Where, Where, Am I?

Had a good flight from Heathrow yesterday. It was a full plane – a 787 Dreamliner. Love that plane. It’s comfortable – even in economy – and with large overhead bins. It also has excellent cabin air: I never disembark feeling “beaten up” from a “stuffy” cabin. (Have always disliked the 777.)

Watched six Mad Men episodes on the way. That made the hours, uh, “fly” by. ;-) (I think “Roger Sterling” is one of the best written characters I’ve ever seen on TV.)

My Dad’s looking excellent. And it’s now just after 7 AM here in Pennsylvania, U.S. of A….

Tweeting at 4:30 AM Eastern Time. Awake!

Tweeting at 4:30 AM Eastern Time. Awake!

….but I started today a lot earlier. Love jet lag.

Just thought I’d say, “Hello.” Have a good Sunday. :-)

Our Younger Days….

You slightly more mature, uh, younger people might remember this. I once saw him perform live. I still recall him leading Chicago ripping into the Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life” during the encore, and doing it possibly even better than Sir Paul.

Excuse me, with Frontiers now complete (and soon to be published), I’m just taking a moment:

“Whatever happened to our wild ways.
The hungry beat of our younger days.
We swore we’d never let them get away.
But so long to our wild ways.”

- Peter Cetera, 1992.

Happy Saturday. We’re flying to the U.S. for Thankgiving. My Dad’s (minor, hopefully) heart implant was yesterday pushed back from December 1 to the 8th. So I can’t be there. Oh, well. You never know with doctors and dates, of course, until they are actually in the operating room….

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an airline travel billboard.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an airline travel billboard.

In any event, see you from the other side. :-)

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UPDATE:

I just commented over at Damyanti’s “Daily (w)rite” blog:

Family happenings are, in their ways, history: social history. So it’s worth preserving. I think fiction is a superb way to do it – and even when what’s written doesn’t always show everything and everyone involved in the “best light.”….

Her post is entitled: “Do you Own Your Memories?” My answer, begun above with that paragraph, is a resounding “Yes!”

But if you have long read and followed me here, you – “God, she’s younger than my daughter!” – probably already guessed that. ;-)

“God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

My HarperCollins novelist uncle was messaging with me on Saturday. He’d just spoken to my mother (his sister) about my father’s pending heart surgery. He also dropped in yet more authoring advice:

Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn't know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]

Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn’t know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]

On Facebook, as you can see, he’s not always exactly, ummm, a wordsmith.

His first novel appeared in the early 1980s; and he has also written short stories, screenplays, and, recently, a stage play. “I’m why they have editors,” I vaguely remember him once saying. I also recall some years ago how, when one of his books was being edited by “some 21 year old” woman and evidently feeling his age a bit, he shook his head and harrumphed to me, “God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.

Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.

Yes, life is indeed endless “fictional” source material. ;-)

I started this “I think I’d like to write a novel” tease with him. I admit this little game is entirely my fault. But now he won’t stop offering me advice.

So now I just have to figure out how to get out of this “literary” corner into which I’ve painted myself. :-) Hope you have a good day. Happy Monday [grumble, grumble].

English Countryside Views

I spoke with my father in Pennsylvania last night after he’d gotten the results of his heart test on Thursday. In August, he had been ambulanced to the hospital with only 15% heart function. It is now, three months later, up to 26% – thanks to medication, exercise, a much reduced salt intake, and totally following doctor’s orders.

His cardiologist was impressed at how he has done EVERYTHING he was asked to do, but 26% was not enough to satisfy the doctor that he was out of danger; he wanted to see at least 35%. He said that after 3 months’ recovery that 26% is likely the peak the heart will ever reach on its own, so recommended an implant.

On December 1, my Dad will have put into his chest a 3-wire, tiny device that helps the heart squeeze, which should take him to about 50%. (My Dad said the cardio had previously explained that “elite athletes” like runners tend to be at about 60%.) The device should end the chance his heart will simply slow to a stop. He will have it implanted the rest of his life.

All told, that’s a huge relief. So I thought, for this post, how about some beautiful views?

We had taken a long walk last Sunday – 7.9 miles, to be exact; distance marked courtesy of an iPhone app – up and down hills around Bratton Camp, which borders on the Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate. We finished at the Westbury White Horse. My legs ached for 24 hours afterwards!:

Bratton Camp and White Horse, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Bratton Camp and White Horse, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Sign noting the bridleway as well as the next door military firing range, part of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Sign noting the bridleway as well as the next door military firing range, part of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Don't open that gate or cross that fence! Edge of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Don’t open that gate or cross that fence! Edge of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Quiet, solemn, St James's Church, Bratton. [Photo by me, 2014].

Quiet, solemn, St James’s Church, Bratton. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Westbury White Horse [Photo by me, 2014].

