Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2020

Throwback Day After Thursday !!

OK, OK, OK! I will admit it. This old blog post from 2015 is considered by some people to be of questionable taste. They are entitled to their opinion. They’re wrong.

I’m also entitled to my opinion. I think it’s funny.

So there!

Get Well Soon!

dead deer get well soonHOW CAN ONE TRULY DEFINE what is, “Bad Taste” and what is not. Just as “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the same can be said about humor. What one person thinks is funny another may not. In fact, I think you can be rock solid sure that for whatever one person thinks is funny there is another person who won’t laugh.

Such is the case of the picture to the right.

I think it is funny and I’ve had others say that it is “In bad taste.” Of course, if I ask them to tell me the difference, they fall silent.

One person tossed out the “bad taste” thing, saying that the balloon was what made it so bad. I then asked him if it had been a Get Well Card instead of the balloon would they have approved?  That was met with stony silence. That was kind of nice compared to his whining. He was also upset when I said I would have done as much for him as was done for the deer.

Somehow I don’t think he’ll be bothering me again.

Judging from the appearance of the deer I would guess that it had been there for a day or more. The sympathetic balloon delivery person probably had seen it there by the side of the road and made a special stop at a local Dollar Store for the balloon. I doubt that the driver who hit the deer just happened to have the balloon with them. If he/she/it already had the balloon in the car then there was someone in a nearby hospital who probably got a card attached to a salt lick.

Deer are, in many ways, nothing more than big, antlered, squirrels. They don’t pay attention to the traffic and tend to stop and stare at the headlights of approaching vehicles. If that vehicle is a Vespa or a bicycle then the deer has a good chance of making it across the road. If that vehicle is an 18-wheeler Peterbilt… Well, let’s just say that chances are the deer won’t be home for supper.

Earlier this summer my wife, the lovely and with a heart of gold, Dawn, and I drove from Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Get Well Soon”) to Michigan. Along the stretch of Interstate Highway from Indy to the Michigan state line we counted about a dozen deer in need of “Get Well Soon” balloons. All of those deer may have been part of a suicide pact or they were scofflaws when it came to traffic safety.

Someone else suggested that they were all part of a club where they “played chicken” with the cars and trucks. I’d never heard of such a thing until he told me that the first rule of the club was, “Never talk about the club.”

I don’t know how much credence I can put into that idea, except that it would bring a whole new perspective to the old question –

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Meat Me In Terre Haute

Everything is up to date in Indiana. If there is a Trend, Fad, or Fashion floating around it will eventually bob to the surface of the Wabash River in Terre Haute. It may take awhile to get there, but it will. The latest example of this is – Fanfare Please – A Vegan Restaurant.

The only reason that most people in this town might look into a Vegan Restaurant is to see if the diners are using utensils or are they just grazing? I wish the owners of this new eatery success, but let’s be honest, Terre Haute is “Carnivore Country.” 

And I am a Carnivore. Thank you. Thank you very much.

It was just recently, in the middle of all of this stay home and don’t even think of going anywhere  business, that my wife, the lovely Texas Carnivore, Dawn, discovered “The Boulevard of Beef, The Highway of Heifers, and The Supernova of Steak.” Sitting in our mailbox was an ad trumpeting the glories of The butchers at Omaha Steaks.

We had seen ads for Omaha Steaks for years, decades even, touting really expensive meat. Their prices were so high that it would have been cheaper to buy a cow, keep it in the backyard, and slaughter it in the garage. Then a couple of months ago things changed  when we got that Virus Season advertising brochure. Included in the ad was a hefty coupon that lowered the prices into a range that wouldn’t make our wallets explode.

We ordered. We ate. We smiled. We decided that we wanted more. One thing that those folks in Omaha knew how to do was to lure us into becoming repeat customers. Offer us a lot of really good Carnivore Candy – Sirloins, Strip Steaks, Filets, and everything but the hoofs, and you have our attention.

So, for the last month or two we have been eating well and enjoying every bite. I grant that looking forward to a Friday Night Meat Feast is not everybody’s idea of Heaven but they didn’t have a barrel of A-1 beside them like I did. Dawn and I were enjoying every bite.

