We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Johnson City, Texas, where they established the tradition of firing up for the Christmas holidays by covering the Blanco County courthouse with god-knows-how-many hundreds-of-thousands of lights, hanging in strands from the roof edge to the ground and noting the start of the holiday season in the Hill Country with a bang … a round of fireworks at about 7 PM Friday, as soon as it was well-dark. The firework show was lavish – and the three rows of vendor pavilions and the spectators in courthouse square were so close to it that little bits of spent ash from the fireworks sifted down on us. I hadn’t seen anything so splendid, or been so close – practically underneath it all – since a Fourth of July celebration at the Rio Cibolo Ranch in 2009.

The Blanco Courhouse - all lit up.

The Blanco Courhouse – all lit up.

The trunks of the pecan and oak trees star-scattered on the lawn around the courthouse were strung with lights, and the facades of many establishments around the courthouse square were also lavishly lit up. This whole ‘lighting for Christmas’ kicked off similar displays in other small communities and towns, but Johnson City is still the lead event. The crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings were substantial and in the proper mood for buying. My daughter and I made our expenses Friday evening, so sales on Saturday and Sunday were gravy. Our expenses were more than just the quite reasonable table/booth fee, since Johnson City is slightly more than an hour drive from home. We considered the drive to and from for three days running; two such trips at ten o’clock at night on a relatively unlighted country highway, with drunk drivers, speeding trucks, suicidal deer … and said, ‘oh, hell no.’

The nearest available affordable lodgings turned out to be at the Miller Creek RV Resort, which has three little cabins with a bathroom and functional kitchenette for rent. We booked one for two nights; the cabin porch presented a lovely view of the creek, which we were never to relish, as we were there only to sleep – long and deeply, following ten or twelve hours of active selling. The Miller’s Creek RV Park is a lovely little place, by the way; immaculately groomed and landscaped. It’s not one of those luxury destination RV resorts by any means, but a modest comfortable place, beautifully arranged – they even have a minuscule dog park, in addition to the usual facilities.

I think that the most reassuring part of our experience this last weekend wasn’t entirely due to the satisfactory sales – it was the experience itself. The people in this smallish Hill Country town came together to put on their yearly extravaganza. Volunteers from various local organizations giving it their all; families with children and polite teenagers, lined up in front of the cotton-candy vendor, right next to us. That vendor had the brilliant inspiration to sell his cotton-candy spun around a lighted plastic wand, which made the wad of candy look like clouds with a varicolored lightening-storm going on behind it. (Purchase the wand – get unlimited refills of cotton-candy!)

A look down the Market area.

A look down the Market area.

Any number of those polite teenagers came and bought origami earrings from my daughter, or inveigled their parents to buy them – indeed, there was one particularly engaging teenager who admired the earrings so much that my daughter sighed and gave her the particular pair that she favored, asking only that when Engaging Teenager had the money, to come back and pay for them. The very next night, Engaging Teenager returned with four crumpled dollar bills and four quarters. She confessed to wanting to be a writer and talked at length about what she liked in the way of books, how she kept being distracted by new ideas when writing, and how she was bound and determined to finish a story of hers for her grandmother’s Christmas present – because Gran had asked for just that thing. Engaging Teenager has the very same problem that I did, way back in the early days of my scribbling career; to whit – never being able to finish anything. We talked for a bit about that; reassuring and encouraging Engaging Teenager as an aspiring writer, though I suppose that we will never know if we did her any good. I did give her a copy of Lone Star Sons (autographed with a personal message, of course!), assuring Engaging Teenager that my one YA book venture might be a help in demonstrating the art of short adventure-writing. Such a nice kid – we hope that later teenagery won’t spoil her charm and spirit.

There was the procession of lighted automobiles, trucks, and tractors, some of them towing floats for the lighted parade on Saturday, the marching band and the senior citizen synchronized marching team with their lighted lawn-chairs … it was all very reassuring to me. Small-town America is still here, still confident, still ably conducting their own affairs, neighbor to neighbor – even when the neighbor is only a member of the peripatetic small-business gypsy-market. (I took pictures, using the ‘night’ function on the camera. Alas – none of those pictures came out very well at all.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

Speaking of gypsy marketing; I bought my Christmas present indulgence for myself; a pair of vintage earrings from one of the other vendors. His family business specialized in vintage and estate jewelry, mostly silver and a large part reclaimed from a smelter in San Antonio. You know – those businesses who buy old silver and gold jewelry; it goes to be melted down. This enterprise has an agreement with the local smelter to let them come in, look over the takings and purchase at cost those items with artistic merit. But my Christmas present for myself wasn’t one of those so rescued; they were from an estate sale. Described as silver – I thought they had a gold wash – and reddish-brown jasper stones; this was a pair of acorn-shaped earrings. I liked them very much, especially as they go with the brown tweed Edwardian walking suit outfit. So – my present for myself.
Oh, and I wore a different vintage outfit every one of the three days. They worked very well for merchandising purposes – and yes, I will do this again. Many times.

So, I am taking a break from writing about political stuff this week, in this last stretch before the elections. For one reason – I have said what I have to generally say about it all, several times over, and for year after year; just not interested in finding a way of saying it all again. For another, there are bloggers and commenters who are saying it all much better than I could – about the possible apotheosis of Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua, the possible repercussions of said apotheosis, and the fighting chances of The Donald. Frankly, it impresses me that he pisses off a whole lot of individuals who have a long, long, long history of insulting and denigrating me, as a military veteran, a proud member of the aspiring middle class, and Tea Party participant. No, he isn’t the answer to every political maiden’s ardent prayer; he’s a loud, proud, out and out oft-married Noo Yawk vulgarian, which most intelligent political mavens realized early in the game – but as Abraham Lincoln was moved to say in defense of Ulysses S. Grant, early on in the first civil war, “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

So – The Donald fights, which is quite refreshing for a quasi-conservative, and a nice change for the manner in which so-called representatives of the conservative end of the National Uniparty usually react. * They curl up and whimper apologetically when accused of some offense – whatever is the prime offense of the moment according to the current crop of screeching garbage babies – and then they move on as if nothing had ever happened. The die is cast, in any case: the election itself is in less than four weeks. Whatever deals are in the works have been cut, the planned media bombshells have already been primed and aimed, the required ballot-boxes have already been stuffed in the strategic districts, either actually, or by electronic means; the set speeches written and the responding authoritative editorials composed and set on time-delay release. All that us ordinary citizens can do is to buckle in for the bumpy ride, and vote as our conscience dictates.

Not much that I can do at this point to change any of that – so I am prepping for market events this month, next month and the first half of December. I am a hard-working scribbler of historical fiction and light contemporary comic romps – and writing the books is just half the job. The other half is getting them out in front of likely readers, and in this last quarter of 2016, this is where most of my direct sales are made, and this is why I try to have a new book ready for release in time for those markets. My daughter, with her origami art, has suggested and has the purse sufficient to enable us to explore other market venues which have reasonable table fees for participation. San Marcos – for two markets in conjunction with their Mermaid Festival worked out very well for her, so we are off to exploring other craft and local markets in Blanco, Johnson City, and back to Giddings, for a series of craft and book events which will likely take up a Saturday, or even a whole weekend; this in addition to the events which we have done in previous years; Bulverde, New Braunfels, Goliad and Boerne. It’s frankly an exhausting schedule from this next weekend until the week before Christmas, so I am trying to get as much as possible done in advance; the business cards, the book flyers, the freebie bookmarks and postcards … all printed up and assembled at home. Because the actual process of doing the market is also exhausting. Load the Montero, drive to venue, unload the Montero, set up the pavilion and tables, work the passing crowd of shoppers for six or eight hours, break down the market set-up and drive home … the easy market events are those where we only have to bring the merchandise, or the tables and table-dressings, and for an indoors venue. This can be rewarding … but also exhausting. This is the price of getting your books and craft items out there – and now is the beginning of the peak season.

*As for the current Trump ruckus du jour … Trash-talking with another guy about women? Oh, please. Both the Daughter Unit and I overheard cruder stuff from the male servicemen who were our co-workers during our time in service, and in the Daughter Unit’s case – she sometimes joined in. (Me – I’m a f**king lady – I wear a hat and gloves – and don’t you forget it!) Dems getting the vapors over this is epically hypocritical, especially after overlooking Ted Kennedy’s truly crude and abusive behavior (not just words, but actual and disgusting behavior over a period of decades as a senator) and Bill Clinton’s serial abuse of women – abuse which was enabled by the current Democrat Party candidate for the presidency – and excused by the members of that same party when it all came to national attention in the last year of his presidency. Get back to me when being a total male pig is condemned equally across the board. And for something more substantial than just crude talk.

02. August 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Texas, Working In A Salt Mine...

(This is another book project for me – which came out of some speculation between my daughter and I; what would a town like Cecily, Alaska be — if it were a small town in an out of the way part of South Texas. In a very short time, we came up with a setting, a history, an enormous cast of sometimes quirky characters, and something of a plot to tie them all together.)

Final Cover with LetteringIt was Berto Gonzales who brought the Englishman to Luna City – the year that Berto was in his freshman year at Palo Alto on San Antonio’s south side, and driving a luxury town car at night for his uncle Tony. Uncle Tony Gonzales lived in Elmendorf, but ran his business based in San Antonio, and Berto was living with Uncle Tony’s family while he attended college. Berto was one of the bookish Gonzaleses, but had no objection to driving for Uncle Tony, who was both a third-cousin once removed, and married to Berto’s Aunt Lucy.
“You get to meet all kindsa people,” Uncle Tony was fond of expounding. “I drove Bryant Gumbel, once … and Spurs players? All the time; I got Tony Parkers’ autograph, even.”
On one particular summer evening around six PM, Berto got a call in the town car from Uncle Tony’s dispatch office. “Got a pick-up at Stinson – half an hour. It’s a special – he’ll be waiting for you out in front.”
“Cool,” said Berto. “Is it a celebrity? Where’s the pick-up to go?” Stinson was the old airport on the South Side, which served mostly corporate and private aircraft; a quieter, less frenetic place. And if the pick-up was someone famous, that would give him something to brag about on Monday morning. Dropping down to Mission Road was a snap compared to fighting heavy rush-hour traffic around San Antonio International on a Friday. Stinson was nearly out into the country on the edge of Espada Park.
“He’ll tell you when you get there,” the dispatcher replied.

