I’M BACK!!!!

I’M BACK!!!!

Friends, amigos, Freunde! Sorry for the absence. I got manic in August and poetry took over. Seriously. And I do mean took over. Sometimes four a day. It was so bad, one night I was leaving my son’s place and he said: “Damn, dad, the Muse is raping you.”

The next morning I wrote a poem about “My Muse.”  And you know, some people say: “Poetry?”

And I reply “Well . . . yeah.”

Did you know in forty years of writing I’ve been a military journalist, a city hall reporter, a news service editor, a magazine feature writer and college writing instructor? I’ve written a volume of short stories (Ganja Tales);  a novel I couldn’t sell (“Free Fall”) and three marijuana screenplays (I’m trying to sell): Ganja Tales, Southern Bud and The Osipenko File.

Now poetry.

Thus, you can see I’m a writing fool. Not too many of me left around. This statement leads me, in effect, back to my topic, which is: What’s your blog about, Craig?

Hell, I don’t know! Stuff. Stuff you like to read; stuff I like to write for you. Things that hit home.

Truths others avoid. A sense of humor through all the pain. Kind, like you I bet. Because we’re all living the same life, breathing the same air, hurting over the same things; we’re all just loving and crying; living and dying, winning and losing and trying to keep going. So yeah, plenty to write about there!

Thanks again for reading. Your eyes are worth more than money to me.  

 

Cherries with a Whiff of Death

Cherries with a Whiff of Death.

My wife does most of the grocery shopping because I am either too depressed or too creative to go out. In the first instance I just don’t feel like talking to anyone, and in the second I’m too busy running around with a net trying to catch all the words tumbling out of my brain.

So the outer world for me is a real push-pull deal. On one hand, I know I need to get out and interact with other human beings (I sometimes go for days without ever leaving my apartment). On the other hand, such interactions more often than not  remind me that I am a dog in a roomful of cats, a rabbit among wolves.

Besides, when I do get out I find new concerns to get depressed about. Why? Because someone I care for is hurting, and that makes me hurt. This happened the other day when I went to the grocery store. You can shop at a lot of places, so I shop where I get along with the people, right? Just like you do.

So there’s a woman who supervises the front end of the store where I shop. She’s so gay; I just love her so. She gets my sense of humor and always makes me laugh.

She’s not tall and she’s not big, so I’d say she’s just above petit. Neither is she a stroller: her walk is more of a diddy-bop with a dash of bounce in it. I’ll bet she’s a great dancer.

Quick to smile and take a joke, she’s got a round face suggesting Cancerian underpinnings. Her straight hair comes down just below her ears and over the back of her neck, and I’d say she’s around 50.

Her hair … that’s how the repartee between her and me got started about three years ago when I began shopping there. You see, she puts a streak of color in it. Constantly. So I got to saying to her when I shopped: “What color is your hair today,” and it would be pink, but blue tomorrow and purple the next.

From hair color it was easy for me to slip into my shtick about how I’m imprisoned in the basement each day by my horrible wife (whom she can plainly see checking out with our groceries), only to be let up for supper IF I’ve hit my quota of writing pages for the day.

And she says “Well, you must be a very bad boy.”

The nerve of that woman!

So the other day I was talking with her and she asked me how long my wife, Sandy, and I have been married. More than forty years, I replied. And she looked over at Sandy checking out at the register, then back at me, put on a sad face and said: “I feel so sorry for Sandy.”

I flared in mock outrage. My great golden dragon eyes blazed like dual suns, almost setting her on fire. “I am going to get you for that!” I cried.

I just love her so. Have I told you that? She is one of the few who “get” me.

So I went to buy a few things the other day and the new front-end supervisor told me my friend was in the hospital with her 11-year-old granddaughter who just had a brain operation, one of many. No!

I felt so sad leaving. And of course later, at home, my mind drifted to her as I ate some of the cherries I’d purchased. And they were delicious. I therefore couldn’t help but think that life can be sweet, but bitter, too.

 

Good News!

Good News!

