Headline Overload

I had a post in mind for this week, but with so much going on in the news I decided that I would save the article for another time. Like many people, the continuous news cycle has drained me, and I find myself stopping short of a complete self-imposed media blackout. I know enough to stay informed and involved, but I will not give parts of myself away as the networks chip at my soul in an attempt to leave me shouting at the television like a curmudgeonly shut-in.

I’m not advocating for a media blackout, as I got an up-close look at such an approach when two of our summer visitors were unaware of a single current event, as if cultural ignorance is a good thing. I doubt that either will ever read this so I can write without worrying I’ve offended them, but if they do, then I’m thrilled they’re finally poking their heads out. Becoming aware of federal investigations, hurricanes and all the other recent tragedies will make them seem less like they’ve just emerged from a bunker.

IMG_7015

Murdered Justice by Patrick Brown is available from W&B Publishers, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In Murdered Justice, Maggie writes about her frustration with the media, and in her next adventure due in early 2018, she’ll say even more about the news in Pennington’s Hoax.

I’m not sure that Maggie can help us, but what we need from the press is accurate information while we apply our critical thinking skills to the facts. That would be our own critical thinking skills, not some pundit’s idea after being processed by pollsters and propagandists. Figure out what’s going on and return to civil discourse. Many of us will never agree, and it’s a myth to think that Americans ever have. In spite of our differences, we once had respect, but I see very little evidence of it today. Our best bet is to turn off the TV and give the networks no incentive to shout at each other while the same footage plays repeatedly in the background.

Once I stop reeling from the headlines, I’ll be back with something more entertaining for you to read.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

Murdered Justice: A sneak-peak

Murdered Justice has been released since my last post. I’ve been getting some wonderful messages from people telling me they’ve gotten the book and are enjoying it. For them, this post may seem like a rerun, but for everyone else, I’m hoping you’ll become as excited as I am about Maggie Lyon and her investigation into the death of United States Supreme Court Justice Vittorio Scarpia.

Maggie Lyon has been dying to uncover a national scandal, but she’s been typecast as a food writer longer than she would have liked. In Maggie’s words:

New restaurants live in fear of my visits, but those who’ve earned my praise roll out the red carpet when I sweep through. I admit it’s a glamorous life, and it beats covering hurricanes, floods and terrorism. I might have been doing my job with the nagging desire to uncover a sinister plot, but at least I was dining in fabulous restaurants all over the country on someone else’s dime.

Once my newspaper column became syndicated, I was getting calls for Chicago, New York, Seattle, Miami and California wine country. I was becoming a regular guest on travel shows, televised cooking competitions and Food Network episodes.

My agent Rina Akin informed me of an interesting opportunity having to do with a young British chef on the rise. She put me in touch with the person who identified himself as the American publicist, and the young chef was to be cooking in a private home in one of the exclusive Los Angeles neighborhoods. They were hoping for a profile piece, which would include descriptions of his food by someone with expertise to help launch his career over here. Would I be willing to join the party? It would mean staying the weekend in a seven-bedroom mansion in Fairmont Place, Los Angeles’s oldest gated community.

I agreed at once without considering the fee. I was familiar with the exteriors of homes in Radnor Square from research I’d done while writing about some of the restaurants on Larchmont Blvd. To have the opportunity to spend a weekend in a mansion where the food held some promise was particularly appealing. That I didn’t have to rent a car and only had to show up for meals while dressing the part was even better…

It was April, and the night was cool, so I had a light wrap, which the young man took from me as I walked west into a living room the size of a grand hotel lobby. There were sofas and occasional tables all around, a silent Steinway in the furthest corner, and a portable bar where another waiter was pouring Veuve Clicquot into coupe glasses for the guests who’d arrived before me…

There was no sign of a host or hostess for quite a while as I introduced myself to another guest and tried to break the awkward silence…

There was a bit of commotion in the foyer, and in a flash of color our Angeleno hosts materialized before us. Carlos Ortiz was a very handsome man, but short, and made to look even shorter when standing next to his domestic partner Rae Sartain, Miss Alabama 1990-something… I recognized Carlos, as I had lived in Texas long enough to know about the energy business…

While we waited on the final guest to arrive, Rae got our attention. “You gals come with me! We got some time and I wanna show you ’round since you’re gonna be stayin’ with us for a while.” We gals exchanged glances and followed her. “We’ll start with the cute little room down the hall with all the books!” She was either describing a library or a storage closet.

