Category Archives: metaphor

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

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

What Will We Become?

Davalon, Tanith, and George Jetson

What we are undergoing right now is actually a part of the process of Evolution. You know, that evil science-lie that the devil created to distract us from the incessant worship of God Almighty. Or as non-fundamentalist Christians who don’t read the Bible as a book of Science might think of it, the theory that Charles Darwin created to explain the observed factual evidence of how living things change over time to fit into new environments and new circumstances. That heretical idea that has been promoted by such heretics as highly trained biologists, environmentalists, geneticists, and other scientists qualified to test and re-shape science-based theories that come about through experiment, recording new observations, correlating new data to old data, and changing the theories to fit the new paradigm, which will also be re-examined and adjusted through the Scientific Method.

Yes, Duck-people! We are all going to turn into Duck-people when the pandemic is over. Amorous and risque Duck-people who don’t wear pants.

But it should be obvious enough to anyone who doesn’t think like Trumpkins and evangelicals do, that the survivors of the Coronavirus Pandemic will have to evolve when the plague is through with us. For one thing, we may have to evolve beyond handshakes. For another, we have to stop thinking of the human race as “Us and Them” and start treating each other as if we were all the same, had the same human rights, and had the same basic value to society. Now that I have thought about it a bit more, I’m not sure we can say that it would be a good thing to turn into Duck-people. That might be a bad move if the next pandemic is another bird flu. But we can’t help but evolve into a species that has developed natural resistance to Covid 19. Natural selection will see to that. Though, you should keep in mind that all natural selection isn’t based on just physically getting ill and not dying of the viral infection. Behavioral adaptations are a part of evolution too. Many will survive because of social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing. I personally hope to be among those.

I really doubt that we will need to evolve the way Johnny did in this old illustration. But I am fairly certain we need to continue to evolve in matters of “Loving thy neighbor”. We have to get out from under the life-shorting notions that profits are more important than people’s lives. We have to do away with a system where power is given to those with the most money rather than those with the most moral character and depth of understanding.

Modern middle school classrooms have already evolved into this. But maybe they need to evolve further still.

Now, obviously, this was all written as a humor-post, because that’s what I do. But that doesn’t mean my ideas are all hair-brained… or even hare-brained. Yes, the rabbit pictured above is supposed to be me. You are welcome to argue with me, but I believe most of what I have said here is not only funny and weird… but true.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, metaphor, Paffooney

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

The Dragon Within My Writing

The Chinese Dragon that I have drawn for today is a part of the planned cover illustration for my work in progress, The Boy… Forever.

But it is also more than that. The villain of the story claims to be a dragon in human form. And even though this may be a metaphor-like lie, it is an apropos symbol of the underlying conflict that informs almost all of my work. There is always, it seems, a hidden evil that is far more dangerous and life-consuming than it portrays itself as. The blizzard in Snow Babies, the real werewolf, the murderer, in The Baby Werewolf, suicidal depression in When the Captain Came Calling and Sing Sad Songs, and the serial killer in both Sing Sad Songs and Fools and Their Toys all kill other characters in my stories. They all bear the stamp of the evil dragon, magically powerful and dangerous in ways that guns alone cannot protect you from. They are evils embedded in human nature. They are the dragon that the White Knight of the story must defeat.

So, I show you this dragon today as a way of acknowledging my own dragons that must be fought.

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Filed under artwork, commentary, humor, metaphor, monsters, novel plans, Paffooney

Examining the Wood Grain

When I was a child I often had to fight on school nights to shut down my brain and get to sleep so that getting up the next morning wouldn’t be torture. The bedroom door was always left open and the single light in the upstairs hallway made it possible to get to the bathroom safely in the middle of the night. I would often find myself staring at the wood grain of the door with all its knots and spots and flowing wiggles. That low-light and wood-grain combination was enthralling.

And as I stared, my over-active imagination would find pictures there. There was a werewolf looking out of the wood grain at me with knotty eyes and wiggly fangs. Boy, that really helped me get to sleep.

But I could conjure other things too. I always longed to see Annette Funicello naked. I worked long and hard to make the naked lady in the corner of the door’s wood grained panel into Annette. It never truly worked. The naked lady had two grossly misshapen boobs that formed the central feature of her character, and that was nothing like perfect and sweet Annette from the Mickey Mouse Club.

But the point in all this is, a boy has to examine the wood grain of his life if he is going to develop into the kind of person he wants to be in the future. The things you see when you look into the knots and spots and flowing wiggles of a nearly infinite set of possibilities is limited only by your powers of imagination. There is truth to find there. There is often also deception. Sometimes the truth and the deception are the very same thing. But you have to follow the lines and make sense of the patterns.

