Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

a week of this, and that, and the other thing

July 13, 2018

How did a week go by and I not make a post? I’ve been a bachelor for all of that time (and a few days longer) while my wife darts around this state called Colorado — I’ve confirmed it’s a real place despite the odd name — seeing all but one of her sisters. So I’ve had parenting duty for the two dogs, the four (!) birds, and countless fish. Plus I’ve been trying to keep the anemic lawn alive in this monstrous heat (consecutive 100+ degree days). Plus working. And reading. And writing. And generally picking up after myself. So I guess time passes when you’re busy with things like that.

And it was only a week before this that my wife was in St. Louis with our son and daughter-in-law, providing emergency transportation while their car was in the shop. And then about a month before then, she was in Seattle with our other son and daughter-in-law and their little girl. And me during all of her trips playing the dog father.


My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” came out in THEMA Literary Journal during this week. There was apparently some delay with the printer, but here it is. My piece begins on page 55 (why am I always in the latter half of these journals?) and takes up twelve pages: the largest chunk of real estate between the covers. THEMA, as the name suggests, has a theme for each issue, and I had submitted for the theme “The Face in the Photograph.” In my story a son comes across a photo of his father as an infant, and though he doesn’t realize it at the time, the photo directs the course of the son’s life.


I managed to make it out to my cabin during the past weekend. I did some weed whipping (having remembered to bring the gasoline this time), found that no mouse had tripped the trap (maybe they prefer Swiss to the cheddar I had baited it with), and swam for an hour in the lake. I’d also remembered my swimming gear, including the hard-soled water shoes, so I could actually swim, with kicks and everything. It was another idyllic hour. And because I swam just before leaving, I thought I didn’t need to shower when I got home. That was a mistake I’ve been paying for during this week as well. I was apparently still infested with chiggers on my legs, and, oddly, my feet. I have been itching for days. Cortisone cream and antihistamines are intimate parts of my life lately. I thought the other day, as I was scratching, that I must find a way for one of my characters to say that the little Ozark cabin is in “Bugbite County.”


My work on “Spring Fever” creeps its petty pace. Every time I visit it, I hone it a little sharper. I don’t know if I’m nearly finished or if I’m nearly to the point of seeing how bad it is.


I use this image as my avatar in some places online, so you may have seen it before. I carved it into a Volkswagen-sized limestone boulder in 2005, and for most* of the days and weeks and months and years since then, the initials have been sitting mutely under twelve feet of water in my lake. I used a dull chisel and a hammer with a broken handle to carve this, but the one I carved on the side of one of the sandstone steps leading to the cabin was done with a Dremel.



*There have been some times when enuf water has leaked out of the lake to expose the boulder.


more about me

July 5, 2018

The Magnolia Review had published my story “Fire Sermon” in March and this week they published an interview I gave shortly after they accepted the story. If you want, you can read it here. I don’t think there’s anything surprising in it, at least for anyone who’s been reading this humble blog for a while, but if you’re looking to toss off ten minutes of your life here’s a chance.

This is the third interview I’ve given for my writing.



bits and pieces

July 2, 2018

I received a few wistful comments about the round rock photo I dropped into a post recently, so I thought I’d show you another. This was taken in July of 2006, and though it may seem odd, this is my favorite of the hundreds of round rocks I have in my forest. I have it on a shelf beside my desk now, as a sort of bookend for the various journals that have published my stories. (It doesn’t work very well as a bookend since it tends to roll.)

The setting is also of note. It is where the cabin now stands. If you look closely enuf you can see a rope crossing the top of the photo to the corner of a tarp at the top right. We had a tarp (a succession of tarps) serve as our “shelter” for years before we had the cabin built. Three bonus round rocks in the background.


I have a confirmed Blogspot comment of mine that posted! You may recall me saying that my comments on Blogspot sites were not appearing, including one site where I was a regular commenter. I’m not sure what this means. Because of spam, most of these sites are filtered so that the blog owner must approve a comment for it to appear. Does this mean my benign comments are no longer being approved at these sites? And can I take that as an indication of my self worth?


I may have mentioned that I have a Flickr site. It was mostly photos of my woods in the Missouri Ozarks, but now it seems to be screen captures of my grandchildren. Anyway . . .


