Wednesday, March 11, 2020

More Structure

"You're late," complained Bear.

"I slept in," said Bum.

"Why's that, Bum.  You usually get up early around 5:30, don't you?" queried Bear.

"It's odd, Bear, the only time I sleep in is when I have to be up by 7:30 am to take the garbage out for pickup.  That is what happened today.  I tore out of bed, rammed on my shoes, and raced outside in my pyjamas."
"Good lord, Bum, didn't you even have time to get your coat on.  It's cold still in the mornings."

"No time for a coat, Bear, but I was wearing my robe which I usually sleep in because it's cold in my room." said Bum, by way of an explanation.

"Good lord," said Bear again.  "Why don't you get yourself another blanket for your bed?  Like a normal person would, I should add."

"Never mind all that, Bear, let's get on with Structure.  We still have more than half of that to analyze."

"OK, what did our lofty editor say next?"

"He said, and I quote, "As written, My Imaginary Dog follows most closely the archetypal Love plot, but, unlike the archetypal Love plot, this one has a down ending rather than a happy ending.  In this respect it's a little like, say, Love Story by Erich Segal, or even Romeo and Juliet, but these two partake rather of a different master plot, Illicit Love, and Illicit Love plots end in tragedy.  Society disapproves of the love, and so brings about its destruction.  In My Imaginary Dog, there is not a clear obstacle to the romance relationship between Janey and Gordon."

"Boy, Bum, your nephew has a hangup about archetypes, doesn't he?" said Bear.

"Indeed," said Bum, "so I googled the definition of archetypes just so we know what we are up against."

"OK," said Bear.  "What are we up against, Bum?  What is the definition?"

Bum paused for effect.  She knows Bear hates that.  "In literature, an archetype is a typical character, an action, or a situation that seems to represent universal patterns of human nature.  An archetype, also known as a "universal symbol," may be a character, a theme, a symbol, or even a setting."

"It's difficult to dispute that definition, Bum.  Paul got it right this time.  Janey and Gordon's story is indeed more like Love Story by Erich Segal than Romeo and Juliet.  In Love Story, the heroine dies at the end which I suppose coincides with Paul's belief that our story has a sad ending too.   Gordon, in real life, is dead now but you let him live on in memory, which I think our readers will like.  I wish we had a famous line in our story, Bum," said Bear, as an after thought.

"What famous line, Bear?" asked Bum.

"Love means never having to say you're sorry," answered Bear.

"We should be able to do better than that sucky line, Bear," said Bum.

"Dream on, Bum," said Bear disparagingly.

"We've still got a ways to go with Structure, Bear.  Paul has written quite a bit about Gordon leaving and Janey not, and why.  But, I have to go now and get started on my exercises."

"What exercises?" asked Bear.

"The ones I've been given by my physiotherapist," said Bum.

"I'm glad you took that radiologist's advice, Bum, and found yourself a physiotherapist, and fairly quickly, which is not like you, quickly I mean.  I bet your sister had something to do with it."

"Indeed," said Bum.  "My sister, like you, is a bit of a nag, so I knew as soon as I told her, that I would have to do it, and quickly as you commented."

"How did you find a physiotherapist, Bum?" asked Bear.

"I used the one my sister had used a few weeks earlier.  She has some back problems too.  Anyway, I went down and made an appointment.  The physiotherapist resides in an office at the Dollarton Shopping Centre so she is handy.  We met for over an hour and she went over some exercises she thought might help me."

"What is her name, Bum?"

"Andrea Bag, or something like that," said Bum, "or maybe it was Box.  You know I'm no good with names, Bear."

"What kind of exercises did she give you, Bum, and how many?" asked Bear.

"She gave me 5 exercises I can do in bed.  They must be done 3 days per week, so I do them Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Each one has 10 repetitions so I do 1 rep in the morning when I wake up, and 1 rep at night before I sleep."

"That seems a lot," said Bear.

"If that were all," muttered Bum.  "I have 4 other exercises which need to be done 2 reps per time, and twice a day, and weekly.  Again, I do half in the am and half in the pm."

"Jeez," said Bear.  "That's a bit much, Bum.  That woman sounds like a sadist about exercises.."

"So true, Bear, so true.  That is why I now call her my psychotherapist."







Monday, March 2, 2020


"Good morning, Bear.  Paul said every story needs structure in order to give it shape and make it feel like it's going somewhere.  Just as the characters need to be based on archetypes to give them coherence and solidity, the story too needs to be identified as to what basic kind of story it is.  A helpful guidebook is 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias.  As he explains it, while a story relates one event after another, a plot connects the events by causation.  It's not just this happened and then this happened, but rather this happened because this other thing happened.  A plot connects events by cause and effect."

"Hold it, Bum.  That's a pretty big mouthful of information to start our day," said Bear.  He looked taken aback.

"I know Bear.  This section on Structure is so big that it may take a couple of days for us to get through it," said Bum.,

"Well, best we get started then," said Bear.  "Paul said a plot connects the events by causation.  Thank God he explained what that means."

"You go first, Bear.  Give me an example from your life in our book, and make it fast, I have an appointment in an hour and a half."

"Don't rush me, Bum.  I know I'm fast and you're slow, but I'm not a robot."

"What do you mean I'm slow?  I take exception to that."

