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Welcome to my website. I hope you will enjoy the eclectic collection of short stories and essays. They are all very close to my heart, in whichever genre. I always welcome comments and feedback. Once again, I hope you enjoy my site. Thank you.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Mother's Love Never Dies

  • inspired by the song "All that love from here" by Wynonna Judd 

Robert’s mother, Sarah, had died five years ago.  They, as well as the rest of the family had always been very close.

“As long as I have a place to live, you have a place to live,” his mother once said to him when he was falling on hard times.

He had graduated from college, but could not find work.  He majored in finance in college; however, because of the sputtering economy and the woes of the housing market, he could not find work.  He settled for a job as manager at a local McDonald’s.  The meager income that he received in a job not measuring up to his skill level barely kept him afloat.  Thus, he lived at home until he could find work matching his abilities.

He awoke every morning at a home that seemed to be much too constrictive for his needs.  He had to be to work 6 days a week.  Usually he opened the store himself while his employees sifted in over the next hour or two.

It was problematic working with such a young group of employees.  Although he was no more than seven years older than most of them, the complexities of having such a staff interfered with the social opportunities of work.  He had other co-workers who were his superiors in the company hierarchy; however, more often than not he worked closely with a group of high school students and those in their late teens.

When his mom had died a few years back, it was a very emotional time for his family.  His brother, George, and his sister, Emily, both flew in from halfway across the country to attend the funeral and the wake.

“Mom always had it hard,” his sister Emily said to her brother Robert before the funeral was to begin. 

Throughout the wake, they enjoyed coffee and each other’s company to celebrate a life.  Emily and George’s kids flew in with their parents across the country, but they were unable to understand the event which centered on a grandmother they never got the opportunity to know.  Robert was still living close to his mother when she passed away and had been in charge of the painful funeral arrangements.

At the funeral, all of Sarah’s children had cried.  However, there were no loud outbursts; instead, they cried in a silent and dignified manner attempting to max their emotions which were very strong.

After her divorce, their mother had moved back to Washington State where her brother and sister lived.  Seattle was close enough to most of them and she used it has an opportunity for personal reflection.  However difficult the divorce was, her family members offered the emotional support she needed to recover.

Today, five years after the funeral, Robert visited his mother’s grave to place flowers.  Every year he took the time as an opportunity to commemorate his mother’s life.  The tears no longer flowed, but his eyes would still get misty. 

Standing there next to her grave, Robert could finally sense the completion of his mother’s life.  He knew that she was in heaven praying for him as he prayed for her.  Death is transitory and it does no good to weep in sorrow for those who are now gone.  It was not only the love for her that remained strong, but also the sense that her love for him remained strong.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

He sat in his room, alone drinking whiskey.  He didn’t have any friends outside of the school setting.  He was sure to get home from school as fast as he could to open up another hard bottle of whiskey.

The first thing in the morning, Thomas poured a cup of coffee and lit up a cigarette.  The thought of facing a day without the solace he found in alcohol was assuming, thus, he poured himself two or three glasses before class.

This routine typified his high school experience.  Despite his drinking, Thomas was able to get into college.  His adequate grades in high school allowed him to make the trek to Chico State in northern California.  He had heard that it was a party school which is what attracted him to the location.  Although he drank heavily, which was characteristic of the other students, his endeavor into the matter guised a different purpose.  His friends in college drank with all the best of intentions, while Thomas drank to the point of belligerence, attempting to mask the all-encompassing sorrow that had become to define his life.

The first night at the dorms was memorable, in that instead of drinking to a stupor within the confines of his home, he did so in the midst of a college party in which he had been immersed.  At the beginning of the night, before his drunken haze kicked in, his mask of depression was hidden well, like it had been during the morning hours in high school.

“Make a move,” one of his recently acquainted roommates said to him.  “She likes you,” he said in reference to the girl who had made her way through the party to sit next to Thomas.

In response to the suggestion, Thomas took another swig of whiskey and chased it with gulp of beer.  He did not know how to talk to her or how to make a forward move.

The party went on.  As the hours past Thomas sank deeper and deeper into the grips of his accustomed inebriation. 

At about 11:00 p.m. at night, it was time to exit the party and retreat to his room.  He stumbled there to relish a few more drinks without the distraction of the party in which he could pursue his own misery.

