Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Reflections and End of Year Book Survey



Like everyone else, I'm in a reflective mood this Sunday. I absolutely LOVE this time of year with its focus on looking back and looking ahead. I'm all about making lists, the "best of's" and the "not so best of's" alike.

I'll probably finish 2012 having read 56 (maybe 57) books. Not too bad. That's an average of one per week, but that's lower than my usual average. It has been a pretty good reading year.

Still, I'm not quite prepared this Sunday to announce my Best Books of 2012. (I did, however, issue my picks for Best Nonfiction Books and Memoirs for 2012.) Part of that is because I just finished a book this morning that will be on my best books list (that would be A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens). Part of that is because we were away last week for Christmas. And part of that is because the reading year isn't over until the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Plenty of time to get another book in!

Yes, I am one of those people who cannot be in the middle of a book when we turn the calendar to a new year. I never have.

So, for today, here's the End of Year Book Survey (thanks to The Broke and the Bookish).

1. Best Book You Read In 2012?

Adult Fiction:
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
Arcadia, by Lauren Groff
The Storm at the Door, by Stefan Merrill Block

Contemporary YA:
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Poetry:
Red Bird, by Mary Oliver
Echolalia, by Dan Waber

Nonfiction:
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts
Because You Have To: A Writing Life, by Joan Frank

Memoir:
Father's Day, by Buzz Bissinger
The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories, by Ursula Hegi
I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections, by Nora Ephron
The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?
I don't think I read any series in 2012. (I'm not much of a serial reader.)

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
Jessica Keener, Gillian Flynn, Joan Frank, Deb Caletti, and ... (don't laugh) Charles Dickens.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
With My Body, by Nikki Gemmell

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year
I'm not much of a re-reader, but I'd have to say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?


11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Morgan MacDonald, from And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts:
The ambulance stopped on 10th Street, double-parked, and quickly bundled a young man onto a gurney. The ambulance driver and a second man carried the stretcher to the second-floor offices of the AIDS Foundation and set the stretcher on the floor. A nurse walking with them hurriedly put down a few plastic bags containing all the young man's possessions. Then, they turned and walked out, leaving the gaunt man lying on the floor. 
Confused staffers at the foundation pieced together his story. Since July, Morgan MacDonald had been treated at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida for severe cryptosporidiosis, stemming from AIDS. When his state Medicaid benefits ran out, Shands, a private hospital, ordered MacDonald to leave by October 7. However, there was no place for the twenty-seven year old to go .... Shands Hospital doctors called San Francisco General Hospital to see whether that facility would accept MacDonald. The hospital said it did not accept acutely ill transfer patients and suggested he stay in Florida. Then the AIDS Foundation started getting calls from Florida, inquiring how a man with AIDS, who wanted to move to San Francisco, could get on the outpatient treatment program. 
Early Tuesday morning, Shands Hospital officials loaded MacDonald in a private Learjet air ambulance with a doctor and nurse. Although the plane cost $14,000 to charter, it was a cheaper alternative to the $100,000 in hospital bills an AIDS patient typically accumulated. The hospital also took $300 from money raised in the gay community to help AIDS patients and put it in the stricken man's pocket for spending money." (pg. 374) 
Also, Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars and Amy from Gone Girl. 
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012

A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage, by Beth Kephart
Night Swim, by Jessica Keener

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts
Tell the Wolves I'm Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
Night Swim, by Jessica Keener

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
A Christmas Carol, believe it or not.
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?

Just ONE??

"We live in time - it holds us and moulds us - but I've never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing - until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return." (The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, pg 3-4) 

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2012?

Longest: And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts (605 pages)

Shortest: Book of Days Poems by Jennifer Hill Kaucher (56 pages)

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
Gone Girl. There were more than a few such scenes in that one.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Hazel and Gus in A Fault in Our Stars. 

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
The Lola Quartet, by Emily St. John Mandel

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Boleto, by Alyson Hagy (a recommendation from Beth Kephart).

I'll have my list of Best Books Read In 2012 for you tomorrow, along with several other bookish stats to wrap up the year.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find one more book to squeeze in for the year.


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

pocketful of miracles (as provided by dickens, sinatra, and mom)

My mom's Christmas tree in the room where I sit.
Photo taken by me. 

"Pee-rac-ti-cal-i-ty de-us-nt intrest me,

Love the life that I lead.
I've got a pocketful of miracles,
And with a pocketful of miracles,
One miracle a day is all I need!
Tree-rou-bles, more or less,
Bee-ah-ther me, I guess when the sun doesn't shine.
But there's a pocketful of miracles,
The world's a bright and shiny apple that's mine, all mine.
I hear sleigh bells ringing, smack in the month of May
I go around like there's a snow around,
I feel so good, it's Christmas every day!
Lee-ifes a carousel, fee-ar as I can tell
And I'm riding for free.
I've got a pocketful of miracles,
But if I had to pick a miracle,
My favorite miracle of all is you love me."
"Pocketful of Miracles" ~ sung by Frank Sinatra


Christmas Day has drawn to a close and I am the only one stirring in the house. Santa has long left his big scene, scattering an American Girl doll, clothes and books in his midst. We've gone a-visiting, eaten more than we should have (cholesterol be damned), and been renewed by being back with family and friends.

In this midnight hour, I am awake in the sunroom and reading  A Christmas Carol on my Kindle. With every click, I identify more with Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim - and, as a fundraiser, with The Portly Gentlemen. And if I'm being honest, which I try to be, I may see a former boss or two in Scrooge.

We all have at least one Ebenezer as a Ghost of Horrible Job Past, don't we?

Despite telling myself I wouldn't, I sneak a peek at Elance.com, at indeed.com, at the fiscal cliff negotiations and Obama's plans to return home early from his vacation.

I watch the storms on the horizon, back home in the western part of the state, and reluctantly rearrange schedules to cut this vacation short.

I think about cancer, the surviving and the not surviving thereof.

I look around the sunroom here at my mom's house and spot a little book: Joan Borysenko's chock-full Pocketful of Miracles: Prayers, Meditations, and Affirmations to Nurture Your Spirit Every Day of the Year. 

I turn to today, December 26.

