Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions.  Often in life, despite one’s best intentions and hard work, success or failure are determined more by fate or destiny than hope and tenacity.

A few years ago I went on a spiritual retreat.  It took place at a monastery in the hills above mission-rich Santa Barbara.  The mission has since burned down.  I think there’s a warning in there somewhere or at least excessive symbolism.

Anyways, as part of the guided experience, I was directed to write a letter to myself.  The letter was to be waiting for me at the retreat the following year.  Whether or not it was just a sales ploy to get me to re-up for another dose of zen, it struck me as an interesting and positive assignment.  I have always wished that I could speak to my younger self and tell him to be less afraid.  So, filled with the self-help élan born of the previous days of small group work, sharing, guided meditation and monk cooking, I wrote to myself in glowing terms about the year both ahead of and behind me in the meta moment.

I returned the following year.  My letter awaited me.  I tore it open — the assignment long forgotten — and read.  It was devastating.  The year had been a brutal series of defeats and disappointments on every front in my life.  The hope and optimism of my words were salt in the wounds reality had inflicted in the months since I had written them.

At the end of the retreat I was faced with the prospect of writing my future self another such letter.  My first impulse was to run screaming from the building.  Sadly, I’d ridden up with someone else, so dramatic exits were a bit impractical.

Instead, I gave it some thought and wrote myself a very different letter.  I didn’t attend another retreat.  The monastery burned down but the hosts saved my letter from the flames and mailed it to me the following year.

I ran across it recently.  It comes to mind as I consider formulating my resolutions for the coming year.  I commend it to you here as you consider the year ahead:

Dear Eric,

Remember to be thankful for who you already are and not sorrowful for who you are not yet.

There was much progress between this letter and the one which came before it, yet the last letter left you sad and disappointed over your fate..

It seems wiser to celebrate the unfolding of your life than to anticipate the happiness winking at you from the horizon.  One never knows the distance to the goals of life and it is the journey that takes all the time.

Enjoy the ride –

I love you and you are doing a great job,


All best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year, unless you have other plans!


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The gumbo is simmering so I have a few minutes to check in on this most inauspicious of holidays – New Year’s.

I’m not a big fan.

Most of its alleged celebrations smack of desperation and amateur inebriation. In the end, there’s really nothing to celebrate. If we didn’t drop a crystal sphere and jump up and down, screaming when the clock strikes twelve, frankly, nothing would happen at all.

A new year begins every night – or morning, if you want to be technical – at 12:01.
The fact that the tax year ends on December 31st hardly seems to warrant the Rose Parade.

The last time I attempted to do anything on New Year’s, I went to Las Vegas for Y2K. The crowds were so oppressive and the wait for everything so long, that I left before midnight and was back on my little perch, listening to the shrieking on the Sunset Strip below me, at the big minute.

I prefer to have a few guests in on the Eve to eat the superstitious foods you’re supposed to consume for good luck, good health and good fortune. We eat gumbo and dirty rice, Hoppin’ Johns, collard greens and corn bread. We argue about which game to play. Some years we never play, we just argue. At midnight we watch Ryan Seacrest — and the increasingly inanimate Dick Clark — countdown their rerun from New York, pull the strings on our confetti poppers at the appointed moment and call it quits.

Don’t get me wrong. We have a nice time. I enjoy the company and I make the BEST gumbo in the world. But the same crowd could repeat the same ceremony sans Ryan and Dick, and have every bit as much fun on February 3rd. Maybe we should.

The desperation-inspiring part of New Year’s is that our taxes aren’t the only thing called to account at 12:01. The year’s eve, like birthdays, is a time for reflection. It is a moment to pause and compare myself to my expectations or just to where I was last year. That, for me at least, is one perilous chasm. Peering over the edge of one year into the unknown, from the ridge of disappointment that stretches back as far as I remember, can give New Year’s a fearsome edge if I’m not careful of my footing.

As with all views, where you’re standing makes all the difference.

I’m in particularly a good spot for this year’s soul searching minute. I’m looking to the New Year from atop a heap of years that have been anything but new. I’ve had pretty much the same year for the past five and I’m really ready for a NEW, New Year.

