Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I spend an inordinate amount of time bumbling through a world I do not understand, have never understood, and am sure I will never understand. I take some comfort in the assumption that this is not a condition unique to me. It's all just the way things are, and that in itself is by turns sad, frustrating, and in my case occasionally perilously close to maddening. We all seem to be reaching out trying to find something to cling to; something solid.

It seems that from the age of five or so, we are increasingly swept off our feet and carried down the rapids of time. And as the world spins ever more erratically out of our control, the harder we try to find something to cling to; something solid. (Thus, to a large extend, my obsession with the past.) Increasingly, we turn to the places like Facebook and My Space and Twitter, a trend I
I find somehow both ominous and frightening. Twitter boasts that its intent is to enable us to keep in instant (???) touch with others, yet it allows us only 140 characters to do so. Surely I'm not the only one who finds this both ironic and annoying. But because others join Twitter and My Space and Facebook, I did too. I think of it as "The lemming principle".

My main goal in life, other than writing books, is to find people to read them. But not being quite sure how to obtain this goal, I bumble along, trying anything that even remotely offers the possibility of finding a new reader. And so, naturally, I turn to the internet. I join group after group, the members of which are, by and large, other writers seeking the same thing I'm seeking. I find that a great many of my fellow writers invite me to "join" them on Facebook or MySpace or various and sundry other places, and I can't help but wonder why? I already know them and see them regularly several other places. Why add another?A classic example of preaching to the choir. (So you've written a new book? That's great. Best of luck with it. Now, MY latest book.....). I am reminded too often, and too guiltily, of Ambrose Bierce's definition of a bore: "one who talks when I want him to listen."

A popular trend on the internet seems to be something called "following"---a term I find somehow slightly ominous, perhaps because of its implications of stalking. At any rate, I as usual have absolutely no idea what is supposedly involved in all this, but, hey..... I "follow" several people on Twitter primarily because I get a notice saying they are "following" me, and want to be politically correct by returning the favor. Yet after this initial exchange of announcements, I never to hear from, or hear of, them again. I have 187 "followers" on Twitter. How could I possibly keep up with all of them even if I did hear from them again, or understood what Twitter is really all about....which I don't.

And now I note that even on this blog page that there is now an option for "Followers". It suddenly appeared, from whence and why I of course hadn't a clue, and saw that I had one follower. Not having the foggiest idea of its purpose, I asked my friend Gary to sign up for it, and let me know what if anything happened as a result. The answer is "apparently nothing". And I noticed subsequently that my original "follower" dropped out. Was it something I said? Did he get bored?

I would be delighted to have you "follow" me here, and maybe you can explain to me exactly what that means. If you're kind enough to read these blogs, I assume you already are following me, but what do I know?

And so, again, I bumble along, trying to get some writing done and adapting my little dog-and-pony show in any possible way I can think of to encourage just one more reader to read my books. If you are already in the choir I give you my eternal thanks. If you have never read one of my books, well...what can I possibly do that I am not already doing to convince you? I'm open for suggestion; you can reach me on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or MySpace. Or.....(sigh).......

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back...and bring a friend.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spam and Altruism

It occurred to me this morning, as I set about deleting the 14,986 spam messages which had appeared miraculously overnight on my computer, that perhaps I have, as I so often find myself, been too judgemental of those dedicated men and women who care enough about me as an individual to contact me with such wondrous offers. As the Bible says, "Judge not, lest you be judged."

I never actually read any of these messages, realizing full well that each is a Pandora's box, and to even acknowledge receipt of a single spam message is to set yourself up to receive 80,000 more. But much can be learned by merely reading the few introductory words that appear on the screen.

So let us take a brief look, with a totally open mind, at just a very very small random sampling of today's offers, and consider the opportunities we may be passing by.

I've noticed that the offers seem to come in clusters. Today there were a large number alerting me to the fact that my future may lie in law enforcement; specifically in crime scene investigation. "Crime Scene Investigators wanted..." was the subject line of at least half a dozen messages, all from different people, but all with the totally altruistic goal of helping me find my true place in life. Of course I'm sure they all know that the fact that I find George Eads, an actor on the popular TV show, C.S.I., very attractive may have been a factor. Maybe if I took them up on their offer, whatever it was, they might guarantee me a chance to spend some time with him in our professional capacities.

