Category Archives: Writing Challenges

Ketchup With Us #25 – By Candlelight

Ms Mel and ODNTare asking about your most memorable birthday, which may be just a way for them to ask your birthday so they can buy (or make, with glitter, paste and racamoni) you a card. Ketchup With Us

I’ve always had fun birthdays. This particular series of events over the course of several days though…takes the cake. Yep I said it!

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My birthday May 30th 1998 – I took two finals, aced ‘em. Homemade birthday cupcakes that night. The next morning, I aced another final, power napped, baked an epic batch of PB choco chip cookies, then out to celebrate with friends to TGIFridays and a concert (Garbage). June 1st – I graduated! I arrived late, like a boss.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Humor, Ketchup With Us, Life, Writing Challenges

Trifextra 77 – The Greatest Show

On now to this weekend’s Trifextra challenge. This weekend we are giving you three words and asking for you to give us back another thirty of your own, making a grand total of thirty-three words.Your words to work with are:

ring
water
stage


Good luck!

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“We’re broadcasting live from the center ring! Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, I bring you…!”
The stage curtain lifted. A mermaid swam through fifty thousand gallons of salt water and tears.

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There were many inspirations for this. The more well-known references were back in the 80’s when B&B circus claimed to have an actual unicorn, King Kong, and how our popular culture/ society would re/act if any legendary creatures were ‘found’.

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Ketchup With Us #22 – The Ups & Downs in Life

Ms Mel and ODNT want you to tell us about the time you rode a literal or figurative rollercoaster, lived by the edge of your seat, when something scared the holy living carp out of you, or that time you played an epic 2 hour long round of chutes and ladders. Ketchup With Us

My first time on the world famous1 Cyclone, located in Coney Island, Brooklyn…

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I went, knowing one bit of important advice: eat2 AFTER the Cyclone, not before3. What we didn’t realize is that anything in your breast pocket will fly out, which, using some previously unknown Spidey- level reflexes, I plucked a Metrocard out of the air on the second drop. Unfortunately, the cameras are set on the first!4

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1 – and Sandy-proof.
2 – Meaning a hot/corn dog and cheese fries at Nathan’s.
3 – Garbage cans are conveniently located near the exit.
4 – so you are just gonna have to believe me.

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Filed under Humor, Ketchup With Us, Life, Writing, Writing Challenges

Trifextra 73 – Oh, Positively

This weekend we’re asking for 33 of your own words inspired by the idiom, third time’s the charm. This familiar phrase may have an indeterminate origin, but its meaning is clear. Whether or not you include the phrase itself is up to you. Just make sure to use exactly 33 words. And, as usual, have fun with it!


This experience is true, and less than fun.
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“Got it, first shot!” the nurse bragged, or punned.
Well third time’s the charm actually, I thought sarcastically, watching the hematoma already beginning to blossom from two errant attempts in my left elbow.

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Not the best experience in donating blood from someone who really, really hates needles. I still donate, just not there.

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Monday Listicles – OutFoxed

Yes I know it’s Friday, but hey, the listicle is still accepting entries 😉 This particular topic is “10 Shows That Were Canceled Too Soon”, in our humble opinions. I thought about it, and realized that while shows capture and lose my interest, this list, which spans from the 80’s until a few years ago, is almost all FOX shows (channel 5 in NYC). I have always been a fan of their offbeat programs, I don’t know why. Married with Children and the Simpsons owned the top ratings back in the day, but more often than not, there was a rotation of complete barrel bottom dreck. Apparently I love(d) it.

No sorry I didn’t provide any still images or links, you will have to IMDB them.
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1. Werewolf – a young college student, Eric has a friend who confesses he is a werewolf. Eric manages to kill his cursed friend, but is bitten. Just before dying, the friendwolf tells Eric that he has to kill the alpha werewolf, an old man named Skorzeny (Chuck Conners!), in order to be ‘cured’. The episodes take us through Eric’s trek across the country as he helps out people along the way and hunts Skorzeny. Sort of like the Hulk and A-Team. Eric kills Skorzeny in the season finale, but finds out that there was an even more powerful werewolf! There was no second season, dammitall.

2. Get a Life – Chris Elliot plays a 30-something paperboy (named Chris) who lives with his parents. Somewhere around the second season (yes there was one!), he moves out of there and with a friend (Brian Doyle-Murray). Basically it’s about his clueless, idiotic existence complete with obscure references and running gags. I was in awe of its ingenious stupidity; I actually found an old VHS tape with one of the funniest episodes I have ever seen (S.P.E.W.E.Y. the alien) which yes I watched again. I heard that the show was put onto DVD, but there was NO mastering, and managed to look like it was off someone’s VHS that they pulled out of storage (déjà vu?). Meh – that makes it like a joke that you have to explain.

