Those of you who have read NAKED JOY know I am not a bird person. They scare me. I suffered an ominous run-in with a peacock as a youngster, and that was it. Call me ornithophobic.
But I am here to tell you I have other phobias, or, let’s call them fears.
“What?” you might be asking.
“Well,” I am replying.
“I am not a fan of the horse.”
Yes, you heard that right. Again, if you read NAKED JOY, you know about the rodeo parade in my hometown every summer, and what all those handsome horses left on the streets of my already “aromatic” town.
So despite being a born and bred western girl with Podunk roots, I eventually moved to New York City.
There I knew the pigeons only hung out in neighborhood squares with statues–places I could avoid.
What I did not know upon moving into a fabulous, rent-controlled apartment on Central Park West, was that there was a horse stable down the street—on West End Avenue at 90th.
This is one of four stables in the city accommodating the horses who draw the carriages one sees prancing around Central Park carrying giddy tourists and love-stricken newly weds.
Once aware of my predicament, my coping strategy was not to think about the fact I lived down the street from a herd of horses. Rather, I concentrated on the lunatics on the street trying to cajole me for a quarter for a cup of coffee. (Chapter titled “Running with Jackie” in my book. )
Fast forward a few years and my mother, an East Coast woman transplanted to Idaho when she married my father, came to visit. Following a nice dinner on the Upper West Side and a good night’s sleep in my fabulous apartment, she woke in the morning.
“You know, Nanner, I had the strangest dream. I thought I heard horses clomping down the street outside your window. Must have been something I ate.”
While I wasn’t paying attention, I somehow grew older. Not old, mind you–just older. Sure, in some situations I might be considered a senior, or better, a seasoned citizen. And that’s fine at movie theaters, museums, or on the cross-town bus. You can refer to me as an older woman as long as you charge me less than the perky lass ahead of me, or offer me your seat. But don’t dare call me an old woman; not yet. After all, I can still launch a decent cartwheel, thread a needle with a bare eye, and prevail over my brilliant son at Scrabble. Sometimes, not always…
A chronic optimist, I occasionally find myself searching for that silver lining ahead, some glorious aspect of aging as I shrivel, shrink, and shake, clueless as to where I dropped my cane.
Recently, a kind nurse tending to my exceptionally old father-in-law shared some encouraging information. She claimed that the more “advanced in age” the patient, the less he or she tends to feel pain. Hence, my husband’s dad got by on a few EXTRA STRENGTH TYLENOL following his hip replacement a few years back. Now, there is something to which I can look forward. No, not a joint replacement, but less pain, regardless of what ails me. Who knew?
Let’s see. What else can we eagerly anticipate as the calendar grows thinner?
Much of my time these days involves trying to promote my recently published book, Naked Joy. I pause now and then to consider the feedback I have been receiving about this collection of mostly humorous essays depicting my full life. Notice I describe my past as full, not long. There is a difference and I like to think I still have a ways to go…
Let’s call the majority of my readers “mature.” Meaning they have been around the block more than once and lived to reflect, often with fondness, upon their journeys. Judging from most reports, these fans seem to relish my tales, which lure them into a past we all share in one way or another. Thirty some years ago, few of us would have given a hoot about the lives we tried to leave behind as we struggled to establish new ones. Whereas, nowadays we cherish the memories of those fleeting times. We might find ourselves longing to go back, if only through a movie, song or good book. Call it nostalgia, which psychologists claim has a positive effect on the brain. Never mind if most of our reflections are through rose-tinted lenses–as long as they make us smile.
I must admit there are times I have considered moving back to Japan, where I lived for several years as a younger woman. (Read about this and other adventures in Naked Joy!) There, where life expectancy is the highest in the world, the custom is for responsible and dedicated children to look after their aging parents until the very end. This care, a healthy diet, and ample sake must contribute to these folks’ longevity. Reportedly, Japan’s elderly are highly revered for their wisdom and tenacity. In fact, each September the country observes RESPECT FOR THE AGED DAY, with parties, gifts and pageantry. Seniors throughout the land wait ages to celebrate long and full lives.
Believe it or not (and by now many of my loyal followers are understandably doubtful), NAKED JOY has officially gone to press. With no turning back, my life will soon be an open book—presuming anyone actually reads it. .
