Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Every Blooming Thing...

You can't see it, with the naked eye--pollen. Well, maybe you can, but at this time of year, there's a good chance I can't.

Because I can't see much at all!

Where I live, people scream bloody murder when the the air gets thick with smog. They even announce on the local news that the air quality is bad, so bad, in fact, that they issue air warnings. They pressure us to not drive our cars, and they're almost willing to put in jail anyone who lights a fire in their fireplace.

Yet, when pollen is so thick it you can taste it when you breath in, there's no warnings. There's no "Avoid Beautifying Your Yard With Trees That Explode With Pollen" warnings in the news.


Those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies have to just suck it up (literally...) and deal with it.

Now, I admit, seeing a tree in full bloom during those months of spring is a beautiful thing, but for me, I see (or don't see...) things differently. I have so many friends who love spring--can't wait for winter to end and spring to begin. I mean, what good is warmer weather if you can't breath, when your nose is constantly running and your eyes are burning and watering to the point where you can't see? For me, not very much.

And when I'm outside, every blooming thing is...well, blooming.

I know I only have a few more weeks and it will pass. I've only experienced fifty of these springs in my life so I know. The trees will finish their mating cycle and I'll begin to feel "normal" again. 

At least, until the next allergy season begins...in the fall.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Closing Night...

There's an energy to opening night that's hard to duplicate. No matter how much rehearsing is done, there's always an unknown...will I remember my line, or the steps? And those crazy frantic costume changes. We take a literal leap of faith as the curtain rises and the music begins.

For three months we see each other almost every day. We witness each other at our most vulnerable times and when there's down time, we mostly laugh. After all, we do this because it's fun. 

Then the show begins and the crowds fill the seats. A nervous energy burns in our guts as Act I begins, then concludes. The same thing happens as Act II starts then ends. Curtain calls and then we meet friends, neighbors and strangers in the foyer.

Of course, to everything that begins, an ending follows. Tonight, as we performed our last show, I watched as much of the production as possible, lurking behind the wings so as not to be seen by the paying audience. I watched and felt goosebumps spread across my skin as a friend sang of lost love and the possibility of emotional redemption.

You know you really love a show when the music moves you the last time you hear it as it did when it was new.

Tonight the props have all returned to the table and the costumes are hanging like ghosts in empty dressing rooms. We hug and wish each other well, hoping we'll one day be cast again in another show. We then get in our cars and drive into the lonely darkness of night.

To everyone involved in this show, it was an absolute pleasure to be with you. Being asked to join was a honor, one I hope I always showed at rehearsals and on stage. This one wore me out, but in the best way possible. Godspeed you noble friends, you beautiful freaks! Until we once again meet on the place we call home.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

David J. West's "The Mad Song: & Other Tales Of Sword & Sorcery"...A Book Review

Last month David J. West and I swapped books. I really wanted to read his latest collection of short stories that came out the month before. I don't know how much he wanted to read my collection, but he took my book home and I took his.

Dave's book, The Mad Song: & Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery is pretty amazing. If you're a fan of swords, sorcery and short stories, you'll want to pick up this book. West's gift as a writer is only eclipsed by his imagination. The entries, a mixture of short stories and poetry, continually expand the limits of the genre. The book's heroes are larger than life and take on any and all challenges with grit and moxie, which is a good thing especially when facing werewolves and demons and poisonous beasts. As I think back on the book there are so many different storylines and characters, I lose track.

One hero in particular, a tall Swede named Tyr Thorgrimson (which translated from the Swedish means: Tyr is the son of an ugly Thor...) makes his appearance in several of the stories throughout the book. I think I liked the story of the woman needing to retrieve poison from a water beast the best. She was a strong woman willing to give up her own life to save another. It's called The Serpents Root. It's in the middle.

I don't read a lot of this genre, so maybe extra gory tales are normal. Just so you know, it's not a book for the squeamish. The stories have some truly nasty people in them and the body count is pretty high. 

