Sunday, June 30, 2013

new story: Unsweet.

Regular readers will recognize some themes. Comments welcome as usual...enjoy!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

might have said this, but texas declared the fourth of july to be a ten-day holiday, and upped patrols throughout the state to make sure nobody is speeding. now i haven't exactly seen police on every corner, nor have i heard fireworks at night, but i decided to take their cue and begin celebrating the holiday early anyway. it supposedly starts this weekend, lasts right through the fourth which is on thursday, and goes right on through next weekend, covering a lot of territory.

gas has actually been cheaper than usual, so many people may be taking the opportunity to get out on the road, maybe go to cooler places. this place, lubbock, has been over 110 several times, but it's nothing compared to phoenix, which is 130, or parts of california and arizona where it has been over 120 for a while. i'm not sure how people handle it. i know that with the air-con on full blast, i can relax a little, but i get this steady feeling of being trapped inside with the same airconned air for long periods of time. that i guess would be cabin fever. and we're what, a quarter of the way through summer?

so in the spirit of patriotism, celebrating all that is good and bad about this country, i'll start with the good. the red and blue go together well, people wear them all the time here, often in combination with these "T" hats and wearing texas red & blue always go together. they wanted all the children to wear red and blue at sports camp and it looked good, a sea of red and blue, i imagine a ranger game would look the same. actually there is lots to be thankful about this country, cynical as i am about the economy, about fracking, about the downfall of the american university, etc. but i still have chosen this country over others and am here for the duration because, basically, people have rights, we try to maintain a sense of justice, we fight it out sometimes, but overall we do better by the women & children than most countries do. i mean this; i am always grateful to come back. and i always thought canada did an even better job, but i've found recently that canada in some ways is even worse. it's not embroiled in wars & occupations worldwide, but it's just as rapacious about its own resources and wild country, & getting worse. so i'm not sure i'm ready to trade in the usa quite yet.

on the other hand, there's something about race here that i don't quite like. i go out into town quite a bit, and my young son is very sensitive and has begun to notice this problem that will probably get worse. i myself have a pretty thick skin and they can look at me funny all they want. but sometimes i'm sick of it. about one in ten people smiles to see a mixed-race family and make the obvious conclusion; i do get some support out there. but the other nine constitute a majority & i'm beginning to wonder when the world will just take a deep breath, & support all the people out there who are trying to raise children. it's time to move on past this attachment to race as a category of people that determines how you live, how you feel, who you should be seen with, etc. i could be reading way more into people's looks than is really there. the little guy, though, gets a little uncomfortable, and doesn't know how to act. it's your country, i might tell him; you're stuck with it, for all its faults. there's only so much we can do, personally, to change it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

e pluribus haiku 2013
coming july 4
in the huge feud between natalie maines and the people of the city of lubbock i have to admit, i still probably don't know the whole story. i've become an outspoken advocate of the city just welcoming her back unconditionally, putting her downtown with buddy holly and her dad and all the other cool musicians from the area. but both sides are really angry and less likely to compromise than ever. i'm fond of saying that people around here don't even want to talk about it, but i don't really know that. the problem with having one side be "the people of the city" is that now you're talking 225,000 people so it becomes harder to make vast generalizations about them. don't want to talk? some of them probably do.

it's a sick sick world, one in which twitter and television get hooked into the texas legislature filibuster just because they have nothing better to do, it's as close as you can get to high drama in the summertime, the world's eyes on texas again. texas executes its 500th prisoner. it's a world of its own, self-absorbed, and by the way the fourth of july is a ten-day holiday around here, they're celebrating it already, the police got a major grant to keep down the dui's so they have massive patrols for all ten days, they're figuring if they spread it out ten days everyone will get the message, namely they'll make plenty of money to keep hauling them in. i don't mind, actually, that they haul everyone in, now that i'm staying under the speed limit almost every time. you got these wild young turks, let them explain to some policeman why they were in such a hurry.

speaking of hurry, natalie was in a hurry to get out of lubbock, and she's in no hurry to come back. her dad, judging from the sounds of it, has forgiven her. she was a kid, she has a big mouth, she said some mean stuff, what teenager doesn't? the people of the city though show no sign of letting up. she got some digs in those songs, and the songs went viral, it won album of the year, the world got to see how much she hated lubbock. then what do you figure, they'll hold it against her forever? seems to me a musician ought to be able to make a single point, say, i hate lubbock, but any point will do, and put that idea into a song, and not necessarily be choke-tied to that point the rest of their lives. seems to me they ought to have the right to grow or move out of that point, to say maybe, i felt that way then, but i don't necessarily feel that way now. but no, she may never have that chance. she may be tied to that general idea, all her life.

