Monday, April 29, 2013


If you are in a couple, you probably don’t notice it and no one of the outside will even mention it, but whatever draws the two together and presents to the world your names together with “and” you have a language all your own. Whether the time together is short or long term, there are those special little statements or nods or winks that only the two of you know.
I just spent a weekend with a couple of couples and have some observations that I found interesting. A couple of the gentlemen I have known in one manner or another for several years while others not so much. The ladies are mostly unfamiliar to me but are accepted by selection. We have all become somewhat comfortable with each other even if I am alone and a stranger.
I clarify the situations by saying we don’t gather very often. Some I contact with email occasionally but I would not recognize their voices on a phone. Every now and again we get into a discussion but usually it is about something that happened decades ago.
So yesterday we gathered to say “Goodbye” to my second mother. It is not the best of circumstances that brings us together but here we were. A presentation of a dragon and the welcome of the grandson would help relieve some of the emotion. A round of scotch then another surprises me but these friends used to share substances before and now had become professional at it.
After some consolations the genders separated to reviewing photos and make small talk about the children while the others shared the origins and ingredients of several bottles proving the spectacle of alcohol on our lives. An agreement to the placement of the dragon is confirmed because that is what couples do. Not to overstay our welcome, we move on to another location, another couple and another drink.
Again the genders separate and the conversation seems to pick up where it left off the last we met. Like an old boys school we talked music, electronics, and computers. Then, as the ladies joined us, we were off again to a restaurant that no one remembered the name or could find on every describable technical gadget.
As we settled in I stopped talking and listened to the couples go through their interwoven signals and actions. The gentlemen who just minutes earlier had been sharing laughter became different interacting as a couple. Much like teenagers on a date the conversations get silly with phrases and innuendos that only the two understand.
In the course of the following payback meal a few interrogation questions were answered by my blathering trying to fill in gaps that this couple do not know. There is so much these people do not know about me and there is so much I do not know about this couple but we are relaxed in each other’s company so that counts for something. As we wove our way around town looking for an acceptable place for her daughter to stay, each important location was pointed out as a history lesson. I find out we all have history in this town. I also hear the parental concern that I don’t remember from the couple known as mom and dad.
Finally stopping for the reason of the day I crawl out of the chariot and put on the heavy black jacket that I had taken out of musty storage upstairs. In the usual atmosphere for the occasion we were lead into the viewing. Now I’m not good at these situations and try to avoid them but this was my friend’s mother and was the proper thing to do, even in my jeans and tennis shoes. As we entered the room with more couples we did our polite quiet talk and hugs. It was the perfect southern atmosphere from the cities best at this grisly business but I hung back against the wall. I was introduced to some of the family members that I don’t remember their names, but this is not a party.
An open coffin was presented across the room with family and friends standing around viewing the deceased and probably discussing distant times. I did not join them. Even when I was offered to attend the ceremony to place the body into the ground, I graciously declined.
As I watched strangers walk into the room and sign the guest book and be properly greeted by family I just stood there. Then a woman I had seen trying to make eye contact came up to me and said, “You look familiar.” I introduced myself without recognizing her name as she picked up the good baby and tried to make conversation. This is too weird.
On leaving I made an offer to the couple to extend the time but they had a couple of family things to do so we said, “Goodbye.” Then there was an interesting statement made by the shotgun rider. She had made a special effort to approve my kitchen appliances and cabinets with a brief recommendation on how to finish the surface.
So before the car left she looked about the yard and said something to the effect she expected more changes the next time around. It wasn’t an order but I thought it was an unusual request. I’m not judging the comment but it does say something about how this couple ticks. It is just an outsider’s observation into a world of winks and nods and secret communications that works for these two people.
I was part of a couple. I was part of a couple a couple of times. I had those secret nods and winks and phrases that only the two of us knew. Now, better than television or a good movie, I enjoy the conversations of couples.
Thanks for the weekend entertainment over a sad subject.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

You and me babe, how ‘bout it?

