Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heavy Metal Monday


The sound of a screaming dinosaur every Monday morning means my taxes are being used. The trash truck arrives and as they have for the past year remove my discarded items. For months in rain and 3 foot snows, they plow down the alley and empty 5 trash cans and what ever else I can pile up into the gaping mouth of their heavy metal machine then tossing the cans back into their area, they move on.

These are my heroes.

Each week I wonder if they will not arrive or if there is too much stuff piled up for them to take.

Furniture, boxes, bags, clothing, paper, wood, wall boards stuffed into whatever will fit for a week, then Monday rolls around again and it all disappears.

Since Sunday’s are like Tuesdays and Wednesday is like Saturday, the one-day that makes my week is Monday. Trash day!

And this Monday was recycling day also. And Tuesday is street cleaning day. So there are lines of these huge heavy metal machines rolling through the neighborhood. Oh how exciting this afternoon to watch a parade of these monsters sweeping the street with swirling brushes and then washing it down with powerful water jets.

But then again, every day is full of excitement when you live alone.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daddy’s Day

Today we celebrate all the men who could not keep it in their pants. Yes all you fathers enjoy your ties, t-shirts and mugs declaring you are the “Best Dad”, and revel in your creations.

Of course you can do the tango alone, but you are an important element. Without you life could not be created. One thrust and squirts and you can proudly wear the title “Father”.

My dad was 43 when I was conceived., so I was probably a mistake. Even so, here I am and would not be writing this if it hadn’t been for him. Due to the difference in age we didn’t have much in common. By the time I was in my teens he was as old as I am now. We didn’t talk much and though he half heartily tried to lead me into church organized activities but it seemed hypocritical. I just saw him lying to people about how good they looked, trying to impress with old stories of almost fame, and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. And when he was the happiest was when he sat alone on a couch mindlessly watching black and white television and eating ice cream. I wonder what he was thinking?

Now dad was a good man and would have been proud of his boys. As far as success, we did pretty well. Though we never talked about music, but when he saw I had an interest in it, he bought me a guitar and amplifier knowing I was not as dedicated as he was to learning the notes. And he got to see grandchildren. That always seems to be a big thing for fathers to see the family linage continued. Isn’t that the reason for introducing new life?

And will your offspring’s appreciate your sacrifice to provide them with food, clothing, shelter and education. Will they realize your life was put on hold when the words “I’m pregnant” was presented to you.

So to all the pops, dads, and fathers out there, enjoy your day. Be proud to bring another mouth onto the planet.

Yard Sale Saturday

The muggy ride through the neighborhood this morning reminded me this day was different. It is Saturday and people bring out their junk and place it on the front lawns. My safety concern is the slow processions of old and young alike parading before the lawns strewn with stuff.

So why do people do this? Why are they trying to get rid of Aunt Sallies’ sideboard that has been lugged around for years. It was always too big for any room in the house. Was it kept for the sentimental reason? Was it kept hoping to find on Antique Roadshow that the value of this dark wooden monstrosity that never matched any other furniture would pay for retirement? So it has been sitting in the basement or garage until today when it was dragged out and displayed on the lawn. So much for sentiment Aunt Sallie.

Bits and pieces of furniture, toys, old computer pieces, appliances, awful paintings, mirrors, and cloths laying all over the grass with the family sitting on folding chairs deciding prices of their display. Uncle Henry’s wool tweed sports coat goes for fifty cents. Betty’s crib sells for a buck. A beat up mirror was sold for two dollars.
I’d worry about wearing someone else s clothes without them being fumigated and decontaminated. Who knows what happen to Uncle Henry? Would Betty’s crib meet today’s safety regulations? The mirror will only become an unrealized project to refinish the frame.

As I go pass block upon block with yard after yard of these displays of wasted consumption, I realize what is really going on.

These lowly homo sapiens are making offerings to the PODS. I didn’t personally see any of the PODS land, but they must have gobbled up all the “stuff” because the yards where empty today.

These silly humans don’t realize it is already too late.

The PODS have infiltrated the minds and hearts with their secret weapon, the iPOD.

So the next time you reach for your ear, remember. They know where you are.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Then the lights went out

A fairly productive day started by going to Target and after a long search found a trashcan for the kitchen. I strapped it onto the bike and almost got home before the bungee chord slipped and smacked me in the back. Frustrated I stopped and reloaded the black plastic. Making it home without additional complications, I unloaded the package and placed it on the back porch. Check trashcan off the list.

