Saturday, February 06, 2016

growing up in lubbock: on the way to gymnastics, my daughter announced that she loved buddy holly. ok i said, hard to disagree with that. but then she asks me: daddy, god, jesus and buddy holly, they're in your soul, right? well, hard to argue with that too. i smiled and didn't show her my smile. i agreed.

lots of other things in your soul too. now that my mom has died, i'm trying to separate out a little, if she was the trunk, the center, the heart of my motivation, of so many motivations, for so long, then does that explain why i'm a little cut-off-at-the-knees in the motivation department. it set me back. i'm glad to be back in texas, as i'd been in new mexico almost a month, so when my wife wanted to head out to new mexico for the weekend i figured i'd let her go out there alone which is what she really wanted, and not bring four kids and two more dogs out there after her. but now, a badly overflowing toilet and kitchen garbage disaster later, i wish she'd come back. spring in west texas is dry, windy, dusty, that's what gets in your soul. this year, an unusually wet, and cold, year, is unusual. but nothing is unusual to the dogs, or the kids, who go on being themselves and letting you clean up the mess.

i'm a grumpy dad when the chips are down, and they tend to leave me alone since, if they do, i generally don't bother them. i come after them when i need to and sometimes we go out and have fun. but usually they learn to do their own thing, entertain themselves, give me a little peace and quiet, then i can spend the day cleaning up overflowed toilets and kitchen garbage.

saturday morning, make an extra cup of coffee, then another. look at the news. the sun comes in and then changes its angle, gradually, all day, while people go on with their lives. the super bowl is big here. people are shopping, waiting, talking about it, taking sides, whatever. three o'clock tomorrow, or whenever, this town will be deader than any town in the history of towns. big piles of cars will be parked in front of various houses as everyone picks their favorite big screen to sit in front of for four to five hours, with lots of snacks, and plenty of alcohol, and generally maybe some kind of barbecue or dinner. it's big. this is what one does. the neighbors did it. they were surprised that we really had organized nothing. they invited us over in embarrassment perhaps. how can you have nowhere to go on sunday? my son has become friends with their son, and now he's all like, panthers, broncos, you name it. he'll probably go over there and partake, of the tv, the barbecue. They're nice people, i love them. i may have to just do the same, get a little scene by a television, make sure everyone's taken care of, watch the darn thing. it's got the best commercials in the history of commercials.

things happen, and i really have no clue what's going on, although, through facebook, i get some glimpse. if there's an earthquake in taiwan, as there was, i have several friends over there, and they check in and i know they're ok. i read about the debates. i read about how they've concluded that trump's followers are all narrow-minded, bigoted, small-minded white pride working-class morons which ought to just drive a couple thousand of them over to the cruz camp right away. but i suppose the cruz camp is all self-righteous, pious, hypocritical bastards too. meanwhile hillary is totally sold out to goldman sachs, and is the candidate of wall street, the liars, the sell-outs and the faux-democrats. sanders however is unrealistic, dogmatic, uncompromising, and a genuine threat to the status quo. so there's no way out. you'd think maybe rubio would get out of it. no, but wait until the spotlight gets on him, he'll be just as bad. it seems like everyone's got their negative spin on everything, nobody can hardly move a muscle.

somebody made a movie of tech students who, basically, didn't know who the vice president was. didn't know who won the civil war. didn't know the basics of u.s. government or history. they did know, however, who brad pitt was married to, both times, and they were up on certain other pop culture ideas. somehow i thought, this is an old idea. isn't this true of all young people? then i thought, is tech really better or worse than anyone else? these are our students. some of them could have been walking directly out of my wife's class (mine are international; the movie didn't target them)...ah yes, but it is what it is. but as the rabbi says, who isn't what he is?

that's life. i'm along for the ride.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

back to my old routine, and exhausted, though my schedule is lighter in the spring than in the fall. exhausted in an emotionally-drained kind of way, since what i did was basically sit a couple of weeks by my mom's side, with my mom barely knowing who i was. now it's good to get back to work, but at the same time i have virtually no energy or patience for the usual academic kinds of things.

a kid died on the icy roads of iowa, and as it turned out, he was a texan, he'd worked at the student center here and was taking a semester off to work on the carson campaign. i don't believe he was driving at the time, but i can tell you, iowa roads can be pretty icy this time of year, it doesn't take much. i had an unusual amount of sympathy for the kid, especially when i found out he was one of ours. i spent a fall canvassing in maine, and, while they had no ice or snow, i could see it coming, and got a good sense of what the place was like. iowa is its own world this time of year, this month, this week, which rolls around once every four years. so the question is, is this guy a kind of special character, to go up there, drive around on a futile campaign, and lose his life among so many others who are filling the place at this moment? the campaigns will leave the place empty in about a week. he however will hold still in time.

