Saturday, September 19, 2015

the weather finally cooled off a little, but the humidity went up, and i'm not sure if it's a fair trade. one thing i can say is, the first day that it's not in the nineties, and i'm enjoying being outside a little. first thing i did was take the dog out for some throw; she lives for that throw, and the first time the weather turned, we went out with the ball, and now she gives me these big large-brown-eyes look every time i move. what she loves the best is to catch the ball in mid air with her huge mouth, and then turn around with her little swagger as if to say, i'm doing my job. he throws the ball, i do my job.

people are getting finely tuned to the raucous blather of the presidential race, and only the tough will survive. fiorina got her moment in the sun, but she prattled off some lies about the planned parenthood video, and the fact is, womenfolk care about health, and don't appreciate lies all that much. one could argue that, while she was a front runner, she could have widened her appeal, used her exposure to haul in an audience, but she may not stand up to the close scrutiny that will ruin her. and the same goes for trump - one really only has to pay attention for a short while, to realize that he speaks from the hip, and doesn't think very much or very clearly - is it possible that people will get sick of this? cruz is consistent, but he's a demagogue. kasich is consistent, but he can't think of a single woman to put on a ten-dollar bill, outside of mother teresa, who is not american. apparently, american women are pretty much off his radar.

my definition of the middle is that it is mostly women. in fact women are the majority of the entire electorate, but they are the overwhelming majority of the middle; the vast majority of us men made up our minds long ago. we used to think of the working-class catholic autoworker from dubuque as the middle, but he lost his job, after most of his counterparts went republican. they, as i'm saying, are not the middle; whether they are unemployed or not, they've made up their minds. it's the younger people, working class, second or third-generation immigrants, that are trying to make up their minds. they are conservative, but they're not idiots.

traditional wisdom says the race goes to the person who gets the middle, so the primaries are for figuring out which person is best for each party, and that doesn't necessarily prepare them to win the middle. if a candidate has to be extreme to win their party, so be it, but they have to come back to the center to win it all. this will be easier for bernie than, say, for huckabee, who has already proven that he cares more about god than about the constitution, and in his desperation he even offered to go to jail for his beliefs. even trump would be smart enough, i think, to say the constitution has some merit, but, trump is making sixteen guys extremely desperate, and anything could happen.

i could talk about this stuff forever, but what's the point? it'll all play out in its own time, and nothing i say would make much of a difference, at least not here. one interesting thing is that it's extremely fixed in time. tomorrow, there will be a different set of clowns, a whole new backdrop. the picture grinds forward, and things look different. you'll read my words, and say, why does he care about fiorina? it's because she's in the limelight, today. it's her moment of fame.

in the football picture, 89 out of 93 football players got degenerative brain disease, which makes me feel guilty about even caring whether tech beats arkansas this evening in fayetteville. i'd kind of got wrapped up in local fever; people around here couldn't help it, when tech beat a couple of small-school losers, and started the season with a perfect 2-0 record. they are realistic; they know tech can't beat all the big boys, in this case tcu and baylor, but they have hope, they love football, and we have a home team to cheer on. it's a wretched feeling, knowing we're cheering these poor boys right into degenerative brain disease. i'm determined to get out of this moral crisis. i had resolved not to watch the games, not to support the team, financially or even by turning on the television. but i found myself keeping track of the score on the computer; i couldn't help caring about tech and the people around here, and what was happening. my wife, on the other hand, says she has no problem not caring. and if it leads to their death, we should stop it, no question about it. change this culture to a soccer culture, why not? sports are good; soccer is good; football is fatal, like meth and war. stop killing our boys.

i've been working on the calendar, the new set of stories, and the autobiography. the autobiography appears mostly on this very site; if you look below, posts done in italics are part of the autobiography, which is called just passing through: true stories from out there - it's actually autobiography mixed with travel stories, but all true to the best of my knowledge. I find myself a little confused, sometimes, about the actual facts, and i'm certainly capable of getting them wrong. but if i can get them on paper, and study them, i think i can do a reasonably accurate job of getting them on paper. i can tell you this: no simple genealogy will get my life straight, or do nearly as well as i could do on paper. so i might as well get it in writing, the best i can.

then, it's going to get hot again. september is the cruelest month, but it does cool off, albeit not until hallowe'en. can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


when I was in Guatemala, everyone told me i had to go to Panjachel (Pahn-Ha-CHELL) it was a remote mountain village, by a lake, near a volcano, and I'd love it for its isolation and pure beauty. I made it a destination, and, sure enough, pretty soon I got there, my dirty pack, my old walking shoes, my wide-open eyes.

