Thursday, August 29, 2013


Sim•plism: noun, rare; the oversimplification of an issue.

In my endless search to try to figure out who I am, what I'm doing here, and what I'm supposed to accomplish in life, I have determined that one of the major roadblocks in my search is the fact that I operate and have always operated on the principle of simplism. Life should be simple—one, two, three, four; a, b, c, d. If I assume/expect something to be logical and easy, it should be logical and easy. If I put my keys down somewhere, I shouldn't have to remember where I put them because I knew where I put them when I put them there, so I should be able to just pick them up again when I need them. It never, ever occurs to me when I set them down that I almost definitely will not remember where I put them—because such a thought is incomprehensible at the moment I put them down. Thinking about things that should not require thinking about is complicated. I do not like complicated—and “complicated” most definitely does not like me.

To me, logic and simplism are synonymous. My beliefs, attitudes, and opinions are based entirely on them. How can one refute logic? (And having so said, I do realize that the flaw in that argument lies in the fact that what is logical to me is often not logical to others, and vice-versa.)

I honestly cannot comprehend why things that should be simple are not. I've often said that I sincerely believe my emotional development stalled somewhere in early childhood. My insistence on thinking, acting, and reacting simplistically is undoubtedly a result, and it has been and continues to be the bane of my existence.

Simplicity. How can anything be simpler than the precept of “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” as an elemental a guide to human behavior? So why, then, don't people treat each other the way they themselves want to be treated? I honesty and sincerely to the depth of my soul cannot comprehend why they don't, can't, or won't.

Politics? Religion? Diversity in individual beliefs is understandable, since all humans are different. But bigotry? Baseless hatred? How can supposedly and otherwise intelligent human beings form and hold to such irrationality, such total lack of the most elementary logic?

I have always suffered from low self esteem and an underlying sense of inferiority, and I think this, too, can be traced to my insistence on adhering to the principle of simplism. Comparing ourselves to others is a universal human's the compass we use to determine where we stand among others. I constantly look at others and, for the most part, am awed by the relative simplicity of their lives, and how smoothly they move through them. Other people are graceful, at ease among others in social situations, blend in well in any gathering, cheer at concerts, dance, and clearly express their enthusiasms. I am/can do none of these things. By comparison I, in my simplism view, am clumsy and awkward and inept, which only fuels my feelings of inadequacy and self loathing.

Oddly, though I fully realize that the world is not all black and white, the most simplistic colors, I do believe strongly in the concepts of right and wrong, and I don't judge others on where they stand on the spectrum between. I can and do speak only for myself and the core of my own being.

I've come to the conclusion, on looking over what I've just written, that simplism is a complex subject replete with unanswered and unanswerable questions. But it is to the credit of human beings that we never hesitate to ask those questions.

Now, where did I put my keys?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Monday, August 26, 2013


I always got a kick out of the old saying that when it came to butchering pigs, they use “everything but the 'oink'.” I can relate...I do the same thing with my life. I find it difficult to get rid of anything, especially words, that I may either use in the future or to which I relate on some personal level.

I have 40,474 undeleted messages in my “in” box, 32,712 in my “sent” box, and 111 “drafts”—though in my defense I should point out that I use my “drafts” box for writing notes to myself on things I don't want to forget. Were the entire contents of my computer to be converted to paper and stacked in boxes, I undoubtedly would have Health and Human Services pounding on my door, which they would be unable to open for the stacks of  boxes.

I know I should go through my mail, at least, and delete all or most of it, and every now and then I'll start out to do so. But I simply can't do it. First, I have to look at each one before hitting the “delete” lest I delete something important. I'll delete five or ten and then find something I want or feel I really need to keep, or something with an address or an idea, or a fact I don't want to lose track of, and I bog down. I may actually eliminate 50 or more posts before I give up, only to have those 50 replaced by 50 more within a day.

I have duplicates of far too many files, and the same files in different formats, and who-knows-how-many files I've put in the wrong place and can't find.

There seems to be little or no time available to delete things while accumulating them, so they just...accumulate.

Which brings us to blogs. In addition to the 864 blogs I've published, there are 75 others I've begun and never finished. I'll start out with an idea, get a sentence or two, or a paragraph or two, into it and then lose either steam or ideas, or both. I frequently do go back to them when I don't have a ready idea for my next blog, and I do often find something that sparks me to pick up where I left off. However, many are dated in one way or another, or address issues not really still relevant. I carefully date (to give me an idea of how old they are) and title (I do think I'm very good with titles, and hate to lose one) each one.

