Friday, August 26, 2016

"George Running Poles" finds a home in new Wyoming anthology

I've been working on a novel since the spring. I got tired of agents and editors asking me, a short-story writer, if I had a novel. This longer piece grew out of a short story that wanted to go long. So now it is. I won't say what it's about because it's supposed to be bad luck. I will say that it's set in Colorado in 1919-1920. An intriguing era, this post-war period. The Great War altered how people viewed the world. Women got the vote and Prohibition became law which led to lawlessness, even in rural Colorado. The Klan was on the rise, attacking Irish- and Italian-Catholics -- and Hispanics -- when they couldn't find any black people to torment (the alt-Right is nothing new). Americans were spooked by the Russian Revolution (the U.S. had 8,000 troops in Russia in 1918-1920 fighting the Bolsheviks) and blamed commie troublemakers for everything from labor unrest to avant-garde art. That gives me a few subjects to use for conflict in my story. Then there's the usual problems caused by the human heart in conflict with itself.

On the short story front, I heard two weeks ago that my story "George Running Poles" has been accepted for the new book, Blood, Wind, Water, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers. It will be published in the fall by Sastrugi Press of Jackson. Lori Howe, a fine poet, is the editor. Look for it at an indie near you. Support your Wyoming writers! Just to whet your appetite, here is the story's opening paragraph:
Two teen boys walk along the asphalt bikeway in Riverton, Wyoming. George Jumping Bull pushes a shopping cart he found abandoned in the winter-brown grass. He’s wearing black sweatpants bunched over white running shoes and a red bandanna tied around his close-cropped hair. Jimmy Jones wears his black Oakland Raiders cap sideways, its bill pointing east. He milks a pint bottle of vodka as he walks. George reaches for it.
Lynn Carlson has asked me to write a short piece for the blog she co-authors/edits with Susan Mark. The blog, Writing Wyoming: Words, wind and everything else Wyoming, features great posts about writing and marketing your work. I've pulled a number of publishing leads off of this blog. Lynn's latest post on Aug. 16 is about the Storycatcher Workshop she attended in Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Go read it. Lynn asked me to write a composite post by Sept. 9 on the subject of reading your work at open mic sessions. I readily agreed, as it took me awhile to read my work in public, period. I was 39 or 40 the first time I read in public as a late-blooming grad student at CSU in Fort Collins. Since then, I have embarrassed myself many times in public, from Denver to Cheyenne to Washington, D.C. What experiences do you have as a writer in a public forum? Let me know so I have something to blog about in September. Here's the topic: "A good noise: in praise of the open mic." Lynn took the title from a John Gorka song:
'Cause if you cannot make yourself a good noise
tell me what you're doing here.
My daughter Annie now lives in Chicago. Her northside neighborhood was once Polish and then Hispanic and now, I'm afraid, is in danger of gentrification. A brewpub has opened next to the wig store and funky murals are replacing graffiti. Hipsters have been sighted. She wants us to come visit so is arranging interesting sites to see and tours to go on. The Chicago Mafia Tour sounds intriguing. I may prefer the Chicago Literary Tour which includes stops at sites occupied by such fine writers as Gwendolyn Brooks, Ernest Hemingway, Lorraine Hansberry and Carl Sandburg, and the office of the woman who first published James Joyce in the U.S. Writers with Chicago roots continue to compose great works. I'm talking about you, Larry Heinemann, Dave Eggers and Walter Mosley.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

In which I come up short in my race for precinct committeeman

Tuesday's primary election yielded some surprises.

First, and most disappointing, is that I was upset in my pursuit of precinct 2-7 committeeman. As is true with most Laramie County precincts, 2-7 gets to elect a committeeman and woman. Big deal, you might say. Many precincts had no Democrats running. The power and glory attached to these positions consist of voting for county officers in the spring. Every precinct person gets a vote. County officers are charged with running the party, conducting meetings, staging the county convention and basically setting the agenda. During non-presidential election cycles, a county chair may not have much to do. But presidential election years up the ante, especially this time out with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vying for the nomination. It was a bit contentious at times, especially during the county caucus when the Bernie supporters were being a bit frisky. Laramie County also held the state convention, which is a big responsibility.

