Creature Feature: Procyon Lotor

When we rented a cabin at California’s Kit Carson Lodge, it was wonderful. It was quiet, having only a few cabins, with a small restaurant up front. It was located on a mountain lake.

After dark we built a fire in the fireplace. It was a peaceful vibe.

I heard something gently scratching at the front door. Opening the door, I saw a small animal in the dark. It stood on two legs and extended its seemingly delicate hands.

It was a raccoon! I was scared of it at first. “RABIES!” people had always screamed at me, in regards to various creatures.

I found some food for it and it gently took it and scampered off.  I closed the door.

A few minutes later there was another scratch at the door.  Raccoon was back – with her babies!

They seemed to be trick-or-treating! They all came in,  got a snack, and stayed for a few minutes.

Then it was time for them to go. They had other cabins to visit I think!

And So It Goes

I might lose power soon (other than social power that is, which I may have already lost).

The rain will come today, off-shooting from the scary hurricane Florence. Last year we got a bit of Irma, wind speeds of 60 mpr – nothing compared to what Florence will be putting out on the coast: around 130 mpr. I thought that a wind speed of 60 was scary, having lived in California for many years.

I used to joke to friends: California HAS no weather! I LIKE that in an environment!

Dear poor sad dry burnt California: I love you and miss you.

Last fall/winter we lost power for a week. Damn that was tedious. I was saved by my MAGLITE – and my old Sony Walkman (damn, discontinued!).

My first summer here was a bear though involved no actual bears that I know of. Avoiding a toxic camper, I sat in the back yard getting sunburned as bugs flew down my throat.

Summer temps can get into the 90’s from April through September, with high humidity. Then, the winter here was double digits, lows of 16 degrees (of course much of the country was experiencing such lows at that time.) Climate change has become much more real and scary.

I remain,



Epiphanies in the Light

The farm in question uses toxic chemicals. What else is new, right?

As I sat in the back yard with my dog, sunning, I noticed chemical odors. Then I saw the fine dust, drifting from a nearby field, floating across our space. The chemical odors are worse in the mornings – or whenever there is moisture in the air.

Things suddenly came together for me: the horses have been ‘sick’, they’ve been in the barn instead of galloping in the fields.

They are loved and well-tended but have been affected by chemicals!  It is my understanding that fields get contaminated with farming chemicals, and that farmers sometimes accidentally let their animals into toxic areas.

It is cruel and heartbreaking.


Murder Can Be Critical

I’d heard that film critic Rex Braverman would be in the audience tonight. Well, so would I.

The movie theater was crowded and smelly just as I had predicted. There were more unsupervised kids than I could shake a stick at. There appeared to be a Mary Kay convention down front. There was a group of Elvis impersonators on the East side of the theater. I had a feeling that my new shoe leather might stick to the floor. That my head might implode from chewing caramel.

But I had a responsibility. A person had gone missing. It was my job to go looking. Rumor had it that he might be here tonight.

Most seats were taken. I sat in the front row center, between an incessant babbler and a chewing gum snapper. Later my neck would hurt as if in a hot vise. As if impaled by a voodoo pin. As if impacted by a night of hot romance. You get the picture.

I saw a lot in this job. Sometimes I saw too much.

The event was a Whitty Allin film festival. One had to ponder the diversity of the crowd. The theater was packed. Many had come in only to get out of the rain. 

I had been retained to locate a missing person, by an anonymous source who had paid in cash by proxy. I was on a loose leash. I knew a good deal when I found one. 

It was a simple missing persons case – which would soon evolve into a murder investigation.

I was seeking Braverman. Rex Braverman was a legendary film critic and social butterfly. But now harder to find than a Dan Quayle IQ at Mensa. Than a bear in winter. Than a New York style pizza in the deep South. Face it, the man was scarce.

Usually spied tromping from theater to restaurant to theater, he wore a trench coat and fedora, summer and winter. Rex cut a suave path. But face it. The man was eccentric.

Braverman’s film reviews had angered many. The man would argue genre and quality till blue in the face, a becoming color. Actors and critics gave him wide berth. The public loved him. His bosses loved him.

