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Lenten thoughts while listening to a pleading cat March 9, 2014

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We have four cats in our humble home, as disparate a crew of felines as one can imagine: one shelter kitty picked out at a pet store to replace another who’d passed on, one adopted from a friend at work about a year later because he was just too cute for words, and two passed down from my late father-in-law after his wife became injured and could no longer care for them and him too.

You can see them right here if you want. They’re all young cats, they haven’t changed in appearance or personalities much, except the first one–Junebug–has picked up a fierce case of feline asthma. We squirt prednasone–think that’s how you spell it–down her throat every night so she can at least eat and breathe without passing out. But she still gags, and she’s learned how to strategically time the gagging to get us to pay attention to her. She also gets cut-up turkey slices just before her medicine. She seems willing to endure the medicine for the turkey slices.

OK, then–what hath that to do with Lent, my brothers and sisters? Well, I guess it touches on the right attitude to have towards suffering and reward, though in my kitty’s case she’s gotten it backwards. The reward comes first, then the punishment. Paraphrasing Fulton Sheen,  “Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life: the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast; the other of Satan, which starts with the turkey and ends with the icky stuff shot down your throat.” Meaning to her, we’re Satan?  Wow, this is going to be a long Lent.

Seriously, though, the traditional way of looking at Lent–some in my chosen faith, Catholicism, would argue of looking at life–is as a time of suffering. A chosen purification from what is not necessary, to prepare for the gift of the Ultimate Necessity. I’m not here to argue pro or con on that. I’m just thinking about it because of what a visiting priest said at Mass during the homily today–that as the forty days in the desert of Jesus were His honeymoon with God, so we should think of Lent as the same between God and us.

Yes. Honeymoon. The very word he used. He took some time at the start to talk about the word as we’ve come to perceive it, tying in its similarities, generally calling it the period in which we “rejoice in each other’s mystery, learning in that mystery to reject the temptation of any thing or any one lesser.”

I suppose that’s fair. I’m not theologian enough to say, or say not. You can certainly think for yourself on that one, I’m sure.

But the bad boy in me couldn’t help but imagine some poor doof on one knee, ring with rock in hand, saying to his desired, “My love, will you reveal your mysteries to me, that we may suffer together for the rest of our lives?”

Hardly the kind of question to get an “Oh, YES! With all my heart!” kind of answer, huh?

Yet think about it:  Isn’t that exactly what marriage is?

And is that not a good thing?  If it weren’t, why stay together, why bear or adopt children, why raise children, why watch them marry and do the same, why do it if we know we’re both, we’re all, going to suffer?

Because “after the fast, there is the feast,” no?

Because after the blowup, there is the makeup; after the misunderstanding, better understanding; after the punishment, the pride, after the raising hell, the raising up.

Because we are not perfect and if we’re wise enough to learn from them our mistakes make us better, not worse, as individuals and as couples and as people.

And with that Junebug is crying and gagging for her medicine. Who am I to deny a fellow penitent? ‘Til next time, friends.

“A mighty fierce mess of gum clobberin'” March 1, 2014

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Sorry I didn’t drop an entry on you last week–was too busy with revising my first book. Not editing it, revising it. I won’t go into it here, but expect to find out about it soon on the “Sheer Arrogance” page. It’s one of those discussions that should be straightforward and simple but turns into a Catholic vs. Protestant allegory mighty fast.

I don’t want to write about that. I’d rather write about old time radio this weekend. Specifically this wonderfully revealing episode of Gunsmoke.

Because there’s only one way to deal with the killers and the spoilers in Dodge City and parts west, kids. 😉

In the case of the radio show, that was William Conrad as Matt Dillon. James Arness played the legendary fictional U.S. Marshall on TV for twenty years, so he’s usually the one associated with the legend. But the legendary performance comes from Conrad, not Arness. Arness scratches the surface of Matt Dillon’s soul. Conrad takes you all the way inside to the elemental man. The radio Gunsmoke gives you all his greys, in no small part due to the performance of Conrad. He wanted to be the TV Dillon too, but the brass at CBS thought he was too fat to be believable as a frontier law enforcer.  He got weak revenge years later as Cannon. 

