Category Archives: forgiveness

Pyrrhuloxia

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The desert cardinal.

It sings and behaves almost exactly like its scarlet cousins.  It never flies away from seasonal changes or difficult weather, and it also tolerates drier conditions than its bright red family members.

Why do you need to know that?  Because I am a birdbrain.  I connect things that are totally unlike each other.  I am a surrealist.  And for me, being a cardinal is all about never flying away when the winter comes, never giving up.

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There was a time in my life when I wasn’t entirely sure of who I would become.  Let me say clearly, “I am not now, nor have I ever been a homosexual.”  And if I had been one, like a couple of my friends turned out to be, I would not be ashamed to be one.  But there was a time, in my high school years, when I really wasn’t certain, and I was terrified of what the answer might be.

And it was in high school that I met Dennis.

Now, to be honest, I noticed him while I was still an eighth grader, and he was in my sister’s class and two years younger.  It was in the locker room after eighth grade P.E. class was ended and sixth grade P.E. was getting dressed for class.  I was returning to pick up a book I had left.  He was standing just inside the door in nothing but shorts.  The feeling of attraction was deeply disturbing to my adolescent, hormone-confused brain.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with that feeling.  But I felt compelled to find out who he was anyway.  He was the younger brother of my classmate Rick Harper (not his real name).  In fact, he was the book end of a set of twins.  But I came to realize that it was Dennis I saw, not Darren, because they were trying to establish their identities by one of them curling his hair, and the other leaving his straight.

Nothing would ever have come of it, but during my Freshman year of high school, I encountered him again.  During a basketball practice where the ninth grade team was scrimmaging with the eighth graders, the seventh graders were all practicing free throws at the side of the junior high gym.  While I was on the bench, he came up to me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around and he tossed me his basketball.   “Play me one on one?” He asked.  I almost did.  But I remembered that Coach Rod had warned us to be ready to go into the game when he called on us.  I had a turn coming up.  So, I told him that and promised I would play him some other time.  He grinned at me in a way that gave me butterflies in my stomach.  Why?  To this day I still don’t really know.

Dennis’s older brother and I were in Vocational Agriculture class together that year and both on the Parliamentary Procedure team preparing for a competition. We were at Rick’s house.  After a few rounds of practice that convinced our team we would definitely lose the competition, David and his brother trapped me in a corner.

“Hey, Meyer, how’re ya doin’?” Dennis said.  Darren just stared at me, saying nothing.

“It’s Beyer, not Meyer,” I said.  Of course, he knew that.  The Meyers were a local poor family with a bad reputation, and it was intended as an insult.  And it also rhymed, making it the perfect insult.

“Still one of the worst basketball players ever?”

“I try.  I’m working on it really hard.”  That got him to laugh and ask me to give him a high five.

“Goin’ to the basketball game later?”

“Yeah, probably.”

I knew then that he wanted to be my friend.  I wasn’t sure why.  He was picking me out of the blue to make friends with.  We didn’t move in the same circles, go to the same school, or even live in the same town.  He was a Belmond boy, I was Rowan kid.  And he didn’t know I was only a few years past being sexually assaulted and not ready to face the demons my trauma had created within me.

Later, at the basketball game, he found me in the bleachers and sat down beside me.  In my defense, I am not a homophobe.  And neither he nor I turned out to be a homosexual.  He just wanted to be my friend and was taking difficult steps to make that connection.  He was the one taking the risks.  I greeted him sarcastically, and looking back on it, somewhat cruelly, because I was filled with too many uncertainties.  I never meant to drive him away.  But I will never forget the wounded look on his face as he scooted away down the bleacher seat.

He tried to talk to me several times after that.  He apparently never lost the urge to befriend me.  But as much as I wanted to accept his friendship, it never came to be.  I have regretted that ever since.

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Dennis passed away from cancer early this year.  It is what made me think about who we both once were and what I gave away.  I went on to actually befriend a number of boys through college and into my teaching career.  I never chose any of them.  The friendship was always their idea.  I went on teach and mentor a number of fine young men.  I like to think I did it because I felt a bit guilty of never really being Dennis’s friend.  I hope somewhere along the way I made up for my mistake.  I hope Dennis forgives me.  And I wish I could tell him, “I really do want to be your friend.”

