Dear Monster – Writing 101 Day 14


Dear Monster,

You’ve always been out there beyond the mists of where I could see

You were the one that slowed traffic

Hiding behind the crest of Del Mar Heights hill and

Every wide sweeping curve of every highway

Eyes in the dark

Footsteps in the hallway

I tracked you to your birthplace

Where you changed me

I came with my sword but you’re not there anymore

Not a ghost or even an echo

Just some broken concrete in a wide sea of grass

I won’t miss you

-Pam Tanzey

Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern

Today’s Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.

The book : What Happened Here by Bonnie ZoBell the word on page 29: monster

Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.

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I Made Brownies – Writing 101


I Made Brownies

I made brownies with the Beatles playing in the background, Rubber Soul on Mom’s maple stereo. It was the upstairs apartment by Silverado and the hockey field of the Junior High we both went to. It was full of light from big windows, and it felt safe, like a home.

Mom had a new boyfriend. A nice guy for a change. I still slept with a knife under my pillow that nobody knew about. It was because of her last man, the one that she married.

I made brownies the season that Grandma stayed with us, after the breakup, to make sure Mom was okay. The recipe was from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa can, but I knew it by heart.

I made brownies for the first time when I was ten years old after Mom lost the baby we didn’t know about. It was in Kansas City and no one checked on us that week she stayed locked in her room. When her husband was gone and Grandma was busy and nobody came to make sure we were okay.

I made brownies and we ate them for breakfast all week watching cartoons. She wouldn’t answer when we knocked on her door. We lined up our stuffed animals on the sofa. So we wouldn’t cry anymore I made it normal. I made brownies.

-Pam Tanzey

Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Today’s Prompt: Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

– Anne Lamott,

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The Lanai Apartments 1963


Steve, the Manager’s assistant has turned off all the overhead lights just now and turned on floodlights that illuminate the big Tiki and the palm trees in the front, the swimming pool and all down the long parking driveway. The whole place looks like a movie set or what I imagine Disneyland must look like at night. A full golden moon is crowning the Car Wash sign next door making all of the white gravel between the palms look as if they are pools of cream. I want to drink it all in.

I am following behind him with my little garbage grabber, he calls it, and a trashcan picking up cigarette butts and pages from the Penny Saver that have blown in from the Santa Ana winds this morning. I have been twelve years old for three days now. This is my first job. Don’t call it a job, she said, you’re only twelve, but it is a job, an important one and I get paid.

The Lanai apartments where we live and where I work are furnished with tasteful Danish modern living room sets, comfortable beds, the latest appliances and streamlined dining tables with four matching chairs.  All you have to do is put your clothes in the closets, sheets on the bed and wonder bread in the toaster oven, which is also provided, and you are home. That’s exactly what we did when we arrived after a three day drive following the same nice truck driver that practically held our hand all the way from the dark Kansas City night to the Santa Monica pier, where we saw the ocean for the first time and Mom had her picture taken wearing new huge sunglasses.

There is something about California that I haven’t experienced anywhere else I’ve been, it is beautiful. Even a long apartment building next to a car wash and little mall is beautiful. It is not what is on the land, it seems to be coming from the land itself, under the ground, from its heart. California seems to have awareness of how special and beautiful it is, and it seeps up through the earth to your feet and right into your soul. It expects you to meet it halfway and be beautiful too. I think people feel it but then they get the wrong impression. They think they have to look beautiful. They go to extremes on looking beautiful with plastic surgeries and outrageous clothes and hairstyles but it’s not the outside it is the inside. I get it. I feel it just by being out under the sky and feeling the sun on my skin. It’s in the air all around, that magic stuff I felt back in Kansas City in the woods only more, so much more. Life sparkles here.

-Pam Tanzey

Writing 101

Day Eleven: Size Matters (In Sentences)

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences

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The Visitor


The Visitor

In my world it’s the horses that come and go, the overnighters passing through from way out there to way over somewhere else, to the big show, to the rodeo, or from up in the cold north to winter where it’s warm. I rarely see their people. It’s Las Vegas, they go to a buffet and do the Vegas thing then are back by their rig in the morning with coffee in hand. I wave as I leave for work. They wave back.

At dusk when the gate is locked and everyone’s gone home I go out and meet their horses. They tell me their names, the real name that their Mama gave them, and sometimes late at night on dark moons they tell me their secrets.

I live here on this quiet acre and a half with the stable out in front of me and the desert beyond. The horses who live here are my little horse family. I’ve known them a long time, two of them are mine. Visitors stop by throughout the year, some breeds I’ve only read about. We had a Gypsy Vanner once. He was all thunder on the ground and mischief in his eyes. I’ve never met one in person.

