We are CAW, an association of writers, illustrators and others involved in the production of books—and we have a vision! We hope, with your help, to establish an organization with a two-fold purpose: to become a gathering of talented people who are working together to create innovative ways of marketing the work of local artists while also promoting the literary arts within the community. These two purposes complement each other and, in many ways, are one and the same.
Not a social club or a mere hobby, CAW is a cooperative business. With everyone within the organization performing meaningful tasks and with CAW's dedicated members sharing ideas, support and advice and working together for the good of the group, the community and the individual artists, CAW can succeed and our vision can be realized.
So, if you are someone who is frustrated with the difficulties that stand in the way of marketing your work, and if you are also someone who likes the idea of promoting your work while helping your community, we need you! Please join us and contribute to our common goal. We would welcome your ideas, your talent and your abilities.
Email us at email@example.com with any questions you might have, and please continue following our blog.
When: Saturday, February 7, 2015, 1:00 to 3:00 PM
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 1724 Route 30 East, Ligonier, PA
Lots to discuss. Be there.
There are a number of things we believe we can accomplish with CAW, things that will be good for writers, good for the community and good for the arts. To accomplish those things will take work but we intend that we will have fun all along the way and so far that has been so.
We’ve had two get-togethers in our existence, an introductory business meeting in September and in October a Salon at which writers read their own work. These were two different experiences but each was productive and fun in its own way.
At our initial meeting, those in attendance enthusiastically decided that an organization such as CAW should be supported and continue. How that will occur is to be decided at future meetings. There are a lot of ideas to be presented and discussed.
Salons will probably be one of our regular activities. A Salon is mainly an exchange of ideas to promote inspiration, interest and enthusiasm, in our case in and through writing. Discussion and critique could be major or minor parts of a Salon. The Salon could be expanded to include other arts and the public. There are many ways to conduct a Salon. Which way would you like to see it done?
There are many avenues of operation open to us. We must take advantage of as many as are available and meaningful. To do that, we have to get together, discuss what we want to do and how we’re going to do it. It is all an adventure and it can all be fun. Join us in all our adventures. Help us to grow and have fun while we do it.
INVITATION TO POST
Would you like to have a piece of your writing appear on this blog? Send your submission to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll post it for you. With it, send a few lines about yourself. If you have a blog or a website, let us know about that, too.
Dusty souls drive the ruined roads of Iraq.
Sad smiles and fine laughter define those who sit behind the wheel.
Every mile takes its toll; every toll paid in full.
Wearisome, haggard and worn, still forward they look, still searching for that next trip out.
February 22, 2007
“Towards the end of a long and grueling mission to a small army camp along the Iranian border, and back again, we were forced to stop in the middle of a small village just a few miles from the north gate of Anaconda. One of our gun trucks had broken down. Our bobtail, Jaws, was on the ground attempting to fix whatever was wrong and get us rolling again. It was about 10:30 at night. The sky was clear, the moon was full, and it was dark, really dark, as was typical of every night in Iraq.
A young family was getting ready for bed in a small mud brick house directly to my left. The house sat in the middle of a compound surrounded by a low mud brick wall. Makeshift beds were laid outside the house in the yard because it was so hot out. I had already given some candy and mre's to the little boy and his father and a case of one liter water bottles to the toothless old grandmother when, to my astonishment, mom suddenly appeared at the front door and peered directly at me. I was only about twenty-five yards away but we could see each other clearly because of the moon and the two outside lights hanging over her door.
I opened my door again and smiled and waved. She returned the favor. Then she did something I never heard of women doing in Iraq. She began to walk towards me. I was stunned.
She walked through the gate of her compound right up to my truck and beamed a beautiful smile and whispered, “Sho-krun. Sho-krun.”
I smile back and said, “Your welcome.”
