Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Short Collection

I've started going through the Archives, searching for papers which can be tossed. It's time to start packing. Came across some poems. These are reasonably recent - within the year. They all tend toward "darker" moods, so if you're not in the mood yourself you might just want to skip today's post.

The first lacks true meter. It's less of a poem and more just a couple of sentences.


Acknowledging loss may hurt
worse than suffering loss
So it seems to me right now
The peace of death blows soft and slow

Yet can loss occur when nothing existed
Can nothing be taken away
To have believed awhile that love was mine
My heart, awhile, did shine

This second is actually less dark. One could even say bright.


If not a home then
. . . . . . A cave so cold
. . . . . . A place together
. . . . . . We’ll grow old
If not a cave
. . . . . . I’ll take whatever
. . . . . . For my love for you
. . . . . . Will never sever
Just be with me
. . . . . . Through day and night
. . . . . . I’ll be with you
. . . . . . You are my light

This last is just another variation of a poem I have written many times.


In the Valley of the Sorrows there are tears I have not wept.
They are for my sad remembrance of pain that I have kept.
To be despised is one thing. To be hated is another.
When the two join together it is really quite a bother.

The future is a place that I am destined once to go.
Whatever shall I find there? When I get there I will know.
The future hides beyond the river’s winding, twisting, bends.
And there I’m doomed to go for the current there it sends.

The future may be bright and cherry or as dark as deepest night.
Although I want the former I can never make things right.
The truth should be more friendly but often it seems cruel.
For to speak the truth aloud is when I play the fool.

I’m beaten, sad, and lonely, and my health is fading fast.
But the truth I still will cling to even when I breathe my last.
I once strongly though I’d be here when the Lord comes back one day.
Now I’m just a piles of pieces. And where I’ll be I cannot say.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The War Against Grey Squirrels Over Black Oiled Seeds - Part II

Feeding the birds near the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota was relaxing, enjoyable, and expensive. At our peak, we had no less than 15 seed feeders and 3 nector feeders operating at the same time. When there were a good many birds to see we would try to count them. It wasn't easy as the birds refused to stay still. Our best estimate was over 100 birds at one time. Not all were seed or nector eaters. Some just came because there was a host of other birds at hand, I guess.

Spouse's favorite birds were the blue jays. Blue is Spouse's favorite color. My favorites were the cardinals and the orioles. The orioles were perhaps the shyest of all our feathered visitors. I don't count hummingbirds as they visited so infrequently as to not be there.

All would have been well, had it not been for the squirrels.

Mostly, it was grey squirrels, although there was a pair of reds and a few chipmunks. But these rodents would cross the treetop canopy and descend (literally) onto the feeders. Of course we tried to find ways to keep them off. We tried various methods. None of them worked. Probably the method which worked best was when I hung one from the overhang outside the dining room window. I believed I had won at least on my favorite feeder. At the time I had my computer right by this window and it was cool to turn my head and see the birds just ten feet away. Well, one day I hear this terrible crash. I look. Nothing. Ten minutes later I hear another noise. It was a squirrel, making a successful second attempt to drop down from the roof at an angle to catch the hanging feeder. Quite a feat, actually.

I once saw a program where some naturalists were testing squirrel intelligence by setting up a feeder in the middle of a yard without trees. It was in England, I believe. The scenario was that in order for the squirrels to reach the feeder at one end of the yard, they actually had to begin at the other end and navigate a series of obstacles and traps. It took several weeks, but eventually the squirrels figured it out. If there is a way, the squirrels will find it.

Well, we were still in favor of protecting the seeds from the squirrels. At first I would try to chase them off, but that was useless. Then, I decided to enlist the aid of my dogs. Lady Nicole in particular loved the idea. Royal Nicholas just wanted to eat the seeds himself, so I wouldn't let him go. But Lady loved to chase squirrels. The squirrels would watch me go to her kennel, stoop and ask her if she wanted to go chase squirrels. Then, as soon as the door opened and Lady shot out (Nikki chasing behind despite orders to stay put) the squirrels would jump up into their trees and depart. Lady loved it, despite having no real chance to ever catch one. Or so I thought.

One day one squirrel was particularly engrossed in his/her eating and neglected to pay attention when the kennel door opened. Lady was more than halfway there before the squirrel realized its peril. Due to the feeder's location the squirrel was obliged to jump to the ground before reaching the safety of a tree. This delay would cost it. By the time it reached the tree Lady was nearly upon it. It chose to try for another tree. Lady overran it, but knocked it off its feet. Had she been alone the squirrel would have made it. But Nikki was there now, and Nikki was a hunter. He wasn't fast, but he had powerful jaws and he knew about killing rodents. Had I not been there the squirrel would have had no chance. Even so, I arrived too late to prevent damage. I got Nikki off and the squirrel jumped to nearby tree, but only hung on the side. I could see one of its hind legs was damaged. Forlornly I tried to catch it, figuring to take it to a vet. Of course I failed. Had I even suspected the dogs could catch one I never would have let them chase. But there was fifty yards between the dog kennel and the feeder.

Lady's fun ended that day. Never again did I allow the dogs to chase the squirrels. Two days later I saw the injured squirrel had failed to make it across the road. I recognized it because its one leg had been put out of joint. At that point I officially ended the war. And, like all good governments, I provided a wealth of aide.

From that day on I worked out a compromise with the squirrels. I would put out six dishes of cracked corn for them. stationed on the ground at the base of some tall trees. Now, should Lady and/or Nikki decided to ignore orders and launch an attack, even a distracted squirrel would have plenty of time to reach safety.

The compromise worked. The squirrels much preferred the corn to the sunflower seeds, and the birds preferred the sunflower seeds to the corn. Now the only time I ever saw the squirrels on the bird feeders was when there was no corn. In fact, that was my sign to put out more corn. Feeding became more expensive, but no more squirrels died on my account. Ultimately, we would have no less than fifteen grey squirrels, two red squirrels and four chipmunks eating.

I still feel bad about that squirrel who died.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The War Against Grey Squirrels Over Black Oiled Seeds - Part I

If you've never fed birds seeds then you've missed a real treat in life. There's something about filling a little bin, dish, tube, what-have-you with millet, suet, peanuts, cracked corn, bread, or black oiled sunflower seeds, and then watching the birds flock to your station to eat. Some won't eat seeds. They require fruit and nector, such as hummingbirds and orioles.

Spouse and I began feeding birds when we rented a house on a large island in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, just west of Minneapolis. That was a bird haven, and we had several kinds pass through the hidden yard in which we ultimately had fifteen feeding stations surrounding the house so that no matter which window we look out, we could see birds feeding.

Some never came to the stations, so I wonder why they came. They weren't predatory. I don't think they were. Crows are scavengers, aren't they? But they would come and sit high in the trees at the yard's edge and watch. So did a pileated woodpecker. I had never seen one before. Every spring and every fall about a hundred juncos would hit the yard in force, beginning at one end and walking across to the other, grabbing bugs and such from the yard as they went. Some Northern Flickers would join them.

Probably the most fun to watch were the Cardinals and Orioles. Male cardinals will feed their ladies. It's really cute to watch. We had five pair in the hedges which surrounded the yard. They would take turns coming to the feeder in the mornings and early evenings. The orioles were even more cute. It took me a while to figure out their routine.

Originally, I thought there was a single bird, or maybe a pair. Then, one day, I saw five orioles on our hummingbird feeder at the same time. This was their routine.

We had a crab-apple tree in the center of the yard. There was a large boxelder tree next to the garage, where we had one hummingbird station. There was another hummingbird station next to the front door of the house. The orioles would come in, one at a time, and fly to the apple tree. They would wait about a minute and then fly to the first station and drink. About a minute later they would fly to the second station and drink. A minute later they would fly away. Meanwhile, another bird was following the first, and then a third, fourth and fifth. After the fifth, the first would come back. They had some sort of regular route. I saw them once making the loop on the other side of the street.

Feeding birds was fun. The cardinals preferred the black oiled sunflowers seeds, so we stocked heavily on those. Chickadees, nuthatches and goldfinch liked the mixed set, and blue jays liked the oiled and the cracked corn. We were spending something like twenty-five or thirty dollars every month on seed. And the rabbits were happy, too. They would come out at dusk and eat below the stations.

