Friday, July 31, 2015


A few weeks ago, I was telling Gregg, an old family friend who’s in his 80s, that one of the things on my bucket list is to ride on a zip line.

“What’s a bucket list?” he asked me.

“It’s a list of things I want to do before I kick the bucket.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, just make sure the noose around your neck has a long enough rope on it when they kick the bucket out from under you!”

Somehow, I got the distinct feeling he didn’t get the point.

Anyway, after wanting to try zip-lining for ages and constantly being told by my family and friends that I was crazy, too old, or suffering from (way beyond) a mid-life crisis, and also hearing things like, “Knowing you, you’ll fall off the line and kill yourself,” I finally talked my friends Paul and Nancy into taking the plunge (and I mean that literally) with me on July 16.

I decided to proceed cautiously, however. I didn’t want to try a line that would cost $120 for a ride or was 20 stories high and two miles long, and would have me dangling over a ravine. I wanted to try something tamer first, just to see if I’d enjoy it…or end up emotionally scarred for life. After a thorough online search, I found what I was certain would be a perfect fit for me - the Escape Velocity Zip Line at Liquid Planet Water Park in Candia. It was described as 35 feet high, 1,000 feet long, and right above water.  Landing in water if I fell off sounded a little safer than landing on jagged rocks and impaling my liver or spleen. Best of all, the ride was only $10. And if I survived the first ride and wanted to go for a second one, the price then would drop to $5.

When Paul, Nancy and I got out of the car at Liquid Planet, the first thing we saw was the zip line, way up on a hill. Nancy smiled when she looked at it, but it was the kind of smile that looked as if it were frozen in place.

“Did I mention I was afraid of heights?” Nancy said.

“After today, you won’t be!” I said cheerfully.

We entered the gift shop, where we were told we would receive our equipment and instructions.  Nancy immediately disappeared into the restroom.

Two young male employees converged on me. “Please sign this waiver form,” one said, handing a pen to me. The other put a wristband on me that looked eerily similar to the ones hospital patients wear.

“Are you preparing me in advance for a trip to the hospital?” I joked. Then I happened to glance at the waiver form I was signing. It basically said I wouldn’t hold them liable or sue them if I injured myself…or died.

I then was instructed to step on the scale. I noticed a sign that said all participants had to weigh between 50 and 250 pounds.  I knew I didn’t look as if I weighed less than 50, so I wondered if that meant he was checking to see if I might weigh more than 250.

“Should I be insulted?” I asked him.

He laughed. “No, we have to see which size harness to use.”  

Next, I was strapped into my harness. It crossed my chest and went under my butt. I’m always complaining about how saggy my butt is getting, but not at that moment…because it was lifted up to somewhere between my shoulder blades. I then was handed a pair of thick gloves.

“You’ll need these,” the employee said.

When all three of us were in our harnesses, we were instructed to follow the path up the hill. 

To be honest, while hiking up that hill, it dawned on me I was about to plunge 35 feet while hanging from only a steel cable – and I nearly chickened out. I never would have admitted as much to Paul and Nancy, however. After all, the whole thing had been my bright idea.

At the top of the hill were two platforms that actually resembled gallows. Coming from each platform was a zip line. This park had not one, but two zip lines, side by side. I climbed the steps to the top of one platform and Paul climbed the other.  Nancy stayed below and looked as if she might seriously be considering making a mad dash back down the hill…to the restroom.

The employee hooked me up to the line, tightened my harness and started reciting instructions.

“Rest your right hand up here and your left hand here,” he said, pointing to different locations on the line. “Then, when you get between those two blue flags down there,” he indicated two very distant blue things (I wasn’t wearing my glasses), “remove your right hand from here and put it flat on top of the line. That’s what will slow you down and act as your brake.”

I then understood the reason for the gloves. I could just picture my bare hand self-combusting as it slid along the wire. 

As I stood there trying to remember which hand went where, all the while trying not to look down at the crowd of the swimmers in the water park – swimmers whose heads I was afraid I might get sick all over – Paul leapt off the platform and went zipping away with a loud “rrrrrrrr-ing” sound coming from the line.

“Ready?” the employee asked me.

I didn’t know which was scarier – taking that leap off the platform or trying to remember how to brake, so I wouldn’t end up with my teeth embedded in a tree on the other side of the park.

I took a deep breath and jumped. I remember thinking the swimming pool below looked like something Barbie would use. I remember how loud the zipping sound was above my head. I remember feeling as if I had the world’s biggest atomic wedgie. And I remember how the ride picked up speed with every second.

