Category Archives: metaphor

Musings on Manic Mumbles in My Mind

The voices in my head never stop mumbling. For the past year I have been having trouble with passing out while trying to write or draw or watch TV. And yet, scenes play out vividly in the theater of my mind while I am briefly unconscious. I’ve been to the doctor about it. But there is no cure for the yammerings of an unquiet thought-mill. The word-weavers keep weaving new sentences. The cloth-cutters keep snipping out patterns and themes. And the prose-sewers keep making essays and shirts and jeans. How did my mental-breakdown voices get stuck inside a garment mill?

The mutterings this morning have been about writing success. Do I dare think any of that has my name associated with it?

Well, my blog views have been up this week. And this morning my prayers have been answered for my book Sing Sad Songs. A reviewer defended my book as a legitimate 5-star novel, and refuted the charges that my book is somehow child-pornography. I have been needing some validation that my book, the product of my darkest secrets and the affirmation of my victory over personal pain, is worthy of being seen as a good book.

And, of course, I have been thinking a lot about the talking-dog story, the one about Horatio who smokes an imaginary meerschaum pipe and talks only to Bobby Niland, and solves murders committed on chickens by the evil Dr. Rattiarty, a really evil real rat.

I have been discussing it endlessly with my dog on our walks in the park for her to take care of her pooping in public. We argue endlessly about how to make the tale believable.

She says, “The thing you don’t seem to understand is that, in real life, dogs can’t talk.”

And I say, “Then how is it that we are even arguing at the moment?”

And she answers, “It’s all because you insist on listening continually to the voices in your head.”

And there is a considerable discussion going on in the faculty lounge of my mental monkey house about the fact that for so many years I had numerous opportunities to be a practicing nudist, and I ran away from it as something I should not do… Until I grew old and weak and gave in to the desire to become a naked man amongst socially nude naturists and now I am unable to physically do it in any way but in my imagination.

“You simply lack the resolve, Michael, to take the bull by the horns and tackle it,” said the Dean of Brain Studies.

“Well, of course he can’t do that!” exclaimed the Professor of Inappropriate Thoughts. “Mickey has no Moo-Wrestling muscles to manage the kind of bull fighting you suggest. The kind where he wrestles with bull-puckie.”

“Mike is a man who can make up his own mind,” said the Associate Professor of Metaphor Mixing. “He just has to stop listening to us.”

“Can you all just SHUT UP!!!” said the Teaching Assistant of Pragmatic Prattle. “We are just a Monkey-House faculty incapable of making any sense.”

So, I am taking the Teaching Assistant’s advice now, and I am closing this essay immediately.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, mental health, metaphor, Mickey, Paffooney, self pity

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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Filed under commentary, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy

Songs Sung with Paint Brushes and Colored Pencils

I tend to draw and photograph and make artistic images about the things that I love.

Swashbuckling adventure.

Magic.

Scantily dressed young girls.

Iowa landscapes.

Forgotten dreams that came back to me in the night.

Spaceheart and Mai Ling.

Stories with amazing features and paintings with soft sable brushwork.

Painted in oil.

Revealing who I used to be…

And who I still am.

Songs sung with paintbrushes.

And colored pencils.

Drawings done with syncopated tunes.

And full-color half-notes.

The people and places and faces…

Of who I am and who I love…

For life is a poem sung out loud.

And to live is an artform.

So we must make art to live.

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Filed under artwork, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, poetry

I Believe in Sunshine More Than Night

This picture was originally supposed to be combined with another picture of a charging grizzly bear. The boy in the picture could definitely be characterized as a “brave.” After all, he stands almost entirely unprotected and undefended in the face of danger. One small, determined arrow stands between him and endless night.

It is the story of my entire life summarized in a picture.

Only my skill and determination helped me overcome my boyhood trauma, a life plagued with ill health, the ravages of depression, and fear.

As a child you live with the notion your mind creates that there are monsters out there in the darkness just beyond the edges of the lantern’s illumination.

But there is an important principle you learn from the night terrors that plague you at age eleven. The monsters under the bed slink away when you turn on the light. Even if your nightmares are caused by being sexually assaulted before anybody had tried to explain to you what sex was and the other facts of life, when you shed light on the matter and learn the truth the darkness was hiding, the nightmare becomes unraveled.

Sunshine is the medicine that cures the darkness. Any problem you have is best solved by careful study and illuminating it with the sunshine of truth.