She stood there a few seconds longer. Our eyes locked and we quickly studied each other's face. I was taken aback at her beauty. She had long black hair cascading down over her shoulders almost to the middle of her back. Her skin was flawless and she had perfect white teeth. Her gentle smile ran from the corners of her full lips right up to the edges of her round dark eyes. She was standing barefoot in a white muslin gown and in the moonlight looked to me to be an angel sent from heaven. My heart skipped a beat.
As she turned to leave I caught an almost imperceptible nod of her head and that sweet smile flashed brightly once again in the moonlight. I tipped my hat and smiled. She vanished into the confines of her walled front yard.
If I already wasn't in love with the most wonderful women I've ever met, I would have fallen headlong into it right then and there. In one fleeting moment this angel of Iraq showed me a truth I'll never forget. By setting aside her restrictive religious and cultural beliefs for just a brief moment and approaching a strange man not of her family, she took the risk of a beating, or worse, for simply showing kindness in return. The average person in this world, no matter their religion or ethnicity, is no different than anyone else. We all simply wish for a life free from war and pain and hardship. Even in the midst of these things strangers from different worlds can find a common bond. They can find common ground. They can find some peace. Even if that peace revolves around nothing more than some M & M's and a few bottles of water.
The magic of the moment was disrupted by the voice of Jaws radioing in that he was good to go and so we started to roll. I looked back at that small mud brick house and felt blessed. Something I hadn't felt or believed was possible for a very long time. Blessed not because of what little I gave to that Iraqi family, but blessed because of the truth I thought I had lost: kindness triumphs over hatred.I lost that farmhouse in the dust of the convoy that night. I passed by it many more times over the course of the next ten months, but never again did I see that woman. The strong impression left me by that Iraqi Angel of intense character and pride, coupled with humility and kindness, has yet to abandon me. I hope to God it never does.”
Mark Sliwa, residing in Ligonier off and on since 1972, has degrees in English Literature and Business. His interests include books, cameras, the outdoors, and an old BMW motorcycle. He travels in Moldova and Ukraine and takes motorbike camping trips around the US and Europe. He likes to write short pieces about his travels and is thinking of compiling some of them in a self published book.
Modern Ruins of a Museum
by Mark Sliwa
As a kid, I loved to blow stuff up. Gunpowder bombs to destroy my plastic model car collection or a Polish cannon that could shoot a hundred yards. For those who may not remember, a Polish cannon was 5 or 6 Pepsi cans that had the ends cut out and all were duct-taped together to resemble a small bazooka. Construction was possible as soda cans were made of metal with a reinforced steel ring at each end. The base can was left partially vented at the drinking end and had a pinhole punched in its bottom. Ammunition was a tennis ball and propellant was lighter fluid. To operate, stuff the ball down the tube with a stick, squirt fluid in the pinhole, light a match to the hole, and boom! The kick felt like a 12 gauge shotgun as you watched the ball sail across the neighborhood. I had the most powerful one in the neighborhood until my mother captured it and proceeded to crush it with dad’s workbench vise.
It is no surprise then that a place called Forbes Road Gun Museum held great interest for me as an early teen. Located in Ligonier at the top of Gravel Hill, it was a small brick two story Smithsonian of guns, some dating over 500 years. A field artillery cannon sat on the front lawn, commanding respect before one entered. The first floor served as a gunsmith shop and the second as the museum. An elderly man named Russell Payne was the owner and seemed to know everything about everything as he followed you around the displays. The firearms ranged from a 15th century Turkish matchlock to machineguns from WWII. In addition, various military and historical items were arranged in glass cases or hung on the walls. This local treasure trove remained in existence until the late 1990’s when Mr. Payne died.
Fast forward to now. The building still exists in its mostly original state but the ravages of time haven’t been kind. The cannon is long gone. Many of the windows are broken or covered over with plywood and vines climb up the brick walls. Peering through the front door glass, one sees a pile of debris, old wooden furniture, a metal push button cash register, and in general just a lot of junk. Junk, but cool junk - touchstones to another era. With a window pane already broken by the door handle, I reach through and decide to explore further. I myself hadn’t been in this building since about 1977.
