Sunday, December 04, 2016
Friday, December 02, 2016
Saturday, November 19, 2016
but the next one is substituting at a local high school, and it leaves me with an open schedule. so when the casting call came out for a movie to be shot in new mexico soon, i signed up for it. i had to drive all the way down to el paso, in the desert, to get to this place where they were signing everyone up for the cast. they hauled in probably four or five volunteers, all willing to work as extras in the movie horse soldiers, set in afghanistan before 9-11. that's literally all i know about it, but it was interesting to come into contact with hollywood, such as it is, the eastern branch, centered in albuquerque, of course. they came out this way because the dry mountains are out this way. they agreed to get a hold of me when they were ready to shoot.
back to the grind, i found my e-mail backed up, papers to grade, a semester ending. i promptly got sick. it was overwhelming. the good news was, i was next to a wood stove, cooking away, and my wife was not only feeding the stove, but also making some chicken noodle soup. the kids are out of school for a week. everyone's hanging around. a dog and three cats downstairs with the teenager, two dogs up here, but one of the cats, the one-eyed cat, is moving up because the dog was threatening her down there, and my wife, who has a good eye on them and developing trouble, wanted to save her life. it's ok. we have a mouse up here now, so we need her to catch it. the one-eyed cat is quite good at that. she'll be warmer too.
the new job is down the front side of the mountain, a six-thousand foot drop that takes twenty minutes and features a large cactus, sitting there, growing right out of a rock. it doesn't appear to have any dirt at all to grow roots in, but the heck of it is, you can't quite see it because you can't stop. right at that spot in the road, there's no curb on the right; the mountain rises right from the road. the cliff falls from the left down in the valley. the cactus shines in the sun, especially in the afternoon, when the sun is going down way over the organs and brings the light off the white sands. in the morning as you're shooting down toward it, the sun is behind you and catches it there too. either way, it's wild. big honking purple cactus in the sun, standing on a rock.
the dry mountains are very attractive to those albuquerque filmmakers these days; they're all excited about the movie. they come out here; they try to find extras; they pay them, and they have top movie stars working on these things.
the teenager got a new pokemon game and now he is more oblivious than ever before, although it appears that he still eats, and exists, and he still goes to school. he was here for that last sentence; i spoke it right into the blog.
of all the things i do, grade papers, travel around, play music, write books, that idea of being an extra in a real movie really got into the imaginations of the kids. they were like WOW. we're going to tell all our friends! of course it wasn't huge news in this area. in fact one of their friends took the day off school, went down to el paso, and signed up herself. do they need a ten-year-old? she'll find out.
i thought i looked a little afghani, shaggy, fierce, wild eyebrows, and i sent them a picture accordingly. no telling what will happen though. the fact is, i'm a little overweight, and afghanis tend in the other direction. i've been eating a little too much good cookin'.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Friday, October 28, 2016
two people died back in the cesl family where i lived and worked for eighteen years. one was a son of my director who died suddenly. another was a guy about my age who came through and taught for us a while. this second guy seemed to have a problem with alcohol and drugs. he went on a huge bender i think even while he was working with us and lost his job. he disappeared to cambodia, where he had a wife and son, or maybe two sons, and was ok for years. he returned to suburban chicago and who knows what happened. that's where they are burying him soon. i think based on what i can figure, that he never figured out how to keep from going on huge benders. he'd do it every once in a while.
one time, a strange thing happened to me. i was working with him. it so happened that he had gone to southern illinois back in 1969 or 1970, at the time of the burning of old main, their oldest and most venerable building. the building had burned down in protests related to the vietnam war, and of course the burning was blamed on student activist arsonists. but they never figured out who had actually burned it down, even today they don't know. so this guy said to me one day, "i have personal knowledge about the burning of old main." i was stunned. it was soon after that that he went on his bender and i never really saw him again, so i was unable to, say, get him in a comfortable social setting where i could ply a little more information out of him. i didn't really know him all that well. i also suspected that he wasn't the person who did it. i don't know why i say that, perhaps only justifying that, after hearing him say such a thing, i didn't turn him in. it was almost like he'd carried this secret around for thirty years and finally dropped it close to the root of where it had happened. but what was i supposed to do with that information? no sooner than he told me, and he was off to cambodia to the deepest jungles where they couldn't really get at him anyway. i kind of dropped the topic and only vaguely stayed in touch with him. it was because i was his facebook friend, though, that i found out about his death. there is no telling if the secret died with him.