There were more adventures to take. Again I was off to the grocery store for a daily trip and to acquire the next item on the list. It’s time for a mop. After evaluating the cool blue and white mops at target, I reviews the line of mops presented by Kroger. There is a squeeze sponge mope like the metal one my mom used and a roll sponge mop with a roller applicator. One had refills, and the other didn’t. I grabbed the one with a refill cause I know there is going to be a lot of cleaning to do. I had looked at the different cleaning solutions for floors and decided to use what I already had first. I still have to sand and wash the walls, paint the ceiling, choose a color for the walls and paint before starting on the floor, but its an item on the list.

Reaching for my favorite trusty black bungee cord I am shocked to find only half of it. I had not strapped it around the seat post and one end was missing, a victim of spokes. A lucky backup wrapped the long pole to the bike frame. An uneventful ride home avoiding the old and the communication challenged drivers. Check mop off the list.

Now to sit and cool down with some music and a cool beverage I began another list.
Then the lights went out. A flicker and then total darkness surrounded me.
Walking past the cut bamboo, I noticed there was no noise in the neighborhood. Checking the interior of the house confirmed all the power was off.

It must be time to check off the next project and get that garden hose for the front yard. These are not totally got to have or I’ll die items, but they have been on the list for sometime.

Packing up Big Blue in the welcomed silence, I walked to the only sound of the passing cars. I pulled out to join them to see the traffic signals were working so it’s just Colonial Place that is dark.

Luckily it’s not THAT HOT, yet

Doing my usual traffic avoidance path I arrived at the local hardware store. “Hello” was the welcome at the door after I got past the guy in the parking lo walking back and forth in apparent confusion with pointed hedge clippers in his hand. I had waited for him to decide his direction and only after he decided his shoestring was the problem and stopped to tie it, did I pass.

Viewing the variety of water hoses the prices range became the deciding factor. Why pay forty dollars to carry water 50 feet when a ten-dollar hose will do the same? Luckily the hardware store had electricity so I could acquire the hose. Check hose off the list.

Once home again, there was still no power.

Putting on a headphone radio, I had to adjust from classical to classic rock due to signal strength. Sitting by the pond I apologized to the fish that the pump was not working but they are tough dudes and will make it through this.

As I sat writing this mess with pen and paper, I watched the yard critters. They all continued about their regular daily activities. They do not notice that there is no electricity. Chipmunks are walking up to my feet without fear. Gray squirrels are taking a naps overhead in the crooks of the trees. Cardinals land on branches within reach and continue their search for food and companionship.

If we paid more attention to nature maybe won’t worry so much when the television show was canceled or the movie didn’t arrive on time or the email was not returned.
The food can rot in the refrigerator and the computer and TV and lights can stay black.

It’s all back now. Bright lights and loud fans, but a few moments of peace are also nice.

And it's hard to believe I have had 400 thoughts and something to say about them.

Put on the list, tomorrow clean the pump for the little orange guys.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The PODS are landing! The PODS are landing!

Seems about this time every year our neighborhood is invaded. Strange white boxes, larger than a car begin appearing in front of houses.
They must have landed overnight because they weren’t there yesterday. They don’t appear to be threatening or dangerous. They just sit there.
First there is one, then another shows up, then another. I don’t hear them land but there are more and more each year. It is a slow invasion.
Every now and then I see one with its mouth open and realize what they want.
What they seem to eat is our “stuff”.
Some only have a few pieces of furniture, while others have boxes of books, electronics, pictures, and appliances. They seem to be able to eat anything.
And when they are full, they take off for the mother ship and disappear. I’ve even seen cars disappear at the same time.
I’m not sure what happens to the people whose stuff is disappearing into these foreign creatures. They seem to disappear at the same time.
It’s like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” except instead of stealing our bodies they are stealing our “stuff”.
Perhaps it is a governmental agreement with these aliens to consume our stuff so we have to go out and buy more stuff thus helping the economy.
Luckily they seem to end their migration invasion during the fall.
So watch out if one of these PODS lands in front of your house. You stuff will started disappearing.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flag Day

Seven. That’s all I saw on my morning ride. It’s “Flag Day” and on a ten mile ride through the city passing hundreds of homes and apartments, I only saw seven American flags. Some have been there for a long tie faded and worn, while others look like they just arrived for the occasion.

After 9/11, there were flags everywhere. Every house was flying the stars and stripes out front. Every car had those magnetic flags on their hoods.
But as time passed, the metal lined the gutters and the old symbols of patriotism were taken down.

I never flew a flag. Instead my wife painted the front windows with red, white and blue. The sunshine would flood the living room with the nations pride and at night it glowed in remembrance. But eventually the windows were washed.

During the world cup, watching the flags and listening to each national anthem I notice the players embracing each other, some with their hands over their hearts as we were taught to do in elementary school and some singing.

