Monday, December 28, 2015

el nino showed up and showed up in spades, about ten inches of snow, closing roads all through west texas including very major arteries like interstates 27, 40, and 20. they never did plow 23rd street that i know of, and some people in lubbock were mad, apparently, that it took them so long to do what they did. i wasn't mad though. it took me all day to shovel 1/3 of my driveway, and i figure if i was running the snow plow it would be even worse and i would leave some ice behind to boot. that's what always made me mad about the plows; sure they'd remove a foot of snow, but they'd leave an inch of ice, and you'd always wonder if you were even better off.

some neighbor tried to pull his truck out of his driveway, and my iowa experience showed me what was wrong. a lot of times, these guys have big trucks, but they have wide wheels without much traction, so they have a lot of weight on a really wide smooth surface, and they end up spinning their wheels. you think, because you have a big truck, you're better off, but no, really you're better off if you have a volkswagen, so little you can pick it up and just move it off the ice. this truck, we could hardly get it off its ice and down the road. but the neighbors were friendly; it was my first chance to meet them.

the sky was blue, the air fresh while i was out there shoveling. the reason i don't have a genuine snow shovel is, once i bought one, and it broke immediately, and i've never bought another one. i do all my shoveling with a dirt shovel, hard, steel, strong. and it's less efficient, but it cuts the ice. it's odd, i seem to enjoy it. it's not hard to balance as a true snow shovel is. and, of course, you can use it for other stuff.

waiting, because we're going to kansas in two days, and we're hoping the roads are ok. our plan is to go up in time for the new year, and come back soon after. i shouldn't say this in public, but i'm saying it on a weblog where, basically, you have to read four paragraphs before you even get to it, and nobody actually reads any more, i'm pretty sure, except maybe a few of my closest relatives. a few people actually come to this page, and that's because it's been around forever, and refers to all kinds of things, and has lots of useful links. but nobody actually reads it, i'm pretty sure. so you're welcome to the knowledge. it's really no secret.

lots of reorganization, of pictures, and of webpages, and of information. i'm going to tesol again this year, baltimore. looking forward to it. taking my fiddle. i'll see how that works out!

working on a new castle park exhibit...stay tuned

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

set off again for new mexico on monday morning with two boys, watching license plates and stopping whenever we wanted for snacks. saw oklahoma and california right away, and then saw alaska, i think at a remote corner, maybe the whiteface-seagraves sign corner out there between brownfield and plains. texas is wild out there, all cotton, and oil, and whatever they can pull out of the vast flat wild country. right after i saw alaska i saw an ohio, on a truck.

the road crosses the new mexico line and through the ranch country of lovington, then through the oilfields to artesia. in the oilfields you see gas burning from pipes out at the wells, and big trucks are all over the place. as usual i was thinking of haiku of the different states i'd been in; i was in tennessee, in my mind. suddenly i saw a tennessee. kind of a sign, maybe. but no, most of what i saw was random: wisconsin, washington, nevada, arizona.

one sees mexico plates every once in a while. you can tell the mexico plates by the order of the numbers - they have two numbers, space, two more, space, two more. almost no usa states that i know of do this. but the heck of it is, all mexico states do this. and they make the state names, themselves, small and hard to read. so the chihuahua one, which of course is the most common around here, has the name chihuahua on it, and a little insignia, but when a car is flying by you can't read the name, and all the states are alike. i feel like i can't count it if i can't read it.

similarly, there were a few usa plates that i just couldn't read; they flew by too fast. south dakota, maybe, or montana, something like that, i'm not sure. i saw florida, michigan, oregon, a few others. but there were some i couldn't read.

in cloudcroft there was snow on the mountains. it was only six inches or a foot, but where they'd plowed, sometimes there was a plow-pile of over eight feet. it was a great feeling up there, a real winter. it was nothing to them; they were looking forward to more snow, a real snow, enough to open up the ski lift. but to me, it was the first snow of the winter, the only snow. it's what makes the season. i took a deep breath and shot down into the valley, into alamogordo, white sands, las cruces.

in las cruces i saw maryland, new jersey, wyoming, north carolina, and colorado, finally, on my way out. one usually sees colorado fairly quickly, but on this trip, i was already on my way home when i saw it. then, of course, i saw two, but i also saw another alaska, and in fact i saw several wisconsins.

