Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writers, Publishers, And The Awful Stigma Of Aging

  Of late it seems people are commenting on my age more than I can ever recall. In part I guess it’s due to the fact that my son arranged in September a great and creative 80th birthday bash for me. There were about forty people, a roasted pig, a "zip-line" erected from my deck to a large tree some 150 yards away for me to ride (an item in my bucket), and a singing group who resurrected an old tune from the seventies that I played on my sailboat when we went cruising from Dana Point to Catalina Island, and that my son rolled his eyes and moaned every time I started singing the lyrics to Soul Shadows; understand please, he was a heavy metal surfer in those days. The group had a beautiful vocalist, Chelsea Poole, my grandson, son, and a relative of my ex-wife; and, all playing guitars. They rehearsed for a week before, and I never suspected. Well, I grew up in the school of men don't cry; but, when they began I couldn't hold back. So I've changed and the heavy metal-dude had also changed. This brings me to my point ... Change!

  The last fifty years, starting back in the sixties, have been marinated in bitter sweet pursuit of societal upheavals; some now permanently part of our cultural fabric; and in my opinion, mostly for the better.  Again referring to the way I was taught, "old" people were put out to pasture, and like little kids, were to be seen and not heard, and even the ”be seen” was sometimes eliminated, as they were put into homes; Old Folks Homes as they were called. Generally you never saw them again unless you went to visit. So be it … this is not going to be a pity party. That was then and this is now.

  I have tried to take moderately good care of myself, physically and mentally. I have “routines’ I practice, that for me are fun and not drudgery to help increase my mental capabilities, and physical being.

  For one thing, I write and have a blog, thanks to my niece Janet. She encourages me to post blogs on my thoughts and to make five or six minute videos while hiking around Windsong Ranch where I live. At first I was reticent and thought that would be assuming of me. Not anymore and why you ask not anymore … because I’m changing, improving, maturating, whatever it’s called.

  I do games on the “puter” that strengthen and improve such cognitive features as Pattern recognition, and a whole host of other fun things, for about fifteen minutes a day, or longer if I’m really into the process that day.

  Each day I walk around Windsong Ranch and pick up after my friends the trees. They have small branches that the winds shear off. It takes about half an hour to do so and I probably bend over about fifty or sixty times in the process. Of course there are the normal maintenance chores that I also enjoy doing, which everyone has in their lives.

  For social activities I host a writer’s forum once a month at my home. Generally five to six writers and we critique each other’s manuscripts, always in a constructive manner. We eat a lunch of pizza, drink some beer or wine, and then chat amongst ourselves; no politics or religion. We are each genuinely fond of our group.

  My two beautiful granddaughters come over for lunch (Raman Noodles which my doctor forbids me to eat … so don’t let her see this blog). We chat and learn from each other. We of course have our differences, and sometimes have to choke them back and not be judgmental.

  As to my writing, I have many more novels, short stories, poetry, and blogs in me and I regret that publishers discriminate against older writers. Their big bug-a-boo is they want younger writers who are, in their view, more in touch with societal morays; and, most importantly, have enough years left to churn out another twenty or so novels for the editors to recoup their initial publishing investment for a start-up writer. Okay, Mr. Publisher, go with that then. Yet when I talk with those younger than me they seems to appreciate what I share with them and I too value their perspectives.

  But here comes the internet and the Vanity Press with offers to publish manuscripts, for a price. They don’t give a hoot about the writer’s demographics. Today, also, there are niches in the digital world where people go to find or construct their “BRAND” for marketing purposes. I’m still forming that concept in my mind and then will follow that process of getting my work out there. Anyone have any ideas for this author?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Excerpt From "Prime Numbers"

She drove the car out onto the tarmac. Paul covered his nose with his handkerchief; the fumes from the airport’s jet fuel aircraft filled the immediate area, adding to the sense of an alien environment. The plane’s engines roared, the pilot running them up in a preflight check, its navigation lights flashed, then went off. A man in a grey jumpsuit opened the fuselage door, and they climbed the ladder inside. There was one other passenger already seated in the rear, his face heavily bandaged.

The pilot, his features recast by reflection of the orange instrument lights from the otherwise black cabin, turned his head and welcomed them aboard in heavily accented English. He requested they attach their seat belts.

