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How about a love train?

May 25, 2022

Written for WQW #18: Transportation: Trains, Planes, and Working Machines

I usually don’t write or talk much about politics anymore because it’s depressing and what for?

I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this has heard about the 18-year-old gunman who, after killing his grandmother, made his way past school security and walked into the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and opened fire with his two AR-15 style rifles and murdered 19 children and two adults. Do some math and add to the 21 murder victims their parents and siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, the school faculty and first responders who witnessed the tragedy first hand, and you’re talking about upwards of thousands of people affected by this one shooting. Add to that total the schoolchildren who were fortunate enough to survive and go home and the trauma they’ll deal with for the rest of their lives and all the people in their circles and number goes up to the tens of thousands.

How do we comfort these people? How do we tell them it’s ok? How do we tell them they’re ok? How do we tell them their lives will get back to normal?

More moments of silence? More candlelight vigils? More thoughts and prayers?

“The entire country is praying for the children, families, teachers, and staff and the first responders on the scene.” – Mitch McConnell

Thoughts and prayers are what you offer when you want more blog hits and comments, or an A on the test you didn’t bother studying for. It’s not a response to the wholesale, coldblooded slaughter of children.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he mourns the “horrific loss”, and that he urges, all Texans to come together to show our unwavering support to all who are suffering.

How do we do that, Governor? By paying our respects by bringing them an AK-47 style rifle instead of a tray of lasagna and a bowl of potato salad?

“Grief overwhelms the soul. I offer prayer and condolence but know that it is grossly inadequate. We must find answers.” – Utah Senator Mitt Romney

You know what where we might begin finding answers, Senator? By voting out politicians who’ve accepted over $13 million in donations from the NRA. In case you’ve forgotten who that is, go look in the mirror.

And then there’s this: “Our nation needs to take a serious look at the state of mental health today. Sometimes meds can be the problem.” – Marjorie Taylor Greene.

While not 100% off the mark, confusing and misinforming isn’t an kind of answer. It’s avoiding the problem by simply lying.

You want to hear the worst of it? The Robb Elementary school shooting was the 27th such school shooting this year. I’m not a math guy, but I think that’s more than one a week. Yeah, wow.

I wonder what would happen if people stopped talking about loving people and actually started acting like they loved people?

“People all over the world, start a love train. Join hands, start a love train.” Love Train, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Performed by The O’Jays.

What I did on my summer vacation

May 22, 2022

A long time ago, on a family trip to the Wisconsin Dells, we found ourselves in the middle of a historic (I don’t know where in the US, or in the world, you’re reading this from, so please feel free to substitute an historic if you’d prefer) event that’s still, in some circles, talked about today.

It was late June and the weather was beautiful. A Saturday, and the southern winds were gentle. People were eating Wisconsin Dells chocolate fudge and enjoying life. It was a perfect day to be vacationing at the Dells, however that serenity didn’t last. Sometime around 1:00 PM a bugle sounded from far off and a squadron of cavalry rode down main street. I never got a good look at the leader of the squadron because all the adults gathered around him to hear what he had to say, but I did notice a tall, feathered, chartreuse hat and a lot of multi-colored medals. I had no trouble hearing him because he spoke loudly which was a good thing. It seemed there was a group of invaders traveling by boat south down the Wisconsin river with their sights apparently set on the Dells.

Things got crazy real fast and everything that followed was a blur. Suddenly dad had a shorter chartreuse hat (with no feathers) on his head and he was brandishing a gold-handled saber and jumping onto the back of a black Shire. Later on I remember thinking it was odd because he was never much of an animal lover. I heard mom from behind me saying something about her having her travel sewing kit and with a quick kiss to the top of my head and a warning that I’d be taking a bath just as soon as we got back to the motel, she was off with the rest of the women. I thought I heard someone saying something about a flag, but I wasn’t sure.

