Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome To The Dream Academy

"You have been doing a great job, Al. I’ve spoken to Don and I know it wasn’t part of your employment package, but I have arranged for The Company to pay for half of your ski pass. We’ll finance the other half and take it out of your pay. Oh! By the way, here is a pager, nothing happens around here until later in the day, so go ahead and go up on the mountain early, get some first runs in the fresh powder and if anything happens, I’ll page you,” said, my then Property Manager.

This must be some form of a joke, I thought. No employer awards their employees, retroactively with a ski pass, not previously negotiated, tells them to go skiing when the snows come. I had turned from a well trained ski bum into a chubby middle aged Italian working man. Out of shape for skiing completely, there was no way I could even pretend to have a good season.

“By the way, I designed a ski conditioning program at the Aspen Athletic Club when I was the manager there. It is patterned after the Denver Bronco’s Football Training Camp, but it is geared for skiing. Perhaps you’d like to join the club and get in ski shape. We have a corporate membership and there is a discount off the regular price. It makes membership affordable.”

Was I dreaming? Had I really died and gone to ski bum heaven? There is the fittest woman athlete in Aspen, a power lifting champion, a western conference racquetball champion, that had the envy of Arnold Schwartzenegger for her calves, the respect of Phil and Steve Mahre(Olympic ski racing brothers) for her rock hard abs, giving me permission to go skiing everyday and she’ll call me if she needs me. All I had to do was to get in the best physical shape I’d ever been in by following the most advanced ski conditioning class in Aspen, Colorado.

That worked very well for me in my downtown Aspen apartment. I lived across from the Main St. Bakery, with their outrageous designer coffee and brownies, just down the street from Benjamin’s Deli and their homemade Matzo Ball soup.

I was able to arise early mornings, work on my short stories, then take a walk through our 8 commercial buildings in the downtown core and perform the repairs on my list from Kathy. I would reserve a spot in ski conditioning, before 9 am.

The weeks of training unfolded and I progressed in my athletic development to a fit and trim ski athlete. Everyone commented on the new man.
Ski conditioning concluded with the award of t-shirts. “I survived ski conditioning at the Aspen Athletic Club, Aspen, Colorado.” I wore my new shirt proudly, along with a new wardrobe and self-confidence.

When Aspen Mountain opened up, true to her word, Kathy provided the coveted ACRA All Mountain Ski Pass for all three mountains, Aspen Mountain, The Highlands, and Snowmass, (a fabled fourteener, with the infamous wall as it’s centerpiece.) I commented to my associates that I was in love, not only with the mountains and new terrain, but with this woman who had arranged it for me.

I have always become obsessed with the powerful women in my life. It all began with my first grade teacher, Ms. Ossendot in 1960. I was learning to print in pencil on those large pieces of paper with the big green lines on them. I was already dreaming of 1961, because I realized that you could turn the paper upside down and it would still be 1961. Anyway, I refused to stay with in the lines, another malady that would haunt me throughout my life. Ms. Ossendot made me stay after school until I reluctantly wrote between the lines. It also set a deep consequence and reward issue in my young mind. After school that day, I got to ride home in her yellow rag top Volkswagen Beetle, with the top down in the sunshine with the prettiest teacher in school.

Misbehaving had its rewards. A pattern I was to repeat often, culminating with my boss Kathy at our annual Christmas Party. She was in an Emerald Evening Gown and looked beautiful to say the least. I, feeling quite sporty in my new tight fitting jeans. I remember kissing her hello on the cheek and walking past her. I could have sworn that she looked approvingly at my small ass. It’s funny how things between men and women are often misconstrued. Years later, she denied looking at my ass. She maintained that as an expert on physical conformation, she was looking for my ass. It however, gave me the courage later that evening while at her home when she asked me to help remove her cowboy boots, (her new Larry Mahan leather boots that even Vagisil down the boot wouldn’t help slide off,) to become brazen and to get a little frisky. It all ties back to my failure at staying between the lines. I thrive on skiing out of bounds. I don’t like ski area boundaries, other skiers, and authority in general. It has been a great hardship in my life, except for stepping past the employer and employee relationship with my boss, Kathy.

The trilogy of Aspen Mountains are beautiful, as wonderful as it is to noodle up Walsh’s, where the Paragliders take off from Aspen Mountain, and drop down into the big open bowl called the Wall at Highlands, or to slip out of bounds into the backside of Highlands.

My calling has always been that of Utah. I love Colorado and all its Ski Areas, but Utah is to die for, (literally.) I took my vacation and my new super in-shape athletically fit body and drove there. I remember starting to herring-bone up Brighton Mountain, to get to the out of bounds, and ski the chutes through the trees with 18 inches of new snow, a feat that had always caused me great trepidation and physical distress. I practically ran up the mountainside and dropped down over the lip and cranked off 50 big arcing powder turns before I realized just how great of physical shape that I was in.

Isn’t it funny that sometimes the greatest times of life is when no one else is there? I had none of my friends with me, no one to show off for, only to know that I had just accomplished this utterly fantastic feat of physical prowess for myself. It also made me realize that I had spent a lifetime alone on the mountains, and that I didn’t want to be alone anymore. For the first time in a long time, a woman respected me for my sobriety and the obstacles that I had overcome to achieve it, for my physicality, and the time and patience I had put in following her program to achieve it.

I had laid a lot of things to waste in my short life, but her gift was not one I could let go of. I did not want to become another lonely old man in a ski town, with his skis and dog and a P.O. Box that said Aspen, for the sake of my own vanity. Something had changed. Perhaps it was this girl, who snuck up to the Cowboy Corral in the dead of night on Christmas Eve with a lantern, her Stetson hat, and a bag full of ribbons and bells. She climbed up and silently laid across the backs of the 2 ton behemoth Percheron team of Sid and Sam, (the brothers).

She would spend hours on that snowy Christmas morn braiding the manes and weaving in the bells without a betraying jingle to be heard. She would surprise the Cowboys and their guests with a hitched up and jingling sleigh to take them to the restaurant for their Christmas Dinner.

Perhaps it was the look on her face when I presented her with the Lady of the Lamp, a sculpture from my artist friend Elfie of Vail. Whatever it was, suddenly skiing and the endless turns of deep and steep powder meant nothing to me even being in the best physical shape I had ever been in. I cut short my ski vacation, (an unheard of act in my former life.) I returned to my quaint little Aspen Apartment to pursue the love of my life. I have never looked back. All I have to say is, “Welcome to the Dream Academy!” --- Albert Bianchine

P.S. Be sure to check out my friends blog;

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cry For The Species Equus

I got it straight from the horse’s mouth. Our chestnut mare Tahoe was laying on the ground in a stall at our rescue ranch with the winter sun shining on her face. She was too weak to stand for very long periods. I was attending to her with a very heavy heart. We were in the process of making the decision to euthanize her, and I was stroking her face.

“Hey Albert,” she said with her big brown eyes. “If horses are God’s gift to man, why would man treat them so badly? Why would they take the best years that we have to offer and use us up until we are spent, and then turn us out to the auction barns to be purchased by the killers? You know, it’s alright. I am tired, and I don’t have the strength to go on. I’m ready to let go. It is time.”

The scene has replayed in my mind a thousand times, especially each time that I helped another abused or dying horse move on. The answer has never come. The question still remains imprinted into my minds eye. I search for the answer. Not long after laying Tahoe to rest, both Kathy and I re-read Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, but our broken hearts found no solace. We only found a greater unanswered question in her words. Why would man mistreat beasts of burden so poorly and carelessly?

I spent many days backside at the Finger Lakes Race Track in Western New York State in the early 1980’s. I witnessed broken down thoroughbreds from Saratoga and Belmont with their front legs in ice buckets so that they would be able to run on arthritic and sore legs. I watched the blue goose (a horse ambulance) pull up to down horses with broken and shattered legs to remove them from the track so that the next race can begin. They were all former champions, and if you ever stood backside at a race horse barn when the bell rings and the gate opens, all the thoroughbreds are lined up with their chests pressed against the stalls ready and willing to run.

Willingness in animals shouldn’t be construed as a license for abuse. If you own an animal and it makes a living for you in any genre or form, then you owe it to them to treat them with the respect that they deserve. They at least deserve a dignified procession to the grave.

There is no genre of the horse world that is immune from it. I have had to protect my wife from barrel racing horses that were so stoved up and sore that to merely touch their flank they would try and kick her head off. She would still attempt to massage them so that they could run for their pretty little barrel racer.

I vividly remember the first time that my fingers slipped over the hair ball like protrusion on the nuchal ligament of a dressage horse that had been surgically altered. The purpose of the alteration was so that he couldn’t raise his head. I thought it was a spasm until my wife informed me it was a common practice to cosmetically correct conformation in some competitive circles. You snip the ligament at the base of the skull and it prevents the animal from standing with it’s head too high. They show better!

The American Mustang is standing in pens by the thousands as I write. They have nowhere to run. They are stuffed back to back and side to side. Collected by the thousands by the BLM, they are standing in urine and feces soaked surrounds with no chance of adoption. The economy has tanked, and no one is there to adopt them. They were supposedly rounded up because of the damage they are doing to grazing lands. They should inherit the earth, not the cattle that man wants to raise on it for their bloody thirst for meat.

