Friday, September 28, 2012

"The Diamond Lady"

I received an email yesterday from a woman who had read My Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs, and noted that I had included a blog on her aunt, Pat Mallon.

Pat was one of my favorite people during my Los Angeles days. I first met her while I was working as an editor for a firm called NPR, which was contracted to produce a glossy house organ for the statewide (and politically powerful) Engineering and Grading Contractors Association. Pat was the secretary for the association's president. Through my duties, Pat and I were in frequent contact, which developed into a friendship.

Pat was…well, to call her ‘one of a kind’ would not come near to describing her. She was one of those wonderful Charo-like souls who, in her passion for life, simply ignored age. She was probably in her 60s when we met. Her hair was very long and pitch black. She wore about as much makeup as Tammy Baker, but she wore it much better. She favored toreador pants, spiked heels, low-cut blouses (often tube-top) and lots of expensive jewelry. (She at one time had worked with noted jeweler Harry Winston and conducted a side business selling jewelry. She referred to herself, on her business card, as “The Diamond Lady.”) Unlike so many outwardly effusive people, her joy for living went to her very core. In many ways, including her voice and certain of her actions, she reminded me of Carol Channing, and I found her just as charming.

I’d see her every time I went to the EGCA offices, but our friendship was cemented during an EGCA conclave in Las Vegas, over several French Cannons...a delightfully refreshing libation consisting of a equal parts champagne and brandy, three of which could easily have rendered me comatose. But Pat could belt them back like water and never bat an eye.

When we first became friends, she was married to a great guy named Chuck Blair, who had been a singer with one of the big bands in the 40s. They lived in a beautiful house in the hills overlooking the entire San Fernando Valley. The memory of looking out from their patio at night, with the valley spread out below like a carpet of glittering jewels that put the stars to shame, is one of my fondest memories of L.A..

Chuck traveled a lot, so Pat spent a great deal of time on decorating the house to suit her unique taste, including curtains made of strands of crystal which, when the sun hit them, became a million prisms reflecting their light on every surface. She also spent literally hundreds of hours painstakingly gold-leafing every door frame in the house.

But though I considered Pat and Bob to be the perfect couple, apparently they did not, because Pat filed for divorce and their house was put up for sale. She could not understand why the realtor did not feel that all her expensive gold-leaf and hard work would not be reflected in setting the selling price. The fact that the new owners may have different tastes or even want to repaint the house and door frames was incomprehensible to her.

Her second husband, Bob Mallon, was a very nice guy who adored her, but was not overly fond of gays, though he was always very pleasant whenever Pat would have my partner Ray and I over, or invite us to one of her lavish parties, for which she would spend several days in preparation. Their house, on a hillside just up a winding road from Ventura Blvd., did not have the view her old house did, but there was a large if steeply inclined back yard set into a hillside, on which she and Bob spent a fortune landscaping and decorating with colored lights.

After I moved from Los Angeles, we more or less lost touch, though every year I would get the same mass-printed postcard saying “Keep in touch!” and signed “The Diamond Lady.”

The note I received yesterday informed me that Pat had died in 2004, and even though I knew she almost certainly could not still be alive--she probably would be pushing 100 now--I was truly saddened to hear it. But I have developed the ability, over the years, to ignore reality. So to me Pat is still alive, bubbly as ever, sparkling like the crystal “curtains” in her windows, still throwing her parties and being her effervescent self. In some ways, Pat was for me a symbol of all my L.A. days, and every now and then—today especially--I truly miss them…and her.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Sky is Falling!

Oh, dear. I really try to be upbeat; to see the better things in life. There is of course an infinite number of good and positive things to talk about: gratuitous kindnesses and stunning bravery and kittens and puppies and the smell of baking bread. This is the way life should be, and the fact that it is not so to the degree that I want and expect it to be casts me and other frustrated romantics like me into the role of snarling curmudgeon. All the good in the world is still offset by the infuriatingly incomprehensible and stupid things we humans insist upon doing to one another.

As a species, we have struggled for thousands of years to improve ourselves; to use our unique gifts to rise ourselves up and reach our potential. But in our concentration on the creation of our society and our culture, we have inadvertently created two Frankenstein monsters—one age-old, one relatively new—which have joined forces to threaten not only our society but our very humanity.

The oldest of these monsters is greed, which we have been railing against since biblical times. Of all human emotions, it is probably the one that most strongly rules our society today.

