Maurice’s Review: Congratulations Cheryl and Ethel on 100 fantastic blogs! You are a centenarian of words. And may the next 100 stories, of whatever form, bring you and your readers even more joy.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ▪ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
There’s a fabulous zombie movie called 28 Days Later. Well, fabulous might be a misleading adjective, because it’s brutal and terrifying. I’m mostly defending the ending as one of the more rational means of depicting the eradication of zombies while displaying that they were not the real threat to begin with. Zombies, being mindless, destructive eating machines, are not able to organize themselves into any sort of coherent group capable of maintaining the homeostasis of their kind. So, it’s all over in a short time because they starve to death and/or neglect to get their regular medical check-ups. Humans, good and evil, triumph because they know how to grow potatoes and look out for one another.
This is the scenario that romps through my circus-like mind as I pour over my last 99 stories to check in on the condition of the health and well-being of Ethel—the blog. It’s like a zombie in that it eats up my time and won’t leave me alone. I could shoot it in the head and hope none follow, but that’s being too optimistic. Like most zombie movies, there’s always the ravenous more. Perhaps I should just lock myself in the basement, depriving my mind circus of any external stimulus and let it run its course through starvation. This tactic does not seem feasible, since I don’t want to live in the basement nor starve the rational parts of my mind when they are at a vulnerable aging point. One hundred stories after I started this blog, I prefer to visit the very beginning of my writing habit to explore the channels swum to get here. Come with me!
I wrote my first newspaper article in 1965. It was a scathing exposé of the Snodgrass family of Snodgrass Manor, whose blood was so blue, their farts emitted an indigo haze over the rolling hills of their Kentucky bluegrass horse farm. Pulitzer prize-winning stuff. I mistakenly assumed I was a normal child whose brain droppings were fascinating to all who took the time to read them. Surely, I was not the only kid on the block needing to warn my immediate society about a platoon of Troll dolls (the plastic progeny spawned by the secret assignations between my Barbies and my brothers’ G.I. Joes) who roamed our suburban New Jersey neighborhood attacking citizens with their sturdy little bodies and flowing, multi-hued tresses to gain control of the local supply of ice cream sandwiches.
It took me awhile to interpret the adult reactions to my fantasy reportage as incredulity, but, as I craved approving reviews, I moved on to more sophisticated modes of writing. I joined a poetry club in 5th grade– my very first writers’ group! It was there, with the support of my three amigas of meter, that I found my true calling…and my lifelong addiction to alliteration. I am a poet at heart. Many marbled mansions made a time for me to try a trade. I had some sort of fixation on mansions. Most likely because I knew, with a floundering youthful optimism, that I would never live in one, making them a perfect target of wistful poetic yearnings. I am still in touch with two members of this life-altering group. I hope they know how much I enjoyed their company and support.
When I moved from one area of New Jersey to another a couple years later, I gave up trying to find like-minded poetry writers in my age group. I made the difficult transition to solitary writer through a diary (precursor of the now-trendy journal). I had not anticipated the freedom of having no audience. I could write anything I wanted so long as my sequestering skills were honed to perfection. These were the people I did not want to read my diary: my mother, my brothers. Write in private, hide it in the Kotex box.
I saw a marvelous television show named Mortified on Netflix, (or one of those streaming services I can’t keep track of) where adults read from their teenage diaries! This led me to seek out my private juvenile scribblings for comparison. Choosing a sample for you to read, in order to experience the mind of my adolescent being, was difficult. I was able to commiserate with the gutsy readers from Mortified. They must have spent a lot of time combing through the detritus of their embarrassing teenage emotional baggage to find that perfect passage with which the audience could identify, without re-suffering any previous states of angst.
My early diaries were written in the style of a sports reporter, giving the play by play of my days. Here’s one example:
Friday, May 29, 1970 Dear Diary, Today I came home from Sharon’s house. I stayed overnight. We had some beer. It was fun.
The most embarrassing thing about my diaries is that I was not the least bit creative in my writing. I wrote very little about my feelings but was meticulous in detailing who I saw and what we did. I love the beer comment above. I was 13 at the time we pilfered Sharon’s dad’s Rolling Rock. To this day, Sharon is still my closest friend. Neither one of us is a raging boozer despite our early forays into teenage drinking.
I looked back at my earlier attempts at chronicling my life and found, on the pages of my December, 1968 diary the following entries:
Dec 21: Today the Apollo 8 blasted off with Lovell, Borman, and Anders in it. Later, they will go to the moon! I went to work with my mother and did a few things.
Dec 24: Today they showed pictures of the moon! It was exciting. The earth was just a shiney ball. The moon had craters in it and they were only 16 miles away. My grandparents came to watch T.V.
Dec 26: We all held our breath all night weathering the Apollo would be able to come back. And they did! They splash down tomorrow!
Dec 27: Today the astronauts splashed down and were in good health.
This was my chronicling of the Apollo 8 mission and though I am grateful for my faithful reporting of current events, I can’t help but wish I had found more gut-wrenching teenage drama in those diaries of yore. They don’t make enticing blog fodder, but my daily scribblings prove I had a somewhat normal childhood.
After the dismally boring diaries, I started to write small fiction stories. None of them have survived my parent’s archiving skills, which is to say, they most likely got tossed along with my promiscuous Barbies and precocious newspapers. As my academic studies became more complex, I began to invest all of my writing abilities in my school work. I loved writing book reports and essays on history, economic theories and moral development. My passions for creative writing were put aside for the challenge of the A. If I received a lower grade without my instructors’ glowing remarks, I argued on behalf of my honor as a writer. Instructors at every level of education hate that. At least I learned that much from these experiences in public review.
After my education, writing went away for a long time. I became a member of productive society by working for a living and writing didn’t seem like the kind of endeavor that kept the rent paid and the food flowing. It wasn’t until after I gave birth to my son that the flood gates of repression opened and a billion words gushed forth in the form of songs.
This unleashing to an easily delighted audience of one seemed to lift whatever was holding me back from enjoying an activity which fed my creative juices. I began to write sermons for my church. I wrote many songs and two musical plays. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. And when my son went off to college and we moved to Asheville, I felt I needed a formal arena in which to drop the contents of my brain.
Living with Ethel was born and the words swarmed like a horde of zombies. One hundred stories later, another beast is invading my space. I want to write fiction. Ethel will hobble along, but like her brethren the zombies, she will need either to live communicably side by side with my other pests or find her final resting spot. How this story ends is up to the venerated writer. Oh shit, that’s me! Chapter 101…
Look out for one another,
Guest Editor Maurice knows how to punctuate and gently point out the sticky wickets of verbiage. With all the help and encouragement, he’s given me over these 100 stories, I really should consider buying him a beer…or eating his brain.