Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Character Profile: B. J. Vinson

I have had some questions recently from aspiring authors and readers about how deeply I go into the character of the individuals who populate my novels. In my opinion,I should know the protagonist of the work as well as I know my siblings. When a major player takes action or thinks on the pages of a manuscript, those actions and reactions must be consistent with the character of that individual.

Almost everyone who’s done serious writing sooner or later will say, “I couldn’t get So-And-So to do that." I like hearing such a response because it means the writer has taken the time and trouble to create a multidimensional individual for the novel. That is something I strive to do, and in aid of that (along with the sharp eye of a good critiquer), I go to the trouble of creating a pretty deep character profile of my protagonist and usually of the principal antagonist, as well. In a continuing series such as THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, THE BISTI BUSINESS, and upcoming THE CITY OF ROCKS (Martin Brown Publishers), I also do profiles on the recurring characters in the series, although these secondary characters do not receive such extensive treatment.

I thought it might be interesting to show the profile of the lead character in the above-mentioned series, a confidential investigator named Burleigh J. (do you blame him for using his initials?) Vinson. Warning: As with most things, events and personalities evolve a bit over time, so any changes penciled in during the writing of the three books do not appear below. You’ll also see detailed descriptions of such things as BJ’s home, office, and automobile so I can be consistent about such details. Let’s take a look:




CHARACTER’S NAME:      Burleigh J. Vinson

ALIAS/NICKNAMES:         BJ and Vince

DOB/POB/AGE:                    September 12, 1972   (33, almost 34 at the time of Zozobra)


RACE:                                    Caucasian

ETHNIC GROUP:                 Anglo (English)

HEIGHT:                                6”

WEIGHT:                               170 lbs

COMPLEXION/SKIN TYPE:  Sandlewood – light brown

BLEMISHES:                        A lentigo, a brown spot on his right cheek no larger than a mole

EYE TYPE & SHAPE:          Deep-set

EYE COLOR:                        Apple green or light green

NOSE:                                    English –narrow

HAIR COLOR/STYLE:        Mocha – Used to wear it in a Marine razor cut, now touches collar

FACIAL HAIR:                     None

HEAD SHAPE:                      Oval

MOUTH:                                Broad with full lips

CHIN:                                     Firm chin, almost stubborn, with a cleft

CHEEKS:                               Hollow, but not gaunt

TEETH:                                   Pearly, the front uppers just miss being bucked

FACIAL TYPE:                     Aristocratic, which he considers funny as his people came from
                                                shepherds and barkeeps.  Chiseled features.

BODY TYPE:                        Lean, but athletic from years in the military and the police gym

NECK:                                    Obvious Adam’s apple

SHOULDERS:                       Square, still retains military bearing

HANDS & ARMS:                Corded arms and surprisingly long, sensitive hands

CHEST:                                  Defined pecs, sprinkling of light hair between nipples

BELLY:                                  Flat, first hint of love handles at his sides

LEGS & HIPS:                       Leggy, runner’s muscles

FEET:                                      Like his hands, are long

VOICE:                                  Throaty baritone that fluctuates with mood and conditions

DISTINGUISHING PHYSICAL FEATURES:  Bullet scar on inner right thigh, lentigo on right cheek, cleft chin

PHYSICAL CONDITION (Fit, Unfit, other):  Fit

PHYSICAL IMPERFECTIONS (Would like to change most):  He would prefer a heavier frame

CHARACTERISTIC GESTURES/ TYPICAL BODY LANGUAGE:  Often emphasizes his words with a shrug. Leans forward when intense. Muscles sometimes bunch when he’s under stress


RELIGION:  Presbyterian


            DOB:  9/12/72

            POB:  Albuquerque, NM

            1978 – 1990 – grade, Jr. High, and High School in Albuquerque

            1990 – 1992 – Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute (AA Lib Arts)

