Thursday, February 18, 2010

Down Here

We’re different down here, it’s true:
quick to laugh
quicker to shoot,
it sometimes makes no difference;

hot like the weather,
warm as gulf tides…

     Carl and Junior will do anything
     for you;
     fix your brakes or watch
     your back against strangers,
     but they’ll turn on you like mad dogs
     for the slightest provocation,
     inadvertent shoulder bump,

     They tolerate Jesus ‘cause he’s Mexican
     and can work like a mule;
     works like their fathers could,
     holds his own
     and they got to respect that…

whelped from sturdy stock, we’re
bred for drought and meanness,
lean and rough
as livestock;
we can run all night
rough at the edges
ragged as white trash,
sweat-stained and ripe
wearing out early in the heat of summers,

our time measured in dog years,
retired to the porch so early,
too angry,
too fat.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Commit to Commitment

I’m wondering this morning just what is it that separates a person from the pack?  What does it take to stand out in a talented field?  It’s easy to feel like your own talents are insignificant when you’re afloat in the vast ocean of other talents.
“Unless you’re the lead dog, the view never changes.”
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that luck has much to do with it – being in the right place at the right time, etc. – but my chances will be a heck of a lot better if I am ready when that time comes.  What is the old saying? 
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Read that line again.  It’s important.  Olympic athletes are wonderful examples of commitment and preparation in order to be ready when the opportunity presents itself.  Their discipline and dedication is the icing on a cake created by desire, long hours and years of practice, choice, forfeit, support from family, and a myriad of other attributes and opportunities –  some obvious and others not so obvious.
I think often of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, in which he reveals that many non-obvious circumstances like birth month can become the tipping point (no pun intended) for mega-success.  His premise is both fascinating and daunting to consider.  It makes us wonder whether having “the right stuff” is enough.
Well, it certainly can’t hurt.  But we must hone that right stuff through our commitment.  I must take care of the variables I can control and have faith that the ones I cannot are going to favor me.  And I should learn to be happy with my progress and talents at the end of the day, whether recognized by the world or not.  That’s it. 
Yogi Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga, a true Saturn teacher, put it in his undeniably direct way:
Life is a commitment. All of nature is committed except you. Commit!
And live that commitment. Beyond that you will find there is absolute,
infinite freedom.
So, with that in mind, I think I’ll get back to the task at hand: honing my own talents.  See you on the podium.

Friday, February 12, 2010

And Unquiet Time

Quiet Time

He killed the engine, and sat listening to it ticking, waiting for the fine chalk dust to settle. Lacy'd been driving him up the wall lately with her incessant chatter and he just felt the need to get out here on the ridgeline, along the very edge of the escarpment, to have time to think.

He drained the remainder of lukewarm Coors, crumpled the can, and hooked it back behind the cab to land amidst the barbed wire remnants, a salt block, and another dozen cans from the past week's quiet times. The broken land stretched out toward the reddening sky -- not a building, or a power line, or a cell tower to be seen. Ain't good for cattle, he pondered, but damn sure good for nothing. The hot engine finally quit ticking like a pocket watch. He got out.

Stretching his lanky self, he leaned against an arthritic fence post, feeling its warmth through his shirtfront. Lacy'd given him that shirt on their third anniversary. Now he was wondering if they'd see a fourth. The wind picked up as the afternoon heat started to diminish. He watched the big red sun fall perceptively now toward the irregular black line of horizon.

Starting a conversation with God seemed an impossibly big task. Bigger than this country. Far bigger than that sinking orb. And why the hell would He want to listen to my piss ant story anyhow? I'm certain as hell he's got bigger fish to fry.

Returning to the truck, he sat another minute looking west before starting it up, then turned her back toward town, watching the stars come alive. He knew there was a God involved in all this, but didn't quite know how to strike up the conversation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Time is Now

Just a fragment of light happening at an exact moment of passing
creates such photographs,
either in our mind or
on photo stock, which
we retrieve in the future and stare,
longing for that other place
other time;
yet all that we know and have,
all that we reach for and grab
is in this moment
this moment is

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Just Have to Rant

Last night I watched the 'debate" between the two contenders for the Democratic nomination for Governor of the State of Texas - Former Houston Mayor Bill White and Businessman Farouk Shami.  I parenthesize debate because that's not really what they are.  Talking heads throwing out questions is not a debate. 

Last week I watched the three-way GOP shit flinging contest, er, I mean "debate".  Am I just daft, or does anyone else see the difference between these two camps?

Debra Medina, the dark horse Republican candidate, had me squirming in my seat with her far right wing railing against, well, just about everything, while eternal governor Rick Perry and fellow former cheerleader Kay Bailey Hutchison held a no-holds-barred Texas Grudge Match of innuendo, accusation, and pass-the-buckism at its finest.  No accountability.  No answers.  Just finger pointing.  If the buck doesn't stop there, what is the point?

So it was refreshing to watch White and Shami.  White is seemingly unshakable and remarkably intelligent and articulate about the issues and what he plans to do about them.  Shami, although at a disadvantage because of his thick accent and, at times, vagueness about the power of the governor, was passionate and had outside-the-box solutions to the problems. 

I especially liked Shami's response that, to paraphrase, the solution isn't in continually cutting programs, but in growing revenues through job creation.  Yet, at the same time, he wasn't touting the usual laissez faire attitude of "cut taxes for corporations, overlook pollution, and let business police itself" mantra of the Repubs.  One thing Farouk Shami clearly understands is that we have a one-time opportunity to retool and create green jobs - solar and windpower in particular - or we will relinquish that role to China, whom clearly understands and is forging ahead while Nero fiddles.

