Commentary Uncategorized

On Politics, A Mini-Manifesto

I tried for a long time to keep politics out of this blog. Okay, for a little while–but it seemed like forever. I had this idealistic dream that I could keep my mouth shut and john-birch-society-american-flag-hero-einoffensively skip through the ether, getting along with everyone in a post Rodney King dream world of sunshine, lollipops, and glistening dew on early morning spiderwebs.

That went down the crapper quickly enough, because the world is full of rednecks who think America reached its pinnacle in the moments following confederate succession, who deny racism, who think that women’s bodies autonomously reject pregnancy in the event of rape, and Presidents–a fucking President, man–who brags about his history of sexual assault with a wink and a grin that says, well, you know, those chicks were asking for it.

I never liked being called a liberal. I haven’t much stomach for the sensitivity that has become a source of both internal pride and external derision for the moral left. Our unofficial family slogan here in chez junk is “suck it up, Lizzie.” There’s a story behind that–no one here is named Lizzie–but it has been a pretty effective way to raise children. Knocked down? You get back up, wipe your tears on your sleeve, and get on with it. I appreciate the importance that the left has placed on identity, on saying the right words at the right time, on being first and foremost respectful–but it is wearying, too, and it has become clear that in focusing so much energy on not being offensive (which is different from simply being respectful) we have concentrated too much on matters of individuality and too little on those that effect the community at large.

In a manner of speaking, those are peacetime concerns. We are presently at war against a despot who would wipe his fat, pimply ass with the constitution while scheduling prime time melodramas to air him bloviating from that same wrinkled, cellulite-curdled butt. Also against us are the enablers–rational and possibly even generally good men and women who know better–who goddamn know we can be so much better–yet who sit quietly by out of loyalty to party and love of power, hitching their carts to a twitter-mad, id-obsessed madman suffering from classical Textbook narcissistic personality disorder.

I’ve been a Democrat largely because the Pennsylvania electoral system is set up so that independent and third-party voters can’t vote in primaries, which means exclusion from local elections such as town council, school board of directors, and row offices. I’ve stayed screenshot_6a Democrat because however bad it gets, Republicans also seem to be worse. (You think Anthony “Look At My” Weiner isn’t thrilled about Trump’s romp through out ugly political landscape?) Democrats also seem to have better taste in beer.

Some of this is by default. For example: I align with pro-choice and environmentalist positions because, let’s be honest, I love trees, mountains, and untrammeled desert while I don’t particularly care for people and feel very strongly that there should be less of them–and it’s an either/or thing with birth control: teach kids about effective birth control and make it readily available or stick with all this ridiculous abstinence rhetoric and keep the abortion rates where they are.

I may do a position paper sometime in the future, when I’m feeling feisty, but I’m here now to declare–unless you missed it–that for now and for the immediate future, Old Road Apples will be a Voice of The Resistance; not THE voice of the resistance by any stretch of the imagination, but one voice among many, however ragged, second-hand, exhausted, or shrill. It will remain so until the current threat is quashed, until the Constitution is again revered, and until we have leaders who put justice, reason, sanity, and morality ahead of party allegiances and private aspirations.

If you’re a conservative and thrilled with the way things are going, I urge you to stick around, engage me, and make an effort to explain to me why? Because I clearly don’t understand. If you agree with me, in whole or in part, I need to hear from you as well. It is good to know we’re not alone, as we teeter on the brink of destruction. Let’s get this fixed so I can get back to being my old self–it’s far more rewarding to mock liberalism than it is to carry its torch, but as the old saying goes, the enemy of my enemy….





Not Flood Nor Fire, Just A Blog Unattended

Here we go, boys and girls. I miss you all when I’m away, and look forward to catching up and finding out what you’ve been up to while I’ve been “away” from the wonderful world of WordPress. At the same time, tons of detritus has built up behind the dam while I’ve been attending to other concerns. So, let the fires begin….


Nothing like a marginally obscure, and somewhat tenuous, historical reference to jump back into the blog, but…

I live about 30 miles from Johnstown, PA, sometimes known as “Flood City, USA.” That’s gallows humor, northern Appalachian style. Johnstown was a major steel producing city built in the bottom of river valleys where the Stonycreek and Conemaugh come together, but it has become more famous for the series of catastrophic floods that have swept through the city, beginning with the greatest and worst in 1889. Upstream, a private dam at a summer retreat owned by a group of mostly Pittsburgh-based super-wealthy robber barons, held back a lake on the Conemaugh, surrounded by ornate vacation mansions on beautifully manicured grounds. The rich folks would come up during the hot and humid summer months to escape the pollution in the city. The earthen dam didn’t merit a lot of attention. It was a cobbled together, poorly engineered thing that had been repaired using highly technological means such as, ahem, shoving tree stumps into leaks. May of 1889 was a particularly damp month, and in the last days of the month the rains were incessant.

