Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seeking a Blog For the End of the World Post-Mortem

Ah, the title is almost as long as the blog: seeking a blog for the end of the world post-mortem. I woke up yesterday morning at 3:30 for the end of the world, which was scheduled to occur at 4:11 Mountain Time. I mean, I was awake, and I was at work when it happened -- or didn't, depending on your point of view. The world ended at 4:11 am -- or didn't. I was not sure which clock to watch -- there were four at my workplace, all with different times -- so while I debated and went about my work, it suddenly was 4:13. I took my first sip of coffee and the world began anew. But if the night crew had not set up the coffee pot for me, I would have suspected that I and all humanity with me had slipped into hell. I had spent the prior evening feeling a bit envious, thinking of time differences and realizing my family in Holland would be enjoying a lovely luncheon when the end time came, while most Americans would be sleeping through it. Was I disappointed that the world didn't end? That I had to go ahead and clean the toilets at Joe Blogz again? Did someone get the time wrong? Multi-year calendars are tricky to figure out, after all. So I set my mind to the task of predicting the true end of the world, and my guess is just as good as anyone else's besides Douglas Adams, and he unfortunately is done with such nonsense, passing the mantle to much less adequate prognosticators such as myself. But here goes: in the year 2442, on the 42nd day of the year, which will be February 11, at 42 minutes after midnight Greenwich Mean Time, a golf ball the size of Mars, errantly sliced to the left of the fairway, will collide with the Earth and end all reality TV shows forever. And on that day, I shall mourn.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lessons from Sandy Hook

I have been struggling to find a way to write about the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday. The impact of the events, the slaughter of innocent children not much more than babies, has left me devastated, as I know it has left you. It has left me questioning and looking for answers. But you cannot make sense out of senseless; there is no point to try. And blame died with the wretched young man who perpetrated these terrible deeds. Still, there will be debate and discussion far and wide, and there are lessons to be learned. Incidents of mass destruction occur in America with alarming regularity. Case by case each incident is unique, but as a whole they demonstrate a trend within our borders. I can only guess the deeper meaning, the implications for us as a people. This incident does not stand alone, except in the unfathomable murder of so many so young. When a similar incident occurred years ago in Sacramento, a commentator offered at the time that such an attack, upon our children, is an attack on our society and its hopes for the future. The pain is so great that it reaches far beyond the crime scene. It is the same pain felt by any family or community when their children are slaughtered, be it by collateral damage in war, ethnic cleansing, or the acts of a madman. The pain touches us all, and maybe THIS TIME we will find a way to do something about it, to keep it from happening again. Enough said, for now. On the home front Diane is recovering nicely. She has good days and tends to do too much, then has a bad spell afterwards. But her bad spells are nothing like what I feared and expected. I say she’s at 94%, but her 94% is better than most people at 100. But I am prejudiced. We got Xander back for an overnight on Saturday. It was the first time he got to come over since the accident, and when his daddy told him he was going to stay with us, he told Nik, “This is the best day EVER!” No better endorsement of mutual love could exist. After nine days without a car, we have one on loan from Rachael and Jimmy. It’s a step up for us, a Honda Acura that drives like a dream. The car allows us to get places and allows us to take the time we need to figure out what we will do for a car for real. AAA still has not settled on the Kia, and seems to be dragging its feet. I don’t understand that: I have placed calls to the agent in charge of this part of our claim and gotten no response. Maybe she has so many totaled cars from that night in Montana that she has simply not gotten to us yet, but courtesy would dictate she at least let us know that much.. At any rate, we have survived the greatest hardship we have ever faces, being car-less. Up here, a car is a necessity. The Post Office is a three mile round trip up and down icy roads. By foot it takes an hour or more. Nik got up at 3:30 to drive me to work on my work mornings because he didn’t want me walking those roads in the dark. And since I don’t have a horse, I wonder how people managed before there were cars, or roads, and am glad I won’t have to anymore. Now to move back toward the serious, but only slightly: December 