My only answer came from our rescue quarter horse Sage, who we found in a barn full of miniatures, in the back dark recesses with sore and arthritic knees. One warm summer day, I was standing in the middle of one of our fields. I was watching a mother eagle teach her eaglet to fly. She would let it soar and when it got just far enough away she would give a shrill whistle and it would whistle back, then return to the nest. Sage walked up to me, stood alongside of me, and wrapped her neck and her big bucket head around my neck in an embrace. As a man, I have never been touched greater by animal husbandry.

Sometimes late at night, I’m ashamed to admit, that when I’m drifting off to sleep and my mind replays all the beautiful animals that it was my mission to bring to God, I cry for the species Equus.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Life's A Beach, Not A Mountain

The sound of waves crashing on the shore has always been an elixir for me. A respite, a repose from the craziness that is my life. My high school friend “Captain Zooms” and I discovered the joy of the ocean many years ago on a vacation to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. We rented a catamaran and went sailing and wind surfing. Cruising inches off the ocean on a wind surfer, and lying out over a raised pontoon is all consuming. I have loved the ocean, and everything about it since that time.

I have learned well from mountains and the wilderness, especially at 14,000 feet in elevation. We are only temporary visitors at the summit, sometimes only for minutes at a time. Some climbers never summit at all.

Touloose, my life long ski companion and I have skied all over America, although we had never heli-skied with one another. We decided that on our last big ski vacation we would ski the Little Cottonwood Canyon of Utah including The Wasatch Powder Birds in Snowbird. On the day that we registered, it began to snow heavily and continued for the entire week. One to two feet of fresh powder fell every day. Our hopes dashed every morning by a call saying the weather was too bad for the helicopter to go up, even though the skiing was awesome on the mountain.

On our last morning at Snowbird, the sun rose over the peaks and burst across open snowfields filled to capacity with light, airy Wasatch Powder. We could here the Wumpf! Wumpf! Wumpf! of the Powder Bird helicopter heading into the pristine wilderness of the back country. The heli-ski run was never to be taken and we were only visitors there for a very short while.

Casting my fate to the wind has been a mantra of mine. I have enjoyed the freedom of going where I wanted, while living modestly. I started this pattern at a very young age and whenever I had more than a few thousand dollars saved I would spend it on an adventure.

When I hear the news today, my heart goes out to the unfortunate factory workers and civil servants who bought the dream of owning a home and retiring from their 40 year commitment with a pension. I am truly heart broken for them in their loss of the great American Dream. They gave up their youth and some of the best years of their lives. They get Na Da. Nothing, not even a job. No pension, no golden watch and fob. “Sorry, can’t extend unemployment benefits for you. We used the money to bail out the greedy bankers and to pay their bonuses for being the best and the brightest.”

I would like to lead a revolution of change. They say that if you really want to change, begin with yourself. I have both the desire and will power to make the change. We could all learn to make a change by putting more love into our hearts, a necessary self lesson for the change to begin.

Life is a Beach, not a mountain. I have always thought that Society had it figured all wrong. You should be allowed to experience life in the pursuit of your dreams for the first 1/3 of your life. The 2nd third of your life should be in pursuing financial security for the next phase. The last 1/3 should be in the pursuit of artistic endeavors that contribute to and enhance society as a whole.

I want to spend the last 1/3 of my life at the ocean. I will spend my days sailing, playing, and staying a while. The Great American Oil Spill has turned up the heat and the desire to enjoy the waters that are still around the bend from destruction. There still are pristine beaches in Oregon, and I want to go there and walk on them with Kathy, my wife, and have long talks and even longer writing sessions.

I write the best documentary of the mountains when I’m not living in them. Melville, who wrote lovingly of the sea only wrote successfully after he had left it. I want to make my final 1/3 of life the most powerful of all. I will work in the arts and bring about the change that I hope for America.

Kathy and I have begun the design of our retirement years. We have incorporated as Symposia Living Arts Inc. We will be promoting the Healing, Literary, Culinary, Visual, and Performing Arts. It simply is our time to shine. --- Albert Bianchine

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If A Woman Were President

If a woman were President, she would slap the "Drill, Baby, Drill" Bitches and send them to their room. Sorry Mr. Obama, you were my choice, and I respect you immensely, but if a woman were in the White House, the oil spill would be cleaned up by now or BP’s assets would have been seized. Do you think putting 10,000 boats in the water to clean up the spill is unreasonable? I think the spill lasting for 59 days is unreasonable. What do you mean you don’t have the technology? Then why were you drilling that deep in the first place?

If a woman were President, the oil would never have made it to shore. She would have collected it before it ever got close. Let’s talk about low ball, flow rate, educated opinion guestimates. Expert, who? She would have called Joe The Plumber! Everyone knows that a good plumber is worth his weight in gold. In this case, it’s liquid gold in the form of black, ugly crude fowling our shores, beaches, and waterways, and killing our beloved sea creatures. She would have had compassion for the hard working men and women crying on camera over the loss of their heritage and livelihoods. She would have massively fined BP for every second past 48 hours that the leak continued making it economically prohibitive to allow the oil to continue to spew into the ocean. She would have never allowed them to use a chemical dispersant that hangs like large gobs of snot at the bottom of the ocean again killing all the bottom feeding creatures (especially since that chemical makeup is a mystery to everyone except BP.) I’ve heard the story before, proprietary blend in the natural gas drilling industry with the fluid used for fracing. Many women in my neighborhood came down with never before seen forms of Adrenal Cancer.

The spokespeople for BP are liars, and yes, they do have an English accent. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, you get the inference. If a woman were President, she would have the nerve to tell them we don’t want you here befouling our shoreline. Her rallying cry would be "America for the Americans." She would usher in a new period of isolationism and self-reliance on renewable energy.

A Woman President wouldn’t have gone to bed with the oil companies in the first place. She would have been held accountable to a higher standard for a lot less money. No, I am not referring to that “Drill, Baby, Drill” trailer bitch from Alaska who is rumored to have spent her publishing windfall on new boobs for Trailer Hubby Todd, I’m referring to a real woman President.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Are You Willing To Do Whatever It Takes?

The answer is a resounding yes! It wasn’t always that way for me where writing is concerned. I expected success without being willing to contribute the time or effort. I had many mentors when I was a ski bum. The world’s greatest mentors, I boast. I have always related skiing to writing. There is a similar flow to both when you are performing well. Dropping into a deep powder run is treacherous. There is always the possibility that the mountainside will slide. I stood atop many a knarly Utah ski run with my good friend, Touloose, a ski patrolman. I learned how to probe the snow with my pole, or make a long traverse across the run to test the consistency and stability of the run. Many times, after climbing for hours into the back country of the Wasatch National Forest, we would each take a turn skiing a steep and deep slope and critique the others skiing ability. We would say, “You have got to commit to the mountain, stay forward, stop sitting back, gravity is your friend.”

Perhaps the most applicable lesson that skiing taught me where writing is concerned, is that often we would ski up to a particularly challenging ski run and stop. Big mistake, never stop at the top, it gives you time to look down in to the face of certain death. You freeze. You stop, sometimes your knees knock together and your body involuntarily shakes. I mean, we arrived at places where if you missed the first turn as you dropped in, you would likely die. It generally included big ugly rock faces and narrow chutes, steep mountain sides, deep powder snow. There always seemed to be a giant tree right in the middle of the chute. It was always at your second turn, so the entire time you are trying to concentrate on your first turn you are preoccupied with that damn tree and the second turn. It taught you to live in the second, and not to get ahead of yourself. Unless you made the first turn, there would be no second. So when you would stop, it would give you all the time in the world to think about how you were going to miss that first turn and crash into the tree and hit your head and careen down the hill bouncing off the rocks of the steep chute until you were history. It is where having a companion skier was the key. I remember vividly looking at Touloose at those difficult moments and he would smile from under his Sherpa hat. In his all too familiar cackle he would say, “The Lord hates a coward!” He would smile, and drop in. I, of course, had no choice but to follow.

The point is where writing is concerned, I have always written up to the lip of the steep, and stopped. I have never been willing to let myself go. I have never been willing to pull the writing trigger, to drop over the edge and noodle up the writing run.

Some people read the end of a book first- so this is for those who like a happy ending.

Scene III

Setting: University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, evening poetry writing workshop.

Enter: Writer with backpack. He sets the backpack next to desk at the front of the classroom. He takes out several books and sets them on top of the desk. He turns and writes his name on the blackboard. Turning, he faces the class and smiles as he unbuttons his sports jacket.

The Teacher (ME) says: “Good evening class. Before I begin, I would like to invite you all to the McKenzie River Lodge this weekend. We are having a get together to celebrate my new book contract. I have been fortunate enough to have received a contract for my Historical Novel, the corresponding film, and the music score! There will horseback riding along the Pacific Northwest Trail, and a vegetarian picnic with our own organic vegetables.”

A loud crash is heard as the classroom door hits the wall. A dazed student with dread locks and a rainbow colored knit hat stands in the entrance.