Berto nearly gave up in dismay, when he pulled into one of the parking spaces in front of the brand-spanking new little terminal. There was no one out on the sidewalk who looked like a passenger – and there was already another town-car pulled in. After ten minutes there still wasn’t any sign of a pick-up. Out beyond the terminal building and row of hangars and warehouses which lined that side of Mission Road was the ramp and a pair of runways. The airport was separated from Mission Road by nothing more imposing than some chain-link fences hung with any number of threatening signs. Presently, a silver and blue Gulfstream dropped low on approach and touched down with a roar. It flashed past the terminal, came around at the end, and taxied up to the terminal, being lost to sight but not hearing. Berto opened the door and got out of the car, wilting briefly in the blast of heat after the coolness of the air-conditioned car. The driver of the other car was already out, standing in front of his car with a sign in his hand – “Wilson” written in block letters in felt-tip. The other driver acknowledged him with a brief nod.
“Busy day,” he commented and Berto sighed.
“Sooner here than SA International.”
“That’s for certain,” the other driver grunted. Another small jet dropped down from the blue sky – a Learjet with a t-tail and wings which turned sharply upwards at the very tips.
“Looks like my fare,” Berto observed. No, passenger pick-up at Stinson did not usually take long. The Lear rolled down the ramp with an ear-piercing shriek from its engines, and vanished behind the terminal. Three minutes, four minutes … a single person appeared from the glass doors leading out to the apron of paving, interspersed with raised beds and patches of grass which formed the forecourt. Berto watched his pick-up approach – a young man carrying a small overnight bag in one hand and a bottle in the other.
“Oh-oh,” the other driver remarked, with considerable sympathy, as the man seemed to pause, look in their direction and focus with an effort. “You got yourself a drunk, it looks like. Sooner me than you, hijito.”
“I hope he don’t barf on Uncle Tony’s upholstery, ‘cause he will kill me.” Berto watched his fare approach; a young man, with dark straight hair cut short, as if he were going out for football this season. His clothes were wrinkled, as if he had slept in them for a week. He staggered over to the bicycle rack set out by the flagpole and the handicapped parking. On his way, he dropped the bottle into the hedge. Then, clutching the bicycle rack for support, he began throwing up.
“Looks like he got that taken care of already,” the other driver remarked. He held up the “Wilson” sign as a knot of people appeared in the terminal doorway. “Good luck, hijito … you wanna couple of plastic bags? I got some in the trunk, just for this kind of thing.”
“Yeah, sure.” Berto’s fare made one last heave, straightened himself from the bicycle rack, and approached the two town cars, walking as carefully as if he were on eggshells.
“I say, chaps,” He spoke carefully, enunciating every word – oh, yes; English. He talked like some of those characters on those PBS programs that Aunt Lucy was so fond of. “I only needed the one car … I am, as you may observe, traveling very light.”
“If you aren’t Wilson, then he’s all yours.” The other driver jerked his thumb at Berto, adding in a low tone, “I’ll get you those items I mentioned.”
“Alas, I am not Wilson,” the fare admitted, sounding rather sad about that. “But rather – Richard Astor-Hall, or what remains of him. Have you heard of me?”
“I gotta say that I haven’t,” Berto replied, disappointed. He had so been hoping for a celebrity on this pick-up. Unexpectedly this seemed to cheer Mr. Astor-Hall. Berto opened the passenger door, and asked, “Where am I supposed to take you, Mr. Hall?”
Mr. Astor-Hall drew himself up to his full height and tossed his overnight bag into the front passenger seat. He fished into his pants pocket, drew out a roll of bills the size of which Berto had never seen before, not even at Uncle Jesus’ garage, where many of the old customers preferred paying in cash and pressed it into Berto’s hand.
“As far from here as that will take me,” he said grandly and passed out cold.
Berto caught him one-handed as he sagged, and directed Mr. Astor-Hall’s unconscious body into the back seat of the town car. The other driver shook his head, in sympathy, as he helped Berto tuck Mr. Astor-Hall’s legs in and close the door.
“Turn his head sideways, so he won’t choke on it if he’s sick again. What are you gonna do with him? That’s one heck of a roll, hijito – enough to take him a good long way.”
“Three – four hundred bucks,” Beto hastily counted out the fifties and twenties, then folded them away, deep in thought. Meanwhile, the other driver’s fare gathered around, busy with getting their expensive luggage stowed away. A Friday evening, an unlimited expense account – and Uncle Tony would understand.
“We’re going home to Luna,” Berto said out loud to his unconscious passenger, as he backed out of the parking place, and turned south, towards Presa Street, and the road towards Luna City. Mr. Astor-Hall snored comfortably in the back seat – if he had no particular place in mind, than Luna City would do as well as any.
At about the time Berto was coming up to Floresville a cellphone rang, rang insistently from deep inside Mr. Astor-Hall’s little bag. Berto let it go, let it ring several times, but whoever was calling didn’t want to give up. Finally, he pulled over into the Whattaburger parking lot and fished the phone out of the bag; a Blackberry – the ID of the caller said only “Morty.”
“Hello?” He said, tentatively into it. The voice on the other end – presumably Morty exclaimed, in a burst of impatient profanity;
“Oh, for f—ks sake, Rich – you finally pick up the damned phone. You gotta be in LA by now. Look, I’ve been leaving messages on your voicemail for hours … no, don’t talk, just listen, things are happening too damned fast. I’m trying to put the kibosh on the paparazzi, but you know how it is … a few dozen A-listers puking on the pavement in front of Carême on opening night no less … and you running stark-naked through the streets, with a colander on your head, screaming “I’m a little teapot short and stout” as you bang two pots together! That’s made the news on three continents, Rich – what the f—k were you thinking? Never mind, that’s why I get paid the big bucks to get ahead of PR disasters. I got you booked into that fancy place in Malibu for as long as it will take for you to deal with your personal demons – but I gotta have you promise you’ll stay there and keep your yap shut until I can get ahead of this thing. Damage control – it can be fixed, you can make a come-back, just let ol’ Mac work his magic. Don’t talk to anyone. Rich – are you listening to me?”
“Hello?” Berto said again, and Morty exploded.
“Who the f—k is this?”
“No one,” Berto said, and hung up the phone. It buzzed again almost at once. Berto turned the phone off, and carefully put it back into Mr. Astor-Hall’s bag. It was almost sundown, and he had another hour and a half on the road. Uncle Tony always said that you couldn’t and shouldn’t drive distracted.

I was reading a slightly ick-making article the other day about certain wasps which prey on caterpillars in a peculiar and parasitic manner – the female wasp injects her eggs into the body of the chosen prey, where they hatch into grubs and feed from the host … from the inside. In certain varieties, it appears that the inserted eggs/grubs affect the biochemistry of the luckless host, which eats and eats, but never to benefit itself. Entomologists who specialize in this kind of thing find this adaptation immensely fascinating, which is why I was reading about it, through a link form some place or other. It’s all very Alien, on a insect level, and the likeness to the movie doesn’t end there; eventually, the wasp grubs chew their way out through the body of the caterpillar … and wait – the dying caterpillar serves to the last gasp as a sort of insectoid bodyguard to the developing wasps, even sheltering them in the silk which would have made its own cocoon. And then the caterpillar dies and the fully-developed wasps fly away, to start the cycle all over again.

Then I read about how the Obamas took separate presidential flight aircraft from the east coast to the west in order that the president and his spouse could appear on two different shows, videoed at two different studios barely miles apart and within the same time frame, at great expense to the military organization which operates the aircraft in question. Really, couldn’t they have shared a flight and halved the expense … or is it that they just don’t care for each other or for much else besides their own comfort and convenience. The Obamas do appear to like the bennies and goodies that the office provides, and enjoy them with a hearty carelessness wholly befitting the court of Louis the 14th. Save that Louis and Marie Antoinette weren’t quite the feckless, arrogant aristos that they were portrayed by contemporary propagandists. Still – the reputation endures; of aristocrats enjoying themselves in a bubble of privilege and luxury, while all outside the bubble goes to rack and ruin.

The whole process of the parasitic wasp and the helpless caterpillar struck me as a metaphor for the current administration, and indeed, our current Ruling Class, in the Angelo Codevilla sense; an alien organism injecting itself into the American body politic with the sole selfish intent of surviving and enriching itself at the expense of the host … and then, of course, flying away to some gated community, fat with privilege gained from destroying the host. Of course, the ruling elite of every civilization have always rather distained the common working folk, the bourgeoisie, the working class who made up the body of those ruled – t’was ever thus, the exploiter and the exploited. At the very least, the ruling elite have condescended to them as the ‘backbone of the country’. Our current ruling class elite has also distinguished themselves by adding to the injury of exploitation the insult of holding the larger body of citizens in active contempt … contempt which verges on hatred, depending on the person voicing it.

Discuss.

Yes, I am – really. And still working through a vast amount of work that needs to be done in support of the Tiny Publishing Bidness … like the income tax return. Which I got done with after two days of number- and- account crunching last week, and dropped the whole lot off at the office of the nice gentleman who does my income taxes. He, bless him extravagantly – is very fond of me because I turn in all my stuff in February (March at the very latest!) – so he can complete it all at leisure, instead of in one frantic marathon in April … look people, this – like Christmas – happens every year. Putting it all off to the last minute will not make it go away. It won’t. Like necessary dental work, get it done and get it over with.
Most years, I have gotten my return and spent it well before the final rush begins … this year, there will be no funds returned, as I have broken even. Between the costs of buying the business from the founder of it and her heir, the various expenses associated with paying for printing and copies of books for resale, buying tables and a pop-up pavilion, display racks and a new printer … and the shed for the backyard to store much of this in … I am square with the government.
Next year will be an adventure in exploring how to strategically protect that income stream from my writing and the Tiny Publishing Bidness against the diabolical machinations of the vampire squids, but as Scarlett O’Hara so famously observed, ‘Tomorrow is another day.’ This coming year is a foreign country, to be sorted out as I venture farther into it.

I might just re-do this website again, since I have re-done the book website… the final handful of readers have been duly warned.

When I first read of the survey (one story on it linked here) of how members of the public consistently overestimate the percentage of gays in the general population, I was not terribly surprised. Dismayed, yes – as it appeared that the younger cohort estimated the proportion of gay to straight at almost a third, which I thought would have run slap up against that cohort’s observation of the world around them. The actual percentage is round and about two percent, which tracks with my own real-world observation – but I can hardly blame the kids for assuming a much higher figure, knowing how many media creations prominently feature gay characters. Looking at TV shows, movies, books, games, the celebrity culture … one might very well assume that ‘gay’ constitutes a much larger portion of public space than they actually occupy, on a strictly numerical basis. The various media reflect ‘gay’ at several times their normal size. Like my neighbor’s basset hounds; it’s not that there are many, but the bassets are so very loud, a casual observer might assume that there are many more, based on the racket.

Anyway, I was briefly amused by the whole matter at the time – of media-cultural perception at odds with observed reality. But in the last few weeks, what with the continuing protests regarding the deaths of black men in altercations with police officers, I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t a whole ‘nother cultural perception at odds with reality, only this time it is the reality that isn’t observed, just the perception covering it over it in a particularly opaque veil.

I ought to start off on this particular thought-train by noting that I have lived in South Texas now for a little less than twenty years; likely I am affected by the same kind of cultural veiling, in that I don’t really see ‘Hispanic’ as the ‘other’ when I look at a crowd of people here; I’m not mentally breaking down that crowd into racial/cultural components. Spoken Spanish and Spanish surnames, conjunto music and bright colors, hot pepper salsa and the Virgin of Guadalupe are all just a part of the background white noise as it were; comfortable, appreciated, and expected. Even going up into the Hill Country, where the common surnames tend to be Germanic and Anglo rather than Hispanic – it still appears pretty homogenous – and also pretty pale to medium-tan colored to me. The occasional doom-laden and/or gloating-at-the-prospect forecast that ‘white’ people will be a minority in these here United States which appears now and again in discussions of racial categories seems pretty laughable, when I look around where I live. Not saying it wouldn’t happen, of course; but consciously or unconsciously, as humans we tend to base assumptions about the relative unknown on what we do know and observe around us in real-life, real-time.