"You are a slow talker, a slow walker, and a slow thinker.  You always need time to come up with a decision about anything.  On the other hand, I am fast as you know, and I take exception to being pressed for speed by a slow person."

"This is getting us nowhere, Bear," and "I'm starting to get annoyed," thought Bum.  "Do you have an example or not?"

"I've got one," responded Bear.

"I knew you would," said Bum, wryly.

"I ended up living on Strathcona Road where you walk by with your little book, recording people and dogs you meet.  We met one morning, in your imagination granted, because the other thing had already happened.  I was born in Calcutta and was purchased by my master, a pilot who had a stopover there.  He bought me for the price of a light meal and brought me home to Deep Cove where you were waiting."

"That's pretty good, Bear.  I wish I could think of an example of causation as good as that," said Bum.

"Never mind that, Bum.  Tell me about your appointment with the radiologist.  You waited long enough for it so I hope it went well," said Bear.

"Not so much, Bear.  I think it was one of the worst days of my life," responded Bum.

" I don't understand, Bum.  You were so happy when your appointment was changed from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm.  Was there a problem with the parking?"  Bear looked puzzled:.

"No," said Bum.  "I arranged it carefully so I would arrive at 12:30 which would give me time to buy the parking ticket from one of those awful machines, walk across the street to St. Paul's Hospital and have sufficient time to walk slowly, which I now do, to see the radiologist in the Providence building.  The parking lot is part of the building where my doctor, Dr. Lim, has his practice.  I purchased 3 hours of parking.  I felt that would give me plenty of time for my one hour consultation with the radiologist, and sufficient time to walk back from the hospital, and cross the street to Dr. Lim's.  I had already told his office I would drop by after my appointment with the radiologist because I wanted to renew my Valium prescription.  I thought I might need it, and I only had one pill left.."

"So, what was the problem, Bum.  Couldn't you find the Providence building?" asked Bear.

"No, I found it, Bear."

"Couldn't you find the Radiology department?" queried Bear, still looking puzzled.

"No, I found it, Bear, and that was where my bad day started."

"How so?  I don't understand," said Bear.  "Did you have to wait a long time?  That's always annoying."

"I got there about 10 to 1:00 pm.  I checked in and they took down my medical card information and told me to take a seat.  The waiting room was full so I had to lean against a wall until someone was called into the office.  There were no magazines to read so I took out my book, The Eighty-Dollar Champion, about an old plow horse called Snowman who could jump very high.  Frances found it somewhere, cheap, and thought I might like it.  I did because I like unusual stories, and I like books about horses, my favourite animal, other than you of course, Bear.  Anyway, it was very interesting and I didn't notice the time passing."

"Never mind about that bloody book," interrupted Bear.  "What happened in the Radiology department that ruined your day."

"I glanced at my watch finally and saw that I had been waiting about 45 minutes.  I went up to the desk to see if they had forgotten me, since most of the people in the waiting room had been taken away to the back.  Not only had they forgotten me, but they were not expecting me, and they said the girl who took my medical information should have known that, but of course had now left the building.  They sent me to the third floor."

"I hope that girl who took your medical information was fired for incompetence," muttered Bear.

"Get real, Bear.  It seems to me that no one is fired for incompetence these days because of fear of a lawsuit.  Anyway, you know I am seeing a radiologist because I am having trouble walking, so sending me to another floor to find the right department was downright mean.  I traipsed upstairs and wandered the floor, stopping and checking different departments, until I was told I needed the 8th floor.  I had now been walking for more than one half hour.  One department was locked but had a phone near the door.  I called and because I didn't know the name of the doctor I needed, was given short shrift.  Again, I walked the corridors of the 8th floor for quite some time, slowly of course as I was fading in the stretch just like a horse, until I found the right place.  Dr. Wong couldn't wait for me, I was told, and took another patient.  I sat down to wait."

"That is abominable service, Bum," said Bear in a very disapproving tone.

"Yes," said Bum, succinctly.  "I was near to the fuck them stage, when the radiologist appeared, introduced himself and escorted me to a back room.  Dr. Wong, a lovely man, told me to remove all my clothes below my waist, except for my underwear.  I did so and he examined me minutely all over, pressing and murmuring, do you feel any pain, and moving my feet in particular this way and that.   He then told me I didn't have enough pain to get the shot they sometimes give for my kind of condition.  I was disappointed but it had been that kind of day.  He informed me I should walk more.  I told him I'd done just that the past hour looking for him.  He gave me a funny look but didn't comment."

"God, Bum, all that waiting for a radiologist and there's nothing he can do.  I give up on the medical profession, just like you," said Bear.

"At the end of my appointment, he suggested I see a physiotherapist for some exercises for my back, keep up and increase the walking, and that was that."

"Hmm," said Bear non-committedly.

"As I left Dr. Wong, I felt relieved that I had had that pedicure because he spent so much time on my bare feet during his examination.  I think that guy's got a foot fetish, Bear."   





Saturday, February 22, 2020


"Hi Bear.  What's been happening in your life?" asked Bum.

"Never mind that, Bum.  I want to hear about your pedicure."

"Perhaps we should start with the next point in Paul's Report called Characters," said Bum, ignoring him.

"Never mind that, Bum," Bear repeated, "I want to hear about your pedicure."