Where was I? Oh yeah, committeeman. I lost in a tight race to Ed Waddell, my neighbor who also ran  the local Sanders campaign. He also is running for city council, a good job for an urban planner. Ed beat me fair and square, earning eight more votes than I did. On the distaff side, my wife Christine earned 127 votes, swamping the two write-in candidates. So Christine and Ed will serve our precinct during the coming year.

I must mention that there was only one other contested precinct race. In that one, Heather Muth lost to Mary Throne. Credit name recognition, as Mary is the House Minority Leader and gets mentioned in the newspapers and TV quite a lot. Heather is my colleague on the Laramie County Democrats Grassroots Coalition events committee which plans all of the fund-raisers, most of which involve food and, occasionally, alcoholic beverages. We raised $15,000 for legislative candidates during this cycle.

In big cities, precinct spots are always fought over. You are in charge of getting out the vote for your area. That includes knocking on doors, holding potlucks, distributing flyers and signs, and generally making a nuisance of yourself. Grassroots stuff. We are just not used to that around here, Democrats especially. We are outgunned and outnumbered. Disappointed and disgruntled.

But an infusion of new blood to the most populous county in the state had energized us. I also have to give credit to the Bernie surge. Some of those folks have decided to get involved with the party. Not easy to do for some, who viewed Hillary and the party as inseparable, Clinton was seen as the establishment candidate, while Bernie was the outrider -- and an Independent. Independents don't exist on Wyoming ballots. You are either a D or R or U -- Unaffiliated.

It didn't help that caucus-goers voted 56% for Bernie but received the same number of delegates (not counting Superdelegates) to the state convention. Ill will still exists over this. I'm no genius, but 56% is more than 44%.

So some Berniecrats, such as Ed Waddell, have chosen to be more involved or to stay involved. I wish them the best as they work to GOTV. The numbers are on the side of the Republicans. But we have some fine candidates running. In our HD8, Linda Burt is running against Bob Nicholas, the Repub. She is an active Dem and once headed up the Wyoming ACLU. We all will be working hard to get her elected. The Republican majority in the Legislature is bad for the state. Short-sighted and selfish. The Know Nothing Right-Wing Fringe gained two more candidates in primary upsets. We must get rid of those people. When I saw get rid of, I mean to vote against them, not the other thing, the one that Trump means when he sends out coded messages about the second amendment.

Meanwhile, I wish my precinct leaders the best. When looking for volunteers, you know where to find me.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

U.S. going to hell in a handbasket: an update

I can "pass" as a Trump supporter.

I am a gray-haired retiree living in the very red state of Wyoming. I check "white" or "Caucasian" on surveys and government documents. Sometimes I write in "Celtic" or "Irish-American" due to my roots and my freckled exterior and general wise-ass attitude. I have been married for eighty gazillion years (give or take) and have 2.0 children who no longer live in Wyoming. I own my own house and keep the lawn green and cut, for the most part. I pay my taxes and, like the majority of Americans, no longer go to church on a regular basis yet I still call myself a Christian.

For those reasons alone, I would be welcomed with open arms at a Trump rally. However, should the Trump capos dig deeper into my background, they would find that I am hopelessly progressive and should be interned on the second day of the Trump presidency. On the first day, Trump will be busy building his wall.

Progressive, as you probably know, is another word for Liberal or Democrat. According to evangelist Franklin Graham, who visited our fair city yesterday for a fundie hootenanny on the Wyoming Supreme Court lawn for 2,400 true believers, progressive is "just a code word for being an atheist." And as he went on to say, according to today's WTE, "there's no difference between secularism and communism -- they're both godless."

The now-gray-haired offspring of the Rev. Billy Graham, Tricky Dick's bff, looks and sounds like Trump when he says that there is too darned much political correctness (PC) in the USA. Trump loves that term and drags it out every time he wants to criticize those who are criticizing his racism and sexism. Doggone it, if I want to use that term for black people that my grandpappy did, it's my God-given right to do so. God told me that. To not do his bidding would be a sin. So to hell with you PC people.

Political correctness has been a favorite right-wing catchphrase for several decades now, ever since White America has sensed that they are being overtaken by the ethnic tribes of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Those fears are borne out by simple demographics. Numbers of foreign-born and ethnic populations have increased. However, the U.S. is still majority white at 77% or 62 percent if you remove those who call themselves both Hispanic and white. But that's just not white enough for some who feel that the U.S. began to go to hell in a handbasket beginning in the sixties and culminating in the presidency of that black guy who was probably born in Kenya.

