Serendipity

book-pileMost everyone I have met in my writing career has come to me by way of serendipity. That is to say, I started a writing career on my own, with no mentor, no history, and no connections, and at each turn have found someone who leads me around the next blind corner. That same magic seems to be happening again. Currently I am in Iowa City –  the only city in the United States given the title of “City of Literature” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – and the 9th annual Iowa City Book Festival is underway. Of course this is also the home of the famous Iowa Writer’s Workshop. While here, I am still awaiting word on two novels I have under review and have started a third, and the impetus to write seems to be circulating through the aura that surrounds my waking moments. The connectivity in the air around literature is exhilarating to say the least. And as a current theme to past writings, of late, the connectivity to my being here is on the fringes of the unbelievable. In short, I would not be here if it weren’t for Penny McFadden – the person whom The Penny is written about. It is her niece that is getting married in Iowa City! I wasn’t going to attend any of the conference gatherings, but Christine pushed me into a discomfort zone of listening to authors, editors, and publishers, once more, tell the horror stories of getting published on the big stage. But the serendipity took over, and I woke my brain to acceptance. The divergent path taken to arrive here has been too many years in the making to let my ego and sensitivities get in the way; thus I shall attend a full line-up tomorrow. Until then, I ply my craft in a new book entitled: “Jesus Walked Down My Alley.” No hints, but it’s a sequel to my latest, “Moving Tables,” and continues the tales of Frank Flannigan and his restaurant in Brow Point, Michigan. You never know where life takes you, so make sure your eyes and ears are open to let your brain soak it all in.endupinmynovelbutton

Writing from the heart

2008DpennyWriting from the heart has become a persistent method for me. In my journalism, in my blogs, and in my novels, writing what I know and feel is a joy. The task of learning the craft of writing, while difficult, and the evolution of the results has provided evidence to me that both soulfulness and mindfulness work, not only in my personal life, but when reporting and formulating stories. In “The Penny,” I am able to tell the story of individuals (including my wife and me), while at the same time learning more about life and more about where my soul is directed. Writing from the heart allows me to look into me – sometimes through other people. When writing characters, there are real people represented and not just in their own personality, but in how they relate to me or effect the world around me. I take that very seriously. I also make sure people are okay with that prospect and often have them read their parts and/or make comment for change. I have found that I am much more in-tune with my community, in rhythm with Nature, and most importantly, able to provide a connection between many. I write often about that last statement, but only after sending off another novel to the Universe, and enjoying the company of hundreds over the last month, did I really want to put those thoughts into words. Ethereal, tangential, and abstract? Perhaps. But I am sincere in my feelings. Writing from the heart is a proven method of many an author, many a poet, and for actors, acting from the heart is what makes great actors great. Sure, we all sometimes take a breath and work our way through scenes of the day that aren’t always authentic, but writing from the heart allows me to practice authenticity. If you pick up a pen and practice, maybe in a journal, or on a keyboard sending a note, let your heart and soul direct the way. Watch how connections to the world around you spring forth. Don’t be afraid. Jump into the fray and feel the warmth.endupinmynovelbutton

We are All Connected

e-pluribus-unumOver the month, I’ve been editing and rewriting my next novel, “The Penny,” and I’ve come to believe, even more, that we are all connected. In “The Penny,” there is a thread of two lives that stream together over many years, and as their lives intertwine, the connectedness of life around them comes to light. I believe under our current circumstances within the borders of the United States, we have lost all connection to each other. For some reason, and with some diabolical force among us, we’ve lost the vision that when we act as one, positive reactions occur. People feel cared for, resilient, and work toward a common good. That has all but vanished. What’s worse is a feeling, no, a premonition, I keep waking-up to that until something horrible happens, we won’t shake this dismantling of our humanness. Yes, humanness. Essentially at this moment in time we are animals roaming for the protection of some and looking for the food of evil that stokes the next hunt. Pack animals become territorial and kill those not invited. We have become this. We have become so unconnected that humankind threatens itself from not only blowing up each other, but blowing up the environment of Mother Earth so that a few more dollars can be squeezed into the white viral corpuscles of the ruling class. The balderdash that we will prosper with more jobs and more economic growth only facilitates the evil we have become. How about some responsible social capitalism where those who can prosper more than others do, but the rest of society actually sees and feels the benefit? There will always be great minds that take society forward. There will always be worker bees, and there will always be drones to ward off attack, but shouldn’t they all work together for the good of the whole? Why is it that the most primitive of insects can pull this off? The more advanced we become the less connected. The less loving and compassionate. Waking to a nightmare of loosing touch with my fellow-man scares the hell out of me, but I’m watching it happen as soon as I step into the streets and crowds. I can feel the nothingness as I pass by people not smiling, not saying hello, and afraid of what is going on in their neighbor’s thoughts. My pleadings can only see the daylight of civility through the written word and my actions around my own town. Perhaps you can practice where you live. I suspect life would become easier and less pressured. But please, don’t measure the comfort by amounts of money. If we do, the cycle begins anew. And if you bring religion into the fray, do so with the compassion for everyone and not just people like you. We’re all different and that is the best part of our humanness.

