Category Archives: commentary

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is a bad luck day… for superstitious and stupid people. Of course, it is never a good day if you are truly stupid.

I had a bad week last week with all the toilet explosions and the car accident and my daughter’s epic lost-ID freak out.

Today could not possibly get worse than the week prior.

Except that it could. I am now in bed ill with a slight fever and a probable sinus infection.

But I will not blame it on superstition. The stupidity was all mine.

The toilet repair went so badly because I was trying to match really out-dated metal plumbing parts with modern plastic cheap stuff and PVC. Nothing matches, nothing fits, I had to piece together a jury-rigged repair with putty and tape and as much ingenuity as my stupid little brain could manufacture.

It’s not as if I can write my way out of my house-repair woes, or my physical ailments and short-comings. I might be able to make a dent in the stupidity factor by means of this essay. But can a collection of paragraphs ever really cure being stupid? The natural state of all mankind?

The car accident was not my fault. I was hit from behind going around the corner by a motorist who did not stay in his own lane of traffic. And I didn’t suffer any real visible damage. We didn’t call a cop for an accident report. My diabetic blood-sugar drop didn’t kill me. So, I guess everything is all right. But stupidly, I am probably allowing my insurance rates to go up because of another accident that was not my fault. And the blood-sugar drop probably lowered my immune system’s defenses during the height of pollen season and the beginning of flu season.

Of course, I am sure you know that Friday the 13th is historically not an ordinary day. You can Google up the information on it’s connection to Jesus’s last supper (13 people gathered on the 13th of Nisan the night before Jesus was crucified on Good Friday.) Or what the King of France did to the Knights Templar on a Friday the 13th. But that is all irrelevant to me, as I am not superstitious, only guilty of some measure of stupidity.

I told my daughter during the heat of her meltdown that we would soon be able to laugh about the whole bad week. Well, what better day to begin the chuckles than Friday the 13th?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhhaaaaaa!

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, humor, illness, Paffooney, pessimism

Examining the Wood Grain

When I was a child I often had to fight on school nights to shut down my brain and get to sleep so that getting up the next morning wouldn’t be torture. The bedroom door was always left open and the single light in the upstairs hallway made it possible to get to the bathroom safely in the middle of the night. I would often find myself staring at the wood grain of the door with all its knots and spots and flowing wiggles. That low-light and wood-grain combination was enthralling.

And as I stared, my over-active imagination would find pictures there. There was a werewolf looking out of the wood grain at me with knotty eyes and wiggly fangs. Boy, that really helped me get to sleep.

But I could conjure other things too. I always longed to see Annette Funicello naked. I worked long and hard to make the naked lady in the corner of the door’s wood grained panel into Annette. It never truly worked. The naked lady had two grossly misshapen boobs that formed the central feature of her character, and that was nothing like perfect and sweet Annette from the Mickey Mouse Club.

But the point in all this is, a boy has to examine the wood grain of his life if he is going to develop into the kind of person he wants to be in the future. The things you see when you look into the knots and spots and flowing wiggles of a nearly infinite set of possibilities is limited only by your powers of imagination. There is truth to find there. There is often also deception. Sometimes the truth and the deception are the very same thing. But you have to follow the lines and make sense of the patterns.

Now, as I am old and have less to look forward to than I have to look back on, I am still looking at the wood grain. I am still looking at the patterns of my life and love and laughter. I try to trace the lines into fiction stories based on all things I have experienced in a life of humble service to the gods of education. And I have to look carefully. Is that a demon face on the left? Grinning at me with a crooked smile? Or is it a fox looking at me through a hole in the door. And on the right… Is that a hooded man standing next to a barber pole? Or is it a meadow lark reaching his stretched neck up to the top of the panel so that his bill is out of the picture at the apex of his reach?

You don’t see what I see? I fully understand. The wood grain of each person’s life is different. And not even his or her own interpretation can be called either “right” or “wrong”.

But the wood grains straight ahead are the pictures of the end of me. So, I must study the wood grains of the past to be sure of all the good that I have had, and I attempt to get it all down to hand onward to my children and the world to come. What else can I do? I see the patterns. Some are terrible… The werewolf of my bedroom door. Some are beautiful… Annette Funicello naked. And I get choose what they mean.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, dreaming, goofy thoughts, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Table Scraps

Jade Beyer, eater of trash, table scraps, and anybody fool enough to break into our house.

While the family dog was watching me intently as I was cooking the breakfast sausages, she decided to strike up a conversation with me.

“You know, beloved father and giver of people food, a lot of other dogs tell me that they get table scraps at meal time.”

“That’s a self-serving comment. And when do you ever talk to other dogs? You’re a house dog that stays inside all the time.”

“I listen to news on the nightly howl, and it’s been a fool moon lately.”

“You mean full moon, not fool moon.”

“That’s not what other dogs call it. It makes their people act like fools.”

“It doesn’t take a phase of the moon to make that happen.”

“So, you will give me table scraps more often?”

“Dogs who eat table scraps get fat and unhealthy and die of heart attacks.”

“Sausages would be worth it.”

