Tempus Fugit: Remembering Cheryl T- 50 Years Later, Part the Third

When I was in my 20s (and single) I sometimes wondered what Cheryl T. looked like as a young adult. Photo by Liza Bakay on Pexels.com

Last Time, on Remembering Cheryl T….

“Some wounds never show, not even in the mirror, until we see them in the expressions on the faces of people we love.”Cameron Jace, Cinderella Dressed in Ashes

What Came Before: Some Necessary Exposition

In 1972, the same year that saw the release of The Godfather, an assassination attempt on one Presidential candidate, the “Spring Offensive” of the still-festering Vietnam War, the Watergate break-in which eventually led to Richard Nixon’s downfall, the terrorist act that marred the Summer Olympics in Munich, and the last Apollo manned landing on the Moon, I experienced my first experience of young, innocent love – and my first heartbreak – in the short span of two days.

Photo by Soubhagya Maharana on Pexels.com

It was the second week of November, and I was a student – or, in academic terms, a “pupil” – in Ms. Cynthia Turtletaub’s third-grade class at Coral Park Elementary School in Westchester, an unincorporated suburb of Miami, Florida.

Because my mother, Beatriz Diaz-Granados, and I had only been back in South Florida less than six months after living in Bogota, Colombia, for nearly six years, I was still at an awkward stage in my academic life: I was nine going on 10, which is a bit older than the average third-grader but still within the norm, and I was, by all accounts, intelligent and studious despite having an undiagnosed learning disability and an aversion to doing homework, especially if it required writing stuff in longhand.

I’d attended school in Colombia; from pre-K to a half-year in the third grade, I went to Colegio El Nogal, a smallish private Catholic school that was owned and operated by a friend of my mom’s and affiliated with the Archdiocese of Bogota. I don’t remember how good a student I was there; I was an average student who did well in some classes and poorly in others but performed adequately enough to be promoted from grade to grade and, on occasion, win medals – yes, actual medals – for academic achievements.

If I had not had a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after my ninth birthday two months into the second half of the 1971-1972 school year, it’s unlikely that my Mom and I – later joined by my reluctant and resentful half-sister Vicky – would have left Bogota 50 years ago. Mom was in the hospitality business and had co-owned two restaurants (La Rueda and La Codorniz), and we lived in a nice apartment in Chapinero, a ritzy neighborhood in the northern section of the bustling metropolis.

But I did have that brain bleed not long after my ninth birthday in March of ‘72 – I don’t remember when, but it could not have been more than a week after the big day – and I left Colegio El Nogal without even getting to say goodbye to the few friends that I had made there. And if I had had a lot of time in which to think about the real-life consequences of my moving back to my city of birth, I would have been a lot sadder about not seeing my El Nogal classmates again.

As I wrote in the blog for Cerebral Palsy Guidance some years ago:

For me, the first few months back in the U.S. were a mix of excitement, boredom, sadness, and fear. I liked the idea of returning to my hometown and liked the warm climate more than I did Bogota’s cold mountain chills. I also loved getting acquainted with color TVs (which Colombia didn’t have until 1980 or so), ice cream trucks, playing outdoors on long, hot summer evenings, and making new friends.

However, I had forgotten whatever English I’d learned as a toddler before we’d moved to South America in ’66. I’d taken mandatory English classes at the private school I attended in Colombia, but my vocabulary was rudimentary (“A is for apple, B is for boat…”).

So even though I had been born in Miami and carried a U.S. passport, for all intents and purposes, I was a new immigrant. As such, I often felt like a fish out of water. And sometimes (more times than I even cared to admit to myself), I was scared.

After we moved to the house in Westchester, my mom enrolled me at Coral Park Elementary School, one of eight such schools in that part of South Florida. Built in the early 1960s, Coral Park was only five blocks away, and I could walk home if an adult accompanied me. It was bigger and airier than the school I’d left behind in Bogota, with open spaces between the various wings and a huge cafeteria. There were more kids there, too, and the faculty included a few men, which was not the case in El Nogal Catholic School.

Ideally, I should have attended Coral Park from 1972 till 1975; I was in third grade when we left Colombia, and the child psychologist who evaluated me before I started school told Mom I would do fine in school once I learned English. From there, my path would have taken me to Rockway Junior High, and then on to Coral Park Senior High.[1]

Spoiler Alert: Things did not go the way they should have.

The Fragility of Memory Rears Its Ugly Head, or: An Imperfect Historical Account

In every heart there is a room

A sanctuary safe and strong

To heal the wounds from lovers past

Until a new one comes along – Billy Joel, And So it Goes

At the beginning of this story, I shared with you some observations about the fragility and, most importantly, imperfections of human memory. As much as we like to think that our memories of the past are accurate, true-to-life, and can often be retrieved as if they were Word documents saved in the “cloud,” this is an illusion.

The human brain is a complex, wondrous thing, capable of creating beautiful works of art, inventing technical marvels that our ancestors would consider to be magical tools, and exploring the heights, depths, and widths of not just our planet but the Universe as well. But it does not create an accurate, down-to-the-last detail record of every deed (or misdeed) we have done or every word we’ve both said and done. The brain, as marvelous an organ as it is, is also fragile and can be damaged by physical injuries, disease, or substance abuse.

Consequently, the ability to remember past events is likewise limited and unreliable, so we can’t take our memories, vivid as they might be, as personal gospels. The passage of time, physical and emotional trauma, lifestyle choices, state of mental health, and countless other variables affect our ability to remember past events.

1972 was a half-century ago. I was nine-going-on-10 in early November of a year in which I’d seen my life turned upside down – and inside out – just three months into the New Year, and I had to adjust not just to day-to-day life in a city with a different climate from the one I had lived for nearly six years, but also to a country where I barely spoke the dominant language – English – and had to start the process of making friends and getting used to a totally different educational system than the one I’d left behind that spring.

The second school week of November 1972 is a confusing fugue of memories, some so vivid that I swear they were perfectly recorded by some infernal and internal device in my brain designed to replay them when I’m particularly vulnerable because of the pain they inflict on middle-aged me. Others, especially the ones that help me find the “historical context” or, as my journalism teacher at South Miami High taught us who wrote for the school newspaper, the elements of the What, Who, Where, When, Why, and How (5 Ws & H) formula for news writing, are foggy, less clear.

The blurry memories – the Big Picture reasons that explain why I left Coral Park Elementary School for the last time on the afternoon of Friday, November 10, 1972 – are the most frustrating for me, particularly because since I was nine-going-on-10 and was powerless to alter anything, and also because I never got a reliable account of my transfer from Coral Park Elementary to Tropical Elementary – a move that I was not happy with at the time, and one that left an emotional wound that never quite healed.

Since I’ve already “given away the ending” I will dispense with the history-as-I-know-it part of this story by quoting, once again, from my Cerebral Palsy Guide blog post from March of 2016:[2]

in 1972, Coral Park Elementary did not have a Special Education department equipped to deal with kids with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Furthermore, my third-grade teacher and I didn’t quite click. I wasn’t a rowdy kid, and I don’t recall being disrespectful toward her, but I seemed to annoy her, and, well, something happened.

I’m not sure what occurred; the passage of time has obliterated almost all my memories of my two-and-a-half-month stint at Coral Park. All I recall is that my mom was summoned for a teacher-parent conference in the principal’s office. I wasn’t present – but when my teacher and mom emerged, I was told that I was going to attend a new school that would be better for me.

I was stunned by this unexpected turn of events.

Sure, I had noticed that school in the U.S. was hard to adjust to, especially since I was still only beginning to learn English. (If memory serves, Coral Park had no English as a Second Language class, and the only way I knew what went on in class was because a few of my friends were Cuban-American and tried to translate whenever they could.)

I also couldn’t do much homework yet; my penmanship was awful, and I didn’t perform well in math class. Clearly, I needed more help and attention than my Coral Park teacher could give me.  And because Tropical Elementary had a large Special Education department with experienced teachers, I was transferred there.

The news that I was going to attend Tropical Elementary hit me like a bag of ice thrown at my face. I had a crush (my first) on a pretty girl with long (auburn) hair[3] named Cheryl. By a sad twist of fate, on the day of the parent-teacher conference, I had finally summoned the courage to write (with help from one of my few friends) a little note with the words “I love you, Cheryl” and hand it to her during recess[4]. Sadder still – she sent me a note that read,

“I love you, too, Alex.”

I wish I could tell you, Dear Reader, that I remember the “what did I know and when did I know it” part the story of why I had to go from Coral Park – three minutes away from home by car, 19 minutes or more away on foot – to Tropical Elementary, which was far enough away to need to be bussed there.

