Wednesday, April 16, 2014

three venues

we now have four kids at home, ranging from 5-12, and we need places to go that are outside, safe, friendly, and accessible. our first choice is the lazy river, an outdoor pool at the university that has just opened up again, and we are all avid swimmers, so this works out great. it has some downsides: if you forget your sunblock or aren't thorough enough, you're dead. the kids lose clothing or leave it in the car. they refuse to leave, which is a good side, i guess.

the science spectrum is another place. this weekend we went there for a while. there was a little animal show, back in the stage corner of the basement, where a guy was showing live animals. one was a skink, a large fat kind of lizard from australia. another was a tarantula named hollywood. in order to get to that stage you have to walk through an exhibit on the brazos river watershed, with large pictures of lowland swamps that exist in a certain narrow corridor down through the state of texas. for a hot, dry state as huge as it is, you might not even know we have any lowland swamp, but we do, and when you're in that museum basement, you feel like you're in the middle of it. i like to sit on a bench in that basement where a radio plays an endless loop on the lubbock weather, which on this day was windy with a fire danger, but still warm. the kids tear around; it's hard to keep up with them, but they generally aren't too far beyond my awareness.

last place: it's called legacy village, and i'm really beginning to wonder about it. it has a huge fort, an old village area, and lots of play equipment. it's generally popular with lots of kids but the pure number is a little overwhelming. some kids are not all that nice. the other day there were kids who had been instructed to leave families alone, but who still didn't. ah well. came back and told my friends at work, and they said that needles and condoms had been found at the park. i guess it requires pretty constant supervision of all kinds. i was always a fan of letting kids run off and do physical things on playground equipment, enjoying the fresh outdoor air, and relating to people in a healthy environment. i guess, in some ways, we'd be better off out on the plains in a dusty riverbed.

it used to be, you could let your kids run out the front door and they'd pretty much wander the neighborhood, getting into some trouble but usually treating woods and fields like a large playground. whole afternoons would go by and they'd come back when they were hungry which was generally dinnertime. the evenings were slightly more guarded. they'd go outside again for a few more hours, this time for a nighttime game of tag or capture the flag but this time parents would want to know where they were and what they were doing and pretty much didn't want them wandering off at the edges, on the busy streets, or even where people couldn't see what was happening. in the day this wasn't an issue because people were around, and they could see. windows were open. if somebody yelled or something happened, people would come out and look.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

the girls are here, have been for a week, and life is a lot busier. i may be writing less, parenting more; we parents are outnumbered and burdened. but we will survive too. there may be a bit of chaos as we get adjusted.

the girls make demands, and have a chorus of letting us know their feelings, much as the peepers would up north. for us, used to boys getting dressed quickly and running out the door, mornings are long as they try to get their hair right, etcetera. we try to make them happy; sometimes we can't.
Across busy Flint Avenue, a castle-like house stands empty, unleased for about a month. i've kind of gotten used to the silence of nobody living there; it's an awesome castle-like structure with dormers and turrets, and additions out the side, and it's so quiet, so nice just now. but there's construction and the like all through the neighborhood, also fire trucks, medivacs at night, things happening. the governor came to town and spoke like maybe four blocks away, in the arena. traffic was busy, but it's always busy.

got some onions and garlic in; i'm planning how i can accomplish sunflowers, and maybe peppers and some tomatoes. don't know if i can grow anything in this texas soil. but i've met some people who do, and actually my jalapenos did just fine last year, i'll stick with what works and see if i can keep cranking it out.

then, out there in the world, there are lots of nice cars, in a hurry. after i go out, i rush back home, shut up the fence, water the vegetables, and do some throw with the dog. let the traffic sounds fill out the background. beyond the fence, the castle; the street, at its busiest, comes through a little spring-like tunnel there, as the enormous elms are greening up, and we try to sustain the charm index for the entire neighborhood. it's april, time for some graphics.

