Tag Archives: May I Have Your Attention Please

Field of Dreams vs. My Book

I didn’t know what to blog about today. I knew I wanted to write stuff about writing and about my upcoming book, but, you know, sometimes the muse just doesn’t hit you. Then I was talking to my brother on the phone earlier (those of us that grew up in the 70s and 80s still “talk” on the phone sometimes) and I was telling him how I thought that “Field of Dreams” should be considered a Christmas movie. He asked why. Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s just because it’s my favorite all time movie, and it’s awesome. I think the only reason that “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie is because it takes place during Christmas. Well, a lot of people think that Christmas is magic, and “Field of Dreams” contains a lot of magic. Ergo, Christmas movie. Actually, why I really wanted it to be a Christmas movie is because we have MLB on our cable (yeah, some of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s still have cable. We remember what it was like before cable existed) and they were playing repeats of past World Series games. I was hoping that on Christmas day they would be playing “Field of Dreams.” I mean, “Dad, do you want to have a catch?” makes me sob so much more than “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” Okay, that line is touching too, but it doesn’t make me ugly cry like the final scene between Kevin Costner and Dwier Brown (the ghost dad). So “Field of Dreams” wins.

So, the reason I’m writing about this now is because I told my brother that I didn’t have any ideas for my blog today, and in his infinite wisdom, he challenged me to find a way to compare my book to the movie “Field of Dreams.” Challange accepted! Except, I have no idea what I’m going to say next. My book and “Field of Dreams” have very, very little in common.

Well, I guess one thing they do have in common is that they both feature characters. Yeah, characters! “Field of Dreams” features Ray Kinsella and wife Annie as main characters, along with Terence Mann and Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. They were all very engaging, and you just grew to like them so much. And we can’t forget “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and the amazing John Kinsella, everyone’s favorite ghost dad.

“May I Have Your Attention Please” also has characters. They are James Newell and Sally Bachman. They are the main characters, or the MCs. They are sixteen-year-old kids starting their junior year in high school. They have no idea what is about to happen to them, and how it’s going to change their lives forever. They have a vast supporting cast. They are part of a group of friends that grow closer as the year moves on. There’s Chris, the original bad boy leader, who has been in charge of his posse since second grade. Chris has a cousin, Carl, and he seems like a bit of a tag-along, but there is definitely something brewing inside of him. He and Chris have a huge family of cousins, many of whom will be mentioned in this book and those that come after. Pete is another friend, but he had to go to the other high school in town. He still plays a big part in supporting his friend James. Then there are the girls. Kim is a bit bossy and abrupt, but very pretty. Darlene is Kim’s shadow and biggest supporter. Traci is nice, and caring, and a really good listener. She also has a secret talent that will be revealed in later books. And Michelle is the nice little red headed girl that won’t put up with any of your crap. And she’s Sally’s best friend. And of course, these are sixteen-year-old kids. There are parents, siblings, and teachers. But, you know, this book isn’t so much about them. But they matter.

What else? Oh, yeah. They both have story lines! Yeah, that’s a big thing in common. “Field of Dreams” tells the story of Ray and Annie and their farm, and Ray having weird visions about plowing under his corn and building a baseball field. Weird, right? But as the movie progresses, it starts to make so much sense why this is happening. We WANT it to happen, and we cheer for it to happen. There are obstacles on the way, roadblocks (it is a road trip after all) and people who don’t believe in the dream. And guess what? There is a happy and touching ending.

“May I Have Your Attention Please” also has a story line. We are introduced to James and Sally, two really good kids who just can’t quite seem to pull it all together at home or in school, but they have dreams. And they want to dream them together. They have obstacles along the way, people who may not want them to realize their dreams, and situations that might be a little bit too complex for teens to have to deal with. But maybe, just maybe, their dreams are strong enough to see them through. That would really lead to a happy ending, wouldn’t it?