Then I saw the two blue flags and reached up to slow myself down. I think I pressed down a little too hard on the wire, because I felt my body jolt sideways. There was an employee waiting on the other platform to stop me, however. I never was so pleased to see anyone.

I don’t even remember what witty remark I said to him when I finally set foot safely on the platform, but he laughed and said, “Oh, I’ve already heard all about you!”

As Paul and I stood there, Nancy came zooming in, and I do mean zooming. The employee rushed to the edge of the platform to grab her.

When she finally was unhooked from the line, she walked over to me and pretended she was going to hit me. “This was all your idea!” she said, laughing.

We decided to forgo the second half-price plunge. I think we all felt lucky to have survived the first one.

“So, how did you like it?” I dared to ask them as we headed back to the car.

“It wasn’t as bad as I’d expected,” Nancy said.

Paul said he’d enjoyed it, then added, “But I’d have to advise men not to wear shorts when they go on it. Mine were so bunched up from the harness, I was embarrassed thinking about what kind of view the people below might be seeing when they looked up!”

I was just happy I had survived to cross another item off my bucket list.

Next on my list is riding “Untamed” at Canobie Lake Park. It’s a new roller coaster that has a 97-degree vertical drop.

I’m pretty sure, though, that Paul and Nancy will decide to change their phone numbers before then.
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Friday, July 24, 2015


A couple weeks ago, my friend Pauline invited me to go see the latest Magic Mike movie, the plot of which can be summed up in only four words: muscular male exotic dancers.

It was a hot and humid day, so the thought of spending an afternoon in a comfy air-conditioned theater while staring at larger-than-life scantily clad men definitely had its appeal.

As it turned out, Pauline and I were the only ones in the theater.

“I can’t believe this!” Pauline said as we selected our seats. “It’s like we’re having a private showing of the movie.”

“Yeah, this is great!” I said,  “We can jump up and yell, ‘take it off!’ without  disturbing anyone!”

The look she gave me told me she thought I might be getting just a little too enthusiastic.

As the movie began, I reached into my handbag for my glasses. I wanted to be able to see every little detail on the screen in crystal clarity. But my search turned up empty.

I felt the top of my head, thinking maybe my glasses were up there, as they had been on numerous occasions in the past when I’d thought I’d lost them. The only thing on my head was hair.

Frantically, I rummaged through the contents in the black abyss known as the bottom of my handbag. It was too dark to see anything, so I had to use the touch and feel method. And believe me, some of the things I ended up touching and feeling defied description. I began to feel like a contestant on a game show called, “Name that Lint-Covered Blob!”

I finally concluded that my glasses weren’t in my handbag. The strange thing, however, was I had worn them while driving to the movie theater. And I clearly remembered removing them and shoving them into my handbag before I got out of the car.  So, where, I wondered, were they?

I decided to postpone my search and watch the movie. The only problem was, without my glasses, the images on the screen looked a little fuzzy, so I found myself squinting quite a bit. And during the scenes where the guys in the movie stripped off their clothes, I squinted even harder. By the time the movie ended, I’d developed an entirely new set of crow’s feet.

Pauline and I had taken separate cars to the theater, so as she drove away, I still was sitting in my car, searching for my glasses. I looked on the seats, under the seats, in the back seat – and I found nothing. Then I got out of the car and looked around it and under it. Still nothing. My glasses, I decided, had to be back in theater.

So I headed back inside to check the lost-and-found. When that turned up nothing, I sought the help of a young employee with a flashlight and we searched the rows of seats in the theater. We checked between them, under them and on top of them, but once again the search turned out to be futile.

“Maybe someone else who was in the theater picked them up and just hasn’t turned them in yet,” the employee said.

“I doubt that,” I said. “Unless it was a ghost. My friend and I were the only ones in the theater. We had the whole place to ourselves.”

I drove home muttering under my breath. I’d had those glasses only a month, and now they were gone, vanished into thin air.

When I got home, I grabbed a flashlight and made a more thorough search of my car. I found a big ball of dog fur I thought might be hiding my glasses, but the only thing it was hiding was more dog fur. I also found 53 cents in change, a broken plastic ice scraper and four lifesaver candies in various stages of decomposition.

Defeated, I went into the house and put on my old, scratched, lopsided glasses, which were only a hair better than wearing no glasses at all. Then I mentally calculated how many weeks I’d have to live on Ramen noodles if I had to splurge on some new eyewear.

As the evening progressed, I became so aggravated while trying to look between the scratches on the lenses of my old glasses, I decided to go out and check my car one more time. The car was the last place I had seen my new glasses before I’d gone into the movie theater, so I was positive they had to be in there somewhere. There was no other explanation.

