Puzzle Fizzle

Puzzle Fizzle (a poem about pieces)

When life shatters into a potpourri of pieces,

One must pick up possibilities,

And puzzle them back together… into poetry.


Yesterday was the bottom of the valley of a hard week.  I have to climb another mountain to get out.  And I can’t afford the psychiatrist I need because the health insurance we have gave us strict guidelines to follow for choosing one, and no one in our area fits their requirements.  My car is showing warning lights again, and I am afraid to take it in.  It runs fine.  But I don’t need that warning light giving any of the local mechanics the idea that they can charge me large fees for car parts and service hours when they might not actually be needed.  Money is running out and I do not have the good enough health required to get even a part time job.  I write a lot.  But my writing career at this point is an expense, not an income.  Many shattered pieces to this puzzle.  But I did finish the putting together of the latest grand Paffooney, the portrait of Mary and the Invisible Captain Dettbarn.

Mary and the Captain

So, how will I put everything back together?  My family depends on me doing so.  The old puzzle piecer must never give up and must always keep puzzling, fitting bizarre piece to jagged hole.  You may have noticed that this post is short of the 500-word goal, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and I have created two original pictures for this post.  And there is poetry pieced together by the penultimate alliteration of the proud letter “P”.


Filed under humor, Paffooney, poetry


Centaur1Sometimes the Greek god Pan attacks with darts of fear and suffering.  Sometimes what has happened in the past comes back to bite us in the rear for no other reason than the bulldog of horrible past experiences does not know how to let go once his jaw is clamped tight to the seat of your pants.

Mental illness is not taken seriously enough in American society.  We tend to think that every man, woman, and child ought to always be in control of themselves and never subject to bouts of craziness for which they can not be held responsible.  I joke a lot about being crazy.  I am not normal in any sense of the word.  But my own real mental challenges are no worse than depression caused by diabetes.  I get blue a lot.  But that is nothing compared to what blew up in my face today.  Have you ever seen somebody who is catatonic?  Curled up in a ball and unable sit up and stop shaking?  And what are you supposed to say to that poor sufferer?  What can you do to help?  Especially when they are no longer able to communicate with you, hear what you say, or even look at you.  It is frightening.

And I can’t even tell more than this.  The way we view this kind of problem in our society is a problem in itself.  Depression and irrational fear can destroy the entire day for everyone involved.  And the persons involved are shamed by what has happened.  The solutions to this kind of problem always involve talking about it and discussion.  But our society does not want to talk about these things.  We are all afraid of slipping into the horror of the Oregon shooter, even though that is not even remotely connected to the problem and the things that happened today.  The stigma is crippling.  People don’t tend to face this kind of problem until it happens to them or to somebody they love.

The word panic is derived from the Greek god Pan.  In mythology, Pan was a god of the forest and wild things, especially herd animals.  He was generally a jovial and fun-loving sort, but if you happened on him while he was sleeping, he would awake with a sudden shout, and that shout caused forest animals to stampede.  Thus the Greek word “panikon” meaning sudden fear became the word panic.  Apparently I stumbled on Pan today and suffered the consequences.  I am feeling trampled at present.  Don’t worry, though.  I have survived.  And things that don;t kill us make us stronger.  That is what convinced me that I am really Superman, and have only forgotten that fact because of some unfortunate kryptonite exposure.

Poem Is


Filed under medical issues, mental health, Paffooney

Possibly Progress

Well, I almost got a ticket in a school zone this morning.  The sun was in my eyes and I was driving a steady 31 miles an hour in a twenty mile per hour zone.  Fortunately the young officer apparently was fooled by my decrepit old man act (which I do incredibly well because I have had arthritis for forty years and I look like death warmed over in the morning… and I am not actually acting).  I was let off with a warning and threats of a beating next time.  Portents of bad times continue.  I have another oil change warning light on my dashboard even though I just had the old Ford Fiesta at the dealer last week, having the engine put back in because Walmart blew it up.  The conspiracy theorist in me was noticing particularly odd-shaped contrails in the skies over Garland and East Dallas.  I have been told by fellow conspiracy theorists that the guvvamint is spraying nano-particles in the upper atmosphere to fix global warming so they don’t have to admit it exists and was caused by aliens.  And I can believe these tinfoil hatters because they showed me proof that the CIA has altered their DNA with fluoridated water.  Nobody could have that pointy of a pin-head without guvvamint help. So life continues to treat me the way Bugs Bunny treats Elmer Fudd.  And I feel slapped silly.