“It’s not a comedy-drama, it’s a drama with comedic undertones!” He would cut filmmakers no slack if he thought that they were slacking.”This is no historical epic, it’s a soap opera with swords and swine!” He would opine.

Controversy generated popularity. But the man made enemies.

As the screening of Play It Again, Sam flickered, I discreetly eyed the filled theater seats, looking for a fedora-clad head. I was amazed to notice a group of Humphrey Bogart look-a-likes seated near the front west exit. My search for Braverman was becoming complicated. More complicated than a solving a Rubiks Cube in the dark. Than making pastry on a humid day. Than juggling dates on a busy week. Not simple.

BLAM! BLAM! Gunshots rang out. I checked my gun. It hadn’t accidentally discharged as in an unfortunate previous incident. I was relieved.

People began to scream. Mr. Fetzer, the theater owner, had fallen to the aisle floor, clutching his chest. Spectators gathered around the prone victim, as he tried to speak.

“It was . . . it was . . .” Mr. Fetzer managed to choke out, before he collapsed, dead.

“Why do dying victims always repeat the subject and verb without getting to the object of the sentence?” A bystander asked no one in particular.

“I dunno. That’s what they always did in the movies.”

Movement suddenly caught my eye, fortunately not like last time. As I looked towards the exit, I saw him. Fedora cockily tilted over an intense face, trench coat aflutter, Rex Braverman ran for the exit. I gave chase.

I caught up with him. I then managed to disentangle my blouse sleeve from his coat buttons.

“Back off, sister! What’s yer problem?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Rex! You practically stand before me with a smoking gun!” I exclaimed, perusing his gun area.

“Lady, who are you? Christ, a person gets a little fame, and look what happens! Nuts chasin’ ya down the street! . . .”

“Rex, I’m no nut. I’m a private investigator. I was hired to find out your whereabouts. And now it looks like you’re involved in murder.”

“I’m innocent. I can’t stress this highly enough. We must talk. Care for dinner?”

“I could eat.”

Ducking into Andiamo’s, we took a booth and ordered drinks. Rex looked suddenly vulnerable, seemingly deep in thought, semi-collapsed against the red booth cushion. I felt a little vulnerable myself. Like a candy that’s hard on the outside and soft in the center. Like a person who doesn’t know whether to go or stay. Like a little deah sipping at the brook as the hunter splatters its little deah brains. Like that.

Our drinks arrived. We gulped to calm our nerves.

Rex made eye contact. “Oooohhh! Gross! Stop it! Put your eyes back in, silly!”

“Oh. Yes. Well, wait, just a sec. There. That’s better. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist!” He responded, shyly grinning. He was adorable.

He took a deep breath, exhaled, and looked into my eyes.

“Sheila. Listen to me. I did not kill Mr. Fetzer. You must believe me. You must help me. “



At this point in my career, I’d heard it all. Had my eyes deceived me at the crime scene? Was this hard boiled gumshoe gal getting soft in middle age? In any case, I had to get the facts, and go from there.

I interviewed crime witnesses. Their recollections were diverse. They had more versions than a politician in the hot seat. Than a software giant. Than a dalmatian had spots. Lots.

“Elvis is back, and he shot Mr. Fetzer! I realize that the theater was dark, but I know what I saw!

“The shooter was clearly a Mary Kay rep! She stood next to Fetzer on the east aisle. She cranked stick and popped lead in rapid succession.

“The killer wore a fedora and trench coat. He seemed to be very anxious, and paced the aisle. Suddenly he walked past Mr. Fetzer. He stopped and turned, facing him. He pulled a gun! He pulled the trigger! A little flag popped out of the gun barrel, that said ‘BANG!’ in big letters. He cursed and threw it to the aisle floor. He pulled a second gun, and shot Fetzer! He ran for the exit, slipping and falling several times on a giant banana peel. Then he was gone.”

Big picture, suspect-wise: I didn’t believe that an Elvis impersonator would commit murder, risking a wonderful career. Ditto for a Mary Kay magnate. Not logical. But suspect number three raised my red flag. Tweaked my gray matter. Sent my deductive logic on a blue streak.