I was also offered "Easy Work - Great Pay" in a Rebate Processor Position. Apparently there is a great shortage of workers in this field, since the note said "We need your help now!" How could I refuse such a heartfelt plea. Maybe later. Or I could "start a new career in medical billing."

My dear friend Michael Vincent (we went to different schools together) informs me that "I have found you a new job!" but, being the ever-coy, he wants me to open his post to find out what job it may be. While I am dying of curiosity, I resisted the temptation.

And speaking of dying, a number of messages addressed the matter of my health, and I am touched by their concern. "A. Reginato," for example, tells me she/he "stopped wasting my time and money when I visited Canadian Hea..." (the message dropped off, and so did I). Someone named "me" (I don't recall sending this to myself, but one never knows) says: "Hello. We have the widest selection of antibiotics....." Wonderful to know. I'll file that away for next time have jungle rot.

I must admit I occasionally question whether some of these people really want to be my friend, or if they are just sugar-coating insults in friendly, casual manner. Coleen Arturo begins her message "Hi there!" to make me think she's my pal. However, she then goes on to promote "The largest variety of products for patients with infectious diseases...." What are you trying to tell me, Coleen? And "Luwj" has the downright bald audacity to impune my masculinity. ("Once you're a man again, nothing is impossible." Well, Luwj, I'll have you know I've never stopped being a man and I resent your implication.)

Some of these well-intentioned offers paint vivid mental pictures I don't particularly want or need painted. "Cleanse and Flush Pounds from Your Colon." Uh, thanks, but I'll pass. I'll also skip dinner.

Christopher Maher was somewhat off base, too, in offering me "Free foot fetish movies." Obviously he had heard of my experience in Los Angeles with a young man who derived his pleasure from my tennis shoes. (I know, I found it oddly gross, too. But who am I to pass judgement?)

Well, I know what I should do. I should take up Belkie Latia's offer to "Buy a College Diploma, Get a 100% legal, verifiable Degree". I'll buy a law degree and sue the ass off Luwj. "Once you're a man again", indeed!

New entries are posted every by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back, and bring a friend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Coffee Time

Human nature fascinates me. I have only my own to go by with any degree of accuracy, and that which I can extrapolate from the actions of others. But I've never quite understood the optimism with which, having attempted to do something fifteen times and failed, I (we) are under the illusion that exactly the same thing done exactly the same way a sixteenth time will work.

On my way to "work", I decided to stop at Panera's, a coffee shop I almost never visit unless I'm with someone, to have a cup of coffee and a small pumpkin muffin the coffee shop insists on calling a "muffie" appellation just so cloyingly "cute" that I try never to ask for one by name, merely pointing and saying, "One of those." As always, the place was full of couples and singles, many of them working on their laptops, and all apparently having a very pleasant, relaxing time. I didn't want to take out my own laptop, which I had with me, since I knew I'd not be there all that long, and decided to pretend I was just like all the others seated quietly and contentedly with their coffee.

The fact that, though I have an average of two to three cups of coffee a day I never finish them and really am not, if truth be told, all that wild about coffee to begin with, is another matter entirely. Do I really think, the next time I have a cup of coffee, that I am actually going to finish it and truly savor the deliciousness of every sip? No matter. Everyone else seems to enjoy it, so I just go along with it.

I have never done sitting quietly and contentedly very well, so what made me even remotely think I could do it this time is a mystery. So I sat there, slathering little tubs of butter onto of those....and sipping my coffee while really, really trying to be relaxed and comfortable. What's wrong with me that I can't do it? I looked around me. There were maybe six or eight other people sitting alone, minding their own business, taking their own time, apparently without a care in the world. What were they doing? Surely they had to be thinking of something. They couldn't just sit there, thinking and doing nothing at all, could they? Then why did it appear that that was exactly what they were doing. Was nobody home behind the windows of their eyes?

I'm sure anyone looking through my own little hazel-colored "windows" would see ten thousand thoughts and ideas and things-I-should-be-doing-rather-than-just-sitting-theres bustling around, bumping into one another. Thoughts are as fleeting as smoke: if you don't capture them and put them into words they become harder and harder to remember, and nine out of ten of them are gone forever, or trampled beneath a stampede of the thoughts that come directly behind them.