The bully birds were the red-winged blackbirds and the grackles. Yellow-headed blackbirds were mannerly. The others were not. The blackbirds and grackles came together. And they came en masse. I told Spouse they reminded me of a gang of disruptive teenagers in black leather vests harassing all the decent birds in the area. When the blackbirds and grackles showed up, all other birds left. But at least they were birds. There was another eater of seeds which disrupted the meals we had so carefully set out for our feathered friends.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When the Rain's Inside

As an author of poetry I leave much to be desired. As Patricial once said to Michelle while they sat at the table with a boy they both wanted (and Michelle was winning), "You could fill a library with what you don't know about theatre." (We were talking about theatre and Michelle made the unfortunate comment that she didn't know much about it.)

Well, they have filled libraries with what I don't know about poetry. I've visited other blogs beyond my normal rounds lately, and I have come across some fantastic poetry. Wish I could write like that. But I can't. Don't.

Even so, I am treating you to one of my poems. This is not actually a recent creation. The truth is, I don't know how old it is. It's the kind of poem I could have written on many occasions. Today would be one of them. I made a couple of minor adjustments. Originally, the poem ended with references to Jesus. I took those out in respect of others. I mention them here in respect of my Lord.

Sadness Revealed

Daylight departs and night darkness begins
The sorrows of a heart beset by its sins
Its weariness to sin and depressing to cry
And a heart left in darkness is doomed but to die

Where is the Light at the end of the line
Where is the Light to close out my time
What happened to joy and what happened to smiles
The darkness will last – but only a while

We error we run and we muddle about
We cry in our darkness and loudly we shout
Like a child done wrong we go running to dad
We never knew all the good that we had

For wisdom was dull and obedience no fun
And so on our own we do roam and we run
But to obey and be wise is better than games
Together they work to keep us from shame

Thanks be for forgiveness and renewal of hearts
Every day that I’m here is a chance to restart
The lessons of life can be hard and be sad
But God always forgives and turns sadness to glad

Bevie James

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Rabbit Hole Day!

The Tortoise and the Snail

The tortoise and the snail had a race to get the mail and it lasted all the day ‘cause neither knew the way.

The tortoise headed east where the rocks they were the least and he crawled across the sand like a turtle on the land.

The snail headed west where the moisture was the best and he slid right through the water like a playful little otter.

When chance there came a seal who was looking for a meal and because he was all wet he went and made a bet.

The one he made a bet with was a tabby known as Setwith who would sit upon the post and declare himself the most.

Now the sun was going down and the betters faces frowned for the racers on the ground were still not to be found

Then springing on a log was a little greenish frog who croaked right at the betters that they should go and learn their letters.

So the seal and the cat became quite indignant over that and they demanded now to know how the racers were so slow.

The frog he laughed in glee saying, “Matters not to me”, and the thing I laugh at most is there is no Sunday Post.

From The Tales of Whimsy, by Bevie James.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The House of My Youth

Part 6 - Goat Lady

Not all of my memories of The Old House revolve around The Ghost. There were plenty of other things happening. It wasn't as if He were active every day anyway.

One particular summer, all of the neighborhood kids hung out at a small hobby farm about a half mile from my house. I don't know who got us going there, but someone discovered the "Old Widow Woman" was kind of neat to hang around. She had an assortment of animals, including a half dozen Sanaan goats. Sanaan goats are one of the larger breeds. Generally, they are nearly always white, although due to "staining" they sometimes show other colors, too. They are an excellent milk goat. After I got married, I helped with the milking at my brother-and-sister-in-law's hobby farm. They had Sanaans.

Anyway, the "Goat Lady", as she came to be known to us kids, talked to her goats the same as though she were talking to us. She asked them questions, which was fine. But she expected them to answer, and should the appear to ignore her, she would stomp to them, put her face into their face, and demand an answer. I never actually heard the goats talk. In fact, they never made a sound. They just gave her these odd looks and she became satisfied.

I didn't know much about The Goat Lady back then, and failed to learn more later. Everyone called her a "widow woman", but I'm not certain she was ever married. She worked at munitions plant near where my mother worked. Supposedly, she made decent money, but you'd never know it to look at her or the farm. At home she always dressed in baggy coveralls and a baggy shirt. The house looked decrepit from the outside, and the barns and outbuildings were that dingy, weathered grey. Fence rails were broken down. Posts were leaning. The main buildings had huge holes in their roofs. It was this feature which makes up the story. And to us, the kids, she appeared very old. In truth, she was probably in her forties or fifties (you may think that's old, but now that I have passed the 50-tally I don't think so). Her hair was mostly dark, but there was plenty of grey there, too.

How long she had lived at this little farm before I learned of her I do not know. I just know that one day she purchased a good supply of plywood, shingles and nails, and decided to fix her barn and shed roofs. That is what drew us kids.

Kids are a lot like adults. They love to watch other people work. If they're young enough, they'll actually volunteer to help. We were young enough.

Apart from the roofs, The Goat Lady also wanted to mend fences. Soon she had a dozen grade school kids running around the farm and working hard. We were told we would be paid for our efforts. This really helped with enthusiasm.

But after just a few days the help began to disappear. Debbie, Sue and Helvie were the first to go. Chris and Dale went next. Then Delbert. Eventually, it was just Tommy and me. We would dutifully climb up on the machine shed roof (very slight incline - practically flat), the Goat Lady would raise up a sheet of plywood, we would position it, and then begin nailing. One day we ran out of nails. (Tommy and I had a tendency to bend them.) The Goat Lady put us in her car and drove three miles to the hardware store. Next door to the hardware store was a small cafe. She took us there and treated us to lunch. Then we returned to work.

By chance, Mother happened to drive by as we got out of the Goat Lady's car. She stopped and ordered me home. I made my apologies and got into Mother's car and we went home.

Just what the h*ll do you think you're doing?

Helping the Goat Lady fix her barns.


She's going to pay us.

No, she isn't. Just look at that place! She doesn't have any money. She's not going to pay you.

Yes, she will.

No! And it doesn't matter. You're not to go back there.

But, Mother.

No! I said no.

So, when Tommy came by the next day to escort me to the Goat Lady's farm, I had to tell him he was on his own. I told him Mother said he wasn't going to get paid. He didn't care. He spent the next two weeks helping her finish up.

When they finally finished their work, the Goat Lady paid Tommy and incredible sum for a gradeschool boy in the 1960s. No one else got paid. To get paid, you had to stick it through to the end. Only Tommy did, so only Tommy got paid.

I remember telling Mother this, but she just dismissed it. Looking back on it I expect she feared the Goat Lady was some kind of pervert. She wasn't. She was just a little old lady with a farm. And enough money to make Tommy's summer. He gloated it over us for a long time.

Not sure why this story came to mind. Not sure it has much of a point, other than to say I always felt bad about not sticking it out to the end. Believe it or not, it wasn't about the money, either.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Watching Someone Die

Having passed the age of fifty I have been more than once been privileged of sharing a good amount of time with someone who knew they would not live another six months. I'm not talking about having someone die. That's different.

Grandpa Louie died when I was in grade school. He was old and in difficult health. His lungs were shot from years of smoking. I recall it would take him twenty minutes to walk twenty yards. But he did walk them. He was up and about. The day he died he was touching up some window sills with paint. That's how Grandma Amy found him. She went outside to call him in for lunch and he was laying on his back with the brush in his hand. Grandpa knew he was going to die, and that he probably didn't have ten years left. But he could have had one, two, five or even nine.

Lynahr's baby died the day before my birthday the year I graduated from high school. Christopher wasn't even a year old. There was no reason to believe he would die. Lynahr put him in his crib, and some time during the night he quit breathing. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is what they called it.

No, I'm talking about Daddy, who was told around his birthday in March that he had cancer. That fall he was told he would probably not see the new year. Typical of Daddy, he died on January 4th. What did the doctors know?

Uncle Durrel was told he had prostrate cancer. He went through the surgeries. The cancer came back. More surgeries. The cancer came back. Like Daddy, the doctor handed him his walking papers. There was nothing left to do but wait. Uncle Durrel would not see Christmas. He didn't make it to Labor Day.

Lynahr had something go terribly wrong during a routine medical examination just before Christmas in 2000. There were only two chances in a thousand something could wrong, and in the unlikely event it did, there were only two chances in a thousand it would be bad, and in that event there were only two chances in a thousand death would result. Lynahr won the lottery. By Independence Day it was clear to nearly everyone that Lynahr was not likely to see Christmas. She left with the others who died on September 11th, 2001.

