Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Pier by Fernando Sdrigotti

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

― Rachel Carson

Lee walking in the surf at Crystal Beach. I checked my old blog entries – this was December 29, 2002.

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, April 22, 2000

Out of Shape

Daingerfield State Park has a beautiful little lake at its center. The deep forest comes right down to the shore making the water look like a little cup of crystal in the greenery. It is lined with little coves covered in the green disks of lily pads. These were blooming with giant white explosions of water flowers. There is a swimming area marked off with a couple of foam buoys and a wooden platform floating out in the middle of the lake.

It was barely warm enough to swim and we spent a good part of the days sitting on the shore or throwing tennis balls for the Giant Killer Dog, while Nick swam. He would paddle out to the platform and climb up, pace back and forth, shivering in the cool breeze, until he was rested enough to swim back. He is so skinny it hurts sometimes to look at him.

The concession was open for the weekend and they had paddle boats for rent. Somewhere I have a photo album with a picture of a paddle boat I rented as a child. It was an elaborate all-steel affair, two torpedo shaped pontoons, a high bench seat, bicycle style pedals and a chain transmission to a real, visible paddle and a steering wheel. Today, paddle boats aren’t as well made. They are plastic and foam, bright molded-in colors, low-slung, a bent pipe with wooden pedals directly driving a completely enclosed paddle assembly. They are steered with a little pipe sticking up behind the seats.

Still, Nick wanted to rent one, so we paid our seven dollars and put on the ubiquitous red life vests, tattered and moldy-smelling, marked S, M, or L with fading Magic Marker. The boat was a bit too big for him and too small for me, making for inefficient propulsion. I am in such bad shape, my legs burned terribly as soon as we moved away from the dock. I could only paddle for a few minutes before I’d have to give up and take a rest. It took us what seemed like a long time to move across the lake (although we never completely used up our rented hour).

The breeze was light and the lake was even more beautiful from the center. Nicholas said, “Everything is blue or green, the only colors.” He pointed out how tall the forest was, it undulated into the distance, up from the water, and you couldn’t tell where the real hills were or where the trees were simply tending to be taller or shorter. Ducks and geese floated around looking for handouts. Black turtles sunned themselves on logs in the center of the lily pad seas, plopping into the water to swim away, sticking their heads out to peer out at us if we paddled too close.

When we looked down into the calm water with the sun at our backs we could see shafts of yellow and green extending downward, pulsing with the gentle waves. The trick of perspective made the water look miles deep, cold and clean.

Even with my legs burning, the sun heating up the uncomfortable clumsy life jacket, it was a pretty nice way to spend an hour and seven dollars.

When we reached shore, the kids shot some baskets at a hoop above the parking lot and hooted around in the playground for awhile. I examined some immature bald cypress trees growing in the shallow water and decided, for sure, that I was given an incorrect tree for my front yard. It is definitely a pine and not a cypress.

Nick, Candy, and The Giant Killer Dog drove back to the campsite while Lee wanted to walk back with me along the trail – a bit of a shortcut as opposed to the park road.


“Let’s race them!” Lee shouted, and took off along the trail.


It’s true, that in your mind’s eye, you see yourself as you were when you were… maybe sixteen years old. I could see myself running down that trail with Lee. I couldn’t do it. A few hundred yards and I was out of breath, side splitting, slowing to a walk. The MiniVan made it back to the campsite before Lee and I did.

But not by much.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

Pier by Fernando Sdrigotti

from The London Magazine

Fernando Sdrigotti Twitter

Fernando Sdrigotti Instagram

Load It Up

“ Give up all hope, all illusion, all desire..I’ve tried. I’ve tried and still I desire, I still desire not to desire and hope to be without hope and have the illusion I can be without illusions..Give up, I say. Give up everything, including the desire to be saved.”
― Luke Rhinehart, The Dice Man

Kindle
Call Me Ishmael

I have not been reading enough lately. I’m struggling through another Zola, Nana, and a couple other books – but I decided to refill the tank… maybe get some new game going. So I dug out my lists of books I want to read – went out on the internet – and bought a half-dozen new virtual tomes to load into my Kindle.

1. The Dice Man by Luke Reinhardt – I’ve read this one before, but want to re-visit it. I also picked up The Book of the Die as a companion volume – plus a set of dice, of course.

2. The Bloody Chamber and other stories by Angela Carter

3. Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky – this is the book that Tarkovsky’s great film, Stalker, it based on.

4. Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey. I’ve been wanting to read this for a decade.

5. How to Write Pulp Fiction by James Scott Bell. Have to have at least one non-fiction how-to tome.

6. Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons by George Pendle. Another non-fiction – this one a biography. I read Sex and Rockets, a book about the amazing and strange life of Jack Parsons several years ago, this is another take on the story.

But the question remains… which one to start first.

Well, there are six of them, and in the spirit of the first book I took out a single die and let it roll.

Now it’s off to go read.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Scientist by Bill Chance

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
It matters that you don’t just give up.”
― Stephen Hawking

Sign on storefront.

Scientist

Craig walked down the hall past a room full of kids playing video games, one of them asked him, “Are you really a scientist?”
“Yes, I suppose I am.”
“See, I told you,” said Tom, Craig’s son.
“What kind?” asked his friend.
“Well, I’m a chemist… do you know what that means?”
“Nope.”
“Well, I study what happens when you mix things and heat them in certain ways, sort of.”

That’s not a very good answer, he knew. There isn’t a very good way to explain what chemistry is to a kid that doesn’t know what a chemical is. Thinking about it later, Craig should have explained what kind of chemist he was and what his job entailed. He sat down in the TV room to chill for a minute and think about science and what it meant to him.

On the tube was a little documentary. They showed some stuff about Stephen Hawking. Hawking was talking about understanding black holes, the Big Bang, the moment of creation. He talked about grasping the way the universe came into being and said, “and then we will know the mind of God.”

Then, after a commercial break, the documentary changed to a story about a guy that made robots, little six legged guys that imitated life in strange ways. The robot guy said something about robot making maybe being a man thing – men can’t make life, so robots are as close as they get. He discounts that, though, because there are more women than men in his lab.

Craig thought about the creating life thing. Then he thought about Frankenstein. Then about science and knowledge and curiosity.

Creating life isn’t the thing. Any moron can create life. The folks in the trailer park seem to be creating plenty. Or think about a pumpkin seed. Is it alive? Two pumpkin seeds, one live, one not – can you tell the difference?

The important quest isn’t to create life, but to understand it. To somehow know more about the miracle, how it works, where it is going.

That is to know the mind of God.

What I learned this week, April 15, 2022

Optimized by JPEGmini 3.14.2.84235 0xeba48ae1

EXCLUSIVE: Voyeurism, naked women in bathtubs, orgies, ramped up violence! Nothing was off limits during Hollywood’s 1930s pre-censorship era when sex and sin ruled the big screen

Between 1930-1934, a progressive era in Hollywood had a relaxed code of censorship which allowed sin to rule the movies. Violence, nudity and profanity were rarely off limits in that four-year span, now known as the ‘pre-code era’.


Basilica de la Sagrada Familia: Folly or Masterpiece?

Masterpiece. Next Question.


King Lear, Dallas Theater Center, Wyly Theater

American Occupation

Brave dissenters willing to defy an oppressive orthodoxy are our country’s best hope


Metal Ostrich Sculpture, downtown McKinney, Texas

Lithium ion batteries going cobalt-free; nickel next on the chopping block

In an effort to bring down costs, General Motors, Tesla, Nissan and other automakers have pledged to start building cars with cobalt-free lithium ion batteries.

I remember in 1979 working on reducing the amount of cobalt added as a nutrient in cattle feed because of instability in Africa and the skyrocketing cobalt prices that resulted. The more things change the more they stay the same.


Mayan Flint Knife from the Dallas Museum of Art

How to Sharpen a Knife

A dull knife is a dangerous knife; keep yourself and those around you safe by learning how to properly sharpen your blade.


A group of friends in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, night, long exposure

How do you mourn the end of a friendship?

What happens when you lose a friend you loved — and maybe still love? The person is not gone; They’re still alive and presumably well. But the relationship? Dead. What are the mechanics of grief there?


The End of Progressive Intellectual Life

How the foundation-NGO complex quashed innovative thinking and open debate, first on the American right and now on the center left


3 Bikes in the Back of a Toyota Matrix

“We have annexed the future into the present, as merely one of those manifold alternatives open to us. Options multiply around us, and we live in an almost infantile world where any demand, any possibility, whether for life-styles, travel, sexual roles and identities, can be satisfied instantly.”

― J.G. Ballard, Crash

Last weekend there was a local bike ride to three different local breweries. Both my sons wanted to go – and I was tasked with showing up to the starting point with all three bicycles.

