Friday, January 24, 2014

thoroughly exhausted from donuts-with-dad at seven a-m, roller skating last night and swimming today, so i had a cup of coffee tonight at the yoga bean coffee house and settled in for some irish music and dancing while the boys romped with some other kids in the back. i don't actually dance, because the steps are complicated and you have to learn them. i also don't play fiddle, although they let me play a few times, because the songs also are complicated, you have to learn and practice them over a few years. the place was crowded; it was fun. the kids enjoyed it too. but the coffee lingers now, and i can't sleep.

donuts-with-dad was an interesting school experience, because even though i consider donuts to be the most shallow, empty, sugary food that actually hurts me an hour or so later, it's universally popular; my son wanted two of them; almost every dad of every kid in the school was there as well. they filled up the gym. it was an experience. it had been postponed two or three times for whatever reason but people must have wanted it so as to not let it die, and then all attended, even on a very cold morning at seven no less. unbelievable.

and then, there was skate night, where i really felt my old bones, but i went around on those skates anyway, and it made my heart speed up a bit and i worried a little about my own condition. actually it's the donuts that really make me worry, because i used to be able to eat two or three of those too, but now even one makes me jumpy, but the thing about skating is, it seems to require more of me than, say, the walking or swimming that i do a lot of. it's just more rigorous. out there on the floor you get to hear all the new music, and see all the kids do their thing.

out on the street i saw something i really didn't like. a couple of guys were getting taken out of their car by an ems emergency vehicle. three or four police cars and two fire trucks surrounded their car, except that another car, which seemed to belong to a woman, was behind them. they were taken out of their car with utmost care as if they had both broken their necks, yet they had looks on their faces that showed a little smugness, as if, no way they broke their neck, but they would make the poor woman pay for this anyway. in other words, all the neck brace, gentle handling, backing into the emergency vehicle, etc., all seemed like it was for show. i looked at the two cars. there was not a single sign of the one having hit the other, though i would assume that perhaps the woman had back-ended the men's car. no sign that one car had even touched the other. the poor woman's insurance company was going to be taken for a ride, i guess. and everyone knew it. free ambulance trip all the way around.

saw two confederate flags in the dorm windows. they must have been up there for king's day, or maybe they were there all along and i just didn't see them. what do you do, ask people to remove stuff like that? a lot of people wouldn't hesitate. this is way up on the fifteenth floor, seventeenth floor, etc., no way to apply any kind of free speech to a window like that. the ironic thing is, people get all roundabout when it comes to that flag, they'll claim it's not racist, or it is more southern pride than pro-slavery, or pro-confederacy, or whatever, blah blah blah. i don't buy it. on one level, it's pure racist. and, to make matters worse, the whole texas-flag thing basically celebrates an era when white people came out here on the plain, and just killed indians by the hundreds, turned around and killed the mexicans who they had lived peacefully with for years, then became their own nation, etc., so, much as i like texas pride, the whole lone star thing is kind of tainted too. i got a lone-star tie over christmas, but i've been trying to wear it, and in the mornings when i go to put it on, this big honking white star on red and blue, i have trouble aligning with all that history, some of which, to tell the truth, i don't even know. i've become a bit distrustful of all flags, or that kind of symbol, for that reason, they bind up a number of movements and represent sometimes a whole progression of violent social activities that led to that symbol having power in the modern world. and when you take it on, wear it, put it in your window, or on your car, for example, you are lending power to it, or at least taking on what people recognize as a symbol of these don't know how other people see it, but, you can be sure it's not always going to be good.

a bitter wind, down from canada, has left the whole country pretty cold, and the traditional wisdom from up north goes, when the wind comes from the northeast, it's always trouble. it's circling around over all those lakes and picking up that icy bitter windy character, and it sometimes dumps snow and ice on everything & folks here, for sure anyway, just aren't used to it, and can't handle it very well. it made for some very cold walking, but it's ok, i like walking these days, and i consider it a bit safer at the big intersection, if i'm on my own two feet, and i can jump when somebody does something stupid. lots of stupid things these days, we hear the police all over the place, and the ambulances, and my guess is, the weather is getting to them. weather doesn't kill people, people kill people, but, doesn't matter, weather makes people go bonkers. a good time to stay home, wrap up in some blankets, and make a fire.

