Category Archives: self portrait

Love Life and Live Happy

I hardly ever have a day now where I am not going through some kind of suffering. I have just been through rainy days that make my arthritis sore to crippling levels of hurting-ness. Okay, that’s not a real word, so let’s say hurtyness… not a real word either, but funnier sounding. I have been through a number of months of budget-squeezing economic pain, not making enough to afford medicine the doctor orders, or even enough for the doctor’s visit so he can tell me what expensive medicines (like insulin) that I may need to stay alive and yell at me for not taking the medicine I used to be on and couldn’t afford anymore. The news is unrelenting with pandemic infections out of control and death tolls rising while the criminal we elected in 2016 screams that it is all the fault of radical ANTIFA Democrats like me (ANTIFA meaning anybody against fascism) and we are entirely to blame for everything, and we better be opening schools soon or he will cut education funds again… and even more… and make us put up Betsy DeVos posters in our bedrooms so she can watch us sleep and make us have nightmares about schools because we had the audacity to be educators and pro-public-school advocates.

So, maybe, you think, I am bitter and hate my life. Ha! No! If I had it all to do over again, I would not change a thing!

One bad kid my first year nicknamed me “Mr. Gilligan” as if I were a skinny, dopey fool. For years afterward my classroom was known as Gilligan’s Island. I loved it!

Two times in my life I have had a job that I hated. Both were teaching jobs. Each of them only lasted for one year. The first time, my very first teaching job, I came back the second year to a new principal and mostly new kids. I worked really hard and turned it into a job I loved for the next 23 years. The second time was a job for a principal who was decidedly dictatorial and hated by most of the staff. She ended up firing me because I liked black and brown kids too much, and it resulted in me finding a much better job which I loved for seven more years. I have never regretted becoming a teacher. In fellow faculty and the vast majority of over two thousand students, I encountered some of the most interesting and best people I have ever known. Including my wife. Now, when pain and suffering are lonelier things to deal with than the hubbub and struggle of daily school life, I have all of that to look back upon and remember and grin insanely about with high levels of life-satisfaction. Doing things you love to do is a key to happiness.

This is called “A Portrait of Mark Twain with Drumsticks Involved”

Another reason I am in love with life in spite of it all is the chance I had to be an artist and express myself through drawing, painting, coloring, and telling stories. As you can see by this blog, I have done a lot of doodling since I discovered I could draw at somewhere around the ripe old age of four. And because I rarely throw artwork away, I have a lot of it to share. Some of it I am very proud of. The stuff I am ashamed of that I have not trashed, I am only mildly ashamed of.

I claim to be humorist. Some of my best stories can make you laugh. And some of my drawings can too.

But not every part of the world of humor is about laughing, chortling, giggling, snickering, or full-blown donkey-like hee-haws. Some humor only makes you smile.

Some humor is gentle and thoughtful, even ironic.

And some of the best humor calls up truths and feelings that can bring you to tears.

But all of us “normal” human beans love to laugh (or even groan about that bean-pun) and laughter is good for us. Expressing yourself through art, especially if it makes us laugh, is another reason I love being alive.

Being dead, of course, makes it awful hard to laugh. This is why I generally try to avoid being dead. But thoughts of death can too easily become a way of life. That is why I try to put fear and anger and Republican Senators from Texas far away from me. They will not take me out of my laughing place while I am still alive.

Stand resolute against evil and protect the ones you love.

And most important of all, you need to love life because of love itself. Now, I am not saying anything about sex here. Not that sex isn’t a good thing, and that it doesn’t pop into your old head every time you think about love, but that sex isn’t the most important part of love. It is possible to love everybody unconditionally. As much as Mark Twain and I both complain a lot about “That damned human race!” we both understand that the most wonderful thing about people is that, in spite of the fact that the word “people” is a little label on a very big thing… they are, in fact, an ever-expanding balloon of infinitely hilarious and detestable and cuddly things that threaten to pop at any moment and spew weird and wild personalities all over the damned universe. No matter how much you hate some people, or even if you hate people generally, loving people is the spicy Italian meat sauce on the spaghetti pile of your life. So, do some acts of pure gluttony upon it, and just be happy to be alive.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, commentary, happiness, humor, Mark Twain, mental health, Paffooney, philosophy, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

AeroQuest 3… Canto 77

Canto 77– Dome Invasion (The Blood-Red Thread)

The arc-welder burned a gaping hole through the lowest level of the underwater dome on Farwind.  Water began gushing in before the trooper had finished cutting the hole.