He brought along the half-empty bottle of whiskey and turned on his stereo to a collection of his particularly depressing CD’s.  It was his endeavor to despair to which he actively pursued.  He put on a Willie Nelson CD.  It had a fine selection of drinking songs which highlighted his mood and helped him wallow even deeper into his personal desolation.

“Whiskey River, take my mind.  Don’t let her memory torture me.  Whiskey River don’t run dry.  You’re all I got to carry me.”(Willie Nelson)

He fought back the tears in a way he didn’t have to while he was in high school.

Over his first two years in college this was the manner in which he led his life.  He was not as transparent in his misery as he believed himself to be.  Although, none of his friends ever mentioned it to him, at times, they discussed it among themselves.

“What we gotta do it to find him a girlfriend,” one of his friends said to another.

Once a girl, one of his friend’s girlfriends finally confided in him.  “Why do you drink so much?”

“I don’t know,” he responded.  Not ready to open up to anybody, not even his close friends. He poised his answer as if he was drinking just to be part of the crowd.

She did not want to be intrusive, so she didn’t mention the oblique depression which he seemed to strive for.  “You’re a smart guy.”  She guided him. 

She didn’t know how to tell him, she couldn’t believe he didn’t know.  But she thought it would be better to tell him.  “Everybody already likes you.  You don’t have to drink so much.”

It didn’t quite hit him then.  He continued to live his life in a bog of self-pity.

After years of depression, one day he woke up and noticed a bright, cool, spring day. 

It was not through his own willpower that he made the discovery.  It was only after complete resignation that he was able to discover that there were actually things to live for.

He woke up the next morning and, once again, the sky was blue and the air was crisp. 

Although he did not have a girlfriend of his own, he and his friend, Peter, and Peter’s girlfriend strolled to one of the neighborhood coffee shops.  It was a magnificent day that he could not ignore.  They sat down and enjoyed a couple of iced coffee’s where there was no more needed to enjoying the day than good conversation.

The next day, Thomas woke up early.  Instead of a hangover, he enjoyed a fresh cup of coffee and a cigarette on his balcony welcoming a new day.  He walked to class with his eyes wide open and as he ventured through campus he could not count all the reasons to live for.  It was another sunny day.  For no reason that he could name he had a smile on his face. 

He got home from class and he put on one of his roommates CD’s.  It was The Beatles Abbey RoadHe stood on his balcony and enjoyed a cigarette and a cool glass of iced tea.  He noticed one of his neighbors.  Her name was Alicia.  Although they had been neighbors for over five months, they did not know each other well.  He gazed upon her auburn hair.

As Thomas basked in the early afternoon spring air, the music played in the background. 

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting.  Little darling, it feels like years since its been here. Here comes the sun and I say.  It’s all right.”(The Beatles)

Alicia looked up at Thomas and flashed him a smile.  He took another sip of ice tea and lit himself another cigarette savoring the invigorating spring day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Father's Love

  • inspired by the song "I'm so happy, I can't stop crying" by Toby Keith

“May I now pronounce you, Man and Wife,” the preacher said without hesitation.  “You may kiss the bride.”

The church, packed with people from front to back, viewed the ceremony after years of anticipation.  Jacob and Shelly had been planning on the wedding for more than a year.  Before that, they had been dating for more than three years.  Much talk around town centered on the topic of when these two would be married.  This conversation was even more prevalent among their closest friends.

The audience all had attended the wedding shower the night before.  The group had gathered at a Hilton in a nearby town and they had shared in a magnificent dinner to celebrate the occasion.  The young and old, from small towns all over the state, shared in the merriments of the wedding.  After the dinner, music played and people danced.  Although neither family was extremely wealthy, they had managed to put together a lavish wedding.

The preacher announced, “You may kiss the bride.”  Shelly’s father let loose the tears that he had been welling up all through the ceremony.  The women, young and old, also passed around handkerchiefs.  The adults in both of the families considered such events to be more just an excuse for festivity, but also events of almost religious magnitude.

The ceremony continued.  The bride and groom walked out the church.  Row by row, the audience followed them out the back door of the church.  After the photos were taken, the bride threw the bouquet and the groom threw the garter belt.

Later that night they were to meet back at the nearby Hilton to share the revelry which is typical after wedding vows.  They hired a DJ and they all danced and listened along with their favorite songs which were specifically chosen for the ceremony.  Along with dinner, much beer, wine, and champagne was served. 

