Various and Sundry

So, what’s been going on in my life?  What HASN’T Been going on?  I now present to you the random bits and pieces of thoughts that have been swirling around in my head lately.

  • I was puffed up and extremely humbled within the space of one hour this past Sunday.  X-Alt went back to prison, and before we did my new song, Ford Prefect said some kind words about my writing ability, for which I am most appreciative.  Yet, I wasn’t even the best songwriter in the room that day.  The men did a couple of songs for us, and there was one that had the hook: “I am more than flesh and bone”.  Y’all.  I can’t tell you how well this song was written.  The phrasing, the storyline, the hook – if I can ever write like that, then I’d call myself a writer.

I was taken aback by the men’s reaction when a speaker said “There are demons out there.  There are demons in this place”. Their vehement agreement made me shudder to think what they go through on a daily basis.

  • BTW, I’m here to tell you that the community is safe.  If any vagabond do-gooders ever tried to break INTO prison, they  would be stopped at every turn.  Somebody forgot to leave a memo about our visit at the front desk, and we sat there for well over an hour as the coordinator and the prison staff tried to work things out.  We knew the men were expecting us, and we didn’t want to let them down.  As a result, we got started late and had to cut things short.

As usual, I think we got more out of the service than the men did.

  • On another note, my kids and I have decided that if any of us is ever elected president, we will scrap “Hail To The Cheif”, and will instead have them play the theme song to “Good Eats” upon entering the room.  Or “Rock Me Amadeus”, with the crowd singing “We the people, we the people!” instead of “Amadeus, Amadeus!” 

Now I’ve given you an earworm I’m sure you don’t appreciate.

  • Lintilla doesn’t like lawn-mowing season, because it means she has to check me for ticks.  Now,this sort of thing was fun when we were 25, but …

 What?  I’m sorry, but being 43 years old, there’s now parts of me I can’t see on my own anymore.   You don’t want me to get Lyme Disease, do you?

  • Speaking of ticks, I’m working on a post that is sure to tick many folks off.  I’m still developing my thoughts, but it involves cliques and bullies in political discussions.  In essence, the way the right treats patriotism and the way the left treats compassion are two sides of the same coin.  Each side has bullies, and they are tolerated, even encouraged.  These “enforcers” will rhetorically beat into submission any who attempt to join their clique while not wearing the right “clothes”.  Stay tuned…

And no, I’m not whining.

  • I have an overwhelming desire to see the episode of Sanford and Son where BB King performed “How Blue Can You Get”.  It was also the first time I ever heard the name “Lipshitz”.  The memory of the way Bubba said it still makes me laugh to the day.

Did anyone else love that show asmuch as I did?

  • Bold prediction: The final three in DWTS will be Mario, Jason Taylor, and Kristi Yamaguchi.  That being said, Shannon Elizabeth’s waltz was simply mesmerising.  It was so beautiful it almost made you feel that dull, longing ache one feels when confronted with an indescribably overwhelming beauty.

The fact that I not only watch but actully like DWTS causes me far more ribbing than my Ugly Betty thing.

  • Something that affects me, both at work and beyond: I’m a “big picture” thinker.  I understand, I thrive on understanding complex systems and their interdependencies.  I can’t tell you how many times I can see clearly a whole end-to-end system, but I have the hardest time explaining what’s in my head to my single-task oriented coworkers.  I also seem to have the same communication gap outside of work with policy wonks.  We might as well be speaking Apache and Cantonese. 

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this roller coaster journey into my brain.  I promise, soon I’ll give you something a little less disjointed.

PS – I haven’t seen some of you in quite a while.  I think it’s time we remedied that.

PPSS – If there are any misspellings in this post, you can blame that on the fact that I can’t find the spell checker in the new WordPress text editor.  Next thing you know, they’ll expect me to do math without a calculator.  🙂

Pole To Pole

My son told a pretty funny joke on the way home, something about God striking down a cursing golfer (you had to be there).

I started to tell a joke of my own, and stopped because I realised it broke our rule of disparaging a group of people (in this case, it was a “blonde” joke).  Instead, I veered off into a conversation of how jokes are sometimes used to perpetuate negative sterotypes, and how many times the “truth” behind them is far from it.

