Saturday, December 31, 2011

For My Friends...

I hope you know who you are and what you mean to me.

From sunny Florida—Happy New Year!

But before I go, here's a little story my mother in law told me. If you're an old movie buff, you'll get it. If not, well...

My wife's grandmother fried chicken at the famous Brookville hotel, back when it was actually in Brookville (a few years ago, they relocated it to Abilene due to sewer issues). People came from all around Kansas to eat Brookville chicken and corn and coleslaw and my mother in law said her mom always came home smelling like fried chicken.

Back in the mid 50's, they filmed a movie in Salina, KS called Picnic. Maybe you've heard of it. Starred William Holden and Kim (sigh) Novak. One day William Holden came in for dinner. My mother in law can still remember that day when she was probably about 12. I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like this:

"They were shooting Picnic over by Salina and Bill Holden came in one evening. He'd heard so much about the fried chicken that he just had to try it. He came in the kitchen and I was back there with my mom. It was so hot. And Bill Holden came in and put his hand on the back of my head. My God! I said I'd never was my hair again. He was so handsome."

My in-laws and my own parents—none of them had much growing up. Sometimes, all it took was a touch on the head to make life a little more bearable. How simple. How real.

And below is a sunflower from the Sunflower State, out by Kanopolis Lake in Kanopolis, KS, where my wife grew up. If it's cold and a little dreary where you are, then this brief pictorial is my simple little gift to you.

Stay chill.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Warmer Climate

Unseasonably warm here in this part of the country. Note the sweat on my back and the shorts and t-shirt. But we do have a cold front coming through and tomorrow it may only get up to 70. The crap I have to put up with.

Had a great Christmas. Hung with a few friends. Spent a lot of time with the missus and the dog and pounding the keys. Right now, life is pretty damn good.

Stay chill.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Down The Street

Looks like I may be losing another muse. Tina's Angel's, a few blocks away down on 34th street, is for sale. An old hotel turned strip club, flophouse. This is one of those deals where you struggle with cleaning up a city, versus the city maintaining it's identity. And I'd be stone lying if I said seeing this murky beacon didn't make my day, every damn time I set eyes on it.

Stay chill.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hard Years. Hard People.

My Grandpa Wilkerson was, by all accounts, a hard man. Had to be. An oilfield man in Kansas during the 20's, 30's, 40's and beyond had little other choice. The genes were passed down.

Grandpa Wilkerson passed away some twenty-five years ago. Grandma Wilkerson, a stout woman of Austrian and Russian descent, would tack on around 15 years more before she left us at 92 years of age. While I was just getting to know my grandpa when he passed, the following years would put me closer to my grandma.

My favorite story of hers involved life in the dust bowl era. Grandpa worked for Standard Oil and from time to time he did some roustabout work. Grandma told me how they had to wrap wet towels and rags around their faces to keep from smothering in dirt, then drive from around the Hays area to the Zurich area- some 35-45 miles depending on your route. When they arrived at the well in Zurich, the dirt would be a foot high on the running boards of their vehicle.

Hard times

I hadn't thought about that story in years until I saw the above picture of Zurich, back in the dirty thirties, while buzzing the web one day. Grandma Wilkerson's words came flooding back to me. And with those words came something much harder to deal with: I miss my Grandparents- on both sides. I just miss them so damn much. The things I want to ask them now as a man...I just didn't know to ask them then as a child situated far below the learning curve of life.

The photo proceeded to punch holes through a membrane enclosing my brain's diminished filing cabinet, where other fragments of information are pieced together and stored away.

About his father, Grandpa Wilkerson would only say he was an Englishman, preacher and a horse trader (horse trader, I've recently discovered, was a loose term when employed by the Wilkerson clan, if you catch my drift). About her father, Grandma Wilkerson would tell me stories of her father hitching up the team, bells on the horses and rigging shined to a high luster, then proceeding to march the rig through the burgeoning town of Hays, my grandma in tow. He was a hard working man proud of his accomplishments. Grandma was simply embarrassed.

