MY THOUGHTS ARE ON THE LOOSE…HERE THEY GO!

September 20, 2014

 

random

I think I shall ramble a bit on today’s post.  I was sitting in my thinking chair for only a few moments this afternoon so it was hard to get a coherent thought stream flowing.  We’ve had rain every day for what seems months.  It doesn’t last long; sort of like having mini-monsoons coming and going continually throughout the day and night.  So the weather has kept me inside without my thinking chair which results in my mind hop-scotching all over the place.

The first place I landed was on an incredible story out of Austin, Texas.  It seems the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has decided to withdraw a proposal that would have allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages at gun shows.  Seems there were even enough cowboys in dem dar parts who spoke up saying they didn’t think that was such a good idea.  “Dern tootin!” is what I say.  In fact, I’d be happy to make the posters in case there was going to be a demonstration.  Mine would have said “Alcohol and guns don’t kill people; drunk people with guns kill people!”

Being among the children of the last generation to feel the brunt of his father’s boot or the sting of a belt on the butt, I cannot help but wonder if most of the parents of my generation would wind up in jail today for some of the physical remedies they dished out for a child’s bad behavior. Like any normal person I certainly don’t condone physical abuse of a spouse or child, but personal history tells me being physical with a child is not always being abusive.  I got to thinking about all this after all the child abuse turmoil in the National Football League this past week. Times has changed.  I remember my mom being so angry with my brother and me that she took a full swipe at us with a soup ladle she happened to be armed with at the moment.  My brother took the brunt of it and I just picked up the tail end of its whizzing by my cheekbone.  I know we must have hit her tipping point with whatever it was we did.  But truth be told, I’d pay a million bucks to relive that moment just to have the chance to see her again. But that kind of physical reprimand seemed to work in my childhood days when one of us kids went too far.  And guess what? …we got over it and still loved our parents.

I am happy to report that, as discussed in a posting last week, that all my annual humongous bills are arriving on time.  I have gone ahead and started paying them and I am pleased that I have had to rob only two banks this week.  I did take a break, however, and put the remainder of the bills back in the drawer to marinate for a few days more.  Maybe they will reduce down a little and become more checkbook friendly…though I think not.   I dutifully informed the household that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would be the kitchen’s featured item for all meals over the next several months.  The cost of cold cereals has become prohibited.

I have been rarely dedicated to the television all this past week.  I have been watching the Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts.  As yet one more sign of my growing old, no one, especially anyone under 40, in my surroundings has been interested.  I have watched alone, appreciating every moment of what was probably the most incredible era in my lifetime, albeit I was born at its end.  But in my solitude I have come to realize that not only do individuals fade into history, history itself fades into history.

ToniFiledsmOur cat, Toni, is just off to my left as I write this posting.  She is there just about every hour I am sitting here tapping away on the keyboard.  I’ve had pictures of her on my post before, but here is one more.  This is where she stays at my side, crammed into the top of my file tray.  It is unbelievable that she finds it comfortable.  Toni is not a friendly cat.  She swipes a paw and offers up a hiss at just about everyone who comes near—except me…most times.  I do not know why she has singled me out as the only one she tolerates and “blesses” with her constant companionship, especially since I am the one who was most opposed to her joining the family.  For some reason I guess she thinks me the cat’s meow.  Me thinks she needs a thinking chair to think it over.

*****

 


YO! SHOW A LITTLE RESPECT FOR SELF-PUBLISHERS

September 17, 2014

RejectGraphic

Now that I consider myself a “seasoned” self-publisher (five books), I am growing more sensitive to the traditional publishing industry’s bias toward us DIYers.  I have my share of rejection letters, but no, I am not sour grapes.  I get it—there are a lot of us who can’t land an agent or publisher because the quality of our work doesn’t measure up to that of our traditionally published brethren.  While I may be among these less-than-worthy ones, there is evidence of sufficient talent among us, coupled with today’s new publishing technology, that dictates independent authors/publishers should no longer be ignored, let alone continue being perceived as inferior.

