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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Princess Leia's Theme

Back in 1977, lo these many years ago, I bought a read an article in a Star Wars fanzine that lamented the plethora of off-shoot poorly-created fan work.  I don't recall much about the article - heck, maybe it was just a letter from a reader.  But I do recall that the writer bemoaned that "it won't be long before someone writes the words to Princess Leia's Theme."

And I thought, why the hell not?  And proceeded to do just that.

I'm going to share that with you, but don't get your hopes up - I mean, this is a 40-year old poem written by a 15-year-old boy pretending to understand a Princess' pov.  But first, a brief rant.

Why would anyone feel the need to put down fan endeavors?  It seems that this attitude has been around forever.  I applaud those I see speaking up against it lately - back then, it was all too easy to give up.  I shared this bit of doggerel with my best friend and then hid it.  I shared it with my wife and then hid it.  I don't even recall if I've shared it with my children yet.  Even now, I've no idea if I have the the right to presume.

But I'm sharing it anyway.  Because, if for no other reason, it's the only tribute I have for Carrie Fisher.  It's the only thank-you I have for other brave creators out there.  Nobody has to like it.  But I'm not sorry I wrote it.  I'm only sorry I didn't share it sooner.


When life is lost
By someone who's near
It hurts so much;
The price is too dear.
I must forget,
So painful to do.
I don't want to love,
Yet I want to love you.

We must go on,
Keep fighting or die.
Lives will be lost.
It won't help to cry.
There won't be time
For love 'till we're through
But if I could love
Then I would love you.

I'll raise my head.
I won't let them know
What a Princess feels.
Those feelings can't show.
I've built my walls.
I can't let you through.
I wish I could love
So I could  love you.

(you know, to the best of my knowledge, no one else ever wrote lyrics.  if they did, those are probably better.  if anyone wants to record these, though, i'd love to hear it)

(Oh, yeah... copyright John L. Payton)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Top 30 Pedlarisms

While grating cheese for tonight's pizza meal, my hand slipped and I nearly included some knuckle-skin with the mozzarella.  This got me to thinking about the Pedlarisms, which have not crossed my mind in years.

Our 2001 production of Apology for a Pedlar was, as far as I know, the last stage production of Rodney Whitaker's thesis work.  Whitaker went on to publish several best-sellers under the pen name Trevanian, but Pedlar he published as Nicholas Seare.  I loved this book in college, and when we got the chance to put it on stage I jumped for it.  Robin directed, even though I was originally slated for that job, because we needed more men on stage than we had, and I hate the idea of directing and acting at the same time.

Our Pedlar had some trouble with the lines, which was rather unfortunate considering that the character is primarily described as a wordsmith.  His words are supposed to roll trippingly from the tongue, but often he'd trip over them instead.

In spite of the obstacles, and a few sour memories, I'd love to do this show again.  I think that my agreement with Whitaker would allow it.

My good friend Gus, who played Rapin (the seneschal of the castle) compiled the following list of verbal blunders, which I now share with you.


Here is, I think, the final list of Pedlarism from the 2001 production of
"Apology for a Pedlar." While some of these were deliberate screw-ups
committed during the brush-up rehearsal (a hallmark tradition of Act II),
most were entirely unintentional.

Very few of these made it to production, just enough to add a special taste
of fear to each night's performance.

Let me know if you think I should cc Trevanian - or even Act II - on this.
I'm sorely tempted on both counts.

And now, the top 30 Pedlarisms of 2001:

30. (Pedlar) "You're, like, some old bone croasting about a chastity belt"

29. (Thane) "I'll even throw in the peasant girl...for free"

28. (Thane) "...I'll sign the place right over to you..." (Then Rapin) "Piss off!"

27. (Pedlar) "Pray all abjure of pishing"

26. (Rapin) "To beat this rascal from the castle" "...with the pestle from the vessel...or the flagon with the dragon..."  "who has the next line?"

25. (Pedlar) "Thanks for the memories"

24. (Rapin) "Book 'im Festrel"

23. (Rapin) "I am sorry I heartily offended thee and I..."

22. (Pedlar) "Do you really want this cr-crep-crapusc-carpulent...What the hell does that mean, anyway?"

