Thursday, September 24, 2015

Viewing Without Seeing

It’s a shame that some people, enjoying their their popular culture, are the same people who don’t get full value from their movies, TV and comic books—and then blab their angry ignorance on the Web. At this I’m not sad, I’m mad

Meanwhile, Back at University
… I remember seeing a pretty university student, as I walked past her club office door, who was reading a comic book from the series Strangers In Paradise. Call it SiP. (As singer Tony Benet knew: without love, we’re just strangers in paradise) I said, “Hey, I’m reading that too!”

She smiled the smile of a fellow pop culture fan and said, “Then I don’t have to convert you.” She meant convert me to being a fan, not to being gay. As it happened, she was gay herself, she was in the “gay club” office, and one of the young characters in SiP was gay. That character was giving up on finding love, partly because her abusive past meant she was damaged goods. 

In the comic, every month the letters section would include letters from young ladies praising the artist-writer, a bald married man named Terry Moore, for being able to write so wisely about young love. And Terry would reply that he wouldn’t have been able to write so well as a young man. Maybe he meant that for young males the callowness of youth tends to linger…

The SiP series was long, but I thought I could lend it, one part at a time, to a gay friend. To begin with, I lent her only the first one or two bound collections of the series. Then I made a mistake: There was a single issue, outside the story arc, where the characters are in a long daydream about being fantasy heroes. Such fun. This was back in the days of the TV show Xena Warrior Princess. My friend never missed an episode of Xena, so I lent her my SiP “Xena” issue, after first getting her to promise not to read the letters. (Because she hadn’t got that far in the series)

What happened was: Pandora read the letters, and, lacking in “reading comprehension,” she somehow thought one of the characters was secretly a Bad Guy, complete with a black hat secretly stuffed into his pocket. So that was it for the series for her. Too bad.

When I was a schoolboy they used to test us on our reading comprehension by giving us a passage to read and then immediately giving us questions about it. Maybe back in the primary grades I would screw up by having inaccurate memories about what I had read, but by the time I was, say, ten years old I was fine: no longer making stuff up or ignoring what was actually there. By my teens I could read adult “who dunnits” while happily reading for the clues.

Today I’m fine with admitting I like pop culture, although I’m still chuckling over a line spoken by an adult to a juvenile in a YA science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein: “Anyone who only gets a C- in Television Appreciation can’t be all bad.”

I get angry when careless people live below their potential; at least, I do if they angrily blab their ignorance across the Internet. Without full comprehension there is less appreciation. How unfortunate for those who are viewing without seeing, especially since today Hollywood and comic books are “better than ever.” Luckily for my friend Pandora, she didn’t broadcast her misconception on the web. Others have not been so fortunate, and I see their views (not themselves) as rubbish.

If you want to skip straight to the drama of me being angry with people on the Web then you may skip the “better than ever” History Part and go to Modern Day.

History Part
In fact, let’s just “cut” the History Part, to “paste” another day. 

Modern Day
I may be a university graduate, thereby presumably trained to appreciate classic stuff, but I still love my popular culture. So when people disrespect good shows because they won’t comprehend what they view, I could just chew galvanized nails. For example, the ending of Lost, that show where the passenger jet crashes on a mysterious island. If you paid attention, it is clear that some people died later, during the series, and some people made it off the island to live happily ever after. Yet, because of the series finale, with a “wrap-up” scene in heaven where they are all together again, with everyone now friends, feeling serenity at last, after their long ordeal… many folks complained on the Internet that everyone had died instantly in the crash, and gone to heaven. Even though a character in heaven explicitly says otherwise. I just want to spit: “What part of some get off the island don’t you understand?

I only “liked” Lost, but I “loved” Battlestar Galactica. While television traditionally has been, as Harlan Ellison put it, merely “chewing gum for the eyes,” BSG could unflinchingly face up to the sort of ideas that would normally be tackled only in written sf, not TV sci-fi. As one of the old lead actors said, “You’ll never see a show like this again in your lifetime.” The show was possible, in my opinion, only because it was made within the brief time window when we were ready to process 9/11, and not yet ready to rush back to innocence.

The complaint this time, again about the series finale, again by people who hadn’t comprehended what they viewed, was about the teensy weensy, itty bitty God aspect. Oh, they were angry.