On May 31, the damn broke, releasing 20 million tons of water in the already engorged watershed. Johnstown, about a dozen miles downstream, never had a chance. Hundreds were killed as the initial wall of water scoured the valley floor, and many more died at the stone bridge in the city, where a magnificent buildup of debris piled up and, adding horror atop horrors, caught on fire. At the time, it was considered the greatest disaster in American history, and even now it the carnage has been eclipsed only by the 9/11 Attacks and the great Galveston flood. The city would suffer additional floods of lesser magnitude in 1936 and 1977.

Unlike at the South Fork Dam, no one will die from my poorly maintained blog, but the device for this post crept into my head and I decided to roll with it. Inattention, stuff building up at the dam–if nothing else, I found a way to throw a little history your way.

In the meantime, it is time to let the clean-up begin, and that starts with getting all the saved Junk sorted and passed along to you. We may even see days with multiple posts…


How Is Your Blog Different Than You Intended It To Be?

A visual representation of the Junk Chuck writing process.
A visual representation of the Junk Chuck writing process.

So, I’m sitting down about a month ago, thinking of a lot of non-bloggy things: Christmas presents, the menu for our annual Christmas party, the relative lack of shrill, bleating demands to “put the Christ back in Christmas,” the inconsistent play of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and all the projects I didn’t get done this last year that I really, truly, honestly wanted to finish.

And then I thought: this was supposed to be a writing blog.  A writing blog with a lot of poetry in it.  A lot of bad old poetry I’d post for fun, and a considerable volume of new poetry I’d be inspired to write just by forcing myself to think about writing and poetry outside the context of my ongoing novel project.

I bring this up every once in a while and don’t really do anything about it, which pretty much shows how much it matters.  I like that Old Road Apples did not become the earnest depository for my pseudo-literary scribbles.  It’s much more fun as a combination bar stool/soap box/subway platform–and I’m more comfortable as a living, breathing mash-up of blowhard/busker/rabble rouser/feature writer/pornographer/doggerel-monger/wolf-crier/journalist/drunk-guy-slumped-over-the-bar.

I imagined a satisfying blog would have a little dignity.  I was wrong, at least in this case.  I feel like I’ve succeeded in part by not really thinking about dignity–or, perhaps more prescisely, pretense–at all.

64346_10100567057494079_5687454911479049322_nIn trying to think of an apt metaphor for what I feel like my blog has become, the thing that imbeds itself in my head is a cafeteria table.  Specifically, a high school cafeteria table at which I sit down with friends, some of whom I’ve known a while, others who ended up with me because of the fortunes and misfortunes of a class schedule.  (One of the big items for discussion among my children and their friends each summer when class schedules are mailed out is: “what lunch period are you eating, who else is eating at my lunch?” )  As for the actual blogging, it’s a lot like the conversations at those tables–especially since the kids, banned from their seductive devices, are forced by circumstance to interact on a personal level.  My posts, by and large, are along the lines of “hey, did you hear this?” , “check this out!”.

All in all, I could have done worse.

How has your blog turned out differently than you expected?

Commentary Journal Quote

Response To Suzie81’s “7 Questions For Bloggers.”

Last year Suzie81 stirred up the blogosphere with a wonderfully successful post that posed 7 significant questions to bloggers.  It was so successful she’s decided to give it another go-round.  There is no way i can resist–and why should I?  Here goes:

Annie Leibowitz photo

1. How did you create the title for your blog? I’m a big poetry fan and an enthusiastic, in not particularly talented or prodigious poet–the jump from the word “poem” to the french word for an apple, “pomme,” is a short one. Ed Abbey, one of my favorite writers, has a small collection of his verse collected in a book called “Earth Apples”–making the same connection.  Now, around these parts it’s not uncommon to see piles of horse dung on the backroads, which my grandfather always called “road apples.”  Many of the early posts on this blog were old pommes, I mean pomes, I mean poems–old apples, if you will, and kind of shitty at that…the title for my new blog became obvious.

