Friday, December 28, 2012

Sandy Hook

In the wake of the horror of little kids being gunned down, there’s considerable talk about stricter gun laws; particularly assault type guns and large capacity clips.  And there is and will continue to be the same old debates about the effectiveness of gun control laws.  “Guns don’t kill people….”  “If people don’t have access to guns….”  And when the emotion of this last shooting subsides we will be back to pretty much where we are now. 

Of course, we all know deep down that guns and gun control legislation really are not the problem or the solution.  (Prohibition did not stop bootlegging and drug laws have not reduced the use of drugs.)  If human beings behaved with love and respect towards each other, there would be no need to control or regulate the sale and ownership of guns.  Why were there not shootings in schools back in the 50s?  Even the rowdiest teenager in the 50s would never think to kill somebody.  That’s not to say there wasn't violence; that there weren't terrible crimes committed.  There were plenty of people killed with guns.  But when a racist bombs a church, or a gangster eliminates his competition, a person can at least follow the reasoning; faulty as it may be.  To shoot people in a theater or students on a campus or babies in an elementary school is not rational.  This is the work of a twisted mind.

And that brings us to the point.  The point no one wants to address.  Because it means we have to change ourselves instead of trying to force others to change.  Why didn't Wally Cleaver’s friend Eddie commit heinous crimes?  Why was Elvis censored only for wearing blue suede shoes?  Perhaps because forty, fifty, sixty years ago we were better people.  On the whole, we believed we had a corporate responsibility to raise kids to be good citizens.  This meant watching out for the neighbors kids besides just your own.  School principals were expected to handle discipline problems so the school could function as a place of learning rather than a war zone.  If an adult saw a young person doing something dangerous or wrong, he did something about it instead of “minding his own business”.  If a boy was caught stealing candy from the dime store, more than likely the manager would call the boy’s parents instead of the cops.  And that worked because the parents would have addressed the issue.

So many people are afraid to define what is right; to proclaim a difference between good and evil.  That’s why the old movies - white hat, black hat - seem so fake to us today.  As though the characters weren't real.  They weren't!  They were only images of right and wrong.  A portrayal of what a better world would look like.  There was a belief that we were, and should be, trying to make the world a better place.  And we were each to do our part.

You can pass all the gun laws you want.  Until we really want to be moral it will matter not.  Until we are willing to accept that we are not as good as we used to be - until we believe we can be that good again -there will be more shootings.  There will be more chaos.  There will be the wringing of hands and the gnashing of teeth.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Watcher

This guy is just standing in the middle of the hall looking at the restroom doors.  Is he waiting for someone or summoning up the courage to go in?  Old guy – in shorts, calf length socks and brown oxfords.  He’s stooped and wears thick glasses.  He stands there quietly watching the doors; his hands together in front of him like a fig leaf.  People pass by on either side and still he stands – serene. 

What did he do in life?  Maybe he was an engineer, or an accountant.  Perhaps he worked out production schedules for a small manufacturing plant.  Whatever it was, he became accustomed to solitude.  He is certainly comfortable in his own skin.  He may have been a writer, except he has no interest in what’s going on around him.  If he wrote, it was of a technical nature - instruction manuals or such.  Whatever he’s up to, he is little affected by others.  He is practically invisible, even in a busy hospital hallway. 

What kind of family life did he have?  Did he have kids?  If he had, they have probably moved some distance away.  His aloofness left them drift.  There are only very weak ties between them.  His small pension allows him to dutifully send token birthday and Christmas gifts to the grandkids, but they don’t really see each other very often.

His hobbies were of the model airplane sort.  He never cared much for sports.  He would have liked to travel but was unwilling to pay the outrageous motel costs.  But there were a few significant vacations.  Perhaps a trip to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell.  Maybe to Niagara Falls on a special anniversary.