One thing we learned very quickly was that once we placed an order for a bunch of stuff it was like we had erected a billboard with our mailing address on it. We have been getting ads from every meat maven in the country offering us steaks often at ridiculously low prices. Some are such apparently good deals that I have my doubts about their origin. Did this Sirloin come from a cow or some other miscellaneous creature? I don’t want a steak with tire tread marks on it or a burger that died a natural death.

Like  I said, we are happy and enjoying this Carnivore Carnival. If it isn’t your thing and you are someone who thinks “Meat is Murder” then go ahead and drop into Terre Haute’s new Vegan restaurant and have an Eggplant Burger with a side of French Fennel Fries.

A Guest Post From “So, Here’s The Deal”

I followed this Blogger’s work for years and now I am following her awesome new Blog – 

“So, Here’s The Deal.”

https://soheresthedealblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/risk-vs-retreat/

 

Risk vs. Retreat

So, here’s the deal… The subject of risk came up in our house the other night. It was stuck within a discussion on vulnerability. (Boy, is that a fraught with fear topic!) As with most weighty topics, it planted like a seed in my brain and has been running around ever since. What are we willing to risk in our lives? What will we do to avoid that risk? Or any risk? What are the “sure things” that populate our days and our brains? And what are the imagined absolutes we’re inclined to place in jeopardy? (Bonus points if you can list the “sure things” in your life.)

If you play the stock market, you take certain financial risks. Hopefully, you go into that with your eyes wide open, having done a little research, and never put more into a purchase than you can afford to completely lose. Over the course of our lives, we have seen some stocks go wildly up that green line and others tank to the point they no longer exist. Such is the name of the game. You have to know exactly what you are willing to risk.

I suppose the same can be said for playing the lottery and going to the casino. We’ve done both. I once won $40 playing the lottery and I admit to occasionally purchasing a PowerBall ticket when the pot is over $100M. We laugh about the $2 we spend as being a risk against our retirement funds. We really aren’t taking much risk on a lottery ticket. Not much at a casino either. We view casinos as “entertainment” and amazing opportunities for “people watching”. The amount we are willing to blow at the casino is strictly an entertainment fee, usually something along the lines of $20 / day. (Of course, we haven’t been to the casino in quite a while, so we might up it to $25, adjusting for inflation.)

Over the course of my parenting life, I’ve taken risks in what to concentrate on and what to let go when raising a child with autism. Looking back over the last 35 years, I think most of those risks have paid off. A few have not, including table manners, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Over the course of my life, I’ve taken risks on clothing and shoe purchases. Some have paid off big time. Some have been huge mistakes that became paint rags and chew toys. Then again, I rarely make risk vs. reward decisions in that department.

Over the course of that same life, I’ve taken those more daring risks when it comes to interpersonal relationships. These may be the most intense risks we can take. Risk, when it comes to relationships, are often weighed based on our experiences and history. We build a metric over time against which we measure almost everything.

Hormones can kick in and blow that whole risk vs reward thing. Your brain is stuck in that reward mode and risk seems impossible to grasp. Of course, if it all blows up in your face, the results go into that experience and history box. Good luck using that information if it all kicks in again.

But sometimes, a person comes along – whether a potential friend or partner – and your risk vs reward meter starts ticking, measuring the possibilities. (That meter is not infallible, but it sure is handy and you should keep it in working order.) And then, you have to decide – leap or not. If you’re of a certain age, failure is certainly an option. If you’re a kid, failure isn’t in your vocabulary.

That risk-o-meter is an interesting gadget running around in your brain somewhere. It leans toward failure and a determination that risk just isn’t worth the potential pain, but somewhere, I hope, in the back of your mind is a little voice that’s whispering, “You might not fall, ya know. You might grab the brass ring and soar!”

It’s a good voice and maybe we should listen to it. (Can’t hurt to pack a parachute either.)

May you fly on wings of eagles!

When You Gotta Go

How long has it been since you could go anywhere on a vacation? It may be months but it feels like years, decades even. I’m beginning to understand how Robinson Crusoe must have felt stranded on that desert island. But unlike Robinson Crusoe I have access to the internet. I also have a very clever and creative wife who knows how to make a computer do things Bill Gates never dreamed of.

