Sunday, January 26, 2020

Saturday, January 25, 2020

temporarily, i have a little dilemma. the sun comes up in the morning, and my chair is directly in it, to the point that, on a brilliantly clear day, as most of them are, i can't do my work in the morning without shutting the blinds. but that kind of disrupts other people who would simply like to live in the living room...generally i can work while they live, but in the mornings i can't work without shutting them in my cave. one solution is to simply go work outside in the mornings. but in the winter the outside is cold in the morning, and doesn't warm up until the sun has been out for a while warming it up. it's life in new mexico.

a careful study of my selling statistics shows that an old book of mine, actually the first collection of my stories, is selling better than the others. one reason could be because it has "esl" in the title. my name has always been associated with esl so old students who liked my writing could be finding me through this book. or it could be that esl is simply selling well these days, in kindle and in paperback. i'm not sure, and it's tending to make me go in a direction of one of my original plans, which was to make esl books. i even started one, but got it out last night to find that it only had three stories in it, and needed some work. at that point, i got tired and went to bed.

at the moment i'm fighting the sun; it's coming up quickly in the southeast, and dooming any work i might be able to do at this chair. we live in a tiny house and it's unlikely that, in the winter, i could simply do my work in the bed, or in my son's room, or some other place. there just isn't the space. and, i'm in the habit of waiting until night, when my wife is in bed, to get going and do what i want to do, but night, as you can see from the anecdote above, has its own problems. i work around the house; i improve on the landscaping around here (it's a gorgeous pine-forest / sleepygrass kind of place), and i do some of the upkeep, shopping, laundry, etc. required to get the last four teenagers off to school in the mornings. that would be my time, when they are at school. that's the time i often find myself unable to work.

another example is today, saturday. the fourteen-year-olds are still asleep, it being only nine. the eleven-year-old and the eighteen-year-old have already eaten but don't cause me much trouble. but the sun is coming into its own, and, boom, might as well be doing anything else. move the chair? it's possible, but, at the same time, not possible. that may be the angle i work on next.

in a little bit my wife will take the girls horseback riding. this is a good development, basically, because they don't generally leave until about eleven, and by that time the sun has risen out of where it blasts me. i often find that being alone is the best way to really get started. i feel like i haven't quite been able to put my whole self into this writing business yet - i'm sixty five, time is running out, and, though i've written quite a bit, my insistence on doing my own marketing, and not spending money, has meant that whole piles of books are sitting on my "bookshelf" (an amazon word for the books you have made) not selling, slipping in ratings by a few thousand a day, eight thousand a day to be exact.

most of my haiku books are in the eleven million range, fifteen million, eighteen million, etc. story books more or less the same. at eight thousand a day, it doesn't take long, and it isn't like people are snatching them or ordering printing runs on them. i'm talking paperback rating here, which is different from kindle rating; the kindle rating includes everything from how much people actually read without buying, to the paperback sales too. in kindle rating my story books are in the two-million, three-million range, and their ratings, too, are losing out on a couple thousand a day. in other words, i have to keep people interested, in order to keep them from slipping down into the ten million.

and i don't even know if people care about this stuff. i know i myself didn't care for months on end, then i looked all this stuff up all of a sudden and whoa. i found i didn't even have a kindle version of some things. i had some books that were totally unrated - i guess if they don't have a sale, there's not much of a way for them to quantify what they've got. and i hadn't cared, hadn't done a thing about it. i get author's copies, which don't count in the ratings, and i give a few away, here, there, what have you, but i find that even giving them away, to friends, to neighbors, to relatives, doesn't count for much. you hope they'll read it, like it, pass it along, cause some other residual sales, but, i think it ends up on their shelf, looking good (to me), but not counting for much. could be that i'm not really that great of a writer. if so, i'm ok with that.