Anecdotal evidence abides. My Irish-American parents spawned nine children. To keep up traditions, all of us should have bred nine children each and they all should be busy breeding too, allowing the freckled white race to forever thrive in these United States. Fortunately for the planet, my siblings and I produced no more than 0-3 children each, which opened the door for swarthy immigrants and Donald Trump.

Blame us.

My children and nieces and nephews all seem too busy making a living and hanging out at brewpubs to procreate. I salute their choices. We may be doomed, but at least they all get to appreciate a good IPA along the way.

One more thing... I received a mailing from Judicial Watch this week. I don't know how Phyllis Schlafly got my address but there she was, glowering at me from the gray foolscap. The first paragraph of her missive said it all:
Dear Fellow American:
Obama's illegal EXECUTIVE AMNESTY for untold millions of illegal aliens who have invaded America in an audacious scheme for winning future elections for the Left.
That's the beginning, but you know what's coming. These millions of illegal aliens will vote "in large numbers, for liberal politicians" and will receive "generous welfare benefits" such as food stamps, Medicaid, Social Security benefits and "Obamaphones." Obamaphones? I Googled that term as I had never heard of it. Turns out, needy Americans can get help with free cell phones and free minutes by applying on obamaphone.com. In case you're curious about the name, this info from the web site should help:
To clear up any possible confusion, it is important to state up front that the Obama Phone is the popular, unofficial name of the Lifeline Assistance program. It matters little, however, what the official name is, because the Obama Phone is the name people know, what they talk about, what they remember. 
Now I shall remember it too.

Ms. Schlafly is right to be alarmed. The first thing those millions of illegal aliens (known to PC progressives as undocumented immigrants) will do when they get their cell phone is get online and donate their millions in disposable income to The Left. You might have thought that these people would be wiring their millions to their impoverished villages in Mexico or Syria. But you'd be wrong. Phyllis says so.

Anyway, if you want to send a Nastygram to Judicial Watch, find them here. If you want to send a Candygram to Ms. Schlafly, go to the Eagle Forum web site.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Dems garden party on Aug. 28 features Keith Blaney in concert



As a member of the event planning committee for the Laramie County Democrats Grassroots Coalition in Cheyenne, I share this bit of news (and an appropriate video from the way-back machine) with music-loving liberals:

The Laramie County Democratic Grassroots Coalition (LCDGC) is sponsoring a Garden Concert Fundraiser featuring singer/artist Keith "Boxcar" Blaney on Sunday, August 28. The Garden Party will be from 2-5 p.m. at 3626 Dover Road where Keith will entertain with his acoustic guitar. Suggested donation is $15.00 at the door. There will be appetizers and a 50/50 card sale. Please BYOB, a lawn chair and an appetizer to share. Come enjoy an afternoon in a beautiful garden with awesome music and great conversation with like minded individuals. For further information, contact Kathleen at 421-4496.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

On Donald Trump's five draft deferments

Men of a certain age should read this in Monday's New York Times article: "Donald Trump's Draft Deferments: Four for College, One for Bad Feet."

Spoiler Alert: Trump didn't get drafted during Vietnam. A shame, really, since he could have advised Gen. Westmoreland and his brain trust on the proper way to conduct and win a war. Of course, the "best and the brightest" were already advising Lyndon Johnson and later, the dynamic duo of Nixon/Kissinger on "How the world's number one superpower can defeat tiny pajama-clad guys hiding in holes in the jungle." The addition of another brainiac from the Ivy League (Wharton School) might have tipped the balance in our favor.

But Trump took his 1-Y deferment (bone spurs in his feet) into the real estate business and made a bundle, facing many sacrifices along the way. The bone spurs eventually cleared up, allowing The Donald to jump up on stages and cut the fool from Flint to Fort Lauderdale.

Full disclosure: I also had five draft deferments. Two for education, one for ROTC, one the coveted 1-A and, finally, I was told by Selective Service that my presence wouldn't be needed except in times of national emergency. That day never arrived.

