Category Archives: empathy

Lessons From Tchaikovsky

I used to be a classroom storyteller.  As an English teacher for middle school kids, I often would give brief biographical insights into famous people we were talking about at the time.  I told them about Crazy Horse of the Sioux tribe, Roger Bacon the alchemist and inventor of chemistry as a science, Mark Twain in Gold Rush California, and many other people I have found fascinating through my life as a reader and writer of English.

One bright boy in my gifted class remarked, “Mr. B, you always tell us these stories about people who did something amazing, and then you end it with they eventually died a horrible death.”

Yep.  That’s about right.  In its simplest form life consists of, “You are born, stuff happens, and then you die.”  And it does often seem to me that true genius and great heroism are punished terribly in the end.  Achilles destroys Hector, but his heel is his undoing.  Socrates taught Plato, and was forced to drink poison for being too good at teaching.  Custer was a vain imbecile and got what he deserved at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but Crazy Horse, who made it happen, was pursued for the rest of his short life for it until he was finally captured and murdered.  Roger Bacon contributed immensely to science by experimenting with chemicals, but because he blew up his lab too often, and because one of his students blew himself up in a duel with another student, he ended his days in prison for practicing sorcery.

But if you have listened to any of the music I have added to this post, the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, then you recognized it, unless you have lived your whole life under a rock in Nomusikvetchistan.  And why is that?  Because even though it is all classical music written in the 1800’s, it’s basic genius and appeal is immortal.  It will outlive all of us.  Some of it, having been placed on a record on the Voyager space craft may get played and appreciated a million years from now in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.  It will still be a work of pure genius.

And, of course, the horrible life and terrible death thing is a part of it too.  Tchaikovsky’s work took an incredibly difficult path to success.  He was criticized by Russians for being too Western and not Russian enough.  He was criticized in the West for being too exotic and basically “too Russian”.  He railed against critics and suffered horribly at their hands.  Then, too, his private life was far less private than it had any right to be.  He was a bachelor most of his life, except for a two year marriage of pure misery that ended in divorce.  And everybody, with the possibility of Pyotr himself, knew it was because he was a homosexual.  He probably did have that orientation, but in a time and a career where it was deemed an illegal abomination.  So whether he ever practiced the lifestyle at great risk to himself, or he repressed it his entire life, we will never know for sure.

But the music is immortal.  And by being immortal, the music makes Tchaikovsky immortal too.  Despite the fact that he died tragically at the age of 53, possibly by suicide.

So, this is the great lesson of Tchaikovsky.  The higher you fly, the farther you fall, and you will fall… guaranteed, but that will never make the actual flight not worth taking.  Some things in life are more important than life itself.  As I near the end myself, I cling to that truth daily.

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Wisdom From a Writer’s Life

Don’t get too excited.  I searched every box, trunk, bag of tricks, safe, closet, and jelly bean jar that I have in my rusty old memory.  I didn’t find much.  In fact, the old saying is rather applicable, “The beginning of wisdom is recognizing just how much of a fool you really are.”  The little pile of bottle caps and marshmallows that represent the sum total of my wisdom is infinitely tiny compared to the vast universe of things I will never know and never understand.  I am a fool.  I probably have no more wisdom than you do.  But I have a different point of view.  It comes from years worth of turning my ideas inside out, of wearing my mental underwear on the outside of my mental pants just to get a laugh, of stringing images and stupid-headed notions together in long pointless strings like this one.

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Mason City, Iowa… where I was born.  River City in the musical “The Music Man“.

One thing I can say with certainty, nothing makes you understand “home”, the place you grew up in and think of as where you come from, better than leaving it and going somewhere else.  Federal Avenue in Mason City looks nothing now like it did when I was a boy in the 1960’s going shopping downtown and spending hours in department stores waiting for the ten minutes at the end in the toy section you were promised for being good.  You have to look at the places and people of your youth through the lenses of history and distance and context and knowing now what you didn’t know then.

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Grandpa Aldrich’s farm in Iowa is now Mom and Dad’s house.  It has been in the family for over 100 years, a Century Farm.