“You get enough fat and cholesterol in your diet from eating the burglars that come into the house at night.”

“No burglars came in last night, or any other night that I can remember.”

“Well, that’s probably because in Texas, we elect our burglars to office, especially in the Senate.”

“Euw! I could never eat Cruz or Cornyn. I don’t like the taste of oil mixed with hairspray and arthritis cream. But I could eat Trump, probably. Of all the politicians, he’s probably the only one that looks like he’s made of cheddar cheese.”

“You’d never survive the fat content in the head. Instant myocardial infarction. “

“Well, I don’t know what those last two words mean, but I’ll bet I could survive it. So, when are you gonna start substitute teaching? You get rushed when you have stuff like that to do, and you drop more food on the floor.”

“Well, the school districts are in no hurry to hire me. They seem to have enough subs for the start of this semester, so I have to wait for them to schedule another sub orientation. We could be facing some tough economic times.”

“Oh, that’s not good. No money for even dog food?”

“If things get really bad, we may have to eat table scraps from the floor. And when those are gone, we might even have to eat the family dog.”

“What?! Even if she’s a talking dog and a valuable member of the family?”

“Dogs get eaten before the children do.”

“Oh, I get it. That’s supposed to be black humor. Not funny!”

“It got you to stop thinking about table scraps while I finished cooking the sausages.”

“We’ll see who gets what. I can still give the Princess the beg-eye and make her pity me enough to give me some.”

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, family dog, humor, Paffooney, politics, self pity

Doing the Necessary Work

Yes, I am a writer.

I write poems.

I write novels.

I write and draw comics and comic-book-style stories.

And that isn’t me in the first picture of this post. Although it is pretty close.

But today, I am once again merely sitting down to the keyboard to monkey around and tap out something in writing to get the old writing practice over with.

There is no over-arching plan to follow, no theme already in mind… just little old me sitting down and working at it to get ideas on paper.

And soon, unless the school district I applied to rejects my application for no foreseeable reason, I will be doing the work of a substitute teacher. Of course, that’s not me in the fuzzed up background of the picture. That is not even a real classroom. No classroom contains that many left-hand raisers. And if you could find one, no real classroom has that many hand raisers without having asked the question, “Who wants ice cream?” And a mere sub cannot possibly afford to ask that expensive question.

But that isn’t even the kind of work I meant when I lamely wrote that title. Lamely writing a title is work I have to force myself to do. And that is even harder when you write it first while having no earthly idea what you are even going to write about in the essay.

I always told writing classes (the ones who actually never raise either hand about anything) that the best way to do it is to leave writing the title til last so you will already know what you wrote about and what to call it. But forcing yourself to follow through on a title you just pulled out of the air is one way to force yourself to get the necessary work done.

Another thing you can do to force yourself to get the work done when you need to write something, is put the writing aside and read a book.  As Sagan suggests, books are magical things that let you channel the mind of another author, preferably one who is smarter and a better writer than you are.  I can write fake Twain and fake Dickens like nobody’s business because I soaked in Twain’s magical way of writing down what people said in the weird way the individual talker actually sounded during my college years, and I absorbed Dickens’ knack for creating weird but lovable characters with distinctive personalities and motivations when I was even younger than that.  But channeling is not the same as plagiarizing, so you can get away with it much easier than most other literary crimes you are fully capable of committing as an author.  You can easily steal style and ideas from whatever book you are reading, and that helps you do the necessary work.

Of course, when you are done procrastinating and wasting time by reading somebody else’s book, you can then turn to another helpful tactic to do the work that needs to be done.  You can pick a book to re-read.

That’s right.  When I recently re-read Rodman Philbrick’s The Last Book in the Universe, I was better able to see and admire the structure of that book, a hero’s quest-type story that narrates the episodic adventures of a ragtag group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world as they are on a quest for a lost book, one that is being written as the reader reads it.

This particular author is quite good at Quixotic Quest Stories, and understanding how he has put his story together is marvelously instructive.  He has written a blue-print for a kind of story you can easily apply to the structure of your own story.

I am doing something very similar now as I re-read my own story, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius and follow the eccentric characters on a very similar quest to find a story in pre-apocalyptic Iowa in the 80’s and 90’s.

So, what is the theme that I can wrap this warped wooden bowl of advice-fish up in so that you can take it home and feed it to your children (by which I mean your own writing)?  Well, my best advice is to never take advice from Mickey.  He is sarcastic and ironic and usually joking, so he rarely means whatever he says.  After all, he wrote one of the best essays of his life yesterday, and practically nobody has read it yet. But I am also saying you don’t have to go it alone.  There is a whole world of us out there, and even the dead ones count.  Use what you learn from others to help you get the necessary work done.  So, find that unused steam engine, fire it up, and start chugging away at the next surprise best seller, or at least the book that most pleases you yourself to write.

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Filed under commentary, humor, writing, writing humor, writing teacher

Writing with Fire

The old saying goes, “If you play with fire, sooner or later you will get burned.”

But I am not playing. I am writing. With fire.

