Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween, Trick or Treat?: "ON THE BEATEN PATH"

On the Beaten Path
by Phil Canalin


The man was a stranger to the land.  Since his wife of twenty-five years had passed away from illness three years ago, he had taken many solitary trips from which he derived great pleasure.  He arrived that late afternoon and asked for directions to the small town he longed to visit, a town of simple historical significance in the backcountry.  It was mid-fall in that part of the world and the rains had not yet begun.  He decided to save on expenses, choosing to walk the small dirt path which would take him directly to the town.

The path ran through the center of low foothills of an otherwise flat valley, bereft of people and cottages.  Trees were sparse and none of them very tall.  Most of the bushes scattered about were manzanita and brittle-leafed, a result of the dry summers he had read about, no doubt.  The man’s plan was to rent a room once he got to the town.  He hitched his small travel bag over his left shoulder, pulled his dark leather hat down firmly and started down the path.

Far off in the distance the sun had dropped in the sky, just beginning its descent to sunset, its bright intensity shining in the man’s eyes.  He pulled his hat brim down lower to shield the glare.

After the man had been walking for quite some time there was still no town in sight.  He was not able to recall asking anyone the actual distance, specifically, and he had mistakenly assumed the walk would be short.  But yet, no fields, no cottages, no signs of life, only the path he traveled upon.  The sun was now setting, final rays of golden light melting into the horizon.  As he continued on his way the man watched thick fog begin to descend into the valley.  The slithering fog picked up speed as it rolled across and then down the foothills all around, surrounding the man in damp, hazy mist.  Soon the swirling fog was so thick the man could see only a few yards in front of him, but he still felt assured for it was not so dense to cause him to lose sight of the path he walked upon.  The man took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and continued forward along the path.

Suddenly the man heard sounds approaching him.  He turned his head to one side and strained to hear them better.  Though the fog muffled the noise a bit, it sounded like,

“Plop.  Shuffle.  Knock.”

“Plop.  Shuffle.  Knock.”

And the sounds were coming towards him slowly along the same path.

“Plop.  Shuffle.  Knock.”

The sounds continued until just ten steps up the path the man could make out a small woman, trudging all alone towards him.  A short hooded robe was tied about her waist, falling just to her knees.  The hood completely covered the woman’s face but not her long scraggly hair, gray and twisted, which fell well past her shoulders.  As the woman approached the man ever closer he saw that the dampness of the fog had drenched her robe, while moisture gathered on the tips of the woman’s long, stringy locks.   The woman was hunched over to her left, leaning over a gnarled spindly cane that she grasped in her left hand, supporting her weight and helping her walk down the path.  She advanced and the man noticed that she wore a high black boot on her right foot, but her left foot, starting below her ankle all the way up to mid-shin, was wrapped haphazardly in thick, filthy gauze, perhaps once clean and white, now dark and gray, the same gray color that everything else had donned in the fog and gathering dusk.  From the hunched woman’s clothing, gray, unkempt hair and awkward, hobbling gait, the man assumed she was very old.

As the woman continued to walk ever onward she would step ahead with her booted foot, drag her bandaged foot forward, then plop her cane forward, ready and steady for the next step…..and the next.  The sounds of her movement grew louder in the man’s ears the closer the woman came towards him. 

“Plop!  Shuffle!  Knock!”

“Plop!  Shuffle!  Knock!”

This continued until the old woman and the man reached each other on the path.  The man meant to say something to the woman, but he hesitated, momentarily taken aback by the old woman’s appearance up close and the noises she made while walking, so unlike his own long, quiet walk had been thus far.  Then the woman moved on.  And the man moved on.

Shortly, the man heard new sounds approaching him on the path.  It was a bit darker now and fog still surrounded him, yet in the stillness the man could hear,

“Klop.  Klop.”

“Klop.  Klop.”

“Klop.  Klop.”

