Category Archives: autobiography

Aquarium, Terrarium, Planetarium

Angelfish are like the kings of the aquarium. They swim about in slow, stately fashion.

As a teenager I was very much into raising tropical fish in an aquarium. Having fish to watch and fuss around with is a healthy, mind-calming hobby that literally helps you learn about environmental issues. Keeping an aquarium is all about keeping fundamental forces of biology in relative balance.

The lovely pearl gourami is a fascinating finny friend that fills the tank with beauty and color.

Some fish are there just for beauty. The angelfish and gouramis I have pictured already are mainly that. Though you could also say that kissing fish, the pink kissing gouramis, also provide comic relief.

Kissing gouramis actually perform the kissing ritual in the tank, and I really don’t know why, but I suspect it is about courting and sex.

Goldfish are the pigs of the fresh-water tank. They are slow and rather stupid, and they eat massive quantities of fish food, so they also poop excessively.

Keeping an aquarium is a balancing act.

Albino Angelfish
Neon Tetra

.

.

.

.

a fancy Veiltail Guppy

If you put the wrong fish together, problems ensue. Fully grown angelfish will eat expensive guppies and neon tetras. Goldfish waste so much fish food and make so much fish poop that the tank has to be cleaned nearly every day to prevent it become a befouled cesspool of toxic filth and bacteria. Unless…

Cory Catfish

You employ bottom-feeders like the corydorus catfish or the red-tailed black shark (actually a loach, not a shark) to feed on the waste and be the janitor-fish.

A carefully balanced tank is a living work of art that grows and changes and progresses…

Red-Tailed Black Shark

…Until something goes wrong. Every fish tank I ever put together eventually had a crisis that made the whole ecology crash. All the fish would die and the tank would smell bad. This would usually happen when I wasn’t there to tend it as needed, when I was away at college or on vacation. Water has to be refreshed. The water can never be allowed to cool lower than seventy degrees, even in winter. The air pump can’t break down and stop aerating the aquarium. The filter has to be clean and unclogged. And disease has to be treated.

In a way, our entire planet earth is like that too. Of course, if it was all sealed under glass, it would be a terrarium, not an aquarium. But we can identify the same sorts of threats to the ecosystem of the terrarium we live in as would be found in a tropical fish tank. Donald Trump and his Republican fat-cats are the goldfish. Global warming threatens the air and water in the tank. An asteroid could break the glass and spill the contents out. So many things could crash our carefully balanced fish tank. And there is an even greater environment out there beyond the edges of our little solar system. Does the title make sense now in a way it didn’t before? No? Oh, well, I tried.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, commentary, humor

Humor from Beyond the Grave

Being dead is not all down-side. There is a certain amount of goodness to be found in the fact of being already dead.

I know some of this morbid thinking comes about simply because I am facing my own mortality and lingering about in bed most of the time in pain and waiting for a heart-attack or a stroke to put the fireworks into the finale. It is not because I desperately need to get out and drive for Uber to make all the pennies I can for taxes and medical bills and can’t yet do so because of arthritis and diabetes and fear of fainting behind the wheel. I can live with that. It is about preparing and facing the final curtain with as much grace as a fool can.

Of course, the greatest boon that death grants is that it brings an end to suffering. My joints will no longer be on fire and blazing with pain (assuming there isn’t a Hell capable of delivering torments beyond what we get a heaping helping of during life.) I will not have to worry about medical bills and hospital bill collectors any longer. Not that the same can be said of my loved ones. But I myself will no longer have the capacity to think and worry about paying for my many sins of poor health and being sick. In fact, I will be spared a number of things that eat at me while I am alive.

I will not have to watch any more Adam Sandler movies.

I will not have to consider anything that is said on Fox News (unless, of course, Hell is real and they have cable TV there… Because, well, what else would be on?)

And no more of this guy! But I need to check on that no Hell thing. And if there is one, and he is headed there soon for all eternity, I might have to figure out some spiritual hack to get into Heaven.

If there is a Hell, though, it will be like Mark Twain once alluded to. The weather will suck, but the most interesting company to keep will all be there.

And it is a proven fact that writers and other artists make more money after they are dead than they did while they are alive. Think of how much money Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Steinbeck have made selling books since they passed away. Edgar Allen Poe died a pauper like me, but his books continue to be sold and made into movies. And then there’s Maurice Hampton Greenblatt. You never heard of him, right? That is because he never wrote and published anything. (Although it also might have something to do with the fact that he is not a real person, and I made him up for this essay.)

Being dead will be like having written the final chapter in your last book about living life. You will close the book and simply be done… once and for all time. There is a certain satisfaction to be had if your life story has, at the very least, been an interesting story. And there is the whole becoming-a-ghost-writer thing to think about. People will still be able to read my words after I am dead. And who knows? The story may continue. There is a lady who writes classical music for dead composers. She has Schubert and Liszt and Beethoven whispering in her ear. Maybe I can find some goofy kid somewhere to start whispering my stories to.