Trump didn't go to Vietnam. Neither did I. He had bone spurs and a high draft number. My number from the December 1969 Selective Service Lottery was 128. In 1970, the Selective Service called eligible men with numbers all of the way up to 300.

The difference is, I'm not running for president. I am not boasting that I will send young people to war against Radical Islamic Extremists. I am not buds with Russian oligarchs and Vladimir "Big V" Putin. I do not belittle sacrifices made by Gold Star families.

Trump feels "a little guilty" for not serving. So do I. I guess we have that in common too.

Some politicians float proposals about a return to the draft. Or at least a national service program for 18-25 year olds. Republicans don't like this idea as it would put the educated class in harm's way, the same way it does now for enlistees from Meeteetsee, Wyoming, and Itta Bena, Mississippi. Sacrifices would be made.

The draft wasn't fair. Random in its ways, never more so as when the lottery was in operation.

Trump has his story. I have mine. I will post it in installments over the next month.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Paging Dr. Gonzo

I shouldn't be reading Hunter Thompson this week.

I should be reading something hopeful. Last week, during the Republican National Convention, I read "The Soul of an Octopus" by Sy Montgomery. During a four-day stretch in Cleveland that cast doubt on the future of the human race, I felt lifted up by Montgomery's book. Not so much for humanity but for the Octopoda. Humans may not be smart enough to grok octopus intelligence. Octopus may be sending secret signals to each other, laughing at the coming destruction of the human species and rejoicing about the advent of WaterWorld, when octopus will rule and they will ponder humans on display in undersea terrariums. "I wonder what that human will do if we poke it with a stick?" And the human recoils in pain. "Ouch," says one of my descendants, living his life in a plastic bubble, ogled all day by members of the master race.

See what I mean? Off I go in a dark Thompson-like tangent. Can't seem to stay on task. Unlike Dr. Gonzo, I'm as sober as an American can be. My drug of choice is craft beer, made by Millennials in breweries that look like old Nazi ball-bearing factories. They gradually ratchet up the ABV in brews such as Wyoming's own Melvin 2x4 DIPA (9.9%) to render Baby Boomers docile as lambs and to take over the world or at least parts of the Rocky Mountain West.

If you add to my regimen a slew of heart medications and a few for depression and an ICD that beams my every move to Master Control, you can see that I am a fully compromised human being. A liberal automaton. A Hillbot.

Only writing allows me to occasionally come out of my crustacean-like shell.

Hunter Thompson caused me to look at the world differently. I cannot explain it.

I can duplicate Gonzo but it's not the same as Thompson's. He had a brand. I bet he would hate me saying that. Having a brand these days is all the rage. Hunter's was capital G Gonzo. His brand was so strong that he could become a character in the comics and everybody knew who it was. You can try to duplicate one of the author's famous rants but it wouldn't be the same.

But I do want to point out that Thompson had a gift. I can't explain it. You have to read it. And it was best to read it "as it happened" on the pages of Rolling Stone. You had to be there, as the saying goes. Thompson could put you on the scene. Hell's Angels. Vegas. Caribbean shark hunt, Kentucky Derby, Aspen politics. The spectacle -- marked by wretched excess at every turn -- of American life. As the sixties unfolded, so did a new writing style. He was in the middle of it.

You can detect some of Thompson's dark humor in the writing of Matt Taibbi in RS. Bloggers get into the act but snarky isn't gonzo.

On that note, check out some of my columns from the 2008 DNC by going here and here and even here. It was a grand experiment, embedding bloggers with their DNC delegations in Denver. Not certain how many of my fellow bloggers are still at it. I am haphazard at best, spending as much blogging time with personal issues as I do on politics. I covered politics consistently in '08, including time at the DNC, and won a scholarship to Netroots Nation in Minneapolis in 2011. I was a sporadic contributor to Daily Kos. At the same time, I had a full-time writing/editing job and another passion writing short fiction. And a family. To do it correctly, you need to devote time and energy to the pursuit. Might have been my heart attack of 2012/2013, a jolt to the widowmaker so severe that it spanned two calendar years. Changed my brain-paths and priorities.

And I'm still here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Flashbacks: Denver 2008 and Fear & Loathing 1972

It's not Flashback Friday or Throwback Thursday, but we are venturing back eight years to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. What was happening eight years ago? Well, the convention hadn't started yet as it was late in August, bumping up against football season, which is feverish in the Mile High City during any year but high expectations should be keen this year for the Super Bowl champs as they decide who will fill Manning's XXXL shoes and ego.