i wrote a story called clubs are trump but spend days avoiding the whole trump nightmare and never published the story. the story only briefly mentions trump himself, and is more about a card game, but it has trumpian overtones and the question that remains is whether to develop that, even a little, so as to at least explain the brief mention of trump at the beginning, or whether to more or less stuff it, and drop it out altogether. i have come to recognize writing as extremely therapeutic, to me, and extremely important in the process of helping me work out stress and passion. with trump i feel like the rise of fascism has repudiated my lifetime of telling internationals that we are really a tolerant, generous friendly people. we aren't, at least about half of us aren't, although some have good hearts and are just majorly clueless. but trump is a pedophile rapist and his popularity shows if nothing else, the passion of hatred rising in people who are willing to vote for him, even knowing about his fascist tendencies, and proclivity toward raping people. he's shameless and dangerous, and has no idea what he's doing, and people are voting for him anyway. when i write i release a little of my hostility but i basically feel like he's grabbed the country and raped it as well, because he can, and because he cares more about getting attention than just about anything in the world. now that he realizes he might lose, who knows what he'll do? we have to grab the reins of the country and first thing, say, we don't allow this kind of crap. you can rape 13-year-old girls, apparently, and get away with it, but if you want to rape a whole country, there are too many people who are wide awake, who might not allow it. the problem is...who really knows what will happen?
i have various family problems too, from a grown son who keeps me up worrying at night, to children who flunk at school and even my wife who, the truth is, is not well. this is not the place to discuss all this stuff, but it gives me plenty to worry about as i shoot across the oil fields of eastern new mexico, and the cotton fields of far west texas, once a week to go back and teach my classes. i try not to hit the rabbits, but it's especially dicey with the elk and the deer, late at night, on my way back, as i get into the high mountains and start swerving around those curves like the one that had the elk standing on the mountain. i slow down. the reason i'm there, like 12 or 1 am, is because i play music in the evening before i go. so i have this bluegrass music in my head as i'm coming around the curvy mountain roads, and fortunately, those deer and elk can hear me a mile away. so i've been pretty lucky so far. i have five more trips to go, then i'm staying out here, come hell or high water, i'm not going back. looks like we're through with texas. it was a good state, while it lasted, it was good to me anyway. i cherish the friends i made back there. i am leaving, hanging around mostly with the ones i liked the best - the musicians, the quakers, and the esl world. but in fact there were lots of nice people there.
r.i.p., to all the people who can't control their consumption and die as a result. may god bless those who lose a child; i've had several friends lose a child recently, and to me, that's about the worst thing that can happen to someone. you expect to lose a mom or a dad, that's in the natural order of things, it's not easy, it's not nice, but it happens to almost everyone. but to lose a child, that's much harder. doesn't matter the age. this guy that was my age, i think his father was still around, maybe about my dad's age. my other friends lost a child who was but 33, had an infant, was trying to make it in this world. i'll come around, sometime, and i'll know that it's all in the natural order and it's all the way it's meant to be. but at the moment it seems kind of a cruel and difficult world. our own family is trying to work out what to do when trouble comes. we'll find out, i'm sure. we're both close enough to retirement so that we are not likely to starve altogether. but our children will probably be a lot more independent than they were learning how to be. and, my guess is, that might be good for them.
i have ten altogether. i leave them out of this blog for the most part, but i ask for god's protection of them as well. they make their own way in the world and will have their own social media accounts soon enough. i try to keep this my story, and it keeps me sane, to some degree. i write, and now i feel better, even about trump, or about how bad things could get in this country if it really comes apart at the seams. my brother in england says, i feel like we're living in nazi germany - yeah, well it wasn't all that long ago, that people were living in nazi germany. normal, sane people were living there and all kinds of things were happening. i have no faith in humanity, in the people around me, and know that they could vote for anyone, and also know that the system is rigged such that i myself have been tricked into voting for someone i don't really approve of. she's not a pedophile rapist, know-nothing racist, but, she's also not a model leader, and i'm voting hard for her anyway, 'cause that's the way the system works. so there, i don't put much politics on here, but it's show your colors month, and halloween coming, and the indians in the world series, which doesn't happen very often, and about to be the high holy days, saints day, souls day, sadie hawkins day, election day, guy fawkes day, all the big ones. by far the best time of the year, the holiest, the prettiest. time to take a break, if i had the time, and notice, how beautiful it all really is.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
so in this volume, which i'm working on furiously, i'm trying to make it true to the original trip, which was back in the seventies. i try not to include things that have arrived on the scene since then, like black friday and walmart, and try to really show the emotions or the feelings of traveling around, which does not have to be in the exact place where it actually happened. so in delaware for example i have the feeling of being stuck way up on the icy memorial bridge, behind a jackknifed truck, and i'm not sure it exactly happened that way, but it happened somewhere, and in fact the memorial bridge is possibly the only thing i remember about the whole state. and, the memorial bridge at night. i didn't actually see it, though i could get a good shot at it through google images.