Westbury White Horse [Photo by me, 2014.]

Being new in the area, it was naturally a new hike for us. Sadly, though, we didn’t encounter a pub en route. So besides its unexpected length (we’d taken a wrong turn and walked about a mile out of our way), that was the only big disappointment. ;-)

Have a good Saturday.

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UPDATE: November 17:

Bratton does have a pub: “The Duke.”

It’s an attractive one too. We drove by it yesterday. On our walk last weekend, we hadn’t wandered into that part of the village.

At The 68th Floor

Did you see this yesterday? Wherever we are in the world, because of the net we all see most everything now. CBS 2 TV in New York was one of the mass of global media covering this, which fortunately ended well:

Two window washers, who became trapped on a scaffold near the 68th floor of One World Trade Center, were rescued and brought to safety Wednesday afternoon….

….The incident began at around 12:45 p.m. on the south side of the building — about 820 feet off the ground at the 68th floor. Initial reports suggested the washers were done cleaning the windows and were about to ascend to the top of the tower when the cable that pulls the scaffold up became loose….

I’ve seen chatter on Twitter wondering how much they get paid. It’s a reasonable question. However, frankly, you couldn’t pay me *enough* to do that job.

1 World Trade Center, photographed from safely behind the fencing on the Empire State Building, summer 2013. [Photo by me, 2013.]

1 World Trade Center, photographed from safely behind the fencing on the Empire State Building, summer 2013. [Photo by me, 2013.]

In Pennsylvania, today is my Dad’s 3 month heart assessment which will determine if he has an ongoing condition that requires a permanent, surgical implant. He says he feels fine and his cardiologist is pleased he has not had any further “events”; but he’s still wearing the life vest. We are naturally hoping he has recovered from his summer heart failure and won’t need the implant. [Prayers.]

The window washers’ near disaster led me to recall how my Dad had worked in construction. He had many a time been in the frame of unfinished Manhattan skyscrapers, and occasionally walked across steel girders in the open. Although he didn’t do so on structures anywhere near as high as 1 World Trade Center, they were nevertheless still on buildings us ordinary mortals would no doubt have considered more than, uh, *high enough.*

“The view is great,” I remember him once telling me.

“I don’t want to know what the hell he’s doing all day,” my mother also used to say to me.

And I’ve actually been complaining on here recently about some self-assembly furniture? All that rather puts matters into proper perspective. (By the way, I’m making progress!) Have a good day! :-)

Men, As You Go Out Today, Remember….

Another one worth sharing:

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit Organization. Via Facebook.

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit Organization. Via Facebook.

Separately, in a similar vein, I recall once seeing this line somewhere:

Behind every successful man is a proud wife…. and a surprised mother-in-law.

Have a good Monday! :-)

Sworn To Secrecy

Not exactly an uplifting Monday post. For that, I apologize in advance. Sorry.

Sunday evening, my wife got an email from a friend whom we, and most everyone else, already know has a serious, long-term illness. She wrote that she has just been told she probably has only months to live. She noted that the only person who knows that is – unsurprisingly – her husband (they have no children).

And now, so does my wife; she’s second. She asked my wife not to tell anyone else; but, naturally, my wife immediately told me. However, I don’t really count as someone else, because I’m essentially a “dead end,” a cul-de-sac: I’m certainly not going to tell anyone.

There I was yesterday morning, thinking, oh, I’ll have a quiet day and try to “de-stress.” In my creative cocoon, I was seeing light at the end of the latest tunnel: the sequel is almost done. Finally, that struggle is nearing its end.

How unimportant the likes of that always seems whenever we are unexpectedly thrust back into unforgiving, actual reality.

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

Earlier this year, we’d already endured the worst death I have ever experienced. “I wonder if that’s what they told Kam?” was my knee-jerk response when my wife told me about this, more distant, friend. Later, we tried to lose ourselves in the first episode of the newest season of Downton Abbey.

Life is full of harsh moments like this. Yet this is new to me: What does one do with information like this when you are asked to keep it in confidence? The person facing the terminal illness has shared what she has been told of her fate, yet where does that leave those few who are told and then sworn to secrecy?

All I can say is that, having slept on it, possessing such information leaves me with a guilty sense of awful insider knowledge. Even if keeping it “quiet” is based on the best of intentions (to spare feelings, worry, etc.), important people are being left out of the loop; and they shouldn’t be. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, it’s never fair to them.

Life: Endless Source Material

I spoke to my parents last night. I thought it was going to be a routine chat. What was I thinking?

“Rob, we had an incident,” my Dad calmly started to explain. “My Zoll defibrillator went nuts.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. “What?”

Zoll Life Vest.

Zoll Life Vest.