The TV version scrulpulously avoids defining Matt’s relationship with Kitty. The early radio episodes do not, especially the one above.  Radio Kitty doesn’t own the Longbranch, she’s a barmaid and saloon girl at the “Texas Trail” and is one edgy woman, especially for staid 1950’s audiences.  The show doesn’t come right out and call her a whore, but it makes sure you know it.  It’s also strongly hinted in the earliest episodes that if Matt isn’t one of her regular customers, she’d sure like him to become one.

To his credit, he’s too much a gentleman to give her that kind of patronage. But he does have feelings for her, as this episode plainly shows. And as this episode also plainly shows, those feelings are forbidden between a barmaid and a Marshall–even in 1870’s rough-and-tumble Dodge. Chester Proudfoot–there never was a Festus Hagen on the radio show–majestically calls it “a mighty fierce mess of gum clobberin’.”  It comes to a head at the town social when three drifters take advantage of the general disapproval of Kitty as Matt’s date, to be assholes to the Marshall with impunity. I do not use that term lightly. It takes fantastic acting to project pure assholism by voice alone. The episode is worth listening to just for that, if you prefer your entertainment coarse.

Now, if you prefer your entertainment as a kind of cultural anthropology, as I tend to do, there’s plenty in this episode for you as well.  You’ll get from it how far we’ve come from the 50’s and 60’s morality the shows of the time oversimplified to fit in a thirty to sixty minute window. The morality that seemed to encourage our sticking our noses in everyone else’s business instead of minding our own.

Lent’s coming on fast .  One thing on which Christians should agree, in my opinion, is to use it worrying less about how other people live their lives, and more  about how we’re living our own. 

After all, Christ Himself did say to remove the planks in our eyes before the specks in others’ eyes, no? How big is a plank? How big is a speck?  Are our priorities straight?

Or are we just running around clobbering our gums?

SPEED BLOGGING!! February 15, 2014

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Sorry, I just had an overwhelming need to get your attention… 😉 I’m writing this entry under deadline this morning. The grandson and his parents are on their way up to celebrate Valentine’s Day belated, Dad’s birthday right on schedule, and in Bryce’s case just the pure unbridled joy of life only a fourteen-and-a-half-month-old can experience.

So, before I get too distracted by that, I want to let you know of some new Sheer Arrogance posted on the blog today, called “Something all writers SO need to do.”  In which Your Humble Blogger gives a most valuable writing tip and pays tribute to his first fair crush in honor of Valentine’s Day at the same time. Pretty darn versatile for a old guy, no?  Hey, I even cook up a new word in this one. Enjoy.

Now, back to the grandson report: Young Bryce has been walking for three months now and can go most anywhere he sets his mind to. Grandma has rid the house of ninety percent of cat hair just for him. Once he and his family arrive, we will set out for lunch and partake of some of the finest chain-store buffet Olathe has to offer at Golden Corral.

All I’ve got for now. Maybe a little more to come tomorrow, once my brain recuperates from the gluttony to come.  If you’re looking for something a little more meaty, my entry from last week could stand a few more hits. Until then, be blessed!

Curvier than a Charlotte Street February 8, 2014

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Like that title? I need to sneak it into a book somehow, quick, before one of you sharp-eyed writers reading this who happens to be ethically vague up and steals it. 😉  Has kind of a nice “noir” tinge to it. What he was thinking about his latest ‘client’ just before the blackjack fell on the back of  his head. The fog of love and war.

If you’ve been to Charlotte you get it. Apparently they’re not much for straight lines between points A and B.  One of the reasons my old roommate from college was looking forward to seeing me was to get a recommendation on a GPS. He’s lived there, oh, only about ten years or so. Apparently he’s putting down roots. He’s not alone.  God bless the Onion.

Charlotte is a big town, with a big airport, big enough an airport to make for a very small world. I was going through one of its several efficient security checkpoints on my way back to Kansas City.  The young lady behind me struck up conversation over something my now-50-year-old head can’t remember. I do remember her commenting about not having much time to transfer planes at some far-flung exotic location–I think–and I think I commented about her employer needing to consider an airline with more direct flights.  I know she said that would have been asking too much, being this was not a current employer, but a potential future employer that she didn’t feel right about demanding things such as better flight plans from just yet.

“Who  are you interviewing with?” I asked.