The pyrrhuloxia is a member of the family of cardinals and grosbeaks.  And it does not migrate away from troublesome seasons and bad weather.  There is dignity in being a pyrrhuloxia.

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The Doofus Divide

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I am trying to cut down on political notions and noodling in this blog.  It is like sugar to a humor writer.  The easy laughs are sweet, but if you are diabetic, they will eventually build up and kill you.

But between Twitter-tweeting twit-wits and Facebook false-fact fools, I keep getting drawn back in.  The gang of kids I grew up with in Iowa are seriously infected with Tea Party propaganda now that they are old coots like me, and continue to vote for Teabagger trolls (And I mean literal trolls.  Steve King, Congressman from Iowa, has green skin and lives under a bridge… and maybe eats foolish children when they try to cross) for public office.  And of course, I live now in Texas where gun-toting cowboys look at you intently to find any possible reason to shoot you and then thank Jesus if you are fool enough to give them one (like admitting to be mostly a Democrat in your political persuasion).  They want to argue anything and everything I post on Facebook.  Apparently even my bird pictures and cat videos politically offend them.

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Oooh!  This one really offends Teabaggers… especially the ones who make $25/hr or less.

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Can you pick out the Trump voters in this line?  All of them maybe?

And I am not suggesting that people who voted Republican in the last election aren’t as smart as my side.  I waited until now in this essay to say that, because the childhood friends and family members in that group who read my blog will have all stopped reading by this point.  I really don’t need to give them any more ammunition for Facebook and dinner table arguments.

But my side of the table are not wholly guilt free.

 

I regularly tweet or post things like these, innocently believing these heroes of the heart and mind have universal appeal because they champion truth and science and facts.  But I become alarmed when I learn how much Bill Nye offends them.  They tell me, “That guy is not a scientist!  He has no right to argue for climate change issues or the non-existence of God.  He’s just a TV guy.”  And, I suppose they have a point.  I mean, his extensive education and background in engineering, or his years in television promoting science to kids in research-based creative ways, doesn’t necessarily make him an expert on all science.  And Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist.  He doesn’t have a degree in EVERYTHING.  And when I point out that their so-called experts on climate-change denial from Fox News cannot even claim to be TV weathermen, they are further put out by my brain-bashing bullying way of using my superior knowledge of science to put them down.  Okay, I get it.  I am not being careful enough of your feelings.  (Oh, I forgot, you stopped reading this a while back.)

But the point of this is, we have to stop listening to and electing stupid people, while at the same time being a bit nicer to each other.  We have to approach the discussion with the notion that you yourself may not be totally right about everything, and you may actually learn something by talking about it.  (Which is, of course, no problem for me since I really don’t know anything for certain and need to learn practically everything as if I were still four years old.)

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Okay, Bill, I get it.  I am probably wrong about that too.

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Writing Myself To Life

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I have been working on my novel The Baby Werewolf, and I am now in the final phase, working on the climax and crisis point.  And I surprised myself.  The killer monologues to the main characters who have now become his intended next victims.  I have played this out over and over in the twenty-two years I have been writing this book.  Last night, for the first time ever, the hero character laughs in this scene instead of the cringing fear that had always been there before.

How is such a thing possible?  What changed?  I have been writing and rewriting this story since 1996.  But it goes much deeper and darker than that.  This story went on my have-to-write list in 1966 when an older, stronger boy who lived near my home trapped me in a place out-of-sight of others and stripped me, gaining some horrible kind of pleasure by inflicting pain on my private parts.  Recovery from that has taken half a century.  The recovery itself probably explains why I struggled so long to pull this story together in a finished form.

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There are things about my writing life that are undeniable.  First of all, I have to write.  There is really no other choice for me.  My mind will never know rest or peace without being able to spin out the paragraphs and essays and stories that make it possible to know those things.  Nothing is real if I can’t write it out.  Secondly, I am a humorist.  If I can never be funny at all, can never write a joke, then I will descend into madness.  My sense of humor not only shields me and serves as my suit of armor, it heals me when I suffer psychic wounds.  This book is a horror story, but like many of the best horror stories, it relies on humor to drive every scene and knit the plot together.  And it was a breakthrough for me to have the hero character laugh instead of cringe in the critical scene.  It allows me to live again.  And love again.  And the real monster that caused this book to be, is now forgiven.  The world continues to turn.  The picture is now complete.  And soon, the novel will be too.