back in the house, it's stick gathering time - the last clear pretty weekend, probably, before it gets really cold. we've hauled in a few cords of firewood and we aren't sure if it will be enough - never been in the high mountains for an entire winter - and my guess is, it won't be, entirely. or, it will last a bit longer if i can go get some sticks to help start the fires, and don't always need to cut up whole logs just to make sticks to start the things. so, my plan is to go to nearby neighbors, who have sticks lying around all over the place, and just ask them. as one neighbor said, they're just sticks. to me, they're more than that - they look like kindling on the mountainsides, and if i can gather them, they will last me a little longer through the winter. i have that late fall, gathering impulse. plus, the need to get out into the fresh air.
in virginia, it's the civil war. tales of stonewall, chancellorsville, stuff they all know by heart, and we're just travelers, amazed that it matters so much. or it's arlington, or the tomb of the unknown soldier, both of which are in virginia. lots going on down there, it's a big state. and it needs to be rewritten. as i look at what i have, three or four of them, in the spring, i've used three years in a row. time for some new stuff. time to get t'writing. the good news is that i can do five, six, ten at a single sitting, if i have my mind on it. some of them require planning or research. but the feelings i have, left over from the trip, they're still there.
beautiful day - time to pick up sticks, and recycle.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
slowly, as i said, i began to pick up the pieces. about thirty were lost. i checked my office, and my home thoroughly, but figured i'd dropped them on a bike trip in lubbock when my front tire was flat, i was going uphill, against the wind, about three miles. the one place i'd never recover them, on the street. so i resigned myself and slowly started writing more.
fall has hit the mountains and the hunters apparently came through as it's just about anything goes now, not just bowhunting but whatever suits you. go out and get them and haul them out. the aspens have turned a bright yellow against the evergreens and other stuff has changed color too. down the mountain, this one old cactus sits atop a rock in the sun like it somehow found some dirt to sink its roots into - i imagine it did, how could it still be sitting there otherwise? i found an old cousin of mine down there - she friended me on facebook. i'll even meet her someday - it's only a matter of time. went down and saw my sister and my dad across the valley. went down there twice, in fact. it's a steep and narrow road, wild mountains and caves all over the place, and then that big old cactus, stark, in the sun, on the rock.
so anyway finally i had my little pink folded up tabulation sheet, and i lost that. it went flying from my soft chair, and i simply couldn't find it. one more poetry sheet missing, and i was beginning to lose it, because my tabulation is important to me. unbeknownst to me it had fallen in my briefcase. But in the process of looking for it, i found my other one, the yellow one, with thirty poems on it, some of them, of course, recovered by now. bonanza! it made my weekend. restoring the poetry, getting it out there. i'll be counting it soon, it could be over three hundred.
i write more easily now. on a good day i could get eight, ten or more. today, maybe only four, all hawaii. but hey, you do what you can, and the night's not over. went through a tunnel, several times, and of course, that reminds me of my pennsylvania days, they had a bunch of 'em back there. as a kid i'd be curled up in the back of a station wagon. the mountains, though, would be big and endless. as is life. time to get back to it.
Friday, October 07, 2016
the apples make really good apple sauce, but the firewood gets burned up pretty quick and i have to go back out for more. of course we ordered two cords of logs, and it's quite a bit of wood, but we're not really sure how long it will last or whether we should lay in another cord or two just to be safe. we have propane too. we are not off the grid. i sit here on my blogger, and i play boggle, and i do google, whenever my students plagiarize, i'm all over google.
