Flash Back – Nonfiction

I’m breaking my own schedule this week, going off topic to post a little piece that is short, but not exactly exactly flash-fiction.

Stolen Kisses

During the summer of 1979, between seventh and eighth grade, I rode my bike to the beach almost everyday with my pack of girlfriends: Lisa, Lisa, Laurie, and Anne.  We were a tight knit group and as with most girls that age, we had rules, some spoken and some unspoken.  A lot of it had to do with having the right stuff, and I don’t mean moral fiber, I literally mean “stuff.”

We all had to ride beach cruisers, wear Vans, have long hair, wear Chemin de Fer jeans, and hang puka shells around our necks.  We all wore the same type of bikini that summer.  “The crossback” was aptly named because the straps crossed our backs then came under the sides of our bikini bottoms and tied in the front.  The bikinis were two-toned with white, alternating one boob white, one butt cheek white, and the other boob and butt cheek a differing color.  One of our unspoken rules was that while we all wore crossbacks, it was forbidden to buy one in the same color already owned by one of our group.  That is how I came to own my brown and white crossback.  It probably wouldn’t have been my first choice, but one of the Lisas already had green.

We were not a prissy bunch, we were very physical.  We often doubled up on one beach cruiser with one on the handle bars and had ‘chicken fights’, trying to kick each other as we rode 5 miles to the beach. We never worried about sun screen back then.  It was all about Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil in the brown bottle with the distinct smell of coconut.  We liked to rub it in, rather than remain oily.

Once we reached our destination of Seal Beach, we would park our bikes where we could keep an eye on them, then lay out our towels and commence the boy watching.  Propped up on our elbows on the sand near the pier, we had a view of everything – the people walking on the pier, people coming and going in the parking lot, and the surfers riding the waves on the south side of the pier.

We were all boy crazy, but very inexperienced except for Laurie.  She filled us in on things we wanted to know, and coincidentally, she was the only one of us who filled out her bikini top.  Laurie gave us french kissing lessons by using her hand made into a slightly open fist.  We were all attentive students with pertinent questions; which way do you lean your head?  Do you start with your mouth open?  Are you supposed to make your tongue go clockwise?  Laurie answered our questions and also told us about some of the boys at our school who were good kissers and some who were not.  I was shocked that she had kissed so many boys.  She wasn’t the prettiest girl at our school, or even in our group, yet she had kissed some eighth and ninth graders.  I felt really sorry for the boys she called “bad kissers” and mortified at the thought that someone might say the same thing about me.

One summer day, we had just put our towels down and were talking and laughing when we saw a large group of boys walking down the ramp near the pier.  They walked onto the sand and start putting their belongings down about fifty feet away from us.  It wasn’t crowded yet.  Most people stayed away from the beach until the marine layer of clouds burned off, so our two groups had the beach almost to ourselves.  It wasn’t very long until the group of boys came over and introduced themselves.  They were a year older than us and they rode the bus from a city further inland.  Individual conversations pursued, and one boy sat down at the end of my towel and introduced himself as “Mitch.”

Mitch was cute, but not too cute.  His was an approachable look, not intimidating.  He had a big smile with straight white teeth that were lined up like disciplined little students, each with a tiny space between them, as a teacher would expect.  He had blondish-brown hair that was wavy, like me, but unlike me, he had a sprinkling of freckles.  He seemed muscular for someone our age and he had the requisite puka shell necklace and board shorts.

We hung out with the boys all day, but no one else seemed to pair off the way Mitch and I did.  He and I played in the water and sat on the sand talking.  We laughed a lot and teased each other and became increasingly touchy in a jostling way.  “Look at you, you have sand all over you.”  He said as he brushed sand off my thigh.  “Well so do you,” I said, knocking sand off his tan shoulder.

We walked down to Main Street and bought toffee peanuts from the candy store, and since we ran out of money, we shared a can of Coke.  We kept bumping into each other, when usually I was not clumsy.  When we got back to the beach, I went to the bathroom and the Lisas followed me in and interrogated me, “What is going on, tell us?”  I didn’t know what to say except that yes, I did like him.  The two Lisas were giddy with excitement, but when I asked, “Don’t you like any of his friends?” they both shook their heads and even rolled their eyes.

I went back in the water with Mitch and the two Lisas, but hardly noticed the watchful eyes of my two friends as I had other things on my mind; keeping the swimsuit in place every time a wave hit.  All three of us girls had to constantly readjust.  The crossbacks simply were just not made for swimming.

