Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Best Month Ever

May was a busy month.

It began with the death of Osama bin Laden. A week or so later I finished the first draft of my novel, news of which later became my most popular blog to date. Then I wrote my first guest blog, for my MFA little sister Erin Corriveau's blog. That was followed by Oprah's final episode and the Bruins going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

I bring this up because thanks to you, my loyal followers, my blog received more hits in May than any other month since I started.

This will be difficult to top. June has only 30 days, and I'll be away for a good chunk of July at my upcoming residency. But this was a great May for me and my blog and hopefully for you guys. So, thanks.


I thought I was on track last night. I was tired so I called it an early night.

The problem with going to bed early, though, is that you wake up at 3:30 in the morning and can't get back to sleep.

So if anyone has any good insomnia tips, let me know, because when this happens it always messes with my day.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Maybe I'm just talking to the right people or clicking on the right blogs or Internet sites or emails, but it seems like a lot of people are reminding each other of the true meaning of Memorial Day -- not the unofficial beginning of summer, but the remembrance of lives lost for our country. Maybe Osama bin Laden's death has it a little more in the forefront.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad. I wholeheartedly agree. We should spend at least a few minutes thinking about those who gave their lives for our country on this day.

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sending Out the Good News

I've spent the past couple of months as fiction co-editor for Mason's Road, the online literary journal in the Fairfield MFA program. (Contrary to what you might think, it's not for us MFAers to publish our own stuff -- we're not eligible to submit pieces.)

In fiction, we received nearly 200 submissions. Some of them were really bad, like, laughably bad. Some of them had potential but were too first-draft-y.

We've come up with seven that we really like and will be publishing in July's issue. After sending out rejection emails to a ton of stories, which sucks (having been on the other side of that, I know the feeling), it's nice to be able to send out emails to budding writers, telling them we like their stories and want to publish them. And it's nice to get the emails back with excited responses from the authors. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals

The Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. But this is the matchup I least wanted.

I like the Vancouver Canucks. Growing up, the Bruins were (and always will be) my favorite team. But I've always had a casual affinity for two other teams -- the Hartford Whalers (because they were still New England) and the Vancouver Canucks.

Because the Canucks were that team I could identify with as a long-suffering Boston sports fan. Vancouver was generally a bad team that would have a great season once a decade, only to lose to a team, I hated (New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers).

Generally, fate seems to feed off of my hatred of other teams, pitting my Boston teams in their respective league finals against teams I can't stand -- Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bears, New York Mets, Edmonton Oilers, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants. But this time, fate has thrown me for a loop. If the Bruins lose to Vancouver, that would ordinarily constitute instant and henceforth permanent lifetime hatred toward the Canucks. But I'm not sure I can hate them, no matter what the outcome.

Hopefully, that's a positive sign, a sign that I won't need to bother learning to hate the Canucks. Go Bruins! 


I don't normally watch much Oprah, but I did tune in to a few of her final shows.

Last week I watched the two-part interview with James Frey, their first meeting since she eviscerated him five years ago for billing A Million Little Pieces as a memoir when large swaths of it were fiction. Ironically, he seems to be doing better than ever now. He told Oprah how he originally billed it as a novel and publishers told him they liked it, but didn't want to publish it unless he called it a memoir. (Although, with him credibility will always be an issue, so who knows if that's true.)

Still, it's an interesting dilemma. I found it fascinating that this interview aired the day I finished the first draft of my novel. I can't say how I would respond if I were in that position, though, based on the content of my novel, I highly doubt any publisher will ever say, "Phil, we like this, but we won't publish it unless you call it a memoir."

One last thing. Oprah has aired a ton of shows over the past 25 years. To me they ran the gamut. Some of them were eye-opening to me, others I found schmaltzy and contrived. But on her last show, Oprah talked about finding your true calling, and how important that is for personal fulfillment.

For that, I can say that she went out with a bang. I can only hope writing is my true calling. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My First Guest Blog

I wrote my first guest blog recently, for Erin Corriveau, my little sister in the Fairfield MFA program. For those of you who are interested, here it is.