21. (Pedlar) "There's a girl upstairs, if you're of that inclination."

20. (Pedlar) "Don't get me wrong. I kinda admire you stickin' to your principles like that."

19. (Thane) "That doesn't prevent his name from being Eon."

18. (Thane) "I think you're cracked as a hooer's hymen."

17. (Thane) "It's praying and breastfeeding for me."

16. (Thane) "the sauce of our sadness...the cause of our lamentatious ah-nit-alls..."

15. (Pedlar) "Not diseased, madam, but...sick....to be sure..."

14. (several cast) "Uh...yeah...OK...whatever...."

13. (Pedlar) "And he, having waddled through life with careless steps..."

12. (Pedar) "It's no good leaving more nipple-skin on that greedy door."

11. (Pedlar) "I shall sing to lighten the spirits that have been amused within these walls."

10. (Pedlar) "Unclattered fools!"

9. (Kipance) "'Tis a difficult leader for a peasant step to take..."

8. (Mistress) "Now see here, Pedlar...er...you're a minstrel, aren't you?"

7. (Kipance) "Make sure the sword with which I am blunted is well-knighted."

6. (Pedlar) "Even now the clap is reaching the rim of the midnight bell."

5. (Pedlar) "We won't tribble over quifles." "No, wait...We won't...tribble over quifles."

4. (Pedlar) "The burden of the frau is upon us."

3. (Pedlar) "Wipe the furrowed ashes from your brows!"

2. (Pedlar) "I piddle and spin....diddle and spit...oh, damn..."

And the number one Pedlarism of 2001 is still:

1. (Pedlar) "Rapists will demand precedence over his diddler."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ginger Chicken

Haven't made this since my last trip to Rockaway Beach.  That was an accidental recipe -- I'd intended to use garlic and put in ginger by mistake.  I kept adding more and more, wondering why I was getting no garlic flavor.  By the time I figured it out, the tube was nearly empty.

My daughter asked for the same meal this week.  Here's what I put together from memory.

  • One tube of "fresh ginger."  They are in the refrigerated part of the produce section.  
  • About 3 lbs of chicken.  I used thigh meat, next time I'm using breast meat.
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 stick butter (8 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp chicken bouillon (I use Better than Bouillon)
  • 24 oz sugar snap pea pods
  • 16 oz portabella mushrooms
  • 36 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz parmesan cheese 

I used my large stew pot for this, it's about a 6 qt pot, because I'm lazy and like one-pot meals.

Melt half the butter with the onion and garlic.  Start the mushrooms soaking in water and white vinegar.  Cut the chicken into strips.

Add the chicken and stir-fry.  Add the turmeric, bouillon, and ginger.

Rinse the mushrooms and cut into large pieces.  Add these and the snap peas.  Cut the remaining butter into pats on top.  Cover and steam until the butter melts.

Add the cream cheese, lower the heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes to soften.

Stir until smooth.  Serve with grated parmesan.

Serves 8 or maybe more.  Yes, I cook with the intent of leftovers.  Cut it back if you don't like this.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


It started happening sometime in middle school.  I saw someone on TV and I knew he was going to die. “Who’s that?” I asked.

“That’s ONLY Kurt Cobain,” my older sister answered, her voice dripping with scorn.  But by that time I was already distracted by the sudden overwhelming realization that the other person on the screen (Cobain’s wife, I later learned) was incredibly hot.

And four days later the lead singer of Nirvana had a bullet in his brain.

After that, these flashes of insight kept happening, although not with any kind of predictability.  I’d see someone, and get a strong feeling that they’d be dead soon.  Sometimes, it would be someone I saw on the street, sometimes on TV or the movie screen.  At first I tried telling my parents about it - that sure didn’t last long.  It was bad when they thought I was lying, but horrible when they started to think I wasn’t.

Once I got the feeling about my algebra teacher.  I faked flu symptoms for a week; I couldn’t face her every day knowing what was coming but not when or how.  Or why.  Mrs. Davidson was a favorite teacher.  She had a heart attack that Friday.  She was 43.

