Monday, July 28, 2014

Interview with Author Eleanora E. Tate

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, author Eleanora E. Tate is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest interview. Eleanora’s middle grade novel DON’T SPLIT THE POLE: TALES OF DOWN-HOME FOLK WISDOM, Author’s Guild Back-in-Print Edition published by iUniverse, Inc., rereleased in May 2014! Congratulations, Eleanora, and welcome!

Photo by Andy King
Here is Eleanora’s Biography:

Eleanora E. Tate, author of eleven children’s and young adult books, has been an author in schools, libraries, on university campuses and at literature conferences around the country (and in Canada and Bermuda) for over 40 years.  She’s on the faculty of Hamline University’s Masters degree seeking low-residency program “Creative Writing for Children andYoung Adults.” She taught children’s literature at North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC and has been an instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature at West Redding, CT.

Her book Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2007), is a recipient of the 2007 AAUW North Carolina Book Award for Juvenile Literature, and an IRA Teacher’s Choice Award winner.  In addition to Don’t Split the Pole, her other books are The Secret of Gumbo Grove; Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!; Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School;  Just an Overnight Guest (made into an award-winning television film); African American Musicians; To Be Free; A Blessing in Disguise; The Minstrel’s Melody; and Retold African Myths.  Two books are audio books; another was both a Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies and a Bankstreet Child Study Book Committee “Children’s Book of the Year.” 

She was a Bread Loaf Writers Conference Fellow; a National Association of Black Storytellers  (NABS) Zora Neale Hurston Award recipient, and a former NABS national president. Her short stories have appeared in American Girl Magazine, Scholastic Storyworks Magazine, Gold Finch Magazine, African American Review, and in numerous short story book collections. Her latest essay “Harking Back to Hargett Street” is in the 2013 anthology Twenty-Seven Views of Raleigh.


Nine-and-a-half-year-old Russell James finds that "a hard head makes a soft behind" when he tries to catch a catfish by hand. A giant glob of Gurdy's Greasy Grape Groaners Gum attacks eleven-year-old Shaniqua Godette, who learns the hard way that you should "never leave your pocketbook on the floor. " And when twelve-year-old height-challenged Tucker Willis saves a life with the help of a ghost, he proves that "big things come in small packages. " A celebration of storytelling and folk wisdom, this is a perfect collection for sharing and reading aloud.

Here are ways to connect with Eleanora and her newest release:

Here is our Smack Dab in the Middle Blog guest, author Eleanora E. Tate:

Tamera Will Wissinger, a delightful writer and Hamline University MFAC alum, brought me to this blog. What a hoot! Her intriguing questions about writing and my books, most specifically my recently re-issued Don’t Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom, reprinted by iUniverse  (May 2014) made me think hard. Delacorte Press first published it in hardcover in 1997 and in paperback in 1999. It’s been out of print until now. Goes to show that you can’t put -- or keep -- a good book down!

1. Don’t Split the Pole: Tales of Down-Home Folk Wisdom consists of stories told from different points of view. Can you talk about how the idea for the book came to you, and the virtues and challenges of writing a book in short story form?

To paraphrase a familiar adage, “Beauty (and a saying) is in the eye (and mind) of the beholder (reader or writer),” a proverb or saying can be applied to many dissimilar events, depending on how different people interpret it.

Proverbs and sayings have been part of all cultures ever since people first gathered around fires or in their huts to share feelings and embrace community. Proverbs and sayings are also known as aphorisms, mottos, Biblical expressions, similes, or rich brief anecdotes. They explain a truth or a moral, offer opinions, summarize an action or thought, are phrases or tidbits of songs repeated so often that they enter the lexicon, and so on.

I’ve written several books that contained proverbs and sayings and that reflected their settings’ regional vernaculars, but with this book I wanted to pinpoint particular adages and wrap stories around them in a short story collection. Short stories aren’t any easier to write than novels, but they can take less time.

As to points of view, four stories -- “You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks,” “Slow and Steady Wins the Race,” “A Hard Head Makes a Soft Behind” and the title story “Don’t Split the Pole” -- spoke most strongly in third person, for distance.

The remaining three stories -- “What Goes Around Comes Around,” “Big Things Come in Small Packages,” and “Never Leave Your Pocketbook on the Floor” made better fits through their narrators’ first-person voice. I switched POV back and forth during revision until I was satisfied. Each story maintains only one point of view, which I like.

