Tuesday, December 25, 2018

lots of my facebook friends are mentioning the imprisoned children, presumably the ones in tornillo, as the heart is drawn to those less fortunate, and nothing can be worse than being in a jail when you committed no crime, and have no clue or responsibility for what happened. tornillo, as it comes from news reports, is in the middle of nowhere, one would think, out on the deserts of west texas where there is way too much space and not enough water.

it turns out, this is like my back yard, in a general kind of way. we go to el paso every once in a while, and yes, it's a grueling one and a half, or two hours of pure desert, mostly government owned, both ways. we go there for its airport or, in my case, for hearing aid maintenance and supply. tornillo would be maybe an hour or two past that, maybe a four hour trip each way, mas o menos. it's not undoable. i could in fact go on a single day and see for myself.

but, to what purpose? i don't think they let demonstrators in. i think they are scrambling to find people to actually work there, but i can't really do that. they might, under some conditions, let visitors in, but, even then, what would i say? sorry you're in such a position. my heart goes out to you. not all americans are this bad, as the ones who would imprison you for no good reason.

i know conservative folk who aren't too upset about kids stranded and imprisoned at the border. it's what they get, they feel, maybe. actually maybe they don't think much about it. or, it's like other criminals out there. they do something wrong, they take away their kids, everyone ends up institutionalized indefinitely. it seems kind of hopeless, if you look at it like that. it's like, rather than just denying them entry, and letting them make their way in tijuana or juarez or wherever, you actually put them in jail, making them part of our system, our world, our problems. and then, they grow up angry at a government which did this to them, and we'll wonder why? a rough comparison would be the interned japanese during world war two. they never found out what they'd done wrong, except have the wrong race, but that apparently was wrong enough for them to spend three, five, nine years in jail. in jail, for being japanese.

it's christmas here. our kids, spoiled as usual, are contemplating their haul. food was lavish, plentiful and delicious. our entire family of six ate at the same table, pleasantly, with a lit tree right behind us, and a wood stove churning out the heat on the other end of the living room. though our kids have some idea of poverty, neglect, the bad side of things, mostly they've forgotten. mostly it's abstract. i've started a quaker meeting. it seems impossible for me to take a day and go to tornillo. but i can take a few minutes, once in a while, and at least talk about the possibility. maybe i could set up a situation where there was some kind of organization for those who find their way down to west texas. i'm not even sure who that would include, besides beto and perhaps a few quakers of the glbtq variety. several people have made it down there; i haven't. i find it incredibly difficult, just to go to el paso.

Monday, December 24, 2018

2018 letter

Dear family and friends,

This season, migration is on my mind, as I think of the poor sojourners from Central and South America slowing making their way toward their dream of safety and a future for their children. We are at the start of our third winter up on our mountain in Cloudcroft, NM, in the cozy little cabin in the village that went from “summer place” to “home” a few summers ago. We came here seeking shelter and solace and healing after some rough years in Texas, and we found the clear air, the piney woods, a community of like-minded souls, the wonderful schools for the kids, and spectacular sunsets over the White Sands to be all that we needed and more.

We still have four kids at home. Eli is 17 and has a great YouTube channel called “Liomations” that has taught him that animation is fun and way too much work for a kid as serious about his grades as he is. He gently urged us to think about him going to high school here instead of in Lubbock, and he is beyond happy to be in a small school that offers a lot of scholarships. We are hoping he sticks close to home once he makes his choice. Corey is 13 and the schools here have made him work much harder and brought him up to speed. He keeps his grades up so he can play basketball and keep his Xbox habit going, which he does with a few close friends. Sierra is also 13, loves basketball too, has many friends, and has decided to go into animal rescue once she gets all grown up. Ava is 10 and her passion these days is dance, and we take her down the mountain to do that, where she is a star. Like the other kids, she has come a long way in the best school in New Mexico.

