Monthly Archives: July 2017

Like Going to Walmart in the Rain

I heard from someone the other day about travel writing.  And they said that most travel writers begin by writing about their home area as people who live elsewhere would want to get away and vacation there. My response to that?  Yeah, right.  But I’m nothing if not open-minded…

Now I’m not trying to rip on this area (after all, I have a number of readers from this area and I’d like to stay on their good side).  But, vacationing in Fayette County seems to me about as wise as going on a nice shopping trip and choosing to go to Walmart to find your shiny new cocktail dress.  There are better options.

Sure, we have a 5-Star resort you can find if you head up into the mountains a little ways. But most vacations lie somewhere in the middle between having lunch prepared by a Michelin-star winning chef and picking up a hotdog at Sam’s Club.  Sure, we’re closer to the hot dog end of that comparison, but we do have many of the things that you’re looking for in a vacation destiny.

For example, when you travel, you want to meet people from different cultures…

You want to find entertainment options that you don’t see at home…

You want to experience celebrations you haven’t experienced before…

I know I pick on Walmart and Fayette County a lot, but it’s just that I see so much in common.  It’s like every time I drive from one area to another, it’s like I’m living in a Walmart and simply moving from aisle to aisle.

When I’m outside and hear gunfire, it’s the sporting goods section.  When I pass through a bad neighborhood and wonder which household is currently cooking meth, it’s the pharmacy.  And of course, when I have to pay my local taxes, it’s the registers (two lanes open, forty carts waiting).

But Walmart makes approximately $36 million in sales every hour.  So obviously people like it.  And if that’s the case, I can sell this area to road weary travelers as an excellent vacation spot.  I mean, how hard could that be?  We already have everything they’re looking for, even if they don’t know it yet…

Who is Rich?

As a blogger who reviews novels when I’m not commenting on the craziness of Fayette County and random Walmart visits, I’ve received a large number of books through Goodreads to review.  A seriously large number.  I now need at least two more bookshelves as the man cave is full of stacks and stacks that are threatening to topple over.  And, I hate to admit it, but there are even a few boxes of books out in the garage where my car should be.  I love it, but it is getting a little out of control…

Out of all of the books I’ve received, some are okay, some are slightly below average, some are pretty good and some are downright awful.  But, occasionally, I’ll receive one that truly, thoroughly impresses me.  And it’s a great feeling to find a new author who’s every other work you then feel the need to check out.  And Matthew Klam’s Who is Rich? Is one of those novels.

Here’s what it’s about:

Every summer, a once-sort-of-famous cartoonist named Rich Fischer leaves his wife and two kids behind to teach a class at a weeklong arts conference in a charming New England beachside town. It’s a place where, every year, students—nature poets and driftwood sculptors, widowed seniors, teenagers away from home for the first time—show up to study with an esteemed faculty made up of prizewinning playwrights, actors, and historians; drunkards and perverts; members of the cultural elite; unknown nobodies, midlist somebodies, and legitimate stars—a place where drum circles happen on the beach at midnight, clothing optional.

One of the attendees is a forty-one-year-old painting student named Amy O’Donnell. Amy is a mother of three, unhappily married to a brutish Wall Street titan who runs a multibillion-dollar investment fund and commutes to work via helicopter. Rich and Amy met at the conference a year ago, shared a moment of passion, then spent the winter exchanging inappropriate texts and emails and counting the days until they could see each other again. Now they’re back.

Klam writes about marriage and parenthood through the lens of a character who is going through so much more than a midlife crisis.  It’s about the struggles of an artist who’s lost faith in himself and his creative ability, but it’s still more than that.  It’s about the struggles of a man, trying to find his way through all of life’s challenges, personal, financial, romantic, and intellectual.  And, in a book that deals with so many issues, Klam fills it with amazing humor.  Sometimes watching someone else continually stumble and fall can really put a smile on your face and make you feel better about yourself…

The breakdown of such a flawed character in an environment shared with so many other flawed characters allows you the reader to take a wild ride that’s worth the lack of sleep as you continue to read “just one more chapter” to see what happens next.  This is a book that will leave you satisfied, happy, and completely enjoying how a talented writer can tell a story and create characters you truly care about.

Who is Rich? just came out July 4th, and…now that Amazon is advertising through my site, it’s a perfect time to buy an excellent book like this, right?  So click on the link above and go support an excellent writer and lose yourself in an excellent story…  Or to purchase anything else you think you might need.  Is that a shameless enough advertising plug? 😀

Jury Duty

First of all, let me just say this – I wanted to do it.  Sure, it’s not like it was on my bucket list, but I made no effort to get out of it when I received the notice in the mail.  So no comments about me not being intelligent enough to get out of jury duty, okay?

I was curious.  That’s what it was.  I wondered what it would be like and I figured that if I ever wrote a character who had to deal with jury duty, I’d better get my details right.  So…there I was, waiting in the gentle rain outside the courthouse while they slowly passed everyone through the metal detector wondering just what I had gotten myself into.  Then, I found my way to Courtroom #1, had a seat, and found out exactly what I’d gotten myself into…

Forget scaring kids straight by showing them a jail, show them a room of potential jurors.  Once they see how their fate could be placed in the hands of a group of these people, they’ll be helping elderly women across the street and attending church on a regular basis, just to cover their tookis.

Camoflauge shorts and flip flops, a ‘Slayer’ t-shirt, skin-tight shorts, an NRA t-shirt, more flip flops, beer logo baseball caps, jeans with more holes than material, pajama bottoms, leopard print everything…  I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.  It looked like a Wal-Mart in there.  Yeah, I didn’t exactly wear a suit myself,  but I think I came across a bit less scary to the defendants there behind the tables.

Throughout the next two days, I was called into a few of the other courtrooms, given information on cases, “introduced” to the attorneys and defendants, asked incredibly  simple questions, and forced to wait as the attorneys scratched their way through the list of prospective juror names.  And…each time, my name was one of the ones crossed off the list.  I won’t tell you my secret, but let’s just say that I wasn’t surprised at all each time I was dismissed with a “thank you for your service, you’re free to go”.

The only drawback to escaping from service was that there wasn’t a juror room in that entire building.  And, because every courtroom was active through both days (is that bad?  Too much crime in the area?) there was no place for us to sit and wait for the day’s next opportunity.  So, those of us who weren’t selected simply sat in the hallways watching officers walk orange-suited prisoners from room to room, listening to attorneys on break complain about their days together, and playing on our cell phones.  It was the justice system hard at work.

After running my phone’s battery down for two straight days searching the Internet, emailing everyone I knew and playing solitaire, I was finally, officially dismissed.  And I thought back through my days of service and realized that I hadn’t done or learned a thing.  But I know that if one of the characters in my novels misbehaves and isn’t working well with me, I just may send him or her off to jury duty.  Let them be warned.

But it wasn’t all bad.  Eventually, arriving in the mail was a check from the county to reimburse me for all of my time and service.  And, when I stopped to figure it out, I realized that I’d made a whopping $1.29/hour for my time.  Wow.  If I’m called for jury duty again, everyone’s guilty!