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 The “Buy J.P’s Books” link is out of date.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.
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.
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. 🙂
“A mighty fierce mess of gum clobberin'” March 1, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., change, character, Gunsmoke, James Arness, Kitty Russell, Lent, Matt Dillon, pigeonhole people, radio, three a.m., Willliam Conrad, writing
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Sorry I didn’t drop an entry on you last week–was too busy with revising my first book. Not editing it, revising it. I won’t go into it here, but expect to find out about it soon on the “Sheer Arrogance” page. It’s one of those discussions that should be straightforward and simple but turns into a Catholic vs. Protestant allegory mighty fast.
I don’t want to write about that. I’d rather write about old time radio this weekend. Specifically this wonderfully revealing episode of Gunsmoke.
Because there’s only one way to deal with the killers and the spoilers in Dodge City and parts west, kids. 😉
In the case of the radio show, that was William Conrad as Matt Dillon. James Arness played the legendary fictional U.S. Marshall on TV for twenty years, so he’s usually the one associated with the legend. But the legendary performance comes from Conrad, not Arness. Arness scratches the surface of Matt Dillon’s soul. Conrad takes you all the way inside to the elemental man. The radio Gunsmoke gives you all his greys, in no small part due to the performance of Conrad. He wanted to be the TV Dillon too, but the brass at CBS thought he was too fat to be believable as a frontier law enforcer. He got weak revenge years later as Cannon.
The TV version scrulpulously avoids defining Matt’s relationship with Kitty. The early radio episodes do not, especially the one above. Radio Kitty doesn’t own the Longbranch, she’s a barmaid and saloon girl at the “Texas Trail” and is one edgy woman, especially for staid 1950’s audiences. The show doesn’t come right out and call her a whore, but it makes sure you know it. It’s also strongly hinted in the earliest episodes that if Matt isn’t one of her regular customers, she’d sure like him to become one.
To his credit, he’s too much a gentleman to give her that kind of patronage. But he does have feelings for her, as this episode plainly shows. And as this episode also plainly shows, those feelings are forbidden between a barmaid and a Marshall–even in 1870’s rough-and-tumble Dodge. Chester Proudfoot–there never was a Festus Hagen on the radio show–majestically calls it “a mighty fierce mess of gum clobberin’.” It comes to a head at the town social when three drifters take advantage of the general disapproval of Kitty as Matt’s date, to be assholes to the Marshall with impunity. I do not use that term lightly. It takes fantastic acting to project pure assholism by voice alone. The episode is worth listening to just for that, if you prefer your entertainment coarse.
Now, if you prefer your entertainment as a kind of cultural anthropology, as I tend to do, there’s plenty in this episode for you as well. You’ll get from it how far we’ve come from the 50’s and 60’s morality the shows of the time oversimplified to fit in a thirty to sixty minute window. The morality that seemed to encourage our sticking our noses in everyone else’s business instead of minding our own.
Lent’s coming on fast . One thing on which Christians should agree, in my opinion, is to use it worrying less about how other people live their lives, and more about how we’re living our own.
After all, Christ Himself did say to remove the planks in our eyes before the specks in others’ eyes, no? How big is a plank? How big is a speck? Are our priorities straight?
Or are we just running around clobbering our gums?
Big round numbers colliding in kismet January 15, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 100, 3 A.M., 50, birthday, books, change, Edgar Allan Poe, fifty, life, narcissism, older, one hundred, reading, Robert M. Pirsig, three a.m., writing
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I hate writing about myself. I envy anyone who can do it and not make himself look like a narcissistic ass. I certainly can’t.
Sometimes one has to recognize milestones reached, however, even at the risk of narcissistic assery; and this is one of those times. Two of them, actually. The first is my fiftieth birthday January 19. The second is my hundredth post on this blog–this one.
Fifty years. One hundred posts. Big round numbers colliding in kismet. Not often you see a fiftieth paired with a hundredth. Gotta mean something. So I’m going to go with the “personal enlightenment” angle.
When I was a kid I was one of those little dorks who read everything he could get his grubby hands on–cereal boxes, calendar trivia, newspaper clippings, even his mother’s Reader’s Digests. One year I stumbled on something called “Ten Things I’ve Learned in a Half Century of Living.” I don’t remember who wrote it, and so far the Power of Google reveals nothing.
