A Series of Unfortunate Choices

The book Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser (one of my favorites) is set on a night just like this one: a late-summer night under an almost-full moon. It’s a perfect book for nights like these!

Anyway, here’s a guest blog post by Julie about one of our adventures this summer:


Does anyone have a story you’d like to tell here about your own series of unfortunate choices, whether things turned out badly or well? — or a story about a trip you took this summer? (Just a key moment from such a trip can make the best kind of story: a scene you saw, an epiphany that came to you, the impact a certain place or person or situation had on you this summer. There’s a key to good writing in that: usually, the more specific you get, the more universal your scene becomes. Include those real details, take us into your moment, and you will take us into a moment of our own.) We’re all ears!

15 Responses to A Series of Unfortunate Choices

  1. i am mr brown snowflake says:

    Confusion reigns on once-popular blog

    BEAVER FALLS, Pa. — There was a time when the blog once regularly attended to by host Frederic S. Durbin was a popular stop for many devoted followers.

    All that changed over the first half of this year, as professional duties and a seeming lack of attention from the host led to prolonged stretches of inactivity, raising concerns among the more hardcore of Durbin’s net-minders.

    “I have to admit I was losing my patience,” easily-irritated follower Mr. Brown Snowflake said. “We all have busy lives, and I told Fred several times he didn’t need to post 1,000 word masterpieces that would wow us, just jot down a few thoughts and we would take it from there.”

    BS’s urging appeared to hit home when Durbin posted only his seventh entry of 2016 — and the first not dealing with his obsession over old typewriters — July 26.

    Popular longtime fan Shieldmaiden quickly joined the conversation, as did devotee DayLily. One-time regular Jedibabe pleased the blogosphere by chiming in as well, with others also chiming in.

    Well over two dozen responses were quickly posted and it appeared a return to the halcyon days of yore was imminent when, as Brown Snowflake had privately warned Shieldmaiden, Durbin again went incognito.

    He recently re-emerged, but this time with a post from the blog of his lovely wife, the esteemed Dr. Julie Durbin.

    Doing so has led to consternation among the loyalists, as many will, no doubt, have read Mr. Durbin’s blog, followed his suggestion to read Mrs. Durbin’s latest post, and then be perplexed as to which blog on which to respond.

    “I think all the vapors from the chemicals he is using to clean his growing collection of old typewriters (Durbin let slip, in aside to BS over tacos in late June, that the number had swelled well past a dozen) is effecting him,” Brown Snowflake said. “He has resorted to an old journalistic trick — get permission to run someone else’s work and make it appear you have been busy. That won’t fly with me, as much as I do enjoy hearing from the good doctor.”

    Never one to withhold an opinion, BS was quick to express his hope Durbin’s own voice would soon return.

    “The typewriters are a crock,” he said. “When Fred is screwing around on them, he is not posting to the blog. I understand and appreciate neurosis, but I hope he will soon return to regular posts.”

  2. Mrs. Spamman says:

    I don’t have a story of unfortunate choices, but I do know the stretch of highway from South Bend to Chicago which caused some of your unfortunate choices. We were stuck there this summer, too. We had no trouble heading east, even though we had left on a Wednesday morning. Chicago traffic wasn’t bad either, although we take the tollway around the city. Then after a whirlwind tour of several historic places out East, we started heading for home. The plan was to spend Saturday evening visiting with our goddaughter and her family, go to church with them Sunday morning, and head out soon after lunch. When we arrived on Saturday, we found out that she had a softball game on Sunday afternoon. So we decided that we could stay for part of the game to see her play. So we started our final leg toward home a bit later than planned, but that was okay. We were fine until we hit the Indiana border, which is when it started pouring. The rain was coming down so hard that many cars were simply pulling over. We continued on, and the rain stopped. We thought all would be fine until traffic stopped. I think we were still east of South Bend, but it was traffic that we would have preferred to have avoided. If there is a bright spot to the story, that would be supper. It was well past suppertime be the time we reached Chicago. Fortunately traffic was better now. (We again were taking the tollway around the city.) We decided to stop at an oasis for food and a much needed rest. It was just pizza by the slice, but the nice thing about those oases is that they go across the highway, so you can sit by the windows and watch the traffic go under you. It’s something we have done before, but it still is always fun. It was a good way to make the best of that day and a great way to close out a wonderful family trip.

    • fsdthreshold says:

      Thank you, Mrs. Spamman, for that story! Wow! I am glad that you all had the peace and joy of spirit to be able to enjoy the ending to a harrowing day!

  3. Jhagman says:

    I think the blog became unfortunately very placid and saccharine. It reads like a very agreeable mutual admiration society. While it is all very nice and civilized, it is like one of those holiday family letters. What more can one say? It is the author’s blog after all. It is as he wants it! For me, “A series of unfortunate events”.

    • fsdthreshold says:

      Hello, Jhagman! Wow, it’s great to hear from you again! I’d thought you were long gone somewhere. Well, we’ve all been away from the blog for a very long time. I’m really trying to breathe some new life into it again.

      I’m very much interested in what you’re saying here. Do you think the blog changed? I know my postings became much, much less frequent, mostly because of my transition to married life. I just wasn’t a guy sitting alone with his computer anymore. Mr. Brown Snowflake is way off in his historic recollection (above) — it wasn’t during “the first half of this year” that my posts became less frequent. There has been little activity here for about three years now, with occasional sparks of life.

