Category Archives: goofy thoughts

Ginger Ale


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Long about the middle of October every year I have to partake of the miracle that is Ginger Ale during pollen season.  And believe me, in Texas, pollen season lasts until the parched grass and dry air sets in again during the droughts of middle July through September.  Sometimes in a wet year (which used to be rarer than now) the tree pollen, mold spores, mountain cedar, and ragweed fill the air year around.  Ginger in any form is a god-sent cure-all for ailments of the lungs, ears, nose, and throat.  It reduces inflammation, dilutes mucus, and helps you restore the breath of life.  I have developed a real taste for ginger products of all sorts as a result of the medicinal boost it gives me every year.  It explains my addiction to gingerbread.  Also why I often put ginger root in a pot on the stove filled with boiling water and then inhale the fumes.  I love Ginger Ale because it makes me feel good.

Simon’s Cat on YouTube is another kind of Ginger Ale for me.  Admittedly it is a mental sort of medicine, not a drink or a cookie or a steam inhaler.  But watching those simple black and white cartoon antics that are so realistically catlike makes me laugh and increases serotonin in the brain, and it provides a very real depression medicine.

Now, I know full well that I am connecting two very unlike things and calling them both Ginger Ale on the mere passing similarity of the medicinal benefits.  But life is far more metaphorical than it is literal.  And that is why I continue to maintain that poets live better lives than the rest of us even if they die young for love of beauty.  And it is better to be a cartoon cat than a literal king.

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Aunt Minnie’s Love Seat

This is a story about an innocuous piece of furniture in Great Aunt Minnie Efram’s house.  It was a little brown loveseat with carved wooden monster feet.

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As the story begins, the little loveseat was sitting in the parlor in front of the small black and white television.  During the monthly Efram family card party, the love seat was the only place for the two of them to spend the evening.  But he was ten and he hated girls.  He had a reputation with the guys at school as a girl hater, and he couldn’t have it known that he was sitting on a loveseat with Uncle Henry’s stepdaughter, the one the guys all said they had seen eating her own boogers.

She was also ten, and in his class at school.  She liked to watch him more than any of the other boys.  But she didn’t know why.  She liked unicorns and the color pink, but she also kinda liked the way boys looked at her when she wore shorts.  And she liked seeing him in PE class at school, wearing shorts.  He was athletic and often won games in PE.

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After two years of monthly card parties happening during at least three different months every year at Aunt Minnie’s place, he had discovered that girls didn’t actually smell bad, and this one actually listened when he talked about playing football, and how it made him feel when he scored the seventy-five-yard touchdown.  In fact, the more he talked about football, and the closer they sat to each other, the better she seemed to smell.  He liked that smell.

She liked that he didn’t only pay attention to her at the card parties anymore.  He actually said, “Hi” in public.  And she liked his smile, even when he got braces.  He let her pick the shows they watched on the old black and white television while seated on the loveseat.  She actually worked up the nerve to tell him that she had told Jane at school to ask him if he liked her, and stupid Jane had completely forgotten to ask him, or maybe Jane was just too chicken to ask him and used the excuse that she forgot.

He said that if she liked him, he liked her.  But if she didn’t, he didn’t either.  “Like” her, he meant.  Which he did because she did.

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After two more years and six more card parties worth of scootching behinds closer together on the old loveseat, something different had happened.  And it was about time too.  Aunt Minnie had bought a puppy, and that not only was a bad thing for the seven cats that lived with old Minnie, but it was hard on the loveseat too.  One of the little couch’s monster feet was lost, and the numerous instances of terrified cat claws digging in were beginning to have an effect on the upholstery.  And that danged dog wizzled everywhere.  The loveseat had one purpose in life, and it didn’t want to give in to wear and tear before achieving that purpose.

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But the very next year brought disaster.  He apparently told the members of the freshman football team that something had happened on that old love seat that really hadn’t happened.  The football team was impressed because they all thought she was pretty hot stuff, and he was generally thought of as a lame-o dweeb.  She heard about it from Jane who heard about it from Nanette’s boyfriend who was on the team.  And she got mad.  How dare he say something like that when it wasn’t true?

In January of that year, Aunt Minnie passed away in her sleep.  The loveseat was sold at auction to a farmer who liked to do re-upholstery as a hobby.  It got re-done in red velvet and leather with wheels replacing the wooden monster feet and sold to a car dealer in Des Moines who placed it in the lobby show-room for customers to sit on.

