Sunday, January 26, 2020

Saturday, January 25, 2020

temporarily, i have a little dilemma. the sun comes up in the morning, and my chair is directly in it, to the point that, on a brilliantly clear day, as most of them are, i can't do my work in the morning without shutting the blinds. but that kind of disrupts other people who would simply like to live in the living room...generally i can work while they live, but in the mornings i can't work without shutting them in my cave. one solution is to simply go work outside in the mornings. but in the winter the outside is cold in the morning, and doesn't warm up until the sun has been out for a while warming it up. it's life in new mexico.

a careful study of my selling statistics shows that an old book of mine, actually the first collection of my stories, is selling better than the others. one reason could be because it has "esl" in the title. my name has always been associated with esl so old students who liked my writing could be finding me through this book. or it could be that esl is simply selling well these days, in kindle and in paperback. i'm not sure, and it's tending to make me go in a direction of one of my original plans, which was to make esl books. i even started one, but got it out last night to find that it only had three stories in it, and needed some work. at that point, i got tired and went to bed.

at the moment i'm fighting the sun; it's coming up quickly in the southeast, and dooming any work i might be able to do at this chair. we live in a tiny house and it's unlikely that, in the winter, i could simply do my work in the bed, or in my son's room, or some other place. there just isn't the space. and, i'm in the habit of waiting until night, when my wife is in bed, to get going and do what i want to do, but night, as you can see from the anecdote above, has its own problems. i work around the house; i improve on the landscaping around here (it's a gorgeous pine-forest / sleepygrass kind of place), and i do some of the upkeep, shopping, laundry, etc. required to get the last four teenagers off to school in the mornings. that would be my time, when they are at school. that's the time i often find myself unable to work.

another example is today, saturday. the fourteen-year-olds are still asleep, it being only nine. the eleven-year-old and the eighteen-year-old have already eaten but don't cause me much trouble. but the sun is coming into its own, and, boom, might as well be doing anything else. move the chair? it's possible, but, at the same time, not possible. that may be the angle i work on next.

in a little bit my wife will take the girls horseback riding. this is a good development, basically, because they don't generally leave until about eleven, and by that time the sun has risen out of where it blasts me. i often find that being alone is the best way to really get started. i feel like i haven't quite been able to put my whole self into this writing business yet - i'm sixty five, time is running out, and, though i've written quite a bit, my insistence on doing my own marketing, and not spending money, has meant that whole piles of books are sitting on my "bookshelf" (an amazon word for the books you have made) not selling, slipping in ratings by a few thousand a day, eight thousand a day to be exact.

most of my haiku books are in the eleven million range, fifteen million, eighteen million, etc. story books more or less the same. at eight thousand a day, it doesn't take long, and it isn't like people are snatching them or ordering printing runs on them. i'm talking paperback rating here, which is different from kindle rating; the kindle rating includes everything from how much people actually read without buying, to the paperback sales too. in kindle rating my story books are in the two-million, three-million range, and their ratings, too, are losing out on a couple thousand a day. in other words, i have to keep people interested, in order to keep them from slipping down into the ten million.

and i don't even know if people care about this stuff. i know i myself didn't care for months on end, then i looked all this stuff up all of a sudden and whoa. i found i didn't even have a kindle version of some things. i had some books that were totally unrated - i guess if they don't have a sale, there's not much of a way for them to quantify what they've got. and i hadn't cared, hadn't done a thing about it. i get author's copies, which don't count in the ratings, and i give a few away, here, there, what have you, but i find that even giving them away, to friends, to neighbors, to relatives, doesn't count for much. you hope they'll read it, like it, pass it along, cause some other residual sales, but, i think it ends up on their shelf, looking good (to me), but not counting for much. could be that i'm not really that great of a writer. if so, i'm ok with that.

