Illegal Immigration, Just Fix It

Recently the President of the United States addressed a Joint Session of Congress. The White House Press Release stated that the eagerly awaited speech would cover the ongoing crisis with Illegal Immigration. Members of both parties, and Independents too, breathed a sigh of relief. Something would be done.

“Mr. Speaker,” the President began, “Mr. Vice President, Democrats, Republicans, Republicans, Democrats. And lest I forget, Independents. These are troubling times. As that illustrious revolutionary, Thomas Paine, wrote, ‘These are the times that try men’s souls.’” The President held up the Thomas Paine pamphlet to emphasize his point.

Yep, that is what he said. And the President should know. Both parties had been trying his soul since his first term started. On Day One, a Republican challenged him to a duel. The President laughed off the challenge by saying, “I’m no Andrew Jackson.” Of course, his staff kept reminding him that even Andrew Jackson was no Andrew Jackson.

If the Republicans were a barrel of laughs, it was even worse with the Indepenents. They kept passing bills and sending them up to him for his signature. Each bill sang, “Here a piggy, there a piggy, everywhere an oink, oink.” The President’s response on each and everyone of the porkies was, “Ain’t gonna happen.”  Then there were the Democrats. They could not agree on anything. Except how to party hardy.

“Yes, indeedie,” he continued, “these are the times that try men’s souls. And I must say that those words sum up our immigration situation.”

One could hear the drop of a pin. Each and every member of Congress, each and every member of the Supreme Court, each and every member of the President’s Cabinet except for the one who would be the Head Cheese if something happened to all the other cheeses in the hall, they breathed a sigh of relief. They weren’t sure what the President was about to say. At least, he was about to say something. After six years of this and that, tits and tats, whereforths and whatevers, the President was about to do what the American people demanded. He was about to “just fix it.”

“My friends,” he said to the people, “we have tried everything to stop this flow of illegal aliens into our country. We have built a giant wall as high as the Tower of Babel and still they come. We have a large army of border patrol and National Guard. Still they cannot be stopped. We have had the support and extra firepower of the NRA. Still they come and join the twelve million already here illegally.. We even put them on the FBI’s most wanted list. Still the Canadian geese flock across our borders.

“After careful consideration, the White House has decided that there is but one last thing we can do. Stephen King has the answer. We must build a dome over America, the Stephen King Memorial Dome. Then, at last, we will be free from the invasion of all these pesky Canadian geese.”

Short Story Wednesday: The Water and the Sea

Short Story Prompt: “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

Tally did not know his fore from his aft, his port from his starboard. Not that it mattered that he know something of ships. That was for others to know. He was not a sea man, and he wasn’t a sailor.

He came on the cruise to please his wife. Mara thought it would do him good to get away from everybody, including herself. “A good oceangoing voyage might just be the thing,” she said. It would break the melancholies he wore like a suit of clothes. Since the death of his friend, Breaker, they had their way with him. It was his way of coping.

So he chose to return from Breaker’s funeral in London by ship. It had been an uneventful voyage so far. Three days of moping around the decks, then sitting on deck and watching the tides in an easy rise and fall. Rising and falling like Breaker himself.

He had first met Breaker in his freshman year of college. Breaker showed up at every party Tally attended. What would be a boring affair suddenly became a blow-out. When Tally was a sophomore, Breaker was a junior and his roommate. They had become close. Breaker would share all these dreams he had. Until Tally met Breaker, he never had many dreams for his future. He picked the path of least resistance. He was going to be a cpa. “That’s no life,” Breaker would say. Of course, he was right.

So Tally followed Breaker into the Peace Corps. When Tally finished his time with the Corp, Breaker was already a war correspondent for CBS. Tally decided wars were not for him. Instead he went off to Africa and started a safari business. There he met Mara just about the time Breaker married his English wife, Pamela. Next thin g he knew Breaker was off to Israel. He and his wife were in kabutz.

Mara was pregnant, so Tally sold the business and took his wife and new baby back to the states. That was when he got in on the new internet craze and sold his new software company for several million dollars. It seemed that Tally had found that he had a knack for making money. He and Mara had several other children. Every so often Tally would hear a new story of his hero. He was always in some place new doing something Tally would never think about doing. Breaker had become something of a legend in Tally’s family.

Then, at forty, a phone call came from London. It was Pamela. “Breaker’s dead,” she said.

“How?” Tally asked, tears in his eyes.

“Suicide. Can you fly over? He wanted you at the funeral.”

“Sure,” Tally said, and took the next plane over to England. Tally had been surprised at how well Pamela held up at the funeral. Afterward, Pamela gave him a big hug and went back to her apartment for her own private grief.

