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Music Mayhem    

As noted in the December 2005 edition of Mil Mania, I continue to include news in every issue to keep readers up to date on the latest happenings with the three acts most prominently featured on www.artistinsane.com.  In addition,  for each issue I also choose one additional artist — in some cases a new discovery I’ve recently made, in others an individual or group whose work I’ve long appreciated — to make a one-time appearance here.  And, of course, as with all aspects of Mil Mania, feel free to offer suggestions.


This month’s featured artist…is once more an album!   In keeping with the holiday spirit, it seems appropriate to feature a Christmas collection...a format that exists in greater abundance than holiday cheer itself. So, without further ado here are a few words on a personal favorite in the genre...


A Very Ally Christmas            

     Here’s another sound-
track album from a show
“raved about” on the
review page
of my web-
site...the quirky, weird and
Ally McBeal. 
And, while the show itself has long since left the airwaves, Christmas remains a perfect time to wax nostalgic over its excellence...and perennially enjoy anew performances by both regular and guest stars via this timeless holiday collection. 
     Resident songstress Vonda Shepherd headlines, of course, but there’s also an ample sharing of vocal duties among other notable characters...including Jane Krakowski, series lead Calista Flockhart, Macy Gray, and the actor who raised the show to its highest level, Robert Downey, Jr.

     Oh heck, while I’m here, I can’t help adding an honorable mention among Christmas albums...Home Alone Christmas — which qualifies in my book on the strength of the only song I ever really listen to on the disc (and do so repeatedly!)...Darlene’s Love’s “All Alone At Christmas”.   I dare even the most Scroogelike reader out there to not catch a little holiday spirit within the first ten seconds.    
     And, of course, for moving reverence you can’t beat Josh Groban’s version of  “O Holy Night”… available on the
NBC Sounds of the Season CD from a couple years back...further appropriate in this review as he once appeared on Ally McBeal.  It is a small world after all!





Third Eye Blind will be closing out 2006 onstage, playing shows in Fl and AZ on 12/30 and 12/31, respectively.  (Go to www.3eb.com for more info).   In other news, it seems Stephan will again be working with Vanessa Carlton on her next release in the weeks ahead.  “Then,” according to The Village Churchyard website, “it'll be back to working on the 3eb album...hopefully…  Hopefully, indeed!


Brian Fitzpatrick recently com
pleted the updates to his
promised in his November blog. 
And, given the new tunes he’s put up it was definitely worth the wait!  So, go there now to check all of that out, including a
short explanation of each song.   Also, I’ve been informed Brian plans to schedule several new shows in early 2007, the first of which — a Jan. 19th appearance at The Underpass — has already been announced.  And, having not made it to a performance myself in way too long, I’m looking forward to catching up!



Michael McDermott has been relatively quiet since his late November appearances at Schubas — just after which he gave the Perdue Chronicle an interview you can read here.  This month he returned to the stage for a CA appearance at Hotel Café, and will be playing a pre-Christmas show back home in Chicago at the House of Blues on 12/22.  As always, visit his page at myspace.com for Monday Morning Musical Madness, new tour dates and other info— now including a beautiful rendition of the
holiday classic  “Little DrummerBoy”.

Ravings of a
     Mad Woman

This column corresponds with the Mad Ra-vings On section of www.artistinsane.com, and is dedicated to selected reviews of movies, television and books… most of which are unlikely to represent “the latest” in any of these categories, but rather a  random selection that represents a new and/or noteworthy discovery to me.


