Category Archives: clowns

My Current Novel Project -Sing Sad Songs

Here is a sample chapter from my rough draft to give you an idea of how this nonsense is progressing.

Blue Dawn

Canto 25 – Wish Upon a Star

I honestly was just minding my own business.  The bar, I mean.  I was minding the bar.  Ugly Bill and his idiot child were talking to the FBI somewhere they didn’t bother to inform me about.  Orgus, Bill’s truck-driving uglier son was in the hospital.  And my brother Richard was home in front of the TV pretending to be sick or something.  It was just me, Captain Noah Dettbarn, and an amazing number of unwashed glasses in a business that hardly ever had customers enough to get multiple glasses dirty.

The Captain was busy with his one and only bottle for the day, probably thinking about the South Seas Islands where he used to go by cargo ship.  A place where palm trees swayed in the breeze and tropical girls danced in grass skirts with no tops on.  I envied his memories.  So much more colorful than small-town Iowa in October.  Why did it always seem to be October in Iowa, anyway?  Sweater weather and cold snaps and early frost.

But my regrets and glass-washing were interrupted by the whole gaggle of Norwall Pirates coming into the bar where they really weren’t supposed to be.

Billy was leading the way, followed by that danged Ricky kid.  I knew he would be back.  And Francois and little silent black kid and then the two girls, Mary and Val.

“Ricky wants to try the singing machine,” Billy said.  “Would that be okay? Please?”

I glared at them all.  “What have I got to lose?  The instruction book is on top of it.  And if Ricky breaks it, Ricky’s daddy the cop has to pay for it.”

Ricky grinned at me.  “You know he don’t have no money, right?”

So, like a flock of pigeons or a gaggle of geese they circled around the clunky Japanese squawker box and started chirping and arguing and other things that were hard to ignore.  I couldn’t help but notice how pretty young Valerie really was.  Even in baggy Fall clothes, she had a body and face that were going to take her far in life and going to break more than one heart.  I wondered if she was in any danger from the Teddy Bear Killer that Ugly Bill was going to help capture.  Of course, I knew the pervert only killed boys.  Still, I had to wonder.

“So that’s what you have to do,” Billy was explaining from the manual.  “And now all you have to do is pick one, put the number in, and sing.”

“I try first!” Sang out Ricky.

“Don’t you wanna let the deaf kid sing first?” I asked.  “I have never heard his voice.”

“Uncle Victor, you know he can’t speak except in sign language.”  Billy was glaring back at me.  That skinny little hairball on stick legs was trying to correct my social skills.  Nuts to that.  I ate a few more antacid tablets.

“That would be perfect for me,” I grumbled to myself.

“Here’s the one I want,” Ricky declared, “Steppenwolf, Born to be Wild.”

Billy helped him type in the right series of numbers, then the screeching began.

“Get your motor running…!” he bellowed like a moose during mating season.  “Head out on the highway…”

I regretted not buying earplugs when I bought the damned karaoke thingy.  I regretted it almost as much as not being on a South Sea island with girls in grass skirts and no tops.

“Looking for adventure…!”  I started fixating on counting the bar glasses on the counter behind me, anything but listening to that moose-mating noise pollution.  I also re-stacked the coasters and cleaned the peanut bowls.  I successfully refocused my attention to totally ignore Ricky destroying that song.

“Oh, gawd!  I only get twenty-five percent on that score?  I thought I sang better than that!”

“That was pretty awful, Rick,” Valerie said diplomatically.

Ricky looked angry, but everybody else was nodding agreement.  So, the kid gave up and pressed the microphone into Francois’s hand.  The French boy entered a code surprisingly quickly.

“When you wish upon a star…”

My beloved Jesus!  It was electrifyingly good right from the very first note.

“Makes no difference who you are…”

They were all listening with their mouths open.

“Anything your heart desires… will come to you…”

Even the Captain was listening.  I swear I saw tears in his old red eyes.

“If your heart is in your dreams… no request is too extreme…”

I couldn’t help but think about how depressed this kid had been since I brought him here.  He’d lost his whole family.  He’d been in the back seat of the car with them when they had died.  He’d been sleeping hour after hour at our house because he was too sad to do anything but dream.  And here he was putting his whole soul into a song about dreams and wishes and stars… and I… um… I was about to cry too when he hit that last long beautiful note.

The song ended, and everyone was stunned.  The machine put fireworks on the screen and scored him one hundred percent.

Francois spotlight 2

“Sing it again,” said Valerie, softly.  It was the only thing anyone could say.  And then he sang it again, just as amazingly beautiful as the first time.  And he scored one hundred again.  Everyone was sniffling or openly crying because it was so touching.  Especially pretty little Valerie who had lost her own father only a couple of years ago.  Her cheeks were dripping wet.

“Vicar, you gotta have him sing that again tonight,” said the Captain.  “People have got to hear that.  I mean… gawd dang!  That was amazing!  I gotta bring folks here to hear that.”

And I knew he was right.  That was not something we could afford to keep to ourselves.  That kid had real talent.

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Filed under clowns, humor, music, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

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.)

CaptainKangaroo

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

Getting Back to the Writing in my Heart

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I successfully prepared for the possible death of my beloved laptop, and that foresight managed to save a lot of the art and written work that was stored there.  What is lost to me because I ran out of time to back everything up is not beyond my ability to retrieve it.  I not only backed up files on thumb drives in triplicate, I managed to send copies of my completed manuscripts to both of my sisters as well as my oldest son.  I have been almost paranoid about preserving my creations.

Crooner

And the reason for that is not because of the onset of mental illness, or obsessive compulsive disorder, although those are probably both factors, but because the most valuable possession I have acquired in my life is the story I have to tell.

