Month: January 2015

Choice Overload

There are probably one hundred food choices within a couple mile radius of me at this moment, and thankfully, I don’t have to make a decision where to eat. My eyes were bigger than my stomach last night and I bought a burrito with two tacos and the burrito alone filled me up.  Easy decision tonight: leftovers.

I’m traveling for work this week and find myself in Houston Texas. Back home in New York, we don’t have many restaurant choices in the small town I live in. If we want something different, we usually travel to a small city about thirty miles away from us.  As a family, this can still be a dilemma because not everyone agrees on where to eat.  Majority rules, a decision is made, and somebody settles for something on the menu that obviously wasn’t their first choice. When we travel, be it a day trip or longer, we will always choose a restaurant that we don’t have access to in our immediate area. It’s an unwritten rule and everyone buys into it.  Where we differ is the degree of adventure we are willing to subject our taste buds to.  My oldest son and I will try most anything. My wife and youngest son however are a little less willing to try new things.

So why is it when I travel on my own and have nobody to please but myself do I find it difficult to make a decision on what or where to eat most of the time? I asked myself this question tonight and had to think about it, realizing that most of my indecision is coming from places I might travel to where there is a “choice” overload.  I would equate this to having three hundred plus channels and not being able to figure out what to watch on television. Often, I will be at a hotel that has a restaurant inside or attached to it or has a few eating establishments close by making the selection process much easier. Other times, I am at the mercy of a local who has picked a restaurant for us to eat at. Here in Houston however, the area I stay at is called the Energy Corridor and there are restaurants everywhere. Driving is problematic during rush hour and a short trip to a restaurant can take forty five minutes. It’s not the type of place to keep driving around looking for a place to eat.

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Our company has a very generous policy when it comes to dining out while traveling on company business. I don’t abuse it and usually only have one or two meals at restaurants. The other meals will be takeout and typically low cost. I travel to Houston about three or four times a year and the hotel I stay at is an extended stay hotel with a kitchen so I will also buy groceries for breakfast and sometimes grab a meal from the “pantry” as they call it and have a microwavable meal. My feeling about spending company money on food is to spend it as though it was my own. I would not eat $40 or $50 meals on my own so I don’t expect to do that on the company’s dime.  Yeah, moral me.

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As I stated earlier, I don’t want to eat a restaurant that I can eat at back home. So my first night here is always a no-brainer. I checked into the hotel, unpacked, and headed out to the nearest Whataburger. If you know me, this is a given. One burger, less than $5, and 790 calories of my daily diet is gone. If you have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a Whataburger, you understand.

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Night two involved my driving around which was a big mistake. I wanted Mexican Food, saw a place called Taco Cabana and ordered what turned out to be enough food for two nights. Meal cost? $11.

Tomorrow will be my last night here and I will eat at a restaurant. My plan is to stop there on the way back to the hotel after I get off work. I saw a Japanese restaurant today that a few of the employees at our sister company recommended to me. If I pass that, I have about twenty more choices along the frontage road before I hit the street I need to turn on to get to my hotel.  If I remain indecisive during that drive, I’ll get to the hotel and walk to a restaurant. There just happens to be about five or ten within walking distance. Taste of Texas, Pappadeaux Seafood, Pappasito’s, Fuddruckers, some deli, and so on, and so on. More decisions… although I am only willing to walk so far. Choice overload.

I know one thing. I will eat.

How about you? Is your choice of dining establishment an easy decision?

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Photo – Pappadeaux

 

Beautiful Day

I had a post in mind I was going to write but decided to save it for next week. Instead I decided to just write about what a great day I had yesterday, and more importantly, what a great day my wife and kids had.

Yesterday, I woke up early like I would any Saturday morning. The two to three hours of complete quietness in my house is something I look forward to each weekend.  A cup or two of hot coffee and time alone to read or write is my weekend morning routine.  I did have an hour to myself but had to wake my eleven year old up at 6:15 so he could be at his school by 7:40. My wife, who loves sleeping in on the weekends, also got up so she could see him off.  He and a few of his classmates were selected to perform at our All-County Honors Festival along with a number of other kids from neighboring towns. The festival showcases a string ensemble, a show choir, and an intermediate band. My son plays trombone.

