From where I now stand, looking towards the future, I can clearly see I do not have very many more steps on my personal path forward. Good thing. My legs are almost ready to give out. I walk with a cane.
More importantly, as a school teacher, the only classes I will be able to teach are the fictional ones in my books. In fact, if my work in progress is the last one I will be able to finish (hopefully), then the dojo pictured above is the last one. At the moment they are learning social justice lessons fighting sentient vegetables on the planet Cornucopea.
There are many things I can take solace in as I near the end of the road. I outlasted the Trump Administration. (At least, technically, because I am still alive today in spite of feeling ill, while Trump’s run has officially reached its end with the electoral college acceptance ceremony in spite of the insurrection.)
There are many, many former students that still fondly remember the year or two (in some cases three) that they spent in my class.
Mai Ling in the picture with the Japanese Castle is an example. Even though the telekinetic ninja girl from the planet Gaijin is entirely fictional, I base all of her dialogue and reactions on a very quiet but extremely effective girl that I taught for two straight years in the seventh and eighth grades. She listened, learned, and then solved any problem I put in front of her. The last I knew she was thriving in a junior college in Laredo, planning on a nursing career. She will have succeeded by now, and would have even if I had never met her. But she told me she liked my class.
I can be grateful too that I have lived long enough to write most of the stories I really wanted to write. Sure, there are nudists in some of my stories, but there are nudists in real life, and in my personal past as well. Maybe they turn off some people that would like my books better without them. But I have some pretty good stories with no nudists in them too. And the nudists I know are some pretty good people. So, I have a right to be grateful for them. My stories, I mean. Though I am grateful for nudists too. I tend to write like I’m baring my soul. And I am proud of my naked truths.
Whatever the near future holds in store, I feel ready. I got my $600 relief check. 2020 taxes will probably cost more than that this year, but I actually have some money to hopefully pay for them. I am ill today. But that’s more often the case than not now. I deserve to rest a bit, grow stronger, and get on with whatever’s left to me.
Yesterday I thought the nightmare was going to be over with the confirmation of Biden’s victory. I wrote a post lamenting that it appeared Donald Trump would get out of the office without ever being repudiated or convicted of any of the crimes we have been witnessing for four years.
I posted it before the insurrection began.
I know some of my friends and relatives get their political fixes by mainlining Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter. Some of them even believe that Mark Levin is an honorable and intelligent human being. I was disappointed to see how some of them have concluded that the insurrection was justified. Or blame it on Antifa.
I don’t give up on them. I don’t hate them. But they are wrong.
The best way to explain all of this is to review what made my politics what they are.
I was born in 1956, during the Eisenhower Administration. Quite naturally, I was part of a family that identified as Eisenhower Republicans. I learned to believe that the hero of WWII was what a president should be.
About Labor he said in 1956, “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America.”
About Business he said, “Beginning with our creation of the very successful Small Business Administration, and continuing through the recently completed studies and recommendations of the Cabinet Committee on Small Business, which we strongly endorse, we have focused our attention on positive measures to help small businesses get started and grow.”
These are statements from the Republican Party platform.
President John F. Kennedy took over as President in 1956. He was far from a perfect man. But he was an idealist, and had the potential to be one of our best Presidents ever. He stared down Soviet leaders during the Cuban Missile Crisis and peacefully resolved what had the potential to be the beginning of a thermonuclear war. He took on the issue of racial inequality when the Emmit Till murder opened the eyes of both him and his younger brother Robert.
He took on Jimmy Hoffa and organized crime, and that was probably one of the most important factors in getting him assassinated. His potential greatness was cut off at the pass.
My political awareness really began with the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration and the Viet Nam War. My father voted for a Democrat the very first time because Kennedy won him over and he feared the outcome of a radical like Barry Goldwater becoming President.
Here is where you are most welome to debate me.
LBJ was an evil man, whom I believe had a hand in the assassination of JFK. I also believe he was a very effective President, but mostly because he felt guilty and instituted the Great Society reforms JFK had planned, as well as the Civil Rights Act. Much of the good he did meshed well with the goals of the Eisenhower Republicans.
But his Achilles Heel was the Viet Nam War.
