Category Archives: autobiography

Opening Windows on the Past

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This particular Iowa trip has me thinking hard about mortality and the cold harsh wind that blows toward us from the future.  My cousin’s only son lost his battle with depression, and his family finally came to terms with the loss.  But the sadness is past.   The responsibilities of the living is what remains.

I was born while Eisenhower was President.  I was alive and aware when Kennedy was assassinated and when men first walked on the moon.  I was teaching in a classroom when the first teacher in space was killed on the exploding space shuttle.  And I was also in the classroom when the twin towers fell on 9-11.  It is an important part of the responsibilities I have for being alive to keep that past alive too.

 

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My mother’s knickknack shelf.

The reason we collect and care about little extraneous things like porcelain eggs, angels, fine blue china plates, and the California Raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine is because those little, otherwise unimportant things connect us to memories of important times and places and people.   We keep old photographs around, many of them black and white, for the same reasons.

 

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The fiction I write is not contemporary.  It is mostly historical fiction.  It is set in a recent past where the Beatles and the Eagles provided the sound track to our lives.  It does not cross the border into the 21st Century.  The part of my writing that is not about the past is science fiction set in the far future, entirely in the universe of my imagination.  It is my duty to connect the past to the future.

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And I share that duty with everyone who is alive.  My great grandparents and grandparents are now gone from this world.  But their horse-and-buggy memories about life on the farm before electric lights and cars… with humorous outhouse stories thrown in for comic relief… are in me too.  I am steeped in the past in so many ways…  And I must not fail to pass that finely brewed essence on to my children and anyone young who will listen.  It is a grave responsibility.  And it is possible to reach the grave without having fulfilled that important purpose.

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In times of great sadness and loss we must think about how life goes on.  There has to be a will to carry on and deliver the past to the future.  Every story-teller carries that burden, whether in large or small packages.  And there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even arrive.  So here is my duty for the day.  One more window has been opened.

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, blog posting, family, healing, humor, insight, inspiration

The Cottonwood on the Corner

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The old cottonwood tree on the Aldrich farm corner has been there for as long as I can remember.  It was there when I was a small boy visiting Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.  It is still there 55 years later as I visit Mom and Dad who are still living on the farm.  A lot has changed.  Time has passed.  It is a different decade, a different century, a different millennium.

The old tree is like an anchor in time.  I can come home and look at it and be taken back in time.  I know that tree.  And he knows me.

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That isn’t true of all of the trees on the farm.

 

 

 

 

This pine by the house is tree who is younger than me.  I can remember when it was planted.  It was not so very many years ago.

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This gnarled old tree in the grove may be about the same age as I am.  I remember it when both it and I were small and we played together in the grove.  I was Tarzan, Jungle Jim, and the Lone Ranger.  It was the post I leaned on in my secret lookout post.  Back then my hand went most of the way around the trunk.

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It is good to come home to a place where you know the trees personally.  You can revisit old haunts, see old friends and acquaintances, and walk along gravel roads in a place where there is little traffic and no smog.

So I came back to Iowa to visit a tree.  Well, the farm place and aging parents too.

 

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Filed under autobiography, farm boy, goofy thoughts, humor, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Terribly Icky Car Trip

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The Iowa Landscape in late, late afternoon… or possibly evening.

We made it to Iowa.  But only after a long, hard, impossibly-icky travel day.  More than 700 miles were covered in only fifteen-plus hours.  With no real breaks for meals because restaurants will not look kindly on bringing the family dog into the dining room.  Especially our dog, who will kill for people food, and even threaten small children if she thinks they might pull her ears and also look tasty enough.  Traveling with an insane dog is never easy.

And the way was unusually challenging.  We normally travel up Interstate 35 because it goes from the North Dallas suburbs where we live to within a few miles of the family farm where my parents still live.   It is a good route because it is very travel-friendly with numerous places to stop and a 70-plus miles per hour speed limit to make the trip faster.

But first, we had to pass through Oklahoma.  And unfortunately that means Okie drivers.  Especially the super-speed Bubba trucks (Chevy pickups with a rebel flag in the back window and more often red than any other saner vehicle color), ultra-super-speed oil-money Wasp-rockets (BMW’s, Rolls Royces, Italian sports  cars of high-dollar varieties),  and the most dangerous, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (because I have a Texas license plate, that is.  They never seem to be a problem for the first two groups on this list.  Do other people in the world do racial profiling against Texans in general?  They probably should.)

And, apparently every bridge, over-pass, and under-pass on Interstate 35 has to be repaired, inducing a lowered speed limit that also apparently doesn’t apply to Okie drivers.  And the powers that decide things for highways went with the northbound lanes first so they could save the southbound  side for my eventual return trip.  I got honked at, headlight flashed at, and endured several Okie drivers using one of their fingers to brag at me about their current I.Q. (I won’t mention which single finger they all use for that).  They heaped this scorn on me for daring to go no faster than the posted speed limit.  I mean, there are road signs in Oklahoma that tell you it is against the law not read and obey all road signs.  And fines are doubled, if not quadrupled, in work zones.  But the laws against not reading probably don’t apply to those who naturally can’t read.