Needless to say, ever since the ancient Greeks and their deus ex machina, we haven’t been able to bring God in to resolve any stories, just as today we are no longer able to write the coincidence endings of the classic O. Henry stories. So BSG was verrry careful to have verrry little God stuff. Trust me on this, each of the characters, both human and robot, have to solve their own problems. But what happened after the series finale? Complaints galore.

If critics had paid attention, they would have noticed that when the “rag tag fleet,” humanity’s last hope, needs to be guided in the right direction, right back in early season one, they get miraculous guidance after landing at a temple. And no, there’s no blinking computer secretly in the temple background. It’s purely woo-woo supernatural guidance, in a universe as grim and real as planes flying into towers, a universe where, later, the robots are shown to be as genuinely religious as terrorists. Not like we humans.

You may recall the series starts with the robots, called Cylons, destroying civilization. While the human drama of trying to re-build a functional civilian society is onboard the ships, the dramatic space battles are out in vacuum. Battles are not between ships, not like during WWI and the Battle of Jutland. Instead the fights are between “planes,” like WWII in the Corral Sea.

A fighter pilot, call sign Starbuck, is one of the main characters. She’s a twisted young rebellious woman, just the sort of person who, in real life here on Earth, would be an atheist in a leather jacket. But the very first time we see Starbuck she is at her locker with some figurines, icons, of the twelve Gods the humans believe in. (Not like the twelve fiery Gods of Mount Olympus, more like the twelve remote constellations) Meanwhile, the robots are monotheistic, just like the Hebrews in our world. With Starbuck’s icons, with the mural on her childhood wall, and with other scenes, there is a blindingly obvious fact: Something exists, be it one or twelve or a cosmic higher power, something beyond our everyday life.

Yet with the final episode, people on the web said they were surprised, felt cheated, and they angrily complained. My reply to them? “Learn to pay attention, you morons!”

And now it’s happened again. At the cheap theatres you can still find the major motion picture Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie, filmed on location in Tomorrowland, and at the Vancouver planetarium, and at cool places overseas. As I wrote last month in my essay Saving Tomorrow Land, the movie is good but not great. That’s the essay where I quoted an old spy saying, “If ever this world is to be saved, it will be by someone too young to know it can’t be done.”

As for saving the world, the Clooney character has given up on hope and change, the Laurie character fears and despises hope and change, but the teenage girl is a self-described “optimist.” As I said in my essay, the movie is only good, and it could be clearer, but even so, there’s no excuse not to comprehend: The girl does not change the world by “hoping hard,” as several critics claimed. Rather, her optimism frees and  relaxes her mind, enough for her to conceive the Big Idea that galvanizes Clooney. And her optimism leads her to take physical action, both as a young saboteur when we first see her, and at the end of the show.

The late critic Roger Ebert used to decry how so many mainstream movies ended in physical action such a long chase or long fight scene. Tomorrowland is no exception to what we viewers of pop culture want. To me it is clear: The long action near the end of Tomorrowland admittedly stems from a hopeful plan, yet it is physically resolved through physical action, not by hoping hard. 

I can only shake my head and say to critics, “Jeez people, learn some “viewing comprehension.””

(More on Tomorrowland, after this pause for blog identification. Meanwhile, because newspapers in my own province and Vancouver didn’t “get it,” I’ve looked to Toronto for a delightful review of the movie)

You're reading Sean Crawford
Overseas viewers like me may see it as elitist that in the show they recruit people to Tomorrowland. In fact, we might be outraged. American capitalists? Not so much.

With capitalism logically come “ability magnets” such as Hollywood, New York’s fashion district, Silicon Valley and, hypothetically, Tomorrowland. ( For the movie, some Canadian critics missed viewing who was who, and who benefits) In the movie, the benefits from Clooney, not Laurie, (critics mixed them up) recruiting for tomorrowland would be obvious: as with the other magnets, benefits would spread out to Clooney’s entire beloved Earth. Like how folks here in Calgary produce original films, software and clothing, inspired by the fun examples of the magnets in California. (Jeez critics, learn to view)

To be charitable to the Yankees, we must remember that in the U.S. A. they believe in capitalism, and this can overbalance their belief in the greater good. They didn’t even have national medicine like in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the countries of Eastern Europe, Western Europe and Canada, not until Obama got into the White House. And even then it barely passed, with strong opposition. I think it was from this opposition, and not from them being Ugly Americans, that they went on to devise their own very imperfect, if not actually broken, health system, instead of humbly asking, listening and noticing the health care of any functional nation, such as the one right next door.