He seems to be healthy enough.  A little worn, but after all, he’s been around for a while.  Why is he here?  Did he need a procedure?  Some tests?  What is he doing?  If we evade sickness and accident, one day we will all be like him; living in a world that gets smaller and smaller because there is  less and less concern with what is going on around us.  And as I watch him there’s a woman on the other side of the waiting area watching me.  I sit here inventing a life for someone else and she’s no doubt reconstructing mine!  I look around; there are a half-dozen of us within an area the size of a modest living room.  Two are looking at magazines.  One is playing with an electronic devise of some sort. The rest are staring off thinking of somewhere else - all of us waiting in our own world-bubble.  If we could hear our digital clocks, they’d be tick, tick, ticking away.  Time going by.  Waiting.  Detached.  The old guy across the hall is still waiting.  Staring at the restroom doors.  Waiting for something his whole life.  Waiting.  Waiting.
The restroom door starts to open and he jumps to hold it so.  An elderly woman with a walker struggles through the doorway and his purpose is apparent.  All this time he has been waiting for her - his thoughts and actions poised, ready and waiting to help.  What others thought or whatever else he could be doing matters not.  Even doors and walls did not severe the connection he had with this one person.  And they hobble off down the hall - together. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Quiet Mind

It is quiet. 

Sitting here. 

In the kayak. 

On the lake. 

The evening sun, low in a deep blue sky.  Cotton puffy clouds hanging there.  Trees reflecting off the glass smooth water.

A fish jumps and ripples ride to every shore. 

Buzzards soar lazily. 

The air,

Comfortably cool and still. 

My friend, in her boat,

As reluctant to move as I. 

A gentle stroke of the paddle and a slow turn.  Water drops fall from the blade in slow motion, sending their own minute ripples across the lake. 

A bull frog croaks.

Locusts sing. 

A Goldfinch flies home. 

Soft voices of a man and girl sitting on the nearest bank - sharing a moment. 

We, part of their scenery ­- they, ours.

All these things,

Taken together,

The only world - the eternal now. 

With imagination I could leave this world. 

But I choose to stay.


In perfect reality.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Geeks Are Taking Over The World

And they are not shy about it. 

The blond I live with went with me to Best Buy to check out a new TV.  Ours is twenty years old and the converter box went bad.  So there we are in front of a wall of flat screen TV’s with our mouths agape and this salesperson approaches.  A real geek!  A true blue member of the squad, complete with the thing in his ear so he can be in instant contact with virtually anyone.  I thought, Wow! This guy probably knows everything.  Only, he totally fails to make connection with us.  We would have bought a TV.  Right then.  Right there.  But all he saw was a technology challenged grandma and grandpa who were going to ask a bunch of stupid questions.   Technology is the only important thing in his world; the standard by which he judges all things.  And clearly, we were below standard.  I think it was when I asked the difference between LCD and LED and he rolled his eyes that I decided we weren’t going to buy.  But what really put me off was when I asked why this LED TV cost more than that one.  “It just has more bells and whistles.”  Apparently he didn’t think we could comprehend those bells and whistles and so there was no need to explain them.  Besides, there was a young geeky looking couple in the next aisle that would be a quick sale.  So why don’t we just think about it and he’ll be back.  I don’t know when he meant to be back.  It certainly wasn’t going to be this week.  So there we stood, blinking at each other, with $700 in our hand.

What amuses me most about geeks like this is they seem to believe they are in control.  That the world really does revolve around them and what they can do.  They have an unabashed faith that the satellites will never fall from the sky. That their blue tooth will not fall out of their head and smolder piteously on the ground.  What will it be like when the only value in their PC is the metal with which they can barter?  Where will they find shelter when no one provides it for them?  How will they cope with the person standing before them when they are unable to text someone miles away to find out what to do?  Contrarily, I have no need for the world-wide-web.  Everything I need is right here.  On that day, when the world as we know it comes crumbling down, there will be no benefit having fourteen hundred “friends” I’ve never met.  Because none of them will be around while I’m tending the garden - preparing for the coming winter.   (Which may be very, very long.)

But even if the unthinkable end is not eminent, there is little advantage being geek.  Technology provides us with some nice tools, no doubt.  I happen to be writing this using one of “their” laptops.  But you know what?  I can also write with a pencil and paper (a very old technology).  I can even do it in cursive.  Legibly.  I can do math in my head, too.  I learned to do that before the hand held calculator was even invented.  I can also fix the dripping faucet in the kitchen.   (The blond I live with just wants to know when.)  I can build a chair and change the oil in my car.  In short, I can do everything necessary without the aid of any electronic device.  Believe it or not, I don’t even need a clock to tell me when it’s time for bed.  I can cook food without a microwave on the most primitive forms of fire.  I can even build the fire.

I think this conflict I feel with geeks has to do with knowledge and its acquisition.  There has always been a tendency for those with a little knowledge to use it to beat down those with less.  Those with true knowledge or extensive knowledge understand how they got it and that anyone can.  But for the simple, it’s not hard to find someone to whom to say, “I’m smart, and you’re not”.  The very statement proves you’re not all that smart either – only by just a little bit.  And only in certain matters.

