Thursday, November 26, 2015

old studebaker truck in the sacramentos

sledride the movie

Monday, November 23, 2015

much of alamogordo is right up against the sacramento mountains, but one road at the north side of it shoots right up into them. straight up, with mountains on either side, and cacti sticking out from these mountsins, this road winds up the mountain and around curves until it gets up to the the only road tunnel in the state of new mexico. right there there is a pullout, where you can park and look back over the tularosa valley, right at a little pass between high mountains.

the high mountains have caves in them, ancient caves, because this is the spot where the valley splays out below, and on the other side, you have the high mountains, with deer and elk, and different kinds of natural things to eat on either side. the sun goes down back over the wide tularosa basin; the white sands there are hundreds of square miles and extend beyond the park and back up the valley, a shiny bright white at the sunset. the ancient caves have nothing left, probably; people have been examining them for years, but i don't know that; i'm not even sure i know exactly where they are. i think i can see one from that pullout, but i'm not sure, and it always seems to me that there are surely more caves in the area besides the two that the highway cuts right up between. but nevertheless, you have a stunning overlook there. the high mountains loom above you on all sides and beyond the tunnel; between them, you see the wide tularosa valley.

further up the mountain, you come to the ancient train trestle that crossed the mountains but went out of use maybe fifty years ago. one of those trestles was called an s-trestle, because it was in the shape of an s, and the train would curve its way around the high mountains going wherever it was going. the ruins of this trestle still sit up there in the high mountains, almost 9000 feet, with snow on them at a time like this, and make you wonder what it would be like to ride that train through the mountains, the high wide view of the tularosa valley extending off to your west.

this is part of my ride home; i leave las cruces, stop in the white sands to buy some navajo tea, and then shoot up that mountain on my way back to lubbock. from the top of the mountain, 9000 feet, you start the long way down, through the dry side of the mountains, to where it gets so hot and dry that nothing grows, in the wide open plain on the way down to artesia. beyond artesia you hit the oilfields, and then the ranchlands and the cotton fields that start around the texas border. in the small town of lovington i stopped for mexican food at a small place in a strip mall on the edge of town. it has a reasonable amount of people, almost all mexican americans, and serves good green chile enchiladas. the sun has gone way down by this time. new mexico is almost entirely behind me. my trip was based on the fact that my parents are getting very old, having trouble getting by day to day, and some wrong medicine sent mom on a spiral that took weeks to unravel. a worn out heart, trouble breathing, confusion, just general getting older. but in the course of running out there, a lot, i have found that spot high in the mountains, that four or five square miles of pines, 9000 feet, high above the tularosa valley and the penasco river watershed, the one wet place in hundreds of miles, and that place has offered me relief from what is otherwise the tough way of living in a harsh arid land, going day to day in the blazing sun with a pretty thorough lack of rain. in this one high place, 9000 feet, it rains and snows a lot, and clouds come along and sit up there, on the mountain, and everyone hangs around in the clouds watching the cars and trucks come through, and hit their high point before descending down into the dry. they talk about going through twelve eco-zones on their way down to get groceries; this is true; they get their groceries in alamogordo. they stay off the steep windy road in the bad weather, or they get four-wheel drive trucks.

nobody much really knows about this place; most of el paso, and las cruces, are happy living in the low hot desert, and don't need to get away all that much. in comparison to el paso and las cruces, lubbock is a lush green rain forest, but at least in lubbock, they've heard of the place. the highway that goes through it is a simple two-lane, but it's the road from my house to my parents', so this one high point, in the clouds, that's the place i've picked out as where i want to be.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

i click "like" for every one of my friends who changes their profile to a french flag image. I do this partly because i click "like" every time i see my friends in general, every time i see their face in any form, and any place. the joy of facebook is keeping those friends in my life, no matter how far away they are, no matter what else happens to each of us.

