local writers and guests

Elaine Carter


I Voted Today

Yes! I voted yesterday at Greenwood Senior Center where I always do early voting. Then, I celebrated by getting a pedicure and a manicure. Don’t make fun of my feet—they have walked all over the place including seven countries and climbed Enchanted Rock and Ole Baldy. It’s now too late for me to climb Machu Picchu. They have taken me to Church to ask for forgiveness, they walked me to bury loved ones, they have walked me to embrace loved ones and run to lovers, they have played on sandy beaches, they have never run a marathon but it’s never too late to walk one, they have jumped into puddles gleefully as a child, they have stood tall in difficulties, they have been tired, they have sometimes collapsed, they have arthritis, they have worn killer shoes, they have been massaged by my husband who does so willingly, they were kissed, I’m sure, as a baby.  

copyright Elaine Carter

About Elaine Carter

John Meza

Man sanding table

There Is Something Intimate

There is something very intimate about working with your hands, therapists know about it. Although this piece of furniture is not a human being, I tend to treat it as one. I talk to it, I use my hands to sand the curves, trying to uncover years of neglect. Some of the areas I can't quite reach, I leave alone, like scars that remind us of where we've been. I fix what I can and try to keep it as original as possible, if i have to replace pieces it's not the same.

This table is a Lane furniture piece from the 60's. I have named her Lana and we are currently in a relationship. I'm going to give her some bright red and put a shine on her natural beauty, even on the scars cause they are beautiful too.

On his work building bridges

I remember the rod busters were refusing to tie any steel unless they got a new, better contract. So we had to tie our own steel. The approach to a bridge is usually over a foot deep, that means double mats of #9 and #11 rebar, all placed by hand, tied by hand, walking on 1 inch wide steel bars. Its harsh and unforgiving work that pays well.

We did this for about 3 weeks till the contract was renewed. At the time it was just part of the job.

In hindsight, I am glad I went through all those years of work to appreciate what I do now. It's where I met my current boss, who saw my work and gave me the opportunity to use my brain , blue prints and a pen as my tools.

I still help the men out as they build this bridge, with a hand float or bull float, lift some rebar into place when they need a pair of hands. I've worked with some of them before on other jobs but not in this capacity where I inspect their work. I always give them props for their work when its accepted and make sure they get the credit for building it.

They still call me maestro, jefe, senor, don, all terms of respect and courtesy. They know how you treat others and the quality of your work says a lot about who you are.

copyright John Meza

I Once Wrote A Poem

I once wrote a poem On a pillar  Beneath a bridge In Bishop, Texas  By dipping my finger In mud repeatedly  As a pen

It was about a star Falling On my tongue  Throat of comets And how I danced To save my soul  From burning

Heavy rains Erased it a week later


At the time

The poem and I Were eternal

True story

By One Deep

Copyright John Meza

John Meza adds, "This is a true story about a poem I wrote on a pillar beneath a bridge, with mud as ink. It happened in November of 2016 in Bishop Texas when I was building bridges there, on hwy 77. I never wrote the poem down, other than on the pillar that day, but remember it was an amazing feeling when I wrote it, knowing it would be washed away.

copyright John Meza

Dear Local Channels

Dear local news channels, please stop asking for stories or interviews about the homeless. Do your own research.

Local news guy at 10 am this morning:

I want to do a story on the homeless during this freeze. Please contact me and we can do an interview.

Me, delayed in my reply till 9 pm: I'm not interested in an interview. Thank you.

Local news guy: I've already put my story to bed anyway, let me know if there is anything going on in your world that would make a good story.

Me: My friend Max doesn't have a bed to sleep in like your story. Maybe you can interview him and ask him what it's like to get raped and set on fire in a Houston parking lot. Ask him what it's like to live with PTSD.

My friend Alfredo doesn't have a bed to sleep in like your story. Maybe you can ask him what it was like to get beat up by 2 CC cops for sleeping under a Mirador on Shoreline.

My friend Alice doesn't have a bed to sleep in like your story. Maybe you can ask her what it's like to have your children taken from you because your hooked on drugs and try to understand why she carries a doll everywhere she goes.

Or maybe you should just try to find a place to sleep tonight, on the streets, wearing 2 pairs of pants, a blanket and socks on your hands. Try getting into a shelter with no identification or money, try living on the streets of this city as a second hand citizen, with no home, no friends, no phone, no hope, moving from one place to another just to find a place to eat, to sleep. Write a story about that and stop asking me for ideas.

And if you ever get hungry, come by Artesian park any Sunday afternoon, we got a hot meal for you.

copyright John Meza

I Walked Across

I walked across

Five centuries

Of colonial blood

From a land


With an American

Coup d etat

Holding on

To a forgotten God

And dreams

When I arrived

At the border

I pressed myself

Against the wall

Trying to knock it down

With the beating

Of my heart

By One Deep

copyright John Meza

We Are Here

We are here, doing

What we are born to do

In uncomfortable shirts and shoes

In the body of someone else

Watching dirty hands hold clean bread

Line after hungry line

Threading our way

Through the lives of each other

Every act a seed

Every smile a tragedy

In the air, empty of praise

Beneath trees bearing witness In the resurrection

Of empty spaces

We are here Doing what we are born to do 

By One Deep

copyright John Meza

johnny jebsen


About Johnny

The mysterious Johnny Jebsen lives in a Florida suburb, in a house in a neighborhood originally intended for 1961 retirees from Jersey, Ohio, or Pittsburgh, but that now are all that remain of the affordable bastions of house and home away from the expensive neighborhoods of Tampa or St. Petersburg.

He has a beautiful daughter and son who live away, but who once a year stay visit and stay with him and reaffirm their love. They know Johnny. They love Johnny. Johnny loves them.

On Sundays, he likes to steam lobsters and fry French fries for his girl, a retired public defender who once, after several Bushmill whiskies, told Johnny how she defended a woman whose husband beat her head with a baseball bat, and then apologetically, drunkenly, he stitched her face with fishing wire and said he loved her.

Everyday Johnny drives to work in the long line of bumper traffic who from other suburbans of lesser neighborhoods make their way to work. Real Floridians love Jesus and kitsch but don't eat quiche. Real men love their guns, always sure to stroke it clean and keep it oiled. They imagine themselves "going in" and shooting "foreign invaders," too.