i was a good teacher, i know that. i don't really need to rely on the image of "writer" when i have the image of "father of ten." i'm not even sure why i get all into their science, what happens, how to influence things, what to do about it. it has occupied a couple of days. i went outside to work on cleaning up the property, moving a gazebo, moving a fire pit, walking around in the cold winter sun, and basically, i became eager to come in, and work on the writing. everyone goes out on the horses, i work on the writing. make a big fat cup of coffee, sit down with the puppy on the lap, and check out the ratings. then write.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

promo pix....i've taken to using my pop skills to promote my writing
doing some writing about mcdonald's, which is a little harder to align with everyday-u.s.a. than walmart was. but i noticed one thing: i googled the new orleans mcdonald's, because i wanted to do new orleans, and got news about a huge shooting there one night about two years ago. so, i started that story, about two musicians who were recalling it, when what happens but the seattle mcdonald's, downtown, gets shot up on the very day i'm writing it.

now there's nothing more american than excessive gun violence, and basically, that's true of walmarts as well as mcdonald's. you write about everyday life in the states, some mcdonald's in downtown of a very fine city like seattle, with the pike market over there and the waterfront over here, and what you're writing about is today's news. the mayor says, there's been too much violence in that neighborhood for too long. the police responders, who were there in minutes, said, basically, we had gun victims all over the place.

as far as i can tell, it was a dispute like the one in new orleans. everyone's armed to the teeth, some drug deal goes bad, and then people are shooting each other up like there's no tomorrow. most of the victims are people who just happen to be eating in mcdonald's. there doesn't appear to be any other relation between violence and mcdonald's - it's not like addiction to french fries causes people to lose it and pull the trigger. it's more that mcdonald's picks center-of-town places, with a lot of traffic, and maybe trouble picks the same spots.

we are sitting out here, way out in the country, at the end of the road, and the winter weather has eased up, though it's still below freezing at night. what worries us most is the snow, which turns to ice quickly, and causes trouble on steep mountain roads with sharp dropoffs. but this is all part of our environment, so we have to figure out how to use the lower gears and watch out for deer and elk jumping in front of us unexcpectedly at any minute. we do hear gunshots, a lot. they'll happen on a weekend, during hunting season, when people seem to be testing out their guns and making sure everything is in working order, before they tromp into the wild lands. actually i'm not sure what it is - but it's a very tight rural area, so if was someone shooting their husband, we'd all know about it pretty quickly. there are a lot fewer people out here than you'd think; it's a little isolated. kind of the opposite of downtown seattle. and the gunshots don't bother me anymore.

it's an important time because, basically, you have people in virginia who are strongly worried about losing their guns. the rally there was large and peaceful, and i think we should listen to people. from living out here i know: the vast majority of people treat their guns like their cars, important, necessary, and deadly. you gotta take care of this stuff. and basically, you just don't go downtown, unless you absolutely have to.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

internet is spotty here, from my chair. it has something to do with the fact that the modem is in a metal house, and kids use up a lot of the bandwidth, and we are way out in the country. i try to load up blogger, and it gives it to me, but one step at a time. i have to wait for the handshake, and all this internal stuff, and under ordinary circumstances, boom, i'd be there. this way i should appreciate internet more.

actually, i should get more writing done, but i don't. my writing for the most part doesn't involve internet; it's entirely on word. i have a book, eighteenth century leveretts, which is almost done except i'm burnt out on it and can't even edit it any more; i have two books of short stories, one plain, or straight, and one, usually lovin' it: (20) short stories out of two million served, or something like that, depending on how many actually have been served, and, how many stories. i'm having fun writing mcdonald's stories, but i don't feel i'm as successful at integrating the red-and-yellow decor symbolism into the fabric of american life, as i was with the wal-mart short stories. it's similar to wal-mart in one way: i'm actually an admirer of mcdonald's, or at least of their marketing genius, and feel that they are at the center of so much small town life that they deserve to be a setting in and of themselves. so i can easily write 25 or 30 mcdonald's stories, and i find myself setting them in various ones abroad too: russia, china, maybe paris or latin america. i'll try not to rely too much on cliches when i do that: for example, what do i really know about the moscow mcdonald's? no more than what i've read. but i consider it an honor for the alamogordo mcdonald's to be in the same book as the moscow one. and they both, after all, are mcdonald's.

