Saturday, February 28, 2015

when we got four inches on thursday night, they called off everything on friday - public school, university, bluegrass jam, everything. i thought maybe they were kind of wimps but when i went out i did see that virtually all roads were packed down snow turning to ice, and besides, it's really a matter of the collective skill of the people - if they're really bad, you don't want them out there. there's a whole range of skills required to drive when you have no brakes, and to get your car out of a ditch that's solid glazed ice. you don't get out by spinning your wheels.

so we stayed home much of yesterday and today, and i went out to clear the driveway and walk a little, and it started a fine drizzle freezing mist even as i did it. on my walk, three miles in this fine, glazed snowy fog, i had to be careful most of the way because so much of it was frozen. at one point this monster truck decided to come into the park and tear it up; he was driving around, doing donuts, making a racket, driving right over culverts, etc. i tried to call 911 but my phone wasn't cooperating so i just put it away and watched him. when i finally got over to where he got out of there, i noticed that he hadn't really done all that much damage; much of the park was so frozen that it was impossible to tear it up. and though he made a lot of noise and spun a lot, some places, he was on ice, so it didn't really matter. if he was tearing up mud, then it might be good to intervene.

throughout the neighborhood, all weekend, we could hear tires spinning. people truly don't know how to deal with it. one poor kid came to the dead end at the park there, a couple of nights ago, and, instead of just driving over the park as some people do, he actually did the right thing and tried to do a three-point turn to turn around and go back the way he came. that put his back tire in a frozen gutter, and spinning, he couldn't get out; and, he was alone. but i helped him push it out; i have experience in such things, and even though he had to push and drive at the same time, and even went over another curb before he was done, still we got him out and going. i felt like all my years in the snow belt were coming in handy. it's not that it takes so much pure strength to get a truck out of such a rut, but you have to have a sense of balance, rocking, to put the truck on the place where its wheels will catch. it's an interesting game and it makes me feel like an old master. how many ditches have i been in over the years?

the vast majority of us are just staying home, and the town is very quiet, peaceful, with the exception of tire spinning which you can hear here and there. the news seems to have shut down too; only the weather guys work in this kind of stuff, and even they pack it up early and go home. tonight, i think, we lose an hour, and if you're going to lose one, might as well be one of these, since they're kind of bleak. in the end, the kids get a little stir-crazy and can't cross town very easily to be with friends; they're stuck with each other, or maybe the ones across the road, who in our case, aren't so bad. as for me, i'm enjoying being only three icy blocks from the neighborhood store, though being sixty, if i'm carrying a gallon of milk i have to be careful, walking on solid ice. one person said they shut down the town just so we could experience it, because actually four inches is pretty rare, though they've seen such things here. we have a lot of students from houston and san antone, who really have no clue, and they'll probably be more set back by the cabin fever than anything else. but let them try and get out and drive in it, and they'll see; it gets more glazed as time goes by, as the sun comes out and melts part of it but it refreezes slicker than it even was. it's a curveball from the weather people; the groundhog has spoken. s'posed to be warmer tomorrow.
new story:
See Some ID
not quite finished, but try it! comments welcome, as usual

Thursday, February 26, 2015

lately i've been walking like a fanatic; i go out every night and do three miles, even after i've walked a mile or two in the day. some days i don't drive at all, and this is good, because roads are icy, it's snowing and slick, and people by and large don't know how to handle it.

this is especially true for what's known as the marsha sharp, our one expressway, that cuts through town diagonally from the wealthy southwest part of town, right through the university and into downtown. the city is flat, but the marsha sharp was built through it, with its ramps coming up over it or dipping under the center of town. so navigating this freeway is about the only time a person encounters a hill in this city, and it's the only time anyone ever goes more than about forty-five. bad combination, for people who really don't know how to drive on ice.

and then, the city is on pins and needles, because one to three inches of snow is expected in the early morning, to make driving more treacherous in general. yes, i grew up in this stuff, i tell them, but i respect it, and stay off the roads whenever possible. and i consider myself lucky that i'm not spending my life on interstates where seventy or eighty is common if not expected. i said this was my view of dallas, but they said that dallas doesn't get the snow and ice and hard wind like we're getting out here in the plains. i was saying that i kind of respect a high-plains, hard-wind, snow and ice kind of place, i'm kind of enjoying it here.

and i walk every night, no matter what. sometimes the hard wind hits my face or a drizzle freezes in my beard, but the glaze on the grass and the pretty wide open field, with the fresh air, i live for that stuff. it doesn't strike me as too cold; it's rarely even below twenty. the ice can make it a little treacherous, but this is how i like to live dangerously. it's as close as one can get to ice skating.