“Butler University in Indianapolis,” she said. “I’m going for a teaching position there.”

“Really!” I said, letting her know a good friend of mine went there in the eighties and that it was a beautiful campus with some very good people and I was sure she’d enjoy it. I then wished her luck because the security line needed to move on. Did I mention Charlotte’s big airport is also Charlotte’s crowded airport? That Monday especially, it was swimming with people–every terminal, all five of them. I know this because I had time to walk them all.  Most crowded airport I’ve seen  in my life. That includes a three-hour layover at Hartsfield Atlanta, folks.

But getting back on subject–yes, this entry has one–I spoke no further with the young lady on her way to my old stomping grounds of Indy, not to be rude, but because the security line needed to move on, and apparently that required her to strip.

I do not mean to imply in any way that she was somehow indecent. Far from it. I’m simply saying that the top she wore under her sweater was not worn in anticipation of having to take off her sweater to go through airport security. As such, it forced me to cage my eyes towards my own materials needing to go through and come out the x-ray machine lest I feel like an old voyeur. Having to remove her heeled shoes in the crowd while wearing a skirt–a modest skirt of reasonable length–was also proving awkward for her.

We live in very sensitive times, folks. I’m no stranger to misunderstood intentions. Once, what I thought was a perfectly innocent comment to a young woman at work made its way to my manager, then to HR.  I meant absolutely no harm. But, to  her, what I said apparently translated into “older guy being very creepy,” and I was told in no uncertain terms to stay away from her. Which, as much as practical, I did. Willingly. Hell, gladly. Who needs someone thinking that about you?  It stung, I’ll admit, but the best learning often does.

So when it came to this young, educated lady, in the name of fighting terrorism in the skies, having to sacrifice her dignity in front of a man maybe twice her age, I did everything I could not to further her embarrassment. Including disappear into the crowd, discretely as possible, once my shoes and jacket were back on.

And I guess, for a moment, I understood why the other young woman from a few years earlier was so creeped out over what I thought was a completely innocent comment. Who knows how many times she’d had to sacrifice her dignity over the years, too? Maybe in front of a creepy old man in a position of authority who just watched the show and smiled–and then said something similar to what I did, maybe thinking it was funny?

Yes–we live in very sensitive times, thanks to some very insensitive behavior. Some claim we’ve become oversensitive.  Often that’s an excellent criticism.  Some stuff that should be out of our collective psyche in no more than five minutes lingers for days any more. Blame whoever you want for it–Twitter, 24-hour news channels, YouTube–but it is silly, and it does expose what a trivial people we can be.

But saying we need as a culture, top down, to respect a woman’s right to dignity and modesty, is not oversensitive. Especially when it comes to something so simple as the act of just getting on a plane to go to a job interview.

________________________

One nice thing about going somewhere else for a few days, it charges the grey cells good. Since getting back I’ve been able to work on my rewrite of  The Rain Song to the point its basic reconstruction is finished.  Now the fun part: Going back through the reconstruction and patching all the holes I’ll find.

It’s been too long since I’ve put anything in the “Sheer Arrogance” section. Should have some goodies for you there soon, based on this experience.

Subterranean Homestuck Blues January 29, 2014

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Our son, the basement dweller, has to work at six a.m.–restaurant work–five a.m. he has an alarm clock app going off on his cell, nice and loud, flashes right in his face nice and bright, two of our four cats join in song because they love his company, half a barbershop, bass and tenor.

We can, and often do, have laundry going in the background. Laundry room’s right next to his in the basement. I can hear the dryer from here, upstairs, in our “office.” Nice and loud. Stuff with zippers, spinning rhythm, bang, bang, BANG.

Beep, flash, bang, rWAaaaaaRRRRRRRR, rinse, lather, repeat–and STILL he needs his mother or me, who’ve been up since four, to come down and make sure he’s up.

Once upon a time, I could sleep that deep.  I guess. I don’t remember.  There’s all kinds of science guessing why, but that’s not what this is about.

I’m not sure what this one is about, really. Just something to write so too much time doesn’t pass between entries, I guess.  I’m flying head on into the soft blue belly of the Supermoon January 30 to see a friend in Charlotte. Have a credit with Southwest I need to burn up due to the fishing trip I didn’t get to make last year.