The novel I am working on now is going to be the most powerful and complex that I have yet done.  I am confident that it will also be the best I have done.  I wrote what I believe are good novels before this one. I like to think that if people bother to actually read Catch a Falling Star, Snow Babies, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, and The Baby Werewolf, they will think so too.  Editors have told me that my work is as good or better than some of the good books published by Random House and Penguin Books, and they know from having worked for those publishing houses.  And I waited to write this one because Sing Sad Songs is so good that I had to learn the skills necessary to write it before I tried to get the story down on paper.

Francois the singing boy is based on a real-life student whom I loved and taught and eventually lost tragically.  His talent changed the world for me, even if it didn’t last long enough to change the worlds of so many more people that he could’ve touched had he lived even a little longer.  And I am the only person who can possibly tell this important story.

I made myself cry for ten minutes by writing that last paragraph.  But don’t be sad for me.  Remember, I am a humorist.  I take the tragedies I have known and try to weave it into stuff that makes you laugh twice as much as it makes you cry.  You know, that stuff we loosely refer to as comedy.  And that’s what this story is about, laughing at everything in life except for those few things that make you have to cry.  Writing is about expressing feelings and describing how conflict is navigated in order to find the love or the love lost on the other side of conflict that is what the world is really about.

Blue Dawn

I know this all sounds like hyperbole… bragging even.  I probably will never pull off the actual creation of the monster, certainly not without consequences, torches and pitchforks, and such…  But it is the reason for all the labor, the back-up plans and paranoia, and the notion that I just might’ve reached the level of skill necessary to bring it all to life.

And I am writing again.  Not even the death of a computer has been able to stop me.

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Filed under artwork, clowns, goofy thoughts, humor, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, writing humor

Clown Business

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This is a 4-minute free-hand doodle in pen and ink on white drawing paper. I drew it fast. I actually put less planning and thought into creating it than the clown president has put into tariffs and trade wars.

I confess to rarely doing things without a plan and considerable preparation. It is as much a teacher thing as it is an artist thing.  But it is not really a clown thing.  Clown things tend to be spontaneous, unrehearsed, improvised, and free-flowing.

I think, though, that my doodle, though done fast and directly from the idea machine to paper, shows how my constant preparing and work on careful planning leads to certain features of talent and skill showing through.

I believe I have revealed before that as a writer and an artist I am a formalist.  I believe in the rules and proper forms.  I know the proper forms and the rules very well.  And therefore, I feel qualified to break the rules whenever necessary.

And clowns must break the rules.  You have push outside the borders.  You have to twist things at unnatural angles.  You have to turn things upside down.   You have to portray a clown with only the face and hands.

Of course you can see a definite difference in quality between clowns.  The Cheeto-head who runs our country does not exhibit practiced skill when he free-hands it and tweets his comedy on Twitter.  He creates mainly chaos.  Robin Williams, on the other hand, rapid fires incredible lines off the top of his head.  But he can do that because he has practiced brewing gallons of funny foam up in his insane brain and grabbing off the amazing lines that fizz out of his brain and tosses them out to create comedy.

Chaos is easy to create.  Comedy, especially thoughtful comedy, is hard.

So, I will continue to do clown stuff.  And I will continue to doodle.  But I will also continue to plan and practice, because clown stuff is seriously important, and has to be done correctly.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, clowns, doodle, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Arrivaderci, Bozo

No, I am not saying goodbye to anyone that is leaving the Trump administration.  Frank Avruch has passed away.

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Who is that, you may ask?

Well, from 1959 to 1970, he was Bozo the Clown.  The first Bozo.  The best Bozo.

And we will miss him, those of us who knew him from childhood, watching a colorful clown on black and white TV.

He did charity work for UNICEF.  We collected dimes in covered coffee cans for Bozo because Bozo needed them for UNICEF.  What the heck is UNICEF, you ask?  Don’t you know how to use Google and Wikipedia?

So, this is a clown who inspired poetry.  What?  He didn’t inspire poetry in you?  Well he did with me.  Let me show you.

bozo

Immortality

They say a clown can never die,

And at the table has a place,

And here’s a little reason why,

It’s all about his face.

When one clown stops the life of laughter,

And stops running the human race,

Another clown can pick up after,

And keep wearing clown one’s face.

Kops aa

Do Not Fear The Bozo Squad

It is really, truly, very clear,

You should not fear a clown, I hear,

Identities disguised in paint,

Malevolent of thought they ain’t.

A clown is meant to make you laugh,

And I can show you with a graph,

That silliness saturates their very sheath,

And rarely hides evil underneath.

  • Sleep Soundly, Sweet Bozo
  •          Silly songs sound in synchrony
  •                  As the symphony sounds softly
  •                            Sincerely saying in sweet song
  •                                     “Sing angel songs, sweet Bozo
  •                                                Your spin-off will last long.”

 

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Filed under artists I admire, clowns, goofy thoughts, humor, poem, poetry, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Goodbye, Dr. Fantabulous

Words don’t do justice to this subject, so here goes;

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tv-mda-telethon

 

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‘Nuff said?

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Filed under artists I admire, clowns, collage, feeling sorry for myself

When the Old Mind Wanders…

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When the old mind wanders…

They tell you you’re just too slow.

But thoughts like mine drift everywhere,

And the edges of the universe… are a place to go.

 

Maybe I should write in red.

And argue with the voices

That rhyme inside my head.

And break the rhyme scheme 

Here and there

Because of what they said.

Eden

Or maybe I should write in blue

Because I’ve been thinking in the nude

And laying all my secrets bare

Which really might be rude.

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But the old mind wanders…

In the form of a poem,

And breaks and squanders

Tallest waves in mere foam.

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