Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chapter 1 - The Baby in the Bag

Chapter 1

I was really nervous while I waited in the Green Room, back stage on the “Tonight Show”. This was my first time on television and I was invited to appear because I’d written a short novel about surfing that was then made into a movie. I remember watching the wall-mounted monitor as Jay’s first guest, the handsome movie star Rock Studstones, looking larger than life, appeared to promote his latest block buster action movie.

Jay made the introduction. ”Please welcome a good friend of the Tonight Show, Rock Studstones!”

The curtain parted and Rock peacocked out, giving that little pistol finger point over to Kevin, the band leader.

Rock looked super cool in his tailored black blazer, designer blue jeans and white skin tight shirt, his highlighted pecks appearing as if they were made of hard plastic, which they probably were.

As the audience screamed its approval Rock strutted over to Jay, looking like the big dog in the proverbial junkyard. They shook hands and gave each other a friendly hug, like old friends do. And I had to follow that!

Jay continued, “Rock, it’s always good to see you. How are you, my friend?”

“I’m fantastik Jay,” Rock replied, in his Austrian accent.

“You look great. I see you’ve been working out.”

“Ya, you know, I do vat I can to look good for da ladies.”

“Speaking of ladies, how’s your girlfriend, Chi Chi Gigante?”

“Jay, you kan’t believe everyding you read in da tabloids. We are nodding but best friends, you know.”

“Best friends with benefits!”

The audience chuckled, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Rock smiled his electric silky-smooth used car salesman way. You know the kind that seems three quarters genuine and one quarter deceitful. Man, was he cool.

“So Rock, tell me about your new movie. I love the title, ‘Everyone Dies’”.

“Ya Jay, it’s an action movie. The main character, me, is a mild manner account, Jack Numbers. He stumbles across a money laundering scheme and discovers you know, dat da money is koing to a group of midget terrorists who vant to destroy da world.”

“Dwarfs want to destroy the world? Sounds like a really short story!”

That Jay, he really cracked me up with that one.

“Why do they want to do that?” Jay continued.

“Day are angry because all da fast food chains super size everyding. Da leader of da midgets, Jumbo Shrimp, had a terrible incident vid a super-sized meal. He fell into da drink cup and almost drowned.”

“Oh waiter, what’s that dwarf doing in my drink?”

“The back stroke!” the audience yelled back, da dum.

“So, you take on the dwarf terrorists?”

“Ya, da’s vight.”

“I watched a preview earlier and I really enjoyed it. But there seems to be a lot of gratuitous violence.”

“True. I vouldn’t recommend taking da kiddies. Vait for da video game.”

“Who else stars in it?”

“Jay, we have a great kast. The beautiful Martha Pumphandle plays my love interest and da African-Mexican actor, Pacito Jones plays Jumbo Shrimp.”

“Alright, well, let’s take a look at a clip. Do you need to set this scene up?”

“Ya Jay, in dis scene I’m in da terrorists’ secret underground hideout. I’ve been captured and tied to a conveyor belt dat’s slowly winding toward a buzz saw, you know.”

“Sounds like the Lilliputians have an axe to grind. Let’s take a look,” Jay said, swiveling his chair to see the flat screen behind him.

The monitor cuts to the clip. I watched the scene. And like Rock said, he’s tied to a slow moving belt headed toward a spinning screaming buzz saw. I couldn’t see the dwarf terrorists. All I could see were the tops of their heads, little hands and arms flailing from behind that belt, looking like a wheat field waving behind a fence.

“Well, Jack Numbers, seems as if you’ve met your match,” Jumbo Shrimp said, even though I couldn’t see him.

“Ha! It vill take more dan you to best me. I vill never let you destroy da world.”

“Soon you’ll be cut down to size, Jack Numbers.”

“I do not dink so. You vill always be half da man I am.”

I watched as Rock wiggled his hand free and using his diamond studded Rolex sliced away his ropes, sprang off the belt, somersaulting as he did, wrestled free a machine gun from one of the small guards and began spraying bullets all around. The dwarf terrorists scampered away to hide behind scattered boxes and in the darkened corners, like cockroaches suddenly caught in the light. All the while Rock was screaming, “Hasta luego, you vittle terrorists.”