"Why are you interested in my pedicure, my dear Bear.  What possible interest could it have for you?" asked Bum, looking puzzled.

"You're not the type for these beauty aids, Bum.  You are fine just the way you are.  Your skin is good, your finger nails are short and clean, and what could be wrong with your feet?"

"Nice of you to say so, that I am fine just the way I am, Bear, but my feet were indeed a problem.  I've never wanted anyone picking away at my feet, nor indeed at any part of me, but I had a problem with my toe nails because I could not reach my feet for about a year, what with this bloody back problem, and something needed to be done.  So, I caved, as Mom used to say, and made an appointment for a pedicure.  I was not looking forward to it, but I knew something had to be done." 

"I see," said Bear.  "That makes sense.  So, how was it?  I've never seen anyone getting a pedicure but I've heard about them.  My master's wife is always regaling us with stories about her various beauty aids, like her facial, her manicure, her pedicure, and worst of all, some kind of waxing all over her body.  God knows why anyone needs that." 

"The pedicure was much better and easier than I expected," admitted Bum.  The Sanctuary is located upstairs at Parkgate Village.  You've probably never been there, Bear."

"Why would I have ever been to The Sanctuary, Bum.  I'm a dog and when I needed my nails clipped, the Vet did it."

"Anyway, I went upstairs and entered The Sanctuary at the allotted time, identified myself and said I am here for my 12:30 appointment.  This tall blonde woman rushed over to me and told me I was so stylish she could hardly bear it.  I asked if I could hang up my coat and hat to distract her from her over-the-top pleasure at seeing me.  It was too much. She then enthused about my tie around my neck and asked if it was part of my sweater, it was so stylish.  I thought she was overdoing it as it is that old black string I've worn for years around the neck of a blouse I usually wear under a sweater.  I prayed she was not doing my pedicure as my feet definitely were not stylish by a long shot.  I was so relieved when another woman approached, called Sera, and said she was doing my pedicure and escorted me to a back room, very private."

"What was she on about, Bum.  Usually all I see you in are old pants and a disreputable sweater.  How stylish could that be?" said Bear, looking puzzled.

"I don't know, Bear.  As I said, she was over-the-top.  Now, do you want to hear about the pedicure or not?"

"You know I do," responded Bear.

"The room was small and contained what looked like a hospital bed against one wall.  I hoped that didn't mean anything.   She sat me down in the corner, asked me to remove my socks because I must soak my feet in this big tub of hot soapy water. It was lovely.  The soaking lasted about 10 minutes  before Sera returned and asked if I needed help to get up on the bed.  I told her I would give it a try and did, successfully.  My feet were propped up at the foot of the bed where Sera sat.  She clipped and snipped and talked and it went smoothly, I thought.  She didn't seem to have any problem with my nails, although I always found it a strain to clip them because they weren't quite even and were a bit hard.  Mind you, I never thought of soaking them first, but then my career didn't lean to pedicures.  I was an insurance person."

"So it went well," said Bear.  "No big deal, I gather."

"I told Sera I would come again after about a month, just to keep my beautiful feet beautiful.   She thought that was a good idea."

"You're a bit of a character, you know that don't you Bum?"

Bum said nothing.

Bear continued with "my master's wife calls the woman next door a bit of a character."

"Why's that?" enquired Bum.

"The woman wears unusual footwear for one thing.  She has these high-heeled gold lame boots which personally I don't feel belong on city streets,  and when those shoes and boots became popular with a cat's face on the toe, she wore those.  I think the master's wife calls her a character, trying to be nice but acknowledge her unusual dress code which is rather flamboyant, because the woman's husband is filthy rich and worth knowing, if you know what I mean."

"I don't think I'm a character like that woman, Bear," said Bum in a disapproving tone.

"No, that's true, Bum.  You are more of a character in that you are eccentric, but rather charming with it."

"I like that Bear.  You are forgiven for comparing me to that awful woman.  So, what you're saying is that there are many kinds of characters."

"Yes, Bum, and since we're talking characters, let's segue on to Paul's latest remarks about Characters in our book."

"Let's do it, Bear, although your segue is pretty obvious, when it shouldn't be, if you know what I mean.  In case you don't know, a segue is a smooth transition.  When you segue in conversation, you change the topic so smoothly that people might not even notice."

"I know what segue means, Bum, but we don't need that slimy way of changing a topic.  We are surely past that.  What did he say about Characters?"

"This is what he wrote," said Bum.

"As for clarifying characters, I have said above that I see the three main characters as breaking down this way, using the book Heroes and Heroines as a guide:

     .  Janey, the Spunky Kid (Working Girl variant)
     Bear, the Bad Boy (From the Wrong Side of the Tracks variant)
     .  Gordon, the Best Friend (Mr. Nice Guy variant)

If we use this breakdown, then the next draft should work at depicting the characters as being powered by and consistent with these archetypes.  The book Heroes and Heroines is actually aimed at romance writers, and discusses how these archetypes interact in a romantic plot.  The authors think that an example of the Best Friend and Spunky Kid in a romantic story together is the movie While You Were Sleeping with Bill Pullman and Sandra Bullock.  I haven't seen the movie, but it might provide an example of these kinds of characters in action with each other.  Their example of a Bad Boy with Spunky Kid story is the movie Grease starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

All this will make the characters clear and stand on their own two (or four) feet.  Part of the task will involve fleshing out the characters, in part by understanding their backstories--the events in their respective pasts that are relevant to the unfolding of the present story."

