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S.A.N.T.A.

Let’s get one thing straight, I might need you but you need me too. So let me just start with a what the hell! You have got to be kidding me … right? This cannot be real. I mean, are you serious?!? What more do you want!?! Okay now that that is out of the way let’s try for full disclosure.

I am a Nisse and my very existence is now threatened, once again I might add, because so many of you with your oh so fact driven mindsets do not believe in Santa. This is getting old folks. We dealt with this issue way back in the 1500s, originally that is, and then again in the 1800s. I mean really;

Is there a Santa Claus? Does Santa really deliver all those presents? How does Santa visit all the good boys and girls?

Your incesent disbelief has become like a school yard taunt, unoriginal and repetitive. We have heard these questions with increasing frequency over the last 50 years, and I, for one, am tired of having to watch adults stumble through explinations. However, and perhaps more troubling, the questions have now reached critical mass. They have become a threat to our lives.

Before you dismiss me out of hand allow me to explain how you and your questions are slowing killing me. See Nisse are actually lesser fairies, by which I mean we walk not fly, and like our sparkling June-bug sized kin we require your belief. It sustains us like water to a flower; without it we slowly wilt and fade. 

I know that outside of Scandinavia few know our true names therefore it might be hard to imagine that enough people believe in us at all for us to still exist. You’re not wrong. We first faced this issue back in the 1500s when fairy lore was slipping into mythology. We transitioned from doing helpful deeds to delivering gifts. It still was not enough. The population was growing but sadly belief in us was not. Around this time we heard tell of Father Christmas a genial and jolly man keeping the works of Saint Nicolas alive in England. We immediately saw him as the answer to all of our problems. You see here was another population who already believed in a gift giver who even had his own holiday. So we fashioned ourselves after him going door to door handing out gifts of food requesting only that the recipients hold on to these yuletide feelings year long.

We spent years toiling away spreading Father Christmas’s brand of cheer but all it did was build his fame. Gift giving by a magical being on Christmas was happening all over Europe, thanks to us, but everyone was forgetting the ground work we were putting in. So in the 1800s when Father Christmas was busy becoming Santa Claus, thanks to the up and coming Americans, we made an executive decision to unify the two endeavors. We, the Nisse, would be the work force helping to make the gifts, now small toys, and the deliveries, now done secretively via chimnies, and Santa Claus would be the face of the operation.

And what a hype man, I mean everyone knows about Santa Claus and his hard working elves. His involvement has been key to our continued survival, but it’s a two-way street. His noteriety lends us the credability we need, even if you use the wrong term, what’s in a name anyway. Without us he would have been a failure, no man is an island including the jolly Mr. Claus.

So I would like to take this moment to make an official statement. 

Yes, S.A.N.T.A. exists, and yes, S.A.N.T.A. delivers all the presents in one night. The Secret Aggregrate of Nisse for Toy Aqusition makes sure of that. So save your cookies and milk what we want as a thank you is a little faith and a little gratitude, you know if you’re feeling generous, or you will be stuffing your own stockings. Warning to the wise.

All rights to the owner whom I thank

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What do you remember?

As seen on wikimedia all rights to the owner

The night was sharp. I have no better way to describe it. It looked like it had been cutaway from the daylight by a painter’s knife with short sure motions. 

I could focus on little else.

Driven to distraction it wasn’t till my fingers started to burn from the icy wind that I looked away from the heavenly Bob Ross. Summer sunsets are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but there is some kind of eery otherworldliness in crisp winter night skies. 

Once inside I turned off the TV and put a kettle on to boil, the image had me in the mood for strong tea and dark silence. So I watched the red-orange flames lick out alive waiting for the hiss of steam.

I held the mug with both hands soaking up the minty warmth, but the tension in my shoulders refussed to drain away. Something in the night nagging at the periphery of my attention. The house was quite, the door was locked, I closed my eyes willing the edges of my frayed nerves to lie flat…

I startle at the sound of a man clearing his throat sloshing piping hot tea onto my right hand.

“Ma’am can you tell me what happened,” he asks a look somewhere between pity and suspicion in his eyes.

“Happened? What happened?”

