Chia Obama

Dear Editor,
I have enjoyed the last two Mallard Fillmore cartoons depicting President Obama as a Chia pet. I have to disagree with the people who think this is a racist cartoon.
I get it. Black people have curly hair. President Obama is only half white, so his hair might not be as curly as someone who is black on both sides of his family. Chia Pets have straight green grass instead of hair.
It’s hilarious and not racist at all to depict America’s first African American president, the most powerful man in the world, as a Chia Pet because of his hair.
When I saw the followup this morning, with all the people who got Chia Obamas for the solstice returning them, I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “there’s nothing racist about that.” That’s what I said. I said, “There’s nothing racist about that,” and that’s the truth or I wouldn’t have said it.
Thank you for publishing such a funny and not racist at all cartoon. I hope you get some more non-racist Chia humor in the new year.

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Women are mean.

I have been on a British/Irish author binge recently. I stumbled across Rob Johnson’s “Lifting the Lid” a couple months ago and enjoyed it. It’s a comedy-detective novel. It was more detective than comedy, but I had no complaints.

I started the sequel “Heads You Lose” last week. The set up was long but last night the Boss kicked me out of bed. Things started coming together in the story and I couldn’t stop laughing and I couldn’t put the book down.

She usually likes it when I read to her, but she doesn’t like random snippets of books she’s not being read when she’s trying to go to sleep. She gets mean when I wake her up to share something, even if it’s especially juicy.

I can’t figure women out.

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A Book with One of those Covers

One of Those FacesA Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell is a book with one of those covers.

Yes, I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but who among us can honestly say we don’t do that. We see a gorgeous man or woman, a sleek sports car or an electronic gadget that looks sexy and think, “Don’t know what that is, but I gotta have it!”

This book was the opposite of that. It turned up in my To be read pile and I had no idea where it had come from or why it was there. The title was uninspiring. I didn’t recognize the author’s name and what’s with that weird H at the end? I was about to toss it aside for the next book in the pile when I looked at the back cover. It said, “A brilliant comedic crime thriller.” It said, “…whip-smart and funny.”

I knew it was illegal in Ireland to lie on the backs of books, so I thought I’d give it a chance.

I was hooked by the end of the first page. Clever writing. Funny plot. Good characters. Terrific idea for a crime thriller.

The funny and the clever stayed for the whole book, but the terrific idea for the crime thriller—a guy with “one of those faces,” a face that everyone mistakes for someone else—rather disappeared. After the first couple pages it played little role in the story.

Paul Mulchrone, the man who looks like everyone else, accidentally doesn’t learn a deadly secret, but someone’s trying to kill him, just in case. Nurse Brigit, who persuaded him to talk to the dying man, has read a lot of detective books and wants to help Paul figure out why anyone wants to kill him. Bunny McGarry is a hurling coach and a police detective. He never bluffs, and he’d like to atone for something he did to Paul many years ago, though he’s too mean to even think it.

With the help of some of New Scotland Yard’s finest, Paul has to solve one of Ireland’s most notorious crimes while running from the police and the Irish mob.

I learned many years ago that Irish bulls are always pregnant. When I started this book and was delighted by the clever writing and humor, I sought the author on Facebook and told him how much I was enjoying his book. As an aside, because of that odd H at the end of his name, I asked how his name was pronounced. He told me “The phonetic spelling of Caimh is “Qweeve.” No really. It’s Irish.”

I have decided that I’m going to change the spelling of my name to Qweeve, but I going to still pronounce it “Dan.” I going to explain to anyone who asks that, “I’m Irish.”