Coming up to my half-century-hundred-post kismet, I catch myself thinking that would be a good exercise–to come up with ten things I’ve managed to learn, then impart them to you, so you can read them and think “Holy Mother of Creation, what a narcissistic ass.”
So here are mine, written pretty much on the fly with not a whole lot of thought behind a one. Some of them are my own lame observations, others–in quotes–are ones which I think “yep, they got that right.” They’re in no special order. The first is from that Reader’s Digest article I mentioned above:
1). “A beautiful woman is one who loves me.” I love you too, Karen. God bless you. Enough said.
2). To kill a dream stone dead, demand it come true just the way you dream it. I could have been a talk radio host–something I’ve always wanted to do–twice. The first time, I was offered the opportunity by the author of a self-help book I interviewed on the air a couple of times. He was impressed with my skills and said he “knew some people” in Colorado. I turned him down because at the time I barely had enough money to keep the heat on. The second time was my boss offering me my old job back at a station where I’d worked two years before. He’d heard me doing a part-time gig and called to make the offer. Thinking it was the same station I’d left and remembering why I left it, plus wanting to stay close to a major market, I turned him down. I didn’t realize he’d planned to flip it to talk. Had he said that, I may well have gone back, but he didn’t say, and I didn’t ask, did I? I just assumed the worst and acted accordingly.
Two opportunities that will never come again, opportunities that both came when I was responsible for no one else but me, and I let fear of the unknown steal them from me. That’s not how you win, kids. Carpe diem. I can’t emphasize enough, if you are young and single, and someone offers you an ethical way to achieve your goal in life, TAKE IT. No matter what.
3). Every decision you make, forever, hinges on one thing. Do you believe in God, or not? That’s it. That’s the question. How you answer it defines everything you think and everything you do. It is the most important question you will ever ask yourself, and only you can answer it. No one has the right to answer it for you. Ask it yourself, answer it yourself, and not just once; do so constantly, do so seriously. The other decisions you make will become much better if you do.
4). Navel gazing is the biggest waste of your time there is. If you really want to know who you are and why you’re here, make yourself available to other people and learn both fast. Easier for some than others, I know, but even introverted people need to do this. People are what reveal your strengths and weaknesses, your joys and sorrows, your skills and failings. You think you know them already? Then you’re delusional. Get out of your head and into the world.
5) “The years have a way of dulling a man.” That’s my favorite line from The Broken Blade, William Durbin’s story of a boy who comes of age with a group of late 18th-century fur traders canoeing the St. Lawrence River in Canada. Boys’ Life serialized an illustrated version of it around 1999 or so when my son was a Cub. Quite an educational tale in that–spoilers!–the “bully” of the group has good reason for being who he is and the “nice guy” who helps our hero learn the necessities of life on the river winds up killed by the river. But the truth of that one line is what stands out most to me. It helps me cope with what I can’t control.
6) “We must be careful about who we pretend to be.” Kurt Vonnegut, God rest his soul, whether he believed he had one or not. I’m sorely tempted to just use everything in this list to finish mine. Stop and think how right he is with the one line above alone: How many people in your life, who like you and care about you, think you really are what you say you are? Damn near all of them, right? Because who has time living their own lives to pay so close attention to yours that they know the real you? They’d rather believe the illusion. It’s easier. It’s prettier. It’s safer. So you become who you claim to be–and that’s not always a good thing. Scroll down to #15 here to see what I mean.
7). Now is where we live. No quotes around that one, because that’s how I think of it and like to say it. I’ve blogged about it before so I’m not going to beat it to death: The past is done and said. The future is not guaranteed. Now is the only time we can do anything worth a damn. So do it now.
8). “Start with the upper left-hand brick.” One of Robert M. Pirsig’s most oft-quoted lines from his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book I like so much I’ve read it nine times. It’s something he said to a student in a freshman comp class who was having trouble with an assignment. You’ll find oodles of stuff about what great advice this is for overcoming writer’s block, and it is, but that’s like choosing to chug a can of Coke when there’s a glass of champagne on the table. This is more than advice, this is how to live your life. This is real, substantial philosophy summed up in six words! Think it through, you’ll see it. It’s not hard.
