Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Second Novel to Be Published This Spring, Some Pictures Regarding the Novel-in-Progress

Good news today: My publisher has notified me that The Mirrors of Castaway Time, Book II in The Eye of the Stallion trilogy will be published this spring. They've been sitting on it for a year and a half. When Terry gets home we'll pop a bottle of champagne. It's a time-twisted follow-up to the first book. My editor called it, "Prime story telling." I hope so. I had a great two years writing it in the belly of our boat, VATNA on the island of Guam.
Speaking of writing and speaking of Guam, here's a picture I took of a traditional canoe sailing in Apra Harbor, Guam in May of 07 (it's a re-run from an earlier blog, I think, but I'm mooney about Guam today and thinking about the next book). The guy at the helm is Manny Sikau, a master navigator from the island of Pulowat. My next book, The Spirit of the Voyage, is about this--two boys must learn how to navigate a canoe like this using the stars to escape the war in the Pacific. I'm 85 pages into as of this morning. Had a great write today. Lots of fun.
It's cold today here in Virginia--in the 20's with a strong wind. Terry has backed out of taking a walk with me and I might just fore go it myself. Let's just celebrate. By the way, the photo below was taken a bit earlier than the one above. I'm at the helm of the same canoe. Imagine steering a canoe like this over 500 miles of open ocean and not using a compass or a sextant? Look at the color of that water.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Wonders of Skype, Strange Headlines, Lousy Economy: Christmas 08

It's the 21st of December and a dark, rainy, raw day. Instead of writing, I'm wasting hours trying to copy photos from my camera to a CD through this laptop and having no luck. Technology is great....

On the other hand, the genius of the techies in this world continue to baffle/blow me way. This is a picture that I took from a laptop while I was in Mexico last month (you can see me in the little picture on the lower left). I'm on the yacht we just brought down from San Diego (scroll down to that blog, below), my daughter, her husband, and my grandson in the big picture, are in Georgia. We were talking, live, for free, and were able to see each other in real time. Go figure. And again, its a free download from the Internet. Just to to

In the news: they found a foot inside a tumor inside a baby's head, a Continental jet slid of the runway in Colorado (38 injured, passengers screaming and behaving badly), heavy snow across the Northwest, Midwest, and Northeast, Barack is finally taking a vacation (Hawaii), with Christmas just 3 days down the road, consumer's have not been buying much (can't imagine why not), and George W. is being largely ignored (I know exactly why), and Cheney says they did just fine over the last 8 years. Imagine. Even Mugabe thinks he done a great job. It is, I've noticed, a character trait of the power hungry: Grotesque hubris.

Had a great workout today at the Y. Feels wonderful. On the down side, I didn't write a word on the book.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reading: Picking at Insights from Dr. Johnson and Tom Wolf; Saturday Drive to Chincoteague, the Island Misty Made Famous

Today is the 18th of December 2008.

I can't put a photo in here because my Nikon has decided, apparently on it's own volition, to change formats to one this computer can't use. I'll figure it out eventually.

The latest political hooplas include an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at W. during a press conference. Rank insult in his country, getting big laughs in ours. That famous American sense of humor that drives the rest of the world crazy is another thing I love about this country. Reminds me of the joke that before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes because then you'll be a mile away--and you'll have their shoes. W should have kept the shoes and started running.

The other hoopla is that Barack has asked a right-wing evangelical preacher to do the invocation at the BIG CEREMONY coming up in January. He's "reaching across the aisle" as he said he would and some folks don't like it. Well, jeeze, people who reach across the aisle are not gonna be appreciated by people on either side, especially if they are intolerant, arrogant fanatics.

Next time I have a drink, I'm going to have one for old (dead) Dr. Samuel Johnson. Reading interesting article in The New Yorker about the great man. He says a sailor on a boat is a man in jail with a chance of being drown. I should listen to that wisdom.

Reading: Tom Wolf's The Painted Word. He wrote it back in the 70's in reaction to the incomprehensibility of abstract art. Don't ask me why it took me so long to find it. I've been spending significant amounts of my time when I'm in D.C. in the National Gallery of Art and this brief history is enlightening. Braque's little cubes, indeed. And Jackson Pollock? Killed himself drinking, mercifully before he could find out the whole art world changed its mind and decided his "genius" was pure schlock (hint: nobody is buying your stuff--come to think of it, its a hint I should take).

Life: Parents now in nursing home and doing okay; grandson appears to be thriving though Jenny is now back teaching and Konrad is in day care; Terry is stressed out by her job--just back from three days in Atlanta--contract negotiations; we drove up to Chincoteague on Saturday--a walk on the cold, windy beach, ponies in the distance, snow geese in the foreground, a bookstore bought 3 copies of THE BOOK. A nice day.

We are enjoying writing the next book--The Spirit of the Voyage. 80 pages so far.

On the lighter side, I just took an "after" picture of my head and compared it to the "before" picture from 16 months ago. The hairy evidence is that Rogaine works--sort of. Maybe I'll post them here. Watch this space.

Now multi-tasking. Writing this blog and watching the Science channel: Ligers? (tiger + lion) Never heard of such a thing, but there it was, a huge overgrown-looking cat. Humans + chimps? How about a humanzee? Turned out to be untrue and they could have told us that at the beginning of the program. But they had stuff to sell. This is America.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Back from Mexico, Healing Nicely, Back to Writing, and Some Observations

Here I am, like the words to an old country song, down and out on the floor of a bar in Mexico. My brother holds my legs up, treating me for shock, while Bailey, my son's significant other, stands by to translate my situation to the incoming ambulance squad. A life well lived provides its surprises, and that day in Puerto Vallarta I fell while walking across a swaying suspension foot bridge. At near full gallop, I fell headlong into a cement post (I was galloping to keep up with the rhythm of the bridge and found I couldn't slow down when I reached the end--alright, I was horsing around). The nice Mexican ambulance paramedics examined me and deemed me badly bruised on my hip and the small of my back, but nothing broken. Two weeks later, I'm nearly all better. By the way, I was completely sober throughout the entire incident.

