Lamont and Dude Look Back, but Not Very Far

A long, long time ago in an online paradise known as WordPress, there was a thing called the “DPChallenge.” It appeared on Tuesdays and it was pretty cool. It proffered a slightly more interesting challenge than the Daily Prompt of days of yore. I always enjoyed writing to it.

One day in February 2014 this prompt was posted. It consisted of some pictures and the instructions to write 1000 words, the idea being that a picture is worth at LEAST that.

Out of this prompt the dynamic duo of Lamont and Dude came into being. Lamont and Dude evolved and changed (as we are all wont to do here on WordPress), but their essential nature has not changed, not through the millennia and numerous incarnations in which they’ve roamed — or not roamed, depending — the planet. For those who might not know, Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with four years ago in response to this particular prompt! They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their previous incarnations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.

Lamont and Dude are beloved by a handful of loyal readers, some of whom have suggested I compile their stories into a legit book. I have given some thought to that, but it’s pretty complicated and/or I’m pretty lazy.

So… if you would like, as a retrospective, to read Lamont and Dude’s first adventure,  here it is! Dude’s Love Story


The DPChallenge went away and no one even noticed. Well, I noticed because I liked it, but generally once it was gone it was gone. My grandpa compared human life to a finger dipped into a bucket filled with water. It makes a stir (ha ha) when you put it in, but once you take it out again, the water returns to its static point in a matter of seconds. You can argue that some of the water comes out with your finger, but it’s negligible. This, I believe, will be the story with the Daily Prompt which meets its demise today. It’s a mystery to me why the powers of WordPress felt they had to kill something that works, but kill it they will. Yesterday 259 people wrote the prompt and generally it seems to hold steady at around 200 participants. That isn’t a lot, really. Maybe that’s the reason for killing it. Anyway, a lot of people will miss it. I know from my own blog and its readers, many more peope go to the grid for something to read than write the Daily Prompt.

There’s a theory afloat that it’s because WP wants us to have business accounts. The fact is, I have four other blogs on WordPress, five in total including this one, all of which I pay for. I rely on WordPress to host the websites of my books. Many of the books I’ve sold as a business client of WordPress were through connections made via the Daily Prompt. Basically, killing the Daily Prompt is taking away an effective arm of my marketing stragedy. That kind of pisses me off, frankly.

OH well…

The Cast


“What happened?”

My little brother held his arm as if it were a bone china tureen filled with hot soup, not that he’d know or care at all about what bone china is.

“I fell out of a tree up at the mission.” The Columban fathers had a mission a block from our house. It was acres and acres of deciduous forest. It was our playground, our happy place.

“I’ll call your father.”

She didn’t drive.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know where I went — probably to a neighbor’s  or maybe (I think) my grandma was visiting — or where the bone was set, but my brother came home with a cast on his forearm.

“Simple break,” said my dad. “No reason for hysterics, Helen.”

“I broke my arm,” she stuck out her left arm so we could see the crooked bit. “It never healed right.”

“Helen,” sighed my dad, “there were no hospitals.”

“She sent David for Dr. Festy.” David being her older brother.

“Had to set it with boards in the kitchen, right? They did the best they could.”

“My poor boy. Mother gave me castor oil.”

“For a broken arm?”

“I wouldn’t stop crying.”

My dad shook his head and laughed. That was my grandma. What do you do on a dirt farm with ten kids, no car, no phone, two Percherons, a 7-year-old with a broken arm? From where I sit now, castor oil doesn’t seem that crazy.

“Well, it ruins our vacation,” said my mom.

“Why?” asked my dad.

“Kirk won’t be able to do anything. He has to be in a cast for three months!”

That did not turn out to be the case. Kirk did everything a two-armed kid would do except play Little League which he hated, anyway.