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Mickey Viewed From the Inside

Yes, this post is a self-examination.  Not the kind you see Donald Trump enacting every weekend, where he says any crappy thing that occurs to his craptastical very good brain to cover what he doesn’t want us to believe about the truth on Twitter, basically for the purpose of continuing to say he is great and we are poop.   I do not like myself the way Trump likes himself.  I am an old bag of gas that is in pain most of the time, in poor health, and the subject of endless persecution from Bank of America and other money-grubbing machines that are convinced any money I might accidentally have really belongs to them.  But this is not a complain-about-crap fest either.

This is a self-examination that attempts to honestly examine where I am in my quest for wisdom and my affliction with being a writer.

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If I am being honest about the type of writer I really am, I guess I am most like the Weird Recluse in the bottom corner.  I can’t claim to be as good as Kafka or Dickinson, but I am definitely better than some of the crap that gets published and marketed as young adult literature.  The business of publishing is more interested in how many books they can sell, rather than literary merit or good writing.  Some of the crap that is out there and being made into bad movies (which I have not seen because I don’t go to movies that don’t pass the fiction-source smell test) is actually a form of brain poison that will mold young people into sexual predators and professional poop makers.  And people will take poison happily if it has been deviously marketed well.  So far, in the money test, I have made only $16.43 dollars as an author (plus whatever I have made from I-Universe that doesn’t cut a check until it reaches at least $25 dollars).  Nobody is buying my books because nobody has read them.  I have sold a few copies to friends and relatives.  Some of those books are just sitting on a shelf somewhere unread.  I have a couple of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and that is it.  I will die in the near future not having known any measurable success from my books at all.

I have entered novels in writing contests and done well enough to make it into the final round of judging twice.  I have not, however, made a big enough splash that anyone really noticed.  I have paid reviewers to review my books online.  One of those charged me money, and then reviewed a book with the same title by a different author, a book which was nothing like my book, and then, when forced to correct their error, only read the blurb on the back of the book to write the oopsie-I-goofed-last-time review.  They were not worth the money I paid them, money that Bank of America could’ve sued me for instead.

The only thing I have done successfully as a writer is, I think, this goofy blog.  By writing every day, I have managed to give myself considerable practice at connecting with readers.  I have practiced writing humor and written some laughable stuff.  I have plumbed my soul for new writing ideas, and found a creative artesian well bubbling up with new ideas daily.  I can regularly manufacture inspiration.  I am never truly without an idea to write about.  Even when I write a post about not having an idea to write about, I am lying.  Of course, I am a fiction writer, so telling lies is what I do best.  I am also a humorist, so that means I can also tell the truth when I have to, because the best humor is the kind where you surprise the reader with a thing that is weirdly true.  Like just now.

So, somewhere ages and ages hence, I hope there will be a trove of old books in a cellar somewhere that will include one of mine.  And some future kid will pick it up, read it, and laugh.  The golden quality of that laughter is the only treasure I have really been searching for.  It is the reason I write.  It is the reason I continue to be Mickey.

Since I wrote this blog post originally, I have added a few books published on Amazon.  You can find information about this random noveliciousness here at this page in my blog.  Click on this linkie thingie here.

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Dancing Towards the Brighter Light

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In Texas a little girl who has cerebral palsy committed the crime of crossing a border patrol station near Laredo on the way to having life-saving gall bladder surgery.  So the border patrol followed her to the hospital, waited until the surgery was finished, and then took her to a detention facility for deportation.  Wow!

We are a heartless people.  We elect heartless representatives to congress to make heartless laws to punish people for being poor, or not being white, or not being patriotic enough at football games during the playing of the national anthem.  We elected an orange-faced creature with bad hair to the presidency rather than electing a human being with a beating heart.   And why did we do that?  Because too many people were in favor of health care laws and regulations that help people we don’t like.  We elected him to send a message to all the people we don’t like.  That message was, “Screw you, why don’t you just die already?”  We like that message because we are a heartless people.