Afterward, the audience exploded with cheers and applause.

“Mr. Attola? You’re on after the next commercial break,” one of Jay’s interns then informed me.

I looked up to the monitor just in time to hear Jay say, “We’ll be right back with the author Parc Attola after this commercial break.”

So, I followed the intern to the back of the stage and waited. I could feel the sweat begin to gather under my arm pits, like dew hanging from a tree. I was glad I wore a tee shirt.

“Okay, Mr. Attola, once we come back, Jay’ll introduce you. After he does, walk on out, over to Jay and take the seat next to his desk.”

Finally, we’re back on air.

“You may not know my next guest, but he wrote the novel ‘Bigger than Big Wednesday’ that’s just been made into a movie and it’s getting rave reviews. Please welcome Parc Attola!”

That was my queue. I swallowed hard, feeling my neck muscles push down the little saliva I had like a snake choking down a rat, and walked out into the bright lights. I couldn’t see the audience. All I saw was a black abyss. Yet, I could feel hundreds of eyes scanning over me. I wanted to be cool too, so I gave Kevin that same pistol finger point. Kevin looked at me like I’d just peed in his corn flakes. It wasn’t a good start.

I walked over to Jay and we shook hands. His was cool and dry. Mine was wet and clammy. As I walked around his desk and sat down, I noticed Jay wiping his hand on his pants. Rock was sitting next to me. So, I shook hands with Rock and said, “Midget terrorists, man that’s too funny.”

Rock merely nodded his head in that you’re a loser kind of way.

“Parc, welcome to the Tonight Show.”

“Thanks Jay,” I said, as polite clapping dribbled from the audience.

“I’ve read your book,” Jay continued. ”I thought it was very exciting and emotional. Are you a surfer?”

“Yeah, but I’m not very good. Not much surf in Florida.”

“Accept during the hurricanes!”

More laughter.

“So, how does it feel to see your book on the big screen?”

“Well Jay,” I began, crossing my legs and noticing the lint on my dark socks, “it’s not exactly the same story. After I sold the rights, the producers told me that there needed to be some changes, to appeal to a wider audience.”

“Oh really? What changes did they make?”

“Well, for one thing, there’re no Killer Whales off the Florida coast. Also, in my novel, the main character doesn’t drive a Ferrari.” I continued, uncrossing my legs and sitting back. ”He’s a sixteen-year-old kid, abandoned by his father as his mother struggles to make a living and raise him to be a man. And he definitely doesn’t hang out with Laird Hamilton. But, the producers thought the movie needed a big name surfer in it. They even have the kid involved with the pop star, Britney Spirits.”

“How’d that make you feel when you heard about that?”

“Like a virgin in a prison shower with a new bar of soap!”

The audience actually laughed at that one as Jay tee-heed like he sometimes does when he hears a sexual innuendo. Things were looking up.

“What a crazy world,” Jay commented.

“Yes it is, with the war and everything,” I replied, trying to make small talk, as old friends do.

“Speaking of the war, what do you think is the number one problem facing this country?”

“Well Jay, it may not be as important to everyone as, say, the war, but I’d like to see universal health care.”

The audience clapped approvingly. So, I continued, encouraged.

“I mean, I can’t understand how the richest country in the world can’t provide decent health care for its citizens. People can’t afford prescription drugs any more. They now have to go to Canada or Wal-Mart to buy them.”

“Kevin, you know something about drugs and Canada.”

The audience snickered as Kevin smiled at Jay.

“Parc, do you smoke pot?”

“I’ll take the fifth on that one. By the way, Kevin, is it 4:20 yet?”

Now the audience began to whoop and holler, cheer and clap. Things were going great. I was funny and the audience seemed to like me.

“What would you do about the war?” Jay continued.

“I don’t know Jay. I’m not a movie star.”

Oops! Well, that did it. I never should’ve mentioned the war or dissed the Hollywood elite. That’s when I’d inadvertently stepped over that line into the thick sand of politically incorrect free speech. This is where my story actually begins.

