Sunday, June 17, 2018

you got ten kids in america, father's day is a pretty big deal. i did pretty well in that regard - my kids gave me things, including two videos, and a card which is supposedly in the mail - and treated me pretty well. i have no complaint.

also the weather was gorgeous, but that's based on the fact that i'm way up high in the mountains, and it rained a couple of days ago, and dry mountainsides full of pine trees all of a sudden had their dust washed off, and they were green and wet-smelling. it was gorgeous. we headed out to the land - about twenty miles from town - but had to come back, halfway, because we'd forgotten the key. no problem. it was maybe sixty miles altogether, but about the most gorgeous miles i've ever seen. and the dust, pretty much contained, by the recent rains.

another feature, and that is the young trees springing up on the hillsides. i love to see natural regeneration. fire takes whole hillsides every once in a while - every few years - but it just keeps coming back, the trees that is. lots of natural young trees shooting up and angling for what little rain there is. and those young pines - they smell good, too. it's a gorgeous little five acres.

one thing i like about it is that it's kind of on the edge of nowheresville - way out there. more about this later...

Friday, June 15, 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

lookin' kind of ominous out there, overcast, with thunder and rainstorms passing through the area. we've all been kind of on edge, hoping for rain, as we generally don't get much this time of year, not until maybe july, so the sheer dryness of everything is kind of driving everyone crazy. people snip at each other over whether it's ok to fire guns randomly at this time of year; firecrackers are a huge issue, as they are generally banned altogether, though some people insist on firing them off anyway. just about anything that burns can pretty much catch the whole mountaintop on fire, so we're especially wary of tourists, or people who don't read signs, or in some cases, people who are both at once. but the locals are probably just as likely to endanger us as anyone.

an elk hit my truck last night; i was driving slowly, windows down, on a mountain road coming into town near big daddy's. someone was coming from town and rustled this elk out of their eastbound lane and right into my driver's door. he put a dent in it but didn't ruin it or make it so it wouldn't shut. the guys in the other car stopped to check it out and said the door could probably be popped back in place; having figured out that we (i) in the truck were ok, and the elk was gone (he bounded off, wounded as he was), the guys left; they were mountain kids, vaguely familiar, respectful. it was our surprise that the elk had hit me, that i hadn't hit it; but, that's the way it was.

nothing worse than having a kid that goes off his meds, maybe because he thinks he doesn't need them, or just because his life is in such a place where he doesn't care. people love him, and know, even from a distance, that things are disjointed, not right, all is not well. one can read it in his posts, which have an edge, but no grammar, no complete thought. just the edge. the hard edge, the raw feelings untempered. that's the kind of feelings that can get you in a fight, get you beat up, ruin you. of course we're all out here going, take your meds, take your meds. get this back under control. nothing worse, than being so powerless, sit way out here, hope your kid gets his head back.

we can feel the rain coming; it's come up over the valley now, and there's thunderous sounds of imminent water. there's been no rain to speak of for months, maybe a few drops here and there. i brought in what i could but a huge sheet of plywood remains up on the road; i'd brought it from the country, to make sure we could get the refrigerator down the steps and past the place where the plumber, in desperate fury, tore up the walk trying to find the leaky water main. the water main busted because we put a huge wall in, to keep the road from caving in toward the house. it's all a big one-thing-after-another kind of drama that might take up my whole summer.

started putting my haiku up on twitter randomly, just whichever one had an edge, whichever one might catch someone's eye. one day i'd do idaho, another georgia, and after the haiku i'd link to the haiku site which of course now has about sixty for each state. most tweets fall randomly into the sea of extra words but i thought maybe the visual nature of haiku would be like a stone in a pond, it would make a blip, maybe somebody would notice. turns out, new jersey noticed. on that site, where it tracks visitors, it got over a hundred on that day.

such is life; it goes on, and we wait for the rain.

