1/28/10

Two Wooden Oars Part I

we were floating, anchored, and not thirsty. the day was in full glory. baited, the fish seemed sleepy and apathetic to our advances. an hour earlier we had dropped in, without incident, on the eastern side of white river lake. plenty of room as the resurgent lake of 19% capacity loomed ahead. the truck and trailer parked, we sped off in full engine-thrusting splendor. ready to slay the hated, but loved, catfish. blue cat. channel cat. any cat. catfish duncan had made some chum and we sped over to our initial locale and he milk-jugged it into the water. less messy as he went along. the promise was catfish. the irresistable, almost mystical, allure of this rotted chum would bring the fish to us. big wally's finest. almost seemed unfair when duncan explained how it worked.  "basically, i was told give it thirty minutes.", he claimed. "we got all day boys. we're gonna eat good tonight. hawkeye, you got a hushpuppie receipe?"

"shut up catfish. you don't know what the hell you're doing.", hawkeye shot back. with a smirk he went back to fixing his seemingly always broken rig. hawkeye dover was a planner. the day had a plan. the night had a plan. his life had a plan. it had gone pretty much to plan. he had reached the american destination. yet something was missing in his soul and he knew it. time to move on. missing his wife emensely, hawkeye couldn't wait another hour for the catfish in that spot to awake. deville, the captain and owner of the craft, seemed uncaring and jumped at the chance to drive the boat. it started without incident.

before setting off to another spot, we agreed to refresh our can warmers and find a spot to settle. this was a two man boat. four grown men had to communicate and awareness was key if an overboard situation was to be avoided. life jackets? they were under somthing, but accesible. i reeled my hook of horror from the water, found a spot, enjoyed a cold draw of mexico, and enjoyed the views of the western ridge of white river lake.

catfish modified his slinging technique and baited the entire west side as deville slowly crept north. the fish were being set up for the slaughter. they would curse the day they went for the internet chum. fried catfish roamed in and out of the minds of all the boat dwellers.

"let's take a look around and drop the rest on the other side.", yelled catfish on the way over to the rather beautiful eastern shore.

deville recounted, "we used to campout along here when it was a real island." no doubt he had searched for treasure as a youth. deville the pirate. an ageless man of experiences and stories. he cares. he prepares.

we found a tree that used to be old. now, older, deader, it was the perfect place to set up the catfish trap. anchors away. and away, and away. hawkeye finally hooked us on the bottom, but his average angler skills were evident. deville laughed, encouraged, instructed, spit, and was satisfied when dover finally hit a rock on the bottom of the shallow, shaded point. deville was a teacher and saw things to their final conclusion. really, it's what makes him confident. he knows he will end the day. with accomplishments behind. quickly he caught our first fish. a blue cat. cold as ice to the touch. a perfect creature of the deep, muddy texas lake. the excitment generated raised spirits and gave hope to all with a hook. he was cold and full. tonight, a day later, we'll eat him along with others caught and cleaned over the past year.

the bait seemed to be working. we all felt it. i watched my fishing pole closely as i shifted to find relief for my aching back. again, accomodations, while appreciated and expected, were tight. dover was giving all of us refresher baits, although he never got the hang of it. deville caught another. "holy smokes! another one!", he yelled as he spilled nothing while quickly grabing the rod. i was struck by the quickness. channel cat this time, which seemed to indicate some sort of victory in catfish's mind.

"they're starting to hit it! they're starting to hit it!", he cried to no one while the awkwardness of his pissing balance treatened to get us all. only his jeans took a soaking but he cared little as the second cat was captured. we stayed in the same spot for another thirty minutes. catfish was timing us. the baited west side awaited and we were sure the haul was going to supply that night's feast. fish fry and hushpuppies at sundown i silently thought.

