Sunday, January 27, 2008

took my books to the printer. i had twenty of them, originally, books of short stories, hand made, called A Dozen Crime Stories from a well-known, big-box, discount retail chain. about 80 pages each, folded in half, stapled in the middle. the first actual readers of the stories reported that pages were missing from the middle. oh great. my only christmas present, really; the calendars are still not made; but, the books are defective. don't know whether they'll give me twenty more, or not. it's really my first publication, the first thing i did. two more possibilities are on the horizon. one: a novel. i actually have the idea; all my attempts so far have been for naught. now that i'm swimming again, i can at least devote some time to thinking about it. two: a dozen crime stories from a well-known burger joint with golden arches on it. or some such variation. this would be, if the novel continues to flop, but the crime stories keep on coming.

the question has arisen, whether to print them more professionally (obviously a good move), whether to sell them on amazon (could require sales tax reporting), or whether to solicit serious criticism before changing them and then doing one or both of the above. now i'm leaning toward yes, yes, no. not cottoning to serious revision; it's against my nature. maybe changing the picture, so as to avoid copyright infringement, or at least taking out the scrawling in the inside cover.

activity on the quaker plays also, which get high reviews from people who read them and use them. I have a single print book of seven scripts but two actually are unfinished. a computer crash wiped out two or three of the seven; the web has made another one difficult to find. they need some work, some organizing, some fixing up, some finishing. they'd like me to put on a play in april, also, which could happen. if i get off my _

meanwhile i'll point my faithful readers to my writing blog, which has all the stories, in their complete form, though not in order. someday, this blog will advertise the book as a thing one absolutely must buy; however, loyal readers will always know where and how to find them in their entirety, without paying a measly cent. my overall strategy as a writer is to not work to hard to peddle them, but to hang on to the rights at all costs, since a media-saturated world will become hungry for content, it's only a matter of time. and even if they don't, so what? they're still my stories, i want to hang on to them. unlike my children, who seem to grow up and leave.

and finally, what about true stories, traveling stories? well, the hole in my head made me shy, and being unable to swim made me unable to think, so, i'm kind of out of sorts, haven't written much lately. let's just say, if the stories don't come, and the novel doesn't either, there are still a few traveling stories to tell. a couple of them just popped into my head recently. one involved going to fairbanks, standing in the back of a mission, hearing some guy say, oil's coming, this town is going to have work (this was 1974, mind you)...and me saying, no thanks. i was broke, but i wasn't working for the oil guys.

another story involves setting out from pittsburg kansas to find a quaker meeting down in arkansas, getting about halfway and ending up in a holy-roller church in the ozarks, a little ways south of joplin missouri, where the pastor was talking about the new highway delivering us into the new age. i eventually found the arkie-okie quarterly, which met at a camping ground in northwest arkansas, and we sat around a campfire for some silence and the smell of coal embers, before heading back up into the flat country. i'll tell it all, i promise. then, someday, i'll sit down, and put it in order...

and the music is treating me well, at least in terms of keeping me happy, giving me something to think about, and work on, and hope for. we have dreams, and hopes, though mine as usual go every which way, and include all manner of possibilities. including learning the pinata song, or learning, at least, how to make an enye, and possibly learning how to play african music on the fiddle. one could also, i hope, learn some really really good irish music, in time for saint pat's. my partner made a point: all the bars are smoke free now. this is an opportunity.

speaking of hopes and dreams: a stone soup restaurant reunion; 2010 would be its 35th year, i believe. you heard it first here. it could happen; i'm sure most of these people are around iowa city somewhere, and i'm only six and a half hours away. would love to see any and all of those people, though in general parts of that life are better left unspelled out. i was there, not for its vegetarianism, not for its whole-food aspects, though i liked all that, but because i was able to join in, start something, make it work, learn stuff, love people, stay alive. a good couple a years passed by there, and occasionally, i'd sit on the stoop, and maybe a pigeon would poop near me, to mark the passage of time. don't let the health department see this, i'd think, let alone the bats that were trapped in the dark hallways of the old catholic school that housed the place. don't mess with these ghosts, they would seem to tell me. but i did, and i wouldn't stop, just 'cause the place has been fallen for years. tornado came through town, and hit the other catholic school, i understand, or maybe it was the church, selective destruction i'm sure, but what do i know. someday i'll get to the bottom of it, maybe hear another story or two. like i don't get enough of them around here...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Originally uploaded by Paulo C

