Category Archives: autobiography

The Tree of Life

When you get to your sixties, but are in poor health, you can’t help but obsess about your own mortality. No man lives forever.

That point was driven home yesterday. My aunt, whom I have known for my entire lifetime, had her 80th birthday on Monday. Yesterday she had a heart attack and died. It was sudden. It was shocking. It occurred five days before a planned family reunion of Great Grandma Hinckley’s extensive family of descendants. My aunt, of course, was related to all of us, so there is no way the reunion occurrs without a dark cloud over it.

Of course, there are many dark clouds hovering over us in these times, The threat of nuclear war has returned to terrorize us again in the way it did in the 50’s and 60’s.

The climate crisis threatens to make life on Earth extinct. That could all begin this year with crop failures due to excessive rain and flooding during planting season.

But the corn this year, which world-wide food supplies depend upon because of the versatility of corn oil in foods of all kinds, is taller than I am in July and beginning to sprout tassels. So there is reason to hope.

And our moron criminal president seems to be self-destructing instead of fulfilling the promises of Dr. Strangelove.

And I am reaching the final home stretch on my novel, When the Captain Came Calling. Soon this twenty-year story-telling quest to tell a tale of family struggle and fathers versus daughters will be at an end. I have successfully negotiated the suicide scene. I have also achieved the character balance and plot completion that had eluded me for a handful of years. The story is basically about family resilience in the face of adversity. It is ironically consistent with the adversity my family faces this week.

And this is the week I chose to promote my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children. I had some success giving away copies of Snow Babies four months ago. And I had hoped to do the same for Recipes. It is also a book about resilience in the face of tragedy and adversity.

So, as far as I am concerned, the tree of life is a family tree. We are its branches, it’s knots and warped bark, its parasites and possibilities. And in its final analysis, many leaves are still soaking up the sunshine and nourishing every branch, even the dead ones soon to fall off. And I am not a dead branch yet.

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Filed under autobiography, metaphor, novel plans, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life, the road ahead

Look Homeward, Fallen Angel

Planning on making a trip back to Iowa becomes daunting as I get older and un-wiser. But I have to go home never-the-less. My octogenarian parents are both still alive and both still living on the family farm. I only get to see them once a year. And each year is more likely the last time than the year before. And it is not just them. I am nearly 63 and in really poor health. I have six incurable diseases (diabetes, osteoarthritis, COPD, psoriasis, hypertension, and chronic allergies… geez, it is hard to remember them all). And I am a cancer survivor. Which way the wind is blowing at the moment may completely alter my future.

Rowan, Main Street, with the water tower in the background.

The saying from the author Thomas Wolfe, the author I alluded to in the title, is, “You can’t go home again.”

In many ways that is an inescapable wisdom. I will go back to my boyhood home of Rowan, Iowa. And it will not be the home I knew. Most of the people I knew there as a boy are long gone… to the graveyard west of town, or to Minnesota, or California, or places distant and unknown to me.

And it is not just the people. The buildings have changed. None of the businesses are the same except for the Post Office and the Library. And the Library is in a different building than it was.

Morning mists beyond the cottonwood tree near Grandpa Aldrich’s farm place.

But the memories persist. I know where I am when I am there. It is the center of the universe as I once knew it. And the only reason I can’t go home again, is because I carry home with me wherever I go. And as fallen angels go, sometimes they simply pick themselves up, and fly towards home.

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Saturday is Art Day!

If I am not going to publish a Hidden Kingdom page every Saturday, I am going to commit to a feature where I post artwork on Saturday. Saturday art fairs are a thing. And I have gotten far more interest in my artwork from WordPress than I ever have from a local art show. So what if I can’t win blue ribbons online?

Cartoons are basically art with words added… often stupid words… for laughs.

Being able to draw gives your imagination wings to fly with.
Art is my religion.

There is a certain magical quality about the way that over time you can build a portfolio of many parts, and pictures have many uses.

Is it possible that artworks taken all together are like an autobiography??

In some sense, every portrait the artist draws is a self portrait. Every scene, object, and image is a part of the artist’s ultimate story.

Imaginations can be both electric and powerful.
Not everything is as alien as it seems at first.

So, do you like my gallery? You can always leave a comment or an insult. You are the viewer, and what you do with this is entirely up to you.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, Paffooney

Dreams of the Mastiff

As a comic cartoonist sort of artist named Mickey, I was as a teenager obsessed with making artsy goofy books. One of those was unaccountably called Dreams of the Mastiff. These surrealistic picturations are examples from that silly Donald-Duck thing.

