Category Archives: autobiography

The Art of the Paffooney

There was a rollerskating rink in the little town of Lake Cornelia in Iowa from the 1940’s until the 1980’s. The first time I went there as a ten-year-old learning to roller-skate for the very first time, I spent the entire time cleaning the dusty floor with the knees and seat of my pants. My parents could both skate with fantastic ease. Dad could even skate backwards. During the couples’ skate, when they turned the lights down and turned on the blinking colored lights, they didn’t merely skate, they danced in circles around the rink.

But I wanted desperately to skate like that. We went numerous times to that same rink that Summer of 1967. The second time I went there I had spent a couple of nights dreaming of myself successfully skating. And practicing in my dreams apparently worked. I could skate the complete oval of the rink, and I only fell down three times the entire couple of hours we were there. We went to the A&W drive-in for root beers to celebrate afterwards.

We kept skating and I kept improving. In 1969 the song “Sugar, Sugar” was a number one hit. It played at least five times a trip to the skating rink, often during the couples’ skate. That Cornelia skating rink was the place where I skated hand in hand with a girl during the couples’ skate for the very first time. To that song, of course.

That rink was also the site of my worst embarrassment in junior high school. I fell because of a dreaded gum-wad on the floor and split the inseam of my pants from the crotch all the way down the right leg. When I got up, the girl I had a crush on and three of her female friends got a good look at my fruit-of-the-looms. Strangely, nobody made fun of me for it afterwards. The rink manager came up with enough safety pins to hold my pants together for the remaining hour of skate time. Embarrassed within an inch of my life being over, I was still not going to miss out on skating-time,

I hadn’t thought about skating in long time. I am not able to do it anymore with arthritis in my knees and feet. But this old colored-pencil drawing of a girl I once adored on roller skates brought the memory of it back again. It is a permanent part of who I am. A core memory. A foundation-stone in the edifice of Mickey-ness.

And a picture I have made with the story that goes along with it is what a Paffooney is. If you want to see more examples of Paffoonies I have created, you can do a Google picture-search of “Beyer Paffooney” and you will see a lot of them, mostly linked directly back to this blog. It is word I invented that nobody else is using (as far as I know), and so, it functions as a sort of magic word for my silly little blog.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, Paffooney

Sunday with Salvador

Today I am waxing on about the wonderful, mad, mad, mad genius of surrealist art, Salvador Dali. He was born in 1904 and died in 1989. And that’s really about all that I want to tell you about the physical parameters of his boundlessly creative life. He was alive in this world until I was already thirty-three. So, I got to see him on television and watch video biographies of him and his incredible artwork. Ones that included interviews. And if I get into his public persona, that will eat up the rest of his essay. Instead, I need to talk about his art, and how it modifies and magnifies what I am meant to be.

The Persistence of Memory

His most famous painting is the one that most clearly burned the image of melting clocks into our collective memory. He claimed, and others pretend to see it too, that it is a reaction to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. But when I look at it with the melting mask of Dali himself in the center, I see the artist’s perception of time in the spaces within which creativity moves. Time melts and has no meaning when you are painting and writing from an endless roiling flow of new ideas and notions. Time becomes as irrelevant in that context as the ants on the pocket-watch or the dead tree from which one deflated clock-skin hangs, There is no past or future, only the creative now.

And in that creative now, the artist sees himself. But if you look too closely, the self vanishes into the picture, the currently considered, fascinating work of art.

You see the boy with the hoop and wearing a sailor suit? That symbol, he always claimed, was his lost brother, the one who died before he was born. The one whose death made his parents decide to have another child. Without that brother, Salvador would probably never have been existing at all.

And do you see the disappearing bust of Voltaire? Or when you look closely at the slave market in the background, is it simply no longer there? Things that disappear… things that become other things… tricks of perception, the fooling of the viewer’s eye… These are what the artist actually wants you to see. Not the well-portrayed physical reality, but the ghost of the shadow of an idea that’s hard to define.

And then there is the idea of war. Two world wars that took place in the prime-time of his painterly life.

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans

Life does crazy things to the sensitive, suffering artist, and it shows in his work if not in his public personality.

Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 Salvador Dali 1904-1989 Purchased 1979 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T02343

And consider the artist’s notion of birth and life and death. Narcissus suffers for the sin of love of himself. He becomes petrified with age, a narcissus flower growing from his head, now an egg, the symbol of birth and rebirth.

