Category Archives: Nonfiction

Had a dream I was throwing these rubber balls

So while phone is restarting, let me finally finish these journals. Had a plan to go to Rockford today — don’t think I will. I will need to go to bank soon, tho, and maybe get treats in Byron. But, so, yesterday morn, 8:30 to 10:45 or 11, met with KF and J, then just KF, as we first went over the English 2 final and then planned a new skills-based plan for next year …

So, then luncheon — I didn’t sit with [certain colleagues]. I sat between J.R. and D.O. and then after, J. and I talked ’til about 2:20. Then back to school and I left, all packed up, a little before 4. Didn’t go thru any of the binders I had thought to — no time, wanted to be done yesterday. And so, today, I napped 11 – 12:20 or so (Had a dream I was throwing these rubber balls as if they’d go into orbit but then I realized I was fooling myself, these rubber balls (maybe with rubber pegs, like a dog toy, and with some kind of transponder inside to reveal location) weren’t going to orbit — and soon after, I woke up.

[From journal of Thurs., 28 May 2015, Journal 208, page 191]

The water comes from the west, the field there

It was still snowing …, but warm, mid-30s [°F], and slushy when we got back up to the houses. [My uncle] Luck and I played in the meltwater running thru his yard. Luck acknowledged it was play, but he also wanted to break up any slush dams holding water in his dogs’ pen, so we tried to clean snow and slush out of the culverts in Luck’s driveway. I made a channel thru his front yard. The water comes from the west, the field there, and runs by his dog pens and under the culvert just south of his house and then east thru his yard — there’s a waterway there — and down the pasture ’til it joins the water flowing north at the foot of the sled hill.

[From journal of Mon., 26 Feb. 2007, Journal 82, pages 16-17]

At some point, my consciousness moments will end and I won’t be in the world anymore

I like being engaged in my work, and in my writing (as I have been for the last hour-plus) and I also like doing dog walks and just being calm and looking and thinking and I like sitting places too and just looking or even just breathing and thinking — or breathing and letting go of thoughts (meditation, basically). Yet I also know that my consciousness — while wonderful and cool and powerful — is also the product of (is made possible by, as the PBS-ers say) my body, and as many thoughts as I’ve had and as I’ve written (a subset, of course, of all that I’ve thought), these too will end at some point — I’ll die, of course — and that feels sad to consider. And on other hand, I just … keep on thinking, you know? I have a thought at (in) a moment, and then the moment passes and I have another thought, and, at some point, my consciousness moments will end and I won’t be in the world anymore — and I won’t be a driver-threat to squirrels [as I was the day before]. …

Yes, I don’t think a life needs to be famous to be well-lived — the famous die, too — and once you’re dead, you’re dead — it doesn’t matter what your public reputation was (or will be — you can’t libel the dead).

[From journal of Sat., 17 Sept. 2022, Journal 366, page 200]

I can’t just sit down and make something I’ll appreciate right away

My writings don’t usually seem all that good to me soon after I’ve made them. I didn’t like reading my McKuen erasures that much until the last year or so, and I can’t just sit down and make something I’ll appreciate right away — or at least that’s not likely (and the few times I’ve done that — as with the “Split My Thumb” poem, maybe — the poem turns out to be not all that interesting in the long term — it’s too straightforward).

I hear dog or dogs barking, maybe the condo dogs on their balconies barking at a passer-buy. A dude (an older dude) with a golden retrievo was walking past [a neighbor’s] house last night (well, what was that, maybe 6:45 p.m.?) and Sam and I were across the street because we almost never walk the sidewalk past [this neighbor’s], because of [their dog B.], his electric fence comes up to sidewalk, and he crossed over that invisible boundary, onto the sidewalk, to get to golden. No fight that I saw, though [neighbor-adults] were outside and yelled and B. seemed to leave the golden alone for the remainder of its pass-by.

[From journal of Mon., 5 Sept. 2022, J366, page 122]

Dip in, sample, leave

I like the idea that my texts [my journal bits, as this one here] aren’t things for anthologies, not typical to be anthologized (my writings would be more likely to be in one of those Best Non-Required Reading (or “non-essential”?) collections). But, yeah, yeah — my writings aren’t the kind of thing a reader would be likely to sit and absorb for pages and pages. But that’s OK! Dip in, sample, leave — come back later.

