Truths: A Sestina

From time to time, I check my old journals, notebooks, filing cabinets, or Word files to see what I wrote when I was much younger.  I do so not just to find something to post here but to see what I had to say back then and how what I thought and wrote as a younger man compares to what I think and write now, to see whether or not something that was important to me or relevant then still is now.

I wrote the poem below, “Truths”, in July 2001, when I was 30 and a grad student.  I don’t often write formulaic poetry, but this is a rare example of such.  At the time I wrote it, I was in a bit of a depression-induced writing slump, and I relied on the strictures of the form to provide, if not inspiration, at least guidance.  I am pleased to find that its theme, its pessimism and disappointment, and its ultimate hope and faith are as true for me today as they were then.  I may have changed in subtle ways since, but I’m still fundamentally the same man at 47 that I was at 30.  Is it preposterous to hope I may still be in another 17 years if I’m so fortunate to live that long?

Truths

Walking through a forest, verdant and alive
shining sun, blowing wind, streams flowing free
through carved beds.  The earth, plants, and animals
all have a place in this scene, each plays its part
willingly and well, all working together to cast a spell
over the loner, the walker, the seeker of truth.

Unlike fiction it is elusive, this thing called truth.
When found, however rarely, the seeker comes alive.
Loosed from the veil of illusion, deceiving evil spell
which kept him bound.  With right on his side he is free.
He’ll wander the earth, spread the word, do his part,
try to briefly raise the race above the savagery of animals.

For a time no longer treating each other like animals,
finding we can peacefully live together; this is the truth.
Despite our location, our nations of birth, we are all a part
of the one human race.  Not dead to each other, but finally alive.
We’ll release prisoners of war, unchain slaves, open our eyes, be free.
Live, love, laugh, not separately but together, if only for a brief spell.

But then human nature again will take hold, shatter the spell,
and again human nature demands to treat others like animals,
the ones that are penned, domesticated, the predators that remain free.
Be not confused, for although the other is, this is also the truth:
as long as greed, evil dark seeds, though deeply buried, remain alive,
they will gestate, bloom, overgrow even the kindest part.

Sadly, even the most well-joined among us will part.
Thoughts of hate, not love, which we’ll forget how to spell,
will supplant whatever goodwill had briefly been alive.
We will hunt, hound, harry each other like predatory animals,
but someone will hope and dream, if you want to know the truth,
of another distant bright day when we’ll again be free.

Until then we struggle, while to dream and strive we are free,
knowing that wrong and right, dark and light, each play a part
in our eternal and insatiable quest for the truth.
Someday a loner, a walker, a seeker will discover the spell
to free us from the instinctual inconsiderate actions of animals
and transform this dead decaying world into one that is alive.

Until that day, we are free to exist for a spell,
to each play our part as humans or animals
’til one finds the truth, and love comes alive.

Via RDP #20, Check

Via FOWC Preposterous

 

 

 

 

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A Fire on the Mountain

The other day, my friend Victoria at raynotbrabdury tagged me with the “Spin a Story” challenge, which she explained is a version of a long-established writing exercise called “The Wheel”.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Pick any newspaper, magazine, or book of any style or genre.
  2. Choose 3 random words (best if done with your eyes closed). 
  3. Create a story by using those 3 words or combinations of words.  Provide the name of your source.
  4. Pingback to my post , so I can read and comment.
  5. Challenge as many as 5 additional Bloggers.

Y’all know how good I am at following the rules.  I didn’t close my eyes.  I didn’t choose my word combinations at random.  A story idea has been bouncing around my overtaxed brain for months.  A brand new library book, John Meacham’s The Soul of America, has been sitting on my shelf unopened waiting for me to get to it, and yesterday I cracked it open to sneak a peek at the table of contents.  Parts of 3 chapter headings jumped out at me and simultaneously caused the careening pieces of that story to slam together into something resembling a coherent whole.

My three word combinations are the crisis of the old ordersoul of flame and temper of steel, and long shadow.  Meacham, in fact, borrowed at least two of the three phrases that jumped out at me from earlier sources.  The first came from the title of Arthur M. Schlesinger’s 1957 book The Crisis of the Old Order 1919 – 33 (The Age of Roosevelt, Vol 1).  The second comes from a Theodore Roosevelt quote taken from his 1913 autobiography.  Both of those phrases come from works or passages dealing with periods of strife in American history.  My story deals with a character’s personal struggle with religious strife in our own time.  “The Wheel”, indeed.

Several characters and events included in the story below have appeared in prior stories in my Copperhead County series so are hyperlinked.  If you’re interested in reading them, just click the links.  Regardless of how much you like or hate my story, please let me know in the comments below.  I hope you enjoy.

A Fire on the Mountain

Bash locked his front door, adjusted the angle of his security cameras, and trudged around back to check the new chains on his shed.  He looked at the camera hanging under its eave, grinned, and flipped it a bird while watching himself do so on his iPhone screen.  With a bit more spring in his step, he walked to his driveway in time to see Colt arrive and heft his enormous frame backpack into the bed of his Avalanche.  He closed and bolted the gate then hugged Colt, pounding his back.  “Good to see you, brother!  Thanks for coming with.”

