Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Recent writing

Saturday, March 21, 2015

over the mountain

set off on thursday to go "over the mountain," which is a six-and-a-half hour trip west, up about six thousand feet, way down into the tularosa valley, and over to my parents' place, where they are getting steadily older but enjoying the warm, sunny new mexico spring. i took my son with me, so i followed his schedule, and ate where he wanted, indulging him and letting him watch ninja-turtle movies most of the way. i watched license plates on the way, and saw thirty-three altogether, including every state west of the mississippi except arkansas and hawaii, and chihuahua and a couple of government ones along with them.

setting out from our town, which is wide and flat, but had a beautiful, gentle fog at the sunrise, we went over texas farm fields, and many of them still had a fog on them as we shot by. I especially remember some old cotton hanging on some vines, but the cotton in the foreground, and the fog in the background, that was a sight. through most of texas the speed limit is like seventy or seventy five, easy for me to stay under, but i have to watch it in the towns, because those guys have nothing to do but pull over someone they don't recognize, and give them a stiff reminder to follow the signs. i'm trying hard to be a good boy, even when people are flying by me in both directions.

we go through the town of brownfield, and then plains, which is virtually on the new mexico border, and then lovington new mexico, a classic ranching town, though it's kind of turning into an oil town. after lovington is a vast stretch of oilfields, down off the caprock, and then we come to artesia, a small town on the other side of the pecos river which it took me several trips to find. to put bluntly, the pecos is a little stream that, at this point anyway, isn't much. at the moment it actually has water and i'm glad to see that; any time a river has water around here, that's a good sign. when we cross the river and get to the town, there's an i-hop there, and we stop for waffles.

now i judge a small town by how they treat total strangers, especially when they're different races, but around this town it's not so bad, except the one time we stopped at the pizza hut and they never actually served us, twenty or thirty minutes later we'd left, and they still hadn't come around giving us a menu. but that was actually more a product of the fact that it was the town's biggest football game, the whole place was total chaos, nobody was being served, and the bathroom was a complete hurricane. so i always get the feeling these things are racial, but often they aren't, and in the case of the i-hop, everyone was nice and they served us right away. we liked it.

we continue on over the high dry country, where you can see hundreds of miles, and very little grows on account of the hot dry wind coming down off the mountain all spring. way up high, in the nine-thousand feet mountains, it's wet again, with lots of clouds, and there's still snow on the ground. at this point i look for excuses to get out of the car and breathe in the mountain air. beyond those wet snowy peaks, the highway shoots down among the dry hills through the ancient caves and the one highway tunnel, and down in the tularosa, on the other side, you have the white sands and the wide hot valley. our friends have already left the white sands though, and there's no point in sledding down the white sands if there isn't other kids to join in the fun.

white sands is really where all the license plates are, and we got a lot of them, picking up lemonade and finding out a little about roadrunners. my son is suddenly interested in desert animals and plants; he even brought home a cactus. when my sister asked him how it was with grandma and grandpa, he said "they're awesome," but later when i related the story to them, they didn't quite get it. one has to get used to the use of "awesome" to describe people. they had to take my word for it that it was good.

on the way home, we stopped at white sands again, and then, high on the mountain, we went for a walk out to the old s-trestle ruins. there was no snow on them this time; it seemed like massive railroad ties all thrown in a huge pile out in the woods. we were high in the mountains; air was thin, snow was still on the ground, pines were everywhere. he was a trooper and walked a little farther than usual. the hike, for me, was a total breather, beautiful, the rest i needed.

he wasn't hungry for anything except i-hop, so we stopped there again on the way back. artesia was its usual self, a total all-around small town. the food was good, but it was the middle of the afternoon and the place was virtually empty. i watched the traffic at the main corner there, the road going south-north along the pecos, the oil-fields road cutting straight across eastern new mexico. know anything about artesia? my sister had asked. it's where the detention center is, that's where they're putting kids from central america who have found their way up here. total breakdown down that way; these kids have seen their families torn apart, and have nowhere to go, and it's not pretty. they keep them in a detention center but don't really know what to do with them. send them home? that wouldn't work, that's like murder. and besides, they're kids.

