The Day Howard Johnson’s Died*, Part 1 December 31, 2016Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., Chevy Vega, HoJo's, Howard Johnson's, life, New Year, radio, three a.m., U-Haul
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It’s surprising how big round numbers of historic significance can sneak up on you. The day I wrote this–December 31, 2016–is the thirtieth anniversary of my first major move as an adult. It was a cross-country move from Indiana to Virginia. It was career oriented. It was a game-changer and a life-changer. It opened my eyes to cultural differences I was unaware existed. All it required was the sacrifice of a Chevy Vega.
I have no pictures of me from that time. I wish I did, especially of the Vega. Fortunately the Power of Google allows me to show you a substitute for the Vega. Here it is:
Imagine this car with a dark-green vinyl top and about 47% more rust, especially around the driver’s side front wheel well, and you have my first car. I called it the Flaming Turtle. For the ’73 year a two-barrel Holley carb was offered as a performance option, kicking its horsepower into the three-digit zone at a whopping 110. The combination of that two-barrel carb and the natural weight decrease of excessive oxidation made it a delightfully ass-hauling machine. It hauled my ass quite well over the ten hour drive.
It didn’t haul my ass without some assistance, of course. Unable to pull a trailer of any kind, I had to settle for mounting a U-Haul rooftop carrier to it. You don’t see those much anymore. The Power of Google produced only one picture of the type I had, in fact, from a “Throwback Thursday” page on U-Haul’s website:
Too bad I couldn’t have a VW Bus to make the move with as well. In the ’80’s, nothing would have set apart a budding young air personality quite like having a VW Bus. Alas, the Vega was all the character I could afford (free, from my parents, for driving to college a few years earlier).
The move was from my first job in radio to my second, back when I still believed a successful radio career for an iconoclastic loner was a practical, possible thing. I’d grown up in Indiana, gone to college in Bloomington, had plenty of family still in the state or close to it, and had no desire to leave it. So I happily accepted a radio job inside my home state to begin my career, figuring if it was good enough for Sid Collins–original Voice of the Indianapolis 500, look him up–it was good enough for me.
Where I had started was the property of a man who preferred things done a very certain, very specific way. He would have you believe this was his unique way, time-tested, infallible, and needed by a wayward nation without moorings; but in reality it was spelled out in The Blue Book of the John Birch Society, and after having read it, I decided this was not the direction my life needed to go. So I looked for opportunities elsewhere in Indiana.I found none. My employer’s reputation preceded itself. It was possible to escape it in-state, but you had to know someone else, and I was young, and did not.
So I researched and found there are companies who, for a fee, will work with talent of all levels of experience. Somehow, without anyone figuring out what I was doing, I managed to produce a passable demonstration tape and send it to one of these companies. They had me placed within a month’s time. I gave two weeks’ notice. The owner reluctantly let me go, noting where I was going was a scant 40 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., “The Disneyland of the East.” Being one of two others leaving, the staff threw us all a “Has-Been” party. This would be our tie to the stuff of legend this station, and this owner, really was, having its origin from a popular on-air personality who engaged the owner constantly in philosophical discussions over what was right and proper for a personality to discuss over the air. The personality left not only the station, but radio altogether, for something with more sound economic potential so he could feed, house, and clothe his family.
“Looks like you’re a has-been now,” the owner said to him upon receiving his notice. “Too bad. Oh, well, I’m sure we gave you a few fond memories.”
The staff threw him a party and gave him a T-shirt with “W— HAS-BEEN” stenciled across the front. Ever since, all who left the station received the same. I may still have mine someplace.
The same weekend a brother with a pickup truck came to get the furniture I couldn’t take with me, and a few days later I rented the rooftop rack for the Vega, stuffing it full of personal belongings, then stuffing the trunk full of personal belongings, then stuffing the back and passenger seats full of personal belongings. Finally I stuffed my person into it and aimed the car towards I-70. I was off. I was out.
I’ll write more later. Right now I want to kiss off 2016, much like I wanted to kiss off 1986. Let’s hope this next one is better than we have any right to expect. Excelsior.
Closure, with some napalm for kicks November 18, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., aging, blogging, change, closure, writing
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This is the first entry I’ve made to this blog since September. September! No excuses, I just haven’t felt like blogging. Other things to do, kids. That first book of mine I’m renovating to make less a POS and more something worth reading? Still in progress. Kind of like doing a kitchen remodel and discovering your whole house has asbestos-based insulation and lead pipes for plumbing. May as well just burn it down, and that’s pretty much what I’m doing. Controlled burns, but still, fire. I love the smell of napalm on my writing!