Because we are unable to travel anywhere like we usually do we have had to find an alternative way to satisfy our Wanderlust.

One of the most important and well liked things about traveling are vacation pictures – and, boy, do we have some great vacation pictures.

One night, a couple of weeks after this virus business began, we decided that we just had to get out of town for a while. We grabbed our passports and headed off on our “Corona Grand Tour – 2020!”

Our first stop was London where we dropped in on our old friend Queen Liz and her family.

Yes we were dressed a little casual but they didn’t seem to mind. Dawn was able to borrow a nice hat but I turned down the offer to borrow one of Prince Charles’ fancy outfits.

After a few days of slumming with the Queen over tea and crumpets we moved onto the Continent to visit another old

friend. Francis has some pretty fancy digs in Rome and he took us out onto his balcony so we could get


a really nice view of his compound. I did spruce up a bit for this visit. I wore my baseball cap. Francis was wearing his cap so I thought it was OK. I hate committing those fashion faux pas. They can be so embarrassing.
We had a good time in Rome but we soon felt the need to move on so we headed south to visit another lifelong friend and a landmark spot in North Africa.

Casablanca.

We could have gone anywhere, but with all the gin joints in all the world we knew that we’d have to walk into Rick’s. Everybody goes to Rick’s. Dawn and I have always enjoyed dropping by Rick’s. You never knew who you might run into because for years everybody who was anybody stopped by for a drink. We liked to visit Rick’s to hear Sam play the piano. As time goes by it just doesn’t get any better.

Listening to all of the great music reminded us of the time we spent in Hollywood working with the stars. Our favorite was the time when Dawn and I taught John Travolta all of those fantastic Disco moves that he used in “Saturday Night Fever.”

He was really a very good student

Traveling, even when you are having a good time, can be exhausting. When that happens to us we like to stop by and visit some old friends who live in Florida. We decided to take the bus down South and it turned into quite an adventure.

After all our travels last month we had a wonderful relaxing time with some of our friends in Orlando even though some of them could be a little Goofy, but we love them all.

My Playlist For Tomorrow

Over the past few months we have all been pushed into an opportunity to move forward or to retreat backward. Moving forward is the smart thing to do, but going backward is much easier. After all, the easiest thing to do at any time is Nothing. Don’t believe me? Just ask a writer.

What have I been doing during this forced isolation? Not much.

That’s not completely true.

I have resumed churning out this Blog, but at a reduced rate. For five years it was Monday through Saturday. Now you have to put a gun to my head to have it ready once a week. It’s still cheap at the price you’re paying.

One thing that I have started doing that is wholeheartedly a move forward is adding some new singers into my personal playlist. I knew that I needed to expand and update the music coming out of the speakers in the car and the earbuds in my…ears. It really dawned on me when I realized that my “New Artist” was Jimmy Buffett and he is my age.

So, in spite of other seemingly more important things in the world, I began to go on a digital safari looking to bag some new performers for my Personal Playlist. With the sound of faraway drums laying down a good rhythm I started out trekking through the dense undergrowth of really bad music and deadly singers armed with less than minimal talent.

I asked the few people I could speak with through my mask from six feet away, “What current popular singers do you like?” The answers I got back were all pretty much the same, “Mmmoph ang da Sluhphmmp.”

I needed a new approach.

Googling can be both productive and confusing on a good day. I was doing it without the foggiest notion of what to look for. Eventually I typed in, “Who are the best singers performing today?”

To my surprise I got a list of performers to check out. I spent two days listening to a long parade of singers. Most of them were never going to make it onto my jump drives and hard discs. I just can’t relate to a sixteen year old who sounds like a chipmunk with asthma.

But there were a few.

Now, remember these were people who struck a responsive chord with me. Your mileage may vary.

Maren Morris – a 30 year old quasi, semi, kinda Country singer. Here is a link to a live performance. The gal has soul. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x50utV55RQo

The Shires – The Shires are a British “Country” duo who don’t sound Country to me. They have been around for a while but are new to me. I really like this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At8HCMxMils

Dua Lipa – “Dua Lipa (/ˈduːə ˈliːpə/; Albanian pronunciation: [ˈdua ˈlipa]; born 22 August 1995) is an English singer, songwriter, and model. After working as a model, she signed with Warner Music Group in 2015 and released her self-titled debut album in 2017” Go Figure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oygrmJFKYZY

Everything But the Girl – OK, so they aren’t new but I haven’t listened to them in a long time. Let’s call them “Recycled.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsRnVtIeLyg

This last addition to My Playlist is an Irish singer who has a voice and performance skill that makes me shiver with envy.