Now I'm back in Virginia on the very fine Eastern Shore, off the pain killers, and back to writing, reading, and working out at the Y. I'm 71 pages into the next novel and it's going well. I can always tell. Scenes flow, one from another, and the book begins to assume a shape out of the nebula of some basic, unformed idea. Just keep at it every day so you don't lose that creative rhythm--2 or 3 or 4 pages a day and it doesn't take long to see a book lying there in front of you, still hot from the printer. It's what life is all about--that ultimate level of existence that Maslow called self actualization.

Some observations: The Rightwingers, after accusing Barack of being a leftist, are slack-jawed at his appointees while the leftists are getting suspicious that he is more Right than promised. He's keeping everyone off balance. Love it.

Winter on the Eastern Shore of VA is, so far, just as expected--some nice cold days to get the Christmas spirit flying around freely, and now in the 60's and spring like. I'm warned that there is a lot more winter to come.

Had a book signing last Saturday at a local bookstore. Was very nice. Sold a few books, but more importantly, met a very friendly group of local writers and will join there writer's group that meets in Salisbury once a month. Note: All book stores should offer fresh coffee. The smell of it just makes you want to sit down and read.

My parents are now in a nursing home. Lesson: if you can afford it, get long-term care insurance.

A final note: This is what the very end of Baja California looks like--Cabo San Lucas. I'd always wondered. Here we're approaching it in the early morning after a 24-hour run down from Magdelena bay. In fact, its a resort with lots of tourists and I guess that's good for the local economy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

1000 Miles at Sea--and We Did a Bit of Fishing

This is the M/V Pageantry, an 80-ft. Ocean Alexander, a lovely ocean-going ship that my son, Eli, captains and on which his partner, Bailey is mate and chef. With my brother, John and I on board, we sailed from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta, a 1000-mile trip tha took 6 days. We also did some fishing. Below are some of the ones that didn't get away.

I bring my marlin along side.

My brother and I hoist our wahoo for the camera. Good eating.

This is Bailey and her fish, and her partner, the captain, Eli (the son).

Brother John with his fish.

A jumping marlin, well hooked.

Next time, pix of me lying on a barroom floor in Puerto Vallarta waiting for an ambulance. Really. Watch this space.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Autumn Weekend in the Blue Ridge and Off to Mexico

View from Joe and Fran Harker's Farm, Blue Ridge Mtns., VA

It was my first autumn in eleven years and it was perfect. The election was over, the skies were clear, the temperatures moderate, and foliage perfect. Not to mention the friendship. Thanks, Fran and Joe, we had a dandy time.

It's now Sunday morning, the 9th of November. I'm 16 days away from my 62nd B'day and today I'm off to San Diego where I will join my son, Eli, his partner, Bailey, and my brother, John to take a 4-million-dollar yacht down to Mexico. Been looking forward to this for a long, long time. Watch this space. I'll be reporting in with lots of photos of the trip.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008: The Writer's Journal

Voting in Onancock: Small-town Virginia

Here's my journal for today, November 4th, 2008: Election Day

7:00--Open my eyes after a cat walks across my neck and then I hear rain pattering down on a skylight above my head. Terry is still pretending to be asleep depite cats and rain. I smell the coffee and get up, shower.

7:30--Turn on the tv. The pundits are at it, looking for voting problems around the nation.

8:10--Call my boat captain-fisherman-carpenter-stone mason brother in the Florida Keys who is a rabid liberal. He had already voted. We've been enjoying following the election for the past year including a month together last February, watching Obama beat Hilliary in the primaries on a laptop in front of a fire in snowy Massachusetts.

8:30--News Item: Dixville Notch, N.H. went big time for Obama: A landslide at 15 to 4.

10:00--Friend came over and we talked about the yard work he's going to do for me. Terry getting ready to walk over to vote. Watching the pundits/reporters kill time until the first results start to come in.

10:15--NEWS ITEM: Long, long voting lines in Virginia Beach. It's raining.

10:30--I VOTE! I walked around the corner from our house to the town offices pictured above and, for the second time in 62 years, I cast a ballot in a presidential election (I've been overseas for the past 25 years and the absentee ballots always arrived the day after the election was over). I admit to being very excited about being a part of this in this small, small town. Terry's vote is rejected. She had not registered in time. She sat in a corner like a school girl being disciplined until the verdict was delivered. Was not pleased. Hell hath no fury.....

11:00--I drive to the county dump and drop off a truckload of bagged lawn rakings. The gathered garbage-eating seagulls are not impressed by my presence or by election day. It's still raining. Hard.

12:00--Lunch, more rain. I make this blog entry while I keep and eye on the coverage.

12:30--News item on FOX: Men dressed as Black Panthers (remember them?) allegedly intimidated voters in one Philadelphia voting center. The cops were called and all is well. Will FOX blame a McCain defeat on this incident? You betcha.

5:22--Have a fat scotch in hand and watching the pundits as we come down to the last minutes of suspense. Senator Bird, at least, thinks McCain will win, thinks a huge voter turnout favors Republicans. Flys in face of common wisdom. Pundit: Bird's roll is not to tell the truth. His job is to keep morale up.

5:36--First exit polls: Overwhelming numbers say economy tops the list of concerns but no vote count. What's that all about? I thought exit polls were polls. I'm supposed to get dinner together, but have little interest in eating. Republic pundits say that in the last three days, the McCain campaign finally got it together and if we only had three weeks left to campaign, we'd have it in the bag!