This one hippie guy was there to meet me, for some reason. he was Guatemalan, but he must have recognized a kindred spirit. we bought a dinner at the market, for about seven cents, and we sat down at a table by the open harbor. sure enough, there were mountains around the lake, volcanos even. the air was high, cool, cloudy, beautiful. My Spanish still wasn't great, especially since the Guatemalan variety was different still from the Mexican version I was used to; communication was difficult. He was nice, though; he lived there, and enjoyed his life in a remote, beautiful place.

I was reminded of other remote, faraway destinations, or places where people like to live, just to be in such a remote and beautiful location. Lighthouses are classic examples, out on the edge of the sea. Alaska offered many remote cabins, beautiful locations, places where you could probably buy land for a reasonable price and settle in for the long haul.

In Panjachel, I believe people moved in for the trade in beautiful, colorful clothes. The locals were in the habit of using bright colors to make beautiful things, and they were available for a small price; obviously, if you were from the norte, you could come down, pick up a load of these, and make your vacation a money-making venture. On top of that, you could stay at this remote volcano-rimmed lake, swim, relax, and breathe the mountain air.

I had two problems with that scenario. First, I was people-oriented, and knew from experience that I had trouble when I was isolated for more than about a month. But the second was more serious. I was thoroughly not attuned to monetary values, so I was the wrong person to go into such a business. A person can develop a keen eye for jewelry, clothing, boots, guitar straps, etc., knowing what will sell and what won't, but a person can't just pick up the desire to be like that, or the inborn ability to keep one's eye on every little piece. Years later I met someone who was like that, and did that for a living, and it was interesting knowing her, but just in watching her for maybe an hour, basically selling jewelry and watching it at the same time, I knew I couldn't have done that.

There would be other ways of making it in Panjachel. I still think about it, since now I'm in a flat, sunny frying pan of a place where I feel a little oppressed by the vast openness of it, the burning sun on the hot pavement. A cool mountain lake town would do me good right about now, but I don't have the economic structure set up. Oh well, a dream deferred.

Monday, September 14, 2015

new story:
Double in Tinder - Enjoy!
Comments welcome, as usual.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

saturday, again

saturday morning and i'm hanging out in the cave, which is a side bedroom with two fans on, one above, and one in my face, where i sleep. i sleep with a fan in my face because i have sleep apnea, and if i force air into me, i get much deeper sleep, which i got last night, finally for a change. the weather cooled off. the promised rain never showed up, but because it was cooler, everyone took a breath, and when i went out on the porch for a spell, other neighbors were out on their porches as well. lately i've been drinking a lot of navajo tea, so that's what i was doing, drinking that tea out on the porch.

we went down to new mexico on a vacation, and as it happened my wife didn't go, so it was just me and five kids, in a cabin in a small town, and my sister was going to come visit. now i'm a died-in-the-wool coffee drinker, maybe eight cups a day, but i knew she was a tea drinker, so at the local grocery store i saw this navajo tea and bought it. voila, it was delicious. i hung out in that high mountain cabin drinking that tea and brought what was left down to lubbock and kept drinking it here.

haven't found anyone in lubbock yet who even heard of the stuff, so i've started peddling it. it's delicious. it's just an herb tea, made of greenthread, which, if you look it up, is named appropriately, according to the experts, because its leaves are so thin and thread-like. greenthread has lowland varieties and grows in texas, down here, and all the way over to austin. what i don't know is whether the lowland varieties make tea as well, and whether that tea tastes nearly as good as the highland navajo variety that i bought. i ended up sending away for three more boxes, and this is so i can take some to work, and give it to friends, etc. it gives me the chuckles for a couple of reasons. on the one hand, it's like a forty-year-old version of "hey let me turn you on to this herb that i found," only in this case, it's a tea, which is delicious and healthy. and second, it's a kind of opposite of the usual white-folks-come-to-new-mexico routine, because really i found it almost by chance. and, here in lubbock, it can't be found, yet.

it's game day in lubbock, and that means, lots of traffic, lots of craziness, parties all night both last night and tonight. what i think happens is that these texans all know each other. so when there's a game in lubbock that involves utep (el paso) and tech (lubbock) the kids from one place say, come up to my place, spend the day, get some beer and supplies, watch the game, party a lot, party a little more, and make a day of it. and this of course happens in el paso when the game is down there, it's just that we don't see it, because it happens down there. the whole social scene is built around the game, and the loyalty, to one team or the other, is like a sideshow, only a few people really care passionately about who wins. well i take that back, maybe more than a few. but a lot of people are involved in the general social whirl. cars parked up and down the street. people here, obviously, from far away, even though they still have texas tags. people flying flags all through the neighborhood. the vague sound of marching band coming over the rooftops.

