Friday, May 26, 2017

last day of school, for me, was yesterday; they were about to send me home at 8 am when i begged them to be placed in the low-incidence sped class. i did this, i admit, because having driven down the hill, i didn't especially want to waste the drive, and wanted to get some work out of it. but also, i have found some joy in hanging around the low-incidence sped folks. alamo is a small town of 30,000. it only has so many high school students of severe disability, but here, they're all in one room. and they really are very diverse, both in their disabilities, and in everything else. they are very unpredictable. you can be hanging around happily, in a central room, and one will become hysterical or stubborn, or yell for no particular reason. or jump, or wave their hands around. you just never know.

today, it's back home, mulling over, seriously, all my poor marketing or lack of marketing. i have literally created many books, with very little strategy applied to their pricing or marketing. undersell them, i thought, for a while, but it didn't work; being unknown, dropping my work in a sea of self-published work, how are they supposed to know good stuff by low pricing? Maybe they'll try it, and, of course, i was hoping that if they tried one, they'd buy a few more. but it didn't work out that way. perhaps i'm not that good, that they should want to do that. i have several possibilities for marketing and basically i'm still mulling them all over. one is to make a writing contest. another is to make a "best-of" volume of stories, also, my own author facebook page. still another is to start ad campaigns, either on linked-in (free for the first fifty dollars) or google (hundred dollars worth of ads for 25 dollars). there are still more, but i won't go into them now. as i go into kindle to mess with my kindle settings, i'm somewhat surprised at how random they are: one book was set at about thirty bucks; another had never even made it onto kindle. others had random pricing, or i had not decided whether to put them on kdp (kindle direct), or hadn't done it. only reason not to do it, is if you have plans to publish elsewhere. time to move forward on all plans at once? not sure.

so, back in the sped room, you have this guy in a wheelchair, and he gets stuck on stuff. he brought up this yellow #1 tape. now what he liked about this tape was that it had old kid songs, and he still liked the kid songs. well, i like them too, so i produced "this old man" on my phone and we rocked out to "this old man." some of the other workers, i suspect, didn't like that, as it kind of fired him up and made him obsessive. when he's obsessive he'll say things over and over. things like, "i need to get that yellow #1 tape" or "help me find that yellow #1 tape." the other workers were sick of it already. one mentioned that in his iep, his plan for care, it specifically said he was to try and get into the present, and not be so stuck on things. ok. but i'd found something that really got him excited. and it seemed to me that if he could get so fired up about one old song, it was perhaps because music could do things for him, and he wasn't getting nearly enough of it.

back on the promotional trail, i'll be putting a lot of work out this summer. don't know when it'll all come out, but it'll come out soon; mostly, as i've said, i've been dropping hard work into an endless sea of unappreciated work. it could be, i'm just a kind of mediocre writer; i hate to get caught in that endless loop of self-doubt and despair. i like to think of myself as somewhat of a fanatic with the poetry, writing a thousand a year (i'm exhausted, having reached a thousand but then, upon review, lost one because it was redundant). i'm in my own world, with the haiku. and i've had no plan on the pricing of the haiku either. seems if you write a thousand in a year, you should charge more than $1.99, but then, i've had no strategy, except to undersell on the hope that someone, appreciating one of them, will buy more. with the haiku, why should they? a thousand is already more than they can handle.

at one point this guy, the obsessive one in the wheelchair, kept repeating the words "speed bump." they have speed bumps, he says. now i couldn't figure out what he was saying, though i'd tried my hardest, at least three times, but everyone else knew exactly what he meant; he'd been stuck there many times. it reminded me of the time a korean guy cornered me and told me he wanted to know how to become puh-duh-rent - which meant fluent - but it took me three or four times and i still didn't understand him. in this kid's case, after reflection, i could understand how he'd get stuck on that. those buses come into the parking lot every day, and hop him up, in his wheelchair, as they go over the speed bumps. it's a big thing in a life that, in most ways, is very bound, bound by a general lack of options. more later....

