Thursday, August 20, 2015

The 39th

It was with a bit of sadness I watched most the the press conference today where president Jimmy Carter announced to the world he has cancer. Having been through that a couple years ago with family, that diagnosis hits home for me.

Now, back in the day, I wasn't a big fan of his politics. However, I did respect him. In my mind it's hard not to respect someone who has served his nation for as long has he has, both in the military and as a public servant. And there is what the theme for the upcoming presidential election should be. Just because you don't agree with someone's politics, doesn't mean that they don't deserve your respect.

Now, there are a lot of politicians I don't respect, however over the years, my respect has grown for Jimmy Carter. He has stood the test of time and lived up to his beliefs. On more than one occasion, I have referenced not making anyone who lives in the public eye your personal hero. Although I don't count Mr. Carter as a hero, it is with utmost humility that I would count him as someone whom I do look up to. He has fought in the public eye against poverty here and abroad, and has contributed more than his fair share in dealing with the Middle East nations. Likely, he has done more to promote peace in that region of the world than most of the leaders who reside there.

As well, he has stood by his beliefs, both personal and religious. I for one can never remember a time where he embarrassed himself in the public spotlight. He has been a moral compass to this nation in times where that was needed. Not that many took it upon themselves to adhere to his voice, but his voice was there none-the-less.

I wish president Carter well in his upcoming battle with this insidious disease. He shall always have my undying respect. God speed, Mr. President.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fallen Idols

Long ago in a blog post I'd have to dig around to find, I was talking about heroes. Now, I do remember that at the end of it, I revealed that I don't have any heroes outside of my Beloved Father. He raised us by going to work nearly every day of his life. He loved our mother with all his heart and he was true to what he believed it.

The recent revelations of Bill Cosby bring this crashing back to earth. In the days of my glorious youth, Bill Cosby was one of the funniest people I had ever heard. My family owned his comedy records, you know, those things that spin beneath a diamond needle on a revolving plate. He made us laugh; laugh hard. His tales of growing up rang true to our childhood. With three brothers and a sister, we could all relate.

Then he became a star. He broadened into television and had one of the most iconic roles in television history; Cliff Huxtable. In that role he was true to the character we all believed him to be. And that is what we as the consuming public are left with, a hollow shell of a fictitious man. He has now shown himself to be not what the world believed.

Then again, who of us are what the world believes us to be. We all possess pasts and demons. That is the nature of the species we have evolved into. So, what is the point of this all? Simple, actually. Put your faith in those around you. Look to the virtues extolled in the real world in which you live. Who are these people? They are your parents, aunts and  uncles, grandparents and co-workers. These are the heroes in the real world, not those the world of show business and sports put up on the table.

If you want a hero in life, someone to look up to, look to the left, look to the right; you might just be surprised by what, or who, you see.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Just don't

I heard a new commercial the other day that struck a chord with me. It brought back memories of a time when I was indestructible. The commercial was meant to scare and make you think about your life and choices.

The woman in the commercial has a monthly procedure to have an injection into her eyes. She has failing eyesight do to a choice she made, a life choice. She was a smoker. It caused her sight to fail and she lives with the choice and the pain for the rest of her life, yet she considers herself lucky compared to others.

Thirteen years, six months, thirteen days, nineteen hours and eighteen minutes ago (as of this moment), I had my last cigarette. I started like many other teens. Someone else smoked and I started to just do it. Everyone smoked at work, so I did too. I started with L&Ms. It was what my father smoked. It was the way of their generation. Sainted Mother was a Belair lady. She liked the menthol. Odd that although most all of my nearly forty aunts and uncles smoked, and likely many of my cousins, I was the only one of my parents five children that took up the habit. That is something I've not really understood.

I smoked for twenty-five years, but in the last few, I knew it was something I needed to quit, a habit that I had to break. It took time. It took several attempts and over a year in the last attempt. The first time I seriously attempted it was the summer before my sophomore year in college. I had stopped for three months, but the stress of the second year of the School of Architecture was too much. I caved. The second serious attempt ended the year my Beloved Father died, 1993.

It wasn't until 2001 that I again took up the challenge. As a long-time menthol smoker, I discarded them and switched to non-menthol. Cigs were getting expensive. I began buying brands I didn't like. It helped. I didn't want to smoke as much. You need to remember, this was a time before most of the now, well-knows cessation aids were common place. Another thing that helped, which is something I still don't like to do to this day is, I hate to carry things. Hauling around a pack and a lighter was irritating. I hate carrying a cell phone to this day, although I have one.

It came down to a test of my will. I wasn't going to let this insidious thing control my life any longer. At 2:15am on January 5th, 2002, I flicked my last butt out the window of my car as I passed over Cleveland Avenue on the outerbelt. I was coming home from my store's inventory. It was a struggle, something that for most of the next eight days I thought about continually. I needed to keep my hands busy. I gained twelve pounds in ten days. Then, it was like I was free. The craving vanished quickly and I haven't smoked a day since.