Seed Thought:
Although the Light has been reborn in our hearts more brightly because of the past year's cultivation of compassion, tolerance, humility, humor and kindness, more growth is yet to come. More difficulties are yet to arise and lead us through the next spiral of awakening. In this year to come, remember the Buddhist practice called "making difficulties into the path." If we use all of our trials, all our fears, all our disappointments to spur ourselves on, just think of all the fuel we'll have for the journey! 

We've seen a lot of things this year, but I often need to be reminded that we have also seen a lot of cultivating of compassion, tolerance, humility, humor, and kindness.


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

going a-visiting

My mom's porch, December 24, 2012
Photo taken by me, around 7:30 p.m.
For the first time in my memory, we had a white Christmas Eve.

"And I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday - the longer, the better - from the great boarding-school, where we are for ever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest. As to going a visiting, where can we not go, if we will; where have we not been, when we would; starting our fancy from our Christmas Tree!" 
~ Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Tree"

"Through the years we all will be together
if the fates allow.
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow."
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Hope all of you who were celebrating today had a Merry Christmas! We're back home for the holidays, in Philadelphia, spending the week going a-visiting.

More photos later, but for now, it was a wonderful Christmas Eve and Day.

A reminder that despite everything, this really is a wonderful life.


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Sunday Salon: In Which I Say a Merry Bah Humbug to Reading Challenges



Perhaps this is just me and my own observation ... and maybe I am entirely way off base here (it has been known to happen) ...but I've noticed a shift of sorts regarding challenges.

Reading challenges, I mean. The other kind of challenges - the ones involving life and whatnot - there's no end to them, right?

Maybe it is a byproduct of having book blogged for 4+ years now and thus suffering a bout of challenge fatigue, but I think it is something more. Usually by this time in December, I'd have gleefully signed up for at least a dozen or so reading challenges set to kick off when the clock strikes midnight on January 1.

This year? I've marked a few to participate in, but honestly? I'm not all that enthused about them. It seems like I'm going through the motions.

And, again, maybe it is me - but it doesn't seem as if there are as many challenges as there used to be.

That's certainly not to say that they aren't worthy of participating in. They're a lot of fun. People put a LOT of work into them. They are a great way of finding like-minded readers and forming connections with other bloggers and discovering new books and finally reading those books you meant to read.

So I'm torn. Part of me loves reading challenges ... but another part just isn't into them, at least not right now. Part of me loves scanning the library book shelves for books to fulfill challenge requirements and another part of me wants to read what I want, when I want, with total disregard and abandonment.

This shift in my thinking became palpable just the other day. I'm really close to finishing up the A-Z challenge. I only needed books beginning with C, K, P, and V ... and I'm done. This past week, this looked doable. However, I just abandoned the K book I was reading on my Kindle. (Too repetitive.) Same for the V book I was reading in print. (Way too heavy for Christmas ... and I'm sorry, way too many grammatical errors.) I could have slogged through these just for the challenge sake, but I don't want to.

Plus, I don't finish books just for the sake of finishing them. Never have. Life's too damn short for that, as we all too sadly learned in the past 9 days. I have no qualms about abandoning books. Thus far, 16 books this year wound up on my DNF list. That's a lot of books - and more time and room for books I did enjoy.

Take the book I'm currently reading. It's Christmas and there's snow outside and I'm in the mood to curl up with some Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens.

But ...here's the thing. This damn thing is 758 pages! For real. (Never mind the cheery, festive illustration on the cover - although, since we're all about ready to go over the fiscal cliff - and some of us have already toppled over it -  it is kind of fitting.)

So, by reading this I'm pretty much saying goodbye to K, P, and V for the reading challenge. And that will be one additional challenge left unfinished and one that I was so close to completing.

Why the hell should this be one more thing that's stressing me out?!

Maybe I'm too competitive (with myself) and too Type-A for this, because, really? THIS SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM. This has happened before. I do this shit to myself EVERY DAMN year, even when I begin the year by telling myself I'm just doing the challenges "for fun" or to "see where my reading falls in the challenge." It starts off that way, but somewhere around the Fourth of July or Labor Day, it changes.

Maybe it is time to just ... stop. Or, at least wean myself off gradually and only do a few challenges and keep this low-key. Simplify this reading life. I know others have done this. Yinz seem happier for it, don't you?

This also means that I'm putting my Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge on hiatus for this year. I apologize to those who may have been looking forward to it and for saying previously that I would definitely be bringing it back. I don't want to hand it off to someone else completely because there's a chance I may feel differently next year or even in a few months. Maybe that's selfish of me, I don't know. But, for now, I know I haven't been able to give it as much attention as I should have - and honestly, there are other projects I want to work on. I don't think the book blogging world will miss the Memoirs challenge too much and if someone wants to start another one, then that's perfectly fine.

My favorite Christmas ornament,
given to me by my parents when
I was very young. Taken by me
last year, when it was on our tree
(as it is every year). 
Anyway, it's Christmas. We have a week ahead of us that will be spent with family and friends we rarely see, and I plan to make the most of it. I refuse to spend one minute of it worrying about what I'm reading or not reading, or if I'm reading enough, or competing with myself to achieve some lofty, if not impossible goal I committed to back in January - and beating myself up when I don't.

That's ridiculous. Again, life is too short for that.

So, that settles it then. Only a few challenges this year for me. (Probably only Beth Fish Reads' What's In a Name and Mt. TBR.)

And, oh yeah ... for those who are celebrating, a very Merry Christmas! (And for those coming home or going a-visiting, safe travels.) Here's some Dickens for the road, to take us out:

"And I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday - the longer, the better - from the great boarding-school, where we are for ever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest. As to going a visiting, where can we not go, if we will; where have we not been, when we would; starting our fancy from our Christmas Tree! 

Away into the winter prospect. There are many such upon the tree! On, by low-lying misty grounds, through fens and fogs, up long hills, winding dark as caverns between thick plantations, almost shutting out the sparkling stars; so, out on broad heights, until we stop at last, with sudden silence, at an avenue."  "The Christmas Tree," Charles Dickens, 1850

Have you noticed  fewer reading challenges this year than in previous years? Are you reducing the number of challenges you're participating in or increasing them? I'd love to hear about it. And, if you're a challenge addict (like me) who has scaled way back, tell me how you went cold turkey and did that, too. 

I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, December 21, 2012

the nra's guide to solving yer stickups and skyjackings


Something about that NRA press conference sounded familiar today ... like perhaps I'd heard it before.

Maybe, say, from this guy.





