Leonard “Red” Bird

Born:  June 3, 1936

Died:  October 22, 2010

Survived by his wife Jane, daughter Maria, and son David.

Also survived by hundreds of creative writing students.

I’m proud to be one.

I leave you with my favorite verse from one of Red’s poems, “Walter Mitty.”  It illustrates how profoundly he respected the craft of writing, as well as how important was love in his life.

 

But in the glare of morning light
I sweat to write one crooked line
Sip my cup of sugared tea
And stretch to touch your hand.

— Leonard Bird, “Walter Mitty”, River of Lost Souls, Tooth of Time Press, 1977.

 

 

Powerful Post by Trey R. Barker

Trey R. Barker is a friend of mine. He’s a Renaissance Man of sorts, having put his fingers in everything from radio to live theatre to music to writing to law enforcement, which is how he currently makes his living. He’s a Deputy in Princeton, Illinois, but because of posts like this, he will always be a writer in my eyes.

Here’s an excerpt from the post:

I am not writer enough to put the stink of the cats and dogs and her own excreta and body stench and rotted food in your clothes and nose the way it was in mine for days. And you’ll never understand how the reek of booze was foundational to every odor in the place, as though it were the concrete slab upon which the house was built.

I simply can not write that well.

Yeah, right, Trey.

Here’s the post in Trey R. Barker’s Bullets and Whiskey blog

Broncos and Friends

I did nothing creative today. I did, however, watch the Broncos beat up on the Bills and spend time with my friends, the Cooleys. Sometimes that friend time is necessary, and since committing to writing and music a couple of years ago, I don’t see them very often. I consider myself lucky to have friends that are willing to let me go after my goals, even if it means less time with them.

Thanks, guys

Garage Sales & Source Enlightenment

Today I picked up a bunch of great books at a garage sale, including another copy of Ellison’s Angry Candy, Datlow’s Alien Sex anthology, several issues of Glimmer Train, a Leslie Marmon Silko book, the screenplay and director’s journal for Darren Aronofsky’s p(Pi), and Philip Toshio Sudo’s Zen Sex, the companion volume to Zen Guitar, which I reviewed on this website. My friend Dave also went to that garage sale, and purchased The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume I. I saw him walking down the sidewalk, and asked if they had anything good at the sale.

“They did. But it’s yours, now. Happy early birthday present.” He handed me the book.

Thanks, Dave. 🙂

In the afternoon, I watched the Broncos-Rams game, glad to see that Brian Griese pulled through for the team. I get sick of the media hounding him, and it was nice to see him prove — again — that he’s a world class quarterback. During the game, I told my wife that I was going to either write or critique stories tonight, and that’s exactly what I did, after losing a close game of Literati to her. I beat her sister, though. (It’s strange to play a game over the Internet with someone who’s in the next room, but by doing so, we were also able to play with her sister in Phoenix. Pretty cool!)

I worked on “Chesterfield Gray,” getting into the swing of it by revising the three pages I had written before. I then continued for another page and a half, fact-checking WWII on the Internet as I went. I still didn’t know where the story was going, or why a WWII story was coming out, but I made a passing reference to Kamikaze attacks, and started exploring the main male character to see what made him tick. I decided that he had seen real death, and it had affected him deeply, and got to wondering which battles would be the most likely for him to have been in. I wanted it to be a battle where ships were known to have been directly hit by Kamikaze pilots, and the only ship that I knew off the top of my head had been hit was the U.S.S. Saratoga. She was badly damaged near Iwo Jima in 1945, with seven direct hits by Japanese aircraft. Three of those direct hits were Kamikaze strikes.

I know this because I dug out the obituary for my Uncle Wayne Johnson, who passed away in July. He was on the Saratoga on February 21, 1945, and was one deck below a direct Kamikaze hit. He spent the next ten days in a Hawaiian hospital, getting a glass eye and reconstructive surgery.

As I was reading the obituary, it hit me why I am writing this story. It’s my way of grieving for and paying tribute to my Uncle Wayne. Of course, the events in the story will only be tangential to his life, but I understand now why the story is coming out of me. I have a direction, now, and I can work on shaping the story into something worthy of his memory.

Wayne (sitting) and Lyle Johnson, brothers.  Cutter, New Mexico, March 2002
Photo © Stace Johnson, all rights reserved.

Hypocrisy

We detest it in our politicians. We expose it in our enemies. We scorn religious leaders because of it. And yet, we deny that it exists within ourselves.

The common definition of hypocrisy is “saying one thing and doing another.” The American Heritage Dictionary states that it is “the professing of beliefs or virtues one does not possess.” Whether we like it or not, I believe most of us are hypocritical occasionally, often without realizing it. How many of us have talked about helping the homeless and then lied about having spare change when approached on the street? I know I have, but rationalization comes to my rescue: “Another buck toward the price of a bottle. That’s not helping him.” There may or may not be truth to that rationalization; I never take the time to find out. This is not the right thing to do, but I have done it anyway. There have been times I have given change, as well.

Are all my hypocritical acts wrong? Frankly, I think it depends on the mood I am in, and I suspect mood and circumstances have more to do with hypocrisy than we might think. It is possible to make a statement or commitment with all good intentions, then later say something entirely different due to a change in the situation or mood. For example, when I was still in secondary school, my best friend and I promised that we would always seek each other’s advice when we were in a bind. This continued without fail for years, until I found a woman that I decided I was going to marry. I started confiding in her more than my friend, and when he confronted me about it, I explained that I would be spending the rest of my life with this woman (or so I thought) and that I felt I obligated to share the most important things in my life with her first. My statement was the beginning of several years’ stress and distance in our friendship.

Were my actions hypocritical? Strictly speaking, yes. Were they understandable? Again, yes, but not necessarily from the viewpoint of the person hurt by them. My situation had changed since we had made those childhood promises and my responsibilities changed with it, so I had to do what I thought was right, despite the pain I knew it would cause. Sometimes, it is necessary to reverse position and risk hypocrisy in order to maintain your own integrity!

This does not mean that hypocrisy should be used as a weapon. It may result from a decision, but should not be the force behind it. When it is, rationalizations or excuses are almost sure to be present. “I said this, but it does not apply to me for X reason” is a dangerous statement to make, and the motives behind it must be carefully scrutinized before we make it. One method I use for determining whether my rationalization has gotten out of control is to pretend that I am someone else watching me make this statement. Does it fit with the person I want to be known as? Are the reasons compelling to someone outside my position, or do they look like justifications for other action? Do my actions seem childish? By separating myself from the situation for a moment, I gain some distance and get a better perspective so I can decide whether to go ahead with a seemingly hypocritical decision. I try to remember that reason is an ally, but rationalizations can lead to grave mistakes.

Of course, I may just be trying to convince myself of all this ….

(I am happy to report that my friend and I finally put the distance behind us and are now as close as ever, despite the fact that our primary confidants are now our spouses.)