Solid Gold

Tarnished Gold (Cantor Gold Crime, #2)Tarnished Gold by Ann Aptaker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How much did I love this book? As much as I ever loved the Maltese Falcon, which is saying quite a lot. A lesbian Sam Spade, Cantor Gold is a fast talking, womanizing, wonder of an unwilling detective. An art thief, she must weave her way through dirty cops and the mafia to solve two murders. Along the way she gets banged up pretty good, and the descriptions of who, what, when, where, why, and how paint a picture you won’t soon forget.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those who are butch, or who love butch women. It was SO wonderful to see the world of the fifties reflected through the eyes of a lesbian who is unashamed and unabashed in her sexuality. Even though I found Cantor Gold in the second of a series, Tarnished Gold easily stands alone. But now I have to go read the first, because the world and characters that Ms. Aptaker paints are just that good.

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What are the people like?

old_woman_or_young_miss_best_optical_illusionAnd now for a retelling of one of my favorite folktales:

An old woman sits at the side of a road, a rough lunch of bread, cheese, and wine spread before her. She spots a weary traveler and asks her to sit and share her meal. The weary young woman plops down and with a nod of thanks, digs into the food and drink. Finally satiated, leaving only a few crumbs, she looks up and meets the eye of her benefactor. “I’m searching for a new place to live. Can you tell me about that town just up the road?”

The old woman refills the traveler’s glass with wine and asks, “What were the people like where you came from?”

The young woman’s face creased in a grimace and her eyes grew hard. “Oh, they are awful. Foul, bitter, mean-spirited folks always out for themselves. They are terrible cheats, liars, and their children are worse. The town is uglier than the people. I’m well shut of them.”

The old woman gathered up the leavings, wrapped them in paper and handed them to the traveler, shaking her head. “Sadly you will find the people in that town over the hill much the same. Safe journeying to you.”

The next day the old woman came to the same place and spread the same meal. When she saw another weary looking traveler, she invited her to sup. As the young woman sat down to face her host, she nodded gratefully and accepted the food and drink. When she had eaten enough and left more than half, she said, “I’m searching for a new place to make my home. Please, what is that town like just up the road?”

“Tell me about the town you’re from. What are the people like?”

The young woman’s face creased with a smile, and her eyes twinkled. “Salt of the earth, wonderful, warm, always looking for a way to help each other. Each always has a ready smile and hospitality to offer. I really miss them, and hope I find others just as nice somewhere else.”

The old woman gathered up the leavings, wrapped them in paper and handed them to the traveler. “Luckily you’ll find the people in my town much the same.” She rose and took the younger woman’s arm. “Let me escort you over the hill and introduce you around.”

Moral:  You get back what you put out.

Wildflower Power

traf-and-genta-in-poppiesportraitWildflowers are rebels, outcasts who refuse to grow well tended in gardens. They come and go capriciously, carried by seeds on the wind and appear sporadically as the seasons change. They are literally the hippies of the flower world.

My wife is former Air Force and has a very negative view of hippies. She is a naturalized citizen and did not grow up in America in the 1960’s, as I did. During her eight years of service, she watched videos of soldiers returning from Vietnam being surrounded at airports and called ‘baby killers’ and ‘war mongers’ after grueling tours of duty. Many hippies were war protestors and were described as dirty, lazy, sex-crazed, drug-using bullies. To this day, that’s the way she thinks of them.

I, on the other hand, was just a handful of years too young to have been a love child of the6a00d83451574769e201b8d17ddd08970c 60’s. I was only eleven in 1968 and had to watch from the sidelines as people my babysitter’s age got involved in social issues like civil rights and fighting for equality. The hippies embraced bright colors (remember Day-Glo?) and looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Their clothing was sexy, freeing, and exotic all in one. The ones I knew personally were college students, young, vibrant, beautiful souls trying to make the world a better place.

They spread love instead of hate and faced power with peace. Flowers became a symbol of the movement when they were inserted into tflower_power-bernie-boston-1967-145c3005be51255d642he barrels of guns held by soldiers called out in response to peaceful protests. As a form of protest, it was visually arresting. Even as student protestors were gunned down by their own government’s forces, they answered with the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peaceful resistance, they told us, was the only way to change the violence in the world.

But the propaganda machine, paid infiltrators, and the inevitable righteous zealots shaped the national conversation to the one that was fed to our military stationed overseas, including my wife. Her version is the one that most younger Americans hold because they weren’t there. They don’t know. They know only the characterization of hippies, not their character.

And protests of any kind, speaking truth to power, calling attention to social issues, standing up for those undervalued or mistreated, have become anathema to American Citizens Joe and Jane. We, those who sit before our national network television or our backlit computer screens, have bought into the idea that we should only protest on social media, without muss, fuss, or interruption of the daily duties of corporate America.

imrs-phpColin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe, and others like them are protesting peacefully when they refuse to stand for the national anthem. They are not hurting anyone, or blocking buildings, or bringing traffic to standstills. They are not yelling, disrupting, or forcing their behavior on others. They are exercising their RIGHT as an American citizen to protest when they disagree with their own government’s behavior. They are breaking no laws. Let me repeat that for emphasis. THEY ARE BREAKING NO LAWS.r126245_600x600_1-1

These young athletes are the wildflowers among us. They refuse to grow in the shade of our carefully tended national garden, instead insisting on their right to raise their heads defiantly to the same sun and stand proud, free, and beautiful. They won’t be planted, tended, and harvested at anyone else’s pleasure. Their peaceful protests have brought attention to a situation they feel strongly enough about to risk their careers. This is their country, and they’re not happy with the way things are going in their government. They must vote to change things, speak up to be heard on issues important to them, and protest effectively when they feel their government is doing something wrong.

That’s their duty as American citizens, not standing while a song is played over the loudspeakers. In America, patriotism cannot be mandated by the government. That is precisely what makes us a democratic republic and protects us from tyranny.



Authorial Heroes


John Steinbeck is mine, and I’m guessing an author’s name came springing to your lips when you read the title of this post.

Because they offer us different lives to live (if only while we’re enjoying their stories) storytellers are our greatest teachers. They give us diverse shoes to wear, opening our minds to possibilities unconsidered. They are our conscience and consciousness.

Why is John Steinbeck my authorial hero? Because he wrote Cannery Row. Doc, Mack, and Lee Chong tell the stories of the denizens of Cannery Row in Monterey, California. The people range from middle-class to homeless citizens, each trying to make their way through life as best they can, wishing each other well but ending up in pickles of their own making. I love the way he interrupts his primary tale with short stories of particular people who never appear again. The woman who gives tea parties for the neighborhood cats, the neglected boy who can’t quite control his hand-eye coordination, a wife who won’t accept her new home in an abandoned, windowless cannery steampipe unless she has curtains, and Hazel who’s mastered the ability of never answering a question by always asking a new one, these are the jewels scattered along the row. Perhaps one of the finest character driven stories ever told.

Of course, other authors and stories have made profound impacts on my life, far too many to even try to list. Some authors write better, others have offered more insightful characters, the stories told much deeper than friends planning a party. But when I think of who I’d most like to be compared to as a writer it’s always John Steinbeck.

Too bad he wasn’t a woman.

Who is your authorial hero? Leave a comment and let me know!