As for the grown kids and our grandkids, we are proud! Josie, Derek, Layla, and Landon are rocking Lawrence KS, Natalie, Ethan, Kenna, Maya, and Nori are in Brimfield IL, Eric and Jen are still at Jack London State Park in California, Kylie, Josh, Bayleigh, and Madilyn are in Goreville IL, Justin and Marion are in Portland, OR, and are now married, and Noah is in Chicago. It’s hard with them so spread out, but we hope to get them all out to visit this summer, and we are planning a visit in January to catch up with most of the kids and all the grandkids.

Tom and I are easing into retirement, if you can call it that when you are raising three teens and a ‘tween. We are making preparations to move everyone out to 16 Springs, where we have some land adjacent to the Lincoln National Forest. We were lucky to hit water when we sunk a well, and we have the makings of enough room for all of us with a few more improvements to the little hunting cabin out there. We love the convenience of the village, but even more the stillness of the forest, where you can here the elk singing and watch the tall pines dancing in the wind. So we go out there every weekend, and dream of making our journey soon, when Spring comes. Our first winter here Tom’s mom went into hospice, and last winter, it was Jim’s turn. They never got to see where we ended up, although they loved it that we were so much closer those final years. After years of traveling the country in an RV, they settled in this beautiful state, and they were happy here for many years. We are grateful that we got to join them at the end, and feeling fortunate to be able to stay. I pray that all sojourners find their homes and families, their safety and their solace and their shelter, as well. Peace,

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Look Into Your Eyes

this movie isn't available yet to the public; sorry for putting it here. it's a project i've been working on, a restoration of one i made long ago.

Layla movie

Layla was born in 2010, or thereabouts. Her birth was heavily documented, and at one point I made a movie about her early days. That movie had the picture above as its cover, but, like many movies of those early days, it didn't go anywhere. people forgot about it. even josie & derek forgot about it, and it was about them.

around that time, i was a juror in a trial of a guy who had killed two musicians, the hurd brothers, in a vehicular manslaughter trial. after the trial i went and listened to them, and after i heard this song, i really wanted to save it. i was proud that the movie had saved it, and had documented their early days.

but the movie was deleted when siu severed its relationship with youtube. i'm not sure how that happened, but movies that were made on a siu.edu account (as this was) disappeared. i didn't know how to save movies at the time and could do nothing. you'd think i had it on my computer, but for some reason i didn't; perhaps i'd changed computers. that movie was lost to eternity.

but, i really wanted it, so, i made another copy. this one has the same song, and the same basic idea. it's about the early days of a baby, and it's intensely personal, so i kept it private. i'm not sure if that means you can see it or not. i know it means the whole world won't come knocking on its door.

it covers, really, more than the first forty days; i have expanded that a little. let's call it the early days, pre-landon.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

i will, in the end, make a log. one person came at seven a m, and five came at seven p m. both were good meetings. the first was much like you would expect of a meeting of two - it had more talking, less silence. the second, with six of us altogether, had more silence, and more structure too. it was like the older friends demanded it, came for it, wanted it. ok so as i gravitate more toward a genuine quaker meeting, i actually like that; i didn't resist.

it's a quaker meeting on zoom. i'm not going to have all the quakers i've ever known in my life, but i'll at least meet a few, and carry on with this quaker meeting, and explore zoom all at the same time. zoom is a marvelous platform. even my millenial sons like it and admire it. one millenial took all this time to show me the various things one can do on it, so as to have something to focus a meeting's attention on, at the same time we are experiencing silence.

in the ordinary quaker meeting, it turns out, people focus on one item in the room. in the meeting i started out in, it was a woodstove. there were ordinary, hard, wooden pews, and old fashioned windows, but i'd fix my eyes on the woodstove and then go into silence; it was wonderful. there were also the trucks - the interstate, as it came through iowa, had to make a single turn in order to avoid the tiny quaker cemetery, in which relatives of nixon and relatives of hemingway were buried. that turn, in hilly eastern iowa, was really the only turn in the state, but it forced truckers to change gears, and we could hear that in the silence.