            1992-1996 USMC – Military Police

            1996-2005 Albuquerque Police Department

            2000 – Completes BA in History at UNM by attending classes at night school

            June 2001 – makes detective at APD

            4/12/02 – Meets Del Dahlman

            1/31/03 – Both parents die in automobile crash on I-40 in Albuquerque

            3/15/03 – Dahlman moves in with him

            5/10/04 – Shot in the right thigh as he tries to apprehend a suspected murderer

            5/10/04 – 3/20/05 – Hospital and on recuperative leave for his wound

            3/20/05 – Medical retirement from APD

            6/21/05 – Del Moves out

            9/15/05 – starts B. J. Vinson, Confidential Investigations

FAMILY BACKGROUND/LINEAGE (Family Tree, description & ages of immediate family):  Robert and Frances Burleigh Vinson, both 65, are retired Albuquerque Public School teachers. Conservative in nature, Robert nonetheless makes a loan to a struggling new Albuquerque business that goes on to become Microsoft. They leave an estate worth $12,000,000 after inheritance taxes when they die in Jan 03

There was an older brother who died as a child. The Vinsons had no other children

YEARS OF SCHOOLING:  See personal background. Good grades, a 3.8 grade point average.
Special Occupational Training: Marine Corps Provost Marshall’s training, APD police academy

SKILLS, ABILITIES, & TALENTS:  Reads people well. Is a careful observer.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE:  Good investigative skills. Well versed in local history. Decent marksman. Did light boxing in school. Good swimmer.

OCCUPATION:  Licensed confidential investigator operating from a suite of offices on the third floor of a historic five-story white concrete block building with an open atrium that goes all the way to the roof. The building is located on the SE corner of 5th and Copper NW across the street from the main Albuquerque library.

PAST OCCUPATIONS:  See Personal Background. As a child and youth, had paper routes, took tickets in local theater, projectionist in theater

MILITARY EXPERIENCE:  Four years in USMC, Provost Marshall’s Office. Mustered out as a First Lieutenant. Saw no combat. Spent entire time in Southern California

HOME:  Inherited Residence from parents at 5228 Post Oak Drive NW, Albuquerque, a ‘50’s contemporary, cross-gabled home with a stone foundation and red brick walls with tall windows and white trim. Symmetrical, fronted by a wide, low-ceilinged porch enclosed by a stone balustrade topped by a wooden railing high enough to prop one’s feet on it while sitting on a porch rocker. Square, tapered pedestals set into the stone balustrade support a heavy roof at the corners and on each side of the concrete front steps. Pale Shrub roses and English Legends line the front of the house while Heirloom roses bank the driveway up the left side of the house all the way to the detached garage. The home has a basement with small casement windows.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  An older neighborhood settled in the ‘50s by middle class working people. It is now somewhat of a geriatric neighborhood. BJ is by far the youngest resident on his street.


PERSONALITY TRAITS (Select one or more):  Extrovert, Intelligent, Type A

SHORT-TERM GOALS:  Works to make a success of his business. Although he doesn’t need the money, he wants to feel productive

LONG-TERM GOALS:  Searching for a long-term relationship with a life partner.

SHORT TERM NEEDS:  Needs to find a candidate for such a relationship.

LONG TERM NEEDS:  Has to do water therapy on a fairly regular basis to avoid limping from the gunshot wound.

QUIRKS:  Loyal to a fault. Usually takes him a long time to develop friendships; also takes a long time for him to let them go. Stubborn.

IQ:  129

TEMPERMENT:  Calm, pleasant, but not overly social.

METHOD OF HANDLING ANGER OR RAGE (Throwing things, repress, etc.):  Internalizes and analyzes. Dissipates anger with physical activity such as swimming or indulging in his passion for history.

ADMIRABLE TRAITS:  Loyalty. A good work ethic. Fits into almost any social strata, from working the trenches to operating in the boardroom.

NEGATIVE TRAITS:  Sometimes allows his “gut” to override his other senses. He shies away from danger because of the shooting, but plucks up enough courage to go through with the job in spite of it.

BAD HABITS/VICES:  He smoked, but gave it up in 2003

MOST PAINFUL THINGS IN CHARACTER’S LIFE:  Dealing with his homosexuality in his younger years, but he’s come to terms with it now. Split with what he thought was his life partner. Dealing with a gunshot wound and its aftermath.

EVER BEEN ARRESTED?  (If so, for what/ results?):  No

IMPORTANT POLITICAL OR SOCIAL ISSUES:  Tacitly supports gay rights, but does not actively advocate them

OPINION ON ABORTION:  Supports a woman’s right to choose

OPINION ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:  As a history buff, he’s careful about the environment. Believes in global warming, for example.

