerned germaphobes. Seriously. How do germaphobic people cope with the existence of bacteria in their mouths? If you're like Howie Mandel who is so skeeved by germs that he won't shake hands with others, travels with his own sanitized towels and has to stay in a special mega-disinfected room how the hell do you not go absolutely screaming monkey bonkers at the thought of the countless bacteria living in your own mouth? Do you return time after time after time to the sink to rinse your mouth with some high-octane antiseptic mouthwash? WHAT do you do??

If anyone knows the answer, please tell me!

Once I started thinking about germaphobes and mouth bacteria, I couldn't stop worrying about their mental state. The mouth is not the only mine field in the human body. What about the stomach? What about the . . . lower, um . . . assets?

Do you just feel boobytrapped by your own physiology?

Here I was concerned about how much it costs to restore your gums and teeth. What about the psychiatric bills?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Cold in So. FL vs Cold Anywhere Else

I looked at this just seconds ago on Weather Channel:

This is definitely a new experience for me down here. There are people who have lived all of their lives in the Keys and never experienced temperatures this cold unless their A/C quit in the middle of August and they stuck their heads in their freezers for momentary relief.

It's cold all over the country right now, it seems. Those of us in South Florida really shouldn't complain too much because next week the temperatures will return to the 70s here while in the rest of the U.S. . . . they won't.

Elsewhere, snow might be falling. Down here, it's iguanas. They're cold-blooded and when it's this chilly, they can't move so they lose their grip in the trees and tumble to the ground. Most of them survive the fall and are fine once the sun and warmer temps hit them. I watched a news report that suggested we wrap the iguanas in warm towels and move them into our garages. No garage, then perhaps in a spare bathroom. Uhhh. I don't think so. As soon as that critter warms up, it's going to start hurling itself against the walls and doors trying to escape. I never developed iguana-wrangling skills and have no idea how I'd get the panicked thing out of my house.

There's no question that the rest of the country is better prepared for wintry weather. Half of the homes in the Keys don't have heaters. Why pay for something you don't normally need more than a couple of nights a year? (Luckily, mine does.) People up north have thick coats, furry boots. We're searching for socks to wear in our Crocs. I don't know what the hell we'd do if the roads iced over. Down here the only thing close to rock salt is reserved for margarita glasses.

Snow tires? Only if someone's smuggling cocaine in an odd place.

If the last few weeks are any indication, it's going to be a long cold winter. For you.

For us, this snap will be a memory. We'll be in the middle of high tourist season when all of you come down here to escape the weather.

Today notwithstanding, our winters are nicer.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

These are NOT Resolutions!

We've already discussed that I do not like to make resolutions because I believe it sets me up to fail, wallow in guilt, and do damage to my self-esteem that I then try to correct with the panacea of chocolate.

I do, however, like to make commitments. I have a much better track record with delivering on these promises.

So, even though you weren't lurking around waiting for me to share, I'm listing them on the blog so that I'll have witnesses. After all, if a commitment is only made in the silence of a virtual forest and nobody's around to hear or read it, I wouldn't have to hold myself to it, right? (Well, I would if I intended to keep my honor and integrity, but why give myself any wiggle room?)

Here goes. In 2010, I commit to:

Cleaning out the clutter in what is supposed to be my office including donating books that I will never read again and ancient paper records that have outlived the period I was legally obligated to keep them filed.

Going through the closets in all three rooms and donating the clothing I will never wear again.

Continuing to be dutiful in training sessions with Nat & Pyxi. The process does us all good.

Cutting back on sugar, fat and carbs. (Notice I did not say eliminate these things. Again, why set myself up to fail?)

Staying in touch with friends that I got back in touch with this year.

Making every payment on time instead of mailing something late because I was lazy.

There are probably half a dozen more things to which I can commit, but why go overboard in the first week of January? There's 51 more weeks to go in 2010!