Tuesday, May 31, 2016


i’ve never had a living room that looked out over mountains before, but i have one now, in a small cabin on a 9000 ft. ridge overlooking the white sands, and, beyond them, the organ mountains. i assume they’re the organs because, upon crossing the white sands, that’s what i encounter on the other side of them, a ridge of mountains kind of holding in the white sands, which are in a huge basin trapped between those and the sacramentos, which I sit in. adjustment to the mountain life is gradual. my wife is finding it hard to drive slowly down hairpin turns, and have trucks pile up behind her, angry and passing her too closely on their way, in a hurry, down the mountain. i find living with sketchy internet a little hard sometimes, but i’m also enjoying it. the kids always turn to screens in cases where they don’t know anyone yet, as is true now, so they’re kind of hanging around the house moping and waiting for meals.

it’s vacation for me, the one time of the year where i’m 100% off work if i want, and though i have a heavy writing agenda i consider my main job to be occupying them somehow, getting them out into the community and doing something productive. I don’t mind the naked barbies sprawled out over the dining room; i don’t mind them using or overusing my phone a little, watching whatever they want, which is usually, as far as i can tell, benevolent and appropriate. but outdoor stuff, mountain stuff, would be better. I need to find the stuff that works.

the dogs meanwhile love it here, though they find it necessary to bark a lot, both at the neighbor dogs, and at whoever happens by. we’re on a ridge, but we’re also in town, and people use our roads for all kinds of things. i keep the dogs in, if I want to spare myself the humiliation of having them disregard my pleas to shut up. They just feel like it’s part of mountain life, to be out there, making noise, and telling everyone who you are.

A couple times we took them straight out to the mountains, and they liked that; kids and mountains get along well naturally, and the possibility of bears is always there, but they feel that, as long as parents are along, they’re invincible. I’d like to keep that feeling going, and get them to help me explore some of the mountain paths. I’d also like to get them to be a little independent – after all, it’s a tiny town, and chances are pretty good that they can go places, on their own, after a while. it has great parks: one is down by the highway, but has huge trees all through it, a 9000-foot pine smell and a couple of sets of basketball courts. near it is a museum and it’s not far also from the ice skating rink. it’s got all the usual stuff that kids hang from, crawl up, slide down, swing on, and develop their imaginations with.

They made some cardboard dragons the other day, which were really glorified paper airplanes, and this was supervised by my wife, because, by the time they got them out, i was over the edge on my patience with their bickering, and didn’t want to be too controlling in a situation where following directions is crucial. so now it’s cardboard dragons and naked barbies, and some homemade play-doh, and, on the son’s part, streaming video television on my cell phone. it’s a kind of suspension, on the high ridge, while i get organized, figure out what they’d like, and get it organized.

i have plenty of work to do, and it wouldn’t be hard for me to just sit here, and let them anarchically make a mess until it was time to feed them. my wife is presently down the hill, getting mulch and supplies. the mulch will contain the dust, and help us in our quest to restore the magic garden which was kind of run down by neglect, in the time it took us to find and buy the place. she likes the magic-ness of the place. She tells me to be careful when I throw the ball endlessly, with the lab, because she doesn’t want the lab trampling the wildflowers. we no longer need a fire at night. high in the mountains, it rains sometimes, but it doesn’t get that cold anymore, though one afternoon after we’d got caught in a big drizzle, it was kind of nice to have it, to come home, start a fire, watch it, and let the dry wood smoke dry out the dampness of everyone’s clothes. it was a little different from our lubbock routine, where the air-conditioning, or whatever the house can muster against the heat, is our only refuge from days out in the hot sun, at times when it’s even possible to go out there.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

i was doing well with my writing, had a couple of quaker plays written, and had actually compiled all fourteen of them in one spot, when it came time to load up and go west four and a half hours to cloudcroft, 9000 feet in the mountains. we have fallen in love with this place, and a little cabin in the mountains, and want to be here every minute of summer, even as lubbock heats up to over ninety degrees. i’m kind of a wimp with the heat these days, so might as well just head out to where the air is thinner and cooler and a person can smell the pine trees with every breath.