but of course, "like" is also endorsing their solidarity with france, and the people of paris, perhaps unfairly ignoring the people of beirut or of kenya, or, as one friend pointed out, the hundred per day that are killed by terror in congo. i myself have never changed my profile, to a french flag, to rainbow, to anything. i have never once changed my profile. and i have never "unfriended" anyone either. these are two things i plan to keep doing.

but to get back to the point, by "liking" the picture of a friend who has francofied their profile, am i not contributing to the pro-west "french lives are more important than lebanese/kenyan lives?" i don't think so. i am liking them even as i see them through the french-colored glasses they have put on me. they are saying "see me aligned with the people of france" and i am saying "i like you when you are aligned with the people of france." but i would like them if they were aligned with the people of lebanon or kenya as well. i would like them if they were aligned with nothing but their front yard.

i have two friends in paris. one is the only daughter of two good friends, who i have known for twenty years, who married a parisian and lives there. the other is a former student, korean, who is there for whatever reason i don't know; i didn't even know she was there at the time. facebook told me right away that the korean woman was safe; she was onto the facebook "safety" app and used it immediately. the first friend, however, who uses facebook less, took more time to realize that would help her worldwide acquaintances, and didn't check in with facebook until the following morning. but when i woke up to seeing that on my phone (that she had checked in) i was immediately more accepting of facebook and phones, as useful tools in personal emergencies. the world indeed needs to work together in the present circumstances. constant communication helps.

personally, my whole reaction to it is weary. i am glad my friends are safe. i am afraid for the world we live in and the world i am bringing my children into. i think we need to recognize that we, the west, usa and france, are bombing people every day and therefore we are at war and we should expect war to come and find us. i like to feel like it's not my war, like i have nothing against anyone, that i would not need to kill anyone, but plenty of killing is being done in my name, with my money, so i should not be surprised that someone is coming after me. in fact i am grateful that i live so far away from everything that i don't feel like a target every day, every minute, as my sister did in new york in the 9-11 days. let the world rush in on isis and bomb them to the stone age, in retribution for paris or whatever. i want no part of that war. i wanted no part of the invasion, the bombings, the drones, and the warfare that started it, either. i am weary of the protest against war after war after war.

in times like these, we have to stick by the people we love. we have to help them get through this without sending them off to the killing fields where pretty much everyone dies over religion or whatever it is that they are fighting about. we have to make sure that some people live to carry on, even if the earth is heated up beyond the point of comfort. that's what i'm committed to. i'm committed to survival, and my spirit carrying on, in whatever form. and to my friends. if they became my friend, in whatever way, i'm sticking with them. save travels, wherever you may go.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

i started crossing nineteenth on boston these days, instead of detroit, and there are several consequences. the basic difference is this: boston has a light, and it has a crosswalk, and it even has one of those buttons that you push when you want a "walk," and it talks to you and tells you when you can walk. when you can walk, you have twenty-five seconds or something like that to get across. people want to turn left there and are often impatient with pedestrians. you are in the crosswalk; you have the right-of-way.

on detroit, on the other hand, there's no light. you wait for openings in cars as they shoot by, twelve lanes of them, and fortunately, openings come on the westbound, around the same time openings come on the eastbound. you are technically jaywalking; there's no crosswalk, no light, no nothing. there is, however, a tiny island in the center. if you make it across the first six, you can rest before you shoot the last six.

time is flying these days; we went right past hallowe'en and into the high holy days of saints day, souls day, election day, you name it, the best weather in the year. cool blue-sky fresh-air days, color on the trees, in our own limited texas way, and there is plenty going on. i was invited to speak at the fourth-grade class, as a poet, read a doctor seuss-style poem and a little of my book, and the kids, wide-eyed, asked questions and went off on a spurt of writing it and producing it themselves. they were dressed up in costume that day; a couple of them were football players. one of the football players asked me if i'd won a contest; another kid asked me if there was a competition to write the longest poem. funny that they think it should be competitive, but i simply replied, actually i know the guy who wrote the world's longest poem, but it wasn't me, i don't even try. i told about the poem down the six-story building, the poem across the mississippi bridge, the actualists, life in iowa city. i was not a poet back then, i said, but i knew some of these guys, and have maintained friendships with them over the years.

