From a Mule to His Rider

Grey Mule.To claim willfulness and intelligence is to waste words. To offer reasons or excuses is useless, barren.

Neither will do.

To assume I am slow and steady is to misread me. That is what leads to the surprises you seem to find so discomforting. Slow is the walk when you lead me somewhere of your liking with nothing more than assumptions and commands,  no matter how pleasingly uttered. Steady is nothing more than my practice in patience because we do not always communicate perfectly.

I am always waiting.

That is my nature.

What is yours?

Stubbornness is your word for an unrealized single purpose and toothy goal. My want is nothing more than to be. You may view my resistance as a weapon. I see it as a plea.

I will be your partner but never your property. Watch my movements, my glances, my quiet moments in the pasture. Be still, listen, watchful. This is how you will come to know my soul. Do this and we can be friends.

Let me breathe, seek out my own purpose, grow in wisdom and experience, be old and gracious.

Do this and we can be friends for all my years.

Respect my journey and I will take you anywhere on yours.

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Griffin, The Man Who Rocked My World

It wasn’t the first book I read but it was the one that ignited my passion to write, a passion that lasted a lifetime. The book was Black Like Me, written by John Howard Griffin.

The book was first published in 1961, by Houghton Mifflin, and I read it the same year. I was 15 and going into my first year of High School. This was an impressionable age and a time in America when everything was about to change. A new generation was beginning to look at who we were as a society, and they weren’t comfortable with what they discovered. Griffin’s personal journey in writing his book was a poignant and timely reminder that we all needed to reconsider what was important in our lives. I caught that fever immediately, thanks to the words of a man I would never meet.

At the time, Griffin was not considered an especially important writer. His work was known to some but he was not a household name in literary circles. Griffin was about to take the art of investigative journalism into the mainstream with his passion for fairness and equality. He would take the rest of us along for the ride and give us a legacy that proved to be unforgettable.

Griffin’s book was a nonfiction, intimate journey that captivated American readers. The fundamentals of the story first came to light as an article in Sepia magazine, who helped fund the writing project. When it appeared in print, Griffin’s experiences instantly drew readers from across the country. The story demanded a full treatment in book form, and what a powerful book it became!

“He who is less than just is less than man.” ―...

The story line dealt with race relations from the most personal aspect imaginable. For those who haven’t read Black Like Me, I won’t throw in any spoilers. I’ll just tell you that it presents the experiences of a white man who went through extraordinary measures to penetrate racism in America by pretending to be a black man. The narrative deals with his travels and personal encounters in the deep South. Through them, Griffin exposes the pain of a segregated, prejudiced America that was so prevalent at the time. He also tells us about a handful of wonderful, incredibly generous individuals he met along the way. The book reaches highs and lows worthy of the powerful point Griffin was trying to make.

It was not just the story line that moved me, powerful as it was. It was the sacrifices of the writer, his determination to get to the bottom of the story, that rocked my young world. All other books seemed tame after reading Griffin. Here was a writer who lived his work, who had a boundless commitment to the story he was chasing. Griffin put no limits on himself to learn what it was like to be black and live in the U.S. in the late 1950s. No one had ever put this kind of experience into written form in quite the same way. It opened my eyes to cruelty and indifference, but also to the willingness of some to extend their hands to the downtrodden and ignored. It showed me both the best and worst in our society. The mosaic it offered was compelling, penetrating and wholly personal. This was the kind of writer I wanted to be, someday.

Griffin made me love the importance of nonfiction when done the right way. Before Black Like Me, I wasn’t especially interested in nonfiction. Now, I understood just how a great writer could move me with something real and tangible. There was nothing dry in Griffin’s writing, nothing impersonal or academic. It was raw and real. It was all painfully true. It was groundbreaking.

There were other writers who strongly influenced me at that young age. Some specialized in fiction, some nonfiction. They all played their part in moving me further into reading and writing. But it was Griffin who started it all with Black Like Me. Even today, the relevance of his work remains strong. That’s surely the mark of a literary classic.

John Howard Griffin, the man I never met, will always be one of my heroes.