the road west goes past a town called hope, and near that town, where the roswell-ish heat baked open pasture looks like you could land a ufo on it, is where the century plants grow. last year I stopped and took pictures; i used a picture on the e pluribus haiku 2016 (see below) though i have to admit that a cellphone, in particular mine, does not always make the clearest pictures. these century plants are a kind of yucca, so they say, and come out really only once every hundred years, and in fact only once. so this is it for these plants. they look like chandeliers, or like dr. seuss books, but in any case they are wild, and they are an intense part of my trip, something i like to savor and look for.

recently my wife has gotten me into podcasts, and one in particular, serial, entertained us while we were driving together. it told the story of a guy who is jailed for a murder in baltimore, that he probably didn’t commit. as we listened i’d point out the century plants to her; they’re hard to see, and there are a number of yuccas that are busting up to compete with them, ten feet high and all, along the side of the road.

earlier tonight the cabin was all aflutter because somehow i’d let a couple of moths in. this happened because the porch is so beautiful, yet the house has all the light. so the moths, eager to get at the light as they are, take advantage of the opened door and shoot in the house. actually i would be ok with moths flying around the house for a few hours in the evening, circling the lights as they are wont to do. some young children in the house are bloody terrified of them, though. it was a problem of living with terrified, over-the-edge fears, or just catching the silky things and releasing them outside. bit of a time-sink, like doing facebook.

the world is busy, what with the holiday and all, especially since our cabin is in a little tourist-trap town, that works hard to draw visitors and relieve them of their money. street festivals, open shops, businesses open all weekend, you name it. without giving too much away, i can say that we’re tucked back a little from downtown, and don’t see much of it unless we want to. and we really didn’t want to, at least for the first few days. I myself am considering the drives to be longer and longer, the days hotter and hotter, and once i’m up here, I don’t really want to go anywhere else. we have a kind of steep and sloping yard; we watch both the sunrise glow on the white sands, and the slow sunset back on top of it, with the purple mountains behind them, and the glistening white on the gypsum sand. one ranger told me – it’s what they make insulation out of – the companies would kill for access to these gypsum fields, to make their wallboard. i thought, well, if this stuff is insulation, let it insulate me from the outside world.

my wife was the first to say, let’s stop talking about trump. like most educated intelligent americans, we find the rise of trump to be very bad news. I agree with the guy who said that countries often don’t come back from this veering toward autocracy, and I’m appalled that so many of my countrymen would just vote for him because he won the republican nomination, or, because he’s not part of the system. but getting angry about it isn’t going to help. either I’ll get out the vote, here and / or in texas, or i’ll shut up about it and go my merry way, making myself slightly more independent and / or harder to find, so that when the revolution comes, I won’t be caught unprepared. my view is that things will go downhill. he’ll try to make a wall. he’ll pick a fight with china. or, he’ll simply lose the race, since he wasn’t really sure he wanted it anyway, and his followers will break loose with their unpredictable circus. either way, everyone loses. it won’t be what you would call a smooth transition.

i like that feeling that i had that one year when i was in minnesota, cut off from internet. we looked out our kitchen window at lake superior and i wrote blog posts like this one where, because i’m not in my usual environment, i have to make letters small that autocorrect keeps capitalizing. then, i save the post until i have the chance to get wifi, which up here could be a while, but maybe not too long. just messing with it is a kind of arcane ritual, but one i like, because it means, already, that i’m more comfortable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

e pluribus haiku redo

took a chance on the colors in the original - and lost; the original came out, on its cover, blurry and disappointing. Had to go back to the original, this stark image of a century plant, and go with it despite how it goes with the blue/red frame of the book itself. also, the poems were in the gutter. had to get my mind out of the gutter. this one has a thousand, five hundred new, and should be in good shape. my real problem was i was skipping the proof stage in order to get straight to the good stuff - books that don't say PROOF on the back page.

