Tag Archives: writing

On birthdays, memories, and top 5 lists

This past week I celebrated another birthday.  It was a milestone, being number 55. This year events coincided that made the day just a day.   My wife recently had back surgery and is recovering at home (doing well, but still has pain).  My eldest son is busy with work projects and a new baby.  My youngest son lives elsewhere and had to work (though he did call and we had a great conversation).  Good friends had other family obligations or were traveling.  I worked all day.  In fact, this is one memory of my birthday that will go down as being one of the most unremarkable.  For that alone, I will probably always remember it.

I will count the small kindnesses/gestures along the way:  The balloons shared by coworkers who recently turned 55 this month and like to tease each other about who is older.  We now have a special club – and I will always get used balloons because of it.  The blueberry pie made for me by a family friend who was looking in on my wife as she recuperates.  The phone call from my youngest son to wish me a happy birthday. The adorable phone call from my parents singing “happy birthday” in different keys.  Note:  My parents are career musicians and are never off-key.  Greetings shared on social media (FB) from friends and family – far and wide- hoping that I had the greatest day – the best day.   Yet, it was just a day, and I guess there is nothing wrong with that.

I reflected on past birthdays  and wondered what made a day the best day – the greatest day.  I’m not sure I have the answer, but I did dredge up some good memories of birthdays.

  1.  On my eleventh birthday, I received my first vinyl album as a gift from my parents.  It was Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles.  I had recently been introduced to their non-mop-top music by a school friend, and was immediately smitten with the lyrical genius of John Lennon on I am the Walrus.  It would be the first of many vinyl albums I would receive on my birthdays/Christmases.
  2.  On my 13th birthday, I had a sleepover party with 8 friends. I think this was my first and only sleepover birthday party. We ate hotdogs and hamburgers, played badminton, wiffle-ball and touch football, then roamed around the neighborhood after dark – playing  ghost in the graveyard.
  3. On my 27th birthday, I received my PhD.
  4. For my 40th birthday,  my wife purchased third base line tickets to a AAA baseball game in our city.  We went with some dear friends (one each of our children share a birthday) we had recently reconnected with.
  5.  On my 50th birthday, I was traveling in Germany with my eldest son and my father.  We were in Nuremburg on that day and visited Coburg Castle.  Facebook likes to remind me of that day every year and I smile.

There are memories of other birthdays,  but all the things that make days special are there in that list: meaningful gifts and gestures, landmark events, good food and fellowship, and exciting adventures in new places.

They are still just days – though,  and I hope you have a great one.

 

 

 

Clearing the Cobwebs

I haven’t had much time to write recently, and it’s been gnawing at me. Since I had a day off from work and nothing really pressing this morning, I thought I would do one of these posts just to test the connection between my brain and “the page.” I noticed that other writers/bloggers have been suffering the same issues lately: lack of inspiration, lack of time, low self-esteem. There is a common thread for writers that struggle. All writers struggle.

Someone has written/said that we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves when we can’t write. I agree with that, but it is an integral part of me – that I write. I’ve worked to forgive myself when I can’t write – when there is nothing appealing or I just don’t have time. One thing that still gets me though, is when I work hard and decide to submit something for publication – and I get the “I’m sorry, this is not for me” rejection. I’ve submitted poems 3 times in the last 5 months and all 3 were rejected with that same line. It is disheartening to read that multiple times, especially when you feel strongly about your craft. I hesitate to submit for publication anyway – mainly due to imposter-syndrome reasons, and this just sort of confirms my feelings about it.

Yeah, I’m kind of miffed. But I’ve now complained in writing, so I’ll move on.

Projects I’m planning

I play percussion in a community band.  Our percussion section aspires to do ensembles and things independently of the band itself.  I found instructions on how to make boom-whackers (a set of plastic tubes cut to different lengths that result in different pitches).  You can use any pipe material, but the cheapest thing apparently is to use golf bag tube inserts.  I ordered 28 tubes and will begin cutting them down this weekend.  Should be fun, and I can’t wait to hear the result.  Here’s a link for a boomwhacker performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.