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.  If I look back at the arc of my life, growing up in Iowa with crazy story-telling skills inherited from Grandpa Aldrich, to going to Iowa State “Cow College” and studying English, to going to University of Iowa for a remedial teaching degree because English majors can’t get jobs reading books, to teaching in distant South Texas more than a thousand miles away, to learning all the classroom cuss words in Spanish the hard way, by being called that, to moving to Dallas/Fort Worth to get fired from one teaching job and taking another that involved teaching English to non-English speakers, to retiring and spending time writing foolish reflections like this one because I am old and mostly home-bound with ill health.  I have come a long way from childhood to second childhood.

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                                                                                      If “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is really true, I should be Superman now.  I look like I’ve seen a lot of Kryptonite, don’t I?

Six incurable diseases and being a cancer survivor since 1983 have left their marks upon me.  Literally.  Little pink bleedy spots all over me are the mark of psoriasis.  The fuzzy-bad photo of me spares you some of the gory details.  The point is, I guess, that life is both fleeting and fragile.  If you never stop and think about what it all means then you are a fool.  If you don’t try to understand it in terms of sentences and paragraphs with main ideas, you are an even bigger fool.  You must write down the fruit of your examinations and ruminations.  But if you reach a point that you are actually satisfied that you know what it all means, that makes you the biggest fool of all.

If I have any wisdom at all to share in this post about wisdom, it can be summed up like this;

  • Writing helps you with knowing, and knowing leads to wisdom.  So take some time to write about what you know.
  • Writing every day makes you more coherent and easier to understand.  Stringing pearls of wisdom into a necklace comes with practice.
  • Writing is worth doing.  Everyone should do it.  Even if you don’t think you can do it well.
  • You should read and understand other people’s wisdom too, as often as possible.  You are not the only person in the world who knows stuff.  And some of their stuff is better than your stuff.
  • The stuff you write can outlive you.  So make the ghost of you that you leave behind as pretty as you can.  Someone may love you for it.  And you can never be sure who that someone will be.

So by now you are probably wondering, where is all that wisdom he promised us in the title?  Look around carefully in this essay.  If you don’t see it there, then you are probably right in thinking, just as I warned you about at the outset, “Gosh darn that Mickey!  He is a really big fool.”

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He Rose on a Golden Wing… Canto 2

Chopin – Etude Op. 10 No. 1 (Waterfall)

It was an evil plan, a wickedness the boys would never see coming.  But Valerie knew it was a necessary plan.  She made them go by foot.  You could reach the skinny-dipping pond by foot if you followed the tracks out south of town, past Uncle Dash’s farm and past the Sumpter Park Woods where the city of Norwall maintained a shelter house with picnic tables and a manicured lawn that led to trails into the woods and eventually to the old Sumpter log cabin, what was left of it.

There was an old ox-bow pond that once had been connected to the Iowa River, but now was a separate body of water coming out of an artesian spring that brought fresh water from the shared river water table.

“Really?  We’re going to the old Pirates’ skinny-dipping place?” Ricky Porter asked skeptically.

“It’s too late in the year for swimming, Val,” Billy Martin reminded her.  “October is too cold in Iowa.”

“You really think I would make you come this far just for a chance to see you guys naked?  Again?”

“When did you ever see me naked?” asked Billy.  At eighteen he was a rather bony and skinny youth.  And he was so painfully shy that Val had not even seen him in swimming trunks.

“Okay, well… I wasn’t referring to you.”

“I only go in if you do,” Ricky said to her.  He had dared her like that once before, though she had seen his golden-brown, muscled form and then successfully backed out of going in herself.

“We didn’t come here for that,” she answered with a frown.  “I needed to talk to you both.  I had another one of those dreams again last night.  I spent the whole night crying.”

“The angel dreams again?” Billy asked, wide-eyed.

“Michel Volant, yes.”

“You know we’re here for you, Val.  We’re your friends and fellow Pirates,” Ricky said.

“But you also know how much it hurts to talk about Francois,” Billy said, tears already forming in his eyes.

Valerie looked him squarely in the eyes.  She knew he would see exactly what she meant.

“Oh, gawd, Val, you haven’t been hurting yourself already have you?” Billy asked, his voice quavering slightly.

“Not this time.  But you know those dreams usually mean another black depression is coming on.  And you know what we have to do about it.”