i was a good teacher, i know that. i don't really need to rely on the image of "writer" when i have the image of "father of ten." i'm not even sure why i get all into their science, what happens, how to influence things, what to do about it. it has occupied a couple of days. i went outside to work on cleaning up the property, moving a gazebo, moving a fire pit, walking around in the cold winter sun, and basically, i became eager to come in, and work on the writing. everyone goes out on the horses, i work on the writing. make a big fat cup of coffee, sit down with the puppy on the lap, and check out the ratings. then write.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

promo pix....i've taken to using my pop skills to promote my writing
doing some writing about mcdonald's, which is a little harder to align with everyday-u.s.a. than walmart was. but i noticed one thing: i googled the new orleans mcdonald's, because i wanted to do new orleans, and got news about a huge shooting there one night about two years ago. so, i started that story, about two musicians who were recalling it, when what happens but the seattle mcdonald's, downtown, gets shot up on the very day i'm writing it.

now there's nothing more american than excessive gun violence, and basically, that's true of walmarts as well as mcdonald's. you write about everyday life in the states, some mcdonald's in downtown of a very fine city like seattle, with the pike market over there and the waterfront over here, and what you're writing about is today's news. the mayor says, there's been too much violence in that neighborhood for too long. the police responders, who were there in minutes, said, basically, we had gun victims all over the place.

as far as i can tell, it was a dispute like the one in new orleans. everyone's armed to the teeth, some drug deal goes bad, and then people are shooting each other up like there's no tomorrow. most of the victims are people who just happen to be eating in mcdonald's. there doesn't appear to be any other relation between violence and mcdonald's - it's not like addiction to french fries causes people to lose it and pull the trigger. it's more that mcdonald's picks center-of-town places, with a lot of traffic, and maybe trouble picks the same spots.

we are sitting out here, way out in the country, at the end of the road, and the winter weather has eased up, though it's still below freezing at night. what worries us most is the snow, which turns to ice quickly, and causes trouble on steep mountain roads with sharp dropoffs. but this is all part of our environment, so we have to figure out how to use the lower gears and watch out for deer and elk jumping in front of us unexcpectedly at any minute. we do hear gunshots, a lot. they'll happen on a weekend, during hunting season, when people seem to be testing out their guns and making sure everything is in working order, before they tromp into the wild lands. actually i'm not sure what it is - but it's a very tight rural area, so if was someone shooting their husband, we'd all know about it pretty quickly. there are a lot fewer people out here than you'd think; it's a little isolated. kind of the opposite of downtown seattle. and the gunshots don't bother me anymore.

it's an important time because, basically, you have people in virginia who are strongly worried about losing their guns. the rally there was large and peaceful, and i think we should listen to people. from living out here i know: the vast majority of people treat their guns like their cars, important, necessary, and deadly. you gotta take care of this stuff. and basically, you just don't go downtown, unless you absolutely have to.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

internet is spotty here, from my chair. it has something to do with the fact that the modem is in a metal house, and kids use up a lot of the bandwidth, and we are way out in the country. i try to load up blogger, and it gives it to me, but one step at a time. i have to wait for the handshake, and all this internal stuff, and under ordinary circumstances, boom, i'd be there. this way i should appreciate internet more.

actually, i should get more writing done, but i don't. my writing for the most part doesn't involve internet; it's entirely on word. i have a book, eighteenth century leveretts, which is almost done except i'm burnt out on it and can't even edit it any more; i have two books of short stories, one plain, or straight, and one, usually lovin' it: (20) short stories out of two million served, or something like that, depending on how many actually have been served, and, how many stories. i'm having fun writing mcdonald's stories, but i don't feel i'm as successful at integrating the red-and-yellow decor symbolism into the fabric of american life, as i was with the wal-mart short stories. it's similar to wal-mart in one way: i'm actually an admirer of mcdonald's, or at least of their marketing genius, and feel that they are at the center of so much small town life that they deserve to be a setting in and of themselves. so i can easily write 25 or 30 mcdonald's stories, and i find myself setting them in various ones abroad too: russia, china, maybe paris or latin america. i'll try not to rely too much on cliches when i do that: for example, what do i really know about the moscow mcdonald's? no more than what i've read. but i consider it an honor for the alamogordo mcdonald's to be in the same book as the moscow one. and they both, after all, are mcdonald's.

