Zombies Ate My Hostas: Taylor Swift and Other Indisputable Proof of the Inevitable Apocalypse


Hosta2

“Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.” — Roger The Shrubber

They insisted there was a perfectly natural explanation, that the damage wasn’t anything that should cause alarm. But I knew better. How else could you explain the gruesome demise of thirty young, healthy, vibrant hostas cut down in the prime of their lives — their tops gnawed clean off by one or more ravenous, undead savages.

Zombies. Yes, zombies. Vegetarian  zombies. Who knew?

Now where is CNN? Or Fox News? With a half dozen cable news channels chasing Miley Cyrus  around, you’d think they’d spare one of their washed-up, ethnically-ambiguous anchors to cover the most important story of this century. Their silence is deafening. And I fear it is all part of a larger, darker, more herbivoracious  conspiracy of swiftian proportions.

Now hey there, please don’t mistake me for one of those sc-fi channel watching nimrods posting zombie survival strategies on Reddit. I even watched AMC long before The Walking Dead made them hip and trendy, back in the nineties when they played  — movies. AMC was the cable channel every grandmother loved the grand kids to watch after their visit to the local podiatrist. How wonderful! We can watch the Brigadoon marathon together all afternoon while my bunions heal. And now generations of family therapists can never hope to profit from those precious, repressed memories.

Deer

Ticked off.

Yet, had the savage beheading of my cherished hostas been an isolated incident, I might be inclined to politely swallow this innocent explanation like a cracker full of lukewarm hummus. But no. At a recent cocktail hour in the presence of an abundance of passed appetizers,  I watched three adults who I presumed to be of sound mind and body, skip over scallop-wrapped bacon in favor of the spinakopita. Spinakopita? Really? Pass over the, luscious undisputed king of all cocktail hour delicacies in favor of…spinach? It was unnatural, and twisted, and instantly raised my acutely-sharpened suspicions perfected by hours of cable news watching.  Something was dreadfully wrong, here. But what was it? What had changed? What was the key? Something was perverting the meat-eaters of our nation, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it for the sake of innocent, professionally farmed and landscaped vegetation everywhere.

And then it struck me. (OK, so maybe that was just a backhand from the asylum nurse… but stay with me here.) I suddenly knew who was responsible for the carnage.

 Taylor Swift.

Making Waves.

Oh, I can hear your eyes rolling. But at the precise moment my hostas were first attacked,  Taylor Swift, the rich, famous, adorable and most beloved icon in the country music universe, uprooted her decadent, opulent life to move into a new home in (of all places) Westerly, Rhode Island.

Yes, Westerly. Seriously? Was it for the burgeoning surfing scene?

Now relocating to Westerly should have been suspicious enough –  even people from Rhode Island don’t go to Westerly –  but it was the  ever-present rumors of her vegetarianism that were far more telling and terrifying.  (Almost as terrifying, in fact, as one of those skeletal, teenage girls you see volunteering at seemingly EVERY veterinarian office with the pointy chins and giant foreheads. Eeek!)

hanging1

Oh my gourd.

There it was for all to see: armed security guards, beach patrols, paparazzi, helicopters and Taylor Swift cruising for pumpkins in the produce aisle at Narragansett’s Stop and Shop. These were not chance occurrences. As everyone knows, pumpkins are the least cerebral of all the garden vegetables. They are the village idiots of the backyard vegetable patch — profoundly bad parents who  allow their offspring to grow up in the most dangerous spots only to be  later left  to be degraded and humiliated by other species.  Unlike corn, a pumpkin is the perfect evil minion.

Bad seeds.

Bad seeds.

But corn is no innocent bystander. Corn, you see, is far more clever and not as easily manipulated. Corn fields act more like socialist news pundits with a well developed power to communicate. If you don’t believe me, read  Stephen King’s Children of the Corn or go watch Field of Dreams. And this was long before the agricultural biotech company Monsanto genetically engineered them into a vegetable master race. So when corn has something to say, you darn-well keep your ears open.  And once Ms. Swift arrived on the scene, Southern Rhode Island’s cornfields welcomed her with open arms.

Stalking a celebrity.

Now I don’t mean to give the traditional brain-eating zombies the cold shoulder (sorry), but I have learned that the vegetarian zombies are far more dangerous and elusive. You won’t find the conventional evidence of torn, blood-stained clothes and random chunks of human flesh scattered about. Instead they’ll sneak up on you ahead of a trail of Panera-acquired bread crumbs, latte cups, plantain chips and empty packages of gluten-free pasta. (It is important at this point to note that some vegan zombies don’t consider vegetarian zombies to be “real” zombies, but perhaps we can explore that in a subsequent post.)