in the early 'sixties bobby fischer was in his prime, and i had to be ten years old or less, because i'm pretty sure this happened in toledo, ohio. my brother, two years older than I, was already very interested in chess, so we were allowed to go and see an exhibition where fischer was to play fifty people at once. it was a dark, enclosed kind of place, and the fifty people were positioned around in a kind of square, so that fischer was always looking out from the center, and could merely walk around in a large circle, making one move at a time and allowing his opponents up to about twenty minutes before he'd come back around to make the next one. he'd stare quickly at each board for about a minute, make a move, then move on.

i was much more restless than my brother, and didn't really settle behind any one player, but rather kind of wandered around behind everyone, until something else caught my eye. fischer never looked at me, or even noticed me, even once, nor did he notice my brother, who was watching the chess and eventually settled behind a single player to watch a single game. i guess i was one of those kids who would scream bloody murder if i wasn't given exactly what my brother had, yet, once having it, i usually found i didn't really want it (ironically of course now i've got as sons my second set of brothers, each with an identical pattern)...

i can verify first-hand that his intensity and mind power were exceptional. it's interesting that this genius turned into like a prison for him, or so it seemed, judging by the stuff he said and did, toward the end. on that night, he won 47 of the games, and drew 2; one of those two was the one my brother watched. the last person, apparently, beat him.

Monday, January 14, 2008

back at work after almost a month break, many of my colleagues are welcoming me with well-rested smiles and relaxed demeanor; in spite of the grim, cold and often rainy weather, december-january is at least a long break, and one works at one's own pace, if one works at all. but, having a two-year-old, and a wife not only busy with an overcrowded schedule, but also having health issues, i'd been both up late and up early, and, still somewhat dazed by my fall from a ladder, prone to fall asleep at various times, right up until a single-day trip to lawrence, kansas on saturday. the trip was good, got me out of here, made me feel just a little outside of the grind if only for a single stretch, and we each (my older sons and i) had a plate of arthur bryant's barbecue in kansas city, giving me a nice sweet rumbling in my stomach that kept me awake, after 3:30, outside of st. louis, when the 15-yr-old finally gave up and fell asleep. leaving carbondale at about 2, we'd noticed that it got colder going west across missouri, and we were a little unprepared for the bitter cold wind coming across the prairie; also flew right by the restaurant exit not realizing that it was only an exit on the eastbound interstate, not westbound, so wasn't that easy to find after all. from being late, missed the connection in kansas, thus the late trip back, and had a good view of lawrence on saturday night, and a good time talking to the boys about various subjects, college, '60's, music, life. got back at 5:30 am, bad coffee still working on the barbecue, but nodding off wasn't an issue, and seeing first-hand, the college student, identity put in the hard drive, perched on a seat and then delicately on a duffel bag, gave me enough memories to power the long trip home.

at home, the moving process continues, mostly moving stuff, my stuff, out of back rooms and closet where rain could damage it and roof is being repaired. but this involves facing a recent history where stuff has been put somewhere, but not sorted or used, and calls to question why i would collect such "junk" or need to keep it. much of it is ending up at the bottom of other people's closets, or under the beds of the youngest children. stamp collection, old african instruments, pants that still need to be sewn, quarters for all the states, and a couple of foreign coins and bills thrown in, old books and articles, magazines that i've been published in, you get the idea. i'm not throwing this stuff out. you can guess why it might take a while to jam it under a bed, even. and i'm really not a pack-rat anymore...i really really don't save it, unless i know i'll use it someday. except for the stamps, which are cultural artifacts, and which i've been collecting for, maybe, 46 years.

the two-year-old has moved into a disturbing phase, one where he has long, somewhat pointless tantrums and doesn't even use his words, which are usually quite effective, to describe why he's unhappy, refuses to eat or get dressed, or in whatever way feels he needs to assert his will. this puts everyone on edge, the screaming, the some ways, it's probably developmentally normal, in other ways, maybe it's a deep frustration only he knows, and can't really explain. it adds a challenge and pressure to nerves already a little frayed. tonight my schedule was changed- went from a normal overload, to an overload that has me teaching at 8 am- this, if it continues, will change the routine and who knows what will follow from that. the classes begin again, and i'm reeling, still not adjusted.