Musty smells compliment the furnishings. It really doesn’t look much different than my last visit except messier and all the countertops are piled higher with clutter. Stacks of 1940’s Life magazines, with covers proclaiming “Eisenhower on the Rhine” or “Soviets prepare for final assault on Berlin,” take one deeper into the time machine. On the shelves remain many reference books and binders. One shelf has unused letter head stationary and some “Forbes Road Gun Museum” bumper stickers. Surprisingly, boxes of (now antique) live ammunition still lie about among gunsmith tools, empty shell casings, and other reloading supplies. Moldy leather pistol holsters and cracked wooden rifle stocks on the floor are kicked out of the way as I walk further. I snoop through old customer files and find an original bill of sale for a hunting rifle to R.K. Mellon - the date is 1965. Like Mr. Payne, General Mellon has passed on too.
Each step creaks and groans going up to the second floor. A huge pile of garbage blocks half the path at the top. Past the garbage though, this main hall is empty. Since used as the museum area, the floor is open the entire length of the building. Save for scattered light trash and a lot of dust, it is just a vacant shell. Silhouettes of guns line the walls, more dust preserving a perfect outline of where they once hung. Coming to a small table I chuckle. There is a rotary dial phone with a 412 area code when Pittsburgh and Ligonier still shared the same prefix. Going down to the far end of the hall there is a desk with a shooting support on it. The window in front of the desk is open pointing out across a field to an overgrown earthen backstop. This is where Mr. Payne would sight in his clients’ rifles. Another box of live shells lies exposed in a partially opened drawer. A senior citizen’s sniper alley. I take a few more mental snapshots and prepare to leave.
Outside, blue sky replaces the dark mustiness. I walk away in silence and feel a light breeze. A metallic boom startles me. Turning around, a battered aluminum screen door sways back and forth - a soft closing bang to a memory of my youth.
Joe Stierheim is retired and has been a resident of Ligonier for about eight years. He has two blogs, one at www.joefstierheim.blogspot.com on which he posts and another at www.pennycatbooks.blogspot.com on which he lists small books which he writes and binds himself. The following is an excerpt from chapter one of Jeremy Willikins' Adventures in the Land of Little.
Jeremy Willikins gazed about him as he walked on his upward path through the strange countryside. Strange to him, that is. It was beautiful country; there was no doubt of that. In the light of early morning the grass was green, the sky clear and blue and the trees in the full leaf of summer. Flowers dotted the hill on which Jeremy walked and bees and butterflies fluttered and buzzed about them excitedly. Birdsongs filled the air. It was truly an enchanting place but it was a place that Jeremy had never before seen. He was sure of that. He was certain he would remember a place such as this. But in spite of the grace and charm of the countryside and the pleasure that walking through it gave him, Jeremy was greatly troubled. He really had no idea where he was or how he had gotten there.
Jeremy came to the top of his upward climb and saw that the hilly terrain through which he had been walking divided in front of him, one expanse of high ground forming a long, curving bastion to the right while another, equally as high and as long, formed a bastion to the left. Between them lay a grass covered valley. He drew in his breath and gazed on it with wonder. It was even more beautiful than the country through which he had been walking. Its green glowed and shimmered in the sunshine; the colors of its profusion of flowers and flowering trees and shrubs were vibrant. The whole valley seemed to pulse with energy. It drew him onward and downward, inviting him to enter.
Jeremy walked down the grassy slope and noticed something odd. There were wooden doors built into the hills on either side of the flower-dotted expanse of green. They seemed to be doors to nowhere.
Now what in heavens are those strange things? he wondered. Perhaps they’re mines or tunnels. But that seemed unlikely. They were too neat and well maintained for such a use as mines and as for tunnels—well, there were just too many of them. Besides, tunnels to where? There was something else about the doors that was odd, although Jeremy didn’t realize it. All of them were just over six inches in height. Jeremy didn’t realize that because he was only six inches tall himself and he matched them perfectly.