Friday, August 31, 2012


If you never sensed in your heart the holy solitude of a matador,

If you aren’t amazed by the trees from which corks are made,

Nor either the sounds and staccato hammering of gypsy flamenco,

Failing to make your blood flow like a flooding Amazon,

Then go search and discover the earth of life.

Dig in it, run it through your fingers,

Get down on your knees and smell it, taste it, sleep on it, it is one with your creator.

And question not the few grains that discolor your shirt,

They are the badges of your awakening.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Last Syllable - by Walter Crabtree

n this morning, the heavy curtains of the master bedroom, which faced the ocean, automatically opened; slowly, silently, and precisely at six.  Through the floor to ceiling windows the shimmering blue rays from the limitlessness of the Pacific began creeping into the bedchamber; advancing slowly, like a shy lover.  At the same moment, Four Seasons softly played from the surround- sound system.  Outside, the intermittent clamor of the pounding surf with its signature timpani of the odd fifth wave, shuddered heavily onto the beach; seemingly intervening itself briefly and pleasingly into the symphony’s tone poem.  
Jon Susu, lying on his left side, alone in the bed, rolled over and looked through the window, first at the broad ribbon of sand rolling off into the horizon – then at the surface of the ocean. He lowered his gaze back to the exorbitantly valued real estate, with its translucent quartz sand, wet and slick, ready for skim boarding. Jon appreciated the allure of the environment – the oceanfront’s vitality: the sea calling for attention would rise up, shake its head covered with white frosted curls and wavelets; an organism kept alive; constantly shaping, forming, and sculpting; driven at first landwards, and then parsimoniously pulled back in the powerful grip of an undertow. All this orchestrated by an indifferent storm … far out to sea. So … this shoreline is like looking at the Mona Lisa; after awhile her face becomes just a portrait of an ordinary woman, beauty is truly transitory, he thought – Gotta make some coffee.
He struggled with his feet exploring for the floor, then eased from the bed with an inexplicit sense of apprehension. This, the tenth day of his house-sitting a friend’s Santa Monica beach front home did not portend well for Jon. Last night’s phone call unnerved and made sleep difficult. He showered and then dressed in black; shirt, tie, suit coat, pants, shoes, eye-patch, and lastly; transparent, ultrathin plastic gloves.  His auburn hair, still wavy, gave resistance to the brush as he turned his head for a final stroke. He looked at his eye; he examined its hazel color, searching for the flecks of gold tinged with green.  Is my eye becoming watery? he worried.

An Introduction/Explanation of The Genera of Magical Realism

(This story is an allegory for something yet to be determined.)

There are locations, people, items, myths that are symbolic to defining Jon’s life and psychosis. Jon, amongst other personality attributes, is a classical, text book narcissist, (See DSM-4; Diagnostic Statistical Manuel, Version four.) Most of the scenes and situations are real, but there are incidents that cross over, undifferentiated, into magical moments. Joseph Campbell’s works on myths through the ages and Kafka’s oeuvre were instrumental in deciding to write in this genera. This short story also uses the epistolary in which the characters confess/expose their thoughts and their feelings, at the discretion of the 3rd person narrator. One of the benefits is just how tangible, palpable, and obvious the sharing in the present moment of the story can effect the reader – in essence we’ll freeze that fleeting moment for a unique level of observation into the character’s hidden thoughts/feelings (who am I kidding … those are the thought that are occurring in my head as I extend the story!). Unlike Kafka, I describe the characters and their surroundings, because, in part, they are the generator for much of the “magical” components of this story. I am in effect breaking the “Creative Writing 101” contract of psychological realism, as all of the “magical/realism” writers have done for the past seventy years. My characters are imaginary beings, much as Don Quixote and his horse Rocinante are imaginary characters. So you the reader can ride on the back of that horse and go as fast and in as many directions as you can conceive … as it were you become an adjunct creator of my story.
This story is not the author’s bio or revelation; it simply is his ongoing exploration of life. The Last Syllable wants to examine the self and its “identity”, probing to see if there are dimensions to the feelings of “soul”, or is that ephemeral entity infinite, and therefore capable of measurement? After all, to measure is to understand – ergo … to control!! Someone wrote: “that girl is so upset by her uncertain hold on her identity that she sobs, “I am me, I am me, I am me …”.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