one time i was in a bar and feeling sorry for myself so i put a quarter in the juke box and played elvis presley's don't be cruel...i thought it was appropriate, given the situation, but it was a small bar, full of writers who felt proprietary about the place, and one of them lit into me, saying elvis was a small-town, low-down, red-neck, drug-doing racist s.o.b. and you shouldn't give him a penny let alone a quarter. i was quite offended by this rant but didn't say much rather acted kind of drunk like i needed mentoring or something. but in the end, i'm a musician, i'm with elvis. it really doesn't matter what he did with his personal life, or even how he felt about other races, or whatever. he made a great song there, and he made a few more great ones, and a whole lot of good ones. i reach a point where i care mostly about the music, and if they perform, and do it well, i like that, i overlook that other stuff.

all this may go into a story...i finally counted what i had, and i have 18, maybe 19, almost enought to put it all together, and i'm thinking of doing it. actually i have 20 but one is old and another one is bogus, too short, kind of goofy. i'm feeling like 20 is pretty close though, time to conjure up a title, package them, get them out there. you like my writing? i'm trying to get it out there where people can see it. right now you can see it at the writing blog, but that's kind of a well-kept secret for example you have to read four whole paragraphs of this before you even find it out, but that blog will be a little redesigned and a little better hidden as i get this writing stuff off the ground. you'll be able to read about natalie here because i'm about to tell lubbock to stop its lollygagging and just do the right thing. but it's 110 in lubbock and i don't think anyone's in a big hurry to do anything except maybe get a giant cup of unsweet. that's what i'm into these days, try to stay inside in the afternoons, and get yourself a giant cup of unsweet. other people might like it sweet, i don't know, i'm not a waiter, i couldn't even give you the percentage. it's hard to make generalizations, i'm sure there's some people who just stick a lemon in water and that's ok for the rest of the day. but i'm saying, around 5, take a break. if you aren't doing siestas, at least check your facebook. and stay out of the sun.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

it was another crazy day in the atmosphere today, particularly over what they call the south plains, the caprock, not to be confused with the rolling plains, or maybe the south panhandle, the permian basin, or some of the other natural features around here, that i really don't quite understand. the wind was blowing, between 25 and 32, and kicking up enough dust that you'd get it in your teeth when you walked out to your car and i'm sure it's the kind of stuff people report blowing in their windows and getting dust all over everything. but the weather kept reporting threat of thunderstorm, threat of softball-sized hail, as if a cool front was just waiting to blast the warm moist gulf air being pulled up from the south. they talk about "south-southeast winds" and this could mean that the prevailing stuff is very warm, very moist, carrying all this water, and just waiting for it to be turned into softballs.

we went to the park, but the amusement place was closed, so we found prairie-dog town. this is a wide-open very flat place where prairie dogs loll around and people feed them crackers, rice, white bread, all kinds of stuff. they pretty much ignored most of it, preferring to loll around, maybe since it was the middle of the day. it was flat; the sun was wide and sharp, but there were dozens of them in view, they were having a lively time, talking to each other.

we drove over the city and looked out over the orangish haze and the cloudy sandstorm, but eventually we ended up at the science center, because we had to stay out of the house for the afternoon, and the prairie-dog town was only good for maybe fifteen minutes. at the science center there were some dinosaur bones, and a couple of little things to read that i really liked. one was about dinosaurs in texas and where to find their bones. another was about the brazos river; apparently we're in its watershed; finally, there were cool things for kids to do involving pendulums & sand, bubble-blowing, etc. a pack of kids was running from one floor to another and finally, to keep track of mine, i parked myself under a radio that was coming out with a steady weather report. it was like, that particular lobby was the best place to see all floors, both stairs that they were using to get from one to the other, and that was where there was a place to sit and a view of the place. but the weather report was constant; it was more or less on a loop. that's where i got the names above; i really got a few rounds of it, standing there. but i ended up no more sure what exactly was going to happen, if there was really a storm coming, if we'd really have another round of softballs dropping on what few windows we have left. in fact, a few rounds of this developing front/conditions right for a storm business, and i was sick of it, and ready to go. the problem is, conditions are right for a severe storm; there could be softball-sized hail, there could also be a tornado, and nobody really has a clue. and the orangish gritty fog continues, and life goes on pretty much as usual, people speeding around town in their white pickup trucks. i however have come home, settled in, and probably finished for the night. there's only so much i can take.

the large quantities of rain has made it so we don't have to water, and things are growing well; everything is green; even the weeds are happy. we've done some work on our outside walk, putting concrete tiles, greenish tinted, so that we won't have a wretched yard to take care of; actually, good grass only grows right up against concrete anyway, because that's the only place where there's dirt that doesn't cook past the frying point. if these little shoots of grass can get their roots under a sidewalk or something, they have a chance to survive, so, by giving them more concrete blocks and sand, we will actually provide more opportunity for grass to grow, in spite of covering up 80% of the dirt. that's the plan, anyway. what it means in effect is that my mornings are shot, and i'm a little sore from the shovel work, being as old as i am.