With all the information we now have about what tobacco does to the body, I find it hard to fathom how anyone can put a lit bomb up to their lips. I know the struggle. I know how hard it is to quit. But quit you must. It's not cool. You don't look hip (or whatever the word now-a-days is). You are simply chained to a decision you have made that will do nothing but cause pain and hardship in your life.


If you don't know the famous actor in this clip, well, that's how long I smoked. 
It's important ...  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Asleep

This is a short that I penned about a year ago. It was just a writing exercise for me one night. I was thinking about it today as I contemplated another work. It just popped into my head so I thought I'd share. It's long for this blog, however I hope everyone enjoys it.

To Fall Asleep


The wind that had punished me throughout my walk lessens, the snow now falling softly from the black, night sky. How I miss the stars of summer, their warm light both a blessing and a curse to my eyes. Would I have had a different path on life’s walk, I would certainly have wished to count the stars among them. But it was not to be; such was not my road, a farm boy from the Midwest who dreamed of greater things.
My tattered coat surrounds me in warmth, shedding the chill that swirls about the street corners, their asphalt surface hidden beneath soft powder. My boots push through it easily, though it clings to me just below my knee. I feel its presence against my skin, a touch, a kiss to let me know it shall invade my world should I hesitate. I pull my cloak tighter as I trod these sullen, winter streets of a place I now call home, a place I have no attachment to. It is only the place I live, the place that shelters me.
The barren streets are sparsely lit by the occasional lamp that throws its soft luminescence into circles upon the shadowed snow. It is only the hidden rolls, the curbs of this urban environment that take my attentions from my meandering path. Much like the varmint holes of an unplowed field in the days of my youth, they alone conspire to slow my progress, to press me to falter. I shake the powder from my hair, my beard now as white as that of an old man at the end of life’s journey.
My thoughts drift back to this day, this day a year past. It is but a carbon copy of what was; the brisk winds rambling down the city streets as winter’s white laid its blanket again across the cityscape.

My hands caress her warm cheeks as I brush away the snow from her face. I lift her head as gently as I would a newborn, held within the touch of a mother’s grace, and cuddle her softly upon my lap. I pull back her tangled, pepper-black hair, letting her face glisten in night’s stillness. Her eyes search for meaning as she looks past my face into the dark sky. I shelter her from the cold flakes as I hold her head.
“Who’s there?” she whispers.
Her lips tremble as her words slip into the night. Her breath rises in a soft cloud and I feel its warmth upon my cheeks.
“Is that you, Peter?”
“It is, my love.”
“Oh Peter. What has become of me?”
“It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll always be here. We’ll always be together.”
“It won’t be that way for long. I won’t be here.” Her eyes focus on my face for a moment, perhaps a last fleeting memory before she looks again to the heavens hidden behind the overcast night.
“I’ll be here with you always,” I reply.
“Peter, do you remember that day we went down to the shore? It was such a lovely time.”
“I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my face. You were so beautiful.”
“You make me blush, Peter. I was never that pretty. But, but you always made me feel that way.”
“You were always my first love. You know that.”
“I wasn’t though. There was another before me.”
“There was never anyone before you.” I brush the flakes from her dark eyelashes as I peer into her eyes. “Once you find your forever person, there is no one before, no one after.”
“Peter, do you see the sun? I feel it. It feels so warm.” She rolls her head toward me. I see the strain it takes for her to do so. “I’ve missed the warmth, Peter. I’ve been cold all day.”
“I’m holding you now, love.” I press my cheek down to hers. Her skin is flush with night’s chill. I will hold her life little longer. “Just feel the warmth of my touch, that touch we have shared for a lifetime.”
“Do you hear the water, Peter? Can you see it? See how it rushes to our feet? It makes my toes feel numb.” She blinks, her lashes depositing a white dusting on her cheeks. They linger for a moment before her fading warmth turns them to a tear rolling down her cheek.
“I wish our daughter’s wedding would have been on the beach. I tried, you know.”
“I know, my love.” I wipe the remnants of the tear from her face. “I remember.”
“Such a day it was. God had given us that day, Peter. She should have been married at the beach.”
“You would have gotten wet in the surf.”
“I wouldn’t have minded.” Her eyes find me once again, an inquisitive look on her face. Her lips relax as a smile embraces her. “Remember how beautiful she was?”
“I’m cold, Peter.”
“I know love. You’ll be warm soon.”
The darkness that surrounds us begins to reflect a new reality, harsh and penetrating. The azure lights create a pattern of chaos in our once silent world. Commotion fills the void that encompasses us.
“Peter? What’s going on?”
“Just the lights of the city, my love.”
I turn as I hear the sounds of footsteps rushing through the powder, shoes scraping against the pavement beneath. A dark figure now looms above me as I cradle her in the soft snow.
“Is everything all right?” The police officer kneels down beside me as he tilts his cap away from his face. “Is she okay?”
“Peter? Who’s here?”
“Just a friend, my love.” I brush my fingers against her cheek as she looks again to the night sky, the falling flakes blue against the flashing strobe.
“Is there anything I can do?”
I shake my head, knowing it is only a matter of time.
“Peter? What is that light?”
“What light, my love?”
“It’s beautiful. It’s warm, Peter.” She rolls her eyes to me again, scanning my face. “Are you coming with me, Peter?”
“Not tonight, my love. But I will join you soon.”
“I love you Peter.”
I watch as her face turns to the side and her eyes close for the final time. I am at a loss, a numbing sense of emptiness begins to overtake me as I feel a hand upon my shoulder.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” His voice is strong, but I know his words ring true. “I’ll call and we’ll get her moved inside.”
“Thank you.”
“What’s her name, Peter? I’ll need it for the reports.”
“I don’t know her name, and my name isn’t Peter.”
“But ... “
“I’ve never seen her before tonight.”