still have my job, but it's back in lubbock, and i have to drive four and a half hours each way, on mondays and tuesdays. that, my dear blog, is where i've been. it's a long hard drive, even though it's only four and a half; it goes over the oil fields, the cotton fields, the wide open grasslands, so dark, so totally empty, that you see absolutely nothing at night. coming back this way you end up in the mountains, and you wind around so sharply that it tends to wake you up and keep you in the ball game. cliffs drop off sometimes on either side. you see a wild mountain go straight up from your passenger-side window but you can't follow your eyes because you have to pay attention to the road. and there are deer and elk out; why they like to come out and stand out on the road, i have no idea. some people say they like to lick the salts off the roads. i had no idea the road had any taste at all.
so i'm out there, every week, crossing the time-zone, teaching my class and coming back to the high mountain refuge up here, where it's cloudy and cool and the colors have pretty much changed already. rest of the southwest, it's warm, they're waiting for it to cool off, but way up here, it's already happened, and we're thinking electric blankets and warm jackets. writing them right into our budget. i go out and gather more apples and more sticks; it's like gardening, i do it more for my health, and my anxiety, than for the economic benefit one might get. but i did plant the apple seeds. i figured if they were doing so well - there are about eight trees right around the corner - then i might as well keep them going around this way, see if i can get some apples for the future generations. not sure my plan will work. but they're red, juicy, delicious, and they seem to do well at 9000 feet.
came through artesia one night with 120 miles left in the gas tank; cloudcroft is about 95 from artesia. but cloudcroft is 6000 feet straight up. by mayhill i had only 30 miles left in the tank, and 25 to go. in mayhill my credit cards didn't work; my wife had changed the zipcode. i couldn't imagine that, and set out to see if i could get 25 more miles off the car. about halfway the car started flashing hard at me and i pulled over. you don't want to offend a car by letting it go bone dry anywhere. this is more true nowadays than it used to be - i once let a car go bone dry all winter. but my point is, there i was, way out in the high mountain, one thirty in the morning, out of gas. i called my wife, woke her up, and she agreed to come get me. actually i had a bicycle in the car. i'd never even thought of it; i hadn't used it in texas. i probably could have ridden the last ten miles on the bike. but i didn't think of it.
so there were these huge elk out in the middle of the road, maybe a half dozen of them. my wife was driving the van. they ambled out of the way and i wondered, later, how they would have responded to a bicycle rider. it's still an open question. they were doing their road thing, licking the salt or whatever, maybe it's that at the road, they can finally reach and eat the grass without actually stepping in it, or whatever.
the problem is that all this stuff adds on to my week. i grade papers like crazy. i try to set up my blackboard so the students get a shot at everything they normally would. we have an actual online class every thursday. i look forward to thanksgiving of course, when i'll take a thursday off. i will continue to drive hard, seven or eight more times.
up here, on the mountain, i play my banjo off my porch, and it's close enough to the center of town so that i feel like people are listening. elk and deer come up and take what they can get off the fruit trees down below. hikers pass by every once in a while. out in the mountains, colors are changing in raging glory. i take my wife out there every once in a while.
one day, i'd come home from lubbock late and woken up early, which is my usual routine. she said let's go out to the mountains, i need a walk, i need to get out of here. we picked a trail that took us back behind a mountain on an isolated road. we got about a mile or two into it and saw a couple of bears. it was a mother bear and a teenager bear, best i could figure. they gave us a dirty look from the trail way off ahead, then ambled off, up the hillside and out of sight. we walked by the spot, making plenty of noise, grateful that they didn't spring out at us. it was a long path; we were way out there. but we had a story to tell.
and, it uplifted my spirit considerably. people around here weren't especially surprised; they see bears all the time. but i myself haven't seen a bear, especially a wild one, in twenty or thirty years. or more. and the thing is, we all got along fine. i told them that i told stories about them (true) and that i never made them out to be bad guys or anything (also true) and that as far as i was concerned, boys and bears could get along fine (true) and that i was the boy in most of the stories (well this one might not be totally true, but was pretty much true). their silence spoke volumes from back on the hillside or wherever they went off to hide. we might have been the first human beings that teenager had seen all year, or in its life. the trail was in its blazing glory, and it was way isolated. the ones near our house are urbane in comparison.
we forgot, though, what it was like to live in a truly small town (<1000). it's a bit different. it'll give me some color, if i can get my writing chops back. i've been set back a little; wrote a few stories (see below), but i'm way behind on the poetry. just being on the road, you would think, would be enough. actually i wrote about eight on the way to lubbock. but only two on the way back. i was tired. it takes it out of you, this hard traveling. it's all i can do to remember my toothbrush.