But here’s the important thing;


Followed by;


And then;


So you can see that I haven’t given up yet.  My flower petals burst with color.  And the seeds that I have planted continue to grow and blossom anew.


Filed under artwork, humor, Paffooney

A Sense of Wonder

Flower val memeI have told you repeatedly (if you are foolish enough to read more of my blog than is probably healthy for normal people) that I am a pessimist.  Like Benjamin Franklin, I believe it is best to always prepare for the worst that can happen and actually expect it.  With current gun laws in this nation, and the way corrupt politicians and businessmen continue to profit off the suffering of the rest of us, and people’s basic selfishness and cruelty to others in word, thought, and deed, we rarely get a glimpse of anything but the worst of human nature.  We are never disappointed when we expect the worst to happen.  And yet, since I am never taken by surprise by bad things, only by unexpected good things, all that is surprising is wonderful and made up of very good things.  Human beings are capable of amazing goodness and works of wonder, not in spite of their many failings, but because of them.  The miracle of life is how the lowly worm turns into a beautiful butterfly.  How the tiny brown seed becomes the brightly colored blossom in a vast field of other flowers.


When I tell others that I believe that people are basically good and that I believe all students can learn, I often get an argument.  Mass shooters like we had last week and wars and terrorists crop up by the multitudes in order to refute my belief.  People who think I am an atheist tell me i’m being a hypocrite to think we should operate our lives around facts and proof and then hold a difficult-to-prove belief like this.  Maybe it is an act of faith… but an act of faith that my theocratic friends call a belief in humanism, which they prefer to see as something from Satan.  Well, I do believe in God.  I just don’t believe in a god who waves a magic wand and intervenes.  I believe that God Jehovah (or possibly Allah or the godhead or whatever you want to name Him) made us like the flower seed, meant to grow and transform, and to be winnowed like grain by the winds and rains of life experience.  Not all flowers blossom.  But more of them do when you water and weed and nurture them.  And what is true for flowers is true for men and women.  What can I say more about human beings to convince you that I am not wrong to be in awe of them… even the weedy ones?  Probably nothing.  If you are not open to such ideas, you haven’t read this far.  But whether you read this far or not, I am fascinated by you, and will always want to know more.  And I am not going to start a new church or something.  I am merely going to continue to watch and to wonder.

Not Alone


Filed under humor, Paffooney, philosophy

The Sky is Red

20151005_071555Today is a this-and-that post because I am juggling so many things with at least one hand tied behind my back.  And because this morning, (as you can see in my sunrise photo) the sky is red.  You don’t believe in signs and portents, you say?  Well, neither do I.  Still, the old saying is, “red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”  Are there rough times directly ahead?  Rough seas?  Hard sailing?  I wonder.


250021_10151185182712298_1774974703_nMy favorite sports teams, the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals and the Arizona Football Cardinals have both been the best in the business in the really-recent past.  The baseball team has won 100 games and goes into the World Series playoffs expected by many to win it all.  Yet, they ended the season on a three-game losing streak with two of their best pitchers taking losses.  The football team, along with my all-time favorite football player, Larry Fitzgerald, had been cruising along undefeated at a totally dominating pace.  Yesterday they lost by two point to the St. Louis Rams.  Both teams are still sitting pretty in enviable positions in their respective sports.  Yet there are portents of doom.

My home continues to crumble and my own personal health is up and down and super-iffy.  The city gave us notice of a program to help with repairs and maintenance, but we make too much money to qualify.  And we still don’t have any money in the bank thanks to health-related expenses.  My body aches and my head spins frequently, but I am going to have to get back up on the ladder and finish painting the house.

