Technologically Impaired ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, technology, computers, instructions, astronaut, Sesame Street, Salt Palace, Provo, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Technology befuddles me. I think that's a gal thing—meaning women are genetically predisposed to never understand technological instructions. Case in point, how long did it take before we had a woman astronaut? It took centuries. And when we finally did get one, she went off her rocker, drove across the country and tried to kill someone. Was she really crazy, or just befuddled by technology?

Most gals instinctively grasp the important things in life—like how to shave their underarms with a dull, albeit pink-colored razor and not end up wearing Band-Aids on their armpits for the next month. We understand how much fuzz we can let build up in the dryer’s lint trap before it sets the house on fire. We even know how to lick chocolate frosting off a sharp steak knife.

Okay, I take that last one back. Licking anything off a sharp knife generally gives you a forked tongue. Which is fine if you want to resemble a boa constrictor, but otherwise …

What some of us (meaning me) don’t understand is a page of written instructions that makes no sense, and then when we finally figure them out, they still don’t work. It’s not the logic in the instructions that’s the problem. It’s the lack of it. Face it, most manuals are written by men. The same men who would rather drive around Provo for hours, looking for the gun show at the Salt Palace, than to stop and ask for directions.

Not long ago, I wanted to post a picture online. According to knowledgeable sources—that would be either Paul Harvey or Sesame Street; I can’t remember which—it’s a good idea for writers to have a photo of themselves on their website.

I found a picture of me and my dog, Corky Porky Pie. It took hours to get it ready for public viewing, though. After all, I had to skinny it, airbrush it and remove several years worth of facial wrinkles. Corky is very particular about how he looks out on the ‘Net.

I followed the site’s instructions to upload the photo. That took about 10 seconds. When I clicked the button to save it, nothing happened. There wasn’t even the normal clicking sound, so I turned up the speakers. Removing my glasses, I rubbed my eyes and tried to reason through the problem. Maybe I hadn’t clicked hard enough. I looked back at the monitor’s screen. Maybe the computer had caught a virus, because now the screen was fuzzy. Oh wait, that’s because I took off my glasses. Glasses … glasses … where had I put my glasses?

After searching the piles of papers and left-over Twinkie wrappers on my desk, I gave up and went back to the task of uploading the photo. I must have clicked the wrong button the first time. Leaning forward, with my nose pressed against the computer screen, I tried to read the blurry words. The button read, “Click here to upload photo.” Or maybe, “Win a free trip to China.” I wasn’t sure which. I clicked anyway.

Trumpets blared from the speakers. Let me assure you that when the volume is turned to high, and your ears are two inches away, you don’t stay in your chair. For one brief second, I knew how the Wright Brothers felt on their first flight, because I catapulted into the air almost as high as they flew.

A second later, I knew how it felt when they landed, too. I lay on the floor, rubbing my bruised posterior and listening to a voice jabbering from the speakers in Chinese. Then it switched to English and said, “So sorry. You not win trip. Try again next time.”

I gave up. With a sigh, I hoisted myself up from the floor and went into the kitchen. I just knew that somewhere in there was a can of frosting and a sharp knife.

What's playing in my head: Nothing. My brain is STILL mush from hunting for a new home!

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Parable of the Watermelon ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, parable, watermelon, fruit garden, vineyard, weeds, tiller, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Russ meandered into the garage, looking for something constructive to do.

Meanwhile, in the garden, Cindy stepped over to the dark green vine, gently moving the big leaves this way and that. “Ah-ha! I actually have a watermelon growing.” Leaning down, she brushed the dust off the green-striped, four-inch melon. A far-away look entered her eyes. “It’s been a lot of work; I’ve tried for years to grow melons. I’ve digged and pruned and dunged my vine. I’ve trimmed out the wild branches and grafted in the tame. And now, one has finally made it.”

The mistress of the vineyard was pleased. She reached down and patted the melon as if it were a well-loved toddler. “Keep on growing.” Then she walked to the car, got in, and drove away to run errands.

In the garage, Russ looked around. Like a typical husband, he wanted something loud, heavy, and manly with which to work. He spotted the Mega-Tiller. Its green hulk took up half the floor space, and when started, its roar equaled a nuclear blast. Russ’s eyes gleamed with excitement and he could almost smell the musky scent of oil, gasoline and plowed earth.

“I’ll go till the weeds in the garden.” With an iron grip, he caught the handle and in one smooth move pulled the rope starter. The Mega-Tiller roared to life, flames shooting from its bowels.

