My Ode to My Wife

I wrote a poem for my wife. Not just any poem, but lyrics for a song. It has been over 15 years since I have written any kind of poetry, but I felt moved to do so. At the urging of my fellow 5Artz Creative Affiliations members, I have decided to post the first draft of what I wrote to this blog. If any musicians decide to pick it up and use it, all I ask is that you give me the credit for the lyrics.


WifeAndMe

My Quest

By

R.M. Almeida

You are my quest,

You are my dream,

My eternal crusade,

Even when we fought, you always stayed.

You are my quest,

I am your art,

Your strokes sometimes hurt,

But I’ll follow your heart.

~ Refrain ~

You are my quest,

You show the path when there’s none,

You make challenges simple,

The impossible…done.

You are my quest,

We’ve laughed and cried,

Lived through tough times,

To find each other each night.

~ Refrain ~

You are my quest,

You see past my flaws,

You forgive my mistakes,

And you break down my walls.

You are my quest,

My blue sky above,

You are my partner,

My eternal love.

~ Refrain ~

We’ve come a long way,

From those chats and retreats,

Such a long way,

From our texts and retweets.

When I look back,

From those cold days alone,

I think of your smile,

And your voice on the phone.

Creative Series III: The Creative Writer

So, why develop a blog about how to write creatively?

puzzlementSome of us DO have problems writing creatively (or thinking of what or how we want to express ourselves) at times. How do I know? Probably because I have been a professional trainer for the better part of 40-odd years. (Yes, I started as a student, teaching other students how to write, when I was in high school. So yes, I know what I’m talking about.) For some of us the writing process, especially writing when you don’t “feel” like writing is really hard. Some of us feel that it is so difficult that we will downright procrastinate when we set ourselves down to write, or we may even “throw in the towel”, convinced that we can’t write creatively. We may even be feeling ill, perhaps we are feeling emotional about something happening in our lives or just feeling “plain, old, lazy”. So as a writer, what do you do?

The way to set your mind straight.

straight_mind

If you are a person who has ever held a position in a company for a period of years, how were you so successful in doing so? How about if you are a mechanic, who gets up at 5 A.M. and doesn’t stop until 9 A.M.? Or if you work in an office? You arise at 5 or 6 A.M. to get ready to go to the office to start work at 8 A.M. or 9 A.M. and you stay at the office until 5 P.M., get in your car or wait for the bus to return home so that you can start the process all over again in just a few hours. If you think about writing as a business (YOUR business), you are setting your mind along a specific path to success as a creative writer. The difference is that you are self-employed, so as a result, you answer to…you. Write like you are going to the office:

alarm_clock

  1. Set your alarm
  2. Take a shower
  3. Fix yourself up, put on some clothes (no underwear or pajamas)
  4. Eat your breakfast
  5. Go into your office or travel to a location where you can write undisturbed
  6. Look around you for a moment and pick up where you left off

I don’t know where to start, or I don’t know what is next.

mind_map

As a writer, I always map out everything before I write. It’s known as an outline. Would you like an example? Okay. Here is an example of me in with “my writing pants on”.

Creative Writing Exercise

I am looking at a magazine on the rack in my local Barnes & Noble Booksellers (isn’t having a local bookstore to visit, rather than depend on a website, marvelous?) I happen to look at a sports magazine today, seeing a picture of an island getaway on the cover. Let’s take an island in the Caribbean that we have always wanted to go to for a visit. Let’s go to Turks & Caicos, located in the Atlantic Ocean. Do me a favor, go to the link that I gave you and look at the island.

TurksAndCaicos

Look at the history of Turks & Caicos islands.

Just where exactly is Turks & Caicos in the Atlantic Ocean? Is it next to some hot spot country with all kinds of problems that you read about in the news? Here is what I do, I grab the CIA Factbook online for answers. At the very bottom of the CIA Factbook, are any problems that might be occurring in that country or island. Is it a spot that is not written about, except in travel journals? I have a character who is visiting the islands for a vacation. Can you see what is going on in your mind? Picture the person getting off the plane, not in an airport, but stepping off of a runway ladder into a brilliant sunny day. Our character can see the ocean from the top of the runway ladder.

thinker

What is our character going to do in Turks & Caicos?

As a creative writer, I was always taught to get my character in trouble, and to do it at a moment when I personally, least expect it. So, I put myself in my character’s shoes. What can happen to our character, as soon as our character gets off the plane? Are you seeing where I am going with this example? Click on the links that I gave you prior to this sentence, they are links to real life dramas that unfolded on vacation islands. I am giving you an example which required no thought, no real outline at first, but now that I am seeing a video in my head about my character, now I can start mapping out my story.

whereDoYouGo

So, now that I have you thinking about Turks & Caicos, what can happen?

Let’s start an outline…a very brief outline of our character and our story. I’ll make it easy for you. Follow the link that I gave you from Writer’s Digest, download and print out what they give you for your story and start getting an idea for this story. If our story going to be a drama, mystery or comedy? Is the island we are on filled with corruption?

knowledge-history

Take lessons from history.

There are all kinds of things that could happen to our character. Think of everything we could do with this character, not to mention the plot or story. We could start in our time, even go backward in time to…perhaps…the days of the pirates, when Turk and Caicos was beautiful and very, very dangerous. So, our story could shift from being a murder mystery to a fantasy time travel sort of story. What kind of fun could you have with that kind of story?

When I was in the service, my ship had docked at St. Thomas for about a week.

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I remember one of our guys was attacked, leaving a taxi. He was so drunk that his attackers had no problem surprising him, beating him down with baseball bats and taking his wallet. He had 17 stitches into his skull the next day. How do I know? Because I was the person assigned to escort him to a neighboring ship, so that the ship’s doctor could suture his injuries. Our next port was about 4 weeks later. The shipmate who was attacked had been received his new paycheck, with a new ID card, so that he could get off the ship. He went out much wiser that night, not drinking so much, but became involved in an incident, because he “wanted some payback”.

equality-gender

Is our character male or female?

