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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The New Nazis

A 64-year-old woman in Oregon, Barbara Wagner, has lung cancer. She needs chemotherapy to stay alive. her doctor prescribed an appropriate medication, but the state-run Oregon Health Plan refused to pay for it.

The State of Oregon sent her a letter denying her the medicine, but offered her choice of hospice care, or assisted suicide (for which the cost of medication is about $50). Such is state-run health care. The bureaucrats of the State weighed the economics of medicine versus terminal care and publicly-encouraged suicide, and made their decision accordingly.

It's nothing new, really.The Nazis classified people according to the value they had for their society - the useless mouths were denied care, or killed outright. Oregon is walking a line...they'll keep their hands clean by forcing Ms. Wagner into making the choice.

Is this really what we want our society to look like? Can we really place a price tag on human life? In a country that's completely bankrupt, citing unavailability of care might be a valid excuse.

But this is not Rwanda, or East Timor. This is a country in which public funds are spent on celebrations, and someone who serves a two-year term in the House of Representatives receives a pension of close to $200,000 per year, for life. (That's about $16,000 per month.)

This is a country in which the excesses of the rich and famous are celebrated, state college sports coaches receive multi-million-dollar contracts, and the First Dog is flown on an official jet to the President's vacation home, so the kids won't miss him. We paid for that.

Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House, demanded the use of a Boeing 757 to fly to and from California. She wanted to fly nonstop, and she wanted room for staff, constituents, and friends.

In the end, the money comes from the same source - We The People. And We The People are advised to go and die quietly, to preserve the facade this country is becoming.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Writer's Secrets

Last week, my wife and my girlfriend and I were lunching at Tao, you know, near Central Park, when in walked my hairdresser, arm in arm with my personal trainer. Hello! Awkward!

Oh. Well, I thought you'd be interested in one like that.

All right, how's this. When I watch a movie on DVD, I often watch the director's commentary, and all of the documentaries on the movie.

They're really a wonderful resource for a writer. the director will tell you how he set up a certain scene, to fit in with the rest of the work, and to keep the pacing where it's supposed to be. Action needs to be followed by a short rest, but it can't be allowed to get boring. You have to keep up a certain level of dramatic tension, and these guys explain, very frankly, just how they do it, using dialogue, and the kinetics of the scene.

You can also learn a lot from some of the 'making of' mini-documentaries. For instance, the Jane Fonda/Jennifer Lopez movie "Monster-In-Law" is set in Los Angeles, and the director gives a very cogent set of reasons as to why he wanted LA, and what he was looking for in a neighbrthood and an individual house, to move the film along.

Another secret...I don't write sex. Not now, not ever. For one thing, I've never seen any writer who did a halfway decent description of intimacy. Usually it's just embarrassing to read (and to watch, in a film). The second reason is perhaps more important. The characters deserve some privacy, and I feel I have to respect that. If I respect my characters enough to give them off-screen moments, without a spotlight, I'll have accorded them some of the humanity I'm trying to create.

Last secret...Elvis is living in my backyard.

Really! he is!

Elvis is a Pit Bull.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Newbie @ Book Signing

Today (August 25, 2012) I had the first official book signing for "Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart", at the Hastings on the corner of Lomas and San Pedro.

I didn't know quite what to expect, especially when we came in, asked for the manager. The manager wasn't in, so we were told we needed to see the book person. (The 'we' is me and Barbara, my wife, publicist, and person without whom nothing would happen.)

"Fine. Who's that?"

"Me. Only I don't know anything about a signing today."

Gulp. This is not quite the confidence-inspring start I would have hoped for. But she was affable, and went to check the calendar. Sure enough, I was there. But the books that were to have been ordered...weren't. The event was supposed to have been cancelled because the store's being remodeled, but word never got around.

Well, okay. We had author copies to put on the table, and the staff at Hastings bent over backwards to help. We got the best possible spot, and there was a lot of traffic from the beginning.

Unfortunately, a lot of that traffic went hard left into the videos, never to be seen again. I guess they're still there.

