Tuesday, October 30, 2012


My name is Warren and I am a reader.

It sounds like a confession at a therapeutic group session. My writing group occasionally begins its meeting with each person stating their name and then presenting a one-sentence bio before we start our session. This usually happens when there are new writers in attendance. Non-profit boards often start the first meeting after the election of new members with the members introducing themselves. These introductions are mini confessions that we participate at various points of our lives.

The self descriptive terms at my writing group include: I am a writer, I am a cookie monster, I am lost and where is the bathroom. Once I told the group I am a blogger. We laugh and the newcomers are welcomed and put at ease

But I must confess: I am a reader.

I remember as a child I would read breakfast cereal boxes and food labels. I don’t know what wisdom I learned but I could spout the ingredient list as if it were some great body of knowledge. Now I avoid the list because it tells me how much salt and fat I am consuming. At some point in my early teens my focus changed from food labels to second-hand paperback books.

I was the fortunate recipient of my Uncle Bill’s work. Uncle Bill worked many years as a porter for the NYC subway system. His job was to clean the subway cars at the end of the day. Somehow this unenviable position had two unique perks: he had a rail pass that he used to travel to Chicago and other places and he got to take home unclaimed books. About once a month he would visit us or we would go to his apartment in NYC and then the passing of the books would occur. When he came to us he would bring two shopping bags full of books, one in each hand was all he could carry from the Bronx to New Jersey by train. When we visited him we could bring home four or more bags in my father’s car.

My father and I read whatever was available. My father gravitated to Mysteries and I towards Science Fiction. I was hooked. Later when I was in the army my father would send me monthly packages of books. I would eagerly wait for the shoe box full of used books. I read several of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels while stationed 10,000 miles from home. The books would be devoured almost as fast as the crushed cookies and salamis that would show up.

Often my wife will often call me around lunch time with a question and answer at the same time. “Where are you? The book store!”

I work across the street from Half-Priced Books and a Barnes and Noble. So my answer is almost always, “Yes.” Iris can’t see my smile when I respond to her question-statement. I am a reader, where else would I be?

Used books became part of my mental DNA. Fifty years later I still am partial to the used book stores and gladly accept hand-me-down books from any source. I can afford new books now and I must admit I often pay full price; I own an E-reader and download books at full price but I still enjoy a visit to the used book store. I order out of print books from the library. I feel unfulfilled if I don’t have two or three books waiting to be read. I have two works of fiction ready for my late November vacation, one new book for the E-reader (The Twelve by Justin Cronin – 592 pages in hardback) and the other a paperback (A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines) from the used book store. Both books should carry me through the vacation, but I will probably get one or two more ready for the trip.

I am a reader and I love it.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

S is for Saturday

Tourist for the Afternoon
A few weeks ago I realized that I would have a few hours of free time on the third Saturday of October.  My wife is going to volunteer at the College Café near downtown San Antonio for the afternoon.  An organization that she is a member of is hosting a program for teens and college students on how to make videos promoting socially sensitive issues.

I suggested to Iris that we enjoy a late breakfast or early lunch together before I drive her to the College Café.  Then I would remain downtown and pretend I was a photographer, blogger, writer, and tourist and spend my afternoon meandering around the nearby El Mercado, also known as Market Square.  El Mercado has been a focal point of community activity in San Antonio since the 1820s.  Market Square is a thriving tourist attraction today with several unique restaurants, shopping venues, and is an entertainment attraction that is enjoyed by tourists and locals.  Located in downtown San Antonio El Mercado is easy to get to and enjoy.  I might find a sidewalk café, order a Margarita and let the world stroll by.  If I am fortunate there will be outdoor entertainment to enjoy.

Iris and I have spent the past several Saturday afternoons on shopping errands and not much else.  Those weekends have been hum drum and boring; a change of pace would be welcomed.