It is evidence of the apocalypse, and it is coming. And if anyone driving a Mini Cooper tries to tell you that sun dried tomatoes make an excellent substitute for bacon, it may be too late. The apocalypse may well have arrived.

Hosta la vista, baby.

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Rhode Rules


It’s not that I haven’t been penning blog posts in recent months, it’s just that I haven’t been posting them to my own blog.

“Guest blogging” elsewhere brings with it many pluses and minuses. There’s no doubt it puts your work and voice in front of new audiences, but it also tends to leave your own blog vacant, dry and silently screaming for fresh content and visitors. Veteran bloggers tell me that the first rule of blogging is that if you have no content, then just trick someone else into writing a “guest post”  for you. And if no one is fool enough to accept your offer (as I frequently do), then simply re-post links to someone else’s work with the same enthusiasm that you might use if you had suddenly discovered Captain Kidd’s lost treasure. “Oh Wow..! Check out this unbelievable blog post on… blah… blah…. blah…”

Hmmm. But what if I could accomplish both? What if I invited myself to guest blog on my own blog, and then simply stole my own original content from somewhere else at the same time? Brilliant!

If there is no crying in baseball, and the first rule of fight club is do not talk about fight club — hey,wait. This is the Internet. There are no rules!

They're more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules...

They’re more like what you’d call guidelines than actual rules…

So without further ado, here are two of my blog posts originally published on Nebraska romance novelist Annette Snyder‘s nifty little blog, “Fifty Authors from Fifty States.” The first was published in September 2013, the other just a week ago.

“Oh Wow..! Check out these unbelievable blog posts on…”

BIG HAPPENINGS IN LITTLE RHODY (by Steven R. Porter) — September 30, 2012
I’m writing this piece near the mythical dark swamp of Chepachet, Rhode Island…”

IT’S A RHODE ISLAND THING (by Steven R. Porter) — August 25, 2013
 “Yo, nobody can’t tell me I don’t feel like no meatball grinder, me.”

But I must warn you. In a couple of weeks, this blog will be the only thing saving you all from the forthcoming zombie apocalypse. Stay tuned.

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Manisses


Manisses by Steven R. Porter

If you want to get technical, summer ends on September 21 each year. Therefore, my new summer novel Manisses is only a few weeks late…. so stop complaining.

“Manisses” is a Narragansett Indian term meaning “island of the little god” and refers to the island we all know and love now as Block Island. (For all you foreigners, Block Island lies just a few miles off the southern Rhode Island coastline.) Although the book’s setting is fictional, I draw on many of Block Island’s legends and true history to bring you the story of the allegedly clairvoyant Clement Bradford, his family, a missing child, and a strange little doll named Otto.

The inspiration for this novel came from many sources, but the setting was selected after I visited the island myself last year. Block Island might be the most historic place you have never heard of, and has played a supporting role in almost every major historic moment our country has experienced. Even most locals aren’t aware of the island’s significance. It made for an ideal setting.

This novel is my second — the first being Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant. Response to my first novel was so overwhelming I couldn’t wait to try it again. Writing fiction is a blast. The book is available in paperback now from Amazon, and in most e-book formats around the web. It will be in bookstores soon. Enjoy!

Manisses
1-47835-480-1
Paperback: $17.00
e-book: $4.99

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Literary Illusions


Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

Slow Death of a Salesman

In April, author Jen Campbell released a book in the U.K. entitled, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores. It is based on her firsthand experiences as a bookseller in independent bookshops in North London and Edinburgh.

Anyone familiar with my background knows that back in the eighties and nineties, I spent many a day patrolling the perilous, shark-infested aisles of bookshops around New England in a variety of roles with the defunct Lauriat’s Bookstore chain.  Through those years, I kept a notebook that chronicled many of the half-witted, stupid, inane, crazy and downright mind-boggling requests customers would fire at us each day. Those notes, sadly, were tossed into the dumpster of retail antiquity many moons ago.

It would not be fair to say that this book was my idea first. (Though, I’ll take the credit if anyone wants to give it to me.) In truth, several of my bookselling associates proposed the very same thing — and we enjoyed one-upping each other with tales of stupid, much the same way, I would imagine, a bunch of grizzled North Shore fishermen might compare their day’s biggest catch. We all had the idea and chance to write this book first and we all blew it. Shame on us.

Lauriat's Bookstores

Shopping Mauled

Two weeks ago, The Overlook Press put out a call to U.S. booksellers asking for submissions for an American edition of Weird Things… due this fall. It got me reminiscing, and I was able to recover several anecdotes from deep within the recesses of my brain — funny how it also starts coming back to y0u. (To paraphrase Woody Allen, my brain is one of my favorite organs.) Below, I have listed those I submitted to The Overlook Press for inclusion in the new edition. Maybe they will see print, maybe not. Either way, sadly, I can personally guarantee they all happened. And there were witnesses.