“Hey Bash,” Colt wheezed, “don’t squeeze so tight.  I’m still a little weak.”

Bash backed off, clapped his hand onto Colt’s shoulder, and squeezed gently.  “Sorry, man, I’m just glad you’re okay,” he said as he climbed into the driver’s seat, “everyone’s been real worried about you.”

Colt slid in on the passenger side.  “I appreciate the sentiment, brother, I do.  I’m sure I’ll feel even better after a weekend in the woods.”  As Bash turned onto the highway, Colt rolled his window down and inhaled deeply.  “Ahh, nothing like the scent of magnolia blossoms after two weeks of breathing hospital air.  So tell me.  What’s the occasion?”

Bash twisted in his seat, reached behind the center console, flipped open his cooler, and fished around in the ice.  “Well,” he said as he removed a dripping can of Coors and popped the tab before taking a long swig, “let’s go get Lantz first then set up camp.  I’ll fill you both in later.  You want a beer?”

Colt shook his head, frowning.  “No, thanks.  I’m taking a break.”  He stuck his hand out the window and let it surf the warm, late afternoon breeze.  “From everything.”

Bash cocked his head to the left, raised his right eyebrow, and shot Colt a sidelong glance.  He took another drink.  “What, from everything?  You?  Even weed?”

Colt sighed, stared straight ahead, and sighed again.  “Yeah, man, even weed.”

Bash pulled into Lantz’s driveway and honked three times.  Lantz stepped out, locked his door, tossed his tent into the bed of the Avalanche, opened the passenger door, and climbed in.  “Colt!” he exclaimed, draping his left arm around Colt’s shoulders, “Good to see you, Bones!  How ya doin’?”

Colt smiled and thumped Lantz’s back.  “You’re one to talk, Kevin.  Have you eaten anything this week?”

“Oh, plenty,” Lantz said as he reached into the cooler and removed a beer, “but nothing today.  I just woke up ten minutes ago.”  He cracked open the beer and drank half of it in three gulps.  “Mmm, breakfast of champions!”  He belched long and loud.  All three men laughed.

*****

After arriving at their chosen site on Pygmy Knob, Lantz set up the tent while Bash and Colt unloaded the Avalanche, gathered wood, then started a campfire as the last of the sunlight drained from the sky.  They sat in their camp chairs, backs to the tent, facing the fire and the thick woods on the rising slope beyond it.  Bash had his well-stocked, extra-large cooler in front of him and was using it as a table to roll a few joints.  Lantz sat to Bash’s left, Colt to his right.  Lantz held a Smith & Wesson .38 pistol in his left hand and was amusing himself by snapping the cylinder open, spinning it, and snapping it back into place with a flick of his wrist.  Colt was honing a large hunting knife he’d brought along.

 

Bash removed two beers from the cooler and handed one to Lantz.  They both drank.  Bash lit a joint, took a drag, then passed it to Lantz.  Bash held his smoke for a minute then expelled it slowly.  “So,” he said, “someone’s been stealing my tools from my truck, my trailer, and my shed.  I think it’s that crazy old man Champion who used to be preacher at Mt. Zion before Pastor Huddleston.”

Colt stopped honing his blade, sheathed it, and blew off his whetstone.  “What makes you think that?  Champion had some odd ideas, sure, but he never struck me as the type to trespass or steal.”

Lantz laid his gun in his lap, took a long pull off the joint then, without exhaling, chugged most of the can.  He handed the joint back to Bash.

“Well,” Bash said, accepting the joint and inhaling, “ever since Scarlet Snake Lake got shut down for repairs after that crazy heat wave, there’s been rumors that Champion’s been living in the campsite up there.”  He took another long drink of beer.  “Several friends of mine who’ve been up here hunting said they’d seen him picking through trash cans and trying to get into the stalls at the Lakeshore Open Air Market.”  He passed the joint back to Lantz, who inhaled then drank again.

Colt sniffed, patted the front of his faded denim vest, and retrieved his beloved, dog-eared, Pocket Merton.  He leaned closer to the fire and began thumbing through the book.

Lantz tilted his head back, upended his beer can over his mouth, and shook the last few drops onto his tongue.  He crushed the can, threw it into the fire, and blew the smoke out through his nose.  He coughed, eyes watering copiously.  “Oh yeah,” he exclaimed, “The Times-Rattler had a story just the other day about that—“

Colt glared at Lantz, filled his cheeks, and blew air through his pursed lips, cutting him off.  “Pffshff!  You mean the Times-TATTLER?  That rag’s no better than an impulse aisle tabloid, man.  That whack-a-doo new editor can’t even spell right, much less construct a grammatically correct paragraph.  And what’s with that weekly centerfold about the glory of God and all that praise crap?  That paper’s nothing but a bunch of ignorant, right-wing, Religious Right propaganda!”  Colt spit into the fire then resumed flipping through his Pocket Merton

Bash had been mid-guzzle when Colt blew up.  He choked, sprayed beer through his nose and mouth, then exploded with laughter.  He wiped his face with his forearm, popped open another beer, and took a swig.  “Dang, hoss,” he chuckled, “you sure you don’t want a few hits off this joint?  You must be jonesin’ for real.  I swear I’ve never seen you get mad before!”  He took another beer out of the cooler and tossed it to Lantz.

