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May 2001


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We Hope To See You At Our Next Celebration

Sunday, May 6, 2001
4-9 PM
Bruce Taylor's Condo

For directions: Please phone Bob Olson at (425) 747-3879.

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Art Sharing
Saturday and Sunday March 31 and April 1, 2001, in Ocean Shores

Bruce Taylor read four short stories, "Waiting", "On Hell", "Icebergs and Dancing". Todd Christoffel played the guitar and sang many of his songs including "Monkey Wise" and "My Memories". Sarah Byam read her short story "Last Minute Manicure". Peter Wagener and Pippin Sardo performed the Flamenco couple dances known as Sevillanas. Dressed in complete Flamenco costume, Peter then performed a Flamenco solo of the type called Faruca. Afterwards many enjoyed social dancing to Todd's music. Lida Sloan played a jazz piano Ragtime piece "Do-Si-Do" and "Seventh Street Blues". Bob Olson read Sherman Alexie's story "Dear John Wayne" from his book, The Toughest Indian in the World and he then read a letter he has written to Alexie. Seiko Olson played "Memories" (from the musical Cats) and a few Japanese melodies on the piano. Karen Stein sung "Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Cento" accompanied by her singing husky dog. Pippin Sardo coordinated and prepared our gourmet meals which included: muffaletta sandwiches for lunch, Sultan's Pilaf, roast lamb stuffed with herbs (made by Pete Wagener), mushroom vol-a-vents, steamed asparagus and zabaglione with strawberries for dinner and French toast made with corn flake and coconut crust, topped with orange cream cheese, and tortilla a la Espaņola for breakfast. Bear Lightfoot also prepared scones for breakfast. Six of Bob's Christian motorcycle friends from Broken Chains Ministry dropped by on Saturday to visit. Carl Sloan and Stan Grillo participated as listeners.

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Other Stuff

Bruce is the (proud) founder/director of the Magic Realist Writers International Network (MRWIN) - an organization devoted to the promotion, publication and writing of Magic Realism.

Bruce will also be presenting at the Pacific Northwest writers Conference (July 26-29th) and Edmonds Arts Commission, Write on the Sound Conference (Oct. 6,7)

Future FOKUS meetings:

  • June 8-10, Todd Christoffel hosts FOKUS in Mazama at his cabin. Details to follow.
  • July 15, Mike Munro's place.
  • August 12, Bob and Seiko Olson's Bellevue home.

    If you want to advertise something your are doing in our newsletter please call Bob or Bruce. This is an excellent free bulletin board for your announcements.

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    Bruce Taylor's Editorial: The Unexpected

    Chi-pung, chi-pung, chi-pung, "OK, sir, we're starting the next series now. You doing all right?"

    "Yeah." My eyes were closed. I hate this, I thought." If I opened my eyes...

    Rattle-rattle-rattle-pok, pok, pok.

    I'd freak. I swear to God. I'd freak.

    Brzzt-brzzt-RATTLERATTLERATTLE - chi-chunk, chi-chunk.

    MRIs have to be the most diabolically noisy diagnostic tests ever devised. I was in this horribly narrow tube and I didn't realize how claustrophobic I could feel being in one of these damnably noisy things. It's like you're in a heavy gauge steel pipe and all sorts of folks are out there banging on it with sledge hammers, sticks, pipes, and various sizes of jack-hammers. I was in that damn thing because I was getting a scan of my shoulder and, happily, a few minutes later, the scan was done. And later that day, a call from the doctor: "You're OK. The cyst in your arm is just a fat-filled space in your bone and it's benign."

    OhGodohGodohGod. Whew. However, that wasn't the cause of the pain in my shoulder - it was a strained ligament. Unfortunately, as the next couple of days went by that wasn't my only problem. A tooth had begun to disintegrate in earnest, and a trip to the dentist to get it yanked resulted in a no-go, because there was an infection in the root which canceled out the effects of the anesthetic. And, unfortunately, right after the attempted extraction, I reacted to something the dentist used and went into anaphylactic shock. And, sigh, I still have a colonoscopy to go: given my father had colon cancer, I'm at fairly high risk.

    Well, you can guess what this column is about: Health. Old saying folks, "Your first wealth is health, without it you have nothing." So true. A lot of time has been eaten up in my life dealing with health issues but, in spite of it all, I'm still here and all I can say is, "It ain't been easy." I've struggled and fought against a message I got from year zero that the only way to get what I wanted was to participate in the creation of illness for myself, because I came from a family where it wasn't safe to be well, happy and powerful. It's rotten knowing that, because Health is all you really have. I struggle to stay on top of this. I struggle because, God Damn It, I refuse to let health issues eat up any more of my time than necessary. These issues take me away from pursuing my writing.

    My writing, my creativity is sacred, and in many, many ways it has been my savior because I've been able to look beyond ancient, dysfunctional messages to see the bigger picture of life that creativity has provided. I just wish I had gotten that message when I was a kid. But that's what I gotta deal with: while I can't change that, I can change how I respond now. ("God, grant me the serenity...")

    For you out there who did not get such a messed up message, for God's sake, take care of yourselves. Your state of health and the energy you have for creative productivity are one and the same. If you are overweight, get off the pounds. If you have high blood pressure, get it down. If you aren't exercising, get off the couch! If you haven't had a physical in the last year, get one. Take care of your health! If you resist doing so, find out why.

    The disintegration of my tooth was due to poor dental care, pure and simple. I had control over that, and I'm not happy this happened. I had no control over the issue with my shoulder and that's why it was so hard to deal with, because it was totally unexpected. Colon cancer? I have control over that by getting a colonoscopy. Diabetes? What control I have has to do with keeping my blood sugars as close to normal as possible, check it frequently, and walking at least an hour a day. I do this because I'm buying time, because health issues can be unexpected. I want to have more years of good health so I can get my writing done. This means I take the time for counseling to try to turn down the volume of ancient family messages that have nothing to do with who I am now, but still get in the way. That is what I owe to myself. That is what I must do if I wish to continue to write and to enjoy this creative life-style that I covet and have been blessed with.