Looking at its pages, this whole blog could use the same. The “Buy J.P’s Books” link is out of date. I have some new Seldom Asked Questions to add, and a few to update. Sheer Arrogance needs a lot more of it. All things that would semi-pleasantly kill a cold winter Saturday and hey, we’ve already got some of those. Give me time. I know, not so much of it left these days, but give it to me anyway.
So, what drove me back to throw in one more entry, probably the last for awhile? Discovery. I found an old friend.
It’s not the first time I’ve found this old friend. The first time was shortly after April Fools Day, 1991. I don’t wish to embarrass her, even accidentally, by writing here the gory details. Suffice it to say I was acting on a odd whim to see her for the first time since childhood, to see how she was doing twenty-seven years into life, because I wasn’t sure I was doing all that well. I needed a reference point. Seeing she was still in my head after all this time, she seemed like a good one.
It turned out she was doing well indeed. Well enough to do me a fantastic kindness that day. For about ninety minutes of her time–something which in her profession does not come cheap–she listened to me. Just listened. She knew that was what I needed and she just did it.
The older I get, the more I appreciate what she did. Someone willing to let another human being just be, is becoming a fantastically rare thing. Have you noticed that? We all have to be the star, heaven forbid we get stuck supporting someone else. So we end up in dueling thoughtless competitive interruption calling itself “conversation.” I’m as guilty as anyone else. I’m sure I was damned guilty of it that day, but she was kind enough not to call me out on it–even if she should have. Kindness. Pure kindness.
Twenty-three years later, we have all kinds of wonderful new tools to promote even more dueling, even more thoughtless, even more competitive “conversation:” Facebook and Twitter are your big two. Pinterest seems to be going that direction. Add Your Favorite Here, there’s a bunch. Oh, and blogs, for old nerds like me to bitch about it.
Let’s stick with Facebook. Remember as recently as 2010 when you could have real conversations on Facebook? You still can if you try hard enough, but more likely your feed and wall are covered with ads, memes, cat videos and ridiculous personality quizzes, punctuated by an occasional thought about something mundane or banal. Like mine. Guilty. 🙂 Fun is fun. But with the rule-proving exception of a truck driver buddy whose posts blow my mind every day, Facebook doesn’t lend itself to wit or philosophical depth.
One day, looking through that sea of junk food for the brain, I caught myself thinking about the friend I caught up with all those years ago, the one who actually listened to me if only just once, and wondered what she was doing now.
So, as millions of us now do when we want to figure something out, I invoked the Power of Google. I typed her name and added her profession, figuring it would help narrow things down a bit.
Two pages of links later, paydirt: One click revealed she’s alive and well, apparently married, in the same profession she was the first time I caught up with her, but with a much bigger firm; and appears to be doing quite well with them. If her picture is recent, she looks terrific, especially for someone… my age. Not important, but nice.
The important thing is she’s kicking ass and taking names. Good. I would expect nothing less of her. I’m happy for her.
No, I’m not going to go see her again, I’m not checking Facebook or Linked In or especially Twitter–I strongly doubt she, being someone with class, has anything to do with Twitter–to see if I can find her there. I’m not writing her business address, I’m not calling her business phone number, I’m not emailing her, I’m not crashing her life like I did in 1991. No way.
See, 23 years later, I have a spouse too, someone whom slowly but surely I’m learning really is the best thing to happen to me. I have work now proving rewarding and reasonably secure. I’m okay, dammit! And while it was great to see her, bluntly, my reason for seeing her was awful. Period. I feel like I used her. It’s no good to use people, for any reason.
That said: If she ever needs to crash my life like I did hers, for whatever reason, I’m here, no questions asked. I owe her that. Hopefully I haven’t made myself too tough to find if she ever does. If she doesn’t? No worries.
The shrinks call that “closure.”
I just call it well and good.
Perspectives and Just Plain Sick Analogies September 25, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., age, aging, happiness, perspective, sleep, work, writing
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Normally when my brain is this tired I avoid writing altogether, but today my brain tells me if I don’t write, it will punish me horribly in my sleep. I’ve been punished horribly enough in my sleep this week. I’ve also been punished horribly enough by three cats who keep wrecking my horrible sleep, thinking they have some divine right to be fed at one a.m. instead of four a.m. like they normally are. Mentally this cannot go on without consequences. What consequences I’ve no desire to find out.