3. Brimstone – an NYPD cop (Ezekial Stone) kills the man who raped his wife, and a few years later, Stone is killed, and his soul goes to Hell! While he laments that the rapist is in heaven (or at least not hell with him – despite his sin, he was murdered with malice), a group of 100+ condemned souls break out of hell (did they cut through the screen door or something?!). The devil makes a deal with him – bring back the souls and the Dark Lord (no not Vader) will bring him back to life (if you can trust anyone to uphold their deal, apparently it’s the Devil) Even the reviews said the show wouldn’t last, and of course it didn’t.

4. Keen Eddie – Mark Valley plays a NYC cop in the UK. It lasted a complete season (I did get the DVD set as a gift, some epsiodes I can’t really recall!) and while I hoped for a second season, Valley went on to Boston Legal and other shows – the actors know when the well is dry! (

4a – Mary Valley would later star in “Human Target”, which in itself was a remake that had already failed on fox in the 80’s. It lasted 2 seasons – even a star cast couldn’t save it.

5. Dark Angel – Jessica Alba’s breakout role. A bunch of rowdy brats, who were genetically modified with various animal DNA, break out of the super secret guv’ment facillility. At some point before or after this, terrorists EMP the USA, making us a 3rd World Nation PDQ. It lost the original focus in the second season (yes there was one), as subplots started creeping in. There was a season finale, which half-doubled as a series finale.

6. Futurama – Yes it gets reboots every once in a while but it was never given proper respect. Back in the day, it was pre-empted by Fox’s Sunday football games post game show, even if the game was over, which they timed so that ‘King of the Hill’ was still shown. Bobby Hill vs Bender?! C’mon.

7. Cavemen – yes the show that was based on the GEICO cavemen. I knew the life span of this show would be measured in minutes (I half-expected it to be canceled in the middle of an episode), and so I was insistent on watching it. I was berated by family and friends, who tried their best to distract me from watching it. The show lasted about a month I think, but it’s now a faded gag.

8. Alien Nation – A TV series based on the 80’s movie, it was about two LAPD detectives, one human, the other an alien. There was always that underlying theme of prejudice and other social class struggles. While it was cancelled after a few seasons, public demand had several more TV movies made through the 90’s which tied up many loose ends.

9. V – A great movie/ mini-series in the 80’s, it was a freaky show for a kid like me. I recall that later seasons seemed more open-and-close plotlines, as headway in the struggle was not clearly defined. Eventually some sort of truce was arranged – with a twist, which they never got around to figuring out. I did not watch the remake from a few years ago.

10. Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles An incredibly dumb title for a show, but hey I like those wacky killin machines, so I was game from the first episode. Summer Glau played a waifish terminator, but even her appeal didn’t bring the ton of Firefly fanboys. Bringing in Brian Austin-Green and Shirley Manson (of the band ‘Garbage’) didn’t boost either. I think that the movie “Terminator: Salvation” which was pretty underwhelming, may have been the final nail in this.

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Filed under Lists, Monday Listicles, Prompts, Retro, Television, Writing Challenges

Ketchup With Us #18: Those Lazy Crazy Hazy Days

Ms Mel and ODNT want to know what’s on your summer reading list, so that everyone can see it and we can all read those books and start a reading circle, which is an awesome excuse to get together and uncork some wine (though I have had some good screwtops!). As though you need a reason… Ketchup With Us


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It’s May already?! (the 5th Month), start making plans for building Castles in beach dunes, playing games in the backyard,  BBQing, then watching stars at night – it’s almost magical. Know that many days remain before the autumn harvests and winter in the city.

And download/ pick up a copy of Carrie Rubin’s The Seneca Scourge.

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Filed under 50 Books in 2013, Ketchup With Us, Reading, Vacations, Writing, Writing Challenges

Ketchup With Us #15: Playing the Fool

Ms Mel and ODNT want you to tell us the best prank you ever played, saw executed or were the butt of yourself Ketchup With Us

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A relative from the ‘burbs suspected our favorite Italian restaurant was a certain type of ‘family owned’. So I called him up April 1st, that ‘you were right!” an incident, right out of the Godfather, had just taken place and was all over the news. His concern was where he would get veal marsala from now on.

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Scintilla – At the End, a Smile

I have been a bit busy, but still working at this entry for a couple days. I want to get it all down and out.

Having actually forgotten what prompt this was for, it might be one of these, or a sum of them all.

MONDAY, 18TH MARCH
B: Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

WEDNESDAY, 20TH MARCH
B: Write about a time when your preconceived notion or opinion (about a place, person, thing, etc.) turned out to be wrong. What did it take to change your mind?

SATURDAY, 16TH MARCH
A: Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip.