Choosing the sayings was easy. Coming up with convincing stories using each saying as a vehicle for plot and theme was not. At the time I approached my editor with my idea I was living on the North Carolina coast, where I’d already written Retold African Myths and A Blessing in Disguise. After weeks of dismal literary meanderings, I finally pretended I was holding a conversation with a unconditional, loving, best friend. I started out by talking into my tape recorder (remember those?): “I want to tell you about the time … ”, rambling along until the seed of a viable story sprouted.

When about one-third of the stories stubbornly refused to germinate, I climbed among the dunes on the beach with my tape recorder. While watching the seagulls, dolphins and the ocean, I “talked” to my best friend. That’s probably why most of the stories take place on the North Carolina coast and several involve a coastal environment.

2. Was Don’t Split the Pole always for middle-grade readers? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?

It was conceived as a middle grade work, since that level is my writing/publishing niche. Now I’m hoping to market it to adult storytellers, folklorists, ministers, teachers for classroom use, counselors to share with troubled teens, and to anybody else who loves to read. My book also can be a springboard to help folks to identify their own meaningful sayings, and to develop stories to tell or write to illustrate those meanings.

Seemed like everybody in northern Missouri (where I was born, in that triangle with Illinois, Iowa and the Mississippi) and Iowa (where I grew up) spoke so colorfully that the words almost knocked me off my young feet!

The regional vernacular that I fell in love with  -- some call this vernacular “voice” -- in Missouri and Iowa was what I placed in my first book Just an Overnight Guest, which takes place in Missouri. After I moved to South Carolina in 1978, I was introduced to a distinctively southern, specifically South Carolinian vernacular. The Secret of Gumbo Grove, Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! and A Blessing in Disguise, which take place along the coast of South Carolina, are full of the Palmetto state’s language of home.

3. How did you choose which sayings to wrap stories around? 

My first story, with Maggie the basset hound and One-Foot the seagull in “You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks,” came from my “dunes-top” experience. Maggie’s voice is in third person. “Don’t Split the Pole,” the title story, is a saying I’ve heard all my life, and I wanted to try my hand at re-interpreting it for young readers. It came from watching boys on skateboards whiz up and down my street, smash into cars and crash into flower beds. I grumbled that they should have their own skateboard park and voila! A ghost-inhabited flea market vision appeared to me.

“Never leave your pocketbook on the floor” was so unusual that I had to include it. I’d never heard it expressed until I moved to the south. What if a creepy crawler or somebody’s fingers crept into my purse that set on the floor? My imagination sizzled!

My “slow and steady wins the race” tale is not the same as how Aesop the Ethiope wrote his, but the themes are, and I still include a turtle.  My inspiration came from a small pond in our back yard that snapping turtles, herons, snakes, rabbits, fish, and dozens of other creatures called home.

“A hard head makes a soft behind” adage left a very personal impression on me when I was four or five years old. After trying to climb up on a stool in an ice cream parlor against my grandmother’s wishes I landed on the floor on my butt. In my story when a boy tries to catch a catfish by hand (a Missouri tradition) he gets the point  -- the hard way, too.

“Big things come in small packages” was easy. I wanted to honor height-challenged boys and also write about Richard Etheridge, a Lifesaving Station hero. “What goes around comes around” grew out of thinking about how girls support or hurt each other in their relationships. But I also wanted to make it funny, which is how Mother Gratify and her Psychic Network got involved.
The time period in all the stories is contemporary, to show readers that these adages have pertinent applications in today’s world.
By the way, I wrote a short piece about some of the origins of those sayings for inclusion in the original manuscript, but space and politics killed that. Well, I plan to write a full essay about those origins now!

4. When Don’t Split the Pole was first released in hard cover in 1997 (in paperback in 1999), Publisher’s Weekly wrote in a starred review, “Adult rules and regulations are turned on their heads by this crafty author whose stories leap off the page and lodge straight in the funny bone. This collection of seven short stories … are unconventional and exuberant.” Can you talk about the process of re-releasing a book? What, if any, changes needed to occur?

After my book went out of print (OOP) a few years after the paperback was issued, I requested from my publisher that all rights be reverted back to me, and this was granted. I’ve since been able to have two of the stories reprinted in anthologies and in educational publishing programs, so they continue to bring in money.