“Yeah.  We promised to always tell each other if we ever had those kinds of thoughts again.”  Ricky’s eyes were tearing up again too.  Val was aware he had cut himself on the ankles more than any of them had ever done themselves self-harm.  He was the one who had spent a week in the hospital two years ago.

“Have you been thinking about hurting yourself, Val?” Billy asked.

“Maybe.  That’s why we had to talk today and not wait any longer.”

“Is it… is it Francois again?”

“Billy, we can talk about Tommy this time.  I just need to hear it again.  I just know if we don’t do something about the ones we lost…”

“…To keep them alive in our hearts, yeah,” said Ricky.

“You know I can’t tell you anything about Tommy.  I never met him.  I spent the whole blizzard down in the cellar next to the furnace while it burned propane.”  Billy looked sadly across the wind-rippled water.

“What do you want to know about Tommy?  I don’t know everything, but I knew him a few years longer than you did.”  Ricky’s eyes were glistening.

“You haven’t heard from him since the blizzard, have you?” She asked.

“You know I would tell you if I had.  Besides, he didn’t take anybody’s phone number with him.”

“He could’ve looked us up.  He knows you were taken in by Cliff Baily and his new wife.  He knows I live in town with my mother.”

“Yeah, but that’s not Tommy’s style.  He survived on the road because he always lived in the moment.  He was focused on where he was and the people he was with… in the NOW.”

“Yeah.  I remember him that way too.”

“What more do you really want to know about him, Val?”

“Why did you boys follow him all the way to Norwall?”

“Well… um, I… Yeah…”

“You can tell me.  No matter how hard it may seem, Ricky.  We’re Pirates, you and I.  You can tell me anything.”

“Are we still Norwall Pirates?” Billy asked.  “We haven’t had a club meeting in two years.  And you made your little cousin, Tim Kellogg, the new Pirate leader.”

“You did?  You didn’t tell me?”

“Oh, Ricky.  You left the Pirates before Billy and I did.  They are all younger kids now.  We’re old.  Almost adults.”

“Yeah, but… Once a Pirate, always a Pirate.”

“We’ll always be a part of it.  The club was started by my cousin Brent Clarke, and he says he’s still a Pirate.  It’s just that the Pirates belong in the control of the Norwall kids, so they learn to rely on each other, and form the team that helps us all survive the perils of the unknown.”

Ricky and Billy both smiled and laughed a little at that.  They knew it was true just as surely as Valerie did.

“We’re off topic now, Rick,” Billy said.  “You promised her to tell her why you followed Tommy here to Norwall.”

“Yeah… um… You know that most kids in the foster care system get abused one way or another…”

“Yeah, Tommy told me that too… during the blizzard.”

“We didn’t form the Fantastic Foursome just by getting on that Trailways bus together.  Terry and I met in the group home.  He had nobody to talk to him in his previous foster homes… because nobody spoke sign language.”

“Did you know sign when you met him?” Billy asked.

“Terry taught me.  He needed someone to talk to desperately.   And I learned fast.”

“Faster than you taught it to me?”

“Well, yeah…  You’re kinda a slow learner, Billy.”

“Okay, but that don’t mean I ain’t smart.”

“Of course, not,” Valerie said.

“Well, you can see what Terry’s real father did to him if you look at his burned ears.  His father was the reason he was deaf.”

“And what about Tommy and Dennis?” Val asked.

“Well, you remember Denny had those crutches.  He got that way from malnourishment.  His first fosters only had him to get the money the State paid.  They practically starved him to death.  The mom of that family went to jail for it.  Denny probably would’ve died if Brikkleputti… I mean, Mom, hadn’t followed us all the way to Norwall with the medicine Denny and I both needed.”

“Is Denny still alive, you think?”

“Sure, Val.  If Tommy’s alive, and I know he is, he wouldn’t have let anything happen to Denny.  He loved him like a little brother.”

“He loved all three of you like that.”

“Yeah, he did.  That’s why he left us here when he left for Dallas.  He took Denny with him, but he left me with Cliff and Mom to be a family like I never had before.  And the Dawes family wanted to adopt Terry too.  He left us behind for our own good.”

“But why was Tommy running away to begin with?”

“Well… the last foster family he lived with, they… beat him.  And when he finally got strong enough to fight back, the cops came and took Tommy and locked him up… not that crazy old man who beat him.”

“Yeah, Tommy told me about that too.”