Richard Nixon took advantage of the chaos in the Democratic party caused by LBJ’s resignation from the campaign and RFK’s assassination. He was almost as evil as LBJ (not quite as guilty of ordering murders as LBJ.) He undid the gains in Civil Rights with the toxic “Southern Strategy” by using dog-whistles like “bussing” and “law and order” to lure racists like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond into leaving the Democratic Party and becoming Republicans. And he tried to cheat in the 1972 election even though he didn’t need that to beat the excessively liberal George McGovern. He did do one good thing, he founded the EPA.
My father voted for him, but regretted doing so for the rest of his life.
I am skipping over President Gerald R. Ford because he was never elected. So, we as voters, bear no responsibility for any evil he may have done.
Jimmy Carter was the first President I ever voted for. He is the second to last moral man we ever elected President. Although he was a very good man, he was not an effective President.
He did broker a historic deal between Egypt and Israel for Middle East peace that lasted at least until President Sadat of Egypt was assassinated.
And this is where the really toxic problems began. You are certainly welcome to call me out for my opinions here.
President Ronnie “Dutch” Reagan, cowboy and movie star, was not an evil man. But he was not a good man either. He was wealthy, entitled, and basically willing to continue Nixon’s worst practices for the benefit of rich guys, and the disadvantage of poor people, especially poor people of color.
He began rolling back environmental regulations and the rights of unions to bargain for the betterment of workers. Here is where Reagan Republicans became a completely different thing than Eisenhower Republicans.
Then the George HW Bush years began. Bush who may have participated in the CIA’s part in the JFK assassination. Who definitely had a part in the Iran Contra Affair. He was more evil than Reagan, though still less so than Nixon or LBJ.
He flubbed up the “Read my lips, NO NEW TAXES!” thing that lost him the backing of the wealthy elite.
That, of course, leads us to this toxic and evil man. Seriously, he styled himself as the New JFK, but he had more in common with the old LBJ.
His Presidency is the start of the Neo-Liberal Toxicity. What is a neo-liberal, you ask? A Republican in a Democrat suit… or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He turned on the Democratic agenda, making the policy goals all about business and money. He cracked down on minorities with crime bills, and sent jobs overseas with free trade policies. He might be a pedophile (though he deserves to be presumed innocent until someone actually releases the Epstein records.) He was not a good husband, a good role model, or even a good man. But he was a good President, and brought the economy back for at least the wealthy and the middle class. He is also a good speaker and can explain really well as he tells you how his administration is going to screw you.
And as the backlash to Bill Clinton being too nice to the middle class, we got Lonesome George W. Bush, the rodeo-clown President. His grin and flubs and political oopsies were all good cover for the evil he did. Again, after the Democratic administration made the economy better, he thoroughly broke it again. Bank deregulation became the new way to become an infamous pirate (like Carl Icahn, T, Boone Pickens, and numerous other big-bucks buccaneers.) Remember Enron?
And you can certainly argue this too, but somebody made an awful lot of money during 9-11. And where were the anti-hijack aircraft from the forces that normally protect the airways?
And they then needed a black man to clean up the mess.
They chose a very well-spoken man. They picked a very good man. A good husband. A good family man. A man who could do for the Presidency what Jackie Robinson did for baseball, break the color barrier and endure a lot of horse poop for his trouble.
He improbably brought the economy back to life. He conducted eight years of leadership without significant scandal. And he was a very good man.
Although it would’ve been good if he had not used drones to kill children, and if he had pardoned Edward Snowden.
And in the end, we were left with a government that fosters the worst income inequality the world has ever seen. The environment has been abused for profit at levels that none of us will survive. And the backlash for eight relatively good years with Obama was four years of… yeah, that. We saw it in action yesterday. I am ashamed to be an American. I have hope for the future, but also a lot of anxiety to temper it with. And my confidence in good government is at all-time low.
We have not had an acceptable run the last four years. He won… the preening orange peacock. We were forced to live with the results, accepting the conclusions that the bad guys won the election and had a right to rule over us.
They took the economy that Obama had repaired after Bush crashed it and reached new heights, that benefitted only the richest among THEM. And then they crashed it again. Even worse, with more carnage and pain.
And they took the pandemic-survival playbook that Bush requested and Obama perfected enough to avert a horrible Ebola pandemic and tore it up, firing the the response team in Homeland Security because Obama put it together. That worked out well… for people who don’t like black people or Hispanics.
We impeached him, but couldn’t remove him. We investigated him, but let him get away with all the crimes, especially abuse of power, that we uncovered. How is that fair to those of us who never committed a crime, but suffered from his handling of taxation and immigration and national security?
