A Dog’s Wisdom

Joe is sad today. He sits and taps with his fingers. He stops tapping for a moment and says something aloud, which I don’t comprehend – I understand maybe four hundred words, mostly commands. Sentences are outside my understanding. The concept of “opposable thumbs,” which he once told a friend is what leaves Man inferior to the lower life forms, is beyond me. When he asks me if I want to go for a walk, it’s “walk” I respond to. I look up from where I’m laying, at Joe’s feet, to see light flicker across his face as he goes back to tapping.dog_wisdom_quote_wood_wall_art-rbe31e22c49434b52b049d65342392213_zfgxb_324

Earlier, while it was still dark outside and before he started tapping, he stared into the light and said, “Another rejection letter. I’m a slave to the whims of others.” I don’t pretend to know what that means, but it made Joe pissy, as the woman who used to come around said. He sighed and put fire to one of those sticks he sucks on without ever eating. I don’t like them; they make me sneeze. He sipped from the cup on his desk – I can smell its bitter scent – sighed again, and began tapping. I find the sound pleasing because it brings Joe contentment. I can sense Joe’s moods as easily as I can detect my favorite smells – grass, bacon, and Joe’s scent. The woman who used to come around no longer does, and I sense from Joe sadness in her absence, but also ease. They often raised their voices at one another, which left all three of us unhappy.

Joe finds the smelly sticks soothing, and the steaming water in the cup leaves him alert. He calls them his muses. Still, there is an underlying sorrow to his mood this morning, despite the tapping, which usually leaves him feeling happy. He stops tapping to sip from the cup, and he puts the stick between his lips; I watch its end glow and smoke rises lazily from its end. I sneeze, and Joe leans over to scratch me between my ears and then goes back to tapping. A moment later he stops and, looking into the light, eyes moving from side to side, says something I don’t understand. Then he sighs and says, “Shit,” which is one of the commands I know. I cock my head because I’ve already been outside.

Joe gets up and takes his cup with him to the kitchen. I follow him and as he pours more water into his cup, black and bitter smelling, I sit salivating, staring at the door behind which he keeps my treats. A moment later, the door swings open and Joe reaches in to get me a Milk-Bone – another word I understand.

“Good girl,” he tells me, a sad smile on his lips. “You’re so easy to please.” I wag my tail: a dog’s response to a human’s smile. Then he scratches me between my ears before leaving for the den and more tapping.

I don’t know why Joe is so sad. I wish he could be more like me. I’m happy with my morning walk, a tummy scratch, fresh water in my bowl twice a day, and food in my dish, along with the occasional Milk-Bone and table scrap. I’m happiest when Joe takes me to the park and lets me run free among all the wonderful smells.

I wonder if Joe would be happier if he had four legs and could run free with me.

 

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Election 2016: Epic But Perhaps for All the Wrong Reasons

Neither One 2016 (Because oh my god, WTF, nooooo)

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The last candidate for whom I voted was Bush 41. Every candidate since I’ve voted against their opponent—against Clinton in 1996 I voted Bob Dole; against Al Gore in 2000 and against John Kerry in 2004 for Bush 43. And I voted against John McCain in 2008 because I couldn’t wrap my head around Sarah Palin as Commander in Chief should something happen to McCain. But fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me: in 2012 I voted against Barack Obama.

But now it’s 2016: Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton.

A year ago very few gave Trump a chance to win the Republican nomination, while Hillary Clinton was supposed to have an easy walk to the Democratic nomination over Bernie Sanders.

Trump won easily, and Hillary, even with help from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is now the former head of the Democratic National Committee because of her efforts to tip the scales in Clinton’s favor, struggled to put away Sanders.

During the first presidential debate, Clinton claimed that President Obama took the high moral road in not responding to Trump’s “birther” accusation. Maybe he did, but that’s not important. What’s important is that Hillary, being the guttersnipe she is, sank to new lows—how low can she sink only time will tell—by bringing up Trump’s 20-year-old comments about a former Miss Universe. Her campaign has thus far been based not on policy, other than to claim experience, but instead on bashing and baiting Trump.

Trump said little about the Miss Universe episode the night of the debate, perhaps surprised by the attack. But in the days afterward, he counterpunched by bringing up Clinton’s past attempts to silence the women who came forward to accuse her husband of sexual improprieties.

The mainstream media continues to downplay Clinton’s past, claiming Americans care little about it due to the passage of time. Clinton of course was the victim of Bill’s infidelity, never mind that she enabled his behavior and today asserts to be a champion of sexually abused women, claiming that every sexually abused woman deserves to be heard and believed. Unless of course you accuse her husband.

Yet this same mainstream media continues to ask the question whether the Trump-Machado incident will be a factor in his run for the White House. Do we need any more proof of mainstream media bias?

Here is more: The Democrats disclosed a list of donors right before the debate to hide the fact that Comcast, NBC’s parent company and debate moderator Lester Holt’s employer, donated $5.6 million to the Democrat Party during the convention in Philadelphia. And we’re to believe Holt was unbiased, interrupting Trump 41 times while interrupting Clinton only 19 times? Holt never brought up Benghazi or the Clinton email scandal, even as he wouldn’t let the birther issue go in his questions to Trump. Do Americans care about Obama’s birth certificate?

I can’t know what kind of president Trump would make. If you do, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

I do believe Trump when he says he doesn’t need the presidency. I believe Hillary Clinton does: it’s the one role missing from her 40-year resume. She’ll stop at nothing to win the White House, stoop to any low, say anything to win the vote of minorities even while Democrats are largely to blame for their plight, and she will do little should she win the election to improve race relations other than spend more taxpayer dollars for social programs to maintain the minority status quo.

Her pundits claim she has the experience to make a good president. Hell, even Obama says she’s the best candidate for president, perhaps ever.

What I see is experience at failed foreign policy, failure to keep national security secure, failure to keep government and the Clinton Foundation separate, failure to make good her promises as a senator of New York, lies to Americans and Congress and corruption, and failure in her own marriage.

Trump, when he stays on script, puts forth a good message: American security, America jobs, the American economy. He wants to do right for America.

Clinton’s platform is to stay the course Obama has laid out. More of the same failed policies that have gotten us to where we are today: no government transparency—as evidenced by Obama sending billions of dollars to Iran without Congress’ approval—a weakened infrastructure, a Middle East that threatens to blow up at any moment, a once “JV” terrorist group that has expanded to 30 nations, unfair trade agreements that have cost American jobs, a weakened armed forces, and a leadership that refuses to call ISIS what it is and what its name professes it to be, Islamic terrorists, because it would shame all Muslims.

Really? To follow that line of reasoning doesn’t the label White Supremacists shame all Whites? Didn’t Hillary Clinton shame all Trump supporters by calling half of them deplorable and irredeemable?