another problem i have is how much to delve into actual reality. for example, there is the coffee lawsuit. that was a real person, and she might take it wrong if i put her in a story. but it's tempting and i find it hard not to. when you get down to it, a lot of what happens at mcdonald's, and even in them, is somewhat mindless. the kids are working hard but concentrating on using skills they could never have developed anywhere else. the customers are either deciding what to order, waiting impatiently, or sitting down doing their various things, which include playing on phones, reading shallow newspapers, and spilling french fries on the floor. some old guy is walking around picking up trash from tables and busing them. that's about it. it's not exactly a microcosm or allegory of the modern u-s-a, unless i can figure out ways to make it that way. it's not really anyone's favorite meal, except maybe my son, and sometimes a few of the other kids hanging around. it just is what it is (as they say), i'll have to make the best of it.

we have some challenges driving around these wild mountain roads. the weather has been intense. a couple of snowstorms - they were supposed to be 1-3 inches, but ended up being more liek 6-8, and fast, and slippery, especially on the west slope going down to alamo, which fortunately is not a route we've been taking. instead we are more concerned about the road east down to the sixteen springs cutoff, and then up james ridge and over, and down into the sixteen springs canyon which is always about ten or twelve degrees warmer than cloudcroft, and sunnier. less snow too. but the problem is the james ridge itself, which is steep, has lots of cutback roads, and snow, when it comes quickly, tends to freeze on them under the tracks of various vehicles and even under plows when they plow through here. they do tend to plow, at least the paved, but the plow lays it down into a sheet of solid ice on a steep mountainside and that tends to make me nervous.

after driving on ice, today in a car that can't hold its charge in the battery, so that we apparently need a new battery or need whatever it is that is supposed to recharge that battery - i drove around on ice for a while, and then came home. i like to write - work on my stories and work on other stuff, but in general i find that hanging around while my wife cooks or gets anxious about our kids, is unproductive. if the internet is slow i should be writing, ok. and i have plenty of editing or just busy work that i could be doing, but, during the day when i'm most productive, it's hard to keep doing it. too many distractions.

so today i got outside and started moving wood and scrap tin roofing around, and that made me feel better. made me tired, yes, but the air was fresh, the snow was melting, the wind was substantial but mild, and in general i made the place look a lot better, i thought. i'm concentrating on making fewer piles of junk brush and scrap, and having them more out of sight, more out of the way. we have a ton of wood, and don't presently burn it, but i plan on changing that and starting to burn wood somewhere as soon as possible. the cabin has a good wood stove, but i don't use it, as the boy in there doesn't like it, doesn't want it. but we could; it works. it's small, but it works.

so goes my plan. we have a little acreage, and some buildings on it, and the beautiful forest all around, actually a forest barely cared for or protected, mostly left for the wild things to grow and wander around. sometimes the rancher's cows come through and drop big piles of poop which, if i were smart, could make good fertilizer to turn into the earth and keep things growing. as for the growing, i'm working on greenthread (navajo tea), and fruit trees. i don't expect much luck with other things, like for example, vegetables, as the wild animals are so hungry for such things, and skunks can get through the tiniest of fenceholes. i've found gardening in general to be like advanced fencing, but i'm a beginner. so far the animals have gotten most of what i put out there.

in the current climate it is very possible that medical mary jane becomes legal sooner rather than later; in fact, as medical, it's already legal here, and recreational will soon follow as new mexico hates to be losing so much money to colorado for anything. my point is that i have the facility to grow it, though not the permission; my wife has a card, and could get that permission, though we haven't tried or even thought about it much. things have changed a lot. the people that are rushing into the business, i kind of resent, as they are like ambulance chasers or the less desirable elements of society. yet i hand it to them: they are there with something that, though we didn't know it for forty or fifty years, we need. it's incredibly useful stuff, and, it makes you feel good.

i often say, i was a pot-head for about ten years, and gave up that solid chunk of my life because i was so busy chasing after a high or a toke here and there, good or bad, on the road or at home. it was a wild ride, with no other motivation, those ten to twelve years, or whatever, and i could never have kicked that habit without just leaving the country, which i did. over in korea, where i was working, i had no idea about the cultural implications of getting into illegal drugs, so i simply stayed away from them, but upon my return, i was in a trap as long as everyone knew me and knew my inclinations. finally i just shook it though. i just consistently never brought it up, and at the one point where i was forced to admit it, that yes, i smoked and had, for years, well, i just admitted it when i had to. it was so ridiculous, these people being put in jail, in some cases for years, just for getting high. it was a kind of made-up war on the hippies and the african-american community, to put everyone in jail, indefinitely, as torture, for simply being different. and in general, i stand by the claim that it's less harmful than alcohol. but that's because i know that alcohol is very harmful, whereas the green stuff is smoking in your lungs, but not really destroying them. it seems to be something the human lung system can adapt to. then again, i've been free of it now for about forty years. easy to say, huh?

