Snapshots from Eldredge

The life and writings of TJ Alexian


Tea and Memory


Friday was May Day, otherwise known as the first day of May. What a quaint tradition May Day is: an older-than-old rite of Spring I don’t think anyone in the States really considers any more, although I think it’s still observed in Europe. May poles and all that. Maybe it would have been bigger, had it gone the way of Saturnalia and just been renamed Christmas. Clearly someone had the wrong marketing agency.  

May Day also happens to be the birthday of my grandmother, who would have been 106 this year. She passed away in 2004, sixteen years ago.

The first of May is an easy birth date to remember, so when I woke up that morning, I actually did say “Happy birthday” to myself, but then the thought passed away in the crushing flow of what needed to get done that day and the underlying COVID-inspired sanctuary malaise that seems to hover over everything these days.

My brother Tommy, who is much more thoughtful about these things, posted a lovely photo of Nana as a teenager on our “personal Facebook” family page: it’s actually a text message string Dad created a year ago that includes all the kids and mom and dad, where he posts daily photos. Dad and Mom are not into social media and this is the closest they come and I kind of love it. The photo of Nana Tommy posted hangs on our wall of memories outside the front door of Green Victoria.

The minute I saw it, I stopped what I was doing and walked over to give the Nana photo a quick kiss and tell her I loved her. 

The thought of Nana passing also came to mind later that day as I was “talking” (or what passes for talking these days…really, texting) to my friend Melissa, who lost her grandmother about a week ago to COVID-related complications. I wish I had thought to bring up the birthday or my grandmother, rather than simply say the words that everyone says when you are discussing a recent bereavement. So sorry…let me know if I can help in any way. You know the words. Maybe stressing a common connection might have meant more.

Let me try now.

For years growing up, from when I was about six or seven, I’d have a nightly ritual with Nana, who lived in an in-law apartment on the ground floor of my parents’ home growing up. Around seven in the evening, I would go downstairs and she’d make me some peanut butter toast with tea and we’d watch TV. Usually I’d be sitting down there, writing or clumsily drawing a comic book, while she’d crochet a pair of slippers or work on an afghan. She was pretty well known for her crochet work…to this day, all of us have friends who have held on to their slippers from her.

As I grew older, this tradition began to falter, as I came out of my shell and found friends and activities and eventually Josie. But really, that toast and tea ritual lasted for at least fifteen years, which is a good long time.

I’ll never forget one of the last evenings having toast and tea with Nana. It was the night before I moved out of my parents’ house. I was 23 and Josie and I were moving in together, after a few years of dating. Most of the bags packed, I went down for one final evening with Nana and…well, over-nostalgic lump that I was, burst into tears. I mean, totally lost it. PS: I am an ugly crier. Just ask Josie or Corb.

Nana set down her needles and looked over with concern. “Teddy, what’s the matter?”

“I don’t want this to end,” I managed to blubber.

“Oh.” Her eyes crinkled together as she considered what I had said. “Moving out of your parents’ house is hard, but—“

“No. This! Coming down here every night. Spending this…time together…with…”

“Well, Teddy.” She sighed. “It has to end sometime, right?”

I didn’t want to hear this. But she continued.

“You’re getting older now and grown up and it’s only natural you’re going to find a woman to love [EDITORS NOTE: Little did she know…] and then get married [EDITORS NOTE: Little did she know…] and have kids [EDITORS NOTE: Okay, that one she knew about…]. You’re never going to do all that and still come down and see me at seven every night, right? And I wouldn’t want you to.” 

“I’m just…” A pause. I tried to pull myself together. “I’m just going to miss this so much.”

She patted my hand. “You will. At first. But things change when you get older. You’ll see.”

I grabbed her hand. “No! I won’t ever forget—“

“I didn’t say forget. But you’ll SEE.”

I didn’t see. But things change.

So I moved out, got married, had kids (not quite in that order). And although we attempted toast and tea time, it didn’t work, but after a while, Nana and I managed to find a substitute for our nightly get-togethers. Once a week, usually on a Wednesday, I would come over and she would make me supper in her tiny little kitchen. Then she’d pack me a lunch for the next day at work. You’d better believe those were some of my favorite lunches at work. I was probably one of the few supervisors who would regularly bring in a paper bag lunch from his grandmother every Thursday.