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mannequin Challenge

& 20 short stories you can't put down

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come down off the mountain this morning, on the way to las cruces, and there were hundreds of motorcycles on their way up. motorcycles all over the place, some stopped by the side of the road, some in formation, some with helmets some without, some actually not keeping to their side of the road. most of course did. as my brother said, when we got down there, they're just old folks, like us, not troublemakers anymore like they used to be.

of course, he lived in china for ten years maybe, and taiwan for about six; in taiwan everyone and their brother has a motorcycle, and it really doesn't mean anything. you have these young shop girls, they work in a 7-11 or something, and they ride around in a scooter, or a motorcycle if it's a permanent job. and they all make tons of noise and they wear these short skirts, even on the motorcycle. and they don't have tattoos, or long hair, or skull-on-leather jackets. they are basically not rebellious at all, as far as a person can tell. they're just trying to get around the city.

up here, turns out the motorcycle rally was over in inn of the mountain gods, on the mescalero reservation, but they had to do a poker derby kind of rally, where they came over this way to pick up proof that they'd been here. that put them 70 miles south of the rally itself, but forced them to check in at the local bar, which is an old friend of the motorcycle community, and possibly get a drink, but since they are on windy roads, 9000 feet up, with curves, narrow and with steep cliffs on the side, hopefully they didn't have more than one. or hopefully they are very large people, and can totally handle their beer. one hopes that they didn't encounter an elk, and have a showdown, or perhaps a mountain lion.

i personally remember the motorcycle gangs as a feature of a town as small as this one (~1000) and as being definitely rebellious, as they definitely had facial hair, pony tails, leather with skull logo-type jackets, the whole nine yards. something about them always screamed, don't tell me to quiet down or i'll take this silver tailpipe and shove it where the sun don't shine. and they were out on that edge where you definitely didn't want your daughter running off with them, because one wouldn't be able to protect her from the others, and she would be unsafe in all these bars. not to mention, on windy roads, 9000 feet up, when the driver's had a beer or two.

once i was hitchhiking in mexico and a guy on a motorcycle gave me a ride. i had no idea what motorcycles meant down there or if this guy was any kind of rebel; i had no cultural framework to use to judge him. but he gave me a swallow of pretty strong tequila and off we went. i felt a little woozy right away and had trouble holding onto him, but fortunately i didn't have to steer, and it wasn't really a mountain road. i can't remember if i had a helmet or not, but i had my backpack, and that made it a little harder to hang on, since it kept getting caught in the wind and pulling me one way or the other. it seems to me this was the guy who, when it was over, insisted on trading shirts, and i did, feeling like he'd saved my life, when in fact he'd endangered it, or rather, i had foolishly let him endanger it. trading shirts seemed like a good idea. down there all the mexicans wore american shirts, and all the americans wore mexican shirts anyway. so it seemed reasonable, and i did it. he was also one of the people that, when he really got to talking, i had trouble keeping up with him, because my spanish just wasn't that great. and also, i was just a little woozy, before the whole thing was over.

fast forward to new mexico. i have a high school teaching license now, qualified to teach high school social sciences. alamo has three jobs; the reservation high school has one. the reservation would be a longer drive, about sixty miles, and maybe 80 minutes, of windy mountain roads, each way. i'm not sure how teaching the res kids would be any different from teaching the alamo kids, but i'm sure it would be. for one thing, they have way more skills; they clean out their forest, and hunt, and tame wild horses, for starters. i'm not sure they do all that stuff before high school, but i'm sure that some of those kids are doing some of that stuff all the time. and some are working at the inn of the mountain gods. it's their local cash cow. it keeps the whole res in money and work, and most of this money comes from the outside. it's not the same old cash, being recycled endlessly. it's the real stuff, from texans or city people, dropped in the gambling casinos but dropped just the same. you don't even have to steal it, they're just giving it away.

