Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tony Noland -Tony the Tiger

Philadelphia, U.S.A.
Blogging at Landless

There's no tiger in Tony tonight but there certainly is one in me.
"I just read your #fridayflash," I say, sitting up in bed, arms crossed, reading glasses hanging off a purple chain around my neck, laptop in my lap.
Tony's head is half-buried under a pillow on his side of the bed. 
"Uh huh," he says, half-asleep.
"Did you want to explain this?"
"Uh huh."
I wait, my blood pressure rising.
A snore comes from beneath the pillow.
He jumps, yells "whaaaa," the pillow flies up and whacks me upside the head. 
He's sitting up now, looking dazed.
"Cathy, what in the hell do you want?"
My hair is askew from the pillow. I blow it out of my face and try to look dignified.
"I'm hurt, Tony. Your story, Tony, it's about two women and sex and … and I'm thinking if you're writing about, um, sex, then you must not want me anymore." My bottom lip trembles. It's everything I can do not to cry.
Tony sighs.
"What story?" he asks.
"The chardonnay one. The one with the bridesmaids and the guy who looks like Harrison Ford with the big noodle."
My husband of nearly 19 years, the father of our four children, rubs his eyes wearily and smiles.
I love his smile.
I hate that I'm mad at him but I love that smile.
"Sweetie," he says, reaching for my hand, "it's just a story. Fiction. It's what we write."
I try to feel relieved. But then I remember what he wrote and I get upset again. "Tony, you wrote 'ass' in your story; some girl admiring his 'ass.' What if the kids see it? What if Ethel at the supermarket sees it? God, Tony, I'm embarrassed thinking about it!"
"It's not my ass,  Cathy, it's Daniel's ass."
"You're writing about Daniel's ass? Who's Daniel? You're not gay, are you? Tony? You're not going to leave me for this Daniel guy, are you? Is that why you listen to that Elton John song all the time?" I start to blubber this time, and not in an attractive way. Tony grabs a Kleenex off the bureau and wipes the snot bubble that's forming under my nose.
"Thanks," I say. 
Tony gives up on the idea of sleep and sits up. "I don't write because I'm thinking about leaving you," he says. "I write for a lot of reasons, as I imagine most people do. Sometimes it's to work out a story I have buzzing in my head; sometimes it's to get a point across, or to hold a point of view up to the light to see the flaws more clearly. Some writing is therapeutic; some is just to show off, or just for fun. Sometimes it's just to do something as an artistic expression, arising from the impulse to create something of beauty and grandeur and power."
He talks patiently. A sparkle appears in his hazel-green eyes whenever he talks about writing. I start to feel better.
"The currency of writing is in the emotional impact it makes on the reader. I guess I did a good job on this one, judging by your emotional reaction. I wrote Another Glass of Chardonnay because the image came to me of a serious flirtation gone horribly wrong … and then it went off into an entirely new direction as I wrote it out. This particular piece evokes so many different responses, depending on who you identify with – humour, delight, arousal, pity, anger. I can't claim it's art, but I like it."
I like it, too. "Your story reminds me of a date night romantic comedy," I say, "A slightly risque one that might star Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. I love those two together, don't you? Hollywood definitely has the romantic comedy down to a fine art form. Honey, why do you think it is such a popular theme in movies and in novels? And why does it seem to be such an American thing? Certainly Canada is almost incapable of producing such a beast."
Tony arches his eyebrow. He's probably wondering how I would know so much about Canada, being married to him and living in the States and all. But I am a mysterious flower, a trillium, as a matter of fact.
"Movies and novels are frequently a venue for wish fulfilment. Spy movies and novels let us imagine ourselves as urbane, clever and tough. Adventure movies and novels let us imagine ourselves as strong, resourceful and dedicated. Romance fiction lets us be witty, bold, coquettish and passionate. All of the different genres and sub-genres exist to allow us to experience whatever we want out of romance – independence, dominance, helplessness, pure physicality, or deep emotional connection."
He smiles down at me. He's so much taller and more handsome than I am.
"Am I boring you, sweetie?"
"No," I say admiringly. "Never."
"Everybody needs to love and everybody needs to laugh. Romantic comedy lets you vicariously fulfill both of those desires while ensuring a certain distance that keeps it safe.
"I don't know that Hollywood has any kind of lock on romantic comedies as an example of escapist fiction, or if it's a particularly American thing. I can't speak authoritatively, but Americans always seem to be looking over their shoulder to see if what's coming next is better than what they have. That deep-rooted anticipatory dissatisfaction has certainly led to a lot of great advances, as people have asked, 'How could this be even better?' 
"However, it's also led to an ethos of the throw-away society based on assumed obsolescence. Is it that Canadians are inclined to think more deeply, to be more accepting and find satisfaction in their lives, less beset by the restless discontent that makes Americans twitch so much?"
His left eyebrow, the one with the old scar on it from a punch in the face – no, I didn't do it – twitches.
"All I know is, if I could write a knock-out romantic comedy, I'd be happy to have it star Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. I would look so awesome on the red carpet at the opening in London."
"You would look awesome," I tell him. "You look awesome in anything. Even those ratty grey gym shorts you wear to bed every night. Imagine if all those bazillions of female followers you have on your blog could see you in those."
Tony stops smiling. "I don't have that many female followers, do I?"
"It sure seems like you do. They're always commenting on something you have to say."
"Let me see the laptop for a second," he says, and grabs it out of my hands.
"Hey!" I say. "I was drooling over Alan Davidson. Give me that back!"
"Hang on," he says, and starts to count his female followers. He stops suddenly and asks, "who is Alan Davidson?"
"Just this Canadian blogger guy… well, stud-muffin, how many?"
Tony has a triumphant smile on his face. "There are 81 friends and followers of Landless, only 36 of which are female. Hang on…" he punches in a few numbers on the computer calculator. "That's just 44.4 per cent of the total. I think it may seem like I have MANY female followers because they are somewhat more vocal than the male followers. For instance, the only proposals of extramarital affairs I've received have come from female followers, although I'm pretty sure they were all just kidding."
I pick up my pillow and thump him with it as hard as I can. The laptop goes flying and hits the carpet with a dull thud.
"Oh way to go, jealous one," he says, reaching for the computer. "I was just kidding. Lucky for you, this thing still works.
"Seriously, though, what's up with that? If my fiction and my blog appeal to women more than men, why might that be? Hell if I know. I'm a guy – confusion about that kind of thing is written in my DNA. It can't be my fiction, since that's all over the map. I've got main characters that are male, female, confused, confident, troubled, sanguine, victorious and victimized. Some of my writing is like this story, funny and risque, but I'm pretty sure most of it is in a much darker, harder tone. 
"I haven't gone back and tallied up the count of nice versus nasty though, so I'll just posit that. 
"Is it the blog posts? None of them are overtly saucy, unless someone else out there has a semicolon fetish. I mean, someone out there. Not someone else. Because I don't. I mean, I like semicolons, but not in that way."
I look at him like he's a strange kind of bug.
Tony chuckles.
"Anyway, I've always understood that if you want friends, you need to be friendly. That's easier in some contexts than in others but, in general, I'm a pretty friendly kind of guy. To be honest, however, I've never been very good at determining when women are flirting with me versus simply being friendly. Although it hasn't been an issue for a long time, it got me into trouble sometimes in the past.
"Women would get upset, thinking I was playing at being Mr. Cool and deliberately blowing off the flirtations when, in fact, I was not being restrained and aloof … just dense."
"You do have your moments, Tony," I say.
"Gee," he says, "thanks. You hankering for another pillow sandwich?"
"You do and you, your grey shorts and all your female followers are sleeping on the couch."
He grins and flicks off the bedside light. "I think we're going to need a bigger couch."