The older guests of the wedding always enjoyed these events that happened every year or two.  It was the first opportunity to experience an occasion such as this for many of the younger people in the audience.  Shelly’s father’s eyes stayed misty through the rest of the event.  The celebrations that incurred at the wedding reception did little to disguise his emotions.

He could remember clearly the day that his daughter had been born.  They had to drive all the way into Atlanta when his wife was ready to give birth.  He stood in the waiting room, patiently anticipating the news from her doctor.  It was to be his first child and the nervousness and anxiety that he felt was palpable.

The doctor entered the room.  “Congratulations, you are now the proud father of a baby girl.”

His eyes remained misty, however, a half-hour later when he was allowed to see his wife and his baby daughter he could not hold back the tears. 

His wife asked, “Would you like to hold your little girl?”  She was wrapped in a pink blanket and, as he cradled her in his arms, tears fell from his eyes.  He knew that the love that he felt for his baby daughter would always be there.  

It was but the beginning of the life of the newborn as it was near the beginning of married life for the young couple.  Their love was strong and as the years past it only grew stronger.  The sentiments of the years created memories and the memories invoked tears.  The family's love matured and evolved into a truly blessed life.  Although it was a simple life, it was that of the most robust emotions of familiar love which endeared them all.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

An Aspiration of Freedom

  • inspired by the song "Is there life out there" by Reba McEntire 

The trials and tribulations of life occupied him from a very young age.  As a youth, barely in junior high school, he took on unwarranted responsibilities.  While still in grammar school, his parents were divorced.  This left his household plagued by financial problems unthought-of before that point.  His mother fell ill while he was still in junior high school, leaving him in charge of the household responsibilities.  His sister, while still in high school, had a child herself.  These circumstances left him without the recourse of enjoying the youthful exploits pursued by his friends.

Recalling a memory from a young age, his mother opened up her checkbook.  He saw the mortgage; it was about $850 and due in less than a week.  The account balance in her checkbook was barely $25.  This was his first concept of money and it ushered him into his role as man of the house.

His duties while in high school included preparing meals for his family and looking over his young nephew.  All the time, he kept in front of him the dream of leaving home and heading off to college.  In college he would have his first opportunity to taste true freedom. 

He studied diligently and made his way through high school as an honors student.  He knew that the hard-work would be rewarded and it would liberate him from a life of poverty. 

Throughout high school he did not bother with the parties and the frivolity in which his friends reveled.  He did not go to the homecoming dance our date one of the many beautiful girls that he knew at his high school. Instead, he came home from school every day and was consumed with the chores of running the household as well as with many hours of studying.  Late in his high school years, he found work delivering newspapers in the middle of the night to keep his family fed.  It was a hard life, but the whole time he dreamt  of the rewards that would come from the hard work.

He visualized college as a chance to live life on his own terms.  He would be far away from home and he would be free to engage in the social activities that were left wanting while in high school.  He chose a college while he was still in his sophomore year in high school.  He worked hard and received a scholarship to The University of Colorado at Boulder.  The social climate and friends he would find there would offer him liberation to pursue an entire host activities which were never before available. 

After four years of high school he stood, on the cusp of graduation and surrounded by the friends that he had never gotten the chance to know as well as he had wanted.  They gathered in the suburbs of Stamford, Connecticut in a park to celebrate.  It was early Summer and the weather suited the occasion.

“I would like to say,” Jonathan began in his high school graduation speech, “that although my years here with you have been very meaningful to me, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that, upon graduation, our lives are only about to begin.  Many of you I have known since I was a young child and many of you I have just gotten to know in the succeeding years.  However, as we embark on the journey of our lives I hope the best memories of our years of high school will stay with us.”

The crowd at the high school graduation fixated on his austere manner that was beyond his years.  Some of the gathering had difficulty not letting the emotions overtake them. 

“During these four years,” he continued.  “Let us all remember all the good times and good friends that we have made and let us remember to not forget them as we continue with our lives.   I wish for you all the best in your life and I wish I could share it with every one of you.”

Upon finishing his speech, the ceremony continued.  They stood in line, and, one by one they received their diploma, cap, and gown.  The festivities were nearing an end.   Jonathan looked out into the crowd and saw tears in his mother’s eyes.  At the end the celebration, the graduating seniors threw their caps into the air in unison to mark the end of the pivotal event that was to initiate the rest of their lives. 