2. What’s the one bit of blogging advice you would give to new bloggers?  There are no rules here beyond civility–write what you want, when you want it, and have a blast doing it.  In other forms of writing, we need to be market sensitive–who is the client, what do they want, who is the target audience, what do they want, what do they expect?  Unless you’re looking to monetize your blog, or you covet fat statistics, there is no reason to do anything but what you enjoy–and there aren’t many formats in life that provide that opportunity.

3. What is the strangest experience you’ve ever had?  I was baptized as a child–that’s a pretty weird thing, if you think about it. Lightning once struck the ground a few feet from where I stood–I could feel the static in my beard, and smell the ozone and electric discharge..

4. What is the best thing that anybody has ever said to you?  “I love you.” Seriously, what other answer could there be?  

just answer the questions
just answer the questions

5. When presented with a time machine, which one place and time would you visit? That’s difficult–the first Christmas, maybe? Talking barnyard animals and angels hovering over a bunch of bewildered shepherds? How cool is that?   

6. If you had to pick a new first name, what would you choose? I’m named for my grandfather. There isn’t another name in the world I’d like better.

7. If your life was a B-Movie what would it be called? The Thing That Slept Through Breakfast.

Questions, Questions, Questions: The WordPress Community Experiment

link Poetry

The Colorado Independent: News Poems

I’m continually scouring the internet, looking for poetry to roll around in like one of those crazed grizzlies on Kodiak Island loll about in rotting whale flesh–intoxicated by the joy and sensory overload of sustenance, bounty, excess.  I found that The Colorado Independent is doing a series on poems inspired by the news–don’t think about it, just check it out. 

With more to come, there are already a couple of really great pieces, especially this one, presently the most recent entry.

And while you’re there, check out this:
David Mason, the son of Colorado natives, is a literature and creative writing professor at Colorado College and the state’s poet laureate. He grew up in Washington state, lived overseas for many years and moved to Colorado to teach in 1998, determined to write something that anchored him in his people’s landscape. Mason’s 2007 verse novel, “Ludlow” (Red Hen Press), is 600 stanzas of poetry about fictional characters’ experience of the Colorado Coal War of 1913-1914. It’s also a meticulously reported journalistic study about coal miners’ struggle against the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, and the bloodshed and heartbreak that culminated in the state-led attack on the strikers, their wives and children 100 years ago this week. The book has inspired an opera by composer Lori Laitman. Mason recently spoke with Colorado Independent editor Susan Greene.


Transitory Popularity

theylovemeSeveral days ago I wrote an off-handed article out of boredom, and dedication to one of the original reasons for this blog–to write 5 posts a week over the course of a year, mixing original poetry and short fiction with commentary, essays, and whatever non-fiction I might come up with, in the understanding that it was expanding my writing mind; or to put it more simply: to mix stuff I hadn’t shared before with stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise written.

I’ve been happy with my modest number of followers and hits–I don’t really promote the blog beyond reading and occasionally commenting on other blogs I see.  My “likes” and “visits” are genuine, not attempts to elicit the same from others.  Last week, however, one of my posts suddenly began getting an unprecedented number of hits–when all was said and done yesterday, I’d experienced a 2000+ hit surge that fattened my stats by about 33% in one long weekend.  Readers checked in, however briefly, from dozens of nations, which just blows my mind.


So, how cool is that?  I’m not always wildly enthusiastic about all this technology, and I’ve been known to deride some who are as “technological fetishists.”  I use computers until they’re near death, my phone is just a phone–nothing smart about it–and so forth.  But I have to consider how amazing it is that a guy like me, fooling around in snowy corner of rural Pennsylvania, can throw something into the wind that is read by people all over the world–in dozens of nations, on every continent (well, McMurdo isn’t on the map, so I don’t know if I got Antarctica, but….)  Is that some kind of message in a bottle, or what?

VG121The downside to this sudden, brief, and unprecedented brush with popularity is that now that it’s over (I’m 400 hits behind yesterday’s total at the same time) I now have to adjust to being satisfied without all the adoring masses hanging on my every word.  Ha!  Hardly.  I’ve never been popular to any degree, in any situation–unless being uniformly reviled and distrusted counts as a sort of popularity (people need to know you to dislike you, right?).  I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a pariah, but the term “acquired taste” comes to mind.  Never bothered me.  Indeed, scorn and ridicule have served me well, instructing me on appreciating those few and rare (like diamonds, not steak) individuals generous (or foolhardy) enough to share their time, their affections, and their lives me with.  I keep score in life, you know–not for any potential retribution, but in gratitude for those good souls. And, well, maybe just a little retribution.