I admit I no longer make any effort to mail off submissions to agents or publishers.  A lottery ticket has better odds, costs a lot less than my submissions package and doesn’t have any built-in prejudice toward me.   So instead, I attempt to seek out and submit materials to anyone or anything that makes sense and has potential of presenting an opportunity.  This is a slow, tedious process as many of you know and I steep in my juices for a long time waiting for a response that seldom comes.   But that’s part of the process, so be it.

What has become difficult for me to accept is the automatically closed door and how some people have no hesitation to slam it in your face before you can even say hello.  Case in point:  bookreporter.com.  This website is part of The Book Report Network which consists of six websites catering to various book reader demographics.  They focus on book reviews or book-related feature material. Their slogan: Where Readers and Writers Click.  Their content and presentation is well done and should appeal to any avid reader.  However, don’t expect to find any reviews or features on self-published books.  They don’t accept them because they feature only “books that are available with wide distribution offline as well as online.”    There are many in the industry who erect this barrier, thinking it justifies their keeping us guys out.

I found this concept perplexing in the case of bookreporter.com and its sister websites since it puts them in the position of dissing the very medium they have built their entire presence on.  All their beautiful websites are insignificant to readers, I guess, since you cannot walk into a Barnes and Noble and pick up a hard copy of their book reviews or feature reports.  That is, after all, the argument they use against self-publishers, claiming our lack of availability on the street is reason enough to reject us.  I challenge anyone who disputes the idea that amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com are not dominant channels for the distribution of books.

In my letter to the editor, I suggested to The Book Report Network that they should actually add yet one more website if they really want to properly represent today’s marketplace—and that’s a website that features self-published books.  It’s 2014, I reminded them, and time to acknowledge the new technology, the new supply of product and finally embrace the medium they themselves call home.

I suggest to all my self-publishing colleagues that you follow through as I have when you see our status being attacked, disparaged or shut out altogether.  Like all start-ups we need to establish ourselves as legit and put folks on notice that we are here to stay.  I know I’m not going anywhere.

*****


MUST BE FALL…MR. GRUMPY’S HERE

September 15, 2014

bills

This is always my grumpy time of year.  Now right away some of my close acquaintances are saying they’ve never noticed any change in my demeanor since I am grumpy all year round.  But that is not the case.  I know I am grumpier in the last few months of the year because that’s when the big bills start rolling in.  And they just don’t come gently rotating so gracefully across the front lawn and up through the mail slot.  Nope, they come thundering in like the proverbial herd of wild horses.

It begins every September.  First comes the preliminary notice of the annual property tax bill. It’s not due until November, but the local authorities are kind enough to let you know well in advance so you have time to appreciate the increase.  Then comes the next highest bill; this one’s the insurance bill on the house.  It’s accompanied, usually in the same week, by a side bill from another company who wants money to provide me with flood insurance for the house—something the home insurance policy doesn’t cover.   Along with these lovely invoices come bills for automobile insurance, the quarterly homeowner’s association fee from the community we live in, a hefty semi-annual life insurance bill (the bill is hefty not the amount of insurance) and I think that’s it.  Somehow my timing has been really off on contracting all these expenses since they all come within the same 60 day period this time of year.  Oh yeah, and just as I send off the last payment, Christmas arrives in a very untimely fashion.

Each year I pride myself on having been smart enough to have spent the first three-quarters of the year attempting to save up a pool of money to handle this annual fall mother load.  Over the years I have been pretty successful doing this.  But this year is different.  Both my wife and I are now officially retired…officially not working…officially not bringing in a paycheck anymore!  This is the bad part of retirement.  The part they warn you about.  The part you don’t see in those TV commercials and magazine ads with the happy, smiling gray-haired folks walking hand-in-hand telling you how great viagra and a reverse mortgage are.

The only thing that un-grumpifies the situation is that I annually brainwash myself into thinking how lucky my wife and I actually are. After all, there are many people who can’t even afford insurance at all. Nor can they afford to live in a nice community with a nice scenic canal that runs just 30 feet off the back patio…a canal that has never even come close to flooding in 18 years. Others, meanwhile, may not be able to afford owning a car, gassing it up and keeping it insured.  Nope, things could be worse for us.  Even Christmas brings Santa Claus and who doesn’t like Santa Claus?  At least  until the bills come in January.  But by then it’s time to start saving all over again for the big blowout that’ll come next fall.  Uh-oh…I can’t begin saving.  ‘Dem days are over.  I don’t bring in any money to save.  All these big bills we have to pay each fall get paid out of our savings now …and now there are no new funds to replenish the ones we use.  Holy crap…I’m going to be even grumpier than last year.