"Where is the sense of things?" Johnny often asks his radio, but the radio never offers solution. It only talks.

There are few things that make sense in the world, and one of them is just being with the ones you love.

"Florida is nice place to visit, but I never want to live there."

If you want to understand Florida, you have to first accept that anyone who lives in Florida is not from Florida. You're either old and running for a tax shelter or you're running away from something you didn't like. We're all castaways here. We're all pirates of some sort. Canadians and New York Jews abound -- a contact zone of cultures, Pittsburgh and New Jersey settlements. Lots of trailer parks fly Canadian flags.

I live in New Port Richey that is a bedroom community of the Tarpon area that comes under the heading of North Tampa, and whose town mayor was just arrested for practicing medicine without a license. He even fired shots at the police who came banging down his door to arrest him the other night.

Yeah. All pirates here! Here in Florida, they call me Papillon.

Prostitute (exclaiming in heart-broken tone): "You'll be back Papillon. You'll be back."
Julot: "No you won't."

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I'm building a couple of Online Modules ala SF genre. I have been teaching online since we began fronting this stuff back in '94. Before that I taught courses on Public TV, and before that I used audio tapes that were mailed in packets to my students. I teach regular classes, but I've always taught something in Distance Learning.

There's always a little bald teacher who's writing and coordinating this stuff, who is managing student responses, grading, and making digital comments to short student essays ...... ME!

Here, I'm developing a Module entitled "Robots, Androids, and the 3 Laws." But, I don't particularly like the title, so I might change that.

If I'm writing, then I am surely backing bread. Here, I made some French baguettes.

copyright Johnny Jebsen

My Memorable Remnants

My memorable remnants are few. Not so much for my lack of mental capacity but for the small and focused nature of my background.

As a 4 month old child I was left at the door step of a Monastery; hence, parent-less, without a history I was -- though I had never known it -- turned over to Monastery of the Order of Sanctus Sicario, or what is the Holy Assassins of the Holy Catholic Church.

That no history exists, that nothing has been recorded precludes not that it ever doubtfully existed, but that we were so well hidden.

Here now is my story.

copyright Johnny Jebsen

Do You Do Facebook

"Do you do Facebook?"

"Yes, I do," I said, "but I do an alias."

"What's your alias?"

"I won't tell you," I said, "because then it wouldn't be an alias. It would be just a cheap antic."

But, what done difference, I think, would it be whether one is called Heckle or Jeckle, or even Fred or Barnie?  We would know them by what they are, no matter the name.

In Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," Juliet asks, “What’s in a name?."  She then reasons., “that which we call a rose [b]y an other name would smell as sweet” (Act II, Sc. II).   

She knows what we all know: That our being is based on our presence, that even extends into “non-presence as presence” (Derrida). 

Popeye, the true existentialist, says it best, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”

So, I am Johnny J Jebsen FB friends -- friends who I found back, even under another name.  "I am what I am," and I am glad I found you anyway, despite a different name.

Yes.  I question Social Media.  I evade capture however I can.  I go anxious about the thought of students searching me out by my name.  And, if you are some public servant, a teacher, for example, you are fish in a barrel. I want to be public only within the circle of those I love to read.

copyright Johnny Jebsen

1st molar, left side

My dentist pulled my upper, 1st molar, left side, left today. I don't like losing those big girls because they are, along with other molars, the stabilizing force that keeps teeth intact.

But, I had carried this pain nearly a month, hoping that it would subside, that maybe it was something else, but wasn’t.  It wasn't anything more than a developing abscess.

My dentist said he was surprised that I lasted as long as I did with that pain. “I knew a psychologist who said the same to me, many years ago” I said.

He said, "You know how you pull a tooth like this one, Johnny? He leaned over and into me, his eyes with telescopic lenses proctored on my mouth like a beam. “You treat it like you were dancing with a woman; you lean into the direction she wants to go."

Maybe 30 years of pulling teeth had made his right hand into a monstrous muscle of Schwarzenegerian power that in his steady push and pull created a state of security in me.   Push and Pull. Like I trusted him. 

Like I knew that he knew he was doing.  

He placed a steady pressure and un-steadied the anxiety I had been feeling for so long. I closed my eyes and thought of other, sweeter things. And, in a minute she was done.

"This tooth was my friend for all my life," I said. "My first molar. My baby molar. She was a part of me, and now she is dead.”

“But, we'll always have Paris," I said.

Maybe I will bury her. Maybe I will dry her out and hang her on my lamp shade. 

But there in it and out it another sand drops down my hour glass.

We die whole to parts or we die parts to whole, deductive or inductive. 

I think I am inductive.

copyright Johnny Jebsen

So, About 6 PM

So, about 6 pm Susan and I go to our usual wine bar after attending a first time film preview of Schwartzman's "The Unicorn," which we both agreed was not that great. The wine bar is about 6 blocks away from the Cinema Paradisio, the Film Haus in Hollywood, Florida.

We were just about finishing a bottle of a New Zealand Blanc, staring out the picture glass window when we recognized Robert Andante, documentary filmmaker walking by his film "Born Just Now" was playing at 9 pm. Andante is out of Santa Monica.

So I immediately stood up and waved at him to come inside and join us. I quickly ordered another bottle of a French Rose, and we had a long, delightful and wonderful conversation with Robert Andante about "the how" of his film making.

From where do ideas come?

Andante is from California. "Are you Mexican," he asked me, and from there we started another interesting exchange about being Mexicans in Florida.

His family is as old as mine -- Old Spanish mixed with Indian of a people who settled Texas and California before it was even the United States.

"And what is Mexican?" Our families are not from Mexico. But what the hell, we could be Mexicans, anyway.

copyright Johnny Jebsen

Florida is a Nice Place to Visit

"Florida is nice place to visit, but I never want to live there."

If you want to understand Florida, you have to first accept that anyone who lives in Florida is not from Florida. You're either old and running for a tax shelter or you're running away from something you didn't like. We're all castaways here. We're all pirates of some sort. Canadians and New York Jews abound -- a contact zone of cultures, Pittsburgh and New Jersey settlements. Lots of trailer parks fly Canadian flags.

