Probably Not So Popular Opinion

I usually look forward to Fridays here on ye old blog.  Well let’s not kid ourselves.  I look forward to Fridays in general and I know I’m not alone in that.  Fridays are meant to be wind down days.  If you can work from home you probably do (I, sadly, do not have that luxury).  Certainly you work with less vim and vigor than you probably do the rest of the week.

I have been looking forward to Fridays here on the blog lately though, because that’s when Write on Edge posts the link-up for the Red Writing Hood prompts that I’ve been participating in lately.  It is not my intention to be bragging (so if it sounds that way, I’m sorry) when I say that I usually bust those short fiction pieces out in the course of an hour or so.  The hard part with those prompts isn’t writing the pieces, it’s deciding what I’m going to write about.  Sometimes the prompts seem so vague and indecipherable.  I usually figure out something eventually though.  Most of the time I just have to kick my literal thinking mind out of the way and let it be a little more – well, vague.

This week though, that just didn’t work out.  This week’s prompt goes something like this:

This week we’d like you to stir up some conflict, using the following quote as inspiration.

“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

Well…  Not “something like” that.  That’s a cut and paste, so it goes exactly like that.  Only the problem is I’m not sure if I truly understand the quote, and what I think I understand of it, I do not agree with.

Honestly, the quote seems to be self-contradictory.

I do not believe in violence, period.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  I do not believe in violence.

I also do not really see a connection between “be violent, if there is violence in your heart” and a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”  How these two things even relate to each other, I do not know.

When I read the quote though, the first thing that comes to mind is some of the recent political protest activity that has happened around this here country of ours.  Thinking specifically of the “occupy” protests or, going back a little further, the Oscar Grant riots that happened here in Oakland a while back.  Things that were supposed to be “peaceful” but turn violent without much provocation.  Things that I heard lots of people argue in favor of, under the guise that “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”  Sounds like a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence” to me.

Only we aren’t impotent.  We can do something.  There are steps we can take that don’t involve breaking laws and destroying public or private property.  There are ways we can get our point across without belligerently disobeying the police.

Angry does not have to mean violent.  It does not have to mean disruptive.  It does not have to be destructive.

Impotence is laziness.

Impotence is an excuse.

If anything we tend to use violence, not nonviolence, as the cover for impotence.

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WOE: Mentor

The Write On Edge prompt for this week was simply the word “mentor”.  Now those of you who’ve been around for a while and already know a thing or two about me, might have suspected I would write about Lil’B and my mentor-ship with him.  You might be surprised that my relationship with him is not the first thing that popped into my mind.  Those of you who have really been around for a while, I think I might have written about this experience once before and if this is old news, I’m sorry.

Do you have a mentor, or are you a mentor for someone else?

Now write about an experience with your mentor (or the person to whom you are a mentor) that shows us what that relationship means to you.

500 words maximum, please. And remember, this is a non-fiction prompt.

 

My family moved three days after my seventh grade year started.  I walked into the school office where I was enrolled in the school and given a class schedule with mere minutes to spare before the tardy bell on my first class and the secretary told me how to find my first classroom.  Somehow I was expected to make my way from class to class entirely on my own after that.  I really don’t even know how, but somehow I managed to get from one class and classroom to the next that morning.  And I either managed to do it without ever being tardy, or I looked sufficiently shell-shocked that my teachers had pity on me that first day (I never had detention.)

Finally, after my third class of the day, it was time for lunch, or so the NCR copy of my class schedule told me.  The problem was, unlike the rest of the line items of my class schedule, this item listed no room number other than “CAF”.  It seemed simple enough though, I would follow the rest of the students in my class.  Surely we would all be going to lunch at the same time.  Surely we would all be going to the same place.  Only it wasn’t just my class in the hallways.  And it wasn’t just time to wander to the cafeteria for those who were in the halls and very soon, I lost track of the heads I was following as they bobbed through the crowd.