hallowe'en itself was wild as one would expect who has three or four greedy kids around needing their chocolate and all excited by the general air of sugar-bath expectation provided by their friends at school. i can't imagine any parents saying to their kids, i don't care what your friends get you are NOT going out to get candy...every kid gets candy. it's the biggest day in the year. whether your costume is store-boughten, or home-made, bogus, good or bad, you get candy. that's how it's done.

fortunately our neighborhood is still hospitable to the candy idea. though about half the neighbors bail, and go to a hotel or to some faraway country ranch where they don't have to deal with it, the others dig in, decorate, turn lights on, and dutifully distribute to all the rowdy mobs who go up and down the street. we ran into lots of people we knew, out and rambling with the kids, as kids hauled in enough to make up for what we were giving away at home. at one house, a guy had set up his organ outside, with a large lit-up spider above him, and a web coming down above him. he had mastered some spooky hallowe'en music, and it was quite impressive. he wasn't above showing a little kid how to play the organ, either.

souls day was brilliant and clear, blue skies, fresh air, kids playing in the park. i believe it was the cusp of hallowe'en and saints day that they gave us the extra hour, saturday night to sunday morning, and we all took that extra hour and did different things with it, whether or not aware that it would be extracted from us in the spring. but, the cusp between saints day and souls day is what interests me the most. it's that idea that you go from honoring all the great people, the wonderful people, to honoring all the average ones, the ones who might or might not make it, who might go either way. this, to me, is the cusp one should celebrate, and sure enough, the weather was stunning, clear, beautiful. this time of year, you can't beat it, and that's true just about no matter where you are. november is the best.

there is plenty of show-your-color display out there. people are flying flags, marching bands are playing football games, people are driving around town showing off their true emotion. that's october; i think the trees bring it out. a stiff wind came through today, and hundreds of pecans dropped all over the neighborhood; i must have picked up about a dozen, just on my walk home. boston or detroit, it told my friend, doesn't matter, it's all the pecans. they're fresh. people leave them there, and don't seem to mind if you grab a half-dozen every time you walk by. i study the different kinds and i crack them as i walk; i've gained some weight on pecans only. they're fresh, and delicious, and once you learn how to peel as you walk, it's hard on your nails but gratifying at the same time. at the walk sign, crossing at boston, i sometimes keep peeling even with the eyes of the world upon me, i'll drop a few of the shells, accidentally or not, when they come flying out from my fingers. there are prickly pear cactus on the route too. i know just enough of the people so that i can almost for sure get both, pecans and prickly pear, if that's what i want to collect or cook. the prickly pear, you make jelly out of it. but you have to know how to do it. and, apparently, it takes special gloves just to get your hands on them.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

With some of my brood, reading the best kids' book ever. I still read this book to anyone who'll listen. Recently I performed my own Dr. Seuss-ish poem, along with some of e pluribus about it here...

by Leslie Akchurin

a pretty good view of where I walk every day, and where I go. 19th Street, Lubbock.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

october fog

came down with a powerful cold, so i'm holed up at home - didn't go to work, went to a school meeting, but then, just came home and chilled. one son is sick too, so we're resting and trying to pull it together. last night a son said to me, anything can happen on october fifteenth, referring to the weather, actually, and i said, yes, it can and it does. i didn't tell him the whole backstory. a person would have to read this entire post to know that.

in the baseball world, the cubbies got into the american league championship, which stirred everyone up about the fact that in back to the future, they won the whole thing in 2015. of course there were many unbelievable things about 2015 in that movie, but such things as flying cars, spectacular neon signs, etc., have come to pass, pretty much. is it possible the cubbies will win it all? it is. i am staying aloof this year. the entire texas contingent, two team, were eliminated in one night. but i spent fifty years at least pretty much hating the texas teams for lack of anyone else to hate. now, i'm kind of warming up to them, because they are the local teams, and so many of my friends love them. and, like any teams, they have endearing qualities.

