"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking for a lead sentence

Looking for a lead for the new year...who knows, but as I consider an article for Oklahoma Publisher in a few days, Looking for great leads...I can think of five off the top of my head.

Number one--newswriting primer, put the most important thing first, use strong noun and action verb. Put time first only if it's the news-- "In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth (also answered WWWW ). Spent the rest of the book answering why and how.

Others:

  •  "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...." Talk about a great hook.
  • "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."--summary lead at its best, for last year's wrap up.
  • "When lilacs last int he dooryard bloomed, and the great star drooped...." same structure as number one, but more poetic.
  • "Dead. That's what (name) was...." James Thurber. Go for the drama.
  • "The last camel died at noon." Ken Follett. 
My question is always, "Would you keep reading?" which may also be why I'm so addicted to good headlines.

I know there are more. Give me your other suggestions. 

    A five-pound bag of flour

    This is five pound bag of flour, and my new symbol of success, or failure as I approach goals for a new year, and reviewing the past year.

    Friend Roy Kelsey commented to me about my recent weight loss this past few months--"Think of that in terms of bags of flour."

    For years I've had a goal of weight loss and exercise, and nothing ever happened, until I guess I got scared in late summer, and ashamed after seeing photos of myself where I looked pregnant. I had to buy new pants with bigger waistband  to start the school year. So we went to work on it--a combination of things--Jenny Craig diet, regular exercise, routine, and more. Blood pressure dropped, I felt better, even gradually looked better for a geezer.

    Now I've bought this five pound bag of flour to keep in a sack in my studio, next to my computer,  this coming year to look at every day. I've lost the equivalent of six of those, mostly from around my waist. I haven't weighed less than 200 pounds in almost 15 years. I've had to buy smaller, and my belt is too big.

    Scary isn't it, to think about carrying that around on your body, forcing your heart to work harder, getting out of breath lifting all that when you walk up stairs, etc.? No wonder you didn't feel good, blood pressure going up.

    Not all resolutions will be kept--and I have a new list this coming year. But at least one of them isn't to lose six sacks of flour, but just refrain from picking one up every few months and lugging it around the rest of the year.

    Now I'm going out in this great weather for a two-mile walk in Hafer Park right in our neighborhood.

    "Fiction is more real..."

    So wrote Tony Hillerman in his memoir Seldom Disappointed, which I recently finished, collecting a signed first addition on abe.com, to go with the collection I have of almost all his works set in my beloved New Mexico and Southwest
    Hillerman's http://harpercollins.com/authors/4488/Tony_Hillerman/index.aspx
    been dead more than 10 years now, and I'm not sure how I missed reading this, except it was prompted by two friends' recently published novels that got me out of my reading slump at the end of the year.
    How many books do you read and think, "Joe (or whoever) needs to read this"?
    Seldom Disappointed is that kind of book, except I know of three readers who will devour it. First section of the book, growing up in Depression Oklahoma, will captivate my father-in-law Jay Henry, who grew up not too far from Hillerman's home. The section on being an infantryman in WWII is perfect for my friend Jim Baker, retired UCO history prof and expert in WWII. Third section deals with Hillerman's life as a journalist, starting here in Oklahoma, mentioning people I know including Carter Bradley, Mary Goddard and Howard Wilson and others, lambasting higher education and more. I'm buying a copy for Ben Blackstock, and one for Baker. Jay can borrow my copy.  Fourth part is about his fiction writing. As a result, I've purchased his only novel I hadn't read, Finding Moon, about Vietnam, and he lavishes praise on it as a favorite.

    Back to the fiction. You only have to read Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath to know that. My Okie friends' novels, have so much reality in them they demand  your attention, more than just that they're largely set in Oklahoma and you can identify so closely with the landscapes.
    I finished this week the works of two friends-- Kent Anderson's Cold Glory http://bkentanderson.com/books/cold-glory/and M. Scott Carter's Stealing Kevin's Heart. http://www.mscottcarter.com/ Kent grabs your attention as an Okie, with suspense and great detail about Oklahoma. I've got to get back to Fort Washita and see that Confederate cemetery. And his narrative of raising an autistic son is as powerful as his novel. Scott's book is tense--the kind that makes you want to not turn the page, but then have to. And how he gets inside a teenager's mind is astounding. His descriptions of Stillwater put you there. Both books can make you cry and laugh.
    The other book, The Paris Correspondent, by Alan S. Cowell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Cowellshows the reality of past and present journalism--journalism when it was alive and full of characters, and today, amid corporate layoffs and cookie-cutter blandness. Shades of A Moveable Feast. Thanks to discovering this new author at Full Circle, I see he's written more such fiction, about journalism.
    All of these books are the kind you want to underline passages in, because of the language craftsmanship and the healthy doses of reality. I restrained myself in Hillerman's book, since it is signed and first edition, and can't find the exact quote on reality in fiction, but if it's not exact, it is a paraphrase, and like fiction, a paraphrase of reality.

    Turning the pages of 2011


    Only 10.
    So much for my goal of reading at least a book a month, something easily accomplished in previous years.

    But thanks to two writing, published friends, at least there have been 10. Back in October there had been just five, and  Kent Anderson and M. Scott Carter published novels, Cold Glory http://bkentanderson.com/books/cold-glory/ and Stealing Kevin's Heart.http://www.mscottcarter.com/

    That required trips to bookstores to get copies and authors' signatures. I'd already dipped into Kent's book, and then...Any visit to Full Circle Bookstore http://www.fullcirclebooks.com/ brings you surprises and discoveries, and before I left with Scott's signed book in my hands, I saw another on a shelf, The Paris Correspondent, A Novel of Newspapers, Then and Now, by New York Times journalist Alan S. Crowell. There's no way I--an old and proud journalist, can pass that up, and didn't.

    I started Scott's novel, but soon  immersed myself in the Paris book. Along came the Oklahoma Creativity forum in Norman, and I bought Gregg Fraley's small novel, Jack's Notebook, which while not as tense emotionally as Scott's, was a clever, if pedantic way of describing creative problem solving.

    Sometime after my trip to New Mexico in November to bury my uncle Mike, I turned again to Okie Tony Hillerman, found a signed first edition of his memoirs, Seldom Disappointed, which I had not read.
    In December, I finished all of these. Comments on Hillerman, Carter, Anderson and Cowel's books in the next post.

    For the record, the other five books included New Mexico photographer Craig Varjabedian's Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, http://www.craigvarjabedian.com/ about his dramatic black and white photos, coinciding with his exhibition at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Getting to meet and work with him, and a signed first edition is a highlight of the autumn. See earlier article on this blog.

    The other signed first edition was Hanging Men, poetry by fellow Oklahoma professor Alvin Turner, reviewed in august on this blog. Getting to meet him and have coffee was a bonus. Thanks to friend Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and Mongrel Empire Press http://mongrelempire.press.orgfor this opportunity. She's also responsible for me meeting Craig, but that's another story.

