Turning Toward the Morning

One of my favorite voices belongs to a singer/songwriter/sailor/boat builder from Maine. His name is Gordon Bok. I’ve never sailed nor built a boat and I’ve never been to Maine. Thus, I don’t always understand what he’s singing about. He sings about north winds and waves and storms and nautical conversations with meteorological entities. He describes negotiations between fishermen and the elements. He keens of the fearful waiting of a fishing community awaiting either a reassurance of their loved ones’ return after a storm, or a mortal tally of the lost.

No, I don’t always understand his jargon or his tales, and I suspect that often what I do understand is incomplete and inaccurate.

But he sings so beautifully.

One of his songs, Turning Toward the Morning, resonates with me as this difficult year swirls around its sordid drain. In it, Mr. Bok describes;

“When October’s growin’ thin and November’s comin’ home, you’ll be thinking of the seasons and the sad things that you’ve seen. And you’ll hear that old wind walkin’, hear him singin’ high and thin. You could swear he’s out there singin’ of your sorrow.”

I heard that old wind.

I heard it a few years ago in a small vacation rental on the moors of Nantucket Island. It never ceased. It whispered and rumbled and insisted. It sighed and soughed and implied. It whistled and crooned and threatened. It was intimate and indifferent and in control. Janie and I fled back to Kentucky.

I hear that old wind now.

I hear it on the news. I sift the news of its reality show trappings as best I can. I know they’re driven to create desire in me for reverse mortgages, free transportation to my yearly checkups, clean gutters, drugs with manufactured names I can’t pronounce, miracle pillows, and miracle spring water. I don’t mind this hucksterism. Hell, I grew up thinking I could order eyeglasses from my comic books that would enable me to see through people’s clothes.

No, I need the news services for the facts I can glean, not for that old wind “singin’ of my sorrow.”

I hear that old wind in the concerns of my friends.

My friends are smart (most of the time), optimistic (most of the time), and want to do the next right thing (pretty much all of time). But, for the most part, they are not spring chickens. They fret to near bitterness that they will not get to see the results of the great repair job that began on January 20, 2021. That old wind murmurs that it will take time to inoculate everyone to thwart the pandemic, it will take time to re-staff and refocus our efforts to build the better country we were building before the vandals were allowed entrance, it will take time…

So what.

We still must begin.

We have begun before, and I for one enjoyed that beginning. I’ll enjoy this one as well.

Mr. Bok scratches his head over our fretting;

“It’s a pity we don’t know what the little flowers know. They can’t face the cold November. They can’t take the wind and snow. They put their glories all behind them, bow their heads and let it go. But you know they’ll be there shinin’ in the morning.”

Put your glories all behind you. Bow your head and let it go. There are new glories to create.

Ronald Reagan’s campaign told us “It’s morning in America.” (LOUD BUZZER) Wrong! Thank you for playing.

The morning is now.

It always is……now.

It will be glorious and exciting. Just what us geezer-refugees from the Age of Aquarius need…a mission bigger and longer-lasting than ourselves.

Mr. Bok;

“If I had a thing to give you, I would tell you one more time that the world is always turning toward the morning.”

It is the dawning.

Be there…

…shinin’.

Funeralville

Funeralville

Kentucky is unendingly interesting to me. I’m perfectly happy to spend all my time here. It is composed of many things that are unsurprising, predictable …pedestrian even. Still, it combines its un-exotic components and its people in small ways that don’t change the world, but delight me, or disappoint me, or both. Whatever, I have never not been interested.

A friend of mine died.

I can’t say I knew her well, even though she was one of my ex-wives – I have many ex-wives from the stage.

We did one show together. For about seven weeks we explored Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT. She was bright, quick, supportive, intuitive, and enthusiastic. As far I knew that was all she was and it was all good. I can assume she had bad days and moments, and possessed the same weaknesses and peccadilloes endemic to the species, but I didn’t spend enough time with her to know. I only saw the pleasant and the productive. AND I witnessed over the ensuing years the beneficent effect she seemed to have on my other friends and their children.

