Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Late September Writing Update

Taking a short break from Laundry for a writing update:

Working on too many drafts. Manuscript one is fun and goofy, and needs some cleaning up because, as one critiquer put it, "it was fun reading it and then I got to the end and started thinking about it and the plot fell apart."

Manuscript two is pretty much where I want it. I'm of the opinion that readers are either going to really resonate with the story, or they're really not going to. There's still a few clarification points I need to work on, and I should consider the parts where it drags (and see if I can get the word count down by a thousand words).

Manuscript three isn't really even in rough draft form. It's supposed to be a Halloween short, but it could easily be longer than 1000 words. Last night I came up with a funny scene, so I'll write that as a stand-alone to keep the word count down.

... and then there's those other manuscripts in various stages of post-critique form...

On the submissions front. Insert "it's a buyers' market" submit-reject cycle here. Let's just say it would be nice to make a professional sale. One of my friends told me that I write quirky stories, so it looks like I have to find a quirky (and professional) market to sell stories to.

OK. Blogging isn't writing... off to write.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm Mike Bebe ?

Mark and I bumped into some old friends, and during the course of the conversation, Mark said that I had written myself as Mike Bebe from my Story on Analog's Web site.

I'm Mike Bebe? I was thinking I was more the gay English astronaut. I mean, Mike's problem (and the whole story outline) was part of an experiment created by a bunch of people. So I'm not quite sure how I am Mike Bebe (Mark says it's because my Mike is so self-questioning).

I guess the writer is always the last to know.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bollywood Wishes

Oh. Right. I guess I should add that yesterday I spent far too much time watching The Guild's Bollywood Video.

I sometimes wish I could have a Bollywood Video day. And in case anyone isn't sure what this means, it means that I want a small (OK, it's probably larger than I think) movie crew to follow me around and turn a day of my life into a set with a cast of whirling dancers, flowing silks, slow-mo doves, and gyrating entrance tableaux.

Oh! I know, it could be a writing process number! (Pause to wonder how many of the Wordos would agree to dance Bollywood style....)

If I can't have that, what I would like to watch is a Bollywood version of "Zorro, The Gay Blade." (Come on, you know you want to see Lauren Hutton whirling around the plaza handing out fliers for the People's Independence Committee to a dancing chorus of Los Angeles villagers while Esteban and his soldiers circle around the edges.)

First Day of Autumn

Happy Equinox (again). It's officially Autumn. This is the time to scurry to finish up projects before Winter. I'm hoping that this time around Winter doesn't hit me quite so hard, but it's good to plan in case it does.

So; time to finish up stories and make sure that manuscripts are at markets!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing and Personal Tropes

I had an interesting discussion with the post-critique group last night. We were talking about personal tropes and the merits of working with them or against them. One person reviewed his manuscripts and saw that the themes of water, buoyancy, drowning, and suicide made frequent appearances.

Having recognized a personal trope, the question became are personal tropes something a writer avoids to prevent works from falling into cliche? Or does a writer develop a personal trope in order to work it like a poet works with the sonnet form?

The discussion turned to writers like Asimov and Vonnegut; you pretty much know an Asimov story when you pick one up -- so what makes Asimov's style work (as opposed to falling into cliche)? And yes, there was a brief envious stop where we lingered over writers lucky enough to have personal tropes in sync with a well paying market.

We wrapped up the discussion with a short foray into working with story. I'm struggling with a manuscript that has some specific images and scenes, but I can't get the connective plot into focus. So do I outline outline outline, or do I let the images roll in my head. There's something to be said for seat-of-the-pants writing, and it's how I write a lot of what I write, but it can take a long time and when there's pressure to produce produce produce a slower process can be frustrating. Sometimes I think I should just write poetry. Near the end of the discussion, someone who feels like he outlines the life out of his stories expressed the desire to move closer to my writing style.

Does your writing have a favorite or reoccurring theme? What do you do when you discover a story treading familiar paths?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Equnox 2010

Happy Equinox a little bit early. This year the Equinox is Wednesday evening, September 22 2010 at 08:09 PM PDT.