But the main thing that stood out while watching these two men talk about the issues was their courtesy toward one another, even when they had differences.  Not once do I remember either of them beginning a response with "My opponent..." - the typical political method of avoiding that they have no solution by going into attack mode.  Someone once said, "When you point at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you."

A real change of energy in the Texas Governor's Mansion would be as refreshing as West Texas breezes turning those wind turbines 24/7.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Responding to Rumi (Perhaps the First of Many)


Rumi's Pickaxe
rumbles within me
strikes the vein with his
deja vu in fact:
coming to me mere days after
a friend mentioned
she loved this poem, but I
wasn't listening,

A common occurrence
to stumble upon something
after hearing about it
with one ear, but

No matter; the vein
was pierced and the
lode became visible
as a brilliant wound.

Rumi would approve,
perhaps recommend I begin the
demolition process,
rip up the first floorboard
of my faulty mansion
perhaps beginning
with this

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rumi on the Writing Process

From Unfold Your Own Myth: (Coleman Barks' Translation)

But don't be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you've grown,

Start walking toward Shams...

As a writer I have to take that to simply mean START. BEGIN. Park butt in chair and begin to put characters on the screen or ink on paper. If I don't start walking toward Shams, nothing happens. I can wish to be in Shams and I can wish this novel would simply write itself, but that isn't the way it plays out. I (Yo, mi, Jim Pat, Jimbo, James, yours truly) have to start the process. There is a Chinese saying that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." I'll just start walking. Like Fats Domino. But this close to the Super Bowl, that might sound partisan...

We have opened you.

Then the novel begins to write itself, begins taking its own direction. At that moment I can feel the wings I've been growing without my awareness begin to lift me higher. From this vantage point I see the curvature of the earth, hear my own heartbeat, understand the whispers of God.

Words and music. Oh yeah. Just make it to the Faulkner Society Words and Music get-down in New Orleans, and you'll know what I'm talkin 'bout. William Faulkner? Who dat?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

That Song

When you think of your mother, what is the first song you think of? Tell us why.

This was the writing prompt this morning, and it opened a floodgate of memories:

First, you have to know that we affectionately referred to our mother as "Bette Elvis" because of her flaming flamboyant personality. She had long legs, big tits, looks to die for, and loved the spotlight. There wasn't a room my Mom couldn't play.

The problem was that she also had an inflated opinion of her vocal qualities, especially after a few martinis, and with the liquid courage coursing through her like antifreeze, she was likely to commandeer the stage, the band, and the audience at the Officers' Club or country club, new year's eve parties, or birthdays. And whenever my sister and I would hear her voice on the mic come floating above the heads of the revelers, our hair literally stood on end. Oh, to this day I can still feel the embarrassment.

"Okay, darlings," she'd begin in her best gin-soaked Marilyn Monroe wannabe voice, a little slurred around the edges, "I'm going to sing Frankie and Johnnie." (I can feel the shivers up my spine even now - like bamboo slivers being pounded into the quick of my fingernails.)

And off she would go, stumbling a little as she oozed about the stage like a cat in heat, doing a rendition of the old "shot my man because he done me wrong" blues epic, in a rendition that, by comparison, made Marilyn's "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" look like a preschool presentation.

But, God love her, even though she embarrassed the living hell out of us, there was something endearing about a woman who had the chutzpah to get up and perform like that. The people went wild for her, which only encouraged future performances.

Lynda and I would shuffle nervously in the back of the room, happy for the anonymous darkness, hiding our embarrassment by appearing unconcerned that it was our Mom up there.

But, you know, now that I'm older, I would have been wildly applauding that beautiful, crazy woman with the rest of the crowd. She was something else.

Monday, February 1, 2010



I told myself I would start my blog when I wrote out my resolutions for the new year. Today marks the start of the second month of this "new" year, so I'll argue that I'm still in the ballpark. Resolutions don't always get their proper comeuppance in January. Sometimes they never get a second thought. Hopefully this one will.

I've been having so much fun being a contributor to my friend Lene Gary's blog, Five Minute Mornings,
I wanted to maintain a similar brevity of posts. As a novelist, I've found the creative short shorts to be just the ticket to unmuzzle the dogs of creativity and let them howl. The first requirements will be to please myself, to make myself laugh, to gain insights. The second requirement will be to make you laugh too, Oh Reader...or cry...or gnash your teeth and wail against the demons of stupidity. In other words, hopefully make us both think and feel and escape the numbing predictability of the day. A tall order, but I've never ducked a challenge.

I can write about most anything, but I am only knowledgable about what I already know. As Edie Brickell sang: "I'm not aware of too many things. I know what I know if you know what I mean."

But then she also reminds us "Don't let me get too deep." I'm sure I'll hear from you if I do.

I'll touch on a lot of things - from my practice of karate and yoga, to story and novel excerpts, personal "Ah-ha's", travel memoirs, and whatever strikes my fancy. Like I said, this is MY baby.

Authorial disclaimer: I like fiction because it's, well, fiction. So don't expect that I've actually done everything I write about. If you aren't sure, then I'm doing something right. (Remember the joke about the guy selling the talking dog for ten bucks? The dog tells the buyer about the amazing adventurous life he's led - bomb sniffer, CIA dog, etc. When the potential buyer asks the seller why is he selling such an amazing animal for so cheap, he replies "Because he's a liar. He never did half of that stuff.")

So that's what Tiny Stories is all about. Just remember, although diminuitive, they could be giants!

Please enjoy.