Barstow Blues

Four years ago this Saturday was a typical triple-digit heat wave in Bakersfield. I opened the local fish-wrap and saw this article about a writer’s group meeting with an interesting speaker. If I wanted to go I had one hour before the meeting started. I’m not sure why I went.

It was like a repentant sinner hearing the singing from the big tent out in the field and the irresistible urge to go see what’s happening. I wanted somebody to lay hands on me and shout in my ear, “Man cannot live by bread alone, he must have peanut butter.”

Oh sure, everybody wants to write a book. Until they try. I had never tried.

And like everybody, I thought it might be something I’d like to do…someday.

When I retired eight years ago, I had a burning ambition to learn option trading. And I did. And I did OK. Sometimes a lot better than OK. Only one thing stopped me from continuing.  A pretty big thing. A large blood-pressure reading and a sarcastic doctor.
Doctor in lab coat smiling

 (You know, Dan, if you made as much money as me you could say, Screw the Market!)

But, I was hooked on spending 15-18 hours a day in front of the computer screen trying to second-guess where the market would be in 60 or 90 days. I thought if I was going to replace this passion I needed a new one.  I still had playing and writing music but that’s a weekend thing.

So, I went to this writer’s meeting and some young gal from L.A. stood in front of the audience and told everybody they could write a novel in 30 days.  She said in November (40 days away)  was a contest called NaNoWriMo and there would be over a quarter million folks trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Hopefully 50,000 words that made sense.

I went home and told my wife I was going to write a novel in November. She never flinched. She said, “You can do it. Go for it.”

I did. I was one of 20,000 people (less than 10%) who made it and won the challenge. I was hooked.

So every November for the last four years I wrote a novel in 30 days. This year I couldn’t wait till November and already wrote #5.

Does that mean they are any good?  Hell No! Most of it was vomit. The better parts were shit.

But writing is really re-writing. So that first novel from four years ago I have re-written at least four times and today I’m proud to ask you to “PLEASE BUY MY NOVEL.”

I promise I won’t keep asking.

Just click on the book cover in the side column and you’ll be magically transported to a place called Amazon. One more click after that and I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life.
barstow blues book cover-LATEST 2

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Going Viral in the ’80s.

The term “went viral” is as common as “text me.”

Not too many years ago, I would assume someone was talking about getting the flu.

YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are our “viral” sources today. It can be as silly as our local Bakersfield cat attacking a dog biting a child to a horribly out-of-tune singer. This past month has been all about raising money for ALS with the “ice bucket challenge.”
ice bucket challenge

With the ice bucket challenge going viral, I was reminded of another challenge some 28 years ago.

Remember this was before Social Media. If something went viral, it had to be seen on television, newspapers and blasted by the news media.

This event was and it went viral.

I drove from my home in Newport Beach up to Long Beach, paid $10 to have a place in line and stood with almost 7 million people in the first “Hands Across America” campaign to fight hunger and poverty.

There were four celebrity National co-chairs for the event. Check these names:  Kenny Rogers, Lily Tomlin, Bill Cosby and Pete Rose. (I kid you not)

Every major city had a host of celebrities taking part.

It was a beautiful day in Long Beach. Our anchor celebrities were Mickey Mouse and Goofy (Of course), Rev. Robert Schuller, Kenny Loggins and a few others I can’t remember. Papa Doo Run Run was playing live music at the Queen Mary which was the starting(or ending) point.

THIS IS A “HANDS” LINE IN SANTA MARIA CALIFORNIA
Hands Across America

In New York there was Brooke Shields, Lisa Minnelli, Gregory Hines and many more.

In Washington D.C., President Reagan and Tip O’Neill held hands in the middle of the chain. For whatever reason, Michael Jackson was in Columbus, Ohio.

The event raised $34 million.

My friends back in Indiana remembered it was going to work in tandem with the Indianapolis 500 mile race. There would already be 300,000 plus packed in there that could take part. However the race was rained out, but the Hands Across America still happened there– in the rain.

Did any of you take part?  It was May 25, 1986. What do you remember and where were you?

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Staying Cool

It hit 101 degrees here today. I ran a few errands and hurried back to my cool house.
heat

I believe it was 1959 when my father had central air conditioning installed. Indiana summers are hot and sticky…sticky being the main memory. Air conditioning changed everything. Who wants to go out and play when it’s cool inside? Our family loved it. I didn’t think about the cold air duct blowing towards my parakeet and “Butch” keeled over the 2nd day of coolness.

Air conditioning stopped 30 years of Southern emigration to the north. Air conditioning started the Sun Belt Movement. When we had central AC installed there were around 500,000 people living on the Gulf Coast. Today there are over 20 million.

In 1960 people even stopped going to Major League Baseball games. Attendance stayed below the 1960 numbers for over 20 years. Staying cool all summer was new and wonderful.