Watching someone waste away fills one's stomach with bile. No day is a happy day, although there are many days one laughs. No day has contentment, although we eat, sleep, have sex, and do a host of other things which give a form of pleasure, but do not satisfy. The helplessness against inevitability makes us want to throw up. Sometimes we do.

Watching someone die slowly does something else to us. Something most of us are loth to confess. After all. Good people would not feel this way. What is this loathsome feeling? We get angry with God. Sometimes to the point of saying we hate him, and we will never forgive him for what he has done to this person/these people we love. If you have had to witness such a death of someone you love, or are witnessing it now, or are watching someone you love suffer beyond what you consider acceptable endurance, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, just don't die. You will.

Most of the time we try to pretend, to others, but mostly to ourselves, that we are not upset with God. God knows what he is doing. It's in God's hands. It was the will of God. We say these things, and more. But the truth is, were God to come physically before us right now, we would beat the living p*ss out of him. We would slap him and punch him and beat on him with every ounce of energy we have. But don't dare admit that. That would be sinful, wouldn't it?

Or would it?

I regret my ignorance of Islam. I don't know what the Quran specifically has to say about God and truth. Judaism and Christianity share some common holy writings, and within those we are told: God is Truth. My guess is that Islam says virtually the same thing, if not exactly the same way. God is Truth. Okay. Good. So let us examine the logic.

God is truth. I am angry with God. My emotions tell me I hate God. When asked if I hate God, or even am angry with him, I deny it - because I want to please him.

Is God pleased? We're lying to his face. What is more, he is not fooled. God is Truth, remember? That means he already knows the truth. So denying it is worse than silly. That is a sin. I do not believe being angry with God, or even telling him - in a time of emotional stress - that we hate him, is. Why not?

Because God is Truth. He cannot deny himself. The truth is, we are angry with him. We do feel like we hate him. And do you know the best way to work through that? Tell him! Tell him everything.

It doesn't last long. I promise. Not if you truly believe you are communicating with God and not just ranting at a radio. Why not?

Because God will come to you. You do not need to go to him. He will come to you. You are trying to communicate with God, and God tells us that those who seek him will find him. He is as drawn to those who are seeking him as we are when our own children seek us. Having children helps in the understanding process.

God will let us rant. Many were the days in the basement of this house when I railed loudly against God. I threw things. I wept. I was so - angry. It hurt. It hurt to be angry with God. As with Spouse, or Son, love will just not allow the anger to last forever. Not once it's confessed. How many times have Spouse and I argued, and after saying what was true, wept in each other's arms and saw things from the other's perspective?

Why do you think it is that God is so forgiving? Because he is also Love. And Love responds to the truth. It just does.

There is no shame in being angry with God. There is no shame in feeling horrible things toward him. The shame is our not talking to him about it. But don't just say you hate him and leave. Stand with him. Argue your case. Present his crime/s. Soon, you will be in his embrace. He is not physical, but he will touch your spirit, and you will know he cries with you, and not against you. And somehow you will know everything will be all right. Faith and trust are born of love, you know.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Daddy and Stephen

Today I post my One Hundredth Post on A Voice in the Wind. Huzzah! Huzzah! It isn't much of a milestone when you consider I'm now posting every day. But the number suggests importance, which is why I am glad it happened on a Saturday, when my assigned topic is Daddy and Stephen. (I didn't work it out this way on purpose. It just happened.)

Daddy was an over-the-road truck driver during the overlap years between him and Stephen. There were only four years. I met Stephen when I was a Freshman in High School. Daddy died when I was a Senior. The result of this was Daddy and Stephen seldom met, and spoke together even less. Stephen's dad was far more familiar with me. (No. Not like that. Come on.)

In the summer of my Junior year, just before school started, Daddy brought me up north with him to visit Alfred, Daddy's best friend in all the world. Mother came, too. I don't recall who suggested it, but I was allowed to ask Stephen if he wanted to join us. We would leave Friday evening and return Sunday morning. It was a two hundred mile trip. Stephen checked with his parents and they consented. So it was the four of us.

Now I loved being in the country, and stayed every August with my Grandma Amy up at Willow River. One year I was even allowed to spend a July at Alfred's house. That was a fantastic year! It meant two whole months away from home. (Which meant two whole months without getting slapped even once!)

Stephen, however, was very much a product of suburbia. He needed the things suburbs had to offer: lights, parks, stores, restaurants and, above all, people. Staying up at Alfred's was not to Stephen's liking but, to his credit, he was entirely mannerly and accepting of Alfred and June's hospitality. But his being bored meant I was bored. Stephen didn't want to walk in the woods just to see the flora and fauna - which was basically the same as what could be seen from the house. I loved being in the trees. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, or Hansel and Gretel, or Red Riding Hood, or some other fairy tale person who got to wander in the woods. Not Stephen. So we stayed in the house and played cards. First we used the deck of rounds cards we found. Then Alfred gave us a deck of "crooked" cards, cut in the general shape of a "Z".

Daddy and Alfred must have sensed our boredom, and the cause of it (I had been up there many times and had a blast). What they felt was needed was something especially fun. Something to help Stephen "get into things". Alfred had the perfect solution: we would go for a drive.

Now those of you who are like-minded with Stephen already know how much fun Stephen had on this drive. For those of you who tend more toward my feelings, you are probably tingling with anticipation to hear the wonders we found.

My family loved driving. I grew up in a time where gas was roughly $0.33 per gallon and vehicles got 20-mpg on 20-gallon tanks. I remember many weekends where Daddy and Mother would pile all the kids in the car on a Sunday morning and we would just drive across the countryside until supper. We carried jugs of water and bags of sandwiches. (Sometimes Mother would cook up a couple dozen hot dogs.) It was great. Only Stephen didn't think so.

I was nice and gave him the window seat. Mother sat to my left. Daddy sat in the passenger seat in front, next to June. Alfred drove. (Back in those days few cars had bucket seats.)

We left and drove all around the lands north of Grand Rapids. Alfred showed Stephen the Continental Divide. Not many people know Minnesota has one. It's marked by a sign along the highway. If you're traveling faster than 40-mph you will probably miss it. The sign's only about one foot by two. Black lettering on a white background. That's it. The rest of the area is marked by trees. Lots and lots of trees. Picturesque in the fall.

It was getting dark now, and so Alfred was ready for the pieste resistance: The Garbage Dump.

The appeal of going to a garbage dump at dusk in northern Minnesota may escape many of you. (Many? Only four people actually read this blog.) Let me explain.

Northern Minnesota is home to a good population of small black bears. Black bears are scroungers. They look for food where they can find it. Over time they learn that garbage dumps are an excellent source of easy to be had nourishment. So the idea was that we would go to the dump and watch black bears scrounge for food. They're shy creatures, so they would not be coming up to the car. Perfectly safe.

Especially so considering no black bears showed up that night. After waiting an appropriate amount of time, Mother and June decided they were going to go find bathroom trees. Daddy, Alfred, Stephen and I sat in the car with the doors and windows open. (It was stuffy.) It didn't take long before the mosquitos found us. (For every black bear in northern Minnesota, there are 6-billion mosquitos, and within ten minutes of going outside they will ALL find you.) We began slapping arms and necks. Then Daddy said we'd best close the doors and windows. Alfred begrudging agreed, commenting (and now we finally get to the point of this vignette), "Damn mosquitos. Just when you're having fun."

I felt Stephen's reaction. I did not dare look at him. When Mother and June returned from the trees and began wandering through the trash themselves (another favorite pastime of people without money), Daddy and Alfred left to do their business. Stephen and I remained in the car. Stephen looked at me.

"I almost died when he said 'just when you're having fun.' Fun?"

Stephen would continue to rant about that for the next seven years. Thereafter, whenever things got boring, Stephen would announce, "Just when we were having fun, too."

Friday, January 23, 2009


Suppose to write about a good book, good movie or good music/song. Still have yet to read, watch or listen to anything remotely new. My books are mostly reprints of things originally released before I was born. A new movie for me is one that comes on DVD. Do you know a family of three cannot go to a movie in this area for much less than $50.

Whatever happened to the dollar theatres? I remember going to the Varsity Theatre on the UofM College Campus and seeing a host of great movies, including Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Young Frankenstein and spending less than $10 for a group of three. Forget that now. I don't even think the theatre's there anymore. But I don't believe there are any more dollar theatres.

I can't afford to buy music anymore. When I hear a song I like I just go to YouTube and listen to it. I don't download it because why waste my disk space. Besides, I'm not sure it's legal, and the last thing I want is to be an example for the millions who actually get away with it. I tend to be a person who gets caught.