the house is this enormous mess; this happens when you have four kids, and both parents are working full time or more. i have tackled the laundry, but on the way i've also taken in the dogs, who need lots of attention. the biggest needs the ball thrown to her regularly. this makes her day. a little exercise, and she comes in panting, takes a nice big nap, and has that look in her eyes where you have given her the ultimate joy of her entire existence. aure, she barks at the postman, and the neighbors, and especially the neighbor dogs, who are a constant threat. and she guards the children, and she guards us, and she barks at night especially if there are people trying to party next door. but she lives to chase the ball. that's what she really wants. there's something about the movement of the ball, and the coordination of her mouth so as to grab it just so, and she's good at that, and she needs to practice a lot. it's worth it to her; it wears her out, but that's what she loves.

so the laundry waits a round, and then i get another dog, who i call furball, less than a foot long and covered with hair, a tiny yip, but a cute little fellow who also is entirely loyal to me. he likes to play, and try to bite with his tiny teeth, and grab stuff and fling it around, but then he too gets tired and i get to type away on my blog, while the two dogs lie loyally at my feet. panting. a third dog is upstairs. he used to be tiny, but now, because of furball, he's simply medium. he's a chih-weenie, intense, slightly threatened and bothered by the other two, but in his own world, because he has his own boy, the thirteen-year-old, who has promised to take him for a walk, and actually might do it before the day is up. the problem is, he's kind of stuck up in that room up there, until the kid actually gets to it, and that might be a while, because he's thirteen, and he's not totally on the ball about such things, or prioritizing it in any way. i of course, watching this game unfolding as i write, here it is about 2 30 and time for the game to start, i would schedule the walk around the game time so as to see what's going on out there, but i don't think he's so in tune to that, and more in tune to his own rhythms, and how he too finally got some sleep last night, and might need to wake up, look around, and see what else needs to be done in the grand scheme of things.

late at night, i take my barefoot walks, about two miles around the park, grass all the way, except for the sidewalks and street coming and going to the place. it's not all grass; in some parts it's so dry that stickers have taken over, or it's gravelly and full of little pieces of stone and dirt. the prickly weeds don't bother my feet, which calloused up pretty quickly, unless they get up between my toes, where it's still tender and not calloused. my ankles and feet remain sore for days because i'm using all kinds of new muscles that aren't very tough, and they go in different ways when i actually use shoes, the rest of the time. but overall it's healthy. night is the best time to be out there. the fresh air keeps me healthy and happy. i actually lose a little weight in the process.

game is on, but i'm missing it, hanging around by the fan. i keep my own pace, my own social life, furball sound asleep at my feet. i'm working on my next book of stories: do unto: a short story and twenty others which sounds vaguely like a serial criminal might write. but i'm not. i'm a harmless old guy exercising my freedom of speech. happy married, with no intention of veering off the road, or even speeding, whatsoever.

Monday, September 07, 2015

the day i met john glenn

I loved Iowa - after Jimmy Carter made it the place to win, the pre-New Hampshire political center, lots of political candidates would come out to Iowa, and it was fascinating to watch them awkwardly shake hands with farmers and eat farm wives' fresh pies. people would wear their new overalls to a gathering at some white farmhouse out in the middle of a field - and the political candidates couldn't be more like a fish out of water. What I loved about this was that I, also, was like a fish out of water sometimes. Iowa cornfields, though I'd visited since I was a tiny boy, were not my natural environment either.

But there was a time that I fancied myself a journalist - I wanted to have an alternative newspaper, and to do this, I figured, I had to cover the political candidates. I'd hitchhike to Des Moines, I figured, and I'd try to get into wherever they were speaking, and I'd listen to them. Actually I saw several candidates this way, although with each election my circumstances had changed; I didn't have this particular dream for more than one electoral cycle. But the point is, it wasn't hard to hear the candidates. If they had press passes, you could get one, but usually, you could just sit there and listen, as an Iowan. The candidates wanted audiences. I saw Ted Kennedy this way, and Fred Harris, and a few others.

John Glenn was unusual in this regard because I don't remember being able to get into his speech. He was a celebrity anyway, being the first person to circle the earth, and I remember being interested in him simply because he was an Ohioan. But when I went to get into his speech, I couldn't do it, and this left me in the lobby of the hotel, kind of in a hallway off the lobby really, by some telephone booths, wondering what to do next. I had a minimal pack, having set out from Iowa City hitchhiking. There was nothing for it, really, but to go home. But I hesitated, there by the telephone booths, because I wasn't quite organized enough to turn around and go home.