My Southern Bud cannabis comedy was one of 17 winners at Scriptapalooza’s worldwide comedy short contest, putting me in the top 4 percent of the entrants. https://goo.gl/w47L58 Bottom line? Winning scripts are sent to their network of producers, managers and agents to start relationships with the new writers. As for me, I’m ready, willing and able. LOL.

And just last week I thought Atlas Entertainment Director of Development Topher Rhys-Lawrence was going to jump at the full-length Southern Bud screenplay when he said it has “humor and heart.” Alas, I believe the genre mashup threw him: Antebellum cannabis comedy. What can I say? My freaking mind goes all over the place!

 Moreover, back in June Southern Bud was a quarterfinalist in ScreenCraft’s annual comedy feature competition. https://goo.gl/EEBZWQ

 Ah swear, this li’l ol’ Antebellum comedy featuring five gorgeous Southern Belles keeps turning heads, just as the ladies do! Only a matter of time now.

 

The Writing Begins Every Morning at 5

The writing begins every morning at 5. Grab a pen and jump on in!

 

Hey now Mary, Jane or Simon

Are you handy with your rhyming?

 Matthew, John, and maybe Saint Peter

Can you hammer Iambic pentameter?

 If that is you and you won’t be late,

We’ll hand you a pen and say Welcome, Mate!

 

~~ by Craig Pugh

July 20, 4:28 a.m. Crescent Moon in Omaha, Nebraska, 2017.

July 20, 4:28 a.m. Crescent Moon in Omaha, Nebraska, 2017.

What a plucky crescent moon it was that rose with such deliberate determination yesterday morning from the black pit of despair known as Iowa, pushing past great cloud-clots trying to smother it, dodging lightning bolts trying to electrocute it. And climbing, ascending … rising. Slipping past the Pleiades, headed for Aldebaran.

Now, some of you may point to a certain song claiming the moon to be a harsh mistress. Permit me to disagree, if I may. I propose the moon is the gentlest lover you may ever encounter. Temperamental? A little. But who isn’t these days?

Yours Truly,

Just Another Electron Orbiting Omaha

 

 

 

 

Watch Linda Ronstadt “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” on YouTube!

Just Another Bug Bangin’ Around a Lampshade

Just Another Bug Bangin’ Around a Lampshade

It’s four o’clock in the morning – par for the course for this insomniac – and I’m sitting on a chair staring numbly at the floor waiting for the coffee to brew.

I see upon a nearby candle a kamikaze moth in ever-closer swoops and dives flirting with the flame, zinging in and out of it, his bold wings fluttering with excitement, near burning on the fringes. Divine wind.

When I blow the flame out, I hear the hapless fellow banging around the inside of my lampshade, frustrated at having his destiny denied.

Oh Icarus! Do you not know that if you fly too close to the sun you will die a fiery death?

(I used to think immolation had to do with incineration, as in Buddhist monk, Saigon street, circa 1968. Actually the word is worth a study: immolare – to sprinkle with meal before sacrificing.)

Moth to the flame: what an awesome metaphor. And just working with the image you can get a black hole metaphor, a magnet, an electron and proton. What else comes to your mind? Certainly a femme fatale and her suitors, no Comrades? Or me with hot chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven; or for that matter, hot anything coming out of the oven.

If you haven’t read Don Marquis, a marvelous New York City writer, editor, columnist and playwright in the 1920s, please look him up. He’s worth your time. He created Archy, a cockroach poet; and Mehitabel, an alley cat claiming to be Cleopatra reincarnated.  www.donmarquis.com/life-and-times. A great and wonderful whimsical poet, he writes of an interview with a moth, and he asks the moth: Why do you fellows fly into the flame? The answer is fascinating.

Donald Robert Perry Marquis lived from 1878-1937. He was a wonderful writer and I’m glad to keep his good name alive by mentioning him this day, July 9, 2017, a peaceful full moon Sunday morning here on planet Earth.

Such good stuff! I love a good story. Who doesn’t? And it’s vitally important we keep telling stories, because a culture without story is a dead culture. Long ago a Persian king said seize what sweet things you may because soon you will be ashes and a song. Look, wind will blow the ashes away, but the story – set in the minds of others and told by descendants – lives forever.