She liked my plan.  Iris doesn’t like to drive downtown to places she hasn’t been to previously.  We plan to find a nearby restaurant for a leisurely meal together and then I would be free to wander until her program finishes.  Sometimes Iris thinks someone will object to me photographing them, see my Faces webpage, or she doesn’t like a locale I have chosen to photograph, see my Public Art webpage.  She may be right, but I wouldn’t tell her that.  But El Mercado is a safe place and at the same time a vibrant locale to photograph and write about.  If I don’t have a Margarita I’ll enjoy a large coffee and a pan dulce. 

Report on Saturday
Another couple joined us at a near-downtown restaurant around 11:15 am.  It was one that I used to frequent when I worked in that area many years ago.  The meal was inexpensive, good and plentiful.  Local neighborhood Mexican food usually hits the mark on all three points, and our Saturday morning enchiladas made good grades on all three points. 
We went our separate ways after lunch.  The other husband went home; my wife and her friend went to the College Café for afternoon.  I was on my own and off I went with my camera and carefree attitude.  For the next two hours I wandered around Market Square with no schedule, no real plan and no sense of urgency.  
La Margarita with Mariachi Musicians approaching
La Margarita sidewalk cafe facing main area of EL Mercado
Probably a Pina Colada variation of a Margarita, behind is a cerviche
El Mercado’s south side houses a bar, several souvenir shops and two well known restaurants.  La Margarita and Mi Tierra offer similar but different variations of Mexican food that attract tourists and San Antonio residents in great numbers.  Both establishments serve excellent food, drinks and atmosphere.  La Margarita is more expensive and offers indoor and outdoor seating.
A San Antonio establishment since 1941
Mi Tierra's bakery counter
Mi Tierra main restaurant, with Christmas decorations all year round

Mi Tierra is one of the first Mexican restaurants we frequented when we moved to San Antonio in 1977 and offers the more traditional Tex-Mex assortment.   

The north side of El Mercado houses about 50 vendors selling a variety of crafts, clothing, souvenirs and leather goods, some unique and many just ordinary but all with the feel of being in a market in Mexico.  It has the feel of the Mexican heritage of south Texas.

Main plaza of El Mercado looking west
Mi Tierra on right, outdoor vendors on left

An open air area between the two sides is filled with vendors selling a small variety of food, drinks and more inexpensive souvenirs.  The west end houses a second indoor market with more shops and a few quick serve food vendors.  Between the open area and the westside market is an outdoor stage (in a street closed to Saturday traffic) with local musicians performing and a few people dancing in the warm afternoon sun.
My Fruit Cup!

El Mercado Fruteria vendor

I wandered back and forth several times and managed to shoot a number of pictures (bless you digital camera) that are featured in this blog.  Hopefully, the photos and their captions will elicit the nature of my afternoon.  I thought I might enjoy a Margarita but instead I devoured a delicous fruit cup.  The fruteria is a unique experience to Latin America and from Texas west to California in Hispanic neighborhoods.  The fruit stand offered a refreshing treat and a more photogenic opportunity.

Fruteria display

One of my Public Art pages highlights the artwork of a local fruteria but not the actual fruit.  My fruit cup was sweet, spicy (chili powder optional) and refreshing; if you ever visit the US southwest, Mexico or numerous other Latin American countries you might want to try a fruit cup at the local fruteria instead of a high calorie latte or a pan dulce (pastry). 

A side entrance to El Mercado was guarded by a sculpture in a state of disrepair.  Entertainment was provided by a veterans group, San Antonio also carries the nick name of Military City USA.
Veterans music group performing at El Mercado playing Conjunto music
Statue showing some wear and tear

Only one set of photographs will require some explanation.  But then I really can’t explain it other than to stay that I think the Elvis impersonator shown was either a sidewalk entertainer hampered by regulations (no tip jar visible) or a man in need of serious mental health treatment.  Saturday ended with a strange man dancing in El Mercado.  My wife called moments after I encountered Elvis and I was done being tourist for an afternoon.
Elvis impersonator leaving Mi Tierra, as soon as he saw me with my camera he struck a pose with his cardboard guitar.