The National Academy of Engineers rated the invention of Air Conditioning the 10th most important achievement of the 20th Century. Here is the Top Ten:

  • Electrification 2) Automobile 3) Airplane 4) Water Supply and Distribution 5) Electronics 6) Radio and Television 7)Agriculture Mechanization 8) Computers 9) Telephone 10)Air Conditioning and Refrigeration

Yes, our summers were very different with air conditioning. I couldn’t imagine that in a few short years I would be running from a “cooled” house to a “cooled” car to a “cooled office” to a “cooled” restaurant and back through the circle.

I remember flying down to Houston to see how air conditioning changed our national culture. I walked into the incredible Houston Astrodome in 1967, two years after it opened. Suddenly the smell of cut grass, the feel of warm breezes and the sound of the crack of the bat had been transposed. Before me was a giant air-conditioned stadium with plastic grass and the baseball reverberating off the bat with a sound-chamber echo. Uggh.  It’s finally gone. The new stadium has a retractable roof that is usually open.

Today we may find a few dozen kids at a splash park, but most are cooped up in the coolness with their video games and phones.

In 1961, Jane Jacobs immortalized the summer playgrounds that I remember. She wrote  her vision of a Mid-century Greenwich Village park in the summer. Some of you will remember.

“This is the time of roller skates and stilts and tricycles, and games in the lee of the stoop with bottletops and plastic cowboys. They slop in puddles, write with chalk, jump rope, roller skate, shoot marbles, trot out their possessions, converse, trade cards, play stoop ball, walk stilts, decorate soap-box scooters, dismember old baby carriages, climb on railings, run up and down.”
Cool sign

 

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A Voice in the Wilderness

I am writing a post today to encourage writers in our group to start a blog. We, the Writer of Kern, are a branch of the California Writers Club. The club was founded by Jack London in 1913. We encourage you to join our group if you have a poem in your heart, a novel in your brain or a memoir that your grand-kids need to read.

wok-header

A Voice in the Wilderness

I’m not sure what writing something down in a blog format and pushing the “publish” button would do for you. I’m not sure what you have to say is something anyone wants to read.  I don’t have a clue what you should write about tomorrow. I’m not sure you can structure sentences in a correct manner. I think you’re crazy doing this blog three times a week.

man-looking-in-mirrorOh, excuse me; I didn’t know anyone was listening to me. I was just talking in the mirror like I do a few times a week.

I can tell you that starting a blog is scary. I can assure you the fear of writing the next blog after this one never goes away. I know that over 5,000 blogs a week go to “blog heaven.”  That’s a lie. “Blog Hell” is actually the dead blog place.

I know how the “Big Giant Bloggers” get all their thousands of followers. They write about things people want to read. They write about things they know about and love to write about. What do people want to read about?

Here are the top 11 Niche Markets that capture large audiences in the Blog World.

Personal Finance, Gadgets and Technology, Career, Creative Endeavors, Parenting, Business and Entrepreneurship, Social Media and Blogging, Freelancing, Marketing, News and Entertainment, Self-Improvement.

Your new Blog must be rooted in the READERSHIP, not about you or your business. You should be an expert on the topic and enjoy spending time with your audience attracted to your topic.

Now you have the formula for success in blogging. Go for it!

As you may know, I don’t follow my own advice. What I listed above is what you should do…really.

It’s just not what I do. I’m a little bit crazy and need to write so they don’t haul me away. I’m trying to build an audience of crazy people who may buy one of my books I will soon be touting on my blog. Like you, I bet, I love to write. I also like to make things up. It’s my way of getting the crazy people out of my head and into yours. I hope.

This post is the 476th post to my blog. It’s working. They haven’t hauled me away…yet.

 

Dan McGuire

www.bakoheat.com

 

 

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Almost Autumn

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, two weeks from today is the first official day of autumn. This is when the sun actually rises “due east” and sets “due west.” Here in the Northern Hemisphere the autumnal equinox brings 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

History has recorded some weird facts on these early September days. I’m writing this on Sunday, 9/7, and on today’s date in 1921 we crowned the First Miss America. Her name was Margaret Gorman and she also has the distinction of being the youngest Miss America ever. She was 15 years old. Her measurements were 30-25-32. (For those who remember “Twiggy”—her measurements were 32-23-32)

Today, September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while serving as President. On that note, I believe everyone should check out the recent documentary currently playing on HBO called “Nixon on Nixon.”  Its 90 minutes of listening to Nixon on his own Whitehouse recording equipment. They have finally released the last tapes and I admit I didn’t think anything could shock me about Richard Nixon. All I can say is listen to the tapes and let me know how you feel.