And then, things changed again. When Nana passed, I was 38, so this year is exactly the midpoint between when I moved out of my folks’ house and now. At 38, I was going through stuff. Time had passed and I had moved out of another house—Josie’s—and had just begun a third life, with Corb. 

That’s wasn’t something Nana was aware of. Due to failing health, Nana had moved out of her house, too, of over 30 years. Into a nursing home.

Josie and I hid the divorce from Nana. It would only have made her sad and upset, and Nana loved Josie and wasn’t doing great, so the two of us would simply visit her at the nursing home and pretend to still be married.

I know, I know, in these times, that sounds horrible, but you have to remember, Nana was of another time and place. Would she have accepted things had we had more time? I honestly don’t know. But perhaps this is why I loved Corb’s grandmother so…she was of the same time and place and I know she accepted and loved us.

Nana’s wake was actually the first time many members of my family actually met Corb, including my parents. (And they have loved him ever since!)

I kind of regret all this, because there’s no doubt it separated me from her. There was so much I couldn’t talk about at that point—certainly this wasn’t material to nosh over if we had managed to have toast and tea in the nursing home. And I wish we had. But no, not once. I had the kids every other night and theater on the other nights and…well, no excuses. Things changed. I wish they hadn’t. But she had been right, all along.

Is there a point to this? I think so. I think it’s, when tea and toast was no longer viable, we found a way to adopt and change and still achieve some form of regular connection. It didn’t involve toast. It didn’t involve tea, although some nights, it did, I imagine. But it did involve the two of us.

I’ve said this before, the traditions we create among friends and family create the deepest connections in our souls. They’re what we remember when we consider a life well spent. That’s why I so cherish mine: Christmas eve parties at my parents, Scrabble with my brother. Watching Buffy with Kayla and TJ and Krista. Santa Ghost stories. Skanky Swap on New Year’s eve. Father’s day and lobster at the beach house.  Ted and Corb’s Halloween costume party. Theater traditions with my friends, whether it’s singing Paddy Murphy late at night or the move into Wheaton or the old stories we tell, over and over again, of adventures past. And from almost the very start, toast and tea with Nana.  

This year, this season, keeping up these traditions has been made more difficult, but in some ways, are even more important as a result. The fact is, life will always change, always evolve. The important thing is not to let it devolve into a series of random socially isolated disconnected memories. Find the meaning. Build on the memories. Find ways to make connections with the ones you love.

I wish I had gotten out of my head enough to maintain a few more toast and tea moments with Nana in her last few years.

But for as long as I can, I want to try to find a way to create more of those moments with the people in my life, and help them live on for as long as possible. Peanut butter sticks, remember. And this sort of toast is the bread living on in our memories for years to come, sustaining us when separated by time. 

Time. Way way way too short. We need every trick we can get to fool ourselves into making it feel longer.

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Now available: Late Night Show

Late Night Show-Profile

I am thrilled to announce that my latest book, Late Night Show, is now available on Kindle and paperback. This one is a bit edgier than my last novel, Pictures of You: it’s a techno-thriller with a voyeuristic “Rear Window” theme involving webcams, the dark underbelly of big soulless corporations, and a girl who just wants to be Queen on the Night, dammit. Check it out!


The camera may not lie, but it doesn’t tell the whole story, either.

That’s what Kami Corley learns one late night when she connects with a girl online named GoAskAlice–and receives in return a disturbing plea for help. Although Kami wishes for more excitement than the flat Midwest town she’s living in, she never wished for what happens next, as she witnesses Alice’s grisly on-camera murder. Without knowing her real name or even her location, Kami doesn’t know where to turn for help. As she uses the few clues she has to dig deeper into the crime, she finds herself caught in a web from which there is no escape—one that may lead to her own on-camera death, as well.

Will Kami live or die when she is thrust into the very heart of a secret organization known only as the GKS? Without warning, she’s become the one on the inside looking out—and very well may be the next one chosen to play the deadly midnight game known as the Late Night Show.

Get your copy on Kindle or paperback!

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Operation: Moth balls


Back to work yesterday. Ugh. And last night’s problem: tackling some cheeky chipmunks.