The children all milled around, uncertain of where to go or what we should be doing now that the adults had all gone off hither and thither. Just then a man with a slight potbelly and a baseball cap that read, “Captain Craig” got our attention and asked which of us could swim. He said he was the fleet captain of the Original Wisconsin Ducks® and he was assembling teams to help crew the vessels which were going to be deployed on the Wisconsin River in defense of the park. I raised my hand, eager to get on the water where I hoped we’d have some extra time during our preparations, whatever they may be, for swimming, but just as we were being led off to the river, I was stopped by a tall, thin man who was dressed in a cheerless outfit of brown work pants and matching work shirt. He wore a brown bowler that reminded me of Stan Laurel from which lifeless strands of brown hair tried to escape. He said he was the Command Post Operator and then paused as if to give me a second to be impressed. When I didn’t say anything (I was always shy around strangers) he explained that they were deploying a unit of field artillery to defend the river, and ultimately the park, from positions along the sandstone cliffs and bluffs of the Wisconsin river. He said I was husky (something I hadn’t heard in a day or two) and that he could use kids like me as part of his field artillery unit. I said I’d rather be on a Duck on the river and he said something under his breath about it being life and hustled me over to stand next to a 12-pounder Howitzer cannon.

“Can you lift 12 pounds, kid?” he asked.

“Dunno,” I mumbled.

“What’s that, son? Speak up. You’re in the army now.”

“I dunno.”

“You what?”

“DUNNO!”

“Speak words, son. You what?”

“Don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?”

“Don’t know if I can lift 12 pounds.”

“Don’t know if you can lift 12 pounds what”?

At this point I was really confused so I just stood there with my hands in my pockets thinking about the river and wondering if Ducks’ captain Craig was letting the other kids who weren’t husky go swimming

He leaned down, this field commander whose name I didn’t know, and in a quiet voice he told me that I needed to end my answers to his questions with the word ‘sir’.

“Do you understand?”

“Mmhmm.”

He leaned down again and in a slightly louder voice told me again to speak words.

“Do you understand?” he said.

“Yes.”

“What?”

“What sir?”

“Never mind. We haven’t got time,” he said. He muttered what sounded like the word, “dull” and then he took off his bowler hat and wiped the top of his mostly hairless head with a brown handkerchief. He smoothed all his hair over toward his right ear and replaced his hat.

He pointed to the cannon balls, and I picked one up with ease which made him happy. At that point he showed me how load the 12-pounder Howitzer cannon. I learned quickly which made him happy, and the only mistake I made is when I called the cannon’s muzzle a chamber.

As for the invasion, someone made a mistake and the invaders turned out to be the rowing team from Western Wisconsin Technical College. They had no interest in invading the Wisconsin Dells. The next morning the newspaper quoted team captain Buck Thorntonson-Billings as saying, “We were out for a bit of practice and were met with this surprise. It was all a lot of fun.”

We went home two days later. Dad, suddenly an animal lover, spent the next few weeks missing his horse, so we got a black lab which he named “Shire”, and when he talked about getting a saber, just for nostalgia, mom told him to quit moping and get over it. I think his buying a used 1963 Buick LeSabre was his way of saying that he’ll do what he wants. As for mom, she tucked her travel sewing kit away and went back to her Singer 401A sewing machine where she sewed patches on my Little League uniform and other stuff I had no interest in while continuing to threaten me with baths when I got home from wherever it was I was going.

Below is a picture of me operating the 12-pounder Howitzer cannon during what became known in the local history books as the “Siege of the Wisconsin Dells“.

I almost forgot. The word of the day over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt is CHAMBER.

Mix it up

May 21, 2022

The word of the day over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt is TEMPEST.

I kind of like anagrams even though I’m no good at them. Unless they’re small words, then I’m pretty good. Like “NO” is an anagram of “ON”. Or for something a little more advanced with three letters: “DAM” is anagram of “MAD”. I think playing Wordle has maybe been making me better at anagrams. Like did you know that “ASKEW” is an anagram of “WE ASK”? I do now.