    I started the year in January finishing Simon Winchester's Atlantic, one of myfavorite writers, and obviously a journalist.  An earlier discovery at Full Circle was Mary Oliver's   poetry, Blue Pastures. I also ready Calvin Trillin's About Alice, about his wife.

    So while the middle of the year may have as been as dry in reading as the Oklahoma drought, at least the quality of these discoveries were welcome bookends to the year.

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    A year seeps away

    A little leak
    unnoticed at first
    but the monthly water bill
    soon registered an increase
    I couldn't explain.

    Peering down at the water meter
    I could see it clicking off numbers
    and hear a slight stream of current
    even though I thought
    the water was off

    A neighbor came
    to report water
    pooling in his yard
    downhill from mine.

    Beside the house,
    one of underground pipes
    for the sprinklers moaned
    and water bubbled up
    through the earth and decaying leaves.

    A plumber repaired it,
    "Good as new," he said.
    "No it's not," I thought,
    thinking about this year
    seeping away toward
    another birthday.

     But maybe I have it backwards
    Earlier years seemed to crawl by
    but now there's a flood
    of memories, and time rushing by.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Merry Christmas

    Old North in the snow, UCO, watercolor
    Merry Christmas
    from
    Terry and Susan

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    The gift of teaching...

    I don't really like the ends of semesters, and can find them depressing, because, thought a time of success for those graduating, it's also a time of separation. Favorite students saying goodbye, wanting photos, introducing parents and husbands and wives.

    My reward is not instantaneous like the byline all us journalists live for. Instead, you develop friendships and relationships built on respect, and then savor their success in later years, keeping in touch with  the memorable ones, and they with you.

    I've been doing this so long now that I'm officially a geezer and curmudgeon, and I treasure having known these students.

    And every once in a while, one of them brings a gift. Some are trinkets or cards or photos, objects of mutual respect.  That happened today, but it was no small item, as you may have known if you follow me on Facebook, but I can't help repeat it.

    Here's what I wrote on Facebook:
    "The rewards of teaching...I'm stunned. A veteran comes in today while I'm grading papers. His A is already posted. He works full time, and is married and has the passion and skills to be a journalist. He thanks me for the several classes he's had with me, for making him think, "Twisting his mind," he says. He knows from several references some of my favorite books. Then he reaches in his backpack, and pulls out this leather-bound book, new. "I may be a broke-ass student," he says, "but I found it on ebay. Look inside." I open it to the first page--collectors' edition of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, signed with a signed certificate of authenticity! Just Wow. And thanks more than I can say."


    I added that I meant mint condition, copyright and dated 11/8/98 by Bradbury himself.

    So take a look. I'm fortunate to be a teacher.



    Monday, December 12, 2011

    A year of journeys

    I'm trying to plan a trip to Alaska for us in May, and it's not easy, unless you go to a travel agent and get stuck on one of those gargantuan cattle trucks called cruise ships, and I don't want that.

    So planning the trip will be an adventure too, and as I pour over brochures, scan books, contact friends and scour the Internet, I'm aware of the journeys, planned and unplanned, to places know and unknown, that have made this year memorable.

    First was a trip to Chennai, India, in February to SRM University for a conference. It was a trip of utterly new sensations, experiences and people.

    Then in March, I spent a week aboard the nuclear carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in the Pacific, thanks to a former student, the Public Affairs officer aboard one of the largest ships in the world, Lt. Cdr. Steve Curry. Much more first time living.

    In April I drove to the third Culp cousin reunion at my cousin Sarah Beth Foote's house in East Texas. Ten of us were there--only one barely known was missing--the children of my Mom and her three sisters and two brothers. A journey of mixed emotions of laughter and stories and good times, mixed with the awareness of passing time, and wondering if we'd ever do it again.

    May was packed. On Mother's Day, I met my brother Jerry of Lubbock, to spend a boring evening in Wichita Falls before visiting our Mom's grave in Waurika, for an emotional trip into memories. In mid-May, Susan and I went to Florida and Savannah and soaked up southern food and comfort and history.

    On Memorial Day, I visited grandkids Erin, Abby and Max and daughter Dallas and son-in-law Todd  in Amarillo and then on to Walsenburg to  my last uncle, Mike, in the veterans home. A happy,  and sobering trip, where the adventures are mental and emotional.

    On the Fourth of July, I flew to California to spend time with my son Vance, his wife Kerin, and granddaughters Katherine, Sarah, and to see the new baby, Neysa, for the first time. Emotional for sure, but also the adventures of touring Vandenburg AFB where they launch satellites.

    There were summer  trips on Oklahoma's back roads, including US 66, taking photos, exploring, and visiting friends at newspapers, and to Guthrie to show artwork there. There was a whirlwind trip to Vales Grande in New Mexico on roads I hadn't driven  before in early August--not much, but it helped satisfy a New Mexico attack.

    In October, we celebrated anniversary in Kansas City, and spent full days in Columbia, Mo., with son Derrick, daughter-in-law Naomi, and granddaughter Liberty Faye.

    Then in late October, a different journey began, when I received a phone call at night about the death of my uncle Mike. That journey isn't over yet for me, even though a resulting journey was burying him in the National Cemetery at Santa Fe, across from where he lived for-30 plus years. It was only my second trip to beloved New Mexico since a year ago when I had to move him out of that apartment that had become a second home to me in the last 10 years. I've traveled many places and miles in my mind as a result.

    Those are the out-of-town trips, not counting getting artwork in Adelante Gallery in Paseo and multiple trips to the frame shop and studio. Nor around town to visit in-laws, go out to eat, visit many museums, attend the press convention, go "boothing" with friends and colleagues,  attend parties, travel over chess boards,  move brushes over blank paper and words on blank computer screens, and at Thanksgiving, tour the city with myAmarillo grandkids.

    Then two days ago, my oldest cousin, Charles Rogers Lutrick, died in Beaumont, beginning a new journey for him and for those who love him. His funeral is tomorrow, and while Jerry and I are too far away to make it, his passing sets us off on another mental and somber journey contemplating passing life, a passing year and passing time.

    It's been a good year--I've seen all my children and grandchildren, spent time with cousins and friends and colleagues, and faced mortality.

    Although I'm trying to plan the Alaska trip, and also renewed my passport last month, I'm very aware that I really have no idea what the journeys will be this coming year, nor what kind of journeys they might be. I do know that Charles and Mike make me focus on my own journey, every day.

    Charles Rogers Lutrick
    Aug. 29, 1930
    Dec. 10, 2011

    Terry M. Clark
    Jan. 5, 1944

    Terror alerts--humor

    Friend David Bennett passed this along from an Army buddy. It's just too good not to share for a really good laugh.

