Friday, March 7, 2008

Vote for Joe Smith

Sitting at my almost comfortable chair, eating supper and watching television I experienced something yesterday of a decidedly profound nature. I heard the sounds of a Public Address system moving down the road. I brushed it off for a moment as being one of the kids from the dorm. I live directly across the street from a small college where they are forever making some kind of noise; Hip-hop from jam boxes, the school marching band traipsing about my street in practice, or the neighbor dude using some kind of construction power tool.

Public addresses occurred from time to time with the main noisemaker being a bull horn. This time the noise came from a pickup truck with large speakers mounted on its roof, facing both front and back, castigating about in an attempt to humiliate people to go and vote. The voice didn’t sound as if it cared who one voted for, just that the citizens should get off their dead asses and go exercise their constitutional rights.

I found it a humorous experience in that it reminded me of one of the best times in my life. One summer (13? 14?), I spent with my favorite aunt and uncle. I would, right after school, go to spend the summer with them. My Aunt Dotty would be my main companion. She was a wonderful lady with a somewhat alternative view on life. In today’s world of politically correct language, she would be accused of being a blond. She could and very often did amazingly odd things which were ofttimes the brunt of family jokes around the holiday table. Nothing mean spirited, or cruel ever came out of anyone’s mouth, and she always took the jibes with grace and would be a good sport and go along with the joviality.

The real pleasure in those summers came when my Uncle Buddy was at home…and sober. As I have explained in earlier writings he and my Grandfather were the main male influences in my life. (Well, there were others, but these two gentle men were my favorites) He worked as a tug boat captain and was off every other day. At times he would wake early and take me out with him as he ran errands. This always meant a stop at the “Gin Mill” down at the shopping center. “Gin Mill” was what bars were called in my family in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He would buy me a coke and himself a drink and play pool with me. He always said that he wasn’t really good at the game, but this always proved untrue. I watched him take hundreds of dollars from the denizen’s of that establishment over the course of the summer. I loved it, and still find comfort in “Gin Mills” despite the fact of my active participation in recovery.

That summer, my other uncle, Sonny, decided to take on the world of local politics and ran for city council. Uncle Buddy always did what Uncle Sonny told him to and dragged me to the local party committee meetings. Uncle Buddy had been a paratrooper in WWII while Uncle Sonny spent much of that conflict in a Prisoner of War camp. He told me that the war was tougher on Uncle Sonny then him, and that he felt guilty about it. Uncle Buddy confided in me quite a lot when we were together. It was a dual edged sword for me to hear. He chose me to explain his life in the military, and I got to learn about horror at an early age. But that is for the next page.

Uncle Buddy taught me many things. He was forever telling me about important skills that I would need to have when I go out into the cold cruel world. Paramount among these stood the art of spitting. Next came the trick of blowing smoke rings. Although he refused to let me smoke in front of him out of respect for my mother’s wishes, he was smart enough to know that I had already embarked on the journey to COPD or worse. He had mastered the talent to the point that he could blow a ring and shoot smaller rings through it. I am still trying to learn that one. Any way, he taught me how to sit in a car and be real cool. He would drape his wrist over the steering wheel and lean his elbow out the window ( this was years before automobile air conditioning and littering campaigns) and drive along flicking the ashes off his cigarette ashes with his pinky and spitting out the window. It was cooler than shit!

My Uncle Sonny’s campaign got started and Uncle Buddy and I would drive around the hamlet of Jackson, New Jersey and bellow out the windows “VOTE FOR JOE SMITH.” Every time we eyed one of the numerous signs we had put out for him, or just for the hell of it. We spent the summer actively campaigning for our candidate. Much the same as the old gentlemen in the pickup with the PA system that passed my house, we rebuked the citizenry who might mistakenly vote for the wrong candidate and jeered the name of all opponents. One gentleman from the other party, my uncle’s opponent, had a decidedly European sounding name…Perchanko. My Uncle Buddy told me that it sounded communist and that we were in charge of slurring his name. We would scream “Hey Perchanko, get out of the way you commie SOB,” and laugh outrageously at each other. While these things were not really what I would try to teach a kid today, I cherish the memory because I know in my heart and soul that, despite the smoking, drinking and cursing, I was loved and valued. Times change, but not love.