But the rest were wonderful. We at least got smiles, nods, and 'hellos'. Several people stopped to talk, and we got one sale, to a lovely and vivacious woman named Laurie. (If you're out there, Laurie, you've got the first official bookstore -signed copy of Blessed Are The Putre Of Heart.)

Others stopped by, took cards, looked at the book, and chatted. We had moms with kids, men shopping for their adult children, a couple of genial bikers, and a friendly gangsta.

The time went by too fast. It felt, for those brief hours, as if our table became a focal point of good-feeling and kindness.

It was what I hoped it would be, when I wrote the book.

(Special thanks to the staff at Hastings, and to everyone who stopped by, and most of all to Barbara.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Men, Care And Feeding Of

Men make up about half of the human race, which can sometimes seem like far too large a percentage...or too small, depending on how you day went.

They can be useful - a man watching football makes a good paperweight, and during the college basketball playoff season, a good planter.

And, ladies, you can, and do, marry them.

Today's topic, written by a man, is how to cope with that decision.(A lot of what follows applies to women as well, of course, but I can only say that from observation...as it applies to men, I live it.)

  1. We're not insensitive knuckledraggers - most men have a sensitive and romantic streak whose depth would surprise you. Think of the novels that move you...many of them are written by men, such as Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans (and, I hope, me!). Same with romantic poetry, and songs. These aren't all produced with an eye on revenue. A lot of the emotion comes from the heart, and isn't faked.
  2. We have a desire for monogamy - hard to believe? Not really. Look at what moves the men you know - loyalty to a team, or to a school, or a regiment. Loyalty to a restaurant. All of these examples purposely include the word loyalty, because that's the defining concept. Make you husband feel like he's part of a team, your team, and you've given him an identity for belonging.
  3. We're easily hurt - this, you may have noticed. It's not that men have big egos, or small egos...it's more closely connected with belonging, and the desire to be well-thought-of in the 'group'. It's a cliche for men to carry the hurt of being the last picked for baseball at school into their adult lives. Most hurts  in a marriage are unintentional - you may say something offhand, with the intention to improve things, and it comes across as criticism. This is particularly true pertaining to sex - criticism, or ridicule, will change your relationship forever. It may not wreck it, but things will never be as they were.
  4. We don't have one-track minds - while men and women experience sex differently, both physically and emotionally, the monomania of men is also something of a cliche. It's more a function of changed social mores - where sex on the second date becomes expected, it's a valid 'goal', and part of the equation of the relationship at an early stage. Earlier than it should be.
  5. What you think of us is more important than almost anything else - we married you, or chose a relationship with you, and your opinion isn't 'big'. It's huge.One word, one look, one touch can change the course of our day.
What would you add to this...or what would you subtract?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rapids In The Tunnel Of Love

Rapids aren't rough spots. They are places where things move very fast, and where rocks and shoals lie below the surface, visible by the turbulent waves they create. In their lee, the current flows fast and smooth. Your trip through may be a graceful, exhilaratingly quick slalom, or it may be a gut-wrenching crash, followed by lonely dunking into wild savage water.

A severe illness can provide many of these moments. People deal with the shadow of death's wing differently. Some are practical, ensuring that the life insurance is paid up, and do you know who you want the moose head to go to, 'cause it sure isn't staying here.

Some are emotional, looking at the inevitability of parting and the hope of reuniting. Chocolate helps, and please pass the kleenex. (At this point, the practical person buys stock in the tissue-paper company.)

There's the Egyptian approach. De Nile. If I don't read about it, talk about, or think about it, it won't happen.

And there's the irritatingly flippant, who makes jokes about his/her own condition, and expects the rest of the world to laugh.

We;'re really each of these, at some point along the journey. The trick to a smooth ride through, with our spouse, is to synchronize who we are through understanding.

That means understanding your emotions, controlling, and directing the. Yes, controlling them, because you can do it, and in the extreme, you have to. You can't control those of your spouse. He's paddling for all he's worth, based on what he sees from his end of the boat.

You have to control your own oar.

