Monday, November 28, 2011


I recently read an interesting article on how creating an imaginary friend can make you a better writer.  Kelly Kautz claims that one top advertising agency even gave its imaginary friends their own office space.  For real! 

Without peeking at the answer, how do you suppose imaginary friends
can help us to become better writers and artists? 

Their presence can either make or break us, depending on how far we’re willing to go to hang out with them. It may be wise to spend quality time together, but I wouldn’t recommend paying a visit to their homes… 

My old imaginary friend, Monique, was much more exciting than my ordinary, colorless classmates. She’d moved to the U.S. from Paris, France.   

I spoke often of her to my parents and even picked out a house in which I thought she might live. It was a fuchsia, shingled house on the edge of town with haystacks in the front yard. Quite picturesque to a child’s eyes, and most unique.

As my family was riding down that stretch of road one day I pointed out the place and said, “That’s where Monique lives.” My dad corrected me. “Can’t be. That’s Sam Hinnant’s house.”

Sam was an old man who helped my daddy on the farm, and who spent a chunk of his pay on booze. “Oh, well then maybe they moved,” I said.

While my creative energies were at their peak, I decided I might as well go all out and paint as farfetched a scene as possible, so I chose the career of an astronaut for Monique’s father. 

They moved from the fuchsia, shingled house bordering the city limits into the heart of town. Her family had now taken up residence in an old, two-story bungalow complete with a forever-bright green lawn. 

One Saturday I announced that Monique had invited me over to play that afternoon. And so my dad dropped me off at the house I’d chosen for my imaginary friend.

I walked up to the porch, then turned and waved him off, and pretended to go inside. As soon as the sky-blue Ford turned the corner and was out of sight I headed aimlessly down the street.

That afternoon I walked all over town, hoping to see someone I knew. Someone real.  I ventured into Mr. Elijah’s TV store and noticed that several stations were on simultaneously, but not one show was interesting enough to capture my attention.

It was, after all, Saturday afternoon and no programming was geared toward kids that time of day – it was all about the adults. Sports programming, fishing, cooking, and wildlife shows... nothing worth anyone’s time of day as far as I was concerned.

 I meandered out of the shop and down the street again, then headed back to the stranger’s house that supposedly belonged to Monique and waited for my daddy to come and pick me up.

It was almost dark when he arrived, that gloaming time of day when streetlights magically appear out of nowhere to illuminate sidewalks and cast long shadows. My mother was sitting in the passenger seat, apparently on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

As soon as I climbed into the back seat I knew I was in the deepest water ever. Mary Lou Cuddington from church had called my mother earlier and reported that she had seen me from out of the picture window in her living room, wandering around their neighborhood like some vagrant.

How could I have possibly known that Mary Lou Cuddington lived right across the street from Monique?

So, who was your imaginary friend?    

How can imaginary friends can help us creatively?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Driving down Old Black Creek Road under a cold gray sky mottled with rain clouds, I pass a defunct warehouse, then the infamous Midtown Lounge by the railroad tracks… Grateful there’s no endless passing train in this neighborhood on this shady edge of town.
I pass these unsightly scenes en route to my mother’s country home (roughly fifteen miles down the road) for the noonday Thanksgiving meal.  My plan is to get there early enough to help her out in the kitchen, and so I take the shortcut through the wrong side of the tracks…only to learn that haste does indeed make waste. 

The ominous sky and bleak landscape are portents of a darker sight to come.  As I now drive along the deserted stretch of road bordered by deep woods, a specter jumps out of nowhere… a white shirt flapping in the bitter wind, flung over a girl standing by the roadside, frantic arms waving in effort to flag me down. 

Did I just see what I thought I saw, or is the Twilight Zone?

Alarmed by the sudden spectacle, I keep driving. Surely this scene is my imagination working overtime. But when I glance in the rearview mirror, the girl in white is chasing my car in a frenzied state, screaming like a banshee.  My gut tells me to step on it and flee that neck of the woods ASAP.  Then conscience kicks in and I’m reminded of The Good Samaritan.   