He got closer to the first door and walked up to it. My goodness, he exclaimed to himself, I think it’s a house!
There was a plaque mounted over the door and the message on it, in bright gilt letters that stood out against the dark of its metal, read:
Come in, come in,
It’s the time to come in.
It’s a wonderful time to be here.
And today is today,
Such a wonderful day,
A wonderful time of the year.
What a delightful greeting, said Jeremy Willikins to himself. As well as being quite lovely, this seems to be a friendly place. I think I might like it very much.
There was a metal nameplate, also crafted in bright gilt letters against a dark background, riveted to the door. It said, simply:
A sage, thought Jeremy. He was impressed. This must be an important person. He hesitated to bother anyone so important although he wanted to. He wanted to find out what this place he had come to was called. Even more than that, he wanted to know what it was and where it was.
Should I knock? he asked himself.
The Sunshine State
by Mark Sliwa
Through the dark night, cement highway strips marked time with a rhythmic clump-clump. Stuffed near the back of the bus in an odorous sea of musty upholstery and unwashed humanity came one thought: Go Greyhound! I made the mental note of the $15 remaining in my wallet as we crossed the Florida state line and curled up in my seat. For further comfort, a small portable radio pressed closer to the ear.
Two months earlier in snow-bound Pennsylvania, I had attended a college job fair. Recruiters from Disney World Orlando were there and a paid gig in sunny Florida didn’t sound like a bad idea. They promised an intern sales host position plus lodging for a 6 month term.
My new home was Snow White Village. We new-hires got to reside in a park of 48 trailers, fenced into a tidy rectangle. Each trailer’s walls were cardboard thin. Sparsely furnished, you also got electric, running water, a roof, and not much else. It looked like a Japanese internment camp from the war. Two security guards with a golf cart completed the scene. To report for work, a shuttle van took you to and from the Disney empire.
Sales host turned out to be a nightmare. The job was at a souvenir stand right by the main exit of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. What hadn’t been mentioned was the free loaner baby strollers located in the same place. If you were lucky enough to work the counter, 10% of this world was stuffed Mickey Mouse sales; the other 90% consisted of managing a fleet of 2000 light blue vinyl strollers. Morning shift wasn’t bad; just toss out a stroller and say “Enjoy the Magic Kingdom!” But on night shift – look out! When the park closed, one stroller after another was shoved at you. They came by the hundreds. Each seemed to be covered with melted ice-cream, bird droppings, or dirty diapers; or a combination of all three. On top of that – every stroller had to be wiped down clean and folded before being stacked away. I still have nightmares of light blue vinyl to this day.
The kingdom was losing its magic. After managing this life for about three months, I went from parking strollers to parking Porsches. Being a valet at the Hilton hotel in Disney village was much happier. The guests were happier too. Perks included seeing the likes of Vincent Price, Kirk Douglas, Gloria Estefan, etc, etc… Night shift had a memory of the space shuttle taking off past a full moon. Things were looking up. However, leaving my intern job meant finding a new place to live and getting a car.
Fortunately buying a cool old clunker in mid 1980’s Florida was like buying a candy bar. I found a ’71 Mercury Comet for $175. It had a big V8 engine and could burn rubber! Dents and dings to be sure but no rust and the price was right. Lodging turned out to offer the same degree of luxury. Through a friend of a friend I ended sharing a two bedroom apartment in south Orlando with six Mexicans. I paid extra to have one bedroom to myself. Nice guys but cleanliness wasn’t a virtue.