my path takes me past pecans, and i've taken to stooping over and grabbing them again. a few, a pound at a time, and i'll take them in sometime in february and get lots of pecans in the deal. welcome back to texas!

but alas the best welcome was my band; i'd missed three or four tuesdays, but they were all there, same as usual, wondering about me, and i was very glad to see them. the finest people in the world, i thought, as we ran through the usual songs. some kids in the audience got a kick out of it, i could tell. it was like, they happened into the coffee shop, sat down, and this wild bluegrass was going on. it was an event, it was a happening. our usual audience, two old couples and the wife of the guitar player, were there as well. the workers stop in occasionally and love it. i was feeling a little rusty and said so; it was over a month since i'd played. they shrugged it off, though i'm sure they noticed. they're musicians. they live for the variations, the runs, the extra stuff in there. they tolerated the squeaks, the times i got off the melody.

my exhaustion is overtaking me. i'll get back on the creative treadmill sooner or later. tonight, i'm going to bed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

life in this state of near suspension is not all that complicated. i am in a retirement community, doing my laundry, but have forgotten to wash the shirt i wear almost every day at my mother's bedside. i am washing some others though and the most important thing, some socks. we eat well. we hang out with my mom in the last days of her life. we talk to her and speculate how much she understands.

but i've been away from home for three weeks, and it's getting a little long. i'm getting people to do my job. i'm hoping my family holds together back there without me. i'm in suspension. i feel like the world is pushing forward without me.

i still keep up on the news. i try to read some too though that has been in spurts. i have stopped creating anything at all, and that's really bad. i write this but have nothing to say, i'm just here, suspended. waiting for my laundry. in a quiet room.

the weather actually got warmer, but it occurred to me: in this place, it's hardly ever freezing. almost never snows. the sun is a regular, even in mid-january. rain is an absolute rarity. and people are used to it, they like it. i went to buy a snowshovel once and they laughed at me. one guy said, where you goin, michigan?

we can see mountains on every horizon. the town is up against some huge, beautiful ones, and they have snow on them. others are off in the distance. the ones that el paso are up against, they are just down the way. all of them are dry, though i suppose they are cold enough, that if it snows once, in say late december, that snow might just hang around up there for a while. for a month or more. there's a big difference between say, 4000 feet and 8000 feet. the snow will still be there at 8000.

i could turn around and go back. my sister and dad are getting used to the situation; they need support, but it's wearing on them too. we are all suspended. life has come to this point, where we are sitting in this room. and there's not much point bringing up pleasant memories from the past, although we have them. it's just talk, and it, too, is suspended.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

been on the road now for quite a while - went to kansas with the family for new year, then, upon returning, found out that my mom was in hospice and have been here in las cruces ever since, except that over the king day weekend my family came down for a weekend in cloudcroft. cloudcroft is four and a half from lubbock, and one and a half from las cruces, but it's nine thousand feet up, and that's the most important fact; we call it 'on the mountain' and we refer to going to grandma and grandpa's as going 'over the mountain.'

my mom is in sad condition, failing heart, confused, but i leave that stuff off here for the most part, and won't dwell on it. most of the time i stay by her side. i don't write, i don't do poetry, i don't even bring the computer. and i won't today, though i have it here back where i sleep.

the whole family, my two brothers and a sister, are here with my dad; my sister already lives here and has been closely monitoring the whole thing. one brother came from england, another from pittsburgh; both are leaving tomorrow. i came by car, over the mountain.

the road from cloudcroft down to las cruces is one of the wildest commutes i've ever done. down off the high mountain, with its snow and evergreens, and elk, you pass ancient caves, at a tunnel, and, going through a kind of pass through dramatic, barren mountains, you come out into the tularosa valley, 4000 feet and dry as a bone. the town of alamogordo is tucked up against the mountain, dry as a bone, very sunny, but when you head out from alamogordo you are directly in the white sands, and the white sands rise up from the desert, mostly on your right as you kind of skirt around them and shoot an hour straight across the desert to the next wall of mountains, the organs. at the organs you rise straight up and over, and you're in the mesilla valley, which has las cruces and the rio grande, coming up from texas and going straight up into albuquerque. the rio grande is heavily farmed; there are pecan groves all through mesilla and las cruces and they have literally sucked most of the water off the surface of the river, though apparently there is still some below. las cruces has about 100,000 people, while alamogordo has only 30,000; cloudcroft, however, has only about 5,000 or less. lubbock, remember, has about 350,000 but a shopping area of about a million. i am watching all these people. i am driving a lot, and watching license plates as well. i am trying to watch all this wild scenery without running off the road.

more later. i have to try my best to hang on to the ability to write, such as it is.

