Friday, October 16, 2015

Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?

When I was in high school, I dated Julie for about a year and a half. She attended a different high school, but we met in church. We were what one would call an item. I guess she saw a future for us and I may have as well.

Finally approaching graduation, I had no idea what I was going to do after high school. I visualized getting a full-time job for the rest of my life. The vision didn't look at all appealing. So, I considered college and ended up sending an application to Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Massachusetts, and they accepted me. I also applied for a scholarship which I received. This was all last minute and prior to it, college had never been a consideration.

My freshman year at ENC found me losing all interest in Julie. I wrote her just one letter the whole time and that was it. There were just too many options on campus, and Julie was back in Maine.

At the end of my freshman year, I met Scherel and was immediately attracted to her. However, I went home to Maine for the summer and she went back to Virginia.  We started dating at the beginning of the 79-80 year. I met her parents. She met mine. We started talking marriage, children, future educational plans and sort of outlined how it would all work out.

Then in the summer after that school year, Scherel broke up with me. I was devastated. The summer of 1980 was a seminal point for me. Working through the pain of the break up changed me in ways I never could have imagined.

In my junior year, I met Sherrie. She was a professor's daughter and still in high school. I really liked Sherrie a lot, but due to the age difference, our relationship was rather clandestine. Her mother didn't approve of her 16-year old daughter seeing a 20-year old college guy. Maybe she thought I would lead Sherrie down the path of perdition - I don't know. But it became something of an issue which Sherrie used to end our relationship. A mutual friend, Steve, confided to me after the break up that she had actually started seeing someone else, and I suspect that had as much to do with her terminating us as a couple. As the new guy was closer to Sherrie's age, I'm sure he had her mother's approval.

That was a painful time as well. However, it didn't rise to the same levels as the summer the year before.

I dated other girls during college, but none approached the seriousness of relationship that I'd had with Scherel and Sherrie.

During the second semester of my senior year, I took a computer programming course that was first thing in the morning and dull as dirt. I started skipping that class. It was a dumb thing to do, of course, but senioritis had set in. I failed that class, the only one in my entire time at college.

That wasn't that big a deal to me except for this: I needed the credits from that class to graduate.

Consequently, I ended up attending an extra semester after my senior year. In some ways this was a good thing. I hadn't looked forward to beginning life after graduation (much like high school) and that extra semester finally turned me around. Being a senior-and-a-half gave me an itch, an urgency to leave ENC. After all, my class had already graduated and moved on.

But what to do after graduation? I had taken the Graduate Record Exam which gave me a good enough score to get into grad school. However, midway through my college career I turned my studies from psychology to communications. So even though I would have a BA in psychology, my interests were elsewhere.

Then there was college debt to consider. I had over $10,000 in loans that would have to be paid back. While that seems like a pittance today, back in 1983 it looked insurmountable.

Should I stay in Massachusetts and look for an apartment and job, or go back to Maine and live with my parents until I was able to establish myself?

Another option presented itself during the semester from a college buddy. Glen had signed up for the Army. He told me that they would pay off his college loans if he did a four-year stint. That offer struck me quite positively at the start. However, as I thought about it, the idea of serving in the military became attractive as much for the desire to do something different from my peers. As everyone else was getting married, finding careers or going on to further education, the Army stood out as something nonconforming.

So I hied on down to the recruiter's office and began the process. My first choice of MOS was special forces. However, my eyesight was bad enough to disqualify me from that. Then I found out that the loan payoff program was only associated with military intelligence positions, perhaps only one particular specialty. So, that is what I signed up for.

Basic training at Fort Dix. Advanced individual training at Fort Devens. As I stood in formation and heard other soldiers receiving assignments to places like Japan, Hawaii, Germany, I figured I'd at least get Hawaii. My training included a far east component which meant a field station in Okinawa, Japan or Hawaii.

Then the first sergeant called out my name and said told me I was going to Fort Stewart, Georgia.


I had not been further south than Virginia and that was only twice for about a week each time. Now at the age of 23, I was going to spend a significant amount of time in Georgia.

Having no choice in the matter, I went, rather reluctantly.

I had been at Fort Stewart for about a year when I received orders to go to the field station in Japan. Unfortunately, prior to that, a medical condition had arisen and I was unable to go. That was in 1984.