Mary Black – a live performance of a most incredible number https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ao7-X-xqoA

Now if you see me rolling down the road and I am smiling and singing you’ll know why.

Hey! It’s Time For Some Fun Fiction!!

Please Note ! This piece was originally written in the 1980s to be performed live onstage. I did it a few times in bookstore readings and Story Telling events. They had no idea what to make of it.

Imagine this scene as a part of an old Humphrey Bogart movie or some Film Noir epic. Lots of shadows and sinister music. The only difference is that my detective is not the hard-boiled type. He is closer to  “Poached.”

This was the first episode of a series called “The Henway Chronicles.”

***

The Coffee Shop

A steady drizzle was falling – giving the dark city streets a sugar glaze that hid the bitterness of the late night.

As I walked into the coffee shop the red plastic counter stools gleamed a promise of hot coffee and maybe something to fill the void inside me.

A flash of green caught the corner of my eye. Sitting in the last booth next to the aging Wurlitzer Jukebox was, perhaps, the best looking woman these eyes had ever seen. And these eyes have seen everything and not liked most of it. Dark red hair the color of Irish heartbreak fell to her shoulders, a cup of coffee, half gone, sat in front of the lady who was completely gone.

The flash of green was a crisp $100 bill that she was spinning on the Formica tabletop.

I told the guy behind the counter, an old friend I’d never met before, to give the lady a refill – on me. He just grunted. He’d played this scene a hundred times before.

Déjà Vu on a damp night.

“HI, Doll. My name’s Henway. I’m a Dick – head of the best P.I. outfit in town.”

She looked up at me with two green eyes that flashed more than the Century Note and gave me a look that said both, “Hold my hand,” and “Go hold your own.”

I sat down and waited until our cups were filled the hot inky coffee and my old pal went back to his station by the cake dish.

“Tell me about it,” I said. “Maybe I can help.”

Those two emerald colored eyes looked over at me and her two too red lips parted. “Raaazzz,” was all she said. I used a napkin to clean my glasses.

“I think I understand,” I said with a nod.

“Your guy’s been two-timing you and tonight he got a little too rough when you called him on it. You ran out of the house in tears and now you’re here at 3 in the AM, afraid to go home. All dressed up and no place to go – right? And the hundred? You keep that pinned to your slip for emergencies. It’s enough to get you bus fare back home, right? Your name is Lily, you’re a Taurus, and you think men in pointy shoes are a turn-off, right? You had fried clams and a Valium for dinner and you think Barry Manilow sucks like a Hoover. Right, Dollface?”

They don’t make paper napkins like they used to.

It was obvious that the lady had a problem staring her in the face. I got up from the booth.

“I guess I hit too close to home, huh kid? Well maybe you just need to be alone to work it all out, right?”

I tossed a dime onto the table and it rolled a lazy figure eight around two crumpled napkins and came to rest in a pile of sugar next to her spoon.

“Here, call a cab and go home,” I said. “It’s late and a swell looking dame like you shouldn’t be out alone on the streets in this neighborhood. Nothing but Freaks, Geeks, and Low-lifes out there this time of night.”

I turned to leave, my thoughts already focusing on the last piece of German chocolate Cake I’d seen sitting under the plastic dome on the counter.

“Hey, Mister?” I heard her say in a voice like white silk.

“Hey, Mister?”

I stopped  and turned.

“Yeah, Dollface?”

“Raazzzzzze.”

Some people just ain’t got no class.

 

Something Is Brewing

 

Oh, Man! Am I getting tired of this – or what? It’s not the omnipresent virus and all of the foofuraw surrounding it that I’m talking about here. I’ve already done too much of that. There is nothing new for me to say about it or for you to read about.

No.

What I’m talking about is COFFEE.

You know- that golden nectar that every day brings millions of people back to life? That liquid DNA that transforms us from mere meat with shoes on into a planet filled with creative men and women – some of whom know the difference between coffee and …anything else you might pour down your throat in the morning.