    Subject: New Terror Alert for Travel

    Security Alerts for Travel in Europe by John Cleese
      The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
     The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Libya, and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance" The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.  The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards". They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.  Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides". 
    The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs". They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose".  Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels. The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish Navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish Navy. 
    Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be all right Mate". Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and lastly "The barbie is canceled". So far, no situation has ever warranted use  of the final escalation level. 
    -- John Cleese - British writer, actor and tall person

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    When a cousin dies

    Charles Rogers Lutrick, third from right, in April
    My cousin Sarah Beth  Lutrick told me tonight, via email, that her brother, Charles Rogers Lutrick, 80, died today. He was the first of the Culp family cousins, the son of Gladys Culp Lutrick, married to Clark Lutrick, my mother's oldest sister.

    We fortunately had a reunion in east Texas this April, of all but one of the Culp cousins, and he was there, not in good health, but there, along with the rest of us.

    Mortality...thy sting is personal, and though I didn't know him well, all my kin folks --the aunts and uncles--always thought of him as the golden boy, and I'm sure he was. He was pleased when we named my youngest son Derrick Rogers Clark--and we didn't know the connection.

    I have another picture as a baby, of Charles with me on his shoulders. Granddad Ezra Thomas Clark is in the background, and cute redhead Sarah Bath is just to my right.
    I think the two cuties in front are Charlotte and Carolyn Gee.


    Thanks, Charles, and God Bless.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    The flag is at half mast

    I wondered why as I walked across campus this morning, and saw the American flag at half-staff in front of the UCO ROTC building.

    Then I picked up a copy of the New York Times and saw the date--Dec. 7.

    Seventy years ago, Americans died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

    I can't find my photos of my visit to Pearl several years ago when my oldest son was stationed there in the U.S. Air Force. But I saw the the 50-caliber machine gun bullet gouges in the concrete of the buildings and seaplane ramps.

    I took the ferry ride to the memorial over the ruin of the U.S.S.  Arizona. Ironically, both English and Japanese language was prevalent in the visitor center.  And at least half of the visitors on the ferry ride were young Japanese. The card on my ticket featured a young sailor who died there--and he was from Oklahoma.

    We arrived at the solemn white memorial straddling the remains of the battleship. Everybody was deathly quite--only whispers were heard. The names of the dead were on the walls. Oil still oozes from the sunken ship, where more than 1,000 sailors are still interred in water and rusting  steel.

    A white buoy marks where  the bow of the ship would have been, and beyond, the  U.S.S.  Missouri, where the war ended four and a half years later in Tokyo bay, rests in final berth.

    And the oil still oozes from the ship, still the tomb for more than 1,000 Americans.

    And thankfully, the flag still flies at half-mast.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    December moon

    5" by 7"" watercolor

    December rain

    6 1/2" by 9" watercolor, 300 pound Fabriano Artistic paper

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    "In the Panhandle..."

    "It's coming," the neighbor said, as we talked about the mild weather today, sunny, a little breezy, whisps of clouds in and out.

    We both had heard the forecasts...rain, then maybe sleet and some snow, and mainly, cold, northwest winds.

    "In the Panhandle, it's already... ."

    The Oklahoma Panhandle, three counties in the former No Man's Land lopped off from the Texas Panhandle because of the Missouri Compromise--a panhandle that looks like a panhandle, one that's largely ignored by Oklahoma and especially the politicians.

    I love that place, especially since I don't have to live there. County seats--Boise City in Cimarron County--closer to Denver and Santa Fe  than OKC; Guymon, in Texas County, biggest city in the Panhandle, home of a good former student, a growing Hispanic population and swine production area; Beaver, in Beaver County, where the North Canadian River is renamed the Beaver River. Other small towns--Kenton, at the tip, in Mountain Time zone, not far from the footprints of the Santa Fe Trail's Cimarron cutoff and the footprints of dinosaurs at Black Mesa, the state's highest point; Hooker--my favorite, where Sheila Blankenship bravely publishes the newspaper, The Hooker Advance; Goodwell, home of tiny Panhandle State University--with a rodeo team; and others, with little more that schools, like Keyes, and Forgan and Hardesty. My favorite, only a crossroads and a store, is Slapout. A friend once wrote a book, titled A Rancher from Slapout, and I have a photo, of the road sign, somewhere.

    These are hardy people. They have to be to survive out here, and you have to love open spaces, which is why I like it. I recommend the book, The Worst Hard Time, which describes the Dustbowl that ravaged this area and the Great Plains 80 years ago. But with few people--less than one percent of the state's population--you can see a long way, and at night, the stars will blind you. It's not by accident that the Oklahoma Astronomy Club schedules trips out there, where you can see the Milky Way stretching across the sky without help.

    It's a long way, 166 miles across the Panhandle from east to west, and only 34 north to south. At the tip, you can stand in three states--Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico. South is Texas, and for most of the northern border is Kansas. It's served by one main highway, State Highway 3. If you don't speed, it'll take forever. If you do speed, the tickets can pile up. It's a statewide joke, denied but believed, that the Oklahoma Highway patrol sends misbehaving troopers there for punishment.

    Oklahoma's Siberia?

    It's feeling like that there now, as the first winter storm of the year sweeps down from the Rockies. We know that here in Edmond, 327 miles from Boise City, and I've put the firewood on the back porch.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Autumn journey

    Where I walk, Hafer Park, Edmond
    There is beauty in mortality

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Reflections on a final port of call

    I asked if I could open the urn, and the funeral director said yes. I was in the visitors center-headquarters of the Santa Fe National Cemetery, and I'd come to bury my favorite uncle, Michael Henry Clark. I carry his name as my middle name, and I believe he and his oldest brother and my dad, Terrence, must have been the closest of all the five brothers from Comanche, Oklahoma.

    They opened the small black box and I reached inside to touch the clear plastic bag that held the sandy-white chalky remains of the old sailor. I did so, and shut the urn. I don't know why. I just did. The last time I'd touched Mike was to say goodbye at the veterans home at Walsenburg on Memorial Day.  We'd spent the day together, telling stories, eating, me wheeling him around in his wheelchair.

    Last week we went up the hill to bury him. After reading the obituary I've posted earlier, and reading Psalm 23, I made the following remarks.


