"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I marched with Marse Robert

There are things you can't explain...

like how can you see them marching, barefoot, against the odds, the unbelievable bravery of getting ready to march a mile across open ground against a larger army, of knowing the gutteral yet high-pitched yell of defiance as you ran into battle, of having leaders you idolized, of fighting for your home against an invader, of the despair of being ground down by overwhelming force, of having your home occupied by a foreign army?

It's not just reading, or hearing tales from kinfolk, or liking the underdog, or imagination, or emotion. I was there.

Booth is a Verb, chapter 10--The afflictions of Job

Forthwith that fall, The Illidge returned to teach his classes, to regale his colleagues with stories, to Booth with his buddies, to win and lose at cribbage; the Gospel of The Booth spread throughout the land. Even Sweet Pea and son Andy drove down to indulge in The Illidge's redoubt.

Little did they know that Boothing would change drastically within two years.

That fall, The Illidge, who had been suffering from mild shingles even before the heart problems, due to a weakened immune system, encountered another foe as the leukemia worsened. His shingles became permanent, a painful disease known as post-hepatic neuralgia. It attacked him ferociously and kept him awake at night, and hurting in the daytime. Every cure was tried, from medical to hypnotism to "blue stuff." Nothing worked.

Yeah though, The Illidge would not complain, though he wore loose clothes and winced often. If you heard him lecturing in the classrooms, with vim and vigor, you would not of know of what vicissitudes and vagaries were vexing him. Some days were better than others, and some were worse than others. Sitting in the Queen Bee's nest early in the mornings with The Clark, or later in the day, he'd have his right hand up under the left armpit, almost constantly, trying to ease the pain. In the classrooms, he always stood, and most students never knew how much he hurt, his hand under his arm.

One medicine did seem to help..."Let's Booth" today," The Clark would say, about 11 in the morning.

"When? 4?" The Illidge would answer, a twinkle back in his eyes.

But by 3 p.m. The Clark needed respite, and so did the Illidge. The Brunette would sometimes say, "It's early yet."

"It's five o'clock somewhere," quipped The Illidge, sometimes between pain-clinched teeth.

Off they would go to that special Booth, medicating his afflictions with vodka, Irish whiskey, appetizers, banter, stories, and countless cribbage games, until latecomers would arrive to add joviality. The Illidge could hold his liquor, and only twice in those years did either The Clark or The German Complainer drive him "to his very own apartment" where he could "have some gruel."

His humor never ceased. Some poorly performing students in beginning advertising questioned him from time to time about their grades.

"Go into dry-cleaning," was his answer. Increasingly poor performance by students on tests vexed him more and more. The Clark repeatedly advised him to "curve" grades so at least 50 percent could pass. When The Clark, the patient man that is is, would be upset with lazy students, as would others on the faculty, especially The German Complainer, he would advise, gesturing with his free hand, "Breathe deeply. In...and out...in and out. Ommmmm."

He thought about retirement, as the pain and semester droned on, but decided for one more year. In between, The Clark did visit the Illidge and Sweet Pea in The Manse on Quentin in Wichita, to play cribbage, to lose scrabble games to Sweet Pea. To watch the continual banter between The Illidge and The Sweet Pea was like witnessing a championship tennis match, the lobbies of words and gestures and rolled eyes and humor bouncing back and forth. The Clark's neck got tired turning from one speaker to the other. And, the trio did visit the 24-hour greasy spoon, The Beacon, right next to the downtown newspaper,The Wichita Eagle. Pictures and photos of lighthouses lined the walls of the smoke-filled eatery, and the breakfasts were bountiful. In those years, so also did The Clark and The Brunette visit, sitting on the porch swing and enjoying the evening and banter, and going out to a smokey neighborhood bar--the kind that don't exist in Oklahoma.

It occurred to The Clark years later that The Illidge was a beacon to all who knew him.

The last year at UCO, the beacon began to falter. It was the hope of The Clark, The German Complainer, The Queen Bee and others that they could raise enough money to send him to Ireland. That didn't happen and remains a regret to this day. Many Booths occurred...probably twice a week.

What was held was a retirement party, with all his family present, his granddaughter dancing to the music of an Irish band, and the day closing with "Oh Danny boy."

Ever since, The Clark tears up when he hears the words, and he would hear them often in the coming year.

The Texas Brigade at Gettysburg

thanks Vance for forwarding those photos...Mike Dawes' Texas Brigade, after gathering at the Texas monument at Gettysburg, in the background.

Notice the variety in the uniforms. so realistic. Only one thing wrong with the photo...they all have shoes. We didn't. Our feet were tough.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monarch of the Plains


The Great Plains have their own typography, never dull, never flat--except perhaps in Lubbock--but most of the typography is in the skies. I grew up at the base of mountains, and they are a part of all I am...even though I'm 500 miles from them. Maybe that's why I love the clouds...the ever-changing light and altitudes and moods and forms...surpass anything on the ground, yet the mountains are often cloud makers....mountains on top of mountains.

Lord of the flies--Finis

Days passed--shrieks, spray, swat, scoop.

We tried the fly strips, tacked up everywhere. If flies laugh, they did. She buys some foul smelling fly traps. After the being seasoned to the smell in the wall, these flies don't even notice.

Shrieks, spray, swat, scoop. Guts on the windows. Morning and afternoon. Doors to bedrooms shut. Wife goes out and buys high powered spray poison. Two or three times a day, spraying under the cabinets.

We clean out under the sink, scan under the cabinets with flashlights. Then I see them...two holes near the dishwasher and the disposal. That has to be where they're coming in. Out comes the packing tape, taping those shut. We've already taped shut a couple of air vents and the fireplace, to no avail. And we use the high powered spray to hopefully seal the holes under the sink.

"It's supposed to be a barrier," says she.

Fewer flies, fewer shrieks, fewer swats and scoops ensue. The smell is almost gone, except for the foul smelling fly traps. We take those outside, to ward off flies on the back porch. Still have some bugs out there, but now we have this foul smell too.

We empty all the bottom cabinets of pots and pans and a potporri of stuff from back in the hidden recesses of the dark corners we haven't seen for years...throwing a lot of it away. All the poison-encrusted pans go into the dishwasher for cleaning. It takes several loads, and they're all deposited on the dinette table.

Everyday for three weeks, I get home earlier than her, and she calls, "Any flies?"

One day I report, "No."

We get soap and water and mop and disinfectant, and swab the inside of the lower cabinets. Back go the pots and pans. More scrubbing and cleansing of windows, counter tops, windows, everything. This is the cleanest the kitchen has ever been. No smell. No flies.

For two fly-free days, we hold our breath. One house fly and a dead cicada husk on the outside screen cause brief consternation, but they're not creatures from the critter. Actually, the husk is still there...a metaphor of maggot mania.

This past week, fresh from the farmer's market, and my trip to Avalon for fresh fish, she cooks for the first time in about six weeks. "We've recaptured the kitchen," she exclaims. But I don't feel I won. Lesson: Lord of the flies? I don't think so. We just outlasted them, with the help of pesticides. Folks, when it comes to insects, we're outnumbered.

Yesterday, I notice that the air vents are still taped up.

Several friends have asked, "Did you ever figure out what it was?"


Saturday, August 29, 2009

On the wings of change

Mississippi Kites are back.

You can hear their cries in the cooler, still air, or when the breezes ruffle the green oak leaves. We have some big trees in the neighborhood, and our neighborhood has become theirs in their annual migrations.

