The Bookstore (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

Today I met the owner of a bookstore in Gulfport, FL. A couple of weeks ago I met the other nice lady that’s worked there for quite some time. That day had also been my first time in the store and first time ever in Gulfport, even after having lived in the Tampa area for nearly three years. 

It’s oddly symbolic for me. Finding out the ending of the store was my beginning of even having seen it. It absolutely breaks my heart to see any small businesses closing down shop, especially a bookstore. However, I’m pretty sure this situation wasn’t a casualty of not making it, it was a casualty of timing and life’s age setting up for a closing of a chapter. 

There’s something so familiar between the walls of the shop, though I’ve only been there twice now. The smell, the little newspaper clippings taped on the door, the secrets that the books hold within their pages and among the walls. There’s so much history inside that place. The aura has to be amazing when the night grows dark. 

I’m hoping to visit the bookstore a couple more times before it disappears. I’d like to know more than what I know, maybe there’s a secret or two or some piece of history that’s definitely worth knowing. 

What struck me the most was finding a cart that had poetry on the top and boating on the bottom of it. Both are my favorite subjects and I write “nautical poetry.” I’d like to believe that I was meant to see that before it was gone. Since it means so much to me, maybe it’s my personal sign that I need to continue that path. Poetry and boating, I can see that being a good part of my life forever. 

I’m often looked at strange for my expression of how I can have such deep connections to certain people or places that haven’t been in my life for very long. There’s just a feeling that never goes away. There’s something special within that moment, and I’ve lived long enough to know that when I feel something this deep… I need to hold on to it. 

It may also very much be for the fact that I’m going through a lot of changes and difficult decisions right now. I need to close some more doors to my past so that I can move on with new things in my future. I really think everything relates back somehow, and the answers I’ll have looked for this entire time will already have been written within the pages of this book. 

2019 UPDATE: Shortly after that shop closed, my new friend opened up “The Book Booth” right next door at the Beach Bazaar. It was there for a while, but she ended up leaving. We lost touch for a while….a few years later we reconnected and she became an important part of my writer’s group.

Push Pin Memories (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

It was the spring of 2003, my second semester of junior year in high school. I was sitting quietly with the rest of the students in my keyboarding class; typing away at a test that we were given in the early days by our teacher. 

All of a sudden, a deep Philadelphian accent sounded in my ear. “Do you want a pair of scissors?” 

I stopped typing, turned around and asked, “Why?” 

As an answer to my question, she offered me a scarf and said, “Are you having a bad hair day? Because it REALLY looks like it!” A smile never left my teacher’s face that day. 

That was the jest of mine and Elaine Hunt’s friendship for the rest of the year. She and I didn’t really grow close until I found out that she was from Philly right before I was leaving for the city with my choir. After that, I’d hang out with her after school. Not only was she a great advice giver, but she also filled me in on things I wanted to know about Philly and she really knew her stuff when it came to sarcasm.

We had several different “fights” throughout that semester. She’d tell the class to be quiet, look at me and I’d laugh; then she’d say something smart instigating another fight. Anyone else who did that would get into trouble. I felt a little bad about it, but I must confess that I always looked forward to the days where we’d battle it out right in front of the class.  

Around the second week of May, I begged Elaine to come see our last Bye-Bye Birdie performance. When I saw her at school the next day, I asked if she had come, and she had not. I told her that I was mad at her and I wasn’t going to speak to her for the rest of the class. She then said, “GOOD! My wish has finally come true!” I nearly died. 

Later that day during our class, one of my close friends got mixed up in the middle of that specific fight. My friend became our “messenger” to reply messages back and fourth since we weren’t speaking (but we could clearly hear one another). Right before school let out, she gave our messenger a push pin to give to me. I asked, “What am I supposed to do with this?” She replied, “GO SIT ON IT!” 

She must’ve told her classes about that, because the following weeks, I had several classmates come up to me and ask about the famous “push pin story.” The rest of the year was classic, but nothing compared to that. Before school let out, I asked if I could be her teacher’s aide. I think the answer might’ve been a “maybe”—just like everything else in my life.  