It's not that hard. You want to be flippant? Practice. Make a smart remark about something which befalls you. Maybe don't start with cancer. Joke about a broken wrist, instead. It hurts? So what, it'll still hurt even if you're reverential to the thing.

Practical? Look at your broken wrist, and figure out how you're going to do the dishes.

The important thing is to develop a synchronicity that isn't in phase with that of your spouse. Don't be the same thing at the same time. When he's emitional, be practical. He'll think you're cold and unfeeling, but so what? if you're emotional too, all you'll do is reinforce his funk.

If he's flippant, be emotional. two people sharing flippancy can become callous, more quickly that you might think.

In wave mechanics, when two waves meet, in phase, they add their heights, and you get One Really Big Wave.

When two waves meet exactly out of phase, they cancel each other out. What do you get?

Calm water.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bringing A Folding Chair To The Crucifixion

I'd hate to be God. It's not only that He got whipped and crucified, but He's hooked up with a bunch of creatures who enjoy doing that to Him every day.

And that's just Christians.

One of the huge benefits of the Internet and Social Media is that you get an insight into human nature through the immediacy of information delivery, and the complete inability of many people to refrain from pressing the 'enter' key or the 'send' button.

The world is now an extension of the Playroom,  and we can have all the verbal diarrhea we want. Someone'll be along to clean it up.

 And WOW! I just heard from a Very Major Televangelist - as I write this - that Israel should take over as much Arab land as possible, especially in Jerusalem, because it'll help bring the End Times closer.

You're the Benjamin generation after all, and God will pour blessings down on you. After taking them from the Arabs, in this case.

Give me a break. Jesus said stuff like, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, For They Shall Be Comforted.

Where, in His name, to we get the justification to sweep people aside because they're different from us, and we think we're entitled?

And to whom will God turn, when he Mourns the way we twist His words?

Who will comfort Him?

Friday, August 17, 2012

On Staying Married

On August 9 Barbara and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. In June we celebrated our eighth.

No, we're not living on 'dog years'. We were married twice - and divorced once. We celebrate both anniversaries equally.

Several feet of shelf space in your local bookstore are taken up with books on how to stay married, so there's little need to contribute another one. Instead I'll sum up my personal thoughts in a blog post - because it's really enough.

What does it take to stay married? One word - acceptance. Acceptance of the weird things your spouse does and says, acceptance of the fact that a significant portion of the time you will be in disagreement, acceptance of mistakes, and acceptance of the fact that you are no longer single.

We all have peculiarities, and most of us hide them pretty well during the dating process (though it was hard to explain away an airplane wing in the breakfast room, when Barb first came to my house). Courtship puts us on our best behavior, and it should - it's a special time, a romantic time, a time when emotions and hormones are running in tandem. It's fun.

But living together, that's when it can get strange. You REALLY put ketchup on your pancakes? Gosh, I never realized you drove like THAT! (I heard that one a lot.)

The thing is, most of the behavior we find odd is just something to which we're not accustomed. There's nothing inherently wrong with it - it's just different (well, except my driving). You either get used to it, or you make up your mind to accept it. And acceptance means NEVER commenting on it, NEVER making kight of it to your friends, and NEVER EVER using it as a 'stick' in an argument.  It's a discipline

You also have to accept that you will fight, and it means nothing in the long term. You'll fight over bills, sex, television, and dinner. In a day or a week, the fight will be totally forgotten, buried under more layers of real life. It's easy, and masochistically tempting, to think that a single fight has 'changed the character' of the relationship. In very rare cases it does, but generally, it's just part of the natural friction of life. Smooth times end, and so do rough times.

Accept mistakes, and after they're talked out and buried, never exhume them. Never. People screw up, sometimes badly. Your spouse will disappoint you terribly, and you'll return the favor. Never keep the memory of a mistake alive.

And, finally, accept the fact that you're married. period. You have made a promise that gives you comradeship and companionship, and the loyalty all that implies. For that, you've given up the right to stay out until you feel like coming home, the right to watch whatever you want to watch on TV, and - most especially - you've put constraints on the way you deal with the opposite sex.