Monday, January 20, 2014

mid-january ramble

almost done with my novel, which is a kind of who-dun-it set in rural illinois/st. louis, tells an odd story about love, illusions, sports, & murder. i'm definitely a novice. i have to go back and check my facts, fill out the characters, see what still doesn't make sense. so, while i'm almost done with the plot part, i'm not nearly done with the novel itself. it's got a ways to go.

then, i have to say, my wife admitted today that i have almost totally won over her dog's heart, and this is true, as i take her outside and throw the stick once in a while, and she lives for the stick. she chases it with the intently focused fanaticism only a black lab can have for a stick. and she loves me dearly in return, she waits for me, she sleeps near me, she finds me when i come home. i don't take her for walks though. my wife claims i should and that she's no trouble out on the street. no, the trouble really is with me, when i was a teenager i had a dog and i hated the leash so much i took it off all the time, and the neighbors got mad at me and also my parents, for allowing me to be such a miscreant teenager. it was a bad memory all the way around. and the dog got out one time, truly out, way out, got hit by a car and ended up way in a corner where two busy roads, far away, came together. poor dog, was never the same again. this was in that vast territory between buffalo and niagara falls, i went and found my high school reunion, and there was almost nobody i could friend or stay in touch with, it all felt pretty far from my heart.

iowa, on the other hand, has stepped forward in my memories, i guess i just got tired of missing illinois so much, i might as well miss iowa too, add some variety to my nostalgia. i actually had lots of very close friends there; some won't friend me, due to being ignored for what, thirty years, others friended me right away, some seem to have disappeared. i kept thinking of more as i scrolled through and saw what happened. their kids seemed to be like my kids and went out into the world doing their things. my own son is telling his own story; i'm extremely proud of him; there's nothing more difficult than laying it on the table for everyone to see, and this is something i haven't totally done myself, for me, not to mention, my own version of all the stuff that has happened. you get a partial version here, dear reader, you may never know what it's really like out there, but i come back home, back from my walk around our little park, a full moon out tonight, wind, some stars, cool, and i'm glad to be home, the dog settling in and waiting for me, the last one, to go to bed. there's a tenuous balance between the way you want yourself seen in public, reining in the true you, who is the center of the universe, who, in a pure form, has no use for clothes, leashes, brakes...i may, someday, put some of this in a novel, or i may be too busy, who knows, and it may go unwritten. I have learned a bit in this world, and i may use it one way or the other, but it would be a shame to take this gathered-up skill set, this accumulated knowledge, and let it blow away in the wind, like the spring dust-transfers that are picking up around here and threaten to dry out virtually everything still holding on in the worthless dirt.

happy king day everyone, i wish you a moment's peace in this world, and then to carry on, and do the kind of stuff that will make the world better.

Friday, January 10, 2014

went to thursday night jam hole in the auto body shop out behind the goedeke library, and i go there to haul out and play fiddle as hard as i can generally, but there's this old time fiddler, has a real nice voice, had a stroke or something recently, but when he returns to this place everyone loves him a lot, and has him play the lead. in fact the guy at one point told me to quit playing when somebody was singing, because the fiddle if you play too loud, can get right there in the way of the human voice. i'm well aware of that of course, but i tend to haul out anyway, since i play so rarely, and i want to get things right. i'm aware that i sound quite rude now, and i'm sure i cross over that line occasionally, but folks there have been pretty nice to me, though this guy told me, on this particular night, that playing over a singer is like farting in public.

now i knew that this guy has roots in western swing bands and old high plains country music, his dad was a musician too, so when it was my turn to call a song i called his song, and it was a good song. he got me to play a lead in it and i did my best, then apologized to him for massacring it as i never play quite up to my own standard. he was quite nice about it though and said he thought i did pretty well. in fact i tried my best all night but felt like i was playing a bit below my normal level. i also felt totally in the role of apprentice, and just concentrated on listening to his every note, when he played the fiddle. he was one guy, by the way, who was able to combine singing and fiddling though as far as i could tell, he rarely did both at the same time. and like i said, incapacitated by a recent stroke, in general he was playing less than normal.