21 is coming. It is at the end of this week, and at the end of this week the world will come to an end. This is according to the Mayan Calendar. Actually, it is one interpretation of that calendar, and not a very good one. But the prophesy stands, and we all can stick around and watch. I did realize a couple of things. First, Congress is supposed to adjourn for the holiday recess on December 21. If they do go without a deal on the Fiscal Cliff, the world might just grind to a halt. Or not. But Congress will adjourn, world or no, agreement or no. Also, the 21st is the longest night of the year. Finally, 22% of all Americans think the world will end within their lifetime. It will, for them, someday. But cataclysms and disasters are not on the weather forecast. It comes down to this: hold onto one another. We do not know when we will draw our last breath. Cherishing one another is the greatest gift any one of us can bestow. Be kind, be generous, and do not live in fear, just live.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Steven Spielberg

My beloved sister-in-law Catherine reported to me yesterday that she had a dream. In it, she and her hsuband Guy accompanied my wife Diane and myself to the premiere of a theatrical motion picture based on my novel, "Amber Waves." As author of the original material, I was honored to attend. Her dream echoes my own, one I have harbored secretly and sometimes not so secretly for any one of my works at every Oscar celebration since, oh, since I was ten. It occurred to us as we discussed her dream that it was not an unreasonable one, and that, further, "Amber Waves" would make a wonderful, richly detailed film, just the kind that a great director like Steven Spielberg would have a great deal of fun bringing into reality. We even began casting the film, with Jeremy Renner as Jason Edwards and Viggo Mortinsen as Sheriff Frank. It has all the earmarks of a top box office hit, with a sequel in the waiting (indeed, I've begun sketching one). Knowing Mr. Speilberg's penachant for making one very important film and one very entertaining one simultaneously, we decided that "Amber Waves" would provide him both. All we need now is to capture the gentleman's attention. Mr. Spielberg, I would gladly provide you with a copy of my book if only you ask. As for the rest of you, if you haven't yet availed yourselves of the pleasure of reading my novel, I wish to remind you that it is available in paperback from or Amazon for $16.50, or worldwide on your Kindle for just $2.99 USD. It is also available worldwide on the Kindle lending library. Become one of the few who have read this book so far, and help make them many! And then spread the word! AN UPDATE ON DIANE: Every day gets a little better. We are still overwhelmed by how well she got through the crash. We now must await the whims of the insurance companies as they go about their business, and have decided we cannot worry about any of that right now. Worrying will not help, just borrow trouble. Instead we have to trust that all will be well, and focus on getting Di better and better, and finding a car we can afford. SHORT STORY: Unfortunately, my short story "The Anthropologist's Acquaintance" was not selected among the finalists for the contest. It was a long shot, entering late in the game and knowing how many fine entries there would be. We perservere. We move on. We await Mr. Spielberg's genius to recognize mine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Yesterday I saw the car for the first time. It stood there, solemn and vulnerable, covered in a blanket of snow, as if to hide the full visual impact of the wreckage. But nothing could hide the vision. I took a few photos, then stood there wondering how anyone could have emerged from that accident with only "minor injuries," but, thankfully, Diane did. I thought about how close I came to losing her. The day will come when one of us will leave the survivor, but if I have anything to say about it that day will be decades off. It did not happen on December 7, 2012. I called Di from the tow yard to thank her for not dying. She replied, "Thank God, fate and physics." So I did that, too, holding back tears. Then she added that good engineering and safety belts were of help too. Every day is better. There are issues to deal with, as parts of her struggle to heal and impact other bits, and as we try to decipher the impact of the crash on our finances. We have no car now, and the settlement on a ten year old Kia will be meager at best, but a friend is going to loan us a car until we figure it all out, and the Post Office, local Grovery Store, and work are a healthy hike away. The insurance company in its infinite wisdom wants to claim the accident was Diane's falut, another issue of great disappointment directed toward Corporate America and meaning that our insurance premium will go up once the dust has settled. But everything will work out, and at the end of it we will be better than before, if that is possible. I do