At times I feel like Telemachus, staying at home waiting for something to happen; like hoping for a burst or even an incremental uptick in the economy. I listen to the folks in our Capitol, to the pundits, read the newspapers and their opinion columns; all who seem to have the answers, but nothing of substance seems to convey from all the energies expended by those folks, except name calling and childish put downs; because as we are told … negative beats down the opponent and you win. I have lived through a whole bunch of cycles of figureheads in our Capital telling how they will make it all better, but mostly it gets worse. I look at my grandkids and just hope.
When stymied I tend to focus in the mode of “positive thinking”. This morning I heard, quite by chance, a retired military Lt Commander, a former Top Gun, speak about the military’s accountability and personal responsibility. Wow! – How that brought resonance out of the past! At one time in my career I had the good fortune to be able to occasionally interface with the military, at The Naval War College in Monterey, and at TRW Space Park, and a couple of embassies.  I was impressed with the caliber of the individuals and their absolute, unwavering professionalism. The Air Force Colonels seemed to be the epitome of the executive decision maker and organizational geniuses.  And please don’t confuse the toilet seats fiasco with the military. They get a lot of programs and materials shoved down their throats by politicians and bureaucrats.
Anyway, briefly, the Lt Commander reiterated in his book, Top Gun on Wall Street, the four points that the Academy military mind is molded to use in almost every aspect of their deployments and career.  To wit:
        I.            YOU CAN’T COME IN SIDEWAYS. Just because you’re an Admiral in the Navy doesn’t mean you can switch to the Army as a General, and to transliterate to the government and corporate life no CEO in ABC Corporation automatically goes to the CEO position of the XYZ Corporation, you gotta first meet the special requirements of each organization.
      II.            HIPPITY-HOP … PLEBE STOP! At the Academies you can be braced at any given moment, and you must have the answer to any germane question asked of you. It’s called accountability every moment.
    III.            HONOR CONCEPT. No half-truths … No lies! No out of context quoting! At all times one must have personal integrity!
    IV.            ALL GO TOGETHER. No fall guys. All share in any blame. There is no “I” in team.
Well, wouldn’t it be great if we could establish an Academy for those who would wish to seek office in support of their country. ATTENTION, amendments to the constitution required first. You could not run for election until you had completed the five year course, sort of an upgraded political science degree. Naturally, there would be similar Academies for the other branches of government: justices, civil servants, etc., and this is critical—all would be based on the four points above. By the way, the first “Sideways” point needs a little explanation, the concept is designed to get away from the “good ol’ boy’ appointments by pals on the corporate boards, disproportionate compensation, and with no heed or little deference to the stock holders.  Unrealistic you say, and if you have nothing to offer – well then you can join me in my role of Telemachus awaiting the return of Odysseus from the Trojan War to make every thing all better ...  and you know how that went down!

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Barber's Texas Longhorn Bull

About once a month I enjoy getting my hair cut. Most probably because I have so little, so the barber, an attractive lady, Arlene, with magnificent eyes, spends a lot of time fussing over my white strands; otherwise she would be finished in a few minutes and the quality of woman she is, she wouldn’t want to charge me the full price, which is inconsiderable in the first place. That’s the way it is in Pikeville, county seat of Bledsoe County.

The city, about fifteen-hundred personalities, is situated in the northern half of a valley; a deep fertile valley that presents itself as a large rupture in the southern Cumberland Plateau. The terraced, highly fracture, brown sandstone walls of the plateau rise prominently to the east and west, respectively; eagles and red winged hawks soar its updrafts. A meandering river passes through the eastern section of the two square miles of the county seat. I have driven the valley's length hundreds and hundreds of times, and I always marvel at its natural pastoral beauty. Huge rolls of hay interspersed on its shaven rolling hills; their placement like the calculated positioning of pieces on a chess board. Forests of deciduous trees and coniferous pine line the streams and fill some of the homestead’s back acreage. Pastures filled with grass greener than any in the ol’ sod, and where star dust swirls and dances at night amongst the hay rolls.

The barber shop, with its stack of magazines, hair supplements, comfortable chairs, and wonderfully framed posters, is a wife and husband establishment, with Arlene working the beginning three days of the week and Bob, the husband, the last three. They double up on Saturdays as that is the most popular day for men around here to get their haircut. They also have a Laundromat and a “touch less” car wash attached to their shop; a nice addition for this small community. They work hard to keep their business clean, efficient, and price competitive.