in a sense, my heart is still in it, especially if i can ease my wife's pain a little, or do something that makes the world a little milder, gentler. i couldn't, in my right mind, go into business selling alcohol. in this case, i wouldn't even be selling anything, so much as using it for our own, or her own, consumption. one needs a lot of sunlight - but we have it. one needs fertile soil - well, ours is rocky, but there is a lot of cow poop all over the place. and finally, one needs to keep it out of one's cars, etc., as there are checkpoints all over the place, and it's still illegal. but we wouldn't be selling it, or even carrying it. we'd be transmitting that intense new mexico sunlight by photosynthesis, to something much more pleasant.

just a pipe dream, at this point, much like many other pipe dreams i've had. i tend to just sit on the ones that take too much preparation or take a strong motivational bump to get started. in this case i'd sit on it a while longer, just wondering what kind of permission would be necessary just to set it up. but the fact is, i'm out at the end of the road. i'm in a community where people like living away from civilization, where they tend to leave each other alone, and tend to honor the fact that we are in effect stewards of a wide swath of national forest that, day in and day out, are virtually untouched. i wouldn't be going out there; i wouldn't have to. i think people do care what kind of things are growing out in the national forest, even if they aren't there checking every day, or holding us neighbors accountable for our part of it. there are old stories about the helicopters finding the patches of wild hemp that still grew all over the midwest, and hassling the farmers who by and large had simply let it grow because they were too busy to pull it out. the hemp had been useful during the war and they even encouraged farmers to grow it, hoping that it could be used for rope or for a wide variety of things that it's good for. one of the primary ones is simply relieving anxiety, and since we have an abundance of that, maybe it could be time to start looking into ways to alleviate it.

Friday, January 10, 2020

i was slightly traumatized by the weather: a slight rain/snow combination turned into about two inches here, and six in town, which is 1600 feet higher; it fell so fast and so slippery that some of the steep hills were solid ice. one problem on these mountain roads is that though you can turn into the mountain, if you go the other way, and have no brakes, you go straight off a cliff. the trees might catch you down there, but it won't be pretty as you go tumbling, with your car, down the mountain. and on the ice, you have no brakes. that's the problem. the car is sliding around, and you have no control.

we have learned to put it in first gear, and not use brakes. let the car turn its wheels straight down the mountain, never going more than about ten, and get whatever traction first gear allows you, and at that speed, with your wheels always turning, you actually do have a little more control. and you can hug the mountainside if you want, so you don't go over the edge.

so i'm coming down the mountain in this rapidly falling snow, and i had all the kids going to school, all four of them. they got a show. we slid a little. it was before they plowed. but we made it to school on time. i had to decide, then, whether to come back. a sheriff told me that they were plowing out here, so it would be easier coming back. and it was. less snow, more pavement, easier to see.

we had another trip, in the afternoon, to go get the kids from school. most of the school seems remarkably unconscious of the trouble we go through just to get them there and get them home. one boy has a birthday party; one girl wants us to hang around town for a while. hang around town? town had six or seven inches; ice in all the driveways; dark was coming, no, we just wanted to get home.

when we get home, it's a slightly more predictable world. there is less snow than in town, maybe only an inch or two. as long as there's power, we have our amenities and our usual spotty internet. deer are everywhere. someone said they come to the private lands during hunting season. i guess they know private land from the forest, and go where they've learned to go, in order to survive. those hunters, i'm not sure what they'll get this year, sitting out there in their trucks, blizzard after blizzard, waiting to pop some deer. i'm not sure exactly how this works. but if i was a hunter, i'd be grateful to be able to sit somewhere, still, warm enough hopefully, and not have to get out on the icy roads. the icy roads have set my wife back a little, made her wonder if we really want to spend our sunset years out on the icy cliffs. it would be a bad way to find out that your primary senses were beginning to fail.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

i have taught several iranian students in my time, though i missed the time when, apparently, american schools had large numbers of them, and they were at war with each other. shortly after that, after the hostage crisis of the late seventies, they disappeared altogether, and that was when i went into teaching. but toward the end of my career, i had a few iranians. i liked them; they were nice people. i have no quarrel with iranians whatsoever.

