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

Friday, May 01, 2015

part of the process of publicizing the new poetry book, e pluribus haiku 2015, involves going to all the weblogs and posting it. this year i have a poetry reading, and may publicize that as well, though i don't expect a whole lot of people to attend, outside of our own department and a few friends of friends who happen to teach and/or study italian, portuguese, german, spanish or french. these folks might be interested in haiku, and might be interested in american geography. chances are, they might be interested just to hear good performance poetry that combines the two, and if i'm lucky, i'll have a good time and learn some stuff.

absolutely stunning weather here, with clear blue skies, and cool nights, warm days, but for some reason, i've been feeling a sore back and walking like an ancient. my bones creak. my back hurts. i complain that this last third dog did it, but actually, just the totality of everything did it - four kids, three dogs, three cats, one with only one eye and huge sinus issues that makes you think she's about to die every minute. i'm glad i finally published the poetry edition (1000 haiku) because i've been working on it for years, to get it up to a thousand, and, though i envision working on / changing it every year to get a few hundred more, sometimes i just freeze up for months at a time and write absolutely nothing, and this could last for years, for all i know, which means that if i can possibly put forward a volume with a thousand, as i just did, this will be about the best i can do for a while, and hopefully will stand tall as something i did. while i was putting it together i noticed that the page, tlevs press, had over five thousand hits. Where'd that come from? apparently google just rates it high, as having stories, being genuine, sticking around for a while. i have a kind of stability. i don't know if it will translate to sales; i certainly hope so. and who knows what my own individual, personal, put-a-link-on-every-webpage marketing strategy will amount to.

with my sore back i just went to buy a gallon of milk and came straight home. but the town was hopping. it's almost time for finals, but people don't care about finals. they're out in force tonight: the weather's good, finals are three days away yet, they are afraid of being gone and/or working all summer, in short, it's time to get rowdy while one can, quickly, i suspect. meanwhile we've sold our house over a little closer to campus, and we have to do some serious moving, amongst the peaceful houses in this neighborhood, all six blocks, all that junk i was working on but unable to finish moving. some of it is supplies, camping supplies, other is just plain junk. maybe my back hurts because i'm still thinking about it.

the night settles on the wide west texas prairie. a kid is sleeping over in my son's room; they couldn't keep quiet, so i joined them. the girlies are down already. my wife, with the newest dog addition, is working on quieting down too. tomorrow is a soccer / baseball / groceries kind of day, but the weather will be beautiful, i'm sure, even though we're moving slowly but surely into the very hot season. not much dust this year. poetry reading coming. stay tuned!

e pluribus haiku 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

clouds move dramatically on the horizon in every direction. sometimes they seem to be coming at you from every direction. what you don't want is for them to come at you from two directions, then get caught up in an updraft or some kind of violent result. sometimes it just opens up and pours on you; that happened a day or two ago, and it happened suddenly, in the middle of the morning, and by evening all the lawns were green and i had to get back to mowing. i'm mowing two houses, the one i used to live in, and the one i live in now, and when i get behind i feel like i need a scythe instead of the pushmower i've been using. but i have to mow in between the rains.

out on my walk, i go five times around the park, and sometimes i see these cloud movements above me. they come from the north, or the west, or the south, whatever. it's late at night so i can't always tell exactly what's happening. sometimes there is lightning way out in the distance as a storm rolls across the plains outside of town. helicopters take off and land as they always do; the park is near the two hospitals. police sirens happen in the distance; it's a busy city, around ten or eleven at night.

but last night, there was a fairly clear sky, and a large group of people having some kind of party on the sheltered side of the park, where there isn't a lot of car traffic, and one can sit out in the grass and see the sky. as i walked past them the first time i tried to figure out if it was some kind of reunion. they had a table and a bunch of drinks and ice, and everyone was talking away. it was a cool, clear night, and i have to say one thing, it's been a beautiful spring - even though you have this wild cloud movement, at least it's clear and fresh. the fourth time around they were beginning to clear out and go home; it was past eleven. but the fifth time, i saw a telescope - turns out they were looking at the sky. what they were trying to see, i have no idea. the perseids? something like that was coming through.

frustrating times on the baseball field; the pirates can't catch a break. my son strikes out with the best of them, and some people get mad at either the ump or the coach, each of whom is partly responsible, i'm sure. some days i wonder if this enormous sky show is going to catch up with us before the game is over; one day, it caught up with us, right as the game was over. mostly, people play as if it wasn't going to rain, and, mostly it doesn't. in west texas you have thousands of square miles for just a few thunderstorms, and we've had more than our share already, so much so that the dust is really quite minimal this spring, and green stuff is spouting everywhere. in my own yard, i'm not sure if i know ragweed when i see it, but all kinds of stuff is growing, and most of it is not good, just in the weed kind of way, and if it is ragweed, i really want it out of there.

the band is coming down to its last days; one of the guitar players, the police chief, is retiring and moving to georgia; another is getting quite old, and having trouble tuning the guitar. he also might be having trouble with the rhythm; that's a little harder to discern. in the rhythm department, it actually could be me, though i try my best and usually get close. the banjo picker, best banjo picker this side of the panama canal, i like to say, is having surgery soon. hard times coming; i might ship out and see what else i can find. too bad, though, i love these guys like i've loved no other musical arrangement. they play hot, and fast, and harmonic, and they sing in tune. you can't get much better.