I knew enough to know she made the world better. S’enough.

Her funeral was being held in a small town about an hour south of my home.

It was a fine summer day. Sunny, warm and humid (but not stifling). Ample rain for the season meant everything green was in full celebration. It was a day for ignoring the interstate highway and instead, meandering to my destination on smaller state roads. Kentucky does state roads pretty well, asphalt being the life blood of politics in the state. Along the way there were discoveries, perhaps not on the scale of the first sights of Daniel Boone on his wanderings but happier (and safer) discoveries for me.

  • The box turtle precariously plowing his way across the highway with the same confused alacrity of newly hatched sea turtles on the beach on Sullivan’s Island. I made a mental note to once more drag out my old Pogo books and ponder the adventures of Churchy LaFemme when I returned home.
  • I felt I had been properly admonished to; “Be prepared! The Lord is coming!!” The spray-painted 4X8 sign was effective, though it occurred to me that another line might have been added; “And she’s pissed!!!”
  • There appeared a yellow traffic sign like those signs that warn of “Deer Crossing” and “Falling Rock”. This one showed an icon of a horse and buggy. I was just registering the import of the sign when I popped over a rise and there in front of me was the sign made manifest; a real-life horse and carriage toting two bonnet-ed heads. It took me a moment to radically reduce my speed to 10 mph to prevent the acquiring of some intriguing, if gruesome, hood ornaments. Though I passed them carefully, the bonnets were still startled. My hybrid runs silently.
  • Trumpet vine was rampant along the fence rows. It has become in these days of warmer temperatures and milder winters a slower, more substantial kudzu, but with the advantages of blooms attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. I love this plant, but spend too much of my summer days physically defying its ceaseless attempts to gerrymander my backyard.

It was a happy, thoughtful journey also aided by the jazz stylings of Conte Candoli on the car’s sound system.  <<boo-waaaah, boo-waaaah…>>

Journeys eventually arrive…dammit.

This one arrived at the funeral home, as I suppose all journeys eventually do…double dammit.

Funerals in Kentucky vary – but not that much. This one was solidly within the range of what passes for normality ‘round here.

  1. Ya gotta sign the book.

For a goodly number of people, that’s the nuts.

Mission accomplished.

My work here is done.

I use this as a lesson in participation all the time. If you say you want to participate in what we’re trying to do, that doesn’t mean just “signing the book”. Ya gotta participate.

I do this part of funerals OK.

I stand in line.

I sign.

  1. Visitation is always intense. It may be two hours long. It may be 16 hours long (over two days). I’ve experienced both. There’s usually a dead person lying openly nearby, which invariably troubles me. There are people in various stages of grief and anxiety all around. These stages are not always compatible. There are old grudges, new feelings of shame, and cultural resentments adrift in the room. It’s easy to lose track for whom this event is happening.

Visitation worries me.

I wanna sneak off to a private room with my friends and eat and drink and tell stories.

I think “for whom this event is happening” might be me. My deceased friend doesn’t care. It’s me who’s lost something. It’s me who has to face tomorrow without my friend. I could use a little time away alone or with other friends in a similar frame of mind to come to grips with this now altered universe.

  1. And then there’s the actual service. <<cue the music from JAWS>>

Today’s service is being conducted by a local minister who admittedly didn’t know my friend very well. This is not unusual. I’ve attended several funerals where the minister spent 15-30 minutes describing someone I never knew. It‘s OK. I believe rite and ritual, even devoid of content and context can still facilitate the grieving process and offer comfort to those of us going on with life.