8:15--Returns starting to come in. Obama looking good. Fox news is started to talk about what a failure a Democratic administration is going to be. We'll be, they say, looking back at the Republican years as the good old days.

8:31--Electoral vote count: Obama 81, McCain 34. Obama takes New Hampshire, is ahead in Florida, and, my goodness, is projected to win PA.

10:11--Barack has won Ohio and Pennsylvania.

News item: McCain can't catch up. Let's wrap this up. Our man is projected to take it and the Dems will have Congress, too.
Time to sleep.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wandering the Nations Capitol--Yet Again

Franklin D. Roosevelt: Could he be Barack's Template?

Last week I was free to wander the nation's capitol. All alone, I set forth from my hotel near Dupont Circle, catch the metro, and in a heartbeat, I'm dumped off in the land of tourists, museums, marble Federal buildings, and, presumably, the inner workings of our government.

While I was witness to precious little government doings (as noted in a previous blog, the public is barricaded out of the serious business), the weather was cool, crisp, and clear and I had a pretty good day walking around the great monuments to the men and women who founded/defended/died for our country. I found the names of some friends of mine who died in Viet Nam and it caused me to wonder, all over again, about all that. To be truthful, it wasn't the names of the dead stretching out on that black marble wall that got to me--it was the phone book-thick directory of their names that made those painful old echoes in my mind return. It was as heavy as a local telephone book--58,000 names--on and on, and , as I leafed through the plastic-covered pages looking for just three names, it struck me that, in that too-heavy book, I was holding the names of dead men that should have been living like I have been living--raising children, having grandchildren, traveling, eating, drinking, making love.....

But what's 58,000 dead when you when you can see 6,000,0000 dead? Before I reached the Viet Nam War memorial, I walked through the Holocaust Museum. That gets the human-beings-are-really-savage-beasts juices flowing--and then, with visions of unspeakable horror floating in my brain, I passed through the FDR memorial that was all about war and how bad it is and how it really never should happen again. Then, there I was, in the midst of my generation's war and all its dead and then on the way back to the hotel the news stands were full of papers with headlines about this generation's war. The Mall at our nation's capitol is dignified and haunted and very sad; it's all a very fine and ongoing madness and very old news, and I'm sure, hardly worth mentioning.

What is worth mentioning, at least in passing, is his observation: while I was studying the barbaric madness in the Holocaust Museum, I was mingling with hundreds of middle schoolers on class field trips. When a group of us looked down into a pit filled with photographs of naked women's bodies that had been cut up and pickled by the Nazi doctors for "research purposes," I heard nary an adolescent snicker.

I had a great deal of trouble sleeping that night. The next day, I avoided dead old friends and monsters wearing swastikas and spent the day hanging tough in the National Gallery of Art, the intent being to balance the human genius for murder with the one it has for creating things profoundly beautiful. Watch this space.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Final Days: The Right Digs Down Deep

I'm in D.C. keeping my wife company while she attends to business. Great fun having the time to wander freely about this great city taking in the sights. I've become pretty good at handling what Europeans call "the underground," whizzing under the city on the subway to get from one place to another.

Going underground is an apt metaphor for this, the final two weeks in the presidential campaign. With all the polls showing a pretty decent margin for an Obama win, the Right is digging down deeper and deeper into the mud trying to come up with something that will scare the bejesus out of the undecided voters. In the past week, they dug up the scary old term "socialist." I'm old enough to remember what they want us to remember--some vision of the Soviet Gulag and goose-stepping Russian soldiers marching through Red Square, or some welfare state where the government controls our lives and where all the lazy bums have cradle-to-grave security.

On the contrary, having lived in Europe for fourteen years, when I think of socialism as a real, working form of government, I see not the disaster and horrors of the Soviet system, but rather the stable, happy Scandinavian countries.

But forget the Swedes. For various reasons the Scandinavian system wouldn't work in the United States, and, in any event, I'm no Socialist. No, better here the rough and tumble, hurly-burly of capitalism with its, as my grandfather used to say, cycles of "boom and bust." The capitalist roller coaster is a better fit with the American personality. We are capitalism and capitalism is us. We just got busted, though, and, if we're going to continue to embrace the heady joy ride that is true capitalism, we're going to have to be willing to ride it out. So, my advice to the Right is to come up from underground, clean the mud from your slings, and get back on the roller coaster. Obama is no socialist, he just wants to install some safety features on the great ride that is America.

Friday, October 17, 2008

In Praise of English Majors and Sailboats

See this beautiful lady? Her name is Seawind and last weekend she became ours. The invention of the sailboat was, without a doubt, one of mankind's most profound insights into tool making. The simple idea of putting sails in the wind did nothing less than allow mankind to populate the world. But never mind that--just look at her. Few things are more beautiful (she's an Alberg 30 for those interested) and we'll be sailing her on the Chesapeake as soon as we can sail her down from her present home in Cutchogue, L.I.

Next, the election. Less than three weeks left to go and Obama is pulling ahead in all the polls. This is causing much teeth gnashing and hopeless squeaking by the conservative pundits/press. Despite all their efforts to sink the Democratic boat with gales of negative rhetoric, the lovely vessel of liberalism floats proud.

It is wonderful to note that the Liberal media get much of the blame. Imagine, a bunch of English majors tilting the most important election in the Free World. And everyone decries our lack of leadership in science and math. I say, if we are to defend our basic human freedoms, we need a whole lot more people with good backgrounds in Shakespeare.

