2 May 2015

Leaving Home: To Iowa

By: Jon Katz
To Iowa

To Iowa

We are leaving this morning for Iowa, leaving home is exciting for me, for us. Maria is coming also. We love to see new things. it has become a habit when we travel anywhere to stop at the Round House Cafe for coffee and good luck. The  Albany airport is an easy and friendly place. We'll be in Des Moines by late afternoon.

I am excited to get a look at Iowa, I've always loved my treks to the Midwest, I find the people there easy and open and warm. It is good for me as a writer to get out and talk about my books – there are fewer chances to do that these days, life is change, it never stops.

The farm is in good and loving hands, out pet and farm sitter Deb Foster is just as good as we are, I don't think the animals really care when we are gone. Red has so many girlfriends now, he will just go from one lap to another, he loves cuddling with his many admirers as much as he loves chasing the sheep around.

Maria and I are adventurers. I have not yet been able to fulfill my dream of taking her to Florence, but we do have fun exploring different cities, rushing to New York, visiting friends. The small trips can be just as exciting as the big ones, although I will figure out one day how to get us to Florence.

We got up early to feed the animals and say goodbye to the donkeys, I never say goodbye to dogs, I just walk out the door, this perhaps is why I have never had a dog with separation anxiety. By and large, I don't believe it, we often project our nasty human stuff onto them.

Still, taking trips is important. It's good to get away, meet new people, see new things. It is both refreshing and creative, I love going away, I love coming home. The animals here are nothing but lucky, I'll skip the drama of leaving them.  I have a full schedule there – libraries, bookstores, interviews. I will get to meet Julie Vogen from Iowa, she and I have been corresponding since the beginning of my new life and hers, we have both been through some wild things. I have admired her for a long time. It will be good to see her in the flesh, one of the joys of traveling. Maria is a rock star these days, as many people want to meet her as me, probably more if I am being honest. That lifts my heart to see, she is quite special, I am so lucky that she will be traveling to Iowa with me.

So, to Iowa. Back Wednesday, no blogging from there. People think I live and breathe for blogging, and I do love it, but I also love taking a few days off from it. I want to give Iowa my full attention and I hopefully will have some stories and photos to share when I get back on Wednesday. Stay tuned. My laptop is staying home, my camera wants to come. I am grateful for all of  you.

Posted in General
1 May 2015

Reflections: Tales Of The Gym

By: Jon Katz
Tales Of The Gym

Tales Of The Gym

I go to my gym four or five times a week, it is a part of my open heart surgery recovery, still underway and perhaps a permanent part of my life now. I rarely went to a gym, and hated it when I did go. I don't hate my gym, it has the sense of peace and intimacy that is such an important part of the town where I live.

Life and open heart surgery is like that, you reject something for sixty years and then it becomes something you love. When you stop changing, you are already dead, the body just hasn't caught up.

This week, I bring some true tales of the gym, it is a place I love, gyms reflect and mirror us, they can show us where we are in life, how other see us.

* I went to the gym this afternoon, I was alone there. Three strong men, weight lifters from the look of them came in, they ignored Red and came up to me together. It is unusual for people in the gym to speak to one another during a workout, I was surprised, I was reading and riding the exercise bike.

"Sir," said the tallest, "would you mind if I turned the music up?"

"Not at all," I said, "I have my earbuds if I need them, it is good to work out to music."

Thanks, all three said in unison, and the one who spoke to me said I should let them know if it got too loud or bothered me or interfered with my exercising.

___

Tuesday  I came to the gym with Red in the early evening, I turned the lights on and changed into my gym shoes, street shoes are strictly forbidden, that is probably the only ironclad rule of the gym. Three very strong and large women were lifting weights, grunting and shouting and supporting one another.

One saw Red, called the work to a stop, and all three of these women put their weights down and came over and sat in a circle around Red. He loves women, he was delighted, he went from one to the other, it was a circle of love and affection, they hugged and touched Red for 10 or 15 minutes, then they all got up and went back to their weights. They all thanked me for bringing him.

__

You know when you are getting older by the way other people see you and treat you, very often you can't really see it for yourself.

I am not great at tying my gym shoes, once in awhile my chest scars still hurt and it's awkward to bend over. When I bungle it, the laces flop on the treadmill. Once I'm into the treadmill, I hate stopping it, getting off, tying my shoes and getting back on, I don't know why, I just resist doing that.

Once, my laces were loose, I was trying to ride it out, get through my 45 minute workout, when a figure appeared next to the treadmlll, it was a woman from one of the exercise bikes, she leaned over and tied my shoelace, I was astonished. "We don't want you to fall," she said, and then went back to her bike.

_

A mother came in with her two young children, she had no sitter for them, no husband at home. They were driving her to distraction, jumping on the machines, running up and down and shouting. The women was exhausted, and harried. I asked her I could hire the girls to babysit Red, she looked surprised but agreeable. I offered the girls a quarter each if one would sit on one side of him, the other on the other side and watch him to make sure that he rested and behaved.