To believe the media, you’d think that would make me one of the one percent.  “You heartless cad,” they would say, “your son at nearly twenty-two still lives in your basement, unable to support himself on restaurant work, still in junior college after four years, a walking indictment of the economic imbalance of society, and you still go on fishing trips?  Here, take this fiddle and play it while America burns, self-absorbed baby-boomer hog-all-the-money son of a bitch!”

Uh, no. Fact is, with the exception I was able to complete a four-year degree in three years, I was in pretty much his same boat in ’82 through the summer of ’85. Ye of old memories might remember our media making much the same noise then that they are now, mostly because some well-placed people didn’t like what Ronald Reagan was trying to do very much. My generation was doomed to failure, too, because someone else was hogging all the money, because the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer, because the income disparity between old and young was great and unfair and in danger of becoming oh-so-insurmountable.

Thirty years later, for the most part, we came out okay.  I suspect our “millennial” children will do the same. Their current beliefs may make us cock our eyes, but they’re far from stupid, and once they get some life experience under their belts, they should come around.

Hopefully by then the forces in politics who profit from the poverty of others won’t have brainwashed them into thinking coming around somehow makes them evil.

As for the media who parrot the viewpoint of those forces: Be concerned, and teach your children the truth; but don’t worry too much about it. There’s plenty of evidence to show how wrong they can be. Remember the Bell System?  If you’re my age or older, you remember when the courts broke it up, remember what a disaster that was?  Remember how incredibly expensive and confusing competition in phone communication was going to make things? Remember how it was going to hamstring technology by creating multiple incompatible platforms? Remember how it was just going to kill rural areas which supposedly couldn’t have telephone service any other way than through the grace and beneficence of AT&T?

Wow, they were really prophetic on THAT one, huh? 😉

We live in interesting times, for sure, but interesting times provoke clever solutions. As long as we don’t forget why we need them, we’ll be okay.

______________________

I had a good 50th birthday, thanks for asking. Don’t think I’m being too self-absorbed an old one-percenter (even though I make well south of six figures, but never mind) to tell you this story:  To celebrate my birthday, we went down to see my daughter and son-in-law and of course the grandson, and on the way down, seeing the visit was somewhat last minute, my good wife insisted we stop and get me a cake.

I really didn’t want to do that, and said so, figuring seeing the daughter and son-in-law and grandson was present enough.  She insisted.  One does not deny my wife when she insists.

So we stopped in Fort Scott at the Woods grocery store and looked for a cake. They didn’t have a lot of choice in the bakery section, but on a sale rack I noticed a half-price cake, single-layer, already frosted with the words “Happy Birthday” and balloons on board. I looked at its label. It said it was made January 13–five days earlier.

“Perfect,” I said outloud, “Old and stale, just like me; let’s get it!”

We did, and for old and stale it was still pretty darn good.

Just like me.

I hope. 🙂

Big round numbers colliding in kismet January 15, 2014

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I hate writing about myself. I envy anyone who can do it and not make himself look like a narcissistic ass. I certainly can’t.

Sometimes one has to recognize milestones reached, however, even at the risk of narcissistic assery; and this is one of those times. Two of them, actually. The first is my fiftieth birthday January 19. The second is my hundredth post on this blog–this one.

Fifty years.  One hundred posts. Big round numbers colliding in kismet.  Not often you see a fiftieth paired with a hundredth. Gotta mean something. So I’m going to go with the “personal enlightenment” angle.

When I was a kid I was one of those little dorks who read everything he could get his grubby hands on–cereal boxes, calendar trivia, newspaper clippings, even his mother’s  Reader’s Digests. One year I stumbled on something called “Ten Things I’ve Learned in a Half Century of Living.” I don’t remember who wrote it, and so far the Power of Google reveals nothing.

Coming up to my half-century-hundred-post kismet, I catch myself thinking that would be a good exercise–to come up with ten things I’ve managed to learn, then impart them to you, so you can read them and think “Holy Mother of Creation, what a narcissistic ass.”

So here are mine, written pretty much on the fly with not a whole lot of thought behind a one. Some of them are my own lame observations, others–in quotes–are ones which I think “yep, they got that right.” They’re in no special order.  The first is from that Reader’s Digest article I mentioned above:

1). “A beautiful woman is one who loves me.”  I love you too, Karen. God bless you. Enough said.