But the story has a happy ending.  She would later make his locker room lie into the truth on Prom Night (fortunately with protection) and then went on to marry him when they both were sophomores in college.   Of course, it wasn’t always, “They lived happily ever after,” because they didn’t.  They got divorced once and got re-married shortly after… to each other.  They had three kids.  And the loveseat didn’t ever learn any of that.  Because it was a loveseat.  You didn’t really think loveseats could know anything, did you?

 

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Being Excessively Creative

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It is an unusual position to be in as a kid in the school room to be the creative kid.  First and foremost because you will forever be known as the weirdo, the spaceman, the egghead.

How do I know that?  Because I was that kid.  And I grew up to teach that kid.  And now that I am retired as a teacher, I am still that kid.

If there was a problem to be solved, a picture to be drawn, a group assignment that required somebody to actually think, I was the kid that everybody wanted to be in their group or be their partner.  (That time that Reggie and I blew up the test tube of copper sulfate in Mr. Wilson’s chemistry lab doesn’t count because, although I am the one who dropped it, he’s the one who heated up my fingers with the blowtorch.  Honest, Mr. Wilson, it is true.) But if it was picking teams on the playground, I was the last loser to be called, even though I was pretty good at softball, pretty good at dodgeball, great at volleyball, and usually the leading scorer in soccer (of course we are talking an Iowa schoolyard in the 60’s where soccer was a sport from Mars.)  And as an adult, I enjoyed teaching the creative kids more than the rest because I actually understood them when they explained what they were doing and why, and I was even able to laugh at their knit-witty jokes (yes, I am including those jokes made of yarn with that pun).   Creative kids speak a language from another world.  If you are creative too, you already know that.  And if you aren’t creative… well, how foo-foo-metric for you.

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And another unfortunate side effect of the creative life is that you make stuff.  You don’t have to be seriously infected by bites from the cartoon bug or the art bug to be like that.  My daughter is making a suit of armor for herself from a flat sheet of aluminum that she is pounding out by hand, painting with spray paint and painter’s tape, and edging with felt.  After she’s done with it this Halloween, it will go on one of the piles of collections and models and dolls and stuffed toys and… Of course, sooner or later one of those piles is going to come to life and eat the house.  There is no place left to display stuff and store stuff and keep stuff that is far enough away from potential radioactive spider bites.  I have scars on my fingers from exactor knife accidents, oil paint, and acrylic paint and enamel permanently under my fingernails.  Shelves full of dolls rescued and restored from Goodwill toy bins, dolls collected from sale bins at Walmart, Toys-R-Us, and Kaybee, and action figures saved even from childhood in the 60’s are taking over the house and in an uproar, demanding to be played with rather than ignored.  (Didn’t know dolls can actually talk?  Haven’t you learned anything from John Lasseter?)

Anyway, it is tough to go through life being excessively creative.  I have art projects growing out of my ears.  And book publishers are calling me because my award-winning book is not generating sales in spite of two awards, 5-star reviews, and generally good quality, but the only solutions they have cost ME money I don’t have.  Oh, well, at least it isn’t boring to be me.

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If I’m Being Honest…

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If I’m being honest, I am a liar.  And that is not really a paradox, because I don’t always lie.  In fact, I often lie in order to reveal a deeper truth.  (I know, I know… rationalizations are simply another kind of lie.)  I lie because I used to be a school teacher.  You know that teachers have to be liars because you can’t say to a parent, “Your kid is ugly and stupid, and I have documented proof.”  You especially can’t say that if it really is provable.  Instead, you have to tell the lie that any kid can learn and do and be anything they want if only they are willing to work hard enough.  And you have to tell that lie often enough that the kid, the parent, and even you, the teacher, believe it to the point that it becomes true.

And now that I am retired and not telling the school teacher’s lie any longer, I have become a novelist, and I have now made it my business to make up fiction stories and compile lies into book form.  And though the people or characters are based loosely on real people I have known, they are really only a narrative trick to make the reader think about and possibly accept as truth the themes my writing puts forward.

(Boy!  I sure am an ugly old hairy nut-job, ain’t I? = a lie in question form.)

But if I’m being honest today, there are a few things I need to say truthfully, straight out without irony or falsehood or exaggeration.  Let me offer these truths.

