It’s been several years since my wife and I took a road trip to Gig Harbor, Washington.
We took a couple of weeks up and back. Other than Gig Harbor, the trip was in some ways like a motorcycle trip, except we were in a cage. We went hither and yon with no other plans. When we arrived, we were pleased, not that we would move there.
One morning while on a walk, I saw one of those newspaper boxes advertising free local papers. I opened it and there on top of the papers was a shiny rock. Painted on it was a rainbow with happy faces at each end. Smiling, I picked it up and felt a sense of wellbeing. I took a paper and put the rock back and walked on, thinking about that rock and the feeling it gave me. Back I went. Picking it up, I thought: I’d like to take you home. But I couldn’t bring myself to take something that wasn’t mine. Back a third time, like a thief in the night, I looked in all directions. No one in sight, I slipped the booty into my pocket and fled.
I didn’t know about rock painters leaving a friendly face to be found by people like me. The finder is supposed to take the gift or leave it for someone else to find. Not happening!
Back at home, I put the rock on the window shelf over the kitchen sink. Many times since then, I stop and look at MY rock. I always smile and perk up.
I’ve been suffering writer’s block. I needed something to get me going, so I brought the rock into my office. Holding it helps. I turned it over and found a note from SJP, allowing me to keep it. At the top was a request to post on FaceBook.
Today on the blog and FaceBook, I’m sending my thanks to SJP.
Over the years, my motorcycle trips have been more about the journey than the destination. I have been to the big motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, at least a dozen times. Three or four times, I was what is called derisively ‘a trailer queen,’ we pulled a bike trailer behind a motorhome. Those trips were in the early days, and we were all about getting to the rally: no side trips, only twelve-hour days driving straight through. Once there, we took rides to Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wounded Knee. These trips were made quickly so we could get back to the rally. Everything was a crowded rush.
We could say we had been there and done that. (I hate that cliché)
In 2001, I got an Ultra Classic and began riding to Sturgis, following the advice of Robert Pirsig: “Sometimes it’s better to travel than arrive” (Pirsig 103). No longer on the road from morning until dark, I looked around. Instead of the most direct route, we mapped out places we wanted to visit. Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Beartooth Pass are just some of the big names. Places we never imagined like US-191 north out of Green River, Utah, and through fantastic country and on through Wyoming. I liked US-191 so much that I made a solo trip south on it. Not as scenic, but a great ride. I have made these long rides with a dozen riders, three or four, and alone—never once lonely.
This summer, my buddy Jim Kennemore and I, plan on heading north to the Cascades, make a right onto Washington-20 across the state to Kettle Falls on the Columbia River. There we will flip a coin and go—
We have room for other bikers; we don’t care what you ride as long as you miss the open road and the wind in your face.
Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Bantam Books, 1981.
Siegel, Sheldon. The Dreamer. Sheldon M. Siegel, Inc., 2020
When I saw that Sheldon Siegel had a new book, The Dreamer, I had an idea that he would address the social issue of immigration and DACA. I had no doubt he would weave the subject into the plot. As always, he addresses issues in a way that none should find offensive, but instead learn and gain understanding. Undocumented people and the ICE agents are treated equally and with respect.
A rising star chef is found stabbed to death. Next to him is a young woman, covered in blood. Presumed guilty, the San Francisco County Public Defender takes her case.
Siegel’s story develops around the trial skills of Mike and Rosie. Trial work is repetitive, that is the nature of trial preparation and courtroom demeanor. He manages to bring new life to each book in the series.
While fast-paced, Siegel provides a breather when he takes his readers on a trip through time with each visit to the churches, courts, and police buildings. His descriptions of settings are accurate and help define the characters as well. In The Dreamer, he brings each of these people alive, and often, someone we would wish to meet.
Dreamer is a fun read!
Bell, Donnell Ann. Black Pearl. Bell Bridge, 2019.
In most good detective stories, the hero almost always states: “I don’t believe in coincidences.” I beg to offer a different view. In over fifty years of law enforcement and private sector investigations, I have run across more coincidence than you can shake a stick at.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve posted a few book reviews that I was quite proud of until I got a telephone call.
My best friend is a voracious reader. After but a brief hello, he said, “Cramer, I have to tell you I think a couple of your reviews are bad.” Yep, he used the “B-word.” He went on to tell me that one review was of such a frightening nature; he would never read the book.; another so boring he wouldn’t spend money on it until he read some reviews on Amazon. The Amazon reviews convinced him otherwise.
I asked my friend what was so bad about my reviews, and he said, “You didn’t write them for a reader, you wrote them for someone like you.”
