Morning Meditation: Sailing

Remote control sail boats zip along the lake on a Sunday morning:

 

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Book Review: “Life Seemed Good, But . . .” by Richard Bell

It’s a delight when I come across a book that I like, one that I find on my own in my seemingly endless and insatiable quest for reading and knowledge. It’s an even greater bonus when a fellow author asks if I would entertain the idea of reading his or her book. I’ve have several such requests this year – about fourteen this year alone – and some were bombs but most where ones that I completely fell head over heels and consider my favorites to keep on my shelf in my home library bookcase or in my virtual Kindle shelf. “Life Seemed Good, But . . .” by Richard Bell falls in to my categories of “Wow,” “This is Great,” “Yeah, I’ll Read This Again,” and “Hey! Can You Read Because I’ve a Recommendation for You . . .”

“Life” is a delicious collection of short tidbits, sketches, micro fiction, or however you would like to categorize these zany and sometimes thought-provoking tales.

The brief description of “Life” describes it as a “cross between Aesop’s Fables and the Brothers Grimm”. I would like to take it a few steps further by saying that it has the witty feel and influence of Bennet Cerf puns, the droll, deadpan narratives of Bob Newhart, and the twisted yarns à la A. J. Jacobs’ “Fractured Fairy Tales.” Put all these together with the Brothers Grimm and Aesop, and here is a uniquely written tome that is worthy of the readers’ time.

I like the way some of these tales are woven into others, specifically certain characters. Some of them appear in other stories, some are briefly mentioned in passing. The reader should pay attention because not only is their placement key, but sometimes they are just in the shadows. It’s all important to the particular stories in the end.

Dialects and accents are right on. It takes a keen ear to put dialect on paper, and for those characters that come from other places, I could hear them speaking, and thus, see them in my imagination. Sure, they maybe stereotypical at times, but isn’t that real life? I believe it is, and it all works seamlessly in this “Life.”

Do I have my ultimate favorite stories? Sure. I cannot list all those that resonated with me but be assured that there are a lot—maybe most. I didn’t take a survey, but I know what I like nonetheless. In “Hand Puppet,” I could not help but visualize Señor Wences and his (literal) hand puppet Johnny. Or maybe gravelly-voiced Pedro. Either way, it made me laugh to beat the band. “Grilled Cheese” was delightfully eerie, and I wanted more. And I did. Or maybe it was the grilled cheese that got more. “The Legend of Timmy” was brilliant in its macabre telling. “Laugh, Clown” practically brought me to laughing tears, and “Welcome Wagon” now makes me scared of answering my doorbell, or to at least cross the street at the sight of grey-haired people wearing pillbox hats. “The Purple Amulet” was priceless in its shrewd presentation. It really was.

There was the Rodney Dangerfield-like conversation between ants in “Amoeba Lips” that made me laugh and laugh: “’As he stood there feeling somewhat perplexed, his goofy friend Jay came by and asked him, “Who was that big zygote I observed you with last night?” “That was no zygote,” quipped Frankie, “that was a paramecium!””

Yet, as I write this review, my favorite quote from “Some Party!” is the following: ’Who is John Galt?’ asked Ernie.’” I like the nod to Ayn Rand here.

Throughout the book, I grasped every nuance and intimation. Not only are there puns, there are subtle and blatant references to pop culture, classic films, musicals, classic literature, historical figures, musicians, actors, science fiction, et cetera. I was glad to see a credit list at the end of this book that give nods and credited to quotes, paraphrases, and other authors, including a glossary of terms and such. Finally, “Wisdom from a Turtle” rounds out this tome with food for the reader’s thoughts.

“Life Seemed Good, But . . .” was a pleasure to read, and I understood the author’s sense of quirky humor. I found nothing off-putting, nor questionable. The dark and quirky humor is right up my alley. I found it best to read this a little at a time. There is a lot to digest and think about, too.

In a few months, when I pick up “Life” again to escape from the real world (that’s the type of book this is), I’ll have other tales that will rise to my favorites. This, in my opinion, is that type of book. Each story is a dazzling oeuvre, and according to the one’s attitude of the day, that is, today’s hilarious tale might just be tomorrow’s uproarious blockbuster story.

I highly recommend this book. It’d make a nice gift for that someone special, too.

You can find “Life Seemed Good, But . . .” on Amazon by clicking this LINK.  Both paperback and Kindle versions are available.

Read more of my reviews on Goodreads HERE.

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

Morning Meditation: Palm Frond at Sunset

Last week, this Sugar Palm frond in my garden seemed to wave the day, “So long!”  This is a new frond that shot up from the center of the palm, and against the fiery sky, it looked stunning.  Hope you’re having a spectacular day!

A Three-Hour Cruise: Passenger Hijinks and a Few More River Scenes

To continue my two-part series, “A Three Hour Cruise,” about the trip my beau and I took this past Wednesday, we spent an afternoon on a paddlewheel boat on the St. Johns River in Central Florida. It was a perfect Florida summer day, with cornflower blue skies, thick fluffy white clouds, and temperatures hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nature treated us to panoramas of thick green forests of trees along the river shore, gliding hawks, zippy dragonflies, sparkling waters, floating water lilies, water hyacinths, and the like.