By the way, I was very pleased to see that Chris Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley, the founder of the National Review, was fired from his job as one of their writers after he came out in support of Obama (see: Apparently he pointed out that conservatives/Republicans have done a fine job of trashing our country at home and abroad. Now why can't more (very) intelligent people on the Right see the light? I suspect Christopher Buckley was an English major. I know his father was a sailor. He would have appreciated Seawind.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Spinning Punditry into the Sticky Web of Deception

When, after a summer of dealing with hectic and exhausting family matters I finally had a few days to do nothing (what I thought retirement was really like), I found myself, between naps in this Peachtree City hotel room, glued to the pundits on the tube. I should know better.

It's not as if what Chris Matthews says holds any water, or that Bill O'Riley's leaking gibberish matters a whit. Nonetheless, I find the swirling, muddy rapids of the American political scene fascinating. Perhaps that's what can be expected after spending a quarter of a century living overseas.

And then, the debates. If you were among the undecided voters before the three encounters between Barack and John (unimaginable to me), then you probably still are. Nothing new was said, no new ground broken, no egregious gaffs were made, but we did get a chance to see them together (even though they were loathe to look at each other--a sign of weakness, no doubt). After the face-to-face encounters, Barack's lead in the polls has only increased due, no doubt, to some bubbling, convecting stew of the flushable economy, the lingering wars, and Mr. McCain's own close-to-meltdown strategies. Add to it the lovely Ms. Moose Killer's coming face to face with big-time, prime-time political hardball. We can be certain of only one thing: No matter how she struggled to slog through the melting permafrost of her inexperience and lack of knowledge, the pundits on the Right worked desperately to spin an impermeable, glowing web of support from half-truths and rationalizations. My guess is they were all, way down deep in their growly little souls, horrified.

Mother and Baby Doing Fine, Thank You.

Beautiful daughter, beautiful grandson: Such a rich and fine thing. After the usual nine months of wondering, Konrad Douglas Scarborough arrived in perfect form after just six hours of labor. 9 lbs. 4 oz and 22.5 in. long. How about them apples? We will be celebrating for a long time.

One of the best perks of retirement was being able to spend a wonderful week with Jenny at her home in the beautiful horse country just north of Atlanta waiting for Konrad's arrival. We walked and talked, played Scrabble, read, watched re-runs of M.A.S.H., made two, 45-min. practice runs to the hospital birthing center just in case Daddy was not home from work when she reached critical mass. As it turned out, Rob had been home only an hour last Friday when labor started and I didn't have to drive after all. It fell to me to sit in the back and keep a stopwatch on the contractions. We made it with time to spare and he was born at 16 minutes after midnight on the morning of 20 September 2008. Mother and baby doing fine, thank you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

News Item: Man Loses Artificial Eye

After I had finished pouring over the political punditry in the local paper while eating my lunch today, I came across this:

Last night police were called to investigate a man swinging a Star Wars-style light saber outside a local apartment complex. He turned out to be a migrant worker who said he was searching for his lost artificial eye. Police suggested he suspend his search until the next day when the light would be better.

Because the taste of politics was still in my mouth (along with the fried clams and slaw) and echoing in my brain, I had to relate this wonderful back-page trifle to the current campaign. To wit: One can assume this man's political sympathies would lie with the Democrats. Think about it--an immigrant, an artificial eye, a light saber, and a night-time setting. So, the guy is in this country to do jobs the average American is loathe to do, he has no health insurance, hence the desperate, midnight search, and with, of all things, a child's toy--a dimly glowing plastic "saber" which indicates he might be too poor to buy a real flashlight.

The typical Republican view might be this: He/She is an immigrant and hence, somehow, at some basic level, is undesirable for one or more of the following reasons: He/She probably has an odd-sounding, un-American name. He/She probably speaks English with an undesirable accent. There is a very good chance his/her skin shade is a bit too dark and his/her features a bit to bold for Red-Blooded Right Wing American tastes nor does he/she hunt or even own a firearm. And the looking-for-my-artificial-eye alibi is obviously a phony one. This foreigner was no doubt a opportunist looking for a chance to score.

Ah, but I'm cynical when it comes to the Right Wingers among us. It's difficulty for me to take seriously those who think the Earth is 6,000 years old, who deny evolution, and who, despite the vast amount of daily evidence to the contrary, think an all-powerful, all all seeing, all forgiving, infinitely merciful God is up there loving and protecting us.

As for the migrant worker looking for his eye, I feel some empathy. It's hard enough to see the world clearly with two eyes, never mind with just one. Maybe that's the problem with the Right Wing extremist element--they've only got one eye and the other one is lost in the grass somewhere.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Manipulating the American Mind: Watching the Campaign Unfold

It's wonderful to witness this, the beginning of last few months before the great American presidential election of 2008. We are, apparently, a nation of morons who can be counted on to change our political affiliations based on the day a vice-presidential running mate is announced (announce it too soon and I'll vote this way, announce it too late and I'll vote the other way). Or if Barack Obama's mother was too young when she gave birth to him, I can be counted on to vote for the other guy.

And take the "Dr." I heard interviewed on the news the other day. She was terminally bitter about how her candidate, Hillary, had been treated (she lost), and so was going to vote for McCain and Company despite disagreeing with everything he stands for. I wonder what kind of doctor she is. One would assume she bought her degree on the Internet.

And how about all the trash being put out on the blogosphere about Mr. Obama. The hope is that the All-American Moron won't be able to see clearly through the mud smeared across the windshields of our minds and won't bother to question the motivations and characters of those who do the smearing.