my point? zoom forces you to put your attention on something. it would be my job to figure out what. it's not rocket science. maybe i'll take a picture of my woodstove and run it through the photo editor.

morning: donne and me. evening: maurine, miriam, morgan, karl, mckennon, and me. i might be wrong about that last name; i kept getting his name wrong, and may still have it wrong, for all i know.

the meeting has two things dear to me: the name "cloud," and, mountain time. it's very much rooted in my existence here, in the clouds, in the mountains. it's my own meeting, though i easily, readily grant the group the power to control its direction.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

the eve of the first online quaker meeting. i held my breath and dove in to being a moderator of two a week, 7 am and 7 pm. most people i know mention the evening one. not sure anyone will attend the morning one. but i will be there.

ys con for me, it is a chance to bring quakers back into my life regularly. i have recently remembered my love of the iowa conservative meeting, rooted in a rural kind of farm culture where everyone lived near each other and knew each other well. they'd meet and worship in small rural meetinghouses, often surrounded by waves of cornfields in every direction. they don't make communities like that. i couldn't find enough conservative quakers to make a community like those communities, though one friend of mine from that crowd ended up in a co-housing place. it was as close as you could get in the modern world, yet, it was still in town. his income is in town. his life is a city life. he has a community, though.

i think our view of community has to adapt to the times. my kids, their community is online. most of us consider our "facebook friends" to be our primary audience. i'm very hesitant to share details of my life on facebook; why should i tell all my "friends" what i ate for thanksgiving? i consider them more like acquaintances. friends are people you can share a problem with, people who will support you, and who of course you could support. i'm not sure this is true of my facebook crowd, which numbers over 700. but life has you in different crowds, and this is true even on facebook; i have local people, esl people, music people, old college friends; i have a lot of folks up there. but they aren't all a religious community. i have to put in a little more work to get one of those.

i think this is possible. i think quakerism will flourish if people can connect online, and have a community. i think that even a kind of classic, traditional religion can set roots in the cloud, where people can establish a community regardless of where they physically reside. i think we need to reach out, and start this process, and i'll go first.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Friday, December 07, 2018


i spent much of november uploading family photos on this blog, for several reasons; one, it's a pretty reliable place to put everything that is valuable to me. i know, yes, that google owns it, and keeps it, but i'm ok with that. everything is public anyway. how is one place any different from any other? i know that's a stupid question, but, i'm beyond worrying about it.

no, the reason i write is, i've been reflecting on family in general, and how profound its influence is on a person and his / her life. our original family, my parents' four children, has a kind of parallel family, which would be my mother's younger brother, a wallace (see tartans below), who lived a kind of unstable existence out here in the desert southwest for most of his grown life. he and his first wife paula split up when the kids were little and the three older sisters didn't approve; as a result i didn't see his three kids for many years.

i remember a reunion in tucson maybe 27 years ago when i saw the older two of his kids. the oldest girl went on to marry and have two children; the second, a boy, had two daughters but had maybe taken in a young boy as well. one of his daughters was the same age as one of my sons, and they became close instantly, even at the age of maybe three. finally, the third daughter, i never met, but she, surprisingly enough, was in the alamogordo area when i got here, and i finally met her here.

now my aunt paula has died, and i'm a little torn about attending the service. i didn't really know her, and further, i have no indication from the family that they would want me there. it's like, in part of their life, out of respect for her, they had denied that the wallace side even existed.

as family member, i would do anything to support them, up to a point. that's the main point i've made to them. i'd love to see my cousins again, after 27 years; love to help them out, meet their kids, be a family again. it's not likely. i can't even bring myself to attend that service (which is tomorrow, pearl harbor day, her birthday), because i just don't feel they want me there. they don't, as a family, put that feeling out into the world.

