If you like to read, and enjoy quirky, welcome. There are about 30 random things here for you. After you read a short story you may even find some personal comments/insights! The main purpose of creating this blog is for writers. I see so much written about writer's block, and honestly, I don't have it. Occasionally, I write short stories, longer stories, books, plays, one act plays, monologues, and sometimes I even think one is good enough to submit somewhere. Of course, when you submit a story to a magazine that receives 200 stories a month and publishes five, you'd better enjoy the process of writing. I'm not suggesting that I'm a good writer, merely that I can sit down and just start writing.

It is important to write, to constantly be working on your art. If you are constantly plagued by writer's block, perhaps you are being too selective in what you write about. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some examples of my writing, from someone who can write all the time. Occasionally the topics are a bit strange, but I don't let that slow me down, I love to write and get to a finished product. Hopefully, by looking at some examples, you will say to yourself that phrase that all artists who visit MOMA in NYC say: "Well, I can do this!" That would be good, because you can! One of my posts is about a talking tomato. (You have to be able to do better than that!)

In part I'm trying to get some of my stuff in one place, so keep in mind I never claimed it was going to be an incredible read. You can decide that. I will tell you that occasionally I have a story in me that seems to fit the goal of a publication, and I try to write specifically with that goal in mind. Lately I've been considering publications that publish nonfiction memoirs, so some of the entries you'll find here will have that flavor. Perhaps this is a way to get past writer's block - find a publication looking for something that you'd like to write. It seems like memoir-based publications may be a good place to start, because we're all experts in our own families. I'm using a blog here to share some of the things I've written; the blog format is not ideal, so you need to poke around a little at old posts, to see if you can find a story or something else that may interest you.

Two last items. None of these are finished products. I usually get to a point where I have something written, and then stop. If it is something I may decide to submit for some reason, I'll finish formatting, following the specific rules of the magazine or organization (the rules are alwaysdifferent). If you do see something in here that you may be interested in using, don't hesitate to contact me.

So welcome to my blog. Welcome to my writing. Write, people, write! It feels good.

Please also consider getting a copy of my first book, Saturday Night at Sarah Joy's. All Royalties go to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. Please check out the book's blog at:

Thank you!

