Monday, October 14, 2019


I hate to admit it, but I really miss the days of America Online’s chat rooms. When I got my first computer, I joined and belonged to a number of chat rooms – one for lovers of “golden oldies” music, one for romance-novel enthusiasts, another for fans of John Coulter (a very hunky male model), and another called “Authors’ Lounge,” for writers.

Now all of them are gone forever, and my computer feels empty without them, especially when I'm suffering from insomnia and could use a good late-night chat.

When I first was deciding which chat rooms to join, I, being a writer, thought Authors’ Lounge sounded the most intriguing, so I checked out the summary. 
It was described as a gathering place for authors (both beginners and professionals), publishers, editors, literary agents, journalists, poets, and writing instructors to share their ideas.  Encouraged, I entered the “room.”

Entering a chat room for the first time sort of felt like being in one of those old western movies, where you’re the stranger in town, walking into the local saloon and everyone stops what they’re doing to stare at you. But on a computer, at least I had the benefit of being somewhat anonymous, mainly because I, like everyone else, used a screen name, not a real name.

When I first entered the authors’ chat room, there were 19 people chatting, most of whom already seemed to know each other. They had catchy on-screen names like “Over-the-Hill-Lil,” “YoYoBozo,” “LilBoyBlu,” “DroopyDraws” and “Rubberduckie." They were in the midst of a heated discussion.

“It does TOO hurt to have an ingrown toenail removed,” one chatter was saying. “I can hardly walk!”

“Aw, you’re just a big sissy!” another wrote back. “I had three toenails removed on my right foot and was wearing my steel-toed work boots the next morning!”

“Hey, we’re not here to talk about your feet!” another chatter interrupted. “Is anyone here a Steinbeck fan?”

“Oh, shut up!” came the response. “Who cares about Steinbeck when my toe is swollen to the size of a banana?”

I sat silently following the conversation for several minutes, thinking I’d entered the wrong room.  No one seemed to be discussing writing, not in any definition of the word. 

Another new chatter popped into the room. “Hello,” he or she said. “I’m 17 and I write poetry.  My friends say I’m a real natural when it comes to writing.  Anyone here know where I can get my poems published?”

“Learn to write something else,” came one suggestion. “You’ll never get anywhere with poetry.”

“Only sissies write poetry,” said the same person who’d just called the toenail person a sissy.

“Yeah!  Learn to write true-crime stories,” someone else chimed in. “Nothing captures a reader’s attention like a decapitated human head rolling down a hill!”

“Eeeeeeeyuuuuuw!” came another response. “That’s gross!”

“But I enjoy writing poetry,” the young writer defended. “I write all about love!”

“Love??” another chatter shot back (and I swear this is an exact quote). “Love is nothing but a big pile of doggie doo-doo!”

Finally another chatter dared to ask, “Is anyone here REALLY a writer?”

“I wrote a biography about Princess Diana,” came one answer.

“And I currently have four novels on the bestseller list,” boasted another.

“Yeah, right, and I’m Stephen King’s twin sister!” said yet another. “I taught him everything he knows!”

“I can’t write and I hate reading,” another chatter wrote. “And I think all writers are really boring!”

“Then what the heck are you doing in this chat room?” came the immediate response.

“Looking for girls!” he answered. “Anyone here single and available?”

“Go to the ‘Looking for Romance’ chat room,” someone suggested.

“I just came from there,” he answered. “It’s full of other guys looking for girls!”

“My mother is single and available,” one chatter offered. “How old are you?”

“Sixteen,” he responded.

I’d seen just about enough.  Foolishly, I decided to jump in with, “I write a weekly humor column.  Anyone have any ideas for a topic I can write about this week?”

“Yeah, write about what it would be like to be decapitated,” said the aforementioned would-be ax-murderer. “Think of how funny it would be to run around looking for your head!”

“Dummy!” someone wrote back. “How could you look for anything if you didn’t have a head?”

“Write about that stupid woman on TV, Anna somebody, who married that wrinkled-up old multi-millionaire who was like 120 years old,” came another suggestion.

“She wasn’t stupid!” another argued. “HE was the stupid one!  All men are pigs!  As I said before, love is nothing but a big pile of doggie doo-doo!”

“Write about all the crazy people you find in chat rooms,” came one last suggestion.

Excellent idea.

Yep, I sure do miss those AOL chat rooms.