another problem i have is how much to delve into actual reality. for example, there is the coffee lawsuit. that was a real person, and she might take it wrong if i put her in a story. but it's tempting and i find it hard not to. when you get down to it, a lot of what happens at mcdonald's, and even in them, is somewhat mindless. the kids are working hard but concentrating on using skills they could never have developed anywhere else. the customers are either deciding what to order, waiting impatiently, or sitting down doing their various things, which include playing on phones, reading shallow newspapers, and spilling french fries on the floor. some old guy is walking around picking up trash from tables and busing them. that's about it. it's not exactly a microcosm or allegory of the modern u-s-a, unless i can figure out ways to make it that way. it's not really anyone's favorite meal, except maybe my son, and sometimes a few of the other kids hanging around. it just is what it is (as they say), i'll have to make the best of it.

we have some challenges driving around these wild mountain roads. the weather has been intense. a couple of snowstorms - they were supposed to be 1-3 inches, but ended up being more liek 6-8, and fast, and slippery, especially on the west slope going down to alamo, which fortunately is not a route we've been taking. instead we are more concerned about the road east down to the sixteen springs cutoff, and then up james ridge and over, and down into the sixteen springs canyon which is always about ten or twelve degrees warmer than cloudcroft, and sunnier. less snow too. but the problem is the james ridge itself, which is steep, has lots of cutback roads, and snow, when it comes quickly, tends to freeze on them under the tracks of various vehicles and even under plows when they plow through here. they do tend to plow, at least the paved, but the plow lays it down into a sheet of solid ice on a steep mountainside and that tends to make me nervous.

after driving on ice, today in a car that can't hold its charge in the battery, so that we apparently need a new battery or need whatever it is that is supposed to recharge that battery - i drove around on ice for a while, and then came home. i like to write - work on my stories and work on other stuff, but in general i find that hanging around while my wife cooks or gets anxious about our kids, is unproductive. if the internet is slow i should be writing, ok. and i have plenty of editing or just busy work that i could be doing, but, during the day when i'm most productive, it's hard to keep doing it. too many distractions.

so today i got outside and started moving wood and scrap tin roofing around, and that made me feel better. made me tired, yes, but the air was fresh, the snow was melting, the wind was substantial but mild, and in general i made the place look a lot better, i thought. i'm concentrating on making fewer piles of junk brush and scrap, and having them more out of sight, more out of the way. we have a ton of wood, and don't presently burn it, but i plan on changing that and starting to burn wood somewhere as soon as possible. the cabin has a good wood stove, but i don't use it, as the boy in there doesn't like it, doesn't want it. but we could; it works. it's small, but it works.

so goes my plan. we have a little acreage, and some buildings on it, and the beautiful forest all around, actually a forest barely cared for or protected, mostly left for the wild things to grow and wander around. sometimes the rancher's cows come through and drop big piles of poop which, if i were smart, could make good fertilizer to turn into the earth and keep things growing. as for the growing, i'm working on greenthread (navajo tea), and fruit trees. i don't expect much luck with other things, like for example, vegetables, as the wild animals are so hungry for such things, and skunks can get through the tiniest of fenceholes. i've found gardening in general to be like advanced fencing, but i'm a beginner. so far the animals have gotten most of what i put out there.

in the current climate it is very possible that medical mary jane becomes legal sooner rather than later; in fact, as medical, it's already legal here, and recreational will soon follow as new mexico hates to be losing so much money to colorado for anything. my point is that i have the facility to grow it, though not the permission; my wife has a card, and could get that permission, though we haven't tried or even thought about it much. things have changed a lot. the people that are rushing into the business, i kind of resent, as they are like ambulance chasers or the less desirable elements of society. yet i hand it to them: they are there with something that, though we didn't know it for forty or fifty years, we need. it's incredibly useful stuff, and, it makes you feel good.