By my count, I have lived in seven houses through my life. (And there may have been an apartment before the first house.) I realized the other day that not only have I lived in my current house longer than anywhere else, but I have lived here longer than everywhere else. Yet it still seems temporary and transitional. I don’t think I expected to set down roots here, so their they’re shallow.


Somewhat similar: there was a point in my life where every company I’d ever worked for had gone out of business. I even wrote a story about a character who was this kind of “corporate kiss of death.”


I’m still wrestling with that story “Spring Fever.” I’ve kept 4,400+ words, and I think they’re all essential. It’s improving, but as I mentioned, it’s related to the last chapter story in One-Match Fire, so it has to be exactly right. It’s getting there.

wordless Wednesday

June 27, 2018

Skywatch Friday ~ blue green

June 14, 2018

While I was in New York for five days, the dogs were at “camp” and they’re always glad to come home afterward. I’m trying to get them back to their normal, but even though they’re in their familiar house with the familiar beds (and smells), I’m off at the office all day, so they’re home with only each other (and the four birds and the constantly changing parade of fish).

So yesterday, even though it was 93 degrees F (“F” is for Fahrenheit, though I could think of another word), I took them to the park we often visit for a trip around the lake. We only made it about a third of the way before the littler dog, Queequeg, was in obvious distress. So we turned around, did a little cross country, and then got back in the Prolechariot to head home to air conditioning and copious water.

On the quick hike back to the truck, I snapped the photo above. I liked the contrast of the blue sky and the green trees.

incident in a library

May 14, 2018

Being a life member of the hoi polloi, I suppose I should be accustomed to society’s crushing indignities. Perhaps it’s a testament to some worthiness in me that I’m not. Or perhaps it’s a testament to a kind of foolishness. (I suppose it could be both.)

Last Friday evening, my wife and I ventured far out of our comfort zone (and perilously close to past my bed time) to attend a reading by a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet at the downtown library here in our great Midwestern city. I had given my wife a book of this woman’s poems as a coming-home gift last summer (after her grandmotherly stint in a distant land helping with the arrival of a certain set of twins). So when news of this poet’s reading reached us, we made our reservations to attend and then built our afternoon and evening around that.

When we arrived at the library, housed in a magnificent former bank building, the great, columned central hall was packed with hundreds of chairs arranged before a dais. This was our first time in this library for a reading, and I didn’t know if such a huge spread was typical or if this particular poet merited such preparation. (I can’t say about the former, but the latter certainly proved to be the case.)

This, only with even more chairs:

My wife had brought along her copy of the book of poems with the vague notion of getting it signed. though with a sore leg, she didn’t intend to stand in a line to make this happen.

As we sat (in the only comfy chairs on the entire first floor apparently, behind the dais and out of sight of the speaker) waiting for the event to begin, it happened that the poet herself was two bookshelves away, greeting folks. I don’t know if she was unrecognized by the crowd, but she wasn’t thronged at this time. So I grabbed my wife’s book and became the next person in the spontaneous line to ask for an autograph, behind a man who was already chatting with her and who had brought three books for her to sign. Another man was soon standing behind me.

And then a couple approached. I recognized them as a husband and wife pair of writers somewhat well known in the city — and fine people as far as I know — who eyed our line of two and somewhat joined it, standing more to the side of us than with us.

Also standing nearby was a man in a good suit and with a patrician air who waited patiently for the man with three books to finish his chat with the poet. When he did, the man in the good suit stepped up to the poet and introduced himself as the director of the library (and when he gave his name I recognized it as that of a well known banking family in our great city).

All this time, the beginning of the formal events of the evening was approaching, and I really wanted to get her autograph before rather than after (bed time, you know). So the precious minutes were passing as I stood next in line with the book of poems clutched in my hands.

And then the man in the good suit beckoned toward the couple (whom he obviously knew), summoning them to meet the poet, which they gladly did, giving me a half-second glance before stepping up. In effect, they jumped the line. And being poets themselves, they had much to say to the woman. When the wife presented her copy of a book to be signed, she also held out a pen the poet could use, a Mont Blanc pen. And so the minutes ticked away.