And I wonder, when considering the near-riots in Ferguson, and the principally black protests – especially in cities with a large black population – I’ve begun to wonder if the urban black population doesn’t see themselves at several times their normal size. A combination of self- or economic isolation in particular neighborhoods, media saturation, the results of affirmative action in hiring for everything from federal jobs to high-profile media personalities, half a century of media, intellectual and political stroking … has all this and more given African-Americans an unconscious self-visualization of themselves at several times natural size? When the average African-American thinks of themselves as part of the American public, are they thinking of themselves as a much larger and more influential part of it then they really are? Discuss.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net)

Here we are, in the first week of the last month of 2014, and by way of good cheer, I can say that things haven’t descended quite so far into the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse territory – pestilence, war, famine and death – as I had feared some two or three months ago, when Ebola was all the rage in news. People are still falling sick to it, of course, but curious that such news is no longer in the News, capital-N News, run by the professional news-gatherers, whose motto and mission does seem to be comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted. Funny old world, that.

Still, certain elements of the current scene do give cause for alarm. Not new alarm, but just the same old abiding fears which spurred me to begin writing books to persuade readers of the virtue of the grand American experiment and to refit the kitchen pantry closet to allow storage of mass quantities of staple foods. At the age of 60-something, I appear to be turning into my grandmothers, one of whom conserved a box of Ben Hur brand cayenne pepper over several decades until it was nothing more than some rusty-red dust, and the other of whom had a two-year supply of on-sale-purchased canned food stashed in the garage. I am trying to advance on my grandmothers’ example, though – since I have a vacuum-sealer and freezer. I do wish that I had somehow managed to get ahold of the ancestral can of cayenne pepper; it’s probably valuable now as an antique for the container, if not the rust-red pepper dust therein. Enough for pestilence and famine – what about those oldie-but-goodie standbys, War and Death?

They seem to have taken up residence, or at least, renewed the lease on a number of different places in recent weeks, most notably in Ferguson, Missouri – a somewhat … what’s the word? Struggling? In Transition? Pre-Gentrifying? Anyway, a relatively urban suburb of St. Louis. Which, to judge from the google-maps and the various businesses involved, is not entirely unlike my own very dear suburb as far as retail establishments go. Though it would appear that Ferguson is tilted a more towards the career-welfare-benefits-recipient person of color side of the scale as far as the general population goes, whereas San Antonio tends heavily towards the military retiree side of the scale.

In reading various reports of what is going on in Ferguson I am simultaneously troubled and reassured – troubled in that the mayor, governor and federal administration, at least as much as the established media – seemed to be going out of their various ways to pour more gas onto a bonfire. The various free-lance civil-rights ‘activists’ and sympathizers seem also to be doing their bit. Fortunately so far, their bit seems limited to terrorizing Christmas shoppers, alienating rush-hour drivers and pro football fans, reducing children’s Christmas-carol singing choruses to tears and otherwise alienating many of those who otherwise might rightfully entertain second thoughts about aggressive and militarized policing. The usual urban thug element have concentrated their energies on burning and looting various small businesses along Ferguson’s main drag, undeterred by any feelings of racial or community solidarity, in that a good few of them were owned and operated by persons of color living in Ferguson or nearby, and contributing to the assault and murder of incidental passersbys who just happen to be of the wrong color skin…

Frankly, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if those local businesses cut their losses and relocated elsewhere … but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see that many decided to hang in there. People tend to be stubborn about their home community, and to give up on it with reluctance and only when there is little choice left. I am reassured reading reports of go-fund-me campaigns to raise donations benefitting those businesses which have been harmed, like Natalie’s Cakes, and that local men banded together to protect a Conoco station, whose white owner had been a friend to and employed many of them. It is also reassuring to read that members of the St. Louis Tea Party are working on ways to effectively assist residents and business owners, and that volunteers from the Oath Keepers are volunteering to guard Ferguson businesses. At a guess many of the go-fund-me contributors, Tea Partiers and Oath Keepers willing to weigh in are decidedly white, which would or should argue against the cause for wide-spread white racism in America, if we had an intellectual or a news-reporting establishment with any brains, nerve, or sense of independent inquiry. We might be safe from race-war and racially-motivated death for a little while longer, not that the establishment intellectuals can take any credit for this.

It is curious that the agitation in the wake of Michael Brown’s death is even more frantically focused than that following after Trayvon Martin. There is no doubt that it is being deliberately fomented, and finding a ready audience in the community of the professionally offended, which slightly overlaps that of the black community. I have seen a couple of different reasons suggested for this – one of them being that an all-out balls-to-the-wall race war would be to the advantage of many, not least to this Administration – but the most compelling to me is that Barack H. Obama was presented to the black community as all that and a bag-o-chips, the light-bringer, the wonder-worker, the anointed one, the champion of the racially-oppressed, who would make everything better. Six years later, it’s clear that he has made things worse, and most especially for the black community which turned out for him, heart and soul and votes. All this agitation is a kind of massive psychological displacement: they can’t blame themselves for being fool enough to believe the promises of a sweet-talking charlatan telling them everything they wanted to hear, or blame him because he is (sort of) black and is The First Black President-Evah! The anger has to go someplace. And so it goes to Ferguson. Discuss.

(Cross-posted at www.chicagoboyz.net

The first definitive day of fall/winter has arrived, and never been more welcome than here in South Texas. It has actually been cool to chill … and even more welcome … rain. It’s been raining more or less constantly since about 9 PM last night; from sprinkles to drips, to heavy downpours and back to sprinkles and drips again. I presume that the plants in my garden are reveling in the abundant moisture, after a good few weeks – or maybe it has been months – of a little grudging moisture alternating with day after day of bone-dry. The arrival of this happy moisture and chill coincides with a good few days of us not having to go anywhere, after a solid week of long-distance trips to Killeen in one direction and Brownsville in another. And I have a book project to work on for a Watercress client, another (a reprint of an existing book) to shove out the door as soon as possible, a third waiting for the client to review and for me to request the art-work for – all so that I can clear the decks for yet another client, the one with an extensive autobiography with lots and lots of pictures to incorporate … Alice would have been so happy to know of this project, and of the other potentially big one, coming up. (Also involving a lot of pictures and a complicated lay-out and a generous budget.) All the better that I have this week and most of next week to concentrate on it all.

The kitchen as it stands - a black hole of clutter

The kitchen as it stands – a black hole of clutter


My daughter is adamant about using some of the profits from the big projects to renovate the kitchen. Not in any way complicated, or involving extensive rebuilding, but incorporating more efficient cabinets and a nicer countertip. The kitchen in the house is relatively tiny – about 9 feet by 9 and U-shaped – and it has always annoyed us that the two corners on either side of the stove are wasted space. The original builder just whanged in some relatively narrow rectangular cabinets at right angles to each other, slapped some cheap laminate countertop over the null space in the corners and called it a day. Everything in the kitchen was basic contractor grade stuff, and brought into the development by the box-car load, and now it is more than twenty years old. I repainted the doors, and the fronts of the cabinets more than ten years ago, which made it look at least OK, but it didn’t help the basic bad layout any. So – researching means of upgrading to something more useful and visually attractive, and for a fairly reasonable price, as these things go. I am working on that as well, running out to the kitchen with the tape measure every now and again, to see exactly how far (to the half-inch) the windows, the pantry door and the plumbing stack are from everything else.
We are tending towards some elements from Ikea – like an archaic looking range hood, and a country sink – and maybe some of their cabinets or countertops. I think that assembling such cabinets is within our abilities, and hiring some local handymen who have redone kitchens in the neighborhood is within the realm of possibility. Or buying some quality cabinets already assembled from an outfit like Kitchen Resources Direct may also be doable. It’s not like we’ll be needing a whole lot of them anyway. Get the knobs and drawer pulls from a local place we know, organize the countertops from one of the big-box stores which has a nice selection. We did consider going to them for the whole thing, because of the veteran discount, but we made the mistake of showing up and asking for a consult after walking the dogs and working a bit in the garden, and I think the consultant took one look at us and figured that we weren’t a good prospect at all. The lack of enthusiasm and interest was thick enough to cut into slabs, even though we had a whole raft of necessary measurements. Ah well – cut-rate place here we come.

With so many other bad and dangerous things hanging over us like a Damocles sword – an Ebola epidemic in the US, ISIS setting up a new and brutal caliphate in the middle east, the final two lame duck years of the Obama administration, and the anointing of a minimally-talented yet well-connected legacy child like Lena Dunham as the media voice of a generation – and the upcoming marathon of holiday markets and book events in front of me like so many hurdles to be gotten over in a frantic two-month-long dash – where was I?

Crazy Texas BootsOh, yes – amidst all the impending gloom, doom, and Bakersfield (that’s a California joke, son) my daughter and I are coping with the rather minor tragedy of a friend of ours loosing her job. Minor to us, of course – but not to our friend, a vivaciously charming English lady of certain years whom I shall call Kay, whom we met when she managed a thrift shop to benefit a certain well-established local charity, in a preposterously wealthy outlaying town within driving distance from San Antonio. When we first met her, the thrift shop was on the main drag in the historic part of town, and benefited from an enormous amount of walk-in traffic because it was on the main drag – although in a cramped three rooms and a teeny bathroom which doubled as an overflow storage room. But Kay was a pro when it came to management, coordinating unpaid volunteer workers, in attracting wonderful donations, and she used social media like a champ … I swear, many of the most enticing donations which came into the shop were pre-sold almost at once. Yes, a charity thrift-shop, of which there are are already a few in the town of which we speak, but this particular one stood head and shoulders above the competition. The goods on display were often of an amazingly-superior quality and the pricing was reasonable. It’s a truism familiar to those of us relatively-poor people with high-end tastes; the very best pickings are to be had in charity thrift-shops in upscale locations. When my parents went to re-fit their own retirement house—burnt to the ground in the 2003 Paradise Mountain Fire—my mother often preferred shopping in such thrift stores. They could pick out things roughly similar to what they had lost; of superior quality and lightly used, at a reasonable price. Such things fitted their lifestyle and pocketbook; where is it written that those on a budget must settle for cheap cr*p, anyway?

So we loved the little shop which Kay ran, and brought home many fine things for a mere pittance – items like my vintage Ariat cowgirl boots, and a set of unused quality bedding – matching bed-skirt, quilted coverlet, pillow shams and boudoir pillows that originally retailed for nearly $1,000 all told. Alas, after five years of operation, the shop had to close around mid-summer. The historic building which housed it was being renovated – and the three rooms which housed the shop were no longer available to the charitable organization, nor was any equivalent premise available at a price which said organization was willing to pay. Still, we rejoiced with Kay was hired to run another charity shop in the same town, benefiting yet another and somewhat similar charity. Superficially, all was as it had ever been and at first seemed like even better; the shop was now in a larger space, a quaint Victorian cottage where there was now more room to suitably display the wide range of items which Kay attracted from the same kind of donors. Alas, there were two flies in the new pot of ointment; the cottage was a little off the beaten track when it came to walk-in traffic – and never underestimate how miserably hot it can be in a Texas summer, even in the Hill Country. But Kay’s regulars and volunteers loyally followed her to the new place, and when the monthly open market was held – there was a good turn-out. With the coming winter, and a number of special events in the town where the shop is located, there was a hope of business returning to something like the same level as in the old location.