I started drinking coffee when I was in high school. I wanted to look “grown up” and coffee seemed to be my best way to look older and more worldly. Of course I put enough sugar in my grownup looking coffee cup to trigger a Diabetic Episode and three cavities, but I looked “Mature.”

All through college, a long and tortuous journey, I stayed with coffee. By that time I was hooked on the need for the caffeine but the mass amount of sugar faded until it was gone the way of bicycle training wheels and that ridiculously futile crush on Jayne Mansfield.

The sugar was gone which left me with a cup filled with black coffee. I didn’t like black coffee and I still don’t. I don’t hate it. I’ll drink it in a pinch or an emergency. For instance, if some alien species from another world landed here on earth and fell in love with our bovines and cownapped them all back to their home galaxy there would be a crisis in a cup. If that happens I will be forced to drink my coffee black. And don’t even talk to me about “Non-Dairy Coffee Creamers.” Paint belongs on the walls not in my mug.

As time passed my coffee needs did not really change, except perhaps in the quantity consumed, but Coffee Technology was in the fast lane. I went from a metal percolator to the first generation of Mr. Coffee drip brewers, Italian espresso in those tiny cups that were never enough. There was a brief romance with a French Press (It never would have lasted there was just too much pressure.). Then came the explosion known as Starbucks. They were everywhere. Where I lived in the city of San Francisco there were five Starbucks within walking distance for me…and if you know me at all you know that “walking distance” for me is “Drunken stupor crawling on all fours” for most other people.

I liked Starbucks coffee from the beginning. They brew it strong and I like my coffee to be able to fight back if it ever finds itself being poured in a dark alley. I have been a loyal slurper in Starbucks all over the country and even overseas. I have no complaints. But now a pretender to the Throne of the Golden Bean is in my kitchen.

Keurig!

I was first introduced to these devilish little machines a couple of years ago. It was Love at First Sip. Here was something that would let me brew myself a cup of coffee – toss it down my pie hole – and then, almost immediately make another, but a totally different flavor. I could do that all afternoon. And Morning. And Evening.

In deciding to write about this I knew that some people might disagree with me and my thoughts. Well, frankly, I’m not bothered by that. I might offer to share a cup with them and if they don’t see the error of their ways, may they spend the rest of their life drinking Airline coffee. I’m an easy going guy…at least until my tenth cup of the day kicks in.

 

 

The Angel Is In The Details

 

“People come and go so slowly here.”

It wasn’t the Cowardly Lion who said that and we are certainly not in anyone’s Oz. In fact, it seems that we are stuck in an opposite place – “Bitter Reality Land.”

The strange reality of the last month and more has created a new world. I’m not saying that it is one that I enjoy or even understand completely. It is…different – Different in a number of ways that are unfamiliar in my experience and I feel sure is unfamiliar in our collective experience as a nation. It is all rather upsetting. Stores that I like are closed. Restaurants are reduced to drive through lanes and forget it if you need a haircut. And then there are the masks.

“Who was that Masked Man?”

The doors at my bank are locked and you can enter by appointment only. Inside everyone is wearing a mask, including the person who handles mortgages and the like. That masked man is known as The Loan Arranger.

I know that I am not alone when I say that I do not like wearing a mask. I find them uncomfortable and they make my glasses fog up. The Where and When I am supposed to wear such a mask is revealed daily by a variety of contradictory “experts” who can’t seem to agree on anything. They don’t exactly inspire confidence and confidence is what people need right now. I do…and I’m people too. I can prove it. I watched all of Game of Thrones.

Things have changed while we are living, and in some cases dying, with this virus business. But change is a nonstop thing and, in time – long or short – we will start to rebuild our daily lives. Like any reconstruction project the target of the restoration will be different than what it was before no matter how hard we try to make it an exact copy.

As we restore our personal lives we will make changes big and small intentional and accidental. My question is how do you think your life will be different – post virus? Will it be better or worse? How do you want it to be different? This is something I think that we, each of us, have to start thinking about now! Think about it now when, like it or not, most of us have plenty of idle time on our hands. I know how I’m going to approach this.