Friday, June 08, 2018

the clouds came over and dropped about four drops of rain in our yard; I happened to be there, because I happened to step out to pee at about 5 45 am. this is because the water has been shut off here for about two days. we have four kids at home, two more who are more or less staying here most of the time, and a refrigerator that is not quite operating up to task, but the water leak was almost the last straw. all of a sudden all this ivy that is on the wall, that keeps the road from caving in on us, is doing so well; it's bright green, and seeming to get an infinite supply of water somewhere. well, that's our water bill, some rusty old pipes that come down from the street down into our house, that run our systems, most notably toilets, showers, dishwasher and laundry, well, all that has ground to a halt.

but those four drops, to tell you the truth, didn't amount to much. there could have been a few more, sometime in the middle of the night, or maybe afterward, and i wouldn't have noticed. in fact it probably could be said that a few clouds have passed through and possibly dropped a few here and there, over the course of the last week. a couple of days ago my wife and daughter were out at a trailer, about four miles away, and experienced a few drops out there, while there was nothing here. yes, that's possible. fire danger is still extreme. it's still important, we are told, to keep all fires indoors and avoid smoking anything outside.

when we go down into the valley, we go from about eighty, which is tolerable, to about a hundred, which makes us want to turn back around and go back up the mountain. the firefighters over in mescalero are probably operating in about ninety degree heat, without much water, but with the benefit of helicopters dropping slurry around the perimeter. i'm not sure exactly how this works. is slurry a kind of wet, muddy stuff that won't work with the ashes to ruin the surroundings? who knows. i wish them well out there. we've got firefighters from the surrounding states, from all over, coming to fight this particular fire. we don't hear much about it. yes, it started in soldier canyon, not far from the town of mescalero, in the middle of the mescalero reservation. it was human-caused. it was set somewhere behind what's called the "ceremonial grounds" of the mescalero res. it's up to 2500 acres, but they said that the same night as the fire started. what's unusual to me is, there isn't much public information that really keeps us updated about the containment, about the wind, about how large it is now, etc. they know all this stuff, they just consider themselves too busy to share it with the public.

folks are jumpy about fires here. for one thing, it hasn't really rained substantially since about october, so the extreme fire danger level, everyone knows that's justified; it applies to all of us; where there is a lot of underbrush, which is almost everywhere, there is a possibility; it's all a tinderbox, and any given flame could catch the whole valley. And the heck of it is, it does, every couple of years or so. a few years ago it caught the sierra blanca slopes, and that whole valley was just burned up, in days, thirty or forty, or maybe sixty or seventy, years growth in pines and firs, all went up in smoke in days. another year it was the valley our land was in; that might have been 12-15 years ago. whole mountainsides went up in smoke. everyone started over. there are some very tall pines, with branches at the top, that somehow survived; they overlook the new development of small pines that are springing up and making a new kind of ground cover.

in our house, people are waking up for sunday morning. we may have to turn on the water, so we can do a load of dishes and laundry, and people can take showers if they want. it's mostly self-absorbed kids here; they don't know or care about the mescalero fire. one daughter had a birthday, and just got a doll that poops. she's ten, but that doll, angel, is very important to her. i've just finished teaching three classes, early each morning, friday saturday and today, and i do these almost in my sleep, but the last one, actually, is the most lively. those chinese kids actually read books, and live for them, and talk about them, and relate them to their lives. i find this kind of remarkable, and invigorating. my own kids have lost interest in books. they would rather watch some little pac-man type character walk around beeping with the sound off, as this seems more like what they'd want to do for the summer. eighty is just about right, for hanging around the living room staring at one's phone. you have to stay near your charger, and make sure the food keeps on coming, but then, you kick back, and there goes summer.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

got the do-your-own-pr blues. i also feel like i don't have that much out there really. spent my quarter-time, for almost four years in texas, playing music and developing my writing. what do i have to show for it? lots of poetry, which mostly people ignore, five books of short stories, which do ok, quaker plays, and, well, that's about it. my son is off on his fourth youtube channel and each one makes more than all my work combined.

the problem is, when i got into finishing my autobiography, that there are really a lot of choices there, and i hadn't really thought about them. i'd done almost all the writing, in fact, all, so that now, having proofread it, i can say i'm done. there's a few more things i want to put into it, and will; it's about a hundred jam-packed, small-type pages and will probably be more like 180 when it all comes out on a book. one of the choices is, make a proof, and show it when asked, or just publish it? another choice is, include some stuff or not. and finally, it was written over a course of ten years or so, and writing style changed a little. i could update that style - the present version has a lot of dashes, and isn't very formal - or, i could simply sharpen up parts of it so it's a mishmash of different styles, leaning toward the present. i'm leaning toward that second option, because i've called it true stories from out there which advertises, basically, that i wrote them originally here. i did. i wrote them over a period of about twelve years, with a kind of casual, dash-throwing style. and i might want to keep that, if only to say, this is what i've written over the years.

i did that to some degree with the plays. when faced with the option of updating, making them current and the best possible, incorporating all my knowledge of play-writing, still i chose to go with the original format, just proofread it and stuck it in there as it was. there's something to be said for a set of things written over time, and not having the same values applied systematically to all of them, so that one can actually see evolution over time.