So, what have we learned? I have learned that friends in Iowa who questioned Obama’s birth certificate and called Obama “Black Hitler” will claim I have never been respectful towards their president, and I should be ashamed of myself. And I have learned they can tell me what dramatic irony means… as a term from high school literature class with Mr. Sorum. But they don’t live it… or acknowledge that other people, me for example, are forced to.
Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich lived on the family farm outside of town, a little more than two miles from the tiny farm town of Rowan, Iowa. I walked it more than once. It was faster to walk the railroad tracks between the two places. About a mile and three quarters as the crow flies… three hours as the boy investigates the critters in the weeds, throws rocks at dragonflies, and listens to the birdsong along the way. But the point is, my maternal grandparents lived close enough to have a profound influence on my young life. Much of what they loved became what I love. And every Saturday night, they loved to watch the Lawrence Welk Show. And that show had highlights that we longed to see again and again… on a show that never really went into reruns. We lived to see Jo Ann Castle play the old rinky-tink piano, Bobby and Cissy doing a dance routine, and most of all… the lovely Lennon Sisters.
I always wanted to be the things they wished me to be in the song “May You Always”. I wanted to “walk in sunshine” and “live with laughter”. They presented a world of possibilities all clean and good and wholesome. As a young boy who hated girls, I had a secret crush on Janet Lennon who was the youngest, though a decade older than me, and on Peggy Lennon, the one with the exotic Asian eyes. They sang to me and spoke directly to my heart.
You have to believe in something when you are young. The world can present you with so many dark and hurtful experiences, that you simply have to have something to hang onto and keep you from being blighted and crippled by the pain. For me, it often came in the form of a lovely and simple lyric sung by the lovely Lennon Sisters. When you are faced with hard choices… especially in those dark moments when you think about ending it all because it is all just too much to bear, the things stored in those special pockets of your heart are the only things that can save you. For me, one of those things will always be the music of the Lennon Sisters… especially when watched on the old black and white TV in the farmhouse where my grandparents lived, and helped to raise me, every Saturday night in the 1960’s.
Canto 122 – The Hidden Powers of the Avenger
In the central courtyard of the Palace of a Thousand Years, the Avenger made its reappearance atop a young, completely nude boy. He ran into the courtyard full throttle, and suddenly pulling up in front of the animal handler, six of his young apprentices, and six mardenschmauz six-legged riding beasts. The Avenger then hit them with a mind-blast, proving that whoever was under the helmet was a powerful telepath. He did not, however, kill them. He merely put all seven people and six hexipedal riding beasts into a deep and restful involuntary slumber.
Of course, it was obvious that it wasn’t Alec under the helmet. Alec was especially aware that it wasn’t him, as he rushed to the scene of the attack knowing it had to be stopped, and most likely only by another telepath.
Besides Alec knowing that he wasn’t the telepath in the Avenger helmet, he knew it wasn’t Sara or Junir, because the naked body wasn’t a girl, and it definitely wasn’t blue. Besides, he was beginning to know and befriend the only Space Nudist among the students of the White Spider, and he now recognized Hassan Parker’s skinny butt and tiny penis.
Alec’s own telepathy was at least strong enough to protect him from any attack against him that naked Hassan could muster, in spite of Hassan’s telepathic superiority.
“Halt, Hassan! You must take that evil helmet off. You don’t want to hurt anyone.” Alec stood in Hassan’s way.
“I do not know this Hassan you speak of. I am the mighty Avenger! I have returned because of the foul crimes of Shen Ming. The wronged ones must be avenged!”
Others gathered around the scene of the Avenger’s sleep attack. Taffy King and Mai Ling arrived from across the courtyard. Jadalaqstbr teleported to Alec’s side and slipped her soft hand into his. And Shen Ming-sensei hustled across the green, lifting the skirts of his orange ceremonial robe with both hands.
“Bow before me, infidels! Or be destroyed in the name of Shen Ming!”
“I did not ask for any destruction in my name,” muttered Shen Ming, low enough that Alec almost didn’t hear him say it.
“So, Shen-sensei, the Avenger has now become Hassan?” Alec asked.
“Of course! Why didn’t I remember? It’s the stupid helmet!” Shen Ming said with a chuckle.
“You mean, it’s controlling his mind?” Alec asked.
“Undoubtedly. It is what it was designed for.”
Alec looked at Taffy and Mai Ling, both of whom had fearsome Psionic powers of telekinesis and no telepathic mind shields. If Hassan took over their minds… Oy! Everyone could die a horrible death.