The cold, hard truth is, of course, that I can’t. I might have been told as early as a week prior to Election Week 1972, or on the eve of my last day at Coral Park, Thursday, November 9, right after the exchange of love notes that I’ve chronicled here and here.

The Girl in the Pink Sweater

“We’ve been through a lot, and though many of the wounds have healed, the scars they’ve left behind still throb every now and then.” Neha Yazmin, Someone Like You

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” ― Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

What I do remember with a reasonable amount of clarity – as well as verisimilitude – is that Friday, November 10, 1972, was one of those rare South Florida days when fall makes its presence known by way of a cold front that clears the skies of all but those wispy, ice-crystalline cirrus clouds that look like delicate white feathers set upon a beautiful dome of cerulean blue high above the ground. It was cold, and even though the sun was up and above the horizon when my mother – who drove a green Volkswagen Golf at the time – drove me to school, there was a fine layer of fog that was only then beginning to burn off.

I remember that it was bone-chillingly cold because of all the 30-plus students in Ms. Cynthia Turtletaub’s third-grade class in Room E-13, I was the only one without either a sweater or a jacket. I don’t remember whether I’d bothered to choose a button-down shirt or a pullover with long sleeves  – I might have worn a T-shirt for all I know – but I do remember that it was cold that day, and even though each classroom had a heater and we were warm inside, the temperature outside was, at best, in the high 60s, which by South Florida standards is “Sweater Weather.”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I don’t know why I wasn’t properly attired for the cold snap. Maybe Mom and I had not watched the news the night before and missed the weather forecast. Or maybe I had been told, as I wrote in my Cerebral Palsy Guidance post six years ago, that this was going to be my last day at Coral Park Elementary School and was so upset that I would be separated from Cheryl T that I didn’t care what clothes I picked out in the morning before heading out to school.

In the end, the reasons don’t matter. The result is that I went to school on that beautiful November Friday morning without a jacket or a light sweater.

In one of those “it only happens in the movies” quirks of fate, Mom had dropped me off at school so early that a few of us students, including Cheryl T, arrived on campus while the classrooms were still locked. The sun was well above the horizon and the mist was beginning to burn away, so there were sharp contrasts of light and shadow, with the rising sun “behind” the west-facing façade of the school overlooking SW 97th Avenue bathing everything in warm golden light, while huge trees that are no longer there cast giant shadows over the front lawn and sidewalk and past the center of the busy avenue.

A screen grab of the Coral Park Elementary School official home page. The front yard had bigger trees on the foreground right, and those benches were not there in 1972.

Even though the sun was shining, the air was nippy. It had been a while since I’d left Bogota, which is usually chilly because it sits on a plateau 8,661 feet above sea level, so I was used to chilly weather there and was properly acclimated. But after six or so months in the subtropical clime of South Florida, even temperatures in the low 70s and high 60s were incredibly chilly, and normally I’d wear a jacket or sweater to deal with that.

So, I stood there in the early morning light, shivering as though I’d never experienced cold weather in my life, and feeling miserable. I thought,” When is Ms. Turtletaub going to get here? I’m freezing!”

As I stood there, my eyes noticed someone moving toward me. I couldn’t see who it was because of the way the row of classrooms was arrayed, I was now facing east toward the sun, so I could only see that the person walking toward me was not the tall, slender, and strict-looking Ms. Turtletaub.[5]

The figure drew closer to me and stepped out of the golden halo of sunshine and onto the corridor, I saw that it wasn’t Ms. Turtletaub, another teacher, or even my mom. It was an auburn-haired girl, about my height, clad in blue jeans, a white blouse with long sleeves, white sneakers with either blue or black trim, and pink socks that matched the pink sweater she was wearing on this cold but beautiful morning.

The reason why I like Diane Lane is that she evokes memories of my first love. (C) 1979 Time-Life/Time Magazine

It was Cheryl T., the girl of my dreams who sat three desks away from my own and had, only one day before, told me – in writing, at that, that she loved me. And now, for the first time since the school year started, there we were, just the two of us, standing outside a still not-open-for-school classroom because our parents had dropped us off on campus a bit too early.

“Hi, Alex,” Cheryl said in a quiet, shy voice.

Luckily, “Hi” was part of my still limited vocabulary in American English, so I was able to reply. “Hi, Cheryl. How…are…you…this…morning?”

“I’m fine, thanks,” Cheryl said. “It’s cold today, though.”

“Yes, it’s cold,” I agreed.

Cheryl smiled at me, but then she looked at me closely and saw that I didn’t have either a sweater or jacket and that I had my arms crossed in front of me to keep warm. The smile vanished and was replaced by a furrowed brow and a worried air.

“No jacket?” she said, looking a bit flustered. “it’s really cold. Not good for you, Alex.”

I understood the “no jacket part” of Cheryl’s comment, but I had no way of explaining – without one of my bilingual friends to translate – that I had left my chilly weather garb at home and that I had no idea Mom would drop me off so early. “Lo siento mucho,” I said in my Colombian-accented Spanish, then I remembered that I knew its English equivalent, “I’m sorry.”

Of course, I never met Cheryl as a young adult….. Image Credit: Pixabay

My girlfriend of just one day gave me a look that seemed to say, “What am I going to do with you?” Then her expression softened, and her smile returned to its proper place.

“It’s okay. It’s okay. Just…stand there a second. You need to stay warm, though….”  

As I stood there, Cheryl gave me a quick hug, then stepped back a few steps, her eyes fixed on me. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, Cheryl straightened up and unbuttoned her pink sweater. Even though it was cold and her blouse was made from the same material as my shirt, she doffed the sweater and held it out to me.

I must have shaken my head or made another gesture of protest because Cheryl looked at me sternly and handed me the sweater.

Knowing that I didn’t speak English fluently but intuiting that I understood body language, Cheryl mimicked someone putting on a sweater. She did this once, twice, and when she saw that I was reluctant to don the sweater – I didn’t want her to get cold, either – she did the Marcel Marceau bit one more time. “It’s cold, sweetie. Please, Alex, put it on,” Cheryl said.

I wanted nothing more in the world but to please her – and see her smile again – so I nodded in assent, took the sweater from her hands, and put it on, clumsily and with some effort because I was cold and nervous. It felt soft, warm, and smelled lightly like lilacs – not exactly a manly scent, to be sure – and it was the nicest thing that had happened to me at Coral Park since the beginning of the school year.

Cheryl did smile at me, and even though – unlike the movies – she did not kiss me, she did take my hand in hers, partly for mutual warmth, but mostly because at that moment, she loved me, and I loved her, and everything was right with the world.

The Wound Time Never Healed: A Letter to My First Love

I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it, when I sorrow most:

’Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam,” Canto XXVII

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”― Kahlil Gibran

Things that might have been, but never were…..Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Dear Cheryl,

It’s been 50 years and six days since I saw you outside by the entrance of Coral Park Elementary School at the end of the school day when I took off the pink sweater you loaned me on that cold, chilly day in November and handed it back to you. I don’t know if you remember that, or if you remember me with any fondness. I mean, you printed your name and phone number on the envelope with our midsemester grades inside so I could call you on the telephone and talk, make plans to do things together and still be “a couple” even if you were at Coral Park Elementary and I was at my new school, Tropical.

I had your number. You wrote it down for me, and I promised that I would call you as soon as I could that weekend, even if it were just to say, “Hi, I love you!” – hoping that as time went on my English would improve and eventually, brief exchanges would evolve into longer, more meaningful ones. I remember all too well that I stuffed the envelope into my jeans pocket, making sure that it was still there every so often as I walked home from school, for the very first time, with a gaggle of friends while you waited in front of the school for your mom to pick you up.

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

I arrived home safe, and so did the envelope with the only grade report card I ever received at Coral Park and your phone number written on the front. But I never called. Not that weekend, I like I promised I would, or the next, or the next one after that. You loaned me your sweater, gave me two hugs – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – a kiss (on the cheek, but still a kiss), and you soaked my shoulder with tears as we said “Goodbye, I love you” to each other.

From me, you only got – silence.

I know you won’t believe me – I know if the situation had been reversed and I’d given my number to a (girl then, a woman now) and she never called and left me hanging for days with no explanation, then 50 years later she showed up at my door (or more plausibly, my Facebook page) and said “Er, Alex, honey, how are you? Listen, babe, I meant to call you, but this happened….” I would probably not believe her, either – but I always meant to call you.

