Why Does Small Town America Matter?

The flyover States. The Midwest, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains. We have these large portions of land, water, grain, cattle, manufacturing plants, real home cooking, original buildings that display their character, and a truly visual representation of community.

The drawback for much of these communities is that they have smaller populations, limited resources, and an inability to capture large financial commitments they need to expound on their qualities, and make their respective destinations a draw for outsiders.

And then of course, that limitation goes to an on-going problem that America faces: competition for tourism dollars.

Many small towns across America have jumped onto the concepts taught at the former National Main Street Center were encapsulated by the ability to re-vitalize their downtown cores to eventually attract tourism dollars; the best money any municipality in this country can hope for.

Tourism dollars bring larger tax percentages (think those 20 percent or higher hotel taxes), and spend-happy customers at various retail shops that otherwise wouldn’t see the types of draws that would support their rent and utility payments.

Tourism is great, and getting something in place that is sustainable is certainly a goal worthy to have; but understanding that not every town can expect a major tourism draw is not merely a belief, but a principle that any small town looking to reclaim its luster should abide by.

The real truth is that it takes years of building (and a lot of rebuilding!) in all other directions before those first tourists will ever show up.  Merely propping up a few businesses in your downtown core, slapping an arts festival together and marketing it as the weekend destination is not going to work.

At the same time, people like Richard Florida, author of Cities and the Creative Class, have suggested that creative people, those who add vibrancy and theme to your small towns eventually leave for larger cities; simply because their purpose is better supported.

It’s a reasonable argument, in that we all recognize that larger cities tend to have more robust options and resources to not only support, but even more so, cultivate, the talents of many.  Industry, technology, space, and certainly an audience are all key factors to a creative reaching and achieving their potential; and making their own path.

Small towns by and large have not offered this in some time, and there are exceptions, by this is the going theme among many.

Some towns embrace the change, and want to support.  Others do not.  And still some fight it tooth and nail, not wanting anything “ruining….” Well, who knows what!

But right now, in 2019, small towns do have the ability to add some balance to the value they provide compared to their bigger, devouring brothers.

Much has been said about the internet and it’s democratization of information.  But the true power in internet services is the true exploration of fast telecommunications in the far-flung corners of agri-land.

But even more so than that, proliferating them in such a way that budding entrepreneurs, who are young, bright, and are inevitably part of the community’s growth, will be able to land the tools in small towns, that allow them to branch out the larger world.

One example of what I’m talking about is Ernest Greene Jr, also known as the musical artist Washed Out.  Greene was born in small town Georgia, and after leaving home for an education at a major D-1 school, followed by graduate school, he moved back in with his parents after not being able to find work in his profession. 

That could be the end to a very sad story about wasted youth, but instead, while Greene was searching for work, he start to create synth-pop and chillwave music that he eventually posted on the internet to a profile he named Washed Out.  He has said numerous times that the music was born out of a deep desire to remain happy in the state of life he was in; a lack of a job market during the 2009 recession that kept him unemployed, and living at home.

On the other end of the music, was an audience that discovered him and brought him to his first show, a sold-out showcase.  This led to a music career that is now roughly ten years old, with songs of his reaching the charts, as well as being encompassed into television royalties (he wrote the song used by Portlandia as their theme).

Greene didn’t need to be in New York City to capture his audience, and in fact has stayed in small towns in Georgia for their inspiration on the music he makes.

Greene proves Mr. Florida wrong, and he also proves that small towns have appeal that is routinely untapped.

It’s not necessary for people who want to preserve their small towns, or want to turn them into tourist hot spots to curate the entire town.  In fact, it’s quite possible that doing so will hurt the town’s potential.  But those that want to make their small towns achieve some growth, and have something to offer future generations need to consider supportive infrastructure foremost; buildings, utilities, and use of space.

These three elements are the foundation.  Everything else after is window dressing – and it’s advisable to leave that portion to the creatives you’re wanting to keep around.

I’ll write about this topic more at a later date.  Until then, consider your town, what the intention is, and whether or not that truly lines up with what your community wants to convey.  If there is a disagreement, those things need to be settled before any plan of direction is written or carried out.

It is one of the cruelest jokes we play on ourselves in the United States.

The flyover States. The Midwest, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains. We have these large portions of land, water, grain, cattle, manufacturing plants, real home cooking, original buildings,

Men Should Write: For Themselves, Mainly

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in the 20th century it no longer was manly to journal.