I live in New Port Richey that is a bedroom community of the Tarpon area that comes under the heading of North Tampa (Jim Hawarden understands what I mean here), and whose town mayor was just arrested for practicing medicine without a license. He even fired shots at the police who came banging down his door to arrest him the other night.

Yeah. All pirates here! Here in Florida, they call me Papillon.

Prostitute (exclaiming in heart broken tone): "You'll be back Papillon. You'll be back."
Julot: "No you won't."

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I'm building a couple of Online Modules ala SF genre. I have been teaching online since we began fronting this stuff back in '94. Before that I taught courses on Public TV, and before that I used audio tapes that were mailed in packets to my students. I teach regular classes, but I've always taught something in Distance Learning.

There's always a little bald teacher who's writing and coordinating this stuff, who is managing student responses, grading, and making digital comments to short student essays ...... ME!

Here, I'm developing a Module entitled "Robots, Androids, and the 3 Laws." But, I don't particularly like the title, so I might change that.

If I'm writing, then I am surely backing bread. Here, I made some French baguettes.

Jim Matej


A Dream Comes True

A dream comes true. What does one do when that happens?

I followed the whims of my mind and found myself walking down a sidewalk in an area of Houston that has always fascinated me. A fresh north wind nudged my backside as I passed the street sign marking Kelvin Drive At the far end of the street I viewed the big red half circle sign emblazoned with a distinctive script that read Mi Luna.

The colors and aromas of freshly bloomed bedding plants, the sounds of traffic and scurrying shoppers, the sights of trendy shops all delightfully filled my senses as I walked in the springtime atmosphere of Rice Village.

A flash of red in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I turned toward the opposite side of Kelvin Drive and there she was. Ankle length full flowing flamenco styled red dress; long black hair gathered to the side adorned with a red rose, waking with a very determined pace. My breathing stopped as her name wafted through my mind--Maria. But how could that be?

Maria is a child of my imagination. Of all the characters my imagination has gifted me Maria is closest to my heart, an outwardly exquisite raven haired beauty, inwardly beset by a troubled and horrific upbringing. After years of struggling she finally shed the emotional shackles of her childhood and made herself into a successful adult, although violent outbursts were never far away. Thus, everyone held the opinion that Maria is damaged goods.

And now, there she was walking down Kelvin Drive. That is a impossibility because Maria is a figment of my imagination. She can't be walking down Kelvin Drive for me to actually see. As the distance between us lengthened I rubbed my eyes for a second. When reopened I still could see the girl on the opposite sidewalk decked out in flamenco garb. I quickened my pace to match hers.

A conflict between the right and left sides of my brain began to emerge. The left side held the opinion that there is a girl dressed as a flamenco dancer walking on the opposite side of Kelvin Drive and that is all there is to it. The right side countered, "Yeah, and her attire is very appropriate for Maria. So that must be Maria

I love my imagination. It had served me well in my early artistic years as a professional musician--of the trombone playing verity. And later as a coping mechanism, when the love of a women and resulting little ankle biters steered me out of that life altogether. Although I have to say, I cherish the ankle biter part of my life and wouldn't change it for anything. But now I walked alone down Kelvin Dr, approaching my sunset years wondering where my imagination was going to take me next.

A thought jumped into my head and my attention shifted back to the big red half circle at the far end of Kelvin Drive. Through my research in developing Maria's character I knew Mi Luna periodically featured flamenco dancers. My Maria is of gypsy heritage and an avid flamenco dancer. In the novel I even toyed with having her perform at Mi Luna.

My right side chimed in, "You see, Mi Luna features flamenco dancers. The girl is dressed as a flamenco dancer, looks just like Maria and is headed toward Mi Luna". I'm telling you, that girl is Maria.

"No", my left side reiterated, "Can't be. Maria is a figment, remember."

Then the strangeness of the situation only deepened. There could not have been a more striking scene than a beautiful young women bedecked in the finery of an old world Spanish Flamenco culture set smack in the middle of modern, urban Texas. But, as the taps of her flamenco shoes clicked against the sidewalk, I realized no one else seemed to take notice of this sultry Andalusian beauty.

My heart beat quicken and breathing escalated in trying to catch up with Maria--or whatever her name was. Crossing Amherst Drive, now parallel with the girl, I got a good look at her. A shiver ran up my backbone. She looked exactly how I pictured Maria in my mind. I realized the right side of my brain was right. That is Maria.

The left side chided, "No No, let's stay focused. You cannot know that girl, much less her name. But it does seem like there is more going on than meets the eye. Look around and see if you can figure out the opportunity that is being presented here." I slowed and felt the side walk under my feet, took in the sights of Rice Village, watched the girl dressed as a flamenco dancer walking towards the Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar called MI Luna.

As I began to contemplate the facts before me the right side whispered, "Oh Jim, there's a lot more going on here than that. Use your feeling to figure what opportunity you are experiencing.

"Quite Righty," interjected the left side, "We don't need any of that Wu Wu stuff of yours,".

Going with how society has programmed me, I stuck with the visuals evidence. It seemed to work. I then knew where my imagination was taking me; to this very spot and time. In finding this girl in her flamenco outfit I knew where to gather invaluable resource information with which to flesh out the Maria of my novel.

I never would have had the nerve to approach such a beautiful stranger and introduce myself. But the desire to write Maria bolstered my nerve. I decided to just ask what time her performance started. I would be able to at least experience the atmosphere of what my Maria's flamenco performance would be like. And with any luck, the rest of the dancers wouldn't mind if I hung around to learn what a flamenco dancer's life is like in today's world.

Excitement coursed through my veins as I turned to take a step towards the girl. To my surprise, she suddenly stopped and faced me. From across the street I saw her deep brown eyes staring into mine and stood still as stone. Seeing her perfect ruby red lips move, I gasped as her soft sweet voice whispered in my ear, "Jim, you have to write me. You're the only one who understands."

With a start she turned and resumed her determined pace towards Mi Luna. As my mouth hung open in disbelief I watched my Maria continue on with her wide brimmed Cordobles hat stylishly cocked to one side and dazzling red flamenco dress swaying as she walked.

A tightening gripped my chest at seeing the man in a hurry, on a bisecting sidewalk, looking down at his cell phone, on a direct collision course with Maria. Seeing her determined focus on Mi Luna I knew this wasn't going to end well. My pulse quickened. I raised my arm high in alarm. But it was too late. The man plowed right into Maria.