So here I am again, writing for therapy. That’s my wife’s term for everything I write. Supposedly it all reveals things about myself that she well knows, being my wife; but others do not and perhaps have no business knowing. She’s somehow wrong and right all at once. That’s why I love her. That’s why men love women, isn’t it? They can be something we never can, wrong and right all at once?
Am I loopy right now? Yes. Yes, I am. I blame it squarely on editing ISO documentation at work today. It’s one of two things I’m writing about in this entry, at personal risk because my employer does not like it when its employees blog about it unauthorized. I’m safe if I keep things as general as I can, and this first thing I can keep fairly general.
It may piss you off, but at least I shouldn’t get fired over it.
It’s an analogy that occurred to me near the end of the day about editing ISO documents. I’ve blogged about them before, so click the link if you need to bone up on what they are.
Editing them is like operating on malignant cancer:
* You don’t know exactly what you’re getting into until you start,
* It’s always worse than you expect, and
* It takes an absolute freaking miracle to get it all.
If that analogy offends you, I understand, and I am sorry; I know people who have or have had cancer too and I know there is no form of income-producing work whatsoever that is literally on par with the pain and suffering of cancer. The analogy offends ME, for crying out loud. Yet at the end of a day of editing the damned things it is the only one that is apt, at least in my world, in my place; and if you have to deal with them at your place of employ, I’m sure you understand me too.
Here’s the second thing, and this one’s a little riskier because I have to get more specific: My employer is adding a social media piece to its customer support. This is more than just another job responsibility. This is a whole new staff, lock stock and barrel, whose mission it will be to address our customers in the world of Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and yea, so many others.
I worked with our customer support department for many years before transitioning to auditing dealer support. I still get their emails. I thought my boss would like to see the one about this. I added the comment that if I were 25 I’d go for it in a heartbeat.
“Good grief–this job is PERFECT for you,” she emailed back. “Why do you think you’d have to be 25?”
I emailed her back my two major misgivings. First, the job description and its requirements sounded very entry-level to me, enough so I suspected I’d have take a cut of a third of my current pay just to get a sniff at it. Second, the job description and its requirements sounded, as much as job descriptions and requirements legally can, like they were looking specifically for young people.
“I don’t think they’re looking for 50-year-old ex-English majors who won’t get on Twitter as a matter of principle,” I wrote.
She offered to ask for me what the salary range was and let me know while she didn’t want to lose me from her department, she did want my work to be my happiness, and this looked very much like something that would make me happy.
I thanked her, but told her something I’ve been thinking for some time now but never put into words until right then. I’ll tell you the same thing: Whoever said “Age is nothing but a number,” is a liar.
Things change. Perspectives change. And well they should. If they don’t, why do we age at all? What’s the point of aging if we don’t learn from living?
More pointedly, what’s the point of aging if the only lesson we get from living is “Do what makes you happy?”
I’m not discounting the value of happiness in one’s work–just pointing out that in doing one’s work, the older one gets, the more he realizes he’s not working entirely for himself. The older one gets, the more he realizes other people depend on him to do exactly what he’s doing right now, and if what he’s doing right now is not his happiness, then by God he’d better find a way to make it so. A determined mind can make any drudge a joy. A creative mind can make that joy useful and productive for all. An intelligent mind can use that joy to elevate both the job and himself out of drudgery. By fifty, we should know this intuitively, instinctively, especially in a country like our own that affords us the freedom it does.
When running out of time, it’s better to work within reality than to chase rainbows. Even if that reality leads to a just plain sick analogy from time to time, because the work gets a little unpleasant.
Flash: All work is unpleasant from time to time, even that which you love. Better to deal with it than run from it.
I’m flying in the face of pop logic, I know. But it’s the simple truth. We could use more of that these days.
With that, I’ll put my loopy brain to bed. G’nite. 🙂
Old memories and french toast September 14, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., blog, blogging, French toast, memories, three a.m., writing
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I’m in a happy state of mind right now. My belly’s full of french toast. My good wife made a loaf and a half’s worth, some to eat this morning, most to freeze for others so we can both have a yummy hot breakfast on cold days to come without either of us having to bust our tails. So now I want to write something, because I’m full of yummy french toast.
