Tuesday, April 24, 2018


A few days ago, I clicked an Internet item and WOOOPS! My computer screen turned blood red, a fire alarm rang, a huge white 800 number flashed, and a woman jabbered, "Dial the 800 number. Dial the 800 number."

Frozen, I gazed at the red screen, not knowing I could erase it by turning my computer off. 

Stupid One: I dialed the 800 number.

Mr. 800 claimed I had a thousand-and-one things wrong with my computer which he would fix in an hour if I gave him my password. Which I did. This is not yet Stupid Two.

Then came the bill. We dickered and settled on $199.99. "Will you pay by credit card or by e-check?" he asked. Using an e-check might entertain me; I'd never used one. 

Stupid Two: I paid by e-check.

Mr. 800 dickered with my computer for an hour, to fix it (or so he claimed) and we said "Goodbye."

The instant I hung up the phone, I dialed Apple Care for help in setting up a new password.

Then I called my bank to stop payment on my e-check. The teller took copious notes but set a stop payment in place. "However," she said, "to fix this you must visit your branch bank."

Already I wished I'd used my credit card; this looked like much more work. And it was. Much more.

The branch bank teller said stopping payment wasn't enough. Mr. 800 could use my blank checks. "Shred all your old checks," she told me. "I'll order new checks for you." This process took about two hours of paperwork and multiple signatures. 

Then the teller printed a long list of my automatic pay or credit companies. "Call each firm," she said, "to update the routing number and the new check number." 

I was so stupid. If I'd used my credit card, all I'd needed to do was cancel payment. But now I faced hours on the phone, tracking down all these changes.

I was right. Hour passed after hour.

But when I told Lisa Pelto, head of Concierge Marketing who helps me produce my books, she wrote: "Oh dear – we've all been there Marilyn.  We'll take care of your accounts. We'll get them all changed." 

So all's well that ends well, except for my enormous waste of time. And loss of pride.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Mayor’s Daughter

In 1950, my father ran for mayor of Alma, Nebraska, population 1,768. He ran against a strong, popular candidate, Paul Haeker. The April 4 election, a heavy one, drew more than three hundred voters, 162 for Dad, 148 for Haeker. Dad won just by 14 votes, but he won.
So my dad was Mayor, and I, the Mayor's Daughter. 
Almost thirteen years old, I quickly learned the downside to my new status. I felt sure my classmates would be so impressed by it that they would no longer holler at me, "Teacher's pet! Pthppthppthppth! Teacher's pet!"
I was right. Now they hollered, "You think you're so smart Pthppthppthppth! 'cause your dad's mayor!" 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Isn’t It Odd…

that nearly all of the dozens of people I chat with on Facebook are male?

that most are widowers with one beloved child?

that these widowers work overseas (usually military men or engineers) and their beloved child is in school in the states

that their child gets in some kind of trouble and ends up in a hospital needing several thousand dollars for surgery 

that their fathers want me to send money. To help their child.

I don't begrudge their child the cash, of course, but I do send it directly to the hospital, not to the father.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hoffa in Love

Jimmy Hoffa, to help out a laundry on strike that March 1936, stepped in the picket line and fell in love.

"I was looking," he recalled, "into the brightest damn pair of blue eyes I'd ever seen. Geez, but they crinkled in the corners when she smiled back at me. Her goddam hair was shining blond and although she was small and looked frail she walked erect and proud. I felt like I'd been fuckin' hit on the chest with a blackjack."

Jimmy jumped in line behind her.

"Better watch out." he warned her. "There's a man on your heels."

And there was.

Six months later, Jimmy and Jo drove to Bowling Green, Ohio, a town known as a place where a couple could get hitched in a jiffy. And so they did, on Saturday, September 24, 1936. Hoffa went back to work Monday.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

City Folks

In 1929, my twenty-two-year-old Dad sat on Joe Howard's farm house porch in Harlan County, Nebraska, with a half-dozen neighbors shucking corn. Joe turned to a neighbor. "I know its a bumper crop, but how we going to get it from here to Omaha?"
"Beats me, Joe. Didn't you take it last year?"
"I did." Husks rattled as Joe tore them off. "But I can't spare the time this year. Get up before dawn, drive until dusk, get to that burg at night, city folks crawling all around. Take a hotel for safety, get up before dawn, drive until dusk." 
Dad tilted his head to one side. "Did you see city folks everywhere you looked?"
"Ain't you ever been to Omaha?" Joe's face lit up. 
Dad shook his head and grabbed another ear of corn.
"Tell you what," Joe said, "I'll loan you my truck if you haul this corn to Omaha for us."
Dad beamed, grabbed Joe's hand and shook it.
He didn't know it, of course, but that hand shake took Dad one move closer to squaring off with Jimmy Hoffa.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Snatched by the Letter of the Law

My roly-poly teacher, Miss Florence Suitor, appeared ancient, as all adults do to a first grader.

Just before recess, she introduced a new rule: do not run in the hall.

I was obedient, even though the hall was long. It ran from the restroom through the length of the building all the way to a short flight of stairs that led outdoors.

So I walked circumspectly down the long long hall. When I reached the end, I ran up the stairs and outdoors.

Wooops! Big Mistake!

"Didn't I tell you not to run in the hall?"

I sat out recess in the classroom where I learned that, under Miss Suitor's law, "hall" didn't really mean "hall," it meant "hall and stairs."

This caused me to be suspicious of adult language, especially when I learned that Miss Suitor never had one. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Who Killed That Teamster Jimmy Hoffa?

No one knows, not even the FBI folks who have sniffed down dozens of felonious paths. 

The first thug to fess up was Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, so called because his towering stature and blond hair set him apart from all the short swarthy Italian gangsters who hung out around Hoffa.

When Frank confessed, he received such good publicity that a dozen other thugs owned up to killing Hoffa, too, muddying the already murky water. 

What's a writer to do, pen a chapter with a dozen different hypotheses?

I picked up "I Heard You Paint Houses," Frank's confession, and read it straight through. "Painting Houses" meant "hiring to kill," Frank's specialty. He'd whacked off a few gents for short Hoffa, and the two "Mutt & Jeff" guys became friends.

Their friendship inspired legendary Mafia boss Russell "McGee" Bufalino to choose Frank to paint Hoffa's house. McGee preferred to use close friends as assassins. They roused less suspicion.

Frank, of course, could have refused McGee but that, in turn, would have been The Irishman's death sentence.

What a set-up!

As a former English teacher, I know a good story when I read one. So I chose Frank as the killer in my memoir That Punk Jimmy Hoffa.

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese chose Frank, too. Scorsese's now directing a movie of Frank Sheeran's life titled "The Irishman." It features Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. Should be out in 2019.

What do they say about extraordinary minds? Something about running in the same passage to the sea?