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Filed under metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy

I Sweetpotato What I Sweetpotato

If you are as goofy and cartoon-obsessed as me, you may remember that Popeye the sailor was known for the catchphrase, “I yam what I yam”. And if you do remember that, it will not surprise you that, when told a yam is another name for sweet potato, Popeye was furious. “It cannot be!” he argued. “I would not say I sweet potato what I sweet potato! That’s ridicumess!”

Well he has a point.

But I would like to talk today about the things that I sweet potato, and why I sweet potato those things.

First of all, I yam a humorist.

I yam this thing not because I am funny. You may think I yam funny because I say really goofy things for no apparent reason, and then keep on talking long enough to convince you that I did have a point to make, but my brain leans so far to the left that I am hardly right about anything.

And I make bad puns a lot.

You see, I have to use humor constantly to deal with all the hard things in life, because being too serious in the face of the world’s basic uncaring cruelty only leads to depression and taking a beating from life. In fact, I can think of any number of situations in my past where I avoided a beating only because I made a joke that made the bully laugh.

So, being a humorist is a survival tactic. Humor keeps you alive.

You see someone like me has to face all the pain and heartache and cruelty the world has to offer by using humor. The real reason is that, when faced with a bad situation, if the humor gland can’t empty itself of all the jokes it produces, it will begin to swell. The humor gland is located either in the brain or maybe in the behind (I am not medically qualified to tell you which it really is), and it can only swell to a certain point, and then it will explode. This is very bad thing for you, if you survive it, and certainly unpleasant for anybody nearby.

But the joke, properly launched at the target, will make somebody laugh, even if it is only the humorist himself. And laughter is the best medicine. Unless it kills you. You have to be careful not to die laughing. The angels will be offended, and the demons will all laugh too.

But I yam not only a humorist. I yam also a teacher.

I began to realize that I might be a teacher when, in graduate school to get a remedial master’s degree to help with the fact that plain English majors all starve to death, I discovered I had a talent for explaining things in simple terms. And then, immediately afterwards, I discovered I had an even greater talent for being ignored while the people I was explaining to made the mistakes they wouldn’t have made if only they had listened to me, before they failed spectacularly, and then realized how the solution I had explained would’ve made them succeed instead. There is apparently no better way to learn an important lesson.

Teaching is, of course, a pretty cool job. You tend to have the summers off. And you get paid for summer because they split the amount of money you earn for the year (which considering what a babysitter makes on average per child and per hour is far too little for the hours you put in) into twelve monthly pittances.

Of course you are expected to have a university degree (although no teacher college in the world can teach you what you really need to know in order to face that many little monsters… err, darlings… every day) and preferably some grad school, and a certification to teach in your chosen subject, and an additional certification if you are going to teach more than one subject (and ESL and Speech and Journalism, all of which I was expected to teach, are separate certifications) and you have to take hours of additional training every single year, and you have to get re-certified every five years, and… Well, you have to be basically smarter and much better-educated than Bill Gates… But the school janitor will probably be making more money per month than you do.

Anyway, it’s a job you just gotta love. I yam a teacher.

And really, there are a whole lotta yams in my basket yet that I could tell you about. I yam a Red Skelton fan. I yam sometimes a nudist (when I don’t have to put on clothes to keep myself from scratching all my psoriasis-plagued skin off). I yam also an artist (of the type known as a cartoonist). I yam pig-headed sometimes, and I yam Grumpy sometimes (so I go from being Porky to one of the Seven Dwarfs.) I yam a lotta things. And my sweet-potato basket is large.

But I can’t talk about all of my yams today. Too many yams are bad for my diabetes.

But here’s one last yam. I yam a storyteller. And I have a free Kindle e-book promotion this weekend. The book is the first in my series of AeroQuest books. It is a science fiction story with a humorous bent. And I mean, it is seriously bent in some places.

So, click on the link and get yourself a copy. It’s funny. And I will save the other sweet potatoes for another day.

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Filed under humor, metaphor, novel writing, Paffooney, self portrait, writing teacher

A Walk Amongst the Flowers

Today I went for a walk with my daughter. Both of us are walking to improve our health. But it was a bright and sunny spring day. And in many unexpected places… there were flowers.

Yes, flowers are blooming now in Texas.

And it occurs to me, I was walking in a metaphor. That’s what life is. A finite brief journey from beginning to end. And round every turn… There are flowers along the way. Bright spots of color and gentle, lovely scents… things that make the walk worth taking.

And so, I went for a walk with my daughter today. A walk amongst the flowers.