Here's one I just picked at random from the top of the stack—note the date. I'd like to think I am cleaning house by getting rid of it after going-on-four years, though I know full well I am in fact only moving it from one place to another:

01-01-10 New Years, Similes, and Metaphors

And here we are, standing at the threshold of yet another brand new year, looking out over the vast sea of the future teeming with schools of shimmering similes and pods of ponderous metaphors. Similes and metaphors are abundant at any time, but at the beginning of a new year...and a new decade...they seem to multiply, like 7-year cicadas.

Thresholds are a popular basis for similes, since they represent the crossing from what is behind into what lies ahead. Our lives are made up of an endless (well, at least until we end) succession of thresholds. We cross a new one each morning when we awake, blinded by the bright light of the future which does not allow us to see what lies beyond the door.

Hmmm. Now that one has promise. I'll have to take out the reference to the new year or wait until a new year actually arrives, but....


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Thursday, August 22, 2013


The wall was one of Man's earliest, most useful, and most versatile inventions. Walls of branches and twigs and later solid wood enabled him to construct shelters against wind, rain, and cold, and thus were homes created. He soon learned walls of stone could be an effective way of keeping enemies at bay, and used them to construct fortresses and castles and to surround his towns. Clever species that he was (and is), it didn't take him long to realize that what kept people out could also keep them in, and dungeons and prisons were born.

So, walls are essential to and an integral part of our society and civilization. But walls can be constructed of things other than stone and brick and wood. We humans use our thoughts and fears to construct non-tangible walls within our minds and hearts which can be as formidable as any stone.

Our inner walls are built, for our own reasons, primarily to protect us from something, or to safeguard memories. But frequently, as with walls of stone, once having built an inner wall, we find it difficult or almost impossible to tear it down. Habits are walls forming narrow corridors. Some are relatively low and easy to step over, but others become so high they become like mazes from which it is impossible to escape.

Robert Frost said “Something there is that doesn't love a wall,” and when it comes to the walls created by our minds, he speaks the absolute truth, and far too many of them are counterproductive and stunting.

We each build our own walls for our own purposes—almost always defensive—and while I cannot speak for anyone's but my own, I've built far more than I really need, and many I wish now I had never built, or could tear down. But once built they are, for better or worse, part of us and we seem unwilling or unable to dismantle them. So many of my own walls I built for my own perceived self-protection. I built one to protect me from personal rejection, only to find that it also kept me from reaching out when I really wanted to. My self-built walls have constrained me so that I long ago became incapable of expressing myself as I would so very much like to do in social situations. I do not dance. I cannot allow myself to verbally shout or whistle or wave my arms to show enthusiasm while all around me are doing so. I clap loudly, but my body has fused with my wall.

When I was younger, I built innumerable walls to protect myself from a variety of real and perceived hurts, one of the largest being to avoid being hurt by those with whom I wanted a romantic relationship. That particular wall is now largely moot, like a Roman aqueduct, since I have been aged out of any possibility for the kind of personal relationship I, the eternal optimist and dreamer, still long for.

Some inner walls are rather like coral reefs in that they just grow by themselves. Personal attitudes and preferences too easily solidify into prejudices and intolerance of those whose attitudes and preferences do not match our own. As this type of wall grows higher, we reach the point of being incapable of seeing over or around it.

People build walls to hide behind. For far too many years, gays and lesbians not only locked themselves in the closet but then walled up the door from the inside. These walls are finally—if still not easily—broken through, and the closet doors thrown open.

Walls serve a wide variety of purposes for each of us. But we need more doors.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Monday, August 19, 2013

Old Bones

Like a dog with an old bone, some people...I being one of them...seem to become fixated on certain things, carrying that fixation with them wherever they go and refusing to let go of it. My fixation, as you surely know if you've read my blogs with any regularity, is on the passage of time and the unavoidable inevitability of aging.

There is nothing more futile, frustrating, counterproductive, or ungrateful than railing against aging, especially since growing old is a privilege denied to so many. But I can't help it: I am so utterly fascinated, intrigued by, and desperately in love with life that I cannot bear the thought of losing it. I know—with more sadness than I can possibly express—that it must end, and that I am engaged in a losing tug of war with time, which drags me ever closer to that scratched line in the dirt which separates life from death.

Life is a contract with pages of tiny print to which no one pays attention. Every human being is subjected to the terms of the contract, but we simply skip to the bottom and sign the agreement without being fully aware of what's in it. We spend our first forty years or more assuming that life is a totally no-strings-attached gift. And then, slowly, we become aware of what lies in the contract's clauses. Taxes and penalties start to accrue, with increasingly larger payments in the form of a repossession of those things we assumed were ours unconditionally and forever.