Really, it became sacrosanct for men to be involved in writing.  And that’s quite dangerous, factually.

Men exist, therefore they are.  And the idea that men should reduce their role in any aspect of life is counterintuitive to any growth that any person may desire, man or otherwise.

It’s not to say that men do not write, we can be certain that James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Cormac McCarthy carry on a legacy all their own.  And there are also many men in the non-fiction categories carrying a torch so bold.

But our numbers dwindle.   And dwindle.  And continue to dwindle.  I would not believe that men would stop writing altogether, but mind you as the numbers continue to lower, our appreciation for writing and even more, reading, goes away.

I can’t speak for you, but I don’t want to live in a world where men don’t have strong appreciation for reading and writing.  And I surely don’t want to perpetuate this trend long after I am gone.

What I do want is to make men stronger than where they are now.  And reading, and writing for personal reasons, are two major components to anyone being stronger.

Ernest Hemingway journaled.  William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe surely did.  And while the common trait is that these three men are writers, there are those among us that are not writers that do write.

This is why I’m a proponent to journaling.  Stereotypes tell us that journaling is the domain of women, where they write dreams, and hopes, and gossip, and probably a whole host of things so toxic no one but those women would dare lay claim to them.

Men need to journal.  They need to remember their history accurately.  They need to have their compass aimed in the right direction.  They need to know where they came from, and where they are going.

Life is not something you can figure out exclusively within.  You have to have outlets, and you have to have a way to retain the memories that fit into the bigger picture.  Men workout.  They build furniture, cars, and houses.  They fish and hunt.  They sail, run, invent new beer, and a host of many other things.  These are all outlets.  Extremely excellent outlets.  But somewhere in all that, men write about these experiences to retain accurate records, which are of course memories.

Hunters write logs of their hunts, detailing weather, terrain, pacing, angles, and so forth.  Furniture builders write basic assembly instructions which become part of manuals for repeating a particular build.  Runners write journals which cover much the same ground as hunters, except the focus is how they felt in their performance.  Sailors write logs of the sea, what they encountered, and chart their routes.

I could go on, but the fact remains that men by and large already do journal, but they skip over the most important topic: themselves.

As men, we are routinely asked to support others, mainly women, through relationships.  Kids, households, ensuring security and stability for all.  We hold down jobs that tie into that paradigm, and at those jobs we are eventually asked to be leaders of work, rather than just workers.

Still some of us are self-employed, own a business, where we have to continue that legacy of security to ensure that others are taken care of long before we are, and still we have household to think of.  Even without thinking about it, men are largely self-sacrificial, whether society recognizes it or not.

Our biggest obstacle is recognizing that the nature of life demands this of us.

As men, we have to get ourselves motivated for the path we choose, and sustain that motivation throughout a lifetime of achievement, failures, happiness, sadness, disappointment, and even the brutality visited upon us by our significant others, physical or otherwise.

Journaling is what created success for Hemingway.  It created success for Theodore Roosevelt.  It created success for Andrew Carnegie.  And it will help create success for you.

While physical outlets are very much worthy of our time, and should always be pursued, journaling helps process thoughts in your mind.  Don’t think of this as place where you talk exclusively of feelings.  Surely, if feelings come up, don’t be afraid to document them.

This is about recalling what you did that day, how that informs tomorrow, and what could have gone better.  It’s a place to recall your top ten goals.  It’s a place to figure out what that next big move is going to be.  It’s a place to explore the why behind a failure.

Men must journal, especially men that accept their role in life, so that they can get through those feelings of loss of themselves, and get on with exploring, adventuring, and taking on the challenge that lie ahead.

Men must journal so that they can become better writers overall.  Men must journal so that they become better readers, and better editors, and these things lead to better leadership.  Better leaders lead to better men.

If you are a man reading this, I want you to consider the social landscape you are currently operating in.  Regardless of your political affiliation, this world is not healthy for your survival.  And whether you, or popular opinion realize it, in order for this world to be healthy and to survive, you must exist greatly.  You must be vivid, and bright, and visionary in all that you do.

You don’t need to conquer the world, but you do need to conquer the portion you are in.  The more succinct you are at that, the more people surrounding you will back off, realizing they cannot compete.  And while this thought may seem far distant from what I just wrote, you must also realize that uncluttering your brain, your soul, and making yourself better at reading and writing are the four pillars that get you to a place where you are in charge of your domain, and no one else can threaten it.