Seven steps ahead of him along the path the man could now see another woman, once more alone and coming toward him.  After a few steps she drew near and he observed the woman, quite tall and stately.  She wore a high-necked dark dress, with a stiff, tight-fitting bodice and dark cuffs at the end of each long sleeve.  The bottom of the dress had a full circling hem of dark, frilly lace.  The woman’s hair was bright, flaming red, braided and clipped in tight coils on either side of her head, although she maintained long straight bangs, so straight and long they draped down over the woman’s forehead and eyes, covering the top half of her face.  Her hair shimmered in the final smattering of dusk, the gleaming locks bursting through the twirling, smoky fog.  As she came closer the man saw that she wore stodgy black clogs on both feet and the clogs had heavy, dark platform soles.  The woman kept a steady, serious look on her face and held herself stiffly, tall and erect as she neared the man in quick, formal strides.  From the tall woman’s clothing, styled hair and professional strut, the man assumed she was of middle age.

As the woman moved ever forward she stepped loudly and lively in her thick, heavy clogs.  Ready, step and step.  Ready, step and step.

“Klop!  Klop!”

“Klop!  Klop!”

The sounds of her movement forward continued until the stately woman and the man reached each other on the path.  Again, the man was about to say something to the middle-aged woman, but her stoic countenance and serious demeanor gave him pause and his voice caught.  The moment lapsed.  Then the woman tread passed him.  And the man tread passed her.

Very soon the man began to hear different sounds as he continued down the path,

“Slap.  Scrape.  Slap.”

“Slap.  Scrape.  Slap.”

“Slap.  Scrape.  Slap.”

What could that be, he wondered?  And just five short steps later, in the almost completely faded dusk and swirling dancing fog the man spied a petite, youthful woman, nubile and athletic, just a few feet from him.  She quickly drew closer and the man, perhaps wistfully recounting his own younger days of physical strength and attractions, envisioned about the young lass a healthy, shining glow of spritely exuberance.  In the darkening gloom and damp foggy weather she wore only tight, ragged, cut-off jean shorts and a simple dark t-shirt, trimmed partially around the waist, exposing her small dimpled belly-button.  As she came even closer the man saw that the young lady had merely thin, rubber-soled flip-flops on her feet, as if she were out for a stroll on a warm sandy strip of beach and not walking down a dark, wet dirt path running through the center of the low foothills of a flat valley, away from a town….some town….yes, a town that the man had once longed to visit but seemed to have lost his focus on and couldn’t recall at that moment why he had ever wanted to in the first place.

As the young woman continued onward she stepped lightly and girlishly in her flip-flopped feet, briefly adding a skip between steps in her overt enthusiasm.  Flip went her left flip-flop, then a quick skip, then flop went her right flip-flop.  Flip went her left flip-flop, then a quick skip, then flop went her right flip-flop.  The sound her movements made were,

“Slap.  Scrape.  Slap.”

 “Slap.  Scrape.  Slap.”

In this manner the nubile young lady moved quickly ever-so closer to the man in her flip-flops and too short shorts, her belly button dancing like a cute, enticing firefly in the night air and her hair swirling, twirling like a dream, the wet fog having no effect against the wispy, luscious blonde tendrils.  Taking the sight of this in, the man found the young woman very beautiful and assumed her to unwed.

They continued on until the beautiful, young woman and the older man reached each other on the path.  The man experienced a streaming rush of hot emotion gush down his body and he was momentarily surprised and embarrassed by his older body’s reaction, so much so that he could not produce even a whimper of sound.  Then the young woman stepped passed him.  And the man stepped passed her.

The man made just two steps further down the dirt path.  The night was full on gloom now, too dark for the fog to be seen, although the man still felt the moist air eddying and whirling and churning about him.  He knew he was still on the path, but now he was confused and a little scared in the dark of night, body and clothes completely soggy, no longer certain he was heading towards a town at all, out in a backcountry he knew very, very little about, except what he read about in a book….so long, so long ago, he mused.

In his musing, the distracted man did not hear, at his feet, soft and uneven light footfalls, which sounded,


“Crunch.  Crunch.  Step…..step-step.”

By then night had certainly fallen.  Suddenly the man tripped and almost toppled on top of a toddler.  In one hand the toddler was grasping the hand of another little girl, slightly older, but young nevertheless.  In tripping, the man’s body bent low over the two of them and being so close he could make them out clearly in the dark.  He saw that the toddler had dark raven’s hair cut in short pageboy style, wearing a simple black onesie and small, teeny black cowboy boots with dark-red curly-cue design stitching.  How cute this young child is, the man thought.  The young girl clutching the toddler’s hand wore a zipped up, dark hoodie, the hood thrown back to also reveal short, raven-black curls.  The man regained his balance and, gathering his resolve, stood and turned to continue his journey down the dark path.

