Tag: #amreading

Down and Deep

 

Down and Deep

Down and Deep, in shadowy Soul of Man,

Among wanton desires and greed,

Can there be a winsome plan

For Love and nascent need?

Can some benign and gentle force

In shapeless wonderment

Come to settle in due course

Fulfilling noble Testament?

Were we to call such Phenomena

A Deity from No Time and Space

Would we be judged Anathema

Or God’s servant full of grace?

Wander and wonder we through ageless

Eons of Earthen causes and effects

Glimpsing beauty and sages

Man’s mortal goodness and defects.

Until the Orb upon which we dwell,

Spins one last earthly time

And settles some in Hell,

Others in Heaven’s Holy Clime.

On a long-ago parchment it is said

Man’s search for the Holy Grail

Doth lead Man to dread

The fiery furnace of Hell.

So, see wonders of this ageless Orb

Listen to the music of your Soul

Allow not your lives absorb

The leaf of the Lotus toll.

BR Chitwood – June 24, 2019

 

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The Mind – A Great Odyssey

The Mind – A Great Odyssey

 An octogenarian mind has a plethora of experiences to share, bemoan and cherish. The dips and sways during a lifetime are one great roller coaster ride. Some mind choices along the way will chastise and haunt. Some will make you weep. Some will make you smile with joy.

The wiring is likely the most important part of the mind – a well-engineered mind that keeps the mind focused on its chosen field and/or fields of interest…that DNA stuff that a relatively few can talk about. There are people who can stay their course, who have minds that stay focused on ultimate goals they wish to reach. There are those of us who are like moths to light, forever longing for some elusive Nirvana, some peaceful way station along the way where life yields pleasure and forever love. Often, we, those people are referred to as ‘Romantics’.

The environment can alter choices and deeds surely, but it is the mind that in its uncanny ability and unique engineering can wipe away most of its ‘carrier’s’ ugly parts and proceed with its eventual destiny. It is with joyous envy that I sprinkle dashes of remembrance to a few people of history that have given me small fractions of wisdom, hope, and pleasure, people who had those mind attributes that I covet and wish to have possessed.

My mind conjures up people like Arnold Palmer, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates. What could a golfer, a couple of scientists, and a group of philosophers really have in common?

At the Phoenix Open PGA Golf Tournament some years ago, I met and spent a delightful afternoon with Arnie Palmer and a small group of admirers. Arnie shared with us some of his experiences after leaving his Pennsylvania farm. Golf had been his obsession, and he knew early on that he wanted to compete and win major golf tournaments. He stayed true to that single-minded dream, and he became one of the most adored man in the sport. His ‘simple man’ of the land image endeared him to millions of fans, and the phrase, ‘Arnie’s Army’ became a television staple when talking about the great golfer’s fans. Arnie was simply a man who could walk among Kings, Presidents, and the common man. He knew where he was in his journey. Meeting Arnie, sharing space with this man who was my idol, was one of the singular events of my life. I loved the man.

Comparing Arnold Palmer’s mind with the minds of Einstein, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Marie Curie would perhaps seem frivolous, but there is commonality. Each had enquiring minds, single-minded interests.

Albert Einstein, of course, brought our eager world into Science in monumental ways, his mind touching so much of what today we take for granted, in sophisticated manufacturing principles to household products. A German-born theoretical physicist, his mind was magnificently wired for Science, he would amaze his contemporaries with his scientific knowledge, would develop his ‘Theory of Relativity’ and win the Nobel Prize in 1921…and, he was also ‘human’, married, had two sons, divorced, lived a life lush with fame, alerted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the potential development of ‘extremely powerful bombs’ – which led to the ‘Manhattan Project’.

Marie Sklodowska Curie was a Polish French Physicist and Chemist who conducted pioneering research on the study of radioactivity, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice. She was also the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields. She was the first woman professor at the University of Paris…an amazing lady who contributed greatly to the world of Science.

With the great philosophers, their single-minded queries into the knowledge and thinking of their time would forever be a part of our educational system, and pass through the halls of colleges and universities…’Aristotelian Logic, Socratic Method, Platonic Theory’, all phrases heard daily in classrooms across the land. In his famous ‘Dialogues’, Plato discussed not only the physical world, but the metaphysical as well – immortality, the mind, Man. These were ‘Mind-Giants’ who led the way to logical thinking.