I love reading books written by friends. It makes the experience so much better knowing that a person I know created all those stories. Now, I wonder if he's read mine book...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lunch With X...

"You know," one of us said as we waited for potential buyers to walk by. "We out to get together not at a convention."

"Yeah," someone else added. "We could get together for a potluck lunch!" A suggestion like that is forwarded to a group of determined writers is bound to bring results. Today we met and ate and had a wonderful time.

It's interesting. I've only seen these people at conventions and symposiums. I'm met some of their family, husbands, kids. We know the author, but sometimes don't know the person. Today we gathered at one of our homes and had a wonderful time eating delicious food and enjoying each other's company.

Will we do it again? Well, when you forward a suggestion like that to a group of determined writers, it's bound to bring results. Thanks Jodi and your wonderful family for the first of what I hope will be several enjoyable afternoons!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Amazing What You Can Do With Paper, Pens Stick-It Notes And A Little Time..

There were only a few of us in the green room when he came in and began putting up sheets of paper on the walls. We didn't know what he was doing, but after a moment, we knew.

He was making a wonderful thing.

On each paper was a name, a name of each cast member. It was our job to write messages to each other on the notes and place it on their names.

What a wonderful, selfless idea! Tonight there were even more posts when the show ended than when it began. It shows how much fun and special memories can be created with a few bucks in materials, and some time. Thank you Joshua--it was a class thing that you did!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ"...A Book Review


There's a scene in the 1959 movie Ben-Hur that I think I'll never forget. In the movie Judah Ben-Hur is at the Sermon on the Mount while people are gathering to hear from Jesus. Ben-Hur had met Christ before as a slave being led to Rome, but a lot had changed from that time to when the two men were together again. The scene is filmed so we see the back of Christ's head (if I remember, we never actually see Jesus's face in the film...) and as Ben-Hur walks around the outer edge of the gathering crowd, Christ turns, as if he's following Judah as he's leaving.

There's many people on the hill, but Christ focuses on the one man who's leaving. For some reason, the scene was powerful to me. To me, it showed that Christ knows all of us, even when we're walking away from him.

This week I finished the very long audiobook of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. A couple of weeks ago I finished The Robe. I guess I'm prepping for Easter. These are two books I probably should have read years ago. "Better late than ever," as some say. Even though both books center on Christ and his mission, the one begins with Christ's death, the other ends with it.

The book had a few things different from the film. In the book Judah is a teenager when he's accused of trying to kill the Roman representative and he meets Christ on the trail as a young man. Also the Three Wise Men actually arrive when the Baby Jesus is born--on the 25th of December. I'm not a bible scholar by any stretch, but I believe that Christ was born in the spring and I heard that it took years for the Wise Men to find Christ. 

The book expounded on much of why I loved the story. A poor boy is wrongly accused, saves the life of a Roman who adopts him as his own. He enacts revenge against his boyhood friend in the famous chariot race, returns to his home and finds his mother and sister who are lepers. Then, since this is a book about Jesus Christ, Judah witnesses Christ's crucifixion. Judah is us, we see it all through his eyes.

I'm glad I finally read the book. It is a classic. We know the story and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ allows us to live it with him.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/387749.Ben_Hur?from_search=true

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The List...A Short Dystopian Story

I thought, maybe…maybe it would be there. I mean, the law of averages must catch up with me at some point. I know my luck’s lousy, but come on! I entered the bookstore that was once a 7-Eleven at the end of an abandoned strip mall and hoped.

Some, well…most would disagree with me but the smell of an old used bookstore is one of the best smells in the world. Pages upon pages of slowly deteriorating paper colored with script waiting to be either read or left to decay and meet an end that befalls all physical things. I tell you, I can never get enough of that smell.