“Wow, sorry for being late man. I spaced out and didn’t realize the time,” he says turning to the teacher.

“Good evening Brian, how good of you to join us,” the teacher smiles. He looks sideways knowingly at the young man. He reminds him a lot of himself as a youth. He was inappropriate, loud, and abrasive. Brian doesn’t quite seem to fit in. Perhaps he never will. There is wisdom in knowing that he gave up fitting in many years ago. Some of the best writers are those that are the outriders of society.

“As I was saying, you’re invited to join us for a celebration of our WRITEMYFIRE contract.”

He turns and walks to the front of the classroom.

“Let’s have some writing fun.”

--- Albert Bianchine

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Emerald And Pearl ~ Miracles At The Ranch

I love writing about our years at the ranch. Miracles appeared in the oddest of places at the oddest of times. Our two white baby kittens, Emerald and Pearl appeared in a trailer load of alfalfa hay one hot summer afternoon. We had loaded the trailer ourselves with freshly baled hay directly from the field. The trailer was packed, front to back. We closed the back doors, and drove over 30 miles to our little ranch. When we unloaded the trailer, there, among the bales of hay, were the two most adorable long haired gems of kittens. Emerald and Pearl were perfect names for the two females. They immediately became the queens of the ranch.

We already had a huge brood of ranch cats. Our Queen Bee, Betty (“You can call me Elizabeth”) had just given birth to Rastus, Alvin, Calvin, Marion, Brother Pete, and my good friend, Dom (Domnick) Big Mike’s Boy from another Mom, and Mike himself. They rounded out the gender balance at the ranch.

They were lovers, and lounged in the hay where I had built a little shelf out of bales for them to eat and sleep. Pearl became every one’s little Pearly Girly. Early mornings on the ranch were cold and often windy. I remember one particularly cold morning (as I was bending down to pick up several flakes of hay) when Pearl jumped up and wrapped her furry little self around my neck. It would become our morning ritual. She would purr in my ear and keep my neck warm as I would walk the fields and hay and grain the horses and goats. Pearl was the girl of the ranch, and even Emerald adored her sister. There was something special about them both, but Pearly Girl was the Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Students fell in love with her, and she would stay wrapped up in Kathy’s Jacket while she taught all morning.

Her blue eyes were alluring and deep and she held court with her fellow creatures at the food bowl. I had to buy metal cages to trap her pet skunk that would eat with her early mornings and had to move her cat food from public access because she liked to share it with the goats, Jack London, his wife Daisy, and his daughter, Justin’s Little Rose. They came one and all. As Emerald and Pearl grew older, it became apparent to us that Emmy wasn’t Emerald, but she was Tom. We had Tom fixed for every one’s comfort.

Tom and Pearl were inseparable and endlessly basked in the afternoon sun. Sadly, our Pearly Girl left us all too soon. The ranch was saddened beyond belief but none more than my friend Tom. He was inconsolable in his grief. He was depressed, hardly ate, and became a grouchy and sad loner.

We soon moved to our new ranch. I loaded Snowy, and Buddy in the trailer and put Dom and Tom in a cat carrier. Traveling down the windy Dry Hollow Rd., I looked in the rear view mirror of my Ford flat bed to the horse trailer just in time to see what I thought was a white sheet of paper blowing away. It was my friend Tom. I believe his grief was too great, unlike Humpty Dumpty, my Tom jumped instead of fell. We searched the roadsides for days to no avail, Tom (Emerald) and Pearl had disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.

Miracles. Albert Bianchine

Friday, May 21, 2010

Having The Heart For It

Great racehorses are said to have great hearts. The average size of a race horse’s heart is 6lbs. The Veterinarian that performed the autopsy on Secretariat estimated that his heart was three times the size of a normal horse’s heart at about 22 lbs. Secretariat’s large heart is from the x-chromosome received from his Dam. It is called the x-factor and was traced to the Dam, Pocahontas. Her lineage is traced back 200 years to the Great Eclipse who had a heart that weighed 14 lbs. It is why Secretariat was able to win the Triple Crown and the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths establishing a new track record that still stands today.

Several years ago, we were living on a ranch south of the Town of Silt, Colorado along County Rd. 331 or Dry Hollow Road. We lived in a log home built in the late 1800’s, a home that had a Sears Kit Home shell built around the logs in the early 1900’s. It was on a twenty five acre parcel with a large stream running through the property at the base of a 100acre Mesa. It had great character. It once was the center or hub of activity because it had the only water and well. Ranchers and farmers would bring their livestock and horses there to refresh and nourish. It had the feel of antiquity. The bluffs above were inhabited by hoot owls, nesting red tailed hawks, and bald eagles. We found out quite by accident that a large mountain lion called the ranch and the bluffs home. My good cat friend, Big Mike, disappeared our very first night there. He was the man. Unfortunately unknown to us, the big, big cat was THE MAN. We never saw Mike again.

Welcome to “The Hadios.” Life was hard but wonderful. Only Big Mike’s son Dom, a more timid version of his dad was able to survive. Our rescue ranch had grown and we needed the extra land for the horses and for our school. Students were coming to Kathy’s classes from all over the world. It was great enjoyment filled with learning, healing, and miracles.

The geological structure of the semi-arid landscape, and rocky formations also lent itself to natural gas drilling. The large gas companies did just that. We often joked that it was Saudi-Silt. The regulations on the number of gas wells that could be drilled in a certain area were deregulated under George Bush’s Administration. Everywhere you looked at night you saw miniature Eiffel Towers lit and working. The support crews for wells are tremendous and the flow of traffic and trucks were at times almost unbearable. So were the accidents, too numerous to mention. The current catastrophe in the Gulf is not an isolated incident. It is business as usual.

One particular full moon evening I was awoken by Kathy who was sitting beside our bedroom window. Our little ranch house was surrounded by a massive herd of Elk. She was quietly listening to them communicate. We had no idea that they clicked, whistled, grunted, and talked so much. It was a moving experience. We at first thought how blessed we were, but soon realized that they weren’t there because we had a particularly good aura about our ranch. They were there because it was the only safe haven amidst the drilling and fracing the goes on 24 hours, seven days a week. The poor animals habitat had been filled by brightly lit towers with drilling equipment and trucks that are never ending. They were dazed, confused and milling about because their migratory paths and grazing grounds were no longer.

We operated a healing ranch where amazing therapy was given to wretched animals who desperately needed it. There was nothing we could do for these creatures. We went to bed saddened beyond any grief we had ever known. They were gone in the morning. Only the big cat was there, out in the tree, calling out my friend Dom, but he was always too smart to fall for his ploy.

These days, I live in a wonderful home in a beautiful community, and I write. I think often of the days on the ranch, hearing my cell phone ringing and not being able to find it. Only to discover that my trickster Appaloosa Snowy was on the other side of the enclosure with it between his lips and shaking his head up and down. Laughing at me because he had stolen it from my pocket while I was mending fences, I got pretty good at mending fences after the herd of Elk would come and huddle at our little refuge. I never minded.

It brings me back to having a heart, a big one at that. I don’t write now because I have the heart to, the truth is, I write because I don’t have the heart not to.
Albert Bianchine

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Beaten Path Is For Beaten People

I want to be a hippie again, and walk the Pacific Northwest Trail along the McKenzie River in Oregon. I want to walk in the meadows, and picnic with my wife Kathy among the blossoming wild flowers. I want to write poetry and prose. Perhaps some of it might be good. I want learn to write sonnets, and to play a guitar. Maybe I will finish The Ballad of Tom Dylan. It will be the last song in the CD entitled Living the American Dream. It is the music score for my screenplay about the history of Arapahoe Basin in Colorado. It includes a rousing remake of the song I had too much to dream last night. It will be the song that will be playing when the credits are rolling and all the movie goers are beginning to leave the theatre. They will be talking about how breathtakingly beautiful the mountain is that sits just below the Continental Divide, and how dastardly the Senator who owned Ralston Purina was that bought the mountain in 1978. They will remember what it was like to be a carefree hippie in blue jeans with long hair and a beard and to have people say things like, “Who does he think he is, Christ?”

My movie will remind everyone what it was like before you realized that nothing ever changed. The revolution of the 60’s came and went, and we fought in the streets. The Senators and Corporations had an iron tight grip on America, and the progress of it. The words of Paul Simon were true, “All the people bowed and prayed to the neon Gods they made … And the sign flashed out it’s warning, left it’s seed while it was storming … And the sign said the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls.”

I started the project when I was living above my musician friend Gordon Grey on Van Antwerp Rd. in Niskayuna, New York. Over the years, my interest in song writing, poetry and prose slowly faded. The glimmer of light in my soul was almost extinguished. Oh! I made the occasional rumblings, something about writing the great American Novel.

I then went to work in a wealthy Colorado ski resort where I was called upon to design expensive systems to melt snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways. The fabulously famous and wealthy individuals had endless dollars to spend on the conveniences. They didn’t want to get their Apres Ski Fur Boots wet when leaving their ski vacation home (one of their six vacation homes.) Their Range Rovers or H2 Hummers just couldn’t get close enough to the marble floors that lined the entry way.

