Early on in the writing of my novel, about six years ago, I tried to get on the industrial complex known as ZugIsland, only to be confronted by two burly security guards.
I told them I had worked in the labor pool over thirty years ago, and I was there to get permission to take some photos for a novel I was writing.
They were less than impressed and wouldn’t even allow me to go to their Human Resources Department to ask. They ushered me off the island and told me not to return. "Case closed!" In the age of 9/11, that is expected I suppose.
I will be in Detroit this July, and I still want to get on the island to take a few key photos for my book talks and my blog. My tactic has changed this time around though.
Yesterday, I sent a complimentary copy of my novel with a cover letter, a press release, and some bookmarks and postcards to their Human Resources department. It should arrive Tuesday. If nothing else, it will be a curiosity and an amusing break in their day.
Yesterday afternoon, I gave my first book club talk, to a group of teachers from the San Diego area. Writing a novel is one thing; speaking about it is another. After I related how I came to write Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, I spoke to its theme, read a brief passage, and answered every one's questions. Before I knew it, the party was over.
By all accounts, the presentation went well, and I was pleased with the response. Having been a career English teacher for many years, the transition from classroom lecturer to public speaker was an easy one for me. Articulating answers in response to impromptu questions reminded me of being in the classroom, and I actually enjoyed myself.
If you are in the San Diego or Detroit area in the next couple of months, check out the Events button on my novel's website. This page will be updated as new venues are added. I hope to see many of you soon.
Last week, I showed my barber, Janine, the mock up of my novel's front cover, and she placed it up on her bulletin board in her shop. Friday, one of her patrons was getting his hair cut, and he saw the book cover.
"Zug Island. I know Zug Island. It's on the Detroit River," he told Janine, amazed. Then he responded to the subtitle, A Detroit Riot Novel. "I was there during the riots. I was at Tiger Stadium for a Sunday afternoon Tiger/Yankee game and remember it like it was yesterday."
Janine replied, "One of my first customers wrote and just published it. He is very excited about it."
"Wow! After over forty years, someone wrote a novel about it. I'd like to speak with him sometime. Would you mind giving him my cell phone number?"
I spent Easter Sunday in Tucson, Arizona, at a family gathering, but I was late getting there from San Diego. When I turned off on River Rd., it was virtually empty at 9:20 AM, so I checked left and right for any stray Easter egg hunters or Easter bunnies, then I leaned on the gas pedal and soared to a blazing 51 mph in a 40 mph speed zone.
The Pima County Sheriff pulled a rabbit out of a hat with a photo-enforced, speed camera and earned itself $228.50 from me for 11 miles over. Not a bad payday from an out-of-state visitor. The camera took an excellent picture of me, driving my beloved Altima, and the ticket reminded me to slow down when I get off the freeway.
Every time I drive through Arizona, I get a speeding ticket either coming or going, so my record is intact. I guess my urban driving habits don't translate well in the high desert.
As I was saying, when my wife returned from a few days in Atlanta over the weekend, I proudly showed her my blog I had worked on over the weekend. Immediately, she was less than thrilled with the title. I was crushed. I built the site with a minimum of help, and I was pleased with its general appearance. I thought the white letters on the blue banner looked great, and the content would evolve over time, so I was pleased. Wives?
Surprisingly, I designed my blog with some enthusiasm for a project that I came to out of necessity. But after a couple of days, my site was ready and registered, the title was rated as "strong" by Google, and it was linked to my novel's website. Reluctantly, I was ready to become a blogger with for my first post.
Then, the Obama/Osama global news frenzy broke, and that was all everyone, including myself, was consumed with. I wrote my two cents worth in my first and second posts and published them. The next day, a friend of mine was surfing the net and emailed me saying there was a problem with my blog's title.
While he was searching for my new site with a faulty URL, he stumbled onto a site that defines fornography. You don't have to have much of an imagination to figure out what it might be. In addition, this site sells mugs, tee-shirts, etc. in support of its scatological message.