How I intend to plan my life, however long or short that may be, is to carry around a small notebook and a pen so I can jot down my own personal thunderbolts of wisdom. I know that I want there to be changes. There will be changes in the things that I do and there will be changes in how I respond to other things as they affect me. There will probably be some big changes, but most will be so small that I will be the only person who will notice them. I’m cool with that. After all, in the larger scheme of the universe, I am nobody else’s business. I have no desire to control anyone else and I certainly don’t want to be someone else’s android.

I R2 D-etermined to allow that to happen.

I’m going to start planning my new Chez Krafty today. I will not be caught in a New Life without have a set of detailed blueprints. This brush with a planetary scare has made me realize that I have spent most of my life just drifting. I have drifted from one career to another, from one hometown to another, from one relationship to another, and from one set of standards to another.  But from now on I will be controlling the tides. Many, if not most of the things and people in my life will remain – but there are going to be changes. If there aren’t any changes it would prove that I just haven’t been paying attention – and trust me –

I have.

Weather Or Not

 

We are in that awkward transitional time of the year. It’s not really Winter any longer, even though there are mornings when we awaken to find snow on the ground. It is not really Springtime either. There may be a robin or two scouting for worms in the yard, but their red breasts are still shivering in the cold.

This is that spot on the calendar where we don’t know how to dress. Should I put on the old college sweats that have always kept me warm or should I try on that new short sleeve shirt I was given at Christmas?

These are the days when we don’t know which way to turn.  What should we do to be comfortable? What makes sense? Don’t ask me.

I find this time of year to be transitional in more ways than just the weather. It is really the start of the time when we make life decisions. It is our Intellectual Springtime as well. Do we make that move to a new job, a new home, a new life? Or do we drag out the old and the comfortable for one more year? Do we try something new or do we postpone everything? For how many years can we mimic the weather patterns of being neither this nor that and being unsatisfied with both? Eventually we either have to make those choices and move on, or we must retreat into our closet and move to the rear where we keep the clothes we can’t bring ourselves to throw out.

The weather outside my window right now is at 51 degrees with a cold wind and showers threatening. Inside it is me in an old sweatshirt wondering what I should do about a dozen different things. Not all of those questions are life altering. Some are, but most are as simple as “What should I have for breakfast?”  Coming up with “French Toast” is not as earth shaking a decision as choosing to change careers, become a Parent, or to “Tune In, Turn On, and Drop Out” as many of us considered in the 1960s. Facing the simple questions is easy, but there are some that are soul wrenching.

Whether or not the Weather pleases us is really a temporary situation. No matter what it is like right now outside of my window I won’t have to wait long before it changes. On this planet Winter does give way to Spring and then on to Summer, Autumn, and then back to Winter again. We can choose which season we like the best but we can’t speed up its arrival or slow down its demise. We have to deal with what is in front of us now.

Our Life is different from our place in the flow of the Weather as it transitions through the year. We can be happy with our life or not, but if we are unhappy we can also do a great deal about it. We have Choices. We can choose wisely and enhance our life bringing us joy or we can choose poorly and send our life careening through the years like an out of control car. Often we can’t recognize the wisdom or the errors of our choices until time passes and there is no going back. Life rarely gives us a “Mulligan.” All we can do is think, learn, pray, and do our best when we come to those crossroads.

Whether we live through the Weather of our life enjoying our days, or we grumble and complain about everything is really our Ultimate Choice.

In this world there are Happy People who always seem to have a genuine smile on their face and then there are Unhappy People. Those are the ones who may also have a smile for the world to see, but are never content no matter what their station in life. They could be fabulously wealthy and famous, but they never have “enough.’ These are the people for whom the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  

While the Weather outside my window is not to my liking I know that better days are coming and that is what keeps me going. I know for a fact that there will be warmer days when my body will not be so rebellious. The sun will shine and it will put a pleasing glow on my face. All I have to do is be patient and wait for it to arrive. Complaining won’t make it come any sooner. It will get here Whether the Weather today is warm or not.

 

Oatmeal and Ham

 

Oatmeal and Ham

 

Tradition! It’s more than a song from “Fiddler on the Roof.” It is what has us doing things from generation to generation even if we don’t really know why.

“We’ve always done it that way.”