What I’m Reading

I just finished The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber.  It took me a while (~10 months), as the book moves between and first person and third person narration that it is a bit disconcerting, and was difficult to stay focused.  I understand the reasoning – as it conveys the sense of the major plot device – moving between the present and the past via drug-assisted time travel.  I lost interest about half-way through the book and set it down for the better part of last year.  I still found the premise compelling, and picked it back up to finish.  If you’ve seen the Bradley Cooper movie, Limitless – this has similar plot ideas- though it relates to art and counterfeiting.  The art history was interesting, but the counterfeiting sub plot was not as well-mapped.  It also ended a bit too quickly, once I had accepted the premise and worked my way through the different narration styles.

I’ve moved on other novels:  The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett (which I like and am making real headway through) and still working on The Alienist by Caleb Carr (which I thought I would like better than I have so far, but not willing to give up on it yet).  I recently bought Sarum: The Novel of England, by Edward Rutherfurd.  I’ve read other books by Rutherfurd and liked them.

What I’m writing

Nothing much these days.  I’m collecting snippets of phrases and words, and hopefully something will get written soon.  As it stands now, I guess I’m on hiatus.

Thanks for reading.

mottled

The once-blossoms from pear trees
pushed along in eddies of air,
gather in piles on pavement,

Teardrops darken the soil
where they impact – craters form
and moisture seeps away,

While blackbird nests dot between branches,
the sky torn with their cries;

lined-through words leave only
articles and prepositions,
no substance or action –
and scuttles the memory for lies.

a plain heaven

A version of heaven –
through vertical blinds
the old tree branches propagate
angular lines
over blank and blue sky.
From where I am sitting,
this vein satisfies.

I recollect heaven –
its columnar pomp
the circumstance breeding
a fait accomp –
listening to others
imagined perfection
with bright shiny colors.

Yet, is it a heaven –
where nothing is gloried,
plain is exalted,
unlike our stories –
seeing a daily prompt and cue
of a simple frontier
for me to fall through?

A version of heaven
cut through with lines –
segments and angles intimate
beyond the blinds
interspersed with a sky.
From my perspective,
what heaven implies.

*****************

Happy New Year to all! May 2019 bring you all that you need and wish for.

Best Wishes,
John

Echoing

I’ve got no poem today, but it must be okay,
I’ve thought about monkeys, how walruses play.
how the color blue is my favoritest hue,
and wishes are best when they really come true.

I’ve got no poem today, and really do wish
the words on the tip of my brain would assist-
sounding out songs or echoing tales
of beauty transcendent, like the sea from a shell.

I’ve got no poem today, and no thoughts transcend
my own disappointment I fail to contend-
Yet here in the darkness, I draft and forestall.
I guess that I’ll gather more words, lest I pall.

I’ve got no poem today, but I venture to guess
Tomorrow will happen, and words may address
some loftier thought, some grander design-
while playing with words that I thought to combine.

Clearing the cobwebs II

It is time for me to – again- clear the cobwebs of my brain and write about anything. Sometimes it is hard for me to focus creatively. I consider myself, first and foremost, a poet, yet I wonder if I sell myself short sometimes by limiting the genre that I write. I’ve been trying to change that a little over the last year or two by writing different things, some of which I share – some of which won’t see the light of day. It is difficult, because when I write here, I want to create something artistic. Yet, deep down, I aspire to some semblance of the “writerly life,” and I figure the only way to eventually get there is plug away, head down, and try to broaden my approach. I know the blogging world is filled with such dreams, and people who write about their struggles with their craft. What makes my struggle unique? I don’t know…It’s me and I am unique.

What I am thinking about

Earlier this year, I converted this blog over to its dot com domain.  I figured I have a lot of writing invested here and should work to keep it organized.  Also, I have recently been using the Upwork app to peruse freelance writing opportunities, just to gage what is out there and how I might fit in.  I’ve applied to a few opportunities over the last year, but have not gotten any nibbles.  I want to get my feet wet with a writing opportunity that isn’t necessarily driven by my own time-table just to see if I can get it done.  Does anyone else out there use Upwork? Do you have any advice about using the app or the application process? Are there any other freelance boards or websites that work for you?