Elvis impersonator in the main plaza.  I had to tilt the camera because he made me dizzy.

Elvis impersonator making his moves

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

T is for Treatment

Men are notorious for not taking care of themselves. Or at least that is a belief that is commonly held. Supposedly, women take better medical care of themselves than men. I’ll grant that widespread belief is probably true. I could google up the numbers, find sources with the reasons but I am conceding that point (after all it is the debate season). Score one for women, zero for men.

Men like football, men play cards, men skip medical screenings and men don’t ask for directions. Email me you favorite tasks that men don’t do. Dishes, floors, laundry, cook, and change diapers could be added to the list of “Not Done.” There are lists and websites full of quotes and things that real men don’t do. Some are funny, others realistic observations and sadly some are true in the worse sense. Search them out and make your own judgment.

Pundit's claims and statistics are not a reason for certain behaviors, human nature is the cause. Men you know who you are and your women know you better than you think. I have been suffering from allergies lately and that in turn has affected my normally under control asthma. I think I can diagnose my asthma condition from the effort of my walks better than a doctor listening to my chest. But even when you think you know what is going on and how you are doing you could be wrong.

For about a week or two recently I have been suffering sporadically with allergies and using my normal anti-histamines to tame the beast. And I have had some success. I would stop and a few days later the symptoms would reappear. That process caused my asthma to flare up beyond control of my prescription emergency medication.

I shortened a recent Saturday walk because I just ran out of steam. No gas in the tank. I skipped the next day because of bad weather (see Blog V and U). That night my wife told me I sounded like a freight train in bed and she didn’t mean it amorously. Deep down I knew she was right but decided to wait one more day before seeking relief. Monday passed, followed by another freight train night. Tuesday morning found me in an urgent care clinic getting a steroid shot, a nebulizer treatment and several prescriptions to get me on the mend.

Treatment on terrible Tuesday turned Thursday into a terrific time at the track (not really – just a mile slowly) to test the turn-around of my terrible tenure as a testament of the timidity of men in seeking treatment and directions (not a T word but on Target). All the Ts do for me is telegraph a desire for Thai food. Or tacos, tamales, tortillas, or anything at the Tip-Top restaurant in San Antonio.

Men, take note of your self apprasial (it's wrong just ask your spouse or partner). 

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Friday, October 19, 2012

A Brief History of Malarkey Texas

My Thoughts on the US Presidential (or not so Presidential) Debates and the Letter M

Malarkey Texas located in the vast triangular wasteland known as the Malarkey Triangle has a fascinating history. The Malarkey region is bounded on the north-east by Fort Worth, San Antonio on the south-east and El Paso anchoring the west locus of the triangle. Unlike the more well known Bermuda Triangle objects can leave the area; instead of disappearing, objects enter and leave at will but are somehow changed, twisted and distorted. They have their Lefts and Rights reversed and don’t have a peanut and chocolate filled Center.

About fifty people from three closely related families (the Mals, Larks, and Keys) first settled the area in 1874 when their wagons broke down on their way from Secaucus New Jersey to Oxnard California. They were attempting to participate in the second audition of Pioneer Idol hosted by Gene Autry. The current town of Malarkey is inhabited primarily by the descendants of the original settlers and a few assorted travelers who found a home in Malarkey after turning left and then a quick right at the Big Bird Oyster Bar on Canal Street in New Orleans while drinking triple shots of buffalo schnapps. Several Harvard Law School graduates and a disbarred NFL referee had been reported in the area as recently as 2007, along with Bigfoot, DB Cooper, Jimmy Hoffa and four baseball players to be named later.

