BOOK REVIEW: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Wabbitat ICON 2016 The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski

This is the story of Edgar Sawtelle, a mute boy, mute for unknown reasons, and his well-trained dogs.

The Sawtelles breed and raise dogs with traits so carefully established that the breed is named for them, and for posterity. The dogs are raised and trained for 18 months before finding suitable homes. This is what the Sawtelle family does for a living generation after generation. Edgar, an only child, is groomed (pardon the pun) to carry on the family business.

The story takes some twists and turns and quickly becomes a page turner.  Edgar must rely on survival skills with three dogs in tow as he goes into hiding in the forest. The fact that he is hiding with three large 90-pound dogs is in itself a bit hard to fathom, but I am an accepting reader and I let my imagination follow them through their trials and tribulations.

I had questions all through the reading. For example, Edgar’s inability to speak is unexplained other than saying doctors found no explanation. Yet at one visit to a doctor, Edgar is told to speak during the examination and Edgar croaks a word and the doctor is so displeased with the sound that he tells Edgar to speak no more. Edgar is undoubtedly the smartest boy ever; we witness his keen intelligence over and over again. Why couldn’t he whisper to communicate, at least sometimes? 

Edgar asked his mother how she and his father met. She answered that she would not tell him. I assumed that missing information would work its way into the story. It did not (or I slept through it, if it did).

Still, I enjoyed the story. There were times I got choked up, times I smiled, times I fretted. The storytelling captivated me, flaws and all – until the end. The ending was a disaster. Instead of tying up loose ends, instead of bringing story lines to a close, instead of resolution, a very dramatic ending has everything go up in flames, including any positive feelings I may have had for this book.


BOOK REVIEW: The Serialist

Wabbitat ICON 2016The Serialist

by David Gordon


Harry Bloch is a struggling writer who churns out series of books, mostly about vampires and/or detectives. Then he is asked by a death row inmate, New York City serial killer Darian Clay, to write his memoir – a serial writer writing about a serial killer.

This book combines humor with gore. Much of the book is laugh-out-loud funny, but not the gruesome parts, definitely not the gruesome parts. There are spoiled rich kids, vampires, a crossdresser, a hypersexual weirdo, stereotypical detectives, and murder victims who have been carved up, dismembered, and rearranged in grotesquely artistic ways. The detailed prison death chamber scene was tame compared to the murder scenes.

Mine was the audiobook. I pictured Billy Crystal as storyteller/main character; I pictured Hannibal Lecter (scary, twisted, nauseating, but not cannibalistic) as death row inmate Darian Clay. Now there is a combination!

An interesting and very different book. Frankly it left me a little afraid of the author, that he could even think the things he thunk.


Dear Zeb

Wabbitat ICON 2016 You may recall that I started this table refinishing project while we were still in Portland, so sometime before April of this year. The 10-year-old table had lost its finish years before, and condensation from drinking glasses, heat from hot food on serving platters, and so on, left their marks on the table top. The final insult was the mess created by the painter we hired to freshen up the living room walls when he used our table as his staging area for paints and equipment. Refinishing was not as easy as I had hoped, however.

First I painted the table, but the indentations made by the painter were still visible, although now a matching color. Also, I put the drop leaves down during the drying process, and the paint dripped and pooled and dried in a most unfriendly way.

The second repainting job was approached with a new type of “chalk paint.” This paint seemed attractive to me because it touted its ease of use, its lack of need for preparation of any kind, and its nontoxic qualities. Unfortunately the paint was ridiculous; I do not have a better word for it. In fact, after just one or two brush strokes, I tossed the can.

A third repainting trial went well, using a  latex paint by Rustoleum. Unfortunately, the Minwax acrylic finish I later applied was a nightmare and left the table a freaky streaky mess.

My final attempt (I swore off any more) followed a brisk hand-sanding (I covered an unopened boxed bar of Dove soap with sandpaper and used it like a sanding block) and then applied another coat of the Rustoleum latex paint, this time using a roller. I topped that with a coat of paste wax (also by Minwax – a brave soul I am).