"I wish Paul would stop referring to me as the Bad Boy, and now, having the effrontery to compare me to that old fart, John Travolta,." said Bear, looking pretty disgusted at the whole Characters assessment.

"He's not that old, Bear.  I believe he was born in 1954 so he's younger than I am, but who isn't?" said Bum.

"I didn't call him that, Bum.  It was my master's wife's daughter who called him that when her mother was trying to get her to watch Grease with her, a film she had always loved and thought her daughter would too.  Her daughter had seen John Travolta interviewed on one of those talk shows recently and that's why she saw him as an old fart."

"Give me strength, Bear.  Paul was comparing you to the young John Travolta from Grease.  He was a master dancer and singer and actor and played the Bad Boy in that film to great aplomb."

"Oh," said Bear.  "That's OK then but I still object to being called a Bad Boy which I am not."

"I don't see you as a bad boy, Bear, and that's really all that matters," said Bum.

"What else did Paul have to say about our characters?" asked Bear.

 "That's all he had to say about Characters.  He obviously feels our book needs more about our backstories, our history I guess."

"Hmm," said Bear.  "Let me think about that for a few minutes."

"While you're thinking, I'll tell you what I think," said Bum.  She hasn't time to sit around thinking about this crap.  She has an appointment over town, finally, with her radiologist.

"It seems that Paul feels that we should've devoted a few chapters on Janey's life history, and then yours, Bear.  I think he's wrong.  I hate long chapters about any person or place in a book.  I prefer that they get on with the story.  Remember, he wanted us to flesh out Deep Cove as he felt people would enjoy knowing more about this locale, since it's a very unique place. Our book isn't about Deep Cove, it's about us.  Wouldn't you agree, Bear?"

"Indeed I do agree, Bum.   Our backstories emerge from our conversations as we walk, which is what our story is all about; we walk and we talk.  That is how friends find out about each other--through conversation."

"That is so true, Bear.  I found out that you were born in Calcutta of all places, three pups in a basket being hawked for a tasty supper by your hideous owner who was a woman regrettably.  Your master was there, checking out the market on one of his layovers as a pilot, and purchased you for the price of a light meal.  He brought you home to Deep Cove and your human family started to emerge.  I love that word, emerge.  It sounds like something being seen emerging from mist."

"That's a nice image, Bum, emerging from mist," responded Bear.  "I like it."

"What did you learn about me, Bear, from our conversations?" asked Bum.

"I learned about your Dad from the newspaper story.  Even Steve, your brother-in-law, that you now write to, said that he enjoyed re-reading the newspaper story.  Your Dad called you and your sister the two twerps who had no business delivering papers.  But, you talked him into it.  Steve said that most of the newspaper story was just about what happened as told to him by his wife, Patsy.  He said he found it interesting and entertaining and it seemed somewhat personal.  He knew the area well and the people in it and agreed that it showed a father's love for his little twerps.  Steve said he found it a very heart warming story."

"I love Steve's letters, Bum, when you remember to read them to me.  Sometimes you forget," said Bear with a frown.

"I know, Bear, and I'm sorry about that.  I'll try, no, I will get better.  I hate people who always say I'll try to, blah, blah, blah."

"When did you start writing to Steve and why?" asked Bear.

"It's been awhile, since July 2018, as I recall.  His wife, Patsy, my sister, had died four years earlier.  I knew he must be lonely without her, as I am.   I thought he might enjoy that bit in our book about my little treasure, the blue Mini he painted and gave to me so many years ago.  He did, and we have been writing to each other ever since."

"It's nice to get letters, isn't it Bum?  I don't think a lot of people out there know how nice it is to get mail, real mail I mean.  Children know.  They love getting mail addressed to them and delivered to the house."

"That's so true, Bear.  My sister and I always send cards to Sophie, William, and Charlie, Chella and Wes's children.  They love that."

"So, Bum, what did Steve say in his first letter to you?" asked Bear.

"He said he was happy to hear that I still have the little mini Austin model he sent to me many years ago, and that it's in my book.  He went on to say that one day I had given him and Patsy a ride in that little car in Toronto.  He felt uneasy because he knew I hadn't had my driver's licence long and also that the driving in Toronto traffic is somewhat suicidal.  Well, I took off like a shot, he said, zipping in and out of traffic like a T.O. taxi driver.  He was amazed at the confidence and control I showed in that crazy traffic.  It was funny to read what he thought of me then, Bear, because I never saw myself like that."

"You don't know yourself very well, Bum, as I've told you before."

Bum ignored that comment and went on.  "This correspondence with Steve keeps my friend and sister, Patsy, in my thoughts and memory.  I dearly wish she could know that."

"She knows," said Bear with a smile.

"You always know what to say, Bear, to make me feel good.  It's a gift.  But, perhaps Paul is correct about fleshing out my background.  I never had a story to use in our book about Mom and, like Dad, she was a big part of my history."