To my surprise, there was no collision. Maria simply pixelated into a myriad of tiny red, yellow and green dots that swirled away into nothingness, the man seemingly oblivious as to what had just happened.

Totally confused, I looked at all the springtime foliage around me, saw the scurrying shoppers, felt the delightful northerly breeze, and then blurted out, "Wait a minute, this is the middle of September. It's not springtime"

With that, all the sights around me begin to pixelate, swirling faster and faster, until my body began to break apart and merge with the brilliantly colored vortex. At seeing this I said, "Whoa Toto, we ain't in Texas anymore. (I sometimes call myself Toto. It's just this little Wizard of Oz thing I have)

After tumbling through the essence of time and existence I felt myself become whole again and land in the office chair back in my bedroom/office. An open email on the computer monitor read, "Your entry into the Houston Writers House Texas anthology "Tales of Texas: Volume II" has been selected. A final critique will be sent along with your HWH contract to be signed and returned at your earliest convenience."

This is the dream that had just come true for me when my imagination carried me off on this little flight of fancy. I guess having someone finally interested in publishing something they wrote is the first dream for all with any literary aspirations.

A smile came to my face as I realized my imagination was still in fine working order. This journey I experienced was just its way of telling me, "Okay 'ol Jim, we're now burning daylight. It's time to start getting all those stories I've been giving you down on paper."


A special shout out to all the fine folks at Houston Writers House

About Jim Matej

Tish Koval


About Trish Koval

Trish is a citizen of the world

Well, to my surprise

Well, to my surprise I received a message from my x, and him wishing me a Happy Mother's Day, (con un abrazo fuerte) with a strong hug. This was a pleasant surprise of sorts, for in the 20 years in our marriage, and 17 of them as a mother and him a father, he always told me he couldn't make a big deal out of mother's day with me, for I wasn't his mother!! Lol! His take! Ohh, boy!! He may have found wisdom, and hope he has. However, there was one year, and many ago, that he hugged me and thanked me on this day, and went on to say, 'who wouldn't want you as their mother?' Oh, he was so honest in that moment, and I felt bad for him reflected on his family history, never forgot that moment and he was brave to express such a feeling I thought. Though his mother, whom I really cared for over the years, she was a stay-at-home mom as was the cultural norm when he grew up, she left her 5 children in the hands of a live-in nanny and went off to help the poor in the Catholic church in arts and crafts. Him writing to me today seems to be a revelation. 

In Coming Home

In coming home and pulling up to my driveway, I encountered after a good long absence, my neighbor who often did pass by on his way to taking his long walks around the park. This would be the fella that suffers deep depression and found that a regimen of Prozac had helped him immensely, and the one that owns a telescope to obverse the skies that also helps him in his battle of insomnia. We got chatting (he's a very talkative and friendly person), going on to tell me he had stopped the Prozac (never said why), but went on to say that he had recently resumed taking it. He went on to tell me about his stargazing with his high-powered telescope and the conversation became intricate, as we spoke of the bright full moon on the 20th, how he has shifted his gaze to observing the volcano in the last months, and politely asked me if he could tell me in Spanish (he always speaks to me in English from the get-go, his choice, not mine.) I told him (as I've told in our last conversations, for he has always asked me if he could do so, 'but of course...adelante (go right ahead/please do.) And as our many previous conversations dealing with astronomy, he takes a deep breath, and continues in English like nothing!! Lol!! He does this every time! I just let him rip. He's a deeply religious individual, a Catholic of course, and grabbed my hand as we spoke blessing me too many times to count, but I feel like I'm covered!! ¡Si señores! He's a man no one would notice, but he's a good guy, with a good heart I think. After 20 minutes of chatting, and many blessings had passed he departed to the park and I was very glad to have seen him out and about once more. 

I'm Ready to Retire

I'm ready to retire from here to other 'things,' and I've got a query. Are good memories no longer something that brings a breath of fresh air into the present? I mean, even the bad memories serve a great purpose in one's life if you permit them. Are the bittersweet memories of the nostalgia now passé?? I'm hearing this out here, but am in disbelieve. I will go hold my nostalgia and fond memories that have already written, etched in stone, and cannot be undone. What are people missing when they choose to forget or erase such events?? I really don't understand this, therefore I will ponder over it with hope to find an answer. 

The Moon

Taken up through the trees from the front garden a little after sunrise, it is clear, the sunrise intense, and you can clearly see the half-moon in the sky this morning. Only once in a while do I see the moon out in broad daylight and today was one of those occasions. 

The Pheasant

Was on the road, and as I'm driving down swoops a dove from the overpass bridge and lands smack dab in my lane. I was traveling down a steep slope a two lane through-way, clipping along about 50 mph/80 kph. The through-way was quite empty, and I quickly looked in my rear-view before braking to see if there was anyone behind me... there was not. Could only slow down just so much before I was literately on top of this bird (those doves usually take off in flight as a car approaches them...this one didn't for some reason.) I thought, oh crap, I smashed him/her! Looked in my rear-view as I passed, the little bugger was fine, yet continuing into the next lane (no cars coming that I could see.) Maybe it was dehydrated, for it could fly. Hope it made it!

Funny how events suddenly jog the memory of another, for just after this as I continued to drive on I recalled an incident dating back to when I was around 10-11 years old. My father was working a job all the way down in Santa Cruz, CA. Remember well he was constructing a huge sewage plan down there. Anyway, he was on the long drive back home on the coast highway 1 at dusk. As par of the course, it was socked in by fog. He said, suddenly a wild pheasant hit his truck. He pulled over to see the condition of the bird. Its neck was broken, and it was lying dead on the side of the road. He picked it up and put it the back of his truck. When he came home he told he had a pheasant down in the basement, and told me what happened, however he never mentioned it was dead. Guess he assumed that that was understood or he felt bad that it had died and knew how I would react. I went racing to basement to see our new exotic pet! He had laid it out on his work bench. I got all emotional and turned to him and said, 'dad, its dead!' He said, 'Trisha, of course it is dead sweetheart, it slammed into my truck!' I cried at that point, that I recall so well. My dad felt awful, and was hugging me wordlessly. Then he calmly explained to me that even had the pheasant survived it would have not survived in our care, wild birds rarely do. Nevertheless, him being a country boy, he knew all about plucking, and preparing a bird for cooking. 

