Category Archives: autobiography

Living On After Writing

I finished a novel over the weekend. It was one of those novels that you have to write before you die because anything short of finishing it would leave your whole life incomplete.

So, now that it is finished, I can go ahead and die, right?

4clownsWell, of course, it is not as simple as that.  I created a cover for it.  But it is not proofread and formatted and I have to give it time to cool down, being fresh out of the oven, before I read it over again, make adjustments, and publish it.  And I have two other novel drafts that haven’t yet reached the published state of being.  So, I better put off dying for just a bit.  Any clown can tell you that giving birth to a novel that you have been composing for 4o years and writing down for six months takes a lot out of you.  And you have to stop and take a breath.  At least one.  Before you forge ahead with the next one.  I do have Recipes for Gingerbread Children already formatted and I am working through the final edit.  I am still in poor health yet and could drop dead at any moment.  My computer is all funky from some sort of virus, hopefully not computer flu… or computer black death.  So, I am still in a mad rush to beat an unknown deadline beyond which I am really dead.

I don’t have the luxury of dying yet.

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I have to deal with the death of another beloved character,  I can’t seem to write a comedy adventure novel without killing somebody at the end of it.  Shakespearian comedies all end in marriages, and it is the tragedies that end in mass deaths.  But like any clown, I have most things backward in my life.  You learn that as a teacher in public schools, you really are just another form of professional fool pursuing your profession foolishly.  That is kinda what life is for.  And it doesn’t change when you retire and try to become a foolish writer of foolish novels to leave behind as a foolish legacy to a whole foolish world.

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But, as for the question of whether there is life after writing… I really don’t know, and I am still not ready to find out.

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Filed under autobiography, humor, illness, new projects, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

If I’m Being Honest…

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If I’m being honest, I am a liar.  And that is not really a paradox, because I don’t always lie.  In fact, I often lie in order to reveal a deeper truth.  (I know, I know… rationalizations are simply another kind of lie.)  I lie because I used to be a school teacher.  You know that teachers have to be liars because you can’t say to a parent, “Your kid is ugly and stupid, and I have documented proof.”  You especially can’t say that if it really is provable.  Instead, you have to tell the lie that any kid can learn and do and be anything they want if only they are willing to work hard enough.  And you have to tell that lie often enough that the kid, the parent, and even you, the teacher, believe it to the point that it becomes true.

And now that I am retired and not telling the school teacher’s lie any longer, I have become a novelist, and I have now made it my business to make up fiction stories and compile lies into book form.  And though the people or characters are based loosely on real people I have known, they are really only a narrative trick to make the reader think about and possibly accept as truth the themes my writing puts forward.

(Boy!  I sure am an ugly old hairy nut-job, ain’t I? = a lie in question form.)

But if I’m being honest today, there are a few things I need to say truthfully, straight out without irony or falsehood or exaggeration.  Let me offer these truths.

  • In this political environment where partisan politics divide us to the point of attempted assassinations with bombs, I do not hate the other side of the argument.  I don’t hate Republicans and conservatives.  Some of my old friends in Iowa and some of my good friends in Texas are conservative enough to have voted for Trump.  I do not reject them as my friends because of their politics.  They are good people and worthy in too many ways to list.  And though they may be sympathetic to someone who threatens me because I have looney liberal ideas, I don’t expect any of them to send me bombs in the mail.  That kind of division is the opposite of what we need.
  • I know what statistics say about kids and learning potential.  I have worked hard during my lifetime to create educational achievement in places where it is nearly impossible.  I believe in the value of every student, and some of the worst behavioral problems and some of the most difficult learning disabilities helped me really get to know some of my all-time favorite kids.
  • I will continue to tell lies for the sake of education and art and all the things that matter to me.  Lies can be used for good as much as the truth can be used for injury and evil.  But my lies will always be soap-bubble hoo-haws, easily popped and seen through for what they really are meant to accomplish, never big black cannonball lies meant to rip people apart and destroy the fortresses they live in.
  • If I’m being honest, even though I am a liar, you can believe in me.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, education, goofy thoughts, humor, lying, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching, telling lies

Mickey’s Secret Identities

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Yes, there is very definitely a possibility that there is more than one me.

If you look carefully at the colored pencil drawing above, you will see that it is titled “The Wizard of Edo” and signed by someone called Leah Cim Reyeb.  A sinister sounding Asian name, you think?  I told college friends that my research uncovered the fact that he was an Etruscan artist who started his art career more than two thousand years ago in a cave in France.  But, of course, if you are clever enough to read the name backward, you get, “beyeR miC haeL”.  So, that stupid Etruscan cave artist is actually me.

It turns out that it is a conceit about signing my name as an artist that I stole from an old episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show and have used for well over two decades through college and my teaching career.

And of course, the cartoonist me is Mickey.  Mickey also writes this blog.  Mickey is the humorist identity that I use to write all my published novels and blog posts since I published the novel Catch a Falling Star.

Michael Beyer is the truest form of my secret identity.  That was my teacher name.  It was often simplified by students to simply “Mr. B”.  I was known by that secret identity for 31 years.