If you fail to engage here, you will eventually die in some massive capacity, be it professional, personally, or just plain life.

Journal.  Become the man that you’re destined to be.

Opinion: Men Should Dress Themselves!

I am not sure when this became a trend, but I have noticed that men, or at least those that appear to be men, are allowing women to dress them.

It is as if men, in general mind you, no longer know how to do anything, most of all prepare thyself for the day laid ahead.

I am baffled at this display of ‘Ineffectualism’ I’ll name it, that men nowadays believe that a woman knows more about men themselves, then the man could ever.

There are three things that have caused the bulk of this, a lack of fathers and fatherhood, the persistent dampening of journey and adventure, which is the nature of men, and the rise of feminist viewpoints that specifically target the evisceration of men.

I’m sure many “feminists” will take issue with summary, but fear not, because I’m not the only one that sees you are not going through a transformation, so much as a brainwashing.  While some thoughts from your movement are useful, many others are not, and whether you understand it or not, they are designed to ruin relations between the sexes, as much, or even more, than the alleged masculine-centric views you oppose.

Be that as it may, a man is nothing if he is not the master of himself, and that does include how he dresses.

As men, whether we are aware of it or not, how you dress says something about you to those you interact with.  You can yell all day long that it’s a social construct that has little meaning now – but the only people I see getting away with not dressing properly are people who already have their fortune, and now people are forced to respect them, come as they are.

Meanwhile, you’re getting mesmerized by their apparent control of the situations they are in, but you’re focusing on the wrong elements of that control.  Many of you seem to think that dressing casual is the only way in life, and that no one cares.  But people do, even those that say they don’t.

If you can’t respect yourself enough to dress appropriately for your own business, how can you ever expect to for others to respect the business that you do?

This is a topic that men need to take serious, if for nothing else reclaiming their own sense of dignity.  How you can look yourself in the mirror while making your significant other into your “mommy” is beyond me.  And if ever there was a setup to that significant other cheating on you, there it is.

I’m not going to insult you all by saying there is one strict formula to follow.  As men, we cover all walks of life, from welders, to writers (dare I say it), to overall breadwinners.  All men should have at least a blue, a black, and a gray suit.  That’s a basic rule.

But even more than that, every man should have an idea of what patterns, what colors, and what styles of shirts, pants, and everything else, accentuate who they are, and what they have to offer the world.

And that is the paradigm every man should operate from, that we have something to offer the world.  Because if she’s no longer interested in that, and is trying to control everything in the house, to include our appearance, she can pack her things, and leave.  Or you can, that choice lies within you.

Take back your dignity, dress yourself.  Do some research on the topic, learn classic attire, and branch out from there.  Stay away from: GQ, Esquire, and jeans with glitter and patterns on them.  Also, despite what The Rolling Stones will have us all believe, holes in clothes are stupid, seriously.

Enjoy your manhood, and quit letting people without a clue tell you how to be.  It’s not their job, and it’s not your role to grant them audience.  They are indeed your enemy.

Travel: Delaware Beaches

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a travel article.  These tend to get a lot of new traffic to my page, so I try not to inundate my site with them.  Though I have quite a few stories of stories to tell yet, let’s talk about the most underappreciated beaches in the US, the Delaware Coast.

A quick lay of the land: the three main beaches are Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach.  There are some smaller beaches as well, and we’ll talk about that at the end of the article.

The first thing to understand is that Delaware beaches are underappreciated – not undiscovered.  When you go, you’ll find a lot of the standard fare you would find in most any beach oriented economies.  Chain hotels, high-end seafood restaurants, both franchised or independent offerings, bars galore, and trinket shops.

Yes, the boardwalks here are like most anywhere, except maybe not as cluttered with commerce, and not as jam-packed with beach goers, but I assure you it’s busy.

Delaware beaches are unique in some aspects however.  In all my travels, I’ve never seen beachfront in the US that was commercialized, but at the same time relatively left untouched.  Of the roughly 25 miles of beachfront that Delaware has, there is only one boardwalk structure that I’ve seen that stretches through the beach, and that one does not go out into the water.  It seems like most everywhere else a walking pier is an inevitability, but not in Delaware.