The plan was to get him dressed in concert attire, let my wife take a few pictures of him, and then drive him into town to catch the bus with his classmates.  Concert time was 2:00 so I would still have time  to spend  with my wife, leave early to pick up my eldest who had spent the night with a friend of his in a small city about forty five minutes from us, then drive another forty five minutes to the small town where the concert would be held. No problem. Okay, not entirely true.

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If you read my post a few weeks ago HERE you’d know my wife had foot surgery and few medical hiccups as a result of that surgery.  Her healing has been slow but headed in the right direction. She still is not allowed to have any weight bearing on the foot she had surgery on so her mobility is limited to a wheelchair, a walker, and as of this last week: crutches.  She has been off of work since her surgery back in early December and she only gets out of the house once or twice a week for doctor visits. We live out in the country and do not have a wheelchair friendly entrance to the house. We have steps and this creates a minor problem, strike that, more of a challenge in getting her from the house to the car and back. It’s worse with snow or ice on the ground but we work through it.

When I got home from dropping my son off, my wife had decided she was not going to miss his concert. Her original plan was to stay home and work on a scrapbook to give as a gift to a pregnant co-worker but she ran out of some type of tape and glue drops. How, I don’t know considering the amount of scrapbook supplies she has. She also wondered if we could stop by a store either before the concert or after so she could get the supplies she needs (most likely because I could not possibly figure out what she needed nor would I have the patience). We got ready, successfully completed our challenge of getting her in the car, and headed northeast on back country roads to pick up my eldest. After picking him up and stopping to get us all something to drink, we took the freeway west to make up some time before jumping back onto to another country road to head north. My wife was texting our son to find out if we were any stairs to get to the auditorium. He replied that he didn’t think so.  We were hoping he was right.

I made up some time only because my wife was sitting in the back seat instead of the front where she usually glances at the speedometer and tells me to slow down. Mistake on my part. I was driving around 75 MPH when I happened to see a NY State Trooper parked in the median area on one of those turnaround spots nobody is allowed to use. I passed by him, quickly slowing down as I did. I glanced in the rear view mirror only to see him pull out and  on to the freeway, accelerating towards us.  And then came the lights. Great. We are already running late, my wife and eldest are now scolding me for not paying attention to how fast I was going, and my heart is racing in anticipation of how much a speeding ticket is going to cost in 2015.  My last ticket was seventeen years ago and I was already factoring inflation into the amount. I was thinking that I am screwed.

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When the trooper approached our vehicle, I rolled the window down and he introduced himself and told me why he pulled me over (in case I didn’t know). He asked for my license and registration and for about ten seconds I was thinking of something clever to say such as “Hey, I’m writing a novel and one of my main characters is a NY State Police Detective” or “I’m writing a novel and one of your co-workers is helping me with some of the technical details” or “We are in a hurry to see my son’s concert.” All would have been true statements but I sat there like an idiot awaiting my fate. He was reading my license and repeated my address to me, asking if that was my current address. I told him it was. Next he asked if I lived just past five corners. I drew a blank for a minute and then realized what he was talking about and replied “yes, we are about a mile down the road from there.” He told me he knew which house we lived in and that he used to live about a half mile down the road from us but moved about a year ago. I instantly remembered that one of my co-workers who lives over the hill from me had mentioned a few years ago that his daughter and son-in-law lived down the road from me and that his son was a state trooper. I asked if he knew my co-worker and he said “yes, he’s my father-in-law.”  He smiled, shook my hand, reminded me to slow down in the future, then turned around and walked back to his car.  My lucky day? More like small town living and I was grateful.

We made it to the concert in time and the one concern we had regarding my wife being able to watch it was of a non-factor. There were no stairs and my wife walked into the auditorium on crutches like a champ while I parked the car.

I love live music. Yes, I am an eighties rocker but have grown to love most forms of music. The string ensemble, whose participants included a few talented middle school kids and high school kids, performed Celtic Canon and an amazing version of Eleanor Rigby. My niece, who is in middle school with my youngest, played violin with the group along with one of my oldest son’s friends who played string bass.  My youngest also plays string bass in addition to trombone but only started playing it this year. The second group was a show choir and I instantly recognized a few more of my oldest son’s friends. There was a small band of musicians (teachers from around the county), who played for the choir’s performance and two of their songs just happened to be favorites of mine: Faithfully by Journey and Beautiful Day by U2. They did an amazing job with both and to my surprise, the guitar player would have made Neil Schon proud on Faithfully.