Naturally, I did not attend the feast, but my mother and brother did. Soooo... to conclude this bit of small history, he was right about all of it... just took me a bit longer to come to terms.

copyright Trish Koval

Carol mays


About Carol Mays

Carol Mays wrote 103 Crazy Ideas for Surviving Suburbia. She also co-wrote Escape from Sunny Shores with her husband, William. She is currently working on a novel about Nevins, a cat who adopts a homeless boy. 

Pepper Cane’s Rant (A Humorous Christmas Story for Adults)

Merry Christmas, you say? For you maybe, but not for me! I mean, who ever heard of one of Santa’s elves getting arrested and having to do community service? That’s the mess I’m in now! You see, I’m an elf -- a real elf -- who just so happens to have made one little mistake and now I’m sentenced to 60 hours of community service during the Christmas season at this stupid mall as -- get this -- are you ready? An elf -- helping the imposter Santa at the Picture Gallery. It’s a mind numbing nightmare. On top of my 60 hours, I have to go to anger management sessions with this complete idiot -- some psychologist, named Dr. Phil. He kinda looks like the Grinch with his bald head and beady eyes. And, really I shouldn’t be here. The mall, I mean. It’s kinda all your fault -- well, maybe not yours but people like you. You see, most people think elves live at the North Pole, are short, eat tons of sweets and make toys all day long. WRONG!!!!!

Elves are everywhere doing all sorts of jobs -- not just toy making and baking. I don’t have tons of time to explain this to you but let me see if I can. There are two kinds of elves: Green Hats and Red Hats. Green Hat elves are construction workers, plumbers, electricians, you know -- skilled labor stuff. At the North Pole they do the baking, card making and any sled repairs needed. Red Hat elves, which is what I am, make toys at the North Pole, and are often teachers, doctors, nurses, writers and stuff like that everywhere else. I used to be a top Red Hat Elf before the Incident. I made simple things which kids used to want for Christmas: blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, and my best of all: Sock Monkey. That’s been popular for a long time until that bitch stole it from me and mass-produced Sock Monkey -- and not very well made I might add. I found out about it when Spike -- oh, you don’t know him. Do you? You might. He’s a Red Hat hot-looking elf with spiked blue hair, edible piercings, and a tattoo of a red hat on his right arm. Well, Spike makes wild, cool, crazy cool toys that do amazing things. He invented pop rocks, exploding volcanos, motorized scooters just for kids, well just about anything that explodes or flies. He’s so cool. Well, Spike is the one who told me that Candy Land -- the bitch -- stole my Sock Monkey and changed the look to get away with it. She thinks she is so wonderful just because she’s from the wealthy and famous family who invented the game -- Candy Land. She’s used to getting her own way and when -- oh, yeah she’s a Red Hat elf too if I failed to mention that but I guess you could’ve figure that out. Oh, where was I? I get so mad I forget what I’m talking about. Oh, yeah. She stole my pattern of Sock Monkey off my desk and instead of him being the usual brown sock she made all different variations of Sock Monkey -- that part was fine -- all she had to do was ask me. But the part that is not o.k. is that she makes them talk and say some nauseating, high pitch-voiced phrases that when you pull the string it makes a: pooshk sound and says, -- “Candy Land is my favorite game! Pooshk -- Candy Land is where I want to live! Pooshk -- Candy Land is fun for you and me!” It’s selling at an over-priced store ironically at this stupid mall. 

Well, I got so mad that I confronted her at one of our Christmas parties. It was such a perfect party too. Chocolate fountain, pizza, a crystal ball and rock- n -roll Christmas music. Spike was playing the electric guitar and singing. Oh, he’s so hot! 

“Candy!” I yelled. “What the hell do you think you’re doing stealing my Sock Monkey and making it your own?” She turned and looked at me with her perfect grape eyes -- all the guy elves love purple-grape eyes -- I have chocolate-brown eyes but you can see that -- and in her annoying fake-whisper sweet voice she had the nerve to say, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I checked and your Sock Monkey didn’t have your name on it. You didn’t register it. So, I just perfected it and made it more up-to–date and cool. Oh, and my Sock Monkey -- registered in my name -- has accessories. So, I don’t know what you’re talking about Peppercane.” She patted me on the head -- because she’s taller than me. I snapped. I completely lost it. On her. I never lost it like I did at that party. I can remember Spike yelling, “Way cool! An elf chick fight!” I kicked her knees then, I punched her face making her red velvet Louis Vuitton Hat sail across the room and land at Santa’s feet. Candy’s eyes rolled back, then she hit the floor with a wobbly thud. Santa looked at me with a grave expression. 

You can guess the rest. Rudolf couldn’t keep a secret if his red nose and Christmas depended on it. I was arrested, booked and put in a cell across from the real Grinch -- not Dr. Phil. There were some others there on the naughty list. I can’t believe I just snapped like that. I really can’t explain myself. I’ve been taking it from her all my life and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Dr. Phil says I’m a disgruntled elf and says I should, “just let thangs go -- invent somethin’ new and register your inventions from now on.” I wanted to punch him when he said that, but I just smiled and said, “Thank you, I will do that from now on. I am so fortunate to have your help.” Santa bailed me out and is giving me a second chance.

