Category Archives: being alone

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.

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

Doing Nothing

Yes, the retaining wall is leaning over the sidewalk and needs repair.

Being retired is a total pain in the Biblical word for donkey. I thought I would be challenged with nothing to do and probably die from lack of challenge as so many do who find their identity in their profession. I was a public school teacher. I loved being a public school teacher. I lived for the challenge of working with kids, especially trying to teach them to write well. And then my health began to betray me, and I was forced to retire.

In this country, loss of a job that defines who you are makes you basically worthless. Republicans will tell you that you go from being a “maker” into being a “taker”, and takers are basically parasites.

The wall began separating from the turf as it leaned, so we had to dig a trench to begin taking down the bricks one by one and re-staking them.

So, now I am a parasite, a blight on society, a “taker”. Decent hard-working people shouldn’t have to put up with a burden on society like me.

“If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat,” they self-righteously tell me.

“So, if I’m too ill to stand in front of a class all day, I should starve to death?”

“No, of course not! Don’t dramatize! You just need to do something else.”

Not having the money to buy expensive equipment, I had to improvise and do it myself.

So, I haven’t just sat back and enjoyed my pension which I worked 31 years to get. I have done things. I rebuilt the siding on the back wall of the house. I repaired all the cracks in the pool twice (once getting it back into shape for swimming, and then fixed only to be forced by the city to remove the pool because I couldn’t spend $9,000+ to bring the 1970 electrical system up to code.) I am now re-setting the bricks in the retaining wall.

I also took up driving for Uber to earn extra money. I needed extra money because hospitalizations cost me so much money I had to take out a bankruptcy which I will be paying off for the next five years while supervised by a State-appointed executor. And then a lovely Texas motorist bashed my car in the driver’s-side door costing me car-repair money (because insurance can’t be expected to pay everything) and leaving me unable to get well enough to return to driving for at least five months (up to the present day).

Doing masonry work takes some organization and some heavy lifting.

I have at no point had money enough to go on vacations or do the recreational activities that other retired seniors get to do (at least the rich white ones with lots of investment money and property). I haven’t been well enough even to be a substitute teacher (which I loved doing back in 2006-2007 when I was well enough and between teaching jobs). So what can I do with all my “free time”? Besides deal with aches and illness without the medicine I can’t afford, I mean?

Work has run into winter time when things get rather cold and wet.

Well, I did start out in life with a passion for writing and drawing. I am living proof you can’t even make pocket change for indulging those passions unless you’re as lucky as former teacher Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. But I have the time and the incurable obsession.

We began flattening out the foundation row of bricks just as winter rains began to perpetually fill the trench with water.

I began the most creative and productive period of my life by writing eight YA novels. I have two more well into the writing of the first draft. I also re-started work on my graphic novel which takes lots of time when you have arthritic hands to draw with. And I have been blogging practically every day.

So, since I retired I have basically been doing nothing. Well, nothing for the greater good and advancing the fortunes of mankind as a whole as my Republican friends who criticize me for being a “taker” on the dole apparently do with their retirements.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, battling depression, being alone, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, new projects, novel writing, photo paffoonies

The Muffin Man Goes Uber-ing

I have been retired now for nearly four years.  It has not been an easy thing to adjust to.  I am used to hard work and constant thinking on my feet.  Yet I have been mostly confined to the house and unable to do much beyond write and drive my kids to the many places high school kids need to go.  I don’t really have trouble keeping busy, but I need to do something to reconnect to the outside world beyond the bedroom door.

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I have been teaching myself to cook.  These muffins are strawberry flavored and only require milk added to the mix, no eggs to crack and shell pieces to pick out of the batter.  I have also been learning the hard way how to burn the crap out of pans and muffin trays.  And… learning how to clean burned pans… but obviously not very well.

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I have been getting to know the oven quite well.  We talk about life and muffins and heat and baking times, and she is constantly beeping at me to warn me when things are about to burn.

She has also been giving me writing advice.  She got me talked into not burning my bank account any further by investing in publishing services.  Those goobers are mostly just money-grubbers in a dying industry.  My novel Stardusters and Space Lizards was thoroughly baked on this blog over the last sixty eight weeks, and so I needed to finally take it out of the oven.  This I did through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.  The book was formatted and put together in publishable form in a matter of days.  You can find it here on Amazon… My Book.  Page Publishing still has my novel Magical Miss Morgan in page formatting after over a year and a half of working with them. No way are their services worth the money I paid them.  They work slowly and dangerously incompetently.  I would sue them to get my money back, but it would cost me more for a lawyer than what I paid them.  So far with self-publishing I am only ten dollars in the hole, the amount I spent on copies of my own book.