9). “Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” Edgar Allan Poe, whose birth date I share. To me, this means if one is to write at all in an age of attention-deficited instant everything, he should pick the clearest and simplest words to convey his meaning–something not so simple as it sounds. It certainly is not how Poe himself approached his writing, but Poe wrote in a very different time for a very different audience. Today, we must keep it simple for our reader because our reader has much more competition for his time and his mind. The trick is to do it without it being so simple that it inflicts blunt force trauma, and Poe remains a valuable teacher of how to avoid such.
On a personal level, Poe’s words remind me that all the eloquence in the world will not hide lack of personal experience. “I know how you feel” is an insult if you really don’t. Better to just be there and let people feel however they need to around you. In the long run it is much more rewarding and appreciated.
10). You don’t need this list. Everything on here, you either have already learned, or will already learn, by yourself. All you’ve gotta do is pay attention.
There you have it. My hundredth post, for my fiftieth birthday. Yay me. Here’s a song to celebrate.
Oh, just one more thing: Dignity in age is a good thing, a blessed thing, a graceful thing, a sign to all that no matter the circumstance all of life is good and to be lived. Not just the first, for that turns the rest into drudgery. Not just the middle, for that denies one both learning joy and sorrow in youth and appreciating such learning in age. Not just the last, because it may not be long enough to do all we need. Live all of it, right now. Every moment. All of it.
Now can we please move on? 🙂
The perils of renovating your head January 5, 2014Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., books, change, Kindle, reading, three a.m., writing
Here’s some theme music for this entry. It’s been in the back of my mind all week, may as well put it at the front of yours. It’s Dire Straits, at least you know it’s good:
Yes–alert the media, warn the children, spay and neuter the pets, I’m back. Still working on projects–it takes time to make a quality Butterfield Fishing Show!– but I’ll make the effort to be a more frequent poster.
It takes time to rewrite a novel, too, another one of my projects that I mentioned near the end of last post, and I’m learning the hard way why most writers simply don’t do it. It’s just like renovating your house, only you’re doing it to your head… and your head doesn’t like it. Not one bit. Not one little bit. There’s a reason PBS doesn’t have a hit show called This Old Book.
See, when you do any kind of home renovation, simple as painting or complex as remodeling, you run into… surprises. Surprises varying from anything just needing to be covered up, to requiring you gut the entire room like a fish. You sigh, you cuss, you redo the budget, you deal.
Here’s the thing about your head–you can’t gut it like a fish.
Or more accurately, you shouldn’t.
I’m going to scare you now: A book represents a place where the author’s head was at the time it was written. This is why you don’t see authors rewrite their older material very much. If your head is no longer in that place, and you try to bring that book to the place it is now, the book will resist with everything it has. The book will fight your head.
This is the reason once an author is finished with a work, generally, he’s finished with it. My wife called the original work “writing for therapy.” Rewriting it may be writing for exorcism.
Kind of piques your sense of adventure, huh? Stay tuned. When it’s finished, if Amazon and B&N will let me, it’ll be available for free on Kindle and Nook. If you have the original version of The Rain Song, I encourage you wholeheartedly once it’s ready to read this version and compare and let me know if it’s better or worse. Assuming they let me communicate with the outside from my room at the Big Red O… 😉 *
*… as in the state hospital in Osawatomie, Kansas. Google it. ‘Nuff said.
Moral Conundrum Monday October 7, 2013Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: "the right thing to do", 3 A.M., change, character, choices, conscience, conundrum, life, Monday, Mooresville Indiana, moral, older, opinion, three a.m., trust, walking
Sounds like a pop hit, doesn’t it? Moral Conundrum Monday… wish it was Sunday… ’cause that’s a lot easier to explain than all the crap I’ve been dealing with lately in both the physical and spiritual realm that I really don’t want to think about… yay!
I never said I was a songwriter. 😉
Anyway, I got a couple for you, one so minor it’s ridiculous, the other, well, is just ridiculous. Think I’ll start with the easy one: In the name of energy and tax savings, you buy new windows from a big-box store whose name sounds vaguely like Household Depository.
Two years later, you think, “Bleah–what unspeakably filthy dirty windows I have. Behold, here are some paper towels, a ladder, and Windex; I shall clean them.”
So you commence your cleansing, and attempting to remove one of your storm windows, notice it fits the scientific term used by builders and carpenters across the land, “bugger.”
As you wrestle with said bugger, the bugger bends so hideously, one side of it breaks in two.
