Tag Archives: Change

Award Winning Award Ribbons

Building a Better World One Award at a Time

Jane Cottonwood started lifting spirits as a coffee shop waitress in Beatty, Nevada. While attending horse shows with her little barrel racing daughters Jane came to find out there was a real shortage of award ribbons for those little winners she was raising.

‘Janey’ came to know how the world worked by living on Highway 95. North of town was the brothel, west the ghost town Rhyolite, and just south and east the atomic test site.

Atomic tests always went off at 7 in the morning before school. Shook the town to kingdom come, but nobody complained much. People who lived here owed their living to the atomic bomb experiments being undertaken in the name of defending our country from the communists.

Brothels and Beatty are practically synonymous. Friends worked there and most of the best gossip in town is about the married men who ought not to be purchasing services there. Still it’s Nevada and expectations of what any man may or may not be at his core has been revised considerably to fit this particular place on earth.

Jane gave the world her all. When I met her she’d already had six decades to practice this artful gift of giving. We met at the Rocky Mountain Fairs Association meetings. I’d sit with her at lunch, or we’d drink whiskey in the hospitality suite in the evening while we whittled away time smooth talking clients.

Rodeo's, Crafts fairs, Swimming Meets, State Fairs...awards, awards, awards...

I think some women are made to give young men a nurturing maternal kind of loving. Jane was such a person in my life. Told me I had to stop if I ever passed through Beatty. Put another notch in our friendship when I did.

Her business had grown to employ 90 workers. Award ribbons it turns out are made by hand. The workers do utilize machines in the process, but most of how a ribbon is manufactured comes from the labor a person puts into the thing. You stencil, you stapled, you cut, you sew. All those first place ribbons have to detail whether you won an award for a rabbit or a horse, for the Oregon State Fair or the Modoc County Fair. There was first place to third place. A big fair can require a whole truckload of ribbons.

The Late Great Jane Cottonwood

Jane died of congestive heart failure. She died back in 2001. Her two daughters have kept the business going. Her husband is still alive. When Jane sat down next to you and gave you the pleasure of her company it was an experience of the highest order. I can’t quite explain how good she could make a person feel, how welcomed, how supported, how happy and funny life could be when she was around, but that was her way. Making a business out of giving people a good feeling about how good they can do something turned out to be her work. Next time you see a ribbon hanging off a jar of best of show pickles you could be looking right at what Jane has left behind to mark her having been here.






I Knew Norman Mailer, I met Norman Mailer, I Miss the Man

Dusk Settles in on what we thought was true...

Writers have this obstacle to overcome in the ongoing tension between modern brain research and western psychological model and spirituality. As such authors are required to either conform to the conventions of the day, or if they do not invent methods to circumvent these limitations.

Here is Norman Mailer in conversation, “When you write novels the person who tells the story is crucial to at least half the success of the novel I would say depends on how the story is told. Is it told by one person sitting in their own mind and giving you objective external descriptions of everyone else, or do you have a omniscient narrator which was common to the 19th century novel where literally you have to assume that this person has godly powers and can enter every single mind. And that worked very well for the 19th century because then most people believed in god, most people who read novels believed in god, and therefore the novelist could be analogous to god for the sake of enjoying the fiction. It was just easy to enter everyone’s mind, you could do it and now you can’t with the modern canon which really feels they got rid of this medieval nonsense through the enlightenment through the last few centuries and that most people can do without god and the devil, they certainly don’t want them intruding so the notion is that you stay in one intelligence, one consciousness, you don’t try to cover everyone, and that’s inhibiting, in you get lots of problems of development when you only have the consciousness of your narrator.”

Freedom to Roam

With the rapid developments in neurobiological research we are discovering that this scientific point of view of consciousness is not very precise, research is proving that it is not contained, that it is not located exclusively inside a person, but rather being more a part of a larger system of energy and information that extends beyond the boundaries of the physical body. In short a kind of biological explanation for what is sometimes called “having a meeting of the minds,” when two people are interacting.

In the planning stages of making a novel the author builds an outline that they will work from. I have been concerned not just with a plot, but I have been interested in the metaphysical implications of making a story that is more in accord with our most recent mind science research.

If the world is not made up of discreet individual human consciousnesses in the most rigid sense of this model, but is rather a more networked, more a blended neurobiological phenomena, that is one part made up of a brain where is born what we call mind, but that this mind exists more like a receiver and/or more like a transmitter, and more likely to know and perceive and understand its external world out there because of the energy and information that is readily available in its environment, then we can build new fiction by ways that have until now been held in obedience to this 20th Century model of the mind.

And I am not talking science fiction here, but general fiction that is made of stories describing common events in everyday life. It isn’t that there is a right answer to this issue, just that it is something authors deal with throughout the telling of a story.

