Did it snow in Eden?

This one sounds like a theology question, doesn’t it? Yet here I am, throwing the question out there. I am here to say that perhaps it did.

Perhaps after all that garden tending and naming names business, the First Couple needed a little vacay. God decided, “Hey, guys, you just won a all expenses paid vacation to the North Slope.” Then He showed the two the resort virtual reality style without the headgear.

Unlike us, Adam and Eve didn’t need longjohns. They didn’t need to bundle up. They didn’t need ear muffs. None of that heavy winter clothes gig. They got the bennies of winter without the suffering through the downers. No heavy duty blizzards to suffer through. And when it came to skiing, they had perfect balance.

There was that time Adam was up on the slopes with Eve. They were in their Hawaiian garb. Shorts and Hawaiian shirts all decked out with flowers. They stood on the slope, skis on their feetsies.

“Shall we?” Adam asked.

“Race you,” Eve said.

So off they went. Faster than a speeding bullet. The snow was all packed down for a good ride. They came to a place where the land dropped fifty feet. Did they stop? Heck, no. Down they went and caught themselves standing. They were having one whissssss of a ride.

Up ahead there were some trees. Adam found that he was heading straight toward the biggest tree of all. It was like one of those Sequoias. Closer, closer, closer he came. He couldn’t stop himself. He made one last effort to turn. Didn’t work. He slammed right into the big galloot. Maybe the biggest Sequoia ever was. Splat!

It was one of those splats you don’t want to hear. Especially if it happens to you. It’s like Wiley Coyote slamming into the side of a mountain. A big ouch. That’s what it was.

Eve pulled up beside Adam. “You okay?” she asked the way she always asked.

“Aw shucks,” Adam said. The only injury he had was those big stars circling his head like they do in cartoons. After a couple of sips of hot toddy he was back on the slopes.

Talk about health insurance. Adam and  Eve had the best medical care that money could not buy. They had God. And God never let them down.

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Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Ray Bradbury’s Adventures in Writing

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of the upcoming National Poetry Month of April, this week’s Spotlight Creator is the Ray Bradbury. Here is a short documentary of Ray Bradbury and a review of his book, Zen in the Art of Writing:

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Joshua Odell Editions (August 1, 1994)

In Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury shares the sources of many of the hundreds of stories, essays, plays and novels. They come from a vivid imagination that has continued to see things with the eyes of a child. At the heart of many of his stories is his childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois.

Unlike the Thomas Wolfe saying of “you can’t go home again,” Bradbury often returned home to Waukegan. His childhood years in that small Illinois town served as a source for many of his stories in the same way that Hemingway mined his youth in Michigan for his Nick Adams stories and Mark Twain used Hannibal, Missouri for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Waukegan was his Paris, his Oz, his Castle Rock. In Bradbury’s imagination, Waukegan became the Green Town of the Dandelion Wine stories. An encounter at age twelve with Mr. Electrico and his traveling electric chair inspired him to begin his Martian stories.

Though he was writing a story a week in those early years, he imitated the fictions of Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe and many of the pulp writers he was reading. It was his discovery of word association that broke him free from their influence. Bradbury made a list of words, took one of those words, and made that word a title for a story. Then he came up with memories and emotions for that word.

He turned the phrase :the old woman” into two stories: “There was an Old Woman” and “Season of Disbelief”. “The baby” became “The Small Assassin”. “The trap door” ended up as “Trapdoor” in Omni Magazine in 1985.

Bradbury relates how it cost him nine dollars and eighty cents to write the first draft of Fahrenheit 451. He shares how a visit to catacombs in Mexico caused his imagination to spit up the story, “Next in Line.” His stay in Ireland led to a number of Irish stories, including “The Haunting of the New.” He relates his love affair with skeletons and circuses and carnivals and dinosaurs and Mars, and how he never lost his childlike wonder for all things strange and exotic and out-of-the-normal.

In the chapter titled “Zen in the Art of Writing,” he shares his process for writing: Work, Relaxation, Don’t Think. He relates how the writer can learn from the archer of Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. Then he reveals his unique approach to plotting. He writes: “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal” (p. 152).

Zen in the Art of Writing encourages the writer, and anyone pursuing his chosen dream, to never give up. Persistence pays off. If we’re putting in the work, there will be a reward down the line. His advice is: Do the work for the joy of it. Don’t worry about the destination. Love the process.

Near 500 words: TW gets married

TW (aka The Writer) met Sylvia at a party. When they saw each other, it was lust at first sight.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said, five minutes into their conversation.

“Let’s,” he said, neither unable to resist nor wanting to resist.

After two months, they took off to Vegas for a quickie marriage. They didn’t leave their room for the gambling tables the whole three days they were there. It was room service and sex.

After a few months, they realized they had gotten themselves into a real mess. He was a nester and she was a traveller. He was a perfectionist, she didn’t care if she messed up. He was neat, obsessively so. She left things scattered everywhere.