Monday, December 28, 2015

el nino showed up and showed up in spades, about ten inches of snow, closing roads all through west texas including very major arteries like interstates 27, 40, and 20. they never did plow 23rd street that i know of, and some people in lubbock were mad, apparently, that it took them so long to do what they did. i wasn't mad though. it took me all day to shovel 1/3 of my driveway, and i figure if i was running the snow plow it would be even worse and i would leave some ice behind to boot. that's what always made me mad about the plows; sure they'd remove a foot of snow, but they'd leave an inch of ice, and you'd always wonder if you were even better off.

some neighbor tried to pull his truck out of his driveway, and my iowa experience showed me what was wrong. a lot of times, these guys have big trucks, but they have wide wheels without much traction, so they have a lot of weight on a really wide smooth surface, and they end up spinning their wheels. you think, because you have a big truck, you're better off, but no, really you're better off if you have a volkswagen, so little you can pick it up and just move it off the ice. this truck, we could hardly get it off its ice and down the road. but the neighbors were friendly; it was my first chance to meet them.

the sky was blue, the air fresh while i was out there shoveling. the reason i don't have a genuine snow shovel is, once i bought one, and it broke immediately, and i've never bought another one. i do all my shoveling with a dirt shovel, hard, steel, strong. and it's less efficient, but it cuts the ice. it's odd, i seem to enjoy it. it's not hard to balance as a true snow shovel is. and, of course, you can use it for other stuff.

waiting, because we're going to kansas in two days, and we're hoping the roads are ok. our plan is to go up in time for the new year, and come back soon after. i shouldn't say this in public, but i'm saying it on a weblog where, basically, you have to read four paragraphs before you even get to it, and nobody actually reads any more, i'm pretty sure, except maybe a few of my closest relatives. a few people actually come to this page, and that's because it's been around forever, and refers to all kinds of things, and has lots of useful links. but nobody actually reads it, i'm pretty sure. so you're welcome to the knowledge. it's really no secret.

lots of reorganization, of pictures, and of webpages, and of information. i'm going to tesol again this year, baltimore. looking forward to it. taking my fiddle. i'll see how that works out!


working on a new castle park exhibit...stay tuned

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

set off again for new mexico on monday morning with two boys, watching license plates and stopping whenever we wanted for snacks. saw oklahoma and california right away, and then saw alaska, i think at a remote corner, maybe the whiteface-seagraves sign corner out there between brownfield and plains. texas is wild out there, all cotton, and oil, and whatever they can pull out of the vast flat wild country. right after i saw alaska i saw an ohio, on a truck.

the road crosses the new mexico line and through the ranch country of lovington, then through the oilfields to artesia. in the oilfields you see gas burning from pipes out at the wells, and big trucks are all over the place. as usual i was thinking of haiku of the different states i'd been in; i was in tennessee, in my mind. suddenly i saw a tennessee. kind of a sign, maybe. but no, most of what i saw was random: wisconsin, washington, nevada, arizona.

one sees mexico plates every once in a while. you can tell the mexico plates by the order of the numbers - they have two numbers, space, two more, space, two more. almost no usa states that i know of do this. but the heck of it is, all mexico states do this. and they make the state names, themselves, small and hard to read. so the chihuahua one, which of course is the most common around here, has the name chihuahua on it, and a little insignia, but when a car is flying by you can't read the name, and all the states are alike. i feel like i can't count it if i can't read it.

similarly, there were a few usa plates that i just couldn't read; they flew by too fast. south dakota, maybe, or montana, something like that, i'm not sure. i saw florida, michigan, oregon, a few others. but there were some i couldn't read.

in cloudcroft there was snow on the mountains. it was only six inches or a foot, but where they'd plowed, sometimes there was a plow-pile of over eight feet. it was a great feeling up there, a real winter. it was nothing to them; they were looking forward to more snow, a real snow, enough to open up the ski lift. but to me, it was the first snow of the winter, the only snow. it's what makes the season. i took a deep breath and shot down into the valley, into alamogordo, white sands, las cruces.

in las cruces i saw maryland, new jersey, wyoming, north carolina, and colorado, finally, on my way out. one usually sees colorado fairly quickly, but on this trip, i was already on my way home when i saw it. then, of course, i saw two, but i also saw another alaska, and in fact i saw several wisconsins.

