Sweeping the roof

roof
Top of the Hacienda. Two chimneys, solar water heater, water tank.

NOBODY SWEPT the roof when I was a child in Jacksonville, Florida, certainly not my father who never showed any interest in home maintenance.

He focused on just three things: whisky, poetry and my mother, not necessarily in that order, but maybe.

It’s a good thing the Florida roof required no maintenance from my father. He likely would have stumbled off anyway. The flat roof was asphalt and gravel.

You don’t put a man focused on whisky and poetry atop a roof with no railings.

Years later, I bought my first house. That was 1986 in Houston, Texas. My second ex-wife still lives there, but let us not digress toward matrimonial horror. The roof was a gritty, sheet material that resembled glorified tar paper.

For mostly the same reasons that my father ignored his roof, I ignored mine, though I never paid attention to poetry.

And now I’m in just the third home of my life that isn’t a rental. The roof is concrete, and it has a gentle incline so it doesn’t collect water in the rainy season.

The only maintenance I give it is a yearly sweep, and I did that today, which inspired this information going your way.

While up there, via the circular staircase, I also wiped down the glass rods on the solar water heater. And I admired the view, which is spectacular, and I took this photo.

The roof is on its own until next year.

Going poetic

MANY AMERICANS assume that since free speech is written into law in the United States the same right is available in European democracies.

On the contrary. You can be jailed in much of Europe for expressing an unapproved opinion.

The American version of this is being pelted with rotten tomatoes on elite university campuses.

One of my favorite guys is Bruce Bawer, a New York-born, gay writer who lives — since 1999 — with his best bud in Norway. Though he describes himself as liberal and has voted Democrat in the United States, he’s hard to categorize.

bawerBawer and I are in lockstep on the issue of Mohammedan “refugees.” Here is a poem he has published in Frontpage Mag:

* * * *

In Sønderberg the other day

A teenage girl used pepper spray
To rout a randy “refugee”
From somewhere far across the sea
Who threw down and molested her.
The cops arrested her.

As part of a jihadist plot,
A brute assailant took a shot
At a fine Copenhagen man
Who’d deprecated the Quran.
When the brave soul who’d nearly died
Then publicly identified
The thug who’d tried to kill him, he
Was charged with grave delinquency:
Breaching privacy.

In Mölndal, a Somali teen
Plunged a long blade into the spleen
Of a young Swedish altruist
Who’d yearned to do one thing: assist.
The land’s top cop went on TV
And trumpeted his sympathy.
For the poor girl who’d lost her life?
No. For the kid with the knife.

At one time it was understood
That a devotion to the good
Didn’t mean one should be blind
To evil, or pretend to find
Some virtue in sheer villainy.
To see what isn’t there to see
Is not a sign of rectitude.
To point out evil isn’t rude;
To fight it is good.

You can’t, however hard you try,
Mistake for a speck in the eye
A loaded Uzi in the hands
Of some rough beast from foreign sands
Intent on taking out a child.
You’ll win no points for being mild
To members of a desert creed
That seeks to make the heathen bleed
And preaches that the kind and meek
Are contemptibly weak.

Christ said to turn the other cheek.
But what if it’s not just your cheek?

* * *  *

Bawer’s books include Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, The New Quislings and While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within.

Death of the muse

TURNING THE CALENDAR to a new year makes one gaze both forward and backward. Well, me at least. And at my advancing age, there’s far more behind than ahead.

When I retired my former website, The Zapata Tales, in 2011, it was because I had wearied of writing about “Life in Mexico.” What had begun in 2000 as an incredible adventure that I wanted to share had become mundane, everyday life.

Still love living here, but I’m used to it.

I wanted a fresh online slate. My main interest was writing short fiction. I had done a bit of that with The Tales, but I wanted it to be my primary focus — fiction.

And it was, for a good while. I wrote some pretty good stuff that I’m not modest about. Interestingly, I’ve never taken a writing class. And, though I spent 30 years in the newspaper business, I have never taken a journalism class either.

Something weird happened a year or so ago. My muse died, inexplicably. Here’s how my fiction previously came into being: It just landed on me, magically, more often than not at dawn while I was lying in the sack half asleep.

An idea!

Then I would write it as the sun rose over the mountains. Some of it was remarkably good, if I do say so myself. Reading it later, I would wonder, where did that come from?

My father was a writer, mostly poetry and even more mostly haiku. He would worry it to death, think on it, mull on it, spend lots of time on it. And it did come out good. Some is still available on Amazon. He died in 1991.

I never mulled much. It just flowed, surprising me.

But then it stopped. Why? I have no idea. Age? Possibly. I have noticed a general attitude change of late.

The Unseen Moon now focuses on two things, politics/culture and — yet again — my life in Mexico.

Well, enough of that. To welcome in the new year, here is one of my favorites, a blast from the past. It’s titled The Broken Staircase. Maybe this will kick-start my muse:

* * * *

The Broken Staircase

Five steps rotted and collapsed in the middle of the staircase, and that’s how it all began.

Alcott was upstairs. He never left his home again.

He decided to write a history of mankind. It would be thorough, but due to having no reference materials upstairs, it would be fiction by necessity, a history of mankind as it should have been, the perfect people. He liked the idea, and dedicated the rest of his life to writing fictitious history.

. . . which should not be confused with historical fiction. No, he wrote history hidden by a mask, creating a dream world, but really, after all, it was not so different from actual historical writing at times.