Well … okay, there weren’t really any flames, but it makes for a good story.

With a clunk, Russ threw the machine into gear. He walked the motorized beast across the lawn and to the vegetable patch.

The weeds trembled in fear. Or maybe it was from the wind that the Mega-Tiller created as it churned the earth. Then again, it could have been from the heavy breathing Russ was doing while muscling that two-ton machine around.

Grasses bowed their heads in defeat and morning glories cursed as they were chopped to pieces. Of course, they would just take root wherever they were chopped and there’d be even more of them in two weeks, but Russ and the Mega-Tiller ignored that.

Finally, after the bulk of the weeds were ripped from their mortal existence, Russ eyed the watermelon vine. The melon knew that look and it rolled, trying its best to move to the center of the plant.

The engine on the Mega-Tiller idled with a loud purr as Russ walked around the leafy vine. He scuffed at the weeds growing near the plant. With a nod to the machine he said, “It would be a pain to pull these weeds by hand. If I’m really careful, I could just run the tiller around the outside perimeter of the plant and they’d be gone in a tenth of the time.”

The Mega-Tiller hiccupped in agreement and then roared with delight as Russ threw it into gear. Straddling the freshly tilled mounds of earth, Russ held fast to the machine as it rumbled its way toward the trembling melon.

Closer. Closer. With an unplanned lurch, the Mega-Tiller of Death flung its metal tines against the melon and sliced it in half.

“Oops,” said Russ.

The next day, Cindy walked outside in anticipation, wondering how much the melon had grown through the night. She could almost smell the sweet scent of ripe watermelon. Could almost taste the cool sweetness of the fruit in her mouth, the icy tingle of the juice as it slid down her throat on a hot summer’s eve.

She stopped. The garden looked freshly tilled. It was so nice of Russ to rid it of weeds. The mistress of the vineyard walked to her plant. Bending down, she looked for the fruit. “Russ,” she called out. “Did you pick my melon?”

Then she saw it. Exposed to the sun, its red flesh had tightened and dried. Ragged edges hung from the split sides and dirt caked the bottom of the now deceased melon.

And the mistress of the vineyard was vexed … and Russ was sore afraid. And he vowed to her that he would never till again without her there to stand guard.

What's playing in my head: Nothing. My brain is mush from hunting for a new home!

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A Twisted Fairy Tale ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, humor, science fiction, symposium, LTUE, Orson Scott Card, Gail Carson Levine, fairy tale, Star Trek, Wookie, EFY, YourLDSNeighborhood.com))

Several months ago, I attended a science fiction symposium called “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” I can almost hear you asking yourself why a woman whose life already resembles a sci-fi movie would consider going to a symposium on the subject. I don’t know, maybe because it presented a learning opportunity. Writers need continual growth to improve their craft. Or maybe because big name authors, like Orson Scott Card (“Ender’s Game”) and Gail Carson Levine (“Ella Enchanted”), were teaching.

Naw. It’s because the symposium was free.

Let me state for the record, I am not a big sci-fi fan. Okay, wait. Under threat of being forced to watch re-runs of the “X-Files,” I’ll secretly admit that as a kid I had a crush on Captain James T. Kirk, of the starship, Enterprise. But, “Star Trek” doesn’t count as science fiction. Everyone knows it rates up there with the works of Hemingway.

Before I registered for the sci-fi conference, doubts plagued me. I wondered ... if I attended, would I come out with the arms of an octopus and the head of a Wookie? Would bizarre people wearing Star Wars and/or Scooby Doo costumes moderate the discussions? And whereas, before attending the symposium my mailing address read “Any Town, USA,” afterward would it read, “Space, the Final Frontier?”

I'm pleased to say, after sitting through long, but enthralling hours on a chair designed to test the fortitude of a Klingon warrior, that many people there were normal authors.

Normal authors—hmm, I'm thinking that's an oxymoron. Or an insult. I'm not sure which.

As it turned out, most of the sessions covered topics applicable to a number of genres, and the attendees wore jeans and sweatshirts. Well, I take that back, I did see some guy in a long, flowing cape and gave him a wide berth—until I realized it was my husband, Russ, with a blanket around his shoulders. I'm thinking he brought his blankie along in case he got bored during the panel discussions.

On the last day, an interesting session called, “Twisting Fairytales," caught my attention. What, fairytales aren't twisted enough already? We have to make them worse?