on Amazon

on Kindle

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

second saturday, all the bluegrass pickers go to this small texas town, meadow, and a couple of guys in my band call it "meta" - so that's what i call it. it's tucked away on the brownfield highway, but if you know it's there, turns out you see it every time. it's a tiny town, so tiny that if you lived there, you could turn your kids loose all the time, as long as you taught them to stay off the highway. the music was good; we play together often, and know how to make good bluegrass, even if our little space is a little on the funky side. getting out of the city is always fun, you can take a deep breath, and feel like you have a little freedom to stagger down the road before you get back on the highway. not that i can't walk a straight line.

but over the weekend, we went out to new mexico; my wife and i had a fifteenth anniversary. we took that same brownfield highway, and i pointed out "meta" - and we kept going, about four and a half more hours, until we were 9000 feet up in the sacramento mountains where we have a hideout. spent three days walking mountain paths. on the second day, we ran into a flute player, a very friendly guy who eventually didn't mind being called "a modern kokopelli." kokopelli as you may know is a native flute player, famous in these parts but not too famous elsewhere. this guy told us a little bit about the mountain paths we were on (the one we met him on was one of the so-called "trestle trails"). back by our cabin, he said, there was a fine meadow, one of the best places that we really should see.

when he said "meadow" it sounded like we generally say it (meddo), though he said he was from the same part of texas we're living in. it's fair to say that the "meta" pronunciation is a midland-dialect kind of pronunciation, common in places like "cincinnatuh", "miamuh" oklahoma, "missourah," you get the picture. but it's not 100% around here. it's common, but it's not the only one out there. i've taken to calling our little town, up here, "meta" - but that's only because i want to. and i'm not sure that it will make an "uh" out of an O as well as an EE. For example, would they say "Coloraduh"? Not sure.

the following day, we found the place; it was paradise. it was an open glade, high in the mountains, with some grass growing. someone had once laid a claim to it, it seemed; what was left of an old fence, a single fence post, still sat there on one spot. the rest of it was totally reclaimed to nature. everywhere was evidence of pines and aspens starting out new lives out in the fresh high mountain air. the deer, the mountain lions, the bear - they may have been out there somewhere, but we didn't see them. <

all this has to do with "meta" in some way or another, but i'm not sure. for now, it's dylan's birthday, and i'm listening to a folk alley radio special of all his best songs, performed by other people. but i'm back in texas, in my chair. my band will perform soon - but mostly we play for coffee. that means i'll be up late, probably, doing haiku.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

new story:
Staging a Filibuster
comments welcome...enjoy!
on a roll producing quaker plays...i started out doing one on deadline, for a quaker conference on religious education - it's margaret fell's 400th birthday, and they wanted a play about her. one problem here is that any given play assumes a certain number of characters - in the absence of actual kids, I make up whoever I think ought to be there - and then, when you have actual kids who are willing to perform, you may have a different number, more or less, than those who appear in the play. the plays frequently have parts for little kids, which could be expanded, but it's a bit harder to put on a play with fewer than those who are written into it, since it takes some doctoring of the script. but, having written the play, i am now free to let them doctor it as they wish. i have never made demands on how my plays are actually used.

so, having a burst of energy from having finished Silly Poor Gospel: The life and times of Margaret Fell, i then turned my attention to a project that has been simmering on my desk and aggravating me for many years. a few years back i encountered a very interesting and well-written little tome called Down in my Heart about conscientious objectors in wwII. I was interested in them because, in my lifetime, it has not been hard to see through various wars and decide that you believed in peace as opposed to, say, trying to find someone to kill in iraq. in wwII however the nation was united and hitler was clearly the personification of evil. i say 'clearly' as an american; i'm not so sure it would be so clear if you were german. it is certainly clear to those of us who are jewish, or have jewish relatives or friends, etc. and around 1942, when this book/play is set, it was pretty clear what hitler was doing in europe. so being a conscientious objector was not really a very easy choice.

my play, Down in Our Hearts, sticks fairly close to the book, though it has a quaker character that the book doesn't have. in the end i kind of collapsed characters, since i figured there was no way most religious education programs could find more than about seven men and one woman, all teenagers of course, to do such a thing. the odd thing about this play is that almost all of the original characters, straight from the book, are men. although meetings are free to get young women to play men, still, i didn't want to push my luck or overload it.

