George of the ginseng and the “more solutions than problems” wrote me about a column I wrote about my “writing process.” Honestly, the column was more about how I’ve always got 15 or 20 different columns started, finished but unpublished, or somewhere in between. As illustration, I listed 15 or 20 titles of documents on my Mac desktop—“Ghosts of Animals,” “The Pastoral Heart of the Hermit,” “Edifice Complexes,” that kind of thing. George suggested I take five of them and ask column readers to suggest which one single column I should complete for next Saturday.
This idea seems harebrained to me, but I do love George, and he needs a new J-O-B (see https://tinywhitebox.com/2017/12/14/always-more-solutions-than-problems-george-needs-a-job/), so here goes. Below are five column possibilities (none Christmas-related) for Saturday, December 23. Please vote through comments on tinywhitebox.com, Facebook, or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by next Friday, and I’ll follow your commands, completing the chosen column for Saturday. Oh, yes, and some lucky random voter will win a cup of coffee with me and the chance to choose the Saturday, December 30, topic. (NOTE: Single women voters between 45 and 65 will be randomly selected at an extraordinary rate.)
In Praise of Beverly Cleary
I was a wicked boy drawn to normality, at least in the books I read. While I was injecting chaos into my second, third and fourth grade classrooms with frustratingly disruptive and subversive behaviors, I was also going to the town library at least once a week to fill up my book bag with literature. In the last sentence, I used the word “subversive,” which sounds as though I were a member of a Communist cell or part of the Elementary Wing of the Students for a Democratic Society. I wasn’t, although had either the American Communist Party or the SDS recruited me I would have been open to an offer. Instead, I was trying to subvert the order of the classroom, planting ladyfinger firecrackers at the nexus of authority and boredom. I just liked to watch the fur fly, honestly. But not in my reading.
I tried to start a cult once
I tried to start a cult once, and despite miracles, a slogan and an interested group of followers, it never took off. Some of you have read about the K-SOFA cult, where a group of my students murdered three people thinking they were doing me a favor. Sorry, that was the premise for a novel. Some of you may have read about the K-SOFA cult, where a group of my students murdered the writing of a bunch of writers in order to vote me to the top of a popularity list. That was NOT my cult, that cult formed itself organically. My cult, the Peace, Love and Death Cult was formed in the spring of 1975, when I was a junior in high school. Come April, normal boys thoughts turn to love; mine gravitated toward organizing a group of followers to do my bidding. (On second thought, it could be I was thinking of nubile female followers whose bidding would be very different from that of my male postulants. I’m thinking of you, (insert name of girl I had a crush on as a junior in high school—actual name has been deleted on legal advice. I mean, when I was 16, I could have a crush on a 15-year-old girl, but, at 58, to talk about the desirability of that girl is really creepy. Even if she’s 57.)
The Tiny White Box is a Tool, Not a Goal
The Tiny White Box is a tool not a goal, a path not a destination. A year ago, the notion of living in a 72-square-foot custom-made box hadn’t really even entered my thoughts.
A year ago, I was more concerned about pushing through salary increases for my staff than about designing the Tiny White Box. We’d just tripled our income from the year before, and I wanted to make sure the staff’s work was recognized every other Wednesday in their paychecks, rather than with an offhanded but sincere “thank you” from the board of directors. They all got significant raises, for which I am glad, and of which I am proud.
Drinking from a Dead Man’s Cup
For a non-religious agnostic, I write about spiritual matters a lot. As I’ve said before, I pray about 47 times a day, and always the same prayer, “Thank you, God.” This prayer is uttered, internally or externally, with no concern about whether there is any receiver for the message. Expressing gratitude seems to make my life more content, more serene and happier, so I do it with the same attitude I eat bananas—they do me no harm and seem to prevent leg cramps. Could it be prayer as a form of spiritual sustenance is a not fully explored avenue? Perhaps some religious nutritionist would like to explore this and include me in the acknowledgements portion of her journal article.
Marie Myers and Hogan’s Heroes
When I was six in 1965, World War II had only been over for 20 years. Think about that. Twenty years ago today we (and by we, I mean old farts like me) were focused on blue dresses and dried semen; when this story took place, almost every dad I knew had been part of the military in a huge war. Every evening at dusk, all the dads, unconsciously, I think, would be outside, walking the perimeter of their property, making sure the enemy wasn’t near. Many of the TV shows I watched were either set in or informed by The War. From McHale’s Navy to Combat! to Hogan’s Heroes to Leave it to Beaver (Ward was a Seabee and referred to it occasionally) to, even, The Dick Van Dyke Show (as I recall, Rob and Laura Petrie met on a USO tour in the Pacific.) World War Two was so much a part of the cultural DNA, I didn’t recognize it was even there, if that makes any sense. Even my mom had Home-Front war stories, although she was just a kid of 12 when The War started.
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