It looks just fine now. Finally. After a multitude of different paints, finishes, brushes, sandpapers, and other painting supplies, it would have been cheaper (and faster and better) to buy a new table, like just one of your fine suggestions, Zeb. We will just call this the “million dollar table,” or “the initiation craft project for the newly retired.”


Day One



Binoculars - pink bkgd - tiny
I knew it was coming. I thought about it a lot. Thinking and doing are far apart.

Retirement. Today is the first day of my retirement.

Honestly, I was dreading it. I was not ready. Cut back on work – oh, yes. No work? Not ready. At least, I did not think so.

I had been reducing my workload steadily over the past few years. I was down to one last account, the one I liked the best. The doctor is only a year or two older than me, and doctors do not retire so young. There is too much money at stake, I thought. Once they step down, they are no longer king of the hill, or so I thought.

Then he announced his retirement. I got lots of notice, lots of time to prepare. Now here I am. Retired. There! I said it again!

I will get used to it. So far, it is going pretty well. Day one, and I am almost four full hours into this new life. Not bad at all.

World’s Best Pot

binocular-bkgd1I checked my email on my iPad. The opening screen shows a list of current emails on the left. Behind that is the current email (grayed at top of list), but only the right side of that email is visible.  The partially exposed email immediately grabbed my attention. “World’s Best Pot…has shipped”!

Pot Scrubbers A

I didn’t order any pot.

So I took a peek at the underlying email. Then I remembered.
Pot Email 2

I ordered pot scrubbers.

Not quite the same thing.


Feline Fantasy






What’s that?

Carpet Sweeper

A new “vacuum cleaner.”

One that makes no noise!

The Drifter, the Dresser

binocular-bkgd1We have more stuff to get rid of. It is hard to imagine how that is even possible considering how much stuff we sold/donated/discarded in order to make this move. Nevertheless, here we are, still with too much stuff. So today I placed a few ads on craigslist.

I received a text from someone interested in the two filing cabinets we listed for sale. She said she would be here at 7:15 tonight to pick them both up. She arrived promptly and texted that she was at the building but waiting for her friend who will be helping her move the file cabinets and he said he was running one-half hour late. We agreed that she could come up to our apartment and try to move the cabinets herself. Two 4-drawer metal file cabinets are bulky, but not particularly heavy. She was thrilled to see them. She explained they are going to be her new dresser.

She is a sweet young woman, early 20s, friendly, chatty, and very personable. She is new to New York from South Dakota because New York is the best place for her to make her way as a designer. Until she breaks into the designer business, she is living and waitressing in Brooklyn.

File Cabinets pairWe watched her carry the two cabinets out of the building and to the curb. Then she waited. We waited with her. We didn’t want this young naive midwesterner standing alone on a New York City street corner for who knows how long. The nighttime temperature dropped, the wind kicked in, and standing at the curb with her was becoming quite the chore.

She chatted on, filling the time with words. The friend she was waiting for turned out to be some guy she never met but from whom she was buying a desk with rusty legs, sight unseen. For $15 he agreed to meet her at our place to pick up the cabinets and take them, along with the desk, to her apartment in Brooklyn.

She talked about the portfolio she was putting together, and the woman she had met at a coffee shop who wants to mentor her. What kind of a designer, we finally asked. A web designer!

She talked about her traveling around the country last year – 6,000 miles, she said, alone. She didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. Until now. Before that she lived in four different cities, never for very long. A drifter, I realized, or a pathologic liar, or a a person with a mental illness of some sort.

“Did your friend text? I finally asked after the first hour passed. “No,” she replied, but checked her phone and lo and behold there was a message from him. He was stuck in traffic and not moving at all, she said. She said she felt so bad that he was stuck in rush hour so late. “On Sunday night,” I added. At this point, I did not think her “friend” was real and I was thinking this sweet young stranger had something else going on. I began to have some very scary thoughts.

At 9 p.m. a pickup truck actually arrived, and a smiling, friendly driver got out, shaking hands all around. Hello, hello, hello, smile, smile, smile – I was done. We left lickety split!