  • In this political environment where partisan politics divide us to the point of attempted assassinations with bombs, I do not hate the other side of the argument.  I don’t hate Republicans and conservatives.  Some of my old friends in Iowa and some of my good friends in Texas are conservative enough to have voted for Trump.  I do not reject them as my friends because of their politics.  They are good people and worthy in too many ways to list.  And though they may be sympathetic to someone who threatens me because I have looney liberal ideas, I don’t expect any of them to send me bombs in the mail.  That kind of division is the opposite of what we need.
  • I know what statistics say about kids and learning potential.  I have worked hard during my lifetime to create educational achievement in places where it is nearly impossible.  I believe in the value of every student, and some of the worst behavioral problems and some of the most difficult learning disabilities helped me really get to know some of my all-time favorite kids.
  • I will continue to tell lies for the sake of education and art and all the things that matter to me.  Lies can be used for good as much as the truth can be used for injury and evil.  But my lies will always be soap-bubble hoo-haws, easily popped and seen through for what they really are meant to accomplish, never big black cannonball lies meant to rip people apart and destroy the fortresses they live in.
  • If I’m being honest, even though I am a liar, you can believe in me.

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Ghostly Reflections

HauntingI do not believe in ghosts.

So, I am probably the last stupid goomer who should be writing this post.  But I do have a lot to say on the subject that will more than fill a 500-word essay.

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At my age and level of poor health, I think about ghosts a lot because I may soon be one.  In fact, my 2014 novel, Snow Babies has ghosts in it.  And some of the characters in it freeze to death and become snow ghosts.  But it doesn’t work like that in real-world science.  My ghosts are all basically metaphorical and really are more about people and people’s perception of life, love, and each other.

Ghosts really only live in the mind.  They are merely memories, un-expectedly recalled people, pains, and moments of pandemonium.

I have recently been watching the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House.  It creeps me out because it latches on to the idea that ghosts haunt us through the revisitation in our minds of old trauma, old mistakes, old regrets… We are never truly safe from ghosts, no matter how far under the covers we go in our beds, deep in the dark and haunted night. Ghosts are always right there with us because they only live inside us.

I am haunted by ghosts of my own.  Besides the ghost dog that mysteriously wanders about our house at night and is seen only out of the corners of our eyes, there is the ghost of the sexual assault I endured at the age of ten by a fifteen-year-old neighbor.  That ghost haunts me still, though my attacker has died.  I still can’t name him.  Not because I fear he can rise up out of the grave to hurt me again, but because of what revealing what he did and how it would injure his innocent family members who are still alive and still known to my family.  That is a ghost who will never go away.  And he infects my fiction to the point that he is the secret villain of the novel I am now working on.

But my ghost stories are not horror stories.

I write humorous stories that use ghosts as metaphors, to represent ideas, not to scare the reader.  In a true horror story, there has to be that lurking feeling of foreboding, that sense that, no matter what you do, or what the main character you identify with does, things probably won’t turn out all right.   Steven King is a master of that.  H.P. Lovecraft is even better.

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But as for me, I firmly believe in the power of laughter, and that love can settle all old ghosts back in their graves.  I have forgiven the man who sexually tortured me and nearly destroyed me as a child.  And I have vowed never to reveal his name to protect those he loved as well as those I love.  If he hurt anyone else, they have remained silent for a lifetime too.  And I have never been afraid of the ghost dog in our house.  He has made me jump in the night more than once, but I don’t fear him.  If he were real, he would be the ghost of a beloved pet and a former protector of the house.  And besides, he is probably all in my stupid old head thanks to nearly blind eyes when I do not have my glasses on.

I don’t believe in ghosts.

 

 

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Mickey Notes

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Sometimes a Mickey needs to take stock of where he is, where he is going, and what is going on in the world around him.  I think this Mickey needs to make a list of bullet points and hope like hell that nobody gets shot.