Another Glass of Chardonnay
by Tony Noland
Carol couldn’t go on sitting there, just sipping her wine and wiping her lips. As much as she hated the old saying about bridesmaids and getting laid, if she didn't make a move on this guy, some kind of a move, she’d be kicking herself for weeks. It wasn't just the tuxedo; Daniel would have been heart attack gorgeous wearing jeans and flip flops. No, it was everything about him. His eyes, his hands, his ass, everything. Out of the corner of her right eye, she watched him.
He wasn't just incredibly cute; he was articulate and funny, like a young Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones-type Harrison Ford, not Han Solo. Carol had definitely hit the lottery in the groomsman department. Her brother's other friends were obviously preening in their rented tuxes; Daniel looked like he'd been born to wear his. He was graceful, muscular, and a great dancer, although he didn't make a big deal out of it.
Please, she thought, please let him not be gay.
Ever since the wedding ceremony - hell, ever since the rehearsal last night - she had been dropping hints and flirting like crazy. He seemed to be receptive and had returned the banter, but was letting her make the moves.
Ellen, Carol's sister, had been hitting on him too, but Carol didn't think he'd been paying her any attention. She hoped not.
One final swallow finished off her wineglass. She wiped her lips, then lowered her hand to set her napkin on her lap. Eyes fixed front, with a deep breath, she slid her hand over onto Daniel's lap.
He stiffened, but said nothing. She paused, then pressed his left thigh with her open palm. Daniel wiped his own lips, then moved his left hand under the table. He rested it on her wrist, gently pressing
her hand to him.
Carol flushed and squeezed him. His fingers closed lightly around her wrist; she slid her hand farther over, wanting to make her intentions clear. After a moment, she reached her target.
Not gay, she thought, not at all gay.
His left hand around her wrist, he gently urged her on, placing her hand firmly on top of... another hand?
What the hell? Was he some kind of pervert? Touching himself with his right?
It was then that she felt the other hand try to pull away, its long fingernails scratching hers. Carol tried to pull back her own hand, but Daniel's fingers around her wrist held it in place. The other hand, the one with the fingernails, was also unable to escape. Carol couldn't help but have her hand side by side with someone else's, pinned down on top of Daniel.
Carol leaned forward to see who was sitting on the other side of Daniel, just as her sister Ellen did the same. They both sat back, bolt upright.
Daniel, both of his strong hands under the table, held them in place in his lap until they calmed down, and the danger of a public scene was passed. He turned back and forth from Carol to Ellen, giving each the kind of smile that would light a cigarette across a crowded bar. Then, slowly, he released their wrists and lifted his own hands to the table. He leaned back in his seat to see what they would do.