About four months later, MJ arrived at Fort Stewart. She was an analyst who had spent the last two years at Defense Language Institute in California learning Arabic. Then another six months in Texas learning communications analysis.

Prior to joining the Army, MJ taught elementary school in North Carolina for five years. This after receiving her education degree at Stetson University in Florida.

She had a rather serious relationship with another guy who had been stationed at DLI when she was there. He ended up going to Panama, but she kept his pictures on her wall in the barracks and stayed in touch with him as much as possible.

MJ and I started dating a couple months after she arrived. I had my eye on her from the start, but knew her situation and was unsure. Then someone I was sort of seeing left Georgia and I found myself asking MJ for a consolation hug. That's when it all started.

MJ and I dated from March 85 to October 85. There was a short break up in there, but we got back together. Her boyfriend from Panama came to see her; another ex-boyfriend came for a while on temporary duty assignment.

I got out of the Army in March 1986 and decided to stay in the area so we could continue our relationship. In October 86 I asked her to marry me. She said yes.

MJ has since told me that when I informed her I was going to stay in the area, she was disappointed. She didn't want to tell me that she really wanted me to leave so as to be able to date other guys. She didn't want to hurt my feelings.

We have now been married almost 30 years.

I have written all this down because of the seeming improbability of it all. Had I not gone to college in the first place, I probably would have stayed in Maine for the rest of my life.

Had Scherel and I married, well...

In fact, if any of my other relationships (and I only mentioned the "big three") had resulted in marriage, then MJ and I would never be.

I suppose most would look at all this as serendipitous or random chance, but to me it looks like forces beyond our control brought us together. Some may call it fate. I prefer to think that it was God's plan from the start. There were just too many ways I could've strayed from the path that brought me to her. The same holds true on her side of the story as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

People Prefer Posting a Plentitude of Platitudes

When I log into Facebook for the first time every day, I find my newsfeed filled with all sorts of memes, quotes and sayings. Some have to do with life, some with spirituality and others politics. It has become like wading through a wasteland of Bartlett's, Nouwen and Sanders. Or Gingrich. No matter.

People post other people's words regularly and constantly instead of their own.

There is beauty in a well-turned phrase. Sometimes, there's also truth and wisdom. If it wasn't so, then what someone said centuries ago would have long been forgotten.



However, like Jim Rome often says, "Have a take."

Real thinkers use the words of others to frame and support their own arguments. Nonthinkers use those same words to be their arguments and, in doing so, I suppose, hope to make themselves appear as thoughtful and wise as well.

An occasional witty saying has the potential to delight. A steadily flowing stream of them mutes and numbs.

Show some original thought, even if it isn't eloquent. Discuss if you like; it's far better than pontificating with words that aren't your own.

For goodness sake, just have a take.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Greater Portland Ghosts

It's not my intention to be a historian in this post. In fact, the research and compiling of historical data in order to present it in a readable, even interesting format is its own skillset. It's a passion I don't have.

However, over the course of decades, certain well-known locations (landmarks?) have vanished as economies changed and neighborhoods evolved. And it has become something of a desire of mine to try to at least record something if only to say, hey, these existed in my youth and I haven't forgotten them.

Is this living in the past? Probably to some extent. Yet, isn't that the reason we take pictures? So the past doesn't totally escape us and disappear forever?

Anyway, here are some businesses I used to know. All of them have been replaced by something else. Perhaps something with a more bland personality. And so the decades turn.

Across the street from DiPietro's Variety Store, there is a small strip of businesses.  Back in my day, there was a barbershop, a five and dime store, a ceramics studio where you could take lessons and make your own pieces, and some others over the years. This Cottage Road Pharmacy was there, but what years I don't know. This location is right near the corner where Pillsbury Street intersects Cottage Road in South Portland. In the small park nearby used to be Willard School where I attended my very first year of what was called subprimary.

This was Willard School. To see the park today where it once stood, it's hard to imagine a building of any size being located there. But it was, and it had a playground on either side of it. There is a Willard Beach, Willard Street and this school, of course, and if I was a real historian, I could tell you all about the Mr. Willard after whom all of it was named. But I'm not, and I can't.

