Thursday, April 28, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
one of the three wanted to stay and play in the schoolyard. i'm not sure how many of her friends would be playing out there, with sand blowing in their teeth, but she gets out of school hungry to do the hanging and swinging, summersaults, pulling all her muscles on the playground equipment. i told her no, we'd get sand in our teeth, and the people who didn't want sand in their teeth had the right to go home and get out of the duststorm. she seemed to accept this explanation, at least for a while. i think, at home, the trampoline is relatively sheltered, and they might be able to do some of that stretching and jumping at home, without the sand.
coming back from new mexico, my wife ran into a little of this duststorm, yesterday afternoon. it's a fairly wide system, going right on up into kansas where there are tornadoes, and down here, there's a lot of dust that a wind can pick up if it has a mind to, dust that reduces visibility, or makes travel unpleasant. i myself had returned the day before, and now, as usual, don't really want to go anywhere, particularly not in the city.
it's not that i'm afraid of the city; actually, i've been relatively lucky. but accidents are up, pedestrians are getting run over, and you'd think that the cell phone was part of necessary driving equipment, the way everyone seems to need to use it, almost every minute of being out there. this one place, ironically out in front of a hospital, features sudden warning-less stops, and it's a place where people tend to get on their phones and tell people that they just left the university. one would think it's a place you could use your cell phone. but in fact it has maybe an accident a day out there, cars getting crumpled up like homework that got too close to a dog. lots of accidents. i could sit here at my little couch, and put on the lubbock police scanner, and keep better track, but i'm too busy. instead i express my gratitude that i can still ignore my phone much of the time when i have to drive.
the queen and i had a birthday; she turned 90, and i turned 62, both on the same day. it was the day prince died; my wife says, she thinks it was an overdose. he kind of spoiled our special day, i must say. but what happened this year was, i got tired of being mad at the queen, and i stopped. she was a kind of traitor to the birthday, always celebrating it in june, but another way of saying that is, she had her own private celebration on her birthday, and a more public splash in june. whatever, i stopped worrying about it. now she's ninety, still good-looking, still the queen, and i'm thinking, it's time to let up and let her decide the best way to celebrate. i figure, you reach ninety, you have the right to declare victory.
we've got our eye on dad. he's turning 89 on saturday. april rocks!
Monday, April 18, 2016
i've taken to walking barefoot, nights. it's painful, mostly when i try to put shoes back on, but also in the middle of the night when i get up to use the bathroom. i try to live a mostly barefoot life around the house; that helps. ruthless elimination of shoes at all costs is probably the best thing i can do for myself. once you readjust your entire body balance and load-bearing system, you unleash all kinds of things never before imagined. stickers and dog poop are the least of my worries, i tell you, although i still feel pecan shells, little acorns, and gravel rocks at least until i get a hard skin on.
but the biggest damage is just general ankles, feet, arch-bones, these things that don't generally get weight on them. what, did the shoe eliminate the need for them? i would think so, based on the way i've been in pain. either it gets better, and i get stronger, or else i'll have to admit defeat, and go back to the world of civilization.
i'm in the middle of a publishing binge, of my new e pluribus haiku. you can find it by scrolling down, clicking on the picture, go & buy my new book of poetry. it's intense. took me all year to write about five hundred, and to rearrange or revise the rest, though i missed a few, and had to rely on some colorful relics to fill in the gaps. in order to write a thousand for next year, i have to start now and write at least three a day; i wrote five today. my first five. had some images from baltimore that i came back with; i wrote about them. i have a plan; i'll try to stick to it. i'm psyched up for a new round.
but meanwhile, i've gone and promised a quaker play, so i now have a deadline hanging over me, and i'll be cranking that out soon. in fact, i work best with deadlines. if i didn't have international haiku day, i'd never had my book published at all. time to get the creative machines rolling.
and don't forget - sixty two, avenue q. april rocks!
