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Away to Ioway


Yes, I probably won’t be using this road to get there.  This one is north of the family farm and I will be coming from the south.  But, it is time to head home again to the Land Where the Tall Corn Grows.  My parents are aging.  My sister will be visiting there too.  I need to spend some of my retirement time in the place where I was born and raised.

The Road Home

I am much more likely to take this road, US Highway 3, that takes us from Interstate 35 to Rowan, Iowa.  The town is over the hill in the blue distance.

Travelling is the reason for today’s short post.  We are going to try to make the long journey from Texas to Iowa in a day.  We’ve done it many times before.

So, wish me smooth sailing.  I know I am probably going by car, but it is cool to imagine taking one of the airships from our D & D game.


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Publishing Smublishing

class Miss M

Already twice today my computer has interrupted my blog-post-writing with a computer brain fart instantly erasing everything I had written and was unable to save.  It reduced the essay to nothing but a title twice.  So, have already written my 500 words twice today, I settled on a simpler, shorter post.  Page Publishing sent me back the proofs of my novel Magical Miss Morgan again.  Once again they made new proof-reading errors that changed something so that I have to go to the trouble of changing it back.  It isn’t that the chimpanzees have valid improvements to show me and I am just being Grumpy Mike about changing.  They are making silly omission errors and showing me sentences that don’t make sense any more.

Page Publishing was a big mistake.  But since I have already paid them and am close to getting published, I will push forward rather than hiring a lawyer to sue them.


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How to Be a Wizard

On Cartoon Network’s Looney Tunes show, Daffy Duck has decided he wants to be a wizard.  He even had business cards printed to be one. mqdefault

Being a wizard is almost as easy as that.  But becoming one is not what Daffy thinks it is.

wizard (n.) Look up wizard at Dictionary.comearly 15c., “philosopher, sage,” from Middle English wys “wise” (see wise (adj.)) + -ard. Compare Lithuanian zynyste “magic,” zynys “sorcerer,” zyne “witch,” all from zinoti “to know.” The ground sense is perhaps “to know the future.” The meaning “one with magical power, one proficient in the occult sciences” did not emerge distinctly until c. 1550, the distinction between philosophy and magic being blurred in the Middle Ages. As a slang word meaning “excellent” it is recorded from 1922.

The word comes from wisdom.  Being one requires wisdom.  Being one requires you to look to the future and use your hard-won experience to predict how the future will unfold, and what you can do about it to benefit yourself and others.  You know, “magic”.


But to become a wise-one, a wizard, requires hard experience.  It is possible that Daffy has acquired some over time.  He’s certainly been subjected to all sorts of slapstick cartoon injuries and insults over time.


Remember this one?  Daffy swallows dynamite, drinks gasoline, this bottle of nitroglycerin, and then throws a match down his throat.  The results are spectacular, but Daffy has to admit that he can only do the act once.

So maybe he hasn’t become a wizard yet.  To be a wizard, you have to learn from your hard experience.  You have to gain knowledge in order to work spells and do magic.

For instance, my struggles to breathe from COPD have taught me to use magic potions like ginger tea and French onion soup to open my air passages wider and make breathing easier.   When the siding on the back of the house deteriorated to the point that the city wouldn’t tolerate it any more, and I couldn’t afford to pay a contractor to fix it, I googled spells for siding repair on the internet, using articles and YouTube videos to magically fix the damage myself.  I also consulted other wizards at Lowe’s and Home Depot, where they are happy to give you advice if you buy supplies from them.

Unlike Daffy, I think I do qualify as a wizard.  I have six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor.  I taught in a public school for 31 years.  I taught middle school children.  I lived through the years of the Kennedy assassination, landing men on the moon, the Civil Rights Movement, Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economics, and 9-11.  I lived through the Cubs winning a World Series.  And all those events and hard experiences have given me more wisdom than, perhaps, any sane person would want.  Of course, I’m not sure in all my years I have ever actually met a totally sane person.

Mike the Wizard

You may notice that I had to get a new magic hat.  My old black Walt Whitman hat flew out the window on Interstate 35 the other day.  This one is a fedora made of woven straw, a grandpa hat. Who knows?  I am not a grandpa yet technically, but maybe one day before I curl up my toes and go for a long dirt nap… and grandpas count as wizards too, don’t they?