Last fall Hamline faculty member Liza Ketchum told me that the Authors Guild writers organization (we’re both long-time members) had a “Back in Print” program through which Authors Guild members can get their OOP books reprinted at no charge. I jumped at the chance.

If my book sells well on this next go-round I’ll reap nice royalties again. That’s important when senior citizen writers like me are on fixed incomes. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

A final note: In order for OOP books to get reprinted by other publishers, writers should already have reversion of rights provisions in their contracts with the original publishers. When their books go out of print they should immediately contact their publishers and request written reversion of rights letters. This speeds things up or at least keeps things less complicated when they decide to take that reprint step. When negotiating with new publishers, they should carefully read the fine print in all contracts and instructions, and question anything they don’t understand or that they disagree with.

The publishing world evolves at warp speed these days, and writers need to be aware.

Happy reading!

Thank you for joining us, Eleanora. Congratulations, again, on the rerelease of DON’T SPLIT THE POLE: TALES OF DOWN-HOME FOLK WISDO

Sunday, July 27, 2014


I am a creature of routine.  I drink the same kind of tea from the same mug every morning.  I have favorite pens, favorite inks, requirements about lighting and sound in my work space, specific types of note cards I like to work with, websites I like to read before I settle down to work.

I like to tell myself that these routines are an important part of my writing, but lately I've come to realize that this isn't true.  The only important routine I have for writing is actually writing.

See, one of the joys of summer is that it has a strange ability to mess with my routines.  My schedule as a parent is completely different from normal.  Hanging out all day in my office has less appeal when the front porch is so inviting.  Finding out there is no milk for my tea (which most days is such a tragedy I can't write at all until I've gone to the grocery store to fix it) seems less important when the birds in the nest in our backyard have just hatched.

Summer makes me re-evaluate the whole idea of routines, and makes me recognize that sometimes they can become little prisons.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer Stories (Monthly Theme) by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

One of my favourite summer places, beach-wise, in the New York City area is Robert Moses State Park, Field 5, and the Fire Island Lighthouse. Well, I really love Hither Hills and the Montauk Lighthouse a whole lot too. But they're kind of far, and that's another story. This story is about this one time at Robert Moses. My mom had let me get an all-black bathing suit, even though our next door neighbor did not approve of black bathing-suited 16-year olds. Mine was even strapless! You really could not tell me anything.

Going to the beach without moms who made us eat hard boiled eggs and peanut butter sandwiches and change behind beach towels was newly awesome, and my friends and I always made the most of it. We had been waiting for these days to come, of super summer independence, and this summer before 11th grade, before the stress of college applications, promised to be an amazing one. Because that's how I pictured it.

I pictured everything, see. Look! There's me walking down the halls while my classmates stand aside in respectful awe. There I am again cartwheeling across the gym like the Gabby Douglas/Dominique Dawes/Diane Durham of New York. And, oh yes -- there I am again, winning every prize at the Individual Research Projects in Science Fair!

(Yes, even my fantasy life had a healthy dose of nerd.)

I pictured it, and I usually had my trusty notebook and a cutesy pen that wrote in 5 colours handy to write about it too.

Anyway, this one time at Robert Moses didn't go quite the way that I'd pictured it.

To make a long story short:

I got wiped out. My strapless bathing suit rolled down during said wipeout. The wipeout gave me something that one might call a cousin of a black eye as well as a sprained ankle. (Luckily, I had a cane handy as I sprained my ankle often. The cartwheel thing was *really* a fantasy.) As we had more plans for typical teen summer fun after the beach that one absolutely mortifying and excruciating little wipeout was not going to ruin, so I limped on to our next destination, the amusement park, where I pulled out my Fashion Fair pressed powder to cover my darkening bruise and patted my face. Often. Like, every five minutes. Even on the roller coaster. As we were going downhill. So the powder flew into my face and mouth. I think people might have applauded. My so-called best friend laughed right in my (bruised and powdered) face. This was actually not the Best Summer Day Ever. But you know what, Dear Readers? I laughed too.

And when we got back to school, I wrote about it.

You Guys!

I just found it.