He needn’t be so jittery, he tried to convince himself.  In this strange place on this strange path, all he had to do was place one foot forward, followed by the other foot.  Then one foot forward, followed by the other foot.  Just like that, over and over again, until he got there…..to the town!  Until he got to the town!

But as the man moved one step beyond the toddler and young girl, he heard the young girl scoff rather loudly, “How sad to come upon a man walking on a country path, wet dirt, no less, in the pitch black of night, in a damp and dank fog, and the poor, worthless stranger, whoever he thinks he is, can’t even take a moment to say hello, or bother to wave a greeting, or even lend a hand to help a little baby toddler and her sister, wandering out together on that same muddy road, in the darkness of night and thick cruel fog.  My baby sis and me, we say: ‘Go piss yourself, old man!’”

Upon hearing the rude comment the man stopped.

He tried so hard, but he couldn’t say hello or anything else for that matter.  The hobbled, old woman had slit his throat as she passed.

He attempted with all his might, but he couldn’t wave hello or any other kind of greeting.  The stately, serious middle-aged woman had chopped off his right arm as she had tread by him.

And, even if he wanted to, he couldn’t lend a hand to the baby toddler and her sister.  The nubile, beautiful young woman had neatly and completely sliced off his left hand.

The man thought he might actually piss himself..…but he discovered he couldn’t even do that.

Instead, the man, a visitor to that land, a stranger in that backcountry, hiking through the dark night and dank fog, on a dirt path that ran through the center of low foothills of an otherwise flat valley, which would have taken him directly to a town, keeled and pitched forward, dead as dead.

“Come, baby sis,” the young girl said, pulling strongly to move her young toddling sister along.  “And do please throw those disgusting castrations away.  We’ve got to get moving…..you know how curmudgeonly damn witches can get when they are late for supper!”


“Crunch.  Crunch.  Step…..step-step.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015


A financial miracle: The Magical Spreadsheet
 (Tell me when this starts to bore you, you know, numbers and spreadsheets and all!)

I was asked to prepare end-of-year expenditure projections for a public health program that had two funding sources, therefore two separate budgets, a dozen budget categories with forty different line items to manipulate.  Hey, it’s what I do (when I’m not, I’m writing).
Unfortunately, the projections I had been receiving from the directors kept changing over and over again, some because of human foresight, some because of human error (mostly these!) – what’s the opposite of foresight? Buttsight?  AKA: Get your act together, people!
Time and time again I needed to adjust these spreadsheets and since they were inter-connected programmatically, every change to one meant, at best, one change to the other, but usually more like one change equaled five changes.  Finally, after twenty to thirty modifications and numerous updates from program managers over the course of two weeks, I had a final product late one Friday, which I printed out and summarized with appropriate staff.  Ahh,  TGIF and I felt good!
Great week-end, back to work on Monday and energized to move on to new tasks!  Of course, here was the first email I received: “Phil, I think I forgot to tell you that I need to move $75,000 to cover expenses for XYZ….”  WHAT?!?!?!?!  I didn’t believe it, you have got to be kidding me – ANOTHER CHANGE?!?!
I couldn’t deal with it, I left my office and walked the hallways for a few minutes, grumbling and muttering grouchy things to myself, although I’m certain by the way other folks were stepping widely around me that some of my comments to myself actually escaped into the atmosphere.  Okay, deep breaths, feeling better, whatever you can do this, Phil, don’t let work get the best of you, just make the changes and finish it up, no stress, no worries.  Okay.
I got back to my desk, settled in, figured out the changes I would need to make to adjust the year-end projections and balance these budgets.  Simple, undo an appropriate number of modifications and related cost adjustments from the last changes of the previous week.  A little bit of work, might take some time for sure, but straightforward so okay, let me just put my thinking cap on and dive in.  I pulled up the saved spreadsheets in my EXCEL file and prepared to compute the changes I thought I would need to make.
But, what?! What gives here?  The spreadsheet file numbers weren’t matching my hardcopy print-outs from what I thought were the final analyses – oh no, no way, major issue!
In my haste to complete the job or maybe in my exhilaration for having THOUGHT I had completed the job - a state I like to call ‘The Drunken Work Stupor’, which isn’t really like a stupor at all, more like a “Can I Go Home Now?’ Euphoria – I MAY HAVE FAILED TO SAVE MY FINAL ADJUSTMENTS BEFORE SHUTTING DOWN THE OEPRATING PROGRAM ON FRIDAY!  And due to my haste, my stupor, my euphoria, WHATEVER, now I would have to go back through my notes to make sure the earlier revision requests that needed to be kept in the reports were still incorporated or needed to be added, even before I moved ahead with the new request!  RATS!
So now, even more frustrated, I began my initial review of the details, although actually that was only my initial review THAT Monday morning, it was probably my 57th review of this project overall - but I grouse and whine.  Because then: A MIRACLE HAPPENED!
As I began to review and compare the “final-not-really-final” spreadsheet print-outs to the computer file spreadsheets, I realized Two Things:

1.     The revisions that were not included, because maybe I did fail to save them on Friday but let’s not deal with that right now, were a number of salary projection adjustments.  And while that fact, in and of itself was not so thrilling, what was good is that the number of these adjustments, although they were many, they were at least contained in one budget category, so much easier to identify and correct, as needed.  So I would be able to track down those non-saved adjustments fairly easily.

2.     And here’s the gist of the MIRACLE.  The total of the omitted items equaled $75, 007.23.  That’s right, almost exactly equal to the amount of the new modification I had to incorporate!!!

In other words:  The Magical Spreadsheet had MAGICALLY FIXED ITSELF!

(Addendum:  Since my work on those spreadsheets was effectively complete, I decided to spend the time starting this Blog.  Unfortunately, this Blog did not write itself, so any complaints as to its content and enjoyment factor are to be blamed entirely on me.  Whassup WORD, can’t be as bad-ass as EXCEL and write yourself?!) 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Today I come clean.
I finally accept that The World and My (so-called) Life will forever undergo change.  I also accept that I’m stuck smack dab in the middle of that universal cement mixer and there’s not one thing I can do about it.  Good and bad, revolution happens.  Oh, I can observe, analyze, compute, project, plan, set objectives and goals, all wonderful gyrations that I can go through to convince myself I’m on staying on top of things.  But those changes just keep on coming and they’re going to keep on coming and keep me forever high-stepping through the morass.  The best I can really do is get better boots!
The way I now see it, I may not ever become that “Phil” I thought I always would be someday when I grow up.  Heck, I’m on the downhill side of my mid-fifties, which should mean I’m already grown-up, but I’ve had to continue to grow and I don’t mean just horizontally.  The problem is I thought I had it all figured out many, many years ago, forty-one years ago in fact, at the ripe old age of fifteen.  But, needing to address constant variations of being, I’ve had to go back to the Drawing Board of My Life again and again.  Transformation ad nauseum!
Things that were so important twenty or thirty years ago have become absolutely meaningless as I’ve hit my forties and fifties.  And, vice-versa, things so insignificant when I was much younger have grown exceedingly crucial now that I’m staring at sixty.  Throw in kids, education, mortgages, tuitions, jobs, family, entertainment, technology, savings, retirement plans, my city my state my country, global warming, recycling rules, let alone the Fate of the World - I could go on and on and on and on.  And I have to; go on and on, I mean.  But for some reason, these new points of focus want to invade my thoughts in the middle of the night, right around 3:17 a.m., the wee hours, slapping me around, prodding me to solve the issues, create some plans, provide some answers, shouting, “Hey, wake up and deal with us!” when all I want to do is fall back asleep.
I read in Sports Illustrated that Erik Spoelstra, the forty-two year old head coach of the Miami Heat, gathered the reigning and remaining championship team before the first day of training camp after losing The King, Superstar Lebron James, in the offseason.  He addressed the players.  “How many times have you reinvented yourself to become somebody new, somebody better?  But in order to do that you have to be uncomfortable.  You can’t stay who you are….Things change and you have to be able to adapt.”
So to me, that’s the new KEY idea I’ve learned: those changes to the World and to My Life are going to continue and they’re going to continue FOREVER.  Really.  Forever.  And I will feel uncomfortable but I have to keep up.  I can pretend I don’t need to, tell myself I won’t, play it cool, act as if I’ve already got everything all figured out.  But that would just be bull-hockey.  Sort of like being on a moving treadmill – you can stand still if you want, but you’ll get whisked along anyway and eventually you’ll get dumped off the edge and maybe even get injured.  And you can’t look too cool getting dumped off a treadmill.
It’s cliché, I know, but what I’ve learned over and over, time and time again, through examples from friends and strangers, through music, through books, through movies, through Facebook for God’s sake, through LIFE:  I have got to focus on the Good Stuff.   The Good Stuff brings really good energy, happiness.  That’s easy to deal with, fun and fulfilling.  And much of the Good Stuff is earned through hard work and I shouldn’t discount that.  The Bad is where I get beat up.  Worry comes and worry goes, stress grows and stress goes.  But I must dig, sometimes dig deep, and I will always find something there to rejoice about, find joy, to fill me with wonder.
How fitting that this Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, time to count our blessings, time to give thanks.  That should be all the time, every day.  If things change, that is.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I had an epiphany walking down our pitch-dark stairs one recent morning, 5:45 am.  Isn’t it strange when that happens?  Strange because it actually happens, anytime and anyplace, and because the epiphany can be about the most random topic.
Here was mine, it flashed to me right when I hit that bottom step:  Why do I convince myself to wait for a while before phoning a friend who is going through an issue of some sort?  How many times have I thought, “I’ll call next week, he/she’s dealing with some stuff right now and I don’t want to be a bother and intrude.”
Really?  That thought alone brings some hefty assumptions:

·        First of all, why do I think my friend (insert family member, co-worker, or whoever here) will think I’m such a nuisance?  Am I afraid the person’s going to pick up the phone and yell, “WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ME?  ARE YOU HEARTLESS?!?!”

·        And am I so all-important that my call, even just a short “Hey, how’re you doing?” is going to thoroughly disrupt my friend’s ability to deal with whatever it is they’re trying to address?  Am I so afraid the person will answer my call, “Well you just screwed up my entire life, but thanks for the call, nimrod!”? 

·        Why do I presume my friend wants to handle the issue all alone?  Will my friend-in-need tell me, “Can you call me back later?  I really want to endure further suffering all by myself, especially without you or anyone else in the entire  universe.”? 

·        Am I such a pathetic loser that I truly won’t be of any help to my friend at all?  Am I certain the reply to my call will be, “You really think you can help me….YOU?!  Help ME?!  Hahahahahahahahaha!” 

As you can see, the assumptions are all mine, and mostly about me.  Not the friend that I want to call, that I should call.  What kind of friend thinks it’s best to keep away from a friend when he is struggling?
No more assumptions, from now on:   I’M JUST GOING TO CALL.  That was my epiphany.
And friends, the same goes for me: bother me, please!  And if I hang up on you, please realize that it’s nothing personal.  I’m just going through some stuff.  But thanks for being my friend, nimrod.

(Additional Note:  I wrote this BLOG three days before Robin Williams’ lifeless body was found after an apparent suicide.  So sad, such a tragic loss.  So full of Life.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Congrats to all, we just made it through “The Two Worst Days in American Sports”.  However did we survive?  If you don’t know, that would be the two days immediately following the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.  Some non-baseball lovers might say the All-Star Game should also count as one of the worst days in sport;  of course, baseball traditionalists would call these same non-baseball lovers ‘non-Americans’, but I digress.  I learned that the two days following the MBL All Star Game are considered “The Two Worst Days In American Sports”, this from folks in sports media, specifically sports radio talk show hosts and a couple commentators from ESPN.  The reason behind their decree is that there are no big-money major sporting events going on!  At least that’s what these folks-in-the-know claim.  In truth, they are partially correct.

Here’s what is NOT happening to report or talk about:

Major League Baseball – Yeah, the Home Run Hitting Contest, the Celebrity Softball Game and All Star game itself are over.  The players all get an additional two days off before real league play resumes.  Of course there’s the AAA All-Star Game and other minor league games, but we all know those don’t count.

National Football League – The NFL Draft is over and so, too, all of the months spent speculating about those collegiate draft picks.   These were the same prognostications that began exactly one minute after the Super Bowl ended.  Now comes the lull before MTAs (Mandatory Team Activities) begin, which these days have morphed into vehicles for disgruntled players NOT to show up so they can let team management know, oh and the sports media world of course, that they want to renegotiate new contracts.  OTAs (Optional Team Activities) are over, which is when team management and coaches really do want all players to participate, but if some don’t, oh well, ‘only optional’ the team brain trusts will say.  Then they’ll scurry back to their HQs to figure out why this or that player didn’t show up, aka “Contract Hold-out Pending”!