Fair warning, this is going to be a long and rambling entry because I’ve been away from the blog so long. I’m fully aware what TLDR means, even at 50. So if you crave constant action and suspense rather than deep thought and introspection, you’re welcome to watch these videos instead:
They should all play in order, but if they don’t, the link to the playlist is right here. Knock yourself out.
Fishing at Lake Vermilion in Minnesota is one reason I haven’t been blogging lately. I went the middle of August with my dad and two of my brothers. We had a good time and yes, I “filmed” it, a good three hours worth at least of it in glorious 1080p high definition this time, part of it with an obsolete Kodak camcorder and part of it with one of my employer’s fine non-GPS products, a Garmin VIRB. Editing that sucker down to something presentable should kill a few cold winter days.
So far as the past few weeks where I haven’t been fishing, I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been putting hour after hour into making my first self-published book, The Rain Song, a legitimate novel if not an outright work of art instead of the overwritten emotionally-stunted POS the original version is. I wish I could say that.
I can’t say that.
I haven’t been writing at all.
Which, applying a Calvinistic approach to some of the entries on the “Sheer Arrogance” pages of this blog, makes me one of the more evil hypocrites to ever walk this Earth. I know. Writers write, you haven’t been writing; therefore, you have no right to call yourself a writer. Begone, poseur, and let us never mention your name again.
That’s a lot of nonsense, frankly. I have a life, and I have been living it, and living it is time-consuming, and consumed time lived well doesn’t leave a lot of room for navel-gazing. You want rationalization? There it is, and for most people it’s legitimate. I’m no exception. It’s been a busy time.
So why am I writing this blog entry now? Guilt? Pressure? Narcissistic tendencies bubbling back to the surface? A stubborn refusal to grow up and accept what my life has become, even though it may not include being a successful novelist with millions sold?
Nah, none of that. It’s an old yearbook page.
A Facebook friend of mine, for reasons all her own I do not know, has been posting class pictures from an elementary school yearbook. She had the wrong person tagged as me in one, so I politely let her know.
This morning she posted the right one. And there they all were, out of the dust of sixth grade, Mrs. Bodine’s first-ever class at Neil Armstrong Elementary, circa 1975-76. Me, in big dorky plastic-framed glasses, a striped orange-and-green dress shirt and with my hair in its usual never-combed state. My best friend of those days a few pictures down, looking happy and confident and ready for anything that came, three things I could never manage. My first serious unrequited crush a few rows down, looking elegant and graceful and intelligent, three things I could never appear. All these blessedly normal kids… and me. A flood of memories pouring back of what was, in spite of so many awkward and stupid things, a very good year.
And suddenly I wanted to write something.
Except about those experiences, of course. Jean Shepherd I am not and will never be. Sorry.
So who am I?
Why not figure it out, then write about it?
Maybe I will, after having some more French toast. Hm? 🙂
Making up for lost time July 26, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., fishing, fishing show, three a.m., writing
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Another blog I stumbled onto commented about ending its “summer of drought.” The blogger, a professional writer and movie critic, hadn’t posted anything in weeks.
Sure made me feel better. Here she was getting paid to do this, and struggling to keep it real and regular. I’m just some loser in the middle of the country lucky to get ten readers at a time, I should try harder? 😉
Seriously–I did have an entry ready to go three weeks ago. It was evocative. It was provoking. It was esoteric and loopy and deep. And with one click of a wrong button it was flushed into atoms, something I didn’t discover until getting back four hours later from keeping an appointment, and I couldn’t remember a word of it. Not a single word.
It was crushing, I tell you. My delicate, sensitive ego could not take the blow… okay, enough of such crap; I laughed my ass off. Even looked at the sky and said “Well, God, guess you wanted to keep that one all to Yourself, huh?” and laughed some more. Then moved on with life.
So now you have to settle for this hopefully entertaining alternative. Ladies and gentlemen, The Three A.M. Blog World Premiere of the 2012 Butterfield Fishing Show. right here.
If I can find the time, I’ll put up the 2004-2005 Show for you, too.
I’ll write more later–really, I will–but for now, 45 minutes of the most fascinating “fishing” footage known to humanity will have to do. Enjoy.
(NOTE: I’ve noticed playing this back that it isn’t playing the playlist in the proper order. If it does that to you too, click here to get to the playlist in its proper order.)
Midwest Stoicism, and other exorcisms June 16, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., change, death, moving on, three a.m., writing
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Sometimes the good Lord reminds me people do read this blog. The latest reminder came at a funeral just this past Saturday.