Take "Little Red Riding Hood" for example. In it, a wolf—one that can talk, mind you—poses as Red Riding Hood's grandmother. Whom he has just eaten. Ahhh, cannibalism—that's a great topic for kids.

He lies in bed, wearing Granny’s hat and shawl. Now we have a cross-dressing cannibal—an even better theme for impressionable children.

Into the room skips little Red Riding Hood, all dressed in a flaming red cloak with a pointed hood. One that could have been worn by the Emperor from “Star Wars,” if the cloak had been a little longer and in that figure flattering color, black.

Just wait, it gets better. Have you ever asked yourself what little Ms. Hood was carrying in that basket on her arm? Mushrooms she gathers in the woods. Probably the kind that cause hallucinations.

The wolf and the girl are having a polite conversation about body parts—"Grandma, what big eyes you have"—when the wolf leaps out of bed and chases the Little Red Emperor ... er ... I mean Riding Hood out the door. In the meantime, a woodsman with a sharp hatchet dangling from his belt—no wait, maybe it's the dwarf, Sneezy, with an axe tied to his head—kills the hairy Beast and throws Beauty into the fires of Mordor.

Next, Sneezy slides the glass slipper onto the pro-feminist Ms. Hood's dainty foot, and they ride off into the sunset. Or maybe into the ocean, where she grows a mermaid's tail and Sneezy becomes a singing lobster.

I'm not sure which.

One thing I do know is I enjoyed the session so much, I'm going to try writing a twisted fairy tale of my own—just as soon as I figure out how to unglue my octopus arms and take off my Wookie head.

What's playing in my head: Star Trek Theme ( Composed by Alexander Courage )

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"Farworld" review & interview with J. Scott Savage

Review of Farworld
By Cindy Beck
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, humor, Farworld, Water Keep, J Scott Savage, EFY, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas dreams of a world far away. It’s a place where magic is as common as sunshine and where animals and trees talk. His name for the place? Farworld.

Quite unexpectedly, Marcus magically travels from Earth to Farworld. There he meets Kyja, who would love to cast spells and work magic, but alas, is unable. Marcus also meets Master Therapass, a master wizard whose knowledge can change not only Marcus and Kyja’s fate, but the fate of Farworld and Earth, as well.

Enter members of the Dark Circle, whose goal is to exert evil influence, gain power, and eventually destroy all that is good, including Farworld. Marcus and Kyja must travel to Water Keep, their first leg in a journey where they hope to convince the Elementals—beings of water, land, air and fire—to join forces with them. While at Water Keep, Marcus and Kyja face the Summoners—members of the Dark Circle, who can command the living and the dead—and other dreaded creatures.

Marcus and Kyja’s journey is one of not only hardship and danger, but also one of friendship and caring. Marcus and Kyja learn the truth about themselves, the depths of their courage, and the power that each holds within.

Scott Savage does a good job of maintaining suspense and action through out the book. The characters are both charming (the good guys) and despicable (the bad guys). My favorite character was Riph Raph, a “lizard” who not only talked but had magical powers and a wicked sense of comedic timing.

Scott’s sense of humor put a smile on my face, and his artful suspense kept me turning the pages. This is a book that young adults (and old adults) would love!

Interview with J. Scott Savage:

Cindy: I’m here in virtual time and space, for an interview with author, J. Scott Savage. We’re riding on the “lizard,” Riph Raph’s tail, so it’s a little windy. Scott, why don’t you tell us what you can see and smell from this vantage point?

Scott: Well I have to say that sitting on Riph Raph’s tail, the smell is, um . . . not one to write home about. And obviously someone has shrunk us down to rather much smaller than our normal size as Riph Raph is not much larger than a typical housecat. It looks like Riph Raph is scanning for members of the Dark Circle. So maybe we can help him keep an eye out.

Cindy: Have any of your daily habits … such as how you brush your teeth, or what you eat … changed since writing Farworld? If so, how?

Scott: Well I do refer to myself in the third person now, and I occasionally asked random passers by if they know me. So far neither has proven very successful.

Cindy: If you could pick one creature or person from Farworld that you could become, which one would it be? Describe what you would look like, please.

Scott: I think that I would be the Frost Pinnois. I am roughly the size of a large school bus, made entirely of ice, with long icicle spikes on my tail, and a long blue beard. I have skin of tiny icicles and long wings. My body makes a kind of wind chime-like sound when I fly.