I think that’s hope. I can’t think of a better viewpoint from which to take in the broad expanse of the future that stretches before me. Maybe it’s just desperation in fancy dress, but I feel like, come what may, up is the only direction available to my fortunes. So, I guess that’s my New Year’s message as we bid farewell to 2010: Cheer up, next year has GOT to be better than this.

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We are pleased to announce the digital re-release of the novel Say Uncle by Eric Shaw Quinn.

To purchase the novel for your Kindle, click HERE or for your Nook, click HERE.

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Kindle application please click HERE

If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and would like to download the Nook application please click HERE

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Ho, ho, ho,

Greetings from Greater Christmasville!

To mark the digital re-release of Say Uncle, video is coming to EricShawQuinn.com on Christmas Eve Morning! There will be a special reading by the author live-ish from Christmasville starting at 9:00 am that morning.  We’ve spared no expense.  Joe came over with his camera, we bolted a desk lamp to a coffee table and used the back of an old picture for bounce light — see photos.  All to bring you the finest in Christmasville video and a reading to celebrate Say Uncle’s first electronic publication on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel dot coms.

That’s right, first Garbo and now Eric Speaks! AND you will finally be able to buy Say Uncle for your Kindle, Nook or IPad!!  Is it Christmas or what?!

So, barring any technical catastrophes – and I think we got most of those out of the way during the filming itself – I’ll be seeing you right here, on Christmas Eve Morning!

Meanwhile, there’s a new installment of The Perfect Party today.  And, the story’s exciting finale will be posted on Christmas Eve Eve, otherwise known as Thursday.

Hope you’re having a great holiday season and that I’m making some small contribution – a smile here and there – with all these monkeyshines.

All best wishes and a Very Merry, Christmahaunakwanza to you and yours –  Eric

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I’ve been MIA for a few days.

I went to visit friends for Thanksgiving.  It was an excellent break and a joy to be in the company of some of my favorite people for no better reason than going off my diet and making each other laugh so hard pumpkin pie came out of our noses.

But that’s only half the story.  I have a problem and if you can’t talk about your personal problems on the internet, then what is blogging for?

Saturday, I got back from my Thanksgiving holiday back east – Palm Springs is east of here.

Since returning though, I’ve been secreted away in my house, lost in a nightmare of glitter, fir and glass beads.  I can’t seem to stop decorating for Christmas.

There is a walk-in closet in my office the size of many of the bedrooms I’ve had over the years.  The little room is literally filled to the ceiling with Christmas decorations (and unsigned copies of my second book with what’s-her-name that didn’t get handed out after she sabotaged our book tour so she could go live in a trailer and not pay her taxes.)  But mostly, it’s full of Christmas decorations.  There are also a fair amount of Christmas baubles in the office and cleaning supply closets, in the pantry, under my bed, in the linen chest, the kitchen cabinets, the sideboard drawers and this year they’ve even begun filling up the leg well under my desk.

At the current rate, I’m going to need a second apartment soon just to accommodate my Christmas ornaments.

I always get my tree on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  My friend Dan locates the nearest Delancey Street Mission tree lot – I like that the money I’m blowing on a dead tree at least helps out people whose concerns are a little more urgent than snarled garlands.  Dan and I meet for a strategy brunch, establish tree objectives for choosing a more perfect conifer than last year’s and then we launch our assault on the lot.  We used to stuff the evergreen giants, stand and all, into the back of my two-seater convertible and muscle the prickly pine up four stories from the parking garage to my modest manse.  Okay, there’s an elevator, but still, it’s a tree.

These days we go with the delivery option – Dan is getting older and for some reason the trees we pick keep getting larger.

This year, it rained the night before our tree lot invasion so they didn’t have as many out to choose from.  With selection limited, we convinced them to open some fresh trees, still bound after their journey from the Christmas Tree Mountains, north of here somewhere.  In the confusion, I identified the perfect candidate before I realized it was a Blue rather than my traditional Noble fir.  It was the perfect shape and seemed a reasonable height – last year’s was literally bent against the ceiling of my apartment.  In a moment of uncertainty, I agreed to the unfamiliar holiday flora.

By the time we were in the car on the way back to my apartment, I was a basket case.