—Whoops! At this point, in case a U.S. reader is too distracted, I should stop—and say that “everybody” up in Canada believes in capitalism too, same as you, they just don’t “believe to a fault.” In Canada a “dog eat dog” business world, however valuable, does not cross the hardworking businessman’s factory doorstep, not into, say, a businessman's Parent-Teacher Association and his life as a citizen. Back to my essay—

My thesis today is that some people don’t fully comprehend what they read or view. Not even if they’ve been to university. We who are living overseas may observe that our countries, through government policy, have only good universities. It’s indicative of American culture that they need to put the adjective “good” in front of their better universities. Because they have bad ones. My favorite web essayist, Paul Graham, heartily believes in this campus disparity. To this I keep a straight face, make no comment. Americans also apply this same adjective to their innocent children’s “good” schools—to this I grimace, turn my head to hide my contempt. I believe in capitalism too, but not like this—Never! I don’t believe in our children having “bad” schools.

While other nations are fair about distributing tax dollars for children’s schools equally within each city or region, the U.S. has horrible differences, to the point where parents will stagger under an unrealistic mortgage in order to live on “the right side of the tracks,” tax-wise, for the sake of their children’s education. Given what Americans believe, I don’t expect them to fix their schools in my lifetime. (Rather than fixing, for some it's easier to drop out and homeschool) Which leads full circle to my thesis: 

Queerly, maybe their imperfect schools are why certain U.S. adults, although affluent, owning computers and writing on the Internet, have such poor reading and viewing comprehension.

~For a blog post this month about U.S. schools in general, and the peculiar U.S. style of funding, with comments by informed parents and experts, see this September 13 link to writer John Scalzi. Incidentally, I’m down in the comments somewhere.

~For schools and U.S. decline, see my dense essay David Halberstam was a Harbinger, archived June 2015.

~For more on Battlestar Galactica, I have a label in my labels box, on the upper right, for you to click on.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

FreeFalling Through Time

My theme for you today is: Passing through time.
Sometimes I would bitterly resent there would be no time machines invented during my lifetime. Other times I have the grace of an adult to say we are all time travelers, passing through, at a speed of one second per second. If I allowed myself, I guess I could get twisted up—but I never do—at the thought that I will have passed from this earth before the first manned rocket gets to Mars.

Once again, as you know, I offer you pieces from my subconscious, from my Freefall Fridays, unedited pieces, as it would be unethical to edit Freefall. I wish I could show you what my FF peers write too.

Prompt: Nemesis
My childhood nemesis was big and black and very dark. If I had any stolen chocolate—watch out. If I tried to sneak home along the back tree line—no go. And if I tried to walk along, innocently whistling Dixie—I would hear the sidewalk patter of four big feet, getting closer and faster and faster. The only way to save myself was to be already “roar!”-ing as I turned around—only then would Kaiser dig in his nails and tumble to a stop.
I remember one day I was just not listening. This was in my younger childhood. Suddenly I was knocked down from behind… I was quite shook up. Luckily I didn’t need band-aides but I never did recover my shoe.

Luckily time is a great ally. Soon I was old enough to carry a five-foot Boy Scout staff. Just call me Little John. Soon I was older still, carrying my staff across my bicycle for my paper route. The dogs were big and vicious, but I was a human, I had technology on my side.

And one day, just before I went off to Rover camp, I visited old Kaiser. His eyes were half blind. I walked up to him, where he lay, and his tail wagged oh so slowly. I stayed with him for a while, this old childhood nemesis while my life had moved on. I think tomorrow I will share this story at the nursing home with my great uncle. He used to be mean to me too. Time heals us all.

Prompt: spring
I’ve got to admit it. I like spring. But only back home. I so miss my home. We used to all talk about when we get home. That changed to “if I get home” Now someone has written a poem, “I have rendezvous with death, when apple blossoms fill the air.”