2). To kill a dream stone dead, demand it come true just the way you dream it. I could have been a talk radio host–something I’ve always wanted to do–twice.  The first time, I was offered the opportunity by the author of a self-help book I interviewed on the air a couple of times. He was impressed with my skills and said he “knew some people” in Colorado. I turned him down because at the time I barely had enough money to keep the heat on. The second time was my boss offering me my old job back at a station where I’d worked two years before. He’d heard me doing a part-time gig and called to make the offer. Thinking it was the same station I’d left and remembering why I left it, plus wanting to stay close to a major market, I turned him down. I didn’t realize he’d planned to flip it to talk. Had he said that, I may well have gone back, but he didn’t say, and I didn’t ask, did I? I just assumed the worst and acted accordingly.

Two opportunities that will never come again, opportunities that both came when I was responsible for no one else but me, and I let fear of the unknown steal them from me. That’s not how you win, kids. Carpe diem.  I can’t emphasize enough, if you are young and single, and someone offers you an ethical way to achieve your goal in life, TAKE IT.  No matter what.

3). Every decision you make, forever, hinges on one thing. Do you believe in God, or not? That’s it. That’s the question. How you answer it defines everything you think and everything you do. It is the most important question you will ever ask yourself, and only you can answer it. No one has the right to answer it for you. Ask it yourself, answer it yourself, and not just once; do so constantly, do so seriously. The other decisions you make will become much better if you do.

4). Navel gazing is the biggest waste of your time there is. If you really want to know who you are and why you’re here, make yourself available to other people and learn both fast. Easier for some than others, I know, but even introverted people need to do this. People are what reveal your strengths and weaknesses, your joys and sorrows, your skills and failings. You think you know them already? Then you’re delusional. Get out of your head and into the world.

5) “The years have a way of dulling a man.” That’s my favorite line from The Broken Blade, William Durbin’s story of a boy who comes of age with a group of late 18th-century fur traders canoeing the St. Lawrence River in Canada. Boys’ Life serialized an illustrated version of it around 1999 or so when my son was a Cub. Quite an educational tale in that–spoilers!–the “bully” of the group has good reason for being who he is and the “nice guy” who helps our hero learn the necessities of life on the river winds up killed by the river. But the truth of that one line is what stands out most to me. It helps me cope with what I can’t control.

6) “We must be careful about who we pretend to be.” Kurt Vonnegut, God rest his soul, whether he believed he had one or not.  I’m sorely tempted to just use everything in this list to finish mine. Stop and think how right he is with the one line above alone: How many people in your life, who like you and care about you, think you really are what you say you are? Damn near all of them, right? Because who has time living their own lives to pay so close attention to yours that they know the real you? They’d rather believe the illusion. It’s easier. It’s prettier. It’s safer. So you become who you claim to be–and that’s not always a good thing. Scroll down to #15 here to see what I mean.

7). Now is where we live. No quotes around that one, because that’s how I think of it and like to say it. I’ve blogged about it before so I’m not going to beat it to death: The past is done and said. The future is not guaranteed. Now is the only time we can do anything worth a damn.  So do it now.

8). “Start with the upper left-hand brick.” One of Robert M. Pirsig’s most oft-quoted lines from his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenancea book I like so much I’ve read it nine times. It’s something he said to a student in a freshman comp class who was having trouble with an assignment.  You’ll find oodles of stuff about what great advice this is for overcoming writer’s block, and it is, but that’s like choosing to chug a can of Coke when there’s a glass of champagne on the table. This is more than advice, this is how to live your life. This is real, substantial philosophy summed up in six words! Think it through, you’ll see it. It’s not hard.

9). “Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” Edgar Allan Poe, whose birth date I share.  To me, this means if one is to write at all in an age of attention-deficited instant everything, he should pick the clearest and simplest words to convey his meaning–something not so simple as it sounds. It certainly is not how Poe himself approached his writing, but Poe wrote in a very different time for a very different audience. Today, we must keep it simple for our reader because our reader has much more competition for his time and his mind. The trick is to do it without it being so simple that it inflicts blunt force trauma, and Poe remains a valuable teacher of how to avoid such.