As recent events in the financial markets have proven, our entire world is built upon and is increasingly fueled by money. There is a growing gap between individual human beings and the culture in which we live…and which we, of course, have created. And as this separation continues and grows, guess which of the two elements, humanity or culture, forges ahead and which increasingly lags behind?

This morning I saw a news item saying that there is a new generation of parking meters which, the minute a car pulls away from it, flips back to zero so that the next car can’t use the remaining minutes! Oh, dear LORD! Just how cheap and money-grubbing can we get? (This is a rhetorical question, since all any of us need do is look around to see ample evidence of the answer.) People are dying of disease and hunger, wars, poverty, unimaginable suffering and deprivation, and we spend time, money, and scientific resources on designing a parking meter that will make the city using them an extra nickel—and the manufacturers of the meter untold millions?

The newer of our monsters is technology, which, we designed to make our lives easier. However, like an invasive plant species, it grows exponentially and to the detriment of those who created it. And now, probably naturally, technology has forged an unbreakable alliance with greed. The old adage that “fire is a good servant but a terrible master” can be modernized by replacing “fire” with “technology.”

Both runaway technology and unchecked greed are bad for humanity, but of the two, technology is potentially the most dangerous. There is no worse feeling for humans than that of helplessness and absolute lack of control, and in our increasingly technological society, this feeling grows stronger every day. The roles of master and servant are rapidly reversing.

And the most maddening thing, for me, is the knowledge that all my ranting, and raving, and arm-waving, and jumping up and down, and screaming at the top of my lungs does absolutely no good. It’s yelling into a hurricane, or trying to leave footprints on water.

I know...quite likely the sky is not actually falling. Somehow we have managed to muddle from disaster to disaster, calamity to calamity…always with the clock at one minute to midnight, always with Armageddon just around the corner, and we have somehow survived. Thus far. It’s almost enough to make me concede the existence of…something pulling the strings, writing the rules we cannot possibly understand. Whatever it is is not the benevolent, loving God of Sunday school, but a capricious, often petulant, totally unpredictable entity which takes delight in playing cat to our mouse.

So the sky may not, indeed, be falling. But I suggest you do not look up.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, September 24, 2012


I am not a scientist. I am a humble, simple man who has come upon the answer to the underlying cause of a scourge sweeping the adult heterosexual male population and has been largely ignored—as was AIDS in its early years—by the scientific community.

I speak, of course, of the devastating, heartbreaking, family-destroying condition known as “erectile dysfunction,” a terrible disease of which not one person in a thousand had ever even heard until only a few short years ago, and which today rages unchecked. We all owe a great debt to our nation’s ever-vigilant and altruistic drug companies, who loudly sound the alarm in the form of several thousand television commercials bombarding us every waking hour, offering desperately needed help to millions.

And yet, the cause of “E.D.” as it is also known, is astonishingly clear. It is, in fact, laid out plainly in the commercials themselves, and I cannot comprehend how no one but me seems to have realized it.

So please bear with me, listen carefully, and do not dismiss me out of hand before giving serious consideration to what I am about to reveal. (You may want to take a firm grip on the arm of your chair.) Are you ready?

The single cause of erectile dysfunction is…the wearing of a wedding ring!!! I swear!!! Perhaps it’s the metal or something…I don’t know…perhaps it cuts off blood flow to the genitals (?)…but all I ask is that you observe what I have observed: in
every single TV ad addressing the problem of erectile dysfunction, the sufferer is wearing a wedding ring! Every single one!! I challenge you to prove me wrong!!

We have all seen that absolutely delightful commercial which I never tire of seeing even after 14,642 exposures, where six or seven guys are having a grand old, good-ole-boy time strummin’ guitars and pluckin’ bases and whatevers and joyfully singing “Viva Viagra” (a catchy tune, but I can’t help but think I’ve heard it before somewhere). Well, my friends, observe carefully: every single one of those men is
wearing a wedding ring!! Coincidence? I think not.

How else can you explain the fact that while the number of afflicted heterosexual male adults seems to grow every day, I have not seen one single reported case of a homosexual adult male so affected. And why do ads for acne cures, for example, never involve the prominent display of a wedding ring? Simple: because wedding rings are obviously not the cause of acne. And there is strong evidence that the wearing of a wedding ring may be a contributory cause of many other adult diseases and ailments. Just note the number of wedding rings prominently displayed in commercials for arthritis, sleeplessness, sore backs, coughs and colds and any number of other illnesses!