So, what am I going to write about? Well, it's not what I thought. (Got to change the title and labels.) I think I will tell you about my friend, Chris.

I met Chris when I was in first grade. He lived next door. His parents owned the house my parents were buying. (The Old House.) This meant Chris was full aware of The Ghost. As I recall, he didn't actually come inside the house that often.

Anyway, years later, after we had graduated from High School, Stephen and I invited Chris to come along on one of our movie nights. Chris was still five foot six. We were going to go all in. Go to the Varsity on campus, and then drive thirty miles to J's Pizza. One of our three favorite pizza hangouts.

The movie showing that night was Young Frankenstein. Believe it or not, Chris has never seen the film, despite it having been regulated to dollar theatres. We knew he'd like it though. Mel Brooks could always make Chris laugh, and Gene Wilder was perfect, as was Peter Boyle.

We got our popcorn, candy bars, chips and sodas and found good seats high and near the center. The theatre wasn't packed, but it was more than half full. What else did college students not interested in getting drunk or risking babies have to do? Study? Maybe one in a hundred.

Well, the movie started and from the first I knew there was going to be trouble. Behind us, and to the right, was the Al Michaels of movie commentary. Whenever anything happened without dialogue, he was right there to let us know what was going on. Chris was at my right elbow. Stephen was to my left.

At first, Chris was only annoyed. Then he began to get real pissed. When he started talking to himself Stephen and I looked at the group of guys who were with the play-by-play announcer. We were outnumbered. Oh, goody!

Finally, Chris could take it no longer. But, to his credit, he refrained from physical contact. Instead, as loud as he could say it, he let out with, "We can do without the play-by-play!"

Silence. (Remember, the commentator only spoke when there was no dialogue.)

Then applause.

I know if Stephen or I had tried that everyone would have turned against us and told us to shut up and watch the movie. With Chris, you listened to him. All five feet six inches.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

A number of years ago Spouse and I kept horses at Spouse's brother's hobby farm. They gave us cheap rates, and in exchange we would help out with chores and other work. As Spouse's work schedule differed from mine, I was the lucky one to be there during milking, feeding and hay baling. Which was fine. It was fun to be there around the animals.

I like animals. Most of them anyway. Not so keen on hogs.

There was a day I was in the barn cleaning out horse stalls when I heard the distressed cry of a cat. Never eager to see any animal in pain I began a search for the source. It was hard to place, for the sound echoed. Eventually, I worked my way to the back of the barn where I came upon the silo. The echo was in there.

The silo had not been used in years, and like many such things, became an accumulator of various pieces of debris. I stood in the narrow opening, searching with my eyes for any sign of movement. There was none. I would have to go inside.

No sooner had I done so than the crying stopped. Oh, no! I crushed it. I knelt down to pick up the piece I had stepped on and the crying returned. But it wasn't from below. Slowly, I looked up.

There, at least forty feet above me, and perhaps more, was tiny little kitten - sitting on the silo roof and crying to get down.

How did you get up there? I cried.

Before I continue, let me segue and inform you that I am absolutely terrified of heights. I don't like climbing ladders to the garage eaves. So the thought of climbing forty or more feet straight up in the air was not one I entertained. I started to leave.

But kitty had seen me, and kitty could also see I was leaving. The mews became more frantic. The plaintiff cries worked into my being and stopped me dead in my tracks. Without even realizing what I was doing I began the arduous climb up to get the cat.

Arriving at the top I found getting the cat to come to me was not just a matter of asking. Neither was reaching out and grabbing it easy. That meant letting go with one hand. And of course the stupid cat was so afraid it tried to stay where it was. I got it and cradled it in one hand while pressing myself to the silo ladder. Now who was going to save me?

I needed both hands to descend, so I managed to undo the top of my shirt and drop the cat inside. Then down I came. When I reached bottom I let the cat go.

Do you think I got any thanks? Do you think the cat would remember me later? No. In fact the stupid thing managed to climb up there again a couple of weeks later and I had to repeat the process all over again. Some things are not easier the second time.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Your Pardon, Mr. President

But I did not watch your inaugural ceremony, speech or anything else, although I could have. I caught some clips after the fact, and I will listen to your speech on YouTube later, I am sure.

Please do not feel bad about my non-attendance. The truth is, there have been 11 presidential elections since I began paying attention to them, nine of which I was actually able to vote in, and I have watched none of the ceremonies. You are only the fourth president to win with my vote. The others didn't need it. Pity.

It isn't that I do not care. On the contrary, I care very much. The last two elections had me so discouraged I told myself I would not vote again. However, when the Moment of Decision came, I exercised my right - not duty. But I refused the little sticky thing to brag about voting. I didn't feel there was anything to brag about. And what has taken place in my home state only feeds that despair.

Several of the blogs I visit had postings and subsequent comments revealing high emotions surrounding your particular election to office. And this time I feel the new president was elected. This is an historic moment. But historic moments do not put chills on my arms. When the planes took down the towers in New York I felt sick. That was not my reaction to you, by the way. No, I am afraid I was too busy being happy about the exit of the old to consider the entrance of the new.

You got my vote, but not because I believed in you. That is my primary reason for withholding any comment on the other blogs, where your real supporters reside. They deserve their joy, and I have no right or desire to taint it.

But I have become cynical, and I now find it extremely difficult to believe in the people and institutions which govern my nation. Too many times I see the guilty paid to go free. And I've seen more than my fair share of enthusiastic candidates give up all of their ideals once in office. Decisions have not been made based on what is right or good, but rather on what brings in the most money and/or votes.

So I had no expectations of you as a president. I voted for you because I was convinced you would be the President. Your supporters confess their doubts now, but I never did. For me, the election took place in the spring, when you defeated Hilary Clinton. After that I did not doubt.

However, I did not vote just to say I voted for the winner. (I've voted for plenty of losers in my time.) You got my vote because I had a decision to make: Support the new President, and trust and help him to achieve the things he represents; Continue the same relationship with the new President that I have had with the old. I chose to support you and what you stand for. I made myself no delusions regarding what would happen. I would simply watch and help where I may.

To that end let me add this: more than any of the eleven predecessors (only seven men) I referenced at the start of this post, you have demonstrated the hope of positive change. Some have been upset over certain, specific decisions you have made. I don't concern myself with minor details like that. I hardly expect to agree with your every decision, and I am hardly qualified to state the rightness/wrongess until after the fact. What I look for is general direction. If I take a major highway expecting to reach a city to the north, I do not worry if the road veers left or right - as long it returns to course. So far, before your presidency, I have seen that. You are showing the signs of being a great president. I hope you are. We need one. Presidents are put in office by God. My hope is that you have been put there to help us out of the mess we are in.

In the meantime, Mr. President, congratulations. You do not have my cheers or tears because that is not my nature. What you have, pitiful as it is, is my support. If I can help, I will.

Good luck to you.

You are going to need it.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Assignment: Poe

Evil Editor has put out a new writing exercise. In honor of Edgar Allen Poe's 200th birthday anniversary, write (in 400 words or less) a short story in the Poe style.

As I told a friend of mine, it's been a while since I've read anything from Poe, so I may have to refresh myself on the style. I'm planning on making a submission, though I'm not planning on it being one of the best.

FairyHedgeHog has gone a writing proposal going, too. She calls it "Rabbit Hole Day". Actually, she didn't coin the phrase. I don't know who did. She posted a link to a blog in which the rules are spelled out.

"Let's have a day where nobody's life makes sense anymore, where any random LJ you click on will bring you some strange new tale. Let's all fall down the Rabbit Hole for 24 hours and see what's there. It will be beautiful."

I'm not sure was an "LJ" is, but FairyHedgeHog said to just replace "LJ" with "blog" and you'll be fine.

I'm going to give that one a go, too, only I'll probably do it on The Great Sea.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The House of My Youth

Part 5 - Forbidden Brew

When I was still in grade school one of the cool things to get was bubble gum cards. Mostly, these would be baseball cards, but football, basketball and hockey were available, too. Those were for the sports minded. For the other-minded there were a variety of choices: Beatles and Monkees, for the rock group minded; Monster Cards, for the fantasy minded (these came with a puzzle on the back which I used as the basis for a play I wrote); and Wanted Cards, for those with a sense of humor.

Wanted Cards were cartoon drawings of various "criminals": Principal, Teacher, Librarian, Preacher, Mother. Helvie and I used to collect them. We hung the "Wanted: Mother" poster on the wall across from the bathroom. Mother didn't think it was all that funny, but everyone else did. It eventually got torn down - but not by Mother.