Those hearty souls, being fair minded pioneers, purchased 3000 acres of the worst farmland in the area from the local Native Americans at a fair price and gave them six of their best horses and two women to sweeten the deal. One family moved in the late 1890s to Corpus Christi and opened a widely successful seafood restaurant called “Whales and Tail”. They operated a whorehouse just down the street, which offered a “Two for One” discount (good for both establishments) on Tuesdays. 

Another family perfected a method to dehydrate horse manure and created a pyramid scheme to sell the by-product under the trade name Organic Rocks as a cure for… they never ever said what. It was just marketed it as The Cure on QVC. PETA and Mr. Ed sued the makers of Organic Rocks for inhumane treatment in the procurement of the raw materials. The judge threw the case out and proclaimed, “It stinks, it doesn’t pass the smell test.”

In the early 1920s the Hoboken branch of the family built a casino and a mega church on the same piece of property. By day revival meetings were held that attracted people from far and wide and at night the local Native Americans ran a very successful casino and taco wagon. The profits funded the construction of hospitals and schools for any person regardless of race, religion, country of origin or sexual preference (to the early settlers this meant either sheep or goats). Patrons could stay for both venues without a surcharge, although they were required to stop praying aloud when playing the slots.

Around 1935 several families grew tired of being the butt of bad jokes moved away from Malarkey and founded the nearby town of Podunk, several of their descendents later moved to Bumfuck. Large family reunions have been held since 1952, rotating every four years between the three communities.

The highlight of the Malarkey Family Reunion is the Tall Tales Festival (named after one of the Corpus Christi workers who was six and a half feet tall). The Tall Tales Festival is usually held in October of Presidential years and is widely known as the Debates. Contestants from all parts of the county compete in regional contests until the Master Debaters are selected. Usually there are two finalists, but once in a while a third finalist arrives. He or she is referred to as the Third Partier or the Spoiler. Prizes are awarded on a dual points system, that no one can understand or change. The prizes include the right to invade a small country, several aircraft carriers and a buy one and get one free at “Whales and Tail.” None of the prizes can be redeemed for cash and are not good with any other promotions. Malarkey County College officials are the final arbiters of the Debates; they are anonymous residents of Malarkey, Podunk or Bumfuck. This group of people is known as “They” or “Them.”

Another famous ritual performed by the residents of the Malarkey region is the Clusterfuck. This could be any event whenever three or more of residents congregate for more than 15 minutes. Outsiders think of the Clusterfuck as a pagan dance. Others regard it as a group learning activity filled with negative vibes (see the movie the Dirty Dozen for an example of Clusterfuck and negative vibes). Psychiatrists refer to those who perform the Clusterfuck as Just Plain Crazy. Large numbers of young men took the Clusterfuck to Vietnam during the 1960s as a form of entertainment. The outcome of which can be measured today by counting the number of Vietnamese restaurants in any given area.

During one stop of the Traveling Political Silly Season Bus Tour and Rock and Roll Show in Malarkey Texas the locals were heard chanting, as the Master Debaters were kissing babies in the horse barn, “Don’t step in the malarkey.” It was unclear whether the Master Debaters, horses, babies or some combination of the three were excreting malarkey.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

V and U Alpha-Blog Series

Vultures are Unexpected

Saturday morning’s walk provided an unexpected inspiration for my Alpha-blog series. About ten minutes into my walk I first heard, then spotted strange activity off the main trail. Rustling noises off to the right attracted my attention; I slowed to find the source of the noise and then noticed about a dozen large black birds about fifty feet into the woods. At first I thought they were turkeys, a quick first impulse thought. That conclusion was primed in my thoughts because on Friday a friend told me she saw a turkey on the nearby and connected Salado Creek Greenway walking trail. But as I looked more closely, the realization set in that my first impression was wrong (read Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow by Daniel Haheman to learn more about first impressions and primed conclusions).

