14 thoughts on ““If This Be Life…”

  1. I got caught on a self-hoisting petard with nowhere “out” but that last line as balance. Sometimes when I try to force an ending I just put it out and revisit either with revulsion or revision in mind – and surprisingly to me at least leave it alone.

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      • Has anyone willing to test The Lie before All-Mirror ever truly been satisfied with what they scrit? I cringe at yesterday’s efforts and wish I had it in me to burn those 12- and 14-year-old me’s efforts. Do not make me whimper and crawl to erase from memory alone – much less carbon copies of those high school attempts to stem the sap not at all. That bit: “Sally’s Song” about mom’s death and the life before was written midnight still storming the night she died; revised again two times the following winter and when resurfaced, trimmed, topped-off and rearranged four years later and last – “those behind eyes” found a way in before breakfast of waffles and grapefruit with both sausage and bacon and a half-gallon of milk to go with a pair of eggs and toast with pineapple preserves and more butter than may be found throughout all Wisconsin, Every grist eventually will build its own mill should it be so required to get the right word last…my dad’s death sentences still urinate me off with failure to find exactly the right – or, sometimes I have tried deliberately The Wrong word – that will both inflame and at almost imperceptibly the same time quench with a “howcouldyou?”and “JustSo!” The more I found out about my father – and not just from mom but a handful of others – mostly sailors with whom he flew in both combat and peacetime – the less I knew I knew. Women are pretty. Easy. And Tough. Men are scary-complex and wear too many hats in all the wrong places. I know I am on the right track when I outrage both my brothers and their owners…but soon, I fear, I may have to enlist the fifth column – those nieces-2-pieces one from each – to see should I begin a limited release of familial honor/horror stories? There are steroidal tissues on the muscles of those memories and shared illuminations given in brightest day from both my parents – and their siblings, friends and co-conspirators: and, besides, I am rather proud of the people – one before and one after – who fell from their loins. Me, too. Sometimes.

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  2. I think creative people are crippled by the need to show themselves and the need to hide. I mean I can’t stand a line I write. It’s awful. But I still write. So you’re right that you look in the mirror and cringe. You will get that grist. Do NOT burn or destroy a thing. That’s not something you should find in you. Look at the wonderful way you write here even ina comment. Now maybe you don’t see it cos youa re looking through your spread fingers, but others do x