I feel like I need a cigarette now.

Anyway, I was pleased to be able to help Erin out. I've already extended the invite to Erin to write a guest blog for me if she wants. If anyone else has a good idea for a guest blog, let me know and I'll see if I can fit you in.

Happy blogging everyone. And thanks again for the support.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Most Popular Blog

Breaking news! My blog last week about completing the first draft of my novel is now my most viewed blog ever, eclipsing the first blog I ever wrote.

I'm excited about this. It was a little disconcerting that people thought I may have peaked with my first blog.

So, thanks everybody. I appreciate the support. You're the best blog followers ever.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Linking To the Fairfield U. MFA Home Page

I'm trying to link up with the Fairfield U. MFA in creative writing Web site, putting the link on my blog's page so I can increase my visibility.

Thus far, it's not working. The words "Fairfield University MFA in Creative Writing" don't appear in a different color of linked on the copy block on my blog page.

I'm not the best techie in the world. If one of you Fairfield folk can help me out, let me know.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Job Application

On my way to run some errands yesterday, I noticed the adult video store near where I live is hiring.

Aw, what the hell, I said to myself. Why not?

I walked in and asked for an application. The girl behind the counter handed me one. I started to walk out. The girl became flustered.

"Wait," she said. "You have to fill that out in the store."

I stared at her.

"You have to fill that out here. The manager doesn't like people running off with his applications."

I looked down at the application. It's a very generic form. It doesn't even feature the store's logo or otherwise identify it. It could easily have been copied from a grocery store job application. I looked back up at the girl and roll my eyes.

This seems to have calmed her down. She, too, didn't seem to understand why this was store policy.

"Go ahead," she said. "Take it and bring it back whenever you fill it out."

I had no idea this would such a process.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rapture Wrapup

There's a billboard on Route 9 not far form where I live that is all black except for, in bold, bright letters,  "IsYourWifeHot.com." Kinky and intriguing, but if you go to the Web site you quickly learn it's for a plumbing and heating company. Double entendre. Ha. Don't believe what you see on a billboard.

I bring this up because, except for a computer virus yesterday that I quickly took care of, Rapture came and went without much fanfare. The world apparently hasn't ended.

I really wish people would not publicize this shit. Just because someone buys billboard space doesn't mean what they print on that space is true, or that anyone else should care. All it does is give these wackjobs a platform.

I'm not a very religious person but I support anyone's faith and most people respect my worship, or lack thereof, by not getting in my face about why their faith is right by, say, telling me it says the world's about to end. That's the other thing I dislike about this. It's insulting to those who are devout but sane.

So the earth is still spinning on its axis. Can we all move on now?

Red Sox-Cubs

Now that the Cubs are in town, there's been a lot of talk about the parallels between the Cubs and Red Sox.

A lot of people say the Cubs are the National League's version of the Red Sox. Both teams have in common long championship droughts. Before 2004 the Red Sox had gone 86 years without winning a championship; and, ironically their previous championship before then came in the 1918 World Series against the Cubs. The Cubs have gone 103 years since their last World Series title.

Both teams have histories of coming ever-so-close to ending their drought, epitomized in 2003, when for about four hours there was a very real chance the Red Sox and Cubs would square off against each other in the World Series, though ultimately both teams lost their playoff series in agonizing fashion.  

I like the Cubs (except when they play the Red Sox, obviously). They're a team that's fun to root for. Their story is one of the Lovable Losers. They always appreciate me, as a Red Sox fan.

Yet, to me, that's why the similarities between the two franchises end here.

I've been to Wrigley Field. It's a great place to watch a ball game, particularly on a Friday afternoon day game. But that's the thing. Despite the Cubs heartbreak in 2003 (and other years), Cubs fans treat Friday afternoon at Wrigley like an early weekend, and opportunity to play hooky from work, grab an Old Style brew and start the weekend early. Wrigley is more of a bar than a baseball stadium. When I'm at Wrigley, I feel like I get more annoyed when they lose than the Cubs fans. Even after 2003 and the Steve Bartman incident, Cubs fans seem to be enthralled with just being there.