In our day and age, is gender THAT important? Yes! Gender is still an important issue today. When it comes to sales, it can sometimes make a huge difference. We (the world) are still in the center of controversy, when it comes to the differences between men and women. Your story could reflect those differences. A strong female character could mean a crucial difference between selling 500 copies and 50,000 copies or more. If you are a male and writing about a female, you better do your homework. If you are a female and writing about a male, use a fantasy you have about how a male should be.

Why am I saying this?

randy_pausch_book

Even Randy Pausch had to tell his students, “No shooting violence and no pornography. Not that I’m opposed to those in particular…but that’s been done in VR. All right? (Laughter from the room.)” Randy then added, “And you would be amazed at how many 19 year-old boys are completely out of ideas, when you take those off the table.”  Men rarely grow up. So, if you are a male…and you ONLY want to write to a MALE audience…or if you want to stay in a particular type of genre, I suggest that you try something different.

combat-1300519_1280

Is our character someone who will fight back if provoked?

We want to get our character in trouble and keep getting our character in trouble. Or as one might say, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Many travelers can get caught up in trouble. Trouble may come in the form of animal attacks as well. What about diving off the coast of the island, maybe a tour…and our character is involved in a shark attack. We could have our character survive a natural calamity, based on a theory that methane bubbles could have been a cause of the Bermuda Triangle.

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All you need is a little research.

Now, let your imagination run wild!

quizzical

Next in our series: Breaking it down: How to Breathe Life Into Your Character.

5Artz, A New Website for the Millenium

We have become a world culture that perceives it has no leisure time.

Out of Print” is a documentary produced by Morton Denn and directed by Vivienne Roumani. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend watching it. The film highlights my fears and those of many writers in the world. I think I can feel pretty safe in saying that there are probably a large number of writers and others (musicians, photographers, artists, voice over professionals) who are afraid that the ability of anyone to make a living creatively has been jeopardized by the expectations of anything in writing being free of charge on the world wide web.

It is my opinion that there are very creative artists who want to earn a living creatively.

5Artz Introductory Image
The look of the new 5Artz website


5Artz will be an online website featuring a store and mobile app that promotes what used to be known as the “short piece” or short story. For writers, short stories were compact creations of prose that elicited an emotion of one kind or another. Creating compact prose has become an art form, generally recognized in the form of an award.

Regretfully, many new writers do not even know these awards exist.

Perhaps the truest form of an award for a writer would be the willingness of a perfect stranger to purchase what they have created, demonstrating that their work has merit, or value. The recognition that a new writer could receive would be that the words they are creating are so valuable, that someone is willing to pay for their work.

The mission of 5Artz is to promote new creative talent via a mobile app.

Part of my therapy in getting my life back to where it should be, getting my stories out for all to enjoy, will be in sharing this blog on and about 5Artz, the site I am attempting to create for all creative souls in the world.

As a creative artist, I know how many other people have been sidetracked by the rigors of life.

There are people who have hobbies that will never see the light of day. They want to make a living doing what they love doing the most. I am talking about writing their heart out, baring their soul in visual expressions, painting pictures with light, expressing their highs and lows in life with song, or dramatically expressing themselves as other people, other characters in worlds we have not comprehended yet. The dream of 5Artz is to allow not “A”-listers, but “B”-listers, “C”-listers even you would consider “F”-listers to take a chance on themselves and learn how to become creative professionals and sell their work via phone app to a growing group of buyers, namely commuters.

Rear View Of Blond Woman On Stage
A graphic illustration of many new creative artists today.

There nothing like the site I am creating.

At the time of this writing, there are probably thousands of existing websites for hopeful artists to perfect their respective crafts, which  are fantastic places to visit. I highly recommend visiting all of them. 5Artz will be a site that compliments, not competes with existing websites for creative talent on the web. What I am creating is a site that capitalizes on the business that I learned as a novice writer so many years ago, and as a person who participated in online games. I believe there are features we can introduce from online gaming sites which could be incorporated into a creative site. A site dedicated to the democratization and freedom of creative expression, rather than something that fills a more conservative void; censored by the site owner.

The vision I would like to introduce is a community-run website that supports creativity of individual members, policed by its members and is self-sufficient.

In order to be self-sufficient, it cannot be a free site. It must have some way of supporting itself in order to add more tools, provide mentors and bolster its mobile app to survive. It will cost $3.99 per member each month to satisfy this need. Like the gaming world, as the demands of members become more intense to accommodate rising professional needs, we will create higher tiered memberships, which will feature better, more expensive tools.

 

blue big lightbulb shining surrounded by group of people
A visual concept of the 5Artz mission – courtesy of http://www.Istockphoto.com.

The site will grow with its members.

Members will vote on any new additions to the site. If members feel that something is not needed, it will not be added. Therefore, the website will be community-run, all monies collected in member fees used to pay for staffing, upgrades, tools and maintenance. In short, the more members the site attracts, the more tools will be added to the site.

5Artz will feature short pieces of work.

Each member will agree (in writing) to sell their finished short pieces for no more than $1.00 (USD). Why no more than the price I just quoted? Because I feel that in this day and age, the general populace find that purchasing something new and creative for $1.00 or less is more than equitable. The price is adequate, and can introduce the world to new talent, regardless of age, race, creed or gender.

So, if I’m only selling for $1.00 (USD) or less, how would I make money?

5Artz members will have a choice of selling their work through a free mobile app (that can be created with security options). The really cool idea about selling via a free mobile app is that members could be the very people marketing the free app. You can answer this hypothetical question. So, if we have 100,000 members, even 10,000 members pushing this app on their respective Facebook  pages or other social media websites, could we conceivably get people to download and use the app?

Yes, we could.

