Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Adventures of Peggy Quigley

The Adventures of Peggy Quigley is a book that my granddaughter and I are writing together. This is the first chapter.

Chapter 1
A New Planet
Copyright Linda Goodman and Morgan Deal

Mrs. Quinn stood at the front of the classroom reviewing the material that would be on the next day’s American History test. Peggy Quigley tried to be quiet, but her coughing and wheezing would not be controlled. One loud, rough cough after another was hurled from her raw, scratched throat. She felt like she had swallowed sandpaper.

“Be quiet, Piggy Quigley,” growled Fleming Poole, the obnoxious boy who sat in front of her. “You might not need this test review, but the rest of us do. “

“That’s right, Piggley Wiggley!” taunted Tyra Snelling. “Not all of us make straight A’s, like you. Not all of us have photographic memories.”

Peggy was tired of being called names like “Piggy Quigley” and “Piggley Wiggley.” How would they feel if someone made fun of their names? She decided to find out.

“You’re stupid, Swimming Poole!” she wheezed between coughs. “Anybody knows that a cough drop does not help asthma. And you, Tired of Smelling, you don’t need a photographic memory to make straight A’s. You just need to study once in a while. Try it some time!”

“Did you hear her, Flem?” Tyra sneered. “With a name like Piggley Wiggley, she’s got a lot of nerve making fun of us!”

“Flem?” asked Peggy, “Isn’t that something that I cough up when I have a cold? Isn’t it yucky and full of germs that make everyone sick? Hey - come to think of it, that name fits you even better than Swimming Poole, Flem.”

“Peggy! Fleming! Tyra!” shouted Mrs. Quinn, “What is going on? Why are you disrupting my class?”

“Gee, Mrs. Quinn,” Fleming whined, “We just want to be able to hear your review. I really want to do well on this test. But I can’t hear you with Piggy…uh, I mean Peggy, coughing in my ear.”

“Piggy…uh, I mean Peggy, Fleming has a point,” said Mrs. Quinn. “Where is your inhaler?”

“It’s in the nurse’s office,” Peggy replied. “I have a new kind that can be used only under trained supervision.”

“Well, go see the nurse, then,” Mrs. Quinn instructed her. “Based on your part in the discussions we have had, you probably don’t need this review anyway.”

Peggy was glad to have an excuse to leave the classroom. Listening to a review of material that she already knew was boring. On her way to the nurse’s office she saw her friend, Mr. Squiggy, the school janitor. She waved, “Hi, Mr. Squiggy. “ A spasm of coughs came over her before she could say anything else.

“Hi, Peggy” smiled Mr. Squiggy. “Are you okay? That cough sounds pretty rough.”

“I know,” Peggy answered. “I’m on my way to the nurse’s office now to use my inhaler.”

Mr. Squiggy shook his head. “Here we are in the year 2075, and we haven’t even come up with a cure for asthma. Or course, even people without asthma are coughing. This air pollution is terrible! Why, the smoke in the air is like a heavy fog. Just about everybody has itchy skin rashes and burning, runny eyes. But your asthma is so bad, Peggy, you suffer a great deal more than most people do.”

“I know,” Peggy agreed. “Last weekend I was asked to leave the movie theater because I was coughing so badly. It’s hard to have any fun.”

Mr. Squiggy thought a minute. “You know, Peggy, I heard on the news this morning that a new planet had been discovered. Its atmosphere is similar to what earth’s atmosphere was one thousand years ago – almost pollution free! The scientists who discovered the planet have gotten a government grant to send 12 families to settle the planet. I sure wish that I could go! I would feel like one of the settlers in Jamestown, Virginia in the 1600’s, taming a new world.”

“Then why don’t you go?” asked Peggy.

“Like I already said, Peggy, the grant is for families, “ Mr. Squiggy explained. “One person does not make a family.”

“Then why don’t you just get married, “ Peggy suggested. “You would be part of a family then.”

“The spaceship is leaving in two weeks,” Mr. Squiggy told her. “I don’t think I could find a wife that quickly.”

Suddenly Peggy got an idea. “Who says a family had to be a husband and a wife? A grandfather and a grandchild could be a family, too – an alternative family!”

Mr. Squiggy looked confused. “Peggy, you know that I don’t have any grandchildren.”

Just then, Barry Flat walked by on his way to the boys’ bathroom. “Well, if it isn’t Piggy and Squiggy? How are things on the farm, eggheads?”