    We gather here in sadness and loss to celebrate and honor the life of Michael Henry Clark.
    While we mourn, I know there’s a big reunion at a bar in heaven where Mike and his four brothers are laughing and swapping stories again.
    I prefer to think of Mike like this, of the many stories that he told and the many stories of ours that we all know and can laugh about.
    Mike brought travel, stories and laughter to us all.
    I have pictures of me in diapers being held by him in his WWII Navy uniform, of him teaching me to punt a football, of camping. Growing up in Albuquerque, my brother Jerry says there was always excitement when Uncle Mike was coming—he brought gifts and stories and we had midnight breakfasts just to keep listening. In the last 10 years I can tell you stories of him picking up hitchhiking veterans and pueblo residents, and many more retracing these years.
    I know you have many more than I do, having known him as his adopted family who adopted him.
    Isn’t that a great gift to us all?
    Remember his big toothy smiles, large Clark ears and nose, easy laughter, Depression era toughness and stubbornness as he taught generations of young people or stocked his pantry with enough food to feed the US Navy, as he navigated life, a sailor docking his ship in Santa Fe.
    As a friend told him, “Mike you couldn’t have found a better place to park your magic carpet.”
    Stop a moment and think of one of those happy memories and stories, and laugh with him one more time…..
    When I last saw Mike on Memorial Day, he said to me, “Terry, live every day.”
    Mike Clark did that.
    Now his remains are just across the road from his apartment of 32 years. He didn’t care where he was buried but I told him earlier it had to be here…where the sound of the bells of St. Francis Cathedral and taps at 9 p.m. will touch his grave every day.
    He always said to me, “You couldn’t have come at a better time. You’re home.”
    Mike is home.
    On the last day of his life, we chatted away in the afternoon, and he told me to tell Jo and Lynn and Mon how much he missed and loved them. Later he watched the World Series and was being put to bed, chatting away, and probably flirting, with the nurses.
    They sat him down on the edge of the bed. There was a sound, and they laid him down and he was gone.
    When I’d call every week, he’d always say, “Don’t forget me.”
    We can’t forget you, Mike.
    Santa Fe is just not the same without Mike Clark. We miss you.
    Saludos, sailor.

    God, thank you for Mike Clark. Comfort us with the many good memories of the years we knew and loved him. Amen.


    The next morning I went up the hill again to take photographs of the resting place of his ashes.
    Graves of those cremated at Santa Fe National Cemetery, with Santa Fe Baldy and the Sangre de Cristos in the background,t he view Mike could see from his apartment across the road. Mike's temporary marker is the closes name tag five right of the orange marker.
    Mike's ashes final resting place, the temporary marker at right.


    Michael Henry Clark
    U.S. Navy
    QM2S
    WWII Korea
    Sept, 4, 1922
    Oct. 24, 2011

    And what is eerie about this, as I post it, my blog music starts playing Ravel's Ports of Call.

    A sailor's final port

    The old Indian waited until the rest of the people had moved off from touching the small black box urn that held the ashes of Michael Henry Clark.

    The committal center at the Santa Fe National Cemetery
    The small crowd of about  50 people had gathered at the Committal Center at the Santa Fe National Cemetery at 2:15 p.m. Nov. 10 under clear, but brisk November skies. Across the road, over rows of white-gray gravestones marching in military precision, you could just see the apartment where Clark,  who died Oct. 24 at age 89, U.S. Navy combat veteran of both WWII and Korea, had lived for more than 30 years until last November.
    The view from the committal center, toward Mike's apartment, light adobe about center near top of hill,
    with the great blue hulk of the Sandias in the background.
    They came to pay their respects to him, mostly the many members of the  Romero family that had adopted Clark, and he them as a family, including Jo Webb, his long-time girlfriend and her daughter Lynn. Also there was his best friend "Mon" Moneno, who had helped care for him so much up until he had to move a year ago from the apartment to a veteran's home in Walsenburg, Co., and other Santa Feans,  people who knew him and had worked with him. They sat in folding chairs facing the urn, and gathered behind them, thinking about this life-long friend who brought laughter and stories and adventure to their lives.

    And the old Indian, Candalario Lavato of Santo Domingo pueblo, and his wife, a Tesuque Indian.

    After brief comments by a nephew, the three blue uniformed U.S. Navy sailors of the honor guard took over. Beforehand, two of them greeted the vehicle that brought the urn and the flag with stiff salutes, and marched it up the small hill to a table in front of the crowd.

    Then they crisply unfolded the flag and held it over the urn, sunlight streaming through the red white and blue. The third member of the guard played taps. The two then refolded the flag, carefully creasing each fold, until it was complete. White-gloved salutes followed, every detail planned and foreordained.

    One marched to the center, turned on a dime, approached Jo Webb, sitting in the center of the row of chairs, knelt down on one knee, and presented her the flag.

    "On behalf of the President of the United States, and a grateful nation," he said, with a few other words, concluding with "Our condolences."

    He stood,  saluted once more.  His final words were, "Quartermaster Clark, Shipmate."

    The crowd gathered around the urn in a last attempt to say goodbye, and moved off, chatting, planning a big afternoon meal of celebration. The nephew stood there, and touched the urn one more time, when Mr. Lavato approached, dressed like everyone else against the chill--jeans and coat--except with a beaded headband. The 92-year-old WWII Army veteran, who had fought America's enemies, had worked with Clark at the Institute of American Indian Arts years ago. There the native Oklahoman Clark had helped the native American fight administrators, and as a long time teacher, was welcome at all the feast days or any other time in the northern pueblos of New Mexico, but especially that of the Lavatos.

    He faced the urn, stood at attention, and quietly raised his arm to his weathered forehead, and snapped a final salute.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Church at Tecolote, NM-2

    The sprits of New Mexico
    Tecolote church, 2--11 by 14 watercolor, Fabriano Artistica 300 pound paper

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Psalm of the backroads--2

    We are travelers, you and I
    From the time of Abram
    Who knew he was a stranger in a strange land
    to us, who think we have permanent tents,
    Rarely questioning the origin
    of our hunger, our travel lust
    until we get on back roads
    with the windows down
    the smells and sounds and sights of life
    we miss in airconditioned cocoons
    at home and work or on Interstates.
    Here we notice you as fellow traveler
    as time slows down,
    as we travel in our minds and senses.
    We travel miles, and years
    on winding roads, up and down and around,
    until we meet you on the intersection
    ahead where you travel
    on a road that never ends.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    A Psalm of the Backroads-1

    When I drive through the countryside...
    two lanes of asphalt unwind
    before me and I find you
    Around every bend,
    Over every hill
    there is mystery and wonder
    to behold not seen before
    Mirror-still ponds reflect your sky
    and ripple with your breath...

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Manzanos in the morning

    Pen and ink, on a steno pad, the view from the Albuquerque airport,
    The great blue hulk of the Manzano mountains, stretching more than 50 miles southeast of Albuquerque are far less populated than the Sandias just north of them. On a cloudy day, looking east with the sun behind them you can barely see the streaks of snow on the highest peaks. The tall one is Capilla peak, more than 9,000 feet high, about 5,000 feed above the Rio Grand valley to the west. There's a fire lookout tower on the very top, and you can hike up there. I did so many years ago, from the other side.