It’s the same for blog hits, right?  I loved getting a hit a minute during certain moments over the weekend, but I’m more appreciative of the few dozen folks who tune in day after day.  Yep, I can live with that.


What’s This Blog About?


As I close in on 200 posts–far and away the longest, most voluminous and sustained blogging I’ve ever managed–I thought it might be interesting to consider what this blog has been about, as compared to what it was intended to be about.

The initial plan was twofold–first, to stick some poetry on the web, much of it based on some very old stuff I wrote in my late teens and early twenties, when I considered “transient poet” to be an enviable career arc (not that I still don’t, but let’s be honest: spaceship captain, guru/cult leader, and international sex symbol are also enviable, in their own ways, though none are particularly practical or, ultimately, as potentially satisfying as being a father to my kids and husband to my wife–sappy?  Sure!  But that’s me.  I cry more than John Boehner*, the big baby.)  So, there was the poetry thing, to which I quickly added the quest of posting something every day, to keep my head in the writing game, and–again, let’s be honest: just to say that I did.  Easy enough, right?

Things That Got In The Way And Changed This Blog

First of all: life.  Life gets in the way.  I quickly discovered that it was impossible to fulfill the daily posting quota without a greater effort than I’m willing to give–specifically, accessing the internet when I’m away from home.  I don’t have efficient mobile devices–no smart phone, and the my first-generation Kindle Fire with it’s eensy weensy keyboard isn’t really conducive to typing–it’s for pecking, if anything.  So, I upped the goal from 250 posts in a year to a full 365–one per day, but not exactly one each day.  Some days there are three, to make up for the days that real life is more important.


Secondly: “Real” Writing. I hope this isn’t bad form, but I still think of my casual activities on WordPress as a leisurely “messing around,” differentiated from the “real work” of writing for publication and, ideally, profit.  I threw in with NaNoWriMo this year, equipped with notes for an old idea, and blundered my way through about 65,000 words in a month, making me a “winner”–yay.  I’m in the final stages of tuning this ms.–a true pulp action space-opera origin story to a character in another, more ambitious, but presently stalled novel–and it has been a huge, albeit exhilarting, time and energy suck.

The poetry has suffered the most–I’ve written less than a dozen new poems in three months, many of which require considerable, addition refinement; but all my original content has suffered.  I never finished my grand, multi-part Christmas essay (shhh! no one seamed to notice–stick around we’ll wrap things up next November!), and much of my December writing on the blog was dedicated to brisk entries detailing my favorite seasonal music–didn’t finish that, either–I squeaked in with the top 25 but abandoned the entry of honorable mentions and up-and-coming challengers.  Again, something to which we can all look forward. (I can sense your gleeful anticipation from here.)

But, that’s okay.  I’ve got a decent store of things to fill in the gaps–much of it “cheating” in terms of the original intent, but all of it an expression of my tastes, my sense of humor, my thoughts, politics, philosophies.  I’ve been trying to figure out a way to work in sexy pictures of scantily clad women–to sort of even out all the poetry, gardening, cooking (yes, I like to cook), since in real life I get a lot of crap from my family for acting “macho,” whatever the hell that means (doesn’t always shower on a Sunday?  farts?  swears a lot?  maybe I can get my wife to guest-post an explanation of that one!).  I do swear a lot, and I worry that my moderately church-ready vocabulary choices for this blog amount to a false representation of my character.  Oh, and I’m an asshole, too.

Or there’s this

So, what’s the blog about now?  At the risk of seeming narcissistic, this blog is about me–hopefully, more like hanging  out with me in a bar, or on a porch overlooking a lake, in summer, than it is like me just going on and on about how completely awesome I am.  By post 365, we should all have a better idea of who I am.  I, for one, am looking forward to find out.  The great risk here is that I’m just not that fucking interesting (see, more swearing–will my hit count go way up for this post?), or entertaining?  We’ll see.

*I never miss an opportunity to point out that auto-correct desperately wants me to change “Boehner” to “Boner.”  I’m interpreting this not as mere chance, or the vengeance of some giddy liberal data-entry tech, but a seminal indicator of burgeoning computer sentience. Seriously–think about it.