One night she said, “Let’s take off and go to Timbuktu.” She had a thing for Africa.

“Are you crazy?” he said. “I can’t leave my job. I love my job. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

“What you do is boring.” There was sarcasm in her voice. “You want to be a writer? You have to go out and experience the world. Like Hemingway. Your hero.”

“Yeah, right. I’m going to run the bulls.”

“Why not? It’s better than sitting on your butt in a library, waiting for some student to ask a question they don’t really want to know the answer to.”

“That’s not all I do. Libraries are the repository of all knowledge.

“Don’t give me that. You need to experience the world instead of reading about it in some book.”

“Those books have pictures too.” It was a dumb thing to say but he had said it.

“But you can’t taste or hear or smell those places. Can you?”

“You’re going to pick up and leave? Just like that?”

“You betcha.”

“I thought you liked nursing,” he said, desperate to change her mind.

“I do. But I can be a nurse anywhere and at anytime.”

“So you’re just going to leave me here?”

“You got a choice. Leave with me and have the time of your life. Or stay and play with yourself. But I’m going.”

The next morning she was packed. The cab picked her up just before he left for work. She opened the door to the taxi, then looked back at her husband. “Hold on a second,” she said to the driver, then hurried back to TW. The two embraced and kissed.

“I’m going to miss you,” she said.

She ran and jumped into the cab. Tears were in her eyes, and they were in his eyes too.

The taxi pulled away from the curb and headed down the street.

Then he said, “Maybe I should have gone too.”

He opened the door of the house and went inside. He scanned the room. Such a mess she had left behind.

“I definitely should have gone.”

Murder at the Nudist Resort

The call came in to the  Wayne Police Department around two p.m. just after my snooze break.

“Hey, Buff,” the sergeant called out.

“Yeah,” I answered. I was the only detective in the department.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

“What’s to believe?” I asked.

“We have a dead body over at The Magical Mystery Tour.”

“Isn’t that the local nudist camp?”

“That it is. That it is.”

I reached into the drawer, pulled out my Smith & Wesson, jammed it into the holster and strapped it under my arm. I straightened my tie and slipped into my suit coat. I wanted to look nice for the upper class clientele. After all. it was a resort and not a camp.

As I went out the door, the Sergeant suggested, “Maybe you’d better stop by your house and pick up your birthday suit.”

I called out, “I’d rather go au naturel.”

The sergeant laughed and yelled, “Keep me abreast of the situation.”

I passed a strip mall and drove under the big sign above the gate of the resort, Magical Mystery Tour. I stopped and showed my badge. The guard said, “Complex Five.”

I pulled up in front of the designated place and parked. A blond man met me. As far as I could see, he looked like he had nothing to hide. “This way.” The blond led me inside the complex. Several apartments overlooked a swimming pool. On the cement floor beside the water lay a man.

He was face downward, looking where the sun don’t shine. His hiney was mooning me like all get out. It was a full moon, and a red moon at that. Not a pretty scene. I reached over and checked for a pulse. He wasn’t pulsing. I didn’t need a medical examiner to tell me the guy was dead. He was dead.

“Who is he?” I asked blondie.

An elderly woman in her altogether joined the two of us. “Ruff N Ready.”

“Yeah,” the blond said, “he was the Big Enchilada of this place.”

I rolled the dead man over so that he was full frontal. The body didn’t look none too happy. There was a frown on his face and a burrito in his mouth. I’d never thought of a burrito as a murder weapon. Then again I never thought a taco could be one either.

“He owned the Taco Tater.”

“Isn’t that the Home of the Taterama?” I asked. “You know the one that’s so delicious it will make you shout, ‘Lord, hallelujah.'”

“That’s it,” the woman said

I looked back at the big galoot. “Looks like he was the big banana too. Guess he was all dressed up and had nowhere to go.”

A brunette woman walked up beside the woman. “Clothes do make the man.”

When it came to women, this one made nudity into an art form.

So it was a dead body. I had seen them before but this one was unique. He was naked, naked as the day he was born. For my money, that’s pretty darn naked. And he’d gone to that taco factory in the sky.

“What’s that smell?” I inquired.

“Refried beans,” Brunette said.

“Guess he did have a thing for Mexican food.”

“How can you tell?” Brunette again.

“He’s got a burrito stuck in his mouth.” I put on my latex gloves and pulled the thing out.

“You think it’s poison?” Elderly asked.

“We’ll have to dust the burrito for prints.”

So far all I had were the bare facts. But I didn’t see anything that would lead me to the murderer.

“Now who else is here?” I asked nobody in particular.

Ten other Nothing-to-wears stepped out into the light. They were a sight. One thing was for sure, I didn’t think there was a cover-up. If anything, these people looked like they had nothing to hide.

