Thursday, April 29, 2010

Francisco, the Garbageman (Part 2)

I informed the gentleman that Frank used to be on the same ship in the Navy, so I was surprised to see him working in garbage. He was much too smart for anything like that, and I can't believe he has to do that for a living. I think there is more to his story than you're telling me, I said to his boss.

He got up from the desk, came around like he was getting ready to toss me out of the his office, but walked to the door and closed it. He turned back around and said, "You're right, there is more, a lot more, so what I'm going to tell you is just between you and me, understand? I'll deny I ever said anything about it, if anyone asks, and I hope you'll do the same." He gave me a stern, steady stare until I said, "Of course. I wouldn't say anything to anybody about private matters. What goes on between us never happened."

He took his seat behind the desk again and relaxed, leaned forward with his forearms resting on the desktop, and practically whispered, "Frank is not a garbage man. He's investigating some suspected drug smuggling going on between a couple of the workers. It's very dangerous work, but he's handling it well. He has a lot of experience in that business and knows exactly what he's doing. He hasn't told anytbody what's going on, not even me. He says he has his people he needs to tell, so, his work here is completely independent of our office and we accommodate him in every way. We don't need any of that stuff going on around here, the drugs I mean, he said with emphasis. And that's all I can say about Frankie."

I sat back in my chair, wondering if all this was true, but it sounded perfectly logical to me. I thanked him for talking to me and left.

I never saw Frankie in our neighborhood again, but have always wondered what the real truth was about him. And I never heard anything or read in the papers about any drug bust among city workers. But, to me, it was perfectly lopgical that Marinelli would be doing something like that, law enforcement or such. And I wished him good luck.


(Copyrighted material.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Francisco, the Garbageman (A Short Story)

The first time I saw Francisco, he was emptying my garbage can into the rear-end maw of the garbage truck. I don't know why I even noticed him, except there ws a peculiar look on his face when he saw me gazing at him. Was it a look of familiarity or was I just imagining things?

He hurriedly dropped the garbage can into the hole in the ground and had to run to catch up with the truck that had moved on with hardly a pause. He hopped on the truck's running board, grabbed the iron handle that he used for support, looked back at me, and gave me a wave with his free arm.

I opened the car door, got in, and sat in the seat a full minute trying to remember where, or if, I had ever seen that fellow before. My mind raced back over the years trying to place the tall, older but still agile and free-moving trash collector among all the friends and relatives that I could recall. My thoughts covered everything that I had ever done in the past, travel, service life, working life, vacations, leisure hours. I tried putting his face and body in any picture that would fit, a face with its square, bewhiskered jaw with a perpetural smile, his strong hands, easy strength as he lifted the garbage can out of the hole in which it is kept, his quick movement to the truck in his jean-covered legs and returning the can to the hole in one smooth and swift movement.

Nothing came to mind that said, "Bingo!", or even gave me a clue as to recognition. I emptied my stuffed brain of any thought regarding such an insignificat greeting for the time being and continued to my desintiaion, thinking next time I'd pay more attention.

The next pickup day I was standing on the sidewalk just returning from walking my dog when the truck arrived at my garbage pickup point. Francisco had his wide-shouldered back to me as he bent down and retrieved the can and turned away, back to the black hole of the truck without seeing me. But, when he turned to return the can, he caught a glimpse of me out of his dark eyes, and once the can was settled in the hole, he straightened up, stared at me or through me, smiled a big smile, ran to the truck and hopped on, waving as the final act before turning his attention to the next pickup.

