I was spending time with a certain cynical youth who likes to insult me and argue about every one of my faults as a human being, telling me that such treatment is meant to improve me to meet a standard that only he thinks I need to live up to when it occurred to me; Crab Apple has two meanings.
Crab apples (which ominously come up on Wikipedia as genus Malus) are generally mistrusted as eating apples. Alternatively known as “wild apples”, they are often bitter to the taste. Hence, the association with the chronic complainer, the dyspeptic dude, and the hen-pecky female. Crab apples are the fruits of unpleasant people-trees.
So, how does one deal with crab apples? I always tend to fall back on the homily, “When you are given any kind of fruit, make it into pie.” And yes, the links under the pictures will actually yield recipes. I know it is a metaphorical over-simplification. But, if I do not enjoy being critiqued for the hair in my ears and the werewolf hair sprouting under my eyes, or the way I say, “I’m sorry!” too much, I am going to use those fruits to make a pie of surreal comedy in a WordPress post.
I saw a guy on the highway speeding around me at well-over the speed limit, turning around to give me a look at his middle finger, probably trying to predict how many IQ points he will have left when he crashes into whatever is ahead of him that he can’t see because he’s grinning and glaring at me behind him. There’s an apple for this pie.
The impatient clerk in the tax office gives me the “Are you really that stupid” glare and attendant sigh as she suggests that I step to the side and correct the mistakes in my paperwork so she can mistreat the next person in the incredibly long line that she wants me to return to the back of. There’s another apple.
In today’s world, it really doesn’t take long to have enough apples for your pie. In fact, I am looking at a huge pie now with loads and loads of crab apples in it.
I like to dig through old piles of artwork I have done to re-purpose things and mash things together to make weird art salad.
I used to play a Dungeons-and-Dragons-like game called Talislanta with groups of adolescent boys, most of whom had previously been my students in middle school. It was a weird world where weird things made artistical challenges for me that taught me to be a better and more imaginative artist.
Xeribeth was a member of an almost-human race that had yellow skin and wore colorful face tattoos. She also had to be somewhat alluring to trick adolescent boys into undertaking dangerous and possibly suicidal adventures (meaning characters who only lived on paper might die and have to be re-rolled with dungeon dice.)
Zoric, being a green Cymrillian wizard, gave me numerous opportunities to creative Kermit-the-frog-colored portraits. And he was a player character, so his greed and penchant for unwise actions decided on in the heat of battle (like turning himself into a fish-man while adventuring in the waterless desert) didn’t come from me.
Playing those games gave me training as a story-teller as well.
My efforts to see color with gradually worsening color-blindness led me to create eye-bashing color compositions that attempt to portray realistically things and feelings that can’t possibly be physically real. Thus I gradually became, over time, a surrealist (a juxtaposer of unlike and jarring things to deliver a visionary picture of reality) (How’s that for surrealistic gobbeldegook in definition form.)
I often solve the problems of my life by drawing something and making cartoonish comments with serious consequences.
Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that the world on the inside of me is decidedly different than the world on the outside of me. But I have to live in both. And I can do that by drawing my colored-pencil Paffooney stuff, and posting it, and writing about it on a silly Sunday.
Suppose being grumpy was a super power, and we could, as a grumpy old brotherhood of geezers, coots, and conservative uncles, could change things just by complaining about them.
No woman would ever leave a toilet seat down again. The Dunkin’ Donuts on Frankford Road would magically reopen and never run out of donuts again. And liver spots and wrinkles would suddenly be attractive to beautiful young women whether they were linked to fortunes or not.
But what if, in order to make better use of this unexplainable super power, we start telling old coots like the fool in the picture that they have to prove they will use this super power only for good, or we will raise their taxes? Or we would forbid them from ever eating bacon again? Either of those things would definitely motivate them.
Of course, the biggest problem with geezers, old coots, and conservative uncles that no one wants to sit next to at Thanksgiving is that they don’t generally get smarter and nicer with age. It is probably not wise to give them a super power that can alter reality. Yes, they are generally quite literally mean-spirited and unqualifiably dumb. And it isn’t really a matter of whether they could ever actually have a super power like that. The real problem is that they already have it. They proved it in 2016 when they elected a gigantic orange-faced Pillsbury Doughboy with mental flatulence to lead our government. And it wasn’t the dumb part that did it. It was the literally mean part. Trump is a walking, talking old coot-complaint given to us by mean old men to tell us, “We are unhappy geezers, coots, and conservative uncles who would rather blow up the government than lift a single tax dollar (especially from a rich dude) to try and fix it”.
What we truly need to do is harness a bit of that grumpy-old-man complaining power, a truly misunderstood and misused super power, to tackle problems like making public schools better, cleaning the environment, and electing smarter leaders (not the stupid ones who actually represent the majority of us). But of course, we will first have to turn off the spigots in the brewery of prejudice and ignorance that is Fox News, and brand all the greedy and stupid people with a red letter “R” for Trumpian Republican. That way, knowing who to vote for to make things better will become easier to the point that even us geezers, old coots, and conservative uncles can do it right.
