Tag Archives: Musings

First Wednesday

The sun is high in the sky and temps on the plains are more like April than January. It’s the first Wednesday of 2012 and without my weirdo posts to fall back on I have to figure out what to write about. I don’t have the crutch of a regular topic to be researched and written. I have to be creative on my own and I haven’t even had coffee yet.

The horror… the horror…

The truth is I was getting a bit burned out on Weirdo Wednesday anyway.

Without a game plan, an idea or concept, I’ll be winging it, so to speak, from here on out. You’ll be getting whatever I can come up with. It’ll be a wide range of musings, my perceptions, my hopes and dreams, and my spin on current events.

I’d like to explore the obscure and mundane aspects of life. What better challenge is there than to write the minutia of one’s life and make it interesting. Now there’s a personal contest I can sink my keyboard into.  Many days will be fairly short and brief snippets of my day. Occasionally I will drift into some kind of rant, although I’m not really a ranter. (Come to think of it I could probably use the practice.)

All in all I’m looking forward to more writing in 2012.

Who knows… I may even finish Haunting Charleston.

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
– Ray Bradbury

Years in the Mirror

I’ve seen a lot of years come and go. There are many New Years celebrations that are nothing more than a date on a calendar. I have no recollection of the events surrounding those, what I am sure were, magnificent  soirees.  I am the former life-of-the-party.

This is kind of a banner year for me. It’s 25 years since 1987, one of the worst years of my life and at the same time one of the best years of my life. It was a tragedy/triumph kind of year, a victory/defeat kind of year, it was a ‘you can run but you can’t hide’ kind of year.

I don’t remember January 1, 1987 anymore than I remember the day of my birth. I can only think in generalities. I know I was getting ready to go to Belgium to work. I was to spend several weeks living and working in a facility of the coast of Belgium.  Just before I was to head across the ocean, I got a phone call from home. My nephew had died in a car crash the night before. It was March 4th.

Two days later MS Herald of Free Enterprise, a roll on/roll off car ferry commissioned to ferry cars on the  DoverCalais route, sank leaving the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium. Over the next several weeks I was to watch that salvage operation. It was the worst maritime disaster for a U.K. registered vessel since the sinking of the Titanic, taking 193 passengers and  crews to a cold, watery grave.

I don’t remember much of being in Belgium. I know I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Brugge and spent evenings exploring the many bars and pubs the city had to offer. Weekends were spent exploring distant cities – Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, St. Pauli, London, and others.

Still grieving the loss of my nephew I massaged my pain with vodka. I returned from Belgium several weeks later in quite the state. From March to August I went about the business of drowning my sorrow. I honestly have little recollection of those months.

I know in early August I was back in divorce court. By the end of the month I was in the hospital detoxing from excess. Little would I know how much my life would change. I haven’t seen a drunk Christmas since.

The one constant in life is change. Days on the calendar click by like mileposts on the highway and we mark them with our presence. Life is not about what I could wrest out of it, it was what I could put into it. In my failings I missed a lot of life’s lessons but thankfully it’s never too late to start learning.

Here’s looking ahead to another year on the calendar where I have the opportunity to be of service. My part is to bring a willingness to serve and a humility to not expect anything in return. My favorite thing is to do something nice for somebody else and not get caught doing it.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I forgot

For an instant last night, wrapped up in my own world that included hot chocolate, Facebook, a chocolate chip cookie, this odd little dog, and a dozen other things to steal my attention away from reality, I forgot to write.

What scares me about that statement is it happens much more often than I would admit it to myself or anyone else. Maybe that’s why I’m telling you now, so I can get it out in the open where it doesn’t hide in the recesses of my daily denial. Confession is good for the soul, they say — we shall see. The truth is I go through constant bouts of self-criticism where I question my abilities and retreat.

I’m in somewhat of a creative void right now and I do exactly the wrong thing to deal with it. I avoid the blank page as if it were the tax man banging at my door. Go away, I shout, hoping the silence will return and I can go about the business of wasting daylight and avoiding my muse.

The blinking cursor beats a rhythm like a sadistic metronome banging out a funeral march as I stare at the blank screen – blip, blip, blip, blip…. It toys with me and I swat at the keyboard trying to drive away the demons that steal the words from my fingers.

The one bright spot in this sea of creative nothingness has been my blog and last night I even forgot that.  The horror…. the horror.

