This Old House

I remember the first room,
It was small,
But I made it with my own hands,
and it wasn’t strong,
but it was the best I could do.

Then I made a second room for family,
it was two rooms,
with one door between.

And then there was a porch,
a sidewalk and a door.
An entrance for me to see the world.
A door for the world to come see me.

So then I made a room for friends,
A place to bond with others.
A kitchen to feed myself,
And a bathroom.

I built a lot of rooms for living in,
and rooms to work in,
rooms for playing and rooms for sleep.
A living room, a game room, a den, a closet.
And more rooms for more family,
more rooms for more friends.

And then there was a room for a wife,
and rooms for children.
It didn’t seem long before I needed rooms
for grandchildren.

There were so many rooms,
I couldn’t clean them all.
So I got some help.
Overtime many rooms were never used.
There was dusty rooms,
at the end of long hallways.
Some rooms I’d like to forget.

But there was a light in each room,
and the lights were always on in the house.
I thought this heart would last forever,
the lights go on shining.
I would go on building,
and the music would go on playing.
Beat beat beat beat.

But one day someone turned off the lights,
and just like that,
It was just another empty shell.

The cover letter I would like to write

Dear Editor,
I’d love to accept the job you are offering. I see your newspaper is located in an idyllic small town. You are looking for a editor. But also a reporter. Someone who can be a photographer. And in simple terms, someone to do it all. I am able to fill all these roles. And would be thrilled by the challenge.

You see I love news. But more than this, I love local news. Being a part of a small community means a lot to me. I grew up in a small town. And my heart feels at home in small towns. Where the people and their government are close. Where the paper becomes a voice in the debates. Where we can help people to make better choices. And to better understand their options.

I’ve worked and lived in small towns in Nebraska, California and Colorado. And I know I would love your town. I can send you clips from previous news jobs. They show my strong news skills. I have shown an ability to tell all sides in a fair way. And can talk to many people. I am a strong reporter. A good photographer. And able in many other areas.

But, and this is a big problem. While I dream of writing in a small town. And I dream of living in a small town. What I don’t dream about is being poor. And sadly your wages are poverty level. It is a sad state news is in today. And I know you may want to offer more income. And maybe you can’t. But I can’t imagine leaving a solid job in retail. Just to take up life in a small town, and be poor.

I can be and am poor where I am now. But this job, while not my dream, is secure. How can anyone dream of accepting a job. When they know full well it will barely cover the basics. The rents appear to be around a third of the offered wages. I’m sorry, but I’d love to work for you. But I also would love to be able to afford a decent place to live. To be able to afford more than the basics of life. Nothing rich, but enough to not be strung from pay-check to pay-check.

So, good luck finding your next hire. Because until you offer more money. It isn’t going to be me. I wish it could be different for us both.

The Hot and Cold Land

I left North Platte in a dark mood. I didn’t have friends to leave. But it was still a lonely move. I drove down first for the interview. And I met my new boss.
In Lubbock I stayed in the hotel. During the visit I met my editor. And the editor-in-chief. They were friendly. And it felt like it was a good move for me. Like it was the right move for me. Before coming back I called about a place to live. And met a nice woman about an apartment. It was a two bedroom in duplex. The unit was old and run down. But it was cheap.

Driving back to Nebraska I went through Colorado. It was out of the way. But my main goal was my storage unit in Wyoming. And I love Colorado. In Wyoming I had to wait for the storage office to open. I’d had the unit so long I’d lost the key. But there was a key in the office. Because past me knew the way future me would keep track of keys.

All my things were stuffed in my car. My poor cat could barely move for hours. It wasn’t a long drive. But much longer than I would have liked to have been trapped without a bathroom. But my poor kitty was good. Getting into Lubbock it was late. I went into the empty apartment and slept on the cold hard floor with my kitty.

But soon I found a place to get a mattress. And the next day I was moved into our new home. It was big, too big for me alone. But for the time being it worked for me. The job started soon after I got to town. My job was going to be working the night shift. The hours were never really the problem.

It had been a while since I did real reporting. And I had some doubts of myself. But within a few days I was running again. A couple of the first stories were a fire and an traffic accident. They were not major stories, but I had the night cop and fire beat. In some ways it was a boring job. I spent hours waiting and listening for something on the radio. And then it would happen and I would have to figure out what and where.

I also had a blog hosted on the newspaper site. I remember early on having a hard period. Depression was deep and dark for me as winter started. I was alone in a town which I didn’t know. And no one got me. It was the same as Nebraska. But I felt even more alone. Because I didn’t have Sage. The relationship with my editor started good. But went wrong at some point. I didn’t have a friend at work.

There were two main problems with the job itself over time. One was the stories were not important. And I know news value is so fluid. But I went to so many stories with so little value. A traffic accident with no injuries. The news editor wanted anything the TV news station covered. One time they had a story about a pedestrian getting hit by a car. I hadn’t been on when it happened. When I did follow-up it turned out the pedestrian wasn’t badly hurt. Though an ambulance was called, it wasn’t needed.

There were a few bad accidents. And a few times I joined other news crews covering events. One night I got to an accident scene before most the police. And before the rest of the media. I got there soon enough to be on the inside of the yellow tape. It was a bad accident: someone died. Just one of a couple accidents on a bad night. Another time I was listening to the radio about a shooting. I went to the area and waited in my car. But then I realized I was sitting across the street from the house. I moved.

But I have never cared about fender-benders. These are stories for the radio and maybe TV news. Because those are the instant mediums. Yes, we could and did post online. But few people stuck in traffic will think to read the newspaper website. Even after they’ve gotten home, the instinct is to turn on the TV. And the next day in the paper, few people even care.

The other problem was no one would talk to me. It was hard to obtain the basic information for a story. On the scene the officers who could give me information avoided me at times. One night I spent a long time waiting for someone to give me information. The person came and left and it was only when I asked much later did they tell me. I felt like I was wasting my time, talents and energy. I wasn’t happy with the job and my bosses weren’t happy with my performance. I was later told I was almost fired.

But I was moved to a different spot in the paper. I lost some pay because of the move. But I kept my job. The best part of this job was it was covering small towns. As a journalist I have always loved the idea of covering small town news. The hard part was the driving. Though the paper covered my mileage. This money came with my paycheck. One week I had to tell my news editor I could only cover one event in person. She wasn’t happy. She pointed out I would get paid for the mileage. But I told her it wouldn’t help my current shortage. But I did some great stories.

One was about a company laying off workers. It was a large employer in a small town. Another was about the Lesser Prairie Chicken. And one about a judge who had died. I still love local news. It is what I miss the most. The small businesses. The firehouses and schools. Another story was about a sign. One school district had put up a huge sign. In the middle of the neighboring district.

At the core of the issue was school choice. Parents could take their kids to any school. But where the kids went, so did funding. The sign was put up by a small district. The district the sign was placed it felt it was an ad. An attempt to pull money from their schools. In Nebraska this was also an issue. One school would send buses to the boundary of the other. Where the kids go, so does the money.

Towards the end I got a roommate. I had hoped it would help me. She was an artist. And she was a good person. But also a bit crazy. One day she broke into the apartment. She was next door when I came and went. I had locked her out by mistake. And didn’t understand I was coming to open the door. But it was a lot of issues. At one point she accused me of working for the police.

At the end I couldn’t think of a good reason to stay. My job sucked. There had been a meeting with my boss not long before. The office environment was loud. It was a space hard to heat and cool. This meant in the summer they would place large fans in the office. It created a noise which drove me insane.

During the winter it was too cold. There was a no hat policy in the office. But, it also applied to scarfs. I’ve never been a person to call in to work. I would rather be at work and making money. Even if I have sick time, which I did at this job. But it got to the point where I would wake up in the morning. I would look at my phone. If it was too cold I would just call in to work: I’m not coming in.

One of the last stories I did was meeting the secretary of agriculture. He was visiting a small farmer and I was invited to go along. I was the only reporter invited. But I couldn’t drive myself. If I went, I would have to ride with staffers of the secretary. I thought I had made this clear. But my editor called me and tried to get me to return to the office. I explained I couldn’t. She wasn’t happy. But I think I was giving up at this time. And I didn’t care.

The office itself was in turmoil. The News Editor which hired me left, with one of the executive editors. Several of the reporters had left thier jobs. The new News Editor was leaving soon before I gave my notice. It was a dramatic change in the office. One like I have never known. The fill-in News Editor was a person with whom I didn’t get along.

And then I went to Roswell. I guess the trip was more than just taking a break from town. More than getting away. I knew my time in Texas was getting short. And I wanted to visit the famous UFO town since it was so close. It was an amazing trip. I met a strange girl who had been living at Walmart. She was young.

One morning I met her at the store. She was with a guy. We walked across to the mall. And then the two of them went to his place. Later I saw her downtown, she came and sat next to me. “Can you get pregnant by swallowing,” she asked me. I was shocked, but yes, she was asking me about oral sex.

Aside from the UFO museum, which was neat. There was a small free zoo in town. I went during my visit, because it was free. And it made me never want to visit a zoo again. I’m sorry to those who enjoys zoos. But I don’t enjoy seeing animals in cages: no matter the size. A cage is a cage. There was also some great natural areas just outside the town. While in Roswell I talked to my friend Michelle.

Come to live with us in Washington, she said. I could live with her for free. I love her deeply as a friend. I love the Northwest. And I was unhappy where I was living and working. It wasn’t a hard choice.

You think…

You think you know him,
but you don’t.

For years he has learned to not be the person he is,
and to be to person you know.

Beneath the mask, is another mask
and under the act is just another act.

Like the man who hides a jewel for safe keeping,
but forgets where he stored it away.
He sometimes wonders who he is,
and when became the person everyone knows.

Where am I going?

Sitting on a couch and writing, the world seems so far away. A stream flows down a short waterfall. I’d like to think I am going to create something. A work of art, a novel, a life worth remembering. The coach tells me I can do anything. Aim for your dreams, aim for the moon, and land in the stars. Maybe I could be a good author. Someone who writes in various forms for a living. The coach tells me I can earn a living following my dreams. But the other voice tells me the world is not a place for artists, dreamers, poets or writers to make a living. You can’t live off your dreams. This world hasn’t been for dreamers since VanGogh. It values fast and cheap. It does not value people or the creative process. The little they pay artists for their work couldn’t support anyone. News is a job, but it isn’t my dream. I enjoy news. But I do not love news. My coach tells me to write about what I know and what I enjoy writing. And the other voice tells me to write what people want to read. It feels like the world is a more and more angry place every day and I don’t want to write about anger. To dream is to love and my coach says the world needs both love and dreams.

It isn’t “Fly-Over Country”

I’ve lived in Wyoming. And Colorado. But also Nebraska. So I take issue with a common term for the middle of our country. It is not “fly-over country.” People live there. And their lives have just as much meaning as yours.

It may not feel like an insult. You see where you live as important. And you are flying to New York. The big cities are important. Calling a huge part of our nation “fly-over country” is rude.

It paints the landscape as having no value. But the small places have value. As do the people who live in those towns. Their lives may seem small to you. But this is because you don’t know these people. Their lives are just like yours.

I spent a lot of time in Colorado working. But also getting to know people. I met teachers in schools doing their best for kids. And I met the moms and dads. They cared about kids, about the future. They worked hard to earn a living. But also took time for youth sports. These people didn’t dream of a life someplace else. In one of the big important cities. They invested in their home.

I don’t know how many artists I met in Colorado. The man who started his own cafe. So many friends helping each other. They faced the same fears as you. There were friends with cancer. Some had died. Leaders had plans to make life better. And the work of daily life was done. All of these lives have value.

I remember the woman at the pet store. Where I got Baby Girl her food. The health food store with its staff. The markets like all markets in the country.

In Wyoming I met a rancher. He cared about the land. Talking to him he shared the best way to raise cattle. It was about helping the cows to graze the land wisely. He didn’t want to destroy natures resources. His plan created a balance, and he earned a profit. At the school was a counselor. A caring and thoughtful woman. Like the rancher, she cared. But her concern was kids. And her warmth was touching.

This was in the small town of Douglas. It had a small health food store. The woman who ran it was active in the community. She was a part of a small group which monitored the school board. Because they cared about kids. Where they lived was home. And it was important.

I wasn’t in Wyoming long. But one snowy day a friend I didn’t know gave me a ride. It had snowed so deep I couldn’t move my car. It wasn’t a far walk home. But someone saw me walking and stopped. How many places do people stop for strangers in the snow.

While in Wyoming I went to a meeting of the local Republican party. It was a small group. There was a mix of people, mostly older. They shared real concern for values. The men and women weren’t a rich crowd. They were workers. People who cared enough to be a part of the process. These people are the rock on which our country sits. It is easy to believe the other is evil. But this isn’t true. Liberals are not evil. And conservatives are not evil. They just disagree.

In Nebraska I got to know more people. I had a crush on the cute wife of the mayor. She was friendly. When we met she wanted to talk about me. There was the newspaper man. He started his own paper after leaving the big paper. It wasn’t perfect. But he did his best to run the paper and website. The news was a lot of crime stories. But he also covered the schools. And he did it mostly alone.

Like Wyoming there was a local group. Every place has its activists. People who care about the community enough to raise their voice. They aren’t loved by all. But they make America the land we love. The one in Nebraska focused on taxes. They went to meetings and wrote to the newspaper. They had an agenda. It was to make their homes better. And while you may disagree with their views. I think you should respect their passion.

North Platte had an annual event, which was a big deal. The Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event was big. It happens in many places around the country. It is about ending rape and violence against women. In North Platte you would find many men walking in women’s shoes. The list included the mayor, the chief of police and sheriff. These are men who care.

I got to know some beauty queens. The often mocked women are smart women. And it isn’t all about beauty. It is about dreams and values. I got to talk with Miss Nebraska. And her charm won me over. She cared about teaching science to kids. The education of girls was a deep value for her. And one fun story I did was about beauty queens trying to bowl.

It is easy to look out the window of the plane at look down at these people. Next time drive across the county. When you look across at them you see them as real people. Because they are real people. The middle of America is an amazing place full of amazing people. If you haven’t taken the time to visit. It is your loss.

Quick Write

Where am I now?
It is 12:15 a.m. and if I get to sleep soon I’ll get about 5 hours sleep. This is the new normal. I haven’t drank enough water and had burritos for dinner again. My life feels like it is on solid footing in some ways. But solid in terms of being able to stay where I am without changes. And maybe I need changes. Writing isn’t a part of who I am lately, Tarot isn’t a part of who I am lately, Astrology isn’t a part of who I am lately. And I miss those things. I can read the beautiful words of Sylvia Plath. But my own words are grey dust. I want to create something living with my words. This blog isn’t living. It is a dusty forgotten place which gets no traffic. And before you try to say it isn’t true: I can see my traffic. Maybe there isn’t a place in the world for a new Mark Twain, or Lord Byron, Hemingway, Camus, Sartre. Who do I want to be anyway? But I still want to write. And I still in some small part of my soul dream of a different life. What I don’t dream of is the bridge which takes me from this side to the other. And maybe I need to build the bridge: or learn to be a dolphin. Maybe it will just take more time. Right now time isn’t on my side. It is 12:20 and time for bed. Goodnight.