He checks a notepad while I look around the small uncomfortable room. It has dingy short pile carpet, a table with coffee cup rings, and hard molded plastic chairs. The man makes direct eye contact, only suspicion this time, “What do you remember?”

“It was sharp,” his eyebrows shoot towards the ceiling, “the night was sharp.” I elaborate, “the sky had this look like it was painted, you know what I mean? Too many straight edges…sharp-like.”

“That’s what you remember?” 

He’s incredulous.

“What about the fire? Do you not remember the fire?” The man is very nearly yelling at me.

I consider what he has said, thinking back, trying to remember. Like a reflex I take a sip of tea, “I made tea.” I offer holding up the mug.

He stands and walks to the door. Quick quiet words are exchanged with someone I cannot see. “I just handed you that tea ma’am,” he says while walking back to the table, “you don’t remember anything.” This time it’s a statement not a question.

“The night was sharp and otherworldly.”

He looks at me so hard he looks through me. The pity is back in his eyes.

When I’m gone let me go, but carve my name upon a stone. 

Such a silly thing to pop into a persons head, especially a healthy person, but there it was. An unshakeable truth that once thought could not be set aside. All of a sudden the graveyard I was passing looked even more beautiful and tranquil. And selfish. And prideful. 

What makes us want to inscribe our name in stone after we pass on to what is next? Could it be our very human desire to be eternal and more than just existed? To be remembered requires no such monuments so the reason must be much more personal and deeply dark.

Are we naive to carve into the very earth our names? If even the names of young lovers inscribed in passion is eventually lost to growth; then surely with time even a name writ in pain will wear away. We are but yelling into a void hoping the echo might be heard by someone… by anyone. 

Oddly the thought made me smile. I want a stone; on a hill, near a tree, overlooking a pond. I want the wind and rain to slowly wash my name away. I want to be lost to time like all those who came before me, but first I want the taste of imortality. So till time has had its way with me let that stone stand as proof I lived and loved. 

For as the deep set lines wear away my need for them shall surely fade.

By Megatruth as seen on DeviantArt


I shiver chafing my hands together on the bus. Even sitting uncomfortably close to a stranger my fingers and toes ache with cold. Standing on curbs waiting for late public transportation has that effect on even the most weather worn new englanders I imagine.

Staring out the window I feel myself begin to thaw in the sunlight. Now I can see it. The riot of color, the light frost turning to dew on the grass… Then I can see it. There under a blanket on the cold stone footer of the decorative bridge lays a person covered with a blanket a shopping cart at their feet. 

The shiver comes again. This time it is the cold creeping under my skin and into my soul. 

How dare I complain. 

The image whips past me as the light changes, no matter it is burned into my mind. 

All rights to the owner of the image whom I thank

So I’m an old fashioned book reader. To me this means that I love the tactile component of reading an honest to goodness paper and ink book. That being said I will on occasion read digitally, to try out new authors mostly, but what I am here to tell you today is that I believe some books are even better as digital copies. For instance Emotional Rescue: Essays on Love, Loss, and Life – with a soundtrack by Ben Greenman. This book was on the editors pick list (Amazon) and after reading the title I pondered for less than a minute before I started downloading. They were right, it is every bit as good as the title suggests and then some.

For those of you who stoped at the word essays I urge you to keep reading because they don’t feel like the writing assignments you might recal from undergrad they feel like internal dialogue. Let me explain. Mr. Greenman uses essays to have the liberty to jump topics between chapters which you cannot do, or rather it would be very difficult to do, in a typical story format. As such we can go from talking about pain/pleasure to sense/nonsense to distance/nearness. What is great about the essay format other than the wide array of topics that become available is that is has the feel of listening to the radio. As if, for instance, you are cruising down the highway rocking out and feeling happy and alive then all of a sudden the station plays a ballad and you remember your junior prom date. It was done to such a tremendous effect too. 

Let me also state outright that I love Mr. Greenman’s narrative voice. It felt very comfortable almost as if he was posing the questions he answers directly to me. I do honestly believe he has the large pool of friends who just call to talk that his essays suggest, and who could blame them as his perspective it quite interesting.