National Basketball Association – Like the NFL, the NBA Draft is over.  The Draft is when players from college, high school, all over the world (but mostly from Australia, Serbia, Croatia, and the hottest trend, Canada?) are chosen by NBA teams.  Many of the draftees are traded even before new team hats placed atop their special Draft Night hairdo’s can be fashionably turned sideways.  Picture it now:  An 18-year-old player from a high school, excuse me, an Academy in Jersey, gets drafted by the LA Clippers, ten minutes later gets traded cross-country to the New York Knicks;  six minutes later he’s part of a three-way-trade to the Toronto Raptors;  twenty minutes after that he finds out he’s been traded back to LAC along with a 2019 conditional 2nd Round draft pick and $23.00 in cash for the rights for a 12-year-old Yugoslavian player who averaged 19.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in the Belgrade Elementary League, but OH CAN HE HANDLE THE ROCK!  The free agency frenzy is long past, what - you didn’t hear enough about King James?  Take one Carmelo with food, no Boozer, and Gasol me in the morning! 

But here’s what IS happening in the World of Sports, although I guess none rate high enough to affect “The Two Worst Days in American Sports”, at least by someone’s assessment, not mine:

·         Opening Day of the British Open Championship, a PGA major tournament.  Yeah, but it’s across The Pond, huge minus points!
·         National Hockey League – It’s the free agency period and seemingly every player gets to go to another team so that everyone’s thoroughly confused when the hockey season starts.  1st question: Does the hockey season ever end?  2nd: Do we really care?
·         There’s a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament going on in Ohio – Ohio, really?
·         OMG – the Tour de France is happening in Saint Etienne.  These guys get THE BEST drugs so there must be SOMETHING interesting about it.  Non? C’est la vie!
·         Major League Soccer is in-season.  The teams are from the USA and Canada, but most of the players’ names aren’t.  Still, it’s the World’s Sport and you’ve got to love a team named Chivas USA!
·         NBA Summer Leagues are going on in Orlando, followed by Las Vegas.  You won’t recognize many of the names but the game they’re playing isn’t that familiar either.  However, you can sit and watch a potential NBA star reach puberty right before your very eyes, if that’s your thing.

As you can see, there isn’t much for sports show hosts and ESPN announcers to talk about (yet talk they do).  But maybe they can be prepared for 2015’s “The Two Worst Days in American Sports” - I offer three potential topics about the three major US professional sports:

1)      Analyze every possible statistic ever tracked in baseball and compare and contrast from 1901 to now.  You know, stats like WHIP, OBP, BABIP, RC, Base-Out State, Def Eff, FIP, OWP, WX, and the all-important Pythagenpant.  (These are real, people, and you thought you knew baseball?!?!)

2)      Project where LeBron James will be playing hoops in the year 2040, when he’ll be The 55-year-old King.  Make projections based on the proximity of CVS pharmacies to team facilities, team dietary menus geared for the elderly, local AARP discounts, and basketball stadiums with playing floors that have a slight slant – at least for one-half it’ll be easier to run down the court for alley-OOPS MY BACK!  Extra bonus topic:  What NBA teams will LeBron’s kids choose to play for and how much dough will they make?

3)      Review all past NFL game tapes to identify and decipher the true meaning of players’ tattoos; discuss whether or not bible quotation tattoos really count as tattoos or are players just bored at practice and need something to read.  And why don’t some players get tattoos of actual play diagrams so they know where they’re supposed to be on the field?  They can use some help!  Bonus topic: Should tattoos of actual plays be called “Peyton Tats”?

Of course, TV and radio sports commentators can just do what they always do:  Make up stuff about anything-sports and pretend it’s very entertaining and stimulating news.  Then make up stuff about the original stuff they made up and act like they can’t believe this is all happening.  Then make up more stuff about the new stuff and include quotes from “a close source” and then interrupt regular shows with updates and cool graphics including a title for their made-up stuff that starts with “Whatever was made up-Watch 2015”;  and let the world know, as responsible sports reporters, that continuing coverage will be 24/7 until the stuff they made up reaches a conclusion – which is NEVER BECAUSE IT’S ALL MADE UP!  Then win awards for their great coverage at televised Sports Award Shows.  Finally, get right back to the World Series, Monday Night-Thursday Night-Saturday Night-Sunday NFL football, and, of course, The King’s Next Decision.