"diddy, scoot over. we got to roll.", deville said while i hunkered down for the blast over to the west side. it was chilly. a perfectly grey and cold early afternoon. windy, as always on the great plains of texas. even a few white caps were seen in the deep of the middle.

we roared toward the other side, deville opening up the throttle. my leather field jacket was performing as promised. keeping me dry, warm, and protected from the elements. beads of water defected off the hide as we sped along. hassled earlier by catfish, i couldn't understand the mocking city smear. true enough, i do prefer loafers, but always have. they are three years old and the jacket is obviously and authentically worn. it has protected the owner many times as i walk to work. over and over. and over. right then, it was fulfilling it's worst-case scenario mission. then the engine died. a loud crack was all that was heard before the abrupt quiet of the engine.

1/23/10

New York Elusive: T-Shirts

     the first thing i noticed at the airport was the t-shirts. what compels the need to send a message, no matter how witty or bland, on a t-shirt? 'cold beer', 'class flirt', 'Anna', swoosh, 'only God can judge me'. either it's meant to distract other humans or attract other humans. maybe it's a subconcious, modern day, form of community. i saw one with manufactured pink kiss marks all over it.
     my own electric blue microfiber nike golf shirt rendered me off the radar and part of the older community. almost invisible. however, it held a small degree of distraction itself and a full day of travel will always attract my most comfortable clothes. just as well. old is good. it means you've lived, experienced, failed, succeeded, and overcome. you are here. whatever here is. anything past 33 is bonus time anyway. Jesus never saw 39 going on 40.  of course, time measurements are confining for us. for now. really, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand days is like a year. mainly, time for us gives comfort and, perhaps, motivation. "been there and done that" or "i'm on my way".
     we're now in the air and on our way to New York City for the first time. my oldest daughter is performing at Carnegie Hall with her youth chorus. she sings like an angel and her t-shirt claims 'i fashion. despite her weak stomach, she is comfortable on stage and expertly partented, by her mother especially. her little sister adores her. her own muted, and more decorative, light blue t shirt reinforces her willing, and classy, understated nature. the female trio, and i, are in good hands as silent prayers of strength and peace ascend from all around. both the girls have scarves draped around thier slender necks that compliment the t-shirts perfectly and niether have ever been in an airport, on a plane, or to New York City.
     this family trip had been planned for a year. my wife is not a comfortable air traveler. her soul is clinched right now as we are somewhere above the louisiana delta on our way to New York via Atlanta. For me, to be above anything is welcome after a 7 hour delay at the airport following, and preceeding, heavy rains and incredible lightning strikes hammering all of north texas. during a brief break in the clouds, we finally went above the harsh storm and have left the wet woes behind. the sky is blue now and we're traveling smooth through the air. her soul is clinched and her eyes are closed. both daughters have already decided air travel is "boring" and "takes forever". i agree. we encountered line after line, had to practially undress and allow a body search, waited, found hope, lost hope, waited, ate, waited, rushed, buckled, lifted off, and waited. they envision more of the same before and after our stay in New York and they worry about the upcoming boredom.
     patientely waiting is a discipline. certainly not something that comes natural to the current version of ourselves. our technology, need for consumption, and closely monitored clocks have created a soup of anxiety. cluthching cell phones and carry on bags, the degree of desperation, dispair, and defeatism was alarming at the airport. announcement after announcment informing us about delay after delay were met with groans, grimaces, and sadness.
     "this is the biggest mess i've ever seen in my life.", a stranger yelled into her phone while ordering lunch at an airport restaurant. she ordered a hamburger and fries without making eye contact with the waitress and still on the phone. she did make brief eye contact a moment later as the waitress was leaving to put in the order.
     "maam?", she whirled around and shouted, "i want extra lemons".
     "sure." the waitress said without expression and disappeared.  the stranger apologized to the person on the phone.
     "really?", i thought "the biggest mess? ever?"
     "i can't believe this.", a man with heavily gelled hair said loudly to no one. take a look outside and believe it i thought. you can't believe what you see? no doubt successful on time arrival at his destination was extremely important. the weather seemed only his most recent excuse for failure. you know the type. we all know the type. the world is against them. as if the world can be against anything or anybody. tough way to live. on the whole, mother nature seems neutral. inspirational and deadly at the same time. always present. looming like the stars themselves, affecting every earthly scene. our food, our fuel, our air. our fun, our challenge, our benchmark. however, it is not ours. we are its. for a time. then we become it. forever, if we choose. maybe the mother of nature did eventually show us some favor because we are finally in the air and on our way to New York. but the city feels elusive. like it's repelling us or hanging a sign telling us to stay away. too bad, wanted or not, we're going to arrive.
     "what time is it?", my wife asks, "when are we going to get to Atlanta?"
     "in almost and hour.", i reply, "hang in there honey." she looks at me with misirable eyes. i reach out and take her hand. she hates this. i wish i could take away the anxiety. i try to distract her with conversation and parenting rituals. she is a powerful woman with a powerful will. she takes the good with the bad. so do i. we'll rest one day. forever. but rest now is fleeting. hard to come by. she is a powerful woman. her tshirt displays a diamond studded glowing cross.