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, autobiography, goofy thoughts, grumpiness, humor, illness, Paffooney, satire, self pity

Me, Myself, and Eye…

I am aware that nobody who looks at my blog ever clicks on my videos. This one, however, would be very useful if you are really going to read and engage with this essay. This self-reflection came into being as a response to watching this video. The video talks about how most people can’t stand to actually sit alone in a room with only themselves. And it has an impact. I have claimed in the past to being a devotee of the Theodore Roethke maxim, “Being, not doing, is my first love.”  But how does one go about becoming truly self-aware? How does one enumerate the concept of “being”? I believe I can do it, but it requires a bit of self-examination. How do I do it?  

Let me count the ways…

I put myself down on paper, through drawing or writing in English and look at the way it portrays me.

I find myself in both the written characters I create and the cartoon characters I draw. In Hidden Kingdom, my graphic novel, the Mouse and young Prinz Flute are both me. I can see myself both as the reluctant romantic hero and the snarky child-thing with a dangerous little bit of wisdom.

I learn to know more about my secret heart and what I truly think about the world I live in and react to by writing about what I think and the things that happen to me, both for good and ill. This blog is all about learning about myself, just as your blog is a mirror of who you really are. Consequently, I have no secrets left.

I not only reveal myself in this blog, but I also attempt to sing about myself in much the same way that Walt Whitman did in his poetry.

I live most of my life in my own imagination. It is a silly Willy Wonka world of images, songs, music, and dreams. It can all blow away in a moment when the sun comes out. It can also keep me in a light-obscuring cloud wrapped and safe, well away from the things I fear and the things that worry me. I came to realize I was repressing the memory of being sexually assaulted when I was ten through a dream when I was nineteen, re-living the event in a dream from which I awoke with a blinding flash of realization. I came to grips with the horror that mangled my childhood and young adulthood first by facing the fact that the nightmare had been real, and then by finding ways to overcome it. I became a teacher of young people in large part as a way to protect them and prevent such a thing from ever happening again to someone else.

I use my fictional stories about the girl Valerie Clarke to examine my relationships with my own daughter and a couple of old girlfriends from my youth.

I often worry that I don’t see real people as being real people. I tend to think of them from the first meeting onward as potential book characters, walking collections of details and quirks, conflicts and motivations. But I recognize too that that way of seeing with the author’s eye is not incorrect. People really are those things. There are rules and generalizations that everyone falls under at some point. It is not so much that I see real people as book characters as it is that I realize that book characters are as real as any other purportedly “real” people.

I am myself both the subject of my cartooning and fictionarooning, and the cartoon character of myself as well.

Mickey is not a real person. He is a cartoonist persona, a mask, a fake identity, and the lie I tell myself about who I actually am.

In this essay, I have attempted to explain to you who I think I am spending time with when I am alone in a room with myself. He is not such a terrible person to spend time with, this Mickey. Or else he really is truly awful, and I am lying about me and who I think I am when I am alone with me and have no other options. But probably not. I have been getting to know me for about 562 years, only exaggerating by 500, and I am not finished yet.

2 Comments

Filed under autobiography, being alone, irony, Mickey, Paffooney

Cartoonity

“My name is Michael Beyer, and I am an amateur cartoonist.”

“Hi, Michael!” says the entire group of CA group-therapy participants.

(CA stands for Cartoonists Anonymous.)

Doofy Fuddbugg

“I have to admit, I am guilty of giving in to the urge to draw cartoons. I know how it can fill lives with slapstick pain and derisive laughter, and I give in to the urge anyway.”

“So, what did you draw that you have to be ashamed of now?” asked one mad-eyed cartoonist with a pencil lodged behind each of his large ears.

“I made a very unfortunate video to post on YouTube that was supposed to be How-to-draw Cartooning. But everything went wrong. You couldn’t see my drawings in the video. It was not adequately lit. I look like a doofus (which probably can’t be cured) in the video. And instead of thinking twice or editing it, I posted it anyway.”

“Wow!” said a rather ugly cartoonist lady, “that is really bad. You have a seriously bad case of cartoonity.”

“Cartoonity?” I responded stupidly.

“The condition of needing love for your cartoons so bad that you will risk anything to make people look at them and like them,” said the wise group therapist (who looked an awful lot like Chuck Jones, though I am fairly sure Chuck Jones is now dead).

“Yes, I suppose that’s about the size of the problem,” I said. “I have been posting pages from my graphic novel, Hidden Kingdom, and I really haven’t seen more than one comment about it. Do people actually read cartoons and comics nowadays? Or is it just me that gets ignored?”

“You have to focus on how much you love drawing and doing it just for that reason, and nothing beyond that,” said the wise therapist. “Cartooning should be done for its own sake, and nothing more than that. Craving attention and approval for it can get seriously infected and become a bad case of cartoonititis. How do you think I dealt with it when I was still alive?”

At that point, my eyes popped out of my head in disbelief and my lower jaw fell all the way to the floor. Could he really be…?

And so I must end today’s blog post since it is hard to keep typing when your eyeballs are rolling around on the floor.