The funeral was for someone well-loved who passed from the effects of leukemia. The time between its discovery and his passing was barely over a month. He leaves behind a wife and very young daughter both brave beyond their years. He was 47. Way too young. Always, way too young.
Just after the service I caught up with a friend who I used to work with. “I’ve been reading your blog,” he said almost instantly. “Been working on any books lately?”
I had to tell him no, because it’s been hard to write anything period. For one thing, as I pointed out a few entries ago, this death thing has been a rather persistent presence lately and that’s to be expected when you break 50. It’s just the law of averages. The older one gets, the more people he knows, the more people one knows, the more likely before he passes himself, others will pass. Sometimes it happens to people way too soon, like the mutual friend and co-worker we were both mourning, but in most cases It’s just nature. It’s just life. It’s reality.
All that said, I wish reality would knock it off awhile.
This year is not quite six months in and already two co-workers and friends, a cousin’s wife, a high school friend’s mother, and the last surviving grandparent of my boss, have all “transitioned,” as someone I currently work with would put it. Only one was no surprise. Maybe two. The rest, uh, no.
Sounds like I’m complaining about it, doesn’t it? What if I am? More importantly, what about the survivors of those people? Don’t they most of all have the right to do a little fist-shaking at the sky?
This past weekend’s service, like most, had a time for those who wanted to speak about the bereaved. I didn’t keep track of how many went up. I can tell you with confidence it was more than any other funeral service or celebration of life I’ve attended. My God, this man was loved. And why not? This man was so loving. He had the gift.
Then a minister said one of the most honest things I’ve ever heard a preacher say, not exactly these words but close enough: “This isn’t right. We shouldn’t have to say these things right now for someone as young as this.”
He’s right, you know. Yet more often than we care to admit, we do.
I need to take you another direction, one that will make the title of this entry make more sense.
Six days earlier we had an absolutely glorious Sunday morning, perfect for walking, so I did, to church and back. My Vivofit claims that’s a ten-mile round trip. I don’t think so; an old digital pedometer I once wore said it was merely six. Either way, it’s healthy, and you do build a thirst. A new convenience store on Santa Fe in Olathe sells Yoo-Hoo, one of my worst vices since childhood. I stopped in and got a bottle. There was a line three-deep before me.
“How ya doin’?” the friendly lady of a certain age behind the cash register said to a tall man in either business or church clothes, I wasn’t sure which. Either way he looked liked a young professional. Does anyone still call them “yuppies?” Like that.
“I’m dying,” he said casually. Like he had a cold, maybe.
“Oh, come on,” cash register lady said, still smiling, “it’s not all that hot today.”
“No,” he said matter-of-fact, “My doctor told me a few days ago I have cancer.” He grabbed his stuff. “Have a great day,” he said, just like anyone else would have said it.
It got quiet, and stayed that way.
I told my wife about it later. She was disgusted.
“I get the shock,” she said. “Five stages of grieving and all that; he’s in Denial. I get that. But God! No one has the right to casually drop bombs like that on people they don’t know!”
She’s got a point–she always does, that’s why I love her–but I didn’t see it that way, then or now.
Posting a summary of it on Facebook, I asked if anyone else could face being told ‘you’re dying’ as calmly as he seemingly was, admitting I couldn’t. (Don’t let my ‘fraidy bump‘ entry fool you.)
“Midwest stoicism can be an asset at times,” one friend posted.
That one nailed it.
“Denial?” Maybe–yeah, probably.
But also the realization “hey, this happens to us all, now it may be my turn, and at least I got a little warning.”
Would we all get such grace.
Back to the funeral. A slide show was part of the visitation. Along with the usual pictures of happy times with friends and family at wonderful places, there were also pictures taken during his last month, during treatment–including one where his face was completely covered with what I believe was an oxygen mask. He was hugging his little girl, also wearing a face-covering oxygen mask.
It looked like aliens having a PDA.
That makes it sound funny. It wasn’t, at least not to me. It was more shocking than anything, at first.
Then I thought no, wait a minute. This is some more of that Midwest Stoicism my Facebook buddy was talking about.
This picture, when taken, was acceptance of the reality that at least for a little while, life would require a full-faced oxygen mask.
Not only was the good man we were mourning good with it, you could tell in that picture he was finding a way to love his little girl right through it. She wasn’t scared at all. It was still Daddy, and she was still Daddy’s girl. Her own mask proved it.