• 

When August 2003 rolled around, I was finally a senior, and boy, was I ever so excited to get back to school! As a tradition, I returned the day before to catch up with my teacher friends and to see if they needed help setting up their rooms. I went straight to Elaine’s business room and found another teacher in there. 

“Where’s Mrs. Hunt?” I asked. 

“She won’t be here this semester.”

I was stunned. I backed out of the room out to the hallway, where I met another teacher. I asked her what happened. She said, “Karen, I think you need to come down to my room. I have something to tell you.” 

I was told that Elaine had ovarian cancer for the second time and she wouldn’t be returning to school that semester. I couldn’t stop crying. That was not the way that I had planned on starting my senior year. Since I knew about it before all of the other students, I had to stay quiet for a few days. Soon enough, everyone found out from the staff at school and I was asked multiple times if I was okay—because they knew how close Elaine and I had been.  

I kept Elaine informed of my life that semester, but I barely heard back from her. I’d get weekly updates through her best friend who also worked at the school. Every other update would be ‘she’s better’ or ‘she’s worse.’ 

One day in October 2003, I had a dream that we were in her classroom with the new teacher and she was telling everyone that Elaine wasn’t coming back. I fought them, screaming, “YES SHE IS! YES SHE IS!” 

The following morning during my first class, Momma pulled me aside and told me that Elaine was forced into early retirement and she wasn’t coming back. I was an absolute mess. 

• 

Before I knew it, school was out at the end of May and I was helping my teacher friends pack up their stuff for the summer for my very last time. Because I had dealt with so many of my own battles that year, and I was sad about graduating and leaving everyone, I had forgotten one tiny huge detail that made that day so special. The teachers would always have a “day after” meeting, one that I was allowed to attend that year. 

When I walked in, I got the biggest surprise of my life: Elaine was there. She waved and smiled at me. During the meeting they showed a video that I had made for Momma’s retirement and they had a small party for her and Elaine’s retirement. 

When the meeting was over, I walked over to Elaine, gave her a hug and talked to her. We walked around a bit, and before she left, I made sure to tell her I loved her and I still thought about all of our inside jokes. She told me the same, we said goodbye, and that was it. 

• 

Year 2005 rolled around and I was moving on with my life, going to college and working. I never heard one update about her that year. 

One day in October 2006, I had just gotten home from work and I opened up my email. The subject? Elaine Hunt’s passing. The funeral was arranged for the following day but I was scheduled to work. I went to work, but was only there for a few minutes; I realized I was physically in the wrong place. 

I left work and went to her funeral mass. It was the most beautiful funeral I had ever attended, and the most saddest. I ran into the school principal and some teachers, and also met her husband. When I talked to him, I promised the family that I would gather up all of our inside jokes and our stories to send to them. I finally fulfilled this promise a few years later, right before moving out of Kentucky, and I received the most nicest email back in regards to my present. 

• 

It’s 2014 now, and I still can’t read through the entire storywithout welling up with tears. It’s just one of those things. Only a tiny portion of the story was captured for The Captain in Me. There’s still so much more left to this.

The letter from her husband stated that he was really surprised to see that she let her guard down with a student (me). Almost the entire staff at school told me I was extremely lucky for having what I had with her, because she was not at all that way with other students. When I think about it, I was in her very last class of her very last semester, and the only student she allowed in like that. Being the one exception to her rule made me absolutely special. 

I would really like to think that Elaine would be proud of me for where I am today—for being in business, marketing and doing all kinds of fun things, staying positive and just enjoying life. She taught me so much in those few months that I knew her. 

In the current place where I am living, I have so many push pins in the wall holding up posters and photos of things that I love dearly. I guess it’s me thinking that if I push pin it, it’ll be there forever.. in my memory. 

“If you can’t remember it—push pin it!”  (And also use a sticky note—if you need it to stick longer!) 

Packing Up the Memories & Key of Trust (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

Since 2014 marks my ten year high school reunion, I must share my “Packing Up the Memories” story with you. Instead of rewriting something that’s already written, I am using my essay from college that I wrote in September 2004. 