It's so bad and overwritten and embarrassing and mortifyingly high school me. Just a sample:

I knew that my suit was absolutely stunning. (I hate it when they call it a swimsuit, you know, that's so misleading.) We spread out our towels, Juanita plunked down her cooler which was full of calories and cholesterol and I took out my frozen Evian.

It was time for the big unveiling. Now, the way to uncover a suit is an art in itself-especially when it covered another work of art like my body. I stood up and began to unbutton my oversized white shirt-one of the wardrobe essentials, like the little black dress. Juanita, of course, had an orange and green striped t-shirt that said something like "Visit Your Friendly Butcher" in red letters. She dragged it over her head while I, at the last button, hesitated, confident that every sunglassed eye was upon me, then whipped off the shirt. The suit was black, a one-piece of course, since everyone knew that mystery was the essence of glamour and vogue. I did a half-turn and glanced over my shoulder. Barbizon, beg me to lecture. Then I lay down to flip through Glamour and Vogue and to saturate myself with sun -- under Bain de Soleil SPF 15, of course.

I had just about hit that saturation point when Water Wheel Juanita said, "I'm bored. I think the water is as heated up as it's going to get, Allison. Next thing you know it'll be sundown." Exactly, I thought. Wet'n Wild Juanita tried to yank me up. "Come on! We're going in!" Rather than cause an ugly scene, I acquiesced. Anyway, I thought that I had read in last month's Allure that a tan set better if you were wet.

"Okay," I tried to sound enthusiastic. What did they say in those Beach Blanket Bingo movies? "Let's watusi into that water, Juanita!" She groaned. She really should have known better. That is death to the vocal cords. She'll end up sounding like a cross between Lauren Bacall and the Cookie Monster.

We strode to the water's edge. At least, I strode. Juanita gamboled like a circus animal. I dipped a Sandy Coral toe in. It was a liquid glacier. Juanita dove in, convincing me that she was some sort of mutant sea lion.


I don't even have words. (Except: Barbizon! Bain de Soleil!!!) But I'm glad I did then.

I'm glad that I was a kid who tried to have fun with words and stories; to play, to stumble and pratfall and write myself, bruises and all.

Now I'm the one bringing the hard boiled eggs and advising that my 10 year old wait an hour after she eats before swimming (yeah, I know, that's not even a thing, really).

And I still bring my notebook.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Monthly Theme: Summertime Slump? Not for inspiration.

Stephanie J. Blake

It has to be said, I don't get a lot of writing done in the summer. I have three active boys and mine seems to be the favorite house on the block. All of the neighborhood kiddos tend to congregate in my backyard. My fridge is the one stocked with juice boxes and popsicles. The front door is always open, and my children's friends run in and out all day. Never mind using Windex on the fingerprints. Make sure there is plenty of toilet paper!

Talk about juicy writing material!

Summer has flown by. We had a garage sale.

Movie-watching on the back deck. S'mores by the fire pit. Oodles of fireworks. Swimming. Putt-putt. Baseball. My youngest went to Vacation Bible School. We went to the mountains for a baseball tournament.

Summertime is family time. You can really get to know your kids in the summer.

One of my boys has a girlfriend. He's 9! They talk on the phone. I pretend I'm busy, but I like to listen to his conversations. They say "I love you" every few sentences. He paces while he talks. Sometimes he goes into the garage if he thinks I'm listening. They had a fight every other day. She said she wants to see someone else. He's got lots of girl friends. They love our pool.

My 11-year old is a sports junkie. He's always got a baseball in his hand. Up and down it goes. Smacking the walls. No girl drama for him. He is worried however about starting middle school in a couple of weeks. He is going to ride the bus! And he thinks he is too short. He is a worrier.

My oldest loves to go thrifting. His favorite place is a Goodwill Outlet. This is the craziest place I've ever seen. All of the junk you can buy, priced by the pound. You should see some of the characters in the melee. We also go to the horse track together. That's a story for another time.

(All of this for $11.26.)

Best memory this summer? I attended a Journey/ Steve Miller Band concert. FUN!

Two more weeks of "summer" for us. Soon, the boys will be back to school. And I'm starting a part-time job. (This hoping to get published thing is maddeningly slow sometimes.)