After my slight of the beautiful people, Jay, I guess, wanted to stir things up. He turned to Rock and said, “Rock, haven’t you come out against the war?”

“Da, I have,” Rock answered, his square chin jutting forward from beneath his mouth, looking like Mount Rushmore. ”Da Bush administration has done noding but lie to da American people. Da President stole da election and his fascist regime has driven dis country down da vong path, you know. I know for a fact dat dis President planned 911 to get us into da vor.”

Now, I try to stay out of politics as much as I can. In my opinion, all politicians really want is to attain and maintain power, kind of like organized religion. I’m convinced that they really don’t care about anything else. But, I couldn’t let this go.

“Rock,” I turned and said, “didn’t you say that if the President was elected, you’d move out of the country? Yet, here you are. What’s with that?”

The audience became silent. It felt like I’d farted during a church sermon. Jay sat there looking like the cat that’d swallowed the canary.

“I vas speaking metaphorically, you know. I can do more to fight dis vicked administration vight here.”

“Get out. You’re just like that other actor who raged about getting out the vote. And he wasn’t even registered. What a bunch of hypocrites.”

Oops again! But, that did actually feel good to say.

“Now Parc,” Jay said, trying to regain a modicum of control.

But I couldn’t stop. I felt the situation going down hill and like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver I struggled to regain the audiences’ approval.

“What kind of name is Rock Studstones anyway? Sounds like you’ve got pebbles for stones.” Hey, I thought it was funny. Nobody else did as the silence from the audience grew steadily louder.

“Ha dare you!” Rock responded, his ears turning red.

“Yes I do, you pussy.” I really had no idea where that came from.

“Vat did you call me?”

“A pussy.”

“Vi I ought to.”

“Stand up Nancy and I’ll shove my foot so far up your ass, you’ll be tasting my toe jam for a week!”

They cut to a commercial after that and my time on the “Tonight Show” ended. Jay called for security. Rock gave me the finger, even after I’d asked him for his autograph, and I already had the twenty dollars he charges right in my sweaty hand. They wouldn’t even let me stick around and listen to the musical guest, the Pewbs. The only person who said anything nice to me was Kevin, and all he said was “Goodbye”.

“The Baby in the Bag, A Politically Incorrect Tale”

By Doug Hanau


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chapter 1 - Cafe Tempest: Adventures on a Small Greek Island by Barbara Bonfigli

“Welcome to Pharos. Laugh and dance in the hammock—not the cradle—of Western civilization,” says author, lyricist, and theatrical producer Barbara Bonfigli. “I’ve been falling in love with Greece since I was old enough to drink retsina. But if Sarah hadn’t captured my imagination you’d never know how I feel about friendship, feta, and the abundance of grace that turns friends into lovers and fishermen into kings.”


When Sarah, a thirty-something American theatrical producer, is asked to direct the locals in their summer show, she picks Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. What follows is a hilarious adventure in casting, rehearsing, and consuming. Her neighbors are excited about acting but delirious about eating. Their rehearsals in a deconsecrated church become a feast in four acts.

Armed with a sizzling wit, a dangerously limited Greek vocabulary, and a pitch-perfect ear for drama, Sarah navigates the major egos and minor storms of a cab driver Caliban, a postmaster Prospero, and a host of fishermen dukes and knaves.

When she falls in love, there are even trickier seas to navigate. Her own offstage romance provides an exhilarating, unpredictable counterpoint to Shakespeare’s story of magic, intrigue, and the power of love.

Chapter 1

No one else’s behavior makes any sense.

That’s it! The end of a continuous struggle for meaning since the third grade. That’s when I took a long look at the Brownie pledge. “On my honor I will try . . .” noble and uplifting; “. . . to God and country . . .” I feel like saluting. But then the ending . . . “especially those at home.” Sappy and rambling. I sent off my rewrite to National Headquarters and told them they could use it gratis—a word I may have misspelled. No reply yet, but you can’t expect an organization that sounds like chocolate cake to make snap decisions.