so i'm working a little on my novel, which has been dormant for years, but which really must be finished before i can start a new one, and i have some ideas waiting, so i'd really like to get past this one. it was ill-founded in some ways, about stuff i know very little about, and that's a chancy proposition, but i'm getting into it anyway, trying to learn on the fly stuff i should have done research about before i even started. i'm pretending to be an expert on st. louis sports, for example, but in reality i don't know mark mcgwire from kurt warner, and have to do research just to know them. ah well. that's why my next novel will be about, maybe, actualism. or bundle-wrapping. something i have a clue about.

then again, since it's a murder novel, what one really needs is a motive, true characters, people who are bad enough to kill each other, that kind of stuff. i may be over my head here. maybe it should be, back to haiku.

the baseball championship was postponed again, because of the weather. last night was another night of storms passing through, forming and reforming and cutting up into oklahoma. for entertainment we sometimes just turn the weather radar on to "animate" and watch what has happened in the last five minutes, big formations changing, forming, moving. try to guess what will happen next. any way you can see softballs in that kind of picture? i'm not sure, but if i find out, i'll let you know.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

so apparently there's a new way of protesting in turkey that's based on the tactics of "the standing man"...he's the guy who, in the heat of battle, when protesting was outlawed and punished, simply stood in the square and looked at the government buildings in protest. a kind of non-violent statement, based on the cultural agreement: everyone knew what he meant, what he was saying, what he was protesting. millions were mad at the government and were trying to decide how to show it; most visible ways, i.e. shouting, carrying a sign, etc., were being punished.

i would like to be a standing man here, but there's no cultural reference. it's not like millions of people are mad at obama for the same stuff i am; in fact, more of them are mad for other reasons. so i would stand there silently, facing a post office maybe, and nobody would have any idea what i'd be doing. some security guard would ask me what's the point. i'd have to think of some story, then he probably wouldn't believe it.

we believe in freedom of speech here, but there are certain methods we prefer, and if your method is unconventional you risk all the possible things that can go wrong when people don't know what you're up to. i have friends who are very political on facebook, but i'm beginning to not see them, or not respond so strongly, kind of like the guy who's in the post office every day, with a sign that protests some war or specific misdeed of the government. pretty soon you put him in a category in your mind, you say, oh yeah, that guy's always here, he's been protesting that war for years, and you don't even read his sign anymore. which is a shame because, he might be right, or, he might change his sign.

the other night a thunder and lightning storm came over the baseball field, but nobody was willing to call off the game, because they were sure the storm would pass to the northeast of us, and not hit the field. it was this big wide open field southwest of lubbock, the beginning of the countryside, across the fields is this one low-slung house whose strategy clearly is to be so close to the dirt, that any uplifting wind fails to blow it away. flat plain dusty field goes out in all directions. little kids were out there getting ready to play a big championship game. though the storm started in the north, and was passing to the east of us, it seemed to be getting bigger and creeping toward us, in the southeast. but nobody made a move; it was kind of a giant game of chicken. i caved first. i pulled my kid out of that game and started driving north toward town. i got to the crossroad about two blocks north, and it was already raining. five more blocks east, and it was hailing, pounding on our window. i pulled over at one point trying to get the car under an awning so as to prevent hail damage, but that seemed futile, so we slogged on. we drove through puddles a couple feet deep; it doesn't take long for the rain to gather. back at the baseball field, it's possible it never rained. but they did call off the game.

it's good times for baseball, in general; the eight-year-old plays catcher; he gets hits occasionally; he's in the action; he becomes better at all his skills, and the team wins often enough that they don't seem to be too hard on each other when they don't. there's a team that never loses: the mets; we play them tonight for the championship. they've beaten us every time so far, and it seems they've beaten almost everyone else too. such is life, though. our team hates the mets, and that seems natural, but mostly they have a good time and play their best, and the cool dry texas nights are a good backdrop. i yell my cheers from the sideline. keep calm and hit a homer! keep calm and get 'em out! that kind of stuff. maybe i'm pressuring them too much. the young fellow doesn't seem to suffer much from it, though. in fact, sometimes he's unclear on even the basics: what score it is, why you have to hold up when you're on first base and someone hits it in the air. it's a learning process. they work on it; they teach each other. coaches sometimes can't make it to the games, and they have to teach each other.

i thought about jumping in, but i had another boy in the hospital, and i was a bit distracted. they needed a pitcher, and one coach refused to pitch because he was worried they'd lose and hold it against him. i had no such qualms, but i'm a lousy pitcher, too, so it's just as well. they won last night anyway. the night was dry and cool, and it was after ten when we drove home on the southwest lubbock streets. around ten, it turns to a nightlife-type crowd, i'm sure. but at that moment, it seemed quiet, expectant, as if the wind would blow in another round of weather...which is exactly how it seems to work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One June I was invited down to the Dominican Republic to be a keynote speaker at their convention of EFL/ESL teachers. One could say that this was a high point of my career, in that I was recognized as a leader in the field of integrating technology in the EFL/ESL classroom; at the same time, it was a low point in my career, if you consider the quality of several variables, including my knowing what I was talking about, my fitting my message to the audience that was receiving it; my actually having a command over the technology I was showing and using; my being comfortable in an environment with a large population of very critical, very smart teachers. In all of these respects I was somewhat failing; I could not expect them to invite me back. On the other hand, I try to remember that they spent a good bit of money getting me down there, and putting me up for a week (in both Santiago and Santo Domingo), and I hope that what I did for them was at least partly useful.