For example: From my youngest days up until this very morning I have always eaten my nice steaming bowl of oatmeal covered not with fruit, sugar, or maple syrup, but with salt. I’ve never known anyone else who does that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like it with salt, but why?

I wondered about that for years without ever finding a satisfactory answer. Finally, after decades of eating my salty oatmeal, I asked my Mother. This is what she told me.

My mother was born in 1911, one of nine children in an immigrant family. Oatmeal was a cheap way of filling those tiny tummies before sending them off to school. What wasn’t cheap was enough sugar, fruit, or syrup to sweeten up all those bowls of oatmeal. So, in an effort to give the kid’s breakfasts some flavor my grandmother salted their oatmeal.

My mother ate salted oatmeal in her youth and when she had kids she passed that recipe on to her children. It became an instant tradition in our family. Even though I could afford some sugar or some other sweeteners I still reach for the salt shaker more than a hundred years after that poor family of Lithuanian immigrants didn’t have the money for sugar.

Tradition!

Someone told me, over coffee, about a mysterious tradition in her family.

This is where the Ham enters the picture.

The woman told me that whenever she bought a ham she would cut off a sizable chunk from one end before cooking. She’d been doing that for years…because that was the way her mother always cooked ham. It had become a family tradition.

After a number of years her mother was visiting her daughter who was going to serve ham for Sunday dinner. When the mother saw her daughter cut off the end from the ham and set it aside she asked her why she was doing that.

“I learned how to cook watching you and I always saw you cut off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven. I figured it was part of your secret recipe.”

When the mother finally stopped laughing she explained that her practice of cutting off part of a ham was because she never had a pan large enough to hold a full sized ham. She always trimmed it down just to fit the pan she did have.

Tradition!

Tradition is a shared memory that is passed from one generation to the next. It can serve to teach or to warn by passing on what the older generation had to learn the hard way. Whether it be an oversized ham, a bowl of salty oatmeal, or something equally mundane it is the simple traditions that glue the generations together and make us all Family.

 

Tradition!

Strangers In Our Own Land

 

Strangers In Our Own Land

You, me, and the crazy neighbors – all of us on this globe are living – trapped – by a new Draconian rule. 7.8 billion People are being told to somehow, ,avoid each other. This edict has been given the benign sounding name of “Social Distancing.” Theoretically, it is supposed to help to impede the spread of the virus that is making its way around the world. It may very well do that, but it is having another effect that may be even more toxic. That is when “Social Distancing” becomes “Social Isolation” and turns us all into strangers in our own land.

With the everpresent tentacles of the Internet more and more activities that had always been handled face to face between people have become online functions that are now done in the solitary glow of a laptop computer. With the viral pandemic erecting barriers everywhere even more of our daily meetings with real people have become impersonal and hidden behind masks. Looking in the mirror hides us from ourselves.

Things that had once been little more than luxuries have become commonplace. Supermarkets are becoming little more than warehouses as everyone places their orders online and anonymous people wearing gloves and masks drop off their orders in plastic bags outside their door.

Doctors are making diagnoses on Skype. Banks have locked their lobby doors and become online and drive-through businesses. Restaurants of all kinds are serving curbside customers only. Nobody dares to shake hands anymore. Want to give someone a hug? People will run away like you were on fire. If you need a hug – Good Luck.

“Social Distancing” is such a horrid term. There is nothing Social about it and it has absolutely nothing to do with Distance. It is all about keeping people apart, away from each other, isolating 7.8 billion people. I don’t know if we have enough room to keep everyone sufficiently isolated to please the self-anointed “experts.”

 

 

“We’re going to need a bigger boat”

 

Don’t get me wrong. I know there is a virulent virus out there – along with countless others that can be fatal. So can the Measles. So can Polio (that’s still out there, folks), and so can dining on Gas Station Sushi every night. Life can be dangerous. Let’s face it – None of us are going to get out of this thing alive. This virus that is the talk of the town is far less fatal than many other things out there. The hysteria on our TVs 24 hours a day being one of them.