Colt shook his head.  “Nah, I’m good, thanks.”

Lantz caught his beer, took another drag off the joint, opened the beer, and downed it.  He crumpled the can against his forehead and threw it into the fire.  He sat straight up with his arms locked and hands clamped onto his knees.  His eyes were wide open but slightly crossed, and he swayed a little to his left, a little to his right, then back to an upright position.  He exhaled and belched.  He offered the joint to Bash.

“No thanks, Kevin, you finish it.  I’m going Champion hunting tonight.  I don’t need to get messed up.”  He handed Lantz another beer.

Lantz took it and drank.  “Anyway, the story in the paper quoted a couple of guys who come up here digging for arrowheads and other artifacts.  They said they seen Champion up here several times acting weird.  He’d be pacing, waving his hands in the air, and yelling out crazy crap about the end times coming and he’s the chosen one of God who’s here to bring a sword and all that.  They said he came running at them one day screaming how he’s the flame of God and he’s going to burn them where they stand.”  He took another hit and another drink then sat there shaking his head.  Then he sat bolt upright.  “Did you guys hear that?  There’s something in the trees up the hill over there!”  He was staring intently past the fire.

Bash shivered and took another drink.  “Crazy old man.  He’s proof a person can get too much religion, I reckon.  I heard it, Lantz, chill.  It’s probably just a raccoon.”

Colt sat up and cleared his throat.  “Y’all put too much faith in rumors and news.  Here, listen to what Merton has to say about that.”

Bash laughed.  “I really have missed you, Colt.  What does Brother Merton have to say?”

“Nine-tenths of the news,” Colt read, “as printed in the papers, is pseudo-news, manufactured events.  Some days ten-tenths.”  Colt closed the book and locked eyes with Bash.  “He wrote that 50 years ago or more!  Anyway, what makes you think preacher Champion stole your tools?  And why would he?  More likely it’s a couple of local meth heads, junkies, or pill poppers.”

Lantz heard more rustling in the woods and broke out in a cold sweat.  Eyes wide, he put his beer down, tucked the joint into the corner of his mouth, and eased his pistol out of its holster, peering into the woods.

“I saw Champion standing on the hill behind my house,” Bash said, “right outside the fence, staring at my shed the other day just before sundown.  You know my place is only a ten minute walk down the river from Scarlet Snake Lake.”

“Still, Bash,” Colt said, shaking his head, “why would he steal your tools?  How would he break into your shed?  Hell, why would he even try to climb your fence?”  Colt heard rustling leaves and a twig breaking, and he began scanning the tree line as well.

Bash finished the last of his beer.  “I don’t know, man, I just haven’t seen anything else suspicious.  That’s why I had all those cameras installed.  Speaking of which…”  He pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and activated his security app.  He scanned through all the live images but saw nothing out of the ordinary.  “I thought maybe the thieves would come back when they saw my Avalanche wasn’t there tonight.”

There was a hissing sound, and something small flew into the dwindling fire.  All three men stood up, and a loud explosion blew an immense shower of sparks, embers, and smoke into the air.  Bash and Colt threw their forearms over their eyes, staggered backward, and tripped over their chairs.  Lantz squeezed off a round before something went spannggg against his pistol, and he dropped it, shaking his hand and screaming “Oww, oww, sonofa!  Someone shot me!”

Bash and Colt stood, and a gaunt, bald, bare-chested old man with a bushy white beard emerged from the woods on the other side of the fire.  A slingshot was tucked into the front of his filthy khakis.

The man who had been Preacher Champion walked toward them, eyes blazing and arms raised, yelling at the top of his voice.  “The Lord God has chosen me to put an end to the crisis of the old order, the unholy alliance between the Church and the Government!”  Spittle flew from his lips, and the flames seemed to bend away from him.  He continued shuffling toward them.

Lantz was staring gape-mouthed at the old man, clutching his wounded hand in front of his chest, and drooling.  He snapped his mouth shut with an audible smacking sound.  “Oh crap, oh crap,” he muttered as a dark stain began to seep down the front of his pants.  Bash began edging back and to his left, toward his Avalanche, but Colt was transfixed, a faint smile playing on his lips.

Champion kept coming, still ranting, his voice booming in the small campsite.  “My savior Jesus has granted unto me a soul of flame and temper of steel, and together we will burn brighter than the sun!  Side by side we will at last banish the long shadow of the disrighteous and the hypocrites and their ruinous teachings of the false gospels of prosperity and Christianity lite!”