The minister invited participation in the form of stories and thoughts about my friend from the assembled mourners. I suspected he did so to fill the time and to garner some research for his message. I also suspect he failed to accurately judge the ramifications of offering an “open mike” to the two dozen plus theatre folks in attendance. The minister and the 50-60 local attendees were treated to stories about the love and tolerance the deceased showed to everyone – all types of people; republican, democrat, white, black, gay, straight, left-handed, right-handed, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Hari Krishnan, Kentucky fans, Louisville fans…

I watched and wondered if perhaps the world and spirit being described might have exceeded the expectations and comfort level of the local attendees who were most likely just as passionate about the deceased, but less verbal about it.

Still, love and hurt was in the air for everyone and that’s we’re gathering to assuage…yes?

Well, it was time for the preacher’s message.

I perceived he was in a bit of a spot.

To whom should he direct this message?

  1. To the 25% of the crowd who were the theatre folks who’d be hittin’ the interstate back Lexington the minute the service was over?
  2. To the rest of the room who would be looking to him for counsel and comfort for the rest of their lives?
  3. To everyone? Was there possibly a message that would knit the room into a single-minded community of caring?

He tried #3.

I admire him for trying.

He reached back in his schoolin’ and dredged one line from AS YOU LIKE IT; “All the world’s a stage…” He got immediately hung up on ”entrances” and “exits”, got the two reversed a couple of times, and never quite sorted it out. It was far from iambic…hell, it was barely coherent. I didn’t mind it so much. I did the play myself and occasionally found it barely coherent.

He didn’t give up.

He reached back in his schoolin’ once more and suggested we could look to “Old Walt” for inspiration.

Now, I’ll fess up here. I was jarred by this suggestion…in a good way. I didn’t know what wisdom Walt Disney could impart to this solemn occasion, but I knew my departed friend. She was a gleeful gal and a quote from Mickey Mouse or a chorus or two from “It’s a Small World After All” would no doubt make her smile.

But no, “Old Walt” turned out to be Walt Whitman. <<cue the JAWS music again>>

I feared the minister was navigating dangerous waters. The Walt Whitman I knew had backwaters foreign to most established religions. My misgivings were wasted (may they always be). The minister again only had one line at instant recall. He said it. We all blinked in unified incomprehension. It was the closest he got to truly unify the room.

At that point, he dropped option #3 like last week’s newspaper.

He began quoting various verses from the Bible like a rapper. The air was filled with chapters and verses……and numbers were chanted……I expected the ball to be hiked at any moment.

It became clear that he was gonna “save” the out-of-town theatre co-conspirators (his word, I kid you not) in front of his neighbors.

Too bad.

I didn’t mind so much either. I was raised Southern Baptist. I was familiar with the physical need to block the doors and pass the plate and “invite” professions of faith. I still recall several verses of “Just as I Am”. It was the guy’s job.

Yes, I felt hi-jacked and held hostage. I felt bad for my friend. She would not have wanted to be a bad host.

Meh.

I drifted away to a kind of “dream time”, filled with box turtles wearing bonnets driving horse-drawn carriages through jungles of blooming trumpet vine and butterflies (my friend liked butterflies).

Then I hit that interstate back home.

We’ve Always Got the Diner

It’s movie night.

From tonight’s movie masterpiece;

–“Whaddaya doin’?”

–“Breakin’ windows.”

–“Why?”

–“Hey, it’s just a smile.”

Everyone knows about chick flicks and rom coms.

–“Hey, do you know what word I’m not comfortable with? Nuance.”

Here’s a question for you; what would be the complete opposite of a chick flick?

–“Hey, where’s yer date?”

–“I gave her away. I got five dollars.”

Answer; Barry Levinson’s DINER. I love this flick. I wanna be in this flick. I think maybe I was in this flick.

–“Hey, you gonna finish that?”

–“You want it? Ask for it!

–“No, no… I just thought if you’re not gonna finish it?”

Guys in ties – hangin’ out – in the wee hours – at the diner. It’s a solid concept. When I was singing in a rock and roll band in my teens we would finish our gig at 1am, and then head to the Jerry’s Drive-In at New Circle and Broadway. The other local bands would do the same. It was a solid concept…over J-Boys and onion rings.