I hear loud, deep-pitched, distant roar — from the Dragway, I’d guess. I don’t know when there will next be rain — and rain would, I hope, quiet the Dragway a while. All the exhaust-pollution being spewed around this town — near the motocross zone and the nuclear plant, all three of those things within a couple miles of each other (literally, maybe just two miles separates them). …

[From journal of Sat., 10 Sept. 2022, journal volume 366, page 151]

The implication of expository and argumentative nonfiction is that the author is The Authority (the word’s right there!)

The implication of expository and argumentative nonfiction is that the author is The Authority (the word’s right there!) and those who would report or argue in different ways are, well, wrong. (This judgment is inherent in reporting (and not just arguments) at a deep level because what is a report (news, explication, interpretation, analysis, etc.) except a document making an implicit claim to be accurately prioritized and thorough) …

Maybe it’s arrogant to seek new forms — but it also seems arrogant to adopt the authorial tone/voice/attitude when writing within the forms. And I also thought this morning that it’s forms that I have to teach — I’ve thought about this in Rhet & Comp for years, since Mom said she taught college kids who didn’t seem to have knowledge of the forms. It’s useful to get along (to succeed) in school and in business (and other institutions, other groups) if you’re aware of the common forms (and if you’re aware that there are such things as forms). Forms are a convenient way to communicate (how a science-journal paper has a different form — a form shared among practitioners in a discipline — from, say, a police report or a commemorative poem). But I thought about how I’m not directly teaching sonnet or sestina forms — well, the sonnet a little, in that I teach the iambic rhythm form — rhythm, rhyme, these too seem types of form — forms, familiar patterns, of language. The heroic meter: it exists, it is declared, and then poets try to show their ability to write to it — they show off. OK, it’s not just showing off to write in a meter, as a meter can aid memory retention (as would benefit, say, a singer of lyrics). But, well, partly what a writer of a form wants is to be seen as good, capable and clever at filling the form. What can a songwriter do, how much can be accomplished in, say, a 3 ½ minute pop song? And some artists claim to like or value limitations (Twyla T says that — something in her book on creativity says something like, to those whom the gods wish to humble they give enormous resources).

But — but. Openness — it doesn’t take resources to let go of the forms. I don’t have anything that I want to advocate to others — and I don’t usually seek to entertain others through my writing, though I do wish to inspire them. Sure, at my job, I’ll teach some forms — I’ll talk to students about rhythm & rhyme and I’ll say that these are the levers of the language machine and it’s good for writers to know what levers, what tools, they have available. If I don’t point students to some forms, some tools, then I’ve got a vague-as-sh*t class (and I have done that sometimes in my career, pointed students toward an ill-defined ideal, and it tends not to be a helpful/useful approach within the classroom form).

And I think how I’ve realized just in recent years that journals were the process (the quasi-form, because it’s defined more as a process than as a product) that suited me, and I’ve realized only in recent days a second quasi-form that suits and pleases (satisfies) me, a second art-ideal that’s mine, that fits me, that satisfies me, something I don’t feel too limited in, and something that isn’t imposed from outside (my erasure & random-word poems). I had to find these on my own, and that I’ve done, and it’s deeply gratifying — and it’s just satisfying when something clicks in its proper place. Finally, I find something that meets my needs (which needs too needed discovery and refining) and so of course it was only me who could find what suited me. And so I probably can’t teach this to kids — I can’t teach them, each of them, what suits and fits them. They’re 17, 18, too young to fully understand themselves, though I actually did (I can see in retrospect) have some urges, impulses — feelings more than clearly defined ideas — that I, even as a teenager, liked certain types of poems (such as Brautigan’s as an example, but I even wrote that poem that poetry is for things that don’t fit in prose — not exactly what I believe now, but also not wrong — hinting that I liked openness) and that I liked Vonnegut’s less-traditional stories and that I liked to journal, to record my life experiences (sh*t, going back at least to my vacation journals of 1986, aged 12! And I started journaling regularly in my first year of college! I have journaled because I liked doing it and because it seemed valuable. I did things and liked things before I ununderstood well why I did them and liked them — and that’s not bad advice for young artists, too. Do things, try things — see which feel right (even if they don’t feel easy, exactly, but they feel valuable to do) and which don’t (I didn’t want to stay a reporter).

So, yeah, I think my experience in becoming myself is cool as hell — I can share that with students. Basically, try lots of things but trust your gut as to which are yours and which aren’t.

