Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Cave

Have you ever had a song completely knock you for a loop?  I mean a punch-you-in-the-face-and-lay-you-out-on-your-ass song?  I’m not just talking about a great song; I’m talking about something that goes a quantum leap beyond that.  I’m talking about a song that seeks you out like a smart missile from amongst the crowd, and explodes on you, and on you alone.  A song that clears away the countless outer distractions and those within your own mind with one sweeping motion, like so many dirty dishes sent crashing from the table, compelling your complete attention.  A song that stops the hustle and grind of everyday life cold, cups your face with both hands, locks its eyes onto yours, and sings itself into you. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Forward Path - 24 August 2011

Where things stand

Well, the blog is almost two months old, which means my life as a writer is almost two months old.  Everything I’ve written in that time has been strictly for the blog, as I’ve been focused on developing and maintaining a fairly regular posting schedule.  Some of the advice I’ve read about blogging (and I’ve been reading a lot) insists that you should post on a daily basis. The fact that I don’t doesn’t bother me too much, because my posts tend to be lengthy, and I put everything I’ve got into everything I write.  In effect, I’m placing my bets on quality over quantity, which, it turns out, is the other experts’ advice on blogging.  What I’ve discovered about blogging advice is that experts often have conflicting or even contradictory perspectives, and so, for the tenderfoot who’s just arrived on the frontier, it’s mostly a matter of choosing which experts you listen to.  It also tells me that there is more than one path to success, so it’s probably not smart to spend too much time worrying about it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Sixth Day

If you've been reading the poetry here, you've probably noticed by now that I am more inspired by nature than anything else.  To me, the math is pretty simple.  We were created, and the world around us was created, to be together.  No matter how distinct we try to make ourselves from the rest of creation, it is a fundamental fact of our existence.  In fact, the greater the distance we try to put between ourselves and nature, the more we try to separate ourselves from it, the more we see ourselves in it, at least the true parts of ourselves.  So, if you want to find truth, look to nature - it's incapable of lying.    

The Sixth Day

Traveling in Alaska one summer
I witnessed the land
-no, not witnessed-
I became the land. 

Because I
became the land, I know
what it feels like to be
gouged by the scratching
fingernails of glaciers
pulling back,
exposing my fresh, bright earth
to the air
for the first time in eons
if ever.
Wild rampant green
born from gray ice.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Full Body Scans Ending?

This post marks the beginning of a new section on thunderstrokes called Free Radicals.  Free Radicals is the name I'm giving to some of the strange, spontaneous and/or random things that enter my head.  They generally fly directly in from the atmosphere, but for some reason don't fly out again.  Instead, they ricochet around inside my brain, damaging healthy cells and causing premature aging until I finally crack my head open and let them out.  They are mostly fragments of ideas, or small bursts of writing that I can't, or don't want to, turn into full-blown posts.  Since, strictly speaking, I didn't create them, but merely caught them, like a social disease, I assume no responsibility for their quality or appropriateness.

So I was driving Jessica to school today, and heard a news story on the radio about those full body scanners at the airports that everyone’s been complaining about.  According to the story, the TSA has begun replacing the extremely accurate 3D scanners because of the public outcry.  

This was the most innocuous of the images I found when I googled "airport full body scanners." There are others.

The way it was described on the radio, the new generation scanner eliminates the provocatively realistic images and instead shows stick figures.  Arrows point to areas that need to be checked further. 

Surviving the Summer with Children in Phoenix

As a teacher who’s used to having the summers off and taking care of my two daughters, one of the daunting challenges I face each year is finding things to do to stave off the summer stir crazies.  Here in the desert, it’s the heat and not the cold that throws the population into lock-down mode for several months, and it is one of God’s great ironies, I suppose, that those months largely overlap with the traditional break in the school year. By the time the end of May rolls around and children all across the Valley are rejoicing at their temporary release from the bonds of educational oppression, the sun is just getting comfy for a long summer sizzle. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saguaro Stand