so the marsha sharp had a fifteen-car pileup the last time it snowed, about five days ago. eighty-two accidents around the city, but the fifteen-car one was the worst in terms of pure number, and i reminded everyone to stay off the darn thing, you can get wherever you're going on the surface streets, and it never takes more than fifteen or twenty minutes anyway. out of fifteen cars, only two or three probably were clueless; the rest were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. but i heard about it when i happened to be in the post office; word got around quickly. it's times like that that i feel this is actually a pretty small city, and everyone knows everybody, pretty much. so you get into one with fourteen cars, chances are pretty good you know the people in at least one of them.

fodder for another story, i suppose, but i've gone dry, and i'm not writing much, being too preoccupied. time to turn that around, i think. more later...chou

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

new story:
Foul Strike
enjoy! comments welcome as usual!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

on the quaker facebook somebody asked what everyone was giving up, and of course some people pointed out that we're quakers, we don't believe in that kind of symbolic relationship to religion, like putting ashes on our foreheads or celebrating special saints. some people live in predominately catholic areas, so maybe they just feel like it's a question everyone's asking each other anyway, or they're ribbing each other with it. i said i was giving up trying to make any sense out of anything. that of course assumes that making sense out of stuff is a kind of luxury, like cigarettes or steak, that one can go a week without, in order to publicly proclaim one's religion.

the weather shows signs of turning to spring here, with little green things poking out of the ground, but there's been more snow, and less dust, than usual, and also it's colder. i'm wondering when the dust storms (new mexico land transfers) will show up but so far we've had a little brisk northerly cold wind, but not much else. no dust to speak of. lots of fresh air as i go walking around the neighborhood, and go for my walks at night.

it was a half-day at school so i spent a hard afternoon home with four rambunctious kids and their guests, all wanting to try out the new trampoline, also trying to fix a toilet at the same time. i should be able to fix a toilet, being sixty and all, but it's taken me all day, for some reason, and that's because i keep taking a break to check my facebook or mess with the kids or whatever. or do this. and the afternoon just keeps drifting along, later and later, with the dogs nervous about all the visitors and wondering when it will be 4 30, and they finally get fed. what i absolutely hate is to get involved in trying to do something which i consider uninterruptible, and being interrupted constantly. so i put it off. i figure i'll get to it late at night. but late at night, i'm real tired. i go for a three-mile walk that tops off what i've done during the day (usually 1-2 more) and i'm totally beat. my one or two uninterrupted hours become wasted hours.

one of my neighbors is quite wealthy; he has a silver sports car convertible and a silver cadillac, old and fine car, and he's a developer who has built many a hotel around town, a little controversial. so one day he comes down our street in the open convertible with a garbage can in it, and lots of other junk, piled up the sides, and right away i thought he was being kicked out of his house. why would he not take the good car? actually i think he has three or four cars, but it was a sight, the convertible, piled high with stuff. what i didn't figure is that the recycling is right around the corner from our new house, and i'm not used to that, so actually he was taking the recycling. i laughed at my own assumptions, the way i read into stuff so quickly. i'm just as bad as anyone, i look at people and think what i want to.

which reminds me of the pecans; lately i've taken to grabbing five or six of them every time i see a pile of unharvested ones at a house on my path. usually i take them out of the road but i'll take them out of the parking too, especially if it looks like nobody's been grabbing them. so my pockets are constantly full and sometimes when i walk, i'll grab a couple of them and squeeze them together until they crack, and then pick away at them so as to get something to eat. but walking around with hands in a full pocket, especially as unshaven as i am, tends to attract attention too. lately a policeman pulled up alongside me and i couldn't help feeling he was staring me down, as if someone had called and complained about a scary-looking guy walking around. i wear my tech hat partly to show my good-old-boy allegiance, so i just looked right back at him for a while, and he left. you can tell the suspicious people by the way they behave when you get in their face, i'm sure he was thinking. anyway, whatever he was thinking, he had better things to do than find out who i was. i'm out there all the time.

but, says my wife, not so if you're black or hispanic. just walking around, or looking too much at things, can get a person in trouble, and you never know what they might interpret as 'suspicious' or hiding something. things happen, and the community organizes to survive it, or cause it as the case may be. could have been any of those neighbors that called him, even the developer himself, whose house i now walk by both coming and going. i'm getting to know the pecan trees, though, since their pecans have distinct shapes and are of different kinds and shapes. slowly, i'll learn what these are. they still all taste the same. and also, sometimes i manage to get the nuts out whole, while other times, i'm left using what's left of fingernails to try to get little pieces out of where they're tucked in. there's always a supply, though; when i get bored i can change my route, and find dozens more trees, similarly left to drop their nuts, while we wonder why people let such a fine crop just sit there all winter. light pecans, and black coffee, and long walks in the cold night, that's what i'm up to. not that i don't have better stuff to do, just that, well, i kind of fell into it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

recent writing

they call me a pecan-nasseur

these days i walk about six blocks to school, up through a neighborhood called tech terrace, and across nineteenth on a kind of wildcat crossing, no light or anything, at a place where it's about four lanes each way. i'm relieved to be away from the light, which forced a kind of regularity on top of extreme danger, but now i just face the extreme danger, and take my chances with the timing. cars on nineteenth are going about forty; they can't see much because it's so wide. but i don't let them hit me.