Why was theater owner Fetzer targeted for murder in the first place? How did film critic Braverman fit in, was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Clearly there was a cinematic theme here, and I didn’t mean the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. Or Jaws. Or Chinatown.

My home phone rang – I’d paid extra for a black rotary style. The voice on the line was male, and veiling controlled hysteria.

“Br- Br- Braverman killed Fetzer! If I were you, I’d look into him!”

I tried to keep the caller on the line.

“Okay. I’ll look into it. Seen any good movies lately?” I cheerily asked him. The ploy seemed to work.

“Ha! You have got to be kidding. How would I even begin to find one in this sea of mediocrity?”

“You sound very negative. What would your analyst say?”

“He would say that I’m a perfectionist who feels inadequate . . . hey! wait a minute! . . . why am I telling you this? . . . and why are you asking me these things?”

“Silly! It’s an old trick, to keep you on the line!”

“Gasp . . . REEEAlly?” He hung up.


I schlepped uptown. Arriving at last, I took a deep breath and knocked on the apartment door. I steeled myself. It was very uncomfortable.

He answered the door. Wearing horn rimmed glasses, a cashmere pullover, khaki pants, and a morose expression, was filmmaker Whitty Allin.

“May I help you?” He suspiciously asked. 

I quickly shouldered my way inside.

“Whitty, the jig is up.”

“REEEAlly? . . . um . . . what exactly is a jig?. . . where?” He asked, glancing nervously upward and around.

“Mr. Allin, I know that you murdered Fetzer and tried to frame Braverman.”

“ExCUSE me? . . . uh uh . . . I don’t know what you’re t-t-talking about!” He stammered, backing away. As I approached him, he took off his glasses, threw them to the floor and stomped on them. He made a run for a bedroom. I gave chase.

Catching up with him, I tackled him and began to tickle him. “Gasp! OOOOoooohhh . . . hahahahaha . . . hehehe . . . please stop! I’m not only ticklish, I’m polymorphously perverse! Okay! I’ll confess! Please stop!” He choked out, tears of hysterical laughter streaming down his face. Whitty gathered his senses about him, and began to speak more clearly.

“Fetzer was going to show colorized versions of Manhattan and Stardust Memories. I couldn’t allow this to happen, okay? And that Braverman! One of the few critics who doesn’t like all of my work! What does he know? Do you know what he said to me at a party once? ‘Do you want to do humankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes!’ . . . the nerve!

“And yes, I knew that Braverman would be at the Crest Theater that night, dressed in that ridiculous pseudo PI getup. I tried to use him for a fall guy, a patsy.” 

“I know, Whitty.”


I met Braverman at Andiamo’s for drinks. He’d taken a corner booth. We greeted one another as I slid in opposite him. Our hands brushed on the table, discharging static electricity. Startled, I accidentally dumped the contents of my purse onto the table, seat, and floor.

“Oh Sheila! Let me help you with that.” Rex sweetly offered, smiling and laughing. A true gentleman under his gruff, tough, wry exterior, I had the feeling that he held more surprises that a pinata. Than picnic potluck. Than Christmas fruitcake. Face it, the man was yummy.

“Sheila! What IS all this stuff? Have you considered cleaning out yer purse sometime maybe?” He asked in an exasperated fashion, holding up a partial banana, distastefully, between his thumb and forefinger.

“Hey! Careful with that!” I reminded him as our eyes met over my big gun. He gingerly handed it over to me. Static electricity manifested once more, startling us, almost causing yet another of my little accidents. 

“Sheila. I want to thank you for everything. Who would have thought this turn of events possible? To have been framed for murder by a major filmmaker? I realize that I’ve made some enemies with my film criticism, but this is ridiculous!”

“Rex, it’s over. Put it behind you. And may I ask you a question?”

“Certainly. I imagine that we’ve achieved a certain level of intimacy at this point.”

“Is Rex your real name?”

“Oh, Sheila! How did you know? No. Rex is not my real name. My real name is Spike. Braverman. Spike Braverman.”