Anagrams are like magic, no?

So here I am and I’m playing around with the Ragtag word today and wondering, what’s an anagram for “Ragtag Tempest” and I came up with “GAGTAR PETMEST” and “TEMPEST RAGTAG”.

Magic.

So, my friends, who is Gagtar Petmest?

Monkey mind (91)

May 21, 2022

With this prompt #260 Sammi celebrates five years of hosting the Weekend Writing Prompt. That’s a lot of words and a pretty notable achievement.

Congratulations, Sammi, and happy anniversary!

Monkey mind (91)

Your back complains when you settle down on the cushion. You try, but after a minute you oblige the pain and move to your chair. You set the timer and, shoulders straight, hands resting in your lap you let your gaze fall where it will. A deep breath and—

Breathe.

Trying to reach the omphalos through breath you focus on the sensation of your abdomen rising and falling, rising and falling, and—

Thoughts. Unwanted visitors. Where did you come from?

WhatsfordinnerGetanewcarNeedtodolaundryWasthatamistake

Breath…

YesthatwasamistakeBackissoreCleanthehouseDon’tbestupid

In… out…

What’sthatnewpainWhatshouldIdoIsitrainingWasitreallyamistake

Relax, refocus, repeat.

Just breathe.

Flutter of hope

May 19, 2022

From Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s story challenge.

This was an interesting prompt because it’s not like anything we’ve been asked to do before. I found it because it felt strange rewriting someone else’s story, and it was tough whittling down a first draft into a tight 99-word final story that (hopefully) still made some sort of sense. It was a fun challenge.

Here’s the prompt:
May 16, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about when a newly released prisoner meets the disabled veteran who adopted the puppy the prisoner trained behind bars. The prompt is based on the short story I wrote for Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat. Yes, rewrite my story in your words, 99, no more, no less. Go where the prompt leads!

Please read Charli’s story before you read mine. Click right here.

Flutter of hope

James woke to something warm on his cheek. He’d fallen asleep again on the sidewalk outside of Donaldsons’.

He opened his eyes, blinked hard. The smiling Lab knocked over the HOMELESS sign on James’ lap in her haste to say hello again.

“Buttercup?”

“She knows you.”

James looked up, saw a tall man with prosthetics where his left arm and leg used to be.

“I trained her. I—”

“Inmate?”

“Was. Sometimes maybe still am. Vet?

“Iraq. Buttercup, she saved my life.”

James swatted a tear.

The man reached down. “Let me give you a hand up, pal. You hungry?”

###

Snazzy

May 16, 2022

Snazzy is a fun word and it just happens to be the word of the day at the Ragtag Daily Prompt.

I’m not a snazzy dresser and I don’t drive a snazzy car. In fact, there’s really nothing snazzy about me. I am, in a word, plain.

Or in two words: quite plain.

Or in two different words: borderline dull.

snazzy
adjective, snaz·zi·er, snaz·zi·est.
1. extremely attractive or stylish; flashy; fancy:
a snazzy dresser.
2. Pretty much the exact opposite of that Michaelsfishbowl guy.

Some time back I found this app that lets you take your photos, or isolate sections of your photos, and edit them into really cool designs and shapes. I like playing with it more than any game I’ve found and I believe that the possibilities are truly endless. One could, if one were in a mood, describe the images they end up with as snazzy.

Here are just a few that may be snazzyish.

Spotlight (21)

May 14, 2022

The weekend is a good time for a Weekend Writing Prompt.

Spotlight (21)

Be the spotlight: shine.
That’s what she said.
This is supposed to help?
If you let it.
I don’t want to.

###

Goal for today: try and dance like Arthur Conley.

Thanks to you

May 11, 2022

Over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt the word of the day is CREATIVITY.

The best part of blogging for me is the people who make up the blogging community. Not the bloggers who are doing it for business, but the people who are in it for fun: the hobbyists, the people looking to connect with others, to dialogue, to build community.

