My new website!

•April 20, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Huzzah! This is where you can find me now: maryhopetobin.com

Cinderella Undercover

•December 21, 2016 • 2 Comments

I say, better alive than dead

So I’m putting the blog on hiatus. For how long, Maryhope? I have no idea. Why, Maryhope? I can’t tell you. Good or bad, Maryhope? Not bad and most likely good. Probably. Not bad, though. Do you ever brush your hair, Maryhope? Rarely, but thank you for your concern. 

Thank you for reading. Rock on with your bad self. 

What’s my favorite Oingo Boingo song? Whichever one I’m listening to. Check it out. 

Space Monkey

•November 3, 2016 • 1 Comment

HEXBREAKER has been taken down; it’s a manuscript now and I’m pitching it to agents and publishers. Wish me luck!

And here is my new blog: http://maryhopetobin.wordpress.com Huzzah!

I Want You Back

•September 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

No, not you. Or you. And definitely not YOU. (Really?  Why would you even think that?) There is no one I really want back right now, except maybe Prince. Who wouldn’t want that, though? No, “I Want You Back” is the title of the treatment-resistant earworm that’s been plaguing me for days. One of my favorite bands, one of my favorite albums, one of my favorite songs. And there are five words from the last line that have been in my head:

She’s not worth the time

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lyrics by David Faulkner

This song fucking rocks, there is no doubt about that. But it’s those five words -just those five words – that won’t leave me alone. I’ve thrown everything I have at this thing, old favorites, new discoveries and my standard insomnia earworms. Day by day, the sound changes: it gets higher in pitch, breathier, and stretched out:

Sheeeeee’s not woooooorth the tiiiimmme

I’m pretty sure I know how it got there, this little Aussie snippet. I was talking about the accident.

I was in that car accident back in March that totaled my Corolla. I had the minimum insurance on it at that point and my policy covered $2000 in medical. This paid for the ambulance and my new glasses. What’s left is the ER bill and a follow-up doctor visit. I assumed the other driver’s insurance would pay this, but no. At the end of June they sent me releases so they can access my medical and billing records. I signed and returned the releases, and I got email and written confirmation. In subsequent phone conversations, I have been told:

  • They have never seen the police report
  • They have seen the police report
  • They have no record of the releases I signed
  • They do have a record of the releases I signed
  • They have my releases but have not contacted the hospital
  • They have contacted the hospital but no one called them back
  • They can’t find the billing address for the hospital

Please reread that last one. I’ll wait.

The hospital in question is UMASS Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. It’s not a secret hospital. It is not located in Narnia, Avalon, or Brigadoon. It is visible to anyone, and not just the pure of heart. You don’t need to clap if you believe in UMASS Memorial Medical Center. In fact, you don’t have to do a goddamn thing but drive through Worcester on I-290 and it is RIGHT FUCKING THERE. It has not one but several websites. When the insurance person told me I had to send them my copies of the bill, I did. The proper billing address is ON THE BILL. Obviously, this is what insurance companies do, they stall like a preschooler at bedtime.

Sheeeeeeeeeeeeee’s not woooooorth the tiiiiiiiiiiimmmmme

And back to the earworm. I  contacted three attorneys about the accident. Two rejected the case outright. The third, though, I really liked. We  spoke several times on the phone and he actually read my insurance policy and something else, maybe the police report. But the answer was the same: I have no lasting physical injuries. I have no lost wages. A PI attorney takes 25% or 30%, and my bills total $2100. He was very nice about it. But it’s not really – that’s right – worth his time.

And now I’m haunted by one of my favorite bands and I’m really starting to not like them. Stupid Hoodoo Gurus. No. I don’t mean that.

stoneage-romeosI bought Stoneage Romeos in 1984 as an import; I still have it, in its plastic sleeve that screams “I knew about these guys before anyone.” I played “I Want You Back” on nearly every radio show I did during my junior year at Smith. I usually followed it with a forgotten track by the Vipers called “Cheated and Lied.” Dial them both up on the YouTube and you will agree. Perfect together. I knew Stoneage Romeos note for note. On one of my three (!) road trips from Massachusetts to Tennessee that year, my sister and I kept the peace by playing Stoneage Romeos over and over. In 1985 it was maybe the only album we could agree on. (It was my sister who bought me my CD copy years later.) Our favorite track to sing and dance to was “Leilani,” which not only has awesome garage guitars, but crazy, crazy drums. It’s about a guy whose girlfriend gets thrown into a volcano, which makes him sad and lowers his self-esteem.