“Things are great on the farm, Very Fat,” shot back Peggy. “We have a mule whose butt looks just like your face. People pay us a dollar a piece to take a picture of it. We’re getting rich!”

Barry made an obnoxious face and sulked away. Peggy returned her attention to Mr. Squiggy. “I know that you don’t have any grandchildren. But the government doesn’t know that. Their data banks imploded years ago, after identity theft became such a problem. You could say that I was your grandchild.”

Mr. Squiggy looked skeptical. “Your parents would never go along with that, Peggy.”

“They would not only go along with it, they would welcome the opportunity for me to take part in this great venture,“ Peggy assured him.

“Are you sure?” asked Mr. Squiggy.

“I have never been more sure of anything in my life!” Peggy assured him. “My parents are forward thinking people. Call my house tonight. My mother will tell you herself that it’s okay.”

“I’ll do that,” said Mr. Squiggy. “Won’t it be something if he says yes? What a great adventure we will have!”

After Peggy had visited the nurse’s office and used her inhaler, she went to the girl’s bathroom. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her mousey brown hair was thin and scraggly. Dark freckles covered her thin face. Her buck teeth protruded like a bottle cap opener. Tall and skinny, she looked like a scarecrow.

I am not pretty, she thought to herself, but I am smart! I will tell my mom and dad that there is a new planet with a non-polluted atmosphere. I will tell them that scientists think that the atmosphere would be really good for people who have asthma. Plus, I will be able to get away from all the people that make fun of me. I know my parents will agree to let me go!

The plan was made, and Peggy was certain that it would work. She was so excited that she didn’t even notice when Fleming Poole called her Piggy later in the day. She even wished him a nice evening.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health Insurance Companies Have Won

The February 13 issue of the Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Anthem is raising its health insurance premiums on individual plans in California by 39%. Here in Virginia, they are going up between 7% and 8.5%, after a 20% hike in December. The private, high deductible plan that I had, which cost $435 per month last May, will now cost $559 per month, or $6,702 per year. How many unemployed people can afford that?

Why the increase? According to the Times Dispatch, healthy people who are out of work are either going without insurance or purchasing less expensive, high-deductible plans. Because more people are deciding to do without, prices are going up. The shareholders must continue to see a profit.

Let’s face it: the Insurance companies have won. They used their scare tactics to convince the Tea Party folks that healthcare is a liberal plot to suck up their cash and downgrade their own healthcare. It’s a country club mentality: “Our stuff won’t be as good if we let poor, sick people participate.” Meaningful healthcare reform is not going to happen.

Bill Melton’s letter today was right on target. We Christians need to put our money where our mouths are. If we don’t want the government involved in healthcare, more churches should do what my church in Massachusetts did. First United Methodist Church in Hudson, Massachusetts put the word out to the community that it wanted to open a clinic for the uninsured and the underinsured. The community responded with donations galore, and now free medical care is available at the church on Monday nights to those without health coverage. That is Christianity in action.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tell Tale Hearts: Fools for Love

Last night I experienced a Valentine's Day Treat at the annual Tell Tale Hearts Fools for Love Concert. There was not a dull moment, and for a 2 hour storytelling concert,that is indeed rare.

The evening began with love songs played on the piano by Dee Kysor, who set the mood for what was to come.

The first teller to take the stage was Anthony Burcher, who flawlessly told the story of a summer romance. The story made us laugh, but touched our hearts as well. Keep your eye on Anthony. He is going places.

I followed with a story of the parallel love lives of myself and my daughter. The apple did not fall far from the tree.

Denise Bennett, one of the most talented and polished tellers in Virginia, wrapped up the first set with a story about how she once kissed Harry Chapin. She also sang a beautiful rendition of Chapin's song All My Life's a Circle, while accompanying herself on the guitar. All of us in the audience who remembered Chapin were green with envy. What a beautiful tribute to of the most Selfless singer/storytellers who ever lived. Chapin donated one-third of all his concert proceeds to third world hunger. Talk about putting you money where your mouth is!

Intermission featured the Hearts' now famous DECADENT DESSERTS. I ate no dinner yesterday, so that I would able to sample each of the delectible delights that the Hearts had to offer.