Sure enough, they were there – on the passenger’s side in the door compartment where I’d stored a bunch of maps (my car, which came over on the Mayflower, doesn’t have a GPS system). How my glasses got way over on the passenger’s side shall forever remain a mystery to me. 

And now that my vision has been restored to 20/20, I’m thinking maybe I should go see that Magic Mike movie again…you know, just in case I missed some integral part of the plot.
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Friday, July 17, 2015


I spent most of this past winter working on the sequel to my book, Heed the Predictor, which is a thriller about a woman who can predict the exact date, time and way in which a person will die. And once she makes a prediction, it will happen…no matter what.

A few nights ago, I finally finished the sequel, Conceal the Predictor. Believe me, completing those 85,000 words was a real struggle, mainly because I have some pretty weird writing habits.

For one thing, when I think about working on a new book, the first ideas I usually come up with are the beginning and the ending. Then I’m stuck trying to figure out the other 70,000 words to write in the middle. So what I end up doing is sitting down and writing anything that pops into my head. No outline, no notes, no summary.  I just write.  And I don’t reread any of it until I’m finished with the entire book.

Then I spend about a gazillion hours editing, rewriting, and trying to make sense of what I wrote, especially the “creative” parts I came up with while I was dozing off.  It’s a wonder I have any scalp left, I’ve scratched my head so many times while reading my manuscript and muttering, “What the heck?”

When I was writing my current book, the major problem I had was I kept thinking the plot sounded a little too far-fetched to be taken seriously, which meant readers might end up laughing at it...when it’s not supposed to be funny. So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make an unbelievable plot – something that couldn’t ever possibly happen in real life – sound believable.

I’ve read several books that have had the same problem, which I’m desperately trying to avoid. I mean, I can remember one of them sounding something like this:

“Darling, I love you,” Deborah cried, wiping the tears from her eyes. “You can’t leave me! I swear I’ll just die if you do!”

“I’m sorry, Deborah, but I must!” Lance said, his voice suddenly hoarse. He hesitated before adding, “You see, I haven’t been entirely honest with you. My real name actually is Zeeloid, from the planet Zebulon.  And my people need me!”

“I don’t care who or what you are!  I still love you, Zeeloid! Take me with you to Zebulon!”

So what was supposed to be an emotional love story sounded more like a bad comedy.  I definitely didn’t want the characters in my book to bear any resemblance whatsoever to Deborah and Zeeloid.

Last week, I finally became so sick of staring at my manuscript, I decided my overworked brain needed a break. So I made a spur-of- the-moment decision to go see a matinee of the new Jurassic World movie.

I enjoyed the state-of-the-art special effects. I also enjoyed seeing the realistic-looking dinosaurs, which were nothing like the dinosaurs in the movies back when I was a kid. Those usually consisted of enlarged shots of iguanas or other pet lizards with rubber spikes and scales stuck onto their backs to make them look like dinosaurs. They were about as scary as the Geico gecko.

But the dinosaurs in this movie were genuinely scary. Unfortunately, I couldn’t concentrate on them. Why not? Because there was one part of the movie I just couldn’t get past, and it drove me crazy. The film takes place in the course of only one day, so the lead actress wore the same outfit, a crisp white business-suit featuring a skirt and white high-heels, throughout the entire movie.

Well, all I can say is I want to know where the woman bought her high-heels, because they virtually were indestructible. She never once removed them in the movie, yet she ran through the woods, across fields, through the mud, forded a stream and even outran a Tyrannosaurus Rex in those 3-inch heels.  I was waiting for her to leap a tall building in a single bound.

I, on the other hand, can break a heel while stepping off a curbstone.

The next night, still taking a break from my manuscript, I watched a movie from Netflix called, “Jupiter Ascending,” which, according to its description, I thought sounded like an intriguing science-fiction film. It said it was about a woman who struggled to make ends meet by cleaning other people’s toilets, only to find out she actually was royalty from another planet, and she had inherited a nice little piece of real estate… the planet Earth.

But once again, there was something in the movie that distracted me. The female star’s love interest was a guy who was a cross between a werewolf and some angel-winged being, and had pointed ears likeStar Trek’s Mr. Spock. He also zoomed around from place to place in his jet-propelled footwear, which enabled him to leap over (and right through) plenty of tall buildings in a single bound.

I found myself thinking he should swap shoes with the Jurassic World lady.