In August of 1989 was living in San Francisco. My college chum Anya was in town and we saw Hoodoo Gurus at DNA Lounge.

IT WAS THE LOUDEST FUCKING SHOW I HAVE EVER BEEN AT.

img_4034-1So loud that 27 years later I can’t be bothered with good grammar. Louder than Soundgarden at the I-Beam, louder than the Ramones any of the eight times I saw them. Just brains-leaking-out-your-ears loud. It was glorious. I tried to find the setlist online – I found every one from that tour but the DNA show. Here is a setlist from “unknown venue” in Chicago around that time. Sounds about right.

Sheeeee’s nooot woorth the tiiiiiiime

So there is my frustration that six months after the accident my ER bill has not been paid. My continued and tedious frustration with my continued and tedious sucky situation (I’m so pumped up by listening to “Leilani” five times in a row that I still cannot be bothered with grammar). And my own rock-bottom self-esteem. I live with my parents. I cook, I do laundry, I iron, I bake cookies and pies and muffins and cobblers. This is all solid work. But my parents live quite happily without me in their former computer room, and their cholesterol is probably a lot lower. Who’s not worth my time? Me? Fucked if I know. But I’ve never had such a persistent earworm. My friend Karen always sings “what do you do with a drunken sailor” when she gets an earworm. But then I start thinking about the sailor: does he drink alone? Has he ever missed work due to drinking? Does he need an honest inventory? And while I’m thinking about this poor sailor’s cry for help, Hoodoo Gurus float back into my head. I guess this is the part where I say fuck it, I AM worth the time.

Fuck it. Play loud.

 

Word Up

•September 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

greetingsfromatlantcity-719x320In July I entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest. The assignment: 1000 words, an assigned genre, location, and object. I got ghost story, casino, and a pair of colored contact lenses. I love flash fiction!

Sheldon Silverman, GM

Shelly Silverman sliced open his right cheek with a smart and shining Gerber blade the day he killed his father. He bought a new suit, too. His father always said he was too soft, too pretty, too green to be taken seriously. His father was General Manager, Shelly a lowly pit boss. A month later, the casino owner promoted Shelly to GM. “Good luck, Shelly,” Pigweed Gold told him. “Too bad your old man’s not here to see this.” “Thank you, sir,” Shelly said. “And it’s Sheldon. Not Shelly.” Pigweed winked and went back to working on the stroke that would soon kill him.

 

That night Shelly practiced for hours in front of the mirror, perfecting the concealed-carry jacket flip, a variation on the “say hello to my little friend” move. He shaved his head. He carefully cleaned the gash on his cheek, which was healing nicely, a big red hook. He laid out his new suit. He practiced putting in a pair of colored contact lenses, white, the creepiest ones he could find. He took “Eye of the Tiger” off infinite repeat and went to bed. He slept deep and clear and woke up smiling.

 

It’s 2:01 am by the big clock on the wall of his private office. It’s a bleak, nearly empty room, a place for Shelly to get off his feet for a few minutes, eat a cold steak sandwich, and watch the action on the floor. Tonight he stares out the two-way mirror at the bright and busy casino. He takes a deep breath and waits. A moment later he smells low tide, salt air, rotten fish. His palms itch and he clenches his beefy hands into fists. His stomach clenches itself. He sees his father out on the floor, drink in hand, leaning on a slot machine, hitting on a post-adolescent waitress in a tiny dress. Shelly doesn’t move but as he clears his throat he tastes bile. “Jesus Christ, old man,” he mutters. “Doesn’t matter how dead you are, does it?”