Tally lay down and took in all that had happened since he first met Breaker. He would not be the man he was if not for Breaker. He would not have found that he could have a life that was not dull and ordinary. He would not have Mara and the kids. He would not have the friends he had, and the adventures he had lived. Now that Breaker was gone, what was he to do. He was forty and suddenly he had no future.

He closed his eyes and slipped off to sleep. Everywhere there was water. No sky or land, just water. He opened his eyes. He felt better than he had in weeks. In fact, he felt wonderful.

He walked over to the edge. The sea before him was like glass. Possibly he might walk on the sea. He gazed out at the sea and sky. The dark blue with light only from the ship. And the quietness. He listened and all he heard was the humming of the ship’s engine. What if he stepped off the deck of the ship and onto the sea? Now that would be a happy thing.

A hand reached from behind him. “Don’t,” a voice said. Tally turned and there was no one there.

“What the hey?” Tally asked.

He went back to his deck chair. Where there was only dark blue sky a few moments ago, now there were stars. He didn’t count but he estimated a million and seven. Why a million and seven? Just because.

Then he saw Mara’s face. Not in the stars, not in his imagination. She looked out at him from where she was. She was crying, her face pleading with him. All through the last couple of weeks he had forgotten her. He had only been thinking about Breaker. But now there she was and what he was thinking really hurt Mara.

Right then and there he discovered he had a future. It was Mara.

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!

I can hear some of you saying, “What’s all the shouting about? It’s Monday morning, and I am trying to get some sleep.”

Well, Uncle Bardie has News Big Time. It has been one year. Yes, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days since the insanity began here at Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such. And, oh joy, oh joy. Uncle Bardie can’t help but dance. He’s sitting at his desk and his fingers are dancing across the keyboard because he’s so darn happy.

You heard it right. This is the first Birtherversary of Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such. It has been one year of extra special fun, giving my readers some humor, some stories, some poemers and a a few pickin’ and grinnin’s.

It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience, meeting so many new people. When I began, I thought I would be happy if only ten people followed me. I am amazed that I have over 200 followers. That is a big WOW on my part. And a huge thank you to all of you who continue to put up with my nonsense. I just want you to know how much I love you guys. You have allowed me to take risks and tolerated my foibles. Because of you, I have been urged on to give my best.

THE PAST YEAR

Since that first sign on, I have given you 139 posts. In them, you’ve learned more than you ever wanted to know about cow tipping. You met my lawn, and found out that I ain’t giving it a Facebook page no matter how much it bets. You were surprised that Mylie Cyrus could twerk-bomb terrorists. You found out that superheroes have to do laundry just like the rest of us.

Since inquiring minds want to know, I took on age old questions like: If life is so short, why do we get so many chances to screw up? What do you do with a dead body? Why did God give me one big mouth to stick my two feet in? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? What’s a dot to do? Questions like that. I even let you in on everything I know about women. It was hard to contain myself with that one. So much knowledge and so many words.

There’s been romance. There’s been history. There’s been some theology. There’s even been some writing posts: “Five Rules for Lead Characters to Live By”, “The Writer’s Life” and “The Maestro”. There was a Mother’s Day Meditation called “Mother of the World”. Where that one came from I will never know. Sometimes the Muse is good. There was even a post about “The Art Scene”.

Last January, I took on a new writing assignment. Every Wedmesday, I would write a story, using another story as a prompt. What a fun thing to do and what a challenge. It has given me the opportunity to read stories that I had never read, then beat my head against the wall trying to come up with a response. It has been a great conversation starter with some of the great short story writers. I am over halfway finished with the list. And I shall miss it when it concludes at the end of the year.

THE FUTURE

In the coming year, I will be posting more of the same. If you have enjoyed what you have found here, there’s more to come. I hope you enjoy these twice-a-weeks as much as I enjoy writing them.

Next year I will be replacing the Short Story Prompts with something I am excited about. Uncle Bardie will be doing The Bard. I am talking Shakespeare here. I plan on taking on “Hamlet”, and it’s going to be a “Hamlet” you’ve never met before. Like the comedian Gallagher says, “it’s my job to point out the stuff you never thought of. There will be posts like “Hamlet and the Knock-knock Joke” and “Hamlet and a Dark and Stormy Night”.

I LOVE BLOGGING

One thing I want y’all to know is that I love Blogging and I love being a Blogger. Some folks look down on blogging. They say it ain’t real writing. I say they are all wrong. It is not only real writing, sometimes it’s the best writing.

Since I have begun this adventure, I have met so many great bloggers. People who pour their hearts and souls into their posts. They give everything they have to this. And I love what you do.