They've been here, in increasing numbers for a few weeks, and though you can hear their calls, you rarely see them.

Until recently, especially today. Cooler air and northerly breezes push a patchwork of clouds across the skies, and the Kites are soaring, swooping, gliding, talking as they wheel through the air.

Their distinctive pointed wings, with light gray trailing feathers and narrow tails remind me of the sleek Spitfires of the RAF. Everything about them is graceful. Unlike most hawks, they feed mostly on insects, so when they're up there, they're feeding, keeping bugs at bay. I like all hawks, but it seems these have chosen me, as totem, as metaphor?

One just glided through above the yard, not 15 feet over my head, tips of the wings up, flaps and tail instinctively twisting and guiding it on a reconnaissance flight, sharp eyes and curved beak exploring ...sure, secure, and wild and free. Overhead up the street, two more circle and tilt on the breeze, silhouetted against the white of the clouds.

It's almost autumn they tell me, as they live wild and free, enriching my life before they move on, making me want to travel, to explore, to soar and observe, even before the leaves begin to change and rattle, baring the limbs where the Mississippi Kites visited again.

Wings of change... .

Friday, August 28, 2009

Literally now?

A long interesting debate with Erudite Redneck and others on is The Bible literal?

they all say no.

I say, then why believe any of it?

Is there a middle ground?

They say yes.

I say, as a journalist, how, and prove it--what is literal, and what is not? Prove it.

Maybe God is not literal. The Devil? Jesus? Abraham? Grace?

Are we deluding ourselves?

--thoughts from a recovering fundamentalist, steeped in the Word.

Biblical literalism?

My redneck colleage, The Erudite Redneck, blog listed on this page, has initiated a great discussion on Bible literalism.

I've responded, and another scholar responded tome, and what follows is my response, as a recovering fundamentalist. Redneck gets more comments and followers than I because he's more witty and controversial.

"Great response GK-S, especially the part about words changing meanings over time--context indeed. But, to be the Devil's advocate--literally perhaps, if there is a devil, since we only know about him from Scripture and we have to beware of accepting it as literal --if I don't accept the Bible as literal, then we have just moved to the point of where we decide what to accept and not accept, which puts us in an even worse position as omniscient editors than those scribes and translators who through the ages tried to be fairly faithful to the original Greek. Let's see--let's throw our Genesis 1, but keep John 3:16. Why? So, perhaps there is not a God---if we can't take the scriptures literally."

Salute to two former students

now in NY City...Check the byline and the photo credits. UCO proud. Kelly Crow and Suzette Dyer


Barn still again

A better watercolor

Oklahoma Today barn


This from a photo in current issue of Oklahoma Today, great article on Oklahoma barns

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Booth is a difficult verb--interlude

The coming semesters were filled with pain, and joy, and awareness of the preciousness of life. The feelings are still raw and melancholy for most of the denizens who "Boothed."

Just this week, years later, one said, "It's too bad Bob isn't here to correct you." Others have said "I've been thinking a lot about Bob recently." The Clark thinks The Illidge is reading this, in between keeping God in stitches with his humor, asking him to forgive The Clark for being The Clark, and to help him write the hard things ahead.

And at the end of this today, The Clark did sigh deeply.

Lord of the flies...not exactly...chapter 7

Early the next morning, there were more shrieks.

"What now?" I asked, jumping out of bed and running down the hall.

There in the kitchen were two or three of the large flies, one buzzing around, one on the light, one in the window. Grabbing a flyswatter, I smashed two, leaving gobs of goo on the window and light. It took a few minutes to bag the other one.

"Why are they here? How are they getting in?" frantically inquired the wife. "They're from the Amazon." I assured her it must just be the season, and she needn't worry. They were gone.

"At least the smell isn't as bad," I reassured her, trying to change the subject to something more unpleasant.

Her tolerance was decreasing with the smell, but I didn't point that out, and we went to work.

That afternoon she arrived home earlier than me, and I received a frantic phone call.
"More flies!" she yelled, her tolerance decreasing even more.

When I got home, I found her huddled in the bedroom, door shut, watching Oprah. Indeed, there were a few more flies, some on the windows, others on the cabinets. Their time of life was brief.

Another shriek from the bedroom, and I found two in the windows in there. Their fate was certain, even if our marriage was not at that moment.

"How are they getting in?" I had no answer and walked down the hall to the kitchen, to get a drink of water.

More flies. Less tolerance. More swats. More goo. More shut doors.

"Where are they getting in, where are they coming from?" I asked myself. She had the answer, "They've got to becoming from that thing in the wall." I started to protest, but considering the 100 degree temperature outside, I knew she was right.

I didn't mention to her my image of squirming maggots a few feet away in the wall of our dining room. She already knew. I opened the bottom cabinets to get a pan, and the odor of the thing was stronger. Somehow, the flies had to be getting in through the cabinets.

The wife opposed poisoning and protested using any. Again she did research on the Internet and called another exterminator, who told her the egg cycle was about two to three weeks. She did learn they were called "flush flies."

I learned from experience that they kept coming, and did use the flyswatter often, because they would be there in the morning when we woke up, and in the afternoon when we came home, no matter how many had been dispatched. Then it was that I got Raid and began spraying under the cabinets. It had to be there that they were coming in, but I couldn't see where.

That afternoon, I came home to more flies, but some were dead on the floor and others were sluggish and easy to kill. Progress!

Progress comes in small stages however, and takes time...

to be continued...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lord of the flies, chapter 6...visitor from the Amazon

Almost two weeks passed, and the smell lessened, but did not disappear...

Then one day, while I was happily writing on this computer, the wife did shriek in the kitchen...the kind of shriek that makes you almost have a wreck when you're driving down the road and she thinks you're too close to a semi.

"What's wrong?" I yelled, jumping up and running to the kitchen, expecting a catastrophe.

"That fly," she responded, in a loud and shrill voice.

On the kitchen window was what I would call a "Horse fly." Large, but expected as the seasons change.

"It's an Amazon fly, " she wailed. Forthwith, I did find an old newspaper, one of the finest uses of the free press in America, and dispatched it to the netherworld of flies with a loud and solid swat!

She was not happy, in spite of my heroism in the face of a foe. So began my role as Lord of the flies.

It would get worse..

To be continued

To The Senator

I've not been a Kennedy fan.

Didn't vote for JFK. Disliked Bobby because he usurped one of my heroes Eugene McCarthy. (Another hero was Barry Goldwater) Told jokes about Chappaquiddick, and about taking the "ass" out of m'chusetts and sending him to Washington.


I admire fighters, survivors, bulldogs, mavericks, rebels, minorities--those who stand up no matter the odds or the sloth of status quo and the opiate of conventional wisdom and group think.

So, here's a toast to The Senator Teddy M. Kennedy, a rich guy who fought for the little guy.

Time Magazine reports, in "The Brother who mattered most":

"... he had 46 working years in Congress, time enough to leave his imprint on everything from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the Edward M. KennedyServe America Act of 2009, a law that expands support for national community-service programs. Over the years, Kennedy was a force behind the Freedom of Information Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He helped Soviet dissidents and fought apartheid. Above all, he conducted a four-decade crusade for universal health coverage, a poignant one toward the end as the country watched a struggle with a brain tumor. But along the way, he vastly expanded the network of neighborhood clinics, virtually invented the COBRA system for portable insurance and helped create the laws that provide Medicare prescriptions and family leave."