Even more sinister are my various fictional identities occurring in my art and my fiction.  You see one of them in this Paffooney.  The name Dr. Seabreez appears in Catch a Falling Star as the Engineer who makes a steam engine train fly into space in the 1890’s with alien technology.  He appears again in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius as a time-traveler.

The young writer in the novel Superchicken, Branch Macmillan, is also me.  As is the English teacher Lawrance “Rance” Kellogg used in multiple novels.

So, disturbing as it may be to realize, there is more than one name and identity that signifies me.  But if you are a writer of fiction, a cartoonist, an artist, or a poet, you will probably understand this idea better.  And you may even have more than one you too.

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Filed under autobiography, foolishness, humor, irony, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Predictions Using Mickey Math

Dr Phool

Mickeys are by their nature pessimists.  When mostly bad things happen to you in your life, you learn not to expect good things, only be pleasantly surprised by them.  And bad things happen only when you are prepared for them if you are expecting only bad things to happen.  In fact, the bad outcome will probably seem good in comparison to the terrible thing you were planning on happening to you.

For example, my car is in the shop being fixed for accident damage that prevented me from earning extra money through Uber for a month and a half.  I was told on Thursday that the car doors were fixed and it was in the paint shop.  It was possible I was going to get it back Friday afternoon.  I was not upset or surprised that I never got the call Friday.  In fact, I fully expected somebody had dropped the car off a lift or painted it neon puce or something and that it will take another two weeks to fix the new damage.  So if it turns out to be ready tomorrow, which I sincerely don’t expect due to Mickey Math, I will still be pleasantly surprised.  I might even go into happy shock.  After all, I clearly remember one time watching a tow truck operator load my malfunctioning car onto a flatbed tow truck, only to see it roll off the front of the truck to further damage it because he had not properly secured it.  That yielded happy shock because the body shop owner who also owned the tow truck ended up repairing my car for free.

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What is the science behind Mickey Math, you say?  Oh, you didn’t say anything?  Well, I will tell you anyway.  In a world where 2 + 2 = 4, if Mickey desperately needs the answer to always be at least 4, you can be certain by experimental proof and past experience that it will surely come out as 2 + 2 = 3.  Life and physics always disappoint Mickey one way or another.  So the science tells Mickey to always be prepared for the worst.

That being said, here are some predictions for the near future figured out via Mickey Math.

  • Since Trump’s tax cut last year retro-actively re-figured withholding deductions on my pension and I owed $1300 in tax penalties for 2017, I will surely pay twice as much in additional penalties this year in spite of the letter from last December telling me readjustments were being made for 2018.
  • Trump is in all kinds of legal peril and the scandals of his presidency will probably lead to the Republican loss of control in Congress.  Therefore the Republican Party will have a governmental coupe (in case Russia fails to swing the elections to them) which seizes absolute power for them and makes Trump President for life.
  • If hurricanes don’t wipe Texas as clean as a marble tabletop, then we will experience our first day of 200-degree temperatures in early January.
  • The baseball Cardinals will not make the playoffs, and the football Cardinals will return to having endless losing seasons.
  • Termites will eat our entire house, and mosquitoes will drink every last drop of my blood.

Now, it is quite possible that things will fall short of most of these dire predictions, but that is how Mickey Math secures happiness from a miserable life.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, pessimism, self pity

Telling Teacher Stories

My Art

Here’s a secret that is only a secret if you are one of the well-over-six-billion people that don’t know I exist; I loved being a public school teacher.  I taught for 31 years.  24 years of that was in middle school.  I taught more than 1000 different seventh graders.  And I loved it.

Please don’t reveal this secret to any mental health professionals.  I like my freedom.  And I am really not dangerous even after teaching that many seventh graders.  I promise.

But it has left me with a compulsion.  I confess it is the reason I write humorous young adult novels and why I continue to write this blog.  I have to tell teacher stories or I will surely explode.

I have to tell you not only about the normal kids I taught, but the super-brainy mega-nerds I taught, the relatively stupid kids I taught, the honor students, the autistic kids, the kids who loved to sleep in class, the classroom clowns that tried to keep them awake, the kids who loved my class, the kids who hated my class, the times I was a really stupid teacher, the times I achieved some real milestones for some wonderful kids, the kids I still love to this day, the kids I tried really hard to love, but…. (well, some kids not even a mother could love), the drug dealers I had to protect my class from, the kids who talked to me about suicide and abuse and horrible things that still make me cry, the kids I lost along the way, and, well, the list goes on and on but this is an epic run-on sentence and the English teacher inside me is screaming at the moment.

You get the idea.  Like most writers… real writers, not hacks and wannabees, I write because I have to.  I don’t have a choice.  No matter what it costs me.  And what do I have to talk about in writing except being a school teacher and the almost infinite lessons that experience taught me?

I loved being the rabbit holding the big pencil in the front of the classroom.  And that metaphor means, as crazy as it sounds, I loved being a teacher.