1/13/10

Texico (Draft): Narrator Development

My roots extended deep into the Texico land. As the great great grandson, great grandson, and grandson of cotton farmers and cattle ranchers, the Fitzgerald’s history with the dirt was well known. Mud and dust were overcome, conquered, and left behind but the steely resolve remained as the recent generations toiled in other areas. The technology and financial services industries were attacked with equal stubbornness and single mindedness. My generation of Fitzgerald’s had fathers and mothers who helped lead the urban migrations that transformed the economy of Texas during the last decades of its American association. The current resurrection of the once, and now, mighty agricultural industries brought a comforting satisfaction and peace to all who shared the benefits and burdens of the Fitzgerald past. My corporate financial background and influential charge into the culture wars of the 20teens uniquely positioned me as a valuable ally and advisor to every Texico president since the birth of the country.

My current responsibility as Secretary of Truth allowed a wide range of authority and, with the enthusiastic blessing of the President; I eagerly embraced the opportunity to defend the social and cultural fabric of Texico. I possessed a healthy apathy on most trivial matters, preferring instead to concentrate on reestablishing the culture and freeing the Church to perform its called functions. Education, healthcare, and missions were my main points of interest. I was not impartial. Neglect, abuse, and mediocrity had ruined these institutions in America and I was determined to continue Texico on another path. The eventual American government takeover of education and healthcare failed to improve the quality of either and turned both into massive entitlements that forced huge tax increases. The math didn’t work. Material incentive for excellence was destroyed and the once-great economy collapsed under the weight of elitist, but na├»ve, good intentions. Missions were never considered a diplomatic tool in an America that relied on perceived envy, protection for hire, and empty talk to persuade the rest of the world. Goodwill access and the free market of ideas turned Texico into a legitimate mediator throughout the world. Not persecution and unseemly tactics. Come as you are, bring your personal honor and integrity, and worship what and who you want. If you want to know my testimony, ask. And some did.

I was busy spreading the Gospel. It was religious capitalism and Christianity was dominating the morality market. Christian churches owned and operated the vast majority of schools from Preschool through higher education and owned and operated all the hospitals. We had the best doctors in the world and the finest quality schools. Even the domestic corporations couldn’t compete. The Churches weren’t profit-driven and proved too well-organized and passionate, although there did remain competition within the Church due to various denominations. Many countries were turning from the socialistic ways of the past into the newer pure capitalistic model. However, old traditions died hard due to corruption and fear. A few elites were making too much money the old way and they were very resistant. Indeed, bloody civil battles had been fought abroad as revolutionaries from other places sought to replicate the Texican success. The signing of the Texico Papers in 2014 established the government’s role in the economy. The role was very limited and was mostly neutral enforcement efforts. Don’t allow the inevitable government greed to take hold and don’t allow the entitlements that pacify the populous. Your health and education were your responsibility and people in this prosperous land were willing to pay. Taxes were extremely low relative to other nations and what income the government did take in was primarily based on consumption. A penny of every dollar spent was sent to Austin. The fortunes of the government depended on the fortunes of the economy and the fortunes of its people. And of visitors to Texico. Indeed, the tourist industry was thriving. The Mayan coast was quickly replacing the California coast as the major creative media coast. Of course, imports were taxed at the same rate the other government taxed our exports. This made negotiating easy and our ability to gain access for our missionaries and businesses was enhanced by our trade policy. We, the government, stayed out of the way and let our people thrive and influence the people around them. Shiftlessness was shunned. Those in need had their pick of private and religious organizations to reach out to for help. Usually, the organizations were already reaching out to them anyway. They were competing for the opportunity to help.