All of my wonderful summer memories are tucked away in a notebook, waiting to be incorporated into a middle grade novel that I'm hoping to finish by December.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Great Escape: The Time it Takes to Dream

I was a mother of two school-aged children when I went to my first writing residency—a week of silence at Norcroft, an artist colony on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  It w
as a leap I took with terror—fear of silence, fear of living with four strangers, fear of isolation, (no phones, no internet, no email).  I’d never left my husband or my children for more than a short weekend, and here I was going off for a week to live with strangers in the woods.  “What are you thinking?” people asked, and I couldn’t answer.  Before I drove away, I promised my husband I’d find the nearest pay phone and call daily, and if the strangers were too strange, I’d feign a horrible sickness and head home. 

More than a decade later, I don’t remember the writers I lived with that short week, or what I wrote, but I do remember vividly my new love affair with silence, how I woke up eager to walk the wood path to my writing shed with nothing but lake and sky and page to fill my day.  I had a thermos of hot coffee, and an endless stretch of dream time. On the second day, I found a pay phone down the road and called my family once.  By the time I hit day five, I considered it my home.  If it hadn’t been for the next resident arriving, I’d still be in that shed. 

So what happened to the terror?  In that one, fortuitous week I discovered the great gift of solitary, work time.  Somehow, I’d made it all the way to forty, without a straight shot of uninterrupted time devoted to my fiction.  Like so many of my peers, I balanced work and writing, friends and family, obligations and delights, plus a steady stream of email to be answered. In fact, I’d made it deep into adulthood without seven days of silence by myself.

Norcroft was my first escape, but it wasn’t long before I craved another writing residency.  (My next one at the Anderson Center inspired SPARROW ROAD.)  Now, as often as I’m able—every two or three years—I head away for thirty days of deep immersion in my fiction, a rare and valued opportunity to live fully in the second universe of story, to occupy my dream world, and the longer that I live there, the more real that world becomes.    

This year, thanks in part to a sabbatical, and an incredibly supportive family, I signed on for three residencies: a month at Woodstock Byrdcliffe; a month at the Artist Studios of Key West; two enchanted weeks at the Tyrone Guthrie Center at Annaghmakerrig, Ireland.  In that time and between, I wrote two drafts of a novel, and completed one radical revision.  I dreamt the story into being on long walks through the mountains, and bike rides to the beach, and staring at the great green hills of Ireland for hours.  Mostly, I kept my own company in conversation with my characters, but I also had the company of artists—poets, painters, composers, dancers, playwrights, sculptors, animators--smart and thoughtful people, and a few became good friends. 

An artist residency doesn’t speak to everyone, but I know it speaks to some.  And I’m here to say it’s possible; it is.  The first time I contemplated applying for a month, I called a poet-friend who’d done a two-week residency.  She’d left two young, pre-school children, and when I asked her how her family fared, she said the only thing that happened was a dryer full of sand.  Sand? I thought.  I’ll do it.  “They’ll be fine,” she said.  “You’ll be fine.  Your kids are teens.  Go for the full month. You won’t regret it.”

She didn’t know it then, but she’d given me a gift: permission and encouragement to take time for my work.  So I give it now to you.  Run away.  Take a month, a week, or two weeks.  Take five days.  If you can’t make a great escape now, put it on your wish list, make it happen.  Your imagination needs it.  Your creative life deserves it.      

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer Fun at ALA in Vegas! (by Kristin Levine)

I'm not sure I can quite describe how much fun I had at ALA in Las Vegas this year.  It was my first time attending and I met so many great people.

The trip started with a dinner for librarians and bloggers attended Jacqueline Woodson, Joan Bauer and myself.  We goofed around a bit afterwards taking photos.

The next morning I had a great time signing books at the Penguin booth...

 ... and after that Tracy Holczer (from Smack Dab as well!) and I had a delicious lunch with our editor, the fabulous Stacey Barney.

After a lovely Penguin dinner Stacey and I went on yet another adventure - salsa dancing!!  It was the best deal in town - for $10 we got a live band, a dance floor and a free drink.

Finally, Stacey and I decided we simply must make a midnight visit to the latest Vegas attraction, the High Roller, a huge Ferris that takes you high up over the strip.  We even saw fireworks!

A big thanks to Stacey, Tracy and everyone else - especially all the Penguin folks working behind the scenes - who made the visit so much fun!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Homework Holidays (Summer Theme) by Claudia Mills

When I was in graduate school, a friend and I liked to have what we called “homework holidays.” No, these were not holidays from homework (I was far too in love with school to consider such a thing). A homework holiday involved taking our “homework” somewhere else. Rather than working at our own university library, we’d head over to a library at some other college, or the public library, anywhere fresh and new.

