Ancient pack names

Summer walks in as I write in my journal and lets me stroke her head for a few moments before circling and laying at my feet. I asked her, “Should we have lived with you for a while before naming you, instead of picking a name and finding a dog to fit it? Is your real name Goo-Lack-a-Poo, an ancient pack name passed down through the ages?”

And now Dejah has come and laid down behind my chair, and here are the three of us, sharing a quiet moment.

Are their minds as full of thoughts and feelings as mine is? Do they curl up and stare into night contemplating what life could be like on other planets beyond the stars? Do they think about their litter mates and wonder how their lives are turning out?

Or are they content to lie here, no other thought in mind except “Yes, my body is comfortable resting in this position, and this is the be-all and end-all of life and isn’t it grand? We could be out in the cold and wind, but here we are, warm and content and fed. What more need we want?” What more, indeed?

I call softly to Summer, “Goo-Lack-a-Poo,” and she does not respond.

Letters into words into sentences

I have been writing more on my fancy new MacBook Air laptop, but something feels more authentic when I go back to my pen and journal. Perhaps it’s the physical act of forming the letters, and the letters into words, and the words into sentences, that make it all feel more real.

Can the reader tell the difference between something I composed with a pen, then transcribed, and something that sprang straight from the keyboard? I would, at first glance, think not.

But now the words come out and I feel like I can tell the difference. At least I feel closer to the thought.

Siesta

Here I am, taking up pen and paper again after a long winter’s nap. The first part of the day, before I slept, felt like being in a haze, under water — but at the time it felt normal. Not until I woke up from the nap did I realize how clear my mind is in comparison.

How often do people just plow through their day, making choices and decisions in a befuddled haze, when they just need to take a good nap?

But enough. What is it that my more-clear brain wants to share with the world? “Take more naps.” Oooh, profound.

The first thing that happened when I woke up was Summer, the puppy, stuck her nose in my ear. I laughed and grabbed at her, and we wrestled for a bit on the bed. So there’s another message from my cleared-up brain: Play with the puppy.

My brain has been as clogged as my sinuses of late. It feels more like a bad cold than you-know-what, but I have limited my contact with the outside world in these timid times. I am still sniffling, but my mind seems less clogged. Or perhaps it is that I haven’t picked up my iPhone today. Perhaps it’s the electronic toy that pulls the drapes across my mind.

My cleared-up brain cries: Leave the iPhone alone.

So: Take more naps. Play with the puppy. Leave the iPhone alone. Could there be three more sound bits of advice for a better life?

The W.B. Primer

Around New Year’s, blogger Toirdhealbheach Beucail reprinted his “Primer,” an introduction in which he explained a bit about himself and his life for those of us who have entered in the middle of his story, and I thought that was a lovely idea, so I’m adapting it for today.

Who I am

From my official Amazon author page: I (1953-) was raised in New Jersey but fell in love at first sight with the blue skies of Wisconsin, where I have spent my entire adulthood, first in radio news and more recently as a reporter/editor of community newspapers.

Author/publisher of 10 books and editor of a few more as January 2022 begins, I fancy my upcoming retirement years as a time of adding to that list. I’ve dabbled in podcasting, most notably in 80 episodes of Uncle Warren’s Attic, and still entertain the notion of firing up the microphone again someday.

I think of this as Act IV – I spent 22 years growing up, 22 years in radio, 22 years and counting in newspapers, and it feels like the fourth quarter is underway. Will I get a full 88 years? Who can say? Both grandfathers lived to be 85, my mother to 82, my father to 96. The best we can do is the best we can do until we can’t anymore.

The scene

We live not far from the waters of Green Bay, but more than 20 miles from the city of Green Bay. Still, you may detect an interest in football that would have surprised my childhood buddies if they didn’t know I’d landed in the Green Bay area. As anyone who lives near the 45th parallel, I love the four seasons, although some more than others.

We have three acres: An acre of green fields, an acre of woods, an acre of wetland down by the bay. It is a lovely place to live happily ever after, and I sometimes am overwhelmed that I get to live that life.

Dramatis personae

Red – Partner of almost a quarter century and wife of five years, she is a retired chemist and chief gardener, cook and bottle washer, as well as the brains of the outfit.

Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars – 8-year-old English cream golden retriever and long-suffering older sister. I chose the name in part so I could explain that she’s named after the heroine in one of the best “flops” in movie history, but it fits: Dejah is a feisty, alien creature.

Summer – The golden retriever puppy who recently took the place of Willow the Best Dog There Was but can never replace her, but this interloper has a mischievous streak that might win the old man over someday.

Blackberry – The cat. She ran across the highway on-ramp one morning yelling, “Home! Home! Home!” so I took her there. I almost named her E.T. until Red had a better idea. 