I ask myself, “What was I thinking?”
Apparently I wasn’t…
That a private, introverted NObody would choose to author a collection of personal essays is one thing. But to publish the book for the world to see might just be crazy.
Nightmares have plagued me as my publication date approaches. The latest featured me attempting to sign a book for a reader. As I peel open a copy, the binding cracks, leaving pages falling apart in my sweaty hands. Any efforts to hold together NAKED JOY are in vain as evidence of years of toil disintegrates before me.
No one needs Freud to analyze that one.
NAKED JOY, Confessions of a Skittish Catholic from Idaho will be available for order on Amazon and through booksellers this July 4th.
More reason to celebrate?
Hold the fireworks.
Obviously, this baby is overdue. Talk about labor pains…
I had to choose between a Land Rover and a camel. I went with the former as I’d ridden a camel in another life–back when my own seat had better padding and there was a guy I needed to impress. Never mind that this rickety 4-wheel drive was old and dusty. It smelled fine.
Our Bedouin driver, whose name sounded like “Abusive” instructed me to photograph my son and husband, who’d chosen camels to get them from here to there. I noticed behind my lumpy seat a barely dead chicken, 6-pack of sodas, some grimy blankets , a greasy old grill and dented teapot. We were headed for a barbecue in the same sand where Peter O’Toole played Lawrence of Arabia way back when. Call it a picnic in the desert–Jordan style.
Bracing myself with one hand, I snapped photos with the other while marveling at the stunning scenery. Suddenly, without warning, Abusive slammed on the squeaky breaks, shrieking…
“WE FORGOT THE BREAD!”
Spinning us into a 180 the crazy nomad stepped on the gas. Careening back towards where we’d come from, I noticed my family looked perplexed. Their faces read, “Where are you going? And why??”
Little did they know…
“WE FORGOT THE BREAD!”
Given the camels loped along at a turtle’s pace, I could not understand our rush. Clearly I had made the wrong choice in transportation. I’d be killed in a Land Rover while my family arrived safely by hump-backed animal.
Regardless , we got the bread, piles of flat stuff, along with a package of something that looked like human index fingers sprinkled with sugar. By then I had lost my appetite, along with my hat and composure.
But we had the bread.
Piles of it…
Those of you familiar with me know I am a writer. And that I have been working on a book for longer than I care to admit. Now that NAKED JOY is finished, printed, bound and ready for release;I am panicked. There is no turning back. Plus, I currently face the daunting challenge of marketing the darn thing . And self promotion is not my forte by any means.
At this point, the first, inevitable question every professional in the industry asks me about NAKED JOY is:
“Who is going to buy this book?” Like I am not only an author but a psychic.
I know better than to answer “How the heck should I know?” And my temptation is to quip,
“Everyone, of course!”
But I know this is not true. So I am compelled to think about a logical, sane answer to this probing question.
Hmm. Just who is going to buy my book? For starters, I can only hope members of my family, dwindling as it is, will pick up a copy or two. And then there are my friends, or those I assume are my pals. Trying to be generous, I’d consider offering my stories for free to anyone kind enough to read them. But I have been advised this is not the wisest idea. My goal should be increased sales, not healthy human relations.
So I mull over this quandary. I imagine strangers sauntering into a bookstore somewhere in the Midwest, in search of a good read or thoughtful gift. Who’d be attracted to a cover with a bottle of dish detergent wearing a bra? Although I must admit, most people seem to like the title NAKED JOY. I fear it is for reasons other than I intended in naming the book, but at least it seems to draw interest.
Admittedly, my writing is full of offbeat, droll, sometimes dark humor. The kind many readers would not understand, or could perceive as peculiar, weird, or simply–not funny. I know this for fact. These are the same people who see non-latex gloves featured on my Facebook page and are perplexed. Enough to ask when they see me, “Can you explain the story behind the gloves?”
And I can’t.
There is no real backstory. One day I was drying the gloves near the kitchen sink, each on its own wine bottle, and I happened to pass through the room. Lost in thought, probably about why I ever decided to attempt to publish a book, I noticed a pair of hands waving to me from the counter so I did the natural thing.
I waved back.