Daddy was a beer drinker. He would stop at the Wiggle Inn on his way home from a truck run and stay until he was good and drunk before coming home. He also kept a few cases of the Grain Belt out on the porch for home drinking. It was understood by all of us kids that these bottles were not for underage consumption. For years that understanding kept us all away from the cases. Then, one year, Lynahr and Judayl got the idea they could sneak a few bottles upstairs and find out just what it was about beer Daddy (and their friends at school, no doubt) found so appealing.

By chance, Daddy was actually home that night. And he had not been drinking. He, mother, Gayanne, Helvie and I were watching some television program. Lynahr and Judayl were upstairs. As teenage girls they frequently sought refuge away from the rest of the family. Mother called it "hiding", and she didn't like it. We used to laugh at this cutaway picture of our house in our minds. All of the kids would be upstairs peeking out from under their beds. Hiding.

The first we knew anything was up was the laughing. Judayl always had a very distintive laugh, and it frequently echoed through the house. But Lynahr was generally shy and reserved. To hear her laughing from across the house was a bit unusual. Mother, always suspecting we were up to something (we were often enough to warrant it, I suppose), went to the stairs and called them down. Down they stumbled, fortunate not to break their necks in the process. They were still laughing.

Helvie and I didn't know what was going on. Daddy and Mother knew right off. They sent Gayanne upstairs to fetch the bottles.

They hadn't drank much, but as neither was accustomed to it the alcohol hit them right off. And though they had stopped drinking, the full effects had yet to strike, and they got more and more drunk before my eyes. They were crawling around the floor, completely incoherant. Lynahr found me and crawled up my legs to look me in the face.

Bevie! Bevie! Bevie!

I had never seen drunks like this. Daddy got drunk a lot, but he almost seemed coherent when he was. This was - strange. Mother peeled Lynahr off and I moved out of range. I looked at Daddy. By now I knew they were drunk. Was Daddy going to beat them? He looked at me.

Do they scare you?

I nodded and he laughed.

They scare me, too.

What are you going to do?

Nothing I can do now. It's too late. We just have to wait until they sober up. Meanwhile, we have to keep an eye on them so they don't hurt themselves. Watch them. Let me know if they do anything else they shouldn't.

Helvie and I followed the sisters from room to room as they crawled like babies exploring a new house. Everything was funny and amazing. Judayl crawled up a wall and found herself face to face with the "Wanted: Mother" poster. She began pawing it.

Mother! Mother!

I don't recall who started getting sick first. I think it was Judayl. Eventually, they passed out.

Daddy did not beat them. The only physical punishment they took was being awakened especially early and suffering the after effects while doing noisy housework: dishes, vacuuming, etc.

I don't know if they ever drank Daddy's beer again, but they did not lose their taste for it. Myself, I was never tempted. I saw no sense in what they did. Daddy, either. Drinking didn't make any of them happier. Oh, they laughed. But that's not happiness. I know. I can laugh, too. More than once I have been accused of being drunk when in fact I have had no alcohol whatsoever.

That's not to say I'm totally against alcohol. I remember working in the hayfield with my sister-in-law. We put up about a thousand bales of hay - just the two of us. When we finished we were so dehydrated and thirsty. She had a few bottles of beer in the refrigerator. I tell you, when you are hot, sweaty and desperately thirsty, an ice cold beer really hits the spot. But only one. After that water suffices.

The Forbidden Brew.

I suppose some alchie's going to write about the Forbidden Chinese Buffet now. I've been back for seconds and thirds more than once in my life. I didn't become an alcoholic. Just fat. Not really any healthier, is it?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Family Disputes

Mother and Daddy had seven children. I would have said "were blessed with" instead of "had" except I'm not sure they always agreed with the term "blessed with". You see, we weren't always obedient and we didn't/don't always get along.

Ranlan and Mickey are the oldest. When they were young they fought. Ranlan was smarter and stronger (at twelve he was able to crush the old steel beer cans in one hand - probably doesn't mean anything to anyone born since they shifted to aluminum cans). Mickey was faster and more clever.

Lynahr and Judayl were next. They were far more devious in their disagreements. Insidious would be a good word. I still remember a car ride in which Daddy stopped and gave Judayl a spanking for hitting/scratching Lynahr. Then he caught Lynahr pinching Judayl on her thigh and Lynahr got it, too. Pinching in hidden places was a favorite tact of Lynahr. Blatant scratching was Judayl's method. I remember watching them get their fingernails clipped more than once.

We youngest were not immune to "sibling rivalry", or whatever one chooses to call the fights between brothers and sisters. Gayanne was probably the least liked, and that shows now in the fact that I don't believe she's spoken with any family member except Mother in the past ten years. She came to see Lynahr in the hospital, but she wouldn't talk to anyone. And when Lynahr died she didn't come to the funeral. She lives in another state, but which I do not know.

Helvie and I used to be close, and we fought as only two close siblings can fight. She was born eleven months after me, and for years they called us "the twins". Our Aunt Cile (Lucille) used to interject herself into our fights only to find us both turn on her. She used to tease us about that.

That was kind of Daddy's approach to resolving our conflicts - when they escalated past what he believed an appropriate level. He would give everyone involved an equal spanking with the belt, thereby uniting the children against a "common enemy". Sometimes it worked. Not always.

What is sad is that there was a time, no matter how angry we got with each other, when each of us would run to aid the others. Even Mickey and Judayl for Gayanne (Judayl and Gayanne have always had the most strained relationship). Now none of the siblings speaks with more than two - three, if Judayl still speaks with Helvie. Three don't speak to any others - unless Helvie speaks with Judayl. Once Daddy died it seemed there was no longer a central place to draw the children together. I don't know. Maybe I'm making more of that than I should. I just know the family blew apart like someone had planted an explosive in our midst.

So, what has all of this cheery news have to do with God and Religion? That is today's topic.

It's just that I was reading Jennifer's blog about recognizing celebrations in schools. If you have never visited Jennifer's blog, I highly recommend it. She has a lot of good things to say, and she says them very well. But I got to thinking about three of the "big" faiths: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. I'm hardly an apoligist for any of them, but if I understand history correctly, they all have at least some basis in a single man: Abraham. I believe they are also the only three which recognize a single god - and no others. I'm probably wrong on that, too.

It's almost like these three faiths are siblings, born of the same father, Abraham, but hating and fearing each other because of differences in their basic approaches to reach God. Each sees the others as threats to their own existence, and so they attack each other - threatening the others' existence. It's self-fulfilling. What's sad is that, when we of these different faiths attack each other because of our faith, God cannot be happy. He can't be.

The God worshipped by these three faiths is, in fact, the same God. My knowledge of Judaism has two sources: part of the Christian Bible comes from the sacred Jewish texts, and a lot of non-Jewish people have a lot to say about what it means to ascribe to Judaism. My knowledge of Islam is even more limited, nearly entirely based on the mis-information of the press. I know it's mis-information because I know nearly everything the press has to say about my faith is completely wrong or taken out of context. So I really know nothing about being a Muslim. Even what I know of my own faith is limited. I have no desire to become an apoligist. I just want to live my faith and not just talk it. According to what I understand of Jesus, that means accepting others and not only acknowledging that God loves them, but understanding why he does. It is this latter understanding which will allow me to develop my own love for people.

My point in all of this would be clear if I could only learn to cease adding extraneous thought. I can't seem to help it. I'm a blabber. But of all the world's faiths, it seems Islam, Judaism and Christianity are the ones most likely to be at odds with each other. Which is just stupid, considering we worship a common God. (I mean the same God, not that God is common.) This means we should be the three faiths most likely to get along. But we don't. Maybe what we need is for God to step down and give us all a spanking and tell us to knock it off. Then we can commiserate together.

I guess I'm just becoming more simple as I age. Arguing and fighting no longer give me satisfaction. It isn't about being right anymore. I just want us to get along. Even my brothers and sisters knew how to get along and play togther sometimes. That isn't going to happen with the Sibling Faiths, though, is it?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

For General Questions/Comments


Remember the old David Carradine show, Kung Fu? It was Stephen's favorite show. Remember he was into Taoism at the time and took the show very seriously. I used to sit with him and watch it - religiously. The show began with Master Poh holding a pebble in his hand and saying to Kwai Chang: As quickly as you can. Snatch the pebble from my hand. Kwai Chang would try, but Master Poh would close his hand and protect the pebble. He would follow up with, When you can snatch the pebble, it will be time for you to leave.

