Category Archives: strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Creature I Have Become

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I identify as a humorist, writer, cartoonist, and certified fool (Yes, I have a certificate from the Children’s Writer Institute that proves I once foolishly believed I could learn how to make money as a writer).  But my current novel project is a horror novel, The Baby Werewolf, which I twice before tried to turn into a completed rough draft novel. This time I mean to follow through to the bitter end.

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Torrie Brownfield, hypertrichosis sufferer and possible werewolf.

In order to reign in the goofiness enough to deal with the issues in this novel I have been doing a lot of horror reading. I have also undertaken the reading of a very good author examination of the life of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Poe’s life was highly instructive.  You may not have realized this, but most of the giants of American Literature prior to and contemporary with Poe did not make most of their money as writers.  Emerson was a clergyman.  Nathaniel Hawthorne worked as a customs clerk. Poe, the first to try to make a living solely on work as a writer, editor, critic, and poet, was subjected to the horrors of poverty, illness, and want.  His wife was chronically tubercular and ill.  He never made the money he was obviously worth as a creator of popular horror fiction, poetry, critical essays about other authors, and as an editor for profitable magazines of the day.  Other people made loads of money from his work.  Poe, not so much.

It is instructive to a writer like me who can’t seem to land any sort of income from my own creations.  There is no demand because there is no recognition of my work.  I have come close, having my work praised by editors and fellow authors, and being a finalist in novel writing contests twice.  The goal is good writing.  I will probably never see a return on my investment in my lifetime.  My children may not acquire anything by it unless one of them really devotes a lot of effort to it.  Like Poe with his drinking problem, chronic depression, and ill wife, I face physical limitations and poor health, grinding financial issues, and family factors that make it near impossible to put marketing effort into my literary career.

And this novel is a hard journey for me.  I was sexually assaulted by an older boy when I was ten.  A lot of the fears outlined and elucidated in this particular story leap right out of that iron cage in my psyche where they have been contained for fifty years.  Fear of nakedness.  Fear of sex.  Fear of being attacked.  Fear of the secret motivations in others.  Fear of the dark.  And, most of all, fear of what fear can make me become.  Fear of being a monster.

But I have not become any of the dark and terrible things that fear can make me into.  Instead I became a school teacher, mentor to many.  I became a family man, father of three children.  I became a nudist, hopefully not a dark and terrible thing in itself.  I became Mickey.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, humor, monsters, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing

Mickey at Sixty, Part Two

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As often happens with doddering old doofuses, you can easily reach 500 words and have to stop for the day even though you are still not through with saying all the stupid stuff you have on your doddering old doofus mind.  So that’s when you get a part two the next day.

Things have happened to me in the middle of the year following the sixtieth anniversary of the blizzard I was born during in 1956 that I still haven’t talked about during this Mickey at Sixty topic.

I am, after all, a survivor, about to pass birthday number 61, the year beyond which Robin Williams never made it.  I have always said that if the old saying, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” is actually true, then I must be Superman by now.  I am now in my third year of not being able to afford the medicine the doctor thinks I should be taking daily.  I have had arthritis for 42 years.  I have been a diabetic for 17 years.  I have been a cancer survivor since 1983.  By all rights, I should be long dead by now.  How God ever made that mistake, I will never know.  Surely it was an oversight on His part.  “What? Mickey is still alive on planet Earth?  How could I let that happen?  Oh, well, maybe we give him one more year to see how that turns out,” God says, and all the angels agree with him because angels never think for themselves, at least, not after Lucifer, that nutty angel in the red pajamas that always carries around a pitchfork.

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And what am I actually doing with my year of life that I probably wasn’t supposed to have?  Constructive things like becoming a nudist and giving up on wearing clothes.  (Probably not a great idea for someone whose corpus strangioso is so intolerably unsightly to normal people.)  I went to the nudist park in Alvord, Texas one time.  And I liked it.  And I have thought about going back on another weekend, but something always seems to come up and prevent me from following through with the plan.  But it has been remarkably good for my blog.  Apparently having my post Becoming a Nudist appear on clothesfreelife.com refers loads of readers to my WordPress blog.  Who knew that nudists were such avid readers of humor blogs by goofy Mickeys?  They have helped make my blog post Why Do You Think That? Part Four one of my most popular blogs of the year.

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This is also the year of my life in which I was forced to give up on the idea of restoring the swimming pool to life and having it removed, thanks to the bully-boy encouragements of the city pool inspector and the rest of the Nazis down at the City Environmental Services Office.

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Dreams die hard… and expensively… by stages.  It took most of the summer to get it done, but now my swimming pool is no more.

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So now Mickey is a sadder-but-no-wiser Mickey with no more swimming pool.