“And what about you, Ricky?”  Billy asked.

“Well, I… uh… maybe I ain’t ready to talk about that just yet.”

“The Teddy Bear Killer?” Val asked.

“Yeah, don’t even say his name, please.”

“I know what you mean.  I… um… I can’t talk about Daddy Kyle, either.”

“But, Val, what did we even come here for, then?” Billy asked.

“We gotta talk about the hard things.  All three of us,” said Ricky.  “We all are hurting inside almost all of the time.”

“Yeah, and that’s why we’re here instead of trying to meet in Zoomboogadoo.  This pond is touched by magic, just like the gazebo in Zoomboogadoo.”

“No, that’s not a real place.  We didn’t actually meet Francois and his sister in dreams.  That was all just us imagining it.  And Ricky wasn’t even able to meet us in the Dreamlands… not even once.”  Billy was visibly upset.

“You are never going to convince me that Zoomboogadoo wasn’t real.  I remember it too vividly.”

“But dreams can be vivid sometimes, and still not real,” reminded Ricky.

“All right.   But this place is magic too.  I have come here more than once to talk to Clovis.  You just have to be in the right state of mind.”

“Val, there is no Clovis.  He’s just a story they tell in the Pirates’ meetings to explain the disappearance of Conrad Doble.  You said yourself, it was old Mrs. Haire that scared him away for good.  He didn’t turn into no naked kid with horns and a tail.”  It was Ricky’s turn to look visibly upset.

“Yeah, well… we need to stay ahead of the depression and the suicidal thinking.  We are not any of us ever going to hurt ourselves again.  That doesn’t cure the problems that are causing us pain.”

“You’re right, Val,” said Billy.

“Yeah, we gotta talk it all out,” said Ricky.

“Yeah.  And we’re gonna do it here, by the skinny-dipping pond.  And we’re gonna do it naked.  That’s the evil plan.”

“What?”  Both boys were upset.

“You remember how it was in Zoomboogadoo,” said Valerie, looking straight into the eyes of Billy.  “We all showed up there in our dreams with no clothes on.  Like we were born into it.  Innocent as babes.”

“That was just a dream,” Billy insisted.

“Yeah, and it wasn’t cold fall weather either, I bet,” said Ricky.

“That’s true.  But that’s what will keep us from being seen and watched by the other Pirates.  They only come here during skinny-dipping season.”

“What if we can’t do it?  Get naked here… I mean,” said Billy with a stutter.

“And what if we don’t want to do it?” Ricky added.

“Well, we’ll take it slow.  It is not because of sex or wanting to see each other naked.  It’s about being completely honest and open.  No barriers.  If we don’t help each other when the darkness returns to our brains, someone else will die.  And I can’t lose anybody else in my life.  I need to add people, not lose them.” All three of them saw the dark clouds coming on the horizon in the mind’s eye.  At least, Val was almost positive they did.  And the one advantage the Pirates had over other people who get darkly depressed and suicidal was that they had each other.  These three friends, at least, actually knew each other better than most friends ever do.  And soon they would be inside each other’s heads in ways that Valerie simply knew would help. 

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Living in the Spider Kingdom

Life seems to be getting harder and harder. And I realize that a big part of that perception is the fact that my health is deteriorating quickly. This is a humor blog, but it has been getting more and more serious and more and more grim as the grim reaper becomes more and more a central character in my own personal story.

My perception of reality, however, is best explained by a passage in a novel that spoke to me in college. It comes from the novel, the Bildungsroman by Thomas Mann called Der Zauberberg, in English, The Magic Mountain. In the scene, Hans Castorp is possibly freezing to death, and he hallucinates a pastoral mountainside scene where children are happily playing in the sunshine. Possibly Heaven? But maybe not. As he goes into a stone building and finds a passage down into the ground, he sees wrinkled, ugly, horrible hags gathered around a child’s corpse, eating it. And this vision explains the duality at the center of the meaning of life.

For every good thing, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that balances it our. There is no understanding of what perfection and goodness mean without knowing profanity and evil. Just as you can’t understand hot without cold nor light without darkness. And you don’t get to overturn the way it is. You try your hardest to stay on the heads side of the coin knowing that half the time life falls to tails.