I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Best Nonfiction Books and Memoirs of 2012

With 9 days left to go in this year, I am prepared to give you my picks for what I consider to be the best nonfiction books I've read in 2012. I am also including memoirs in this list, too.

Note that I said "books I've read," not necessarily books that were published since the last time we did this.

It's a little earlier than usual for this, I know. I typically wait until the clock is striking midnight on New Years Eve to give you my selections (because I know you're all waiting with bated breath). But since next week's schedule is a jam-packed one, I doubt much reading will be done - and I don't think I will get to the nonfiction and memoirs currently in the queue.

Hence, The List.

The links under each title either take you to my review (if I managed to do one; if not, I included a few thoughts about the book) or to the Amazon page where you can learn more, should it interest you.


As the title promises, Collins truly does pack 400 years of American women's history into what is a chunkster of a book. Make no mistake, though: this is no dry textbook. Collins presents a comprehensive and thorough view of American women's history in a way that is incredibly informative, engaging, shocking, and entertaining. At some points, I couldn't put this down.

Beginning with the very first settlers at Jamestown, Collins traces the history and the stories of strong, formidable women through an ever-changing America during the Revolutionary War, slavery, pre-and post-Civil War, the pioneer days, the Gilded Age, the Depression. There are the names from the history books: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Carrie Nation, Annie Oakley, Margaret Sanger and countless others - but whose individual stories and accomplishments we may not have ever quite completely learned or fully remember. (continue reading)



From my review: "It's like going back to the future. It's like reading a mystery novel where you know the clues - and you just want to reach into the pages and stop people and time in their very tracks, to shake them, to warn them about what's ahead. Because we know - the good and the bad. Things are so different now and we know so much now that we didn't know then, especially in the very early days, which are really, really tough to read about."  (continue reading)
  

Father's Day: A Journey Into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son, by Buzz Bissinger 

This gets my vote for best memoir of the year and it should have gotten more acclaim. Honestly, it's hard to put into words how incredibly powerful Buzz Bissinger's memoir is - which is one of the reasons I didn't do a proper review. (Plus, OK ...I'm a little scared of Buzz.) But goddamn, this guy can write. (I knew that before reading this. I'm from Philly and so is Buzz. I've been a fan of Buzz's writing for many, many years.) 

As wonderfully written as Father's Day is, it is also brutally and seeringly honest. And I, for one, appreciate that.  I'm lobbying hard for The Husband to read it. He's resistant, as he is to any autism-related books, having been burned by a half-assed one in the very early days of Boo's diagnosis.

I should say, Father's Day is probably not one I would recommend for a parent - father or otherwise - who has just gotten word of a child's special needs diagnosis.  The stuff of which Buzz writes comes from a deep place and his accompanying anger is genuine, absolutely true-to-life and completely understandable. I think it's hard to "go there" and understand that if you haven't been there ... and I think a lot of people haven't, in those very early, initial days.  And that's a scary prospect to think of, that there might be even darker days and darker moods to come. I don't know if I could have handled that in the early days, but regardless, I found myself recognizing - and yes, appreciating and understanding - Buzz's anger all too often as I read.


The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan


I'm partial to well-written books that are set in one of my favorite cities. I'm not surprised at how much I loved The Middle Place because much of it takes place in my hometown of Philadelphia and a part of the area that I'm very familiar with and very fond thereof. Kelly Corrigan's writing style is also absolutely superb, completely engaging and heartfelt.

But here's the thing. When your father dies suddenly (as mine did, when I was 15), and when you still find yourself at weddings 28 years later bolting for the restroom as a precaution when "Daddy's Little Girl" is played, you don't expect to fall in love with a story of a father-daughter relationship like this one as much as I did.

It's because through words like this, Corrigan makes you remember what it was like, once upon a time.
"He does that for me too. He makes me feel smart, funny, and beautiful, which has become the job of the few men who have loved me since. He told me once that I was a great talker. And so I was. I was a conversationalist, along with creative, a notion he put in my head when I was in grade school and used to make huge, intricate collages from his old magazines. He defined me first, as parents do. Those early characteristics can become the shimmering self-image we embrace or the limited, stifling perception we rail against for a lifetime. In my case, he sees me as I would like to be seen. In fact, I'm not even sure what's true about me, since I have always chosen to believe his version." (pg. 3-4)
And that's just in the prologue, for God sakes. There's more like this - much more (this is the story of Corrigan and her father having cancer at the same time) - throughout The Middle Place. 




Joan Frank gets this writing life in a way that is so authentic and real, and this comes across the pages as easily as if you are sharing several hours - and stories and knowing nods - over a cup of coffee or tea. She is that understanding friend who doesn't tell you how to write but rather commiserates with you about all the ways that being a writer is simultaneously wonderful, exhausting, satisfying, frustrating, freeing, and ever-changing. (continue reading)

I'm planning to do a separate list of my picks for Best Young Adult Books Read this year, Best Fiction Books Read, and of course, my complete recap.


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CreativeMornings Arrives in Pittsburgh!


For a few hours on Friday morning (before we would learn the horrible news, before our hearts would be broken), several dozen of Pittsburgh's most creative people gathered at The Andy Warhol Museum for a party.

The occasion was, appropriately enough, the first ever CreativeMornings Pittsburgh.

According to their website, CreativeMornings is a global breakfast lecture series for creative types. Each monthly event is FREE and includes a 20 minute talk plus coffee. (The java is always important.)

And by global, these events are truly global - happening in every possible corner of the world. Which makes it kind of perplexing that Pittsburgh didn't have a CreativeMornings before Friday ... but that's part of what I've fallen in love with about this city.

You see, in the year and a half I've been here, I've learned that Pittsburgh is the kind of place where if you have an idea for something, there's usually someone (or several someones) saying, "that sounds awesome!" or "let's try that together!" or "how can I help?" or all of the above.

Seriously. Pittsburgh is honest to God the most creative place I've ever seen. We're chock-a-block with brilliant entrepreneurs and innovators, and such artsy techy literary funky type people usually have multiple fantastical things happening at once.

That's what happened when Kate Stoltzfus (Plumb Media, Yinzpiration, Propelle - see what I mean?) was inspired to bring CreativeMornings to Pittsburgh.

The result? A fun, mentally invigorating and inspiring morning, thanks to Spark (the sponsor) and a presentation by Nina Barbuto of assemble.