Commentary Uncategorized



This is a pretty damned awesome little blog from Jynne Dilling Martin, currently (12/13) Poet In Residence at McMurdo station in Antarctica.

She’s on Twitter, too.



Blog Behavior, Minor Milestone: Post #50

Well, I’ve been feeling pretty smug about myself–not quite 3 months into taking this blog seriously, and I’ve managed 50 posts (with a bunch more in queue, in fact) and close to 100 followers (thanks, by the way)–and I could probably scare up some more, except that I realize that at this point most of my followers are folks whose pages I’ve visited and either “liked” or “followed” myself and I don’t feel right just following a blog to get a follower in return.  I only follow blogs that I actually enjoy and hope to keep up with.

So, fifty posts.  I guess that requires some sort of special post–and not the Tribute To George Dubya Bush I had planned, or even the next 12 Days of Halloween entry (I know, I’m behind…it’s about 7 days to Halloween…deal).

So: Hurray. That’s me. Celebrating. I’m going to go all out and eat a baked potato, too–as a snack.  With butter and salt and black pepper, maybe even some sour cream on the skins.  Bill and Mary Ann brought us 20 pounds of ridiculously good potatoes from their garden, and they’re off the hook.

I have never used that phrase before.  It occurs to me that a lot of kids in the cell phone age probably don’t even know what that means.

50 Posts.

It’s not big deal.  I found this blog today, and i’m in awe.  She just celebrated her 1000th Post, and they’re good posts, too.  From London and South Africa and Red Lobster.  None of that “helicopter cat” nonsense.  We’re talking REAL BLOGGING.

Anyway, thanks for reading.  Feel free to send your friends.

Journal Uncategorized

Busy, Blog-Less Weekend

One of my actual children–not a generic download.

One of the reasons I dove back into the blog business, besides the desire to bombard the populace with my literary genius and tomfoolery, was my friend Tony’s spirited attempt to post a blog entry every day for a year.  He didn’t succeed, but he gave it one heck of a shot, and while I wasn’t foolishly optimistic enough to expect I could sustain such a pace (you see the kind of crap I’m posting–imagine if I had to scour my head and my hard drive for a  year’s worth of daily posts!  I can almost smell it from here.) I have my own goals: 260 posts by August 1, 2014–that’s five posts a week from when I began sporadically increasing my output.

And I care about this why?  You wonder.

I had a busy weekend and didn’t come near the blog for 3 days, leaving me feeling strangely guilty.  I’m not accustomed to that.  I didn’t write all weekend, which is rare.  It was a great weekend, though exhausting, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t write.  The guilt surprises me a little.  A lot, actually.

My kids are swimmers, and while swimming is pretty much a year-round thing, the meat of the season begins now.  From the beginning of November into March we have exactly 2 open weekends, one of which is the weekend before Christmas.  The kids compete for their highly successful high school team, for the YMCA league team they’ve been members of since they were eight, and for a USA Swimming club team that is an off-shoot of the YMCA–they’re pretty good, second tier athletes–they place more often than not–and watching them compete is pretty much my hobby.

A father could have worse preoccupations.  Of course, this often means waking up at 5am, or earlier, on weekend mornings, dealing with a mini-van full of cranky sleep-deprived women, traveling a couple of hours to sit in a sweltering hot natatorium to watch 600 kids (580 of which I don’t know) swim, sitting on hard, crowded bleachers, while the athletes I know–including the ones I live with–underperfrom, adding 4, 6, 8 or more seconds to their seed times and finishing out of the running because right now they’re putting in 6500 yards a day in practice, six days a week, doing strength training, and still maintaining a semblance of a social life.

They’re physically gutted, but the core group of these kids are committed–to the sport, to each other, and to themselves.  I know they don’t appreciate how impressive that is, and how inspiring, but it is, and that’s what I think about when it’s dark and cold and we’re headed across the state to yet another swimming pool to spend our weekend competes anyway, and it’s inspiring.  I have many intellectual friends, most of them professional (habitual?) academics, who scoff about sports (until their kid decides to play one), and I’ve tried to explain this to them, but the effort is generally in vain unless they experience it for themselves.

I have learned so much from these kids.  They may not be especially pleasant at 7 am, waiting for the call to hit the pool for warm-ups, but hey–if they can do that, I can keep hitting the blog pool and meet my own goals, right?