Who Am I?


Daily Prompt Flash Talk You’re about to enter a room full of strangers, where you will have exactly four minutes to tell a story that would convey who you really are. What’s your story?

At least ten times a year I had to walk into rooms of strangers and convey very quickly that I’m 1) serious, 2) funny, 3) competent, 4) interesting and 5) interested. I learned that the best way to do this is not by telling a story, exactly, but by engaging the strangers. Once engaged, they are strangers no more and they know who you are — the best thing you can possibly be; someone who is interested in others.

I called roll first, asking them to correct my pronunciation of their names, remarking on the ethnicity if the name were Irish or Italian (they would be pleased; it’s an ethnic thing for those groups), speak a bit in a brogue or ask if they speak Italian. Nothing provocative, nothing outre, just an opening revealing the human heart behind the teacher persona.

The best speech of this type I know, however, is this one from Bladerunner because – like Roy – ultimately who I am is what I’ve done, seen, felt, believed, been and loved.



Colorado Autumn


Autumn Leaves Changing colors, dropping temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes: do these mainstays of Fall fill your heart with warmth — or with dread?

My drive to Colorado was a drive from the blistering heat of southern Arizona September (Summer time’s ten to the 10th power) to the annual September Colorado miracle of changing aspen leaves. The place where I’m moving has no “pumpkin lattes.” Blessings on you Starbucks for your strategic invention and marketing of new “traditions.” Still, for twenty years or so I’ve enjoyed the “tradition” of eggnog latte at Starbucks, so who I’m I to kick? In fact, I wish I had one of those right now… To get one, I have a 47 mile drive and time travel a month or more…

All around me is beauty. The highest “alps” (pastures) below tree line in the San Juan mountains are golden — not golden. In fact, yellow aspen glows when the sun hits it right. Soon it will snow. I haven’t lived a “real” winter in thirty years, so my feelings are a mix of dread and happiness. I’m hoping to get into my house, have a working furnace and a Colorado car by the time things get serious. I know my Siberian husky will like the snow. Dusty and Mindy will have to find out, but I’ve never known a normally hairy dog who didn’t like snow.

I think all four of us are saying, “I guess I like it fine, so far.”


Someone I Would Not Have Made Friends With…Now


Daily Prompt Delayed Contact How would you get along with your sibling(s), parent(s), or any other person you’ve known for a long time — if you only met them for the first time today?

In a way, we meet everyone in our lives for the first time every time we meet them; we are not static. Not growing with our friends or family is one reason relationships end. People change and we have to be willing to meet everyone over and over. But, there are immutable currents of connection in the best friendships that don’t change, but are deepened by common experience and memory.

I have a friend I’ve known for a long time, and, though he doesn’t know it, our friendship has ended. I don’t know how to tell him or if I should. I know if I met him today for the first time, we would not become friends. I would see him with completely different eyes than those with which I saw him when we met back in 2000. Back then I saw a very intelligent young man with whom I could enjoy art museums, good restaurants and long intense, interesting discussions. I think I fell a little in love with him (probably requited), but when he never invited me to his house (though I’d invited him to mine) or to parties in which he invited our mutual co-workers and friends, I began to feel strange about him. He also complained constantly about his life and work prospects. I began to see he could not choose to be content — a flaw in a personality, I think. Regardless what happened, he was always the guy who didn’t get what he deserved. Now I think he did get what he deserved. There is something wrong with him, something that makes him come across as fundamentally unreliable. He puts on a good front, is attractive and then? When things happened in my life that should have spurred him to phone me (like a major fire all around my mountain town) he didn’t for what turned out to be some personal reason, but… It’s not so hard to pick up a phone and say, “I hope you’re OK.”

This didn’t change over time. He did not transform into someone I could understand. Events in my life over the past decade or so have faded my rose-colored glasses and my eagerness to leap into new friendships. I would probably see more of who he is initially and I would probably not go beyond the usual, “Hi, how’s it going? How are your classes? Ooh, gotta’ go. I’m late.” The incomprehensible traits are not momentary blips due to circumstance. They are who he is.



Just effin’ do it!


Daily Prompt Ready, Set, Done Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.

“What do you want us to write about?”
“You don’t have to write ‘about’ anything. Just write.”
“Do we need a thesis statement? What about our body paragraphs?”
“Don’t worry about that. Just put your pen on the paper and GO. Ready?”
“Are you going to grade it?”
“No. I’m not even going to read it.”
“If you’re not going to grade it, why should I write it?”
“OK guys, you’re wasting time. Just DO it. Just give me a break and do what I tell you so I can move this class forward a bit and you can learn what I will teach you next, OK? One-two-three…GO!”

I hear the sound of pens on paper on desks as I have heard for most of my life. This is a moment in a composition class that occurs under two circumstances. First, free writing is a great way for anyone to get ideas, to discharge the detritus in the mind and discover what one has to say. It helps students learn that writing is REALLY about their ideas. Second, sometimes a teacher is just not ready in that first moment of class to launch into the lesson/lecture. This activity gives the teacher ten minutes to catch his/her breath.