i'm almost done with Down in Our Hearts. it's about ten pages; i'm in a stage where i rest and then go back and reread it with a fresh eye. while i'm on a roll like this i might stick with quaker plays and produce a few more; ideas that i'd dredged up earlier appear below. but more likely (these are the golden days - kids are still in school, but i'm free, every morning, to put all my energy into writing whatever my soul desires - and this will carry on for about another week) i will turn my attention to two other unfinished projects that have been cluttering up my mind: the autobiography, and the novel. there is also the collation of significant work writing that i've done, one on language as a self-organizing system, and other simple essays related to language acquisition. all of this has been just irritating me - mostly because i lost a summer, last year, and was unable really to finish any of it.

but i get some good feeling from returning to the quaker play business. i'm not sure if anyone else reads them or produces them; i produced maybe seven or eight for our small meeting in illinois, and ran totally out of steam, unable to keep doing it. it's much harder, for me, to produce them than to write them, but the problem, for me, is that if you write them without the children in mind you'll have a kind of misfit of kids to characters, whereas if you already know who's going to play whom, you'll have some fun making parts that totally fit the characters.

the religious education conference is set for richmond on june 10, and i have said very clearly that i'm not going. i am tempted though. i'd have to abandon my family for a few days, and, in general, getting in and out of cloudcroft is much more difficult than lubbock. it would not be practical at all. but the various possibilities of continuing to write quaker plays have attracted my attention. maybe here i can list out what i know about the possibilities that are out there.

Rufus Jones, famous Quaker during WWII - I actually don't know what he did in WWII, but since I'm steeped in WWII research at the moment, perhaps I can find out;
Cadbury and the Quaker chocolate dynasty - this guy actually bought a farm outside Birmingham (UK) and built a town, in an attempt to provide enough room and a reasonable living circumstance for his workers. interesting!
Scattergood School and its housing of refugees in WWII - another one from WWII, one that I know a little about already, though I don't know of what kind of dramas might have come out of the experience.
the Quaker who became bad, spent money, went around the world, etc. (forgot his name - still don't know his name, and not sure that, even through looking through my e-mail, I can find it...might have to ask some friends)
Quakers in the Civil War, starting with the southern IN quakers as in Friendly Persuasion, pressured to join the battle in one way or the other, and eventually drawing people's ire from supporting one side or the other surreptitiously. in fact, the American Revolution provides some ways to look at this situation - what happens to quakers during wartime, when, by refusing to fight, they are automatically assumed to be helping the enemy.
Finally one that occurred to me recently was Kenyan Quakers, specifically those involved in the World Conference in 2012, which had a big brouhaha over acceptance of gays. the dilemma here is that Kenyan Quakers are actually a majority worldwide - there are far more there than here - yet homophobia is rampant in the African continent.

Don't know if I'll grab one of these and run with it - in some ways, i'll be glad to finished with Down in Our Hearts, get it on the website, get it off my desk. it's an interesting dilemma.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Silly Poor Gospel: Life and times of Margaret Fell
new play - read & check it out! comments welcome as usual

Friday, May 13, 2016

i was surprised to hear my friends call the town of meadow, texas, "medda" as it would also sound if it were "meta" texas. it's as tiny as towns get, and way out there on the plain, but only twenty minutes or so from here. big bluegrass there on the second saturday, and i'm dying to go, but don't know if i'll make it. i'm definitely going to try calling it "medda" though. has a ring to it.

then, saw a t-shirt for the "dirt city hooligans," which, as far as i can tell, is some kind of soccer team. but "dirt city" is also, definitely, this one. we call ourselves "hub city" in more formal situations, but i guess it's accurate to say we are both "hub city" and "dirt city."

the wind blows steadily, hard, mostly out of the south, warm and dry. finally a storm came through today and dropped a few hard drops here and there. on the way back from the grocery store, the first few drops were hitting the grocery parking lot as we were loading groceries. three blocks to the east, nothing. about twelve blocks to the south, flooding. when i got home, it was back to a few drops here and there again. some parts of town definitely got more than others. they call that 20% chance of rain - about 20% of us get pretty drenched. the others are dry.