The above is partial recall of what I have left of them. Pictures, of course, exist. But for a family who's done very little in written preservation of live's lived, those oral histories are all I've left. And I hang on to them. Desperately.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Endless Days

I guess I was fourteen or so when it started. Insomnia. I didn't know the word for what I was going through. I only knew I couldn't sleep. Hours lying in bed, masturbating and waiting for the world to shut down. It never did. The mornings were the worst, though. Waking up after just dozing off and then trying to make it through school and football and the after-school job. Rinse, repeat.

Then you get used to it, can't live life without it. The grogginess. Alternatives- suck down that Dimetapp. The world is so much easier in grape flavored slow motion.

I look back on those years and see the decline.

Over the past twenty-five years I've played a hard game of tag with insomnia and all which goes with it. Your mind plays tricks on you. Paranoia bumps you. Anxiety kicks you in the nuts.

The frustration shifts into overdrive.

For years I've done everything they tell you to do: eat right, become an exercise freak, cut down on the booze and coffee. Nothing helps. Melatonin is a joke. Dropping Ambien works one night and screws you the next.

Fast forward. The cycle continues. This morning I woke up from zero sleep- three nights in a row. Scratchy eyed. Sloppy food tastes soooo gooood. I don't want to do anything, but go to work early. Making it through the day...take two slugs of Nyquil and try to be productive- that's how it feels.

Adrenaline spikes. Every day I run a mile to the fitness course, scream through hairy obstacles twice and then hump it back- sweat out the bad juice. Pumped. Hard muscle- earned. The heat and humidity down here right now is suffocating and I look like I've been through a water boarding session. I get the high for a few hours and then the bottom falls out. I'm swimming in quick sand.

So what's it all about? Taking what one can get from the hell one is in. Along the way a sort of dreamy existence takes over. Little fucked up head trips. You glide through the daily grind because you just don't care. One goes from a drone to a fountain of pure, crystalline creativity. You fly.

Will night number four catch me in a naked choke?

I sit here banging the keyboard. Words assimilate. Phrases into sentences. Print that thing out, mark it with ink: Wrong. Wrong. Right! Life falls back into place, better than before.

And I understand.

Stay chill.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sweet Suzy. Pressure. My Way.

Take a spin over to The Flash Fiction Offensive and see what happens when that big cat editor, David Barber, asks this ol' boy to write something quick and hard. Look to the picture above as the initial inspiration for Sweet Suzy. No, sadly, the SS isn't mine.

And a quick holler to my friend, Christopher Grant. Christopher, I was thinking about what you've been going through, and why, when I wrote that last line- hell, most of the piece. I wish you well, Christopher, and hope you are back with us soon and under the best of circumstances.

To my new amigos out there, thanks, and keep the pedal to the metal with your own writing.

Stay Chill.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Interesting People

Reading a JD Salinger biography over the weekend- an author I've never read, but find somewhat fascinating as a person- I came upon an interesting individual. His name was William Shawn, and he was a longtime editor for New Yorker magazine.

Shawn was a close friend of Salinger's and, by all accounts, an extravagant and eccentric personality. Idiosyncrasies such as he wouldn't live above the second floor, or wouldn't go through tunnels, firmly entrenched Shawn in New Yorker lore. But the most curious (and, dare I say in my most heterosexual tone, fabulous) rumor was this little slice below.

"There was always the rumor, totally unverified, that he was supposed to have been the child who was going to be kidnapped in a famous kidnapping in Chicago but another child was taken instead."

Granted, I'm likely the only person reading the above who thinks this is the balls. Still, when people are saying something akin to the above about you after sucking down a bottle of Old Grandad 114 with buddies around the campfire, then friend, you've got personality.

And if you're interested, the name of the book is: Salinger- A Biography By Paul Alexander. Ranked pretty low on my biography scale, but was an easy to read introduction into the life of one of our most heralded (I guess) authors. Might have to actually read A Catcher in the Rye, now.

Stay Chill.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Sandman

The other day my wife and I were rolling by one of my favorite remnants of old time St. Pete, The Sandman, when she pointed and said: "Huh. Looks like they're finally shutting that place down or something." The windows were boarded up and the place looked gone. Even the usual bums, junkies, prostitutes, wayward families and transients weren't hanging around. Kind of a drag.