I remember that night a year past so vividly. It was a night like any other winter’s night in a cold city. I push through the snow, the soft powder that covers a harsh world nothing more than the blanket in which we wrap ourselves to fend off the night.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What's behind a name?

What's in a name? Perhaps your best behavior ...

I work in retail. One thing that is common among our little band of misfits is, we all wear our name on our chest. So? So, we aren't anonymous. What we do gets called out. We are on our best behavior because people now know who we are.

Largely, our society is anonymous. Sure, we have social media, Facebook and Twitter and countless other places we can talk to the world, (or even a blog), but it is a one-way street most of the time. As well, in those venues, we only let in the people we want to 'friend'. The world does not see us as we are.

What would happen if everyone was required to wear a name badge in public? How would that change our perception of the world? Or, the world's perception of us? Out on the street, we largely ignore most others we pass. Famous are the scenes of New York where bustling crowds pass without seeing the humanity. How would that simple badge that tells the world who you are affect your behavior? Would you be nicer? Would you drive your car like a jackass? Would you now think twice before you tossed that trash on the sidewalk instead of in the trashcan? Would you smile more or would you be nicer to the average person who you don't even know?

In a world where we must stand behind something, why wouldn't we stand behind ourselves? Why wouldn't we declare to the world who we are and what we stand for? This is my name and who I am. Perhaps the world would be a slightly better, and kinder place.

How would you stand behind your name? Hey, it's just a thought.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Help along the way

It's alive! It's alive!



We all have that same feeling when something we have created comes to fruition. Writing is a solitary journey. One spends days and nights pouring their heart, thoughts and ideas into a keyboard, or handwritten into a notebook or even, * gasp * using a typewriter. Okay, I don't do that, but I do jot down things in a composition book. All the rest of the actual writing of a story for me is done at the keyboard.

There are times, however when one leans on the advice and expertise of others to get through a work. A good writer never wants to leave details to guesswork. One must research facts, places and scenes to be believable, keeping in mind that fiction is just that, made-up-stuff. There are times when one needs to bend the facts to fit a story. It's what we do.

But help is always around a corner. I have a writing group that is second to none. The advice on writing and the business of writing is only a question away. With such talented people, the answer comes quickly.

And then there is the technical side. My latest creation is outside the genre in which I usually write. 'The Bear' is a modern day cold war era style novel. With that, the technical aspects of writing about the military and military hardware is not something I can just completely make up. It is with great appreciation and respect that I give thanks to two persons who helped me along the way. In 'The Bear', I give special acknowledgment to my contributors and their help in making me sound like I know what I'm writing.

Special thanks to former Petty Officer James Walker, USN (USS Sea Devil) and Lt. Colonel Rex Schlagenhauf, USAF (ret) for their technical contributions to this book.

With that being said...The Bear 
available exclusively at Amazon.com (for a limited time). Enjoy the ride.


Monday, June 8, 2015

I have been assimilated

I sat in my pod today looking at the analysis equipment within my earthly vessel. I sat attached. Upon my wrist was my time-tracking device. It was 1:21 pm. The internal glow from the visual interface that sat upon my control panel was interrupted only by the numeric output rolling across. The manual input plate called for me. I am 1 of 14.

I pulled a small device from my thigh. It keeps me connected to the whole of the hive. With it, I may find any information required to complete my objective. The 3/4G connection instantly scrolls information from anywhere within the collective. All members of the hive may be visited with its messaging or audio interface.

As well, I have a radio controller attached to me, its form embedded within my ear. From it I may communicate and instruct the other 13 of 14 within my unit. I am 1 of 14. A third unit attached to my waist contains all the information we require to manage components within my vessel, its contents and the location of each piece. From it we control the flow of equipment and unit output as we assimilate others into our world.

I have been assimilated. I am 1 of 14.