At the end of the summer, we went to Montana on the train as usual. The days were long, hot, sweet and filled with family. There were sunset games of Red Rover and lots of running in the tall grass of the pasture between grandma’s house and Aunt Jo’s. There were backyard picnics with fried chicken, red Jell-o mixed with fruit cocktail, potato salad and pie. The grownups sat in lawn chairs smoking in the darkness while we played monsters with flashlights.

One afternoon our cousins came over to stay with grandma and play with us. My brother  was playing in the ditch (not supposed to because of the cast) with the two youngest cousins, girls, while I tried watercolor painting with out a brush — I was trying to use the bristly ends of some wild grass. It didn’t work. Kirk and my cousins came screeching in through the backdoor. Kirk had caught a sucker with his bare hands. This was a marvel, a feat previously only accomplished by my mom.

“Mom! Look what I caught!” He held the fish carefully in both hands.

“Where’s your cast?” asked my mom, turning pale.

“I don’t know,” said my brother, suddenly realizing how seriously he’d messed up. It turned out he’d been slipping that thing off for weeks when he didn’t want to wear it.

I still have an image in my mind of that tow-headed kid in the Hawaiian shirt my mom had made him during the months she and my dad were living in Honolulu and we were living with Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank in Montana. We’re in a doctor’s waiting room. The chairs are Chartreuse, the tile floor black and white. Kirk and my mom are called into the examining room. They get up and Kirk leaves the cast on the chair.

Write On or Off?

I’ve been thinking about WP pulling the plug on the Daily Post Prompt. They were going to do this a couple of years ago, as I recall, and the hue and cry that went up “inspired” them to change their minds. In response to our response, they kept the prompts but changed them from a full-on writing assignment to a single word. Of course, there was objection to this in the beginning (people are resistant to change) but the Daily Prompters settled down and went back to work writing and posting and commenting and the rest is history.

Word Press’ break up letter says (among other things),

Our mission has always been to inspire others to blog more and to blog better, even if “blogging better” means something quite different in 2018 than it did back in 2010. The editors and contributors who’ve tended to this site have all changed, grown, and evolved, and so have the members of this community. What has stayed consistent — almost miraculously so — is the spirit of openness, respect, and camaraderie of the people who’ve made this place a part of their online journey. Yes, that’s you.

From those of us on the team who’ve contributed to The Daily Post over the years, thank you for being the best blogging community on the web, bar none. It’s been a total joy.

If the “mission” of Word Press has been to “inspire others to blog more and blog better” removing a key component of the platform that succeeds in promoting this mission makes no sense. I also have no idea how “blogging better” is different today than it was in 2010. If I were the teacher, I’d mark this and say, “Explain and give evidence.”

Basically, what this says is, “It’s not you. You’re great. It’s me. I’m not good enough for you.”

As often happens with these vague break up letters, the stated message is in clear juxtaposition to reality. WordPress is not a public service designed to bring neophyte writers into the wonder that is writing. It’s a bidness.

WordPress makes money from more people writing blogs and seeking to improve whatever skills are involved in that. Last year they broke the billion dollar mark in earnings. The true mission of any for profit entity is profit.

Ask Ivanka Trump.

With the ending of the Daily Post/Prompt, WP’s stated mission of inspiring others to “blog more” rings hollow to me. Why should anyone write a blog? A person can get a notebook or a journal (or a laptop or a desktop) and write a few hundred words every day without a blogging site. So why write a blog instead of a journal?

So others can read what you’ve written.

It seems to me that — for people writing blogs — one of the two biggest advantages of Word Press posting a daily prompt is the grid that grows as people post and tag back to the Daily Post. That’s where many people find new blogs to read. The other advantage is that the Daily Post/Prompt is a place for new bloggers to start. Without the grid, it will be a lot more difficult to find blogs to read. Without the prompt, the person diving in, hoping to write a blog, will have to find his/her own starting point.

There are tens of thousands — possibly hundreds of thousands — of people who don’t read my blog(s), and I don’t read theirs. I’ve learned something more about this looking at comments on Ben Huberman’s Post. Many, many people are coming up with possible solutions to the vanishing Daily Post/Prompt. I’m kinda sorta behind this and kinda sorta not, but kinda/sorta is my world view right now.