But that sick feeling was nothing compared to the time I got my “death sense” in the middle of a makeout session with Stacy Miller.  Stacy’s car got hit by drunk driver the next weekend.  After that, I kept to myself.  A lot.

I spent a lot of the time I wasn’t out having fun, on the computer.  This was early in the Internet, so there weren’t as many pictures (less chance of me seeing a lot of faces), but there were a lot of usenet groups.  Eventually I learned about dead pools.  Not the Marvel character - actual betting pools on when a certain celebrity was going to die.

Morbid?  You bet.  But for a second sibling with a meager allowance, college coming up soon, and a unique…talent…well, a big light bulb might as well have appeared above my head, is all I’m saying.
I started leafing through the magazines at the checkout counters, and in a couple of days had my first bet placed, for five bucks.  Six months later I was banned from most of the pools and had to start making fake account names.  Turns out nobody likes it when you’re never wrong.  I thought I was covering my tracks pretty good though.

I was wrong.

Summer after senior year, the summer I’m supposed to be having fun, getting ready to go off to college, I get this PGP-encrypted email.  When I opened it up, it looked like another dead pool, only I didn’t recognize any of the names on it.  A lot of them looked Russian, to me, anyway.  Okay, so somebody wants me to pick some Russian celebrity who’s gonna die.  I wrote back.  "I don’t know any of those guys. You got any faces to go with the names?“

In a few minutes, I get a picture for every name on the list, and there’s a number too…are those the payouts?  These numbers are huge!

I scrolled down the mail, and halfway through one of them set off my death sense.  Before I got to the end, another one.  I mailed in my picks, and forgot it.

And then six days later, there’s another PGP email, but this one says a lot more.
Incredible work. The boss compliments you.
Your fee is in the account listed below.
Change the password.

There were two links in the email.  One link lead to a news article about someone dying of food poisoning.  The other was about a guy killed in some prison fight.  Both of them were suspected of having ties to the freaking Russian Mafia.  There were pictures.  Both of them the guys I picked.
I checked the bank account, and learned that I was sitting on thousands.  More than my 18-year-old self knew what to do with, and it scared me.  But, what had I done, really?  I mean, betting in dead pools isn’t illegal.  So, I changed the account password.

By the time I started college, I figured out what was going on.  Whoever was sending these emails thought that they were hiring me for hit jobs.  They must have thought that I was really picky or something!  I’d get some names and faces once in a while, and if I got a tingle off one of them, somebody chokes on a chicken sandwich, then I got a payday, otherwise I’d just say, nah, not working this month.  Really, the hard part was figuring out how to enjoy having money without attracting attention.  I decided that pre-law and just might be a good plan for me.

What I’m saying here is, I had a pretty good freshman year.  I mean, yeah, I still didn’t socialize much, but by this time I was mostly okay with that, and the death was kind of…removed.
Then one final email arrived from my mysterious benefactor.
Lay low. There’s a contract on you.
A contract.  On me.  No, this couldn’t be real.  In a daze, I shuffled to the bathroom and flicked on the light, caught my reflection in the mirror.  And screamed. 

Mom, Dad, I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to tell you all this when I was younger.  I want you to know that I’m going to try to fight it.  I’ve bought a fake ID, a gun, a fast car, and emptied that account.  I kept some money, enough for a week of running.  You should get a wire with the rest soon.

 I checked all your pictures.  You and Sis are all okay.  For at least seven days.  Love you.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Not The Same

Something I'd like people to think about when they start to think that both political parties are the same.

Only one party is pushing voter ID laws.

Only one party is closing down polling sites.

Only one party is purging the lists of registered voters.

Both are guilty of gerrymandering, but one is much, much better at it.

Only one party is trying to limit voting hours.

Only one party is trying to limit or even eliminate early voting.

Only one party has a standing court order forbidding them from sending out private poll watchers to intimidate voters-- and only one candidate is trying to do exactly that.

In short, my friends, one party - the Republican party - absolutely hates it when you vote.  The representatives of that party do everything in their power to nullify elections that to not go their way, to block the elected representatives of any party other than their own. 