I remember someone describing their love of tennis.  They were very good at it and loved the game.  Then he married and his wife wanted to learn to play.  He couldn’t stand it.  It took all the fun out of the game for him because she didn’t have the fundamental skills.  But he didn’t divorce her.  He sent her to a tennis club and had a pro give her lessons.  I think that’s why the highly intelligent don’t want me hanging around.  I don’t know the fundamentals.  I can’t keep up.  But they don’t think me worthless.  They just want me to get some lessons.  And that’s where the geek salesperson was.  I just wasn’t any fun.  If he had been on commission he would have been motivated to be an educator; to give me a lesson.  But he wasn’t and he didn’t.  And I still don’t have a new TV.  I do have a new converter box though, and it only cost me $60.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unwanted Guest

There’s a demon-boy lives in the basement.  Don’t know where he came from but it’s clear he isn’t leaving soon.  It bothers me sometimes, knowing he’s there.  No one else seems to notice him; he’s kind of sneaky.  Once in a while when I go down there I see him face to face.  He wears a sneer and doesn’t disguise his ill-intent.

One time I tried to reason with him.  Actually, more than once.  Several times.  Many, many times.  I tried to make him understand he couldn’t live here.  But there is no reasoning with the irrational.  Once I realized this, I began to ignore him.  I pretend he isn’t there.  I tell myself he will leave of his own accord if I don’t give him any attention.  But I have to go down on occasion and check if he is still there. 

He is.

I have a friend who believes too, he’s down there.  He believes because he has a demon-boy living in his basement.  He suggests befriending the creature.  Embrace that which is evidently meant to be part of my life.  I can’t quite bring myself to do that.  Being part of my life is one thing, but to become my life is something else.

I decided to take drastic measures.  I burnt the house down.  He escaped.  When I built a new house, it was so much like the old one I guess he figured he was welcome to move back in.  I tried flooding the basement.  He just moved upstairs.  It got pretty awkward when friends came over.  So, I fixed up the basement.  Put in some carpeting, paneled the walls, got a sofa.  I hang out down there sometimes.  It has made him suspicious.  I think he senses I’m waiting for him to drop his guard.  Waiting for an opportunity to get behind him and do him in.  But he’s wily; always quick to guess my next move.  It’s become a game.  He does provide a diversion from the hum-drum of the everyday routine but I hate that little sucker.  Who does he think he is, coming in here and messing around in my life?

I’ve started telling people about him.  He doesn’t seem to like it.  I took someone down to see him but he wasn’t home.   I thought maybe he had moved out.  But his stuff was still there.  He comes by now-and-then to say hello.  So I figure the best plan is to make my place someplace he doesn’t like.  Maybe then he’ll go away; find somebody else to live with.

I read somewhere how to get rid of unwanted guests.  Simply follow a few easy steps and the problem is gone.  But it is difficult to apply those methods to my own demon-boy.  I mean, whatever else he is – he’s mine.  If I don’t obsess over him, he’s really more of a nuisance than anything.  I’ve certainly gotten accustomed to his being here.  There’s a certain uneasiness when he’s gone.  But then, I’m not really comfortable when he’s here either. 

That’s the hard part; the constant uneasiness.  I can hear his little murmurs and grumblings.  I can hear him at night moving around down there.  Restless.  He’s up to something.  When he’s gone it’s no better.  I know that tomorrow – or the next day – he’ll be back.  The anticipation of his return is worse than his being here.  At least when he’s here I know where he is.  I can plan for his intrusions; work around his agenda.  Manage him.  Oh, he’d think that funny.  I can just see his smug little nasty sneer.  The bubbles of saliva between his broken black and yellow teeth.  The contempt I would see in his watery, bloodshot eyes; contempt exactly equal to that which I have for him.

Ah-ha!  I’ve just realized something.  He needs me more than I need him.  If he were gone for good, I might miss him, but I’d get along fine.  He, on the other hand, has nowhere to go.  He’d be - nobody.  I could make a family room in the basement.  Have people over and watch the Super Bowl.  OK - that’s it.  That thing has got to go.  Enough is enough.  I will be free.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Overheard - Really!

I heard her talking from thirty feet away.  She was over by the men’s polo shirts.  I thought she was talking to a friend across the aisle.  But no, she was talking on her phone.