As a rule, these unseen “taxes” are taken so gradually we aren't even aware of the withdrawals from our account at first. Of course in my case, my bout with tongue cancer took a large bite out of my account, unquestionably aging me by several years and dramatically heightening my awareness of how much has been taken. Living as I do near a large university campus doesn't help my ability to try to overlook it. As I get off the el near the DePaul campus, I watch the students bound down the stairs two and three at a time in an effortless “da-dum-da-dum-da-dum” cadence. There is a rhythm and fluidity to it I never noticed while I had it, but of which I am excruciatingly aware now that I do not. They run easily across the street to catch a bus. I jolt and lurch. There is no fluidity to my movements, nothing even resembling grace. (Imagine Frankenstein's monster trying to run and you pretty much have the picture.).

And the most maddening thing, to me, is that all my life...all my life...I could do these things without a single thought. (Perhaps that's my message to those who withdrawals from their “account” have not yet become noticeable: when you move with grace and ease; when you run, when you bound up and down steps, be aware of how blessed you truly are: rejoice in it.)

Glancing over the above paragraphs, I realize how ungracious my complaints are, how ungrateful I appear to be, not for having things taken away from me, but for ever having had them at all, when so very many people never had them. I suppose I am in the position of a very rich man who has lost his great fortune, giving no consideration, no empathy, no true understanding for all those who have never had the things I bewail having been taken away from me. I complain when I cannot raise my head high enough to look up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, totally ignoring the fact that tens of millions of people have never been to the Sistine Chapel, and tens of millions of others are unable to see anything at all. I cannot bound down a flight of stairs or run across the street to catch a bus, but I have two functioning legs and I can walk, where so many cannot.

And as I reach the end of this blog I once again find that what I intended to be a cautionary blog for you ends up being a cathartic wake up call to myself.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In Few Words

I've always loved aphorisms for their ability to provoke big thoughts in relatively few words. Writers are prone to coming up with them, and I've perhaps immodestly been collecting some of my own over the past year which I hope might spark a thought or two in you. The problem with aphorisms, however, is that they are like pieces of candy, and are best consumed only a few at a time.

Anyway, here they are. Think away.

Intolerance, bigotry, and hatred are towers built by the insecure to look down on others. (08-06-12)

The more aware one is of life and what goes on in it, the more complex, confusing, and frustrating it becomes. (08-18-12)

Believe firmly in whatever it takes to get you through the day. (08-22-12)

To the heart, time does not exist. (08-26-12)

In the world of “If,” anything is possible. (09-01-12)

The well of idiocy has no bottom. (09-03-12)

Friends are the candles that light our way through life. (10-02-12)

Dreams are dragonflies, skimming the calm surface of the sleeping mind. (10-13-12)

Fantasy provides what reality denies. (10-13-12)

To open a book is to open the mind. (11-24-12)

You can lead a bigot to logic, but you can't make him think. (12-14-12)

It is to humanity's everlasting credit that even in the darkest of nights we continue to hope for the dawn.

Logic is to spammers what water is to the Wicked Witch of the West. (01-08-13)

Aging is a disease for which there is no cure, and from which there is no recovery. (02-04-13)

Too often Justice listens while Money talks. (02-22-13)

The gift of life comes with increasingly high maintenance costs. (03-09-13)
Anyone who says "you can't buy love" has never paid an animal shelter a few dollars to adopt a pet. (03-12-13)
Memories are a small campfire around which we can huddle on a dark and cold winter's night. (03-16-13)

The mind is a garden in which many different flowers grow. (03-21-13)

Far too many people confuse putting others down with raising themselves up. (05-02-13)

It's astonishing what human beings can accomplish/endure when they have no other choice. (06-12-13)

Never let the actions of others determine your own. (06-18-13)

Words and thoughts have no expiration date. (06-21-13)

Anyone who claims you can't buy love has never been to an animal shelter. (08-07-13)

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Monday, August 12, 2013

Life on Banana Peels

I go through life with two fresh banana peels affixed to the bottoms of my feet, and once I begin to slip, my brain goes into total, instant lockdown. I do not merely fall, I plunge into an abyss of confusion, frustration, and self-loathing for my ineptitude. The slightest mistake or frustration can instantly send me spiraling out of control, both mentally and emotionally.

They say that to fear you are going insane is proof you are not, since the the truly insane never would entertain the thought. Well, I'm not sure I totally agree. I am constantly doing things which sincerely make me question my own sanity.