I became very good at it (and wasting millions of BTU’s of heat doing it.) Maybe BP should have called me to solve their ice crystal problem in the containment dome. I have been a plumber for thirty years now. I can run a pipe anywhere and automatically melt anything and waste a tremendous amount of natural resources doing it. I’m that good. I might have even checked the backup battery on the "fail safe" device, had I been called upon.

President Barack Obama is a hero that I admire greatly. He has inspired me to write again. I don’t have many men-hero’s anymore. They have all been such a disappointment. The real reason I am writing again is because of something my wife Kathy said to me in passing. She was discussing writing a blog. “You know Al, you could be the next Kilroy, the face and hands on the freight trains years ago that said “Kilroy was here.” The hippie in me liked that.

Maybe I’ll be the next folk hero like Johnny Appleseed. The difference will be that I will write blogs that go viral. Then I’ll move to Oregon and hike through the Sisters Wilderness along Century Drive over the Santiam Pass. I will climb Three Fingered Jack. It reminds me a lot of the Grand Traverse. I’ll go into Eugene to The University of Oregon and have poetry readings and teach workshops and chant “Peace and Love.” I’ll invite all of the children to fill empty auditorium seats to enjoy my work. Everywhere I go I will leave people with little pieces of paper filled with poetic prose to give them all something to think about when I’m gone.

Sometimes when I’m driving in my work truck to install another incredibly expensive snowmelt system, in the shadows of my nemesis, a large Oil and Gas Company, I try not to resent them for single handedly driving us from our ranch. Natural gas was bubbling up from the creek. They installed a gas sensor near the crawl space of my house, even though there was “nothing to worry about.” And even if there was, the gas bubbling up in the creek near where my horses drank was not their fault.

If I’m really quiet, and I am meditating, I can almost hear the song. My soul wants to be a hippie again, because the beaten path is for beaten people.
Albert Bianchine

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Miracles Of Babaji

I was once a Godless cretin, carving a path of self serving destruction and manipulation of people, places, and events for my own benefit. The life that I led ended badly for me and I had to change. It was at that time that I discovered Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. It was a book destined to rewrite my life, and introduce me to Mahavatar Babaji.

Babaji is a timeless Saint considered to be a Yogi-Christ of Modern India. Paramahansa Yogananda describes him as a deathless Avatar. An Avatar is unsubject to the universal economy. His pure body, visible as a light image is free from any debt to nature. He is solely responsible for bringing Kria Yoga back to humanity. This is a scientific method for achieving Nirbikalpa Samadhi, a state of changeless God-consciousness. The lineage of the Self-Realization Fellowship began with Babaji. He was guru to Lahiri Mahasaya, who became guru to Sri Yukteswar, who became guru to Paramahansa Yogananda, the final guru and founder of the fellowship.

I became a yogi of the order through initiation, and meditate and perform Kria Yoga daily. There have been a multitude of miracles in my life since enrolling in the fellowship. I would like to share them. Upon receiving a letter from The Self-Realization Fellowship, my then Property Manager (and boss) who grew up surfing on the beach in the shadows of the Encinitas, California Ashram took a second look at me and later became my wife.

Together we started a rescue ranch for horses and I learned Equine Massage. I became a healer instead of a plunderer. We rescued a two day old colt with Congenital Flexural Deformity who was about to be euthanized. Through aggressive manual therapy, we straightened his crooked legs, and in time, he grew strait and tall. Unfortunately, he was taken from us in a horrific accident. We were devastated. Although our loss was great and our hearts were heavy, we moved forward with our mission to heal.

In the past, it would have served to close my heart and harden it. Instead, through Kria Yoga, my heart seemed even more open and full of love. I realized it was my mission to help ease the burden of these poor, tortured, and wretched creatures. The miracles came to us in all sizes, shapes, and needs.

Robin, a paint horse who fell seventy feet from a cliff and survived, her right leg was turned and bent. It was scarred, and practically frozen. Her body was lame, and she was being used as a brood mare. Her hooves were overgrown and splitting.

We watched our massage students work tirelessly to break up the scar tissue and stretch her stiff and sore muscles. Their efforts were rewarded when during a class session we looked out of the windows into the arena to see Robin loping around it.

Sid and Sam, a Percheron pair of behemoth brothers appeared. They were in excess of 2000 lbs a piece. Sid, the older brother, so overworked, had laid down on the trail while pulling a sleigh. I was to revel in the sound of his thunderous hooves as he and Sam would gallop to their grain in the morning.

A quarter horse mare named Sister stood over her lifeless foal. She was moaning and sighing. She turned and placed her giant head against my chest. My natural instinct was to cradle her as she stood and moaned. We found out later that the local vet had inadvertently taken a blood sample from her twin sister by mistake. His misdiagnosis allowed Sister to go untreated for Fescue Grass poisoning.

An unnamed horse came to us through the Silt, Colorado auction barn. Thin and frail, she collapsed as the arena gate was closed. We stepped in and purchased her before the killer bought her and we named her Tahoe, after where we were married. A wretch of a creature with open sores on her legs, and ulcerated nostrils causing nose bleeds. I labored constantly cleaning the water troughs because the other horses wouldn’t go near the bloody water. There was nothing that we could do for her. We comforted her with Veterinary Care and all that she could possible eat, as she hopelessly lost weight and wobbled around our fields. When the quality of her life became unbearable, we called the vet to euthanize her. We humanely ended her pain and suffering and it was at that time that my heart truly began to open and the years of bitterness disappear. I realized my calling was to help these creatures move on to a loving God.

Over the remaining years of the ranch, we had many tragedies as with Tahoe, and each one opened my hardened heart further. I didn’t think I had the capacity for any greater love and compassion. We always found the room in our hearts for more. We reveled in each individual success. Dreaming Doc, a double bred Doc Bar Quarter horse, was so special that we gave him to a young girl nicknamed Whistler, who had witnessed her own horse’s death. She renamed him Bullet. Whistler and the Bullet went on to win the Junior National Christian Rodeo Championships.

Our rescue ranch ended with our old quarter horse couple Kota’s Rookie Page, (Buddy) a grandson of the great Poco Bueno, and his wife Sage. Buddy was our first rescue from a wilderness outfitter. He was lame in his left front shoulder. Sage, an unwanted red dun quarter horse was rescued from the dark recesses of a breeding barn for miniatures. She was lame in both front legs. They lived out their golden years together, and were euthanized as a couple when the Vet advised us they could no longer survive another winter. This was a particularly difficult and heart breaking passage.

The final chapter to our rescue story was an E-mail from the woman that fell in love with and bought my Appaloosa named Snowy. He was a gray horse that succumbed to the skin cancers we so valiantly fought. My Pegasus finally got his wings.

Perhaps you are wondering why I’m telling you these stories of love, compassion, ignorance, and cruelty. The veil of Maya was lifted from my eyes and I am one of the world’s wretched creatures bathed in the light of Babaji’s saving grace. I am one of his miracles.

I ask for your help in saving the Haidakan Ashram in India. It is threatened by the Indian Government. They are planning to build a large dam at Jamrani near Haldwani in Uttarakhand. It will flood the valley and destroy the temple built more than 100 years ago with the hands of the spiritual saint It will destroy his Ashram, a Mecca to thousands of devotee’s. If you are not familiar with Babiji, I would recommend that you read Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda.

Please help by going to and signing the petition to save the Ashram. Albert Bianchine

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don't Let The Gate Hit Your Butt

Cowboy wisdom comes at a stiff price. My Equine career consisted of working for fifteen years in a Rescue Ranch and an Equine Massage School. I made all the novice mistakes. I was a true green horn and paid dearly. Real life consists of people who make mistakes every day.

One of our early rescues was a fifteen year old gray Appaloosa named Snowy. He was not able to be ridden and had a bad attitude. We would soon find out the cause. A local rancher explained that the outfitter had a problem with him not responding to the reins when they tried neck reining him. Their solution was to put large pointed tacks in the reins so that when they laid the reins over his neck, they would stick him. He would eventually learn to move away from the reins. They didn’t take into account how stubborn an Appaloosa really is. This just served to ruin him. They ended up packing him between the mules and he spent his career there.

My wife Kathy, being an English rider, suggested that I mouth rein him. I tried it, and Snowy responded well. He resisted when urging him to move forward, especially at a speed greater than a walk. I remember clearly saying to Kathy, “Open the gate to the big field, I’m going to teach him to run.”

“Perhaps that’s not a good idea Al,” was her response. “Just open the gate,” I replied curtly. She smiled, opened the gate, and stepped aside. At the same time she opened it our other horse Buddy rushed out to get to the fresh grass. The gate hit Snowy in his butt. I got my wish. Snowy bolted like a shot. He was bucking with both feet like a bucking bronco. I am a novice rider and after the third buck I remember seeing my feet out in front of me above my head.

I hit the ground hard, very hard. The vision of Snowy bucking off across the field without me still lingers. I became a Cowboy that day. A true Buckaroo. I was to eventually make peace with Snowy, and gain valuable Cowboy Wisdom. I learned gentle training, and not only to lead a horse to water, but also how to get him to drink.
Albert Bianchine

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Get A Life Coach

You want to change? Do you have the desire to have a new job and a new life? Take a lesson from me, Eeyore. He’s the character who is always telling Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, or Tigger why they can’t go to the one hundred acre wood today. Get a life coach! I have been blessed in the fact that Kathy, my wife, is a trained life coach as well as an expert Ezine author.