My usual response to criticism about what I’ve written is to get angry, set the comment(s) aside for a few days, and then with a much cooler head examine the %&^$#. Usually, I find value and what has been suggested. In this case, I didn’t need to wait or think it over. I knew he was right.
First coincidence: I had just settled down to read Bell’s, Black Pearl. I had my usual toolkit with me, Post-It notes, pencils, red, black, and blue ink pens, three different colored hi-liters, and a note pad. If you looked at books I’ve reviewed, you would them almost destroyed by the different underlining, high lighting, comments written in the margin, and dogeared pages. These readings take anywhere from one to two weeks.
After the call ended, I took all my weapons of mass destruction and dumped them on my desk. I retired with Black Pearl to where I only read fiction by Bernard Cornwell, Michael Connelly, J.A. Jance, and a rare few others. I read until dinner and then spent the evening enjoying it with my wife.
The next morning, I skipped breakfast and finished Bell’s book before lunch. I enjoyed it and felt fresh; it wasn’t like I had been working on an MFA review.
Today, I wrote and submitted this Amazon Review. I hope it works for my friend.
“Drenched in mystery and violence, from the first page, Bell gives both misleading and factual clues. These are in such a cryptic fashion; it only becomes clear at the end of the action who the killer is. Or does it?
There were several places where I was taken out of the story by a confusing sentence or statement.
What worked for me, but then gave me concern were descriptions. The friendly difference of opinion between Agent DiPietro and the retired sheriff about their choice of motorcycles was realistic and added to the pleasure for me. What didn’t work for me was the lack of description of the Harley-Davidson. Even more distracting was the lack of a word picture of Ouray County and Montrose. I’ve ridden my H-D through there. It is some of the most breathtaking country in Colorado. Bell left out a description of the countryside, as well as some of the other settings.
What worked was the interaction of the characters. Bell drew me into the conversations, and unsaid messages that conveyed much of the action, and worked well with the story’s pacing.
It was an excellent and riveting read. I will buy more of Donnell Ann Bell’s work.”
Second Coincidence: During Shelter in Place (SIP), I am not wearing shirts that require ironing, just T-Shirts. In my closet is a stack of over a hundred of these souvenir shirts. Most are from Harley-Davidson shops. I just reach in and take the one at the top of the pile, sight unseen.
Today: BLACK PEARL Harley-Davidson, Belize
Erdrich, Louise. Tracks: A Novel. New York: Henry Holt, 1988. Print.
Tracks, Erdrich’s fourth of fourteen novels, is set between 1912 and 1924. The message she delivers is that unless tribal members stand together, they face extinction at the hands of the whites. Nanapush, a wise tribal elder understands there must be some accommodation to maintain as much tradition as possible.
Nanapush remains the same wise trickster throughout the story. A tribal elder, he wishes to hold on to the old customs while surviving the new ways forced upon his people by the whites. Early on, he establishes his belief in “…the unrest and curse of trouble that struck our people…was the doing of dissatisfied spirits. I know what’s fact…” (4). He follows with this about the (white) government, “Our trouble came from living … liquor . . . the dollar bill. We stumbled toward the government bait, never looking down, never noticing how the land was snatched from under us at every step” (4).
Nanapush is much more than a thoughtful and straightforward elder. He reads and writes English. He tells his granddaughter about his ancestors, her mother, and about mystical and historical events in an attempt to keep the Chippewa oral traditions alive. He is a survivor, as well as a trickster. He can step back from the force of white encroachment and use traditional life as a shield to avoid extinction.
Pauline Puyat is introduced in Chapter Two when she tells of the men who died saving Fleur’s life and the time the two young women spent together. Much of what we learn about Fleur comes from Pauline’s narration. Twice Fleur drowns, is presumed dead, and then rescued. Both times the rescuers’ reward is an untimely death. “…death by drowning, the death a Chippewa cannot survive unless you are Fleur Pillager” (11). By using these incidents to establish a relationship between Fleur and an evil spirit in the lake, Erdrich shows the reader that Fleur has frightening and mystical powers. Pauline tells the reader: “‘She washed on shore, her skin a dull dead gray, but George Many Women…saw her chest move. Then her eyes spun open, clear black agate, and … ‘You take my place,’ she hissed’” (11).
Nanapush realizes that not just whites cheat the Indian, but Indian cheats Indian.
Nanapush sees that the future requires accommodation if the tribe is to maintain a modicum of Chippewa tradition and allow him to save his granddaughter. “For I did stand for tribal chairman…To become a bureaucrat myself … the only place where I could find a ledge to kneel on, to reach through the loophole and draw you home” (225).
Tracks is a dark but dynamic, and well worth reading. Erdrich provides a deep understanding of the plight of the indigenous people of this continent without a moral discourse.