Yes. I hope the trees will bloom with beautiful bountiful blossoms, so delicate and white. I liked those days when the fields had such promise. I used to marvel at how the big animals moved so slowly, and the little ones were so nimble. Remember how fast the cow moved every time Gordon left his guard post? Galump, galump, straight to the corn-field? Remember the ducklings? When I colored them for school that first time I used crayons of every color. I mad the sky purple and the grass blue. Then Colin said I had the colors wrong, —then he checked himself and said it was art. But I never used nonreal colors again.

Where I am now no one makes any art, tells any fantasies. A few make poems. No one cares a hoot about the natives. No one ever admires the “landscape.” It’s only “terrain” to us. I wish now I had taken up watercolors. If you sell off any of my old stuff then please buy Liam a watercolor set. I don’t know if he would ever use it but I think everyone in this sorry world deserves a chance to have some imagination. Tonight on sentry I will think about those old apple and cherry blossoms. 

I hope all is well with you folks.

Prompt: I was robbed
Seconds become minutes. Minutes become degrees. Degrees are 360 to a circle. Is that fine enough? No, there are one thousand mils to a circle, and an object two mils wide at a thousand meters is two meters long. A handy way to estimate range, if you notice a two-meter long automobile.
An angle of one degree, extended out one light year, obtains a difference of three or so light years: call it a parsec. Oh, you parse the angle by one second, not a degree.

A base of ten is fine if you have ten fingers, or if you’re a French revolutionary eager to go metric, but if you have two feet with the toes too small and far away to count, you need to go to a base of 12. Then you have minutes and hours and a week—oh, better add an extra day there, just to be safe. And the months and years go by and each day I go outside and glance at my sundial which gets out of whack and then back into whack again, year by year, and some days I just stare at the sundial and the birds and feel the breeze, and once in a while I start to plow through a mathematics textbook to understand geometry better. I make progress and become friends with old Pythagoras. I get it! I’m so happy! 

And then I sit in the breeze and glance around and my brain is as tiny as the brains of the birds. And the sun turns and the seasons turn and one day I realize my geometry book is all mildewed and I understand almost nothing. “I was robbed!” I robbed myself.

Writer’s note: I looked it up—a parsec is indeed from a second, not a degree, but the term is not from parsing, it’s from combining parallax and second. It is 3.25 light years.

Prompt: Just beyond the woods

Just beyond the edge of the woods is a ditch. Then comes the grass—not a lawn. Perpendicular to the woods, dividing the grass for a ways is a line of bunchy cascara trees. On the other side, the other acre is tall yellow grass. We left it untouched most years. One year we burned it off and discovered all sorts of U-shaped channels: mouse runs. Also some charred mouses.

Along the bunching cascara was a perfectly circular big tunnel in the grass: a rabbit run. I daren’t get too close, lest it be a rabbit run no more. Later the tall grass part began to get clumps of green reeds, of the sort you made little firing spears out of. This was after our cow Sandy was changing the ecology of the field.

The ditch was dug with a machine by my uncle Joe. He’s gone now, but I still have little good to say about him, although at least he raised a son to win the provincial golden gloves award. Joe was an alcoholic who burned many lives, and reneged on a deal with my dad. Good riddance says I. “When we grow up,” said my brother, “let’s not have any relatives.”

Beyond the ditch the woods were a refuge. There one could repose, far from any human misery, listening to chittering squirrels and the far off friendly drone of little fixed wing aircraft.  My school principle took me for my first ride, showing me that you can have excitement legally, above the cool green woods.

Sean Crawford
from Fridays during 2013 and 2014
September of 2015 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Behind the Blog

I am allowing myself to be self-indulgent and write about me, and my blog, rather than compose my usual essay. I justify this by having filled yet another administrator’s page of 25 post titles.

My Art
Last year, in early summer, I mused that in late summer there would be the convention for “readers, writers and publishers,” When Words Collide. That might be a good time, I said, for diverting my man-hours away from my hobby of crafting essays; instead, I could put in long hours writing fiction. Reading my musings, my best blog fan wrote in to comment. She suggested some important topics to cover before I might switch to fiction. I happily did so, and then… I never did switch to fiction. Something happened.

