Saturday, July 29, 2017

i sit on the porch watching a storm come in, with thunder, huge clouds swirling; it's early afternoon. this july has seemed to me unusually cool and rainy; under seventy, raining every afternoon, more or less like this, what they call the monsoon. a good drenching. a person has to roll up the car windows.

i am lucky, actually, that i'm still unemployed, waiting for my perfect high school teaching job, yet not knowing what it is, so being entirely free of worry. rather than worry about exactly what and how i will teach, i worry about whether i will teach, or whether i will be confined to the role of sub, being there every day, yet teaching almost nothing except how to hold my tongue when students are being as bad or as worthless as they can manage. even as a sub, it's likely i'll snag a permanent sub job, and so be able to go somewhere every day without worrying about where i will work on any given day. i will be employed. that's my mantra. cloudcroft schools start on thursday; alamo schools soon after. it's the season, and something is likely to pop up soon.

but i have a twenty-five year old who has landed in the basement, and he got his brother's computer working again, and put his sound-mix (kind of like garage band) on it, so, as the thunder rolls in, we've been doing a kind of collaboration. i gave him the banjo part to "how can i keep from singing," an old quaker hymn. he will convert it into "how can i keep from rapping," a hip-hop version using the banjo part and whatever else he can mix in. it's kind of a quaker tribute to our friend who put him up for a few days on his way here; it's her favorite song. so it's a kind of quaker hymnal, bluegrass hip-hop rap. pretty good for a collaboration, eh?

a neighbor bought the house next door, and just in time, because its support posts were rotting and the deck, you couldn't stand on it. like our house, it has this fantastic view, out over the white sands, or in today's case, out over a valley that has clouds shooting up it. but none of this view is good if you are worried about the rotten wood beneath your feet. and he has been finding a lot of rotten wood under there, and shoring it up.

just beyond his house, which is next door to ours, downtown starts up. and downtown is relatively full, a weekend in late july being what this town is all about. people come up here from el paso, midland, and lubbock, with the pure intention of getting out of the blistering heat and dryness that characterizes the valley. so we can see them from here, filling up the porches, which protect them from the rain, and enjoying the 8700-feet altitude; they get a rest from the valley. we up here avoid the valley, though we have to go down there for groceries, or in some cases, to work. to me it's a luxury to walk out my front door and be 8700 feet - to be close to the stars, to walk a couple hundred feet higher, to see enough stars that i actually see the galaxy some nights. and keep in mind, i'm in town. walk a mile or so out, and there are even more.

how can i keep from singing is an old quaker song about being so high on religion that you don't mind jail. they throw you in the clinker, they throw away the key, they lock you up, whatever, and you are on god's path, so you're still ok with it. you are doing the right thing, so they can't get to you. it's inspirational. today's mainline christians can't relate, because they never go to jail. the only people who go to jail are people who protest the pipelines, or stuff like that. and then, of course, the criminals go to jail. but they aren't feeling the righteous glory, i suppose.

song is coming soon. i'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 17, 2017

went to the weed bluegrass festival the other folks around here, there is nothing alarming about that name. weed is simply a little town way out in the mountains, and it holds this festival every july, and the festival is its largest fundraiser for the community center and scholarships that the community provides to its people. some of its kids go to my son's school, as it's only 23 miles away or so, but it takes a good forty minutes on windy, treacherous roads with no shoulder on steep cliffs. you follow the cox canyon road out maybe 18 miles before turning and actually crossing over a range of rather steep mountains; this is only about six or seven miles, but it's very steep and somewhat dramatic.

bluegrass people had come from all around, and most were camping. this is generally an upbeat, but very conservative, religious crowd. they like gospel music. they are generally opposed to alcohol in all of its iterations. they tend toward large motor homes and little pets, and they are generally well keyed in to the music itself. that is the part that endears them to me. they love the music, and they know a lot of songs.

fiddlers are rare, not only here, but in texas, and throughout the countryside. i've found generally welcoming greetings from crowds like this, since they don't get many chances to play with fiddles. there were several steel guitars, and several banjos; there was a standup bass, and one more fiddler, a woman whom i know, who is actually one of the organizers. it's a tiny community, but it seems the restaurant-cafe-post-office is clearly the center of it, and almost all of its residents were there that night.