© 2012 John Allison

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sam the Jersey Beefsteak

Sam the Jersey Beefsteak                                               
There are a few special summer days when the Jersey sunset is an incredible combination of reds.  Tomato red, mixed with a red pepper red, streaked with a pimento red.  When it comes, my neighbors' response is to yell "Garden State" to each other, from yard to yard.  I love my neighborhood on days like this.
Saturday, 9:30 AM, Home
"Garden State," I yelled across the fence to Caesar, remembering the night before. 
"Garden State," he hollered back and smiled, flashing me a thumbs-up.
(You all know the story by now, disturbing as it has become.  I wanted to recount the real story from our own ground zero.)
I had set six tomatoes and a cucumber on the windowsill in my kitchen, having picked them a bit prematurely from my garden, now waiting for them to quickly ripen.  As I was washing the dishes, I barely noticed a few ripples, small lines, across one of the beefsteaks.  I watched the horizontal wrinkles move.  They were almost like a face.  The lower two ripples started to move like lips, and my tomato, now known to the world as Sam, started to talk.
When Sam talked, it wasn't real talk.  A kind of face was simulated on the surface for my benefit, Sam explained, and while he didn't actually make sounds, I could hear him.  I stared at him. I knew it was really happening.  I asked him the question that everyone asked - What's it like to be a tomato?
He told me what he could.  We spent our first hour trying to find a common language - a set of words we could both relate to.  There are many aspects of growing and ripening on a vine that people just don't have words for.
I called, with Sam's encouragement, everyone.  We agreed that this was an earth-shattering event.  I had access to a world-class biologist, a Nobel Laureate from The University of Pennsylvania, within 8 hours, and we were on the national TV news quickly.  Sam couldn't look into the camera and talk to people telepathically, since he had no idea who might be watching, but a long line of people confirmed what he was saying.  People had to understand it was real; tomatoes around the world had started to speak, so there was little doubt that it was not some kind of trick.
"Why now?" many asked.  After trying to field the question a few times, it was clear that Sam didn't know, so it just didn't matter.  
A new species was born, at least new to us . . . seemingly a surprise to them too.  While Sam couldn't explain it at all, he did tell me that he felt at home.  Somehow it felt like New Jersey had been chosen - they chose here and they chose him for their beginning. 
It was the most exciting time of my life.  Unfortunately, human beings were again given the opportunity to show what we are made of.
Monday, 6:00 AM, NYC
"I suppose someone had to be ground zero.  It's not like I was chosen or anything.  I was just at the right place at the right time," I explained to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America.
"Well this has been quite a week for you two," she replied.
We nodded.  (Well, I nodded.)  "It certainly had been.  And it's only Monday!"
Tuesday, D.C.
Sam talked to forty or more people on the Amtrak to D.C., where we met with an emergency joint session of Congress, which included the President.  It was organized in a day, and we all understood the urgency, but no one would verbalize it.  The House drafted, in real time, on the floor, a short declaration, that we must cease and desist doing anything to/with tomatoes besides talking to them, until we better understand them, and what is happening.  It was simulcast to the United Nations.
One question Sam was often asked was whether he looked forward to being on a salad, or in a tomato sauce.  He would never answer, but the thought of a knife slicing through his face, sacrificing him, without understanding who he was, what he was, what he felt, must have made the mere question horribly cruel.  Fortunately, the concept of cruelty wasn't in his vocabulary.
The President and lead members of Congress quickly contacted the Presidents of as many countries as they could, urging similar laws.  Most other countries fell into place before the day's end.  As a planet, we had never worked so fast to do something so good.
Wednesday, Home
Sam was a young and sweet soul.  He was a joy to interact with, until the pain became so great that he was almost unable to speak.  He could sense that, around the world, sentient tomatoes were being sliced up, torn apart - not for dinner, just because people were curious what would happen as they sliced across the almost-face.  Would they scream?  Are they still red inside?  People seemed to have no concerns over experimenting with these little captive souls.
The term vego-sadist was coined by Wolfe Blitzer.
The laws could not be enforced, of course, so anyone attempting to buy a tomato was looked at with suspicion.  Countries rapidly attempted to stop all tomato sales, trying to keep them away from people.
Thursday, the World
Piles and piles of tomatoes started to accumulate.  They kept coming off of vines but couldn't be sold, so farmers had no place to put them.  Tomatoes were talking to each other, all 7500 varieties (some with the greatest accents), not knowing quite what was happening or what to do.  They called out for help.  They called and called.  Everyone on the planet heard their cries for help, but the demand on us, to make all tomatoes comfortable, was more than we could provide.
Sam looked up at me, and asked me to hold him.  As my hands cupped his red skin, I felt it.  He was changing.  He was now past ripe.  He was getting soft, and had a particular soft spot on top.  He asked me what was happening.  I told him that tomatoes don't last forever.  He'd thought he would.  He was confused.  I tried to cool him with water, but he slowly began to shrivel a bit, and within two days, our alpha vegetable, my hero, became silent.
He did give me a gift.  As he realized that something was happening, he not only felt the pain and suffering of his own kind, but my own personal pain.  He sternly said, "John, thank you.  I know this isn't your fault.  I was happy to learn the meaning of the word friend."
Then with a weak half smile he managed to say, "Garden State?" as if he wasn't sure it was appropriate, but it was all he had.  I think I might find it difficult to live with myself now if he hadn't said those last few words to me.
Friday, 4 AM
They all became silent - the ones we had and the new ones that came along.  Silent.  There was no place in this world for a sentient vegetable, apparently, so they found a way to collectively "go away".  I hope for their sake they are gone, not still with us, hiding, suffering in self-imposed silence.
We did not do them well.  Apart from the sadists who seemed to enjoy a new chance to experiment, we were unprepared to wrestle with the choice of friend or food. 
Sam was collected from me by the FDA.  He has been well kept and preserved.  Perhaps he will help us, in death, to understand how and why he was so special.
There are a few special summer days when the Jersey sunset is an incredible combination of reds.  Tomato red, mixed with a red pepper red, streaked with a pimento red.  This was the sunset we watched on the day that they left us.

Good people on the planet had a long memory of Sam and his associates.  Sales of tomatoes have never been the same since, and the Tomato Growers Association made it clear to me that they were less than pleased.  There are apparently enough decent people out there, who just decided to demonstrate that, in memory of Sam and his brood, they could live their lives without tomatoes in their diet.
Once the dust and Miracle Grow had settled and I had the opportunity to slip out of my 15 minutes of fame, I got back to a normal life, but not for long.  One day in the Farmer's Market, I swore I saw a pattern on the skin of an onion.  I picked it up, but it was, thankfully, not prepared for a conversation.
I hope for us all, new sentience was just a random event, not exemplary of things to come.  I've known no greater joy than talking to Sam, but the feelings he felt, the price he paid for being able to communicate - were painful beyond words, ours and theirs.
Since then I've told our story many dozens of times, on TV, to audiences, for magazines, and I always remember to include the color of the sky.  One day, after speaking to a group of biologists in the Atlantic City Convention Center, I was standing on the boardwalk, and several people nearby were watching the sunset.  It was just a normal sunset.  Two people next to me looked at each other, smiled, and simultaneously said "Garden State".  I heard two others repeat it - my neighbor's little occasional salutation!  I asked the two people next to me why they said it.  They said they say it every night to each other at dusk, as do many others - to remember.
© 2012 John Allison

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