There is an old saying that “there are none so blind as those who will not see,” and for some inexplicable reason, the medical community has chosen to totally ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the waiting room, solution in hand (as it were).

If you still doubt me, this evening, as you watch TV, take a pad and pencil and, when any commercial dealing with adult afflictions involving males comes on, jot down the disproportionate number of sufferers wearing a wedding ring. Then write or call your elected representatives and demand legislative action banning the wearing of wedding rings…and all other rings, for that matter. Our nation’s health is at stake!

My job here is done. I have proven my case beyond the shadow of a doubt. The rest is up to you.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Friday, September 21, 2012

Aliens and Hypocrites

If I ever needed proof that I am an alien in human form, all I need do is walk past a straight bar, of which there are many in my neighborhood on this side of the border with Boystown. I would never willingly go into one—talk about standing out like a sore thumb. My last time in a straight bar was when I visited my friend Tony in Madison and he took me to his favorite neighborhood bar.

It was Baseball Night!!! (as opposed to Football Night!!! or Basketball Night!!!) And the place was packed with people with whom I might have felt some individual kinship and commonality under some other set of circumstances or in some other place. But massed together, enjoying…nay, reveling in…their unified bond of joyous heterosexuality, cheering wildly when good old Murphy (everyone in the bar knew every detail about every player on the home team—the Brewers…from Milwaukee, I’d judge, taking a wild guess) hit a double fly or whatever it is baseball players do which they considered worthy of cheering, I was totally overwhelmed. Lots of manly arm-punchings, high-fives (a strange bonding ritual—I loathe high-fives) and prolonged applause, whistling, and foot-stomping. Meanwhile I stood there, a guppy in the shark tank, not having a clue as to what all the fuss was about, and having absolutely no interest in finding out.

Oh, and there was also a billiards/pool tournament going on to add to the general merriment. I can at least grasp the concept of pool if not be overly drawn to actually playing it.

So there they were, men, women, husbands with their wives, guys with their buddies, guys with their “chicks” (do they still use that word?): the very essence of the world to which I do not belong and in which, from the moment I realized I was “different” (I love euphemisms), it was made abundantly clear I was not wanted.

And yet, even as I rant and rave against “them” I realized that my parents and all my relatives, whom I love dearly, are, after all, “them”, too, and that this was simply the straight equivalent of a gay bar. I feel (or felt, before the years began pointing their finger at me and whispering “Go away: you’re not wanted here!”) totally at home in a gay bar, and can well imagine an innocent heterosexual stumbling into one unawares feeling pretty much the way I feel in their bars. Being raised in a culture which too long has considered me and those like me less than human, I am far too intolerant and critical of straights, and am, I am ashamed to say, often as bigoted against heterosexuals as they are against me. Yet I fully expect them to accept me and my lifestyle as totally natural and comfortable. And therein we have a perfect definition of the word “hypocrisy.”

But the fact remains that I am and have always been deeply bitter at the general heterosexual attitude of superiority-by-birthright…of total smug assumption of their dominance and their inalienable and indisputable right to be dominant…of the vast majority of heterosexuals, and of how blithely unaware they tend to be of the fact that theirs is not the only sexual orientation within the human species.

I saw a tee-shirt once that I think sums it all up pretty well: “How dare you assume I’m heterosexual?”

But, hey, I’m not really bigoted: some of my best friends are heterosexuals.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ophelia Redux

As I was sitting here trying to think of a topic for this blog, my mind…I suspect with some ulterior motive of its own…presented me with the picture of Jean Simmons as Ophelia in the 1948 movie of Hamlet (Laurence Olivier played Hamlet). Gone utterly mad, she wanders beside a stream, idly picking flowers, her eyes indicating that no one is home.Singing little snatches of song, she makes a garland of flowers for her hair, then, totally unaware, she falls into the water and floats gently downstream on her back, oblivious to her fate. But she’s happy.

Knowing my mind as I do, I took the scene as a clear metaphor for my blog-writing. There are as many topics for a blog as there were flowers along Ophelia's stream, and I pick them as randomly as she did.