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But as the stove pointed out heatedly, the kitchen and computer are not actually getting out of the house and meeting the world again after three and three quarters years.  And the chances of income from muffins and writing are slim.  So I also made a plan to be an Uber driver.  I got carefully signed up and prepared.  I was finally able to download the Uber driving app last weekend, and this weekend I finally felt well enough to try driving for money.  So last night I got in the car and connected with a potential passenger, my first ever Uber drive.

Of course, this is Mickey we are talking about here.  Nothing in my little life ever goes smoothly, especially at the start.  If things were perfect, I would definitely be worried that something was seriously wrong with the universe.  So, my first passenger was a guy who needed to be driven to the 7-Eleven to buy beer.  And naturally, I couldn’t find the place to start with.  The Uber computer-voice lady kept wanting me to download something in the middle of giving me directions.  She also wanted me to turn left and drive through a fence.  But when I finally did turn in to the apartment complex and realized that I was in the wrong section of the complex to pick up my passenger, I quickly corrected my error and found him.  Computer-voice lady kept telling me to turn the wrong direction, so I listened to my passenger to make the proper turns and got him there on time.  My car, however, overheated in the parking lot.  Now, that isn’t entirely accurate.  It has a faulty heat-sensor that registers overheating whenever the car is idling and heat is reflected back up from stationary pavement under the car.  I had the thing in to the dealer for the recall fix twice, and the replacement chips are just as defective as the original chips.  And, of course, I have been notified about the class action lawsuit, but because it is not a life-threatening malfunction, it may be some time before that is resolved.  So, I rolled down the windows and turned the car heater up high and reduced the heat the defective detector detected.  The drunk guy got back in the car with his beer and I successfully took him back to his apartment, his girlfriend, and his party.  I got a five star rating for the trip.  But I cut the night short.  I earned $4.oo total for the evening.  It wasn’t perfect, but I was finally out in the world again.  I was earning money again.  And I got to discuss the perils of diabetes with a drunk guy whose brother had juvenile diabetes.  Life is good… some of the time.

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Filed under being alone, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, humor, illness, photo paffoonies

Imaginary Friends

Toccata and Fugue

When you know someone has an imaginary friend, something like Elwood’s six-foot invisible rabbit called Harvey, don’t you immediately think that person is crazy?  I do.  But I have imaginary people as friends. I think most writers do.  So am I crazy?  Probably. But hopefully it is a good kind of crazy.

It began with imaginary friends from books.  The Cat in the Hat was my friend.  Jim Hawkins was my friend, as was Mowgli and all the members of the Swiss Family Robinson.  They entered my dreams and my daydreams.  I told them my troubles the same way I listened to theirs through their stories.

I began to have imaginary friends that came from my own imagination too.

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I used to tell my mere human friends about my friend Davalon from outer space.  I told them that he was real and secretly visited me at night to talk about being able to learn about humans on earth by walking around invisibly and watching them.  I got so involved with these stories that my sixth grade class began saying, “Michael is from Mars.”

Island Girl2z

When I was a teenager, I began having conversations with a faun.  His name was Radasha.  He was a creature from Greek Myth, a sensual Dionysian creature who, in his child body, was both younger than me and way older than me.  I didn’t realize until much later in life that he was the result of my repressed memories of a childhood sexual assault that I was the victim of.  I could talk to him about my fear of nakedness.  I could tell him about my blossoming interests in naked girls and their bodies.  I could talk to him about all the things I was somehow too terrified to talk to my male friends about, even though none of them had the same reluctance to discuss sex.  Ra was imaginary.  But he helped me heal.

Then the story-telling seriously began.  I used Davalon as one of the main characters in my novel Catch a Falling Star.  I created Torrie Brownfield, the baby werewolf to express the feelings I had as a boy about being a monster and secretly terrible and deformed.  Torrie is a normal boy with a condition called hypertrichosis.  I am working on The Baby Werewolf now.  And then there’s lovely Valerie Clarke.  She is the main character of Snow Babies which is a finished novel, edited and proofread and ready to publish.  It is I book I will have to find another way to publish since the recent death of PDMI Publishing.  She is not a me-character, based on my own thoughts and feelings.  She is based on former classmates and students who told me things that express the sadness and isolation of growing up female.  So she is even more imaginary than my other characters.

They become real people to me.  They have their own point of view. They talk to me and I learn things from them.  But they are imaginary.  So am I crazy?   Yes… as a loon.  And happy as Elwood P. Dowd to be that way.