Other things these stories have in common:

  • FOD takes place in Iowa but has a scene at Fenway Park in Boston. MIHYAP also mentions Fenway Park, and the story takes place in Massachusetts. I don’t think there’s anything about Iowa in the book.
  • FOD had a character named Joe. MIHYAP has a character named Joey. A minor character, but a character, nonetheless.
  • FOD takes place mainly at a farm with a crop of corn. I’m not sure, but there is a chance that either James or Sally eats corn at some point in story. But I could be wrong.
  • FOD takes place in the 1980s. So does MIHYAP.
  • Ray Kinsella is a huge baseball fan. So is Sally Bachman.
  • FOD has a bitchy, opinionated protagonist at the school. So does MIHYAP.

Okay, I think that might be enough comparisons for now. This isn’t the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, although I think Kevin Bacon would have done well in FOD or MIHYAP when it gets made into a movie or miniseries. When I was a kid, he could have played the part of James Newell. But by now, I think most likely he would play the part of Nonno Angelo Romano, James’s Italian grandfather. Sorry, Kevin. We’ve all aged a lot since the 80s.

So, the next time you think of “Field of Dreams,” think about me and my little (108,000 word) book, “May I Have Your Attention Please” from the series “McKinney High Class of 1986” to hopefully be released in March, or maybe April of 2023, and then go to Amazon and buy it!

Thanks for making it to the end of my blog entry!

Book Teaser

How much information does an author give away before the book comes out?

This is an interesting question. Obviously, an author doesn’t want to give away too much about the plot. No secrets, no twists. But it’s still important to market your book. How do you market your book? There are only so many ways you can tell people that you have a book coming out. You know who else has a book coming out? Pretty much everyone. There is a lot of competition. And not everyone is like me. I have pretty much bought every book that I ever found even mildly interesting, and I have a huge “to be read” pile. It starts on the floor and is up to my neck. But that doesn’t stop me from buying more, much to the chagrin of my spouse and my bookcase.

So now you know I have a book coming out. So, what sets my book apart from the millions of others, and what will make you choose to read my next book after you read my first? Well, you have to like it. You have to not only like the way I write, but also the story I present. Is it captivating? Are the main characters likable? Are the antagonists just the worst, or maybe even someone you can sympathize or empathize with? Is the story interesting? Is there conflict, and does it resolve in a way that is satisfactory? You are not going to learn any of this by looking at my TikTok videos (although you can still visit them at dbmquick or follow me on Facebook at Debby Meltzer Quick, Author). You need to see a sample, or several samples of my writing. That is one reason I write a blog, so you can see my writing style. But blogs are not stories. They are snippets into my mind at the moment I am writing them.

So, I have decided to give you a taste of my book. A very small taste. A nibble, if you will. It shows a bit of the state of mind of one of my protagonists, without giving too much away.

So, with no more ado, I give you a little piece of chapter one. Setting: McKinney High School in Eastboro, Massachusetts, first day of school, junior year, 1984. James, Chris, and Carl are standing by the water fountain before the first bell (although they would call it a bubbler). They are dressed in jeans, and tee and baseball shirts, two of them in brand new wicked cool black leather vests. And here’s what happens next:

The boys were checking their schedules to see which classes they were in together, when Sally Bachman came in through the door. James coincidentally looked up at exactly that moment. It was a moment that years later he would later remember happening in slow motion. He didn’t recognize her at first. She was at least two inches taller than she had been when he last saw her at Randall Junior High, and definitely much curvier. Her straight brown hair fell above her shoulders and was softly layered around her face. She wore a button-down pink shirt with ruffled short sleeves, tight blue jeans, and white sneakers with pink stripes. She had her eye makeup done in a way that flattered her pale blue eyes and long lashes. She looked around with wide eyes and seemed unsure of what to do for a moment. She hadn’t been a student at McKinney Sophomore year, and James remembered she had gone to private school after ninth grade.

She caught his eye and smiled, making all of her nervous energy seem to melt away, replaced by relief. “Hey, Jamie!” she said walking toward him. “How are you?” She didn’t wait for an answer as she checked out her surroundings. “I’m so glad to see you! It’s my first day here and I have absolutely no idea where to go. Can you tell me where the office is? I’m supposed to check in there when I get here.”

James smiled back, amused at remembering how talkative she could get. “Hey, Sally,” he said, pointing in the correct direction. “Yeah, it’s just down the hall past the lockers, to the right.” 

“Thanks Jamie,” she said, and she touched his elbow lightly. “Maybe I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, see you later,” James responded, watching her as she walked away toward the office.