The man who had stood behind me then spoke.

“Are you in line?” he asked, perhaps thinking that he’d gotten behind the wrong person.

“I thought I was,” came my barely disguised, disgusted response. “But I evidently don’t know the right people.” I was beginning to give up the hope of getting my wife’s book signed as the three poets and the man in the good suit chatted in the fleeting minutes.

But when they finally parted, the man in the good suit did something I didn’t expect. He waved me forward to the poet. Had he heard my woeful whispered words? Had he recognized his spontaneous act of favoritism? Or was the affront only in my head?

The poet was gracious and interested, and she asked for the spelling of my wife’s name then put in a nice comment. And then I rejoined the unwashed masses. My wife had been able to watch the incident transpire and had shared my misgivings, but it ended well.

The talk and the reading were wonderful, the poet being articulate (of course) and informed and clearly wholly worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. When the evening ended and we collected ourselves to go ransom our car from the downtown parking garage, the few moments this took allowed a line of more than fifty people to form before the table where the poet would autograph their copies of her books of poems. I had acted at the right time and faced down the adversity like a champ.

By the way, this is the parking garage of the library:

area of refuge

May 7, 2018

The first time I visited the Seattle area, more than a decade ago, I saw signs along some roads that referred to them as “volcano evacuation routes.”

At first I thought these were a joke, but there were so many of these signs that I finally realized they were legit. Mount Rainier, it seems, is considered an active volcano with enuf potential for eruption that plans are (or should be) made for this. (The day I first saw these signs, we were driving to Mount Rainier to hike along its slopes.)

Similarly, the first time I visited the coastal areas of Oregon some years later, I saw signs along some roads that referred to them as “tsunami evacuation routes.”

By this time, I understood these signs to be legit as well, and, ironically, we were driving to the shore to hike along the beaches and jetties there.

I was once staying in a hotel in Los Angeles when I was informed in the morning that the area had experienced an earthquake. I had slept through it.

I have lived in the Midwest all of my life, in either Missouri or Kansas (and I’m told with a brief period of my pre-permanent memories childhood in some place called “Illinois”). The Midwest is considered “Tornado Alley” and this is the season for them to arrive. (There was a large one in Oklahoma last week.) When I travel and say where I am from, people often ask, often aghast, how I can live under the constant threat of a tornado. But despite my *mumble-mumble* years here, I have never even seen a tornado, much less been directly affected by one. I recognize my good fortune in this but the fact is that, in my observation, we Midwesterners don’t give undue concern to this, knowing we could be struck by a car much more likely than face down a swirling wind.

I was in a small bakery near my home the other day when I saw the sign at the top of this post. I immediately related it to the threat of a tornado (though I thought it odd that the sign was by the back door of the bakery, a back door made of glass). But a little research showed me that I was mistaken. An area of refuge sign, showing the international symbol of a wheel chair-bound person, is actually where such a person should be placed in the event of a fire or similar emergency. The emergency crews know of these locations and know of the possibility that a handicapped* person could be waiting there for evacuation.

So I go about my life, surrounded by threats known and unknown but not greatly troubled by them. But I can say that I won’t likely be visiting that bakery again. It wasn’t very good.


*I once heard a man argue very earnestly that the word “handicapped” was derogatory and should not be used to refer to people with disabilities. This person understood that the word derived from the image of a person begging with a cap in hand to receive alms. This is a false etymology. The word has its origin centuries ago and refers to having a hand in cap as a way to settle disputes in a fair (or at least arbitrary) way, to create a more equitable situation. Snopes** does its usual fine job breaking this down.

**My wife works in an office with a sales force that often seems to have too much time on its hands and will send around emails discussing this or that latest outrage, generally political and generally not very enlightened. And to bolster whatever assertion is being spewed, they will say that Snopes supports its veracity. When this happens, my wife quickly refers to Snopes to check the claim and generally finds that the research on that page says directly the opposite of what has been spewed. Snopes contradicts the assertion. I suppose by merely making the assertion that Snopes supports the spew, the writer hopes to wear a false mantle of legitimacy while persuading the reader that there is no need to bother checking the facts, that it’s already been done.