“Me & Clarence” by Harry Kuhn

In the long line of great western heroes, many outstanding and trusty steeds have been associated with the legends who rode them into adventure after adventure.  Three come to mind as I write: The Lone Ranger and Silver, Roy Rogers and Trigger, and Me and Clarence.  While the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers were clearly the rightful riders of their mounts, Clarence’s ownership was a matter of some debate.

Clarence was originally given to my sister Olive as a stuffed animal to lay on and watch T.V.  It became clear, though, that at first she did not take a strong liking to Clarence.  I, on the other hand, was a cowboy without a horse and in my eyes Clarence the Stuffed Camel would be a worthy substitute.  So I began a shameless campaign of begging, whining, and pleading to be allowed to have Clarence for my steed.  Eventually my persistence paid off, much to the displeasure of my sister.  My dad took Clarence and gave him to me.  Thus began the legendary adventures of Me and Clarence.

Many a long dusty trail and open plain were traversed with the trusty Clarence beneath me.  Together we fought bandits of all stripes and angry natives too numerous to count.  Often Clarence and I would round the corner at home into the hallway and I would tumble off him in a heap, felled by the arrow of a hostile enemy or the bullet of some nefarious bushwhacker.  In true, heroic, cowboy tradition I would pick myself up while Clarence stood by my side and remount my camel to pursue the despicable varmints.  Secure on Clarence’s back I rode the range and survived many a brush with disaster.

As time went by it became clear, sadly, that the hard riding life of the old west was taking its toll on Clarence.  Eventually I sat on two thin strips of cloth with whatever stuffing remained inside Clarence congealed at either end of him.  Finally, my oldest brother Jim convinced me that Clarence’s time had come.  One afternoon, atop a pile of burning wood and unusable items out in our yard, we gave Clarence a Viking funeral.  Standing by Jim’s side I was silent as he placed what remained of Clarence atop the burning pile and we both watched as he was consumed.  Sadly, an era had passed in the old west.  Me and Clarence rode the range no more.

Over fifty years have passed since that solemn day but Clarence is not forgotten, neither by me nor by my sister Olive.  From time to time I will bring up Clarence in a conversation with her and the fires of disagreement flare anew.  She has never retracted her claim to Clarence and I am adamant that he rightfully belonged to me due to her neglect of him when he was hers.  When I cannot convince her to see my point of view, I resort to an old stand-by position; dad gave him to me making me the owner.  We never agree and the matter is dropped ’til the next time I bring up the subject, still trying to get her to concede that Clarence truly was mine.

This Christmas I received some gifts from Olive.  Among them, safely wrapped in bubble wrap, was a transparent, candy statue of a camel.  A handwritten tag on the package read, “REMEMBER CLARENCE?”

How could I forget the excitement, the adventure, the near disastrous gunfights seated on his back?  Those times will never come again when the west was a safer place because of The Lone Ranger and Silver, Roy Rogers and Trigger, and Me and Clarence.

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“More Resources” by Alan Blenkhorn

It is kind of funny
You can live without money
It’s easy
Come with me
To churches with lunch and dinner
You can even be a sinner
Soup kitchens
Salvation Army and the mission
Helping hands
They really understand
If you need a place
Stay here while you wait
Friendly faces at the door
Always open, for more
Clothing vouchers
Volunteer helpers
Food banks and stamps
There is no reason why you can’t

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“There is nothing funny about hunger” by Alan Blenkhorn

I’ve got the facts under my hat
Acted crazy all day and they didn’t put me away
Exaggerated feelings, function and emotions
Collided in the commotion
Nothing showing
In a pout, I’m missing out
Something is stimulating our minds to think!
I think
Irrational behaviour
Needs a saviour
You need a plan
I’m on a plan
Grounded grumpy
There will always be something wrong with me.

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“An Oddity” by Harry Kuhn

As I look at my watch curious thoughts pass through my mind. It is a pocket watch, which is not typical in these days, but that is not what I think of most when I gaze at the face of the time piece. It is a white face with black, easy to read numbers and hands. It is actually the hands that draw my attention most often. Not to see the time of day but because they do not move entirely correctly around the numbers.