TaylorHortonCreek

The Loss of Civility

QIn our little corner of the world, vacationers flock by the thousands growing our tiny hamlet from about 6,000 people in the winter to around 50,000 in the peak of the summer – but why the loss of civility? Those are just the folks returning to resorts and vacation homes. That doesn’t count the daily flow of people twisting necks to look at Lake Michigan and parking throughout the evening to watch the million dollar sunsets we’re so famous for. I believe every year, in some form or fashion, I comment on how people don’t vacation the way they used to. I’ve bored you enough with people being “wired,” but the swearing at teenage servers, howling at bartenders, spitting vitriol at hotel staff and retail operators has gone way too far. If your drunk, go home quietly or stay home and drink. If you complain about the food and service everywhere you go, stay home and cook. If you have ten dogs on a leash, don’t be surprised if facilities can’t handle the load – especially around people eating. If you have 13 people and don’t make reservations, don’t yell at the person on the other end of your voice trail when you can’t be seated. Don’t call seventeen year old young ladies bitches. Don’t spit booze at them when your yelling. I could go on and on. If your on vacation, lose the schedule; take off the watch; and for god’s sake, be nice to people. If you wonder why teens and young adults won’t fill some of these jobs, you only have to look into the mirror and see the reason why.

The Waiting Game

DomViolPictureSo, I have one book in review and another in edit, thus I play the waiting game. I am encouraged and delighted that my work has found its way to people who would like to absorb the words and understand the person behind the construction. I am reveling in the fact that one of the editors suggested I have done well with the craft of writing. All of that being said, it’s still the waiting game. In the mean time, I write for various publications and have meandered into another book outline. I also have become a people watcher again. Through airports, restaurants, and various areas where people congregate, I watch as people don’t talk. I watch as people parade around with a phone like they’re robots directed by electricity. I fully admit that through the years I’ve commented very pedantically on the subject, but I really do believe it’s getting worse. While I bide my time with hobbies, writing and gardening, I swear to the Universe that others stare into a phone as if their life depended on it. They walk down the sidewalk staring at it. They drive staring at it. They sit in a crowd and stare rather than converse or look around at the scenery. Who are they? Kids, parents, grandparents, you name it. I really notice these behaviors most in airports. Now I suggest that their reading on a phone is much like a book or newspaper, but with the ear buds connected and the Facebook pages being thumbed and the emails being read and the instant messages being sent, I say it’s more than a book or newspaper. It’s being wired. The waiting game has been removed from most people, and instant connections only assist in taking away thoughtfulness and calm. While nervous and anxious to have my latest two books awaiting someone else’s decisions, I will certainly respect that wait and make use of the time. But I will also enjoy not being wired into instant whatever. I like to be engaged in conversation – even during my most misanthropic days – and I thoroughly enjoy perusing my surroundings and the environs I attend. Maybe for one day, a person could try to live without the blasted phone; maybe for one day the person could read and look up to smile and see the sky; maybe…nope. They’re gone.