OPINION ON HOMOSEXUALITY:  He is homosexual. He fought it in his teens, but has come to grips with his orientation and is comfortable with it. He is not in the closet, but does not advertise the fact he is gay unless there is a valid reason to do so. He is masculine in his deportment, so casual acquaintances often do not know he’s gay. Monogamous. Prefers masculine partners. Turned off by flamboyant behavior. He doesn’t consciously seek out the company of other gays, but doesn’t avoid them, either. He does not like gay bars; in fact, he doesn’t particularly like bars in general.

OPINION ON MILITARY:  Pro – volunteered for the Marine Corps despite his homosexuality in order to prove a point to himself. Found it a positive experience.

OPINION ON CRIME AND GUN CONTROL:  As an ex-police officer, he’s anti crime, pro-gun control, especially on the matter of assault weapons

POLITICAL PARTY:  He’s an independent, but tends to be socially liberal

INCOME:  The investigations business earns him a decent living, but he derives a satisfactory income from his family trust. He has a personal income of over $120,000 per year. Trust income is larger.

SENSE OF HUMOR:  Wry. Doesn’t object to off-color humor, but doesn’t like it dirty.

FEARS:  The gunshot wound he suffered still haunts him.

HOBBIES AND OUTSIDE INTERESTS: history. He likes to take road trips around the state.

SPORTS:  He played football in high school and follows the sport casually, enough so he can discuss games in a bar situation. Swims and golfs. Shoots in high 80’s.

FAVORITE PASTIME:  Relaxing with friends and taking short trips to historical and natural sites of interest around the state. Occasional rounds of golf, swimming.

ATTITUDE ON ALCOHOL (Drinks, How often, favorite drink):  Limits himself to 2 alcoholic drinks at any one time. He strictly avoids drinking while on the job. If he’s caught     in a social situation while working, he has one drink and then switches to a non-alcoholic drink

FAVORITE MEAL:  Green chili chicken stew

CLOTHNG STYLES/FAVORITE OUTFIT:  Prefers casual clothing—slacks & pullover shirts. Not a natty dresser, but always presents a good image.

SPEAKING STYLE:  Generally soft-spoken, speaks casually, but doesn’t rely on the vernacular too heavily.  Tends to drop the word I at the beginning of a sentence. “Wouldn’t want to do that.” Rather than, “I wouldn’t want to do that.” Speaks limited Spanish, and often uses Spanish nouns for certain things.

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE:  Live and let live

TYPE AND NUMBER OF CLOSE FRIENDS:  A lot of friendly relationships, but few close friends who tend to be professional or friends from his past

BEST FRIEND:  Detective Gene Enriquez, his old APD partner

OTHER FRIENDS:  Hazel Harris, his secretary and surrogate mother, Charlie Weeks, a retired cop who helps out in the business. A few old school friends.

CAR/COLOR:  A 2003, four-door Chevrolet Impala, white w/tinted windows. In first novel replaced by a 2007, white 4-dr Impala SS w/303 h/p, 5.3-liter V8 engine with Active Fuel Management technology that regulates between 8-cylinder and 4 cylinder operation.

DRIVE FAST OR SLOW/OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS:  Pushes highway speed limits by a couple of MPH, but generally obeys all other traffic laws.

CHARACTER GROWTH BY END OF STORY, CHARACTER CHANGES, LESSONS LEARNED:  Grows enough to let go of a failed relationship to the point he can do business with the man who wronged him. This frees him to begin a new relationship.


So, dear readers, I hope I kept him true to himself? If you find otherwise, please let me know.

Next week: I haven’t the foggiest.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Gathering for Digby

Digby Henry
This past Sunday, October 20, some fifty to seventy friends, family, and colleagues of Digby Henry met to celebrate his life. My blog of August 15 told of his sudden and unexpected death.

The setting for this confirmation of Digby’s journey through this existence was perfect. Connie, his widow, chose the home of a friend a few miles south of Albuquerque, a beautiful horse ranch at the edge of a river valley plain with broad vistas in a rural, rustic environment. The horses were therapy animals, so it was appropriate that a palomino, a pinto, and a roan drew close to the gathered crowd as if to vicariously participate as they munched grass at the fence line. Several of the people in the back yard of the gracious home reached through the wire to pet them.

