Bookin’ It: A Literary MeMe

21 02 2008

From Shakespeare to James Patterson: It’s time for a book survey. You guys know my charming wife and I like to come up with memes. She thought we should do a book one, and I thought that was a very good idea. Feel free to use the survey; we always enjoy reading the answers of others! Sorry about the length of my “answer” to #1. (I’m taking a brief break from blogging about my current health, but for those wondering there was no new news today. An Ice storm shut down doctors’ offices early today.)

1. What is your favorite passage/line from a book? I love the Pendergast books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Pendergast is a difficult-to-summarize, eccentric, extremely intelligent, usually mild-mannered, nearly albino FBI agent who does things differently than anyone else. Here is an excerpt from Brimstone:

The Sergeant took a detour around the lawn and cut behind a small duck pond and fountain, keeping out of the way of the SOC team. As he came around some hedges he saw a man in the distance, standing by the duck pond, throwing pieces of bread to the ducks. He was dressed in the gaudiest day-tripper style imaginable, complete with Hawaiian shirt, Oakley Eye Jacket shades, and giant baggy shorts. Even though summer had ended over a month ago, it looked like this was the man’s first day in the sun after a long, cold winter. Maybe a dozen winters. While the Sergeant had some sympathy for a photographer or reporter trying to do their job, he had absolutely no tolerance for tourists. They were the scum of the earth.

“Hey. You.”

The man looked up.

“What do you think you’re doing? Don’t you know this is a crime scene?”

“Yes, officer, and I do apologize—”

“Get the hell out.”

“But Sergeant, it’s important the ducks be fed. They’re hungry. I imagine that someone feeds them every morning, but this morning, as you know—” He smiled and shrugged.

The Sergeant could hardly believe it. A guy gets murdered and this idiot is worried about ducks?

“Let’s see some I.D.”

“Of course, of course.” The man started fishing in his pocket, fished in another, then looked up, sheepishly. “Sorry about that, officer. I threw on these shorts as soon as I heard the terrible news, but it appears my wallet is still in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing last night.” His New York accent grated on the Sergeant’s nerves.

The Sergeant looked at the guy. Normally he would just chase him back behind the barriers. But there was something about him that didn’t quite wash. For one thing, the clothes he was wearing were so new they still smelled of a menswear shop. For another thing, it was such a hideous mixture of colors and patterns that it looked like he’d plucked them randomly from a rack in the village boutique. This was more than just bad taste— this was a disguise.

“I’ll be going—”

“No, you won’t.” The Sergeant took out his notebook, flipped back a wad of pages, licked his pencil. “You live around here?”

“I’ve taken a house in Amagansett for a week.”

“Address?”

“The Brickman House, Windmill Lane.”

Another rich asshole. “And your permanent address?”

“That would be The Dakota, Central Park West.”

The Sergeant paused. Now, that’s a coincidence. Aloud, he said: “Name?”

“Look, Sergeant, honestly, if it’s a problem I’ll just go on back—”

“Your first name, sir?” he said more sharply.

“Is that really necessary? It’s difficult to spell, even more difficult to pronounce. I often wonder what my mother was thinking—”

The Sergeant gave him a look that shut him up quick. One more quip from this asshole and it would be the cuffs.

“Let’s try again. First name?”

“Aloysius.”

“Spell it.”

The man spelled it.

“Last?”

“Pendergast.”

The pencil in the Sergeant’s hand began writing this down, too. Then it paused. Slowly, the Sergeant looked up. The Oakleys had come off and he found himself staring into that face he knew so well, with the blond-white hair, grey eyes, finely chiseled features, skin as pale and translucent as Carrara marble.

“Pendergast?”

“In the very flesh, my dear Vincent.” The New York accent was gone, replaced by the cultured Southern drawl he remembered vividly.

“What are you doing here?”

“The same might be asked of you.”

Vincent D’Agosta felt himself coloring. The last time he had seen Pendergast he had been a proud New York City Police Lieutenant. And now here he was in Shithampton, a lowly Sergeant decorating hedges with police tape.

“I was in Amagansett when the news arrived that Jeremy Grove had met an untimely end. How could I resist? I apologize for the outfit, but I was hard-pressed to get here as soon as possible.”

“You’re on the case?”

“Until I’m officially assigned to the case I can do nothing but feed the ducks. I worked on my last case without full authorization and it, shall we say, strained some high level nerves. I must say, Vincent, running into you is a most welcome surprise.”