     As an oft-professed admirer of classic literature it’s probably not surprising I’d at last get around to reviewing the latest in a rather staggering number of both television and film adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I must confess, however, that prior to viewing the version of the poor Bennet sisters and their wealthy bachelor sometime-neighbors I’m herein discussing I’d actually only seen one other for myself...that starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier filmed in 1940.  Needless to say, given cinematic styles have changed more than a little in the intervening well-over-half-a-century, the two are vastly different...and yet both quite wonderful in their own ways.
     Of course, given the charm, wit and romantic beauty of the book on which they’re based, there’s little need on the part of a director to improve upon the story or characters.  Rather, it’s arguably best to simply cast appropriately life-filled actors to inhabit the already fully fleshed out pro/antagonists (which are for the most part one —or two — and the same).  And, indeed, that’s what director Joe Wright has done by pitting the expressive and spirited Keira Knightly against the appropriately brooding but never quite unlikable (and wholly new to me) Matthew MacFayden.  I suppose one could count that a fault in itself; just as Elizabeth is led to dislike the “proud” and “pre-judgmental” Mr.. Darcy so we, too, should probably feel her own effrontery rise within ourselves if the production were to be called a complete success.  Of course, if one has read the book (more than once) and knows the underlying motivations and character idiosyncrasies that account for his seemingly “bad behavior”, it’s hard not to let the good points one realizes will eventually be revealed at least partially spoil the fun of intensely disliking him at various times along with our fair heroine. 
     Be that as it may, I recall thinking at one point that this particular actor seemed more well suited to play the darkly lovelorn Heathcliff than the foppish Mr. Darcy.  It was only then it dawned on me that Laurence Olivier had barely finished starring in a film version of
Wuthering Heights himself when he took on this role.  My next thought, therefore, was when audiences might get the chance to see Mr. MacFayden indeed also grace the screen as the complicated not-quite-hero of the Yorkshire Moors.
     Back to the “modern”
Pride and Prejudice, however, the rest of the cast is likewise excellent, including the painfully empty-headed  performance deftly given by Brenda Blethyn as Elizabeth’s mother.  And the indifference with which Donald Sutherland (who has been a favorite of mine ever since his masterful turn as Calvin in Ordinary People — one of my top-rated films of all time) imbues Mr. Bennet perfectly counters that mindless enthusiasm.  The comedic turn of Tom Hollander (who, in this role, actually reminded me very strongly of Seth Green...and yes, that is a compliment) creates a wonderfully insufferable Mr. Collins, and Judi Dench offers a re-imagined Lady Catherine De Bourgh who proves surprisingly chilling in an otherwise much lighter romp.  
     What’s more, the gorgeous English countryside and sumptuous estates of Netherfield and Pemberley act as characters all their own, adding touches of atmosphere that perfectly underscore the domains of the “wild” and “genteel”.
     There are, unfortunately, a handful of stereotypical “movie moments” spattered throughout — such as the wholly inappropriate lingering “tension” of faces (i.e. lips) hovering dangerously close at the conclusion of a sincere argument between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.  And, indeed, these moments prove a slightly jarring distraction to an otherwise truly beautiful and cohesive overall picture.  Still, they remain very gentle criticisms of the work as a whole… provided you, too, are a fan of “comedy of manners” genre.  If you’re not, these flaws may well define it. 
     I’m sure those who fit that last sentence, however,  have already long since decided to avoid this film as steadfastly as Elizabeth sets her mind to avoiding Mr. Darcy.  Of course, given both his and her difficulties were ultimately exposed as the needless result of prejudice, those of us who know how much joy this tale has provided readers and viewers for more than two hundred years can take “pride” in the fact we’ve already learned just how hard Elizabeth’s, Mr. Darcy’s, and the rest of the Bennets’, Bingleys’ and other supporting characters’ charms are to resist.



                                 As per the precedent set by Dear Abby
which syndicated column retained that title
                            when passing to its originator’s daughter,
                            so this column will retain the name of its 
MOLLY      originator as well.  From now on, however, the
                          “madvice” offered herein will be that of Keela, one of the “noisy neighbors” Molly spoke of frequently — and who you may have already met via the
photo collection taken during her pregnancy and in the weeks after her fifteen babies were born.  Needless to say, with that kind of experience, Keela, like Molly, knows a bit about life as learned by her adventures as a rodent single mom.  And, like Molly as well, she has a strong mind of her own with much rat wisdom to share.  I hope you’ll enjoy her commentary here.  But rather than say more about that, I’ll just let her provider her own brief introduction …


     As you can see from the photo above, this whole new challenge has caught me a bit off guard...I didn’t even have time to pick out a proper outfit — or any outfit — for my publishing debut!  And, I must admit I’m a little daunted by the task of filling such enormous rat prints as those left by Molly...which is not to say she had big feet or anything….uh, well, I think you know what I mean.  Anyway, I want to invite all of you to get to know me a little better by asking anything you’d like for the next issue...and, of course, I hope you’ll continue to send such wonderfully thought-provoking questions and dilemmas as you so long have to Molly.  So, to wrap this up, then, I’ll only add thanks for giving me a chance here, and to quote Molly herself, please ‘keep those letters coming’!”



