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It’s the Thought That Counts…

Yes, it’s been quite a while since I’ve spun a post. On the off chance you’re wondering why, it might be that the distressing nature of world events has had my head so caught up in the sorts of things that I do not write about for this blog (!) that I was rendered unable to write for this blog. At least that’s what I think the reason was. Who knows, it might even be true. Not that things have gotten any better lately….

In any case, it was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that jolted me out of this alleged malaise–at last there was something to get upset/annoyed/excited about that did not involve depressingly serious, off-limits stuff.

The article in question is entitled, What Every Newlywed Wants: Forget appliances and china–couples headed to the altar are signing up for cash-gift registries to fund home projects.

As with many WSJ pieces, the title is pretty much a spoiler for what’s to come (not a bad thing, actually). It seems that while I’ve been paying attention to other things, couples planning to marry are signing up on cash registry sites to raise money for home renovation projects. In fact, such funds have become second only to honeymoon funds.

An admission: Until I read this article I had no idea there WERE cash registry sites for engaged couples. This apparent reflection of my age, however, was not altered by the late May wedding of a friend of slightly less than half my age to a fine fellow of more or less the same vintage.  They registered an a whole lot of more traditional retail sites. And notwithstanding the view of one man interviewed for the WSJ article, that, “We really didn’t need a toaster or any of the wacky gifts people give,” I think our newlywed friends really did like, and might even use, the Tiffany serving plate we gave them.

Of course, this is what’s responsible for the title of this blog post. Laura and I really liked the plate and really did think they would, too. Admittedly it was better than another toaster, but I suppose some folks might consider it one of “the wacky gifts people give.” If so, long live wacky gifts. A marriage is such a personal thing that I would expect the guest, assuming he or she really knows and cares about one or both of the new couple, to WANT to put some thought into selecting a gift that he, she or them believes will be appreciated and enjoyed. Cash, on the other hand, requires no thought and does not reflect anything about the giver except exactly how much they were willing or able to spend.

Don’t get me wrong, cash is good! But I’ve always thought it was the province of parents (and perhaps grandparents or your rich uncle Joe) to help the happy couple on their way with a cash wedding gift. Laura and I were certainly grateful that her folks gave us cash for our wedding. But I sure as heck wasn’t expecting our friends to provide dollar bills, and I would have been disappointed (and wondered how much they really cared) if they had.

Getting back to the Journal article, it went on to note that “…gift etiquette can be tricky. ‘Some people thought it was very rude and forward to ask [for cash],’[a woman who was interviewed] said. ‘They were usually older.’ The couple compromised by including items from retail stores.”

Well, yeah, it probably is an age thing, at least to some degree, but I still can’t help but think that the younger folks are missing something. After all, our 30th anniversary is coming up and Laura and I can still remember, generally fondly or at least with a smile, who gave us one of our wacky gifts.

And on the Writing Front

At this very moment the latest Carina Quintana Mystery–All the Rage, number six in the series–is about to be read for the first time by my editor here at Bruised Peach Productions, one Laura G. Benson. Assuming she approves and the edits aren’t too severe, I expect it to be published by mid-October. I’ll keep you all posted, though.

In the meantime, PLEASE tell all your friends, neighbors, colleagues, running or gym companions, people at the next table, etc. to buy and read the first five. In my wholly non-objective view, they get better as they go along, as many series do, so let them read in reverse order if they must!

Late Boomer

Roomer Has It

White Tie & Tales

Dead On A Rival

Loose Canon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indepenence! (Of a different sort…)

Ernst & Young, the partnership of which I was a member, had a 52/53-week fiscal year ending on the Friday closest to June 30. Yes, there is such a thing, and yes it is relevant! You see, the year I retired, 2009, that day fell on Friday, July 3. So, last night, while most of America was preparing for the big Independence Day celebration, Laura and I were celebrating five years of a different kind of independence.

I was very lucky and had a wonderful career, first at Coopers & Lybrand and then at E&Y. I did a great deal more exciting and far-ranging work with many more interesting people than I ever expected, and we got to live in Europe for two years, to boot! And yes, there was a great deal of stress and some miserable clients (and a few colleagues), as well.  It wasn’t the sort of thing a sane person does for reasons other than the paycheck, but as these things go it was pretty terrific.

On the other hand, retirement, or my version of it, at least, has been just plain terrific! I am doing something–writing fiction–that I would be doing even if I were not getting a paycheck (which is a good thing because I’m not getting much of one yet!!)  And working 3-5 hours a day on something you love in a great environment beats the heck out of 10+ hours a day in a “Big 4″ environment, even when it’s a good one!