i often say, i was a pot-head for about ten years, and gave up that solid chunk of my life because i was so busy chasing after a high or a toke here and there, good or bad, on the road or at home. it was a wild ride, with no other motivation, those ten to twelve years, or whatever, and i could never have kicked that habit without just leaving the country, which i did. over in korea, where i was working, i had no idea about the cultural implications of getting into illegal drugs, so i simply stayed away from them, but upon my return, i was in a trap as long as everyone knew me and knew my inclinations. finally i just shook it though. i just consistently never brought it up, and at the one point where i was forced to admit it, that yes, i smoked and had, for years, well, i just admitted it when i had to. it was so ridiculous, these people being put in jail, in some cases for years, just for getting high. it was a kind of made-up war on the hippies and the african-american community, to put everyone in jail, indefinitely, as torture, for simply being different. and in general, i stand by the claim that it's less harmful than alcohol. but that's because i know that alcohol is very harmful, whereas the green stuff is smoking in your lungs, but not really destroying them. it seems to be something the human lung system can adapt to. then again, i've been free of it now for about forty years. easy to say, huh?

in a sense, my heart is still in it, especially if i can ease my wife's pain a little, or do something that makes the world a little milder, gentler. i couldn't, in my right mind, go into business selling alcohol. in this case, i wouldn't even be selling anything, so much as using it for our own, or her own, consumption. one needs a lot of sunlight - but we have it. one needs fertile soil - well, ours is rocky, but there is a lot of cow poop all over the place. and finally, one needs to keep it out of one's cars, etc., as there are checkpoints all over the place, and it's still illegal. but we wouldn't be selling it, or even carrying it. we'd be transmitting that intense new mexico sunlight by photosynthesis, to something much more pleasant.

just a pipe dream, at this point, much like many other pipe dreams i've had. i tend to just sit on the ones that take too much preparation or take a strong motivational bump to get started. in this case i'd sit on it a while longer, just wondering what kind of permission would be necessary just to set it up. but the fact is, i'm out at the end of the road. i'm in a community where people like living away from civilization, where they tend to leave each other alone, and tend to honor the fact that we are in effect stewards of a wide swath of national forest that, day in and day out, are virtually untouched. i wouldn't be going out there; i wouldn't have to. i think people do care what kind of things are growing out in the national forest, even if they aren't there checking every day, or holding us neighbors accountable for our part of it. there are old stories about the helicopters finding the patches of wild hemp that still grew all over the midwest, and hassling the farmers who by and large had simply let it grow because they were too busy to pull it out. the hemp had been useful during the war and they even encouraged farmers to grow it, hoping that it could be used for rope or for a wide variety of things that it's good for. one of the primary ones is simply relieving anxiety, and since we have an abundance of that, maybe it could be time to start looking into ways to alleviate it.

Friday, January 10, 2020

i was slightly traumatized by the weather: a slight rain/snow combination turned into about two inches here, and six in town, which is 1600 feet higher; it fell so fast and so slippery that some of the steep hills were solid ice. one problem on these mountain roads is that though you can turn into the mountain, if you go the other way, and have no brakes, you go straight off a cliff. the trees might catch you down there, but it won't be pretty as you go tumbling, with your car, down the mountain. and on the ice, you have no brakes. that's the problem. the car is sliding around, and you have no control.

we have learned to put it in first gear, and not use brakes. let the car turn its wheels straight down the mountain, never going more than about ten, and get whatever traction first gear allows you, and at that speed, with your wheels always turning, you actually do have a little more control. and you can hug the mountainside if you want, so you don't go over the edge.

so i'm coming down the mountain in this rapidly falling snow, and i had all the kids going to school, all four of them. they got a show. we slid a little. it was before they plowed. but we made it to school on time. i had to decide, then, whether to come back. a sheriff told me that they were plowing out here, so it would be easier coming back. and it was. less snow, more pavement, easier to see.

we had another trip, in the afternoon, to go get the kids from school. most of the school seems remarkably unconscious of the trouble we go through just to get them there and get them home. one boy has a birthday party; one girl wants us to hang around town for a while. hang around town? town had six or seven inches; ice in all the driveways; dark was coming, no, we just wanted to get home.