James glanced back at his friends, who were both looking at him oddly.  “What?” he said to them, shrugging.

 “Hey Jay-mie,” said Chris mockingly. “Hey, man, pick your jaw up off the floor!”

“Was that Sally Bachman?” Carl asked. “Wow, she’s grown up a lot. Like really,” he gestured toward his chest area. “She must have been a late bloomer!”

James glowered at his friends to hide his embarrassment. “Shut up, you dufuses,” he told them. “Look, Chris, there’s Rhonda.” Carl and Chris became distracted by Chris’s girlfriend and her friends coming through the door, and James quickly turned again toward the main office to try to catch another glimpse of Sally walking away.

Spoiler alert: She likes him, too. But you’ll have to get the book when it comes out to learn about how things go for these two amorous teens, and to find out about their adventures.

I hope you liked the very short, very benign section of “May I Have Your Attention Please” that I have shared with you. I may share more later, I don’t know. If you like what you see, remember to buy the book when it comes out. And then buy a few more for your friends!

Have a wonderful holiday week, everyone!

Writing About the Holidays

Wow. It was really hard to find a picture that represents the Winter holidays. Everything is pretty much Christmas related. And the one I finally did choose basically looks like someone was trying to make an effort to include Chanukah in their Christmas celebration so someone wouldn’t feel left out. Here’s a little secret. Jewish people, as a rule, don’t feel left out of Christmas. We feel left out that our holidays and beautiful traditions are not openly observed in public. That’s not really the same thing. People seem to understand these days that Chanukah is not the “Jewish Christmas,” so that’s a start. It is a completely different animal, and if you want to learn about the history of the holiday, please feel free to peruse Wikipedia.

Another little secret: Do you know why there are so many different spellings of Chanukah? Well, I’m not really the expert on everything, even if I would like you to believe that I am. But here are a couple of facts. First off, many Jewish children go to Hebrew school starting at a very young age. They are taught the pronunciation of all the letters and sounds. One of the sounds is the CH- sound. In English, this would sound like the CH in cherry, chat, chop, or chill. But in Hebrew, it is totally different. It sounds like the horrible noise people make when they are trying to hawk a loogie (I looked this up to make sure I got it right). Sorry to be so gross, but it’s true. It comes from deep in your throat. Most people who don’t speak Hebrew or other languages from that part of the world just can’t make that sound. It comes out like an “H.” So that is why there are CH spelling, and H spellings. And also, it is a Hebrew word, transliterated into English letters, so you can just spell it any way you want, as long as it sounds the same. Now you have some trivia to share at your next office holiday party.

Holidays are important to most people, and the December holidays are an institution in the United States (many other countries as well, but I don’t live in them). Shops close down, work is closed, the government comes to a halt, and even the mall isn’t even open (Walmart might be, I don’t know). Large amounts of food are consumed, and families and friends gather to celebrate and inevitably to reopen the wounds of all of their childhood slights and traumas. Some people look forward to the holidays, and others dread them. I love holidays, but I just don’t love other people trying to push their traditions on me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to celebrate with people who have different backgrounds than I do. On the contrary, for as long as I can remember, I have been part of my friends’ Christmas celebrations, and they have been welcome to light candles and eat latkes with me on Chanukah. So that’s why holidays take a very important role in my book series, “McKinney High Class of 1986.”

I have kept most of my stories non-denominational, but there are mentions of Sally in “May I Have Your Attention Please” celebrating Shabbat on Friday nights by lighting the candles with her mother. And she gets a lot out of these familiar interactions. All of the books mention yearly holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s, and of course, there is much ado over Christmas in every story. Schools are closed, the snow has fallen, and the characters are preparing for two weeks of non-stop family fun. But since this has not been my experience every year (Chanukah goes by a lunar calendar so it spans a different 8-week period every year) I thought it would be a good experience to educate my readers about my holiday. I keep it kind of simple and fun. It’s always fun to be with your new love over the holidays and spend time getting to know their family. So that is the context of my winter holiday scenes. James learns about Sally’s family traditions, and in turn, she spends time with his family, learning about their experiences.