I think it’s the Life Is Good tee-shirt, etc. people whose motto is “Do what you love, love what you do.” Not many of us ever really get to do that, and I’ve had to wait quite a while myself, but the wait was well worth it!

In any case, I wish what I have now (Yes, Laura’s very much included in that!) for all of you!

And Happy Fourth of July!

 

 

Bookending the GenXers

There was a very interesting, unsurprising, but still fairly disconcerting article in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago entitled, Millennial Disconnect: Kids want money but not hard work.

There have been others like it in recent months and years, but for some reason this one got me thinking.

But first of all, a reminder for those who might not be students of generational naming. The Millennials are the kids born after Generation X, whose birth years ended in the early 80s.  They’re in high school now and the oldest are pushing (OMG!!) their early thirties. In any case, the WSJ article focused on the high school aged group.

It notes that these kids are “…marked bu two opposing economic characteristics that have caused an eye-opening gap; they’re highly materialistic and not necessarily willing to work for the money they need to buy the items they so highly value…”.  The article goes on to report similarly disturbing things, such as the fact they the Millennials themselves report that they expect to own more stuff than their parents had, including things like vacation homes and boats, but that they also “…didn’t anticipate work to be a central part of their lives.”

Perhaps they believe in Santa Claus.

In any case, this all got me thinking about my own generation , the overly ballyhooed (or so we’re told) Baby Boomers. Say what you will about us–and many have–but we expected to work hard, the vast majority of us have done so, and we’ve built an enormously rich and vibrant economy. (There have been more than a few accomplishments on the societal/arts side of the ledger, too, but I’ll leave those aside for now.) More or less the same goes for Generation X, those who came after the Boomers and before the Millennials, though they tend to be a bit more serious-minded than us.

For the most part, the members of these two cohorts did not consider themselves particularly entitled and knew, whether we liked it or not, that we’d have to bust our whatevers if we wanted to really make it. We worked overtime, we knew we’d have to slave for years to become a partner at a law of accounting firm, and if we started our own businesses we realized we might have to do things like sleep on a cot in the office we could not really afford for a year or more (as a friend of mine who started a later-successful electronics business in the 90s did) for the chance to make it, or to lose it all.

The WSJ article goes on to note that (again, as self-reported by these kids), “They’re not particularly willing to work overtime and…one of their obstacles to getting a job was that they didn’t want to work hard enough.”

Whew.

For what it’s worth, in the couple of years preceding my retirement from Ernst & Young, study groups and such were formed, and a good deal of upper management time was spent, dealing with the characteristics of the younger people entering the firm. Lots of other companies are doing the same. The perceived problem was that these folks did not seem willing to accept the very hard work, long hours and high stress that has always been necessary to ensure success at such a firm, or at a big company.  The question was what changes needed to be made–to the firm, to some degree, and to these peoples’ expectations–in order to see that the firm continued to succeed in the future as the numbers of Boomers and Xers our ranks dwindled.

Lest you’re beginning to think that this is merely a rant against Millennials, please bear with me and allow me to explain the other end of the “bookending” part of my title to this post.

I have, for some years, been resisting joining AARP, which many seem to have forgotten once stood for the American Association of Retired Persons. Before I retired it just seemed clear that this was not up my alley; a tax-exempt group providing discounted excursions for old folks and such. But even since my retirement nearly five years ago (!!), I’ve resisted, as I saw the organization rapidly moving away from its supposed mission of supporting the needs of older, retired persons to looking for any possible way to make a buck by providing discounts and other offers on nearly everything to as many people as possible, old or not, retired or not.

This was brought up again to me recently at dinner with good friends, both of whom are working professionals. One happily told Laura and me that she had just joined AARP because of a terrific hotel discount that she wanted to take advantage of. She’s 52, by the way, and as I alluded to, still very much working in an active medical practice.  While I don’t blame her for wanting to utilize this benefit, I was also more than a bit put off by the fact of its existence. The AARP, I thought, by waving this sort of thing in front of anyone 50 or older, working or not, was encouraging every Boomer and more and more of those high-achiever Gen Xers to develop some of that entitled, I deserve it outlook of the Millennials.

So, what we might be moving toward is an entire generation of Americans who want it all but aren’t willing to work for it and an older generation (or generations) who worked like hell for it but are now being seduced into an arguably similar mindset–that is, there’s a lot of gravy out there, why shouldn’t I get some of it, whether I “deserve” it or not!

Hence my bookending title.

All of this–if you agree with my thesis, of course–would seem to leave those hard-working, high-achieving Gen Xers to carry the freight for the whole country as more and more Boomers actually leave the workforce (and perhaps come to expect more stuff to be shoveled their way, courtesy of AARP-type thinking) and the Millennials don’t keep up their end of what everyone used to understand was “the bargain.”