my son recorded much of it; he knew the waitress and some other kids who were there. in the end, because we knew people, it was a local kind of thing. and that i liked. the music was good, the company was good, and i felt like i was a fiddler again. this is the kind of festival i could attend every year, as long as i live.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sunday, July 09, 2017

in a blizzard of new marketing ideas, i've tried several things. one was to enter the world of flash fiction. apparently flash fiction is anything between 500-1000 words although like "red dirt" i may have missed some of the essence of the definition. i figure, if i've been writing both short stories and haiku for several years, i ought to be able to combine the two, and make very short, very concise, short stories. my first, however, was rejected. i don't know if i can handle rejection, maybe that's why i self-publish in the first place.

but flash fiction was clearly made for the phone. people apparently call it up while they stand there looking cool, whipping out their phone in some public place, and maybe they read an entire story just as they stand there. i can make stories for that situation, i think. i might just need some practice.

then, a second idea, in cruising around i found a site that seemed ideally suited to me, the eastoftheweb short story site. it seems ideally suited to me because there are a lot of internationals coming to it looking for both entertainment, and learning english; this is my ideal market. they don't seem too picky, based on the stories i've already read, though one was excellent, the other had lots of grammar issues and downright inaccuracies. now actually my writing is strong on correct spelling, its/it's being correct and all that, that is not my weak point. but judging from my rejection, certainly i have some kind of weak points. perhaps it is utter failure to develop characters, i don't know. but this site does allow people to comment and maybe that will help me, if i get on there, and get me some exposure too. it can be done, i'm sure, and i can keep trying.

then by far one of the most interesting, is this kid who reads stories right onto the web, in his own project to have a successful, commercially viable youtube channel. he solicits stories, free, from authors like me, and promises to tell their source. unfortunately i submitted a story to him, and then never heard from him, and then lost his url; in fact, i don't even remember how i found out about him. he's out there in space somewhere, and doesn't turn up when you google "short story" and "youtube" together. like many young people, he had a penchant for fantasy and horror, neither of which i am rich in, but he seemed to have it together in some crucial ways, and i kind of wish that had come to something; perhaps it still will.

it is still basically irritating me that my son is making $250 a month on youtube, while i'm making basically squat, from all the hard writing and poetry i do. my wife says i shouldn't compare. but to some degree money is the world's reward for doing something the world really wants, and it's become obvious that the world wants youtubes more than, say, haiku, or even short stories in the written form. either that or maybe i just suck as a writer, which is always possible. i got lots of kudos and credit as a teacher, but the fact is, sometimes you write something, and everyone says it's good, but they're just saying that because they like you and want you to feel good about yourself. if you think about it, this is a shame, if in fact what is happening is they are leading you on and leading you to write a lot more, and give up a lot later than you probably should.

on the other hand, it's also entirely possible that the world wouldn't know good stories from bad, or even good haiku from bad, due to the fact that so many buckets of both are dumped on the endless sea of self-published dreck, and how is the cream supposed to rise to the top? the fact is, they can't even see it, don't read it, get sick of even picking up new stuff when it's so invariably bad. publishers used to put themselves in that position, the position of judge of limitless dreck, and for their pains they would get to be the ultimate decider of what got published and what didn't. now, anyone can publish, but there are no judges, so there's literally no way for people to know where to start.

i'm not really venting here; i have a genuine body of work and i'm a little mystified if it will ever amount to anything. six collections of short stories make about 120 stories, which are rapidly turning into flash fiction. three volumes of poetry, a thousand each, with a few unique ones before that which were not represented in those; that makes 3k. i kind of expected that the poetry would never sell; do people ever buy poetry, for any reason? i'm not sure. i think it's a carefully guarded secret that people never buy poetry, and therefore poets are simply people who desperately want to be considered poets, but basically have to find other ways of making a living, unless they can make a living teaching poetry. but that's hopelessly cynical, it's just that, as far as i can tell, what few people sell anything on the poetry front, must sell it only after they've died, and after a hundred years or so has allowed the cream to float to the top. in other words, there's almost no way to get any attention as a poet just by cranking it out. and the fact is, i'm uncomfortable with the image, the persona, the identity as a poet anyway. it's of no use to me; i would rather be known as a short story writer. i almost feel like drifting back to the realm of secrecy with the poetry.

they're coming out pretty well; i need about three a day to get a thousand in a year, and i pull it off, pretty much. if i miss a day i come back the next day and get six. if i'm in the mood, i write a few more and then slack off for a while. but i'll have my first hundred soon and the good news is, i have a kind of storehouse of knowledge for each state, plenty of material, when i'm not bound by time (as i'm not, this year). if i get a few more volumes of it out, i'll be happy. i want one that is entirely on history; the idea of that would be to have each haiku have not only a kigo (season clue), but also a geographical clue, and an era clue, or time clue. if i get good at it i can write hundreds, maybe a thousand. we'll see. that would be the 2019; i'm working on the 2018 now.