Not all of my characters have the best holiday seasons. Sometimes, it’s their first time away from home, and they miss their family and friends. Sometimes, they expect someone to be there with them, and they just don’t show up. Sometimes, they are experiencing a significant personal issue, and they don’t feel that they are ready to share it with their family just yet. Sometimes, the holidays were no big deal in their family growing up. And sometimes, they suspect that it might be the last Christmas they are able to spend with someone they love. No one character experiences the holidays in the exact same way as their friends. I think this is important, because this is like true life. Everything is not always ribbons, bows, and happiness. Sometimes, things are hard, and you find a (figurative) lump of coal in your stocking. Hopefully, everything gets better over time, but forced cheerfulness does not make all of the problems go away.

We are all inundated with Christmas movies this time of year. “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Santa Clause, I, II, and III,” and “Elf” (my favorite). Then there are Lifetime and Hallmark movies about coming home for Christmas and meeting your true love after they first try to take over your ranch to build a racetrack or something. These movies are Hollywood’s way of telling the masses how they should feel during the holidays. If you start out as a Grinch, the true meaning of Christmas will make your heart grow several sizes. If you just believe, you will get your heart’s desire. Everything that hurts will be remedied, and everyone will have a Merry Christmas. I think people like these movies because they aspire to have a holiday season just like they have seen in the movies their whole lives. And that’s fine. I hope they do have a holiday just like that. But I also think it’s important to know that not everyone is in the same situation for one reason or another. And if we want our friends, family, and strangers to be okay, we have to remember that we need to be there for them on the other 364 days of the year as well as on Christmas day. Not everything is fixed by a mug of eggnog.

So let’s continue to share our experiences with the people we love or the people we would like to love and teach them about what is special or troubling to us, about our holidays, and about our lives. Let’s make them part of all of our traditions, and value theirs as well. And let’s make space for everyone over the holidays. Even people who say things like “Bah humbug!”

May the rest of your year be exactly as you would want it to be.

Attention, Please!

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Squirrel! Just kidding. But no, seriously, a pretty butterfly!

That was my whole childhood experience, and to be honest, also my whole adult experience. It doesn’t have to be an animal, or something pretty flitting by. It can be a speck of dust floating in the air, or a scratch on a desktop. Don’t get me started about the music in my head. It draws my attention away from my task at hand.

I’m not alone in my dearth of attention. Many children and adults deal with similar challenges. For me, it started when I was in elementary school, or that was probably just when it became obvious. It was the late 1970s, and I was in fifth grade. I had broken my arm ice skating over winter break, and was pretty preoccupied by my limitations. Mr. K. was talking about geometrical shapes, specifically the octagon. I was re-wrapping my ace bandage around my splint. Mr. K. made a comment about there being an octagonal shaped church on the corner of Salsbury Street and Kadidawapa Way. He looked right at me and said, “right, Debby?” I looked up, baffled, and responded, “What? Oh, yeah.” The whole class laughed at me. There was no Kadidawapa Way in my city, and Mr. K. knew I wasn’t paying attention. Everyone laughed at me. That kind of hurt.

In sixth grade, I stopped doing Math homework, and only did other homework at the last minute. I still got A’s and B’s. In eighth grade, I finally got called on my behavior, and got an F in effort in Math class. I was mad, and I mouthed off to my teacher. But it was kind of a wakeup call. As we get older, our teachers start to pay more attention to our behavior. But I didn’t.

I squeaked through high school doing the bare minimum and relying on my procrastination and natural ability to retain information. I somehow made it through college. And grad school. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that a medical profession finally suggested that I might have ADHD.

What would have happened if I had been born in the 2000’s? I probably would have been evaluated at school, maybe by a developmental pediatrician, and diagnosed young. I probably would have been started on Ritalin, or some other stimulant medication. My teachers would have been made aware. They might have dealt with me differently. But as it was, I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. The only kids that got attention for not paying attention were the ones that were disruptive. They were usually boys, and they were usually ridiculed by teachers and other students. We were told to pay no attention to them. They were just trying to get attention. Girls would just grow out of their daydreams and pull it all together someday.