Billy Graham once said that a married person should not ride alone in a car with a person of the opposite sex, except their spouse. I used to think that was unspeakably harsh...but there is sense behind it. Not because men and women are violently and spontaneously polygamous, but because such a rule underlines the changed state of life, and the depth of the commitment we should have, that we owe our spouse.

I'll stop here. Four points are enough, and they're all I can usually remember. Do this, and your marriage will not be 'bulletproof', 'fireproof', or 'affairproof'.

It'll just last a long time. And you may just be happy.

Two Davids

In September 1944, a kind and gentle Englishman named David Lord died. You probably haven't heard of him.

In August of 2012, a British singer named David Bowie was given tribute at the Olympic Games closing ceremonies. You probably have heard of him.

David Lord was a pilot in the Royal Air force. He flew cargo planes, and on his last day of life was tasked with dropping supplies by parachute to the surrounded troops of the 1st Airborne Division near Arnhem, in Holland. His airplane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and set ablaze. Rather than baling out, he held the burning plane steady until the supplies could be dropped. Then, he was too low to jump, and he (along with most of his crew) died.

David Bowie...well, we all know David Bowie! Pop icon of the 60s and 70s, songs like...uh...can't remember but...uh...I'd probably remember if I heard one. On an Oldies station, of course. But I remember his album covers! Especially the one with the dog, 'cause I like dogs.

The point is that these are both people from the English history. David Bowie is closer to us in time, but not that much closer. Ask your kids.

The choice of who we honor at events like the Closing Ceremonies is a sign of who we think we are. I have nothing against Mr. Bowie, but the memory of these large public events is part of our cultural legacy, it's what we thought was important.

And, frankly, I think that honoring the decision to sacrifice one's chance to live so that others could get the supplies they needed to survive is one of the most meaningful gifts we can leave for generations to come.

It says...no matter who you are, we're in this together, and you won't be left forgotten. Our tradition, our honor, is come back for the lost and surrounded, even though we perish.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cover My Mouth With Duct Tape, Please

This evening I upset and disappointed my wife terribly, with a remark that was meant well, but came out completely wrong. There was no excuse - I trespassed against civility, and hurt the person most important to me.

A dear friend of my wife lost her husband very recently. I had never seen a picture of the man, and saw that the widow had posted a picture on Facebook. So I asked, "Is that the dead dude?"

Shocking, to read it that way, and I cringed while writing it. My wife was justly horrified, and left me in no doubt as to the inappropriateness of what I'd said.

"I'm sorry," was fine and necessary, and immediately delivered...but damage was done.

I meant no harm. Those of you who've been following this blog may have read recently that I'm desperately ill, and I've come close to death on several occasions - the last of which was yesterday.

This, and some of the work I've done earlier in life, have led me to have a lack of sentiment about 'major life events' like death. I can't afford to be either sentimental about or sympathetic to myself, because it introduces a destructive weakness. "Don't mean nothin'...not a thing."

But I should never, ever extend that to someone else. What I say about myself is keyed to preserving my morale - being that way about another is simply hard, and cruel.

So, what's the standard? Clearly the Golden Rule doesn't work - I would much rather people treat me in a flippant and offhand manner.

How about Immanuel Kant's "Categorical Imperative"? Act as if your behavior is the model for the whole world? Closer, but not quite. There is still the need to allow for needling a dying man - if that's what he wants, and needs.

Maybe it's just as simple - and as complex - as judging each event and individual individually and acting accordingly, with kindness as the guiding principle.

And if you can't, please pass the f***ing duct tape.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mountains and Mustard Seeds

Jesus said that if we have the faith of a grain of mustard seed, we can do anything, including some really radical earthwork. Healing a terminal illness should be a breeze. Right?

Well, under those rules, yes, there should be miraculous cures right and left, along with the Mt. Everest Sailing Resort. I mean, we're people, and we can sure pack more faith into our personas than can a lil' ol' mustard seed, right?

But that doesn't happen. Mountains do not take a last landward bow before swimming. And doctors are still driving BMWs.