The other fly was the peskier one; Kay now answered to a manager – an absentee manager in another state, who had very definite ideas on what the shop should accept and market – ideas which turned out to be a radical change. The take-in from the shop was unacceptable, said the absentee manager. It was simply not enough. So, henceforward, the absentee manager dictated, the shop would only carry collectables, high-quality jewelry (costume and otherwise) and original art. Everything else – shoes and clothing, household items, knickknacks and sports equipment had to go, immediately. Items should be labeled with a little price tag on a string, and be priced competitively – and none of this accepting just any old donation. Only quality stuff in a few limited categories, even if it had to be obtained from estate sales and auctions … no word on how this kind of activity would be funded, or who would be doing it, or researching the market-value of the select inventory. And the town of which I speak is thick with antique shops, collectable shops, and art galleries, most of which seem to be run by either entrepreneurs and paid professionals. At this juncture, Kay handed in her two-week notice. They let her go after a single week – and now, apparently, the shop will be run entirely by volunteers.

So, without knowing any of the economics – how much was the lease on the shop, how much it actually cost to run vis-à-vis the intake, and how much Kay’s personal connections with the donating and volunteering community contributed to the shop – I can only look at it from the outside, and what it all looks like to me as a consumer. Essentially, this one shop dominated the retail niche it occupied. It was open every day but Mondays – which put it ahead of the other shops, and Kay’s on-line marketing through social media made out-of-town shoppers well-aware of what was available. The goods were attractively and tastefully arranged by a professional. Oh, sure, some of them were the usual sort of junk which gravitates to Goodwill and the Salvation Army, but taken overall – it was a far superior shopping experience, in quality and aesthetics. And now, under the dictates of the absentee manager, it will be just another boutique in a town full of them. My daughter and I agreed – we likely won’t be able to afford anything in it, and it will only last about six months before the charitable concern running it pulls the plug.

American Gothic - Texas-style

American Gothic – Texas-style

But it bloody pours. Here I am, starting the marathon of book events for my own stuff and for Blondie’s origami art, which runs from early October until well into December, (Lord willing and the Ebola don’t rise) and suddenly all the Tiny Publishing Bidness clients who have been languidly considering their potential books – some of them from last year or this summer and one of them from out of the clear blue sky – want to move ahead with their projects. Now, if not a day or so ago. It should have been a warning to me that the business bank accounts were all at low ebb … that’s when something happens to fill them all up again. It never fails – something always appears, just in the nick of time. There was the written-content job of so many chapters for a publisher of study guides who found me through the milblog; they wanted someone with military experience who could also write to order and somehow stumbled onto little ol’ me. That project upheld the lifestyle at Chez Hayes for nearly half a year; I was in two minds about committing to it, but closed my eyes and plunged in away. Then there was the document transcription project … again, good for maintaining the lavish Chez Hayes lifestyle for most of a year, when taken in together with the other writing projects and sales of my own books.
I had a lovely book event in Fredericksburg early this week – a local book club contacted me through my website; would I come to their social, and more importantly – do a guided tour of the spots in Fredericksburg which featured in the Adelsverein Trilogy? One private tour for the club members, and another the following day for the general interested public? As it was mapped out, the tour comes out to a shade less than three miles, to cover it all – from the town cemetery and that little church building which served the black community in the mid-1840s, all the way to the Marienkirche, which served the Catholic community from the earliest days. Good thing I suggested that everyone wear comfortable shoes … and that there were plenty of stopping places with shaded benches, and that at the point of two-thirds into the tour we were at the old established town square, where there is a very clean and well-maintained public lavatories and some picnic tables in the shade. The ladies of the book club were enormously welcoming, and hospitable, having secured us a room for one night at the Sunday House – which we fell upon with gratitude, being completely exhausted by the tour and the evening meeting. Yes, I will try to come to book-club meetings which have read the Trilogy or any of my books, as long as such are in a commutable distance from San Antonio. I am not such a big-name author that I can be snotty about such invitations.
Fredericksburg was blissfully uncrowded on a Monday, and Tuesday morning, and a two-hour long walk, plus some evening socializing let us catch up on all the local gossip, and note some changes in the town: a wonderful and theatrical 1920s Spanish Colonial style house on Austin Street has been torn down, to the regret of all; an apparent victim of black mold and extensive termite damage being found upon a new owner commencing renovations. But a classic German-Texas style house on Adams – which was under renovation for as long as I can recall has finally been finished very charmingly as a day-spa. There are now little bed and breakfast accommodations all over the historic part of Fredericksburg, tucked behind old houses; one of the club members told us that there were 350 B&Bs in town now, not to mention several good-sized hotels. And there is a new museum going in – a Ranger museum, next to historic Fort Martin Scott. That makes four museums in a single small town, which must be some kind of record. Alas, the yearly Comanche pow-wow used to be held on the land where they are building the museum – and the pow-wow is banished to the Gillespie County fairgrounds.
Kenn Knopp, the local historical expert who was a considerable mover and shaker in Fredericksburg and was kind enough to read the Trilogy in manuscript and approve of it all with extravagant enthusiasm passed on last year. I had kind of expected something had happened to him, as he was not in the best of health the last time we were in touch, and he dropped off Facebook entirely … still, I wish that I had known in time to go to the memorial service.
Finally – one of the walking tour participants told me that the corner plot which I allocated in fiction to the Steinmetz family was actually his family’s town plot, and that they held onto it until the 1940s, when they sold it to the church which presently has their activity center on the site. He’s a Luchenbach, and an old friend of Monroe Behrend, the master of the fast armadillo. Small towns – you have to love them, but also be careful, because everyone knows everyone else, or they are related to everyone else. So, that’s my week – and I’ve written this between doing up a couple of contracts and estimations for the new projects.

The Magnificent Shed

The Magnificent Shed

I’m in a bit of a lull at present – having wrapped up a couple of books for Watercress in the last week or so, and it will be another few weeks before some of the others come up to the point where I have to set aside everything else to work on them, full-tilt. There will actually be three and possibly four. Two of the four are … high-value clients, the other two returning clients, so … yes, I am doing the happy dance.
I have finished the first draft of the next book, which was inspired by a light-hearted blog post regarding the crash’n’burn of the recent Lone Ranger movie, the one with Johnny Depp and a dead crow on his head. Yeah, that one; I began kicking around ways that the franchise could be re-booted, first as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more fun it looked like – of course, not the Lone Ranger per se. That’s all under copyright, and I understand that the copyright holders are ferociously protective. But what about a narrative bearing a suitably distant likeness to the original premise – that is, a young Texas volunteer soldier-ranger in the time of the Republic of Texas, sole survivor of a massacre, with his good friend and buddy, an Indian scout, wandering around pre Civil War Texas on missions of goodness and niceness? Nix the mask, the silver bullets, the horse named Silver – indeed, just about every other telling detail – and make it more or less a historical, although with a looser grasp on the straight historical record than my other books. Believe me, there was enough strange stuff going on in Texas during that time, and certainly enough in the way of real historical characters and incidents to generate any number of adventures. I scribbled out six initial historical romps, my daughter suggested that I aim it toward the YA audience, especially boys who have nothing since the final Harry Potter tome and aren’t interested in the adventures of sparkly vampires … and there it is – gone to some alpha readers recruited through the Ace of Spades Sunday morning book thread for critique and analysis. I will incorporate their suggestions, plus any additional additional inspirations that their suggestions spark … and the book will be out in late October, likely. Just in time for Christmas shopping.
So – that’s done. Until I hear from the alpha readers (or really, anyone who wants to check out the adventures posted at my Celia Hayes website and drop me a line), that project is on the back burner.

As the garden looked earlier this year

As the garden looked earlier this year


August has descended on us – traditionally the hottest month of a Texas summer – it’s been over 100° every day for the last week or so. So, my enthusiasm for doing anything outdoors is pretty much under control. Walk the dogs, water the garden, that’s about it. This week, though – we finally got the antique Chambers stove moved off the back porch and into the shed. This chore had to wait until the shed was actually built, and we could round up two willing and strong neighbors to help us shift it the fifteen or twenty feet. Yes, the darned thing is heavy – when it was built in 1941, they made them to last. Eventually, we’ll have to remodel the kitchen to accommodate the Chambers. So – aside from starting the fall garden, I’ll also be revamping the back porch, once things cool off just a titch.. There was more than just the stove kept on the porch – and now it has all in the shed – so that I intend to reclaim the porch for when the cool weather returns.

I honestly do not know if all of last weeks’ horrific headlines and those of the week before are a cunning plot to serially distract the body politic and public by dropping everything on us all at once, without a chance to analyze or begin fighting back, or if it indicates that the wheels are coming off the Obama administration once and for all. Either way … there is a lot to write about, just at the time that I don’t have the time or inclination to muse upon it all at leisure in a way which would give my venom full justice; all in good time, my one or two regular remaining readers. Among other things, I am fighting a god-awful summer cold and cough, a return of the chronic cough I had last year, which took about eight months to throw and on several occasions had me coughing so hard that I threw up. And another thing of a personal nature; Alice, whom I bought the Tiny Publishing Bidness from early this spring, passed away early in June. She was tended by her family and Blondie, and a series of very professional and compassionate home-hospice-care nurses for the last three weeks before that. She had been given six months last October when she was proscribed aggressive chemotherapy … but she detested chemo and refused it after two rounds, and lasted for three months longer than forecast at the time. She actually did pretty well, with Blondie doing her housekeeping and errands … until the last three weeks.

Just as all this was happening, of course I had two books projects to juggle, and Alice’s last book for an old friend of hers, a local poet who brings out a small chapbook of his writings every year or so. She kept his most recent book back from the sale, intending to work on it herself, but her memory and her health was failing catastropically, and so I inherited it as well. So – three books to juggle at a time; isn’t commerce grand? And I still have two books of my own to work on (The Golden Road and Lone Star Sons), plus reviews, four websites (three of them being my own) and little chores like the garden, housekeeping, walking the dogs and cooking regular meals.

By the way – we found another dog this week; a small boxer-colored female, who may be part lab, possibly boxer with a bit of small pit and Wiemeraner, as she has rather lovely golden-green eyes. She looks, if anything, like a quarter-sized version of Calla-puppy, my daughter’s Boxer mix. We are resisting the allure of keeping her, but caved on turning her into the county shelter. She is very people-oriented and very, very affectionate. Onward with the chore of finding her a permanent home and not with us; anyone in the South Texas area want a new dog; 25 pounds, about half-grown that we can tell, just having cut her permanent teeth, still catching on to that house-breaking and obedience thing, but tolerant and affectionate, and OK with other dogs and cats. Let me know in comments – we can provide pictures and delivery within reason.

I did a book event in Sisterdale, the first weekend in June – and it was born upon us that we need a shed in the backyard, first for the garden tools and supplies, and second for the various items that we have acquired for doing events … like the pop-up pavilion. You may say, as Mom did, ‘But you have a garage!?’ Alas, it is full of Blondie’s furniture and various other gleanings from yard sales, against the day when she has an establishment of her own, or I have my Hill Country retreat/country cottage. We can not fit another blessed thing into the garage, or find it if we did … so. Shed; for the storage of items of professional gear in – the pavilion, the tables, the weights, the display racks, et cetera; likely we will go with a local small enterprise which does bespoke tin sheds for a price competitive with the big box places. The backyard being so small, the shed must and will be attractive, since we will be seeing it from the back porch and two of the three windows at the back of the house.