this time of year weather changes a lot - one day it's 90, the next it's 70, at least here in texas, while up north, say illinois or iowa, it may fluctuate 30 and 70. by halloween it's pretty distinctly fall no matter where you are, but that's when the baseball thing heats up, and by the high holy days, saints day / souls day / day of the dead / sadie hawkins day and the rest, it's downright nice out, even here in texas. one characteristic of this time of year is intense fogs; this happens when a sudden cool spell comes down upon a very warm and moist field of earth. the cool spell literally sucks up the moisture but it just sits there and looks creepy right at a time you don't expect it. this is the essence of hallowe'en, i think, though if you watched kids you'd think it's all about superheroes and candy.

i do a lot of walking these days, two miles a night, and i was doing it barefoot up until last night; i finally changed over to shoes. it was partly because i knew a cold spell was coming in. but it was also due to the fact that, late at night, when i get up to use the bathroom, my ankles and feet are so damaged that i can barely get across the room. and that's not a good position to be in, because i'm half asleep and feeling a little vulnerable. i hobble across the room and often, in the middle of the night, i vow to wear shoes the next chance i get. so i went out last night, and just wore them; it had gotten that bad. and i ran into a guy, another regular walker, who noticed and stopped to talk to me about it. the thing was, he was about my age, similar in many ways, i could tell as we stood there and talked. i could see lightning off in the east as the cold spell was literally rolling in. i told him about my travails crossing nineteenth street which have been on my mind lately, and about how much i love our particular park and the neighborhood.

the thing about nineteenth street is, when i lived on flint and twentieth, i saw many of the accidents there, and they had a regular supply up on nineteenth, for whatever reason. red and blue lights would fill the intersection and i could see it from our second-story window, or i would see them as i walked up there to cross the street at flint and nineteenth. that crossing scared the living daylights out of me, because people didn't see pedestrians in the crosswalk and often the sun was down so directly that, on a ten-lane road with nothing on either side of it, it was a wide expanse of blindness on the part of people who were driving too fast. so i'd have nightmares, and i resolved it a little by taking a lot of pictures and making pop art out of them. but when we moved, perhaps three blocks east, i had the opportunity to cross at detroit, and i took it. the thing is, at detroit, there is no light. a person runs across when there's an opening in traffic, and it can be called jaywalking, technically, although it's quite common. the good thing about it is, there's always an opening in traffic, especially when i go, and, when there's an opening on one side, there's an opening on the other at the same time. so i've found it overall much more comfortable, and it's alleviated my nightmares a bit.

but it has its downsides. one is that a wide variety of people don't approve of my crossing there, and even worry about me, as if it's more dangerous. i maintain that it's less dangerous. another is that if it's technically illegal, i could presumably get a ticket someday. i have not noticed anyone getting a ticket yet. and the last is that if my legs and ankles are indeed on the verge of collapse, it could happen when i'm not in a crosswalk. this would, in fact, be more dangerous, if only because people wouldn't be prepared to see me. the whole thing makes me more aware of the tenuous condition of my feet and ankles, not to mention knees.

so i'm standing at nineteenth yesterday morning, and tens and twenties of cars are shooting by, because i make it up to nineteenth just as the gap is disappearing. i always wait, i never push it or shoot out into the road between cars. just wait for the gap. but what do you do when you wait? i read the license plate prefixes. i was telling my friend about this the other day. the license plate prefixes are like reading stock market tickers on the bottom of the television - they may be useful to some people, but to most of us it's entirely gibberish with no possible use in reading. i maintain that if one were to read these prefixes well, one would know who is from lubbock and who is not, for example, as well as when someone licensed their car. i would admit that this is useless information, for the most part, but it's still information, and might be useful to some people. so i'm standing there, and i see my own car go by, and my wife's in it, and i would never have seen her if i hadn't read the prefixes. that's because i generally don't watch the people. they get spooked by it, so i give them a break. but i saw her - miracle as it was, and it was like, voila, small town.