I remember that I got home tired and sad after a long walk with a bunch of our fellow Wildcats from Coral Park, dispersing in dribs and drabs along the route that led from the school to my block on SW 102nd Avenue. I was tired not just from the walk – which was, at the time, the longest walk I’d attempted without adult supervision – but also from the long day at school and the anxiety I felt knowing that I was going to another school, leaving you behind at Coral Park.  The “sad” part, well, you can guess why I was sad.

I distinctly remember digging into my jeans pocket and extracting the now somewhat wrinkled grade report envelope made of a manila-like material – you know, like those tabs in library books where they stick the “return by X-date” cards, or used to, anyway, when we were kids – and handing it to my mom with the admonition, “Please don’t lose this; Cheryl wrote her phone number down on it.” (Mom knew all about you; I never kept secrets from her, at least not when I was nine, and once I knew I loved you, or had a crush on you, or liked you, or whatever term you want to apply, it was All Cheryl, All the Time.)

I’m going to be sixty next March – a fact that I am having trouble getting used to, by the by – so I have a tough time remembering details from the past. There are many gaps in my memory not just about the Big Picture reasons why I had to leave Coral Park – other than the generic “Oh, you were having trouble in school at Coral Park, so we transferred you to Tropical because it was a better fit for you blah blah blah” – but also (as my creative writing prof used to say) “concrete details” about our last day together, such as it was.

That having been said, there are details of that long-ago day (when you cried on my shoulder because I had to start heading back home and you had to wait at school for your mom and couldn’t walk with me….and after that, you hugged me so hard it hurt…and kissed me…once….on the cheek) that I can’t forget. (And trust me, I’ve tried to. And I’ve almost succeeded…except this year, which is the 50th anniversary of our brief time together.)

One of the clearest memories that I have from 1972 is when my mom handed me the envelope and said, “Please put it on top of the refrigerator, honey; I’m about to make dinner right now. I’ll look at it later. And don’t worry about your grades – they’ll get better once you are in a school where they can spend more time helping you with your English.”

So, Cheryl, the last time I saw the envelope with my midterm report still inside and your handwritten name and number on one side was when I stood on my tiptoes and gingerly placed it atop our General Electric refrigerator on the night of November 10, 1972. After that, I don’t know what my mom did with it once she read my report card. It wasn’t as though she had to sign it and send it back to Ms. Turtletaub the following Monday, right?

The next day, which was a Saturday, I woke up late, as was my habit on weekends. As soon as I washed up before breakfast, I asked Mom where the envelope with the report card was. I wanted to call you at noon to say hi – because, really, that’s as much as I could say unless I had an intermediary who spoke English to help me talk to you – and she said, “Oh, I have it in my room, but I’ll give it to you later”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Well, later became never, because Mom didn’t give me the envelope with your number – which is what I wanted; the report card itself meant nothing to me, but your number meant the world to me. To this day, 50 years after the event and seven years after my mother died, I never discovered what happened to the envelope or why my mother, who was my best friend ever, would deliberately withhold your phone number from me, especially since she knew that I was fond of you.

I suppose that if Mom purposely disposed of that envelope with your number, she probably thought she had a good reason. I can’t imagine what that reason might have been, though. She was not opposed to me liking girls or having a girlfriend even though I was nine-going-on-10; when I (on the rebound, obviously) met the girl who became my second girlfriend not long after I started school at Tropical, she didn’t object or say, “Kids your age can’t have girlfriends and kiss; wait till you’re older!” On the contrary, she drove me to her house, introduced herself to her parents, and she would drop me off until it was time for the agreed-upon pickup time.

And since she never met or even saw you from a distance, I seriously doubt that she disliked you. Mom had flaws, just like I do, but she was not unreasonable or irrational when it came to deciding who I could or could not be with. Even later in life when my relationships involved intimacy, Mom never tried to dissuade me from being with someone even if she thought I had chosen poorly. So, I don’t believe that she did not like you; she never interacted with you, so she had nothing on which to base an informed choice.

Maybe she thought it would be impossible for you and me to be “us” if we were in different schools and had to deal with the temptation of other potential partners on campus – you were in Coral Park, and I was in Tropical. Maybe she figured that one of us – either you or me, I don’t know – might hurt the other if we met someone else in one of our classes and fell in love with that person. The sad thing about that is that she might have been right; for less than a week later, even though I cried a lot on the weekend that the phone number somehow got lost and thought the world had ended, I met a girl, “K”, out on the PE field, and maybe partly out of loneliness, and partly because she was pretty, nice, and a good kisser, I asked her to be my girlfriend.

The weird thing is that even though I really loved “K” and “went steady” with her for four and a quarter years – which is the shelf life of my long-term relationships – I don’t think I totally got over you, Cheryl. Ever.

It’s strange. I never really got to know the real you at all; I didn’t get to know what music you liked, or what TV shows you watched. If you had a complete set of parents or if you lived in a single-parent household. Did you have pets? Do you like sports? Were you a tomboy?  Were you a reader, like me, or did you prefer playing board games or collecting Barbies or other toys? What was your favorite food in the world when you were nine? I never found out what your favorite color was, although I do remember that you favored clothes that had either blue or pink.

And yet…of all my heartbreaks, and every single relationship I’ve had since I met you in Ms. Turtletaub’s class has involved heartbreak in one way or another, losing you 24 hours after we exchanged those notes in class hurts the most mainly because while we didn’t have a relationship, the promise of one was there. We just didn’t have the chance to see it through.

I should let you know that even though I moved on and pursued several relationships over the past 50 years, part of me still regrets that I never tried to contact you in the five years that I lived in Westchester. Adult me, 59-going-on-60-year-old me, sometimes rational me knows that once my mom lost – or threw away – that envelope with your name and number on it, I had no uncomplicated way to get a hold of you. All I had, really, was a tiny thumbnail of your official class picture in the “group collage” we all got when we brought our packets of school portraits home in…October, was it…. your first name, and the first letter of your last name, T.

I did, unbelievably, try to find you through at least two kids that I knew from Coral Park and who were still there when we were at the elementary school level. One girl whose dad was a friend of my mother swore that she knew who you were, that your last name was Tecano, and that since you were not held back academically as I had been, you were at least one school grade ahead of me. (This was in 1976, the year we both turned 13, so if this was true, you were already at Rockway Junior High while I was still in sixth grade at Tropical.)

This girl was not a friend of yours, or so she claimed, otherwise I would have asked her to tell you what happened regarding the phone number incident and that I was sorry I had never called. By then, of course, I was going steady – as we used to say then – with “K.” and would not have considered cheating on her, but I would have wanted you to know that I had wanted to call you like I promised, but fate intervened.

Still later, when I no longer lived in Westchester but was still close to the Coral Park area, I was visiting the old neighborhood and recognized one of the kids from our classroom. In fact, he was the boy who facilitated the exchange of love notes that we made 50 years ago last week. One thing led to another and 15-year-old me, or maybe 16-year-old me, asked him if he remembered you.

He nodded and said, “Yeah, I remember the girl you liked when you were in our class.”

“Well, can you tell me what her last name was, cos I only knew her as Cheryl T.”

Our former classmate – I have forgotten his name now – nodded again. “Yeah. It was Thigpen. She got teased a lot for that though….kids used to call her ‘Cheryl Pigpen.’  Cruel, but kids are like that, y’know? Cruel. I don’t know what happened to her after Coral Park though, but she was kind of cute.”

So, yeah. I did ask about you, and if I had somehow been able to get a hold of you, I would have. If nothing else, just to say I was sorry for not calling you and disappointing you the way I must have.    

Cheryl, I don’t know if I loved you in any meaningful way when we were kids. I don’t think I understood what “love” meant in the context of interpersonal relationships that went beyond just friends or blood relations. Like I said, we didn’t even get to know each other to see how far that attraction between us went, right? We never got to spend time together, not even on a date with a chaperone present.

And yet, the facts that I truly believed I loved you, that I grieved openly for days and – obviously – subconsciously still feel the loss of what might have been, added to the other fact that I regret hurting you in some way by not keeping my promise…all of that tells me that you mattered to me so damn much when I was nine that I still remember you as my first girlfriend, even if it was just for 24 hours.

As Billy Joel wrote in a song he wrote in 1983, the same year that I graduated from high school:

I spoke to you in cautious tones

You answered me with no pretense

And still I feel I said too much

My silence is my self-defense

And every time I’ve held a rose

It seems I only felt the thorns

And so it goes, and so it goes

And so will you, soon, I suppose

Cheryl, I can’t say that I love you, even though sometimes it feels as though I do, but I have never forgotten your kind, sweet, gentle personality. And as long as my mind is sharp and not diminished by the ravages of dementia or other illnesses that affect memory, I’ll always remember you as the pretty girl who loaned me her pink sweater on a cold November morning in Miami, Florida.