Now although I loved the book and I have already been recommending  it to anyone who will listen I’m not sure I would love it as a paperback. With my digital copy I highlighted amazing points that he makes regularly through out the entire narrative. I could also immediately look up songs which I had never heard or needed to hear again. The magic of technology allowed me to listen to the soundtrack of Mr. Greenman’s life while I read about the highlights. Which *gasp* fulfilled my need for multi sensory reading. As such a traditional book read of these essays would have been a completely different experience.

Should you still not be sold on this book please allow me just two more points. First, while Emotional Rescue is a far cry from the typical linear story telling most of us readers have come to love and expect by the end it came to an actual end. By which I mean that at the end all of the story telling (including the hard left turns) makes sense and even comes to a nicely tied up conclusion like a well constructed stand up comedy skit. The second point is perhaps more of a me point but I cannot help myself. In my mind this story would make an amazing musical… There I said it! I can completely picture it and I hope that someone else can too because this is a book I don’t just want to read it’s a book I want to experience!

I’m not saying that all the answers to the questions of restlessness, energy, intensity, and comfort—how long to hold a job, how long to keep a lover, how long to stay in one place before hopping on a train or a plane or into a balloon—reside in two minutes of a never-released song recorded by a virtually unknown novelty singer. But I’m not saying that they’re not.     -Ben Greenman

Looking

If I had to describe it I would have said that she had her sea legs. She swayed from toe to heel in the ebb and flow her hand resting gently on the rail in front of her like an after thought. Her ease was all the more evident as the man with nervous eyes directly to her left gripped the rail like a life line. Was she adrift? Certainly, but she wasn’t casting about for rescue like the man. Her eyes swung over the throng pausing to read this or that sign, to stare out the windows where brief and eerie light would often break the gloom, and when anyone met her gaze head on she smiled before looking away. If the though that I shouldn’t be watching this sure-footed woman had actually crossed my mind I would have dimissed it, the T was a dull dredge of a task only made better by people watching, but it didn’t. So I waited to see if she would notice me also a veteran of the halting jerking MBTA holding a book in one hand and the rail in the other. Till then I would continue to make sailing analogies. She even wore nautical navy trousers and linen all she needed was sun and surf and the look would have been complete. The slow moving green line surfaced, whale-like, she  adjusted her bag freeing a pair of sunglasses and caught me looking. Her eyes dropped and heat raced around my collar. No smile for me then, but she looked back up quickly and smiled before putting on her bright green frames. I watched as she pressed the call button and waited for the doors to open. As the doors slid to a close I walked over to the window to watch her disappear as the T sank back underground. She waved once and fell out of sight. Maybe she was more like a mirage … or a fever dream…

I found a misused copy of this paperback on the shelf of my local swap shack (basically a large lean-to filled with “free to a good home” items) and it begged to be picked up. Like many I knew about the Lovely Bones, it was a bestseller after all, and I had seen the movie, but I had not read the book. So nearly 15 years after it had originally been published I started my secondhand copy with the dark ring shaped stain (suggesting it had functioned as a coffee mug holder way more than as a stunning piece of literature). I am happy to report that where it fails as a coaster it more than succeeds as a work of fiction.

This book opens with one of the most hit you in the chest lines I have ever read.


In my opinion books live and die in the first chapter, if I’m not hooked by the end of Chapter 1 it’s going to be a slog. This book had me by paragraph 1!

There are many things to love about this book, and just as many ways to approach this review. I won’t be sumerizing, go find another review if you are looking for a book report, or doing an in depth character analysis. I will instead give you 5 reasons why you must read this book (as I see them anyway).