The political climate in this country is making me ill

It started with me during the election of 2016 (like most people), and the elevation of rude discourse and name-calling and gas-lighting as debate, rather than research and fact-based discussion.  45 is not fit for this role as president and the Republican leadership shows no interest in trying to maintain a balance.  We have seen enough and need to put a muzzle on the current administration before any further damage is done.  Elections are coming up.  Do your diligence about learning the facts about issues from multiple independent sources – not just someone’s opinion or interpretation or spewed nonsense from 45.  And if you want to read opinions, select a balanced view – from both sides of the aisle – and at least try to understand both opinions  – and VOTE.

What I am reading

I am currently in the middle of a couple mystery/thriller novels:  The Alienist by Caleb Carr and Origin by Dan Brown.  This genre of novel is my wheel-house for reading. While growing up, I read a steady diet of mysteries (Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen) which lead to espionage thrillers from Jack Higgins and Tom Clancy, and later in my life, other mysteries/thrillers by Kathy Reichs, Steve Berry, Dan Brown, et al.  I enjoy the pacing in these stories and the details that get embedded in the books.  It makes me wish/hope that I could research and write a novel like that someday.  But mostly, I enjoy following the journey to solving a mystery.

What I am watching

I caught onto the new Doctor Who fever with the series premiere a couple of weeks ago.  I like Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor and I am still undecided on the companions.  As with all previous transitions to new Doctors, it will take a bit for the show and the characters to take hold.  Leading up to the premiere, I got to revisit old episodes and saw a couple of my favorites:  Blink, with the introduction of the Weeping Angels is still a top episode in my opinion.  The Eleventh Hour gave us the introduction to Matt Smith as the Doctor and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, and is in my opinion, the best that the series has done with introducing a new character (two in fact, three if you count Arthur Darvill as Rory).  The Angels Take Manhattan, another solid episode involving the Weeping Angels – gave us Amy and Rory’s farewell.

Halloween Time

Tis the season for scares and bumps in the night.  I’m not much for modern horror movies.  The recent glut of slasher and gore movies doesn’t really appeal to me – and how many times can one antagonist (Jigsaw, Michael Meyers, Freddie) stay alive… AND how many times can someone remake the same movie (Halloween – Geesh).

Horror movies I do like include:  It (the recent theatrical release was awesome), Ghost Story (from 1981, starring Fred Astaire, John Houseman, and other legends – a great adaptation of Peter Straub’s novel), Insidious (the 1st movie scared the be-jezus out of my family – I haven’t bothered with the sequels) and The Shining (Stanley Kubrick’s film is, hands down, the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel – though I think the recent release of It has righted a lot of wrongs with Stephen King films). I recently watched Army of Darkness and enjoyed it – less scared by it than amused. I admit that I also enjoy the campy and understated horror of the Hammer Studio films from the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Have a thought or opinion about anything here – leave a comment!  Thanks for reading.

John

 

 

Wurst

It seemed lovely, oh mavourneen –
You won and you preened.
Yet, when such is your bailiwick –
Spreading the hate and reeling the sick –
you’re a wandering nudnik
taking in bathos and spreading disease.

My galimatias notwithstanding,
your governed approach to this whole dismantling
contains a truth you have never once known
amongst your whole opuscule – blustered, overblown.

Your stemwinders reveal all your foibles and flaws.
You actually blow all the wind in your cause,
And the ignominy you will sooner feel among laws.
Words capture and stall e’en the worst of us all.

And this apotheosis I leave in verse, the paroxysm-
I’m leaving it all uncoerced and letting them burn
in their own mixed up wurst.

For poetry gives me a hope to instill
and words are a means for spreading good will.

*******************

I wrote this in response to a challenge by Cricketmuse.

The challenge was to use a specific set of ten words in a written piece.  I’m a sucker for a good sounding word.  And these are probably the most unusual (real) words I’ve tried to incorporate in , as per my normal approach, a poem.  I kind of like it.  I hope you do too.