The Prairie Cinema

“It is Tuesday, isn’t it?” I ask.

The local theater in this small Midwestern town looks shabby, dark, and uninviting. The October air is too chilly for waiting by the door, and yet Gary and I don’t want to give up so easily.  We sit in the truck to watch for other movie goers. Showtime is 7:00 p.m. Supposedly! About five to seven, a car parks in front of us and a young man gets out.

Gary jumps out to talk to the new arrival. “Do you know if the theater is open today?”

“Yes,” the young man says, “I’m just going to open it.”

It turns out he is the projectionist, ticket seller, ticket taker, usher, popcorn salesman … everything.

We expect worn wooden chairs, planked floors, and clapboard walls to match the exterior of the building. To our surprise, we are shown into a modern theatre with a red carpet and plush velour-covered seats.

“You can go on in and sit down,” the projectionist says. “I’ll turn the heat up a bit for you.” We exchange smiles.

It feels odd being the only patrons, but we shrug and settle down to watch the trivia entertainment until the previews come on. At this point, the sound becomes garbled.

“This isn’t good. Can’t he tell there’s something wrong with the sound?”

“I’ll go tell him,” Gary offers. When he comes back the sound problem is fixed. “Our young man was out in the lobby chatting with someone and hadn’t noticed.”

Three other people show up about 7:30, just as the main feature begins. Locals know how it works.

But with such a small turnout, how can the theater stay in business? I do some quick figuring.  At $5.50 each, the total take for the evening, not counting candy and popcorn, is $27.50.

And how ironic, that in this tiny hick town with only one bank, tonight’s movie is “Wall Street.”

After the movie, as we wait for the truck to warm up, we have a good look at the outside of the building.

“Look at the long-ago facelifts these outside walls have had,” I say. “And all from different time periods. Brick facing, vinyl siding, old dark brown wood shingles. Doesn’t seem to go with the new red carpet and plush seats inside.”

Gary points to the side of the building. “And look at these lights. The projectionist must have turned them on while we were inside.”

Last year’s flashing Christmas bulbs light up the sign welcoming patrons to the Prairie Cinema. They may not have been quite ready to open the theater for this evening, but they are definitely ready for Christmas.

Sailors’ Delight

 

The saying goes something like this:

Red sky at night,

Sailors’ delight.

Red sky at morning,

Sailors take warning.????????????????????

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I’m happy to say this was the red sky at night, therefor, sailors’ delight.

Somehow, someone had figured out the weather patterns by the look of the sky. The old salts would have been very aware of the changes in the sky, just as the new salts are aware, although the latter have the help of modern meteorology and constant weather updates on their VHF radios.

Still, they hang onto the old beliefs. Some sayings, such as the one about the “red sky ” are wise and based on common sense, while others make about as much sense as an old wives’ tale.

Here are some other bad luck superstitions that fishermen still pay attention to (even if they don’t outright believe in them):

!. Never start a trip on a Friday.

2. Never open a tin can upside down on the boat.

3. Never whistle on a boat. You’ll whistle up the wind.

4. It’s bad luck to change the name of a boat.

5. Being followed by a shark brings a boat bad luck (I can believe that one, especially if I were planning on dangling my hand over the side!)

But a sailor at sea,

(though it’s not for me),

is something that many

would love to be

 

A blog that mentions sailing and superstitions of sailors can be found at Victor Tribunsky’s fabulous travel blog. Just click on his name. You’ll be amazed at the many places Victor has been and has told about. His photos are excellent.

Do you have any superstitions that nag you? Maybe you don’t really believe them but you still don’t tempt fate by going against them?

Sea Lions

The tiny community of Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island has a very small population (something over 800 people) but I think it would be half as large again if you could count the sea lions that have taken up temporary residence there. At first it was only a stopping place for the Steller sea lions but in recent years their smaller cousins, the California sea lions, have traveled farther up the coast following the food source.

At this time of year when the herring arrive to spawn near the beaches of Vancouver Island, the sea lions have decided they like the sheltered east coast of the island. Later, many of them will move farther north and also onto the west coast of the island open to the Pacific to chase the salmon in the summer, much to the annoyance of the commercial fishermen. The last thing they want to see is a sea lion following their trolling lines, eating every fish they are lucky enough to hook before they can even think about bringing it aboard.??????????

The photo above shows only a small fraction of the clusters of sea lions of both types that are now living here, quite close to people and boats. Some even try to get aboard.

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Let’s go fishing!

I’m not sure I’d want to have my sailboat anchored so close to these guys. I suppose the side of the hull is high enough so they can’t climb aboard, but I wouldn’t be dangling that crab pot on the stern. Sea lions can leap up from the water high enough to make me nervous if I were aboard.

If you click to enlarge some of the photos, you may see that many of the sea lions have battle scars. The stories they could tell.

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Sea lions don’t sound much like lions, but rather more like dogs — huge ferocious dogs with over a thousand pounds of weight pushing the deep vibrations out of their fat throat. “OW! OW! OW! OW!” they bark in their baritone voice. I couldn’t help wondering what they were saying.