      But anyway, I’m really curious as to which posts you felt were NOT “placid and saccharine.” What posts represent for you the “good old days” of the blog? I don’t think the tone or nature of my entries has changed. In its heyday, the blog was like a virtual Round Table where all were welcome and pretty amiable toward one another. Or are you talking more about the interaction of visitors than about my posts themselves? If it’s the interaction, we could sure use someone like you to help bring back the salt and the wildness.

      I’ve never wanted the blog to be political. There are plenty of other places to debate politics, and I would be the wrong one to host such a blog, as I am the least political person I know. But I’m all for literary controversies, discussions of art, the paranormal, life in general. Help me out here — what kinds of posts would you like to see?

      Thank you again for letting us hear from you!

      • Jhagman says:

        Herr Author, I wish I could help you. I am clueless. When I go on a break at the bookstore where I work, I am usually the only person reading a book in our breakroom, all the others look at their phones. It seems to me we are living in a post-literary age, an age of textual technology. What this means, I am still trying to understand. It is all very breathtakingly inarticulate.Customers waving images of books at me from phones and tablets, unable to use their words. They have less and less all the time. Some nights it frightens the Hell out of me. This where you, Fred, with words, try to win your bread. I truly wish great amounts of luck.

  4. Shieldmaiden says:

    I recently watched Back to the Future with my daughter (she’s 12 now) and it was the first thing I thought of when I read this post about A Series of Unfortunate Choices. I’m sure I have a story tied up in there if I think hard enough. Or better yet, we could ask Jedibabe to come tell us her sans makeup bear story… again 😉 And Jhagman! You’re HERE! At the risk of sounding like a very agreeable mutual admiration society, it is so great to hear from you.

    • Jhagman says:

      I visit every single day, I am never bored reading Durbin’s blog. I enjoy all your voices, but not all of us are
      writers like Fred and Julie, some of us just like to read. “Mutual admiration societies” give valuable insights into what creates a truly excellent artist which is, in itself is very valuable.Shieldmaiden, I have always liked your voice!

      • fsdthreshold says:

        Jhagman, thanks for this note! Wow! I am truly honored that you visit the blog so often. Now I regret all those hundreds and hundreds of days when there’s been nothing to see here but tumbleweeds rolling by. If you and others are actually watching, that inspires me to write more often!

  5. Jedibabe says:

    Shielmaiden, I’m afraid I can’t remember a story about a bear w/o makeup. That would be most bears, right?

      • fsdthreshold says:

        Jedibabe’s story of her costume is just about the funniest story I can remember ever hearing. (I’m afraid we’re hyping it too much, though, Shieldmaiden! — we’re putting on too much pressure! But it is funny . . .)

  6. i am mr brown snowflake says:

    The bear story has me intrigued … please share, Jedibabe (and I would love your thoughts on Rogue One as well!).

    JHagman — great to have you back with us! The political wars between Haggio and I (yes, we are friends!) have moved to facebook. Marquee Movies despises that I live and breathe, so he unfriended me and that ended that strain.

    My role (as I see it) as Brown Snowflake (aside from Haggio, the person who has known our host the longest) is to harass Fred, when necessary, into action. He knows I mean nothing personal, and, of course, with the lovely Dr. Durbin at his side free time is not what it once was.

    Hopefully we are back to some kind of continuity here — I am sure we all would rather avoid instances of “occasional irregularity.”

    • Jhagman says:

      Sad to hear about Marquee Movies, I have of course always understood your role. If I unfriended all my
      friends with different political views, my life would be very lonely, and truly boring. Continue to wag the Cross at Haggio, and I hope Haggio
      wags incomprehensible science at you. You guys have a good time!

  7. Jedibabe says:

    Oh, that bear story! Of course. My mother is an incredible seamstress and can make anything I could dream up. But like all moms she had her limits on how many creations she could manage. When I was nine there was an elementary service play at school; some sort of “Smokey the Bear saves the forest from fires” kind of thing. I couldn’t tell you the plot except that it had to have been about our woodland home burning down, undoubtedly from a carelessly tossed cigarette. It was very low budget, with paper masks and whatever we could put together for the set. I was a momma bear with a couple of cubs, and I could never tolerate paper masks, so I begged my mom to make me a costume. She agreed, but only if I would wear it again for Halloween. So there I was: a bear! I was brown head to toe, and I wore pillows underneath trying my best to look like a momma bear, but mostly I just looked very lumpy. I had a hood for my head, and for the play I also had a painted on nose and whiskers (which I completely hated the feeling of). But on Halloween I skipped out on the greasy crud on my face and headed out wearing the long, brown, bumpy, hooded body length costume. Did I mention that my mom forgot to sew in a tail? Doesn’t seem like an important detail… but oh, it will. Out I went, knocking on doors. At one house when I said, “Trick or Treat” I can still remember the lady asking me what I was. “What do you think I am?” I asked her back (the whiskers would have come in handy at this point). Then she paused, looking very confused and sheepish, and finally guessing, “…A turd?” I almost fell over. Even though I was only 9, I still knew that was funny! So for the rest of the night as I ran around in my lumpy brown costume with no tail I just started telling those who asked (and there were many) that I was a turd.

    I am happy to have the blog back, though I wish I could figure out how to have it tell me when there is a new post. Suggestions, anyone?

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