And he kept the liberal torch aflame through the years in an increasingly conservative nation. I was a conservative when I thought conservatives were the minority. But what I saw as "we" gained power was a subjugation of the middle class and the lower class. Rich folks didn't care. As I changed my views, I saw people like The Senator fighting for my rights, for the rights of the common man, as he did in the fight against Robert Bork:
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution," he said.

His power and independence are needed more than ever with the continued assault on reason and education and religious freedom and individual liberties in this country by the religious right's crusade against independent thought. Look no further than the Sarah Palin blitzkrieg, and most recently, the staged Nazi-style violent outbursts at the health care town hall meetings. Or the demagogues' outright lying and hate-mongering on right-wing radio and television, demeaning decency and insulting intelligence.

The Senator's no saint. We'll hear a lot about him, both positive and negative in the coming days. Some will be true, some won't. But we are a better, freer people for his service, for his influence.

I've not been a Kennedy fan, but I recognize greatness when I see it, and salute a Senator who mattered.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Booth is a verb, chapter 9--The Heart of the department

Chapter 9--revised

As the semesters rolled by, so did the gatherings at The Booth, much as pegs moving sporatically around the cribbage board, the tales multiplied. But so did the woes of The Illidge.

"I think I'm having a heart attack," he told The Clark one spring morning. The Clark thought he was kidding because of his low key, dry wit. He was not.

When the Queen Bee arrived, he commented that his left arm was bothering him, and she told him that was a classic sign of a heart attack. She ordered him to go to the hospital. Instead, he taught his first class, and returned to her nest, saying the arm still hurt and he was feeling worse. Then, instead of calling an ambulance, he drove himself to a nearby hospital where he lay for hours essentially unattended before being transferred to a healthy hospital. “Heart attack” turned into a requirement for heart bypass surgery, and it was accomplished, with much worry and prayer from his family and his colleagues. Sweet Pea, Elizabeth the Strong, was there throughout. When the The Clark and faculty did gather in The Booth, it was somber, and initiated with toasts, “To Bob.”

It seemed as though the heart and humor of the department was in jeopardy. He convalesced through the summer, and returned in fall to his classes and more joviality in The Booth. But that joviality was soon tempered with yet more health problems. The effect on his colleagues was of wonder and admiration and disbelief and a desire to enjoy each day, for yea, they had nothing to complain about in comparison. And The Illidge did not complain.

To be continued…

Lord of the flies, chapter 5--Do you smell something?

The scratching continued, and I had to reassure my wife that it wasn't a cat, since we didn't hear any crying. Only scratching. I still didn't know what it was...Squirrel? Possum? Rat? Something Else?

I've learned through the years that sometimes it is best not to do anything, and problems will work themselves out, or go away.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

So we left for a short trip over a weekend to a cooler climate. At home, the thermometer continued to register above 100 degrees.

When we got back home and I walked back in through the garage door, I thought the kitchen area had a mild odor I'd not smelled before.

"Do you think it died?" asked my wife, and I said "Maybe."

The next day, the increasing temperatures and increasing odor told me, "It died." The smell was the strongest in the wall of the dining room. It was a good thing the odor was on that end of the house in the coming days. If it had died above the bedroom where we'd first heard it, we'd have had to move out.

"What are we going to do?" asked my wife.

Then I thought it might be a good idea to look for solutions. My first choice was the easiest--let it desiccate in the wall and the smell would go away. My wife had other ideas, like calling an exterminator. I could see the dollar signs ebbing from my bank account.

She called one , and he was obviously brilliant, because he agreed with me. My youngest son, a muscular, fit 32 tears old, told me I should tear out the sheet rock and extract the corpse, sanitize the area, replace the shee trock, tape and bed it and repaint.

Even my wife didn't think that was a good idea, because she could see me tearing the wall out and then taking forever to put it back right.

"And if you do that, I'm moving out. I don't want to see whatever it is."

So we started burning candles and spraying lysol. Others told us to put out coffee grounds and baking soda in open containers to soak up the smells. We did that, including in the lower kitchen cabinets next to the dining room, because the smell now dominated that end of the house.

We'd come home, light candles, and go to the other end of the house. My wife, who loves to cook, quit cooking. We went out to eat a lot.

And over about two weeks, the smell did start lessening.

I thought the horror was over.

I was wrong again...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lord of the Flies--Chapter 4--Uh oh...

"Well, it's either up there or it's not," I said, when the wife quizzed me about nailing the roof back in place.

At first, we heard no scratching, but that evening the varmint made its presence known above the bedroom, as though trying to escape. In the morning, I checked the shingles again, and though disturbed, they were intact.

"Now what?" I thought, and went to work. Then the temperature began rising as they habitually do in Oklahoma. By the time I got home, it was over 100 degrees outside, no telling how hot in the attic, and my bear-trap mind finally deduced that we had a serious problem upstairs. I could hear scratching.

Leaving the garage door open, I lowered the ladder into the attic, stuck my head and flashlight up there, and saw nothing. But I left the door open, hoping it would take the opportunity to flee. By the time the wife arrived home, with a somewhat worried look in her demeanor, the scratching had moved from the bedroom area to inside the wall of the dining room in the other end of the house. Now it was not just leisurely scratching, but frantic scratching.

I went back upstairs, with flashlight and gingerly moved, rafter by rafter, to near where I heard the scratching. I could find no way into the wall to poke or prod whatever was there in hopes of freeing it and extracting it. It was obviously trapped between the brick exterior and sheet rock interior.

Edgar Allen's Poe's story, the Cask of Amontillado came to mind, of a human chained to the wall and bricked up for a slow death, despite screams and scratching. Suddenly I knew where Poe got his inspiration for that horror story.

Ours was about to begin....

To be continued

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Storm on the great plains


Booth is a Verb, chapter 8--Farsooth!

The Clark presenting an award to The Farsooth
(She is still trim and svelte. The Clark not so much so.)

Chapter 8

Much of the lore and legend of The Booth came not from the faculty, but from the “chillen” as The Illidge would refer to them, his students. While he had little use for those who didn’t take their educations seriously—“I’ve got a tip for you, change majors!” he became a favorite teacher and mentor to many. He is still credited, almost with awe, by students for leading them to success. Even last year, one returning student, a survivor of some rough times and tattoos, said The Illidge was why he was going into advertising.

Indeed, The Illidge’s teaching was always passionate, and whether a freshman class or a senior class, presented with fervor and humor, as was his wont. For three straight years, his influence helped three minority advertising majors be ranked in the top 25 minority students in the nation, and he accompanied them to ceremonies in The Big Apple, where all got jobs. His colleagues held him in the highest esteem for his reputation for being a demanding, effective and well-liked professor , especially since his experiences with students led to many humorous stories when they “Boothed.”

Few students visited The Booth, because of the backward Baptist belaborments of the buckle on the Bible Belt which blindly banished booze by the university, which frowned on students, even of legal age, being recognized as adults, and ignored the long established practices of students and professors learning best when they gather informally, watered by the kindred spirits of inquiry, stories and good times.

Perhaps the first student to sample the spirit of Boothing was the Department Sweetheart, Farsooth the Malay. A tiny woman with gigantic spirit, humor, talent and smile, and perfect English, better than Okies, The Farsooth distinguished herself in all things computer and writing, and served as editor for the student newspaper and yearbook, winning top faculty awards, including outstanding service to the department. Yea, she returned to complete her masters’ degree also. She has since moved to the Big Apple, where she’s survived 9/11 and much more, but still doth correspond, by facebook, email and phone, with the department, especially the Queen Bee, and The Clark.

