Wednesday, July 15, 2015

these days i spend a lot of time driving on indiana avenue, in order to take a kid to a tennis camp, and then go out and pick him up when he's done. i start out on 23rd street, and the camp is on 112th, but i have to go out to 114th, turn right and go a mile or so, and then come back a couple of blocks. these days that's about the edge of town, though the city is growing way beyond 114th; there's a low field right there, and it seems like you have some countryside south of 114th there before you get to the walmart they're building. right when i turn there are wildflowers, bright yellow, that are growing taller even than my van, a large splay of them that i keep meaning to take a picture of. but the fact is, i'm turning right right there, and kind of have to pay attention to the road.

a friend pointed to an article which spoke about the old problem of the quakers: their refusal to fight wars leaves them (us) taking advantage of freedoms won at the barrel of the gun - freedoms we ourselves refused to contribute to getting. yes, this is an old philosophical problem, and it is slightly more current in my mind these days, since we have two quaker bumper stickers on the van (WAR is not the answer, and, Quakers: religious witnesses for peace since 1660). Occasionally trucks cut me off close, or i hear them speeding up to get beyond me, and imagine these as slightly hostile, impatient actions. in fact i think texas is more of a barrel-of-your-gun kind of place than your average place, and people are quick to point out that by and large everything good has come by shooting and killing for it, or at least that's what they believe. Signs and stickers saying "Come and take it" are common: I take these to mean, I dare you, bring me your guns, you don't like my good life, I'll fight for it and we'll see. It's like the revolution, in which texas became its own country, was just yesterday, when in fact it was what, 1864? might as well have been yesterday. it's not far beneath the surface.

i was surprised when, by and large, the reaction to the sandy hook massacre was to make it possible to arm the kindergarten teachers. i wasn't eager to have loaded guns in my kids' kindergarten, but it pointed out to me a huge cultural difference - to some people, the gun is always under the pillow, that's the way life is, that's what you want if you want to be free.

it brings up some interesting questions. first - is it possible to gain freedoms entirely through non-violent action? one could mention eastern european countries, like georgia and belarus, though i don't know really if they got their freedoms that way, or if you could call what they have freedom. we have what we call freedom; we got it, presumably, in 1776, and have defended it in subsequent wars, though i'm not sure if what we are doing today in iraq, or what happened earlier in, say, vietnam, could rightly be called "defending our freedom." it might better be called "killing in the name of helping people who we believe will be helping this country toward more freedom." but i'm not even sure we could say that accurately.

almost nobody disputes the war against ISIS. the kind of brutality, violence, and pure evil is unmatched in modern times. they cut off people's heads and take slaves from people they consider to be "infidels," which could be almost anyone, and the rest of us in the west dither around and try to decide whether to make our boys die, or use our drones, or train people or what. the steadily increasing unpopularity of war has made it so it's difficult to just send the boys in and run the place over. we quakers would by and large say, do what you're going to do, but don't go about killing people as it doesn't work and it's immoral. does that mean this brutality would just go unchecked under a quaker government? well, yes, it has happened in the past, as it did in quaker pennsylvania of colonial times, or when a war passed through a quaker village. the fact is, if the command is not to kill, or rather, one knows that the only way to break a vicious cycle is to not be vicious, then there's only one way to proceed in the big picture: don't kill. the quaker way is to just consider the morality of the action itself and not be coerced into doing something immoral just by basically the way someone else is doing things. i'm not sure the quaker way goes over so well in these parts.

a lot of texans have become convinced that they're in a kind of alamo world by themselves: the rest of the world, with the possible exception of their confederate brethren, have succumbed to a wild, lawless kind of anything-goes, take-what-you-can-get anarchy, where the people who work are the losers, and everyone else is essentially a taker. thus, 'come-and-take-it' signs and bumper stickers are almost a last stand of brazen defiance; the place is overwhelmingly anti-obama, but also pro-gun, pro-war, pro-self-defense. they don't go for this quaker kind of idealism, like you can just be good and hope everyone else can be good around you. they won't. texans are quick to fight that way.

