Tuesday, February 07, 2017

State of the Apocalypse, Laura Ingalls Wilder Sesquicentennial Edition

For those too lazy to Google the big, weird word, we salute you.

Happy Birthday to one of the happiest accidental discoveries of my children’s young existence, when my neighbor gifted me with much of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books on growing up on the American frontier, from the Big Woods of Wisconsin, to Indians and malaria in Kansas territory, to a sort-of hobbit hole house in Minnesota, to the harsh, hard-living plains of De Smet, South Dakota. I read these books out loud to my children, and we were all taken, not only by the tale of Charles Ingalls’ itchy foot and ingenuity, but in the love of family that comes through in Wilder’s reminiscences.

You’ll either love this or hate it. If you’re with me in the former category, check out this site here. Begin with Wilder’s first book, Little House in the Big Woods, and savor the melancholy that rolls from that first sentence, knowing that this is a 65-year-old woman settling in to write about living in the American wild six decades before the Great Depression—and she’s missing it hard. Wilder had asked her daughter, pioneering female journalist Rose Wilder, to write her memoirs for her, but Rose insisted her mother was more than up for the job of putting her stories to paper. Which she was. Trust this all-too-often bitter old cynic; this is the Good Stuff. Happy 150th Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Something else I got done last month. My ultimate goal is to record my readings of the first acts of all three of my books.

In other news, the final pieces of The Wrong Kind of Dead are falling into place. It helps when you’ve nearly got every action point plotted from the git-go. My days of hopeless wandering in the psychic wilderness are done. 

In an amusing near-disaster, I made a test video of myself with the new web camera I got yesterday, and it wasn’t until I nearly posted it that I realized that the outline for the ending to the novel—to my entire series—was taped to the wall in plain view behind me. 

That’s fixed, of course. Now, I just have to get past this notion of looking into a camera and just talking. I didn’t mind doing this sort of thing in front of people when I was in Toastmasters, but alone, in my office, looking at my age-ravaged face in HD on my monitor and trying to be wise...I know it isn’t rational. It just is. That is, it just is something I’m going to have to get over. Eventually.
Into the frigid sunset, westbound on US 160 between Alamosa and Monte Vista. But the sun will rise, the snow will eventually melt. All we have to do is press on.

There are other things going on, but I need to save those particularly loaded topics for the videos I hope to do. Meanwhile, the weather is warming, and the house feels more like a home than ever since my son moved in a week ago. It’s nice to have all the bedrooms in the house engaged as more than cold, dusty storage.

Best of all, my son is an industrious lad, having come to the San Luis Valley to seek his fortune as a skilled laborer in what promises to be an expanding economy. He’s already got a job lined up. Meanwhile, he’s creating his own electronic music on his computer, assembling and painting precisely detailed military models, and working out with the kettlebells. My son is as far removed from the stereotypical “millennial” the media loves us to hate as one might imagine, and his presence inspires that sense of discipline I’ve had such difficulty grasping over the past year or so. He’s on his way up. Why not me?

This could be the year. It has to be.
Empty, disused railcars at the literal end of the line east of US 285 going north out of Monte Vista. Still, the sun shines brightly. I thought it might mean something.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Luna Toonie vs the Pantry Pull-Chain

I got this with the Canon Powershot. I hope to get better at these moments as I go along.

If you stick around to the end you’ll see her cut the light on.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Four Views of a Kitten on the Bed

It’s a bitterly cold day in the San Luis Valley. It’s late for Caturday in most of the Western world, but I’ve spent the better part of the day shoveling out the driveway. Now I have to get to work on my third zombie book.

I hate to go this long without posting something, though—it makes for a poor start to the new year—and it turns out I have these four images of Luna Toonie, our Fifth Fluffy of the Apocalypse. Here she is again, paying her freight just being herself. Not too many creatures can get away with this.

Luna starts by positioning herself in the pillow fort she’s secured for herself.

The price of cuteness is eternal vigilance. Or something.

So far, this is the best shot I’ve gotten of our Little Miss Personality.

