Writers’ rules

Do you write every day?

she asked me.

They say you have to

write every day to be

any good.

Sometimes I write every

day, sometimes I don’t,

I said.

One time I wrote for

a week straight. But I

was drunk then and

none of it made sense.

Then I wrote for a month straight:

I wrote all about my day

I wrote down what time I got up

I wrote about what I ate

I wrote about what I drank

I wrote about the weather

I wrote a letter to myself

I wrote a list of my ten favorite poems

I wrote down what time I went to bed…

…and what I dreamed about…

Did you dream about me? she asked.

Reflections on traffic

traffic sucks – it’s woven into

the fabric of American life

like caraway seed bagels

and yacht rock. Chanel perfume &

the Doobie Brothers. All taken

for granted and running in the

background. The

streets will soon be taken over

by self-piloting tractor trailers.

And urban hipsters on

robotic hoverboards

will vie for cramped automated

space in inflated tiny houses.

Put me in my container

now. Sail me out past the

Continental shelf and sink me

alongside the surplus WW II

jeeps, & 45 automatic pistols, no bone

to pick or soul to sell.

The last exit ramp is blocked by a

wildfire, and there  is no way we will make it back

to Kansas City tonight.

At the VA: 1968

At the VA: 1968

Live each day like it’s your last,
and someday you will be right.
Says Granddad – a man in his
77th year…I was entering my 12th.
After that:
A Doctor enters the day room
of the VA  hospital,

Doc crushes his
cigarette in the ashtray  near the
door. It’s a clove cigarette doc says.
Piss poor excuse for a smoke.
Chesterfields are a smoke.

Then:
Who’s the young man says doc.

My grandson – he says.
Granddad looks pale.
I say:
I hope we can go home soon and
hunt rattlesnakes in the timber behind the house.
Someday grandpa says.

I want to plant corn in the spring he tells me.
So do I, I tell him.

Knee high by the fourth of July.
he tells me.

Corn planting knowledge will serve me
well in years to come.

A hotel clerk in Colorado insulted your
grandmother on our honeymoon in
1920 he tells me.

Poor guy didn’t know grandpa.

*
Doc leaves and
darkness gathers.
We talk about
the War (again)
the Big One.

We talk about the Navy.
When you get old enough,
join the Navy, he advises.
Never join
the Army.
Too much marching in the Army.
A guy is free on the ocean even if  he doesn’t
know it.
I say I will never join
the Army. Ever.

Granddad is dying.
Prostrate is shot
In five more days
he’ll go on
planting corn
and sailing
the
seas.

Plane reading

In a couple of weeks,  my wife and I are going to Las Vegas. We have been there a number of times, and we hadn’t planned to visit Sin City this year, but circumstances intervened, so here we go.

Due to the pandemic, our trip to Vegas will be the first time I have been on an airplane since February of 2020. Before I continue, let me say, I enjoy flying. I always have. Some of my fondest memories are of flying across the United States – seeing the flatlands of the plains merge into the Rocky Mountains — flying over the Grand Canyon at night — seeing the tips of the World Trade Center twin towers peeking out of the clouds over an overcast, Manhattan morning. Chicago at sunrise is particularly impressive when viewed on approach into O’Hare. I recall flying down the west coast of Florida on an August evening in 2005, watching the sinister clouds of Hurricane Katrina moving toward New Orleans.

One thing that I enjoy about air travel is that I get to read for pleasure, something my daily grind job doesn’t allow me to do. I like to spend my travel hours reading something that I would not normally read in my day to day life.

Our upcoming vacation involves several hours on an airplane, and after that, I am going to have some time to lounge beside a pool (if I don’t disintegrate in the desert heat). So what should I read? I have a list of books that I want to read before I die, and I have written about some of them here.

One book that has been on my ‘to read’ list for a number of years is “Jackson Pollack: An American Saga by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith”. This Pulitzer Prize Winning, New York Times best seller has been on my reading list since the 90s, so I finally ordered a copy last week.

When It arrived, I knew that I would not be taking this door-stop on vacation. At 934 pages, and just about as many pounds, this book has been consigned to the “shelf of the unread” in my office bookcase. I’ll read it someday, but not soon.