I drive a tiny piece of junk Toyota Matrix – which is classified as a sub-miniature-station-wagon. I can get one bike in the back with ease (with the back seats folded, of course). I didn’t know if I could cram three in there – but after removing the wheels they all went it there with no room to spare. The resulting mess had a post-modern complex ridiculous sculpture look to it.

It was difficult getting everything out and reassembled – it was all tangled up. But, in the end, it was all good.

Three bikes (and shoes, locks, helmets, and a pump) in the back of a Toyota Matrix.

The Great American Songbook

My story is much too sad to be told
But practically everything leaves me totally cold
The only exception I know is the case
When I’m out on a quiet spree
Fighting vainly the old ennui
And I suddenly turn and see your fabulous face
—- I Get a Kick Out of You, Cole Porter

God help me… I have been in a long, hopeless argument with my wife and kids and anyone else who will listen to me. I’m all alone here, though I don’t think I’m wrong – it’s just that nobody understands what I’m trying to say or the point I’m trying to make.

It all started out innocently enough. I wrote about it here – I discovered some early sixties music on YouTube through a show called Shindig!. The more I listened and the more I thought about it I came to the conclusion that this was a particularly fruitful period for great popular music. The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Temptations, James Brown, The Righteous Brothers, The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues, The Kinks, Roy Orbison, Martha and the Vandellas, Dionne Warwick, The Four Tops, The Ronettes… it goes on and on. The thing is all this amazing greatness is all at the same time. A window of only a couple of years spewing out all this diverse music that is still great today.

Take a look at the top pop songs of the last few years… It does not hold a candle.

So everyone is calling me “Grandpa” and naming recent music that doesn’t completely suck. The point isn’t that music now is bad (it might be) but that 64-65 or so was an explosion of creativity and quality. And this isn’t music of “my time” either. Everyone has a window where music means something special to them. For me that’s the mid 70’s to the early 80’s. That’s the time of Disco moving into punk and New Wave. Though I have fond memories and much love for that stuff – I don’t even pretend to think it is music of particular quality.

Another argument is that this is all purely subjective – that everyone likes what they like and nothing is better that anything else. I don’t buy that. There has to be gradations of quality. But for the life of me I can’t come up with an objective measure.

I have a lot more thinking and research on this – I’ll write more at a later date (sorry).

But things were about to get a lot worse for me. In looking around I came across this YouTube by Andrew Klavan. His thesis is that the best music was done in the 30’s and 40’s.

Ok, I disagree with him and could type up my rebuttal, maybe I will. But in thinking about this and doing research on “I get no kick from champagne“, I came across the idea of “The Great American Songbook.”

Wikipedia says:

According to the Great American Songbook Foundation:

The “Great American Songbook” is the canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century that have stood the test of time in their life and legacy. Often referred to as “American Standards”, the songs published during the Golden Age of this genre include those popular and enduring tunes from the 1920s to the 1950s that were created for Broadway theatre, musical theatre, and Hollywood musical film.

I think a more concise definition is a set of American songs that have stood the test of time. Wikipedia has an alphabetical list of songs that are generally considered to be part of the Songbook.

And as I started to move through the list I realized I had fallen down a steep and very deep rabbit hole.

Because this stuff is truly great and actually timeless. So now I’m working on my Great American Songbook playlist on Spotify (although there are several there already… I want my own – the best of the best – the ones that speak to me).

I think I’ll take some notes and write about some of the songs that stand out… but this is truly the kind of thing that can destroy my life.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Relax Said the Nightman by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”

― Coco Chanel

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

― Frederick Douglass

Fountain at Galatyn Park, Richardson, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, December 01, 1998

Illustrated Woman

After work, Candy took the kids down to the school for some function, I drove off to the club to work out.

Now, don’t think I’m exercising as an excuse to watch other people. I’m serious about this, I’m working hard; but the first part of my program is to do a half hour on the stepper. There isn’t much to do for thirty minutes except look around at the other folks working out.

I try to do the stepper right. I stand as upright as possible, keeping my weight on my feet, using my hands only for balance. A couple machines down some guy was flopped over forwards, resting his chest on the control panel, his arms on the handles. His entire weight was supported there, his blue spandex-covered butt stuck up in the back. I don’t think he’s gets any exercise that way and it must be killing his back.