the sun is bright; the days are very hot. the soil is worthless, though these wildflowers are doing well with all the rain we've gotten. police are all over the roads, presumably pulling over people who are doing 55 in a 40, and letting go those who are at about 43 in a 40. a lot of people just fly by me period, whether they are aware of the over-patrolling of indiana avenue or not, who knows? let's just say that as long as there's money to be had, they're out there getting it, chasing down the business, going to the next spot. i myself am determined to follow the law, stop at the lights before they are absolutely red. don't give them any excuse to hate me, more than they've already got. and anyway, war is not the answer. if they cut me off, i'll just keep on driving down indiana. i'm not into that kind of middle-finger escalation that too often gets people killed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Monday, July 06, 2015

set out for oklahoma city on friday to celebrate the fourth with my daughter and granddaughter, who were coming down from kansas; oklahoma city was halfway, and everyone i talked to thought that was reasonable, to take two families with kids, and split the driving so that we would each do about five. people tend to put oklahoma down around here, but i've made up my mind to go into these things with an open mind. it's been almost forty years since i came through oklahoma city on foot, and back then, it was sprawling, sunny, not that great-looking, and i didn't even stop in the downtown. so i didn't know much about the place.

going both ways, it was midsummer in the high plains. the texas panhandle was most remarkable, since it took us an hour and a half to get up into the middle of it, then almost that long to turn right and go straight into oklahoma. it was flat and wide, and the sky was huge, and full of wild-looking clouds in every direction, with the sun beating down. you would look off into the horizon, and see maybe a herd of cattle on some flat ranchland off in the distance. but the ground was so flat that the cows would be in a single line out there, a small tight line of black, with a thin line of green and a huge sky above them. it was impressive.

up there in oke city, our hotel was right above a baseball stadium, and the game was scheduled for seven on the fourth of july. it rained a bit before the game, so it was slightly delayed, but they played the whole thing right down there below our window. oke city lost, unfortunately, to the omaha storm chasers, but it was fun to see all those people enjoying the game as the sun went down on the bricktown (downtown - fashionable) area of oke city. on our side of the stadium, the police had some activity, as they seemed to be running back behind the ihop to round up some guys who were misbehaving in some way. and this seemed to drag on for an hour or two, all during the end of the game, as we were kind of waiting around for the fireworks to start after the game.

and boy did they start. though the first hotel room faced south, toward the game, the other room faced east, toward some construction and an empty lot, and that's where they shot them off, going toward the hotel. a few specks seemed to hit the hotel window as they were going off, but the windows could handle it, and we were very impressed by the magnificent big-city-ness of the display in general. it was probably the best in the state, although somebody told me the casinos kind of go out of their way as well. the hard thing for us was that they started at about ten. there was a little past-their-bedtime behavior on the part of the kids.

back in texas, a ferocious storm is passing through, and we're laying low, with a store-boughten lasagna in the oven and everything getting dark. rain and hail were pounding us for a while, and the dogs watched us nervously for hints on how they should behave. fortunately, they don't panic in the storm, as long as we don't, and everything is ok for the moment. lubbock floods easily in this kind of weather, and it's best to just stay off the streets, no matter what happens. the place isn't really made for trees, so the trees tend to fall over, and the water just sits there, as they don't have such things as sewer or drainage; it's too rare. the floods are at some very major intersections which you learn after a while, but to tell the truth, i've been here a couple of years and i still don't know them all. so i leave the cars in the driveway and stay home, and give the rain a chance to drain away by itself.

these days, i'm always feeling like i have to recover from such things as a vacation. that's because i've been a single parent much of the time, and it's stressful even if we do nothing but stay at home. but i'm doing ok with the single-parent thing, and fortunately, it was ok to drive in 95-degree summer, flying across the plain, kids plugged into movies for the most part, and me just reveling in the sunny wide green plains. it's quite a wide place, impressive. nobody else holds it in such high regard, as it tends to grind on you in the long haul, but it really is a huge and open kind of place. and the culture is quite unique too, i might add. more about that later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

set out for new mexico on a camping trip, well, camping and visiting parents/grandparents/sister/aunt, with the two boys last weekend, on the first weekend after school when it was possible. it was a long-standing promise to take them camping the minute school was out, but here we'd waited almost three weeks, after being rained out one weekend and my wife being gone for a spell that included the next two weekends. they were totally dying to go, so to speak.