We need to think, people. Stop and ask yourself the real question here. It's not "is Obama a Muslim?" It's what are the motivations of the people who want us to believe he is. And if you won't vote for him simply because he is "black," then read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. You'll find that it is your patriotism that is in question, not his.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Getting Back in Writing Shape: Working On the Body-Brain Connection

The last two months--no, the last four months--have be such an uproar of change and adjustments that I began to think I'd never be able to sit still long enough to get another writing project going. It takes some sort of routine to write well, at least to write a longer work, like a short story or novel. I knew that after the dust settled, after the emotional storm of a complete life change had passed, that I would need to get back into shape, cognitively and physically. This takes time--and time takes patience.

To that end, as far as the mind goes, I like the surroundings to be the same, the sounds--noises, squeaks, cat scratchings, birds chirpings--the feeling of the air, and even the smells (morning coffee? Very fine). Also critical is a dependable lack of disruptions. When I was writing on the boat, the only disruption I could count on was a cat climbing on my lap, also very fine. And now, finally, I've got all that going here ashore. The house is put together enough so we can live in it comfortably, the yard work is minimal, and I can line up my other non-writing, house projects, one my one, and get them done--whenever.

Now the schedule is working out something like this: up at 7:00--that's A.M. I'd be up earlier but the Red Sox games don't get over sometimes until past midnight)and in my chair with this laptop going by 7:30. I've got the first chapter of the long-self-promised young adult adventure novel done (draft form--let's call it a sketch), so the book is underway and it feels wonderful, like having a purpose again. By Noon, my brain is full, as the Far Side cartoon had it, and I need to be excused from this chair--it's time to move.

So, today I got up and spent a couple of hours getting rid of (surendering) my Guam driver's license and acquiring the Virginia version (it required dealing with the usual DMV hassels and took me three trips back home to get just the right documentation). Then I switched to my workout clothes and went for a delicious hour's walk/run down to the harbor and along quiet summer streets lined with crape myrtle and green lawns.

There's a good chance VATNA, the boat on Guam, will sell this week and then we'll buy a nice, shallow-draft, 22 ft. skiff to have on the Chesapeake and for the shallow water inside the barrier islands on the sea side of the Eastern Shore. Wonderful. At some point we'll also get a good sailboat that is capable of cruising the Bay. This evening we looked at a slip where we can keep the boat(s) and it looked perfect. Love it when things are perfect.

So, there is life after teaching and it's starting to look nice, fine, great and cool. We keep our heads down, though, lest a sniper get us.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mark Twain and Rightous Indignation: Getting Serious About Blogging

Just read the recent Time Magazine article about Mr. Clemens and began wondering what he would have done with the Internet and would he have been a blogger? Well, sure he would have, in spades, would be my guess. A man who made a fortune on writing and then lost it all trying to develop a writing "machine" would have gone nuts over the machine I'm now using to write this. Sometimes I pity those poor writers who were born and who died too early to witness the mind-boggling, culture-warping technological advances of the past 20 years.

But never mind technology. Reading the article was a reminder of the great old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Twain was aghast at the same things we need to be aghast at: racism, greed, imperialism, and arrogant, murderous religiosity. The technology changes but the dark workings of human nature continue unabated. The world was as much of a mess in 1900 as it is today.

So, here's a suggestion that Twain might support. He was, like myself, a great traveler who spent much time abroad. He said that nothing inoculates against racism like traveling and as racism is caused by small-mindedness and small-mindedness is caused by lack of exposure to the wider world of possibilities, the government should stop the wars it has going and spend equal amounts of money on sending each an every American overseas for a while. How long? Well, each of us would be required to live with a foreign family, eat their food, and learn to speak their language more or less fluently before would be allowed to return home.

And you don't get to pick where you go. The Committee on the Foreign Placement of U.S. Citizens for Purposes of Expanding Their Minds To Wipe Out Ignorance and Narrow Mindedness would decide that. We might send someone like Rush Limbaugh to Nepal say, to live in a yurt and learn to love Yak milk. I'd like to see that. And he'd be allowed to speak only Nepalese. That would shut him up for a while. And Ann Coulter? Where would we send dear gentle Ann? I'll have to think about that and make a recommendation to the Committee.

Friday, July 4, 2008

State-of-the-Art TV? Waiting for Godot or Proper Installment

You order stuff on line, from the other side of the world, and this is what can happen: You end up watching the Red Sox though your feet on and old stone-age set while the 47" HD set sits in its box. Short version of a long story? When the boys came to set it up, they didn't have a wall bracket to mount it on. Thought we already had one. Why would we already have one? I don't know. Meanwhile, the guy who installed the satellite dish put in the wrong one--not the HD version. Maybe we should have had one of those, too. Don't ask me. So, we need to get back on the phone to set up re-installation appointments. Easy? Nope. Yesterday we were put on hold for at least half an hour trying to get it done.

Am I whining about my perfect life? Shame on me. Today, July 4th, is the actual first day of my retirement, the day I'm actually legally separated from the Dept. of Defense Dependents School system after 28 years of Federal service. Below is a picture I took today of our perfect, 4th of July little town, Onancock, VA, a place where Walt Disney wouldn't have to change a thing to begin filming a movie starring Opie and Lassie and Huckleberry Finn.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Capitol Under Siege: What a Difference 20 Years Makes

One summer day, I'd say it was twenty years ago, I was alone in D.C. with no place to go and no promises to keep, as the song goes. After wandering around the Mall, I found myself walking up the broad and lovely steps of the Capitol building. Instead of going straight on up and into the rotunda itself, I went around the side, to the wings, where I found an open door--a side entrance. In I went. Unchallenged, I went up a staircase and began wandering down the corridors of power. It was, I admit, a bit of a heady feeling. Here I was, Joe Average America, freely exploring the haunts of folks who are on the nightly news, the arbiters of the American Dream. I felt as though I, too, was one of the Great Elected Upper Crust.