  • Mickey is old.  At 61-and-a-half he has six incurable diseases and has been a cancer survivor since 1983.  In modern America, he can no longer afford medicines like insulin that may be necessary to stay alive.  After paying out thousands of dollars in hospital bills and doctor bills, he’s gone bankrupt and probably will not go to the doctor the next time he needs to.  So Mickey is probably right in considering himself temporary at best.
  • The diseases referred to are diabetes, arthritis, COPD, psoriasis, hypertension, and BPH.  No laughing matter, Mickey knows, but not really a crying matter either.  If the economy and the system of government don’t allow you to get real, necessary health care, well… laughter is the best medicine, isn’t it?  And eating right, as much as you can afford to do it, counts for something.
  • Mickey’s car is in the shop.  The goofer who rammed into the driver’s side door in the rain is definitely at fault in the accident.  His insurance, however, holds Mickey 85% responsible because he didn’t have his lights on (although I am pretty sure he did) even though it was almost noon and headlights weren’t strictly necessary in what was merely a light rain.
  • The doors on Mickey’s car won’t open until both of them and the column between them, are both replaced.  So, Mickey is stuck borrowing his nephew’s red car which has a dying battery, mysterious rumbling engine indigestion, and a cracked windshield.
  • Mickey has six good novels published; Catch a Falling Star, Stardusters and Space Lizards, Superchicken, Snow Babies, Magical Miss Morgan, and The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.
  • Mickey also has two completed manuscripts awaiting revision, editing, and publication;  Recipes for Gingerbread Children and The Baby Werewolf.
  • And Mickey has reached 100 pages and 34,000 words on his current manuscript; Sing Sad Songs.
  • It should be obvious, then, that Mickey intends to write fictions furiously until he drops dead.  Mickey hopes that you don’t hope that he will drop dead sooner rather than later.  He promises that his fictions aren’t that bad.
  • Mickey has decided not to waste any more time making fun of the current criminal in the White House.  That problem really seems to be coming to an end on its own.
  • It is probably also obvious that Mickey has been transforming his Paffoonies from grayish photographishes into clear and bright scannishes… er… scans.
  • And when Mickey writes Mickey Notes, he always intends to write something different than it turns out he has really written as he gets closer to 500 words and the end of the essay.
  • Oh, well, Mickey knows how it goes, I suppose, and so he is now done writing Mickey Notes… for today.

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Naked Innocence

So the time came to make the planned return trip to the nudist park in Alvord, Texas.  I was going to finally get to make my second visit to the place for the Labor Day holiday weekend.  But once again it was not to be.  My daughter caught a virus during her first week of school.  She gave it to me and her brother.  Of course, neither of them were planning to go along, and their mother would sooner find another husband than be naked in a place where other people would see.  They all think I am nuts for wanting to go spend time with other naturists gadding about naked in the hot Texas sunshine.  My wife wants me to get my head examined.  She thinks all the stories about aliens from outer space may have gotten my head artificially replaced by the Men in Black.

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And she may be totally correct in her assessment.  She is a school teacher, after all.  I, probably just like you, was carefully taught to never be seen naked in public because it is probably a sin, and it is definitely against the law, and it is very likely something only crazy people do on purpose.  Never-the-less, I did it once as a writing assignment for a nudist website that told me the review was wonderful and they were definitely going to publish it, and as of this writing, over a year later, they still haven’t done so (though a rival website reblogged one of my nudist posts from this blog).

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I have come to the idiotic conclusion, though, that nudism isn’t sinful if practiced around like-minded people who are also comfortably nude.  I met and talked to nudists last year who were .very easy to get to know.  They were likable and no prettier in the buff than I am myself (and with my psoriasis pink leopard spots I am pretty horrible to look at naked.)  And the nudist park is not a place for sexual goings-on and sinful behavior.  It is a family environment where some people bring their naked kids.

I remember enjoying being naked as a kid even though I had been taught that Jesus is ashamed by seeing my nudity even though he is always watching over me, even when I am in the bathtub.  I remember one time when I was a pre-teen that I took my bicycle to the Bingham Park woods and rode it up and down the trails there completely naked.  And even though I had been carefully taught how evil that was, the cool wind on my skin felt good, and it was glorious to listen to the birds sing in a green wood almost as if it were the Garden of Eden and I was Adam, the first man.  (Hence the illustration of the bare bike boy.)

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It seems to me, now that I am old, retired, and probably at least a little bit senile, that nakedness is really a form of innocence.  I can tell you for a fact from being a parent and having, at one point, worked in a daycare center for ages five and below, that it is actually far easier to get a kid to go completely starkers than it is to get them to put on and comfortably wear clothes.  Nakedness is natural.  And if God had really wanted us to be naked all the time, then we wouldn’t have been born with a full suit of clothes on… er, wait… what?  Nakedness is innocent.  Anything bad that comes from it happens because of the things we have been taught about it as children.  A more enlightened society would probably be naked more than we are, especially inside temperature-controlled sealed environments… like houses, cars, and even spaceships.  Ah, yes, back to the Men in Black and possible head-switching again.  Aliens in their saucers are apparently often naked.  I wonder if Jesus is ashamed by their nudity too?

Anyway, I once again have failed to manage the planned nakedness I had been looking forward to.  I have to settle for the indoor, sealed-environment form of nudity as I am too sick to get to the nudist park, and would promptly be arrested if I tried to walk around the neighborhood like that.  But the failed evil plan did give me something to write about that at least makes me laugh.  And it is an innocent laugh, not an evil one.

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