“…I was married 16 years the first time but all he wanted to do was drink and party.  I just couldn’t live with that.”  After listening to this woman for 30 seconds I was ready for a drink too.  She wandered around the men’s department of Macy’s feigning to look at clothes.  She wasn’t really shopping; I don’t think she even knew where she was.

“…I was remarried for 10 years; I lost him 7 years ago.”  Lost him?  He ran away!

“…I’m just looking for companionship.  It gets a little lonely talking to the cat.”  Now I finally get it.  She’s negotiating a date!

“Oh, I like stock car racing, tractor pulls; I’m open to a lot of things.” 

I had enough and moved to another part of the store to look at shoes.  What is it about a phone that puts people into another world?  This lady would never dream of standing on a street corner shouting out her life history.  Would she reveal her personal life to clientele at Starbucks while sipping her latte?  Maybe she would.  Maybe she was trolling and the phone was a fake.  I quietly deliberated whether I should try on a pair of shoes.  I was not inquiring of the world in general or of other shoppers - just mulling it over in the sanctity of my own mind…should I try on these shoes?

”I can be a lady, but I can also be a tomboy.”  There she was again.  Was she stalking me?

“…I had a friend, and after a couple dates the guy wanted her to move in with him….”  I didn’t find out if she did but the guy must have liked her.  Just then a sales clerk asked if I needed any help.  I said no and we both stood silently watching the talking phone-head. 

“…I never tell where I live.  I always meet in a public place - somewhere about half-way.  It’s just my rule.”  Don’t worry lady.  One look at you and he isn’t even going to care where you live.  Unless he truly is a blind date.

Time and space do not allow me to tell all I learned of this person.  It was just an afternoon at the mall.  If I had sufficient fortitude I’d spend more time there and write a blog about what I see and hear.  But I don’t and so I won’t and you will just have to go yourself if you are desperate for twisted entertainment.  But be careful.  If you are capable of feeling compassion (not exactly one of my strong points) you may actually feel a little sorry for some of the people you will see.  This woman wasn’t so much trolling as reaching out.  No - screaming out.  She desperately wanted to relate to somebody.  Anybody!  What choices led her to this place of loneliness?  She wanted to feel alive, to be loved; to be a part of something bigger than herself.  To be able to share, to know there is someone who cares.  But it wasn’t me. 

I just walked away.

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's a Puzzle

I’m not sure when it happened but at some time I must have been transported to another planet.  (Then again - it may just be flashbacks.)  In this new world everything is all whacked out.  I haven’t seen the Mad Hatter yet but I did see Pippy Longstockings the other day.  At least I thought I did.  It turned out to be some guy of about 18 wearing a skirt – well, maybe - it may have been culottes or just really baggy shorts.  But what really arrested my attention were his socks.  Socks or leotard I can’t be sure which but they were very colorful.  Horizontal stripes – all the way up his legs.  I mean - these are what my daughters would have worn when they were six!

When I was a kid, they would have put you in an institution for dressing like that; your parents could have visited on the first and third Thursday of the month.  But these days you can wear your hair any color, dress in anything, decorate your whole body with tattoos, pierce and attach hardware.  When I was in grade school one of the highlights of a trip to the library was to look through National Geographic Magazine to see aboriginal Africans with their tattooed bodies and bones and stuff sticking out of unlikely places.  These were not things we did in our country.  It was only done in far away, strange places by superstitious and ignorant people.   Remember the Ubangi’s?   I saw one the other day.  Only he was white and living in Cleveland.

Another thing I never saw as a kid was a mosque.  Muslims were in Byzantium or somewhere - and Hindus were in India, Buddhist in Asia and everywhere else was Christian.  How quaint.  And Mexicans were either in Mexico or in a field picking tomatoes.  Everything was so well ordered; like produce at the grocery store - everything in its own place.  Ho hum.

So I rather like this new world.  I enjoy the entertainment people provide.  My grandkids can learn Spanish in school.  Not from a text book but from their friends.  How cool is that?  (Did you know they don’t put all the words in a Spanish textbook?) 