Then, he walked into the hotel, and I caught his eye. He walked directly over to me and shook my hand. He had large blue eyes and he was well dressed, in an off-white suit. I felt an interesting sensation, like the interesting trajectory of his life had led him right up to me, just as mine had led me up to his. Within seconds he was gone; he had an entourage; he wasn't planning on stopping to chat. But it was unmistakable; he'd taken a second to acknowledge me.

Coming back he did it again, and I was still there. This was only minutes later. I was still standing in the same place, still calculating whether to try another trick to get into his speech, or simply go home. The heck of it was, I probably could wangle my way into the speech. But I didn't really need to hear it. It wasn't really the politics I was interested in.

Coming back, it was the same as the first time; he simply went out of his path, came straight over by me, and shook my hand heartily. This time he remembered me. I had a wide smile. I don't care who you are, or where, it's an honor to meet a famous guy like that. Years later, I remember that he had some trouble in politics; he was a little too close friends with the S & L boys; but I forgive all that. As an astronaut, he was one of the first; he was special. And like all those presidents and me, he was from Ohio.

Friday, September 04, 2015

when there's a party, it's really hard for me to watch them, so they tend to get whatever they want to eat, which in most cases is sugar. i find it hard not to let down my guard a little, talk to the grownups, let them tear around and burn a little energy. in this case the park was in a wide open public square only a couple blocks from the school. it was a friend of the littlest, who is seven; most of the kids were about seven, but the nine and ten-year-olds found kids to play with too. there were frisbees; there was mud; there was a playground and a large obstacle course. the last of the week's hot, intense sun was just going down in the west. it was still in the high eighties; it had been over ninety all week.

and not a drop of rain, hardly, the place is parched. the city waters the parks, and they do a pretty good job, so most of the parks have some green grass in them and are ok to walk or run on barefoot. get away from the parks, though, and it gets pretty crackly pretty fast. on my walk around the other park, the wide open one, i come to some dry patches and they have my two enemies: stickers and goat's heads; these are sharp and hurt even calloused feet. but they are even harder on me if they get up between my toes, where it's not calloused, because up there the skin is soft, they're sharp, and it's real dry, so they'll split open in a minute.

the kids do pretty well in large crowds; a couple of kids worked on making them mad, but for the most part they played hard, ran hard, had a lot of fresh air. by fresh air i mean dry, sunny, afternoon air; it has some dust in it, but it's mostly just hot. then they ate a lot of ice cream and popsicles, and cookie cake. sugared up, is one way to put it. they're kids. that's what kids do.

the area is all excited about its first football game. people are impatient with this sense of hope, that we might win a few, when in fact it seems that other schools in the division take it all way more seriously. places like kansas and oklahoma, and even baylor to some degree, seem to care so much, so passionately about football, they'll raise millions from their alumni, and earmark it all for football. in the old days one team could beat another if they had better players, but nowadays the team with a million is more likely to win. why? 'cause they can buy better players. and it's all supposed to be free of money's corrupting influence, but it's not. a million bucks can buy a football championship, and it does.

so everyone out there is wearing red and black, and there are red and black streamers all over campus, and they've covered the will rogers statue with red streamers. he, of course, was riding his horse into the sunset, but they noticed that that put his rear end facing lubbock businesses, and decided they better not erect a permanent insult. they moved his rear end around until it faced their rival, texas a & m - everyone could agree on that. and they continued decking him out with red streamers before every home football game.

overall i'm ok with texas. i walk home at about two every afternoon, and it's been so hot that i jump in the shower, again, the minute i get home. i take one in the morning, and another at night, so this is my third. but i've come to love hanging around a dark cave-like home, fans and a/c on, otherwise rejecting the busy world. outside, the ambulances, police, heavy traffic, big trucks, drunken students, you name it. we're kind of glad to be tucked in, our little cars pulled up against the house, with the world's trouble finding a home elsewhere. it's a wild weekend here, these home games; everyone's around, everyone's drinking, just about. the passion is spilling out.

tomorrow, the game will be at two. people will be well over-drunk by then, and even more so, during the game and after. it's a game we should win, but might not. so that raises the question: does that change the nature of the drinking? or the violence? or even the traffic?

i'm more and more of a spectator as time goes by. it's what writers do. hey, read my story, next post down. it's texas all the way. stay tuned...