———-

CUSTOMER — My daughter needs a book for school. I think it starts with the letter “S.”
ME — Hmmm. Hard to say. There are so many.
CUSTOMER — I know. I’m sorry. But the teacher said every bookstore would have it.
ME — Well, how about this one here by Edward Rutherford. It’s called Sarum and just came  out last week in paperback. It’s on the bestsellers list.
CUSTOMER — (Puzzled) No. She’s only in the 8th grade. This looks too old for her. And I think the book had something to do with dinosaurs.
ME –  Our dinosaur books are over here, but I don’t have one that starts with the letter “S.”
CUSTOMER — Oh wait… I think I wrote it down. (Rummages through handbag) Yes! Here it is! It’s  called SaurusThe- Saurus.

———-

CUSTOMER — Do you have Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Hound?

———-

CUSTOMER — Where are your dinosaur books?
ME — Right over here, ma’am.
CUSTOMER — These are awful. They are all full of paintings and drawings. Where are the ones with the photographs?

———-

CUSTOMER — Can you help me? This is my son’s reading list for school. Where would I find these?
ME — There are 20 books on the list. And they are in several sections throughout the store.
CUSTOMER — Is there any way you could gather them together so I can decide which one to buy?
ME — Sure…
ME — (After spending 10 minutes running around the store.) Here are all the books from the list, ma’am.
CUSTOMER — Thank you so much. (Lines the books across the counter.) My son doesn’t like to read.  So I’ll take this one — it’s the thinnest.

_________

CUSTOMER — Do they make Cliff’s Notes for this video?

__________

CUSTOMER — Can you direct me to the blue books?
ME — I’m sorry, we don’t have them arranged by color. Do you know the title?
CUSTOMER –  Oh, I don’t care about the title. I just remodeled my bathroom and I need it to match.

__________

ME — I’m sorry, we don’t have this book in stock. Can I order a copy for you?
CUSTOMER — I need it right away. Could you call the Barnes & Noble across the street for me and see if they have it?
ME — Ma’am, they are our competitor.
CUSTOMER — I understand. When you call, just don’t tell them who you are.

__________

CUSTOMER — Thank goodness! I walked all over the mall looking for this bookstore!
ME — Well, welcome to the store! I’m glad you found us. Were you looking for a particular title today?
CUSTOMER — Oh, I don’t read. (unbuttoning her blouse.) I just need a quiet place to breastfeed my baby.

__________

CUSTOMER — The recipe for chow mein in this book was too salty. Do you have one with less soy sauce?

__________

CUSTOMER –  I need a very specific repair manual for Evinrude outboard motors.
ME — I’m sorry sir, but it looks like that book is out of print.
CUSTOMER — If you were a good bookstore, you’d just call the publisher and have them print one for me.

——–

CUSTOMER — Where do you keep the true fiction?

———

ME – (Phone rings) Good morning, this is Lauriat’s Books.
CUSTOMER — Hello. Do you have Sidney Sheldon’s Memories of Midnight in stock?
ME — Yes ma’am, we do. I have one right here.
CUSTOMER — Oh that’s great. I misplaced my copy and it’s snowing. Could you just read the last chapter over the phone? I can’t wait to find out how it all comes out.

———-

CUSTOMER — I simply refuse to pay for the whole cookbook if I’m only going to use one recipe.

———-

CUSTOMER — I’d like to return this book by Stephen King. I read the whole thing and I wasn’t scared once.

———-

CUSTOMER — Do you have 1984 by George Orwell?
ME — Yes we do. It’s right over here.
CUSTOMER — Have you read it?
ME — Yes I have. In fact, it’s one of my favorite books.
CUSTOMER — That’s great. Could you summarize it quickly for me then? My exam is in an hour.

———-

CUSTOMER –  Excuse me, are you hiring?
ME — Yes. We are looking for a part-time bookseller.
CUSTOMER — Great! How do I apply? I need a quiet place to work where nobody bothers me and I can get my homework done.  This place looks perfect.

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For Better or Verse


Local author and poet Jeanpaul Ferro‘s recent, critically acclaimed collection, Jazz, is now available online or from your favorite bookstore. As part of the promotional effort, Britain’s Honest Publishing asked guest authors to read and record selections from the book. Jeanpaul was kind enough to invite me to participate, and always willing to jump at a shameless promotional opportunity, I accepted.

I must admit it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but it was fun nonetheless.

Best of luck to Jeanpaul and his continued success.

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The Kanc – a short story


My new short story available now!

Good news!

My new novel, Manisses, is still on schedule for a summertime release. With a little luck and if the wind remains to my back, it will be ready as promised.