After coffee and networking in the spacious lobby of The Warhol, the group gathered in the lecture hall where Nina told us about her background and the launch of assemble. She then challenged us to think differently about learning. Every day at assemble, Nina's team is "making learning a party" for kids by providing them opportunities to make connections through art and technology projects. She and other collaborators host "Maker Parties" where kids "can engage their intrigue while making physical and nonphysical learning connections."

Learning doesn't end when we leave school; in fact, it's the opposite. We can learn everywhere, in every possible setting, in every possible way. As creative types, Nina emphasized that we can do that too, in all aspects of our work. The question then becomes this:



Thanks, Kate, and the CreativeMornings Pittsburgh team for not being afraid to try this new idea out here in our city. I'm already excited about the next CreativeMornings Pittsburgh (Kate announced that it will be on January 11) and seeing what will happen.

(Check out the CreativeMornings Pittsburgh photostream on Flickr here.)


photos and text copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, December 17, 2012

echolalia

"Free encouragement" at the counter of Paper Kite Books in Kingston, PA
Photo taken by me, October 2011
Echolalia is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others. Children with [autism spectrum disorder] often display echolalia in the process of learning to talk. Immediate echolalia is the exact repetition of someone else's speech, immediately or soon after the child hears it. Delayed echolalia may occur several minutes, hours, days, or even weeks or years after the original speech was heard. Echolalia is sometimes referred to as "movie talk" because the child can remember and repeat chunks of speech like repeating a movie script. Echolalia was once thought to be non-functional, but is now understood to often serve a communicative or regulatory purpose for the child. Also known as: "Movie talk", Scripting Related term: Repetitive use of language  ~ from Autism Speaks
1. My migraine raged long into last night. Despite the medicine that usually helped ease such woes, sleep was elusive.

I had read too much about the Connecticut school shooting, about people proclaiming to be other people's mothers, about what our school district is doing about the "non-credible, third-hand" rumor of a planned shooting at our local high school.

I had seen too many pictures of too many beautiful, now gone children and their heartbroken parents.

I had watched my President, and I explained to my children why I was crying while I was watching the President.

* *
2. Some poetry, then.

Dan Waber's slim volume echolalia rested on my nightstand. I'd met Dan more than a year ago, when I stopped in Paper Kite Press (his small gem of a store) during some business trip downtime.

We talked poetry - and more - that day. Dan gave me "free encouragement" from a box on the counter. (Because we all need free encouragement, don't we?)  I selected echolalia from the small shelf, mentioning why the title intrigued me, knowing I was going to buy it.

"My son has autism," I explained. "He was ... he had echolalia for awhile."

Dan's poems sat on my own bookshelves, unread until last night. I made my way with them into the guest bedroom and settled into the bed and read.

And read.

Dan's poems, as I suspected, have little to do with autism or the echolalia that I'm familiar with. What these poems are is a love story to Dan's wife Jennifer, a poet in her own right. They're a love story about the ephemera that make up the everyday - chopping mushrooms for dinner, cats fussing about, a glance of the swish of hips, crazy neighbors, doing the dishes, a rejection letter in the mail, picking up a child from school.

Picking up a child from school.

Their love is palpable and you smile as you read these poems (at least, I did) and I found my heart and breath slowing down, finally, for a moment, in these troubled times, in that midnight hour, in our darkened house.

(As John Lennon says in "Mind Games," love is the answer and you know that for sure. Wise man, that John.)

And at the end of Echolalia, Dan Waber reveals the echolalia part of his poems in the After Words section of the chapbook.
"Every poem in this collection contains an "echo" made by reading the last word of each line, in a downward fashion. With one exception, every echo was written or spoken by poet (and love of my life) Jennifer Hill-Kaucher. Some come from poems or fictions she has written (some of which have been published by FootHills Publishing) but many come from places as mundane as jotted notes and SMS text messages." 
I fell asleep wondering how I could better capture the echoes of the important people in my life.

* *
3.  I woke up, as I do, checking my own text messages and Facebook statuses and job postings on my phone.

And there it was, an offensive-to-me post from a Facebook friend so full of misunderstanding and misconceptions, parroting the oft-heard talking points, perpetuating stigmas about people with disabilities.

Coffee in hand, I sat down to bang out a response. At 6:30 a.m.

In the living room, my boy was counting down the days until Christmas, until Santa, until our trip to Philadelphia. He has his agenda, his routines, his traditions all set, ready and rarin' to go.

"I am just FILLED with the SPIRIT of CHRISTMAS!" he exclaimed.

I had a choice. Fight with the friend in the name of educating him about people with disabilities - because I should do that, right? My autism mom friends would certainly do that. I'd be letting them down - and the entire population of people like my son, too - if I let this abhorrent behavior continue unabated, if I gave up, if I let him go on believing that people with autism were brats at heart and just deserved a whack on the ass.

Or. I could just BLOCK FRIEND and listen to my son being filled with the spirit of Christmas.

Echolalia? Yeah, probably.

Truth be told, the echolalia from when Boo was two (and 3, and 4, and 5 ...) still makes its presence known on occasion around here. It's rare, and when it does, it's masked, making it especially hard to tell whether it is his words or something he heard from a movie or one of the YouTube videos he spends forever watching.

Because it kind of blends into the ephemera of this thing we call life.



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

when what to my cynical, sad eyes should appear

Philadelphia Flower Show
March 2009
"for i've grown a little leaner
grown a little colder
grown a little sadder
grown a little older
and i need a little angel
sitting on my shoulder
we need a little christmas now." 

from "mame"

After I finished my volunteer stint in the kids' classroom last Wednesday, I decided to take the kids home right from there. Since I was already at the school, it seemed ridiculous to send them to their after-school program. 

As we walked through the school parking lot, Boo started in about seeing Santa that weekend. 

At 11, my kids still Believe. Wholeheartedly and unabashedly and completely. And I'm not about to change that, especially after yesterday.

"I think I'd like a bulletproof vest," Boo said, very seriously. 

I was startled. I admit, the setting - the elementary/middle school parking lot, at dismissal time - jolted me. I asked him why he wanted such a thing. 

"In case someone shoots me," he said, matter of factly.

"My God, Boo," I said. "What a horrible thought. Why would someone shoot you?" 