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    • How did you know the only way I could watch a horror show was – in the downtown antebellum (War Between The States: never was a Civil affair!) theatre, The Ritz, afforded higher-backed ‘fore-row seats with which to prop both knees just above line-of-sight that a modest duck of shoulders and neck provided cover during the always-foreshadowed by ominous music or sound-effects, was my public response using the popcorn box at my hip the excuse for the maneuver, and I always sat back of friends and family when such an event might happen on television – and in the less-censored ’60s and ’70’s such was the case. I could card my flutters by peeking from behind picket-fenced fingers. I unlike being scared so much I made me a Marine so I could scare others: didn’t help a bit with my own scaredy-cattedness. I never left the succor of Regimental Rear press office – and flop house – for The Bush without the cold fear climbing past my neck and lodging in sections clear to my toes to the point I knew viscerally that the first time I failed to face those fears and not go out in front of point to take my pictures I would be doomed to spend the rest of my life quaking and unable to face that mirrormanmaniac. So, I did not stop. Each day, each patrol, each major movement into contested lands was a battle with me, not some mere mortal enemy trying to end my existence. Only I had that power. And that was dependent on facing always that fear behind – and sometimes frighteningly before – my eyes, and practicing assiduously all those tricks and tools I learned reading some of the old masters: Robert Rogers*, whose (nephew or cousin?) George Rogers Clark joined with Merriwether(sp?) Lewis at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson to trek from here-to-there (and back) from Ohio to Oregon, the Mississippi to The Pacific in this nation’s first faltering steps to rediscover the already-discovered Great American West. Kenneth Roberts’ Northwest Passage and other books would yield nuggets of how one must act in the face of danger, how one must patrol through enemy territory, how stealth and surprise were most-valued of survivor tools: and in the meantime I learned hard, sweaty and muscle-building work meant more money by which more books became acquirable and more books oddly meant not less but more fear. I found new dangers. New obstacles. New ways to hide behind my treasured upraised knees. How to slit my eyes and peer between the lashes, ready at the instanter to lock the world safely away, even if that was but a make-believe world. And when did make-believe not matter? Ask The Lost Boys, or, better, The Crocodile. That tick-tock reptilian swims still in my hindbrain, treasured medulla oblongotta. * (Robert Rogers, author of 21 rules for rangers, was an American-born volunteer in General Amherst’s British Army during what we here on the Left Side of The Pond are pleased to call The French & Indian War, was given his Majority into the regular British Army and his Rangers were especially valuable during operations along The Saint Lawrence (River) Seaways from The Great Lakes to The Atlantic, especially screening the combined British-American forces from the French Army’s more numerous native allies. Another American leader who styled himself General much later, George Washington, never did get the offer of British Commission and his one major campaign was a miserable failure labelled Braddock’s Defeat. There are statues all over the United States to the man whose armies won but one significant battle against The British before Yorktown, at Saratoga when the forces of the fledgling rebellion came under the rash tutelage of one Benedict Arnold and plunged across a famous creek and saved the battle for America. That Arnold received not the praise or acclaim of his superiors and his country possibly played much in his subsequent betrayal at West Point. And Major Roberts? H declined rebellion and stayed loyal to his RedCoat masters and thus the hero of (I keep forgetting: Queen Anne’s or Spanish Succession War?) the salvation of American colonies at least in New England if not further got no recognition because he stayed loyal. There is another interesting tale of obscurity in American Wars: the story of how The Wild West practice of “Lynching” – hanging summarily – came to be. Of the 600,000 or so American dead on both sides of our War of Secession – A Civil War is two sides fighting to control One country, whereas a War of Secession is two sides contending to see if there be one country or two at the fighting’s end – in which a recollection of an earlier war (The Rebellion or Revolution) set the stage. Major John Lynch – why is it that Majors keep hogging the spotlight? Deep-seated complex(es)? – an American of British loyalist mien offered Oxham’s Choice to his former neighbors now in rebellion: join with The Crown or watch you homes and plantations burn and then I hang you – transposed to just after The so-called Civil War: keeping in mind more than a half-million men died and by some estimates upwards of six million horses had their lives extinguished. So, from the middle 1860s into the latter stages of the 19th Century horse thievery in The West – and South and elsewhere as well – was in effect sentencing the horse owner to tragedy: no transport across a wild and dangerous land, no plow machine fed oats and grass and that meant no food for a pioneer family on The Great Plains. Thus, one penalty – regardless of Law: Lynch Law prevailed, a resurrection of sorts from the century’s earlier days from The South Carolina bloody battlefields featuring all the worst neighbors do to each other to the realization that theft of a horse – or even the accusation of such theft – brought about a terrible swift justice not always issued levelly. We humans, Shehanne, are a mass of swirling contradictions and contraindications.
      Sort of a Saturday Faire midway carnival and horror house show with candy apples and spun sugar and lurking always the goat-footed balloon-man whistling far-and-whee (a poetic reference stolen from edward estlin (E.E.) cummings. Sorry it took so long to get there: I had not the time to edit.

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  3. does anyone edit in blue ink anymore: used to be it was red ink on paper – at my first newspaper job when I was a junior in high school , last dark ages circa 1964 – but as on-camera ready copy came to the fore, and edits on galley proofs became the rage in paginated newspapers, blue showed not on the camera; thus, the new colors. I still have a few antiques but I believe the aquamarine ink has ossified by now, and the always clashed with my chosen footwear in the office: bare feet with beach sandals on the side awaiting my jaunts outside to The Beach or Bar or both.