Tonight it’s the Oscars and a cup of hot chocolate to offer a few hours of respite from the blinking cursor. And tomorrow is another Monday to work up the courage to tame that flashing little bar that separates me from creative progress. It taunts me… it taunts me…

Hot Chocolate on a Cold Night

There are certain things in life, regardless of whether you live on Park Avenue or park bench, with the ability to instantly sooth the heartache of the moment. Some of these are the smile of a child, the warmth of a faithful dog lying by your feet, a letter from an old friend who laments your absence, or a cup of steaming hot chocolate on a cold night. Feeling the warmth of the vessel against your cold hands and the slight tingle of cocoa aroma as it connects with your olfactory system.  Savoring the taste when you raise the cup to your lips and sip the chocolate nectar as it spreads across your tongue, engaging taste buds in some kind of pagan dance ritual.

Certain foods have the ability to massage away the pains of the day, whatever they might be – a supervisor bellowing some unjust accusation, a bill collector twisting the knife of need in an already gaping wound, a family member disappoints or a lover without understanding. There is a sort of chocolate healing that goes on inside that steamy cup; the same kind of magic reserved for alignment of the planets or moments when providence shines through with good fortune.  Once consumption occurs, a spell unwinds through the marriage of cocoa and milk, heat and loving care, and begins to weave upon the willing recipient. Suddenly you see order where there was chaos, solutions for all your questions,  happiness in a barren soul, and light where there was only darkness.

And after you pull the cup of magic away from your lips and drag the flavor across the roof of your mouth, you search for words that can give scope to the experience, but fall flat as you exclaim, “Man, that is one good cup of hot chocolate.” Somewhere in the cosmic domain of the chocolate universe an Angel sighs, robbed again of a simple thank you.

Oh, if only all of life’s little bumps and bruises could be healed with a cup of hot chocolate, what a better place this would be.



“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.” ~Anonymous

The eyes have it

It’s easy to take something as simple as seeing for granted – that is until you can’t. Many of you know that almost two years ago surgeons removed a cataract from my right eye. It was to a point where all I could see was a blur. The cataract was surgically removed and a permanent lens implant inserted underneath the cornea. Within days I was seeing better than I had in years.

So now, two years later, the same issue has attacked the left eye. It’s going to be the same solution. I would like to get in sooner, but they are backed up about three months, so I am probably looking at sometime late March or early April. I’ll have to struggle along with it until then. The downside is the headaches that comes from spending screen time. I’ll just have to deal with that as it comes.

On a side note, tomorrow I start a ‘liquid diet’ to get ready for The Event on Thursday. I’m looking forward to a short term weight loss in the ten pound range leading up to The Event. I have to check in at the VA this Thursday at noon for The Event. Until then, I’ll slowly starve myself and drink their vile solution. I’ll probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about The Event. Until then it’s jello and grape juice – blech!



“He’s going to stick a tube 17,000 feet up your butt.” ~ Dave Barry – The Miami Herald

Does anyone at the TSA have common sense?

This is a repost of a writing by a military reservist describing his unit’s experience with the TSA while traveling home from a war zone.


 

Is there ANYONE at TSA with a brain ? ? ? ?

As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan , I witnessed the following:

When we were on our way back from Afghanistan , we flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched, the whole nine yards. Our first stop was Shannon , Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That’s where the stupid started.

First, everyone was forced to get off the plane-even though the plane wasn’t refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.

It’s probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren’t loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it reinspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to reinspect our Cargo-just to inspect us again:

Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, reinspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Ok, whatever. So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.

This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy:  You can’t take those on the plane.

Soldier:  What? I’ve had them since we left country.

TSA Guy:  You’re not supposed to have them.

Soldier:  Why?

TSA Guy:  They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier:  [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy:  Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier:  And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me:   Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

To top it off, TSA demanded we all be swabbed for “explosive residue” detection.  Everyone failed, [go figure, we just came home from a war zone], because we tested positive for “Gun Powder Residue”.

Who is hiring these people?

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns-but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Can someone please tell me What happened to OUR country while we were gone?

Sgt. —- “Mad Dog” —– The name has been deleted to protect this warrior.



I’m reminded of an old saying: To err is human. To really screw things up requires government intervention. ~Anonymous

I can’t wait to see what these folks do with our health care system.