Monday, March 24, 2014

desert sunset

the girls are coming for good on friday, but they've been here weekends for the last two, and it's made life a little livelier around here now with four kids in the house, granddaughter born in peoria, another granddaughter visiting. took the boys for three days to new mexico, just to shoot over the mountain and see their grandparents, and the trip fortunately was uneventful, car made it both ways, and there was still snow on the mountain. we don't see mountains here in lubbock, so, to get up 8500 feet and see some was a real treat.

the girls are young, 5 and 8, and i think they're grateful to finally have a home to call their own. they remember a bit about their foster homes and their original home, but not much, and that will recede as time goes on, probably. fortunately they like swimming, and they get along pretty well with the two boys. one of the girls is eight and a little competitive with the eight-year-old boy, but that girl plays with the older boy, while the younger boy has taken on the five-year-old as an ally. you could call that taking sides, but i think there's a bit of that anyway, no matter what you do, and it's a way of easing into the new situation, i hope, rather than a permanent alignment.

the road southwest toward the mountain goes through texas cotton fields and some ranching territory before it comes to a large oilfield at a place called maljamar, new mexico. there you come around over this large hill and look out over thousands of oil derricks; on thursday the valley had a light-colored haze probably caused by dust. of course the smell of oil weighs heavily on the whole region. in two towns, maljamar and loco hills, new white trucks crowded the place as if it was some kind of auction of oil equipment. closer to artesia, the drillers' town, there was a traffic jam. right through there you see the pecos, one of the west's great rivers, but it's just a creek crawling through the plains, with oil drills in sight wherever you look.

the girls have never been out of the area, really. they've been living in a trailer that has a number of other foster children, a kind of way station for kids on their way to places like ours, more permanent. it's amazing, really, that they survived, can still be happy, have hope, go forward. their school is not as rigorous as ours; they may end up behind. we are not to put their names out there on facebook, or on the web, because they don't want people tracking them down. it's an odd kind of limbo.

out west of artesia, the road starts climbing up into the mountains around a place called penasco creek. this is the sign that the vast plain, which goes on infinitely it seems, has turned into dry rocky mountain foothills. a ways farther is the vulgar store where they have racial slur signs; then, you're in the mountains. for a brief five or ten minutes you're in an area that gets enough rain. i open my windows, take pictures of the snow on the mountains. the boys don't want to stop. for them, it's onward to grandma's where there's cookies and the driving will finally be over. that's two more hours, crashing down into the hot desert, across the white sands, and up over the organs to las cruces. my sister is there as well; she has started boiling down red chilis, playing mexican music, and shopping at the farmers' market but she is worried that the summer will be too hot, which it might be. it's too hot in texas too. that high mountain hideaway is possibly the only place where it's not too hot.

the girls will be #9 and #10 in our family, already full, five granddaughters now, and they will bring us summers of noise and things to do, force us to provide options besides the endless media circus where the boys either play videogames that have caught their fancy, or watch television. the boys are eager to show them the corners of the media that they've found. i'm eager to get the whole pack off the media, for a change, but here i am, typing as usual, it looks to them like i'm playing computer just like them. it seems like it's all just a game. inevitably they find stuff i don't really want them watching. i pull them into ping pong, or to the park; i'm already scrambling for alternatives. and i'm tired. i haven't set up the trains, or built a tree house. i haven't even bought enough bicycles. i'm just barely cleaning out the garage.

and that's only because my wife is out of town, visiting granddaughter #5 in peoria, and the place is unusually quiet. it could be, that when all is said and done, the dogs are settled, some sleep will settle in - our room is over flint avenue, a rather busy street, but the busy sounds are actually reassuring, the dogs don't mind, all they mind is the occasional cat, or maybe the people who walk by, with their dogs, right in front of the window. they feel that, as long as they're free, it must be time to do their job, which is to bark relentlessly to let anyone know who is occupying the house, and who is where.