It was blue, for god’s sake.  And would it be dried out in a week? The branches seemed soft.  Would they support my decorations? Can you return a dead tree? Could I afford a replacement? Christmas was ruined and we weren’t back from the tree lot.  It wasn’t even December.

The tree was delivered in due course.  I bravely soldiered on.  The tree lighting and decoration took a day.  The Christmas Village took one day to unpack and layout and another day to wire, light and blanket with the essential glimmer snow.  In truth, what was once a village has grown.  Incorporating Bedford Falls, Mistletoe Mountain, Victorian Village and Christmas in New York, I now call it Greater Christmasville.  My friends call it completely out of control.  Mine is catchier.

Then there’s a day of final touches as I cover the rest of the house and balcony with lights and various and sundry Christmas ornamentations.  Later, I have to go out for more because somehow there’s never quite enough.  And of course I need fresh poinsettias.  At some point I stop decorating.  Usually around the time I leave to spend Christmas at points east – that’s right I don’t actually do Christmas here.  I take the tree and all but the New York part of the Greater Christmasville down before Christmas.  That way the house is predecorated for New Years.

I can’t seem to stop.

The worse the year I’ve had, the more tenacious and fanatical my decorating.  This year, I became so obsessed with what I perceived as a possible shortage in the glimmer snow market that I actually became short of breath and had to lie down.  This was weeks before Thanksgiving.  Of course the day the holiday Kleenex Christmas ovals came out, I returned from the grocery store with bags full of flocked foil tissue boxes and no actual food.

It’s as though somewhere deep down, left over from childhood, I believe that Christmas will fix it.  I’m not even clear on what “it” is.  Still, I pursue my decorating with a superstitious fervor driven by a belief that if I get everything just right, the tumblers will drop and all my dreams will at last come true.  I’ve spent my life waiting for my Susan Boyle moment and each year I pin my hopes on Christmas.

My favorite Christmas carol is the tearjerker Just in Time for Christmas.  Bathed in the manmade holiday glow of Greater Christmasville, I belt out the holiday ballad alone but hopeful.

Now, I’m not a primitive.  I’m writing this essay with a certain amount of intellectual detachment observing my behavior with an anthropological cool.  Yet, even knowing what I’m doing doesn’t diminish my need to do it.  I guess to some degree it’s Santa Claus based.  Early on, I imprinted on the persistent Christmas notion that if I wish hard enough that this year I really will get what I asked Santa for at the mall, in letters and each night on my knees.  And what if I do get it all this year? Would I stop decorating or just hope for more?

I’m not sure if there’s a cure for my Christmas mania or if I’d even be interested.

On the plus side, I love doing it.  Decorating keeps the holiday blues at bay.  The house looks amazing.  Whether or not my Christmas spirit is sincere or self-induced, all the fuss lifts my spirits and stops me worrying about the many, many thing I could be wasting my time worrying about.  Two things I know for sure.  One, worry has never solved a single one of my problems.  And two, sometimes if I pretend that everything’s great, I forget that I’m pretending.

Now, excuse me, I’ve got to go make the perfect Christmas cookies.

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Next week is Thanksgiving.  That means one of my favorite annual events.

Not the parade or the turkey or the sheer joy of hanging out with some of my favorite people for no better reason than eating too much pie.  I love all that, but the event I’m speaking of has become every bit as much a Thanksgiving tradition as those balloons making their way from Columbus Circle to Herald Square.

Each year, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the TV news crews go to the airport.  There, whichever reporter is newest or drew the short straw asks people about their holiday travel experience.  It’s genius.  Every year, as thought is the first time it’s ever happened, people are furious that everyone in America can’t fly at the same time.  And if, since winter is upon us, weather is bad? Well-heh-hell the interviews are Oscar worthy.

I never cease to be amazed.  And yet, it’s somehow the perfect metaphor for the day the country sets aside each year for Thanksgiving.

As Americans, we expect everything.  When we don’t get it, we are not only disappointed, we’re enraged.  How could “they” not have built a fleet of airplanes big enough for everyone in the America to fly on the same day even though we won’t be able to use them the rest of the year? How could “they?” This year promises to be especially entertaining since we are adding the unreasonable expectation that we fly in absolute safety but without enforcing security measures because they’re “too personal” and “a hassle.”