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Inappropriate touching

We got our kitchen remodeled last summer. With the recent cold weather, our new dishwasher stopped working. I called the contractor to ask if he had any ideas. He came and thawed the drain, rerouted it a little and added some insulation.
I am not prejudiced against any silliness. I want to be left alone, but what people do on their own time is none of my business. The contractor and his wife made their religious leanings clear during the six weeks they worked on our kitchen. They were always doing something for their church or dashing off to a prayer meeting or something. We ignored it.
I have been suffering through the flu for the past couple weeks. The greatest manifestation had been a horrible cough.I was alone in the house when the contractor came to see about the dishwasher. He’s a nice enough guy, 10-15 years older than I am. He did a great job on the kitchen. He was happy to fix the problem with the dishwasher. When it was solved, he came to me in the dining room, where I was sipping some hot tea and asked a favor. Bells flashed in my head and lights sounded, but I asked him what I could do for him. “Can I pray for you?” he said.
I like this guy. He did a good job on my wife’s kitchen. My wife and his wife worked happily together on the design. I didn’t want to vomit or shout at him, much as I wanted to vomit and shout at him. The situation made me feel ookie. Suddenly I thought I knew what a woman who was being propositioned by the town pervert felt like. “I have to get a load of laundry done,” I said. I think I hunkered for the first time, hugging my steaming mug of tea.
“It will only take a second,” he said.
“I think we can both find a better way to spend our time,” I said.
“I’m only talking about fifteen seconds,” he said, but he backed off.
He’s going to do a little more work on the kitchen. I’m not sure I want to be alone with him.

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New authors are a treasure worth seeking

Burning BrightI am always excited when I discover a new author.

About ten years ago my brother-in-law handed me Lee Child’s Killing Floor and I read my first Jack Reacher adventure. I was hooked. I read the dozen or so Reacher books that were available then started reading each one as it became available. Between my brother, my brothers-in-law, my son and my nephews, I only had to buy a couple. The rest passed my way as they made their way through the family.

After ten years I am finally able to return the favor, at least in a small way.

I browse the books in the supermarket. I saw Nick Petrie’s Burning Bright and read the first chapter before the manager asked me for the third time if everything was okay.

Burning Bright was the second Petrie book. The writing was clever and tight. The story was interesting and unexpected. It was good enough that I wanted to read Petrie’s first before I went any further in his second. As soon as I got home I ordered The Drifter from Amazon and read it when it arrived 48 hours later.

Burning BrightI’ve read enough books that I don’t often get caught up in a book and have to finish it before I turn off the light. I did with The Drifter. I finished it in one reading.

Peter Ash is an ex-USMC lieutenant. He suffers from PTSD. His friend commits suicide while Ash is in the mountains dealing with his own problems. When Ash learned of the suicide, he tried to help his friend’s family only to find out that there was more to the suicide than there seemed at first.

Peter Ash is not the sleeping giant that Jack Reacher is. Ash is just a guy trying to deal with the things he went through in the Middle East and the way those things changed him.

Petrie idealizes veterans a little, but he also shows some of the things veterans have to deal with while serving and after serving their country. He does this while telling a gripping story.

Ash meets some memorable characters who turn out differently than any I have read in other books. Some of the good guys turn out to be not so good. Some of the bad guys are pretty damned bad, but in unexpected ways. Petrie surprised and pleased me with his handling of both the good guys and the bad guys.

I took a short break then read Burning Bright. Peter Ash uses the skills he learned as a Marine and, with the help of some of his veteran friends, takes an out-of-control private contractor out of the game. Burning Bright is full of great characters, tomorrow’s technology and some men and women who aren’t what they seem at first blush.

Anyone can write a first novel. It takes a writer to write a second novel. Nick Petrie is a writer.

I can now balance the scales with my brother-in-law. I can turn him on to a series we can share. On the one hand, I’m glad I found Petrie first. On the other hand, I’m sorry I found him when he’d only written two books. I am looking forward to reading more of Peter Ash’s adventures. I’ve read lots of stories. It takes something new to surprise me. Petrie surprised me in both his first and second novels. He won’t get by me next time. I’ll be ready and waiting.

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Traveling is not for amateurs

French-Toast-01Our Parisian adventure began when we got off our Delta flight and met our French Uber driver Qamar Hussain wearing a Yankees baseball cap. It was 8 a.m. local time. We hadn’t eaten since our snack of Corn Flakes and Cheerios several hours earlier.

Qamar led us to his Toyota Corolla, loaded our luggage and drove us to the nearest Denny’s where we got some authentic French toast and some terrible coffee.