The lives of these few great people among so many that could be mentioned were astounding and serve as role models for those who tenaciously hold onto their dreams, their love of a specific subject, be it arts, industry, science, sports, those who have the minds and the wills to achieve.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste’, it has been said.

On a personal level, my mind was put ‘oh hold’ for much of my younger life by a chaotic Appalachian youth and a sojourn of ‘lotus-eating’ – then, in those early years of manhood, would have been the time to begin my serious writing. Something was missing in my life, a vague wispy dream of family and love, and the path I took to finding those most genuine realities were laden with ‘lotus flowers’ and ‘Mr. Bacchus’. I was blind to a sure path that would lead me to writing. One path was left to follow yet another.

In short, my mind in so many ways I’ve wasted.

The latter part of this life that is left to me is taken up with writing. I call it my therapy. I love to write… Nineteen books, some 400+ blog posts, and some poetry thrown into the mix. There is no Nobel, no Pulitzer, no award I can imagine coming to me. I’ll be satisfied with some of my books being read and enjoyed – with, hopefully, some Amazon reviews thrown in.

Moral to the story here? To the extent there is one, if writing is your ‘dream’ and you feel you can do it well, begin and grow with each new Blog post, Book, and Poem. You will get better with each new stroke of your pen, or, sadly, you will become someday an octogenarian loving soft vanilla ice cream…

Two scoops on my cone, please!

BR Chitwood – June 22, 2019

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Awkwardness Becomes Brady Chilton

Awkwardness Becomes Brady Chilton

A housefly somehow survived the spray and swatter and mingled among the guests at my celebration party, honoring the fact that miracles can happen. I, Brady Chilton, made it through law scho0l and passed the strenuous Arizona Bar Examination. The housefly would not be the only irritable pest of the evening, just, the first. No, that little pestilent pest fly made its way to the high and lovely sculpted ceiling, there to look down on all the killer giants of its world.

To loosen the knots of pre-party apprehensive jitters, I drank two jiggers of a highly touted Kentucky bourbon, mixed sparsely with wisps of soda and a twisted lemon peel which was submerged on the bottom of my highball glass. In fact, feeling not quite the effect desired, I had another. Then, to make certain there were no pre-party nerves, I had a third libation. It was my wish to ‘shine’ with those present at the party as a wizard of the word, chatter that would enlighten and show the charm, the bold intellectual ability befitting a man of the law.

Suffice it, I arrived in a nether world of alcoholic confidence and jolly attitude at the beautiful Arizona Country Club. A surprisingly large gathering of well-wishers was in the grand banquet room, and an immediate trickle of applause came and grew into a loud mixture of hands clapping and voices shouting. Even in my rather bourbon enhanced mood, there was still the emotional stir that comes and almost brings tears.

After a few embraces and handshakes, I went to one of four bars set up to handle the crowd of people. It was my wish to fortify my initial bourbon intake with at least one more highball and possibly more. This meeting would mean a lot to my future as an attorney, and I wanted to be reinforced and loose enough for my words to form the phrases of competency and surety. In short, I wanted to be true to my game plan, impress those present with my ease of communication and depth.

All went well at the celebration until the near ending when an inebriated man I did not recognize took the mike on the bandstand and made a few asinine remarks, closing with this:

“Mr. Chilton, won’t you come to the podium and say a few words, among which you might explain how someone like you can leave a gorgeous woman broken-hearted by calling off an engagement to be married, then parlay that into why anyone would hire you as an attorney…”

Finally, one band member escorted the man out of the room, his embarrassed lady friend following behind.

It became very quiet in the banquet room and hundreds of curious eyes sought me out. The ACC person in charge of the room came to the microphone to apologize for the interruption of ‘everyone’s good time’.

Emboldened by Bacchus I weaved my way to the bandstand. It was my feeling that the ‘drunk’ would not have the last word. The ACC gentleman gave me a consoling half-smile and handed me the mike.

