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.
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.
A new day dawns. It leaves me wondering. Who am I today? Who will I be tomorrow?
The opportunity to have any sort of control over who and what I am is coming to a close. I don’t really know how much longer I have before pain and illness dissolve me into nothingness. But death is not the end of existence. I may be forgotten totally by the day after next Thursday, but my existence will still have become a permanent fact. Yes, I am one of those dopey-derfy-think-too-much types known as an existentialist.
I am feeling ill again. Any time that happens may be the last time. But that doesn’t worry me.
The important thing is that the dance continues. It doesn’t matter who the dancers are, or who supplies the music.
We can be clowns if we choose to be.
We can safely be fools if we really can’t help it.
An awful lot of awful things go into who and what we are. Those things make us full of awe. They make us awesome. Aw, shucks. What an awful thing to say.
But what is all this stuff and nonsense really about today?
It’s just Mickey being Mickey… Mickey for another day.
It’s not really poetry. It certainly isn’t wisdom. It’s a little bit funny, and only mildly depressing… for a change.
It’s just Mickey being Mickey. And a partially Paffooney gallery.
I think the expression, Iowegian as it is, comes from the expression “doing squat” which means “doing nothing at all” combined with “diddling around”, the non-sexual meaning of which is “dithering or only working in an ineffective way.”
I humbly confess that I am not that great of a researcher when it comes to linguistic facts and word origins.
I am much better at making things up and creating my own portmanteau words.
But I do have a very good ear for how people actually talk. Especially when it comes to Iowegian, Texican, Spanglish, and Educational Jargon-Gibberish. Counting English and Tourist-German, I speak six languages.
I also humbly confess that I make big mistakes. I have been working hard for a week on editing published books because of how an overreaction to one small inappropriate detail nearly destroyed one of my best books and now I have to deal with the impression some readers have that I write inappropriate stuff all the time.
Yes, I definitely erred…
I also realized I assume everybody accepts nudity as easily as I do.
They definitely don’t.
But naked is funny. And that is not a point about my writing that I am willing to concede.
Doing diddly-squoot can also result in really weird stuff like this Christmas-card composite of my artwork and Vincent Price’s 1967 Christmas tree.
Oh, yes. It is almost complete… but for the final edit. It will hopefully be published very soon. It is filled with essays written for my blog, Catch a Falling Star. And, hopefully, I have chosen only the good ones.
But the book is not a stand-alone. It is a sequel to Laughing Blue, published earlier this year. I actually hope to reach 20 books published by early in 2021. Of course, it still requires that I don’t die too soon from the pandemic, or from any of my other problems that the Covid problem could interfere with getting medical treatment for.
Both of these books are essay collections, but the majority of the stories and explanations and comedy in each are based on my thirty-one years of experience as a Texas public school teacher, my nearly forty year association with nudists (though I can’t honestly claim to be one). my silly attempts at writing seriously bad poetry, my belief in flying saucers, and nearly ten years of being a wacky wizard. How’s that for a sentence that violates every run-on-sentence rule I ever taught any young writer?
Book number 18 is still pretty new too.
Anyway, now that you know, I better get started on that final edit. A writer has to keep his promises to himself. And maybe to the rest of you too.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.)
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.