This page is supposed to explain the title. So I guess all of the following pages are somehow supposed to be from the nighttime brain of the dog in the nursery.

And what is this supposed to be about? My old-man memory has not a single clue.

It occurred to me long ago that both Fantasy and Science Fiction were surreal by nature. What is the story behind Black Peter? Ich weiss nicht! I do not know! Old-man memory again.

Inexplicable Sci-Fi from this little surrealist art-book-thing.

And more of the same…

Now back to cockroaches from doggy dreams…

…And mice, monkeys, and tea-drinking ladybird beetles…

…And what…? The whole world in a nutshell?

To a thing I used in two novels, Catch a Falling Star and The Baby Werewolf.

I offer no explanations or excuses for these nonsensical and unaccountable things. I am not sorry I once did them, if you want to know the truth… but I probably should be.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, cartoons, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Risky Pictures

picture title; “Once I feared the Griffon”

Drawing nudes is a risky business. People judge you more harshly when you draw a nude and don’t explain the context. What a pervert you must be. They forgive you a little when you explain that you are an artist and once you took an anatomy drawing class in college where you were drawing from actual nude models. But understand, artists probably take classes like that because they are perverts to begin with.

And you have the added complication of being a victim of sexual assault as a child, so you have a PTSD-sort-of fear of nudity and physical contact while at the same time having all the natural urges that flesh is heir to.

The nude above was drawn actually from a photograph, a Polaroid. The griffon (who represents the fear in your PTSD-inspired dreams) did not want to pose nude in real life. So, you were given a photograph in which she was actually holding on to her boyfriend’s shoulder. Oh, wait! You mean “he” not “she”. The griffon was a boy. But she smiled when she saw the picture. And she asked why there was an eagle in it.

“But that’s not an eagle, it’s a griffon,” you said. “It represents being afraid of being nude.”

Obviously you did not give her the version of the picture with the “eagle” in it. She was happier with the nude you did give her, though it wasn’t drawn as well as this one.

And you are always a little leery of posting nudes you have drawn over the years on your blog, but somehow they get more views than anything else you post, and while you have to wonder why these pictures are so popular among judgmental people who have told you that you are probably a pervert, you secretly know the real reason.

This picture of Karla gets lots of views. You have posted it three or four times before. (Of course, that is not Her real name.)

It is kinda the thing that started the college nude drawings. She was your roommate’s girlfriend, and she was looking at your drawings because Bill told her about your artworks and she was curious. She challenged you to draw her. It was the first nude model you ever drew outside of class. Bob sat in the room with the two of you and watched you draw. (Oh, wait. You called him Bill before. Change that. Bob Bill. There, that’s better.) You drew in pencil.

You did two versions of it. The pen and ink that you drew of it in 1996 was made from the one that you kept.

If you had never done that picture of Karla, the one of the griffon wouldn’t exist either. She had to go and show her picture off to her friends. After all the great cartoons you drew over the years, you might know that the biggest reputation you ever got as an artist came about because of a pencil drawing of a smiley nude girl. And she had a big mouth… both figuratively and literally. But she was nice, and you couldn’t be mad at her. She and Bob Bill got married, and she probably still has that picture in its little frame somewhere in her house.

My novel Snow Babies reveals things from my life that are only metaphorically nudity.

There was a time in my life, in fact, for a majority of my life, that all these things were pretty much secrets that I kept to myself. I didn’t show the nude pictures to others. I kept them in a portfolio in a closet. I never would’ve admitted to being a nudist at heart either. Or anything about being assaulted as a boy. Or told anyone about any of it in a blog post like this. I can only do that now that I am old and know that none of my sins are really that awful and need to be kept secret. There is a certain beauty in that. You don’t even really need to keep doing it in second person point of view, confusing the audience into thinking it’s about them and not about you. Sorry about the meta-messaging. I just find it funny that I can be completely open at the end of the essay of life, and no longer feel the need to hide all the things that we hide under our clothing. Sometimes there is beauty to be found in the depths of a risky picture.

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Filed under art criticism, artwork, autobiography, drawing, humor, nudes, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Practical Magic

Wizards do magical spells. It kinda goes without saying. But to do magical spells, you have to know how the magic works… and why.

Me, imprisoned in my own crystal ball by my naughty familiar.