Some of you may not like that, others will rejoice in the minimalist approach.  I think Delaware has made me appreciate the latter.

Rehoboth is probably the most populated of the beaches, but it’s hard to tell – most beaches in Delaware have official populations under 500, but at any one time there’s tens of thousands of people present in the off-season (winter months), and six or seven times that in-season.

If you’re looking for dinner during the week, or brunch on the weekend (a Delaware tradition) and you’re in Rehoboth, look no further than the Blue Moon Café – they have live performances for brunch, and their menu is ‘what’s what’ of mid-Atlantic sea fare.  And the drinks are spot on too, if you’re into that sort of thing!

During the day, popcorn fans will have new haunt.  Fisher’s Popcorn started as a family popcorn stand in Ocean City, Maryland – a short drive from the Delaware beaches.  But since they opened in 1937, they’ve expanded, and now are all over the mid-Atlantic beach scene, and very prominent in Delaware.

The Blue Hen, Henlopen City Oyster House, and Grotto Pizza are also excellent restaurants in Rehoboth to frequent.  Be sure to hit up Dogfish Head Brewings as well, located at 320 Rehoboth Avenue.  Their beer has been a standard along much of the east coast and beyond for quite a while now, and there’s good reason for that.  And no time along the boardwalk would be complete without a stop at Thrasher’s Fries.  They have Old Bay flavored fries, for those that like that sort of thing.  But they have  many more, and I’ll stick with any of those.

Just south is Dewey Beach, which has several B&B and vacation rentals that capture the Victorian-era architecture and furniture that was popular at the time of the beaches were settled formally.

Aside from that, Fifer’s Farm Market Café offers the tradition of farm to table menu that is so rarely seen on beaches.

If you’re looking to stay with a younger crowd, I suggest The Surf Club Oceanfront Hotel, and if you’re looking to relax more, the Bay Resort offers inlet waterfront with similar amenities.

The Starboard, located at DE 1 and Salisbury St is well known for their Bloody Mary’s….it seems catering to hangovers here is a theme.

While Rehoboth is not at all different from the rest of the landscape, you start to notice as you travel south through Dewey that the character and culture changes up from the typical tourist “fast paced” business sector, to calmer people, brighter skies, and hotter sand.  While it’s difficult to capture what these beaches must been like when they first became a community – sometime in late 1800’s – it does feel like a sliver of that old culture can be found somewhere around Rodney Avenue.  But I do reserve that for the beach front exclusively – businesses here have taken to more updated trends and desires of consumers.

(Writer’s Secret Spot: Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar, 1808 Coastal Highway – because you can never go wrong with Guava-glazed ribs and Summer Watermelon salad!)

I know I haven’t described the beaches very much up to this point, and for good reason.  I wanted to use this point in time to back fill.  Call it a cheap trick.

The beaches in Delaware are special for me, not for any usual reason.  I’ve traveled a lot of the country by vehicle.  There’s only a handful of States I haven’t spent time in at this point, so while I have blind spots, I feel I have a lot of experience I can draw upon to relate one area of the country to another.

One of the things that really draws me into these beaches is the massive amount of sunlight, sky activity, and ocean activity they deliver to the human eye.  When you go, pause, take in the scenery these beaches have to offer.  While the summer certainly has its crowds, they are not overpowering to the point that you couldn’t isolate your mind and observe.

There’s a grand sense of peace on this section of our country.  The view is like a snow globe, all encompassing, round, but past any sense of limitations your eyes may provide.  The view here is remarkable, much like the “Big Sky Country” of Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.

The sand generally stays warm to hot, so I recommend footwear of some sort, though you’ll be barefoot before you know it.

As you continue south on the Coastal Highway, you’ll immediately exit Dewey Beach and drive over Seashore State Park – which is an eco-habitat and beach of tremendous value.  Kudos to the State officials that found a way to protect its most sensitive portion of beach, while still providing direct travel for residents and tourists.  Coin Beach sits that far southeast of this State park, garnering the name for all the people with metal detectors that have found coins and other valuable metals at the spot for many years.

The Indian River Marina sits on the southwest corner, where numerous fishing charters work from.  Just north of the marina is the Burton Island Trailhead, which also has a kayak launch point.  From this portion of the park you can discover the countless inlet waters of Rehoboth and Indian River Bays.