It was a library, but it was no longer as the original owners of the house had intended. The mahogany paneling had been tampered with unsuccessfully, and the leather-bound volumes of an earlier age had been replaced with best sellers, celebrity biographies and unsold copies of Rae’s book about beauty pageants. The area above the fireplace, which had surely held an expensive oil painting or a portrait at one time, was taken up by a wide-screen television, and if there had ever been leather club chairs left to develop a marvelous patina, the room was now filled with modern recliners from some orthopedic store…

“When you shut these doors, you can’t hear a thing. It makes the perfect room to take a moment away from all the hustle and bustle just to sit and read. I do it every time one of my magazines comes in the mail…”

With the library doors closed, we’d not heard the bell, so a nervous man in an ill-fitting suit appeared and informed us that the final guest had arrived and dinner was being served as soon as we could meet the gentlemen in the foyer…

Was that who I thought it was? …Justice Vittorio Scarpia of the United States Supreme Court took his seat across from Carlos. We were in august company. I don’t think my agent had any indication I’d be dining with someone so elite…

“Justice,” said Carlos. “I was telling the group before you arrived that I’ll be launching a new energy campaign in October. We have the summer to iron out the kinks, and we’ll be fine-tuning marketing strategies by Labor Day.”

Justice Scarpia had no interest in renewable energy. He’d already ruled in favor of oil companies and corporations, and he knew who’d placed him on the bench even if that old politician was long gone from Washington and younger party members had no memory of him. He nodded and took turns chewing and drinking wine.

“Justice,” said Carlos, “I’d like to get your opinion about the Abilene Controversy working its way through the courts.”

“Mr. Ortiz!” the Justice shouted. He then lowered his voice, but it remained strong. “Surely you did not extend your hospitality to me so that I might provide you with opinions on matters, which may or may not reach the highest court in the land and have some bearing on how you proceed with your business. I don’t give a damn about windmills and all this talk of harnessing the sun… I suggest you change the subject and stop dominating this table… Even the lawyers who argue before me stop for breath occasionally, and certainly more frequently than you have done tonight. It’s been a long day, and if we don’t talk about something other than you and your business, I’m afraid I’ll have to retire for the evening.”

To read more, Murdered Justice is published by W&B Publishers, and is available through them, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and independent booksellers everywhere.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

Have I Forgotten Something?

I’m one of those readers who’s yet to get a Kindle or a Nook. Like most of us who’ve avoided getting one, I say it’s because I like the tactile experience of holding a book and turning pages, but I have a few other reasons, which include collecting older editions, finding out-of-print books that are not available electronically, and the biggest reason of all: if an airline tells you to turn off your gadgets, I can keep reading and maintain the barrier with strangers on a plane during takeoff and landing.

The truth of the matter is that I’m mistrustful of “The Cloud” and take comfort that when it dissipates or electricity vanishes because of some catastrophe, I, like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode, will be left alone with my books as long as my glasses don’t break.

Some people I know have ceased to buy books in any form, and they rely on the library or borrowing. I love the library and use it for checking out books by authors whose work I don’t know or for deciding if I want to buy a book that’s been recommended to me. I’ve rarely borrowed books from friends, and please don’t ask to borrow from me because I no longer lend. Every book or video that’s left my possession has never come back to me in the same condition, and most have never returned at all. I would let you pet sit or keep my kids (if I had any) for weeks at a time, but not my books.

Someone asked me why I wanted to hold onto all of these books, and while I’ve actually donated about 100 to the local library in the past year to help with their continuing fund-raiser, I keep the ones I want because I like to refer to them for reference or even re-read them from time to time. To be honest, I’m saving up for my old age in case I’m ever homebound. I’ll be able to escape into countless worlds from whatever dreary existence befalls me.

A few of the books that make me happy.

A few of the books that make me happy.

“But how can you get any enjoyment from something you’ve read before?” asked my friend. I’ve recently come to realize the answer to that: I don’t remember. A few weeks ago, I was moving some books around and a jacket cover in a dull gold with black lettering popped out. I remembered reading the book within a week or two of its publication, and I opened it to find that I’d purchased a first edition in 2001. I remembered exactly what was going on in my life at the time, and I recalled the plot line even if I couldn’t remember the characters’ names.

