Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The struggle of writing.

The struggle of writing

When I started putting together this blog I was struck by the indefinable nature of writing. How does one bring oneself to a mindset where the real and the unreal (imagined), lose their own definition within the mind.


I was sitting on the wall that surrounds the parking lot of my apartment complex, watching the traffic, enjoying the spring day, when a large black bird flew down and landed some fifty feet away.

The object of the birds attention was a bag of discarded McDonalds that some useless destroyer of planets had casually deposited on the pavement. There was nothing out of the ordinary, or very interesting in the scene.

—But wait—

In my mind I saw an elderly lady, inexpensively but neatly dressed, enter the parking lot with a brown paper bag.

Standing just inside the lot, she opened the bag and began to throw broken bits of bread out onto the pavement and make little clucking sounds.

The bird stopped what he was doing and stood looking at her, cocking his head first one way and then the other. He made a few tentative little hops toward the bread on the ground, until he reached the edge of the strewn area, where he stopped.

The lady kept up the clucking and cooing noise as she spread the bread around. Finally she reached into the bag and pulled out a large, whole slice of bread. Bending at the waist, supporting her weight on her right knee with her right hand, she began waving the bread in front of her, while clucking and cooing and speaking softly to the bird.

To my great surprise, the bird made one giant leap, and perched on her extended arm. They stood silently looking at each other. Finally the lady slowly raised herself up, slowly and carefully, as she took the slice of bread in her right hand and offered it to the bird.

With the speed of a Cobra, the large black bird reached out and plucked her eyeball from its socket. The lady fell to her side on the pavement.

The bird hopped away a few paces and stood looking at her.

Blood flowed.

The lady screamed with an annoying wail that was a mixture of pain and righteous indignation.

The bird began to hop back and forth in a dance like those of a football player who had just scored a touchdown.

The bird took to flight, no cawing or cries of victory coming from him. He flew with power and grace and with the determination of a champion who was carrying his prize home.

I sat motionless as I watched the scene play out, unsure if I wanted to become involved.

Did I have to?

Did I want to?

What did the lady think was going to happen? It’s a fucking wild animal. Did she think she was going to take it home as a pet?

This is where the struggle of the writer comes in. Why would I be asking myself all of these questions, especially considering that an elderly woman was lying in the parking lot bleeding to death?

—I shook my head and viewed the scene in front of me. The bird was still pecking at the bag of trash. There was no elderly woman lying on the ground and there was no immediate action that I needed to take. It all went away like the last dream before waking.

—Except for the questions.—

That, to me, is the struggle of fiction. Is it a creative process or a mental instability?

Is it the ability to observe things that might be, or is it schizophrenia?

Why do I always have to ask why and what if?

Is it different for everyone else, or is it a natural process?

I would really like to know.

Jim Bronaugh

New Blogginings



Spirituality is like the newborn child.

Religion is like the mad dog that eats the newborn child and then claims to speak for the child because he has the child inside him.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sweet Memories