 

He knows his dead father is drinking bourbon. Makers Mark, the old man would shout. On my mark! Get set! Go! He’d down his drink and slam the glass on the bar. Every fucking night. On my mark! The girls would giggle. Night after night, girl after girl. Shelly hears it now, standing in his lair high above the casino floor, the phony laughter of a dead cocktail waitress, maybe two, maybe ten. He stopped counting months ago.

 

Shelly hadn’t counted on his father sticking around, and that makes Shelly mad. Drinking doesn’t help. Drinking doesn’t hurt, either, but he likes to set a good example for his crew. Not like the old man. Old school, his father would say. Or just old…and wait for the waitress to giggle, give his shoulder a tiny perfumed shove, and tell him he’s not old, he’s just right. And the old man would put his arm around the girl’s waist, and whisper in her ear, or cup her ass, or kiss the top of her head, all of the above or something new. Every fucking night. Shelly killed his father a year ago, and every month since then Shelly feels the high tides get higher, the low tides get lower, and the space between longer and longer. He hears the pier creaking in his dreams, he hears the gunshot when he’s awake. He hadn’t counted on that, either.

 

“Dead is dead and dead is gone,” he thought. But no. Two days after his father washed up on the beach down in Ocean City, Shelly discovered the Army footlocker in the attic. It was full of lingerie, red and black and man-sized. Shelly pawed through the trunk and sat back, his huge hands full of lace and silk. “Christ, you’re lucky you’re dead,” he whispered. He carried the footlocker out to his Range Rover and drove to the pier behind the casino. He slid the trunk into the water and got home in time to dress for the wake.

 

Shelly knows he’s tough. He knows he’s the most badass GM of all time. The scar, the Glock, and those dead white eyes make him impossible to fuck with. Only the drunkest drunk, the most vicious meth head, the most doomed and stone broke loser would even try. No one ever wins against Shelly. No one ever tries twice. But every night, every fucking night, his dead father puts him in his place. Shelly tried working days, he tried working nights. He replaced the dealers, he replaced the waitresses, tried to dispose of everyone who knew his old man. Nothing works.

 

Now in his office Shelly smells brine and fish and feels the floor shift under him. He hears the creak, the sound of decaying planks supported by shifting, rotten pilings. He steps back from the window, the one-way eye in the sky. One foot slides on slick salt water, the other lands on nothing. The slot machines disappear, the roulette wheels and blackjack tables vanish behind a mean high-tide mist that smells like death. The buoy appears as it does every night, riding the waves. Shelly shot at it once. The bullet ricocheted off the plexiglass in front of him and flew into the wall over the clock. It’s still there.

 

Shelly reaches out as he falls but grabs nothing. He hears the pier give way as he crashes through, and something old and rusted and dull slices his good cheek and rips out his jawbone and half his teeth. He sinks into the foul water behind the casino, far from the friendly boardwalk. He hears nothing as he sinks, but as he hits bottom, landing on garbage, on wreckage, on rot, he hears his father’s voice. “A bullet in the back of the head, Shelly? You couldn’t even look me in the eye?”

 

“Are we done, old man?” Sheldon asks, in his grim office above the casino floor. “Fuck off. I got work to do.”