I seem at the moment to be in a small patch of lovely little 1940s (they come in a variety of shades). I don’t even have to bend over to pick one. It is of our tiny house on Blackhawk Avenue on Rockford’s far-from-fashionable south side. (Of course it was my parents’, but I always thought of everything they had as mine, and they never dissuaded me from that belief.) The front door of the house led into a small, narrow living room, painted green as I recall, with only one window, other than the one in the door. On the right-side wall of the room, about three-quarters of the way down….maybe eight feet…were two doors; the first to my parents’ bedroom, the other to mine. My room was only large enough for a single bed and a dresser. I don’t think there was a closet. Across from my room was a large brown metal oil heater with a stove pipe running from the back to close to the ceiling, where it bent and vented to the outside. This was the primary source of heat for the house. The oil was kept in two large drums behind the garage, and I assume there were pipes which ran between them and the house to supply fuel to the heater. Between the oil heater and my room was a large opening into the kitchen. We got our water from a well equipped with an electric pump which, when it elected to go out, necessitated my dad crawling down into a wood-covered pit beneath the living room’s only window. This usually happened in winter, of course.

For the first couple of years we lived there, we had no bathroom. There was an outhouse in the back yard. It simply never occurred to me that we might be considered either deprived or poor. It is simply the way things were, and much of the nation lived as we did.

When my folks could afford it, they built a room off the side of the kitchen which became my bedroom. My former bedroom became a bathroom.

I remember lying in my bedroom with my comic books when my folks weren’t home, tracing pictures of Superman and Captain Marvel and Batman and Robin, only I would trace them as being naked (easy enough to do, since they always wore skin-tight uniforms anyway), which provided an early-teen boy with far more heat than the living room oil burner could ever have produced. To avoid being caught, when I finished with them, I would slide them into a crack under my window sill, where they would usually fall between the walls. I often wondered what might have happened had, in the course of the house’s eventually being demolished, someone had found them all. Unfortunately, that speculation was never realized, since the house burned several years later.

We lived there from the time I entered third grade through seventh or eighth grade. I learned to ride a bike there, and we planted a tree which is still, to the best of my knowledge there though the house is gone and only an empty lot remains.

And you see? I’ve picked only one flower! There are fields and fields of them, just waiting to be picked. If I can only avoid falling into that stream…

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, September 17, 2012

Old Pants

I threw away a pair of pants today. No big thing, right? Well, not for you, maybe. Whenever I throw away anything I've had for a long time, it inevitably opens floodgates of thoughts and memories and reflections, and reminds me yet again...if any reminding were needed...of the fact that I am just a tad...well, for want of a better word, let's just say “strange.”

The pants in question were one of five identical pair I purchased probably eight years ago...I believe at the K-Mart in Ironwood, Michigan. I hate buying clothes simply because when I go shopping for them, no matter how many thousands of them I may look at, I can never find anything I like. So when I do find something, I tend to buy several of them. These particular pants are a nice shade of blue (my favorite color), and can be worn anywhere casual is I bought, as I said, five pair, and by rotating them, have worn them steadily ever since. I'm sure many people who see me regularly but do not know me think I only have one pair of pants. In the intervening years I've only found one other pair of suitable, slightly dressier blue I bought two of them, though, because they are a little more dressy, I don't wear them nearly as often.

The pair I threw away today were the first of the original five pair to go, though they've all been experiencing the same degree of wear and tear at the same rate. I fear, now that the one has gone, the others' time is fast approaching. The first sign was a hole in one of the pockets: the front pocket where I keep my keys (which tend to poke a hole in increasingly worn thin fabric). Shifting my keys to the other front pocket quickly resulted in a hole there, as well. It reached the point where I couldn't put anything in either front pocket without risking having it just slip through the hole, slide down my leg, and drop out onto the ground. Two other pair are beginning to develop pocket-holes. As long as I can use the pockets, the pants are generally safe. I've been gradually limiting their use, only wearing them around the apartment or for a quick run to the store where people are not likely, upon seeing me, to immediately assume I am homeless.

But the fabric gradually wears thinner and thinner and then a small hole will appear on one leg, generally in the vicinity of the knee, as it did in the just-discarded pair, which I wore yesterday while running errands before reluctantly deciding that their time had come. And, as I say, the time of the other four pair is coming, too.

Yes, I'm sure you're ahead of me here—the analogy between pants and people. I am well aware that people, like pants, wear out, too, and eventually must go.