Not good, I think.

 

 

Hedwig, Anna, St. John’s and Credit Card Fraud

“Jesus, this place is fucking enormous,” Simpson said.

“Nicely put,” she said. “Most of the websites I looked at called it vast, and they left out the flowery adjectives.”

“Flowery adjectives?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Hey don’t go all prude on me now, Quintana.”

“We are inside a church,” Carina said.

“Not one of yours, though,” Simpson said.

“A church is a church.”

“Tell that to the Pope.”

“Funny,” Carina said.

“Okay, fine, it’s freakin’ vast,” he said. “Now, where the hell…where the heck is Saint Saviour’s Chapel?”

“Follow me,” Carina replied.

She began striding up the six-hundred-foot-long nave crossing toward the main altar, and Simpson had to hustle to keep up with her. It was a two city block walk, like walking up Seventh Avenue from Prime’s office at Times Square and 42nd Street to 44th, and they passed what seemed like nearly as many tourists here as congregated at that famous intersection as they made their way up the nave.

This little bit of repartee is from the latest Carina Quintana Mystery, Loose Canon, in which the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights plays a significant role. Laura and I walked into it this past Monday in the midst of a quick jaunt to NYC that began last Saturday, and she pretty much had the same reaction as Pete Simpson did! It’s bigger than Notre Dame in Paris, among many others (actually, St. John’s is the biggest church in the world) and you feel as though you’re in Europe when you’re inside it. Incredible stained glass, too, in both quantity and beauty.

So, what about this Hedwig, you ask? It refers to the new show on Broadway, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick Harris (and you wondered what he was going to do after How I Met Your Mother ended its long TV run!). Seeing the show was our excuse for the NY trip and, had we done nothing else, it would have been worth the plane ride. Amazing! Maybe TWO mazings! And NPH is phenomenal. Get tix if you can.

Oh, yeah, then there’s Anna.  It seems the Costume Institute at the Met recently got a major–and very expensive and well publicized–redo, and Laura wanted to see it and the show that premiered there about designer Charles James. I tagged along, of course. The dresses were interesting and more than a little weird; James was quite unique, it seems. But all the hubbub about the Institute redo was difficult to fathom. Not a very large space, downstairs, all black. And the Anna part? It’s for Anna Wintour, whose name’s also on the place–no ego there….

Even though it’s not in the title line, we did, of course, eat while we were in NY. We’d been wanting to try Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lamb’s Club resto for a while, and since we were staying in the theater district and the restaurant is on 44th Street, we grabbed the opportunity. Don’t bother. Kinda cool decor, decent service, very good quality ingrediants BUT, uninteresting preparations (that sounded interesting on the menu) with little flavor. We also went back to a couple of faves, Hearth and Blue Ribbon, downtown, and both were, as usual, excellent.

And now for the credit card fraud. When we were in NYC last June, I used my Visa card in several taxis–very convenient. The day after we got back to SoBe, I got a call from my good friends at Citibank notifying me of fraud on the card. Someone had used it to buy stuff in Sweden. Okay, they cancelled the card, issued a new one and all I had to do was deal with the dozens of auto-pays, etc to which the card was tied. Fast forward to this trip. No use in taxis, I decreed! And I didn’t. But the evening we got home, another call from Citi; this time it was used in Ohio. I’m beginning to think it’s a NY thing….

So there you go. Head for NY (if you’re not already there!), get tix for Hedwig, skip the Lamb’s Club, drop into St. John”s and take in the show at the Met if you’re so inclined–after all, there are always other things to see there!

 

 

 

Not Just for Kindle Anymore!

For all of you who’ve been impatiently waiting for the latest Carina Quintana Mystery, Loose Canon, to become available for devices other than the Kindle, your wait is over! Rejoice, for Loose Canon is now also available in the Apple iBooks Store, as well as through other distributors of e-books.

Just to remind you, Carina’s latest case takes her back to New York, where someone is leaving bodies, gruesomely stabbed in the heart, on church altars. Now wealthy and celebrated through her true crime books and settled in with the alluring Alice, the former chief of Miami Beach PD is in need of new challenges. She accepts a position with the mega-private investigations firm to which her ex-NYPD partner, Pete Simpson, escaped, and is immediately thrust into what may turn out to be the biggest–and most book-worthy–case of her career. Scouring the city’s grandest, as well as its more modest houses of worship, they hunt clues to a serial killer whose methods reflect a twisted mind, only to uncover what may be another deliverer of death, one whose own motivations can hardly be fathomed. Following up on the (if I must say so myself!) intriguing Dead On A Rival, Loose Canon is yet another of my (as Kirkus Reviews put it) “tightly plotted crime thrillers…sure to please fans of police procedurals.”