Between idyllic beaches, and calm inlets, the Delaware coast has a lot to offer people up for their own adventures.

Continuing south you’ll wind up in Bethany Beach.  The first few miles are all privately owned homes.

After that you reach the city core, and like its sister cities, Bethany has local restaurants that deliver.  Mango’s serves Caribbean style fare, but don’t expect jerk chicken that’s authentic to Jamaica.  It’s still well done.

Sunshine Crepes offers the French breakfast you’re always searching for.  Bethany Blues BBQ might be the most interactive of all.  Aside from their standard menu, they have event nights, like Bourbon & Barbecue, and Barbecue Class.  Who could go wrong pairing grilled meats with bourbon?  And the class says it all, you walk in for dinner that you’re going to learn how to prepare.  That’s probably not your typical beach weekend event, right?  Bethany has a bustling downtown core, but leaves most of the rest for private residents, though the beaches are open to all.  That’s just fine by me, people invested in the community are what make any place worth visiting in the first place.

Bethany Beach offers several public parking lots along the boardwalk, but beware they are all relatively small and fill up quick.  Don’t be surprised if by 8:00 A.M. they are already full, and you’re stuck walking from your hotel.

Speaking of which, if you are looking for accommodations in Bethany Beach, I suggest The Addy Sea.  It’s a B&B, preserved from 1902, and kept in excellent condition.  And did I mention it’s located right on the beach?  See, I’m solving your parking woes already!

Marriott has a Residence Inn on the beach too, so if you’re more of the hotel type, there are options.

Continuing south even further puts you into South Bethany and York Beaches – these are not beaches advertised to the public, and generally are difficult to access in any succinct manner if you are not a home owner, but they are very lovely if you can get to them.  There is a strip mall in this section of beach, back on the Coastal Highway.  In it is one of the finest sushi restaurants you can find on the Eastern Seaboard, Misaki.  It is quaint, traditional, and very delicious!

The next stop is Fenwick Island, but as you travel south yet again on the Coastal Highway, you’ll notice a concrete tower on the left side of the road with blue and yellow sign in front of it.  This is an observation tower that was built during World War II, and there’s a community organization that wants to make it part of the tourist fodder in the area.  You can find them at Restore The Tower. They in fact are restoring multiple towers in the area, to include building a new one to mark a previous tower that was either taken down or destroyed.

As you continue down the highway, you’ll think you’ve seen all you can of the Delaware Beaches, and out of nowhere you’ll come across Fenwick Island.

The first thing you’ll see is Fenwick Island State Park, and its large parking lots on the left side of the highway.  Then the community will begin to unfold in front of you.

Just Hooked is a locally sourced seafood restaurant you’ll see first, followed by Jimmy’s Kitchen the next block down, which is as eclectic as anything else in Fenwick Island.  The difference between this place the other three locations is that there’s a lot of unique personality in Fenwick.

Sea Shell City is a gift shop specializing in sea shell items, but on their second floor is the Shipwreck Museum, which boasts many items that have drifted onto the shores from ships that were lost at sea.

If you’re tired of restaurants at this point, and want to get your own meals cooking, check out Bahama’s Crabshack & Seafood Market – you’ll be cracking crab legs in no time!

Of course, what trip the beach would be complete without a trip the ice cream shop?  Kohr Brothers frozen custard is just a block away from the State line with Maryland.  Across the street from Kohr’s to the west, and behind Viking Mini-Golf & Go-Carts is The Island Creamery.

And after all that travel, you’ve probably earned a triple scoop.

Lewes is a city directly north of where we started in Rehoboth, and it does get included in the tourist literature if you research the Delaware Beaches.  I didn’t include it because I didn’t go there, and it’s not really on the beach.  It has a coast line on the Delaware Bay, and specifically right next to Cape Henlopen State Park.  And that park marks the true Delaware coastline along the Atlantic.

If you’re looking to do something a little different, check out the Delaware Beaches.  They have quite a bit going on without taking up too much of your attention.  You’re there for the beach after all.



Travel Information:

Closest International Airport: BWI – Baltimore (Reagan National is probably easier to travel from and to however, as it sets you up for direct access onto Highway 50.)  Philadelphia is also a viable option.

How to get there:  If you use BWI or DCA (Reagan) follow the highway signs to get onto Highway 50, and drive straight through Salisbury to the coast.  This will place you north of Ocean City, Maryland.  From there turn north on Coastal Highway, which will quickly place you in Fenwick Island.