sometimes it's not how rare it is, but how unlikely a place you find it. the champion in that regard was the hawaii plate i saw once, right in the middle of roswell, a desert town known for its ufo's. i look for the new england states, as they're always rare way out here, but in some places, notably las cruces or el paso, you can see all kinds of things, just because they're passing through. out on the back side of the mountain, though, between the oil fields and the tiny town of cloudcroft, you're going to see mostly texas and new mexico.

saw south carolina, georgia, north dakota, idaho, and arkansas before i was done, which made it a good trip; i saw several mexico ones, but, as it happened, nothing from canada, nothing from new england, or even new york. never saw louisiana, alabama, or mississippi, though it might have been those that flew by at one point and i just didn't see them. did pretty well on the far west - washington, oregon, california, nevada, saw them all. folks are traveling. it's winter break.

funny how the mountain had all that snow, and down here, they're still talking about the possibility of it, but only after christmas. up north it's unseasonably warm, with tornadoes; down here, it was the same, really, balmy with a feeling of menace in the air. i rested up a little, these long trips take it out of me, and finally in the evening i took to wrapping presents. i'm the wrapper. but i really didn't get all that much done; i was too tired and all i could think of was my parents, my family, the folks i left behind in new mexico. they're suffering a bit, and it's pulling me out that way, but it's ok, because we're going to live in that small snowy town, and go ice skating all winter and go out to the woods to cut wood for our heat. up there, you see a few license plates, especially since we'll live right behind the downtown, more or less, and it's a tourist town. folks like to go there as a destination, because it has slightly different weather than the rest of the state. you have the low sunny desert, the gypsum fields, the dry scrubby mountains, and then you have the high piney woods, nine thousand feet, that's where we'll be. it's a wild place, and i'm looking forward to it.


Friday, December 18, 2015

i've been working on folk tales, of all things - actually i'm working on all blogs. trying to update them, put the advertisement for my new book on them, try to organize them so they draw traffic where they should. this one, i just ramble, it's just for me - yet it's my favorite, one that is always up to date, always my best. yet i do absolutely nothing to compromise to the commercial world, to say, i'm an author, buy this buy that. and, sure enough, people respond by not buying anything.

that's ok though, i get what i deserve, and i haven't hired a publicist, just lonely old me, not even putting capital letters on my blog. but i did come out with a new book of stories (see below), my fifth, so i went down to the local hastings to see what what happening with the other books i had for sale - it is, after all, the christmas season.

the walmart book, a dozen crime stories - from a well-known, big-box discount retail chain - had been stolen. that heartened me, for some reason. it was like it said steal this book on it, though of course it didn't - still, i got the sense that it was hot, that you looked at the cover and wanted to read it. this also happened in our writing lab - i lent it to someone, and she walked off with it, and i'm kind of glad, nobody else is reading it. it's like i need some kind of program to get these things out there, because once they are, i'm pretty sure they'll make it.

it's gotten really cold around here, and, i'm grateful to say, very quiet on my walk. around the big park, four square blocks, i go, and when i get around to flint, there are still no cars, going either way. there are still helicopters- those are big in our neighborhood, but fewer cars. the students are gone. the late-night traffic - ten or eleven is when i go - those are the students, the drinkers. they're gone. the malls are crowded in the day, people are buying tons of things. but the park, the town, the streets, much quieter. orion is king. he has some buddies up there too. they're out in force, guarding. the fox is slinking around. but the students are gone.

a friend of mine, book publisher, is actually sending me money for stories - he wants to avoid giving amazon its cut. people don't like amazon, or maybe, they're just tired of it. i myself am grateful for amazon - and maybe i don't distinguish createspace enough from amazon, as they are really one and the same - but createspace allows me to print my own books, one at a time, and print as many as i need when i need them. and it's cheap - a book of twenty stories, printed in twelve point, which i consider big - and i can still get my own copies for less than three plus shipping. shipping makes it more like four, generally, but that's still pretty good. if i sold them on the street for five, i'd still make a dollar each and i'd do pretty well. i'm thinking of trying a little harder. i've actually got quite a few good ones. the walmart ones, as i said, are the hottest. but you can't just walk into the walmart and sell them.

walked into the barnes and noble, and they wouldn't take them. they said you have to work through a "hoe-saler"...well, i could call myself a "hoesaler" - but i didn't, and instead bought a one-year b & n membership for $25. now i saved 10% right there on buying a christmas present that very day, and i like to shop there, will probably save about fifteen before the season is over, fifteen bucks that is, but the membership is twenty-five, and the problem is, i don't use it all that much the rest of the year. i sense i'm taking a hit here. and the guy is being a little snooty with me about my books, which, as i've said, are actually pretty good.