Vultures. Hopping up and down, each jostling for position over some unseen carrion presented a completely unexpected sight. San Antonio Texas is the seventh largest city the US making it a major city, but residents know that San Antonio is really an oasis in the semi-arid south and west Texas. Vultures are neither unknown nor unusual visitors to the city. Numerous vultures perched on lamp posts on local roadways can be seen daily; one day earlier this year my wife phoned me to tell me there were two of the scavenger birds feasting on a squirrel in our front yard. She activated the car alarm to scare them away so she could leave.

Various visiting vultures ventured into the vicinity of our view seeking victuals ventured onto my verse (I had to use a lot of V’s). Now back to my thoughts about the unexpected.

Unexpected was the presence of a large number of the birds. But not as unexpected as what happened on my return to that spot about 15 minutes later in my walk. A young woman was on the path watching a man coming out of the woods.

“A deer, an eight-point buck,” he shouted. Curiosity made him leave the path to discern the vulture’s meal. Deer are not uncommon in the area, nor is the sight of dead deer along the roadways in the area; but the sight of a large number of vultures feeding on the dead deer was a surprise. Life is full of unexpected events and surprises. Some pleasant, some distributing and others just breaks in the routine of daily life. A man coming out of the woods two weeks before Halloween with the sight of vultures behind him was more than a bit unexpected. It was spooky.

Sunday morning produced another taste of the unexpected, nothing really special or noteworthy, just unexpected. As I prepared to meet my son for our Sunday morning walk, in the same park, it started to rain. I had gone out earlier to pickup the newspaper from the driveway and the weather didn’t seem to portent rain. None the less, minutes before I was going to leave it started to rain, and a bit of wind and cool air followed. A quick call to my son and our walk was off, but then the unexpected followed. My wife joined me on the patio for coffee and the Sunday paper.

Not our patio
I started this blog on the laptop, she read the newspaper and we both sipped at coffee before we left for an already planned morning outing. We had made plans to join our friends for a Mexican breakfast after my now canceled walk. The unexpected happened again; my son joined us with his wife and our friends’ daughter and two young children joined the gathering. The morning that started out as coffee for two was now breakfast for nine.

Nothing spectacular, just unexpected. Life is full of twists and turns. Some good, some bad and most turn out to be just different. This weekend’s unexpected events were not especially significant or earthshaking, just interesting little twists and turns of life. And it provided an opportunity to use V and U in my Alpha-blog series. Two letters in one blog. Unexpected.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

W is for Writers Group

W is an interesting letter. It is the first letter of my name (Warren). I have used that name for 68 years, it is me. I don’t have a nickname that I know about. During my three years in the army I was often called by my last name. Some of my former students called me Uncle Warren, not while they were students but later. I have a current co-worker who likes to call me W, I guess because of the Texas connection some former President.

Warren is not a very common name; in fact, before I moved to Texas from New Jersey in 1977 I don’t think I ever knew a Warren. Not even in the army. I even have a much older cousin named Warren who I never met, that’s another long story about the Diaspora of my father’s family.  But my name is not the focus of the W inspiration.

I thought about a number of W words (word is one of them) for consideration a few days ago. Walk, wake, willful, wonk, Waldo, Willies (a great burger joint), Wisconsin, Washington, waste, 5 W’s, WWW, wasp – insect and person, A & W Root Beer, Last Will, want, wild, word, “dub ya”, Waco, wire, weird, widget, wrong, wagon, west, wazzo, wiz and whiz were a few that I wrote to paper for consideration.

Last night I went to the monthly meeting of the Sun Poets Society of San Antonio. Then it struck me! Writers Group! I was at my Writers Group meeting. Last night’s meeting gave me inspiration for this blog.

Seven or eight years ago I joined the Sun Poets Society at a local bookstore during a transition period from a wonderful stressful position, to a wonderful pleasant job. During the next three or four years I attended regularly and produced a small collection of flash fiction, some poetry, two travel stories (published on-line) and one novel. The novel is unpublished and might never be. It was merely a learning experience, about me and the written word. I am still editing it now and perhaps someday it will see the light of day. It is on my giant to do list for when I stop working full-time.