my own child was full, and fell asleep upon getting back in the car. he'd seen enough ninja turtle movies, there was little else to do, and the oil fields turned back into flat empty rangeland; he was worn out from the walking too. my hope is that, next time we go over the mountain, he'll still want to go.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

late at night i head straight west from my house and to the park, where i walk five times around, about three miles, at a reasonable pace. there are usually very few people out there, but because i do it late at night, there's an occasional car that is parked up against the park to get some privacy, and of course i walk up right by them and disrupt that. it's not intentional. it's a park, and i believe they should be allowed to do whatever they want and enjoy the wide open grasses just like i do. i saw the fox the other night; he cuts across the northwest corner, and stays away from people, and he's been gone for a while, haven't seen him in about a year. maybe it's the spring weather; it's already getting hot here, and it's not only warmed up, but also dried out, allowing a lot of weeds to bloom like crazy.

my band had its usual jam at the coffee shop last night; this was on saint patrick's day, but i never heard the word 'irish' spoken even once, and we just played right on through with our usual bluegrass. i actually sang my first song, and i was very nervous, but it came out all right, and when i messed up the rhythm they kind of caught up and adjusted, which was good. my plan is to sing more and more, and they have totally agreed to this, but it's taken all my nerve to even get started. finally also i got out an old music stand from my cello days, in the 1960's, and it's good, it makes me feel connected to every piece of music i've ever played. but to get back to the irish part, i was actually sorry about that, that there wasn't an irish song at least, or that i didn't have an irish band even. a lot of fun to be had, playing irish, but i was having a lot of fun with bluegrass, so it all worked out. we have a regular audience; they come for the bluegrass. a few other stragglers chance in and listen. my own sons come down and listen to a few songs, though one, the nine-year-old, prefers to hang around in the front of the coffee shop, pretending like he's being unattended, which, in a way, he is. he does come and check with me regularly; he even recorded a set of three songs which i now have to figure out how to get down off my phone. but in his heart, he wants to be out with the grownups, living the coffee-house life.

i'm somewhat mired in my writing these days; having gotten well over what i needed to have a 1000-poem book, i shut down and stopped writing poetry altogether; i compiled my quaker plays and began to write another, about conscientious objectors in world war two, but got held up again, this time because i'm about to go to new mexico, and then to toronto the following week. it occurred to me today, before i leave for new mexico, that i should just make sure to get some rest, before i do anything else. so that's what i'm doing. the warm sunny texas march beats down on an easygoing town (students are gone), and i'm having trouble getting out of my chair.

the story of the conscientious objectors is interesting, because of the times they lived in. i grew up hearing about the great war, and i don't remember anyone ever questioning it, or saying that the best response to it would be not fighting. they felt like the world was devolving into racial hatred and an enormous collective imperative to kill, and when we finally dropped the bomb, killing thousands, the nation was caught up in joyous celebration that they didn't share. their stubborn refusal to kill made them targets of everyone, but they stuck to their guns, so to speak, and that's what the story is about. it'll be the last of about a dozen plays, although i may keep on writing them. i am kind of scrambling for ways to stay quaker, besides lurking on quaker sites and occasionally commenting.

and, when i'm mired, as i am now, facebook takes up more and more of my time. you get online, and manually you control which friends you visit, what you read or watch or do, it's like a folk festival or a huge party. if for a single minute a person becomes boring to you, or god forbid says something you disagree with, you simply click away and go somewhere else. people post music; some of my friends keep me up on liberal or conservative articles dealing with politics or world events. i can have it if i want it. i can make my social life political, religious, new age, academic, or full of cartoon puns. it doesn't get much better, and it goes on forever, or could anyway.

but if i really want to sink and mire and give away time, nothing beats the bog, which i've always said, is one of the three best things about the internet (google, boggle, and blogger)...every night, thirty to sixty people in one place, coming up with words out of a square of twenty five letters. i'm usually lucky to get in the top half. join me sometime! I'm on late, generally.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

you have to pay attention to the door, and latch it on your way out, otherwise it hangs there loose and anything can happen, namely the dogs can shoot out after a dog walking down the street. that's exactly what happened; four girls came in after tape, some knew how to latch but the last one didn't, the door was hanging there, and the dogs shot out after a neighbor dog who was being walked by. that neighbor wasn't too happy about it and mumbled some kind of threat, but i don't remember exactly what it was. the kids, one boy and the four girls, shot out after the dogs, going down the street barefoot as the dogs enjoyed their sudden freedom on a beautiful sunday afternoon.