As I wish you good reading and writing this coming week, permit me to ask this question, if I may: Are you the moth … or are you the flame?

I normally sign off as “The Depressive Insomniac from Omaha,” but you can see today that the proper sign-off is:

Just Another Bug Bangin’ Around a Lampshade.

Little Miss Smarty Pants, aka The Professor’s Daughter

Part II of my Seattle story

Little Miss Smarty Pants, aka The Professor’s Daughter

First sale? My heart leaps. She is one of those child-women with barely a hip or a breast to display in her storefront window. But proud, imperial. Erect carriage, shoulders held back.

“My father is a college professor,” she declared, locking eyes with mine. And when she drew her voice from its scabbard I saw that it was a stiletto: thin and  sharp and deadly.

A wasp, then — complete with stinger.

“Cool,” I said. “So you’re probably a reader.”

“Only certain things,” she informed me.

Look Lady. I get it. You don’t read trash from fools. Neither do I.

“Well good for you,” I reply. “I’m rather discriminate myself when it comes to my reading choices.

I didn’t tell her that I teach English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha or that libraries are cathedrals I’ve worshipped in all my life; that I can’t breathe without reading; that I’ve read more books than anyone she knows or ever will know.

No, I stay minimalist around people like her.

Who cares? No one.

What’s the point? There isn’t one.

I hand her a copy of Ganja Tales, saying:  “You’re bound to like some of these stories, then.”

But she won’t take the book. She puts her arm out to stop it: the palm of her hand up. Can you believe it? Years of work and She doesn’t want to touch my baby.

 And then the ultimatum. “If you can show me one word in your book I do not understand,” she says, “I’ll buy it.”

Man, why you got to be like that? I want to tell her that I was a working journalist for 13 years before I went back to school for an English M.A. and began teaching college writing courses for over a decade; that the nine stories in the Ganja Tales volume can’t surely be all that bad; that I just maybe had some idea of what I was doing. (Who cares? No one.)

I tell her about the value of keeping sentences and words short in fiction, that it’s always been this way, that most great writers keep comprehension around the fifth-grade level because they want to sell books, not impress people with big words.

I told her I was no exception, that if she wanted big words she should read a few academic treatises on, say, quantum physics; or perhaps tackle a passel of research papers from Ph.D. candidates in molecular biology. But big words in a collection of cannabis short stories? Please.

Anyway, Little Miss Smarty Pants, aka the Professor’s Daughter, glares at me for a microsecond, sticks her pretty little nose even higher in the air and walks away with an irritable “Humph!”

Crestfallen, I glance across the sidewalk just in time to see the Green Goddess move, startling yet another group of fascinated people who gasp in amazement and gently place money in the bowl at her feet; but slowly, so as not to startle the aloof majesty of this green idol.

Look man, like I said: I wrote a book. That’s it, that’s all I got — a book. I can’t jump into a bikini and paint myself green to appear naked. Well, I could, but neither you nor I would like that. It’s so not me. Besides, it would only make me feel cheaper and dirtier than I already do.

The Long Road Back to Omaha

Three books. That’s what we sold that day. Can you imagine the ride home my wife and I had? We didn’t want to load all those boxes back in the Blazer and return to Omaha with them. We wanted to return to Omaha with a pocketful of money for another press run!

You know, my dramatic cannabis screenplay, Ganja Tales, has Seattle as journey’s end for Tony and his epileptic sister. I have no idea why I wrote Seattle in. That town broke my heart – and my bank account! We went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Come to think of it, that’s how the Blazer got repo’d. What can I say?

And no, my wife didn’t leave me for being a loser. She’s still here, still doing all she can to help make my writing dreams come true. After all these years. As Confederate President Jefferson Davis says to the crowd in my cannabis comedy, Southern Bud, while lauding Miss Juicy Fruit for rescuing the Ganja Tales books from the Yankees: “Now there’s a woman!”