Myself on the other hand, as a Red Sox fan, I felt like I wore the pain of 1978 (the first baseball game I ever watched) and 1986 and 2003 (and even 1975 and 1967 and 1949 and 1948 and 1946, even though they were before my time) on my sleeve, though after the Sox' circuitous route toward winning the 2004 World Series and then winning the World Series again in 2007, all the pain feels like a means to an end. The Cubs are the lovable losers, but the Red Sox fans are Miserable Losers.

You could just as easily say the Cubs are the National League Cleveland Indians or the Red Sox are the American League Philadelphia Phillies, based on those teams well-publicized droughts in their histories.

So, as much as I can appreciate the Cubs and their drought, they are a completely different entity from the Red Sox.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ode To Haley Reinhart

In an impressive season of American Idol, Haley Reinhart has been my favorite.

For starters, she's hot.

She also struggled through the early rounds this season, finishing in the bottom three four times, in which usually is a recipe for a quick and merciful death.

She was the recipient of the kiss-of-death from the judges -- "You need to figure out what kind of singer you want to be" -- which generally means the judges don't have a clue either.

She survived some questionable song choices -- "You and I," "Earth Song."

And lastly, she's hot.

Her road finally came to an end last night, as she finished third. In a season where the top six are all incredibly talented and should have long and fruitful careers ahead of them, she was the eye candy and I'll miss that in the finale. But I appreciate her style, too, her willingness to do what she wants to do, sing what she wants to sing, and I think when you start a musical career there's something to be said for that. I wish her luck.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rest In Peace, Camden Pierce Hughes

Every so often there's a story that just wrenches your heart.

This is one of them. A boy was found dead in the woods in rural South Berwick, Maine, over the weekend, and yesterday morning a Texas mother was taken into custody after sources say she confessed to police that she killed him.

There are many heartbreaking aspects to this crime. For starters, 6-year-old Camden Pierce Hughes is dead and any life cut that short is tragic. Speculation abounds. You hope that it was just a horrible accident, but one wonders about the mindset of someone from the Dallas area, nearly 2,000 miles from New England, and why they would drive all this way for no apparent reason. A person staying in the neighboring room in the New Hampshire Seacoast hotel said he heard the mother yelling at Camden through the walls. I can't even imagine what poor Camden was thinking this whole time he was en route to New England.

What really disturbed me is that apparently the mother, Julianne McCrery, is the published author of Good Night, Sleep Tight: How To Fall Asleep and Go Back To Sleep When You Wake Up. (I post the Amazon link here not to give her free publicity but just to provide evidence that I'm not making this up.) It currently boasts an Amazon average star rating of 1.0, based on one, 1-star review, in which the reviewer minces no words about how she feels about her considering recent events. And 77-of-129 people found the review helpful. The book does not seem to be geared at motherhood but more on insomnia-related issues.

It's just a sad, sad story all the way around. It shouldn't have ended this way. Rest in peace, Camden Pierce Hughes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Coming Up For Air

In order to maintain my sanity, I decided to take a step away from the recently completed first draft of my novel and catch up on life.

This was my day.

With the announcement "I have changed my Twitter name. Alert the media," I changed the name on my Twitter account to Phil_Lemos.

After picking it up at Shaw's, I ate a whole bag of Baked Ruffles (not the snack-sized bags, a real bag).

To fix my ailing cell phone, I went to the Sprint store. They were able to fix it for me free of charge. It was great to find out I didn't need a new phone.

I bought trash bags. Now that I have a little more free time on my hands, I can pick up all the trash spilling over my bin and put it in bags and take out the trash.

I watched The People's Court, where a tenant was informed by Judge Milian that he cannot sue a landlord for $5,000 in damages if his 1980 TV set gets water damage from the leaky roof in his apartment.

All this writing tired me out about as much as my usual trip to the gym. So I slept. A lot.