In a sense, my blog and those I read regularly are writing letters to each other every day. We have become part of each other’s lives and that, I think, is what upsets many Daily Prompters/Posters most; that WordPress doesn’t seem to get it, that connections have been formed through the Daily Post/Prompt and these connections matter to people.

Anyway, I have no idea why WordPress would kill off a tiny corner of its big enterprise. I don’t  know what is meant by;

“The editors and contributors who’ve tended to this site have all changed, grown, and evolved, and so have the members of this community.”

What evolution? What “growth”? These are just words that mean, “I’m not the person you married. I’ve changed. I’ve grown as an individual,” meaning, “I don’t like you anymore.”

“What has stayed consistent — almost miraculously so — is the spirit of openness, respect, and camaraderie of the people who’ve made this place a part of their online journey. Yes, that’s you.”

And that, folks, means “I’m passively aggressively bludgeoning you with double-speak and positive language so you won’t get all rude and fussy about this,” like “Good little girls like you don’t sit with their legs spread.”

I have never been on an “online journey” with WordPress. I have used a utility I pay for.

Chances are very good that I will not even attempt to write something here every day after Wednesday. Maybe it’s a sign for me to put my shoulder to the wheel, let Hans Kaspar Schneebeli find his lost brothers and settle in the new world.

Not Happening

“It’s a lot to live up to.”


“This moment. This dress. All these flowers. The cost. Why couldn’t we elope?”

“I thought you wanted this.”

“No, not especially. I’m not even sure about how I feel about marriage, let alone a big wedding.”

“NOW you tell me?”

“I’ve BEEN telling you, but you haven’t heard me and my mother? I feel like you two are in a conspiracy. This says ‘my mom’ all over it.” Tabitha looked at the white covered table laden with wedding gifts. The guest book. The other various wedding related objects that would have no use once the “big day” had passed.

“Do you want to call it off, Tabby?’

“How many times do I have to tell you I’m not Tabby? Tabby is a cat.”

Kent shrugged, but he had a sinking feeling — had had for some time.

“Kent, honey, in fact, I think we need…”

“…to talk, right?”


“Have at it.”

“Honestly, I don’t want to do this. I want to send back all these stupid presents, cancel the wedding, and go to Bhutan or some place. This is stupid.”


“Yeah, this retro-glamor-commercial bullshit. I don’t want it. I don’t want it at all.”

“Why didn’t you say sooner?”

“I’m saying now.”

“Yeah, but the invitations have been sent out.”

“Really? And how does that matter? It’s my life. And those three hundred people? They have better things to do than sit through some ceremony and then a reception where we do some dorky dance that someone puts on Youtube hoping it’ll go viral. It won’t. We’re not that good. It’ll just be embarrassing.”

“So you don’t want to marry me?”

“That’s a separate issue. I don’t want this stupid wedding. Thousands of dollars for what? Half of all marriages end in divorce. I think if people decide to marry with odds like that they ought to crawl away and do it secretly in case it doesn’t work out and maybe celebrate after 20 years.”

“Wow. I never knew you felt this way.”

“You never asked me.”

“All those dress fittings…”

“Good god, spare me the memory of that. Listen, I can’t do this, I won’t do this. You can tell my mom since you two are such good buddies.”

“That’s just cold.”

“No, it isn’t. You should care about what I want, what I believe in. It should matter to you.”

“Really? You’re a woman. This is your big day, your day to shine, be a princess, all of that. I have sisters. I know.”

“Maybe I’m not your sisters? Maybe we’re not all alike? Maybe I’d like to shine some other way? Maybe? I think this was a huge mistake.”

“Ah, so now you don’t want to marry me.”