By her Socratic questioning, and expert coaching, she was able to allow me to open up and expose the true root of my writing desires and goals. I was able to expose the fear that was prohibiting my moving forward. This has allowed me to slay my writing demon (the blank white page.)

By adjusting and redefining my unrealistic goals and expectations, I have been able to move forward. I have overcome my self made obstacles. Writing a blog regularly has stimulated my creativity. The desire to write well has always been there. My previous lack of action toward the fulfillment of that goal left me disenchanted and disillusioned in my life. By complaining bitterly about my inability to change my life’s experiences, I continued to do the same thing which was nothing.

For many years, I remained on the same path and lack of action, hoping for a different result. Imagine my surprise when I kept getting the same results. Duh? My Golden Retriever looks at me some times with a look (in her cute little blonde way) that says, “What are you, stupid?” The truth is, I’m not. I’m just very slow to learn. Yes. Unwilling to change my behavior patterns to get different results. I was unable to see the big picture that by writing every day will have an immense effect on my future.

There you have it. Over the years, I have attended many sales meetings. They always say to try and get the buyer to say yes at least three times so that they build a box for themselves that they can’t get out of. Guess what? Am I going to have to try and write my way out of this one? Yes, yes, yes!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The More You Use What God Has Given You, The More God Will Give You

The more you use what God has given you, the more God will give you. Those words were posted on a pneumatic workout machine at the Steuben Athletic Club in Albany, New York. My friend Bob and I were training in an attempt to get in condition for a several week ski trip to Colorado and Utah. We had just finished reading the book Seven Summits by Dick Bass. He was the owner of the ski area called Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

Dick Bass became the oldest man to climb (and summit) the highest peaks on all seven continents. By training for two years before his climbing attempt, he was able to summit all the peaks. He became our inspiration for getting into expert shape. I have never been afraid of mountaineering or skiing and have taken great pains to be among the top percentile of those adventurers.

On the first leg of the ski trip we visited Arapahoe Basin in Colorado where I began researching the history of that Ski Area. During the rest of our trip, I wrote the first chapter of my Historical Novel. I was both excited and anxious to get to my first writing workshop and get feedback for my work. It was received very well and I was encouraged by the participants to continue.

After the workshop, the blank white page became my nemesis. I have a hard time keeping a short story together so a full blown Historical Novel became my Goliath. Resembling the little David character, I would run and hide when the clean pages remained blank. I submitted my first chapter as a short story and received an honorable mention in a Writer’s Digest Competition. I filled the little story with all kinds of facts and descriptions to fill the pages.

Eventually, I moved to Colorado to pursue skiing and left the novel behind. It was too much, Goliath won. I moved on to Aspen, built a successful plumbing business, and bought a house. All the while, the project I had affectionately named Goliath still haunted me. He had become bigger and meaner than any mountain I had ever climbed or skied.

These days, I’m the cowardly lion, holding hands with Dorothy and the Scarecrow skipping to the Emerald City to meet the great Oz. They tell me that he gives out courage. I will get the courage to write. Goliath, he is standing in the road and he’s calling out my name.

This time, I’m writing my blog. I’m practicing. I am using the gift that God has given me. I am picking up my sling to slay the giant. Albert Bianchine

Monday, May 3, 2010

Devour The Classics

Read voraciously and devour the Classics. A good start would be World Masterpieces,Volume 1 and 2. Before each period there is an introduction to the period with a brief synopsis of each writer of the period. They will help familiarize you with great literature of all the periods of history.

I was extremely fortunate to be introduced to great literature at a young age. While perusing the stacks and thumbing through picture books of jet airplanes, I was accosted by a curly haired young man. “Why are you wasting your time with that? Follow me, I’ll show you where the good stuff is located,” said a young Ray Bono. He led me to the literature section and pulled out the largest book I’d ever seen. The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer became my new challenge.

Ray offered to discuss it with me weekly, and over the coming year, under his mentorship, I was steeped in great writing. Greek Literature captured my imagination and stimulated many an evening of flights of fantasy as Hercules performed his great labors. I soared through the skies on the winged Pegasus and explored the darkest depths of Hades. All the while, I identified with the trials of Odysseus and rejoiced in his return to his beloved wife Penelope the most celebrated woman in Greek Literature. I was smitten by the adventures in far off lands. I have revisited those great works often, and they have never failed to stimulate my imagination.

Young Ray went on to be the Salutatorian of our High School. I went off seeking the adventures that I had dreamed of after reading those works. Somewhere in my adventures lies a story just waiting to be told. Albert Bianchine

Friday, April 30, 2010

Letting Go Of The Rigidity

In an exercise of The Tenth Insight, Holding the Vision, An Experimental Guide, by James Redfield and Carol Adrienne, you are asked to work on overcoming the fear that holds you back from achieving your goals. The exercise is designed to put yourself in another’s shoes to help develop empathy and compassion. You are asked to jot down the names of three or four people you don’t like or with whom you disagree. Beside the names write out the things you don’t agree with or don’t like about them.

You are then asked to go back and describe each of the people as if you could see their higher purpose. You are asked to use your imagination to speculate what deeper, positive purposes lies behind the outer characteristics that you see and judge.

The final step is to go back to the first step and insert your name in the place of one of the people that you don’t like. You are then asked to describe something you do that is similar to what you don’t like about the person. You are asked to notice how you feel when you go back and read the exercise.

After completing this exercise, I have realized that there are a few things about myself that I’m not happy with, especially where writing is concerned. I am perhaps the most rigid and inflexible personality that I know of. In my Equine Career I believe that I haven’t worked with any more stubborn or inflexible mules. The more I wrote, the more I realized that my preconceived ideas of writing success are out of touch with reality. I don’t have to be on a beach in Oregon in order to write a Historical Novel about a mountain in Colorado.

Many great novels have been written by commuters into New York City on subways and trains. I doubt that I will mysteriously get a large book contract for an abstract idea about a novel. How about writing it? How about finally interviewing the principles in Colorado that have already agreed to an interview? How about completing the ground work? Do you think I might be difficult to work with? Am I the person that I complain about by putting the cart before the horse? Am I really as overbearing as the person that I thought believed they knew everything about a subject when they were really a novice struggling along? Could I use the help that I had to offer? What and eye opener! Writing well is indeed a journey to self discovery. Albert Bianchine

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing, The Art Of Healing

It was said by Ernest Hemingway that, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn … it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that.” In Ernest Hemingway, A Reconsideration, Philip Young qualifies Hemingway’s quote. “This rather loose overstatement is generally taken to mean that Huckleberry Finn is the source for the natural, colloquial, and nonliterary prose style in which most modern American Literature, and particularly Hemingway’s is written.

Mark Twain who was disillusioned by the disappearance of the American Frontier, found life closing in on him all around found Huck Finn. Huckleberry found the big muddy and his raft. Every time his world closed in on him, a push of the raft found he and Jim in a fast moving river with trouble far behind them. Our hero never grows past young adulthood and at the crucial growth time he introduces Tom Sawyer.

Hemingway embellishes upon the Huckleberry character by creating his early Nick Adams and his difficulties at The Big Two Hearted River. Nick’s struggle to cross the river is generally attributed to Hemingway’s attempt to heal from his wounds received July 8, 1918 at Fossalta di Piave. Hemingway was wounded badly and for a time assumed to be beyond hope. It is said 277 pieces of shrapnel were removed from him. Psychologically, Nick almost doesn’t make it across the river. Through Nick and The Big Two Hearted River, Hemingway confronts his demon and seemingly keeps it at bay.

Writing is a form of healing, and history is full artists desperately trying. Living is hard, you have to try and survive. In your struggle, if it becomes too difficult, you can Just Open A Vein,like a quote by Red Smith in a book edited by William Brohaugh. Albert Bianchine

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Words. They Are The Key."

Those simple words were destined to spawn my writing career. At a very young age, my Grandmother would buttonhole me and force me to sit and take the word power tests in Readers Digest Magazine. My Grandfather introduced me to the Western Novel soon after I had put down my Curious George books.

After abandoning my dreams of running away to join the circus, I picked up my young manhood dreams from Zane Grey the Western Novelist. I remember distinctly in his novel entitled, Wyoming, the scene opening with the Cowboy standing on the desolate plains. “Sand, sand blowing, shifting like a silver silken sea of clouds.” I was mesmerized and bitten by the great American expansive west.

Laughed out of my grade school music days for playing The Streets of Laredo as my favorite song, I took my album (yes, one of those vinyl plastic things), stuffed it in my backpack and headed for the school bus home. There I was on the bus, a Cowboy Hat wearing outcast, a drifter who didn’t fit in. It was the beginning of the character I was to create and become in my fiction writing. The self-styled lone wolf, I took up skiing and quickly exhausted the eastern mountains.