christmas shopping not finished- the last one, a magazine subscription, complicated by details. a book i made, of stories which are here, didn't print right, and has to be redone in some way, this time maybe professionally, in a way that doesn't take as much of my time. a family letter is here, if you've read this far you're surely welcome to it, i post it every year. a cat, still sick, still losing weight; a dog, very old, has to be in the main house with us, his pack, yet has control issues, occasionally and randomly pooping when we for whatever reason didn't pick up his cues, or assumed he wouldn't forget to do it when he was out, just minutes ago; these are witness, as are the others, and friends, and those who passed through over the break, for whom i'm grateful. people move to these small towns for the calm, for the relaxing lifestyle, lack of traffic, friendliness. and it's all true, except sometimes for the relaxing part, which, depending on who you are, can turn into a pressure cooker, a "no outlet" side street with nothing but farms, cows, ozarks & semitrailers for miles around. gives a new meaning to the word "break," i guess. the plants, a veritable jungle in a small office, were justifiably parched upon my return. get tough i told them. only the strong survive. and that has surely been true, over the years.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

last round of musicians who have inspired me, or served as my mentors, in cases where i knew them. i didn't know most of these, but they've served the test of time...they are still inspiring me.

miriam makeba, whose album welela is my favorite ever, even after all these years. south african, she was one who introduced me to african music.

afel bocoum, malian; his band alkibar has been accompanying me around carbondale these days. a person can be from a world so far away, and yet be so close. this is the magic of music.

paul simon, whose album graceland is on top of this discography, perhaps because it's one of his best, but it was stunning to me because he not only went down to south africa (against the political tide), took in african musicians, and was genuinely influenced in every way by their music, but still managed to produce an album that ranks here at the top. but this wasn't the only time...he actually had a south american phase; went down to peru, and recorded with a group called urubamba. this recording is virtually unknown and difficult to find; i only vaguely remember it, and haven't heard it in years.

stephane grappelli, to a fiddler, the inspiration of inspirations. enough said.

harry manx, canadian, mixes sitar music and north american folk/blues. nice combination.

fiona ritchie, npr host of thistle and shamrock; i've always loved all celtic music, don't know why it's so far down the list, because there are a whole host of people who inspire me, irish, scottish, you name it. she always seems to be around, on all these scratchy old home-recorded cassettes, introducing the bands. we never used to call it "downloading"...if you wanted it, you had to press two buttons at the same time. how else could you ever count on hearing it again?

janis, not only for putting her whole soul into her music, who could compare? but also for one more story i'd like to tell. outside of beaumont, texas, i was hitchhiking in my early days, and a guy in a plumber's van comes by, joe's plumbing or something, it says on the side. he says, i'm from port arthur, texas, right near beaumont, home of janis joplin. at the time i was only vaguely familiar with her, though i'd at least heard of her, unlike tom petty. anyway, he says: janis and i were good friends. we were both musicians. then she moved off to san francisco, and became famous; the rest is history. but while she was in san francisco, she was interviewed in a very famous interview. and she made a comment: all my friends back in port arthur are still back there, being plumbers and stuff like that. and i took it personally. i am, after all, a musician. and now i'm moving to austin, with guitar (it was, indeed, in the back).....though the van broke down, and i ended up leaving him in sealy, texas, at a small garage.

hurd brothers, southern illinois' version of the allman brothers, also worth mention. if i'd have said i was a musician, i would have been relieved of the burden of serving on the jury that pondered their untimely deaths.

huun huur tu, from russia, out by mongolia. listen to all the songs on their profile, give them a chance. i may never make it to the steppes or to mongolia, but at least i can imagine it.

enough. want more? my first and second posts got me started on this, but now, maybe, i've finished.
picture break (below)...the best thing i can say about break is that i spent time with these five...who all seem to be doing reasonably well. bleak weather- cold, rainy, occasionally mild and cloudy, then more rainy, then more cold, then more bleak, you get the picture. why we have these long breaks in december-january instead of september-october, or april-may, is beyond me. so i've been inside a lot, watching a lot of "blues clues"...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

from out and around:
best blog posts of 2007, chosen by bloggers themselves, jon swift
meme to beat all memes- i thought mine was too long, but hers had 38 questions, and how many people answered it? completely?
wordfield's haikai pub