And I ran into trouble with Kansas City rush hour.  Which, of course, travels in the opposite of a rush.  And while we were sitting and waiting in the middle of the rush, my little car’s engine overheated.  So I had to turn the heater on high and aim the dashboard vents out the rolled-down windows to prevent the car’s engine control chip from shutting the engine off to cool down in the middle of the stationary rush.  The heat made the dog even more insane.

And when we finally got to Iowa just before dark, we may have been kidnapped by aliens.  Time, it seems, completely went missing  in southern Iowa, making the trip last even longer.  I may actually have captured the reason for that.  I took a few pictures with my phone camera on top of the steering wheel, which probably isn’t a safe thing to do, but I wasn’t in Oklahoma at the time.  So decide for yourself if this is significant, or just marsh gas.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, humor, photo paffoonies, red States, satire

Silly Sunday Stuff

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I made a choice, long about 1980 or so.  And I have not regretted that choice.  I became a teacher instead of the writer/artist I thought I wanted to be.  And the more I look back on it now, if I had gone the writer route back then, I could’ve eventually become an author like Terry Brooks who wrote the Shannara books.  I might’ve even been as good as R.A. Salvatore whose fantasy adventure stories have reached the best seller list.  Back then, in the 1980’s I could’ve eventually broke into the business and been successful.  Even as late as when Frank McCourt broke onto the literary scene with his memoir, Angela’s Ashes in 1996, I might’ve been able to transition from teacher to writer the way he did.  But I chose to keep going with a teaching career that enthralled me.

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Publishing and the literary scene is changing now.  And it is no longer possible for someone like me to break into the big time.  I am an author who has come aboard a sinking ship.

But I have stories to tell.  They have lived inside me for more than thirty years.  And I am scrambling now to get them told before my crappy old body completely betrays me and makes the chance go away.  I will get them told… even if no one ever listens.

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And there are some advantages to doing it the way I have done it.  It is, and always has been, about the people in my life.  My wife, my children, my students, my co-workers, my cousins by the dozens, my little town in Iowa…  they are the people in my stories.  My stories are true to life, even if they have werewolves and fairies and living gingerbread men and nudists in them.  I live in a cartoon world of metaphor and surrealism, after all.  I would not have had the depth of character-understanding in my stories without my experiences as a teacher.  And I really don’t have to worry about the whole marketing thing any more.  I am not on that treadmill.  I do not have to be aware of what the market is looking for.  If my writing ever turns a profit, I won’t live long enough to see it anyway.  And that has never been what it is all about.

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I can do anything I please with my stories.  They belong to me.  I do not owe the world anything.  What I give you now in this blog and in my books, is given for love, not profit.  I can even write a pointless blog post about Sunday blather and illustrate it with Tintin drawings by Herge. And you can’t stop me.  And, hopefully… you don’t even want to.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, humor, NOVEL WRITING, publishing, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing, writing humor

Albert Pujols

You have probably gathered by this point that I like Albert Pujols.  Of course, that would be the wrong conclusion for you to draw.  I LOVE Albert Pujols.  And I am not alone.  Not only did the man take my favorite team from the doldrums of the 90’s to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, but he did it with a work-ethic, a grace, and a power that restored my faith in a sport that had been rocked by scandal and steroid use.  He restored my faith in humanity.  He is not only a sports hero.  He is a really great human being… a super hero.  Did you watch the 60-Minutes’ piece?  There isn’t anything more to say about that.  Humility is part of the equation.

 

I got my love of baseball from listening to games on the radio with my Great Grandpa Raymond.  We listened to the Minnesota Twins take on the baseball world on KGLO Radio in Mason City, Iowa.  I heard Harmon Killebrew smack homers and Tony Oliva get key hits in crucial situations.  I followed the exploits of Rod Carew.  And then, the St. Louis Cardinals took over the 60’s.  They were in the World Series three times and won it twice.  Bob Gibson was pitching.  Lou Brock played Left Field and stole bases.  It was miraculous.  I would go on to live and die with the Cardinals every baseball season, even though I could only follow them through the newspaper and occasionally when they played the Cubs on TV.   Tim McCarver, Ted Simmons, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Mark Macgwire, Scott Carpenter, Scott Rolen…  If those names don’t mean anything to you then you are not really a baseball fan, and you probably didn’t read this far anyway.

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Anyway… he did it.  600 home runs.  He is now part of an elite group in the record books.  And there is no doubt he is one of the best baseball players that ever lived.