It all started about a week ago, when I decided I wanted to really make a consistent effort to fill up the bird feeders around Green Victoria. I don’t know why the thought popped into my head. I just wanted to. I’m just that kind of person. Occasionally thoughtful.

We have one feeder that is located right by the archway leading into our yard. The very day after I filled it, I noticed that most of the seed was missing and there were a ton of empty shells around the feeder. It looked like the end of the night at the local saloon.

“Hmmm.” I said to myself. “I doubt the birds are THAT hungry. Even if I haven’t filled that thing up for about a year.”

So, I kept my eagle eye out. And soon enough, I realized that there were an awful lot of squirrels and chipmunks visiting that particular tree. Aha!

Duly warned, I went to the old Stop and Grab and bought bird seed that birds like, but squirrels and chipmunks detest because it has cayenne pepper sprinkled in. Take that, mammals with bland appetites! I filled that bird feeder up to the rim with caliente.

The next morning, I walked out of the house. Damn tricky mammals. The fuckers had somehow managed to scoop through all the seeds in the birdcage to find the ones they like, grabbed those, and dumped all the cayenne-covered seeds onto the ground. The cads!

But we’ve kept up with the hot seeds, and the past few days, I’ve noticed that the birdseed level has gone back to normal. So either the squirels and chipmonks have moved on and accepted that this feeder is muy muy caliente or the birds are finally full.

Although perhaps the bird feeder problem has resolved, the whole experience uncovered another problem. You see, everywhere I turn since then, I’ve been encountering chipmunks these days around the hallowed grounds of Green Victoria.

No, seriously. In the trees. Scurrying underfoot. I open the door in the morning to let Kyra pee and she goes scampering after something, instantly. Crawling out of my cereal ball when I pour milk into my Rice Crispies. Those little guys sure hate that Snap Crackle and Pop!

(Note: maybe one of those examples is a lie. I leave it up to you to guess which one.)

I’d say I’ve gone a bit nuts, but Corb’s noticed it too.Last evening Corb decided to do something about it. Project Mothballs has begun.

“I read that chipmunks don’t like the smell of moth balls,” explained Corb as we hunted around the grocery store. Where do they keep moth balls, anyways?

“Are you sure you didn’t misread it?” I asked. “Maybe they actually don’t like the smell of meatballs.”

“Silly Ted. That’s only Italian chipmunks,” replied Corb. “No, what we need to do is to wrap up some moth balls in cheesecloth and throw them around the outside of the house. Around the foundation, in any holes you see. The smell is supposed to keep the little pests away.”

“The smell makes me want to run away,” I complained to Corb as we were wrapping up the moth balls later in the kitchen that evening. “I mean, I like the smell of mothballs in little old lady’s drawers, but this is too much.”

Corb frowned at me. “I always suspected that about you,..” Yeah, I am a regular Nathan Lane in Little Old Lady land. Lick me. Touch me.

“Isn’t this going to make the whole place smell like moth balls?” I asked Corb as we started tossing the little bags into nooks and crannies around the house. “Isn’t it bad enough we have an old Victorian? Isn’t this going to make it seem really old?”

“Shut up and throw,” he replied. Ah, who am I kidding? I just followed him around and made wiseass comments.

So, that’s been our life the past week. Chasing the chipmunks. Forget about Pokemon Go! We’ve got a different kind of wildlife to capture. Or at least, release. First we had deer, then flying squirrels, now this. Sometimes I’m not sure if I own a home or a wildlife sanctuary.

Maybe a combination of both.

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The Great Piano Roll

So, Corbie has a new obsession. Old upright pianos.

Oh no, he doesn’t want to learn to play them. He wants to refurbish them. He wants to take one and turn it into something along the lines of this:

Cool idea, right? Try putting it into practice. This week-end, we embarked upon our task: the acquisition of our first upright piano. Finding one was pretty easy, because it turns out, there are a lot of folks with upright pianos out there just dying to give them away for free, if you’ll go and takem them off their hands. Seriously! Check it out on Craigslist if you don’t believe me. These things take up room and are really, really heavy.

Corb, naturally, chose the piano farthest from where we lived, out in West Cranberrybutt, Cape Cod. The guy who had it admitted it was out of tune and didn’t work, which Corb liked because among his other choices were pianos that had recently been tuned and worked perfectly. He doesn’t have the heart to destroy a perfectly working piano. Also, he thought it had the best design overall, with some of those old Roman columns for legs and at the top.