Go further down Pillsbury Street and you will eventually come to Willard Square. This was my old neighborhood where I grew up, went trick or treating, rode bikes and generally had a good childhood. In Willard Square was a popular fixture called Bathras Market.

Mr. and Mrs. Bathras were the proprietors. They were a Greek couple who had two children, Lisa and Tim. Mr. Bathras died quite some time ago. Last I knew, Mrs. B. still lives above the store, and Tim's house isn't far away. Not sure about Lisa.  The store is no longer open. But as a kid, I thought they made the best Italian sandwiches.

Leave Willard Square and go to the business district of South Portland (which has long since become the Maine Mall area), and you would find Angelone's Pizza. It was on the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street. It sat kitty-corner to Mahoney Junior High School. I don't know if their pizza was considered good (certainly not compared to the brick-oven gourmet pizzas so readily available today), but I thought it was pretty tasty. This area is known as Mill Creek.

Go west on Broadway and right quickly you would come across Deering Ice Cream.

Deering Ice Cream used to have a dish called the Kitchen Sink. It was eight scoops of ice cream covered with syrups and toppings and if you could finish the entire thing, they gave you a pin that said, "I Ate the Kitchen Sink." I did and was in considerable discomfort for quite a while after.

Head north on Ocean and take a left on Market Street, and you would find a popular Saturday afternoon spot to hang out.

The Bowl-a-Rama. Candlepin bowling at its finest. Join a league or just bowl with some friends. Until my teen years, I had never heard of ten pin. The small balls were what defined bowling to me.

Woolworth's used to have a store at the Maine Mall. This isn't the exact picture of it - this is a mall somewhere else. But I remember it had the standard Woolworth's lunch counter, and the store used to sell guns as well as tropical fish, clothing and toys, etc.

Head on down Route 1 into Scarborough. South of Oak Hill there was a shopping plaza with a Mammoth Mart, one of the many discount department stores of the day. Now that plaza is some sort of business park with no retail in it as far as I know. Other department stores of which I can't find pictures include Arlan's, Giant, Kings, Wellwoods, and more recently, Ames.

Out in the Pine Tree Shopping Center in Portland there was a Zayre's Department Store. Here is a picture of it. This second picture is from a Zayre's in Illinois, but it looks quite similar to the one that used to be in Portland.

Further up Brighton Avenue, across the Westbrook line, there was a Bradlee's and Shop 'n Save.
Prior to the Shop 'n Save, the store was a Martin's grocery store. Martin's and Bradlee's used to share the same entrance. As you walked in there was a row of cash registers on the left and right, each servicing their respective stores. Keep walking and you would come to a set of stairs that led up to a small cafe where you could drink a soda, eat an English muffin and look out over the shoppers wandering the aisles. Now, there is a Kohl's where the Bradlee's used to be and a Shaw's Supermarket in the Shop 'n Save spot.

The face of downtown Portland has changed quite a bit over the years. These pictures were taken in the 1960s, I believe. Most of the businesses that lined the streets then are no longer there.

One of those stores was W.T. Grant. My mother used to take the bus into Portland because she didn't drive and my dad was either at work, or asleep during the day after he started working nights. She would haul us kids along, sometimes for a doctor's appointment or just to do some shopping. I've been in this Grant's before, but don't remember it well. Here are a couple inside shots.

The lunch counter seems familiar to me, though. Maybe the archetype is just part of my collective unconscious. There was also a Woolworth's in Portland as well.

Though this picture shows vehicles from the 1940s, the store lasted through the 60s, maybe even into the 70s.

Tommy's Hardware was a well-known fixture further down Congress Street towards Munjoy Hill. They used to sell scuba and snorkeling gear as well as hardware. That's all I remember about it. Jeff and Theda Shafran owned and ran the store in the 80s and 90s. Theda started a small upscale kids' clothing store in the Old Port called Tommy's Kids Gear. She passed away, unfortunately, in her store from a heart attack. I attended her funeral. She was a customer of the print shop where I worked from 90-92 and we did much of her store's printing. I attended her funeral at the Temple Beth El. There were many there to mourn Theda and support Jeff in his grieving. 

There used to be a Dunkin Donuts at the intersection of High Street and Congress Street. I had heard that it was a frequent haunt for Portland's prostitutes, though that may have just been a rumor. It's entirely possible, though, because I think at some point it stayed open all night. Now there's just a park.  