 

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, education, humor, kids, Paffooney, teaching

Mickey Notes

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Sometimes a Mickey needs to take stock of where he is, where he is going, and what is going on in the world around him.  I think this Mickey needs to make a list of bullet points and hope like hell that nobody gets shot.

  • Mickey is old.  At 61-and-a-half he has six incurable diseases and has been a cancer survivor since 1983.  In modern America, he can no longer afford medicines like insulin that may be necessary to stay alive.  After paying out thousands of dollars in hospital bills and doctor bills, he’s gone bankrupt and probably will not go to the doctor the next time he needs to.  So Mickey is probably right in considering himself temporary at best.
  • The diseases referred to are diabetes, arthritis, COPD, psoriasis, hypertension, and BPH.  No laughing matter, Mickey knows, but not really a crying matter either.  If the economy and the system of government don’t allow you to get real, necessary health care, well… laughter is the best medicine, isn’t it?  And eating right, as much as you can afford to do it, counts for something.
  • Mickey’s car is in the shop.  The goofer who rammed into the driver’s side door in the rain is definitely at fault in the accident.  His insurance, however, holds Mickey 85% responsible because he didn’t have his lights on (although I am pretty sure he did) even though it was almost noon and headlights weren’t strictly necessary in what was merely a light rain.
  • The doors on Mickey’s car won’t open until both of them and the column between them, are both replaced.  So, Mickey is stuck borrowing his nephew’s red car which has a dying battery, mysterious rumbling engine indigestion, and a cracked windshield.
  • Mickey has six good novels published; Catch a Falling Star, Stardusters and Space Lizards, Superchicken, Snow Babies, Magical Miss Morgan, and The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.
  • Mickey also has two completed manuscripts awaiting revision, editing, and publication;  Recipes for Gingerbread Children and The Baby Werewolf.
  • And Mickey has reached 100 pages and 34,000 words on his current manuscript; Sing Sad Songs.
  • It should be obvious, then, that Mickey intends to write fictions furiously until he drops dead.  Mickey hopes that you don’t hope that he will drop dead sooner rather than later.  He promises that his fictions aren’t that bad.
  • Mickey has decided not to waste any more time making fun of the current criminal in the White House.  That problem really seems to be coming to an end on its own.
  • It is probably also obvious that Mickey has been transforming his Paffoonies from grayish photographishes into clear and bright scannishes… er… scans.
  • And when Mickey writes Mickey Notes, he always intends to write something different than it turns out he has really written as he gets closer to 500 words and the end of the essay.
  • Oh, well, Mickey knows how it goes, I suppose, and so he is now done writing Mickey Notes… for today.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, Mickey, Paffooney, self pity

I’m a Kangaroo Kid

Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo, would not like my title.  He wanted them to be referred to as “children” not “kids”.  The reasons were obvious.  “Kid” refers to a baby goat.  It’s all about the words.  It’s all about respect and propriety.

4e087cfa232cf.image But Bob Keeshan, though a TV personality, was much more of a teacher than anything else.  His show went on air before I was born, and I don’t remember a moment in my childhood that he wasn’t a part of it.  He was like Mr. Rogers, but came into our lives even before Fred Rogers appeared on the scene.  I watched the show in the mornings before school started, at a time when I walked all the way across our little Iowa farm town to get to school.  He taught me important early lessons in life that were just as impactful as the math and language and social skills I was getting later in the day.  Of course, I had to leave home for school before the show ended at 8:00 a,m. But just like school, watching and participating in any part of it was capable of teaching you something good.

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A lot of what I was able to do successfully as a teacher is a result of how Captain Kangaroo taught me.  He taught me to deliver information in small bites that a young learner with a short attention span could fully digest.  He taught me how to capture attention.  He did it with puppets, a moose, a bunny, and a dancing bear all thanks to Cosmo Allegretti, a versatile and multi-talented performer.  He could focus attention by letting Mr. Moose drop ping pong balls on his head.  Whatever came next after the moment of mirth was something I paid attention to.

He also helped us learn science.  Mr. Greenjeans in his low-key, deadpan way would teach us about eating vegetables, how farmers cultivate plants, and how to handle various small animals like kittens, rabbits, and even ferrets.  Mr. Greenjeans got seriously bitten by a lion cub on camera.  He simply stuck his bleeding finger in his pocket and went on with the show.  Yes, the man was a veteran in more ways than one.  (He was a Marine in WWII.)

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And Captain Kangaroo taught me how to share a book.  I became very good at reading aloud to students because Bob Keeshan and the crew that worked for him showed me how to read with expression, separate dialogue from narration, and build the excitement with pace and voice modulation.  They were experts at reading aloud.

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So, I say this with no disrespect, only veneration.  “I am a Kangaroo kid.”  I watched the show and internalized it.  I developed deep pockets like the ones in Bob Keeshan’s jacket that gave him the name Captain Kangaroo, and I stored many treasures from the Treasure House there that I would later share with my students.

 

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Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, autobiography, clowns, education, heroes, humor, reading, review of television, TV as literature