"Your mother's personality crept  into our conversation, and book, in bits and pieces, Bum.  You said she was not demonstrative, for example, although that is hard to comprehend when she had 14 children.  The incident I remember most was the time when your mother got old, as people tend to do. You said she was slumped in a chair and you thought she needed and perhaps wanted a hug.  You regretted if very much that you did not hug her.  She had taught you too well."  Bear paused here in remembrance and then said, "It broke my heart, Bum.  It broke my heart."

"Someday, Bear, we'll be archetypes someone mentions in a book.  Perhaps Paul will read it.















Friday, January 31, 2020


"Good morning, Bear.  We'd best move on with Paul's Reader's Report.  Time's a wastin', and we may never get through the entire report.  We need to come on in the stretch as they say when calling a horse race"
"I'm ready, Bum.  Are you?  How do you feel?" enquired Bear.

"I feel pretty good today, Bear.  I've been on my early morning walk and I finished my whole water bottle because there were so many cars going by.  Also, I have a drink of water after 20 steps and 5 shoulder lifts.  I think it's working.  I'm more upright.  You may have noticed."

"Yes, I did notice, Bum.  You're not bent over as much as before.  This is good.  I'm glad you took control of your own exercises to help your back.  God knows, the medical profession had nothing to offer."

"You know what I think of the medical profession, Bear.  I still haven't gotten over that call I got from that Pain Management place.  After a year, he tells me he has my appointment for a dermatologist and, would you believe, it's at 8:30 of all times.  Am or pm stinks but I'll have to phone and get that clarified because my appointment is coming up in about three weeks."

"I'll be glad when that's over, Bum, for your sake." muttered Bear.  He's as sick of the subject of my back as I am, thought Bum.

"Before moving on to the Audience analysis of our book by Paul, let me say that I make a solemn vow not to be one of those people, who, when asked how they are, tell you, ad nauseum."

"I concur, Bum.  When my master's wife had her gall bladder operation many years ago, I heard the details of that so many times when she was asked by her friends how that went, that I felt quite bilious."

"OK, then, Bear, this is what Paul had to say about Audience.  He said and I quote, Next: the audience for the story.  I expect that the ideal reader will be one who can identify with Janey's world and interests, and will be tickled by a retiree consorting with a talking dog.  So I see an adult audience, especially one of older adults--fellow retirees.  There are more and more of these as the Baby Boomers retire, so it's a large and ever-growing demographic, and maybe also one that is not really served that well in fiction writing.  It needs to be an audience who can take a genuine interest in a retiree romance, and not see that as something merely cute and funny, as younger people might be ought to do."

Bear thought a moment and then said "What about dog lovers?  Now, there's a big audience."

"I agree, Bear.  I think dog lovers will love our book.   They know when their dog is irritated with them and turns away from them to show their displeasure.  The dog shows them in every possible way what they are thinking and feeling and loving.  My mother told me once that her dog, Buck, was very angry with her and wouldn't come to her when she called and wouldn't have anything to do with her until she apologized.  I found that a bit weird at the time but Mom was adamant that Buck took great exception to something she did, I cannot remember what it was now, and it took days for him to forgive her and become her loving companion once more.  My friend Ellen said her cat gave her the  cold shoulder once when another animal was visiting and getting a lot of praise and petting.  I always thought people like this were imagining things but now I know different.  Look at some of the incidents we've had when you were ticked off and I had to talk you round."

"Maybe you're on to something, Bum," acknowledged Bear, before proceeding with his remarks on Audience.  "What about those Harlequin readers.  There must be thousands of them out there."

"At least," said Bum, wryly, "but the two little Harlequins in our book are pretty short."

"What's size got to do with anything?" came Bear right back.

"I'll mention our two thoughts on possible readers to Paul when I see him next and see what he has to say."

"OK, then," said Bear.

"I have to go now, Bear.  I have a 12:30 appointment up at Parkgate at The Sanctuary."

"The Sanctuary?" repeated Bear.  "Is that a religious outfit?"

"No, it's a place of beauty.  They do manicures, pedicures, and facials, and perhaps other things I cannot envisage," said Bum.  "I'm having a mini pedicure, if you must know, and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow when we meet."

Bear looked at Bum in absolute astonishment before speaking.

"A pedicure!! You?"




Tuesday, January 28, 2020


was the year of my favourite Triple Crown horse races.  I included my story in my book My Imaginary Dog and thought you, dear reader if you're out there, would enjoy it.  This story was brought to mind recently when I heard one of my favourite handicappers, Brian Zipse, say on one of his weekly videos, that The Preakness that year was his very favourite Triple Crown race.  So, here it is.

I and my sister have been going to the races for many years.  It is our one shared love.  One of the most exciting races I ever saw was the Kentucky Derby in 2012.  The winner, I'll Have Another, was ridden by a local jockey, Mario Guttierez, which made it special for me and all the other racegoers at Hastings Park where we watched the big race on a big TV.   The horse was 13 to 1 on the odds.