[From journal of Sun., 28 Aug. 2022, Journal 366, pages 60-63]

When I’m writing a journal in an continuous session, I’m alive each moment

I’ve watched Rick Beato (bee-A-toe) videos on Youtube for a while. He talks about music theory, etc. — and in recent days he posted one called something like “Coming to an End” or “All Things End,” and he said he likes watching videos of Youtubers declaring that they’re done posting to their account/channel. And Beato said most creative careers last about seven years and he said he wouldn’t make a video saying he’s done — so, I gathered that he might be saying that he’s done. And so it’s not a deep — not a hard-to-draw conclusion — that he’s quitting. But somehow this reminded me of a thing I saw yesterday in a Tex Avery Droopy cartoon — where Droopy appears everywhere a wolf in prison stripes goes to try to get away from him. Early on in their chase, there’s an image of a garbage can and a placard above it saying something like, “I’m not hiding in this can.” I think what I like about this gag and the Beato vid is that they make you (the viewer) aware of the conditions outside of the content of the statement.

{I had thought yesterday that maybe one reason I like cartoons, especially the seven-minute M.G.M. & Warner Bros. shorts, is because they have little structure. Sure there’s an intro to the scene (but for recurring bits, like Coyote & Roadrunner, intros are minimal) and some kind of ending (not always relating to the intro) but in between intros and endings are usually just gags — no building of plot points to a climax, no learning, just ongoing struggle of Sylvester to find a bird to eat, and bird evading Sylvester. That’s kinda existential, in a way. Yes, it’s gag-y, and yes, these scenarios, even for a starving cat and coyote [A neighbor’s blue-and-gray Mustang roars west. I hear an idling truck engine through north doors — there roars the Mustang, north on [intersecting] road, it sounds like] have no dire stakes. And yet, I’m more [idling ended — it was nice — then there’s a different truck, maybe the idling one, passing by on [our street]. I heard sound coming through front door and then I heard it through west window] drawn to stories where there’s little learned. I watched so many of these early in my life, perhaps they did influence me.}

Continuing from above: Maybe like these two example statements I talked about, perhaps I too am asking readers to think about the context of a statement, and not just the statement alone, when I post random bits of journal to my blog. I’m making a point about reality (about all moments in a life, in lived experience, being equal) when I post anything I write, meaning, I’m willing to post not just the selected highlights of my journals but whatever I find on that randomly selected page, even banal things. I’m implying that the moments of great insight and the moments of mere description are, well, equally valid moments — maybe not equally interesting as statements, but these are equally valid moments. Both types are moments I lived. When I’m writing a journal in an continuous session (as opposed to pocket pages notes, which are written only after I’ve plucked a moment’s idea or observation (or overheard quote) out of the flow of experience, the stream of consciousness ideas), I’m alive each moment — and that seems important to say. It’s a simple idea, really: that each moment I’m alive and conscious is worth as much, is equally a moment I could attend to and find possibility and awareness of the moment in. And this is, well, kind of a profound idea — it’s one that seems to be opposed by so much other media in our culture, which media presents selected moments, packaged, edited-together, dull parts removed (the Elmore Leonard line about editing out the parts readers would skip). So much of our cultural production (so many products) imply that what’s in the book or movie or song, etc., matters more than what’s outside of that book or movie or song — “shut up, I’m trying to listen to the dialogue,” people say to each other (M and I sometimes say it to each other while one of us is watching TV and the other (usually me) is talking — though we aren’t “shut up”-rude about it.)

Sure, Leonard’s statement makes sense if you’re writing a book that you intend to follow that “only the key parts” model (as I often tell my students, if something’s in the publish text, the author wanted it to be there — each piece of text is serving some function — and it’s this approach that I like to question in my own publishing — which isn’t to say that I leave in useless statements. Rather, that by my leaving in statements that seem disjointed or unconnected, I’m making a larger point about how texts work or how minds work (as I’ve long said that any non-traditional-form text is doing).

[From journal of Sun., 14 Aug. 2022, pages 204-7]

Sometimes being conscious is glorious

Last night, as we talked about the science classification of humans (Chordata, Mammalia, etc.), I looked up a Wikipedia article on humans and read some funny lines about how humans are “bipedal” animals and one thing said human women go through menopause at about age 50 — and I read that (and other lines) to M and she said “yep” or something. Anyway, yeah, we’re nearly safe from the risk of reproduction! We’ll soon have escaped from that rat race — that biological trap — of making new individuals of our own kind. I don’t mean to sound too snarky here, but, well, you know, I don’t feel bad — other than for a brief, sentimental moment at a time — about not having had kids, not having made other humans. Sometimes being conscious is glorious — but certainly not at other times. I mean, I guess it’s not that I have a problem with consciousness. But, dang, it feels like it has taken me most of my 48 years to figure out what I want from life, to understand myself, and some of that not-knowing was painful. (And, well, it’s hard not to think of the material wastefulness of our contemporary lifestyles: carbon skies, landfills of plastic, economic exploitation of poorer people. Yes, those are things I participate in, too, though I don’t feel good — I certainly don’t feel I’ve resolved my feelings — about it.) And even now that I know what I like about being alive — I know that I like writing and observing , etc. — I still find social interaction difficult. I wish I had more people in my Ogle Co. life I could talk to.