believe that life is a work in progress, so progress is the goal and love the fuel that drives us forward. Others have had much worse things to deal with, from actually suffering an unexpected death in the family to having their home all but destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. There are people in the world whose poverty is astounding, beyond an average American's comprehension. One in six people in the world live on a dollar a day or less. That's a bargain ornament or a jigsaw puzzle at the local Dollar Tree, or about a third of a latte at Starbucks. Twety-six million human beings worldwide are trapped in slavery. I remember these statistics with a heavy heart, because I can do so little to help, and today I feel the need to tuck up close to home. I am being selfish, but that is where I need to be. We are entrusted with a specific corner of the world to tend. Most of us have very small bits. Tend them well, and constantly renew that fuel that drives you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Blog 251

I had intended Blog 251 to be a fun, funny little seasonal squib. But things change. Snow falls, roads get slick, cars slide. In one second everything can change, and even though change is supposed to be good, radical change can rip you apart and leave you reeling even when you're not the one who was hurt. Diane was in a car accident last evening due to slick roads and heavy snowfall. She will be okay -- her seat belt, the air bag, and the intrinsic soundess of our ten year old Kia probably saved her life. Another car was involved, and its driver and passenger were able to leave the hospital yesterday night after being checked over to make sure they were okay. Di suffered major bruising from being tossed and yanked by the impact, including a cracked elbow. She is swollen and sore and very tired, but otherwise she will recover fully. They are releasing her from the hospital this afternoon. Nik and I will bring her home. The car was totalled. Being ten years old, its blue book value will be small. We don't know yet how we will replace it, but we'll figure it out. We'll figure everything out, step by step, from the dust after the insurance companies settle. One painful step at a time, until the pain is gone. I blame myself. The snow was starting to get heavy, and I should have insisted that she not go. The people at her destination would understand. She blames herself. If she hadn't started to accelerate as she drove up the hill on 93 leading out of Lakeside. If she had stayed home. If, if. In situations like this, one wants to affix cause and blame. But it was an accident, no one was seriously injured, and our world may be more difficult for a period of time, we have each other. Incidents like this remind us of how precious each of us is to someone else, and that nothing else really matters. Our Kia died a noble death. But cars can be replaced, an our friend Joanne says. People -- in this case my bride of nearly 38 years -- cannot. So Blog 251 is turning out to be me counting my blessings once again, this time in the face of a misfortune that could have been far, far worse.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Puzzles and Planes

Recently I picked up a Sudoku puzzle book at the local dollar store, and began playing at once. It's funny: doing Sudoku makes me feel like I am on an airplane nestled in for a ten hour flight to Schiphol Airport. Driving to Kalispell these days with the cold grey overcast quality of light reminds me of driving atop the dikes outside Culemborg. But, then, as Diane will attest, it takes very little to remind me of Holland and our times there. I have choice pieces of Delftware on my walls and in or on my cabinets. I have my own set of wooden shoes displayed in my writer's garret, along with a huge collection of Santa Claus figurines and statues. There is nothing more Dutch than klompen -- clogs -- hand carved in the Netherlands and brought to America when we immigrated way back in 1952. And Santa Claus is derived from Sinterclaas, the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6 and whose arrival to treat all the little children is the night of December 5. The kiddies put their shoes, their klompen, outside the door and Sinterclaas places treats and candy in the shoes (or coal and twigs for the "bad" or "naughty" kids) to be discoverfed the next morning. Therefore: the Christmas season reminds me of Holland. Then comes New Year's. We have celebrated New Year's in Holland three times. They really know how to approach that holiday, marking fresh beginnings by getting rid, emotionally, of all the bad things you feel or see, and exploding fireworks the way we do for the Fourth of July. Plus, the cold weather and the bright lights combine to create that untranslatable feeling, gezelligheit. The closest translation is "coziness," but it is more than that, more like a warm fuzzy glowing comfortableness that reaches down to your toes and back up through the whole body, that