the boys were in a hurry coming back; the girls and their nephew were waiting for them. they have an important role now, and they know it; it'll be time for all of us to get outside more, and get some of this spring air. it's supposed to rain on wednesday, first rain since maybe august. yet it rains too much, some places, most notably washington state, or california, or maybe the north where it's still coming down as snow, endlessly, on into april. we all have to walk a weather tightrope for a few scores, while the poles and glaciers melt, and everyone adjusts to the results. don't know what place will turn out to be habitable, or where you might find just the right amount of water. that one little mountain town seems like a good candidate, but that guy with his hateful signs keeps coming to mind. maybe it's time for some civilized people to just crowd him out of business, and set up some other kind of enterprise right nearby. it's like fred phelps' death: if the crown kind of vulgar free speech passes on, then the world can sigh in relief, as it will finally cool off just a little.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

so last night the temperature fell about twenty degrees in two hours, and by the time we went out for a walk with the dog, about nine at night, it was already down in the forties with a fine kind of drizzle. now it's more like the thirties and it's actually raining, which is a miracle; folks here are generally overjoyed to get any moisture at all even if it's snow or the coldest kind of rain. so i think people are overall happy, even though the driving is a little dicey.

i look at news reports from up north though, and they're having another one of those ice/snow storms, a foot of ice with a foot of snow on top, driving dangerous, everyone worried about loss of power, etc. and it's just one more in a long string of storms that has pretty much kept on coming all year, from about october. an unusually hard winter, with lots of hardship, snow days, bad travel, cars in ditches, and on and on. we feel guilty down here, having pretty much opted out of the whole mess. but we woke up this morning, with it like forty and feeling like it was going to rain, and we decided just to opt out entirely from church.

we have mixed feelings about church anyway, what with our household being a mixture of various feelings, ranging right down to the youngest who likes groups of young people and benevolent adults who don't watch the sugar plate very well, but when the other youngsters get to teasing him then he's a little less enthusiastic. i do it by habit, because religion has been a strong part of my life for years, but this particular religion (presbyterianism) is not a perfect fit for me, since i'm quaker, so i have mixed feelings about the entire experience too, though i love the people and do it mostly for the young guy. then there's my wife and son, who are just beginning to go, put their feet in the water so to speak, and they're doing it mostly because we might have young girls here soon, and so if it takes we'll all have a community and friends, and people to do stuff with. that's a good reason to go; we like the people; they're of similar minds to us, and we enjoy being with them. but my wife and son have different kinds of feelings about the religion part of it. you have to think hard about how you feel about religion, and each of them has a different way of approaching a presbyterian service, with its choir, choral readings, etc.

went to a basketball game the other night; tech was trying to fill its arena, the so-called usa, with ten thousand students so we threw our hat in and joined in on the noise. they got about six thousand, still set a record, both for tech and for the conference this year, and had a great game, though we lost. the crowd support was substantial, and we enjoyed hearing all the people in the arena whoop it up and support the team, which is actually just kind of middling. with the tournament coming up, such teams as iowa, iowa state, kansas, oklahoma and oklahoma state will all be in it, and will have a chance, but tech won't, so this was very likely our last chance to watch and enjoy. that was a cold night too; we've actually had some winter here. we walked the four blocks home with our collars up and were good and cold by the time we got here.

the thing is, lubbock does have a winter; the high plains wind hits us hard, and there's plenty of cold air to blow around. just now the tiny bit of rain that we got froze, on cars, on roads, and on lawns, so it caused a little trouble, but we've had some snow, some ice, some windstorms.

one thing about living here is that people know about the wind and consider it to be just as important if not more important than the temp. One day i asked my friend how bad the wind was, and she said, 37, and she turned out to be only one mph off; it was in fact 36. but she was walking around with that general awareness, much like i'd keep track of the temperature. so i asked her about the degree of inconvenience caused by increasingly higher winds, and she had a good bead on that too. 30 is already pretty inconvenient; you start feeling it in your teeth. a certain amount of dirt, most of it from new mexico, starts blowing around and collecting in the little corners by the fence line. your visibility, especially in the southwesterly direction, starts to get compromised.

on my walk at night i go west about two blocks, south two, east two, and then north two, and do that five times until i've done 5k, but the turnarounds are reminders of how much wind matters. if a cold hard one from the northeast is coming in, then i feel it the most going east, and going north, but then back around on the west and south ways, it's a little more peaceful and i can get some hard thinking done. these days i'm mostly thinking about finishing my novel and making my poetry more complete, but both of those are almost done, and i'll have some time, pretty soon, to devote to a new project.

more on that stuff later. now it's time to feed the kids, before friends come over and the day starts. little icy out there, i hope the drivers are getting by, my wife especially, who's doing a target run.