i'll never forget the two three-year-olds, though. mine married last year, and is happy in portland. his daughter, i think, is married too, but no doubt, i wouldn't even recognize her.

wallace tartan

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Bluma Herman

i can't let the passing of bluma herman go uncommented on. she was a wonderful mother-in-law, always supportive, always directly honest, and i will miss her dearly.

it is unfortunate that my first wife and i had an unhappy split-up, involving our two boys, and were never really good friends after that. i believe she requested to be my friend a while back, and it took me years before i could agree to it, but finally did one day, hoping the whole thing would be over. but upon her mother's death, i went to offer my condolences, and i couldn't; she'd unfriended me. to her, maybe, it still isn't over.

but as for mom, i have nothing bad to say. i saw her at the older son's wedding back in may, and it was perhaps her finest hour. the oldest son was one of her favorite grandchildren, if not the first, and it was no small deal for her to fly, at the age of 90, from chicago to portland with her husband, who is also 90 and who survives. she may have been declining even then, but she was at her best, and that's how i'd like to remember her. she was nice to us - me, my young son, my daughter who knew her as a step-grandmother, and my daughter's family.

RIP bluma herman
i spent the last half of the month of november putting photos of the family up on this blog. at first there was a kind of order; i went through my kids, then my grandkids, then my siblings, and then into my cousins, and finally my parents, but that isn't really much of an order, if you think about it, and i knew it, so, by the time i was done, i was just throwing pictures up there and not even labeling them. it occurred to me that what i liked was when i had several of them together, for example, one of my children holding one of my grandchildren - and that, of course, doesn't really fall into any one category. on the other hand, november is gratitude month, and i was feeling grateful, and in fact i'm grateful for the whole lot of them. i'm grateful that i'm still alive. i'm grateful that they are kind of there, with me, at every moment.

the blog has now been going for almost fifteen years, and the pictures are to some degree a distraction. mostly the blog is more like this post: me rambling about whatever is on my mind, using small letters, no caps, to show that i am really imposing no discipline on my writing whatsoever. it has survived partly because i do it mostly for myself, to keep writing, to keep putting thoughts into words, so as to not become stagnant. to some degree i have become stagnant in my own writing; i have two novels dead in the water, i keep getting stuck on my historical non-fiction book, and my autobiography (just passing through: true stories from out there), which is kind of spun off from this very spot, is almost done, but just can't get over that one hump. but here, i keep having the impulse to write, and i write. if writing stops in all other places, it doesn't stop here. and there's plenty to talk about.

right now an enormous storm is coming up in our faces, in our small cabin overlooking the tularosa basin and the white sands, facing west out toward the san andres mountains of south-central new mexico. we've had a couple of snows already, at nine thousand feet, and because part of the mountains are in the shade, some of that snow is likely to stay on the ground right through until the sun gets high up in the sky around april. but we haven't had more than a few inches, so the winter-sports enthusiasts are a little disappointed, and still waiting for the big one, which could be this one. Enough snow to go sledding, that's what they want, or, in my case, cold enough to skate. this is really a skating town more than a skiing town, and it's time to get started.

i've had blocked up ears now for about a week; i'm not hearing properly, and i get echoes in my ears from all the things i'm missing. it hasn't made me angry, although, as a musician, i should probably be feeling like my whole hobby, my music, is threatened, which it is. but it doesn't hurt, and something inside me tells me, it's just stopped up, it's not totally damaged. also, in the life i live, day in and day out, with four noisy kids and teenage friends all over the place, and being a substitute teacher during the day, i'm actually grateful sometimes to be able to just tune it out. one side of me is saying, finally i can just zone out and concentrate on my writing.