The Good Lord graced us with a magnificent, cloudless, blue sky that stretched overhead to infinity. The day had started with a distinctly chilly morning, but by noon, the official time for the gathering, people were shedding coats and sweaters. The wind was still, only occasionally ruffling a scarf or a lock of hair.

In addition to Connie and their daughter, a niece and two of Digby’s brothers were present, looking so much like him it was both stressing and comfortable. As if “almost Digby” were present in the flesh (although neither had his distinctive brogue). But the one thing I am certain of is that Digby, himself, was present in the spirit and having a delightful time.

Connie chose an aboriginal ceremony to honor her late husband. The crowd, collected around in a large circle stood with her while she addressed the Six Directions—the Four Cardinals, Father Sky, and Mother Earth—taking the time to detail the significance of each.

Then a man spoke of the Seventh Direction, a concept familiar to me. It is a gift hidden in the heart, yet undiscovered by so many of us. It is the recognition of who we really are. A direction on no plane, yet on all planes. A gift of higher purpose…a sort of divinity for those who discover it.

A flute solo by one of Digby’s brothers followed. As the breathy, haunting echoes of the flute died, drum song flooded the meadow, accented by rattles and clappers.

After this, Connie displayed a “Talking Stick” beautifully beaded and fringed with rawhide. Whoever possessed this stick held the power to address the gathering. The Mistress of the Talking Stick moved among us, bestowing the cane on any who requested it. All the while, other women used feathers and eagle wing fans to waft sacred smoke from smudge pots over any who coveted its blessings.

Many of the crowd spoke, sharing memories of Digby, reciting poetry the reader had created in his honor and memory, reading some of Digby’s verses. I read the blog I’d written last August. Eleven of our writing class attended, and most read or spoke.

On the way home afterward, Don DeNoon (another class member) and I agreed the ceremony had been exactly the right one for Digby, a strong man with the gentle soul of a poet.
Don T

Next week: Maybe it’s time to return to something from The Zozobra Incident or The Bisti Business. Something about New Mexico.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I’m at Home Hiding Under My Bed

Not exactly under the bed. I…uh, well, let’s be frank. I wouldn’t fit under there even if it were up on blocks. But that’s my mental state of mind. Hiding out. Let me explain.

Some of my recent posts have focused on my “foibles.” More bluntly, my goofs, mistakes, lapses, outrageous omissions, and…you get the idea. Last Friday, I committed one of my best.

I recently changed automobile insurance companies and was expecting a rebate from my old policy in order to help pay for the new one. It arrived Friday. Anxious to get it into my account, I drove to the bank fairly late that afternoon. Before I slipped the check, together with my bank card and driver’s license, into the shushing vacuum tube that mysteriously whisks them to a teller, I noticed the license had expired two days earlier.

Although I was sockless, in house slippers, and wearing my lounging pants (which some call pajama bottoms), I raced to a Motor Vehicle Department office not far from the bank. Once there, I had to get a number from a machine. Okay, nothing unusual about that…but it insisted I select the type of service I wanted—and none of them read “Renew a Driver’s License.” So I punched a likely button and received a number with a 700 digit on it (they were calling number 167 at the time).

After taking a seat and fretting over the fact there weren’t 500 people sitting in the waiting room, I concluded I’d asked for the wrong service. Several other clients had come in and taken a number before I decided to take action. I made a second guess at the check-in machine and got a more appropriate number. Like 197. Made more sense. There were about 30 people plus children and hangers-on in the room. Long and short of it…hours later, I got my temporary renewal license, a paper thing that’s to serve notice the real, genuine, plastic doodad is on its way. Instructions accompanying the phony license gave stern warning to keep the paper one with the expired license for ID purposes. Happy to get out of there, I returned to my car, clutching the paperwork.

Can you guess what happened next? You got it. When I got out of the car at home, I discovered my expired license was missing. Another trip to MVD. Nothing where my car had been parked. Not a scrap of paper (or plastic) between there and the office. The guard on the door said no one had turned in a lost license to her. Feeling I was about to be the victim of ID theft and all sorts of fraud, I returned home to fret some more. By the way, I'm a worrier.

The MVD was closed over the weekend, so early Monday morning, I started calling. I don’t know about your MVD, but in ours, you can hear the phones ringing and ringing and ringing. So I wasn’t surprised when no one answered. I tried several times. Unsuccessfully. On my way to the writing class I co-teach, I stopped by and found a sign on the door saying they were closed for Columbus Day, a state and federal holiday. Duh! (To be honest, I also checked on my mail twice…once after finding the note on MVD’s door.)

