Friday, July 29, 2011

The Art of Modern Scamming

There is not much I have. In fact most of the time I feel pretty powerless. I'm in the arts. Let's leave it at that.

Thus, I have no real health or dental insurance. But I am smart--or so I thought. I had been actively looking for Groupon or other such deals for basic teeth cleaning. I've seen them pop up over time and waited until one came along on Living Social. For $69 I was promised a basic teeth cleaning, x-rays, and exam. Wow!

The deal was on!

I made an appt earlier this week at the Art of Modern Dentistry on Southport and went in this morning REALLY looking forward to coming out with that clean teeth feeling--you know where your tongue can find the cracks between your teeth, where if you inhale suddenly you can hear the air whistle in between. What I ended up with was humiliation. After spending at least an hour x-raying my teeth I was presented with a bill for $492. Ha!

Really, I laughed. They said because of some hygienic law they couldn't do the basic cleaning and that I needed a DEEP CLEANING. Listen , I know I don't have the best teeth--long story, ice skating accident over 25 years ago (NEVER let your children ice skate!)--but I never once thought the deal was a scam. That is until that moment. The moment The Art of Dentistry refused to clean my teeth.

See Yelp reviews


First of all, they didn't properly clean my teeth. Even after I complained, they still did not do a good job the second time.

Then they took extra x-rays without even asking me and had to the nerve to charge me!

Then they said I had a cavity and I would need to get a crown done at $1,000. I went to my dentist in Detroit for a second opinion and found out that there was not even a cavity there. Second, my dentist said there was no reason to get a crown if it was a cavity.

It was the biggest amount of BS that I experienced. I have never had such a horrible experience with a dentist. The dentist was nice but clearly it was all an act.

It was then I silently removed the little napkin clipped under my chin, got up, and retrieved my purse out of the closet. All the staff had suddenly disappeared. I felt like a real tool for falling for and paying $69 for the deal--with what to show for it--pricey x-rays? The receptionist said I could contact Living Social about getting my money refunded.

I left feeling ashamed--which is worse: knowing you have bad teeth or the knowledge that you can't do anything about it because you are too poor OR that you were suckered into thinking you could have a teeth cleaning for $69???

Once home I did contact Living Social--yes, of course, there was no one to answer my call. And then I discovered this:
 The problem I see with is that I don't believe they do any due diligence when it comes to what businesses they partner with and promote on their site!

I'm not alone in being ripped off. There were hundreds of complaints against Living Social on the Internet.

Well, if all I have is my ability to write, then here it is: If you Living Social have made your business on the Internet, then the Internet can TAKE IT AWAY. If you, Social Living have relied upon social networking for your business, then you will be crushed by social networking.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I've been watching a very interesting DVD these past couple of nights (am I the only old person who watches movies over the course of 2 - 3 viewings?) called HOWL.

It is like a docu drama with animated clips about Alan Ginsberg's process. You know, I kinda think he was a genius. A very complicated person that put EVERYTHING out there. Much of his work, in fact maybe all of it, has autobiographical/memoirish elements.

I really love Ginsberg's honesty and transparency. Watching the movie (so far) there's a lot of discussion about memories--those that one consciously acknowledges and unconscious memories, and how one can bring those to the surface. He SAYS in the movie--as much of the dialogue is taken from actual records/interviews/etc--that he gets into a zone whereby the inside comes outside.


Now that is some legitimately good stuff.

But HOW does a writer do that? Some use drugs, alcohol, etc to provoke or suppress memories, while other writers (such as myself) does nothing--except sit there. Sit there and write and think and write until either my fingertips begin to bleed to else words form, and from those formless words a thread that I follow to hopefully pull out a beginning, middle and end. The unconscious into the conscious. HOWL.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Once More to the Lake

We’re in the middle of a heat wave. What can be worse than a heat wave? A dome of heat and humidity hovering over a concrete city.

That’s why at this time of year we all dream about going away. We all have fantasies based upon experiences we had as kids of what a true summer is:

*Lolling about on a hammock
*All day reading on the cot set up on the screened-in porch
*A glass of lemonade, condensation sweating down the sides in rivulets
*Running through a sprinkler—an act so sublime that it has been lost forever I’m afraid to the Water Park
*In a canoe out in the middle of a lake, the cool breezes wafting over you
*how about a peach, a bucket of blueberries, shucking corn, cranking ice cream
*doing nothing, nothing at all

In 1941 E. B. White (he of Charlotte’s Web fame) wrote a small personal essay about returning with his young son to a camp on a lake up in Maine that he had visited during the summer months as a child.