sometimes it's not how rare it is, but how unlikely a place you find it. the champion in that regard was the hawaii plate i saw once, right in the middle of roswell, a desert town known for its ufo's. i look for the new england states, as they're always rare way out here, but in some places, notably las cruces or el paso, you can see all kinds of things, just because they're passing through. out on the back side of the mountain, though, between the oil fields and the tiny town of cloudcroft, you're going to see mostly texas and new mexico.

saw south carolina, georgia, north dakota, idaho, and arkansas before i was done, which made it a good trip; i saw several mexico ones, but, as it happened, nothing from canada, nothing from new england, or even new york. never saw louisiana, alabama, or mississippi, though it might have been those that flew by at one point and i just didn't see them. did pretty well on the far west - washington, oregon, california, nevada, saw them all. folks are traveling. it's winter break.

funny how the mountain had all that snow, and down here, they're still talking about the possibility of it, but only after christmas. up north it's unseasonably warm, with tornadoes; down here, it was the same, really, balmy with a feeling of menace in the air. i rested up a little, these long trips take it out of me, and finally in the evening i took to wrapping presents. i'm the wrapper. but i really didn't get all that much done; i was too tired and all i could think of was my parents, my family, the folks i left behind in new mexico. they're suffering a bit, and it's pulling me out that way, but it's ok, because we're going to live in that small snowy town, and go ice skating all winter and go out to the woods to cut wood for our heat. up there, you see a few license plates, especially since we'll live right behind the downtown, more or less, and it's a tourist town. folks like to go there as a destination, because it has slightly different weather than the rest of the state. you have the low sunny desert, the gypsum fields, the dry scrubby mountains, and then you have the high piney woods, nine thousand feet, that's where we'll be. it's a wild place, and i'm looking forward to it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

i've been working on folk tales, of all things - actually i'm working on all blogs. trying to update them, put the advertisement for my new book on them, try to organize them so they draw traffic where they should. this one, i just ramble, it's just for me - yet it's my favorite, one that is always up to date, always my best. yet i do absolutely nothing to compromise to the commercial world, to say, i'm an author, buy this buy that. and, sure enough, people respond by not buying anything.

that's ok though, i get what i deserve, and i haven't hired a publicist, just lonely old me, not even putting capital letters on my blog. but i did come out with a new book of stories (see below), my fifth, so i went down to the local hastings to see what what happening with the other books i had for sale - it is, after all, the christmas season.

the walmart book, a dozen crime stories - from a well-known, big-box discount retail chain - had been stolen. that heartened me, for some reason. it was like it said steal this book on it, though of course it didn't - still, i got the sense that it was hot, that you looked at the cover and wanted to read it. this also happened in our writing lab - i lent it to someone, and she walked off with it, and i'm kind of glad, nobody else is reading it. it's like i need some kind of program to get these things out there, because once they are, i'm pretty sure they'll make it.

it's gotten really cold around here, and, i'm grateful to say, very quiet on my walk. around the big park, four square blocks, i go, and when i get around to flint, there are still no cars, going either way. there are still helicopters- those are big in our neighborhood, but fewer cars. the students are gone. the late-night traffic - ten or eleven is when i go - those are the students, the drinkers. they're gone. the malls are crowded in the day, people are buying tons of things. but the park, the town, the streets, much quieter. orion is king. he has some buddies up there too. they're out in force, guarding. the fox is slinking around. but the students are gone.

a friend of mine, book publisher, is actually sending me money for stories - he wants to avoid giving amazon its cut. people don't like amazon, or maybe, they're just tired of it. i myself am grateful for amazon - and maybe i don't distinguish createspace enough from amazon, as they are really one and the same - but createspace allows me to print my own books, one at a time, and print as many as i need when i need them. and it's cheap - a book of twenty stories, printed in twelve point, which i consider big - and i can still get my own copies for less than three plus shipping. shipping makes it more like four, generally, but that's still pretty good. if i sold them on the street for five, i'd still make a dollar each and i'd do pretty well. i'm thinking of trying a little harder. i've actually got quite a few good ones. the walmart ones, as i said, are the hottest. but you can't just walk into the walmart and sell them.

walked into the barnes and noble, and they wouldn't take them. they said you have to work through a "hoe-saler"...well, i could call myself a "hoesaler" - but i didn't, and instead bought a one-year b & n membership for $25. now i saved 10% right there on buying a christmas present that very day, and i like to shop there, will probably save about fifteen before the season is over, fifteen bucks that is, but the membership is twenty-five, and the problem is, i don't use it all that much the rest of the year. i sense i'm taking a hit here. and the guy is being a little snooty with me about my books, which, as i've said, are actually pretty good.