“Won’t this flood the dome?” Ferrari asked through the metal commo dot attached inside his underwater helmet.  “Shouldn’t we be finding another way inside?”

“Don’t worry, Commander,” said a trooper in his yellow and blue battle armor, “We will only flood the ground floor to the level of our waists.  We’ve successfully done this operation before.”

“Before?  You’ve invaded this dome before?”

“Yes, during the last insurrection.  It isn’t our fault the civilian government couldn’t hold out against Brona Tang.”

The trooper’s words inspired absolutely no confidence in any of us.  We were in this thing way over our heads, and I don’t mean just because we were at the bottom of the sea.

As water rushed inside the dome, the gaping hole was suddenly big enough for armored men to walk through.  This we did, single file.  The Commander led the way, followed by Duke Ferrari, Ham Aero, six troopers, and then me.  The rest of the troops were guarding the rear.

Inside the dome, water was gushing like a series of water-park fountains splashing amok. It looked to me like the water really could rush in and fill the entire dome.

The Commander took off the helmet he wore and pitched it aside.  “Tac-Officer!  Give me a readout on the enemy positions.  Do they have a scan-lock on us yet?”

The man in the suit with all the wires and antennas took off his helmet and began studying a monitor that popped out of his armored chest-plate.

Ferrari stepped forward to consult.  “Commander, I think we should find the control room and try to capture this place from its top.”

“You are not a military man.  Leave this to us,” snapped the Commander.

“Uh, sir…”  The Tac-Officer was pale.  “We have a problem.”

The Commander frowned at him.  He opened his mouth to say something cruel in the way commanding officers usually do when they hear things they don’t like.  Suddenly, we heard ominous sounds all around us.  Guns were being cocked and plasma weapons began to hum.  Above us, a ring of troopers in black combat armor stood up, training at least a hundred different weapons on our exposed position.

“Does this seem bad to you?” I asked Ham. 

Ham had just taken off his diving helmet and now he smiled at the deadly arsenal arrayed against us.  “This comes under the general heading of not good, yes.”  I noticed he was strikingly handsome when he smiled.

“You gentlemen must surrender immediately,” said one of the black figures surrounding us.  “We have orders to kill you all and leave no member of your group alive.”

“It is troublesome how the military mind usually works,” I said.  “I suppose this is the end for me.”

“Yes…” said Ham, no longer smiling.  “This is not good at all!”

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Filed under aliens, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, science fiction, self portrait

Doing Mickey Stuff

I am basically a teacher at heart. It was the culmination of 18 years spent in school learning all the stuff it takes to be a teacher. And of course, when I got my first teaching job, I had to unlearn most of that and learn a whole new set of skills. Being a teacher is a juggling act, using fifteen different balls that will explode if you don’t keep them in the air all at the same time. And if you drop one, you will likely drop them all. You will become Reluctant Rabbit Fricassee, thoroughly over-cooked.

And the bad news for those who want to be a substitute teacher… that job is not easier unless you already possess all the teacher-juggling skills at the start.

Friday I performed a half-day of teaching, four classes of sixth graders supposedly learning history with their Chromebooks and current-events lessons online. So, the teaching was a matter of keeping them quiet and focused. I only got to use classroom management skills and a little bit of conflict-resolution skill. Not really the fun stuff. Not really the interactions and back-and-forth thinking-out-loud that I really enjoy about teaching.

But I love working with kids just like those. 90 percent Hispanic, with one black kid, one Vietnamese kid, and one handful of white kids. The whole school has the same demographic.

I did most of my teaching with the classroom door open. It helps when the kids know the assistant principals wandering the hallways and trying to look useful can hear what’s going on in the classroom. That worked for all but the last period class.

The second to the last period was the practically perfect class. No hassles. Only one lethal stink-eye used by me to quell a couple of the boys who apparently say hello by punching each other hard on the shoulder. The Vietnamese girl was a perfect little darling, the kind a teacher wants to keep and take along to the next job. But that would be kidnapping, and she was too smiley and sweet for that. And I never actively plan a kidnapping during a school day, only murders. And those, like the ones I planned in the next class, are only carried out in fiction.