This one's for you and your lovely wife, Tony. It was just photoshopping, bad photoshopping, I swear ...


  1. This was a hoot. Loved it. And yes, Tony is definitely a looker.

  2. Yep, he's a looker alright. And I love that story. I wonder what happened when those sisters went home.

    This was a grand finale, Cathy.

  3. OMG. I almost shot coffee out my nose at the photo shop of you and Tony (I notice your hand was on his left boob).

    That was a hilarious interview. Yikes! It's scary to think that I'm being discussed in the boudoirs of America...I hadn't noticed an excess of 'girl fans'...and I had dark hair like Tony's (30 years ago!) Tony made some good points in the interview about the emotional impact of one's story on the reader.

    That was also a hilarious story, Tony. I shall be following your #Fridayflash stuff from now on.

  4. Great story. Why do people behave so badly at weddings?

    And the photoshopped pic... what a cute couple! :)

  5. I'm reading this series with same delight I used to get from good SNL skits. You're a funny gal, Cathy. But seriously, let's not forget that mancakes like Tony want to be appreciated for their minds, too.

  6. Was away all day and come home to THIS! I am laughing so much it hurts!

    Ow. Ow. What a hilarious introduction to Tony. Great picture. Ow. Ow.

    And story of cad and the sisters was just great!

    Ow. Ow.

  7. Good interview, Tony, and what a photo.

  8. Tony, i dig your style, man... gonna add you to the reading list and I have to thank Cathy for introducing us to you.

  9. Cathy, I think you've created a new genre with this interview-fantasy hybrid.

    Tony, your answers are all thoughtful: the point about a story 'changing' according to who reads it, your observation about the restlessness of so many Americans, how it leads to wastefulness and dissatisfaction, your points about wish-fulfillment. And your story was very entertaining. I see those girls' faces in my mind - a riot of reactions!

  10. Finally made it over to catch up on my missed compadres.

    This was hilarious, insightful and gosh dangit, just plain fun.

  11. Um... "mancakes"?

    You guys are still gonna love me for my mind, right? Right?

  12. Tony, I'm not ever loving you for your mind after this. Just kidding, but oh my goodness. What a wonderful and fun interview, and as usual I'm a fan of the writing.


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