Friday, February 21, 2014

i generally make a point to write as little about my children as i can, since their story is theirs, and it's imposed on them, it's not even their choice who is bringing them up, or whether anyone can write about it. and this is even more true (if that's possible) for foster children or those who may come to us by the grace of g-d or the texas child protective services. but i'll break that general rule tonight as i know lots of relatives (who are probably my only readers anymore) are curious about what might happen in the near future.

it's true, there might be two more; they would be girls, and would be 8 & 5 which would make the oldest about half a year younger than our youngest now. they would be #9 and #10 in our family; they would live in the southeast room that has a nice morning light, and looks out over the neighborhood upstairs; the boys have already split the master bedroom and are holed up in their warrens in the bottom floor back. they would arrive as soon as the system would make it possible and that would be soon. we hear a lot about them, but haven't met them yet.

they are right now living in a foster home in lubbock, and that family cannot keep them permanently. they have siblings that have all found permanent homes, but they haven't. they would like to stay together. we will make sure they do.

we would then have four children left at home, two boys, two girls, with one boy & one girl virtually the same age. i am getting used to the idea. it will change things considerably. it is general consensus that it might be too much for us to handle; everyone would agree with this except maybe my wife and the social worker, but i have decided that it's better to try and go forward with it, and do it at all costs, than to live with the consequences of squelching it, or preventing it. i can handle it, though it may make life a little more full. things will be busy and crowded around here. i say, bring it on! somebody needs to be there for the young & homeless, the not-spoken-for. in this case, it will be me.

Monday, February 17, 2014


full moon tonight, somewhat hazy, but the internet is down, so i'm writing this on word to be put up later, maybe, as things get back to normal. have no idea what's going on, but the walk was peaceful - a warm night here, a few people out sitting in the park, a few people running or walking like me, no coats necessary.
sometimes i judge by how many ambulances and helicopters i hear, and by that standard, it was also peaceful, because there was maybe only one or two of each. we're in the helicopter district, and west texas has a million people, so it's an unusual night when there isn't a helicopter, but i still jump when i hear them, because they fly so low and circle around as if they're checking out whoever is walking through the park. no, it's just because the hospital is right across the way. and the same goes for the ambulances. if they are going to the hospital, i hear them. if it's police sirens, now they might stay out in the neighborhoods, and never come near me.
i up and printed my haiku and my novel; i was taking a breath on the novel, so when i looked at the haiku i was surprised to find: 850 of them altogether, after crossing out a half-dozen repetitive ones; at least a dozen in every state now, though d.c. still has only eleven; one for every season in every state, except for maybe a half dozen. in other words, it's pretty close to the point where, when i publish it, i'll feel like it's a complete volume, and can really get out and push it. and i like being done with it to that degree. i find that its unfinishedness  has kept me from really pedalling it, out there, to some degree. i'd like to have a reading, for example, but just can't bring myself to get out there with a book that, as i look at it, has these gaps. but with this printing, i see more like 850; it's getting better. there are fewer gaps. better, still, it feels like a tapestry, like i can continue writing into it, improving it, adding color and life. it's a little weak on the natural world; recently i've been doing a series on the amazing monarch butterflies, which are endangered by the way; i realize that even noticing them, to some degree, and knowing their migration pattern, dates the poems. folks didn't know about the milkweed and the long treks from mexico to ohio and indiana, back when i was doing my traveling. sure, they were just as magical, just as beautiful in the sun. and they are a sign of the season; it's just that i didn't know it when i was traveling.
so, one of the central dilemmas of this haiku book is that i learned most of my stuff in the 1970's. a better way of putting it is, i picked up my love of geography and hung onto it. the book highlights the unique parts of each state, and tries to catch unique parts of people's attitudes and capture a bit of life in that state. all from a traveler's point of view, of course. i had to let go of a few things though, first being slavish conformity to the 1970's experience. i had to widen it to get every season in every state. more about this later; i'll try to write a bit about it on my poetry blog.
as for the novel, still plenty of slogging to go. major changes afoot, to make it more complete, in harmony with itself, internally accurate. i'll need readers too; contact me; this will happen in about a month. on the one hand, i'm really proud to finally have a document, in my hand, that feels like a novel. on the other, i'm really worried, that there's so much in it that doesn't make sense to itself, when it's matched up page by page. something has to be done about it. and there goes my week, pretty much.
one boy wants to walk to school; the other already rides a bike. my wife will walk as it gets nicer, and i always walk; it's getting to the point where i might be able to go whole days without driving. this would be my goal. my night walk is about three miles, but any extra walking i get in during the day, that much better. what i'd really like is to get back in the pool; it's been too cold even to walk over there. but what i'm thinking, is more of an outdoorsish life style. already i play more ping pong with the boys, outside. i'll grow a garden, out there also. i just figure, with all this fresh air, blue sky, wind, i'ma get some of it. it may dry my skin, but it seems good for now; keeps me alive, gives me stuff to look forward to. spring here is an odd combination of extreme dryness, wind, dust, occasional rain or humidity, even a bit of cold and snow once in a while. not that i know what it's like, sometimes you just have to get out and experience it. More later.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Saturday, February 08, 2014