when we get home, it's a slightly more predictable world. there is less snow than in town, maybe only an inch or two. as long as there's power, we have our amenities and our usual spotty internet. deer are everywhere. someone said they come to the private lands during hunting season. i guess they know private land from the forest, and go where they've learned to go, in order to survive. those hunters, i'm not sure what they'll get this year, sitting out there in their trucks, blizzard after blizzard, waiting to pop some deer. i'm not sure exactly how this works. but if i was a hunter, i'd be grateful to be able to sit somewhere, still, warm enough hopefully, and not have to get out on the icy roads. the icy roads have set my wife back a little, made her wonder if we really want to spend our sunset years out on the icy cliffs. it would be a bad way to find out that your primary senses were beginning to fail.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

i have taught several iranian students in my time, though i missed the time when, apparently, american schools had large numbers of them, and they were at war with each other. shortly after that, after the hostage crisis of the late seventies, they disappeared altogether, and that was when i went into teaching. but toward the end of my career, i had a few iranians. i liked them; they were nice people. i have no quarrel with iranians whatsoever.

what galls me about this unending series of wars is that they have stopped giving us any reasons altogether. we are still occupying afghanistan, but why? boys are dying, but why? it causes us billions a day, but why? and it's all done in my name. that's what galls me the most. if it was just a bunch of people going out to pick a fight, i'd say, go ahead, i don't have to get worked up about this. sometimes i've met people who pick fights for the pure joy of picking a fight, and winning, they hope, but what i've noticed is that nobody wins, ever. so i tend not to do this and if i had any power at all that's what i'd tell people: it's not good to do this, and it doesn't help anyone. but nobody's listening to me.

my friends the quakers have started an anti-war campaign. this is what they do the best. but in a sense i don't jump on that bandwagon either. it's almost like, you're opposed to every war, right? (yes) so of course you're opposed to this one. (yes) and yet i totally agree with them. i'm opposed to them all; i'm opposed to this one. in my lifetime there hasn't been a good war, or even a justifiable one. so the sum total of it is that i'm kind of numb. i'm aware that people will die. it may be some of my friends' children. i'm aware that it will sink this country further into the mire that it's dug for itself. but there really is no way out. being anti-war is something, yes, let them know we're opposed. of course we're opposed. but i'm also getting a little impatient. if people are dying, you should give us a reason. you should explain to us why this would be good for us. you should have an outcome in mind where things end up better than they are now, so that we can summon up some hope, or some reason that we can tell our kids, on their way out the door.

we in the west are all numb. we very rarely live with the consequences of the killing. we sit here, and nobody is dying around us, and we keep eating good food and we even have plenty of gas and oil. after a while i begin to think the news is the problem. i should stop watching the news. if they don't have anything good to say, or if it shows things that upset me or keep me up at night, i should just turn my back on the whole mess.

it's only a matter of time before some of these countries that we've alienated turn against us. what have we done for them? nothing. you look at a simple balance sheet and the usa is over here saying, it's all for us, it's us first, we get to kill whoever we want, we don't have to be nice to anyone.

and yes, that's the kind of world we live in. our beautiful peace is not going to last forever.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

unexpectedly, wham, a lot of snow. what seemed like just a little sprinkle turned into real snow, and even out here, twenty miles on the warmer drier side of cloudcroft, it's still snowing hard. it's probably at an inch and may go up to about three.

the problem is that they are closing the hill, and my wife is on the wrong side of it. she was going to get pizzas in alamo on her way up, and probably stopped in alamo, i don't know, but in the meantime i'm sitting here by the computer watching as warnings come in and they close the road on the hill.

the hill is steep - one of the steepest roads in the us - and has steep dropoffs on the sides of it, so, if things get bad, one can go right off the side. the same is true of our little mountain. ideally in weather like this we don't go anywhere. we just cancel out of everything and sit home until the plows have a chance to make a difference.

it's not really a question of whether the household can run without her. we have food, and i can cook, and we'll probably be ok. but she walks with crutches, and is a little unused to weather like this. i picture her on the side of the road, having gone off, unable to get out of the car easily.