Well, I guess I better get back to work my break is almost over. I see a long line of kids waiting to tell the fake Santa what they want for Christmas. I hope it’s not Candy’s stupid talking Sock Monkey. Wait -- I’m getting a text. It’s from Spike! He’s asking me to the annual Christmas Ball! I guess it’s a Merry Christmas after all!

jill hand


One Thanksgiving

 One Thanksgiving my mother made a turkey out of Spam. I'm not sure why she did it; she could have gone to Hinck's and bought a freshly killed turkey the way she always did, but instead she chose to craft one out of multiple cans of Spam. She may have got the idea from one of the women's magazines that flourished at the time.They had all kinds of weird recipes back then, things involving aspic and fondue and marshmallows stuck together to form snowmen with chocolate chips for eyes and licorice whips for scarves. It was food as art rather than things intended to be eaten, and my mother was an amateur artist, the daughter of a portrait painter and a clothing designer. Art in the blood, as Sherlock Holmes noted, is liable to take the strangest form. In Mom's case it took the form of crafts, crocheted ponchos and macrame plant-holders and quilts and upholstery and once, notably, a Spam turkey. While it looked uncannily like a roast turkey, carved drumsticks and all, it tasted like Spam, which wasn't what the rest of us wanted for Thanksgiving dinner. There was an angry scene, with tears and recriminations and then we all went to a restaurant. It has since become one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

About Jill Hand

Jill Hand is an award-winning fantasy writer. She is easily amused.  A member of the Horror Writers Association, her  Southern Gothic novel, White Oaks, is scheduled for release in May 2019 from Black Rose Writing. Advance readers call it a fast-paced, funny account of three siblings competing for their father's fortune while trying to prevent the world from being destroyed.
Her novel, Rosina and the Travel Agency, and The Blue Horse, a novella, follow the adventures on a young woman rescued from a railway accident in 1889 by a mysterious twenty-fourth-century enterprise known as the Travel Agency, which is in the business of time travel tourism. Follow her: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B06Y4K5JWC?fbclid=IwAR0LkfrwNwKqlHAxuFF6WU6fLAifZrc3itMhE4AZ47nnzwMDt6CcHycqht8

Ali ko


About Ali Ko

Ali Ko, Philosophy Cat, studied at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. A graduate of NYU Film School, she worked in production and post-production in New York. Presently she lives in Miami and is rendering an autobiographical portrait of a breast cancer survivor, as well as other projects. She lives in Miami Beach. Being a breast cancer survivor (striver) has become part of the art she does -- inspired it, actually. She is also a pet photographer.

This Photo Is Representative

This photo is representative of an idea I had about selfies being artifacts, not of narcissism and vanity of which they are charged, but of self-introspection and feminine control of female perception. I believe that the millions of cell cameras in young girls' hands, will one day result in women becoming photographers, filmmakers, visual artists, etc. en masse. Women then would be able to create their own image and not be culturally governed by the male gaze, which reduces women to objects, who may be muses but not authors of their own art and expression. One day, we will experience full autonomy, in this neo-patriarchal society, but that can only happen when we, as women, have taken back our own representation.

copyright Ali Ko

Jennifer Florence


About Jennifer Florence

One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that. ~Joseph Campbell 

Today Was a High Gravity Day

Today was a high gravity day -- very high gravity.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say today's gravity was at least 19.394 m/s2 in most of my house, and a solid 21.0 m/s2 in the immediate vicinity of my couch.

There is only one thing to do with gravity on a high-gravity day: defy it.

So I trudged to the grocery store.

Really, I just wanted to go to the craft store that is in the same plaza as the grocery store. Walking to the craft store to buy a pair of pinking shears for a project that is impossible to start due to the Earth's current anomalously high gravitational pull seemed kind of silly, so after I bought the pinking shears I walked the additional 50 or hundred yards or whatever to the grocery store. I bought organic romaine lettuce, organic blueberries, a single conventionally grown radish (already scrubbed the crap outta that sucker), and an orange flavored Lacroix fizzie water.

Normally I just drink filtered tap water, but trudging over crusty snowbanks next to a highway chock full of speeding drivers too self-absorbed and self-important to slow down in order not to spray me with road grime made me a tiny bit thirsty and I'd forgotten to bring my water bottle and the snowflakes were tiny and falling much too fast for me to catch enough of them on my tongue to quench my multihazard-induced thirst.

I hate high gravity days, but there is no better day than a high gravity day to defy gravity.

It Is Never Too Soon

It is never too soon to prepare oneself mentally for less than desirable circumstances, therefore I offer this bit of pedantry:

The word spring refers to a geocentric view of the astronomical seasons, specifically that instant when an imaginary plane dividing night and day is perpendicular to our Earth’s equator. That is all spring is; spring is not a deadline for the absence of snow.

The latin roots for equinox are aequi- and noct meaning equal and night. The latin roots for eviction are e- and vincere meaning out and conquer. In 15.3 days the celestial event vernal equinox will occur. There simply is no heavenly event called vernal eviction.

The lush greenery we northerners miss so very deeply will not necessarily, suddenly, recover its property from the snow — by legal action or by any other means.

I Am Not Running Late

I am not running late, I am simply following a calendar more astronomically-based than most people are aware they could be following.

According to JennyAstronomy (not a real thing), which of course features heavy doses of JennyMath (a potentially scary thing, although even less real than JennyAstronomy),  New Year New You 2019 starts with the New Moon on January 5 at 8:28 pm.

If you feel like you've already ucked fup your resolution(s) fewer than 24 hours into 2019, fear NOT! The BEST time to begin any new endeavor is the time at which the Moon gets herself New.

I am not procrastinating my resolutions; I am simply patiently waiting for the most advantageous moment to begin.

There are only just a handful.

They are specific.

They are realistic.

Like last year's resolutions, this year's were chosen for their potential to help me to achieve My Ultimate Goal.

Gibraltor and Macaques

Skipped breakfast. This morning/afternoon all the squats and lunges and hours of vertical treadmill paid off. Roughly 3 minutes to descend by cable car after our 1.5 hour ascent on foot equivalent to 112 floors and 3.4 miles of crumbling rock and mostly railing-free foot path. We were passed by one other person toward the top; most people ascend via cable car or taxi. Ate a huge, HUGE meal before descending and stopped at a tiny grocery for some nibbles to share around dinner time. Oh, yes, we encountered many macaques along the way, and only two assholean humans breaking the rules by making threatening gestures toward them or offering them food. Every child that a parent encouraged to get close enough to a "monkey" for a picture shrank away and cried, so that's a total of 5 assholean humans. Not that I judge. But, really. The REASON there is a 4000 pound fine for feeding the macaques is that people will feed the macaques even if they are asked nicely not to. Sad.  

Adgita Diarie


World AIDS Day, December 1, 2018

A River of Candles

From the torpid heat
The night brought
Moonlight and fireflies,
Belying the heavy weight of day
With the scent of roses
The play of sweet wild phlox
In blue shadowed depths
With white, pink and violet blooms
Growing in the floral rooms
Of the deserted orchard
At the edge of the marsh.
Dawn rises
With a soft purple hue
As those shadows in the dream
Remember the river of candles
Which once seemed
The bleeding hearts of thousands
Who carried sorrow in tiny flames
Up the length of Market Street
Whose eyes flickering with light
Made brilliant the night
With tears
That honored the dead
Brought some relief of our terrible grief.