 

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But while we are only thinking of ourselves and vowing to let everybody else go to hell, somewhere the music of the dance begins to play.  Hear it yet?

Somewhere children are laughing.

Somewhere Santa Claus is real.

Holidays are approaching and, with indictments sealed and in the hands of prosecutors, possible impeachment looms.  The happy dance is about to begin again.

Or maybe it never really went away.  People did care, do care, about the crisis in Puerto Rico.  After the hurricane, Dippy Donald Dimwit tossed paper towels to survivors, apparently suggesting that all he needed to do was that to symbolically get all the people cleaning up while holding on to their own bootstraps and pulling with all their might.  Apparently heartless people believe you can levitate if you pull upwards on bootstraps.  But Tesla gifted the city of San Juan with solar panels and batteries and started set-up of an island-based solar power grid to get Puerto Rico back online in the modern world.  And Elon Musk is taking the steps towards building the future that the pumpkinhead in chief can’t even conceive in his empty pumpkin head.  The music sways and builds.  The dancers circle each other and first steps in ballet shoes begin.

We are a heartless people.  We suffer in our cubicles alone, angry at a heartless world.  “Why don’t you love me?” each one of us cries, “aren’t I worthy of love?”  But crying never solved a problem.  No, counting our regrets and hoarding the list of wrongs done to us never started a heart to beating.  But the music builds.  Try smiling at that hard-working clerk who takes your information at the DMV, and then thanking them at the end for their hard work even though they have to deny you the permit because there are more bits of paperwork that have to be found and signed.  Try making a joke in line at the post office that makes the other hundred and ten people actually laugh while waiting interminably.  Do your best to bring light to the darkness, not for yourself, but for other people.  The music builds.  Do you know the steps to the dance?  No?  Well, the steps won’t matter if you begin to move to the music, begin to glide… And the heart starts pumping, and we begin to feel alive again.  Hallelujah!  We are dancing towards the light again.

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Why Do You Think That? Part 5

On a sleepy summer Sunday it is only natural to think thoughts about God.  And I have to include Jesus and Christianity in all of that meditation.  After all, as a boy I attended Sunday school on Sunday morning in the Rowan Methodist Church and then would attend the Sunday service with my mother and father, brother, and two sisters.  We would sing songs from the Methodist hymnal.

But here’s the kicker.  Over time I have studied and learned science, how the world really works, and how people really act.  I have noticed that most of the most intelligent writers, scientists, and thinkers are atheists and agnostics.  I have had to make my peace with these things;

  • There is no life after death.
  • Jesus may not have been a real person.
  • If he was real, he had very little in common with the Jesus we worship.
  • Jesus doesn’t need to be real to have value in my life.
  • There is no white-haired old man sitting on a throne in heaven.
  • There is no heaven.
  • If there is no heaven, then there certainly is no hell.
  • We are all connected… even those of us who don’t live on this planet, in this galaxy.

So I guess, that makes me an atheist who believes in the existence of God.  And because of this moronic oxymoron, my thesis now has to be; Even atheists have a need for religion.

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Saint Raphael

Yes, when it comes to religion, I am an idiot.  Just like all the rest of you are.  Mark Twain once said something like, “Religion is the firmly held belief in what you know ain’t so.”  That misquote, of course, is taken entirely on faith from a vague memory of a passage in the short story “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”

Of course, I am not saying that I find no value in religion.  I was associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses for almost twenty years because that was the religion my wife clings to.  They are a Bible-based religion with a strict literalist interpretation of scripture who are expecting the end of the world, this “wicked system of things” at any moment now and go around knocking on doors and giving away free Bible literature with their own Truth professionally printed to save as many of the unbelievers as possible.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have never really fully accepted what they believe.  But I have freely participated.  Their belief system makes them some of the most loving, self-sacrificing people you could ever meet.  They are non-violent and believe in helping everybody no matter how far they have to bend over backwards to do it.  There are very good things in the Bible about living a moral life that are absolutely true and will make you and your children into better people.  But here’s the most important thing about living that kind of life.  If you are doing it for the promised rewards of eternal life, then you are doing it wrong.  The goodness you do in this life and the love you both give and receive is the only heaven there is.  Hardship taken on as a sacrifice to a loving God gets you nothing but the feeling that you have done the right thing.  But let me assure you, that feeling is a treasure greater than fine gold.  That mental state you create for yourself is the whole point and purpose of religion.