Reading this account recently, she wrote that she “teared up,” and The Clark asked her about The Illidge.

Herewith her response is relayed, because her views are so typical of so many students:

“I think I've been to the Booth once. All I remember is I got drunk from the margaritas. Mr. Illidge was very special to me. He was the reason Carmen and I moved to NY. I remember coming in to The Vista/Bronze Book office every morning and greeted by him with a Shakespearean quote and coffee. I got him a book of Shakespeare quotes one year, and we would pick out an appropriate quote that reflected our day. I often helped him format his emails...God forbid there were any misspellings or grammatical errors.

“He always asked about my family, knew each one by name and personality. And he often told me he wished I could see my family as often as he did. I miss him and think of him often when I get bummed out in this big city. Thanks for keeping his memories alive.”

Forsooth, Farsooth! Merci mon ami.

To be continued…

Rainy day in the mountains


Friday, August 21, 2009

Still crazy after all these years

sketch by Susan, watercolor by Terry

Booth is a Verb--Unplanned Interlude

The Clark was about to write about students and The Illidge, but the TV was showing The Lonesome Dove, when Gus dies as Woodrow banters with him, trying to hold back tears. The Clark cannot, no more than Woodrow, and thinks of the last time he talked with The Illidge in his hospital bed in Wichita, both knowing what would soon transpire. That story later. The Clark needs time.

Lord of the flies--chapter 3--Creature conundrum

The next morning the mystery deepened. I went into the back yard and walked around to where I'd nailed the shingles over the previous hole.

The shingles had been ripped off.

They were scattered and twisted askew, exposing the hole over the eave. I had used old shake shingles, but they had been nailed, I thought, firmly in place.

This wasn't any bird. I knew that for sure now, and I'd suspected a cat or a squirrel. But now I wasn't so sure. We have wandering cats in the neighborhood, and I'd seen some on our roof from time to time. Squirrels populate the neighborhood and our back yard because of the oak trees. I've heard them scampering over the roof before. But cats and squirrels that could rip up nailed shingles?

That afternoon after work, in spite of the heat, I went back into the attic to try to make sure nothing was there. I saw and heard nothing. So down I came, picking up hammer and bigger nails and some new wood siding freshly sawn, if crudely, into shingle shape. Once again, I lapped the shingles into place over the hole and affixed them firmly with more than necessary nails.

"Are you sure nothing is up there?" asked my wife.

"I don't think so. I went up and looked, and saw and heard not a thing. I just think it comes in and spends the night. We should be ok."

I wa s wrong.

From a favorite former student, a writer

The following essay is by Jimmy Epperson, now working in PR in Big D. He is another Hemingway. His father, Jim Epperson is a long time friend, a UCO alum, who many years ago started a weekly newspaper, The Stephens County Star, just north of where I published The Waurika News-Democrat. The paper lasted only a few months, but it was full of vim, vigor, passion and irreverence that I admired...the kind of journalism that matters. His son Jimmy has that passion.

From Jimmy:

I went to the art museum today... as I always do at lunch. I leave the 34-story office and buy a hot dog from a street vendor with a yellow umbrella. By the time I reach the cold museum the boiling dog has already been gobbled up...burning the insides of my chest. Then I get a vanilla coke and wander around.

Today, I discovered a new wing of the museum. And while I browsed I saw a painting called, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” It was a large painting of a woman’s face... distorted with anguish.

Suddenly, like a flash of lightning, I was in your class learning about impressions. I was crying at the Kimbell and I had just seen my first Francis Bacon painting. I was riding my bike on campus seeing the reflections of break lights on stop signs. I saw moonlight through the blinds from a girlfriend's bed. I saw the water tower reflecting horizontal sunlight. And I remembered Hemingway talking about the museum when he was hungry.

In the same flash... in the same instance... I remembered that we are supposed to write just as Cezanne painted… by the light reflecting off objects.

And then I wondered that question that always haunts me... Why am I not writing? Why do I stare at light that reflects off a computer screen on the 34th floor of this building all day?

I realized I am still sick with that poor man disease. I remembered that I am still a writer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not an easy tale

The tale of The Booth is not an easy one for The Clark,
Mistake not the levity of the narrative for the hurt of souls.
This is a personal journey for all of us.
The Ilidge's humor and friendship makes it possible. Yea verily, he was toasted repeatedly today at the successor of The Booth years later.

The booth becomes a verb--chapter 7

The Clark and The Illidge, the Cribbage Board, The Booth, and The Plaque
--photo by the Brunette Brett

Chapter 7

But the tears came not from The Illidge, who, unlike Job, never complained about his physical discomfort. He did complain, and oft, about students who couldn’t pass tests, or construct simple sentences, or show up, or work hard. He was unsettled, but not complaining, when he and The Clark went to the university president, The Politician With Only a Bachelor’s Degree, to ask for a promotion based on The Illidge’s masters degree, only to be summarily dismissed.

But in The Booth, there was no weeping nor wailing nor gnashing of teeth. The Booth buddies only learned about his leukemia when he’d mention his trips to the doctors to check his blood levels, which were slowly changing. Still, his humor and fortitude inspired students and faculty—and those stories continue to this day, and shall shortly be revealed..

Thus it was that his colleagues, in admiration and thanksgiving, pitched in and had a small plaque made, with walnut wood and green metal to match the colors of The Booth, that read

The Booth
In Honor of
Bob Illidge

And then The Clark and the others petitioned their bartenders, who talked to the managers, and convinced them, in view of their conviviality, large bar tabs and tips, to hang the plaque in The Booth. The Clark brought hammer and a nail, and one afternoon, did drive, with much audacity and firmness and joy, the nail into the paneled wall where they usually set, and did hang the aforesaid plaque, all without knowledge of The Illidge.

Then it was that the faculty planned a dedication for an afternoon to surprise The Illidge, and invited the entire department, visitors from other departments, and even The Good Dean—He Who Dances With Penquins. Yea, they all attended, including the Queen bee, and the plaque was unveiled to The Illidge’s honor and humility, among much raucous ramblings, laughter and “spirited” conversation.

Forsooth, it was at about that time that The Booth became a verb, adding to its legend and influence with faculty and students in the department. Instead of, “How about a Booth this afternoon?” The conversation evolved to “Booth?” and then to “Let’s Booth!” Eventually, it became “Booth!” as in “Charge.” And so it was that Booth became a verb, and always in active voice.

To be continued

Lord of the flies--chapter 2--Creature coming and going

No scratching disturbed us in the night, and in the morning there was no noise either as we readied for work.

Once dressed, I went outside and walked around the house, looking at the eaves, the shingles, the siding, and I found no possible entry way. That afternoon home from work, I braved the rising temperatures and went into the attic with a flashlight, looking and listening as I gingerly stepped from one rafter to the next, steadying myself on those above. I could see no entry way above or around the bedroom area, and heard nothing either. Sweaty and sticky from insulation, I retreated.

But that night, there was more scratching, to the alarm of my wife and the fascination of the cats. I went outside with my flashlight and scanned the roof and found nothing.
Then it ceased.

"Whatever it is, it is coming in to spend the night, and leaving. I just can't figure out where," I said. I'll look again tomorrow.

And the next morning, that's when I saw a softball-sized opening in the shake roof, above the eaves, hidden so far by the leaves of a crepe myrtle. That afternoon, I went back in the attic, hoping to scare off any day resident, then with hammer and nails found some old shingles, grabbed the ladder, and climbed up to the roof.