But Mickey is still Mickey, even at sixty.  He will break out the paper and colored pencils and still do the doings that old doofus Mickey will do, writing a bunch of nonsense, and coloring…20171008_211247 stuff, and doing some of it naked.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, humor, medical issues, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mickey at Sixty

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It is true that I am now only a month away from being 61.  But this reflection is based on what happened to me while undergoing the year past.  My fictional character, Valerie Clarke, took the selfie above of the two of us.  She doesn’t have her own smartphone, after all, she’s a fictional character, so she used mine.  It shows in the picture what she looked like at eleven and what I looked like at sixty years and eleven months, in other words, this morning.

So, what exactly does the picture reveal about us?

Well, for her, it is fairly obvious that she’s only an imaginary person.  She was eleven in 1984, the year of the fictional snowstorm in Snow Babies.  She’s a bright and vibrant young girl with hopes and dreams ahead of her.  She’s also known tragedy, especially after her father’s suicide.  But the fact that she’s fictional and based on more than one real person from my past does a lot to explain why this reflection is not about her.

For me, however, you get a look at a grumpy old man with a straw farmer’s hat, an author’s beard, and silvery Gandalf hair.  More of my drawings are glimpsable on the wall behind me.  I look like the kind of seedy old curmudgeon who yells at neighbor kids who walk on his lawn.

But I’m really not what I look like.

I am a writer.  So I am full of experiences, ideas, and feelings.  And I am also full of people.  Valerie is only one of those.  I create fictional people from the people I knew or knew about in my little Iowa town, Rowan, where I grew up.  Kids that went to school with me.  Their parents.  Shopkeepers and business people and creepy old people that I sometimes encountered.  Hot tempered people.  Wise people.  And stupid people who were often laughed at for good reason.

I can also draw on (and draw pictures of) all the people I knew as an educator.  More than two thousand kids who passed through my classes in four different schools, some of whom I knew as well as I knew my own children, were available to pull details from to mix and match and make fictional characters from.  Fellow teachers, some gifted with a natural way with students, some hopelessly lost in the wrong profession with the wrong sort of personality were also available to make characters from.  Fools and idealists.  Bullies and shrinking violets.  Heroes that possible readers could look up to and love.

I am the kaleidoscope, the thing that you can look through to see the world and have it refracted and patterned to make it beautiful, even in its ugliness.

But all of this reflection is only that, the view in the mirror, the outward look of the man who is me.  Mickey at sixty is many things, not all of them pretty, not all of them wise.  But some of them are.  And some even better than I think they are.

 

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Novel Nudists

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I have known nudists for a long time, since the 1980’s in fact.  I have recently dabbled my toes in the cold waters of being a nudist myself.  I did work on pool cracks this past summer while naked.  I made one visit to a nudist park and actually got naked in front of strangers who were also naked.  It is a certain kind of crazy connection to nature, my self, and the bare selves of others to be a nudist, even if it is for only a few hours.  I used to think nudists were crazy people.  But I have begun to understand in ways that are hard to understand.  And being a novelist, that was bound to creep into the piles of supposedly wise understanding that goes into the creation of novels.  I say “supposedly wise” because wisdom is simply the lipstick on the pig of ridiculous human experiences.

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The Cobble family appeared first in my novel, Superchicken.  It is a semi-autobiographical novel that uses some of my real life experiences and the real life experiences of boys I either grew up with or taught, mixed in with bizarre fantasy adventures that came from my perceptions of life as an adult.  So the Cobble family really represent my encounters with nudism and the semi-sane people known as nudists.  Particularly important to the story are the Cobble Sisters, twins Sherry and Shelly, who fully embrace the idea of being nudists and try to get other characters to not only approve of the behavior, but share in it.  Sherry is the more forward of the two, more willing to be seen naked by the boys in her school and in her little Iowa farm town.  Shelly is the quieter of the two, a bit more shy and a lot more focused on the love of one particular boy.

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In fact, the Cobble Sisters are based on real life twin blond girls from my recollections of the past.  The Cobble farm is out along the Iowa River and just north of Highway Three in Iowa.  It is a real place where real twin girls lived when I was a boy.  They were blond and pretty and outgoing.  But they were not actually nudists.  There was another pair of twin blond girls from my first two years of teaching who actually provided the somewhat aggressively sensual personalities of the Cobble Sisters.  The real nudists I knew were mostly in Texas.

The sisters appear in more than one of the novels I have written or am in the process of writing.  They appear for the second time in the novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children which I finished writing in 2016.  They are also a part of the novel I am working on now, The Baby Werewolf.   That last is probably the main reason they are on my mind this morning.  Writing a humorous horror story about werewolves, nudists, pornographers, and real wolves is a lot more complex and difficult than it sounds.  But it is hopefully doable.  And my nudist characters are all basically representative of the idea that all honest and straight-forward people are metaphorically naked all the time.  That’s the thing about those nudist twins.  They don’t hide anything.  Not their most private bits, and certainly not what they are thinking at any given time.