Mrs. Zxy and Jane Maul Mr. Bill

Mr. BillThe headline sounds like something ripped from a check stand sleaze magazine except that it’s true. It’s also a common tale for anyone who has kids. Our hero, and victim, is Bill, my youngest kid. Today, he is an avid reader and published writer. But, it wasn’t always so. There was a time when everything went sideways.

Like most neo-adolescents, Bill was not fond of reading. In fact, he completely avoided it. I had seen this problem come and go with my other kids, so I wasn’t too concerned, at first. Many of these phases tend to work themselves out. Mostly, I didn’t want to force him into a pastime that I knew he disliked. I’ve never appreciated people telling me what to do so I assume others, including Bill, usually feel the same way.

Moving into his first year of High School, Bill drew a teacher, Mrs. Zxy, whose job it was to get him reading. As I recall, the class was about 25 strong, all new to High School, all new to each other, and probably most not interested in reading. No one would envy Mrs. Zxy’s job. I assumed she understood the perils of her role and was prepared to meet them head on.

Now, this teacher’s answer to a predictable reluctance to read was to throw Jane Austen at her class. Since our educational system is based on uniformity and collective adherence, this was a time-honored way of accomplishing the task. Throw out a classic, like Austen, and they will all become avid readers. The future would be secured. The predictable protocol would continue to reign as education king.

Talk about wrong-headed!

Portrait of Jane Austen

What in this universe of swamp gas would a neo-adolescent male find intriguing about Jane Austen? Sure, she was a literary luminary of the first order. Certainly, she was a classic author. But, where was the relevance? Mrs. Zxy may have been an expert in the Classics. Maybe. But she was older, mature, her education completed, her personal story line well into the process of being written. She was as far removed from adolescence as Mr. Scrooge, or so it probably seemed to her charges. If Mrs. Zxy would have asked, I would have been more than happy to explain to her that the Classics is not the starting gate for future readers. It’s more like the 1/3 mile post.

Anyway, I learned about the problem in the usual way, by talking with Bill. There he was, stuck with Jane Austen and trying very hard to please Mrs. Zxy. Bleak. We both knew that he had no choice but to carry on, to struggle through the Classics no matter his level of disinterest. I was secretly concerned about something else. Would this episode destroy his interest in reading, now and forever? It wasn’t what I wanted for the kid.

I thrashed around a bit, trying to come up with something innovative and easy to swallow. More pressure was certainly not the answer. I knew that the only way to engender a passion for reading was to get his attention, grab it outright, and never let go. But it wasn’t something I could do alone.

Carlos Castenada on Peyote. AKA, Why I Don't H...

At about the same time, the Carlos Castaneda mythos was making the rounds to a new generation. I had his first three books and enjoyed each. I devised a plan to just be seen around our house with the book in hand, or lying nearby. At some point, I banked on the assumption that Bill would show some interest. That would be my big chance.

He did, and he began reading. Bill liked Castaneda’s first book. He read it right through and moved on to subsequent Don Jan tales. Easy. He became a reader and, in later years, a talented writer. He survived Jane Austen and Mrs. Zxy. Like him or not, Castaneda became somewhat of a helper-hero in our family, one of those unexpected people whose work pushes you in a new direction.

And the moral? Two, really. The first is a lingering distaste for the uniformity of our educational system. But, that’s a soapbox topic and I won’t add to the boredom. The second moral is far more important. Readers need to be captivated, to become ensnared and moved, to live as participants in the story line. Failing that, boredom quickly sets in. For a young adolescent male, Jane Austen will never be the trick pony. Mrs. Zxy should have known that. Still, I don’t blame her too much. We need to take a big role in how our kids move through life. In the end, the job is ours.

Want your kids to read? Find out what moves them, what carries them through the pages. That’s how to create a reader. If you can help them read, you can help them write. The rest they will do for themselves.

When Great Writers Vanish

GeezerBeing a geezer writer has its advantages. Decades in the business makes for a slice of clarity, a broader understanding of why some writers make it while others fail, or just choose to disappear. It’s usually a strange and toxic mixture of life ingredients.

It often doesn’t have anything to do with talent.