Friday, April 15, 2016
e pluribus haiku
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
the process is really quite incredible. part of the process is writing 500 in a single year....but i think, that if i get my chops going, i can do the next thousand, about three a day, just keep it up. it's possible. it's taking me a few years to get warmed up.
more about this one later, and especially on the poetry weblog, where i discuss such things, and on all the other weblogs, where i don't need much excuse to start a wide publicity campaign.
the fact is, only about one out of every thousand people even reads poetry, and only one out of every hundred of those ever buys it. so i'm writing to a very limited audience here, and advertising to an even more limited one. no problem. it's how i practice. one can advertise poorly, so if i get in the habit of improving my advertising, eventually i know all the tricks. but it's not really about advertising. it's about cranking it out, and getting it out there, on the table. after a while, if you write two, three, four haiku a day, you live in your own world.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
shower of fear
a brief look at the news shows that they just solved a murder in austin, caught a 17-year-old kid, and even identified him, in the murder of a student. here, in baltimore, though, they probably have a steady run of such things, or at least so it would appear from out my hotel window. i’m kind of glad to be getting back to lubbock; more so because my own little routine is limited, than that Lubbock is itself perfectly safe. i feel like, out here in the world, i’m getting a shower of fear.
part of it is that i didn’t really know the terrain. i walked ten blocks up this one street in baltimore with a friend, a canadian woman, who i was walking home. she was not particularly afraid of anything, but admitted that the street was “a bit dodgy.” darn right, i thought, since there were a number of people around who really weren’t doing much except hanging around. you always assume this is happening because of some bus stop. But i think buses came and went, and they didn’t get on them. i think they were close to downtown, looking for some opportunity, as the vast expanse of the city went the other direction, and there certainly wasn’t much in the way of opportunity out that way. occasionally, as i walked through the city, i’d have some guy ask me for money or try to sell something, or in some cases, just mumble hoping perhaps that i would stop and see what i could get. these people were engaged in legitimate business, you could say, since begging, for example, is at least being straightforward about why you are there. and i’m sure it was a police cat-and-mouse game: the police would run them out; they’d move; a bit later, they’d be back. they weren’t about to go back to their neighborhoods empty-handed.
the vast majority of these young guys were black, although one white guy hit us up at the train station, who claimed he’d lost his wallet at the oriole game, and was from the eastern shore. we gave him train fare, but the thing was, that would put him at the airport, and wouldn’t really solve his problem. we suspected him but gave him the one-seventy, but he didn’t hang around to spend it, and there was no telling what he really wanted. the other guys, around every corner, on every street, seemed to make up a shadow army, a group of guys who were always trying to get something out of a situation where at least people from all over had brought all kinds of money and goods.
the fear, among the tourist community, is directly related to going just about anywhere in the downtown area. you don’t want to do it alone, or after dark.
austin is a town where the flight attendants seem to be overjoyed at the possibility of landing there. if you are into the music and nightlife it’s got to be a great place, and most people don’t have to worry about paying high rents as they’re just visiting.
as a texan though i’ve already got mixed feelings about the place. it’s doubled in size several times in the last few years. traffic has become unbearable. musicians complain that they can’t afford to live there, and actually organize politically so the city will make it possible. it’s considered a blue island in a red sea, speaking of politics, but i’m sure that’s got a price: in the airport, i heard a woman complain about how the wealthy money interests in the state control the leg (pronounced 'ledge'), so the city of austin will never even get its share of anything. the reds share with the reds, apparently, and the blues are just out of luck.
baltimore is part of the other world, controlled by the blues. in the north, lots of people have stopped looking for work altogether, let alone complain about whether a certain income makes it possible for a person to survive in a certain economy. the metro in baltimore went through neighborhoods where there were giant holes in the back of some apartments; who knows how many of them were vacant? we could tell that these neighborhoods kept up appearances on their front end; but, with certain apartments literally crumbling, they couldn’t do it forever. maybe the guys in the shadow army were going back to places like this, smoking crack or even taking their meager earnings and sharing with wife & kids, or just kids. some of these guys were my age, sixty, fifty, forty, no insurance, probably way behind on all kinds of bills & healthcare, but what else could they do? i think, if you were to talk to them about getting some kind of job, they’d think you were in another world. and, let’s face it, you are.
when they mumble, i always assume they’re selling drugs. i have no idea, of course, since i’m getting old, and don’t hear mumbling as well as I used to. besides, nothing ever comes of stopping and engaging with them, unless one is truly into drugs, in which case, i suppose that was the guy you were looking for. but these days i just walk by them, and don’t even listen too carefully to what they’re saying, and just not even look at them if i can help it. the heck of it is, let’s say they’re selling drugs, but it doesn’t matter, even if you want something else, they’d easily stop whatever they’re doing, and take you way across town, for any other kind of deal, as long as there is some kind of hope that they will get a cut in that deal. and they will act like they are doing it because they are your friend, your personal service provider, but in fact if the possibility of them getting a few bucks were removed, they’d be gone in a minute. and, you think they have the time to stand around talking to you about the weather, or the orioles, or what they thought of the riots last year? don’t insult them. they’re working men, and their time isn’t worthless.