Some of you who are from the north might be surprised to learn that, at least in my neck of the woods, African Americans were NOT the subject of “dumb” jokes when I was growing up (widespread racism notwithstanding).  No, that honor was reserved for Polish jokes.  Or “Pollock Jokes” as my friends called them.

As I told my children about this, I had to ask myself, “Why the Polish?  In Nashville, TN?  It’s not like Nashville is overflowing with Polish immigrants.  Where did this particular prejudie come from?”

The only guess I have is that returning WW2 vets brought the prejudice back from Europe.  Maybe it’s a long-standing thing in Italy, France, and Germany to make fun of the Poles?  I really don’t know; I DO know that a couple of you are historians who probably know the answer.

I remember that “Pollock Jokes” were all the rage US-wide in the 60’s and 70’s.  Archie Bunker (from the show “All In The Family”), I remember, had a lot of contempt for “pollocks”.  Maybe Nashville kids were just joining the national trend.

I did tell my kids how all of us kids were shamed a few years later when Lech Walesa and his countrymen became the first oppressed people in the eastern block to stare down the mighty Soviet Union and win.  After Solidarity, you really didn’t hear too many Pollock jokes anymore.

So, anyway, a Fundie, a blonde, a Jew and a Mexican walk into a bar…

On A Lighter Note

Zaphod has an assignment to memorize the preamble to the constitution.  He is annoyed to heck with the fact that ever since he told me this, I’ve been singing it to him, nonstop.

Those of you who are about my age understand:

Schoolhouse Rock.  It might be the single most unifying pop culture phenomenon of my generation, besides maybe the US Festival.  It was an incredible teaching tool.  To this day, I know all of the words to the preamble, but only in song.  I’ll bet most of the other parents at my kids’ school are singing it, too.

 Good memories of ABC Saturday mornings.

Nostalgia #287

It is the spring of 1980.  I am 15 years old.  It is a Friday night, but I am on no date.  I am working, performing my duties as dishwasher at The Barn Dinner Theater (now known as Chaffin’s Barn).  The small transistor radio is blasting the AOR station of the time (I think it was KDF).  The Pink Floyd song “Young Lust” is on.

They pay me $3.35 and hour, and believe me, I earn every penny. I’ve worked my way up from restroom cleaner, I don’t know it, but soon I’ll become a busboy, and eventually work my way up to assistant chef.  But on this night, I’m a dishwashing madman.  My older co-workers must think I’m nuts, but I’m having the time of my life.  I am very good at this job.

 The leftover food must be scraped into the 50-gallon slop can for a local farmer to pick up the next day.  It’s easiest just to use your hands.

I am a sophomore at Bellevue High School.  I’m not popular, but I’m tolerated because I am the younger brother of one of the school’s basketball stars.  I’m already a little strange, but with puberty finally kicking in, I’m getting stranger by the minute.

Bellevue is one of those schools designed in the 60’s and 70’s that has an “open” floorplan.  There are sections, but very few rooms set to themselves.  There are many rooms that are really just cubicles.  I have a crush on my English teacher; she is young and bohemian.  She would have easily been a hippie just a few years prior.  She had discovered I write poetry and encouraged me to enter some of my dark, depressing stuff into some contests.  I had no idea how important this would be later in life.

I take typing.  Yes, typing.  I can type about 65 words per minute on the super-fast IBM Selectrics they have in typing class.  I am also learning basic piano techniques in music class.  They have this setup where about a single unit has about 10 keyboards arranged on its perimeter.  The teacher could listen to any of us individually through headphones.  I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.  I also take Latin, and Bible as literature.

But none of that matters – the all-encompassing story at the school is that it’s closing down.  A court order said so; desegregation they said.  There had been a huge fight that winter; parents and students alike made a huge scene, trying to keep the inevitable from happening.  Now, it is starting to set in: those of us who are underclassmen will be going somewhere else next year.

The pots and pans must be washed in the sink.  After the rinse, they must be dipped in the sanitizing solution.