But was it there? Each day and I searched for it at the various kiosks and shops that still sold physical books. I looked for the book that my father first told me about, the book that—as a teenager—changed my life. My logical mind knew that these antique books were becoming rarer and rarer. For once a book was destroyed or used up or fallen apart so it could no longer be read it was not being replaced. It was illegal, after all.

But only certain books were destroyed. If a book was deemed “indecent,” or “not politically correct,” or in any way offensive it went on The List, and once it went on The List, it signaled a slow death knell of the work, regardless of its current or past importance. I knew I (or anyone else for that matter…) would never see a copy of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, or Catcher in the Rye, or Lord of the Flies again. They even hated The Count of Monte Cristo for some strange reason. And forget finding a copy of anything written by Ayn Rand. Funny, I keep seeing copies of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto translated into every language imaginable.

I knew as I walked down the various aisles that I’d probably end up with nothing, again. As I passed book after book of bland, non-offensive titles I smile. Only books not on The List were republished, all in digital form. They knew that, after enough years, all those awful books would disappear and if you were found in possession of “a bady,” they just upped your individual tax rate or threatened to take away your family’s healthcare until you turned it in. It wasn’t illegal to own a book on The List, just expensive. Something I had thought many times before returned to my mind. The Nazi’s burned books…now we just let them disintegrate—same result, just a slower process and without that pesky “book burner” label to deal with.

I pulled out a book that I thought it was it, but nope—disappointed again. Maybe at the next store I'd find it because one of these days, it’s going to be gone forever.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Two Times Two...Finished Books, New Books

I am so lucky.

I feel I'm lucky in a lot of ways, but I'm especially lucky when it comes to reading. There are people who love to read but don't have the time. There are people who don't like to read who have a lot of time.


Well, I have time and I love to read. 

Over the past couple of years I've had a job where I don't take a lot of calls, and because of this, I can listen to things. I listen to podcasts, the radio, and many times, audiobooks. I've written a lot of blog posts about audiobooks that I've "read." Even though I'm listening, I count it as reading. 

Last year I made it a point to do more actual reading and not just listening. I'm lucky enough to have someone drive me to and from work. Yes, it's with 40-60 other people also being driven to work--it's all how you see it. I have about an hour to an hour and a half of time on the bus each day I work and it's an excellent opportunity to read. I've been able to read all those books my friends have written and others I've had on my nightstand for years, waiting to be read.

Today I finished two books, one audio and one made of trees. I'll be blogging about each of them soon. And by finishing two books that means I can start two new books. Once I'm done with those, I'll blog about them then start two more.

See? I am so lucky.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ever Seen A Fire Rainbow?

Yesterday morning I stepped outside and saw a Fire Rainbow. This year marks half a century that I've been on the planet and I've never seen anything like it. I didn't even know what it was. My wife googled it and found out what it's called.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a clear picture of the event. Basically the sunlight was shining through a very small cloud above the mountains and the precipitation in the air split the light as it passed through the prisms in the water and allowed us to see the different colors.

You can see some amazing photographs of Fire Rainbows--just google the term and you'll be amaze at their beauty. Mine was small and I couldn't really get a good shot of what we saw. But, since I now know what they look like, hopefully I'll be better prepared to see--and photograph--them in the future.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Faulkner Made More Sense...A Short Story

The Weekly Writing Prompt!

It's Sunday night, a good time to write a bit of flash fiction. If you'd like to give it a shot, too, it's easy! And fun! Basically, go to the sites listed below and check out the picture and write a short story about it. Here are the official rules:

1) Use the above photo and five randomly-chosen words in your story.
2) Keep your word count 500 or less (or a few more words if they're needed...).
3) You have until next Tuesday night to link up your story.
4) Use the Blue Link to add your story at Leanne's or Tena's websites--follow the instructions.
5) Have fun, don't stress, and let those creative juices flow!

 Here Are The Five Words:


Come on! Give it a try! Here's my attempt!