We came to a river bend that brought a few more surprises and delights.

These bald cypress trees were striking:

Downriver was a cluster of pretty houses and docks:

We relished these scenes in between our lunch courses. Because this was a leisurely lunch cruise, we could afford to lollygag. On deck, we were lulled by the rhythmic “slosh-slosh-slosh-slosh” sound of the paddlewheel, and the gentle quietness of the shore. Inside the dining room, we were enjoying the camaraderie and hijinks of the group of church ministers and their wives from South Carolina. There were about eighteen of them, grouped together at the larger tables by the windows. My beau and I got a kick out of their impromptu dancing to the music, the laughing and kidding around, and overall jocularity. One of the ministers stopped to talk with my beau, and that’s how we found out where they were from and who they were. I was impressed at how nicely everyone was dressed, too, with hats, dressy casualwear, and pretty Afro chic skirts or sparkly sequin designs on blouses.

Next to us, were two ladies who seemed to be co-worker friends, because sometimes I caught some “office talk” between them.  One wore a sparkling green and blue blouse, the other a semi-sparkling white top.  For some reason, I was interested in what people were wearing.  You’re now probably wondering what we wore.  My beau wore his Panama hat, with a tan flowered shirt and green shorts.  I wore a straw hat with a black chiffon bow and a purple A-line dress.

There were some celebrations onboard, too. One of the waitresses got engaged the other day, so we all congratulated her. There was a lady dressed in a long skirt and pretty white top who was celebrating her eighty-seventh birthday, and then there was . . . ummmm . . . a couple who was celebrating their fifty-ninth anniversary, but as she said over the microphone, she was “here and he was at home.” I’m not sure exactly what to conclude there. They’re married that long because they don’t do things together? If so, why celebrate anniversaries? I’m perplexed. But then, as my beau said, she could have been the house comedienne, so just laugh and roll with it. Ha ha.

The live entertainment onboard was pleasant, with Jim Ventura playing guitar and singing, and when he wasn’t, there was music piped in. When we arrived onboard there was wild Dixieland Jazz playing. During our meal, there was calm music from the 1940s-50s. At the dessert course, the music livened up with peppy 1950s rock-and-roll.

Our meals were good, and fresh, too. The appetizer course was buffet style, and the rest was served. The Red Devil’s Food Cake was good (I didn’t like the frosting, though). In the South, this type of cake is called Red Velvet Cake. I go by what we called it in the Midwest, Red Devil’s Food Cake. The white chocolate curls dyed pink made it look festive.

I slinked over to take this shoreline picture when the table’s occupants went on deck for a while:

The light sconces in the dining room were pretty, even if a dangling glass drop was missing:

Would we do this again? Yes. My beau and I were talking about an evening cruise, but during the Holidays, just to mix it up a little.

Sounds good.

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

A Three-Hour Cruise

Summer is in her full seasonal adornment here in Florida. The skies are a rich cornflower blue, the clouds are thick and puffy, rain falls almost every day now – even if for only a brief sun shower – and the heat is on full blast.

Yesterday was the perfect summer day for a trip down the St. Johns River in Central Florida.

My beau and I left early in the morning for the scenic drive to Sanford, Florida. We drove on picturesque meandering roads where we saw horses, cattle pastures, and a few “bear crossing” and “deer crossing” signs. No, we didn’t see any bears, nor deer. Nary an alligator, neither.

After arriving on Marina Island on Lake Monroe, we picked up our reserved tickets at the boat company’s office. We boarded an authentic paddlewheel boat. It ran on diesel fuel, not steam that we usually think of, but it was charming with an old-fashioned feel nonetheless. Among the passengers were other couples, one family with little children, and a large group of church ministers and their wives from South Carolina.

Our table-for-two was in the center of our enclosed deck, along with several other tables-for-two. The larger tables-for-six were situated along the windows. Though we were in the center of the room, we still had an unobstructed view of the outside. Below our deck was the same dining room configuration.

This was a three-hour river cruise, with live musical entertainment, and some recorded Dixieland Jazz music and traditional songs from the 1940s-50s era. A four-course lunch was served, with entrée choices. This was a very leisurely lunch.

In between courses, my beau and I went out on deck to enjoy the natural Florida environment along the St. Johns River. We watched a hawk glide along the river’s shore. A green dragonfly teased us near the railing, and a slender blue dragonfly seemed to fly inches above the water, keeping pace with the paddlewheel boat for several yards. Look closely and you’ll see the playful green dragonfly in mid-flight, including its shadow on deck:

We gazed at the lush green shoreline, water lilies, and Spanish moss hanging from everything imaginable.

A palm tree or two added to the delightful scene of forests of bald cypress trees.

We came to a river bend that brought a few more surprises and natural delights.

What impressed me was the serenity and the lack of twenty-first century din. Out on deck, all we heard was the rhythmic “slosh-slosh-slosh-slosh” sound of the paddlewheel, and the gentle quietness of the shore. The air was hot and the humidity thick, but the movement of the paddlewheel boat kept us comfortable as we rolled down the river.

Tomorrow: Passenger Hijinks and a Few More River Scenes

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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