Bash grabbed Lantz’s left arm and began pulling him toward the Avalanche.  Lantz was unable to take his eyes off Champion but allowed himself to be guided away.  Champion kept coming, walking straight through the remnants of the fire toward Colt.  Sparks flew upward, swirling around the old man like a shroud, and the hems of his khakis began to smolder.

Smiling, tears streaming down his face, Colt spread his arms wide and waited for the old man’s embrace.

End

If you’re interested in reading any or all of my Copperhead County stories, you can find them in my “Categories” dropdown menu under “Short Stories”.  Thank you for reading.

Before I go, I tag:

Viola Blue at Ideas Become Words.  Spice it up, girl!

Rachel Ann at FitfulFearfulPhantasmal.  Bring the dark!

Little Gypsy Blue because I’d love to see what she can do with story.

Martha Kennedy at I’m a Wrtier, Yes I Am! because she can do anything better than I can.

Liz Charnes because she writes better stories than I do.

Good luck, y’all!

Home Again

sweet home

Image courtesy of Etsy.com

The cross-stitch sampler shown above was prominently displayed on the wall of my maternal grandparents’ kitchen in their home, Windy Hill, in Argo, Alabama.  From 1980 through 2006, their secluded, rural, mountaintop estate, with its 5 acres of rolling hills and planted fields, was my favorite haven when I needed a brief escape from the world.  It was only a 3-hour drive from my Tennessee home, to which I returned for good in 1992, and I spent many wonderful, relaxing, 3- and 4-day weekends there until a year after my Grandma died in 2005, and Grandpa moved here to live close to my Mom, his oldest daughter.

I never forgot that sampler and the profundity of its simple message.  I have often remembered it upon returning home from vacation.  But never has it rung more true than when we returned from The Boss’s home town in Louisiana Sunday night.  I was so grateful to be able to shower in my own bathroom and especially to sleep in my own bed.  Life among my wife’s Cajun kinfolk is chaotic, unpredictable, and rife with family drama that we’d gladly do without.

Yes, the food was worth the drive, and I got my fill of homemade gumbo, boudin, cracklins, jambalaya, and crawfish etouffé as well as this monstrous beauty,

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which almost killed me and caused me to have to sleep sitting up and skip breakfast the following day.  Yes, I ate it all followed by créme brullé for dessert.  My resolve not to gain 5 pounds on this trip turned out to be quite futile.

Our whirlwind journey, which consisted of 3 days of food and family infighting fun bookended by two 11-hour drives, culminated in a family reunion Saturday.  The Boss got to reconnect with cousins, aunts, & uncles she hasn’t seen in 20 years or more, and the kids and I got to eat a smorgasbord of good food and meet lots of new people.

But when the elders present demanded the attention of the group and began indulging in the atavistic ritual of storytelling, it didn’t take long for the youngest there to lose interest and start misbehaving, after which the reunion devolved into round after round of back-pounding hugs, crushing handshakes, sloppy wet cheek-kisses, and tearful vows to reunite more often.

As a keen, delighted, and oft-bemused observer of human behavior, I very much enjoyed noting the way the different generations responded to the event and comparing it all to the family reunions I remembered from my own youth.  Following the widespread initial joy of reconnecting, the most notable behaviors were: abject boredom evident in the slumped shoulders and flat, dull expressions of the young, who twitched like junkies in anticipation of the return of their briefly-confiscated iPads, smart phones, Xboxes, etc.; undisguised disgust clear in the pinched faces, shaking heads, and clucking tongues of the elders unable to comprehend how their children could’ve raised such an indolent and disrespectful generation; and for the middle generations, the rapid switch on faces glowing with nostalgic happiness to looks of sullen despair at their kids’ behavior to smiles of relief as they prepared to escape.

I hope y’all can forgive this rambling and somewhat pointless post.  I’m still caught somewhere between the post-vacation blues and the returning to work doldrums.  I did miss y’all very much and hope that you’ve all enjoyed yourselves the past week.  I look forward to talking to you in the coming days.

It’s good to be back!

Via: Ragtag Daily Prompt Atavism

Via:  Daily Addictions Daily Prompt Futile

Efrustrlated

See what I did there?  Maybe I should add my new word to my Writer’s Reliquary.  What do y’all think?  Would you use it if it were a ‘real’ word?  Or is it too clunky?  It’s actually not that hard to pronounce but does kinda sound like you’re trying not to drool when you get to the “trl” combo.  Go ahead, give it a whirl, say it a few times and let me know what you think.

Efrustrlated.  That’s the way I’m feeling today.  Elated because I’m fixin’ to leave for vacation but frustrated because I failed to get caught up at work.  Hell, I didn’t even come close to getting caught up even though I took almost 2 weeks off from blogging.  I doubt I’ll have time to post while I’m away, but I should be able to log on a couple of times and see what all you lovely Bloggers are up to while I’m baking in the Lousiana heat and eating good Cajun food faster than I can sweat off the added poundage.