And that’s what I’ve been working on, these last two weeks, but I promise that regular vicious commentary will resume as soon as the bile reservoir has replenished itself.

As a matter of interest as an independent author, with some affection for science fiction … (principally Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, and once upon a time for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, both of which explored in an interesting and readable way, a whole range of civilizational conceits and technologies with a bearing on what they produced vis-a-viz political organizations, man-woman relations, and alternate societies of the possible future … oh, where was I? Complicated parenthetical sentence again; science fiction. Right-ho, Jeeves – back on track.) … I have been following the current SFWA-bruhaha with the fascinated interest of someone squeezing past a spectacular multi-car pile-upon the Interstate. Not so much – how did this happen, and whose stupid move at high speed impelled the disaster – but how will it impact ordinary commuters in their daily journey, and will everyone walk away from it OK? So far, the answers to that are pretty much that it will only matter to those directly involved (although it will be productive of much temporary pain) and yes – pretty near everyone will walk away. Scared, scarred, P-O’d and harboring enduring grudges, but yes, they will walk away, personally and professionally. Some of these are walking away at speed and being pretty vocal about why.

The crux of the matter in this particular instance, is that the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America – hey, what happened to the ampersand and the second F … guess the domain name was already taken or something) – got overtaken by the minions of the politically correct. The SWFA is, or was – a professional association of writers of science fiction and fantasy materiel (traditionally-published writers only, BTW), intended as a kind of support group, to lobby with publishers on behalf of wronged writers, and provide professional services, like health insurance. Sort of like the AARP … only for science fiction and fantasy writers. Alas, it seems that the minions of the politically-correct now appear to insist that to be members in good standing and to be considered for various book awards (and this is the short version) one must write glum and politically-correct bricks of sensitivity, emphasizing obedience to all kinds of shibboleths regarding race, gender, et al. Never mind about writing a cracking good story … the glum gruel of a liberal arts curricula at an expensive university is what the Social Justice Warriors at the SFWA have said we should have, and that readers deserve to get it, good and hard. Through a tube down the nasal passage, apparently, if all else fails. Naturally, being a somewhat cantankerous and creative provider of popular amusement, many of the existing membership has sad ‘no’ and not just no, but ‘no, with bells on.’ It seems from various discussion threads that many of the long-standing, better-selling and more popular creators are bailing out of SFWA, or at least, warning caution.

The organization may survive – or not. From the viewpoint of someone passing by the tangled wreckage on the Interstate, it’s of only academic interest. But I began to meditate on it all – another once-thriving and valued establishment, overtaken by the grand Gramscian march through our social and political establishments. Sure – they have taken them over, but at what cost? Yes, the politically correct, the Social Justice Warriors in every theater and establishment … they HAVE taken them over – and many others besides the SFWA, but at what cost if what they have is just a wrecked and hollow establishment?
So, this leaves me to wonder, whither SFWA? If the popular writers, with an existing or a soon-burgeoning readership leave, what then as far as the future of the organization is concerned? Indeed, what then, o wolves?

What then, of the many institutions, taken over and hollowed out by the Social Justice Warriors, or their Gramscian ilk? Most of them are bigger and more influential, then a little pool of writers perpetrating science fiction and fantasy … and yet they also appear to be ridden by factionalism, if not teetering on the edge then cratering economically. Just a few and from off the top of my head – the Episcopal Church, old-line print publications like Newsweek and Ladies’ Home Journal (and possibly very soon Time Magazine, too), and broadcast networks like CNN and MSNBC. Instapundit often points out how colleges and universities are staggering, and how more and more people who can are choosing to home-school their children. I can just barely remember the last Oscar-nominated movie that I went to see in a theater, (The King’s Speech, BTW) and the TV audience for the Oscars is plummeting also. Mainstream publishing is fragmenting, as independent writers go out on their own, cable television is also fragmenting. Just as the long march through the institutions is nearly complete … the institutions themselves crumble. They are run into the ground, as the audience, consumers, and genuinely creative flee in all directions.

There is talk of a non-ideological organization to replace the SFWA; likely the disaffected refugees from the establishments and organizations listed above (as well as many, many others) will form new associations. Creative destruction at work? I’d like to think so. Discuss.
(cross-posted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

This would appear to be the new theme song for the Fed-Gov’s Bureau of Land Management – that bane of ranchers like Cliven Bundy – as well as a whole lot of other ranchers, farmers, loggers, small landowners, and owners of tiny bits of property on the edge of or in areas of spectacular natural beauty, west of the Mississippi and between the Mexican and Canadian borders.

Yes, indeedy, folks – the maw of the Fed-Gov appears to be insatiable, although it is veiled over with the rationale of wanting to protect endangered species – many of which do not seem to be endangered so much any more – and miles and miles of unique old-growth Western forest. Some of these old-growth forests are so well-protected that they have burned down to the roots in catastrophic fires of late, as local environmental groups went into fits of spastic pearl-clutching, at the very suggestion that … well, pine-bark-beetle and drought-killed trees needed to be cleared away, and so did the duff and accumulation of flammable trash-brush. (The nature of many Western ecologies meant that being burned over every couple of decades was required for the good health of the ecology generally. Well-meant intervention seems to have made the situation worse. But never mind, say the environmentalists…)

This raises the natural suspicion among those of us who have been paying attention, as well as those who have had to make a living in parts of the West lately, that quite a lot of the endangered-species, famously-unique-old-growth-forest, and spectacular-unique-bit-of-landscape legislation which was passed a good three decades ago are now being used for other than their stated purposes. That they are being misused in the service of some international plot (Hello, Agenda 21!) to move us all into urban concrete Stack-a-prole apartment blocks where we can be observed and controlled by the functionaries of the Outer Party, 24-7 … well, I am not quite ready to order my tinfoil chapeau … but I am to the point of becoming concerned, shading to somewhat worried. I can see – rather clearly – that the ostensible care of establishment environmentalists has been used – and the degree of knowledge and malice aforesaid may be debated – in order to close off public lands to any economic use at all, even recreational use, if it is the wrong sort of recreation and by the wrong people. This has all has the whiff of a royal forest being established, for the use and recreation of the small numbers of the anointed, and the lesser orders – the ranchers, hunters, hikers and campers (or cabin-owners) being strictly forbidden on pain of death.

I cannot begin to guess how serious this latest threat to land along the Texas side of the Red River from the BLM is. Likely it will not go very far, now that the Texas AG has drawn a line in the sand. Maybe it is just a feint or even a campaign strategy by Mr. Abbott … but given recent history, and the resentments of all kinds of small-property ranchers and land-owners it’s a shrewd one. The state of Texas, in a handy turn of fate retained ownership of public lands upon becoming a state, instead of the Fed-Gov taking over and retaining vast tracts of wilderness. To this day there are only a couple of national parks within Texas, plus military bases – and for the BLM to even think of appropriating privately-owned lands on the Texas side of the Red River – is breathtakingly ill-conceived. If the BLM is serious in doing so, I guarantee that they will be resisted, furiously. It would make the brouhaha at the Bundy ranch look like a kindergarten playground squabble. It appears at this point, though, that the BLM has backed away, piously disavowing any such intent. For now, anyway, say I, cynically. Five years ago I might have written such a step up to ignorance rather than malice. Five years ago I wouldn’t have thought the IRS would be turned loose to harass political opponents of the Dem Party machine, either.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

I’ve been surfing my usual internet hangouts over the last week or so – in between working on various editing, formatting and sales projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness – so although I did surf, and read and observe reports on a number of different and rather disturbing events – I didn’t have time to write anything about them until after I had finished the biggest of the current projects on my plate.

The biggest of them was the new-old range war of the Bundy ranch. I suppose that technically speaking, the Fed Gov had some small shreds of technical justification in demanding grazing fees … but the longer one looked at the whole of L’affaire Bundy, the worse it looked … which is doubtless why the Fed Gov backed down. A tactical retreat, of course; The optics of a shoot-out between the minions of the Fed Gov and the various Bundy supporters would not have been good, for Harry Reid and his clan and friends most of all, although they may eventually act – seeing that they have a position which will be at risk by tolerating defiance.

First it was state land, then it was Fed Gov property, and all this supposed to be for the benefit of desert tortoises? Dad did an early life study of the California desert tortoise, back in the day. Tough little critters, and seemingly in no particular danger of extinction in the Mojave, unless and until they paved over the desert with solar panels, which was why Dad was tasked with the research. (He went out into the desert near Needles, California, every six months for a number of years, rounded up the randomly-assorted selection of 50 tortoises fitted with radio-transmitter devices, and hauled them into a veterinarian’s office for an x-ray, and for other examinations. No, I don’t know of anything else that Dad discovered, peculiar to the tortoises, only that they seemed pretty easy-going about the whole process…)
Say, the Bundy family has been running cattle on that range since the late 19th century, and now they are the last ranch family standing in that part of the world? Hmm, says the observer, upon seeing a sudden interest by the political powers that be in otherwise pretty unspectacular desert property owned by someone else. This plot was played for laughs in Blazing Saddles – I guess this time around, Harry Reid is doing the Hedley Lamar part. A bit ago, one of the regular commenters, (Subotai Bahadur, if memory serves or perhaps it was Wretchard at Belmont Club), speculated that the cold civil war would turn hot in earnest at the point where a locally respectable, well-thought of and otherwise respectable good citizen was unjustly and viciously brutalized by the minions of the Fed Gov, or as in the case of the following – by a governmental body or several acting in collusion. As a note to L’affaire Bundy, a lot of people not living in flyover states, or in rural areas – have no idea of how heavy the hand of the BLM or the Forest Service lies upon those in the rural west. Living in Texas, I have little personal experience in this regard, since by a historical twist of good fortune, most of Texas is privately owned. One does hear stories, though. Do not underestimate the resentment felt by residents of western states toward representatives of the Fed Gov when it comes to the BLM or the Forest Service. There is a pile of dry tinder there, well-soaked in gasoline, only wanting a lit match or two.

The second local story of which I speak – is the case of a family in Colorado who own – for now – a tiny cabin, a little island of private property within the boundary of a national park. The Forest Service appears to be colluding with the local county to confiscate the property, with the stated purpose of making the park all pristine, by means of eminent domain. No, this park is the preserve of the general public who don’t have any existing property rights, so for the good of all, the property of the one must be confiscated. This will be another stick of tinder for the National Forest Service, by the way.

The third instance is a curious one, of a reclusive collector of a wide variety of artifacts in a little out of the way neighborhood in Rush County, Indiana. Suddenly the FBI is descending on a modest house and supposedly confiscating certain items for examination … and what? The owner appears to be a wholly respectable collector who acquired the items legally, through a long career as a missionary and as an archeological enthusiast? What gives, really? The few news stories concerting the matter are unrevealing when it comes to the question of – what brought this on? Why now? And why is the elderly owner being treated as if he is an international art thief with millions of dollars in looted Nazi art stashed in a warehouse somewhere? And would the same consideration be given to a multimillionaire with a private gallery and a house in the Hamptons? Especially if he were a generous contributor to acceptable Dem Party political causes? Yes, one really does wonder.