We started in Santiago, which was high in the mountains in the center of the country, and had an English center which hosted us; some very nice people worked here and befriended us quickly. On tours around Santiago we were fed well and I noticed that there were a lot of baseball fans there; American baseball was often on television (in restaurants) and people knew the teams and players, and wanted to talk about it. My co-presenter, S.G., came from California and planned a presentation on cell phones, but was unable to turn hers on without incurring hundreds of dollars in roaming fees, and the one she requested from the presenters (a cheap local version) didn't arrive in time, or had some complications in the process of paying for it. On my end, things I planned on presenting with didn't work, because of mac/pc differences, or just online capability; I don't remember; it may have been that it required Flash. We were both in a kind of jam.

It was very hot and steamy, but there was a limitless supply of fresh mangoes, papayas, and other exotic fruit. I always felt sweaty and unable to function well; I also had problems at home when I called Illinois at night, and these problems worried me during the day. I would dress up and speak as well as I could about the value of using technology: blogs, speaking programs, different things that I'd done. In general people were technologically astute, but their institutions provided far less support than ours; teachers shared one computer, generally, and did not expect their students to see something that was put online. You have to work with what you have, I'd tell them. Show us how, they'd say, or, hah! There was a communication gap.

Sometimes the communication gap got worse just as we spoke to people who should have been most able to communicate with us, namely, the people who ran the center. They were, in effect, our sponsors, and they were extremely nice to us, yet we often didn't understand each other, or had differences in the way we heard things. It's interesting to see the wide variety of conditions that people teach English under, worldwide, and one of the things I had to adjust to was merely being in the middle of a situation in which learning English is political in nature, it's a stand in favor of leaning toward the power elite or the ruling classes. People never say that, but you get echoes of it as they describe Dominican history or the history of the relations of the US with the various islands in the area. I encouraged them to use English to document the beauty of the island, the traditional stories of the people, the background of baseball players, etc., online. I tried to find ways in which they could use online opportunities to speak more English with the people they would find online. In my keynote speech itself my own technology wasn't working well, and I ended up showing a youtube our class had made using my own banjo song as background. People looked at me with their jaws open, I think. It's possible they had never heard the banjo. We were way out in the country.

In Santo Domingo we met the leaders of the ESL/EFL organization and had much finer quarters, more mangoes, endless papayas, fresh coffee. We were given tours of the old part of the city and saw statues of conquistadores, some of whom they said were evil. They had a fondness for Columbus, though, because he'd landed on their island first. They had mixed feelings about the conquistadores in general and I don't think I heard everything; nor did I feel entitled to ask, really. The sea crashed against breakwaters in our area of town; there was a kind of promenade. But it was sweltering, again, and one could best walk there at night or in the mornings. At one point they took me out someplace where there was live music and got me to try to dance. I really liked this; it was a classic Dominican place, with lots of good food, where everyone was having a good time, and it didn't really matter that I was a bad dancer. They were a fun-loving people, and you could tell, there were lots of hard times, no money, companies coming in and taking their resources and/or their cheap labor, struggles to make a living in any way. Haiti, next door, was worse, and lots of Haitian immigrants ended up coming over, learning Spanish as well as Haitian and in some cases English too, and living with a certain kind of discrimination, I'm sure. It was too much to learn in a week. Exhausted and way too hot, I left, but was glad I'd done it, and met the people I had. I tried to keep a record of what I'd done online, and, though it occasionally gets mangled by computer changes, it's still there.

Friday, June 14, 2013

went out for my walk tonight, and there was still daylight, but wild loose clouds were sailing over above us and it was pretty sure there'd be rain later. rain is rare here, but glorious; people like it; the farmers say it would have to rain for a month to make up for how far behind we are. the park, however, is very green, reflecting their constant watering and the fact that it's a kind of bowl, and whatever rain we do get, ends up right in the middle of it. i walk around the park quickly. it's kind of steamy out, but lots of people are out, especially dog-lovers and a few people like me, exercisers.

the life of a teacher generally has one break, around christmas, which in my case has always been frantic and barely a break on account of making stuff, getting a tree, etc.; about the time i've rested a little, first week of january or so, it's school again and we started over. with a little engineering you can get a summer term off, or maybe both, in my case, i've got this first one off, a rare break for me after thirty years solid of teaching. my wife says, please take the month, just drive the kids around, so i can work & get a handle on the overwhelming load; spend some time, take care of the house, that kind of stuff. but in my mind i'm like,'s my first chance, in a long time. i have three unfinished books. i have a book of stories; it's unfinished too, since it's now at about fourteen, and really needs about twenty before i publish. i've got e pluribus haiku 2013, 720 poems, i want to put it out on the fourth again. so my head is spinning and i'm dying to write. but i often draw blanks.