the problem is, the more you chase them, the farther they go, whereas if you stop and let them go around in circles, they start sniffing, and then you can catch them. but the little boy, head of the pack, decided he could catch them, and kept on going forward, around the corner, a couple of blocks to the schoolyard, past the schoolyard, up to the city park, and then back left into the neighborhood. the dogs were joyfully sticking right in front of him, refusing to be caught. the girls, all barefoot, yelled and called out and in general made it harder, but they were pretty soon out of the territory where they were comfortable; they didn't really know where they were. in fact, i was probably the only one who really knew where we were. i called out after the boy, trying to get him to stop, or at least slow down, so i could catch up to him, but he was very caught up in the chase, and he kept going a little farther, and farther yet.

so finally i was on this intersection back in the neighborhoods; one block to the west was the city park, one block to the east was a busy street. the dogs and the boy and one girl had crossed the busy street, and the kids actually caught the bigger dog, who is less serious about evasion. once the big dog is caught, the little one is easier, but that's mostly because they aren't chasing anymore, they have to stop just to hang on to the bigger one. but one of the girls at my side said she wouldn't go any further, because she didn't know where she was. she knew how to get home, but if she went any farther, she wouldn't. and it was her cousin that was with her, these two barefoot girls, and they wanted to go back. i could have told them to hold still, since i could see the end of the chase, but i'd lost my confidence in my own ability to contain the kids and their reaction to the dogs. so i let the two girls walk back on their own.

another block and a half, and we'd caught both dogs. the little one let me catch him right in the busy street. he growled at me, but finally he let me carry him all the way home. the kids got the big one home; it was only five short blocks, but we went right past the coffee shop and the local grocery, and halfway, who should we come upon but the two girls, who didn't go straight home as they'd said, but kind of got a little sidetracked. we had made a very contained five-block loop through a neighborhood center, where basically the schools (that buddy holly went to), the coffee shop, the grocery, the park, are all near each other. fortunately the roads here aren't truly that busy. the busy one that i caught the dog in is only two-lane, thirty mph, no real danger of being run over, i thought.

i had less confidence about the girls. i knew people would be behind us looking for us, but i didn't know i could let two young girls walk back, past the park, on their own. i didn't have my cell phone. i felt in a way like forcing them to stick with me was not quite right. i tried to get them to stick with me. but the two with the dogs were lost too. taking their word for it (that they could find their way home) may have been a mistake. but it all worked out, and now we're all working on keeping the door latched.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Monday, March 09, 2015

new story
enjoy! comments welcome as usual

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

when we got four inches on thursday night, they called off everything on friday - public school, university, bluegrass jam, everything. i thought maybe they were kind of wimps but when i went out i did see that virtually all roads were packed down snow turning to ice, and besides, it's really a matter of the collective skill of the people - if they're really bad, you don't want them out there. there's a whole range of skills required to drive when you have no brakes, and to get your car out of a ditch that's solid glazed ice. you don't get out by spinning your wheels.

so we stayed home much of yesterday and today, and i went out to clear the driveway and walk a little, and it started a fine drizzle freezing mist even as i did it. on my walk, three miles in this fine, glazed snowy fog, i had to be careful most of the way because so much of it was frozen. at one point this monster truck decided to come into the park and tear it up; he was driving around, doing donuts, making a racket, driving right over culverts, etc. i tried to call 911 but my phone wasn't cooperating so i just put it away and watched him. when i finally got over to where he got out of there, i noticed that he hadn't really done all that much damage; much of the park was so frozen that it was impossible to tear it up. and though he made a lot of noise and spun a lot, some places, he was on ice, so it didn't really matter. if he was tearing up mud, then it might be good to intervene.