I listened to this verse from the Dire Straits song “Romeo and Juliet” and it seemed to fit today.
A friend’s mother died yesterday. Many friends have mothers and many of them have died, but this was different. She was my second mother. 
This is going to get weird but bear with me. This woman changed my perspective on parents.
My friend and I started to hang out during high school. We had never met before but grew up in a similar middle class Americana neighborhood fairly close together. We both had two parents and siblings and went to the same school. Other than that I don’t know what the draw was, but we started to hang out every day after school. 
The big difference to me was when he invited me over to his house. It was similar to mine with a dining room and a kitchen and a living room with a big sofa and paintings on the walls and even a piano. His bedroom had weird stuff from his travels with his family that I did not understand. His family would load up the car and go west on adventures together. They hauled a camper and would search for rocks. Yes, rocks! 
I had never heard of people doing this before. This certainly was not the pattern of my family or anyone I knew. 
Then she invited me to go camping with the family. What? Go out with another family and share their experiences with no requirements. 
So when I went with them to a seaside park and set up the camper and watched them cook over an open fire and laugh and talk and act together as if nothing was different than the living room I was amazed. Being with these people was comfortable. 
I don’t know much about this woman but she made me comfortable whenever or whatever the circumstances. 
I use this an example of this remarkable woman and her family. My friend and I had taken some kind of psychedelic substance when the dinner bell rang at his house. We walked downstairs and he went into the kitchen and sat down to dinner. His mom invited me to join at the table and in my haze I politely declined. Whether she was aware what was going on or just being herself, she insisted I sit at the table and join in the feast. It was spaghetti as I recall. Being as calm as I could I sat down at the metal table and was given a plate. She then covered the plate with noodles and tomato sauce. With a smile she requested we all consume. I was not hungry or even aware at that time what food was but I had to perform for this request. I was taught how to properly sit at a dining table and chose the correct utensil and follow the pattern of the host but this was different. I carved a few noodles and ate a few bites with a silly smile wiping the red sauce off my face. If this had just been friends, as would happen later, we would had been rolling on the floor in laughter, but this was my friends families’ dinner. As I remember, I gobbled the feast down in a few seconds as if a starving man. I don’t know if I put on a show or not but she didn’t seem to mind. 
That was the difference in this woman. She didn’t judge or scold or correct or even apply whatever reactions she might have had to our generation. She seemed to join in it and enjoy our disruptive behavior. 
She presented a different figure to a woman of her age and position in a family than I had ever seen. She knew how to befriend us and she knew when to leave us alone.
A few years ago after many decades apart, I have the privilege to meet her again. She still had the sparkle in her eye and the smile on her face to show she was still enjoying life with all of its adventures. Much respected by her family she was now the pinnacle of her family.
All I can say now is “Thank You” for being whom you presented yourself to all of us during those years when we invaded your house and you accepted us. We all know you were a special person and helped form our lives during formidable times. 
Though your son is not a soft shoe, when the time comes I will walk across the dance floor and see if you want to cut the rug.
You and me babe, how ‘bout it?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just when you think…

Spring is here. The leaves are out. The flowers are blooming. Life is changing.
After a sunny day of cleaning up vines and sticks and cutting bamboo and moving bricks and cement paving stones, the news came on the television telling me things I already knew from 5 o’clock in the morning. Even the review of five presidents speaking or cover of the Boston magazine or even knowing who is the most beautiful woman caught my attention.
Back in the studio getting prepared to close up and go inside for a final review of the day I think I hear the grey jay. I walked out into the yard but did not see her. Maybe tomorrow will be the first purchase of blueberries?
Then it happened.
Out of the corner of my eye as the yard wound down I saw a little grey blur. At first I thought it was a squirrel but it was not as noisy. Perhaps I was getting tired and was about ready to go inside when I saw it again.
There on the deck was a little grey critter. About the size of a chipmunk it raced under the grasses but it was definitely a baby rabbit. A little grey bunny was scooting around the yard. As if a symbol of spring promised a renewal of hope with good things to come.
So tomorrow as I get ready for another ride I’ll look closely for a new family and listen for the grey jay.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not My Best Week