This photo was taken at the coast a while back. Stone circles with driftwood gnomons are the kinds of beach sculptures I like to create. Since this stick really isn't straight up and down and the ground isn't level, this sculpture really doesn't tell time per se -- although it could be used to guestimate how long we'd been at the beach (15 degrees is one hour). If we had stayed long enough, I would have continued the path shown by the three stones into a much longer eliptical path.

For me personally, the autumnal equinox is the time of ending projects and distribution. Hmm. I think I have a few loose ends that need ending.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rules for Reading a John Story

I was joking around with some Wordos that I needed to make a set of Rules For Reading a John Burridge Story. So here they are.
  1. Recall that John will have probably written the manuscript listening to a combination of the following artists: and that it's entirely possible he's been singing
    • songs from Jesus Christ, Superstar
    • The Ladies Who Lunch (Company)
    • Happily Ever After (Once Upon a Mattress)
    • Liaisons (A Little Night Music)
    • At the Ballet (A Chorus Line)
    to himself. Suddenly, the story makes more sense, doesn't it?

  2. Keep in mind the movies which have had a major impact on John (and therefor his psyche and artistic aesthetic):
    • *The Wizard of Oz
    • The Yellow Submarine
    • Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang
    • Tron
    • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    • The Life of Brian
    • Zorro, The Gay Blade
    • The Empire Strikes Back
    • Labyrinth
    • Excalibur
    • *Toy Story 2
    • **Moulin Rouge
    Be aware that John probably has abandonment issues, and the starred *movies will make him cry (and in fact, he had to take a small break writing this list because the Cowardly Lion, Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl, and Christian the Penniless Writer were singing a maudlin chorus of "When She Loved Me" in his head and he had to distract himself imagining Buzz Lightyear and the Flying Monkeys in a fabulous Bollywood number, "Lasers Are a Boy's Best Friend." ).

  3. Assume that John has assumed that you can read his mind, and therefore you know what thoughts are rattling around in John's head - after all, he knows.

  4. While John isn't schizophrenic, he does have a wildly vast and apparently random association network of ideas. This means that, at least in John's head, everything is connected to (or may be made to connect to) everything else.
    Four corollaries to this over-arching pan-connection are
    1. John loves meta-reference.
    2. John may treat the number of links from A to B and the links from B to Q as the same (because it's obvious! I mean, diamonds can be made to lase, so not only is "Lasers A Boy's Best Friend" kind of funny, lasers and diamonds are scientifically related).
    3. John thinks most of the connections are hysterically funny or deeply spiritual (sometimes both).
    4. John will be perplexed and bemused that the rest of the human population doesn't think the same way he does (you mean you can't see Nichol Kiddman in a Buzz Lightyear outfit?).

  5. John not-so-secretly wishes to speak, dress and act like 1800's era landed gentry from some BBC produced, PBS aired television show. This means that at least one of his characters can be expected to speak like a Lord Byron or Jane Austin understudy.

  6. One of John's fallback characters, often the protagonist or major character, is the Very Clever Naive Child. The VCNC is probably based on CS Lewis's young girl characters. John uses the VCNC to outwit Ineffectual Adults, as a voice to criticize societal norms, or as a way to not have to create a complicated adult character with complex emotions (because, well, not every character can be a Vulcan. Or Dorothy Gale.).

  7. John has this thing about semicolons, colons, and dashes -- it's not a problem; he can stop any time he wants to.

  8. John's primary mode of thinking is visual and he loves creating and reading eye-candy. If you are confused about a story element, chances are very good that John has a sketch of it in the little art book he carries around with him. So the character, action, or setting has to happen because there's a picture of it, and it's just So Cool!

So there you have it; the latest installation of rules. Armed with these and The John Is Writing Game, navigating a John Burridge story should be a snap.

Oh, wait -- I'm supposed to write a compelling story about a sympathetic character with an interesting problem... um...

"The classroom clock ticked away precious minutes Frank had to write the essay on the prose of Burridge. He'd done stupid things to try to get Sheryl's attention, but taking this Contemporary Speculative Fiction class was at the top of the list...."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Writing Tarot Cards

It's that time of year when writers write about fortune tellers and the tarot. So I thought I'd post about things that make me wince when authors write about the cards in urban or historical fantasy.