Obviously, my inability to sit still, to breath deeply and slowly, and float calmly along the surface of time is some sort of character weakness. I know I am undoubtedly missing out on the wonders of silent contemplation and meditation; Buddhists dedicate their lives to it. I would go stark raving mad within ten minutes. And I wish I could say that I envy people who can find deep fulfillment in doing nothing, but I honestly cannot. There'll be plenty of time for doing nothing when I'm dead. I don't need practice in it while I'm still alive.

There's an ad running for an ocean cruise line which outlines all the wonderful things one can do aboard their ships, and it sounds great, until they add, as part of their list: "Or just do nothing at all." Nothing at all? I'm going to pay several thousand dollars to do nothing at all? What's wrong with this picture? If they want to do nothing at all, let them stay home. Or better still, have them come have a quiet cup of coffee at Panera's.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back, and bring a friend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To Each a Rainbow

I'm not sure if I mentioned it in an earlier blog, but I received a note from a reader (I love notes from readers) who said that while he agreed with a lot of what I had to say, he'd hesitated to write to tell me so because he had also gotten the impression that I was a rather unpleasant person. I was honestly surprised to hear that, and hastened to tell him that I really hoped that wasn't the case. But on reflection I could see where he got the idea.

So many of these blogs rail against stupidity and injustice and negative things that it might be easy to think that's all I saw.

True, life is pretty stormy at times, and there are occasions when it seems the rain will never end. But it always does. I recently read something to the effect that without rain there would be no rainbows; I truly believe that, and that longer and more violent the storm, the more we can appreciate the rainbows when they appear. We all need our own rainbows. I often find mine in unexpected places. Recently I came across three of them in the form of YouTube videos, and I'd like to offer them to you in hopes you might enjoy them as much as I do.

The first is currently one of the most popular videos on YouTube: a little 47 year old Scottish woman named Susan Boyle, appearing on Britain's version of America's Got Talent. If you've ever watched a show of this type, you know that if you're not young/cute/perky/handsome you're pretty much doomed before you open your mouth.

Susan walks on stage looking like she were a teacher walking into a third-grade classroom. No makeup, sensible shoes, wearing a simple dress she bought for her nephew's wedding. The immediate reaction from the audience is one of sharks spotting a piece of chum being tossed into their tank. Audiences on this type of show tend to be an unforgiving and bloodthirsty lot. They look at one another and snicker when she announces she wants to be a professional singer, and then move forward in their seats eager to take part in the slaughter. And when asked what she'd going to sing, she says "I dreamed a dream" from Les Miserables, and.... If you are one of the few people on the planet who has not yet seen it, do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and type in "Susan Boyle." (Unfortunately, I can't get direct links to work here.) And if you have already seen it, why not relive the pleasure?

The second video was shot in the Antwerp, Belgium, railway station during a normal day's routine, as unsuspecting travelers went about their business. I would give anything to have been there, to see the reactions of those not participating. I never tire of watching it. A wonderful and joyful experience. Go to YouTube and type in "Op zoek naar Maria" (The title is in Dutch.)

My third rainbow has special significance for me and the 20 million other Americans like me who historically been told we have no right to feel pride in who we are. For us, it has been a terrible and a long storm which is only now ending. Forced together because we were not welcome by the mainstream, we chose the rainbow as our own special flag of independence. Here, John Barrowman, an openly gay man, gives our pride voice. He sings not only for gays and lesbians, of course, but for all the disenfanchised who only want to be free to be who they are. Please watch Go to YouTube, type in "John Barrowman - I Am What I Am" and select the one where he is weaing a white open-collar shirt.

Each of us needs a rainbow....something that moves us, inspires us and gives us comfort, warmth, sheer joy, and an appreciation for the gift of life. When you find one, treasure it...and share it.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back, and bring a friend.

Monday, April 13, 2009


A note from my cousin Judi mentioned that she and her husband had, on a recent trip to New Mexico, visited a native American museum, and noted that her husband had native American lineage. I pointed out to her that so did she: my great-great grandmother was a Blackfoot. This came as a total surprise to her.

And while the percentage of Blackfoot blood grows smaller with each generation, it is there. I am quite sure that it is responsible for the fact that I still have all my hair and for my lifelong inability to grow facial hair (not that I ever wanted a beard or mustache, but the option for sideburns would have been nice.) But when Judi asked what more I could tell her about her great-great-great grandmother, I had to admit I knew nothing more, not even her name.