There have been colors I’ve only seen on charts in old library books or in the Breyer horses I gave away when I thought I was too grown up, then bought them all back again from thrift stores or eBay, a dark golden palomino with big lacy dapples, a chocolate palomino, cremellos, and a champagne Tennessee Walker Stallion with kind amber eyes.

On a rare night last fall a cloud covered the whole valley and kissed the ground like fog does in San Diego. I walked out to turn on the big yellow light in the arena and noticed a visitor in the mare barn. He was a silvery white fairy tale in the dark with a long rippled mane patiently dining on the hay they brought for him. The other horses were eating quietly or already asleep. I leaned on the rail for a while watching him, hoping he would talk to me. He didn’t say where he was going or where he had been but in the tickling mist that night he looked up at me and shared his secret.

-Pam Tanzey


Writing 101 Day Six:

A Character-Building Experience

Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

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Mary, I Always…


Mary, I Always…

Trapped in the fence like a wounded bird. The flash of yellow caught my eye. I fished it out from the other side. Ink was smeared from the sprinklers or the rain last night or tears. Creases worn threadbare across the lines from a wallet. I looked past hedges to the rolling green hillside. How many Marys are resting out there? Did she know you always loved her Ben? Why couldn’t you tell her before?

-Pam Tanzey

Writing 101 Day Five: Be Brief

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path.You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

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When Olivia died

The clouds arranged themselves across the crown of the sky like Rosary beads

We spent the afternoon together knowing it was time for her to go

I sang only song I could remember Happy Trails

When Olivia died

I had to race across town during five o’clock traffic

To get $260.00 cash out of the ATM

To pay the man who was coming to take her body away

Her little body that was lying on the ground already cold

When Olivia died

I threw up for three days and couldn’t bear to look out the bedroom window

Out to where she lived for four years where I watched her constantly

To make sure she was warm enough and cool enough and the fireworks weren’t scaring her

Where I pressed my hurting heart against her side while she ate and it made us both less lonely

When Olivia died

Dr. Anita put a yellow flower behind her ear so she would feel pretty on her trip

To beyond the beyond

And she left it on the ground for me to find on Monday because she wanted me to have it

When Olivia died

She flashed an image of a filly with blue eyes that I had just met a week ago

Go bring her home she said

She’s beautiful but her family tells me in front of her that she is a disappointment

She is distraught she cribs and throws tantrums

And needs someone to give her some time and a lot of food and shoes that fit,

And then I would stop crying and we would both be less lonely

And after twenty-six years of being here Olivia could get a little rest

And come back when she is ready.

-Pam Tanzey

Writing 101 Day Four: Serially Lost

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Where Do You Want to Go?


Where Do You Want to Go?

Where do you want to go? A taste, a fragrance but mostly a song will take you there.

Pachelbel’s Cannon in D is lovely for weddings, tributes, spring afternoons with wine and friends, but often when I hear it I am racing through the back of the Long Beach Arena again wearing my last year’s goofy, too frilly Easter dress with the see through top so I had to wear my first ever bra on the last day of school in sixth grade. My white moccasins from Knott’s Berry Farm make no sound on the concrete as I slide through the viola section to the only empty chair. They are already warmed up and I can feel the eyes of the whole arena full of parents on me. I know this piece like I know the sound of my pounding heart. I can barely get my instrument out of the case my hands are shaking so. They are ready to begin. I’m not.

We are the best of the whole county of Los Angeles. My friend Carol, a violinist and I were the only ones chosen from my school. I have practiced until I’ve made everyone’s ears bleed at home, they told me so.  This thing’s been a pain in my butt, my mom said the whole way here, and the last two Saturdays for rehearsal. We were late for those too.

I am a hot clumsy mess.  God bless the girl next to me, I’m sure she wanted to smack me with the music, instead she whispered breathe, turn your bow upside down, no one will know, calm down and just breathe. The conductor raises his arms, if it was my orchestra teacher at school he would have winged his baton at me by now.

I am following along, she smiles and nods, my breathing is back to normal, my hands stop shaking and I turn my bow over and join them. This is the place where my memory has the Cannon becoming Rocky Balboa’s theme song and I feel I just ran up all those steps with him shouting, waving my arms and jumping around, yep I’m surprised I didn’t.