  1. The tension- If you love a good who done it mystery or crime drama don’t pass this book up. You may know who did what but believe me there is tension in spades. Will the guilty party be found out? Will Susie figure out how to live in her heaven and in her family’s world? What impact will this have on everyone who was touched by Susie? Can a family torn apart by violence pull together? I could go on too. Don’t be fooled, knowing the killer’s identity does not mean that this story will disappoint in the surprise or gasp worthy moments.
  2. It is not a let’s hold hands and cry cathartically book-So I recently tried to convince someone to read the book and the response was “I don’t like books about little girls being murdered” followed by the “is something wrong with you?” look. That is not this book! Yes of course there are sad moments, Susie and her family grapple with some very serious things, but for me at least it was way more joyous than depressing. For example I felt sheer joy when Lindsey falls in love, laughed out loud at/with Grandma Lynn, and smiled from ear to ear as Ruth cajoles Ray into friendship. Don’t let the emotion behind this story scare you off, embrace it. The young feel everything as passionate extremes allow yourself to get swept up in it, it is Susie’s story after all take this opportunity to look through another’s eyes.
  3. For the lines you will want to highlight and quote (though I cannot condone book disfigurement)- This book is full of memorable lines and I am sure different ones will stand out depending on what you need. Goodreads lists over 200 and I am sure there are even more quotable lines. As I read The Lovely  Bones I was struck by how many people could be reached by Alice Sebold’s words. I found lines to share with those struggling with loss, that I would love to text to my young cousins, to help the many who never felt like they belonged in their current situation, to inspire, to encourage, and to just mull over. The words in this book are living things and each read breaths new life into them.
  4. It is better (longer) than the movie- Now I know that every time you hear this sentence it is accompanied by a look of disdain, but that’s not how I mean it. What I mean is the movie is constrained by time. There is only so much time which can pass during a normal length feature film before the audience loses focus. Whereas books can be as long as they want spanning decades of time. So while the movie keeps us focused on let’s say the next five years surrounding Susie’s murder The book reaches further into the future where we see Lindsey graduate college, Ray working towards an MD, and an aging Mr. Harvey. The reason I like the extended time line is twofold. Firstly, it suggests, with subtlety, the timelessness of Susie’s heaven. The jumps in time are not the same from chapter to chapter and we follow her friends and family for different stretches of time as well. To me this makes perfect sense and is a wonderful way to show the disconnect between Susie and everyone still living on earth. Secondly, it puts a fine point on the fact that Susie doesn’t get to grow up. A little harsh I suppose but true. This is a life and death story told by a young adult and her perspective cannot change because she cannot change (which is important to how the story ends). Mr. Harvey is a man and Susie is a girl if she becomes a woman the fear of him will lessen. So in my opinion the time in the book is critical both explaining and being explained by the story making the book better than the movie.
  5. Karma- So whether or not you believe in the religious component of karma most of us like the idea of good things happening for good people and bad things happening to bad people. Believe it or not, but I think this book adheres to this universal ideology. Yes, something horrible happens to Susie but she is not lessened by it George Harvey is. She is in a perfect world and she receives the ultimate gift in the end (not to give anything away here is tricky). While this may seem like a small consolation I still believe it counts because Susie gets joy, love, and wonder while Mr. Harvey does not. His fate is darker and well deserved.

Susie’s voice is refreshing and the story is captivating, hit the library stacks you will be glad you did.

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Okay so Bookworm first…

On my second reading of Hamilton The Revolution I fell in love with Jeremy McCarter’s narrative. Beyond the beautiful imagery and quotable text Mr. McCarter creates a wonderful story within a story vibe. This allows The Revolution to be told both from his perspective and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s. For reasons that I cannot fully explain this made me think of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Regardless, the flow of The Revolution surprised me. Mr. McCarter frames each of Mr. Miranda’s beautiful scenes/songs with more than just informative background information he instead acts as MC setting up each scene with precision. Each song is in turn highlighted by Mr. Miranda’s various footnotes which give the reader an even more behind the scenes look at the how/why/when/ and where of it all. The overall effect left me with a dizzying omnipresent fly-on-the-wall feeling.

What was interesting to me, other than the interlocking narrative, libretto, and footnotes, were the design elements of the story being told. The selection of pull-quotes (which I initially thought would be distracting) were actually nice ways to underscore the tone or feeling of each chapter and were very well selected. The placement of photos was also well done adding rather than detracting from the story. Even the choice of page colors echoed the emotions specific to individuals or scenes. However, my favorite additions were the chapter names. While reading a book with numbered chapters is not impossible reading one with titled chapters is much more fun. I love the titles of The Revolution’s chapters as much as I loved the tiny illustrations at the beginning of each Harry Potter chapter (which is saying a lot).

