Category Archives: Writing

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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Filed under Life, Trifextra, Trifextra Writing Challenge, Writing, 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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Filed under Creative Writing, Humor, Ketchup With Us, Life, Restaurants, Writing, Writing Challenges

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

Scintilla Project: The Size of Lies

Yes I have signed up for Scintilla ’13! I will try to get every one of them in, and hey I might even work a little Zombie Bunnies into the mix.

The prompts to choose from for today:

A: What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told? Why? Would you tell the truth now, if you could?

B: Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….)

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Sure there are ‘small’, ‘white’ lies, but can you really keep them that way?

I was in 8th grade and we had to fill out our High School application forms. I was zoned for school ‘A’, which had a well-earned rep as being a rough school, to which I had no intention of going. I wanted school ’B’ which my sister was currently attending- though it was assured she would have no real intentions of socializing with me, it had a good reputation (more on this soon!). Still, the guidance counselor convinced me to apply for school ‘C’, which had higher academic standards and a lower percent of acceptances, and I did so reluctantly. I told my best friend at the time that I had applied, and he was ecstatic – he had applied as well; he was following in the footsteps of HIS own sister. He already had the school jacket!

About a month or so later, we started getting the letters with the assigned schools. Yep, I got into school C. Only 9 applicants from our school got in. Regardless of this, I was committing myself to B. Knowing that everyone got their letters at the same time, I wondered what I would say in the almost certain chance he got in.

Sure enough, the next day when we met to walk to school, his excitement was the giveaway.

“I got my letter, I’m in! Did they take you too?!”

“Naw man, they didn’t.”

His jaw dropped, joy turning to frustration as he unleashed expletives and tirades about the unfairness of it all. Yeah I felt like crap. I assured him it was ok, since I had a good ‘fallback’ plan, but that didn’t work, of course.

I felt like a rift had opened up at that time. The summer came and went, we started our schools, stayed close and hung out some afternoons. From time to time though he would still mention how much the situation sucked. Would I eventually tell the truth? Time heals all wounds right?

In order: Yes, and Nope.

What made me finally confess that I had been accepted, late into that freshman year? Maybe I figured it was water under the bridge. When I did tell him though, the look of shock on his face was enough to prove me wrong. He shrugged it off somewhat, but the rest of that time we spent hanging out (very likely playing video games) was spent with the tension fogging up the place. By that summer he had started hanging out with other guys (not mutual friends at all) and our friendship faded. By the time high school ended we had no contact with each other at all.

What would it have changed for us? Would we have had each other to lean on, rather than work to make a new set of friends? Would I have been able to stand up for him when he was robbed on the bus? My own time at School B grew more precarious, as it became a rough school as well; having been robbed in the hallway, that experience would not have transferred to the other one, and my academic path may or may have been affected, as I stopped really caring about grades, over personal safety, especially after another student was stabbed/killed in the staircase a year later.

So after many, many years and social network fads later I eventually found him on Facebook. I sent a friend request and it was immediately accepted. We caught up on backstories, and life events that I think we both would have liked to be around for. There is no animosity, and we concentrate on the good memories we had (getting pizza, renting movies, going to Yankee Stadium, collecting baseball cards, playing and beating Zak McKracken & the Alien Mindbenders [the best game ever created, IMO]), and though he doesn’t live in the country, if he happened to be around, we agreed to meet up, even entertaining the idea of hitting up the old pizza place.

Maybe time does heal all wounds, you just might need a lot more of it.

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Scintilla Project: Drinking and the Job

Yes I have signed up for Scintilla ’13! I will try to get every one of them in, and hey I might even work a little Zombie Bunnies

WEDNESDAY, 13TH MARCH
A: Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so.
B: Tell a story set at your first job.

I’ll do both – well sort of.

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Part A. Growing up, I never liked the smell, much less the taste of beer, or any alcohol whenever I was permitted to take a sip (even champagne toasts during weddings). To this day I don’t understand why tequila still exists, except for the splitting headache enthusiasts among you (find a brick wall, people!). Also you’d be hard pressed to get me to drink 4-5 glasses of anything in one sitting, except water and that’s just during a hot/humid day.