A Tribute to Molly


     I suppose in a way it’s only fitting that since one December/holiday issue of Mil Mania was that in which Molly’s arrival was recalled and celebrated, it’s now another December edition that marks her departure — and both recalls and celebrates her life. 
     But, before I embark on that remembrance I just want to say up front that I realize there are many folks out there…maybe even many reading this…who think me not “artistically insane” but just plain crazy for such devotion to a pet….and not just any pet, but a pet
rat.  That said, I’ve been thinking recently of an Old Testament story that may not make me seem more sane, but which definitely puts me in most welcome and admired company nonetheless.   When King David had sinned woefully by sleeping with Bathsheba and subsequently killing her husband upon learning she was pregnant, the Bible states, “the thing he had done displeased the Lord.”  As a result, a prophet was sent to King David to rebuke him using a metaphor about a man who had a beloved female lamb.  The story tells us she “ate with him, played with his children, even slept in his arms.  She was like a daughter to him.”  As the story goes on to tell of this bond being cruelly violated, King David explodes in anger, and demands justice of the offender – only to be brought up short with the news, “You are that man.”
     I can’t help finding it endlessly intriguing that
this story should be the means used by God to rebuke a nation’s ruler (with what one would think much bigger things on his mind than some peasant subject’s pet lamb), proving in the process both understood and hugely respected the bond between humans and (sometimes unconventional)  pets.  One even wonders, given the knowledge King David was once a shepherd who spent long days and nights alone in the wilderness watching over his father’s sheep, whether he might have himself experienced such closeness with a few of them.  Be that as it may, yes I may be crazy to have so completely “adopted” a non-human creature…but I’m not alone.

     To get to this modern-day story, then, as mentioned in the November issue, Molly had been experiencing some health problems for several weeks….although because they first manifested themselves merely as a bit of non-specific weakness, the exact cause proved, well, quite “maddeningly” elusive.   Through largely a matter of the timing (i.e. a need to visit a vet on a weekend when our normal small animal vet had no hours) we ended up at the office of a new vet I’d discovered via the “Rat and Mouse Club of America” website, and whose practice is located about 45 minutes away.   And, although we subsequently persisted in a ten-day course of treatment following an uncertain diagnosis, the very day after this ended (a Tuesday morning before we left for work), she was walking with her head slightly tilted to one side.  By the time we came home she was lying out flat in her aquarium, sparking full-scale panic — and an emergency night-time visit back to the RMCA recommended vet office, and yet another new vet (the founder of the practice, as it turned out). 
     This vet felt quite sure the culprit was an inner ear infection, which he wanted to begin treating right away.  As an added precaution, however, he requested that we leave her at the animal hospital overnight to reduce the stress of travel back and forth that night, the next day, etc. and to facilitate administering treatment there.   I must confess we weren’t at all happy with that idea.  But truly wishing to act in her best interest we took the vet’s advice and headed home with just her boys, Noonan and Flannery.
     And, while the intelligence of Molly’s species is something that’s surely been reiterated more than sufficiently at this point in her column, this event nonetheless set up something even I have to admit I found rather amazing about just
how smart they are...her boys were so upset at her being left at the hospital (keep in mind, they had got to say goodnight to her, so knew exactly where she was) that when we put them in their aquarium they looked around and Flannery went inside the little igloo where Molly slept, turned around once, deeply sniffing her scent before coming out again.  And, Noonan was sniffing all around the tank. Clearly both were, understandably, out of sorts.   When I went over to see them later, about 4:30 in the morning, one or both had covered her igloo doorway with the T-shirt she slept in inside it (and which she always covered the door with herself as her personal "do not disturb" sign).  It seemed they felt better with the place seeming like she was there than looking at it empty. 
     We called the next morning to find out how she was doing, and were told that she was better. Well, it turns out that when the vet said “better” he was being more than optimistic.  Although when we called later in the day as instructed and he again said she was doing a little better still, he said wanted to keep her overnight again to see if she improved even more before going home.  As a result, we said we'd like to come visit her that evening, and bring the boys to see her since they were so visibly worried, too.
     When we got there we were immediately disappointed to see that not only was she no better, she in fact seemed to us a fair bit                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   worse.  Whereas she had been eating voraciously at home right up to Tuesday morning when we went to work (albeit only soft foods she didn't have to chew), she had apparently eaten very little for them and would eat next to nothing of the treats we'd brought for her, either.  Needless to say, that was of particular concern.