I'm not sure if it as a peculiarly American trait---ours being so large and so relatively new a country. ---or a human one, but by and large, the average American knows almost nothing of his/her family more than two generations removed. Unlike the rest of the world, where an entire family may live in the same village for hundreds of years, we are a people of movement, and increasingly of the moment. What do you know of your great-grandparents? What were their names? Where did they live? What did they do for a living? What were their daily lives like?

If we are lucky, we know or knew our grandparents as people. We knew their personalities, what pleased or displeased them, what they valued, their quirks and other personal traits. Some of us know something of our great-grandparents as people from family stories passed down through the years. But the farther removed we are from them in time, the less we know of them, until within the space of only a few generations, they...and even their names...are totally unknown to us.

By nature, the famous are remembered far longer than the average citizen. The more famous one is were, the more that is known about them and the longer that information remains known. Certain cultures venerate their ancestors, but I really doubt any of those who do so actually know anything at all about who the real people they are venerating actually were.

The fact is, of course, that each of us is allotted only a certain amount of time on this earth, and there simply is not enough time within that relatively brief time to possibly know everything we might want to know about our heritage and about the people without whom we would not exist

And like it or not, this is simply the way things are. What's past is past and is of relatively little importance to or interest to us. We can hardly keep up with our own present, let alone our ancestors' past.

But wouldn't it be nice to go back in time to check in on those who have gone before us? My mom told me that her own mother, who died when Mom was only nine years old, had a sharp sense of humor, and a wonderful laugh. I'd love to hear it.

There is little we can do, without considerable research, to learn more about those from whom we descended. But we can be conscious of the fact that they did exist, and that they were people as real as you, and every now and then, on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, make a trip to a cemetery and spend a little time walking among the tombstones. and give those beneath them a passing thought...and a "thank you."

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back, and bring a friend.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Ever see news footage of an explosion in a fireworks factory? It's pretty much the situation I find myself in at the moment. It is six p.m. and I have known perfecly well all day that I have to post a new blog tomorrow morning. And not only do I not have one, but I haven't a clue as to what to write about. And just standing here babbling doesn't really help much either. Trying to come up with an idea got me to thinking of the fireworks factory analogy. I've got thoughts and ideas and possibilities and maybes and how about's and I've already done that ones shooting in all directions, whistling and popping and booming as they go.

So what's my problem? I grab myself (figuratively) by the shoulders to keep me from running around in circles chasing my own tail (again, figuratively) and try to talk some sense into myself---always a risky proposition at best. So I don't do a blog one day? What, the world will come to an end? Civilization as we know it will crumble? Hardly.

Okay, but if I don't have a blog ready for you after you've gone to all the trouble to come and look for it and expect to find one, you would rightly be unhappy with me, and I certainly couldn't blame you one bit. You'd probably go away muttering under your breath about these uppity writers who have no sense of responsibility, and how it will be a cold day in August before you ever come back again. There are ten million other bloggers out there who'd be happy to have you take your valuable time to read what they had to say, and they're probably a lot more interesting than I am, tendency to melodrama
loves moments like this.

You don't care, nor should you, that one of the reasons I am unprepared is because I am still trying to transfer files from my PC to my new laptop, which is far easier to write about than to do. I find myself running full-tilt, head lowered and not wearing a helmet, into a concrete block wall every five minutes or so. I call Gary for help. He explains carefully. I thank him profusely, and do exactly what he has told me to do....if I can remember it (it's been all of ten seconds since he told me, after all. What does he expect? Miracles?)

How about a blog on how computers hate me? Nope. Been there, done that. Less than a week ago. And so the fireworks factory burns to the ground, reduced at the end to firing off duds. And this is one.

Sigh. And once again I think of the high school English test for which I was totally unprepared. I threw myself on the mercy of the teacher, explaining nobly how I could have cheated but did not.. And I realized that is exactly what I have been doing here....babbling on in the hopes that you won't notice that I have said nothing at all, and that this is a pretty piss-poor excuse for a blog.

I really will try hard to see that this never happens again! Really, I will! You believe me, don't you? Huh?

Hey, it was worth a try.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back, and bring a friend.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Time Blinks

Time is about to blink. Ready? Now! And in the blink of Time’s eye, I’m 21 years old again: a young Naval Aviation Cadet who has just had his first solo flight. Come join me.

23 March, 1955

Dear Folks

As of today I am the proud possessor of a small gold bar about 1 ½” long, with a small silver oval in the center adorned with an anchor & twisted rope. This is my reward for seven months & ten days service; I believe I’ll wear it to bed with me.