Before I leave, I’m taking the opportunity to participate in two of the daily prompts that have sprung up in the wake of the Daily Post’s unfortunate demise.  One more thing to love about the WordPress community is the flexibility of so many of its Bloggers, like Curious Steph and the other good folks working together to bring us the Ragtag Daily Prompt and of Fandango and his One-Word Challenge.  From the bottom of my lazy, grateful heart, I thank y’all.

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is picayune, which instantly brought a rush of great memories flooding into my aging brain.  When I was a teenager, I was all but obsessed with Berkeley Breathed’s awesome, hilarious, poignant, timely, and witheringly satirical comic strip Bloom County.

Y’all remember it, right?  With its lovable cast of unforgettable characters like Opus the penguin; Milo Bloom, child editor of the newspaper The Bloom Picayune; Michael Binkley, Milo’s best human friend; Bill the Cat; Steve Dallas, chain-smoking defense attorney, incorrigible drunk, and lifelong bachelor womanizer; Cutter John, wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran and Trekkie; Portnoy the groundhog; Hodgepodge the rabbit; Tulip the Basselope; and so many other great characters, most of whom had a love of politicking, philosophizing, and pontificating, Bloom County is what opened my young eyes to politics and taught me to be a conscientious observer of current events as well as a thoughtful and involved voter.

I collected all of the Bloom County books and still have many of them.  They sometimes came with bonus add-ons included.  Tales Too Ticklish to Tell came with an actual copy of The Bloom Picayune, a ridiculously funny precursor of today’s ubiquitous ‘fake news’.  In fact, if I have time tonight after I finish packing, I’m going to pull that book down and see if The Bloom Picayune is still in it.  If it’s not there, I’m going to cry out of frustration with myself for failing to preserve such an important cultural artifact.  If it is still there, however, I’ll celebrate my nondereliction of duty by updating this post with a photo or two of it.*

If y’all have never had the pleasure of reading any Bloom County comics, or if you have and my post has left you with a desire to indulge in some nostalgic enjoyment, I urge you to check out Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County on Facebook.  I promise you won’t regret it.  And yes, Marilyn Armstrgong, it’s funny, so so funny!

I hope y’all have a lovely week.  I’ll think of you while I’m eating my weight in boudin, cracklins, crawfish etouffé, and gumbo!

*UPDATED:  Holy cow!  I still have it! I’m posting it as the featured image!

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via: FOWC, Picayune

via: RDP #5, Flexibility

3-Day Photo Challenge

I don’t take many selfies, don’t often take photos of my routine daily activities, and rarely try to document the day-to-day of my mundane life.  So when my friend Victoria tagged me last Friday with the 3-Day Photo Challenge, I was momentarily flummoxed about how to respond.  But then my little pea-brain started churning, and a primitive plan began to take shape.  I warn you in advance its fruition produced far more photos than y’all probably care to see of me & mine, but once I got rolling, I was having too much fun to quit.  There were 63 photos to begin with, but I managed to pare them down to a lean, mean 40.  Enjoy!

I had to leave work a little early Friday to pick up my new specs & Rx sunglasses so availed myself of the opportunity to join The Girl at my parents’ pool.  We played beach ball

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‘Til the beach ball burst!

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Saturday would prove to be a sweltering Southern day, so I got an early start on the yard work.  I mowed my lawn as well as my disabled, elderly neighbor’s,

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taking care to stay well-hydrated

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as the temperature soared to 90 degrees and got hung up there by the oppressive humidity. I spotted this lovely Tennessee Volunteer

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growing alongside the neighbor’s house.  For those of you who don’t know, that’s where the University of Tennessee Volunteers get their bright orange color.  Go Big Orange!

Before moving on to my parents’ house to do some work for them, I relaxed for a bit and cooled off with a frosty, crisp, Samuel Adams Golden Ale

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and enjoyed the verdant view from my back deck.

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Then The Boy and I drove to Mom & Dad’s house and spent a couple of hours trimming some of the hedges around the pool

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before joining The Girl and The Nephew for a well–deserved dip.

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While the kids romped,

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I recuperated and recharged with a Blue Moon Pacific Apricot Wheat Ale.

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Sunday started with a treat.  Super Aunt took us to one of East Nashville’s most popular restaurants, The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden, which bills itself as “Nashville’s Wurst-Burger Joint”.  In a rapidly growing foodie city in one of Nashville’s hippest districts, it stands out and is well worth waiting in line for, which we surely did:

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I enjoyed a Schneider Original Weisse 20-ounce draft and a bottle of Goodwood Bourbon Barrel Ale

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and learned that I don’t much care for the Falafel Burger.

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Super Aunt and The Boy enjoyed walking though the Beer Garden

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while I took a photo of the friendly bartender at his post.

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The Boy made some new friends, something for which the loquacious little charmer has quite a knack,

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while the rest of us finished our food before returning home for more (ugh!) work.  I endured my weekly chore of cleaning my bathroom as well as The Boss’s.

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That’s right, I clean the bathrooms in my boxers.  Don’t judge me!  When I was younger and much more pleasing to look at, I hit upon the fabulous idea of starting my own nude cleaning business.  The Boss shot that one down real quick!