The usual morning of waking from the troubled sleep with blurry eyes and raspy cough trying to separate the news from the classical music. After a strong cup of coffee trying to shake the spider webs, I lace up the daily attire and check the back yard. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, as expected but something is different. The yard is very quiet. The usual outside songs are not being sung. Something is wrong.
I look over to the pink azalea bush and see what appears to be something out of the ordinary. Instead of a dove or a squirrel lapping up the leftovers, there appears to be some small black bugs flying around. Then I see it. A furry tan leg sticking out under the bush was drawing flies. This can’t be good.
I lock up the house and walk down the path to find what I expected. The carcass of a bunny lay quietly under the spring flowers as the flies picked at the remains. I thought for sure it was the yard boss who must have become involved with some night creature but I walked further and saw another rabbit in its usual spot sunning in the ivy. Closer to the studio I saw where it must have begun. Clumps of fur and a little white cottontail were scattered in the square used for seed.
This didn’t look like a hawk because they escape with their victims. It could have been a cat or an owl but it was probably a raccoon. Whatever decided to attack this creature and leave the remains was quiet or at least I didn’t hear the ruckus last night.
I allowed the yard and the crows to do what had to be done then dug a pit and buried the critter. With a shovel of dirt and a tear another grave filled the yard.
As soon as I put out seed, the yard started getting back to its natural behavior. A little timid at first, but everyone got into their daily rhythm and everything began to looked as if the natural order of life was taking it’s course. Even the clumps of fur were gone in the breeze or someone will have a soft bed tonight. Perhaps the rain tonight will wash away the day and prepare for tomorrow.
Like the reflections of last week, tomorrow will be getting back to normal.
Then again there was poor little Andy or was it Randy or maybe Howie or Wilber or even Ruford whining on the Internet. One would think if a person is secure in his own talents and abilities and was a professional with a strong skin ready for the critics he wouldn’t have to seek out his social media friends for self-assurance. Maybe he got his ego boosted enough to become self righteous or able to face the mirror.
Tomorrow is just another day and life goes on whether we are here or not.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Messed Up

With all the motion and commotion going on today I messed things up. A generator grinding with hammering and power tools and bomb box and motion where there usually is no motion. People coming in and out, some doing the work and some giving an estimate for more work the construction zone was busy.
Since it was Earth Day I decided to join the fray. I picked up some branches that had fallen out with the last storm and then started on the vines. After filling one trash can I took a break.
On the way back I grabbed a limb from the old cherry tree next to the pond. It was pretty well rotted and I watched the critters jump on it as it swayed back and forth. I bent the four-foot log and it cracked off the stump. As I started carrying it back to the trash a black cap chickadee flew out from one of the holes.
For the past couple of months the black cap has been hanging around. For such a small bird it makes a lot of noise. When I would go to the store they would be the first to say, “Where have you been and where is my sunflower seed!” Tiny little guys who will bug there way in with the Jays and Cardinals and then fly out like a flash.
A couple had been playing on the dying branch digging holes in the trunk but I didn’t know they had nested there.
I realized what I had done after it cracked off in my hand so I gently carried it back to the fence and propped it up. I messed up.
The pair kept coming down to the stump and looking about then flying off again only to come back and look back and forth wondering what had happened to their home. I guess that is the feeling people have when a tornado goes through.
So with all the seed provided and protection available, I messed up on Earth Day. Hope they find or build another home here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What About Andy?

Remember Andy? Sure, Andy is the sci-fi writer who can’t get any of his work published. Well he now has a new title. No, it is not the “best selling author” or the “NY Times top ten list” or the “most popular fictional reading of all times” or even the “silly children’s story about weird monsters and vampires and 1920’s explorers in Florida”, but is now a “sleeping counselor”.
Now counselors that I remembered were from camp or school, but there are also counselors in justice. These are experts in their field who can counsel others on their questions and recommend a path to resolve their questions.
All I remember from camp counselors were they made sure we didn’t kill each other and got to bed on time. The school counselor only tried to direct us into a proper field of employment with whatever educational abilities we showed.
Then there is a “sleeping counselor”. What do they do? Do they know more about sleep than anyone else? Can they counsel you on how to sleep better? Which side should we sleep on? How many pillows should we use? Should we sleep on firm or soft mattresses? What do we do if we snore? What can we do with sleep apnea? Can a sleeping counselor help form better dreams or is that up to the dream weaver? Will the sleeping counselor make up the bed in the morning or change the sheets or turn out the light?
In the long run I guess a writer who has the professional education and instruction on how to properly write the fantasies in his head must forge on. Then again he’s got to make a living. He has to pay the mortgage and the car payment and the grocery bills while exploring the childhood fantasies that belong to a teenager.
Still we know the “sleeping counselor” is all about selling a mattress.  Like selling a car or a refrigerator the question is would you like the 848 models that has double spring settings or the 9000 model that has pillow top soft texture? Would you like bed bugs with that?
Good luck to Andy. Or was it Henry? Or maybe it was Melvin? Well anyway we hope you find some success in your new career. Maybe, just maybe, some publisher or reviewer will view your writing and make you famous. Maybe the general public will find your words so interesting that your writing will make the best sellers list. There is still time.