lubbock is made of these wide streets with very few low trees that don't block the sun at all. i remember my parents pointing out the historic sights of las cruces and i'd say, that's nice, and very old, but how can you even see it in the sun's glare, with these wide-open avenues and huge blue sky, it's all i can do to not count the little pieces of gravel in the road. it's the same here. slowly i begin to see the really old buildings, interesting sites, even places where there's wild weeds or wildflowers even in the city, along sun-bleached alleys with of course no shade. none whatsoever. you stick to the main roads, you come to a tree eventually, it might be low-slung, or too old, but there's a little shade out there. people say, the trees were all put here by people. none of them are part of the natural environment.

so i come home, afternoons, sit under the fan, and get out one of my books, or e pluribus. but sometimes i feel like my mind is bleached out. i want to write a story, but nothing seems impressive enough, everything seems bleached out in the sun, like a mirage, like a puddle left there by the sprinklers that will evaporate instead of go back to the reservoir from whence it came. up north it's flooding, there's too much water in the air, it has nowhere to go, so it's hanging up against the wall of east coast heat, and it's raining a lot, and that rain is washing down and shooting the rivers from the ohio down to the missouri. but out here, we're pulling the last drops out of the aquifer, to water these lawns and this park, where it'll evaporate and we'll lose it forever, and our plains will become a desert, unless we figure out a way to hang onto some of it, or pipe it down here from somewhere. go figure.

under such circumstances, it seems recumbent upon me (if it is possible to say such a thing) to make plans to go somewhere else, such as kerrville, or perhaps minnesota, someplace where a person could settle where there would be a future, for one and one's descendants, one way or the other. i feel, in a sense, that moving someplace that has such trouble in its future, is not smart, in a fundamental kind of way. however, what's done is done, and i'm here, and i'm sticking with america, at least for the time being, as all five of my kids are here, all eight really, and one grandchild, and they all have to make it one way or the other, somewhere, and just about any place is grim by some accounts, yet sometimes i also have hope for the u.s., at least more hope than i would for, say, italy. my favorite places, really, are in the far north, like alaska and minnesota, and maybe montana, the u.s. could lose everything, and they would still be up there with the snow, and the fish, and the clear blue sky and rugged winter, and life wouldn't change much. but texas is the same in some ways. it's rugged. you get used to living without stuff, like rain. the story i read about natalie maines called it racially divided...heck the whole u.s.a. is racially divided. there was an uproar at some spurs game, but hey, there are always uproars. let's face it, it's like europe only more so. times are ripe for skinheads. the only question is, how will it turn out. we'll either get jobs, and people will live their lives, and we'll avoid some of these huge pointless wars, or...or, i guess maybe that's hopeful. let's stay hopeful.

the road to kerrville is long and flat and reminds me of illinois in that someone is pouring junk on the land and making some money off of it, but in some cases they're just letting it sit there and still making money off of it. you go through tiny towns like this one called "eden" and then you go through this crossroads, interstate kind of place where all the roads converge and that's abilene, no way around it, practically, except going through the oilfields. but way down there, by san antone, is kerrville, and it seems to be hilly, beautiful, no shortage of water, but with the same blazing sun, and everyone's playing music all the time. and they always say "welcome home" to you, like the rainbows do, make you feel like, where have i been all this time.

been in the world, in the work world, in the single-family make-a-living world that used to work a lot better than it's working these days. our industrial society was based on the idea that someone was in the factories, producing stuff, the universities were teaching stuff, the government was just sitting there trying to control stuff, or maybe catching some tax cheaters. in my mind there wasn't really a question of whether our government was worse, or more devious, than say, that of china, which not only spied on everyone but just killed the ones who spoke out against it. but then, as they say, 1984 was meant to scare us, not be a playbook or a set of directions, but nobody could foresee, we slipped into an era where there's literally no privacy anyway. i set out this blog, i figured, might as well spill all the beans, just tell my whole story, every bit of it, no sense hiding anything, they could get me if they really wanted to anyway. i guess what i'm saying is, it seems rather odious to be one of the big boys, pour poison on the land, join the government, or do their dirty work, killing people and running security. it's also hard work, staying out of the big picture, living way up north or way out in the boonies, catching fish and living without insurance. i'm not sure how people do it. for me, i feel a little edgy about it, i have a lot to say, the inclination to put it in novels, or stories at the very least, but i have this situation, i come home from running around at noon, it's 97 already, the sun is beating down, i make another cup of coffee, this one cold maybe, i sit down by the computer, under the fan, and i end up doing facebook. my tongue is tied. i got nothing to say. almost nothing shocks me, or surprises me, or even seems worth pointing out.