When we got out of the water this time, Mitch said “Come bring your towel over by me.”  I abandoned my girl-post to put my towel next to Mitch’s, about fifty feet from both groups forming a triangle.  We were on our stomachs side by side and didn’t talk much this time, but then Mitch did something strange; he took a lock of my long hair that was dripping with sea water and put the tip in his mouth and sucked on it.

“Mmmm, Salty,” he said.

“I do that too,” I said.  “You’re going to catch my cooties.”

“I want your cooties,” He laughed.  I laughed too, as I turned my shy head so he couldn’t see me continue smiling.

Pretty soon Mitch’s friends started yelling at him that they had to catch their bus.  We stood and Mitch put his hands on my hips and I rested mine on his shoulders.  His skin felt warm from the sun.  We looked like awkward students at a school dance, getting ready to slow dance by stepping in circles to “Stairway to Heaven,” but the only sound was that of his friends, yelling at him to hurry up.

“Can I get a kiss goodbye?” he asked.

I looked down and shook my head no.

He dropped his head, his shoulders slumped, and said, “I didn’t think so.”  He said bye and walked away.  I stood there and watched him walk away wondering if he might turn around, but he did not.

I walked back to my friends and they asked what happened.  They were disappointed in me and said I should have kissed him.  Laurie shook her head with bewilderment.  They couldn’t make me feel any worse than I already did.  The worst part is he didn’t know how much I really liked him.  He didn’t know how badly I wanted to kiss him and was scared.  He had no way of knowing it would have been my first kiss and that I was nervous I wouldn’t do it right, especially on the open beach with all our friends watching us even though they pretended not to.  I missed an opportunity to have my first kiss with a boy I really liked, and he was denied knowing how kissable I thought he was.  Fear is a thief.  In this case, we both got robbed, and I never got another opportunity to kiss Mitch.


Spotlight – Lil’ Johnny Tharp


Remember that guy in school who was always doodling disturbing pictures in class?  All manners of skulls, monsters, and fantastically horrific art?  Yep, ‘Lil’ Johnny Tharp’ was ‘that guy’.  The Catholic nuns tried to curb his enthusiasm while his friends egged him on, meanwhile his poor mum didn’t know what to do with this imaginative boy with a love for all things creepy.

The 1980’s music scene in Long Beach and Orange County proved the perfect ground for John to hone his skills as he was called upon to create flyers for punk rock shows.  We called them “gigs” back then and social media was handing out flyers, usually with a disturbing sick graphic intended to scare away the faint-of-heart.  Around that time, John began assembling his own tattoo guns from guitar strings, small motors, and various power supplies.

John, a.k.a. “Lil’ Johnny Tharp” wielded a pin on paper with such precision, most assumed their tattoo would be nothing less than “bad ass” and the guinea pigs came lining up. Today John’s an accomplished and professional tattoo artist, and looking back he’s indebted to those foolish enough to get a tattoo from a kid in a kitchen with a homemade tattoo gun.

John Tharp has been tattooing professional for 20 years, and along with his wife and son he owns and operates “Main St. Tattoo & Body Piercing” in Merced, CA.  The most rewarding part of his career as an artist has been passing on the trade to his son and building a family business with support and assistance from his wife. “Being able to make a living through art, giving our son a set of skills that allows him to be self-sufficient, having my wife as not only my life partner but, business partner too…What more could I ask for? I feel very blessed.”
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John’s interest in the alternative music scene was not limited to just making flyers.  In addition to perfecting his artistic skills, he also has devoted time to fine-tuning his guitar and vocal talents.  Currently, Lil’ Johnny Tharp is lead vocals/lead guitar for a psycho-billy trio known as “Little Johnny & the Sleepwalkers”, playing on St. Valentine’s Eve at the Minor’s Inn-Hwy 140 Lounge, Mariposa, CA.
John continuously pushes his art skills forward with painting classes at the local college and watercolor workshops offered at various tattoo conventions. To view his art visit:
Instagram@LILJOHNNYTHARP, Instagram@MAINSTTATTOOMERCED, Facebook@ Main St. Tattoo & Body Piercing Merced, Facebook@Little Johnny & the Sleepwalkers.
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Monday’s Musing – Books!


My goal for 2015 of reading more and reading greater variety has lead to a stack of book that I would like to tell you about:

Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon.  A quickie.  I leave it on my desk at work and read it when I am on hold.  It is a fun book, inspirational for any artist, musician, or writer.  I don’t need inspiration to write, I need inspiration to “Show my work” and Kleon provides plenty of ideas.  He has a few books out and also writes an awesome blog.

Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei.  The long subtitle is “Build your routine, find your focus, and sharpen your creative mind.”  There is a long list of contributors and this is another book meant to inspire that can be read in little bits.  This one has a lot of good information about chasing your dream and not wasting your time.