While catching my flight from Newark to Chicago after returning from Europe last month, I was surprised to learn I had to pay to check my luggage—something I had never before had to do in my entire life. Apparently I'd simply never flown an airline which charged—and I've certainly not had to do so on international flights. Flustered by this unexpected baggage charge, I reached for my billfold. I have two credit cards; a debit and a credit. Since my mind had already slammed shut I was incapable of remembering that since I never carry my billfold while in Europe, I'd put my debit card in a spare neck pouch in my suitcase, and my credit card inside my camera case, which I always carried with me. I could not, to save my soul, remember what I had done with either one of them, and I didn't have enough cash in my billfold to cover the charge.

Utter, instant, all-consuming panic.

I asked for my suitcase back, stepped out of line, laid it on the floor out of the way of other bag-checking customers, and opened it there in the middle of the busy airport. I then proceeded to rummage through every item in it, the space in my head where my brain should have been filled only with icy panic. I finally found my debit card, which they rather reluctantly accepted, taking pity on a doddering old man. I of course felt and looked like a fool. Forcing myself to calm down, I resigned myself to calling my bank immediately on returning to Chicago to report my credit card lost.

Finally at the boarding gate, I took my camera out of the carrying case, which had been strapped to my arm the entire time, to get a picture of a beautiful young man, and....

This morning I was looking for a cover illustration for one of my books. I went to the file in which I am always very careful to keep all my book covers as soon as I receive them. It was not there. It was not on my website where “new” covers are always posted as soon as I get them. It was not in any one of the dozen or so places I might logically be able to find it. Once again, I free-fell into the abyss.The unanswered and unanswerable question of why in hell it wasn't where I fully expected it to be or in any of the other places I'd looked subsequently, and what I could possibly, possibly, have done with it? I finally found it, though I cannot tell you where or how, since I do not know.

My inability to instantly deal with the totally unexpected can, I'm sure, be traced back to the fact that I am sincerely convinced my basic emotional development stopped somewhere considerably before my teens. Every sudden, unexpected challenge is to me a deer-in-the-headlights moment: a mixture of surprise, shock, and incomprehension. I have never been able to acknowledge that things refuse to go as I want and fully expect them to go. Any deviation from my expectations truly creates mental and emotional havoc.

When I sit down to write, I don't have to worry about there being banana peels on my feet, because if I encounter an unexpected situation in the course of writing, I have the luxury of being able to take as much time as necessary to correct it, and the reader, unlike an airport full of people, is none the wiser for my ineptitude.

And I know I am far from the only human who goes through life on banana peels, but I'm probably one of the few willing to talk about it, and do so in hopes it might offer some solace to others who think they are the only ones.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Thursday, August 08, 2013


I have no problem setting priorities. The problem is, having set them, in determining which of them should come first. At the moment I'm writing this, I have at least four: 1) writing this blog; 2) listening to newly-narrated sections of the audiobook for A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home, 1954-1956 for changes/corrections; 3) working on the next Elliott Smith mystery, Cameron's Eye; 4) catching/keeping up with email and too-many-to-keep-track-of social media sites. All of this would be a challenge to the most disciplined of individuals, and by no stretch of the imagination can I include myself in their number. I set off on one priority—again, the writing of this blog, for example, and note that I have new email. I can/should simply make mental note of the fact and keep going on the blog. But I don't. I go check the email, and when I come back to the blog I've forgotten what I was planning to say next.
I blame it all on time: there is never enough of it and totally disregard the fact that I'd undoubtably manage what time I had far better if I applied myself to just one thing at a time.

But how can I separate one snowflake from a blizzard? The fact is that I am both greedy and impatient: I want everything and I want it now. Unfortunately, I'm lousy at multitasking. I could, ideally, be listening to the audiobook narration as I write. The operative word there, of course, is “ideally,” and in my world, “ideally” seldom exists. I am the type of person who, as the cliché says, finds it difficult to walk and talk at the same time.

Part of the problem is that I have just the tiniest tendency to digress. No matter what I'm doing, or how fixated I am upon doing it, things keep popping into my head that are totally unrelated to the subject at hand, and in an instant I'm off in pursuit of whatever it might be.

And even as I wrote that sentence, I noted that I have several new notices on Pinterest, one of the many sites I frequent. I notice it because this window in which I'm typing does not fully cover the In box underneath/behind it, and I can therefore see any new messages the instant they come in. Okay, so why don't I just expand this window to full screen so I wouldn't know when new messages come in? Because if I did so, I would not know when new messages come in, and they might be really important. (And that digression led to another as I took a minute to add the subject of self-delusion to my “future blogs” list. Sigh.)