it's distracted me to the point where i can't really get much writing done. i've been doing mcdonald's short stories, and other ones, and doing pretty well on them, but now i'm pretty much stuck. i have several other projects i turn to when i have writer's block, but in this case, i'm not even turning to them. when i'm truly stuck i play online boggle and scroll facebook endlessly.

now i could put this one-to-three inch white new year on display on my facebook, but most of my friends wouldn't even be impressed - they've seen much worse, especially in illinois, kansas, colorado, etc. it's not that much. i seem to be paralyzed, over-worried, hanging by my phone, and nervous - but most people around here have seen much worse, and they already have four wheel drive.

she's in the subaru, fortunately. she has the garmin (it's an emergency satellite-operated phone) - we're in the garmin district. and finally, she's pretty clever, about when to stay off roads altogether. she might. it might be better than being the first one up a steep icy hill.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the sun has gone down on the last day of the decade - yes, i know that idea is in dispute, since some people consider this year to be part of the last decade, but i say, i'm starting a new decade tonight, and new year's eve has just begun.

i'm way out at the end of the road, in the mountains of southern new mexico. i've taken to taking two puppies for a walk, almost every day. we go out to the end of the driveway, and, rather than turn toward civilization, we turn the other way. we don't go far, but we go in the direction that it's wild national forest for maybe as far as a person could walk. the puppies, or dogs really, are overjoyed; there are lots of scents out there. they struggle to mark everything so all the wildlife knows who has been through that way.

i enjoy the silence. i remember new years celebrations in new york, in boston, even in iowa. people would actually shoot guns in some of them, or light fireworks. if i'm up at midnight, i'll step outside and see if people do that around here. we have a small community of maybe a dozen families, in this canyon, out at the end of the road, and we do occasionally hear them shoot guns, probably just for practice or actually hunting something. we know they're out there. we like the neighbors - they stay focused on things that matter, like fire protection, basic transportation, use of wild lands - and don't prattle on about nonsense. they avoid politics, as all good neighbors should. actually i'm not so sure about that last statement, but it's something i appreciate about them anyway.

altogether it makes me feel safe. the road back to town goes over this enormous ridge, with hairpin turns and steep cliffs, sometimes icy, sometimes not, and, the worst, i imagine, would be snow over ice - but if the car breaks down out there, i feel like i'll know whoever comes by, and they'll stop. and it may take a while, even an hour or two, but an hour or two out in the mountains never hurt anyone. and i don't feel any particular danger from bears, or lions, or elk. they're all out there, yes, but they're not inclined to just mess with a person.

in short, i'm where i want to be. the new year starts in japan, china, mongolia, thailand, and it works its way west; it has already hit europe, or is hitting it now, as it's about five fifty here; pretty soon it will be crossing the atlantic and will hit newfoundland, maine, new york, chicago. then finally here, in about six hours. i may or may not be up. my kids will more likely be up, they are into such things as celebrating a new decade. they sit by their computers, taking up all the good bandwidth, doing god knows what, but if the world is celebrating, they will probably be into it too. and i, i will probably be content to watch the white-tailed deer walk slowly across our yard, munching on what's left of our grass. it's mighty cold, i'll tell them, but i'll barely run them off. if the puppies are onto them, one at least will make an enormous racket, but the deer will hardly bother to notice. whatever internal mechanism they have for surviving the cold, dark season, has kicked in altogether, and made them prepared for both the cold and the dark.

today we saw the family of turkeys out on the road. they're very cute in that they kind of waddle across the road, jump up the cliffs, and run a ways off of the road in respect to the fact that we, being people and all, might pop them and eat them for dinner. this whole family has seemed to survive both thanksgiving and christmas; i don't see anyone out there after them, and they can own the road in their full glory. there are sometimes as many as fifteen of them, but today i saw maybe only ten. i've come to like them and to feel that, as long as they're out there, i could probably survive myself, if i got a gun, made a fire, and simply hauled them in. as long as i can buy chicken from the store, though, i probably won't. it's new year, and i'll sit home in a warm chair, enjoy some treats to eat, and stay up as long as i'm physically able. and i won't worry about getting old, turning in early, or not really drinking real alcohol.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

a lazy snow is filling the sky, not piling up very fast, but making everything white and generally occupying a cold evening. we were lucky to make it home in time to enjoy it, at about two; it had started at noon, but the roads were pretty good as we came through. now they are closed, both going in and coming from cloudcroft, our village.