but he was becoming nice to me, and even apologized for setting me straight earlier. i said no problem, and it really was no problem, if someone sets me straight, i can handle it, and another fiddler is far more aware of my shortcomings, i'm sure, than even i am, since i'm so busy listening to the notes. i'm going by the motto, never miss an opportunity to remain silent, but i'm also noticing, that playing the low-note harmony at least keeps you in the game, and keeps the music flowing, and you can adjust your volume.

so when the night is almost over he shows me his fiddle, and offers to let me play it. it's bob wills' fiddle he says. a relative of his was bob wills' guitar player, so when bob was ready to pass it along, it came down his way, through his father.

it was a fine fiddle, full and resonant, deep, in tune, best fiddle i ever played in my life. he said, once he fell on it, and it didn't break, he got injured, but the fiddle remained intact, it was one solid fiddle. we had just played i fall to pieces, so next someone called crazy and i gave it my best shot, using his fiddle.

fortunately i knew the song, and its chords, but i couldn't play it exactly. what came out was some harmony, some melody, all in this deep resonant fiddle sound. i was in heaven. i couldn't believe it.

it was like, sometimes you touch fame, like when i shook john glenn's hand, or saw bill clinton speak. sometimes in the course of life you come up against people who are big or important or whatever. but last night i came up against great. bob wills was one of the finest fiddlers ever. and he had an ear for what was just right, of course, it being like 1940 or whatever.

it's awakened in me a desire to revive all that old western swing music. of course i also have the desire to be the guy who revives scottish songs, especially the ones in gaelic that i don't know, and of course i also wouldn't mind being a straight-up red-dirt country fiddler. but you can't have everything, can you? or should i say, having come so close to greatness - i've lived now, and i can back off, stay out of their hair, and go do something normal, like write my novel?

speaking of which, about an hour a day i'm doing, if i'm lucky, lots of distractions around here, but it's slowly slowly taking shape. i've got a plot. i've got things happening. i'm working on visuals and making the times match up, it's like 2005 in and around saint louis, where it's set. one question is, did they have the mark mcgwire highway then? does anyone care? baseball fans will care a lot, i'm sure, and there's plenty of sports in this novel. but, does a person have to have his facts right?

you can see, by reading this post, that i live on the edge of what's generally considered acceptable behavior. my beard still grows out until it's too long, and folks aren't used to beards around here, and they know i'm a yankee the minute i open my mouth, and i feel like i'm stepping on their china dolls every time i move, sometimes. but they're very polite, and my plan is, i'll never let them down. if they don't like people playing over the singer, i won't, or at least i'll play so low, so softly, so harmonic, that they couldn't possibly object. when i get my run i'll do it, then i'll back off, so quickly, so easily, so gently, they won't even know i was there. i said i was a fiddler, and they forked over bob wills' fiddle. i'd say, that's hospitality, and i don't forget hospitality. lots of folks have been hospitable to me over the years, and i'd like to mention relatives & family, iowans, southern illinois, quakers, combinations of these, and don't forget mexico and texas, just to name a few, and i'd like to say, i develop my skills, my writing and fiddling, and hope i can repay someday.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

switched over to working on my novel; the novel had maybe 35 pages, single-spaced, and is now maybe 40. but every time i get into it i lose momentum, as if i have a lot to say but no organized plan, no reason to keep writing it. that's my first problem. i'm not trying to impress the reader, or say anything in particular, i'm just trying to write a whodunit that moves right along, keeps people reading, and eventually gives you a little kick, or a message, or something. but i don't quite have the message. i don't quite have the reason i wrote it in the first place.

so i develop these characters, but they're mostly based on myself, or people i know, and it's pretty much romanticized views of people i know, especially myself. people are pretty boring, if you get down into the nitty-gritty of their day-to-day life. and that brings up another point: within a few years, virtually every crime will be easily solvable, by anyone who has any access at all to dna technology. so technically, "whodunits" will be obsolete. this gives me even less motivation to write.