But in the meantime, here is a short story I sketched out years ago. It was inspired by a trip I took along The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire in a snowstorm, late for a meeting. I was convinced that road was out to get me.

The story is only 6,000 words long and has a significant historical element to it. It is only .99 cents in e-book form.

It is available for Nook and also available for Kindle.

Thank you and enjoy!

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You Look Great! Are You Sick?


Steven R. PorterI lost one hundred pounds. Intentionally. On purpose. I am not dying of any horrible diseases. If you don’t believe me, you can read the story in the Providence Journal, because we know they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true. (Oops, sorry, no you can’t do that anymore.  You have to pay for an unprintable, unreadable, PDF, e-version now. So go to the library.)

My inclusion in the story, which was mostly coincidence, was part of a P.R. feature they were doing on the National Weight Control Registry, for whom I once filled out a survey.  At some point, I accidentally checked-off that I would be willing to speak to reporters. I didn’t know the ProJo had any of those left.

I was also contacted by Roy Wallack, a journalist, exercise guru, and contributor on fitness to the Los Angeles Times. He is working on a book on weight loss, and shared some interesting conclusions of his own with me, based on a recent Harvard University study.

It took two years, but now, it seems everyone wants to know how I did it. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. So people will stop asking, here is some advice you, too, can follow to lose your own 100 pounds.

Step 1 – Do not follow my advice. I am not a doctor, I have never played one on TV and what I know about medicine I learned from the Internet and those exploitative shows about conjoined twins on The Learning Channel. I have a primary care physician at the moment  who I like, but the last one treated me with a backpack full of questionable pharmaceuticals, soaked my insurance company, then dumped me and his practice to open a weight-loss clinic. I am medically ignorant, yet abashed by the irony.

Eric Cartman

I am not fat. I am big boned.

Step 2 — Gain 100 pounds — You can’t lose what you don’t have, and if you only weigh 150 pounds to start, this will likely kill you, which may not be a good thing, unless you are that ass who cut me off near Route 37 in Garden City last week. Go eat some lettuce, you scrawny, emaciated  bastard! Gaining 100 pounds can be an enjoyable hobby  — I once polished-off  48 oz’s of prime rib at Austin’s Steakhouse in Albuquerque, and was rewarded by the restaurant with a free dessert — and the dessert was so good, I ate my wife’s, too. Statistically, the weight I lost is equivalent to that of an entire European supermodel (not one of those cute, hair-blowing-in-the-wind, aloof-looking ones, but one of those skanky, sunken-eyed, heroin chic ones). My personal weight gain occurred gradually, 4 or 5 pounds per year  across 25 years. Those who see me every day barely noticed the change. Being 6 ’4″, I was often told I “carried it well.” And I now know that “carried it well” is a euphemism for “holy crap, you’re fat.”

Step 3 — Eat Less — Don’t put so much food in your mouth.

Step 4 — Don’t Worry About the Holidays. I learned that there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So if you blame those high-calorie Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as the reason you gained 100 pounds, put on your magic hat and polish off a few more pies, Frosty. I have learned that weight loss and maintenance are about the other 1,000 meals you eat the rest of the year, and whether you have good, daily, balanced eating habits. So instead, put down the Diet Coke and enjoy the eggnog,  then go home and throw away the bag of Ruffles and boxes of Reese’s Pieces hidden in the broom closet.

Step 5 — Run around More. Exercise sucks. In New England, it’s either too cold or too hot to be outdoors, and since no one knows how to drive anyway, every walking or running activity is abound with the stench of danger, fear, doom and Johnston’s Central Landfill. (Little known fact: Hitler could have used the Central Landfill to help build his master race! Just ask our local State Rep. Mike Chippendale…)

Johnston's Central Landfill: Creating a fuhror.

And if you elect to frequent the local gyms, you are more than likely going to bring home  athlete’s foot, head lice, a beefy same-sex date, or all three.  But exercise is a critical and key ingredient in the weight loss brew… but not for reasons you might think.

That recent study out of Harvard University I mentioned suggests that the reason exercise is important as a component of weight loss has little to do with calorie-burning or the alleged euphoric feeling that the compulsive exercise addicts claim (with a straight face) you get from working out. The vast majority of those surveyed who maintained significant weight loss relied on some sort of consistent exercise program. And the most popular? Walking! But wouldn’t you need to walk half way around the planet to burn that many calories? Well it seems that regular, repetitive exercise creates a physiological change in the part of the brain that is responsible for executive function. Simply put, exercising may improve concentration and determination, as an unexpected side effect, not only helping you stay on a calorie-reduction program, but also helping you accomplish great things, start businesses, or finish life-long projects… like writing the Great American Novel.

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