If you’re coming out of Philadelphia, head south on Interstate 95 and take Highway 322 across the Delaware River.  Take the Highway 55 interchange south, and continue south as it turns into Highway 47 through Erma, New Jersey.  When you reach Cold Spring, turn right and head into the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Dock.  This ferry ride will take you across Delaware Bay, into Lewes, and from there you can make your to Rehoboth Beach first, and head south.

Have a great time!



How ‘Real’ is Story: What Treme Taught Writers

Writers are the greatest of story tellers, if only for the fact that the tools they have at their disposal give them the ability to tell the greatest version of any story.

Especially when writing for a book, writers get use interplay between plot and story, the two main elements that advance a novel, and make it relevant to an audience.

David Simon, the man behind the books Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner, along with television series’ The Wire, Generation Kill, and adaptation of The Corner, Simon has taken a long time to develop a craft revolving around the story, and is a master of explaining how elements of story affect, and influence the future plot.

It’s now several years later after his last television series, Treme.  And while the series did not hold the attention of a viewing audience very well, there is a lot of hope, and a lot of lessons learned from the series for writers.  This is why I write about it today; it offers a glimmer of hope to writers who want to be at their best.

Treme is a different kind of television series.  Writers of all kinds who have seen it generally come away with a strong appreciation for the show.  The reason for this can be summed up as follows:  it’s not about characters going from one premise to an ultimate truth.  It’s about characters existing in their world, after it’s been flipped upside down.  It’s about the human condition, almost exclusively.

The show takes place in New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  It follows over a dozen characters who come from varying walks of life, and represent different parts of the cultural backbone of New Orleans; music, cuisine, venues, and dance.  From traditional jazz musicians, to New Orleans Indians, to gourmet chefs, and everyone in between, the focus is on the people from the large art scene in New Orleans, as they rebuild their lives in a city set for major changes that ultimately interrupt their usual routines.

In a typical series, one would expect to see growing animosity between the protagonists and antagonists.  One would expect to find a clear bad guy, and a clear good guy.

But what this series showed was that in real life, we have profound effects on one another, without being an antagonist at all.  It should be noted that Simon did go out of his way to make banks, real estate investors, and law enforcement appear as incapable saboteurs, who’s only existence is designed to ruin the world.  Removing this portion from the show, and we would have witnessed the purest form of real-life story ever told in any medium.

With that said, the characters go through challenges, as could be expected.  They all have arcs in fact.  But, whereas most shows would have a grand ending for the varying characters, Treme leaves the characters more or less where they were before, perhaps with more refined direction, some even with what would be considered large life changes, but all in all, they are not “forever changed” as is common practice in works of fiction.  This is where Simon’s version of storytelling really went for something bold.  Taking art and placing it ever so close to life, and then making us watch those lives unfold.

My educated guess is that ten or twenty years from now, we’ll discover that Treme was far enough ahead of it’s time that there will be a renaissance in its honor, leading to a half a dozen shows trying to capture this uber-real feel.

For writers, it’s a vision of hope to tell stories about “real” people going through “real” dilemmas, which may be out of reach for their audience (making them interesting!), but because traditional media leaves us expanding into fantasy, even in “real” settings, we as writers get pushed further and further from being able to tell story in reality.  That is the unfortunate condition we live in, a constant pursuit of fantasy, at every turn.

While general viewing audiences may not be ready to experience this type of storytelling, what likely turned them off completely is an unfortunate sub-narrative that Simon likes to place within his work, and if you’ve heard him speak, you know where it comes from: his latent socialism.

This is why Simon is not a pure storyteller.  He instead will try hard to push a political agenda into his stories, even at risk of killing his project.  This is why The Wire died after five seasons, and why The Corner only got picked up for a brief six episode miniseries, rather than a larger multi-season telling.  Try as Simon might, people generally don’t enjoy his political views as told through character’s story and experiences.  Maybe he should option his work in Russia.

This is also why people involved in storytelling should avoid taking political views to one extreme or another.  You ultimately alienate one half of your potential audience, and then don’t challenge the other half of the audience, leaving both tuning out your screams for whatever.