Not willing to take chances, Alec ran towards Hassan the Avenger and forcefully applied his best roundhouse kick to the side of Hassan’s head, then reversed direction and kicked him in the midsection with the other leg. The helmet, once dislodged, flew through the air and landed in the grass more than two meters away from anyone.
Hassan was lying on the ground, still as death.
His heart in his throat, Alec leapt to Hassan’s aide. His own telepathy was healing-centered, and though Fangwoman of the Black Spiders had only taught Alec how to use it to inflict pain, he knew only too well that it could be reversed the way Sara Smith did it to heal instead of harm.
The green healing energy radiated from Alec’s hands. He poured his power into Hassan’s potentially damaged skull.
Slowly, Hassan opened his eyes again and came back to life.
“Alec, you freed me! That evil helmet takes over your mind. No matter how hard I fought it, it made me do things I did not want to do.”
“You have always been nice to me and helped me, even when I was horrible to you,” Alec admitted. “I couldn’t just let the Avenger thing do harm to my only male friend.”
“Alec, you have definitely changed,” said Taffy King, smiling at him.
“Yeah, maybe so… But please don’t tell Phoenix. I don’t want him to lose respect for me.”
“Oh, no worries there,” Taffy said about their old Black Spider classmate, “He doesn’t respect you, and probably never will.”
“Well, good then…” Alec muttered, though the disappointment from realizing the truth of that stung him deeply.
I have recently embarked on a side project of rereading my own books, marking up the errors, awkwardnesses , and inconsistencies I find in them. In other words, I am giving them a complete third or fourth edit.
In some cases this leads to the opportunity to add illustrations and tweaks to the formatting.
In other cases it offers me the opportunity to remove things that will bother future readers who react to things in ways that I don’t totally understand, but definitely want to avoid giving offense more than I want be controversial.
Some things are not negotiable. The fact that Blueberry Bates is a transgender character is something I mean to defend. It that offends someone, that reflects a prejudice on their part, not mine. I have known real transgender people, and their existence should not be offensive to anyone with a drop of Christian or moral decency in their bloodstream.
No young person should ever have to go through the pain and humiliation the person this character is based on had to endure in real life. No one should be driven to suicide or self-destructive thoughts just because their body doesn’t match the gender in their brains.
But I did change the details in Sing Sad Songs that offended one reviewer. While I still think the physical intimacy alluded to in the story (and I do mean “alluded to” as it was not actually depicted in the scene, only mentioned) was not inappropriate, the story does not suffer from changing the act to a mere embarrassing first kiss. In fact, I kinda regret not making that specific change sooner. Although I am sure that reviewer would still have managed to be offended.
I had thought to make this essay about my novel-writing process an essay about censorship. But the whole project is not censorship. I am changing things now not because my urge to self-censor has come about due to a sudden change to prudishness. I still believe that I am a nudist in my soul even though I am almost never naked. And I still believe that children have sex lives and are entitled to them. I am just being more cautious with how the stories will connect to readers, and I wish to be more sensitive to the characters’ rights to privacy (especially in view of the fact that some of my characters are modeled on real people from my past)(and some of those are actual nudists.)
This essay is about reconsidering and revising my work to make it more effective and sensitive to the needs of the reader. I am not a child pornographer, and I don’t want my work to be looked at in that way. Just as when I was teaching, I never actually touched the children physically (accept for a few accidents, moments of crisis, and breaking up fights) I don’t want to violate young people in my writing. I am not removing all mentions of abuse from stories. But those things are done by antagonists and characters in stories, not by the author in how he or she chooses to describe things.
A writer can’t really change who he or she is, and she or he can’t really change the basic way by which he or she writes. But you can always revise and edit.
We are now entering the most deadly time in the pandemic. We are expecting a hundred thousand more deaths in January 2021.
The question of whether or not I will even survive this month has not been settled.
I am still isolated at home with three members of my immediate family. Contact with the outside world is as limited as it is possible to be. Of the four of us, only my wife and son have to leave the house for work. My son has had Covid once already, so he probably still has antibody protection, but there are no guarantees he won’t get it again, and worse the second time. He works as a jailor and so he is exposed to Covid-positive inmates daily. My wife will go back to her teaching job this coming week. They are taking precautions as much as possible, but it is still in-person instruction. And my wife is at-risk with diabetes and high blood pressure. And there is no question in the minds of the Texas Board of Education that she needs to risk her life five days week to keep kids in school.