    For those of you who have no health problems, do what you need to do to make sure your health stays optimal. To do any less than that is to run the risk of saying to the Creator and the Creator's gift to you of your creativity: "You don't matter enough for me to be willing to do all I can do that is in my power to keep the temple of my body a clean, strong and sacred place in which You may dwell."

    Remember, it's not just your ability to have health and energy to continue to be creative that is at stake. It's also your life.

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    A story by Bob Olson:
    Mussolini Wore Galoshes

    Willard swung his picket sign like Babe Ruth, smashing the side window of the strikebreaker's Buick. Willard Lovell's knuckles turned white as his little fists grasped the handle of his sign and he hit the side and back of the bright red Buick again, again and yet again. He was furious. This maggot scab was stealing his job. His job for twenty-five years as a fourth grade teacher. All because of that bastard Mussolini.

    In the late '70's I struck with several hundred other teachers in Washington State's first teachers strike protesting a disastrous school board and superintendent. This was a colorful and heart-stretching experience - frightening and demanding yet rewarding in an outcome of camaraderie and community support.

    The superintendent hired by our ultra-conservative school board was nicknamed "Benito Mussolini". He was in his fourth year when we struck. Class sizes had increased, teachers' salaries stagnated, new textbooks and teaching materials were seldom ordered, janitorial services were cut back and building improvement was cancelled. Teachers, students and parents were aghast. A self-righteous school board, with disdain for teachers, had hired this man for their mission of austerity. Only after the strike did I learn a little about him personally. One of my good friends was a teacher opposed to striking and a personal friend of "Mussolini". He even had "Mussolini" play the organ at his wedding, which turned out to be a strange affair. Perhaps this organist slept too late for a morning wedding. It was a rainy day and "Benito" arrived wearing galoshes, draped in a raincoat over pajamas and played the organ. No one spoke to him and he left after his performance. Our superintendent was a solitary man. Only Board members had access to him. He dictated decisions, denied requests and earned universal disrespect. Indeed, galoshes seemed to be his trademark as he trod down educational standards.

    I was assigned to a new school, meeting my fellows for the first time on the picket line. We were a calm enough group for the first several days, but things changed. Negotiations were going nowhere. It looked like we were in for a long haul. Gus Pough, a high school coach on the line with me, was especially distressed, and you never wanted to see Gus distressed. A semi-pro wrestler Gus stood about six foot two and weighed in the neighborhood of three sixty to three seventy-five. Tired of merely waiving his sign and shouting obscenities at substitute teachers driving into the parking lot, Gus grabbed the front bumper of a gray Volkswagen Beetle. The petite, shy young driver, Valerie Winkle, made the mistake of stopping her car. Valerie was a new hire librarian coerced into being a strikebreaker to keep her job. Gus lifted the front end of her car and dropped it. Again and again and again. The poor girl was screaming in terror as Gus leered and laughed. Four of us grasped him and made him quit. Then, we smiled at Valerie and let her continue. None of us were librarians. Gus smirked and told everyone what he did to Gooks in 'Nam - his "big necklace of ears".

    I wanted to get off the picket line with Gus and volunteered to be one of the "goons" offering moral support to elementary teachers. These frightened teachers could barely hold up their picket signs. "Harassment" was a naughty word to them. I went to a school where the principal had removed teachers' names from the doors to their classrooms and replaced them with the names of replacements. The scabs were told they had permanent jobs. "Goon" was the endearing term applied by school board supporters to a few of us secondary teachers who joined our elementary comrades. "Mussolini's" supporters took our pictures from a safe distance and circulated them with the message -- "Watch out for these goons!" The strike had progressed into its fourth week and a Gus Pough mood prevailed. Willard Lovell carried his picket sign beside me. He was a little fellow, five feet tall with the girth of a jockey. Willard's courage developed into rage by the time he hit the red Buick. That same day a water pipe burst in that school. When a maintenance truck arrived, we refused to let it cross our picket line. Willard was very outspoken and they were happy to support our cause. I never found out how or when repairs were made.

    As the strike continued past the first month, news coverage became colorful. Students and parents often joined our picket lines. We felt support but tensions increased. One of my friends, a very mild-mannered little sixty-year old counselor named Margery Wilson made the headlines. It seems one of the school board supporters confronted Marge and argument turned to catfight. Marge was jailed as our hero of the day.

    Eventually, with the help of community supporters, union and state negotiators, the strike was settled. The community rallied around the concerns of teachers. A new school board was elected the next year and "Benito Mussolini" fired, to be rehired by another anti-teacher board. (He survived traveling from position to position in this capacity.)

    School started and I became the favorite Jew of my next principal "Adolph Hitler", but that is another story, for next time.

    If you can offer Bob an opportunity to meet with a class you teach or a small group you belong to, he would love to volunteer his services. Some of Bob's special skills and interests include: conflict resolution, value education, cultural diversity, storytelling, creative writing, near-death experiences and art expression. Bob has been fortunate enough to have worked with many of the pioneers in these fields. Please call him - - - - - Bob Olson 425-747-3879

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    A Poem by Carl Sloan


    would I know?
    Could have been
    bubbling up for decades.

    All I can tell you is
    about the rewrites:
    sometimes ten zillion
    sometimes only three.

    A rewrite can be
    one word or thirty,
    a comma taken out.
    If I put the comma back in
    that's two rewrites.

    When all the words are taken out
    I call it a new poem.

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