I hope you’ve led a happy and fulfilling life. Take care, okay?

Yours always,


[1] Growing Up with Cerebral Palsy – Part Three of a Series, March 13, 2016, Cerebral Palsy Guidance blog

[2] Incidentally, this was one of the last blog posts that I wrote while I was still living in Miami.

[3] In the Cerebral Palsy Guide blog post, I wrote that Cheryl T had “brown” hair. It was not. It was a softer shade of red-brown.

[4] Another bit of inconsistent detail, but that’s because I had a deadline to meet and had a totally different mindset because I was in love and my life seemed to be sorting itself out in the wake of Mom’s death the previous summer. Cerebral Palsy Guidance only required the “Big Picture” story for its blog, and I did not want to linger in that vestibule of my Hall of Remembrance if you catch my drift.

[5] The reader is urged to keep in mind that my nine-year-old self tended to see people and events in the context of what I perceived was going on at the time, regardless of whether those perceptions were accurate or not. For instance, I did not have the ability to understand Ms. Turtletaub verbally because of the language barrier, and because I was both frustrated with that aspect of my life in school and had an overactive sense that life was unfair and cruel, I tended to see certain individuals in black-and-white terms that did not accurately fit the person or the situation. Thus, in 1972, and even for a few years afterward, in my immature and unwise years, Ms. Turtletaub was the cause of all my woes, especially my separation from Cheryl T.

I mention this because 10 school years later, I went on what I call a “grand tour” of the stations of my life as a pupil in the Dade County Public School system in which, along with my friend Bruce Schulman (who had a car) I visited every one of the schools I had attended from 1972 to 1983. Setting out from South Miami Senior High, Bruce and I stopped first at the twin campuses of Tropical Elementary and Riviera Junior High School, where classes were either winding down or still in session, depending on the school. I remember chatting with the two librarians that I liked the most at Riviera, and I told them I’d been on the school paper and yearbook staff in high school. I probably talked to a few other teachers, including Ms. Heller, the journalism teacher whose class I was not in but who still accepted a couple of story submissions for one issue of the Riviera school paper.

I then walked over to next-door Tropical Elementary – in those pre-Columbine High shooting days you could drop by any of your schools and pay short visits to see friends who still were there as students or say hi to former teachers without having to go through security checkpoints or wear visitor’s passes. At Tropical, the school where I spent the most time – five school years – I visited Mr. Back (pronounced “Bach,” like the composer), the music teacher who started working there when I was in sixth grade and set up the school’s first choral group, which I was a member of.

I wasn’t planning on visiting Coral Park. I had associated it with so many bad emotions – frustration, resentment, confusion, and sadness – that I had never set foot anywhere near the campus. I could never avoid seeing it from a car whenever I happened to be going from my house – which after 1978 was on the NW side of the same road – to somewhere else and back along SW 97th Avenue. And even though I did not do it every time I passed in front of Coral Park Elementary, sometimes I’d say to whoever was driving, “Hey, I used to go to school there.” I’d say it in a casual or matter-of-fact tone, but I always felt sad, especially when the school still had the 1972-era color scheme and the big trees on the front lawn were still there.

But when Bruce, who knew I’d gone to Coral Park – “Home of the Wildcats!” – because we had talked about it a few times, asked me if I wanted to go there before he dropped me off at my house, I said, “Sure. It’s on the way home anyway, so why not?”

So it came to pass that on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 15, 1983, I stepped out of Bruce’s parked car and walked past the entrance of Coral Park Elementary for the first time since that cold November day in 1972. By the time we arrived, most of the kids were already gone – it was the last day of the school year, and many of them had gone on field trips to nearby parks or been dismissed early to get a proper start on summer break.

While Bruce waited in the car, I walked briskly to the school office and after I told her I had been a student at Coral Park, I asked the receptionist if Ms. Turtletaub was still teaching there.

“Yes, Ms. Turtletaub is still teaching third grade. Was she your teacher when you were here?”

“Yes, ma’am, I just finished my senior year at South Miami Senior High, and I thought I’d stop by and thank her for being my teacher back then.”

“Oh, congratulations, Mr….”

“Alex. Alex Diaz-Granados.”

“Congratulations, Alex,” the receptionist said. She looked at the clock on the office wall. It was just past 4 PM. “I’m sure that Ms. Turtletaub is still on school grounds; she usually does some grading in her classroom before going home.”

“Classroom? It wouldn’t happen to be Room E-13, would it?”

“That’s the one. You have a good memory. Were you here long?”

“No. I was only here for three months. Just long enough to get my first progress report and my school pictures.”

“Oh. What school year again?”

“1972-1973. Coral Park didn’t have a Special Ed department, so I was transferred to Tropical. And sometimes Special Ed kids aren’t promoted out of elementary and sent to junior high till they’re 13 or 14. I’m one of those….”

“I understand,” the receptionist said. “I’m sure Ms. Turtletaub will be happy to see you, Alex.”

She gave me directions to get to Room E-13; I had not been there in over a decade, and I didn’t want to look like a lost tourist in a foreign country, so I asked how to get there from the office.

I walked briskly on the concrete walkways, passing in front of the school library that I’d visited maybe two or three times and the more familiar cafeteria. I didn’t stop in either; Bruce was waiting in the car, after all, and I didn’t want to inconvenience him any more than necessary. I just focused on getting to my old classroom and seeing Ms. Turtletaub one last time.

As I stopped to marvel at how small everything looked to 20-year-old me in comparison to how big Coral Park Elementary had seemed to my younger self, I suddenly found myself on the threshold of E-13. At that moment, when I saw the open classroom door, with the 1982-1983 class roster affixed to the wall still next to the door frame, as well as the rows of desks – which were of a different vintage and more modern design from the ones that were there during my brief stay there – I suddenly had a weird feeling that felt like a mix of déjà vu and existential angst.

I fought the urge to simply turn around and walk away, but something – curiosity, maybe, or a need to close the circle – stopped me. I took a deep breath, collected my thoughts, and walked inside.

And there, sitting at her desk, intently working on something (grading papers, more than likely), was Ms. Turtletaub, still slender, still dark-haired and light-complexioned, a bit older but somehow less…intimidating than I remembered.

I knocked gently on the classroom door before going further inside to get her attention. She looked up from her paperwork and looked at me with a mix of curiosity and politeness.

“Excuse me,” I said, “Ms. Turtletaub?”

“Yes, that’s me,” she said. “What can I do for you?”

“Um, well, ma’am, you probably don’t remember me, but I was in your class a while back and since today was my last day of high school, I thought I’d stop by to thank you.”

“That’s very sweet of you…” she said, a look of “I can’t quite place the face” in her dark but still friendly eyes. “You were one of my students, you say?”

“Yes, ma’am. My name is Alex. Alex Diaz-Granados, and I used to sit right…there…” I pointed to the outermost desk in the left side of the third row from the front.

“Which school year was that? You do look familiar, but…”

“Oh, it was ten school years ago, Ms. Turtletaub. I was only here for three months or so, then I got transferred to Tropical because they had a Special Ed department.”   

“But you remembered me after all this time?”

“I did. You made a strong impression on me even though I wasn’t here a long time.”

Ms. Turtletaub smiled at me, with sincere warmth and kindness that I realized, at age 20, that she had probably had for me during our brief time as teacher and less-than-apt pupil.

“Why, thank you, Alex. That’s sweet of you to say. You did well in school after you left us, I trust?”

“Well, I got held back at Tropical before I started going to regular classes. I didn’t know much English when I started third grade, so it took some time to get me up to speed in language arts, math, and all that. Add to that going to physical and occupational therapy, Cub Scout meetings, and other activities…but I did get ‘fused’ and was in mainstream classes.”

She smiled again. “Sounds like Coral Park’s loss…my loss…was Tropical’s gain. Did you go to Southwest High? Is that where you graduated from?”

“Well, I was supposed to go to Southwest, but the school didn’t have an elevator installed until recently, so just a few months before the end of ninth grade…three years ago, as a matter of fact, most of the students who were in Special Ed at Riviera Junior High and would have started 10th grade in August of 1980 were transferred to South Miami High,” I said, trying to hide the lingering bit of resentment I still felt about that transfer.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ms. Turtletaub said. “Still, you did it. You graduated. And South Miami is a fantastic school.”

“Yes, it is. I’m proud to have been a Cobra.” As I said this, I showed her my class ring, with the school mascot on one side, the symbol for student journalism on the other, and my faux aquamarine birthstone.