in this case there are a hundred chapters. fifty, running straight through, the even ones, are autobiographical and tell the story of my life in order, given fifty different places i lived. because in fact i could only remember forty eight i added a chapter or two, maybe i considered the appalachian trail as a place i lived, as i lived there for about ten days, before moving on. whatever. on the story side, true stories from out there, it shows a little of my geographical orientation as well - not every story has a surprise climax, or even a point. if i think about it, i could probably make it so that it has the best of my stories, of every one i've ever told. some of those are included, in much smaller form, within other chapters. so there are some choices to be made about the prominence of stories.

anyway knowing it was almost done, and feeling a little up by virtue of getting the thousand haiku off my plate, i applied myself to this autobiography thinking that, within a week, i could get it done. it's a week, or maybe two, and not done. and also, i'm a little hesitant about publishing it. ex-wives, people who might object - what does a person do? my goal there was just to tell the truth, minimally - stuff you can't argue about. still it might bother people. my version in some cases directly contradicts others'.

but all this isn't the p-r blues. the p-r blues are as follows. i want to take my summer and do the stuff that will make what i've written so far, sell better. and i want to do this without spending money, because i've gotten this principle in mind, that i just don't want to spend money generating sales. i have managed so far, and actually i'm proud of myself, because a lot of people put major investment into generating sales, and generally, i haven't. so what i've got, i got all my myself, in a home-generated p-r system that includes mostly only blogs, amazon and acx, the tools that provide self-made profile sites. now i say this confidently and happily; to me it's a matter of pride. yet i sit here with no sales (or close to none) and get depressed. i sit down to write and, faced with my own life story, can't get past it.

i go outside, and a thick cloud comes over the mountain, but no rain. the clouds gather and pass over, from the south, and later in the summer, i'm sure we'll get some moisture. but at the moment, it's hazy, and cloudy, and nothing. extreme fire danger. no smoking outdoors. brittle as a pile of sticks.

such as it is, i'll just hold the line, so to speak, and carry on.

meet the author

Wed., July 4, 2018
2:00-5:00
Imaginary Bookstore
Cloudcroft NM

Friday, June 01, 2018

the sun is going down over the hills; i'm a little frustrated with the early parts of the vacation. i finished e pluribus haiku 2018 (see below) and have gone on an all-out publicity venture. after that, though, it's over. i think one can get as much publicity as one wants, and one is not going to sell a whole lot of haiku. no problem, though, i will move along. i will either make one giant haiku book, five or six thousand haiku, including a novel, or at least a plot, with characters, etc., or i will give it up altogether.

my efforts at recording my own book have kind of flopped. here it is, a classic collection of seventeen stories; i have now recorded maybe four of them, and am just not happy with the quality. i need my son to help with the sound, but he's busy, making his own new youtubes. no time for a dad who truly doesn't understand the audio setup. and my voice is tinny, echo-filled, not good; i can't seem to clean it up. maybe i simply didn't understand the mic? not sure, but something didn't work, big-time.

so, in my baby-sitting times, when i'm really occupying this chair, and not trying to record, not doing any of the house projects i'd lined up for the summer, i've done this: proofread just passing through, memoirs that i've been working on for years, and that are also almost finished. those stories in many cases link off the template of this very blog (scroll down), but have been waiting in a side drawer of history for many years, and it's about time i got them off my desk. i have almost proofread the whole thing, but that required me to wallow in my first marriage and other unpleasant circumstances of my past, so it led to some agitation on my part. right now i'm kind of stuck on the amish. for example, i always looked up to them, admired their simplicity and healthy lifestyle, yet couldn't deny the various problems they had as a result of rejecting so much of the modern world. well i actually have all kinds of stuff to say about it but how much really belongs in memoirs? after all i haven't known more than two or three of them, my entire life, though even that is probably more than most people. but i come to this part of my memoirs that is full of snark and i'm thinking to myself, do i want anyone really to have a problem with this? none of the amish ever did me wrong, that i remember, so i guess my answer is, tone down the snark, except inasmuch as it's about my own silly attempts to live simply and humbly.

then, i'm a little frustrated with music. i play the banjo still, every couple of days, but i really only have a few songs on it, and never seem to get beyond those. that's the whole reason i took up the fiddle - yet, on fiddle, i really need people with me, to play anything good, and, by myself, it's even more frustrating. it's not like i pick it up and just play all these cool songs that are in my head. no, now that i don't pick it up, i can't even keep the songs in my head. very frustrating!