Once the work was finally done, we returned to Mom & Dad’s house, where I grilled burgers & dogs for everyone.

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Although I failed to take any photos of the event, I finished the day by taking my visiting nephew on a brisk hike along part of Nashville’s beautiful Greenway.  We hiked 4.25 miles in an hour and 15 minutes, after which I was pretty well worn out.

Happy Monday, y’all,

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and HEADS UP!

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via:  M is for Magic, W is for Writing Blogger Challenge

via:  Ragtag Daily Prompt RDP#4 – Flummoxed

via:  FOWC – June 4 – Primitive

Ancient History

My friend Victoria at Raynotbradbury challenged me to post about an author or philosopher of the ancient world, and I have chosen Josephus.  Here are Vic’s rules for the challenge:  1) Choose an author or philosopher from Ancient times.  Country of origin doesn’t matter.  2) Share 3 of that individual’s quotes and any other info about him or her you care to provide.  3) Challenge 3 to 6 additional Bloggers.

Flavius Josephus, 37 CE – 100 CE, lived in Jerusalem during Rome’s occupation of Judea and commanded Jewish troops against the Romans during the first Jewish War.  After surrendering in 67 CE, he became a slave under Emperor Vespasian and was eventually granted his freedom.  While scholars continue to debate the authenticity and accuracy of his published works, he is for the most part acknowledged by the scholarly community as a reliable source of historical information about 1st-century Palestine.

Josephus is one of the very few extra-biblical sources of information about Jesus Christ, which is why I chose him for this challenge.  The history of religion, especially of Christianity, is one of my major areas of interest, and I have spent a significant portion of my adult life reading about and studying the subject.  I am not a scholar myself but am fairly well-versed in the range of modern scholarly debate & opinions about early Christian history.

I relinquished my faith years ago and am an Agnostic.  Although most days I don’t believe in the existence of a God or gods, I do believe there was a historical Jesus who was called Messiah by some and whose life is the basis for the stories about him in the Christian New Testament.  I present this information simply to share it, not in an attempt to sway anyone’s opinion about the subject.

The quotes I have chosen are the three passages from The Antiquities of the Jews that are most often provided as reliable statements about the historical Jesus and early Christian history.

1) from Book 20, Chapter 9, 1:  “But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.”

2) from Book 18, Chapter 5, 2:  “Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man… Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion… Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.”

3) from Book 18, Chapter 3, 3:  “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”

Having no other sources to hand, I’ve relied upon Wikipedia for my information.  The quotes and info I’m sharing here are located at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus#James_the_brother_of_Jesus and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus

If you’re interested in learning more about Josephus, those two pages are a good starting point, and they include extensive lists of works cited.

Finally, I challenge three of my most recent followers:

M. A. Young at AnnotherVoice

Esoterica at Existential Ergonomics

Nathi at A Wayward Scribbles

I hope y’all will take a few minutes to visit their blogs and see what they have to say.  And feel free to chime in below on any aspect of my post.

Via Daily Prompt: Retrospective

Steve’s Story, Part 4

I’m availing myself of the penultimate opportunity to participate in WordPress’s heretofore unbroken chain of connection and collaboration that is the Daily Post before they yank it out from under us forever.  I already aired my grievances in yesterday’s two  posts and have joined Judy Dykstra-Brown’s urgent forum seeking to persuade WordPress to change their minds, so today I’m moving on and posting something much more fun and enjoyable.  If you’re as upset about the imminent end of the Daily Post and Community Pool as I am, I encourage you to join the forum.

On 4/18/18, I posted a 3,000-word story about Detective Darla Nyte, titled “A Dead Man Walking”, that I wrote in collaboration with 9 other Bloggers.

Very soon afterward, one of my awesome co-authors, the amazing and talented Liz Charnes, was so inspired by the world we created and had so much fun living in it that she posted the first part of a spin-off featuring Darla’s assistant, Steve.

If you have already read them all, the next part of the ongoing saga appears below.  If you haven’t already read what’s gone before and want to, you can click Liz’s name above.  That post, “Skewed”, is Part 3 of Steve’s story and contains links to 1) the original “A Dead Man Walking”; 2) Liz’s Part 1 of Steve’s story, “Genie”; and 3) my Part 2 of Steve’s story, posted under “We Created a Beautiful Monster”.

I hope you enjoy.  Whether you read/have read the whole story or not, please let me know what you think.

Steve’s Story, Part 4 (A Darla Nyte tale)

As Steve and Darla crammed beneath the desk, Steve’s PalmPal flew from his breast pocket, landing screen side up and reflecting a view of the gun-toting genie.  Steve flinched.  “Darla,” he whispered.  “Darla, that’s not my jinn!”

Darla stared at him blankly.  “Did you knock your noggin, Steve?  What the hell do you mean, ‘that’s not your jinn’?”