That’s correct, people are calling for civil disobedience over security scans designed to keep bombs, like the one last Christmas, off the planes.  I wonder if anyone on the flights from Boston on 9/11 would mind if someone “touched their junk” to avoid plowing into the Twin Towers or the Pentagon? Some jerk actually threatened to have airport security arrested over “his junk” when they gave him a pat down after he refused the security screening.  The outrage is priceless and sooooooo American, as if flying is a right or something.

We want there to be planes enough to fly all of us simultaneously but we want to fly with $5 tickets we got at cheapsk8s.com in perfect security without having to have our underwear checked for bombs even though that’s where the last one was.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rather than being thankful that we can make the journey across the country in a matter of hours that took weeks or months only a hundred years ago, we line up for the cameras to bitch about the miracle.  Drowning in blessings, even in tough times, we complain about the package that our gifts came in rather than saying thank you.  Americans could have a bad time at an orgy.

I think we have in mind a version of holidays — and life for that matter – that we compiled out of storybooks, movies and TV specials.  We have our hearts set on things being the way we’d hoped or worse yet, the way we remember they used to be even though they never were.  Then no matter what happens, when it is reality and not fantasy, we cannot help be let down.

More holidays and lives are ruined by expectations than anything that actually happens.

We are a country built on rising expectations.  We expect life to be better with each successive generation.  It’s served us well.  We work very hard and we have achieved so much.  Yet unsated expectation keeps happiness always at bay.

I think the problem may be with our bettermometers.  Each degree of our success is measured materially.  For things to be “better” we must have bigger houses, or incomes, or just more and more stuff.  I’m not really sure, beyond the process of modernization, how much better we can live than we do.  Yet our expectations of success, as measured by our broken bettermometers, tell us that no matter how far we’ve come, its’ not far enough.  No matter how much I have there’s always more that I don’t.

It’s the expectations that keep us unsatisfied, even after our massive turkey dinners.

What if we chose to measure “better” in the number of homeless we got off the street? What if we took pride in how many poor kids we fed or how lavish the educations we provided all children? What if we congratulated ourselves for great the healthcare we provided for everyone no matter what? I think we might actually make room to “feel” thankful if we jettisoned a little of our overstock of selfish.  If we look for what we can give or are just grateful to be able to give what we’re already giving instead of obsessing with we can get, we take expectation and disappointment out of the equation.

That might be something to be thankful for while we’re waiting to be frisked.



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Greed is good.

It was a line from a movie in the 80’s.  It was spoken by the villain.  It was intended as an indictment by the filmmaker.  It was adopted as a mantra by a generation.  Apparently no one noted that the speaker of the iconic line went to prison at the end of the film.

I think the line spoke to the spoiled children of the baby boom and told us just what we wanted to hear:   It’s not only okay to be selfish, it’s a good idea.  There’s only so much prosperity pie to go around and if you don’t get a slice, there won’t be any for you.

Greed is just fear gazing into the future.

Thirty years later we have disguised our greed, our fear of the future, with a thousand rationalizations.  Social Security won’t be there for me so we need to end it now.  Those greedy teachers are ruining education even though we stopped paying for it in the 70’s.  Health care reform means I’ll have to pay poor people’s doctor bills.  And the end of all these scenarios is that there won’t be any left for me!

What do we have to show for our lack of investment?

At the time the movie Wall Street came out, we were busy planting the seeds that we are harvesting today.  Companies were being bought and traded like used cars, broken up and sold off for parts and scrap for the profit of only the traders.  Those who had counted on those businesses to support them and their families were out of luck.  The industrial foundation of the country was broken up and shipped overseas.  We shifted to a “service based” economy – had any of that “service” lately? Then we shipped the services overseas.

Retail was gutted by the “buy more cheaper” philosophy so we that those who’d lost their good paying jobs could still afford to buy large quantities of the same crap.

Today our great country can’t even make its own TV’s but we can buy ‘em cheap at the WalMart.