Incredibly, I continued to rubberneck my way through the building, going in and out of doors, up and down stairways as though I owned the place, as though, as an American taxpayer, I belonged here as much as the suited pols or their assistants I occasionally ran into. After an hour or so, I exited through another side door feeling as though I had, more than any other common tourist that day, experienced the business end of the Republic.

Oh, what a difference a couple of decades makes. Yesterday, as I repeated my walk around the Mall and again ended up at the steps of Capitol Hill, I was met by the scene pictured above: police were everywhere and streets cordoned off with big warning signs. Now, instead of being able to randomly visit the Congressperson of your choice, the voter must join a tightly controlled group of other voters/tourists and be led around by the nose by young, summer-job tour guides. Such a sad development. It left me with the feeling that our freedoms had been necessarily diminished, that the soul of the country had been blocked off, our access to ourselves and our freedoms painfully constricted.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

For a Lesson in Evolution, I Visit the National Zoo

Ever in search of the truth about the great lie of evolution (the sick brainchild of a dead white man pushed by the Godless, left-wing, liberal, hippy, Communist, Pinko, etc., etc. agenda), I walked from my D.C. hotel to the National Zoo. There I met with my (new) friend Silvia, a six-year old low-land gorilla. I actually don't know if her name was Silvia, but I think that's what she said. It was difficult to understand her with mouth full of grass. Not that it mattered what she had in her mouth. Gorilla's are ill equipped, physiologically, to produce speech. So, I switched to signing, remembering that some apes have been taught this non-verbal way of communicating.

"Mind if I take your picture?" I asked.
"I don't have a choice, do I?" she asked, rhetorically.
I snapped a few photos and when I asked her what she thought about the idea that we, humans and apes, were all one be happy family, she laughed a sad, mouth-full-of-grass type of laugh and started wagging her fingers and moving her hands. She said, "Now there's a crazy idea, Dougiea. You'll never see a low-land gorilla hunting down and killing, say, mountain gorillas. Or anything else, for that matter. No one in my family would never do a thing like that."

"Well," I said, "as crazy as it seems, there are those misguided, atheistic types who believe it; that apes like you are related to humans like us."

Silvia sighed a patient sigh. "I'll tell you, when you find a bunch of humans who like to sit around and peacefully eat veggies all day, maybe I'll agree we're related."

"Actually," I said, "we do have groups of humans who behave that way."

Silvia shot me a look and asked, "They eat grass, too?"

"No, they smoke it. The grass. At least that's what they call it. It's not exactly grass, though."

"Do they look like me?" she asked.

"Sort of. More than the rest of us, at least. They prefer wearing minimal clothes and tend to be hairy."

"My type," she said. "Maybe there is something to this Evolution theory after all."

"You mean," I said, "that apes are descended from liberal, grass-smoking, vegetarians?"

"Sounds like we're getting somewhere now," she said.

"What about the right-wing types? What do think their lineage might be?"

Silvia wrapped a long arm around herself and scratched the middle of her back, something I wish I could do. In silent retaliation, I waggled my opposable thumbs. "'Don't try that old line," she said, "apes and opossums have opposable thumbs and even some dinosaurs had them. Now, tell me about these right-wing types."

"They believe that shooting animals is a deeply meaningful way to get in touch with nature. They believe in doing just about anything to anyone if there's a lot of money in it. And they pray a lot and they believe that anyone who doesn't believe in what they believe in is going to burn in Hell forever."

Silvia looked thoughtful, paused in her chewing for a moment, and signed, "Do right wingers have opposable thumbs"
"As far as I know," I said.
"Well," she signed back. "Evolution is a process. It takes a long, long, long time. Sounds like they're getting there. Just be patient."

The Accidental Tourists: Easy and His Pal in D.C.

There's Easy (short for Taking It Easy) on the right, leaning this way and that in front of the National Gallery of Art, and there's his pal in the left, in complete control of the situation, as is her habit. Terry, in her new role as Federal Education Association Director for Dept. of Defense Dependents Domestic Elementary and Secondary Schools had four days of meetings in the Omni Hotel in D.C. and, as I wasn't doing anything in particular, I tagged along.
On Saturday, we took the subway/underground (I prefer the latter term--a hint of mystery in it especially after observing some of the denizens of its tunnels) for the short ride into the city and did a little touring. The National Gallery of Art is always a great place to hang on a languid Washington summer day while throngs of overheated tourists with screaming kids and young people trying hard not to look like overheated tourists wandered about the Mall taking in a Folk Festival.
Highlights of the visit to the Gallery included some Picassos, some Matisses, The Farm by Joan Miro that used to hang in Hemingway's house at the Vinca Vigia, and a splendid display of ancient treasures from the National Museum in Kabul. We had a very fine lunch in the Gallery cafeteria with other like-minded visitors (earthy-crunchy, artsy-fartsy people tending toward and beyond middle age), and then managed to beat a dandy thunderstorm back to the underground entrance. All in all, it was great fun spending the day together and doing something together rather than spending the day together doing separate things. Today is Sunday and I'm told we are going to walk up to the zoo that is four blocks from the hotel and observe some of Washington's other caged beasts. Watch this space for some interesting photos of cheetahs and gorillas and, with luck, a Congressperson or two (not that they could top the black cat featured in an earlier post).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tourney du Chat Noir: The Cognitive Dissonance of Retirement

Zeke the Old Cat and I are apparently experiencing the same sort of cognitive dissonance brought on by the unexpected suddenness of retirement. You can't really be ready for it no matter how many retirement parties friends throw for you. While, as a teacher, I'm used to long summer vacations, I can't wrap my brain around the idea that this vacation is not going to end. Its very endlessness makes it impossible to grab a hold of, yet I'm anxious to do something with it. I'm finding our evening happy hours are too long and too much wine is being drunk. This results in poor sleep, hours lying awake worrying about things one should never worry about when one is retired. Then, in the morning, you get up and still feeling tired, you try to get a grip on what is was you were going to do once you didn't have to go to work and weren't tired and stressed any more. Of course, I should give myself a break here. I've only been retired (not working) for a week and an half and my official retirement date is July 4th, still a ways off.

