Category Archives: autobiography

Putting Together Final Chapters

I have currently two complete novels that are on the verge of being published. I have more ideas percolating and taking shape as new novels. I have the same sort of Stephen King novel-making machine working for me that lots of prolific authors have working for them. I am regularly churning out a variety of books.

Both of my most recent books spent time on the Tuesday novel-writing post where I publish a finished chapter of a work in progress as if I were publishing it in serial form. This is useful in meeting deadlines in that it guarantees progress is definitely made every week.

It can also provide a means of writing two novels at the same time.

The Necromancer’s Apprentice started as a satyric parody of Disney’s the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment of Fantasia. But it also links to other stories I have already written that includes the Fairy Kingdom of Tellosia. I even used a cross-over character, Blueberry Bates, who interacted with the Fairies in Magical Miss Morgan.

It was a novel created from a spur-of-the-moment inspiration that simply fit like a glove into the overall plan of the over-arching story I am telling, a disguised version of the Life of Mickey.

The other novel I have ready to publish is the rewrite and expansion of my horrible first novel, AeroQuest into AeroQuest 4 : The Amazing Aero Brothers.

This has been a different process altogether since it is a re-write, and large sections of that story are already written, though most of the extensions of the story occur in books 4 and 5.

But this process of ending a story doesn’t just apply to the books I am working on. It is also about writing my own story as I have entered into the final chapters of my own life. I am now old enough to be fully qualified for Medicare and already enrolled. I am in poor health, and I may even have caught Covid Omicron, the current toxic variant of the pandemic. I seem to be recovering, but the next variant will probably do me in.

So, how do you end the last years of your own life?

I have been giving my life meaning since I am no longer a school teacher by writing novels, using the full power of my writing ability and my overpowered imagination. Yes, I have tried to take control of my own story and choose to define what my life means for myself.

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I am Sick of Being Angry

I am sick of a lot of things. Right now, Covid Omicron is probably one of those things. Oh, it doesn’t seem like it is going to kill triple-vaccinated me. But it is not making my life easy right now.

It bothers me that States with idiots in charge of the government are trying to legislate school curriculum in ways that eliminate books about black culture and black experience, life experiences of gay authors and trans people, and anything else historical or factual that makes white guys feel guilty or uncomfortable about not feeling guilty. (Notice I haven’t mentioned any particularly stupid red States like Texas or Iowa or the evil kingdom of Florida, nor have I specifically insulted moron governors like Greg Abbot or Ron DeSantis. I am behaving myself just as I learned to do from FOX News.)

It also bothers me that States with rabid monkeys in charge of the government are rewriting voting laws to seriously make things more difficult for certain people to vote, and rearranging vote certification so that the Republican party does not have to put up with people winning elections when they don’t like them. Voting is easy for me because I live in a mostly white-guy voting district and I look like somebody who might vote for Republicans. But even I could get into serious trouble if I tried to give a bottle of water of to an elderly black woman waiting in line to vote. And my side probably can’t win in the upcoming election because the majority of the voters who vote for my chosen side don’t look like me, or more obviously think like me.

And I am definitely disturbed by the fact that somebody who looks like a badly fermented mango and used to be the President of the United States, obviously, and in front of the world, incited a riot at the Capitol which resulted in violence and death for some rioters, but more Capitol Policemen. He literally tried to overthrow the US government. And a year later, he still has not been arrested and imprisoned, in spite of the fact that in many other countries he would’ve been executed for his traitorous, failed attempt at a coup.

But what good does it do to be angry about these things? Evil, greedy crooks have been running the ov er-all show since at least the 1980’s, and maybe longer, since before then I thought and spoke and acted like a child. I probably wasn’t mature enough to recognize how easily evil comes to mankind. Perhaps we were always doomed to eventual extinction by the excessive evilness rampant in the human species.

If mankind is going to be inventive enough and resourceful enough to survive nuclear proliferation, human-caused climate crisis, and de-evolution into fascistic. authoritarian, criminal empires, it will be the positive, creative, and good-natured among us that will find the solutions. Not the angry men that dominate politics and television.

I have done my part already. I taught kids to read, and a few of them to write. I hope I taught the right ones how to think. And I didn’t give them reason to become hateful. And I tried to teach them lessons on higher morality.

I finished a novel yesterday. That means Aeroquest 4, and The Necromancer’s Apprentice are both only a good proofreading away from being published.

Will I have time before the end to finish another? This I do not know. But there exists enough published stories by me to secure my right to call myself an author. Still, it is a task that makes me happy and leaves more positive than negative behind me when this life is over. It is a better, more-useful thing to do than being an angry man.