“No, I don’t think I do. Here.” Tabby put the diamond ring on the table between them and stood up. “I’m not sure what I want, but I know I don’t want this,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

Every Generation Throws a Hero Up the Pop Charts

I hate LinkedIn, but I have a LinkedIn account. Why? Well back in the day when I was teaching Business Communication I had to make sure my students were ready for the post-graduation job-search and that meant I had to teach them how to set up a LinkedIn profile.

My profile might be one of the most anti-LinkedIn profiles on the platform. It verges on hostility. I set most of the features to “private.” As hostile as it is, it’s been MORE hostile than it is now. It used to say, “I’m retired. I’m no longer teaching. I am not in the least interested in making connections or writing recommendations for former students.” When I retired I had reached the point where I was disgusted by my students. It’s true; the final few batches were — well, thinking about them (with some notable exceptions) still makes me shudder. I haven’t included my teaching in the section labeled “experience,” either. I doubt I ever will.

Among my 33 connections are some old friends, a legit business connection or two, one former colleague and four former students.

Periodically I go to my LinkedIn page to see how the former students are doing. Are they famous? No, but they are truly wonderful. There is Travis, a tall, gangly kid from Trinidad, Colorado, who came bounding into my writing class asking to add. The room was tiny — and packed. There were not enough desks. I said, “OK, but you’ll have to sit on the floor.”

He did. I put the tabletop lectern on the floor in front of him to use as a desk, and for the rest of the semester, Travis sat “in Japan.” Travis is gay, obviously not an easy thing to be in Trinidad, Colorado. He was so happy to be in San Diego. We became friends and remained so for years. He was a drama major and exceptionally talented. Among my many great memories of Travis was his decision to stage the “Witches’ Kitchen” section of Goethe’s Faust as a 1970’s disco for his final project. We had a lot of fun figuring that out. Now he’s teaching screenwriting and working as student affairs coordinator at an arts university in the bay area.

There’s Manny, who was a tough gang-banging kid from Oakland when I first met him. He’d had trouble with the law and had finally decided to come to school and pursue a law degree. His dream? To be a public defender. Manny was hilarious and completely real. He spent hours in my office doing his homework, joking around, talking about his plans. He was in an alien world at the White Bread University that was SDSU at that time.  He graduated, got into law school in Florida, finished, did his clerking, and is now an assistant public defender in Jacksonville, Florida.

I see these guys doing so well, doing what they hoped to do as younguns, and I feel warm inside and proud of them. I taught many, many remarkable people in those 30+ years, but I never got famous. I will always be grateful for that.

Little Women

I was (somewhat) looking forward to Masterpiece/BBC’s new Little Women, largely because it was going to coincide with me having to be less active and needing something to occupy my drug-addled brain, but also because, you know, Little Women. Yesterday, I started watching it, but…it isn’t Little Women; just a costumed doppelgänger.

But what else could it be?

My first contact with Little Women was when I was between second and third grades. I was a precocious reader already reading at an 11th grade level. An abridged version was for sale at the local supermarket and my mom bought it for me. It was the first real novel of my life, the first story in which I lost myself. I read it soon after we moved into our house in Nebraska — there was no carpet on the floor, just my parents’ Navajo rugs. I have a distinct memory of lying on one of them and thinking about the fact that I was lying there, reading a real book, and I would remember it.

Clearly, I do.

As time passed, I read all of Louisa May Alcott’s books. I developed a long-lived passion for American Victorian fiction that ultimately led to my Masters Thesis on Fiction and Poetry in Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1825 to 1849.”  Her novels led me to other things, too.

Louisa May Alcott’s stories wear the silver charm of Transcendentalism (no eight year old will know or care about that), and as I was growing up and reading for fun, I was unconsciously indoctrinating myself in a philosophy that would ultimately lead me to Goethe who had deeply influenced American Transcendentalist thought. But not only Transcendentalism. The chapters of Little Women are named for locations in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress such as the “Slough of Despond” and “Vanity Fair.” This Christian allegory from the 17th century is completely alive to Alcott’s characters and the sisters self-consciously regard themselves as pilgrims on the path to perfecting themselves in goodness. The novel also brings up questions of justice and fate.