I nailed the hole shut, inserting shingles as they should be, overlapping, but soundly fastened.

That night there was no scratching. We rejoined, though the cats looked bored.

The next night, there was more scratching....

To be continued

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Harry Truman was a diffeent kind of president

From the pen of the sage of Drumright, Ben Blackstock

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri . His wife had inherited the house from her mother and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year..

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."
Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.
Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. (sic. Illinois)

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!

I say dig him up and clone him!!

Booth is a verb, the love story saddens, chapter 6

Chapter 6

Yea, though much of this tale is enlivened with levity and laughter, and will continue to be, the circumstances of The Illidge coming to UCO, and his presence there enriching students and faculty, were blemished with injustices that would anger his colleagues and mystify anyone not drugged by the inanity of so-called “higher education.” This is a melancholy tale that is difficult to relate for the scribe, The Clark, so readers should be suspect of his detachment and aware of his anger, but not his heart and his truthfulness.

The Illidge, after more than three decades of successful advertising experience, completed his master’s degree at The Wichita State University, and became chair of the Elliott School of Journalism there. Even though he “only” had a master’s degree from the institution, the faculty elected him to lead them, because of his excellence teaching and skill and experience in media. Assured by his superiors that he was secure, even without research into meaningless subjects and publications in arcane “academic” journals that nobody could or would read, he continued. But administrators and their words are like America’s treaties with Indians…does the symbol of a forked tongue cometh to mind?

So with a change in administration, The Illidge found himself, at age 60, out of a job, because he didn’t have a “terminal” degree to add to the academic status of said so-called institution of higher learning. What The Illidge did have, was a terminal degree of a different sort, a long-term form of Leukemia.

He sent out about 100 resumes, seeking a teaching position, and though they would deny it, no one called because of his age—except one. It was then, in the early 1990s, that The Clark called, from a university journalism program two and a half-hours south of The Illidge’s comfortable Wichita home. What The Clark and his faculty knew was that they needed an advertising professor who knew hands-on advertising. A doctoral degree was useless if the holder had no experience in the area he was teaching, or at least so his faculty believed, despite protestations by their administration.

Unfortunately, The Clark could only get The Illidge hired at the low level of lecturer, instead of as associate professor as he would be ordained at any real university. But lower level inferior universities are, perforce, great pretenders when it comes to trying to delude themselves that they are equal to their superiors. Hence they add more and more academic nonsense to their rules and regulations, and anyone without a “terminal degree” cannot be accorded the status they deserve. This myopia is particularly damaging to journalism programs, where experience in the fields in which you teach is worth more than a mere academic degree. The Clark was trying to build an advertising program beneficial to students, not academics, and his faculty agreed. The Illidge was grateful for the job, but the low ranking and pay was grievous to him till his death, and still is to The Clark, who now is almost inured to academic nonsense.

Thus The Illidge came to UCO, and his demanding standards soon lifted the advertising program to new heights, and led to the discovery of The Booth. There were more tears to follow.

To be continued…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lord of the flies...Chapter 1--the attic creature

"Did you hear that?" asked my wife one evening while we lay in bed reading, closing out a long day.
"Hear what?" I asked.
Then the cats' ears perked up and they started staring at the corner of the ceiling.
I heard some scratching.
The cats moved closer to the sound.
"Great, something's in the attic," I said.
Wife shuddered, with visions of vicious varmints only a few feet away.
"No, it's not dangerous," I assured her.
"How did it get in?"
"I don't know. It's dark and can't see anything outside. I'll check tomorrow," I said, as I heard more scratching and pounded on the wall to shut it up--much like I try to fix my computer when it malfunctions inside.
It moved to another section of the ceiling, followed by the cats' eyes and ears, as they stretched up the wall toward it.
"What do you think it is?" she asked.
"Probably a bird that got in somehow," I reassured her, not mentioning that I heard no fluttering of wings.
Then after another pounding on the wall, there was no more noise, and we went to sleep, as I wondered where the critter got in--the eaves, the sides of the house, or the aging wood shake roof.
It took me several days to find how it got in.

to be continued

Booth is a verb, a love story, chapter 5

Chapter 5

The weeks and the seasons and the semesters slipped away, changing with the bartenders, from the bosomy beginning to other students seeking to stay in school by serving spirits, all of whom greeted the growing group at The Booth with enthusiasm because there they knew there was joviality and fun and tips, larger than usually came from professors and poverty.

And in the fullness of time, The Clark became as competent at cribbage as The Illidge. Oft they arrived earlier than the others so they could see what cards fate had dealt them. Thus it was that when The Clark built a huge lead, he would hold forth with astounding and magnificent quotations, as in, ”Mama, open the gate cause the cows are coming home and Daddy is hungry,” or “Bring in the laundry and pluck a goose, cause we’re gonna celebrate tonight.”

Such wisdom did oft seem to irritate The Illidge, and when in turn, he would manage to eke out victories, and yeah, even perchance rarely skunk The Clark, he would also hold forth, mocking with his own wisdom, as in, “Light the candles Mother, the stars are shining tonight and we’ve got to skin a hog.” That their utterances were less than sophisticated never dawned on them, thanks to friendship and Stolys and Bushmills on the rocks. However by this time of the day, booth buddies began arriving and they made mockery of the misery of the day’s loser and the mentality of the day’s winner.

And lo, when he did win, the next morning The Illidge would regale the Queen bee with stories of his victories, usually by asking her, “Ask Himself if the cows came home last night,” and thus the laughter was verily contagious from one day to the next.

Alas, it was not till years later that The Clark would realize, in an epiphany to be explained later, the significance of the way The Illidge used the word “Himself,” and it brought The Clark to tears, matching those that began to offset the laughter of The Booth, because the cards dealt by fate are not always winners.

Thus it was that The Booth was soon ordained officially, and slipped from being a noun to a verb, as The Illidge slipped from health to illness that would eventually match Job’s.

To be continued…

If you want something--give it

If you want something—give it
"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure-- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." –Luke 6:38

1. If you want love
2. If you want money
3. If you want generosity
4. If you want friendship
5. If you want professionalism
6. If you want success
7. If you want rewards
8. If you want admiration
9. If you want to be liked
10. If you want silence
11. If you want gifts
12. If you want to get along
13. If you want happiness
14. If you want humanity
15. If you want humility
16. If you want humor
17. If you want respect
18. If you want honor
19. If you want trust
20. If you want maturity
21. If you want preparation
22. If you want organization
23. If you want thinking
24. If you want spontaneity
25. If you want energy
26. If you want fairness
27. If you want privacy
28. If you want time
29. If you want scholarship
30. If you want timeliness
31. If you want listening
32. If you want participation
33. If you want attendance
34. If you want up to date
35. If you want cooperation
36. If you want excellence
37. If you want high standards
38. If you want enthusiasm
39. If you want trustworthiness
40. If you want passion
41. if you want hard work
42. If you want learning


43. If you want griping
44. If you want insecurity
45. If you want arrogance
46. If you want backbiting
47. If you want insincerity
48. If you want arguments
49. If you want grumpiness
50. if you want contention
51. If you want anger
52. If you want empty flattery
53. If you want stinginess
54. If you want mistrust
55. If you want backstabbing
56. if you want gossip
57. if you want selfishness
58. If you want disrespect
59. If you want laziness
60. If you want criticism
61. If you want dishonesty
62. If you want accusations
63. If you want racism
64. If you want sexism
65. If you want bias
66. if you want discrimination
67. If you want hatred
68. If you want contempt
69. If you want rudeness
70. If you want wordiness
71. If you want tardiness
72. If you want lying
73. If you want lack of preparation
74. If you want disorganization
75. If you want excuses
76. If you want tardiness
77. if you want inconsistency
78. If you want low expectations
79. If you want arbitrariness
80. If you want boring

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Lord of the flies

Coming soon...the buzz on the fly invasion following the stink at the Clark house....
(or, maggot mayhem)

The tree that is no more

The tree that died (earlier post)...the post oak, blackjack, on the right....alas. thanks to Mixed Handbag for complaining about the lack of a pix. It is now firewood.