     Anyway, we stayed with her for probably 45 minutes to an hour before leaving reluctantly and slept little fearing what we might hear on the other end of the line when we heard from the vet again on Thursday morning.  Ironically, the boys having seen her and not fully realizing how badly she was doing felt so much better.  They came home and were fine, positively cheerful, in fact -- of course, that was a blessing since we certainly didn't want them to go on being worried, especially should she not come back at all, which was beginning to seem like an at least small possibility.
     Early the next morning the vet indeed called, and said Molly wasn't doing nearly as well as he had hoped, but that he wasn't "giving up" yet.  He said he just wanted us to be aware that she hadn't responded as he thought she might and was clearly preparing us for bad news in a few hours.  And, within only about an hour in fact, that bad news came...complete with the gentle suggestion we might want to come for a visit and perhaps start to think about euthanasia. 
     So, we went to see her and talk with the vet, and ultimately decided to bring her home for a bit of "hospice" care, as we were led to think it most likely to be.  It turned out he really had no evidence of any terminal ailment, merely felt organ failure a possibility due to age (as it seems she may be considerably older than we first surmised).  As a result, it seemed worth trying to get her to eat and drink a bit and see how she did at home.  They had given her fluids via injection and she was able to rest quite comfortably for the moment.  They had also treated the inner ear infection to the fullest extent they could, it seems (except that they didn't give us any medication to try in follow up as initially planned) and had taken X-Rays and such to check for back or neck problems or tumors of any kind, and found nothing from those. 
     So, we took her home, and fed her via syringe with varying degrees of success, and watched her sleep...not sleeping ourselves very much, of course -- though with no complaints.  Well, she did okay during the evening and seemed not so bad overnight with the exception of a very disconcerting loudness to her breathing...a rattling sound of congestion that made us panic perhaps we'd got liquid in her lungs somehow or she was getting yet another problem.  Anyway, by Friday morning the rattling had subsided considerably and she ate much better, so we were temporarily encouraged.  Friday afternoon, however, having had to accompany us on errands that would keep us away from home longer than we felt safe in leaving her – and which took even longer than expected,  she ended up getting overheated, and quite dehydrated by the time we made it back.  She barely ate and drank just before bed and during the night hit her very lowest ebb (my mom had brought up some special tube of vatamin/mineral quick boost stuff called "Nourish Um", which we tried for the first time then).  We'd been keeping her in bed with us both nights, setting the alarm for every hour to check on her, and by about two or three A.M. (when no vet could be reached in our area) the only evidence she was still alive was that she remained warm and would show the slightest rise and fall of breathing if one looked very closely for quite some time. 
     Strangely, by 5 in the morning, when she would get up for a snack when she was healthy, and at which time the last glimmer of hope wouldn't let us keep from trying once more to give her another meal and drink, she actually took a little bit of what we offered from the syringe...and not by total force, but rather through her never-quit-spirit’s prompting to herself take in as much as she possibly could in her devastatingly weakened state.  What's more, she woke up again a few hours later and took much more even more willingly.  And, about an hour after that, she was positively begging for more still. 
     Again, however, the rollercoaster effect kicked in.  After a hugely successful day, so we thought, and an equally promising evening, again in the night she just got so hot and so quiet that we wondered if all the progress had been a very temporary boost (perhaps from the extra nourisher stuff?) and that she wasn't in fact slipping away after all.  And, again, we kept watch every hour all night long.
     More strangely yet, in the morning when we got her up at 5 she was immediately ravaging, and ate like crazy...even showing the first signs of supporting her own weight on her front legs.  By 8 or so when she ate again, she also decided it was time to drink on her own from a small dish (she had disdained sipper tubes normal rats use ever since day 1 of her rescue from the mailbox for some reason) and drank more than we'd been able to give her in all three days combined.  So drastically improved, we felt okay about at last going to work, but made sure we were back for lunch, at which time we found her on the bed where we'd left her, but not where we'd left her at all.  Now she was not only supporting her weight on her front legs but managing to hold her head upright and drag herself around.  And, again she ate voraciously, drank like you wouldn't believe and had to be put in her old "recovery bucket" from surgery last winter as we weren't at all sure she would stay put on the bed .
     When we got back that evening, she was sleeping soundly, in a position of her choosing, again ate and drank even more (including a porridge version of [made by just melting in water] one of her regular rat-diet blocks).  And, by this time she was moving her tail (that had previously seemed paralyzed) and almost completely walking.  She was also feeling strong enough to push away the syringe of extra nourisher stuff in deference to the pureed sweet potatoes and peaches she so much preferred!