Search for God

StFrancisChurchIn my everyday search for God and a connection to this Earth, our Universe, flora, fauna, and mankind, I have become very aware of a subtle change in my approach to finding that serenity. I have found it less about a God like figure and more about the reality of what we know. I am not an atheist nor am I an agnostic, but I believe our God is a Universal force that remains a mystery. Perhaps that sounds confounding or maybe even more common, but what I’ve come to realize is a disconnection with my community. I am a Roman Catholic from birth and have done everything there is to do in the Church except become a priest. My father took great joy in his activities as decorator of the altar, Minister of the Eucharist, Usher, Mom & Dad Club president, you name it, he did it. So did I. He had a sense that life revolved around his religion. I stopped that feeling several years earlier the more I educated myself about the Church, its history, and the following now present within my community. I took special efforts to see through the ultra-conservative demonic racism and sexism I witnessed, and even tried to rationalize it away as learned behavior that should be forgiven, but the behaviors only worsened through the last several election cycles. There seemed to be a permission given to those who protect their sanctity and ideals by slaying other’s rights and beliefs. In some instances to the point of outright ridicule hoping to create a one, and only one, way of life devoid of any type of diversity. Along those lines traverse economic and acceptance principles that are so Darwinian it makes me shudder to wonder what side of the crest I fall within the minds of the new ultra-right religious. I feel more comfortable in the woods or on the water than I do a church. TahqaRiverKayakfishingI feel more connected to life and energy around me by actually being out and about instead of cloistered and huddled within a tight group of people who hate others. Hate is a strong word, but that tight group of people will claim they can accept anyone different, but they can’t. They make choices to avoid and cancel others out as if they don’t exist. Is their God, Savior, and religion that cruel? I know they believe it to be the “only way”, but how Christian is that to essentially not care if others exist or not? That may sound rather crass and harsh, but that is the feeling one gets, and I can say actually heard and witnessed, if one is an outsider. The arrogance and misanthropic attitude will be the underpinning toward the destruction of a way of life so many try so hard to keep bottled up. And, at least for the Catholic’s, the Vatican is richer than most nations while many die of starvation. The Church has continued rules and catechisms that have protected child rapists and sexual deviants within their own ranks for centuries – and have yet to change those rules or beliefs – yet wish to prosecute everyone for everything and throw away the key, including a belief, by many, in the death penalty. My ramblings may be just that to most, but I for one have grown more appreciative of my fellow human being and found a more depth of spirit outside my Catholic religion. I hope where ever you are in your search for serenity and tranquility, you find a similar space. I only hope that what ever path that is, acceptance and love become the most used words in your vocabulary.e-pluribus-unum

Biding time on a Thursday

Old studioWhile biding time on a Thursday afternoon in May, I wonder what life will be like come September. I’ve been quietly working behind the scenes of two blogs, continuing a couple of columns for local fare, and beginning today, I add a new weekly story. It won’t actually go into publication until Memorial Day week, but it pays to stay ahead. The biggest news is a new office in a historic downtown building. From that perch, I shall begin to work on the two novels in front of me. Both have gone through first edits and it’s time to move them up the queue. I never used to bide my time, but patience, I have learned, is a true virtue. In honing my writing acumen and experimenting with style and circumstance, I can honestly say I’m ready for the big show. Since my advanced degrees do not include an MFA, nor do I tout advanced journalism creds or best-selling national rag publications among the attributes of my CV, I needed to hoe the rocky road until it evened out. The office makes it official. I have loved the studio I created at home, but it’s gotten a little small and I wanted a view of Lake Michigan. Thanks to a good friend, June 1st will be the big move. I haven’t carried a computer or briefcase to an office in seven years. Doing so, I believe, will take me away from the daily machinations of home chores and worries I should be doing something else besides writing. It also helps that my writing is paying enough to make such a move. Instead of fits and starts from publishing through book signings and sales, income now outweighs expenses. Phew! Nothing of this sort could happen, however, without the wonderful assistance of a wonderful partner and son who has so sincerely helped me catapult into yet another career that allows enough flexibility to take care of everyone in my life. And it is to all of those people I shall devote the next several years of my life, making sure daily wants and lifelong desires don’t go without hope. As I’ve practiced for the last nine years, I shall continue paying forward the Universal blessings showered upon me. Biding time over. It’s time to write.

An Update from the Future: free flowing trepidations No. 672, February 26, 2022

NaziTrumpI awoke to the usual on this February morning, coffee, snow and watching state-run television. I miss the days of looking at the Weather Channel with some homespun weather person giving a humorous perspective of daily barometric pressures or possible storms emanating from the belly of the Plains. I relish the memory of those afternoons listening to NPR, and a refreshing view of the world from late night BBC broadcasts. Now I sit and watch as pundits and news heads deliver only what has been written. They speak only talking points from bulleted scripts written in a backroom of the White House.