So, what good does it do me to think about and write about things like this? Well, it makes for me a sort of philosophical gyroscope that spins and dances and helps me keep my balance in the stormy sea of daily life. I deal with hard things with humor and a sense of literary irony. I make complex metaphors that help me throw a rope around the things that hurt me.

We are living now in the Spider Kingdom. Hard times are here again. The corrupt and corpulent corporate spiders are spinning the many webs we are trapped in. As metaphorical as it is, we wouldn’t have the government we currently have and be suffering the way we are if that weren’t true.

But no bad thing nor no good thing lasts forever. The wheel goes round and round. The top of the wheel reaches the bottom just as often as the bottom returns to the top. So, it will all pass if we can only hold out long enough.

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A Few Feet Apart

My second cousin in Iowa (daughter of my grandmother’s youngest brother and the oldest kid at the family Thanksgiving dinner in 1966 because she was two years older than me) is still in the hospital with the Delta Variant of Covid 19. She is apparently going to survive, but she is one of the many unvaccinated people causing the present surge in cases simply because she’s a loyal Republican Trumpkin who believes Fox News when it tells them that vaccinations violate their Constitutional rights and basic sacred Freedoms (as screamed by Senator Ted Cruz pretending to be William Wallace, but actually sounding more like comedian Wally Cox.)

I don’t believe that people have a Constitutional right to potentially infect people who can’t get vaccinated (like those who are severely immuno-compromised or those who are four-years-old and younger.)

That doesn’t mean I think my cousin deserves to die for her wrong beliefs. I pray that death isn’t the consequence for her poor choice of political beliefs. But increasingly, those on her side of the political fence (…or maybe the political castle wall, border wall, or deadly electrified fence) think that liberals like I have become are evil, communist, Satanist. Antifa, child-sex-trafficking cannibals and deserve to be killed with your sacred AR-15. (If I ate any white Christian babies for breakfast this morning, I was completely unaware of it. They tasted like regular pancakes and sausage.) The anger on their side is increasingly heated up and moved towards violence by their propaganda-wielding leaders. They will tell me to my face that if I support Biden’s political agenda, then I must be a communist, wanting to burn our country down and in favor of pedophilia. (And I don’t dare suggest that they might be prejudiced or even racist.)

“I basically loved every kid who ever walked into my classroom to be my student.”

“Really, Mickey? Even poor black kids who have challenging behaviors?”

“Some of my all-time favorite kids were black and had behavioral challenges. That’s why 2020 taught me to be on the side of Black Lives Matter.”

“That’s a radical thing. You should say All Lives Matter.”

“All lives do matter. But black lives have been under more threat than others. Can’t you say Black Lives Matter too?

I SAID ALL LIVES MATTER!!!”

“But why can’t you say Black Lives Matter too?”

And so the conversation ends.

They hate us. Because we don’t believe everything they believe. Especially the things that aren’t true. And it is only getting gradually worse.

And it’s frustrating. We are actually only a few feet apart. And think what a wonderfully beautiful ballet it would be if only we could synchronize our steps and dance the same dance.

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Humble Pie

The difference between who you want to be and who you are is humbling.

The recipe for humble pie requires good, clear eyesight.

And you need a reliable mirror that only shows the flaws in the reflected image, not in the mirror itself.

And you need to look at every detail in the whole of you. Even the secret things that you tend to conceal from everybody, especially yourself.

And writing a novel, if you do it right, is a form of baking humble pie.

The good and the not-so-good is reflected in reviews, which are often written with mirrors that have flaws.

But what you see, if you are honest with yourself, can show you that, even though you are far from perfect, you are exactly what you are supposed to be.

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The Curse of the Empath

You will have to forgive me for the nude art in this post, but empathy is something that makes you emotionally naked before the whole world. Especially if you are fool enough to write about it. And I am definitely fool enough.

Part of what makes a teacher good at her or his job is the amount of empathy they are cursed with. I have to admit that some people who work with kids are demanding, strict, harsh, and have absolutely no empathy at all. And some of them are among the best teachers there are, especially if they are sports coaches, foreign language teachers, or math teachers. They put you firmly through the discipline and make you know your stuff. Or they break you down and rebuild you so that you are stronger than before.