–“Hey, you wanna talk? Ya got the guys at the diner! Ya don’ need a woman.”

No-o-o-o-o…definitely not a chick flick.

–“Hey! It’s just a smile”

National Public Despair

I drove to Louisville today…and back…all in one day.

That sounds silly to those that don’t know me.

Those that do know me, know I’ve become a hermit who strives to not strive to be more than a Frisbee toss from the UK campus. A much-admired friend told me 20 years ago; “My wife and I realized that 90% of what we wanted in the world was within a one-mile radius of UK. We see no reason to live outside that.” He then chuckled to show me he was kidding. His eyes and a quick sip from his drink suggested he was ardently not.

The opera, the Guignol Theatre, the dry cleaners, the grocery store, Josie’s, the pharmacy, three wine shops, the bank, an art museum, football/baseball/softball/soccer/basketball, a library branch, Starbuck’s, pizza, pad thai, burritos, hot chicken, cheddar-burgers, reubens, omelets, hot browns……and vaccinations…are all my neighbors. The only things missing are an ocean and a major league baseball team.

But today I drove to Louisville and I anticipated a lovely day. It was sunny and cool. Traffic was light. I eagerly tuned the radio to NPR.

When I was driving all over Kentucky the last three years I worked, NPR was a joy; bright and positive, not yet sucked into the 24/7/365 reality show of the Trump debacle. Now, with Trump festering in relative silence in Mar-a-Lago (Florida’s iteration of Elba), I anticipated an afternoon drive listening to new books, new plays, new songwriters…who knows?

Instead, I got an earful of assisted suicide (legal and not so), stats on how many Kentuckians are currently hospitalized and clinging to survival on respirators, protest machinations in Myanmar, ecoside (what words we invent to soften, distract from, and just plain avoid saying climate change), royal racism, and the increase in the deportation of Haitians.

At least there was no mention of Trump or Dr. Seuss, though a few couplets from IF I RAN THE CIRCUS might have perked up things as I zipped past Waddy/Peytona.

I’m thinkin’ the nation may yet be in recovery.

The Good Doctor

Dr. Seuss did not teach me to read.

My mom did that…and Dick and Jane…and comic books.

On Tuesdays, before I started elementary school through about the second grade, the bookmobile would come to our neighborhood. It would park for the afternoon about five blocks from our house. Mom was then and is now a voracious reader. She and I would trudge to the bookmobile every week, toting our books we had checked out from the week before. It had to be done every week or our books would be overdue and there would be a fine to pay. Worse, the bookmobile lady would scowl. (Before you ask; no, her name was not Marion.)

We would trudge home and Mom would read my books to me or ask me to look at the pictures and tell her the story. I don’t remember any of the books being by Dr. Seuss.

What I remember clearly is the dagger I carried home in my chest from my first day of school. I had been assured that I would learn to read when I went to school. That was a big falsehood. We’ve heard a lot about “the big lie” lately. I experienced it in 1957. I had been to school for the day. I had not yet learned to read.

Shoot!

(I had also not yet added “damn!” to my vocabulary.)

Dick and Jane began to rectify that deficiency…the reading part, not the cussing.

Mom had lit a fire, Dick and Jane added the fuel, but comic books were the accelerant for my personal reading eternal flame.

The bookmobile wasn’t enough for Mom’s addiction. We would make regular foraging trips to Mr. Dennis’s bookstore on North Lime; once known as Mulberry Street – how ‘bout that. Mom would carefully choose her treasures while I would plunge into the comic book table. Archie and Veronica and Batman and Superman and Aquaman and Casper, the Friendly Ghost gave me stories to imagine and tell and later read.

I didn’t really discover Dr. Seuss until I was in high school.