And that should give you pause. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Encounter with a Demon

As the last of the party entered the chamber, the doors swung closed with a deafening bang.  A great winged demon grinned down at the pathetic band of adventurers.   “Clever little ones,” it rumbled.  “Found my prison.  Now hear the penalty.”

“Choose one to appease my appetite and the rest of you may leave.  Or choose a champion to fight me.  If that champion defeats me, then all live.  If not, then I go free.  Those are the conditions of my imprisonment.”

The party glanced at one another uneasily.  None of them could fight this creature and they all knew it.  Youth and ingenuity they possessed; experience and lore they had not yet had time to accumulate.
Sarina and Kimberly, the warrior twins, did not fear death, but rather the prospect of living without the other.  Mercedes and Lingst, mage and mage/thief newly wed, felt much the same way.   Derek looked among them, and realized that this must be his own test of faith.  “Very well, demon, “ he began.

“It should be me,” Mercedes interrupted decisively.  “I solved the puzzle that opened this door, I should be the sacrifice.”

“NO!” cried Lingst.  “I’ll can’t let you do that!”

The demon growled.  “I grow impatient–”

“Stay out of this,” commanded the mage, eyes flashing.  The demon, taken aback by her audacity, actually fell silent.  Turning to her husband, Mercedes said, “It’s my decision.”

“Not if I volunteer first!” he rejoined.  The demon observed the argument as one might a tennis match as the couple became more animated, voices raised and arms gesticulating wildly.

“You can’t volunteer first, I already did!”

“No, I volunteer!”

“I do!”

Lingst whirled to face the towering monstrosity, arm outstretched, and cast the only spell he knew.  “SLEEP!”

A deep gravelly chuckle came from the creature.  Slowly the chuckle grew into a throaty laugh.  Soon the demon’s belly began to shake, and before long the chamber rang with its uproarious roars and snorts of glee.

Suddenly the laughter stopped, and a puzzled expression crossed the demon’s ugly features.  Its face changed color from bright red, to deep purple.  It started to convulse.

The demon was choking on its own phlegm.

Everyone backed away as far as the walls would allow as the giant winged thing thrashed across the floor, fighting for air.  Finally all movement ceased.

Sunlight poured in as the doors of the arcane prison opened. 

Friday, September 2, 2016


Bounty hunters are not generally a cooperative sort.  Cooperation means sharing a reward, and, well, you know how that goes.  But, as in most of life, exceptions do exist.  Word had come from the territories - a price had just been placed on the Milsner gang, all sixty-odd of them.  A hunter team that went by Mike & Ike put out a call for a double handful more to help take them down, and I aimed to be one of them.

By happenstance I arrived first at the meetup point and so took it upon myself to make camp.  The abandoned farmhouse didn't seem too sturdy to me, and the nearby barn looked like a firetrap but dry enough to stow gear, in case of rain.  I swept out a corner for my bedroll and dry goods, but built a fire outside for light, warmth, and coffee.  My gun and mount stayed with me, of course.

I just about had everything set up when I realized that I'd left the sack of coffee back in the barn.  Damn, getting old, I thought, and  went to fetch it.  Still, it was understandable - generally, you don't have a sleeping spot too far off from your fire.  I'd justified my error about the same time I got back to the fire, and a couple of heartbeats before a cold hard piece of metal pressed against the back of my neck.

"Reach for the sky, mister," growled a familiar voice.

Yes, I was startled.  I blame the aging again.  "Lou," I said, "some day you will get one of us killed, pulling that."  And I laughed.

And she laughed.  Oh, my god, that laugh.

I've not met many women in this game.  The few which I have met are much like the men, and by that I mean that I would share a drink or a fire with them, but precious little else.  As I have said before, we are not a cooperative sort.  Nor are we particularly trusting.  The profession attracts that sort to begin with, and if you enter this game with any bit of softness, you will have it driven out of you, or you will not last.

As with all of life, exceptions do exist.  Witness one Lou Ann Brit.  I could tell you about our history, but it's not what you might think and I wouldn't tell you if it was.  I could sing her praises as a bounty hunter, but, hell, she just got the drop on me, so that should suffice for our purposes.  What you need to understand, what I want you to understand, is the joy of life that lives behind her eyes, and the way that joy can warm your soul whenever you see it.  Which is, in my case, far too infrequently.