We talked about if anyone had threatened to shoot him. Nobody hadn't. Still, my mind went there, as it tends to do. Because that's what my mind DOES. I saw it all as we walked through the crosswalk - the news vans, the police cars, the ambulances, the vigils, the candles - and I talked as calmly as possible to my son.  

"You know, 11-year old boys don't need to walk around wearing bulletproof vests," 

This was nine days ago. I felt I was lying as I remembered Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora. 

"The likelihood that you're going to get shot, sweetie, is pretty slim," I said, choosing my words carefully. 

Nine days before all of America would learn where Newtown, Connecticut was. 

NINE DAYS. 

*
I admit that I am addicted to all things social media, but even I knew that I needed to put myself on a restricted social media diet for this one. 

I knew how this would play itself out. 

I knew that there would be reports that the shooter was on the autism spectrum. That the talking heads would go there and start their damning theories. 

Facebook and Twitter and the rest of the Internet would get along just fine without me for this particular news story. My autism mom friends worked the Interwebs with poignant blog posts and tweets and impassioned pleas to media types not to paint everyone with autism with this brush. 

(I may have sneaked a peek on my phone.) 

Meanwhile, I descended into the basement and surrounded myself by scrapbooking. A banal task: sorting paper by color. The sort of thing one does in kindergarten. 

My boy came downstairs where I was working. 

"I found something," he said, holding up one of my blog cards and beginning to read the description of The Betty and Boo Chronicles to me. 

"What does this mean?" he said. "This. 'Raising a child with autism.' Do you hate me?" 

Oh, dear God. 

Do I hate you? 

Do I HATE you? 

Today, this. Today, on a day when 20 little children lost their lives. 

I told him to sit down with me on the sofa, that there were a few things I needed to say. I told him that I wrote about him having autism here because there were a lot of parents out there who were just finding out that their kids have autism. That by writing about the funny and awesome things that you do, that helps other people not be as scared and not see autism as a bad or scary thing. That when WE found out about Boo having autism, we didn't know anyone else the same age who had it or what Boo's life could possibly be like.

That's why I write about it, I explained. To try and give people some hope. 

"Does that make any sense?" I asked. 

He said that it did, that he understood. 

"Do you want me to stop writing about it?" I asked. 

"No, it's okay. It's cool." 

* * 

I don't want to leave the house today. 

I don't even want to get dressed. 

I'm still in my social media blackout (sorta). The Husband is giving me updates about Connecticut that I've read on Twitter, when I've (once again) snuck looks at it. He's told me about the autism angle. I told him I saw that last night. 

I can't do this. I'm too angry to do this. Not when the memory of my boy telling me that he wants a bulletproof vest is only (now) 10 days old. 

We need things at Costco. I get dressed, get myself into the car. Betty decides she wants to come with me for the samples and a possible Christmas gift for her teacher. 

A gift for her teacher. How can I say no? Today, I can't. 

I drive up our street, see a flash of red and white knocking on the door of one of my neighbors' houses. 

It's Santa Claus. 

"Look, Betty!" I exclaim, before I drive out of sight. 

"Oh, wow ...." Betty breathes. 

I stare. Santa turns and waves at us. We wave back and smile. Thank you, Santa, I think. 

I realize I'll lose the moment if I stop the car, reach into my purse for my phone, and take a photo for Facebook and the blog. I decide to just let it be, live it for what it is. 

I glance at Betty in the back seat. Her face is magic. 

She still Believes. 

And for just one single precious moment, so do I. 




I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: Married Love and Other Stories, by Tessa Hadley

Married Love and Other Stories
by Tessa Hadley 
Harper Perennial
2012 
203 pages 

So, okay, here's what you need to know right off the bat before reading another word of this review.

I am apparently in a bit of a reading funk.

Whether it is the holiday season upon us, the worries of the looming fiscal cliff, The Husband's health issues (making the title of this short story collection ironic, yes?), the end of the year (or all of our days) or a combination of all of the above ... I've got a serious case of the book blues. I've abandoned both an audiobook that I can't even remember the name of (my short-term memory is shot), as well as a very popular, made-into-a-movie Man Booker Prize winner that people loved.

All of which is to say this: the inability to connect with the twelve offerings in Tessa Hadley's Married Love and Other Stories is clearly, absolutely mine. I own it. As regular readers know, I adore short stories. They are among my favorite literary forms, and Married Love has many of the elements that I love about them.
"[These] are stories that range widely across generations and classes, exploring the private and public lives of unforgettable characters: a young girl who haunts the edges of her parents’ party; a wife released by the sudden death of her film-director husband; an eighteen-year-old who insists on marrying her music professor, only to find herself shut out from his secrets. In this stunning collection, Hadley evokes worlds that expand in the imagination far beyond the pages, capturing domestic dramas, generational sagas, wrenching love affairs and epiphanies, and distilling them to remarkable effect." (from the publisher's description)
These stories are set in different time periods (modern day as well as all the way back to the 1920s), the descriptions of the characters are original (if perhaps a little heavy on the metaphors), and Hadley doesn't wrap everything up neatly with a bow - which I usually appreciate.

However.

One of the things that has been praised by other bloggers about Married Love might just hold the key to my stumbling block right now. These are stories where the characters reflect on their lives in the midst of the commonalities of their life or the little moments of their day. Maybe it's because I've been doing a lot of that myself. Maybe having too many uncertain things in my own life causes one to be especially resistant to this in one's reading.

I don't know. All I know is that, for whatever reason, I had a tough time connecting to the characters and the stories in Married Love, which was sent to me by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. I feel that I need to apologize to Ms. Hadley for this, as she is clearly a very talented writer. (The problem in this case is me.)

So, since I don't think I did this collection justice, I'm planning to pick it up again when I'm in more of a normal reading frame of mind. I'd also encourage you to check out the other participants on the Married Love tour being hosted by TLC Book Tours, as many of them truly loved the book and had many wonderful things to say.



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Challenge Completed: 2nds Challenge 2012



Remember back in January when I signed up to participate in a ridiculous number of 17 reading challenges? (For those unfamiliar with the notion of reading challenges, they are the literary equivalent of fantasy football.)  Among the challenges I completed this year was the 2nds Challenge, hosted by A Few More Pages at A Few More Challenges. 