If I hadn’t seen Pippy Longstockings at the store, I wouldn’t know how well adjusted I am - or just how narrow minded.  If we consider the limits of the human mind, to think yourself well-ordered means you are ignoring a great deal of the world around you.  If this world could make sense, it would indeed be a small and boring place.  As I work out the puzzle of life, it’s the misplaced piece that spoils the picture.  Pippy somehow belongs there and if he/she doesn’t quite fit there’s something messed up.  I’ve grown tired of trying to make the puzzle look the way I want it to.  It’s my superstitions and ignorance that lead me to dark, confined places.  If every snowflake is different, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine every human being different - right back to the beginning of time.  How awesome is that?  As long as there is the possibility of one more never-before-seen combination of matter - how pitiful to deny its existence.  Every next manifestation of being holds the key to what follows.  No exceptions.  The only thing getting crowded is the mausoleum we call our head, where there is no room for new possibilities.  The open and free mind expands to deeper, truer understandings.  The universe itself is expanding.  Continually becoming more “roomy”!  It’s the very nature of living things to grow, to propagate, to ever expand beyond current boundaries.  And contradicting nature is never a good idea.

Whoa!  Hang on there bubalou!  What the heck!  Sorry if I got a little preachy there.  Pippy really got me thinking and I guess a little carried away.  It’s just the nature of the stockings I wear.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Books, Books, Books

How many of you have an e-book - a Kindle, a Nook or one of the other varieties out there?  I happen to have a Kindle.  One of the great things about these books is the built in dictionary.  I was just reading a book describing Vermont in the fall, when I came upon a word of doubtful usage.  It was the word zephyr and I was compelled to check out the subtleties of its meaning.  And it’s so easy.  You simply click the word in question and it instantly gives you a simple definition.  If your interest in things scholarly has not been sufficiently satisfied, click again and it gives you the full definition along with other meanings and alternate usages as well as the origins of the word.  It’s great!  But here’s the down side.  It’s a problem I’ve long had with dictionaries.  They are chock full of words!  Interesting and fascinating words.  Words you wish with all your heart you could recall at some appropriate time.  In this instance, following the word zephyr was the word Zeppelin: a German military man who in his retirement developed the lighter than air craft named after him.  And of course, after that was the word zeppelin, the lighter than air craft developed by a retired military man in Germany.  By this time I was so engrossed in the entire subject I got on the internet (yes, you can do that too with one of these digital wonders) and started reading up on airships.  Dirigibles, blimps, balloons - I was fascinated.  I can just imagine what it was like to fly in one.  And to crash in one, which happened pretty routinely in the early days.

Now whenever I think of Vermont in the fall I will envision it with a blimp lazily floating away in the distance.  Perhaps it will fall from view - quickly - and the entire forest, hundreds of acres, will suddenly be engulfed in a horrific fire ball.  Fire fighters will arrive from every direction.  Have you ever read about fire fighters?  There are books about that!  Check out “Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean.  

Well, as a result of this rather benign malady – this interest in words - it takes a very long time to read a book.  There’s just no telling where I’ll end up.  (By the way, have you heard Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer publish a hard copy?  It is now only available online.) 

So beware if you are thinking about getting one of these e-books.  They are fraught with dangers of all sorts.  Like the simplicity of buying books.  It’s the easiest thing in the world.  Just click on one of the hundred million zillion books available and it’s yours!  The money is zapped out of your bank account so fast you don’t even notice it leaving.  (The blond I live with notices though!  I had to buy her a Nook to keep her distracted.)

Now some people would rather have a real book.  And I admit I have a certain fondness for the smell and feel of an old book.  Pages you can really dog-ear to mark a place.  The heft of the book is in itself an indication of the weightiness of the subject.  But there you go.  Who wants to tote a bunch of heavy books around all the time?  When I travel it is not unlikely for me to have six or eight books in my bag (one being a dictionary).  Now I have a single book that contains all the information of hundreds.  I wonder if in the distant past there was a resistance to bound books.  Do you suppose people once said, “The new books are nice and are easier to carry around but there’s just something about the feel and the beauty of a scroll.”
So, why books?  Why this enchantment with books?  For me, a book is tangible evidence of thought.  The book was written before it was ever set to print.  Imperfect though it may be, the book is the physical manifestation of a non-physical thought.  By it, ideas are passed along.  People long dead are still able to impress my mind.  There is nothing more real than a thought and there is nothing real that is more difficult to grasp. Books, or the words they are composed of, are merely symbols of thought.  The technology of books is simply a tool.  A tool, like all technology, that compensates for lack of skill or ability.  In this case, our inability to purely communicate one-to-another.  Perhaps digital books are a step towards the day when we will need them no more.  But for now, I’ve got to find out what’s going on in Vermont!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Intruder

I’m not what you would call a “cat” person.  I appreciate that all God’s creatures are meaningful and serve a purpose.  For dogs and such, cats are fast food.  It’s just part of the cycle of life.