The secret is in knowing what the word “magic” actually means. It is not supernatural power, nor the creation of something out of nothing. It is entirely the act of uncovering and understanding the underlying truth, the actual science that most people don’t yet comprehend that underpins the thing you are trying to accomplish. Jonas Salk was a wizard. His polio vaccine was a successful magical potion. But magic can be evil too. Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer were wizards. And the atom bomb was an act of necromantic evil.

Me, in my early green wizard phase.

So, being a wizard, I have learned lessons over a lifetime that uncovered for me the secrets of practical interpersonal magic. Being a teacher has taught me far more than I taught to others.

So let me share with you some of my hard-won practical magic.

In a room full of rowdy children, most of whom are not minding any of the teacher’s directions, you can get their attention easily by shouting, “What the poop is going on here?” with the biggest evil grin on your face that you can manage. They will immediately quiet down like magic and look at you. Some will be wondering if their teacher is having a fatal stroke. Some will be wondering what punishments their behavior has earned as indicated by your evil grin (and here it should be noted, their little imaginations will cook up something much worse and much scarier than anything you could’ve thought of to unwisely threaten them with. A few will begin recording you with their cell phone cameras in hopes of future behavior they can post online and get you fired with. And the rest will laugh at the word “poop” and forget why they were acting out. At that point, with their full attention, you can ask them to sit down and look at page 32, and, not knowing what else to do, they will probably do it.

Here are some other rules of practical magic that apply to the wizarding arts of being a public school teacher;

  1. Violence is never the answer. Change their actions and reactions by making them laugh, making them cry, or making them think about something else entirely. The last thing you would ever want to do is hit them, even if they hit you first.
  2. Anything they can be forced to repeat eight times in eight different ways is something that will be fixed in their memory for more than just the duration of a class period. It moves things into their long-term memory, and that is itself a very magical thing.
  3. Students laugh when you surprise them or present them with the absurd. Tell them they should imagine themselves as pigeons who have to act out Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. What costumes will they wear, and why? What stage directions are necessary to add to the play that are unique to pigeons, and how will they word them? How does pigeon Mercutio go about his death soliloquy when stabbed by pigeon Tibault? Will he have to say, “Look for me tomorrow and you will find me a very grave pigeon?” By the end of the lesson they will have learned more about this play they are supposed to learn about as ninth graders than they ever would have otherwise.

Being able to do any of those things is actually a manifestation of magical power, and only producible by a wizard. The simple fact is, every good teacher is a wizard.

Me, as a wizard in my blue period. The period at the end of this essay.

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Filed under autobiography, magic, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching, William Shakespeare, wizards

I Only Waited 50 Years…

I got hooked by hockey in 1969 and 1970, winter of my eighth grade year in school. It was the year we first started getting NBC on the old black-and-white Motorola TV. WHO in DesMoines had finally boosted their signal to the point where our TV antenna in Rowan, Iowa could pull a signal in.

from Sports Illustrated, poorly scanned by me

The NHL was on every Sunday morning during football season and my friend Mark had one of those hockey game boards where you twirl players on metal rods to score goals in a plastic net defended by a metal or plastic goalie. We were 13 and deeply in love with a game we could only watch on TV and never play (No hockey rinks are generally available in rural Iowa).

Mark liked Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito and their Boston Bruins hockey team who battled through the division of six old teams that had been around forever and had all the good players.

I, like the fool I have always been, pledged undying loyalty to the underdog St. Louis Blues. The expansion division consisted of teams that had only played for three years, filled with young guys and old veterans nearing the end of great careers. Hall-of-Famer goalies Jaques Plante and Glenn Hall both played for the Blues. So did the Battling B-Brothers, Bill Plaeger, Barclay Plaeger, and Bob Plaeger. Along with Red Berensen, Frank St. Marseille, and Doug Harvey. I idolized those guys. In the 1970 Stanley Cup final, they lost every game except the last one, which they lost in spectacular fashion in sudden-death overtime.

Bobby Orr scoring the overtime goal that beat my Blues (and hopefully getting at least one bruise as he came down).

I was a Blues Fan for life. I was disappointed every single year as they lost somewhere in the playoffs or in the regular season, never making it back to the Stanley Cup Series. Until 2019.

Young boys’ dreams can come true, even if it takes a lifetime to get there.

Wow! Finally! Yahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Blues as a team finally get their names etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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Filed under autobiography, hockey, humor, St. Louis