“Oh, so you are a writer?” Ms. Turtletaub said when she saw the quill-and-inkpot symbol on my ring.

“I did two years on the school paper and one on the yearbook,” I said. “Oh, and I also sang in the school choir.”

“That’s wonderful, Alex! Oh, I’m so proud of you….”

At that, she rose to her feet and gave me a quick hug. “I can’t believe you remembered me, though,” she said, a bit of surprised amusement in her voice.

“I did, though.”

“I am really proud of you, even though you were my student for such a short time,” she said.

I looked past her at the room beyond, my gaze landing on a desk three seats away from “mine.” Oh, Cheryl…I thought. I wish I had never left you.

I considered asking Ms. Turtletaub about Cheryl; in my head, I already had a question ready: Hey, Ms. Turtletaub, do you remember a girl named Cheryl? I think her last name was Thigpen….But I knew that she was doing paperwork and probably wanted to get back to it so she could go home at the end of a long day. And Bruce was waiting for me in his car. So, I didn’t ask.

For a second, it seemed like time itself had stopped in Room E-13. Ms. Turtletaub looked at me as if to say The kid turned out to be all right after all,  while I fought back the urge to ask about Cheryl and apologize for not doing my homework or say that I saw her in a different light from how I’d seen her in third grade.

Then I saw the clock on the wall: 15 minutes had elapsed since I’d stepped back into my former classroom, and it was going to be the middle of the afternoon drive time – rush hour – and I didn’t want to get on Bruce’s bad side. And I didn’t want to take up any more of my former teacher’s time, so I thanked her again for being my first teacher and left.


Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss

This is the third and latest short film that I’ve either written or co-written with Juan Carlos Hernandez for his production company, Popcorn Sky Productions. It’s a comedy about a politically-divided family in New York City during the Trump era.

As Denise Longrie says in her review:

This amusing and enjoyable short depicts the fireworks that erupt when the Ronderos’ son Jerry (Anthony James Hernandez) comes home from college for a visit. Mom Veronica (“Ronnie”), played by Adria K. Woomer-Hernandez, lays down the law to her husband Guillermo (Juan Carlos Hernandez): no talking, not even whispering, about politics.

Although Juan was gracious enough to give me the sole writing credit for Ronnie, the truth is that much of the finished film was based on on-the-spot rewrites by the cast and crew in New York. I was asked to go to the Big Apple to be on hand, but I couldn’t afford the cost of an airline ticket plus a long extended stay at a hotel. So even though I was consulted, Juan, Adria, and Anthony had to rework the story and script to make Ronnie work well as a comedy with some serious commentary about the divisiveness in Trump-era America.

The film is 22 minutes long, but it’s a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. I think it’s both hilarious and relevant.

If you have not watched it yet, here it is, in all its YouTube glory.

On Writing & Storytelling: A Better Day Than Yesterday…and Waiting for an Important Email

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Well, it’s late afternoon here in Lithia, Florida, on Tuesday, May 30, 2023, and it’s a sunny, hot (88°F/31°C) late spring day. It’s much too warm and muggy for me to venture out now, and in any case, I’m too tired to go for a long walk like the one I took this weekend.

This post is going to be brief; I finally was able to at least begin one scene for the New Story’s Chapter Nine, but I started later than usual – around 1:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time – and I could only coax 441 words out from my “little gray cells.” I was hoping to write at least 500, and if by some miracle I ended up with 1,000, I would have been ecstatic.

No such luck. After three hours or so of typing, jiggering and then re-jiggering words, sentences, and paragraphs into something that looked semi-coherent, I stopped writing. Partly because I was sleepy and having a hard time choosing my words, but also because I was fretting over whether Concord Music, the entity that has the copyright for the score and lyrics from West Side Story, will give me permission to use some of the lyrics from the song “Somewhere.”

One of the reasons for my late start today is that I spent a good amount of time trying to find out who to contact in order to get that permission. Using some of my journalism training, I figured that I would contact the Leonard Bernstein Estate’s licensing department. Once I found the proper email address, I wrote the following:

To whom it may concern,

Hi. My name is Alex Diaz-Granados, and I’m a writer. I’m currently working on my first novel, a love story of sorts, and in one scene, I want my narrator/protagonist, to sing “Somewhere” as a duet with his crush, a girl in his mixed chorus class.

My question is this: How do I get permission to briefly quote from the lyrics without, you know, violating any intellectual property rights or otherwise getting in legal trouble with the copyright owners? I will, of course, present the material in a positive light, and shall do my best to not use any lyrics at all if I am told not to. Of course, allusions to the work of Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Sondheim will be difficult since I am more of a blogger/film reviewer/and minor league screenwriter than I am a novelist.

Again, the scene I am planning to write is crucial to the narrative of the novel, and it won’t quote the entire song or reflect badly on its authors.

Hope to hear from you soon with any advice.


Alex Diaz-Granados

After a couple of hours – during which I was already working on the bit of writing that yielded those 441 words – I heard back from the Bernstein licensing people:

Dear Alex,

Thank you for writing, and for your interest in quoting Somewhere in your novel. Please contact Allison Rau at Concord Music Publishing and she will assist you with this request.

Best wishes,


I then contacted Concord Music Publishing, but Ms. Rau is not in the office, and the person who handles permissions in her absence has not emailed me. So, of course, now I’m checking my email inbox every so often…hoping for the best, obviously, but preparing to either read that getting permission will cost a certain amount of money, or that Concord Music Publishing denied permission to use the lyrics to “Somewhere.”

I don’t have any other news to share, so I’ll close for now. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

More Musings, More Thoughts for Monday, May 29, 2023, or: Memorial Day 2023 Update (Nighttime Edition)

Photo by Said on Pexels.com

It’s night here in Lithia, Florida, on Memorial Day 2023. It’s cool outside (75°F/24°C) under clear conditions, and the house is quiet except for the sound of the air conditioning and Mantovani: Great Concerts playing on my PC’s Amazon Music app. I’ve already had dinner – the last two slices of pizza that I ordered last night from Pizza Hut, and now that it’s getting dark, I am trying to decide how to spend the night before I go to bed after a frustrating, mostly unproductive day.

Today Was Not a Good Day to Write

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I am disappointed that despite my plans and best intentions for today, I didn’t work on The New Story. And, seriously, how could I? I woke up at 4:20 AM, didn’t fall asleep again afterward, and got out of bed, tired, cranky, and none too happy, at 5:30 AM. Still, I hoped to at least write one scene for Chapter Nine of my Work in Progress, even if that didn’t necessarily end the chapter so I could start the next one tomorrow.

But, considering that it took me two hours to compose a relatively short blog post for A Certain Point of View, Too, it shouldn’t surprise you that I couldn’t even manage to start a new scene, much less write a complete one. I was, and still am, so tired that I was unable to let my mind wander into the world of my story and its various characters. And if I can’t do that…If I can’t visualize the people and the setting, or hear the characters’ voices and their words in my head, I can’t write the scene.

Make War, Not Love (or Sex)!

The view close to the end of the game session. I have captured all eight Objective Zones, and no Warsaw Pact units are on the battlefield. Note the “stippling” effect of shell craters from NATO and Pact artillery; you can tell which areas saw a lot of heavy fighting or were subjected to bombardment by either side. The target of the operation – a U.S. forward air base captured by the enemy – is seen at the top center. (C) 2022 Bird’s Eye Games/MicroProse

So, instead of spending a few productive hours working on The New Story, I played one Skirmish in Regiments. I wasn’t happy about it, but I wasn’t in the mood to watch anything, and even though I did read for a bit, all I could think was Man, I should be writing my story right now! Listening to music would also trigger the same thought since the music I listen to is the “soundtrack” I have on the background when I write, especially Leroy Anderson’s Forgotten Dreams, which is to The New Story what As Time Goes By is to Casablanca.

I needed to be distracted, and it was either play Regiments or one of my adults-only “visual novels.” Regiments won in the end not just because it’s Memorial Day, but because erotica right now reminds me that I’m single but not in a suitable situation for dating anyone right now. (Breakups, even ones that are now several years old, don’t help my self-esteem, especially when I’m the dumped party!)

Considering that I was not – and still am not – at my best today, I did well in the Runway scenario. Once again, I set the game’s time limit for 60 minutes – the maximum allowed – and pitted my favorite American unit, the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Armored Division, against a Polish division in an Attack mission.

As I may have mentioned in previous Regiments-related posts, the Runway scenario involves – in Attack missions – assembling your various task forces and sending them forth to capture eight Objective Zones (OZs), designated Alfa through Hotel, in and around a captured U.S. air base in West Germany circa 1989. As in real battles, you must plan your moves with great care, use your cavalry scouts and helicopter gunships to reconnoiter ahead of your attack force and strike hard and fast at the enemy before he can do the same to you.