The purpose of this challenge was to read a second book by an author we had previously enjoyed, or the second in a series. My goal was the "a few more bites" level, which were these 6 books. Links take you to my reviews: 






3.  The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons 


4.  Blue Nights, by Joan Didion 


5.  The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (audio)


6.  The Lola Quartet, by Emily St. John Mandel 

I haven't seen this challenge offered yet for 2013 (someone correct me if I'm wrong) but if it is, I'll likely be participating again.


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Randomness N'at



I can't seem to write a coherent Sunday Salon post, so we'll just go with a bunch of random thoughts n'at ....

The Weather
This has been the sort of day where you're so sluggish you feel like you just can't wake up. (Good thing it's almost bedtime.) Part of that is because it has been raining for THREE DAYS STRAIGHT. I suppose it could be worse. Could be snow, like many of you are getting.

Health (Mine)
Several of my teeth are bothering me. I have a toothache in one of my front teeth (I'm going to a new dentist tomorrow; he comes highly recommended by a coworker of The Husband's who has more dental woes than I do, as if that's even possible). I'm pretty certain this tooth needs to be crowned or redone with an implant. I have quite a few crowns, but for whatever reason, a crown in one of my front teeth kind of scares me. You could say that all I want for Christmas is to keep my own teeth.  (Ba-DUM-bump! I'll be here all week, folks!) I'm hoping this appointment goes okay and - more importantly - that I like this new dentist.

Christmas
We put up our Christmas tree yesterday. Here's one of my favorite ornaments from when I was a little kid. I call this The Reading Elf.


Reading Challenges
Speaking of being a reading elf, it's crunch time for those of us who are finishing up our reading challenges. I've completed 5 6 of the 17 challenges I committed to back in the beginning of the year. That's not a good percentage. I think I still have a chance with 4 3 (maybe 5 4) additional challenges, but it looks like I will not make it with the Chunkster, Mt. TBR, Non-Fiction Non Memoir, Self-Published, Southern Literature, Time Travel, and Truth in Fiction challenges. Oh well.

What I'm Reading This Week...
I told myself that I really wanted to read something by Michael Ondaatje this year, and here in the waning days of 2012, I finally am. The question was, which one of his books to start with? I posed that question to two friends - both passionate Ondaatje fans - and the thought seemed to be The English Patient. I've never even seen the movie, so I'm coming at this knowing nothing about the story.

So far, it's ...just okay?  I know. This is one of those books that I feel I should be more in love with than I am. I'm not as drawn into this as I thought I would be. Don't get me wrong: Ondaatje can certainly write, and this won't be the last of his books I read. But, I guess I expected to like this more than I do. The problem is probably me with this one.

...and Listening To
It must be my week to read and listen to Books That Everyone Else Read At Least a Decade Ago because this week I also finally got around to listening to Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I've had this on my bookshelves forever, and then I needed one more audiobook for the Audiobook challenge and saw this was only 4 CDs at the library. This was more enjoyable than I thought. Schmaltzy, yes ... but you know, sometimes you need a little schmaltz.

Now I'm listening to The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman, which is depressing as hell. Not sure I'm going to finish this one.

What I AM going to do is finish is this post ... and then go to bed.

(And try not to dream about my teeth.)


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Guest Post from The Husband: 30

New York City, as seen from atop Rockefeller Center
August 6, 2010 - not so great photo taken by me 
An encore post, written by The Husband on December 8, 2010. 

It was, of course, impossible that I would not write today about John Lennon. With Yoko's much-welcomed focus on John's 70th birthday - as opposed to today's 30th anniversary of his murder - John has been in the news a great deal this fall, and that is good. I saw recently the incredibly well-done documentary by filmmaker Michael Epstein [no relation - despite the irony - to Beatles manager Brian Epstein]. Among the many fantastic things about LennoNYC is how Lennon's murder is handled. While acknowledged - and how could it not be - there is no mention of Mark David Chapman, nor any mention of the shooting with the exception of Yoko's incredibly poignant, "He was an artist. Why would you kill an artist?"

Still, the reality is that there is no way to consider John's life in its entirety without recounting that night 30 years ago. Unfortunately, for a good number of those who have ever lived - particularly the famous - their lives are largely seen through the prism of their deaths. Just off the top of my head I can think of Elvis Presley, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Michael Jackson, Liberace, Rock Hudson, John Belushi..... When you think of their lives, invariably it is through the lens of how their lives ended moreso than how those lives they were lived. That is just the way it is.

So, on this 30th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination [and, let's be clear, that's what it was. Many mistakenly believe that 'assassination' is only the murder of political leaders. The Webster's definition of 'assassination' is, "to kill suddenly or secretively; to murder premeditatedly and treacherously"], I'm compelled to write about December 8, 1980.

I've written before about the last day of John Lennon's life. The last hour of his life, however, is the focus of today's post.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was about to become a painful one for Alan Weiss. Weiss was working for WABC-TV in New York City and won two Emmys before his 30th birthday. After a long day at work, he jumped on his motorcycle and headed home.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was the end of a 30-hour shift for Dr. Stephan Lynn, head of the Roosevelt Hospital Emergency Room in New York City. He was exhausted and looking forward to sleep. He headed home for a quick hug of his wife and two young daughters and a nice warm bed.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was just beginning for New York City Police Officers Pete Cullen and Steve Spiro, who did the night shift on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Not necessarily a 'cush' job, but better than 99% of the other ones available to a New York City cop in 1980.

The night of December 8, 1980 was a typical one for Jay Hastings, working as a doorman at the Dakota. Earlier that night, a friend of one of his highest profile residents, John Lennon, had stopped by to drop something off for the former Beatle. Hastings had seen Bob Gruen with John Lennon just a few days ago, so he took the package and promised Gruen that he would give it to John when he returned that evening. Police would later open the package - as part of their investigation - to find it containing some tapes of the The Clash that John had asked Gruen to make for him [Gruen had told John that he would love The Clash and John "wanted to take a listen"], as well as some of the negatives from a photo session Gruen had done with John and Yoko two days earlier. All of that would be later, however. For now, though, all was quiet as Hastings watched Monday Night Football on a tiny black and white television propped up on the counter of the front desk.

The lives of these five men would converge unexpectedly and suddenly in a violent collision with the last night of John Lennon's life.