“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” ~Mark Twain

What it was, was football.

Although, what I watched yesterday was more like General Custard at the Little Big Horn, than football. The South Carolina Gamecocks were overrun by Auburn in a lopsided altercation to decide the Southeast Conference Championship. Now, I’m not normally a big college football fan, but I opted to watch, only because my beloved Gamecocks have never been to the title game. In hindsight, I wish I had waited for the Sunday paper to get the score. I’m kind of squimish around slaughters. The final score was 56-17. It was pretty ugly.

The Auburn quarterback showed skill and poise almost unheard of at the college level. With a name like Van Newton, the Nikes and Gatorades of the world is going to love this guy, assuming he doesn’t punk out in the NFL like Danny  Weurfel, Ryan Leaf, and maybe Matt Lienart.

I promise you – this will be my one and only football blog this year. But I did want to leave you with this. The title of this blog relates to an old Andy Griffith comedy routine recorded in Raleigh, NC., in 1953. This monologue launched the career of one of America’s most loved actors.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNxLxTZHKM8]

The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist. They appeared in Mad Magazine in 1958



“It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win, that makes the difference.”
~ Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant

 

Metaphorically Speaking

One of the real joys of writing is coming up with a metaphor that fits like a church key and isn’t cliche. (Fits like a glove would have been cliche) Sometimes, especially when you are in the zone (Is ‘in the zone’ cliche yet?) metaphors just seem to fall into place faster than a Japanese domino topple. Metaphors are tricky little widgets, because you can easily overuse them and then the metaphor overwhelms the story. Honestly, I think it’s one of the most fun parts of writing is finding that clever little word twist that grabs the reader by the eyeball and forces a quick gasp or tiny chuckle.

Not having an MFA in creative writing, I have to lean on experience rather than education. For example, until I started doing a bit of research for this blog, I had no idea there were so many different types of metaphors. Silly me, I thought a metaphor was simply a metaphor. (I’m convinced I would’ve made a piss-poor English major.) According to some unnamed English Professor there are fourteen distinctly different types of metaphors. (I’m not going to cite him here because he might be wrong and I don’t want to be guilty of passing out bad information – do your own research if it’s that important.)

Possibly because I haven’t been educated in the craft of writing, I don’t have a full understanding of all the underlying mechanics of the language. But then Noah wasn’t a boat-builder either. (If I understand the Professor’s chart, this would be a dormant metaphor.) I am constantly on the lookout for good metaphors. They are all around us. Here’s a few I’ve collected over the years.

Racing at Bristol is like jet fighters in a gymnasium.. ~ Richard Petty

It’s raining men. ~ The Weather Girls

Ride Like the Wind. ~ Christopher Cross

Were you born in a barn? ~ My mother. (But I digress)

I’ll close with my own metaphor. “Motorcycling is a metaphor for life. If you don’t pay close attention to where you are headed, you may never get there.” I just made that up. It’s not very good writing, but it is a metaphor.



The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an eye for resemblance. ~Aristotle, De Poetica, 322 B.C.

Be a Writing Warrior

According to Websters, a warrior is someone who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness. To that I would add a dogged determination to advance on a target, position, or result. Honestly, isn’t that what NaNoWriMo was all about – setting a goal and not stopping until you reach it?

Before I wrote Haunting Injustice, I would have told you that successful writers were the Stephen Kings and Tom Clancys of the world; success was measured in the books you sold. Surprising to me was discovering that success is not about dollars in the bank or pats on the back. Success is pushing through the daily distractions and getting the job done.

Every successful writer learns this lesson early on.

So the question is: Are you a writing warrior?



A best seller was a book which somehow sold well simply because it was selling well. ~S. Boorstein

NaNoWriMo – Day 21

Words today: —– (I did guy stuff)
Total Words: 46,212

What can I say – it got up to 75° degrees today with sunshine and light winds. I couldn’t let a late November day like that go to waste. And besides that – the last day of NASCAR season was today, so I watched the race, then went for a ride. Here’s a picture of Pearl taken last year at Meyers-Duren Harley in Tulsa. (Notice the Penguin in Leathers.)

Pearls Homecoming

Truth of the matter is I decided to make it a lazy Sunday. I can wrap up the challenge no later than Wed of this week, so I’m not concerned.

It’s back to the grindstone tomorrow.



If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers. ~ Irvin S. Cobb