The great surprise of all this has been the community of bloggers I have found here at Word Press. When I view and read your posts, I feel like I am getting to know a three dimensional you that I would never be able to know on Facebook or Twitter. Unlike Twitter, I know that there is a real person behind the post and I find out what that person really thinks and cares about.  It is like a conversation I might have with the blogger over a cup of coffee.

And, oh my, I do love your comments and I am so thankful for your Likes. You are so encouraging. So here’s to the coming year. And a final note. I love you guys, and thank you.

Big Hugs from Uncle Bardie.

Don’t Cry for Me, Miss Argentina

A pickin’ and a grinnin’ lyric
I’m at the Best Western
And she’s got the house.
She had an affair;
I looked like a louse.
She’s gettin’ it all,
The cat and the mouse.
I was such a fool
So I’m gettin’ real soused.

Chorus:
But don’t cry for me, Miss Argentina.
You could’ve been Miss World.
You went for The Pool Guy,
Now you’re just a regular girl.

She flipped her a dime.
It came up heads.
She went out dancin’.
I was on my meds.
She had her some fun,
Playin’ musical beds.
Left me for a pool guy.
‘Least that’s what she said.

I couldn’t give up,
Not without a fight.
If I didn’t try hard
I wouldn’t feel right.
Followed her around,
Keeping out of sight.
You wouldn’t believe
What I saw that night.

She got in her red coupe
And went for a whirl.
Hit all the hot spots
Dancin’ her twirls.
She’s doin’ nothin’
Bad ‘cept shakin’ her curls
Till I did see her
Kissin’ The Pool Girl.

Will the real Rabbit please stand up?

Updike by Adam Begley.

Within the last year, biographies of three major writers of the last half of the twentieth century were published: J. D. Salinger, Norman Mailer and John Updike. Without opening the pages of each book, the reader can almost sense something of the author’s life from the covers.

There is no photograph of Salinger on the cover of his biography. It is as if Salinger, even in death, is still hiding from his public. On the Mailer cover, there is Norman grinning back at the reader. We can almost imagine him saying to us, “C’mon, throw that punch. I can take it as much as I can give it out.” Like Hemingway, a writer he admired and modeled himself after, Mailer is daring us to refuse him the title of “the great American novelist”. It is a larger-than-life personality we see.

On the cover of Adam Begley’s “Updike” stands a young man in his mid-twenties, a journeyman of letters who is on his way. There is no challenge on that face, just a smile that says to the world, “I’m a nice guy,” a face that could be as Joyce Carol Oates affirmed when she reflected that Updike was “gentle, sly, clever, witty, charming”. In the middle of the book are more photographs.

Twenty-seven to be exact. For a writer 76 years old, and as well-known as Updike, I wondered why there were so few. Of all of these twenty-seven photographs, it is the one taken by his brother-in-law in 1964 that I think John Updike would have considered his best portrait, and the truest one. He sits at a typewriter, glasses on, doing what he loved best to do, writing.

Begley begins his biography not with a family history. He begins with a place. John Updike was born and raised in small town Pennsylvania where he would turn to again and again for inspiration. First, Shillington, then the farm at Plowville. His father was a school teacher and his mother was a wannabee writer. Sounds like a novel Updike might have written. Well, he did. They are “The Centaur” and “Of the Farm”, among others.

Here is the Pennsylvania boy who became a world famous and sophisticated writer, and yet in so many ways never left the Pennsylvania of his youth behind. In that, he joins Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain who never left their boyhoods behind either. He was a small town boy who went off to Harvard. Then he was in New York and at work doing the Talk of the Town for the New Yorker magazine. This most New Yorker of writers was least comfortable with New York and the parochial literary scene there in the fifties. So he left for Ipswich, Massachusetts. And there he stumbled into his subject.

Early on Updike, like Fitzgerald, earned his living writing short stories, most of them exclusively for the New Yorker magazine. But, with the novel, “Couples”, he found his footing. If alcoholism was Raymond Carver’s subject, if Ernest Hemingway’s subject was death and loss, if Scott Fitzgerald’s was money, if Flannery O’Conor’s was the religion in the deep South, and if Faulkner’s was the past, sex and adultery became John Updike’s. It also might be possible to say that his real subject was the politics of relationships, for he is a writer of the personal. What other writer would begin a story the way he begins “Love Song, for a Moog Synthesizer”: “She was good in bed”?

Begley’s book does not hold back on how much sex and adultery Updike experienced. Unlike other writers bad habits, it did not lessen his power as writer. He seemed to relish in it for over a decade. Until it destroyed his first marriage. Begley gives us details that say a lot about John Updike the man. Such as a wedding ring. In his first marriage to Mary, he does not wear a wedding ring. In his marriage to second wife Martha, he wore one (p.443). But, if he failed as a husband, he made an effort to make up for it by trying to be a good father.