I don't doubt that there are miraculous cures - I saw a splenic tumor in a German Shepherd shrink from nearly a foot long to nothing.

It's just that there aren't very many. Few claimed, fewer verified - and verification is a fair test. I don't think Jesus would have shied away from it - indeed he invited people to see for themselves, and be convinced.

My thought is that when Jesus talked about the mustard seed, he was actually referring to a degree of faith that we can almost never achieve. The seed is 'all faith'; it doesn't doubt, because it's never been exposed to intellectual rigor (or rigor mortis, if you prefer). We, on the other hand, question everything. "I took it on faith" is often seen as a sign of almost hopeless naivete.

The power of faith grows exponentially with its purity, then? And the enormity of the seed's faith thus arises from its complete lack of adulteration. That is the goal that is nearly unreachable to us mortals.

Maybe it's the way it's supposed to be - mountains being tossed into the sea would give Lloyd's of London a headache, so Jesus set us a goal we could never reach.

But He never said, don't try.

Proof Of Life

It seems that I have something in common with Patrick Swayze, beyond stunningly good looks and a charming yet commanding presence.

There's something very wrong with my pancreas, and it may be cancer. (May be, because I lost my health insurance when I lost my job, and the confirmatory tests are not really affordable, to say nothing of the treatment. Symptoms are there, and the last thing the doctors said while I could still pay them was, likely now or very soon.)

It's said that pancreatic cancer is about as scary as it gets. I find that I don't even want to write the statistics, for fear of jinxing myself. Suffice it to say that the prospects are somewhere south of grim.

And...so what?

If I looked only inward, I'd say that the amount of pain and discomfort are toweringly tragic, my own personal epic disaster.

However...I read. A lot. And looking out into the world, I'm finding that having to face pain and the prospect of premature death really aren't that big a deal. You look at the history of any war, any country trapped by despotism and grinding poverty, and you being to think:

"I'm one of the luckiest people around."

I have a wonderful wife and home, and a lot of delightful 'rescue' dogs whose care gives my days physical activity and spiritual meaning. I''ve got the opportunity to try to build a business doing what I love, aircraft welding and sheet-metal.

I've got a published novel, and five book signings coming up in the next month. AND two more finished novels, AND three more in process.

I can afford the pain meds that make work possible, and the cigars that keep the nausea away. (And I don't live in California, where smoking cigars is a capital offense.)

The more I write a list of the positive, the longer I can make it.

I won't say that I wanted this. But I accept it, and in this acceptance will enjoy the good things in my life. Not because I'm desperate to get every scrap of joy out of them, but because life's a choice.

And I choose life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Never-Told Tales

I'm going to shamelessly borrow from Rachelle Gardner's blog posting for today, about the writing of memoirs. I apologize in advance...kind of.

Many memoirs are begotten by difficult times or extreme experiences, and they're very valuable...they can provide a path, or signposts, for when we the readers find ourselves in an analogous situation. The memoir writer can take us by the hand, and show us the dawn on the other side of night.

In the comments I left on Ms. Gardner's blog, I referred to two classic wartime memoirs: Eugene Sledge's "With The Old Breed At Peleliu and Okinawa" and William Manchester's "Goodbye Darkness". The comments that follow broadly refer to combat memoirs, or situations that approach the intensity of the battlefield.

But the hard truth is that to write effectively about your own past, you've got to relive it. To tell the emotions true, they have to live again. But think of it - the shredding a soul has to go through, sitting in front of the computer and witnessing, through words, a screaming bloody past...and then, hey, "American Idol"'s on!

How do you do that, and stay sane? I don't think I can. Either, like Poe, I'll always have "a demon in my view", or the witnessing will be superficial, a quick opening and slamming of the door before the claws of what lies within can reach past the jamb.

I don't know how writing "With The Old Breed" affected Sledge, but there is a clue at the end of "Goodbye Darkness" as to the price William Manchester paid.

He had seen himself in dreams of the Okinawa killing ground, as the skinny, Atabrine-yellow sergeant of Marines that carried his name in 1945. At the end of his journey into his own soul, he had one more dream of war, but he was now a man thirty years older...the sergeant was gone, and would never come again.

