By ALEXI VENICE–
It’s time for me to come clean and make an admission. Yes, I have one foot through the nursing home door. My weeks are usually full of missteps and gaffes the size of Mt. Everest, but this week entailed one that might get me past the reception desk. I can feel my daughter’s hands on my back now, pushing me into the Dementia Unit.
I know I haven’t posted in a few days—and I apologize for that—but my brain seems to work on writing only one project at a time. I’m 14 chapters into the fifth book in The San Francisco Mystery Series, and this is a TOTAL SUBMERSION project. It’s like going underwater and holding your breath for as long as possible, coming to the surface (reality) for a life-sustaining gulp, then plunging back under to write the free stream of consciousness that’s flowing through me like the mighty Mississippi during springtime.
I have no control over when the muses talk to me. I’m powerless when they overtake my body and create stories in my mind that must be written down for unsuspecting readers to laugh (or gasp) at when they decide to take the plunge and read me. This gush of information (a storyline complete with dialogue, character arc, plot twists and vivid scenery) pushes out all other reality in my life, sometimes making it difficult for me to…well…ah…remember actual reality.
I remember the first time a story populated in my head, demanding to be turned into a book. It was as scary as it was exhilarating. I honestly thought I was having a break from reality and would need anti-psychotic medication. I was happy though. Creating a story is fun! Writing it down is energizing. Having someone read it, and tell me they liked it, is THE BOMB! Then, the process starts all over again with the next book. My adrenaline is pumping as we speak.
However, the writing process is a subversive son-of-a-bitch, taking over my mind to the exclusion of other practical thought. After all, it was Hemingway who said, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.” I’m going to amend that statement with, “Writing, at its best, is a semi-crazy existence.”
Against this backdrop, I made a critical slip. I was texting with Bootie Pepper, and she mentioned that The Pitcher had a baseball game scheduled in Omaha. Hmm. Omaha. I have a work colleague who’s telecommuting from Omaha, so I asked for the day and time of the ballgame to pass along to my work colleague in case she wanted to catch The Pitcher pitching. (Yes. Pun intended.)
Bootie replied with the day and time. I disengaged from writing my murder mystery and looked at her text. I replied, asking her, “What city in Omaha?”
BECAUSE, AT THAT MOMENT, IN MY MIND, OMAHA WAS A STATE, DAMMIT. And, not just a state of mind. A REAL STATE! Maybe the 51st state, I don’t know. Maybe I pictured it as one of the existing 50 states. I don’t know. It was just a state. But I had texted that belief to Bootie Pepper, so she could officially and undeniably conclude that it was time for her to send a down payment to the nursing home. (As long as she doesn’t take away my laptop, I’m good with living there.)
She replied, “Am I seriously supposed to answer that question?”
That was my first clue. With her reply, it slowly, perhaps too slowly, occurred to me that Omaha might not be a state, but a city in a state. Kansas? No. Nebraska. Yes, that’s it—Nebraska.
Here’s a video that Bootie Pepper put on Snap Chat from her perspective.
As I examine the nooks and crannies of my mind to figure out why I thought Omaha was a state, I picture the logo and name of Mutual of Omaha Insurance, and the TV show it sponsored when I was a kid, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
The older gentleman is Marlin Perkins and his sidekick is Jim Fowler. Marlin was renowned for hanging back in the safety of the Jeep while telling Jim to go “wrestle the alligator” or the animal du jour. Johnny Carson first parodied Marlin on the Tonight Show, by saying something like, “I’ll stay in the Jeep, drinking a martini, while Jim wrestles the alligator.” If you’re over 40, you probably remember this.
Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was a Sunday night staple in our house during the 1970’s, so I’m thinking that maybe, through my formative years, “Omaha” took on larger-than-city dimensions, becoming a state in my mind, only to reveal itself during a text message exchange with the one person who holds the keys to the nursing home door and keeps a vigilant lookout for when she needs to unlock it.
Also, in my defense, Omaha is spelled sort of like Oklahoma, an actual state. Both begin with O and end in A. They have H’s and M’s in the middle. It’s all alphabet soup at some point, isn’t it? By the way, I was sober when thinking this, as I am now.
In fact, I’m not the only one who thinks Omaha is larger than life. The U.S. Navy apparently thinks so, too. It has named FOUR SHIPS the USS Omaha. The newest one, a “littoral combat ship”—say that 5 times in a row when you’re tipsy—enjoyed a laying of the keel in 2015 at Mobile, Alabama. Why does that sound a little obscene? Perhaps because I’m still submerged in my book and only came up for air to write this blog post. The word “littoral” is new to me. Maybe I should use it in a book entitled Romance on a Schooner. “She enjoyed a littoral romp with him while they laid the keel.”
I can assure you, however, that I won’t be using “littoral” when giving a presentation. Given my fragile state of mind and potential for gaffes, I’ve accumulated a list of words that I cannot, must not, should not, ever use when talking to a group of people—large or small. The risk of mispronunciation is simply too high. Here it is:
- Littoral (new this week)
- Seminal legal case
I once watched a young lawyer mispronounce “congenital” during a deposition. (He left off “con.”) Now I know why man invented the newspaper—to hide behind while laughing during a deposition. Anyway, why does the Navy do this to us? Can you imagine some poor, drunk sailor in a port of call, plastered, talking to a cute girl in a pub when he slurs the littoral purpose of his fancy ship, describing where the keel was laid? He’d draw a sharp slap across the face. I say, “The Navy is to blame for my mistake.” Maybe we should call Robert Mueller to investigate U.S. Naval naming conventions.
The second thing that happened this week—that I made the mistake of mentioning to my daughter—was that a driver flicked his lights at me to signal a police car around the bend.
I was driving home from work on County Road F when an older gentleman in an oncoming car flicked his lights at me. I instinctively took my foot off the accelerator. (I don’t know why because I always drive the speed limit.) No sooner had I driven up the hill from Lowes Creek, than I encountered the Sheriff with his radar gun pointing at me. Ha! Safe! You don’t scare me, copper!
Has this ever happened to you? Do you flick your lights at oncoming traffic to signal that they are about to encounter a police car? This got me thinking. When did I learn that this was a thing among drivers—to tip each other off to cops? Does the younger generation do this? Do we tell our children to do this? Who told me? How did I even learn this?
I asked Bootie Pepper if she knew this practice, and she emphatically told me no one did this to her, and she didn’t do this to others. But, she said it all in a tone that reeked of doubt and suspicion. I could hear her mind thinking, “You’re the person who thinks Omaha is a state, so I’m not surprised that you now think people are flashing their lights at you to signal there’s a cop down the road.”
Hey, it’s not like I said Marlin Perkins was on County Road F, and he flicked his lights at me. I mean, let’s stay real here, people. I think she unfairly judged me for inquiring.
Please let me know if you flick your lights—or have received a flick—so I can demonstrate to Bootie that I’m not crazy. Also, let me know if any of you live in the sunny State of Omaha, will you?