Cindy: I noticed in your underwater interview with Shirley Bahlmann, that bubbles kept floating up and about. Was there a fissure in the ocean floor, or was something else causing that? What do you think it was?

Scott: I can honestly say it was underwater gas. For anything more than that, you’d need to consult the Bahlmannator herself.

Cindy: It seems Riph Raph is anxious to rid himself of us, so I’ll only ask one more question. If Shandra Covington, the heroine in your mystery novels were to enter Farworld, what powers would she have?

Scott: Well clearly they would have something to do with food. I think that Shandra would have the ability to turn common rocks into deluxe double cheeseburgers and grass into hot greasy fries. Then she and Kyja would get along great. All of my female characters seem to have a thing for fires. Hmmm.

Cindy: Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Scott, and for giving me the opportunity to read Farworld. It was great and I’m sure your readers will enjoy it.

Scott: Thanks, Cindy. And thanks for the great interview.

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Clickety, clackety, bing ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, humor, nostalgia, past, poodle skirt, saddle shoes, typewriter, typing, wpm, EFY, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Is there anyone that doesn’t have moments where they long for the past? If so, please raise your hand because you win the prize of an Orange Crush and a Moonpie … but only if you’re wearing a poodle skirt, saddle shoes, and have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in your shirt sleeve.

In my family, we frequently feel nostalgic for things of the past. My husband, Russ, misses his hair. My son, Dave, is thirty-two and longs for his youth. I, on the other hand, still have my hair … and my youth (well, sort of) … and what I miss is the old-fashioned typewriter.

My first machine was a portable, manual Royal. I don’t know why they called it portable. It weighed twenty pounds and was like carrying around a bowling ball in a square, hard case. Nonetheless, a good typist could set it up on a desk and punch out 50 wpm—that’s “whacks per minute”—with only two errors. No wait. It’s been so long since I’ve used one that maybe wpm stands for “words per minute”. At any rate it doesn’t matter, because I was never able to get 50 whacks or words per minute out of it. My average was 20 wpm, with 50 mistakes.

Then there was the keyboard, which came attached to the body of the typewriter. Do you know why keyboards are not arranged alphabetically, in an order that actually makes sense to the human mind? According to my vast research—ok, I’ll admit it, I don’t remember where I heard this useless bit of information, it was probably on Paul Harvey—keyboards have the letters scrambled to slow the typist.

I must confess that fact doesn’t make sense to me. If the object is to type as fast as possible, why set up the keys to slow you down? Oh yes, now I remember. With a manual typewriter, when you hit the keys too fast, they’d slam into each other and get all tangled and kinked. The typist then had to reach in and unsnarl them. You could always tell a fast typist by the black ink smudges on her fingers, the prize from untangling keys.

Let’s not forget the inked ribbon. You’d be flying along, whacking out sentences, finally getting the rhythm when the words on the paper would grow dimmer and dimmer. However, only really good typists knew that was happening, because they actually looked at the paper as they typed. The rest of us looked at the keyboard, because we couldn’t remember the scrambled letters. By the time we realized we needed to change the ribbon, we’d typed three pages of invisible words.

Despite the negative points, there was one really neat aspect to the typewriter. Its sound was mesmerizing. You’d zip along, hearing clickety-clickety, clackety-clackety, BING! The “bing” was the signal that you had reached the edge of the paper, and you needed to hit the carriage return lever to start on the next line.

I loved the sound but now that I consider it, the carriage return did have its potential problems. Once, after typing half a line, I made the mistake of putting my water glass at the right-hand side of the typewriter. All went well, until I came to the edge of the paper. I’d been punching along, typing at the whopping speed of at least 15 wpm and was so engrossed in my writing that when I heard the familiar “bing”, I hit the carriage return lever without thinking. The carriage flew back to the right and slammed into my glass, flinging ice and water all over me, the desk and walls.

All right, I’ll be the first to admit it. After thinking back on the era, typewriters were interesting but computers are so much more practical. My computer has never flung a glass of water across the room. No longer do I have to untangle keys, or get my fingers smudged using carbon paper. My computer is far superior.

All the same, despite the improvements they’ve made and the fact that a computer is a souped-up, 21st century typewriter that can think at the speed of light, I sure wish they’d come up with one that goes “clickety, clackety, bing”.