what galls me about this unending series of wars is that they have stopped giving us any reasons altogether. we are still occupying afghanistan, but why? boys are dying, but why? it causes us billions a day, but why? and it's all done in my name. that's what galls me the most. if it was just a bunch of people going out to pick a fight, i'd say, go ahead, i don't have to get worked up about this. sometimes i've met people who pick fights for the pure joy of picking a fight, and winning, they hope, but what i've noticed is that nobody wins, ever. so i tend not to do this and if i had any power at all that's what i'd tell people: it's not good to do this, and it doesn't help anyone. but nobody's listening to me.

my friends the quakers have started an anti-war campaign. this is what they do the best. but in a sense i don't jump on that bandwagon either. it's almost like, you're opposed to every war, right? (yes) so of course you're opposed to this one. (yes) and yet i totally agree with them. i'm opposed to them all; i'm opposed to this one. in my lifetime there hasn't been a good war, or even a justifiable one. so the sum total of it is that i'm kind of numb. i'm aware that people will die. it may be some of my friends' children. i'm aware that it will sink this country further into the mire that it's dug for itself. but there really is no way out. being anti-war is something, yes, let them know we're opposed. of course we're opposed. but i'm also getting a little impatient. if people are dying, you should give us a reason. you should explain to us why this would be good for us. you should have an outcome in mind where things end up better than they are now, so that we can summon up some hope, or some reason that we can tell our kids, on their way out the door.

we in the west are all numb. we very rarely live with the consequences of the killing. we sit here, and nobody is dying around us, and we keep eating good food and we even have plenty of gas and oil. after a while i begin to think the news is the problem. i should stop watching the news. if they don't have anything good to say, or if it shows things that upset me or keep me up at night, i should just turn my back on the whole mess.

it's only a matter of time before some of these countries that we've alienated turn against us. what have we done for them? nothing. you look at a simple balance sheet and the usa is over here saying, it's all for us, it's us first, we get to kill whoever we want, we don't have to be nice to anyone.

and yes, that's the kind of world we live in. our beautiful peace is not going to last forever.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

unexpectedly, wham, a lot of snow. what seemed like just a little sprinkle turned into real snow, and even out here, twenty miles on the warmer drier side of cloudcroft, it's still snowing hard. it's probably at an inch and may go up to about three.

the problem is that they are closing the hill, and my wife is on the wrong side of it. she was going to get pizzas in alamo on her way up, and probably stopped in alamo, i don't know, but in the meantime i'm sitting here by the computer watching as warnings come in and they close the road on the hill.

the hill is steep - one of the steepest roads in the us - and has steep dropoffs on the sides of it, so, if things get bad, one can go right off the side. the same is true of our little mountain. ideally in weather like this we don't go anywhere. we just cancel out of everything and sit home until the plows have a chance to make a difference.

it's not really a question of whether the household can run without her. we have food, and i can cook, and we'll probably be ok. but she walks with crutches, and is a little unused to weather like this. i picture her on the side of the road, having gone off, unable to get out of the car easily.

it's distracted me to the point where i can't really get much writing done. i've been doing mcdonald's short stories, and other ones, and doing pretty well on them, but now i'm pretty much stuck. i have several other projects i turn to when i have writer's block, but in this case, i'm not even turning to them. when i'm truly stuck i play online boggle and scroll facebook endlessly.

now i could put this one-to-three inch white new year on display on my facebook, but most of my friends wouldn't even be impressed - they've seen much worse, especially in illinois, kansas, colorado, etc. it's not that much. i seem to be paralyzed, over-worried, hanging by my phone, and nervous - but most people around here have seen much worse, and they already have four wheel drive.

she's in the subaru, fortunately. she has the garmin (it's an emergency satellite-operated phone) - we're in the garmin district. and finally, she's pretty clever, about when to stay off roads altogether. she might. it might be better than being the first one up a steep icy hill.