Simon would have you believe that New Orleans was a political story in post-Katrina life, but as we place distance between that event and the present, we find more and more that politics had less to do with the fall out of New Orleans, and more so to do with individuals and their views of New Orleans being a ‘post-apocalyptic world.’

For writers, the idea of telling a story that focuses on typical people trying to keep their lives together is romantic, if for nothing else, it allows writers to stop trying to re-invent the ‘kill or be killed’ concept of most storytelling.

It’s also a lesson about establishing and maintaining an audience – stay out of politics.  Especially as writers of fiction, it’s not our place to tell people what to think about a given issue.  If they are consuming fiction, they most likely are not looking for that.  And even if they are, they probably need some story elements of fantasy involved, because a story about real people with real problems, over a backdrop of political ideology will undoubtedly wear out the audience.

Treme made that all too clear, despite its major triumphs.

Work Update

The front page on my site tells you about several novels I have in progress.  The good news, they are on the way.  The bad news, while one may be published in 2020, the others might be further down the road.

Such is the writing game.  It’s hyper-competitive.  I recommend that if you want to be a writer, make the decision at the age of six, then commit to it in full and get your first draft out at age nine.  If it’s a novel with a nine-point arc, and characters who are consistent throughout, whoever you sent your query package to will be completely glad to publish whatever drivel you came up with between Chapter One and the The End.

Other than that, if you do it any older, you need to accept that no matter how good you are at your craft, no matter how much editors, critics, and your fellow writers love your work, someone way up above has a different agenda at hand, and while your story fits a certain premise, it likely doesn’t follow the day’s trendiest stereotypes and biases.  You know, those things the media is supposedly tearing down on our behalf, but are surely doubling down on them when it comes to a project making money……yay!

To that end, I have start writing a series of short stories, prose, and even opinion pieces for a yet to named title of my own, which is intended to provide much needed to support to C.O.P.S.  For those that don’t know, C.O.P.S. stands for Concerns Of Police Survivors, it’s an organization that supports those that have lost loved ones to line of duty deaths, by assisting them with paperwork for funerals, benefits, estate law, as well as trauma counseling.  They also do a fair bit of lobbying for the same topics, and then some.  And still, that’s not all that they do.

I’m probably not doing enough to describe how great a cause this organization is, so check them out here: Concerns Of Police Survivors

You may hate law enforcement, you may think that there are officers not held accountable for poor behavior and performance.  Regardless of them, the officers that have died deserve our recognition, for they were performing the job on our behalf, and they paid a dear price for doing so.  However, what is rarely discussed is that families of these officers lost pay a dear price as well.  And it is through COPS, that many resources are directed at helping these families through their most difficult time.

I will keep you updated as this project comes together, it’s very beginning stages, and while I wait out the clock on my novels, I figure it’s time to keep my pen hand moving.

Twenty Books for 2019

Now that January is out of the way, we can forget everyone’s New Year’s resolutions, and talk straight up about 20 books you should read in 2019.

Why 20, and in 11 months?  Because I wrote it, that’s why!  And these are not books all published in 2018 or 2019.  They are books I’ve either read recently, or in the past few years.  They are in no particular order, and cover a litany of topics.  Enjoy!

  1. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Why read it?  Rubin writes about personality in this title, and centers around behavioral psychology in a way that is not normally discussed: the patterns that people place themselves in, when they are not focused on what they’re doing.

It’s important to understand this, because you learn more about people in their actions and behaviors in five minutes, then you could reviewing what they said over 30 years.  Behavioral psychology is too important of a topic to skip over, especially for men ages 20 – 40.

2. The Only Thing Worth Dying For by Eric Blehm

Eric Blehm writes about people who serve our nation.  And he does so with a poet’s wit, and novelist’s dedication.  This title put him on the map, but is so gut-wrenching, you’ll walk away truly learning something about what it’s like to be in armed services, and the true meaning of sacrifice.

3. Personality Plus by Florence Littauer

Another book that focuses on personality, and applies it to interaction with others, Littauer writes to help make sense of our most personal relationships, and how they succeed and fail through our own misgivings, be it through the actions of others, or how we interpret and react to them.

4. Dopesick by Beth Macy

Macy wrote Factory Man, one of the most detailed accounts of big industry in America, and how it is getting swallowed by large foreign interests.  Now Macy takes on the opioid epidemic in America, which is becoming a popular topic for many to create content about. But instead of starting in the middle, Macy goes back to the beginning of the problem, as it manifested through the prescription pads of uber-capitalist doctors in Florida, invading the already delicate landscapes of Appalachia and the Upper Great Plains, until it visited every corner of the US.

5. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Dr. Frankl’s classic on mankind, and how to truly derive happiness is still as relevant today as it was in 1959.  Rather than search for happiness, Frankl draws the conclusion that for anyone to be happy, they must pursue that which they find to be meaningful.

6. Equal is Unfair by Don Watkins & Yaron Brook

While it’s all the rage to discuss communist economics to the point of causing nausea in the room, Watkins and Brook provide an argument that cuts through the supposed “analysis” done by left-wing media, as it pertains to income inequality, while also pointing out the reality to income statistics.  Even if you’re pro-income equality, you’ll want to read this, because like it or not, these two libertarians have torn down the foundation and framework that made up your viewpoint.

7. Why Nations Go To War by John Stoessinger

Stoessinger’s classic on foreign policy, international diplomacy, and the pressures of managing people and complex resources is still a valid read today, and likely will be into the next century.

8. Buffettology by Mary Buffett

Buffett’s first book on her Ex-Father-in-Law, Warren Buffett, is considered one of the bible’s in the matters of investment.  Not only does it form a playbook for budding investor’s to work from, it also serves as an insider’s guide to how Warren plays the game.

9. Our Lost Constitution by Senator Mike Lee

Senator Lee is a prolific writer on the topic of the nation’s founding, and in particular on the document that formed it.  In this book, Lee ensures that readers understand six of The Constitution’s provisions, the history behind them, why certain words were used, and then explains example after example of people we’ve had in various offices of government over the years who have gone out of their way to circumvent these provisions, without our permission.

10. Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert

Hoffert’s memoir on the topic of her return to rural North Dakota (which is the vast majority of North Dakota), is an interesting take on what it means to be in a rural communities.  Consider the definition of the word isolation prior to reading.

11. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven & David Borgenicht

A MUST read for any man, Worst-Case is a book of knowledge describing how to survive the world’s worst circumstances.  From fighting an alligator, to identifying a bomb, to surviving when your parachute doesn’t open, this book is a bible of survival knowledge.

12. Men Without Work by Nicholas Eberstadt

Eberstadt has ripped open the gate on information that is not being made public; that working men are becoming extinct.  In a world with lower than low unemployment rates, and a plethora of technical jobs standing wide open for the taking, it’s hard to believe that men are the growing trend in unemployment – and are not re-entering the workforce at any point in time.  Eberstadt explains that between corporate policies, federal regulation, and even tax incentives, we are harming ourselves at great decibel, because we are pretending there isn’t a problem concerning unemployed men.

13. The Keys by DJ Khaled

Sometimes you just need a book that makes no sense to your repertoire.  To keep things fresh, moving, to jolt something out of your mind and into reality – this is that book.

14. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This is the book that landed her the Netflix series.  I recommend nearly everything Kondo says – except for the limits on books.

15. It Happened in Seattle by Steve Pomper

A quick and dirty history book about Seattle.  It’s less than 100 pages.  Some of the history doesn’t jump off the pages, but it’s a great read nonetheless.

16. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

Graham is considered the ‘Oracle of Wall Street’ and this book proves why.  This is the source on value investing.

17. Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Living by a code, positive habits, and morals is the only way for men to operate in this life.  Why not study the ways of the Samurai to assist in building that code?

18. Mind Gym by Gary Mack & David Casstevens

Even if you’re not an athlete, there is nothing wrong with learning aspects of their routines, and placing them in your life.  Mind Gym gives you a foundation of meditation, focused on your own personal accomplishment.

19. The Millionaire Next Door by Dr. William Danko & Dr. Thomas Stanley

If you have not read this yet, you definitely need to in 2019.  The doctors explain in 200-plus pages that millionaires are all around us, and they do not present in the way you think they should.

20. Boomtown USA by Jack Schultz

Schultz wrote this book in the early 2000’s as a trade primer for small cities that were left behind in the tech boom, when young people left in droves, and so did work.

With large cities now over-saturated, and largely out of touch with the reality they have created, revisiting Schultz’ analysis, and perhaps influencing a new generation of entrepreneurs, who thanks to modern internet technology, can relocate anywhere, might be the book you need to take on your next adventure.

Happy Reading!