When I was in college – and for years after, until my Apple IIe’s monitor died in the late 1990s, I often wrote after-action reports based on the Crusade in Europe battles I “fought.” Before I bought a reissued version of that game, I played it on an abandonware site via my browser.

I won’t bore you with a detailed account of the battle. I no longer keep a written record of what happened in a wargame; back when I was in college and played the Apple II port of Crusade in Europe, I’d write detailed after-action reports of the scenarios I played, as if I were submitting them to the history division of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in 1944 and early 1945. I can’t do that with Regiments because the older Crusade in Europe is a strategic-level map-based wargame, while Regiments is a real-time tactical level game that is not map-based but shows you the “actual” battlefield and the various vehicles and helicopters used by both NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Regiments’ Cold War-turned-hot version of 1989.

(Additionally, writing those after-action reports was time-consuming and tiring!)

(C) 2022 Bird’s Eye Games/MicroProse

I will say, though, that even considering that I woke up super early and that I was exhausted, I did well in Regiments. I did lose 25 vehicles and 74 troops were killed,145 were wounded, and 10 were missing, plus the Poles managed to ambush several of my task forces during the battle. However, I inflicted more casualties on the enemy force than it did me, and I managed to capture all eight OZs before time ran out on the game’s clock.

I’m glad I won, too. It would be embarrassing if I had taken the day off from writing – even if it was involuntary on my part – just to play a game…and ended up losing!

Musings & Thoughts for Monday, May 29, 2023, or: Looks Like My Work Week Got Off to a Bad Start….

The author, 41 years ago. Photo Credit: Roger Laurence/Serpent’s Tale staff

Hi there. It’s early afternoon as I start this, my 208th post of the year and 1,108th overall – on Monday, May 29, 2023. And considering that it’s meteorological spring’s last hurrah (two more days, then it’s on to summer…and the official start of the hurricane season), it’s a nice day. It’s 76°F/26°C under mostly sunny conditions, and there’s no rain in the forecast, so for those Tampa Bay area residents planning (or already out on) a picnic or outdoor activity on Memorial Day 2023, it should be a nice day for it.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I was hoping that today would be a writing day for me, and I still hope it will be, but I woke up much too early, couldn’t go back to sleep, and both the fact that it’s a “day off” for many people and that I’m tired are making it hard for me to even think of losing myself in the fictional world of The New Story.

I’m not sure if it’s the early morning (4:40 AM) wakeup, the fact that it is Memorial Day or an overwhelming sense of ennui, but I am going to have to push myself to write something (beyond this blog post, which is already hard enough to write the way I feel at the moment).

I don’t want to be unproductive today, Dear Reader. I don’t want to not write.

But, considering that I’m having a hard time writing this (I’ve already been at it for over an hour, and I haven’t made much headway), it looks like I may have to either take a long break and work on the manuscript later, or just admit defeat and take the rest of the day off.

Ugh. I hate days like this.

I’m going to go read for a while. I’m exhausted, unmotivated, and flat-out frustrated.

More Musings, More Thoughts for Sunday, May 28, 2023, or: Weekend Update, Part the Third

“When I’m in turmoil, when I can’t think, when I’m exhausted and afraid and feeling very, very alone, I go for walks. It’s just one of those things I do. I walk and I walk and sooner or later something comes to me, something to make me feel less like jumping off a building.” Jim Butcher, Storm Front

Hello again, Dear Reader.

Yes, it’s me again. I said I might be back later when we last saw each other, didn’t I?

Anyway, it’s just a bit after 6:30 PM here in Lithia, Florida, and it’s a hot, humid, and still sunny Sunday evening in the Tampa Bay area. And this time, my friend, I can say it’s hot, humid, and still sunny because I didn’t want to just watch TV, listen to music, read, or play computer games in my room (or any part of the house, for that matter), and I decided to venture outside. So, I did just that: I grabbed a book – Craig L. Symonds’ The Battle of Midway, walked over to the nearby park where I like to sit – under the shade of the trees – and either read or enjoy the solitude of the green area.

(C) 2011 Oxford University Press

As you may know from reading previous A Certain Point of View, Too posts, I used to go for walks in my previous neighborhood back in South Florida. More frequently than I do here, even though the weather in the Miami area isn’t any cooler than it is here. I can’t claim that I did it every day between February of 1978 and April of 2016 – which is how long I lived in East Wind Lake Village – cos of course I didn’t. But I did do it a lot, especially when I had lots on my mind, couldn’t think straight, was tired, fretful, and lonely. When Mom got sick in 2010 and slowly declined both physically and mentally, that meant I walked a lot during those last five years of her life.

“If you seek creative ideas go walking.

I took this photo sometime between 2012 and 2015 during one of my “mental health” walks in the early evening hours, when the home health aide was with my ailing mother. The man in the foreground was a retired physician.

Angels whisper to a man when he goes for

a walk.” Raymond I. OD Myers

So, yeah. After eating some of the pizza I ordered for dinner, I did, indeed, grab my copy of The Battle of Midway, put on my Star Wars Film Concert Series ballcap, and moseyed on down to the park.

It was still sunny and warm, and if it weren’t for the humidity (47%, but still) I would even say the weather was pleasant. The sun was still above the horizon, but at 5:30 PM (when I left) it was an orange-yellow globe of gas and heat slowly dipping downward. The trees that lined the street cast long shadows, and I saw a pair of egrets sauntering casually down the street as if they owned the neighborhood. There were a few cars out, but I didn’t run into any of the neighbors on my way to and from the park, now was anyone but me at the park itself.

My old neighborhood, circa April 2014. Photo by the author

I read an entire chapter of Symonds’s The Battle of Midway – it was about the U.S. carrier force in the Pacific during the lead-up to the eponymous naval engagement that took place between June 4 and 7, 1942. The light levels were good; there weren’t mosquitos around, and, except for the passage of an occasional passing car, it was a tranquil setting for a reading break.

I suppose I could have tried to read another chapter; the sunset isn’t till 8:18 PM, so it wasn’t even close to getting dark. But since it was late spring and it was warm and muggy, I closed The Battle of Midway as soon as I finished the section I’d started when I sat down to read and took the long route back to the house.

“I walked and walked, sometimes with an objective- a friend’s house, a shop, the church or school- but mostly at random, to outrun oppression.” ― Jessica Anderson, Tirra Lirra by the River

Anyway, I’m back in the house, and now I have no clue as to what I want to do next. I already have missed the start of the Memorial Day weekend concert from Washington, DC on PBS – it slipped my mind because I have gotten out of the habit of watching “live” TV. I can’t remember ever watching the Memorial Day Concert here; the last time I remember seeing it was in 2015, less than two months before Mom died. We had always watched it together, and even my half-sister, my nemesis and catalyst for my move to the west coast of Florida, deigned to watch that last concert with Mom and me. (Vicky, of course, talked a lot during the concert; she always did that whenever we watched anything together, even in movies at the theater. This was one of the reasons why Mom and I often went to the movies without Vicky – we both got exasperated by her verbosity at times when it was both unwelcome and unnecessary.)

I could still turn on the family room set and find It on WEDU, Tampa Bay’s PBS station, but I hate starting to watch a program “already in progress.” So, if I watch anything, I can probably watch one of the various concert performances I have on Blu-ray, including 2020’s John Williams: Live in Vienna. Or a movie. Or a TV show. I have many options.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, but it will be a writing day for me, so I better close this so I can log off and do relax for a while before turning in for the night Besides…I’m still a bit hungry, and I do have some pizza to eat. So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, May 28, 2023, or: Weekend Update, Part the Second

The view from the front porch of our house. (Photo by the author)

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon on Sunday, May 28, 2023, the last weekend of meteorological Spring ’23. It’s a nice day outside; it’s warm  (80°F/27°C) under sunny conditions, and the forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 86°F/30°C). The daily “highs” are creeping into the 80s/90s as both summer and the Atlantic hurricane season draw nearer, so today would be a perfect day for me to venture out…if only I were still the “venturing out” type.

About Last Night….

The status of The New Story has not changed since May 26, 2023.

I am happy – metaphorically, at any rate – to report that I did not fall into the temptation to work on The New Story, at least not in the “let’s add a new scene to Chapter Nine” or “let’s rewrite part of Chapter Seven” sense of the term working on the New Story. I did re-read some of what is already on the rough draft, and I also made a few minor tweaks here and there. I want to make the revisions-and-rewrite phase as brief as possible; I’ve already been working on this manuscript for over a month (a record for me, yay!), and I do want to self-publish this story in 2023 (the 40th anniversary year of my high school graduation), so….