The criminal we elected president knows what I am talking about. He speaks at rallies with fire. Currently he is trying to demonize Representative Ilhan Omar and the Squad, the four freshman Congresswomen of color whom he said were unpatriotic, enemies of our democracy, and should go home to their countries filled with crime, poverty, and communism. Of course, the Congresswomen are all American Citizens. Three of them were born here. This is actually the country they are from. So, this is an example of the kind of verbal fire that needs to be put out with cold water. Preferably before some enraged Trumpist actually assassinates a member of the Squad. The fire he spews is destructive and evil.

But, truly, the way to fight fire is with fire. Firemen use a fire-break to interrupt the path of the fire. You can bulldoze or chop the wood in the way of the fire. Or you can burn it in the opposite direction. Many forest fires are ended in this way.

And I have been writing my fiction with fire. Controversial issues taken head on and given a clarity that burns brightly enough to leave burn marks on the psyche and write messages in ash on the heart of the reader. This is why beloved characters die in fictional stories and bad things happen to good people… to make a lasting scar or burn on the idea-collections in the readers’ brains.

I have in the past few novels written about sexual assault, attempted rape, murder, greed, brutality, excessive anger, and the current work-in-progress tackles suicide. And I battle these raging fires with positive fires set from empathy, community and familial love, preserverance, determination, and simple faith. I am trying to fight fire with a better fire, destructive fire replaced by zeal.

Okay. So, I’m an idiot, expressing foolish ideas with loopy metaphors. But I can make you think. And thinking is electrical fire in the brain. And I have been steadily pouring gas on that word-fire.

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That Damned Human Race

You have to wonder when you pay attention to what people are actually doing in this world, if the human race needs to be exterminated once and for all.

I know that as jokes go, that one is a little bit dark. But as we may actually be faced with a tipping point into the funnel of human extinction in only twelve years, it seems to me we are more likely to go down that awful rabbit hole at the bottom of the funnel than not. And that is not a very nice flesh-eating bunny we are going to find in that particular hole.

Remember, please, that I am, in fact, a pessimist, both temperamentally and philosophically. I look at the worst that could happen. But I am chagrined to see that people are actively either ignoring the climate change problem, or working to bring it on even faster by deregulating polluters in the name of making higher short-term profits. So, when the Midwest becomes an inland sea, the oceans rise to make New York and Miami into underwater bubble cities like the Gungans have, and we will have to learn to eat dirt in underground tunnels as drought and heat eliminate farming completely, we may very probably be getting what we deserve.

Obviously we are not taking things seriously enough when we continue to let the criminal orange monkey sit in the White House in pile of his own political poo and tell us things like “The Green New Deal is the radical Democrats’ attempt to turn us into a socialist country!” He doesn’t even understand that the Green New Deal is merely a strongly-worded resolution not to die in a blaze of heat generated by greenhouse gasses, and to be willing to do whatever it takes or pay whatever it costs to stay alive.

Maybe the whole question shouldn’t matter to me. I will, after all, probably be dead before the end comes for the rest of humanity. Like the Koch Brothers, I probably don’t need to fear the consequences of what industrialists like the Koch Brothers have done to our world just so they can have more money to stuff under their silk cushions to sit on.

But I do care about the world I will be leaving behind. I have many children in it. Three of my own and over two thousand that were mine for a school year or two or three to nurture and teach and shape into real human beings. I will be leaving behind a literate culture that I love and have tried desperately to add to. The worst part of that is all the wonderful books that I will never get the chance to read and own and share with others.

But there is an answer.

Motivational Quotes Human Race and Mark Twain Love Quotes | Quotehd – DAILY QUOTE IMAGE

If we can laugh about it as the ship is sinking, we will be alright, no matter what the outcome.

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Filed under angry rant, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Mark Twain, Paffooney, pessimism, philosophy

On the Flip of a Coin…

An African coin from Kenya worth 5 cents in 1969, a Sacajawea dollar, and a Bi-Centennial quarter.

How do you make a difficult and consequential decision? Me? I often flip a coin. Heads, yes. Tails, no. So, that makes me as crazy as Two-Face, the Batman villain, who decides everything not in terms of good or evil, but rather, heads or tails. This is not normally a good method of decision-making. Unless, of course, you wish to become a Batman villain.

My coin collection, kept in a 1940’s cigar box, consists of African coins my great grandfather left me in his will, Mexican coins, a Canadian Loony and a Canadian Twoney, an Andrew Jackson dollar coin, a Washington dollar coin, all the State quarters, and lots of other old coins and keepers.

But flipping a coin never actually makes the decision. If I get a yes, I often think about the consequences of yes and flip again… best two of three, three of five, four of six, and on and on until I have given it a thorough thinking-through… or until I get the answer I wanted from the beginning. It is not really the decider, but rather, the think-about-er.

My Space Jam collector’s coin on the cigar box lid.

On Sunday I made a coin-flip decision to not go out Uber driving in the afternoon. A half hour after making the decision, the damaging high winds hit the city. So, the coin flip kept me from being caught out in the storm.

Life is not random. It is merely ordered in really weird ways.

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