I thought my title was clever and original, but I guess my wife had nailed it, "It is suggestive and it sounds nasty." But, what do I do about it now? The only thing I can do, issue a disclaimer. My site, Fornography: The News and Views of Gregory A. Fournier, is in no way connected with this other site. My site will be about my words and my ideas on any subject I choose to comment upon. I'll leave the shock talk to others.
When I decided to name my blog Fornography, I was dimly aware of the provocative nature of the title, but I thought it was catchy, so I decided to go with it anyway. It had some innocent word play on my last name that expressed the intent of my blog - to write and become a part of the blogosphere.
Since adolescence, my friends have been goofing on my last name. It takes very little verbal imagination to discover what some of the various corruptions of it could be, so I became desensitized and indifferent to their ribbing. All too often, it was easier to go along, to get along, so I never made an issue of it.
Maybe that is why I have never been fond of nicknames, but something unexpected and quite marvelous happened to me as a teacher some years ago. One of my surfer students gave me the handle, Forndawg. At first, I rejected it, thinking it was too informal, but after hearing students yelling it across campus, I reluctantly accepted it as a sobriquet. Inwardly, I liked it.
Then a student, who is now a music professor, secretly kept a running catalogue for a whole year of things I would say in class. John wrote down the cliches I had used, the famous quotations I had tossed out in lectures, and the expressions I would use from my youth, like, "A person all wrapped up in himself makes a small package" or "I'll catch you in the funny papers."
He wrote down anything that I said which he deemed interesting; I thought he was taking great class notes, but his grades did not support that assumption. At the end of the school year, John gave me a notebook full of my expressions with a cover sheet entitled Fornology. His efforts earned him a B minus for the semester, over the C plus he would have received otherwise. Needless to say, I found his notebook quite amusing.
When it came to naming my blog last week, it wasn't much of a stretch for me to come up with Fornography. Catchy title, I thought. Then, my wife saw it....
When President Obama made the historic decision to eliminate Osama bin Laden, he did what all great leaders must do - make the tough decisions. Authorizing the taking of another's life is not an easy moral or spiritual decision to make. By doing his duty as commander-in-chief, he placed himself and his family at a greater personal risk. He displayed an inner courage that should be admired.
Despite enormous pressure against doing so, his decision to take the high ground and not release the death photos of the vanquished terrorist leader is all the more commendable. We Americans do not parade our "trophies" in a ghoulish display of mob frenzy like some other cultures do. America should be proud of our president for his good judgement. The rehabilitation of our nation's tarnished international image has begun, and it is long overdue.
Two major events occurred over the weekend that captured worldwide, public attention: The Royal Wedding, with its ostentatious display of wealth, grandeur, and pageantry, viewed by over two billion people, and the long awaited assassination of Osama bin Laden, with an even larger global news audience the following day. These events represent two extremes almost too difficult to comprehend at once. But then I noticed a disturbing link between the two.
The parting video of the prince and princess, pulling out of Buckingham Palace in an Aston Martin convertible was evocative of Britain's legendary secret agent, James Bond. Especially in the film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." This image, as lovely and joyous as it was, reminded me of the conclusion of that least watched of all the Bond films. If you do not know what I am referring to, watch the video. I won't give voice to it here.
On the heels of the royals' honeymoon, there was the assault on Osama bin Laden's hideout by Navy Seals. We got our man and left with his corpse. When the government revealed the game plan to the press and public the next day, it looked and sounded like the end of a typical James Bond movie replete with an elite assault team, helicopters, and a miraculous finish. It had everything but the signature Bond soundtrack. And America rejoiced.
The photo of our president and secretary of state, with the rest of the National Security Council, watching a live feed of the operation released the following day, bespeaks the violence and horror of the event. This was not Hollywood bloodshed. Osama met an Old Testament death, but he has only so many eyes and teeth. What he still has is a large following with an endless supply of vengeance.
As we Americans celebrate our triumph, we need to temper our glee. Murder is a nasty business whether justified or not. The forces of retribution are gathering, and make no mistake about it, What Goes Around, Comes Around.