I stood uncertainly for a moment, not really knowing what to say but knowing that some words should come from me.

“Hi, everyone. I feel I should respond to the gentleman who spoke of my calling off an engagement to a lady… Please, do not feel too hasty to dislike the man. He was obviously a friend or relative of the lady in question and urged forward by the alcohol he consumed tonight.

“The man was not untruthful. I did what he perhaps ineloquently spoke of my doing. It is true that the ‘gorgeous woman’ was not happy with me for calling off our engagement, and I can only say that I felt very much like a total ‘ass’ for doing it. My only defense is that factors dwelling in my mind caused me to make the decision to call off the engagement. I won’t get into those factors, but they led me to believe at the late hour that it was better the option than proceeding and causing more harm later. She was, is, a most lovely woman, a woman any man would be proud to call his wife. You may feel free to think of me in any way you wish. I can only say I’ve learned from that experience and can say that it will never happen again. A private matter such as this should never have been aired here in public and cause unease to a group of people out to enjoy an evening, and, hopefully, no one knows but the culprit involved and not the lovely lady.

“One last thing. You folks did not need to hear any of this tonight, and I only hope it will not diminish your enjoyment too much from this party in my honor. While mentioning that, thanks so much to my colleagues and friends for giving me this wonderful evening. Now, please, let’s converse, dance, imbibe, and leave us enjoy these precious moments together.”

From that point on in the evening, I could not reignite myself, felt a remorse not felt for some time. No highball or light talk could rid me of that. In the end I thanked my new colleagues and went home to a troubling sleep.

The next day I called the lady who was the unfair subject of part of the previous evening. Our talk was congenial and warm. I was surprised the evening’s flare had gotten back so soon to her, but she was well over the topic and apologized to me for having to endure that part of the evening.

We had cocktails together a few nights later.

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 17, 2019

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Brotherly Love

 

Brotherly Love

“So, what’s up, big guy?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Okay, I know what’s next. My ‘You’re right, I don’t want to know,’ is not going to mean a twit to you, and you’re going to spend the next unquantifiable seconds telling me anyhow. So, again, what’s up, big guy?”

“Oh, you think you know me so well, but you don’t. Unquantifiable? Really! What does that mean? Never mind, I don’t want to know. I have a pretty good idea what it means. Look, this will take only a minute…I need to borrow $500 so I can get this remarkable deal on a laptop that has all the ‘goodies’ and the mega high numbers on everything – it’s got mega-bytes up the grommet.”

“So, why the hell are you asking me to give you $500. It would be, giving you, $500, because you would never pay it back. We’ve been there, done that before.”

“Aw, come on, you’re my big brother. You’re a handsome dude with a wife ‘to die for’ and you love me. You want to see me succeed, and, with this web puppy, I will succeed. I’ll pay you back when I get my income tax ‘money-back’ check…stop laughing, I mean it, I will pay you back.”

“Listen to you. You are insulting me, little brother…Elaine has gone grocery shopping so it’s a good time to have my chat with you. Sit and let’s allow me to give you some facts…

“Mom and Dad have been gone for a while, and I admit I’ve been over-accommodating you and your spurious needs. Elaine was the vote that got you living here with us, but there is a time-limit for you, Axel. I know you had tough emotional times, but so have I, and you need to put your life back together quickly. Elaine and I are not your mom and pop. God bless them, they’re gone. I love you and want you to succeed in your writing. However, your job at the tire factory pays you enough to be on your own, but you prefer living with us and partying way too much. Elaine must clean your messy room, pick up food droppings, do your maid duties for you, and that stops NOW! No more eating in your room for the remainder of your stay with us. No more messy room. No more mooching money.

“So, Axel, you get no more money from me or Elaine, and you have thirty days to find your own place and be out of here. As for your request for $500, that is a non-negotiable, NO! You’re my brother and I do love you, but your stay here is over in thirty days. If you are not out of here in thirty days, you will find all your meager belongings gone, given to Goodwill.

“Do you understand the ‘program’ I’ve described, Axel?”

“You really would do all that, Matthew?”