I've said many, many times that I hate endings; I hate letting go of things with which I am comfortable and which have served me long and well. I consider it...what?...cold, uncaring, and somehow ungrateful of me. All my life I have attributed sentient qualities to non-sentient objects. (One of my most repeated stories is of when, as a small boy, I went shopping with my mother for a new throw rug for the kitchen. She asked me which one of several I liked best and, while there was one I did like more than the others, I did not say so for fear of hurting the feelings of the other rugs. In many ways, I'm still that little boy.)

And deep inside my strange soul, I am frightened by each closing, by each throwing away, because I am throwing away not just things but memories and threads which bound me to the past...things which in some small way contributed to my being who I am. And there is the chilling awareness that if all things must eventually be let go of, so then must I.

Of course I know that there is much good that lies ahead. I have fought time all my life but realize that no matter how I want it not to be so, like a plane crossing the ocean, I quite some time ago passed the point of no return. There are far fewer years ahead of me than have been left behind. This isn't morbidity, simply fact. I know that the years left ahead of me—however many there may be—will bring new adventures, new friends, new books to write, new memories to cherish...and new pairs of pants to feel comfortable with.

And even so...I shall miss those pants.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Friday, September 14, 2012


What I love most about the human mind is that it knows no limits and it is not, other than its own physical structure, limited by the laws of physics. Each of us, in our own mind, is capable of being the architect of worlds which do not, cannot, and sadly probably never will exist. In addition to the very-real-to-me worlds I create in my books, I often sit, in a comfortable den in the space behind my eyes, and redesign myself; from the bottom up, from birth to infinity. There are so very many changes I would make, so very many ways I would be different from myself while retaining as much of the essence of me as possible.

Age, of course, has all but removed the chance that I might actually make any of the proposed changes in any of these areas...certainly not in anything involving physicality. Yet the wonderful thing...the thing upon I have always relied and upon which I increasingly my mind's ability to provide mentally and emotionally what I do not actually have physically.

But, were I able to do a do-over....

Physically, I would of course want to be strikingly handsome with a well-developed, athletic, and un-aging body. I would give myself ice-blue eyes contrasting with black or dark brown hair, flawless skin, and perfect teeth.

I would give myself a life partner who would love me as deeply and unwaveringly as I loved him.

Starting from childhood, I would be more outgoing, less dependent on or fearful of the judgment of others. And I would reprogram myself not only not to be so quick to judge others, but not to judge myself so unfairly, so unkindly, or so harshly. I would recognize that I am not responsible for what others might say or think of me. I would not dwell so strongly on my weaknesses (real or perceived) or on my past mistakes. I would more fully appreciate all the good things in my life, and not take them so much for granted.

I think I'd like to install a “knee-jerk reaction-time delay” switch between the time I decide to say or do something and the time I do it, to give me time to make sure I'm not going to regret it. My life is full of the sounds of bells which should never have been rung, and of an incredible amount of time lost in trying to undo/explain/apologize for something I did on the spur of the moment.

Because the current me has always been wrapped so tightly around myself, so fearful of any attack or slight, real or imagined, I have lacked even the most rudimentary physical looseness or flexibility to provide the physical grace I so envy and admire in others. I quite seriously literally ache with longing for physical grace and beauty.

In my interactions with others, especially in large groups of people, if some people are a “stick-in-the-mud” I am a pier piling, sunk so deeply in the riverbed I cannot move. During a standing ovation at a play or musical which moved me, I would be able to shout and whistle my approval, not merely stand there like Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. I would, in any physically enthusiastic crowd, be able to jump up and down and wave my arms and pump my fists and shout my joy with everyone else. I do not do that now. I have never done that. And much as I would like to, I never could.

There is nothing more beautiful in my eyes than a male dancer...chorus boy or danseur (male ballet dancer). Yet my excruciating self consciousness—a perverted form of ego, I know—forbids me from even trying to dance. (“No one will be watching you,” my friends used to tell me in my dance-bar-going days. “I'll be watching me” was my standard reply.)

Unfortunately, reality precludes and prevents any chance for a “do over” of my—or your—life. But wouldn't it be nice if we could?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


It is 8:45 a.m., and I am just sitting down for my morning coffee and chocolate donut, having a bit earlier had my glass of V8 juice, listening to a classical music station and trying to come up with a subject for tomorrow’s blog. I’m also wondering yet again why I do the same thing in the same order every day. I decide not to pursue that line of thought, since a little directional arrow in my head indicates that such pondering leads puts me on the edge of a downward slope, which I would prefer avoiding.