then, what i've noticed is that there are different kinds of pecan trees all along my route. i know they're different kinds because some are very long, others are small and circular, and still others are slightly larger and oval. whenever i can, i pick up about six or seven of them and jam them in my pockets. many of them appear to have been there all winter. but, though i thought it was open season at first, and kind of went crazy picking up as many as i could, now i realize that after a beautiful weekend, some people will come out and actually harvest their pecans, and maybe they even value them, take them down to the shelling place, or just eat them. there's no way of knowing, in the spring, whether they're getting them out of there because they want them out of the way, or whether somebody is actually going to eat them.

they're actually quite delicious, although it's not so easy to get the meat out; sometimes you have to pick at it, and i do this while i'm walking, so i lose some of the good stuff. i let the husks fall because i figure it's all organic. but it reminds me a little of black walnut husks, all yellow and good for dying or melting down. the curbs are full of old husks and pecan detritus and it has a nice smell; there are at least six or seven trees on my route and maybe another half-dozen just a half block away in any direction. slowly i'm finding them all and evaluating what kind of pecans there are in the neighborhood.

at first when we did research on the names, in the writing lab, i noticed that one group names them after all the native american tribes (osage, cheyenne, kiowa, etc.) while another had a different set of names. i really haven't started learning the names yet. there's one tree that leans over into our own back yard, and i'd like to know what kind of pecans it has, but i just haven't done the research yet. most people will tell you, there are hundreds of kinds. and the lighter ones are the wilder, more common ones, while the commercial ones are a bit darker.

where i come from, pecans are a delicacy, worth four or five bucks a pound or more, so it amazes me to see them sitting around, and i can't resist grabbing the ones i see. at the lab i drink black coffee so i'm kind of on a white pecan / black coffee diet and i'm really grooving on it, because apparently we had plenty of rain and we're enjoying a pretty good crop. nobody yet has objected to my grabbing a few pecans. how could they? there're thousands of them, and they've been sitting there all winter.

my favorite thing to do is hold them and squeeze them in my hand until one pops. they're just hard enough that they resist the bugs until february, but not too hard that they can resist a good squeeze with an old guy's hands. the picking of the meat is only painstaking if it breaks poorly, then i have to actually work to get anything good out of it. usually it comes out whole.

there's a whole art of figuring out what kind of nutcracker works best and getting the right machines. people who grew up around here remember having to do it in front of the television, so that their families felt like they were being productive even when they watched tv. but in fact they were there for the picking all along, and they kind of ensured that nobody starved altogether, in lean times, or when everyone was out of work. that's why i like them. they're kind of an insurance policy, and if a person knew where every tree was, and was capable of walking out there to get them, there would be a kind of security in that, as the hot sun blazes down, and you see these fine looking little nuts down in the weeds, along the curbs, and in people's yards that are occasionally overgrown, already, with ragweed.

so the other day i went to put my sweater on, and as i lifted it upside down over my head, all these pecans fell out and all over the wood floor in the front room. the made a nice sound and rolled all over the place. my wife laughed at me that i'd collected so many, but i showed her the different kinds and how easy it was to sort them and see where they came from. it's like the garden, in the end; though the total amount of food doesn't amount to much in the daily budget, the feeling of being connected to the earth and its harvest is well worth the investment, and makes a person feel like the environment is not so harsh and unforgiving after all.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

new story:
Do Unto
enjoy! comments welcome as usual!

Monday, February 02, 2015

super sunday

the grocery store had both seahawk and patriot flags up, hedging their bets i guess, but apparently everyone had to choose sides, you couldn't be neutral. people who don't care or don't watch are deliberately going against the tide, so i try not to make a big deal out of the fact that i didn't watch. of course i cared though, because i care about people, and people care. it was everything. it was the game.

the streets were empty for most of the day. apparently everyone got their supplies on saturday, because the market was packed on saturday. by today they had everything they needed, and they were kicking back and having huge parties; one was on our street. you can tell when dozens of cars are parked in a single area, something's going on, somebody's got the big wide-screen, has all the good food and drink. what i don't get is, texas shouldn't care about a new england - seattle game, but apparently they care a lot. then what happens if some seahawk fans and new england fans are getting drunk at the same party? or, as what happened tonight, the game was really close or even disputed? one can only guess. i can tell you, people cared a lot.