then, out on quaker avenue, my wife saved a dog the other day. it was hollowed out, scarred, starving, flea-ridden, but it was a white shepherd, quite beautiful, and it's sweet. it's settled in with our other dogs, though it's quite sensitive, and we call her snow. at first i objected; i've said from the start that two is enough, three too many, but i was outvoted, and i let it go, i can't send some beautiful white dog off to certain doom. i still advocate for finding a loving owner, namely maybe my sister, or someone who really needs a dog; we certainly don't. or maybe some of us do, i'm not sure. in any case she needs us, at least for the moment. pictures coming. she has a black lab for a sister, and a chih-weenie for a brother, but she is focused on loving us, and getting some food, for the moment, and after she eats, she'll be quite beautiful. she has something in her, besides german shepherd, something tall and thin, but she has those shepherd ears, pointing straight up. and she defends the children with a ferocity that is quite touching.

sometimes i'm out driving, and sky does its swirling thing; you can see that things are happening up there, and they are rearranging themselves and fixing to move. life as a pilot would be very interesting, and you know this because you can see many layers, just looking up at any given moment, and you can know that it would be a wild show on all of every layer, all the way up. in fact, when you come down into our airport, you come down through layers of sky that are quite dramatic and amazing. and if the sun happens to be coming up or down, even more so. it's a never-ending show, dramatic and constantly unfolding, and it's made for high drama all spring. keeps me on my feet, i might say.

Monday, April 20, 2015

highway 61 revisited

in about an hour i turn sixty-one, so i'm revisiting old classics - the dylan album, the allman brothers doing "highway 61 revisited," other highway songs. i was thinking of revisiting that old road outside of iowa city, but it turns out that one isn't sixty-one, and maybe never was, as sixty-one goes up the river over toward maquoketa, and in iowa at least, i wasn't all that familiar with it. the sixty-one i knew best, i caught up with going south out of iowa city, down across the quarter-bridge at st. francisville, south into missouri where i caught up to sixty-one, and took it down through hannibal and down into st. louis. the other sixty-one i'm familiar with, same one really, is the one that goes north from duluth, through two harbors, and up into the split rock lighthouse (which is now the symbol of this page and the press)...up there, one is on the north side of lake superior, and looks back over into the continental united states, and that lake seems so cold, so blue, i can feel it now.

when dylan wanted to name his album "highway 61 revisited," he got lots of flak from everyone around him, but he used his muscle with the recording people, and they eventually let him do it. his idea was that the delta blues from highway sixty-one, down in mississippi, where robert johnson allegedly sold his soul, were at the root of his blues, and he wanted the world to know it. dylan apparently would take highway sixty one, in the old days, from northern minnesota down to new orleans, and had more than one story about getting caught up along the way. interstates weren't as ubiquitous those days; taking a two-lane along the river made a lot of sense, was perhaps the fastest way. there's no telling how much of the two-lane he really knew well; i have no idea when exactly he was even on the road. but it's not hard to imagine him on the same road i was. he sings about missouri, and about new orleans, and about the darkness and the endlessness of the road. lots of road to revisit.

these days i watch a lot of baseball; my son plays on the pirates, who often lose, and even lost big ones against the phillies and indians recently. knowing that i loved the indians more than anything, he asked if i would be for the indians or for the pirates. of course my loyalty lies with him and his team, and i told him so. the images are good in this league - the kids dress up like the pros, with pro uniforms, pro hats, etc. it's high class baseball at its best. the whole thing reminds me of being a kid - when everyone wanted to be a pirate, as we lived in pittsburgh - how i insisted on being an indian - how our little team won it all - this was the high point of my experience in little league, but i played literally days and days of baseball, out in a field, behind our house, and a place technically owned by an orphanage. if one hit it far enough, it went into the woods, or, if foul, down into a series of parking lots. it's impossible to recreate the kind of fun i had with baseball, to give my kid that kind of experience, though i know it can be had in some places, somehow. our present little league isn't quite doing it, but he's still touched by it, i think. he says he wants to play baseball from now on.

my band will play on my birthday, just the usual jam session, two hours in the back room of the coffee shop, pure bluegrass, the best in town. i play the blues, alone here at home, because that's what i don't play when i'm out, for the most part, though they do play highway forty blues, which, in my mind, is another missouri song. these songs all revisit highways for me; sometimes i just hear an old radio in a beater on an old country road, but i'm still revisiting a highway. i love the band; sometimes i even say so, but we won't be together forever; one member is retiring and moving to georgia soon. i fantasize about where i'd go next - blues maybe? i've always loved blues, and could just as easily play with any band that was as easy to get along with as these guys.

i've decided to take "revisiting highways" as a year-long project. my day, tomorrow, is totally full, until the gig, at which time i'll bust forth with that fiddle and let out the stress of two meetings, a class, and a couple of writing-lab shifts. life goes on, birthday or not, one has to do one's job; i will, however, as i always do, refuse to let anything bother me. that's my right, i figure, on my birthday of all days, and that's a useful attitude to take into a meeting. i've found this exercise - of not letting things get to me - a good thing to cultivate and practice. there's plenty of time to revisit highways. the time, the pressure, the end of the semester - this is what's happening now.

my son found the old 1995 world series, with the indians, a game which they may have won. this is what we do, sometimes, when we're just relaxing, before bed. sometimes it seems like he's into baseball to please me, says his mom - other times, it seems like he takes this knowledge of baseball, and uses it among his friends, hating yankees, for example. though i must point out, hating yankees had a different meaning, back when i was growing up, than it does down here. i point out that, on a pure level, hating a baseball team is not the same as hating people, and just means you want them to lose, no matter what team they are playing. but i do notice that in all the little league leagues, there are no yankees. there are several pirate teams, at least one indian team, but no yankees.

listening to the old classics - dylan, grateful dead, allman brothers. various versions of "highway 61," or songs that were on it. but i'm laying low; i won't put these on my facebook. i'll ruminate, sing them in my head. then, at the coffee shop, i'll let fly. to a new year!