The site of this revelation is the charter terminal at Heathrow, where we’re spending the morning en route to Athens. Icarus Air warns you there’s a price to pay for flying on a shoestring. “Be there three hours before takeoff,” they command. Three hours! Whatever happened to “catching a plane? (I have a little problem with time, which I blame on skipping first grade. “She can already read,” they told my parents. They forgot to mention that first grade is where you learn to tell time, and maybe even understand it.) Nor am I thrilled to be flying with a company named for the only air disaster in Greek mythology. Icarus was the fearless god who flew so close to the sun his wax wings melted. I’m not afraid of flying either. Landing, maybe.

I look over the check-in choices and pick Anthony, sympathetic and snappy looking in a uniform that blends nicely with the ticket counter and carpet. With my French roast and Viennese beans, my pepper mill, yoga mat, and summer reading, I’m probably way overweight. As I get closer to Anthony, I do some tai chi balance shifts and practice sending waves of love in his direction. I also run my fingers through my unruly curls and drag a few over one eye in an attempt to look more vulnerable. And I pocket my sunglasses so my grandmother’s startling blue eyes can destabilize him. Meanwhile my lower mind takes in the drama unfolding between him and the slim-limbed miniskirted French bombshell in front of me.

“May I see your visa for Greece, madam?”

“See my what!?”

Anthony blushes and clears his throat. “Do you have a visa for Greece?”

“Ah . . . Oui.” She nods her blond sheaves vigorously. “I ’ave one partout!”

He smiles a weary, lost-empire smile. “You have a passport for everywhere. A visa is something else.”

Something else?” She turns to me bewildered. “Comment?”

“Autre chose,” rises from the ruins of my eighth-grade French.

Pourquoi something autre?” She turns back to him, impatiently clicking her fingernails in time with her stiletto heels.

He reflects, scribbles something, and announces: “I think your French driver’s license will be acceptable.”

Yes! Anthony’s my guy. What’s a little overweight compared to illegal entry?

“Accept a table?” she turns again and practically shouts at me.

Acceptable?” I try, though I know French cognates are the undergraduate’s Waterloo.

“You are American, no?” she demands. Rude, and crushing. Lots of people think my accent is Parisian. Admittedly they all live in San Francisco.

“I just want to help you,” I say in a soft tone I reserve for crazy people.

“So do I,” Anthony chimes in, picking up my technique of short simple sentences.

I just want to check in!” says Alex, right behind me. She turns her wheely bag around.

“Where are you going?” I ask in perfect English.

“To a line of my own.”

Alex (Alexandra, if she thinks you’re not taking her seriously) decided to come along at the last minute. But it was Julian’s idea that I take this unscheduled vacation. Julian is my partner in a West End theater company. Our affair ended the same week our play closed. I knew the play had a limited run, so that wasn’t a surprise. As for the Sarah and Julian show, I ignored the critics and willfully overlooked the dwindling returns. Which brings me to the painful conclusion that I’m better at acting than at casting.

Julian thinks it’s a happy coincidence; we can take a break from each other without hurting the business. I think it’s karma, and karma is a rolling stone; better to roll with it than stand in its path. So I’ve been planning a few weeks of uncluttered renewal on a remote Greek island. Uncluttered as in empty beach, cloudless skies, time alone to meditate, work on a novel, and finish an overdue magazine article. Renewal as in retsina. Plus I thought I’d made it clear to my friends that Pharos doesn’t rhyme with Mykonos, Jackie O never slept there, and the nearest mojito is a five-day sail. No burgers, no discos, and as for getting a torn nail repaired, claws would grow first. Whereas the incomparable charms of Pharos I’ve been keeping to myself. So I’m not sure what’s inspired Alex to come. Could it be she’s more tuned in to the state of my heart than I am? Asking would only introduce logic into our relationship—a cheap tactic I abandoned long ago. Is there any chance she’ll last the month? No way, say our friends, who’ve never agreed on anything before. I suspect they’re placing bets; I just wish there were some way to get into the pool. Thanks to Icarus Air, she now has time to plunder in Duty Free. I find her swinging a full basket.

“Why are you buying all this stuff you don’t need and so cleverly didn’t pack?”

“C’mon, Sarah. I thought this was a vacation?”

“It is.”

“Fine. See you.” She slides away.