So, what shall I do about it all?  Grim omens scare me and slow me down, but I grit my teeth and pitch in.  I have repainted the four shutters for the back of the house and re-hung two of them yesterday.  I can still paint and do work on the house.  Amazing things can be accomplished a little bit at a time.  After all, I put up new siding on the back of the house last year at this time working with only my sons and my daughter to help.  I managed to do it all before the city’s deadline and threatened thousand-dollar fine (because it only makes sense to fine people that much when they have no money to fix the outside of the house.)  I will beat whatever new deadlines they give me too.  But it is a good sign that they want to help and haven’t hit me with any new deadlines yet.

And I will double down on writing work.  I sent Snow Babies back to the editor Saturday, and I am closing in on getting that book in print.  I am getting back to work on the prequel, When the Captain Came Calling, and I even started a new character illustration, depicting Mary Philips and the invisible sea captain.  Here is the pen and ink drawing;


And here is the first of the color I have completed;


So maybe portents are not always bad things.  Maybe the sky is red because it is the color of cardinals, and things are looking up for the boys wearing red.  Cardinals are the little red birds that sing sweetly and never fly away when the winter comes.  We cardinals take on all comers and maybe we will win it all for the 12th time… or the 1st time since the 1950’s… or the first time ever.  After all, the sky is red.


Filed under humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Danny Kaye

Archive photo from the Los Angeles Times

Archive photo from the Los Angeles Times

My childhood was shaped by television events like the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz and classic movies on Friday nights when I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch the whole thing.  I have told you before how much I loved the comedy of Red Skelton.  Another comedian who shaped who I am through his wondrously manic movie performances was Danny Kaye.

One of those Friday movie classics that really struck home was the wonderful, kid-friendly movie Hans Christian Andersen.

1952 movie poster from Wikipedia

1952 movie poster from Wikipedia

The movie was about a storyteller from a previous century and embroidered his biographical story with his famous children’s stories in the form of songs.  And Danny Kaye could trip through multi-syllabic, fast-paced musical numbers like no other rubber-faced clown I have ever seen.   I wanted to be such a story-teller from a very early age.  I even wanted to write the kind of stories that could be made into songs.  Let me show you a few of the bits that amazed me and killed me with laughter.

This song from the Inspector General was doubly engaging because the corrupt businessmen were trying to poison the character Danny played with the wine he was supposed to drink during the drinking song.


The movies Danny Kaye was in were mostly about the musical comedy.  But sometimes they were just about the music.  He appeared in musicals like White Christmas with Bing Crosby and stage musicals like Lady in the Dark which won him awards on Broadway.  He made movies about music like The Five Pennies and A Song is Born.  He always said he couldn’t read music, but he demonstrated perfect pitch and scored a number one hit with The Woody Woodpecker Song recorded for the animated cartoons of Walter Lantz.  How cool is that?

And you already know that The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie of all time.  In 1964 Danny became the host for CBS’s annual showing of the film.  He was able to do funny songs that made you snort your hot cocoa through your nose from laughing, and he could also do beautiful ballads like these.

I will always take the opportunity to watch a Danny Kaye movie one more time, whether it comes on YouTube or a Netflix oldie or a $5 DVD from the bin at the front of the Walmart Superstore.  And I will always think of him in his role as Hans Christian Anderson.

Oh, and he was a very funny comedian too when he wasn’t singing, as in The Court Jester and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.


Filed under autobiography, comedians, humor

Lazy Plugs for Small Holes


I have been working on final edits for my novel Snow Babies.  I have also been struggling with diabetes, arthritis, and COPD.  At the same time, I have been writing up a storm on my blog and posting all kinds of incredibly goofy and somewhat creative stuff.  So today is a break without leaving a hole in my goal of posting a blog post every single day of 2015.  I have to go all the way to Balch Springs, Texas today for a flag football game.  So, if you are disappointed with this meager post, go back and look at any of the other recent posts you may have missed.  I’m not saying they are worth the effort, but wasting your time is what I do.


Filed under NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, writing humor