Anyway, there’s one guy who bought a book that day in Seattle, and he actually reconnected with me just last year – 16 years later. He’s Jake Wiest, from Portland, although he’s been living in Germany the past year, as I did once. Please look him up. Do anything you can for him. He’s most deserving. He bought a Ganja Tales book from me in Seattle 17 years ago and reconnected years later. Now there’s a guy I’m proud to call a friend!

But mark these words of woe, Dear Friends, and remember: It’s true some repo men in Omaha will take your car; but they got some 420 cats at the Seattle hempfest who will carve the heart clean out of your chest.

To you who still go to the magnificent Seattle Hempfest — one of the finest in the world, they say – with its VIP tents, elite smoking booths and all the right players in the 420 world to gawk at; to you who half-step the narrow paths at Myrtle Edwards Park, please: If you happen to see an old, bruised heart on the ground, pick it up and mail it back to me, would you?

Just address it to: “The Depressive Insomniac Who Lives in Omaha.”

A Poem for Seattle

I went to skip a pretty rock across a Seattle pond

To watch it hopscotch: bing! bing! bing! in glorious flight.

 

But it sank instead, and I watched the ripples

With dread. Those ever-widening rings of depression

Lapping toward me. I turned to run but couldn’t.

My feet were rooted to the ground. Numbness was rising.

Legs, thighs, waist and chest. Then the heart.

 

Ever-widening rings of depression: killing my spirit

Numbing my soul, strangling laughter. Murdering mirth.

The Naked Green Goddess Who Cashed In Big at the Seattle Hempfest

Part I of my Seattle Story

Boobs I do not Have; Sex I Cannot Sell

When the sun nudged night off the ledge in Seattle 17 years ago it found my wife and me lugging boxes of Ganja Tales books to a little spot along a winding path at Myrtle Edwards Park.

Seattle HempFest

Can you imagine the excitement? I’d just spent two years writing nine marijuana short stories. Now I’ve paid thousands of dollars to have them printed up in Kansas City and I’ve driven them all the way to Seattle. The ink is only just dry on these babies – all 2,500 of them. And I’m going to sell out the entire press run at the world’s biggest hempfest.

When the boxes are stacked, I fish out a few Ganja Tales books and set them in a nice display on a makeshift table. I then connect the three pieces of a bamboo fishing pole I use for a flagpole, and work the thick end into the ground, watching the green ganja pennant my wife sewed flap proudly in the chill breeze. She and I also stretch taut the big red banner with the huge yellow GANJA TALES sewn on it. This, too, she made for the trip.

And that giant laminated poster of the Ganja Tales book cover featuring Regulus, the ganja iguana? Yep. Got it. Finally, after four days and a long trek from Nebraska weighted down with thousands of pounds of books, we were ready to roll, ready to sell some books and talk to some good people. Yes, Virginia, dreams do come true, and hard work and determination do pay off.

Enter a lithe woman, perhaps 22, to stand on a spot across the sidewalk from us. She has no banner, no booth, nothing to sell. Only herself. She is green from head-to-toe. Her short hair set with a tiny tiara, her  eyelashes, her nails — all of her – green; green dusted with a light coat of fluorescent silver.

And since she’s wearing a bikini or skin suit of some type, she appears naked. Of course I command my eyeballs to stop staring at this brazen hussy, but the disobedient orbs in my head, such wild dogs as they are, refuse.

The Devil take me! I keep throwing glances her way, wondering the nature of her game. I don’t have long to wait. The first dribs and drabs of people amble up the path and they, too, are drawn to the Green Goddess, as I called her, like a powerful magnet: drawn to her cold and frozen beauty.

You see: she was a statue, unmoving and completely still.

And I’m looking at ten people with their backs to me staring at the goddess asking: Is she real? And just about then she flicks, say, one finger for one instant. And people freak. “Oh my God!” they exclaim. “She is real!”

And they drop money into the bowl at her feet, then move on up the path, oblivious to li’l ol’ me and my book of marijuana short stories. Oh that Green Goddess is real, all right, and getting richer by the minute. Sigh.

My book took me two years to write out here on the blazing prairie they call Nebraska in what little spare time I had between teaching classes and grading stacks of English compositions. Late nights, early mornings, weekends … walled off in a room with a shut door. Alone. Writing.