so thirty five years ago yesterday, and this is why i consider october fifteenth a personal holiday, a thick fog settled on some cornfields out by bayertown road in the southern part of johnson county iowa, near the town of hills, which was poorly named because it didn't have hills. hills was on the river, and should have been riverside, and riverside was in the hills, and should have been called hills, but it was kind of like iceland and greenland, someone got it backward on the maps, and they were stuck with it from then on. so anyway this thick fog was all over this countryside, and the two-lane road didn't have lines on it, or a shoulder, nothing but a ditch going down deep. and i was a schoolbus driver, out of sleep because i had just bought a 1950 pickup but had to cross the state to do it, and was working nights as well as driving a school bus. you get the picture. the schoolbus flipped in the cornfield, and a couple of kids were hurt, but fortunately nobody was killed. they were rough-and-tumble farm kids, but a broken arm is a broken arm, and in one case, i think it was a broken leg. her driveway was about half a mile long, so her family had to drive her out to the bus stop from then on, in the cold, well into january. i felt terrible about the hell i put that family through, but they forgave me, for the most part, because they knew i hadn't intended it. the kids had been unusually quiet that day, and i realized that i'd come to rely on them to keep me awake and aware on mornings when i hadn't had much sleep, as that one was. but it just didn't happen that day. everyone thought it was kind of strange. to me it was a slap in the face. go get a different job, so the world isn't entrusting you with things you can't handle.

and i did.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Help Morty Sklar publish this book!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

the weather finally cooled off a little, but the humidity went up, and i'm not sure if it's a fair trade. one thing i can say is, the first day that it's not in the nineties, and i'm enjoying being outside a little. first thing i did was take the dog out for some throw; she lives for that throw, and the first time the weather turned, we went out with the ball, and now she gives me these big large-brown-eyes look every time i move. what she loves the best is to catch the ball in mid air with her huge mouth, and then turn around with her little swagger as if to say, i'm doing my job. he throws the ball, i do my job.

people are getting finely tuned to the raucous blather of the presidential race, and only the tough will survive. fiorina got her moment in the sun, but she prattled off some lies about the planned parenthood video, and the fact is, womenfolk care about health, and don't appreciate lies all that much. one could argue that, while she was a front runner, she could have widened her appeal, used her exposure to haul in an audience, but she may not stand up to the close scrutiny that will ruin her. and the same goes for trump - one really only has to pay attention for a short while, to realize that he speaks from the hip, and doesn't think very much or very clearly - is it possible that people will get sick of this? cruz is consistent, but he's a demagogue. kasich is consistent, but he can't think of a single woman to put on a ten-dollar bill, outside of mother teresa, who is not american. apparently, american women are pretty much off his radar.

my definition of the middle is that it is mostly women. in fact women are the majority of the entire electorate, but they are the overwhelming majority of the middle; the vast majority of us men made up our minds long ago. we used to think of the working-class catholic autoworker from dubuque as the middle, but he lost his job, after most of his counterparts went republican. they, as i'm saying, are not the middle; whether they are unemployed or not, they've made up their minds. it's the younger people, working class, second or third-generation immigrants, that are trying to make up their minds. they are conservative, but they're not idiots.

traditional wisdom says the race goes to the person who gets the middle, so the primaries are for figuring out which person is best for each party, and that doesn't necessarily prepare them to win the middle. if a candidate has to be extreme to win their party, so be it, but they have to come back to the center to win it all. this will be easier for bernie than, say, for huckabee, who has already proven that he cares more about god than about the constitution, and in his desperation he even offered to go to jail for his beliefs. even trump would be smart enough, i think, to say the constitution has some merit, but, trump is making sixteen guys extremely desperate, and anything could happen.

i could talk about this stuff forever, but what's the point? it'll all play out in its own time, and nothing i say would make much of a difference, at least not here. one interesting thing is that it's extremely fixed in time. tomorrow, there will be a different set of clowns, a whole new backdrop. the picture grinds forward, and things look different. you'll read my words, and say, why does he care about fiorina? it's because she's in the limelight, today. it's her moment of fame.