My Saturday night was, meh, I guess. It was…lonely, obviously, but after three years of being single again and with no easy way of meeting another “significant other” (OKCupid now makes it harder for people with free accounts to do much beyond browse the site for compatible partners…they want you – obviously – to pay for premium accounts to get all the benefits at OKCupid), I have come to accept that this will be the new normal for me.

As for what I did to kill time….

Well, I spent some time on social media just to have some interactions with other humans. Mostly on Twitter, though I did wish some of my friends a “Happy birthday” on Facebook and commented or hit “like” on posts that appeared on my newsfeed.

I also read some of my fellow WordPress bloggers’ posts and interacted with those at well. I did not comment on everything I read, but I did read over 20 posts and liked all of them. That accounts for a sizable amount of my Saturday afternoon and evening.

Once More Unto the Breach…with Tanks

When deterrence fails! For 44 years after World War II, the presence of U.S. Army divisions in West Germany was intended to dissuade the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact vassals from starting World War III in West Germany. In real life, deterrence worked. In “Regiments” things go wrong, and NATO forces must fight off a Soviet-led invasion.

After that, I played Regiments, a Cold War-turns-hot war game that simulates late 1980s-era land combat in West Germany in an alternate version of 1989 where glasnost and perestroika fail, and a mutiny by an East German army division somehow triggers off a Warsaw Pact invasion of West Germany.

I have not played the Grand Campaign which tells the story of this alt-history from multiple perspectives since last summer; the last chapter from Regiments main narrative involved the West German army’s efforts to investigate the odd reports of an insurrection across the Inter-German Border, and as I recall, I wasn’t doing too well in that “Operation.”

Instead, I played a Skirmish (that is to say, a single battle in which a player has X time to accomplish a set task to earn victory points but doesn’t impact the Grand Campaign in any way). I chose the Attack scenario (the Runway variant, in which my task forces must liberate a U.S. airbase from Pact forces), even though offensive missions, by their very nature, usually result in heavier friendly losses for my units than either the Defense or Mobile Defense skirmishes.

(C) 2022 Bird’s Eye Games and MicroProse

I set the time limit for 60 minutes – the maximum; I had, as I said earlier, no place to go and no one to hang out with, and I hadn’t decided whether to watch a movie or not. I have found that in Attack situations the clock runs out on me before I capture all of the Objective Zones (OZs) when I set the time limit for 30 minutes. And because I had not played the Runway scenario in months, I figured I’d need at least 45 minutes to grab and defend enough OZs to win a total victory.

I chose – because it’s the best U.S. unit in Regiments – the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Armored Division, and despite a few setbacks, I defeated the Warsaw Pact unit defending that airbase. It was a Polish unit (I don’t know which regiment was represented, as the Regiments: Iron Curtain update no longer IDs the specific enemy/friendly units in the after-action screen), and it fought well, even though I ended up winning a Total Victory in 35 minutes and five seconds.

Once again, NATO wins a total victory, but not without a cost. Once again, in an Attack scenario, the enemy shot down quite a few of my AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters, and I even lost one A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack jet!

My Night Ended Not with a Bang, But with Drowsiness

I also watched two episodes of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, although I’ll have to rewatch the second one because I was drowsy and I fell asleep a couple of times before I called it a night, turned off the family room TV, and went to bed sometime after midnight.

Well, this is getting to be a longer post than I anticipated, and I do need to take a shower, shave, and change into clean clothing, so I’ll close for now. Until next time – it might be later today/tonight, or it might be on the morrow; I don’t know yet – stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, May 27, 2023, or: Weekend Update, Part the First

The view from “my” park bench, December 2, 2022.

Hi, there.

It’s late morning in Lithia, Florida, on Saturday, May 27, 2023. It’s a nice late spring morning here; sunny, cool (it’s only 72°F/22°C) and the skies overhead are clear. It hardly seems like summer – meteorological summer, not astronomical (traditional) summer – is only a few days away, along with the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season. It’s not going to be a scorching hot day, so if I can get motivated, I may go outside for a walk or take a book to the nearby park and read for a while.

Since today is Saturday, and since it is a long holiday weekend (Monday will be Memorial Day 2023), I plan to take it easy and not work on The New Story. I don’t know what I will do for the balance of today and tomorrow; I no longer have anyone to hang out or make plans with, and although going out to the nearby park is definitely an option, I’m too introverted to seek out friends in the neighborhood. Besides, I’ll be moving to Brandon at some point in the future, so why even bother now?

Thus, any plans I make this weekend will involve solitary activities, and if you’re a regular visitor to this space, you know what my options are:

  • Reading
  • Listening to music (with or without reading at the same time)
  • Watching a movie, miniseries, or TV series on DVD or Blu-ray
  • Gaming
  • Going out for a walk and reading at the park
  • Writing
(C) 2020 Dr. PinkCake

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. No going out with friends (don’t know too many people in the Tampa Bay area), no dating, and no solo excursions to a movie theater or even a shopping mall.

I do know, though, that I will try to resist the impulse to work on The New Story today. I want to finish the first draft in three months or maybe less[1] per Stephen King’s advice in his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, but not at the expense of my mental health. I’m already overwhelmed by anxiety and other negative emotions; I don’t need to add any more stress by working seven days a week on a project that, even if it comes out halfway decent, might sell just a few copies on Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online, get me a handful of positive reviews, and…poof. That’s it. On to the next New Story!

Of course, if after I read, listen to music, watch something on TV, play a computer game, or even go out for a walk I get bored and restless, I will work on The New Story. Maybe I won’t write a new scene or chapter; I’ll probably just do some editing and revising.

But, honestly, I would rather not.

[1] I’ve already passed the one-month mark and written nearly 90 pages (on Word, which bases its page count on 8.5 X 11 sheets of printing paper. (WriteItNow, the standalone creative writing software I use for finessing and organizing The New Story, says I have 142 pages). I don’t plan to write a doorstop of a novel a la 11/23/63 or Red Storm Rising; my story doesn’t have a large cast of characters and is modest in scope and authorial ambition, but this is the longest anything I’ve written; the longest writing assignment I ever handed in when I made my brave but failed attempt at the “college thing” was a 64-page-long research paper on aerial warfare in Europe during World War II – and I wrote that in less time than I’ve spent on my current project.

To Write or Not to Write: Today’s Pressing Dilemma – Evening Update

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or despair … Come to it any way but lightly.”Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

It’s evening here in Lithia, Florida, on May 26, 2023; sunset is less than one hour away, and the temperature is exactly how it was when I first started to write my first post of the day – 78°F/26°C. I don’t know if it rained this afternoon, but the dreaded thunderstorms in today’s forecast stayed far from my current neighborhood. I’ve eaten dinner – a black bean enchilada from, I believe, Publix – and I’m debating whether I should go watch TV out in the Florida room or try to work on The New Story, even though it’s Friday night and I should relax a little bit.

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”  Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

As I mentioned in On Writing & Storytelling: To Write or Not to Write – Today’s Pressing Dilemma, I had two choices regarding what to do during my work hours (I try to write, more or less, during business hours, or 9 AM-5 PM Mondays through Fridays). The way I saw it, I could either:

  • Write an all-new scene for the ninth chapter, or
  • Focus a bit on editing existing material before pressing forward

I was still not in the best of moods when I opened up the various document files related to my work-in-progress; there are four at the moment: a “scratch sheet” file where I write rudimentary rough drafts of scenes, create conversations between characters, and try out various scenarios within the boundaries of the world in which The New Story and its cast of characters exist. If I write something that I like or seems to fit into the narrative well enough, I then copy-paste it onto my “Alpha” document, which is the official manuscript file for the new book. Then, after I’ve messed with the story in that document file – you know, using Word’s Editor function to spellcheck, count how many words, check for basic grammar issues and whatnot, I save it.

“Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

After that, I copy-paste the new material onto two different programs or apps: WriteItNow and Google Drive.

 For organization, keeping track of progress, and maybe – once I figure it out, anyway – setting the new book up as an e-book independent from Kindle, I use a program called WriteItNow. This was one of the last purchases of creative writing software that I made while I was still living in Miami. I don’t want to go into my Amazon purchase history to double-check, but I think I bought WriteItNow and Dramatica either in December of 2015 or January of 2016, several months before I found out I was going to move to the Tampa Bay area. I thought that maybe if I used those programs, which are designed for creative writing, instead of Word, I would find the process of novel writing to be easier.