Damn Good Advice (for people with talent) by George Lois.  I almost couldn’t bring myself to buy this book because I like to pretend to be humble, but I am so glad I did.  Yet another book intended to boost creativity, except this one is more like a kick in the pants rather than a pat on the back.

Looking for Alaska, by John Green.  YA – as in “Ya for me, I am reading some ‘Young Adult’ fiction, which is not my usual genre.  I enjoyed the first half of this book, the second half – not so much.  At least I didn’t cry a bucket an ruin a perfectly good pair of contacts, like I did with “The Fault in our Stars.”  Partly because I have been wearing glasses, partly because this one only provide one punch in the gut and TFIOS was a perpetual beating.

The Martian, by Andy Weir.  I do not read Science Fiction.  Or at last I didn’t.  The other day I wanted a new book and because I am trying to broaden my horizons I said, “I will just go to the NY Times list of bestsellers and buy either # 3 or 4.  This is #4.  The lead is fantastic, but I am barely into it.

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Sismsion.  A cute little romantic comedy that left me wanting. Is that a good thing?  I’m not sure.  Having a narrator with Asperger’s syndrome is a clever idea, but I’ve read it before.  (The Curios Incident of the Dog in the Night).  This book was not a waste of time.

Mindfulness for Beginners, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  I keep plugging away at this topic, keep trying.  This book is excellent and comes with a CD of guided meditation.

Mad Ball:  The Bartman Play, by Hoffman and Yurkanin.  I bought this as research for my second book “Flower Girl”, but I kind of wish I hadn’t.  I needed to know about the Bartman play and this book gave me way more information than I needed.  Way more.  You’d have to be more into baseball than I am to enjoy this, but there are plenty of people who fit that description.

Guess what else I read this week! Poetry!  If I keep becoming so well-rounded I might lose my edge.  Here was the best poem I read, although it reads more like a joke:


“10 reasons why your relationship isn’t working”

(turn the page)

“She likes to be fingered and you have no hands.”

I.E. Wong gets the credit for that one.  He also writes a very clever blog and has a short book of poems called “Tin Lion.

Flash Fiction – 500 words

Momma’s Inner dialogue

I’m glad that’s over with, but I have a long drive ahead of me. Tarzanna?  Never even heard of it before yesterday.  Sure don’t fit in with the “Five miles from home” rule I try to live by.  Guess they don’t have places like this in Long Beach.  Doesn’t make a lick of sense.  If they have drugs, why don’t they have a place to detox them?  I expect the drive will take me an hour, just hope there isn’t traffic.  I sure as hell hate driving.  Oh, the things I do for these kids.

Oh shoot, I gotta’ remember to add gas money to the list of what she owes me.  Oh, and three packs of cigarettes too.  Damn girl had the nerve to ask for a whole carton!

Well, at least I won’t have to worry about this one for two whole weeks.  Lord knows I have enough to worry about.  Locked up for two weeks, we’ll see what happens after that.  I really didn’t see this one coming, though.  Sure I knew she was up to something, but heroin?  I’m no saint, God knows that, but heroin?  I kinda’ expected all my girls to get in some sort of trouble, pregnancy, kicked out of school, arrested for shoplifting, but heroin?  And here this one seemed to cause the least amount of trouble up until recently.  No, I sure didn’t see this coming.

Oh, I’ll admit I suspected something was wrong when I got that bank statement in the mail, but she had good excuses.  Plus I hadn’t seen much of her lately, but when I did she always wanted to borrow money.  She was getting skinny as a rail too.  And those damn boyfriends!  She got so insulted when I asked if she was a “groupie” but every damn one of them is in a band.  Isn’t that what a groupie is?  Course she never picked a successful musician from what I can tell. None of em’ ever made any money at it anyway.  Buncha’ amateurs.

She could do better if she wanted.  I keep telling her she’s the prettiest of my girls, but she’s not looking too good right now.  Hell, she kinda’ looked like a wet angry cat.  Tried to get her to put on some makeup before I left, but she won’t listen to her momma’.  Complained she wasn’t feeling well, but putting on a little lipstick doesn’t take much effort.  I wear lipstick every day of my life, even when I’m in the hospital having babies.  No need to look like a damn corpse when God gave us lipstick and eye make-up.

Well, I hope she gets her shit together and knocks that crap off.  Get a decent job, put those typing skills to use, get some damn health insurance and quit adding to my grey hair!  Lord knows I have enough to worry about.  Damn kids.