I found myself back in the hallway near the office, completely lost.  I held the grubby paper in my hand knowing that I was supposed to be in the Cafeteria, but having no idea where that was, when I heard a voice form behind me.  “Are you lost?” she asked.  I turned, expecting to look up at the teacher but surprised to look her straight in the eye.  She looked grandmotherly to my twelve-year-old eyes, with curly hair and big square framed glasses.  After pointing me toward the cafeteria, which happened to be just down the hall and sending me on my way with a pat on the back, I was grateful, but thought little else about the kindly woman who had helped me.

I ate my lunch as quickly as I could, having spent half my lunch period looking for the cafeteria, then made my way to my next class, Music.  Lo and behold!  I walked into the kindly teacher’s classroom.  Music very quickly became my favorite class of the day and I spent many afternoons after school in that classroom, helping clean up and organize.

The next year I spent my first class each day as a student aid.  I chose the music teacher as the one I would assist.  Though my family lived only a few blocks from school, I was always a few minutes late to class (some things never change) – and yet, I never had detention.

 

Are You Being Served Downstairs?

A quick point of correction for those of you keeping track at home, and really, aren’t you all?  Last week I told you the Write on Edge program was called “Remebe(red)” which evokes thoughts of the “Join (Red)” campaign and the many forms it has taken over the years.  While Join (Red) is certainly a worthy thing (isn’t anything whose purpose is to eliminate the AIDS epidemic?) that is not what Write on Edge’s program is about.

In actuality, the program is called, “RembeRed.”

This week on RemerRed, “…we asked you to write, in 400 words or less, a memoir in which dialect or colloquialisms feature prominently.

“Why are you watching that?!?” I asked my mother on multiple occasions.  I would find her in her usual spot, laid out on the living room sofa with one cat curled behind her knees and another snug against her breast, and always with the remote control resting on her hip, ready to obey her tactile commands.

My mother always felt that American television was too unwholesome and often looked for alternatives.  Frequently she would find something she deemed acceptable on the local PBS affiliate which often aired British television shows.  She was fond of the likes of Upstairs Downstairs and Are You Being Served, All Creatures Great and Small and Masterpiece Theater.  It all felt so old and foreign to me, which of course it was, though it wasn’t nearly as old as I believed it to be at the time.  It didn’t help that most of the shows took place in a bygone era.  In truth PBS could be counted on to broadcast various British television series from just a few years prior.

I would sit in the living room, in front of the only television in the house, captive to my mother’s whims of fancy, pouting while my mother would laugh at things I couldn’t understand.  It was as though she was listening to a foreign language or a code only she could decipher.  All I knew was she had deemed these to be morally acceptable programs.

For many years as an adult, I avoided British television at all costs.  Little did I know there were a lot of wonderful television shows on British television, now more readily found on their American cable affiliate.  I have learned that at least one of these “morally acceptable” programs, Are You Being Served was actually quite risqué… and quite funny.

One of my favorite television shows, today, is Doctor Who.  Oh, it’s still like watching a program in a foreign language.  Sometimes I have to watch with the captioning activated, just to understand the words.  At least once per episode, some joke or reference escapes me entirely due to the cultural differences and the colloquialisms I simply do not understand, but these days I’m far more entertained, and even motivated to learn what these “foreign” words mean.

Fries are chips, chips are crisps, crackers are biscuits and biscuits are cakes (I think.)  Don’t even get me started on pants versus trousers!

 

 

Write on Edge: Music

This weeks fiction prompt for the Red Writing Hood was Music.  Describing how a piece of music affects our character, in 400 words or fewer (The website says 400 words or less, but every time I read/type/write that, I hear my English major mother screaming “Fewer!  It should be fewer!!!” in my ear.)

I almost didn’t make it with this one, but here it is, anyway:

Kieran stepped from the cool comfort of his mid-sized rental sedan and beads of sweat moistened his brow faster than you could say Celtic festival.  He hated the heat and the sweat was an unwelcome reminder.  Today, though, he ignored the heat, to get a taste of home and revel in his forgotten youth.

As he crossed through the rutted field of dry, matted straw, he absently touched his chest; his rough hand detecting the soft cotton fabric, but his mind’s eye seeing the McFlarity family crest circled in Celtic knot work tattooed on his lily-white flesh beneath.  The closer he got to the festival gate, the louder the strains of stringed instruments became.