What kind of prompt would this be if it ended there? Thankfully(?!), things change and all these ideas, beliefs and tastes go out the window when you are at a party right after your 18th birthday (not my party) with a camera on you. Of course it was a test of machismo, but I looked at it as a chance to sample drinks, figure out what the hell the fuss was all about, and not have to sneak around it doing it. Plus it was free, which doesn’t hurt (still doesn’t). Of course, with video evidence, it was all but assured I would be caught. I braced myself and took my first Kamikaze shot. Gah!

What cheers and accolades came from the others?

“Oh wait, I missed that – set him up again!”

Oh crap. So yes, a second one went down. Nearly came back up.

“Here, take a swig of this, it’ll ease your stomach.” It was a beer, but since they knew how much I hated the taste, a shot of something was dropped it to make it smoother. Actually, it did the trick. Yay?!

So after a couple more rounds (including ascrewdriver, you know, for the Vitamin C) I didn’t puke (a streak I STILL have; the current standing has food poisoning at 3-0 vs. drunken ralphing), but I did have a hangover, and yes it was a school day, one of the last days of high school actually.

I also didn’t drink again for at least several years. Yes apparently I missed out on an essential part of college life. That ended with my friends’ intervention of “Seriously, we need to get you drunk”. That’s when I met my arch-enemy, Tequila, cleverly disguised in a margarita, but in Superhero context, to counter that Venom was the lovely Mary Jane Watson known as Sangria.

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Seeing as I did prompt B: my first job, take a look back if you haven’t read it, or forgot you read it, etc.
It’s a new year, so I’ll add a little to that story. I mean really, when your job has you dealing with the humans, there’s tons of material to work with.
Among the list of useful skills I gained towards future career choices, would have to be ‘the straight face’. That usually came into use when dealing with:

Birth Control. Among the prescriptions that we filled, BC was obviously part of the ones we handled. Since we were several kids working at the counter, it was ‘who needs help?’ that got us a next customer. Sometimes, people didn’t want you helping them for whatever reasons. However, it was inevitable that we would be short-staffed, or well, no one else was available. One time, a female customer hesitantly and wordlessly gave me a small round plastic disk. “Umm, ok. What is this?” I popped it open, still not figuring out what the calendar was all about. A female co-worker plucked it from my hands, as my mental faculties gave the “ohhh!”; a statement that did little to boost my intellectual reputation. Then there was the woman who needed something, but didn’t want to say a thing. Instead she asked for a paper and pen. She gave it back to me; “Monistat”. To my credit, I had my game face on; however, the fact that (apparently due to the cost of the meds) the product itself was on a shelf, behind me, elevated to a point that I had to step UP onto a lower shelf to reach it, and that every other customer waiting on line would see, pretty much nullified that letter to the point where even Jedi telekinetic powers wouldn’t be subtle (as they usually are).

Another kit that was placed next to it, probably for the simple reason of comparative embarrassment were the pregnancy tests. One fellow (!), decided he wasn’t going to be cowed by this task; coming up to the counter, he gave us all (yes outmatched 3-1)  a gunslinger’s posture and asked for the pregnancy tests (no he didn’t point from the hip). We got him what he needed, rang him up, and as he walked off into the sunset (really, it was near the end of our early evening shifts), one of the girls broke. “Good luck!” she called after him, her well wishes to be used towards whatever outcome he was going for (or not). Without missing a beat, he gave a fist pump in response.

Oh, and no one bought lambskin condoms.

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Filed under Drinks, Jobs, Life, Scintilla Project, Working, Writing, Writing Challenges

Monday Listicles – The Scents of Well-Being

The one good thing about Mondays is that NorthWestMommy diligently offers up a new fan- influenced prompt, geared towards the positive aspects of existence. This week is 10 favorite smells. Like Ms NWM herself I tried to keep the list from representing all foodstuffs. Unlike her, well, you’ll see.

1. Fresh air. Not much of it around here. When I go to the mountains, even just the suburbs, I can sense the difference especially since it usually means more serene surroundings – since city life is as much soul-crushing as it is physically polluting. Fresh air works up the appetite for one thing. That leads me to the next one.

2. Barbecue. Yes I plainly see the irony of longing for and appreciating the outdoors, then polluting it just to get extra char on my burger/hot dog/ steak/ vegetables.