At the top of the hour, each hour, the hour hand is just behind the number it should be pointing at. When I first purchased the watch I did not notice this oddity and when I did it seemed like it would be confusing if I only glanced quickly to check the time. I thought that perhaps I might have wasted money buying it and that it would not be any good. But another thought struck me and my reaction to the imperfection softened.

The watch does in fact keep reliable time. It has not lost or gained even a minute since I bought it a month ago. I can, now that I am used to it, tell time with no difficulty at all. What appeals to me about this watch is not the ornate, leafy engravings on the dull steel casing and lid or even the easily-read face. What appeals to me is that this watch functions perfectly well but is at the same time just a little off normal. The hour hand showing behind the position it should be in, not noticeable at first but after closer examination clearer, makes the watch an oddity and not a typical time piece to me.

It occurs to me that this pocket watch is a good match for me. I too am a little off. I have a mental illness, but function well despite the imperfection. I have responsibilities which I meet, I do well with people in a variety of settings, I have a good reputation, I write and, to date, people like what I write. But on closer examination, I too have little oddities that make me just a little off normal.

Saying this is not a put-down; my experiences in life have shown me that most people, in their own ways, are a little off. I think the difference between them and I is that my oddities have a label while theirs do not or, if obvious ones, fall under the general label of eccentricities. Mine fall under the much more specific label of schizophrenia.

Finding this watch in a second-hand electronics store only adds to the appeal. It was abandoned in a place you would not expect to find it and sold at a cheap price. It did not match the varieties of other goods for sale although everything else in the store was also second-hand. The low price indicated the store owner also wanted to be free of it. Since I became a little off almost thirty years ago, I too have experienced finding myself in a place no one would have expected to find me, doing things no one would have predicted and, at times, feeling as though most of the people I had in earlier years been close to wanted to be free of me, too.

It is a cheap, second-hand, pocket watch that the original owner did not want and the second owner wanted to get rid of. It keeps good time and is not bad looking, but it is a little off. I have been looking for this watch for a long time.

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“The Phoenix” by Maggie Sue Traynor

From the egg and from the womb, she is born into this world.
Time for her to be taught the survival techniques needed
For her to rise and survive in this world.
Life starts off to be rather enjoyable; everything is as it should be.
As her path changes negativity falls upon her.
She s no longer in a position to control her destiny.
She becomes so overwhelmed she can no longer rise.
She falls into the darkness, the time she has spent in the darkness
Allows her to regain her strength.
She now rises from the ashes, the darkness
And once again regains control of her destiny.

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“As Remembrance Day approaches” by Maggie Sue Traynor

As Remembrance Day approaches, the time we set aside
To honour and remember Our Vets with Integrity and Pride.
You did your tour of duty and yet you still must fight,
In honour of an agreement to protect our human rights.
Long term disability is what was promised to you;
They reneged on their end of the contract–sad to say but true.
Yet they set aside time on Remembrance Day, to put on a show for all,
Too bad it wasn’t them who had to take the fall.
You did your tour of duty and yet you still must fight,
In honor of an agreement to protect your human rights.
Dedicated to all our vets; past present and future
For fighting for our country and our freedom, too.
This poem for Remembrance Day was written just for you.

Good luck with your fight to regain your long term disability.

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“Get me out of this place!” by PCAW

From Week 3, Setting.

Where am I?

When I laid down last night, I was inside my tent beside a rippling lake, with a cooling breeze fluttering the tent flaps. This is–how can I explain it?–something akin to a marshmallow world. Every step sticks like marshmallow fluff. What were trees last night now look like cinnamon sticks smothered in the white sticky fluff. The cliff that was next to the shoreline is now slick with some kind of gooey brown goop. The footholds for climbing back to the top of the cliff are not visible.

How am I getting out of here?

Even the lake has become a solid mass of cold, white creamy stuff. Man, am I getting cold. I slip and fall into the lake. Licking this stuff from my hands tasted pretty agreeable to my hungry stomach. Becoming even more adventurous, I tasted this brown goop. Not bad, I said to myself. Tastes a little like chocolate fudge.