What's playing in my head: Memories (by Elvis Presley)

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The Game’s Afoot ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, tag, freeze tag, food tag, games, humor, EFY, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

The game of internet tag is going around and I’m delighted to say that my husband, Russ, has declared that I’m “it." Back when I was a kid—in the age of the Velociraptor and the Tyrannosaurus Rex—tag was one of my favorite pastimes. I remember a number of variations including “food tag”. In that version, if the person who was “it” reached out to touch you, you’d squat down, name a food and you were safe.

It was such an easy game back then, but I sure couldn’t do it now. No, it’s not the food that’s the problem—my memory for food is even better than when I was younger. Face it; once you’re over fifty, you’re too old to do anything but eat. I am sure I could hold a bag of Cheetos in one hand, a Snickers in the other, and still name some kind of food.

It’s the other aspects of “food tag” that have me stalled. Assuming—and this is a big assumption—that I could manage to run a few steps, the squatting would kill me. Once down, they’d have to bring in a crane to haul me back up. I think my kneecaps have gained weight from all that food I’ve been eating since I turned fifty.

Fortunately, the internet version doesn’t involve squatting. However, it does entail writing a list of things that other people don’t know about you and sending it to them. I’m not sure why—presumably to blackmail you later.

In keeping with the spirit of the game, I thought I’d write such a list—about someone other than myself—and post it as a blog.

•When my husband, Russ, was a youngster, he was always falling and bumping his head. That explains a lot right there.

•As an impressionable, young lad, he planned to become a Catholic priest—until he looked up the word, “celibate” in the dictionary.

•He attended 12 years of Catholic education without having a single religious experience. I’m thinking it wasn’t the nuns’ fault—it’s probably because his favorite classes were lunch and recess.

•After graduating from high school, he worked for the Good Humor Ice Cream Company—driving an ice cream truck, ringing a little bell. He loved ice cream. By the time he quit the job—a mere month later—he owed more for eating the ice cream than he took in selling the stuff.

•Until he was in his twenties, Russ had a full head of wavy, black hair. This, from the man whose dome now resembles a dinosaur egg.

•While still sporting that wavy black hair, he joined the Navy—because he liked their bell-bottom pants and the white, sailor’s hat.

•Russ’s current philosophy in his old age is that the tube of toothpaste should be squeezed from the bottom. My philosophy is mash it from wherever you can grab it. He has his own tube—that he refuses to share with me … or our dog, Corky Porky Pie. Sounds obsessive-compulsive to me.

As much as I’ve enjoyed writing this blackmail list, it can’t go on forever. Not that there aren’t more quirks I could write about, but because life calls. It’s time to shower, brush my teeth and … oh drat, I’m out of toothpaste. I wonder if Russ would notice if I used his. Of course, I’d have to smooth it out so he wouldn’t know I smashed it in the middle, and then follow that up with wiping it clean and turning it label side up.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just use a squirt of Corky Porky Pie’s.

What's playing in my head: Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie (by Jay and the Techniques)

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YourLDSneighborhood.com Wins Distribution Rights

By Cindy Beck
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, YourLDSNeighborhood.com, EFY, Especially for Youth, music, CD, Jessie Clark Funk, Dan Beck, Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band)

TA-DA! (Sound of trumpet blowing.)

Normally I do a humorous blog, but occasionally a "once in a lifetime" opportunity comes along and I just have to tell you about it. Okay, maybe this is a "twice in lifetime" opportunity. I'm not sure. But whichever it is, you won't want to miss it.

Here's the press release:

yourLDSneighborhood.com wins distribution rights to 2008 Especially for Youth™ music CD; The disc will be available for sale starting August 23; Popular artists include Jessie Clark Funk, Dan Beck and Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band

Salt Lake City, Utah (August 5, 2008) The 2008 Especially for Youth™ CD, featuring the songs of local recording artists such as Jessie Clark Funk, Daniel Beck and Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band, will be available for commercial sale beginning August 16.

yourLDSneighborhood, which was awarded distribution rights to the popular CD, announced that the disc will be sold through its web site and at retail music stores along the Wasatch Front. The CD is a compilation of songs chosen to support the theme and focus of this year’s program “Steady and Sure” and has become a vital part of the EFY™ tradition. EFY™ is a summer program sponsored by the Church Educational System of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and held in locations through the U.S. and Canada.