Word-of-mouth travels rather quickly, so imagine the app being downloaded by 1,000,000 (that’s 1 million folks) people. If you are a member and able to capture just 1% (one percent) of those users every month, how much are you earning as a creative individual? Let’s do the math: 1,000,000 x 1% equals 10,000 (if you can’t figure this out, I have provided you with a link). So, can you survive on the possibility of earning $10,000.00 (USD) per month as a creative artist? The beauty of this equation is that if you are an enterprising individual, you would create salable material every month that links to the previous short piece you created (this works for musicians, photographers, artists and voice over professionals), also working in something that leaves your new fan to salivate over your next piece the coming month. Create 12 pieces over a year, and a writer has the makings of a book, an artist or photographer; the makings for a portfolio, the musician the songs to create an album and the voice over artist, enough material for either a play or movie.

Short work is already gaining popularity.

Writers
The marriage of pen and keyboard.

Flash fiction has become a popular form of prose writing. It is quick, terse and conforms to the average needs of today’s mobile culture. Many times however, it is free. 5Artz is being created as a hopeful link between those who wish to develop a career creatively. The website will focus on a short story for a writer, one visual panel for an artist, one photograph for a photographer, one song for a musician or one short 5-minute audio piece for a voice over professional. The beauty of 5Artz is that the writer can have the freedom to express themselves in whatever method they choose.

A community that works together: 5Artz.

The 5Artz community (members) will have the opportunity to work with them, and those of us running the site will have the opportunity to ensure that the written work is placed in the correct genre (I will ensure that adult-rated material is placed in the proper adult-rated slots). I have worked for (and will continue to work for) Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc. and learned a valuable life lesson from my mentors.

NEVER CENSOR contributed work.

I will make it clear right now, that 5Artz will NEVER censor any contributed work. That work includes political, religious or work that may seem offensive to certain groups. It will however, be placed in specific categories, so that you the buyer, know what the work is about, so that you can make a sound buying decision before you make the purchase. Our work will be categorized in alphabetical order, with the community members and 5Artz staff creating new categories as they are needed. Work will then be reorganized as needs arise.

Any changes made to the 5Artz website will be known to the community.

All modifications to the site will be voted on by the community as much as possible. There may be certain changes that are necessary, but the objective of the 5Artz staff will be to ensure that the site is not only beautifully aesthetic, but simple and functional.

Gavel from Everystockphoto
A community staffed with legal professionals

Perhaps the greatest challenge for the website will be legal problems or fears regarding breaches of security or intellectual property disputes. All members will agree to mediation regarding intellectual property rights and problems that could arise from disputed claims of trademark or copyright infringement. 5Artz will employ a legal staff and mediators to work with members in resolving these issues through a support link.

5Artz will be the first creative website to house voice chat capability.

Imagine being able to collaborate with other people (creative artists) in projects where your finished product pays you both equally. The cool thing is that you were able to work out your collaboration verbally. The site would have a collaboration link set up, with online tools for you to create, develop, modify and finally submit salable, polished work for the mobile app for sale.

I have laid out my basic skeleton for the site.

We already have members on our original website: The Forum for Creative Innovation, and have already decided to eventually move the site and members over to the 5Artz site. We have not decided whether or not we will maintain the site yet, but it is something we will eventually kick around with our 5Artz community. In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy our short videos that we will be presenting for our initial crowdfunding campaign to raise awareness and hopefully recruit new members for the site.

 

The Power of a Root Canal

It is time for me to once again contribute a small part of me to my blog.

I am recuperating from root canal dental work that was done on Tuesday, the 18th.

Talking to my students and coworkers, I have found that talking about root canals can be taboo.

For those of you who have not had the opportunity to experience the pain and agony associated with the necessity for root canal dental work to be completed, I will elaborate.

In the days prior to my research in finding an available dentist in my area, I was in tremendous pain.  If you are the type of person who takes good care of their teeth; brushing and flossing three times daily (perhaps even one more time before you go to sleep), I hate you.  For those of us who are so busy that we wait the entire day, just to use the bathroom, keeping up that daily regimen is impossible.  You have not experienced the pure agony and burning pain that is the by-product of days, sometimes weeks of an infection that has been raging in your cheekbones, causing hurt and discontent (to the point of griping, moaning, even wallowing in misery and disgust at yourself for not taking better care of your teeth).

I was in dire pain.  Not the sore kind of pain that you might get if you unexpectedly bit on a seed or something rock solid, but an intense burning pain that travelled from my gums to my jaw…a kind of debilitating pain that left me sitting on the ground. The last time that I had felt that kind of pain was in my Navy days, when I received a roundhouse smash to the jaw from a drunk that I was attempting to subdue.  (I was just watching a couple of techniques on “Blutube”, that explain how to take down a drunk and was thinking, “Why didn’t I have access to this when I was in the service?)

My sleep patterns were so skewed prior to my root canal, that I was coming in to work with eyes so bloodshot and half-closed that I looked like a raccoon.  My students and the staff, as well as my wife were concerned about the left side of my face, which was beginning to look puffy and red.  My sleep patterns were so out-of-whack, that I was waking up every half hour from the pain of the infection that was festering in my cheek.  I was ready to yank out every tooth on the left side of my face.  I felt like the top and bottom half of my mouth had become a war zone. I didn’t want to eat anything, drink anything hot or cold, because I would receive searing pain from my tooth and gums that left me recoiling in agony.

My manager was concerned, because of the way I looked.  She convinced me to call a dentist to get my problem under control.  I contacted my dentist by email when I got home that night, only to receive an email:

“Thank you for requesting a dental appointment with us.

We’ll do our best to contact you within the next few days. If we’re unable to connect, please don’t hesitate to to call us or email us.

Thank you so much for wanting to join our practice. We’re looking forward to meeting you personally.”

When I called, they wanted me to come in immediately and have an x-ray. The work they said, would probably be done in the next two weeks.  The next two weeks???  I was in agony!  Where was 911 for dental work?  What about the cost?  Good gravy…you make an appointment with a dentist, and they have the option of making you wait.  So, I found a dentist that I could crawl to, groveling on hands and knees, begging for immediate relief from the pain.