I took a part-time job in the Children’s Department of the Lexington Public Library all through high school. I shelved books, checked them in and out, read just about all of them, and guided kids, parents, and kiddie-lit students from Transylvania University.

I loved Dr. Seuss. I dove into McElligot’s Pool. I loafed in awe down Mulberry Street. I improved on the zoo and the circus. I heard Who’s with Horton. I scrambled to thwart oobleck and deal with half a thousand hats along with Bartholomew Cubbins. I fretted about how to corral the Cat in the Hat’s Thing 1 and Thing 2 before the parents returned. I loved the rhymes, the nonsense words, and the drawings. But mostly, I was captured by the wide-eyed wonder of the stories’ participants.

I wasn’t alone.

Dr. Seuss books were a hot item in the library when I worked there. They were constantly checked out. They were read to pieces. Their tattered covers were repaired or replaced every year. Many a child would drag themselves through other books imposed on them by teachers and parents just to be rewarded with a romp with the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who.

That Mister Grinch may been a “foul one”, but I’m sure he taught a goodly number of children to read.

They didn’t seem to be offended or hurt by the drawings, but the readers then were overwhelmingly white and didn’t think much about those that might be.

I certainly wasn’t offended or hurt…and…ditto.

Actually…I’m still not hurt or offended. I’m also not hurt or offended by Hugh Lofting’s drawings in his Dr. Doolittle books. I’m not hurt or offended by Harper Lee’s depiction of the white racist father in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I’m not offended or hurt by Charlie Chan, or Archie Bunker, or Stan Laurel, or the Three Stooges.

I do however, have people in my life I care about who are stung by these things. I care about these people and would not have them hurt. I don’t mind at all if they choose to not watch or read these artists and works. And if their non-watching and non-reading reduces the financial viability of the works and causes them to be not be published or reproduced, that’s the way it goes. That’s business.

The government didn’t do it. The Left didn’t do it. The Right didn’t do it. The Church didn’t do it. The Proud Boys didn’t do it. The deep state didn’t do it.

The market did it.

I collect books. I cherish the feel of bindings and pages. I always want every book to be always published.

The market dictates otherwise.

Sigh…

OK.

Can we now know better and be better?

It’s Not Wickedness, It’s Just a Choice

A famous writer of horror novels was supposedly asked; “You’re such a good writer, why do you write horror novels?” He supposedly answered; “Why do you think I have a choice?”

We watch people do stupid or wicked or evil things and wonder why they choose to do such things. Why do we assume they could choose to do anything else? Have we considered their options? Maybe their other choices are worse.

Let’s consider a hypothetical example.

Suppose a political party was faced with extinction. Their demographic was generally older and getting still older, generally white, and generally male. Their country was becoming increasingly younger and increasingly diverse; racially and sexually. The political power of their numbers was fading with no real prospect of preventing the eventual loss of monopoly of control. What are their choices?

Choice #1;

  • Change the party to enlarge the membership.
  • They could reach out to women; leave women’s health decisions in the control of the women involved, pay equally for equal work…
  • They could reach out to non-white people; support immigration reform, equalize access to medical services and equalize educational opportunities…
  • They could reach out to the LGBTQ population; end discrimination, stop talking about bathrooms…

It might work. It might gain voters. It might renew the party. It might.

But it would be a lot of work and it would take time and it would change the party.

The current membership of the party might not have the time or energy…or incentive to change the party. What’s in it for them?

Survival?

Perhaps…

But at this stage of maturing life, maybe long-range survival of party…or even country… isn’t as pressing an issue as clinging to the “bird-in-hand” for just a few more years. It’s good to be a senator. It’s good to be a majority leader. The offices are nice. The perks are killer. The stock tips are most highly useful. The dinners in Moscow on July 4th are real nice clambakes. Limos are nice. Insurance is great – better’n ObamaCare – hell, better’n Medicare – and a whole bunch better’n nothin’ at all. Pay’s good. Lots of time off. Hate to give it up.