I guess the attempt to blow up said White House by factions of the Liberation Party didn’t sit too well with the White Nationalist Party. I mean, I get the whole issue of learning to live in a fascist state, but blowing up government buildings ideally should result in those parties in those buildings going away.

Since the revolution began two years ago, I haven’t been able to visit California since it seceded or Texas since it became the gulag and gas chamber of the many. Once the Western Wall rounded the Baja and made its way along the western side of Arizona, Nevada and Idaho, I don’t hear or see what goes on in my family’s homes near San Francisco. Radio Free America set up shop somewhere in Seattle from what I can tell. They speak to pleasantries among the islands and along Port Angeles. I smile when I can get through the internet and radio jamming that seems to get stronger every year.

I can’t find solace like I used to when I’d enjoy the shores of Lake Michigan at the western edge of my northern enclave since they’ve receded as new wells and drainage viaducts take water to what was once Nebraska and Kansas. Unfortunately for them that Keystone pipeline rupture really did a number on their water. Once the Ogallala went awry, all they had was dust. Outright dwarfed the dust bowl of the Great Depression. But that new state of Nathan, where Nebraska and Kansas used to be, truly is aptly named after Nathan Bedford Forrest. After all, it was he who first put on a hood and advocated the killing of the blacks after the Civil War. West of Nathan now sits the Territory of Bannon. A no man’s land filled with only military fending off the Liberation Party.

I do wonder where they’ve all gone? The people of non-Templar decent. Only seeing and interacting with Caucasians of the Christian Warriors of Templar I can only attempt to recollect the diversity I once knew and cherished. In fact, my black son-in-law and my daughter were the first of the family out once they could get through Canada and over and around the Western Wall. That skirmish of Canadian and Nationalist troops was a short one north of Lake Superior. That Northern Wall is only now under construction. Hope my daughter is well.

I miss my wife most of all. As a local government councilwoman in 2017, she was one of the first to be shipped off to Texas. I couldn’t get to her through the barricades and armed guards as the first trucks left from what used to be City Hall. I’ve been lonely. The kids kept trying to tell us what was happening, but we wouldn’t believe them. Grateful they all made it. Where, I may never know, but at least they made the best of their chances. I stare at their pictures through the faint light from upstairs as it filters through the old wooden floor.

I get claustrophobic sitting in my studio under the floorboards of my house. So far, I’ve been lucky to miss the door-to-door inspections. At first, they were random for those who wouldn’t show for Sunday services, but now if anyone even looks suspicious, the gendarmes come knocking. I smile and give the appropriate salutes then come home and write, hoping someday someone will find these notes and look back with surprise that we actually devolved into this era.

2017 came and went so fast, by the time 2020 arrived it was too late for elections or any other means to bring back the good ole’ days. That’s when the revolution violently took hold. FOX State Media says the Nationalists are winning on all fronts, but I’m not so sure. The rationed groceries and lack of fuel in the North lead me to believe things aren’t going all that well. Unless you’re one of the Populist Intermediaries. They get the good stuff. I watch out the windows as the armored trucks bring them boxes of food, wine and what looks to be newspapers. Boy, how I miss the papers. If you’re not among the Populists, you get a Daily Sheet in your mailbox with some headlines written by Breitbart International. And it’s so painful going to the internet after you’ve smuggled in the encryption software that eludes the jammers. Everywhere else in the world peace has erupted as the siege takes hold of this united Nationalist Masada.

I’ve struggled with what else to call my new country. Well, not my country. I was too naive to see what was coming. I was too late in making a last-ditch effort to ask for deportation among the other religions and people of non-Templar DNA. But that is what’s kept me alive. When we all had to line up and give DNA samples before either deportation or being exiled to Texas, I knew my ethnicity and Templar roots would shelter me from the worst. Besides, with my late-stage cancer and no allowable health care, I figured what the hell. Once I met the mandate of no-care due to the expense, I abdicated for peace and sanity in my own little realm. Maybe my Lake Michigan electronic scrolls will some day match those of the Dead Sea. That is my death wish.

On that note, I’m not sure how much longer this old laptop can survive. It’s been years since I could obtain a battery for my state-allowed computer and hook it up to my Rube Goldberg mechanism to heist the juice and keep my own machine running.

Wait, I hear footsteps.