*****


I MADE A GROWING OLD CHART

September 10, 2014

cartoonMy father said it often and he could not have said it better or more succinctly.  He said:  “Growing Old Stinks.”   No, it is not particularly profound or insightful.  Yes, it is plainly put, simply stated and now that I can relate, probably the most accurate statement I can think of to describe what growing old is like.  True, there are some good moments, sort of, but growing old is a test for even the most optimist of optimist.

I see growing old as a series of more or less. There are more of some things and less of others.  I made a chart so all this stuff is easy to see.  Here’s my chart of the process of growing old so far…more or less…

MORE

LESS

Hurt More

Move Less

Squint More

See Less

Say “what?” more

Hear Less

Sit More

Stand Less

Take more pills

Feel Better Less

Complain more

Tolerate Less

Think About Time More

Watch the Clock Less

Price Check More

Spend Less

Zone Out More

Accomplish Less

Make Lists More

Work Less

I am sure with a little more thought and a little more time spent growing old, I can add to the list.  If you are under sixty, there’s still time for you to move to some other planet where the aging process may work differently.  But if you choose to stay here you will eventually agree that the list is pretty accurate.

If you are one to believe in the theory that “your number’s up at some predetermined time” then it’s all the more unfair that you should have to go through all the stuff on the chart before you get to that point.  There should be some procedure that you are permitted to cut to the chase and not have to pay any dues…sorta like taking the express lane and bypassing all the traffic.  I’ll see you up the road; I plan to be one of those little old men in the slow lane.  Please don’t honk at me–I won’t see well, hear well or remember where I’m going.

 #####

 


TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT, USE LESS WORDS!

September 7, 2014

ancientwritter

Don’t think I haven’t noticed.  I’ve gotten back to writing postings that are lengthy—too lengthy.  You’d think I’d know better, but uh-ah.  You may find it hard to believe that I spent a gazillion years working in radio where I was taught to make my writing follow the “3 B’s:” Brief, Bright and Brilliant!  Instead, lately it seems I’m stuck on the “3 D’s:” Decaying, Dreadful and Dull.  I’ve made up my mind.  I need to write shorter.  I am already sitting; can’t get much shorter than that unless maybe I lie down and write (bah-rump-bump).

Then again, maybe I should go back to writing in rhyme.

When I do that it seems I take a lot less time.

Otherwise I find there is always one more thing needs be said

Like when I’m mentioning colors I must mention red.

I guess some writers more than others have a need to be verbose.

They pound out words, sentences and paragraphs by the gross.

It’s okay, I at least acknowledge my aversion to being short

So it is with utmost regret this poem I must abort.

 

There, now isn’t that better?

***

 


WHEN YOU WRITE RIGHT IT FEELS JUST…RIGHT!

September 4, 2014

So when something comes out the way you want it, you sorta wanna show it around and see if others agree and subsequently stuff your big fat, swelling ego.  As certainly not a surprise to anyone who frequents my blog, I have recently published my third children’s book, THE 11th YEAR OF CHRISTOPHER ARTHUR McDANIELS.  Now, when it comes to really really good writing, I have a loooong way to go before I have to worry about making an acceptance speech for a Pulitzer.  But for right now, I’ll settle for one of the chapters from my new book that I think came out just right.  Here’s the entire chapter…hope you agree!

Chapter 11

Chapter 11, The Catch

Now that I’m almost twelve, my mom is beginning to trust me a little more.  She says if she begins giving me more responsibility, then maybe I will become more responsible.  My first reaction to this is to be cautious.  What she says sounds like something she’d say when she’s up on the judge’s bench looking down at some poor guy who messed up a little and now he has to answer to the mother of all judges, my mom. I say, “okaaaay” with a long sounding “a” at the end of it since I’m really asking her for more information, like where’s she going with all this? Mom doesn’t hesitate at all.  She’s right there with what she’s really getting at.