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Monday, October 7, 2019


Lately my friends have been hinting that I seriously should think about getting a roommate to help alleviate my bleak financial situation.

A roommate? Only one? Heck, it would take turning my place into a boarding house to make even a slight dent in my current financial burden. You figure, in the past month alone, the oven in my gas range died,  the water in my well tested 10 times the allowable levels for arsenic, and my full-house generator system, which I really need because this area loses power if a hummingbird lands on a power line, flunked its annual inspection. Add to that the fact that my car has to be inspected this month and probably will end up needing what sounds like the inventory list from “Auto Parts R Us,” and I’m destined to be living in a tent by New Year’s Day.

Anyway, it’s not that I’ve never considered getting a roommate to help me out, it’s just that I’m a bit nervous about sharing my home, my sanctuary, with a stranger. I mean, I have visions of some woman rummaging through my dresser drawer and borrowing my granny panties.

“It’s not like the old days, when people could lie about themselves,” one of my friends said, trying to reassure me. “Now, you can pay $25 and get a full background check on any potential roommate. If she’s been in prison for ax-murdering a former roommate, you’ll know all about it!”

I frowned at her. “Well, what if she has a squeaky-clean background record but has crummy taste in men? What if she brings home her new boyfriend, who’s a notorious gang member who’s just been released on parole?”

My friend rolled her eyes. “How old do you think your roommate is going to be anyway? Twenty? No woman our age would have a boyfriend who’s a gang member – not unless it’s the ‘Sons of Arthritis!’”

Still, even if I did manage to find a suitable roommate, I’m pretty sure the poor woman would be leaving skid marks running out of my place within two days, if not sooner.

For one thing, I don’t have a schedule of any type. I eat when I’m hungry. I sleep when I’m tired. If I’m not tired until five in the morning, then that’s when I go to bed. And then I’ll get up at 1:00 in the afternoon.  If I want to eat dinner at midnight, then that’s when I eat it. And if the preparation involves using a blender at high speed, then I use it. There is no one else here to disturb at that hour, so I don’t care. And I never turn the heat up higher than 67 degrees, even in sub-zero weather.  After all, fleece clothing was made for a reason.

My roommate also would have to learn to deal with my dogs. Eden likes other dogs but dislikes people, while Wynter likes people but wants to dismember other dogs. And not a night goes by when Wynter doesn’t decide that Eden is one of the dogs she wants to dismember.

Also, nothing is safe here if it lands on the floor. The floor is the dogs’ territory, and the second anything even touches it, they swoop in like vultures and grab it so fast, they create a breeze. So if, for example, my roommate were to drop her hairbrush, she wouldn’t even have time to bend halfway over to pick it up before it would be tucked away in one of my dogs’ beds.

To be honest, when it comes right down to it, I’m not foolish enough to believe I could find someone crazy enough to move in here anyway. I mean, I can just hear the conversation now...

“I can’t wait for you to move in!” I’d say to my roommate-to-be. “But there are just a few problems I probably should mention first. The oven in the gas range doesn’t work, so you’ll have to use either the microwave or a toaster-oven if you want to bake something. Oh, and don’t drink the tap water, brush your teeth with it or cook with it, because the filtration system needs a new part that I can’t afford, so the water is loaded with arsenic. And when you use the toilet in your bathroom, be sure to jiggle the handle after you flush, otherwise the water in the tank will continue to run all day. Lastly, if you want to use your cell phone, the only place around here where you’ll be able to get a signal is out in the middle of the main road. Just be really careful of  the oncoming cars.”

Call me a pessimist, but I’m beginning to think I’d have to pay someone to move in here with me, which kind of would defeat my whole purpose for getting a roommate in the first place.

So I guess it will have to continue to be just the dogs and me living here for a while. Maybe I should think about some fancy tricks I can teach Wynter and Eden – like tap dancing – so they can earn their keep and help me get everything repaired here.

My friend chuckled when I mentioned it to her. “Heck,” she said, “by the time you teach those two dogs of yours to do any tricks, you’ll probably be dead from eating half-baked chicken, drinking arsenic-laced tea, or slipping in a puddle of leaky-toilet water and cracking your head open on the edge of the bathtub!”

Now that I think about it, maybe a roommate with a boyfriend or two who’s on parole might not be so bad after all – especially if one of them is a decent handyman.

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