As an atheist who believes in God, paradoxes and contradictions are something I am entirely comfortable with. So, it should come as no surprise that I don’t believe in ghosts… with notable exceptions.
Cool song, right? Did you listen to it? It’s a song about ghosts. It’s a lot older than I am. And the singer here, Burl Ives, has been dead since April of 1995. Hearing it today, at random, proves that Burl Ives is a ghost I believe in.
He came back to haunt me today as I am recovering from pink-eye, reminding me of my childhood and youth when he was the snowman in Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer on TV around Christmas time.
He is also haunting me because 1995, the year he died, was the year I got married. I was married to my wife in Dallas in January. In March, we found out that we were going to have our firstborn child before the year was over. And we also found out that my grandfather was dying.
I was not able to make it from Texas to Iowa to see Grandpa Aldrich before he passed away. But he was told while he was in the hospital that we were expecting at about the same time that he got to hold my cousin’s newborn second son. Grandpa loved the music of Burl Ives. In many ways he was like Burl Ives. He even vaguely looked like Burl Ives. And we did get to attend his funeral. (My Grandpa, I mean.) And shortly after that, Burl Ives died and I saw the announcement on the news. This is one sort of ghost I believe in. He came to commune with me as I lay on my sickbed thinking about death. And on a day after finding out that my son, now in the Marines, is about to be discharged after five years and will be home next week. He is ghost of memory. A vibrant and talented spirit of the past who lives on through his work. And he brings with him the ghost of my Grandpa Aldrich, They are both no longer living, but lingering still in the echoes of memory, and still affecting life.
Then, of course, there’s the whole matter of the ghost dog. Yes, I continue to see flashes and images and shadows of a brown dog in our house, larger and browner than our own dog, that disappear as soon as you look directly at them. My oldest son has said that he has seen the very same thing, so it is not merely brain damage or impending insanity on my part, unless it is something that also runs in the family. And it has been suggested to me by an elderly neighbor that two families ago, a brown family dog lived in this house and may be buried in the yard.
I believe it is possible that life and love in a family leaves its imprint in many ways on a house, a home, an inhabited place.
I know it can easily be put down to misinterpretations of things seen in peripheral vision, or even mental misinterpretations responding to subtle suggestions. I doubt that there is actually a protoplasmic or energy form that continues after death. But if there is something there, it is benevolent rather than malevolent. Ghosts, if they exist, are a good thing, not a bad one. It doesn’t scare me to live in a place that has a soul capable of absorbing and incorporating a faithful family dog.
Basically, I am insisting that the existence of ghosts is irrelevant. I do not require the artificial reassurance of belief in a life after death to make me unafraid of facing death. I am a part of everything that exists, and I will continue to be a part of it even after my body is dissolved and my consciousness is silenced. Even if life on Earth is extinguished, the fact of my existence is not erased or invalidated. The poet says, “You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding as it should.” -from Disiderata by Anonymous
So, I am ill and thinking about death, for it is not very far away now. And I do not fear it. As I do not fear ghosts. For I don’t believe in them… except for the ones I do.
I honestly hope you are not reading this blog to find advice on life, the universe, writing, or anything. That sounds more like something I myself might do, and I am goofy enough to think this purple paisley prosy thing is a humor blog. I don’t really give advice, good or otherwise.
Even as a teacher I didn’t tell students how to do things in a do-this, then-do-this, and then-do-this lecture format. If anything, I advised by showing them how I did things, leading by example. I taught skills and concepts by setting up tasks that let kids do things for themselves. Most people learn by doing.
This idea applies no matter what the learning goal is. If you want to do magic, you have to cast some spells for yourself. Roger Bacon’s students in the 13th Century learned to do alchemy and eventually chemistry by blowing up the laboratory repeatedly. If I am capable of any sort of artistical or literarical magic, I have achieved it only by trying to do it, trying to be creativical, and getting readers’ and viewers’ attention by being marketableical and somewhat ironical in my blogging with over-use of artificial -ical endings.
So, I treat this blog as way to generate ludicrous ideas and goofy content in order to fascinate readers and sometimes even make them laugh. And I have nothing more to write about than myself and my own experiences. It is obsessively self-inflicted observations about myself. Kinda like standing naked in front of the mirror and learning to laugh at warts and wrinkles. I believe in taking the clothes off of my life experiences and finding the naked truths that were previously hidden. And, no, that doesn’t really explain why it seems I like drawing naked people so much. It’s a metaphor, dang it!
So, that’s what this blog is all about. I am explaining what this blog is all about. I am looking at my own experience of life, the embarrassments, the sad truths, the disappointments, the triumphs, all the most personal, private, and public stuff. And I am laughing loud and long. Because that’s what life is. Mastering that fundamental skill. Learning to laugh at life.
Here’s a brief summary of the only good advice you can possibly find by reading this blog. If you want to write well, start writing and teach yourself how to do it. And if you want to learn to laugh, look for what’s funny and laugh loud and long and clear.