with quakerism i'm also frustrated, but there, going online seems to give me enough camaraderie, enough other quakers in my life, a kind of worldwide group of people with the same ideals. it would be good to have a meeting; it would also be good to have an entire community, of people who lived in a given area, who were committed to quaker ideals. i can't wait forever though. there are some in las cruces, and i know them well enough, and i find it difficult to go way across the desert on a sunday morning. but with that, i'm ok with it. after all, i spent much of my life without an adequate quaker community, and it looks like i might spend a bit more like that too. online can make up for it to a great degree.

that's the view from this chair. the wind is howling, blowing over the baking plains and coming up here, to the top of this hill, where i try not to budge, and try to work all this stuff out. it's not all going to be hunky-dory, obviously. no sooner do i take a breath, from finishing a grueling academic year, than i find all this other stuff that needs my attention, and i just don't have all that much attention. i have attention for what apparently might be some rain coming, maybe sunday. that would be wonderful. but we up here in this dry country are used to a little disappointment, too.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

e pluribus haiku 2018

$6.00 + shipping on Amazon

$2.99 on Kindle

1000 original haiku from fifty states and the District of Columbia - written in an original 5-7-5 style. Haiku are colorful and physical and include a season word or hint. Because the USA is geographically spread out, geography clues are necessary too.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

oops turned around and there was another school shooting. now that i'm in a school every day i should probably pay attention; over half of my students have access to one gun or another, and i just made about half of them very angry. not sure if it's the same half. but i can tell you this: there's a general lack of respect around that didn't used to be that way.

i partly blame the movies. my own kids spend hours on movies, and i know they turned away from having truly good people win about forty years ago. now the ones who win are the ones who show no respect, in one way or another. they're too cool for politeness or for at least honoring the system. once i explained to my students who dirty harry was. he was one of the first to be a good guy, and to tell the local police department to shove it. and this was a best-selling movie. after that, every movie was like that. the good guy was the maverick, who didn't care to follow the rules.

now a lot of people blame mental illness, and figure anyone who would go home and get a gun, or a AR-50 or an arsenal, and bring it back and shoot up the school pretty much has to be sick. like they can't distinguish between the shoot-em-up video games they play all day long, and an actual situation with hallways and real people. well, they have a point, and that is that if you spend six or seven hours shooting up video-game people, and only an hour or so walking in those hallways, which is more real? no question that the real guns are real; they're all over the place. i think what becomes unreal is somebody trying to tell you where to get off. people don't do that anymore. if some teacher does it, or god forbid a sub, as i am, then, it's all over. talk about unreality.

i have kids who can't read too well, ninth graders who seem to have been passed along without doing much actual reading. they reach a point where they have to read something, and they can't, partly because they never really have. they have some other tricks they do instead, but sometimes they don't work. sometimes a little thing points out how little they have actually read. sometimes you can just tell: almost nothing. so what do they do? i don't know but it doesn't prepare them very well for anything. it prepares them, really, for an overwhelming frustration, and a sense that the whole world is speaking a language they don't understand. there are a lot of these kids. in a system with classes of thirty students, it's almost impossible to keep them from getting answers from their friends.

this is not to say they don't know the world of games, though. put them in a room full of computers and they have halo up in minutes and they're wandering through some empty warehouse with goons off in the distance that they have to shoot or they themselves will be shot. when they hit one he does a little flip off in the distance and their points go up in a gratifying way. sometimes it's their team, and they have an alliance with some other kid or kids in the room.

i suppose it's like their backup plan. if things don't work out, go grab a real one and go wandering through the halls.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

home with dog on lap. the kind of headache you get when you are robbed of sleep too much. girls in their room, talking loudly with an older sister back in lubbock texas. i have to remind them, you can't show off your vulgarity when you make a big deal out of being a christian. they're in a trap now. they like to go off on jesus things with their friends, but they're still capable of vulgarity and meanness. it's my job to point out, you can't do both.

ah but you can and people do. they're being socialized in the ways of the world. with my son, i flew out to oregon for a quaker wedding. the light streamed in to the multnomah meeting house, and people spoke up about the couple and how they were perfect for each other. the plane flights were long but my son held up well. my daughter drove us around a little. i have trouble with siri so i was grateful to let them do it. i got to see a little more of portland that way as well.