Is there another choice?

Sure.

Choice #2;

  • Change the election rules. Suppress the vote.
  • Reduce the number of voting machines and locations.
  • Restrict absentee voting.
  • Reduce early voting.
  • Gerrymander voting districts to protect party members.

Or even;

Choice #3;

  • Launch an insurrection and kill a few people.

Whoa!

One can’t make good choices when every available choice is bad.

It’s not wickedness.

It’s just all that remains.

And one must choose.

A Martian Dune Buggy

Today, after toting it for six months over 290 million miles, we parked a dune buggy on the surface of Mars.

A dune buggy!

I expected the first pictures transmitted would show Arch Hall Junior racing and bouncing over a red terrain rescuing Marilyn Manning from the clutches of Eegah while playing a Strata-Caster and chanting in various mismatched keys. I admit to a little disappointment when the first two snapshots showed a bleak, guitar-less, Richard Kiel-less horizon broken sporadically by a few solar-wind-blasted pavers.

Still…we’re there…on another planet…looking for life.

How foolish.

How wonderful.

I’m so proud.

Our Martian dune buggy will gather samples of rock and soil that it can only send back to Earth if we go and get them.

If we go and get them! And, I gather, we have plans to do so.

What imagination!

I’m so proud.

The last four years have been dominated by resistance. Now, I suggest we let perseverance rule.

Let our imaginations persevere. Let our scientists persevere. Let our children learn and persevere and become the best and brightest they can be. The best teachers, scientists, writers, plumbers, actors, policemen, dancers, farmers, senators, singers, mayors……astronauts………the best.

The best.

We’ll need‘em on Mars.

Hell, we need’em here…now.

The Thrill of Opening Night

Once upon a time long, long ago, theatre was invented. About 15 minutes later, I was cast in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion.

Peering back through the nainsook scrim of geezer memory, it seemed like a real good time.

The planet, at the time, was lousy with hippies…when hippies were still hippies and not yet freed from the specter of the Selective Service. Student loans and Aids had not yet been invented. Ways were free, which was good ‘coz we didn’t have much money. But, as Bob Dylan explained; “When ya got nuthin’, ya got nuthin’ to lose…How does it feel?” Well…actually…it felt pretty good.

There was no snow ever. I didn’t own a coat. For a buck-ninety-nine you could get a 21-shrimp plate (plus fries and a drink) for a vegan (as defined in those days before we learned to spell keto and sushi) lunch at the Kampus Korner. Two more bucks would get you a burger and a beer at the Paddock Club for dinner. I didn’t need the beer so I was left with some change for the pinball machine. Besides, I had rehearsal for Androcles and the Lion to navigate and needed a clear head.

Androcles and the Lion featured an actor in a floppy lion suit growling and crawling about the stage.

You just know that’s gonna be cool.

I remember I played a beggar/criminal type in rags and scabs. I remember I yelled a lot. I remember I was definitive. I was excellent. I was the reason to buy a ticket.

I remember being shocked that the play’s review overlooked my six lines. I assume it was a rigged review.

I recall there was a character named Ferrovius; another poor person destined to be devoured in the arena. Ferrovius would come to the theatre each night, put on his make-up, and dress for the show. He would then report to the costume shop, where the costumer would tease and spray his hippie-ish hair into a foot high maelstrom of chaos. Ferrovius would then leave the costume shop, march directly to the full-length mirror in the green room, whip out a comb, and fiddle with his “do” until he had a Troy Donahue thing happnin’ that Troy woulda envied.

In those ancient days, this is what we called a Proud Boy.

I learned from watching this routine.

I knew that as a species, we lie.

I learned from this observation that within the spectrum of deceit we practice, we lie most fiercely to ourselves. We preach against vanity and we teach against vanity as a cautionary tale in the theatre.

But then we put a full-length mirror in the green room.