Six months past and most of my intern friends were going back north. A few of us decided to stay on in Florida. Tensions had arisen with the south of the border roommates and a change of house was due as well. A few girls I knew offered space in their apartment for a while. To define that: four babes and me in a one bedroom apartment. What’s not to like. A lot, as it turned out. While rent was wicked cheap, privacy was non-existent. The girls shared the bedroom and I kept a mattress in a corner of the living room. In tight quarters, all living beings quickly become aware of each other’s nuances. Boxes of my macaroni and cheese would disappear frequently. Beer was also a given. But one of the girls had a habit of eating toothpaste - my toothpaste! She would go through a tube in two weeks. One morning when a buddy of mine stopped by, I expressed my frustration. Thinking the roomies were sleeping off a hangover in the bedroom, I went on to complain about them being a bunch of sponges and scarfing everything in sight. I left for work - thoughts dismissed. Coming home that night, I was greeted with multi colored sponges stuck all over the walls. Each one had a smiley face in black marker. A large banner in the kitchen said: “we love you Mark,” signed “the sponges.”
Time to move on from every warm-blooded male’s fantasy. The next residence was a lake side cottage set in the middle of 400 acres of orange groves - Windermere, Florida - before famous golfers started wrecking SUVs everywhere. I was one of the poor people here but at least I had a dock and palm trees. Each night, I’d go out on the dock at 9:45 pm, crack open one of two Old Milwaukee pounders, and recline in a lawn chair. A mile as the crow flies, sat Epcot Center. At 10:00 pm, their fireworks display would shoot off right over the immediate horizon. Fleets of alligators would slowly swim below my feet. A lazy man’s paradise on the fringe of the Disney Empire.
My mind worked different in those days. One warm afternoon, the wind took my inflatable mattress raft halfway across the lake. Having full confidence that all gators really are nocturnal; I donned swim fins and kicked out to retrieve it. Thank God we do get older and wiser! Another bad habit included racing my motorbike at night down the endless sand aisles of the orange groves. Caution: big yellow and black creatures with long legs lived there and built even bigger webs. Florida banana spiders can easily make a 6 by 6 foot snare – enough to stretch from tree to tree. Wearing a sticky web full of freaked spiders at speed is not something I recommend. Luckily I didn’t wax the bike.
So life wasn’t like Miami Vice; but the “eighties” in central Florida was a good time. And all jokes aside, Disney really did run a tight ship. M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.
“WIGGLES AND BUTTON”
“Suddenly, something BUMPED up against the side of the trunk. Wiggles and Button stirred.
“Did you hear that Wiggles?” asked Button.
“I sure did. What do you think it is?” said Wiggles.
“I'm not sure, but I hope it's SOMEONE who can fit into this sweater!” said Button.
At that very moment, a key began to turn the lock, the latch was undone and the lid began to slowly open.
“Hello! What's this?” said Button, one eye closed and the other just peeking, as the soft rays of the rising sun warmed her lovely light brown face.
“Why, it's the SUN!” exclaimed Wiggles as he stretched and beamed a smile that warmed the heart of Button even more than the golden touch of the sun.
“And who is THIS?” yawned Button, looking sleepily into the bright blue eyes of Olivia who was giggling with delight.
“I think it's our new best friend,” Wiggles half-whispered, “and I think we're in for some more new and wonderful adventures!”
At this, Olivia reached into the trunk, took firm hold of her brand new used sweater and gently lifted her two new friends out and into a world of hope and promise. The bright sunshine beckoned them to a world of new adventures, a world that belonged to a sparkling, imaginative 7 year old girl, Miss Olivia Whaler-Watson.”
Jeanne Sherer Hines
A native of Pittsburgh, Jeanne spent most of her adult life in New England. She received a diploma from The Institute of Children’s Literature and an early education teaching certificate from Quincy College. During her sixteen-year teaching career, Jeanne wrote poetry and stories to share with her students. In 2010, Jeanne returned to her Pennsylvania roots to make Ligonier her home.
Jeanne Sherer Hines
As a film of dust is the product of the environment,
a second-hand accretion of life,
poetry is the result of collecting
As children are created from making love,
but come into being through time-honored pain,
poetry is born of surviving the injuries