Sharing With Friends

That is what we do. We experience occasions and special moments with friends. For the experience to become “special” must be shared.
The special movie isn’t so special if you can’t share it. Another to share the experience must read a book that was impressive. A concert’s performance can be a life changing experience and attended by thousands but unless you know any of them you cannot voice your feelings.
Like walking in the park and watching the sunset and the moonrise alone, maybe it never happened. Others were in the park and others were in the same moment but each experience was different.
When we get together with friends and family or strangers, we find the conversation usually turns to recent events that we have shared. We give our opinions and widen the experience from what others share.
So when the news is presented and those pretty faces are giving details as if they are better informed on the subject we stare and believe it all. Then we share our personal opinion of what was just experienced. Those who agree with our observation as our friends and those who do not?
Now with social media everyone can share their kid’s potty stories, the cute pets sleeping, their wild nights of bad behavior, their political passions, and a lot more. While we watch or even listen we can participate with comments to the experience whether true or false but it is not shared.
I’ve been surprised by some of the comments on social media. Perhaps a few taps of the keyboard allows people to make statements they would not do face-to-face. It may be easier to say what you think when you can delete the response.
Have no idea of what the answer is.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Beer and Doughnuts

Woke up this morning at the usual five o’clock deadline. NPR was presenting the latest news instead of music. As if the week’s news had not been bad enough, there was a report of a shootout and explosions and more disaster.
So how much can we take?
I’m sure there is are studies about what people can tolerate from natural or otherwise disasters. Well this week brought it to focus.
There have always been these disasters, but it was written in the newspapers or magazines so it gave some distance from the reality. Then came television.
The first disaster I remember was the assassination of a president. I was in junior high school and didn’t know what was going on. I knew we were in a cold war because I had learned to duck and cover but had no idea of politics. I knew we won the last war with the big bomb but did not hear or read about the Cuban Missile crisis. There was no discussion of politics at home.
The president when I was born was Harry Truman. From the pictures he just looked like any old guy in a suit and a hat and did not look like the guy who had ordered the bomb. In elementary school I remember making a handmade button saying, “I Like Ike!” He just seemed like another old bald man but he had been a general.
That November day our school principal announced over the speakers in each room that the school was closing and we kids were all to go home. We gathered our books and knapsacks and walked home like it was a snow day. There were no sirens or police cars or anything to indicate a disaster was happening.
I went to my room and tuned on my black and white television and started watching the steady stream of Walter Cronkite delivering the news that the president was dead. I even invited a friend over to play with soldiers and toys while history changed to a constant drum beat. I didn’t see it in live time but heard my mother gasp when the assassin was assassinated.
These events seem to happen only now and then and were quickly forgotten, but today they seem to be more frequent. It is ashamed.
The first real even I remember was Kent State. Here was a bunch of kids in college my age protesting a war and suddenly they were shot. I understand the poor kids in uniform who felt threatened but it was our own government was shooting people my age.
Politics had become more familiar as our innocence tried to protest changes. Then one by one our heroes we had followed we dropping one by one.
There were other crazies who started to make the news. And every week there seem to be more crazy events happening. More reporters and newer technologies covered every event or disaster in overwhelming detail. When a camera or microphone couldn’t get into the site, a string of experts in the field would describe what was happening. Every point of view was covered and discussed and stated again and again.
Today with the Internet and social media, events are announced before the new agencies can get the story. My first notification of the Va. Tech disaster was from an email from someone at the campus. Then the networks cut their typical programming with a constant stream of images and descriptions and interviews. One wonders who much can an individual take.
My wife told me about the Challenger explosion. She was an avid television watcher so the TV was on the first thing in the morning until the last thing at night.
When I got home she was a wreck. She described the constant television coverage of the disaster and the day’s repetitive review of the disaster.
The 9/11 tragedies happened while I was at work. People started rushing over to televisions or online news coverage to watch the towers fall again and again. I tried to keep the work ethic going because we had a special edition to print and then do our regular newspaper work. I got to see images that we never printed but pushed our way through the day and did not fully understand the magnitude of the event until I got home and watched it over and over on the news.
This type of mayhem must be good for ratings. Just like a train wreck people gather around to see the carnage. The most popular video games promote violence. And then the government finds a reason to invade another’s land so these kids can tryout their skills at war.
Jake was a good plumber and liked to work on his truck. Harry ran the local wash and dry. He had two good kids on the varsity softball team and attended the Methodist church. Mary was known for the best applesauce cake in town. These and millions of others don’t make the history books. They live their lives, do their jobs, raise their families and even run their marathons.
This week was another example of overexposure to disaster and we all gathered around to watch.
Thought about writing this as poetry but with all the anxiety, I’m eating doughnuts tonight with beer.

