Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for June, 2018

Love, Loss, and Justice

41qJDuxS8fLAn Experiment In Emotions – A Short Story Collection by P.A. Priddey. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love, anger, frustration, sadness, grief, jealousy, pleasure, helplessness, and rage. These are some of the feelings explored in An Experiment In Emotions, and an inkling of what readers’ may experience while reading these short stories. For the most part, these tales delve into relationships between men and women, and the misunderstandings that often occur. All, except one, involve couples breaking up, being torn apart, and/or finding a way to get back together. They are well written, and worth your time.

The collection includes a three parter, “The Dark Secret of Padwell”, which involves a strange “ritual” that is accepted by most people in the town, until Jack decides not to play by the rules, and refuses to marry Becky. In the beginning, the story reminded me of the film Indecent Proposal, with Robert Redford, when he offers a young couple a million dollars if he can sleep with the wife just one night, but it changes in the second act and takes on a much more sinister vibe. There are ten stories within this collection. My favorite was “The Vigilante, the Author, and Niblit”.

The Vigilante… had some nice touches, with the vigilante (Katie), Niblit (the cat), and Nick (the author), all coming into contact one night by chance, and sharing a secret that brings unwanted public attention, and the police, to their doors. Perhaps it is because the stories main characters include the author and a cat – one of which I am, and the other which I love – that toyed with my heart strings and made me partial to its telling. Without giving anything away, let me say that one of the three protagonists is actually a matchmaker in disguise, of which there are a number (disguises that is).

The next to last story in An Experiment in Emotions is called “The Monster”, and is one of the most unexpected. What is unexpected is who ends up helping whom, and how there motives and incentives change along the way. Stacy is pregnant, and her abusive husband, Carl, wants her to get rid of it. In the process, Stacy meets Jade Jones, and everything is turned upside down. For the first time in many years, Stacy begins to believe that she has choice, and experiences hope and acceptance. Though Mr. Priddey may not have experienced everything in this story, or the others in this collection, he definitely identifies with, and conveys, the emotions with insight and passion.

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You’re In the Army Now

Private 101: One Lesbian’s Army Training by LJ Scarborough.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51ZJi1oNSZL._AC_US218_Though Ms. Scarborough states that characters, events and incidents in Private 101 are “either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner”, the book seems very autobiographical. Regardless of how much is real, or fictional, this is a very interesting read. There are no glossy, elaborate characterizations, or sub-plots, just a straightforward, insightful, adventure with a woman finding her way.

I enjoyed this story because it took me to a place, and situations, which I have not, and will never, experience. For those who have been in the service, especially the Army, this will feel very familiar, and I expect, will find it quite enjoyable as well. Last, but not least, for anyone considering volunteering for the Army, I suggest you read this first, as it gives a very good accounting. You may have second thoughts, or wish to jump right in.

After breaking up with her girlfriend, or I should say, after her girlfriend leaves her for another woman in Seattle, Evelyn MacCellan Jones decides to check out the armed services and ends up joining the Army reserve. Fresh out of college, with loans, and no job possibilities, she sees it as a positive new direction, and a way to pay off her student debt. She thinks she knows what she’s getting into. She sort of does, and doesn’t.

What transpires, is a detailed account of her time in basic training, her new friends (including lover Becky “Becks”), the rigors of boot camp, and everything she learns about herself along the way. In addition to an a-hole Sergeant (Sanders), she also meets other women and men who are attempting to do the best they can. There is frustration, loneliness, hope, self-doubt, humor, and pride.

Private 101 reads almost like a confessional, with nothing left out. It is as if the author wishes us to know first hand the reality of signing up, and going through basic training, without concluding that it is good or bad. It is what it is, and readers’ get to decide if it is something they would be personally interested in, or wish to stay away from, as far as possible. Ms. Scarborough writes well, with conviction, and clarity.

Five Pillars

51OeRQe8OxLDeep Personal Transformation: How to Achieve Inner Harmony and Ultimate Happiness by Nebo D. Lukovich. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

In my life, and that of most I know, I have learned how personal transformation can be the result of suffering and hardships. I’ve written extensively about resilience and the insights people can have when going through intense loss and trauma. In Deep Personal Transformation Mr. Lukovich provides an additional way to make such progress, or develop this inner knowledge, without having to jump into the fire before finding the water to put it out.

He writes, “Permanent transformation can essentially be achieved in two ways: through suffering or through wisdom. Either we painfully push forward through any obstacle or disappointment, learning our lessons the hard way and emerging from the experience more mature, or we chose a path of love, consciousness, and wisdom, which also makes us mature, but in a far more enjoyable and effective manner. This book is all about learning the second, the superior way.”

By integrating neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics, with accompanying illustrations, graphs, and quotes, Mr. Lukovich presents his reintegration technique. He says it is a result of over two years of daily meditating and mindfulness practice. The five pillars of this methodology are: 1) There exists an underlying reality, 2) Everything is interconnected, 3) The outer world is a mirror of our inner being, 4) Apparently negative inner structures have a positive origin and purpose, and 5) This is a world of polarities. In many ways, it all comes down to transforming the mind content with presence, also known as mindfulness.