Willow The Best Dog There Was – The predecessor to Summer, Willow was my pal and beloved companion for 12 years, the dog who singlehandedly converted Warren the cat man into Warren the dog lover. I still refer to her often enough that it seems I should mention her among the regular cast. She wasn’t just a good dog, she was The Best Dog There Was, and I miss her every day, with all due respect to Dejah and Summer.

Interests and themes

I like old stuff. I’m a very analog kind of guy. Yes, I own CDs and digital music and all that, but I prefer my beloved turntable and seek out vinyl in all its forms. I love books and old movies and TV and all that pop culture stuff, especially from my childhood and before.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was the most unsettling novel I ever read, and I’ve spent most of my adult life watching in fascination as real life slowly imitated art. You might detect a love of freedom and a disdain for folks who think they know better how to run our lives. Down with Big Brother!

My mission, should I decide to accept

Some time ago, I distilled my writing goals down to “Encourage – Enlighten – Entertain,” and only recently (last week?) realized that doesn’t explain anything, so I elaborated:

I want to encourage people to use their brains and common sense and take initiatives. Encourage people to act with fearless freedom and not let busybodies and bullies run their lives.

I want to enlighten people about what came before – fun but semi-forgotten books and songs and TV and radio, and thoughts like Wallace D. Wattles’ “you are a creator, not a competitor.” 

I want to entertain and give the world adventures, stories that do all of the above and a few thrills and chills and spills — but after every chill a warming, after every spill an ascent.

Unforgettable forgotten albums: Kongos

It’s spring 1972. I thought I had never heard anything like it before. When I reached the final track, I realized that I had.

The cover of the promotional LP I’d grabbed at random in the college radio station was striking. I mean, look at it. Fifty years later the colors have yellowed a bit, but it’s a striking portrait.

I recognize a lot of the names in the credits, beginning with Gus Dudgeon, the producer. Doesn’t he play for, or produce, Elton John? And Gus is listed as playing bicycle bell, maracas, and an ass’s jawbone … Yeah, here are a bunch of Elton John names: Caleb Quaye, electric guitar; Dave Glover, bass; Roger Pope, drums (including “thunder drum” whatever that is). 

Oh! I think the thunder drum might be right here in the opening moments of the first track, “Tokoloshe Man.” The thunder drum thunders – boom boom boom boom – and jingle bells jingle and there’s a sense of a lot of people gathered, and somebody starts strumming a guitar and Glover kicks in with the bass, and then someone shout-sings a warning.

Continue reading “Unforgettable forgotten albums: Kongos”

Live Not By Lies

Monument to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Vladivostok, Russia; Photo 76706347 © Anna Krivitskaia | Dreamstime.com

A generation born since Sept. 11, 2001, has never known a world where armed guards did not search the innocent when they enter airports and other public places. They think it’s normal and proper to confirm you’re not a terrorist before boarding a plane or attending a concert.

A generation born since the 1980s has never thought of measles, chicken pox and mumps as mostly benign childhood diseases everyone had and recovered from. They think of these diseases as deadly threats that require vaccination.

Will the generation born in the last two years grow up to think it’s normal for a government to order citizens to undergo prescribed medical procedures and punish anyone who refuses?

When the Soviet government arrested Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, he released an essay called “Live Not By Lies.” 

“Our way must be: Never knowingly support lies! Having understood where the lies begin (and many see this line differently)—step back from that gangrenous edge! Let us not glue back the flaking scales of the Ideology, not gather back its crumbling bones, nor patch together its decomposing garb, and we will be amazed how swiftly and helplessly the lies will fall away, and that which is destined to be naked will be exposed as such to the world.”

Solzhenitsyn’s essay resonates in the face of the changes that have occurred in this country and the world these past two years. It’s shocking that a call to action aimed at Soviet citizens has such relevance for the people of the United States of America.

I’d like to think that the generation born in the last two years will grow up to think it’s normal to question authority and think for themselves. But it’s up to us to create that new normal, if I may borrow a phrase.

The imposter’s imposter

I sat down New Year’s morning and banged out three blog posts and improved another one that was waiting in the queue. “This is pretty good,” I thought, “I wish I could keep up this pace.”

It was then that I realized I have imposter syndrome even with myself. Not content to bemoan that I will never be the next Steven King or Ray Bradbury, now I’m unhappy that I may never be as good or productive as me.

“That one piece I wrote in 2001 — that book I put out in 2018 — will I ever match those? Wow, four decent blog posts in one morning — those days are gone, yes?”

Except those are proof that I can do it, and with the right conditions — a good night’s sleep, a little quiet time for focus — it can happen over and over. (And by “a little quiet time,” I might mean the five minutes I’m taking to rewrite this out of a journal entry.)

I know just where to find such time: Facebook informs me that last week I averaged 2 hours, 17 minutes of “daily screen time.” Sorry, Mark Z, my composing screen time is more important to me than my consuming screen time. Sayonara.

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