I have scoured Google images for pictures to save, but it isn't an easy process. Some of the photos here are from the South Portland Historical Society's website. Others came from sites talking about the history of Portland. As I find more, I may add them to this blog.

As I type this, I can think of many more places I'd like to be able to collect eventually. But good images - any images - are hard to come by online.  And it can become very time consuming to keep searching for them.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ten Years After

There have been many times where I thought I should blog some idea only to back off when it occurred to me that what I wanted to say was too personal and fit more for a journal than this forum.

I've used this blog as a journal of sorts in the past, but it was more as a commentary effort than mere self-expression, though I suppose you could argue that all writing is some form of self-expression.

It was never my intent to become a well-known, largely followed blogger. The reason this blog exists in the first place was to create a venue with a link back to my website for SEO purposes. Because it is a blog, it needed content so it became a repository for mental meanderings.

Since my website has become irrelevant, most likely due to the rise of Facebook, I have decided to not renew my subscription with GoDaddy next year. All the things that can be found on (and there's a bunch as I've been using it for storage of files) are being migrated elsewhere.

So when the website goes dsrk, that means this blog will have no remaining real value outside of what it is - a blog.

I have lived something of a Mayberry life. That is over now starting with its gradual demise in 2005. Oddly enough, that was about the time I started writing. It began with a couple poems and, as situations started to unfold, escalated from there until I found myself recording as many memories of the past and impressions of the present that I could.

Stories were written, poems by the dozen came pouring out, this blog became quite active, a novel was started.

It just seemed like there was a backlog, a reservoir of words waiting to burst down the spillways. The accumulation of years came to a nexus as I entered into the phase known as middle-aged.

Some say there's no such thing as a mid-life crisis. I disagree with that. It may not be significant to most, but I think everyone deals with first actual realization of mortality and time slip in their own way. Some buy sports cars. Others have affairs. I chose to write.

Confluent with my struggle with middle age acceptance was a spate of deaths which included my wife's parents as well as significant medical problems for me and her. So, it has been a tumultuous ten-year period to say the least. Through it all the idea flames burned brightly. The result was fifteen books on Amazon that are still available for purchase today.

However, with the last passing of a friend and fellow writer (four over the course of five months starting December 2014), I find that the motivations, the inspiration to scrabble words onto a page - or into a text document - have pretty much vanished.

These ebbs are not unfamiliar to me. Usually, I could expect a return to writing desire within a few months of the initial slow down. I'm not sure I can say the same thing this time.

Kurt Vonnegut's strongest work is found in his first six novels as his experiences in World War II established the energies, pathos and imagination that commonly threaded those stories. After his magnum opus, Slaughterhouse Five, the edge of his storytelling became dulled. Even so, he still wrote eight more novels, but he had publishing agreements to fulfill. And perhaps, he still felt as if he had some juice left.

The same can be said of other authors.

I'm not trying to compare myself to Vonnegut, but I believe the creation process works quite similarly for most, if not all. Look at the earlier works of those who write, those who make music and other artforms and see how they evolve to the point where they lose the original freshness which made them stand out from the rest.

That is how I view my present circumstance. It seems to me that most of what I write about these days can be distilled down to one to three topics. With such a fixation, the creative endeavor has become how to differently address these topics so as to make the written pieces seem fresher than they really are.

All things eventually come to an end. And while I'm not willing to officially stamp "Finished" on this whole project, I am realistic enough to admit that the motivations which started the gears turning in the first place have come to their logical conclusion over the passage of time.

Now that an era of my wife's and my life are done, then the mystery of the future opens itself up to us as we wonder where we will go next.

Perhaps when we find out it will spark a whole new spate of writing exercise. However, until that happens, I can look back over the course of fifteen books and say it has been good.

It has been worthwhile.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Stupid Memes

People love memes. Memes that express humor, political positions, sarcasm, social statements. They are ubiquitous on Facebook and, I assume, all other social networking sites. There are websites that are meme generators and anyone can go select a picture and caption it with their own witty or funny statement then share it to Facebook.

Technically, what I'm posting here aren't memes. They're more like posters. But, unlike the majority of memes, these just won't die. People keep sharing them as if they are some new found wisdom that everyone must see.