The One-Card Spread. One mistake a writer can make is to reduce a character's tarot card reading into an interpretation of a single card. Focusing on only one card is akin to casting a horoscope based on a person's birth or sun sign, or assigning a character a personality based on hair color.

Most tarot readings involve dealing out about ten cards into what is called a spread. While some spreads have a card designated "the final outcome," not all spreads do. Remember, the final outcome card is always modified by the other cards. Generally, a spread will have cards for the recent past, the present, and a possible future; it will indicate resources and obstacles; and it will have a card that is indicative of the client's character or current state of mind.

An Excruciatingly Detailed Spread. This is the flip side to the previous pitfall. Unless you're writing a guide to giving readings, or a story for a tarot anthology, overly detailed readings are like overly detailed fight scenes. The more detail an author includes, the more likely someone familiar with tarot will spot a mistake (or at least a different interpretation). All the story's reader ultimately cares about is what the cards say and what they mean emotionally to a character.

Over-Specific Cartomancy. The fortune teller deals out the cards, looks at the client, and says, "Tonight, your boyfriend, Steve, will be hit by a red Matrix while he is walking back from Seven Eleven, sipping a Pepsi...." In the stories I've seen this level of detail in, the cards have been cursed to always foretell disaster.

Alas, the cards usually aren't that specific, and if you write them that way, the audience members will wonder why tarot readers haven't won the lottery. A lot.

Take a cue from the Pythia of Delphi and make any advice from the cards obscure (although if a character is convinced the King of Swords in the "obstacles" position is their mean old Uncle Ben, that's an entirely different matter).

Popular Misinterpretations. Probably the most common mistake authors make is forgetting that there are seventy-eight different tarot cards and focusing on one of the more famous ones. Unfortunately, the famous cards are commonly misunderstood because they have emotionally laden and misleading titles.
  • The Death Card. Out of all the cards writers choose, Death is probably the most overused and abused tarot card in the deck. If a character has Death show up in their tarot card reading, that does not mean they are going to die; it means that they are going through some sort of transformation, like graduating from school. Repeat after me, "There is no death; only transformation."
  • The Lovers Card. Second after Death, the Lovers card is the other most overused and abused tarot card. The Lovers is not, as its name implies, about falling in love, it's about choice. A character getting the Lovers in a tarot reading isn't assured of a good romance or love.
  • The Devil Card. This card isn't about Lucifer, Satan, or the powers of Hell. It's about willfully being bound to things material and denying the spiritual aspects of the world.
Remember, like most anything, if you're going to write about tarot cards, a little research is your friend. Most tarot decks sold in the United States come with a little guide book of simple meanings. If you can't get your hands on a new deck's guide (or even if you can), find someone familiar with the tarot to be a first reader.

All Tarot Cards are from the Rider-Waite Deck. Most readers are familiar with the Rider-Waite deck, which is an author's freebie -- but don't forget a quick description if the cards are being used for those readers unfamiliar with them.

Tarot cards go back to medieval times (at least), and they looked differently than the Rider-Waite cards developed around the turn of the 20th century for the Order of the Golden Dawn. Remember to have your Regency, Elizabethan or Arthurian characters use precursors to the Rider-Waite deck. Older decks may have different suits. I've seen medieval (non-tarot) playing cards with suits based on hunting (leashes, horns, etc), and typically older tarot decks call the suit of wands or staves the suit of batons. I've also read a fantasy story where the suits were (I believe) ores, waves, flames, and clouds.

Contemporary decks may feature round cards, feminist themes, Art Nouveau aesthetics, collage decks, cat and dragon decks, and even a deck commissioned by Aleister Crowley (more on him below). There's even a deck based on the Rider-Waite deck where everyone is wearing clothing -- it's the sort of deck one could use to give a reading for one's grandmother and not have her have a heart attack when, say, The Lovers appear. (Assuming she didn't have a heart attack when the tarot cards were first mentioned.)

Aleister Crowley's Thoth Deck. Ah yes; I can already smell the stench of sulfur rising from the deck. Whenever an author wants to show that the tarot cards are evil, the card reader is evil, or that dirty work is afoot, out comes Crowley's Thoth Deck, with the Lust card (his version of the Strength card) right on top. It's the story equivalent of having a bad guy from a movie clack a rifle magazine, sell drugs, or molest children.