My attendance at the Sun Poets meetings has been sporadic lately. Work and the lack of willpower have been the causes of my slipping attendance. Work interferes with writing. No question about that. Writing is work. It is even difficult for me to produce a series of short pieces while employed. Continuity is lost. This blog is an attempt to keep me writing while I wait until my retirement. Sounds like a lame excuse.

Lack of willpower is a personal failing. Put a bag of chips near me and it is liable to disappear like Houdini. Put a bag of chips in the next room and it too will be eaten. Even though I lost 40 pounds in the past two years I have managed to gain 5 pounds this year. Maybe I should have researched and written about willpower. But that would be pointing out my weakness.

Back to last night. It was my first meeting in months. The group appeared to be locked in a time warp. Five of the six attendees were from the original group; the sixth was someone who I had seen a few times this year. I was the seventh. The group leader was the same person; the format hadn’t changed. I slipped right in and felt at ease, even though I had missed many sessions. Familiarity has its advantages.

I remember my first meeting at which I felt like the new kid coming into a class mid-year in high school. The group welcomed me then, and again greeted me last night after a long absence like I only missed a few days.

While writing is really a solitary activity, the feedback and encouragement from the group is essential to the entire process. Each member brings a different perspective to the meeting. Each person writes with a different voice. This group praises and suggests changes in a manner that is like another editor in your head, another voice to listen to. That voice is a pleasant helpful one, not a noisy satanic voice.

Voices inspire the written word. We must remember to listen to that voice and transfer that sound to paper (computer) for if we don’t they will be lost.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

X is the Unknown

Society faces another struggle with the unknown. Sadly, it is people that are source of the problem. Xenophobia in America and around the world is one of the causes of widespread strife and violence. Xenophobia is the deep-rooted hatred towards others. Sometimes there is a historical basis for fear. Often, a false rationality is created that directs a society’s focus on another group as the cause of a problem. Children imitate parental and adult behavior without any real understanding of the issues. On an individual basis we recognize people with phobic problems and attempt to treat them or find ways to change their behavior.

On a larger scale xenophobia is not easily treated. Propaganda and political machines enhance small fears and concerns and creates a shift of societal behavior that is beyond rationale comprehension. Psychologists inform us that we fear the unknown; all of us fear something, it is universal. But when that fear overrides rationality in a group then we have reason for great concern.

We can send one individual to therapy but what can we do with a large group? In the United States the political schism is fostering widespread xenophobic reactions. The absurdity of xenophobic behavior is compounded when the solutions for complex problems are reduced to a single simple solution. Immigration concerns result in deportations and the call for tighter regulations. Build a wall or have armed personnel stationed at the borders are voices that clamor for recognition. Profiling of travelers is the norm; the need for government issued identification is promoted as a means of preventing non-citizens from voting (a cure without a proven problem).

Government spending is out of control, we need to cutout waste. Both statements sound logical. That is until the solution is to eliminate funding for public television will somehow magically reduce the national deficit. The stated implication is that Big Bird is wasting our money. Big Bird is yellow, he is a bird and we know want birds do. And while we are cutting out waste let’s not educate or provide health care to children who were brought here from other countries by their parents in attempt to secure a better life. I wonder if my grandparents had the right papers. I know one of my mother’s uncles deserted a foreign army to create a better life in America; today he might be classified as a criminal fleeing justice and would be in danger of being sent back. People without the right papers better not get sick in several states.

Big Bird has helped many children learn their ABCs and basic concepts of size, similarities and values. Oh, but Big Bird is spending public money when you could send your child to a private school (with vouchers from the government) to get an education is the logic countered. Let the states do it is another suggested solution. My state ranks very low in providing services to the poor and underprivileged and I doubt it would do much, if anything. We could send our children to pre-K school to learn basic ideas but that program might be cut if “they” eliminate the Department of Education or the Head Start Program, as is proposed by some.