“Christopher, it’s time you begin taking a little more care of Samantha.”  Samantha is my little sister.  I’ve talked about her before, but I don’t think I ever mentioned her name.  So Samantha needs more taking care of…from me.  Now I really know where this is heading.  It has nothing to do with more responsibility and lots to do with more work…for me.  You gotta watch parents, they’re tricky like this.

“I want you to take her for a ride in her stroller every afternoon.  It’ll do you both good,” my mom tells me. “You can use the exercise and she can use the fresh air.  So what I want you to do is take her out every day after school.  You can just push her in her stroller around the block and then bring her back inside.  If you take your time and maybe even stop at the park so she can play in the sandbox, that would be extra nice.”

“Evvvveryday?” I ask, this time with a long “ev” at the front of the word so she gets what I’m asking.  She gets it.  Her answer is what I thought.  I have to walk Samantha evvvveryday.

Right away, twelve isn’t looking as good as I had expected.  With the year I’ve had at eleven I thought maybe things would start going a little better.  Maybe not.  But I guess being a good brother may get me some points.  I can always use extra points.

The next day when I get home from school I get the stroller out of the garage and roll it around to the front door.  Samantha is all excited.  She loves her stroller.  She can even climb into it by herself with a little help.  We head off down the street and I’m hoping we don’t run into Bradley the Bully.  That’s all I need.  But today was a lucky day.  Bradley was nowhere to be seen.

Samantha and I continue down the block and around the corner.  It’s not far down from here that there’s a small park.  It’s not very big, but it does have a sort of fake baseball field that the kids in the neighborhood have made in the back corner.  Today, as usual, there’s a bunch of kids getting ready for a game.  I don’t hang here much.  As you know, I’m not a prized sports type.  Everybody knows this so no one is banging on my door asking me to come out and play ball.  But today things are a little different.  When I start walking by the park with Samantha this kid, Stephen Anderson, comes running up to me.

“Hey, McDaniels,” Stephen yells, “How’d you like to play baseball today.  We’re a player short for right field.  How ‘bout it?”

Now, let’s back up a minute.  This is another one of those times when you need some background information to understand the impact of what’s going on here.  First of all, Stephen Anderson is just about the best little league baseball player in the universe.  I mean, no kidding, twenty years from now I’ll be watching him on TV playing for the Yankees and I’ll tell everyone that I knew him when he was just a kid.  Now, Stephen Anderson is exactly the kind of kid who never ever would even think of asking me to play baseball unless he was like totally desperate and the world was about to blow up to oblivion and beyond for him to actually ask me to play baseball—and be on his team!  Stuff like this just doesn’t happen, at least to me.  I’m like in shock.

“I’m taking my sister for a walk in her stroller,” I tell him.  Brilliant!  Like he doesn’t already see this.

“We’re just playing a short game, five innings.  Why don’t you park her by the fence and you can still keep an eye on her.”

“Okay, that sounds like a plan,” I say, “but I don’t have a glove.”

“No problem, you can use my new one.  It isn’t broken in yet, but you can still use it.”

The thing is, the condition of the glove is meaningless.  For me, I could have a dump truck on my hand and I’d still miss any ball coming at me.  I’m thinkin’ this day is just getting weirder and weirder.   Stephen Anderson wants me to play baseball…on his team…and he’s even going to let me use one of his gloves.  This could be my ticket out of nerdsville.

I roll Samantha over by the fence.  I give her a pep talk about how important it is that she doesn’t be a pest and that I have to make a good impression playing baseball.  I don’t think she picks up on any of this.  She’s like tuned in to some other station.  I give her a pack of chips I had in the back of the stroller hoping that will keep her busy.

The baseball gods are with me today.  I don’t mess up.  Of course, no balls come my way, which is a good thing.  Plus, the two times I’m up to bat I do everything I can not to swing the bat.  I figure if I just stand there looking like I’m going to pound one out of the park, but not swing at anything, the odds are I’ll get a walk.  I’m right.  I get on base both times with walks.  This beats my usual three swings and three misses.  Even Stephen yells “Way to look ‘em over McDaniels.”  I’m pumped.