Clinton will likely appoint Supreme Court justices who will rob Americans of more rights, as Obama is doing. Her open door immigration policy is a disaster, one which will put American security at risk. She will dance at the stings of of Wall Street and Corporate America, both of whom have financed her campaign.

Again, I can’t know what type of president Donald Trump would make. He’s not a perfect candidate, but there never has been. His opponent is perhaps the least perfect candidate ever to run for the office. Maybe Trump would hold the office for only one term.

Yet I do know what type of president Hillary Clinton would make, and it’s not one I envision as good for America.

Trump represents real change: change in foreign policy and change in government. Clinton will maintain the status quo: more failed foreign policies and more government gridlock. A forgotten middle class as she makes even more money, and empty campaign promises given to minorities, until the next campaign.

Peel away the layers of the onion, Clinton’s attempts to cloud the election with garrulous claptrap, and the choice is simple.

neitherone2016

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One of Clinton’s Deplorables Speaks Out

“It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia.” —Hillary Clinton

No, Hillary, he’s tapped into the real concerns of Americans.

You think America is great. Trump understands what’s troubling the average American, starting with career politicians who say anything, make any promise to get elected, and then go about the business of lining their pockets with money from special interest groups, Wall Street, and Corporate America. Why would I, or anyone in their right mind, believe that you would be a champion of the common man—oh, pardon me, person. Man is politically incorrect, isn’t it?

You understand, Hillary, the top 10% wealthiest Americans because you’re one of them. You have no real concern over the economic growth of the nation or the unemployment rate. You’re a multi-millionaire who is beholden to the super PACs who are funding your campaign. Why would they sink millions into your campaign and expect nothing in return? Bernie Sanders asked that question many times before the DNC cheated him out of the nomination. You never answered the question, only denied it.

Trump’s a billionaire who will turn over the running of his empire to his children and has said he will accept no salary for the presidency. How deplorable is that? You and your husband will no doubt raffle off overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom like you did when Bill was in office: all about the almighty dollar, isn’t, Hillary? She who dies with the most toys wins, even though you can’t take any of it with you.

What’s deplorable is that all you do is attack Trump and say almost nothing about your own platform. Maybe because you know no one would vote for you if you put it out there: eight more years of the failed policies of your predecessor and mentor.

And what’s even more deplorable is your pathetic attempt at an apology. Hillary, if you’re reading this (which I know you’re not, because I’m one of the deplorable Americans you view with such disdain, at whom you look down your elitist nose), an apology with an explanation is no apology at all.

I’m tired of politics as usual—the thought of eight more years of Obama, the idea of eight more years of lies and corruption and cover-ups turns my stomach and keeps me up at night.

I’m sure it does many other deplorables as well.

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Photo courtesy of ingur.com 

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January Book Trailers

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You Say You Want a Revolution

“But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait.” —Lennon/McCartney

I believe a contributing factor to the seemingly rise in this type of violence is government. Not only this administration for its failure to defuse race tension, but for the government’s failure to repair our still ailing economy and jobs market, its failure to work together (Republicans and Democrats) to do what is right for America instead of dancing at the ends of the puppet strings of Wall Street and the top ten percent wealthiest Americans. Not to mention an inability, or unwillingness, to combat radical Islam. Does any American today feel safe, believe that another 9/11 type attack will never happen?

Toss into the mix Black Lives Matter, which promotes hatred by inciting blacks with anti-police rhetoric, and we have a recipe for this type of behavior.

Now we have a president who claims on the one hand that not all Muslims are violent, but on the other hand that all law abiding gun owners in America are responsible for the actions of a few and wants to disarm all of us. Well, let him try.

This election cycle has been a revolution of sorts, a revolution fought with votes for outsiders like Trump and Sanders. Voters are expressing their dissatisfaction with career politicians who don’t believe a word of their own campaign promises but understand they need only to convince the voters that they believe those promises; career politicians who make promises they don’t intend to keep once elected; career politicians who line their pockets with cash paid to them by special interest groups instead of doing what’s right for the country as a whole. Democracy in America is dead. Our republic is a thing of the past, replaced by an oligarchy: government by the wealthy for the wealthy.

Frankly, the establishment politicians should be pleased that thus far this revolution has been fought with votes and not more bullets. They’d best “get it” or this type of violence will continue to escalate into a full scale revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen for more than 200 years.

Che

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Hillary Clinton Must Be Stopped

So Hillary Clinton interviewed with the FBI this weekend, over her use of a private email server.

Mainstream media made a big deal over her “three-and-a-half-hour grilling.” As if after a year’s investigation costing several million dollars, and man-hours from more than 140 agents, a mere three-and-a-half hours was such an ordeal. Today the media all but proclaimed her innocent of any wrong-doing, and expect that, over the next several days, the FBI will certainly concur with their proclamation.

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Hillary Clinton showing young girls how to delete email

It really matters little what the FBI decides, despite the fact she lied about getting approval for her home server: no paper evidence exists that she ever sought approval, and no one on the receiving end of the approval process concurs that such approval was given. Truly, why would such approval be given? Most of the rest of us in Corporate America are advised not to use personal email for business. But she’s a Clinton. She’s entitled.

More important, what did she have to hide? She claims it was easier for her. In what ways? I guess it made it easier for her to select which emails to archive to the government server.

Me, I work in a healthcare-related industry. If I should erroneously send ePHI (electronic protected health information) unencrypted to the wrong party, I could get fired. Apparently, since I don’t deal with national security, protecting ePHI is far more important. I could get fired; but she gets a free pass, an oops moment: “I wish now I hadn’t done it.” How many drivers arrested as a DUI proclaim, after the fact, “I wish I hadn’t done it”? Yet they pay the price. Because they’re not a Clinton.

Clinton has also stated, several times, that she never received or sent “sensitive information.” Really? In all her time as Secretary of State, she never received or sent anything considered “sensitive”? Just what was she doing in her spare time as Secretary of State, when she wasn’t seeking donations for the Clinton Foundation?

Maybe it’s not a lie, that she never sent or received sensitive information, if she had her aides opening all her email and doing all the replying. Her husband once claimed he “never had sex with that woman,” making a distinction between intercourse and oral sex.

Even if such email wasn’t labeled classified until after the fact, she should have treated it as such, as any elected official with half a brain should know.

She claimed to have turned over to the FBI all her email; yet when she turned over her server it was discovered she’d deleted about 30,000 emails. Even if only one of those deleted emails was government related, she broke the law.

Hillary Clinton purports to be a champion for sexually abused women, unless they come forward with credible evidence of her husband’s sexual improprieties. Then they are chastised and bullied into silence.

She once got a child rapist off and laughed about it in the aftermath, knowing he was guilty.

She lied about events in Benghazi and proclaimed, “What difference does it make now?” It made, and still makes, a helluva lot of difference to the families who lost loved ones that morning.