As for Zeke the Old Cat, he is having his own difficulties adjusting to his new land-based life. He spends a great deal of energy wandering about the house mewling and howling. I assume he's frustrated at not being able to get out into the delicious out of doors he smells just beyond the window screens. So, last evening, figuring he's had enough time to know where home is, we let him out to do some exploring under our watchful eyes. He set about, in a pretty methodical way for a cat, to examine the back yard. After a good hour, he went back in the house and disappeared. We got the feeling that he'd seen enough and couldn't decide if he liked it or not.

I don't think I'll have any trouble liking what I'm finding in this new world I've jumped off into. I just need to give myself a chance to grasp the mechanics of the free time now dangling in front of me. Yard work is helpful and tomorrow we head off to D.C. for a week of Terry's FEA meetings. Yesterday we ordered a brand new Prius (touring version), and I'm trying to settle into some sort of morning writing routine to sort of ease my way into this unexplored country.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Welcome to Your Next World: Reinventing Oneself in Retirement

Oh, the indignities of old age; they are first visited upon us at retirement parties. Here I am bedecked with diapers and coke bottle glasses and a clock to measure out my last hours. It's a comic vision of an all-to-real possible future as anyone who has cared for elderly parents knows. Yet, we're not ready for that yet. Today we move off the boat and go to the Hilton for a night and tomorrow morning we're on the 6:30 flight to Honolulu. Then to Houston, then to Norfolk, then across the mouth of the Chesapeake on that great tunnel-bridge and on up to Onancock and our new lives. I'm planning on a self reinvention of sorts. We owe ourselves a reinvention when we retire; a re-birth as something new, use the small wisdoms we're accrued over 61 years and make the last decades another fine adventure worthy of the one we just finished.
17 June 2008: At the Houston airport
A few hours ago I finished the longest part of the journey home--Guam to Honolulu to Houston. I'm now, with burning tired eyes, ready to walk from the Presidents Club to the gate for the last leg, Houston to Norfolk. I'll be glad to get there and meet up with Terry and make the hour-and-a-half drive across the tunnel-bridge and up the Eastern Shore to Onancock and home. Draggy stuff, this long-distance travel. Terry just called on the cell--she's in Newark.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Adrift, Sailor, Adrift!

I've got two weeks until I'm cut adrift from the safe harbor of full-time teaching. Blessed be he who floats free on a tranquil sea, all sails full and by, to determine his days only day by day, such as he pleases. For example, take these lovely blossoms floated across the cove last week. They found refuge under the stern of our boat for a brief time and then, turning slowly brown as they absobed the salt water, passed on. Of course, their time will be all too brief before they join the mud at the bottom of the cove....
Things left to do? The LIST: Fumigate the boat, get the truck ready for shipping, finished packing up my classroom, party with friends, and a myriad of other details. But, the stress is pretty much over. Thirty-two years worth of it. All those special kids I helped (or didn't), some of them now middle aged and paunchy. Makes me shudder. Think of it. Mr. Arvidson's Opus.
Then, on to the plane for the grueling trip, lubricated with scotch, from one of Earth's hemispheres to the other. Settling in to a small-town, Chesapeake Bay idyll. My life, as I plan it, will be filled with reading and Red Sox, scribbling and scrimping, long happy-hour afternoons, etc, etc. and then, one day, I, too, shall turn brown and sink into the mud at the bottom of the cove.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day: Our Last on Guam

Here's a shot of what we faced today, Mother's Day, aboard our sailboat, VATNA on the island of Guam: Flowers, champagne (in the more correct, before-Noon form of a mimosa), and a small bouquet. It's a fine day here, too--sunny and breezy and it's excellent to be a love---whoops, I meant "a live." Slip of the fingers there.
I was up early this Sunday morning while the "mother," the "a love" person being celebrated, managed to sleep in, surrounded by her cats, despite my crashing around in the galley. I did a 50 minute run, ending it with a 15-minute walk and felt very cool about that, and then off to the Navy Exchange to get the necessities for the day.
Now, aftewards, Terry, her energy and intent bolstered by a cup of expresso, is packing up my clothes in preparation for leaving the island. For the past half and hour she's been dogging me to try on pants the better to sort them into these-go piles or these-don't-go piles. A pleasant enough exercise after my long run and half a bottle of bubbly.
I have 20 days left to work in my life. We get on the plane 17 June 2008 and fly, via Honolulu, and Newark, and then to Norfolk. With luck the cats will arrive with us and we'll all drive across the tunnel-bridge and up Rt. 13 on the Eastern Shore of Virginia to our new life ashore. We haven't sold the boat and I don't anticipate that happening before we leave. In that case, we'll keep her here and I'll fly back next spring and sail her to Austalia via the Caroline Islands and Papua New Guinea. Such a dandy adventure that would be.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Guam Democratic Caucus in a Cockfight Ring and Viewing a Delicious Horizon, Yet.....

All we are is dust in the wind, all's well that ends well, I wish I was in the land of cotton, but, frankly, dear, I dont' give a damn---or do I?

In my last entry, long ago, I was celebrating a great sail and squirming under the pressure of an uncertain future--would I retire and would Terry get elected to the higher position in the teachers' union, and would be subsequently move back to our home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

It has, in fact, all come to pass: My retirement is final, Terry is now--or will be, come August--the Federal Educaton Association Director for the Department of Defense Domestic Elementary and Seconday Schools, and we are, as of June 13th, leaving Guam for the lovely backwater town(literally) of Onancock, VA.