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Filed under autobiography, baseball fan, cardinals, heroes, inspiration, sports, St. Louis

So Tired of Tires

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The wheels on my car, the wheels I rely on for the most important functions remaining in my retired, sick-all-the-time, but still-a-father-with-kids-in-school days, have recently been under assault once again.   The back right tire has had a slow leak in it for three months because of some piece of metal embedded in the treads.  And last week the front driver’s-side tire was cruelly popped by a piece of road debris, a hubcap that was left on the road to be run over repeatedly.  Number two son and I had to be rescued from the roadside by AAA (and that is Triple A, not Alcoholics Anonymous… a fairly important distinction).

It meant I had to drive around on an emergency spare for a while and spend the majority of my Memorial Day holiday at Sam’s Club’s tire repair center getting two tires fixed.

And how do you deal with tires being damaged and needing to be fixed so often?  Satire of course.  After all, it has the word “tire” in it, doesn’t it?

The piece from Vox points out that satire is the way comedians are dealing with Trump news and Trump fake news and Trumpian self-satire usually administered to claim innocence over a truly horrible and self-damaging something he said.  They are using satire to cut the crap and get to the center of the ridiculous dog-and-pony show Trump puts on and Trump supporters are constantly dazzled by.  I point this all out because I satirically believe no one who looks at my posts on this goofy-danged blog ever watches the videos.  And it probably is true, that thing you are thinking at the moment, that Mickey only adds videos to fill up space.

But if satire can be used to pop the tires on the political clown car, then why can’t it also be used to fix the tires on my little gray errand-wagon?

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Of course, you will say, “You can’t fix a tire with satire!  You have to have tools and patches and rubber cement for that.  And you would be right.

But I have had three major tire-related disruptions to my little retired life in the last two years.  A careless driver ran into the back tire of my little pony last spring and not only wrecked the tire, but bent the back axle and totaled the entire car.  Then I hit a pothole on a carefully unrepaired Dallas street and not only destroyed the tire, but dented the entire rim.  And now the new tire disaster fills my holiday with more sit-and-wait-and-pay-lots-of-money woes at a time when I really don’t appreciate such a long run of bad tire-luck.  It drives me to satire.

So maybe satire can’t fix a tire, but it can make me laugh about it.  And isn’t that better than crying, or a long string of cuss words so foul they would’ve gotten me fired before I retired three years ago?  Besides, I already tried those.  They didn’t work either.  But satire makes me laugh about it and feel a little better.  And, after all, it has the word “tire” embedded in it.  And that has to count for something.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, humor, irony, photo paffoonies, satire

Updates and Transitions

I still can’t believe my hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, lost to that upstart Nashville team whose logo is a cross between a cat and a beaver with really bad teeth problems.  But that was the other post for today.

I am probably going to kick the bucket soon.  I hate that bucket.  I just don’t like it. But in spite of impending doom for me and the world in general, I am making some changes.  After all, life is change.  We can either change or be dead.  And I am definitely not going to kick that bucket today, no matter how grumpy its existence makes me.

One change I have made is in Toonerville.  I finished snowing all over Al’s General Store.  I added two kids and their cat on the bench outside (in short pants during a winter scene… stupid kids) and fat old Huckleberry Wortle on the front steps looking for someone to play checkers with and tell lies to.  But don’t offer to be the one playing checkers with Huck.  He’s a conservative Republican with Tea Party leanings, and he will tell you things about Obama, government, and people in general that will make you so mad that you will want to go to the bench and kick the kids’ cat.

Toonerville is undergoing a winter renovation.  If I ever get to rebuild the layout, it will now have snow where grass used to be the plan.  It is still temporarily in storage on streets that are really book shelves.  And the Trolley goes nowhere.

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I have also been experimenting with shifting focus, as you can tell by the blurry trolley and track light in the foreground.

In addition to photography, I am making changes to my publishing directions.  I recently bought a subscription to a video-editing program and now intend to inflict Mickey-made videos to my blog.  To be completely honest, I made the purchase at the begging of my daughter who was using the free trial for a school project and ran out of free before she ran out of ideas.  Sound genetic to you, does it?

I have been forced to make publishing changes.  I am almost done paying the huge penance for publishing Magical Miss Morgan with Page Publishing.  That is a mistake that won’t be repeated.  I will self-publish from here on out.  After MMM, I will attempt to publish Snow Babies via Amazon.

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My current manuscript, The Baby Werewolf, is undergoing forced changes as well.  The primary factor here is my unique ability to lose things all together.  Two of the three parts of the original hand-written manuscript are now missing, and have been since we moved to Dallas in 2004.  Bummer.  Coatimundies from South Texas are probably reading it, laughing up a storm, and cursing me for not having lost part three along with the rest of it.  They surely can’t wait to find out what happens.  But since I have to do it all from memory, it will be different from what they read.

And even though writing a blog post every day is hard, I have decided it is worth it to continue.  After posting every day for thirty consecutive months, I have learned that the practice not only sharpens my basic writing skills, but also generates more ideas than it consumes.  I am a writer because I write.  And continuing to write makes me even more of a writer.  So the madness will continue.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, sharing from YouTube, Snow Babies, Toonerville, Trains, work in progress, writing, writing humor