“Yes, and I might and will add, at twenty-four, a college drop-out, and a real presumptuous ass, I’ve put up, we’ve, Elaine and I, have put up with you too damned long. The thirty days can and will be moved up based on your attitude. We have simply had it, Axel. You are a brother I don’t recognize anymore. Mom and Dad would be so ashamed of you during these months you’ve been with us. I doubt if you would have left on your own terms, so I’m making that decision for you. You have taken advantage of us and our home for too long. Family love is important, but not so much under these circumstances. Please understand, I mean every word.”

“Wow! Why don’t you tell me what you really think, Matt! Damn, I never knew you felt like this. I just assumed, you know, family and stuff… Suddenly, I feel sort of dirty, you know, like a homeless bum. But, yeah, I understand. I thought you were grumpy at times, but I never thought the grumpiness was about me… Well, my being sorry won’t hack it, but I’ll say, I’m sorry, very sorry, for the way I’ve acted. I’ll be out of here before using up those thirty days. A buddy has been wanting me to move in with him. That suddenly sounds like a winning offer. Don’t misunderstand, Matt, I’ve heard you loud and clear. I will change – for the better, I promise. I needed this ‘Big Brother’ session. Believe me, it all makes perfect sense to me. I really have been an intolerable ass. Thanks, Matt, good ‘Bro’, I’ll surprise you. Wait and see. I love you, big guy. Is it okay if I hug you, Matt?”

“Sure, it’s okay. You’re still my brother. I just played Dad for a few moments, but I still meant everything I said.”

“I know, Matt…guess this is not the right time to mention my affair with Elaine, huh?”

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 17, 2019

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Instant Love

Instant Love

Little did I know at the time that my walk in the woods would bring my heart near to breaking, that a portion of it would be broken irreparably, never to be fully mended, and that my mind would be absorbed with guilt and pain because of my over-active mind…who could have done this to such a beautiful animal? A moment of anger soared through me. A hunter, I surmised. Damn the hunter all to hell! Could I have walked faster? Gotten there sooner?

So many questions and denial assailed my mind as I stared into that tangled brush and saw an animal in pain, its body moving only slightly in spasmodic barely noticeable jerks.

Then, I heard his low whimper carrying doubt and fear. In that instant, all that mattered was saving his life. In that brush of broken tree limbs, rocks, and blood-stained earth was a beautiful Golden Retriever, now more audibly moaning in long painful gasps, somehow sensing my presence. The Golden’s hair was matted with a slow ooze of blood coming from an ugly gash to his lovely head. The eyes were half-opened, pleading, rolling lazily up and down in my direction, as if saying, ‘please, no more, please’, perhaps his mind considering me the enemy who had attacked him. How long had he been lying there in terrible pain? I could only guess. Quickly scanning the area, I saw no other people in sight.

My heart sank at the sight, and, despite his suffering, he was so beautiful lying there in the brush, his body atremble with the uncertainty of my appearance in the dense woods. A tear owned by me came and fell to the ground. Call me, wimpy, it’s okay, because it was instant love, seeing that beautiful creature moaning in distress and so much agony.

As I gingerly pulled away the tangled mess to reach him, he moaned so desperately. With my voice as soft as I could make it, I tried to console him. “It’s okay,” I muttered gently, softly, “I’m going to help you. Don’t be afraid. Please, lie still while I remove some of this knotted mess around you. I’m here to help you, not harm you.” I gently stroked his middle back. He seemed to understand my words and his eyes closed for a moment as he emitted a barely audible sigh. The gash appeared to be his only injury, but it looked menacing with its emission of blood.

For a moment, as his breathing became fainter, I thought he might be dying, but as I reached him, touched him, he reacted with new yelp. As gently as were my arms enfolding him, he still gasped in with every move I made. I talked to him as I worked to get him out of the brush. “I’m taking you to the vet hospital, to someone who can stop your . I won’t hurt you, and I won’t leave you. I promise.”

As I carried him to my car, I could feel and hear his soft labored breathing with little gasps of more discomfort when I had to make an adjustment with my grip on him. I also prayed for the lovely Golden in my arms. At the car, I carefully opened the back door of my sedan and with tedious care placed him on the back seat.