One thing that I could concentrate on back then was writing. I loved to write. The ideas popped into my head unprovoked. Characters would develop in my subconscious and start dialogs in my brain. Some of them I wrote down. The stars of my stories were me as a Boston sportscaster, always married to a famous Boston professional athlete. Hey, I had a type! I found one of these “novels” not long ago. It wasn’t bad, for a twelve-year-old.

So, it makes sense that when I finally got serious about writing as an adult, I created a character who is a lot like me in some ways. A character that struggles with schoolwork and gets very scattered. She has no verbal filter, and sometimes her friends find her to be all over the place. Her story mimics my story in some ways, but she is not me. Her experiences are different. Isn’t that what we do when we write? We take our characters and put them in different situations and see what they would do. Sometimes, it’s different than what we would do ourselves, but it’s always a good story. Sally has some good times, and she has some struggles. But they are not my struggles. But we all have struggles, unique to ourselves.

My book, May I Have Your Attention Please obviously deals with attention, but we all know, there are many definitions of attention. And they all apply. Make up your own mind about what it means. Now you know what it means to me. I hope my story ends up meaning something to you, too.

Am I Done Yet?

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My title reminds me of me and my brothers in the back, and way-back seats of my parents’ green Plymouth station wagon driving from Central Mass to Niagra Falls in the early 80s. “Are we there yet?” we chorused from the rear. My parents vowed, not for the first or last times in our young lives, to never take us on a car-trip vacation again!

No, but what I’m really thinking about today is writing books. How do you know when you are done writing your book? Are you ever done? When do you put down the pen, or close the laptop, and say definitively, “this is as good as it will ever get”?

I have written four books so far in my series, “McKinney High Class of 1986.” I have read each one at least ten times. Each time I read, I tweak the dialog, or turn some narrative into dialog, or take out extraneous filler words. I don’t think I have gotten through even one manuscript so far where I couldn’t find something to change.

Finally, I sent Book 1, May I Have Your Attention Please, to the editor. But like I mentioned before, I had to send it two more times after that, because it just wasn’t perfect yet! But I’ve finally let go. Book one is in someone else’s hands right now, and I just hope she doesn’t find too many mistakes or inconsistencies! In the meantime, I have forbidden myself to even look at that text. Doesn’t stop me from collaborating with my marketing manager and cover designer, but, you know, my big part is done.

Yesterday, I started to read Book 3 again. I had just finished re-reading Book 2, on the tail of re-reading Book 4, and then doing some formatting on them both. So, I sat down to look at Book 3, for the 12th time. And what I saw was discouraging. The first three chapters almost bored me to sleep! I was just giving information, no story. I was trying to keep the reader a recap of what happened in Book 2. I was worried the reader would forget what happened and be lost. But in the meantime, the reader would nod off, drop Book 3 on the floor, and never get to the juicy parts. So, I had to re-write. Not all of it, but I had to chop it up into pieces. This is never easy. The words on those pages are kind of sacred to me. Deleting a line that doesn’t work HURTS a bit. But it hurts less than someone telling you that your first three chapters suck.

So, I made the changes. And I’m sure they won’t be the last changes I make. I have had one person read Book 3 so far, and he liked it (thanks to my brother/alpha reader) so no real feedback yet. I want to get feedback, but I also want it to be GOOD! So how do I know when I’m done? I have no idea. Faith? Maybe. Personal deadline? More likely. But once it’s done, it’s done, and it’s forever. Except for the fact that I can still reprint an edit. So yeah, maybe it will never be done!

If there is anyone out there who would like to be a beta reader for my series, please let me know. It’s a bit of a commitment. There are 4 books, and you miss quite a bit if you don’t read them in order. There’s no pay for being a beta, except for the satisfaction of knowing you helped, and maybe your name in the acknowledgements! Leave a comment or send me an email if you are interested.

I Just Can’t Wait!!!

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When most people say “I just can’t wait” it’s probably because they are looking forward to something great that is coming up. But that’s not what I am talking about at all. No, I really can’t wait. I have a horrible time with waiting.

This is not great when you have to wait, like right now. This week, I sent my manuscript to the copy editor to make it publish-ready. It’s a big step. But since I sent it, I have had to resend it three more times, because I can’t just sit still and do nothing. I keep going back to the Word file and tweaking the formatting, or adding new stuff, like margins, and titles, and a table of contents. I feel really bad for my copy editor. I have never actually met this person, but I can just imagine her rolling her eyes with every message from me, saying “here we go again!”