    These peaks captivate my imagination, and I've painted them twice, as did my Dad...but those views is from the north. On the opposite side in the foothills are Spanish land grants and small villages, and the beginning of the Great Plain, stretch all the way back to Oklahoma.  sketched this Veterans Day, waiting on a flight home from my uncle Mike's funeral in Santa Fe.  The mountains are part of the Rido Grand rift valley, thrust up on the east, while the west dropped.

    Manzanos is Spanish for Apples, and when the evening sun and clouds are right, they do seem to turn red. I think Coronado and the Conquistadors of 500 years ago, homesick and thirsty marching up the valley from Mexico and El Paso del Norte, wistfully named them this, hungry for the apples from the orchards of Castillian Spain.

    Mountain church

    The little church at Tecolote, N.M., first attempt, 11 by 14 watercolor on 300 pound d'Arches paper, with t he clouds towering over the Sangre de Christos in the background. The next will be better

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Cold front

    You can tell it's coming.
    The skies grow gray, the sun hazy.
    Yesterday's strong south wind is forgotten.
    The autumn leaves hurry to the ground in the light breezes.
    The air grows calm.
    In the northwest, the sky gets bluer and darker.
    Ragged clouds fill the skies of the serene Great Plains.
    It eases in, spitting moisture as a vanguard.
    When darkness falls, you can hear its arrival.
    Outside, gusts of wind whip every limb of every tree and bush.
    It's time for stew and hot tea and perhaps a fire.
    You go to sleep underneath a blanket
    And the wind tells you it's November.
    In the morning, it's clear and bright...
    and crisp... cold front.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Michael Henry Clark

    Funeral services for Michael Henry Clark, 89, will be at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in Santa Fe National Cemetery with military honors. His nephew Terry M. Clark will officiate.
     A long-time teacher at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, he died Oct. 24 in a Colorado veterans home at Walsenburg. Well-known in many of the pueblos of New Mexico, he lived in Santa Fe until November last year when age forced his move.
    A world traveler, he was born in Comanche, OK, Sept. 4, 1922. He was the fourth of five sons of Erle T. and Cuba Jon Miller Clark of Comanche.
    Before joining the U.S. Navy in WWII, he ran away from home with friends hoping to get a job in Washington, D.C. and Richmond during the Depression. In the War he served as a signalman, Petty Officer second class on PC1212 on anti-submarine patrol in the Caribbean.
    After the war he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and history from the University of Colorado. Reactivated during the Korean War, he served on LST 975 that was in the first invasion wave of landings on the beach at Inchon. He was transferred to Gen. MacArthur’s flagship, the USS Mt. McKinley, as the “best signalman in the Navy.”
    He later taught high school English, history and other subjects at Espanola. He also taught at Casper, Wyo., and in Oregon. He was hired by the U.S. Information Agency to teach English to university students for five straight years in Ecuador, Libya, Iran and Mali.
    He returned to the U.S. as a teacher of many subjects at the Institute of America Indian Arts in 1965. He was a member of the Santa Fe VFW and American Legion. and served in the Oklahoma National Guard as a youth.
    He was preceded in death by his parents and four brothers—Terrence Miller, Lewis Watts, Rex Thweatt and Champ.  He is survived by many nieces and nephews. Rogers Funeral Home at Alamosa is handling arrangements.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Administrators' guide to kill creativity

    This is an adaptation  from last year, now that I'll be attending the Oklahoma Creativity Forum tomorrow in Norman to try to learn how to help protect Oklahoma from creativity.

    http://stateofcreativity.com/events/okcf/

    Calling all idea police: Our state is facing a insidious threat to its stability and conservative, God-fearing, status-quo lifestyle.

    We must prepare to challenge and defeat these liberal-socialist ideas and thoughts from beyond our borders, which will be bigger threats than terrorism or homosexuality. Based on my many years of experience as an administrator in higher education, I believe I'm called by God and Sally Kern to provide some proven guidelines for other administrators  on how to squelch creativity. These should be memorized by all  idea police as we mobilize to protect our state from creativity.

    Administrators' Creativity Squelching Checklist
    • Call lots of long meetings that bore people to death, sapping any creative energy people have with trivia, wasting time that could be spent creatively, and accomplish nothing but bolster your authority.
    • Make sure every person has multiple committee jobs that require paperwork and is saddled with several reports on things like strategic planning and program evaluations.
    • Demand that all ideas be presented to you first, on the "Permission to Have a New Idea" form. (Sample  of page 1 of 10-page form attached at bottom of this list). Form must be signed by all people involved or affected.
    • Remember, it's always more important to have a slogan, changed often, rather than any substance.
    • Applicant must  demonstrate on appropriate form how New Idea fits a prescribed list of objectives attached to  the current slogan.
    • When presented with the form, ask them if they've filled out the necessary budgetary, personnel, travel, facilities, and other paperwork. Demand those be returned by the end of the day.
    • "They can be found on the website," will saddle them searching the web the rest of the day so they'll miss the deadline.
    • If they do turn in the forms, tell them they've filled out the wrong ones, because they were changed yesterday.
    • Assign their idea to the New Idea Committee for approval, and tell them it only meets once a month. Next meeting will be three weeks from now.
    • In talking to them, use lots of obscure acronyms--the ones nobody knows. These confuse, irritate and depress them. It makes them look ignorant and you "in the know." Meanwhile, creativity begins to wither in the barrage of nonsense. Hint: best examples are from the U.S. military and higher education.   
    • Insist that they also fill out all the seven-category rubrics for evaluation of the New Idea.(Appendix one to the Permission to Have a New Idea form).
    • If they question you, or disagree, accuse them of insubordination.  Refuse to sign their form. Start figuring out how to make their job harder so they won't have time to have any ideas (Remember, there is no statute of limitations on getting even). Assign them to at least one more committee immediately, telling them how essential their experience is.
    • If they somehow manage to accomplish all the paperwork for a New Idea, assure them you'll look at it sometime this week, and lose the form in the clutter on your desk. The first time they call about it, tell them you're "working on it." The next time, tell them you  fought for it, but the higher ups, "they," didn't. Tell them to try again next year. Then ask them if they've filled out all the reports from their committee work and tell them they're due today.
    • Be very suspicious of people from different cubicles talking together, or to other administrators.  Such conversations are breeding grounds for creativity. Insist on following a "chain of command." Don't let anyone talk to others without your approval. Make them fill out the "Permission to Talk to Others Form" (Find it on our special Squelching Creativity website).
    • If all else fails, just make up a policy that forbids the New Idea ("It's somewhere on the website"). 
    • Other sure-fire ways to squelch creativity: "We tried that once years ago. Didn't work." Or, "We've never done that before."
    APPENDIX
    Permission To Have a New Idea Form--page 1 of 10
    • Name________________________________ 
    • Qualifications to Have  a New Idea (no more than 5 pages):
    • New Idea (no more than 5 words):
    • Benefits of New Idea (no more than 5 words):
    • Potential dangers of New Idea. Make sure to explain how New Idea won't harm Oklahoma, and the guarantees for that. Are there any proven antidotes? (At least 10 pages):
    • How will the New Idea make your supervisor look good?
    • Review of literature supporting New Idea with APA style citations (at least 5 pages):
    • Statistical analysis of effects of New Idea including Chi Squares, ANOVA and Likert scales (at least 5 pages):
    • Bibliography  (Warning: You may use only Oklahoma sources):
    • List of all people potentially affected by New Idea (include all e-mails):
    • Be sure and fill out the next nine pages, signed and approved by every person potentially affected by the New Idea.
    • Power point presentation on New Idea must be completed, with lots of small hard-to-read fancy type, bright colors and graphics. Get IT's approval. Be prepared to read every word of each slide  at presentation to New Idea Committee (Power point will probably not work, so be prepared to read entire document anyway).
    • (This year's organizational slogan goes here, and on every page)