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The Muffin Man… the Sequel

I have been decidedly miserable today with sinus headaches, arthritic back attacks, little sleep, and lots of political proddings from friends who are just sure that I have everything wrong about politics.  But I did do one thing right.


Yes, that’s the ticket!  Cranberry orange muffins, baked by little old me, the Muffin Man.


Here’s what was left after breakfast of a dozen muffins fresh from the oven.  And this was just Henry, me, and the Princess eating them for breakfast.  (I wonder who got two?)

They were extremely good.  And as I write this, none are left for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Oh well, another morning, another muffin mix.  Tomorrow… double chocolate.

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One Thing That is True…


I was once a teacher.

This Paffooney is a picture of Nandito done in colored pencil.  I call the picture Satyrico. Explaining it is a difficult and complicated thing.  He was a complicated and difficult child.

He was in my fourth period English class in 1981, my first year as a teacher.  Fourth period was probably the hardest class I ever had to teach.  Twenty-eight kids, all of them Spanish speakers, six of them were Special Edwards with learning disabilities.  Fifty percent of the entire disciplinary case file from the previous school year were in that one eighth grade classroom.  Class in fourth period was completely shut down one September day by spitwad wars in which even the girls who were normally well-behaved were throwing wicked little wet ones at the backs of everyone else’s heads. I had to stand at the door to make sure none of the lunatics escaped and wait for them to get tired of flinging hastily chewed paper at each other.  The principal was a big help.  He called me into his office later for a tongue lashing about why I let it happen. Of course, he was not brave enough to try to stop it himself when it was happening.  So, Nando was in the worst possible class for anyone to be in.  And, looking back on it now, he needed me desperately.

There is no doubt that teachers would lump him in with the “bad kids”.  He was routinely disruptive.  He stole things whenever he could.  He was rude to everyone.  And he really couldn’t handle being around girls, except for two of them who were both his cousins, one that had the the muscles to beat him to a bloody pulp, and one who was generally sweet to everybody and looked upon him as her personal protection project.  Really, Sweet Thing actually defended him from bullies because she knew none of them could ever even say a harsh word to her.

Well, one of the best things I did my first year as a teacher was learn how to actually talk to kids in my classes.  I was careful.  I didn’t expose their secrets either in the classroom or in the teachers’ lounge.  I didn’t embarrass them in front of their peers the way other teachers did.  I learned to give them time to respond to questions and patiently waited for them to get things right on the second, third, or even fifteenth try.  It got so even the bad ones would tell me their regrets, their hopes, and their dreams.

My boy Nando started hanging out around my classroom at every opportunity.  And he found out where I lived and sought me out at home.  It was there, in private, I learned about the most terrible things in his life.  He was being sexually abused by his older cousin, a Vato Loco in that same fourth period class.  He even offered to become my lover in order to get away from what was happening.  That was a tense, dangerous situation.  I explained to him that I was not a homosexual.  We discussed it enough that he admitted he was not either.  And between implied threats of revelation and reasoned discussions with the perpetrator, we got things stopped without going to the authorities.  I was never able to tell Nando that I had once been a sexual assault victim too, but he knew that I cared about him.  He and some other boys began playing Dungeons and Dragons at my place on weekends.  He began to really blossom and become a more sociable and outgoing young man because of the story-telling games and the friendships I helped him form.

He was in my classes for two years  because he failed the 8th grade the first time.  He was the first child to treat me like a surrogate father.  He would become only the first of many.

He would not pose for a picture to be made of him.  I couldn’t even get him to hold still for a photograph.  So I had to draw this Paffooney mostly from memory.  He wanted me to promise I would never write or tell stories about him.  I told him there was no way I could ever promise that.  I did promise not to use his real name.  Actually, it probably is a promise that doesn’t really matter any more.  The last I heard of him, he had lobotomized himself with hard drugs.  If he is even still alive now, he wouldn’t be able to read this and understand it, or even remember me, let alone be embarrassed by anything I have revealed.