alas, but when i turn my attention to the leveretts, the historical book i've almost finished, i just peter out. it's almost done. i've run through the various fires of early boston, leading up to the one that did in madame leverett, though i can't find the details exactly, and then the big one, in 1711, which did in the entire neighborhood. the truly big one was in 1760, and even that one was eclipsed later, probably, but since my story, this story, pretty much ends in 1711, i have chosen this fire as a kind of climax, that happens just when the story is about over. at this point we have read about the four leveretts in a row, the last of whom is not even our ancestor, as far as we know. they are an interesting lot of characters, and really, i have to say, this is only a preliminary investigation, and, once it's over, i'll put it down for a while, but will not, probably, keep it down forever. i get the strong sense that there's lots more to learn, and that it is available, and that i'm just not seeing some of it. so that makes me hesitant to publish, hesitant to make that last push.

same way with the autobiography. if my life were to take a break, and stop changing so dramatically every day, i would reach a point, maybe, where i'd say, now's as good a time as any to publish this, and get it out there. i've done what i could, i've gone over the hump, it's time to call it a life, put it all in one book, and call it a wrap. but in fact i'm even now making critical decisions that i know will affect the whole thing. one is whether to keep going forward with this being-a-public-school-teacher plan, which, to tell the truth, i'm feeling a little too old to go on with. for one thing, i'm slipping physically; i don't always hear everything. but worse, students misbehave, and i've about run out of outrage, or the strong enough feeling to follow through and throw the book at them. somebody needs to be in there who is not afraid of the process of turning them in, following through, giving them the attention they need. i, myself, am slipping. after ten kids, i'm beginning to lose my voice, and my hearing.

i can still write; i know i still have at least two novels in me, and probably a third, just waiting for me to have the time to actually produce them. i've always thought about myself as a novelist, even though i've failed at every attempt so far, or rather, just failed to finish. i've always thought, short stories kill the time, get me out there, get me started, and i can do them in a couple of days, with a single one devoted to the actual writing. but i haven't been able to successfully finish the novels i've started, partly because they didn't have a single, streamlined purpose, but rather, tackled lots of different issues, whatever was on my mind at the time, and thus became somewhat jumbled and lost in the thick of it. i think that what i need to do is go back, streamline them, make my purpose a little clearer, and stop going off the main road. i'll start with the texas one. that one is literally on the tip of my tongue; i want to get texas down on paper before i forget about it. i want to show what it's like to just pass through texas, and admire it for what it is. but i need a single plan, a blueprint. maybe i need to establish that kind of organization before i write; that's what i tell my writing students to do. write down your plan, then write. that way you'll know where you're going.

as a rebel, i always believed in just starting out on a journey, and not necessarily knowing where i was going, or at least, being absolutely willing to change course almost immediately upon embarking. part of one's job, then, is to just be so totally aware that you can alter your course spontaneously and not do something completely stupid, but rather, appear to be following your whim. this doesn't seem to work with novels. i'm a writer; i can write; but i can't use that old hippie kind of mentality on a serious undertaking like a novel. and when i try, i end up with a novel, stuck in the water.

on the brink of winter; it's december now. i tell you, scroll down through november, and see my entire family. for now, this blog turns back to its original purpose, my own rambling about my own life. i leave out some important details: my wife, my kids, my sexuality, that kind of stuff. i brood about my writing here. but now, i also put pictures of my family. i've come to trust blogger as just a place that's always there, that, in its own kind of benevolent way, can show all kinds of things, and either attract a lot of attention, or not, depending on what i want. and i'm not consistently greedy enough to want a lot of attention all of the time; that also is a problem hampering my music career. i love the music, but i really don't care if people treat me like background, and just keep on talking while i'm playing. a more gregarious person, if i were, would just go out and demand more attention for all this hard work. but to me, the reward is in the product itself, and i care a lot less whether people actually see it.

so it goes; i fade back into the mountain hillsides, and the world will go on without me, i'm sure. my son now is up to about 30 000 subs for a single channel, raking in the cash for creative skills that he could have got partly from me. i however am lucky to sell even a single book.