it's partly that, from noon on, anyone with any brains is taking a big nap. you run around, about four or five, it's not only hot, though it's dry and not too bad, but it's also bright. no trees. huge sky. aircon on full blast in your car, and the car still heating up. tonight though, after my watch, i saw the fox again. but this time, there were two of them. they were prancing around this one house, it's kind of a mansion, low-slung, lots of green grass, nice bushes, beautiful windows, they were kind of dancing, on the brick wall under these trees, in the dark. big tail, big eyes, and there were two of them. well, i figure, if there are two, soon there will be more, and all the neighborhood strays will be in danger. squirrels, housecats, you name it, these foxes are out looking for it. who knows what they eat? most likely the little stuff, like the squirrels, but i don't know. they were watching me pretty closely, because they were penned in, kind of, up against that house, with its wall running around its front windows, and its green grass and its fragrant smell. they eyed me carefully then ducked back into the shadows a ways so it would be a little harder for me to come after them. but i didn't anyway. what do i want with a couple of foxes? only to admire them, and get myself on slightly more of an evening schedule, like theirs. nights, it cools off a bit, and it's actually pretty nice.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

boxcars on walnut


now available at tlevs press

Saturday, June 08, 2013

the older son has a healthy disrespect for religion, he rejects it in all its forms, whether that be someone at school trying to get him to pray, or me trying to drag him to a sunday school that's full of nice kids but makes him do sports and various things he's sick of anyway. he moved here just at a time when, if mandatory praying is part of what texas is about, part of your graduation, part of all sports events, etc., then it comes to represent that part of texas that he really would rather trade for illinois. so it goes.

the younger guy goes to church willingly on sunday, because he feels that a crowd of kids like himself, determined to cause trouble and have fun in a non-school setting, where benevolent adults will look the other way when you steal a cookie, why that's his idea of fun, and there's lots of room to run and nobody really cares how you dress or even if you take your shoes off. he'll gladly sing a song or listen to whatever the pastor has to say to the kids, because most of the time it's pure wildness and nobody really tries to control him very much. i do, but i also leave him with other adults when i can so as to participate in any other religion i can get for myself, though that sometimes just turns out to be a quiet moment by their labyrinth there at the church. the church is in a nice middle-class lubbock neighborhood, blocks from a busy part of town. but on sunday mornings, it's really nice.

online i seek out the bad quakers - quakers with attitude, the association of bad friends. since all quakers are basically dropouts from the mainstream spectrum - what defines them really is desire to have religion and have god, but not have dogma, or structure, or a boss - most quakers are "bad" anyway in the eyes of the world, and then for them to be bad in the eyes of each other, that's really a challenge, and some succeed occasionally. i mostly watch but participate occasionally. to me it's nice to have a crowd & my crowd here is mostly the presbyterians - at the church - but my crowd online kind of makes up for it. this actually is another kind of escapism. it's keeping me from finishing the stuff i've started writing.

more rain tonight, maybe hail. we're boarded up though, it probably won't hurt us like the last one did. i feel like i'm in the hold of a ship. we have only one window in front now, but we leave that one uncovered, and i like that, because the sun here is like kansas, sharp, piercing, all-encompassing, way too hot, and there's no way i can really get used to it. my wife is halfway used to it already, she's from california, apparently blue sky and lots of sun is just the way. and you look out into the ocean, lots of sky there too. but i'm still not used to it. i was walking tonight and looked up, hoping to get a clue on when it would rain, and maybe ho hard. wild clouds were sailing over and the pattern was unreadable. a mass of clouds off to one direction but unclear as to whether this mass and what i saw skittering above me were even remotely related. finally, a couple of random drops here and there, as i walked. and a smell of dog wallow coming up gently from the park, where that water has sat, maybe a couple of inches deep at most, for several days, mixed in with dog poop, got up quite a smell, and begins wafting, as soon as you get upwind. a strong wind doesn't mean everything blows just means it blows. and it might just as soon blow right under one's nose, as one walks. chou
woke up to pounding on the roof and glass shattering upstairs, and then downstairs, where we have lots of old many-paned windows. big pieces of hail were pounding us and breaking the glass. i was in a daze, because i had been dreaming something wild, even though it was early, maybe ten p.m. we looked outside to see what was going on but quickly decided not to step out there; the pelting was strong and getting stronger. my wife actually saw the wind shift from hard west to hard east.

after it died a little, we counted the panes, maybe 15 of them, on 12 windows. we patched them with cardboard and strapping tape; in the morning we had someone come out and board them up. our house is now darker and cooler, with much less sun coming in. seems like the season to stay inside days, anyway, until the evening: do your work in the morning, lay low all afternoon under a cool fan, come out at night. the trouble is, i have 59 years of programming that works against this pattern, and still wants to do stuff in the afternoon, while i'm awake.