This morning began just as the preceding five days had—I woke up at 5:45, dressed, washed, & ate breakfast. At 6:30 we mustered and marched to the hanger where, at 6:45, another muster was held. Upon checking the board, I found I had been assigned an instructor—Lt. Ashbridge. As he is a new (to Corry Field) instructor, the usual flourishing grapevine, which supplies all data on moods, temperament, & generosity of all instructors, could not help me.

At 7:15 I had the L-11 lecture for the third time. This lecture is given every day you are assigned an A-20 (first solo) hop, & you keep taking it until you finally get the hop. Subject matter is a summary of all the other lectures you’ve attended; what to do when, if & how.

The lecture was over about 0815. I raced out to the board & met my instructor—a short man with greying hair. I told him I hadn’t flown for five days; he said he didn’t expect too much & that he’d take the five days into consideration. He said “Climb on up to 8,000 ft & do a spin, then we’ll do some high work & go on over to 8-A & let you take it.”

Our plane was CA100—a plane borrowed from BTU-4. It was parked as far away as it is possible to be. I pre-flighted it (checked to see everything was OK), got in, started it, & went to report over the mike to my instructor—but when I reached for it, it wasn’t there. Since we were parked way out in the middle of nowhere, & had to take a bus to get to the plane, someone would have to run all the way back & get one. We sent a plane captain (enlisted man who helps strap you in & stands by with a fire bottle while the plane is starting), but he took too long, so the instructor said to taxi the plane to the hanger & get one.

Lt. Ashbridge is new here at Corry—he’d just come over rom Whiting; so he wasn’t certain of our taxi patterns. As a result, he had me taxi against traffic to get to the hanger. Fortunately, no other planes were coming toward us, because those taxi-ways are not wide enough to let two planes by comfortably.

After about fifteen minutes of delay, we took off. He was very nice & didn’t yell at me like most instructors do. We climbed on up, did a spin, some stalls, & did some cross-wind landings at Wolfe field. Cross-winds are tricky & dangerous—you’re always supposed to land into the wind, but sometimes that is not possible. At Wolfe field, everyone always lands on a runway that isn’t directly in line with the wind. As a result, you’re always being blown off to one side or the other, & you must make corrections for it, or else.

After that, we headed up to field 8A, a huge grass field where everyone solos. We shot three landings; two ½ flaps & one full flaps (flaps slow the plane down—the degree of flaps determines how fast or slow you’ll land). On the full flaps landing, he told me to taxi off the field & stop. Then he got out of the plane, came up to the front cockpit & said “All right, you’ve got it—go out & bust your ass.” (Instructors are noted for their poetic phrasing.)

I waited for a signal from the yellow crash truck which always is parked beside the runway in use, got a thumbs up, & took off. As I said on the phone, after five days of waiting & sweating & getting all keyed up for nothing, when it finally did happen I felt almost nothing. I did two ½ flap landings, which a buddy told me he watched & said were beautiful; then did a full stop, full flap landing & went back to pick up my instructor, & we came home.

No sooner had I said so-long to my check instructor, I looked on the board & saw I had an A-20 immediately. A-20 is your first real solo hop—you do everything yourself. The plane I was given was number 227.

I checked out a parachute & two back pads (otherwise I have a hard time reaching the rudder pedals & brakes) & went out to the plane. I secured the rear cockpit—strapped everything down so that it can’t flop all over & hit the instruments, took the instructor’s stick & secured it in a special holder (also that it wouldn’t whip around and hit anything).

Silverhill is a paved-runwayy field; the farthest one from Corry. It is used only by solos for landing practice. I decided I’d try a few. I entered the traffic pattern, lowered my wheels & ½ flaps; did everything necessary. Made a good approach, & landed.

There is a big difference in the handling, especially in the landing, of a plane when it is 160 lbs lighter—but I didn’t know that. The first landing wasn’t too good; the second was worse. On the third, I landed wheels, bounced, turned a little to the left, hit again, bounced again, & started to flip over on my left side. God, but I was scared! I thought for sure that I’d had it. But somehow I made it. I wanted to go home then, but thought I’d be afraid next time if I quit now. So I shot two more, neither one of which was too good, & came home.

So there you have the long story of the day I soloed. Hope it didn’t bore you; I rather enjoyed it , in retrospect.

* * * * *
From “A World Ago,” http;//

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