amazon, of course, hasn't even read them, really, except to be sure they aren't porn. they kind of benevolently proof them, allow me to print them, put them on their site....all it costs them is a website. they have their createspace factory printing them up whenever they need them, but, really, i think they consider it kind of taking the vanity press market. the vast majority of people like me just want to see their books in print, and are willing to stop after one or two. i think as i reach a certain plateau - i now have four or five poetry books, five story books - i enter another class of writer, those who didn't give up after a half dozen or so. they like that. if amazon notices me, that would be the first step.

i toil away on this blog, lowercase and all, just to keep myself in practice. half the time, like tonight, i have nothing to say. i just get the sense that, if i don't keep writing, i'll fade away. don't want that. tonight at the drunken music gathering, there was news - about people dying, other people having trouble with the weather, or falling - life is full of hazards. even in my own family, there are hazards. i'm grateful to make it another year. i put that somewhere in the christmas letter, but really, it should have been line one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

new short stories

click on the image to go straight to Amazon. The advertising for this one will appear soon on my author's site.

Monday, December 07, 2015

i open up the news every day wondering where the next mass shooting or school shooting will be. the end of the school semester is near, so it could be that we make it to the break without any more big ones, but i doubt it. it's become a thing in this country, a way to get on the news cycle, the way to go. i study the geography of all the mass shootings too, but i'm not the only one; whole websites are devoted to where they were, what happened, how many were killed randomly, etc. it's assumed that if someone killed more than three, at least one or two were random, killed just because they were in that spot. but it's not necessarily true; sometimes they kill half a dozen, and know all six.

guns are like pain medicine, if you can't get them in one state, you just go over to the other. if they'll sell you one, they'll sell you several, and they'll sell you the big ones, and pretty soon you have an arsenal, and it doesn't matter if you live in some state like california that makes arsenals specifically illegal. people feel like you have the natural god-given right to take your ak-47 to the local elementary school, and in most cases you do, who's going to stop you? anyone who's made up their mind to shoot up the school, or the state health department, or whatever, is pretty much free to do it, there are guns everywhere. all you have to do is reach out and touch some of them.

i think the whole thing depends more on the inner workings of some very sick minds, and i blame the whole thing on television. of course britain has television too, and the worst they have is a few tube-stabbings, so i can't really explain the whole theory clearly. but the theory is this: the american obsession with television, and the fact that everyone is watching it, and the fact that television is drawn naturally to guns and violence, has made the average sick mind drawn to guns and violence, and drawn to the possibility of being the news cycle, if only for a single day. it could be that britain is not big enough to have a steady diet of guns and violence on television all day, but what my theory is saying is that the mere fact that gun violence is on television every single day in this country is what makes gun violence the immediate avenue to fame, the way that one chooses to get one's fifteen minutes of fame. the gun violence that's on the television is itself part of the cause of the problem.

now my theory would absolutely be testable, if we were to simply remove all gun violence from television. i'm not sure i totally believe in this solution, but it is a solution. you might say that that's censorship of the news. but instead i'd say that it could be just a necessary step in keeping the most offensive things away from the average person's perceptual screen. there are already plenty of things that we don't tell everyone, or show everyone, because they're too offensive. we already have quite the line; it covers lots of activities and events that are real, that are graphic, that are visual, and that are provocative, but we just feel the average person doesn't need to see this on the daily news. well, i say, could be the same for gun violence. if it's part of the cause, let's just remove it, or at least change the degree to which we feel compelled to show everyone everything. one of my favorite solutions is just to change the nature of what the average person sees on television day in, day out. present it differently, it's the law.

now of course, making guns as hard to get as cars are, that's a possibility too. and we also have the capability, by the way, of knowing when someone's gathered up an arsenal. technology gives us the ability to track guns the same way we track phones; if we can put a chip in a phone, we can put one in a gun too. that way, the minute you give yours to your sociopathic roommate, they'll know. especially if he collects a half-dozen.

there are lots of solutions. we can mull them over while we wait for the next mass shooting. i myself am staying out of state-sponsored christmas parties, and all public places, for the indefinite future. but i'm also not watching television, because it makes me mad to watch the process, and know how many sick minds are capable of falling into the inevitable chute.