She’s taken money for the Clinton Foundation from dubious foreign sources who treat women as possessions.

Clinton is a supporter of Planned Parenthood, an organization that is hardly pro-woman. Planned Parenthood provides far more abortions than healthcare. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is on record stating that 86 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes from abortions. Planned Parenthood also admits to the sale of human tissue retrieved from aborted babies.

And women are supposed to vote for her simply because she’s a woman.

But all of this is meaningless, really, when one considers there was a time not long ago when a party, neither party, would never allow a candidate to represent them if they had what Hillary Clinton has hanging over her head.

So what’s it say about a party that allows a corrupt politician to represent them in a race for the presidency, that occupying the White House is more important than integrity?

If the media has their way, Hillary Rodham Clinton will never be held accountable—not for the things she’s done that are illegal or questionable. They apparently want to see history made: the first woman president, no matter her poor record as Secretary of State, the poor decisions she’s made, her lackluster record as a senator.

So it’s left to the voters to get some semblance of justice for the ruin she’s left in the wake of her quest for power.

We must make sure this woman never wins the presidency.

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The Greatest: What a Legacy

Last week we lost a legend, The Greatest.

Last night I watched CNN coverage of the life of Muhammad Ali, which included footage of him lighting the flame for the 1996 Olympics. I cried back then to see the man who once floated like a butterfly with the physique of a Greek god, stinging like a bee his opponents with quick jabs, shaking from his Parkinson’s, fighting to hold onto that torch, and again fought back tears as CNN replayed that footage.

They showed a clip of Ali’s personal gym, with Ali claiming he was planning a comeback. I laughed, but believed if anyone could come back, he could.

Say what you will about him. Call him a braggart and a draft dodger, but on the former, baseball legend Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it,” and Ali did pretty much everything he ever bragged of doing. As for the latter, he made an important statement about the war in Vietnam, and all wars.

I loved him as kid growing up, rooting for him in every fight. Yes, he was imperfect, just like the rest of humanity. Married four times, fathered children out of wedlock. I don’t judge him for that. I won’t judge him for that.

I base my opinion of him for what his daughters say about him today as a daddy—that he taught to them only love and acceptance of others—what they say about him as a human being and the life he led—that he wanted to help others. I base my opinion of him for what his opponents—those he left on their backs in the ring—said of him, decades later, that he was the greatest in the ring and a wonderful human being outside the ring.

Did Joe Frazier hold a grudge against Ali for his taunts during their fight years? Yes, but that was his choice. Ali apologized, but Frazier chided him for doing it through the media and not face-to-face. Ali only said, “If you see Frazier, you tell him he’s still a gorilla.” Vintage Ali.

At Frazier’s private funeral service in Philadelphia in 2011, the Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke. When Jackson asked those in attendance to stand and “show your love”, Ali stood with the other attendees, which no doubt took great effort given his advanced Parkinson’s, and applauded.

He was the greatest, not only in the ring but in life, using his celebrity to further more than one cause.

In my opinion, for what it’s worth, he was the most colorful sports figure of all time. He was a showman, to be sure, taunting his opponents in press conferences leading up to fights and predicting the round in which they would fall. Ali and Howard Cosell were like a comedy team akin to Abbot and Costello, with Cosell playing the straight man to Ali’s antics: calling Cosell “How-weird” and threatening to pull off his toupee during interviews. But according to one of Ali’s daughters, he loved Cosell like a brother.

Maya Angelo wrote that people will forget what you said, and they’ll forget what you did. But they’ll never forget how you made them feel. That may be true of the rest of us mortals. But I dare say people will never forget what Ali did and said, nor will they forget how he made them feel. I read that everywhere Ali went, not matter where in the world, people stopped and smiled at him. This thirty-five years after he left the fight game.

Today, I grieve the loss of The Greatest.

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Courtesy of chicagonow.com

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Desire for Acceptance

I never met my wife’s father; but he left me a great gift. He knows that I promised, in my wedding vows, to always cherish his daughter Colleen’s heart as the treasure it is to me.

I was fifty-seven when I married for the second time, after a hiatus as a bachelor for nearly thirty years. After my divorce I figured to marry again, but at some point—and I can’t say when—it stopped being a priority.

I dated several women, had serious relationships with five. Four bloodied my heart. The greatest lesson they taught me was that the lessons I learned in those relationships didn’t always apply to the next one. The fifth taught me that I’d much rather someone inflict pain on me than to be the one inflicting pain on another. Flaws

I told Colleen shortly after we met that I wasn’t looking for someone to fix me, to which she replied that she wasn’t looking for someone who needed it. That’s not to say that each of us hasn’t accumulated some baggage along the way, the result of choices we made, paths down which we traveled that led to some nasty destinations, childhoods that left us handicapped. We accept that baggage, carry it together, and try to enhance each other’s lives.

There are days when I’m not very likeable; and yes, there are days when I don’t much like Colleen. But that doesn’t mean we love each other any less.

Also from my vows: “Some have told me that I’m an acquired taste. To them I say, ‘Acquire some taste.’”

I never was much of a follower, even in my youth. I never marched to the beat of a different drummer. I marched to the beat of my own drum, which hasn’t always been a good thing. Sinatra may have done it “my way”, but no one calls me “Chairman of the Board.” Some have called me a writer of no small talent, while others have said I’m a shitty writer. Hemingway had his detractors, as all writers surely do; but I can’t say it doesn’t hurt. Creative types are sensitive, perhaps more so than others.

I’ve ruffled some feathers along the way of my life, but I long ago gave up trying to please others in an effort to get them to like me. It doesn’t work. Accept me as I am, a man reaching to make his dreams come true—or what’s a life for?—who endeavors to enhance the lives of those his touches, who tries to do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do but sometimes falls short, who tries not to judge others but holds them accountable; or accept me through my affiliation through my wife, until I prove otherwise.

I’ll say it again: I’m not perfect. No one is, which is not an excuse. I haven’t always lived my life as if it were an open book, but Colleen makes me want to be a better person. Each day with her by my side is a new day, a chance to do better than yesterday, a day of discoveries—of myself as well as her. That she loves me and accepts me as I am should be enough.

To those who accept me I raise to you a glass of Booker’s (because sometimes I prefer a good bourbon to burn). Thank you.

To those who don’t and won’t even try, I’m sorry, but only because it’s your loss.

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I Miss You, Dad

I try to honor my father every day of my life, even as I acknowledge I fall short more often than I care to admit.

Dad has been gone from me for eighteen years, and he occupies my FtCusterPlaquethoughts this time of year more than at any other time because of Memorial Day—he served in the South Pacific during World War II—to be followed next month by Father’s Day.

Father’s Day is painful for me because I have no one in my life who ever called me “Dad” or “Daddy” or “Father.” So it’s natural, I guess, for me to focus on the dad who left me behind. It’s gotten easier as the years have flown by to accept that I’m orphaned, but that doesn’t mean I miss him any less.