• 

I will never forget how I held the “key of trust” from January to June of my senior year. I was not ready to close up my 6th and final year of aiding, so I was offered a position 4th block by my ex-English, media and comp IV teacher, who I now call “Momma.” When I became her aide I was forewarned of what I had to do. I had been given the not-so-easy task of cleaning the media editing room/English hall storage room, which had later been named my office. Knowing that Momma and I were the only ones going to be going into my office, one day I asked her for the key, because I needed somewhere to store my belongings and I didn’t have a locker. 

I had been familiar with working in that room before it even became mine. I was one of the two media editors that used the computer in there first semester. Before I cleaned it, the room looked like Florida after hurricane Frances hit it. 

As soon as you opened the door, the first things you would notice was how it smelt like dust and mildew, and how the sunlight would always light up the room during the day. On the left hand side, there was a regular sized table with a computer and VCR on top and above that was the bulletin board. Beside the table there was an old wooden teacher’s desk, bigger than the ones that are in classrooms nowadays. On top of the teacher’s desk, there were at least a hundred cds that had been sent to our media class for the school announcements and a bunch of teacher editions of English textbooks. In the back of the room, on the left hand side close to the windows, there was a shelf that attached to the wall and was full of old papers and empty binders. 

On the right side of my office was several shelves that went from one end of the wall to the other. There were at least eight sections that divided into 4 or 5 shelves per section. Boxes were lined up on the floor in front of the shelves.  Video tapes and cassettes had been thrown together in several piles on the shelf.  Class sets of The Great GatsbyRaisin in the Sun and a few literature books were randomly placed on the center shelving. Other books from drama, speech, and pleasure reading were roughly stacked on shelves all different ways. In the very back, looking straight ahead, there were two windows of which both were broken and could not be opened without some extra work getting them closed. Two huge rolling carts were placed in front of the windows and both of those had boxes of papers piled on them along with inches of dust. 

While in the process of cleaning in the six months, I decorated the almost bare bulletin board the way I had wanted. I had found a few posters in the room so I hung up a huge poster of a blue sunset with a message and two cat posters. I had also pinned pictures, remote control sound key chain, a Philadelphia postcard and a locker poster. 

By the end of May, I had cleaned and dusted almost everything in the room and bags worth of trash had been thrown away every day. I had accomplished the major task of dusting and organizing all of the objects on the huge oak shelves. I had also organized all 200 or more VHS tapes on the oak shelves, all boxes were gone, textbooks were neatly lined up on the dusted shelves, the computer was gone, desks were empty and had very few items left on the top. It looked very clean and everyone was impressed with the work I had done. 

Room 220 was mine for the time being and it was my home away from home. All throughout the six months of holding the key, I was there from 1 p.m. to after school hours almost every day. I was the only one, other than Momma, who had ever seen and read through all of the papers that were not supposed to be seen by anyone other than her. I had kept secrets, literally, behind closed doors. This was the place I went to be alone, if I needed to think about a lot of things. People knew of room 220 being mine and I always had people dropping by saying hi. This was some experience that no other student had ever or will ever have. 

June 4th was my graduation and I still held the key to my office. Holding the key for six days over graduation set a good feeling within my soul—it was a proven fact that I was trusted. I was no longer the student but a mere adult holding the key. On June 10th, Momma and I came back to the high school to finish up cleaning in her room, the neighboring room and my office. I had the choice to either keep the key and never use it again or give the key up. I held back tears and gave the key to Momma. 

If I had of kept the key, knowing I’d never be able to use to again, I would always wonder what was on the other side; I would still be clinging onto the past. But, because I gave it up, the memories and secrets will always remain locked up behind closed doors and forever in my memory. I wanted to leave high school knowing that I should not have regrets, and if I did, I would not be able to travel to the past to change them. In the end, I did the right thing by proudly handing back the key (of 6 months worth of trust), ending six wonderful years of aiding, and closing the first chapter of my life. 