To read about first-day happenings at Denver DNC, go here. Other posts are in the archives for August 2008.

Strange as it seems, Hillary Clinton figured prominently in Denver. She relinquished the stage to Barack Obama in '08 but has no intention of giving up the prime spot in Philly. Tim Kaine as Veep? Not my first choice. Elizabeth Warren would have been a dazzling pick. Even craft brewer and Colorado governor John Hickenlooper held more appeal, although he did oppose marijuana legalization. If he had prevailed on this issue, Denver's hipster invasion may have been avoided. I liked the idea of Newark's Cory Booker on the ticket, or Julian or Joaquin Castro of San Antonio. It may be too soon to have Clinton/Castro on lawn signs in Miami or even in Cheyenne. Wait a few decades, when a dead-and-buried Fidel is as ubiquitous on T-shirts as Che, and Havana is a hotspot for Sandalistas in search of quaint bistros, brewpubs and boutique hotels.

Speaking of flashbacks... I'm reading "Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writings of Hunter S. Thompson." I was searching the library for "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," but found this newer volume instead. I skipped through Thompson's report of running for Aspen sheriff on the Freak Power ticket and his run-in with the Hell's Angels. This may be hard to believe, children of the West, but in the early 1970s, the Roaring Fork Valley was much more like present-day Wyoming than the Colorado of today. Longhairs were not welcome in Aspen or Denver ("get out of Denver, baby, go!) or even Boulder. Hitchhikers were more likely to get a finger-o-gram than a ride. The stoned, half-naked hippies of the Rainbow Tribe were not welcomed to Colorado in the summer of '72. And wild-man Hunter Thompson was not elected sheriff of Aspen in 1970 with his promise of free drugs for all.

Here's Thompson's description of Aspen in 1969, when registered GOPers outnumbered Dems 2-1 -- and both were outnumbered by independents:
"They are a jangled mix of Left/Crazies and Birchers: cheap bigots, dope dealers, Nazi ski instructors, and spaced-out "psychedelic farmers" with no politics at all beyond self-preservation."=
DNC 1968 host Mayor Richard Daley unleashed the city's cops on hippies and Yippies on the streets of Chicago. In 1972 in Miami, activists remembered and were having nothing of Hubert Humphrey. Youngsters and disillusioned older Dems selected South Dakota anti-war war hero George McGovern as their standard-bearer against Nixon. It was a "doomed campaign" from the start, says Thompson. He preferred McGovern over "party hacks" Humphrey and Muskie and "Scoop" Jackson. But he knew that McGovern didn't have a chance against Tricky Dick's tactics. That included the now-infamous Southern Strategy which transformed the Dems of the South into fire-breathing Republicans who were deathly afraid (and resentful) of hippies, women's libbers, school integration, the threat of Ho's legions invading Memphis and Atlanta, and modern life in general. Sound familiar? Trump's people are stoking similar sentiments, especially angst about present and future America.

Here's a strange little quote from Thompson about his experiences in Aspen's 1969 mayoral race and his own race for sheriff in '70. See if it has any bearing on Trump's run this year:
"This is what some people call 'the Aspen technique' in politics: neither opting out of the system, nor working within it... but calling its bluff, by using its strength to turn it back on itself... and by always assuming that the people in power are not smart."
I have noticed everyone from former hippies to right-wing doomsdayers coming out for Trump. They all want to say "fuck you" to the establishment, as Michael Moore pointed out so well in his recent "Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win" article. Maybe Trump has resurrected the Aspen technique for the 21st century? Freak Power, Trump style. Unknown Colorado state rep (later Gov) Dick Lamm used a similar tactic when he urged Coloradans to say "fuck you" to the International Olympic Committee. And they did. The IOC told themselves that nobody ever votes against the Olympics. Lamm and his minions assumed that the IOC didn't know what the hell is what doing -- and they were correct. Behold the Brazil and Russia olympiads.

It is also possible that the people in power in the Democratic Party are not as smart as they think they are. Hunter Thompson and the ancient philosophers knew that hubris can be an Achilles' Heel. Cliches, too -- they knew all about those.