amazon, of course, hasn't even read them, really, except to be sure they aren't porn. they kind of benevolently proof them, allow me to print them, put them on their site....all it costs them is a website. they have their createspace factory printing them up whenever they need them, but, really, i think they consider it kind of taking the vanity press market. the vast majority of people like me just want to see their books in print, and are willing to stop after one or two. i think as i reach a certain plateau - i now have four or five poetry books, five story books - i enter another class of writer, those who didn't give up after a half dozen or so. they like that. if amazon notices me, that would be the first step.

i toil away on this blog, lowercase and all, just to keep myself in practice. half the time, like tonight, i have nothing to say. i just get the sense that, if i don't keep writing, i'll fade away. don't want that. tonight at the drunken music gathering, there was news - about people dying, other people having trouble with the weather, or falling - life is full of hazards. even in my own family, there are hazards. i'm grateful to make it another year. i put that somewhere in the christmas letter, but really, it should have been line one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

new short stories




click on the image to go straight to Amazon. The advertising for this one will appear soon on my author's site.

Monday, December 07, 2015

i open up the news every day wondering where the next mass shooting or school shooting will be. the end of the school semester is near, so it could be that we make it to the break without any more big ones, but i doubt it. it's become a thing in this country, a way to get on the news cycle, the way to go. i study the geography of all the mass shootings too, but i'm not the only one; whole websites are devoted to where they were, what happened, how many were killed randomly, etc. it's assumed that if someone killed more than three, at least one or two were random, killed just because they were in that spot. but it's not necessarily true; sometimes they kill half a dozen, and know all six.

guns are like pain medicine, if you can't get them in one state, you just go over to the other. if they'll sell you one, they'll sell you several, and they'll sell you the big ones, and pretty soon you have an arsenal, and it doesn't matter if you live in some state like california that makes arsenals specifically illegal. people feel like you have the natural god-given right to take your ak-47 to the local elementary school, and in most cases you do, who's going to stop you? anyone who's made up their mind to shoot up the school, or the state health department, or whatever, is pretty much free to do it, there are guns everywhere. all you have to do is reach out and touch some of them.

i think the whole thing depends more on the inner workings of some very sick minds, and i blame the whole thing on television. of course britain has television too, and the worst they have is a few tube-stabbings, so i can't really explain the whole theory clearly. but the theory is this: the american obsession with television, and the fact that everyone is watching it, and the fact that television is drawn naturally to guns and violence, has made the average sick mind drawn to guns and violence, and drawn to the possibility of being the news cycle, if only for a single day. it could be that britain is not big enough to have a steady diet of guns and violence on television all day, but what my theory is saying is that the mere fact that gun violence is on television every single day in this country is what makes gun violence the immediate avenue to fame, the way that one chooses to get one's fifteen minutes of fame. the gun violence that's on the television is itself part of the cause of the problem.

now my theory would absolutely be testable, if we were to simply remove all gun violence from television. i'm not sure i totally believe in this solution, but it is a solution. you might say that that's censorship of the news. but instead i'd say that it could be just a necessary step in keeping the most offensive things away from the average person's perceptual screen. there are already plenty of things that we don't tell everyone, or show everyone, because they're too offensive. we already have quite the line; it covers lots of activities and events that are real, that are graphic, that are visual, and that are provocative, but we just feel the average person doesn't need to see this on the daily news. well, i say, could be the same for gun violence. if it's part of the cause, let's just remove it, or at least change the degree to which we feel compelled to show everyone everything. one of my favorite solutions is just to change the nature of what the average person sees on television day in, day out. present it differently, it's the law.

now of course, making guns as hard to get as cars are, that's a possibility too. and we also have the capability, by the way, of knowing when someone's gathered up an arsenal. technology gives us the ability to track guns the same way we track phones; if we can put a chip in a phone, we can put one in a gun too. that way, the minute you give yours to your sociopathic roommate, they'll know. especially if he collects a half-dozen.

there are lots of solutions. we can mull them over while we wait for the next mass shooting. i myself am staying out of state-sponsored christmas parties, and all public places, for the indefinite future. but i'm also not watching television, because it makes me mad to watch the process, and know how many sick minds are capable of falling into the inevitable chute.

Thursday, November 26, 2015



old studebaker truck in the sacramentos




schoolyard
sledride the movie