Why not try the other white fluffy stuff? Hey, this does taste like marshmallow fluff! I don’t know how I became part of this chocolate sundae, but maybe I can find my way out.

Then I woke up.

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“The beauty of art, the beauty of life” by Maggie Sue Traynor

The blank canvas that will soon be turned into a beautiful
Masterpiece. As GOD takes his beautiful creation and molds it into
His own beautiful masterpiece, Just like the artist with the canvas,
Only GOD will know the outcome of his beautiful creaton. As for the
Artist, he or she will know what the final outcome will be. As GOD too
will know. When we talk about the pyramid, we only see the top. It is
Difficult for humans to see what lies beneath. Yet GOD sees
Everything. Please do not insult me or my sisters by telling us not to
Judge the top for we are unable to identify what lies beneath. You too
Cannot stand there and judge my sisters or myself for you too do not
Know what lies beneath. GOD knows you don’t. Until you can fully
Understand the situation, please do not stand there in judgment, for
That is GOD’S right not yours. You are there to listen, not to judge.

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TOMORROW! Grit Uplifted Celebration & Launch Party


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“City Life” by Harry Kuhn

Fiction based on a true event. Era 1985, approximately.   

Tom looked around the subway car in confusion.  He was unable to understand why none of the dozen men and women sitting about the car appeared to be  paying attention to the scene playing out at the far door, much less intervening.  The four people standing there had captured his attention with their loud talk and wild gestures and his mind raced as he tried to make sense of the situation.  Three male teens taunted a woman who had her back to him.  In a very animated show of contempt they pointed in the woman’s face and laughed with exaggerated abandon.

Tom was new to the city and was on his way to his job in the downtown area.  Everything he saw, from the tall office towers to the ethnic neighbourhoods with their varieties of sounds and smells, was interesting to him in a curious way, but this event was like nothing he had seen before. The other passengers on the train seemed unconcerned by what was happening, and he struggled within himself about what the people around him appeared to take as normal and his own feelings that he should act on the woman’s behalf.  He wondered if this was one of those situations he had read of when in big cities bad things happen while people who don’t want to get involved just stand by.

Slowly he stood up and carefully observed the three young men.   This could be bad, he told himself, but he had to take some action.  A couple of tentative steps at a time he eased toward the animated group, pausing to steady himself as the subway car rocked side to side.  As he got closer two of the teens noticed him and looked up, their faces now serious as they glared at him.  Following their gaze the woman turned toward him as well.

Neither the overdone make-up nor the blonde wig, denim skirt, and jacket disguised the fact that the woman was actually a man.  Tom froze, stunned.  He had been certain he was going to the aid of a woman in distress and now found himself facing three angry young men and a cross-dresser.  Where a moment before he had been grimly determined to risk injury to try to help he now hesitated, surprised by the victim.  What was happening was wrong, but he understood the situation now.  Daring not to conform to their expectations, the lone man had drawn the wrath of the teenagers.

The young men began to laugh at the expression on Tom’s face as he stood frozen in the aisle of the subway car with one hand on a pole to steady himself as the train pulled into a station.  The man in the woman’s clothing took the pause in activity to quickly exit the car as the doors slid open.  Tom backed away from the teens and returned to his seat.

Whereas the teens’ taunting of the man in drag had gone without any undue interest from the other passengers, amused looks were directed toward him.  His actions, not the teenagers’, seemed to have been out of the ordinary.  He felt uneasy with the attention.

The overused line from The Wizard of Oz came to him suddenly, perfectly describing his sense  of the unreal.  Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.  He was more unsettled by the boldness of the three young men who were totally unconcerned with the presence of so many witnesses as they taunted the lone man, and that they, correctly it seemed, knew no one would speak or act in his defense than by the fact the man was a cross-dresser.  Had the man been dressed more typically male he felt sure he would still have risen to the victim’s aide, either by physically intervening or pressing the emergency strip to call help.

Tom decided that he had better get used to feeling this sense of being different as he did not intend to change.  He would, however, remember this encounter and what to expect from people in the city.

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