A friend and I have been discussing...via email, of course...the subject of addiction to social media, and I suddenly realized that I am, indeed, an addict. While an addiction to Facebook is far, far down the list of addictions, it is in fact one. I justified it, as addicts are wont to do, by pointing out that, not having the financial backing of the Battleship Row of publishing houses, I use social media as a vital tool to attracting new readers to my books and blogs.

Few people are probably aware...or could be expected to care...that writing and publishing books is a long, intricately complex process. Print books are formatted differently than e-books, and audiobooks—an area into which I am just getting—are another process altogether. And with audiobooks, the author has a responsibility not only to himself but to the book's narrator, who often puts a huge amount of time and effort, and whose remuneration is dependent on how many copies are sold. A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home, 1954-1956 is projected to come in at a whopping 18.2 hours of listening, though with each letter averaging only around 3 to 4 minutes, it can be read in as large or as small segments as the reader chooses. Convincing the potential listener of that fact, and getting him or her to actually take a chance with the book, is something else again.

The hard fact of the matter is that a writer at my level on the slopes of the literary mountain has to, like it or not, be a pitchman for his own work, and to depend heavily on the kindness of his readers to spread the word.

Being read is my Number 1 priority, under which all other priorities fall.

Oh, and before I forget...would you like to read (or listen to) a book? I have several I could recommend.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (

Monday, August 05, 2013


Piton, noun: a peg or spike driven into a rock or crack to support a climber or a rope.

I've never actually climbed a mountain, and in truth have never had the slightest interest in doing so. But if you've followed my blogs for any length of time, I'm sure you've noticed that I occasionally like to wax philosophical...or what passes for philosophical with me. This is one of those times. And on a philosophical level, I look upon the world as the sheer face of a mountain wrapped in a thick fog, and I have spent every day of my life struggling to climb it. Words are the pitons I use to try to to anchor myself to it in an effort to comprehend what I'm doing, where I'm going, and to give my life meaning to myself if no one else.

All this was prompted by trying to thinking of a subject for my first regular blog since returning from my recent trip. As so often happens when I try to think of something, an avalanche of thoughts sweep down the mountainside, threatening to sent me plummeting into total confusion. I found myself grasping at the pitons associated with my all-time favorite topics, my own life and experiences, which I justify with the logic that I am hardly qualified to talk about anyone else's.

And I realized that of all the myriads of sensations washing back and forth through every human's life, the single most predominant sensations of mine are, and have always been, those of alienation and being lost. Of having no idea of where I am in the overall scheme of things—if there is, indeed a scheme of things—of how I really managed to get here, of what is expected of me, and of why I am so eternally confused. Everyone else seems to climb their individual and seemingly far less steep mountains with relative ease, and without worrying themselves excessively about what pitons they use in their climb. I know this isn't exactly true, and that everyone faces their own challenges as they climb their own mountain in their own way. But again, since I only have my own perceptions to guide me, I have to rely on them.

My life has always been, to me, an endless string of unanswered questions, of utterly failing to comprehend the actions of others...especially those whose entire purpose in living seems to be to take advantage of the weaknesses of others and to spread hatred, misery, and mistrust. Honor, compromise, respect, and common courtesy are obviously unknown concepts to them, and their number, sadly, is not only legion but apparently growing rapidly.

It takes a lot of concentration and willpower to keep the sense of hopelessness with which we are bombarded daily on TV, magazines, newspapers, and on the streets themselves from becoming totally overwhelming. It's not easy to observe our fellow humans routinely behaving shamefully, doing the most egregious things to others with utter impunity and with no real concern about having to pay for their actions. There is probably some small comfort for those with strong religious beliefs to say “Oh, they'll burn in hell,” and at times I do wish I could share their conviction in an afterlife. But I can't. When these loathsome creatures die, the only thing their death accomplishes is to remove them from the world.

That humans tend to be naturally optimistic is evinced by the simple fact of wondering why we assume that life should be anything other than what it is...a constant struggle...and why it bothers us that it is. Being human involves more than Mark Twain's clever observation that “Man is the only animal that blushes...or needs to.” We also are apparently the only species to be aware of moral issues. Apparently only man lives not only on the physical level of all other living creatures, but on a mental one as well.

Awareness of one's self and one's surroundings is probably universal in all creatures with other than the most rudimentary of brains. And because Man is assumedly the most aware of all creatures, he is the most plagued by question.

And what of pitons, which assumedly was the subject of this blog? Well, glance down through the fog: we're standing on them.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. 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 (, which is also available as an audiobook (