 

I do realize that liars are the people most likely to say, “Believe me…” before telling you something is true, but believe me, I don’t expect you to accept my cold clinical dissection of what religion is in my world view.  I want you to believe whatever you believe is true about Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, or Budda…  or nirvana or existentialism or science.  I accept you and love you for who you are.  The important thing is that we are all connected.  Most religions make us nicer to each other and make us more loving and kind, as long as we are not allowing ourselves to fall victim to the dark side that exists in every religion.  When your religion tells you to hate something, especially when it tells you to do something to punish that something you hate, especially especially if that something you hate is another person of some kind, then that’s where Eve is biting the apple, that’s where all the trouble starts.

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Don’t let atheists tell you they don’t believe in anything.  I hear Neal DeGrasse Tyson talk about being made of star stuff and teach about the connections we have with everything in the universe.  Listen to him yourself on Cosmos talking about the wonders of science and the human quest to know, and tell me if you don’t hear hymns to God in his reverent explanations.  He just knows God in a different form than you do.

So here is my humble conclusion on a sleepy summer Sunday morning when my meditations drift back to a boyhood of telling Jesus jokes in the down-time during Sunday school.  I am an atheist who believes in a loving God.  And even atheists need God in their life.

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Downloading Darkness

I just finished a novel project last Thursday, completing the manuscript of Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  But being the excessively creative goofball that I am, this was not a stand-alone project.  The companion book, The Baby Werewolf,  is an incomplete manuscript of a comedy horror story about a boy with hypertrichosis, sometimes known as werewolf-hair disease.  Both books happen in the same period of time in 1974 and share both characters and events.  The boy, Torrie Brownfield, has lost his mother.  His father has brought him back to a small Iowa town where he himself was once a boy, to live in the same house where the boy’s father and uncle grew up.  The uncle, hiding some dark secrets of his own, requires that Torrie be raised in hiding up in the attic.  But this only lasts until a local farm boy,  Todd Niland, discovers Torrie’s sad existence and becomes his friend. This is a much darker story than I have tackled before, and I am no stranger to dark humor.  It is significant, though, that both Todd and Torrie are gingerbread children from the book I just finished, and even though some sad, dark things come to light in that book, they are not nearly as sad and dark as what is present in this next project.  So I had to find some inspiration before trying to re-ignite the novel forge for The Baby Werewolf.

That led me to watch the video Donnie Darko for the very first time.

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Oofah!  What a strange, horrible, yet beautiful movie!  Richard Kelly’s first film is an incredible artwork that makes your soul sing darkly.  Talk about listening to dark rabbits from the future… really, I mean, no one told anyone they should talk about about dark rabbits from the future… but this film does with a twisted elegance and ironically terrible beauty.  It discusses the sex lives of Smurfs, raises alarms with old women wandering aimlessly to the mailbox in the path of oncoming cars, and fires teachers from their jobs for discussing the short stories of Graham Greene.  There is no way I can explain in a witless-wordless movie review.  You must simply watch the movie for yourself.

Remember this musical masterpiece?  “Hello, Darkness, my old friend… I’ve come to talk with you again…”  Yes, I am entertaining the darkness again because I will be depending on her to help me write this book whose theme is going to be, “Everyone dies in the end, but the real life depends on how we deal with that fact.”

Yes, people who know me, I mean really know me, including the facts behind what I can’t actually say in this blog because the innocent must be protected, will probably worry that I am undertaking a writing project about monsters and depression and suicidal thoughts and child abuse.  I do have scars.  But I am at peace with the hard parts of the life behind me.  And from great pain and profound suffering, beautiful things can be made.  So don’t worry.  Downloading a bunch of monster-movie darkness into my stupid old head is not going to hurt me at this point in my life.  And if I can’t write it now, it will never be written.

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