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  4. I do not have hand-writing: it’s been termed much more derisively than that. And it’s true. I can become becalmed in the midst of a great story trying to decipher what was on the previous page of my reporter;s notebook. I take notes in the dark, often without firing up the single-diode windup light and just hope I can “wing it” come morning. When playing city government reporter at the temporary council chambes – the volunteer firefighters hall where I was ensconced in the “kitchen,” beer-in-hand taking notes on a paper grocery sack on the pass-through’s ledge whose flap-door I propped open with a book (who do you know who commonly goes about without a book to read? And do you admit the knowing thereof? Much like who do you know who reads but one book, article, pamphlet or paper without another book, article…etc., also open somewhere within reach?)

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    • Oh my lord, I leave ,myself notes in the dark too and then the next day I can’t read them my writing is so bad.!! I used thta in the Writer and the Rake like where she had\ written things down mainly when she was drunk and then she thought they could have conceivably been written in Martian and I do think it’s true. Oh the great lines that we all lost to the world eh!

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      • I sometimes tell the inquisitive here in Sanford that, no, I am not Storm Richards’ brother; he is mine. Then I confess. Long ago, when Mom and Dad visited Mars with their two sons, Glenn David and Leslie Storm, they found me hiding under a rock. I was midway between their sons’ ages, and they offered me room, board, found and $2 a month to keep each from killing the other and another $2 to keep anyone else (but them) from killing either or both. And if the interlocutors are nice I add: But they forgot to stipulate I was prohibited from killing either – or both – of them. Same-same when asked if I had an sisters. I wait a bit, shake my head side to side as if clearing cobwebs and respond: I am almost positive we did. When Glenn and I were 13 and 12, respectively, Dad and Mom used to take “a Saturday afternoon” but more often A Sunday early evening off from our constant presence, since we two were almost enough to keep Storm in check. But the first thing Glenn – and often I – ever did when the parents pulled out of the driveway was to attend the kitchen and cook. I attempted well-buttered popcorn. Glenn went straight for The Gut: added butter to a cold pan and when it had melted under medium heat, laid down a goodly number of bacon (rashers I have been told reliable really mean individual slices, and if so, why not so say? Bacon, Lettuce And Tomato sandwiches on white toast all ’round. the two real sons slathered their sandwiches with mayonnaise, proving to me they are the real aliens. I used – of course – more butter. I relented after getting my pig-n-veg-witch and shared the slathered slippery popcorn. Milk for the BLT and water for the popcorn. None of us used candy nor liked sugary sweet sodas and thought iced tea an abhorrent practice. Now, sun tea (with occasional vodka infusions to – if not kill the germs latent in tapwater – give the bugs headaches at the very least.
        The problem of decipherment sometimes is solved if the problem continues to haunt enough to locate with Sidewinder – single diode lit – cell phone windup charger and copy the scratchings while fresh under the elipsoid light cast by the Sidewinder. But I do have experiences of an overnight ladyfriend – either her place or mine – becoming less-than-pleased with my cussing as I tried to juggle winding up the light, getting the pocket notebook emplaced under said weak glow and then remember the pen is in the backpack by the beadstand of course On The Other Side where normally I make my dark home. And, no, I did not emplace a lamp on either side. Give away your place of repose to a breakin artist and ruin you night-vision: not on either of our lives m’dear. Just muddle through. The handguns hang in its holster over the headboard’s post on either side; the shotgun is over the mantle and my NCO sword hangs by the door, hilt down with a lambswool piece ringing the scabbard to make for a quiet – but lubricated (by lanolin) withdrawal or return – we Marine non-commissioned officer savages make sure we have what’s needed to hand. Either niece – from either brother – has been shown that each firearm not only is fully loaded with ammunition, but that there always is “a round up the spout.” and the safety off – unless the revolver is involved and it is so fixed to make it “safe.” The location of each firearm always is shown and the mantra recited each time: never handle a gun unless you need to; never point a gun unless you intend to fire; never shoot unless you aim to kill. Keeps judges from asking impertinent questions of the other party. Their parents are horror-stricken each time, even when I