The Inner Triangle is the main technique and consists of: Dissolving the Temporary I (DTI), Moving to the Heart (MH), and Dissolving the Temporary I Plus (DTI+). Though some of these practices and exercises at first sound complicated, the author breaks them down into discernible parts which are easily digestible and easy to use. Deep Personal Transformation is practical, methodical, and comprehensively designed. Mr. Lukovich states it so eloquently in closing. “Countless lessons are here to be learned, at our disposal, if only we are aware of them. In these lie the real strength of this system. Through your personal work and meditation and mindfulness, you will elevate your consciousness to unexpected levels.”

For All To See

Eating From The Cherry Tree: A Memoir of Sexual Epiphany by Vivien Ella Walden. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

513GeUVKRDLVivien Walden has been inundated with sex throughout her life – both for business and pleasure. It is her curiosity, experience, understanding and insight of such, that make this memoir come to life. Eating From The Cherry Tree delves deeply into sexuality, and looks closely at Ms. Walden’s family history, childhood, the times she has lived in (late fifties through the present), and the legal, cultural and environmental circles within which she has moved and been influenced by.

Yes, there are many descriptions of all kinds of sex imaginable (or not) within these pages, and… it is accompanied by astute psychological, and emotional awareness. There is a big difference between labeling someone by their profession, and getting to know them as a human being.

“Being a stripper, call girl, hooker, or madam, you have to know how to dance to the music, be a good actress, stand up to the toughest deal with the law, and paint your own picture for all to see.” Thus, a young Jewish girl from Salford, England learns from mentors, friends, and colleagues, how to get what she desires, make a living doing so, and travels far and wide to both entertain and find self-fulfillment. Though I’ve never experienced most of what the author speaks of, her descriptions are presented so realistically, that readers’ may feel as if they are in the room (or wherever the event is occurring), taking notes or personally involved. It can be quite visceral.

What surprised me most about this well-written memoir is the depth of emotion, caring, and connection that the author has, not only for friends, partners, and colleagues, but also for her clients. She has worked as an actress, stripper, hostess, call girl, and madam. In all her endeavors, she strives to do her best to provide release and comfort for those she serves, and support those that work with her. In the process, she also attained a sense of control and security. “I always regarded myself as more of a burlesque dancer than a stripper, although the element of ‘tease’ is key. It is the act of combining direct eye contact and body language to convey sexiness to the audience. In any event, taking my clothes off didn’t give me a feeling of power, charming the audience did.”

Eating From The Cherry Tree explores our needs, fantasies, and desires. What Ms. Walden has come to understand, and conveys so beautifully, is that most everyone wishes to be loved, touched, wanted, and affirmed for who they are. This is most evident in her personal relationships (with husband Billy, and other boyfriends, girlfriends, and co-workers), and when she experiences a life-threatening medical emergency and a car accident. There are times when she describes sex as purely a physical transaction; other times that are for her own pleasure, and many occasions when the two have coincided. Thus, this book (and the author) not only have an abundance of sex, but also an abundance of heart. Her profession is undoubtably one of entertainment and acting, but there is also a big dose of kindness and insight for good measure.

 

Help Wanted: Mom

51h-QG6AotLLife Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Okay, this is a seriously funny collection of essays and columns about mothering, children, and relationships. Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies presents insights and experiences, with which the author decided were better to laugh about than to cry over. All to the readers’ benefit. Not only is she able to have a laugh at the families past expense (and present), but she does so with insight and knowledge that only a super-mom would understand. If you are ready to cut loose for a big dose of parenting reality, check out this gem.

The chapter titles alone give a hint of what’s in store for those lucky enough to get there own copy. “Serial Kid-Producer Reveals Top 10 Reasons Not To Have Kinds”, “Penis Envy Or The Revenge Of Your Sixth-Grade Science Teacher”, “How To Embarrass Your Child”, “Free Parenting Advice: Worth What You Pay For”, “Etiquette Lessons For Attilla The Hun”, “How To Raise A Son. Or Not”, and one of my favorites, “To My Mother & Daughters. ‘Sorry About… You Know… The World'”. Here’s a hilarious example from “How To Terrorize Small Children”.

“I committed an Easter crime once. I was persuaded to dress up in a bunny costume for my daughter’s preschool class. The teacher opened the door and I teetered, six-plus feet (counting the ears) into Easter excitement. For about a nanosecond, there was complete silence while I held up the basket of plastic eggs. Then eighteen mouths were screaming for eighteen mothers, thirty-six eyes were filling with tears, and seventy-two tiny arms and legs were churning toward the door. We’re not even going to discuss what happened in eighteen little pairs of undies as I single-handedly drove the roomful of preschoolers ballistic with terror.”

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies is not for any perspective, or present, mothers (and fathers) who wish to live in a fantasy land of what it “should” be like. Than again, maybe it’s just what the doctor ordered. Barb Taub’s writing is the best review you’ll ever need. “Help Wanted: Mom. Expanding organization seeks Director. Qualifications: must know how to put toilet paper on spindle, prepare creative and interesting dishes for staff to refuse if they don’t involve the words ‘peanut butter’ and serve as walking Kleenex to small staff members. On-call 24/7, no pay, no sick leave, no chance of promotion. Job security, annual recognition breakfast, company care.”

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