3. Dried flowers. the scent is as strong, if not longer lasting, than when they are in bloom. Except for honey suckles, which are wonderful when they are around. I do not have much exposure to actual full gardens (see #1).

4. Candles. Not just a source of mood lighting, many candles are scented, which can go along with a seasonal or intentional purpose. This is a tricky area, since candle scents can be overpowering or smell more like food than they really should. I have found that Crystal Journey candles are my favorites; clean light and refreshing, and if you are into meditating/ spiritual practices, you will likely find what you need here. Or get me something. Just puttin’ it out there.

5. Indian food/curry/basmati rice. Sure you can get that nice aroma from the cart food, or a divey little place in Curry Row NYC, but when you get those fresh ground seasonings in a nice rich gravy, accompanied by basmati rice with actual saffron, inhale deeply and you will reach a dreamy state. All this before you take the first bite!

6. Garlic/onions frying. This gears more towards my Italian roots. When I was younger, Sunday mornings usually meant waking up to this aroma wafting through the apartment. A good sauce takes time of course, and was an integral part of even bigger meals, like lasagna or stuffed shells. If it wasn’t our house cooking, then this was the first thing you would smell when walking into grandma’s house. Imagine if #4 came in this scent?!

7. Banana bread. I generally enjoy baking, and the aromas are great (especially when vanilla and/or brown sugar are ingredients!), but the smell of banana bread just seems to equal warmth. Pulling open a muffin is likeable to a blossoming flower.

8. Brewing tea. Whether it’s with regular leaves, green tea, spicy chai (see #5 for a 1-2 punch!), or ones blended with herbs like sage or rosemary, every aroma is clean and refreshing. Your senses will steep in the smells and the flavors.

9. Hugo cologne. I first bought this in college. I know, you grow up and move on to other scents, but this reminds me of my turtleneck sweaters and cold weather in general, as well as my more carefree days (ok that’s not completely true, college is stressful!) I never could wear it during warm weather. I always make sure to own even just a small bottle to wear from time to time.

10. Cats. When I bury my face in their cute fuzzy bellies, I get their scent. Then they wash themselves immediately afterwards since they have MY scent. Litter boxes- eh, not so much a fan of THAT part. Like babies, you wonder how something so cute can create something so diabolic. It’s the balance of nature; just keep repeating that to yourself as you clean it up. Or just burn a candle!

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Filed under Life, Lists, Monday Listicles, Shameless Promotions, Writing

SoC Sunday: I Don’t Do Mondays

I found this prompt through Erin Margolin, who linked up a post from Ms Nicola, who posted it on Jana’s Thinking Place. So hey, you and I have at least a couple new people to follow, thank and be told what to do, and don’t you give met that look, mister man prompted by. You’re welcome!

Anydoogiehowsers, the prompt is How would you spend your last 24 hours if that’s all you had left? It’s to be written in Stream of Consciousness, which is perfect for Sunday mornings; prompts for Monday morning should be written in annoyance and a brain still warming up like a 37 year old engine. Bangles songs nonwithstanding.

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24 hours and counting – will it look like this counter that I have set to make sure that I follow this rule? That would be more ominous. I wouldn’t have the sound or even vibration. As if it would matter. Well first I would start my day with a breakfast of a croissant and sausage. That’s what I had this morning. Well I would add an egg, this way I don’t get edgy all day. Then again, better to have it all end before MONDAY. I don’t have much to do so maybe a trip to central park and take some last photos. It’s a park by our standards, which doesn’t say much. Seriously how many of you see mountains and forests on your way to work. I treasure the sounds of the few birds that chirp sweetly on low mornings like this. Dinner. Would I make it my damn self or risk going to the finest restaurant in town and WAIT. Hell no. I could just pick up a steak and some friends. Let everyone cook together. A fine meal with fine friends, and a fine wine *Da Vini Chanti works every time. My bank account, well I would donate a chunk of course. Friends family, charities, and maybe along my adventure that day a little to those who would need it. (The salvation army buckets aren’t around, that might help things). A letter to everyone or a fond farewell in person recorded hell people whip out their cell phones for every cheesy concert. And I’m twice as awesome and will be remembered years later…2, 1…

BUZZZZZZZ

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Filed under Day In the Life, Life, Prompts, SoC Sunday, Stream of Consciousness, Wine, Writing, Writing Challenges