The lake had never been what you would call a wild lake. There were cottages sprinkled around the shores, and it was in farming although the shores of the lake were quite heavily wooded. Some of the cottages were owned by nearby farmers, and you would live at the shore and eat your meals at the farmhouse. That's what our family did. But although it wasn't wild, it was a fairly large and undisturbed lake and there were places in it which, to a child at least, seemed infinitely remote and primeval.

Wow that lake and woods sounds amazing. Through the filter of nostalgia White has woven a paradise. Yet even as he journeys there he worries about how time might have altered the “holy spot” of his memories. Instead of gravel, would the road be tarred? Would the lake be clear and cold and still—or marred by the invention of the outboard motor?

But when I got back there, with my boy, and we settled into a camp near a farmhouse and into the kind of summertime I had known, I could tell that it was going to be pretty much the same as it had been before--I knew it, lying in bed the first morning, smelling the bedroom, and hearing the boy sneak quietly out and go off along the shore in a boat. I began to sustain the illusion that he was I, and therefore, by simple transposition, that I was my father. This sensation persisted, kept cropping up all the time we were there. It was not an entirely new feeling, but in this setting it grew much stronger. I seemed to be living a dual existence.

Whether we have children or grandchildren or a special niece or nephew or “borrow” a friend’s child, we know that human tendency of wanting to show them the kind of fun we had, and in doing this, make it possible to relive our past through them. I used to want to take my girl bike riding until she complained so loudly that I gave up. Seems that she HATED riding her bike. Some things you can’t share. But in White’s essay, he and his son bond over fishing, swimming, pie-eating. For those couple of weeks summer was as he always remembered it. It was like time had stood still. Rare and golden, like a memory. Until one can actually come to believe that they are immortal.

When the others went swimming my son said he was going in too. He pulled his dripping trunks from the line where they had hung all through the shower, and wrung them out. Languidly, and with no thought of going in, I watched him, his hard little body, skinny and bare, saw him wince slightly as he pulled up around his vitals the small, soggy, icy garment. As he buckled the swollen belt suddenly my groin felt the chill of death.

And it is this line: I’ve always remembered from White’s essay, the final word of death. When reality comes rushing in and I realize time has passed. That my parents now in their own twilight, both this July turning 86 and 85. That my daughter, also having a birthday this month, is turning 22. That that summer we vacationed at the lake, the same summer her father got the worst poison ivy imaginable doing GI crawls in wet jeans in thick underbrush, the same summer we had terrible rains and the lake rose up quickly to level with the boat house, and Grandpa and Grandma came down from Galesburg with a picnic and a cake decorated like an American flag, and me, Mom, launched herself from a rock on the rope swing and forgot to let go and swung back and smashed and grazed my arm, letting go to plop and make little eddies of bloody water—that summer, that conflation of many summers we had—are gone.


We can only go there again by some slip of the mind, with strong memory magic. This heat wave I hope once more to go back, once more to the lake.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Inch by Inch

In this blog entry I’m going to reference a writing acquaintance of mine here in Chicago, Molly Backes who works at Story Studio , which if you haven’t checked out any of their classes, then click here.

Molly recently wrote at her blog about writing: How to be a Writer. This blog was picked up by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic and reposted everywhere.

Here is a snip:
A few weeks ago, a woman asked me for advice about her teenage daughter. “She wants to be a writer,” the mother said. “What should we be doing?”

To be honest, I was kind of stumped. (In part, I think it was the way she asked it – “What should WE be doing?” I didn’t really know what to do with that “we.”) (Also, it was quite early in the day, and I hadn’t yet had sufficient coffee to be giving anyone advice.) I suggested a few upcoming creative writing classes, but the mother wasn’t satisfied. There must be more – what else could they do?

“Well,” I said, “you know. Writers read a lot… and write a lot.”

She looked at me blankly.

“You really do have to write a lot,” I said. “I mean, that’s mostly it. You write a lot.”

The mother shook her head. “What else? Are there books she can read? Events she can attend? Writing camps?”

Funny, but I was reminded of her blog this Sunday sitting in church. The woman, a close friend, was giving the sermon where she talked about faith being a series of small acts—rather than one BIG one. We’re conditioned to look for short cuts, the easy way. Yet sometimes the fastest way over the mountain is to climb it, one step in front of the other.

This must sound very old fashioned.

In today’s “there’s an app for that” culture something as uncool as work must sound really dorky.