I discovered the pleasure and medicinal benefits of cigar smoking two years too late. It’s a ritual I’m certain I would’ve enjoyed with Dad, over glasses of bourbon chased by bottles of beer as we listened to a ballgame on the radio. He liked Rolling Rock, maybe because he fancied himself as Sisyphus. Now there’s a question I wish I’d asked him.

I was forty-one when he passed away. I thought I’d been around long enough to know what questions to ask before he died; but I was wrong. In eighteen years I’ve amassed quite a long list of “I wish I’d thought to ask Dad that while he was still around” questions. Most of them aren’t easy questions. Not of the “But why?” category of my long ago lost wonderment of the world around me, a world that was much safer, and certainly less complicated. But I may be looking back over the years through a certain colored pair of spectacles.

I’m struck by how similar certain aspects of our lives match now that I’m a few months shy of commencing my seventh decade. I met and married a wonderful woman, but struggle with career and publishing. Dad married a wonderful woman late in life, too, although not nearly as late as I, and also struggled with jobs late in his life, finally taking a job on an assembly line, a job he joined the Marine Corps in his twenties to avoid.

Dad loved to read, naming me after his favorite author, but once asked me what I was doing wasting my time writing a novel—my first, January’s Paradigm. He never told me how proud of me he was after he read the second draft. But he showed me he was.

I once asked him, shortly before he left, if he had any regrets. A silly question, I know, but he humored me: he smiled and said, “Of course. No one gets out of life without a few.” I never pushed him for specifics. I don’t know if I was being polite or simply foolish, or maybe ignorant—not knowing the questions to ask.

I don’t know why, but it weighs heavily on me the older I get, possibly because I never fathered any children of my own (a minor regret easily parried by thoughts of my first wife and what might’ve been had she birthed a child or two), but if I could ask my dad one question as we sat smoking cigars and sipping bourbon and Rolling Rock on the back patio of the house in which I grew up while we listened to a Tigers game on the radio, it would be this—I ask only because I never knew him as a marine.

My mother told me that after eight years in service of our country his mother urged him to leave the Corps, find a job, get married and start a family, like his two brothers. Dad always struck me as a free spirit, and today I wonder if he felt we, my sister and I, held him back, tied him down.

“Dad: did you regret becoming a father?”

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The Past Amok

quantum-time-travel

“The innocent is the person who explains nothing.”
— Albert Camus

 

Feeling as if Alexander Giston were measuring him, looking for a weakness to exploit, Petronis Vanagas stared back and steeled himself.

You’re Lithuanian,” Giston said. The statement surprised Petronis, which seemed to please his guest.

Petronis nodded. “My parents moved from Vilnius here to Amesbury when I was but a boy.”

“I have traces of Lithuanian blood, on my mother’s side.”

Petronis waited patiently, but curious.

“You’re considering providing financial assistance to Thomas Savery, in support of one of his inventions.”

Taken aback by this sudden change in direction, as well as by Giston’s strange accent, which he couldn’t place, Petronis said, “How do you know this? No one knows of my intent to invest in his working model, not even Thomas himself, since I have yet to approach him.”

“But you will.”

Petronis frowned. “As you seem to know, Thomas is experimenting with a steam engine. He requires some financial aid.”

“I ask that you refrain from providing such aid.”

“But, why? Steam is the future of England, and of the world.”

Giston shook his head. “It’s dangerous. Should Savery succeed with his steam engine, many lives will be lost in the future.”

Petronis snorted. “You cannot know that.”

“I can, and I do.”

“Are you a prognosticator?”

Giston nodded. “Something like that.”

Petronis twice pursed his lips. “I do not believe in fortunetelling.”

“Neither do I.” Then Giston added, “More than a century from now, Napoleon Bonaparte will refer to Vilnius, the capitol city of Lithuania, as ‘the Jerusalem of the North’ because of its large Jewish population. A hundred-fifty years after Napoleon passes through, during the House Un-American Activities Committee proceedings in 1954, a countryman of yours, an actor by the name Karolis Bučinskis, will change his name at the suggestion of his agent, who feared that an Eastern European surname might damage his career. Bučinskis will become Charles Bronson—he will take the name from the Bronson Gate at Paramount Studios—and become a major box office draw after his appearance in The Magnificent Seven, a movie in which he will be cast as one of seven gunfighters, Bernardo O’Reilly, not because he looked at all like an Irishman.”

To Petronis, what Giston just told him, related in a tone of voice that Giston seemed to think Petronis should take at face value, sounded like mere fantasy. What Petronis said was, “What is a ‘movie’?”

Giston smiled. “Moving pictures. In my time, we can capture images on film and show them on a screen, through a projector. Like a play on a silver screen.”

“Why would anyone wish to do that?”

“Because we can,” Giston said, and then, “You have no idea.”

Petronis sneered at his guest. “If you are no prognosticator, then you must be a raconteur, or worse, a liar.”

“I’m neither a fortuneteller or a teller of stories, and what reason would I have to lie to you?”

Petronis looked uncertain how to respond.

“But trust me, I know,” Giston said.

“How?”

Giston sighed, pulled a piece of paper from the folder he held, then pushed it across the table, toward Petronis.

Petronis looked at the slip, and felt his features contort into a semblance of disbelief.

“What sorcery is this?” Petronis was about to accuse Giston of witchcraft.

“It’s no sorcery. That’s a copy of the patent for which Thomas Savery will apply, after you provide him with the funding necessary to complete his working model of a steam engine.”

“You speak strangely,” Petronis said. “What is ‘thats’?”

Giston laughed. “‘That’s’ is a contraction. Surely you’re familiar with those? Shakespeare used them: shan’t, ‘twere, ‘twon’t, ‘tis, ha’n’t, o’er, e’en, ta’en—”

“I know what a contraction is.”

“‘That’s’ is a contraction of ‘that is.’”

Petronis returned his attention to the paper in front of him. “How did you come by this?”

“It’s not important,” Giston said. “What’s — what is important is that you refrain from writing the draft that allows Savery to complete his work on his steam engine.”

Petronis only stared at Giston. A moment later, he watched Giston pull a second sheet of paper from his folder and push it across the table.

Petronis studied the document a moment before asking, “What is this?”

“You don’t recognize your own signature on your own draft?”

“I have writ no such draft.”

“But you will, on the date signified on that draft.”

Petronis looked at the paper again. “A week from today?”

“That’s the great thing about the future. We have records of past events, and ways of making copies of them. Once I discovered that Thomas Savery had created the first steam engine, it was child’s play to find a copy of his patent. It was slightly more troublesome to discover that it was you who contributed money to his efforts to create an archetype.”

Petronis studied Giston, trying to discern if he might be lying. Failing, he said, “You are mad!”