We finished our drinks, lingering for a moment, looking into eachothers’ eyes and communicating a wordless goodbye. As he walked out, I wondered if I would ever see him again.

Who knows, I just may sense him in a darkened theater some night. And we’ll always have Whitty.

Semi-Deep Thoughts: On Writing

In becoming a writer I gave myself permission to imagine and dream, to open myself up to (allegedly) strange and unusual thoughts. This could be an alarmingly easy task (compared to turning off the censor in my head). I’d consider the thoughts, finding that some ideas should be immediately suppresSed, or stomped upon and killed, while others should be utilized, and could take off like wildfire. The trick was to know the difference. This process took intuition, practice, and feedback. I tried to keep plenty of these around.

If as a writer I was feeling restless or stuck, I tried multiple projects to realize what genuinely engaged me. One practical philosophy was to let the words age. I’d put them aside for a while on a hard drive or in a desk drawer. I’d later come back to the words. Yes, they were still there! Were they a desirable, respectable, well-organized group of words, or did they suck? The aging process could reveal such.

Not a few writers benefited from internet exposure, as did I. Message boards, web sites, and writers groups proved a training ground of sorts. Positive feedback and rejection were a comment, or an email, away. When the words moved through my brain and fingertips, I’d often experience the Compulsive Need to Post. I’d take a deep breath and count to one hundred. Were these words ready to be shared with the world? Sure, the Instapost felt good at the moment, but later one might feel differently. Considering there was no ‘Take It All Back Now’ clickable icon, what was done might linger (or might be TOSed).

The words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters were now posted online. What kind of response was I getting, if any, and how did I feel about that? In the case of no response, I tried to not take it personally. In the case of mockery and harassment, ditto. I’d found my voice. Some wanted me to lose it.

If in the internet glut, one’s writing could be seemingly ignored, lost, buried in unimaginably vast cyberspace, similar to outer space, where no one can hear you scream. I also wondered if people could relate to the work, or not. Did the tone or subject matter of the work possibly make some people uncomfortable? Well, of course.

The responses to my online writing were coming in. I was getting a buzz and making new acquaintances. I came to dread the Post Posting Blues, when the enthusiastic responses would stop. The truth is that the positive feedback can’t last forever. Writers must keep working. I realized that in the end, writing should be its own reward.

Having written primarily humor and essay, I subsequently joined a well-known writers’ group which penned erotica. I began to write stories that I might not have earlier imagined (though was not interested in being, or becoming, genre-bound). 

Independent publishers and anthology projects seemed to be thriving –­ and could provide quality venues for struggling writers. It could be motivational for writers to have such a potential anthology framework for their work.

It was said that erotic literature was on an upswing. We sometimes seem to forget that Eros was excised from many classic works. So-called erotica had become somewhat déclassé: people tend to disregard the fact that writers might write well – or badly – in any genre.

I’d decided to submit more work to print publishers, so that my words might exist in a so-called real book that existed on a real shelf. How to break through into that magical circle of published authors? I agonized. I didn’t know how. At least, do the work and submit it. Repeat, repeat . . .

I researched the writing markets, not a difficult task in an age of informational overload. I tried to keep my original voice and inspiration and forget about set­-in-stone genres. I went for joy and originality, and writing about what I knew and loved. My first print publication was a road story inspired by Callie Khouri’s Thelma and Louise. I love film. Good energy went into the piece. I was pleased that my editors happened to be film lovers.

It is believed that to be published in our vast, glutted market of diverse writers, a writer should likely possess a few of the following qualities: excellence, originality, unique perspective and a common touch. Don’t forget luck. A little luck is sometimes the best plan.

Over time authors seemed to consciously and unconsciously teach me, filtering into my soul as if by osmosis. Things went click in my head. I had flashes of intuition that I, too, could be a writer­­ – and flashes of extuition: “Silly! You could never do that!” said my internal dream ­stomper. 

It would be a while before I gave myself permission to assertively express myself on the page. The upside is that I happened to gain life experience before naively wandering into the fray and struggling into print. I’m glad that I waited. I think.