I wonder if these are the kinds of things that Tom Robbins and Toni Morrison do after they finish a draft.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The End

When I was a kid I used to be fascinated by novels, and I spent an unusual amount of free time trying to be a child novelist.

At one point I was working on a novel about a giant, Godzilla-esque radioactive dinosaur who stomped all over Boston instead of Tokyo. Once I began writing about the inner workings of the fictitious National Kickball League. And I actually still have a copy of the opening chapters of a tongue-in-cheek undercover spy novel I wrote as a grade-school creative writing project, which I also went through the trouble of illustrating (and whose main character looked suspiciously like Snoopy as World War I flying ace.)

I emphasize the word "start," because I would always get about 20 pages in before something else would command my attention -- birthday parties, homework, the latest comic book -- and I would toss the novel aside.

I'm burying the lead here. I bring this up because yesterday afternoon I typed the words "THE END," thus finishing the first draft of the novel that will be my MFA thesis. It was a surreal feeling. As I mentioned on Facebook, the feeling was "exhilarating and scary and nerve-wracking and at peace all at once."  

And of course it's just a first draft. As of now, the novel is flawed. It has holes and problems that I need to fix, and that will be one of my major life projects over the next year and possibly longer, until I feel as though it's agent-ready. And who knows, given the long odds against publication, it may never be agent-ready.

But I've always said that anyone who is able to write "THE END" on a manuscript deserves commendation, regardless of the quality. I've read a lot of novels over the course of my life that I thought kinda sucked. But the authors were still one up on me -- at least they finished it.

I may never get this puppy published. But at least when I'm on my deathbed I'll be able to say I wrote a novel.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Nice to see that poor James Tate kid can go to his prom, after Shelton, Conn., school officials reversed their original decision to ban him.

I understand the rationale to discipline him for essentially defacing public property, but there are other ways to do so without creating a media circus and detracting from the educational environment that school officials claim to want to create.

Good for him.

James Tate is so gonna get laid.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Something happened last night with Blogger that wasn't solved until well into this afternoon, so I wasn't able to blog last night.

It looks like a bunch of people clicked onto my blog anyway.  Not sure whether it was curiosity or concern, but I appreciate it.

Now back to my regularly scheduled novel. More to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

C'mon, Man!

The last couple of days on my Facebook status, I've alluded to my continuing adventures in writing my novel.

I've received a lot of support in my endeavor -- 23 folks have given me the thumbs-up in the past couple of days.

Here's the thing, though: all 23 of the thumbs-ups have come from females.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, let's face it, the reading audience tends to be skewed toward women. And I'll admit it's nice to get attention from the ladies.

But it'd also be nice if at least one or two guys would give me a shout-out.

C'mon, man!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Australia: My New Frontier

At one point I blogged about how many hits my blog was getting from outside the United States. I included a wish list of foreign countries in which I would like to get some people reading my blog. One of them was Australia.

I'm happy to report that this month, I've had two hits from Australia. It's a small number but it's a start.

Now if only they could spread the word to New Zealand.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writer's Block II

For me, writer's block is fear.

It's the fear that whatever comes out when I'm plunking away at the keys will be total crap.

It's easy to show people your writing when it's pretty good. It's a lot harder to show them something that's clearly not your best. And that's when the fear comes in.

This is despite the fact that sometimes my best breakthroughs when I write crap and then show it to my writerly friends. Many times they can put their finger on what sucks about something I write and how to fix it. And when that happens, that's when my writing really improves.

But sometimes I can't overcome my fear and just get stuff down.

This is my challenge this week.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Broadening My Horizons

It's good for me to broaden my horizons and blaze new trails. So Saturday night, even though I was tired and didn't much feel like doing anything, I decided to head out to Loren Ipsum Books in Inman Square in Cambridge, where a friend of mine gave a reading.

Some of her other friends also read or performed songs or oral storytelling.

I made a handful of new friends and now have some fellow writer friends to connect with. It was a good time -- the kind of thing I'd like to do more of. I have to get in touch with my inner writer/storyteller.