Something about his touched me so I decided to give these trustworthy, dependable gloves more exposure. And suddenly, more so than myself, they had gathered a loyal group of followers. In fact, when the handy pair do not appear on my page after several days or maybe a week, caring, curious friends start asking about them.
“Where are the gloves? Are they okay? We miss them!”
On the bright side, I suppose I can only hope there is something for everyone in NAKED JOY. Ideally, even those skeptics who think non -latex gloves do not belong on Facebook, let alone reading books, hanging out in hazy clubs, or traveling to exotic locales–places beyond imagination.
At the risk of propagating Idaho’s”famous potato” reputation, I am compelled to return to this hot topic. As my loyal readers are aware, I am a shirttail relative of one of the creators of the acclaimed Tater Tot, a delicacy sold in stores for the past sixty years under the Ore-Ida label.
Unless you have been living on another planet, you know that a “tater tot” is a cylinder-shaped product, approximately one inch high, compiled of riced potato pieces, which is french fried then frozen and packaged for commercial sale. Ore-Ida founders F. Nephi Grigg and his brother Golden claim to have created the product in 1956, while trying to figure out what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes. Here is where I beg to differ. You see, Thelma Chase, my father’s sister’s mother-in-law, used to tell us kids that in her younger years she swept the floor of her husband’s potato warehouse in southwestern Idaho. One day it struck her that these spud scraps should not go to waste. She claimed it was her idea to chop them up, add flour and seasoning, then push the mash through holes, next slicing pieces off the extruding mixture. The result was the scrumptious potato turds we know and love today –Tater Tots.
Henry Chase, Thelma’s husband and my father’s sister’s father-in-law, entered the picture when he supposedly came up with a method of processing frozen potato products, which he shared with the Grigg brothers. After applying for patents on this process, law suites ensued and things got messy. But to this day my cousin, Henry and Thelma’s granddaughter, claims her deceased fraternal grandparents are responsible for the inception of one of the most popular frozen potato products on the market. Their success is evidenced by the enviable homes the family still enjoys both in the Boise Valley and mountains of central Idaho.
It might be worth noting that our tots enjoy popularity worldwide, albeit under varied names. Down under in Australia they are sold as “Potato Gems” or in some areas, “Potato Royals,” or “Potato Pom- poms.” In the United Kingdom, Brits once enjoyed “Oven Crunchies” which are sadly no longer available. Canadians devour “Spud Puppies” and “Tasti Taters” while SAFEWAY stores here in the U.S. carry a generic brand consumers know as “Tater Treats.”
To further promote my native state’s prime product, in 1918 the Idaho Candy Compay created the IDAHO SPUD, a chocolate/coconut bar shaped like a potato, its wrapper touting–“The Candy Bar That Makes Idaho Famous.” Sickeningly sweet and loaded with ingredients we now know are poisonous, the Idaho Spud contains ample sugar, coconut, corn syrup, cocoa, chocolate liqueur, nonfat milk powder, egg albumen, and such mysterious additives as soy lecithin, potassium sorbate, and a few artificial flavors, not to mention several allergens and sulfite products. Yummy.
My dearly departed mother used to occasionally mail us a box of IDAHO SPUD bars here on the east coast. This “special treat”would remain in our pantry for several months before ending up in the dumpster. But Mom’s thought was appreciated if not the pounds of nauseating candy.
Enough about potatoes. Lest I tempt more outsiders to invade what some consider “America’s best-kept secret,” I will not elaborate on Idaho’s extraordinary natural resources. From soothing hot springs, to dormant volcanoes, to magnificent glacial lakes, a waterfall taller than Niagara, a haunting “River of No Return” wilderness area, jaw-dropping mountain ranges, and legendary ski resorts, Idahoans love their state. As one native recently wrote, “True, we know Idaho is underrated, and often phonetically confused with Iowa and Ohio, but we love it here, and are not dying to move somewhere better or more civilized. Even if Idahoans travel or move elsewhere, we know our Gem State equals fresh powder at Christmas and and invigorating waters in summer. It’s all about mountains, lakes and rivers; it’s home, and that’s all that matters.”
Admittedly, I am one of those restless,foolish souls who has wandered the world for decades. But next month I am off to take advantage of some of that fresh powder and breathtaking scenery. And without any doubt, I will know I’ve come home…