The computers and smart phones that are supposed transport us to our roadside markets along the information highway aren’t made here.  I don’t even know if we can still make anything.

In short, the greed born in the 80’s has made the prosperity pie smaller.  Fewer people control more of the money than ever before.

Henry Ford did one of the smartest things anyone ever did.  He paid the people who worked for him enough that they could afford to buy his product.  Before Henry, automobiles were like those electric Tesla sports cars driven by the George Clooney crowd.  Only rich people had cars and nobody much worked in the auto industry.  Imagine what the manufacture and sales of cars have added to the prosperity of this country.  I know, they’ve added a lot of particulate matter to the atmosphere too, but that’s another blog.

The point is, the greatest thing about this country is that we’re the greatest market in world.  That market is made up of an affluent middle class.  And having an affluent middle class means sharing the pie.  The richer we make more people, the more pie there is for everyone.  Even the rich people get richer if more people are making more money.

How does that happen? Well, first we need to spend a fortune on education so that there is a future.  Then we need to provide the best and most lavish infrastructure on the planet – how else to get all that crap to WalMart if we’ve no roads to ship it on? That’s right, the freeways made WalMart not the Waltons, we all made the single largest investments in their billions dollar empire.

All that evil tax money gets spent on us.  They don’t keep it in a vault.  They buy us stuff and they buy that stuff from us.  They build us stuff and they hire us to build it.  They give our neighbors jobs so our neighbors can afford to shop at our store so we afford to hire their kids to work so they can pay more taxes so we can all have more stuff.  They allow us to take care of those least able to take care of themselves – the old, the young, the poor.  The 80’s gave us street people.  Maybe we should start calling them Wall Street people.

The trouble with greed is that it tells me that I’m better off alone.

The truth is, it’s only together that we’re able to be our best.

So, don’t forget to vote and don’t forget what’s at stake.


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When the World Trade Center was attacked, the Reverend Jerry Falwell said the hideous terrorist act was God’s punishment on the US for offering equal rights to gay people and, worse, women.  It was, in Falwell’s view, God striking out at this country for believing that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights by their creator.   Clearly, the Right Reverend felt we are not all so endowed and that the country was being punished for it.

Apparently Mr. Falwell thought God was a not only a Muslim extremist, but also a little slow on the uptake since notions of equality are the principals on which this country was founded several hundred years prior to September 11, 2001.  Not sure what God was waiting for and I’ve no idea about Falwell’s whole Muslim extremist/God connection beliefs.  Perhaps it’s just one extremist admiring the work of another.

Falwell was creating hatred with his words.  He was encouraging the shooting of fifteen year old Lawrence King for being gay.  He was arming the lunatic who murdered a doctor for performing medical procedures he didn’t agree with.  He was doing the work of evil by creating evil in the world with his words.  He was an Anti-Christ — the opposite of Christ in his words and actions.

When a massive earthquake struck Haiti, destroying the capital and killing tens of thousands, the Reverend Pat Robertson said it was God punishing the people of Haiti for throwing off the yoke of slavery and fighting for their freedom.  Another Anti-Christ, Robertson  was creating evil in the world by speaking it.

I’m gay so I don’t feel welcome to be a Christian, and I would never presume to suggest asking ourselves “What would Jesus do?”  Perhaps, though, I could suggest asking “What would Jesus say?”  I can’t imagine Jesus saying that gay people getting married is the same as “incest and pedophilia,” as the Anti-Christ, Reverend Rick Warren said.

Apparently what Jesus did say was “Love one another as I have loved you.”  He did not say that we should love one another with the following exceptions.  Nor did he imply that we should love one another but feel free to work against others sharing our same rights and privileges.   What he did apparently say was that “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  This means we can easily recognize those who are NOT his disciples.  They’re the ones who don’t love others, or advocate it, or speak out for it or, as in the case of Anti-Christs like Warren, Falwell, Robertson and those like them, speak out against loving one another.

So when in the face of this epidemic nation tragedy of gay teen suicides, Mormon Elder Boyd Packer gives a hate filled sermon claiming that God is incompetent and made some of his children to be unnatural and impure.  When Packer rails against sacred bonds of love and marriage, it’s easy to see he’s too is an Anti-Christ.