I'm glad I ventured out

Requiem For a Cell Phone

My cell phone is falling apart. Right now it still works, but I fear that pretty son it'll be going to that calling plan in the sky.

It's been a long and joyous ride for the cell phone. I've had it for eight years. It's so old I can't even set my alarm with it. 

I have to look for a new phone. This involves many decisions. Right now I have a bare bones plan. I have no Internet usage. I can't send text messages unless I'm in front of my computer. But it's wicked cheap, so I stuck with it.

Given the state of the economy and the state of myself, I've decided to stick with the bare bones phone when I get a new one. I can always upgrade. But that'll be for another day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Friend's Enemy Sucked Last Night For the Lakers

I hate the Lakers. My friend hates someone whose name is also the name of an player on the Lakers, who, for the sake of anonymity, I will not mention. (Hint: it's not Kobe.)

So it was exciting moments ago when the Dallas Mavericks beat the Lakers to go up 3-0 in thier playoff series, with the unnamed players missing shots, committing fouls and generally contributing to the loss.

My friends doesn't like basketball, but we were IMing each other and it was great to be able to bond over the failure of the Lakers.

What Happens When I Drink Coca-Cola

I don't think I could or would ever completely give up drinking Coca-Cola, but I could probably cut down on how much of it I drink. (This would also apply to Vault Soda, which I used to drink more of than Coke, until Coke rudely and with no respect for my feelings took it off the market.)   

One of the trainers at the gym I go to, in order to help motivate me to do so, gave me a flier that talks about what happens to my body when I drink Coke.

I haven't fact-checked this, so take it with a grain of salt. But for what it's worth, here's what it says happens:

In the first 10 minutes, 10 teaspoons of sugar (100% of my recommended daily intake) hits my system.

Within 20 minutes, blood sugar spikes and causes an insulin burst. My liver responds by turning any sugar I can get my hands on into fat.

Within 40 minutes, caffeine absorption is complete and adrenosine receptors in my brain prevent drowsiness. My pupils dilate, my blood pressure rises, as a response my liver dumps more sugar into my bloodstream.    

Within 45 minutes, dopamine production is increased, stimulating pleasure centers in my brain. This sounds cool. It's also how heroin works.

Within an hour, phoshpric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in my lower intestine, which provides a further boost in metabolism, compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners, which make me pee and evacuate the calcium, magnesium and zinc instead of using them.

Then the sugar crash begins, making me irritable and sluggish, pissing away all the water in the Coke as well as the nutrients.

OK, OK, when you put it that way...I'll try to cut down.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Traffic Survey

I received a traffic survey in the mail. Massachusetts is doing some sort of survey to gather info on traffic patterns.

I thought about this long and hard. I'm a private person and don't really like to let on too much about myself, particularly to the government. Then again, without my help, I can picture the state deciding to build a billion-dollar superhighway to connect far-flung towns that have nothing to do with one another, such as Monroe and Carver.

The survey wanted me to record all the place I went yesterday, how I traveled and what I did there on the assigned travel day. I was asked to carry the diary with me during the day, beginning at 3 a.m. (or when I wake up). It defined a "place" as "any location I travel to, no matter how long I stay there." If I ride the bus or train, to record the bus stop or meeting place.

Then I had to put in a code for the activities I did there, a "main activity" and an "other activity."

I needed to let them know how I paid for my fare (if using public transportation), which household vehicle I used, the exact address and nearest cross-streets to the location, whether I used an HOV lane, how much I paid out of pocket that was not reimbursed by an employer and which toll roads I used. Then I had to do that again for every other location.

I decided yesterday was a good day to stay home.  

There's More Than One Way To Celebrate Victory

You can't tell someone how to mourn the loss of a loved one. We all do it in our own way, and we may scratch our heads at the way someone handles the death of someone close to them (and if the death is under suspicious circumstances it may spur law enforcement to have some conversations with them), but it's their way and we can't force them to mourn the way we would.

Similiarly, you can't tell people how to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.