Faulkner Made More Sense

"Hey Chuck, what you watching?" Sean said as he entered the living room after spending the past two hours cramming for a American Lit final. His brain needed a rest and Sean figured some mindless TV just might do the trick.

"It's Eastern European football," Chuck said, his eyes never leaving the screen.

"Oh, you mean like rugby?"

"No," Chuck said. "Well, kind of. It's more like American football than Australian or New Zealand."
"Really, how so?" Sean said as he sat down on the second-hand couch the college roommates bought at a yard sale at the beginning of last year. "Do they score touchdowns?"

"Yeah," Chuck said and reached for a bowl semi-filled with pretzels on the coffee table. "They call them Pollydonks. They're worth three points, except if you cross the goal line upside down, it's worth nine and it's called a grasshopper."
"You serious, Chuck?"

"Oh yeah! It's so much fun to watch. Sometimes teammates will lift a player completely upside down and carry him across the goal while he's holding the fitzoiy."

"The what?" Sean asked.

"The fitzoiy. Oh, yeah...I forgot. It's what they call the ball, a fitzoiy--it's an Estonian word which means "pumpkin."

"Now I see it," Sean said as they showed a player running with a large orange pumpkin-resembling ball. "Oh, what just happened?" Sean pointed to the TV as players ran to the center of the field and formed a line. They then ran like a snake around the pitch.

"Oh, they're forming a sausage line."

"A what?"

"Yeah, it's a sausage line. They do this to try and psych out the other team."

"No way!"

"Way! Oh, man! Look at that! They're doing a milkshake! They're actually pulling off a milkshake!"

"What the frick's a milkshake?"

"That's when the sausage line forms a circle and completely surrounds four of the other team's players--that's called a button. But when the other team then forms their own sausage line and surrounded the button--as long as the fitzoiy's not involved, they call that a milkshake, and they just did it, see?"

Sean had no idea what was going on. "But, why do they call it a milkshake?"

"Just watch!" Sean leaned into the TV as something he'd never seen before occurred on screen. As soon as the larger sausage line completed their circle, everyone on both teams ran into the center of the field. The referee grabbed the pumpkin and hurled it into the center of the players. As soon as it was caught, everyone in the circle threw the player up in the air then each team tried to carry the player toward their own goal line.

"That's a milkshake!" Chuck said.

Sean stared, his mouth agape. "I think I'll go back to Faulkner...he made more sense."

Word Count: 471

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Some Of Our Most Important Buildings...In Lego

"Have you heard about that Lego display at the mall? It's still going on this weekend. Would you like to do that?"

"Yeah--that'd be fun! I've got the matinee so I should be home around 5-ish." I thought. You know, around 6pm there shouldn't be a lot of people at the mall. People will be finishing eating and then headed to see a movie. I'll bet there won't be very many people at the mall at all, I thought.

I was pretty much wrong.

The place was packed! And for good reason. The Lego displays of important buildings in America's history was pretty darn cool! I snapped a lot of pictures. We ended up staying an hour or so and the mall had a lot fewer people when we left. I guess all the kids had gotten to their movies by then.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Having The Courage To Dream...

I think everyone who has ever thought about being a writer, or a painter, or a dancer, singer, photographer, sculptor, magician (mime...), have wondered what it would be like to do it full-time. I learned quickly when I first began attending writing conferences and symposiums that there's a difference between someone who creates art part-time and those who can do it as a full-time gig.

Those that can are revered, honored, even sometimes worshiped.

Because it's tough.

Being a full-time writer, painter, dancer, singer, photographer, sculptor, magician, and even mime is tough. If it weren't, everyone would do it. At least, I think so. I know I would. If I could feed, shelter and clothe my family by writing full-time, I would do it in a heartbeat.

That's why I have so much respect for a fellow writer, Aly Grauer. I've written about Aly before. A few weeks ago her father began cancer treatment and this week she announced on her blog that she quit her day job. 