The Sandman is an old motor court, one of probably a hundred in the Tampa Bay area. And to be honest, a few of these joints still look pretty damn good, enough so as to give you a glimpse of a bygone era, a blip in time when Florida had a kind of a romantic style. Only now, due to the dernier cri of cookie cutter chain motels, many of these places are nothing more than run down shit holes. Flop houses. Squalid efficiency apartments- where you go when you've been driving your life in a south bound lane heading north, gas pedal nailed to the floorboard. Lost it all to booze or drugs? Hey, refuge is right down the street- a bed and a head for only $25-$35 a night. Probably less if you're slick and know how to work a deal.

And brotha, every town with a pulse has a Sandman. Most have dozens.

I stone dig 'em. Especially the neon signs which are retro cool, even if most of them haven't pushed a watt for the last fifteen years. Those signs are a reminder of more innocent times, even though such a time never existed.

But for me, as a burgeoning writer, the money shot is that my imagination is able to glimpse a frame of the freaky deaky shit that goes on behind the closed doors of these sagging landmarks. These mental images are just so goddamn real to me. I even used The Sandman as a sub-character in my story, Five Kilos, because of the in-the-gutter feeling I get when only driving by the place. Hell, just look at that sign. A picture is worth a thousand words and the individual stories developing behind the scenes are worth millions more.

The lonely side of paradise. Here's hoping we never lose it.

Stay chill.

Monday, May 16, 2011

For The Hell Of It

Busy, stressful day at work last Friday. Yet, all I could think about as I worked up in the warehouse or spoke to people on the phone, is how funny it would be to stick a couple of tennis balls down my shorts and take a stroll through the Tyrone Square mall. You know, just for the hell of it.

Stay chill.

Update: I did end up at the mall. No tennis balls, though. Ended up with Daniel Woodrell's Bayou Trilogy instead. Balls? Woodrell's got 'em. Guess I came out on the square.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Words to Live By

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.- Sterling Hayden

Why? Because money in the bank is safe. You learn to play life safe. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. You can no longer play it safe and so you take your chances.

Is there an equilibrium? Having it all, yet still being able to break free?

I believe there is.

Stay chill.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


As we reach into summer, I often go back to days spent living in rural America. And, while I live in St. Pete now, whenever my wife and I refer to home, we always refer to Kansas.

It's a hard thing explaining what makes a man. For many, especially people like my dad, life is simple. You get up, go to work, watch a little television at night and go to bed. There's very little sitting around. Very little feeling sorry for one's self. You start working when you were young and you quit working when your body gives up on you.

Entertainment was trivial as a boy growing up in, and then south of, Zurich. We didn't go to movies- the closest theater was almost 40 miles away- and dinner out meant the Pizza Hut in Plainville, some seven miles away. We rode our bicycles on the sand streets of Zurich, played in the mud and made tunnels in the milo field across the street from our house. When we moved out into the country, we traded riding bicycles for running in the pastures and following creeks choked with sandplum bushes as far as they would take us.

As we grew older, sports came into our lives. I went to school in Damar and Palco, the two towns which made up school district 269, one of the rural school districts for Rooks County. Our choices for sports boiled down to three: Football, basketball and track. In Junior High I competed in all three. I was very good in football, ok in track and terrible at basketball. We had very few kids attending school and football was 6-man...great fun, because as a running back, when I hit the hole I was gone.

High school brought me only football and we were able to field a team big enough to play 8-man with two more on the bench. We had 60 people in our entire high school and either 12 or 15 in my graduating class. I don't rightly remember which number is correct. During this time I also began working after school for a rancher who raised pure-blood Herefords. Best job ever and at times, leaves me wondering if I missed my calling. During the summers I worked for my dad on a pulling unit in the oilfield. Hell. To me, at least. During this period of my life I learned a good night out could be had while drinking a 12-pack of beer with a buddy while driving the country roads made of shale. The little things.