some news story said that one quarter of americans thought god would decide who won the super bowl. people are tough on this quarter of americans, but if you think about it, god might decide everything anyway, so it's not unreasonable, and there are all kinds of people who do believe in a master plan, for very good reasons, & we shouldn't put them down. but when i heard that, i thought, now i know who's been letting the air out of all those footballs, and i wondered if that would happen again, or if god just wanted to make sure the patriots made it as far as they did. it could be that god just likes a good party, likes to get all these americans in front of a television so he can mess with them. or, it could be that he's just like all these texans, he has to watch on some big-screen television, and he lays in supplies, kicks back and really doesn't have much control over the outcome.

i don't hear much about people betting on the outcome, though i'm sure a lot of people do. you can bet all kinds of scores, patriots by four, patriots by twenty, or whatever, and see how close you can get. closest wins the office pool. i'm not sure if anyone even does this anymore, maybe all that betting has gone online and people try their luck, or skill, with thousands of anonymous pikers. i always feel like people know tons more than i do about such things. but luck could be on my side, you never know how this stuff will turn out. i'm like my dad, one world series the office wanted him to bet on the world series, because they needed a couple of people to fill out the chart. everyone was picking yankees in four, or dodgers in four, depending on their strong allegiance to one team or the other. but he had to pick yankees in seven, because he was one of the last betters, and sure enough yankees won in seven, and unfortunately for him, though they'd begged him to enter, now they were mad at him because they knew he really didn't have a clue who would win, he was just doing them a favor. he won the office pool but he lost the pr battle to stay in good relations with your co-workers.

on facebook the sound of music meme has returned, with julie andrews dancing in the mountains saying she doesn't care about football. this is kind of like what i mentioned, going against the grain. if you actually make a post about it, obviously you do care, you care at least enough to tell everyone you don't. i'm the opposite. i just admit i care, but don't watch. that way i can notice better how people react. what do they find most interesting about the whole experience? it's a huge cultural event, it gets more viewers than any other television experience, and commercials are priced accordingly. some people watch it for the commercials alone, which are the best of the year, albeit mostly directed at men. but in texas, they also cared a lot about the college football championship, ohio state versus oregon, and it got an equally huge number of viewers. they have beautiful weather here - it's dry, cool, sunny, sunrises and sunsets all over the place, but on these nights everyone is partying. watching the games. building their lives around them.

who knows what god's thinking? my guess is, it's a re-enactment of the old christians and lions thing, but we're not supposed to figure that out right away, that will be left to historians that sift through the ancient records. back in the day, you had these huge stadiums, and they were packed, and everyone watched it on television too, and these poor victims clobbered each other until they got concussions. but everyone cared a lot about the outcome, so they kept doing it, year after year. god was wondering if anyone would point out that it was killing people, but alas, people knew that, and it still kept on going. people got into it, people cared.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

In defense of Groundhog Day

so the governor of texas declared february 2 chris kyle day, in honor of the american sniper, new star of the movie "american sniper", who killed more people as an american soldier than perhaps anyone. he did it by considering them animals, subhumans, and by believing strongly that killing them was saving american lives.

i don't want to comment on whether this constitutes blind obedience to a war that may or may not have been unjust, or without purpose, or for a bad purpose. or whether this violates the old "thou shalt not kill" command that has been so easily changed to "thou shalt not kill unless the government tells you to go fight in a certain war" - in other words, whether a person who is inclined to kill as a soldier, or even as a young boy, has any duty to think critically about what he's about to do.

no, what irritates me the most is that they consider groundhog day to be the kind of holiday you can easily pre-empt, as if it doesn't matter, go ahead, it's just groundhog day. groundhog day was already completely overtaken by that one horror movie, which at one time, was it the nineties? anyway, for a while there, "groundhog day" referred to some unspeakable horror that everyone had to go to the moviehouse to see. well, i guess the same can be said for chris kyle, but really, i consider the chris kyle story to be more of an american tragedy, than an american hero story. here's a kid, eighteen, wants to do what's right, joining the marines, or the army or whatever, seems to be the best thing, and he just gets into killing in a big way. and he twists his mind around so he thinks it's not only ok to kill, but actually good.

but here's the kicker - he comes home, and he meets lots of troubled vets, and his approach to that is, let's go out to the firing range and shoot a few, and that'll make you feel better. make you feel better? he's reached the point where shooting targets, or people, or whatever, is his solution for whatever is boiling inside. so he feels that other people must be the same, and just a bit of shooting out on the range will make it better.

it won't make it better. bring back the groundhog!