Mario was a bit of a celebrity for a while, and deservedly so.  The race and the jockey were mentioned on the CBC.  This was Mario's first mount in the Kentucky Derby and then he won it.  There were twenty horses entered for the big race. I'll Have Another  had the 19 spot which had never won the Derby, until then that is.   Trinniberg, a known sprinter, took the lead.   Many people had objected to Trinniberg being entered because he was a sprinter and the race is 1 and 1/4 miles, but he gave a good accounting of himself, I thought.  Bodemeister, the favourite, took the lead from him and they battled along for a bit.  I'll Have Another, a horse who has good speed from the gate too, took the sixth position on the outside.  A few of the very good horses in the race were in the middle and on the rail and suffered accordingly.  They were bashed and squeezed and bumped.  It was a madhouse, as it usually is.  Bodemeister entered the stretch with a five length lead and he looked like a winner.  Out of the pack came I'll Have Another and he kept coming and coming and coming and caught Bodemeister at the wire by a length and a half.  It was so great, one of the best races I'd ever seen, until the Preakness.

The Preakness is the second jewel in the Triple Crown.  It's a shorter race, 1 mile and 3/16ths, and the field is about half of the Kentucky Derby.  That is why Bodemeister remained favoured because of his speed and staying power.  Both horses broke well with Bodemeister in front by about 1 and 1/2 lengths as expected, and I'll Have Another in 4th I believe.  The pace wasn't as fast as the Derby which boded well for Bodemeister.  They entered the stretch and I'll Have Another had moved to 3rd, and then the race was on.  Bodemeister was not slowing but I'll Have Another on the outside kept grinding away and in the final yards, caught Bodemeister.

The crowed was pretty jubilant at Hastings Race Track. The place erupted when Mario won.  I've never heard a crowd calling for the jockey rather than the horse.  Mario, Mario, Mario, they shouted.  Come on Mario, bring him home they said over and over during the stretch run, and he did.  I'll never forget that thrilling moment.

I'll Have Another did not win the Triple Crown because he was not entered in the last leg, the Belmont, the longest race at 1 mile and a half.  The insinuation was that he could not run, and everyone assumed an injury.  Nothing specific was ever said and he was sold for big bucks soon after to someone foreign.  I always figured it came down to money, as it usually does, but I had no proof, only bitter disillusionment that he did not run and win his rightful Crown.

In 2015, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, but for me he did not have the thrill of I'll Have Another, nor the talent.  His times for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness were mediocre at best, as were the horses he beat.  There was no way American Pharoah could've outrun the great Bodemeister.  



Monday, January 20, 2020

Possible Strategies

"Where have you been?" asked Bear the next time I saw him.

"I got the dreaded flu and I've been off my feet for more than a week.  I had a terrible cough and I even stopped smoking, that's how bad it was.  My vodka martinis were tasteless as well.  That's when I knew I was sick."

"Good grief, it's not like you to get sick Bum," said Bear.

"I know.  It took me by surprise too," said Bum.  "I'm better, but I tire easily. I was watching my favourite show on my laptop the other day, HorseCenter, and I fell asleep sitting up and missed most of the show."

"What's HorseCenter?  I've never heard of it," said Bear.

"It's a weekly video presented by my two favourite handicappers, Brian Zipse and Matt Shifman, and I have watched them for years.|

"Are they good handicappers?" asked Bear.

"Like all handicappers, sometimes they're good and sometimes they're not."

"Hmph," said Bear.

"A couple of videos back, Mr. Zipse endeared himself to me forever when he said that the most thrilling of all the Triple Crown races he has seen, was the Preakness, between I'll Have Another and Bodemeister."

"That's the Triple Crown races you talked about in our book, isn't it?  I believe you told our friend Gordon all about it."

"That is correct, Bear.  You have a good memory," said Bum with some admiration.

"Why don't you copy some of that story into our blog, Bum?  Some people who read our blog may find it interesting," said Bear.

"Bear, I don't think anyone is reading our blog much and it would take a bit of work for me to find that story and insert it," said Bum.

"What else have you got to do, Bum?  You're not up to scratch yet, what with that rotten flu, so typing is probably all you're good for."

"That's so true, Bear, my energy level is pretty low.   I have a hard copy of my book which my sister is reading, so she can do a critique she said.  I'll use that to find that horse racing stuff.  My sister suggested I do a summary for each chapter, which I did, and that will make it easier for me to find that stuff about the Preakness.  She has some good ideas."

"That she does, Bum.  Did you find it?" asked Bear.

"Yes, I did, I found it in the summary for Chapter 41."

"41 chapters!  That's a lot, isn't it Bum.  We must talk too much.," said Bear.

"I don't know about that, Bear, I guess our book is as long as it has to be," said Bum.  "It's certainly longer than those Harlequins;  they are mostly 10 chapters as I recall."

"Maybe you only need 10 chapters for romance," said Bear.  "What would I know, I'm a dog."

Bum pondered her problem for a bit and then said, "I'm going to need some quality time to minimize that Triple Crown story for my next blog, Bear.  I think we should proceed with Paul's Possible Strategies while I'm thinking about it.  What do you say?"

"I say that's a good plan, Bum.  What did Paul say in his Reader's Report?"

"He said the way forward depends on how much work you want to put into the story.  If you want to find a conventional publisher for it, I would say that it needs quite a lot of work.  And even then, you may never find one;  it depends in part on how much faith and determination you have."

"He can be a bit of a downer sometimes, can't he Bum?"

"I think you said that before, Bear.  Look,  he's trying to be honest, so we won't have any surprises.  He went on to say and I quote, But if you're looking to self-publish it as an e-book, then the level of polish and quality is up to you, the publisher.  Publishing an e-book is still not completely easy; the author has to do all of the publisher's jobs, such as getting the book edited and formatted, and then actually published--made available to readers where they find e-books.  There is also the issue of promotion, which is perhaps the biggest and hardest job of all.  Not that publishers do much of that anyway for new or obscure authors;  it's really up to the author to provide his own promotion even in that case."