It is odd to me that the most evil things I hear in the world today are spoken by those who claim to speak for their God.

I don’t know that I’m a disciple, but it’s easy to see who isn’t.

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On Writing #5: Redux

I’m bringing my novel Say Uncle back into print!
I’m going to try my hand at digital publishing. Then, maybe I’ll publish it in traditional print form, too. If that goes well, maybe I’ll bring out the sequel that I wrote but which my turncoat publisher refused to release. We’ll see. It’s all very new and exciting and I hope I can count on your support.
It’s also presented me with one of my most interesting exercises ever.
Say Uncle was published back in ancient times – 1994. The process of publishing simply bears no resemblance to those primitive earlier days. I’m not sure I could have been a writer before there were computers. The prospect of retyping an entire manuscript every time I had to edit it, well, I simply could not have faced it.
And I wrote this, my first book, in long hand, as I did everything back in the before times. But I then typed it up on a 300 pound “portable” Compaq and saved it on giant, actually, floppy disks. Then I printed it out. The last time was at a HUD office in East L.A. where I was temping. It shut their network down and took all day to print out.
Once printed the hard copy was sent to agents and later publishers. Each edit was done by hand, on paper. I then made the changes, reprinted and sent another paper copy. Finally, the publisher typeset the book, which involved someone there typing the whole manuscript over again. Then they sent me a paper copy. I marked changes and sent it back. This happened a few more times. Finally, the book itself was printed.
Today, things I write might not be printed on paper until they are published. I guess, with digital everything and Kindles, iPads, Nooks and eReaders eventually books will only ever be printed as collector’s items. Who knows?
The point is, the only final copy I have of Say Uncle is the book.
Hence, my interesting exercise. I have to retype the whole novel in order to publish it digitally. Alas, no file I have is final.
I love Say Uncle. It has a special place in my heart. It’s my first and so it will always mean something more to me. But I wrote it in the early 80’s. I would not be much of an artist if my writing style and skills had not changed and grown in 25 years.
Picasso’s early rose and blue periods hardly hinted at the cubism that he came to be known for. Da Vinci apparently kept the Mona Lisa with him all of his life. I wonder if he kept working on it? Perhaps that’s why it is considered such a masterwork. Or did he simply say one day, “That’s it. All through,” and hang it over the sofa?
So here I am, faced with retyping words chosen 25 years ago to describe emotions and events by a twenty-five-year-old. I am committed to preserving the original, to recreating exactly the book that’s in the Library of Congress. On the other hand, I don’t write this way anymore. I don’t even feel this way anymore.
That is to say, I feel the same things, but I feel them differently.
I’ve always thought reading was an incredibly intimate process. When I read your words, I’m actually having the thoughts that you had in the order and evolution that you had them. Through reading I get to experience personally the greatest thoughts of the greatest minds that ever were. Nothing is more intimate than that.
If you know me you’ve probably heard me say that or something like it at least once and, forgive me, probably more often. But it never occurred to me that I could have that experience with my younger self. This book was always very personal to me. It isn’t autobiographical in that I’ve never raised a child. It is in that it’s as close as I’ve gotten so far in life. It was my best imagining of what sort of parent I would have been at that point in time.
I started retyping after I exhausted every other conceivable option. I’ve only just resigned myself to the task.
It’s jarring. My first impulse, as is so often the case with youth, is to “correct.” There’s some insight in that for me. I really just want to change it. Whether that would be an improvement is debatable. I hope I’m more flexible than that with young people or just other people.
Not far along, I’m taken with the intensity of everything. I suppose since the feelings were new, they felt stronger. How intriguing to taste the salty tears of my youth on a palate jaded by experience and the knowledge of how much worse it can be.
I don’t know yet if this will be my Julie and Julia exercise – and dear god help me to be a better human being than that woman – but I’ll keep you posted. I’ll certainly let you know when it’s done and the book is again available!
Meanwhile, the thought that comes to me most comes from the original Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie: God gave us memory so we might have roses in December.
I don’t know if I’m quite at December yet, but I do want to say to that twenty-five-year-old me scratching on yellow pads at the kitchen table: “Thanks for the memories.”

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