BINGO! By golly, that was old Frank Martinelli! It had to be, couldnt be anyone else! The Wop from Brooklyn! What the Hell, what was he doing working as a garbageman? His close friends on the ship always talked about him as the Wop from Brooklyn, saying it in a non-derogatroy but affectionate way as comrades in arms do to friends. He was in my division, but I never paid much attention to him or any of the lower rated men, other than from a boss viewpoint, but he had what it takes to be one of the best sailors around anywhere. I was older by maybe eight or ten years, but you couldn't help but notice the smart way Frank wore his uniform, even dungarees. I don't kow how he did it, but his dungaree shirt and trousers were always pressed, his shoes shined, even the work shoes worn every day for duty in the engine room. And he moved in a smooth, graceful manner, almost a glide, like a boxer. In fact, he was a good boxer in all the "smokers" (bouts) held on the ship. Nobody was ever declared the winner of these amateur fights, but they were always entertaining.

Why? How? What was he doing now a s a city worker on the lower rungs of the so-called social strata, a garbage man? That was a long time ago when I last saw him in his dress blues, standing on the deck, awaiting liberty call, and I waved my last goodbye to the gray hulk of the ship from the dock and headed off to a new assignment.

I had to find out more about him, so I contacted his boss downtown and made an appointment to see him about the city's garbage-handling practices.

"Can;'t tell you much about him," the man said. "He started working for the city maybe a year ago and he has settled right in, good worker, never misses a day, says he really enjoys the job because he gets some good exercise every day. We haven't had any complaints aobut his work, is that why you're asking me all these questions?"


(Copyrighted material.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Painting the West

Lying on my driveway this morning was a publication called "Sun Life," which prints items regarding the Northwest Valley section of the Phoenix Metro area. I find this on the driveway monthly and most of the time I do not read it. But this one caught my eye with just two words "Cowgirl Up." Thumbing through the slim pub to the page about the cowgirls, I saw the article which publicizes an event in the little close-by town of Wickenburg at the Desert Caballeros Museum. It is an exhibition of art work by women artists, their paintings of the West, fifty-six women to be exact, taking place now until May 2, 2010. The works can be purchased if so desired.

Everyone (men, women, children) interested in art and in the West should  take a ride out there and take a gander at the these fine art paintings and maybe buy one for the home, that spot that needs something special there above that lamp or over the couch or in the man-cave, you know exactly where it'll fit right in.

(No money or gift was received for this post.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Number four and last of "The Berrybender Narratives," by L. McMurtry

Well, now, Jim Snow, The Sinkiller, has managed to ditch The Wandering Hill and pass By Sorrow's River and continue to the end of the Folly and Glory, an unimaginable feat in this novel of the early West where no one knows who would be killed on any given day. This last episode, Folly and Glory, finds most of the Berrybenders still alive and in Santa Fe under arrest by the Mexicans, but treated well until they are summarily banished therefrom. However, they are provided an escort of Mexican soldiers to see that they leave the country. They set out for Vera Cruz but don't make it very far before trouble catches up with them.

This final leg of the journey is rampant with death and destruction before the party arrives at the settlements on the Brazos River in Texas, a diversion from their destination. The Sin Killer is a changed man, his wife is a changed woman, the soldiers, what's left of them, are changed soldiers, the servants and the remainder of the family are changed, too, by this aruduous trek through the dry deserts with Indian slavers, Kiowas and Commanches to deal with. What a story, what writing, and what an ending, in which I was somewhat disappointed.

You must read these books, if for no other reason than the enjoyment provided in all four volumes of Mr. McMurtry's terrific writing. It moves on at a fast pace and I was finished before I knew it. Ah ha, I said, that was a good book, a good story, very exciting, very enjoyable, very, very, very (put in your own adjective).

And, now that that's finished, I think I'll move on to a Johnny Boggs novel. Will it be more tame, more exciting, more adventurous, more wordy, or a better story? We'll hold our breath to find out. 

(NOTE: No gift or money was received for the mention of these books or my review, if it can be called that, in this post.)          