Detail from “the Madonna of Port Lligat”

And here is an exploded portrait of his beloved wife Gala.

All the elements float eternally in the air.

And you can see inside each thing.

Inside the home is the wife and mother.

Inside the mother is the child.

Inside the child is the loaf of bread that keeps him alive.

Does the bread, then, stand in for God himself?

Dali and his work is not simple. It is deeply, incongruously complex. But that is surrealism. That is how it works. Without getting into other complex symbols and such Dali-esque puzzles like burning giraffes, eggs, and Venus De Milo with bureau drawers in her torso, that is how Salvador spends his Sunday with me. An artist beyond time and space, long dead, but still speaking to me. And teaching me beautiful, untold things and stories of things.

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Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, artwork, autobiography, commentary, surrealism

Go and Catch a Falling Star…

You may have looked at the name of my website here on WordPress and wondered, “Why in the heck has that fool Mickey called this thing he writes Catch a Falling Star?”

The answer is, he named it after the first good published novel he wrote at the insistence of the I-Universe Publishing’s marketing adviser. Very poor reason for doing anything, that.

But, the secondary reason is because of where that title came from. Look at the first stanza of this poem by John Donne.

So, now, you are justified in asking, “What nonsense is this? That doesn’t have any coherent meaning, does it?”

And you would be right. These are impossible things that I am being ordered to do by a very religious cleric in the Anglican Church who was originally a Catholic, but, in the time of Henry VIII Catholicism was made illegal, and he wrote this poem about not being able to find an honest woman in his drunken, wasted youth anyway. He is ordering me here to not only “catch a falling star” (and catching a meteorite with your bare hands has rather hot consequences), but also to have sex with a semi-poisonous plant, explain why we can’t go backwards in time, determine whether and why God might’ve given Satan goat feet, listen to probably-nonexistent humanoid creatures singing, find a way to avoid anybody ever looking at me with envy and then doing something to me because of it, and, most importantly, find a place where the wind blows in a way that fills your head with facts that actually makes you smarter.

Challenge accepted!

It is exactly what I wanted to write about. Impossible things actually being accomplished. Finding the meaning behind alien beings from outer space developing an intense love of I Love Lucy television broadcasts and Mickey Mouse Club music. Discovering why intensely shy people need to embrace social nudity. Defining who is actually a werewolf and who is not, uncovering who and what real monsters are. Singing songs so sad that it magically makes people fall in love with you. Talking to clowns in your dreams and getting real answers to the meaning of life, love, and laughter.

Catching falling stars is the stupid idea that this wacky, idiotic little blog is about. It is what I write about constantly. You have to kill me to get me to stop. So, there is your fair warning. Read on at your own peril.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, goofy thoughts, Paffooney, poetry, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

A Pinch of This, a Pound of That

Nudists and naturists exist in real life, and some of them read my books!

Because I have characters in a few of my books who are nudists, based on people I have met in real life, my books have caught on with naturists, particularly naturists who write novels about naturism. Ted Bun, a naturist writer and operator of a nudist resort in France, has read and reviewed several of my books so far. You can find his reviews using the link below.

http://tvhost.co.uk/reading-writing-and-posting

It is a good thing to have your novels read by others. And I am sorta on the edge of being a member of the nudist community on Twitter myself. Of course, my days of comfortably going nude anymore is limited by psoriasis sores, ill health, and disapproval by family members. So, I guess I can only say I am a fictional nudist myself.

I have also been successfully spending time in schools (with all my clothes on) being a successful substitute teacher. I benefited yesterday from the efforts of an excellent teacher as I successfully conducted a U.S. History class with eighth graders all day long. It is rare to have a day when you don’t actively have to stop and redirect bad behavior at least once or twice during the day. But her well-taught series of classroom procedures made my day easy. I only had to tell them I was instituting her every-day discipline plan, and the classes seemed to almost run themselves. Especially in the two LEAP classes (Advanced Placement) . Those classes were heavily populated by students who are first or second generation Indian-Americans. Perry Middle School obviously has a nearby immigrant community of people who are originally from India. And probably smart, professional people too.

I am also still working on my next novel, A Field Guide to Fauns. I am currently at 8,672 words with 32 pages and three illustrations completed. I have been working on it for almost two weeks. It is the story of a boy trying to recover from psychological abuse while trying to fit in with his father’s new family, a stepmother and two twin stepsisters who are nudists, living as full-time residents of a nudist park. I hope the Twitter nudists will love it, but I am not writing it for them. As always, it is a book I am compelled to write.