almost fell asleep on the lonely highway back from el paso to alamogordo, about the most hostile of desert scapes known to man. i demanded that my son talk to me constantly; that helped. i'd been deprived of sleep for over a week. it seemed like i was going to just blank out and swerve into the ditch. it's a lonely road and, fortunately, no cars were in sight. fortunately also, he agreed immediately and kept up the chatter.

the wedding was fabulous, a little on the hipster side. we stayed at the kennedy school, a hipster hotel in the middle of portland. the groom's grandparents were there, the stars of the show. the groom is my son, number five, and it was his big moment; he had friends there from illinois, and others from as far away as kansas, chicago, new mexico, north carolina. the bride and family were from north carolina, and lots of people were there from the south. they served biscuits and gravy, sausage, and collard greens, and some people pointed out that it was a classic southern breakfast. well-catered though.

the place was green and full of fragrant flowers, various shades of pink. whole bushes full of red and orange and pink flowers; they're easier to grow than grass, someone said. lots of well-tended gardens and old craftsmen houses, greenery, huge trees, and moss in the parks. the weather was unusually good, sunny and beautiful. for them, a break from the rain, i suppose, but for me, i kind of wanted the rain and instead felt i'd brought the sunny-and-dry with me. the greenery was stunning though.

some pictures, i hope, are coming.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

dry as a bone out here, not a drop of rain since about october, though there was a couple of inches of snow at one point. people are a touch sensitive about fire and fires. you can't just step outside your car and light a cigarette, or make some old campfire, the whole mountain might burn down. spring is the very dry, very windy season and we have to hope for the most part, to just get through it alive.

this leaves me wondering - where do the bears go, this time of year? the deer? the elk? not a single mountain spring anywhere with actual water in it.

going to portland on friday morning early, for a son's wedding. it's a pretty good thing, a son getting married and all, but one of the things about it is the lush plants and flowers of portland. it rains all winter out there, so things have been ready to bust out i'm sure, and i'll bring pictures. here, i have no idea how new grass even turns green. i like to say, when it rains out here, you want to go stand in it, but you don't want to rob the ground beneath you of its annual supply.

my job has taken a turn for the very twisted, very difficult. i'm only a sub, but i've taken over a class, a ninth-grade english class, of a teacher who punctured two lungs and may not make it. this class was a little tough on this teacher, i think, but they are just kids, and aren't aware of the degree to which they crushed his dreams, or even wore him out. he taught six classes per day, of anywhere from twenty to forty students per class, a hundred sixty total, and there's a lot of grading in there. these kids, all fourteen-year-olds more or less, had got a little wild, a little over the top.

one of them, my sixth hour, is by far the worst. it has a couple of very large, very physical boys and on the first day, they almost had a fight in which i thought one would kill the other, and would kill me if i were in the middle of it. i called security and it took them forever to get down there, whereupon they hauled the boys off. another kid told me that the one boy was only talking sh--, so i put that in the report, but i also told the truth - i thought it was getting murderous.

but the boys are actually pretty good friends, and so is everyone else in the class; they seem to accept each other in all their differences. there are timid kids who are scared to death of the rampant anarchy of every class and a long list of subs. there have been subs who threatened them, or cajoled them, or tried to restore some kind of order, no success. they're just too wild.

but today there was a lockdown drill, and even the local police were to come and see how well we did, and it was scheduled for two o'clock, beginning of sixth hour. they came to class exuberant as usual, ready to raise cane. a few went back and forth to the bathroom as they often do the first few minutes. then the lockdown orders came over the speakers.

the boys got everyone inside, shut the door and literally threw desks up against the door. mind you, you are supposed to barricade the door, but they took to it with a passion unparalleled in my experience. notebooks flew off the desks as they lifted them and fit them in there against the door. we all got away from the door, as far as we could, and most people sat down. with the lights off, the room got very tired, like we were taking a nap. they played with their phones. i had never heard this class quiet, even for a minute; now it was quiet for a whole ten, fifteen minutes. it was heavenly.

overall i felt like telling them, if there was any chance of some wild gun person coming through shooting randomly, i'd rather be with this particular group of wild boys, than just about anyone else.

in fact, teaching young fourteen-year-olds is like that. it's hard to see that they're actually just people, nice people, but they're trapped in this hormone factory body, and it is so all-consuming that often they don't even recognize me once they get out in the hallway. they live for the social experience, the world of fourteen-year-olds, and the need to impress is so strong, it's all-consuming. and the energy is constant, overwhelming.

that's life in the high school. barricaded doors, cell phones, a little peace and quiet. outside, the sounds of administrators explaining something to the police. over the loudspeaker, they lift the lockdown, back to chaos as usual.