i think i'm going to write a story about black ice, but i haven't quite got the story line yet, and don't really know if i'm right with the facts either. wikipedia admits that black ice is any ice you can't see, and even admits that the term is used widely, used at sea for deadly ice that can kill people in a boat, etc. so there's no sense getting proprietary about the language itself, what do i know? but i have this memory of people in minnesota telling me, or maybe it was chicago, that black ice is a certain kind of ice, only happens when it's really cold, like ten or twenty below. so then, if you hear people down here in texas talking about it, and using the term for anything you can't see, you know they're overusing the term.

as far as ice that you can't see, that can start right around the freezing point, and yes, texas has plenty of that. today i went out to water, as we've had a sudden spell of about fifty degree weather and you can actually see how dry it is, and the hose was frozen, and i almost broke the hose, the pressure made it leak. so on the road these little droplets of water freeze, down in the cracks of the asphalt, and you can't see it and this can be very dangerous. but it seems to me that in minnesota, what they were saying was that at ten or twenty below, the asphalt itself starts to freeze, and that's a whole different level of danger, a different kind of ice. and they said it was particularly deadly on the interstate on a morning commute, say you're going seventy or something.

now the idea that the most dangerous thing in the world is a kind of ice that you can't see, is a pretty powerful metaphor for life itself, very useful in a story, but like i say, i haven't worked out those details yet. and don't know if i want to work on that minnesota vs. texas angle in any case, i'll keep you posted. i've been working on the novel a lot these days, and i'm kind of at a break with the haiku, i have about 850 now, maybe only about 820 publishable because i'm becoming less tolerant of repeaters, etc. the haiku has been moving along at a pretty good clip but there are certain places - kentucky, new hampshire, hawaii, d.c., that kind of defy my easy creative juices, i'm just kind of stuck. in the novel there are dozens of unresolved issues, if you're an author, you owe it to the reader to tie up loose ends, don't put stuff in there if there isn't a reason. i'm new to the novel business, haven't quite got the hang of it yet. you'll be the first to know, the day i finish.

went out to the jam on thursday night, but it was cold night, maybe ten or twenty, not too bad, but cold by texas standards. almost nobody was there, but one guy who was there, let his dog out to pee, and the dog took off and didn't come back. it was a friendly dog too, it had let me pet him, but it somehow didn't feel the need to stick around, that, or because it had to find some actual grass to pee in, just kept running and not finding any. drove around a little looking for it, fruitlessly. heard a story later, the following day, about a dog getting hit on one of our main streets, which is called indiana. this particular street, you often have lines of cars, three abreast, at about forty. this was a bad situation for the dog, apparently.