On a lighter note about September 8, Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966. Trekies probably know the first episode was called “The Man Trap.”
Star Trek

There was a death on September 8th in 1970 we have long forgotten, but he was certainly important in my life. His name was Percy Spencer and he died at the age of 76. He was an orphan who never graduated from grammar school. He worked for Raytheon and held over 150 patents. The one invention of his I use almost every day was discovered accidently in 1946. He paused to do some calculations in the lab one day, not realizing he was standing near a vacuum tube emitting high-frequency radio waves (a magnetron). Suddenly he noticed the candy bar in his shirt pocket melting all over his shirt. Voila! He invented the microwave oven. Thanks Percy!

On September 10th, 1956, Mr. Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. He sang Don’t be Cruel and Hound Dog.
MEMO TO MILEY CYRUS….he could only be filmed from his waist up because he moved his hips around.

One year earlier, 1955, Gunsmoke debuted on CBS. If you were around then you can’t forget Marshal Matt Dillon. The show ran for 20 years. That’s right TWENTY YEARS. But, did you know that John Wayne turned down the role of Marshal Dillon?
Gunsmoke

 Enjoy your week.

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The Past Uncovered (Possible Cult Found!)

ARCHAEOLOGY REPORT RELEASED
Home found in original condition results in astonishing report.
September 21, 2185

Today the Central News Media received the first report from the Chief Engineer in charge of the dig-site in the former Central Valley of California. This report was filed by James Futura, the Chef Engineer.

Gentlemen: As you know, after twenty seven years of various digging probes throughout this vast wasteland, we uncovered a home relatively intact even though it was buried beneath 3500 feet of the former Sierra Mountain Range. The home, located in the former city of Bakersfield, California, was miraculously protected by a giant Magnolia tree located in the front yard section of the property. When the upheaval of the mountain range happened in late September, 2014, the tree tumbled over and around the house protecting it like a giant umbrella.

We know the upheaval took place during a prolonged drought as tens of thousands of farmlands drained every well so dry that the ground collapsed and the mountain range fell over on top of the valley.

The uncovered home contained no human remains. Residents of this former area had a few hours to flee as the huge rumblings gave warning.

When we uncovered the home, we found it was a small three bedroom home that probably contained one woman and three men. We found no evidence of children inhabitants. There was at least one feline present at some time based on feline hair found on all the clothes and furniture.

We are determining that this may have been the home of a religious cult or possibly a musical band that shared the premises. We make these statements based on our findings of many musical instruments from pianos, keyboards, violins, cellos, violas, horns, guitars and more. The three gentlemen all shared the same clothes-closet. The clothes were assorted in Medium, Large and Extra-Large sizes. Interesting aside, all three gentlemen wore and shared the same size shoes and caps. There was a large supply of caps which we assume all three gentlemen wore daily. This might have been a musical-band thing.

It seemed the three gentlemen and the woman shared the same bedroom and one bed. This is the reasoning behind our accusations of a religious-type cult. We also discovered various ancient books written by priests, atheists, historians, physicists, politicians, horror books, detective books, poetry books, cook books, writing books and books with sexual pictures.

Gentlemen, this was a strange mix of folks under one roof. We find no names of the former residents listed on government over-site lists, no-fly lists or terrorist lists. They seemed to be moving around under the radar.

Our other pertinent clue was that all three gentlemen engaged in writing on the same ancient computer. We found the remains of the antique computer keyboard and the deep-grooved letter-keys point to around the clock usage which had to be shared by at least the three gentlemen and probably the female. Remarkably no published manuscripts of any of the four residents have been found or documented.

We have a few photos to release to the press today. The first photo shows the foundation of the home after the tree was removed.
Notice the food contents of the four people living there had poured out of the two refrigerators and pantry.
DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The second photo released today is about half of the musical instruments uncovered in the room where the four cultists must have made music.
More to be reported later.
Uncovered house in Bakersfield

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Yogi Berra’s Inspirational Quips

Okay, so these quips don’t necessarily inspire, but he was one of a kind. For the younger generation that never heard of Yogi, and his infamous quips, this is for you. For you old-timers, reruns are cool too.
Yogi Berra

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.

There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ‘em.

You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.

A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.

It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

 It’s like deja-vu all over again

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

The future ain’t what it used to be.

I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.

I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?

It ain’t over til it’s over.

Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.

Even Napoleon had his Watergate.

Mickey Mantle was a very good golfer, but we weren’t allowed to play golf during the season; only at spring training

I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

I never said most of the things I said.

You can observe a lot by just watching.

We made too many wrong mistakes.

Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.

In baseball, you don’t know nothing

If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.

If I didn’t make it in baseball, I wouldn’t have made it workin’. I didn’t like to work.

I always got nervous the nights we played in the World Series. First pitch, I was nervous. Then after that, forget it; I’d start playing.

If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.

Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.

I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.

If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.

So I’m ugly. So what? I never saw anyone hit with his face.

We have a deep depth.

Pair up in threes.

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