The last class of the day is the nightmare class that puts the exclamation point on every day for poor Miss W, 6th Grade History teacher. Thirty-two kids, more than half of them boys, and at least five that I knew right away were hyperactive, hyper-kinetic, and rocket-fueled by the fact that it was the last period of the day on a Friday afternoon. They thought it was fun to throw things across the room at each other. So, I tried to collect them all in one table by the left classroom wall (it is always easier to watch one problem spot than four corners of the classroom at once). But multiple kids, even the few who were quiet, had forgotten their Chromebook chargers and the ones who did have theirs needed recharging at the end of the day too. So, practically everyone was plugged into the wall. And all the other boys in the room were willing to toss stuff back at the five musketeers whenever I wasn’t looking in their direction. Those are the real fun times. Notice the italics for purposes of conveying sarcasm. My first teaching day in over five years ended with a class that did not really accomplish anything but cleaning up the chaos before the last bell. We spent a good ten minutes at the end putting up and cleaning up and sucking up (especially the ones who wrote their names on my list of perpetrators. Only one of those tried to put someone else’s name. Thankfully, hyper-active boys will snitch on each other without prompting and I could triple-check the names of perpetrators before leaving a “please-execute-these-kids” note for Miss W.)

So, my first day back doing typical-Mickey stuff was a success. I enjoyed it. I didn’t kill anyone, so I didn’t have to worry about where the assistant principals bury the bodies every day. And I discovered a bunch of cute little learning-bunnies that I wouldn’t mind teaching again. (Especially that last class, so I might have a chance to get even a little bit.)

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Filed under humor, kids, Paffooney, rabbit people, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching

Magic Man

My daughter, seen here in this oil painting of me and her, she’s the one trying to talk to the spirit elk in a previous lifetime, has started painting oil paintings. She started with a picture of a small cactus growing in sand. I have to admit, when she showed it to me for the first time, I thought it was a green basketball. But she has worked out the details since and it is beginning to actually look like a cactus. Now, you might think I was making fun of her in this post, calling her an oil painter who makes cactuses into green basketballs, and using my oil painting of a nude and overly-white Native American girl to illustrate her, but actually, this post is praising her abilities. She is already a much better watercolorist than I will ever be. And she is learning to paint green basketballs… er, cactuses, in oil paint at a much faster rate than I ever did. This semi-competent oil painting of mine took many practice paintings and many years to achieve. Far slower than her mastery of the medium coming into focus before her eighteenth birthday. And besides, she is leading the sacred spirit elk into the safety of the lake and away from the stormy darkness of the background, while I, as my Native American self, can stand hamming it up and looking at the artist as I have my vanity-project portrait done in oil paint.

Okay, so this is not a perfect essay, and it is not 500 words. But painting in oils and trying to be a real artist is hard enough without you criticizing. Be kind in the comments, or I might cry.

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Filed under daughters, humor, irony, nudes, oil painting, Paffooney, self portrait

Morning Comes to Grandpa’s Farm House

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Superman has his Fortress of Solitude.  Batman has his Batcave.  Every Superhero needs a place of his own to reflect on the trials and struggles of the never-ending battle for truth and justice and the American way.  I achieved another dawn today, waking up at sunrise on Grandpa Aldrich’s farm place.   It is for me a place of safety and quietude where I can rest and regenerate, plan, plot, and create the story of my life.

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It is a place far older than me, a family farm that has been in the family for more than 100 years.  It connects me to the past and the people who’ve come before me, not only the family I have known and loved, but those who came before them that were gone before I was born.

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It is possible that it is unwise to reveal my secret lair and my connections to such an important place.  Will my enemies take advantage of the fact? No, probably not.  Most of my enemies are ignorant people who do not read, and so, will never uncover this secret I have now shared with you.

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A Boy Named Tim

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Timothy Allen Kellogg is a fictional character who has lived in my fictional world since 1976 when he first appeared in an illustration I created at my desk in my college dorm room.

Tim is a main character in Catch a Falling Star, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, and Magical Miss Morgan.  He will likely be written into a few more as well.

One could make a good case that he has become the fictional avatar of my eldest son.  He is the son of an English Teacher who has always been a me-character.  Lawrence “Rance” Kellogg is a character created during my college days as a crucial part of my own fictionalized life story.  But if Tim is my son in fictional form, you have to realize also that the character existed nineteen years before my son was a reality.  So there is some kind of magical evolution going on here.

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I must also acknowledge that Tim, being a major character, also voices many of the things that have always been issues in my mind.  He has to deal with the loss that comes when a best friend moves away.  He has to deal with the revelation that there really are transgender people and he actually knows one.  He has to deal with having an over-large imagination and being smarter than almost everyone else he knows.