“For me too,” said D’Agosta, coloring again. “Sorry, I’m really not at my best here—”

Pendergast laid a hand on his arm. “We shall have plenty of time to talk later. For now, I see a large individual approaching who appears to be suffering from emphraxis.”

A low pitched, menacing voice intruded from behind. “I hate to break up this little conversation.” D’Agosta turned to see Lieutenant Braskie.

Braskie stopped, stared at Pendergast, then turned back to D’Agosta. “Perhaps I’m a little confused here, Sergeant, but isn’t this individual trespassing at the scene of a crime?”

“Well, uh, Lieutenant, we were—” D’Agosta looked at Pendergast.

“This man isn’t a friend of yours, now, is he?”

“As a matter of fact—”

“The Sergeant was just telling me to leave,” interjected Pendergast smoothly.

“Oh he was, was he? And if I may be so bold as to inquire what you were doing here in the first place, sir?”

“Feeding the ducks.”


“Feeding the ducks.” D’Agosta could see Braskie’s face flushing. He wished Pendergast would hurry up and pull out his shield.
“Well, sir,” Braskie went on, “that’s a beautiful thing to do. Let’s see some I.D.”

D’Agosta waited smugly. This was going to be good.

“As I was just explaining to the officer here, I left my wallet back at the house—”

Braskie turned on D’Agosta, saw the notebook in his hand. “You got this man’s information?”

“Yes.” D’Agosta looked at Pendergast almost pleadingly, but the FBI agent’s face had shut down completely.

“Did you ask him how he got through the police cordon?”

“No—”

“Don’t you think maybe you should ask him?”

“I came through the side gate in Little Dune Road,” Pendergast said.

“Not possible. It’s locked. I checked it myself.”

“Perhaps the lock is defective. At least, it seemed to fall open in my hands.”

Braskie turned to D’Agosta. “Now, at last, there’s something useful you can do. Go plug that hole, Sergeant. And report back to me at eleven o’clock sharp. We need to talk. And as for you, sir, I will escort you off the premises.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

D’Agosta looked with dismay at the retreating form of Lieutenant Braskie, with Pendergast strolling along behind him, hands in the pockets of his baggy surfer shorts, head tilted back as if taking the air.

2. What do you consider the best film adaptation from a book? What do you think is the worst film adaptation? I have a tie for the best: To Kill a Mockingbird and Seabiscuit The Worst: Along Came a Spider (a really good book in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson but a below-average film)

3. What is the first book you remember reading? Other than picture books, it was Charlotte’s Web.

4. Did you have a favorite kids’ book as a child? The Monster at the End of this Book. My mom read that one to me often! You have to enjoy lovable, furry old Grover being inadvertently afraid of himself.

5. What book did you hate reading for a school assignment? I’ll say Beowulf, even though it is actually an epic poem.

6. What is the most recent book you read (or are currently reading)? Lost by Michael Robotham. It’s a good thriller so far.

7. What book would you most like to see turned into a movie?

8. What book did you cheat and read the “Cliff Notes” version? I know I did this a time or two. I want to say I did for Shakespeare’s King Lear. I hope no one can take collage credits away from me now.

9. What book would you never read again, no matter how much someone was going to pay you? I’m not counting ones I couldn’t finish. I’ll go with The Camel Club by Baldacci. It’s not that it’s terrible; I just expected more from him. I felt this one jumped the shark a little.

10. Are you more of a library or book store person? I like both, but the library is the best.

11. Have you tried audio books? Do you like them? I use them all the time while driving for my job. They are great. However, I have difficulty staying focused enough to keep track of an audio book if it’s something really complex, like a novel that takes place all over the world (for example, R. Ludlum).

12. Has any movie ever inspired you to then read the book on which it was based? Yes. The Bone Collector is one.

13. Describe a passage from a book that made you cry. The surprise ending of The Wedding by N. Sparks. It’s the sequel to The Notebook.

14. What is your favorite book series? Again, I love the Pendergast novels by D. Preston and L. Child. You have to try them.

15. Describe your favorite place to read. Near the river or on a beach when the weather is just right. If there is a pretty girl (like my wife) to glance at from time to time, that’s even better.





How Well-Rounded Are You?

6 01 2008

Don’t misunderstand the title. This is not a ploy disguised as a blog to get women to post their measurements (if you feel you must, I guess I won’t stop you. No guy measurements, please, though my wife might enjoy). Instead, this is a survey. How many of the following 40 things have you done? I’d like to see the answers of others, and feel free to copy this survey.

Have you:

1. Been to a play: Yes, many. This is one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy professional plays, but I also enjoy seeing a high school play once or twice per year at my wife’s alma mater.