The Booth love story continues

The story so far--two professors of journalism, and friends--The Illidge and The Clark--began many years ago gathering at a small booth in the back of a bar-restaurant to wash away the wailing of students. There they have been joined by other colleagues--The German Complainer, the PR Princess, Friar John the Monk-- seeking similar solutions, and the Queen bee of the department nest does not protest. The preceding Interlude was necessary to allow the scribe to reconnoiter research over the weekend.

Our story continues...

Chapter 4

As weeks passed, and the semester’s stresses surmounted sanity, the colleagues found more and more occasion to seek sustenance and succor at the secluded center of the pub, away from students and syllabi and stupidity. Soon, it was enough to just ask, “The Booth?” and everyone understood. And the word spread, with invitations to other professors and people purloined with the pollution of professionalism. Then in the course of events, the group was joined by The Boar Hunter, The Captain of the USS Pun, Zman the Worrier, The Afghan Traveler, and The Brunette Brett. Yea, even the tee-totaling Queen bee occasionally deigned to descend to the depths and dignify the denizens with her demeanor.

Soon it was also, that other purgatorial souls from the Harvard of the Plains, near the soon-to-be extinct Dairy Queen, north of Second and south of the water tower, discovered the delights of delving into the devilment of the journalism junkies. Professors from music, history, political science, even assistant deans could not ignore the raucous ramblings of those gathered under the dim yellow light of The Booth. They’d stop, while passing by to their furtive meetings to have an evening refreshment, and shake their heads and smile and gaze in admiration at the gregarious groupies having a good time, contrary to all rules and stipulations of the rigor mortis of higher education. They even sometimes joined in the banter. The Booth became the neighborhood bar and a legend in their minds.

There they would gather to be regaled by the wit, wisdom and wonderment of The Illidge telling tales of yesteryear. If the day had been long and frustrating, if the administrative edicts had been more unfair than usual, then The Illidge would smile, and exclaim, “Ah, the vagaries and vicissitudes of life.” And yeah, verily, all could laugh.

There they learned much they soon would remember forever. How the Illidge met his “Sweet pea,” in grade school, how he earned his “BJ” degree from the world’s first and best journalism school at Missouri, how Missouri would perennially lose to “some girl’s school,” how Notre Dame University was ordained, how he “saved us from the Commies” in Korea, how writing copy for Western Auto, or how too many martinis for lunch at an ad agency was deadly, how Kansas City was a “fine town,” how he loved to watch the Chiefs play, how he regretted working too hard and missing some of his children’s events when they were growing up, how he cared for each person in The Booth without judgment, and with humor gracing every minute. Yeah, if the former is a sentence fragment, The Illidge would point it out to the chagrin of The Clark, a repentant English teacher. Because yeah, his classical education included courses in Latin; he could and would quote Shakespeare extensively, or bring to mind an Ogden Nash poem (“If a panther calls, don’t anther”) with a smile and a twinkle of Irish eyes.

Such was the joy of the Booth, watered with beer, vodka, Irish whiskey, Scotch, and other holy spirits. Yet, in the words of The Clark—“If it weren’t for Kansas, we wouldn’t appreciate Colorado,” all joys are made possible with sorrows…

To be continued…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When the world was "formless" and void

And lo, the administrators who loved meetings, called a meeting on meetings, and forsooth, the serfs did protest, so the meeting mavens called another meeting and set up a committee, which had to meet every week, if not sooner, and also designated it to create and fill out forms, making sure to register it on the form for forms, after another meeting and committee would approve it and fill out the appropriate forms...

God never heard of this...remember in paradise when "the world was formless and void...."? That means that forms, and meetings, come from Satan.

could it be that the fallen angels were kicked out of heaven because they wanted to have a meeting, thus interfering with meaningful life and joy and peace?

That's brewing in my meetingless coffee pot

Booth is a verb, a love story...Interlude

The Illidge, a sojourner from Kansas in a strange land (Oklahoma), over the years usually departed his temporary abode when weekly classes closed, and as was his wont, winded his way to Wichita, where awaited “his little sweet pea.”

Dorothy may not have been there any more, but, lo, there were lots of Illidges--wife, children, grandchildren and great-granchildren. Here it was in the family manse, a two-story castle with broad front porch and porch swing on a brick street under massive elm trees, that the Elisabeth waited for him, “pining away,” as Illidge would proclaim. There the Illidges found recourse and sustenance from the world amid family and friends and faith through the years. As the weekend neared its nadir, after Mass and family dinner, the illuminated Illidge would align his comfortable carriage south along the way-35 for about three hours till he reached his “very own apartment” in the Republican rendezvous known as Edmond.

Thus it was that refreshed from R&R, the Illidge prepared for students, life, and more cribbage at the booth. How he came to sojourn in Oklahoma is a tail longer than a cat’s, and full of danger, drama, and injustice, as well as fortitude and fortune for those who would study under him. But that is yet another yarn to be told perchance later. Though what the Illidge experienced therein would lead him to expound forth, in the booth, on the “vagaries and vicissitudes” of life. And thus he did often, as the word of the Booth blossomed in the coming weeks. Few noticed at first, but the Booth, at some point over the weeks, became capitalized in their language. The first linguistic leap happened quickly...

To be continued

Only 3 e-mails

Alas, alas,

Now that I'm just a faculty member, I only received three official e-mails today...which I could immediately and gratefully delete.

I so miss getting a zillion a day from everyone who thinks they're your superior demanding more and more administrative nonsense immediately.

Thought you'd like to know...just don't email me about it!

That's brewing in my non-digital coffee pot.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The gate to High Lonesome

No vultures, wife doesn't like vultures...I think they're great, but this composition makes more sense.

Where vultures eat well, the gate to High Lonesome


Booth is a verb, chapter 3

Retreating from the glaring sun, hot wind, and lukewarm students, the duo welcomed the air conditioned and dim-lighted pub and made their thirsty way to the booth at the back of the bar, where the bosomy bartender befriended both again, serving the first drinks before they had even settled into their places.

They unfolded the cribbage board, dealt the cards, and by the time the ice-cubes clinked emptily in the glasses the first time, the Clark, in spite of being math-challenged, had pegged his way to his first victory. He thought his success was because of his superior skill and intelligence, though the Illidge ascribed it to luck and perhaps cheating. Years later, the Clark realized his success was probably a tribute to his seasoned experience in filling out multiple administrative forms that made no sense at all, but which justified a multitude of university jobs having little to do with students and teaching.

And lo, the Clark reasoned that such a victory should be celebrated in style, so, in honor of his opponent the Illidge, and to irritate him even more, he switched from rum and coke to Irish whiskey. Whereupon, yeah, he won a second game, to the Illidge’s considerable consternation.