I hope you will help me, when the time comes, to vote the evil out of the government… if they let us do so. But I also hope you worry far more about being happy and fulfilled rather than angry.

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My Second Quarantine Adventure

I am now confined to my bedroom for another couple of weeks. Me, alone with my imagination, having to put on a mask to go down to the kitchen to make soup or go to the restroom. And it is the second time. But this timek I am the one infected. Before it was number two son who brought it home from work and got us all locked up at home.

To be honest, I haven’t gotten a test yet to determine that it is truly Omicron. If I do, I have to have somebody help me get there as we do not yet have any home tests. That would put whoever volunteers at risk. Plus, an official diagnosis creates more days missed from work for my wife who already has to teach in a germ-filled middle school with a mask on all day.

So, since I am only assuming I have Covid Omicron, I get to take care of myself in isolation. And if it is not Omicron, for which I am triple vaccinated, I have to worry that the regular flu is probably more dangerous than Covid and could potentially kill me.

I tend to get sick from regular flu even when I am vaccinated.

But while I am holed up with headaches and sore throat, I am finishing a novel, The Necromancer’s Apprentice. I have one chapter and two illustrations yet to finish.

This will be the first novel I have written set entirely in Tellosia, the kingdom of Fairies, Sylphs, Pixies, and Elves that exists just beyond the edges of the small town of Norwall, Iowa. All of the Fairy people and fairy animals are shrunk down by modern disbelief in them to a size where a six-foot person would be only three inches tall.

I hope to have it published in the next week. I, of course, now have additional time to work on it.

The Necromancer’s village of Mortimer’s Mudwallow

So, I have a choice. I can sit and suffer and watch TV, or I can get busy and write and publish.

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Filed under Paffooney, humor, autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, illness, novel writing

What You Should Know About Filipino Families

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Not everyone pictured in this post is actually a family member by marriage, but my wife has a big family and everyone who is even remotely related to a Filipino family… or even imagines that they are… is family.

I am about as much of a white-guy WASP-type as you can find in Middle America, having grown up in Iowa and teaching for my entire career in Texas.  But I know a thing or two… or three about other cultures.   I taught in South Texas for 23 years with students who were over 85% Spanish-speaking.  And then, in 1995, I married into the Pinoy culture of the Philippine Islands.

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Me and my Filipino-American familia… circa 2003.

There are some things I have learned about this other culture that you should probably be aware of.

#1.  The United States is being invaded and colonized by the Philippines.  They are coming here in waves, getting jobs in education and medicine that not enough of home-grown America are willing to take up.  My wife came here with a placement company as a teacher.  Three of her group of Filipino teachers landed in our little Cotulla school district.  When she got here, she was met by her cousin and her cousin’s family.  There was a Filipina woman and her young son in the Valley that also took an interest in helping her get settled in Texas.  All of these people… and all of their friends and relatives are still a part of our lives.  My wife’s sister and her family lived in California where dozens of cousins also lived.  They and my wife’s parents have since moved to Texas, along with two other sisters and their families.  You get the idea.  They are taking over.

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#2. As you can see, Filipinos love to take pictures.  Above is a picture from class where my niece goes to school back in Floridablanca in the Philippines.  People complain about pictures of food on Facebook.  My Filipino family puts the Food Network to shame.  Sometimes I can’t tell if they are eating another exotic Filipino dish with rice and meat or they’ve been putting firecrackers into fish and exploding them.  And the fish eyes are a delicacy.  Eeuw! My sisters in Iowa won’t even let me talk about the food at Filipino gatherings.  I have to be extremely careful of what I share on Facebook.

1013267_10201161984785458_2113452340_n #3.  To know about Filipino culture, you have to understand what Jollibee is all about.  Jollibee is the Filipino MacDonald’s.  Of course, it is cheaper… and better tasting.  There are a  few of them around the country here.  California has more than Texas.  They are like a giant Filipino magnet.  You go there to find the Filipino community in any American city.  But other people love the food too.  You have to sort the Filipinos from the Hispanics and white folks that are not too proud to eat cheap and delicious.

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Well, those are only about three things that you should probably know about Filipinos and Pinoy culture.  I haven’t even gotten into the thing about Matrilineal social orders or the evils of Karaoke addiction… but enough is enough for one day.  I have no idea how much trouble I am now in for revealing cultural secrets.  It could be a long cold night in the dog house.

