My lips get all twitchy when I think about just how sour a sour pickle is. They always react like that.
I grew up close to a major thoroughfare that funneled traffic toward the center of the city. Buses stopped, on my side of an intersection, in front of Carbone’s store. This was the “go-to” place for pedestrians to buy newspapers, fresh fruit, magazines, candy bars, cherry Cokes, ice cream sundaes, and other treats. Bus riders bounced down the steps of the vehicle, and most filed directly into the store. The odor of diesel fumes hung around the outside of the shop, and the smells of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas greeted you the minute you stepped through the door.
Mr. Carbone lined up small sacks of peanuts in the shell, in a gleaming brass and copper peanut steamer, just outside the entrance to the shop. When the temperature inside the contraption rose to a certain point, pressurized steam carried the yeasty aroma of hot peanuts through a shiny brass whistle. Everyone within earshot of the screeching whistle knew that the peanuts were ready, and most of them bought a sack.
I really liked the store because of the sour pickles they sold from a huge barrel-shaped glass jar. The jar was located on a marble-topped counter in the rear of the store.
As soon as the heavy lid left its home on the pickle jar, everyone stepped back, away from the assault on their olfactory senses. Carbone’s sour pickles were no kin to the finger-sized pickles you buy at a supermarket. These babies were huge, fat, slippery, green bombs of whole, tartly embalmed cucumbers.
They stewed in pickle juice so tangy and sour that the clerk quit breathing as soon as he removed the lid. He’d ask, “Which one?” and then take a deep breath, and hold it, while he probed for your selection with long-handled tongs. He’d carefully raise my emerald beauty out of the jar, wrap it in waxed paper, and hand it to me. I’d thank him and, salivating nearly beyond control, pay for my purchase at the register by the front door.
Giant, old-fashioned, sour pickles magically lift your spirits, even if you’re feeling glum, sad, bereft, or just plain down in the dumps. When you bite down on one of these khaki-colored torpedoes, and the pickle-liquor squirts halfway down your throat, a bright flash of sour pickle reality suddenly imbues you with enlightenment, and the whole world comes into perspective.
I find it difficult to speak after I chomp the first few bites of a sour pickle. I don’t know why, but the pickle juice always starts a revolt in my mouth between my sense of taste and smell. It’s difficult to explain, but I can taste the smell of the pickle. The sourness of the fermented pickling liquid makes the inside of my jowls tingle. My lips get tight and tingly. They twist and contort into a great, tightly wound pucker. That’s a genuine conversation stopper. I’m always better off alone when I eat a sour pickle.
A sour pickle is a cooling treat during the heat of the summer. In the middle of winter, strangely, eating a sour pickle has a warming effect. A person can satisfy serious hunger pangs with a sour pickle and not yearn for food for at least four or five hours.
Sometimes, I laugh at how idiotic I must look when I eat a sour pickle. I wonder how anyone can possibly enjoy and savor anything so sour, not only once, but time after time. Sour pickle aficionados spend many years of their lives anxiously awaiting and preparing for the shock of their “first bite,” over and over again.
Carbone’s store is no longer there. I make my own sour pickles now, in a large earthenware crock, out back in the shed. I’m headed there now—for a pickle hit.
Note: The above is a short story taken from my book Sour Pickles, ANvils, and Union Suits.
Read on, if you wonder if having a web site is “worth it.”
I’m a writer. When I powered on my web site last year, I was thrilled and bubbling over with excitement. That was short lived. And I wondered if I’d made a giant boo-boo. I constantly asked myself if my expectations were too high.
It took me a while to come to grips with issues associated with owning my own domain. I had to learn the fundamental force that totally effects my site’s success, and that’s called my BOUNCE RATE.
I’ll explain; when a visitor to my site begins to read the material, I have posted in my site, they either stay with their reading (find it interesting) or else give it a cursory glance and move on. The lower the bounce rate, the more time is spent on reading what’s in there.
A bounce rate of 90% shows that visitors are simply passing through, and not paying much attention to the website material. A bounce rate of 75% is better than 90%, and indicates interest is gaining.
Confused? Let me put it this way:
* The percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. A rising bounce rate is a sure sign that your homepage is boring or off-putting. [Google Analytics]
I make it a point to check my web site every day. Guess what my bounce was today, and most of the past ten days? A tad up or below 7.64%! Color me pleased, and give me a minute while I do a happy dance.
Thank you to each one of you who take interest in my writing. And to those who drop in on me at my web site, please continue to visit. I will be posting some unique material about my science fiction novel that is now in the hands of my editor.
My web site door is always open, and I wholeheartedly welcome new visitors. In fact, here’s a key to the place.
I’ve invested many long, hard hours in my writing. And I don’t mind that a bit. It’s what I do, and when I have a story to tell, I do it the best way I can. I’m not new to the business of Indie and have a few published titles available in various markets.