All of that was set-up for what follows. Tuesday morning, I had three calls to make. The first was to MVD. The phone was answered after the second ring, and “Yes sir, we have your license in Lost and Found. You can pick it up anytime.”

Relieved and elated, I made the second call to the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center to ask for permission to move our class from 2:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and keep that as our permanent home (we were there as guests while Bear Canyon Senior Center was under repair). “Yes sir. We can accommodate both of those requests.”

The third call was to take advantage of a benefit offered by my health insurance company to have a nurse conduct a Health and Well-Being Assessment (even though I’d told them this was a “no call” number and hung up on them when they'd phoned a week ago to make the appointment). “Yes sir, the nurse can be there on the morning of the 29th.” No mention of my previous rudeness.

Wow! The day was going great. I got in the car and painlessly retrieved my lost license. Then I went to Smiths for some grocery shopping and found they had paper bags. They haven’t had paper bags for weeks!

That’s when I tumbled to what was going on. I was being set up for a fall. This day couldn’t go anywhere but down. I drove home using extra care. I obeyed the speed limit and didn’t even tailgate. Once parked successfully, I entered my apartment, locked the door, and figuratively hid under the bed.


Next week: I’ll think of something.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Valles Grande, Redux

On the last Saturday of September, my friend J and I took another trip up to Valles Caldera. I did a three-part blog description of our prior trip, the last of which posted on November 29, 2012. Last year, fall was in full swing, and nature was decked out in her vivid autumn finery. We wanted this trip to be a “green” one. We had scheduled the trek two weeks earlier but prudently delayed our adventure because of the most unusual rain we’ve had since I’ve been in New Mexico (early ‘60s). I’ve been rained on in Oklahoma and Texas and New York and Washington DC and Oregon and California and a whole bunch of other locations within the continental boundaries of these United States. I’ve endured downpours in Germany and France and Italy and Holland. My late wife and I experienced the rain in Spain. I’ve been drenched in Hong Kong and Manila. But this one was different.

We have a monsoon system here (and I think I blogged about that once, too), so we do get rain in this arid country. But it’s normally rain of a certain type. It tends to drop straight down on you in hard pellets for a few minutes and then goes away. Oh, a little brother or sister shower might follow along and threaten you with a few more drops later, but essentially, our rain dumps buckets of water and is gone. It might soak me and not even dampen the fellow walking across the street.

That week back in mid-September was different. It reminded me of rain in the American Northwest. It came and stayed and stayed and stayed. Gentle rain for the most part, the kind that gives the soil a good soaking. A beautiful rain…day after day. And this followed an August already awash with our usual monsoon pattern. Heaps of water in a minimum of time. Result…flooding, roads washed out, yards uprooted, careless people getting swept away.

New Mexico’s been in a drought for the last three or four years, and it was getting serious. Wells running dry. Water use restrictions coming into play. Well, after August and September, the news reports say the drought on the Pecos River side of the state is over for the rest of the year. The Rio Grande side didn’t fare as well, possibly because some of the diversion channels broke and lost the water destined to reach the river. Even so, the water level at Elephant Butte Lake, the state’s biggest mud hole, rose a few inches. And up where our trip would take us, there had been extensive forest fires which made the area susceptible to flash flooding and mudslides.

That’s about the windiest explanation of why we delayed our trip for two weeks you’ll ever read. So now, back to the real subject of the post.

The trip through the beautiful mountain forests was as magnificent as ever. Even the mountain tops bearing the stark, blackened reminders of those recent fires inspired awe. And then we rounded the curve that revealed more and more of the vast, rolling meadowlands of Valle Grande, the section of the preserve the traveler glimpses first. Contrary to what we encountered last time, this Saturday, the parking area was cluttered with cars and pickups and horse trailers. We went inside the reception cabin and quickly found all of the day's activities were booked solid. No vacancies. No, we couldn’t drive my car around the place. Not permitted. We could hike, and while J's a dedicated hiker, I’m not, thanks to my back operation last year. So that confined us to this one small area.