He used to tease me with phrases from the show. One thing he did was call me "Weedhopper". (Kwai Chang was called "Grasshopper" by one of the masters.) The problem was he wasn't quick with words. I was. At least then. So I would end up playing the part of Master Poh, spouting off silly phrases of pretended wisdom. Sometimes I could actually make him laugh.

One evening he was at my house, entertaining my sisters. He wasn't always quick with words, but when others were around he could launch merciless verbal assaults. Anything for a laugh. And Helvie, Lynahr and Judayl were laughing. At me.

Normally, I didn't mind. But Stephen wasn't alone. My family were masters at humiliation, so to have Stephen and my sisters cooperating was too much. I bent over and picked up a toy, holding it in my hand like Master Poh.

As quickly as you can, snatch the toy from my hand.

Stephen loved this game. He could never do it, but he often came close. He set himself. Then his hand darted out for the toy. I never tried to stop him. Suddenly, everyone was laughing at him. He played it well, too. He had me begging him to stay. But it was late and he went home anyway.

We used to have a lot of fun - at each other's expense. Isn't that what friends are for?

Sorry Daddy, Sorry Stephen

Nothing to write at the moment. Maybe later.

Friday, January 16, 2009



I read a new book, but I'm not recommending it. Dull.

My music is nearly as old as I am.

Haven't seen a new movie since I don't remember.

Nothing to say.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Royal Nicholas - The First

Back in December I wrote about Royal Nicholas Zwei. He was a Norwegian Elkhound Spouse and I got when we lived in Delano. Nikki was named after a dog I was given when I was in junior high: Royal Nicholas of Winona.

We got Royal Nikki after a miscommunication with a friend of Daddy's. For some reason, Daddy's friend was moving and they needed to get rid of their dog: a giant Malamut. Daddy and his friend came home from the bar early and we all piled into our car to follow the friend to his house and pick up the dog. Unfortunately, when we arrived another family had pre-empted us and was in the process of taking the dog from the wife. Never one to argue - unless it was called for - Daddy said all was well and we drove home. Helvie and I didn't think it was all right. We had first claim. So what if the others actually got there first? So the following weekend Daddy drove us to a breeder's kennel and we got Royal Nicholaus.

Like all dogs and cats, Royal Nikki chose one of our family to call his own. He chose me. When we put him in the center of the living room and formed a circle, he always came to me. So he slept in my room. I made up a nice little box with a blanket in the corner. And I spread newspaper over the floor.

But Nikki wasn't content to sleep alone in a box in the corner. He would sit at the side of my bed and whine until I lifted him up to curl beside my head. Later, he would whine to get down on the floor. When he had finished with his business he whined to get back up.

Nikki was the first dog my parents ever purchased. Up to then we always got mutt dogs, which were fine and wonderful. But Nikki was purebred. My parents paid $100 to get him, which was even more money then than it is now. Nikki may have been precious to me, but he was valuable to my parents. So when a new neighbor down the road began threatening to shoot any dog who happened on his property (the man raised game birds - we lived in the country) I was told to tie Nikki up evenings and when I was at school. Easier said than done.

I put a collar on him and staked him in the yard. The next morning Nikki was running free - his collar still chained to the stake. All that hair. Collars just weren't going to work. So we purchased a nice harness. After all, Elkhounds are sled dogs, right? Next morning, Nikki is running around free. Oh, he's still chained to the stake, but despite the stake being eighteen inches long and curved like a corkscrew, Nikki has pulled it out of the ground (sandy soil, you know). New Plan. Before leaving for school I chained Nikki to the front screen door.

When I got off the bus the first thing I noticed was that Nikki was not by the house. He was waiting for me by the road. The second thing I noticed was that the screen door was no longer on the house. It was right beside Nikki. I ran to the house and Nikki got their first - pulling his door. I continued to add to his trailer. Eventually, he was pulling a door, two large foundation bricks and a tractor tire. What was so incredible was that, even with this last bit, Nikki could actually keep up with me. And when I released him so he could run free - Wow!

Our final solution was to take the plunge and fence the yard. (Back then Country Folk didn't do that much.) Since Nikki was my dog I was the one who got to dig the holes, set the posts, stretch the wire and put in the gate. (Chicken wire. We couldn't afford chain link.) That was all done after the original house burned.

Nikki also made a decent watch dog. I remember when the woman from Jehovah's Witnesses came. He wouldn't let her on the yard. Good dog. Then there was the week Daddy took Helvie and me fishing in Canada. We got back and were heading into the house when Nikki came tearing around the corner. Apparently, he had been sleeping and only just realized his territory had been violated. He came charging full tilt, and I could see he was going to tear me apart. I stared with horror - and then amusement - as I saw his eyes change from pure anger to dismay. He braced himself to stop, but he had already made his leap. I stood and watched as he slid past and crashed into the fence. He got up and game to me with head low and tongue lagging. I knelt.

Oh, Nikki. You are an idiot! But I love you.

When Daddy got sick and we had to leave the house and move to an apartment I was convinced to let Grandma take Nikki to her house up at Willow River. But Grandma was jealous because Nikki was taking up step-Grandpa's time. So Grandma, not comprehending anything about dogs having value, gave him away to some people she knew. When I found out I drove 100 miles to get my dog back. I was mad at Grandma. Madder than I had ever been. When I saw her I told her it was all right. (Can you stay mad at your grandma? If you can then I feel sorry for you.) She told me where he was and I drove there.

There was Nikki. Guarding his new home. He had a yard and a family to protect. I said goodbye and I drove home. Goodbye, Nikki.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Short and the Long of It

So. I did it. I actually drove 45 miles in the middle of a winter weather advisory to attend a Writers’ Group Meeting. For you, Jennifer. Well, actually it was for me. But it makes me sound noble if I did it for someone else. Not really.

Going wasn’t nearly so scary as I expected. Maybe it was because I had conflicting concerns to deal with: walking in cold to a meeting of people I have never heard of nor met before; winding up in the cold because my car crashed, slid off the road or just broke down. Sometimes, even a coward has trouble determining what to fear.

The meeting took place at a Davanni’s Restaurant. These are pizza/sandwich places which operate similar to a burger shop. You place your order, wait for it to be made, and then take it to a table. Used to frequent one in Edina with co-workers back in the 90s. Good food.

Anyway, I arrive fifteen minutes early. It took exactly one hour to drive 45 miles – on the freeway. This was due less to the weather and more to traffic. Rush “hour” had yet to complete, and once I reached St. Paul I was averaging ten miles per hour. But with freezing/dying out on the road some place no longer a major concern, I was free to allow myself to be overcome with fear about the meeting.

The first thing I wanted to do was let Spouse and Son know I had arrived safely. To do this, I paced back and forth in front of the order counter with a five dollar bill wondering where there was a phone. I do not own a cell phone. (Don’t get started on me about that.) There was a young man (eighteen to twenty-five) at the counter and I went up to him, trying to say what I wanted to say, but stumbling over myself and restarting my sentence at least four times. Fortunately, the young man was fluent in Nit Wit and understood me completely.

You wish to use the telephone?


But you don’t know where it is, and you don’t have any coins?


Who do you need to call?

My spouse. To say I arrived safely.

The look he gave me told me he understood that completely. If there were any questions in his mind they revolved around his wondering why I was out and about without supervision in the first place.

He handed me a receiver and asked me for the number. He dialed it and Spouse answered. I said I had arrived but couldn’t talk because I was using the store phone. Then I handed the receiver back to the young man.

I told him why I was there and he said the group was meeting down the hall and to the right. There was one person already there. Did I want to order?

What? Oh. Yes. What do people usually order?

How brilliant! But, as I said, the young man understood me perfectly.

Would you like a solo pizza? It will only take a minute or two longer than a sandwich. We’ll call you when it’s ready.

Yeah. Thanks. Sausage and mushroom.

Your name?

No, that’s not my name. That’s what I want on my pizza.

What is your name?


Thin crust, or an entire loaf of bread dough?

Thin crust.

To The Room.

Like the young man said, only one person ahead of me. She was the sweetest little lady (SLL), just a few years older and a few feet shorter (remember, I’m 6’6”). Her name was J (actually, I believe it still is J), and she instantly made me feel welcome. I even helped her put the tables into a large square. Right on my heels was D. He was nice, too. Just as we finished with the tables Z arrived. There were two young girls, too: J (same name as SLL) and S (different name than SLL). A few minutes later J (different name) arrived and our number was complete for the night. (No Boris. Sigh. And I did my hair up special, too.) The weather kept the others at bay.