And he turned away, blinded by tears.

That's why, I guess, I won't write my own memoir. The sergeant I was walks with me; together we can look at a present in which we don't fit. I can't afford to lose him. I can't face that kind of loneliness.


Friday, August 10, 2012

The Good Old Days

One of the reasons historical fiction is so popular is that it can take a reader back to times that were very different, and hence very appealing.

Go back 20 years and there's virtually no Internet. Thirty years, home computers were still not common. Forty years, little cable TV. And so on. You have to go back well over 50 years to get rid of TV, though.

Do you see where this is going? Change has come so fast and is so deeply ingrained that now, historical fiction can take place in our own lifetimes.

It's a scary thought, but someone from the era of the Civil War could go to the 1940 or 50s without too much trouble. The technological triumphs of the mid-20th century have their roots in the 19th century.

But now things are really different - we grew up in it, so we've acclimated to the changes. But our Civil War visitor would be sorely perplexed in a world in which she was truly alien.

Now...we think differently. We are alone more, but far less self-reliant. We have more laws, and more crime. We have more religion, but less faith.

And so goes our visitor, back to her quaintly inefficient world - happily, without a backward glance toward those of us left behind, in the future.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Grand Gluten-Free Life

A few years ago I had a blood transfusion - needed to replace about 150% of my entire blood volume. (A surgery went a bit haywire.)

Along with the gift of life, I got another gift - gluten intolerance. What it means is, simply, no wheat, oats, or barley. Period. Unless I enjoy the D&V.

Wow. For a guy who loved pizza, bagels, doughnuts, and beer, this was a pretty harsh sentence. So much of what I took for granted - an ice cream cone or chicken nuggets and McDonald's, pasta at Olive Garden, or an all-Foster's meal at Outback...totally out of reach.

But oddly enough, the transition was easy. It felt so GOOD not to feel bad, that I was never tempted to break the diet. Not once.

I did, however, break it unwittingly. Some foods get cross-contaminated with wheat, and even though reading product labels is now almost automatic, sometimes one slips up. A trip to puke city.

And there are an increasing number of foods - not cheap, but available - that are gluten-free versions of their 'normal' counterparts. Like Oreos! And there are some really nice baking mixes - a lot easier than baking from scratch as one needs to blend several different types of flour (potato, rice, etc) to get the right flavor and texture.

I would not have chosen this - but honestly, it's not half bad.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tribes of The White Man

I was doing some research on one of my upcoming books - with a background of the Troubles in Northern Ireland - when I started to get a sneaky feeling that some more of my long-cherished beliefs were going to summarily tipped out onto the floor.

I'd always thought of the conflict as Protestants versus Catholics, with a background of sectarianism that goes back for centuries. (And yes, many of the fighters on both sides could quote chapter and verse on the conflict's history. Better than any professor.)

But it's not about that at all. It's about belonging. It's about being in a group - belonging. And the ultimate evidence of membership. or being 'in' is the willingness to die, or to kill.

There's really no other motivation. The differences were not so great, and the benefits of peace so high...and yest, for what seemed like an age, the War continued.

We are social creatures, made that way be God - who, it may be inferred, made man because he was lonely Himself. And there is something deep within us that wants a blood connection, one based on the visceral ultima thule of blood and bone. A connection that can only be forget and maintained by violence.

And perhaps that is why our God chose to die on the Cross, to offer us that blood brotherhood, to be taken permanently into Family.

And like the idiots we tend to be, we've taken the divine meal offered us, and started yet another food fight.

I suspect that God's about ready to take off his belt for a trip to the woodshed.

It ain't gonna be pretty.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Who We Are

Two days ago, a terrorist entered a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killed five worshipers, and injured many more.

Since 9/11, attacks on Sikhs have increased. They wear turbans. Osama bin Laden wore a turban. Ergo, Sikhs are terrorists.

It would be easy to go into a discourse on how Sikhs and Muslims differ (like, COMPLETELY) but that's not the point. The point is that somehow, we have allowed a culture of hate based on appearance and the primacy of one's personal opinion to take root. It's not widespread - but it's there. Left unchecked, it'll grow.