“Lo, what is this?” you ask yourself, “why has this bugger bent so hideously as to render separate one of its sides, while the other non-bugger came out perfectly and goes back in perfectly?”
So in the interests of science and philosophic enlightenment, you lay the non-bugger on top of the bugger and find the bugger is a good half-inch longer than the non-bugger.
Experiencing revelation, you gasp: “Why of course the bugger bent under the excessiveness of my manly pressure, the bugger was made too darned big!”
So here lies the moral conundrum: Do you, in possession of a grave and catastrophic mistake obviously made at the factory, in the name of the thousands of dollars all these windows cost you, dig through your tax files, find your paperwork from the original order, call the manufacturer because you already know it’s what Household Depository would have you do anyway if you bothered to broach this delicate subject with them, and demand restitution be made for this obviously flawed and careless workmanship revealing at least one of their personnel to be thoughtless trash with no appreciation of quality, craftsmanship, or pride; threatening to call your attorneys unless this is dealt with swiftly and to your preeningly observant satisfaction, without cost to you in any form?
OR, do you take the thing to your local hardware store that still fixes screens and get it made the right size for fourteen bucks?
Bless Westlake Hardware. Bless them. Reasonable, practical alternatives to silliness are so hard to find these days. I may look up the manufacturer of the window and write them about this just for kicks, but… right now (in two weeks, anyway)… I’d rather have a screen window that fits. You know, that Winter thing coming on and all.
Okay, I promised you two moral conundrums, and here we have to get a little serious.
I was home visiting my parents for a couple of days last week. They live on the outskirts of the fine community of Mooresville, Indiana, Home of the Indiana State Flag–which the community is quite proud of–and John Dillinger during his late teens and early twenties, which it is not.
Anyway, while home, I took a walk. I’m guessing it was about five miles or so, up Landersdale Road and then west on Bridge Street into town, crossing Indiana 67 on foot (automatically qualifying me to appear on I Shouldn’t Be Alive), continuing across town using as many old shortcuts from high school days as I could remember until getting to The Village shopping center, then coming back pretty much the same way.
Lots of stuff has changed since I last did that. Lots of stuff hasn’t.
Including when I got back to Landersdale Road and some high school kid threw something out of his car window at me (and missing) while screaming “FAG.”
“Asshole,” I said outloud, not looking back at him, moving on, thinking “Well, that hasn’t changed…”
As mentioned, I spent a lot of my old high school days walking Mooresville and its outskirts and yeah, sometimes, I’d get stuff thrown at me out of a car while being called a fag or worse. Not every day, mind you, but enough to make me feel pretty sensitive about it. For the shallow reason that I’m straight–though I was involved pretty heavily in Drama Club, which at MHS got you labeled homosexual by default back in the late 70’s-early 80’s even if you were straight–and the human reason that nobody deserves to be treated like that.
Yet people got treated like that all the time, growin’ up in ol’ Mo-ville back in those days. I was far from the only one it ever happened to. Not the fault of the town, nor the parents, strictly the lack of character in the individual who would do such a thing.
Apparently some in my home town (and elsewhere), in these allegedly progressive times of the 21st Century, still lack enough character to treat other people like that.
Including people who aren’t teenagers, and haven’t been for some time, and have raised teenagers of their own, now responsible adults in no small part because their caring, loving parents would not tolerate such assholish behavior from them for a second.
So there’s your second Monday Moral Conundrum, folks–especially if you’re my age, pushing 50; do you just blow this kind of stuff off, figuring the world has always been thus, accept it? Or do you say, no? Not acceptable?
What do you tolerate? What do you think?
Things that stick July 15, 2013Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., change, conscience, evil, life, negative experience, older, three a.m., trust
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Weekends, as much as the weather will let me do so, I walk to church. It’s a six-mile round trip so there’s plenty of time to think, pray, meditate, or whatever my mind will let me do. It’s one of those rare things that’s good for both body and soul. It’s not entirely spiritual. I get ideas for writing sometimes. Sometimes I plan the week ahead. And, being human, sometimes I complain. Sometimes I get into a real nice bitch session with God. That’s increasingly rare, thank God. The older I get, the fewer complaints I have to the Supreme Being of the Universe. The more I realize He runs the Show and I don’t, the better off I am. But occasionally I slip.
Occasionally I get revelations, too. Nothing deep, just strange things like states of mind. This one takes some explaining. Be warned, I’m not entirely sure it’ll make sense.