That’s when I throw my station wagon in reverse and back up toward the apparition that is starting to seem more real by the minute.  Before I can even come to a complete stop she jumps into the passenger side and yells, “Quick, get me out of here, he tried to rape me!  Hurry before he sees me in your car, hurry!”

The total stranger sits beside me, panic-stricken, shaking like a squirrel, gasping for breath…  stark naked except for a man’s white shirt she’s managed to slip into before escaping. The story she tells is that she was cleaning his house when he assaulted her.  I’m thinking, yeah right.  She’s probably more like a hooker.   

I don’t dare speak, but reach over and touch her shoulder, a mild consoling gesture.  When she catches her breath she begs me to speed up, get her out of these woods before he sees her. “Just take me home please,” she begs.  Then she directs me toward the absolute worst part of town, and in my state of shock, I acquiesce.  

We end up on a Godforsaken street in the heart of the slums.  No sooner have I pulled up in front of the shanty she calls “home” than a gang of hoodlums surrounds my car, all giving me the evil eye.  What would Madea do?
Then an inexplicable courage rises within me, and I hear myself speaking with authority to the unsavory characters staring me down.  I crack the window just enough to shout this command, “Go in the house right now and get her a coat!” 

As soon as one of them returns with a jacket, the girl puts it on and gets out of my car.  That’s when I step on the gas and flee like a bandit to the end of that street…only to find myself at a dead end.  I reverse the car, spin around, and pass them all yet again.  And when at last I reach the highway, I floor it!     

When have you put yourself at risk to rescue someone else?

Would you ever place yourself in jeopardy
for the sake of another in danger?

Monday, November 7, 2011


We sit in Monticello cafĂ©, a quiet, quaint place where diners need not yell over loud music to be heard, and wait for Kyle, the waiter, to deliver our grilled chicken subs.    

Girls’ night out for dinner with my friend Sharon, who is as far from the chit-chat variety as you can get.  She is one who guards her words as a dog his bone, and speaks sparingly.  But when she does talk, she inspires.

Tonight, the conversation centers on self-control.  Sharon says that the word “moderation” eludes her.  Like in that old Lays Potato Chip commercial, “Bet you can’t eat just one,”   it’s the whole bag or nothing.

She has always been a faster.  For her, cold turkey is the only way.  Sometimes it’s food she forfeits.  And now it’s the news.

Everyone who knows her is aware that she totally immerses herself in politics and current events.  Like Chicken Little, she will be the first to let you know when the sky is falling.

What a difference a single decision can make in our lives!  Her choice to fast all the bad news makes me think…

Maybe I should adopt better habits myself.  Something has to give, I know that much.  How good for me is one episode after another of Criminal Minds

But I love that show, and rationalize that it’s “educational” because you learn how to profile psychopathic minds… not to mention outsmarting the bad guys! 

Being engrossed in TV tends to induce the munchies.  I don’t know why it works that way, but it does.  Commercials flash all-you-can-eat shrimp ads in your face and before you know it, the brain is telling the stomach that it needs a snack.  So will I have to go cold turkey too?

After dinner, Sharon and I go to our separate cars and leave.  I head straight over to Food Lion and make a bee-line for the frozen foods.  Dessert is on my mind.  I can almost taste those Nutty Buddies on sale.  Two boxes for five bucks…

Those sundaes with chocolate/nut coating over vanilla ice cream, packed in a crunchy waffle cone.  My cart turns to go there by itself on automatic, straight to the frozen section, when I suddenly spin it around and head in the opposite direction: the produce aisle…

You know, with all the delicious nectarines, grapes, oranges, apples… I grab a variety of fruits and leave the store, pleased with myself for having made a wise decision for a change.  And I could have sworn I heard God say, “You can’t go wrong with these; I made ‘em myself.”

‎"Success is making one right decision after another.”   ~ Don Nori

When did you feel proud of yourself after having made a wise decision?
Go ahead, you can brag here! 
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