It’s an incredibly complex social commentary of a time in which none of us has lived. Even at eight years old, as I closed the covers after turning the last page, I knew those girls were not me. I stood up from the floor. No hoops or crinolines, I was wearing shorts on that warm September day. “Mom, I finished it.”

But I never really finished it. The complexity of the story, the challenges of the girls, the hardships they faced because of the father’s choices, the goodness of their mother, the darkness of the Civil War, the compromises, the harshness of economic inequality, the shattered dreams, the equivocal love stories, life’s inevitable disappointment and heartbreak. Little Women was the first novel in my experience that contained real life which we all know is not happy endings, requited love, perfect health, answered questions. I’m glad the first real book of my life was that one.

Several years ago I printed pictures of all the people in history who have been my heroes and made a collage to put in my studio/shed. Louisa May Alcott’s was the first face in the first row.

Here’s a review I liked very much. I wouldn’t have written it, and don’t agree with it completely (I don’t think criticism through the backward telescope is fair) but I like it. It’s intelligent and thought-provoking, bringing up some good questions.


In other news, two forest fires already burning in my neck of the woods. Thank goodness we don’t have climate change or it would be worse. Grrrrr grrrrr grrrrrr grrrrr

Dog and Bird Report

Big day yesterday. It didn’t start out as I hoped — lunch with a friend in Del Norte — but sometimes your body isn’t with the program, and mine is a little archaic to rebound instantly. 😦

I drove for the first time and the journey was out to see the dogs. Mary Lou, the woman working at Noah’s Arff yesterday, let Dusty and Bear out into the play yard and I stood by the fence with my walker (because the ground is pretty chewed up there). They ran to me and jumped up and there was much kissing. The arthritis in Dusty’s righ hip was more pronounced — perhaps because I haven’t been around him in nearly 3 weeks. Then, they had other and better things to do — most of all, they are happy. They were happy to see me, happy to play with each other, happy to see what the other dogs are doing. They are NOT pining for me.

You might think, “Dogs don’t pine,” but that’s not true. Anyone who’s seen Hatchi knows that. I’ve had three dogs who pined, one of whom, Molly, killed herself by sticking her head between two boards she thought were a fence trying to get out of a friend’s yard. She wanted to come home to me. Molly knew my friend, she’d been at this house many times and it seemed like a good place for her while I went to see my aunt in Colorado. But, it ended in one of my life’s saddest stories. 😦 Cody pined, stopped eating and wouldn’t move but lay in his pee and poop for two days when he thought I wasn’t going to adopt him from a shelter where he’d been for 3 months. I was adopting him; there was just a delay because of Sunday. Ariel threw herself on the floor of the vet’s office and howled bloody murder when she thought I was leaving her behind.

I’m really glad Dusty and Bear are NOT those dogs. I’m relieved that they’re happy. They’re going to stay at pre-school (ha ha) until after my doc visit on June 20. I’ll go get them on June 21 and I really cannot wait because I’m pining, but at least I can see them whenever I want to.

After visiting them, I decided to drive to the slough to see if the wild iris were blooming. They should be. My gallant steed (cane) and I headed up the dusty trail, slowly. Summer has arrived in the interval. There are leaves on the trees, birds singing everywhere, swallows swooping and water in the river. Wild iris, however? I don’t know. Maybe winter and spring were too dry for them this year.


Shriver/Wright Wildlife Area

I was hesitant to go too far on the trail. The ground is uneven and so am I; not a good combination, but then I thought that without the dogs, I can walk the beautiful paved trail around the lake across from Homelake Veterans Home. I can join all the other disabled veterans. They, of course, are veterans of wars while I’m just a general all-around veteran of stuff.