Twenty-two years and a couple months ago, I caught up with my first crush after not having seen her for something like 14 years. I’m 49, do the math. You don’t need to know that story, some of it embarrasses me to this day. But one thing I made sure to tell her just before our meeting ended was, in my mind, in my thoughts, in decisions made how to live my life, she was someone who “stuck.”
Life is full of things and people like that, who “stick.” Fulcrum points of who you were and who you’re becoming, malleable yet indestructible, fleeting yet essential. You cannot be who you are without them.
They form any time in your life, from very early on when you don’t realize they’re happening, to much later on when you’re fully aware they are, either way setting the whole thing’s course. They’re usually not all that dramatic, but when they are, they’re whoppers. They’re simple. They’re tactile and sensual.
Lately some relatives have been going through difficult times. Job loss. Youthful mistakes. And a murder.
For obvious reasons, I will not write about any of that in detail. I think I can tell you decently enough that it weighs heavily on all our minds.
The branch of my family dealing with the murder is strong and always have been. They will learn how to adjust to what a cousin of mine calls this ‘strange new reality.’ But they will come out of it very different people, too, and I would not blame nor judge them for having a great many bitch sessions with God right now. This is a major fulcrum point for them all. This will stick.
Guess my point in all of this is, if you want to know how to take assessment of your life, start with the things that stick. Be grateful for the joy of the good ones. Be mindful for the lessons of the bad ones. And however you can, try to be in someone else’s life a good thing that sticks, so the bad things that stick don’t stick quite so hard.
Clumsy writing, I’ll admit, but a decent sentiment. Next time I’ll try to be better at both.
All hail the great hot potato bomb of life! June 17, 2013Posted by skypigeon in Uncategorized.
Tags: 3 A.M., change, hot potato, life, meaning of life, negative experience, scallions, Tabasco, three a.m., viniagrette, writing
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Not much of an entry in this week’s blog post, friends. Someone close to me just lobbed me a hot potato in the form of her unexpected loss of employment, and now I get to tell a close friend of hers all about once she gets out of work today. Which will lead to a ton of questions I can’t answer, though I’ll try my best, I always do. We always do. Right?
So I’m going to steer you towards a new entry in “Sheer Arrogance” this week. It’s got it all: inflammatory title, popular TV show, and even a hot potato bomb of its own that broadsided me and hundreds of others at church this past weekend.
That’s what life is. If anyone asks you “What is… life?” say “A hot potato bomb.”
If you really want to have some fun, add toppings. Right now I’m thinking jalapenos, Tabasco and vinaigrette, with scallions. Mmm! Scallions!
Tags: 3 A.M., books, change, heat, life, negative experience, older, radio, reading, reminiscing, sinuses, three a.m., writing
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Summer’s coming on. I’ve been feeling it all week, in my sinuses sucking me dry–one part of the aging process I’d happily do without–and finally the forecast is backing me up. Eastern Kansas weather has one constant. No matter how cool June is, by July 4 it’ll be humid and 95-100 degrees. Goodbye monsoon, hello drought! Builds stamina. Builds character. Links you with the Great American Pioneers, in a wimpy 21st Century Schizoid Man way. (For bonus points, name the band I just tipped my hat to.)
Because my sinuses have been sucking me dry, my brain has gone into survival mode. Abstract thought is on the backburner. I’ve forced it to consider just enough for something new on the Sheer Arrogance page–if you’d like to check it out, click the tab at top and check out “A letter from my grandfather” in the submenu on the left (or just click the title, it’s linked). I don’t promise it’s any good; things written in survival mode tend to be simplistic and hackneyed. But as the entry points out, that’s not always a bad thing.
Here’s the good news of the week: The people at Amazon this week, bless them, decided to help me towards getting my first royalty check by putting the paperback of my latest book Blessed Are the Peace Frogs on sale. Ten bucks and change, limited time. Please buy a copy. It won’t burn your eyes out, I promise. Worth every penny!
Now the main character in Blessed Are the Peace Frogs is a radio guy, though I assure you the book is about much more than that and his experiences–most of them, anyway–are not my own. The ones that are my own, I ain’t tellin’. :p But while daydreaming of thousands of sales and not having to work an eight-to-five job anymore I started to wonder, what happened to all the places I used to work? All those little towns, all those character-filled mom-and-pop outfits, all those big chains swallowed up by even bigger ones; wassup with them now?