No big deal. The magnificent vistas can claim you for hours. The vast grasslands alone hold your attention as more and more details reveal themselves. Little La Jara, the nearby magma dome forested with evergreens and a few aspen simply grabs your attention. Redondo, the mountain sacred to the local Indians, looms off to the west looking mysterious and foreboding.

And then we spotted something that changed our day. About a mile off to the north, was a dark, milling mass. Cattle. Twenty-three cowboys herded them straight to the cattle corrals where we stood. The horsemen—seemingly effortlessly—drove the animals straight at us.

As they grew near, we saw the drovers were mostly Native American. Several of them, women. The youngest was a boy of about fourteen or so. We watched (and J snapped pictures) as they herded 270 cattle into the main corral (a permanent structure made of pipes). Then they began the process of separating them into smaller, adjoining pens according to owners, guided by ear tags on the animals. One of the drovers told us it had taken two days to round them up.

As J says in her post at, we ate in the car with a herd of lowing, bawling cattle at our backs. Watching the gathering was worth the entire trip. The magnificence of the environment was merely a gigantic plus.

Check out J’s daisy blog post. She’s included some of the photographs she snapped of horses, drovers, and cattle. In the background, devotees of the TV show Longmire will recognize some of the country highlighted in the series.

Well worth the trip.

Next week: As usual, I haven’t a clue.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

All I Wanted Was a Digital Atomic Clock

Readers of my January 10, 2013 blog post entitled “I Just Wanted a Simple Plug-In Lamp,” are already aware my manual dexterity is pretty pathetic. In truth, my manual’s got no dexter at all. Mechanical skills are not among my strong suite. Nor electronic. Nor….well, to continue along this path lies oblivion. That list could go on for quite some time. Suffice it to say that anything involving physical aptitude is occasionally challenging for me. To wit, refer back to the January 10 post which describes buying and mounting a simple elbow lamp over my desk.

This time, all I wanted was a clock. True, a clock with certain properties, but at the end of the requirements, it was still a simple clock. Let me start at the beginning.

On the Thursday before Labor Day weekend, my cable TV worked fine in the morning but was dead by the afternoon. I dislike calling Comcast. They’re nice enough people, but they make me feel like an incompetent. The fact that I am, doesn’t ameliorate this at all. They don’t have to throw my shortcomings in my face in such a stark way. From prior experience, I knew enough to unplug the little black box I pay them an ungodly amount of dollars for each month, wait a full sixty seconds, and then plug it back into the socket. Mind you, I have to either stand on my head or get down on my hands and knees to accomplish this—and the recovery from either position isn’t pretty.

So after a couple of false starts getting the right prongs into the proper side of the plug, it’s accomplished. Do I have TV reception? Nothing doing. The black box remains black. So I call for technical support. I hate those words. I don’t want technical support, I want a technician. And not the one that hides somewhere in my computer and tries to give me instructions only an electronics engineer could comprehend…much less follow.

A sweet female voice (frankly, I think they use a voice distorter, and it’s an evil old man on the other end laughing up his sleeve) had me do everything I’d already done twice more. Nothing. By now, I’m experiencing the first pangs of TV withdrawal symptoms. Not because there was anything on I particularly wanted to watch, but because I was denied the ability to do so.

Without making too much of a production out of this, let me say “technical support” decided my adapter had died. Not my television set, but that crucial little black box that tells the TV what to do.

“Okay, get me another one.”

“Fine, sir. Our next window (they have a language all their own) for a service call is Sunday afternoon between two and four.”

“Sunday? But this is Thursday!” I moan.

“Yes, sir. Sunday between two and four. Do you want me to schedule you?”

“Yes!” I shout. “Before it slips away and the next window becomes Monday or Tuesday.”

I hang up and try to reassure myself things will be all right. I’m in the middle of writing a novel. It will give me more time to work on that. Disrupts my routine, but still…

Yeah, right. I get very little work done on the novel because I’m obsessing over having no TV. I call a friend who doesn’t own a set but watches TV on his computer. Total bust. The few shows I could access held no interest.

I managed to live through most of the weekend with a big black screen sitting silently in the corner reminding me of my deprivation. Actually, I think it was sneering at me, but every time I faced it squarely, it just looked blandly black.

By the way, I have some rationale over my theory “technical support” toys with you. Have you noticed lately how the computerized voices answering virtually every business number you call spend as much time trying to convince you that you can find the answers to your questions much faster by going to their web site (two more words I despise) before they’ll actually put a live person on the line. I think they’re pissed because this bothersome customer won’t go away and solve his own problem.