Giston nodded. “A little more than a century from now a man will be born in Boston—you know Boston, in Massachusetts? Edgar Allan Poe will be an American poet, author, and literary critic known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. He will write of madness: ‘Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.’” Giston nodded a second time. “I might indeed be mad, but my purpose is pure: to prevent Savery’s madness.”

“Thomas Savery wishes only to further man’s foray into the knowledge of things mechanical. He wishes to help mankind.”

Giston shook his head. “Savery is misguided. He will succeed only in creating pain and suffering.”

Petronis stared at Giston in horror. “You truly are mad.”

Giston smiled. “No, I’m a time traveler from your future—from the year 1966.”

“You lie!”

Giston shook his head and pushed a third piece of paper across the table.

Petronis read the slip of paper—it was a newspaper clipping dated Friday, October 21, 1966. A detailed account of an accident that took the lives of many people, it included an image of the scene in the immediate aftermath. An explosion was the result of a steam engine: the very technology that Petronis supported.

When he finished reading the account, he looked at Giston. “Surely this is apocryphal.”

“It’s the truth,” Giston said.

“And this image? How was it produced?”

“It’s called a photograph. It’s made through a similar process than that used to create moving pictures.”

Petronis assimilated all that he’d learned over the course of the last few minutes: the copies of the patent and his signed and dated draft, along with the newspaper clipping, and movies and photographs. He felt his previous disbelief turn into something else… not quite belief, but wanting to believe. Because if it were true, then…

A plan began to take shape in Petronis’s mind, and he felt the corner of his lip curl up.

He looked up to find Giston studying him, but Petronis was quick to cover up his treachery.

“I require,” Petronis said slowly, a look of curiosity on his face, “more proof.” He watched Giston take a moment to fully understand what he’d left unsaid.

“You wish to be shown the future?” Giston asked.

Petronis shook his head. “The past.”

“Why the past?” Giston seemed curious.

“There is someone I wish to meet. Someone who is now deceased.”

Petronis watched Giston consider his request. Would he find it unreasonable?

After a moment, Giston said, “If I show you the past, then you will honor my demand?”

Petronis nodded. “If what you show me is truly the past.”

–℘

From Petronis’s home in Amesbury, he and Giston rode by horseback to Stonehenge, which was less than a league west of the small town. After dismounting, Giston led Petronis to just inside the Stonehenge circle, where he removed a small silver box with several knobs and two buttons from a leather case. He pointed the device at the center of the circle and pushed a button.

A moment later, Petronis saw appear a black pyramid that he estimated was approximately a half a perch in height.

Petronis followed Giston to the pyramid, which seemed to be constructed of a material unknown to Petronis—it was cold and hard to his touch, but not metallic. As they neared the construct, he watched Giston turn a knob, and, without a sound, an opening appeared in one of its sides. He gestured that Petronis should enter.

Once Petronis was seated inside the pyramid, Giston climbed in and sat next to him; their shoulders touched within the tight confines of the structure. Turning the knob on the device in his hand, the door closed.

“To what month and year do you wish to travel?” Giston asked.

“May, 1668.” Petronis was unable to withhold a tone of disbelief from his reply. He twisted in his seat; he didn’t like that his shoulder touched Giston’s.

Giston twisted a knob and pushed one of the buttons. A moment later, the pyramid emitted a low hum and began to vibrate. The air seemed to crackle, and Petronis thought he detected the scent of burnt tobacco. The black walls faded to gray, then turned maroon… then to red…

Feeling the onset of vertigo, Petronis closed his eyes against impending nausea.

“I feel ill,” he said weakly; his afternoon meal threatened to rise from his stomach.

“That’s normal,” Giston said. “It will pass upon arrival at our destination.”

A few moments later, the vibration halted, the hum faded, eventually stopping, and Petronis felt his nausea begin to subside. He ventured to open his eyes.

Twisting the knob, the opening reappeared, and Giston led Petronis out of the pyramid.

Petronis looked around before pronouncing, “As I thought. You attempt a ruse. We have gone nowhere.”

Giston laughed. “Of course not. But we have traveled thirty years into your past. This circle of stones looks just as it does now in my time.”

Petronis was unconvinced.

“Where to?” Giston added.

“Back to Amesbury.” Petronis was certain that once they arrived he would easily be able to prove Giston’s folly.

Petronis led Giston through the streets of Amesbury, noting subtle changes to the town, mostly to the names of business establishments—his favorite pub, Ye Olde Speckled Hen, was now a smithy. Petronis felt his heartbeat quicken as he considered that perhaps Giston’s wild story was true, and that maybe he could carry out his plan.

After a few turns, they came to an address on Coltsfoot Close. After dismounting, Petronis positioned himself in front of the door and knocked; a moment later an attractive young woman appeared in the doorway.

“Yes?” she said.

“You are Trisha Collins?”

“Yes.” She looked confused. “Do I know you, sir?”

Petronis ignored her. “You are wed to John Collins?”

“Yes.”

“You will give birth to a daughter, whom you will name Jennifer, eight months from now.”

“Not to my knowledge am I with child.”

“Trust me, you are.” With that, he procured a single-shot flintlock side pistol from an inside pocket in his waistcoat and shot the woman, straight in the heart. The woman fell back, dead before she hit the floor.

“My god, what have you done?” Giston sounded horrified.

“I just shot my wife’s mother,” Petronis said, matter of fact, “who is carrying my wife to be.”

Giston noticed that the shot had drawn the attention of neighbors.

“We must go,” he said.

–℘

When they arrived back to Petronis’s home in 1698, Giston demanded to know why Petronis had brought a gun with him.

“In 1966, English citizens are forbidden by law to carry weapons.”

Petronis grinned. “The English Bill of Rights of 1689 guarantees the right of Protestants to own firearms, along with their Catholic brothers.”

“Had I known you carried a gun, I would’ve forbidden you to bring it with you.”

Petronis laughed. “You did not ask.”

“But why did you want your future mother-in-law dead?”

“My wife,” Petronis said, his previous good humor gone, “is a philanderer. I learned a week ago that she not only betrays me, she betrays me with another woman.” After a moment, he added, “I wonder to whom I might now be wed.”

Before more could be said, a knock sounded lightly on the door to Petronis’s den.

“Who is it?” Petronis called; he seemed anxious.

The door swung in and a voluptuously beautiful young woman entered.

“It is I,” the woman said sweetly. “Silly Petronis, who else but your dear wife, Charlotte? I did not hear you come in. Nor,” she added with a glance at Giston, “did I know you had company.”

Petronis was delighted as the woman stepped to him to place a kiss on his cheek, and he imagined the treasure that lay in wait for him beneath the bodice that restrained her ample bosom.

“Our evening meal will be ready shortly,” she added. “Will our guest be staying?”