To all of you writers and poets and photographers and memoirists, and to those of you who provide us with daily or weekly prompts to help prime our creativity, thank you for sharing your talent and your life with me every day.

In your face (2)

May 8, 2022

Over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt the word of the day is FACES.

Some faces just don’t want to be seen.

Some faces look at your face in a manner that would suggest anger while wondering why your face is looking at their face.

Merriam Webster defines pareidolia as the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.

Like animals or ice cream castles in clouds or faces in things. I love pareidolia because I see faces in all sorts of things and it’s a lot of fun finding them and taking pictures of them. I have hundreds of pictures of faces I’ve seen in random things and here are a few of them below. I also blogged about pareidolia once some years ago and that’s here.

A pot of spaghetti.

The rubber base of a security fence.

Canned meat.

A desk stapler.

“I know faces, because I look through the fabric my own eye weaves, and behold the reality beneath.” – Kahlil Gibran, Faces

Bridges everywhere

May 7, 2022

Over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt the word of the day is BRIDGE.

A ‘skyway’ is an elevated footbridge connecting two buildings. Downtown Minneapolis is a city of skyways, and within those skyways lie another – elevtated – city.

From the Minneapolis website: “The Minneapolis Skyway System is the largest contiguous system of enclosed, second-level bridges in the world—composed of 9.5 miles of pathways connecting 80 city blocks. The Minneapolis skyway system connects corporate offices, bars, restaurants, bakeries, hotels, government services, retail, gyms, grocery stores, liquor stores, banks, doctors, dentists, masseurs, pharmacies, hair and nail salons, dry cleaners, live theaters, three pro sports facilities, a church, art exhibits, and… well, you get the idea.”

They forgot to mention a stripper bar.

If you like maps, you can see a map of the skyway system here.

So, why this is even remotely interesting is because the picture below was taken from one of the skyways. If you looked at the map, it’s the skyway that runs between 4th and 5th Avenue South and 6th and 7th Street South. The picture is showing you the historic Minneapolis Armory (which has been remodeled into a concert and event venue where a bunch of bands I’ve never heard of play) with the Viking’s stadium in the background. The tall building is just that. That building has 12 stories and even though you’re only seeing nine, I can vouch for the existence of the other three. You see all those cars and trucks parked on the street in front of the Armory? The shaky red arrow on the left is pointing to exactly where I was parked on the day my sweet Cavalier was hit. An event I wrote about yesterday. And it’s not too late to read it if you want! 🙂

If you like The Replacements, they wrote a song about the Minneapolis skyways.

Go back? (48)

May 7, 2022

Saturday means it’s time for Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt

Would I go back?

Boom handles wedged into the bed frame. A length of rope and two blankets: we had our tent. Flashlights flickered an impromptu campfire. We huddled inside, eyes wide reading House of Mystery. Fighting alongside Sgt. Rock. Flying with Superman.

Go back? I’m already there.

###

“Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories” – Steven Wright

PMS 2728*

May 6, 2022

Over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt the word of the day is COBALT

I used to drive a 1997 tan, excuse me, I take that back – Sandrift – Chevy Cavalier. It was the first brand new car I bought, and it was a good car and I liked it a lot. Not enough to give it a name like a lot of people do, but enough to keep it clean and in good shape.

In March of 2009 I was parked on a street in downtown Minneapolis and while I was away someone slid on the icy street while making a right turn and drove right into the passenger door of my unnamed Cavalier.

Kaboom.

The someone turned out to be nice because she left a note under my windshield wiper apologizing for hitting my car and she left her name and phone number and insurance company. And then she wrote “I’m so sorry” in big letters at the bottom of the note.

I could still drive the car, but neither of the two passenger side doors worked and there was a gap where the front door no longer fit the frame which let in an awful draft. The insurance company totaled the car so that wasn’t such a bad thing for me.