True that. Work is hard work. Writing is typing in one word after another until sentences form, then paragraphs, then you erase them and try again. Ask Hemingway, he’d write one page to get one sentence. He wrote about the “one true thing.” Of course he also did things the hard way. He wrote with pencil and paper and toiled at the back of caf├ęs wishing he had money to eat something off the menu besides coffee and a roll. He was such a lunkhead that he didn’t have a thumbdrive or back up disc when his wife left the suitcase containing all his manuscripts at the Gard De Nord train station. He had to start all over.

Yet us of the Google and Ipad, Android and Wiki are looking for a magic wand. We believe there’s got to be something more to writing than simply sitting in a chair and staying there until we’ve written something. It costs nothing. We’re not wasting paper or ink, we’re probably not starving or staring down the landlord; time is all we have to waste. All that time we’ve saved by networking, texting instead of phoning, downloading directions instead of driving around looking for street signs—all that saved time could be put to use writing our memoirs or writing a story. Yet we put it off or spend that time looking for just the right thing that will allow us to write.

Take it from me, a believer: writing is comprised of a series of very small, insignificant acts—one of which is faith, an accumulation of words, good and bad, right and wrong, that one slowly sees into and picks out a thread, that in all likelihood will get revised 2 or 3 more times, until there is eventually a beginning, middle, and end. Until there is The Old Man and The Sea, The Grapes of Wrath, In Cold Blood, To Kill a Mockingbird—you get the picture. Inch by inch.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer blogging

I know, I know, I've been quite lax, but I promise you a better, bigger blog tomorrow.

Tomorrow, tomorrow.

Anyway, blame it on summer, blame it on a body in motion tends to stay in motion--and a body in blogging tends to stay blogging. With breaks in between, it's hard to get going again.

But I've been READING blogs--and here's one from Jane Yolen, ACCLAIMED author and poet:
A Writer's journal
about spinning plates and her advise on keeping our stuff out there in the big world.

Here's a snip:

I always tell writing students of mine that they should try and have seven things (at least) working for them at all times . . . .

....if you only have one thing out there, it could (literally) take years before you hear anything at all. Publishing is a slow death by inches unless you are self-publishing.

So true, so true. Anyway at the moment I have 5 short stories circulating, 2 novel ms with my agent, maintaining this blog, working on oral histories with senior citizens, shelter once a week where I facilitate TWO groups, market at Green City 2x a week where I sell fruit for the Flamin'Fury Peach guy, heading up a rocking critique group, plus revising a new novel ms, AND trying to get my older out of print stuff up at Amazon kindle and on other platforms for downloads.

All of this keeps ME spinning. I'll keep you updated as stuff sells or is placed over the next couple of months--see--I intend to have good news soon!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tall Skinny Kiwi

Hi! just back from where I attended a seminar on blogging led by Andrew Jones who writes for a variety of blogs. Here is a couple of things gleaned from the three sessions I sat in on:

1. short posts vs long ones
considering that many people now read from hand-held devices, posts ahould be on the shorter side, or if you have a lengthy topic break it into 2 or 3 posts

2. titles
and I'm still working on this ARE IMPORTANT, that's why I titled this one Tall Skinny Kiwi because that tag alone will direct traffic to my blog. I really am looking for ways to drive traffic here. I've joined Jacketflap to see if my blog will come up and looking into TUMBLR to see if my stuff can also be included in a larger blogging community

3. tags, for the above reason, linkable, so maybe I should randomly tag something PORNO and see how many hits I get

4. also images, and giving them captions, so if I took a picture at the festival and posted it here, I should also caption it and credit it so that that too is cached into a cyber directory for later searches

5. Andrew suggested if you want to drive traffic to your site to comment on news, one time he was number 1 because he hopped onto a topic with commentary and people in searching kept dialing up his blog, it created a one-day buzz and kept him high up on the search engines

6. does any of this make sense, not entirely, I don't tweet, I don't have a cell phone. I simply want to write, but I know in the bigger picture I need to have a web presence in order to attract an audience and a publisher for the novel my AGENT IS SHOPPING. Will any of this work?

7. Andrew feels that on-line publishing is the way to go. It's immediate. It's easy. It can jumpstart one's writing career.
I know all this is true, yet I still hold out hope that MY AGENT will sell my manuscript, my manuscripts.

8. YET AGAIN, I'm working right now to put up on many platforms Orphan Girl and Beyond Paradise my two books I have the rights to. I've also, as I've previously blogged, had about 16 short stories taken by publications. I have enough for a collection and I'm tempted to put that on-line for download thru Paypal, etc.

9. finally Andrew mentioned a window of opportunity that seems to be NOW for this.