I will also say that as a bibliophile this book is amazing to read. The cover and binding are surprisingly stunning, the actual pages have a lovely weight to them, and it opens flat (which I love in a hardback). I could go on but I won’t gush; let it suffice to say that while this 288 page monster of a book is heavy and all around sizeable I was happy to carry it around because I loved reading it.

Now for the Fangirl…

I ordered this book the day it was released on Amazon which it turned out was a huge mistake as I had to wait almost a month to receive it in the mail, but the wait was worth it. As most Hamilton Revolutionaries (and I am not sure if this is the official term for those of us obsessed with Hamilton An American Musical but it should be) I have scoured the internet for videos, pictures, and interviews, and therefore could not wait for another piece of the Hamilton puzzle. Enter the Hamiltome. It is everything you could have wanted, minus Mr. Miranda narrating the audio-book. The pictures are top quality and include both candid and professional shots. The interviews with collaborators, actors, and assorted Theater Greats are to die for. The footnotes are an insane inside view of the complicated genius that is Mr. Miranda’s brain, and the stage notes are fabulous additions to my own internally choreographed rendition of the play.

On my first read through I treated the Hamiltome like a Disney read-along (with record for those of you old enough to remember these). I read each chapter then listened to the corresponding song. It was a ridiculously fun way to absorb the narrative. It spotlighted tiny things which my mind had overlooked like the gasp in Satisfied, the violin cords under “Only nineteen but my mind is older”, and the fact that Hamilton sings “Hey! At least he was honest with our money!” in the Reynolds Pamphlet (in a funny yet sad plea for understanding).

There are so many great finds in Hamilton The Revolution whether you read it as a book, a read-along, or the latest Hamilton related item to be obsessed over. I have both devoured it over a weekend (in my first reading) and read it slowly (over a week in my second go-round). It is well written, has a wonderful pace to it making you want to read more, and has tidbits of information I have yet to hear via any other interview. The Hamiltome is in a word amazing, in two a must read! To steal a line “beg, steal, borrow, or barter” but read this book!

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Spring evening

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~Hungry eyes by ericadalmaso on DeviantArt~

Fucking spring.

I fasten the toggles on my Gloverall and start up the street. The wind pics up.

Tick…tick…tick tick tick tick tickticktick.

Perfect.

I hunch my shoulders, drop my head, and pull my hood up.

Squelch…skewe….squelch…skewe.

Damn it.

I shiver as a stray rain drop slides down my back.

Braaahhhhnnn! Ding ding ding ding. Brraahhhnn!

What time is it?

The cold wet of my pant leg starts to chafe pulling at my attention, a distraction from the ache in my side.

Slap, slap…shhaaaa…slap, slap…aaaahh…slap, slap. Ding…

I stop running and hold my side fighting for a full breath.

6:21! You gotta be kiddin’ me!

“You got a dollar miss? I need to get home.”

Yah, you and me both.

So this is an attempt at writing a first person present tense story. I became interested in this choice of perspective after I came across Whose skin am I in posted by J.S. Kuiken. This post was thought provoking and made me want to try my hand at a new and challenging story telling mechanism. Well it was very hard to tell the story without narrating, but I hope that I was able to keep you interested in my character and her plight. Be sure to check out J.S. Kuiken’s blog.

Façade

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As seen on Etsy - sookimstudio

It was subtle.  Not something the casual observer would have noticed.  Just a few well hidden hairline fractures in the otherwise perfect façade.  The constant fussing with her hair drawing unwanted attention to the pealing faux finish on her designer sunglasses.  The too fancy up-do nearly hiding the roots showing in her outgrown custom balayage highlights.  All the pieces were there, slightly shabby, but there, and to the unobservant she was a woman who had it all totally together.  Truthfully she was on the brink.  The clinched jaw, roving eyes, and fidgety hands gave her away.  She was holding on by her not so professionally manicured finger tips.

“You have to act like you don’t care,” I said over my shoulder when I caught her checking herself in the dark reflective glass of the subway window.

“Excuse me?”

“Act like you don’t care,” I repeated.  “If you have it, you know it, and you don’t have to check on it.”

Her mouth opened and closed a few times before she decided to ignore me, but she didn’t look in the glass again.  Instead she leaned back cocking her hip in an “I’m so bored pose”.  I couldn’t help but smile.

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