My job was to make sure these organizations were able to operate without unneeded restraints and enhance their ability to be effective around the world. L. Dean Fitzgerald was a name synonymous with Texico and to own the name was a blessing and a curse. “Fitz, when are you going to hang it up and wander off to Del Carmen to live out your days?” the President had asked me right after I accepted the Secretary of Truth job. “I don’t tan real good J.T., and I quit drinking years ago. Besides, Mrs. Fitzgerald don’t like those Yucatan hurricanes in the summer. Maybe we’ll go to the mountains. Hey man, I’m almost seventy five, if I’m going to make a hundred, I gotta start walking the hills. Annie’s tired of sand.” “Well”, he had said, “I got you in Austin for another six. We got hills ‘round here.” After considering his last comment I had replied, “That sounds like a song J. T., wanna go fishing? It may be our last chance for those six years.” I haven’t been fishing since.

Texico (Draft): Character Development/Notes

The paper he held in his hand was meaningless. The proposed partnership was just another attempt to draw the country into a legal mire. Long ago the country refused to acknowledge the high court’s of other nations. And they no longer respected many of the nations themselves. The President’s chuckle masked a deeper frustration. Politically, he was being pressured to enter into alliances, treaties, and agreements with the persistent neighbors to the north. The ties that bind ran deep. Families, businesses, and traditions shared by the two countries were centuries old. The money was also centuries old. However, the memory of the struggle to regain independence was fresh in his mind. Although bloodless, the five years of bitter transition from the lone star state to the lone star nation was hard fought in courtrooms, boardrooms, media outlets, and foreign nations. Enemies were forged and rivalries were born. One can only speculate when the point of no return was reached, but it was reached and any argument to remain part of the United States after the point of no return was easily defeated in debate. “The Yanks want us to put the squeeze on Microsoft. They want us to join in a legal battle to break the geek monopoly. How ‘bout we let that monopoly run out of Austin. Pay attention to this wisdom folks—don’t tick off the techies. I learned that the hard way.” President James T. Barnes was familiar with the benefits of presiding over a true capitalistic system. Let the best thrive in your economy and you will win the global competition. If they eat everybody up, so be it. Make sure they follow the law and don’t compromise with compromisers. Winning the global competition is what allowed Texas to become a sovereign nation. It is what allowed the union of Texas and Mexico and the eventual establishment of Texico. But competitive complacency could never be tolerated and after thirty years the Texico nation had grown into the 2nd largest economy in the world. For a nation whose economy was driven primarily by energy, agriculture, and financial services, the chance to be the host of the undisputed technology giant of the world was a discussion President Barnes and his cabinet placed at the top of his weekly cabinet meeting agenda. No other agendas were in the room as he surrounded himself with his most trusted advisors, his most thoughtful rebukers, and the man he called his right hand man. When his cabinet was formed two years prior he carefully selected the five individuals that made up the powerful group. He then contacted all of them directly and made a few demands. “Be who you are. Give me the advice you want to give. I’ll make or not make decisions behind closed doors taking your counsel into consideration. We leave the room unified and on message. No politics in the inner circle.” If they could work under those terms, along with a healthy salary and generous benefits, they could have one of the most powerful jobs in the world. Only one declined.

The Vice President was Julio Francisco Del Rosario. He was a patriarch of old Mexico and, despite his advanced years, was a vigorous and genuine Texican patriot. His inclusion in the inner circle was a given in light of his long and mutually respectful association with President Barnes. He was universally known as Fran. And he was not timid.