All right, that’s enough. Back to work.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

FULL First Chapter of GRACE AMONG THE DEAD as Read Aloud by Yours Truly

Barely in time for the Twelfth Day of Christmas comes my first post of 2017. I’d had a New Year’s greeting recorded, but I wasn’t crazy about it. Today’s master plan was to record the first chapters of each book—Bleeding Kansas, Grace Among the Dead, and the as-yet unpublished The Wrong Kind of Dead—with the idea of adding to each until I had the complete set recorded. Instead, I pushed through and recorded the entirety of the first chapter of Grace Among the Dead, “Drugstore Cowpunching.”

There’s so much more I could do with this, especially in regards to the voice acting, but I don’t want the perfect to become the enemy of the good, as it so often does with my projects. I’ll simply keep adding chapters. Maybe I’ll do the first full chapter of another book tomorrow. 

I don’t know. Right now, I just want to drink some beer and figure out what I’m going to do from here. I’ve been meaning to do this YouTube thing for years now. Today was the first day in two years I’ve actually gotten meaningful work out of this microphone.

So, Merry Twelfth Night and Happy New Year 2017. Let this be the inauspicious beginning to something really auspicious. And don’t forget to buy the books, if you haven’t already.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year’s Eve 2016 Ruminations and Resolutions

The Ventures’ interpretation of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” bracketed by the opening riff to The Champs’ “Tequila,” plays softly in my office. I’ll have to get a disc ready for the New Year tonight, but if I’m enjoying Christmas music nearly a week after Christmas, it’s not because I’m crazy. Just lucky.

For one, I don’t work in retail anymore. I’m not in any environment where I have to listen to stuff I’d rather not hear. Given my location in Colorado’s high, remote San Luis Valley, where no broadcast television dwells, I was also spared the commercials. (I saw a few while watching my favorite network TV shows on streaming. Once the mid-season finales were done, so was I.) I was far removed from the crass overkill that kills Christmas for so many people. 

Among the many things that died in 2016—and, in this case, most heartily deserved to die—was a harebrained idea I’ve entertained since Christmas 1983. I’d had a wash of a Christmas that year with people who....well, no sense in competing with everyone else’s stories. I’d gotten it into my head that I would write the ultimate book on Christmas. I would review all my expectations for the season, and compare them with the general expectations (I guessed) most people have, and work out a resolution for everyone. I would save Christmas for all of us poor orphans of the heart out there.

I was 22 at the time. What was forgivable on account of youth became forehead-slapping stupid in my early to mid-50s, when I revived the idea. After dancing around it one more time this season, I’ve come to my senses. 2016 has been very good to me in this regard.

This is not to say I’m giving up writing about Christmas. I’d like to know myself what my fascination is with the season. I’m simply not going to get an entire book out of it. I certainly don’t propose anymore to help anyone else out with something I’m still working out for myself.

So here we are on the cusp of another turning of the year. Yes, I have my resolutions to follow through with. As with my more successful resolutions of years past, I’ve already gotten a head start on them. No cold starts in the morning for me on 1 January.

I wonder what this young lady would say
if she could see 50 years into the future.
I’d go into all that, all I want to do with me, this blog, and my writing in general, but that’s enough self-indulgence on my part. It’s best one keeps such things to oneself. Abandon all notions of your family/friends/audience holding you accountable. If you can’t hold yourself accountable to yourself, that’s your problem right there. I know, for I have been that sinner. 

Whatever it is I’m doing, if things are looking better by this time next year, you’ll know I was successful. 

You’re no different from me. Show us, don’t tell us.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas 2016 After-Action Report

Reconnecting with Christmas by reinventing and rethinking years of approach. I’m pretty sure that’s the moral here. Hoo-wee, it was cold. 

Shortly after nightfall on Christmas Eve, it became clear we’d all need time on Christmas Day to re-combobulate from the hangovers we were sure to have in the morning as my adult daughter and her friend prepared for their three hour ride back to Colorado Springs that same day. My wife and I agreed it made sense to open the gifts after midnight, so that everyone could sleep as long as they needed in the morning. 