"Is there a nice way of saying, I think we're screwed, Bum?" asked Bear.

"Not that I know, Bear.  I think that says it all."

"So, what else did Paul have to say about Possible Strategies?" asked Bear, looking quite dubious.

"He said he sees three broad strategies for taking the book to publication.  The first one he calls the minimal path.  This would be mostly a copyedit of the existing draft, cleaning it up, fixing typos and grammatical mistakes, and making a few easy tweaks to make it more presentable and readable.  Then it could be formatted for publication as an e-book." 

"I like that one," said Bear.

"I knew you would," said Bum.

"Let's face it, Bum, this would be the one where it could be published before I'm dead, or more importantly, before you're dead because you told me once when you die, I die with you."

"Enough talk about death, Bear, Paul's second strategy is the middle path.  This would be to make a serious effort to address the issues raised in "Things to Work On".   The result, Paul believes, would be a much more polished and complete-feeling story.  But it would not happen in one draft, or in two, or in three.  We'd be looking at several drafts, possibly one for each of the bullet points listed.  Even then,  Paul doesn't think we'd be talking about conventional publication; we would still be talking about a self-published e-book.  But it would be in a better position to hold its own against all competition, quality-wise, and should find a bigger audience."

"I bet you chose this path, Bum, because you are a middle path kind of person," said Bear with a smirk.

"I do not know what you mean by that remark, my dear Bear, but you are right I did choose the middle path and it is the one that Paul recommended.  My draft 2 includes those "Things to Work On" he mentioned so I'm good to go, I think."

"Dare I be so bold as to ask what the maximum path is?" asked Bear with some trepidation.

"Paul said this would be an effort to make the story all that it can be, to realize its full potential.  The idea would be to try to make My Imaginary Dog appear to be the work of a fully qualified published author--a good one.  This would mean putting strong effort into making the story work, and doing all we can to make the finished product tight, original, and engaging.  He said he could recommend more books to help me study up on the craft, so I can understand what's involved and what to do."

"He already gave you two books, didn't he?"

"Yes," said Bum, and said no more.  She'd read the books of course but she'd already finished most of her book so they weren't very helpful.  Maybe she could use some of that stuff they talked about for her next book, ha ha.

"Bear, our book is what I would call a fun read.  Here we are, the two of us, who love each other, and
 best of all, are friends.  We like to have a few laughs, and talk about our funny stories, and some sad ones too.  We argue, we make up, we enjoy each other's company, and we have plenty to say about a lot of subjects.  I think people would enjoy reading about our antics and would remember they too had such antics in their lives.  It's all about memories and you and everyone else can make of them as you like.  They can be good, they can be bad, but they are yours."

"Well said, Bum, you do have a way with words."

"Paul's a bit of a perfectionist about his own writing and perhaps he sees our book as Nobel Prize material if we do the work."

"You're no Alice Munro, Bum," said Bear. 




Friday, January 17, 2020


Hi blog.  Relax, I am not going to bore you with my vision failings.  As my eye specialist said to me once, when I questioned my failing far vision, your vision is good enough.  Good enough for him, I'm thinking, but I have my problems, with seeing I mean.  Oh well, on to more interesting topics.

This is the New Year and I decided to make a couple of resolutions.  l 've never bothered before but I've changed in this past year so I thought, what the hell, I'll make a couple of resolutions.  No, I am not going to quite smoking, or drinking, or cursing.  Those things are keepers age.

First, to recap last year, I finished draft 2 of a book I wrote called My Imaginary Dog.  My nephew, Paul, who is editing my book, suggested I get myself a blog and record my comments about editing with my imaginary dog, which I had told him I wanted to do..  Paul read my book and gave me a 13 page analysis of it.  I am using this document to fine tune my book with the help of Bear, my imaginary dog.  It has been a lot of fun and I have posted several of our conversations, and suggestions he has made, on my blog.  You may have read them, or not, because accessing my blog is impossible for some unknown reason.  Sometimes, I, or my sister, forward a link of my blog to those who have shown interest, i.e. friends and relatives. 

Other than writing my book and blog all year, I have entertained myself, usually in the early morning while I have my coffee and cigarettes in my room, by re-designing a piece of clothing usually obtained from the Thrift.  The main thing I worked on last year was a long camel coat which fitted me perfectly but the sleeves were a bit short.  This I found weird because I have rather short arms.  I thought I could add some cuffs to the coat which would give it the length I needed but I couldn't think of what I could use from the stuff lying around my room.  I even thought of crocheting some cuffs as I learned to crochet duvets years ago from an old, cranky neighbour in Upper Lonsdale where we lived for a long time.  That seemed too difficult as I would have to find my old bag of crochet stuff and re-learn that weird stitch she taught me.