Raise Your Hand

•August 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

judd fistbilly fisthopey fist

I have screaming tendinitis in my right wrist, which is of course the technical term. I did not take it seriously at first. My brother the RN told me rest means rest, and not just when I feel like it. Then the dog bit me on the same tendon. I’m not even making this up. He bit me right on the same freaking tendon. I thought I was going to have to amputate my own hand. My brother the chef, the one with the mad knife skills, declined to comment.
The dog bite healed up very quickly. And the rest seems to be healing too, until I reach for a doorknob, pull my hair back, or hook my bra. And that’s why doctors call it “screaming tendinitis.” My point is that I am using the dictation function on my phone. I’m also trying to use the dictation on my laptop which currently consists of me trying every configuration possible and yelling hello hello hello and scaring the dogs.
Ron is left-handed and he has very cool handwriting. So I’ve been looking at samples of Ron’s handwriting and trying to copy it with my left hand. It’s not going well. I try to write with my right hand with the wrist brace on, and I try to write with the wrist brace off. I use a fountain pen and I use a ball point pen. I use a lap desk, I use the table. It just has to heal on its own. I effing hate that. I wanted to be healed now because I need to use it now.
So maybe not a screeching halt to everything, but perhaps a quietly shrieking one. It’s not like I have given up. But after I got back from New York, I was writing every day and working on my resume and working out a strategy and planning and scheming and whatever other words there are for planning. A caper may have been in the works. I’ve been rewriting the novel I wrote for NaNo last year, and that was going along great. But I can’t get any editing done because I haven’t figured out the voice commands out.
Sun doesn’t come up till after six in the morning lately, and it sets around seven. This seems to happen every year around this time but I’m too busy to investigate the ins and outs, ups and downs. Problem is, time keeps on slipping slipping slipping into the future. I wanted to be out of my parents’ house by July, by August, by September 1. Got back from New York and thought maybe I’d be out of here by my birthday, in October. That might still happen.
The breeze sounds different now that the leaves are gearing up to change, mums are in the stores, and I’m still at my parents house. And it’s not like I got tendinitis from saving anyone from a burning building. There’s nothing special about tendinitis. I feel so stupid to be sidelined but something this trivial. I’m doing the icing and the heating and the Eensy Weensy Spider all damn day.
The dictation function on my phone beeps when I turn it on and when I turn it off. That noise sends Poor Wee Leo climbing into my lap. Leo, of course, is the who dog bit me last week. Wasn’t his fault, he was running towards the street, and I grabbed him and he didn’t see me and he snapped and hit my hand. Now the little bastard won’t leave me alone. I’ve asked him for help on my resume, and I’ve asked him to help me rewrite my NaNo novel, but no. Little Bob, the other dog, gets jealous of Leo, and tries to climb in to my lap from the other side. Again, no real editorial support, no matter how nicely I ask. Bastards.
And there it is: writing or not, I spend most of my day talking to two small dogs. However, this does not explain why Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” is in my head 22-or-23-seven. Or maybe it does.

 

 

My Hometown

•August 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been back to my hometown and I’ve been to New York. When I was in Hatfield, I saw old barns and new crops. On the bus to New York, an angel sat next to me. So I’ve been busy.

redhead in painting

Kim from Israel (not really)

But other people could see her and she had an iPhone, so probably not an angel. I  don’t have a picture. It would have been weird to ask (would it, though?) . She’s beautiful, about 20 or 21, with long red hair. Her name is Kim, and she’s Israeli. I mention this because of my recent and unepected fascination with Israel, listening to psytrance and such (see blog post titled “Israel”). It’s more of an obsession than fascination with Krav Maga. I’ve been learning Hebrew in a fairly half-assed way. Anyhow before my trip I’d researched the Upper West Side, where my hotel was, and one of the restaurants I highlighted are Israeli. So when this young woman sat down next to me on the bus to New York and started speaking Hebrew into her iPhone, naturally I assumed she was an angel, on the Peter Pan Bus to Port Authority to tell me that moving to New York is the right thing to do. And just my luck I couldn’t understand a word she said. Until she started speaking English, of course, and her English is way better than my Hebrew.

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Valley Street, Hatfield

I mentioned in my last post that I was born in New York but never lived there. My hometown, Hatfield, is a farm town in western Massachusetts. But I lived in Maine longer than I ever lived in Hatfield – and I definitely don’t consider Maine my home. Not even close. But I lived in my last apartment for 14 years – longer than I lived in Hatfield. Since I got evicted I’m been consumed with the concept of home. Is it where you’re born? I never lived in Manhattan. Is it where you went to high school? I graduated high school in Hatfield but due mostly to my own gleeful and enthusiastic self-marginalizing, it never felt like it was my home.