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Filed under flowers, humor, metaphor, poetry

The Be-Bop Beat of Mickey’s Brain

Truthfully, when I look back at the string of posts in the picket fence of this daily blog, I fail to see the overall map of it in any semblance of pattern or order.  Honestly, I did not set out to be purposefully wacky.

I did, however, set out to be purposefully surreal.  I mean it, I consciously put bizarrely dissimilar things together in an attempt to find parallels and connections  in unlike things because, not only is it funny and surprising, but is a comic act that serves to keep the mind nimble and never numb.  I do think quite a lot.  And I try to see connections between things where others wouldn’t.  For instance, the Coppertone girl with her bare butt and Bullwinkle with his unicycle are both being threatened in a way that is both comic, and taking advantage of their inherent image of innocence.  Neither will lose anything by it.  The girl stands to brown her pale white behind in the sun, while Bullwinkle will probably land on his head and it will make a decent cushion to preserve him because of it’s empty and rubbery qualities.

gilligan
Pie makes everything better.  MMMM!  Pie!

I must also admit to a bit of the old telling of stretchers, the misrepresentation of the truth, the loquacious layer-onner of lies.  Not Trumpian lies that land on you like elephants dropped like bombs out of B-52’s.  Instead, fictions that entertain and elucidate.  It is the most likely reason I keep saying connecting words and phrases like “truthfully” and “honestly” and “I mean it”.  Those are words that liars love.

Yes fiction writers like me tell little white lies.

I have now published my novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  It is a novel based on real people I have known and loved and listened to.  It is about an old German woman, a survivor of WWII concentration camps, who loves to tell stories to children and bake gingerbread cookies, especially gingerbread men.  It features a pair of teenage nudist girls who believe in going completely naked whenever you are indoors, even if you are in someone else’s house.  It features Nazis, both in flashback and ghostly forms.  It also features fairies from the Hidden Kingdom of Tellosia, a fairy kingdom filled with little three-inch tall magical people living under our very noses.  And it has a werewolf in it, though admittedly a very young one.  It is a comedy with its requisite sad parts, and it is definitely an example of surrealism.  It is also full of lies… err, I mean fiction.

But the real purpose of this supposedly be-bop brain fart in blog-post form is not so much to explain my blog (because how do you explain a blog that goes from Flashbacks and Foobah to telling about Madman Trump to Another novel part… #37 to Centaurs to a book and movie review, to this eccentric and eclectic thing, which probably exists more to make alliteration jokes than anything else in the most musical beat I can bang out?) but to prove that I do often think about thinking and how things fit together and what it all means… and how to write a run-on sentence that adds to the effect rather than simply annoys.  And, yeah, I’m doing that.  And it feels like a good thing to do.

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Filed under blog posting, commentary, foolishness, humor, imagination, metaphor, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Elderberries of Wisdom

Now, during the winter of Covid 19, is the right time for a bite of elderberry pie. Or a sip of elderberry wine. Did you know, the antioxidants in elderberries are a European remedy for colds and flu from the middle ages? There is old wisdom in turning to elderberries to protect you from virus and bacteria.

And old wisdom is what you get from old berries like me. The longer you put up with my blue/black berry tartness of taste, the more likely my bittersweet wisdom is to affect you in some positive ways.

Here’s a bite of elderberry pie for you. “When it comes to taste, don’t go for too much sweet or two much sour. The road between those two valley edges avoids both diabetic breakdowns on the one hand, and old, bitter cynicism on the other.”

The middle road, down the canyon’s center, is the safest road to take. Go too far to either side, and there are cliffs with many rockfalls, and occasional rattlesnakes. (I know these are metaphorical rattlesnakes; those are the best kind. It is the best way to express the idea without actual snakebites, and I only wish the members of our governing bodies knew that.)

Here’s another forkful. “A little bit of bitter is necessary to the overall flavor.”

I could also use the trite old food metaphor about having to break eggs to make omelets, but I am trying for pie-based metaphors here. You have to take a little bit of the bad to get to the really good parts. Sometimes it seems like it takes an awful lot of endurance of the bad to get to not-enough good. The current pandemic seems to be like that. Almost too many bitter berries to get to the medicinal qualities of basically beauteous berries. But that which doesn’t kill us will make us… easier to kill next time? Hopefully not. But haven’t you noticed? The best Disney movies make you cry a little at some points… cringe a little too… but they also make you laugh a lot. And the message of the movie’s ultimate ending leaves you with a smile. And smiling more makes you live a little longer. The berries grow brighter when you can make your own sunshine. These berries are beginning to taste a bit like vinegar because maybe Mickey doesn’t cook them quite right. But bottle them for now and let them ferment a bit. Then you get medicinal elderberry wine.