I had a really nice surprise the other day. While searching the candy shelf at Walgreens, I found something called ‘Starburst Jelly Beans’.
I have grown accustomed to the modern interpretation of candy; sugar and food color, everything tasting the same, with only the difference in shape to remind some of us of the things gone by. To my surprise, these jellybeans had flavor. The red ones tasted like cherry, the green ones tasted like lime, the purple ones tasted like grape. It was a welcome surprise and appreciated, but it was the yellow ones that have made me a fan for life.
When I popped four of those shiny little beauties in my mouth, I was instantly transported to the warm nights in Santa Paula, ca, with the fragrance of lemon blossoms so strong in the air and so intoxicating, that it made driving difficult. There was magic in those nights, with the warm wind blowing through the car windows and the blackness of the sky filled with stars and a sense of something great and greater.
Yes, you’re right. I was filled with wonder.
There were also the thoughts of a girl (who would later become my wife) even though she had made it plain that she didn’t like anything about me. It is strange how you can love someone who doesn’t love you, but looking back in my memories, I can see why it seemed so logical and possible to me then.
Memories of the small city of Ventura came to mind. There is a courthouse standing like the Acropolis on the hillside, and when standing on the steps of that building you can see the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean spread out below. The downtown area was so unchanged from the 1920’s and 30’s that movie crews would often be filming in the neighborhoods, using it for period films. The city was such a delight to walk about that I lived in the downtown district for years just to feel it twenty-four hours a day.
The smell of lemon blossoms and the smell of the Ocean, mixing together into sort of lemony brine filled with unbelievable power and delicacy. How many people get to spend their late teens and early twenties in a place of magic?
Thankfully it is only the sweetness and magic that remain in my memories, not the bitterness and turmoil. Selective memory is such a great thing. There is none of the self-recrimination at the neglect you have shown others and none of the realization that no one you have ever loved has loved you in return. I think those things are purposely held back till you are at the end as sort of an encouragement to let it go and get off the planet.
None of those feelings were in the jellybeans. The feelings in them have the sweetness of a young man who could not begin to comprehend eternity. Everything in them was good and hopeful, filled with a place and time that no longer exist.
So I say thank you to the Mars candy company. Thank you for the trip through time and thank you for the moments of wonder.

Jim Bronaugh

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


By Jim Bronaugh © 2005

We found the child, or rather he found us, lying in our flight path on our fortieth trip to Paris. He was laying there in that azure sky seemingly oblivious to the possible inconvenience that he might pose to others and was swept up in the backwash of our jet engines as we passed.

The doors were open thanks to Linda (the bulimic, Breatharian cow) who insisted that the doors remain open at all times screaming, “air is all I need to live”

He flew in through the door and skidded across the carpet and lay there, his arms and feet waving about in the air and we did the polite and socially acceptable thing and ignored him for a fashionable length of time before Marsha (It’s always Marsha) defying convention in her usual Bohemian manner, went over to within a few feet of the child and stared at him in that languishing bored manner that marked her ideological preference and announced it to the world.

The child was Semitic and only a few days past circumcision.

“Perhaps we should do something”, Marsha said finally. It was a complete conversation killer and most of us found it irritating, but the cat was out of the bag and soon a sense of resignation set in. Everywhere we went, it seemed, our obligation to the third world found us.

We tried to sit the child up at the table, but he kept falling over, each time insisting, “It isn’t my time yet”. He spoke in English with an odd and indefinable accent, so finally we laid him in a corner on the floor and thought to give him some refreshments in the hopes to get back to more important conversations of art and literature putting the mundane once more behind us. He didn’t seem to like the wine, and the Brae was totally wasted on him. He had no palette and no sophistication and the stress levels were growing high.

He also made conversation impossible, talking constantly about life and beauty and any number of other things that had no relationship to art.

Even Walters’s gambit of dowsing him with the chilled water and remaining ice from the wine bucket couldn’t shut him up, it simply brought a tirade of offensive descriptions of what Walter would face when he reached the after life.

With a sigh, Marsha finally created some sort of contraption out of a coke bottle and the tip of a finger of a rubber glove. It was crude and yet strangely attractive just like her art and it was difficult to hide the smiles behind hands as the group flashed looks of both amusement and pity between them.

An artist who actually creates art. How gauche and uncreative.

Marsha found the cream that I was saving to make the Alfredo sauce and, under protest from me, she warmed it and put it in the bottle and began to feed the child. Again the lack of sophistication struck us all.

Finally it was David and his life partner Jason who took matters in hand and, wrapping the child in some of the lovely embroidered tea towels from the galley, swept the child up and took him the three floors down on the elevator to the cargo hold, where the dozen or so small African women who write the books and paint the paintings to which we sign our names, were busy creating our next great works of art.

They found a woman who had recently given birth (can you believe it?) and whom they hoped could take care of another.David offered her two shiny new quarters for her trouble.