The final story regards the recent dismaying policy of the IRS to scoop up tax refund monies from descendants of people who – mirable dictu – are found to owe money to the Fed Gov. Usually, according to this story in the Washington Post (who astonishingly, now appear to be committing acts of journalism) the debts were incurred by long-deceased parents and grandparents, and the legal means established for going after such long-time debts was in an obscure provision of a farm bill passed some years ago. Well, as Speaker Pelosi once so airily remarked, we would have to pass the bill to find out what was in it. This case is curiously illustrative.
I take away from all this a somewhat more discouraging insight – that the various offices of the Fed Gov now seem to see themselves as above the original intent of the law.
Which would be worrying enough; but the underlying tendency that I sense in reviewing all this is a bit more worrying, as a property-owner and one with the odd bit of original art and small artifacts collected in legitimate sale from distant lands, as well as having parents and grandparents who might in the distant past have been briefly in debt to the Fed Gov. Extrapolating from these separate stories, one can’t help coming to the conclusion that if you have something in the way of real property (even just as paltry a thing as an income tax return) and the Fed Gov has a reason for wanting it – they will come and get it.
If such is the case, we are not citizens any longer – but sheep to be sheared whenever the Fed Gov needs a few more pennies. In which case, the Fed Gov sees their prime duty as mulcting the citizens of what items of value they possess, by fair means or foul (usually foul and by the misuse of the laws they choose to enforce), in order to pay for the towering edifice of the Fed Gov as we know it, or to pay off those to whom they owe favors. Discuss.

(cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

I am a business owner. My partner and founder of Watercress Press has always intended that I should take over the business eventually … and as of today, the papers have been signed. Oh, there are a couple of more things to be sorted out, and essentially I have been the active partner for more than a year … but here I start on the next big part of my life, as a business owner and raving capitalist. Although I do promise not to starve and flog the employees while chuckling manically and swan-diving into my pool of gold coins.

Too much. The blood spatters get everywhere after a good flogging, and the stains never come out.

A house, as Dave Barry once cogently remarked, is a square hole in the ground, into which you pour money. Well, after all – it is the place that you live in, and which has all your stuff in it. How much one counts on that sort of thing – well, my parents were reminded of that, when their retirement house burned to the ground in 2003, in one of the catastrophic brush fires that Southern California is so famous for. My parents, having a liking for living away out in the country and preferably at the end of at least half a mile of dirt road, were accustomed to the risk and indeed, the possibility. Still, it was a wrench when the house went up in flames. They had half an hour to get out some of the most valuable stuff, but not many other things; Mom’s wedding dress, the family heirloom christening dress, a huge box of photographs that my daughter had intended to sort out, all of Mom and Dad’s books, the motley assortment of Christmas ornaments – to include the Christmas stockings that my grandmother had knitted in wool, with all our names worked into the top – all of the Danish Christmas plates from the AAFES catalog that I had sent Mom over the time I was stationed overseas – the letters that my uncle had written to his family during WWII. All gone – as Mom said, “They burned up real good.” Everything – and I still think about the things lost in the fire, although some of them I did not miss. The Danish Moderne teakwood dining table and chairs, for example – the chairs hit the back of your knee like a karate chop. (Mom bought them for cheap in the early Sixties, and it turned out they were valued at much, much more than what she had paid originally. In that particular case, I’d have rather had the insurance money.)

Whenever the house seems to get too crowded, the bookshelves crammed and overflowing with books and trinkets, and I think about how nice it would be not to have so many things, and to move into a tiny little cottage in the Hill Country … then I remember Mom and Dad and all the precious, accustomed bits and pieces that they had to let go of, all on a Sunday afternoon in the space of an hour.
I could probably do with less – not with fewer books, though. The constant moving at the pleasure of the Air Force did help us by whittling down the extraneous things every three or four years. But I have been in this house now since 1994, and the stuff has been creeping out of the closets and corners – so perhaps it is time for a belated New Years resolution, to sit down and sort out the storages spaces in the house, and purge the things for which we have no present or foreseeable use. The den closet, I am pretty certain, is home to some boxes from the last move which I threw in there when I got tired of unpacking them.

We had to get a new washing machine this weekend, which necessitated a good clean-out of the closet where the washer and dryer (and a few other small and relatively little-used appliances) live. Result – A much cleaner closet and a trash can filled with useless stuff – pillows stained beyond all hope of cleaning, a box of the disposable plastic receptacles for the long-gone automatic litter box – which never really worked properly and some other bits and bobs which we steeled ourselves to throw away. It got easier as we got down to the bottom of the cupboard.
So, my daughter and I have gotten ambitious; the pantry cupboard is next. It’s one of those with deep shelves, spaced too far apart, with the result that stuff gets lost in the back and forgotten forever. The plan is to rip out all the wooden shelves and their supports, repair the walls, and put in closely-spaced shallow wire shelves along all three walls, so that it will be easy to see what all we have in there – no need to go in with a rope and a headlamp next time I am looking for a can of tomato sauce.

To put it in simple terms, that’s what I call it when a whole group, or sub-set of people are deemed the Emmanuel Goldstein of the moment by a dominant group, and set up as a focus for free-wheeling hate. In practice, this hate may range all the way from a mild disinclination to associate professionally or socially, all the way to 11 in marking the object of that hate as a suitable target for murder, either singly or in wholesale lots – and sometimes with the cooperation and blessing of the state. It’s more something that I have read about – either in the pages of history books, or in the newspapers – and increasingly on-line. Still, it is no end distressing to see it developing here in these United States in this century. Am I paranoid about this current bout of ‘otherizing’? Perhaps – but don’t tell me that it cannot happen here.

Some hundred and fifty years ago, the ‘otherizing’ reached such a pitch that young men marched against their countrymen – they were clad in blue and grey, and fell on battlefields so contested that lead shot fell like a hailstorm, and swept away a large portion of men recruited by regional-based units. Passionate feelings, words and small deeds, public and private regarding slavery were balanced against states’ rights. The pressure built up and up, like steam in a boiler – and finally there was no means for them to be expressed but in death wished upon the ‘other’. By the end of twenty years of editorials, speeches, and political campaigns had been worked to a fever pitch. Civil war became not only possible – but in the eyes of the editorialists, the speech-makers and the politicians – a wholly desirable outcome. And a goodly portion of a generation lay dead, as if a scythe had swept over a wheat-field. Everyone was very sorry afterwards, but the words could not be unspoken, the hatred and resentment re-bottled in a flask, or the dead re-animated, to go about their ordinary lives as if the great divisive issue of mid-19th century America had never been.

Words eventually lead to deeds – especially hot, angry words spoken or expressed by those in cultural authority. Which in this West of the World means politicians and intellectuals, and the popular media; even the not-so-pop media, come to think on it – like NPR, or lesser organs like CNN or MSNBC. (Which is my private jest to call PMS-NBC. See, two can play at this denigration game.) They used to say that sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. But it’s the words, you see; eventually the tide of insult and slander takes a toll. The trouble is that words used with deliberation and intent will lead to application of the sticks and stones. It will also lead, as history demonstrates, to the misuse of the law to criminalize political opposition, to encourage mob actions to retaliate against the ‘other’ for perceived offenses, and at the very least to shun the ‘other’ socially.

Are we at the point of 1861 again, with a divide so deep, and the words spoken so incendiary that they might only be erased in blood? I don’t think so, not quite yet. But we are certainly closer today to 1861 then we have been in the last few decades. And that prospect scares the heck out of me – but it doesn’t seem like many of those in cultural authority, in the media, the commentariat or in politics quite feel the same fear. Just possibly they knew recent history about as well as Andrea Mitchell does … which is cause for even more alarm, if possible.

(crossposted at chicagoboyz.net)

It’s been a quiet week here at Chez Hayes this last week – mostly because of the latest round of global warming which swept through here on Friday and left every tree twig and leaf encased in a medium-thick shell of ice – the streets and sidewalks also. We had quite forgotten the odd rattling noise produced when the breeze blows through the branches of a tree thus treated by ice-cold rain and temperatures plunging well below 20 degrees for a good few hours overnight. We very deliberately scheduled all necessary errands for Wednesday and Thursday, not wanting to need to go anywhere at all on Friday. Walking the dogs was adventure enough, with patches of slick ice everywhere. No, I did not want to risk either of our lives or the continued good condition of either car by driving anywhere. Not only am I out of practice with regard to driving on ice and snow – I have seen south Texas drivers driving in heavy rain. No-bloody-thank-you.

The sale of the Tiny Bidness to me proceeds apace. My business partner’s niece and executor wants to see that her dearly-loved aunt winds up the business properly; all the bills paid, and whatever monies are left in the main account go to her. The business has supported my partner for a good few years, and I hope that it will do the same for Blondie and I. She had a secure base in the home that she and her husband owned, and in Social Security – which she pas paid into all of her working life. I have the military pension, and what comes in from my own books – the Tiny Bidness serves to provide the extras. The agreement is that I will pay the costs of the legal eagle who will draw up the agreement transferring the other company assets to me: the website, the care of reoccurring clients, the various files, three shelves worth of publisher copies of the various published books, whatever passes for DBA certificates, intangible things such as client good-will, the good-will and knowledge of several local providers of services … in another week or so, it will all be mine.

I am naturally restraining myself from romping, Scrooge McDuck-wise, through an Olympic-swimming-pool-sized pool of gold coins. It’s not that kind of company and likely will never be otherwise in this age of Obama, even if I had a mad wish for that to be the case. No, I will deliberately keep it small, personal, depend on personal connections and good service rendered. I may eventually have a storefront office, just for the look of things – but I think to depend otherwise on taking client meetings at a local chain’s coffee shop locations. I swear, there are probably more deals made over their tables by small niche businesses and independent salespeople than practically any other venue. As for assistance in the business, I’ll be training Blondie up in it; first assignment, to memorize the Chicago Manual of Style, and second; learn Photoshop inside and out. I also negotiated an exhibitor space at the upcoming second annual San Antonio Book Festival. Alas, they are being a trifle rigid about subsidy publishers, so an exhibitor space is about the best that I can do. None of my own books would be eligible to be nominated; they lifted their requirements from the Texas Book Festival in Austin – and that organization is also rather snotty about books published by subsidy presses, or those published by their authors. No one has explained some of the facts of the current publishing life to them – which is that there are writers taking it all very seriously and hiring editors, book designers and cover designers and marketing talent out of their own pocket and producing a book every bit as good as or better than those produced the traditional way.

I already have a good client, with promise of repeat business; a retired Army officer and amateur historian, who has a series of five books – or rather, original documents to do with the Civil War in the Hill Country, which he has pulled out from various sources, and annotated through his own research. This is just the sort of thing which the Tiny Bidness has specialized in – and he is no end chuffed that I already am familiar with the events and dramatis personae. So … to work. And to work some

Around the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008, I was working two days a week at a Tiny Bidness owned by a friend of mine, Dave the Computer Genius. I had known Dave off and on since 2002, ever since I had looked for a local computer tech to tell me what was wrong with my very first computer. I think that I found Dave through some on-line search, possibly through some local variant of Craig’s list. Anyway, he pronounced my computer well and truly dead, and sold me a rehabbed unit which even if rehabbed was still a better and more up-to-date one than the defunct unit, which I had gotten ten good years out of since buying it at the Yongsan PX. So, I referred Dave to my then-employer, the consultancy dealing in intellectual property (read – did marketing packages and a provisional patent for people who had invented a gadget), and later on he referred me to one of his clients, the ranch realtor, when I was job-hunting.