California Dreamin’

OwnerMauroDuring the annual California dreamin’ trip to Sausalito, I took a break from all things writing – for a moment – to celebrate my anniversary with Christine. No matter how much I wish to get away and not encumber my mind with placing adjectives with nouns and ending phrases with dangling participles, I, at any given moment, pull out a journal and scribe. I guess it’s what I do. And enjoy. I will say this, I returned with a plethora of ideas that will soon end up on either these pages, an article, or book. Perhaps the absence of a tote-along manuscript opened the channels of creativity I so often take for granted. Fluid thought does not always translate into fluid writing, but it does conjure a freedom to think. With Christine not feeling well and napping back at the condo, I sat at the bar of the Seahorse restaurant roped into the dockyards of Sausalito where one from out-of-town would surely not expect what I found: A salsa band with preeminent musicians yanked from the likes of Santana, a vast assortment of prized Italian wines, and food made as one would expect from the finest Italian chefs. Prior to the band’s session, I sat there with my bottle of brunello, a pork tenderloin and a view of life I cherish. There were waiters waiting tables, Nazario tending bar, and people conversing without the din of bad music over the speakers above them from some ridiculous Pandora station. Also missing were the ubiquitous cell phones ensconced over everyone’s ear. Instead there was an Italian celebration of wine and food. The owner, Mauro Dosolini, sauntered among his guests enchanting them with smiles and handshakes.  He shared wine with me as I perused his wardrobe of jeans complete with tattered knees. Yes, I know I have the pleasure of spending time each week in such a place at home, but this arena before me allows the gastronomical athlete to breathe without the wrath of martinis and Manhattans slathering the psyche. Here, it’s wine and wine only. No straws to the scotch bottles or hoses of flowing bourbon. There are no vats of vodka, no shots of Jagermeister, no gallons of gin. There is only the grape. I can taste and experience the nose, the ripe fruit and elegant tannins undisturbed by estuarine commentary of breweries and distilleries. The hallmark of a fine restaurant is not the stylish attire of the staff or attributes of the tables; it’s not the napkin set or the menu appeal. It is the celebration of life at the moment. The aroma of great times undisturbed and flourishing among the tables and bar stools. It is the breadth of the grape emanating upwards over the rim of the glass and onto the tongue fulfilling an empty tidal pool of desire. This was an anniversary of me and Christine delving into a life unimagined by many and incomprehensible to the rest. To us. And to me. Then there was dessert. A slice of divine labeled tiramisu. The exquisite texture of creamy warm, drizzled chocolate over enlivened chocolate ribbons devoured the evening as if nothing else had existed. A spoon to the mouth eluded Venus as she watched from above drooling droplets of jealousy upon the earth around me. California dreamin’.

The Friday Fish Fry

 

Fish and chips with coleslaw

Since 2008, I have had the privilege to volunteer at the Brother Dan Food Pantry, and during Lent, to work the Friday fish fry. In the last couple of years, my times at Brother Dan’s have decreased mostly due to scheduling conflicts, but that fact has not dwarfed my intent or my conviction to assist those in need. What is more relevant is my issues with the Catholic church during that same expanse of time. The St. Francis Xavier community has been nothing but gracious and wonderful to me; however, within the bowels of the beliefs captured within the greater Catholic church emanating from Rome, I take umbrage. The last two election cycles threw me over the edge with how unchristian some of my fellow Christians became. And now in the face of our new fascist government, I watch and listen with amazement the number of people who call themselves “good Catholics” degrade and hold contempt for people of color, other religions, and worst of all people who are simply different from them. I hear about the fear of Sharia Law while at the same time conservative evangelical lawmakers attempt to write laws under their own religious convictions. I have become so afraid to talk with common folk about common subjects because so often anymore dark closets open in the conversation reveling pathways to thought and theory I would never have expected. At coffee yesterday, a friend noted that this contempt was “people’s passion for their beliefs.” My retort was easy: “It’s never been this bad or to this level – at least in my lifetime.” So as I pass out mac and cheese at the Friday Fish Fry, I wonder about those whose plates are before me. What do they think of me? What do they think of others who aren’t white, middle class, and believe in a different path to spirituality? I have lost my ability to see through the morass of evil and find the goodness that used to be the halo of my community. I hope to work through this and look deep inside myself to root out my own prejudice. StFrancisChurch