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, autobiography, cartoons, cartoony Paffooney, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney

The Problem-Solving Life

Yesterday I temporarily solved my computer problem with the Russian hacker with the help of the technical support people of McAfee Anti-Virus software. My computer works again. But I have had loss of personal data, and I am not yet sure that they didn’t take control of my Google account. It seems like I can change my password safely, but having been broken into, I have to wonder if the Russians are able to read this as I type it. I know I sound like a crazy, paranoid old man. The technician thinks so too. But it is harder than ever to have faith in a system when so many bad actors seem to have more control over things than I do. I am the novelist. I should be able to control the plot and the dialogue and the happy endings in my own story. But I can type on my computer again and my machine is cured of the Russian computer flu.

One should have positive thoughts as often as possible, even if you can only find them in a warehouse of old memories, impressions, and poems.

The point I wanted to make today, now that I have my word-mulching machine back to word-mulching form, is that I have always been a solver of problems, both simple and complex. It goes with being a teacher hand in hand because being a school-type teacher-man means solving problems for the little people and teaching them to be problem solvers too.

The big problem with problem-solving, however, is that there is always one more problem to be solved… unless there are ten more. Life is a matter of problem-solving, and you cannot be happy until you learn both to solve problems, even hard ones, and be reconciled to the fact that there will always be problems you have to live with and cannot solve.

Among the ten more problems I am now faced with is the problem of not having enough money to cover all the bills as I and my children continue to do things that cost money, like getting sick, eating, living in Texas, wearing clothes, wearing extra cold-weather clothes, and getting hacked by Russians. I want desperately to get a part-time job I can do. I am thoroughly qualified to be a substitute teacher. But I can’t do that job because I am in poor health. One more bout of the flu picked up in the germ farms that are Texas public schools will end me. Besides, if my health were sound enough for the classroom, I would still be teaching. It was a job God made me for, and I love teaching.

I was earning extra money the hard way through driving for Uber, daily risking an onslaught of shady clients, thoroughly unpleasant back-seat drivers, and Texas killer grandmas driving Lincoln Town Cars through stop signs at every other corner. And then I got hit in the driver’s side door by a goof who was talking to his passenger instead of looking as he turned across traffic. He didn’t see me until he clobbered me with his car. There was no way at all I could have avoided that collision. It cost me money for a deductible even though he was totally at fault. It cost me six months of driving time. I have been able to drive for other purposes, but I have not been able to drive for Uber since the accident. My driving-for-money confidence is missing. I have looked for it everywhere. It isn’t in any of the closets in the house. I guess I will simply have to make some more and get out and drive again.

So, living a problem-solving life ain’t easy, but it is necessary. It will get figured out, through persistence if nothing else. Because we all have to. And I can already see ten more problems headed towards me down the thorny garden path that is my life.

4 Comments

Filed under autobiography, commentary, education, feeling sorry for myself, humor, insight, Paffooney, poem

Idealism

Idealism (a poem)

When I was but a stupid boy

I had a stupid thought

That if you told a story well

And that story was easily bought

That you could save yourself from hell

If the story was rightly wrought

And the telling would end in joy.

………………..

But when I was an awkward youth

I tried my tale to spin

And awkwardly my words went wrong

And my story failed to win

And readers sang that critical song

And laughter crept right in

And my steering was not strong

My story was uncouth.

……………….

But as a mostly mature man

I tried to tell the truth

And live my life by a mature code

And profit from lessons of youth

And composed a much more stable ode

That rhymed while showing tooth

And defended my small abode.

I executed my story’s plan.


Finally, I wisely became real old

And I warily and wisely began to lie

I made of life a serious joke

And ate my small piece of the pie

I laughed and watched the faces in the smoke

As the fires began to die

And I made the point as I wisely awoke

My story is now told.

8 Comments

Filed under autobiography, commentary, humor, irony, metaphor, Paffooney, poem, poetry, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Here is My Heart

Yesterday I posted another maudlin doomsday post. I probably gave you the opinion that all I do with my time is mope around and think about death. And maybe write a little creepy black Gothic poetry. But that’s not me. I am a lover of the humor in stories by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Kurt Vonnegut. I am a former teacher that managed to teach the entire zoological range of possible middle school and high school students in Texas and did it without being convinced to hate them rather than love them. Yes, my heart is full of mirth and love and memories of weird kids and troubled kids and kids that could melt the meanest of hearts.

My passion is writing fictional stories about the kids I have taught, including my own three, and setting it in a fictionalized version of my little town, the place in Iowa where I grew up. And I put them in plots of impossible fantasy and science fiction in a way that can only be explained as surrealism.

Nobody reads my books. So far, at any rate.

But that isn’t the important thing. The important thing is that, despite my illness and deteriorating quality of life, my books now actually exist. I put off being a full-time writer for 33 years as I finished my teaching career. A writer has to have something to write about. So, teaching came first.

Writing novels was always the ultimate goal, however. I am a story-teller. The story itself is in the very center of my heart.

3 Comments

Filed under autobiography, cartoony Paffooney, humor, Iowa, kids, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, surrealism, teaching, telling lies, writing