What I want to know is how one of the Presidential candidates would explain killing off Big Bird to his grandchildren?

“How? Why?” Would be questions they would ask and he would be hard pressed to answer to his grandchildren. Or perhaps the 1% doesn’t watch Big Bird.

Would he tell the children he would release Big Bird to a former Vice-President’s ranch to live out his life in peace or until some PAC hunter could zero in on him? I guess it is open season on Big Bird.

When he stated during the debate that he liked Big Bird did he mean how Big Bird might taste at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner? I’d like to ask that candidate, “What giant bird recipes do you have for Thanksgiving? Does it go with red or white wine?”

But I guess you wouldn't have any recipes because you really don't like Big Bird and one the 47%ers might be cooking dinner. But never forget that Big Bird is different than you.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Y is for Yesterday

Research, research, and more research is a good admonition for any academic project.  I had intended to interject a few serious topics into the Alphabet Soup Series but that proved to be difficult for my second Alpha-blog (newly invented word) using the letter "Y" as inspiration.  An article on yams started my research and to my delight I found a 13 page entry on yams in Wikipedia.  Thirteen pages and now I can emphatically state, “Yams are not sweet potatoes!”

Next, I reviewed a brief list of Y words for thought.  Yo Yo, yodel, yell, and yogurt quickly destroyed any pretension of writing a serious blog.  “Yogurt is yummy in Yuma,” rattled in my head and onto this page.  Sounds like a Dr. Seuss story I might have read to my children years ago.

Earlier this week the much heralded Presidential Debates began.  Yammering yutzes.  A least there was no yelling or yellow journalism on air.  I watched the whole debate and uncovered the “Yin and Yang” of the entire proceedings.

Note Ties and Haircuts!
 Each said, “You are wrong and I am right.  I’ll solve the problem and you won’t.”  Wait a minute they proclaimed the same thoughts.  Oh, now I remember the “Yin and Yang” essence of the night: one wore a red tie and the other a blue tie.  Funny that I didn’t hear the talking heads mention ties; was I the only one who noticed this manifestation of “Yin and Yang?”  How else are we going to tell the candidates apart?  Certainly not the hair cuts.

Real salesmanship comes from wearing the right power tie when you ask for the order.  Years ago the fashion mavens made the yellow tie the power tie.  My yellow tie is a power magnet for food stains, especially salsa.  Years of wear transformed my yellow power tie into a review of my business lunches.  Thank goodness that my current job doesn’t require power ties or ties at all.  I’ll have to find that tie and retire it (aka take to Goodwill).

YELLOW Submarine
In 1965 the Beatles produced “Yesterday” which went on to be one of their top hits and according to Wikipedia over two thousand versions of it has been recorded.  It was popular while I was stationed in Thailand and I really never listened to the song when it was first released.  For me this song will always be an oldie but goodie that I still enjoy whenever I hear it.  If you substitute Life for Love in the fourth stanza it is a wonderful commentary on life as I look back on my life and look forward to what will be. 

We can’t go back but we can remember the good times and try to recreate those in a mature manner.  I don’t need to ride a motorcycle again but I can enjoy safe ways to feel the air rush through my hair.  It may be through a walk in the park, a ride on my bicycle or the feel of the sea breeze when we stand on an ocean pier.  I don’t need to ride the roller coaster five times in succession like I did once at Coney Island but I can wander through Sea World or Six Flags and absorb the sights and sounds of children reliving similar events in real-time today.

We should cherish the ones we love now and hold the memories of the ones long gone in our hearts.

I do believe in Yesterday.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Z for All

Zesty alphabet soup starts with the letter Z. Why Z? Why not? I once met a Tony whose nickname was Y-Not. It took me a minute before I comprehended the mirror image quality of his name and nickname; no one ever said I was quick on the draw.