Gaylen Rust, president and founder of yourLDSneighborhood.com, said the commercial release edition will contain an additional track not available on the CD distributed to EFY™ participants and feature more robust instrumental accompaniments. “Music is an integral part of a young person’s life and the songs on this CD really speak to the everyday challenges and exhilarating experiences that youth encounter. It’s uplifting and inspiring but also the kind of music that’s fun to listen to anytime. It’s also a way for teens unable to attend EFY™ to catch the spirit and joy of the whole EFY™ event.”

The “Steady and Sure” CD features 12 tracks including “Steady and Sure” – the title track on the disc by Jessie Clark Funk, as well as “Amazing Grace,” by Daniel Beck, “A Woman’s Heart,” by Felicia Wolf, “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” by Mindy Gledhill and “Dream Big,” by Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band. Other artists include Ben Truman, Megan Flinders, Greg Simpson, Hilary Weeks, Terry White, Tim Gates, and a group song “Hurrah for Israel,” by Daniel Beck, Megan Flinders, Jessie Clark Funk and Dan Kartchner.

yourLDSneighborhood.com is a new virtual neighborhood launched in November, 2007 where a wide variety of goods and services are sold from clothing and jewelry to sports, scrapbooking, travel, and things of interest to home and family. Visitors can stroll through the neighborhood, stop and browse at retail stores, purchase merchandise, or stop at newsstands to chat with more than a dozen bloggers, read timely articles or listen to audio interviews with newsmakers and hometown heroes. At Jukebox, a new music feature in the neighborhood, visitors can listen to hundreds of new tunes and download them. A music directory lists dozens of musicians who are available for family reunions, concerts, weddings and other occasions. Besides the virtual neighborhood, yourLDSneighborhood.com produces an informative lifestyle newsletter four times a week delivering thought-provoking and inspiring ideas, and offers special marketing opportunities for artists, musicians and authors – as well as those interested in buying artistic works.

What's playing in my head: Nothing. My head is filled with paint fumes 'cause I've been painting.

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(Clipart courtesy of http://www.christart.com)

Endearing Young Charms ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, charms, flirt, restaurant, breakfast, Titan, feminine wiles, nose pierced, leather skirt, smoking, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

The remaining leaves on the trees rustled like dried bones in the wind and the clouds resembled fingers of doom. My husband, Russ, and I ignored the omen and drove to a neighboring town for breakfast. When we walked into the restaurant, we noticed very few patrons. Ahhh, another sign.

We sat in a booth without removing our jackets. “It’s cold in here,” Russ said, blowing on his fingers to stave off frostbite.

I wiggled in my seat. “It feels like I’m sitting on a snow bank in Alaska. In fact, my … um … sitter is so numb, I can’t feel it.”

Russ eyed that portion of my anatomy with a raised eyebrow and tried not to laugh.

“Should we stay?” I whispered, my elbow landing in a sticky puddle of leftover syrup.

“Yes—I need to use the men’s room,” Russ said as the waiter walked toward us. We placed our order and Russ headed to the bathroom. I sat looking over my shoulder, watching the waiter press little buttons with pictures to indicate our choices.

Have you ever wondered about that? If the waiters need little pictures of food to punch in the order, what is the chef using to cook?

Engrossed in watching our server, I didn’t realize it appeared I was staring at the guy standing between us. Hearing his voice, I refocused my attention on the very large man. His jeans seemed held up by something unusual—either a rope, or a long, frayed snake. I wanted to determine which, but staring at his pants didn’t seem like a good idea. He might get the wrong message, walk over and sit with me.

His hair stuck straight up as if he’d combed it with a blender and he looked like he’d lost his razor somewhere in Fargo, North Dakota. As he continued to speak, I decided he was a trucker. The next thing I knew, he stood beside me.

“Boy, this state is really something,” he thundered. “They’ll sell you a pack of cigarettes, but they won’t let you smoke ‘em inside.”

I felt like saying if he didn’t like Utah, he could certainly feel free to keep driving. But he was really big, so instead I said, “Yes, that’s how it is here,” and looked away.

Despite my subtle signals, he rattled on. “We ought to do what they’re doing in California. Sign a petition that we’re being discriminated against!”

This nut was latching onto me. Where was Russ when I needed him? The behemoth seemed to be waiting for some sort of answer, so in a voice that could deep-freeze a hot tamale, I replied, “Well, I’m not a smoker, so you’re not going to get much help from me.”

Did he get my understated message? No. In a voice heard in Detroit he bellowed, “There’s some stadium in Michigan that’s being built with money from smokers and the place is going to be non-smoking. Non-smoking!” And then he belched.