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Clark Boys Reunion at Heaven's Bar


    "Where the hell have you been, Mike?"
    "Not hell, not Oklahoma--earth. You ought to know, Terrence you left me there, long time ago."
    "Time slips away from us up here. Don't know what you mean. Seems like we've been waiting for you for eternity."

    "All four of you left. You could be a little more welcoming...it got lonely down there, especially the last year.... What are you drinking Champ?"
    "Everything...no drink limit up here, infinite mixes. Margaritas are better than in Juarez. Matter of fact, everything is better than Juarez."
    "That's hard to believe...what about the shaves and food and you know, the girls...."
    "Still the bachelor, aren't you, Mike? No girls, but, let me tell you about this bar...."

    "Rex, it sure it sure is to see that smile again. Last time I saw you in that hospital, you weren't smiling, but I remember you told me to live every day...."
    ""No, I wasn't but I got well just like that. Amazing. Now we sit around this bar all day telling stories."

    "What are you drinking, Louis?"
    "White Russian, naturally, with all that raw cow's milk I milk every day. This is heaven for health food folks. "
    "Some things don't change, do they?"

    "Not up here, Mike. Say, how's Santa Fe?"
    "Too much traffic, just like Taos. You wouldn't recognize it, Terrence, except those leather chairs are still there in the lobby at La Fonda."
    "How's the leg, Terrence?"
    "Fine. Never have to change stump socks, no itching. All I have to do is sit around and drink and draw portraits. Don't even have to sharpen my pencils. Just can't get the Big Guy to sit still for one."

    "What drink do you recommend, Rex?"
    "Isn't your favorite Cuba Libre? Ain't ever tasted one like this, not even when you were in the Navy in the Caribbean. Let's get you several."

    "Last time I had a rum and coke was with Terry, Terrence. He's still too up tight, but he's trying. Said he missed not ever getting to drink with you."
    "He'll get his chance...just not yet."

    "Ok, guys, I 've been waiting  to hear the old stories all over again--Comanche, family, New Mexico, the war, it all. This is  one hell of a reunion."
    "No, Mike. It's a heaven of a reunion."

    Dr. Terry Clark: A Memory in the Arts I Can't Forget

    Dr. Terry Clark: A Memory in the Arts I Can't Forget

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Home is the sailor, home from the sea

    Rest in Peace, Sailor

    Michael Henry Clark
    Sept. 4, 1922
    Comanche, Oklahoma
    Oct. 24, 2011
    Walsenburg, Colorado


    The last of the five Clark boys--Terrence Miller, Lewis Watts, Rex Thweatt, Mike, Champ

    Stories and photos to come soon of this world traveler and my favorite, most influential uncle. I talked to him this afternoon. He died as he was going to bed tonight, after watching the World Series.

    Mike with Susan and I at La Fonda in Santa Fe
    Seven years ago, he was our best man at our wedding in Santa Fe. He will be buried in the National Cemetery at Santa Fe, N.M., across the road from his longtime apartment that he moved out of 50 weeks ago. Now he'll hear taps again every night, and the bells of St. Francis cathedral.

    "Home is the sailor, home from the sea"

    I miss you already, Uncle Mike

    --Terry Michael Clark

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Okies at Heaven's Bar

    "Who's that guy in the overalls, down at the end of the bar?"
    "Oh, that's Henry Bellmon."
    "I thought you said there weren't many politicians up here?"
    "Right, but Bellmon was so honest, with himself and others, he was never in doubt. God likes his plain speaking, so unlike most politicians."

    "Say, I need another drink, What's the speciality of the house?"
    "God's own cocktail, The Holy Spirit."
    "Oh yeah, I'll have a double."
    "One at a time is all you can say grace over, believe me."

    "Bellmon was from Oklahoma. Hard to believe. Any other Okies up here?"
    "Lots of them, because so many of them suffered so much--"red state" to the contrary--you know, a poor state, redskins and rednecks. Trail of Tears and Dust Bowl. Coming from Oklahoma, most of them had been through enough hell on earth."

    "Speaking of ...Any Indians up here?"
    "See the guy down there with the pipe? Sequoyah. Next to him in gray is Stan Watie, and then there's Quanah Parker and Geronimo just to the left."

    "What?  Watie fought for the Confederacy, and Parker and Geronimo, didn't they do some pretty bad things to white folks?"
    "So. What makes you think white folks are special? Besides, God has a special place in his heart for rebels, those who go up against the vested interests. He loves their passion. Stop and think--most folks in your old world aren't white. Ever wonder who made it that way, and why?  You guys can ruin a neighborhood pretty quickly. All that  mixed blood is one of the reasons God loves Oklahoma, plus all the immigrants. He really identifies with illegal aliens--going all the way back to Abraham and the Jews."

    "Uh, who's the guy with the rope, joking with the guy with the patch, and telling stories to the guy with the cigarette?"
    "You are slow, aren't you? That's Will Rogers. Don't know what we'd do without his humor. God steals it all the time. And Wiley Post...he loves flying at this high altitude without oxygen."
    "And the other guy?"
    "John Steinbeck."
    "But he's not an Okie."
    "He's not?  How could he not be an Okie and write Grapes of Wrath?  He's an honorary Okie for sure."
    "According to who?"
    "Him."
    "Who?"
    "The Big Guy."
    "Oh. And who's the guy with the guitar and cigarette?"
    "That's Woody Guthrie."
    "He was a Commie."
    "Commie, smommie, mommie. I told you God like's rebels, and besides, God loves his music. Hums it all eternity long."
    "Those two women?"
    "Angie Debo and Clara Luper...again, it's the suffering thing."
    "Who's the tall, stately, guy."
    "Bud Wilkinson...always a gentleman...rare for college football coaches, though I hear God's reserved  a place for Eddie Sutton."
    "Sutton? But he had all those problems...."
    "'Problems'? You mean sins? Faults? You know anybody who doesn't have 'problems'?
    "Uh, no, but ... "
    "No 'buts' with God. About the only people I've heard Him get disgusted with are those who think they're holy, who refuse to associate with people who have 'problems,' as you call it."