My Gallant Steed

As I was driving home, my phone rang in my back pocket. “OH well,” I thought. I got home and saw it was my artist friend with whom I sometimes go to Taos. I called her back and learned she was in my town. She’d been in Creede — a small beautiful town to the northwest — all day where she has working hanging in a new gallery. She lives in Alamosa which is 18 miles east from me — not far but far enough that hanging out is seldom spontaneous. We had our conversation (there are people with whom you have ONE conversation and it’s great) and then she said, “Don’t hurry. You need to heal, for yourself and your dogs. Don’t bring the dogs home.”

I already knew I wasn’t bringing them home for a while, but I was glad to hear it from her. I was also impressed by my own self. Time was I didn’t listen to anyone. 🙂

Random Quotidian Rambling, Surgery and Politics

I’m going to visit my dogs today. I had big dreams of bringing them home yesterday, but that was impossible. I had hopes of bringing them home next week, but those dreams are fading fast. I’m not steady on my pins, can’t clean house easily, can’t bend over (to put their food dish down), can’t walk them, can’t carry a bag of dog food, can’t hold Dusty back from charging the front door etc. etc. I did get a pooper-picker-upper that I don’t have to bend over to use. I am now thinking that I can get them in ten days, on the one-monthiversary of my surgery.

I’m still very tired. Yesterday I had physical therapy, and then a friend dropped in for a visit. After that I needed a two hour nap. 🙂

The post-surgery brain is an interesting world. Yesterday I had to figure out how to empty the recycling bin in my kitchen without lifting or bending over. That ended up me using my reacher/grabber to take stuff out and put in a paper bag that I could then carry out back to the recycling can. It sounds like a smart solution, and it was, but it revealed how messed up my brain has been from this whole thing — one of the pieces of paper was a check for $65 I’d endorsed. Apparently I’d put the stub in my wallet and the real money in the recycling. It has a little protein powder on it, but I can still deposit it.

There’s a lot of hard and serious work going on in my body right now. The acetabulum is trying to grow into the new piece that was installed. It’s been glued in, but the real healing is when my own bone grows to hold the implant. It takes about three months. This can be messed up and I don’t want it to be.


In other guilty news, I’m watching the President create truth. It’s truly amazing. Because I was taught (meaning it was hammered into my head by my teachers and professors) to be skeptical, find primary sources and do research in more than one place, it’s just my nature NOT to believe anything until I see it corroborated by more than one source, hopefully sources that are relatively unbiased. SO…when I see Trump quoting Fox News (exclusively) I’m not fooled (or even interested). I know what he’s doing every time he decries “false news!” He’s calling out to his supporters to reject a story that might have been published by several different sources (a symptom of facts) but isn’t what he wants people to know or believe. I’ve always been aware that he does this on purpose. Nonetheless, this stunned me:

(Leslie) Stahl said she and her boss met with Trump at his office in Trump Tower in Manhattan after the 2016 election in advance of a recorded sit-down interview for “60 Minutes.

“At one point, he started to attack the press,” Stahl said. “There were no cameras in there.”

“I said, ‘You know, this is getting tired. Why are you doing it over and over? It’s boring and it’s time to end that. You know, you’ve won … why do you keep hammering at this?'” Stahl recalled.

“And he said: ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.'”

As Mueller’s infinitely long and convoluted investigation continues, and people lose interest in it, and the economy is (allegedly) strong, and Trump continues to fulfill his campaign promises, it is less and less likely that anyone will care whether he lies or not. His behavior is that of a guilty person, but people who believe they are doing better financially now than they were 2 years ago aren’t going to care.

It’s not just the media that Trump discredits in this way. He’s gone after any group who stands up not in opposition to him but in support of the truth. Yesterday James Clapper explained that the FBI was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, ultimately something that would protect the legitimacy of the election. Yet, Trump is calling it “Spygate.”

On Tuesday, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, went on “The View” … to talk about President Donald Trump and the intelligence community.

During that interview, this exchange happened between Clapper and co-host Joy Behar:

BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”

CLAPPER: “No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.”

BEHAR: “Well, why doesn’t [Trump] like that? He should be happy.”

CLAPPER: “He should be.”