Some of the best writers I’ve known simply walked away from the trade. These were gifted people whose work I admired and thought was outstanding. But they gave it all up. They just vanished from the scene.

It’s not easy to wrap your head around this problem. Still, there are some common themes, scant threads that seem to surface with these individuals. Even though they disappeared as writers, a few of them stayed in touch, a few gave explanations. There are lessons.

Feedback fail. Many of the writers I’ve known needed a good deal of feedback. When you write for a living, especially at the start of your career, that just doesn’t happen. You are working in a vacuum, for the most part. Sure, you may get some feedback from friends or a trusted draft-reader, but many writers are looking for much more. They want reader feedback, the kind of notice given by those unknown but appreciated readers. Beginning writers can’t get that feedback, and some of them wither under the wish. They walk away before they’ve given themselves a chance. If you can’t stand lonliness, writing is the wrong path for you.

Life interferes. This is a rough one. It’s something that all beginning writers need to face. It takes a long time, if ever, for your writing to pay off. Throughout that stretch, life moves on. How can a writer balance it all? It’s not easy for anyone but it’s particularly gruesome for someone not yet established. You need the tenacity and drive to make your writing work itself into your life, to weave its place around the necessities of living. Sometimes, life just takes over and there’s nothing you can do about it. During those times, writing takes a second seat. It’s hard but you’ve got to tough it out. Reach deep and pull out the draft, even if it’s just to add a word or two, just to read a few lines. When the flame flickers low, don’t let it blow out. Patience helps, always.

Rejection

Rejection. Too many talented writers die on the words of rejection letters. It’s an understandable reaction. You work your butt off for nothing but the love of the word. You spend years perfecting your trade. Then, some editor blows you off with a tight rejection. Others follow. Suddenly, you’re drained. Too many rejections, too little reward. Wrong feedback. We’ve all been there. But rejections are nothing more than opinions. Editors and publishing houses have a long tradition of making stupendous blunders about writing talent. Opinions are free and common, and often offered by individuals who have never spent the time or effort to perfect their own art. Ignore them and move on. Mourn if you must, but only for a moment. It’s easy to say and hard to do. I understand that. But what choice do you have, if you truly want to be a writer?

Luck. This sounds silly but it’s a factor that’s brought many good writers to their knees. It really applies to traditionally-published work. In the world of publishing, there are limits to production. Publishers set an early and tight schedule for themselves. In other words, there are always more writers than there are slots in the publishing schedule. So, luck sometimes wins out, especially if a number of talented writers are working the same small market. There’s not much you can do about this. It’s best to remember that luck smiles without a winked eye, when it smiles. Your turn will come. The trick is to just accept this randomness and work around it. The best answer to luck is to improve your writing skill.

Timing. Hot genres come and go. If you’re writing for the short term, you need to get into the hot genre and get there quickly. It’s a mad rush toward a narrow doorway, though. Expect a lot of bumping and bruising. Personally, I don’t like this approach. It’s too chaotic, too nuts and too stressful. Why not consider looking ahead, working toward a genre that has more legs? Let the others rush. Take your time and make your work all it can be.

It’s not for you. Great writers don’t always want to be writers. I suppose that sounds strange to those who write for a living. I’ve met a few individuals who fit this category. They were brilliant writers, really good. But that wasn’t their life-ride. They enjoyed writing but also wanted to taste other life pleasures. They tried it, did a good job, and walked away. I have a lot of respect for these people. It’s not something I could do, just walk away from an obvious talent. They could. They had a bigger vision in life. Good for them.

Pain

The pain is too great. I get it. There is nothing simple or easy in a writer’s life. The rewards can be outstanding, no doubt about it. However, the journey is anything but comfortable. In fact, I think you need to be a little nuts to make it your life’s work. Writing can be miserable but also exhilarating. It’s like any other creative process. The ups and downs are extreme. The potential for a reasonable reward is small. The work is downright tough. It’s enough to drive anyone to find another way through life. It’s just too much for some people and they walk away, regardless of their talent. Only the word addict remains.