“And raise you . . .” She doesn’t hear. It isn’t the first time I’ve talked to a wall. But it is the first time the wall replied: GIVE UP trying to understand other people.

(It’s an odd thing about revelations. I’ve meditated at the best places: Ashram in India, hot tub at Esalen, beside the lake in Pokara . . . and I can’t recall the great Aha! hitting me at any of them. Here I am at Terminal 4. Why go anywhere?)

Alex reappears, an outbreak of plastic bags blooming on her carry-on.

“Did he say Gate Fourteen?” she says, chewing on a giant duty free Toblerone bar. “I think they’re calling our flight.”

“I wish I knew,” I say, breaking a piece off the end.

Heathrow’s the summer school for places that teach English as a second language; articles are optional and, interestingly, there’s no future tense. Plus its PA system is a holdover from the Blitz. So the odds of making your plane are roughly the same as colliding with a neutrino. We find another carpet-coordinated employee who says “Leaving! Porto 14 !” Alex races me to the gate, where we stand panting in a line that takes forever to board.


We’re flying in Europe, a continent of smokers who’ve recently been banned from lighting up on planes. Everyone around us has the DTs; they’re desperately uploading caffeine and wishing they could just step out on the wing for a puff. The guy on our aisle is shaking his foot and studying the Icarus Air evacuation cartoon . . . In my opinion they should let people light up and drink from takeoff to landing. All this pent-up fear and deprivation would certainly mess up an orderly ditching at sea.

Give up trying to understand other people, I remind myself. Why, I wonder, has this revelation taken so long?

At thirty-nine thousand feet I look around at my fellow man with a new lightness, the enormous burden of comprehension abandoned at Duty Free. They’re all digging into a mysterious seafood starter. Icarus is an airline that serves food for revenge. Fortunately I have the picnic skills to meet this challenge.

“Alex, let’s have our banquet before the headwinds hit.”

I detect a little hostility from the guy on the aisle, sawing uselessly on his seeded roll as Alex lays out our smoked salmon, pumpernickel, Brie, and Chablis. Unless it’s an involuntary reaction to the cheese, with it’s whiff of socks left out in the rain.

“Would you like some smoked salmon?” she asks him.


“No. Salmon,” says Alex, squeezing the lemon.

“Alex, signome is Greek for ‘excuse me.’ ”


“Thelete ligo—would you like some . . . ?” I try. But the word for salmon escapes me. I point at it.

She looks back. “Pointing is Greek?”

“Oxi, efharisto.” No, thanks. “Eime hortophagos.”

“He’s a vegetarian,” I explain to Alex. “And the Brie is ripe enough to moo, so let’s skip that.”

“We ought to offer him something,” she says, displaying her notorious generosity. “He can have my entire Icarus lunch.” I say in an attempt to imitate her—though you could hardly call this a test.

Oxi, efharisto—no thanks,” he smiles discerningly.

I pour him a cup of Chablis.

When dessert comes around it’s Turkish delight, in celebration of the three-thousand-year blood feud between Greeks and Turks.

“God, that looks terrible,” she says.

“Not as terrible as it tastes.”

She brings out our crème brûlée. During which I share my revelation, inspiration deleted.

“You mean to say you’ve been trying to understand everyone?”

“Well, not Charles Manson or the Spice Girls . . . but as a rule, yes.”

“What a wild idea.” Alex puts down her spoon. “How’s it turning out?”

“I’ve just given it up.”

She raises her cup of Chablis. “How do you say ‘bravo’ in Greek?”

“I think it is Greek.” And we click.

A few hours later we cross the Corinth channel and drop into the haze of Athens. The landing gear bangs into place. Moments later a stewardess comes over the speaker. “We’ll be coming through the isles to collect unwanted items. Please fasten your cups and throw away your seat belts.”

Sometimes I wish I could follow directions.

To learn about Barbara Bonfigli and Café Tempest, feel free to visit any of these sites.

Order Café Tempest directly from the publisher - or from Amazoné-Tempest-Adventures-Small-Island/dp/0981645313

To see the complete tour schedule visit

Barbara Bonfigli’s website –