Monday, April 15, 2013

No More Excuses!

Well it has come to this. The final piece of the puzzle is in place. Now it is my turn.
I’ve put off some of the chores that need to be done with all kinds of excuses. Need construction work. The weather is too cold/ too hot. Don’t have all the parts and pieces.
So today the refrigerator walked into the kitchen and found a spot. Hopefully the last of the big purchases is done and scratched off the to-do list. There are still the little tweaks like leveling and getting the gas hooked up to the stove, but all the rest is mine.
So the break in the rain and I’m off for a trip to the local food provider with a different look. Do you realize all the stuff that has to be refrigerated? All that stuff in those glass booths and shelves around the walls of the grocery need to be cold. Of course the ice cream and frozen pizza but also the dairy products and eggs and sandwich meat and even veggies. And where do we put leftovers?
So now there is this big black empty box for storage and a big black empty box for heat and a double-decked white box for cleaning. Wooden boxes with drawers and doors for everything else sit in position.
So there are no more excuses. Tomorrow is a trip to Lowes and two gallons of paint. Orange paint. Bright enough to collect the sunshine and wake up in the morning and give an inviting look to refine cooking skills. Even figuring what I’m going to put on the walls.
After a year of excuses and procrastination and laziness, it is time to get off my duff, put away the sabbatical and get to work. Besides the sun is warm, the birds are fed, and there is plenty of work ahead.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Truth or Dare?

With the annoying sound of yard machinery going on this second day of total bloom the season is upon us. After another night of bazaar dreams of the coast flooding and wondering if my bike is underwater or what was for dinner, I accept the time has come.
Reading back through some previous writings I laugh at all my mistakes and pardon the reader to try and translate what my meaning was. There seems some kind of attention disorder and I’m sure there is a cause and some kind of medication for it, but I’d rather it just exist.
Seems like the cast of characters are bellying up to the bar outside so I try to shred those puffs of ideas in my brain. The recurring writings are about personal experience and thoughts but what makes us do this?
There is a social pressure to adjust our appearance or speech or even the way we walk to be accepted. This seems to be a constant theme to my writing. Ethics, family, music, and even religion are affected.
So as we judge whom we like and don’t like on our screen do we bow to these external demands? Are we rejected because we don’t like a certain color or have not read a certain book or prefer different music or have not delved into a certain belief or can even discuss the latest fashion or entertainment trend?
We tweet and chat and Skype and whatever other media to one another over these references, sometimes getting approval to follow the string and other times shut out. If we cannot make a connection, we tend to doubt our own values. If the response is acceptable or favorable to continue our inner belief is sustained and reinforced. If the response is challenging, we may avoid the confrontation and wander away.
So I did this blog. No fabulous writing or earth changing thoughts but it has been fun to write this down. Had some good comments through the years and a few hacks, but no never mind. I gets me through the day sometimes and it clears up my ever rainbow of thoughts.
This is not a confessional but a flow of daily experiences only to be viewed as a passing billboard and probably soon forgotten.
So the truth or dare part comes to another writer. A poet. A muse. Perhaps a prophet but I’ll take the part of the fool. The wordsmith of yesterday who could explain our youth in such a flow of sentences that I could not imagine.
I’ve tried to show the way for other’s to express their ideas, thoughts, and even private moments before this is the only way we communicate now. To try to even connect with the lost years takes time in the common conversation and we all know how long it takes to get to that point.
Someone a long time ago gave me the dare. As we do so much that we had not planned to do, I accepted the dare.
So take the dare. “You first!”