2014 added note: 

When the first day of school in August 2004 rolled around, Momma and I sat out in front of the school greeting everyone as they arrived, while holding signs with “retired” and “graduated” on it. Both the students and staff at WJHS got a kick out of it. Momma returned to school to sub and I continued helping out in the office there on days I didn’t attend college. 

In 2005, I had yet another season of “Packing Up the Memories.” I helped Coletta, the choir director at the middle school and original teacher I first started teacher aiding for, clean out her room because she was leaving for another position somewhere else. 

Yet another chapter closed, and the permanent end to my teacher aiding days. 

My Way (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby 

There are some memories from high school that I just cannot let go of or forget. Such as, one day in my freshman year, a teacher played Leann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” telling us to never give up on our dreams. Or when I met a very special teacher for one semester in junior year, got to know her, and had many memories, before she permanently left Earth a few years later. 

Or the time when Momma and I formed some sort of permanent understanding that we were two people who would always do things our way, reflecting the Frank Sinatra song, “My Way.” 

I also found out about Robert Frost’s “Road Less Traveled.” Ever since then, I’ve been following his words. If I am given a choice, I take whichever is better for me, and mostly, the road less traveled. 

I have never been one to follow what everyone else does. Who really wants that? Don’t you want to make your life a unique one while you’re here on Earth? One where you will be remembered even long after you’ve passed on. 

High school was also the time that I discovered Jimmy Buffett. There isn’t one song that I don’t relate something to in my daily life. He has certainly been such an inspiration for me, as a fellow Pirate, and for helping me form my life over the years. A lot of my book has been written while listening to his music in the background. 

As I get older, I compare certain moments in my life to that one journey on the water. 

As you launch the boat, to go out on the water for a couple of hours, you really don’t know how many waves you’ll hit or what direction you’ll have to take. You never know who you’ll see or meet; you never know if you’re going to see magic – like a dolphin show or a fish jumping up and accidentally landing in your boat. That’s just like every day life. You just never know what the day will be like. You can always be prepared for something, but most likely, you won’t always be ready. 

I think of my life’s path as a giant treasure map. I go along in my life, collecting treasures to put in my treasure chest. Every “x” on my map is where I’ve been, and it stands for a memory. Every moment has a reason, and everything happens for a reason. Maybe this is the philosopher in me talking, but I think that I know. Life is the road that my feet take me down, and I am confident in doing life my own way. 

Kim Aucremann / Kim Charles (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby 

About a year and half ago, I finally bought a record player. I had always wanted one of my own, and after having been to several thrift stores to see just how cheap albums were nowadays, I wanted to go that route for discovering older music. 

One day, after receiving my record player in the mail, I went to one of the places in search of nothing in particular…but came home with 20 albums, 10 cents each. I felt as if I won the lottery. 

After listening to some artists I knew and some I didn’t, I came across this local artist in St. Pete. While at the thrift store I had seen “St. Pete” on the bottom of the album cover and thought, “Well, why not. I like local music, let’s give this person a try.” 

Best decision, ever

When I played Kim Aucremann’s album (The one recorded at The Breckenridge Hotel in St. Pete), it instantly became my favorite.

After discovering how much I really liked this guy – I had to look him up online. I found nothing until I did some serious digging deep online. I did a lot of research to find a few different newspaper articles from the 1970s about him playing at The Breckenridge Hotel in St. Pete. 

There was something very unique about this guy. He was a one man act and was so talented. I laughed at his 1970s jokes, and I actually understood them. He mentioned the CB – do you remember the CB? I do. I think I was in single digits when my dad had one in his truck; then the pagers started taking off, larger cell phones and later technology started getting more complicated and changing all the time where it now has become a rat race just to stay up-to-date with everything. But I digress. 

Digging into the newspaper articles online about Kim Aucremann, I found out that he was a part of the US Navy Show Band where he traveled around the country entertaining sailors. .. which was amazing because.. this book is about sailors and all that jazz. Odd, right? Coincidental? Maybe. Especially since I decided that he deserved to get his own piece in my book. 