But I can absolutely, and with a clear conscience, declare that Tim is NOT a me-character.  He has a girlfriend whom he has a never-ending unspoken crush on.  I never had that when I was a boy (at least I would never admit it to you if I did).   So, there is reason for me to try to seriously understand this fictional character, who he is, where he comes from, and the ideas he represents.  I am not the only writer I know who creates characters that he or she comes to treat as real people.  I hold imaginary conversations with Tim constantly, trying to learn more about him, how he feels about things, and the judgments he makes about the essential truths of life.

So now I have to end this essay, not because I am really finished talking about Tim, but because he tells me I have told you too much already, and he doesn’t want me talking about him any more today.

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Characters From Superchicken

Superchick

These are a few of the main characters of the old story which is now my newest novel.

Superchicken is Edward-Andrew Campbell.  He is basically a me-character.  His embarrassing nickname, from a Jay Ward cartoon that used to be on TV Saturday mornings, was actually my nickname in junior high and high school.  Many of the emotional changes he goes through and the embarrassments he endures to be a super hero were based on my own experiences.  But he definitely embraces the nickname as his superhero name in a way I can only wish that I did.

Brent

Brent Clarke is the outgoing athlete sort of kid who was definitely not me.  He becomes leader of the Norwall Pirates because he pitched for the softball team, and because anyone who met him naturally assumed he was the most important kid in the group.  Others look to him for leadership even when they don’t need it.  Making friends with Brent is one of the most difficult and important tasks the Superchicken must undertake.

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Milt Morgan is the wizard of the group.  He is obsessed with magic and imagination. And though Brent is nominally the leader of the group, all their evil plans and hair-brained schemes come from Milt’s imagination.  The picture of Milt is drawn from me as a boy, but in reality he is the other Mike from my childhood, the one with a rather tough life and a heart of… well… maybe not gold, but at least silver.  He is also the one who insists on making Edward-Andrew part of the gang.

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The Cobble Sisters, Sherry and Shelly, are a pair of identical twin girls.  They are both nudists at home on the farm place and at the nudist club in Clear Lake.  They are problematic for a shy boy just discovering girls, but Sherry definitely pursues a crush on the Superchicken and tricks him into a family camping trip at the nudist camp.

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Sherry at the Sunshine Club

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Anita Jones is the shy girl who has a crush on the Superchicken.  And he secretly has a crush on her.  But she is also the girl who becomes, completely by accident, the first girl that Edward-Andrew sees naked.  Love and hate, embarrassment and attraction, she is the one girl whose opinion seems to matter most.  I, of course, will never reveal the real life girl she is based on.  I could never live that down, even though we are both now more than sixty years old.

So those are a few of the main characters that make this novel work for me.  They are real people to me now that the novel is written, just as they were once real people when I was a boy and living the nightmare of being a mere boy in a world that needs heroes.

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Pyrrhuloxia

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The desert cardinal.

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

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

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

And it was in high school that I met Dennis.

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

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

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

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

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

“Still one of the worst basketball players ever?”

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

“Goin’ to the basketball game later?”

“Yeah, probably.”

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under autobiography, birds, feeling sorry for myself, finding love, forgiveness, Paffooney, self pity, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mickey Viewed From the Inside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Are You Really, Old Man?

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A wizened old man in a wizard’s robe walked up to a twelve-year-old boy.

“Okay, ask your question, and make it good.”

“What?” said the boy.  “Who are you, old man?”

“Never mind who I am.  I can answer the ultimate question.  I have lived a long life.  I am very wise.”

“Being old makes you wise.”

“It logically follows, yes.  But surely you have a question for me.  I know the meaning of life.  I can teach you great magic, deep knowledge, and truth.  So what will you ask?”

“But the only wisdom that is real,” said the boy, “is knowing that people like you and I really know nothing in the face of the vast, complex universe.  I’m twelve.  I don’t know anything.  So I am also truly wise.”

“I can’t argue that.  It is circular reasoning.  A circle is a closed loop.  But the snake who eats his own tail in the circle of life is a short-lived fool.”

“I guess you are right.  That probably does make you wise to know that.”

“But you haven’t yet asked your question.  The good one.  What is it that you most need to know to make a success of your life?”

“But I have asked it.  You just haven’t answered.”

“You did?  But what did you ask?”

“Who are you really, old man?”

“Ah, that one again.  Well, at heart, I am the same boy that I was when I was twelve.  I have learned my whole life long, so I am considered a teacher.  I have spent every coin I have ever earned while experiencing my life, so I am a poor man.  But no man on earth can ever be richer than me.  I have peace of mind.  And that is everything of value that there is.  If I am to say who I really am, then I must admit, I am you.”

“I thought so.  In the end, that’s who we all are.”

 

 

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