Begley writes about the influence of Henry Green and Marcel Proust on his style, and his growing interest in Nathaniel Hawthorne. There is a good exploration of his fictional alter egos and where they fit into ouevre. Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom was the self Updike might have become had he stayed in Shillington. Richard Maples was the husband and father John Updike was. Henry Bech was the literary figure Updike could have become if he had stayed in New York. Bech helped his author in his evolution and passage to the world traveler that Updike became. One can see his traveling self as Bech in such stories as “Bech Swings?” and “Bech Third Worlds It”

There are the relationships he had with other writers, such as Joyce Carol Oates , John Cheever, Philip Roth, Ian McEwan and Nicholas Delbanco. And, yes, his spat with Tom Wolfe is in the book.

Updike’s fascination with theology and a belief in God is chronicled. Though he was a churchgoer and a subscriber to Christianity, it seems all an intellectual and emotional pursuit. Somewhere along the way he decided Christian ethics was not a code he needed to live by. One comes to the conclusion that the greatest fear for Updike was that if there wasn’t a Christian God at the center of all things, he would have to face a void of nothingness. This he did not have the courage to do.

Like Jacob, like Hamlet, John Updike spends much of his creative life wrestling with an angel. Seeking an answer to the question, how can one be a sinner and sin again and again, almost as if that sin was an obsession, and ultimately gain grace. This is the reason he read Kierkegaard, read Barth, read Tillich. Even read Freud. And it is also possible that he had some familiarity with Wilhelm Reich.

This is the biography for you, if you want to know how a fiction writer uses the pieces from his autobiography. Updike was one of the most autobiographical of fiction writers who ever lived. It is almost as if he had photographic memory, not only of details but of dialogue. When it came to his literary work, no relationship escaped the mix. Nothing, and no one, was off limits.

If Updike’s life teaches anything, it is the commitment to the work a writer must make if she is to be a great writer. If Updike’s work teaches anything, it is that commitment and talent are not always enough to create a great writer. If a writer learns nothing else from Updike, it is that a good work ethic is required to be successful at the literary craft.

Updike will down the line be recognized as a master of the short story form. After reading a number of his short stories, and this biography, I am beginning to realize that Updike could be referred to as the Chekhov of the American middle class. He is that wonderful a short story writer. In story after story, there are true gems, stories like “A&P” “The Happiest I’ve Been”, “Pigeon Feathers” and “A Sandstone Farmhouse”, written a few months after his mother’s death as a memorial to her.

Unlike his novels, Updike’s autobiography does not usually overwhelm the stories. But there are stories when John Updike cannot get enough of John Updike. For example, “The Bulgarian Poetess” is one long selfie, its protagonist, Henry Bech, a substitute for Updike. At least, it’s an interesting John Updike. If a selfie can be considered pleasurable, this selfie is a pleasurable read.

Begley has written what a biography of a writer should be, focusing on the work and how the writer’s life infused that work. Not on the details that do not pertain to the work. Fiction writers constantly have the dictum “write what you know” shoved down their throats. Updike did this more than most, and may have gone too far in some cases. In this biography, the reader will see just how much.

I don’t usually read biographies. I used to but not anymore. For a very long time John Updike remained a mystery to me. I would pick up one of his novels, read a chapter or two, then set it down and not pick it up again. John Updike didn’t appeal to me. When I would see him or read an interview with him, he always seemed worth my effort and time. He seemed to have it together as a writer. So I read this biography to get a handle on why he was considered a great writer by many in the literary establishment. And why I didn’t care for his longer fiction.

Adam Begley’s biography was helpful. If I have any complaints about the book, it would be that there was not enough about Updike’s obsession with golf and the lack of a narrative about any of the golf stories. The second thing I would have liked to see was a bibliography of Updike’s works with their order and the year published. But those really are petty complaints.

All in all Adam Begley has written an extremely good biography of John Updike. By the end of the book, he has accomplished the purpose he set out to do as written in the opening sentence of the Introduction. “In addition to the relevant facts, winnowed from heaps of raw information, a biography ought to give a sense of what its subject was like to shake hands with or stand next to or drink coffee with.” In the final chapter, “Endpoint”, is a loving tribute for a man who did everything with grace, even dying. And that John Updike would have appreciated very much.

Perhaps I shall read the Rabbit books soon. Not now, but in six months or a year. If I do, that will be an affirmation to the success of the biography of this most elusive of writers.