At first she looked confused, but after seeing the child and hearing him speak with that strange accent, she fell to the floor and began to kiss David’s feet, which he later complained seemed like such a limited and almost insulting level of gratitude, considering he had given her TWO shiny quarters.

The rest of us could only shrug our shoulders and nod our understanding of his pain.

Three days after landing in Paris we heard rumors of some sort of mass migration of peoples from around the globe who were seeking out a strange child with miraculous powers.

It was Walter, our resident poet, whose work has appeared on cereal boxes in twenty countries, who was the first to inform his lawyers to investigate possible copy write ownership of the child’s words. It was, in fact, we who had found him, and the lawyers felt we had a very strong claim.

It is good to be an artist.

Jim Bronaugh

Saturday, October 22, 2005

T.V. Religions


I was watching T.V. this morning and surfed into a T.V. preacher with a loud voice and an angry demeanor whose message gave me a moment’s pause.

The Gist of his message was:

“Who will prove God with a twenty dollar bill? Who will prove their love for Christ and their appreciation of his sacrifice by making a twenty-dollar donation to keep this ministry spreading the gospel to the world”?

He then went on to tell how, if his ministry does not get the money, millions of little children in South America will burn in hell for eternity and it will be the fault of those listening who did not send in the money.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

What a weak and indolent God he promoted, who would condemn children based on monetary gain of this obvious huckster.

What a powerless God who could not provide the means to being obedient to him aside from the lonely and desperate of the world who sit waiting to buy their way into paradise based on the monthly contribution to Hillbilly Joe, the child molesting preacher, or whoever these guys are.

That, of course, caused the explosion of a thousand ideas for stories in my head. There are so many Hucksters and so little time.

The answer below is the best answer I can give.


Religion is like a rich man whose lands could not be traversed in one lifetime. He owned all that could be seen and controlled all who lived in those lands except one.

Down the road lived a poor man. The rich man’s father had given the poor man a few acres and some sheep and the poor man lived in his shack and worked hard to survive.

One day the rich man declared a party and sent out word across the lands and invited all of his rich friends to come and love him. After sending many envoys, and servants, the poor man also agreed to come and enjoy the hospitality of the rich man.

Upon his arrival, the rich man called the poor man aside to another room, and when they were alone, he knocked the poor man to the floor and put a gun to his head.

“Love me and serve me or I will kill you”.

Fearing for his life, the poor man declared his love and service to the rich man.

Filled with joy, the rich man called his friends into the room and declared, “See; see how he loves me”? “Am I not great, and have I not gotten glory for myself”?

And as long as he held the gun to the poor man’s head, it would be so.

My problem with western religion is that it is exoteric; it requires something from the outside to exert its power in order to achieve its goals of exaltation and enlightenment and those forces are inevitably fear and violence.
The teachings of Christianity are exoteric while the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are esoteric. He taught that the way to God was through the inside, not from without.
That is why the exotericists of Israel and Rome had to murder him. That is why, when the exotericists of Christianity took control, they had to keep him dead. An esoteric teaching gives no leverage for temporal power.
The Kingdom of god is all well and fine, but it doesn’t get you the money.
That is my problem with T.V. religion. It is a reflection of the souls of those whose concept of god is based on the belief that if they give their money to someone else, then that other person will take them along to heaven and remove the difficulty from their lives. It is a case of those who wish to hear the lie seeking out those who will lie to them.
That is why I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I watch it happening on the airwaves.
In the Biblical book of Jeremiah, the God of Israel said, “Your officials are full of corruption and your Priests are full of bribes, and the people like it that way”.
I’m not concerned about those who are seeking the lie and who find what they seek in religion. It isn’t my place to tell anyone what to believe.
My concern is for those who are seeking truth and who get caught up in the lies.

Jim Bronaugh

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Dream or a Journey?


Have you ever had a dream that was so real and so clear that you could remember the details of not only the sights, but also the sounds and the smells of the place that you found yourself in the dream?

That happened to me a few days ago, and I still can’t get the images and odors out of my mind, so I figured I would share it here and see if anyone else had ever suffered the same level of dream reality themselves.