1. I see a lot of dating "advice" on Facebook. This generally comes from moms who have teenaged children. Most of the dating advice seems to be geared toward elevating and/or protecting girls. This one comparing girls to apples on a tree is about as silly as they get. Not only does it create a false sense of superiority if one ascribes to its preaching, but it seems to be an attempt to mollify those who haven't found their spouses yet. I know women who are my age and still single. I also know adult guys who are single. They aren't single because that person who is "brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree" hasn't come along yet. Let's flip this around to a standard high school scenario...

Hey girls. See that guy over there. He's not a jock, he'll never be the star of the football team. He doesn't have his own cool car, instead he drives the family station wagon when his parents don't need it. He's not in all the clubs at school and has never considered running for student council. He does okay in classes, not great. He doesn't have a lot of money as he only works part time in the grocery store and it doesn't pay well. His parents aren't rich. Yet he is one of the best apples you could snag from the top of the tree only if you are brave enough to climb that high.

There. Does that make made-up-guy any more appealing?

Probably not. But most people get married. Some don't. And somehow it all happens despite this meme.

 2. Anyone in their right mind is against bullying. But do all these contrived scenarios need to be posted regularly. This particular meme as constructed is intended to make those who bully feel guilty about what they are doing. Maybe the worst part of it is the very last line. It is coercive; it makes this meme a bully in its own right.

3. Another set of contrived scenarios and I can't really say I've seen this specific one as often as others. But its tone of message is a common thread on Facebook. 

3b. If you ever wondered if nurses and waitresses were interchangeable, here's your proof.

4. This comes across as totally made up. I seriously doubt that this scenario ever took place. It's actually a bit amusing at first read, but totally unnecessary beyond that. And it hasn't changed people's punctuation habits any. So, what's the point?

5. There are two things about this which place this in the stupid category. The first is the sentence, "They are signs of having tried to remain strong for so long." I've witnessed clinical depression and it has nothing to do with trying to remain strong for so long. It has everything to do with monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) levels in the brain according to a study by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. MAO-A is an enzyme which breaks down serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, mood chemicals, if you will, in the brain. 

The second thing is the last sentence. Does this stupid meme really make people with anxiety disorder or clinical depression feel supported and comforted? Really?

6.  The Facebook version of a chain letter. Do I need say more?

 7. There are quite a few religious memes that run through the newsfeeds on a regular basis. Most of them end similarly. My question is this: if you don't share, does that mean you disagree? Doesn't it have to mean that? This is another example of sharing by inducing guilt, and I don't think that's a good way to spread the gospel.

8. Mattel already makes a cancer Barbie named "Ella". Here's the proof...

9. Stupid meme... Some of us want all kinds of nice, new shiny things because we are self-absorbed. But I just want to be liked by everyone and shared by everyone because I am self-absorbed. I really don't think I'm creating an army of compassion from this. I'm not that stupid.... or am I? Hey 3 percenters out there - show me some love because 97% are ignoring me!

10. I see this one and my first thought is not to re-post. It is to ask, "Do you feel better now?" There is no second thought.

* * * * *

I will add more as I come across them. It seems as if people have an insatiable need to make their worldview statements on a regular basis on Facebook. To what end? I don't know. Those who agree with the statements will "like" them and comment with at least an "amen" or maybe a lot of verbal high-fiving. Those who disagree may argue. The rest will just ignore. 

Can't we just stop the preachiness?

Probably not.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

About My Books

I have written 14 books. Two of them were intentional. The rest were created simply because I had enough material built up to create a book-length manuscript.

I started writing poetry in the early 2000s. Actually, I've dabbled in poetry from time to time since I was a young teenager. But in the 2000s, I started producing in earnest. A desire to capture thoughts and memories overtook me, and I wanted to create work that poetically expressed those desires.

After joining and seeing how others on the site were getting their works published, I decided to follow suit. When I had enough poems compiled, I submitted the manuscript to PublishAmerica and they accepted it. Voila! I had a book titled From Here to Never, Time Travels from Maine.

I never expected my book to be a best seller. There are, quite frankly, some pretty bad pieces in it. There are also a few poems of which I'm quite proud. However, I don't think more than 20 sold and that includes friends and family who bought one as a show of support.