I was thrown by some of the plot points mentioned on the inside of the jacket, but I remembered enough to know that I’d enjoyed it. Since the book I’d placed on hold at the library had not yet come back, I decided to take the book with me on my upcoming trip. I read about 30 pages the first night, and it all seemed familiar. By page 60, things were not exactly as I’d remembered, but by page 175 I would swear that I’d never read this book before in my entire life.

One character that I’d completely forgotten was taking over the story, and another who seemed vaguely familiar as an incidental character that I thought had died, ended up surviving to the end with some woman that I remembered having been dropped around chapter three the first time I read it. This time, I thought the book could’ve ended 200 pages earlier, but I rather enjoyed all the plot twists and turns in spite of the fact that there were at least three and probably four nice endings if only the author could’ve forced himself to stop typing.

I put the book away when I got home, and though part of me feared the early onset of dementia, or worse—Alzheimer’s, I’ve convinced myself that I read that book at a time when I was reading several large volumes, so forgetting entire sections was only reasonable. If it is dementia, then how fortunate that I can be satisfied with my library as it is. I can simply re-read books every few years and they’ll all seem perfectly new.

Books that I recommend buying for reading and re-reading. They will bring readers years of enjoyment.

Books that I recommend buying for reading and re-reading. They will bring readers years of enjoyment.

There are a few in my family who are vigilant for signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. We’ve experienced this with our loved ones, and every time we walk into a room and forget why we came in, we check ourselves as though we may have begun that downward spiral.

The awareness of memory loss has to be the most terrifying part. My grandmother, until her final years, had a great long-term memory, and you could sit with her and she’d tell you all about her dating life in the 1920s, her elopement with my grandfather and various funny incidents from childhood. She would speak with me, having forgotten how we were related, so she was free to spill the details she’d always kept so guarded.

Her short-term memory had started to go at least 20 years before her death, and after approximately five years of denial at the beginning, she had to admit that she was not the self-assured woman that she had once been. To keep herself on track, she labeled photographs; not on the back, but on the front. You’d see “Grace, Me, Mama” scrawled beneath faces so that she didn’t have to turn them over to figure out who they were. Honestly, if she’d had to turn them over, she might’ve forgotten what she was looking for before she turned the photo back around.

She explained to me once that she kept a calendar, and she marked half of an X across the day when she got up every morning, and on her way to bed, she marked the other half. That way she knew what day she was on. I asked her what happened if she second-guessed herself. “If you’re not careful, you’ll be on next Tuesday a week before the rest of us.”

I had to make a joke because the truth of her memory loss was too painful to bear without humor. Besides, if my remark had hurt her feelings, she was at the point that she forgot it in about an hour never to think of it again.

There came a point when the memory loss was so advanced that she forgot that she forgot, if that makes any sense. She had settled into an existence where she no longer feared her memory loss or worried that someone would discover her. She believed that she was still doing the same things that she’d always done every day; things, which she had been doing in one form or another for over 80 years.

If you brought her fresh garden produce for lunch, she would tell you how she’d grown it. If you baked bread, she’d tell you how she had always baked her own bread and had never bought it. When I would go for lunch on Fridays, I would take out her garbage. I would go out the back door, but come back in through the front. It only took a couple of minutes at that stage to forget I’d been there. I would burst through the door with the excitement of just arriving, and she would be excited to have a visitor once more. I never bothered to correct her. She wouldn’t have remembered, and why ruin a purely joyous moment?

Forgetting that she forgot things was probably a blissful stage, as she no longer worried about anything. Eventually she stopped wondering where her car was, what bills needed to be paid, what letters she’d not yet responded to, and whether or not she needed to drop off food for a bereaved family.

On her 90th birthday, it was a stormy day. I was the first visitor to arrive, and she was holding a stack of birthday cards that one of the nurses had brought to her earlier in the afternoon. We started going through them, and once we made it to the end and the rest of the family had still not arrived, she started going through the stack a second time as if she’d never seen them. I was fascinated by the fact that she started on the third round of opening cards, and all the sentiments and best wishes seemed brand new to her.

If she’d been inclined to read at that point, she might’ve only needed a single book for the rest of her life. Indeed, she might’ve only needed a single newspaper, which wouldn’t have to be replaced until it had become completely unreadable due to wear and tear.

Aging can be a hellish experience, and I’m doing everything I can to maintain my physical abilities and my mental faculties. However, genetics plays a role and if I do end up forgetting the short term, may I recall and tell about the early days with fervor. Also, let me quickly get to the place where I forget that I forget.

© 2015 by Patrick Brown

Visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1 to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”