i was wondering where they got a whole plane full of people who were going from baltimore to austin on a friday night. at one point, because they were overbooked, they called out for anyone who was going on through to oakland, to please report at the desk – but nobody did, or maybe just one or two. if they aren’t going through to oakland, i thought, then they’re like me – continuing on to some other town in the region – but i wasn’t aware that austin was a new hub, and in fact, if it is, it’s only a minor hub, a place they send you if they’re full up going through dallas or houston. no, i think most people on the plane are going to austin, and that’s because there’s a lot of commerce, and ideas, and business travel involving austin and the dc area, which is also served by the airport. these people mean business, even though it’s friday night.
but I can’t tell you exactly, because i don’t ask them, and besides being relaxed, having a drink or two in them, and heading back to texas, there’s nothing special about them in particular that makes them different from anyone else.
i don’t like living in fear; I was about to bring my fiddle to baltimore, and in the end i didn’t, partly because it’s so delicate (the case, that is, which is in fact broken), and it’s such a hassle on the plane, and the guy i was going to play music with backed out at the last minute, being crazy busy. but no, part of it was just fear. you walk down one of those barren lonely downtown streets carrying your life-soul partner in a delicate broken wood case, i would die if anything happened to it. fear was part of it. i used to be afraid of nothing: i would walk through any neighborhood, hitchhike through mexico and guatemala, set off on a small sailboat with a looney-tunes, jump on boxcars on wild trips across deserts and mountains – now, even the thought of going to baltimore, without the fiddle, makes me nervous, as i could lose my wallet, or a few teeth, or my pride, in any of the kind of encounters you sometimes hear of. sometimes i think these guys in the shadow army are looking me over – i know they’re looking me over, and they’re deciding i’m not worth it in terms of how much trouble they’d have to go through, to get how little. but also, sometimes they look me over and say to themselves, give me a break, we aren’t out to hurt you. it’s almost like they sense the fear, and i can’t hide it. the people who have lived on the east coast all these years – they’re used to this. but they’re also staying off the street whenever they can, making compromises based on fear.
so where should i go, where this isn’t an issue? i have to admit that even in parts of lubbock, it’s an issue. korea, it wasn’t an issue, especially. alaska, not an issue. real small towns, not an issue, in fact, your kids can walk right out the door in some of them. there are some places where people are so sparse that if anyone unruly comes through, everyone pretty much knows it. maybe i should, like my wife, and with my wife, try and find that place and move to it; we are kind of going in that direction. we gave up on the north; the cities, also, are “a bit dodgy.” but it’s important to me; i don’t like living in fear.
sometimes I look at these guys in the shadow army and see myself. true, for the most part, they’re black, and i’m white. they’re probably single, free agents, as we would say, with perhaps some kids out there but not always kids that are bound up in their family like i’m bound up in mine. no, it’s when they look at me, totally alienated, not much chance except using creative ways to separate guys like me from our money…and by the way, there are plenty of women like my friend out there, too. and i’m sure they don’t want to rob a woman, or go through the police system as having laid hands on one. they are full aware of the price. but they are still out there, as far as i can tell, preying on tourists. this becomes their reality, where they go, when it’s dinner time & they’re hungry. i can see hunger in their eyes, besides alienation – and fear – they don’t want me to call 911 either. and yet there’s something else. i have lots of things they don’t, besides a family – a job, the possibility of getting more money, if i lose what i’ve got on me, and a sense of humor. i have the ability to recover, if they take a little something and fly. i have a new day that doesn’t look anything like theirs.
five in the morning
a small one had darted out at me one time, and it had some cotton stuck in it on the side, so i’d thought it was a rabbit, and i’d swerved that time too. i should be careful, because I figure you do more damage swerving a car suddenly then just running the things over. when i got to the airport i told people what had happened. the parking shuttle guy said that winds were supposed to be at 50, but were at more like 35, he knew this was no 50. i was a little rattled again, trying to imagine how this would affect an airplane.
at the starbucks the woman told me that they were prickly things and could puncture stuff. when you think about it, that has to refer to tires, because what else can you puncture on a car? i thought of the turtles in southern illinois, which we used to avoid, because they’d puncture a tire. actually, i’d even stop my car, get out and save their lives, because i figured, on some level, someday, a turtle would get out and mylife.
