Looking back to decisions not made and roads not taken

When I was younger and reading about the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, and Arthur, I tried to figure out how Merlin lived his life backward. Was he born at 100 years of age and then each year became a year younger? Possibly, though when interacting with Arthur, Merlin knew the past, a time he couldn’t have experienced yet. I finally let the matter sit on a dusty shelf and enjoyed the stories without worrying about Merlin’s claim except to believe him when he spoke to Arthur about the future.

When people get older that dirt–I don’t think I’m there yet–they’re often asked if they could go back in time and change one mistake, would they do it. I suppose the question is easier to answer if somebody committed a crime and is now serving a life sentence.  Undo the crime and you’re no longer doing the time. That sounds like a no-brainer.

But what about the rest of us? Sometimes I feel sad about doing ABC instead of XYZ. But then I think about how different my life would have been if I’d made the opposite decision. I get tangled up in the complexity of it all because changing one decision would ripple throughout my life and a thousand things I’m happy about would probably be wiped out of existence. I wouldn’t have “been there” for those things to happen. I wouldn’t be married to my soul mate or had a great daughter and granddaughters.

What might have been always feels bittersweet when considered in a vacuum. But when the totality of a lifetime–without Merlin’s knowledge of the purported future–is considered, the consequences of changing even the smallest thing loom very large. So when people ask me that question, my answer is always that I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t dare.

Inasmuch as I created the life I have lived, I think it’s best to keep living it because in spite of the things I could have done, where I have ended up is just what the “doctor” ordered.

The cat in my Florida Folk Magic series says past, present, and future happen simultaneously. Who am I to disagree?


Book three of the Florida Folk Magic Series.

When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet.

Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her. Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police, or the witness is too scared to come forward.

When the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.


One key fob to bind them

If you have a recent car, you know that the most important piece of equipment is the key fob, the remote that unlocks the car as you approach and locks it as you walk away, and allows you to start the car by holding down the brake pedal and pushing the start button. I think it will also cook breakfast and start the car on a cold winter’s day.

Key Fob - 2016-2021 Honda HR-V 4-Button Smart Key Fob Remote (KR5V1X, 72147-T7S-A01)The primary key fob includes a key that will start the car during the apocalypse if need be. That key will also open the remote so you can change the battery inside even though this isn’t mentioned in the car’s operating manual.  On the secondary key fob, there’s a slide switch half the size of a grain of rice.  What it does, I don’t know because it doesn’t open the remote’s battery compartment.

Since this key fob will control the universe, you’d think the car’s manual would mention it, possibly including instructions for changing the battery and mentioning what size that battery is. I hate to drive by the dealership and ask, er, how do you change the battery in this sonofabitch that isn’t mentioned in the car’s operating instructions.

Maybe I’m supposed to ask the key fob how to do that, like Alexa. I’m thinking, though, that changing the battery in the fob is classified information because, you know, if the fob falls into the wrong hands those hands can launch missiles or otherwise mess up life as we know it.


hello to 18 million veterans

Tomorrow is a day for parades that honor the 18 million former servicemen and women who–these days–volunteer to give of their time and perhaps their lives on behalf of the country. Like many people in my generation, I remember when the day was called Armistice Day because that was the name we first heard as kids like Boulder Dam instead of Hoover Dam and tin foil instead of aluminum foil. The name was officially changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

In 2016, President Obama signed the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act urging Americans to observe a two-minute period of silence at 3:11 p.m. local time. On Memorial Day, the moment of silence occurs at 3:00 p.m. local time. In both cases, the silence honors those who died and those who served.

Many of us are veterans, have family members who are veterans and know others who are veterans. While the day doesn’t lend itself to family gatherings like Thanksgiving, acknowledging veterans in some way seems to be preferable to using the day to attend sales of one kind or another.

In 2019, the Cohen Veterans Network commissioned a poll and learned that 49% of veterans don’t like to be thanked for their service. In general, veterans feel uncomfortable being thanked. Better, perhaps, to ask where the person served and/or what their service branch and job were. One can always donate or provide volunteer support to organizations that support veterans. If you search online, you’ll find many charities focused on veterans, including those trying to help former servicemen and women cope with PTSD.