The guy we were getting it from also admitted that the piano had been in his wife’s family since she was a child and she was heartbroken to see it leave. “Not that she knows how to play it,” he said. “She’s gone this afternoon. When she comes back and sees it missing, she’s going to break down and cry.”

We got our first taste of what a bear this was going to be getting it out of his house. Even with the truck pulled all the way up to the front steps, it still took four guys (me, Corb, the owner, and what appeared to be the owner’s gay lover) a bit of effort to get the piano into the hitch Corb had rented. I must admit, this made me a little nervous, because I knew that at Green Victoria, there was no way we were pulling the truck up to our front porch. No, we had a long driveway and then a lovely stone path to contend with, which was picturesque, but going to make life a living hell.

But that was a challenge for another hour. At that time, we simply bolted up the piano and drove back to Eldredge.

“So, any ideas how to do this?” I asked Corb, once we arrived home.

Corb clutched at his blond hair. “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

The first part was the easiest. Get it off the hitch and onto the small dolly Corb had purchased to help it roll better. That got us to the edge of the driveway and right next to the picturesque crushed stone walkway. How to move it forward? The dolly was going to get in a whole mess of trouble if we moved it any further.

Believe it or not, I was the one who had the bright idea. Me! I remembered reading about how the ancient Egyptians were able to move heavy stones to create the pyramids, and thought the principal might work in this case. “Why not grab the plankwood we have in the backyard and place them over the stones? That will give the dolly something to roll over.”

Corb was a little skeptical. But it turns out, I was actually right!

I will admit, we had one really rough patch. Rolling uphill and at a curve was a real challenge, and the planks started to break at one point, forcing us to buy a few more. Plus, one of the dolly wheels started to bend back, after the first hour. But by the end of the day, right before the drag show was about to begin, we had the piano right by the front porch. And now we had a new challenge:THREE LITTLE STEPS.

This turned out to be a challenge that was insurmountable for two whole days. Turns out, the two of us are incapable of lifting the heavy piano up the stairs to the front porch. We tried everything: trying to tip it on its side, purchasing ropes and pulleys. We even bought this strap-on thing that looked more like a sexual device than a means of moving the piano. It didn’t work at all. We called some movers, but they wanted at least $200 for what was sure to be a five minute job. That seems ridiculous. FInally, we managed to get our bud Hot Coco to come over with her man friend and help us lift it over those three little steps. The price was only cost the purchase of her Chinese take-out that night.

And there it sits. I am not sure when Corb will get to it next. I am sure it will used as a prop for our annual Halloween party. Maybe we can even put speakers next to it and have it play spooky music. But in any event, the next great refurbishing adventure has begun at Green Victoria. Hopefully, we will survive it!

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old lady

“You aren’t REALLY going to put that bowl in the sink with all that milk left, are you?”

I stopped my forward movement to the kitchen and glanced down at my ceral bowl. Then over at Corb, sitting on his favorite green cushiony chair in the living room.

Hmmm. Did I plan to place my cereal bowl into the sink? Yes, in fact, I was. All the cereally goodness had been removed and what was left were a few random soggy flakes, along with milk that had gone through the cereal cycle. Hell no, I had no intention of finishing off the rest of THAT.

“Would it be a problem if I did?”

Corb made his most stern, serious face. “Yes. I know how much milk you have left in that bowl. That’s a total waste. You get right back here and drink down that milk.”

Well, that’s nothing short of amazing. “How do you know how much milk is left in this bowl?”

“I saw how much milk you wasted yesterday.”

What? How could…? And then, in a second, it dawned on me. A memory from childhood. I turned to Corb, a look of horror on my face.

“You’re turning into my Nana Hall!”

It’s true. She was on old cranky Yankee, her descendants came over on the Mayflower. Her great-grandfather was a Fairbanks. A Fairbanks, dammit! She detested waste, in any shape and form. And one of the things I vividly remember her freaking out about: cereal bowls and milk.

I’ll never forget that day. I was six years old. It was a total Mommie Dearest moment. She was looking after me at my parent’s Brady-style raised ranch. As I left the kitchen table in my mini midnight blue velour leisure suit (that’s what all kids wore in the early seventies, you see), I could hear a voice behind me say,

“You’re not done with those Cheerios yet, Teddy.”