So, as often happens on mornings like this, I cast myself upon what is called the “Stream of Consciousness.” From what I’ve been able to gather, for most people it’s rather like a leisurely float on an inner-tube, gliding beneath a bright blue, cloud-dappled sky through grassy pastures where there is ample time to pause here and there to contemplate the scenery. Alas, my stream of consciousness tends to be more like a kayak ride through high, narrow, boulder-filled gorges where the looking up at the sky is seldom an option, since I have to alternately hang on for dear life or grab wildly at thoughts as they rush past with dizzying speed. As a result, when it comes to blogs, I don’t pick the subject so much as having one just sort of jump out of the water and land in my lap.

We are all creatures of habit, taking comfort in the familiar. The very real problem for me is that I tend to be so comfortable in my routine that I mildly resent any change in it.. There are so many things I really should do; places I should go, people I should visit. I have a storage shed full of papers I am planning to give to my alma mater, and all I have to do is drive up there, get them (though I fear I won’t be able to do it in one trip), and take it down to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. I’ve been meaning to do it for six years now, and I haven’t done it yet.

The fact that my family is the very foundation of my life, and that they are the most important people in my life should dictate that I’d want to spend as much time as possible with them. But I don’t. I tell myself it's because they live some distance away, though that is a pretty indefensible excuse. The fact is that I do not because then I am forced to realize that the avalanche of time is pushing me ever more surely toward the precipice. The recent death of a cousin both tore me out of my routine, making me even more aware of why I treasure it, and forced me to have an uncomfortable confrontation with reality. Having the chance to see my remaining family was both wonderful and disconcerting: wonderful because, as I said, they are the foundation of my life; disconcerting because I do not like being forced to realize that things are no longer as I have them firmly planted in my head and heart. In many ways, reality terrifies me, especially those realities which are closest to me. Better to not see my family and keep them as they are in my mind.

I know, I know. I’ve never claimed to be like or to see things the same way as other people and were I to have Robert Burns’ desired ability “t'see ourselves as ithers see us” I’m sure I would be appalled. Were I to be schizophrenic and given to hearing voices, I’m sure at least one would say, “Roger, you can’t live this way! You cannot pick and choose when it comes to reality!”

I beg to differ.

Routine (yes, I do remember that’s where I started this entry) provides me with something of a security blanket or a good luck charm. I can use it as a home base from which I can let my mind and my fantasies and my irrationalities wander at will. It can be something of a prison, but it is a comfortable one, and the bars are wide enough apart that my mind and heart can come and go as they please.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, September 10, 2012

Torquemada'll Get You...

I seem incapable of looking up the definition of a word…the subject of my last blog, “hubris” (“presumption towards or defiance of the gods”), in this instance … without finding within the definition a word that I also want to define… “god,” here. (“1. The creator and supreme ruler of the universe. 2. A superhuman being or spirit having power over nature and human fortunes.”)

So, using my usual circuitous reasoning, it occurred to me that under the dictionary’s definition, writers might be considered gods. And yesterday I began a blog positing that argument.

Hubris, indeed! Sacrilege! Blasphemy! The spirit of Tomas de Torquemada, a driving force in the Spanish Inquisition, tossing in his grave, demanding retribution. And while I am not the superstitious sort, I found it interesting that between yesterday and today, that blog comparing writers to gods vanished from my computer. Coincidence? Let us hope.

Yet here I am again, waving my hubris like a matador’s cape, Torquemada and his ilk breathing fire and pawing at the ground like angry bulls. But I stand my ground.

The writer’s claim to godhood is of course limited, in that it cannot be made unless someone actually reads his words. (And please excuse me if I insist upon using “he” to refer to “the writer” though women are also writers. I find the demands of political correctness cumbersome and infuriating and ignore them whenever possible.)

The writer, from the firmament of his mind and with words as his only tool, has the power to call forth universes, creates worlds, and people them. But his words have neither meaning nor power until and unless they are filtered through the reader’s eyes and brain—your eyes and brain. The writer creates the worlds; it is you who, by reading them, give them life.

Think for a moment of your favorite books: are the people in them any less real to you than the guy sitting across the aisle from you on the bus? That the worlds contained within the pages of a book may not physically exist—at least not on our plane of existence—is immaterial. That they are real to you is all that counts.

The writer has ultimate control over the worlds he creates and the ultimate fate of his characters. For myself, I do try to be a beneficent deity. I truly look on my characters as real people with a real existence of their own independent of me. Probably part of this is because I write to defy not the gods, but reality. I create worlds as I want them to be rather than being confined to the one which is. Dick Hardesty, as I have often said, is the me I would so like to be and, in the alternate universe of my books, am.