I think we owe it to ourselves to find out why so many veterans are homeless–possibly 40,000 at this point–and work toward ways of solving this national embarrassment. That number appears to have decreased during the last several years.

Pick what works for you. Being involved serves the greater good, I think.


London Bridge Is Down

British Monarchy Photo

That’s a catchy code phrase other than the fact London Bridge has been in Arizona for years.

Otherwise, bloody hell, I’m a Scot, so I hope you didn’t log onto my blog for syrupy words about the passing of an English queen even though she had a castle in Scotland. I will admit that if we had to have a United Kingdom with a captured Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, she brought stability, wisdom, and a sense of duty to a country that’s gone through changes, many turbulent since her reign began.

Like many of my generation, I watched her coronation on TV. I had an aunt who lived to 102 or so; had I imagined the queen would almost reach 100, I probably would have thought she’d be in a home. Far from it. She was up and around a few days ago to help get Liz Truss’ tenure as prime minister get underway. Talk about stamina and duty.

As for Charles, he’s been known as Charles for so long as Prince of Wales, it might have been awkward had he chosen another name as king. However, since the reigns of Charles I and Charles II didn’t work out very well, I would have been superstitious about using that name. Well, we’ll see how it goes.

As for the Queen, Robert Bruce forgive me for saying, “And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! and gie’s a hand o’ thine! And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne.”


Sunday: this and that

  • I’m highly attuned to prospective signs and omens–or, supidly superstitious. So, I think it’s a bad sign that Ida ploughed into Louisiana on the anniversary of Katrina. Ida’s going to cause a mess; that’s from the Weather Channel. Somebody saw Jim Cantore. That can’t be good. We may get some rain from the storm here in North Georgia on Tuesday.
  • I was happy to see in the news that that multiple countries have reached an agreement with the Taliban to continue flying people out of Kabul past the original August 31 deadline. I hope the agreement is kept in spite of the attacks by ISIS-K. I’m amazed at the news that a plane full of refugees leaves the airport roughly every 45 minutes
  • Sad to see that Ed Asner died. He was my favorite character on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The series had a great ensemble cast and some very good writers.
  • It’s not even 4 p.m. and I’m already drinking a glass of cheap wine. Our dying kitty, Marlo, is still fighting her cancer. The sedatives (for Marlo) are helping but not as much as we hoped. Best we can tell, is that she’s 18 years old as is our calico, Katy. My wife and I could use some sedatives: hence, the wine. Pets play a very large role in their families’ lives, it’s hard to have it suddenly end.
  • COVID has found numerous ways to mess up publishing. Ingram has announced that there will be delays and shortages in the fourth quarter. We rely on them for our hardcover copies. Also, places that normally would have reviewed Fate’s Arrows by now, still haven’t done it. So, naturally, sales are down; many writers have seen this during the pandemic.
  • Today’s quotation: “A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.” Fred Allen (1894-1956) We’ve been watching some of the “What’s My Line” episodes on YouTube. Allen was a frequent member of the panel, so, we’ve gotten used to his humor.
  • NPR Poll: We Asked, You Answered: Your 50 Favorite Sci-Fi And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade “The question at the heart of science fiction and fantasy is “what if?” What if gods were real, but you could kill them? What if humans finally made it out among the stars — only to discover we’re the shabby newcomers in a grand galactic alliance? What if an asteroid destroyed the East Coast in 1952 and jump-started the space race years early?”

I hope all of you are having a great weekend and that those of you in Louisiana are staying safe.


OMG, they’re shutting down Marlboro Country

“I want to allow this company to leave smoking behind,” Philip Morris CEO Jacek Olczak said in an interview with the Mail on Sunday. “I think in the U.K., 10 years from now maximum, you can completely solve the problem of smoking.”Domy Towarowe Centrum.jpg

Dang, I grew up with the Marlboro Man and the concept of Marlboro Country, the wide-open spaces where we were free to smoke cancer sticks whenever we wanted while riding our trusted quarter horses across the endless high range in search of lost calves and lost dreams.