We made it to the Vet hospital, and, Thank God, the Golden was saved. A hunter’s misplaced shot had ricocheted and caused the gash and his near death. He had crawled to the brush for safety, to avoid the danger of which he had no knowledge.

Julie Anne and I named him, Toby. He was with us for eleven years before we had to put him down because of a cancer, bringing an agony hard to bear and memories laved with tears.

Those tears can still easily come when I think of my beautiful friend, now long gone, but never, ever, to be forgotten. He is buried under a peaceful and aged oak tree in the east valley of Phoenix, Arizona.

Rest in Peace, Toby, we will always love you….one day, we’ll be together again.

BR Chitwood – June 11, 2019

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Together We Go

Together We Go

“Each writer has a style…”

“Well, now, aren’t you the savvy one? Where are you going with this bit of ‘old news’?”

“Oh, come on, Alter-boy, play nice. Let me show off just a tad. I’m just practicing my Phrase Prompt?”

“Well, you are the ruling member of this august group of two, so sally forth, my main man. This Phrase Prompt thing is what gets you to writing, ain’t it?”

Alter-boy, don’t you ever again use that pedestrian verb combo. It reminds me too much of my time in the Writer Wasteland. Now, I can’t get rid of you, but I can control your impulses, so I’m going to push the pause button on you. Just stay inside my head and let me know when I’m getting in a writing warp that I should not be in. Just, behave yourself. Generally, I love your good humor and those beady little bon mots with which you suffer me…”

“Hold it, before you push that pause button, don’t you believe you might be using a dab of affectation here, I mean, bon mots, really? Why don’t you just write, quip, or, pun? I know you want to show off, and I’m not going to bother you again, but, get real, son, I live in here, too. You…” Pause button time.

“That’ll hold you a while, Alter-boy. We’ll have a big laugh about all this a little later.

“As I was saying/writing, each of us has a style that goes a long way in identifying who we are. For example, back in college, being an English major and studying one semester American authors who had discernable styles. Take, for example, Edgar Allen Poe, the south’s, Thomas Wolfe, I loved those gentlemen and their writing, styles, but the southern author who was challenging for me to read was Oxford, Mississippi’s contribution to literature, William Faulkner, Nobel Laureate, Pulitzer Winner twice. Faulkner is likely best known for his The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom! and The Reivers. I’ve gone back and read Faulkner, and, well, who am I to argue with the literary rankings? William Faulkner was a great writer, but I didn’t particularly enjoy him as much as the almost poetic narrative style of Thomas Wolfe.

My writing was influenced mostly by my study in college of the American Naturalists in literature. Emile Zola, the French writer, was to formulate the naturalist standard in writing, evolving from the so-called Realist writers of the day. Realism and Naturalism began to lead writers away from landscape-style writing to the ugly happenings of the streets, the under-belly of society dwellers. Writers like Jack London, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane came on strong to pick up from the great early narratives of Samuel Clements (Mark Twain). The Naturalist style of writing appealed to me, and my books likely show that influence.

There are many authors I’ve read and enjoyed over the years, the poetry and writing of an ex-Catholic priest, James Kavanaugh, whose book of poetry, Will You Be My Friend? and There are Men Too Gentle to Walk Among Wolves ‘matched so well with me’ and hearkened me back to my early Appalachian roots. I still remember how very ‘eager to write’ I was after reading Theodore Dreiser’s, Sister Carrie, about a young girl coming to the big city to find her fame and fortune, only to be used by the corrupted moth to light characters of the street. Crane’s Red Badge of Courage and Maggie, Girl of the Streets gave me the same thrill, made me want to write… Do you know Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage over a weekend? At least, that’s the anecdote I heard at the time, and never checked it out for authenticity.

One last observation from William Faulkner. He was a self-made author. Faulkner believed and stated, a writer learns to write from writing, from the mistakes you make as writers. He also stated in fairly clear language that a writer had to believe he/she was the very best out there. Pretty bold, but I like it. That’s how I want to think…

So, long story short, I can easily trace my reason for loving to write back to childhood mimicking of singers I liked and childish poetry plus the foregoing influences.