What? I turned around. She stood there with a very very stern look on her face, arms crossed.

I glanced down at the bowl. “But the Cheerios are all soggy, Nana.”


(At least, in my mind she said it that way. All in caps, that is.)

Well, we struggled for hours over that. At lunchtime, sure enough, that offensive bowl of Cheerio crud was sitting there at my lunch plate. I couldn’t wait for my parents to get home that night.

And now, after all these years, she’s back again. Corb has become my Nana Hall. A ghost of Christmas past, exhorting me to drink my cereal milk. A specter from all those years ago.

And that’s when I snapped, your honor. He brought back memories of a childhood trauma and I had no choice but to kill him, don’t you see? Oh, I know some people will tell me I may have gone a little overboard. That the punishment didn’t fit the crime/ But it was either that or be forced to drink that god-damn sloggy bowl of cereal! And after all these years, I couldn’t let my Nana Hall win. IT WAS EITHER HIM OR ME!

Transcript ends at this point. We hope Ted is quite content in the asylum for the criminal insane he has been taken to. Details on the funeral arrangements for Corb, his beloved but cereal-soaked partner, will be announced forthwith.

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Not-so-fast food


“Did you see what I posted on your wall today? Did you? Did you, huh?”

I grinned and dug into my plate of unhealthy-as-hell but most delicious nachos that had been placed before me. We were at our favorite local dining establishment, our version of Luke’s place. And I knew immediately that the Corbster was referring to the “fake science” photo he had posted to my wall, which combined my obsession this past week around the Pluto New Horizons mission and Corb’s perpetual obsession with everything Arby’s.

As soon as I was done munching: “Yes, I saw your thing about Pluto and Arby’s.” After a long slurp of diet Coke: “That seems like a really inconvenient drive.”

Corb beamed, his enthusiasm for Arby’s rekindled. “I’d totally do it. It would be so worth it! Arby’s!”

“A nine year trip in a tin can for an Arby’s burger?” I wrinkled my nose and shuddered. “That sounds like absolute hell. I’d be so claustrophobic, watching my life spin away, stuck in a tiny little space. If I left Earth at 21, I’d be 39 by the time I arrived home. No burger is worth that.”

“Sign me up!” Ah, Corb is so lovely when he gets on these tangents. “That would be awesome!” And with that, he swooped in to steal one of my nachos.

“Seriously?” I frowned. “I think maybe I could last a year in space. But after twenty years, it would feel like I’d been buried alive.”

Corb clicked his heels with glee. “They’d give you way more room than a coffin! You’d be in a big Space station. I would totally do it. I wish I could do it right now!”

“Well, okay, but don’t think I’m going to leave the front light on for you if you go. Twenty years is a really long time to wait.”

“I’d bring back fries!”

Hmmm. They might be a little cold by the time he returned.

“Maybe if you brought back a beef and cheddar roast beef sandwich,” I replied.

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A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.J. Alexian

Layered Pages

Ted Mitchell BRAG

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.J. Alexian to talk with me a little about his writing. T.J. lives in Attleboro, Massachusetts in a renovated green Victorian, along with seven ghosts and his long-time (and long-suffering) partner. He also has three kids and one spiritual kid, and their stories and their spirit form the heart and soul of his novel, Pictures of You. A profiled author in the Writer’s Digest book Writer with a Day Job and an award-winning communications specialist, Pictures of You is Alexian’s first novel, although he has two more being prepared for distribution: The Late Night Show and Confessions of a Diva Rotundo.

T.J., Why do you write?

Compulsion? Insomnia? Not enough love as a child?

That all may be true, but I can’t think of a better release to have. I’ve always felt that people who love to write possess the ability to…

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Burglar proofed.

So, I’m hanging on the porch of Green Victoria this week-end. I’m sitting on the couch, being lazy, reading “Turn of the Screw” (lovely Memorial Day week-end reading), relaxing. Suddenly I hear a scampering and look up to see THIS…

cat climb

…which turns into THIS…

cat climbed

Hmm. Guess we we don’t need a house alarm any more. All we need is Ping, waiting to pounce…