With his graduation, Jonathan’s dreams of independence and freedom would now begin.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Excerpts from the WIP book "The Many Faces of Los Angeles"

Abstract: The Underground Economy

The economy of the greater LosAngeles area is diverse.  It is characterized by wealth in the suburbs and the valleys, and by poverty in the inner-cities.  Gross Domestic Product(GDP), the measure of economic well-being, is much higher in the wealthier areas.  However, GDP is under-stated in the inner-cities and much of the wealth of these areas is disguised by the lack of attribution of the underground, and undocumented, economic activity.

The legitimate economy dominates the more well-off areas of the greater Los Angeles area.  Such economic activity as office work, construction, and retail work rarely goes undocumented.  Thus, the GDP of these areas more accurately describes their economic well-being.   In the inner-cities, much of the economic activity is underground, thus, understating the economic well-being of the populace in these areas.

In the inner-cities, much of the construction work, which accounts for a large portion of the economy, is not reported to government agencies.  Thus, the salaries for these professions, which average well over $50,000 a year, are not taken into account.   Furthermore, small family businesses often follow the same model whereas the incomes and salaries accredited to employers and employees go un-reported.  Therefore, much of the economic activity in the inner-city goes undocumented.  

Another measure of the economy in these areas that is understated in these areas, is the relative cost of living.   While living in the wealthier areas of the city, a hair-cut will often cost $25, while in the more depressed areas of the city the same service can be purchased for slightly upwards of $5.  This is true of many goods and services in the inner-city.  Although the average salary, already under-reported, is less in the city than it is in the suburbs, the cost of living is less in the inner-cities.  Therefore, the standard of living in these two distinct areas is more equitable under closer observation than it is from a rudimentary glance.

The two distinct manifestations of the economy in the wealthier areas as opposed to the more impoverished areas reflect two different sets of economies.  From the perspective of the casual observer, the two different manifestations of the economy represent alarming inequalities.  However, from a neo-classical economical  outlook as well as a functionalist outlook, the economies have evolved independently of one another to create the maximum level of well-being and wealth for all.

Conflict theorists would argue that the two distinct economies are instigated by those in power attempting to maintain their elite position in society.  Thus, the extreme inequities that are perceived  to  exist are said to be attributed to the privileged in our society.  The GDP in these areas are not seen to be understated and the lower salaries and cost of living is said to be engineered to exploit the cheap labor in these areas.

Symbolic-interactionists view the economy to stem from the smaller institutions of society.  They surmise that the economy grew from social institutions such as family, church, and our educational establishments.  The fact that much of the economy is underground is symptomatic of this conception.  Moreover, those the drive the economy often lack the education to formalize their businesses often continuing the family business in the same shape and form that their father’s did.

Post-modernists would welcome the theory espoused earlier by neo-classical economists.  They would also agree with some assumptions of the symbolic-interactionist an to argue that the economy creates maximum utility for itself within the pre-established confines of functionalist confines and from root institutions such as church and familiar structure.  

The theories such as social capital and human capital theory are also welcomed from the perspective of the post-modernist.  The social capital available in the inner-cities is often represented by a large family and a small network of acquaintances.  Thus, from this small amount of social capital is often utilized to find labor and supply employment.  Human capital theory is often helpful in understanding the underground economy in Los Angeles.  The occupants of these areas often have little education, but oftentimes have a strong work-ethic.  The lack of education is offset by the capability of most to learn a trade.  Thus, the economy functions in such a way as to take advantage of the social and human capital available.   Those willing to work, work and the mechanisms of the economy take on a different form according to the skills and attributes of the members of the communities.

The underground economy that has manifested in the inner-cities is thought to be beneficial to it's citizenry by functionalists, creating the maximum possible utility to match those with the specific skills and attributes of the populace of the inner-city.  Conflict theorists insist that the economic structure that exists in these areas of the city was created for the shear exploitation of the impoverished by those in power to maintain their privileged position in society.  It is their position that these perceived inequities must be alleviated.  Symbolic-interactionists view is similar to that of the functionalists in that they believe the economy has evolved independently to create the maximum benefit to all.  Post-modernists also do not wish to place blame, rather they welcome innovative theories to better explain the functioning of the economy.  Concepts such as human capital theory and social capital theory are welcome to explain the reasons for the manifestation of an underground economy and to examine such a phenomenon.