And there are those teachers who, on rare occasions, have too much empathy. Those teachers are the ones that cry hard when the principal has to bail them out of jail because they confessed to the crime of burglary at the motel because they happened to learn that Jose actually did it and Jose’s home life is hard because his family is so poor they have a dirt floor in their home and no working plumbing. Jose can’t possibly deserve prison, and they feel it in their hearts. And somehow they believe that, if only given a break, Jose will be an angel. Their hearts tell them things that a working brain could never accept.

But the average to good teachers, the ones who can lay claim to the appellation of “competent,” have to have a very clear idea of what it feels like to be a kid in their classes. They have to know what hurts and what heals and how you have to talk to a kid to make him feel better when he accidentally pooped his pants in class due to medical challenges. Or how to make that shy girl who rarely talks in class feel empowered when she correctly identifies Scout’s motivation when she defies Calpurnia, her nanny, to help out a friend in the book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Average to good teachers always walk into the classroom knowing that every kid in the room is mentally and emotionally naked for most of the school day… no matter how many layers of clothing they may be covering it up with.

And it is not easy being in rooms full of naked kids every day if you have more than the minimum share of empathy. Empathy makes you feel what they are feeling, all the anger, disgust, fear, sadness, anticipation, joy, and sorrow… all the embarrassing feelings brought on by being emotionally naked in front of peers and teachers… and that hot-looking new girl from California. You feel their pain. You feel their awkwardness. And if they are a wicked little pervert, you feel sick to your stomach as you realize you are seeing them as their least-acceptable, naked self.

And the curse doesn’t just end at the close of the school day.

You have to know going in that if you watch that Disney movie on TV you are going to cry at least three times, possibly endure heart-wrenching angst twice, and laugh unattractively like SpongeBob more times than you can count. And those are only fictional people. Curse it, you even cry during telephone commercials. Your daughter tells you about seeing the cyclists in the park almost run over a skunk, and you can practically smell it and feel the nausea in your gut. Your dog whines about the empty food dish and you feel that too. All because of the curse of empathy. If you have it, you are going to feel whatever they feel, whoever they are. Even if you don’t really want to.

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Living in the Spider Kingdom

Life seems to be getting harder and harder. And I realize that a big part of that perception is the fact that my health is deteriorating quickly. This is a humor blog, but it has been getting more and more serious and more and more grim as the grim reaper becomes more and more a central character in my own personal story.

My perception of reality, however, is best explained by a passage in a novel that spoke to me in college. It comes from the novel, the Bildungsroman by Thomas Mann called Der Zauberberg, in English, The Magic Mountain. In the scene, Hans Castorp is possibly freezing to death, and he hallucinates a pastoral mountainside scene where children are happily playing in the sunshine. Possibly Heaven? But maybe not. As he goes into a stone building and finds a passage down into the ground, he sees wrinkled, ugly, horrible hags gathered around a child’s corpse, eating it. And this vision explains the duality at the center of the meaning of life.

For every good thing, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that balances it our. There is no understanding what perfection and goodness mean without knowing profanity and evil. Just as you can’t understand hot without cold nor light without darkness. And you don’t get to overturn the way it is. You try your hardest to stay on the heads side of the coin knowing that half the time life falls to tails.

So, what good does it do me to think about and write about things like this? Well, it makes for me a sort of philosophical gyroscope that spins and dances and helps me keep my balance in the stormy sea of daily life. I deal with hard things with humor and a sense of literary irony. I make complex metaphors that help me throw a rope around the things that hurt me.

We are living now in the Spider Kingdom. Hard times are here again. The corrupt and corpulent corporate spiders are spinning the many webs we are trapped in. As metaphorical as it is, we wouldn’t have the government we currently have and be suffering the way we are if that weren’t true.

But no bad thing nor no good thing lasts forever. The wheel goes round and round. The top of the wheel reaches the bottom just as often as the bottom returns to the top. So, it will all pass if we can only hold out long enough.

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The Iris of the Eye

Maxfield Parrish = the Girl with the Watering Can

Blue eyes, brown eyes… see differently,

Bur the eyes still see,

Immune to bright sun

Or comfortable with the blue-black shadow.

Whatever the color of the eye… the seeing is the important thing.

Have you ever noticed, that all the best artists,

The ones who see and record what they see the best,

Are now dead and gone?