They were very excited, I said whispering was fine but running or shouting would disturb him. They each leaned over to kiss and pet him and then took their job very seriously, whispering earnestly and comparing notes. Red eyed them dubiously, but he put his head down and went to sleep. They were more or less still for at least 15 minutes. The mother, who was running hard and fast on one of the treadmills, thanked me and Red, she said we had saved her sanity.

One night, I was on the exercise bike when a man came in moving very slowly and carefully. I recognized the movements right away. He was unsteady, sweating and it looked as if every move was costing him. He seemed unsure of himself, he was looking over at the teenagers pounding away at the treadmills.

At one point he looked directly at me. "Heart surgery?," I asked, and he nodded, he looked embarrassed, his shirt was buttoned up to the neck. He said he didn't feel as if he belonged here. I told him I had open heart surgery, he seemed relieved to hear that, I said he would be more comfortable soon, the pain would mostly go away, he would be doing things he couldn't do even a few months ago.

He nodded and said he was grateful for the information and encouragement, he thanked me. I did not see him again, I asked the manager of the gym about him, he said he paid one month's dues and never came back.

Posted in General

Thanks for subscribing To bedlamfarm.com

By: Jon Katz
Thanks For Subscribing

Thanks For Subscribing

In my 30 plus years of working as a full-time author, I never once imagined the idea of subscriptions as having anything to do with me or my work. I thought of them as having to do with magazines or newsletters. Life is a fascinating thing, it is a wheel that turns and turns and subscriptions now loom large in my grand scheme of things. I plan to use them to maintain and grow my blog, to replace the vanishing royalties I once counted on, to pave the way for my transition to the new kind of writer evolving and changing in once unimaginable ways.

Subscriptions are what makes it possible for me to keep the blog going, to post my photos and stories, to write about things are hopefully of some interest or use.

Subscriptions to bedlamfarm.com support the blog, which is pretty much a full-time job for me now. Writing books, my passion and livelihood, is also something that is important to me, but the blog has become the centerpiece of my writing and creative life. I see it as a living memoir, my great work.

Some things about the blog. It is free, to those who subscribe and those who do not. You do not receive anything for subscribing beyond reading the blog and supporting it and paying me for the work I do writing on the blog and taking and permitting free usage of my photos. Nothing is watermarked here, you are free to use any photo or idea you like, information does want to be free, but writers also need to get paid for their work, just like you do.

It takes a great deal of time and research for me to write about issues like the New York Carriage Horses or Joshua Rockwood, that is work I am not paid for in any way beyond subscriptions. It is important to me, and I hope to keep doing it. Subscriptions support our life and work with animals.  I am proud of the blog, it is different than I imagined.

I offer a number of ways to subscribe. You can pay $3 a month, $5 a month, or $60 a year. You can use credit cards or Paypal. The site is as secure as it it is possible to be.  I have no access to your money, I can't authorize subscriptions or remove them, that is for your own protection. No financial information of any kind is stored on my website, two different companies monitor all traffic and maintain security. Should devious foreign nations or vengeful animal police or anyone else come after me, there is nothing of monetary value for them to get, unless you count my golden words.

I'm afraid they have been devalued by the publishing revolution.

Canceling a subscription is as easy as subscribing, I will not be one of those sites who hook people into monthly payments and then make it as hard to cancel as it is to have lunch at the NSA. I can't cancel subscriptions (I have no access to your money, ever) but you can, anytime and easily. One week before renewal, you will be notified so you can decide with the click of a button to cancel or re-subscribe, and you can cancel any time in between. I understand the realities of life, I don't want the money of anyone who can't afford it or doesn't want to pay for it.

And the blog will remain free to those who can't afford it, and even those who can but won't pay. You never turned your backs on me, I will never turn my back on you.

If you support the blog,  you do not buy me or my opinions. I respect anyone who cancels for any reasons, some cancel because they disagree with me, I wish for them to go in peace, but go. If you wish to read a blog that you never disagree with, I suspect this is not the blog for you.

The blog has grown beyond my own expectations, there are millions of visits a year, hundreds of thousands of unique visitors, some days a half-million. It is read all over the country and the world, this is as shocking to me as it is humbling.

So subscribe if you can and wish. Subscriptions are the foundation of my new writing life, my plan for changing into the future. Millions of people come here, but very few pay me for my work. It's nice to be paid for my work, it does make a difference,  and it makes writing possible for me. It also ensures that people with little money can read it as well. So thank you if you choose to subscribe, and thank you for thinking about it. I am getting there.

Either way you are welcome here.

Posted in General

The First Magnolia Blossom

By: Jon Katz
The First Magnolia Blossom

The First Magnolia Blossom

The first Magnolia Blossom came out today, it can speak for itself.

Posted in General

Kiss A Donkey, Start Your Day

By: Jon Katz
Start The Day

Start The Day

Mornings usually begin around her by brushing, kissing, or communing with a donkey. It sets the right tone for the day, it helps focus us in a distracted an sometimes troubling world. Donkeys are remarkably loving, affectionate and intuitive creatures. They always present themselves for attention.

Posted in General