Expecting things to last forever

When I was a boy, I expected things to last forever.

Then I learned that toys and families break, that friends move away and new friends are made, that loves and loved ones are lost and found. That joy and sorrow coexist and that nothing stays the same.

Transient, too, are the wonders of the world, whether shaped by wind and water or formed by our own hands. We mourn their destruction or decay, their ultimate absence from our world.

Then we build again or leave a space to remember, with tears and a smile, what we once had.

Pixabay image

It’s inevitable

Woke up this morning

Woke up this morning
to the obnoxious beeps
of a garbage truck in reverse
that turned out to be
emanating from a new
but defective coffee maker
that almost always drips
some of my favorite dark roast
outside of the coffee pot*
so it sizzles on the warming plate
before making its way
to the countertop
in a hot, brown puddle.

* Under the circumstances, I hesitate to call the pot a carafe or decanter.

Fiction and the old neighborhood

No one has asked me yet, but I have the answer.

The question has to do with the title of my new Detective Red Shaw novel: North of Grand.

Why that? I’m glad you asked.

Much of Des Moines, Iowa, is north of Grand Avenue. It cuts through the city east to west – or west to east, depending on your point of view.

I was born there, grew up there, and lived there for a long time. I worked there. Mrs. Smith and I bought our first house there, a block north of I-235 in a neighborhood known as North of Grand. We lived there when our son was born.

soda-jerk-713089_1920
Not me. Pixabay image

South of Grand was another world. It’s where my mother took me and my five siblings on occasion to marvel and gawk at big, beautiful, expensive homes when we were kids. They were especially awe-inspiring when lit up for the holidays. She took us to a different neighborhood on the southeast side sometimes, too, to see how the truly poor people lived.

We were somewhere between rich and poor, a family of seven in a three-bedroom home on Merle Hay Road. (Why seven? One divorced woman plus six kids. She slept on the sofa.)

In high school I worked at a pharmacy just a block north of Grand Avenue, delivering prescriptions to old ladies in the neighborhood, driving a car with a manual transmission that I learned to operate in a panic on my very first day on the job.

The same little store housed the best soda fountain around, with real ice cream made right in the store. I served malts and shakes and cherry cokes and lime phosphates and great sandwiches and other treats to pretty Catholic girls from the nearby high school, to the friendly florist from across the street, to other people that I don’t remember quite so well.

I was a drug-running soda jerk. Last time I checked, the soda fountain was still there.

The people and the crimes portrayed in North of Grand are purely imaginary. Really bad things do happen in Des Moines, of course, but none that I’ve witnessed.

A young guy did threaten to kill me and a friend when we were in high school, but we managed to talk him out of it. One night years later someone reached in our son’s bedroom window at our little house on Iola Avenue and took off with a diaper bag, but that’s the closest thing to crime that came our way.

All things considered, Des Moines is a pretty good place to live or to be from. We’ve been away for years now, but it never seems that long ago.

North of Grand is in my blood. It’s in my bones.

Read on.

B.J.

On a lighter note…and a darker background

Hello. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Please forgive the somewhat darker keyboard image. It may seem a little moody, but it’s simply providing more contrast with the verbiage that runs across the middle in front of it. Some day I’ll find a WordPress theme that I don’t feel compelled to fiddle with.

Two other things

  1. I have a new Twitter account that you’re more than welcome to follow if you are so inclined. It’s going to focus on writing and written stuff. There may be an element of grouchiness at times, witness the pinned tweet about writer’s block.
  2. I’m on track to have my next crime novel available as an ebook by the end of July. Here’s to not being derailed yet again! Join my email list and you just might get a free copy. (You will for sure if you’re among the next 10 to join the list).

Write on.

B.J.

When message trumps spelling and grammar

Much human written communication is more clear if the spelling, grammar and punctuation are good.

Having said that, I will be embarrassed if you find a typo or other mistake in this post. If you do, feel free to mock me. I write and edit for a living, after all, so you should expect a certain level of quality in this space.

However, please think before you belittle anyone else over such details.

Sometimes spelling and grammar are simply not important.

Twitter users like to pick on poor spellers. Those pickers annoy me to no end, regardless of the pickee*. Their reactions to a Trump tweet a few weeks ago were typical.

Here’s one example.

Brian Klaas is a journalist, by the way. You can find my response here if you’re interested, but here’s a summary:

I don’t care that Trump can’t spell or punch letters on his phone without making a mistake. Millions of people are poor spellers. It doesn’t matter. The message matters.

Mocking a person over spelling in social media marks you as a snob.

For another example of what matters, take a look at Inmate Blogger, which I came across just the other day. Read a few of the posts by incarcerated men and women.

Some are polished and punctuated to near perfection.

Some are profoundly eloquent in their rawness.


 

* pickee: One who is picked upon. If it is not in your dictionary, it should be.

Homo sapiens in nature

Nature doesn’t exist
apart from us, Rabbit Mountain mule deerand we do not live
apart from nature.
It surrounds us, permeates us.
We are in it, and of it.

We are no less a part of nature than
chattering wrens and howling wolves,
flitting butterflies and buzzing bees,
mountain forests and lakes and raging
rivers and meadows alive with wildflowers.

Squirrels outside a window,
birds at the neighbor’s feeder,
mule deer grazing on a hillside
take what they need to live
while we claim to be wise.