And now people walk past and won’t even look my way, much less stop and talk.

The dribs and drabs of 420 folk became a trickle, but I couldn’t sell a book to save my life. It was about then I realized what a huge mistake I’d made. You know the feeling. Yeah, that one. Be brave you tell yourself, don’t lose your dignity.

And every time I look up the Green Goddess has a small crowd watching her. Sometimes she moves, sometimes she doesn’t. Periodically, her boyfriend, I assume,  comes by to gather up the green harvest of never-ending money she draws to herself. Friends, she may have been a Green Goddess, but verily, I say to you: She was the Goose Who Kept Laying Golden Eggs. All day long.

Me? I got a ganja book dead on arrival and a long ride back to Omaha, complete with shame and embarrassment burning hotter than a magnesium flare in my guts.

How can it possibly be that there’s more than 100,000 marijuana smokers in this here Seattle park and not one of ‘em interested in a book of cannabis short stories? Upon my word, I just never, in a million years, saw that one coming!

Well, it’s mid-day now. The trickle is a flood and the sidewalk’s clogged. Walking anywhere would be near-impossible. And I still haven’t sold a book. (God, just shoot me. Or lightning. Got a spare bolt to strike me dead with?)

 And now comes a pretty little thing in a cute summer dress skipping down the primrose path in Myrtle Edwards Park, and I don’t know it yet, but she’s going to crush my heart.

 

Next week: “Miss Smarty Pants, aka the Professor’s Daughter.”

 

Notes, Slag, Wood chips on the Shop Floor, Considerations and Et Ceteras …

 I know it’s 2017 and there’s people out there waiting to pounce on anything and everything, so let me say this about the word hussy.

But first of all, have I told you I’m married and have a daughter and a granddaughter and Venus on my Leo ascendant which sextiles my natal Neptune? So if you now these words you know that I am, like all humans, both yin and yang, sun and moon, male and female. (Thank you for this consideration. I will now proceed with my discourse.)

If I only call the Green Goddess a woman, that gets old in a hurry. To do so would simply not be “writerly.” So, what were my choices? Trollop, wench and hussy.

It took me 15 minutes of research, another ten minutes of thought and contemplation and, finally, a conversation with my wife before I went with hussy because it was the only word with a non-sexual reference. Honest. Please look it up like I did if you don’t like the word. Actually, it’s quite innocent.

So cool your jets. There’s no argument here. Words are the colors I use to paint. I get along fine with most folks, but not those who try and take my words. Don’t ever try and take my precious words from me, never; for that would initiate a death match. I will not part with my words. In my birth chart, you will see my gentle Moon (frightfully!) parked for all eternity next to angry Mars in Scorpio. And what’s he do? Why, the rascal  squares my Pluto in Leo!

So many Hiroshimas, so many Nagasakis.  Yes, I die a thousand deaths each day. But I regenerate, I keep coming back. I, indestructible,  am Phoenix rising, growing stronger with each return.

I prevail.

I’m a writer. That’s what we do.

Who Dat Creepin’ Through da Hood? It’s the Repo Man

Who Dat Creepin’ Through da Hood? It’s the Repo Man

I write from 5 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day at the kitchen table looking out a window to a parking lot and a dumpster. So I see a lot of stuff.

And I’ll be damned if I’m not watching a car in the lot get repo’d this pleasant mid-morning. It came up from Texas a few weeks back — a nice, new brown Hyundai. Black dude out there talking to what looks like an insurance chick. He’s being reasonable and she’s not glaring or mad: she’s just taking his ride. Bummer.

She is early thirties and big-boned with shoulder-length brown hair, wavy arms and authoritarian gestures. Her pale-yellow capri pants are too tight, especially for a gal sporting thick thighs and a butt like hers. She steps about in high heels, and her dusty rose-colored jacket – alas, too short to be called fashionable – ends at her belly. Off and on her cellphone, she keeps throwing glances at the tow truck driver standing next to his rig smoking a cigarette a short distance away, waiting for the signal to tow.