unless, and this is the direction i'm going, you write purely to entertain. there is something to be said for the "here's a sports car, get in & i'll shoot around with you" philosophy of writing, which is that if you are giving someone a tour of your imagination, you might as well dress it up a little. now this is kind of hard with your average, blah blah blah whodunit, but i realize, if i'm going to survive in this cutthroat market, i've got to make it stand out. in my novel, i've got these two guys, actually two competing sides of myself, and they are in illinois, which is ok, and they have these murders, or in some cases attempted murders, but they have absolutely no motivation to do anything about them. does anyone? do they pay people to do this kind of stuff anymore? and if they do, what happens, you throw a dna kit at them and say, measure it and get back to me with the results?

nah, i have to build in a little more. i haven't quite figure out how, or what, but it has to be something. kurt vonnegut says, you have to give people a reason to want to turn the page. you have to have a main character, and he has to want something, even if it's only to use a bathroom, so the reader will turn page after page to see if he gets it. then, of course, you build in the murders, and the plot, and all that other junk, while they're trying to figure out if he ever finds a bathroom.

my problem is, i've become a little complacent. i no longer wantanything, and if i did, I'm not sure i could conjure up the feeling of wanting anything. my main character now wants only to watch sports games. he wants to use sports to get away from all the haunting situations in life where you can't bear to participate because people are so evil. but sports are evil too, he soon finds out, there's no getting away from it. people are evil. you can invent a bad guy, then you have an evil bad guy, he'll be evil. does that give people a reason to turn the page? i'm not sure. there's plenty of evil around; i'm kind of bored with it. nothing i can make up, seems to ge evil enough. lascivious desire? that's evil, but it's everywhere. ho-hum. i forgave myself years ago, i'll give maybe five minutes before i forgive my main character. or anyone else. and if you invent, or develop, the ogre of the modern-day enemy, she/he'd have to be pretty bad. and even then i'd get bored. it just doesn't pinch me anymore.

maybe i should stick with music.

Monday, January 06, 2014

in this part of texas it's about ten degrees, with fifteen mile-an-hour winds, so it's pretty cold for people out here and roads are fairly empty. it's nothing like up north, of course, where it's snowing hard and very cold, and schools are being cancelled in a wide swath of places, but now i can sit here and read my friends' facebook posts about cancellations. the biggest frustration of course is when someone's daycare is organized, for example, and cancels monday's daycare on friday, because they know the storm is coming in on sunday, and they're so sure predictions will be accurate; then, their workplace, for example, waits until sunday night. so they lose a whole weekend wondering.

as for us, it's vacation anyway until tuesday, for everyone, so i went out on my long walk tonight, and went around the park five times as usual. the bitter wind hit me on two sides but was ok on the other two. i could hear geese - the playas that they use are a mile or two away, and they're quite confused. this is as far south as they go, there's no water further south, and usually it's warm enough; these playas don't generally freeze thought they might. they were arguing or calling each other loudly. i could hear them, because there was so little traffic on flint; flint goes to the university, so it's pretty quiet this time of year, and that's nice. no ambulances, no medivac helicopters, and a sky full of stars. but the geese are out there, arguing about whether the playa will freeze, and what to do if it does.

i get less done when everyone is around, and i'm not going into work, but that's ok, because after all, it's break, and i need to kick back and think how thoroughly sick of work i am, and how i need another direction, maybe. i've been writing poetry a lot, but running out of patience for going over it with a fine-tooth comb and making the entire collection, which was my original goal. tonight i was thinking alaska, but also hawaii for some reason. hawaii is the tough one; after all, i've never been there, don't quite know how it feels. the good thing is, these days, you can get all over the internet, and figure out how it feels. but that's not quite enough for me. hawaii and north dakota have always been hard for me, on account of never having been there.

would work on the proverbial novel, but i'm not sure i can pull it together with the hour or so i get to myself each day, these days. might try though; vacation is what, another week, for me, whereas the boys go back to school on tuesday. there might be a window in there, to at least get started. then, really, the big project is to pull together the autobiography, much of which appears on these very posts, and get it out for a big contest...more about this later, if it happens. for now, it's cold & i'm going to bed.