On a personal level, Poe’s words remind me that all the eloquence in the world will not hide lack of personal experience.  “I know how you feel” is an insult if you really don’t. Better to just be there and let people feel  however they need to around you. In the long run it is much more rewarding and appreciated.

10). You don’t need this list. Everything on here, you either have already learned, or will already learn, by yourself. All you’ve gotta do is pay attention.

There you have it. My hundredth post, for my fiftieth birthday. Yay me. Here’s a song to celebrate.

Oh, just one more thing:  Dignity in age is a good thing, a blessed thing, a graceful thing, a sign to all that no matter the circumstance all of life is good and to be lived. Not just the first, for that turns the rest into drudgery.  Not just the middle, for that denies one both learning joy and sorrow in youth and appreciating such learning in age. Not just the last, because it may not be long enough to do all we need.  Live all of it, right now. Every moment. All of it.

Now can we please move on? 🙂

 

The great epiphany of our time (maybe)… January 12, 2014

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I’ve written about WalMart before, pretty darn recently in fact, and there’s nothing I can tell you about them as a store you don’t already know or haven’t heard, especially if you love or loathe Duck Dynasty.  Apparently one of the first things the Robertsons did when A&E gave them their first paycheck was buy 37% of WalMart.  You can’t escape them. Not in the clothing section. Not in the food section. Not in the nail care salon. Not in the Valentine’s Day cards!  In the blessed name of Esther Howland, WHO thought the Duck Dynasty dudes on Valentine’s Day cards was a good idea?

Until last Tuesday, there was nothing about people who shop at WalMart, me included, I could have told you that you didn’t already know. That has changed. My wife Karen and I have been enlightened, and I would be the most irresponsible of souls not to share it with you.

Last Tuesday, after getting our eyes checked, we went there to get glasses, naively thinking  we could get a good deal.  They’ve been advertising scratch-resistant, glare-resistant lenses quite a bit of late. We need these. Who doesn’t? And this was WalMart, the land of $9.00 frames, how could we go wrong?

Well, it seems, when one orders lenses at WalMart, one sees the concept of Good-Better-Best taken to a unique and heretofore uncharted territory, at least in my personal experience buying glasses:  how much you’re willing to pay for the privilege of peripheral vision.

I’m not kidding. For the lenses we wanted, we had three choices. The first choice, for the least money, was perfect center-focused vision, but “slight blurriness” looking either to the left or the right. The second, for more money, was the same perfect center-focused vision but “less blurriness” looking left or right. The third, for the most money, was “no blurriness” looking left or right–totally corrected peripheral vision, as far as the lenses would allow.

I cannot remember having a pair of glasses, at any price, where peripheral vision was an option until seeing this.  Yet at WalMart, it is. And not a cheap one, mind you.

But that’s not the epiphany I promised you.

This is.

For the first time ever, I understand why at every crowded WalMart I’ve had the displeasure of enduring, people practically bounce off each other so much.

It’s not the narrow aisles.

It’s not the stuff you need being placed so far apart, you have to rush through the store to make sure you don’t forget something.

It’s not the bandwidth of the average WalMart customer, a slice of Americana if ever was, being lower than anyone else. (Awful insulting, that common viewpoint, but that’s another entry.)

It’s because they have no peripheral vision!!  Because guess where they’re buying their glasses?!

Ponder that one until my next entry, ‘k?

See ya.

I hope. 😉

The perils of renovating your head January 5, 2014

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Here’s some theme music for this entry.  It’s been in the back of my mind all week, may as well put it at the front of yours.  It’s Dire Straits, at least you know it’s good:

Yes–alert the media, warn the children, spay and neuter the pets, I’m back.  Still working on projects–it takes time to make a quality Butterfield Fishing Show!– but I’ll make the effort to be a more frequent poster.

It takes time to rewrite a novel, too, another one of my projects that I mentioned near the end of last post, and I’m learning the hard way why most writers simply don’t do it.  It’s just like renovating your house, only you’re doing it to your head… and your head doesn’t like it. Not one bit. Not one little bit.  There’s a reason PBS doesn’t have a hit show called This Old Book. 