I am also losing my eyesight. I have glaucoma. Bright lights now fill my field of vision with haze and blurry spots while floaters swimming in my eyes have me repeatedly swatting at bugs that aren’t there. I continue to have symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, including minor hallucinations. If school children I am trying to be a substitute teacher for ever find out, they will be repeatedly telling me that the misbehavior I am seeing is all a hallucination. So, finishing visual projects has a new urgency now.

My eldest son talked to friends in Oklahoma this weekend about acquiring cheap medical marijuana for my glaucoma. We shall see if I am to become a pot-head or not.

Anyway… this little essay is rather a mixed bag of ingredients, poured into a stew and loosely cooked together with poorly-written transitions. So, I now have done a pinch of this, a pound of that, and the stew must now marinate its very meat in weird broth. How do you like them apples?

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, goofiness, humor, novel plans, Paffooney, teaching

A Fatal Case of Hope

I have been avoiding talking about politics for more than a year even though it is a rich source of potential comedy material. The idiot-criminal President continues to bumble and blather and make money and do crimes he automatically gets away with in spite of the law. It’s easy to jape him and make jokes, but he black-heartedly continues to do things that benefit him and devastate me and the issues I care about.

This is Skye Johnson , the newest illustration for my newest novel, A Field Guide to Fauns.

After the South Carolina primary, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are now clearly the two leading candidates and most likely to become the Democratic Nominee. I will vote for either one. In fact, if Bloomberg steals it by out-spending everybody else, I’ll even vote for him. Donald Trump is the death of everything I care about in life. His position on health care, the environment, education, the arts, and on and on… is poisonous to my way of life. I may not live to see him defeated in the election. But I hope to last just long enough to be able to vote against the !#$%#%%,

In the meantime, I have forced myself to go back to work in the classroom, the thing that was killing me in 2014. And I have so far avoided the flu and death while making enough money to solve my immediate financial woes. I put in an extra day this last month beyond what I reasonably thought I could survive. And I am feeling good about that, even though I am still unable to afford the health care I need, and still feel awful on a daily basis.

So, do the good things in my near future still outweigh the bad on the scales of my continued existence? I think they do.

My work in progress, for which I am marshaling my ability to draw fauns, and I am using this blog post to show you illustrations for it, is about life at a nudist park where the family in the story is dealing with the after-effects of child abuse, divorce, and alienation of family members. It is about issues boiling in the stew-pot of my own personal experience. And about how love can ultimately overcome those issues.

Mandy Clarke and Mandy Clarke;s tongue.

I sincerely hope that Trump gets dumped in November. If he wins, and if I am still alive, that misfortune will seal my fate. I will not survive beyond it.

But if you can’t control your fate, and if the airplane is crashing, you might as well enjoy the ride down to the ground. I am doing a novel now that imagines life as a full-time nudist. My family will never accept it in real life, and my skin flakes off with psoriasis almost as badly as a leper, so I will never live that life. But you can do things in fiction that fly far above the limits of your real-life wings.

If I can keep up the work pace as a substitute teacher, I will actually have enough money to get by. That will be a welcome relief. And I might reach a level of life that approximates what I had before 2012… With a bunch of novels in print that didn’t exist before that year. No future fatality will overcome me. I exist here in my words. And words and pictures are my hope and dreams.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, humor, illustrations, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

A Path to Tomorrow

Being a pessimist sometimes makes planning for the future difficult. I knew that the biggest argument against me going back into classrooms as a substitute was the fact that I could easily die the next time the germ factory that is your average middle school or high school is hit with a flu outbreak. And as a pessimist, I know the coronavirus is going to hit in a big way. So, part of the plan has to include dying in 2020.

Watching the way Democratic debates get reported in the media, I also have to live with the knowledge that Donald Trump will win in November. (That, of course, will lead to him making himself Emperor after his eight years are up, and then Don Jr. gets the Empire by birthright and rules us with a very stupid ham-fist until he is either assassinated by school teachers or the world ends from climate change.)

We may be on the way to losing the house we have owned since 2005, since property taxes are soaring beyond my ability to pay them in the middle of my Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. So, I will be planning to make my way through life in the near future living under a Fascist dictatorship while being both homeless and dead.