Thursday, September 03, 2015

new story
At the Gate
enjoy! comments welcome!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

one of my daughters arranged pine cones on the table in a kind of cross (see picture), and asked me if it was pretty. yes, i said without hesitation. later i doctored up the picture with the "posterize" function, but it was the same even without it. what was pretty was merely having five pine cones around to arrange on a table. another thing that was pretty was that it was an outdoor patio table, and one could sit out there in the cool mountain air, and enjoy the patio. and the last thing that was pretty was that there was a pen on the table, but the pen didn't write; it was out of ink, and only i knew that, and didn't have another pen, so i was forced to take a little break.

now it's back to work, and lubbock is in the nineties every day, and i walk to work and walk back, and sometimes the heat seems a little excessive. it's like i have heat stroke, even though the nineties is not really all that bad, and in fact, because it's dry, it was a joy for the first year or two that i was here. now, i find it painful. i miss the mountains. i take three showers a day. i find myself wanting to wash off all the stress and business of work, and i'm uncomfortable in my work clothes.

figuring out how to move up into the mountains might be a little difficult. in fact, we're all kind of settled here, especially the four kids, aged 7-13, who all have various friends and a pretty good educational situation. there are things about lubbock i like - a lot of them, in fact, including the school, but the big thing is that we make our living here. the checks roll in. we have to be here to go to work. we haven't either of us figured out how not to.

we are, however, working on it. i am about to publish another collection of stories, though i haven't quite finished publicizing the last one. i have ideas for other things to write, and if i really get them out there, it could succeed; one can only hope. a friend of mine writes about moving into the persona of "author" as if one can willingly just be a good writer, but as far as my will goes, i'm having more luck being a fiddler. and i could get that job fiddling at the old ranch in new mexico; every night, a couple hundred tourists come in, you feed them, you give them a show in which the sheriff shoots some people dead on the main street of the old town, and they turn out to be not dead; you find a way to perform and keep performing, or, stick with teaching until the sun goes down. i write; i try to use my 25% time to crank out something, and sometimes, i do ok at it. i feel like i'm not getting any worse at it, anyway.

the poetry is another story. in better times, i can crank out five, six, ten in a day. times like now, i'm a little burnt out and not cranking out much of anything. i'll go and print thirty pages of total poetry, and begin narrowing it down, marking what appeared last year, what i need to work on, what is no longer 5-7-5 by my own evolving definitions. usually, in the process of going over it, i get inspired again. there is a lot i can do to mix it up. but one other thing i've noticed; they say only one out of a hundred people even reads poetry these days. i suspect it's even less. i give the book to relatives, along with the stories, and they'll read the stories. for the most part, i'm talking to myself, and it's very rare that i find anyone who has actually read even part of it. and there are a lot fewer words! you just have to be in a frame of mind to tackle poetry, to really hear it.

one thing i can do is make it a little more earthy, a little more visual, a little more so it pushes you along through the seasons or wherever it chooses to push you. ideally if it works, you pick it up and you can't put it down. and it doesn't matter what state you pick it up in; i envision people starting with their own state, for example, being unable to start anywhere except texas, since they are most familiar with texas. so i try to make each state complete; i try to make it so you can start at any given one, and it will still take you for a whirl, through the seasons. i try to make it so, when you're done with your own state, you'll give the next one a try.

musically i'm having the time of my life. i play just enough bluegrass so that, as i walk through town, i hear the songs. i don't know them all well; i'm a rather poor fiddler in my ability to just pull them out of thin air, or even know how they start. but i hear every note, and i've gotten to where i can play most of them, adequately, as well. it's fantastic.

with the autobiography, it's my goal to get both autobiography and short-story collection done by christmas. i would then have something to give everyone besides poetry that they don't read. but hey, one thing about poetry is, it isn't going anywhere. if it has to wait twenty years before someone picks it up and reads it, so be it. if it's good, it'll still be good. if it says something, it'll still say it, only within the folds of yellowing paper, in a different decade. i need to make it so it will reach out of that decade, or wherever it is, and have a kind of timeless quality. it's a lofty goal.

so the question about the picture is: should i crop out the pen? it just happened to be there, and, as i said, it didn't write anyway, so it wasn't about to be used. but only i know that, and to others, it's out of place. the fine evergreen pine needles, they work against the background of the table and the little wood fence with the same pattern. it's obviously natural patterns against man-made patterns. but the pen is a kind of interloper, and it is a very pointed one, at that, so to speak. ah, doesn't matter, i don't have to decide today.