If you really want to show that the card reader is wicked, have them over-charge their clients, lead them on with promises of future secrets revealed at the next reading, and make them lie during readings to set the client up to fall in love with a fellow charlatan.

Remember, an ethical card reader will remind a client of the client's responsibility to make their own life choices, so if you want to show an evil reader, make their tarot reading style unethical.

The Tarot Cards Come Alive. This isn't so much wincable as it is has been done before in contemporary fantasy (and comic books), which is not too surprising since many modern tarot guides suggest that students have a focused daydream on a particular card as part of a meditation on its meaning.

Just, um, play nice with the card folks who are naked, okay?

Shrewsbury Singing

One of the difficulties in open air Renaissance Faire performance is that the players can often be heard quite a distance. This can be an impossible situation if you're, say, a harper trying to busk in the same county as a bag piper.

The Pearwood Pipers joined all of the madrigal singers at Shrewsbury on the main stage for a giant madrigal-fest. There's nothing quite like singing bass in the company of seven or so other accomplished bass singers.

However, several rounds of fa-la-la-la-la-ing later, the belly dancer dumbec ensemble fired up.

Let's just say Fair Philomena loses out to Fatima.

So as we prepared to sing Strike It Up Tabor, I said, "Hey, can't we sing this to the time of the belly dancers?"

And, uh, I just happened to have a tambour in my hand.

So the next thing I knew, I was shimmying in the center of the World's Fastest Rendition of Thomas Weelkes' little song.

In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that Thomas Weelkes was not born in the wagon of a traveling show. Which is too bad.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oyster Girl Gymnastics

One part of the Pearwood Pipers' routine is an acted out version of "The Oyster Girl" song. One of my friends says that I play The Oyster Girl all too well. I think it's the way I hold the basket.

For this particular performance (Sunday, 10:30 AM), the Pearwoods had moved into the hay bale seating, about halfway into the house of the main stage, in order to attract more guests to our show. So my back stage changing area was a little farther than it usually is.

The previous song, "New Oysters" is about twenty bars; plenty of time for me to hurry backstage, fling a white chemise over my Renaissance garb, replace my nice hat with a rattier one sporting a mop for a wig, and stuff detachable green sleeves into my chest to create instant bosoms.

Then comes the tricky part: running off a stage, vaulting several hay bales, snagging a basket full of oysters from a fellow Pearwood Piper, and propping myself up against the central canopy pole.

In four bars.

Just in time to be "a pretty little oyster girl." (PS: "oyster girl" is Elizabethan for exactly what you think it is.)

Luckily, I did not break a leg.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The Faire Is Open To All"

The Shrewsbury management kindly allows me to organize and lead parades. One of these is the Opening Parade. Making the Opening Parade happen involves running around the Faire with deer antlers on a staff, giving three curtain calls to about one hundred people (this includes frightening the merchants who are still setting up their stalls), then leading them in parade and song at the appointed hour through the faire grounds and out through the opening gate to greet our first guests.

After we were through the gate and facing a queue of guests, there was improvisation and singing. And then I flung my arms wide and proclaimed, "...Our Faire is open!"

I looked at the ticket booth built in on the right side of the main gate.

It wasn't open.

Ergo, no guests have paid admission.

Ergo, they can't enter our Fine Faire (which is Now Open To All).

And I've just run out of pre-planned improvisational lines. I very cleverly said the first thing that came into my head, "...and the gate's closed."

Leaping like an over-caffeinated MC with a band and an audience but no stage, I pretty much assaulted the ticket booth. Pounding on the wooden windows frames and shutters with my fists, I shouted, "Open! (pound!) Open the gates! (pound!) In the name (pound!)of the Virgin Queen (pound!), open the gates!"

And they did. It was a Capricorn's Dream Come True.


(PS: About five minutes later I realized that possibly the ticket takers and change makers might not have appreciated a frenzied actor turning their booth into a percussion instrument, but I asked and they apparently thought it was great.)

More Shrewsbury

During the Shrewsbury after-hours show, I got to lead all the Faire players in a sing-along of "Hey Ho, Nobody Home" as a ground underneath Lady Gaga's "Telephone."