My Uncle Sonny won the election (chiefly due to our efforts Uncle Buddy said) and went on to be indicted for graft. Go figure. Regardless, I have always voted and will always vote. I will, also, respect the guy driving down the street telling me to get off my dead ass and go vote. Thank you Uncle Buddy, I love you.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Who is this masked man? I am not much, but I am all I think about. How could I be anything but self absorbed if I am going to be bold enough to put these words on the World Wide Web?
I am a reasonably well educated man in his fifties who cares about the world and the people who populate it.
I am reasonably well read, and by that I mean that I read a minimum of 100 books a year, on average.
I watch the news on television, and surf the Internet for interesting and bizarre ideas.
I believe that Jesus Christ is God. I have a rich and full spiritual life with many friends whose spiritual beliefs are similar to mine.
I have a varied work history in a number of differing fields. I have never made a large amount of money, and because of some negative personal choices, and irresponsible behavior, I have been homeless on more than one occasion.
I am a veteran of the United States Army where I was stationed in a non-combat area. I volunteered for this tour of duty out of a sense of patriotism. There was a draft at the time, and my assigned number was well beyond the cut-off. I volunteered to go to Vietnam, but was not sent.
I am not a particularly brave man, neither am I a coward.
At the time of this writing I am single, and I want that to change.
I vote regularly, and do not commit crimes.
I have a habit of running red lights that were mostly yellow when I started through the intersection. There have been no traffic accidents due to this, and I hope there never are. I believe I inherited this trait from my father.
I like to help people, and volunteer my time in that way.
I am not an extraordinary intellect, or a world-class thinker. I have and do study a number of philosophical disciplines. I consider myself a humanist.
I began writing in the hopes of becoming the next great author/novelist/savior of humanity. What I discovered, however, is that all of these reportedly noble professions are but illusions of a mind polluted with values derived from the influences of a maladjusted, improbable, and desperately inane world. Stimuli for this grand pursuit comes not from the magnificent literature I have had the privilege to experience, but from reports in a financial journal on the state of a select few members of that elite writing cabal, “The New York Times Bestseller List,” and the amount of fiduciary acumen enjoyed by these selfsame wizards of wit and wisdom.
Having said that, I have learned that writing is, and must forever be, its own reward. The level of reward I can expect is directly relational to the amount of effort exerted. I have some talent, or so I am told by all who read my work. I have some short pieces published for remuneration. I have several books written in varying states of readiness for publication, again produced in hope of compensation. I have myself set up as a writer from a legal standpoint. And, perhaps the most vital tool of all, a life rotund with inspiration and muse.
So why this website? Why it must be to begin the process of becoming a dues paying member in good standing of that honored cult of few. That assemblage of notable writers (or perhaps notorious idiots) who fill my mind with visions and dreams with but the mention of their name. Why else would I even take the time if not for the desire for recognition, acknowledgment, and a better credit rating?

Me - the next generation

What is a story? It is a collection of words strung together (not strung up although some have thought this might be a good thing for me to experience) in a cohesive manner, which will hopefully enlighten, inform, notify, report, alert, advise, warn, acquaint, explain, elucidate, explicate, describe, justify, defend, rationalize, vindicate, exonerate, absolve, acquit, substantiate, verify, corroborate, attest to, demonstrate, validate, authenticate, establish, discover, enthrall, enchant, spellbind, fascinate, engross, captivate, absorb, charm, and coerce in such a way that the reader becomes, contemplative, thoughtful, meditative, reflective, introspective, sympathetic, empathetic, contemplative, solicitous, wistful, introspective, and totally incapable of doing anything but reading the words before them.
At least that is what this writer hopes and dreams the story will do. Defined a story is “an account of an event, or series of events, real or imaginary.” It takes many forms, but the form I find comfort in falls under the category- “events imaginary.” I believe lessons in life that utilize metaphorical avenues surpass the more accepted methods used in formal educational settings. This, surprisingly enough, coming from a school teacher who is charged with the responsibility of using concrete, tried-and-true models and strategies to teach the students under my charge. I am a technology teacher and, as such, have a rather lockstep method in which to deliver information to my future, doctors, lawyers, astronauts, hip-hop gurus, and ditch diggers. Technology is a constant in that there is definition to it where feelings and emotion and personal issues are, at best, elusive creatures that dwell within us. Unlocking their secrets is a noble task, IMHO (translate that if you can).
I like words. I always have and see no reason to change. I was extremely young when I began reading. This was a secret I kept from my family. I picked up a copy of a “Classic Comics” my cousin had, and found comfort in the words. It was “Call of the wild” by Jack London. I liked the pictures, but the words leapt from the page calling to me, or perhaps they were daring me to decipher them. I did, and began a lifelong journey into a world where heroes were brave and true, damsels were always in distress, and everyone always rode off into the sunset.
That book taught me the difference between right and wrong. My parents certainly did this, and did it well. I knew I should not do certain things because if I did, I would be punished. I also learned that good behavior brought me rewards. Ice cream, in my case. What the written word brought me was the meaning of those seemingly mysterious axoms. In that book I learned that cruelty is immoral. I learned that there were no limits to what a person could accomplish if honest effort and hard work were involved. I learned that tragedy is a part of life. I learned of love and loyalty. I learned how to be a good person.
Learning and doing are entirely different functions. I, as my previous page mentions, have made some poor choices in my life, and took a long time to actually applying the lessons I learned in that first wonderful tome. Several thousand books later (some which I served as the author of) I know that the lessons from that first book still hold true. It came to me as I am writing this page. Words are magic. Words make things possible that you know are impossible. I have found that the answers to all of life’s questions are revealed in books. All you need to do is just read them...and listen for the answer.