Alyson Grauer

She's going to be a full-time writer. Comments from many friends offered support on her blog (me included...). Some even said they wished they could do the same. I hope she finds success. I've read some of her stuff--it's good! She can definitely write. She released a novel last fall (you can pick it up: HERE) and even though it's not burning up the Amazon charts, she's not letting that stop her from her dream.

So, here's to Aly! May all your sentences make sense and your submissions be picked up! Good luck! Oh, and happy birthday, too!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Writing Group...YES!

Writing Groups...

As a new writer, you hear a lot about writing groups. You'll be told, "you must get into one--your writing career depends on it." Well, that may be a stretch, but it's close.

There's a secret to the people who offer this advice on writing groups and it's that the people who say these things are the people who are in successful writing groups, groups that meet on a regular basis. They're also the people who can personally testify of a writing group's importance in their writing career.

Tonight I attended one of the most successful writing groups that I've ever heard of--not as a guest, but as a member of the group. There are many ways to attach the term "successful" to a group. Do they meet regularly? That's a biggie for a writing group. Are the members engaged, or in other words, do they get the writing done? Do they offer helpful critiques? And, though some may consider this to be the most important aspect of success, have the participants gotten published? 

I've been following those in this group for a long time. It's been years since I first asked about joining. Two weeks ago I got an e-mail asking me if I wanted to join. I was so excited--it was like hearing that a story you've written has been chosen to be published. This group is successful because they meet regularly and have done so for almost a decade. They are engaged--they do the writing. They are extremely helpful and their criticisms are offered with respect and with the sole desire to help each other become better writers.

And, in the home where they meet is a collection of books, books that are published--and it's more than just a few.

Tonight was my first meeting and I left with my first notes of how to fix my little story. Will my writing career depend on my inclusion and participation in this group? I guess we'll find out! Thanks guys for giving me the chance!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

That's The Night When The Lights Went Out In...Centerville

I arrived at the theater early, which I'm wont to do so it's not entirely strange to see an unlit hall leading to the dressing rooms. What I did find weird is that my numerous attempts to turn on the light failed. I mean, it's not that complicated, even though it's different from the switch I have at home. I can figure this out! Little kids are turning on and off the lights all the time at the theater.

I must have tried that switch a half dozen times when I heard voices at the end of the hall where it was even darker.

"I guess the power's out," I said to the first person I met. Why is it we do (and say...) some seriously stupid things when the power goes out, like try to turn on a light switch?

As more and more of the cast arrived, each were informed of the situation. We prepared to do a show anyway because we had no idea if and/or when the power would return. Many put on make up in the foyer where sunlight still shown through or by flashlight in the dressing rooms. I set out all my props and costumes--I even put on my mic, but as the minutes ticked down, it became evident there would be no show, especially when we checked the power company's website via our phones and the estimated time to have the power back on was hours away.

At 7pm the cast and crew gathered in the green room. We heard the news officially that the show had been canceled and we began to put everything away. I felt bad for the people who were pulling up to the theater and for my friend and neighbor who volunteered to usher for the show. She and the other volunteers would be the ones telling everyone there'd be no show. I'm sure the theater will do everything it can to reimburse the patrons or provide them a ticket to another show. I've had class canceled due to a power outage, work canceled, even dinner canceled (temporarily...). But last Monday was the first time I've ever been involved in a show that could not go on due to a lack of power. Let's pray it doesn't happen again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Friday Night At Chili's...

We arrive in different cars and at different times--all of us, exhausted. The restaurant is almost empty, a few unfortunate souls who happened to have stopped at this particular Chili's establishment to get a bit to eat or to watch a game on a better TV than the one they have at home. The cool kids rush to the corner booth. Us older (and slower...) ones find a chair and sit down at the next table. The show's over; it's time to relax.