All this time Samantha is being a perfect little sister.  She’s just sitting in the stroller eating her chips and watching all the kids.  Things are just excellent.  The game?  It’s all those things the TV announcers say about an exciting game—a real nail-biter…a barn-burner.  Stuff like that.  It’s the bottom of the last inning, we’re winning 3 to 2.  The other team is up.  They have the tying run on third. Two outs.  I’m still managing to stay out of trouble.  I have two walks, no errors and Stephen Anderson’s glove is still on my hand.  Oh, one other thing I forgot to tell you.  We didn’t run into Bradley the Bully when Samantha and I first left the house because he was already at the park.  He’s playing on the other team.  Guess who’s up?

Bradley takes a few practice swings and steps up to the plate.  Even from way out in right field I can see his usual snarling face and squinty eyes.  He’s looking at me.  I can’t believe it.

“Better start running now, McDaniels,” he yells out to me, “‘cause this one’s for you and you’ll never catch up with it.”  Suddenly I sense the baseball gods have left the house.  The sky has grown darker.  There’s a hush in the stands and even the announcers are stuck for something to say.  It’s over.  Bradley the Bully is going to mess up what was about to be my greatest hour-and-a-half in sports history.

“Don’t sweat it, McDaniels,” yells Stephen. “Look like a baseball player.”

I start trying to figure out how a baseball player looks so I can make myself look like that, but I was interrupted by this humongous bam of the bat as Bradley connected with the next pitch.  It’s very clear at this moment that the ball is actually coming in my direction, sort of.  It begins fading to my left, but there’s no one over there to catch it.  I’m the one who is supposed to catch it.  I have to practically run faster than a cheetah on rollerblades to even get anywhere near it.  Up, up and up it’s going.  Then it sort of hovers like a helicopter for about ten minutes, searching for the best place to come down so that I have absolutely no chance of catching it.  It finally picks a spot and begins its speedy descent back to earth.  I’m still running.  Then I’m still running more…and some more.  My legs are like churning knee-deep in a pool filled with peanut butter.  I’m trying to make them go faster, but they don’t seem to get the concept.  The ball slows down.  Then it speeds up.  It’s teasing me.  I can almost see the red stitches on it and I imagine they’re smiling at me, a big snarly Bradley smile.  Every muscle in my body is on full alert.  I stretch out, practically flying through the air like a hawk.  My mind goes blank.  I’m in another zone completely.  I start hearing that strange church music again with the singers who sing “ahhh” up and down.  Now I wish I had gone to church more.  I hope my few trips to Temple with David might come into play.  It’s about now that my only sense is this incredible, humongous smack of a giant boulder smashing into the palm of my hand like a meteorite plummeting from outer space.  The next sensation I have is the whole left side of my body skidding across twenty miles of grass and weeds and rocks and finally coming to a rest halfway through a hedge that’s at least forty feet high.  I’m not sure where I am.  I’m not sure who I am.  I can’t figure out what I’m doing.  All I can see is this grungy old baseball sitting firmly inside a baseball glove that is firmly attached to my hand.  O…M…G!  I caught the ball!

The next thing I know, a bunch of kids are running up to me.  “What a catch, what a catch,” Stephen Anderson is yelling excitedly.  I’m lifted up high on top of a bunch of shoulders and like a moving mound of human limbs, me and all the shoulders take a victory lap around the bases.  All the time everyone is chanting, “Christopher McDaniels is duh man!” It’s the greatest moment of my eleven-almost-twelve-years.  I can’t wait to get home to tell my dad what happened.

As I’m rounding the corner of my block I’m not even worried about running into Bradley.  I figure he doesn’t want to even see me right now let alone start messin’ with me.  I run across my front lawn and into my house.  My dad is sitting in the family room and I sort of startle him when I come blasting in all sweaty and excited.  I begin telling him about the game and how I was actually playing with Stephen Anderson and how I was walked twice and how I was in right field when Bradley the Bully came to bat and how he looked out and yelled at me and—then my father put up his hands like he was some kind of traffic cop stopping traffic.

“Whoa, just a minute,” he said, “I know you’re excited and I want to hear every detail, but I have to ask you something first.”

“What’s that?” I ask.

“Where’s Samantha?”

My eyes blew out of my skull about six inches, just like that duck in the cartoons. My jaw dropped so far down I probably put a dent in the floor.