"How you been, Lou?" I inquired as she holstered her sidearm.

"Not bad," she said, then nonchalantly added,  "Just got paid for Roy Hews."

I paused in my assembly of the coffepot and whistled through my teeth.  "That man-mountain?  I heard he was seven foot tall and spit poison.  Not bad, girl.  What do you do for an encore?"

She didn't bat an eyelash.  "Go after the Milsner gang."

"Ain't you a little young for that?"

"Ain't you a little old?"

Now I know what you're thinking, and it's probably something like, What the hell is this?  You give the impression that you're head over heels for this girl, and then when you greet her, it's just like you'd chat with any of your old trail buddies?  Isn't there a spark?  Isn't there a warm embrace?

No there isn't.  What there was, is this.  When I turned around, I saw Lou's smile and her bright green eyes.  She made this tiny, just barely perceptible move forward, like she just might step forward and hug me.  And I just barely lifted my shoulders, like I might shrug, or like I might raise my arms and hug her right back.  And then we both stopped, and went on like it didn't happen.

That's as far as it went.  That's as far as it ever went, with us.  But we could look at each other and we both knew that it might as well have happened.  It was good enough, and if she ever wanted more from me, well, that would be her decision.

That's what I told myself, every time.

So I made the coffee, and she set up a spit for some game she'd killed, and we had an hour to ourselves or so before the next arrival.

We heard him before we saw him.  A twig cracking, you know the drill.  Lou and I both stood up, drawing our guns (she was still faster than me), but the little shit already had his iron out.  It was Jason Strix.

I've never liked Strix.  Some of it's the way he always goes for the kill, even when he doesn't have to - hell, even when it lowers his bounty.  Some of it's the way he carries himself, with a little too much of a gunfighter's slouch.  Some of it's the way he talks, like he's always looking for a fight.  Some of it's the permanent smirk on his face.  Lord I do hate a smirk.

But I know that's really justification, the way I blamed old age for leaving the coffee in the barn.

We all held our stance for a second, though it seemed a drawn-out second to me.  Then Strix smiled that smirky little smile of his and relaxed, and Lou relaxed, and they put away their pistols, and I felt like a God-damned idiot so I put mine away too and nodded at Strix and exchanged last names with him by way of a formal greeting.

And then Lou Ann went and hugged Jason Strix.

She hugged him.

And while I was picking my jaw up from the ground, they were busy kissing each other.

All right.  All right.  None of your business, I told myself.  I returned to my place at the campfire, picked up my coffee mug.  I was halfway through scalding my mouth when my ears barely heard a brief, muffled noise, and not the pleasurable kind.

My brain caught fire. I dropped my mug, whirled, and drew my gun in one move, and damned if Strix didn't outdraw me anyway.  He had an arm around Lou Ann's throat and was pulling her toward his horse, using her like a shield.

"Just let it go, old man," Strix warned me.

Well, that was just plain foolish.  He had me out-drawn, he should have just shot me.

Now, let me point something out.  I was aiming for his shoulder.  But at the moment I took my shot, Lou slammed her fist straight down from his arm to his groin. I don't know any man who will not react to such an event.  Jason Strix immediately buckled forward, and my bullet caught him in the forehead.

I don't believe I have ever heard my gun make such a loud noise as that before, yet it was quiet as a whisper compared to the sound Lou's six-shooter made when she spun around and emptied it into Jason's corpse before it hit the ground.

Lou Ann twirled her pistol into its holster neat as you please and turned to face me.  Her bright, green eyes met mine.  She made a tiny, barely perceptible move forward.

I stiffened, and did not raise my shoulders at all.

We found a Wanted poster in Strix's saddlebags with his face on it.  Sometimes a bounty hunter will get a price on his own head, that's not unheard of.  I took his body in and claimed it.  I hear that Lou Ann got quite a pay day off the Milsner gang.

I hope one day to see her again, but I rather doubt things will ever be the same.  But who knows?  In most of life, exceptions do exist.  At least I was there when she needed me.  Did what needed doing.

That's what I tell myself, anyway.