This is a continuation of the intro to my latest manuscript from a few weeks back that was titled Sand in the Sahara. Intro grandpa, mom, dad.

Every picking season would give my grandpa plenty of provision to spin stories about later. Sometimes he’d tell them at home, sometimes on a rickety bar stool, but where he told them was like measuring the difference between the number six and a half-uh-dozen. He could make folks you’d never laid your eyes on come to life in your mind, make you feel like you were there, like you were part of the stories.

I was looking forward to meeting some of the folks that starred in his stories. Like the one young man from Tupelo, Mississippi. The kid with hair that rode on top of his head in brown and unruly locks like a hat. He showed up to work the fields in dress shoes and fine black slacks. My grandpa said he rolled his slacks up ‘cause he was too hot and the chiggers damn near ate him alive. That didn’t stop him from singing Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Franki Valli, and the Beach Boys at the top of his lungs all day long. He worked like a man possessed. His name was Doug, but he insisted on being called Douglas. My grandpa would just nod, smile, pat him on the back, and say, “Okay, Doug… whatever you say.”

Even though they were my mom’s parents, she had reservations. She wasn’t quite ready to send her son for a full summer into a life that she despised and was trying to distance herself from. I think part of it, looking back, is because I was the oldest and she was trying to fight that dreaded fight that all of us do in this life if we’ve lived long enough; wrestling with the formidable and undefeated hands of time. Maybe too, she was a little concerned about her dad. She knew he was more than a little rough around the edges. He possessed some of the sharp ones that she tried in vain to shelter my siblings and me from.

My mom and grandpa were close. She was his youngest, ‘his baby’ he still called her. My mom was young when she had me and didn’t look much older than a high school kid herself. She was in good shape and was attractive, built like a runner. She had auburn shoulder length hair, cat glasses, and my grandpa’s brilliant green eyes.

I hated the guy’s, like the manager at Safeway, that always tried to flirt with my mom. She’d just ignore them and pretend they were just being friendly and wave them off. I always liked it when one of those guys happened to run into my dad on the rare occasion he’d go into town. They looked like they’d pissed themselves and scoot clear of my dad as quickly as they could.

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My dad was bigger than average, about six foot two inches, but he looked like a hungry lion with a bad disposition and carried himself like a soldier. Though the fifties were long gone, he still wore his jet-black hair combed back like he did when he was a kid. His rolled-up t-shirt that kept his Marlboro cigarettes secure showed off his biceps and rugged arms that looked like they’d been carved from stone. The old acne scars from his youth made my dad look mean. Plus, he didn’t smile much. His hazel eyes could say more with a glance than a Southern Baptist preacher could in an hour while hammering on the pulpit like he was trying to beat it into submission.















Two kids,  young boys, shirtless, and as close to the likeness of stick men as you could get, were jumping their three foot long skateboards up a sizzling corner curb in our neighborhood. I smiled, shook my head, knowing that they’d be bruised and bleeding before the day was over. In an instant I was propelled back in time to the summers when we too were young and dumb.

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Like the kids using their skateboards to defy gravity momentarily, we didn’t hide from the triple digit heat. I’m not sure what it is about being young that makes kids flirt with the element of gravity, but most of us did it, even if it was just peddling a bike and fighting to keep it upright.

I recall vividly the last days of school. Summer was magic. It was the time when life was as it should be for us. School was like being a bridled work horse cooped up in a corral. When that bell rang for the last time for that school year most of us didn’t walk into summer, we sprinted at full speed like a race horse bursting into a lush green meadow.

Despite the sweltering heat, we used the gift of summer to climb mountains, scoffing at gravity, and jump into lakes from dizzying heights. We’d ride bikes, hitchhike, or skateboard to get there. Once in the big city it was doing flips off anything close to pools or jumping off roofs, risking hitting the concrete if gravity won the battle of the space in-between. Those were the pools of the privileged and well to do… when they weren’t home. We called it pool hopping. We figured fences were for dogs and adults.

Bumps, bruises, bleeding and stitches were just part of living the life we loved. Taking risks, at least to one degree or another, was part of enjoying the gift of life.

Then we grew up and the words and the urging of the elders began to mold us into their image; being afraid to take risks and live in fear. It’s one thing to become wise, it’s another to live this life in fear.

Fear is for the lost and seeking.

Having had so many summers that have come and gone like months and days, it’s easy to forget the magic of each one, the gift that they really are.

I’m guilty, like most of us, of complaining about the heat from time to time, of living in fear and dread. Sure, it’s not comfortable for us in this part of the world this time of year. We all live with adversity in and out of all seasons of life, but summer is a season of life to be cherished all the same. Kids get that. We used to get that, but then we were gifted with so many that we began to take them for granted. Kids don’t. And yet we call them young and dumb…




After an all out manhunt – make that a woman, girl, or female hunt, I waved the metaphorical white flag. Then I put out a mental A.P.B., (All Points Bulletin), desperately trying to find her, but she was gone… again. It doesn’t matter how well I treat her or if I follow her every whim… my muse is fickle.

It’s been another long drought. I can’t remember the last time I worked on my latest manuscript. Usually if I can’t get to writing it’s due to the lack of time. This time was different. This time was lack of desire.

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I’ve said it often; perseverance is queen, but desire is king. Each one is a key ingredient to achieve a favorable recipe for desired results. But sometimes it doesn’t matter how good the recipe is. Without the blasted ingredients there will be zero in the way of results.

Old Mother Hubbard might be the best cook in the county, but we’ll never know since she’s got an empty kitchen.