i've never been there, to the inn of the mountain gods, but i've been past it, and i've been to a few other casinos. it's like vegas in that they try to have big shows regularly, big country stars, and they pay them to bring their entire entourage out there and stay out there, and put on this big classic show, and the customers, many of whom drink a bit, drop a little more money in the machines on their way back to bed. the machines and gambling tables are open as much as they can keep them open, as much as people will use them. i'm not sure if it's all mescalero apache working there, or if some of us white outsiders can actually get jobs there, and the same goes for the school really - do they really want some white guy teaching them history? i'm not sure. i can tell you this: their trucks are as good as ours. they plow through the same kind of snow, do the same kind of remote mountain rescues we do, and take pretty good care of their forests. they have hundreds of wild horses out there too - that makes them better than us, in my book. you see a few wild horses, you know you're out in the wild mountains.

back in the old days there were at least three major families of apaches, the mescalero, the chiricahua, and the jicarilla. there were a few more, including kiowa, further east, but these were the three we had in new mexico and arizona. and geronimo was a chiricahua. his wife and family were killed by mexicans at one point and he turned his rage against all white and mexican invaders of the traditional chiricahua lands. his stubborn refusal to give up or settle for living in some lousy no-count plains reservation, led him to keep fighting, until his people, the chiricahua, had lost even their own reservation down by the bootheel of new mexico and southeastern arizona. so what was left of his chiricahua band ended up in the mescalero reservation, which at least had plenty of room, and was beautiful mountains with plenty to eat. i don't know how important that is, though. one never knows about these things. it's like the u.s., you can live side by side with people for years, and not realize how racist people can really be, about their own neighbors and people they live and work with. i'm guilty myself, thinking "us" and "them" and wondering about the differences in "our" land. i can't expect to just transport myself to outside a culture where everyone, basically, is thinking "us" and "them" on some level, and if i teach there, i'm sure i'll deal with being one of "them" almost every day of my life.

sure would be interesting, though.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Saturday, May 06, 2017

saturday morning, and a dog is in my lap, his big black eyes asking me if now's the time he can be on my lap without my kicking him off. absolutely. i love having him on my lap. he watches the cabin and rests there, while I pet him, and we both win. i've had two cups of coffee already and am considering another.

got the laundry and the dishwasher going too, but the main job is resting. work is not absolutely that hard - thursday and friday i mainly watched the same movie over and over again with different batches of seniors - but the commute is hard, i've found, even though it's only 20 miles each way, more or less. it's dangerous curvy road and trucks come by, hugging the line, or crossing it, and going too fast. new rocks appear at the edges showing that things are happening up on the mountain. the weather is uncertain - it's the dry season, but rains and winds happen. i get home, and really don't want to move.

the movie i saw, over and over again, was the life of pi. i had not heard about it before. in this movie, a boy is the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and crosses the pacific in a lifeboat with a full-grown bengal tiger. i tell the students that i think the teacher is showing them this movie because they've just had an epic struggle with a tiger themselves. five classes of seniors laugh weakly at my joke. most of them are burnt out, tired, calm, ready to get out of there. one of them is furious because of the parking situation. they graduate in about two weeks. but, they liked the movie.

to me, embrace the tiger return to mountain meant, in this case, studying filmmaking techniques of showing a tiger pacing around a little lifeboat, a tiger close to death, a tiger in all its fierceness, etc. the filmmaker also captured the wild skies of the pacific, storms and cloud formations, and the wild coast of mexico, which i remember well. the tiger, (spoiler alert) in the end, just walks into the jungle, doesn't say goodbye to him. i guess that makes them at least happy that in their case, there's a graduation ceremony. that senior class, i know them less well than the others; i've subbed for them less. they are cruising, they are almost there.

going to lubbock on friday to clean out my wife's office; hopefully i'll be home by mother's day, which will be sunday. i'm guessing there's about a van full of stuff in that office, but i don't really know, and my own issue will be to play a little music while i'm there. not sure how that will happen. wish me luck. with another trip to las cruces tomorrow, i've been traveling a bit too much, and mostly, now, just hoping to stay on the mountain for a while. when school is out, i'll get my chance.