Now, as I am old and have less to look forward to than I have to look back on, I am still looking at the wood grain. I am still looking at the patterns of my life and love and laughter. I try to trace the lines into fiction stories based on all things I have experienced in a life of humble service to the gods of education. And I have to look carefully. Is that a demon face on the left? Grinning at me with a crooked smile? Or is it a fox looking at me through a hole in the door. And on the right… Is that a hooded man standing next to a barber pole? Or is it a meadow lark reaching his stretched neck up to the top of the panel so that his bill is out of the picture at the apex of his reach?

You don’t see what I see? I fully understand. The wood grain of each person’s life is different. And not even his or her own interpretation can be called either “right” or “wrong”.

But the wood grains straight ahead are the pictures of the end of me. So, I must study the wood grains of the past to be sure of all the good that I have had, and I attempt to get it all down to hand onward to my children and the world to come. What else can I do? I see the patterns. Some are terrible… The werewolf of my bedroom door. Some are beautiful… Annette Funicello naked. And I get choose what they mean.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, dreaming, goofy thoughts, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Writing with Fire

The old saying goes, “If you play with fire, sooner or later you will get burned.”

But I am not playing. I am writing. With fire.

The criminal we elected president knows what I am talking about. He speaks at rallies with fire. Currently he is trying to demonize Representative Ilhan Omar and the Squad, the four freshman Congresswomen of color whom he said were unpatriotic, enemies of our democracy, and should go home to their countries filled with crime, poverty, and communism. Of course, the Congresswomen are all American Citizens. Three of them were born here. This is actually the country they are from. So, this is an example of the kind of verbal fire that needs to be put out with cold water. Preferably before some enraged Trumpist actually assassinates a member of the Squad. The fire he spews is destructive and evil.

But, truly, the way to fight fire is with fire. Firemen use a fire-break to interrupt the path of the fire. You can bulldoze or chop the wood in the way of the fire. Or you can burn it in the opposite direction. Many forest fires are ended in this way.

And I have been writing my fiction with fire. Controversial issues taken head on and given a clarity that burns brightly enough to leave burn marks on the psyche and write messages in ash on the heart of the reader. This is why beloved characters die in fictional stories and bad things happen to good people… to make a lasting scar or burn on the idea-collections in the readers’ brains.

I have in the past few novels written about sexual assault, attempted rape, murder, greed, brutality, excessive anger, and the current work-in-progress tackles suicide. And I battle these raging fires with positive fires set from empathy, community and familial love, preserverance, determination, and simple faith. I am trying to fight fire with a better fire, destructive fire replaced by zeal.

Okay. So, I’m an idiot, expressing foolish ideas with loopy metaphors. But I can make you think. And thinking is electrical fire in the brain. And I have been steadily pouring gas on that word-fire.

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The Tree of Life

When you get to your sixties, but are in poor health, you can’t help but obsess about your own mortality. No man lives forever.

That point was driven home yesterday. My aunt, whom I have known for my entire lifetime, had her 80th birthday on Monday. Yesterday she had a heart attack and died. It was sudden. It was shocking. It occurred five days before a planned family reunion of Great Grandma Hinckley’s extensive family of descendants. My aunt, of course, was related to all of us, so there is no way the reunion occurrs without a dark cloud over it.

Of course, there are many dark clouds hovering over us in these times, The threat of nuclear war has returned to terrorize us again in the way it did in the 50’s and 60’s.

The climate crisis threatens to make life on Earth extinct. That could all begin this year with crop failures due to excessive rain and flooding during planting season.

But the corn this year, which world-wide food supplies depend upon because of the versatility of corn oil in foods of all kinds, is taller than I am in July and beginning to sprout tassels. So there is reason to hope.

And our moron criminal president seems to be self-destructing instead of fulfilling the promises of Dr. Strangelove.

And I am reaching the final home stretch on my novel, When the Captain Came Calling. Soon this twenty-year story-telling quest to tell a tale of family struggle and fathers versus daughters will be at an end. I have successfully negotiated the suicide scene. I have also achieved the character balance and plot completion that had eluded me for a handful of years. The story is basically about family resilience in the face of adversity. It is ironically consistent with the adversity my family faces this week.

And this is the week I chose to promote my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children. I had some success giving away copies of Snow Babies four months ago. And I had hoped to do the same for Recipes. It is also a book about resilience in the face of tragedy and adversity.

So, as far as I am concerned, the tree of life is a family tree. We are its branches, it’s knots and warped bark, its parasites and possibilities. And in its final analysis, many leaves are still soaking up the sunshine and nourishing every branch, even the dead ones soon to fall off. And I am not a dead branch yet.

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Filed under autobiography, metaphor, novel plans, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life, the road ahead