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Dutiful Dad

Today I go to pick up the family at the airport before noon. They have been visiting my oldest son in Virginia since last Wednesday.  Not exactly a larkish vacation in the middle of the school year, they went there to be with him while he had surgery on Thursday.  The trip caught me at a time when I am simply not well enough to travel, even by airplane.  My arthritic back problem doesn’t allow for long periods of sitting.  So I got to stay at home and take care of the dog and do what housework I could…  You know, the stuff dads are expected to do when they get left out of a family vacation… again.  So, I washed some dishes… but not all of them.  I laundered some bedding… but only my own.  I cut some grass… but only the tall stuff behind the house.  I did enough work that the boss shouldn’t be too mad at me when she returns home.  I did get her car’s oil changed, though I don’t do that myself any more.

But while the cat’s away…

It’s not what you are thinking…

And why are you thinking THAT?

I broke out the paints and HO Model train stuff that needed painting, updating, and repair.

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Fun for me may be defined differently than it is for you.

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I put snow on buildings with white puff paint where there was never snow before.

A real whee of a time, I know.  But it’s not like I could go out dancing… or singing in the rain.  My life and my jollies are a bit slower and more sedate than they used to be.

I also wrote a bit more of my werewolf novel re-write.  And soon I must go to the airport, so enough of fast and silly Paffooney-making for me.

(**Note**  Paffooney is artwork made by my hand and connected to writing.  It’s not what you were thinking.  And why were you thinking THAT?)

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, being alone, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, humor, illness, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Binging on Netflix Yet Again

I really appreciate the opportunity Netflix gives me to use television shows to fill the lonely hours of sick-in-my-bed time.  It has almost pushed out reading as a favorite pastime.  Too sick to write or do housework or even draw, I can still live alternate lives in my head by fighting crime with Luke Cage and Sheriff Walt Longmire, or experience the miracles of magic and story-telling with the fairy-tale characters of Once Upon a Time.

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21st Annual SAG Awards

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Luke Cage from Marvel Studios brings to life a comic book hero that I have followed since the 70’s.  It is a bullet-proof fantasy of how a super hero who is invulnerable handles a world full violent evil and fragile people he desires to protect.  I have already watched all thirteen episodes, and may well watch it a second time.  It is, in my uncritical opinion, just as wonderful as Daredevil.  It provides catharsis and relief from a world full of troubles and pain.

Longmire is a cowboy sheriff show that presents both a murder-case per episode and a larger jigsaw puzzle of personal secrets and hard life events that have to be faced no matter how reluctantly.  It brings back the flavor of the westerns like Gunsmoke that I watched weekly in the 60’s when I was a mere boy.

And finally, I also find myself hooked by the sappy Disney-princess show Once Upon a Time.  Literally hooked.  Hook is my favorite character.  And the reason he is my favorite is the something different behind the storytelling in this show.  No villain is unredeemable in this show.  Hook is transformed from heartless villain into an unqualified selfless hero.  The same thing happens with major villains Rumpelstiltskin and Regina the evil queen.  It is sappy and cartoonish, I know.  But the show makes me feel something, and look at things in a new way.

So, for now, that is basically my world.  I have to recover and grow stronger, and binging on Netflix goes a long way towards helping me do that.

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Filed under being alone, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, TV review

Islands of Identity

Island Girl2z

Who am I?

Why do I do the things that I do?

No man is an island.  John Donne the English poet stated that.  And Ernest Hemingway quoted it… and wove it into his stories as a major theme… and proceeded to try to disprove it.  We need other people.  I married an island girl from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.  She may have actually needed me too, though she will never admit it.

Gilligans Island

When I was a young junior high school teacher in the early eighties, they called me Mr. Gilligan.  My classroom was known as Gilligan’s Island.  This came about because a goofball student in the very first class on the very first day said, “You look like Gilligan’s Island!”  By which he meant I reminded him of Bob Denver, the actor that played Gilligan.  But as he said it, he was actually accusing me of being an island.  And no man is an island.  Thank you, Fabian, you were sorta dumb, but I loved you for it.

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You see, being Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island was not a bad thing to be.  It was who I was as a teacher.  Nerdy, awkward, telling stories about when I was young, and my doofy friends like Skinny Mulligan.  Being a teacher gave me an identity.  And Gilligan was stranded on the Island with two beautiful single women, Mary Ann and Ginger.  Not a bad thing to be.  And I loved teaching and telling stories to kids who would later be the doofy students in new stories.

But we go through life searching for who we are and why we are here.  Now that I am retired, and no longer a teacher… who am I now?  We never really find the answer.  Answers change over time.  And so do I.

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