on a windy day out here, you can sometimes see lots of tumbleweeds flying by, on a single field. tumbleweeds are an imported bush, called russian olive, and i don’t think anyone imported them to harvest the olive; in fact, i’m not sure why they imported them. they took well to the high, dry plains of cowboy country. but they also have this habit of blowing around like crazy in the spring. i’m not sure how people do it. once i saw one stuck to someone’s front radiator like an old wreath. maybe you just hope to hit it head on, keep it away from the tires, and live with it for a while. never carry balloons in the front of your car.
tumbleweeds are brown and you can almost see the thorns as you come up to them, and screech to a stop before they can slam into you, with their thorny weightless bushy essence. i’m sure these thorns can puncture stuff, and I’m also sure they’re not so great on the paint on cars. if a 30-35 mph wind kept pushing thorns like that up against your car, you’d probably have some damage to the paint, but I’m not sure. my impression is that if you live in the country, you get to buy a new car every year anyway. out there people are pulling cotton out of the ground like there’s no tomorrow. and they’re selling it at lucrative prices.
in new mexico i asked an older lady about tumbleweeds once, thinking i’d get some insight; that was around the time i thought one of them was a rabbit. she said she had a son at the white sands missile range who was working three stories under the earth, when they called him up one day because of a tumbleweed emergency. apparently some huge tumbleweed had flown by, and it was on fire, and they were worried that it was going to catch some cars on fire out in the parking lot. he, apparently, had a truck and some tools, presumably a shovel, because i can’t imagine what else he’d do about it. i assume he lit out across the white sands missile range, on a kind of white sandy desert that goes for miles, and i imagine we was the kind of guy who would drive faster than a tumbleweed would fly, and would hack at a burning one with a shovel, or whatever people carry around in the back of trucks. i can’t imagine what else you would do. And i’m a little skeptical that one of them could catch a car on fire, but it must have been a problem, or they wouldn’t have bothered.
around texas people always know the wind speed, and they get pretty good at estimating it – 25, or 30, 35, 40, up to 50 which is a downright hassle, sand in your teeth, driving becoming unpredictable, that kind of stuff. it’s really a kind of progression of wind getting more bothersome, because some dust gets in your teeth even at the lower speeds, and the dust that people actually breathe is known to cause health trouble later on, or what was called during the Depression, dust pneumonia. you don’t want it. you don’t even want to think about it.
i was playing fiddle the other night, and the wind was blowing, maybe 20, maybe 25. it felt like if i played out of tune, the bad notes would float away, and people would only hear the good ones. the park was green, and with the city green as well, the amount of dust was limited, but in fact, i don’t really want dust in my fiddle either, and i’m pretty sure the other band members feel the same way, as they’re from around here, and know this stuff better than i do. the mando player actually carried around a little wet thing that dried out and humidified his mando; he claimed that he had to start over every day, it was so dry. he wanted the mando to have some resilience against the dryness, and not lose its tune constantly. i myself don’t seem to have problems with the fiddle going out of tune; the night at the park was actually the first time I’d even had to adjust it, in several years. my fiddle is happy that it’s come to Texas. I pull it out of the case and just play it. there’s no special complication, no tuning fork, no nothing. the world is what it is, and you either get out your fiddle, or your shovel. you do what you have to do.
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
a new issue of e pluribus haiku is almost ready, and this is a joyous experience after a year of slaving away to get 500 new haiku. i need to let go of it for a while. it seems to claw at me, to suffocate me, and it's not bad, to think in 5-7-5 and gather information, of all kinds, of the fifty states. but sometimes, and now is one of them, a person needs a break. a little time promoting the new book, and starting over, ought to be good for me. but who knows? what remains is for me to write the little blurbs on the back cover. my goal is to write the best "about the author" blurbs ever written. such that you read them, can't put them down, and buy the book just because the blurb is so good.
you can see that i have absolutely no compunction about this blog. no grammar, no full sentences, no capitals, no obligation to keep a paragraph about a single topic, no nothing. such is the nature of a dull gray dread. i'm here because i'm not packing, because i'm not making a list, worrying, collecting my essentials.
texas is hot and dry, with a little touch of humidity, almost unheard of, and plenty of wind, which is much more common. baltimore will be cold and rainy, and will require me to bring various rain-proof kinds of things that i don't really want to, such as umbrellas. i was planning on bringing the fiddle, so as to play with a friend, but i'm not sure, that friend might be too busy, and it's an enormous hassle bringing a fiddle, especially one with a delicate wooden case that doesn't close. such is the nature of dread. i could put that fiddle so close to my body that there's no way it could be pried away, yet i know they don't like that on airplanes, and might insist that it be on the floor, in front of me or even carried down into the hatch. i don't like that. don't want bedbugs in my fiddle. i don't even want someone else handling it.