the city is a vast grid of blocks that keep stretching out onto the texas plain to the south and to the west, and to the southwest, until now it goes all the way out to 118th street and west two or three alphabets, which would be from avenue a to avenue x & avenue z which is actually university, then from akron avenue through flint where we live, and all the way out to utica and wayne, where the dog was lost, and then slide, and then beyond slide avenue it starts again and you have streets like chicago, milwaukee and out that way. there are hundreds of blocks and these people's dogs just get loose and tear around the city. we occasionally see loose dogs down by the parks where people bring their dog to romp, they think it will obey, then it doesn't. and off it goes. this is what happened to my friend. somebody could have picked it up, he said. he was hoping it wouldn't freeze to death. its name was 'friday' - good name, i told him, almost nobody has an argument with friday, the general concept is pretty agreeable. but the dog was gone, and our calls went unheeded.

it's late afternoon here, a gentle sun coming through the windows, and a break from the bitter cold spell that has gripped the area for about a week. maybe the hose will thaw, and i'll water, but most likely, we'll go to a chinese new year celebration and have some chinese food. it's year of the horse and i'm a horse, i have no idea what that means, except that apparently it's lucky, and our friends will invite us, which is lucky already. my feeling is, and i take my younger son on a lot of this stuff, if a kid wants to get out there, and see the world, that's what i'm here for. the older son has taken to minecraft and staying in, he doesn't care for the social whirl, and we indulge him, because he does ok in school and actually has some friends. also, because my wife is the same way, given the choice, she won't go out. life is tough enough, she's tired, she'd rather stay in and rest.

the image of the dog getting hit on indiana remains lodged in my brain, but hey, it's life in the city, this city is twice the size it used to be, and probably that's happening a lot. people have a lot less control of their dogs than they think they do, and then, on the drivers' side, sometimes things happen and you just can't do much about it. another family, here in lubbock, swerved to avoid a dog, and ended up in a fatal wreck that killed grownups and left kids on this earth without parents. you try not to let this stuff happen, but then, sometimes you wonder, the best way to avoid it is just to stay home on a weekend.

late at night, on my walk, which i love, cold weather or warm, i'm there, generally, and there are a lot of helicopters above, this being the kind of hospital neighborhood where the medivacs take off and land, and have to fly relatively low in order to maneuver around to the direction they want. we also hear a lot of ambulances, especially late at night, they seem to come from all directions sometimes and i can see them down the long streets, as the sound has already made it pretty clear where they are and where they're going. down about three streets is indiana, and they like that one, it's wide and people can pull over and let them go by. i'm from a much smaller town so after a while it seems incredibly busy to me, like the million people in this area are just having crisis after crisis, and i guess that's true in a kind of general way. but it also makes me grateful to finish, come home, crawl into a warm bed, see another day. to think, i used to spend whole seasons standing at the side of interstates, hoping someone would stop.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

year of the horse

i've gotten lazy about posting photos up here, sorry, they'll be coming, but i've been working on the novel a little and also considering a blatantly commercial site that would take some of my time & do more to promote my writing, music, etc. this one is very personal & i hope to keep it that way, but nobody said i have to post every day & in fact it's fallen off a little in the modern era as i have so much other stuff to write. i love it though and want to keep it exactly as it is.

chinese new year came and went, inasmuch as i'm turning 60 this year, i'm a horse, and it's my lucky year, starting yesterday. i'm not sure what this entails exactly....do i remain lucky the entire year? is it a good year to, say, make my family larger, or go on a big trip? how exactly should i plan for this year? my friend is a horse, and she's chinese, so i tried to get her to tell me exactly what that meant. that we're strong? (i heard that once in korea, but it could have meant any kind of thing, including stubborn)...that i'm spirited? (that's a better adjective for what a horse represents, if you're lucky)...reminds me of a horse they once gave me when i was out riding with a 1-year-old. the horse had been on the same mountain trail (in colorado) a million times. they taught me how to steer him right and left, stop and go, but he refused to obey any of my commands, and kept doing whatever he wanted. his name was "domino"...finally my young son got in the act of yelling at him and kept saying, "vong vay, dummino!" he never let us fall; he was a tolerant horse. he just refused to do whatever we told him.