When it comes time for me to have my text (s) edited, I’ve asked myself this question many times:Should I employ the services of an editor who’s also a published author?
What are your thoughts?
I loved my life of an urban dweller. I embraced my neighborhood and those who called it home. I worked in an office building not far from where I lived.
A small park was directly across the street from my office. On nice days, I’d spend my lunch break on a bench in the shade, or sun, depending on the time of the year. That’s where I first met James Beaufort Wellington. And with a name like his, I expected a Roman numeral to follow Wellington.
I was sitting on a bench in the park, the first time we met. He drove toward me on a motor scooter that made no noise. He and his little transport appeared to float along, with hardly a sound. He stopped at a bench that faced mine. A wide sidewalk between us.
He flicked a switch on the bike’s handlebar, dismounted, leaned the machine against one end of the bench, removed a bright yellow helmet, plopped on the bench, and murmured “Ahhhhhh.”
A big man. There was no room for anyone to sit next to him. He and his helmet took up the seating area. A light breeze ruffled shocks of his white hair, and he rummaged for something in a pocket of his army fatigue jacket.
He pulled out a white plastic sack, the kind you get in that store that so famous across the country, and unwrapped what must have been a one pound slab of yellow cheese, still in its original sealed wrapper.
A pocket knife appeared in his hand, and he slit open the clear plastic and with his thumb and forefinger, lopped off a large corner of cheese. And with the yellow tidbit still on the blade, transferred it to his mouth.
I heard “Ummmm” from where I sat.
The cyclist reached into another pocket, and withdrew a stubby tube of summer sausage. He worked at the wrapper expertly with his knife. In a flash, he’d cut a disc of sausage and popped it into his mouth.
My mouth salivated and I couldn’t help it.
His face shifted, and he looked directly at me. “Want summa this buddy? It’s damn tasty.”
I couldn’t believe my response. “Sure. You bet. You make it look so good.”
He waved me toward him with his pocket knife. I crossed the sidewalk as he expertly cut another hunk of cheese, and placed it on a thick round of sausage.
“Here ya go. Enjoy.” He held his knife blade over my extended hand and flicked the food into my palm.
“Thank you” I said, and nibbled some cheese.
“You’re welcome, and my name’s Jimmy. A lot of folks around know me as Whisperin’ Jim. I’d ask you to sit down, but it’d be a tight squeeze.”
“Oh I’m fine Jimmy. I’ll stand and enjoy my food. It’s good by the way. Do you work near here? My building is across the street.”
“I’m retired. I do some stuff in my home office, and I like to drive my bike around. I often take a break right here. I live on St. Stephen Street, about three blocks down, and to the right.”
“You do? I live on St. Stephen Street too. Which building are you in?”
Whisperin’ Jim was an engineering scientist who’d retired a few years prior to our meeting. His area of expertise was automotive propulsion, and he invented a fuel that was easy to produce and practically less expensive than water. He demonstrated his invention at a meeting with members of the big five auto manufacturers, and representatives from the top three fuel companies. And it frightened them to death.
They realized that if Jimmy patented and marketed his invention, they’d need to retool all their future vehicles, and even more catastrophic than that, the fuel producers would never recover from such a heavy financial hit,
Three months after their meeting, Jimmy accepted a check, drawn on a private account, for the purchase of all present and future rights to his invention. The amount was 55 million dollars.
We were solid friends for the four years I knew him. I can see him still, in my mind, gliding up to “his” park bench on his machine.
At least when he went, it was quick.
Jimmy didn’t wear a suit very often, but on the day he died, he wore a specially tailored three piece suit, a brand new pair of leather shoes, and a fedora hat.
Jimmy was waiting for a subway train. He stood at the lip of the platform, like we all do, to get a better look down the tracks. He was on his way to a bar mitzvah of a friend’s son, and just as the subway train began to slow he cut loose a tremendous sneeze, and his new shoes slipped on the concrete surface.
He fell over the platform’s edge, and under the wheels of the train. I was there, holding his bike. After they carried him off in four baskets, I locked his bike in a garage in an alley behind his apartment building.
Three years later after his death, to the date, a van driver rang my door bell. “I have a delivery for you, it’s a motorbike.”
A courier came by the same day, with a thick envelope from an attorney. I tore it open and found a handwritten note, “I don’t need the bike anymore, my friend. It’s yours, with a little something for fuel.”
I donated the bike and the five-thousand dollars, in Jim’s name, to a neighborhood organization called KWP; kids without parents. I’ll never forget the big guy who liked cheese and sausage.
Note: The above is from a work in progress.
Halloween is the best time of year for a BOO read. Get yourself some nibbles and a favorite beverage too. Snuggle down, get comfy, and read Ghosts of Pumpkin Hollow. it’s a story you’ll remember for a long time. And right now, it’s only 99 cents.