but the trip involves a very long, maybe four-hour, trip up a very dry hill, to what i call the mountain, a 9000-foot town of cloudcroft, very wet and nice-smelling, and then straight down the other side of the mountain into a valley that makes ours look like a lush green fertile crescent. this valley, the tularosa, has white sands in it, but then we shoot up the organs and come down into las cruces, once more, a place that makes any rain look like a flood. when we got there, everyone was talking about how it had rained hard there, what, maybe a few days ago. they were still recovering from it. it was like, rain in late june, that's unheard of. i said, back in texas, it rained so much in the month of may, they just about called off the drought, said it was no longer such a problem. but back in texas, we have mechanisms to deal with the rain, for example like gutters, or low places called playas, that collect the rain until the sun comes along and gets rid of it.

right there on the road outside of cloudcroft, we saw what looked like snow, on the side of the road, and this was in fact pretty close to the solstice, the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. at the gas station they said it was actually hail, but yes it's true, it's icy and it looks like snow on the side of the road there. of course, cloudcroft is at 9000. they get a little of that every once in a while, and they don't care if it's late june. it's just life in the high mountains.

so we hung around and visited grandma and grandpa for a while, and my sister, and in the morning we shot right back up into the mountain and pitched our tent and kicked back for some hanging around in the high mountains. now unfortunately, the boys didn't quite know what to do: one thought the place would be packed with his friends, and the other had trouble with the altitude and just didn't feel that hot, but come evening we had smores and a fire, and there were a million stars, and i was happy, because i could wake up on father's day, way out there on the mountain. and i did.

the license-plate watching was fairly typical, except that i saw a hawaii, this time shooting the other way when i was out there in oil country somewhere. it might have been the same one i saw a year or two ago, how many could there be? but in general, you don't see a whole lot of new england ones out there in the oil fields, and most people besides the locals wouldn't choose those particular two-lanes, unless they happened to know just how gorgeous that one little patch of high sacramento forest is. it's a pretty well-kept secret, and that's because it's so totally surrounded by the dry stuff. so i saw mostly TX and NM, but before it was over i saw all the regional ones, AZ, CA, CO, OK, LA, UT and even chihuahua mexico. there was some other mexico one at one point but i really couldn't get close enough to see it without being a hazard - i was on mountain cliffs at the time - so i let it go. what can you do? you can't run your family off a cliff just because you're trying to read some exotic license plate. but i could have sworn some pretty interesting stuff drove by while i was unable to actually read it, and i might have had a more comprehensive list if i could have actually got out of the car at some point and read them.

so the boys were a little bored way up there, sitting around in the beautiful air, and my own reaction was, when they said, what can we DO? i felt like saying, you don't have to DO anything, just sit there and BE way up here, and feel what it's like to BE in such a beautiful place. but when i went to collect firewood, they didn't want to help, they were too tired, or too lazy. i indulged them, but then i kicked myself for it, because here they are complaining about nothing to DO. you got nothing to do? get up and make sure you can BE here just a little longer. i collected it all myself. and i had a grand old time, making a nice crackling fire, having smores and coffee, and whatever i felt like cooking.

down by the oilfields, it was sunday, on our way home, and we stopped at an i-hop for pancakes before we shot across the fields themselves. up on the eastern slope of the mountain, where the dry chinook winds come hurling down the slope and dry and heat everything up, there was this one exotic yellow tree-plant, sticking right up there (picture coming), and i pulled over at one point to take its picture. but my camera is not really so good at that focusing on a single boo-berry bush out in the wild desert plain, i'm not sure how good the picture came out. in the i-hop, one of my boys commented on how we'd very likely never see any of these people again. yes, it's possible, but then again, it's the only i-hop in hundreds of miles, and given that, i find it very likely that we will see them again, but it'll be a few months from now, and we won't quite recognize them. i'm beginning to really know all the places between here and there, and i've come to expect that none of them carry real cream for the coffee, but all of them have the flavored stuff, hazelnut or irish creme or whatever, only probably really old since mostly people don't like anything in their coffee at all. or maybe they use up the plain real fast, and they have to just let the whole batch run out before they replace it. in any case i spend the trip drinking coffee with exotic flovoring that i don't even really like. and then at white sands itself, they have pinon coffee which is not even real strong coffee, but at least it's a flavor i can tolerate. so you take what you can get, and when ya gotta pee, you just pull over, because it's just pretty much scrubland all over the place. the oil boys sure don't care.