(sigh…)

But in a world of modern Proud Boys, and coronaviruses, and children in cages, and the designated hitter, this vanity and self-foolery seems more charming than destructive.

One night I watched the rehearsal of the first scene of our show. It was a lively and erudite scene between Androcles and his harridan wife. It ended with the wife slapping Androcles.

I knew Androcles, and I had done a couple of shows with the actress playing his wife. After his scene, Androcles and I were chatting and I decided to be helpful.

“You know, I’ve worked with your wife. She’s a remarkable actress.”

“Yes. I’m glad she’s playing the part.”

“You may not know…uh…she…uh…gets very…uh…pumped up…on opening night. You…might want to be prepared.”

“Oh, I get excited too! It’ll be great.”

I watched the opening scene from the wings on opening night. The big first moment came. The wife’s eyes grew eggs-over-easy. Her hair began to rise like Sigourney Weaver’s in Ghostbusters. Her face ruddy-fied to borderline ruby. She inhaled and several audience members fainted from the dip in available oxygen.

She swung.

It was titanic.

Her heels were firmly planted. Her hips opened in front of her shoulders. The arm came through after the hips with flashing bat speed, and the launch angle was a pure 30 degrees.

Androcles dropped straight to his knees on contact and spun 180 degrees, which was good: it left him aimed in precisely the correct direction to slither off the stage.

There were several seismic centers in the region that measured the event and one even issued a tsunami alert before realizing the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek was completely underground in Lexington.

No one was seriously hurt and the play went on and I was great.

I don’t really remember what I did.

Probably, after that first scene, Androcles didn’t remember either.

Wanted: Tree Planters

It doesn’t take long to plant a tree, but after you’ve done it, you’ll have a goodly wait till you get the full benefit of what you’ve planted. When I was in my twenties and thirties I planted trees and shrubs. Then I sat back and waited.

I had time.

Planting trees was a selfish act. It was for me.

I had time.

Now…maybe not so much time.

I planted trees where I could see the result.

I had time.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

I had time.

Now…maybe…

I’ve visited places that people gush about; Arizona, Alaska, Mexico… I liked ‘em, but there were few trees and of few varieties. I missed my trees.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

Hollies, tupelos, dogwoods, chincopin oaks, ginkgos, maples, magnolias, spruce, birches…

I cherish them all.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

Now, at this certain age, I know planting trees is for the pleasure of others. I will still plant them. They still fill me with hope for what will come. It is still a selfish act.

Yesterday, I saw hooligans and terrorists rampaging in our nation’s capitol.

I didn’t see any tree planters.

Tree planters have hope.

From Istanbul with Fangs

Movie Night!

Dracula in Istanbul – a Turkish delight from 1953.

That’s about all that needs to be said isn’t it?

What can we surmise from the title alone?

  • It’s probably not gonna be good. But that’s never stopped me.
  • It’s not gonna be in English and the subtitles are probably gonna be…novel.

True on both counts.

The film’s female lead is played by Annie Ball (about the only pronounceable name in the cast). Ms. Ball’s character dances a lot for Red Cross charities (seriously) behind a stage curtain that trumpets proudly the show sponsor’s name; The Minerva Sewing Machine Company (seriously!). The Muslim background of the film is reaffirmed often, which makes you puzzle over why Ms. Ball’s performances aren’t for the Red Crescent instead of the Red Cross, especially since no crucifixes are used in the struggle against the vampire.

On the clearly positive side, had there been such an award in 1953, I’m sure this film would have won the Oscar for “Best Use of Diaphanous Costuming”. You don’t even need those high-tech eyeglasses that used to be offered for a buck on the back of 1950’s comic books.

Truth in advertising warning; Istanbul only appears in a long-distance twilight skyline shot over the strait. For this it gets a title credit? Good agent.

I liked it.

Meal-Planning in the Time of the Cholera

… or a kind of compulsory tailgating.