So, each writer has a style, and I won’t be claiming to be in the same league as the great authors I’ve mentioned above. There are always the factors to consider of brain power and latent talent. We are all blessed with some – is it enough to author a best-selling mega-hit?

Each of us must determine that for ourselves…

“Well, isn’t that obvious?”

Oops, I accidentally hit the pause button.

“Okay, you want to have dialogue with me, Alter-boy? Go for it!”

“Want a drink?”

“Yeah, a highball. You, pouring?”

“You know, that’s an amusing question. To each his own!”

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 11, 2019

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Writing: Is It The Pits?

Writing: Is It The Pits?

There is no earthly or worthy reason why you should heed any advice I might give on the topic of Writing. Oh, I can claim to have taught briefly a course in Advanced Writing to high school seniors on their way to college, and, only my Deity can explain it, but I have written nineteen books and am working on the twentieth.

Having written those books, I’ve done little in the way of marketing them. I’ve deliberately eschewed seeking out a publisher because of the rejection slips I received many years ago when I was writing my six-book ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’. When self-publishing came into popularity, I went crazy and madly published too many books too fast, subliminally thinking readers were going to gobble them up. Talk about Chutzpah.

Okay, the truth is, I’ve always been frugal with money – except for the very large and expensive things in life, like, cars and luxury homes…yes, I like luxury living and won’t give it up. Well, there’s more than one truth. I spent most of my earlier years in the neon lights of lotus-eating, getting married, getting divorced, getting married, getting…you get the picture. So, some common sense came via ‘air mail’ to the left-side of my brain (Or, is it the right-side?) somewhere around the Gail Sheehy’s ‘Forty-Plus Crucible’ stage in Passages. I married a lovely down-to-earth lady with the common sense I never had and have somehow metamorphosed into that sensible place…well, for the most part. I’m still dilettantish to a fault.

Now, I just write, literally, write – blogs, novels, romance, mystery, thrillers, memoirs, even inject some fantasy occasionally. To the exclusion of, say, keeping up with the social media mélange of tips for writing, how to get an agent, how to write the next great novel, common mistakes made in writing, how to market your book, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, really, need I go on? I just WRITE.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered that I was likely never going to get discovered by a publisher or by an agent who could get me published, so, I WRITE. No, the sales of my books are not making me zany with joy, far from it – think of an antonym, like ‘zensible’. Think of the smallest grain of sand. That’s I, me, or my nineteen books – under a tall and wide five-ton pile of pebbles. So, I WRITE.

I’m in Twilight now, and I use that descriptive word so as not to admit to an age I don’t feel nor care to reveal…ah, see, a rhyme. I’m amazing, to me, I’m amazing. You don’t have to think so. You might think so if you read one of my books, particularly, if you read Dominique, or, Daddy, No! or, Mama’s Madness, or, Stranger Abduction, or…well, just go to https://billyraychitwood.com and pick one. Many of my books in the Mystery genre are fiction from fact, because evildoers have always held a morbid fascination for me, you know, how could any person do some of the hideous crimes we see on TV and in daily newspapers? Many of my books are in the Romance genre, love stories with some suspense and intrigue.

Finally, with all I’ve written here, here’s a writing tip that works for me. If you have the penchant for writing, feel like you can write, you might try it. Here’s what I do: I look over at my lovely wife and say, “Hey, honey, give me a phrase, any phrase, known, not known, just give me a phrase.” She’s reluctant because I’m taking her away from her book-reading or her genealogy, but I pick on her enough until she finally gives me a phrase.

From that phrase, I will write a blog post. That post might one day become a full-fledged book. That simple phrase unlocks my mind and the words flow. Maybe, in the scheme of things, my blog posts are not so great, but I like them, my wife likes them, my friends like them, and maybe that must be enough. That phrase gets me to writing, and the more I write the better wordsmith I believe I become. Hopefully, it can work for you.

So why not leave me a phrase in the comments below, it might form a blog post, or, trigger another new book.

Happy Writing.