It's the responsibility of every one of us to fight it. America is not a land of white Christians...it's one of the few places where different races, different cultures, can have the room to live together. To learn from one another. To protect, and be protected by one another.

Japan is over 99% Japanese.

France and Germany have regular race riots, directed against Middle Eastern immigrants.

England supports an uneasy polyglot population a legacy of Empire.

But we have something else...we have a party, a celebration of freedom, to which we've invited representatives from all over the world.  Go to your fellow celebrants, and talk to them. Make their experiences part of your heart. Learn from a Sikh about Guru Gobind Singh, and tell him about St. Augustine. Ask your Jewish neighbors about Rabbi Hillel. and tell them about the Quakers.

Let's not blow it.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Normally I don't watch much television, but for the Olympics I make an exception. Fortunately or unfortunately, that exception includes commercials.

There is a company called Xfinity (huh? is that a word?) that is trying to play with my head. A cell phone appears on the screen. "This is your television," says the announced. Then a television is shown. "This is your computer." And so on. At the end, some unidentifiable gizmo appears, and I'm told that it's my remote, but I'm past caring.

After having seen this - and commercials like it - a few times, I think I'm getting the message. I'm obsolete.

My day jobs are writing, and welding. I write to tell the kind of stories I'd like to read, and I weld parts that people put on their airplanes. I don't communicate, and process information, and so it seems - I'm outdated. Like the Tyrannosaur bleakly eyeing the first furry critters (soon to be mammals!) that are always smart enough to stay out of reach, like the Cro-Magnon who dimly understands that the Neanderthals next door might be onto something with this thing called language, I'm in the backwash of the Wave of the Future.

But there was another commercial, last Olympics, from a cell-phone company. It showed a family walking through a museum. Each member - Mom, Dad, son, daughter - had their heads down while walking past the exhibits, totally engrossed with texting someone. "I'm at the museum!"

Oh, yeah? What did you see?

If you'd have looked up you would have seen displayed a slower and simpler life, and if you'd stopped you might well have felt their loss.

And I would have waved back out at you, for while you may long for the Good Old Days - I'm busy living them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I recently had the privilege of meeting a fellow writer. This is a rarity for me, as writers are rather solitary creatures, not given to running in packs (except to Starbucks). Come to think of it...I've not met one since school!

I was curious as to what I would see...a mirror in which I could see my own motivations? A tormented genius, holding desperately and joyously to life by the fingernails, while taking deep draughts of life's most intoxicatingly pure nectar?

Or perhaps a cool professional, seeing the novel as Khayyam's chess game, with characters that move, mate and slay, and back in the closet one day lay?

What I met was a lovely and vivacious person, of friendly smile and sparking eye, who put me at ease with a manner that was both humble and exalted. A person of royal blood and common touch, whom I'd just met and had known forever.

It didn't matter that I'd met a writer. It means the world that I met a friend.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Going For The Gold

As Week One of the 2012 Olympics grinds onward, my Writer's Lifestyle allows a wonderful opportunity for research...I can keep the TV on the Games all the times, and see more about the Mongolian Rowing Teams than I ever thought possible, or would have liked to know.

Something's different this time around, though. There seems to be a bit less of the drum-beating 'go for the gold' emphasis on winning, and more of an understanding that when it comes to the Olympics, winning isn't everything. Competing is. That is SO refreshing!

It's also a good life lesson. We put off so many things in our life, or judge what we do harshly, because circumstances, or our performance, don't live up to the standards we set in our mind. The competition with our own ego.

And so, the quick trip to the Grand Canyon, when we would have had just an afternoon at the South Rim, is discarded for the full-on raft trip, but the time's never quite right. The anniversary where we had to stay home because the dog puked on the sofa is substandard...good for a laugh, but Puker ruined it, along with the sofa.

We only have one shot at this life. Every minute that passes, every chance, has the potential for gold.

But silver and bronze aren't that bad.

Neither is just being there.