The minutes pass, slowly at first as the students struggle with this “just writing” thing and then, their heads bent low over their work, they (most of them) have found a groove. The last five minutes rush by and when I say, “Stop! That’s it. You’re done,” some of them aren’t done. Some of them have more to say. They are exploring something that interests them. “C’mon guys, I’ know you’re having a great time here, but STOP!”

“Do I need to write a conclusion?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what you’ve written.”
“Can you tell me?”
“What do you think? Better still, give your paper to Lamont there and see what he thinks. You guys, listen. Unless you have written something very personal and don’t feel good about it, exchange papers. When you get your classmate’s paper, read it and underline two things you like — it can be a sentence, or a word, anything. Doesn’t matter.”
“I wrote about something I don’t want anyone to read.”
“Yeah, so do that with your own paper. Read it and underline something you like.”
“How can I do that with my own paper?”

My brain is screaming, “Just fucking DO it!” but I never say that. “Try it,” I say. “A good writer reads his own work to see if it’s any good.”
“No way. Read my OWN writing? Why? I know what it says.”

And this year, I’m not doing this…. YAY!!!!!


Instinct, Not Choice


Daily Prompt Absolute Beauty We’ve all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you agree? is all beauty contingent on a subjective point of view?


OK WP Daily Prompt, these yes/no questions, these “do you agree” questions, they’re de-inspiring. But I’ll bite, anyway since I need to get away from packing for a while. Beauty as relative to WHAT? I’m assuming you mean human beauty. In fact, no. It’s not as subjective as we’d like to think it is. LOVE is subjective, however. Is that what you’re REALLY driving at, O Daily Prompt?

Beauty is a signal to the opposite sex that the person in question has viable DNA to perpetuate the species. A certain size, regularity of facial features, proportions, communicates that 1) the person in question is fertile, 2) ambulatory, 3) will have sufficient fat stores to feed the young (in the case of the woman) or sufficient strength to down a wooly mammoth. That is what physical beauty is about on a basic level and it’s not very subjective. It’s about mating and there’s nothing abstract about that.

Kim Kardasshian has it going on. Big eyes, big lips, big breasts, extremely ample tush. Marilyn Monroe as well. Big eyes, set far apart. Large breasts, softer body, ample behind. Jane Mansfield. Beyonce. Just looking at the women (famous) that men admire says everything, I think. Do they CHOOSE this? I don’t think so, not all that consciously. Generally, women like them too.

“…beautiful women…capture everyone’s attention and monopolize downstream cognitive processes. The conclusion about handsome men is different: They grab women’s eyes but do not hold their minds. This discrepancy is consistent with men’s and women’s different mating strategies; women are more selective and less interested in casual affairs with strangers.” The Mating Game

This question might be more about the commercial aspect of beauty as it’s discussed in our world. That discussion is stupid and irrelevant (to me) because at bottom it has nothing to do with marketing or beauty standards or that ubiquitous entity, “the media.” It has to do with what we are — animals who are driven to find partners with whom we can make offspring who will survive. That is hardwired into us as it is into every species on the planet. There are cues we respond to that have nothing at all to do with someone’s photo shopped boobs on a magazine at the checkout line.


My Little Brother Was a Genius

Popeye in the water

My brother drew this when he was not yet six years old. What’s incredible (besides it being what it is which is beyond amazing) is that all his LIFE he worked on the story of Popeye and his Pappy.

I was talented, but no genius (as my mom liked to remind me very often). I was already doing what I would do all my life — draw and paint from life. Here’s my 5 year old drawing of the playground at school.


I never realized what a genius he was until I started going through things my dad had saved. The pictures are very revealing about each of us. It seems that all my life I have been OK with the world as it is. My brother never was. His drawings are imaginative. Even though he copied cartoons, and the characters stayed in character, Kirk’s vision took them farther. Strikingly, he never draws his real self. Many of the drawings are hilarious, violent and prophetic. As an adult, he did have a character (a really wonderful one!) based on himself, but his childhood drawings do not put him in the world. There’s a drawing in which my brother has eaten spinach and become Popeye. He’s knocked out both my mom and my dad. My dad interviewed him about the drawing and he said, “This is what I’m going to do to you next time you get mad at me.” My dad took down my brother’s words and quoted him on the drawing. I’d have been very nervous if I’d been my parents. I’d have wondered about my kid. Probably they did.

Here’s a painting for what was to have been the title shots of a full-length animated feature paid for by the National Endowment for the Arts. The character is my brother’s avatar, Leafy Wanders.


Dear Fellow Bogger Hose Work I Like…


There’s a blog I read every single day and enjoy, but it is always full of spelling and grammar and proofreading errors. Sometimes the writer comes across as an ignorant person and sometimes her sentences don’t make sense. I don’t think she is ignorant; I think it’s a proofreading thing. I’ve just ignored it (though sometimes, honestly, it bugs me) because in this cyber world I like her and her blog. Yesterday I learned that one of her dreams is that she will have many followers and become known for her blog. I want to tell her, “OK, then, don’t post your stuff until it’s readable. That will help a lot. Don’t let spell check do the work for you.” Maybe she’ll read this and take the hint. I’d like to see her get more readers, too! Lots of people are missing out.

P.S. I took a couple of my readers’ advice and left a note for him/her. I haven’t heard back and I’m afraid I hurt his/her feelings.