But a few years ago a stray kitten happened upon our porch.  It was gray and white and fluffy and cute and really, really skeard of people.  The blond I live with couldn’t leave it alone and insisted on putting out food and encouraging her to hang around.  And of course that’s what she did; cats being what they are.  She was pretty scrawny and awfully little to be out on her own.  She took up residence under the porch and did her best to avoid any contact with us.  Always kept her distance and ran off if you looked at her too long.  I commented on this and what I meant to say was, she sure is a skittish kitten.  But it came out skitten kitish and so it was we began to refer to her as Skitten.

Even though she was extremely wary of people she had no problem with our French Bull Dog.  The second he would come out on the porch she was all over him; rubbing up against him, purring – it was pathetic.  She was a smitten kitten.  It was so bad the dog couldn’t even do his outside business without the cat following him out to his favorite spot and while he’s trying to squat she’d be rubbin’ on him, knocking him off balance, getting into his face.  The poor dog!  He’d make a break for it as soon as the door opened to let him out.  He’d do his best to get out there and get things taken care of before that fool cat realized he was out.  But Skitty was always lurking somewhere near and thought he was playing a game of chase.  Captain’s legs aren’t very long and when he was squeezing his cheeks together anyway there was no way he could out run that cat.  She thought it great fun.  She could run behind him on her two back legs while batting him on each side of his butt with her front feet.  It would piss him off to no end.  He’d spin around to snap at her and she’d nimbly jump over him, adroitly maintaining her position of advantage at his posterior end.  And they’d continue that circus all the way to the back of the yard and as soon as he’d assume the position; rub, rub, purr, purr, she’d knock him off balance.  Finally he learned how to drop his load without stopping – like a horse.

They eventually became pretty good buddies and a few years later we got a new puppy. A Field Spaniel.  Tia is a beautiful dog but has the brain power of a toad.  Skitty sensed this and did her best to teach her some of the basics of life.  She would bring half-dead mice and drop them at Tia’s feet.  Tia would jump around it a bit and get distracted by a fly or something and the mouse would scurry off.  The cat would catch it again and bring it back to the dog, forever trying to make her understand she was supposed to kill and eat it.  It was all for naught.  It was more than the dog could grasp.

The years went by and whenever we were outside Skitty wasn’t far off.  On summer evenings when we relaxed on the deck after work, Skitty would join us.  She on a chair cleaning herself, the dogs gnawing on bones or sticks, we kicked back in our chairs.  The pack was together and all was well.  She did a great job of keeping the rodent populations in check.  She apparently thought she had to report this to us.  So on a regular basis there was evidence of her hunting skills lying by the back door.  A headless ground squirrel or a wingless bird.  A mole or mouse.  I should have saved all the skins; I could have made a coat by now.
But then last fall she went missing.  I thought Captain seemed confused.  Like he wasn’t sure where or how to go.  There was just something strange and lonely when he made his trip to the back of the yard.  A search of the roadside found nothing.  No sign of mayhem.  Just gone.  Some think she may have been mooching off someone else and they have her in their house now.  It’s a nice thought.  Others thoughtfully ponder the coyotes barking in the distance.  If that’s the case - if some coyote decided to go out for fast food – I hope he choked on it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I'm Not Old

I don’t really think of myself as “old” although my body seems to enjoy telling me differently.  Oh, you know the signs; less energy, creaking joints, more trips to the doctor.  There is another symptom I can’t recall – I was just thinking it… well, maybe I’ll remember by the time I’m done. 

Even though I’m NOT old I have begun to make changes - take measures.  For instance, I try to double up efforts.  You know, doing two things at a time in order to conserve energy.  One thing I do now is sleep while watching TV.  I use the same technique while reading a book.  Another great energy saving device is to have a drink on the deck while watching someone else mow the yard.  It’s a wonderful way to get things done!

I find simple things more enjoyable these days.  There’s nothing I like better than a nice stroll to my car for a drive to the mailbox.   I know, I know I should leave the car parked and get some fresh air.  So I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a golf cart.  All my friends have one and highly recommend them.  Most of them are old though so I may put off getting one for a while.

My mind is still a steel trap.  A bit rusty, perhaps, but so what?  No one else knows.  I find if I keep my mouth shut and have a thoughtful look people just assume I’m having deep intellectual thoughts.  It’s fun really.  Younger people will dance around a subject all day wondering what it is I know.  Fact-of-the-matter, I haven’t a clue what the subject even is.  Nothing proves ignorance like opening your mouth.