You see, in the late spring of 2014, at the Alexandra Writers Center, with the intention of improving my prose, I took a weekend “poetry” class from Sheri-D Wilson. I was probably the only one there who didn’t write poems, the only one who didn’t know who Wilson was. The class filled up quickly as poets were attracted by their deep respect for Sheri-D. It was a good weekend. Because she liked everyone there, on late Sunday Sheri-D invited any student interested to keep on meeting with her. Six said “Yes!” three showed up, two of us have stayed the course with our eyes on the prize: a coherent “book” of poems. Not a book-sized collection of assorted poems. No, a real book is much harder but more rewarding.

It’s strange. I came into writing through hard-nosed practical journalism; I would have thought I had nothing in common with poets. Wrong. Poets are “spiritual warriors,” as Sheri-D says, and like a martial artist I will be trying to get better at technique, and more centered at my soul, all my life. I am saying that when poets are chewing their pencils and leaning over their paper, suspense is in the air; when they are publicly reciting, the stakes are high.

How queer to include myself as an “artist” and a “poet.” I used to see such people as “they.” Now I can revel in saying “a fellow poet.”

A fellow poet, middle aged like me, has been meeting with me and the white haired lady I think of as being our sensei, Sheri-D Wilson, for over a year. If there were colored belts for what we are doing we would surely both have changed belts. We can both see our progress… hurray! And because my book is rushing to completion I have less time for essays, no time for fiction.

My Blog
Before attending When Words Collide last month, I thought: What if someone there asked for my website address? I would reply, “You’ll never remember such a long URL, better to search for “essays by Sean.” So of course I realized I had better “search-engine” myself: Lots of other Seans are writing, but there I am, at the top of the search page.

A little further down, among references to other Seans, there was a site that analyzes my site. I don’t know why. Maybe blogs are analyzed, like Neilson rates TV shows, in order to guide advertisers. Happily, my ego is secure: I have little interest in hosting advertisers or getting lots of readers, little interest in “search engine optimization” (SEO) That’s partly why I don’t make links, as I said in No Links is Good Links. (July 2012) Still, I was curious, so I clicked.

I learned that I’m “readable.” That makes sense. As a former reporter, I don’t string many “clauses” together, I habitually avoid long “complex compound” sentences. But let me note that I do have some harder denser posts.

I learned my site is safe for children, “trustworthy” and mostly positive. No surprise. A “low traffic” blog. No surprise. An “extraordinary global rank.” Big surprise.  

Although I had known I was being translated a lot, I said: “Wow.” I guess “citizenship” is a keen interest all around the globe.

Being fond of foreigners, sometimes I feel guilty at using big words that a nonnative English speaker wouldn’t know. Here’s my essay philosophy: While people overseas are welcome, and are expected to listen in, my true focus has to be people in my own backyard. Hence big words, despite small paragraphs.

I have to chuckle: As I write this “summing up” post, my greatest number of hits, in this most recent of my 25-title pages, has been for the previous summing up post, Poetics of Keeping Three Wishes Ready, archived March 2015. To explain poetics: For many weeks I was making posts with “poetics” in the title as I thought this was more accurate than writing “poem.” For each poetic post I was tacking an essay onto a poem I had memorized long ago, with the prose being as important as the poem. In case you’re wondering: Including a poem with an essay hasn’t hurt or helped my hit count. My run of “poetics” ended when I ran out of memorized poems. (Hey, I forgot about Winnie the Pooh’s poems)

As usual, some of my favorite posts have been the ones with the lowest hit count. For example, Poetics of Gettysburg (July 2015) had surprisingly few readers, even though it was posted while the confederate flag controversy was lingering in the news. I had relished explaining the British view of North and South to readers in Canada and Mexico.  

My Thoughts
As for Mexico, some readers down there have been translating my essay/movie review (Fears of) Elysium, (October 2013) perhaps because I write of a future where U.S. citizens have consciously changed their culture from embracing a melting pot to valuing pluralism over assimilation. (Who says a culture can’t change?) I suppose for folks living in crowded Mexico where, having so little immigration, (Europeans and Nazis favor South America) they have never needed to think about a melting pot, this vision of the future would be comforting. By the way, someone told me Argentina has so many Italian immigrants that, despite the UK being part of Europe, during the Falklands War the Italians favored Argentina.