When I created enough material for a second book, I contacted PublishAmerica again. They told me in no uncertain terms that they would not publish my second book as there had been no sales from the first. So this was the impetus needed to find a different way to publish.

And I did.

Thirteen more were published, two through Lulu and the rest using CreateSpace. These are all my books.

From Here to Never

First published in 2006 through PublishAmerica, redesigned and republished through CreateSpace in December 2013.

From Here to Never is my first book. Originally just a poetry book, I reformatted it to include more prose work when I re-released it in 2013. The re-release also included some new poetry and omitted poems from the original which were pretty bad.

May 2007

I experimented with the layout in this second book, Falling from a Cloud, putting all rhyming poetry in the first section and all non-rhyming in the third. The second section was a hybridization of my short story, The Concourse, into a prose-poetry piece.

The title comes from a poetry website to which I once belonged. That website had a "cloud" which reflected the activity levels of its members. The more active the member, the higher their ranking, the larger their name in the cloud. The activity here refers to reviewing other people's poetry and posting your own. I had worked my way up fairly high in the cloud and then eased off the activity. Little by little, as others passed me by, I watched my name grow smaller, my ranking diminish. Eventually, I fell from the cloud.

I haven't seen those sort of clouds lately on websites, and I think they were just a fad. In fact, the cloud is still an internet term, but it refers to something totally different now.

April 2008

As I was writing poetry pretty regularly in the 2000s, it was fairly simple to compile enough to create a book-length manuscript. I had almost enough for a third book but no real feel of a theme for it. Then my father-in-law died. Through the trip to North Carolina for his funeral and burial, I wrote several more pieces reflecting my thoughts at the time and came up with the title poem which is about his passing. Then I knew I had a finished book and published it.

August 2008

Up to this point, I had a notion that poetry books might sell. Probably not as best sellers, but there would be something of a side income from them. Unfortunately, most of the books I sold were to other people writing poetry on the sites where I was a member or to family and friends. So, I thought about short stories. Surely they would sell better than poetry. 

Of Trains and Other Things has ten short stories. The first, The Concourse, was based on a dream I'd had years before and built the story around it at that time. The second, The Train, was my submission to a program Amazon had called Amazon Shorts.  As I seemed to be trending in a train direction, I wrote a third titled, The Tracks.  

The remaining stories have nothing to do with trains.

Hence, the book's title.

September 2008

I was still personally dealing with some fallout from my father-in-law's death eight months prior to this book. One could probably say that anger drove my writing. I talk about it in the introduction a bit. This was never a book I wanted to sell. My fears of that have settled down, though, because no one ever bought it.

February 2009

Of all the poetry books I've done, Look One Last is probably my favorite. It's laid out in the manner of four seasons though no seasons are mentioned. And the poems themselves were chosen to go in the sections based upon their reflections of the seasons of life: childhood, teen to young adult, middle age, elder adult. There are a lot of poems in it of which I am particularly fond. Among those are the world of ever shine, Thunder Bay, The Shenadoah Valley, My Love is a Spring Breeze, Coming Down, Silverlight, Dunescape, the Esoteric Vagabond series, and the four at the beginning which I call The Quadrennium, though you won't find that title anywhere in the book.

July 2010

Just Drop Me Off at the Moon was written under a pen name: J.T. Deeman. I did this because in the introduction to Look One Last, I said it was my last poetry book. And I didn't want to let on to my imaginery audience that I can be wishy-washy at times. There are a few poems in Just Drop that I like, but I don't care much for most of them. I think the cover rocks, though.

July 2010

I did Bullets for Life under the same pen name as Just Drop Me Off at the Moon. It is composed of a series of bullet points of life that I wanted to pass on to my sons. It's a quick read.

The publication date for this reads as 2012 on Amazon. I actually published it earlier than that. Not sure why the 2012 date. It is the start of expanded poetry books. By this I mean that I have not only poems, but essays and short stories. The essays come from my blog where, once upon a time, I used to be pretty prolific. After several hundred blog entries, I thought it would be a good idea to back them up into a hard copy somewhere. So I cherry picked the ones I liked and included them in this book.