It didn't quite work out the way that I expected it to because there were tempo problems. I attribute this to
  1. me not leading tempo very well,
  2. people not singing because they're listening to what melody I'm going to sing, and
  3. the whole thing falling apart because people were laughing too hard.

The next morning someone asked me to sing it again -- so I have pretty good proof that not only am I the funniest person I know, I'm the funniest person some other folks know.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Top Moments at Shrewsbury

The 2010 Shrewsbury Faire was a lot of fun. Over the next few posts, I'll relate some of the bright spots.

Dancing the Abotts Bromley Horn Dance.

The Bromley is a folk processional danced in England on Wakes Monday (usually around Labor Day). It is one of the few (if not the only) processionals to survive both the Reformation and Cromwell. The procession we do has regional differences from the way the folks in Britain dance it.

This year we had so many dancers who knew what they were doing, and we had an extra contingent of drummers and recorders to fill out the processional tune. This abundance and the hypnotic melody enabled me to very briefly lose myself in the procession. I know that it's going well when I can perform the hey formation and then just glide right into the horn clacking section.
I was speaking about the Bromley. I found myself comparing the Shrewsbury Bromley to the Southern Fair and British Bromleys and saying, "... so, at Shrewsbury we perform the Bromley the way that... Leslie... Engle... taught it to me." Which was weird, cool, terrifying, and aging all at the same time because
  1. it makes me A Living Link to Leslie Engle,
  2. it's fun to use a faux-English accent and say "Living Link", but
  3. I'm to young to be a Living Link.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Charm Bracelet

This was my Grandmother's charm bracelet. When she traveled, she'd get a little charm from the place she visited and added it to the links. I'm not sure when the custom of charm bracelets started, but I'm guessing it died out in the late sixties, as the last charms were acquired then.

Her birthday's in a few weeks; she died when she was 99, and would have been 101 this year.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pausing Before Shrewsbury

"Now is the month of Maying / When merry lads are playing / fa la la la la / Each with his bonnie lass / upon the greeny grass / fa la -- "

Hey! Where did all these pirates, Elves, and chicks in chain-mail come from ?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Why I Like The Pleiades

Why I like the Pleiades
  • They're really blue. They're the sort of blue I would like to wear. They're the sort of blue that belongs in diadems. They're the sort of blue that I would put into starship controls to let everyone know that the machinery is running optimally, making the starship skate along the stars like an Olympian Champion over the ice while Clara Rockmore plays Saint-Saëns' "The Swan".

  • They look like a tiny Big Dipper. This tiny Big Dipper is in the back of Taurus, the Bull, and it used to be an archery test to see how many of the little stars one could make out (and therefore, presumably how well you could see a target).

  • Their Japanese name is "Subaru" or "The Daughters of Industry," and you can see them on the hood of every Subaru car. Seeing them in the sky usually makes me say "Subaru" just because it's such a fun word and I wonder what the proper pronunciation should be.

  • But I think the reason I like them the most is that they (along with Orion) used to let me know if I had stayed up way too late as I was walking home from campus back in the 1980's. Sort of like a mother or a cadre of older sisters. Their reproach was silent. You'd look up, and there they'd be, silently to the left of the front porch if it was still before midnight, and just as silently to the right of the porch if it was after -- and you knew that the farther to the right (west) they were, the harder the next day was going to be. They were beautiful to look at.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Why I Like Antares

Why I like Antares.
  1. It's big and red, like the planet Mars; that's why it's called "The Rival (Anti) of Mars (Ares)." The star is an astronomy, a language and a mythology lesson all rolled up into one bright red package.

  2. It's the heart of Scorpio, the Scorpion. Scorpio is one of the few constellations that actually looks like what it is (in this case a really big scorpion). And it's wicked cool if only for the reason that if I'm going to have to be looking at a scorpion, at least this one is made up of twinkly stars, is light-years away and is unable to sting me.

  3. And finally, and best of all, every time I see Antares, it's an excuse to channel my Inner Nichelle Nichols in her role as Lt. Uhura and start singing "Beyond Antares."

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jupiter and Europa

The other night, I had a chance to watch Europa come out from behind Jupiter. (Kids, don't try this at home unless you want to lose your night vision.)