So today, I vow to stop looking at my manuscript, or doing anything to change it WHATSOEVER!!! I have to declare it done now. But how do you know when your book is actually done? I guess you just have to trust the universe.

Now I need to come up with some activities to keep me busy and to trust that this will all get done without my interference, and eventually my finished product will become a real, tangible book

What are some things I can do to keep myself distracted? Well, there is always books 2, 3, and 4 that are still available for tweaking. So there’s that, but what else? Watching Big Bang Theory, reading other peoples’ books, going to get a root canal…

What do you do to keep yourself distracted when you have to wait? I would love some suggestions.

What Are They Saying?

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I am currently somewhere between 38 and 42,000 feet in the air, flying between Boston and the left coast. I am coming home from a family wedding and enjoying all the pretzels and apple juice that come along with in-flight food service on this six-hour journey.

It’s always nice to come home to see family in the land of my childhood. If you have ever lived in, or even been to Boston, you know that there is something special about the people in Massachusetts. I lived there for twenty-four years, so I am a bit familiar.

All of my books either take place entirely or spend a good deal of time in the central area of Massachusetts, about 60 miles west of Boston, in the made-up city of Eastboro. So when you read my books, you may encounter some colorful, albeit unfamiliar vocabulary words. I thought I might just introduce some of them now, since they are so fresh in my mind at the moment (and there’s really nothing else to do right now).

When I was a schoolgirl in the ’70s and ’80s, my classmates and I would line up at the bubbler after recess. No, we were not blowing soap bubbles, or washing dishes. The Bubbler is actually the name of a part of something most of us are very familiar with: the water fountain. This is the first word they warn us about when we move out of state. Don’t ask anyone where to find a bubbler; they’ll just look at you funny. And while I’m talking about things that they don’t have in other states, hows about a grindah for dinnah (look it up)?

A lot of words end in -ER. But people in Massachusetts really don’t understand this concept. So if someone asks you over for suppah, take this into account, and say, yes, you will come over for a nice, hot, New England bowl of clam chowdah. But while you’re at their house, you might want to go downstairs to get something out of the deep freezer. You will probably be directed to the cellah. In some states, this is also known as the basement.

Some words are just entirely used wrong or made up. My favorite word is “wicked.” I think kids all over the country were familiar with the term “wicked awesome” back in the ’80s and ’90s, but in Massachusetts, wicked has been frozen in time. It is an all-time favorite adjective of residents of the Bay State. And the phrase that made us famous in beer commercials? “Wicked pissah!” This might seem like a negative phrase, like something that pisses you off or is really bad. But no, the worse the pissah, the more awesome it is! Don’t ask me, I moved away 27 years ago!

But I did go to high school in Central Mass in the mid ’80s. And I do remember some doozies. The ones I’ve only recently been reminded of were “mint,” or “wicked mint,” when referring to how awesome something is. Then there’s “rush,” as in “what a rush!” This refers to a “head rush,” and not the Canadian rock band I loved so much in the ’80s (and saw in concert three times).

Ok, question for you: you are driving in the wrong direction. You took a wrong turn. Now you’re going to be late. You see there are no cars coming toward you on the other side of the road. So what do you do? The answer is obvious! You bang a Uey! That’s only if you’re not coming up on a rotary. Translation: you can take a U-turn, but if you are coming upon a traffic circle, you can go around it instead (make sure to yield to rotary traffic!).

So in conclusion, I just want to tell you that writing this was a wicked pissah, and such a rush. I hope you all won’t be Mass-holes or chowderheads, and you will continue to follow my blog. I gotta go now. I’m taken the T to get some Dunks with jimmies on top cuz that’s what the townies do. But first, I’m gonna go to the packie, cuz it’s gonna be a another scorchah today!

(translation: I have to go. I am going to take the commuter rail to Dunkin Donuts to get a donut with colorful sprinkles on top, because that is something the locals enjoy. I am going to make an earlier stop at the Liquor store to get a refreshing beverage, as it will be very hot outside today.)