So I summoned The Power of Google, and behold, here’s what I learned about them all, with a little background so you’ll get why I even care:
WILO/WSHW, Frankfort, Indiana, first job in radio as automation babysitter, go-fer, and dude-of-all-work; 1985-1986. Still exists. Same family ownership. In fact, the owner–a fascinating character to work for, and that is all I will say about him–recently was honored on his 90th birthday for his worldwide exploits as a broadcaster. He gave me the best advice of anyone I ever worked for in that silly business: It takes at least ten years working in radio to understand how it is done. Yep. And, had he been a less charitable man, he’d have added “and you will make an ass out of yourself countless times before then.”
WQRA, Warrenton, Virginia, morning drive deejay and later afternoon drive deejay, 1987-1989. Gone as I knew it: a fairly-new small-town, small-watt, live-and-local station getting its start in an era where such things had long started to die. True story: Someone with lots of gumption but no practical experience came to us to interview for a job–on the advice of a competitor in nearby Manassas. “Go to WQRA,” their program director told him, “they hire a lot of people like you.” In other words, a rare and fantastic opportunity to hone one’s craft for someone mature and dedicated enough to realize it, because you can get away with a lot of mistakes otherwise not tolerated by “real” radio stations. As I did, multiple times over. I also made some of the best friends and friendships of my life there. These days they’re a repeater frequency for a Christian station licensed out of Culpeper.
KIUL/KWKR, Garden City, Kansas, morning drive deejay on KIUL and later alleged program director, 1989-1991. Under different ownership, new format. What a fantastic town with great people GCK is! Part of me wishes I’d stuck around. I like to think of this as my “grow-up-fast” gig. KIUL was a far more professional outfit than WQRA, owned at the time by the same group that owned the local newspaper and in existence since the 1920’s. It was also my first genuinely live board–some satellite feeds but otherwise no automation at all. I have never had a more difficult, more soul-searching, more “am I really cut out for this?” mental crisis than my first two months at that radio station. It didn’t help that the guy I replaced was known for a wild-assed no-holds-barred morning show that was insanely popular, and when I tried to do the same… dear Lord. Fortunately I had enough on the ball to realize it wasn’t working, adapted the show to my own personality, and ultimately got all that audience I drove away back and then some, but oh ye gods, what a “learning experience.” Still, by the end of my time there I had a genuinely decent, popular show and the most respect from my audience of anywhere I ever worked, and had the station not gone to a mostly satellite-delivered, career-killing “Music of Your Life” format I might well still be there–though I doubt it. Last I checked, KIUL is now owned by a company I would have refused to work for. I don’t know who has the KWKR frequency these days.
KVOE/KFFX, Emporia, Kansas, 1991-1992, briefly morning then midday deejay on KVOE and midday deejay on KFFX. Every radio deejay has at least one “and then I #@#$#@ up and went here” station on his resume. This is mine. The less I say about my time there, the better. That’s no knock on the station itself, or Emporia; it was just a bad career move for me. Though it did get me close enough to Kansas City to get to work at the next stations on this list. KVOE still exists, KFFX has changed calls; apparently both are under the same ownership as when I was there, along with other local stations that were not at the time.
KCFX, Kansas City, Missouri, 1992-1995; KCIY, Kansas City, Missouri, 1995-1998. I tell you a little about these gigs on my SAQ page. These are my major market creds, people. I was a weekend wonder on “The Fox” and the overnight guy on “The City” for about two and a half years each. The former still exists, though under different ownership. The latter went off standard over-the-air radio in 2002, though I understand there’s a variation of it now on an HD radio frequency. It was my last radio gig ever. I was replaced by a guy who came in on weekends and recorded voicetracks for the computer system to play–much more economical than paying someone barely over minimum wage plus health insurance. So be it.
Do I miss it? Yes and no. I miss the actual thing of getting on the air and, as much as is allowed, being myself. I’d have loved to get a shot at doing a talk show at least once. That’s my sole regret. I made some good friends and miss many of them to this day. I don’t miss the politics. I don’t miss the occasional backstabbers and egomaniacs, which not everyone in radio is–but there are enough of them that they get an awful lot of attention, and some of them are popular and successful, but karma will get them in the end, it always does.
And life goes on. Cheers!