“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” is all I can remember saying as I tore out of the house and ran up the street.  All the while I’m repeating and repeating, “Please be there, please be there, please be there, please be there.”   “There” is no longer just up and around the block.  “There” has been moved.  Now it’s at least six miles away and no matter how fast I run I’m not getting to “there” fast enough.  This is the worst moment in my life.  My dad, meanwhile, is right behind me.  My mother is right behind him.

We all arrive at the park at the same time.  It’s beginning to get dark by now.  The street lights have come on.  There is one lone lamppost in the park.  It’s way over in the back near first base, next to the fence, next to Samantha’s stroller.  Samantha is in her stroller, cheese chips smeared all over her face and sticking to various parts of her body.  More chips are scattered around her on the ground.  She is sound asleep.  Thank you, God.

This is the first time I went to court knowing I was fully guilty and ready to accept being sentenced to two thousand and fifteen years in my room.  In the end, I lucked out.  It was only one thousand and ten years.  I gave Samantha a hug and told her I was sorry.  She was busy playing with an empty cereal box and didn’t seem to care much.  I headed up the stairs to serve my time, knowing I’d be an old man with gray hair and a long beard by the time I would come back down.  I was halfway up when my dad motioned me from his chair in the family room.

“Hey Chris,” he said, “Nice catch. Wish I’d seen it.”

lateraltitle copy

Copyright © 2914 Marc Kuhn

*****


IT’S BEACHY KEEN…BUT GETTING THERE IS A BEACH!

September 2, 2014

beachtrek

Here is the paradox.  I love the beach.  I hate going there.  Let’s deal with one side at a time.  First, the love side of the beach.  If you love the beach, it’s probably for the same reasons I do:

  • The water, the waves, the distant horizon, the boats going by, the glistening surface…it’s all good.
  • To wonder what lies beneath, what’s on the other side and what would it be like to voyage it all from sea to sea.
  • To ponder the history it holds for all who have sailed upon it, fought over it and died beneath it.
  • To simply sit upon its sandy shoreline and stare out into its endless span and think about … nothing.

Those are the things I love about the beach.  Now, the other side—the “hate-going-there side”—which is based on the assumption the trip there involves other people, i.e. the traditional family outing.  I haven’t done that in a while…until this past weekend.  Hence, this posting today.  All the bad things came back to me.  With that in mind, here they are in all their beachy pain:

  • All the prep that’s involved: running to the supermarket to gather up the ice, the drinks, the lunch and snacks, the sun tan lotion, etc.
  • Packing the car with all the stuff: the cooler, the chairs, the beach toys for the kids, the towels, the beach umbrella, and all the people.
  • Driving to the beach…though it’s only ten miles for us which really isn’t bad.
  • Unloading the car, settling arguments regarding who carries what from the car to “the site.”
  • Walking around for what seems miles before finally settling on “the site” and staking claim which is officially done by driving the beach umbrella into the sand.
  • Laying out the spread of stuff we brought with us and then I assume the position of family lifeguard whereby I compulsively watch the younger children, yelling at them every few minutes to come back closer into shore. I don’t dare lose my concentration on them…’cept maybe for an occasional bikini that walks by.
  • Distributing the food supplies and wondering what happened to the cookies which I swear I packed but now are nowhere to be found. And, oh yeah, picking the sand out of  my teeth after eating a PB&J and wondering how that much sand managed to work its way into my sandwich.
  • Baking in the sun. More backing in the sun.  Burning in the sun.  Where is the lotion?   Why didn’t I put it on sooner?
  • Time to go. The parking meter is running out. Gotta hustle and pack everything up.  How come it seems we have more than when we came.  Who’s carrying what?
  • The sandy, scorching, stuffy, itchy ride home.  How did I get sand there? (now the ten miles seem a lot longer)
  • Unpacking the car and putting everything away.
  • Marveling at how much sand managed to accumulate inside the car.
  • Waiting for everyone to get their showers.
  • Waiting for a new supply of hot water so I can take my shower.
  • Wait, where are my sunglasses? Oh crap.

The way I figure it, the only way to avoid a lot of the horrors of the group beach trek is to go by yourself or have someone who has done all the prep come by your house and pick you up.  But that only solves half the problem because you still have to go through everything else once you get there.  And so it goes—all the things that make going to the beach…a beach.

*****

 


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