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The size difference is not always immediately apparent, but when you see the California sea lion (on the left, below) next to a Steller sea lion (the paler one on the right, below) you can easily believe that there is a difference of more than a thousand pounds between them (about 660 lbs. for the adult male California sea lion and 2200 lbs. for the adult male Steller sea lion).

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They don’t seem to mind lying side by side on the breakwater, although none of them is giving up his spot, real estate being at a premium.

One thing I wondered about, is why they sit with their head thrown back. Several theories occurred to me:

  • they’re just enjoying the sunshine
  • they’re letting their last meal digest (since they swallow their food without much chewing)
  • their head is so heavy that by putting it back over their shoulders, they don’t have to hold up the weight and strain their neck.
  • they’re being snobbish
  • they’re trying to escape the smell

If anyone knows the real reason, I’d love to know.

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The ones who are not lucky enough to get a place on the breakwater simply raft up together nearby. They seem to be relaxed enough, floating on their backs, noses in the air for easier breathing as they doze.

Their main enemies are humans, sharks, and killer whales. Safety in numbers.??????????

Another raft of sea lions. They seem to be everywhere.
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A Steller sea lion in the photo below is quite content to rest his chin on the California’s backside. Cal doesn’t seem to mind. “Oh, Stella, Do that again. Yes, right there. Scratch harder. Feels so-o-o-o good!”

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After a while, the uninterrupted clamour was enough to have me digging frantically in my purse for a couple of Advils. I suppose I could have done what this fellow did – book an island retreat and go for a soothing swim all alone, far from the madding crowd.

Spider Hideouts

 

 

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Camped near a beautiful beach in Mexico, we often bought our fruit and vegetables from the produce truck.  One day, I lugged home three big bags of vegetables.

“Coming to the beach?” Gary asked.

“You go ahead. I’ll be down right after I clean these veggies,” I grumbled, slapping at the tiny biting flies. I soon gave up trying to work outside and brought the vegetables into the bug-free trailer to clean them in my little kitchenette.

Done at last! Now for the beach and a cool swim. I hurried outside to bring in my bathing suit from the clothesline we had strung between two coconut palms. I was about to step into it, when I let out a shriek. A brown critter about the size of a wolf spider was waiting for me inside the bathing suit bra.

Anyone passing by must have gawked at the bathing suit flying out the doorway.

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I was late getting to the beach that day, and although the water was refreshing, I couldn’t relax. Other swimmers must have wondered at the woman who kept pulling away the top of her bathing suit to look at her boobs.

That evening, we sat at the kitchen table playing cards and relaxing with an Oso Negro gin and peach juice. I tidied up the last few things before getting into bed.

Gary had just finished brushing his teeth and as he came out of the bathroom he heard me GASP! His eyes followed my arm as I pointed to the corner of the trailer. There, clinging to the ceiling, sat the biggest spider I’d ever seen. The fuzzy dark brown visitor had a body the size of my thumb and could easily straddle a saucer. If I had been a screamer they would have heard me all the way to Mazatlan.

“And I’ve been sitting there playing cards all evening with that thing poised over my head,” I wailed.

I handed Gary the fly swatter. “If it gets away,” I said, shakily, “I’m not sleeping in here tonight and I’ll be on the plane tomorrow.”

“It must have come in with the vegetables,” he said, as he tossed its crumpled body outside.

And where had it been while I sat there cleaning them? I wondered. Hiding in the cauliflower leaves? How close had I come to touching it? Shivers ran down my back.

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The next day we visited an open air market. I admired the handmade wooden cutting boards and picked one up to study the grain. Something ran over my hand. I threw the board into the air and squealed, “Una araña!” The vendor laughed and seemed unperturbed as I pointed to the gigantic spider running in his direction.

I was having serious thoughts of home. But imagine missing all this fun.

Colourful Evenings

The closest I can come to experiencing some colourful evenings in my own version of Fifty Shades of Grey is by looking at the colour of the sky on any given day of this past winter. We’ve had what feels like about three months of fog, cloud, wind, and rain in various combinations and every possible shade of grey.

Suddenly we’ve had a few days of clearer skies.

I had forgotten how beautiful the clouds can be when a few rays of sunshine are allowed to reach them.

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Beyond my still “winterized” black walnut tree, I see a sky that looks as if it has been painted by an amateur watercolour artist. But what a lovely palette of colours the painter has.

??????????I feel hopeful that spring is just around the corner. If only I knew which corner it was, I’d run out to meet it.

Pets I Have Loved

As long as I can remember, my family has always had pets, whether they were gerbils, tropical fish, turtles, or cats and dogs. One of the first pet pictures I have is of Bobby and I’m sure he was a Heinz 57 breed. That didn’t mean we loved him less.

img728As my brother and I grew older, we still loved to pose with Bobby.

img726Our next dog was a collie type, but also Heinz 57. Her name was Trudy, but we didn’t have her long. I think she may have nipped someone and my parents found a home for her on a nearby farm. Here we are (my brother and two sisters) all sitting on the sidewalk by our house in the boonies. The sweet little girl on the far right is a neighbour.