Bullets continued to spray the room.  Expended shells, chips of wood and plaster, and chunks of moldy ceiling tile rained down on the desk sheltering the cowering pair.  Steve was grinning.  “The short version is, I have a jinn, and it’s not the one trying to kill you!”  Steve thought Jim’s name.

What little space was left beneath the desk was suddenly filled as Jim appeared, accompanied by a loud ripping sound and a horrid stench.  “Ahh, that feels great!  So sorry, kids, couldn’t be helped.”  Jim offered his hand to Darla.  “Pleased to meet you, Darla, I’m Jim.  Need a little help, do ya?”

Darla pinched her nose with her left hand and shook with her right.  “Pleasda meetcha, Yim.  By all beans, helb!”

Jim disappeared then immediately reappeared behind the attacker, placing him in an iron headlock and knocking the machine gun to the floor.  “Let’s take this elsewhere, shall we, friend?” Jim said as both jinn vanished.

In the sudden silence, the room’s occupants peeked out of whatever piece of furniture they had dodged behind, under, or into.  Seeing only settling debris and dust motes dancing in sunbeams, each began to emerge from hiding, shaking out their hair and brushing off their clothes.  Darla and Steve crawled out from under the desk and stood up.  The remains of a shattered ceramic coffee mug teetering on the edge of the desk crashed to the floor, causing everyone to jump.

The sergeant to whom the desk belonged resumed his seat, removed a duster from a drawer, and swept the debris from his desktop.  He shot a deadpan look at Darla.  “I’d say it looks like someone wants you dead, Ms. Nyte.”

“Ya think?” she glowered.  “Let’s go, Steve.”

*  *  *

Darla activated her PalmPal and summoned her car.  “You have some ‘splainin’ to do, Steve,” she purred.

Steve had dialed up Gary and was waiting for the call to go through.  He held up his pointer finger and mouthed, “One minute,” at Darla.  When Gary answered, Steve cooed, “Hello handsome, is it too late to spread that dinner out and put out a couple extra settings?”

Gary giggled then clicked his tongue.  “Tch, tch, so predictable, Darling.  Already done, and I’m putting the Fettucine back on now.  Be a dear and give Darla a kiss from me.”  Gary hiccupped. “Oh, and you might want to bring another bottle of Chateau Montrose, this one’s almost empty.”

Darla’s car arrived, and she and Steve got in.  Mentally adding gratitude for Gary’s patience and prescience to his growing list, Steve told Darla, “I’ll explain it over dinner, Boss.”

“Wonderful,” Darla sighed, “Being locked up always leaves me famished!”

Steve wondered how he would go about explaining the story of the strange woman, the lamp he was supposed to deliver to Darla, and Jim.  No sooner had he thought the name when the jinn appeared in the back seat, farting loudly and dusting off his hands.

As Darla rolled the windows down, and she and Steve stuck their heads out, Jim leaned back, crossed his hands behind his head and said, “I have no idea who sent my young friend after you back there, and he’s not talking.  He was…a wee bit mad that I kept him from fulfilling his contract.”  Jim chuckled.  “Anyway, I left him with his hands full.  He shouldn’t be a problem anytime soon.  Let’s go eat!”

End Part 4

Anger, Sorrow

via Daily Prompt: Screw You, WordPress Bloggers!

Those of you who’ve been with me for a little while know that, although I link to it frequently, I don’t rely on The Daily Post for inspiration.  I have no shortage of inspiration in my own life about which to write.  I value The Daily Post and Community Pool for their ability to expose me to new & different blogs and, most importantly, to connect me with other Bloggers.

Not needing inspiration upon my return to my blog today after a week’s forced hiatus, I had to find out about the demise of those two cherished forums from my friend Martha Kennedy’s awesome blog, I’m a Writer, Yes, I Am! (how’s that shoulder hip doing, Martha?).

My immediate reaction was deep-burning, flame-colored rage.  How can the Auttomaticians retire such an indispensable tool for outreach and connection, exposure and collaboration, and why would they?  I take it as a gargantuan, fat, throbbing, burning middle finger thrust up in defiance of all who have come to depend upon it.  Were I younger and still as hotheaded and subject to blind rages as I used to be, such a subtraction would’ve been sufficient cause for me to quit blogging after sending a nasty, profanity-laden letter to the WP powers-that-be.

Fortunately, my temper has cooled considerably in my middle age, and even when fanned into extremity tends to cool rather rapidly.  Now I’m just freakin’ sad.  I’m not depressed, not down in the dumps, am not going to wander around aimlessly wringing my hands thinking “Woe is me!  Whatever am I to do?”  I won’t get lost in any wilderness of doubt, wondering what to write about.  Don’t y’all worry about l’il ol’ me, I’ll be just fine and dandy.

But I am worried about newer Bloggers trying to figure out what to do once they’ve made the leap of faith required to begin opening up to a larger community of writers, thinkers, and artists.  I’m worried about established Bloggers who yet remain timid about opening up and reaching out.  Without such reliable, structured, and most importantly consistent guidance as that formerly provided by The Daily Post and Community Pool, what resources do they have to help them get off the ground?  And how do they go about finding them?