went out for a walk last night, already two nights from the storm, and some power company guys were hanging out at the edge of the park, eleven pm maybe, with their radios on, trying to decide what to fix next. nearby was a streetlight that had fallen; the bulb of it, unbroken, was still in the street. piles of brush everywhere. the city pleaded with its citizens: if you are not aged and infirm, please take your brush to the city park, if you can. i took offense, of course i'm not aged, i'm only 59. so i loaded up two vans full of the stuff and took it down there.

the insurance guys said they were too busy, because all their people were up in the amarillo area, maybe they had a big weather event too; maybe it was worse than ours, or at least earlier. we actually had paint damage because the hail was like a sandblaster. we probably had roof damage too. who knows, but i guess we'll find out.

i realize that working on my poetry like a fanatic is a kind of escapism and keeps me from much more serious concerns, like what's happening to all the children, including the grown ones. i don't always know what i can do but i worry a lot and that may be about the only thing, at least for the moment. the younger ones need attention too, but lately i've mostly been doing this ostrich thing. i don't know why. it was something about kerrville, that made me just want to put a cap on it, describe it, put it in one spot. 50 states, d.c., a kind of web version in constant need of repair, and about a quarter of them in need of serious revision. but it's up to about 730 now, a fair number, a collection. the 2013 version, due on the fourth. summer is settling in here. the sun is coming out for serious now.

i realize whole towns in oklahoma have been laid to waste. the government is reading everyone's e-mail and facebook, not to mention blogs, and bombing people randomly in pakistan, yemen and afghanistan. weather systems have gone haywire partly because people are keeping their trucks running, just to stay out of the heat. and people in towns like this are pulling water up from the aquifer, just to get a green feeling, the soft feeling of grass and normalcy, that you can't get in a totally arid environment.

and i stay home, writing, waiting 'til night to go out, and even then, just walking around this park. one side of me is just afraid, afraid of the future. sometimes i think, everything will work out. other times, i'm just not so sure. i guess we're all like that.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

i sit on the back porch while the dog pants and drools at my legs; she's already had about half an hour of throw-the-ball, but she's ready for more, and doesn't want to go lie down if there's any possibility that more is forthcoming. it's cooled off a little; yesterday the temperature shot up to 105 while we watched it, practically; it went right up through the nineties in the afternoon and finally we got our air-con to work and all settled in to sleep at night. the boys are in camp these days; one has sports camp and then art camp, so he wants to wake up in the morning and that makes a big difference. in some sense it's like summer when i grew up, where you can go outside sometimes, and you run around and do good stuff. you keep busy. in the true south, the summer is too muggy to do stuff, and once the daytime settles in you have to go inside and drink tea. there's a little bit of that here, but because it's dry, even now i can be on my back porch. i've watered the plants; i'm thinking, if it stays this way, i could sit out here for a while.

came back from kerrville moved basically by my encounters with the rainbow people. they were not too concerned with the news, what had happened in oklahoma, who was winning in baseball, or what to do with the water supply. instead, they traded notes on where they were pulling random searches that included dogs, or where they still fired people for smoking legal substances. opportunity for them was a place to work, to eat and to camp, with plenty of time to play music, and friends around. it was good times, and they got right to telling stories, socializing, sharing whatever they had. when i got home i was inspired to finish my 2013 poetry edition instead of doing some of the other stuff i've had on my plate. that poetry edition is now at about 730, but will probably be pared down as i've found a lot of doubles or repetition as i've gone through it with fine-tooth comb. i also want it to fit into a printable volume that i can continue to give away; as it is, it's 32 pages but the first one is front matter (that could go in the cover) and the last one is blank. so i have a bit more room to expand out into, and i will, but i'm not sure if i'll actually add a page or not. it turns out this poetry really needed a lot of work and if i concentrate on it i almost always find something that could be better, more professional. it's an ongoing project, and i try to make it the best i can each year, but my standards have been going up, and

so it's unspeakable luxury, to sit here in a back courtyard, the garden and flowers watered, my wife frantically overwhelmed and off to work, and the kids pleasantly occupied swimming or running or whatever, and all i have to do is worry about poetry, but there's more out there too, and this dog won't leave me alone, she could use a whole morning of this, apparently, and keeps pushing the wet slimy ball into my arms as i type. my wife wants me to haul concrete for her yard=decoration art project, these bags are quite heavy, and i've had a sore back since before i went to kerrville which comes maybe from being old or maybe from just digging the garden. doesn't matter, slowly i'll ease it back into shape, and get firm with the dog who will leave me alone and take a huge nap like the cats do in the day. when the aircon was down i could hardly imagine that they could even sleep in the day, but they manage to do that, one way or the other, while we go out and run around and do our people stuff. they're sitting there going, you do what you want, i'll sleep, and they do. nighttime, while we sleep, they stand by the window and listen for the birds. or whatever.

can't type; the dog is on me too hard; i'm going to haul concrete or whatever, keep moving, so the dog can rest.