The dentist was kind.  After looking at my teeth, he immediately told me, “Root canal.  We need to make sure you have enough insurance to pay for this.”  Enough insurance?  Yes folks, as I stand here in witness, I needed enough to pay for this service.  How much you say?  Well, I found a lot of commentary on the Internet, during my pained research.  The Straight Dope was a wide open source of information, and even this article from Healthy Teeth Guide.com as was this web article that I found by Joseph Mercola on root canals.

Once my ability to pay was confirmed, I was ushered into the dentist’s “operating room” to begin my root canal.  Those of you who have been in a dentist office know what it looks like.  There is a chair that is the centerpiece of the room.

dentist-chair
This chair is in the center of the dentist’s operating room…a foreboding-looking contraption that defies all logic, probably invented by the Marquis De Sade.

The walls are normally white, as are any cabinets, floors, or other furniture, save the chair.  Once in the dentist chair, you are subject to their whim. An assistant generally accompanies the dentist to begin laying out shiny, imposing objects with extremely sharp points beside you, on a very sterile-looking pad.

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Typical dental instruments, aligned neatly next to you, are ready to be used…in your mouth.

The dentist entered the room and introduced himself.  He noted that I had jotted down the fact that I was allergic to Novocain, and said that he would use a different local anesthetic to apply.  His assistant already had a dose ready for me, and draped a suction tube that started with a loud rasp.  The dentist stepped in, giving my cheek a pinch.  The needle and the dentist’s hand disappeared into my mouth.

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I felt a sharp jab of pain, and then…nothing.

Dental Drugs
Nothing can match the feeling of relief that you get, when the pain is lifted away.

I must admit that once the anesthetic took effect, the intense pain that I had been feeling from my rotted tooth was suddenly gone.

ISLAND

I had suddenly been dropped on an island of relief, the pain that had been keeping me awake in my bed ever half hour for the past three nights was gone, magically taken away by the needle that the dentist had stuck me with.

The source of the vibration on your tooth.
The source of the vibration on your tooth.

To describe what comes next is a feeling that can be somewhat confusing, that of the drill which is inserted into your mouth.  You feel a vibrating surge upon your tooth, a miniature jackhammer that repeatedly assails your senses for at least fifteen minutes.

Some people wonder if there is a carnage going on in your mouth.

Dentist_Drill

I could feel flecks of something on the walls of your mouth, as the assistant used a suction tube on those inner walls of my cheek. The reverberations continued, the drill cycling around my tooth, when suddenly…pain!  It felt like a jab of hot heat barreling into my gums.  I jumped, and the dentist, startled by my reaction said, “You feel pain?” I nodded my head, vigorously. the dentist injected me with more Novocain, sending back to my blissful world of numbness.  The next thing I knew, the dentist stated, “Okay, all done.”  He looked at me with concern.  “You okay?” he asked.  “Looked like you fell asleep.”

snoring

Me?  Fall asleep?  Reclined atop this chair of horrors?

Yes, I had fallen asleep.  The drilling was over, some work left to be done by the assistant, who quickly picked at my tooth.  “I put a temporary filling in.  You need to come back in two weeks for your permanent filling”, he said flatly.  I nodded a reply.  It was over.  The pain that I had been feeling had been taken away by the dentist.  Later that evening, and for a few days after, I would feel pain where the dentist had operated, but nothing that kept waking me up every half hour.  The dentist had gone in with his Novocain, and I was cured.  What remained was a state of bliss.

vista-wallpaper-bliss

I had experienced a transcendental adventure of biblical measure.  After enduring three days of mouth-curdling agony, my world was easing back into normalcy.  What now remained was an occasional dull ache, nothing I could not handle…and the thought that I could go back to my writing, and explain how my fear of going to the dentist, resulted in virtual nirvana.

 

Returning to the Fold

I have been too long in contributing to my blog.  Life is sweet, with its twists and turns.  So too, has life set up roadblocks and detours in my path.  Since my last post, I have been working with the homeless, unemployed and low income population, here in Las Vegas.

My new road is filled with highs and lows…successes and challenges to help me understand where my place is in life.  This is not a career path that will shower me with untold riches, or allow me to purchase a sports car, or even absolve my debts, but has paid me with more self-satisfaction, pride and humility than I will receive in my lifetime.

I have gained a mountain of respect for those I serve, as well as those I work with.  The willingness to help one another is far more than I have seen in neighborhoods where the income level is more than 5 to 10 times per family.  The callous indifference of the impoverished and homeless that people have described to me, is not present here. What I see are people who band together out of necessity, and look to me for guidance.  I only hope that I am worthy of such an honor.

For now, I will be contributing twice a week.  My posts will appear with regularity every Tuesday and Saturday without fail.

If you were keeping up with my blog in the past, be assured that from this point forward, I will be adding to it regularly, with a story of what is going on in my life, or adding characters that you can see in a future story or book.

For now, I leave you with one word: persevere. Persevere through the good times and the bad.  Be mindful of your actions with others.  It is the day that we are at our worst, that life can reward us with our best.  Just remember that no matter how badly you feel your day or life may be going, night will always fall, and with it rest…to greet the oncoming day with a smile and willingness to persevere through the day once again.

R.M. Almeida

There Can Be No Joy Greater Than Revenge — Noisy Upstairs Neighbor

Vengeance is mine, sayeth me!  I cannot believe that I have found my upstairs neighbor’s Achille’s Heel.  I was playing some music on my computer when I heard a foot stomping on the floor above me.   I chortled in hacks of mirth as I contemplated this new discovery.  At long last!  I believe I have found the holy grail, and my answer was right in front of me all this time.  From now on, I will exact my vengeance with evil intent and methodical regularity.  I will teach my upstairs neighbor a lesson for all the sleepless nights he and his roommate have mercilessly visited upon me.  But then, I could have always complained to my landlord regarding the noise and sleep my neighbor has cost me.  But this…this will sweeten my dealings with my upstairs neighbor.