2. Bungee jumped or something similar: Only if climbing up on a garage roof is “something similar.” I’m more of mental thrill seeker than a physical one. Sports is probably the closest I ever got to “danger.”

3. Been a mentor/big brother/big sister: Sort of. I do this in my work, but I don’t think I ever did this on a volunteer basis. It’s an awesome thing, though.

4. Read at least one of the classics (War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, Beowulf, Crime and Punishment, etc): Yes. Off the top of my head: Beowulf, Wuthering Heights, Gulliver’s Travels, and Macbeth.

5. Stood up for someone publicly: Yes. I remember coming to the aid of a kid who was being bullied a couple of times.

6. Been on a major roller coaster: No thank you.

7. Been to a drive-in movie: Yes, quite a few times. This is one of the best things to do on a nice summer night. They are really dying out so if you have one near it, give it some business.

8. Done something at a drive-in movie other than watch the movie: Sadly, I don’t think so. I guess I like movies too much!

9. Done volunteer work: Yes, but I am ashamed to say that I haven’t really done that much. A few things for church and once delivered Thanksgiving meals to those in need.

10. Given at toast a wedding, a eulogy at a funeral, or some similar, meaningful speech: Yes on the toast, and I think a yes on the eulogy. It wasn’t officially the eulogy, but that’s basically what it was.

11. Been to a major sports playoff game: Yes. St. Louis Cardinals game 1 of NLCS against the Mets (in 2000, I believe.) My Cardinals lost that game and the series :( Also some time in the early 90s, I think, I was at the sweet sixteen regional in St. Louis. I believe the teams involved were Kansas, Indiana, California (Jason Kidd), and Louisville.

12. Thrown a costume or theme party: Yes, my wife and I had a blast hosting several couples for a murder mystery party that had a 50s theme. I recommend this!

13. Been on or near the set of a major motion picture: Nope. I missed my chance in the 80s. A good portion of A League of Their Own was filmed where I grew up. Tom Hanks, etc were there for quite awhile. I never got in on being an extra, though.

14. Taken a compliment well: I think so at some point. This is difficult though, isn’t it?

15. Planted a tree: Yes, about a year ago (a river birch).

16. Been stung by a jellyfish or something similar in/near the ocean: Yes. Jellyfish got me several times on vacation last year. There was a major explosion of them where we were!

17. Quit a crappy job: Yes. I’m not the type to do this without some big-time planning and another job lined up, but I did in the 90s when I just could not stand to set foot in the place anymore. I’ll just generally describe it as an advertising sort of place. The morale and environment sucked there. I stayed way too long (several years). At some point later on, I got myself into grad school to try to avoid this same type of situation again.

18. Been on a blind date: Yes. Mine wasn’t great (probably mostly due to my own shyness), but it wasn’t a nightmare or anything like that.

19. Done something kind and unexpected for a stranger: My wife and I left a greeting card saying something like, “Have a great day” on a parked car one time. Hopefully whoever it was got a smile out of it. (Nowadays, it probably just freaked them out and made them look over their shoulder for the next week.)

20. Had a major surgery: Yep, kidney transplant. I plan to blog about this at some point.

21. Taken a car/truck road trip that covered at least 6 states: Yes. As a child my family drove to the Grand Canyon, which covered at least 6 (may have been 7). My wife and I just missed last year (and will again this year) when we were in 5 states on our way to Hilton Head.

22. Been in 4 or more countries: Nope, just the U.S. for me.

23. Spent New Year’s Eve somewhere special: Well, it’s obviously “special” to be anywhere with someone you love on New Year’s Eve. However, to answer what I think is the spirit of this question, I don’t think I ever have.

24. Visited an ancient landmark: If the Grand Canyon counts. I think it does.

25. Been face to face with a celebrity by chance: Yes. In St. Louis in church, we realized were were a few feet away from Steve Garvey. (For those of you under 35 or not at all into sports, he was a very famous L.A. Dodger who was charismatic and appeared on tv shows, etc). He was friendly and nodded, etc on his way out. It was a few hours before a Cardinals/Dodgers game. Come to think of it, we were in a famous, very old church at the time so maybe this sort of applies to the previous question as well.

26. Given to charity in the past two years: I’m sure we don’t give like we should, but, yes to the Humane Society and to a children’s hospital. (Let’s just say it was NOT an amount that would get anything named after us.)

27. Helped a stray animal: Yes! We possibly saved a cute stray dog and ended up finding the grateful owner a day later. Actually, it was the relative of the owner; the owner was gone on vacation, and the little guy had accidentally gotten out. We found him running down a major street.