After seeing those two movies, I finished writing my book pretty quickly… because suddenly it really didn’t seem that far-fetched after all.
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Friday, July 10, 2015


 The minute the temperature climbs above 60 degrees, the smell of charcoal-broiled food wafts through my neighborhood.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on my road who doesn’t own a grill, not even a hibachi.  It’s because I don’t trust myself around anything that can self-combust and force me to use the “stop, drop and roll!” technique I learned back in school.

Every time I think about our friend, Henry, who squirted lighter fluid onto red-hot coals and ended up having to wear a toupee for the next three months, I whip out my old frying pan.

 It’s not as if I haven’t tried my hand at barbecuing.  One of our neighbors once gave my husband and me his old grill, complete with a big sack of charcoal, when he purchased his new Deluxe Turbo-Flame gas-on-gas grill with a heavy-duty rotisserie big enough to roast a water buffalo.  

A few nights after we became the proud new owners of the grill, I decided to surprise my husband by cooking up a batch of juicy cheeseburgers for him.  He’d always said that nothing could beat the flavor of burgers cooked outdoors on a charcoal grill, so I knew he would be thrilled when he came home from work and I handed him a plate of burgers with telltale grill marks on them.

Getting the charcoal to light, however, was another story.  Because I had no lighter fluid, I tried everything short of a flamethrower to get the briquettes started, but they refused to catch.  And 200 matches later, when one briquette finally did light, I blew on it until my cheeks hurt and I felt lightheaded…and still the flame died.

I grew so frustrated, I took all of the charcoal out of the grill, lined the bottom with crumpled newspaper and stacked the charcoal back on top of it.  Then I set the newspaper on fire.  I also threw some dead maple leaves on top of the whole thing. I figured that maple tasted good on pancakes, so it might add a little extra flavor to the burgers.

I’d never cooked on a grill before so the burgers turned out just a tad on the well-done side.  Actually, they resembled hollowed-out lumps of coal topped with overcooked, brown rubbery cheese.  Not wanting to hurt my feelings, my husband choked them down.

“Well, how were they?” I asked after he’d finished.

“They had a really…unique flavor,” he said, then added under his breath, “A flavor that I’m sure will linger with me for the next few days.”

After that night, I refused to use the grill again, and for some reason, my husband didn’t want to attempt to try cooking on it, either.  So we left it standing outside untouched for so long, the next time I lifted the lid on it, I found a big wasps’ nest inside.   That did it.   The grill mysteriously disappeared the next day.

One of the problems of not having a grill is that when I’m invited to barbecues at my friends’ houses, I can’t reciprocate and invite them to a barbecue at my place.  But even if I did own a grill, I’m pretty sure none of my friends would show up to eat my burgers anyway – not unless they wanted to risk developing an intestinal blockage.

But I’m not the only one who’s not Wolfgang Puck when it comes to grilling.  A few of the barbecues I’ve been to over the years haven’t exactly featured gourmet fare.  I once was handed a hot-dog that had been burned so badly, it resembled a long cigar-ash in a bun.   And at another barbecue, I cut into a chicken breast that was dark brown on the outside and bright pink on the inside. I could swear I saw the salmonella bacteria tap-dancing on it.

I did momentarily consider buying a gas grill, which I thought would simplify the lighting process, but just as I was about to go shopping for one, I saw a former neighbor on the evening news. She’d accidentally set the whole side of her house on fire and turned her vinyl siding into something that looked like stretched-out taffy, all because she’d used her gas grill on her tiny balcony. Considering my brief past history with grilling, I was fairly certain there was a good chance I could burn down all 10,000 acres of Bear Brook State Park, located right behind my house.

And then I saw a warning on TV about a woman who’d suffered weeks of severe abdominal pain after attending a barbecue. X-rays revealed she had a piece of wire from a wire brush used to scrub the grill clean, piercing her colon.

So I doubt there will be a grill in my yard any time soon, even though every time my dog and I go for a walk and I smell a steak barbecuing somewhere, my mouth waters and I put my nose up in the air, like a wolf catching the scent of its potential next meal. I’m always tempted to find the house and then use my dog to beg for food (believe me, she’s good at it).

If my craving for a grilled burger or steak gets severe enough, I just might seriously consider getting one of those indoor countertop electric grills.

But first I’ll make sure all of my smoke detectors have fresh batteries in them.

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Friday, July 3, 2015



I recently have become hooked on a TV game show called “Idiotest.” The purpose of the show is to ask the contestants questions that are so dumb, when they don’t answer them correctly – and the majority of them don’t – they end up feeling like complete idiots.

I hate to admit it, but when I watch the show, most of my answers (like 95 percent) also are wrong. And then when I hear the correct answers, I end up groaning and rolling my eyes.  This might explain why I usually suffer from sore eyeballs after every show.