    "Any other politicians?"
    "See the two short guys at the table over there? Carl Albert and Marion Opala. Those two white cowboy hats on the table? God's reserved that table for George and Donna Nigh--but that's about it for politicians."
    "What about all those religious right politicians in the state?"
    "Like I said,  that's about it for politicians."

    "That's a scraggledy looking group over there."
    "Just Okies, most of them you never heard of. Good people who lived through hard times and good, and tried to do their best. God likes Okies because so many of them are just friendly, down to earth --as you might say."

    "That's quite a mixed  group over at that table. Who are they?"
    "Oh, some small town newspaper people and journalism professors, among others--Ralph Sewell, Carter Bradley, Ned Hockman, Harry Heath, Ray Tassin, Larry Hammer..."
    "What? Tassin? He was one of the most profane ... "
    "So?"
    "I mean taking God's name in vain..."
    "Whoa! Don't ever say that to God, unless you want to make him really mad and cause a hurricane. Cussing isn't taking His name in vain. It's all those people--especially preachers and politicians--who quote God to make money or get elected or scam people or start wars in His name. That's taking His name in vain."
    "Uh, that's not preached in churches."
    "Of course not. You see any churches up here? Hear any doom and gloom sermons up here? Notice how happy people are up here? No coincidence."
    "Ok, ok. Who's the tall guy with dark hair at that table?"
    "That's Walt Radmilovich?"
    "You let PR people in?"
    "A few, but not TV weathermen."

    An October week's Pslams

    Psalm for Monday--Lord, help me to remember what is important and not to allow those who are not--the dishonest, the backbiters, the micromanagers, the control freaks, the trivial, the self important-- to interfere with my life and vision. Help me to help those who need help, to laugh, have fun, take risks, and to matter. May my actions thwart those whose only goals are selfish, and encourage those who are in need.
    Psalm for Tuesday--Lord, be merciful to me a sinner, and forgive those who believe they sin not, the judgmental, the destructive, the fake, the pretenders, the disloyal, the two-faced, the insecure who feed on others' success and failures. Let not their negative spirits infect me, yeah even though they try to beset me, nor their penchant for rules and judgment against me and my students and friends and family. Strengthen me from my students' belief in the future, and in their imperfections and promise. Let me help teach them that risk and mistakes and other's judgments are not failure, but steps to happiness and success. Let me and them learn joy from adversity and the inherent goodness of most people.
    Wednesday psalm: We've got about all the uncertainty we can take, Lord. So many people are downright angry and loud and afraid. What we need is to listen, to try to understand opposing views, and to look people squarely in the eyes. At midweek, help u remember that it starts with us, that if we want assurance, we have to be assuring, investing in the good of people. Don't make us blind to evil and injustice by a few people, but help us discover and share the good in most of the people we deal with, knowing that is the only thing that can defeat so much negativity. And, by the way, soothe us.


    Psalm for Thursday:  As the week, and the year, and our life wears on, help us to remember the anticipation and joy of the coming weekend. There is more to life than work,  people's expectations, and financial worries. Renew in us the joy of a child's laugh and smile, the excitement in their eyes, and the pleasure of children and grandchildren saying our name. And for those less fortunate, help us to bolster their lives with that same spirit, and to fortify ourselves for the coming weeks.

    Psalm for Friday: TGIF, literally. But let us not be too joyful at the passing of time, unless we spent it well, helping other people, enjoying life, spreading good will and honesty. Forgive us for the time wasted on hate, ill feeling, revenge, worry, dishonesty and the trivial. Infect us with the relief of the end of a week to strengthen us, but let us not forget those who don't have jobs, who are hungry, and who have to work while we are off enjoying your creation. Keep us humble and helpful to those less fortunate. 

    Psalm for Psaturday--May this day renew our sense of humor, and encourage us to actively seek ways to not make sense, to play, to have fun, to laugh and enjoy the child within us that is trampled by the "sensible" adult world all week. Restore our souls with that creativity smothered by the years since we "grew up." Let today inoculate us so we won't be infected by  the stuffed shirts who have lost their childhoods and take themselves too seriously, piling stress upon stress on us during the workweek.

    Psunday Psalm--We know why you rested on the seventh "day." The world is to much with us, and it tires us out too. We need down time more than ever it seems--not just to recover, but for time to think, to remember, to dream and imagine--vitamins for survival in the coming week. Help us resist the temptation to have to be "productive" today. Instead let us dedicate our efforts to helping other people and to our inner world, to rejuvenate  the weary body, spirit and mind.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Journey watercolor

    Journey 2--about 5" by 5" watercolor on scrap paper

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    "Look, an artist."

    The Alamo, 12 by 9, watercolor
    Several years ago, when I painted this, "en plein aire," sitting on the ground on a warm day in San Antonio, a group of school kids came up and one said, "Oh look, an artist."

    That was a defining moment in art for me, that I've written about this week for another arts blog, information to come soon.

    I never framed the painting, but just tossed it in pile file in my closet where the not-so-good and failures and rejects  and I don't know what else go. I throw very little away and you never see the real failures...it's all part of my continuing art education.

    I go through it every once in a while, for ideas, for inspiration, for a self-critique on my work and progress. Every once in a while, I see one that should be rescued and framed, that looks better "after all these years." It paid off during the Paseo Arts Festival. An experiment I painted of Taos Pueblo I hauled out and framed, and it sold for more than $500 from Adelante Gallery. Lesson--paint more, experiment more, let paintings sit and, like writing, maybe they'll  grow on you, as you grow.
    Taos Dreaming, 22" x 30"
    Anyway, my favorite cousin, Sarah Beth Lutrick Foote, is a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (I told you I was a genetic Texan), and I gave  her the Alamo painting for her birthday. She framed it and it hangs in her East Texas home next to her DRT certificate and what not.
    Looks pretty good...but then it was done by "an artist."

    The what do I do with these watercolor file in my closet.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Watercolor Journey

    Journey--about 6" by 5", handmade paper from India


    The crowd at Heaven's Bar

    "So how long have you been bartending up here?"
    "Seems like an eternity."

    "There's quite a crowd coming in, and they all seem to crowd around Him, don't they?"
    "He's the life of the party, great storyteller, brings smiles to everyone with his jokes."

    "That's not the picture we got of Him on earth."
    "Yeah, something got lost in the translations, for sure, plus all those preachers and their doom and gloom. Don't get me started."