We'd been out in the country, away from the city lights, for about three hours. I'd say it was 11 PM. The Milky Way appeared in a blaze of glory from Sagittarius through the Summer Triangle, to Cassiopeia and Perseus. I stepped up to the telescope's eyepiece, mindful of the piercing cone of light which would resolve as (very) bright vision of Jupiter. I eased my sight onto the focused light, aware of my spasming right eye and contact lens.

Jupiter was as big as a button compared to the pinpricks of the stars. It was milky with bands of pastel red and orange. Three of the moons, Calisto, Ganymede, and Io, shone brightly in a line about ten o'clock to Jupiter. On the planet's opposite side, appearing as a goose pimple on one of the gas giant's darker bands, I could just discern Europa.

"Call the Pope," I joked, as Europa pulled away from Jupiter, and rose like a new bright star. Jerry Oltion pointed out that the telescope we were using has a much better resolution and magnifying power than Galileo's. But still, as I write this, I can't help but
  1. think about how I know that I'm looking at smaller bodies orbiting a larger one and so it's easier for me to attribute Jupiter and Europa's light show to Kepler's Laws of Planetary Mostion
  2. wonder how many modern people like myself have witnessed a moon coming out from behind a planet through a real live optical telescope.

I think I'll stop here before this turns into an intersection of science and religion essay.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Astronomy with Jerry Oltion

Last night Jerry Oltion and I went traveled a little East and South to the hills above Eugene for a little star party.

I was kicking myself for not packing a camera so I could take photographs of Jerry's telescope, which is a large reflector (I want to say he has an eighteen inch primary reflector) with a focal length of about eight feet. I'm trying to remember if Jerry's built this one from scratch, or merely (?) ground the mirror. He's able to fold it up so that it fits in his VW bug. There is no tube; the eyepiece and side reflector are held in place with by a kind of scaffolding of metal struts. Jerry has machined the struts so precisely that he doesn't have to worry (too much) about the optics not working after telescope assembly.

Jerry knows the sky very well, so he swiveled the telescope around to stars like Antares, a host of globular and open clusters, and various nebulas. I think one of the coolest sights through the telescope was a ruby red carbon star. It's a star that has accumulated a carbon ash atmosphere, which the sun heats up so that it is glowing like BBQ coals.

We also spent the evening looking for Sol-like stars within twenty light-years of Earth. This meant we spent an awkward moment or two realizing that we could remember back to 1990 and what we were doing then and what we would have done differently. Luckily there were no twenty-year-olds there to chime in, "I was a baby back then."

The most dynamic viewing was of the International Space Station. With Jerry helping out -- OK, really doing most of the work -- I was able to track the ISS in his telescope as it appeared in the west and arced north through the sky. Doing so was counter-intuitive as the image is reversed, so I had to push the telescope up when it appeared the ISS was falling down out of the field of vision.

When the ISS first appeared, I saw the sun reflecting off of its solar panel array. This appeared as a bright, yellow-white square. As we tracked the ISS, the solar panels were tracking the sun, so they appeared to change from a white square to a reddish diamond. Jerry's telescope was able to follow the ISS after it had dimmed beyond human eyesight.

And, of course, I got home very late.

Friday, September 03, 2010

NYC Greyhound Photo

Yesterday I was helping my Mother clean off her old computer. It reminded me that I have a lot of old photographs on various machines and, like many middle-Americans with digital cameras, I have a ton of photographs I should print out into an album (and, Mark would add, "Cull mercilessly."). As I was reviewing my photos, I ran across this one.

I like this photograph because A) it's a cool greyhound and griffin hybrid, B) it's in New York City near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and C) it's near a Maison du Chocolat. Seeing it also reminds me of our New York friend, Lime Green Larry, mostly because I seem to always call or text Larry when pass this particular gargoyle.

Strangely, although visits with Larry are often a feature of our New York City adventures, I think we've only visited with him in the MET once. And it occurs to me that I've been a neglectful friend, for though I'm sure that Larry knows how much I love the Egyptian and Near East wings, I only think Larry likes the Roman Marbles. And it's possible that he prefers the MOMA to the MET (I do know how much Larry loves Balducci's and Maison du Chocolate, so there's some hope.).

Time to reach for the phone....