tell both sisters-in-law the same lessons were imparted repeatedly by our assumed mutual father. The girls giggle and go about wide-eyed over my trust of such young people. I even told them there is a cleaver in bathrooms. And when asked why a cleaver I respond: showers and sinks shed humidity like a dog bathwater. Guns and good Toledo or German steel swords rust. A cleaver can be wiped with a piece of raw wool periodically and it will not rust and unlike a gun needs no ammo. They roll their eyes and their parents whisk the protesting children – now in their 30s and thus unwhiskable – away as soon as I make them my half-world-famous blueberry-pineapple-peach (with frozen yogurt, strawberries and bananas and orange juice – also frozen) smoothies. If necessary, a dollop of of what’s fresh amendments and a couple or more ice cubes if the resultant mass is too liquid. Helps to have a massive blender. Or two massive blenders for multiple smoothies.
        If I make margaritas then the world loses because invariably I leave the notebook and pen by the last book I was reading. Lessee: one by the bed, one by the sofa, one by the reclining chair, one by the indoor Florida Room hammock right beside the pulley arrangement to hoist chilled or really cold drinks to net-side and of course one by the front door. Most are paperbacks. One may walk any street in Sanford or, say, anywhere in America reading a really large paperback (not really pocket-capable but still called that) book an no one thinks anything amiss. Yet when confronted by a ne’redogood with a threat, a gun or knife, or just a fist, a shriek, a shudder and a toss of book up in the air gets the miscreant’s eyes to follow the book as you replace the space between their gonads with a bare or even a more-substantially-shod foot. Then finish the job. Make sure the cop and the state’s attorney and the judge get the one-story-fits-all presentation straight in their minds. Rarely has it happened and both times it went past the cop I got the same response from the state’s attorney and the investigating detective: “Well, that sure saved us a lot of time and trouble, not to mention money.” Only problem: I have to live with what happened – not guilt or sadness – really, but a profound sense of loss that I had to take a life. Again. And this time I wasn’t being paid by my government so to do. But once I did get a short acknowledgement from one of the kin of a would-be robber. “Thanks,” the elderly man I assumed was a grandfather or great uncle said. “None of us much wanted him dead but we knew he was bad and it was partly all our fault he turned out that way.”
        I did not tell the man it was not his – or anyone in the family’s – fault, as such always was the choice of the individual which path they trod. I will answer for my deeds and do not relish the appearance before The High Throne, but I well may say I saved at least one life on two different occasions and perhaps many more in those and other times of trial-and-response. About one percent of America’s youth ever wear a military – or police or fire – uniform and few of them actually face life-and-death decisions in war or at home. And I thank God it is such a thin percentage, even if our politicians and media make out like it is The Wild Wild West. Actually, Shehanne, there were more gun deaths and acts of violence recorded from the end of our War Between The States (1861-65) and the first decade of the 20th Century East of the Mississippi River in urban areas than ever was the case in the so-called frontier. Still the same proportions apply, though much of our former open lands now are urban as well: and there, the figures still reflect the danger is in dark ways in big towns not in rural settings. I still walk Sanford’s streets well into the wee hours – and with but a pocket knife or three – and elsewhere wherever I have found myself. Walk carefully, meet each eye with respect and courtesy and be prepared always to make sure the one walking away is you: such attitude – and willingness so to apply your lessons – seem readily readable to those whom violence is but a video game taken to The Street.
        Thus endeth the sermon, Shehanne. There will be no collection. The Writer and The Rake: sounds positively D.H. Lawrencian to me. Perhaps it was Lady Chatterley’s Lover’s example of literature that held too-high a standard in that 14-year-old me ever to think what passed for modern “romance” worth the time. Now, I may have to revise the opinion – and on title alone! Just imagine. My, my, my.
        Be well. I will go chorefully for a few days as my birthday month encroaches. I have gifts to ready to give to family and friends: sort of a First Strike policy from someone who has learned – okay, still is learning – how to accept gifts without grumble: so I gift ‘fore the aft, as it were. No to transcribe the scritch-scratchings. Too bad so many are political: I blame the radio and my one working ear.

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