“Did anybody see anything?”

“I did,” a Mr. Cool-Calm-And-Collected stepped forward.

“What did you see?”

“Somebody fired the burrito into his mouth from over there.”

“You know everybody was always trying to get a rise out of him,” Blond said. “Nobody could.”

“Looks like he got a rise out of somebody,” me again.”

“He was a really nice man,” a second brunette spoke up. She had dyed her hair to cover the gray.

“Nice man, my rear end.” The man was middle-aged and wore sunglasses.

“Could you shed a little light on the situation?”

“Always ramming that Taco Tater down everybody’s throat.” His naked emotions were showing.

“Darn good eats if you ask me,” Blond butted in.

“Nobody asked you,” Middle-aged said.

“What do you have against the Taco Tater?” the elderly woman asked.

“Taco Tatter! Taco Tatter! I can’t take it anymore.”

“So it was you,” I said, “that jammed that burrito down his throat?”

“It was a duel. With burritos. I just had better aim.”

I’d heard of dulleing banjos but never duelling burritos.

“But I didn’t think it would kill him.”

Since the man had exposed himself, this put some clothes on the case. Case closed.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: John Ford Directs

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is Stagecoach (1939):

“Star Wars” opened the door for decent budgets for the science fiction and fantasy movie genre that followed. “Stagecoach” did the same for Westerns. Before it was made, Westerns were given low budgets and a B-movie rating and B-rated actors. The box office success of “Stagecoach” guaranteed better budgets and first-class actors (and directors) for films like “High Noon”, “Shane”, “Red River” and “Winchester 73”. If “Stagecoach” had bombed at the box office, there might there have been no big budgeted westerns.

The eight people riding the “Stagecoach” are stereotypical Western movie characters. Yet they don’t remain stereotypes. In director John Ford’s hands, each character has their individual moment in the sun. Their particular humanity shines and reveals a hint of their lifetime of stories.

Inside the coach, there’s six passengers. Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell) is the alcoholic doctor, and Dallas (Claire Trevor), the salon girl, both run out of town by the “Law and Order League”. There’s Banker Henry Gatewood (Berton Churchill) running off with his ill-gotten loot; a pregnant southern belle, Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), on the way to meet her cavalry-officer husband; and a whiskey salesman, Samuel Peacock, (Donald Meek) afraid of his own shadow. John Carradine plays Hatfield, a southern gentleman of a gambler, who has a bit of Doc Holliday in him. Atop the coach, and in the driver seat, is Buck (Andy Devine), who is thecomic relief. Beside him sits lawman Curly Wilcox (George Bancroft).

Then the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) steps in front of that stage and joins the others as a ninth pilgrim. Turns out the real gentleman isn’t the gambler. It’s Ringo. He gives Dallas a drink from a canteen and a place at his table in the waystation. An escaped prisoner, he’s intent on killing the man who murdered his father and his brother. Thanks to Ford’s direction, John Wayne gives us the complex character of a decent man who’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. In the meantime, he’s falling in love with the girl with the heart of gold. Despite her cynicism, she’s falling in love with the big galloot as well.

“Stagecoach” is a tale of a pilgrimage that could have come out of “The Canterbury Tales”. Only it takes place not in Merry Olde England but in the American West. In Monument Valley to be exact.

Part of the reason westerns became so popular in the forties and the fifties were the settings. On the big screen, Hollywood treated audiences landscapes of America they had not imagined. And John Ford’s locations in Monument Valley began the start of Hollywood trend that location is as much a character as any of the actors. Roger Ebert put it well when he wrote of Monument Valley, “its prehistoric rock pillars framing the smallness of men.” Often leaving the audience impressed with the settings, the Western landscape became as much a star in these films as CGI is in movies today.

For both John Ford and “Duke” Wayne, “Stagecoach” brought a new phase in their careers. Ford took an out-of-favor genre, the Western, and stamped it with his own genius. From then on, he was considered one of the top American film directors. Until the end of his career, he used that success as an opportunity to explore the West as a symbol of American mythology. With “Stagecoach”, Ford showed that he was a master of composition, action, and casting.

Despite the producer’s resistance, he knew actors, and he knew John Wayne was perfect for the Ringo Kid. John Wayne emerged from the wilderness of B Westerns where he had languished for almost ten years. During those years he had learned his craft so well that he emerged from “Stagecoach” as a major bankable star.

The Duke’s performance in “Stagecoach” revealed what a master of reaction and body language he was. When Bert Glennon’s camera caught John Wayne in its lens, it was love at first sight. Even though star billing went to Claire Trevor, it was, and still is, obvious to the viewer that Ford’s star was Wayne the moment he stepped in front of that stagecoach and into the light.

Of the movie, Orson Welles would say, “John Ford was my teacher. My style has nothing to do with his, but ‘Stagecoach’ was my textbook. I ran it over forty times.”