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River Road, Hatfield

My last apartment in Portland was the first and only place I ever lived alone. I grew up with three siblings and two parents, I lived on campus during college, and as an adult I always lived with a partner or future ex-husband. After my divorce I turned 57 Brackett Street, Apartment 5, into my home. None of my furniture matched, I had the remnants of three different sets of dishes, and the dining room table had a leg held on with duct tape. But I had dozens of plants, a nice big altar and that huge creepy cockatiel painting that belonged to my great-grandparents. Apartment 5 was mine. And for months after I got evicted, every time I had to leave somewhere, I always thought, “time to go home,” and that’s what I would see, Apartment 5. After a while I stopped saying “time to go home,” because I didn’t want to call anyone else’s home mine. But even now, I still see my dining room occasionally, when I think home. Last November I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo that took place in my old apartment. I never actually described the place, but it’s how it played in my head, and now that I’m rewriting the novel, I can’t imagine it anywhere else.

A couple of weeks ago I saw my hometown for the first time since 1994. Hatfield’s town center is eerily unchanged. I guess there are some pretty strict zoning laws, what with the postcard-perfect Colonials and Victorians on Main Street. Valley Street still ends in fields and barns and barns and fields. The S-curve sign on River Road is still riddled with BBs.

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the former Holy Trinity Church, Hatfield

But Holy Trinity, the Polish church whose parking lot bordered my parents’ property, is vacant and AVAILABLE. I’ve never seen a church that was AVAILABLE before. There were some hideous McMansions on the outskirts of the “historical district,” and a rash of condos on Elm Street. But it was Hatfield, and I knew every house. Every time I go back to Portland, though, something else is different. Local businesses have given way to boutiques and restaurants the locals can’t afford. There’s construction everywhere, bigger buildings, more cars, longer red lights. My memories of Apartment 5 dissolve when I’m actually in Portland; all I really think about is desperately trying to stay out of the sun and not get my car towed while I was sleeping in it last summer.

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Central Park 08/08/16

And now back to New York. Early one morning a couple of weeks ago, I had the epiphany “it’s time to go to New York” while I was sitting in my parents’ yard with my coffee and Poor Wee Leo the Shih Tzu. And the more research I did the better the trip sounded and the more excited I got. I finally had to make myself stop researching the trip. Then I cut back on scheduled events. Then I eliminated the scheduled events altogether. And I packed very little, and wore my big hat, and got a window seat and an angel sat next to me.

Finally! I thought. Validation!  Kim was not an angel, but she was awesome and she was there. I got to New York and I walked wherever my feet took me and I drank terrible coffee and I drank excellent coffee and I got shin splints in my ankles and never did make it to Dylan’s Candy Bar. I do so love candy. But I rode the subway and my $139/night hotel room on the Upper West Side was a pleasant surprise. I ate at TLV on Amsterdam twice, and not just for the food. I may or may not have had a huge, instant and raging crush on the man running the place. I got him to smile once and then I was too shy to look at him again.

Angels beside me, or not. Badass, scowling, handsome men smiling at me, or not. No job yet. No place to live in New York. When I got to New York on Sunday and I walked from Port Authority to West 80th Street in the hot sun, I had a real and true epiphany.  As I walked through Columbus Circle, I realized:

I wasn’t lonely. I was one tiny person in a city of 10 million people and I felt absolutely myself and more here than I have felt since my herb garden and writing desk greeted me every morning. Being homeless in Portland made me desperately lonely. The brief times

hopey & leo (1)

MHT & Poor Wee Leo 08/11/16

I’ve gone through Boston by myself I’ve been adrift. Here in Springfield, at my parents’ house with no car, I’m desperately lonely, talking to two small dogs and invisible Facebook friends all day long. (I’m fairly certain Leo is pre-verbal; he grumbles a lot and any day now he’s going to start talking and I dread what he might have to say. He’s just not hooked up right.) I walked around New York for four days this week. I realized I don’t want to live on the Upper West Side – I felt like I was in a town in Connecticut that was celebrating its annual “Ethnic Week.” I felt more and more here the longer I was there, though. Ankle-shin splints and subway-induced hot flashes notwithstanding, I was where I wanted to be. I was here. I need a job. I need a place. And then I’ll really and truly be here.

Sometimes an Israeli girl sitting next to you on the bus is just an Israeli girl sitting next to you on the bus. And sometimes, maybe, she’s not. So glad I got to meet you, Kim. Shalom.