And so it was that over half a century of tradition was kicked to the curb in one easy decision. Nor did we play Vince Guaraldi’s piano lounge jazz soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, as my wife and I have done while opening the presents for most of the Christmases we’ve been married since 1990. It never occurred to me to put it on. 

Your humble author clowning with
the 30 lb kettlebell Santa brought him.
If I’m throwing 25 years of tradition out the window, what’s another 30? It’s 2016, after all, that annus horribilis that’s taken all our favorite singers and musicians and celebrities. Yet even the loss of my personal favorites became so much background noise to me as I watched my son wind up his eight-year Civil Air Patrol cadet career, purchase a car, and then move out, a young man on his own. We put the house up for sale, while searching across Colorado for a new place before settling on Big Pink in the San Luis Valley. We were cooped up way too long with our cats in a small hotel room before closing on Big Pink, then got jacked around by the moving company before spending all of our former house sale proceeds rewiring the place, fixing the leaks in the plumbing, etc. 

It’s been a jam-packed year. The changes were big, the changes were permanent, and, like most of those celebrity deaths everyone’s wailing about on Facebook and Twitter, they were due to happen. 

I’m relieved to say this is finally sinking in. It’s taken the entire year, but I’m so grateful to be free of this hateful, paralytic melancholy, I don’t care. It was my own private little Christmas miracle, a gift I accept with open heart.

After midnight, we gathered around the tree. My daughter’s friend, bless her, delighted in putting on the Santa hat and doling out the gifts, then photographing us as we opened them. It didn’t feel the least bit strange doing this before bed on what could still be technically called Christmas Eve. The decision justified itself many times over in the morning, as everyone got up when they wanted on Christmas Day. We enjoyed coffee, and a modest, but tasty meal of baked ham, homemade macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce, before my daughter and her friend slowly got themselves together for the long ride back to Colorado Springs.

My wife and I shared a moment (actually several) of deep sadness watching our daughter go, and as we held each other in glorious wintry white Christmas light, I resolved to smash another tradition. Namely, this morbid business of me having to stop and compose myself every fifteen minutes because it seems the veil between me and everything that overwhelms me with grief is somehow thinnest this time of year.

I’ve justified this with my “we exclude nothing!” takeaway from Charles Dickens’ essay, “What Christmas Is As We Grow Older,” that grieving for absent loved ones is natural to our observance of the season. Yet I found myself choked up, not over absent friends and family, but over the most maudlin and useless things. I’d rather not go into detail; it’s embarrassing to think about. Suffice it to say I’m working my way past this madness that has marred so many otherwise fine Christmases for me over the years. 2016 hasn’t been a total wash.

My wife spoke with her mother over the phone. We both spoke to our son, who was happy spending the time with his girlfriend and her family in Colorado Springs. Later, we took a walk around the block to see what was going on in downtown Monte Vista as the last light of Christmas Day left the sky. The traffic was heavier than I expected on US 160, but it was otherwise quiet. The severe cold, magnified by the snow blown in the night before, ensured that one block was as far as we were walking. We returned home and settled in for the evening.

There was no let-down. It all felt the way it was supposed to be. I worked on cleaning out the spare bedroom while listening to music. I caught a few Christmas tunes while bopping between the attic off my closet and the spare bedroom. All the ones I needed.

It was a good day, and a fine Christmas.
See you next year?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Santa Claus Deathwatch

WARNING: This is one of the most depressing things I've ever written, part of a series of such poems I wrote in the 2002-2006 time frame, as my children shed the last of their childhoods.

Last call for
castles & bunnies

percussive play with
tiny blue men scattered 
across hardwood battlefields 
seem more

grown-up than
knights & their
swords which don’t
stand a chance against
heavy artillery with
air support

The knights & bunnies have 
held out for longer than I 
thought but my son is 
very much my 
son for I’ve 

stumbled upon him more 
than once talking back to his 
talking teddy bear as if that 
might sustain the magic 
a little longer

it’s no use, of course
the jolly old elf
breathes his last
this Christmas

& it’s past time I
pushed him into

from Nymphomagic Electroshock & Other Middle-Aged Complaints (2011, 2016)