SLL had a chapter from her book critiqued. I was supposed to have been part of that, but doof that I am, I failed to realize that until it was time to give it to her. As J and the young girls were also new, and D hadn’t thought he was coming, only Z had a critique. He was good, though, and I took notes on what he had to say to SLL. A lot of what he told her applies to my writing, too.

Absolutely everyone was nice. The one little girl, J, was amazing. She reminded me of Tursa, a character in my saga, Swords of Fire. No smiles. Just intelligent, adult-like conversation. She had insight, dead-on questioning and an entirely professional manner and ease with the adults. Cheeky little thing! Showing me up like that. What gives her the right to be well-adjusted? Ha! Just wait until you become a teenager, J. Then we’ll see how confident you are. No. Seriously. She was wonderful. They all were. D showed me one of his published books (he has three or four).

The evening ended and it was time to go home. We all shook hands and talked about the next meeting. SLL and D both asked me if I planned on submitting anything for the next meeting. I said I would. I’m thinking Apprentice. Then it was time for the long drive home.

Looooonnnnngggg drive home.

It was dark. I was in The City. It had been years since I had been anywhere near here. But I got on the freeway and headed out. All I had to do was stay in my lane and I would be fine. I remembered how, once the freeway reached St. Paul’s north side, it broke into a “Y”. Go left (west), and I’m heading for home. Go right (northeast) and I’m heading for Duluth. No problem. Except.

I forgot about the road construction which took place a few years ago – after I last used this stretch of road. The snow has picked up so I’m paying close attention to the road and the traffic. Since I was convinced I knew where I was I didn’t bother to look at the signs much. I saw one with 694 on it, but the direction said “east”. I wanted to go “west”.

The traffic thinned. The lights faded. That wasn't good. And then I saw something I did not want to see. It was a large green sign with letters on it. Didn’t mind the sign really. The letters either. It was what the letters were telling me that was the bother: Duluth 137 miles. I was heading in the wrong direction! What’s more, I had to put on another ten miles before I got to an overpass to turn around.

At least now I knew exactly where I was: Forest Lake. I didn’t want to go to Forest Lake. The only time I go to Forest Lake is when I pass through on my way to my in-laws in Wisconsin. I didn’t want to go to my in-laws in Wisconsin. I wanted to go home.

By the time I got home my little 45-mile drive had become 75-miles. I came into the house and found Spouse and Son were still up. When I said I had driven 75-miles to get home Spouse immediately fell into an abandoned habit: Who did you take/took you home? When I explained what had happened, Spouse gave me another reminder of just how much I have aged – by laughing. No jealous fit like when I was in my twenties. Just laughter. I could have said anything and Spouse wouldn’t have been jealous – including that someone took me home! Sigh. I miss being a risk.

Anyway, the ice is broken and now I’m not afraid to back. (I think.)

Thank you, Jennifer. You made me do it. It wasn’t worth being afraid of, was it? (Even if they did all think I was out of my mind for driving so far in bad weather to attend my first meeting.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009



Actually, that's not what the letters stand for. They stand for, Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers. (I added the t.t.h. myself.) Tonight, unless something happens to prevent it, I will be attending my first ever meeting. It's a milestone event, although I'll be the only one there who will be aware of it. You see, Bevie's afraid.

Bevie also has a ludicrous - but very vivid - imagination. This could be a wonderful experience:

MSFW Regular #1: Say, who is that cool person who just came in?

MSFW Regular #2: Don't you know? Why that's Bevie James.

R#1: Bevie James! Here? You're kidding. Oh, I have to have an autograph!

R#2: You'll have to fight through the crowd.

R#1: I can do it. After all, I am the group president. Oh, Bevie! Oh, Bevie! Will you be reading any of your wonderful works tonight? Please say yes!

Bevie: Why, yes. I suppose I could spare a moment or two. I have a couple of tombs here.

R#2: May I get you something to drink, Bevie?

Bevie: Why thank you.

R#2: It's Pepsi - 2008.

Bevie: Excellent year.

Or, it could be the exact opposite.

R#1: Who in the h*ll is that?

R#2: Not sure. Signed in as Baggy James, or something.

R#1: James? James? Wasn't that the name of the idiot who signed up last July and then never attended any meetings?

R#2: Yeah, I believe it was. You don't suppose this is that fool?

R#1: Could be. Have Boris stand ready. If this Baggy person is as as useless as I suspect, Boris can have some fun.

R#2: Right! He'll like that. Should I let him use the lotion?

R#1: Sure. He deserves his treats.

My friends would probably assure me neither of these possiblities are really possibilities. I'm not so sure. Meeting people can be very scarey. Two more hours and I have to leave, assuming Spouse gets home with the car, and assuming the meeting isn't cancelled. (We have a Winter Weather Advisory for Central Minnesota - snow, blowing snow and wind-chills down to -35.) Hmm. The truth sounds more threatening than fiction.

I'm thinking about bringing my stuffed monkey, Tomoko. I got her at the Minnesota Zoo last summer. She sits by my computer and stares at me. Better not. Just in case the second scenario proves true.

The clock continues to tick.

Monday, January 12, 2009

When Fears Collide

Part 4 - Things That Go Bump in the Day

Late spring was a fun time when I was growing up. During those final two weeks of school there would be one or two days off. With warm weather abounding it was wonderful to be young and alive. Wonderful, that is, unless one lived in a haunted house. Then there tended to be problems.

That The Old House was haunted was no longer a question to us kids, nor to our mother, nor to our grandparents, aunts/uncles and a host of others who dared visit. Few dared stay the night. We had to. But it wasn't only nights that could be scarey. The Ghost kept irregular hours. He (and it was a he, by the way - I saw him.) was also a bit of a bull in a china shop. Whoever he was, he was tall - about my height (6'6") - but he filled a doorway when he stood in it. That was where I saw him: he was standing in my doorway during the night - looking at me. Aaaaahhhhh! Covers time! (I actually did see something. No idea at the time of what it was - well I thought I knew then, which was why I was scared. I have an idea about it now, but I'm saving all explanations until later. But to an eight-year-old child sleeping in a large room alone, it was quite terrifying.)

Anyway, it was a weekday, which meant Mother was at work. Daddy was driving truck in Wisconsin, Iowa or Northern Minnesota. The older siblings were gone visiting. (Mickey was in the army at this time.) This left Gayanne, Helvie and myself home alone all day long. Helvie was nine, I was ten and Gayanne was twelve. The last thing Mother said to us before she left for work was, "Have those dishes done when I get home." The "or else" was implied. Well, we had all day, so there was no point in doing them right off. Right? So we didn't.

I don't remember what we did, but we had fun. Then, about an hour or two before Mother was to return home from work, Gayanne reminded us that we had to get the dishes done or Mother was going to pitch a fit. (This would ultimately result in some sort of physical discomfort.) So, we filled the sink with soapy water and proceded to attend to our duty. Gayanne washed, I dried and Helvie put the dishes away. A nice assembly line. We had gotten over the distaste of actually having to do something on our day off and had reached the point of sourceless giggles and laughter. And that was when it happened.

Gayanne had just handed me a plate to dry and I had just placed the damp towel against its smooth surface when the sound of a crash came to my ears. Instantly, I knew where the crash came from. It was at the foot of the stairs. Someone had thrown a dresser down the stairs and it had exploded on impact! Whhhheeeeeesssssshhhhhhh! I was out of the kitchen through the porch and running for my life. I didn't stop until I had put sixty yards between myself and the house. Then I finally pulled up and turned around. Mistake.

Helvie was a half-step behind me, and Gayanne was only two steps behind Helvie. Crash! Down we went. I hurried to my feet to see if we were being chased. We weren't.

What do you think it was? I asked.

What? asked Helvie.

The thing that made the noise.

What noise?

You didn't hear a noise?


What about you?

I didn't hear anything, said Gayanne.

Then why were you running?

I ran because Helvie ran.

Well, why did you run?

I ran because you ran. Why did you run?

I heard a crash. You didn't hear it?

No. Nothing. Where did you hear it?

Right there in the kitchen when I was drying dishes.

(irritated) No. Where did it sound like the crash came from?

The stairs. He was upstairs again.

Silence. Then, Gayanne came up with one of her brilliantly stupid ideas.

We need to go back inside.

No way! Not me!