There's a salon.com article making the rounds criticizing us for cheering bin Laden's death. In it the author states that bin Laden achieved a regrettable victory: "[bin Laden] has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history -- the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed."

I don't agree with this. We were and still are at war. Killing bin Laden didn't end the War on Terror but it's a major victory. Hopefully it will be the beginning of the end of the war.

I don't consider this nihilism. Americans celebrated the victory in Germany and Japan in 1945. We celebrated when Hitler killed himself. He was responble for the death of tens of millions of people worldwide, many of whom were Americans.We celebrated after the Siege of Yorktown effectively gained us de jure indepence from Great Britain. Many British died in that battle, but the British were responsible for American deaths, beginning with the Boston Massacre in 1770 and continuing for more than a decade. Sure, those were wars against nation-states that ended with surrender and treaties outlining terms of the peace, which the War on Terror probably will not. But they were still wars against foreign entities.

It's human nature to celebrate. I've been in Boston on nights that the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics won world championships. It's a great feeling. It would be flat out robotic of me not to want to jump around and be excited. People run around in the streets, hug and kiss total strangers. And yes, some people overdo it, flipping cars over and trying to set buildings on fire, but they get apprehended by police pretty quickly. You can always choose not to associate with someone who is overdoing it.

When the news broke late Sunday night that bin Laden had been killed, I was sitting in my apartment, alone, watching Celebrity Apprentice. I pumped my fist a couple of times and bounced across the living room. I had the luxury of being alone, and while the windows were open as long as there are no al-Qaeda operatives in the apartment complex across the street I don't think my exuberance ruffled any feathers.

For those who chose to celebrate more quietly, I respect their choice.

And yes, there were a few people in Boston and New York and elsewhere who overdid it, climbing street lights and lamp posts and generally acting like drunken frat boys (which they may have been).

Just because I pumped my fist does not mean I am a violnce-loving nihilist. I will be the first to say that I disagree with a lot of America's past foreign policy decisions. I think the war in Iraq was a sad, sick joke sold to us under false pretenses. I have no interest in nation-building in the Middle East, which in my opinion is as effective as trying to nation-build amongst a group of house cats. My support of the War on Terror was and is limited only to those actions expressly designed to capture and/or kill al-Qaeda operatives and their affiliates.

The author of the above column certainly is entitled to his opinion. But I don't believe you can tell people how to celebrate. To do so would be, well, un-American.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Day After

When news breaks around 10:45-11pm it puts me in a jam because that's usually when I'm thinking about what I'll blog about.

Yesterday was a prime example as that's what happened with the death of Osama bin Laden. I was sitting here, waiting to see ho would get eliminated from Celebrity Apprentice (deep down inside, Donald Trump can't be happy about the timing). So I wanted to get something out about the successful operation to capture or, as it turned out, kill bin Laden -- somehow I suspect he would never have let us take him alive -- and the details were still coming out about how it went down.

In the rush, I neglected to offer my thanks for the Navy SEALS who performed this operation almost to perfection. Even when one of the helicopters stalled and was forced to make an emergency landing, it apparently landed in perfect position to begin the firefight. I'm not sure I'll ever know them by name, but they made this happen.

So, thanks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rot In Hell bin Laden

Nearly 10 years ago, a coward named Osama bin Laden charged 19 thugs with the September 11th attacks. These savage attacks killed 3,000 Americans as well as people of other nationalities and all religions. These attacks damaged our economy and polarized our nation into factions. In many ways, our country has never been and never will be the same.

Yesterday, a drone operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, killed Osama bin Laden. His body was recovered and is in possession of the United States military. DNA records from bin Laden's sister, who died a few years ago in Boston, confirmed that the body is indeed bin Laden's.

This does not end terrorism. There will always be people who hate America, for one reason of another. There will always be an al-Qaeda, other terrorist group or rogue nation that wants to destroy or punish America, just like the British in 1776 or the Japanese and Germans in 1941. Osama bin Laden was not the only bad person in the world.

But I'm happy that bin Laden is now rotting in hell.

I'm proud to be an American.