Part of my fun this summer is to have "writing holidays." No, not a holiday from writing, but a chance to take my writing "homework" somewhere completely different.

I'm spending six weeks right now as a faculty member in the wonderful graduate program in children's literature at Hollins University in Roanoke. The whole experience of being here is an extended holiday, even as I'm working as hard as I've ever worked, because I spend every minute of every day doing what I love, surrounded by other people who love it, too. 

In the early morning I go for a five-mile walk around the perimeter of this idyllic, bucolic campus with two other writers, talking about our classes and works-in-progress while stopping to say hello to friendly horses already out to pasture.

I teach the seven super-smart, super-motivated students in my chapter book writing course on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-12. I spend the rest of my time reading their work, discussing it with them one-on-one, attending guest lectures from speakers such as Han Nolan and Candace Fleming, and scribbling away frantically at two of my own books with looming due dates.

As part of my plan to have constant homework holidays within this larger extended homework holiday, I'm trying to write in as many different places as possible:

1. In a wooden rocking chair outdoors on the verandah of one of the buildings on the quad.

2) In the library's reading loft, reached by means of a tiny spiral staircase, where one reclines on silken pillows inspired by Arabian Nights fantasy.

3) On a cozy couch in the inviting little lounge in Swannanoa Hall, home of the creative writing program.

4) In the coffee shop Cups in the Grandin neighborhood of Roanoke, with a vanilla steamer close to hand.

Where else might I have a writing holiday while I'm here? Perhaps in the campus art museum? Or downtown Roanoke at an outdoor table during the Saturday farmers' market? Or with a picnic taken up to the Blue Ridge Mountains?

Later, when I re-read the chapters of my published book, I'll remember, "Oh, I wrote that one at Cups," or "I wrote that one on that sultry Sunday afternoon on the verandah." Writing somewhere else intensifies the sweetness of writing for me. And isn't summer the perfect season for that?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Fun by Danette Vigilante

Since I grew up in New York City, it’s hard to think about summer fun without revisiting my childhood summers of playing in the Johnny Pump. Yup, good old Johnny sure cooled us sweaty kids down! If you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about, I’ll tell you. A Johnny Pump is Brooklyn-ese for fire hydrant.

Way back in the day, the more experienced firefighters fought the fire while the rookie, or ‘Johnny,’ was left to pump the water by hooking up the hose to the hydrant.

As you can imagine, the force of the water was fierce but did not have the reach needed for everyone to enjoy it. In order to make this happen, someone would rummage through the garbage looking for an old can. After removing both ends of the can by scraping it against the sidewalk (mothers did not take kindly to sharing their can openers), the person stood behind the Johnny Pump and leaned into it. After planting both feet firmly on the ground, he or she placed the can to the gushing water, forcing it to flow through and create a geyser.

There were two issues for the people not involved in the day’s Johnny Pump action. Concern number one: you’re on your way to a date. Hair neatly coiffed and freshly washed (using your favorite shampoo, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific), you’re wearing your best sundress, and you've expertly applied your bubble gum flavored Kissing Potion lip gloss. But there is a teensy problem. You have to be someplace on the other side of said Johnny Pump. So, you ask the can-wielding person, ever so politely, to please put the can down for just a few moments while you quickly pass. The laughter quiets, all frolic has come to a standstill.

Finally, there is an agreement. Eyes have met, heads have nodded. A smile has been smiled! You’re running late so you ignore the cold doubt rolling down your spine and proceed.

The second issue went like this: you’re driving in your car enjoying a beautiful summer’s day, windows down, hair blowing this way and that (and gee, your hair does indeed, smell terrific). You’re just loving the day until you notice the can-wielding person and the Johnny Pump frolickers. You roll to a stop many feet away and ask, in your sweetest voice, for safe passage. The can-wielding person looks you in the eye and agrees. You take a second to search his face. You’re watching for a twitch or one too many eye blinks indicating betrayal, but to your utter delight you don’t see any and proceed.

Then WHOOSH! The can-wielding person always went back on his word. So much for the date and dry car but after all, it was summer!