A couple of days ago I parked my 89 Supra in front of their place; Bob was clipping as it was Thursday. Now Bob, you should know, is a hardy fellow well met; tall, thin and as is a want of his trade ... gregarious. He also possesses a Wikipedia of local knowledge.

There was a customer in the chair, a young fellow just back from Afghanistan. He had been in the military for ten years, enlisting when he was eighteen. I sat down to wait my turn and picked up the local newspaper, the Bledsonian and was greeted with what appeared to be a crime wave in our normally peaceable and beautiful county. A little ol’ lady stood accused of doing away with two elderly sisters. The young man in the barber’s chair avowed that he knew the defendant and could not believe that sweet lady capable of anything more illegal than double parking. We all shook our head in unison. The other “crime spree” story was of another meth lab being broken up and the cook taken into custody. Bob allowed how there would be a special place in hell for the folks that trafficked in that horrendous drug.  Again, with our heads shaking in unison.

The fellow in the chair was finished. He tipped Bob nicely, looked in the mirror and seemed satisfied. I got up and replaced him in the seat. I took off my glasses and hung them from the collar of my shirt, and Bob drew the sheet up to my neck. I looked around the nicely decorated shop and suddenly saw “It” hanging from the wall to my left. “It” was about four feet by six feet and framed with heavy oak. It had a brass plaque titled Happy Camper and was an oil painting, on wood, of a Texas Longhorn bull; dense shiny black torso, short legs, a massive chest and neck, probably weighing in at least seventeen hundred, and possessing large brown eyes. I recognized the singular brush strokes and pallet of my neighbor, Alice, down the road a ways from my place. She is a gifted artist, self taught, and she and her husband Harold, are wonderful friends. She painted the portrait in lieu of having the animal stuffed and mounted.  

Bob, very sadly, said that Happy Camper had passed away from old age; he was twenty, and the pet of the family. Bob recalled how he had flown to Texas to bid on the animal at an auction, won, and had Happy Camper hauled all the way to Tennessee. As an adult, his massive curved horns measured 100 inches from tip to tip, and the gap between the tips was eighty-seven inches.

Neither Bob nor I lived down in the valley, but up on the “mountain”. I recalled when I drove by their place, on my way to Wal-Mart, seeing the ol’ fellow, Happy Camper, standing by the fence, like royalty; solitary, placid and self-possessed; enjoying the spot in the shade of the old unpainted barn in the hot afternoons. In the winter the sagging barn also served as a bulwark against the cold winds. I always marveled at the noble way the fellow held his head high with all that weight and encumbrance of the Nordic crown … that spread of his magnificent horns.

Even today, Bledsoe County is a hunter’s paradise and most everyone goes out to put food on the table; wild boar, wild turkey, deer, possum, etc. There are a lot of trophies and taxidermy is a profitable niche business. Bob said the painting was a substitute for having Happy Camper’s head mounted, not to mention the $2k the mounting would have cost. Additionally, his wife Arlene said, without saying, that there was no way he would get that into their home or shop. Bob did have the horns braced in brass and attached to a wooden commemoration and placed in his large barn, a discreet distance from the main house ... so that Happy Camper lives on in Bob’s eyes.

As I sat in the barber’s chair, I offered up to Bob what I hoped to be the appropriate sentiments for a Texas Longhorn bull that had passed; an unknown protocol to me. He thanked me and went on to tell that he had seventy more of the critters, raised and bred for roping contests and not to be butchered. Further, each of the seventy critters had a name that he had thought up; adding proudly – “by myself”.  Jokingly, I asked if he could, like “the woman who lived in the shoe with so many children she didn’t know what to do” remember their names. Well he did, and I received the complete roster … cow by cow, bull by bull … over the drone of the clippers. With the last name, he whipped the sheet off. I got down from the chair and as I paid him, I saw there was a little moisture in his eyes. I quickly averted my gaze, as one man doesn’t want another man to see his sentiments that way.  I indicated I didn’t need change and walked out to my car, a little subdued.

I started the car and pulled out onto the main street. I looked into the rear view mirror, smiled and then said out loud, “You just gotta think well of a man that can tear up over some bull.”