Friday Fashion – Vintage

Back in high school, I got a job at “The Melon Patch,” a cool vintage clothing store in Long Beach.  The only problem was the owner didn’t have any money and wanted to pay my wages in clothing. I may have coined the phrase “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” but it was way before cell phones and video cameras were still the size of shoe boxes, so Sweet Brown got the credit.

I could only afford to work in that cramped and musky store for a few days since my car didn’t run on vintage clothing,  but I’ll never forget the “Lucy Ricardo” dress I earned.  I only have a few vintage pieces these days, but I will fix that as soon as about 100 of you buy my book, Subway Girl. Help a girl out.  Mama’ needs new shoes.  And a dress would be nice too.  Maybe some boots?  A girl can dream.

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Spotlight on – Manny Sanchez

 Not just a scarf, this is art:
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“Manuelle Scarves” is a collection of unique digitally printed silk photo scarves, each series originating from photos taken in NYC, Asia, and Europe.  Each season consist of limited scarves.
Photographer / Artist  Manny Sanchez currently resides in Brooklyn, but he loves to travel.  Born in Long Island  New York to Cuban parents, Manny was raised in Los Angeles, but eventually came back to New York.  Travel and photography had been life long passions, but inspired by the fashion of New York City he began to work with fabrics as an art medium. Soon he began transferring his pictures onto silks -thus the idea for Manuelle Scarves.

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I recently caught up with Manuelle and discovered that The American Museum of Natural History in NYC asked him to develop a limited edition of silk scarves inspired by their Hall Of North America Diorama’s and their hall of Planet Earth, quite an honor!

I asked what he was up to now and Manny answered, “My last collection of scarves and summer wraps consisted of a series of photographs I captured in Havana, Cuba.  I’m currently working on my spring/summer collection, the theme is “From the Desert to the Sea.” I grew up in Southern California and being away for several years has made me long for the beauty this state has to offer. The series will consist of images from Sequoia National Park,  California Beaches, and Palm Springs.  I also continue to produce exclusive digitally printed scarves for the AMNH. I recently designed a Scarf for their Nature’s Fury Exhibit currently running in NYC until Aug of 2015.”

To see other examples of Manuelle Scarves or to make a purshace, visit:

Website:   www.manuellescarves.com  instagram:  manuellescarvesunnamed (3)



Flash Fiction – 500 Words

Mommy’s Little Helper

“Why are you doing that?”  He asked.

“Doing what?”

“Putting those lemons in the water.”

“It’s for my book club,” she answered.

“Why don’t you just leave the lemons on the side?   Maybe some people don’t want lemons in their water.”

“I just felt like doing it this way.  I think it looks pretty.”

“What looks pretty doesn’t always taste good.”

She knew he actually preferred lemon in his water and that he always thought he was right.  She wouldn’t argue.  She sprinkled powdered sugar on the lemon bars and began cutting them into squares.

“Who’s coming over?”  He asked.  She named the five women in her book club even though it had been the same five women for two years.  “Who’s Gina?” he asked just like the last time and she explained who Gina was again.  “How long are they staying?”

She asked if he would prefer if they do not meet there again.  She liked when the meeting was at one of the other women’s house and she could relax.  He said no and asked why she made lemon bars.

“Book club.”

“Well, I know that,” he rolled his eyes.  “I thought you were trying to lose weight.”

She didn’t answer and he added, “Can you make sure I get some this time?”

“Of course,” she answered.  She cut out two and set them aside and when he left the room she took out the bottle of pills she had hidden behind the bag of flour.  She broke open two capsules and sprinkled the white powder onto the lemon bars along with the powdered sugar.  She covered the little plate with clear plastic and put a post it note on top labeling them “Dad’s.”  The kids wouldn’t dare.  Then she washed some strawberries and put them on a big platter and surrounded them with the remaining lemon bars.

Gina arrived first and whispered “How’s it going with Josie Wales?”  That was their code name for him based on the handsome but cold blooded Clint Eastwood character.

“Oh, the same, but I feel hopeful.  I expect a change soon.”

Gina raised an eyebrow so she went on to explain, “You know how the doctor gave me antidepressants a few months ago but I never took them?”

“Yeah, you’re not really depressed, just married to an asshole.”

“Well, fair enough.  But since he won’t go to marriage counseling, I started giving him the pills.  On the sly.”  She grinned at her friend thinking she would get approval for her genius plan.

Gina started to say something, and then hesitated as she remembered that she had snuck Viagra into her ex-husband’s food.  That move had not saved her marriage.   “Yeah well, you need to try something.  I sincerely hope it works for you.”

“For him,” She corrected.  “I’m fine.  He’s the one who is miserable.”  And she carried her tray of beautiful refreshments out to the patio.