Dave did computer installation, training, and trouble-shooting – rather like a one-man Geek Squad – and having a nice collection of regular clients, he did pretty well at it. He talked once or twice of one of them, another Tiny Bidness – a little local publisher owned by Alice G. whom he insisted I would get on with like a house on fire. He promised that one of those days he would take me along when he went to her home/office to work on her computer system, and introduce us. He always thought that we should get together, since he thought we both had a lot in common. And so we did, eventually – although that wasn’t until six months after Dave died of a sudden heart attack.

So, Alice and I went into partnership. Her little company was basically a one-person shop, after the death of her husband – coincidentally about two weeks before Dave’s death. I re-did her website, and re-did it again, when the cost of the specialized software to maintain it got to be too much. I learned her system for estimating costs, took client meetings – and she had been doing business so long in San Antonio that the company has a lot of name recognition locally among those with the wherewithal to publish a book privately. I did editing and sometimes transcriptions when the client had only a paper manuscript and not a word-processing file. I learned how to do formatting – that is, book interior design – and a couple of years ago I talked Alice into establishing a publish-on-demand imprint. We had lost a good number of otherwise promising clients, you see; Alice preferred using a local lithographic printing enterprise, which is only a bargain if you want to print more than a couple of hundred copies at a whack, whereas a POD imprint which also fed into a national distributor would let us be more competitive – and put our client’s books on Amazon. The days of clients who could afford to pay $5,000 to $15,000 and up to publish their book was coming to an end, I would argue, and we were in competition with Createspace and Booklocker and Booksurge and a hundred other POD houses. She would point out that there were years when she only did two books a year, and I would say that we wouldn’t even have that many at the rate we were going.

So, we set up the POD imprint – and of our five clients last year, four of them were POD. I handled them all anyway. We re-did all of my own books that had been published already – and the sales of the printed versions came trickling back to the imprint’s book account. Alice was sidelined more and more with health problems, which have come to a head in the last few months.

The bottom line is that I am going to buy her out, for pretty much the cost of her lawyer doing all the paperwork to transfer the business to me. It’s a good thing that the land sold when it did – as I can just about afford to do this. It’s a nice little business, with all the necessary connections to freelance service providers. There are clients with reoccurring orders for reprints, and potential customers who just prefer to be able to sit down and meet face to face with a real person. Together with my pension, with the income from my own writing – there’ll be enough. I’ll never look to grow it to the point of hiring employees, though. Training up Blondie as my junior partner, as Alice trained me – well, that’s where my work future lies, and with luck it will provide for us both.

Well, it’s a darned good thing this woman is a well-paid CEO, because she sure doesn’t have any skills for living in poverty, no good recipes for tasty, nourishing food, and seems to be innocent of any knowledge of coupon clipping, shopping the ‘reduced for quick sale’ case or the fact that dried beans and rice in bulk are always cheaper than the canned version. And blowing a good sixth of the weekly budget on prepared gourmet pasta sauce … spare me the tales of woe concerning your one week on a tight budget – I can tell you how I lived for a year in the early 1980s on a budget of 25$ every two weeks, plus another 10$ for sundries like detergent and diapers for my toddler daughter. (Advantage being that on weekdays, she had breakfast and lunch at the child care center.) Eggs, cheese, dried pastas, home-made sauces and casseroles, home-made applesauce from a box of apples from the farmer’s market, yoghurt brewed up in the yoghurt maker, and no meat protein that cost more than a dollar a pound. Yes, I shopped with a calculator in my hand, every payday, and usually finished out the day or so before payday with small change in my purse and a dollar or so in the bank account. Other enlisted military members at the time did pretty much the same and likely still do.

How on earth Ms. Moulton even got the notion that a single person or a family on food stamps must get along on that amount is a bit of a puzzle, for it seems that it is merely the amount which has been subtracted per month for a family of four. If the well-off want to see how the other half eats and budgets I would suggest an amount more in line with what a person on food stamps actually will be receiving … and then perhaps a quick consult with those of us who have actually had to pinch our food pennies for realsies until a booger came out of Lincoln’s nose.

36$ a week amounts to $144 monthly for a single person, $288 for a couple – and a whole $576 for the much-vaunted family of four. I could make that budget easily (and have), providing three good meals a day, and no one feeling hungry or tired of lentil stew. Yes, it means no prepared foods, lots of home baking, and getting certain items in case lots or in bulk – and giving a miss to places like Whole Foods. Looking at the comments attached to the linked article, I would guess that Ms Moulton is getting well-schooled along those lines.
Any tales of heroic food budgeting are welcome to be shared in comments

(I spent Friday and Saturday at a book event – the Christmas Market, or Weihnachtsmarkt, at the conference center in New Braunfels, for the launch of The Quivera Trail. So – barely time to post this thrilling frontier adventure until now. The details and the quotes are taken from Walter Prescott Webb’s history of the Rangers, which is so powerfully testosterone-laden that I have to keep it sectioned between a couple of … milder-themed books which have a sedating effect.)

After the debacle of the Civil War, the Texas Rangers barely existed as an entity – either in Indian-fighting, or law-enforcing. The Federal government would not countenance the organization of armed bodies of volunteers for any purpose. Combating Indians or cross-border bandits was the business of the regular Army; interested semi-amateurs need not apply. But a Reconstruction-Republican governor, E. J. Davis, did institute a state police force in 1870, the existence of which was lauded as necessary for the preservation of law and order – such as it was. The state police under Davis was relatively short-lived and unadorned by laurels during its brief term, being dissolved at the end of his administration – but one of their officers had such a sterling reputation that when the Texas Rangers were formally reorganized, he was charged with heading one of the two divisions. One was the Frontier Battalion, dedicated to the Ranger’s traditional mission of fighting hostile Indians. The other – the Special Force – was charged with generally upholding law and order, shortly to become the Ranger’s modern raison d’être. Leander Harvey McNelly served for only a brief time in the interim of the change from Indian fighting to upholding law and order – but his leadership inspired many of those Rangers who took note of his personal example to heart.
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Our Booth  After Rearrangement
That is what our booth at the Boerne Market Days contained this last weekend – the first time that we have done Boerne Market Days as a vendor and not as a strolling shopper. Saturday morning was rainy in San Antonio, and the skies were overcast all day. None of the vendors minded not having any sunshine – as long as it didn’t rain! We had a nicely-placed booth space, about midway between the bandstand at one end, and the food-trucks parked at the other. By the way, the gorditas are fab. Sometimes they make the chicken gordita with cut-up chicken chunks, instead of ground chicken meat – but still tasty, anyway. Another good thing – one of the big trash cans was right in front of us, so no need to set aside a bag for our own trash. And it was a landmark for anyone looking for us.

My daughter and I have done a lot of book events, some of them in conjunction with a craft fair, like Goliad’s Christmas on the Square, so we pretty much know the drill; bring tablecloths, plenty of stock (packed in plastic tubs with lids) plenty of change, receipt books, lots of flyers, postcards and business cards, and something to ornament the table with … and chocolate candy. Most everyone likes chocolate, although one of the most relentless book marketer I know has a cookbook with recipes incorporating lemons – she makes lemon cookies or cake, and gives away samples.

This time, we had two more improvements to our retail efforts; a folding dolly hand-truck, which can carry one of the heaviest tubs and one of the lighter ones at a time, and folds up very compactly… no, it isn’t industrial-strength, but better than schlepping the heaviest tubs of books by hand for half a block or more. $20 bucks at Sam’s Club, which might very well be the best and most useful $20 ever spent there, over the long haul. The other was a little attachment for my daughter’s cellphone, which allows us to process credit card payments to her Tiny Bidness Paypal account. We couldn’t process credit/debit accounts before, which has sometimes been a bit of a bind since … well, not too terribly many people carry around checkbooks any more, or cash, either – and going to an ATM and getting cash for a sale is sometimes a bit of an inconvenience for people.

If we keep this up – this making an appearance on the regular market circuit – there are certain things that we will just have to get, in addition to the storage tubs and the hand-truck. We rented the pop-up tent, two folding tables and a chair from the Boerne Market Days management, but eventually we will have to get our own 10 X 10 pop-up; most of the other regular vendors had them, in varying degrees of quality, with zip-up sidewalls for additional privacy, security and shelter from the elements. We will also probably invest in a pair of banners, either to clip to the front of the pop-up or to the front of the table, advertising our various enterprises.
We made back and a bit more the amount that we paid for the space, and rental of the conveniences – but not very much more. We talked to many other vendors, who were similarly disappointed. Either it’s just not close enough to Christmas to loosen the purse strings – or that everyone is looking at the current economic situation with a very tight hold on the pocket-book.

Even so, this last weekend was a learning experience – and one of them was that Boerne Market Days is very animal friendly. A lot of shoppers had dogs on leashes, and one iconoclast among the vendors eve had a pair of infant goats on display. They were such cute babies – but I am told that when they are fully-grown, they can be evil in the extreme.

November already? I swear, where does the time go. At least we can turn off the AC – finally! – and open the windows. Although that does heighten our appreciation of our next door neighbor’s relations with his two basset hounds; one male who is alert and ready to give voice at any provocation, and one female who is quiet and sedate, and very likely pregnant. Well, when you have two young unfixed dogs of the opposite sex this kind of thing is gonna happen sooner or later. He has also not been able to housebreak them with any degree of reliability (although we have tried to tell him about crates) so they spend a large part of their day outside. This does mean that anyone who comes close to the front of either of our houses gets barked at, which does have some benefit. He has offered us one of the puppies, though.

We will have a booth at the Boerne Market Days this weekend; half with my books and half with Blondie’s origami art. This is her big roll-out for Paper Blossom Productions. She has been working away at various pieces for the last couple of months, and only this weekend got around to inventorying and packaging up a number of pieces … like $300 dollars worth of earrings featuring beads and miniscule origami cranes. I will have three plastic tubs of books – as this month is the roll-out for The Quivera Trail. Later on in the week we will turn from organizing inventory to organizing the display of it; stands, hooks, baskets and s-hooks and hangers, as well as table cloths to cover the tables with. The weather is predicted to be mild – neither too hot or too cold, which is a good thing. The Market Day is traditionally held on Town Square, under the shade of a massive stand of pecan trees, but we have to be there for two days, from 10 AM to 5. Having a broiling hot day, or a freezing cold and /or rainy one will be … uncomfortable, to say the least. This is the time of the year when I do most of the face-to-face book-selling – so, apologies in advance if the blogging is brief and to the point.