On one of my visits to the Church Thrift at Parkgate, I found a pair of white slippers for $1.00.  They had high sock like tops to them and I discovered that inside these slippers, there was this white, curly fur-like lining.  Perfect.  I cut the tops off the socks, turned them inside out, and fashioned them into very cute cuffs.  My biggest challenge was threading a needle to sew the cuffs on.  My sight isn't what it used to be and I swear those needles were placed in my care as a punishment.  The long and short of this creative tale is that the coat with its new cuffs looked pretty darn good, cute even.  I added a white matching scarf, long, and hanging down the front of the coat, and it's ready to wear.  I hung this masterpiece in my outside closet and waited for a cooler day.

Tragedy struck soon after.  I tried to open the outside closet door and a screw flew out of one of the hinges, the top one, and I never did find it.   The other screw was loose and the door slumped alarmingly into my arms.  Luckily, my gorilla ladder was leaning nearby and I used it to prop the door closed.   A couple of days later, Molly Maid, our expensive house cleaners, came by and one of the maids is a man.  I asked him about the hinge and he confirmed it needs a thicker screw and longer because there is good strong wood behind and that would do the trick.  Now, I need to find a hardware store and get those screws.  As if I don't have enough to do, I'm thinking.

Weeks went by and no chance to find a hardware store.  The gorilla ladder propping the door shut  did not add to the decor in the entry hall.  I needed something better, something tasteful.  I tried several books but they did not fit until finally I found the perfect one, by a writer not so yappy.  W. Somerset Maugham and his little book, Cakes And Ale, was just right.  It held that closet door closed with assurance and taste, just like the writer.  It's just too bad the book's title didn't have the word closet in it, then that would be more fitting in more ways than one..

 Back to my New Year's resolutions, I have two.

Across from my bedroom door, which fronts on the entrance hall, is a white wall made of very hard wood that will not take a nail.  I resolve to gather up old drawings done by children I have known, have them laminated, and stick them to that wall in an artistic cluster. I have lots of pictures done by Paul and Mara over the years we all lived together, and they have been laminated to preserve them.
I'm downsizing and going through old correspondence to get rid of it, or whatever, and found several old pictures drawn by an 8 year old Damon Shareski, the son of my brother-in-law Steve who I am corresponding with now that his wife, my sister Patsy, died.  Damon, as an adult, is an artist now but I have his beginnings, which I will hang on my wall. There are five of them, a sailboat, a horse of course, a car, a dog named Briar Rose Bottens, and a young boy's version of a woman, always endowed with a fairly big bust.  They will make a nice display, not the breasts but the pictures..  They look a bit ratty after about thirty years so I decided to freshen them up before lamination.

Damon's pictures were drawn on a white pad of paper, you know the kind with three holes on the bottom.  You can remove the pages nicely or just rip them out of the pad.  I managed to preserve the holes in two of the pictures because the drawings were so close to the bottom of the page.  I've always liked the look of the holes after lamination, or any marks to show they'd hung on your wall for years because you loved them.  Anyway, the pages needed something.  They were white, the wall was white, and the drawings were not that dark.

After some thought, I decided to frame Damon's pictures in black for contrast against the white wall.  I got out my trusty black felt pen, a big one I've had for years, and a ruler borrowed from my sister,    
and voila, the job was done.  They looked better when I held one of them against that white wall, but still not quite right.  My sister, Frances, studied them and said she has an old book of heavy coloured thick paper she let the kids use when they used to visit.  Perhaps some of those coloured pages backing Damon's pictures would do the trick.  They did.  I chose a deep, deep pink colour for all of them and will attach them before lamination.

I found an old folded up piece of paper in the back of my desk drawer in my room.  What a lovely surprise it was.  Paul, my nephew, had drawn these caricatures, dated  April 2, 1983,  which is unusual because most people don't date anything, of himself, a couple of me, and one of his friend Warren which is undeniably him.  The only problem was that each set of caricatures was on one side of the same single page.  There's a stationary shop up at Parkgate so I got the fellow there to photo copy both sides of the caricatures and, because there was a space on one side, I had him copy a picture of Paul, the artist, on the high right side of the one page.  I took the pages home and pasted them into one sheet, ringed it in black liked I'd done Damon's and I'm done.  Now, I just have to find the time to get the pictures over to Lonsdale where I found a print shop that does laminating.  I hope it's not too expensive, because I have about 6 pictures.  If it is, so be it, it is my lst New Year's resolution.

My second resolution is painting my room and bathroom.  Now, this will be a challenge, a big one.  I have the colours I want, that's a start.   I bought a decorative border many years ago.  It says it is prepasted, washable, easy to apply, and is about 6 inches wide.  My plan at the time was to ring it round the mustard coloured wall surrounding my bath tub with the claw feet .  The person who applied the mustard tiles behind the tub smeared some mustard streaks on the white wall above and it could not be removed.  That is why I thought the decorative border would cover it nicely.  Of course, I never got around to it.  However, the decorative border has the colours I want for my room, off white for the walls and a gray blue for the ceilings.  All I have to do now is find a good paint store.

It's a good thing I've got all year to complete these resolutions because I think I'll need every day and every hour of that time.  I am not the fastest person in the world, but I am steady and resolute in my way.

The idea of New Year's resolutions makes me want to puke, and always has, so I don't know why I am doing this now.  Maybe I'm losing it. 

In my entire life, I only heard of one good New Year's resolution.  Many, many, many years ago, when my sister and I were still working. a woman in her office told her she was making a New Year's resolution, for the first time.   She resolved to start smoking.