Why do we know what someone is going to say before they say it? Often an unfaithful spouse’s partner doesn’t need anyone to tell them if their partner has been cheating. These are examples of information existing beyond mind.

These are exciting times. Writers can work beyond these previous boundaries. Still it isn’t just psychological restrictions that are overcome there are also literary habits that necessarily have to evolve as well.

What is this all about? It is how we explore and expand our understanding of the world we are all born into. Picasso revealed to us a world as never before ever seen. The ancient cave paintings in the south of France are artifacts of neurobiological evolution. They literally exemplify the metaphorical leap of the mind. That moment in time when we first began to be able to think in the abstract. Wasn’t long before man invented the wheel.

Dawn of a New Day


“What have you done?” he said to that glimmer of self in the window. “It’s over man, how can you fix this, what you going to do, this time, you don’t need another job you need another you.”

Ry Waters lifted his hand to his hair and dug his fingers into his scalp while scratching with his thumb against an itch on his forehead. “Where do you begin?” He felt groggy like it was dawn and he was just waking up. “My whole life is a stinking mess.” He was determined to go out a class act. He would not allow his shoulders to slump. He was going to leave with his chin up. The last day on the job turned out to be a one man going away party in vivid, painful, living color, until this man Ry once knew appeared in the window and called him to account. 

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

Sail Home, Be There, Happy

Here is Home

The canal in San   Rafael, California terminates near downtown just east of Highway 101. A bit further eastward sits the San Rafael Yacht Harbor. I worked on my wooden sloop- Maestro, a Golden Gate hull #18 in this boatyard. I worked on the boat for a few years and then by way of a thousand impossible to predict fateful occurrences ended up living there too. It could be windy, foggy, cold and wet. Winter could be dreary. Weeks of rain made getting from the parking lot to your boat a soggy task. A twenty-five foot flushed decked 70 year old sailboat designed for racing isn’t the most elegant boat a person might choose for living aboard, but where necessity is concerned this boat was more than adequate. I put an awning over the cockpit. Below I had a long bunk with sleeping bag and pillow to sleep on. I kept my shaving kit, bath towel, suitcase, laptop computer, dog bed, dog bowls, and my performing dog on the other bunk. My galley consisted of a single burner stove powered by white gas. I had a sink and water. I had a pot for making oatmeal, bowl and spoon, a kettle for coffee, and two coffee mugs. I maintained two long stem wine glasses for the other end of the day. A few books rested atop my bed next to my reading light.  Winter I ran a small electric heater to stay warm. A small battery powered cool chest was lashed securely in the well of the cockpit. I installed a good bilge pump and unless it was raining it remained off. I kept my act for my show in my Dodge Cummins out in the parking lot. I kept a second suitcase of clothes in my truck. It was where all the extras were stowed. I had a lantern for nights when romance whispered in my ear, and a demure boom box to fill the hull with song. I had a mouse for a guest until he was found. I made new friends and learned new skills. On certain days I actually felt as if I had everything I could ever imagine wanting. There was peace and serenity here. The cost of the thing was well within my means. It was a simple affair. It was compact. I was happy and still am….

Bankrupt Heart                             The Second Novel 

The rigging on the boats in the marina whistled when
the wind blew. The tall wood mast caught the gusts and the sailboat rocked in
her berth. Then, a light rain began to patter atop the roof of the cabin.

“I like it when it rains. With the heater, a fire,
get bundled up, lie down on the bunk, sip something warm, have something good
to read. I find it peaceful.”

Sophia didn’t feel the same.  “I don’t know, I’m not used to it, I miss our
house, I miss San Francisco.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Something Old, Something New, Everythings Changed…

Reflections on Change


I have been buried in the writers cave. It has been putting me through the changes. Fortunately the changes it has been putting me through are about to change, and this is change this writer is going to use to revive the soul. I’d imagine there are millions of people the world over working in seclusion, under the watchful gaze of only their own self, and who might not feel so alone. Writing long fiction takes a long time. I began work on my latest novel, Bankrupt Heart in September 2009 when I began plotting, I began writing in March of 2010 and I am landing this book in late June of 2011. There is no substitute for the thrill of high risk work. Anyway, out I come. Wow, its the world, what’s changed?

From the Novel   Bankrupt Heart

“Rosalind’s two-tone magenta beaded dress was dramatic, strapless. Where she was buxom and
bursting were sewn fine beads and sequins, bejeweling her natural endowment.
The skintight floor length dress was slit up the side of her leg well above her
knee. She was a woman with a forceful full figure accentuated ever the more by
a petite waistline. Rosalind oozed bare legs and sculpted broad shoulders. She
was a celestial apparition of unblemished, tanned, ambrosial skin swaddled in a
veneer, a gift wrapping. Rosalind was an unfettered tantalization, a
provocation, a bombshell, rare was the man with the puckish virtuosity to join
the quest to puzzle out her surrender to their libidinous call.”