Remember: Ask me no secrets and I’ll tell you no lies.

An Incident

If you’ve read any of this stuff that I post you know it is a mixed bag. Some of it is silly thoughts or reactions to news events and some of it is personal.
Every couple or pair of partners has those secret moments that only they share. There is that certain wink or nod to each other that no one else knows about.
We all make references of incidents we can share. Maybe going to school at the same time or being in the same team or attending the same concerts are the shared references that draws us together. Look at the post on social networks and listen to any conversation and the message always turns to a television show or a movie celebrity or book or even a person that both can reference too. Yet the Internet drowns us in information and the mass media has fragmented our thoughts into a universe of manic confusion with a barrage of color and movement and sound and we sit idly by being consumed. Our references regurgitate what we have seen or heard or read or experience but only the two share the unique single incident.
We all celebrate our freedom to do so much with whomever we choose to spend time with. Some are public displays and some are private.
Here is a private incident.
For years my wife and I had different sleeping habits. I had a job that required me to be in my office/cubicle at a certain time so I had a few hours from my previous day to rest then prepare for my next day. She (upon my full approval) dropped out of the work force for various reasons and could rest anytime of the day or night. Sometimes she would be asleep when I came home. Sometimes she would be wide-awake when I needed rest. We tried all sorts of timetables. Some worked and some didn’t.
For a while she built a shelter upstairs to have private space while I attended the need for sleep. Other times she would take late night walks. Some of these walks were short, say around the local schoolyard a few blocks from home. She would tell me stories of cars slowing down as she walked by only to show them her cell phone and they drove off. Some were a little longer. Once she left in the middle of the night to trace the marathon path she intended to sign up for. When I woke up she was still not home but got the stories later of how the police car followed her downtown until she crossed the bridge to Southside. She was very independent and I could not lock her in so I grew us to her ventures.
A few times she would wake me to participate in her midnight adventures. Once she woke me to join her in observing an early morning meteor shower. Once she came home to tell me she had been shot with a policeman knocking on the door and saying he had checked her identity and she was deceased. Once she woke me and invited me out to play basketball.
I’m not sure that was the real reason but I was awoken in the middle of a deep sleep and asked to join her in a walk around the school. Being a good husband or still asleep, I dressed and locked the front door in the darkness.
This is where it gets weird. I don’t remember if we carried a basketball or found one on the courts in the school. I think we must have carried one. A few days or months earlier we had purchase a bunch of gym gear from Target in hopes of increasing our exercise/yogi routines. Like so many plans that go awry, the basketball and football and jump rope and skates and all the rest just gathered dust; until this night.
The school playground is fairly well lit by the streetlights and open to moonlight. The same asphalt I had played tetherball and four squares had two basketball hoops and is painted as a regulated playing surface. In previous walks around the school to share time for Buffy with Murry; we had observed groups of teens and twenties playing hoops but not in the middle of the night.
Without a car on the roads or a sound from the darken houses or the vacant classroom the two of us walked onto the black top and started shooting baskets. It was like a strange game of horse in the middle of the night. We talked as we put the ball up against the backboard and then passed it to each other. I’m not sure what we talked about. I don’t know if we solved problems or created bigger one. Just the two of us, not keeping any kind of score or in any hurry, bouncing a round brown ball and tossing it into a net.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What are you doing to me?

Have you ever asked yourself that? You know those mornings when you had a little too much partying the night before and you look in the mirror and don’t recognize the face looking back. When your head pounds and your pants don’t fit do you ever listen to yourself asking, “What are you doing to me?”
In our youth we can excuse it to lack of knowledge or avoiding the good for the fun or knowing our bodies are invincible. We often cherish the experimental substances we put in our bodies or the strange concoctions of foreign ingredients to share in the experience. Sometimes we know better but adhere to peer pressure and regret it later.
Parental instructed warned us the moral sins of what we find brings us momentary pleasures. Government posters inform us of the proper food groups and the correct exercise positions but the video wasteland absorbs us into microwave mentality of immediate gratification. Fast foods avoided the kitchen and movies on demand complimented our excuse of being too tired. Our constant online activity, sometimes thought of as multi-tasking, drained our productive time and kept us awake hoping for another comment when we should be sleeping.
Besides, there is a pill or potion available that will fix whatever pain or illness we complain about. At least that is what the medical profession promises you.
So this sack of bones and blood and fluids that we carry around with us is our responsibility. Each of us is unique with different reactions and personal taste.
In the final analysis, we are what we are. Some who have lived the healthiest made fade early and some who live to abuse continue for no reason.
As we grow older take another look in the mirror and say, “You did this!”