Read More Poetry

Buy 'Wobbly-Sabi' by Michael Browne (Adgita Diarie) on AMAZON.  The fourth and final book in a series is of poetry. In these verses the author poet Michael Browne reveals how an old man living in a small village with his two dogs Bodhi and Andie faces the future on a day to day bases; finding joy in the simple events of daily life in spite of aging, disabilites, struggles with pain and the certain knowledge that the event horzon is closely observed and embraced with a spiritual grace that transforms grief into and act of love. 

Neesy Tompkins

Close up of Heron's foot

About Neesy Tompkins

Neesy Tompkins was born in San Antonio but left for Port Aransas as soon as she graduated from High School. She and her then-husband ran a shrimp boat for several years. Later, she was employed in the restaurant and bar industries where she met many colorful characters that are reflected in the stories she writes. It wasn’t until attending college, which was possible because of a Hurricane, that she was acknowledged as a writer by her winning of a National Essay Contest with her story entitled “The Gift.” She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and a Minor in History in May 2017, which is utilized in her current self-employment as a social media manager and advertising agency for local Port Aransas businesses. Along with writing, photography of the Island she adores is a passion 

I Took This Photo Today

I took this photo today. It is the foot of a Great Blue Heron.
It reminded me of ET, the movie. The part where ET is getting ready to say goodbye, but ET is a space alien and has limited vocabulary.
So, ET uses his now neon lit fingers that oddly resemble the foot of this bird, touching the head and heart of the young boy, Elliott....signifying that ET was leaving but would always be with Elliott in his heart and in his mind.

So many loved ones lost, and during the Holidays that loss is amplified. When I saw these Great Heron feet, I saw ET's final scene in that movie, and was reminded.....

During the Holidays, there are those with us that we cannot see. They are there as you thumb through your grandmother's favorite recipe book. As you clean that last Redfish, thinking about the last time you and your dad fished before he passed away.

Invisible but still felt in your heart and remembered in your thoughts. They linger, like sea foam and whelk casings, delicately effervescent beneath the star filled sky....the sky where they meet the light that shines down on those who are left behind.

So to all those beautiful neon lights up above, shine on. Shine down on those that miss your presence. Rest assured good hearts, your loved ones are near and always will be. Until we are all united once more......

And thank you Blue Heron for pointing this out. Now I will put down the eggnog. Goodnight, Port Aransas.

copyright Neesy Tompkins

This Is How I'll Remember You, Port Aransas

This is how I will remember you, Port Aransas. Before the oil storage tanks and before the dredging. Before the desalination plants and huge oil tankers.

I will remember the way you look at sunset, when the stars have just risen and the air hums with nightfall. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, even when those men are intent on destroying the beauty of this special place for the sake of the money that will line their pockets.

It is Christmas and the Harbor is filled with the sounds of Carolers from boats. Festive lights decorate masts and beams as slowly they glide through the marina, and if only for tonight peace fills the air with community. Tonight we stand together, intact, hot chocolate being served and the scent of peppermint from candies given freely by groups.

Silent night, holy night where dolphin roam freely in pristine, calm waters. I will remember this night for all that is held dear is about to change as the darkness of greed and current administration recklessly maintain the advancement of facilities destined to scar this special place and scrape away all the natural goodness.

But on this special night, people were joyous and the World was good and all was well as the boat parade Christmas lighting ceremony brought families and neighbors together to celebrate the Christmas season.  Pray for Port Aransas.

Thank you Steve Coons for allowing me to share such a beautiful image. Photo courtesy of Steve Coons, all rights reserved. Copyright Steve Coons 2018.

Text copyright Neesy Tompkins

Kate Richman (and friends)


About Kate Richman

Works at being the change I wish the world to be.

Facebook Thread by Kate Richman and others

Kate Richman via The Progressive Parent: Literally every person is messed up, so pick your favorite train wreck and roll with it.

Jennifer Florence: I lean toward "adult child" train wrecks, Kate. Which is your favorite?

Kate:  I live in the , “I am the adult child of an alcoholic and my childhood memories may make you cry”. 

William Mays: This actually is going to help me get through the day.

Kate Richman: That is what your photos do for me!

Trish Koval: Family gathers that ended on the battle field. I just wanted everyone to enjoy the fucking meal!

Jennifer Florence: Right? How hard is it to shut the fuck up and eat your damn beets?!?!

Trish: If not shut up, look for a theme that was simply pleasant for once. My mother even announced before we all sat down...no politics, no insults, swearing...okay.

Jennifer: I was projecting my own desires again, Trish. I would have preferred no talk to tense talk, and the talk was often tense, especially if Mom had the balls to put beets or broccoli on the table, or God forbid a tomato accidentally came into contact with a cucumber on the relish plate -- who needs politics when there is the abject horror of vegetables to bitch about!

Trish: Thankfully such was not the issue, some didn't even know what they were eating with all the arguing, but people storming out hurt/or angry, even had the occasion that someone asked to leave before my father literally showed them the door, was a nightmare. As my mother would say in the aftermath, Merry Fucking Christmas!

Trish: Then it was her turn to be upset, swear, and start throwing dish rags around! Lol!

Trish: ...and addressing my father as Mr. Koval!!

William: I just love this thread.

Larry Zuckerman:  Train Wreck is my favorite vape oil. Not for the casual stoner or beginner. 

Lisa Mason


About Lisa Mason

Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, and Science Fiction Author · 1985 to present.
I’ve published ten novels, including Summer of Love, a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, The Gilded Age, a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published short fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, and thirty-three stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. My Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Pictures and is in active development.
I’ve recently published seven books in print and as ebooks on all retailers worldwide including Summer of Love, The Gilded Age, The Garden of Abracadabra, Arachne, Cyberweb, One Day in the Life of Alexa, and Strange Ladies: 7 Stories. You can find all links, reviews, and the covers on the Lisa Mason website at http://www.lisamason.com

The Sun has moved.