At that opportune moment in the history of the universe, the trio of fellow travelers--the German Complainer, the Public Relations Princess, and Friar John the Monk--arrived, and made their way to the back, eyes adjusting to the dim light, and noses to the fine odor of spirits. Whilst they settled in, the Clark, being a humble, quiet sort, did modestly manage to mention in minute detail his successes, making sure that the trio was properly impressed, including the bosomy bartender who arrived promptly to help assuage the newcomers’ thirsts. Whereupon the Illidge, chagrined and protesting ineffectually, tried to save face by being considerate of the others and declaring the game session up, while assuring his colleagues there would be another day.

Then it was, for the next hour or so, the colleagues became booth buddies, and the bar tabs increased more incrementally than the Clark’s game scores. And the quintet of travelers, all former scribes of various periodicals, and their tongues watered with the spirits of the season, began telling war stories of their travails in the trenches of journalism. Here indeed it was that the Illidge shown mightily as the eldest and most experienced of the group. But the Friar also regaled the group with numerous yarns of yesteryear, while The German talked about the cheapest beers, and the Princess was rarely quiet. The longer the evening wore on, the louder loomed the laugher, the larger the potential tips accumulated for the busy bosomy bartender, and the more magnificent the meanderings of tales.

Such conviviality was bound to attract attention, and behold, several stressed souls from other university departments, seeking refuge from a hot day, and putrid paperwork, began stopping by, exchanging pleasantries and laughs. They were amazed at the rare sight of faculty members from a single department engaged in collegiality and fun, rather than attending boring meetings or fussing endlessly about academic matters that mattered little. Thus it was, before the booth buddies departed that day, the seeds of the reputation of “the booth” had been firmly planted, and certainly well-watered. So it was, that when the group would soon once again seek succor in its confines, their gospel of good will had begun to spread, with unforeseen results, including the soon famous “vagaries and vicissitudes.”

To be continued

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A magical kingdom

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom without meetings...

and all the citizens smiled

Booth is a verb--a love story, chapter 2

Chapter 2

And on the second day, after enduring students who couldn’t spell, fuming about students who thought assignments were optional, and ruminating about students who thought average work was excellent, the duo gathered in the afternoon near the hive of the Queen bee to recuperate. They dropped into their chairs, with greatest of sighs and moans, seeking to wash away the greasy taste of the lunch and mediocre students with the bitter dregs of that morning’s coffee.

Alas, even after much commiserating, and exchanging understanding jocularity with the Queen, still persisted the sourness in their mouths. Whereupon, the Clark, because as chair he was supposed to have great ideas, suggested another trip to the booth, even though he knew he would probably again lose the battle of the cribbage board, but he knew the frivolity and ferment of the drinks would offset it. Up perked the ears of other equally frustrated faculty members—especially the German complainer, the public relations princess, and Friar John, the photographic monk--who happened to come into the office to kill time and postpone grading papers or avoid attending meaningless committee meetings.

“Booth?” they asked—because they had already heard intimations of immortality from the Illidge’s boasting, and the Queen’s complicity--and when once explained and located, they affirmed that such an pedagogical concept had transformational possibilities, because, lo, all were as thirsty as the Ancient Mariner for more than the dregs of everyday life. Whereas, it was only 3 p.m., and early perhaps for liquid refreshment, the Clark, because he was chair and was experienced in scheduling meetings and wished atonement for his sins, proposed a 4 p.m. rendezvous with reality, and the bosomy bartender. The frustrated trio immediately departed the hive, heading to their offices to finish grading, turn off computers, clear desks, or otherwise waste time.

Then it was that the Illidge said, in his great and superior wisdom, “It’s five o’clock somewhere. Let’s go.” And with much insult, he did challenge the Clark to another embarrassing loss on the higher ed metaphorical circular cribbage board. And lo, forth they did sally to the booth, and the evening’s debauchery began.

To be continued…

Monday, August 10, 2009

Voices from the past

Thanks to my cousin Dan B.
Clark, of colorado, for posting this of our grandmother, a sketch by my Dad.

And he said this poem was on the back:

Below is a poem I ran across while going through old family pictures and photographs. This was on the back of a pencil sketch of my grandmother, as it was dedicated to the artist, Terrence Clark, by is friend, Glenn Berry.

Up Gold Creek Way –

The memories of yesteryear’s
Were pleasantly renewed,
As on a stool and artist sat,
He canvas well imbued
With the image of an ancient tree
Whose cots the ground had strewed.

As a boy I sat there on a bed
Whose roll was lashed up tight,
and kept night herd on the cattle bunched,
As they chewed their cuds all night.
Three score and more are the years that’s fled
Since that tree sheltered me,
but a vigil was kept for all that time
On the bedground round that tree.

Year in, year out, its blossoms come.
Some years to bear no fruit,
But the season never has showed up
Without its glorious debut.

O, Artist, would that your efforts then
Inspire us mortal men
To pass out sagely honest help
To our youth with deeds and pen.
May our hoary heads think twice each time,
And then more humble be
As we teach our young to build our land
And guide its destiny.


Oklahoma skyscraper


From this afternoon's clouds....

Booth is a verb, chapter 1

Ye olde, and actual, cribbage board of "The Booth"

Chapter 1

And on the first day of the booth, commencing at 4 p.m. one sunny fall day, which was unremarkable and unmemorable to the profs as the years passed, they joked and the Illidge taught the Clark how to play cribbage…a game of cards and counting and moving pegs in holes endlessly around a board…somewhat like teaching in college, and certainly like being an administrator, other than it was fun. As the afternoon unfolded, with only grading to be done for tomorrow, the two shared war stories. Under the watchful eye of the student-bartender however, they would not share their preferred refreshments of vodka on one hand, and rum and coke on the other, which helped them forget the frustrations and stresses of higher education.

Lo, the Illidge, since he knew the rules, soundly thrashed the Clark in the card games, though the cards, dealt repeatedly for two hours, perchance did get sticky from their glasses’ condensation circles.. And in spite of several games and matching drinks, after generous tips, it is well reported that both were able to drive home safely, vowing to return. Henceforth, though they knew it not, the one-sided results of the card games, as well as their exclusive occupation of the booth, would not always be so.

On the morrow, as was their habit, they arrived early in the less-than-august halls of the university, yea, before most academics and administrators had even heard alarm clocks. It was, as it were, an unsaid competition between them, to see who would be first to start the coffee. Whoever was second would be greeted with insults, as in “It’s nice you came to work this afternoon.”

Then they would sit, in the pre-dawn darkness of the day, office lights not turned on, sipping coffee, dozing, sighing, thinking, occasionally exchanging words, but not constantly yammering as women, about issues and events of the day, but mainly enjoying the silence, the quiet. Until of course, the sun slowly came up, illuminating the aging clock tower of the university with its hands slowly, if ever ticking, as time slid by. Then the Queen bee of the department arrived, early as was her habit, unlocked the department office door, flipped on the lights, to the dismay of the optical pupils of the professors, and their outcry.

Lo, then the Illidge exclaimed to the fair Queen, even boasting, about his previous afternoon’s conquest of the Clark in cribbage. And the Clark could only cower that first day. And the Queen, with the exalted reputation of Dr. Sump, did nothing to assuage the stories, nor mitigate, nor even lessen them, much less deny them. So then the word of the Illidge spread, abetted by the Queen's royal reputation and humor, that there was this spot, this time when there was respite from campus control, from inane dithering, from the Clark’s type-A attitude—a veritable air-conditioned, and thoughtful oasis in the midst of Oklahoma aridity.

To be continued…

Storms a'coming

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunset storm at Chaco, 2


Sometimes, journalists and artists get too bogged down in reality. In the previous painting I painted rocks and sky well...but the painting had no emotion, depth, story, dynamic.