And nothing brings on old age like admitting it.  However, I sure don’t want to be young again.  Not everyone has had this problem but I was really stupid when I was young.  Just last year I did one of the most incredibly dumb things of my life.  No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.  See how much smarter I am?  Suffice it to ask, do you really want to go back and fret about what you’re going to do with your life?  Heck no!  It’s a done deal.  I am who I am.  I sometimes wonder how different things would have been had I stayed in school or joined the military or married Heather.  But of this I’m certain; it wouldn’t be any better – just different.  And it’s been so nice, once I came to the realization, that I am not responsible for the outcome of world history.  Now, I never mind sitting around a campfire with a friend or two or three solving all the world’s problems.  That can sometimes be a quite lively activity.  But in the end I sleep well knowing mankind’s course is unalterable; the wise and the foolish alike will look back and say – Holy Shit, I could have had the yellow golf cart!
OK – If you slept through this it’s time to wake up and get on with it.  Time is running out and there’s a lot of stuff to do!  So get out there and find somebody to do it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Hope of 1880

Last time I wrote I mentioned the desk my great-uncle Dan had made for his sister, my maternal great-grandma, as a wedding gift.  That was around 1880.  My paternal grandpa, unaware grandma was in the planning stages, was just a year old – still in diapers.  And so was Albert Einstein.  And even though Einstein was to later get all the press, they both needed potty training.  There was also a recession going on.  Billy Sunday was still playing baseball and was soon to become the Tim Tebow of his day. 

There were a lot of other things going on that year.  James Garfield won the presidential election to succeed Rutherford Hayes and just 200 days later became the second US president to be assassinated.

Wabash, Indiana, just a stone’s throw from where grandpa was toddling around, became the first city in the world to have electric street lights.

Joshua Abraham Norton, an eccentric who proclaimed to be the Emperor of the United States and protector of Mexico, died in San Francisco. Emperor Norton I had currency issued in his name (it was actually honored by local businesses) and among other things decreed a bridge and a tunnel be built across San Francisco Bay (which did happen long after he died).  And although nearly everyone thought him insane many found him entertaining.  Over 30,000 attended his funeral.

Victorio, a militant and troublesome Apache chief was killed by Mexican soldiers.  His warrior sister, Lozen, and his compatriot Geronimo continued to fight against the foreign invaders until finally taken into captivity and sent to prison.   

The Cologne Cathedral in Germany was completed after only 643 years.  Over one and a half football fields long and nearly one wide, it was, at the time, the tallest building in the world.  In today’s money, the last phase of construction cost over 1.5 billion dollars.  Meanwhile, Uncle Dan is making sawdust in Indiana. 

So the world was not such a different place.  Lovers were getting married, children were being born and people were dying.  It was politics as usual; armies subjugating ethnic minorities and vast sums of money were being spent to impress – somebody.  And undoubtedly somebody was. 

Very intelligent people were being born who would change the world with new theories and new technology.  Changes that were both exciting and frightening at the same time.  But with all the changes, nothing is really any different. 

Most everyone is just trying to get through each day as best they can.  It’s always been that way.  The world is full of people like Uncle Dan; people working with their hands, minding their own business, making their world a better place.  It is moms changing diapers and teaching kids how to think, how to work, how to love.  It is dads who live by a standard; who teach by example that there is a right and a wrong.  That’s what truly moves us forward-backward to the Garden.  And as the years stretch out before us there will be those few who resolutely go against the flow. Those who will ignore the noise and chaos to live at the highest level of their humanity.  To be what they were designed to be.

I love history.  It gives me a sense of the present; to make some sense of the present.  I have confidence in the future – that there is a future.  I know where we are going because I know where we’ve been.  So what kind of future will we have?  In my world, it gets better!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Connecting with the past

I’m sitting at my antique desk with my laptop and the distance between them astounds me.  The desk was made by my great-uncle around 1880; over one-hundred thirty years before a nameless bunch of people put together this computer.  I am a woodworker and I appreciate the details of the desk.  I can tell you what kind of tools Uncle Dan had at his disposal.  I can tell you a lot about his character based on the way it was constructed and the finished product.  When I slide my hand across the warm wood with its rich patina, I feel like I am almost touching the man.  When I put my hands on this laptop I feel the hard complexity of an enormous industry grinding away.  Urbanity; conveyer belts, packaging, trucks, retail networks, salespeople - and of course, plastic. 