The land sale meant that there is a cushion of sorts to fall back on – and I was able to clear away one ongoing debt entirely, although having to have the transmission in Blondie’s Montero rebuilt entirely has delayed plans for replacing the windows in the house. Ah, well. On the bright side, she went through a lot of trouble early this year to procure health insurance for herself, believing our President’s assurances that if you had a plan you could keep it. So she went with an $87 a month plan from Humana – which she could afford without much stress on the budget. Call it The ACA-compliant plan offered by Humana as option B this last month cost $230. For now, she is sticking with option A, in the fond hopes that the whole unAffordable Healthcare Act will implode as terminally and as messily as the planetary monster transported through the digital conveyer on Galaxy Quest.
Spent part of the weekend setting up two crocks of homemade sauerkraut; yeah, we’ve gotten a taste for the stuff, and it couldn’t be easier and cheaper to do. Cabbage, 4 heads, finely shredded, and a scant cup of pickling salt. Pack tightly into a clean glass jar, ad a little brine to the top if the cabbage hasn’t exuded enough moisture to cover – and let ferment for three to six weeks. Then heat to a simmer, pack into hot canning jars, seal and process in boiling water. We’ve just eaten the last of the jars that I processed last summer. Oh, and the last of the mixed vegetable pickles as well, so here goes some time and fresh carrots, cauliflower, pearl onions and sliced cucumber the weekend after next to stock us up. We’re doing OK on jams and preserves, though – and still have some jars of pickled okra. And that’s our plans for the immediate future.

A Facebook friend posted a link to this story – which has apparently just barely made a dent outside the local area.

Last weekend western South Dakota and parts of the surrounding states got their butts handed to them by Mother Nature. A blizzard isn’t unusual in South Dakota, the cattle are tough they can handle some snow. They have for hundreds of years.

Unlike on our dairy farm, beef cattle don’t live in climate controlled barns. Beef cows and calves spend the majority of their lives out on pasture. They graze the grass in the spring, summer and fall and eat baled hay in the winter.

In winter these cows and calves grow fuzzy jackets that keep them warm and protect them from the snow and cold.

The cows and calves live in special pastures in the winter. These pastures are smaller and closer to the ranch, they have windbreaks for the cows to hide behind. They have worked for cows for hundred of years.

So what’s the big deal about this blizzard?

It’s not really winter yet.

The rest is here.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz, and at www.celiahayes.com)

So, I haven’t paid much attention to the blogs and books this week, and am falling behind in posting reviews of stuff … no kidding, there are two books at the bottom of the pile that I have been waiting on my attention for months, and possibly a year in the case of one. But real life happens, and never in accordance with deadlines and plans. The sale of my California land went into escrow a week ago Friday. We’ve been auditioning window replacement experts and a HVAC installation company with and eye to using some of the funds to improve this house.

And Alice, my partner in the Tiny Publishing Bidness had surgery a couple of months ago for a cancerous mass on her lung, which was successfully removed … but it turns out that some of the cells have gone wandering looking for another organ to settle down in, and so in order to keep that from happening, some cycles of chemotherapy are in order. Which means that she does not feel really up to doing the work of the Tiny Bidness, not that I blame her in the least, and so the last couple of book projects have been left to me to manage. Which takes up that amount of time left to work on my own book, both the one which I have just finished – The Quivera Trail, for which I am now taking advance orders – and the two that I am just starting.

For the last couple of years, Blondie has been serving as a bi-weekly housekeeper, handy-person, regular driver and runner of errands for Alice, which works out well, because eventually Blondie will be my partner in the business. They really like each other, which is also good. Blondie also did the same house-keeping, general help and driver for another elderly neighbor, Mrs. Y., who moved in a house around the corner from ours some years ago. Mrs. Y. was confined to a scooter chair as the result of a number of chronic health problems, a widow with four married daughters about my age. We first met one of her daughters and her husband when they began fitting out the house for her to move into – the husband does cabinetry, carpentry and general renovation work. They lived in the neighborhood also. Mrs. Y.’s health was too precarious to live alone in her long-time family home out in Canyon Lake – so, she was moving into our little patch of suburbia where the two daughters who lived close by could keep an eye on her.

About a month or so after Mrs. Y. and her cat (eventually to be two cats, both of whom she loved very much) moved into the house, we saw her rolling out on her scooter chair to the community mailbox, and stopped to say hello. In conversation, she asked if we could refer her to a regular housekeeper – someone to come in once a month and do the heavy work that she couldn’t manage from her chair. One thing and another, Blondie agreed to come in once a month, and spend three-quarters of the day doing housekeeping. I swear, Blondie must be the only purely Anglo housekeeper in this part of Texas – but one way and another, she and Mrs. Y. also got to be rather fond of each other. The daughters threw a Mary Kay party at Mrs. Y’s house, and Blondie did some housekeeping and moving-into-new-house help for one of the daughters. Two of the daughters lived a fair distance away, and the two who did live close in have fairly demanding jobs – so, now and again Mrs. Y. called Blondie to take her to an appointment. Last month, it seemed there were a lot of appointments in a short time span – and the housekeeping day was cancelled because Mrs. Y. was hospitalized.

About mid-month, we saw the garage door opened, and some familiar cars in the driveway. One of the daughters and a cousin sadly told us that Mrs. Y. was home – but that there was nothing that could be done for her. She was too frail for any more treatments or surgery, and was in hospice care at her house. She wanted more than anything to come home and spend her last days there with the cats; her daughters, the niece and the visiting hospice-care nurses taking care of her. Blondie volunteered also, and spent much of late August taking a turn at looking after Mrs. Y. She was very frail, and took a turn for the worst almost at once, passing away barely a week later, in the wee hours of early morning. We went to the funeral service in a funeral chapel in Seguin yesterday. It was a pretty brief service, mercifully, and conducted by a minister who was a friend of the family, and a gospel alto singing “I’ll Fly Away” and “In the Sweet By and By.” Generally the Methodists and Baptists seem to have much more cheerful hymns than Lutherans – our funeral hymns tend to be stern and gloomy. It wasn’t a crowd which overwhelmed the chapel in any case – the extended family, and friends and Blondie and I. Open casket, too – but the funeral home had done very well by her; she looked quite natural; very much her once-relatively healthy self.

We followed in the cortege to the cemetery; about twenty-five cars and four motorcycles. One of the daughters belongs to a motor-cycle group, so three of her friends came along on their bikes, flanking the hearse. One curious thing I noticed, which I had never seen before – once outside Seguin, just about every car going the other way on the road pulled over onto the verge, until the cortege had passed. “It’s a country thing,” one of Mrs. Y’s daughters explained. The graveside service was even briefer; we stood at the back, in the shade of a young oak tree, with puffy cotton-wad clouds floating in a blue sky – the cemetery was a very serene and well-organized place, even if I am not quite sure if I approve of artificial flowers for the graves. Most of the monuments had them – flat stones with a metal vase set into the center. Another local custom, I think. Mr. Y. was also buried there; I think it was comforting for the daughters, knowing that they were together.
And that was my week. Yours?

You know, I am reminded of my own relative naiveté whenever I open a tab on my browser and go to my usual news and political websites these days. I remember when I could innocently assume that the elected representatives of the greatest democratically elected republic on earth could be assumed not to be professional sc*mbags not primarily interested in re-election and being able to soak up enough goodies through their connections to be able to retire as millionaires. I remember when it was confidently expected that they would do the business of administering to the needs of the republic – at least most of the time – with some pretensions at doing what would benefit the public at large, not just themselves, their scummy relations, present and former staff, and their media enablers.

I remembered when feminism meant basically that women should have the same opportunities for education, for employment – and without lowering the standards for either – the same pay for doing the same job, to be considered creditworthy without regard to sex, not be fired from your job on the instant of marrying and/or becoming pregnant, and to have the opportunity to seek election to any political office in the land. Big damn whoops there! Apparently the program of modern feminism means that you can be as ugly to the males in your personal life and those misfortunate enough to attend class or work with you as you please, to have unfettered access to abortion at any stage of the pregnancy, and to demand that your birth control be paid for by others. OK then – and that being considered for any political office while possessing the uterus and tits from your original issue – is also contingent upon being a graduate of an approved university, possessing a non-hickish accent, being the spouse or spawn of one of the accredited political families, and genuflecting before all the right altars of properly progressive thought.

So, when Sarah Palin swam across my ken, upon being honored with an invitation to become the GOP VP nominee, I was delighted. No, really – and so were a great many ladies of certain age of my acquaintance, many of them actively employed or retired from a lifetime of work at it, some of them in defiantly non-traditional specialties, and living arrangements. Intelligent, hard-working, happily and bountifully married, popular in her district and among those she had served, and who had elected her, outdoors-loving, and a partner in hubby’s enterprises, educated in much the same way that I was – community college and upper division at a state school? Hey, what wasn’t to like? A serious woman in serious business, and about to ascend politically as had not been seen since Gerry Ferrero in ’84. Well, as Bertie Wooster would have said in a much more innocent age and place, “Huzzah! Huzzah, and Huzzah again!” A woman in the second highest political place in the land! A woman’s place is in the House … and Senate … and in the VP’s office. Women-power has arrived, baby! Alas, not to be, for it seemed that Sarah Palin was Not The Right Kind, Darling, and the blowback was vicious beyond anything that I had ever seen, save maybe the savaging of LBJ in the late 60’s. The upper-class, establishment-elite, academic, and capital-F feminists were the most vicious of all. So much for sisterhood, ladies; not what I assumed feminism would be – what you have is Mean Girls writ large and nationally. So sad, ladies – it seems that the women’s movement, despite all claims to the contrary by the officially-declaimed mouthpieces summoned up by the established media/entertainment orgs, is only for the benefit of the properly anointed. The rest of us are on our own. We have the support of husbands, churches, communities and friends, I guess. But not the anointed Official Capital-F Feminists.

Which brings me to the thoroughly filthy Honorable Mayor Mr. Filner … good thing that neither my mother, daughter or I ever had the bad chance to be within his ken and reach, else he’d be minus a testicle or two and we’d be up on charges of assault … or whatever they would call it when you suddenly step backwards and grind your sensible 2” heel into his foot, shoot an elbow into his ribs, or a knee into his crotch after a swift pivot, while saying brightly, “Oh, I am so sorry, you startled me!”

So, he is only the most recent and most notorious establishment-blessed letch, although he and the risibly-monikered Anthony Wiener are about neck and neck for the title of Sexist Pig o’ The Day. Ted Kennedy firmly held those sorry laurels for the last couple of decades; most disgusting in personal conduct when it came to the hapless and unfortunate women in his personal orbit, beginning when he swam to the surface at a water-crossing and let a young woman drown in his car. Apparently, according to this representative of Official Capital-F feminism, Dem pigs are OK because they just are, and those horrible GOPers are untouchable (no matter how gallant they are in personal conduct) because in their Official Legislative Conduct, they vote for policies which Harm Teh Womyns! Gosh, it’s as if slogans like ‘The Personal is Political’ have vanished down the memory hole, along with the memory of every yearly briefing that I had to take about sexual harassment. Yes, dear official feminist operatives, I had to take that class, and I remember quite well what we were told. If it’s sauce for the military gander, it must also be sauce for the civilian goose. Otherwise, I am left with the conclusion that working-class women must put up with a certain degree of bad behavior from upper-class and elite male sexist pigs… because it’s duty or something.

Damn, I thought we had moved on from the 19th century Victorian standards of conduct with regard to sex and class. It does look like the Official Political Capital-F Feminists are lining up to urge Filthy Filner to resign, so maybe they did sit down and have a good think about it.

(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)