In front of the steppers, past the always-busy treadmills is a warm-up area, where people do their stretching. This club is a pretty serious place, not a lot of socializing, and although there is a wide variety of customers, a lot of serious bodybuilders hang out there.

I couldn’t help but notice one woman on the mat bending herself around, stretching. Tall and thin, almost gaunt, wearing wire-rim glasses and medium length blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore white shorts, a gray athletic bra-top, black workout shoes and weightlifting gloves. She must have had some Yoga training, those were serious stretches. She stood, feet far apart, and keeping her torso and legs straight and locked bent over and touched her cheek to the inside of each calf. Then she rolled around and tapped the back of her head on the padded floor between her feet.

What caught my eye wasn’t her extraordinary flexibility, it was her tattoo. Not a small, ordinary tattoo, but a big design. She was illustrated. The illustration was a vine, I guess a climbing wild rose. I thought I could make out red blossoms and maybe even thorns among the thick green leaves. It started as a spiral tendril between her breasts and grew into an arc over her left shoulder. It continued down her back in undulating curves and finally ended… well, I couldn’t really tell exactly where it ended.

I’m not ordinarily a big fan of tattoos, but I liked this one. It looked like a real part of her, not some odd design picked out in a drunken haze and buzzed in on an ankle in a whim. Jeez, though, that must have hurt. A good two or three square feet of skin under that electric needle.

I finished my stepper and walked some laps to cool down before I started working on the weight machines. Down on one end of the club is the free weight area where the serious bodybuilders work. One woman was sitting, doing concentration curls with a dumbbell. The biceps on her arm literally popped out like a hank of thick cords, you could almost see every muscle strand. She was like a sculptor in flesh. The sculptor and the sculpture too. Slow carving with sweat and plates of steel.

For the most part, the men down there had unmarked skin. I had never noticed before, though, that over half of the women had large complex tattoos. Abstract patterns across their bellies. One had a tiger looking out of its lair drawn across her shoulder blades.

I thought back to something I heard on TV as a child, during the Olympics, I suppose it was the 1968 games in Mexico City. The announcer was talking about the East German women’s swimming team. She said something like, “The Communist Bloc girls have a big advantage over the American women because they have a weight lifting program. American women won’t lift weights because they are afraid they will look too manly .”

Thirty years ago. It’s odd that I remember that from so long ago; I have no idea why it made such an impression. Things have changed a bit since then, though, haven’t they.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

Relax Said the Nightman by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

from Newfound

Melissa Llanes Brownlee Webpage

Melissa Llanes Brownlee Twitter

I Look Into My Glass – another poem

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”

“Yes.”

“All like ours?”

“I don’t know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound – a few blighted.”

“Which do we live on – a splendid one or a blighted one?”

“A blighted one.”

― Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The other day I wrote about a Yeats poem, Sailing to Byzantium. In doing some research about that poem – a reference to another poem with a similar theme kept coming up – I Look Into My Glass, by Thomas Hardy. I decided to share it here.

I Look Into My Glass

I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, ‘Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!’

For then I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
With equanimity.

But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.


I know how that feels. For decades I have learned to get ready in the morning without really even looking in the mirror. To do so would make the day too hopeless.

World’s Littlest Skyscraper

“Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.”

—-The Big Short

World’s littlest skyscraper, Wichita Falls, Texas

I don’t know how, but I stumbled across the story of the world’s littlest skyscraper in Wichita Falls, Texas.

I’ve been to Wichita Falls many times… mostly on the way to somewhere else. Not always, when I was younger I used to ride my bike in the Hotter’N Hell 100 mile race. It is famous around these parts – and accurately named.

Once I was in the airport in Wichita Kansas, and in front of me in line at the counter was a panicked young man in an Air Force uniform. “But I’m supposed to be in Wichita Falls!” he said to the agent. As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.

But back to the littlest skyscraper. Apparently, right after oil was discovered in the Burkburnett field, Wichita Falls became another one of Texas’ many boom towns. They needed office space.

So a con man pitched the idea of a skyscraper. It was going to be 408″ tall. Unfortunately the rubes were so excited they didn’t understand the difference – ‘=feet and “=inches. So the 408 foot skyscraper turned out to be only 408 inches tall – about four stories – and the developer fled town with the excess cash.

I don’t know if I’m going to be back in Wichita Falls anytime soon – but I hope I am. I’ll definitely stop at the skyscraper… even if it’s the worlds littlest.