I’m gonna steal this term from my friend Tyler Madison. He used to live quite near to Commonwealth Stadium (as do Janie and I). During home football games, we get barricaded by game traffic and can’t easily leave the house. This mostly pleasant imprisonment initiates a scouring of the pantry for sustenance. Sometimes the results are, shall we say…creative?

These internal foraging skills have served us in good stead during this year of “sheltering at home” (euphemism for “occasionally being too lazy to go out”).

Hunting and gathering in the wilds of the kitchen cabinets…

Tonight we were, shall we say…fortunate?

Janie had recently made a Trader Joe’s run. With demonic glee, she announced the night’s menu;

  • Asparagus Risotto.
  • Misto alla Griglia (Marinated Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini)
  • Garlic Naan (Indian Bread)

Wow.

Just wow.

Be still my bleating tummy.

I have a couple of thoughts about this roster of edibles.

  1. Tonight’s meal is comprised 100% of delicacies I had never heard of much less eaten until I was deep into my twenties. Growing up, my dad considered a meal pretty much complete as long as it contained pork chops, brown beans, and fried potatoes. You could add more if you wished, but those dishes were basic sustenance.
  2. It would not have surprised me to find that this meal was accompanied by a disclaimer; “No animals were hurt or destroyed by this meal”.

Now, all that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the feast.

I am a lucky guy.

Frogs and Dogs

I posted a picture of the knot of frogs that inhabits our little pond. That’s what a group of frogs is called. I’m inordinately proud to know that.

I like the frogs.

One night recently, our wonder pup, Chloe, cornered the largest frog who had wandered a few feet away from the safety of the water. I had to intercede and provide the frog with a corridor to safety. There was a hop, a dive, and a splash – all was well. Chloe gave me a glare that screamed; “I don’t know you anymore.”

I like the dog, too.

The frog was being a frog; venturesome and stupid.

The dog was being a dog; a gleeful hunter.

Let them be what they are. Value them for what they are.

Sure they have their limitations, but as frogs and dogs, they’re jes’ fine.

Those limitations however, as charming as they are, are limitations. They prevent me from asking/hiring/electing them to be something other than frogs and dogs. For example, I believe Chloe’s penchant for chasing squirrels would make her unsuitable for driving my car and the frog’s constantly damp condition would render it unwise to assign electrical repair needs to him/her.

Nor would I nominate or elect either of them to be President.

But…as dogs and frogs…I like ‘em jes’ fine.

Christmas Whackers

I got tools for Christmas.

I’m sorry. I shoulda warned you before I said that. You might have been standing in a place where it’s hazardous to faint.

But it’s true.

My personal foundations are shaken. I’m questioning every tenet by which I’ve navigated the years. How has it come to this? Tools…and all the expectations and assumptions that accompany them…given to me…whose past attempted claims to the adjective “handy” were usually rebuffed and ridiculed with cause decent, and alas….

Janie gave me tools for Christmas.

She has followed and encouraged my perennial struggle to rein in the sly and raging ambitions of the trumpet vine under which we live. She understands my frustration when the vine soars high above my reach and threatens to initiate unholy congress with the overhead wires that power our house and allow our home to communicate with the rest of the planet. She knows of my aesthetic dissatisfaction with the ugly dead arm of a high branch on our 40-year-old dogwood. She senses my fear that the lower branches of the tupelos out front are scaring the strollers in our neighborhood.

Thanks to her, I now have new armaments to aid my battle.

I now have a wicked, 12-inch tree handsaw with apocalyptic teeth that devours with utter disdain bark, pith, pulp, and small student vehicles parked illegally.

I now have an extension that will allow me to clip twigs and branches from another area code.

Great…I think.

Chloe, the pup of wonder, worries that, these new weapons in my hands might lead to the wrong limbs being severed.

Janie coos “You missed one there, cowboy.”

I’m a lucky guy.

Whackers for Christmas.

Ouch.