It was probably that last one, and I was going to rant about taking the subway.

You know what, maybe for another time. As hilarious as my eye-rolling throat-punch resistanc-ing experiences with the humans can be, it dwells on the negative.

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When ‘coming up for air’ (my way of saying “leaving the subway station”) it’s the home stretch. Well, “work stretch”, which in no way sounds appealing, unless you’re the lead photographer for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, in which case there is no train or subway station that will leave you off at the beach of a tropical paradise.

Anyway, during the morning at just about every train station you’ll come across the AMNY or Metro newspapers. They are free and have just enough information to digest in a one way trip, and with various puzzles like Ken Ken, Soduku and the Crosswords, can keep you occupied on a round trip, so you don’t have to stand around reading dopey subway ads.

At some stations you will not just have the pile of papers, but a person in a company vest with an armful, handing them out. Like most handouts, people ignore or walk around them. Some vendors are aggressive, holding it out so the paper brushes against your chest or arm as you walk by them, perhaps on the off chance that you are wearing a duck tape tie or scarf (sticky side out). They don’t say a word to you or even look at you.

Some however, put that little something extra. Instead of just handing it out, they will pitch the paper’s headlines, much like the wily little rapscallions in old movies you think did that, but likely didn’t (they usually didn’t sing and dance either).

Then there is Rodney.

Rodney handed out the AMNY at one of the train stops I would sometimes head out from. He stood inside the station, usually during cold or wet weather. He always greeted everyone with a smile and ‘Good Morning!”, almost individually even when there were crowds. And that little effort got reactions. No one pushed past, some people would take it, or say politely, “No, thank you.”

“Ok, well you have a blessed/good day.” (You got that answer in either case).

So I took a paper a couple times. Then one day, he gave a glance of recognition as I approached.

“Hey there he is! How are you my friend?!”

Through the weeks I would stop and talk to him, he was accommodating, but still would have to pause the conversation for other greetings (who would take that as an affront?!). Turns out Rodney is a Veteran, and had been recently applying for his vendor license to get his own food or merchandise cart/stand. He was also looking for Section 8 housing. In other words, Rodney isn’t just a guy who hands out papers; he is a man working hard for a better life. I respect him greatly for that, and followed up with him on what was new and hoping for the best.

He did get the vendor’s license, so the next steps would be soon after. He didn’t get the housing initially, but he didn’t care for the terms they were setting. Good for him – everyone should have a little pride. During the summer 2012, he DID get the next housing offer.

“Oh it’s great! An apartment in the Far Rockaways. When I am done here and everything else in the afternoons, I go home and know that I am just steps from the beach.” Brilliant! I couldn’t be happier for him.

Rodney’s ‘station’ changed to one close by the other one (“they needed someone more dependable for a busier station”, he told me), and though I would go out of my way, I didn’t stop down his way a lot. Still he’d remember me every time, and ask how my weekend was or what not. Every time I walked past, I expected Rodney to give me some good news, that this gig was up and he was moving to something better. Hell, even if he just disappeared, I would have assumed the same thing, on his terms, and maybe he just didn’t tell anyone. It would be good, either way.

Then on October 2012, there was Hurricane Sandy. Locals may know, others might now, that Sandy wiped out Far Rockaway badly, particularly apartment buildings near the beach. Some co-workers of mine were displaced for several months, and even when they returned for short periods to their homes to pick up personal/valuables (which were not looted or destroyed) getting back into their daily routine has been a long, rough road.

Knowing that the AMNY gig is one where workers can be easily replaced, and that his living situation was surely uprooted, I have not seen Rodney since the Thursday before Sandy came upon us. This was not the way I envisioned it, (to say nothing of what HE must still be going through).

Rodney’s stations have since been taken by a rotation of others, sometimes it’s just that metal news tray that gets soggy when it rains or has papers flying around during the windy days.

I’ve re-learned a few things from this.

Don’t take a sincere greeting or the smallest friendship for granted; keep them close. Say “Thank You” and “You’re Welcome”, and mean it. Make it a point that you will stand out to some person as the one who shifted a bad day in a good direction, and let people know they are respected and appreciated for whatever interaction you have.

Thanks, Rodney.

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Filed under Commuting, Life, Life in NYC, Scintilla Project, Writing, Writing Challenges

Scintilla Project – The Buddy System

Well after a good run, I am sporadic, but I will not waste a perfectly good and inspiring prompt!

FRIDAY, 22ND MARCH
A: Sometimes we wish that we could hit the rewind button. Talk about an experience that you would do over if you could.
B: Write about spending time with a baby/child under age 2. If you’re a parent, do NOT write about your own child.

I JUST make it to the age threshold for this one.