The world outside is nuts, but I don’t notice much about it.  There’s an election going on; Ted Kennedy is giving Jimmy Carter fits.  I’ve already made up my mind that I like Ronald Reagan.  The miracle on ice had happened in February, but, although we were glad we kicked the Russians’ butts, nobody in Nashville understood the first thing about hockey.  There is talk of boycotting the summer Olympics over the whole Afghanistan mess.

And of course, Americans are still being held hostage in Iran.  Everything else in the world revolves around that.  Gas prices have actually topped $2 a gallon!

“We need more plates!”  During busy times, it’s best to line up several trays of dishes while the machine goes through it’s 3-minute cycle.  Every third load, do a tray of silverware.

I am saving my money for a car when I turn 16.  My aunt says she’ll sell me her 1967 Olds Cutlass Supreme for $700.  

I know I’ll need a car, but what I’m really saving up for is  one of those TRS-80’s they have at Radio Shack.  If I save up enough, I can even get a 5 1/4 floppy drive for it!

I am on the edge of…something. 

As the night wore on, I would strip down to my “A” Style T-Shirt. I would load a tray into the dishwashing machine, and pull the lever down that lowered the door.  I’d check the levels of the chemicals.  I’d sing and dance to the radio as I feverishly washed and washed and washed.  I never got tired.  I’d keep going till the steam filled the room so much that you couldn’t tell where it ended, and the sweat on my body began. 

It wasn’t much of a domain, but it was mine.

Photographs and Memories

I’m hoping not to ramble on about this as is my usual way. 

I’ve been really enjoying Bridgett’s  posts of old family photos.  Kathy T‘s  have been great as well.  Kathas a good post about scrapbooking, and it mentions old photographs, and their importance.  In our day and time, photographs are how we tell our children and their children who we are, and who we were.

All of this is reminds me of something in my life I don’t think I’ve ever really grieved.  It never really mattered, till now. 

I’ve gone on and on here ad nauseum about the house fire we had in 2002 (The Year from Hell™).  We lost everything – EXCEPT – miraculously we were able to save almost all of our family photos.  This is a blessing I will never forget; thank God we still have photos of our wedding, and all the baby pictures of the kids.  Unfortunately, all of our family photos only go back to 1984.

You see, there was another fire in my family, one I don’t talk about as much.  In 1984, when I was 20 years old, my parents’ house burned to the ground. I had been living there on and off during my “drifting” period.  This fire was a total loss; the house literally burned to the ground.  No photographs survived. 

Trillian and Zaphod have no idea what I looked like as a child.  They’ve never seen photos of my parents when they were young and strong, they don’t know what their grandparents on my side looked like. 

As far as they can tell from the photographic history, I sprang from the earth a full grown man.

It never really hit me till now.  It’s quite sad.  I remember so well the laughter I had looking at photographs of my dad as a child and teenager – and the sense of connectedness.  My kids really don’t know that feeling.

But, all is not lost.  When my grandmother died, my dad split up all her old pictures with my uncles and aunt.  I understand that there were some of me, my brothers, and my parents when they were young, along with my grandparents and other relatives.  They are hidden away in some trunk at my parents’ house in Florida.

When I take the kids down for their 2 weeks with the grandparents this summer, I’m going to make Dad get out that old trunk.  I’m going to bring back as many old photos as my mom will trust me with, and I’m going to spend a good part of those 2 weeks scanning.

I’d like my kids to know who I am and where I come from.

Christmas Past

It’s probably time for a new printer/scanner.  But this is still my favorite Christmas photo:

 Early Christmas

It’s funny.  They are just as excited today as they were on this day.

OMG – Evil Evel Knievel is Dead

From AP:

Evel Knievel, the red-white-and-blue-spangled motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over crazy obstacles including Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho’s Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69.

For men my age, Evil was a HUGE icon in our consciousness during childhood.  I still remember building ramps out of bricks and plywood, and jumping whatever was handy (including, one time, my brother).  I idolized Knievel that much.  I was SO jealous of my best friend because he had the Knievel wind-up motorcylce/action figure.  That had to be the coolest toy since the 6 Million Dollar Man action figure, with bionic eye and cool punching motion.

Evil Knievel is dead.  I am suddenly feeling very old.  Rest in peace, Evil.