28. Dated someone you met online: Yes, once. It didn’t end up being THE relationship, but it wasn’t a bad experience overall.

29. Won money on a long shot: I’ve done the horse races a few times, but I don’t think I ever won on a big long shot.

30. Won your office/family/friends NCAA tournament pool: Yes! That was fun.

31. Won an award/medal (even if something “small”): I received recognition for a short story I wrote in college (it was accepted to a national conference), and I won “Best Sports Writing” award at my small college paper once!

32. Driven a foreign sports car: No. The closest to that for me is riding in (not driving) my brother-in-law’s classic Corvette.

33. Been in the front row for a concert: I think I was for Joan Jett when she played at my college.

34. Attended a symphony orchestra performance: Yes. I enjoy that even though it isn’t the type of music you’d generally find in my cd player.

35. Caught a criminal in the act and did something about it (reported it, smacked them in the head, etc): Other than traffic violations, I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything like this.

36. Sung solo on a stage: Nope. Just school plays as a kid, but I wasn’t solo (thank goodness!)

37. Witnessed something supernatural: I don’t think so. I have a brother who saw a UFO or something weird like it one time a long time ago.

38. Covered for someone (who deserved it) at work: Yes, a great co-worker (and a hard worker) who needed a little nap one time on a third shift job.

39. Overcome a major fear: Sure. See my last blog about the spider.

40. Mailed a surprise care package to a loved one: Yep, my wife has gotten a candy care package in the mail at work a time or two. She has returned the favor as well.

Anyone else care to post answers? I’m curious!

Regarding question 33:





The Twelve Questions of Christmas (Survey)

7 12 2007

The 12 Questions of Christmas (My Wife’s Survey)

  1. What’s the best gift you have ever received? How about the worst? Best is a tie: The mp3 player from Allison (my wife) and the other is when my nephew, Luke took a novel/story I had written years ago and had it bound and made into a book. He even had appropriate cover art put on it. Worst would be a canned ham, yes canned ham that I won at a company Christmas party raffle when I worked at Goodwill. It was covered in some kind of sickening gel. Who thought of that? It would be better to have someone win a card that says, “Sorry, you didn’t win a gift, but at least you don’t have to touch a canned ham.”
  2. What is your favorite Christmas movie moment? In It’s a Wonderful Life, when young adult George and Mary are sharing a phone while listening to the guy Mary’s mother wishes Mary would date. George and Mary want to kiss each other, and the tension is so thick that they are literally shaking from the desire.
  3. When do you open gifts? I am a Christmas Eve sort of person (or earlier!)
  4. Do you believe in Santa? If not, who convinced you that he’s not real? Metaphorically, I’m a believer! However, to literally answer the question, somewhere around age 6, I approached my mom and told her I had been thinking about how Santa could cover the whole world, etc and assured her I wanted to know. Then she filled me in.
  5. What is your happiest Christmas memory? I’m sure the “Best Is Yet to Come” (as Sinatra would sing) since Abby our daughter is just beginning to understand that Christmas is something special. For now, though, I’ll go with lying on my back near the tree as a kid with the tree lights on and all other lights off. The lights made cool multicolored designs on the ceiling.
  6. Describe an ornament that has special significance to you. One that Allison gave to me a few years ago. It’s a s’more that looks like a snowman, and it says, “I burn 4 U.”
  7. What famous person would you most like to encounter under the mistletoe? This one: mistletoe
  8. When it comes to decorations, are you a Griswald or a Grinch? More of a Griswald.
  9. What is your favorite version of a Christmas song? My dad once said his favorite Christmas song was “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as it was significant in his memory of being away at war (WW II) and wishing to be home for the holidays. I love Sinatra’s version of this song, and I still get goose bumps when I hear it.
  10. Have you had any traumatic Christmas-related experiences? Well, the canned ham….more seriously though, I am a graduate from the University of Evansville and have followed their basketball team since I was little. When I was 10, the whole team was killed in a plane crash just a week or so before Christmas. That was very sad. Here is an interesting article about it: UE tragedy We are actually watching, We Are Marshall right now, which is about a similar tragedy that killed that school’s football team. (As an aside, my answer to question 7 is in that movie.)
  11. What would be an appropriate gag gift for most of your friends? A New Kids on the Block cd.
  12. Would you rather be a partridge in a pear tree or a lord a-leaping and why? I’ll go with the lord a-leaping (and I’d dunk the basketball while yelling, “In your face! Oh and Merry Christmas.”)







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