The night of December 8, 1980 was the completion of a task Mark David Chapman had set out to accomplish a month earlier. He'd come to New York in November 1980 to kill John Lennon but got cold feet and returned home to Hawaii. He was back now and determined to finish what he'd set out to do. It was an unusually warm evening for early December in New York City. Despite that, Chapman stood patiently in the dark outside the Dakota wearing a winter's coat - attire not suited for Hawaii but perfect for the conditions that he thought he'd find in December on the East Coast. Chapman carried a well-worn copy of The Catcher In the Rye, the J.D. Salinger tale of disaffected youth. In his pocket was a five-shot Charter Arms .38-caliber revolver - the ammunition provided by an unsuspecting old friend of Chapman's from Alabama, whom the 25-year old Chapman had suddenly visited in October 1980.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was a pleasant and accomplished one for John Lennon. The day had been hectic - a photo session with photographer Annie Leibovitz, a three-hour interview with R.K.O. Radio, and a five-hour session at the Hit Factory Record Studios to tweak a song by Yoko called "Walking on Thin Ice".

As John and Yoko's rented limousine stopped on 72nd Street at the ornate gate of the Dakota [John had told the driver to stop there rather than inside the courtyard - and past Chapman - which was more the standard route on a cold December evening....which this was not], Lennon grabbed the reel-to-reel tapes of the evening's sessions, placed them under his arm, and followed Yoko out of the car. It was 10:50 pm.

Yoko had wanted to stop for a bite to eat at The Stage Deli, but John wanted to go home. So, as they emerged from the limo, John strode ahead of Yoko as they entered the gate. He was eager to check in on his 5-year old son, Sean. While the boy would [hopefully] be asleep, John hadn't seen him for a few days, as Sean had spent the weekend with his nanny's family in Pennsylvania. After that, John would go into the kitchen to get a bite to eat - knowing that, as usual when the kitchen door opened, his three cats would come bounding forward to greet him.

There is some dispute as to whether Chapman really said, "Mr. Lennon?!" as he stepped out of the shadows about five strides after John had passed him unseen. For years that was the story; recently, though, Chapman has said he said nothing. It is possible, in fact, that he is right. John never stopped walking, nor did he turn around - headed instead in the direction of the door some 50 feet away. Had his name been called so loudly and unexpectedly in the dark of night, one would assume that the startled Lennon would have turned to face the sound.

What is indisputable is that Chapman now stood in a combat stance a few feet from Lennon and Ono with his handgun leveled at the back of John's midsection. Very quickly, Chapman fired four bullets, three of which which pierced John from the back through the lungs, the chamber around his heart, and his shoulder. The fourth missed John and hit the glass window by the the front door of the complex.

Although at first in shock, John immediately knew what had happened and screamed, "I'm shot!" Despite a massive loss of blood - even in just the few seconds that had passed - John started to jog forward toward the door. He stumbled up the steps and fell face first onto the marble lobby floor in the foyer, breaking his glasses. Somehow, the reel-to-reel tapes he'd been carrying had stayed lodged under his arm. They now crashed to the floor beside his glasses.

Startled by the broken glass - initially he'd assumed the firing of the gun to be a car backfiring - doorman Hastings ran from behind the desk just as Lennon came stumbling through the door. Despite the blood and his own shock, Hastings knew immediately that the grievously wounded man at his feet was John Lennon, as Yoko quickly came to the door at a gallop screaming. Hastings rang the alarm that connected the Dakota to the police. He then went back to John and instinctively removed his jacket and placed it over John's crumpled torso. Also instinctively, although he was unarmed, Hastings ran out the door to approach the shadowy figure 50 feet away who was still in a combat position. Although the gun was still in Chapman's hands, he'd lowered his arm to his side with gun pointed toward the ground. Incredulous, Hastings approached Chapman and screamed, "Do you know what you just did?!".

"I just shot John Lennon," Chapman replied softly.

Within minutes after Chapman opened fire, Officers Cullen and Spiro were the first to answer the report of shots fired at the Dakota. As he got out of the patrol car, Cullen was struck by the lack of movement: the doorman, a Dakota handyman who had run out of his basement apartment at the sound of Lennon's body hitting the floor above him, and the killer, all standing as if frozen.

"Somebody just shot John Lennon!" the doorman finally shouted, pointing at Chapman.

"Where's Lennon?" Cullen asked. Hastings pointed to the nearby vestibule in which John - with blood pouring from his chest - lay dying. Cullen ran to Lennon's side as Spiro threw Chapman against the stone wall and cuffed him.

Two other officers soon arrived to lift John up and take him to a waiting police car. As they did, one of the officers would recall his stomach sickening as he heard the unmistakable cracking of Lennon's shoulder blade as they lifted him up, the bones shattered by a bullet. As they were carrying him to the waiting police car, Lennon vomited up blood and fleshy tissue.

With Lennon placed gingerly on the backseat of the patrol car, one of the officers jumped into the back to hold his head while the other two officers jumped in the front seats and sped downtown to Roosevelt Hospital, located exactly one mile away. In the midst of the chaos, Cullen spotted Yoko Ono. "Can I go, too?" she asked as her husband disappeared. A ride was quickly arranged.

Cradling Lennon's head, the officer in the backseat of the speeding patrol car looked into John's glassy eyes. Breathing heavily, with the gurgling of blood audible to all in the car, Lennon was fading. The officer tried to keep Lennon conscious, screaming at him. "Do you know who you are?!?! Are you John Lennon?!" John - who, with the other Beatles had popularized the 'yeah, yeah, yeah' phrase 16 years earlier - uttered what would be his last word: "Yeah...." He then lost consciousness and his breathing stopped.

Meanwhile, back at the Dakota, Officers Spiro and Cullen were trying hard to remain professional. Avid Beatles fans, both had often seen John, Yoko and Sean walking the neighborhood. Although they'd never spoken to John, both felt as though this was a family member or friend that Chapman had just shot. Trying to control the urge to hit Chapman, Spiro thought of the only thing he could think of: "Do you have a statement?!" Chapman pointed with his cuffed hands down to the ground nearby where his copy of Catcher in the Rye lay. Spiro opened the book and saw the inscription, "This is my statement." Spiro fell into a brief shocked daze at the scrawl. He was startled back into reality when Chapman - answering a question that hadn't been asked - said, "I acted alone."

Cullen and Spiro then roughly loaded Chapman into their car for a trip to the 20th Precinct. "He was apologetic," Cullen recalled in a 2005 interview - but not for shooting Lennon. "I remember that he was apologizing for giving us a hard time."