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Poor Ol’ Wooden Head

“Kaw-Liga”
KAW-LIGA, was a wooden Indian standing by the door
He fell in love with an Indian maid over in the antique store
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

He always wore his Sunday feathers and held a tomahawk
The maiden wore her beads and braids and hoped someday he’d talk
KAW-LIGA – A, too stubborn to ever show a sign
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

[Chorus:]
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he never got a kiss
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he don’t know what he missed
Is it any wonder that his face is red
KAW-LIGA, that poor ol’ wooden head.

KAW-LIGA, was a lonely Indian never went nowhere
His heart was set on the Indian maiden with the coal black hair
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

Then one day a wealthy customer bought the Indian maid
And took her, oh, so far away, but ol’ KAW-LIGA stayed
KAW-LIGA – A, just stands there as lonely as can be
And wishes he was still an old pine tree.

“The Complete Hank Williams” (1998)

Magicman 3

The quirky movie I reviewed, Moonrise Kingdom, reconnected me with a song I loved as a child.  It was on an old 45 record that belonged to my mother’s best friend from high school.  When the Retleffs sold their farm and tore down their house and barn, they had a huge estate sale.  My mother bought the old record player and all the collected records that Aunt Jenny still had.  They were the same ones my mother and her friend Edna had listened to over and over.  There were two records of singles about Indian love.  Running Bear was about an Indian boy who fell in love with little White Dove.  They lived on opposite sides of a river.  Overcome with love, they both jump into the river, swim to the middle, lock lips, and both drown.  Together forever.  That song, it turns out, was written by the Big Bopper, and given to Johnny Preston to sing, and released the year after the Big Bopper died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

Kaw-liga, by Hank Williams, was a wooden Indian sitting in front of a cigar store.  His love story is even worse.  As you can see from the lyrics above, he never even gets the girl.  Dang, Indian love must be heck!

But I have come to realize that these aren’t merely racist songs from a bygone era.  They hold within them a plea for something essential.  They are a reminder that we need love to be alive.

When I was young and deeply depressed… though also insufferably creative and unable to control the powers of my danged big brain, I knew that I wanted love.  There was one girl who went to school with me, lovely Alicia Stewart (I am not brave enough to use her real name), that filled my dreams.  We were classmates, and alphabetical seating charts routinely put us near each other.  She had a hypnotic sparkle in her eyes whenever she laughed at my jokes.  She was so sweet to me… sweet to everyone… that she probably caused my diabetes.  I longed to carry her books or hold her hand.  I cherished every time she spoke to me, and collected the memories like stamps in a stamp album.  But like the stupid cigar store Indian, I never spoke up for myself.  I never told her how I felt.  I was endlessly like Charlie Brown with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  Sometimes you have to screw up your courage and leap into the river, even if it means your undoing.  Because love is worth it.  Love is necessary.  And it comes to everybody in one way or another over time.  I look at pictures of her grandchildren posted on Facebook now, and wonder what might have been, if only… if only I had jumped in that stupid river.  I did find love.  And I probably would’ve drowned had I done it back then.  Life has a way of working things out eventually.  But there has to be some reason that in the 50’s, when I was born, they just kept singing about Indian love.

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A Cold Day in Hell… I Mean, Texas

I have arthritis, especially in my feet and knees. Yesterday’s twenty-degree cold wave was enough to make them ache and pin me down in my bedroom all day. I had to buy diabetic socks for the first time since last January.

For the month of December I was using a health app on my phone to measure my walking steps, and I was making as much as three miles a day. And then I blew out the heel of my left foot. I don’t know if I had a blister that burst or not, but the entire callous on the heel fractured and fell off, leaving my heel intensely sore, and the painful limp it caused jangled up the workings of my entire skeleton.

I ended up taking two days off from exercising to let my heel heal.

But the weekend wasn’t a total loss. In fact, my team, the Arizona Cardinals, were in a death-spiral of losing football games until, in the very last regular season game of the year they beat the Eastern Division Champion Dallas Cowboys to end the year 11 wins and 5 losses, good enough to make it into the playoffs as a wild card.

2022 may be a good year after all.

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The Cowboy Code

When I was a boy playing cowboys and Indians with cap pistols and rubber tomahawks, we all knew that cowboys had a code.  The guy in the white hat always shoots straight.  He knows right from wrong.  He only shoots the bad guy.  He even shoots the gun out of the bad guy’s hand if he can.  Westerns are about right and wrong, good and bad, and the unyieldingly good knights of the plains.

And boys believe what they see on TV and in the movie theaters.  People who make television shows never lie, do they?  In fact, Wyatt Earp was based on a real guy who really lived and really shot the bad guys at the gosh-darn real OK Corral.