Monday, June 03, 2013

i like to say i "played kerrville," and it was true; i took my fiddle down there, a concert was arranged for me and my long-time partner, who knows the place well, and we played in front of an audience. it was well-received, but actually that's not saying much. folk music is always well-received, but that's just another way of saying, keep your day job. it was a wonderful place, wonderful people, and even the weather cooperated.

kerrville has preserved a kind of rainbow culture that started right around the time they did, in 1972, when i graduated from high school. people say, "welcome home" especially when they find out it's your first one. people are genuinely nice and share everything. musically it's a songwriter's heaven, full of other songwriters, four shows every evening, lots of playing in the campsites, venues where you can play for people. i heard lots of up-and-coming songwriters, some of whom i might mention quickly: betty soo, jim sabarino, dave morrison, mickey marlin white, a guy named wes whose family name i've misplaced. onstage i heard steel wheels, trout fishing in america, max gomez, antje whose family name i've also lost. all were quite excellent. i mention them in the same sentence and let you assume that if they'd made it to the main stage they had at least passed through a lot of hoops to get there; this is true, but sometimes music can be very good that you just hear in some out-of-the-way place, and there was a lot of that too. the whole place had a different clock than i do, so it was difficult to adjust to the fact that the best music was often at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am. 4 in the afternoon, i wanted to play, but the sun was beating down, and people were just waking up.

the first night at a campfire on the hill my partner played a song about her father which she had written; an accordion player then did a kind of parody of the song, on the spot, a classic version, in which some people laughed so hard they cried. my partner, if she was hurt, she didn't show it, that's partly because the song he did was excellent too.

people brought quite the collection of old school buses, campers and motor homes, and squared off little areas that were essentially campsites where people would play and various things would be served. this is where the music was, 12-6 am. food could be bought at virtually any hour, so something was always happening; around 6 am, the littlest kids would start waking up and the cycle would start again. i only saw about a cycle and a half, but much of it was in that in-between time. i was a distinguished visitor. my singing partner had been going there for many years; everyone knew her, and she was glad to prove she wasn't always a solo artist. we played together at many venues. at the arranged one, a huge tree had fallen earlier in the year, leaving a sun-bleached courtyard that made most of our audience back off into the shade; they felt a little removed from us. i'm not sure if we sold any cd's from the experience. it was a pleasure, of course, to play with her; it always is. it was like our group was back together again.

one duo, trout fishing in america, i actually heard three times, because they did two kids' shows, both directly beneath the illinois tent where i hung around a lot. i got the idea to go into kids' music, to be another raffi. it could be done. as it was, i played every opportunity i got (i'm somewhat starved for opportunity here, but that's only because i don't know enough people yet). really, besides playing different campsites with her, my best opportunity came when the accordion player, who just happened to be on my level, was serenading the kitchen workers on the one day when i was there, and i jumped in there with him and we played some really hot cajun music, and got the kitchen staff dancing. now, that kitchen staff was also somewhat inconvenienced, because i was in front of the walk-in cooler, and fiddling takes a lot of room. somehow they let me know when they needed to pass through, even while we played this really hot cajun music. i'll never forget this; it was the high point, really, of my time there. it was partly because, many many years ago, i worked in the hippie kitchens myself, and i worked hard, day after day, and i felt this way when i got there, i felt, first, accept their dinner, which they have so graciously provided (and which i would have paid for if i could have found out how), then, they have music, they need someone to play for the kitchen staff (and they even consider that a "job" that people do), i'll do that, and i'll do that well, and they won't forget it. someone took pictures. someone got tears in her eyes. most people smiled and went on out to work their shift at the main show. the accordion player, i'm going to find that guy, and play more music with him, first chance i get. it might be a few years, though. he's from austin.

there was a low point, in the heat of the afternoon, when i was at a party, lots of alcohol and someone spilled a drink on my shirt, and i couldn't play music, because the country musician kind of insisted on holding the floor. the woman whose birthday it was, was kind of over the top, but had trouble brewing in her life, and the sun just beat down hard, every time we turned around. it occurred to me, and i learned this, that these folk lovers, and rainbow people, had trouble from the minute they left the camp. and, just like always, it took a lot of faith, to travel a long way, get through the checkpoints and the police on every corner, and make it to a camp, where they're safe, and things can be shared, and the music flows at every opportunity.

i'll try to collect some of the best of kerrville, perhaps on my music page. suffice it to say, it was great, and a long drive down into the hill country, really one of the more beautiful parts of texas, was nice also. i'm becoming more comfortable with the state, and the long hours of driving, the open spaces, the huge sky, the people. i saw two memorable bumper stickers, one said, my governor is a jewish cowboy, and the other said, don't mess with reckless. lots of austin people, lots of texas music, texas food, the hot texas sun. and the cool nights, that went on forever.