Friday, April 12, 2013

Do You Have Your Papers?

I’m not going to get all-deep into politics about immigration but I keep hearing all this stuff about undocumented people and wonder, “Do I have my documentation?”
Listening this morning to the news report talking about Texas construction workers. The subject of the report was why housing in Texas is so cheap but it did present an interesting fact. Construction companies are hiring workers for a day and paying them for a day’s work and calling each and everyone an “Independent Contractor”. The owner of the construction company is legally required to pay overtime and take out taxes if these people are classified as “Employees” but being classified as an “Independent Contractor” the responsibility goes back to the worker.
Years ago I worked with a group who were trying to report and change the working and living conditions of migrant workers. That was the name at the time of people who wander the east coast gathering our produce. In the research and the governmental responses I found the reason our food is so cheap is that we have these people who are not documented and one-step up from slavery doing the hard labor no one else wants to do.
So I think about my documentation. I’ve got this birth certificate but I don’t think anyone could match me with those little footprints. I’ve got some school records that were on punch cards but I’m not sure any of those records still exist. Then when I started working I got a social security card. Now they got me. I’m only a number but now I have to pay taxes and since 1967 there is a record of me in some file cabinet or on some database. How do I know? Well, I just got my first notice about getting Medicare. They know.
Now back to these migrant workers. They probably have some kind of documentation because they have a family and a name. They came to this commonwealth or state or county or city because work was available.
Since most of us are immigrants coming to this country for whatever reason, we brought families or made families and wondered through the valleys and mountains. Some of us settled and made homes. We became farmers and manufacturers and office workers and doctors and lawyers and had the freedom to learn and explore new ideas.
And this country was built on all of us immigrants. Some have gone on to live a moral life, raise children, follow the normal work ethic and pay our taxes. Yet underneath, hidden in the refusal to acknowledge, are the immigrants. They build our roofs and cut our grass. They pick our tomatoes and wash our dishes. They stand on the corners and wait for the trucks to pick them up. They watch television and buy sofas. Their kids play video games and little league. They join the army and fight our wars.
And don’t pay taxes?
For years I fit into the majority by my skin color and background but the country is changing. Perhaps the new immigration is changing our culture?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Target