    "Besides Jesus, who's that other dark-skinned guy down there with him?"
    "Which one?"
    "With the head covering."
    "Oh, that's Mohammed."
    "They let him in here?"
    "Yeah, and that bearded guy next to him? Brigham Young."
    "What--Muslims and Mormons too?
    "Why not?"
    "Well, the churches and preachers...."
    "Don't start that again. The  "P word" is off limits. Look, it's God's place, so he can invite who he wants."
    "Doesn't that make some people uncomfortable?"
    "They get over it when they've had a few and start having a good time--see the skinny guy in the white toga like thing?
    "Yes."
    "That's Gandhi. Next to him, smoking a cigar, looking like a bulldog? Churchill. Couldn't stand each other...now they're friends."

    "Any journalists up here?"
    "Very few. They're usually too skeptical to believe in a free happy hour. Takes them a while to come around, but once they get thirsty enough. See the woman in the red robe? That's Helen Thomas. God likes people who are honest enough to ask tough questions. She gave Peter fits at the gate."
    "And the women next to her?
    "That's Helen Keller--who can see now--and Joan of Arc,  Florence Nightingale, and Pat Nixon. There's a special place at God's bar for those who have suffered and helped much."

    "Yeah, I noticed the bar gets longer as more people crowd in. Seems magic"
    "It isn't magic. All those special effects of expanding walls and such in Harry Potter books? Where do you think Rowling dreamed that up?"

    "She's not up here yet, is she?
    "Not yet, but I have it on the highest authority she will be."
    "But she was into magic and wizards and things."
    "Don't you dare mention the P word again. She got millions of kids to read and have fun. She's coming."

    "Speaking of that, I don't see many p...."
    "Oh, they're up here, blending in, having a good time--the good ones who cared for people, comforted people, didn't get rich or write books or be on TV or have 'mega-churches'...lots of them out there, but they don't draw attention to themselves up here, any more than they did down there."

    "What's that back room with the crowd in it? Looks like mostly women."
    "It's for all those mothers and fathers who lost children in those stupid wars men started. Or just parents whose children died before them. He spends a lot of time in there. He knows what it's like to lose a son."

    "What about politicians?"
    "Very few--most of them sold their souls to the Devil. But Jimmy Carter made it, Abe Lincoln, Margaret Thatcher, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt...but they're rare--tends to be the honest ones--honest with themselves and others, and could laugh at themselves."


    "I see old Bob Illidge down there, drinking vodka and playing cribbage. Are their any other professors up here?

    "We've got a few professors, as long as they're not conceited about their "publications" and self-important as "senior faculty" with their tenure. God isn't impressed with arcane publications with big words and footnotes that only a few others read. Publication? God pretty well wrote the Book(s). The professors who get in are the ones who were the really good teachers--honest, humble, helping students. And tenure? No tenure up here--look what happened to the "fallen" angels. They want tenure, God tells them to go to Hell."

    "And Illidge? What a hoot he is. God actually lets him win at cribbage some times. Illidge says he's waiting on Clark. Said Clark had a surprise coming some day."

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Psalms for October


    Psalm for Monday--Lord, help me to remember what is important and not to allow those who are not--the dishonest, the backbiters, the micromanagers, the control freaks, the trivial, the self important-- to interfere with my life and vision. Help me to help those who need help, to laugh, have fun, take risks, and to matter. May my actions thwart those whose only goals are selfish, and encourage those who are in need.
    Psalm for Tuesday--Lord, be merciful to me a sinner, and forgive those who believe they sin not, the judgmental, the destructive, the fake, the pretenders, the disloyal, the two-faced, the insecure who feed on others' success and failures. Let not their negative spirits infect me, yeah even though they try to beset me, nor their penchant for rules and judgment against me and my students and friends and family. Strengthen me from my students' belief in the future, and in their imperfections and promise. Let me help teach them that risk and mistakes and other's judgments are not failure, but steps to happiness and success. Let me and them learn joy from adversity and the inherent goodness of most people.
    Wednesday psalm: We've got about all the uncertainty we can take, Lord. So many people are downright angry and loud and afraid. What we need is to listen, to try to understand opposing views, and to look people squarely in the eyes. At midweek, help u remember that it starts with us, that if we want assurance, we have to be assuring, investing in the good of people. Don't make us blind to evil and injustice by a few people, but help us discover and share the good in most of the people we deal with, knowing that is the only thing that can defeat so much negativity. And, by the way, soothe us.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Conversation at Heaven's bar

    "So you're open all the time?"
    "You are new, aren't you? There is no time up here...we're just open."

    "Happy hour doesn't seem too busy."
    "Doesn't matter...we get a crowd when between the angels' shift changes."
    "So that's when they hurry over?"
    "Nobody is in a hurry up here. We've got eternity."

    "Who's the big guy down at the other end?"
    "I Am."
    "Huh?"
    "Him."
    "Who?"
    "You know, The Big Guy."
    "You mean, God?"
    "That's just one of his names."

    "Where's the long white beard?"
    "Why would he have a long white beard?
    "Well, all the pictures...."
    "You know anyone who's seen God and lived to tell about it?"
    "Well, I know some preachers who claim ...."
    "Preachers! How would they know what he looks like when they can't even get along with each other?"
    "So why not a beard?"
    "Does he look old to you?"
    "No, but...."
    "You keep forgetting, there isn't any time up here, so how can you get old?"

    "Then why is he frowning?"
    "Probably more of those preachers claiming exclusive knowledge of His will...you know, like judging who's a Christian or not, or who's a Muslim or Jew or not, or telling people how God wants them to vote, or getting rich instead of caring for the poor. Stuff like that."
    "So what does He do about it?"
    "Where do you think the term 'Happy Hour' came from, anyway? He invented it, because he's like anyone else, he needs to get the universe off his mind."

    "Does He have a special drink?"
    "Yes, his favorite cocktail is called "The Holy Spirit."
    "That sounds blasphemous."
    "You accusing Him of blaspheming Himself?"
    "Uh no, it's just that..."
    "Where do you think He got the idea to name The Holy Spirit?
    "Did you make it for Him?"
    "No, He created it Himself."

    "Uh, who's the skinny Jew next to Him?"
    "You are really dense. Think a minute."

    "You mean Jesus?"
    "That's one of his names, yes."
    "But sitting at a bar? Drinking? Those churches and preachers claim drinking comes from the Devil...."
    "There you go again. Preachers! Why do they spend so much time trying to make people unhappy? That's the Devil's work. The Big Guy likes people to be happy, especially after a hard day, or century or whatever."
    "What's Jesus drink?"
    "For some reason, he usually sticks to red wine. Told me once it brought back memories of fun times. Makes him smile a lot. And see, The Big Guy is loosening up, smiling, joking with Jesus and those poor people down there. That's why we always have happy hour."

    "I need another drink. After all those years in a dry state, this is more than I can say 'grace' over."
    "That's the spirit."