Now I’m lost. I haven’t smoked a Marlboro since the 1990s, but as long as they were out there, I could always saddle up and light one up. We became addicted because you, Philip Moris, gave us what was once an acceptable way to do so. But now–or soon–I won’t be able to go back to those days even if I need to.

My addiction probably goes back to the navy when the CPO said, “Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em” or when the announcement came over the ship’s IMC (public address system), “The smoking lamp is lit.” Gosh, was it possible to be sent to the brig if you didn’t have a cigarette dangling out of your mouth? Perhaps not, but if you weren’t smoking, suffice it to say, you weren’t part of the team. So much for advancement!

I might have strayed from Marlboro Country from time to time.  I smoked Roxy in the Netherlands and Gauloises in France. But it wasn’t the same. Neither were Players and Senior Service in Britain. They tasted bad and didn’t have a country available where you could ride off into the sunset with cancer. At least Raleigh cigarettes gave out coupons you could save up for an iron lung.

So, we say goodbye, sadly, to Marlboro Country. Maybe not today. But soon. We’ll probably be better off once it’s gone because addiction never goes away. I hope this is one problem our grandchildren never have to face. They’ll have to find their own addictions, books maybe, or Philip Moris biscuits with a dash of marijuana.

Gosh, clean air. I never thought I’d see the day.





Mountains. . .before I got too old to climb them

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes. . .

from “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas

When I first explored the mountains of Glacier National Park, “time let me hail and climb golden in the heydays of his eyes.” I thought those trails and those days would go on forever even though I had read the Dylan Thomas poem many times and knew how it ended. Even though grandparents are around us when we are young, we still think we will always be young and, that if we won’t, old age is eons away in a future too far away to fathom.

When we’re young, it’s hard to imagine being old. When we’re old, it’s easy to remember being young just as I remember the first time I read “Fern Hill” and was concerned about the words: “ In the sun that is young once only, time let me play and be golden in the mercy of his means.”

As I write a novel now about a character following a trail near Piegan Mountain, I must rely on the videos and descriptions of younger men and women, those who are still healthy in time’s golden era. If I’d only known, some 50 years ago, that I’d be writing this novel, I would have taken a hundred photographs along the trail that led from Going to Sun Road to Many Glacier Hotel. But I was too enchanted within the moment to create a photographic diary on Ektachrome film. (Regrets, I’ve had a few.)

If there’s a learning experience in all this, it’s to push on with the writing using the resources I can find rather than wishing (a) I could be young again, (b) took 1000 photographs of everything, and (c) ruined my life experiences by slavishly documenting them for those old-age years when they would be beyond reach.

When we have finally followed time out of grace, our memories must suffice, all the more sweet because they are so tangled and unclear rather like a dream of once walking the high country when knees and ankles and breath were strong and the sky was blue and full of endless promise from side to side.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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I need a lawn tractor with power steering and A/C

When my wife and I finish several hours of yard work, we feel like we’ve been beaten up by a badass chapter of Hell’s Angels. Everything hurts. I should point out that both of us have slipped past middle age, probably while drunk or asleep, and now (gasp) are probably presumed to be senior citizens. That means we’re wise and/or wiseass and need to be revered and respected by younger people.

So, last night after mowing at least an acre of high grass, I fell into a recliner with a bottle of Highland Brewing Gaelic Ale and more or less watched something or other on TV. I think it might have been Master Chef Legends followed Crime Scene Kitchen. I vaguely remember that people were cooking stuff, some of which looked worse than anything I fix for supper and some of which looked great.

Three or four of these might help.

Getting back to this post’s header, my proposal to the Feds is to pass a bill that mandates all senior citizens with a riding mower/lawn tractor will get a free upgrade to automatic transmission and A/C. We live in a rural area where we have about three lots worth of mowing to do and we need government money to smooth things over, mainly the property which randomly gets tromped to oblivion when the neighbor’s cows get out and wreck the yard.