To shorten this a bit, let me just say that at 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon a flesh and blood technician showed up, replaced my adapter with an even more slender, sleek-looking black box, made sure I knew how to operate it, and departed.

Feeling anxiety slough (or sluff, if you’re an Okie like me) away like dead snakeskin, I sat down to watch something…anything. At that point, I discovered my shiny new black box had no clock on it. The clock on the previous box was wonderful. It was always correct, it reset itself after power failures, and—best of all—it automatically adjusted for daylight savings time changes, keeping me from being early or late for appointments for at least two to three days after the appropriate solstice or equinox or whatever actually occurred.

This was a catastrophe of a magnitude few of my friends understand. I had no other clock in my living room. I had to have a clock so I could tell how much of my precious few remaining hours I was squandering.

Okay, all of that was prelude. Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty.

The very next morning, I set off to find a timepiece to sit on top of the reduced (but sleek) black box. I had some requirements. I wanted an atomic, digital clock of a certain size with the letters big enough see from the other side of the room.  Preferably battery operated, but certainly with battery backup. Price was no object…so long as it didn’t exceed $25.00. Simple enough, right?

And it was. I found a free-standing atomic Westclox that met my requirements at the second place I tried. For $10.97, I had the perfect clock. Except…when I got it home the black digital letters against a green-gray background rendered it impossible to read from across the room.

Disappointed but determined to put the best face on it, I placed the clock on the table beside my chair. Totally unacceptable. I don’t know why having to turn my head a few inches to see the incredibly accurate Westclox timepiece on my table differed significantly from dropping my eyes from the TV screen to the clock right beneath it…especially when I constantly work crossword puzzles while I view the programs…but it did. I put up with this terrible inconvenience for two days before moving my new atomic clock to my desk and switching the tick-tock clock that was there to the bathroom. Funny thing, that tick-tock clock. I never heard the ticks while working at the desk where it sat, but when I went to bed at night, the terrible racket in the next room caused my limbs to spasm and jerk in synchronous rhythm with the blessed thing. So my $10.97 atomic digital clock had a permanent new home, just not the one that fulfilled the need.

The next three days (and approximately 100 miles on the car) proved finding an acceptable replacement difficult. And I don’t want to hear a word from you whippersnappers who roll their eyes and say, “Just go to Amazon and get it over with." I can’t select a proper clock from the screen and weigh it, turn it over, sniff it, rub the smooth plastic surfaces. Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Sears, J. C. Penny, Macy’s, Radio Shack, Clocks and More, Blackstone, Kohls, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, Staples, Office Max, Target, and a couple of other places I can’t remember all failed me.

Then I hit a different Target location. And found. My clock. The little $16.01 Sony met all of my requirements. It was a clock radio, but I could just ignore that part and regard it as a clock. It was a plug-in, but it had the battery back-up. I put it in place and sat down in my chair to enjoy the beauty of the little thing and glory in the fact the green digital figures were clearly visible. Success at last.

It was not until the next evening I discovered the clock ran four minutes fast. I know this to be the case because “Longmire” didn’t begin until 8:04 p.m. on Monday night. Then all the programs started four minutes late, which finally clued me my perfect clock wasn’t so perfect. I fiddled with the manual setting thingamajig on top, but it wouldn’t work. I tried ignoring the discrepancy. After all, I should be adult enough to make allowances.

Well, I couldn’t. Those damned four minutes took on an importance they didn’t deserve. So the next morning brought a second trip to Target. I told the very nice customer service woman I merely wanted to swap for another identical clock. I got the new one and started to leave, but given that such acquisitions usually require a minimum of three trips, I decided to test it in at the store.

Plugged it in. It set itself. Only three minutes fast this time when measured against the atomic clock on the customer service cash registers. The manual time-set on this one worked, so I used up the very last dollop of dexter in my manual dexterity to set it to the correct time. It worked!

Then a second later, it went zip…and those three minutes showed up again.

Alas, I have no clock in my living room. I’m forced to use a button on my TV remote whenever I need to know the correct time. Those urges seem to come in eight to ten minute intervals. Sure hope the remote holds out.

Next week: Maybe we can get back The Bisti Business.


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