I soon found myself, Stetson hat and knapsack looking out over the great American plains of Wyoming. The big horns looming large on the horizon, with the Tetons and Jackson Hole Ski Area not far down the road. My knapsack harbored my marbled black and white composition book filled with doodles and short stories. Consumed and possessed by the adventure of the mountains, I lived the life that I had read about in the Westerns. I skied as many of the American Rockies as I was able. I was always trying to find the words to paint the beauty I was fortunate enough to live every day.

Writers are word stackers, shapers, like “Sand, sand blowing, shifting like a silver silken sea of clouds.” Just ask the self-styled lone wolf, the drifter and outrider of society who just stepped off The Streets of Laredo in their mind. Albert Bianchine

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"My Bad, But I have An App For That."

When I worked as a performer with the Beaver Creek Children’s Theatre in Avon, Beaver Creek, and Vail, Colorado, we worked in conjunction with Disney and Sport Goofy (Goofy on Skis.) We had several programs for vacationing families, especially the children. We offered a family night out with a picnic in a theatre at Piney Lake, a serene setting in the Rocky Mountains. We also offered a kid’s night out at a local theatre in Vail Village, that allowed families and evening out while their children were entertained. The cast was a wonderful array of people that told elaborate stories and performed skits with approved Disney Characters like Sour Dough Pete, and Sure Shot Shirley.

Many of the stories were performance stories with, audience participation. It struck me that inevitably many of the young children stayed at the back seats of the auditoriums and played with their video games and had no participation with the groups. Unless you physically removed the video games from the children, there is no way they would watch the performances or participate in them(with former parental approval.) They were social outcasts that didn’t interact with any of their peers or the social group.

Now flash forward twenty-five years. Those very same children are now CEO’s and General Managers of many companies. They are supremely technically gifted and computer literate and they have ipods, blackberries, and ipads. Their devices ring, beep and buzz to tell them where they should be with whom they should be and what they should be talking about. If they make a mistake or their device doesn’t remind them. They look at you with a far away distant stare and say, “My Bad.” But you know what?

I have an app for that. You guessed it. My blog.

Albert Bianchine

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Own Those Words

How far do you allow an editor to go with your creation? This is something that you need to discuss with your editor in advance. I was watching the Celebrity Apprentice the other night and found this question in my mind. The premise of the show was that the teams would take a novice country star and make them over. This would include hair and clothing, as well as preparing them for an interview with People Magazine. This was a great opportunity for the young singers, and two of the competitors performing the makeovers were popular rock stars.

It was clear that the male singer was stuck in his style and not willing to wander out of his box. I thought, "what's the point in participating in such an opportunity, if you're not willing to allow the pros to make you over?"

That's my point here. Anyone who has ever edited my writing has more experience than me. I have to trust that they know when to remove excess wording, when to correct my punctuation and grammar, and how to dress up or excite what I've written.

For me, editing the story out of my story isn't welcome editing. For example, if I write about my life as a child, and I mention the smell of the night blooming jasmine plants outside of my bedroom, they are here to stay. They are a major factor in my childhood memories. No matter what an editor has to say about that, I own those words. If I haven't misspelled them or used them in the wrong context, leave them!

To all of you wonderful and hard working editors out there ... I love and appreciate you, but sometimes you've just got to butt out!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Telluride Writing

I always thought that drumming was a foolish part of the Alive Tribe movement. The Alive Tribe has characters named Truth and Joyous Spirit. Drumming was not for me.

I went to a writing conference in Telluride, Colorado many years ago. Before attending, I climbed to the top of Rabbit Ears Pass just outside of town to sit and meditate on the coming workshop. I stayed up to watch the sunset, then ran back down before dark.

Part of the conference included a segment on performing. Reading my writing in front of a group has always been difficult for me and I wanted to polish that skill. The closer that the time came to stand before the audience, the more nervous I became. It was very difficult to walk across the stage and begin reading White Dreams, but I was able to do so. Was I afraid? Yes. Did I eventually overcome the fear? Yes, I did. Not only did I overcome my stage fright, but I took a hike to a waterfall drumming session with Joyous Spirit. It was relaxing, and enlightening. The sound of the waterfall, and the rhythm of the drumming together were very soothing.

After having my spirits lifted, I walked back into town to a local bookstore. Upon entering, my eyes flashed on the book, The Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. There was something special about his picture, so I bought it.

My life has changed dramatically since then, and I am now a practicing Yogi with the Self Realization Fellowship. I met and married my wonderful wife at a job in Aspen several years later, after she questioned the secretary about a letter from the Self Realization Fellowship that I had received. She had surfed at the beach in front of the Ashram that is now named Swamis. I distinctly remember her saying, “ I will take you there and show you.” I didn’t think she meant it at the time, and after discussing it with her years later, I found out that she hadn’t. There was a spirit greater than us at work.

Upon arriving to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the name of my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda had been left written in the sand in front of his favorite meditation bench. We took it as a sign of a blessing and went through with our plan to elope in Lake Tahoe. We have been happily married for fourteen years now.

Foolish Drumming at a writing conference with Joyous Spirit, indeed. It opened my chakras that had been closed. Perhaps attending writing groups are good for me, even if I hadn’t thought so. Albert Bianchine

Friday, April 16, 2010

Resistance To Writing

I’m reminded of a scene in some B grade sci-fi movie that I have watched somewhere along the way. A creep of an alien is yelling at some human.

“It is futile to resist silly human!”

I am and have been resisting. Oh yes, I have the anchor out and have pulled the sails down on my little writing ship and blog. It is amazing to me that I would elect to neglect the only vehicle that I currently have up and running at my disposal.

It hasn’t always been that way. When I was living in Vail and working as a waiter, I became involved in reading books to children in the Library. I even went as far as starting a Vail Writing Group where none had previously existed. Motivated, to say the least, and eager to do anything to be involved with other writers. What happened to that spirit? I called myself a struggling writer and poet then. I was working on Of Mountains and Men that I published in August, 2009. I went to local CafĂ©’s and read my poems trying them out on others while learning to perform. It was great fun and I met many interesting people. So the question still is; What happened to change all that?

Was it my ranch, the horses, the goats, my job? It would be easy to blame those things. I could conjure up a million excuses why I stopped writing and performing, but that would be just what they were. Excuses lacking action! “Anything lacking action is doomed to failure, silly human.” It doesn’t take an alien in a space ship to get it. If I didn’t go to the library and sit in one of those great curvy chairs that lets you type on a typewriter (yes I am that old that I started writing before laptops) I wouldn’t have had enough material to edit into the shape of a book, let alone publish it.

Let’s go back further. If I didn’t go to Universities as a young man and take poetry writing workshops and write about what the Professors asked me to write about, I wouldn’t have had the raw poems to even think about editing.

Ok, so by now you are waiting on the point. The point is, have you met me? Have you read my blog lately? The resistance to good blogging on the suggestion of my wife by wanting to write stiff, stuffy, upper lipped fiction leaps off the page at you. Perhaps one should read what they are writing more often and learn from their mistakes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing Is Writing Is Writing

My wife Kathy is an analytical critical personality. She is a teacher and a writer of informative articles on Ezine. I am a poet and a dreamer and I write fiction. So often I set out to write a blog, I know our blog is primarily about writing for writers about writing. In my latest blog attempt I began writing a wonderfully sentimental piece about our rescue ranch and my first white Appaloosa named Snowy.

When Kathy said, “What the hell are you writing Al, our blog is about writers and writing." I respond by saying,” Whatever,” and get angry and don’t want to write a blog. I am instead off on a fantastic stroll down memory lane and wondering how I could possibly turn it in to a great piece of fiction. If I tweak the truth just a little here and add some description there, because everyone knows that detail make the lie more believable, I just might have something saleable.

My question then becomes is writing about writing not writing fiction, or a memoir, or just writing about becoming a writer? I just want to write more prolifically and better. When I sit down to write, am I undisciplined if I go off on a memoir, and turn it in to a fiction piece titled, Snowy Got His Wings? Isn’t creativity and outlet for simply creating and if you push and step beyond the whiteness of the page aren’t you writing? Al Bianchine

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Writing - A Popular and Upcoming Career

I had a little time to browse this morning so I clicked on the most popular upcoming jobs on Yahoo while having my coffee. It said that writing, both technical and online journalistic are upcoming, high paying jobs. The requirement is a Bachelors Degree in English or something of that nature. The article also claimed that most people who dream of writing and publishing the great american novel end up writing technical manuals.

Wrong! As a person with a love for writing, I write. I sell, I volunteer, I blog, write manuals, courses, and recently published a book about horse fitness which had been a life long goal of mine.

Am I the highest paid script writer in the world? No. Do I have to get dressed and work for someone else every day? No. That's my point. If writing is something that you love to do, do it. If you look at Hollywood and Nashville, you will see that there are enormous pools of talent waiting tables. I don't really want to wait tables. I want to write. I'll write procedure manuals, newsletters, recipe books for the lady down the street, and donated editorials to the local free press until it adds up to a large income.

If your passion is writing, don't listen to anyone about how to make a living. Writing is a craft, a trade, and a talent. It doesn't take a publisher or a degree in English to make money doing it. Keep writing, and submit, submit, submit!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Writing And Presenting Educational Material

When putting a workshop or course together for a group of people, you might take great pride in the way that you have bound the booklets, and carefully organized the material. It is possible that only half of the group will really appreciate your work. The other half might lose the booklet in their car as soon as the workshop is over.