He reminds me of myself at 16 smoking one summer with fellow grave diggers at a Catholic cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, waiting for mourners to leave so we could get to work. It was the height of Vietnam, and we buried a Marine a day. I close my eyes and smell the mound of fresh dark earth piled by the grave; hear the muffled sobs of the grieving wife; yet still see the black veil and the crumpled white handkerchief soaked with tears.

I’m glad the black guy with the Hyundai didn’t get rowdy. I bet he knew that if it came down to him or the authoritarian white girl with a big ass and Mississippi plates on her bright-white car that she would win. Let it go, my Brother.

It’s rough where I live. People hang on, try to keep going somehow, try to patch lives together on part-time jobs with no benefits. Know what I mean?

Shit, I got repo’d once. Surreal. Neither my wife nor I heard the driver or his chains when he towed our Chevy Blazer off in the middle of the night years ago. You wake up and your car’s gone. (You only wish it were stolen; then you could maybe get it back. But a repo? Nope. Gone.)

I really liked that teal-green Blazer with a tan interior. My wife and I drove it to Seattle in 2000 loaded with my Ganja Tales book of stoner short stories. From Omaha to the Seattle Hempfest to sell out the entire press run of 2,500 copies at the world’s biggest 420 festival. So exciting to plan and execute!

And then we drove into the jaws of the dragon. Round trip of 3,320 miles. Six long days of hard driving. Total fuel requirement: 200 gallons. Night driving, dangerous driving in mountains, constant hunger. Shoved with 100,000 other souls onto a narrow piece of windy land bordered on one  side by cold water filled with police boats. Overhead, police helicopters. Clopping around the ground on huge horses? Mounted police. Walking up and down the sidewalk? More police. Look, I’m from Nebraska. I like to see a mile or two in front of me. I don’t like being fenced in. Makes me nervous. And all those cops. What’s up with that? You’re at the world’s so-called biggest dope festival and you’re afraid to light one up. WTF?

And then – wait for it – we sold three books. Please, just shoot me. Can you imagine the long drive back to Omaha? We bet the farm on that West Coast 420 trip, and lost it.

A few months later the teal-green Blazer was repossessed, and I was teaching freshman composition at a junior college in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, buried alive.

Three books. What can I say?

Look, I’m an artist. I have to take chances. That’s what the game I play is all about. So I’m not ashamed; I can’t be. I would only be ashamed if I hadn’t taken the shot, because one day I will take the shot … and make it. Like ol’ Karl, the lonesome ghost of Omaha, I just have to keep swinging that sledge, pounding down those words.

Persistence and passion. I’m wishing the same for you, Dear Reader, no matter what your art is. Keep at it: there’s joy in your creation – and discovery, too. No better voyage than that!

Anyway, next week I’ll tell you about the Green Goddess who cashed in at the Seattle Hempfest, as well as the snooty professor’s daughter who wouldn’t buy my book because “the words were too simple.”

Until then, stay creative, keep resisting the white noise and lies of the Industrial World, and be persistent with your art.

I am The Depressive Insomniac in Omaha Otherwise Known As

Craig Pugh

Lonesome Ghosts in Old Buildings

Lonesome Ghosts in Old Buildings

Karl and the Paddle-Wheel Steamer from Saint Joseph

OMAHA – Karl rode up on a paddle-wheel steamer in 1870 to work in the massive Union

Pacific maintenance train yard here when Omaha was a claptrap shanty village of wooden piers, saloons, stables and whorehouses sprawling along the muddy west bank of the Missouri River.

Freezing winter, sweltering summer, he swung that hammer, slamming the great Iron Horse locomotives back into service on the track hauling cattle and grain. It was the Iron Age, and forges roared.

Then Karl, dreaming of his baby, longing for his wife —  saving his pay check to bring them up from Saint Jo — caught a fatal pneumonia and died, shivering blue, in his one-bedroom apartment one bitter-cold January morning.

Problem was, he didn’t cross over. He waited, for 150 years, in the apartment pictured below — waited at the window overlooking the Missouri River valley from whence his sweetheart and baby girl would come.

Karl wasn’t a bad sort. (The bad ones are down in the basement in the storage bins. You only go down there with a friend and a flashlight in case the electricity fails, and God help you if you ever get stuck down there alone one night.)