     Anyway, she had a much better two subsequent nights than the ones before, and gained a great deal of strength.  She still had the inner ear problem, obviously, as they had barely begun to treat it before abandoning hope on her.  (We called the vet office the previous morning [Monday] to look into starting her on antibiotics once again and when a receptionist who had particularly taken to her was told she's "doing well", she actually exclaimed, "You're kidding!").

     The vet who treated her wasn't in that day, however, so I went online and did a bunch of research on inner ear problems and treatments.  So, when we called him the next we were armed with much more information and he actually ended up giving us the antibiotic I'd learned about rather than a human generic for which he was going to call in at our local pharmacy...he hadn't thought we'd want to drive to his office to pick up this vet-only med he agreed would be much better; needless to say, he quickly learned otherwise!  We gave her the first dose that night.  He then wanted us to call him on Monday and based on how she responded would continue with this or adjust from there.

     We had a bit of concern about that as the medicine he had given us was to last only five days, which meant it would run out Saturday.  Yet he had instructed to call Monday.  We would need to look into that later in the week.

     Later in the week as well, of course, was Thanksgiving…a holiday with especial meaning given the truly miraculous progress our little gal had been making as it approached.  I must admit, however, that every tiny potential setback sent me into complete panic mode at this point.  And I indeed soon started to enter that once again – even though she had begun significant progress in losing the head tilt (making an admirable almost exact beeline for me following each time Andre administered her continuing supplements of “Nourish Um”…after, that is, she made a great show of wiping off every last trace of it from her mouth by scooting her chin along the towel on which we fed her!).  For, much to my surprise and chagrin, she suddenly showed no interest in her evening meal of soft foods.  Worried and unsure of what to do, I was carrying her around when I went over to her boys’ pen for a quick visit.  Out of nothing more than desperation I offered her one of their rat blocks and was far beyond amazed when she actually started nibbling on it.  Nibbling on that bit of hope ourselves we quickly made up a platter of her most loved hard foods, including two rat blocks, some cereal and various other tasty treats.  Almost before we could get the food lowered into her home, she started digging into a piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  And, by the time I next checked on her a couple hours later, she had completely done away with her first rat block and was gnawing on the second!
     By Thanksgiving morning she was washing these foods down with a bit of celebratory cranberry juice, and we, my mom and a friend sharing the occasion with us enjoyed quite a holiday indeed.    
     The next few days continued to mark her return to the completely normal healthy rat she had now not been for what seemed a very long while.  In addition she became able to play with her boys on their usual evening visits to the living room…her previously weakened state having forced her to turn away from them as they sometimes fail to realize how much larger they are than she…now, however, she actively sought out their end of the couch and wedged herself between them, putting her head on Flannery’s back and drifting off for a blissful nap.  And, by the time her next vet visit came around on Monday, she was walking with only the slightest hunching left over in her back legs and no head tilt whatsoever.  So drastically, indeed miraculously improved was she, in fact, that the vet himself couldn’t help just staring at her and repeating the word, “Wow”.
     Even more poignantly, as a seemingly scripted cap-off to that happy ending, when he had finished examining her that day, and she crawled back down into her carrier, her boys already waiting inside, Flannery reached up and put his arms around her neck, touching his snout to her face as in a kiss of welcome back.  Again, even the vet couldn’t resist exclaiming, “Aw”. 

     Unfortunately, on Tuesday evening – i.e. the very next night -- the head tilt thing started to return just a bit.  On Wednesday it continued to worsen throughout the day and by the time the vet decided to increase the dosage of her medication on Thursday she had already begun quite a decline.  Of course, we continued to nurse her, feeding her from a syringe again, etc. and although she clearly weakened she rested comfortably and we kept hoping for another turnaround until Sunday evening around 7:15 she finally slipped away. 

     I know that seems a horribly bleak ending for a story marking the advent of a joyous holiday.  And, I won’t pretend I don’t still see it that way through tears myself several times each day.  But more than the sorrow with which it indeed mingles I feel joy…great joy….gratitude for having known this very special individual, and thankfulness for the extra more than two weeks with her we were blessed with – most of them not spent in debilitating illness, but quite astoundingly full health.  What’s more, given the relatively brief lifespan of small animals, I’ve read that ten days in a rat’s life equals one year in a human’s.  And who of us wouldn’t give the world for another year with a beloved human friend or family member that’s passed on?
     Ultimately, though, this becomes most appropriately a holiday tale as it reminds me again and again of the metaphor I used last year in describing Molly’s most unexpected arrival, encouraging readers to consider “at least the possibility that the devil you don’t know might be an angel in disguise” (be that “devil” human, animal — or kiwi!).  Needless to say, Molly turned out to seem truly an angel indeed.  And, if you’ve read about the appearances of these beings in the Bible or literature -- or even the film,
It’s a Wonderful Life, you know most heavenly creatures do show up as quite a shock, and invariably remain among mortals here on earth for only a short time.  Yet the impact they make very often lasts a lifetime.  Having achieved such a challenging goal, how selfish would it be, then, to lament Molly’s not sticking around longer.  After all, this is the holiday season, and who from earth – or heaven – shouldn’t make it home for Christmas. 

    Thank you, Molly, for everything.   You will be with us forever.


P.S. It seems Molly may have had a bit of foreknowledge regarding her passing,  as in recent weeks (having learned from her column how much she enjoyed expressing herself through writing) she had been quite persistent in enlisting my assistance with a book about her life before arriving at our home “via mailbox”.  Thankfully, she had just completed her notes for the project days prior to departing. I therefore pledged to her that I would do my part to organize and submit them for publication as a finished volume. With that in mind, watch for “Mailbox Molly; A Rat’s Eye View” in the months ahead.
















                      Molly Madvises 

      (now by Molly’s neighbor Keela)









In Memory of...









?/?/??  — 12/3/06

Read her full tribute in “Molly Madvises” below.







Comments from Mil Mania readers
          on the November issue...

In A Nutshell

  Writings From The Asylum

“Hi - catching up on reading your newsletter.  You are an amazing woman...  What talent!!!”                                          F.S.

