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:

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.