got home, and our own town seems lush, and green, and very much the kind of place where it does rain once in a while. and, though it's become much more of a typical texas summer, that's kind of reassuring in a way. no snow down here, for sure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

things have dried out and heated up in texas, but that's what it's usually like, and people are a lot more comfortable with this dry excessive heat than with the rains that pounded us in may. they are in the habit of going home and ducking out at about three; it's pretty tolerable the rest of the time, but the late afternoons are the worst in terms of pure heat, so what's the point? go home and take a nap.

but, with my wife gone visiting a sick mother, the question for me is how to get through the afternoon with kids who, basically, have plenty of energy all day long. they can watch a movie or two, even watch it again, or play sports on the wii as other kids do. sometimes they want to go out, but this can be either good or bad; once they wanted out in the heat of the day, and they wanted to dress up as well (for some reason, going to the park meant dressing up - long dresses, high heels, etc.) so we either fight about it, or i let them do as they wish. i'm tired. i'm inclined toward the latter. there is no point fighting stuff forever.

so there's a certain amount of chaos around here. they get into stuff, they move furniture. they rip open packages that mom sends, pop the poppies, spread the cardboard around. they create laundry. they have trouble keeping track of stuff.

i write poetry furiously in my free moments. lately i've been in connecticut, nevada, and pennsylvania. one of the joys of it is that, in my head, i can be wherever i want. i can pick up the computer and do research on some place, and then mull around about that place as if i'd been there, and make some comment about it, all compressed in a single haiku. to be able to make seven or eight in a day is not unusual now, but it is my month off, this is all i'm doing, and it's mostly because it goes so well with the hardships of child-rearing. i can't seem to get the discipline to write the autobiography or the novel, both of which are on my plate. but the poetry keeps coming.

lots of pictures coming - dollies, flowers, whatever crosses my mind. the girlies play with their barbies, and pose them everywhere, so that gets me to do the same stuff, but only when i have the time, and it's kind of interesting, to have this culture of barbies come through the house. elsa barbie, cinderella barbie, i feel like lining them up in different places and see what i can get. the girlies stuck them in a tree. one day they buried them in sand. i have these pictures somewhere, but i haven't gotten organized yet. the thing about barbies is, they carry a pretty good wallop, symbolically and culturally, and as a haiku artist you come to appreciate that after a while. if a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture of a barbie can give you a bonus, because they mean so much to so many people.

my parents are having a 65th anniversary today; they are having people to a celebration, and hopefully there are flowers and treats there for them while they enjoy this incredibly long marriage. my sister is watching over it. i am here, babysitting, unable to join them, but i will call as soon as possible, and congratulate them. it's really quite amazing.

in texas, on the ground, i am reaching out for help. having gotten the lice out of their hair, hopefully, and being frustrated enough to yell at them occasionally, i find that if i can pack any of them off anywhere, ever, that is useful. they respond to barbies, to books, new plastic, new things to do. they have imaginations. they stay out of the heat when they have to. our job is to get through the summer, after which point school can have at them again, and i'll get a break. at that point all i have to do is esl, teach, do my job, and it will be a relief. in fact that will start july 15. i can hardly wait.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

rain has been pounding texas, and although we are really to the northwest of where the worst flooding is, it's rained quite a bit here too. more than any may in our history, more than a usual annual rainfall. and in our town, the high dry flat plains, only a couple of inches make a huge difference, because we really have no sewers, no runoff system, no nothing.

i took a walk a couple of blocks down to the park where i usually go for my long walks at night. it was flooded - it's a playa, or a collector of water, but with a couple of inches, the park is almost entirely covered. dogs were treating it as if it were a lake, and dancing around the outside of the water. then, it started to rain more, and rain hard. i turned around and ran the two blocks back home in the rain; i'm a little wet now. one neighbor had fallen tree branches to deal with; we however had just a wet garage, and a badly flooded yard.