Before I go however, I do want to say that having a noisy upstairs neighbor is akin to dealing with rats in your ceiling.  They never seem to go to sleep, no matter how hard you hit the ceiling.  I remember having an apartment (a very nice apartment with deep wood panelling and marble floors) long ago in the Philippines.  There were no clauses in how to deal with the rats that regularly would climb straight up the walls, to nest in the crawlspace between the roof and the ceiling of the home.  I would use a mop handle to pound on the ceiling in order to shut the rats up.  They would stop for a moment, then continue to squeal loudly.  I developed a resolve in dealing with the rats — finally settling on complaints to my landlord about it, and eventually contracting with a pest control company to get rid of the pesky buggers.  It would take five months before I was finally able to get a decent night’s sleep.  But…I dealt with the rats…my way.

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: The First Years

My plane had just landed at Clark Air Force Base, Phillippines on a late September day.  Nothing is left of the base since the Pinatubo eruption, but looking back to those days, I can still remember every minute I was there.

The first thing that I remember was the heat, not a dry heat like one would find in Nevada, but a sticky, overwhelming heat that immediately left a fog on my glasses as soon as I stepped out of the plane.  We were directed to wait for a bus that would take us to Subic Bay, about a 2-hour bus ride.  I was one of the first people on the bus.  I noticed a very beautiful blond woman, a petty officer sit in the seat in front of me.  A young blond sailor asked if he could sit with her…pointing out that the bus was filling up, and he would have no place to sit down.  She relented, and soon they were involved in a light conversation as the bus begain its trundle toward Subic Bay.  About an hour passed, and the bus driver decided to pull over to a Sari-sari store for a beer break.  As I departed from the bus, a large group of children approached me.  I must have been an easy mark, because they flocked to me like a bunch of seagulls on a dead fish.  I was 19 then; naive and full of wanton charity.  I handed them all the change I had, not realizing at the time that they were patting me down, testing my watch to see how well it was fastened to my wrist, as they all crowed, “Hey Joe, gimme peso…hey Joe…”  As soon as they noticed I had no more change to give them, they ran to find another “victim”.   Our Philipino bus driver quickly became tired of the show. when the children started approaching him, shooing us all back onto the bus.  As we were boarding, the couple in front of me were laughing at the children.  The blond sailor turned to the woman saying, “You want to see something funny?”  The woman tittered a bit, then nodded.  He leaned out and yelled, “Hey!  Hey!  You want a peso?  You want a peso?”, as the bus began to move.  The children ran after the bus, hoping for one more coin.  I remember one boy in particular, looking up to him as he leaned far out the window his hands outstretched as he threw his beer bottle at the child’s head, the bottle bouncing squarely off of the child’s skull.  I remember turning to watch the child falling down in the dirt road, blood already matting his head as the other children gathered around him.  “There!  There’s your peso!” the blond sailor shouted.  Some of the men on the bus laughed, while the female sailor smiled and said, “You didn’t have to do that.”  The blond sailor gave her a surly reply, “Damn slopes deserve it.”  That image has lasted in my mind for a long time, and I still do not see how any of those children deserved to be treated in that way by one of us.  I was told before I left the United States that we were ambassadors.  I did not know what to say then, and I do not know what to say now.

My very first ship was the USS Long Beach (CGN-9), part of the then nuclear task force in the Pacific.  It was dark by the time we arrived, the bus dropping us off close to Cubi Point, where my ship was docked. It was a long walk up the gangplank, with my seabag slung over my shoulder, my orders clutched in my hand.  The duty officer had me escorted belowdecks to bunk with Supply (temporarily of course), until my more permanent berthing was assigned to me.  The smell was something to get used to as I walked through the passageways.  It was a mixture of bearing grease, sweat, and floor wax that wafted through the passage.  I remember being assailed by all kinds of foreign objects, understanding the differences between port (left) and starboard (right), the fact that a bathroom was now a head, and that my newest friend was John Barton.  John was a second class Petty Officer, a bona fide Vietnam Veteran who befriended me not only as someone I could confide in, but someone to look up to.  I can still remember those first words.  “New on board, huh?”  I nodded my head.  “Well, don’t mind me kid…I’m just an overpaid seaman.”  John was laid back and wise, the kind of mentor that one hoped to find, street smart and ready to help.

My first look at the Phillippines started here

More to come…

My Writing Post (Final Installment)

In addition to this blog, I am also writing a fantasy book, actually a trilogy.  The next few blog posts will discuss the story at length and what it is about.  I will endeavor to discuss why I wrote each chapter, and why I felt it was important to discuss what I wanted to discuss in the book.

When the Cranes
Return Again in spring:  Synopsis

When the cranes return again in spring is a story not just about one person’s quest, but it is about life’s quest in all of us.

Lorevele (Lōr-ĕ-vel) is a city under siege; its king and his daughter are locked in an argument.  She has a choice she must make, one that could affect the safety of her kingdom forever, while placing her own life in danger.  King Hautered (Haw-těr-id), of Laifetre’ (Lī-ěh-fě-trā) has signed an edict, that a she must marry his son, Gerenoux (zhěr-ěh-nō) within the week, or his mercenary army of 10,000 trolls will march upon Lorevele, and burn it to the ground.  Her father, the great King Rosenet (Roz-ă-nĕt), is opposed to this marriage.  He feels that his daughter must ride out to the four corners of every distant land, bringing together the peoples of every kingdom they have helped, and rally an Army to drive back Hautered’s army of 10,000 trolls into back Laifetre’.  Rosenet’s daughter Anisse (A-nee-săh) is convinced that her duty to her kingdom and her people is to marry Gerenoux, and she only has hours to finalize her decision.