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Writing Life


This thing I call rejection-itis
Lingers on my mind,
Like a case of phlebitis.
After the energy and time,
Writing all those lines,
Along comes an envelope,
With a message of no-hope,
Quote, "The writing is neat,
But not quite complete,
Not enough action,
Not enough traction.
Suspense is lacking,
The plot is cracking,
In the middle of it all,
Casting a giant pall.
No passion,
No emotion.
The ending, an atrocity,
Lost its velocity.
Throw it in the trash.
There won't be any cash."
Try again,
Try again,
Try again.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Old West Banking, Maybe

Yesterday we had to make a trip to a financial institution for the purpose of depositing our pitifully small tax refund so we could pay  a couple of bills. Why am I telling you this? Because I just wondered what it was like having a bank account in old Phoenix or Tucson in about 1875 or '80 or even Tombstone.

"Howdy, ma'am! I'd like to put this two dollars into my account."

"Yes, sir, Mr. James. Your first name is Jesse, isn't it? I got so many accounts under James it'll take me a minute to find it. Dum-da-dum, humm-mm. Ah, yes, here it is, no it isn't. Are you sure you have an account with us, Mr. James? I can't find any Jesse. You do live here in Tombstone, don't you?"

"Yup. Me and Frank been here for two or three days now, 'n Frank said he opened a joint account yesterday. He said he put about thirty-two dollars in it, 'n I just want to add a couple more."

"Oh, I remember a Frank James. I'll just look under his name. Say, you fellers are pretty famous aren't you? I just read last month's Las Cruces Voice and you both were mentioned in there for robbing the bank in Mesilla. This isn't some of that money, is it?"

"No, ma'am. This is hard-earned money from workin' in that silver mine we're going to rob next. Darn, I wasn't supposed to tell anyone. Well, it's just a little joke anyway. We're always talking about something like that. Hain't you found my papers yet? By the way, that wasn't us that robbed that bank. We ain't never been to Mesilla. Some darn fools used our names. You see, we lost our identification papers when somebody stole 'em, and that gang's been posing as us to rob banks all over. If we ever catch up with them, they're dead meat. You can put a little wager on that."

  "Ah, here's Frank's account, but it says it's empty and it's got a notation on it that says don't take any more deposits or give any money out. This account is closed. I'm sorry, Mr. James, but I can't take your two dollars."

"There ain't no money in that account?"

"No, sir."

"Why them dirty, low-down rascals! They stole our money! Don't the bank have a guaranteed minimum for cases like this, where you have to cover losses? Don't you photograph all of us coming in here so's they can be identified if something like this happens?"

"Not that I know of, Mr. James. But that might be a good idea."

"Wait 'til Frank hears about this, he'll go mad, and I'd hate to be in that gang's shoes when we catch up with 'em! Thanks, anyway, ma'am."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Telescopes, Microscopes

I prepared a lesson in my writing program regarding telescopes and microscopes that went like this:

The latest pictures from the Hubble telescope show the edge of the universe as we know it, according to an article I saw recently on the internet. The distance was so great it is hard to comprehend in relation to our little world, about 46.5 billion lightyears as explained at the Wikipedia site. They say it's dark beyond that, but I imagine there is no end to the darkness, but who knows or ever will know?

A person could say that what you are able to see through the telescope is much more and grander than looking through a microscope. There is an untold number of universes out there, many that have never been seen within that number of lightyears, and each view through the telescope reveals the many colors and variety of stars in a particular spot in just one universe or it could contain  any number of them. It's enough to boggle the mind!

You look through a microscope and what do you see? A bunch of little bugs moving around like the stars or fast-moving objects like the meteors. And, just like a telescope, the more power to the scope, the broader and more distinct the objects and the more things that pop into view. Man can now follow an atom around a mile-long tube and take pictures of it smashing into other atoms and objects that get in its way, throwing bits and pieces of it in all colors and directions.

To the person looking throught the scopes, it would be a matter of personal taste as to which provided the most satisfying picture, and whether he got the most bang for his buck looking at little tiny things or really big things. Myself, I prefer the really big things.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Lets see, for the last ten or so years I've been floundering around, squirming, straining at times, and endeavouring (see struggle in the thesaurus) to write something that would be well-liked by a broad audience and accepted by one or two critics as a worthy accomplishment. Therefore comma I thought I would give myself a little review and analysis of the situation as it now stands.