The Sun has moved into earthy Taurus and, whatever your weather, Spring has sprung! Every culture in the world celebrates the season of growing and blooming with festivals for nature goddesses. Today is the festival of Ostara, the fertility goddess of the ancient Teutons. Ostara etymologically evolved into Ester (from which we derive the word “estrogen”), and on to “Easter.”

My Granma Mary always made Easter as special as Christmas. She would hide little foil-wrapped chocolate eggs all over her living room, beneath cushions and magazines, behind pillows and plants. My sibling and I would burst in the door, scrambling to find the eggs. Mary would whip up a feast, with a ham and a turkey, and her signature lemon meringue pie. Each of us kids received a huge Easter basket filled with green plastic grass and a ribbon on the handle. Hidden in the grass were more of those little chocolate eggs. My basket always held a solid chocolate rabbit, a chocolate-covered marzipan egg, pastel marshmallow chicks, frosted sugar cookies shaped like flowers, a plastic egg filled with silver dollars, and a little frosted cake with the fine texture of wedding cake shaped like an Easter bonnet with frosting flowers and a ribbon to be removed.

It’s good to give children wonderful memories that last a lifetime.

I love berries—strawberries, blueberries, blackberries—but raspberries have to be my favorite. Every time I eat them (today, for instance), I think of Granma Mary. She had a classic World War II victory garden behind the detached garage of her mid-century house in the suburbs of Cleveland. There she grew corn, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, and cucumbers (she called them “cukes”). But the main attraction was her giant red raspberry bush. I have many happy memories of scratching the hell out of my eight-year-old hands and wrists, shoving aside branches with serious thorns to find the ripened berries the birds hadn’t been able to devour.

Granma Mary was an immigrant from Lithuania just before that country was sealed off behind the Iron Curtain of the Bolshevik revolution, a.k.a. the Soviet Union, which starved millions of Ukranians, killed millions of Russians, and imprisoned in gulags many writers and intellectuals like Alexander Solzhenitsyn. My parents were first-generation Americans, my sibling and I second generation. I remember my father warning me about anti-Slavic prejudice in school and later in business and I experienced plenty of that in our America.

Anyway. Happy Easter, Granma Mary. I’ll always love you.


The Sun entered Capricorn

The Sun entered Capricorn today at 5:23 p.m., Eastern, 2:23 p.m. Pacific. This is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice was celebrated by ancient religions throughout the world and culturally conflates with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. People, ancient and modern, celebrate the Longest Night with yule logs, candles, bonfires, multicolored electric lights (in modern times), and other fire emblems, a technique of sympathetic Magic to implore the primordial force of light and heat to return.

In ancient days, before people totally understood astronomy, they feared the darkness would last forever and the world would end. As a spring baby, I’m affected by the brief gloomy days and long nights. I’m longing for tomorrow when the days will noticeably grow longer again, the night will recede, and the world will carry on without end (or at least for another five billion years).

Happy Yuletide!

copyright Lisa Mason

November 11 is also my mother's birthday

November 11 is also my mother’s birthday. Ruth would be ninety-three today. This photo is from her house in the outer suburbs of Cleveland where she moved after my father died. She set up her camera on a tripod, set the timer, and barely had time to sit down and compose herself before the shutter went off. Like all things she did, once she took an interest in photography she bought the best equipment and learned how to use it.  

I spent the first years after her death being really angry at how cold and cruel she could be to me. She had a brother who had died of a fever before she was born and her own father used that as an excuse to become a vicious, violent alcoholic. I only learned of this when I was in my late thirties. We were out to dinner at a nice restaurant in San Francisco and had had a couple glasses of wine. That’s the first time she told me a little bit about her childhood. I sympathized but I still had a lot of anger toward her.  

These days, I remember how she made a beautiful home for us, how she loved good food and was an accomplished cook, how she loved beautiful clothes, jewelry, and makeup, how she loved reading fiction and gave me books for Christmas when I was a child, books (the four-book Mary Poppins set, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, The Golden Book of Dog, Cat, and Horse Stories (a Newbury Award-winner), a gorgeously illustrated Jungle Books) that I still have in my collection, books that remain some of my favorite books in the world. She loved cats, horses, and dogs. When my father was alive, she and he traveled throughout the world. After he died, she and a friend also traveled widely. She and her friend even went to the Amazon!  

She went back to work when I was five and safely tucked into kindergarten, continuing her career as a dietician during a time when few, if any of my friends’ mothers worked fulltime. I was a latch-key kid, but she totally trusted me to come home from school, start on my homework or do household chores. Her efforts made our family’s life much better.  

I’ve realized how all of the things she loved I love too (except traveling; after the Attack on me, it will be difficult for me to travel anytime soon). She instilled in me a work ethic and ambition and a sense of purpose.  

So Happy Ninety-third Birthday, Mom. I really miss you.

copyright Lisa Mason

robin chanin


About Robin Chanin

It's Been a Little While

It's been a little while since I've posted here. I have such mixed feelings about Facebook and privacy. And I have been feeling a little bit sick with a sore throat. And the news of our country and the whirlwind of insanity that has overtaken everything. And the rainy winter skies that add a cast of dim lit gray. But the clouds parted, and the solstice moon rose, and so I went out with camera. Happy Solstice, friends. 

Ted Henderson


About Ted Henderson

Ted Henderson owns and operates Henderson Air-Conditioning. He posts on Facebook, often from a conservative perspective

When I was but a wee lad

When I was but a wee lad, my family would travel at least once, if not twice a year to El Paso. This was in the days before I-37 was completed all the way into San Antonio from Corpus Christi. So our path led us through Uvalde. In Uvlade there was the Hot Pit BBQ restaurant where we would stop for lunch on our long journey.(14 hrs at 55mph). This bbq joint in Uvalde served a brisket sandwich that has gone largely unmatched, in my opinion, since then.

Today, I took a bite of a brisket sandwich at a restaurant. I was immediately taken back to my childhood and reminded of those awesome bbq sandwiches from Uvalde.

 I love it. Taste and smell are probably the most effective at triggering memories, but sound, like music, is equally effective. Regarding smell, I can't go by a dairy with the putrid manure smell without thinking about my grandmother's house in the valley of El Paso. And ironically, it really is not a bad smell to me.