But first there was the matter of survival. For that he turned to his old friend Beaman whom he had known since boyhood.

Beaman lived nearby.

There was the question of food.

Beaman tossed up a rope, and that was how Alcott received his daily meals, a basket connected to the rope. Beaman’s wife, Aldyth, simply made a bit more than she and Beaman ate each day, and Beaman took the leftovers to Alcott.

We should mention that Alcott was married too. His wife was Godeleva, but Alcott had not loved — or even liked — Godeleva in many years.

As luck would have it, Godeleva was downstairs when the five steps rotted in the staircase. She noticed the problem even before Alcott. She smiled, walked into the downstairs bedroom, packed two bags, and headed to the beach.

. . . and never returned.

* * * *

Alcott was not a social man, so the upstairs isolation suited him, plus there was lots of time to invent fictional history.

Luckily, there was a bathroom on the second floor of Bockingfold and an antique typewriter.

Bockingfold was the name of the home, which had been in Alcott’s family for generations. Godeleva had always found it cold and dreary there.

About a year after the five steps rotted in the staircase, Alcott awoke one morning thinking of Godeleva whose body was as fine as her personality was foul. That afternoon, during their daily chat through the second-floor window, as warm stew was ascending, he asked Beaman for a woman.

Man does not live by stew alone, he said, or something like that. There was an obstacle. The rope was medium-weight, and the basket had been bought at a discount outlet that imported from India.

The woman, they concluded, must be lightweight and short, a wisp of a girl.

This was acceptable to Alcott, desirable even, because Godeleva, although quite beautiful, was big-boned. And Alcott was ready for new adventures.

Find a mini-version of womankind, Alcott said to Beaman, but she must be over 21 because Alcott wanted no problems with the police.

One week later, Beaman stood beneath the window with Vulpine, which means like a fox. She said she was 26. And she was quite small, a midget actually, which should not be confused with a dwarf. She was well-formed, firm and fine.

Her hair and full lips were flaming red.

She fit perfectly into the basket, holding the day’s stew in her lap. Alcott, with a bit of extra effort, hoisted both dishes to the window sill and inside the room to which Vulpine hopped effortlessly and looked up at him, smiling.

* * * *

Vulpine did not speak much about her past. There was something about a circus, a prison and horse rides through the mountains with a man named Smoke.

Alcott and Vulpine hit it off immediately. She liked the security, the daily stews, and he liked the look of her, the red lips, the hair blazing like a bonfire.

redhead1And that’s how it stayed. The years passed, and Alcott wrote. In time there were 35 volumes of fictional history. He grew old and gray and stooped.

But Vulpine never changed a bit.

She was like magic, and that was what he wanted.

No one ever repaired the staircase of Bockinfold, and when Alcott died one day, Vulpine kissed his cheek, shimmied down the rope like a child and walked off into a sunny winter afternoon, her hair lit like Christmas candles.

American Gothic

Family

MY SISTER RECENTLY  mailed some photos to my daughter, and my daughter sent this copy to me. The original was in color, but I made it black and white because it’s more in line with reality. It would have been taken around 1987.

You might notice that nobody is smiling. We were not smiley people. I still am not.* Oh, but my sister is smiling, you say. Not really. That’s her Cheshire Cat expression. She was probably planning an assassination of someone on Fox News.

We were not a happy family. Strangely, I would not have said that had you asked on the day of this photo. I would have shrugged. My father was a boozer, and so was I. He had stopped when this shot was taken, but I had not.  We both stopped voluntarily in our early 50s.

For the same reason, I imagine. It got too painful.

We drank in the same fashion. We were not violent or abusive. We were quiet and out of touch, the sort of drinking that can do about as much damage to relationships as someone who throws chairs through windows and screams. We did none of that sort of thing.

My sister was no stranger to the sauce either. I don’t know to what extent she overdid it because I rarely saw her. She graduated from high school and left home when I was 14. That was about the end of a sister in my life. She went on to stumble around, primarily in university settings. She took up with hippies. She taught English a while. She got graduate degrees in stuff like counseling.

In her 40s, she hooked up with a New York City gang called Social Therapy, which had connections with the New Alliance Party and a shadowy, charismatic figure named Fred Newman. Many call it an anti-semitic cult. I am one of those who call it that.

She is 73 now, lives alone in Atlanta, and has a private counseling practice. She is a left-wing fringe, lesbian, feminist fanatic, and I quit communicating with her about two years ago. I would have cut ties far earlier had my mother died sooner. My mother long embraced a family fantasy. As it was, I communicated only rarely with my sister via snail mail and then email. I have not seen her in person in about 12 years.

My father died about four years after this photo. Downed by a heart attack at 75. Like me, he had been a newspaper editor. He retired early, age 49, and became renowned in American haiku poetry circles. He still has two books of poetry available on Amazon.

My mother, in spite of appearing in this photo as if she could be the wife of Josef Mengele, was the nicest of the lot by far. In contrast to the other three, she drank not a drop. She was an elementary and junior high schoolteacher before becoming a school librarian in middle age.

She died in 2009 at the age of 90.

Some people sweep their dark family secrets under a rug. I take that rug off the floor, hang it on a clothesline, invite the neighbors, and beat the bejesus out of it with a big broom. And I feel better for it. Photos bring memories, no?

Thanks for listening.

* * *  *

* In spite of that, my child bride says I have a fantastic sense of humor, and I do. Go figger.

(Note: Unrelated to today’s topic, let it be known that there is now a Moon Google+ page.)