The saguaro stand
ranges along the upward slope
of a deserted mountain.
from the ancient rock
-the talus of creation-
each one
soldier straight 
facing the firestorm heat
of a summer sun.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Not many of us are fortunate enough to make it through our childhoods unscathed.  By the time we reach adulthood, it seems the vast majority of people have managed to seriously screw themselves up, or have had someone else do the honors for them.  To me, when I think of making it safely from childhood to adulthood, I always think of the baby sea turtles, and the mad scramble they have to make from their nests, across the beach, to the sea.  Defenseless, they awkwardly scratch their way with single-minded innocence towards the water.  Meanwhile, the predators come at them from every angle, diving, pouncing, clawing, pecking, spearing, gorging.  We’ve all seen it happen on those nature shows on TV.  “Only 1 turtle out of every 100 eggs hatched,” the solemn voice of the narrator tells us, “will make it to maturity.” 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Woody's castle

My two-year-old daughter has been on a Toy Story kick for the last, oh, three or four months now I guess.  Actually, it started with Toy Story, but has since expanded to include The Incredibles, Shrek, and just recently, Monsters, Inc.   It has reached the point where she can tell me what movie I’ve put in just from the first image that appears on the TV after starting the DVD.  She’s taken to reciting certain lines from memory, and re-enacting scenes from the movies with her Fisher Price little people.  I realize that some people may object to my parenting style and claim that this is not a healthy way to raise a child; I say it’s got to be healthier than living in a closet, which is where she’d be if I couldn’t get her off me for a few minutes at a time.  I swear it’s like having a spider monkey with attachment issues. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Forward Path - 7 August 2011

Accepting the Challenge

“When you feel the noose around your neck begin to choke, it’s time to stop pulling on the rope.” – me

This is the first of a trilogy of posts that traces the sequence of events that brought me to the forward path.  Six years ago, I was about as far away from it as anyone can be.  By that I mean not moving at all; I was completely stopped, cemented in place.  You might think that going backwards would be worse than not going anywhere; but going backwards at least involves movement, and of course sometimes it’s necessary to go back in order to go forward.  I think being stationary is worse, because there is no movement at all, and what follows is slow suffocation.  When all is said and done, stationary is what the guy hanging at the end of the rope is. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Forward Path - 6 August 2011

Career Update!

The news came this morning, as I was outside mowing the lawn.  My mom saw it first, called the house and told Elizabeth, who delivered the news to me:  it’s official.  I am now a published writer somewhere other than on my own blog!

It turns out the Arizona Republic West Valley editor took an interest in my post about the Glendale Beet Sugar factory being recommissioned as a specialty vodka plant for the Scottsdale company Forward Brands LLC.  The story appeared today as a guest column in the West Valley’s local sections (Peoria, Glendale, Surprise, etc.), and appears on  Check out the paper’s version of the story; it’s interesting to see what was dropped from the original post.  Of course, the blog version is funnier, but hey, that’s life in the big city. 

My thanks to West Valley Opinions Editor Jennifer Dokes.  What must seem like an extremely modest achievement to the rest of the world is a big step forward to me as a writer.

Now, if only Huffington Post would come through on my Nazi post . . .

Anyway, just wanted to share this success and place it in the Forward Path record.  Now I’m off to do what I’m sure all big time writers do on Saturday mornings – finish mowing the lawn.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Forward Path

There is only one path – the forward path.  Everything else just takes you in a big loop.
– me.

The Forward Path is a new section of the blog devoted to my thoughts, feelings, observations, and occurrences as I confront the realities of becoming a professional writer.  It is essentially a journal, meant to capture things as I notice them, designed to give me a chance to process what’s happening as well as create a historical record, and to provide a sort of travel guide to those who are following along.  It will have its own link, like the “Noman’s Land archive,”and I will probably not post everything I write on the main blog page, so check it as often as you wish to see what’s going inside this writer’s world. 

One of the claims I have made about the “thunderstrokes” blog is that it is meant to serve as the place where I chronicle my adventure into writing.  Well, it’s been a month now since starting the blog and I’ve done a lot of writing, but not much chronicling.  There are a few reasons, I believe, why I think I’ve been slow to start journaling about the journey itself.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Glendale's Sugar Beet is Back, Baby!

The Glendale sugar beet factory's still airing out.  It's been 100 years; I think the sugar beet smell is gone.

All the westsiders out there know about the old abandoned sugar beet factory that sits near the corner of 51st Ave and Glendale.  The building was constructed in 1906, making it 105 years old.  For those of you scoring at home, that’s 6 years older than the state of Arizona.  For the last 25 years, it’s also been laying there like a beached whale, which is strange, because we must be at least 350 miles from the nearest ocean.