I threw the woolly mammoth a look that should have skewered him. What—didn’t he hear me say, “I’m not a smoker so you’ll get no help from me?”

What was taking Russ so long? Was the little boy’s room in the gas station across the street? If he didn’t return soon, the man might think we were friends and eat half my ham and eggs.

Just then, Russ walked in, and though the Titan was a large man, he was fleet of foot. He scurried back to his table and never looked at me again.

“Where have you been?” I hissed. “That big guy over there wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Russ grinned. “He must have been attracted to your endearing young charms.”

Endearing young charms? Those disappeared ages ago. In fact, only two guys had flirted with me in the past decade—the rope-tied behemoth and an inmate at the state mental hospital who thought I was a fellow patient.

Things like that are hard on a gal’s ego. I’m not sure how to resurrect my feminine wiles, but I suppose I really should try.

Maybe I’ll get my nose pierced and buy a leather skirt. That should help.

What's playing in my head: Convoy (by C.W. McCall)

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Milk of Amnesia ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, colonoscopy, medicine, doctor, amnesia, milk of amnesia, song, sing, Lola, Stuck in the Middle with You, inhibitions, surgery, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Like many of you, I’ve had a few medical procedures done. You might wonder why someone who wouldn’t normally tell her best friend that she even has a hangnail would tell the entire LDS community about her surgeries. I think that must be one of the side effects of inhibition-erasing drugs being injected into your veins. Doctors say the medication in the I.V. is to relax you, but we all know the truth. They don’t call it the “milk of amnesia” for nothing. You can bet no one is going to wear the hospital gown with the natural air conditioning in the back unless there’s a way to keep you from remembering that you paraded around and mooned everyone.

There’s no doubt in my mind why the doctor requests that you bring someone with you to the hospital, either. It’s not to drive you home. It’s so there’s a witness who can tell you the crazy things you did that you don’t remember.

For example, I had a colonoscopy a couple of years ago. I vaguely remember humming a tune that popped into my mind as I was getting dressed to go home. To hear my husband, Russ, tell it, I was singing the words to “Lola” at the top of my lungs. They could hear me all the way out to the parking lot.

“Lola” is a rather strange song to have stuck in my mind, and certainly not something I would sing to just anyone—even under normal circumstances. The lyrics aren’t obscene, but they are about a questionable subject … cross-dressers. It’s not a topic I’m particularly well-versed on, and admittedly, I should have been singing “I Am a Child of God.” But you can’t blame me; I was only singing what the I.V. dictated.

I did much better on the next colonoscopy. I kept reminding myself not to sing. You’ll be glad to know I accomplished the task. Not because I didn’t feel like singing, but when I offered to burst into song, everyone remembered my last rendition and refused to encourage me.

Did that deter me from trying to embarrass myself in some other venue? Not at all. Instead of singing, I spent my recovery time explaining—to everyone I passed in the halls—exactly which of my various, lower-body parts were working correctly. By the time we left the hospital, half the people in the hospital and twenty inmates from the prison knew that my bowels were in good, working order.

When my final surgery rolled around a month later, I was prepared. Not only did I remind myself not to sing but also not to talk about body parts. Instead, I concentrated on the whiteness of the hospital walls, the cheerfulness of the nurses and the kindness of the anesthesiologist as he explained that I wouldn’t remember a thing in just a few minutes.

This time I was sure I had it under control. And then a song popped into my head. That’s when I realized I must have a subconscious longing to perform karaoke, but it was too late to do anything about it.

Even so, I’m sure things would have been fine if only Russ hadn’t told the anesthesiologist about my previous experiences. The doctor smiled down at me and said, “So, the anesthesia makes you sing, huh? What song is in your mind right now?”

Well, what can you do when your doctor asks a question? You answer, right? I looked up at him and in my high-as-a-kite, drug-induced-haze replied, “Stuck in the Middle with You.” Considering the less-than-complimentary title of the song, I’m glad the doctor didn’t have a scalpel in his hand.

You can bet Russ has enjoyed mentioning my “milk of amnesia” experiences to all our friends in the ward—but I’ve found a way to keep him quiet. I just remind him of what he tried to do after his last visit to the hospital.

I’ve seen men run out in their underwear to move the lawn sprinkler. But until Russ’s surgery, I’d never seen a man try to walk, buck-naked, to the mailbox.

What's playing in my head: Stuck in the Middle with You (by Stealers Wheel)

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