Perhaps, the reason for Z as my starting letter of this alphabetical experiment is the Zen-like qualities of my blog. I’ve referred to Zen logic or thinking at least four times in my blog since its inception. Zen is not a philosophy, religion or a field of study; Zen is just doing. I’ve seen the phrases, “I blog, therefore I am” and “I am, therefore I blog.” Z is the start without reason. If you could accurately explain Zen then you might be wrong. Those who are Zen experts teach that wrongness as part of knowing.

Donald Rumsfeld’s quote agglomerates my reasoning more accurately:

"We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know." —Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Department briefing, Feb 12, 2002.

Many bloggers who claim to be experts in some field or area of knowledge fall into the wrongness of not knowing. Bloggers are laZy writers. Bloggers don’t have editorZ, sponsorZ or utilize spell checkerZ. I am one, therefore I know.

Zen truly incorporates all. Zesty zinfandel. Zero zingers. Zipline zombies. Quiz time: what is a zwiterion? And do you care? Should you?

I want to know if zip codes were created before or after area codes. (A to Z allusion). Without sounding like a smarty pants I know it was long before ziplines. Zillions of years before zombies became popular icons. Did you ever wish you could drive a Zamboni machine?

Zen masters and good bloggers exist without trying to claim rightness. Sadly, many bloggers are more likely to embody the wrongness quality than Zen teachers. Is this right or just a blast of my wrongness?

Of course you realize this is all just nonsense. You must know that the time between August and the first Tuesday of November in an election year is known as the silly season, save that thought for the S blog.

I hope the Z blog did not rate a zero on the Z scale or cure your insomnia with a healthy dose of the ZZZZs.

What I really want now is a zabaglione. It ZoundZ so good.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Alphabet Soup

Writers’ block is a topic that is often written about in writing magazines, blogs, writing classes and by writers. Likewise, the question where do you get your ideas is a question that writers frequently get asked. The phrase “writers’ block” is an oxymoron; if you really are a writer then writers’ block is fiction. If a writer is stymied while working on a particular project, he or she merely shift gears and works on another task, does research, gives a talk or performs any number of other activities to keep their mind busy and creative. Then when ready they resume the original project.

Ideas are abundant; but transforming a raw idea into a coherent story, article or novel is a challenge. For the amateur writer (me) the act of putting the ideas onto paper or into the computer is a real problem. I suffer from writers’ block often. But I have this thought that writing is best performed by people who can isolate themselves from the world. I have children, a wife, a dog and a fulltime job, all of which need time that is in limited supply. Finding 30 minutes or an hour of uninterrupted time is a chore that requires pulling that time from other life activities. When I do manage uninterrupted time I am in heaven. Two or three days in row are sheer nirvana.

A few days ago I found the Grannymar.com blog site. There wasn’t a list of tips to follow to cure my problem on its pages. I found something better: a wonderful idea to steal.

Grannymar has written or is in the process of writing a series of blogs using the alphabet as inspiration. Inspiration is the five dollar word for prompts. Inspiration is a marvelous creation. Many comedians talk about stealing jokes because they work. A joke is an idea that makes you laugh. In late 1990s I gave a talk to a group of church business administrators in which I told them many of their best programs where stolen from other churches because they are successful. Programs are ideas that create meaningful activities for the church.

Sue Grafton has created an entire career and body of work using the alphabet (at least for titles). She started with “A” is for Alibi and the series ends with “Z” is for Zero. Anagrams and word jumbles use letters to challenge the mind. Acrostics use the first letter of a word or series of related words to create prayers, poetry and catch phrases. Letters can create powerful inspirational work.

Do you know the original of the Christian phrase “INRI?” Look that one up! Clue: it’s an acrostic.

Being the sometimes contrarian that I am, my first attempt at the use of the alphabet for this blog will be the letter “Z.” And I hope they don't put the zzzz’s in you or me. Come back in a few days for a sip of zesty Zinfadel.

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