“No,” Giston said before Petronis could reply. “I must be going.”

When Charlotte closed the door behind her, Giston said, modulating his voice carefully so that Charlotte wouldn’t overhear him, “You fool! You have no idea what you have done.”

“Obviously I killed my wife to be before she was born. I am now wed to a beautiful woman who clearly adores me.”

“But you have no idea what else you may have changed because of your thoughtless act.”

“What do I care?” Petronis said. “So long as Jennifer is no more.”

“You have no idea what you may have wreaked upon my present, by killing an innocent woman and her unborn child.”

“But is that not what you wished to accomplish—a change to history?”

“But for the good. For all I know, the death of your wife and her mother have resulted in…”

“What?” Petronis was excited by the prospect of learning something of the future.

“Never mind.” Giston said, adding, “A theory exists in my time, known as The Butterfly Effect. It suggests that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas.”

“What is Texas?”

“Never mind.” Giston seemed lost in some secret thought. “Fascinating,” he muttered, seemingly intrigued.

“What?”

“I must return to 1966 at once,” Giston said. Then he asked, “Do we have a deal? You will not assist Savery with his steam engine?”

Petronis shrugged. “Of course. I am a man of my word. But surely you must know that if Thomas does not succeed, someone else will, a year from now, or in ten.”

“Maybe. But even if he or someone else does, I’m hoping that this slight change to history will be enough to alter the events that led up to the catastrophe of October 21, 1966.” Then, in response to Petronis’s questioning gaze, he barked, “Never mind,” and bid a hasty departure.

–℘

Petronis opened the door to find a stranger standing there.

“Yes?” he asked.

“My name is Alexander Giston. It’s important that we talk.”

“Do I know you?”

“You could say we’re old friends,” Giston said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t recall me.”

Puzzled, Petronis stepped back to allow Giston entry. After closing the door, he led his guest down a short hallway, where an attractive woman, slight in build, approached from the opposite end.

“You have a guest,” she said, glancing at Giston. “Will he be staying for dinner?”

Petronis looked at Giston, who gave a shake of his head.

“No,” Petronis told the woman. “It will be you and I, Jennifer.” He was unable to hide his disdain for the woman.

“Why do you treat me with such disregard?” she asked.

Petronis rolled his eyes. He had not yet confronted Jennifer regarding the issue of her infidelity. He said only, “We will be in my den.” As he brushed past her, he heard her sigh.

Once they were seated, Giston said, “I’m here to break time.” After that cryptic prelude, he proceeded to relate an improbable story of time travel, providing evidence via several documents: a patent, a draft signed by Petronis, and a newspaper clipping depicting a horrible accident involving a steam engine—a much more sophisticated version of the model on which Thomas Savery was working, the very model in which Petronis was planning to invest.

Wanting to believe in the stranger’s claim, Petronis said, attempting to hide his intentions, “I require more proof. A visit thirty years into my past should suffice, I would think.”

“No,” Giston told him.

“As I thought,” Petronis said. “You attempt subterfuge.”

“No,” Giston said a second time. “This is my second visit to meet with you, although to you, it is our first meeting. Our first visit took place three days from today. You convinced me then to take you into your past. I consented, and you shot and killed your wife’s mother and her unborn child, your future wife, Jennifer.”

Petronis only stared at Giston, wanting to argue against the validity of his guest’s claim. But he couldn’t refute the stranger’s account: his plan was to return to the past to erase his wife’s existence.

“Your wife must survive,” Giston said, “because she is with child, conceived just prior to your discovery of her duplicity. Your son must live because he will create a family tree that will lead to my wife’s birth.”

With that, Giston pulled out a gun and shot Petronis, who slumped at his desk.

As Giston inspected the corpse to make certain it was devoid of life, the door burst in and Jennifer, seeing her husband dead, screamed, “You have killed my husband… murderer!”

“Yes,” Giston said. “You have no way of knowing, but you should thank me.” Then he added, “You will give birth to a son in little more than eight months. Care for him well—you and your lover—because the future depends on him.”

Then he rushed past Jennifer and out the door.


The gist of most time travel stories is changing some event in the past to alter the present—the past’s future, and The Past Amok is no different. But it is also a tale of revenge: Alexander Giston seeks retribution for the death of his family. The reader is led, throughout the narrative, down a path, but when they get to the bottom of the hill, they find a surprise destination awaits them.

Has your spouse ever cheated on you? How did you react? With rage, hurt? Were you tempted to even the score by having revenge sex with someone else? When Petronis discovers his wife’s infidelity and the opportunity presents itself, he retaliates by erasing his cheating spouse’s very existence. Did he overreact?

In short fiction, often what is left unsaid is as important as what the author spells out with words on a page. It is my hope that the reader here will consider Petronis’s response to his wife’s betrayal as having failed. Certainly, even with her gone from his life, the pain of her betrayal remains with him, while she, because she never existed, is none the wiser to his discovery of her infidelity. If none of us gets out of our life without a few regrets, will Petronis one day come to regret never having confronted her with her duplicity? Of course he is robbed of that opportunity by Giston’s action to rectify the past to save his present.

But should the reader not come away with these questions, it is my hope they at least found The Past Amok an entertaining read.

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The Cobb Legacy: Life, Death, and Ty Cobb

“I used to think Romeo and Juliet was the greatest love story ever written. But now that I’m middle-aged, I know better. Oh, Romeo certainly thinks he loves his Juliet. Driven by hormones, he unquestionably lusts  (7)

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May 15, 2016 · 10:58 am

Autumn Love

Autumn Love

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May 15, 2016 · 10:51 am

Now Available—The Cobb Legacy

Cagney Nowak is writing a novel around the 1905 shooting death of baseball legend Ty Cobb’s father by his mother a week before Ty was called up by the Detroit Tigers. Although she was acquitted by an all-male jury on the grounds that the incident was accidental, the townspeople of Royston, Georgia, thought otherwise. When Cagney begins to relive the night of the shooting in his dreams, more than a century later and in the guise of Amanda Cobb, he is led to discover his father’s deepest secret.

More than a mystery, The Cobb Legacy is the story of a man’s efforts to connect with his dying father, a World War II veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and to come to terms with his obsession over the Cobb legacy as well as his own adulterous affair and impending divorce, while doubting that love with an old friend can be his.

Apex Reviews gave The Cobb Legacy its highest rating—five stars—calling it “an eye-opening tale of drama, scandal, and intrigue highlighting the living, breathing history of a fatally-flawed, intrepid folk hero.”

TCL Front Cover

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What Is It Readers Want?

Writers today are advised to identify their audience and write to it. Hence vampires and werewolves were, for a time, the hottest genres in literature. The Hunger Games became a phenomena, as did Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code; Fifty Shades of Gray continues to inspire erotica.