How better to exorcise the demons of loss than to stare right into their faces and say “I don’t fear you?”
Grief is its own exorcism. Not of the beloved’s memory, we forfeit that at our souls’ peril. But, ultimately, of the shock and ache of loss.
We know the exorcism is complete when we’re able to think of that person and think “I was blessed to have known him, I will never forget him, and now I must move on,” and the next voice we hear isn’t the word “No.”
It’s not bottling your emotions. Rather, it’s facing them head on and telling them “I don’t fear you.” Even if early, that’s a lie. Given time and repetition it becomes the truth.
A lot of people are in shock right now over this man’s passing, but we will move on and we won’t fear life without him. Nor should we. He’d probably laugh and say so.
And now we’ll move on.
Tags: 3 A.M., climate change, CNN, reason, three a.m., tornado, trust
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I’m a fairly mellow guy, I think. I’m not one to fly into rage when I read something online.
I have been known to scream “Oh, come ON” at my screen, though, and this CNN opinion piece on climate change made me do just that.
It’s not because I think it’s wrong. What Jane Velez-Mitchell, the writer, wants is for media to openly advocate that climate change is real and we need to do something about it. If our media can do that factually and objectively, fine. No quarrel. Knock yourselves out, folks!
What made me facepalm, multiple times, was her use of May tornadoes in the Midwest as evidence that climate change is a real, immediate threat to us all.
OMG. O, M, G.
Excuse me, Your Humble Blogger said, currently living in Kansas and having lived in Indiana, two parts of the country known as Tornado Alley, for virtually all of his life; having childhood memories of April 3, 1974, having read stories of Palm Sunday 1965 and the Tri-State Tornado which occurred well before that; just because a couple of towns in Missouri and Nebraska got blown to bits as has happened every year in the Midwest since at least when they started keeping records of this stuff–I’m supposed to consider tornadoes evidence that all of humanity is in danger unless we do something about climate change?
OMG, AYFKM? The “F” standing for “fully,” of course? 😉
I made myself read the rest of Ms. Velez-Mitchell’s article in spite of my immediate visceral reaction to that… that… well, that; but I’ll tell you right now, I didn’t want to.
See, there’s this thing about human nature: If in an argument an example used to make a point demonstrates ignorance of reality as a human being sees it, that same human being will consider the point itself equally ignorant.
And from there, from that, most human beings will read all kinds of things into the motives of those trying to claim it fact, most if not all of them, unkind.
Why is there debate about whether or not climate change is really happening? Right there is your answer.
What people have grown up with, have heard about and perhaps dealt with all their lives, is being presented as evidence not only that climate change is happening but that it’s an immediate, high-level emergency that must be dealt with right now. A crisis.
Normalcy doesn’t equal crisis in most people’s minds.
I don’t consider a bunch of tornadoes proof of anything other than life in the Midwest has its risks. My wife considers wildfires in California proof of nothing more than that Santa Ana winds fan flames quickly. She grew up there. She remembers it having fires every year.
If you tell either of us it’s proof the climate is changing and unless we do something fast we’re doomed, most likely we’ll ignore you. Your fear doesn’t equate with our facts. We think you’re trying to manipulate us. We resent it. Thoroughly.
Just so you know, this is from someone who believes climate change is real.
How much of a threat it is, is hypothetical at this point. But it is happening, and it’s wise to apply thought and resources toward determining why it’s happening, if it’s natural or man-made–I don’t buy that already being settled; little people, big Earth–if it can be stopped, if it can’t, how best to deal with it; if it can, whether or not it should be. All this should be done.
But it should not be done with fear.
It should not be done with ignorance.
Manipulating people through fear and ignorance is a guaranteed, time-tested, historically-proven way NOT to get something done in the long term. Anything good, anyway.
Yet it seems today for any cause, any belief, any action, they’re the very first things our so-called leaders go for.
No wonder we’ve become so polarized as a country. No one knows what to think anymore because no one appears to know how.
I would love to see a new age of reason in this country.
Just once–let’s use climate change as an example–I would love to see someone in a high place say, “Look, whether or not we believe this is real or not is irrelevant. It’s beside the point. If there’s evidence that it is happening, wouldn’t it benefit us all to take the time and the research necessary to know how best to deal with it? Surely we’re smart enough we can do that without it costing anyone his way of life, if we think about it, if we apply ourselves to it. Why, we might find ways to improve everyone’s lives along the way whether it’s really happening or not. This doesn’t need to be a crisis. It’s simply a challenge, and any challenge we’ve faced together before, as one, we’ve met successfully, the record proves it. Nothing makes this one any different. So let’s just deal with it, as one, together. What say you?”