i've been working furiously on my poetry, but have run up against a block. haven't written one in about a day. i fell back into putting them in order; sometimes when i get a block, i just go and read ten or twenty of them, and i get inspired again. i'm always afraid my inspiration will run out, but in the big picture, that doesn't generally really stop me. i go a few days, and then it comes back. i can only hope it comes back again. lots of states need a complete makeover. i'm sick of reading the same old ones, and i just need to write a whole bunch more, so i can just push those out of the way.

one thing that means is that i often go about, in my life, with my head in other places. i try to conjure up the things that happened in those places, or even things that didn't happen, but could have happened. i am totally tied, sometimes, between the era in which i did most of my traveling, the seventies, and the kind of rainbow life of my fellow travelers, and the world as we know it now - a lot colder, more cruel, requiring more money at every turn. but i'll write about anything, anything at all, and sort it out later.

went out to tucson last weekend, memorial day weekend, for a memorial. in fact my cousins and some tucson musicians gathered for a memorial for a cousin of mine who died back in the fall. as a musician, he was an inspiration to many, and they had his fourth cd presented, offered at a table in a beer garden, where birds were enjoying the shade and one after another musician came and gave their testimony. finally i had my chance. they called all the cousins up and four of us played together, a beautiful and harmonious "make me a pallet" that i can still remember. i have a cousin and a sister who are professional musicians, or at least were, but i'm a little more on the amateur side of it; i play, i want to keep playing, and i'm grateful for the opportunity to play again, even for no money, on any stage. it may be part of paying one's dues, but, unlike my sister, i don't feel the requirement of having a good setup, before i start. i'll play almost anywhere.

with the rains here, and all over the southwest, things are looking dim for camping over the weekend. more storms are coming, even to cloudcroft, and the ground is saturated. i was about to pull out tents, sleeping bags, supplies, from the garage, but the garage has inches of water on it; i'll have to throw stuff away soon, and make an extra effort to lift things up again, away from the water. it's not pretty. cardboard that was meant for recycling is soaking it up, becoming heavy, and pretty soon it will fill with bugs. with the massive rains in the town, there is water in all the curbs, yards, parks, everywhere. and more is coming. it's a very wet spring, a constant deluge, an ongoing flood. and it doesn't seem to be abating much at all.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

short stories



to pass the time

Monday, May 18, 2015

it's that glorious time of year when the kids still have school but i don't - so, ideally, i should be able to publish or at least get serious work done. i did publish one, e pluribus haiku, volume of 1000 poems, more about that later, and and on the way to republishing my original volume of stories, unloading. in fact four or five projects are almost done and could be published soon if i get on the ball. the remaining ones, however, may take a little more work to actually complete.

wild and glorious weather here, often cool, with unpredictable cloud formations passing over, combining, creating weather at any of three or four layers that we can see from the ground. i occasionally go outside and notice that even here, in the middle of the city, the air is so clear and blue that i'd be a fool to remain inside, and should simply figure out how to do my writing or computer work, whatever, out on the porch. other times it's so unpredictable we are left in confusion about how to proceed. a baseball game, for example, requires a kid to be dressed and ready forty-five minutes before the game, but once an enormous boomer was coming through right about that time. as we got to the field we saw big lightning cracking off in the distance; the game was already cancelled. once they see it, it's all over, i guess. but what i really want is for games to be cancelled only on tuesday nights, when i play bluegrass.

the laundry has gotten bad again; i call it mount kilamanlaundry, and i try to climb the pile at least enough to begin washing some of it and get it back in the house in a semi-clean state. this, endless coffee, and createspace are my new routine.

the extra dog found a home. she was our third, and she kept nipping at the others, the two dogs and three cats, who already own the place. she was nervous, and would spend her nights with her nose to the bottom of the closet door, waiting for the cats to be so foolish as to stick their little cat paws under the door, as they so often used to do. they, however, were not falling for it. it would be a long and restless, nervous night for my wife, who would often hold on to her leash even in her sleep, as she sat there intently focused on that crack at the bottom of the door.

planning on going to tucson soon. my cousin is having one more memorial, and folks are gathering there. looks like i'll see at least two cousins, and their wives, and that will be good; haven't seen many of them in a long time. the trip to tucson goes right through las cruces, and gets very scenic as it goes past geronimo's caves. more about that later also.

Monday, May 11, 2015

new story:
I Call Shotgun
enjoy! comments welcome, as usual!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

poetry reading