In its place, I have decided to read the following on my summer vacation:

  • The Garden of Eden; by Ernest Hemingway. This is Papa’s last book, published posthumously in 1986. Hemingway started this novel in 1946 and worked on it until his death in 1961. He gives me great hope for completing some of my older work. He wrote about 800 pages on this novel. When the book was published, only 70,000 words of the original work remained of Hemingway’s original 48 chapters and over 200,000 words.
  • The Mango Opera; by Tom Corcoran, long time photographer of Jimmy Buffett and co-lyricist of Buffett’s song, “Cuban Crime of Passion”. This download has been languishing on my Kindle for far too long. My advice: If you want to write a novel set in the Florida Keys, you need to read Tom Corcoran. He catches the Key West vibe better than anyone I know.

So that’s it for me. When I am through with those it will be time to catch the red eye home to the East Coast. What are you reading on vacation this year? In my opinion, keep it light. No books about the insurrection…not yet. Save those for the fire next winter. Go to the beach. Read something you have been putting off. Take a hike. Read on a plane…

—E

A tale of two souls

I looked through
the glass once, and I noticed
your soul moving quietly
wonderfully, methodically
from room to room
occasionally pausing to
move some small pieces
of furniture, to try on
new clothes, to adjust
‘Cupid with Butterfly’
above the headboard,
to return Kant to the
bookshelf, and
to position the blinds for
late afternoon sun,

and you have
caught me too, an Old Soul
with creaky bones and
hardened liver, moving
cautiously down the steps
to the basement, groping
in the dark, hoping to find
the light switch, hoping the
bulb still has life, hoping
the floor isn’t damp and
the electrical panel has
survived the storm.

Happy National Clerihew Day

It’s July 10th everyone, and if you aren’t celebrating already, you should be. For those of you who might not know a clerihew from a sonnet, a clerihew is a style of poetry developed by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (July 10, 1875 – March 30, 1956).  Clerihews are four-line poems that are for the most part humorous and/or whimsical. Clerihews always begin with a person’s name on the first line. The person might be real, or fictitious.  As an example, I will post Bentley’s first clerihew here:

Sir Humphry Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered Sodium.

To be a true clerihew, a poem must conform to the following rules:

  • In must begin with a person’s name
  • It must contain rhyming couplets of AA/BB
  • The content must describe the person noted in the first line
  • It must be funny. Serious clerihews are strictly forbidden

I close with another wonderful clerihew from Bentley:

What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead.

Enjoy the celebrations my friends.

Last night in Key West

put it back in the blender.

pack the Keys disease, &
haul in the bikini, Patricia.
The games are over. No
more days playing nights
no more sand seeking shovels.


Philly awaits, shit can
Margaritaville, print the
boarding passes and order
a cappuccino,

the Old Order
Amish knew what they were
doing. Stay close to home
and ride in a buggy.


Fun is relative. 3 hours
in the air is all it takes.
You could write a song
you could discover a myth
remake cocktail napkins
fortune will find you
sobriety will find you.


The old man finds you whether you’re
looking for him or not.
You’ll give up the Ghost
before Big Torch Key goes down.
You’ll be buying the condo
in Vail before Islamorada is
under water.
You’ve a decade to party.

Horizon line

we’re in rented
beach chairs on
Pompano Beach,
it’s late November – two days
before Thanksgiving
when she asks me how far it is
to the horizon
and I tell her it is 3 miles
give or take a foot or two…

I further explain:

…that it’s 3 miles from the point
where her lavender painted
toes touch the water
to where the water touches the sky.

I go on:

That’s fifteen thousand
eight hundred forty
feet I say to her —
from your toe tips to
horizon line

then I say…

That’s one foot
for every year that
we’ve known each other…

she laughs

then she tells me that I am not
the world’s most renown

mathematician.

You’re no Euclid, she says
you’re no Blaise Pascal,
no Pythagoras, and
certainly you are no
Archimedes…

then she tells me that
we’ve known each other
much, much longer than that

The U.S. Government report on UAP

This morning, I spent some time reading the U.S. Government’s exhaustive, nine-page report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. This report was delivered to the U.S. Congress on the 25th of June by the ODNI – that being the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That said, I can hardly believe I have managed to use the ‘U.S. Government’, ‘exhaustive’, and ‘nine-page report’ together in a sentence. I think it is remarkable that this report, or at least the publicly facing report to Congress, can be contained in such an abbreviated document. I should think a volume of at least a couple of hundred pages would be required for a topic that discusses at minimum, the military and safety concerns of erratic objects of uncertain origin navigating our airways at blinding speeds, but if nine pages is all that is required, so be it. I will leave a link to the document here, so that you can read it for yourself, should you be so motivated.