So the two of us, me as the writer god and you who turn my words into reality in your mind, are like yin and yang, two parts of a whole. I was going to use the analogy of Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins, except for the fact that while you can exist without me, I cannot exist without you.

And I just this minute had another thought: could it be that in some unknown alternate universe, our own God is a writer?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Friday, September 07, 2012

Hubris, Sheep, and Salmon

hubris > Origin Greek, denoting presumption towards or defiance of the gods

A friend recently pointed out that I demonstrate this quality in abundance. I was flattered that he would think so.

Hubris was not smiled upon by the gods of mythology. Those mere mortals who displayed it— Prometheus, Naiobi, Arachnae, Oedipus, Cassandra, among others—suffered mightily for doing so. I’m sure I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with the gods.

Our God isn’t wild about hubris, either, which is why He and I long ago reached what I hope is an amicable parting of the ways. I never presumed to be godlike, other than in the creation of the worlds and characters within my books, but I most certainly do defy the right of anyone to tell me how to live my life.

Our government, which too often looks upon itself as godlike, definitely does not like hubris. When it comes right down to it, I cannot think of any form of authority which does not consider any questioning of its authority to be hubris. To question is to challenge, to challenge is to be in effect a traitor. You’re with us or you’re against us. Period. You need look no farther than the leadership of the Republican party to find proof of this. There is no middle ground. It is the ultimate irony that mankind has never made a single inch of progress without questioning some authority or other, and yet those who initially ask the questions generally do so at their peril.

Actually, I look on hubris as something of a badge of honor. Anyone who presumes to tell me what I should do, or how I should do it, or attempts to make my decisions for me had damned well better have a good reason for it.

Life is filled with choices, and hubris divides the world into salmon and sheep. To display hubris is to be a salmon swimming upstream, and fighting the currents is never easy. To never defy anything is to be a sheep, and ours is increasingly a world of sheep. Sheep, without a moment’s thought or question, go in whatever direction they are pointed…which is all too frequently to the slaughterhouse. Being a sheep is fine, if it is a conscious choice. But most sheep are sheep by default, simply because it never occurs to them to be anything else.

Hubris stems from independent thought, and independent thought is admittedly inconvenient. It often calls unwanted attention to the thinker, rather like watching the Rockettes and seeing one dancer not in sync with the others. It is axiomatic that most people assume that if someone says something must be done a certain way, or must be believed unquestioningly, they have a very good reason for having said it, and it is far safer not to make waves than to be swamped by them.

Children personify hubris. To them, the world is one vast “Why?” To answer a child’s question with “Because”, as is so often the case, does them a great disservice and merely serves, over time, to erode any desire to question. Still, many children refuse to accept “Because” as a logical answer, and it is they who continue to question and defy authority. It is they who go on to become salmon. I’m happy to say I was one of them.

It’s never too late to become a salmon.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Hello, Sucker!

Dear Lord, but we are a gullible lot. (I chose “gullible” over several stronger but no less accurate words.) And each of us apparently considers the others to be dumb as a pile of rocks. That belief is the foundation of corporate and political America, and I am truly amazed at not only how stupid they think we are, but by the fact that too often that belief is justified.

They stroke our egos with one hand and rifle through our wallets with the other. And they have reached the conclusion that we’ll fall for anything if it sounds good enough. Banks, without our permission, take money from our checking accounts, switch it to our savings account, and proudly crow about how they are saving us money. The word “bullshit” leaps readily to mind.

We’re told we can get a Free Credit Report, without mentioning that it isn’t “Free” until we shell out our good money to become a “member” of something or other.

Cars used to be “used.” Now they are “pre-owned.” All the difference in the world! And we can get astonishing savings on the purchase of a new car if we are a “well-qualified buyer” without giving us a clue what they mean by “well-qualified.” We are told that “No loan application is refused!” without mentioning that there is a considerable difference between accepting an application and approving the loan.

We can buy almost anything with “No Payments or Interest Until 2755!” Uh.....I’ve never quite figured that one out, but if it means I’ll still be paying for it in 2755, I don’t think I’m interested.

If I’m told I can get $300 off on the purchase of a new gadget, I wonder if I’m the only one curious about what the cost must normally be if they can lower it by $300 and still make a profit. (And have no doubt…no company is in business to lose money.)