Daniel Boone was a real guy too.  He faced the opening up of new lands full of deadly dangers.  And when Fess Parker played him in 1964, wearing Davy Crockett’s coonskin hat, he walked the earth like a guardian angel, making everyone safe by the end of the episode.  He even knew which Indians were good and which were bad.  Mingo was always on Daniel’s side.  And when they spoke to each other about the dangers they faced, it was never about killing the people they feared.  It was about doing what is was right, about helping the community at Boonesboro to survive.  Being encouraging… looking forward to a more settled future created by following the cowboy frontier code.

So, I am left wondering what ever happened to the cowboy code?  I listen to Republican presidential candidates talking about dipping bullets in pig’s blood to kill Muslims, and building walls against Mexican immigrants, and why our right to carry assault rifles is sacred, and I wonder what happened.  Didn’t they experience the same education from the television versions of the Great American Mythology?  Didn’t they learn the code too?

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I am old enough now to know that cap guns are not real guns and you cannot solve problems by shooting somebody.  But that was never the point of the cowboy code.  We need straight-shooters again in our lives, not to shoot people, but to tell the unvarnished truth.  We need wise people who can tell who are the good Indians and who are the bad   We need them to shoot the weapons out of the bad guys’ hands.  And I know that’s asking for leaders to be larger than life and be more perfect than a man can actually be.  But Daniel Boone was a real man.  Myths and legends start with a fundamental truth.

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The Trials of 2021

2021 was better than 2020 in two important ways. One, no more Tronald Dump as Commander in Chief. Two, I was able to get vaccinated and no longer had to hide from imminent death.

Unfortunately, as revealed on Television on January 6th, The Mad Mango who had been in charge through four horrible years and two Impeachments managed to convince the core of the Republican Party that they would find ruling the United States far more profitable if they adopted an Authoritarian Dictatorship as their model of governance. No policies, no benefits for the ruled, no equality in American society.

And immediately the cultural yelling party that dominates the daily news cycle did not focus on the mess the Cinnamon Hitler left behind with the mishandling of the Covid pandemic, or the unrest in society caused by the Insurrection and attempted coup. Instead, they were horrified that the heirs of Dr. Seuss okayed the non-renewal of printing contracts on a few Dr. Seuss books because of racial insensitivity and non-profitability. And they began to vilify the Muppet Big Bird just because he did a segment showing kids that getting vaccinatd was safe and okay. The world is dying and the Republicans are busy attacking puppets and defending racist cartoons.

My daughter finished her first year of college, entirely online. She is the first of my three kids to go to college. The two boys are both older and hoping to use the chance they earned or will earn from the military to go to school later.

My oldest son has finished his service with a permanent disability caused by a training accident. But he is not completely immobilized. And he now has a fiance whom he plans to marry when the pandemic finally dies down.

My middle child put in over a year as a jailer for the Dallas County Sheriff”s office, and now has enlisted in the Air Force.

My wife, now a U.S. citizen after over twenty years of working on it, is still teaching middle-school ESL. She has a few more years to retirement.

As a writer I decided to create a couple of novellas, essentially an extra-long short story. Cissy Moonskipper’s Travels is a science fiction novella about a young girl who finds herself all alone on a starship in an unknown solar system.

Horatio T. Dogg, Super Sleuth is a dog-and-his-boy story about a dog detective who follows a murderous rat with his educated nose.

As the year is ending, I have another AeroQuest novel ready to be published, and I am more than halfway through my work in progress, The Necromancer’s Apprentice.

My skills as a writer have not really deteriorated, so the writing is still good. But my output is down because my health is deteriorating. I can’t see as well as I used to. I have more arthritis pain than I am used to. My diabetes is still basically under control without taking insulin. And I am now officially on Medicare.

But the biggest regret I have about 2021 is that I lost my mother and my cousin Karen (the unlabeled person on the far right of this picture.) The world of my youth is now gone. Only my grandparent’s farm is still there, now jointly owned by my two sisters and me. Mom passed away from a heart problem complicated by kidney failure at the worst possible time. I am now the oldest surviving member of our immediate family. And becoming a land-owner has helped me pay off my bankruptcy, but I would change things back to the way they were if only I had that magical power.

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Re-Minders

Lately I have been having memory troubles. You know what I mean, when you walk through a doorway with a definite purpose in mind.and then, on reaching the other room, you have no earthly idea what that purpose was. It happens to me regularly. In fact, I can even start writing a sentences, and then I… What was I talking about? Oh, yes. I need to practice writing some more spectacularly bad poetry, before I forget how to do it.