Last up was the intermediate band, made up of just sixth graders. They played Pulse Pounding, Portrait of a Clown and African Spirit Dance. Usually I can’t see my son playing trombone but we were so far to the right of the auditorium, we had a perfect view of him. These kids played their hearts out and closing my eyes, I would never have guessed that these were sixth graders. Best of the best and my son was so happy that my wife was there to see him perform.

Our son got to ride home with us instead of taking the bus, so we took advantage of my wife being out and ventured on to another nearby city. This would allow my wife to pick out scrapbook supplies herself; a big thank you to Walmart for having motorized scooters. We were on a roll and decided to push the envelope a little more when we left Walmart and decided we were going out to eat instead of heading straight home. Nothing fancy but it was the first time my wife has been out to eat since early December. My wife was mobile yesterday which might not seem like a lot, but to her and to my sons and me, it was everything.

What a beautiful day.

Pick a Genre

By reading a lot of novels in a variety of genres, and asking questions, it’s possible to learn how things are done – the mechanics of writing, so to speak – and which genres and authors excel in various areas.” – Nicholas Sparks

It’s been a very interesting last few weeks around my house and things are finally starting to wind down. This is my first post of the New Year and first post of the month so I decided to write about something that has been relevant to me as of late: genre.

I’m presently writing a mystery/thriller. I’m only calling it that because it seems I need to place it under some genre, and by definitions I’ve read, my story seems to be heading that direction. I read a book last year about writing and there was an entire chapter about all the various genres and sub-genres within works of fiction. We tend to compartmentalize everything and I was not surprised to find anything different in the writing world. Looking at the majority of what I have read in the past, most of it would fall under some sub-genre of mystery or thriller. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other genres, it just means mysteries and thrillers are my favorites. Much like hard rock is my favorite music despite listening to everything from Ice Cube to Johnny Cash.

I tend to be that way with most things in life. Mexican food is my favorite but I enjoy most any ethnic food. Action movies? I love them. December however is devoted to both traditional Christmas movies and sappy Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. One of my favorite movies of all time is an inspirational movie called “Rudy” about a kid’s dream of not only attending Notre Dame but playing football there. Another is a silly kid’s movie called “The Goonies.” Neither of those is an action movie but for whatever reason are two of my favorites.

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A few years ago, my oldest son asked me to read Eragon, a book he was reading by a very young author named Christopher Paolini. It’s about a dragon rider and his dragon and I couldn’t honestly say without some research what genre it falls under.  I remember laughing at first, saying a very polite “no, that’s not my thing” and most likely continued reading the next available Daniel Silva or John Grisham book. My son was persistent and before I knew it, I was hooked on The Inheritance Cycle by Paolini, an amazingly well written series by the way for such a young author. Last year, at my son’s urging, I did the same thing with The Hunger Games.

I think if we limit categories in our reading, or listening, or tasting, or watching, we miss out on so much of what it is out there. I’ve thought about that a little over the last month as I read two new books over the Christmas/New Years Holiday. Both books were not in my chosen genre to write in; one a wonderful NA (and no that’s not Narcotics Anonymous) book about vampires and the other a contemporary romance about a second chance romance. Both were wonderful, well written stories by two very talented writers I am lucky to have as friends. Although I read them purely for pleasure, there were takeaways with each, both with style and two different approaches to romantic scenes.

I’m glad I ventured out of my comfort zone years ago when it came to reading. I do it with everything else in life so it should be no surprise that I’ve done it with reading. I know that reading books in my genre helps make me a better writer within that genre, obviously important with my current project but I’m also convinced reading anything makes me a better writer. It’s a craft, and like most any craft, it can be expanded and improved upon by stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing other genres.

Do I need to pick a genre? For writing, I believe I do but only because I have a grand master plan. For reading? Absolutely not.

How about you?  Do you have a favorite genre to read and/or write?

© 2017 W.C. Cunningham

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