The second set began with a unique and side-splitting tandem performance by Les Schaffer and Judith Onesty. The subject was speed dating. The entire audience was in stiches as Judith met every women's dating nightmares. Les, of course, was the nightmares, and he did a remarkable job. What timing!

Les and Judith were followed by Woven Yarns (George Crafts and Dee Kyor). I closed my eyes as Dee sang. It was like listening to Judy Collins. George's African tale of love was a gem. I can always count on George to come up with a story that is new to me and that comes to the audience straight from his heart.

The last teller of the evening was the incomparable Megan Hicks, who told the story of how she came up with the concept for the Robert Maplethorpe Memorial Condom Wallet. It was also the story of how she met Jack Abgott, her partner in crime and affairs of the heart. I have always wondered how Megan managed to meet a man who could keep up with her intelligence and quick wit. Now I know, and I think they are the coolest couple on the planet.

Congratulations, Tell Tale Hearts. It was an incredible show.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Other Linda Goodman

I began my career as a professional storyteller in January of 1989, just two months after attending the first Tellabration!, which at that time was a Connecticut event only. In November of 1989, I appeared as a teller in the second annual Tellabration! in Enfield, Connecticut. The story I shared was The March, which was about my father’s participation in a Civil Rights march in 1966.

I guess the audience enjoyed the story, because the next day my phone started ringing and by the end of the next week I had over a dozen performances booked. I was on cloud nine! As the months passed, I developed a confidence in my storytelling abilities that prompted me to start making cold calls to various venues

One of the venues that I visited was the Congregational Church on Main Street in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. The good folks there agreed to let me audition to perform at their Wednesday lunch time series, which was very popular with those who worked downtown. The audition committee decided that I should be their entertainment for the Halloween lunch on the last Wednesday in October. I was psyched!

About a week before the Halloween performance, I got a phone call from the Director of the church series. She was so excited she could hardly contain herself. “I can’t believe it!” She squealed. “We are completely sold out!”

I did not know what to think. “Well…...” I stammered, “Storytelling is pretty popular at Halloween.”

“That’s not it!” she retorted. “Almost everyone calling is asking about you. They all want to know if Linda Goodman is really going to be here. They are coming because of you!”

I was astounded. I had been telling professionally for only one year. This would be my first performance in Hartford. How in the world did they even know about me? My vanity answered: When you’re good, word gets around.

On the day of the show, I walked into a room with an audience that had standing room only. Their reactions to my stories were intoxicating. They laughed at all the right spots, gasped and screamed in the appropriate places, and applauded wildly throughout. The response was so overwhelming that my program took twice the amount of time that was allotted. At the end I received a thundering standing ovation that lasted for a good five minutes.

After the show was over, a long line of audience members stood waiting to speak to me. I noticed that many of them had books in their hands. The first woman was so effusive in her praise that I was actually embarrassed. Then suddenly she thrust a book into my hands. “Will you please sign my copy of Star Signs?” she pleaded.

I looked at the book. Sure enough, the author was Linda Goodman, Astrologer.

“I’m sorry, “I told my disappointed new fan. “I’m not that Linda Goodman.” The fact of the matter was that I had never even heard of Linda Goodman the Astrologer.

Word of my true identity filtered back through the line and several angry outbursts occurred. After I recovered from my horror, I actually found them to be amusing:

“You Imposter!”

“How can you call yourself by her name?”

“That’s like saying you’re Wyatt Earp just because you have the same name!”

“But you must have enjoyed my show. You gave me a standing ovation!” I responded.

“That’s because we thought you were her! You’re a fraud!”

“I’m not a fraud!” I protested. “I am Linda Goodman!”

One smug woman summed it all up: “You may be A Linda Goodman, but you’ll never be THE Linda Goodman!”

In the years since then, I have been mistaken for THE Linda Goodman many times. People just hear the name and make assumptions. It has happened so often that when I get a call or an email from someone I don’t know, inquiring about my work, I make a disclaimer early on: I am not Linda Goodman the Astrologer.

Last week I got a call from someone in Oregon who wanted to know if I would sign her copy of my book if she sent it to me with return postage.

“I’m not the astrologer,” I told her.

“What astrologer?” she asked. “I’m looking for Linda Goodman the Storyteller, the author of Daughters of the Appalachians.”

If only I could see that smug Harford woman again, I would tell her a thing or two. I may not be THE Linda Goodman, but I am certainly THE OTHER Linda Goodman.