For many of us, myself included, who have seen UFOs, this report seems to say it is finally ok to come out and discuss what we saw without fear of ridicule, or in some cases, jeopardizing our employment. Reading further in the report, it states plainly, that “UAP threaten flight safety and, possibly, national security”. Think of the implications of that sentence alone.

Further reading of this ‘acronym saturated’ report says that UAPs are likely not explained by any single factor. The report suggests that most will fall into these 5 categories:

  • Airborne Clutter: birds, balloons, maybe unmanned drones, possibly even high-flying plastic bags
  • Natural Atmospheric Phenomena: ice crystals, moisture, and other naturally occurring stuff that will cause a misleading radar return.
  • US Government, or Industry Developmental programs:  All kinds of things the government along with the private sector might be messing with that they can’t or won’t tell us about.
  • Foreign Adversary Systems: Stuff the Russians or the Chinese are doing that we don’t know about, but we are pissed as hell we don’t, so don’t even go there.
  • Other: Here is the big one. The words of the report explain this away as “We would group such objects in this category pending scientific advances that allowed us to better understand them”.

So, there we are. The report includes 144 cases of UAP encounters reported between 2004 and 2021. Of these only one has been attributed to a deflating weather balloon. It appears the rest are largely unaccounted for.

You are probably asking if I am going to wade into the deep dark mirth of whether or not we are being visited by beings from some other world, and I won’t do that, or at least not right now. I am not a scientist, or a mathematician. Not even close. But I do think that the government report is focusing on a very narrow dataset. Would we attempt to make assumptions about hurricanes, droughts or sunspots based upon only data gathered during a period of a few years?

As the report goes on to say: As the dataset increases, the UAPTF’s ability to employ data analytics to detect trends will also improve.

Perhaps the government is preparing another report which will further clarify the meaning of this phenomena. Or maybe not. Maybe we will wait for 80 more years.

Your thoughts are encouraged, but never required.

Happy 4th to all of my US readers.

On reading great writers

If he were still alive, June 28th would have been the 122nd birthday of legendary author Eric Ambler. Ambler is considered by many to be the ‘father’ of the spy novel/thriller genre. Graham Greene called Ambler “the greatest living author of the novel of suspense”, and indeed his post World War II novels have withstood the test of time and make for fine reading today. Ambler had an uncanny eye for staring into the future and his great, 1935 prophetic novel “The Dark Frontier” discussed the atomic bomb and the rise of nuclear weaponry nearly a decade before the first atomic weapon was dropped upon Hiroshima.

Since his death in 1998 at age 89 his books remain as popular today as they were a half dozen decades ago. But this blog is not a bio about Mr. Ambler, but rather something that I read about him in a 1998 online obituary.

The obituary noted that in a conversation with Eileen Bigland, herself a well-known, serious author, Ambler told her that he had been reading a lot. When she asked him what he was reading, he said that he was reading Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol, Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello and James Joyce. Upon hearing this, Bigland offered this advice: “Never read very good writers while you are trying yourself to write good trash. You’ll only get depressed.”

At first, upon reading this, it appears to be a nod to mediocrity. But upon further examination, Ms. Bigland’s words hold some worth. I recall talking with a member of our Ft. Lauderdale writer’s group a number of years ago. She was writing a romance novel set in 1940s New Mexico. But she had been reading a lot of Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts and she didn’t feel like her work measured up. She had become so disillusioned with her work that she had walked away from her writing project twice. At the time of our conversation, she had just picked up her novel where she had left off months earlier, and she really wanted to see it through to the end, just for the sake of completion. I told her that it might be wise to resist comparing her work to that of the great writers of the genre. Another member of the group said that she should avoid reading romance novels by anyone until her novel was complete.

So, can reading the work of great writers be detrimental to our writing projects? I think that if we compare our work to theirs it can, and in the case of my friend from the writer’s group, such comparisons had caused her to lose focus and discontinue a project that she really wanted to complete. A painter who compares her work to Rembrandt or Picasso will surely be disappointed if she is trying to paint like Rembrandt or Picasso.

I recall a radio interview with singer songwriter Jimmy Buffett many years ago, Buffett told the interviewer that he was aware of the fact that he was not the best singer in the world, or the best guitar player in the world. But he went on to say that he was the best Jimmy Buffet in the world. Maybe that is the key to it all – being the best that we can be without comparing ourselves to the best of the best.

So, all of that said, I will not be reading Eric Ambler for some time. Not until my project is complete.