First off, I'm still working on getting something published by a regular publisher, having had several rejections, but I'm not in the least disheartened or dejected, but I'll poison myself slowly in order to enjoy this state of affairs longer than would be the case if I decided to be jumping off a cliff or getting run over by train, if I could find a train to run over me or a cliff high enough to do the trick here in the desert. In either case, I would have to walk too far. I can't see driving to a spot and leaving a perfectly good car for some vandals to vandalize or steal, and leaving my wife without transportation. Of course, I would never do either (any) of those things and miss out on receiving another interesting and well-worded rejection.

Second off,  maybe I should have kept writing about family history and genealogy. I ran across several interesting tidbits and family idiosyncrasies that would  provide fodder for several comical novels, and who knows, it might have turned out to be a better deal. No, I had to try my hand at westerns, givng up on the sure thing. I think I'll shoot myself instead, and I would if only I had the right-sized gun. Too big a bullet would leave too much of a mess for the wife to clean up, and too small a shell wouldn't even penetrate my thick skull.

Third off, writing the western.  At first, I have to say, putting the cowboys and cowgirls on paper really came easy, and my output was fantastic, and I worked furiously and late into the night shooting everybody in sight in my stories and littering the desert and mountains with corpses and even a few Indians. AHA! I said to myself, what a deal! This is great literary and funny stuff! And I sat back in my high-backed swivel office chair, well-padded seat and back, and said to myself, "Well done! Jolly well done! By golly! I did it!" and went to my cedarwood four poster (made out of real trees with the limbs severed) and slept keenly with no dreams or nightmares.

Foruth off, I woke up to the fact that now I had a big pile of manuscript(s) and my brain chock-a-block with more stories. Then - rejection letters. I think I'll cut my throat, if I can only find a knife sharp enough and the right size that won't leave any blood stains on the carpet for the wife to clean up.

Fifth off, waiting, waiting, waiting, and waiting for a rejection slip is not in my nature, and it is difficult for me to put more words on paper with a book at some publisher, the anxiety and stress, etc., is almost unbearable. However, knowing that I'm not the only one with this problem eases the wait somewhat, but I think I'll commit "hari-kiri," if only I knew where to begin this solemn undertaking. Do I cut myself vertically first, or horizontally? Or do I just stick the instrument into some vital spot? Do I pray before I start or during the procedure? What kind of a mess is left for the wife to clean up? I could look it up on the net, but that just takes more of my valuable time, what's left of it.  What's a person to do?

Oh, the Hell with it! Another story just popped into my addled brain. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

By Sorrow's River, by Larry McMurtry

With the ending of By Sorrow's River, I am now three-quarters the way through reading The Berrybender Narratives by Larry McMurtry. I enjoyed this book, but it became a little tedious with all the discussion among the Berrybender daughters, mistresses, and so forth, of men and their faults and good points, as they walked and talked and diddled and dawdled their way across the prairies. Tasmin, the eldest daughter, and Victoria Kennet, the mistress of Lord Berrybender, and Mary and Buffum had a good deal to say about their and other's true loves, and three of the four ended up pregnant, by one of the men or another. Some more of the party gets wiped out by the Indians, including one of the balloon men, Hope-Tipping, and a couple of the servants.

However, the remainder of the party makes it to Bent's Fort, now under construction on the Arkansas River, and gets some much needed rest and renewal only to face another obstacle after the Sin-Killer takes off leading one of the Bent's expeditions to St. Louis. Oh, woe is me! What will the next volume contain? Will there eventually be a happy ending? Or? Or?

This book was hard to put down notwithstading those parts I considered a little tedious and I am anxious to see what happens to the Berrybenders. Mr. McMurtry has produced another interesting and well-written novel in my opinion and readers will not be disappointed.

This book is longer than the first two and some of the chapters are longer. I liked the short chapters in the earlier books.