links you indelibly to everything and everyone around you. Therefore: New Year's makes me think of Holland. The rest of the year I have less cues, but I really don't need them. I read Erik's blog, I talk on the phone to Erik and Annemieke and Olaf and Anneke, and we exchange e-mails frequently. If I don't hear from them, I think of them and wonder how they are. When I do hear from them, I think of them knowing how they are. It doesn't take much. I think about Vermeer's "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" at the Mauritshaus in den Haag, or Jan Asselijn's "The Threatened Swan" at the Rijksmuseum. I think about the rock shop in Giethorn. I Listen to a piece of music by Jan van Gilse -- admittedly not a great composer, but because of his life story and a few great works, he has become a "pet interest." I look at words in English that came from Dutch, like clomp, which means to walk heavily, and comes from klomp, which is Dutch for shoe. I have a proud heritage and have immersed myself in it, although my mastery of the Dutch language is non-existant. Something else to work on in the coming years. The best part, for me, is that Holland thinks about me. Specifically, both sets of nephew-niece loved their time in Montana with us this year so much that they want to come back. So they are the reverse of the coin on which I am featured, the yin to my yang -- for every memory or thought of Holland I have, they counter with one about Glacier International Airport and the surrounding wonders here. All we need is money and time -- ha ha. But we have our memories and our photographs and emails and telephones to sustain us. A man is supposed to be satisfied with what he has. I have much. I love what I have. But a man also wants more -- it is a large part of what drives us on. So I love my new home and my friends and family around me, but I dream of playing Sudoku on an airplane, because it's almost impossible for me to sleep on one.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sharing the Wealth

Saturday, December 1 Fiber-optic Santa is shining on me as I write. Oma and Xander are building a gingerbread house large enough for a family of four, in the kitchen. The season is upon us. No snow yet, and no serious forecasts for snow below 5000 feet, but the air feels like winter and the atmosphere is definitely one of yuletide greetings and hot cups of ginger snappish tea. In short, the nights are long and filled with cozy togetherness. And, despite the fact that some other worthy persons won the Powerball, and not me, riches abound. It would be easy for me to find something to complain about today, if I try. Heck, if I had nothing to complain about, I would be complaining about that! But as I think through the words I want to use, I find myself wanting to talk about good things and only good things. The joke would be – well, that’s going to be a short blog, then. But wait, there’s more. Truth is, I have so many blessings in my life I am beyond counting them and strictly enjoying them. Looking back on my life, I realize that I have won the lottery time and time again. Fame and fortune may have eluded me so far – SO FAR – but I have to admit I have been a very lucky fellow, indeed. I have gotten to spend 38 years (come December 28) with a remarkable and loving woman. I have gotten to know a great many good people and felt their love radiate over me. I still have enough wits about me to tell you of my luck. Times are tough. Times are tough for a great many people, compared to whom I have it really, really good. My heart goes out to all of them. We forget they exist even when they might be living next door or down the street. When I count my blessings I always try to think of people less fortunate, less well off, whose struggles are far greater and profound than my own. That might be the season calling to me, or the fiscal cliff looming like the edge of Niagara Falls. Or it could be, simply, the realization that I have a computer to work from, a TV to watch, a stove to cook upon and food to prepare in my nice, warm, spacious house. Truth is, like Tevya would say, I still would like to have to prove I can handle fame and fortune. I want to believe I would spread it around, and I know my wife, my conscience, would help me do just that. Then among the blessings I could count would be the blessings I bestow. Meanwhile, we all are doing what we can. The blessings we do spread are small, not earth-shattering or life-changing, but Theresa the little flower honored life and her God with her little ways, and that can be enough. Doors need to be opened. Things on tall shelves need reaching for shorter friends. Conversations with complete strangers in long lines at the checkout make the time more enjoyable, or less irritating at least. The phone lines still work. And even a quarter makes a joyful noise as it drops into the donations kettle, manned by the Salvation Army volunteer outside your favorite store. Wealth is a relative thing, meant to be spread.