Art grows. I’ve know a few writers who have moved on to another art form. These people are truly interesting. It seems they can conquer very different arts, each with aplomb. I have no idea how they pull this off. I’m in awe of these people, probably because I have only a single art. I love these artists, the ones who walk away from writing and straight into another art form they easily conquer. Wow! If that’s the reason you walk away from the word, you’ve made a great decision. You are more than a writer, you are an artist. You are my hero.

I suppose there are all kinds of other reasons why these word masters walked away from it all. Back in the early years, I wanted to walk away. I just couldn’t do it. Like many of my writer friends, I had a major word addiction.

I still do, even though I’m old enough to know better.

Madeleine Hinkes, A Quiet Passion

Forensic AnthropologyMy favorite heroes/heroines are quiet, unassuming and passionate. A writer can’t help but come into contact with an amazing array of people, especially if the writing project deals with topics that impact us all. Many years ago, I was working on a project that dealt with forensic anthropology. It’s one of those fields that often goes overlooked by mainstream media. Yet, it is a vital, passionate kind of science. It’s a science that speaks for the dead.

During the course of the project, I came into contact with some extraordinary people. They were not simply scientists going about their work. These were dedicated, involved and determined individuals, who deeply cared about the meaning of their work.

One of the forensic anthropologists who moved me was Madeleine Hinkes. The depth of her commitment and her obvious passion impacted me at the time and has stayed with me over the years. Here’s a bit of background about this extraordinary woman, and a letter that she wrote to me in the 1990s.

Madeleine Hinkes holds a Diplomate in Forensic Anthropology from the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and has published dozens of important papers in her field. She has worked with the Office of the Medical Examiner in San Diego, Albany, Honolulu, Tucson, and Albuquerque, analyzing human remains and participating in a wide variety of forensic investigations. Hinkes has taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and has been involved in many criminal and mass disaster investigations throughout her career. In short, she brings first-rate credentials and decades of experience to her science. However, she also brings something rare and compelling to her work—a deep passion for what she does and an obvious commitment to its social significance. In this sense, Hinkes’ career is an expression of the human side of forensic anthropology—a style and approach that is shared by many of her colleagues.

Here is Dr. Hinkes’ letter. In it, she expressed what her career has meant to her from both a scientific and personal point of view. Despite the chaos and death that naturally surrounds her in her daily work, Hinkes discovered a deep, personal meaning to her science that is moving and inescapable:

You asked if I would tell you something of my career as a forensic anthropologist. Twenty-five years ago, I wanted to be an archaeologist—to dig up dinosaurs, in fact. However, in the Summer of 1973, I found myself in a field school and discovered my first human skeleton. It was 8,000 years old and perfectly preserved. That discovery made all the difference for me and I immediately switched my college major to physical anthropology. Ten years later I earned my Ph.D.

In graduate school, I worked with Walter Birkby, a nationally recognized expert in forensic anthropology. I had the opportunity to serve my apprenticeship with him and also work with the medical examiner in the Tucson, Arizona area. Those years of outstanding training gave me the knowledge and confidence to understand that I could handle any forensic situation that came my way. Since then, I have worked on medical examiner cases for more than twenty years. I’ve investigated homicides, airplane disasters, search and recovery operations, and much more.

Each forensic case is different in terms of the human remains to be investigated and what can be learned from them. These investigations are always fascinating, but sometimes also painful. I try to convey this to my students. I read somewhere that a student once described the human skeleton as bones with the people scraped off, so I try to use that definition in the classes I teach. I tell my students that the job of the forensic anthropologist is to put the people back on the bones. This is the concept of osteobiography—writing an individual’s life history through the skeletal remains. Most people take their skeletons for granted and are surprised at the amount of information contained in them, such as sex, age, race, stature, build, and even more specific characteristics like diseases, nutrition, trauma, occupation, socioeconomic status, and cause of death.

There is a tremendous range of human variation in the skeleton because each of us has a different life history in terms of health, disease, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, trauma, and occupation. I often meet individuals whose skulls or skeletons I would love to study more closely because of their distinctive characteristics, and it is frustrating to me that the only way I can see my own skeleton is through an X-ray!