these days my path takes me along boston avenue, where the sign tells me, out loud, to "walk like a dog across nineteenth street." cars are stopped and their drivers are staring at me. lots of college students cross that same corner; generally, the lights are fairly orderly and predictable, and i like that, it's much better than flint and nineteenth, which was just a little too unpredictable. the fact that i can rely on the light tricks me into a kind of haze of not paying attention, though, and i have to occasionally make sure that everyone, absolutely everyone, sees me cross. there are occasional pieces of car, littering the gutters. the road is very uneven, though the cars are stopped and its unevenness is not damaging them. i'm highly conscious of losing it, halfway across. but it hasn't happened yet.
i get home, make another cup of coffee, settle back, avoid all movement of any kind. since i've been walking barefoot, my feet and legs are now sore, and even getting up is a hassle. walking, at night, is glorious, but the rest of my life makes me feel like i should have never compromised, and started wearing shoes of any kind. having two different systems of nerves working to tell me what kind of pain is working its way up, is more difficult than just living with whatever compromise you made. i only knew one guy who refused to wear shoes. at the restaurant we had to give him unusual volunteer jobs, because he couldn't work in the kitchen or dining room. and we didn't always want to employ anyone scrubbing out the outdoor walks. but his feet were calloused, dirty, in good condition - and he lived the life of never having to compromise, at least not with us. i could do the same thing - make others live around my stubborn refusal to wear shoes. i'm not sure this pain would ever go away, though.
kids brought a friend home, to play on the trampoline and carry on after school, as is their wont. a little wildness, that's par for the course. you gotta watch out for dog poop around, you never know. dog poop and stickers, you can't let this world get to you. you gotta pick up your crab mallets, take a nice breath of rain and coolness, and let it last all summer.
Sunday, April 03, 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Friday, March 25, 2016
naturally spring is busting out all over. cherry trees, purple flowers and vines, just about everything imaginable. All the big trucks are out in full force too. I always imagine that when they are making their extra noise, they are making their statement about something, something unseen, or perhaps me. they go a little too fast through the intersection, or they seem to intentionally blow exhaust my way, and i infer that somehow, they've got this big truck, with enormous outsize wheels, and they're still a little unhappy that i'm walking along the street on a gorgeous spring day with a smug smile on my face. actually it's probably a whole lot more random than that. they figure if they make a little extra noise, all over town, eventually the right girl will notice them, and then their problems will be over, and they'll have a reason to live. i just happen to be there in the process, and there's nothing i can do about it.
last friday of the month, and i'm heading out to the golf club to play music with every bluegrass picker in west texas, which makes the last friday pretty much the best day in the month. this month, we lost one of our own, an old guy who came to listen regularly, and always wore cardinal baseball things, being, perhaps, from saint louis. didn't know him much better than that, but i liked him, and i'll miss him. almost all the bluegrass fans are older than i am, and i'm almost retired, they look at me with that look retired people have for those of us who work, and the only thing i dread about the kind of life they're living, is that there is probably too much cnn or fox news in it. i already have way too much of that in my life already, and i look at it all indirectly, through the computer on the following day, and i already rue the fact that the entire american political system has boiled down to a kind of sick television reality show. but if i had nothing else to worry about, this would be especially aggravating.
so one of the guys i tutored today was kind of jarring. he was clearly smart, driven, and intent. however, he couldn't finish a sentence without getting other ideas tangled up into it. And those ideas would lead to other ideas, which would, in turn, get the reader to forget what the paragraph was about. it was maddening trying to lead him through what a paragraph should do, because every word i said set him off into a new territory. he gladly followed my guidance. but he was so actively a-d-d that there was almost no way to get anything done. in the process of working with him, i finally realized how hard i have to control myself, to keep from having this happen when i write. look at the previous paragraph. when i write this blog, i let go of my own controls; when i want to say something, i just say it. if i start out talking about bluegrass and end up talking about the american political system boiling down into a reality television show, i relax, and let myself do it. well, this guy was like that, only ten times as bad. and he wanted to make things right. the poor kid; his family had probably never heard of a-d-d.
speaking of a-d-d, i finished a story recently, and that gave me a burst of energy, which i now hope to use finishing 1) e pluribus haiku 2016, 2) just passing through, which has a subtitle, true stories from out there; 3) the lady in red, which i might rename, on advice to my wife, who says that if she was a feminist, lady might be the wrong word for her; and, 4) interference, my novel about sports and dreamers, and in particular, saint louis. actually i would be happy to finish any of them.