cloudcroft is about fifteen hundred feet higher than we are; it's at about nine thousand, and it's gotten maybe three or five inches already, and the hill up to cloudcroft from alamo is closed from too much snow too fast. it doesn't take long for those steep hills to fill up with snow so fast that the plows can't keep up with it, and it becomes dangerous; lowland people don't know how to drive in it. they close the mountain in self-defense.

we came through cloudcroft from las cruces at about 12 30. already the snow had started and an inch or two had accumulated in places where there were no cars to make it go away. but even more surprising was news about a bomb scare. burro street, or at least half of it, had been evacuated. my wife got rumors of detonation on her texts as we rolled into town. we heard no detonation, though, and had no evidence of that. the person who mentioned it said that all kinds of rumors were flying.

we were mostly concerned with getting home in front of the storm, so we kept on driving, gingerly, over our own mountain and into our valley where it is not snowing as hard, or as much, as in cloudcroft. we are fifteen hundred feet lower, and further east, from cloudcroft. at home now, we watch the lazy snow and speculate about what could have been happening in cloudcroft. offhand i would say a bomb scare would not be surprising, since we're talking about the one local bar, and people get pretty drunk in this kind of weather. but a true detonation would be very surprising, because why would anyone be serious about truly blowing the whole place up? i figure that that last part was all rumor. and, when they reopened burro street, at about four thirty, that scenario became more likely.

on the facebook site everyone was chiming in right away asking what was happening and wondering if anyone knew anything. unfortunately, whoever knew, wasn't talking, and even when they reopened burro street, they weren't telling. i would imagine that a bomb threat is a crime, and a detonation would be even worse a crime. maybe they just didn't want to talk about crimes, or do anything to get people all concerned or upset, or worse, to show up to see what was happening. enough was enough. having cleared the area, and being sure that it was ok, they probably decided to just clam up about the crimes themselves and let people go back about their own business.

the problem is that, due to the weather, the highway is now closed from both directions. people are stranded in the high school which is for the time being a makeshift shelter. i have no idea how many travelers they catch in this kind of situation if the road is truly closed from both directions. but if they really don't want them driving, they shouldn't be driving. those people might have to huddle up, get some free tea, and avail themselves of somebody's extra blankets.

the town only has eight hundred residents, probably less in this kind of weather, and of course, with nothing to do, rumors swirl, and that probably accounts for "detonation," which was probably a rumor. mind you, i have no actual idea if anything actually detonated, but if it did, i figure, it would be national news by now, and not only because it's the rowdiest bar in the mountains. you blow up a place, you make the news. but if you're hoping people won't talk, or spread scurrilous rumors, forget it. it's a very small town.

once you get away from the place, the motivation is pretty strong to stay away. we have maybe a half an inch, and, though it keeps falling, it doesn't really add up to much. they, however, have about four or five already, and, in a state of great excitement, maybe there's even been a run on supplies. it's a curious town. to some degree they expect the visitors, and expect that a few will get laid up here. they have their plows out working and putting beet heet on the mountain roads. this tends to make the roads pink, which gives them a beautiful sheen, but it really works well on what counts, which is giving you some traction, so that, if you go at a gentle pace, you get where you're going.

concentrating on getting my wife and kids home - my wife had been in an operation in cruces - i was careful on the windy mountain roads, and drove slowly and always on my side of the road (the tendency is to hug the center, and there are some blind curves). most of all i minded the icy patches. it's these that are truly treacherous, because the snow will pile up on them a little, so that you don't see them, and then, you're driving through the snow, and suddenly you're on an icy patch you didn't even see. and remember, the cliffs fall off on at least one side almost all the way, so mistakes can be costly. i wouldn't say you'd die if you went over the cliff, as the trees would cushion your fall to some degree, but you'd break bones, and lose the car for sure. and it would be hard to pull out the car, on top of it.