Nearby, unnoticed and - for the next 12 hours, untouched - was the copy of Double Fantasy that Lennon had signed for Chapman 6 hours earlier. Chapman had placed it in a large potted plant at the side of the gate, where it would be inadvertently discovered by one of the scores of officers who would be called to the Dakota for crowd control as word of Lennon's shooting spread.

Thirty minutes earlier, Dr. Stephan Lynn's 30-hour shift had ended at 10:30 p.m. He had literally just walked through the door and sat down on the sofa when his phone rang. Picking it up, a nurse asked him if he could come back to the hospital to help out. A man with a gunshot to the chest was coming to Roosevelt.

Lynn walked back out the door and hailed a cab to the hospital.

Meanwhile, at Roosevelt Hospital at that moment, TV producer Weiss was lying on a gurney wondering how his night had turned so shitty so quickly. An hour earlier, Weiss' Honda motorcycle had collided head on with a taxi. Somehow, Weiss seemed to have escaped with what he suspected to be cracked ribs. It was as he was lying on the gurney in an emergency room hallway contemplating his ruined evening and awaiting x-rays that Weiss was about to get the news scoop of a lifetime.

BOOM! The doors of the hallway where Weiss lie burst open with a gunshot victim on a stretcher carried by a half dozen police officers, who passed Weiss as they brought the victim into a room nearby. As doctors and nurses flew into action, two of the police officers paused alongside Weiss' gurney. "Jesus, can you believe it?" one officer rhetorically asked the other. "John Lennon?!"

Weiss was incredulous. He immediately rose from the gurney and grabbed a nearby hospital worker. Realizing he couldn't walk, Weiss shoved $20 into the man's hands and told him to call the WABC-TV newsroom with a tip that John Lennon was shot. As it turned out, the money disappeared, and the call was never made.

Five minutes passed. Weiss was suddenly doubting the news instincts of the bribed hospital worker. As he was contemplating this, Weiss was started by what he later described as a strangled sound. "I twist around and there is Yoko Ono on the arm of a police officer, and she's sobbing," Weiss recalled in a 2005 interview.

With the sight of Yoko, Weiss decided he had to make the call to WABC-TV himself. He finally persuaded a police officer to help him up and walk him to a hospital phone, under the ruse that he had to call his wife to tell her he was in the hospital. Instead, out of earshot of the officer, Weiss reached the WABC-TV assignment editor with his tip around 11 p.m. Before hanging up the phone with Weiss, the editor on the other end of the phone was able to check and confirm a reported shooting at Lennon's address.

All the while, Lynn and two other doctors were working on the victim. The man lying on the table had no pulse, no blood pressure, and no breathing. Lynn did not know that the man on the table in front of him was John Lennon. "We took his wallet out of his pocket," Lynn recalled in 2005. "The nurse immediately chuckled and said, 'This can't be John Lennon'. Because it didn't look anything like John Lennon."

Whether or not it was Lennon, Lynn was not quite sure. What he did know, though, was that, "He was losing a tremendous amount of blood," Lynn remembered. "And he had three wounds in his chest. We knew we had to act quickly. We started an IV, we transfused blood. We actually did an operation in the emergency department to try to open his chest to look for the source of the bleeding. We did cardiac massage - I literally held his heart in my hand and pumped his heart - but there was complete destruction of all the vessels leaving his heart."

After 25 minutes, the three doctors gave up. The damage was too great. Lennon was dead. Lynn recalled that Chapman's marksmanship was extraordinary. "He was anamazingly good shot," Lynn recalled. "All three of those bullets in the chest were perfectly placed. They destroyed all of the major blood vessels that took the blood out of the heart to all of the rest of the body." As a result, "there was no way circulation of blood could take place in this man and there was no way that anyone could fix him."

Weiss continued watching in disbelief as the doctors frantically worked on Lennon. It took him a moment to realize the song that was playing on the hospital's Muzak system - the Beatles' "All My Loving."

Meanwhile, Dr. Lynn made the long walk to the end of the emergency room hallway where Yoko was waiting in a room with record mogul David Geffen, who had rushed to the hospital after receiving a call that John had been shot. It was now Lynn's job to deliver the word that John Lennon, Yoko's soulmate and spouse, was dead.

"She refused to accept or believe that," Lynn recalled. "For five minutes, she kept repeating, `It's not true. I don't believe you. You're lying."' Lynn listened quietly. "There was a time she was lying on the floor, literally pounding her head against the concrete, during which I was concerned I was going to have a second patient," Lynn remembered. "Many, many times she said, 'You're lying, I don't believe you, he's not dead,' " he added. "[Geffen] was helpful in getting her to calm down and accept what had happened. She never asked to see the body, and I never offered. She needed to get home [to tell Sean], and she did."

By the time Yoko left the hospital, Weiss' tip had been confirmed and given to Howard Cosell, who told the nation of Lennon's death during Monday Night Football.....which was still on the screen of the little black and white television on doorman Hastings' front desk counter.

This brought a throng of reporters to Roosevelt Hospital, leaving Lynn to inform them that Lennon was gone. "John Lennon...," Lynn began before pausing for a moment. He then went on, "....was brought to the emergency room of St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital...He was dead on arrival." With that, a collective groan emanated from the normally cynical assembled media.

After finishing with the media, Lynn returned to the emergency room. Thinking remarkably clearly - and with great foresight - Lynn arranged for the disposal of all medical supplies and equipment used on Lennon - a move to thwart ghoulish collectors. "I said, 'Not a piece of linen with Mr. Lennon's blood is to leave this department except in a special bag,' " Lynn recalled. "I had to tell the nursing staff that they could not sell their uniforms, which might have been stained with John Lennon's blood." He personally supervised the disposal of everything.

By the time Lynn was done, it was 3 am. He decided to walk home, heading up Columbia Avenue. "I was afraid that someone would run up to me and say, 'You're the doctor who didn't save John Lennon and allowed him to die,' " Lynn said.

On the 25th anniversary of the murder, Lynn stated that he believed that - despite medical advances in the previous quarter century - John's gunshot injuries would still be untreatable today. "There was no way of repairing that damage then and, to my knowledge, there's no way to repair that amount of damage today," Lynn said. "There was absolutely nothing we could do."

For days afterward, up in Apartment 72 of the Dakota, whenever the kitchen door opened, three cats came bounding forward to greet a man who was no longer there.....



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