So as I continue to struggle with revealing myself as a writer… and possibly as a nudist as well, I will count on the Cobble Sisters to make certain important points about life and love and laughter… and how you can have all three while walking around naked.

Sherry Cobble22

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Dr. Teeth

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Today I had to take my daughter to the dentist before dropping her off at school.  A simple teeth cleaning and an exam for future tooth work they are recommending resulted in a fifty dollar charge.  I could pay for it, but it comes out of the monthly food budget.  And I have no idea where the three times that amount that the future tooth work will cost is going to come from.  Let alone the property tax due at the end of the year which is now three times what it was in 2006.  I have lost control over my life because of increasing expenses and decreasing income.  And it makes me lament, “Why can’t I control ANYTHING?”

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You would think that having been a teacher for so many years I would know how to control practically everything, right?  I mean, if a teacher can control the ultimate chaos engines of the average junior high school classroom, he ought to be able control anything… while doing nuclear physics on the side.

DrteethMAHBut that, of course, is not how it works in real life… even without the nuclear physics which was an exaggeration for humorous effect.

The secret is, a good teacher doesn’t control the behavior of students.  The teacher manages behavior by adjusting what he is in control of, his own reactions and behavior.

To make a metaphor, it is like juggling handfuls of sand.  They will slip between your fingers, bounce, and fly apart completely before the first revolution is complete.  But if you are smart, and have a small ceramic bowl in each hand, and a convenient big bowl of sand to dip into for new handfuls, you can throw and catch and guide the handfuls of sand through their amazing performance, at least three handfuls.  Maybe as many as seven, though that would take some really fast hands and years of practice.

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The point is, I think in my stupid little head, that I should not be trying to control the chaos my life has become.  The art is to manage the opposing forces, guide them back into the over-all flow of it, and prevent any single thing from overwhelming me, interrupting or wrecking the music of existence.

So the lesson here is, even though this post started out being about dentists and cost control, that I can’t control anything in life but myself.  So I might as well keep playing my figurative banjo and get into a figurative Studebaker with figurative Fozzie just to see where the road song will take me.  I will play the music and try to keep it all in tune and following the beat, no matter how many wrong turns and hitchhikers happen along the way.

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Really Odd Things are in the “Wrong File”

On my computer I keep a lot of picture files for inspiration both as an artist and a writer.  One of those files is labeled simply the “Wrong File”.  Everything in that picture file is in there for the wrong reason.  Or does a wrong file need to be filled with the wrong stuff for the right reason?  I don’t know.  There is a lot wrong with this world.  The fact that I am going to post stuff from the “Wrong File” is merely proof of that.

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Liking Grumpy Cat posts on Facebook is an oxymoron of the lowest order.  It is an example of what is wrong in the “Wrong File”.

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Certain puns are just so wrong in a fundamental way.  That’s right.  They are both fun and mental.  So that’s wrong.

 

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As an educator I am aware that this thing we thought was true is now an untrue fact.  That’s wrong also.  My left brain tells me so.  But my right brain tells me it feels right.

Yes, these things are wrong.  Just wrong.

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Why did I put this in here?  This is not wrong.  This is right.  So I must’ve put it in the wrong file.  So that’s all right, then.

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Putting this in a file my wife could find on my laptop… Yes, that was wrong.

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Saddle shoes have been wrong for many years now.  I still draw them on the feet of kids, especially girls, especially school-age girls, and that is especially especially wrong because it means I am just too old and out of fashion.’

Boy!  Is that wrong!

These things are all older than me, but I remember two of them.  Is that wrong?

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I’m not sure I believe this is wrong.  So is that wrong?  To believe that it is right, I mean?  I’m probably wrong.

 

 

988289_10201821431282097_1326790710_nMy wife constantly tells me I am wrong… about everything.  And I probably am.  So that is not right.  And if you think that’s my wife in the picture, you would be wrong.  She’s much larger than that in real life.

And many people find surrealism is wrong.  Surreal is when you put wrong things together on purpose to make something that almost seems right.

So that’s what odd about the “Wrong File”,  It is so wrong that it is right.

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The Waning of September

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The pool removal has finally begun.  As I write this, I can hear the machinery grinding away at the gunite.  And so, September has almost ended.  It has not been a good time.

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The world has been filled with the fetid orange-faced swamp monster in charge of our nightmare future raging against football players while an Asian nuclear baby Godzilla trades insults and threats of Armageddon with him as the sideshow.  My health has been seriously threatened by chest pains and breathing difficulties made worse by all the stress brought on by my battles with the city over the pool.  How many more years of this can the world actually withstand? How many more can I hold on to life and love and laughter?

But it is not over yet.  I can still write.  I can still laugh.  I can still make goofy WordPress posts with autumn leaves and regal fritillary butterflies to make me feel better.  And I can still put together novels that make stories worth telling.  That is enough for the moment.

Val in the Yard

 

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