This is just an observation as I ride the Sunday path through the city. Watching the passing walkers strapped to their gizmos, seeing a father pushing a double stroller with his head down talking to his children until I saw the cell phone, looking up the girl’s dress as she sat on he church steps, two young men walking up the dusty sidewalk in the fan, one in a red cap the other rubbing his stubble chin as if they were leaving an overnight party or just starting out a days adventure. The Robin Inn doesn’t have the daily special on the chalk board but I know it’s chicken on noodles covered in a tomato or cream sauce for eight dollars. It has been the same for years.
An oriental couple pull up next to me at a water stop and ask through the open window, “Sir, do you know where Monument Avenue is?” “Monument Avenue?” I reply, then pointing north say, “It’s one block over.” They turned left as the light turned green and we went out different directions. You can be so close and yet so lost.

So I return past the quiet church which used to open it’s doors on a hot summer day. I see five flags flying. I don’ think my neighborhood is more patriotic or more observant of the day. Perhaps they are too lazy to take the flags down. Perhaps it’s the fact that Mister Timberlake, the flag maker lives down the block. Maybe Ronnie called ahead and asked that the flags be removed because he had seen too many to wrap up in.

Maybe it’s time to paint the windows again, but this time with flowers.
So as I watch men run back and forth kicking a white ball and listening to NPR over the buzzing TV, thinking its time to shower before seeing Mandy off to China at the corner.

I will put up the pen. The first time I’ve put pen to paper and cursive written anything other than huge checks.

The rain is here, but I don't think I'll sleep out on the porch until 2 AM tonight.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tying One On

--> Ties

Cravat, bow, long, thin, wide….all assortment of material that wrap around the neck, tied in a knot.
To wear a tie was growing up. A tie and suit were the fashion of formal attire and acceptable business wear.

My first memories of trying to tie a tie was preparing for church. The Sunday finery was adored with a tie. I always had trouble with it even through countless sessions and would have to be adjusted by my parents. Clip on models seemed to be the easiest solution, but the process of wrapping this cloth around and under the collar, then quickly swirling the to ends around and over each other to form the perfect knot slide up to the throat was a right of passage.

I watched my father do this every morning after brushing his teeth, shaving with a brush and two sided razor and coming on his hair with a splash of liquid. This was a morning ritual followed by everyone’s father, every morning. A routine never wavered from until old age set in.
Everyone in church, as soon as they were old enough, wore a tie, until after the services were over and the first item to be removed was the tie. They were lined on a rack behind the closet door, never to be seen until the next Sunday.

My second memory of ties was from the movies. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the wealthy and debonair leading men wore smoking jackets and a cravat. Also called ascots, these ties didn’t have knots. A cravat was gingerly placed around the neck, with one in turn over and stuffed into an open buttoned shirt. The immediately presented an air of elegance and distention. I also started smoking a pipe.

Anyone wearing a cravat stood out from the common man’s tie, which just hung down. The army tucked their ties into their shirts, but I found out later it was more of a practical caution than a fashion statement.
For our first gig in my first rock and roll band, I presented the cravat as part of our uniform. White pants, blue blazers, light blue shirts and navy blue cravats. It didn’t take long to figure why ties are not worn while playing rock music.
When I first started working, I didn’t wear a tie because I was doing manual labor or hidden away in a basement. Then I got a job in an office. All the movies and television shows had office workers in their business suits, like on Sunday.
So, to fit in, I got a haircut, put on a white shirt, pleaded pants, and a tie. I believe it was a straight thin black non-descript tie. After weeks of looking like a geek, I realized no one else was wearing a tie except the bosses and the salesmen. The tie came off and acceptation by the creative crowd was immediate.
When I turned 30, I decided to make a change.
It was the late 70’s and I was advancing with my job, but realized the restrictions I was placing on my future by looking like a hippie.
The day after my birthday, I arrived at the office with a haircut, clean-shaven, suit coat and a tie. The entire office, all wearing suits and ties (even the secretary), greeted me with a photographer capturing the moment. A brief article ran in the company newsletter accompanied by the photo of event asked the question, “How Long Will This New Look Last?”
Not long. The hair and neatly trimmed beard grew back, but I continued to wear ties. Bowties. Big bright colorful crazy butterfly bowties became my fashion statement. I quickly discovered that bowties and beards were not compatible; practically these huge ties that covered the front collar of the shirt and rubbed the neck. The ties were quickly frayed and the fashion phoupa was finished.
By this time, I was in management and expected to attend meetings. Everyone else was wearing a tie, but since I was in the “creative field”, they assumed I was just “too hip” to be wearing a suit and a tie. One day I suggested I have an office. The response was “I’ll build you an office if you wear a tie.”
I folded to the company requested and the walls were built with my name on the door.