Generally, people not only favor a particular learning style, but they think with a dominant brain side. The left brain student is likely to appreciate the checklist that you have included with the course syllabus, and is likely to use it, while the right brain student would probably respond better to color coding.

Before designing an educational program, it is a good idea to explore these very different types of thinkers and organizers so that you can attract and maintain the interest of each. If you are the type of person that is motivated to organize this type of learning program, you are likely to be a left brain thinker. In order to be completely effective, you will need to learn different techniques to attract the right brain dreamer. Of all things, do not have your feelings hurt if someone doesn't fawn over your meticulous presentation. Maybe they just don't get it. Left brain thinkers are much more obsessive than right brainers.

In addition to dominant brain types, there are three specific learning styles that are individual to each student. If you present workshops, you will soon discover how much it matters that you present a balanced program to include each specific learning style. It will be written all over your participant's faces as you lecture. They will appear lost during some sections, and will be nodding during others.

The first learning style is the visual learner. These are the seers. This student likes pictures, graphs, colors, videos, and actual demonstrations of how things work. Studies show that visual learners are often good customers for infomercials and television shopping networks. They like outlines and diagrams, and generally do well on IQ tests that have pictures, but they become stressed during oral exams.

The second learning style is the auditory learner. These are the listeners. This type of student loves to memorize long lists of information. They listen to books-on-tape, remember words to songs, and are a specific target for jingles used in advertising. An auditory learner is good at memorization by repeating facts with their eyes closed. These learners are good at remembering specific rhyming techniques like "lefty-loosey, and righty-tighty." They often use small recorders for recording a teacher's lecture for later review. Auditory learners do exceptionally well during oral exams.

Lastly, kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners. These are the students that might fidget during the lectures. They don't relate well to a drawing or explanation of a particular exercise. They must perform the task in order to understand what the words and pictures mean.

The new television show by Dr. Mehmet Oz demonstrates a great balance for education. First, Dr. Oz gives his monologue about how many people die of heart disease each year. He gives the staggering statistics about how and why it happens. He then shows a large, color video screen of the mechanics of a working heart and how it becomes affected by heart disease. He follows this with an audience member putting on surgical gloves and actually feeling and handling a human heart taken from a cadaver. Lastly, he adds the shock factor by having a person that is overweight or has a lifestyle that might cause heart disease stand in front of the audience and discuss their habits that have led to the disease. He then discusses their numbers like cholesterol, blood pressure, etc., and how they can be changed.

Every type of learner is hit with the wow factor of the message that he is trying to portray. Incorporating all of these factors together in your articles, courses, and workshops will assuredly reach your entire audience with your teaching message.

By Kathy Duncan

Friday, March 26, 2010

Now, The Pope?

Oy Vey, even the Pope is in trouble for a sex coverup. Yes, they say that he let pedophiles go free. And now, after the Health Care Reform vote, there are threats of violence against government officials! Can't we all just get along?

We've got a recession that we're worried about! We need to get out of our cabins and spend money again. How can we? The deficit is rising, terrorists are trying to take over like cock roaches, and our government officials are bickering about their own popularity in November.

It's a shame. We can only hope for a better world in the future. I feel positive about it. Life is good. We will get through this. A day at a time. We can only hope.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What is pork anyway?

Read the bill. John McCain jumped in the President's proverbial #%$@ because he has delivered a 2700 page Health Care Bill. So, read the thing! What's the problem? How many 12 year old Harry Potter fans have already read the last book totaling 800 or so pages three or more times? If you asked, they would tell you that they read it in three days! Sorry, John McCain, but the days of claiming that you have never turned on a computer and being proud of it are over.

The lawmakers complaining about a 2,700 page bill should be impeached. End of story. When it is your job to make laws, you do your homework. If going to the office on a weekend to read 2,700 pages is too much for you, quit your job. There is no excuse for complaining how long it is. I don't get it. All that I can do is hope that someone runs against you in the next election that is willing to do the job.

I've downloaded and looked over the entire document. It's interesting how certain politicians are saying that it's loaded with pork. I wonder exactly what each individual's interpretation of pork is. I wonder what the specific problems are for the people that haven't read it over. Let me give a short analogy of my interpretation, because most of the so called pork is stuff that we would be spending on in one form or another.

Let's say that you were going to be moving to a state that doesn't charge sales tax. Let's also say that you have a little money in your savings account. Not that the U.S. has money in their savings account, however, there are projected expenses either way. Would it be worth taking money from your savings account today, in order to save thousands of dollars in sales tax for tires, appliances, groceries, etc., If it were going to save at least 33% of your income for the next couple of years?

Not everybody shops like that. Not everybody has a savings account to draw from. Not everybody would buy in advance even if they did. Does that mean that the person that is willing to buy in advance is wrong? Or does that mean that they are making a mistake because tire prices might go down in the future? I can't even speculate on an answer.

I have prepared many million dollar budgets in my career, and I know that the best way to save money and to stay within a budget is to forecast far into the future. The best way to forecast the future is to take the statistics from the past and try to compare apples to apples.

It might seem like irrational spending to some people to speculate what the future might hold and to plan this far in advance. To me, it's well worth the risk to buy my tires now because, as we all have learned, we might not even have a job tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Americans Are Weary

"Americans Are Weary." This is what I heard on the news today. Ya think? Weary is not the word! Sick and tired and fed up is more like it! We're all camping. I mean, I can hardly complain because Al still has a job with health coverage for him. His paycheck covers my COBRA which will run out late this summer. We also have a roof over our head that we can afford, but camping nonetheless. By that, I mean that we no longer have a land line, have cut our TV services to the bare minimum, we go out to eat very rarely, and make sure to bundle errands into one day a week rather than go out and use gas whenever we want.

Many Americans are virtually camping camping. No bedroom, no bathroom, let alone bare TV services. Weary barely covers it. I'm starting to get cranky. WTF are these guys in congress doing claiming that Americans shouldn't get unemployment extensions because they WANT to be unemployed? That Americans have become lethargic and don't want to work.

Well, Tom Delay, you were a buffoon and a loser on Dancing With The Stars, and now you're a buffoon as a Republican spokesperson. Americans want to work. In fact, we want to work so badly, that I think that we should all consider running for office so that we can control our own destiny and get free health care coverage like the rest of the bums in Congress.

The only way that you people in Congress will ever touch the ground like the rest of us is to find yourselves with no jobs and no health coverage for your families. You're all making fools of yourselves covering only your own asses and making foolish remarks about how the typical unemployed Americans feel.

Many of us were making it as self employed Americans with employees of our own, but the cost of health care and wars and bank bailouts have taken it all away. My message to all of you has-been, lazy, fat buffoons in Government, look out! The typical unemployed Americans are not only cranky, but now we're motivated to roll your fat lazy asses off of the podium to become the new lawmakers of this country.

Watch for me. I'll be on the ballot as an Independent. You can check the box "Cranky and Motivated" to cast your ballot for me. One thing is for certain. YOU will not be re-elected.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Writing For Supper

I read a lot of writing blogs. Like most professions, it depends on which side of the business that you're on, how you choose to operate. I'm not sure who all of the writers are that say that story, article, and essay contests are a waste of time, but they must already have an agent that does their worrying for them.

When there is a recession, a plumber goes out and explores every possible option for a job. It really doesn't matter if he was the star of the town in the past. The same goes for actors, teachers, mechanics or whatever else that a person might be professionally trained to do. If you call yourself a writer, unless you're John Grisham (and by the way, his last book had the MAXIMUM marketing campaign that I have ever seen!), you need to pursue a paying publication, or even two or three EVERY day if you need to pay the bills.

If you are otherwise unemployed, you will need to buy food and gas for your family. Many competitive stores and product manufacturers have essay contests on "Why I Like Their Product The Best." You are one lucky writer if this is a product that you normally purchase. The prizes are usually in the form of product.

I lived in a small surf town in California for a while. The local grocery store had those TV Guide contests where you had to provide the code from the grocery line TV Guide, a grocery receipt for anything over $10.00, and an essay. Most people didn't participate at all, so there was my $500.00 worth of groceries three times in a year!

Most recently, I participated in an essay contest for my Chinese Herb Company. I order from them once a month. Runner up got me a mention in their trade newsletter (which is where my clients and colleagues shop), and $100.00 worth of product.

So, whoever the hotshot writers are that think that contests are a waste of time, congratulations! Either you're an accomplished novelist, or an unemployed factory worker that will never have the joy of being a working writer.

I am determined to write rather than wait tables. Nothing against waiting tables, it's just more fun to hunt down quirky but profitable writing gigs.

Monday, February 22, 2010


If you're reading this blog, you might be like me, surfing writing sites to pursue the dream of making money doing what you love, writing. There are lots of blogs, sites, groups, classes, tips, and advertisements. Each of them promising a dream-come-true.

I'm surprised to see so many online writing groups that are closed to new members. They call themselves professional writers or agents that give tips on words that are unusual, not proper, and taboo in certain circles. Taboo words? Phooey! Is that a taboo word? I hope so. You probably get what I mean.