Such bitter-sweet surrender. If before I was squirming, now I'm looking back over my shoulder, gazing reluctantly at what we are indeed surrendering: the close proximity and joy of great friendships, a wonderful, world-class cruising sailboat, a tropical paradise.

Meanwhile, the Barack-Hillary debacle reaches across the far Pacific and finds this paradise (I must add here, it's a paradise if you have enough money--just enough money and no more) and I was there, casting my vote. The picture above is of me at the community center in our village of Santa Rita. I'm the haole on the left. As I was casting my vote under the smiling gaze of the mayor and a dozen volunteer election workers, it struck me that the last time I was here, I was watching a cockfight. Right here, where I was standing, checking the Obamba box, chickens with razors strapped to their legs, were killing each other in seconds flat.

It was a thrill, let me tell you, to have been part of this particular political cockfight, though its been somewhat elongated compared to the rooster's fight to the death. I felt famous, somehow, in the tiny village in the middle of the incredibly remote island of Guam--a speck in the vast galaxy that is the Pacific Ocean. I was casting a ballot that might make a difference, even under these circumstances. And I was right. Later it turned out that Barack won Guam by just seven votes. Had I not been there---who knows?

We are leaving Guam though, in about six weeks. Packing it in. Gone. One problem--so far, the boat has not sold and the phone is not ringing off the hook with potential buyers. Oh, well. If that's the case, we'll just have to adjust. If VATNA, sweet, sweet VATNA, does not sell by next January, I'll be forced to return, forced to get her ready, and forced to sail her away. I think I'll go south. A three day sail south of here are tiny atolls where they live in thatched huts. I want to see them. And I want to see the remote islands of Papua New Guinea and sail the coast of Australia where my hero Captain Cook came to fame. So, adjust we will. Even at my age. I guess I can give a damn for a while longer and let my dust blow around some more.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rainy Sunday, Great Sail Yesterday, McCarthy's THE ROAD, Moving Back to VA?

Today in Guam its raining like a mug, as my son used to say. Rained all night, hard, on the cabin top of the boat, and it was very fine to wake up to the sound. Yesterday we sailed on a friend's lovely Tayana 43 and while out there, got caught in the shear line that's now over us. The leading edge of it caught us off guard as there didn't appear to be much wind in it as we watched it come over the island and descend on us. Nearly knocked us over before we could get the double-reefed main out and de-powered and the jib rolled up.
Never mind. It was all good fun and a nice small adventure. Back to reading/writing. Just finished Cormack McCarthy's The Road. Advice: Don't start it if you're depressed about the state of the world--or anything else, for that matter. More advice: Read it anyway. McCarthy is one of my favorite wordsmiths for a lot of reasons that don't include his use of humor to lighten things up a a bit once in a while. Hell, even Shakespeare did that.
No, the reason I admire McCarthy's writing is the haunting quality of the prose. He doesn't abide by the usual conventions of punctuation. No quotation marks, few commas, and lots of incomplete sentences (no subjects, just a verb and a prepositional phrase, maybe). The text is presented in short burst of paragraphs separated on the page by a few empty spaces.
It all works. You always know which character is speaking and the plot moves along, quivering and gripping, as the father and son move with painful slowness and uncertainty through a savage, ashen, cannibalistic, post-apocalyptic world.
I was into so deeply that when I left my first copy on the airplane when I flew back from the Mainland last month, that I bought another at an airport bookstore, price be damned.
I haven't written anything but blog entries since last summer after finishing A Drop of Wizard's Blood, the third book in my Eye of the Stallion fantasy trilogy. It is hard leaving a book after spending a year with the characters and their adventures. Most writers report a feeling of loss or loneliness and that goes for me, too. I wonder how McCarthy feels.
Today's rain will allow me to take the time to finish filling out my retirement paperwork. Once June rolls around (three months to go--an agony of waiting), I'll have all the time I need to write. I'm especially interested in the virtual book tours (VBT), now all the rage for writers to peddle their stuff on the Internet. Meanwhile, you can still order the first book, The Face in Amber on Amazon.
Last: We're getting ready in our minds for a possible move back to Virginia. We own a home in Onancock, a town that time forgot, on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. Perfect.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Winter's Tale: Revisiting the Summer Walk

I'm now relaxing in my room at the Sheraton Hotel at Bradley Airport listening to planes take off.

Just finished with being home in Massachusetts helping out. Cold, cold, cold. Tried to get walking in on a regular schedule, but did not have much luck. The weather (snow, freezing rain, temps in the low teens and twenties) and an unpredictable schedule kept me from my appointed rounds except for some rare times when I could squeeze one in.

On one of those occasions, though, after a light snow, I carried my new camera and caught these raccoon tracks, fairly fresh, in the long driveway that meanders through the forest. There are some more pix, too, of my sister's house on the pond in the forest, and some roads and fields.

More than just taking pictures with a camera, I've been taking more interesting mental pix and integrating them into the general idea for a novel. I'm excited about it. Another New England story with all the salient New England stuff-- family, gray skies, dirty snow, then blue skies and fresh pure air and frigid air, the grinding sameness of every day as the winter wears on, interminable and forbidding.

Now its back to Guam for the last four months of work before I retire. Can't wrap my brain around that idea. Reading: The Road by Cormack McCarthy. It is a fitting book for a New England winter, all ash and bitterness. This past few weeks, while living on a pond in a forest, I also dipped into Thoreau's Walden. His scolding, finger wagging wisdom, while sound enough advice, can get a bit tiresome.