Since I was up early and the sun was out and it was nice and warm and I knew I had to do it sooner or later, I went shopping. The jeans I was wearing were quickly becoming punk and I had no backup.
So with that one single item to purchase, I wheeled off to Target. A familiar path not followed in a good while got me huffing and puffing and avoiding the morning traffic. The bike racks were almost full and the parking lot was half full and I thought I was early. A couple of red shirts were taking a break and chatting on a bench as I locked up between a scooter and a trail bike.
Now I will clarify my position on shopping. Guys know what they want. They go into a store, pick up the item, walk to the checkout and leave with a bag or a box. All the flashy and colorful items on the aisles do not attract guy’s attention. The hundred of times I had been in this store since it was built I knew where everything was so I picked up a basket (I’m only getting jeans) and walked to the back.
With a fantasy glance at the youth shop, I walked back to the wall of jeans. I had looked online and was not sure they would even have the size I was looking for in the store. I had already prepared myself to be disappointed. The last time I bought jeans in this store, I was not sure of the size so I bought two different sizes. One is the faded pair I’m wearing and a smaller size is a hopeful remembrance hanging on the door. To my luck they had the size I was looking for. Now to find another pair and then there they were. They are nothing stylist or fancy, just heavy-duty jeans that might hold up for another year. They might look like baggy or not the latest fashion, but if the hold my phone, wallet, keys and a handkerchief, then they are fine.
I had accomplished my goal and could have just turned around and gone to the check out, but I don’t get out much and had no other plans so I just wandered around the store.  Now when guys are “shopping” they follow certain patterns.
First, since I was in the “Men’s” department I looked around at the displays. Checking out the jackets first due to a replacement is needed but again could not find a replacement. Piles of t-shirts and socks and underwear but I have plenty. A day-glo yellow shirt caught my eye in the “Exercise Wear” department but it was long sleeve, so I moved on.
Next stop was the “Electronics” department. Guys like the “Electronics” department. The same electronics that were there last year when I got my boom boxes didn’t interest me. The phones and pods and players didn’t get my attention. I did look at the headphones since for the past year that is how I’ve been listening to music. There seems to be a range of the ones on the hooks and the ones locked up under glass sliding doors so I passed because what I have is fine.
While passing the BIG SCREEN televisions and digital games I wandered through the “Music” department. Not really looking to hear anything and certainly not knowing any of the new music trends, I passed the Country, Hip-Hop, Show tunes, and stopped at Rock. I guess that says a lot about my music taste. Knowing full well that this store will not carry any experimental music that I prefer I look at the listings. There in the R section was the Rolling Stones GRRR!. Now I knew it was just another “best of…” album, er, CD but I went back and picked it up and put it in the basket. I knew all the songs and have several copies of each and the new cuts aren’t that good, but “wha the hay?”
Even checked out the bicycles and helmets just due to habit. Went to the garden section looking at cushions. Got waylaid into the food section so turned to the decoration items. Sheets, towels, lamps, picture frames, and tons of nick-knacks are easy to pass by. More red shirts are moving about over by the towels so that must be the latest display to be renewed for the customer’s personal pleasure. Dead faces moving at the speed of sand and working for the price of toast presented no customer service. One started singing some weird song as I turned a corner so I sped up at the card section and got out of there.
I always check out pens and pencils. They have had a special draw on me forever since I can remember. That is probably what made me become an artist. Maybe I just love the smell of ink. So wading through the My Little Pony and Power Rangers color books I do not see anything of interest and I have more than I can use now so I move on.
Glancing at the vacuums I chuckle and move into the “Kitchen” department. Having the final two appliances delivered tomorrow, I study the array of pots and pans and multitude of items used to prepared grub. I know I need to purchase some of this stuff but I’ve gone through periods where every weird gadget “needed” to assemble a meal was purchase then given away. Amazed at the variations available I will leave empty handed on this aisle. I already have two drawers full of peelers and pickers and slicers and dicers but I marvel in every configuration. Besides my mind questions how many pans and pots does it take to break two eggs or steam some veggies? Knowing a slot is empty in my knife rack I gravitate to the blades. Most have been tried and failed for I am particular about sharp edges. What is a kitchen without a sharp knife? Two catch my eye and wind up in the basket along with another sharpener before mothers with screaming babies enter the space and chase me off.
Placing my items on the moving rubber I try to make contact with the checkout red shirt but she has the personality of dirt so I pay way more than I intended and grab my bags and move on. I had accomplished my mission but it was not a rewarding experience.
I’ve found the process “to shop” is easier without using credit cards and having enough money in the bank to not be concerned about the total. I also know even if you do not “need” anything, if you go out and shop, you will return with a bag full of nothing.
Walking past the “Feeding” area I see another red shirt. She is stretched out on a table with a cost checker in her hand. Gripping it like a pistol she appears to have had a bad night or a worst morning. Another red shirt stands behind her saying something I cannot hear because they are on the other side of the glass. I shake my head and walk on observing a few tables down a woman checking her tweets or emails or Internet on her phone. She seems to be oblivious to the drama going down a few seats away.
As I pack my bike and unlock and decide which way to return home avoiding the road repairs I crossed earlier, I see the two red shirts taking their break on the bench. I don’t know if they are the same red shirts I saw when I came in so I can’t make judgment.
Home with the window up and a cool drink, I look at the knives and give them a sharpening and listen to the latest Rolling Stone’s CD. The blades take a good grind and feel pretty good but I won’t know until I cut something. The CD is what I expected. The songs may have been remixed and whatever but they sound the same to me. The worst part is I get images of the videos when the song plays. I guess these are just the dreams left over from “shopping”.