One quiz, for example, showed a picture of three people – one very tall, one very short and one of average height and said, “Point to the person who’s the opposite of not tall.”

The contestants pointed to the short guy.

“Wrong,” the host said. “Not tall means short. So the opposite of not tall is tall.”

It took me a while to figure out he was right.

He then asked, “How many outs are there in an inning of baseball?”

“Three!” the contestants answered.

“No,” the host said. “There are two teams up per inning, so there are six outs.”

I’m not sure why I like the show so much. For one thing, it reminds of back when I was a freshman in high school and my English teacher, Mr. Walkins, gave us what he called his Idiot Test.  I’m now wondering if he’s the one who submitted the idea for the TV show.

On the day of his infamous test, Mr. Walkins told us, “If you listen very carefully to the questions, the answers will immediately come to you…out of sheer common sense.  But if you don’t listen, you will waste a lot of time trying to figure out the answers. And I guarantee you they will be wrong.”

Of course, we all were determined to ace his test.  We wanted to prove we weren’t idiots.

Mr. Walkins asked his first question: “I have two current-day United States coins that total exactly 15 cents.  But one of them isn’t a dime. What are they?”

We all sat there tossing puzzled glances at each other.

“Are you sure they’re modern-day United States coins?” one student asked.

Mr. Walkins nodded.  “Same as the ones you probably have in your pocket right now. You have five minutes to write your answer.”

Impossible, I thought.  In order to total 15 cents, one of the coins had to be a dime.

The expressions on my fellow classmates’ faces told me they were as confused as I was…except for Allen, a straight-A student.  He sat there smiling, his hands covering the answer he immediately had written on his paper. “It’s really very simple,” he said loud enough for most of us to hear.

We glared at him.

When the five minutes were up, most of us sat there staring at our blank papers.

“Give up?” Mr. Walkins asked.

Defeated, we nodded in unison. That is, except for Allen, who raised his hand.

“The answer is a dime and nickel!” he said, smiling smugly.

We laughed, thinking he wasn’t very smart for a straight-A student.

 “That’s right!”  Mr. Walkins said. “The two coins are a dime and a nickel.”

A roar of protests immediately filled the classroom.

“But you said one of the coins wasn’t a dime!” several of us reminded him.

Mr. Walkins chuckled and removed a dime and a nickel from his pocket. He held up the nickel. “Is this a dime?” he asked.

We shook our heads.

“Then one of the coins isn’t a dime, is it?” he said. “It’s a nickel!  I told you to listen carefully. I didn’t say neither coin was a dime, I said one of the coins wasn’t.” 

Before we even had finished muttering under our breaths, Mr. Walkins fired the next question at us.  “A man goes into a pet shop and admires a beautiful parrot,” he said. “The salesman tells him that the parrot is guaranteed to repeat every word it hears.  ‘If I am lying,’ the salesman says, ‘I will double your money back.’  Well, the man buys the parrot and takes it home.  After two months, the bird still hasn’t spoken a word, so the irate customer returns to the pet shop and demands double his money back, as promised.  The salesman refuses and tells him that he is sorry, but he had indeed told him the absolute truth about the parrot.”

Mr. Walkins then smiled his irritating little smile and said, “OK, class. Can anyone explain to me why the salesman wasn’t lying when he said the parrot would repeat everything it heard?”

Once again, Allen raised his hand so swiftly, it caused a breeze. “Because the parrot was deaf,” he answered.

I was tempted to launch a spitball at the back of his big brainy head.

The other night, I saw a riddle online that really made me think, mainly because it said the answer was very simple, yet the majority of people aren’t able to figure it out quickly.

The question was: “A father and his son are driving downtown when they are struck by another car. The father is killed instantly, and the son is rushed to the hospital. At the hospital, the surgeon looks at the boy, gasps and says, “I-I can’t operate on this boy…he’s my son.”  Who is the surgeon?

I found myself struggling to think of an answer. Was the surgeon his stepfather? Or maybe the boy was adopted and the surgeon was his long-lost biological father?

The answer?  The surgeon was the boy’s mother.

“Hardly anyone thinks of the surgeon as being a woman,” the quiz pointed out. “Even in this modern day and age, people still tend to think in stereotypical ways.”

I’ve decided that even though I don’t get the majority of the questions correct, I’m still going to keep watching Idiotest on TV. I guess it’s because it’s reassuring to know that most people can’t answer the questions correctly, either.

That is, except for Allen. I’m sure he’d ace every one of them. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion he might be working for the show as one of the question writers.

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