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 8, 2019

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Close Call

Close Call

Just a bit tipsy when I left the Cannery Row bar, the hour was Ten PM, and I knew there were business calls to be made in Monterey the next day just as there was with this day ending. I walked down the lighted street until I came to the alleyway where I earlier parked my car. It was a short alleyway from the main street into a relatively small unlighted parking lot between a cluster of tall brick buildings.

The thought did occur to me that I could be an easy prey in this special part of the California I once knew. Maybe it was more than a thought. Perhaps it was a premonition.

John Steinbeck made this little piece of the world famous with his book, Cannery Row, in 1945, a story set during the Great Depression about the ‘earthy’ people of the author’s memory going back to 1930 of the men and women who lived bawdy lives, drank, and died. 1945 was the year the ‘seiners’ brought in 250,000 tons of sardines, the final year of such heavy yield. The following year was 25,000 tons of sardines. Despite the warnings from marine biologists, the sardine cannery and sardines would be seined out of existence.

Back to my woeful tale, I stepped from the alley into a parking area of pitch-black darkness. My tie was loose around my neck and my white shirt was slipping out of my trousers all rumpled. I looked the part of a drunken sot, but without the weaving and swaying. To some extent, that rumpled image can be taken as true…just a bit too much entertaining the clients seen that day.

So, into the blackness I went. Suddenly, from the darkness came two young men, each grabbing an arm, the one to my right was consistently punching me just above my bicep.

“Give us your wallet, mofo!” one thug whispered with emphasis that begged to be heeded.

Dumbfounded, I complied with the demand and handed over my wallet. The hoodlum on my right was still punching me above my bicep while gripping so tightly I could only feel the jolts.

Just as quickly as the two bad boys grabbed me, it was over. They ran quickly away into the blackness, while I stood momentarily staggered with incipient anger and frustration building. It quickly dawned on me that all my credit cards and some hundred-plus dollars were in my wallet.

I hurried from the parking lot down the short alleyway and called the police. When two officers arrived, I gave them the information that I had which was precious little, gave them my temporary lodging address – the Casa Munras, in Monterey, if memory serves correctly.

It was only when I returned to Casa Munras and began to pull my suit coat off that I noticed my blood-soaked right sleeve. The young punk was not punching me. He was stabbing me with a pocket-knife. The police prior obviously figured I knew about the bloody coat arm.

My wallet was found sometime during the next day in a street near Cannery Row.

Thankfully, my credit cards were all there. The money was gone.

I love John Steinbeck, studied him in college along with Ernest Hemingway and other notable American novelists, but, John, I won’t be visiting Cannery Row again – except through the pages of your classic book.

Incidentally this little scrap of a story is true of a younger me during my educational rep days.

Billy Ray Chitwood – June 1, 2019

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Save That Dream

Save That Dream

 The colors were devastating, people sharply defined, the music from the band magically soothing, and my boldness stronger with each sip of the Manhattan on the rocks. It was my third and I was entering that stage of liquid laxity that was both delightful and dangerous, a moment that needs little elaboration for the lotus-eater that controls my moments of merriment, and, good golly, the big band was playing a slow tune. The song was ‘Theme from a Summer Place’, an all-time favorite of mine, one of those marvelous tunes that makes dancing with a lovely lady so very special…so, where was the lovely lady?

It was a special ‘Spring Dance’ in honor of the city’s sesquicentennial, and I was a resident author invited because of my philanthropy, that is, spending so much money in the pubs throughout the city, many donations to various civic causes, and in serious search for a wife replacement. Now, that’s rather blunt, but it’s the truth. A successful author in his prime, having divorced one trophy wife for taking her flirting activities too far, searching all anew for another trophy wife… I’m a bit like Brigham Young, you know, I don’t care how you Bring’em, just bring’em young. One other thing, about the resident author, successful author, let’s keep that between us. I wouldn’t want that to become public knowledge. You likely get my ‘drift’, people bugging me all the time for autographs and free books…I’m sure you know what I mean.

Sitting at the bar looking over the crowd, there were a few possibilities that I could see among the bodies standing at those temporary tables that are used for events such as this. My bartender buddy was an old drinking pal by the name of Paulski – at least, that’s what I had always called him, even though his name was, Paul. The noise in the big room was a constant mix of laughter, talking, music, and Paulski had to nudge me to get my attention. He leaned over the bar and spoke, “Don’t look now, but you’re getting the eye of one hellava looker, brunette, starboard.” Then, he moved away to serve a drink.