It is rumored that Hautered has made a pact with the troll army.  In exchange for their services in securing the kingdoms of Matrimé (Mĕ-trém), Uvalde (Ū-val-děh), and Zoltanne (Zōl-tan), they would receive the kingdom of Lorevele as payment in kind.  Stories have come from far and wide, describing the brutality and fierceness of this troll army.  Fear has led many families to flee from the kingdom, while others have grimly decided to risk family in defense of their homes.
The debate between father and daughter relaxes for a moment, as Anisse is frightened by the shadows of cranes coming to flight.  Rosenet asks his daughter if he ever told her stories related to the annual migration of the cranes returning in spring.  It is this question that leads to the introduction of a saga that the king shares with his daughter.

The very introduction to When the Cranes Return Again in Spring is based upon change, and our fears that can sometimes be based on how we deal with change.  In asian lore, cranes are considered a sign of longevity.

The cranes’ beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times. Crane mythology is widely spread and can be found in areas such as the Aegean, South Arabia, China, Korea, Japan and in the Native American cultures of North America. In northern Hokkaidō, the women of the Ainu people performed a crane dance that was captured in 1908 in a photograph by Arnold Genthe. In Korea, a crane dance has been performed in the courtyard of the Tongdosa Temple since the Silla Dynasty (646 CE).

In Mecca, in pre-Islamic South Arabia, Allāt, Uzza, and Manah were believed to be the three chief goddesses of Mecca, they were called the “three exalted cranes” (gharaniq, an obscure word on which ‘crane’ is the usual gloss). See The Satanic Verses for the best-known story regarding these three goddesses.

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen. In the tale of Ibycus and the cranes, a thief attacked Ibycus (a poet of the 6th century BCE) and left him for dead. Ibycus called to a flock of passing cranes, who followed the attacker to a theater and hovered over him until, stricken with guilt, he confessed to the crime.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Aristotle describes the migration of cranes in The History of Animals, adding an account of their fights with Pygmies as they wintered near the source of the Nile. He describes as untruthful an account that the crane carries a touchstone inside it that can be used to test for gold when vomited up. (This second story is not altogether implausible, as cranes might ingest appropriate gizzard stones in one locality and regurgitate them in a region where such stone is otherwise scarce)

According to Japanese lore, a wish is granted to anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes. Watch the above video from Asia Society’s Education Department to see how schoolchildren at P.S. 154 in Brooklyn, New York, participating in Students Rebuild’s Paper Cranes for Japan project, got to work folding paper cranes,raising hope, and raising money to help Japan rebuild after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (2 min., 12 sec.).

It is from these myths and legends that When The Cranes Return Again in Spring begins.

More to come…

Our story starts with a unicorn mired not only with thoughts of loneliness but a question forever locked within his mind: Where am I, how did I get here, where am I going?  The unicorn’s quest begins in a magical valley surrounded by high mountains that hide a sparkling lake passable only through the forest which he came.  The coolness of the lake is inviting to the unicorn. Dusty, dry, and tired, the waters of the lake are invigorating, and provide a sense of shelter in what he perceives as a dangerous world.

Like the unicorn, many of us can sometimes find ourselves in what seems like a safe place.  The location may feel safe at times, but in general, it may not be such a safe place to be…as the lake is surrounded by a very dark forest.

It is those perceived dangers that bring out fear in the unicorn, as he imagines the red glowing eyes of many a predator in the dense forest that surrounds the lake.  It is because of those fears that the unicorn begins to run for his life, leaving behind the magic of the lake, to enter the danger of a dark forest.

During a fight or flight situation, we may feel perceived danger.  Our pulse quickens, our heart races, and we decide whether we need to fight or run.

The unicorn runs for several hours until he finally slows down.  Finding himself mired in the sludge of a weed-ridden bog, the unicorn presses forward, ever mindful of a warm fog that begins to envelop him.  And it is in this fog, that the unicorn realizes that his memories are slipping away.  It is only by luck that the unicorn reaches a large tree, its branches withered and bent, surrounded by bouncing lights.  It is not until one of those lights approaches the unicorn that he realizes it is not just a light, but a fairy.

The unicorn meets his first friend, Humbalt (Hŭm-bălt).  A fairy purported to be over 5,000 years old, Humbalt is young for his age, a veritable wisp of a fairy when compared to the general population of the fairies who inhabit the tree, many of whom have ages spanning more than 10,000 years.  He befriends Rosenet, and offers his friendship and guidance so that he can complete his quest.

I decided to use a fairy as a mentor for the beginning of the quest, because he signified a minor thought that pushes Rosenet in a certain, specific direction.  Many times, we may start a major undertaking in our life with a small idea, or action.

Not long after the two have set off on the beginning of their quest, a third traveler is added to their group.  A princess of the kingdom of Matrimé, Pyridee is a strong young woman, who not only enjoys the hunt, but also the beauty of the world around her.  No one knows why she decides to join this group, but the three are a natural fit, the trio that forms the heart and soul of the unicorn’s quest to find his people and once again be reunited with them.

Pyridee epitomizes the new, present day woman.  She is strong, yet possesses a certain kind of fragility, almost worldly, yet naive in many ways.

More to come…

One thing I forgot to mention is that Humbalt is a healing fairy.  Those fairies with healing powers were generally known as “water fairies”.  The area that Humbalt is from is a swamp — thus, this fairy is borne of the water, so is also able to heal.  An interesting point is Rosenet, the unicorn.  His horn is also known as alicorn, known for its curative powers.  In some fantasy stories, as well as true stories, unicorn are hunted by man for their magical curative powers.

Within the next chapters, the three solidify their strength as a group with the addition of two others: Egarot (Egg-ĕ-rō) the griffon, and Anson (Ăn-sŏn) the mischevious, jittery elf.  It is the solidification of this group that allows Rosenet to overcome not only the dangers new lands, but also a persistent creature who attends to thwart their every move, named Sahame (Sĕ-hām).  It is in the second chapter that much of the back story is explained, and why the drive for Rosenet to find his lost people is so great.

Using a griffin and an elf, I drew upon the real meanings behind these types of characters.  The griffin was also thought of as king of the creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions. In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine. The elf is being used not only as a pivotal character, but in the old English tradition. English folktales of the early modern period commonly portray elves as small, elusive people with mischievous personalities.

The quest continues on until the group meets a very old and wise wizard named Gordoneste (Gōr-don-ĕst).   It is Gordoneste who explains all that happened to the lost tribe that Rosenet seeks, and of the final confrontation that must occur between the unicorn and his adversary, Sahame.  It is because of the final confrontation, that Rosenet’s friends unflinchingly offer their lives for his, faced instead with his imminent death, which Humbalt sacrifices his life, for that of the unicorn.  But the wounds are too great, the pain too grave, until Gordoneste decides to give the unicorn a second chance at life, as what he started; a human being.  In return for life however, is the price one must pay–that Rosenet’s memory will be gone, his life as a unicorn lost in time, forever.

When I saw Gordoneste in my mind’s eye, I pictured a wizened old man who stands as straight as a tree, and is as spry as a young man.  In medieval chivalric romance, the wizard often appears as a wise old man and acts as a mentor, with Merlin from the Matter of Britain representing a prime example.

More to come…

So begins the new life of the unicorn, in discovering what it is to be a man…what it is to win, to love, to gain, to lose.  It is this new Rosenet that suffers so many agonies in the pursuit of understanding himself, find the love of his life, losing her to another man.  Frustrated and distraught with pain and grief, he becomes a wanderer, finally regaining the love of one who was lost to him as a unicorn.  And like the cranes, return in spring to find anew, the preciousness of life in all its complexities, taking one day at a time.

The natural spring of life is in all of us.  Some of us prefer to ignore it, others squander it, while still others cherish it.  One look at many FaceBook pages, and you will notice people with hundreds of acquaintances.  Others with perhaps 50, maybe even only 5 or so.  But, if one looks at the numbers of friends that another accumulates, and another that accumulates only a handful, imagine how many lives we all touch…and like the unicorn, how many we can change, for good or ill.

The second book takes up where the beginning of the first book leaves off.  The daughter of Rosenet, convinced by the stories that her father shared with her, vows to herself to free her people on the verge of enslavement.  Her mission is to travel to the far corners of every kingdom in the known land, befriend them, and raise an army to defeat Hautered’s troll army.  This book focuses on Anisse, her quest, and her trials, as she rides forward with a new group, intent on saving a kingdom.

The second book, entitled “From Where the River Wends”, is about the twists and turns in our lives.  It is a quest of one person to win over the hearts and minds of perfect strangers…to ask those people for an offering of their souls, in order to save a small parcel of land, and an otherwise insignificant people.  It is one person’s drive to raise an army, in support of those who cannot; and regain their property, respect and peace of mind. 

The third book finalizes the responsibility of Anisse to raise an army to rescue her father, and restore security and peace to her kingdom.

As a parable to the second book, many discoveries talked about in the first book are “rediscovered” in the third book.  Questions are answered, mysteries unravelled, with a final plot twist that will answer the question, “Will Rosenet survive?”

My Writing Post (Cont. Installment #3)

In addition to this blog, I am also writing a fantasy book, actually a trilogy.  The next few blog posts will discuss the story at length and what it is about.  I will endeavor to discuss why I wrote each chapter, and why I felt it was important to discuss what I wanted to discuss in the book.

When the Cranes
Return Again in spring:  Synopsis

When the cranes return again in spring is a story not just about one person’s quest, but it is about life’s quest in all of us.

Lorevele (Lōr-ĕ-vel) is a city under siege; its king and his daughter are locked in an argument.  She has a choice she must make, one that could affect the safety of her kingdom forever, while placing her own life in danger.  King Hautered (Haw-těr-id), of Laifetre’ (Lī-ěh-fě-trā) has signed an edict, that a she must marry his son, Gerenoux (zhěr-ěh-nō) within the week, or his mercenary army of 10,000 trolls will march upon Lorevele, and burn it to the ground.  Her father, the great King Rosenet (Roz-ă-nĕt), is opposed to this marriage.  He feels that his daughter must ride out to the four corners of every distant land, bringing together the peoples of every kingdom they have helped, and rally an Army to drive back Hautered’s army of 10,000 trolls into back Laifetre’.  Rosenet’s daughter Anisse (A-nee-săh) is convinced that her duty to her kingdom and her people is to marry Gerenoux, and she only has hours to finalize her decision.

It is rumored that Hautered has made a pact with the troll army.  In exchange for their services in securing the kingdoms of Matrimé (Mĕ-trém), Uvalde (Ū-val-děh), and Zoltanne (Zōl-tan), they would receive the kingdom of Lorevele as payment in kind.  Stories have come from far and wide, describing the brutality and fierceness of this troll army.  Fear has led many families to flee from the kingdom, while others have grimly decided to risk family in defense of their homes.
The debate between father and daughter relaxes for a moment, as Anisse is frightened by the shadows of cranes coming to flight.  Rosenet asks his daughter if he ever told her stories related to the annual migration of the cranes returning in spring.  It is this question that leads to the introduction of a saga that the king shares with his daughter.

The very introduction to When the Cranes Return Again in Spring is based upon change, and our fears that can sometimes be based on how we deal with change.  In asian lore, cranes are considered a sign of longevity.

The cranes’ beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times. Crane mythology is widely spread and can be found in areas such as the Aegean, South Arabia, China, Korea, Japan and in the Native American cultures of North America. In northern Hokkaidō, the women of the Ainu people performed a crane dance that was captured in 1908 in a photograph by Arnold Genthe. In Korea, a crane dance has been performed in the courtyard of the Tongdosa Temple since the Silla Dynasty (646 CE).

In Mecca, in pre-Islamic South Arabia, Allāt, Uzza, and Manah were believed to be the three chief goddesses of Mecca, they were called the “three exalted cranes” (gharaniq, an obscure word on which ‘crane’ is the usual gloss). See The Satanic Verses for the best-known story regarding these three goddesses.

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen. In the tale of Ibycus and the cranes, a thief attacked Ibycus (a poet of the 6th century BCE) and left him for dead. Ibycus called to a flock of passing cranes, who followed the attacker to a theater and hovered over him until, stricken with guilt, he confessed to the crime.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Aristotle describes the migration of cranes in The History of Animals, adding an account of their fights with Pygmies as they wintered near the source of the Nile. He describes as untruthful an account that the crane carries a touchstone inside it that can be used to test for gold when vomited up. (This second story is not altogether implausible, as cranes might ingest appropriate gizzard stones in one locality and regurgitate them in a region where such stone is otherwise scarce)

According to Japanese lore, a wish is granted to anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes. Watch the above video from Asia Society’s Education Department to see how schoolchildren at P.S. 154 in Brooklyn, New York, participating in Students Rebuild’s Paper Cranes for Japan project, got to work folding paper cranes,raising hope, and raising money to help Japan rebuild after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (2 min., 12 sec.).

It is from these myths and legends that When The Cranes Return Again in Spring begins.

More to come…

Our story starts with a unicorn mired not only with thoughts of loneliness but a question forever locked within his mind: Where am I, how did I get here, where am I going?  The unicorn’s quest begins in a magical valley surrounded by high mountains that hide a sparkling lake passable only through the forest which he came.  The coolness of the lake is inviting to the unicorn. Dusty, dry, and tired, the waters of the lake are invigorating, and provide a sense of shelter in what he perceives as a dangerous world.

Like the unicorn, many of us can sometimes find ourselves in what seems like a safe place.  The location may feel safe at times, but in general, it may not be such a safe place to be…as the lake is surrounded by a very dark forest.

It is those perceived dangers that bring out fear in the unicorn, as he imagines the red glowing eyes of many a predator in the dense forest that surrounds the lake.  It is because of those fears that the unicorn begins to run for his life, leaving behind the magic of the lake, to enter the danger of a dark forest.

During a fight or flight situation, we may feel perceived danger.  Our pulse quickens, our heart races, and we decide whether we need to fight or run.

The unicorn runs for several hours until he finally slows down.  Finding himself mired in the sludge of a weed-ridden bog, the unicorn presses forward, ever mindful of a warm fog that begins to envelop him.  And it is in this fog, that the unicorn realizes that his memories are slipping away.  It is only by luck that the unicorn reaches a large tree, its branches withered and bent, surrounded by bouncing lights.  It is not until one of those lights approaches the unicorn that he realizes it is not just a light, but a fairy.

The unicorn meets his first friend, Humbalt (Hŭm-bălt).  A fairy purported to be over 5,000 years old, Humbalt is young for his age, a veritable wisp of a fairy when compared to the general population of the fairies who inhabit the tree, many of whom have ages spanning more than 10,000 years.  He befriends Rosenet, and offers his friendship and guidance so that he can complete his quest.

I decided to use a fairy as a mentor for the beginning of the quest, because he signified a minor thought that pushes Rosenet in a certain, specific direction.  Many times, we may start a major undertaking in our life with a small idea, or action.

Not long after the two have set off on the beginning of their quest, a third traveler is added to their group.  A princess of the kingdom of Matrimé, Pyridee is a strong young woman, who not only enjoys the hunt, but also the beauty of the world around her.  No one knows why she decides to join this group, but the three are a natural fit, the trio that forms the heart and soul of the unicorn’s quest to find his people and once again be reunited with them.

Pyridee epitomizes the new, present day woman.  She is strong, yet possesses a certain kind of fragility, almost worldly, yet naive in many ways.

More to come…

One thing I forgot to mention is that Humbalt is a healing fairy.  Those fairies with healing powers were generally known as “water fairies”.  The area that Humbalt is from is a swamp — thus, this fairy is borne of the water, so is also able to heal.  An interesting point is Rosenet, the unicorn.  His horn is also known as alicorn, known for its curative powers.  In some fantasy stories, as well as true stories, unicorn are hunted by man for their magical curative powers.

Within the next chapters, the three solidify their strength as a group with the addition of two others: Egarot (Egg-ĕ-rō) the griffon, and Anson (Ăn-sŏn) the mischevious, jittery elf.  It is the solidification of this group that allows Rosenet to overcome not only the dangers new lands, but also a persistent creature who attends to thwart their every move, named Sahame (Sĕ-hām).  It is in the second chapter that much of the back story is explained, and why the drive for Rosenet to find his lost people is so great.

Using a griffin and an elf, I drew upon the real meanings behind these types of characters.  The griffin was also thought of as king of the creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions. In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine. The elf is being used not only as a pivotal character, but in the old English tradition. English folktales of the early modern period commonly portray elves as small, elusive people with mischievous personalities.

The quest continues on until the group meets a very old and wise wizard named Gordoneste (Gōr-don-ĕst).   It is Gordoneste who explains all that happened to the lost tribe that Rosenet seeks, and of the final confrontation that must occur between the unicorn and his adversary, Sahame.  It is because of the final confrontation, that Rosenet’s friends unflinchingly offer their lives for his, faced instead with his imminent death, which Humbalt sacrifices his life, for that of the unicorn.  But the wounds are too great, the pain too grave, until Gordoneste decides to give the unicorn a second chance at life, as what he started; a human being.  In return for life however, is the price one must pay–that Rosenet’s memory will be gone, his life as a unicorn lost in time, forever.

When I saw Gordoneste in my mind’s eye, I pictured a wizened old man who stands as straight as a tree, and is as spry as a young man.  In medieval chivalric romance, the wizard often appears as a wise old man and acts as a mentor, with Merlin from the Matter of Britain representing a prime example.

More to come…