See, when you do any kind of home renovation, simple as painting or complex as remodeling, you run into… surprises.  Surprises varying from anything just needing to be covered up, to requiring you gut the entire room like a fish. You sigh, you cuss, you redo the budget, you deal.

Here’s the thing about your head–you can’t gut it like a fish.

Or more accurately, you shouldn’t. 

I’m going to scare you now:  A book represents a place where the author’s head was at the time it was written.  This is why you don’t see authors rewrite their older material very much.  If your head is no longer in that place, and you try to bring that book to the place it is now, the book will resist with everything it has. The book will fight your head.

This is the reason once an author is finished with a work, generally, he’s finished with it. My wife called the original work “writing for therapy.” Rewriting it may be writing for exorcism.

Kind of piques your sense of adventure, huh?   Stay tuned. When it’s finished, if Amazon and B&N will let me, it’ll be available for free on Kindle and Nook.  If you have the original version of The Rain Song, I encourage you wholeheartedly once it’s ready to read this version and compare and let me know if it’s better or worse.  Assuming they let me communicate with the outside from my room at the Big Red O… 😉 *

*… as in the state hospital in Osawatomie, Kansas. Google it. ‘Nuff said. 

 

Now, then! November 29, 2013

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Been a long time since my last post, for good reason–projects! Lots of them!–and it may be a long time ’til my next post for the same reason.  I’ll go into that later, right now just consider it’s good to keep busy with what we do best. If we don’t, the vapid among us happily will let us impoverish ourselves making them very, very rich (I’m talkin’ to YOU, makers of Candy Crack, er, Crush). It may be good thoughtless fun in short spurts, but it is no way to live.

On that note, my grandson has something to say to you:

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He says, “I sincerely hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving, full of family, good food and good cheer. Huzzah.”  Well, he would, if he were older than one.

Hard to believe the little man hits his first anniversary of existence next weekend. Hope Mom and Dad realize that now the fun really begins. This year was just basic programming. In the coming year, the code starts to compile. By the time he’s three his personality will be set and other than good old fashioned discipline there will be nothing on Earth they can do to change it.  Seriously. Scientific fact. Look it up!

So, for those of us whose code has been compiled for decades and have had to deal with both the grace and curse of our hopelessly set personalities, what are we to do? Well, here’s my little suggestion: Join Facebook.

You may have noticed the national media, in its ongoing effort never to see the forest for the trees, has had something to say about Facebook lately: The teenagers and twenty-somethings who built it, are now rejecting it! They deem it unworthy! They are moving on to other social media because they seek to escape their parents, not witness them confront their mortality; and therefore Facebook is doomed, doomed, DOOOOOOOOMED!

Not hardly. In fact, Facebook may have stumbled upon the thing that will ensure its existence forever.  A friend of mine from high school unwittingly tipped me off on it. She posted:

 I have absolutely no memories of some events in my life that should have been memorable. Like both proms, and graduating high school and college. 

I’ll confess here that my first reaction–considering some of my memories with her–was “oh, thank God.” 🙂 (Read nothing evil into that!) Then I got curious and pried a little, and she said:

The crazy thing. . .  is that I remember tons and tons of useless details from my childhood, but not a lot of the major events. I remember Randall the cat’s hiding place in [a neighbor’s] coat closet and what the crabapples tasted like off the tree in their front yard (I still taste crabapples when I run across them, but the [neighbor’s] tree grew the best ever). I remember where I sat in trig and physics and calculus and chemistry in high school. I even remember some particular zits I had over the years for goodness sake! But not one thing about prom or graduation other than what I see in pictures.

National media–if you are paying attention, here you have why Facebook’s audience is getting older, and why that’s a good thing for both its audience and Facebook, and if Facebook gets this and adjusts the service appropriately, it will exist forever.  Why those kids its supposedly losing will come back eventually, too.

It’s this: Memories stick. For better or worse, what we choose to remember, sticks; what we don’t choose to remember, does not.

Facebook performs the valuable public service of unsticking those chosen memories and letting us put them in the proper perspective.

I’m a bit different than my friend in that I remember what feels like a metric ton of the events of my childhood, including the people involved in them and how they treated me, what they were like when I knew them then, and inevitably if I linger on those memories they depress me because either I couldn’t live up to those people or they couldn’t live up to me, and there those memories and impressions would be stuck, forever–if not for Facebook giving me the opportunity to see who they are now, how they are now, and from that perspective where they were coming from then.