Meanwhile, the NFL mandates that players must stand for the National Anthem, taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is nearer to being cut off, kids have been killed in school (again? still?). Is it that an unborn fetus is more important than a high school kid on the brink of his/her life and future that the gumint can “protect” one life and ignore the losses of others? Never mind that abortion is not Planned Parenthood’s main job. I — and many of my students over the years — visited Planned Parenthood for such important things as free HIV testing. I don’t know. I don’t expect sense any more.

There’s a great phrase in Spanish, Jodidos pero contentos — all fucked up but OK. I’m kind of there. With the surgery, the drugs, the brain weirdness, the slow-motion life, the regaining of skills and abilities, the national situation looks foggy, distant and gray. What really matters is that I sleep on my back, don’t bend forward more than 90 degrees and get my dogs home as soon as I safely can. I can’t influence the gubmint, I can’t change the minds of his supporters or effectively do anything but show up to vote in November. I only have to show up at my mailbox so that’s no big deal. I do wish some other party (or even the repubs) would step forward with something positive because an anti-Trump campaign is not going to win seats in Congress.

You’re Just a TV Show

“Don’t assume anything. Assuming makes an…”

“Don’t, please, don’t give me that incredibly tired and hackneyed spelling cliché OK? Anyway, I don’t agree. An assumption is just a theory. As long as we KNOW we’re not dealing with facts but something we simply believe might be true, we’re OK.”

“Whatever. You always make a mountain…”

“Stop it.”

“Do you want some more coffee?”

“No thanks. Gotta’ run. Big day at work.”

“Oh right. Your presentation is today.”


“No wonder you’re so testy.”

“Argh. See you later.”

Ted closed the front door behind him, got behind the wheel of the big-finned Chevy and drove to the train station. As he pulled into his parking space, he looked up and saw the train was arriving. “Dammit,” he muttered. “I might not make it.” He took the keys out of the ignition, buried them in the deep front pocket of his Brooks Brothers Suit and, taking his briefcase, ran for the train, reaching the platform just as the conductor yelled, “All aboard!”

He settled into a seat by the window and watched the fields and suburbs vanish into low-rent urban sprawl, small industry and automobile graveyards. “You’re just a TV drama,” said a voice apparently coming from the window. “Everything you think is real is just in the mind of a bunch of TV writers.”


The images in the window flashed ever faster as the train got nearer the city.

“Watch when you get off the train,” said the voice. “See what happens.”

Ted shook his head, “I must have been dozing,” he thought. “Wow.”

The brakes of the train squealed, and the wheels grated against the tracks. Ted stood up to get his hat and briefcase from the rack above the seat, but there was nothing there. He looked around, wondering how he could have left them in the car. “I was late,” he thought. “I wish Esther didn’t even open her stupid mouth sometimes. I bet they’re in the car.”

When he turned around he was stunned. What was going on? People were — there were so many women most of them in trousers? Young people staring into dark rectangles apparently stuck to their palms. Why? What? “Excuse me,” he said, inadvertently bumping into an immensely fat teenager with plugs in his ears.

He carefully stepped down from the train car onto the platform. Huge panels with vivid advertising surrounded him. “How in hell?” he asked himself. Reaching the station, he headed inside, hoping to grab a taxi and get to the office and away from the weirdness, but even Grand Central Station was different, brighter, lighter, the smokey dinge he knew so well seemed to have been blasted away by one of Proctor and Gambles’ new bleach products. He fumbled in his jacket for a smoke and his lighter. Putting the cigarette in his mouth he shook open the engraved Ronson lighter Esther had given him for his birthday.

“No smoking, sir,” said a station attendant.


“That’s right sir, no smoking.”

Ted put the cigarette into the attendant’s hand and headed toward the revolving doors. As he pushed the door away from him he noticed an elegantly dressed old man,  a cigarette butt hanging from his tired lips. As they passed, their eyes connected in an electric glance of recognition. The old man tipped his hat to Ted and nodded. A shiver ran down Ted’s spine. Ted shook his head. “What is going on this morning?”