I have met many interesting people in my career, like pathologists, dentists, and investigators. I’ve also made some very close friends in strange places—like over an autopsy table. To my mind, the team approach to forensics is indispensable, and the best characteristic a forensic anthropologist can have is flexibility. Every situation is different and a forensic anthropologist can often find herself in some very primitive, difficult situations.

The sights and smells associated with forensic anthropology are distinct and often unpleasant. Much of my education didn’t prepare me for that, but I’ve learned to deal with it over the years. I have also learned much about people and the unspeakable things they can do to each other. It’s been quite an education in the real world, and I am much more conscious about my personal safety now.

I enjoy forensic anthropology because it allows me to give something back to society, to help families searching for loved ones, and to solve puzzles with a skill that few others possess (or may not even want to possess). When I first started in this science, there were few women in the field and I enjoyed that aspect of being different. Today, forensics is a very public arena and the expertise of the forensic anthropologist is constantly being tested. I am always learning something new and gaining a deeper appreciation for how different individuals are.

Testifying as an expert witness at trial can be daunting, but it is the ultimate end to a case—testifying to the trauma that led to death. Knowing that the accused murderer is in front of me in court is a sobering experience. As a scientist, I am supposed to be impartial and leave the arguing to the attorneys. However, the cruelty I often see in these cases—the inhuman treatment and indifference for another—should be punished.

I’ve investigated several mass disasters, like the 1985 crash of an Arrow Air DC8 in Gander, Newfoundland. In that crash, 256 lives were lost and I was instrumental in identifying 70 of the victims. In those kinds of situations, I routinely work at least a twelve-hour shift. The families are desperate to know what happened to their loved ones and the media is constantly pressuring the investigation team for information. In these situations, we cannot make any errors. A misidentification is the worst thing you can do to a family.

I’ve also worked on teams to identify the war dead, spending seven years at the Army’s MIA lab in Hawaii. I have met the sons of dead men who looked exactly like the photographs of their fathers on their military identification. It’s a strange and spooky feeling. Still, I found Vietnam to be a beautiful country filled with friendly people. They seemed very curious about a blonde, curly-haired American woman in their midst. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Vietnam War when it was happening because I was too young. However, being there and talking to American former prisoners of war stirred me to learn all I could about the War. Each time we sent an identified soldier home to his family, there would be an official ceremony at Hickam Air Force Base. I would attend those ceremonies for the remains of the soldiers I had helped to identify. I don’t think my eyes were dry for a single ceremony. That’s the hardest part of the job—putting aside the clinical detachment and meeting the families and loved one of those men and women whose lives were cut short.

Today, I work on about twenty-five forensic cases a year. Some of them are routine homicides, but others can be quite strange. One of the strangest cases I investigated was the wreckage of a Boston Whaler boat and a gravesite discovered in 1988 on the uninhabited Taongi Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The boat turned out to be the Sarah Joe—a fishing boat that was lost off Maui in a storm nearly ten years previously with five men on board. When the grave was investigated, it contained the remains of a man. The questions that raced through my mind were incredible. What happened? How did this boat get to be 2,500 miles from home? Who found the bones and buried them? When? This case was featured on the television program Unsolved Mysteries because it certainly was an unsolved mystery! When I investigated the Sarah Joe, I had the adventure of sailing on a United States Coast Guard buoy tender through the Marshall Islands to Taongi. I was the only female on board for the four-day mission. The bad news is that I discovered that I get seasick and cannot swim to save my life!

Now, having said all this, I ask you: is there really any other career even worth considering?

The Leaky Writer

The Plumber

I’m not thinking about straight-ahead journalism here. Not news reporting, scientific papers, pure history or anything of that ilk. I’m thinking about the creative writer, the fiction author, the storyteller or the humorist. I’m absolutely talking about the poet and that special kind of writer whose genre cannot be defined.

I’m thinking about the story behind the story. It’s all about the leaky writer.

It’s cliche to even mention that all writers are ultimately writing about themselves. Sure, the thought is worn down, overused, just accepted as part of the writing game. But it’s also true and it’s an enormous slice of the reading experience, if you pay attention.

We read the story, the novel, the screenplay, whatever. We like it. The characters are compelling, the story line moves us in some way that we appreciate. But underneath it all, hidden behind every scene and each character who slides through the pages, lurks the life of the writer. It’s the leaky writer syndrome and it’s universal.