It’s possible that the greatest writing, outside of the Good Book, hasn’t made it in front of the eyes of the masses. I’m pretty sure it’s the same with music – and the ears of those same noggins.

Creating is one thing, folks appreciating it is a whole other story, but it starts with the innate need to create. And I think there are a whole lot more people out there wired like that than most of us realize.

If that’s true, then I know a lot of other hearts can relate to mine… and yours.

In the season of the creative drought, my muse is gone like the dinosaurs… but the music recorded in my mind is alive and well and bridging the gap.

The ancient song from childhood by Donovan titled “Season of the Witch” plays – even though I know the witch didn’t really kidnap my make believe muse. Then a line from the old Aerosmith tune, “Walk This Way”, takes the stage in my struggling mind and gets stuck like an old scratched album. It sticks conveniently where Steven Tyler sings, “My get up and go must’a got up and went, duh-duh-duh-dunt-duh-duh-duh-dunt-dunt-dunt.” I guess it’s a lucky break to have Joe Perry’s guitar lick not cut off…

We bide our time and struggle anyway we can to make it back into the light of creativity.

Creativity is a small part of being made in God’s image. The desire to create was knitted into us while we were still in our mother’s womb.

We find gratification in many ways in this flesh. One of them is creating, and it doesn’t matter if our creation finds its way into the senses of the masses or not. I think it was designed for His glory first then our gratification.

Being able to live in the season of producing is a gift all unto itself. I gotta learn to take advantage of it when I can, ’cause my muse is fickle.


Intro to that latest manuscript.

The summer was brand spankin’ new, full of change and promise. It was the first of June that year, the year that was considered “The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”, at least according to the Fifth Dimension. It was 1969 and the pretend cartoon band, The Archies, was edging them out for the number one spot on the pop charts with a simple little ditty titled “Sugar, Sugar”. They’d both be eclipsed that last year of the decade by the rock concert that went by the name of Woodstock.

That was the same year John Glenn took a stroll on the moon. The New York Jets and Broadway Joe Namath beat the immortal Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. It was also another year that Vietnam was in full swing. Several of my cousins, that not long before I’d spent summers scuffling with, were over there in the sticky jungles looking for Charlie… and sometimes running from him. They also called it the “Summer of Love”, but to the invisible masses in America, it was the summer of hate. Blacks, whites, Mexicans, and Native Americans were all at odds… and I was one of them.

That was the summer I was heading back to the south, or at least whisker close to it. Closer to a better way of life, one not beset with the violence that threatened to kick the pickle seeds, maybe even your soul, outta you every day. Well, every day except Sundays. That was the day set aside for fire, brimstone, and biting your fingernails with worry and anxiety, before it had a name. All due to the latest broken Commandment that left us straddling the thin line between heaven and hell.

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It was picking season pretty much everywhere, including California, but my grandpa’s farm wasn’t in The Golden State, it was in Oklahoma, far, far away from the violence of Southern California in the late sixties. And I wanted as far away from my life as I could get. Plus, I liked hanging out with my grandpa. He treated me as close to a grown up as anyone in my life, and that’s what every fifteen-year-old boy wants. Well, that, and freedom… and a girlfriend.

It was no secret that I was staring up a rugged mountain of hard work, long days too, but I was ready to prove myself a man that summer, even if I didn’t have a hint of facial hair. Heck, I was only a little over a month away from being able to drive legally. And that, by southern blooded family standards, was the rite of passage to manhood. Plus, I knew that Pah-Pah would wrangle up enough help with the pickin’. He always managed somehow, and the best part was listening to him convince the colorful folks why his farm was the best place for them to spill their sweat. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was a natural born salesman. Pah-Pah wasn’t the best reader and math wasn’t his forte, but he could sell sand in the Sahara.




Excerpt from my latest manuscript.


We spotted the half-buried wagon wheels from a quarter mile off. The tired clapboard home was washed mostly in the shade of mighty white oaks. My grandma was out on the front porch watering her potted plants. The front porch ran the entire length of the front of the modest wooden home with the curling wooden shingles. It was four faded and weathered wooden steps up from the grass, weeds, and patches of rust colored dirt. The worn steps were on three sides. One centered on the front door that was wide open, the loose wire mesh on the screen door flapped faintly in the breeze, another two sets of stairs on the sides of the porch. A rainbow of brilliant colored flowers sat on the twisted top of the picket railing and on make due stacked wood stands flanking the front door. Two bigger, non-matching terra cotta, pots sat on both sides of the front steps with plants that looked more like bushes.

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My grandma Jonas looked out over the top of her glasses. The golden chain around her sagging neck hung down like upside down rainbows on both sides of her peach colored plastic glasses that rested just short of the end of her tiny nose. Her thin red hair had faded like old paint since the last time I’d seen her. I could see from the gravel driveway her light brown eyes that were almost gold in color. She was hunched a bit more than the last time I’d seen her as well, even after setting down the tin water pail. I took note as she walked to the edge of the top of the steps and used her liver spotted and bright green veined hand to block the sun from her face as she gazed out at the unknown visitors.

I got out and stretched awkwardly and waved. My Mah-Mah opened her mouth with a perfect circle then covered it with her frail fingers, “Oh! It’s my Danny Boy!” She almost yelled to herself as she got down the splintered steps as quickly as she could muster and almost ran as I walked toward her. She held her arms out before she was half way across the yard. I could see the tears running down her frail and weathered face. I was her youngest and only daughter’s oldest child. That made me way more special to her than I was, but I knew she loved me like her Bible, and that was sayin’ something.