(and here are a few thoughts on Molly’s passing…)

“I am so sorry to hear the sad news.  I'm all choked up. .. Bless her little heart.  You all went through so much there--the troublesome decline she endured--but  more so I'm sure you have loads of beautiful memories.”                                                L.P.
“Oh Mil, I am so sorry to hear that... She was a trooper indeed.  Thanks for letting me know.  And may God bless little Molly.”                                            K.H.
“I'm so very sorry. I know she was such a dear member of your family. I too had such high hopes given her miraculous turn-around… Of course I'll keep you (and all others in your brood) in my thoughts.”



Text Box:  

Text Box: She was a trooper indeed.

Text Box: Those ear infections can be horrible, as you well know.

Text Box: I don't have any experience with rats- other than the one I lived with temporarily(Gertrude, my old roommates) but in dogs they can be very persistent and reoccurring and painful. So I would imagine that would hold true for any animal and since they really can't tell us that their ear hurts, it makes it very hard to diagnose until the  tell-tale signs show up.

Text Box: I do hope she was not in pain. The ear is so sensitive though. I have a horrible ear infection/dog story I will tell you some day, but certainly not today. Not from one of mine but a cousin of mine.

Text Box: I do hope you guys are doing ok. With time comes healing right?

Text Box: So they say anyway.

Text Box:  

Text Box: Thanks for letting me know

Text Box:  

Text Box: And may God bless little Molly





Text Box:                  As always, feel free to 
                   drop by my “space” 


Temporary Insanity








Away in a Manger

[Verse 2]

(Author anonymous...uh, well,
with just a little help from Mil!!!)


                  The cattle are lowing,

                           the poor baby wakes
                  But little lord Jesus,
                           no crying he makes.

                 The rats in the stable
                           look on him with love,

                 And steal closer to this
                           great gift from above…


 (Hey, you know I’m gonna make Christmas rat-friendly here in “Mil-world”, right?!?!)


                                      As you can see, this
                               issue is indeed chock-full
                               of holiday themes...though
                               I’m sure you’ll quickly
                               notice as well it’s not one
                               that’s a hundred per-
                               cent filled with Christ
                               mas “cheer”.  But, as life
                               all through the year is
                               characterized by ups and downs, these sometimes (as the ongoing serial novel that forms a section of
Mil Mania every month points out) come on the heels of each other with confusing speed and juxtaposition.  What we’re left with following the “downs” therefore is to sort out what of good we might take away from them.  And, as you’ll see if you bear with the entire “Tribute to Molly” that comprises the bulk of her columns this month, there is so very much that’s “good”, indeed beautiful, to be taken from her time on Earth.

     You’ll also notice that in an effort to provide a bit of continuity with the “Spotlight” featuring her, the “Molly Madvises” column has been moved up from its normal spot...and other “regular” columns likewise appear in different places.  Fear not, however, everything that normally appears is here — and, in tribute to the holidays,  there’s a wee bit more as well.  In fact, this issue has inadvertently turned into the “biggest” Mil Mania ever.
     I hope you enjoy the expansion, and,
more importantly, I hope you’re enjoying
all this very special season has to offer.  I’m looking forward to a new year of “madness”
in 2007, and wish everyone reading this
great health and happiness in ringing it in…
and well after it arrives!

     In the meantime…




                     Newsletter Spotlight                     

As introduced in the first issue of Mil Mania, this column presents the latest chapter in the prose “prequel” to my screenplay, Taking the Fall. While the script picks up four years after the suicide of the main character (Joshua Gray)’s girlfriend, the novel begins with that act itself, and the portion shared here continues to document events taking place in the weeks just following…(you can catch up on all prior chapters by viewing back issues on the Mil Mania Sign-up page).

                                  The Leap to Limbo (tentative title),       


            Chapter 11 (cont’d)  “Rats, Cats and the Unexpected Cost
                                         of Record Deals — Part 2 ”                    


     “So, you gonna come in or are you just gonna keep poor Sultan suspended in that cage all night?” Allison asked at last as Josh, clearly on uncertain ground, stood seemingly rooted to his spot in the hallway.   Leaning back against the door frame, Allison beckoned him to enter with an amused (impatient?) flick of her head toward the apartment.  He shifted uncomfortably, feeling a bit like a child being chastised, and swallowed the dozen or so excuses why he should be going.   Hesitant to seem like he was taking her much needed favor for granted, however, he offered a weak smile and went inside.   Glancing around quickly he was relieved to note the room looked nothing like the image he recalled from his recent alcohol-fueled-nightmare…most significantly that he was spared any face to face encounters with photos of Julie.  Reassured a bit by this discovery, he managed to sound somewhat relaxed as he asked, “Just let him out here?”
     “Let me close the door first,” Allison responded, automatically flipping the lock and dead bolt into place.  “Okay,” she said, “turning around with a smile.  “Release the beast.”
     Josh set the carrier down on an area rug and unlatched the door.  Sultan emerged, stretched and flopped down for a nap not more than five feet away. 
     “Yeah, he’s a beast,” Josh replied.  “Savage.”