big music-playing weekend as i went to the jam hole on thursday and the old club on friday. thursday's session was lively though small and included lots of songs that were new to me. one guy who is a kind of host presented a song he has been working on for a long time, but, unfortunately, it's one of my least favorite songs of all time, being from a pop era, and just being a song whose tune i dislike. that's the breaks though. the problem is we'll probably hear the song for about a month now, until he comes up with a better one. another problem is that he's really one of the better guitar players around. if he had good tunes, it would be a lot more fun. what to do? not much i can say here, only that, you finish, and i'll play mine.

then at the old club it was all bluegrass. i loved every tune. by the end of the night i had this huge smile and i knew it was because there was so much music, and i loved it all. there was one toward the end where this one fiddler wanted us to play 'mountain dew' which was actually not my favorite of bluegrass songs, and we did, we played it, he led it. he was kind of a lousy fiddler, made me look good, on account of he was out of tune, and didn't know really a g flat from a plain g. tried to play old joe clark with a plain g, and didn't recognize his own mistake, now that's my definition of guy who's going to make me look good out there. but nevertheless i tried to make room for him and let him have the lead a lot.

there was another couple there, after a while i noticed, every song they picked was gospel. now gospel is about a quarter of all bluegrass anyway, we don't think much of it when someone calls a gospel song, they're as good as any. and they're definitely in the mainstream of the genre, in other words, they're pure bluegrass, they're not setting you off in some musical direction you don't want to go. so every time the songs come around, we're getting two gospel, because they keep calling gospel. this is why, maybe, the old guy called 'mountain dew'...he figures, if you keep pushing that stuff at me, you're going to drive me to drink hard likker.

then there's this guy, he's a kind of leader, excellent on guitar and banjo, has all good music and knows the words of the songs. his favorite song is called 'carolina,' but he gets into these jags where every darn song he calls is dixie this or dixie that. now i thought, for a while, that he was doing it to drive me nuts, because i'm a yankee fiddler and i don't know half those songs. don't know any of them, truth be told. but i set about learning them, because i figured, once again, you're going to need 'em, if that's what folks want to hear. and now i've gotten so i know a few of them, and it seems he's friendlier to me too, i kind of like that.

songs i call, i have to have other people sing, because i still don't trust my own voice, and i can't sing and play the fiddle at the same time, and don't want to put down the fiddle. but to do that, i have to make sure someone can sing it, otherwise it's a bust. and i'm wondering, maybe i should just put that fiddle down and have a go at singing, or go back and forth, i'm not sure how to deal with it.

toward the end though this one bass player comes in and they were all waiting for her to call hers, but they were in the process of running us out of there. so quick she says, 'crossroad', it's an old gospel song, but she does it in b, and that drives us fiddlers crazy because b is such a hard key for a song like that. it was late and i wasn't on my best, i'd already been fiddling away all night. but it was still the high point of the evening. my favorite song. i'm a put all these on my music site if only because i want to learn them, in b or whatever, and be more ready next time.

so it goes & i'll just tell one more story, sorry about dumping on these poor folks at my music circle, i'm just letting off steam & hope they don't recognize themselves. i love them all, in fact, the mere fact they show up, and tolerate me, in any form, is a genuine miracle & i should be grateful. but here's one last horse story. my daughter was in high school and the time came for the iowa games, but she couldn't take her own horse because of money or whatever. so at the games, which were in ames, she took one of the stable's horses, a very old fellow who was unruffled by whatever you threw at him. and sure enough, ames in august is like, 103 degrees and then drenching thunderstorm, and then 104, with 99% humidity. and all the horses were dying out there, but this old fellow, he just went around the track calm as could be, and when she said jump, he jumped. she won a silver medal that day, and would have won the gold, but in fact he just couldn't get excited about the last jumping part, and wasn't as graceful looking as he could have been. i considered it lucky though, to see her up on that platform.

year of the horse. now her daughter is up there on the horse.