After bowing to the perceived but never documented “dress code”, I began in earnest to shop for ties. The company had broken my will, but not my spirit. The usual ties started to fill the racks on the closet door. Conservative solid blue with white poke-a-dot ties, club ties with my family crest, even solid black and blue ties were the bass for my collection. Then I started finding new styles and colors in little boutiques and away from the department store mainstream. Psychedelic colors and patterns, large abstract designs, and flowers expanded my wardrobe, to match or contrast with the flowered and patterned, dark shirts which had become my new office attire. Upper management frowned on my choice, but I was wearing a TIE.
At the turn of the century, casual Friday dress started to take hold. Office workers could wear presentable attire without coats and ties. The response was immediate and the appearance of ties throughout the week was only worn for major conferences, sales meetings, or presentations.
So now I have a closet full of brightly colored neckwear, gathering dust. I know I will never wear them again, since t-shirts have become my daily dress, but I had to throw them away. I’m sure they are far out of whatever the latest trend style is, but each tells a story. A special dinner, a holiday statement, a shocking color, or a good friend.
On Father’s day, go out and get old dad a tie. Tell him to tie on one, tie it down, tie the knot, fit to be tied, or even tie-dye. He may never wear it, as my father did, but he’ll get a good laugh out of it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Just Clowning Around

Laughter is contagious. It indicates fun, happy experiences, and the joyful company of others.

Laughter can be a mild amusement, a titter, giggle, chuckle, scoff, or fall out roll over belly guffaw.

To have the ability to make others laugh is a gift we all strive for. There are standup comedians, movies, television series, pictures, music and the Sunday comics that all try to make the rest of us laugh.

But the clown is the most notable figure associated with laughter.

A clown is a silly, foolish, playful figure that would do anything to make others laugh. A clown’s sole purpose is to create laughter.

A clown can wear outrageous outfits or simple attire. A clown can speak or use pantomime to create laughs.

Clowns have been thought of as buffoons, fools, zany, and even dimwitted, but they sat by kings and queens.

To be a clown, and fool around, tell a joke and make someone else laugh rewards a clown with pleasure and attention.

There is always a class clown or the office joker. They are invited to parties to guarantee good cheer.

Since I am not handsome or talented or sports-minded or rich or smart or famous, I had to become a jester.

Have a good laugh.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Living Alone

I remember moving into this house 30 years ago and thinking I was living alone. I wasn’t sure I was capable of survival.

Eight years before that I lived with my wife and the turmoil of an early marriage. Before that I lived at home, venturing out for a year but still connected in the same city, supplying comfort and support.

So here I am, 30 years later, living alone.

What does that mean?

For most, it would be a dream. Do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. Sounds good?

I remembered 30 years ago, I settled into this abode, setting up areas for recreation and creation, but sucked myself into bland television and drugs. I would have spiral down into the abyss, but I still had to work and pay off piles of bills. Responsibility overrode decadence. Besides, I had my mother to take care of.

My father had died a year before, creating havoc and tension that would not subside. Between the stress of work – a fading marriage – and a crazy mother, something had to give.

So here I am, 30 years later, living alone.

Like a culturing pearl within a shell, all the comforts of home and pleasure are immediately available. All the toys I can imagine are within reach and plenty of room to move freely, but it not what I expected.

The quiet is deafening. Time has little meaning, except for the seasons.

To have unlimited possibilities, without another’s input or rejection is daunting.

There is no one to ask, “What do YOU need today?” or “Where would YOU like to go?” or “What would YOU like to do?” or even “What do YOU think?”.

I stand at the gate in my orange jump suit, waiting for the door to open for exercise period.

Taking Care of Yourself

Do we know how to take care of ourselves?

We understand our basic needs of shelter, food, water, and warmth and work hard to supply what is necessary to survive.

Do we know how to take care of ourselves?

We read books, listen to reports, and discuss among ourselves how we should exercise and eat better, but never do.

Do we know how to take care of ourselves?

We form partnerships and create families to care for and hopefully in later years care for us, but this is not guaranteed.

Do we know how to take care of ourselves?

We build huge palaces to our excessive behavior, forage on abundance of fuel, and spend outrageous amounts of our hard earned meager pay to taxes providing organizations to be created and expanded into a web of maddening bureaucracy offering assistance to the individual yet bogged down in the mire.

Do we know how to take care of ourselves?

What do you do when the money runs out?