You know I’ll be tuned in, I love my sports!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Who’s REALLY Invisible?

I spent a few hours this week attempting to assist my publisher, Dr. Ken Tupper, Owner/Founder of Divertir Publishing, with the cover for my next book release.  We’re trying to find just the right design for my short story collection, Invisible Society Fables, soon to be published (June, I hope I hope I hope or maybe July, rats).  The book is about people who are homeless and others who interact and try to work with them.  Taking classic fables, Aesop’s and others, I summarize them at the start of each story along with their morals, then re-create the fables into current homeless situations while maintaining those morals.  Dr. Tupper and his editing staff voted to donate 100% of their proceeds from book sales to the charity of my choice:  I chose the Midway Shelter in Alameda.  Invisible Society Fables will be the third in their line-up for which they will donate their profits.  I am so proud of that and very grateful, to say the least!  
So, laptop and Internet access in hand (and in The Cloud?), I searched world-wide, really, world-wide, for a cool cover picture.  I ultimately discovered so much in my search, from dealing with copyright infringement issues, to all-out hunting for free public use photography sites, to navigating electronic picture galleries, to experiencing thousands of pictures depicting the plight of homeless people in every nook and cranny on Earth.  It wasn’t all that cool, it was downright disheartening.  Homeless people everywhere, singles, couples, families, babies taking care of babies, grandmas leaning on grandpas, all ages, all colors, all shapes and sizes.  In many of the pictures, I wouldn’t even have known a person was homeless or not if not for their chosen nesting spot on the street/overpass/subway/park bench, the filth, the garbage bags and grocery carts, but mostly the haunting look in their eyes.  Lost and nowhere to go - that’s a telling look, I swear.  
But, here was my most important discovery, maybe more the unearthing of an important question.
I was on that search for cover art, the target idea:  A homeless person on the street with others just passing by, not looking, not seeing, not helping.  Just ignoring.  That attitude makes the homeless person disappear, become invisible right, and that disappearing act will be depicted in the picture?  Yes, maybe, and also no.
Yes, it’s a classic move by many to ignore that dirty, cold, hungry, maybe loud maybe stupefied person sitting on the street, right in your path to work, school, shopping, a night out, whatever.  Maybe if you don’t acknowledge them and don’t respond to them, well then nothing bad is going to happen, you can avoid any issues, literally sidestep confrontation, if you will; and hey, you’re a kind person, you do try to help in other ways anyway.  But, out here, come on, you’ve got to be somewhere, get someplace, train to catch, meeting, pick up, hurry up, gotta, shoulda, havta.  Really no time to help now, but later, for sure, always.  Please just let me pass, I’ll ignore you, please ignore me.  Just be a good person and be invisible for a minute until I pass, okay?  Groovy.
So, in doing that – and, yeah, I do that, too – who really winds up invisible?  The homeless person dealing with a horrible situation or you and me hiding in plain sight?

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My book, Slow Pitch Softball – More Than Just a Game, will be on display in the Independent Book Publishers of America booth:

May 29 to May 31, at BookExpo America, New York, NY – The #1 Book and Author Event in the Country (in 2013, over 20,000 attendees from 48 states and 82 countries) – This is over and they had a huge turn-out! Many articles and comments about this great event on-line.
June 28 to July 1, at The American Association of Librarians Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV – The oldest & largest library association in the World (in 2013, over 26,000 attendees from 48 states and 82 countries). NEXT UP!!!