Since I liked the Cavalier (although I suppose one could argue just how much someone could like a car if someone didn’t even take the time to name their car), and was, at the time, of the belief that change is best avoided whenever possible, I went back to the Chevy dealer to get another Cavalier and guess what? I learned that Chevrolet had discontinued the Cavalier and replaced it with the Cobalt.

Oof..

Cobalt? Immediate thought: it makes me think of James Coburn, star of the Flint movies and The Great Escape. (He can be seen at the beginning of this trailer riding a bicycle as well as later on when the cast is introduced)

“It’s really the same car,” the salesman said.

Then why does it have a different name, I didn’t say.

I bought a tan, excuse me, I take that back – Desert Sand Mica – Toyota Corolla instead. Very similar in color (change avoidance, remember?) to my unnamed Cavalier. My little Corolla is 13 years old now and showing signs of wear and tear. I just had it in for an oil change and I mentioned that to the service advisor who assured me that at 147,000 miles the car was “just a baby”. It was comforting to hear that, but then I figured the dealership makes a lot of money on servicing vehicles, and his job pretty much depends on servicing vehicles, so I decided he says that to all the cars and I went back to feeling sad for my little car that’s getting older.

* PMS 2728 = Pantone Measuring System. PMS is a universal color matching system in printing. So if you have printer ‘A’ print something for you using a specific PMS color and printer ‘B’ print the same thing for you using the same PMS color, they should look exactly the same (paper notwithstanding). The number 2728 is the PMS color for cobalt blue.

Follow me

May 5, 2022

From Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s story challenge.

May 2, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about extraction. What is being extracted and from where? Is it an idea? How does genre change the perspective (sci-fi versus romance)? Go where the prompt leads!

Follow me

The day was sunny and warm. The sky was as clear and blue as Cindy’s eyes, and if a fellow wasn’t careful, he could get lost in both.

“C’mon,” Cindy said. “Take off your shoes and follow me.”

“Where to?”

“Never mind, just c’mon.”

“I’m not sure—”

“Oh, stop. You’re stodgy. Just do it.”