in the football picture, 89 out of 93 football players got degenerative brain disease, which makes me feel guilty about even caring whether tech beats arkansas this evening in fayetteville. i'd kind of got wrapped up in local fever; people around here couldn't help it, when tech beat a couple of small-school losers, and started the season with a perfect 2-0 record. they are realistic; they know tech can't beat all the big boys, in this case tcu and baylor, but they have hope, they love football, and we have a home team to cheer on. it's a wretched feeling, knowing we're cheering these poor boys right into degenerative brain disease. i'm determined to get out of this moral crisis. i had resolved not to watch the games, not to support the team, financially or even by turning on the television. but i found myself keeping track of the score on the computer; i couldn't help caring about tech and the people around here, and what was happening. my wife, on the other hand, says she has no problem not caring. and if it leads to their death, we should stop it, no question about it. change this culture to a soccer culture, why not? sports are good; soccer is good; football is fatal, like meth and war. stop killing our boys.

i've been working on the calendar, the new set of stories, and the autobiography. the autobiography appears mostly on this very site; if you look below, posts done in italics are part of the autobiography, which is called just passing through: true stories from out there - it's actually autobiography mixed with travel stories, but all true to the best of my knowledge. I find myself a little confused, sometimes, about the actual facts, and i'm certainly capable of getting them wrong. but if i can get them on paper, and study them, i think i can do a reasonably accurate job of getting them on paper. i can tell you this: no simple genealogy will get my life straight, or do nearly as well as i could do on paper. so i might as well get it in writing, the best i can.

then, it's going to get hot again. september is the cruelest month, but it does cool off, albeit not until hallowe'en. can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


when I was in Guatemala, everyone told me i had to go to Panjachel (Pahn-Ha-CHELL) it was a remote mountain village, by a lake, near a volcano, and I'd love it for its isolation and pure beauty. I made it a destination, and, sure enough, pretty soon I got there, my dirty pack, my old walking shoes, my wide-open eyes.

This one hippie guy was there to meet me, for some reason. he was Guatemalan, but he must have recognized a kindred spirit. we bought a dinner at the market, for about seven cents, and we sat down at a table by the open harbor. sure enough, there were mountains around the lake, volcanos even. the air was high, cool, cloudy, beautiful. My Spanish still wasn't great, especially since the Guatemalan variety was different still from the Mexican version I was used to; communication was difficult. He was nice, though; he lived there, and enjoyed his life in a remote, beautiful place.

I was reminded of other remote, faraway destinations, or places where people like to live, just to be in such a remote and beautiful location. Lighthouses are classic examples, out on the edge of the sea. Alaska offered many remote cabins, beautiful locations, places where you could probably buy land for a reasonable price and settle in for the long haul.

In Panjachel, I believe people moved in for the trade in beautiful, colorful clothes. The locals were in the habit of using bright colors to make beautiful things, and they were available for a small price; obviously, if you were from the norte, you could come down, pick up a load of these, and make your vacation a money-making venture. On top of that, you could stay at this remote volcano-rimmed lake, swim, relax, and breathe the mountain air.

I had two problems with that scenario. First, I was people-oriented, and knew from experience that I had trouble when I was isolated for more than about a month. But the second was more serious. I was thoroughly not attuned to monetary values, so I was the wrong person to go into such a business. A person can develop a keen eye for jewelry, clothing, boots, guitar straps, etc., knowing what will sell and what won't, but a person can't just pick up the desire to be like that, or the inborn ability to keep one's eye on every little piece. Years later I met someone who was like that, and did that for a living, and it was interesting knowing her, but just in watching her for maybe an hour, basically selling jewelry and watching it at the same time, I knew I couldn't have done that.

There would be other ways of making it in Panjachel. I still think about it, since now I'm in a flat, sunny frying pan of a place where I feel a little oppressed by the vast openness of it, the burning sun on the hot pavement. A cool mountain lake town would do me good right about now, but I don't have the economic structure set up. Oh well, a dream deferred.