I recently read that a large portion of the Potter books go unread, used as doorstops, despite Rowling’s imagination and talent. Dan Brown has been labeled a hack for employing numerous bells and whistles to keep readers turning pages. Even readers who propelled Fifty Shades to the number one bestseller of all time snickered at the writing, even as they professed a connection to the female protagonist, a victim of sexual abuse they chose to ignore, wanting to see a romance, a poorly written one at that.Genre

Genre has existed since the beginning of literature. Poetry, the oldest form of literature, older even than prose, was in ancient times divided into narrative, dramatic, and lyric forms. Narrative poetry was primarily epic. Dramatic poetry was divided into tragedy and comedy. Greek philosopher Aristotle named story genres by categorizing dramas according to the value-charge of endings and the design of stories.

Today no fewer than twenty-five genres exist, from romance to mystery to western to horror to fan fiction, and a host of others, including mainstream and literary. All because the publishing industry requires everything to fit into neat categories to increase their bottom line, and perhaps driven by demographics that prefer the same to facilitate their tastes.

It’s difficult for me to imagine what today’s consumer seeks in a novel, mostly because I have eclectic taste. Oh, in my youth I had a voracious appetite for science fiction, but as I grew older my tastes expanded.

Today I seek novels that are well-written, with an artistic flair. Characters with whom I connect are more important to me than storyline. Victor Hugo and Joseph Conrad employed a different set of best practices, but they’re still talked about in creative writing classes. Raymond Chandler is considered one the greatest stylists of the twentieth century; but today’s writers are advised to write in a vanilla style so as not to take the reader out of the story.

The stories to which I gravitate don’t have to be world changing, but I’m attracted to characters who transform, the result of some life-changing obstacle—real people faced with real challenges. But it seems I’m in the minority.

As a writer, I’m faced with a dilemma: write what pleases me, stories similar to those I enjoy reading, or employ a formula to attract an audience hungry for genre. A critic called my work, “Gritty, entertaining… real. Romance for the non-romantic.” I like that as a brand.

Yet I continue to struggle to find an audience, an audience I know exists because I’m a part of it.

But my work is difficult to brand, perhaps because that audience isn’t a member of the vast social network that promotes today’s popular genres.

I must face the probability that today’s consumer cares little about the lyrical and more about being hooked by the first sentence else they will close the cover never again to be opened. With short attention spans, they seek entertainment first and foremost, and care little about three-dimensional characters or stories well-told. Curious as lemmings, they follow the trends.

Self-published writers consider themselves independents, along with small independent presses. They blog about how digital technology has transformed the publishing industry, and it has; just not all for the better.

Yes, it gives consumers a variety from which to choose. But a lot of it—most of it—is poorly written, unedited, poorly packaged drivel. Self-publishing allows publication without having to learn craft. Good writing requires more than simply opening a vein and bleeding. It requires knowledge of craft and best practices as well as talent.

Self-published writers boast that with a traditional publisher they have to do as much work and share their royalty, and if they don’t succeed—if the publisher doesn’t make enough money quickly enough—their title will be dropped.

They look at E.L. James’ success and think they, too, can win the lotto: self-publish and wait for Random House to come calling. It happens, but not all that often. Random House doesn’t care about quality. They care about return on investment. If Fifty Shades had bombed, do you think they’d have published the sequels? They were in such a hurry to get the first book to print that they didn’t bother to work with James to improve the text.

All of the above is true. The only thing good about the twenty-first century publishing model is that it gives voice to talented writers whose work might not ever see the light of day with one of the Big Five. Unfortunately the number of talented writers is minimal compared to the number of hacks.

Nearly a half-million new titles were published in 2014, most self-published. In my opinion that just makes it more difficult for the cream to rise to the top.

 

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A Retrospect In Death

ARiD—Futilitarian.png

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April 26, 2016 · 4:01 pm

Freedom To Choose Guilt

Where have all the years gone?

Would have, could have, should have. Me, my, mine justified choice, as did law and means—simple as a computer command: Undo.

Now: regret for what could have been, for what might have been, for all those empty tomorrows the result of a choice made yesteryear.

Freedom.

Sadness, repentance, disappointment reign over for you, who could have been. All that you could become taken from you.

Freedom to choose: me, my, mine.

Who would you be today, you who once was thought nothing? What would you be?

Youth. Foolish, selfish youth.

Freedom to choose guilt—the progeny of abortion.

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Tax System Unfair—To The Wealthy?

A family member recently sent me an email that was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to explain the tax system in terms of beer—how unfair it is to expect the wealthy to pay more taxes. Although I’m a beer aficionado, I found little humor in the metaphor because it seemed as if it weTaxesre written by a member of the top 10% wealthiest Americans and portrayed their elite class as victims.

But it got me to thinking: what of those wealthy who pay no taxes at all by off-shoring their profits? They get the biggest tax break of all, don’t they?

And wealthy corporations run by wealthy people who off-shore more jobs to create more wealth for themselves while leaving more Americans jobless (some claim 20%) and the average American earning nearly $5,000 less than they did before the crash… how fair is that? Trickle down? More like trickle up. What will the one percent do when the middle class is gone and the 90% at poverty level can’t even afford to shop at Walmart? Sell their products to China I guess, and complain about having to support those on Welfare.

And how fair is it to call lazy the bottom 90% of Americans who work harder and longer hours for less money than for the 10% wealthiest Americans to admit that they’re greedy?

By all means, bash Bernie Sanders for being a democratic socialist, and keep the corporate socialist status quo: loopholes, bailouts and influence in government.

Let’s face it: campaigns are run by politicians who hope, with their double speak and lies, to influence the common people to win their vote; but once in office they do little to benefit We, the People who cast their votes (notice I didn’t say they elect them) because the wealthy who funded their campaigns at some point will cash in their chips to benefit from their investment in the political process.

How fair is that?

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Clinton’s Experience Highlights Poor Judgment

Bernie Sanders is right to question Hillary Clinton’s “judgment.” As voters, we all should question her judgment.

She’s running a campaign on her experience—as First Lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State.

As First Lady she set back women’s rights by “Standing by my man” in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. As a “champion of women’s rights” she today claims that all sexually abused women have the “right to be heard” and the “right to be believed.” Yet she refused to answer a question at a campaign rally from a woman who asked if that included the women who came forward to accuse her husband of sexual improprieties and who Hillary slandered and paid off to keep quiet. She since has kept mum on her professed champion of women’s rights claim.

As a senator, she supported the invasion of Iraq, showing poor judgment. She introduced 711 bills, of which only four passed both chambers, and only three were made into law. Unremarkable.

As Secretary of State, she used poor judgment in using a personal email server for government business, claiming she didn’t do anything wrong or do anything that Colin Powell didn’t do. She still claims she didn’t receive or send anything marked classified, which also shows poor judgment. A document doesn’t need to be marked “classified” in order for it to be considered classified where national security is concerned, and wasn’t that part of her role, national security? Any government official with good judgment should understand this. That the DOJ will likely refuse to indict is criminal in itself.

