Thank you for visiting!

You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I knew a man named Leroy back in the days when I was working for Salz Tannery. We worked there together. I operated huge mixers used to remove the hair from cow hides. Leroy was a mechanic. I really liked Leroy.

Actually, everyone liked Leroy. He was one of those unique persons whom everyone liked. These people are rare. He seemed to exist in a bubble of good will, held in high esteem by both sides of various social factions without jealousy or general bad feelings. He didn't "suck up," and was not sucked up to by people seeking his favor. He was just inherently pleasant to be around.

I have known a few such people, whom I refer to in my thoughts as Leroys. Now, being of an analytical nature it would not be surprising to find out I have observed myself. I know I am not a Leroy. People are not automatically attracted to me. Neither are they universally repulsed. I have determined that this is partially due to my social defensive tactics. I tend to be charming and abrasive in equal measures, adjusting those qualities to keep people at a manageable emotional distance.

Some people have a longing to be liked and accepted, in the extreme. They want to be Leroys. Most of them are unpleasant to be around simply due to the aura of needy and complex emotions. A true Leroy does not need to be accepted, and by virtue of that are more often accepted and in more places. That centered-ness might be one of the features that makes a Leroy so attractive.

The social interactions of a Leroy aren't driven by fear, or avarice, or some complex complex of emotions that make people who they are. The Leroy has a balance of social needs, is not predatory in relationships, and has a genuine affection for people as people. The Leroy gives in reasonable measure, yet in giving does not invite the predation of emotional predators. The Leroy is comfortable enough in his (or her) own skin to interact honestly with people without presenting that honesty as a wall.

That observation regarding honesty used as a wall was revelatory to me regarding my own non-Leroy-ness. I am honest in the extreme. Until I made this observation I did not realize that I used my honesty as one of my tools to keep people at a safe distance. I already realized that my honesty was not just the consequence of values like integrity. I simply don't have the kind of memory necessary for successful dishonesty, don't care for the complications of dishonesty, and don't have the need for approval from other humans to drive me to be dishonest for social gain.

Leroys, then, don't have the need to keep people at a distance. They don't have a cloying need to draw people close. The have a phenomenal sense of social balance. They are genuinely like this, inherently like this. It is a natural nature, not contrived or assumed.

I now recall a friend who was pretty good at mimicking the Leroy. He had it down pretty well, unlike the cliche used-car-salesman personality that is patently not genuine.  I think he longed to be a Leroy, but wasn't quite. I must admit that I tested his Leroy armor from time to time, and on occasion found a chink and saw the conflicted and angry person hiding inside.

Much as I admire the Leroy, I have to wonder if the Leroy is simply a mythical beast, an artifact of the flaws in my observations? I never had the opportunity to observe the Leroy at home, in contact solely with his (or her) intimate associations. Is the Leroy a Leroy at home? Lacking a suitable blind from which to make the necessary observations, I really can't say.

Whether mythical or real, I find the Leroy useful as a foil against which to test my own concept of self. If the Leroy is the perfect balance at the center of the scale of human interactive personalities, where do I fall? What Leroy qualities, real or imagined, might I adopt to improve myself as a human?

Where are you, Leroy? I have some questions.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gorre and Daphetid Railroad

I don't spend a lot of time reminiscing about my childhood. It was a good childhood, but the rest of my life has been pretty good as well. Since I am not compelled to escape into the past, my childhood is generally a fond but distant memory.

Occasionally, however, I have a spark of memory that compels me to think on those days past. It is often a pleasant journey. Such was my recent recollection of John Allen and the Gorre and Daphetid Railroad. John built the G&D (Gorre and Daphetid) as an epic model railroad. Being a professional photographer, he built this massive model to be photographed.

A play on words is common in model railroading. Gorre (Gory) and Daphetid (Defeated) is such. There were others here and there in the huge model project. Unfortunately, I only explored the G&D through model railroading magazines. Being young, I was rather oblivious to word play in the adult world. Now, years later, those images of the G&D are not readily available. Those that are prove to be quite expensive, and properly so.

The G&D was huge. It was complex. It was highly detailed, and probably one of the best examples of the art form that was model railroading. John was an adult, and had a disposable income. Most of my model railroading was done in my youth, a time of small funds for me. My efforts to emulate this master railroader were child's play. Worthy efforts, but limited.

My first model railroad was given to me by my Grandpa and Grandma Laatz. It was a Marx HO scale toy train. My father helped me to attach the tracks to a sheet of plywood that would slip under the bed. We painted roads and other features on the plywood. My father is a good painter, an artist, so the work had more than a childish quality.