Self-reflection is the bane of stupid people. Essentially, they don’t want to risk encountering evidence that they actually are stupid. It would shatter their world to learn that they are idiots and most of what they believe is true is actually wrong. This fact goes a long way towards explaining why the Republican Party in its current form even exists, let alone the actions of the current mutant Cheetos monster that pilots their agenda and hates healthcare, the Special Olympics, and Puerto Rico.
So, if I am doing a self–reflection piece today, then that proves I am not a stupid person, right? What do you mean you agree with that? Yes, I can actually hear you mentally answering my questions as you read this. And if you believe that, then you have proven that even relatively smart people like you and I are capable of stupid thinking.
I believe in some stupid things, even though I think I am not stupid.
An example of this stupidity factor is my lingering belief that I am a nudist. I mean, I am rarely ever nude any more. I keep most of me covered up constantly because when my psoriasis plaques dry out they tend to flake and itch and force me to scratch to the point of infected bloody sores.
Obviously this is not totally a photograph from the 60’s. That does not make it a total lie either, though.
I have been pretty much accepted as a member of the nudist community on Twitter. I enjoy the artful pictures of nude people they share with me. And since I did a couple of blog posts for nudist websites, there are actually completely nude pictures of me available on the internet. I can be found on Truenudists.com for one, if your eyes can stand the horror. But I have only been to a nudist park, the Bluebonnet Nudist Park in Alvord, Texas. one time as an actual nudist. I can tell you, it was a very hot day even though I was not wearing clothes. I am comfortable with nudity. I am comfortable around nude people. I fully accept it all as a non-sexual thing. But am I really a nudist? Or am I only playing at it? If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I don’t retweet pictures of naked people. I engage a lot with other writers there, and most of them are not also nudists, or even open-minded about naturism. I write about nudists in some of my books, but they are not about nudism, and most of them don’t even mention it. So, what good does it do me to think I am a nudist? Well, the very idea of it does a heckuva good job of embarrassing my wife and daughter. So, I do get some crazy-old-coot satisfaction out of it. Otherwise it simply proves that rational and otherwise intelligent people can be committed to irrational ideas.
I am also of the often mocked and ridiculed opinion that not only are alien beings from other worlds real, they are capable of space travel and have been visiting us for as long as there has been an us. I did not always believe this, however. Before I wrote my novelCatch a Falling Star I believed as Carl Sagan said on the original Cosmos that it is wrong to accept things without proof, and true results are testable. My novel was about aliens who watched a lot of Earther TV and learned to speak English from watching I Love Lucy reruns, I wanted to make the aliens different from humans, but at the same time, alike with humans in the most fundamental ways that translate easily into humor and relatability. Not all of my hero-characters were Earth humans.
As I did research on the internet (a tool I didn’t have when I originally created the story in the 1970s), I found a ton of researchers and writers and con men and MUFON and the Disclosure Project and nuclear physicists and astronauts Gordon Cooper and Edgar Mitchell who were all believers and mostly not stupid. Wow! What a huge and complicated hoax! Why would anybody believe , based on so little tangible evidence, and so much contradictory evidence, that the government’s position could possibly be right? I learned that I now believed, until significant further proof comes along, that I believe stupidly in alien visitors.
Today’s self-reflection post has now proven that I am a stupid old coot who thinks he is a nudist and an insightful conspiracy theorist. But the results of my look into the mirror have not made me upset about my stupidity. Maybe I am simply satisfied nudism is healthy and the universe is more complex than I am capable of understanding. Whatever the case, that’s enough with the mirror for today. You have to keep such dangerous weapons out of the hands of clowns.
Carl Barks was born on March 27th, 1901. So, today is his 118th birthday. If you have no idea who I’m even talking about, then you were never a kid and a comic book fan in the 1960s. Carl Barks is both Uncle Scrooge’s father and Donald Duck’s stepfather.
That’s essentially true. A large part of my character as a junior high school English teacher was based on what I learned about mentoring from Scrooge McDuck and about teaching important facts from Gyro Gearloose.
Carl was not immune to criticism. Cartoonists get blow-back, a fact of life. But he overcame it with a wry sense of humor and interesting views of how you pursue goals in life. He had a firm sense of fair-play and justice. You could get actual morals to the stories in a Carl Barks’ duck cartoon.
The characters were not perfect. They all had glaring flaws, the heroes right along with the villains. Of course, the villains never learned to change their ways, while the heroes often learned to improve themselves by working on the weaknesses, and it wasn’t all about becoming a gazillionaire (a term I think Barks may have invented).
I even learned a good deal about adventure story-telling from Carl Barks’ comic books about Duck people doing ducky stuff that was really about people doing people-y stuff in the real world. Yes, people in the world around me are very Carl Barks’ ducky.
So, happy birthday, Carl. 118 years young. And he’s only been gone from our world since August of 2000. He still talks to me and teaches me through his Duck comics.