     “I can see that,” Allison said with a light laugh.  “So, you want a drink?  Juice?  Water?  Coffee?  Anything?”
     Again thinking back to the inebriated state that contributed to the events in his nightmare Josh was hesitant to allow alcohol to enter this real life equation.  “Better play it safe,” he said to himself, and then aloud, “Coffee…please.”
     “Coming right up,” Allison responded, unconsciously slipping into waitress mode.  “We can talk in the kitchen while it brews if you want.” Then, casting a nod toward the now completely sacked out Sultan, she added, “Provided you think it’s safe to leave that wild animal alone.”
     “We can chance it,” Josh replied, relaxing a bit further.  “But we might want to keep the tranquilizer gun handy, just in case.”
     Allison stifled a giggle and motioned Josh to follow her once again. 

     The kitchen was cheerful, homey…and surprisingly frilly for a girl whose clothing style most commonly tended toward basic jeans and long-sleeved tees.  “But aren’t we all really one big collection of contradictions,” Josh thought, sitting at Allison’s tiny table, watching her pour water into the coffeemaker and flip the switch to “On.” And, who could possibly know how to interpret anyone’s “clues”?  Again he was reminded of all he’d recently learned that he didn’t know about Julie after six years.   Who was he to assume lace curtains and tailored clothing didn’t add up.  After all, these days…what did?

     “Cream?  Sugar?”  Allison asked, setting two rose Fiestaware cups and saucers on flowered placemats atop a pristine saffron tablecloth.  “I’ve been serving it to you at the diner long enough you’d think I’d know by now.  Of course,” she went on with the slightest twinkle, “my responsibilities there end with bringing out the pot…”

     Slowly breaking away from his musings, Josh responded, “Both, please.” 
     “Both…is that cream and sugar or coffee and pot?  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”  When Josh merely nodded absently, Allison gave him a long look, her mischievous air fading.  She offered gently.  “You don’t have to hang out here trying to be sociable if you don’t feel like it.  It’s cool.”
     “Is it that obvious?”  Josh asked. 
     “Is it Tommy?” Allison countered.
     “No,” Josh answered, caught off guard.  Surprisingly, Tommy hadn’t crossed his mind since he crossed Allison’s threshold.  “I mean, not anything to do with that night…or Tommy and you…or…”  He trailed off uncertainly.  “He and I are on kinda rocky ground these days, yeah, but that’s nothing to do with,” gesturing with a hand stretched out over the table, “that’s nothing to do with…this.”
     Allison merely nodded thoughtfully, poured the coffee and took a seat by Josh.  He took a sip, burning his mouth in the process and felt a wave of heat wash over him that he wished were more related to the hot liquid before him than yet
another nightmare behind.  As he quickly clapped his hand over his mouth he became aware Allison’s coffee remained untouched – a wise choice he thought until he realized she had been watching him closely, and now reached out a hand to lightly stroke his hair.  As if turned to stone, he mused dully that as he’d once felt fully awake while dreaming so he now felt caught in a slow motion sleep from which there was no waking.  Her lips brushed against his burning mouth.  He had no sense of if or how he responded, but suddenly the time delay in which he was functioning made him aware they were moving, in some indistinguishable unison, toward the bedroom.  He felt them make their way together to the bed, roughly tearing away pieces of clothing until, naked, they rose and fell in a perfect rhythm of animal instinct, wordlessly catapulting toward an oblivion of twisted bliss and an end of pain, losing all sense of each other and themselves in the all consuming vortex of the moment.  