So, what I need for you to do is call your senator and representative and say, “People older than dirt are still mowing their yards with riding mowers that function like a hot and sweaty bucking bronco.”

I’m not making this up.

All we need is several hundred grand to fix the problem. Since we’re filled with wisdom that is free, we don’t think this is too much to ask.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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I consider Roe v. Wade Settled Law

Of course, it isn’t.

Now a new abortion case is approaching the court from Mississippi. The state now bans abortions after 15 weeks. This time scheme is purportedly based on when the fetus would be viable outside the womb. With advances in medicine, we might be approaching the time when abortions are banned before a woman could reasonably know she is pregnant–some suggest banning abortions as soon as it’s possible to detect a fetal heartbeat.

My political/moral views are somewhat eclectic, but the libertarian side of my beliefs is that government has no right to tell me what I can eat, smoke, drink, worship, think, believe in, do to/for myself (including taking my life), or–if I were a woman–whether or not I could end my pregnancy.

Certainly, as a man, I cannot support anyone–especially men–who believe they have the right to get involved in a woman’s personal choices, including giving birth.

I have long feared the day when the government would try to justify getting involved in the lives of pregnant women, dictating what they can and cannot do once the pregnancy is discovered. That is, making a list of forbidden activities that could harm a baby and/or charging women with murder if a life choice can be proven to have harmed a baby.

So many people argue against abortion due to their religious beliefs. I see this as arrogant and irrelevant. In a country that supports freedom of religion we cannot help but support freedom from other people’s religions. In short, the law cannot base its restrictions on what one (or more) religions restrict simply because we cannot apply a religion’s beliefs to people who are not part of that religion.

Now there is talk again about adding more justices to the Supreme Court. That only works for us if we like the current philosophy of the court–or if we don’t. FDR tried this and we often laugh about it now. But now people are actively thinking about trying it again. Where will that end? Will we one day have a court with more members than the Senate?

Sure, three more liberal justices might do the trick for now to prevent the Court from modifying or overturning Roe v. Wade. A short-term gain, to be sure, but probably a very bad road to travel, long term.

The public’s view about abortion shifts over time, though I would like to see a higher percentage of people in surveys stating neither “pro” or “con” but “none of my business.” When people believe it is their business, they are–in my view–saying that they don ‘t really believe in freedom and that they want government to ban the freedoms they don’t like.

Our first right, I think, is to be left alone and not have one level of government or another lurking like a vulure that will swoop down on us when some person or some group thinks they’re entitled to make us live according to their belief system rather than our own.


wonderment, perhaps

When children come into our lives, however briefly, we often find the wonderment we once had and lost. The baby arrives from another realm, one we’ve also forgotten, and immediately goes about discovering how our world works. Some discoveries bring pain, but most provide more than enough incentive for a happy “ahhh” or “oooh” and a smile that reaches from here to eternity.

We can learn a lot by watching a child.

Perhaps wonderment is the most powerful state of mind we can achieve, the ability to see the universe in a grain of sand and excitement in each new discovery. Water fountains, ice cream, a kiss, our beautiful differences, unexpected humor, the sea and the sky, love that’s true.

Losing wonderment is like choosing to be blind or deaf, and unconcerned about what we’re choosing to miss out on. But age often makes us tired and so do numerous betrayals that most babies have yet to experience. So, we close ourselves down to the beauty of new experiences for fear of getting hurt.

Sometimes after trying on many suits of clothes and searching down many roads, we find ourselves and the wonderment we once took for granted. Limitations and bad dreams immediately fall away. What a miracle.

We can, if we wish, be on the lookout for wonderment rather than sitting in front of the TV every night waiting for entertainment from outside ourselves. Life is never over after “bad luck” even though we might think so. There are still water fountains, ice cream, sea and sky, and love that’s true. No doubt there are risks to being open to the joy of something new, something potentially transcendent. 

Not to worry. Wonderment eases all pain and takes away all disappointments while giving us the moon and the stars.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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