I went to bed late on the night of October 14, 2005. I had worked several hours, adding bits and pieces to a few short stories, and making notes on several more that I thought I might want to write some day. I felt tired but satisfied with the amount of work I had accomplished and fell asleep quickly, which is unusual for me.

My memory of the dream starts as I am moving down a street somewhere following behind a three-wheeled motorcycle. There is moderate traffic on the street and I can see cars moving through intersections ahead, but I don’t think I was in a car or any other kind of conveyance. I was just moving. There were two people on the motorcycle ahead, one driving and one in a wide high seat in the back.

We came up to an intersection that had a flashing red light and the motorcycle stopped. I moved up next to it and looked at the driver. He didn’t seem to notice me looking at him but just kept staring straight ahead as if transfixed on some unseen vision of his own. He was dressed in the traditional California biker gear, like something out of a cheap movie, and the motorcycle was like something out of a 1930’s gangster movie, hand gearshift and all.

In the back seat the other man was dressed in the same biker ‘uniform’ as the man in front, the jeans and leather vest and heavy boots but this man was different in a very important way. He was strapped on to the motorcycle; his skin was gray and his eyes unblinking as his head lolled around with the movement of the motorcycle.

He was very dead.

More motorcycles moved up around the three-wheeler and they stopped. The riders of these motorcycles had the same transfixed stare as the first and none paid any attention to me. The noise and the smell of exhaust was overpowering so I moved off to the side and let them go on without me.

I started slowly down the sidewalk and passed by the storefronts, each with shattered windows and no doors. The buildings were empty.

There were men roaming in and out of the buildings, most of them muttering to themselves and some picking up trash and rubble and throwing it against the wall of the buildings. Some of the men were dressed in what I assume is my mental caricature of a sixties motorcycle movie bad guy, but most were more like the homeless people I see on the streets of Fresno.

There were also a few men in dirty and disheveled suits, their ties half off, some with fresh urine stains spreading from their crotch down their legs, and they seemed to be the most agitated of all. At first none of them paid any attention to me, but as I moved along, I noticed one here and there that would stop and look at me with their vacant and dark circled eyes for a long time and then go back to their wandering and rambling. It was as if they thought they could see something but weren’t quite sure.

I began to get afraid.

A little further on I saw two men in the sidewalk ahead of me. They were different from the others in that they were well dressed. One was sitting on the sidewalk leaning against a lamppost and the other was standing. They were both looking at me. Oddly enough they were wearing hats. The one standing had on a blue hat and the one seated was wearing an orange hat.
As I approached, the one in the orange hat said to the other, “What do you think”?

The one in the blue hat replied, “He looks like a good candidate to me”.

The man in the orange hat got up from the sidewalk and they both moved toward me.

“Come with us,” the man in the blue hat said, “we’ll take you somewhere safe”

Then they both reached for me.

It seems like I heard a loud NO coming from somewhere, possibly from me and I started to move backwards away from them very quickly and then…

…I woke up.

I felt an excruciating pain in my chest. I struggled to get up from the bed and I stumbled into the bathroom where I foolishly (I now know) keep my Nitroglycerine pills stored. The numbness in my left hand and arm made it very difficult to get the lid off, but finally I managed and got a pill under my tongue.

I stumbled back into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed and then lay back, waiting for the pill to melt. Slowly the pain started to subside, but the residual weakness made it more acceptable to just lie there and not move.

I could still remember the dream vividly. I could see the two men in the hats still staring at me, but more importantly I could still smell the exhaust of the motorcycles mixed with smell of rotting meat.

I hope that this was just a dream and not some short journey into the land of the dead that is waiting for me. And I especially hope that I didn’t piss off the two guys with the hats because, if that wasn’t a dream, I fear that I am going to need them all too soon.