nevertheless the steady dry wind hasn't been all bad, except that it made it a little hard to grow stuff, and in fact i was a little unmotivated to do that anyway. i put a trumpet vine into the ground, and i watered my greenthread, if in fact that's what it is, and i also watered this fine little patch of grass that's holding out behind the trampoline. i like that little patch of grass because it reminds me of old times, days when you had to mow constantly or the green would bust out and turn into a prairie grassland. out here, you practically get to know little clumps of grass, genuine or crabgrass, and like them because they have the capability of holding onto some dirt. i water, and it holds the dust down a little. a little, but not much.

it was buddy field day at the school today, a time to celebrate buddy holly, but also for everyone to let off steam at the end of the year. each kid had a 'buddy' and played a variety of games. it was time for me to make puns about 'some-buddy,' 'every-buddy,' etc. you'd think the kids would be a little worn out after a day of that. they are not worn out.

after the storm, though there might be more of it, things are drying out and getting back to normal. though it's already hot here, nights are always nice - temperate, not too many bugs, a few stars. often i go walking, and, when i do, i go barefoot. this leaves me with all kinds of sore muscles, but i like it - not only is it realigning me, i feel, but it feels good when i do it. kind of hurts, later, when i'm sore in all kinds of joints i didn't know i had. my foot alone has places that get swollen from the pressure, and it hurts the following day. slowly though, i'm getting used to it.

the tornadoes, as far as i can tell, have moved over by dallas, and up what they call the i-35 corridor. those guys get the tornadoes. we just get this steady, 20-30 mile wind, all spring, with blue skies, and every once in a while with enough kick in it to give you dust in your teeth.

time to get down to medda.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sunday, May 08, 2016

the flowers are busting out out there, with a zang, with a zing they are everywhere, and the sun is just settling into a blazing routine. it comes up, and it's pretty nice in the morning, then by about ten it's punishingly bright, with clear blue sky and lots of wind. by lots of wind i mean in the twenties, not dust-in-your-teeth thirties, but just a strong hard breeze that makes sure the leaves are connected.

of course it's impossible to get home by ten, or be finished with work, or in some way just shut up the house and turn on the air-con, but that's what people try to do. all through the south, where the sun blazes and it's also way too steamy, people basically watch fox news and let the air-con shut them out from any real suffering, except when they get in their car. here in texas, it's actually pretty dry, and there's no excuse not to go run up an oil rig or something, and make yourself a few bucks, on the wind if nothing else. once you have money you can despise trump and everyone else, and make sure your truck is up good and high and you can go around everyone you don't like. but if you make money, you're at least contributing to the good of the world. you might not be as angry as, say, if you'd lost your job.

i'm lucky that way, and that's why i avoid everyone else. i still have a job, and people leave me alone, and we keep the money going around, what little money we make, and as long as you have money in your hand people are a little more tolerant of you. i'm not knocking texas here, i actually have a lot of good friends here, and love playing music here, it's just that as a general rule, the whole world is tired of hippies like myself who don't quite shave enough, and they let us know a lot, and i've found, having money in my hand is about the best or only antidote to that general kind of disposition. i live in a world where the people i know like me just fine, and everyone else looks at me funny as if they're not quite sure what i'm doing with so many children. Well, i'm not quite sure either so stop staring. i'm sure not going to wait for someone else to come by and tell me.

the kids went to the lazy river today - if you've been with this blog for a few summers you know that's the best place ever, it makes lubbock what it is, and it's especially good for kids. but the sun is hot and punishing. and the kids and i go shooting around the river, again and again, our skin turning darker and darker, or pinker in my case, and all our muscles getting a good workout. the wind is blowing in the twenties. lots of friends of ours, all over the place, but mostly students, in the most stylish of bathing suits. everyone young and good-looking to the point, they don't even notice me, since they are focused on the main job of the young. the children go for that brutal punishment and even laugh and shriek, even five hours into it. they just can't get enough.

and what can i say about out there? it's just life, it's lubbock, it's nothing special, now we're home, and my guess is everyone will sleep well tonight, starting with me. that's good, because tomorrow is monday.