In my opinion, he was certainly one of the best hidden discoveries; such a gem and a staple to my music listenings as I’ve written this book. While doing research, I was sad to discover that he had passed away quite some time ago.. back in 1988, at the ripe age of 40, when I was barely 2 years old. 

One of the final articles I read was the famous one where he changed his name from Kim Aucremann to Kim Charles. Under Kim Charles, he recorded a hit song called “I Want to Thank You.” In that same article, he talked about earning his personal key to success and which door it would open for him. Having read that, I knew what exactly what he meant, as I am just steps away from mine. I hope. 

2019 UPDATE: For several years, I made it a tradition to listen to this album on Sunday mornings. You can actually find this album on YouTube now. Just put in his name and someone uploaded the whole thing. It’s worth a listen.

But Wait! There’s More! (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

June 28th, 2009 I was back in Kentucky for a short visit to tie up loose ends from having moved to North Carolina. I had just woken up and was looking at my social media sites like I did every morning. I came across a message from Billy May’s son, he mentioned that his dad didn’t wake up. This struck me with disbelief and it was so hard to grasp. 

The show Pitchmen came on TV in March of 2009. It showed the lives of both Sully and Billy and the entire direct response industry. It was one of those life-changing TV shows about entrepreneurship, products and business. You work hard for the results that you want and the success follows. I fell in love with the direct response industry because of Pitchmen. 

Every time it was on, we’d all have a “date” on one of the social media sites. I’d host online parties to discuss the details during the show and later have write-ups on my blog about the episode. I got to know several of my current friends because of this show. I also became close with a lot of the ones who worked with Billy. 

Not too long after it had reached the end of the first season when Billy died. It was an incredibly hard time for all of us, but at least we had a huge support system. And, if there was anything to be said, we all met because of Billy. 

In November of 2009, I was one of the lucky ones who, while in Florida on a short vacation, got a chance to hang out and meet them. I felt so very lucky—it was and still is one of the best days from my past. 

While in Florida, I woke up to an episode of the MJ Morning Show where they were discussing Pitchmen and products that were sent to their office. Some of that footage was in an episode for season two. 

After the show was over, it was time to go meet them.

I remember walking in the old building to their office that was shown on TV, and when walking in, I could feel Billy’s spirit. There was this warmth that he left when he left this world, and I felt so lucky to have felt it! 

I just couldn’t believe that I was shaking the hands of celebrities, the ones from my favorite show. They knew me as the talker, but I was just as quiet as can be.. trying to soak in what was going on! We hung out for quite some time and had lunch together at the big conference table that was shown on the show. Meeting them was such an amazing opportunity. 

The rest of the time that trip was spent hanging around at the boat docks, getting together with a couple more friends and enjoying Florida in a winter month. 

• 

Season two of Pitchmen was heading back on early the following year, but they had severe issues on marketing and getting it out there. It just wasn’t the same without Billy, unfortunately. I felt honored that they looked to me to help get the word out in the open. I continued to host parties and do next-day write-ups about the show, but it all soon ended. 

I came back to Tampa in the summer of 2011 the week of my birthday. I met up with most of them once again and had a great time as always. 

In March of 2011, I couldn’t stop thinking about the area and how I just knew in my heart that my future was in Florida, so that is when we made the voyage here. Still to this day moving to Florida was one of the best things I’d ever done.  

Even though my Pitchmen family and I don’t really speak much anymore, they’ve never left my heart, and I still love them very much. I often think about our conversations and what brought us together in the first place. Life just has a funny way of moving people in all directions, including away from one another, even if you’re in very close proximity. 

June 28th, 2014 marked five years since Billy passed away. I wanted to share my new story that provoked this story to come full circle.

I needed a short getaway trip to finish my book, so I stayed at the Banyan Bed & Breakfast House in Venice, FL this weekend. I arrived Friday evening so I didn’t see anyone else that stayed there until breakfast the following morning. 

At breakfast, there were five of us. One couple and their friend’s daughter, another guy (I didn’t get to see his wife that day) and myself. 