Passing through the festival booths and vendors, Kieran followed a direct trek straight to the center stage.  As he drew closer his heart swelled along with the music.  Memories of his youth in the hills of Ireland rushed into his thoughts, bringing a smile to his face as his feet tapped out a private jig, meant solely for his own enjoyment.

Kieran thought of the rolling hills on the edge of his village, Balbriggan.  How he used to run on those hills with his brothers.  And the water front at the edge of the Irish Sea as he watched his father and the men, boarding the fishing boats each day.  Pa had always come home smelling of salt air and salmon, but his mother never seemed to mind; always happy just to have her husband safe and sound back at the family homestead.

As the music grew louder and the cymbals clanged together, Kieran flinched as his memories took a turn.  When the war had finally come to Balbriggan there was barely time for planning.  His parents would take the family away, to find a place of safety in the home of American cousins already living in New York City.

When suddenly the music softened, tears welled up in Kieran’s eyes as images of his last moments in Balbriggan flashed through his mind.  His father, shot in the back, branded a traitor.  His brothers dragged away by the soldiers and made to fight a war they could not understand, only to die pointlessly on the battlefield.  And his poor, sainted mother, savagely  beaten as she held the men at bay long enough for the fishing boat to set sail and carry Kieran away.

Wednesday Bonus: Friendship

In addition to the weekly fiction writing prompts on Write on Edge, there is also a weekly non-fiction or memoir writing prompt called “Remembe(red)”  (Write on Edge used to be known by a different name…”The Red Dress Club” I think it was.)

This weeks Remembe(red) prompt as about friendship.  Four hundred words exploring a friendship, past or present.

Enjoy:

 

When you walked into my life, I never thought we’d become what we have.  Me with my judgmental, depressed, unforgiving attitude.  You with your insightful wisdom and huge, open heart.  We were never meant to be friends.  How could it even work, two souls, so different from each other?

You saw things in me that I didn’t even know were there.  You coaxed them out of me, gently, cautiously.  You had all the time in the world.  You helped me to see things clearly.  Helped me to open my own heart – more importantly, my own mind – to the world around me and the possibilities that surrounded me.  You helped me to become a better person.  And the best part is you never even tried.  You did all this simply by being there, simply by loving me for whom and what I was…even when I couldn’t love myself.

I don’t know if you even realize how much you affected my life…how much you affected me.  In so many ways, I would not be the man I am now, if it hadn’t been for you.

You moved away and it broke my heart.  The emptiness I felt at your absence was too much for me to bear and when you came back the world was right again.  So naturally, I moved away and when I did, I knew I’d never see you again and it broke my heart all over again.  I knew it was something I had to do, though, for me.  I knew I’d never have you all to myself and I couldn’t hold myself back hoping that would change.

Fate brought us together again and for one beautiful day, each year it was like we had never been separated.  I cherished those days; counted the minutes until we would be together again.  Until Fate intervened again, putting an end to those days and now I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.

I think of you often, and not just because of Facebook or Words with Friends.  I know you think of me often, too.  You are my dearest friend and I cherish our relationship, knowing that no matter what, no matter when I see you again, it will be as if no time has passed at all.  Thank you for that.

Thirty-One in Thirty-One

Check this out:

Pretty cool right?  I don’t know if I’ve ever accomplished that before.  Possibly a millenia ago when I first started blogging on my old and long forgotten, top-secret blog.  I think that’s pretty neet though.

I said I was going to make an effort to write more and clearly I did.  Some of it was fluff, but hey, I can’t imagine you want to read deep and insightful every day any more than I want to write deep and insightful every day.  And yes, I’m giving myself credit for being deep and insightful even if I’m not really.  LET ME HAVE THIS!!!  🙂

It’s been a pretty fascinating experience too.  I’ve actually seen my blog readership grow this month.  Crap! I swore I wasn’t going to do this!  I find it kind of annoying when people write about how many people read their blogs but in this case it seems kind of important.  See, I used to want to be a big famous blogger.  I wanted to have thousands upon thousands of readers and I wanted to make money off my blog and I wanted to be able to quit my job and live off the revenue.  (Oh, who’m I kidding?  I still want that, but it’s not going to happen.)  I realized that I don’t have the right stuff for that.  I don’t have an interesting enough life, nor the ability to be all cute and quippy about my life, nor an endless influx of blogging material to draw from.  I also don’t have the business acumen or the social skills to promote myself enough to make it work.  (That’s something that may become a problem for me, which I’ll be discussing further in the near future.)  And don’t even get me started on my lack of technical skills when it comes to web development and making all the different features and applications and websites at my disposal play nicely together.