I’d be a lot more receptive to that approach. Wouldn’t you?
A few thoughts on the Big Inevitability April 12, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., change, death, faith, grandbaby, Grandpa, life, meaning of death, meaning of life, older, Palm Sunday, three a.m.
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OK. Good news first: my oldest brother Brad and his wife Cindy just found out from eldest daughter Erin and son-in-law Joel that sometime in October, they too will become grandparents. They are thrilled, as they should be and is most appropriate. It means one day, someday, they’ll have a little critter to come visit who may look something like this:
And who can resist something who looks like that? Not you, certainly not me; that’s my grandson right there and let me tell you he is a blast. I worked with someone who became a grandmother in her mid-30’s, had four of them by the time I worked with her in her early forties, who said there was nothing better on this earth than being a grandparent. She was right. Quite right.
So I’m happy for them, and looking forward to adding “great-uncle” to my multiple hats, and look forward to meeting the star of future Butterfield Fishing Shows. As there is nothing better than being a grandparent, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing the future right before your eyes. It is the reward of age. The good Lord’s way of saying, “You’re not done yet. All those mistakes you made with your own? Here’s another chance. Good luck.”
It’s good to think of birth right now. Lately, I’ve been thinking an awful lot of death. My oldest cousin lost his wife unexpectedly a few weeks back. A high school friend lost his mother unexpectedly just a few days ago. While I’m not worried about either of them because both of them have the most fantastic support network of family and friends people can ask for, I’m still praying for them because both of them are in shock. They don’t have to say it. I know it. Neither of them are that old. My cousin’s wife wasn’t that old. My friend’s mother wasn’t that old. This wasn’t supposed to happen this soon. Yet it did. Tempus fugit, memento mori, but not yet, not now!
No. Sorry. It’s yet. It’s now. There is no way of knowing how much that hurts until you experience it. I’m not about to claim I know how they feel.
But here’s the reality I do have to face: This is going to happen more and more often to people I know, because that is the lesson of age. The great inevitability of life is on our way to death, people we love will die first and the older we get, the more this will happen until it finally happens to us. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not part of a divine plan. It’s just pure cold logic, frankly. Mathematics. The branch of such called probability. The older we get, the more people we know, that simple. The realization doesn’t really hit you until your late 40’s to early 50’s, though, because that’s when it starts happening more often. It’s no longer this rare event that occasionally disrupts your life. There’s a reason your grandparents read the obituaries in the morning paper every day.
So what can you do about it? Not much. Be supportive. Show in some way how much the lost soul was loved and the survivor still is. Give your heart and your shoulder. Pray. Lather, rinse, repeat.
This weekend is Palm Sunday. If you’re Christian, let this weekend and next remind you as well that death isn’t the end and this life is not all that we live for.
And hug those children and grandbabies while you can. 🙂
I need mindless distraction, and this fills the bill… March 25, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., cursive, history, manuscript, NPR, printing, reading, rebellion, three a.m., writing
1 comment so far
It’s been awhile. I know. Something tells me you’ve managed to survive without my pithy eloquence, but I’m going to post tonight anyway because a distraction from my thoughts would do me good. Might do you good too, depending on what your thoughts have been. Mine have been with some who are close to me going through yet again a difficult time, and while I could blog about that, something tells me they’d appreciate it if I didn’t. So I won’t. There, that was easy.
I’m going to tell you a story instead, about me as a kid. I could be a very distracting kid. One of my bigger distractions was in fifth grade. In fifth grade, at least when I was growing up, “writing” was one of the things you got a grade on. What they really meant was “penmanship,” but I guess that wouldn’t fit on the report card or something. When I was growing up, in elementary school, “penmanship” was “writing.” That other thing involving words, for which you received a separate grade, was “reading.”
Though “reading” and “writing” were graded separately, by fifth grade they were most often assigned concurrently, as by fifth grade, you were expected in at least some pitiful, struggling detail to write about what you read.
By fifth grade, my young mind was starting to see connections between things, one of which was, even though I was understanding the material pretty well–I thought so, anyway–my assignments kept coming back with C’s. Not because I wasn’t understanding the material as well as I thought, sometimes I didn’t, but more often than not I did. They were coming back because my “writing”–by which I mean my “penmanship”–was terrible.