We have to. We have to get those dishes done. Mother will go crazy if we don't.

What about - the crash? I'll go crazy if it happens again.

We'll have to search the house.

Are you crazy? We can't do that.

We can if we take weapons.

What weapons?

I'll take the axe. Helvie can carry the hoe and you the pitchfork. Let's go.

What it came down to was this: I knew there had been a crash. Gayanne wasn't so sure because she hadn't heard it. Helvie believed me. When it came to things like this, Helvie took no chances. But there was another terror, known to all of us. Mother's temper. Which scared me most?

And so the expedition began. Into the house. Through the house. Up the stairs. (I was ready to scream, run and wet my pants all at the same time.) Into every room. Into - the closets. Ooooooo! Nothing. Nothing anywhere. Not only that, but no mess. (The Ghost was actually quite good about this. He nearly always picked up after himself.) There was only one place we hadn't checked: the basement.


We returned to the kitchen and set our weapons down close. The work was done in silence now. All were attentive to the expected sound of the basement door opening. One creak. That's all it would take for me to be in the next county.

When the dishes were done we played outside until Mother got home. No need to tell her what had happened. We were outside and fifty yards from the house. She knew what was up.

Hollow Victory - LW 2 BJ 0

Ha! This time I think I outdid LaughingWolf. He was just a silly old Daffodil. I'm a Canna (whatever the h*ll that is)! So, LaughingWolf. You get the gold (for sexual allure) and I get the flower. Who's laughing now?



"You stand up for what you believe in, even if it gets in the way of what other people think. You are proud of yourself and your accomplishments and you enjoy letting people know that."

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Pretty, though.

Sexy Me

LaughingWolf had this on his blog and I couldn't resist taking the test. Not exactly overwhelmed with the result. Shoes? Sixteen possibilities and I got shoes. At least they said nice things. Adorable? Sexy? I like that. [smiles] But LaughingWolf got gold. (Damn! Now everyone's going to leave here and go to his blog. Bevie, you have a big mouth.)

Kind of like the idea of being easy to seduce, though. Makes me feel -"naughty". Of course, I'm also flypaper. Who wants to seduce flypaper? (If the answer is you, send me a picture. [grin])

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Which Way is Best

Today I am supposed to write on God and/or religion. This is probably not an anectdote I should confess, but what the hey. It happened. And it has its amusing points.

Back when I was in junior high Mother used to drive Gayanne, Helvie and me to church. She would leave us at the front door and go back home. When the service was over she would return to get us. There had been a time when our family regularly attended church as a family. That was before Daddy began long distance truck driving. Once he was no longer home to go with us, Mother ceased going herself. Mickey, Lynahr and Judayl had all left home. Ranlan was up north.

So it was the three youngest who had to go. We resented it, too. Church was not the place we wanted to be. Not then. Back then Sunday was probably the crabbiest day of the week in our house. I hated Sundays. I'm still not keen on them. Until right this minute I don't think I ever really had a sense of why. Perhaps this is it: my family spent the entire Sunday crabbing at each other. What a rotten way to spend a day.

Anyway, it is never a good idea to put three young teenagers together and leave them unsupervised. So it proved one day in church.

I can't remember who started it. It may have been Helvie. That was most likely. But something about the service struck her as funny. Maybe it was someone's voice. Maybe she saw a double meaning in something someone said, or maybe someone, trying to sound spiritual, said something stupid. I don't know. I just know that she started to giggle. Gayanne tried to silence her, but sometimes giggling is just contageous. It didn't take long before the three of us were bowed in our chairs (not pews - this was a poor church), trying to giggle quietly.

The service progressed and our fits only worsened. Soon, it didn't matter who said or did what. It was funny. We tried not looking at each other, but then we would peek at one another and get the giggles all anew. I'm sure we made the service meaningful to everyone around us.

But we were not challenged. Not until after the service. Then, as we were leaving, one of the deacons intercepted us and very politely told us off. He tried to use guilt, complimenting us on our appearance but chiding us for the contrary behavior. Then he said something we pounced on.

You know, if you can't behave in church, perhaps you shouldn't come at all.

His intention, of course, was to shame us into bucking up and toeing the line. Instead, we were excited. When Mother arrived to bring us home we proudly announced that we had been kicked out of church and couldn't come back. There was a lot of crabbing that Sunday. But we didn't care. We were free on Sundays again.

One of Gayanne's friends at school happened to belong to that church. She had not been present on the Day of Giggles, so Gayanne told her all about it. When Gayanne finished by telling her friend we had been banished, her friend was mortified. A week later she approached Gayanne and told her the deacon was devastated that we thought we couldn't go back and wanted us to know we were more than welcome. Too late. There was no way we were going to tell Mother that. We did not go back

It's odd, though. As teenagers none of Daddy's children had any interest in God, much less church. But after leaving home, one by one, we all found our way to him.

I believe there is only one God, but that each of us is allowed to find our own way to him. (I say "him" in the sense of accepted reference. God is spirit and without gender.) This philosophy, which is actually one of my more recent acquisitions, allows me to better accept others. We are all unique. It only makes sense that God will treat with us differently. Daddy had seven children. He treated us all the same - but different. You know? My path opened the morning I at last grasped the truth that I wasn't nearly so perfect as I chose to believe. When that belief system was destroyed my only recourse was to seek forgiveness. I believe I found it.

The road since that morning (4:00 a.m. on my 19th birthday) has often seemed more difficult than before. Life's lessons are often hard, and for most it seems I keep failing the tests. But I'm allowed to keep trying, and so I do.

Talking about God, faith and/or religion can be upsetting. It's such a private thing. If I have upset or offended you, I apologize. After all, if you have been reading any of my blogs it should be clear to you I am as far from having "attained" as I could be. In no way do I mean to imply your status with God. Until such time (if ever) that I can pass my own tests, I have no right to tell you how to take your own tests. But I wish you well. May God bless you and honor you and help you find your own road which leads to him.

Which way is best? Whichever way brings you and God together. For me, it is Jesus.

Have a good day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

As Promised - Another Daddy Story

Daddy could do things no one else in our family could do. Maybe anyone, anywhere.

I recall when I was five hearing him tell Uncle Harold (lived next door) that he was going to lift up the corner of the house so Harold could work on the foundation. The mental image in my mind was of my daddy holding up the house with two hands while Harold worked and I stood by in amazement. When I told Lynahr and Judayl what daddy had said they laughed at me and told me how stupid I was. Daddy was going to lift the house with a jack, not his hands. My mental image was better than theirs.

One thing Daddy could do better than anyone else was deal with little children who were being defiant. While not against corporal punishment, it was never Daddy's first resource. (As rambunctious and defiant as I could be, he only struck me five times in seventeen years.) But perhaps it was knowing he had that option at his disposal which made his authority so powerful. I don't know. I know Uncle Darryl spanked (even when it wasn't my fault I missed the bus). Mickey did, too (ten years older than me). But there was something about Daddy the others did not have.

For instance, I still remember when I was five and discovering Mother had made mashed rutabegas for supper. PUKE! Daddy and Mother ate some of the most God-awful sh*t on the planet. And they expected us to eat it, too! Weeeelllll, I knew better than to put that stuff in my mouth, and I wouldn't do it. Mother slapped me. (That was always Mother's first resort. She didn't have any other tools for discipline. If she did, she didn't availe herself of them anyway.) I used the opportunity to cry as a means to delay the actual eating. Daddy was no fool. He knew what I was up to. He rose from his place and came to my side.

I tensed, waiting for the powerful slap. Daddy was 6'2" and around 200 pounds. But that's not what Daddy did. In fact, Daddy didn't shout or even sound mad. He sounded happy. Quite excited, actually. I knew that couldn't be good.

Oh! You like rutabegas? Great! Here, have some more.

And Daddy would take that snowshovel and scoop more mashed rutabegas out of the bowl and plop them on my plate. Horrified, I quit crying and stared.

Still not eating? That must mean you want more. Great!

My God! The rutabegas were becoming Mount Everest. My only hope was to begin eating. And that wasn't all. I couldn't throw up! I ate them: the original scoop I refused and the two additional scoops from Daddy. Sometimes it's just best to get it over with. You know?

Others tried that approach, but it never worked for them. I don't know why. It worked for Daddy every time. When we siblings used to get together and talk about Daddy this would be an often topic. We laughed and shook our heads at how he managed it.

Dear Daddy. He was so fun. I wonder if he makes God laugh. One thing I do know: God eats his mashed rutabegas.