We all have this problem at one time or another. Sometimes we live from paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes we borrow from friends or family. Sometimes we suck it up and hold off on that next purchase.

But what happens when the money runs out?

ALL the money!

Looking at the financial instability of nations borrowing from other nations with assets of air, what would happen if some day they all stopped and said, “Pay Up!”.

Just like a bank, would they sent bill collectors to the door to harass each other?
Would countries print more money to cover the bills with worthless paper? Would they invade the others privacy with armed bullies to pillage the physical property which indicated wealth?

Or would they just throw away the books and start all over again?

Reading about foreclosures and bankruptcies of families today, even with the excuse of over borrowing against income, many are throwing in the towel and starting over. This leads to depression, alcoholism, destruction of core families, drop-outs, homelessness, and even suicide. The banks are stuck with property that is lower in value or sometimes worthless. Cities are filled with abandoned buildings, warehouses full of reprocessed items, and increase crime and health problems.

We can all look back and point fingers, but it was pure greed that made all this happen. When my house was assessed for over five times of it’s worth, the writing was on the wall (literally).

Did we always think “That next raise will put me over the top and I can pay off some bills”? Was our thinking that if we bought something with plastic money we didn’t have and couldn’t pay back, the bill collectors would just go away?

What happened to “pay as you go” or “live within your means”? I just we were having such a good time, we forgot the lessons of the recent depression our parents endured. Did our consumerism overtake our common sense?

So what would happen if we threw away the books and start all over again?

When the debt balance disappears, businesses start to experiment, expand and hire. People would become more productive and happier without the worry of debt. Banks and lending establishment could start with fiscal policies that are reasonable and regulated.

We all started working at some point with nothing and we pride ourselves on our accomplishments and hard work by displaying our homes, cars, clothing, and other material signs accepted by society as wealth.

And deep within the psyche, our real wealth is having provided an effort for the necessary monetary reward to provided for survival.

Taken with a grain of salt, I’m a simple person with simple needs. I do not have vast fortunes of stocks and bonds and piles of cash. I do not want more than I can use. I’m do not value myself on my worldly goods or concerned for not having the latest gizmo.

I have no debt and a little bit of money that I will spend before I go, but I contemplate.

“What would I do if ALL the money ran out?”

Marking Your Territory

Watching the animal world, you note how each species marks their territory. The territories might me miles or a small patch of ground. Some animals chase away intruders while other just mark their land with bodily fluids.

These zones are conquered and clearly marked by an owner. Some visitors are allowed to enter without confrontation to create a group.

These zones are normally arranged around food and home. Babies are violently protected yet supplies of food will be shared.

Some zones are invaded by outside predators where occupants gather to battle the intruder. The layers of the intensity will change in an instant. The crows will chase away the hawks, then the blue jay will chase the crows.

The smaller and weaker creatures use cover to hide and wait for the conflict to subside.

For the others in the animal world, we mark our territories with maps and engineers surveying borders marking it with flags and marks on the ground and publishing visions of territories separated by foliage or fences.

These territories are acquired or just borrowed for a time for people to live in a space in safe contemplation.

The animal world follows food and moves on with the season, yet we stay in our comfortable structures of wood surrounded by our every want within easy reach.

Excuse me but I have to go out and pee on the sidewalk to mark my territory.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

They are in there. They are banging and bashing. Making such a racket on what I have left. It’s not a lot, but it is all I have left.
A man who I’ve met only once. Referred by a plumber. Without a reference and on blind faith, I’ve shown him the work needed. He seemed professional. He had a tape measure and everything. His estimate seemed resemble, but I have nothing to compare it too.
One phone call and the deal was made.
My preparation meant moving furniture into cramp spaces. No sweeping or cleaning, just giving space to a man I didn’t know to tear down the walls. I thought about moving some things upstairs, but thought better of it by the steepness of the steps and the weight of the objects, so they sit in the living room.
The rest of the material from the attic was removed, filling the trash quota for another week.
He arrived on time this morning. That’s a good sign?
And he brought a friend.
Reviewing the area to be cleared, then handing me the proposal. It matched what he had written on the back of his card and photographed with his phone during our first meeting.
I’ve been looking at these holes in the walls for months and hope that this will be the jumpstart to the next project. Additional estimates are outstanding for the trim repairs, new doors under the house, dormers patched or replaced, and a new roof, but I can be painting inside while all that is going on outside.
But what of the unknown?
Suppose they hit a wire and cut out the electricity? Or start a fire? Or knock down the ceiling fan I just had installed last week? Or they do a really crappy job and I have to hire someone else to repair the repairs?
So here I sit in Mansland, listening to strangers tearing up my house.