Archives: Random Conversations File

A Holiday Ghost Story

Ah, the holidays. Family time, favorite foods, haunted hotels.

Wait. What?

This was my favorite story of the 2017 holiday season, originally posted here on Twitter.  It begins with an arduous journey…

I have a fun holiday story for you! Drove the family 6+ hours to the Catskills Mountains today — through snow.

We were trekking to my parents’ cabin/summer home. They invited my brothers’ and my family for a holiday celebration. A rare event! All 6 cousins under 1 roof.

One problem. Everyone can’t fit under that roof. 3 families of four + 2 grandparents. (The grandpa emoji totally looks like my dad.)

We got booted, ’cause my kids are much older than my brothers’ kids. (I promise you there’s an unexpected twist coming up.)

Hotel? Fine. Whatever. My dad starts making phone calls … and there’s no room at the inn. ( Holiday weekend, ski season.)

He decides to call in a favor and reserve 2 rooms for us at his golf club’s historic inn — WHICH IS CLOSED FOR THE SEASON.

“It’ll be fine!” he says. “You’ll have the whole place to yourselves.

Literally, the whole place. The staff will be off for Christmas. The rooms will be set for us, but no  maid service. Ooh-kay, Dad.

We drive up in the dark tonight. Hubs is *not thrilled*. My kids opted to sleep on the couches at the cabin tonight. Smart kids!

I’d make a Shining joke, but by the time we get to the place (10 minute drive in Dad speak = 20+ minutes), hubs is ticked off!

The heat is on, but no one’s here. Empty as advertised…






It’s kind of quaint, but … I have to tell my brain, “Do not say ‘Redrum.’ That joke is not funny.” And hubs is beyond seeing the humor in this.





But, COME ON!!!






And then I see it…














Hello, Jack.

This is when I bust out laughing. Hubs does not see the humor in this situation. From now on, we’ll take care of our own hotel reservations. Thanks a lot, Dad.

Enjoy your holidays, believers. I hope you are safe, warm, and surrounded by people you love. I’ll be here. All night.


Post script:

First, a correction. The drive from my parents’ place to the hotel was (sorry, Dad) ten minutes as advertised. I blame the dark, frigid night for making it feel longer.

Second, a few days after our visit, my father called. It turns out, there have been reports of voices and other ghostly happenings at the hotel. But our stay was blessedly uneventful.


Poetry Friday: Chocolate Haibun

Thanks to Liz Steinglass for hosting the Poetry Friday round up this week!

I’m posting my Poetry Friday offering early this week. I’ll be traveling on Friday, visiting the niece and nephews mentioned in the poem below.

This is my first attempt at a haibun. It has also been forever since I shared a “random conversations” post. I wanted to capture the way an everyday moment (shopping) transformed into a moment of unexpected connection with a stranger. Haibun — because of its leap from prose to haiku — seemed a good fit. Has anyone else tried the form? What do you think about its hybrid style?

Cheer Down
By Laura Shovan

A quick stop at the local chocolatier. It’s Hanukkah, and I’ve had my eye on their white chocolate unicorn lollipops for my niece and nephews. What would be a brief transaction – customer, clerk – shifts when a George Harrison song begins to play. He is our favorite Beatle. Under the banter, recognition that each of us is settled down, grounded and calmed, by the same music.

Dusk on Main Street
Gray light, brown bag
Saffron truffles

A herd of white chocolate unicorns.

If you are ever in Maryland, the chocolate shop is Sweet Cascades in Old Ellicott City. Their truffles are divine.

And if you’d like to listen to George perform the song referenced in my poems title, you’ll find him here.

See you next week when it’s my turn to host Poetry Friday. I’m attempting Mr. Linky for the first time. Fingers crossed!

“Random Conversations” File, No. 1

Sometimes, when I’m having an extrovert day, I strike up conversations with random people.

“How do you do that,” my fellow introverts might ask? My background in journalism helps. When I was freelancing for the Baltimore Sun, I learned on the job how to ask questions that encourage people to talk about themselves. (The answer, introverts, is deflection. I know you are skilled at this. Ask the questions that will get the other person to talk, so you can continue to listen and not have to talk about yourself.)

My husband claims that these oddball, amazing conversations only happen to me. Readers, you be the judge. Yesterday, I had my own “Humans of New York” moment in Boston.

I was traveling home from the get in a cab from the ALA Midwinter Conference hotel to Logan airport. It was raining. I’d had trouble with the shuttle bus when I arrived, so I took a cab.

Me to cabby: How are you?

Him: I’m old, fat, Republican, and cranky. How are you?

Ok, introverts. This is the moment of truth. In this second, I know that the way I answer will determine if I’m going to crash out in the back seat after a long day of schmoozing, or whether I’m going to chat with this character for the entire ride.

I decide to bite the lure.

Me: I’m middle aged, Democratic, tired, and happy.

The cabby and I proceed to talk football. He respectfully does not bring up the Ravens or the Patriots, but fills me in on a weekend of crazy Wild Card games. As we pull up to the Departures…

Me: Thank you for the football update. I’ve been talking about books all weekend.

Cabby: I love books. I’m a writer.

That perks me up. I’m a writer too, after all. We exchange: my book postcard for his pamphlet.

Cabby: I’m being published for the first time this month, in an anthology.

We squee as much as an old, fat, cranky, Republican and a happy, tired Democrat can over his first publication, a political essay. I give him a $5 tip on a fare under $15, because now I love this guy.

Here is the kicker: I get to the airport and take out his pamphlet. You guys, my lovely, Republican cabby wrote an essay that uses Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” to make an eloquent argument against a ban on abortion. What an extraordinary person. Well met, Mr. W. Birdwood. Here are a few lines from his pamphlet:

“It might be thought incongruous for so grand and solemn a thing … to be the spawn of a high school graduate who has been mostly homeless for 35 years, but wise people always respect the self-educated and know the spiritual freedom gained by the ascetic. 

“For 41 years, I have driven taxis in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco. A broad and deep conversation has been conducted with the American People, who are found to be a people intent on being worthy of the sovereignty their nation’s charter invests in them.”

Let that sink in, “The American People, who are found to be a people intent on being worthy of the sovereignty their nation’s charter invests in them.” What a mind!

I’ll post some pictures of the pamphlet later today.

Thank you, W. Birdwood. As Ray Bradbury said, “They were all, when their souls grew warm, poets.” The end.