So I know I’m not going to be a big, rich and famous super-blogger and I’m okay with that.  But here’s what I am.  I am a writer.  I write about my feelings.  I write about my experiences (however uninteresting or few-and-far-between they may be.)  And I write about my views.  Nobody asked me.  And nobody has to read my opinions, but that’s why this is my space and not someone elses.  And that’s all well and good, except, I AM a writer and as a writer, I want people to read my words.  So I like to watch my statistics and see the numbers growing.

Last month, I assume due in part to my increased activity, I went from four blog subscribers (2 by e-mail – and both the same person – and 2 on WordPress.com), to 29.  (Don’t be fooled by the 372 listed at the top of this page.  WordPress is being generous and including my twitter followers in that number.  I guarantee you, most of them are not coming to my blog.  Hell, half of them aren’t even people.)  In addition to the subscribers, I seem to be getting a lot of people randomly coming across my blog through search terms, or because they’ve saved my URL as a favorite instead of using a reader or e-mail subscription.  The truth is, the most hits I’ve gotten in a single day is about 45 and that’s rare, but my numbers have still climbed considerably from where they were a year ago (or even a month ago.)

Thanks to my participation in the Write on Edge community, I’ve gained some additional periodic commenters; it’s no longer limited to only Terri.  It’s awesome to see more participation on this page.  I’ve also been more actively participating on other people’s blogs leaving comments more regularly…  That may have helped with bringing people here too…  Maybe.

Anyway, it’s really been a lot of fun, this month of writing.  It’s been surprisingly invigorating.  I remember, now, that writing is something I need to do.  It’s why I’m on this earth, I think.  (It may not be the only reason, but it’s certainly a reason I can’t ignore.)

So I’m grateful to all of you who read this.  I’m thrilled that you’ve stumbled across these pages and that so many have continued to come back.  I hope you’ll tell your friends…  No really.  Tell your friends.  That’ll be relevant later when I get around to that problematic, self-promotion thing.

Write On Edge: Salt Water

This is another Write on Edge piece.  The prompt this week was “salt water”  In this piece of fiction, the salt water was to be used to solve a problem:

———————————-

 

Hunter awoke from deep sleep as a ray of light played across his eyes.  After a long stretch, he sat up in bed, casting his gaze toward the bay window.  The skies were clear.  The sun already shone brightly at 6:30 on this Saturday morning.  Today was the day.  Hunter cast aside the cobwebs in his mind and lunged from his bed, anxious to awaken his roommate, Cal.

They shared an over-priced flat that looked out over San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.  The price they paid in rent, the endless days of fog and gray skies, they were all worthwhile when they got a clear day like today.  They both liked to make the most of it; a run in the sand, a game of Frisbee, a lay out in the sun, it didn’t matter.

The beach was empty this early, too cold to lay out, but a rollicking game of Frisbee sounded just about right to them both and they played hard.  Suddenly, Hunter let out a shout of disgust.  “Why don’t people clean up after their dogs?” he groused to Cal as he hopped on one foot, not wanting to step on the crap again.

Cal approached his friend and after ducking under Hunter’s arm helped him to the water’s edge.  “Here,” he said, “use the water to wash off.”  As Hunter splashed in the water and rubbed his soiled foot on the sand, Cal stared out at the rolling waves.

Hunter looked at his friend.  When he saw Cal’s posture, squinted eyes, head thrust forward at the waters, he asked, “What is it?”  He turned toward the sea, “What are you looking at?”

“Look,” Cal said, pointing at the tumbling form, approaching through the froth.  “What is that?”

Soon, their questions were answered as the body, broken and battered, washed ashore, near their feet.