Then there are the Benghazi incident and the toppling of Libya’s Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi’s regime. She continues to deny accountability of the deaths of Americans in the former, famously claiming, “What difference does it make now?” While in the latter, Libya has become a haven for ISIS because she showed poor judgment in not having a plan in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s death.

Her “experience” is remarkable only in that it continues to highlight poor judgment.

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Paths We Take

If life is a series of choices, a variety of inviting paths we take, why does it seem that the universe so often plays favorites, beckoning to the privileged few, “Take this path to fame, fortune, or power, to love and happiness”? Those few favorites stumble here and there, sometimes wander off the path into the rough, but always the universe seems to bring them back to that same path. They can’t help but succeed, and can’t seem to fail, even if they try.Two-paths-600x451

The rest of us? We’re the bungled and the botched. The paths we come across are simply ours to take as we wish, even those same paths the favorite few take to achieve their dreams. No otherworldly affirmation of “Yes” or “No” for us as we glance left and right contemplating our options, making our list of pros and cons. Often it isn’t until much later that we find the path was a poor one for us, despite our care in choosing it even as we watch others soar; but it’s too late to go back: it’s a one-way path. So we tell ourselves, “That’s okay, it’s not important.” And because it’s not important we say it doesn’t matter. So we move forward, making the best of our choice as we look for the fork in the road ahead we hope will lead us to a better outcome, that will be more to our liking, result in fulfillment of our dreams.

Unlike the universe’s favorites—ushered by its open arms to take the fork that will best benefit them as if it were a birthright—the rest of us are left to make our own choice, or as Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” So we take it, unknowing of what lies ahead, around the corner, hoping it’s the best path, but learning after it’s once again too late that our choice was the poor one.

Then we get to a point when we look back at our life and realize that our choices were nearly all poor—except that last one, the one onto which we dearly cling hoping, praying it won’t disappoint us again—but that all of them (our choices) led us to this place. Not a great place, we know it could be much worse; but it’s not nearly what we envisioned in our youth. And we conclude, again, that it’s just not important, that it doesn’t matter. Which means that we’re not important, that we truly don’t matter. We never did.

So all we have is our wonderment over just what it is the universe wants from us, and, if anything, for us.

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Home is Where You Lay Your Head at Night

Circumstances today led me to a town to which I hadn’t been in nearly thirty years.

Lapeer is a tiny municipality in the lower portion of Michigan’s thumb. Think a northern Mayberry, RFD. During the final two years of my first marriage I drove each morning from Pontiac, about thirty miles south of Lapeer, to do the morning show at the AM radio station in Lapeer.

The station, call letters WDEY, was run by a guy named David Sommerville, a forty-something high-strung guy who suffered from Crohn’s disease. Bought a cat as a sort of station mascot that I loved to torment after the overnight DJ left and before the receptionist (Diane) and sales staff (one woman named Donna) arrived. Don’t ask me how I remember all that. All I know is I remember it, although I can’t recall what I had for lunch last Thursday.

My mission this day was to see if one really could go home again.

I had little trouble locating the historic district downtown. A beautiful church—more than a century old—was right where I’d left it; as was the post office, although a new one had since opened down the street. The old one is now a historical landmark.

Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception Church

A few blocks straight ahead, on the left, the facades of the buildings looked similar to what I recalled, but somehow different. The five and dime under which the radio station sat atop, was no longer a five and dime, and although the shortwave radio antenna still sat on the roof of the building, no evidence of the radio station existed.

Downtown Lapeer

Historic Downtown Lapeer

Other landmarks I recalled from my days as the morning show host—E.G. Nicks for example, a bar and grille for which I’d done plenty of ads, was still there. But Lapeer Tire had become Belle Tire. The car dealership was still there, but I couldn’t recall the name it had been, only that it wasn’t what it is today.

From Lapeer I took Michigan Highway 24 south to Pontiac—the route I took daily when I worked the morning gig at WDEY. My show started at six and I liked to arrive at least twenty minutes early to get a coffee and prepare for my show.

I recall one morning drive north on this mostly two-lane highway, with occasional stretches of four lanes through Lake Orion (where there is a Ford plant) and Oxford. It was dark and a motorist behind me was hot to get me driving faster than the five miles per hour over the limit I was driving. Traffic coming southbound was brisk—UAW employees on their way to the morning shift at the Ford plant.

This guy was right on my bumper, weaving from side to side in our lane, flashing his high beams at me in an effort to get me to go faster. Of course I only slowed which, for some reason, seemed to incense this motorist.

Noticing some debris ahead in our lane, I managed to drive over it without hitting it. Not so the guy I had in tow. A few seconds later he pulled off onto the shoulder of the road with what I guessed was a flat tire. I laughed my ass off at that, and devoted more than a few minutes discussing it on the air. It never occurred to me that the guy might listen to my show.

On a whim, as I neared Pontiac, I decided to drive by where I once lived with my then wife, a tiny mobile home park on M-59 and Elizabeth Lake Road in Waterford. It was so tiny they couldn’t accommodate double-wide homes. I had visions that it had been razed at some point over the years to make room for a strip mall or a McDonald’s. I wondered if I would be disappointed to find another part of my life erased forever. Imagine my surprise when I found the park still existed.

I pulled into the driveway wondering if the old home might still be there, but I couldn’t recall the street name. As luck had it, the first street to which I came was Marge, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. A name I’d used in my very first novel written nearly twenty-five years ago, “Large Marge” was a security guard who played a bit but humorous part in January’s Paradigm.

I wheeled my car to the right—the only way I could turn. There, not thirty feet from the intersection, a dark gray home.

No, I thought. That can’t be it.

Then I noticed the address, painted on a rock next to the driveway: “16”. A second ton of bricks hit me: Sixteen Marge was the address on my license for the short time I lived there, before my first wife and I parted company.

I slowed to a stop in front of the place; it had bay windows on the end of the house facing the street. Our home had bay windows like that. I used to sit at my kitchen table on Sunday morning sipping my coffee and staring out that bay window at the house across the street, contemplating my marriage and my unhappiness.

This aged home fit well in this old park, better than it had more than thirty years ago when it was delivered, brand spanking new with that new mobile home smell. I left the park for home through the only other entrance wondering how many families had lived there over the years since I moved out.

As I drove home to Dearborn, nearly twenty miles further south, my thoughts drifted to all the homes in which I’ve lived over the years. Excluding the house in which I grew up, I’ve lived in six, and only one, the current home, was a brick and mortar house. The others were a mobile home and apartments.

All of which left me to conclude that one’s efforts to go home can never quite get you there—except the one in which you currently lay your head. My current home, which I share with my wife, Colleen, is the best.

GCW1001

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