But I do know one thing that is true. Nando was a wonderful, valuable human being.  I was a better, more effective teacher because of what I learned from him.  And I deeply regret that his life was wasted the way it ultimately was. But to this very day, I will still go well out of my way and take risks to help wicked and wild little satyrs like he was, all dimple-faced and rude and not good with girls, because somebody needs to care.

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The Muffin Man


Over time, things change.  When I was still teaching, I had to get up by five to leave by six for duty that started at seven and classes at seven-thirty.  Breakfast was an everybody-gets-their-own deal.  It was sometimes skipped all together.

But then my poor health, forty-stop-light commute, and retirement eligibility all conspired to magically change me into a muffin man.

What does that mean, you say?  Will this stupid guy now burst into the kid-friendly version of the muffin man song?

I promise not to sing.

One of my new responsibilities as the retired get-kids-to-school-and-make-breakfast-but not-in-that-order guy is to make breakfast… before taking them to school.

So, I have been learning to cook eggs… and bacon… and sausage… and hash browns.  But having been bit by the early morning baking bug (a big, shiny bacon-colored bug, by the way) I have also added muffins to the morning munch.  Apple cinnamon muffins, cranberry-orange flavored muffins, and best of all… double chocolate.  Making breakfast for the family is fun.  And I get to eat some of it too.  In fact, let me offer you some.  Although, sadly, the muffin man can only provide a picture over the internet.  Instant matter transport into a material synthesizer is still science fiction for now.


So have a double chocolate muffin.  One day soon, I will offer you one for real.

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Stardusters… Canto 39


Canto Thirty-Nine – The Bio-Dome’s Crew Quarters

Since Brekka had nearly gotten killed by a maniac sentient flower with hidden teeth, Brekka, Menolly, and George Jetson had not been apart by more than a few feet.  In fact, George and Menolly had spent an uncomfortably long time attached at the lips.

George finally pulled away from Menolly’s mouth to breathe.

“Oh, Brekka,” gasped Menolly, “we are so glad you didn’t die.  Life would never be the same again if I didn’t have you to dance with.”

Brekka crossed her arms and frowned at Menolly.  “What exactly are you and George doing exchanging spit like that?  I thought the two of you were never going to talk to me again.”

“You remember the kissing thing from Earther television?” asked George.

“Yes…” said Brekka cautiously, “like when Gilligan kissed Mary Ann that time to convince the surfer guy that they were boyfriend and girlfriend so he would surf back to Hawaii?  And she said he had skinny lips?”

“Um… yeah… that works,” said George.  “We discovered it makes you feel really, really good to kiss somebody like that.  Want to try it?”

Brekka pursed her lips for a moment and mulled it over.  “Okay.”

Without warning, she leaned over and kissed Menolly right on the mouth.  She tried to make it last like she had seen Menolly do with George… but… it was kinda yucky.

“I don’t really see what’s so great about it.”

“I dunno,” said Menolly.  “I thought it was kinda good.  Brekka is almost as good a kisser as George.”

“But,” said George, “maybe you would consider making some Telleron tadpole eggs with me… huh, Menolly?”

“Oh, you stupid-head…” said Brekka.  “We three are nest-mates.  That means we have the same mother and father… probably.  You know what in-breeding is?”

“We were programmed with that information in the egg, Brekka,” said Menolly.

“Well, you know… it might be the thing that makes Tellerons so stupid and incompetent… in spite of all the knowledge and skills programmed into us while we are in the egg.”

“Yeah,” said George, “you’re probably right.  But when I kissed Menolly that first time, it made me feel so strange in my stomach.  Isn’t it possible the feelings of the stomach are more powerful than the thoughts in the head?”

“I think in that episode of Gilligan’s Island it was the heart that love came from, not the stomach,” said Menolly.

“Well, my heart seems to be in my stomach,” said George, “really low down, too.  And it’s telling me to make tadpoles with the two of you.  We almost lost Brekka to that plant thing.  I don’t want to waste any more time.”

“You know that we are still too young for egg-laying, George,” said Brekka.  “Our ovipositors are not fully formed yet.”

“Yeah… but we could practice…”

Brekka was furious.  Why were male tadpoles so… so…?  Yeah, that.



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