 (Spoiler alert: Not really, but I do like some of the functions WriteItNow has that Word does not, such as the ability to generate a color-coded visual track of what chapters and scenes have been written so far, as well as a “map of the story” that you update whenever you add a chapter or a scene.)

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The other program (or rather, Google app) that I use for The New Story is Drive, formerly known as Google Docs. That’s where I share my manuscript with my Beta Reader. I don’t copy-paste stuff there every time I write a new scene or start a new chapter; I don’t want to overwhelm my friend with too many scenes or chapters all at once. It’s rude, for one thing, plus she’s doing me a favor, not the other way around.

I updated that document – I believe – yesterday afternoon, but I will not add any more material to it until my friend has a chance to read, evaluate, and comment on what’s already on Drive. I’ll just focus on my job of pressing forward with the rough draft and see how the story develops.

If I get bored over the weekend or if I suddenly get inspired and must immediately write a new scene or even a complete chapter, I will, of course, work on The New Story. I’d rather take it easy, at least on Saturday or Sunday. But I also want to be happy, or at least productive, and right now the only happiness I feel is when I am writing and everything seems to just fall into place. That doesn’t happen every time I sit down to write, but when it does, it’s magic.

While you wait for “The New Story” (I can’t say when it will be out. This year, for sure, but not till summer is over.), may I suggest you try my novella if you have not done so already?

On Writing & Storytelling: To Write or Not to Write – Today’s Pressing Dilemma

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Hi, there, Dear Reader. How are you on this Friday, May 26, 2023 – or, if you live on the other side of the International Date Line, Saturday, May 27? As always, I hope you’re as well as your circumstances permit.

Photo by Dave Morgan on Pexels.com

Here in lovely Lithia, Florida, it’s a warm (78°F/26°C), humid, and sunny day, but since meteorological spring is in its last days and the wet season is already underway, the forecast for our slice of the Tampa Bay area calls for thunderstorms later in the afternoon. As a result, it’s not likely that it will be hot today, but it will be dark, rainy, and quite possibly stormy in places.

Photo by Bas Masseus on Pexels.com

Consequently, I seriously doubt that I’ll get much new writing done today. I’m already writing this at a later time than I would have liked – I’m tired and not in the best of moods, and this combination usually doesn’t bode well for my writing endeavors. Lack of energy and enthusiasm usually slow my thinking process significantly; I can’t focus well, or immerse myself in my fictional world, nor remember the real-life elements I draw on for some of the characters and situations in The New Story.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I wish there weren’t a wedding ring on that woman’s finger…but I love this image.

Additionally, it’s harder to write scenes with either comedic or romantic elements when my mood is as sour as a Vlasic pickle, and because I’m at a point in the narrative where both romance and a certain amount of humor are necessary, if I decide to take a “damn the bad feelings, full speed ahead” attitude and press on with a new scene, the results might be unsatisfactory, to put it mildly.

Plus, as I said earlier, the forecast for this part of Florida (warm sunny weather till the early afternoon, then thunderstorms will pass through the region, which for Floridians is the typical wet season cycle) means that if a “boomer” is nearby, I’ll either have to use my laptop on battery power or, if I’m still not in a good mood, not write at all.

Screenshot from my WriteItNow creative writing software before I updated the scene count for the latest chapter.

I hope that I can change my attitude and get motivated. I like – no, love – this story, and I promised myself I’ll stick to it until I finish it. I’ve already written a prologue, seven complete chapters, and two scenes of the eighth chapter. If we count the prologue as a “chapter,” the total tally is eight chapters and two scenes of a ninth. (I have no idea if the chapter I am supposed to be working on today – should I decide to go the “create new material” route later – has three, four, or even five scenes. According to my progress chart on WriteItNow, I have two chapters with four scenes, two with five scenes, two with three scenes, and two with two scenes.

The chapter I am working on already has two scenes, but it does not feel like it’s finished. And since I don’t have either the patience or discipline to create an outline, I can’t tell you how many scenes I will need to complete it. It’s – in my mind, anyway – an important turning point, since it is about a key event in my ‘I-guy’s” relationship with one of the major female co-leads, and I don’t want to rush into it willy-nilly. (This is the bit that will mix elements of romance and comedy, and since it’s a defining scene for both characters, I don’t want to work on it when I’m not feeling at my best, y’know?)

And, of course, as if that wasn’t enough, I can’t shake off this feeling of “Okay. I’m committed to writing and finishing this story. All is well and good. But what if, in the end, it doesn’t sell well once I self-publish it?”

Ugh. I hate it when self-doubt and other negative emotions pop into my head when I’m trying to be creative and have fun writing a story, especially a story I care a lot about.

I better wrap this up; the light levels in my room – which aren’t that high because I keep my Venetian blinds down and closed and my curtains are drawn to avoid glare from the subtropical Sun – are getting low; soon I’ll need to turn on either the light on the ceiling or the lamp on the far side of the room. That can only mean one thing: the clouds are moving in, and it will be raining within the next couple of hours. So, until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

While you wait anxiously for The New Story, and if you haven’t read my first work of fiction yet, here’s my novella!

On Writing & Storytelling: Time for Another SITREP on The New Story

Clearly, this is not me. Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

Hi, there, Dear Reader, and welcome to the Thursday, May 25, 2023, edition of A Certain Point of View, Too. It’s midafternoon here in Lithia, Florida, and it’s hot (84°F/29°C), dark, and rainy. It’s so dark that I just had to turn on the ceiling lamp, and I hear thunder, which of course means we don’t just have garden-variety showers in the area. So, since I have an aversion to using electronics when thunderstorms are nearby, this post will be short.

Photo by Vlad Cheu021ban on Pexels.com

I worked on The New Story for more than six hours today. I didn’t write any new scenes; I wanted to, but since one of the issues that I had with Reunion was rushing to self-publish it in July of 2018 without seriously reviewing it for inconsistencies, plot holes, or even such impossibilities as being able to get a panoramic view of midtown Manhattan from a third-floor apartment in that section of the Big Apple. That’s why I revised Reunion in early March; my former journalism adviser from Miami-Dade College emailed me and pointed out that the book was good but could be improved if I did A, B, and C – which I promptly did. It took me a few days to make the necessary changes, but I made them because the advice was given with only my best interest in mind. (If you’re reading this, T, thanks!)

Anyway, since I don’t want history to repeat itself with The New Story, this time I am doing everything possible to make sure the manuscript is as good as it can possibly be before I go to my Kindle Create app and begin the sometimes-tricky self-publishing process.

For instance, I asked a friend (who is a writer and poet) to serve as a second set of eyes to catch mistakes or suggest better ways to write stuff, whether that “stuff” is dialogue, character and place description, and other story-related details. I’ve done that this time around, thankfully, and I’m deeply grateful to the person who agreed to be my beta reader.

Another thing I am doing is taking at least one or two days (out of five working days) to edit and revise. Ideally, I should just plow through the first draft from start to finish and then focus on reading, evaluating, editing, and rewriting. I don’t have the patience to do it this way – impatience has always been the chink in my armor, at least as far as writing is concerned – so I am alternating between bursts of creating new scenes (sans outlines) and then revising them before going on to write new ones.

Whether this strategy will work or not I have no idea. I guess we’ll just have to see how things develop between now and the day I can write “The End” on the manuscript’s last page.

As of today, I’ve written eight and two-thirds chapters, and the word count currently stands as, per Word, 35,705. At 86 pages, this is the longest manuscript I have ever written, and – since the story is not finished – it’s probably going to be at least 150-200 pages long.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

And…as is often the case when I write a blog post, I type so slowly that an hour has passed since I started this one, and now the sun is out in full force…and no more thunderstorm activity!

Well, I don’t have anything else to report, so I’ll take my leave of you now. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you on the sunny side of things.

On Writing & Storytelling, or: Well, Someone Bought a Copy of My Book on Amazon….

My novella, Reunion: A Story, usually ranks in the 1M range in Amazon’s Best-Selling Books list, which, of course, means that few copies are being purchased. The one time that it was ranked anywhere close to the Top 100 (or even Top 1000) best-selling titles was in July of 2018 when I rolled out the first edition. (Earlier this year, I made quite a few revisions to the text and improved the page design, and added a new cover, so now that edition has been supplanted by the second edition.)

Photo by Thomas Wikman (Thanks, Thomas!)
Photo Credit: Thomas Wikman

Today, it’s doing a bit better; as of this morning, it’s currently ranked at #619,374. I see that as a positive development…so if you bought a copy because you believe in my abilities to entertain you with my writing, thank you.

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