as for my other projects, some may fall by the wayside. there are 1) an esl reader, a reading workbook; 2) a novel about texas, to be called either trigger warning or texas hold 'em; 3) my original novel, about saint louis, called interference; and 4) my autobiography/memoirs - now this one has taken on a bit of urgency, as my wife has decided to write her memoirs, and in the process, has bought or collected about a dozen of them, including one on how to write them, and i think, has begun to actually type on it a little bit each day. i wouldn't have to necessarily be urgent about mine, which in a sense are almost done, but my strategy is simply to finish a first draft before i start hearing, reading, or experiencing any alternate ways of doing it. and so i've applied myself, a little, to finishing.

however two things hang me up. one is that my twenties, awkward and uncomfortable as they are, are quite boring as i admitted so little of all the wild stuff i did. i did nothing to make those years visual, dramatic, interesting, going anywhere, and in reviewing them, i recognize that. now i'm reading a very interesting book about the hippie-commune era, and i was right there, flailing around, trying to find community, trying to figure out the best way to live one's life, yet i didn't really put that in there, because, in its own way, it was just another failure, like a career that didn't work out. but i also see that, from the point of view of studying the 70's, and the largest back-to-the-land movement ever, that i was right in the middle of it (actually the tail end of it maybe), and therefore my insights might be of use to one who really tried to look at what was happening then. flailing around as i was, i had a lot in common with that whole movement, and i can very easily document that by writing about it clearly, if i can get it together. time is running out. look for publication, maybe, in the fall!

another hangup with that book is whether to simply publish it, or let people have a crack at it first. nah. my strategy, basically, is to not offend anyone, that way it won't matter. sometimes the truth offends them, but in that case, they have more problems than just me. after all, no one really buys my books, to speak of. and one guy, in a forum, once said, if you want to sell books, what are you doing writing short stories or memoirs? write something people want to read! or, another one said, the problem with short stories is, each one is about 300 pages too short to pay the bills.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

the fourth in cloudcroft is busy. we are twenty or thirty degrees cooler than the valley so lots of people come up, and the shopowners stay open to greet them. people hang around the boardwalks. motorcyclists come through as cruising through the mountains is one of their favorite things. everyone wears red white and blue, or some combination thereof.

the parade was actually on saturday, day of my meet the author, and i stood up there on the second floor, downtown, with all my books, as every firetruck on the mountain came by and tested out its siren. kids scurried for candy. someone actually threw stuffed toys. some uncle sam came by on stilts.

altogether i don't get too excited about it. i think people are eager to go down the hill to see fireworks, but it's hardly worth it to me and i'll be grateful if i can stay up here, lay low, stay off the cliffs. yesterday someone endangered my life on the roads and i realized, lots of people are impaired. bad time to be on cliffs. i yawn here now and the sun hasn't even come close to setting. i did very little today except haiku, random reading, and sitting on the porch, where it's cool as usual. this is the first town i've been in where you can actually be outside on the fourth - my biggest aversion to the holiday is simply the heat. the drinking is not an issue as long as i stay home, and the over-the-top patriotism, well i can take that or leave it.

on the haiku i gave away some today - it is, after all, e pluribus haiku, and i genuinely hope somebody is getting something out of it. it's a kind of colorful look at the united states - not meant to be disrespectful, meant more to be a genuine picture of the usa as it is, or in this issue, as it was in 1974. the new issue is more free with the time, time is now, and so far i'm producing plenty. my goal is to make it maximally visual, bright, intense. i want it to be the warhol's marilyns of haiku. i want people who care about haiku and know it, to like it. i pay attention to who grabs it when i make it available for free. there are a few people who are reading it. not so many who are paying for it, yet. that's the way poetry is.

a wide swath of this country, my half, are upset about the way things are going, about russia taking over, and ruining our environment, science, and education, and our relationship with europe - but i look at it this way. it's our opportunity to make sure the system works and works right. we have to do the right thing to get him out of there peacefully, and fix the damage - the epa is what we use to keep each other from poisoning our land - and we need public education. so it's a crucial time for people who love the country, in all forms, who need to come together to save it. if you love the country, stop complaining, and find the ways he's used the national till to make himself richer, and get him out of there. it's that simple.

on the local level there are people who seem to vote republican no matter what. they don't seem to care about all the stuff that irritates us, and they object so strenuously to the socialist-leaning democrats that they couldn't imagine ever going over that way. so, now they're trapped. they have this ignorant boor, destructive and petulant, and they have to stick with him to the bitter end. unfortunately, it may well be bitter. he will use the government to destroy the press, if he can.