Throughout these years, from my pre-teens and well into my teens, I felt changes coming on, changes which will affect me for the rest of my life. There can be an immense amount of sadness growing up out there. Still, through it all, I could always go run in the pastures, drive the country roads like a maniac or go outside without hearing sirens and cars and my next door neighbor. You could listen to the constant wind and just BE.

My wife and I go back every year. Often, we consider moving back for good. I don't know. You get used to good restaurants, ease of anything you want within a short driving distance. But you can't build up a coyote wagon here and run it in the neighbor's pasture without a worry. Can't drink water from the tap and still have it taste spring-fresh. And nothing's lonelier than a city full of people. Two sides to every coin, as they say.

Yet for all it wasn't back then, and all it still isn't now, Kansas will always be my point of retreat, my home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Christ, I'm actually posting something on my blog. Hell, I even caught Rose up there off guard. Mmmm, Rose.

I've been working hard. Short pieces completed and short pieces at 95% or better. I'm also pedal to the metal on a longer piece, book length, which is heading toward being the best thing I've written to date. The latter is being built with everything I've learned over the past two years shoved into it. We'll see what happens.

Now to double-back on that learning thing. I've been putting a shit ton of effort into opening paragraphs, and I thought why not give a little taste and see what people think? We've all learned, at this point, how deadly important those first lines are. So read on and let me know.

First off is the opening paragraph from a short story currently making the rounds. As it's a little murky on genre, I've decided the best place would be a good literary mag. You know, those folks who take eight weeks to a year, or a fucking eternity to say yay or nay. I don't mind, because this piece will find a home although maybe with a little tweaking.

Shoveling dirt was damn good training. His old man said it. Validation came through hard earned muscle and the wind of a quarter horse. Miles of ditches labored over right in his own back yard. He’d dig them deep, fighting through roots and rocks, fill them in again and continue the cycle. Damn good training.

And here's the one at 95%. It's dark and long, 6800 words. Also got a love element ticking in there as well, so the literary mag route again. And sure, I've tried chopping some length off, but this was meant to have some guts and when something is meant to be, then man, you just let it be.

I was with ol’ John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. Ain’t got much bearin’ on what I’m a fixin’ to tell ya, but I was there just the same. Lost the use of three fingers on my left hand in that damn skirmish. Tore out the joints on ‘em. Don’t matter much. Still got good use of my thumb and the finger next to it and they’re stronger than the average man’s entire hand. Overcompensation, the doc calls it. ‘Sides, right hand’s fine and it’s the one I use most the time. I get along all right.

The first sentences in each are exactly what gushed into my head and everything else followed. I like writing this way and is how most of my short stuff gets off the ground. But still, like most of my work, the meat of the story is usually vibrating on a completely different wavelength. Such is the same with these two. And the book...I already know the ending, so now I'm in the process of putting the jelly in the doughnut, so to speak.

That's all I got, for probably another three months or however fricken long it's been. Comments welcome.

See ya on the flip.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunshine City Terror. A Bad Day Today in St. Pete

South St. Pete- area of 37th street and 28th Ave S. Right now. What is being reported that we hope to God is not true: Federal Marshal in surgery. Two St. Pete cops and K9 dog down. Senseless. Terrible beyond words.

One take on the story so far: St. Pete Shooting

Nobody is proud to report this.

Took part in a citizens police course this past year and met some of these outstanding people and right now I am stunned. My prayers will never be enough for these hero's and their families.

And the filthy animal at the root of all this, Hydra Lacy Jr...let's just hope they bring him down without any other good people getting hurt.

If you got prayers to spare, then please send them up.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Good Post Over At BIB

I read a damn good blog article this morning. This one sort of puts into words where I was at not so long ago and illustrates a few issues I still struggle with from time to time. Yeah, you've been in that boat too. Check it out over at Black Irish Blarney and read between the lines a little. A couple of solid, interesting thoughts in the comments section as well.

Speaking of chumps, who's that brotha to the right? A few buds have been bustin' my hump for awhile now, wanting a photo so they know who they're talking to. I even wore my best smile for the occasion.

See ya on the flip, amigos.