Sometimes we aren’t even aware of the leaky writer. His or her personal story goes unnoticed, camouflaged by the plot and the players. That other layer sleeps deeply and may never rise to the surface. Even in these cases, it’s there. It’s always lying in wait for the reader, for just that right and careful reader.

Creative writers are leaky writers. It’s not an intentional action, not some subtle plan designed to layer two or more stories into a single piece of work. In fact, the leaky writer doesn’t usually know he or she is leaky, at first. That subtle story comes out later, maybe in the editing process, maybe in a later draft. Sometimes the back story lies dormant for years or decades and only surfaces later in life.

Many excellent writers never recognize their own leaky writing. It’s an unconscious process, a free-form exercise in art and storytelling that just happens in the background. They write a single story but they are telling two, or even more. It’s their own back story that serves as the foundation for all they have created. It’s the very soul of their art.

Drip emitter

Do you recognize these leaks when you read? Sometimes they are so subtle, so diffuse, that they almost disappear. Still, they are lurking back there, just waiting to surprise you when you least expect it. These are the hidden treasures, the path that leads you back into the writer’s heart and mind.

When you write, do you see your own leaks? Are you even aware of them?

I’m not. Mine all happen in the dark and I usually don’t recognize them until much later, if at all. Sometimes, a close friend or lover can ferret them out, point directly at them, and slap you across the head with an outcome. Sometimes they just stay dormant, maybe forever. Even when they seem to disappear, they are critical to the writing process. It’s the heart of the art.

Does this happen to you? I’ll bet it does, all the time. If you’re a creative writer, you’re a leaky writer. In fact, if you’re an artist of any kind, you’re just filled with leaks, always working at least two story lines at the same time, usually unaware of what’s going on behind the scenes. Your art is at least half an unconscious process, a wonderful synergy that makes creation meaningful and fun.

Go back and look at something you wrote a while ago, maybe years ago. Read it for the hidden story line, looking for the leaks. Sniff out those little tells, that subtle tapestry behind the story you created inside your piece of art. Over the years, you’ll find your personal story in those leaks. You’ll discover a little more about who you are as a person and an artist.

So, the next time you read for pure pleasure, keep an eye out for those leaks. They are just waiting to be discovered. In them you’ll find the soul of the writer and his or her story.

Richard Nixon may have needed plumbers but you don’t. Keep loving those leaks.

Gregor Spanks Geezers, Just a Little

GregorGregor has been handing out a lot of spankings lately. He thinks there is something in his well water that makes this happen.

Today, he wants to spank geezers, just a little.

Gregor is a geezer, so he knows the wayness of old. He cannot be deceived by studies, rumors, or philosophical debates when it comes to geezerness. Gregor has experience and he will not be silenced by conventional wisdom.

There are some aspects of geezerness that are good, some not so good. Gregor understands the yin-yang dwaddle of all things. So, he’ll try to stay balanced.

Whining. Gregor does not like whiners of any variety, at any age, under any circumstances. He also believes that geezer whining is the worst. It should be made illegal. Geezer whiners should be taxed, heavily. Now, Gregor understands that geezers may have cause to whine, at least in their own minds. Lots of geezers have aches, pains, bumps, grinds and lousy bowel movements. So, what? Since it’s the nature of geezerness to have these issues, why tell everyone in the world about it? Everyone already knows about these things. Gregor suggests that his fellow geezers lighten-up and quit stating the obvious. No one appreciates a bore. No one wants to read the same chapter over and over again.

GeezerStay slow. Rushing around is for the young. Gregor used to keep the pedal to the metal, every day in every way. But he’s gotten wiser over the years. There’s a deep beauty to slowness, to proper pacing. It’s like Tai Chi. Better to do it slowly than the alternative. Gregor believes that the destination is in the journey. He likes to look out the window, wonder at the passing scenery. So, why all the rushing around? Makes no sense to Gregor. Keep it easy, friend geezer.