“Finally, when you have pigged-out on the whole pie, you should be full. It is good to be satisfied.” Eventually you reach a point in life where you will either succumb to despair, or you will look back over the arc of your life and be satisfied. The good you have done should outweigh the damage. You are a good cook. And the whole pie of your life was worth the effort to bake it.

I know that three bites of elderberry wisdom does not seem like much. But the longer you practice berry-baking, the more you come to realize, “A little bit of hard-won wisdom goes a long way towards making you healthy, wealthy and wise.”

  • No, Ben Franklin never said that. Mickey did. Sorry if that means it is not the wise wisdom you were hoping for. Pie-based essays rarely are.

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Filed under humor, insight, metaphor, Mickey, satire

Rememberries

Yes,

I am stupidly planning to do it again. A book of essays like I did before, but now with fewer of my best essays to choose from. So, essays with fewer calories, but also less nutrition. Laughing Blue was a success from the point of view of what I wrote it for. I know people generally don’t read essays for fun.

But I write them for fun. And for better health. Healthy thinking is as necessary as a proper diet.

You see, I am definitely not in good health. I retired from my job as a school teacher six years ago because of poor health. It was a job I truly loved and defined me as a human bean (by which I mean a human being, but with a careful balance of protein and carbohydrates.) Being retired is more restful. But you reach a point where doing nothing leads to sitting and rotting. I find I need the extra vitamin C you get from cooking essays with a lot of berries in them. Specifically rememberries.

Okay, I know that is a rather dumb food pun. But the vitamin C is still there to boost my immune system and make me feel better. Vitamin C for Comedy… Clarity… Creativity… and Cartoons.

So, let’s start with a berry from the 1960s. Let’s start with Moonberries.

I was twelve years old when the Apollo Program landed Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and the LEM Eagle on the Moon at Tranquility Base. I was very much a child of the Space Age. I had a model kit of the Apollo 11 from Revell, all the pieces in white plastic. The tiny struts on the Lunar Expeditionary Module were maddeningly breakable, and even would warp under the dissolving power of Testor’s airplane glue. I spent hours with sticky fingers putting that together in December of 1968 and January of 1969. I was twelve, in the middle of my wonder years, and totally obsessed with the flavor of the whole Moonberry experience.

For several years through Gemini and then Apollo we watched the story unfold on our old black-and-white Motorola television set. All of it narrated by Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra. All of it… space walks, docking maneuvers, orbit reports, a special Christmas message from Apollo 8, splashdowns bringing home heroes like Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders… the man who had spoken the words;

“For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.”

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

“And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’: and there was light.

“And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

And then that late, late night when we all stayed up on July 20, 1969… And we knew they could fail and never come home again… We learned that with Grissom, White, and Chaffee on Apollo 1… That horrible fire… The somber funeral parade on TV that called to mind JFK and what befell him after he started the dream…

But no, we heard those words, “The Eagle has landed.”

And then later, “One small step for man… One giant leap for mankind.”

And then I knew it. For me, real life had finally begun.

I promise, there are more rememberries to come, and some might even be nutritious.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, healing, health, heroes, humor, metaphor, Paffooney

The Long Road

It came to an end for Justice Ginsberg after 87 years. It will come to an end soon for my father too. He is in hospice care at 88 years and eleven months. Her turns 89 in October. But he is deteriorating every day now. The final destination can’t be too much farther down the road for me either.

Life is not a Disney movie with Bambi in it. My mother made it out of the meadow alive when I was small.

But, when you think about it, after a cute and funny childhood, there was that moment behind the car tires when trauma struck, at age ten, and after that I had to grow up faster than should have been necessary. And in my youth and in my prime, I had to struggle to prove myself. Against other bucks, and hunters with guns, and… at the end of the movie, it seems like the whole world is on fire.

So, maybe life is like a Disney movie with Bambi in it. And maybe I have to make my own happy ending.

Perhaps Bambi is my spirit-animal. The one who protects my family. My patronus. My guardian angel.

No matter how I take it on, it has been a long and wearying road to follow. And the journey now is nearly complete. But the last few miles are always the hardest to bear. Still, I know the journey has been worth it. And there will be rest to be had in that last meadow. RGB already knows it. Soon my father will too. Peace be upon us, for we have earned it.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, family, healing, health, metaphor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life