Today, I painted from within.

Booth is a verb...a love story, prologue

Once upon a time long ago in a university department, two friends needed to get off campus one afternoon, to get away from the inanity of higher ed, from students who didn’t care, from stupid rules and useless meetings and endless paperwork, from administrators who didn’t care about teaching.

Major universities worth their salt have neighborhood pubs around them for the students, and select ones for the faculty. But not so for where they labored against ignorance, a commuter-oriented university in the midst of a rich religious-right Republican suburb of a government-welfare capital city in a somewhat backward, if friendly, state. And this was grievous indeed for the Irish Catholic, veteran advertising professor whose sense of humor offset the injustices of life. He knew he needed a “little something” to wash away another day. Forsooth, the younger professor and chairman, a recovering tee-totaling fundamentalist, had become an expert over the years in the nonsense of administration, and knew he also needed respite of a liquid kind to keep his sanity.

Yeah verily, they escaped the halls of mediocrity one day, a cribbage board and cards in hand, and ventured down to a franchise bar and restaurant no more than a half-mile from the austere campus, and found in the back, a booth paneled in dark-stained wood, cushioned with fake green leather, and set off from the rest of the restaurant by fake dark greenery. Then they saw the bartender, a cheerful, bosomy young woman who both knew because she was a student, as with most of theirs, paying her way through college by working long hours in fooderies and drinkeries for cheap pay in hope of good tips.

To be continued…

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sunset storm at Chaco

Today's watercolor

The light is never the same at Chaco Canyon, and when the storm clouds build, as the sun drops to the horizon, the colors change second, by second.

Personnel thoughts, part 2

Journal thoughts

• People who think they’re too big to apologize or admit mistakes or fault, are really very small. And everyone knows it except themselves.
• Don’t insult people by reading to them what they can read on their own.
• If someone fails, reassure them of their worth. Find a way for them to succeed.
• You can’t make whiners happy. Don’t waste your time.
• If you want, give.
• If you take, you lose.
• Employees who distrust all leaders should be distrusted.
• When your people succeed and surpass you, when they look good, you do too.
• You always remember mentors, especially in crisis. So will others remember you.
• Treat people you don’t trust or like courteously. It will either make them uncomfortable, or they’ll let their guard down thinking you’re fooled.
• Humble people are strong. Arrogant people are weak.
• Be thankful for anal people. They help keep you loose. Be thankful for scatterbrains. They help keep you organized.
• When you have to work with people you don’t trust, always know more than they do. Don’t show signs of weakness.
• Those who consider kidding disgraceful or who can’t take it, are either insecure, have low self esteem, or are too full of themselves.
• We don’t need more work.
• If everyone was perfect, there wouldn’t be leaders.
• Learn to read people.
• Most people have a “feel sorry for myself” or “poor me” gene, that varies in influence on their personalities, and affects your management.
• People who are angry most of the time are either angry with themselves, or not willing to take responsibility for themselves.
• Those people who habitually blame someone else are usually at fault.
• Start off criticism as the Apostle Paul did with praise. And then say, “but” and get to the point, with solutions.
• Anybody who abuses an animal will abuse a child or an adult.
• Kind people are not weak, but powerful.
• Spontaneous cards, notes, flowers, lunches and words are better than the same on Secretaries’ Day.
• Prima donnas always cause problems. Keep your guard up.
• A good way to start a disciplinary session with an employee is with a question. It eases tension and makes you sound fair.
• In dealing with faculty, it’s more effective to ask “I need you to…” than to say “I want you to.…”
• Most people who work want to do a good job.
• Most people want to have pride in their work.
• He who tootheth not his own horn, the same it shall not be tooteth.
• He who tooteth his horn too much, the same needeth to learn that less is more.
• Have fun. Don’t be afraid to act a little crazy to get others to laugh.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Where you can see time

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, 24 miles off a paved road, 1,000 years, no, millions of years back in time.
A shallow inland sea laid down the sandstone deposits. You can still see the wave ripples in the once sandy beaches atop the 300-foot cliffs. the layers of rocks speak of eons.
You are small here, and you can see time, how time works, from the rocks, the sun, the ruins, to the clouds moving fleeting shadows across the land.

More than a 1,000 years ago, the Anasazi, the old ones, built huge great houses here, still standing after all these years, complex stone architecture with no mortar, the center of a widespread culture on the Colorado Plateau. Then they vanished amid drought, leaving few burial grounds. Some say their descendants are the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

And every day, you can see time at work here. Fajada Butte in the distance with Pinto Alto ruins in the foreground. No, they are not uninhabited, just open to the endless sky and universe. You can hear the spirits of the place in the wind and clouds and silence.

You can camp in the open, under the cliffs, and see the bats come out with the stars.
You watch as another day slides down the sky, time by the sun inching, second-by-second, up the far cliffs as shadows advance, till darkness comes and day fades.

You gather around a campfire for warmth, and the coals glimmer and pulsate like tiny universes, as a equinox full moon rises in the sky. The light of the stars in the unpolluted, clear, dry, high air, shines on the rocks just as they did in 1054 when a supernova lightened the day and night sky, recorded on petroglyphs nearby by their astronomers and artists.

In the mornings, light illuminates Fajada Butte again, throne of the sun dagger that measured precisely the movements of the sun and moon for these ancient people and their crops and ceremonies. And the rising equinox sun makes its mark on etched rocks, slides down the cliffs on the west end of the canyon as shadows recede, shining through precise measurements in windows in giant subterranean circular kivas.

Time is quiet here, but you can feel it, you can see it as it washes over you, like a prehistoric sea

Personnel thoughts

From a journal...
Now that I'm no longer chair, previous advice shows why my blood pressure is down:
  • When you have to fire someone, don’t take it personally. It is a failure, but necessary.
  • Even when firing someone you should want what is best for that person.
  • If you enjoy firing or disciplining people, there’s something wrong with you
  • Confront distrust. That may build trust.
  • It takes a long time to build trust.
  • Allow individuality.
  • Colors and appearance make a difference in how people work. Pay attention and involve people in those decisions.
  • Frontal attacks are often disastrous. Look for the side or back door to controversial issues.
  • People backed into a corner are dangerous. Offer an escape route when you have to negatively evaluate a person.
  • In many cases, it is better and cheaper to rehabilitate an employee than to fire them.
  • If the administration won’t back you, you might as well give up and quit trying.
  • Everybody has pet projects and interests. If they’re your superiors, you have to live with them. If they’re your subordinates, learn them. Use them to your advantage in building teamwork and accomplishing larger objectives.
  • In today’s litigious society, those who threaten to sue are rarely good employees.
  • Fanatics—narrow-minded people—rarely have a sense of humor and are threatened and belittled by it and opposing viewpoints.
  • The more wrinkles people have, the more stories they’ve lived. Sop them up, like bread in gravy.
  • In an airplane, million dollar houses look insignificant. In the space shuttle, borders don’t exist. Most problems come from man-made boundaries and personal castles.

Santuario de Chimayo

Plein aire watercolor

Adobe bell tower at Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico...focus of the Holy Week pilgrimage by hundreds of believers and site of miraculous healing dirt. Step into this church and step back to medieval times, but don't doubt the power there. The room full of candles and crutches attests to the power for faith.

Sunrise for Lady Brett


A new day, in the calm of early morning, before the breeze and tide. Journeys and fair skies ahead, new horizons.

Heading home

Winter watercolor