I am far too old to fall for this propaganda. I was in the health club business for most of my career, and I know that the most convincing looking muscle men didn't know squat about lifting weights, or fitness at all for that matter. My second career was fitness for horses. I was able to convert most of my education to the equine species and found the same thing. A good number of the people with the high falootin (not a word either) horses that performed the high falootin disciplines had money and coaches, but not necessarily horse sense or knowledge.

After writing educational courses and newsletters in the fitness business for over 30years, and, I might add, selling them for thousands of dollars, I'm finding the writing world to be similar to the others. Not the entire writing world, but I see a pattern emerging.

We are all simply word stackers. We find different and more creative ways to organize words. There is more than one way to stack words! Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson did not attend 10 years of songwriting or singing training. Simon Cowell, one of the most successful men in the music business, dropped out of school at the age of 16. I am not condoning dropping out of school, I'm just saying ...

If you are a writer looking to write,then write! YouTube is where the poet at the opening ceremony of the Olympics was discovered. He is now an overnight success. If you find a writing group in your town that is closed to anyone but Master Degree'd Literati, start your own. Of course, your grammar and punctuation needs to be correct, but if you don't get out there and become comfortable with who your inner-writer is, you will never land on both feet as a writer.

I will continue to surf the internet for groups, tips, workshops, and more, but doggone it, when I write I will use words that I choose, in the tone that I choose. I believe that my success might be Blowin' in The Wind for now, but not forever. kd

Saturday, February 20, 2010

To Write Or Not To Write ...

Writing has always seemed subjective to me. Sometimes, I look at the fiction that I have just written and say, “This is real garbage. I’ll never be good at this.” I absolutely remember the first time one of my characters came alive on the page. It was an argument scene between a man and a woman. The end was already written. I had played it out in my head. There were all these cute little sayings and witticisms that my man guy was going to use to dominate this timid controllable woman and win the argument.

It started simply and progressed accordingly, but something seemed to happen along the way. This timid little woman all of a sudden got a back bone. She stood up strait and tall, tucked in her shirt, pulled up her pants, and let my man guy have a verbal tongue lashing. You know the one that only a fed up domineered woman of a stupid controlling abusive idiot for a boyfriend kind of gal can deliver. I was shocked. She wasn’t supposed to win. She was supposed to be left speechless. Instead, during the writing I found myself saying, “you go girl. You tell this jerk of a man exactly what you think of him.”

“Yeah, and Furthermore, Mr. Holier than thou, let me tell you how I really feel about you.” I couldn’t believe it but at the end of the paragraph, I was part of the sisterhood. She had won me over and taken on a life all of her own. I couldn’t have stopped her if I had wanted. It was surreal. I guess when you come right down to it, there is no question. Some times you say, “Yes, Dear,” and you write what you’re told. Albert Bianchine

Friday, February 19, 2010

Old Ski Bums Never Die

Skiers are an odd lot. Snowboarders are even odder. Some of my best friends when I was ski bumming in Vail were Shred Betties. Telemark Skiers are the most reverent. I can still hear the refrain, “Free your heel, free your mind.” To me there is nothing more beautiful than a Tele-skier in fresh deep powder along the tree line, carving up some turns. The beauty belies the difficulty in the act of the turn. Cross Country skiers puzzle me! Why would you not let gravity assist you? They are a very fit lot.

I have been watching the Olympics every evening from Vancouver. Whistler and Blackcomb are incredible mountains. It was my good fortune to be a part of an exchange program there in the late 80’s. Watching Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn in the downhill events got my heart pounding just like I was there again. The runs are some of the longest and most thigh burning runs I have ever taken in my life! One mile of vertical is a long ski run. I couldn’t help but reflect back on my misspent adulthood as a ski bum. My friends and I spent the better part of the 70’s and 80’s chasing snow flakes and sunsets across North America. The quest for the ever deeper snows and ever steeper mountains is truly addicting. I am proud to be a recovering powderholic in my mid-fifties.

That brings me to my point. These days, like all older men, I try desperately to recapture my youth. The only way I know how to do it is by writing about it. You might call it the ( Last Trial of the World’s Greatest Ski Bum.) But let me tell you, for a brief moment sitting in my recliner in front of my Big Screen TV, I indeed was twenty five again. I could feel the wind in my face, the pounding of my heart in my chest, the rush of adrenaline through my veins and the burning in my quads, and thighs. I was straining to maintain my balance and keep my tuck through every turn and roller. All I can say is; “ Thank You to the all the Olympic Athletes for your great feats of endurance, stamina, and will. Thank you for the fire that burns to win from within. You made me realize that Old Ski Bums Never Die, the flame may grow cold, and yes, even old, but it still burns.” Albert Bianchine

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Self Publishing With Xlibris

I've asked that writers who post on our blog not say anything hateful, so I'm going to follow my own advice here. However ... I've been holding out on writing about this, but it's time.

When Al and I decided to publish our books, we decided to self publish just to get our stuff in book form for better promoting of our material. We thought that we had researched the market thoroughly. Apparently, we had not.

We chose an expensive package with the self publishing company called Xlibris in Indiana. The woman in sales was literate, responsive, and clearly spoke English. That part of the agreement went pretty well. Then, we started the actual information exchange. On many occasions I found myself with the urge to become physically abusive. Seriously, I visualized choking someone. It was one of the most violence provoking experiences of my life.

It should be simple. You send the copy, they edit, and return the corrected copy. The mistakes were unacceptable, the language barrier was unacceptable, the final copy had old errors that had been corrected back in it, and on and on and on!

Once the book was published, of course, since they get a much larger percentage of sales than you get, they HOUND you to give them more money for marketing so that they can get more money.

The final straw for me was when it came time for my quarterly royalty check. The quarter came and went. The person on the phone said that I might get it this week ... or next month. When I went back into my choke somebody visualizations, I still got no relief! The robotic, barely speak english voice on the other end of the line repeats "yes, Miss Duncan, I understand that you are angry Miss Duncan ..." AAARRRGGHH. "STOP with the smile school responses!" The more abusive that you become, the more robotic that they become.

No problem. I finally prepare to contact the Better Business Bureau. They have a beautiful BBB Member link on the website. DEAD END! The BBB link tells you that they are not a paid member of the BBB.

Would I recommend Xlibris as a self publishing choice. NO. Resounding NO! NOOOOOO!!! Would you give a classroom of fourth graders your manuscript for a professional presentation? Probably not.

If you look closer, you will notice that there are subtle clues all over their website. On the Authors page there is a note that says something about Royalty payments for 2004. They are outdated, out of touch, and hopefully, if I can help it OUT OF BUSINESS. Thumbs down, costs too much, outsourced to illiterate robots. There are much better choices.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Write My Fire

We've been watching American Idol this past few weeks, and the competition has really heated up. It amazes me to see hundreds of thousands of people lining up for the auditions. Each one of the participants has the same passion and dreams. To be the one. There will be a winner, in the end.

What I wish for them is that each of them will sing their song. There is something lost when they are voted off by the judges, but it's only a part of their dream. Their song lives on. They seem broken when they walk away, but their song sounds the same to me as it was the first day that they arrived. Who cares about the judges?

I've had more articles and essays turned down than I care to count. I've also sold some of my writing for $800.00 a page. I've written some scathing letters that paid $10,000 a page. So, if you don't like what you're reading, ho hum. I don't care. Tomorrow, I'll write something else. Maybe I'll win an essay contest that will pay its reward in Chinese Herbs, publish an article about massaging a horse, or write a threatening and scathing letter that will pay huge dividends. Either way, tomorrow I'll write. I'll sing my song and it will sound beautiful whether I end up being the American Literati or not. I will write again tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wordstackers Unite

This is the first step in creating our new retirement business. Both of us writers. Him, a dreamer and a poet. Me, a researcher and organizer.

My husband Al is a fiction writer to the bone. He lectures me daily about suspending reality and going wherever I may. That seems delightful, but raised in a strict Catholic environment, my Italian parents would have said; "You need something to dream about? I got your dreams, right over there in the potato peeler, Sister!"

It's almost painful sometimes. I wish that I could dream up a poem! I am creative though. As long as I'm working. With a career in Health and Fitness, I've written articles and even a book on horse fitness! I'm more apt to write a newsletter, or a blog, or an essay, as long as I think that I'm striving for a beneficial purpose.

Together, we're a team! This is just the beginning of our retirement career where we hope to build a place for what I call "wordstackers" everywhere to share their own interpretation of word stacking. Whether it be a blogger, journal writer, novelist, or song writer, we hope to bring them all together for workshops, writing contests, and information to bring their creativity to fruition.

Today, I'm putting our new corporation together, opening a checking account, designing business cards, a facebook and twitter account, and as I already have, getting our blog together. This is exciting! Although we live in a remote and non-creative ranch area of Colorado, as soon as our house sells, we'll be re-locating to the great Northwest to unite with the vast wordstacker population in Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

Our experiences in writing and publishing are bound to help the beginner in the industry prevent some of the GREAT mistakes and successes that we have endured and enjoyed.

Here, on the first day of the Winter Olympics, "Let the games begin!"