     The sounds of traffic just outside gradually brought Josh back to consciousness.  Looking up he realized it was still dark outside and that he was in a bed other than his own…not in itself really all that strange a circumstance.  He’d never spent a night in the bed he’d shared with Julie since her passing.  But this also wasn’t his couch, or Chris’s floor, or anywhere he could immediately place.  Turning over slowly in a wave of sudden dread he saw a figure’s back beside him, and sighed in only the very slightest of relief upon noting the steady rise and fall of breathing as Allison soundly slept. 
     Adjusting to the surroundings he squinted to read the non-digital vintage alarm clock on the nightstand by the soft glow of a nearby nightlight.  Unable to make it out, he moved closer and shifted it ever so slightly toward the outlet, cringing as in the process he knocked over a small frame.  Bending to retrieve it from the floor he saw its subject illuminated as though not by a candle’s worth of dimness but a million watt stadium spotlight.  And, suddenly he found himself wishing for the nightmare that had formerly so terrified him.  At least in time he could find comfort in the intellectual knowledge that wasn’t real, regardless how strongly his intuitive perception begged to differ.  This nightmare, by contrast, would never end.  For, this time when he stared into Julie’s eyes within the antique frame they stared back in the fullness of life, the calm of her smile a far more cutting condemnation in his guilty mind than any physical blow he would ever face.  He set the photo down with a trembling hand, and rubbed his face wearily.  Finally, he looked back at the sleeping young woman beside him, hoping, even perhaps willing she might simply disappear.  At last, he arose as quietly as possible and crept out into the living room to dress.  Faced with a curious Sultan, who padded over for a pet, Josh collapsed on the floor beside his feline friend, asking himself the question he couldn’t present audibly even to this most trusted confidante…
     “My God…what have I done?”



     Every year on my website I offer a holiday greeting...which invariably is the card I created for and sent out the prior year.  As I always attempt to share sentiments that are both heartfelt and timeless, it’s my hope these expressions might prove worthy of such an encore.  Check out this one from 2005 and decide for yourself...













December is the time we seek out the perfect

Ones we’re sure will bring a smile to each
   person on our list.

And we tuck them all away in some dark se-
   cret locale,

Giving ne’er the slightest hint as we friends
   gaily regale

With the parties, shopping trips and tree
   trimming celebrations

That all whisk us through these days of har-
   monious relations...

Waiting for one special morn when at last
   all is revealed,

And the joy of bright surprises we can no
   longer conceal.

When the happiness we’ve longed to share
   at last reaches fruition

As recipients’ warm “Thanks!” reward each
   correct intuition.

And we know we have succeeded in our
   goal this time around

Of assuring in the hearts of those we love
   that joy abounds.


Still such tangible displays, so familiar and
   such fun

Are but rituals designed to point up a
   greater one –

A gift, that is, of course, one most meaningful
   and true,

That is given all of us to enjoy the whole
   year through.

It’s a gift crafted from sharing all we have 
   and all we are

With the ones who’ve touched our lives,
   whether they’re found near or far.

 It’s the gift of reaching out in the spirit of
   the season

Now commemorated here, and which brings
   us to the reason

That this card is being sent as a reminder
   and wish

That the “present” given us  -- each day --
   might prove your favorite gift.


                       Happy Holidays

               ‘Tis the Season...

     After sharing too many tales lately of friends — human and otherwise — who’ve passed on, here’s a short piece about someone I’m thrilled is still very much alive...and, in fact, someone who’s getting married later this very month.  It therefore seemed appropriate to herein feature a truly fascinating character I remain so many years after meeting him very glad to know.


Coffee, Cigarettes and a
Carpet-Selling Cowboy


     The first morning Jeff strode in and ordered coffee, it seemed he might have just stepped in from the Old West instead of from the flooring sales department of the store next door.  His ageless, weather-lined face and lean denim-and-leather-clad frame made it easy to believe his hat and spurs must lie on the seat of his red Toyota pickup corralled out front.

     He didn't say much at first.  It took me weeks, in fact, to even learn his name.  But then one morning, as he broodingly stirred his coffee and stared out into the thick grey gloom of a winter storm, his words suddenly burst forth: "I willed this day."

     Startled, I eyed him quizzically.  "Newland Archer," he said. "The Age of Innocence.  I love that book."

     And then he was gone.

     The next day, of course, he returned.  And so, from those few blurted expressions of the previous morning, we began a dialogue that ran for over two years -- generally in the same halting fashion as that first encounter.  His dark eyes would burn with anger as he railed against injustice, or gleam with mischief as he shared self-deprecating tales of those small insignificant experiences of life that somehow matter most.

     As winter stretched into spring, I would sometimes glance up to see him smoking pensively in a trenchcoat in the rain, the grey wisps rising to blend with the clouds as he paced back and forth on the sidewalk or stood silently, his silhouette lending the scene the air of a still photo taken from a black-and-white movie of a bygone era.

     Some time ago now, I stopped working at the shop where I met Jeff, and I still miss those conversations we so frequently shared.  But, every so often, when I walk outside to be greeted by a cold rain or gently falling snow, I think of coffee, cigarettes and a carpet-selling cowboy, and wonder if the weather is still bowing to his will.

           Welcome To The December
Issue of Mil Mania!


         Mil Mania

             Mil (and

Volume 2, Issue 11, December 2006


Thanks for reading this issue of Mil Mania!  And, remember, this is a work in progress, subject to many and varied changes — all adding up to a new and improved publication...so I hope!  Please drop me a line to let me know what you think, including any and all suggestions.  Thank you!!!

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