Jim Bronaugh

Monday, October 17, 2005

Great American Art


I recently received a small stack of art prints, which, even in that small sampling contained the truly great art of America. The prints were small portraits of heroes of the American Revolution, all of the same size and style. There were a few portraits of George Washington, some of Andrew Jackson, and a very few of Benjamin Franklin, all carefully framed in a decorative scrollwork that was both intricate and attractive.

These are the true American art in its purest form.

Looking at the prints reminded me of an article I read some years ago about an art dealer who owned 12 paintings by Van Gough.

I am not certain, but I believe the article was true.

The dealer placed four of the paintings up for auction, and had his own proxy bidders compete to raise the price from the usual tens of thousands that the dealer had paid for the paintings, to a million.

Yes, he bought his own paintings back through proxies.

The results?

Now the paintings for some strange reason had caught fire in the minds of the art elite of the world, and any painting by Van Gough was considered a ‘must have’. The dealer was then able to auction the four paintings for more than two million each, and he auctioned the remaining eight for the same price.

He was not an artist, or an art lover. He was an entrepreneur and makes no apologies or excuses.

The works of Van Gough have since become the most sought after works in the art world. No matter how good or how bad the paintings may be considered by others, it was enough that so many people were willing to trade so many of the little portraits of American Revolutionary War heroes for his work, that he became great in the eyes of the world.

I am not condemning the system or those who use it for their own ends. I enjoy the fact that artists get money and that art dealers get even more money and that the ‘art elite’ is so willing to part with their money to make both happy.

The manipulation of the foolish is what art world is really all about.

That’s why I like to collect these little portraits. I don’t need canvas or paper with its fragile paint or chalk. I desire the truly great art that can be stored away in private, and brought out only for my own viewing pleasure, or to negotiate some trade with those who also are art collectors, and we can all achieve that happiness that can only come from the world of art.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I love cats. I was in my late forties before I first lived with a cat and the experience was somehow life changing. It took him about three hours to establish that he would a. Lay where here wanted to lay, b. Go where he wanted to go, and c. Get what he wanted to have, and that I was there merely to facilitate the process.

With that in mind, I offer here one of my many stories about cats.

By Jim Bronaugh

Jim hunkered down behind a trash dumpster when he saw Officer Thompson enter the alley. It wouldn't do to have fat stinky butt 'Tommy’ Thompson catch him eating a cat and drawing his little pictures in their blood.

He strained to remain motionless and quiet as the cop slowly sauntered up the dirty path between old boxes and empty barrels that were strewn everywhere.

The buildings on either side of the alley were empty and because of it the alley was unused, which made it a perfect location to dine unseen. He still had enough of a grip on reality to know that his proclivity would have to remain hidden, or the consequences would destroy him.

A second later he saw the reason that the jerk cop was here. Tommy stepped behind a dumpster and began to take a piss on the wall. So cops had to piss too? You couldn't have guessed it from their attitude, but you couldn't have guessed that there was much human in them either.

Finally, drained and relieved, the cop zipped up and started for the street. Too much caffeine makes 'Tommy' a grumpy boy.

Jim turned his attention back to the cat he held in his hands. Its little liver was exposed and beckoning to him. He extracted it with his teeth and savored the sweet bitter taste. It was almost as good as the liver from his favorite food. Cats were harder to catch than children, but they had the additional benefit that no on called out a search party for a missing cat.

He suddenly felt envious of those people in China who could take and eat all the children they wanted without having to answer all of those stupid questions. You would get dead real quick if they caught you doing that here.

He tried gnawing on some of the muscle tissue, but it was too stringy and too tough for him to rip off. He started to get angry because of the effort and getting angry just started him off on his garbled speech and also started the visions. He didn't need any Angels talking to him right now.

He needed to find a litter of kittens. That was where the tender stuff was. The taste of Sweet tiny kittens with soft muscles and no claws set him to thinking of the children again, and he shook it off quickly.

He dropped the cat into the dumpster and wiped his hands off on an old newspaper. He straightened up his clothes and brushed his hair into place with his hands. He was, after all, a world famous writer with an obligation to present himself at his best to the public.

The End