throughout the neighborhood, all weekend, we could hear tires spinning. people truly don't know how to deal with it. one poor kid came to the dead end at the park there, a couple of nights ago, and, instead of just driving over the park as some people do, he actually did the right thing and tried to do a three-point turn to turn around and go back the way he came. that put his back tire in a frozen gutter, and spinning, he couldn't get out; and, he was alone. but i helped him push it out; i have experience in such things, and even though he had to push and drive at the same time, and even went over another curb before he was done, still we got him out and going. i felt like all my years in the snow belt were coming in handy. it's not that it takes so much pure strength to get a truck out of such a rut, but you have to have a sense of balance, rocking, to put the truck on the place where its wheels will catch. it's an interesting game and it makes me feel like an old master. how many ditches have i been in over the years?

the vast majority of us are just staying home, and the town is very quiet, peaceful, with the exception of tire spinning which you can hear here and there. the news seems to have shut down too; only the weather guys work in this kind of stuff, and even they pack it up early and go home. tonight, i think, we lose an hour, and if you're going to lose one, might as well be one of these, since they're kind of bleak. in the end, the kids get a little stir-crazy and can't cross town very easily to be with friends; they're stuck with each other, or maybe the ones across the road, who in our case, aren't so bad. as for me, i'm enjoying being only three icy blocks from the neighborhood store, though being sixty, if i'm carrying a gallon of milk i have to be careful, walking on solid ice. one person said they shut down the town just so we could experience it, because actually four inches is pretty rare, though they've seen such things here. we have a lot of students from houston and san antone, who really have no clue, and they'll probably be more set back by the cabin fever than anything else. but let them try and get out and drive in it, and they'll see; it gets more glazed as time goes by, as the sun comes out and melts part of it but it refreezes slicker than it even was. it's a curveball from the weather people; the groundhog has spoken. s'posed to be warmer tomorrow.
new story:
See Some ID
not quite finished, but try it! comments welcome, as usual

Thursday, February 26, 2015

lately i've been walking like a fanatic; i go out every night and do three miles, even after i've walked a mile or two in the day. some days i don't drive at all, and this is good, because roads are icy, it's snowing and slick, and people by and large don't know how to handle it.

this is especially true for what's known as the marsha sharp, our one expressway, that cuts through town diagonally from the wealthy southwest part of town, right through the university and into downtown. the city is flat, but the marsha sharp was built through it, with its ramps coming up over it or dipping under the center of town. so navigating this freeway is about the only time a person encounters a hill in this city, and it's the only time anyone ever goes more than about forty-five. bad combination, for people who really don't know how to drive on ice.

and then, the city is on pins and needles, because one to three inches of snow is expected in the early morning, to make driving more treacherous in general. yes, i grew up in this stuff, i tell them, but i respect it, and stay off the roads whenever possible. and i consider myself lucky that i'm not spending my life on interstates where seventy or eighty is common if not expected. i said this was my view of dallas, but they said that dallas doesn't get the snow and ice and hard wind like we're getting out here in the plains. i was saying that i kind of respect a high-plains, hard-wind, snow and ice kind of place, i'm kind of enjoying it here.

and i walk every night, no matter what. sometimes the hard wind hits my face or a drizzle freezes in my beard, but the glaze on the grass and the pretty wide open field, with the fresh air, i live for that stuff. it doesn't strike me as too cold; it's rarely even below twenty. the ice can make it a little treacherous, but this is how i like to live dangerously. it's as close as one can get to ice skating.

so the marsha sharp had a fifteen-car pileup the last time it snowed, about five days ago. eighty-two accidents around the city, but the fifteen-car one was the worst in terms of pure number, and i reminded everyone to stay off the darn thing, you can get wherever you're going on the surface streets, and it never takes more than fifteen or twenty minutes anyway. out of fifteen cars, only two or three probably were clueless; the rest were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. but i heard about it when i happened to be in the post office; word got around quickly. it's times like that that i feel this is actually a pretty small city, and everyone knows everybody, pretty much. so you get into one with fourteen cars, chances are pretty good you know the people in at least one of them.

fodder for another story, i suppose, but i've gone dry, and i'm not writing much, being too preoccupied. time to turn that around, i think. more later...chou

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

new story:
Foul Strike
enjoy! comments welcome as usual!