Friday, January 24, 2014

thoroughly exhausted from donuts-with-dad at seven a-m, roller skating last night and swimming today, so i had a cup of coffee tonight at the yoga bean coffee house and settled in for some irish music and dancing while the boys romped with some other kids in the back. i don't actually dance, because the steps are complicated and you have to learn them. i also don't play fiddle, although they let me play a few times, because the songs also are complicated, you have to learn and practice them over a few years. the place was crowded; it was fun. the kids enjoyed it too. but the coffee lingers now, and i can't sleep.

donuts-with-dad was an interesting school experience, because even though i consider donuts to be the most shallow, empty, sugary food that actually hurts me an hour or so later, it's universally popular; my son wanted two of them; almost every dad of every kid in the school was there as well. they filled up the gym. it was an experience. it had been postponed two or three times for whatever reason but people must have wanted it so as to not let it die, and then all attended, even on a very cold morning at seven no less. unbelievable.

and then, there was skate night, where i really felt my old bones, but i went around on those skates anyway, and it made my heart speed up a bit and i worried a little about my own condition. actually it's the donuts that really make me worry, because i used to be able to eat two or three of those too, but now even one makes me jumpy, but the thing about skating is, it seems to require more of me than, say, the walking or swimming that i do a lot of. it's just more rigorous. out there on the floor you get to hear all the new music, and see all the kids do their thing.

out on the street i saw something i really didn't like. a couple of guys were getting taken out of their car by an ems emergency vehicle. three or four police cars and two fire trucks surrounded their car, except that another car, which seemed to belong to a woman, was behind them. they were taken out of their car with utmost care as if they had both broken their necks, yet they had looks on their faces that showed a little smugness, as if, no way they broke their neck, but they would make the poor woman pay for this anyway. in other words, all the neck brace, gentle handling, backing into the emergency vehicle, etc., all seemed like it was for show. i looked at the two cars. there was not a single sign of the one having hit the other, though i would assume that perhaps the woman had back-ended the men's car. no sign that one car had even touched the other. the poor woman's insurance company was going to be taken for a ride, i guess. and everyone knew it. free ambulance trip all the way around.

saw two confederate flags in the dorm windows. they must have been up there for king's day, or maybe they were there all along and i just didn't see them. what do you do, ask people to remove stuff like that? a lot of people wouldn't hesitate. this is way up on the fifteenth floor, seventeenth floor, etc., no way to apply any kind of free speech to a window like that. the ironic thing is, people get all roundabout when it comes to that flag, they'll claim it's not racist, or it is more southern pride than pro-slavery, or pro-confederacy, or whatever, blah blah blah. i don't buy it. on one level, it's pure racist. and, to make matters worse, the whole texas-flag thing basically celebrates an era when white people came out here on the plain, and just killed indians by the hundreds, turned around and killed the mexicans who they had lived peacefully with for years, then became their own nation, etc., so, much as i like texas pride, the whole lone star thing is kind of tainted too. i got a lone-star tie over christmas, but i've been trying to wear it, and in the mornings when i go to put it on, this big honking white star on red and blue, i have trouble aligning with all that history, some of which, to tell the truth, i don't even know. i've become a bit distrustful of all flags, or that kind of symbol, for that reason, they bind up a number of movements and represent sometimes a whole progression of violent social activities that led to that symbol having power in the modern world. and when you take it on, wear it, put it in your window, or on your car, for example, you are lending power to it, or at least taking on what people recognize as a symbol of these things...you don't know how other people see it, but, you can be sure it's not always going to be good.

a bitter wind, down from canada, has left the whole country pretty cold, and the traditional wisdom from up north goes, when the wind comes from the northeast, it's always trouble. it's circling around over all those lakes and picking up that icy bitter windy character, and it sometimes dumps snow and ice on everything & folks here, for sure anyway, just aren't used to it, and can't handle it very well. it made for some very cold walking, but it's ok, i like walking these days, and i consider it a bit safer at the big intersection, if i'm on my own two feet, and i can jump when somebody does something stupid. lots of stupid things these days, we hear the police all over the place, and the ambulances, and my guess is, the weather is getting to them. weather doesn't kill people, people kill people, but, doesn't matter, weather makes people go bonkers. a good time to stay home, wrap up in some blankets, and make a fire.