I dutifully obeyed Paulski and casually raised my highball glass to my lips and ‘took a look’. Good Lord, how did I miss that beauty. Damn, she was right off the cover of a women’s magazine, hell, make that a ‘Playboy’ magazine. All of a sudden, I’m smitten and bitten by an impatient lust…I’m sorry, folks, I’ve got to call it what it is. It is not something new with me. It’s been a life-long struggle for me, some warped genetic-thing that eats me up when I see a lady so confounded beautiful.

Then, she looked at me and smiled. The bar was horseshoe-shaped, and I felt like leaping over all the booze and mirrors and landing on that empty seat next to the lady. I gentlemanly snapped my fingers to get Paulski’s attention, then yelled at him finally because of the roar in the place. He saw me, finished the order he was working on and came to me.

“You saw her?” he asked with a wide grin.

“Saw her? Hell, Son, I’ve already had her twice while attempting to get your attention. Please, go ask her if she is unencumbered and, if so, may I join her for a drink.”

“I’m on it, Gerard. You owe me, son.” Yeah, we were in Texas, where all the Texas gents call a buddy, ‘son’. It just becomes habit after a time. Paulski was heading back my way with his eyes flicking and a grin a Texas mile long.

“She knows you, son, at least that’s what she says, and she’s read all your books. Get on over there. I’m fixing her a drink and another for you. Go, man, go.”

Her name was Terri, and I did not know her but was doggone happy she knew me and had given me the eye. Man, you don’t know what a ‘headwind’ that gives a feller seeking treasures in femininity. Sure enough, she read all my books, and loved them all, she said. She teasingly told me, “You know, I fell in love with your picture that appears on all your books.” Terri was just about to burn me up with all her lovely chatter.

Okay, I’m going to deny you the scenes that are better left to the imagination. After all, an author has his reputation to maintain. I will only tell you that Terri and Gerard spent the weekend together, then booked a cruise on that Norwegian Cruise Line, got themselves the ‘Van Gogh Suite’, and pretty much kept their butler busy with food and wine orders. We stayed in that lovely suite the whole cruise, except when we were out on our big private deck. Funny how food tastes so good on those cruises. Ahem.

Here’s the shocker… The Captain married us while we were docked in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Terri became my fourth and last wife. Remarkable how you can go traipsing through life being ruled by the writing gods and looking for love in so many places. Then, you find the magical one in your own backyard.

People are fond of saying, ‘don’t be looking for love in bars’, but I’ve got news for those folks: I’ll match my statistics with any man looking elsewhere.

We’re in our thirty-fifth year of marriage as I write this. We never tire of each other. Our big nights out are short and uneventful.

We see Paulski at his own bar every anniversary.

Terri still reads every book I write. I’m hoping one of these days, some other people will join her…

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 28, 2019

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Introducing ‘Twenty-One Jack’ Poetry

Introducing ‘Twenty-One-Jack’ Poetry

 

Might I be so bold as to introduce you to my ‘Twenty-one Jack’? Simply put, it is a poem of your choice with twenty-one lines: rhyme, no-rhyme, free verse, simply, compressed poetic thoughts and feelings. I give you here my first attempt and hope you might enjoy trying it yourself.

 

“Ah, The Sting”

 

Ah, the sting of memory,

The gasp, the dip in sorrow,

All the loves of yesterday…

 

Time, the arbiter, the squire

Upon whose donkey for me

Rode the night’s pleasure…

 

Twas all a moment’s fancy

There in diluted memory,

All gone in morrow’s dawn…

 

Yet, still would I so linger

Among the music and mist

Perchance one dalliance left…

 

For fools exist for pleasure’s

Hopeful lingering at the trough

Of Bacchus eve’s merriment…

 

Only, now, wrinkled fantasies

Visit in grotesque dreams

That deny a relevance…

 

Still, tis good to know that

One’s life does not foretell

Mysteries yet beyond the veil…

Billy Ray Chitwood – May 13, 2019

 

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