Tag Archives: writing

The Chief at 56

The Chief in a moment of self-adulation after a run this past summer – and to prove to real and cyber friends I can actually move faster than a fat man walking through a cactus field. Naked. Blindfolded.

As of 1:15 a.m. Central Standard Time U.S. this past Tuesday, November 5, the Chief turned 56.  It’s not necessarily as big a deal as, say, turning 55.  And I remember years ago thinking that, once somebody reaches the half century mark on life’s odometer, ensuing birthdays don’t really matter.  But I’ve learned every birthday matters.  It’s another year forward and another chance to improve oneself.  I feel I’m doing that with my writing, as well as more practical moves, such as joining a new gym.

This year’s birthday was rougher than expected.  I got sick – again.  Allergies that usually plague me with the change of seasons (the summer to autumn transition is generally the worst) hit me harder this time around; thus prompting a visit to my doctor for a trio of anti-microbial, germ-phobic medications.  My eyes showed the wrath of the usual culprits: ragweed and mountain cedar.  I confirmed my sensitivity to them some 15 years ago with an appointment to an allergy specialist.  Visits to the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets and local stores had long proven ineffective.  Ragweed and mountain cedar ranked at the top of my allergy reaction list, along with other suspected villains – oak and cat dander.  I’m also allergic to stupid people, but aside from working outside the home and driving, there’s no definite test for that.

But my eyes looked as if I’d been ambushed by a swarm of killer bees or came out on the wrong end of a boxing match.  Still, the drug cocktail – which did include the ubiquitous screwdriver – eased my angst.  And then, the little microbial fuckers resurfaced, like dental appointments and property taxes.  They assaulted me with their ecological mainstays: watery eyes, congestion, coughing and the tendency not to use Spellcheck.  Misery!  Misery, I tell you, dear readers!  Joining that gym last month was a much-needed lifestyle change.  Since the late 1980s, I’ve pretty much been a gym rat.  I even wrote about it six years ago.  However, when I signed up to this new place, it had been roughly eleven months since I’d been to a gym to lift weights.  Note to the wise and health-conscious: do NOT take nearly a year off from lifting weights and expect to be back to normal in a single session.  But, at that last gym a year ago around this time, one of the senior staff apparently had an issue with my attire.  I wore an old sweat jacket – one I only wear to the gym.  Admittedly, I’ve had it since high school.  Some 35+ years ago.  Okay, it’s a man thing!  You wouldn’t understand, unless you bear that rare Y chromosome!  The zipper is twisted, and it’s shrunk.  I often keep it unzipped during workouts.  No one had ever had a problem with that.  Until November 2018.

The man – either a lost Viking or an intense Grateful Dead fan – literally got up in my face and ordered me to “zip it up.”  He then walked away.  And so did I.  I re-racked a curl bar and left; canceling the membership once I got home.

This new gym has no such qualms about ratty, decades-old sweat jackets.  It doesn’t cater to GQ cover models or suburban soccer moms – no offense to suburban soccer moms!  It’s an old-school gym – where men can go shirtless, women can wear sports bras, and dogs run around the front office.  Literally, the owners have 2 massive and very friendly canines practically greeting people when they enter.  As a certified Wolfman and canid aficionado, I love the idea of dogs almost anywhere! 

I was determined to visit the gym on my birthday, as I’ve done with just about every birthday for as long as I can remember.  I even did so last year – before the Sweat Jacket Incident.  But I just couldn’t make it this past Tuesday.  Again, those allergies.  Or maybe the flu.  Or I’m being punished for not completing my second novel by now, as promised.  Perhaps internalizing all those angry sentiments from work and driving had finally caught up to me.  But then again, I never was too keen on the idea of being a serial killer.  That doesn’t look good on your Linked In profile.

But other distractions arose, particularly with this aging house.  Bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs, foundations and various and sundry attributes boast large repair price tags.  I relish the thought of living in the house where I grew up.  I don’t have to fight for parking space, deal with noisy upstairs neighbors and getting rent paid on time.  I have the joy of dealing with aging bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs and foundations.  Aaah – suburban life!

So this birthday wasn’t the best.  But I made it to another year!  I’m always thankful for that.  The alternative is not pleasant.

The other day a friend posted a drawing on Facebook of someone hugging what looked like Jesus Christ with the verbiage: “The best part of going to Heaven.”  I thought, if there is such a place, the first person I’d want to see is my father, who passed away 3 years ago and who I think of and pray to every day and night.  Nearly 5 months later, when my dog died, I fell into a mortal depression.  When I marked my 53rd birthday that year, I honestly felt I wasn’t going to make it much longer.  I was ready to give up.  I still truly believe my father returned to get my dog; in part, because he absolutely loved that pint-sized, four-legged monstrosity, but also because he simply wanted the dog to be with him.  I could understand my 83-year-old father’s demise; he had been sick off and on for years with gastrointestinal problems.  His body could no longer take the punishment.  But then, he came back to take the dog?!  Oh well…such mysteries are not for this world to understand.