With limited funds I was able to occasionally get a cardboard model house or some street lights or such. HO cars and trucks. I added surface textures and eventually a tunnel made of cardboard and plaster. For a first effort it wasn't bad.

Unfortunately, I am not the kind of guy who took meticulous care of these old toys and now has them to display. I can't recall where they went, other than a lot of items from my childhood were not there when I returned from my time in the Army. That is probably as it should be.

My next model railroad was an N gauge set I saved up to purchase. The plywood was a thing of the past, and the HO train was in a box. This smaller gauge allowed me to do more railroad in a smaller space. My next effort had elevations and mountains and tunnels and such. I had lichen foliage and  more detailed plastic buildings. There were track switches and crossings and all sorts of things. I added more sophisticated wiring that allowed me to run two trains at the same time.

I continued to putter about with my valiant but limited efforts, and continued to monitor the G&D through model railroad magazines. Eventually John Allen died, and the G&D was lost in a house fire. Now both only exist in archived photos, old books and magazines, and the minds and hearts of several model railroading generations.

I am forever grateful to John Allen and still inspired by the memory of the Gorre and Daphetid Railroad. I am also thankful for a great childhood, my grandparents and my parents, and all of their support.

Life was good then. It still is.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pens and other anachronisms-

I have a fondness for pens. Most particularly, fountain pens and dip pens. Dip pens are those very rudimentary writing instruments that you dip into an ink pot to charge the nib, and have to dip periodically as you write or draw. I have on occasion sat by candle light and written with such a pen. It was satisfying to share that experience with so many writers over many hundreds of years.

Over the years I have owned quite a number of pens, though none were particularly high-end forms of the art. That pens became over time art forms in themselves is not particularly unusual or strange. Perhaps that is part of the attraction, that these ever-so-practical daily tools can be things of great beauty. Anyway, I have owned quite a few.

Sadly, over the years I have used pens less and less. I find that the keyboard serves me much better for the actual act of writing. My wife cannot believe the speed of my typing when I am in the throes of writing. In all actuality I am not that fast on the keyboard. When my thoughts are flowing, however, the clicking can be furious.

My pen related motor skills have deteriorated over time as I have taken pen in hand less and less often. Like any other skill, use of the pen requires time and patience. My penmanship has deteriorated from a not particularly high level to a difficult to read scrawl. I must concentrate to physically write, and sometimes even forget how to form cursive letters.

From a practical perspective, this is not much of a loss. The keyboard is currently the mode of written communication. When I was in junior high school nearly half-a-century ago I elected to take typing classes. Keyboard writing was not common then, and few males elected to learn the skill. Children in the current era grow up keyboarding, cultivating a more ad hoc skill with sheer volume of use.

How many young people know nothing more of pens than the common stick pen that is sold by the dozen, and thrown away when it no longer has ink? Many adults my own age, or near to that age, are not aware of the pen as art. Such pens are expensive, and belong to a declining culture. A fine writing instrument can only be appreciated by those who practice fine writing, who value paper and ink and the very lines themselves.

They shall be kept alive, as are many anachronism and symbolic items from past eras. That is encouraging. The more beautiful representatives of the art form shall be elements of sophisticated and rare collections, viewed and appreciated by ever declining numbers of people. Like the charred stick from which they came, pens will simply become curiosities from another time.

From what I have seen, the physical keyboard is on the same path. Only a limited number of communication devices (cell phones in particular) now have physical keyboards. The keyboard as art has not had the centuries necessary to mature, and may never attain the status of the fine art pen. Oh, there have been attempts, and good ones at that. However, the time of the keyboard may well be ending.

From the most practical perspective, these transitions are not bad. The purpose of writing, no matter what the mode, is communication. Changes in the interface between ourselves and our communication technology will necessarily evolve, and only those evolutions that allow us to get the job done will survive. It is difficult to speculate what those evolutions may involve. They are happening fast, and in such volume that I cannot follow all of it.

We will each of us hold to the mode of communication that works for us. Some of us will be so bound to a mode that is falling behind the evolutionary curve that we shall fall out of the current center of human culture. Like little old ladies with excellent penmanship but nobody left to whom to write, we will drift to some cultural eddy and practice our anachronistic skills until we fade from history altogether.

The river of time flows rapidly, and none of us knows where we shall eventually wash up. So, if you happen to find me in some cultural backwater, banging away on an ancient keyboard or dipping a rusty pen in a bottle of aged ink, treat me kindly.