And all we have left of them

Are the artifacts,

What their eyes beheld,

What their hand captured and interpreted,

In paint

Or picture

In book

Or song.

Or is it only that… the new eyes remain yet to be discovered?

Whatever color your eye is now,

The iris of the eye,

Won’t you look with me?

To see?

What yet we may uncover?

Not as good as Georgia O’Keefe, but still sexy and beautiful… even if it is by Mickey.

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Truthfully Again…

  1. Truthfully… I am glad I never tried to use this cover idea for Snow Babies. Naked kids do not give the right impression about the book. The snow babies themselves are spirits of the frozen dead. But this is not a horror story. And besides, the title refers to the kids in the story who aren’t ghosts as well, particularly Valerie Clarke, the female protagonist.
  2. Truthfully… I just got another five-star review on Snow Babies through Amazon. It now has ten, with one four-star review. While at least three of those five-star review are honest reviews by someone who read and loved the story, I believe most of them didn’t read the whole book, or only read a small portion of it, judging it five-star from reading the other reviews. Most of the reviewers come from Pubby where they must read a book and review it in four days or fewer to earn points they can put toward their own books getting reviewed. So, I understand why they don’t fully commit to the reading of the whole book. There is, however, evidence that some of them review my books without reading it at all.
  3. Truthfully…As a reviewer I try to read the whole book, even the long ones, before reviewing them. But some books submitted to the Pubby library are written by really awful or untalented authors. Still, I read as much as I can stand in the four days given, and I rate them as highly as I can justify it to myself. I have given only one two-star review, and no one-star reviews at all. But I have had to put a lot of three-stars on books that didn’t deserve it. Those authors have spent money on the service just as I did. They deserve something for their money. I see a lot of books, though, that I know are awful getting five or four stars.
  1. Truthfully,,, A while back I lost a dog here in Carrollton, my sister-in-law’s dog. And I only got it back because neighbors found it and made an effort to get it back to us. My butt was rescued from my wife’s fury by a good lady who found the dog hiding in her garage and posted it on the local news website, having remembered I had been asking around the neighborhood about it before she found it, but not remembering my name or address. Today my daughter and I rescued another fluffy little poodle-like dog who was obviously lost and wandering about the park near our house.
  2. Truthfully… Our effort didn’t amount to much since we couldn’t get the dog to come close enough to check for a collar with a phone number on it, like the last lost dog we rescued. But, as I went in to call animal control, my daughter watched it sniff around, preventing it from wandering too far or going into the street in front of cars. And as she watched it, the family of the little girl who owned and loved the dog were driving around looking for it, and they found it near our yard, called it by name, and it joyfully hopped in the car and directly into the arms of the relieved little girl. I do love a happy ending.
A painting by Maxfield Parrish
  1. Truthfully… I still think of myself as a nudist. In my head I have been one since childhood. But I am hardly ever nude. My chances of going back to a nudist facility and experiencing social nudity again are practically nil because my health is too poor and I don’t know anyone who would be willing to go with me and take care of me if I had a health crisis. And even working at my computer nude in my bedroom doesn’t happen anymore because psoriasis sores itch too much, and I end up bloody with developing scar tissue.
  2. Truthfully… My stories about nudism continue to do well. A Field Guide to Fauns now has three reader ratings on Amazon, two of five and one of four stars. One of those five stars has no accompanying review, but it still counts. Especially since that book isn’t even on Pubby’s book list.
  3. Truthfully…I still interact every week with friends who are Twitter nudists on Twitter where I often lose followers, especially fundamentalist Christian followers, once they realize I don’t treat nudists and naturists as sinners and perverts.
  4. Truthfully… My blog and my writing have benefitted from knowing real nudists, because they are usually far more accepting and empathetic than average Christians and Muslims.
  5. Truthfully… I like drawing and painting nude humans. There is something more basic and truthful about it than hiding the true form and structure of it underneath clothes.
  1. Truthfully… Everyone could benefit by telling the truth as they know it more often. It cleans out the constant cobwebbing of the mind by telling lies, both to other people, and to yourself. Even the lies you tell as a fiction writer.
  2. Truthfully… There are things on this listicle that I would not have been able to write about just fifteen years ago. The truth does set you free… Not in every single case… But enough to really matter.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, empathy, humor, lying, Paffooney