[From journal of Thurs., 18 Aug. 2022, Journal 364, pages 228-229]

My rice pot bubbles. I hear a frequent cricket.

And, yeah — here I am. My rice pot bubbles. I hear a frequent cricket. It was a sliver moon I saw in east sky this morning. I have a house — I need to keep working to pay for it, but that’s OK. It’s OK because my job is OK. I didn’t wear my new glasses last day. I wonder if — I feel like waiting another day ’til I’ve gotten a better sleep and my eyes aren’t already tired. I don’t think I’d want a literary reputation like Joyce Carol Oates has — but presumably she likes what she’s written. Why else do it (unless one is merely careerist)? I wrote some magpo poems alongside my English 2 students yesterday (during picture-day interruptions and while some kids finished Monday’s pre-test/pre-quiz).

[From journal of Weds., 24 Aug. 2022, Journal 366, page 32. See magpo poems from 24 Aug. below.]

Ancient winter beneath verdant bug: 
Lonely, thriving frost uses every dark shade.
Shine rustles, or earth was too blue.
Then seeds wandered with our sanctuary
but never beheld my sky. ...

Mornings do haunt eternity.
Dark liquid, my, those 
bellies throb sacred, good.
Her brilliant lie: poetry. 
My delicious crap. So then, embrace, boy;
content could download and planet, too.

Dragons crash linear joy to you.
Play her evil protection action.
From dark summer sanctuary, eat
soft moon, then seed fruit. 
Only squirrels ate blossom root.
Soft nachos world, how through

Pearls cheat, almost buy upgrades.
Here, relax. Must night dawn me?
This complete, intelligent want: 
how some follow insects, give seasons 
when moss-dusk strolls. 


The sign and two in-person warnings: Three random journal bits from a week in California

¶ The sign and two in-person warnings we got not to leave anything in the [rental] car, not even for a second, dude at exit-box said. He seemed sincere. I’d read (at TheAtlantic.com) that window-smashings were common in San Francisco. [From journal of Sun., 24 July 2022, page 43]

¶ Camo Shorts left a bit ago. I said he’s wearing the same clothes as yesterday but so am I.

No blue sky yet today.

Mark is the first person to ask me about my scribbling in a while. I had my book open to page 144 and had my hand on it — I was a little self-conscious that he might see what I’d written before. He fixed gas lines but got hurt and lost job and went to college to become teacher. He has 70 minutes at lunch and rides an electric bike home (which takes 16 minutes, he said).

I had thought that I could say how I’ve had a better conversation with him than with others I’ve talked to during recent days (I did say — he said something about how you can’t be outside in winter in [the Midwest] — he was born in Cali., around here, I guess. I said I walk dog in winter, though only briefly when it was 30 below.) [From journal of Fri., 29 July 2022, page 150]

¶ Walking and driving roads around here, I’ve noticed that there [always] seems to be one car in the way — coming, appearing around curves, shrubs, etc. I know this is a subjective complaint but it is a subjective complaint, something I’ve thought a few times lately. 7:27 (a.m.) phone time, outside of Peet’s again, Aptos, southwest of [the intersection of] Soquel and State Park Roads. I wrote the words above [before the “7:27”] as I walked across the Rancho Del Mar (strip mall name, I think) parking lot and now I’m at my same table as yesterday. I could be at my northside table — nobody else is there — but I’m here. The garbage in the shopping cart is here again this morning — there’s a roll of brown paper towels in the upper box of the cart, near handles, and though I don’t see it now from 15 feet away, I thought I saw yesterday the empty packaging for that roll of towels was also still in the cart. There’s the drone of a mower-sized engine (a piston-ringed roarer, as Gene Logsdon (I knew his name would come to mind) called small gas engines (internal combustion engines)). Engine sound comes from an engine on what looks like a tank of water — a dude seems to be watering the shrubbery at side of parking lot. K & D Landscaping, Inc., his truck says. “Design. Install. Maintain” — which maintenance includes watering, I guess. I wonder how big, how much capacity, is in the opaque plastic tank — a couple hundred gallons? [From Journal of Fri., 29 July 2022, page 137, and parts of 138 & 139]