There is part of me that wants to open one of the little drawers inside the desk and get out a fountain pen, pull some linen paper from one of the slots and write in beautiful cursive script something inspiring.  If not inspiring for the words themselves at least for the art of the medium.  Like books of old with their engraved frontispieces and gilt lettered bindings.  But I want to get this done sometime today.  I don’t have time to be artsy or masterful.  The public awaits and doesn’t really care if there is nothing outstanding or exceptional.  All the added detail would seem unnecessary; just wasted time and space.  Facebook is waiting!  Emails need answered.  There are games to be played and phone calls to make.

I imagine Uncle Dan in his barn-shop.  A loving man, he made a desk as a wedding present for each of his four sisters.  There he is, carefully cutting and shaping wooden boards.  Sanding, inspecting and sanding some more.  Fitting each piece into place; pieces that will fit no other desk.  That have no use but this one.  Gluing, nailing, making corrections, revising the plan as the work progresses.  Taking mental notes about what to do differently on the next one.  Preparing and applying the shellac.  Attaching the pull rings to each of the eleven drawers and four doors.  His labors slow but steady.  The way the desk itself has survived the years.  It just continues to be itself and so Dan continues to be himself.  He had no idea that over a century later I would be writing about him.  But as a result of his many hours of work and my many hours contemplating it – I am a better man.  Not better than he but better than myself.  And if not better at least happier!  I don’t know ol’ Dan’s shortcomings.  They don’t matter.  And my own failings won’t matter as much as I fear.  When I sit at this desk, my heartbeat slows.  My body relaxes.  My thoughts become more cohesive.  Time almost ceases to exist.

OH, CRAP!  I’m going to be late for work!  Catch you later!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Enough of Holidays!

I thought I would write about the HOLIDAYS.  But I just can’t.  It’s such a superfluous part of my life.  What is it about decorating the house (and for the really obsessed, the yard)?  Putting up all those lights and glitter and more lights and trees and more lights and don’t forget the statues!  Statues!  Fantasy statues like flying reindeer, elves and the obese guy all right next to something that is supposed to be meaningful like the Son of God in a manger.  Whatever possesses people?  OK, now I’m started and I can’t get stopped.  I didn’t want to offend anyone and I’m sure I already have so I may as well go with it.

Every year some yahoo writes the same story about peace and love for our fellow man; especially the less fortunate.   The hope we can have in the coming new year and why we should make resolutions we know we won’t keep.  Somehow we will all be better people this next year.

No.  I’m not going to be that yahoo. Because I don’t really care!  Christmas was the same as it always is and next year we’ll recycle all the same sentiments.  So I’m glad it’s over.  I won’t have to listen to silly, obnoxious Christmas songs at every store I walk into.  Or smile at some guy in a Santa suit ringing a bell in front of it.  It’s over.  Finally.  One last time. All that’s left to do is take the tree down and drag all the decorations back to the attic.  I’ll make the same resolution I make every year new year; clean out the attic!  Once the house is back to normal, I’ll be able to get myself back to normal.  (My wife, who is really a very warm, gracious person, laughs when I say that.)  Maybe I’ll get to work on some of those unfinished projects that clutter my shop.

Just to be fair, the season does provide a distraction from the hum-drum of the everyday.  But beyond that it’s mostly noise.  I do remember one particularly memorable Christmas; the year I bought my wife a horse.  It was a little appaloosa filly.  She wasn’t my wife at the time but I think that filly had something to do with her becoming so.  Oh, and I remember our oldest daughter on her first Christmas.  What a let-down!  I was waiting, camera in hand for that wow-moment when she opened her first present.  But all she wanted to do was play with the stupid wrapping paper!  It was her second Christmas that I finally got the picture.  Although, that wasn’t near as good as the third year; when she was trying to make her six month old sister play with the toy instead of the paper.

That makes me think of the year we had all the in-laws over for Christmas dinner.  I mean all of them.  Nieces and nephews, sister and brothers, Moms and Dads, a couple strays; thirty-some people in a house built for four.  What a hoot!  Took a week to clean up.

You know, if nothing else Christmas is at least an excuse for doing crazy stuff with people.  Stuff we wouldn’t otherwise do.  And I did get some pretty cool gifts.  I suppose I may go ahead and do it again next year.   Just don’t start thinking I’m some yahoo.