So, what are you waiting for? Go get and read Loose Canon, and tell all your friends!

Finally!

The new book is out!

Actually, it hasn’t really been that long, but it seems as though I’ve been talking about it for a while, so…finally!

It’s called Loose Canon and as the Amazon book description (think dust jacket) says:

Carina Quintana’s latest case takes her back to New York, where someone is leaving bodies, gruesomely stabbed in the heart, on church altars. Now wealthy and celebrated through her true crime books and settled in with the alluring Alice, the former chief of Miami Beach PD is in need of new challenges. She accepts a position with the mega-private investigations firm to which her ex-NYPD partner, Pete Simpson, escaped, and is immediately thrust into what may turn out to be the biggest–and most book-worthy–case of her career. Scouring the city’s grandest, as well as its more modest houses of worship, they hunt clues to a serial killer whose methods reflect a twisted mind, only to uncover what may be another deliverer of death, one whose own motivations can hardly be fathomed. Following up on the intriguing Dead On A Rival, Loose Canon is yet another of the author’s (as Kirkus Reviews put it) “tightly plotted crime thrillers…sure to please fans of police procedurals.”
So, go out and buy it and tell all your friends and neighbors and colleagues and your lawn guy and…well, you get it, and ENJOY it.
Oh, and the iBooks version is in the works, too, but for reasons best known to someone other than me, it takes MUCH longer to publish on the non-Kindle sites as for Amazon. And, of course, I’ll let you know when it happens!
So there you have it. Loose Canon. Aloha.


Jack Russells and Autonomous Cars

Back when Laura and I were living in Northern Virginia, we were walking around Old Town Alexandria one sunny Sunday afternoon. Outside a Starbuck’s on King Street, a woman stood wrangling two puppies. One was a skinny, Italian breed (as we later learned) that was so shy it would not get out from behind its master’s leg when Laura tried to pet it. The other was a Jack Russell, and as you might imagine it was not quite as shy.

In fact, of course, the Jack was jumping up and down, yanking at its leash, intrigued with everything around it. Laura’s problem in trying to pet it wasn’t the puppy’s reticence; it was trying to find a moment when the dog was still enough to be petted!

We chatted with the woman, who turned out to be a breeder/trainer, and with regard to the Jack Russell, she said,  “Oh, they’re great dogs, you just have to learn how to channel their energy.”

It was then we decided that if we ever got a dog, it would NOT be a Jack Russell. We flattered ourselves thinking we had better things to do than to figure out how to channel a dog’s energy.

Roll forward a number of years. We now seem to be faced with a cadre of people who think it would be a good idea if your car drove itself, at least part of the time, starting with freeways. (Google is a major proponent, an investor, by the way.) In any case, whatever you might think about the concept–and especially the reality–of “autonomous,” or self-driving, cars, a recent experience put what I suspect is a little-thought-about aspect of this possibility into focus for me.

Laura and I were on Interstate 75 heading to Naples, FL at about 4:00 in the afternoon. Traffic was heavy, but moving at the speed limit or better, when I noticed in my rear view mirror an older gold-colored Honda Accord with rims sticking out way past the side bodywork seriously weaving in and out of traffic. This wasn’t your garden variety weaving, as practiced fairly regularly in South Florida and elsewhere, this was professional grade, two lanes or more at a time and virtually no space into which to slide, but did it anyway, repeatedly.

In addition to thinking the usual why is there never a cop for this but I’ll probably get a ticket for going 81 in a 70, another, very different thought crossed my mind:  When we do get self-driving cars, how are we ever going to channel the energy of guys like this?

Now forgive me for being unkind (not to mention practicing psychiatry without a license), but my impression of such drivers (this one was male, and they usually are, although that seems to be changing a bit lately) is that they’re probably not the brightest folks in the world and are likely unhappy, unsuccessful people who feel they have to show the world how much better they are than everyone else in some way. Also, perhaps at least some of them are anti-social, dangerous in other ways, too, and possibly even criminal.

Anyway, if we were to take away their (perhaps only?) opportunity to “express” themselves/blow off steam, by eliminating their ability to demonstrate their extraordinary driving skills in such ways, what then?  How would they channel their energy? And what effect would it have on the rest of us?  I could speculate, but the fact is I have a bad feeling that whatever the answer turned out to be, the police and something more than a moving violation would be involved.

Self-driving cars are NOT a good idea, and this is yet another reason.

Okay, well, since this is a writer’s blog, I suppose I should mention that I’m about a third finished with my final read-through of the new Carina Quintana Mystery, Loose Canon.  Next step, Laura as usual gets to be the first person to read it. Hopefully, it’ll be published sometime in April.

Aloha.

 

 

 

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