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Then we had a shaggy mongrel dog who looked like a mop. We called him Mopsy and loved him SO much. On the picture below, where my sister is all dressed up for the Fall Fair parade, Mopsy is favouring one of his legs. He had tried to jump the fence when he was tied up and we weren’t home. He broke his leg and we felt terrible. But after some time in a cast, his leg healed. We had Mopsy for years, but one day he wandered up the street in the night to visit a bitch in heat and came home with a load of shot in his chest. He crawled under the shed and died. We were just heartbroken.

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All grown up, I still had pets. Our chocolate lab, Toby, had a litter of puppies, one of which our friends adopted. Nicky was supposedly the runt of the litter, but he turned out to be probably the best dog of the bunch.
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On our little hobby farm, I am surrounded by pets: the chickens, our chocolate lab (Toby), and my two lovely cats, Shorty (the lighter one) and Cowboy (the dark one). img571Here is Shorty.

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And here is Cowboy.

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We had a couple of other dogs who were not remarkable and I don’t have photos of them, but when Lily came along, she was our best dog up to that time. She was an English springer spaniel, who never gave up on retrieving a bird. Lily was an excellent bird dog, and a very sweet house dog. She not only enjoyed being petted, but she came over to give hugs. She would lay her head against my knee and sigh a real Valentine’s sigh. If Lily could have talked, we would have heard her telling us she loved us many times. And the feeling was mutual.

Lily, age 73

Lily looks a bit scruffy on the photos because she was quite old by this time (73 in people years) and she had Cushing’s Syndrome, a disease that attacks the adrenal glands and has many awful side effects. In the photo below, she had just been to the vet and I had her out on the sundeck where she liked to spend time. She let me dress her up as Lily the maid. I put the vacuum beside her and pretended she was helping clean the house. She would let me do anything with her. So easy going. So loving. She didn’t last much longer after these last days and I’ll always miss my sweet Lily.

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Then we got Ruby, the English springer on the right (below). It turns out she has some of the same ancestry that Lily had, and although Ruby was a monster puppy who put me through hell, she has redeemed herself many times over and is like another Lily – an excellent bird dog and a loving pet. To keep her company, we got a buddy for her – Emma on the left. She is an English cocker spaniel.

??????????Just behind Emma and to the right, you can see the evidence of one of her bad puppy habits. She likes to dig! But she is focused. Emma, is definitely a bird dog.

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Finding Love – Then and Now

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I’m always interested in hearing how people found their soulmates.

A hundred years ago (and still today in some cultures), the family sometimes arranged marriages for their children.

In small towns, people often find each other in high school. The girl/boy next door may be surprised to realize they are right for each other once they grow up. Yet others meet in small town colleges or at community dances.

Nowadays, in big cities, people find their life partners in the clubs or online, either in chat rooms or on dating sites.

I’m not saying people were happier in marriage in the old days, but it seems to me there are a lot of unhappy relationships nowadays.

The differences between oldtime and modern ways:

  • People met face to face — not image to image
  • They spoke to each other — not texting
  • They saw each other around town and knew of each other — not sight unseen, meeting for the first time out of the blue as a result of online dating or a chat room conversation
  • Families knew each other — whereas people who meet online don’t know anything about each other except what the person says.

In movies about people who find love in the city, often the new love interest can be good looking and end up having some unexpected flaw (like a history of violent behaviour, a personality disorder, or an STD).

Small town relationships often avoid these situations because people know each other, but the background of people you meet randomly in a bar, or a club, is often an unknown entity.

How to do your background checking without seeming to be doing detective work:

  • Get to know his/her friends, family, and co-workers.
  • Let the friendship grow slowly, without commitments.
  • Find out how long the friends have known the person.
  • Take time to get to know the friends of the friends and listen to what they say.

*****

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In all three of my novels none of the “tried and true” methods applied when meeting men. The women have all ignored one of the rules—that of first getting to know their man—and they have landed in a mess.

Andrea, my character in The Wind Weeps, is a people pleaser. She thinks everyone is as kind-hearted, honest, and fair as she is. When a very attractive man tells her he can’t live without her, she ignores all the warning signs niggling at her brain,  and ignores the advice of friends and of people who know the handsome man. Stranded on the rough BC coast, she will pay a heavy price for her gullibility.

In Orion’s Gift, Sylvia is a hard worker who has an insecurity problem. Determined to take control of her life, she takes a big step towards getting out of a bad marriage, but before long, she meets another man who, smitten with her good looks, convinces her to give him a chance. The beaches of Baja and the carefree lifestyle it invites make it tempting to fall in love again. But will it be another mistake? What baggage does the new man bring into the relationship? And what about her own baggage? Can love survive excess baggage?

In Julia’s Violinist, Julia has three men in her life. She loves them all, and yet she seems to be blown about like a leaf in the wind. Fate dictates her life. But of one thing she is sure—her children come first.

If you want to experience romance and suspense with three distinct background settings, give yourself a treat over the Valentine’s weekend, and download one of my books. Better yet, download all three and get three times the thrill. Just click on the book cover images at the left side of this post.

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