The couple that brought their friend’s daughter had been coming to the Banyan House for years. I felt so lucky to have met the three of them. They were absolutely great to talk to, so I asked if I was going to be able to see them before they headed home. 

For me, the entire day was spent trying to focus on finishing the poetry for my book. When it hit later afternoon, I was asked to join the three of them for dinner. We went to a place downtown and talked about everything, just getting to know one another. 

When dinner was over and we arrived back to the Banyan House, the couple and I said goodnight and goodbye. Their friend’s daughter and I spent some time with the innkeepers at the pool house and that is where I finally finished the poetry portion.  

I got up early the next morning so that I could properly say goodbye. We talked about when we’d see one another again and that was it. I had one last breakfast with the remaining couple, hung out for a while, talked to the innkeepers and then left.

I am just amazed at lovely this trip was and how I made new friends…over breakfast! We were strangers with an instant connection! I definitely believe it was a meant to be meeting by chance, and I have to say, it was a remarkable gift from Heaven. (Thank you, Billy.)

A Night Out with Strangers (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby 

Taking chances to experience life is something that has become more apparent for me to do these days. Que Sera Sera, right? 

I had every intention on going to one of my favorite places at Pass-a-Grille to eat, sit and write. But instead, I called upon meeting someone I had accidentally met through social networking. Such an amazing conversation followed: chatting about work, life, my brand, my book and my intentions on everything I’m doing in life.  

Having a long conversation like that really helped because it left open some important questions to be answered, ones that were from a different perspective. When our meeting was over, I was invited to listen to a band play at a bar at John’s Pass. 

Somehow, I always end up at the “band table” which consists of super fans or where the members sit to take a break and eat. While Carl Hatmaker & The Red Headed Step Children (a band from back home in Kentucky) will always remain my most favorite, I’m really thankful to say that I finally have a band in my area to follow. 

“Ready for a little surprise? It has something to do with friendships, and it’s going to happen right at home,” was my horoscope for the first week in February. 

It wasn’t kidding. One member of the band was from Lexington, their friend sitting at the same table as I was from Nicholasville. I’m from Nicholasville, which is right outside of Lexington. 

So, you can imagine me being me, sitting at that table and finding out that in my new home of nearly three years, I was surrounded with people from my birthplace. 

I think it’s safe to say that night: I found some new friends, my new favorite bar spot, a new favorite local band / local artist to support, and a new favorite song “I’ve Got a Rock’n’Roll Heart.” I had a really good time. Who knew that hanging out with strangers would be so fun. 

• 

When I met with my new friend at Pass-a-Grille, one of the conversations that was discussed was about this other friend that played in a band. He wrote this song about his dad being the tire man and growing up he’d always go with his dad. 

That night, as I was sitting at the table in front of where they were playing, he sang that song. The lyrics really hit home. At that point, it didn’t matter how many things happened from “back home” —it just really affected me in a positive way. 

When I went back to Kentucky for a vacation in June 2013, my mom and I met with some of my family at a Starbucks near the airport before one of them flew back home to Texas. 

That location of the Starbucks was where my great uncle owned a gas station for so many years. My cousins talked about how they starting their working years there. 

While my cousins told his stories of working there, I was on my laptop doing research, but I was still listening. I’ve always had a heart for small businesses and I didn’t know whether to be mad at a large corporation for stealing the spot where my family made all of those memories or happy that it was something like a Starbucks there so that our family could still gather there and recollect of yesterday. 

2019 UPDATE: (1) CH&TRHSC broke up about 2-3 years after I wrote this, shortly after only my 2nd or 3rd chance of getting to see them live. I was lucky enough to snag a photo with all of them and get several of their songs before they did, though. I also don’t know what they’re up to these days. (2) I can’t remember the last time I saw B&F play at John’s Pass on Thursdays since I started theatre in 2016. (3) The day I mentioned I saw my cousin from Texas was the last day I’d seen him. Shortly after getting back home, he was in a bike accident and has been paralyzed from the waist down since. He was the actually the one who bought my great aunt’s historical farmhouse for the family years ago.