Friday, March 30, 2018

Wishing At Random

Wish list for the next ten years of your life.

My random thoughts on wishes are they're what we make when something we want is out of our control. I'd like to think everything I'd want in life, love, and career would be in my control, but I learned long ago that just isn't true. I'm loathe to write about my wishes as it feels somewhat conspicuous. I get the sense I'm cataloging my life's experiences and taking inventory of all I haven't gotten. I'm overthinking it, of course, but it feels ungrateful. Wishes are private, but they also involve a universe of possibility. We drag folks into our wishes all the time. I've cast an entire world of people, places, and things into my wishes without their consent. Wishes are the secrets we hide in a glass box. I'm pretty sure my wishes are written all over my face. Random, random, random…

When I was a kid, ten years seemed like forever. Now, it doesn't seem like enough time for much of anything. I'm living my best life ever within the last seven, and I ponder more time on the back end to see just how much better it will be. How much better I can make it with the right choices. That's probably all I've been doing this whole time, learning how to choose according to what's right for me.

I'd like for the next ten years to see my friendships strengthen because my give is on par or better with my get. I've been fortunate to find diverse and eclectic friendships since 2008. It was a time when I learned how to receive, and that receiving is a gift within itself. I wish for an even warmer and fuzzier feedback loop with all the wonderful people I'm honored to call friend. 

I'd like for my walk to remain stronger than my talk. This is a challenge because, in time, if it's the right walk, it gives one something to talk about. Talking can become the thing, and lucratively so. Or the talk will come bundled with the walk, which is cool, but if folks buy the walk to get the talk, I'll be exhausted with personal appearances. Talking is hard work if you're really talking about something. Sometimes its easier to keep walking rather than stop to talk. I know peers and compatriots who choose this, and they're good with the amounts of their royalty payments because at least they didn't have to do all that talking. I guess I'm sayin' I wish for my vocal chords to be healthy and high-functioning this next ten years. My talk comes along with my walk, and I can't see that changing this decade.

This may be totally unrealistic, but I want rewards to be well worth their challenges, and the challenges to be commensurate with the outcome. Everyone is ice skating uphill. Money is harder to make and save and grow. Having more of it takes us away from the people we make it for in the first place. No matter how much we get, someone in a similar position just got more, and it always leaves us scratching our heads about our place in the whole mishegas. I wish for a great spirit of fairness to take hold of all of us and guide our individual decisions so that we can address the unfairness built into our systems and strata by being better to one another with even the most rudimentary things. I'd like for us to treat ourselves and each other better than some constitution could ever mandate. I'd like for us to outdo the frickin' US Constitution.

I wish for folks to be more afraid of mishandling their power than losing it.

I wish for everyone to be happy with themselves far more than not.

I wish to be writing.


For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Oh, the Streets of Rome Are Filled with Rubble

Wish list for the next ten years of your life. 

From Jim

No one knows exactly when the music will stop. You hope there’ll be a chair available when it does, but eventually the seats fill up and you’re out. As sad as that might be, it’s inevitable so you might as well accept the bitter truth that, tôt ou tard, we’re all going to shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m at an age when thoughts of mortality are beginning to creep in, but I’ll take aging over the alternative any day. And that’s why I have ambitions. For this post, I’ll stick to the writing life, keeping my personal goals to myself.

In the next ten years, I’d like to:

1. Write as many damn books and short stories as I can. We can’t live forever, but our work has a chance. 

2. Meet and get to know as many readers and writers as I can. I love the community and find the company inspirational. That means lots of conferences. Not just the older, more-established ones, but all of them. Bring ’em on. As Tom Joad said, “I’ll be there, Ma.” And I hope to see you all there until they take me out feet first. 

3. Produce that one great book that we all feel we have inside. I’m proud of my books, but I don’t for a minute presume to think I’ve written my best work yet. I’ve got The Band’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” running through me head as I write this. And once I’ve written that great novel, I jolly well intend to write another one. Better. And then another.

4. Achieve the financial freedom to accomplish the goals enumerated above. I don’t need to be rich, but travel and booze don’t come cheap. And I like travel and booze.

5. Get one of my books reviewed in the goddamn New York Times.

6. Stay out of jail.

7. Eradicate the improper usage of “beg the question” from public and private dialogue.

8. Thumb my nose at anyone who aspires to transcend the genre. Ours is the best genre. Why would anyone want to transcend it?

9. Avoid ever appearing on the front page of the New York Post or the New York Daily News. Any tabloid paper, for that matter. Nothing good ever comes of that.

And finally,

10. Wear an ascot and get away with it.

So, while I’d love to have thirty-plus years left in the tank, I’ll content myself with these ten for now. Check back in 2028 for the next installment. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What a ride

by Dietrich Kalteis

Wish list for the next ten years of your life. 

Making it through the next ten years should be at the top of anybody’s list. But, let’s take that as a given. How I live those years is the key to it.

“Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I’m here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube.” — Hunter S. Thompson

Sometimes fast, sometimes slow and sometimes a happy medium. Life’s about finding a balance, and at the end of it I want have done everything worth doing. And I want to have fun doing it. They say laughter keeps us healthy, so tell me a joke or put on The Big Lebowski, or Tracey Ullman doing Angela Merkel, or one of George Carlin’s standup rants.

It’s about being with people that light me up, like my wife and son, family and friends. And it’s about surrounding myself with what influences and inspires me. Aside from those special people, I’m influenced and inspired by art. There’s soul in a Kandinsky painting, the essence of Paris at night in a Brassaï, and magic in those unguarded moments captured on Vivian Maier’s streets. There are the songs of Tom Waits, the groove of Miles Davis, and the orchestrations of Tchaikovsky. And there are those great film performances like Gary Oldman’s in The Darkest Hour, and Frances McDormand’s in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Now and then I like to paint, or I take my camera for a walk, looking for something that catches my eye. It’s interesting how many artists explore other creative forms. Bob Dylan paints, Patti Smith writes and explores the visual arts, and Picasso wrote poetry. Billy Bob Thornton and Jeff Bridges have cut albums. Juliette Lewis sings punk, Clint Eastwood plays jazz piano, and Meatloaf and Tom Waits have starred in films. 

Sometimes I dust my guitar more than I play it — I admit I’m better at the listening than the playing but it’s fun anyway. And I’m inspired by all kinds of music. I’ve always got an album playing when I’m working on my stories. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Robert Plant sing “Carry Fire.” Just awesome. 

Norman Mailer was asked what art form he thought a novelist was closest to, and he answered acting. “Because it’s the same work. A novelist and an actor have to know how to inhabit characters.”
Aside from paintings, photos and music, I find inspiration in the pages of great novels like Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, or Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, or The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. There are so many great books to keep me reading for the next ten years. 

Life’s a balance, and if I just sit around writing, reading and playing music, I become dull, so I’ve got to step away from my desk occasionally and get together with family and friends, share a meal or a bottle of wine, got to a party or partake in festive occasions, or take my wife and my two left feet dancing. And sometimes it’s good to push myself and try something I’ve never done — like zip-lining. 

Traveling and visiting places I haven’t been are on the list. They’ve got beaches in Bora Bora, architecture in Rome, restaurants in Paris, pilsner in Munich. What fun to blast a sports car down an Autobahn (although not after the beer in Munich). There are many places I want to see over the next decade, so the key is not to put it off, just plan it and go, because if not now, when?

But it doesn’t always have to be big. The best things in life are free, right? Simple pleasures like walking along the Seawall, feeding the birds, patting a dog, finding a parking spot right where I need one, making that yellow light, enjoying a good cup of coffee, and watching buds turn to blooms. 

I love what I’ve got going on, spending time in a made-up world with my imaginary friends part of the time, and living large in the real one the rest of the time. Yeah, give me ten more years of that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Life is to enjoy

 By R.J. Harlick

Wish list for the next ten years of your life. 

Being somewhat superstitious, I debated whether I wanted to write on this topic. I ain’t exactly a spring chicken, so the years ahead don’t go on forever and ever. I’ve been very fortunate in having had a good life. Sure, there have been hiccups, but hey, everyone has hiccups. You brush them aside and carry on enjoying life. I’ve achieved most of my goals, writing being one of them. I’ve had good health. And most importantly I am married to a wonderful man, have been for forty-three years. We do everything together, except perhaps watch TV. His tastes are somewhat counter to mine.  But we now have two TV’s. I gave him his very own for his recent BIG birthday, so we get to watch our own shows without feeling guilty about intruding on the other’s TV watching.

My wish list is a lot of continuing on with what I’ve already been enjoying. At this point in my life, I’m no longer into new adventures or starting down new paths .

At the top of my list is the continued good health of both me and my husband, though I am dealing with disintegrating knees. It’s the rage you know. Anyone who is anyone has joint problems. But hey, it can be dealt with. While a knee replacement or two is doubtless in my future, I’ve been able to maintain good mobility with exercise, like cycling, either on a real bicycle or a stationary bike and by practicing yoga. Mind you, the latest cortisone shot has worked wonders too.

Continuing to travel. Both my husband and I love travelling. We have had many pleasurable trips in the past to various spots around the globe and plan to have many more. Though I will admit that I am now in a bit of a rut. In fact, we both are.  We know what we like. No more off-the-beaten-track, roughing-it adventures. We like our creature comforts. So once we find comfortable rental accommodation in a locale that suits us, we tend to go back, for a week or two or more.

A key requirement is sun, lots of it, with little threat of rain. Water is another must be it a lake or ocean, and if no water then mountains, high mountains. If we can get both, like on the BC coast then it’s an added bonus. But let’s face it, guaranteed sun ain’t going to happen in BC, so we live with it. We love our food, so another requirement is a tasty local cuisine with the ingredients readily available to make good cuisine. Unlike Meg, I love cooking.  We always like to explore the places we spend time at, so we want interesting places to visit within easy driving distance.  

The South of France is one spot we keep returning to. We have visited most countries in Europe and have honed in on the South of France, Provence and the Riviera, as being the part of Europe we enjoy the most. Florida is another spot, just down the coast from Palm Beach. It’s a great place to flee winter for a month or more, in part because we can bring our two poodles with us. I am enjoying its soothing heat even as I write these words. And have already booked for next year.

I love nature and being outdoors. Could you guess? J So I want to be able to continue for as long as the gods will it to be able to enjoy our cabin in the Quebec woods and my long rambles in the surrounding forests and paddles on the nearby lakes. I even bought a lightweight kayak last summer, one I could handle myself, so I could go for a quiet paddle on the lake whenever the mood strikes me.

And I mustn’t forget family. I have a small family, but a close one. Though we are scattered, we try to get together whenever possible, often for major events, like Christmas. This summer we have a wedding. So we ‘McLeod’ girls are gonna rock. Everyone is in good health and handling life well. I want them to continue to do so.

Forty-three years of marriage with the forty-fourth coming in the fall. We are not only husband and wife but best buds. We do most things together, apart from the TV watching, that is. I’ve set my goal at sixty years, hey even seventy-five, why not?

Life is to enjoy and not to grin and bear it. And that’s what I want to keep on doing…