Friday, January 03, 2014

red truck incident

the entire new year, it can be said, is a huge drinking holiday, in texas as everywhere, but it's slightly colored by football, in the sense that if there's football on television all day on new year's day, there's drinking all day, and in fact there's drinking right through every game, college and pro, with tech games and cowboy games being maybe bigger than the rest. so it was no particular surprise that an incident happened on the night of january first, when a red truck came up on our lawn, up against a city sign, and then a tree; the truck was missing a wheel, and its hub had damaged the street going back on 20th street, and damaged the curb, and even tilled up a bit of our lawn as the driver had tried to get it back into the street.

my brother, who was visiting from england, and wasn't sleeping that well anyway, heard the noise and went out to talk to the two guys, young fellows, one might have had a pony tail. they were in fact quite drunk. at this point the truck was in front of our house, but in the morning, we noticed that it had moved forward and was actually blocking the neighbor's driveway. pieces of truck were scattered in the lawn. the wheel was missing. he seemed to have done an incredible amount of damage to the truck, on the front right, and on the front left, and oil had been dripping onto our curb and lawn. but the city sign and the tree were remarkably in good shape. we began to suspect that he had brought much of the problem with him as he'd poked holes in the street with his rim, driving along with no wheel. we followed the holes and ended up doing research way back in the neighborhoods of lubbock where he might have started. there was in fact a path of holes going all the way back to about 43rd street and through the neighborhoods up there, but no sign of a wheel, no sign of great destruction, and we gave up.

the neighbor came out in the morning and called the police, who wrote it up and called him an idiot. he had in fact driven miles on only a rim, as far as we could tell, and, by leaving it blocking the driveway, he forced us to call and have it towed, whereas we might have just waited for him to retrieve it otherwise. i wasn't feeling vindictive, since somebody just recently let me off the hook for a minor infraction, but i had to admit, he'd left pieces of truck all over our yard, and hadn't done much to set things right. in fact we never saw him again. if he came back for the truck, he didn't try to ask us, or apologize, or anything. the city has his truck, or what's left of it. it was a newer truck, bright red, damaged on at least two corners.

my brother did most of the legwork on the detective case, as if, in visiting from england, this was the best way to really know texas and get to the bottom of this mysterious behavior. actually we all agreed, he must have been pretty drunk, to lose it that bad, and drive around on a rim for so long. it is possible to park legally on a rim, or set a wheel beneath it, and come back for it later, without damaging a truck too badly. his truck was like a rototiller, tearing up new street everywhere he went.

as for us, we were just beginning to enjoy a quiet break, before the students return, where flint avenue is fairly quiet, since it feeds right into the university and nobody is going there, and so the whole neighborhood has a kind of cold, clear, peaceful air for days on end. i'd like to play ping pong, or basketball, or try out my son's new boomerang, but it's been too cold. the dogs and cats are a bit on edge because people are hanging around during the day, but hey, it's an environment, and you have to adjust to your environment one way or the other. one cat is so skittish that he hides whenever there are visitors around, he wasn't seen at all for several days, and when he was seen, it was skittering up to the litter box quickly while he could get away with it, and not get trapped by the dogs, or worse, people. he didn't run away, though. we settle into a vacation routine, for only a few days, because a reunion, and visitors from england, and kansas, were a big deal, and left us all worn out. i'm grateful though: my family doesn't have big fights, all got along well, all functional enough to make it down to new mexico without problems, all on flights around the country and the world. it was good to see everyone, catch up on family developments. the boys got worn out; the cousins have a lot of energy.

thinking of remodeling, making some sites commercial. not this one, of course. this one may go underground, out of public view, but won't get google commercials all over it, like the others might. not sure how i'll proceed. i'm interested in online advertising, and how and whether it works, so i'm going to do some experiments, and see what happens. as a result, you may see some commercials on some sites. i may even make them myself. and then, i'll give you a tour of my various sites. it's the least i could do, for my friends. more later.