Check it out if you’re around one of those great cities and love books.  Unfortunately, only my book will be on display, I will be at home!!!  Please see more at my website: www.philcanalin.com

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Life een Za Coolah for Me

I am serious when I say: Life is so cool.  Fascinating coincidence, bizarre happenstance, serendipitous stuff, quirky twist of fate, déjà vu mind bomb; they seem to happen all the time.  Here’s a recent example:
I’m fishing on the beach on a recent Friday night with a couple friends, the sun’s just starting to go down.  We’ve got our poles baited, cast and set in pole holders, kicking back in our collapsible chairs, adult beverages, sunflower seeds – you know, Miller Time, just like in those commercials.  Life is swell.  Then, two women walking the shoreline pass us and I instantly recognize one of them. 
“Mary?!” I call out.  A dear friend, Mary W., whom I haven’t seen for a few months, maybe a year or so.  She turns, takes a second to recognize me.
“Phil!” she cries when she does, and runs over for a great Mary W. hug.  What were the odds of that?!  I love that!
We spend just a few minutes quickly catching up, introducing our friends to each other.  A very nice surprise on the beach that night.  Stuff like that happens, just pleasant, unexpected moments.  Cool.
Fast forward to the following Monday, I’m at work, rat race, lunch time.  Normally I’d reach for the sports pages, but no home deliveries on Mondays, what a rip-off!  That’s okay, lots of info online.  But I grab the book I so want to finish, about 25 pages to go.  It’s Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins.  What a fantastic read and what a gifted writer.  My sis-in-law sent me this one, she’s so great at sending me books I wouldn’t think to read and she always sends me fantastic ones!  I recommend this book to you, funny, quirky, artistic, and a great story.  Anyway, around noon that day I head over to the mailroom to finish the book, quiet there, lots of sunlight and a great view from those 5th floor windows.
You know how sometimes you’re reading a book and you like it so much that you’re sad when it’s over?  That’s how it was for me that afternoon.  I had really enjoyed that book.  But at least I still had the Acknowledgements section to read.  I love reading these sections, especially since I have personally dipped my toes into the publishing pool and I have come to realize how much effort an author puts into every detail of the book, dedications, acknowledgements, the story, quotations, every bit of it.  It all requires painstaking concentration and dedication to detail.  So I’m reading the Author Acknowledgements at the back of the book.
And there, printed in plain black and white, is a ‘Thank You’ from the author, Jess Walter, to my friend, Mary W.  What were the odds of that?!  I love that!
Well, I immediately called Mary W.
“Mary, have you got a minute? It’s me, Phil!”  I excitedly gush.  “You know, I haven’t seen you in a while and it was really nice catching up with you on the beach last Friday.  But today I’m finishing this great book I had been reading and in the acknowledgement section the author thanks YOU!”  Mary chuckles on the other end.
“Jess Walter?” she asks.
“Yes,” I exclaim.  “Jess Walter. Beautiful Ruins.”
 “Oh, yeah,” she replies.  “That’s my brother-in-law.  Isn’t that a great book?”  What were the odds of that?!  I love that!

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Then, we proceed to talk about all of Jess Walter’s books and projects.  I can’t wait to read more!  Mary W. is obviously proud of him and asked me to send her an email that she’d forward to Mr. Walter and put us in contact.  I don’t know, I feel weird about that possibility (read “I am not worthy! I am not worthy!”).  Funny, part of the story in Beautiful Ruins concerns a sort of loser guy who pitches an idea for a movie to a big Hollywood mogul and his assistant.  The mogul tells him he loves the story and agrees to get him in to pitch his idea to a famous film production company, but, in fact, the mogul is only doing it to satisfy a commitment and free himself from some long ago contract deal.  The loser guy finds out and eventually they all end up seeing some brilliant community play in the Northwest somewhere (you’ve got to read the book!).  The guy sits in the audience, stunned at the artful magnificence and emotion of the play and, realizing his own work will never be anywhere near as good, sits with his head in his hands, lamenting, “F*$k me.  I think I’ve wasted my whole life.”  LOL:  I’m trying really hard not to let myself feel like that comparing my work to Jess Walter’s!
But, as my dear friend Mary W. so kindly pointed out to me, I am not Jess Walter.  I am who I am, and my writing style is my own, for all that is worth.  Yes, Life is cool and I do love that!

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Slow Pitch Softball – More Than Just a Game (author: Me!), will be on display in the Independent Book Publishers of America booth:

May 29 to May 31, at BookExpo America, New York, NY – The #1 Book and Author Event in the Country (in 2013, over 20,000 attendees from 48 states and 82 countries)
June 28 to July 1, at The American Association of Librarians Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV – The oldest & largest library association in the World (in 2013, over 26,000 attendees from 48 states and 82 countries)

Check it out if you’re around one of those great cities and love books.  Unfortunately, only my book will be on display, I will be at home!!!  Please see more at my website: www.philcanalin.com