I am deteriorating from my many health problems. But I am only a little over a year away from being done with my bankruptcy and the paying off of my medical bills. So, barring another hospitalization, I can actually see light at the end of that tunnel.
But getting back to normal?
It will never happen. I will never again be well enough to make money as a teacher in a classroom, even as a limited-time substitution. If staying in my room and writing all day is my new normal, well, I am already doing that. But the things I have done as a normal thing will not be coming back.
Traveling is going to be a thing of the past. I cannot weather long car trips anymore. No more visits to Six Flags or Disney World, and maybe not even trips home to Iowa.
Doll collecting is also a thing of the past. I have no more money or time to pursue those little plastic people anymore, even at five dollars a month. In many ways I gave it up for good months ago already. And I probably have too many of them already.
“Child, child, have patience and belief, for life is many days, and each present hour will pass away. Son, son, you have been mad and drunken, furious and wild, filled with hatred and despair, and all the dark confusions of the soul – but so have we. You found the earth too great for your one life, you found your brain and sinew smaller than the hunger and desire that fed on them – but it has been this way with all men. You have stumbled on in darkness, you have been pulled in opposite directions, you have faltered, you have missed the way, but, child, this is the chronicle of the earth. And now, because you have known madness and despair, and because you will grow desperate again before you come to evening, we who have stormed the ramparts of the furious earth and been hurled back, we who have been maddened by the unknowable and bitter mystery of love, we who have hungered after fame and savored all of life, the tumult, pain, and frenzy, and now sit quietly by our windows watching all that henceforth never more shall touch us – we call upon you to take heart, for we can swear to you that these things pass.”
― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again
Thomas Wolfe is correct. Without being able to physically travel to the past, you simply can’t go home again. We can travel through time, but only forward. But he is also right that the present time will pass too. And we all will eventually reach a time where we become timeless. So, we hunker down, live in the moment, and the world will become normal even if it is unrecognizable as what was normal in the past.
Today’s post is full of portraits of imaginary people. Some of these are based on real people who posed for them or I had a photo of. Others, even if they are based on characters who were once real people I knew, are entirely made up out of my head.
You know how that Bible lesson goes, right? What He hath given, He can also take away. And the Bible doesn’t suggest He ever owes us any explanation. God is subject to capricious whims, apparently.
This is part of the reason why I often have doubts about the fairness of most religions. How do you worship that which is cold, uncaring, and capricious? And yet, to say there is no God above… or below… is anathema to the way I was raised and the fundamental structures of my moral and inner self.
If there is no God, then why is there any life at all? Life is complex and intricately ordered. How can that be if the universe is random and mindless? Physics already says all order is headed for eventual chaos. Our chance to control the climate crisis and save the planet is now down to seven more years. If we don’t get our act together before 2027, we are doomed. What is the need for order at all? Why do you need to have a counterpoint to chaos if there is no underlying point to the whole process?
Philosophical questions like this are why what I really am is a pure and simple agnostic. I am open to all possible answers. But I have no scale to weigh any of it.
One way that the Lord is taking things away right now is through the capitalist system worshipped by wealthy and greedy men. Especially the Septuagenarian Mutant Turtle currently in charge of the Senate. He and his billionaire mutant overlords don’t want to raise the national debt to help ordinary people through the Covid crisis and the economic chaos it caused, even though they were fine with ballooning the debt in 2017 to give tax breaks to billionaires and corporations while actually raising taxes on pensioners like me.
My house is falling apart. I can raise no extra income because of the pandemic. And the bank is making noises about balloon payments and raising the specter of homelessness for the four of us.
And, of course, the biggest thing God may soon take away is my very life. I am having problems with high blood pressure, fainting spells, and numerous symptoms that could easily be interpreted as the onset of Parkinson’s, the disease that took my father’s life. Of course, going into the clinic to find out for sure could financially sink me, as well as infect me with Covid and kill me even though I previously survived my son’s experience with the disease without becoming infected.
This January and February are expected to be the worst part of t the pandemic that we have yet experienced.
But this little exercise in philosophical whining and complaining will, in the long run, do nobody any good. I don’t blame a God for my troubles because of the atheist in me. I know difficult times lay ahead for everybody, not just me. And just as Muckman, the superhero, turns his unfortunate condition of nearly-deadly body odor into his super-power for fighting evil guys, I need to turn my misfortunes into something good.