There are too many bad things coming that I cannot control. So, as the tidal wave draws nearer, I need to put on shark repellent and prepare my surfboard.

So, my priorities need to be adjusted since continued survival is probably not achievable. Living longer isn’t the most important thing after all.

So, here are my current priorities;

  1. Savor the time I have left with my family, however long or short that may be. I will live each day as if it were the last day of my life on Earth.
  2. Continue to write and share my writing with whoever cares enough to read it. This blog needs to be kept up as near to every day as possible. My work in progress is called A Field Guide to Fauns and it is set in a nudist park, but is really about families and how they survive domestic abuse and divorce. The picture above is an illustration from that book The next novel will most likely be The Wizard in His Keep if I am blessed with the time to write it.
  3. I will continue to be a substitute teacher as much as I physically can. Not only do I need the money from it, each day spent with kids, helping them to learn, or at least helping them not to kill and eat another substitute teacher, is priceless as an addition to my treasure-chest-full of teaching experiences.
  4. And I will face whatever comes without fear or regret. I have lived a good long life. I have shared a lot of things with a lot of people, and I really have committed no sins, crimes, nor sorrows that I must feel regret over.’

I have given myself things to think about in the time remaining. And, possibly, I have given you things to reflect upon too. My reality is that there is a great deal more past in my life than there is future, so let me not waste the present I have been given.

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Filed under autobiography, insight, irony, novel plans, Paffooney, pessimism, philosophy, politics

Talking to Nobody

I entered the classroom silently. Death doesn’t have to make any sound when it enters a room, but I remember many times when I entered a classroom in a fully enraged-lion roar. Probably too many times.

This time it was a small lesson to a small class. Little Mickey, ten years old, was sitting there in a front-row desk. He was wearing that stupid purple derby hat that he always wore in his imagination. And he was wearing nothing else besides.

I gave him that old death-eye stare of disapproval. He grinned and shrugged. “Hey, I like to write about nudists, okay? They tell the truth more than most people.”

I simply nodded.

Sitting the next row over, in the front seat also, middle-aged Mickey was slumped in his seat like the cynical, world-weary teacher-thing he actually was. I nodded disapprovingly at him too. “I know, I know,” he said. “My time is running out. I have to get started on my writing plan for real this time. My stories will never get written if I don’t.”

The third seat in the third row contained Old Coot Mickey with his wrinkled clothes, his long Gandalf-hair, and his frizzy author’s beard. He grinned his goofy grin at me and nodded at me cheekily. “I’ve got fourteen novels written and published now. Taint my fault that nobody ever reads ’em. They are mostly good stories, too.”

I rolled my eyes at the dark ceiling.

On the chalkboard I wrote out. Today’s Lesson Is

“I know! I know!” shouted little Mickey, naked except for his purple hat. “The next novel is A Field Guide to Fauns. It is all about nudists in a nudist camp. I am definitely down with that!”

“Is that really a good idea, though?” asked middle-aged Mickey. “I think I was meant to be a writer of Young Adult novels, like the ones I taught so often in class. I know how those books are structured. I know their themes and development inside and out. I know how to write that stuff.”

“But the little naked guy has it right. You have ta be truthful in novels, even as you tell your danged lies.” Old Coot Mickey made his point by punctuating it with a wrinkled hand thumping on the top of his desk. “You have written novels with characters forcing other characters to make porn films in The Baby Werewolf, and sexual assault of a child in Fools and Their Toys, and lots of naked folks, and betrayal and death… All of that is the kinda stuff kids really want ta read. And them stories don’t glorify that stuff neither. Stories can help fight agin that stuff.”

“Remember, that stuff is hard to write about because I actually went through some of that stuff in my own life. It’s possible for even a fiction book to be just too real for a YA novel.” Middle-aged Mickey had entered fighting mode with his fists on his hips.

“But the underlying truth is why you had to write those stories to begin with. You have truth to tell… But in fiction form,” argued little Mickey.

“And horrible experiences turn into beautiful survival stories and heroes’ journeys with time and thoughtfulness and art,” said Old Coot Mickey.

I agreed with all three of me. I nodded and smiled.

“But you are Death, aren’t you?” asked middle-aged Mickey.

“And you’ve come to take away at least Old Coot Mickey!” declared little Mickey.

“You’ve got me all wrong,” I answered all three of me. “I am not Death. I am Nobody.

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Filed under autobiography, homely art, horror writing, humor, irony, kids, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life