It’s just that Karl became inconvenient when my son and his fiancée moved into the apartment. I mean, there Karl was: bumping around all the time — not in a mean way, you understand; but just aimlessly floating from one window to another. My son didn’t see him, but his fiancée did. She sees lots of things like Karl.

So my wife worked at the time with a woman who saw the same things my son’s fiancée does. She came over and the three of them stood in a circle holding hands, calling Karl. They prayed, they chanted, they became light-energy. (I wasn’t there. I had no business being there. I am incapable of channeling Divine Feminine Wisdom and Spiritual Love.) The ladies — Sandra, Melissa and Laurie — told Karl the tables had turned and that it was his family waiting for him now, waiting for their long-lost Karl. So go, Karl — just go. Via con Dios and bon voyage!

Resistance at first, but then . . . release, the spiraling updraft of Karl’s spirit taking wing, flying home at long last.

Do you have ESP? I often wish I did. Of course I’m a great believer in the spiritual component of life. That belief led me to get spirituality into my Ganja Tales screenplay, the story I wrote before my two cannabis comedies.

In Ganja Tales, spirituality appears in the form of Tiffany, an ex-stripper. She has a great scene in the screenplay up on a pole. Friends, if I had a quarter for every time I rewrote that scene to make it as perfect as I could I’d be able to buy a ticket and come visit you. I cried like a baby for days when I killed her, so real she’d become to me.

Tiffany is the B Character, the one who teaches protagonist Tony a lesson of love that mends his broken heart.  So they’re smoking a cigarette late the first night out of Omaha. They’re in Western Nebraska and I have to clash them up because this is drama and only conflict is interesting; so the conflict is that Tiffany is spiritual and Tony isn’t – not after what he saw as a combat medic in Iraq. So they clash in dialogue and the scene wraps up and Tiffany says “That’s fine, Tony, but tell you what. I’ll be waiting for you, just remember that.”

And he says “Waiting for what? For me to come around?” And she gives him a drop-dead stare and says: ”That’s right, Tony. Waiting at the bus stop for you to come around.”

Film is such a great medium to play with. Complex, but fun. Like the opposite sex, right? Ha!

And yes, I’m glad you asked. I also used a ghost who wouldn’t cross over in my Ganja Tales screenplay. My particular ghost was a 10-year-old white girl who was kidnapped by two Sioux braves one night when she left the wagon train to draw water from the creek along the Oregon trail, kidnapped and never repatriated.

“I don’t suppose you see that little girl down there by the creek?” Tiffany asks Tony. “Nope,” he says. “Can’t say I do.” Tiffany explains how the girl’s ghost comes back every year looking for her family, how she died with the Sioux years later when U.S. Cavalry attacked her village one day with sabers flashing, cutting down women and children.

“Tony!” Tiffany cries. “The snow was red with their blood!”

Now it’s his turn to play a card. Tony gives her the drop-dead look and says: “Funny, you saw blood-soaked snow; I saw blood-soaked sand.”

Do you live in an old place with ghosts?

I do. Picture two long apartment buildings facing one another and set vertical to the street as you walk in. Room for six residences on each side. It was built a hundred years ago for railroad workers. So of course people have over the decades died here, cried here, killed themselves here or been killed here: and yes, created life here. Probably lots of it.

Indeed, like you, no doubt, where I live is a tiny speck of a teeming microcosm in the planetary petri dish. But what a microcosm!  It bursts with life. I can hardly sleep at night. Sometimes, swinging in my traces, the wind whistling and Orion wheeling by overhead, I hear dead residents, their whispers and dreams, begging me to shine light, begging me to tell their story and set them free.

I’m pretty sure the ladies got Karl home a few years back. But if perchance you should see him, point to Saint Jo and give him a friendly push, won’t you? I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

~~

Here’s an interesting article about steamboat travel on the Missouri river:

Steamboat Travel Was Dirty And Dangerous, Especially On The Missouri River

 

Here is a forge story I wrote a few years ago, “Pound It Down, Daddy,” for a local rag.