Why did I use this picture? I don’t know. I have forgotten.

Re-minders

Sometimes…

My mind slips out of my left ear…

And I can’t remember things.

So, I have to search under the table…

To find my mind…

And then I remember that that’s not how a mind works.

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Forgetfulness

Tell me now, before I forget…

What was I supposed to remember?

Was it something religious, important, and good…

That comes towards the end of December?

Was I supposed to buy something for somebody then?

I wrote a note to myself in September…

Oh, gosh! How could I ever forget that?

Now the fire is nothing but embers.

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Finding Fairies in my Hair

Why do I have elflocks all snarled up in my hair?

Surely some fairies have been twisting it up there.’

But if I can catch one and make him confess,

He claims I don’t comb it, and that’s why it’s a mess.

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Doofy Me

If I forget everything I ever knew,

Would it be possible that I am still smarter than you?

Old Socrates said he knew nothing at all.

And so he asked questions from Winter through Fall.

I hope I retain enough brain to remember

That everyone needs to wear clothes in December.

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Yep, I still obviously remember how to write spectacularly bad poetry. It is my contribution to literature. Virtually all posts will be able to say, “At the very least, I am a better poet than Beyer.”

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Mr. Happy

I know that I am probably the last person you would think of to ask for advice on how to be happy. I am a crotchety old coot, a former middle-school English teacher, a grumpy old-enough-to-be-a-grandpa non-grandpa, an atheist, a nudist, and a conspiracy theorist. You would expect someone like me to be out in his yard in his underwear yelling at pigeons for pooping on his car more than they do his wife’s car. Be that as it may, I am also basically happy.

You know what happy looks like, surely. After Christmas day is over you see two kinds of kids. One kind is miserable and grumbling in his or her room about their Christmas gift that they didn’t get, in spite of the five expensive toys they did get. Yeah, that one’s never going to be happy. Then there’s the other kind, the one happily breaking or playing with the few cheap toys their parents could afford, using more of their own imagination than the imagination the toy companies pay someone to put into their TV or YouTube toy commercials. That one is going to be somebody you can rely on for years to come. That’s the kind of kid I like to think I was. Of course, I’m probably wrong about that too. Being a middle-school teacher gives you plenty of opportunity to learn the lesson that you are actually wrong about everything in life, and like Socrates, you know absolutely nothing for sure about anything.

Years upon years of being a public school teacher, the butt of comedians’ best school-memory jokes, the target of Republican spending cuts for saving enough money to give massive tax cuts to billionaires, and having to be every kind of professional for every kind of kid, no matter how ugly and unlovable they are, teaches you where true happiness comes from.

A. You have to learn to love the job you are trying to do. And…

B. You need to do the job you love with every resource you can squeeze out of your poor, battery-powered soul.

I did that. I did the job all the way from deluded and idealistic days of youth to cynical and caustic old age hanging onto your job by the fingernails until you have to choose between dying in front of the whole classroom of horrified kiddos you have learned to love, or going kicking and screaming into retirement to maybe live a bit longer than you would have if you had stayed at your work station in the idiot-to-income-earner factory for young minds.

Being satisfied with the career you chose and the success or failure you made of it is not the only factor in being happy. Teachers don’t earn much compared to corporate informational presenters who do the same job for a lot more money in front of a lot less hostile audiences far fewer times a day. So, it helps if you can manage to need less stuff in life. After all, stuff costs lots of money. Especially stuff you don’t really need.

That is why being a nudist and not having to worry about how much you spend on clothes helps a lot with your basic level of happiness and peace of mind. Also, lots of vitamin D soaked up through your nude all-togetherness produces happy-hormones in the brain.

Being an avowed pessimist is good for being happier in life as well. After all, the pessimist is always prepared for the worst to happen. And since the worst rarely is what actually happens, the pessimist is never shocked and dismayed and is frequently pleasantly surprised.

And so, here is Mr. Happy’s secret to a long and happy life;

  1. Tell yourself that the job you have to do is the job you love to do often enough that you actually begin to believe it.
  2. Do that job you love as hard and as well as it is possible for you to do.
  3. Love the people you work for and the people you work with, even if you have to pretend really hard until it becomes real to you too.
  4. Be satisfied with the stuff you need, and try to need as little as possible. The man whose paycheck is bigger than his bills is happier than the man whose paycheck only pays for a portion of the interest on his wife’s credit cards.
  5. Wear fewer clothes. You don’t need them in a quickly warming world. And you should love the skin you’re in.
  6. Expect the worst possible outcome from everything in life, and then there is nowhere to go but upwards.

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