The title, Hallucination of Majestic Elephants, is an acrostic. The title portion of the book spends its time in talking about the yearly trips we used to make to North Carolina to visit my wife's family. Given that her dad and mom passed away in 2008 and 2009, respectively, it was a way to explore and express meanings of home.

June 2011

The title, Echoes from the Antechamber, refers to reflections upon my much younger days. It has stories, poems and essays as well. Even though the title implies childhood, the stories themselves deal more with the aged. My first epic poem, The Downfall of Ilium, is in this book. It is modeled somewhat after The Waste Land but incorporates elements of Whitman, Cummings and Sandburg as well. There is also one of my favorite essays, Everything Looks Worse in Black and White, which takes on a different, sort of meandering writing style than I typically use.

Of all my books, Echoes from the Antechamber is my favorite.

October 2012

Patterns at the Periphery follows the same style as the previous two books. But where I felt Hallucinations and Echoes established a strong sense of purpose, Patterns doesn't seem to. It has several essays I consider good, and I think those are its strength. It also has the short story, The Tattoo, of which I am rather proud. Additionally, I have included (with their permission) a poem each by Mike Walsh, Carol Brandt and Sarah True, wonderful people I've had to opportunity to befriend through the internet.

April 2014

This book was the first of two "targeted" books  Instead of generalized poetry and story books, I wanted to put together something with a clear theme to see if it would capture any buyers. I pulled out all the pieces I had written about Spindale, North Carolina from previous books, added a few more and built Spindale from a Mainer's Perspective. On our final trip to Spindale last year, I presented the library with a copy of the book. They seemed interested in the concept. It hasn't generated any sales.

October 2014

BDUDays is like Spindale, a targeted book. A few of them have sold, all to people who served in the Army with me. It is available in both book and Kindle version.

October 2014

Even though by date BDUDays was published after From the Sea She Spoke, I consider this to be my last book. It is a poetry book, unabashedly so, with two essays at the end. In fact, the last essay is titled The End. I don't know if that essay was an omen for things to come, but I haven't done much writing since this book.

The whole book making experience has been a satisfying process. Even though their commercial viability turned out to be less than what may have been hoped for, it has been worth the effort. There may be more books to come, who can really say at this point? But the gnawing need to record things in words has quieted for now and causes me to wonder in what direction I'll go next.

Maybe I should look into writing songs.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Time Lapse

I am awash with mystery. I swim with the confused.

Outwardly, I am normal like that guy and that guy and that. But inwardly images and sentimemnts swirl like Spirograph gone out of control. There's a turbulating turmoil of thought, desire, franticness and fractals.

This guy that writes this, he is no different than he was twenty thirty years ago.

Yet he is.

No, he still aspires to the same sensations, the known qualities to which he has grown accustomed over the years. He reaches for that which he has reached since his youth.

But he doesn't.

It's so very strange to change. The years pile up and an odd morphing takes place for life is not static no matter how long one lies on the couch watching television reruns.

Yet, all the while, little pieces of youth are being demolished one by one, crushed under the weight of an ever-heavying clock.

People die. Those icons with which I grew up have been dropping like errant flyballs in a Little League rout. And each time one passes, I feel a bit sadder. This has been one of my mysteries.

I didn't know the person. It's not as if he or she were family. Yet, in a way, they were for there was time spent together as they came into the living room once a week, or maybe five times a week, in the morning or evening to play out stories which kept me enthralled.

And I grew to like them. (love them?)

And now they have succumbed to the same forces which tear at us all.

The warm homeliness of Mayberry lies buried in the past. But I know we lived it. The mystique of a wild wild west with tight pants and beautiful belles playing in dark realms of mad midgets and daunting giants has faded from all imagination. The thrill of boldly going where no man has gone before has turned into trepidation that maybe moving forward is a bit less desirable than before.

How did it all get this way? Why do my father's once strong and steady hands now shake?
And why have the mysteries that once called out so richly and deeply become quietly sere?

The shore is rapidly shrinking as I glide into dark waters under full sail. I leave a large part of me behind, but still carry it with me.

The confusion seems normal. Maybe it will all settle one day and everything will start to make sense again. Or maybe nothing ever really made sense, and I just told myself it did.

Anyway, the fractals aren't unwelcome.

Only disconcerting.