In the age of Elysium if parents feel no shame, no social pressure to assimilate, then it becomes easy for a mother, speaking Spanish, to address her teenage daughter as the girl comes home from the salmon festival wearing a short skirt, “Look at your skirt! If you don’t start acting like a traditional Mexican, then none of the Mexican boys will want you… and I don’t want to be speaking to my son-in-law in English!”

Sean Crawford
~Part of the reason I kept meeting to make a book was I got to keep meeting Sheri-D Wilson, as she is well worth knowing. No, I won’t expand on that.

She is a leader in Spoken Word poetry. Here is a Youtube link to her reciting a spoken word poem, video fashion, called Spinsters Hanging in Trees.

~My fellow poet Mary said it’s OK for me to link to her site. While her exciting forthcoming book has long poems, her site has short ones, like quick darts. Here is the link to her Scribble Darts from the Heart.

~I touched on why a not-so-practical journalist like me, or an engineer, would memorize poetry in Memorizing Poetry, archived June 2015.

~While two of my August essays might have naturally held a footnote to link to an essay with “jetpacks” in the title, I chose not to footnote. Not then, but now if you want to try one of my harder denser essays, try Jetpacks and TV News, archived June 2012, where I showed the public’s non-awareness, or denial, that TV shows and TV news must be radically different than print.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Grave Winter, Light Summer, Falling Free

Grave Winter, Light Summer, Falling Free
Today I present more from my Friday Free fall group: written swiftly without editing, then read aloud, and posted without editing. Of course, FF can inspire "real" writing where you agonize over getting it perfect, but the duty in FF is to just fall free.

To me, Canadian winters are grave because when you are outside the default is to die: From the moment you step outside, the cold starts clawing away your calories. You can’t lie out at night, there’s no fruit and berries, you can’t even drink from a creek when you’re thirsty.

Canadian summers are the time for outdoor stage comedies; today I am balancing two grave winter pieces with some chuckle pieces: these you may wish to read them “aloud” in your best comedy voice, as I did on the Fridays I wrote them.


Prompt-this was going to be my last Christmas

There is something American about the open road, and roadside diners, and diesel trucks. I was in the diner, with my own rig running because I thought I was only going to have a half meal—there’s something about a lemon merange pie when winter is in the air—I wasn’t thinking of it as a Christmas gift to myself at all.

Funny. All those mountain roads past lighted homes with strings of joyful lights hadn’t really put my mind in a Christmas mood. I was going through my Patsy Cline phase, and not the country stations. Besides, no radio in the mountains.

When the bearded man sat down I said “howdy.” He nodded: we were on the same wave length, no “merry Christmas.” From the teamsters pin on his faded ball cap I knew he was a trucker. “That’s my rig on the end” I said, by way of introduction.

“Mine’s the Kenworth” he said. I savored my pie and my coffee and I think it was because I didn’t talk very much that he opened up. Oh, we had the usual civility, so important on the cold winter roads, but then he opened up. “This will be my last Christmas,” he said.

I answered, “How come, where will you spend it?”

He looked far away. “I will be in a shack outside Greenwood, on the road leading to the dump. I’ve got running water, good insulation. A telephone line, electricity. What more can a man want?”
I nodded, stirred in a little sugar. He continued, “I want to live another couple years, but you can’t have everything.”

“Cancer?” I asked calmly.

“Yep, got it in one.”

I gazed at a passing waitress. “I wish I could have a waitress in my hotel room over Christmas. I’ll just watch re-runs…. Have you been thinking?”

“Yup. I’ve been thinking that more darn fools should get their prostate checked.”
We chuckled. He countered, “What would your deep thoughts be?”

“See more waitresses. Give Peggy Sue a call. And you?”

He stretched his neck. “Ah, we all have a Peggy Sue… Somewhere…”

Prompt-glad/blessed to be alive

He had the gout in his big toe again. What a way to wake up. The radio was crackling and popping. Blast! He must have left it on after Roosevelt’s fireside chat—to bad he was abruptly crashing asleep these days. Not old age, no, chopping wood to help heat the cabin will do that to you. At least, that was what he normally told himself. He shifted his legs under the old blankets, in rushed the fingers of old man winter, and swung his legs over, stocking feet to the rude cabin floor. And bent over. And his hips creaked and his back creaked and he stood up. Yep, he was old.