I love all kinds of music but typically go blank when asked, what’s your favorite music? What’s your favorite song? Hmm, depends…am I bored, lonely, sad, or happy? Am I working on a painting, doing the dishes, or want to pick up where I left off on the novel I’m still editing, so I can see them in the little rowboat in the middle of the lake and I can feel how they feel as dusk is settling around their shoulders and tiny bats are flittering just above the brambles and they don’t want to come in yet, maybe they’ll wait for the moon they can see the glow of it above the tree line already and she leans back against his shoulder and he stops rowing… I play their song and I am there.

I sing when I’m driving in the dark. I always have. I’ll turn the radio off and sing Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer. It’s long and pretty and complicated and has kept me company half my life driving dark little back roads of San Diego. Mostly it’s the only song that I can remember the all words to for some reason when it’s dark and there might be monsters just around the bend.

-Pam Tanzey

Where Do You Want to Go was written for Writing 101 Day Three

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Cue the Strings


Cue the Strings

If you could go back to a pivotal point, that moment before everything branched into different directions, according to string theory, and you sent a whole universe to be the YES to your NO…where would you go?

Joni Mitchell is sitting in a Café in Paris, France singing about going home, home to California.

That’s where I am, back home on my front porch steps and she is on the stereo loud enough for the birds to sing along if they want to. The sun is peeking through leaves of the widow maker outside the fence, one of the biggest eucalyptus trees in Carlsbad. The fog has lifted, the breeze is warm and honeysuckle blossoms from across the street are bringing on a case of spring fever. This is that dreamy time, that in between time, something big is coming I can feel it but it’s still off shore, beyond the horizon, and I can sit out here with the flowers and my piece of blue sky and right now I am happy.

My boys are asleep on the lawn, both off in feet twitching dreamland. They’ve already played their Indy 500 game racing around the house. Moose, the Dobie Shepherd is the younger and he lets Jake, the Doberman win just enough times that he’ll still play the game. Bermuda shorts man with the dog aggressive Doberman crosses the street nervously when he sees me on the porch. I guess I have already sprayed him with the hose. He invented a nasty game for himself, my Dobie’s tougher than your Dobie and let his dog fence fight with mine. Honestly mine is huge and even though he’s old he would pulverize Bermuda short’s dog but I don’t allow that and after asking, no pleading with him to stop, and having to pull Jake away snarling and trying to kill the other dog three times in one week, I stepped out from behind the acacia’s with the hose and blasted him, the man not the dog.

My daughter headed out earlier with her friends walking the tracks down to the beach at Tamarack. My mom is in Grass Valley using her real name for the first time in a couple of years and living with a nice guy named Jimbo. He’s reeled her in from Bi-polar/schizophrenic crazy land. How long will it last this time before she gets too uncomfortable being Vicki and decides to be Willie Nelson’s wife again or Cher or some new name, new identity? It’s hard telling, I’m glad for now she’s okay enough to write a letter and sound like herself, not too happy not too sad just kind of normal.

Future hubby has been gone three weeks now, maybe four as I recall, without any word from him if he’ll ever return. He went off to Nevada to help on a ranch with his sister and parents, to find himself, or figure out if he wanted to come back and be with me, but mainly to punish me. I missed him terribly at first. He was always threatening to leave, one of my buttons of abandonment he learned real quickly to push all of the time. It’s been peaceful without him. I have adjusted to this life without him and as I sit out here I realize he’s a jerk and I don’t want him to come back. He somehow sensed this and is on his way back, go figure.

This is one of those points. This moment. This decision I made and also wavered at, and you can’t have it both ways. From way out here in the future where I live I said yes, with hesitation but still yes, sure come back, and it played out a big long lifetime, sometimes fun, mostly not, mostly struggle and in the end finding out the person I trusted and loved lived a secret life pretty much the whole time.

Back on the porch steps where I am visiting with my row of gigantic Boston ferns growing right out of the dirt next to the porch, I always seemed to murder them slowly in the house, this cute little yellow house that has been here since the thirties that is really only big enough for me and my daughter and my two big dogs. Was there one of my probable selves that realized we weren’t a good match, that being unhappy most of the time isn’t a normal way to live, that was brave enough to say no to him when he stood in front of me, crying, asking to come back?

There is now.

-Pam Tanzey-

Cue the Strings was written for Writing 101 Day Two- A Room With a View

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The Easter Bunny, Oyster Soup and Walking into Town with Jesus


The Easter Bunny, Oyster Soup and Walking into Town with Jesus

I was in first grade when my mom and dad divorced. When Mom talked about her D-I-V-O-R-C-E I thought it was a dirty word she had to spell. We lived with my main Grandma then, known only as Grandma, and slept upstairs in the cold north room. Mom wasn’t around much and Dad would call her on Friday nights from a tavern after he got drunk so they could continue their date for fighting over the phone.