Maggie Graham was a master campaigner and a major land owner and real estate developer. She had benefited greatly from Texico-style pure capitalism and was eager to spread the gospel. She was the President’s main advisor on economic issues. She was a wealthy woman. And well traveled. As Secretary of State she was responsible for relations with other nations. She was the voice and messenger. Not as same-minded with Barnes as the others, she was quick to offer dissenting opinions but had held to the pre-conditioned demands of the job. Her talent abroad was obvious and she had recently made major progress with the Brazilians on an energy agreement. It amounted to a Monroe Doctrine of petroleum. The OPEC dinosaurs were reeling from the loss of most of the North and South American continent markets. They still manipulated the American economy, but were losing their iron grip and some of their power on the world scene. Canada’s inclusion in the agreement the prior year had given the effort momentum and Brazil was the desperately needed final dagger in OPEC’s heart. Along with Canada’s and Brazil’s energy resources, advanced electric automobile technology, wind power, massive off-shore oil field discoveries, and the abundant natural gas fields of West Texas, the energy alliance could provide for the energy needs of the rest of the hemisphere and be competitive in the Eastern part of the world as well. Global competition extended to energy and the Texicans played to win. The Arabs could drown in their oil. Or sell it for a buck. We no longer cared and Graham made no apologies.

Mitchell C. Parrish served as Secretary of Defense. His was a broad job that included military defense, technology defense, disease defense, and defense of the Texico Papers, the governing documents of the nation. Parrish was a shadowy figure to the media and others, but within the cabinet and in powerful circles from Dallas to Mexico City, he was heavily sought after and listened to. His easy smile and boisterous nature equipped him with the ability to hide the disastrous affects the job was having on his health. Those in the room were not fooled as his slight frame and sunken eyes betrayed his attempted deception.

Travis B. Whitney was the Attorney General and pleaded the case of the administration in the courts of law and the court of public opinion. He was the likely successor to Barnes’ leadership in the election of 2040. Able to debate any side of any issue, his brilliant mind was legendary. However, his motives were questioned by some. His pro-American rhetoric and nostalgic writings of previous years left him a bit vulnerable, but he had proven his Texican credentials with hours upon hours upon hours of law arguments on behalf of Texico in foreign nations. The vast majority of those arguments he won. Those he didn’t, Texico ignored. The courts were just another competition. Travis B. Whitney was a winner.

I served as Secretary of Truth. The Texico Papers clearly outlined the functions of the government and along with maintaining pure capitalism, defending the nation’s interests, and determining and enforcing laws, the Papers mandated freedom of religion. Not from religion--of religion. This creed grew stronger and stronger over the years and is now widely credited with the current harmony, peacefulness, and joy that make up the Texico culture. A true servant mentality has infected the nation of 250 Million. Government sponsored missionaries from Texico were scattered all over the world. Feeding, teaching, mending, building, listening, and spreading the Word. At home, churches of all kinds thrive and benefit greatly from the hard earned prosperity of the people. In response, and compelled by love, the churches have taken over the traditional responsibilities of education and healthcare. Needless to say, Christianity dominates, but there is plenty of room for other beliefs. The local Christian evangelizers have to have somebody to convince. Cultish, imposter religions trading off the good name of Christianity are welcome too, but risk exposure due to shaky theology. The well educated population sniffs them out quickly and convincingly. My role is to make sure nothing gets in the way of the truth. “It’s true until proven wrong”, was written into the Texico Papers 30 years ago at the insistence of one of the original cultural revolutionaries, General Elias T. Woods . His foresight grows his legend each decade. Some call him an apostle and schools, hospitals, and national holidays bear his name. Dead men become legends. Live a long life and become Secretary of Truth. “Fitz, what do you think?” the President asked me. “We should meet them in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and offer them the moon. The land of plenty has plenty of room for another monopoly and the tech boys love gambling and jazz.” Everyone nodded in agreement. I was the President’s right hand man.

Writer's Introduction

As you can see, I've run into the dead end of writing. But why a dead end? Maybe it's a start, middle, and finish over and over. Whatever it is, Francios Mauriac, via Shake, once quoted, "Every novelist ought to invent his own technique, that is the fact of the matter. Every novel worthy of the name is like another planet, whether large or small, which has its own laws just as it has its own flora and fauna." He won the Nobel Prize. Back when one earned the praise.

Welcome to this place. I will be inventing my own writing technique.