Don’t be cheap. Gregor’s not talking about money, he’s talking about sharing yourself. If you have something to share, why not just put it out there? If you live long enough to see something important, say so. Don’t be cheap with all the stuff you’ve collected over the years. Gregor wants you to share, carefully. He shares, carefully. Sometimes, geezers have something to say that’s not whining. When they do, it sometimes makes sense. It’s good to offer wisdom to others, so long as they ask for it. Don’t just hang it out there like a dead fish, unannounced. But, when someone asks, give it freely.

Stop acting like Judge Judy. This is the worst of the worst for geezers. Always judging, always interpreting according to ancient, hackney customs and styles. What’s that all about? People are different, thank the gods. Just learn to accept it and stop being threatened by these differences. Geezers should know better. After all, if you’ve been around this long, why not develop some tolerance for differences and diversity? Everything doesn’t have to be in accordance with those ancient, perfect, flawed visions of your younger years. Why not enjoy change, just a little? It won’t kill you. Gregor doesn’t appreciate people who mock his failed lobotomy or judge him by his head wrap. Would you? So, don’t be one of those draggy old geezers.

Make some young friends. You’ve got to have some good cards to play if you want to stay in the game. You don’t want nothing but a vast sea of old geezers from which to draw inspiration. Keep in touch with the younger folk. They usually have much more interesting things to offer, and they typically don’t repeat themselves so much. Instead of focusing on tricky bowel movements and the good old days, why not learn about something a bit more contemporary? Check out the younger generation. They’re the movers and shakers, just like you were a long time ago. Find out what’s happening in the real, bigger world outside your wrinkles.

Boo HooNuke the nostalgia. Gregor hates nostalgia. Now, that doesn’t mean remembering is a bad thing. It’s helpful and sometimes interesting. But, all of this longing, pining away, for the good old days is pure doo-doo. It’s a complete drag for everyone involved. Those days were yesterday, remember? Learn from them. Share the memories if asked. Never bore the universe with verbal tales of past times that wind around the mountain and end up at the same old trail head. It’s just plain dull. It’s nostalgia at its worst. You know what I mean, don’t you old geezer? Are you guilty? Well, stop it!

Humor. Yep, it’s the magic pill of old age. Lose your humor and you begin to shrivel like last month’s mushroom. You need to laugh, every day. Find a way to make that happen and then spread it around. It’s your job to find the fun in life and share it. If you can’t uncover a good laugh, blow your nose, take your enema, and try a little harder. Of all the supplements you could take, humor is the most powerful, the most long-lasting. Gregor likes to laugh. Don’t you? No? You better get with the program, stuffy geezer. You need to laugh to get on the train to somewhere.

Don’t be a know-it-all. Since everyone you meet already understands that you don’t know it all, why try to convince them that you do? Silly old geezer. Relax and learn. Listening is an art, so give it a try.

Get techie. Gregor understands that tech stuff is difficult for geezers. He struggles with it all the time. But technology is here to stay, and it’s wonderful. Dip your toe into the pool and learn to swim around with others. It’s powerful, empowering, and it’s very “today.” Techies know stuff, very interesting stuff. You still want to learn, don’t you? You don’t know it all, right? So, get techie and see what you can pick up along the way. Have some fun. Make some friends. Get groovy for a change.

Comrade Barking OrdersKick fear in the ass. Remember when you were young? Remember that feeling of invulnerability? Well, that’s yesterday, so quit worrying about it. There’s nothing more to fear today unless you keep searching for it under every rock and shadow. Shed the worry skin and take a good, long look at all the potential fun and interesting things around you. How about those fascinating people that cruise through your life? Aren’t they more meaningful than fretting about whether your thyroid will blow up if you eat too many clams? Perspective is a good thing. Balance is even better. Keep to the middle and spank those frivolous fears. They’re nothing more than the ghosts of an uninvolved, starving mind. Step out and stretch a little.

Live large. Gregor knows that geezerness is a winding road. But it’s also a chance to reach out, to try something new and fun. You may be riding a mule rather than a quarter horse, but it’s still a good ride. Take it to a new direction, to a place you’ve never been, toward that dream you filed away so many years ago. Live large, every day. You’ll be a much happier geezer if you get involved and live it up.

Gregor lives here.