Outside the station, Ted hailed a Checker Cab at the same moment as a slender woman in a leopard skin pillbox hat, pencil skirt and stiletto heels. “Would you share?” she asked, holding her long cigarette holder away from her red lips

“With pleasure. Where are you going?”

“Madison Avenue.”


In my recovery world I needed a compelling TV series to get me through the evenings. Someone suggested Mad Men. I’d started watching it some time ago but didn’t like the stereotypes and the tendency to make people from that era look stupid. I still don’t like those aspects, but I understand the stereotypes were a gate to allow entry for people who were not there. I would’ve been Don Draper’s daughter, more or less.

Watching it has been strange — but it’s a way to kill those hours before bed when the swelling has been worst. It’s also made me think about writing historical fiction. I keep imagining my characters showing up at my door saying, “OK, look, you got some stuff right, but seriously?” I think this especially with cigarettes — which the makers of Mad Men seem fascinated by. Yeah, back in the day, most adults smoked a lot, but I don’t think they would have focused their cameras on the ash trays. It was just how things were, something constantly in the background (not the foreground) of existence.

What was NOT in the background of their existence are Don Draper’s words, “We have everything, right?” In that I heard all the long dinner table diatribes of my childhood about growing up in the Depression and how lucky us kids were to have had everything.

Small Town Mentality

It’s too soon to say that the drought has broken, but we’ve had three cloudy damp days in a row and yesterday, in the thriving megalopolis of Alamosa, Colorado, there was hail and a flood on the parking lot at City Market. I was there. My neighbor took me shopping at my favorite store. We made it into a scavenger hunt for the strangest objects. She said I won, but I think she did. She found a glow-in-the-dark alien egg. I just found cans of nuts packaged as breakfast food. It is kind of funny that there are nuts packaged as women’s health.

Stop that.

When we got home, she carried in my groceries and helped me put them away. I can’t lift, carry, or bend over so even though I CAN drive to the store, I can only buy one banana at a time…. At the moment, I’m wearing sweat pants I got for the hospital. My Aussie neighbor shortened them for me. In a little while, she’s taking me to my local doc to get my staples removed.

I’m sitting here in this beautiful town surrounded by kindness. It’s as if the divine powers said, “OK, Martha. You’ve gone into those classrooms and fought the good fight for more than 30 years. From now on, you get kindness. You get to be kind, you get to be treated kindly. You get to go where the news is things like the high school kids doing community service — cleaning weeds from various locations around town and walking dogs at the local shelter. In my town that gets two pages. The cemetery tells the town that with the water shortage, they’re going to have to figure out an alternative to lawn this year and they ask for suggestions and help. A group has organized to provide public transportation between some of the towns on my side of the San Luis Valley. It’s a pilot program, and they need two volunteer drivers.


And best of all….

A local group of developmentally disabled adults — SLV People First — has published its “first book” (they plan on more) entitled Important Things. A staff writer interviewed these people for the article, and while their answers are what you’d expect, the beauty is that their story is in the paper and the book is for sale. The underlying theme of the stories in the book is the determination of these people to live independently and to speak for themselves.

Not long ago a friend of a friend described narrow-minded people as people who have a “small town mentality.” My friend and I were both angered and amused by this. The small-town mentality I know is a bunch of people going out to a fairly remote farm where there is a child in a wheelchair and building a ramp to the front door for the family who lives there.

The stereotype of small town people has — as do all stereotypes — some basis in reality. It’s true that the people in my town are mostly politically and fiscally conservative, but the reason WHY is grounded in the reality that many “social programs” don’t need to be coordinated by a government agency. Some do, naturally, but as a community we depend on each other, our families and our churches — even I, with no family and no church, can rely on friends who can, equally, rely on me. I would be sad to think that the philosophy of love thy neighbor is only a small-town thing, something that has disappeared from the lives of people in big cities.