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Archive for November, 2014

Two Fronts

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Under the Snow,” we must survive an avalanche, and consider the thoughts that get us safely through the night towards rescue.

I realize of course that the prompt is aimed at the abstract thoughts that make one “Remain Calm and Carry On.”  But I cannot get past the immediate mental exercise of “physically surviving the avalanche” and getting that out of the way first…

I suppose the first order of business might be determining which way is UP, in that unfamiliar nightmare.  Perhaps hollowing out just enough space between face and hands, and dropping something to “see” (or at least feel) which way it fell DOWN would do the trick.  Then, without expending too much effort, losing too many of the dual-meaning calories, slowing moving handfuls of snow from overhead to underfoot.  Slow and steady gets it…

At which time we turn to the abstract.  What positive thoughts might there be in all of this?  Well, the universe has provided us with the biggest safety blanket we can have.  One is now cocooned IN a giant igloo, OUT of the elements.  I must continually remind myself that, just as there is a thin line between genius and insanity, there is a thin line between claustrophobia and…safety.  Having already experienced the worst havoc, there shall at least not be freezing to death or being hit by falling trees at this point.

What motivating thoughts occur that were undoubtedly the actual target of the prompt?  Well, I’m just not sure.  I suspect that it is not necessarily the stoic, pioneer spirit or being there for the kids that gets survival done.  It is more likely taking the right incremental steps, at each step, that lets one survive that night.  When we see who survives catastrophes of war and nature, it is so often those individuals already living on the fringe, seemingly with the least to lose.

Could it be the plodding habit of survival, rather than some inspired act of motivation?  Could it be the Puritan work ethic, and not the Puritan catechism?  When we look at the religions that have survived the millennia, they had some pretty sage guidance regarding food, for example (no pun intended with “sage” just now…well, maybe a little intentional…).  Such things as the Kosher laws, and guidance of the various faiths regarding which species to avoid, probably kept many a faithful follower alive in growing numbers, in questionable environments.  I would not tend to bet on the trend of growing numbers of Snake Handlers, in my own home state, for instance.

I  could go on and on; but my hand has just grabbed daylight, and a charming helicopter circles lazily overhead…

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Temp Pas

I know within the first two or three sentences whether or not to read the entire blog/article/book.  Following a hundred or so blogs makes reading each an impossibility.  But it is far easier to judge storytellers than to BE a good storyteller…

One thing I have learned is that the story is not for the benefit of the author, but for the benefit of the audience.  I have not unleashed the juiciest, most incredible stories from my actual past, because their time has not yet come–there is not yet the lead up in anyone’s hands that would deliver the wildest segments as a valued gift.  We’re all just having conversations leading up to that day…or that year.

The second component of good storytelling is that the value to the audience’s benefit cannot simply be for them to say “wow.”  They must ideally learn something as well.  The one exception I use to this rule is humor for its own, silly sake.  That benefit may stand alone as worthy enough.

If the hook is good enough, and the teller puts us on a beneficial trail, we will gladly invest the time to enjoy extravagant descriptions and well crafted sidetracks, trusting that the package will be tied together neatly enough as the final embers spit their last flames.

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A minor Christmas miracle

As a kid, we had a lot of lean Christmases.  We had a couple of millionaire Christmases in the middle there, so it all evened out to “normal” in the end.  When I was fourteen, it was one of the leaner holidays.  As I opened my single gift, I saw what appeared to be three or four gym towels liberated straight from our loathsome junior high school locker room.

“Thanks Mom and Dad,” I mumbled with all the enthusiasm I could muster.

“Honey,” Mom gushed, “you’re missing the best part!  Unfold them!!”

As I pulled them from the box, they shook out to reveal that each towel had four black and red cartoon turtle patches (not Ninja Turtles, which had not been invented yet, mind you…just generic cartoon turtles such as the “Draw Me” ads used to feature) sewn along one edge.

“I remembered how much you liked those pet turtles you used to have,” she continued, “and I sewed these patches on some towels for you!”

“Goddam Mom, JoAnn Fabrics must have been relieved to unload THIS combination of shit,” I said, spoiling Christmas.

No wait…what I really said was “Mom, thanks so much–now I’ll remember those turtles every time I take a shower!  The best gifts really are the ones made by hand.”

“Of course dear,” she said, adding “just don’t make that same mistake you made last month, thinking the toilet brush is a back scrubber.”

Top THAT story, holiday nostalgianados!

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The most dangerous weapon

Life is too short to be talking smack about others.  Anyone in their right mind will come to their senses and waste many more moments repairing damage their mouth has wreaked.  Even someone in their wrong mind, with no conscience, will waste many more moments dealing with the side effects of a mouth run amok.  I have a sincere goal of not hurting anyone, for the rest of my life.  Oh, don’t get me wrong–I’ll gladly kill someone who would, say, threaten a family member.  But other than that, I wish to do no harm.  Ever again.  When I look back on anyone I have hurt in the past, it has typically been with my mouth.  If conversations would not be so difficult, it would be nice to have a five minute delay, to give an ounce more of thought to what we say next.  I notice that those clever people I most admire, and most enjoy the company of, build in a delay anyway, and do it so gracefully.  I need to practice that habit.

Why simply admire, when one can emulate?

And anyone who disagrees can just talk to the hand!

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I came, I saw….

I used to visit the website Absolute Write a few years ago, and we were once asked to each contribute an original poem to be written about a western gunfighter….unusual topic for poetry, to be sure.  These were then assembled into a book.  I was honored to later see that my entry was chosen as the front piece.  Here it is, as nearly as I can recall by heart:

“I came, I saw…”

Cities?  I’ve seen cities…no slicker than a herd,

Kept my wits and pieces close, not drawn nor worth the word.

The fools, dandy and Knickerbock…far ruder than the range,

Would soon as fallen be replaced, by equally as strange.

I came, I saw, I turned my tail…and caught the first rail west,

To where my single, well-aimed shot…marks staggering the test.

The Bowery giants yank and dodge, and on their own decline.

The towns whose few see me arrive, will feel change caused…all mine!

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