I did it, but not for long.

~~~

The worst part was when the emergency room doctor pulled the rusty Coke pull tab out of my foot and stitched it up.

The best part came later than night as Cindy proved to be an excellent nurse.

###

Today I learned

May 2, 2022

Today I learned (courtesy of Wikipedia and other online sources) that East Timor is an island country that comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor. The island of Timor is located just north of Australia. The island of Timor has a bloody history of occupation, first by Portugal and then Indonesia. Thanks to help from the United Nations, Timor – now called Timor-Leste (Leste is Portuguese for “east”) – became a sovereign state in May 2002, at which time it joined the United Nations.

The capital of Timor is Dili.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but a man from Dili who is courteous and who has good manners could be called a diligent.

Would it be coincidence that today’s word prompt at Your Daily Word Prompt is DILIGENT? Or could it be something… more?

Sometimes I walk

May 2, 2022

Over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt the word of the day is STUMP.

Sometimes I walk a path that takes me past this stump. This isn’t a creek or stream or pond, it’s like a swampy place where rainwater drains. I know that because there’s a metal culvert about 30 yards away and because the water is stagnant and it’s only wet like this in the spring.

Pretty soon we’ll have a week of sunny skies, and the trees and bushes will leaf out and the water will dry up and the stump will be surrounded by a lot of mud, and then just plain dirt. Goofy squirrels will bury nuts they’ll never find again in the dirt that might someday turn into a new tree.

About a year ago I started to write a story about this stump, but I never finished it.

Concrete

May 1, 2022

Over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt the word of the day is CONCRETE.

After graduating high school I wanted to learn a skill/trade that I thought would pay me a lot of money. Someone recommended masonry school so I enrolled and learned about concrete. It was really hard.

So, yeah, I eventually dropped out. But before I did, I learned that if you’re building sidewalks you want to make sure there are no ducks nearby because you don’t want any quacks in the cement.

Sorry.

Take a few minutes and say adios to all this concrete.

ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94RVX7pLF_A

Ok, so you wake up and find yourself in a cement-encased room with a wooden table and a handsaw. How do you get out of the room? You cut the table in half because everyone knows that two halves make a hole.

Time to get dressed

May 1, 2022

At Song Lyric Sunday, the theme Jim shares with us this week, as suggested by Paula Light, is songs that mention Suit, Pants, Dress, Shirt.

My song is Loose Ends by the British rock band Foghat. Or, I suppose since the band goes back to the early 70’s, I should refer to them as the “classic” rock band Foghat. Foghat formed in the early 70’s and put out album after album of blues, boogie, and rock and roll that was like candy to my young ears. This was also a time when album art was something important and their second album is still one of my favorite covers. It had the band’s name in small type way up in the top right corner and taking up the bottom third of the cover was a picture of a rock and a roll side by side.

Loose Ends is a song on the band’s 1980 album, Tight Shoes, and the singer is a hapless fellow who tells us he’s working on, or dreaming of(?), tying up those few loose ends in his life so he can get that woman to love him. One of those loose ends just happens to be owning a suit with sleeves that are too long – although a perfect fit if he had arms like King Kong. Another loose end is the lack of a car with a good 8-track stereo. I’m guessing the humor and significance of that particular loose end is lost on anyone who didn’t drive a car way back when that didn’t have an 8-track stereo.

Even though the song has a disco-y, new wavey, dance club beat introduction and fill, it rolls and rocks with that driving Foghat sound. The only thing missing are the extended guitar solos by the bands two guitar players: “Lonesome” Dave Peverett and Rod “The Magician of Slide” Price. We can thank the classic rock radio format for that.

The band went through numerous line-up changes over the years, and this was the last album to include the band’s original lead guitar player, and slide guitar virtuoso, Rodd Price, until their reunion about a decade later. With the exception of drummer Roger Earl, all of the original members are now gone. But Earl is still on the road with new players keeping Foghat’s slow ride going.

Luminous (30)

May 1, 2022

Saturday means it’s time for Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt

The girl from the south.
In the midnight dark of sleep,
she glows.
A luminous soul,
softening even the hardest
and most cynical heart.
How was there ever any doubt?

###

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius 

Cleared for takeoff

April 30, 2022

From Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s story challenge.

April 25, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “up and away.” You can imagine a story from the photo of hot air balloons, a flying superhero, a natural wonder, or any other direction your inspiration goes. Go where the prompt leads!

Cleared for takeoff

This wasn’t his first mission, but that didn’t calm the butterflies. Each launch carried its own dangers, and as an experienced astronaut he knew the risks.

Major David planned on a safe voyage and landing, but was prepared should he find himself on an ice planet like Zeistorun, or worse, a prison planet like BL7130.

He took a deep breath when the countdown reached 10 seconds.

3… 2… 1…

“Up and away!” He jumped and landed with a thud on the wood floor.

“DAVEY!” came the call from Mission Control. “Are you jumping off your bed again?”

“Sorry, mom.”

###

Isn’t that the way

April 26, 2022

Over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt the word for today is MELODRAMA

(I tagged this as poetry/poem but I’m not really sure that it is)

We started out romantic.
We soon turned melodramatic.
We tried to remain pragmatic but lost all sense of ourselves.

We both made our tearful cases.
We both covered all the bases.
We both let love trace its way out of our hearts and from our lives.

Our goodbyes were so very unkind.
Our emotions packed tight and primed.
Our hearts we left behind and went in search of something better.

I saw her once years after.
We shared some smiles and laughter
I felt a shaft or spear of hot sorrow cross my heart.

Life’s decisions are innumerous.
Struggling with uncertainty
we do the best we can
making plans while gods laugh
at our bargains and promises.
With luck we adapt and survive.
###

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