I am a “now” person. The past can’t be changed, the future is not guaranteed, the time where we must live is now.  Facebook helps tremendously with doing that.

Two other Facebook friends on my mind, from my high school class, to help make that point clearer: One about to turn 50, who says he dreads old age because nothing good ever comes from it; another already 50 and fighting the struggle of her life.

To the first friend, I would suggest this, something I’ve learned from my parents, in their mid-eighties and while not running marathons, still vital as ever: The one way to fight the aging process is to embrace it.

Start with simple acceptance: We’re finite beings. We enter the world to replace someone leaving it. We leave the world so someone can replace us. This is normal and healthy in all living things. Science and religion often conflict but here they agree, this is nature’s will for us, this is God’s will for us.

A funny thing happens when we accept that and live accordingly. We stress out less. As we stress out less, we get sick less. As we get sick less, we stop doing things to excess to forget for awhile that we’re sick.  We don’t “need” to drink as much, smoke as much, eat as much. Life naturally becomes more moderate, without losing the fun.  Our bodies recuperate easier from whatever sickness comes.  We may or may not live longer–again, the future is not guaranteed–but we live better, less painfully, less strained from existence.

This, I believe, is the philosophy of my second friend, fighting cancer right now. You would not know from her Facebook posts that she is in any pain, because as she fights for her life, she still lives.  She accepts that this is part of it and deals with it accordingly. She cannot lose, no matter the outcome. Her friends, me included, pray the outcome leaves her with us a great while longer; but whether the good Lord wills that for her or not, she will have run the race, fought the good fight.

Life’s great irony: Embrace your struggles, and you will suffer less from them.

______________________

OK, about those projects… My oldest brother sent me home from a trip to see him a few weeks back with some old VHS tapes containing our infamous Butterfield Fishing Shows from the early ’00’s. They’re now on my computer and getting edited down to suitable family viewing for future generations.  An artist friend of mine likes to preview his work on a private YouTube channel, I may look into that and see if once these are done I can share them with the world that way. WordPress has an option allowing direct-to-site video posting, but it’s expensive, at least for lil’ ol’ me.

I’m also working on a complete rewrite of my first self-pub novel, The Rain Song. Once finished, it will be available for free on Kindle under a different title, and the original book will go off the market. Why? Because after looking at the original book, I firmly believe it should never been have been “published.”  I’ll go into that some other time, right now, consider it a collector’s item you can purchase before it’s gone forever–if you can endure its weaknesses, there is a decent story inside of it. The updated Kindle version, I hope, will eliminate the weaknesses and show off its strengths.

Thanks for slogging through all this. 🙂  Blessed Holidays!

 

All I got in a paper bag October 28, 2013

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Not very much to say this week. The reason for the title is it sounds to me like something Lou Reed would write. You’ve heard by now he’s passed, of course.  Lots of tributes to him I’ll have to be careful not to steal subconsciously.

I’ve been a fan of Lou since the late 80’s. Back then I was playing deejay for KIUL in Garden City, Kansas. Our sister FM at the time, KWKR, was a Westwood One affiliate and on the weekend played a lot of their feature artists specials, one of which was all about Lou Reed. New York had just come out, they played “Dirty Boulevard” to close out the special. It kicked my young ass. I bought a copy of the album. Start to finish, it kicked my mind’s ass. Up to then all I knew of him was “Walk on the Wild Side,” his elegant dopey one-hit-wonder about life in Andy Warhol’s Factory.  I had no idea there was this much more to him.

For some reason all the tributes are giving his best work short shrift and I can’t understand why, especially considering the last months of his life he lived it: Magic and Loss. Released in 1992, it’s an elegy for two friends lost to cancer.  It also is the purest distillation of Lou Reed himself ever committed to an album. It aches, ponders, screams, soothes, rocks, shocks, and survives. If you let it, it can even bring you closer to God, though I’m sure that wasn’t Reed’s intent.  Here’s a taste.

He wanted all of it / All of it / Not some of it / But all of it.

A fitting epitaph. Godspeed, Lou Reed.