He detailed what had happened. “Monday, I took it off to wash. After putting it back on, I walked downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs, the alarm went off. You can’t misunderstand it. What a f-cking noise! Holy s-it!”

He was laughing, so I realized there had been no problem. They had spoken to Zoll, and the woman operator said he probably had not dried himself enough after his shower. Likely a bit of moisture impacted an electrode.

“Your mother was in the kitchen on the phone with your uncle,” my Dad continued.

“Oh, God, not him!” I laughed. The literary giant. “Of all the times.”

“Yep. She comes running out to me, and while the alarm is blaring its electronic voice is also yelling, ‘Don’t touch him! Don’t touch him!’ I pushed the button and silenced it, so it knew I wasn’t unconscious and it didn’t defibrillate me.”

I sat here, 3,000 miles away in London, listening to this semi-farce.

“Your mother dropped the phone at the alarm, so your uncle heard the alarm and all the commotion. After she got back to the phone, he started screaming at her to put me on. ‘Is he okay?! What’s going on? You want me to call someone?!’ Then he starts complaining his breathing is bothering him.”

I held my head. “You’re a comedy, the three of you.”

The Zoll operator asked for an upload of my Dad’s heart data off the device, just to double-check his heart hadn’t “malfunctioned” in any way. He did so promptly. She called back and said his data was fine.

Speaking with her after the “all-clear” had been determined, he said he laughed, “That thing going off like that almost gave me a heart attack!”

As a fiction writer, no way should you ever say you’ve run out of material. If you have, you’ve stopped living. Life is an endless source. ;-)

What Happened To Bobby?

Yesterday afternoon, an episode of Escape to the Country came on the BBC. In the background, we heard one of the househunting couple’s children’s names: “Hatcher.” With that, the fun began:

• Me: “There must be an American in this couple. Boys names in the U.S. have become ridiculous in recent years. Only an American would name a son ‘Hatcher.'”

• Mother-in-law: “It is odd. There’s an American golfer with the Christian name ‘Webb.’ So silly.” (Note: she is of the generation that still says “Christian” name.)

As Escape proceeded, we learned I’d gotten it right. They were an American couple, living in London, seeking to move to Surrey. It’s a well-to-do county that might be compared roughly to, say, Loudoun County, Virginia, or Putnam County, New York.

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Their home search had a major requirement: a house needed to be near a train station. Why? The husband admitted on camera that he didn’t have a U.K. driving license, so he had to commute by train.

• Me: [Thinking. There’s nothing wrong with the train. But, God, aren’t you embarrassed admitting that on U.K. national TV? Pass your bl-ody U.K. driving test, and stop embarrassing other Americans living here by giving British viewers the impression we can’t manage to drive in their country.]

While I had become distracted by the driving silliness, my mother-in-law was still on the issue of the boy’s name:

• Mother-in-law: “Over in Ireland, they often don’t have traditional names on children either. [She waves an Irish Independent at us.] Look at this? Apple iCloud. What sort of a name is that?”

• Me: [Thinking: Did I just hear her right?]

• My wife: [After a pause followed by a roar of laughter] “Mum, that’s not a name!”

Seems I haven’t yet entirely “escaped” my personal Seinfeld episode either. It continues on this side of the Atlantic too. ;-)

History Stuffed In A Drawer

Yesterday, at my in-laws, my wife and I went through old family photos and letters. We did so at the request of a distant relation. She believed some snaps of her close relatives might have been scattered in among them.

She thought so because the stash had been held by my father-in-law’s aunt. That aunt had been kind of a “family historian.” She died without children about 10 years ago, and my father-in-law had inherited most of her possessions – including all these photographs.

Well, the historian in me salivated as we thumbed through them. I couldn’t get over them. There are just a few samples. [All photos reproduced, Copyright © 2014 by R. J. Nello.]

The first two below look like they could’ve worked for Harry Selfridge:

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Very serious:

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Not as serious:

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Posturing (the man on the left has a cigarette hanging from his mouth; the one of the right, a pipe):

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“1941”: that year, and the photographer’s name, are all it says on this photo:

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This last is of my wife’s future great-uncle and great-aunt on their wedding day in 1943 – he in RAF uniform:

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That one immediately above is a rarity: few of the pictures have names, dates and locations written on the back. Arrgh! Don’t you just hate that!

They were taken, we estimate, mostly between about 1900-1950.

My father-in-law was going to throw those photos (and others like them) out because there’s no need to keep them any longer. But just because few, or no one, now living remember these people any longer is beside the point. The photos are amazing and take us back to another era.

Needless to say, none of them will end up in the trash if I have anything to say about it! :-)
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Today is September 1. Coincidentally, Nazi Germany invaded Poland on this date on in 1939. Britain and France would declare war on Germany on September 3, and World War II had begun.