Fast food restaurants lure us in with commercials showing at a “typical” one of their franchises in which at least fifteen people are simultaneously jumping up and down and sloshing Cokes all over each other in the excitement of having won tons of money. And no one ever seems to notice the astonishing difference between the items displayed on the posters and what is actually handed us.

Billboards and TV ads show us mouth-watering, 10-inch high sandwiches, open buckets of chicken with pieces piled high (a favorite phrase) above the rim. They apparently assume no one is going to be smart enough to wonder how they manage to put the lid on the bucket. Or, more importantly, they don’t care.

People who attend sporting events are obviously hard of hearing, which is why, I am sure, all commercials pertaining to them are screamed at the top of the announcer’s lungs. In print media, Second-Coming type is required for “special” sales (ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME ANNUAL PRE-GROUNDHOG DAY SAVINGS!!!) to alert the brain-dead to the spectacular values being offered.

We're told “This 1849 $50 gold piece is now worth $87,000,000!! Own your own genuine replica, plated in .0000004 REAL GOLD for only $19.99”. And then we are cautioned that there is a “strict limit” of five per customer! Really? Wanna bet that if anyone is stupid enough to want 400 of the worthless pieces of dreck, they'd be more than happy to bend the rules just for you?

Organizations like Publisher’s Clearing House show delirious winners (all, coincidentally, standing in front of well kept, upper-class’s probably too difficult for the cameras to walk up to a fifth-floor tenement) shouting and screaming in disbelief at their good fortune. At least I can appreciate their disbelief, since I share it wholeheartedly. Have you ever entered a Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstake? Have you ever won a Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstake? The prosecution rests.

As I say, we are a silly lot, and no one is more so than I, for letting this sort of nonsense get to me.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

Monday, September 03, 2012

King Canute

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I spend an inordinate amount of time…and the bulk of these blogs…in ranting and raving and waving my arms, and shouting and cursing and oozing bile from every pore. And every now and then I step back and wonder: why? Much as I would like to be appointed He Who Must Be Obeyed, it’s not very likely that’s going to happen.

And just because I rail against the mountainous waves of astonishing stupidity, bigotry, hatred, and intolerance that continuously wash over us all doesn’t mean I have the slightest control over, let alone effect on, any of them. I’m like King Canute, standing on the shore, commanding the incoming tide to reverse. Maybe I hope that by eliciting your empathy, all of us lined up together on the shore might intimidate the tides. Or maybe not.

I am quite good at self-delusion (though I’m sure you’ve never noticed). Being the ultimate egoist, I tend to talk about things which are closest to my core being and insist on trying to foist them off on you on the unproven and unprovable grounds that you might realize that we occasionally have the same thoughts or reactions, though they are not the kind of things one talks much about to others.

I sometimes feel—to use another nautical analogy—a bit like one of those small crabs which live inside an empty sea shell, which in this case is my mind, coming out timidly only occasionally to bitch about something, then darting back in again.

I spend almost all my waking time writing, either books or blogs or emails. I seem to never be able to find the time for what has always been one of the pleasures of life: reading. However, I recently came across a little book called Another Cat at the Door by C.W. Gusewelle. It’s a collection of totally charming short essays about the author and his family’s inability to turn away stray cats showing up at their door. (I assume the stories originally appeared either as a series of blogs or in a weekly newspaper column.)

Each self-contained piece is tells a complete little tale with grace, humor (and sometimes sorrow), insight, and compassion. Reading them, I wondered once again why it seems to be that my blogs are too often little more than grumpy muttered oaths and complaints. I fear you may…if you have not already…grow tired of being exposed to unrelenting negativity, and wander off in search of happier thoughts.

Mr. Gusewell is not a curmudgeon, and he does not live in a seashell. He spends his time outside, observing the world and others around him, not immersed in himself to the exclusion of the rest of the world. There is little nourishment to be found in feeding entirely on one’s self, but it is exactly what I do.

So I’ve resolved to try to get outside of myself a little more in future blogs: God knows there really is enough good and pleasant things to talk about. And I hope you understand that my apparent unhappiness stems from my soul-deep belief and expectation that people can be so very much better than they are, and my deep disappointment when constantly proven wrong.

So I talk about myself in hopes that you may find I am also talking about you. Maybe enough of us, standing on the seashore, can make a difference. I’d like to think so.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (