Why we need Sheriff Taylor

The other day I watched an episode of The Andy Griffith Show while having tea. That show, for those of you who’ve never seen it, is unapologetically set in Trump country. That is, if Mayberry had been a real town and not a set on a backlot in Hollywood. 

Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife locks up the whole town for minor infractions of the law when Sheriff Taylor is out of town.

The townsfolk of Mayberry are not sophisticated or worldly.  Few have been far from the county line.  But they have a strong sense of pride in their small town and are hurt when outsiders call them country bumpkins. Of course the town did have its stereotypes: Otis, the town drunk,  Goober and Gomer, the village simpletons, and Floyd the barber who can’t stand electric razors.  But they are treated gently and shown to be, despite their gullibility, decent folk at heart.  It’s their lack of worldliness that causes them to leap to judgement and act accordingly. When a stranger comes to town claiming to be something he most definitely is not, they take him at his word.  Similarly if a stranger comes to town and keeps to himself then he must be hiding a deep, dark past.  The lack of regular interaction with strangers causes them to be either too trusting or too suspicious. In either event, it’s Sheriff Taylor who has to expose the truth, but, in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel foolish or cruel.  He knows that simply telling someone they’ve been duped will make them defensive and then they won’t listen.  And then they will make up alternative facts to believe.  Does it sound familiar?  

I found it fascinating that after Don Knotts’ death the actor Billie Bob Thornton wrote:

“Don Knotts gave us the best character, the most clearly drawn, most perfect American, most perfect human ever.” 

He was referring to the character of Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy sheriff of Mayberry. Barney is a mass of contradictions – overly confident (one might say self-delusional) one moment and full of insecurities the next. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, below is the shortest clip I could find.  Barney is the one in uniform.  What do you think?  Perfect human?

Art is not Breath and Blood

From the darkest moments come the perfect moments, if we’re lucky.

tin hats

Art is born by secrets, hidden in the fold of a dress, an afterthought of silence.   When we know, but cannot soften the blow, we make art and find glory in those perfect moments. Our hands and mind become the same and are exulted of this Earth.  Yet, there is always a missing.  A hole left to fill.  A darkness upon our brow as we betray what we call life and death.

Wrapping our arms around our bodies, in complete awareness, the secret unfolds across an ocean of pain and we circle down inside ourselves.  We turn others away.  Sleep is often a release, but it is in the work, the shaping of our personal hell, that we raise the walls and lock the gates.  Sometimes it is frantic; hopeless in the way of sending Morse code as the ship sinks and heavy eyes take us down.  Other times we…

View original post 251 more words

Just pictures, a poem and a song

We’re having the stone floors in the kitchen cleaned and the sound and smells are nasty.  Grinding machines and heavy duty chemicals. The poor kitty thinks it’s the end of the world, and Joel has fled to parts unknown.  I can’t even hear myself think.

Poor kitty hiding for dear life


March is here, but not Spring. Some days are sunny.

Some are dreary.


Warm places to hang are hard to come by. 

Time for poetry.

And a song. From the amazingly talented: That Happy Family.

Death and the little thing called life

The other day a friend  told me about a Netflix show, the Frankenstein Chronicles, that interested him.  So I decided to check it out.

If you haven’t been following the series, first of all, it’s set at a time when London was literally a sewer, they burnt coal with no restrictions, and poor families tossed children they couldn’t feed out into the streets to fend for themselves. In addition,  Sean Bean (aka the beheaded Ned Starke from the Game of Thrones) plays a detective tasked with finding the “monster” who’s been mutilating dead children and grotesquely stitching them back together again. It’s critical to find this person because when Jesus returns to earth those of us who’ve been good will get to sit next to him but only if we have a body to reoccupy.  Preferably one that has not been chopped up or in other ways violated.  Jesus is evidently a bit picky about who he keeps company with.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Jan, you’ve gone off the nut once again.  So let me explain.  In the 1800s, medicine was evolving into a science. Doctors were on the verge of many advances to help prevent premature deaths from childbirth to plagues.  But only, dot dot dot, if they could get a better understanding of human anatomy and to do that they needed, dot dot dot, corpses. The corpses were happily provided by prisons and poor houses as those blokes weren’t going to sit next to Jesus anyway. But innocent children were off-limits.

Ned Starke to the rescue

As to why the preoccupation with death, remember life wasn’t so great back then. This fact was seized upon by preachers promising a meet and greet with the big JC, thereby making death the reward for a virtuous life.  So, in the Frankenstein Chronicles, when mutilated children’s bodies begin littering the shores of the river Thames, fingers are pointed at the scientific community.  It must be doctors dumping their botched experiments, thereby depriving children of a wonderful after life experience. Our hero has a different theory but I doubt I’ll stick around to watch all three seasons (sheesh) just to find out if he’s right. To me these Netflix series’ start out with an interesting concept but then somewhat rapidly become expensive soap operas sans the cheesey acting.  However, the producers and screen writers have done a brilliant job of depicting the environment that spawned early horror classics such as Frankenstein and Dracula. 

As a writer I’m not sure we’re always aware of the environmental and societal forces shaping our work. I doubt either Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker thought “I’m surrounded by death so I might as well write about it.”  But maybe I should speak only for myself.  What do you think?

I have to say something, sorry

It seems necessary to speak of it, even though it is unspeakable. Not to say a word and to continue writing posts absurd and silly, to keep things light and easy, knowing that in a couple of days it will be old news, well, that’s the smart thing for a blogger to do, isn’t it?  Besides, what more could I possibly add to the gun control debate? Nothing that hasn’t been said a thousand times before.

“There’s people that eats up the whole earth and all the people in it.”

“Then there’s people that stand around and watch them do it.”

When every reasonable suggestion to curb mass shootings receives responses so idiotic that they bugger the imagination and killings just keep on, the tendency is to give up. To accept the fact that there are people in this world with no empathy. Until their child, in a fit of rage or depression, kills dozens of kindergartners with a semi-automatic weapon that they swear was locked up and they become instant pariahs in their communities. Until they’re forced to change their names and move far away. Then they’ll get it. But then it will be too late.

“We’ll own this country someday. They won’t even try to stop us.”

As I was writing this post I heard that one hundred students from Florida are on their way to the state capital to try to talk to the legislators. Instead of thoughts and prayers, let’s send them something they really need: COURAGE, STRENGTH and LOVE.

The images in this blog are from the movie Little Foxes,  based on the play by Lillian Hellman. 

The Beans versus the Cheese Steaks

This should be Philly’s mascot

While watching the Superbowl last night I began to wonder how teams come up with their mascots. For example, the Patriots.  I’m sure the people in Philadelphia are every bit as patriotic as Bostonians so how come they get that name? 

Not to mention that there are probably as many eagles in Philly as there are bears wandering the suburbs of Chicago.  And let’s face it: New Orleans is hardly full of saints.

So why don’t cities rebrand their teams to promote what they’re famous for?  Chicago could become the Pizzas; Tampa could become the Prunes, and Los Angeles, the Diet Pills. 

This would lead to all sorts of tasty matchups, like the Portland Granolas versus the Seattle Oysters or the Milwaukee Pretzels versus the Minneapolis Cheddars.

How about your local teams?  What would they promote?  Me, I would be rooting for the San Francisco Sourdoughs as they battle Atlanta Peaches.

Licking wounds that won’t heal is called being a writer

For over a year now, I’ve licked wounds that refuse to heal. I’m a failure. My books, despite kind reviews from friends and colleagues, didn’t sell well and so my publisher went out of business.

Okay, perhaps it wasn’t totally my fault.

Many Booktrope writers immediately republished after being kicked to the curb. But I thought it was a good opportunity to address the confusion some readers had over the ending of my great masterpiece, Flipka. My plan was re-introduce sections the original editor suggested I remove. They were my precious little babies, so beautifully written and funny and close to my heart. But she killed them.

Well, y’all can probably guess the folly of that sort of thinking.  Yes, according to not one but two editors, reintroducing those sections resulted in an even smeller pile of dog shit. Total and complete manure, not worthy of dirtying your boots on.

Those of you who are writers, I can feel you cringing in sympathy and I thank you for it.

Anyway, it would have felt good to quit. Stamped the whole effort with a Failure, get over it label and burnt all copies of Flipka past and present in the fireplace.  I could have invited all of my friends over for KFC (who am I kidding, I don’t have any friends) to witness the celebration of my failure and they could have said things to me like “I could write a great story” or “Why did you ever want to be a writer in the first place?” and fed greasy chicken bones to the insatiable flames of failure. Probably a few of my imaginary friends would not have survived that particular party.

But I’m haunted by the characters I created. I can’t leave them in a simmering pot of pooh, now can I?  So back I go to writing. I may return now and then if I have something I think worthy of your time to read but otherwise, it’s back to the agonies for me.

I do plan to keep up with those bloggers who have been so supportive of me.  Thanks, thanks and thanks again.