His cabin needed more window space. Nobody in his generation ever had the cash to put in decent window space, or the cash to heat the place either. And now the pesky govmint wanted him to go to a home in town. He looked out his bigger window. Snowing.

It had snowed yesterday, would snow today, and no doubt the next day too. And if he ever ran out of coal it would take four hours a day just to chop enough wood. Blast! And with the roads out, the coal man would have trouble. At least he wouldn’t quit. Too many fellows were enlisting.
Start the stove for the pot and the coffee pot with the grounds. No eggshells today. Plug in the kettle for pouring over the coffee. Heat the pot, force yourself to shave before anything else. Before the coffee, before the oatmeal: The road to despair is paved with small indulgences.

And stand before the shallow tin washbasin, hesitate as you always do, then shirt off—argg!— and enjoy the fluff swish fluff of a genuine badger brush.
Then time to open the door a crack and enjoy the same old oats and coffee. Forget the old folks home. Forget the snow—glad to be alive

I wonder how our boys are doing on Guam? I want to know.


prompt-no no don’t worry about it.
 She moved like a sparrow, that small thin woman. Pardon me” I said, trying to get past her. We were in a concrete sunken courtyard at the courthouse. There was a summer crowd, and I wanted to get in the side door to get inside.

“No-no,” she said, sounding French. Her clothes were striped pink and grey, her age on the far side of thirty. She was darting about in a two meter long box, side to side, for no apparent reason. Harmless, but I wanted to get past.

I tried again. “Excuse-eh moi” I said.

Her eyes, heavily black under black lashes, opened wide. “Vraiment?” But she didn’t move. “Really? You’re Francais?”

Now I was locked in her gaze and I really couldn’t be rude and push away through the crowd behind me. “No,” I said. “I’m a cowboy, come to this grey city.” The entire courtyard was grey concrete, sides and walls, except where there was glass or doors. I guess now I sounded like an individual, like her in her striped arms and legs and cool vest.

So she said, “This is the rainy city, stranger. Esse ce you from?”

I didn’t want to talk, as I was thirsty, but I had enough voice to say, “From Bill’s Puddle ma’am, in the heart of cattle country.”

She looked intently, “Oo la la, I’m from Paris, Cheri, so I know cattle.” I was looking intently at the door, so I didn’t catch the reference. “I am Edith.”

I said “Eh?” I didn’t get why a French lady would be named Edith.

Edith moved right up against me, so I really felt like a cowboy or something. “I need you, cheri, to kneel down.”

I was so surprised I couldn’t even use my Canadian eh. I said, “What?”

“I need you to kneel down so I can test your shoulder.”
I found myself kneeling, and she took one hand regally, felt my shoulder, and then put her foot on it. She was wearing those slippers the Chinese ladies have, or the ladies in art school, or the mimes, or—then she put the other foot on and said softly, “Stand up.”

This time I had the wits to say, “eh?”

She yelled, “Come on cowboy, it’s Edith from Paris, Texas; and I like to stand tall!”

Prompt-Woe is me

I thought for a minute—the life of man on earth is full of woe, and short.—Thank God it’s short, because I just can’t take anymore. I am writing this in The Jail—that’s the name of the bar. “Honey, I’ll be late, I’m in jail.” And, “No I couldn’t answer my cell phone honey, I was in jail.” Speaking of cellphones, mine just timed out before I could reply to Maria. I just checked. Darn, now she probably thinks I’m two-timing her with Judy. I’ll have to buy Maria some flowers again. And I’ve already pawned my medical skeleton.

It could be worse. At least the kids believe me now. They caught me just as I was up my tree putting in a cat skeleton as a joke. “It was a joke!” I tried to say as they ran away screaming about the monster that, pick one:
Eats cats
Kills cats and just leaves them to decay
Traps cats in his tree and doesn’t even bother to recycle the remains
Doesn’t even love dogs—he has none.

Luckily it was the daytime, so the kids did not bring back a crowd of men with pitch forks, only housewives with rolling pins.

Trouble is, one of the more unruly boys had a slingshot. It’s not that he hit me in the head, although he did, and I don’t mind the headache, in fact I can’t even feel it, not over the other bones—when I was hit, I fell out of the tree! So that’s why I’m here in jail.

Sean Crawford