Yet, as morose as I felt at the end of that year, I realized I had so much I wanted to do.  I still hadn’t published my first novel and I have other stories I want to write.  I realized I couldn’t give up.  It certainly wouldn’t be fair to the people who care about me, but it wouldn’t even be fair to me.  I’ll die, and the sun will still rise in the east the next morning.  Some people I’ve known actually think it won’t, if they die!

So, here I am at the ripe slightly-passed-middle-age of 56!  I’m still writing and still fighting!  Now, I just need to find a new way to assassinate these allergens and get back into the gym.

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In Memoriam: Ernest J. Gaines, 1933-2019

“Sometimes you got to hurt something to help something.  Sometimes you have to plow under one thing in order for something else to grow.”

Ernest J. Gaines

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PEN America in Dallas

Dallas author and co-founder of PEN Dallas/Fort Worth Sanderia Faye.

I’m excited to announce that a global literary and free speech organization, PEN International, has established a new chapter in Dallas, Texas.  Founded in London in 1921, PEN International has a very simple mission: preserve literature in all its forms and ensure everyone can engage in free speech and freedom of expression.  These are core elements in any truly democratic society, but they are constantly being challenged and even threatened by self-appointed guardians of writing, journalism and speech; people who seem to think they have the right and the power to determine what the rest of us can say and read.  It’s a never-ending battle and, sadly, it never will be won.  Those of us who advocate for a free press and free speech will always have to confront the oligarchical bullies who feel they – and only they – are blessed with inalienable rights to speech and literature.

Pen International felt the need to establish the Dallas / Fort Worth chapter in the wake of the fraudulent 2016 U.S. presidential election, which has given us an arrogant, foul-mouthed, womanizing, reality TV star in the White House.

“At a time of exceptional threats to free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the country to the next level,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.  The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, as well as others around the U.S. will be vehicles for “pushing back against the breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and encroachments on press freedom.”

This shouldn’t be a surprised to anyone familiar with U.S. politics.  I’ve noticed over the years that, any time a conservative Republican lands in the White House, free speech and freedom of the press come under attack.  They have no problems loosening gun laws and sending our military to fight stupid wars (as if there’s such a thing as a “smart” war).  But, when it comes to education, health care and even voting, conservatives suddenly feel the need to debate the matter.

Regardless of how hard we have to fight to ensure the rights to free speech and freedom of the press, we will always take up the torch of liberty and justice.

Everyone has a story and everyone needs to be heard.

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In Memoriam – Toni Morrison, 1931-2019

“The writing is — I’m free from pain.  It’s where nobody tells me what to do; it’s where my imagination is fecund and I am really at my best.  Nothing matters more in the world or in my body or anywhere when I’m writing.”

Toni Morrison

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Ooooh…Yes! Do It Like That!

As a writer, I’ve often fancied myself the most popular book in the library and love it when people thumb through my pages!

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In Memoriam – Judith Krantz, 1928 – 2019

“I love magazines and film critics, so I eat it up.  I’m not one of those people who says, ‘I never read anything.’  I generally read all of it.”

“I’m convinced that it’s energy and humor.  The two of them combined equal charm.”

“Surely the whole point of writing your own life story is to be as honest as you possibly can, revealing everything about yourself that is most private and probably most interesting for that very reason.”

“Have some sort of private place to work in.  Put up a sign to keep from being interrupted.  Mine says: ‘Please, do not knock, do not say hello or goodbye, do not ask what’s for dinner, do not disturb me unless the fire or policemen have to be called.’”

“Thousands of people plan to be writers, but they never get around to it.  The only way to find out if you can write is to set aside a certain period every day and try.”

“Some questions are not meant to be asked as long as the answers are right.”

“The rich are different only because people treat them as if they were.”

Judith Krantz

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Wolf Words

Aside from publishing the best stories anyone could read, every good writer hopes to make a positive impact on language, usually the language in which they write, by doing what comes naturally to us: creating new words.  It’s not just a matter of adding words to the dictionary; it’s a matter of expanding the popular lexicon and encouraging others to think beyond what they learned in school.

Thus, The Chief is proud to announce that I have created 2 new words for the English language:

Complisult – a compliment that’s actually an insult.

Example: “That’s a beautiful outfit you’re wearing.  I had one just like it – YEARS ago!”

Insultiment – what sounds like an insult is actually a compliment.

Example: “Gosh, you look like death microwaved over.  I know you’re feeling better, though, so I’m happy for you.”

I’d love to hear everyone’s honest and constructively critical response!  What do you folks think?

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