Well, then, my young mind said, what would happen if my “writing”–again, by which I mean, my “penmanship”–weren’t so terrible? Would I get better grades if people could actually read what I wrote?
Why, yes! Yes, perhaps I might! So, my fifth-grade mind told me, there was one–and only one–rational and logical thing to do: stop writing in cursive.
So I did. From there on out, all my assignments, I wrote in what today they call “manuscript.” We called it “printing.” Every assignment to write I received, I printed.
Lo and behold, my grades started going up. Almost instantly.
My mother was still horrified.
My mother was shocked–shocked!–that my teacher for the reading and writing segments (by fifth grade, my elementary school started moving kids between classes to get them ready for junior high school) was not only allowing me to be such an undisciplined slacker but apparently encouraging it. Enough so at the next parent-teacher conference, they had a discussion about it.
My teacher won out. “He wants to be understood,” she told my mother. “I will not penalize a student for wanting to be understood.”
I never wrote an assignment in cursive again, ever. No teacher made the slightest deal out of it. Ever. By my sophomore year I was learning to type and from there on out that would be how I would write any such assignment given to me.
That was before personal computers, then tablets, became commonplace. Not very far before, I’m not that old; but the point I’m making is one of the smartest damned things I ever did was to dump cursive and start writing in manuscript. I didn’t realize until I was older exactly how much writing in poor, sloppy cursive held me back as a kid. I could have slowed down and given myself more time to be neat, I guess, but my brain doesn’t work like that. My brain wants that thought down on paper NOW, while it’s intact, before it gets forgotten or squirreled up.
Supposedly a good cursive aids the speed in which your thoughts hit the paper, because you don’t need to lift the pencil from it nearly as much. Maybe for some. Not for me. I notice keyboarding this blog entry that my fingers lift off the keys way more than if I were writing it in either manuscript or cursive, yet the words sure are coming up more quickly.
Why in the world is this on my mind? Well, I was out on an errand this evening after work and had the car radio on NPR, and this story was the feature.
Normally I don’t react viscerally to NPR stories, but this one had me talking to the radio more than once. Especially fascinating was one Tennessee legislator’s opinion that not teaching cursive in schools was somehow denying students the opportunity to read the nation’s founding documents. Think about it–in 1776, and 1783, were there typewriters? The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are written in cursive, are they not? How dare we, then, not teach our children the very method used to write those documents so sacred to our heritage?
Seriously–this legislator was genuinely scared that because our kids are no longer learning cursive, they will no longer be able to read documents written in cursive.
I like to think our kids are smarter than that. I also like to think that there are at least a couple of versions floating around that came off a printing press instead of from someone’s poor, tired hand, that Gutenberg’s invention didn’t go entirely to waste not making a copy or two of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. You think? 😉
As is, I’ve said all I really can about it, save for this: It’s nice to know I’m not the only one passionate on the subject, and it’s nice to know that paranoia and conspiracy theories aside, the science on the subject seems to back me up.
Edit: Check out the comments section for a few words on this from Kate Gladstone (http://handwritingrepair.info/). Enlightening, to say the least.
I’m very close to finished editing the old Butterfield Fishing Shows I’ve told you about in earlier entries. Once I get them the way I want them, I’ll send my dad and brothers copies.
If I’m really feeling brave, I might even put them up on my YouTube channel–the one I didn’t even know I had. Turns out if you’ve got a Google sign-in, by default you have a Google+ account, including a YouTube channel to gussy up and program as much as you choose–provided, of course, you don’t violate copyright laws.
There, I might have a problem.
See, the Butterfield Fishing Shows as I produce them, have music in them, in many cases easily recognizable music, and, well, the RIAA doesn’t take too kindly to people using music without paying the people who made the music.
Fortunately there’s also a thing called the Fair Use provision of American copyright law, and for 99% of the music I’m using, I’m well within its bounds.
The trouble is the one or two tunes where I might not be, and YouTube’s nasty habit of muting or dumping videos that use too much copyrighted music.
But if you ever saw one of these shows, you’d not only understand why I’m using the music, you’d probably insist I did. I don’t have to, I guess, but it just adds a certain je nais se quoi that makes the difference between a fun, funny story and just a bunch of dudes fishing.
When did life become so hard, anyway?
Enough rambling. Sleep well, America. Good night.