He picked us up every other weekend in his green Studebaker with a hole in the floor so big I watched the road go by under my feet. We went to our other Grandma’s apartment, his mom Grandma Maudie. She lived on the top floor of a three story building. The porch jutted straight out from her living room and I knew it would fall right onto the sidewalk if I ever stepped out on it, so of course I never did. He bought us bubble gum from a machine before we climbed all of her stairs and released us to his mom when she opened the big door, then without even a goodbye he became an echo of footsteps. Grandma Maudie adored us. We had cookies and Ovaltine for breakfast. We set up shop and played store at her apartment by the glass doors to the scary porch. I was the store keeper and my little sister the shopper. I laugh now, destined to be a Trader Joe’s Crew Member as a little tyke and my sister a champion shopper, and I assume she still is.

All the rest of the time we spent with our main Grandma. We played store at her house too with her canned goods in the corner of the kitchen. On Sundays it was Sunday school where Jesus became my best friend, mostly my only friend and I sang his song to myself on the long walk to school, and on the playground at recess where I was the only kid at the time who lived with a Grandma. He used to swing with me in her backyard and I shared my orange Popsicle with him. Yes, Jesus loved me. I didn’t miss him on Grandma Maudie’s Sunday because he was always with me, the unseen friend trying to convince me that the divorce wasn’t really my fault.

Easter weekend rolls around, we’ve already survived, just barely, the Tony Home Permanent Grandma Maudie sent us home with, surprise Mom. Christmas day evening when we were sent back with three trips to the car for presents all too expensive, all with the price tags still on, all outshining the homemade ones from our main Grandma. The next charge in the battle of I’m a better Grandma than you are.

It’s Saturday night Grandma Maudie is boiling eggs in the kitchen so we can color them later when they’re cool. It is dark already and Grandpa Joe who reminds me so much of the Lone Ranger’s trusty friend Tonto he becomes Tonto in my memory. He’s been drinking all day, that isn’t unusual for him. He never says much, smokes a lot and goes to bed early. He wants oyster soup, so she sets up a TV tray in front of him at his overstuffed chair in the living room.

We are in the corner at the nick knack shop. The shopper is examining a set of cedar salt and pepper shakers in the shape of an outhouse, main Grandma has a set just like them. The soup bowl is placed before Tonto and it is not to his liking, too hot, too cold, not enough oyster crackers or some other Goldilocks thing. He begins yelling. She rushes back to quiet him so he doesn’t scare us. Now she’s yelling. He grabs her arm and they could be Mom and Dad slapping each other. He knocks the TV tray across the room so hard soup splatters on the tile floor in the little bathroom. Before he is out of the chair she locks herself in the bedroom. He pounds on the door. In an eye blink there is more pounding, on the front door now. He staggers to it, opens it and my dad flies in like Superman, his hands around Grandpa’s neck. They are brawling, spitting, swearing in the little hallway, they become Mom and Dad in our living room last summer, screaming, trying to strangle each other, breaking the table lamp, and rolling around on the floor with the empty beer cans. Dad and Grandpa are on their feet again, they break the big hallway mirror, tumble out the front door and down the first flight of stairs.

Grandma is screaming. We are huddled in the corner. We’ve seen this movie before and once again Jesus is there whispering stay still help is coming, and I hear sirens below. We are collected by a Policeman. He carries one of us in each arm like the real Superman. We pass my crying Grandma Maudie, she doesn’t look up. She doesn’t say goodbye. She is sweeping up the broken mirror into a metal dustpan.

We sit on his lap in the Police car driving slow in the dark back to Grandma’s house. We are almost there, only a block away now I see the neon sign from the Hi-Lo Bar and the car stops in the middle of the empty road. Look, the other Policeman says as he shines the spotlight out in front, there goes the Easter Bunny, and the light follows a bunny all the way across the road.  I’ll bet he’s already been to your house, he says, and so he was.

A week ago on Palm Sunday my Basset Hound Phoebe passed gently on after a long illness. I’m sure she went to walk into town with Jesus, and knowing her they stopped for lunch and she seriously went about convincing him to go the Bridge with her instead while they shared an orange Popsicle for dessert. She can be very convincing.

Pam Tanzey

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Gone Off to the Rainbow


Phoebe  BeeBee

Ch. Splash’s La Jolla

September 30, 2003 – March 29, 2015

Godspeed Sweetie

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