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It was the weekend of his 2nd birthday. A big moment for kids, and a point of worrying for parents, as it means the Terrible Twos are like dark clouds on the horizon.

We are not related, but we relate to each other well. Or maybe it’s that I use him as an excuse to play with Hot Wheels, and draw in chalk on the driveway (which is perfect for drawing roads and stuff for the Hot Wheels. Yes I use that college education to the fullest).

He wasn’t feeling well at all for his birthday, and among his symptoms was conjunctivitis in one of his eyes. That meant eye drops were needed several times a day, and apparently they burned (you know how medicine is sometimes worse than the illness). His mom admitted that she was having trouble getting him to sit still – I mean really what kid would stay put for that?! So I volunteered to help keep him calm and still for the next dose.

“Ok so let’s do it now- he’s due for the next ones.”

Wow, volunteer for duty and they put you right in the battlefield huh?

Sure he was only two, but that is enough life experience to know that even if it’s your birthday, when adults start heading to you, it’s not for a hug fest. He toddles away, we snatch him up and bring him to the couch. After trying to make him comfortable and not feel constricted, some wayward flailing arms and legs called for desperate measures. I shifted over and pinned his arms down with my elbows, and cradling his chin and forehead, attempted to get his head steady and eye open.

By now he knew it was inevitable and with nothing to lose, he channeled the Superman strength kids seem to have, in several ways.

First, by bucking like a steer.

Second, by shutting his eyes as tight as a drum.

He saved the best for last- the lungs.

So there I was, pinning down a 2 year old, pulling his eye open and having his little purple face (like a California Raisin) bellowing at the top of his lungs at a volume that made my eardrums compress.

Oh and that was BEFORE the drops went in.

*drop drop*

Even at that previous volume, he was apparently holding back. Yow.

So the meds were in, coating the eye, the worst of it was over. I relaxed my grip, fully expecting a vicious uppercut for my efforts. At the very least I thought he would hate me forever.

He opened his eyes still sobbing, and reached for me. I scooped him up and he embraced me, sobbing on my neck as I soothed him for a moment. All was forgiven, and we were still friends.

So this is what being a parent might be like?

Hmmm.

Ok, I could do this.

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Filed under Better Late Than Never, Kids, Life, Scintilla Project, Writing, Writing Challenges

Scintilla Project: Heads Up!

<a href=”http://www.scintillaproject.com/”><img title=”scintilla_badge_002″ alt=”” src=”https://braintomahawk.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/scintilla_badge_002.png&#8221; width=”140″ height=”140″ /></a>Well I missed the weekend, but I do have ideas for doing them – so they will be done, even if I have to save them for a rainy day.

Today’s prompts are:

A: Describe a time when the content of your character was tested.

B: Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

As all do, this one happened a while back (geez was I more interesting back then?!) and has stayed with me ever since.

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I was walking down 42nd street towards Times Square, in my suit and tie (which took 20 million tries to get knotted right), staring at the gum-stained sidewalk as I shuffled along aimlessly. It was late morning on a weekday. Most everyone else (who wasn’t a tourist) was in their offices, working. Except me, it seemed. Actually I had gone on a job interview. Those were fewer and far betweener than I would have liked. I was still in that hellish post undergraduate grace period of “can’t get the job without the experience/ can’t get the experience without the job”, and this interview was on par with that. To be fair, the job seemed like a scam; the ad said they were looking for an administrative assistant, but when I got there, the manager led the conversation to phone sales/cold calling. He lauded the commissions that other employees would make during their job, and of course gave me the zinger of “besides your degree, what else make you qualified?” Cue the job/experience revolving door. Right this way, sir.

Where the heck was this walk of shame leading to anyway? The subway home to commiserate?— an afternoon full of talk shows and injury attorney commercials wouldn’t help. How about a coffee shop or somewhere for lunch? – I was almost broke. I looked up, ready to cross the street onto Broadway.

What the – is that Mark? One of my close friends from high school, we also went to the same college and graduated in the same class. He was walking to the corner diagonally from me, in his suit, head down, expression serious. At that moment though, he looked up, we made eye contact and grinned at the same time. I crossed to him and held out my hand for a greeting and high five (or handshake, still trying to play the professional).

He spoke first. “Pete, don’t even talk to me, I just left the worst interview ever!” He stood by puzzled as I proceeded to crack up laughing. After a moment, I explained about my own situation, which gave him a laugh as well. We stood there, still defeated and miserable, but having a friend who understood right when they needed them most. We walked around for a while, got some cheap eats and took the train home, early enough to miss rush hour, but late enough to miss Maury and Jerry.

I guess, no matter what, always keep your head up.

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Filed under Friends, Job Interviews, Jobs, Life, Scintilla Project, Writing, Writing Challenges