"Wow!" I say to a fellow cast member sitting across from me. "That's a lot of key rings." I pick up the collection of trinkets, bobbles and charms all interconnected with rings of metal. It's heavy and I let it fall to the table. "It's a collection of lots of things," she says and so we begin to chat.

Noise from the table behind us as well as the one in front carries throughout the building. The sound crescendos and decrescendos as the conversations wax and wane. The waiter approaches, "Will this be on one check (he desperately hopes but knows it won't--still, he must ask...), or separate checks?"

"Separate checks," we all say in unison.

"So, how many siblings to you have?" I ask the owner of the world's biggest key chain conglomeration. She tells me. We talk and I tell her things I remembered from a previous conversation we had weeks ago and her eyes go wide, as if surprised people actually remember things. To me, I do a lot of listening. Sometimes it's just easier. 

"You've been to Rome? What's it like?" she asks. "Let me put it this way," I say. "Rome is SO cool that we named our sons after the city. It's like being on another planet."

And it is.

Next, the cellphones come out and it's "Selfie Time!" There's a noticeable pattern at the table next to us. There's the "Let me get a picture," rumblings. Then the smushing--not a lot of sound during this phase. After the picture's snapped, the picture is then checked out by those photographed and again, laughter abounds. This can go on all night and usually does.

Eventually we get our food--different tastes for different folks. I order mine to go. I can't believe how much this show sucks all energy from me. My age is definitely showing. As we eat, laugh, take more pictures (more laughing...), and get to know each other better, fewer and fewer patrons share the space with us. They've finished their meals and left for quieter environs. We remain, active, charged from the performance and exhausted at the same time.

Even though it's Friday night, I leave early--one of the first to depart. I've got appetizers for the Mrs. who is waiting patiently at home. Doing shows takes a lot of time, time away from family. Of course, if I were a teenager or in my 20s, I'd be hanging out as long as I could, laughing, eating, and taking pictures.

I climb in my car, fire up the engine and head home. It's Friday night after the show and I just left the Chili's next to the theatre. Next Friday night, we'll probably do it again.

Monday, March 16, 2015

POLAIK With An Artistic Flair...Simon Winegar

Part of what's amazing about being involved in a project is the people you meet, be it a volunteer project, community theater, educational opportunities. Whenever you get the chance to leave your house and interact with others, there's a chance you'll get to know those with whom you interact. I've been fortunate enough to be in several plays over the years. During the latest show in which I'm involved, Shrek, I got to know a fellow cast member for the first time, and it's because it's his first show.

Simon Winegar, my next POLAIK (Profile Of Local Authors/Artists I Know...), is an artist--painter to be precise. And he's good! You can check out his art at his website: HERE. My brother's major was art. I remember seeing many a painting done by him going back all the way through jr. high school.

I think being an artist would be a tough gig. Tough, but--I hope--fulfilling. I think many people imagine  what life would be like if they did something else. For example, I would love to try making a living as a full-time writer. Of course, I don't want it enough to quit my job and do it, at least, not right now. That's the difference between Simon (and other artists...) and myself. He's doing art full-time. We look at him and think it would be cool to do what he's doing--if we have the talent, that is.

But in talking to him the other day, the jobs many of us have--sitting in a cubicle all day, steady paycheck, even covered insurance--can be quite appealing at times to people such as Simon. Ever wonder why art can be so expensive? If you consider not many people have the talent to do what they do, or the patience to learn what they do or the confidence (or blind faith...) to do what they do, the cost of high-quality art is very reasonable.

I'm so glad Simon decided to do a show. If he hadn't, I would not have gotten to know him as a person, let alone an artists. When I see his work, I see more than a beautiful rendering. I see his personality in the colors, in the brush strokes. In the art. 

A few weeks ago while the other cast rehearsed on stage, I snapped a picture of Simon sketching. It reminded me of my youth as I watched a blank piece of paper being transformed by my brother's amazing talent. I am in awe of those that can and do.

He's also a good man and a darn good actor, too!