What do y’all think?  Am I just overreacting?  What suggestions do you have for beginning bloggers now that The Daily Post and Community Pool are gone?

Thoughts On 2 Books #2

What began as a book blog has evolved into something far more amorphous as the busy pace of my life has accelerated almost beyond my control.  These days I have less time for sharing my thoughts about books than I did 2 years ago so am much more likely to post brief thoughts about multiple books in a single post.  As you’ll see if you hang around to read the post that follows this one, I’m also far more likely to blog about what’s going on in my world or in the tiny bit of the WordPress community I’ve staked out as my own.

Since my last post on 5/17/18, I’ve been frantically trying to get caught up at work before we leave for vacation next week.  But my recently-developed addiction to blogging compels me to post today.  The work will still be there after I accomplish this.

I’ve missed y’all, can’t wait to take a look at your blogs, and am eager to hear from you.

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The Moon Dwellers (The Dwellers #1), fiction, by David Estes

I rated this book 2 of 5 stars, “It was OK”, on Goodreads.  You can read the book’s synopsis there by clicking on the title.

After reading an enthusiastic review of The Moon Dwellers written by a Goodreads friend and fellow blogger then reading numerous glowing reviews about the book and the series on Goodreads, I was excited to read it in the hope it would be something I could recommend to The Girl that we could then enjoy hours of discussion over and have some new inside jokes to share.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  I make it a personal point of pride not to trash books or authors who self-publish or publish through small, obscure, and/or independent publishers, so I’ll limit my criticism here.  I want to be supportive of authors trying to break out and make it. But because The Moon Dwellers has been so frequently raved about, I feel I have an obligation to list my concerns.

The world Estes created is plausible enough but is rather bland and poorly fleshed-out. Nothing really sets it apart from other recent dystopian YA worlds except that it’s set underground.

The same can be said for the characters.  Yes, there are minor differences from one character to the next, but they all share the same basic set of personality traits, and most of their personalities are inconsistent and variable, as if Estes can’t settle on exactly who he wants each character to be.  The few characters that remain consistent are flat, stock, minor characters.  There is entirely too much internal narrative going on with the twin protagonists, Adele and Tristan, and so little differentiation that at times it’s easy to forget which one’s viewpoint is on display.  Estes tells way more than he shows.

I was also put off by the plot development and pacing.  The Moon Dwellers would be a stronger book if it were shorter and got to the point faster.

SPOILERS FOLLOW! The most disappointing thing about the book for me is that the central plot point for this book, as opposed to the series as a whole, is left unresolved. The main driver of the story here is the physical pain that Adele and Tristan experience when they touch, lock gazes, or are in close proximity to each other, and each spends so much time thinking about it and wondering what causes it that it almost consumes everything else.  Is it just the usual physical symptoms experienced by a young couple in love?  Is it something else, something bigger?  Is it something spiritual or mystical?  Is it, (gasp!) Destiny?

I understand the need to create suspense going into the next book in the series, but by the end of The Moon Dwellers, Estes has already established other, more appropriate cliffs from which to hang.  Who is supporting the Star Dwellers’ assault upon the Moon Dwellers and why?  Is Adele’s Mom still alive, and if so, will Adele be able to find and rescue her?  I was so disappointed by Estes’ failure to resolve the book’s central plot point, which was the one thing that kept me reading when I was ready to quit multiple times, that I was soured on the rest of the series.  I just don’t care enough about the characters and their plight to make myself suffer through 2 (or 5) more books.

In my final analysis, The Moon Dwellers isn’t bad, but it’s far from good. It’s just mediocre. Goodreads does it a major disservice by including it on a list with such towering exemplars of the genre as The Hunger Games and Divergent.

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Washington: A Life, nonfiction, by Ron Chernow, audiobook narrated by Scott Brick

I rated this book 4 of 5 stars, “Really liked it”, on Goodreads.  You can read the book’s synopsis there by clicking on the title.

This massive biography took me more than a month to listen to.  Scott Brick does an admirable job of narrating with steady pacing and decent tonal modulation, so it never became boring or monotonous.

Chernow did an excellent job of researching an encyclopedic range of primary sources and a masterful job of weaving so many details of Washington’s life together into an enlightening and entertaining cradle-to-grave narrative.  At many points throughout the book, the writing is almost cinematic, and I could picture episodes of Washington’s life in clear visual scenes.  The story often reads like a novel.  I had to borrow the book from my awesome local public library because I wanted to look up some of the source material used to support certain opinions of Washington’s, especially those relating to what this First of our Founding Fathers really believed about our Constitution.

If you’re interested in the lives of the great people who founded America and fostered it through its painful birth, and if you have the time to devote to a detailed telling, you won’t want to miss Chernow’s Washington: A Life.  There is so much more to the man than the few, often distorted, details we’re taught about him in our elementary and high school history courses and the one-sided portraits presented by his early biographers and modern political partisans.

Now it’s on to some lighter, fictional, fare, and a long-overdue re-read of an old favorite…

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