so i slow down, ease my way around the corners, and remember the patches for later, when it counts. it could be a long winter. i'm glad that, as far as i know so far, there has been no real detonation, not even a real bomb, it's all just talk, and rumors, and such things are known to happen in towns as small as these.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

in illinois i had the occasion to go to the nearby town, twenty miles away from where i lived, because it was the home of a youth mental care facility. i decided to stop in on a local policeman there, because he had the exact same name i do, which you can glean off this blog if you really care. by exact i mean first, middle and last, and i'd found this out on the web a few years prior, and actually delivered a genealogy calendar to his father who also shared the same name. there are only about four or five of us in the nation, and i figured it was a huge coincidence to have two of them only twenty miles away. the genealogy on the calendar, however, was ours, not his, so might have been of limited value to them. it seemed at the time to be a gesture of friendship, and i'd met his father, but not him.

this small town was most known for its proximity to the shawnee national forest, but it was the kind of town where everyone knew each other too well, and it was hard to get away from people if you were uncomfortable with them or with the common reality everyone shares. this poor policeman had a son who had killed somebody in an accident, and drugs were involved, and some people were afraid that the son would get preferential treatment due to being the son of a policeman. i have no idea if this son got preferential treatment or not; it was an enormous tragedy, and i remember somebody at the regional dump giving me a strange look when i took a truck load of junk out there and showed him my i d, as if there could only possibly be one of us in the whole region. in other words, i knew about this tragedy when i visited. and i was also aware that our credit records got mixed up occasionally, having the same name and all, so we were already kind of permanently bound together just by the symbolic name that goes to represent us in this world. before the web, i never would have known this. now, i was exploring the consequences of such a discovery.

the small town was also known for the fact that it had been the site of a devastating tornado a few years earlier, which had flattened a neighborhood and killed a few people. it had made the news just because of the pictures of mangled neighborhood and destroyed houses. it was the kind of thing that happens every once in a while in illinois; this just happened to be their unlucky turn. it also was a huge tragedy, and in fact, even the reason i was in town was a huge tragedy. what we had in common, really, was that our lives had been marked heavily by tragedies that we had very little control over.

but he was in the building when i stopped there, and agreed to meet for a few minutes in the lobby. we talked about how we shared the name, and told family stories of where it came from. in fact he knew much less about his own heritage than i knew about mine, but, he didn't mind sharing what he knew. he said he always worked nights now; he was more comfortable that way, and dealt with fewer people, at least the kind he'd come to dislike. but working nights, that meant he was the first on the scene, the night of the tornado.

that was his claim to fame. he was a first responder, and in fact, had responded first. i had more questions to ask, but he really didn't have the time. he was working, on shift, and i had a long drive back home; i think, it was summer at the time, and the crickets were making a big racket.

i don't write about this stuff much, either my personal tragedies, or other people's, but i read an article tonight by a woman who had basically googled the ten other women who shared her name, nationwide, and actually friended them on social media and visited them if possible. she was trying to find out what commonalities names bestowed on people, at least her name, or starting with her name. it was kind of a look at what happens when you get carried away with googling your own name, a lot, or obsessively, or in variations. and it reminded me: i just finished a project where i did just that. what i have now is a book about these people who carried my name right through colonial boston and into the revolution. i looked into them in an attempt to get to the bottom of who i'm descended from, and ended up still not knowing, but knowing a whole lot more about pre-revolution boston than i do now.

it turned out that the path made its way out to illinois, from there, so that's where i'm going now, at least in my research. this guy rides a horse and wagon 1600 miles from maine to illinois, and, when he gets there, they become farmers. yes, there are tornadoes, but the ground is more fertile, and you can grow stuff. little did they know, i'd be retracing their steps, so many years later.