A brief but terrifying two-hour drive convinced me that France was full of terrorists and they were all on the road that morning.

We checked into our hotel. The mademoiselle who checked us in assured us that there was a fan in our room because the extreme heat was overwhelming the air conditioning. The fan, she promised us in the cutest French accent, would keep us comfortable. It didn’t, but we were in Paris, so we didn’t care.

We left the hotel looking for lunch. We could see Norte Dame from the front of the hotel. We walked toward the magnificent old cathedral, eager to for a French lunch in her shadow. We didn’t have to look far. We found a Subway with a view of the bell tower. I got turkey. My wife got Italian. We joked about hearing Quasimodo playing the bells while we enjoyed our sandwiches. Paris can’t help being romantic.

Satisfied with our sojourn into French cuisine, we headed for adventure. We made a bee line for the nearest souvenir shop. We bought berets for our heads, post cards for our friends and snow globes for our kids.

We bought some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the ice cream shoppe next door.

I found a Calvin and Hobbs collection I hadn’t read in years in a book store that sold only books in English.

We walked at least a kilometer. That’s a thousand meters. I don’t know how many that is in miles, but I’m sure it’s at least ten.

We finished our day with a “Whop-aire” from a typically French McDonalds. I tried to order Le Quartre Kilogrammer, but the high school student behind the counter seemed to be afflicted with some condition that required her to giggle whenever I spoke French. Her manager had more control and served us our “Whop-aires” and, I swear, fried apples. They tasted like fried potatoes, but she called them “pommes” (apples) “frites” (fried).

Tired but happy we staggered back to the hotel in time to enjoy The Daily Show in English with French subtitles, la fin perfect to the first day of our French vacation.

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Teachers touch eternity

PeachI can still recite the five sentences I learned in my first French class more than 40 years ago. My brother, my sisters, and many of my high school classmates can all recite those five sentences with me. We never forget some things.

Other things are not so easy to retrieve.

My wife and I spent almost three weeks in Europe this summer, starting with a week in Paris. We wanted our first dinner to be memorable, so we asked the concierge to recommend a French restaurant where we could get a real French meal. She pulled out a map and gave us terrific directions which we had no trouble following.

After dinner, I had duck, my wife had lamb, I decided I needed a peach from the open air market across the street from the restaurant. My wife, who is good at that sort of thing, picked me a ready-to-eat peach. I had been practicing my high school French all evening. With confidence I handed the peach to the vender and said, “S’il vous plaît?”

He smiled at me and said, something in French

I said, “Oui,” which seemed to work.

He said something else in French as he weighed my peach. I smiled and handed him a 20 Euro note, hoping the peach would cost less than 20 Euros. (The exchange rate made 20 Euros about $22.00)

He gave me my change and added more information in French. This time he gestured toward his face. I got it. He was telling me the peach was going to be juicy.

I reached back to my high school days and said in perfect French, “Avez-vous une nappe?” I was rock solid on the first part. I was pretty sure about the last word. I knew it had something to do with food. I was sure Mr. Kingston, my high school French teacher, would have been proud of me.

It turned out I was asking for a tablecloth.

The vender grinned at me and said something in French. The only word I caught was pique-nique which wasn’t in my high school French vocabulary, but sounded enough like my English vocabulary that I was able to puzzle it out.

I grinned back and said, “Non, non, non, non. Excusez-moi.” I thought and I thought and I thought while my wife tried valiantly to rescue me by hauling me down the street. I finally came up with, “Avez-vous une couche?”

That time I accidentally asked for a diaper.

The vender grinned even wider and said something else in French, the only word I caught was “serviette.” I was halfway down the block before I realized he had been trying to help me. “Serviette” is napkin. I wanted to go back and buy another peach, but my wife, who is smarter than I am at such times, persuaded me that I could buy another peach some other time.

There is so much to see and do, so many places to eat and so many fruit stands in Paris that we never made it back to that one. In the end, I got a delicious peach and a story to share with my friends; I got to practice my high school French; and a friendly Parisian fruit merchant got a story to share with his friends about an American who needs both a tablecloth and a diaper to eat a peach.

Win. Win. Win.

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