“Social Distancing” creates “Social Isolation” which creates “Social Dehumanization.” The nonstop and constantly contradictory “reporting” fills up the space between the Joe Namath Medicare Insurance ads and pushes people farther apart in many ways. When this viral circus has left town there are going to be a lot of people who will have trouble readjusting to normal social behaviors. How many kids are going to believe that there is a viral boogeyman hiding under their bed at night? How many Social Misfits are being created behind their homemade masks and rubber gloves?

I for one hope that the term “Social Distancing” goes away soon and joins other linguistic hot buttons that became both familiar to us all and incredibly annoying like “Y2K” and “But Wait! There’s more!”

Springtime!

 

The other day I saw a picture that someone had posted on Facebook. They had clipped the first flowers of the season from their yard and put them in a vase for all to see. It was a beautiful display of bright yellow Daffodils

Daffodils are, to the best of my knowledge and experience, the first flowers to bloom in Springtime. There may be others that bloom first, but in my neighborhood the Daffodils always lead the way into Spring. They are an explosive yellow sign that Winter is over and that we have survived. They are a bright burst of color announcing the renewal of Life for another year.

I don’t know much about flowers, I appreciate them and their diverse beauty, but my academic knowledge is meager indeed. If I like how they look they are flowers. If I don’t like them they are weeds. That doesn’t exactly make me into the reincarnation of Luther Burbank does it?

When I see those first flowers of the Season it lifts my spirits, thawing my frozen soul from the glacier of yet another cruel Winter. It’s like they are a reward for having made it through. When I see those yellow blooms I cannot help but smile. The air may still be bitter and I may still be wearing my heavy coat and gloves but those Daffodils get my attention with their message. I can’t bring myself to cut them and bring them into the house. I can see them from the kitchen window. That’s enough for me and the flowers stay where they look the best.

I’ve thought about planting some other flowers that are Early Bloomers. Tulips are very nice and colorful as well. I haven’t ever done it though. I’m not the kind who enjoys digging in the dirt. Farmer John I’m not. I did plant corn one time many years ago. It grew nicely even though it was in a large planter next to my desk in a fifth floor office. No, I’m content to see the Daffodils through that window. I don’t know who first planted them there in the backyard, but “Thank You” whoever you were.

Daffodils are my favorite flowers. Yellow is my favorite color. The yellow makes me think of the sun and the warming rays that keep me alive. And what is a better backyard reminder of that than the Daffodil?

I’m going to keep the picture of that vase with the Daffodils. It will last longer than the flowers outside of my kitchen window and I can turn to it whenever I feel the need – in those hours when I feel the cold creeping up on me figuratively or literally. That and it’s just plain pretty.

And isn’t that good enough?

Below is a poem about Daffodils by William Wordsworth. It is perhaps his best known work.

 

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

 

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

 

Faces

Faces.

Everybody has one with the exception of those people we meet who turn out to have two, but we try to avoid them. As a youth in Pennsylvania there was a character who had been in a horrible accident and was known locally as “No Face Charlie.” That is another story for another day.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is what The Face, my face, your face, everyone’s face, tells us about the person. It’s not a matter of “beauty.” What constitutes beauty changes constantly. A great beauty from the 1890s in America would today be posing for the “Before” picture in an ad for the Weight Watchers diet program.

When we meet somebody for the first time we hear their name but, more often than not, we instantly forget it because we are looking at their face –  making a million snap decisions based on what we see there. “Is this person friendly or hostile? Do I find them attractive or not? Is that their real hair color or a dye job?” First impressions are important and in many cases completely erroneous. We all try to make a good first impression so we strive to look our best, hide our flaws, and behave like a civilized human being. We may dress up, shine our shoes and make sure our zippers are up, but it is what we show in our face that says to the world who we really are.

When I’m seeing someone  for the first time I find that my initial judgement is at the corners of their mouth. Are their lips going up at the corners or down, or are they held tight in a straight line? I’m not thinking about what i’m seeing, it’s just an unconscious response. My brain puts it into a file folder and my eyes move on. Is this person looking at me or are they trying to locate the nearest exit? Do they look happy to be meeting me or are they silently calculating how long it will take to get away, having already made their decision about me? All of this takes place in a few  seconds at best – just long enough to say, “I’m sorry – your name again is…?” When I get to the end of my analysis of their face I put the various pieces together and make my thumbs up or down decision.

There are those people who we meet in our day to day life who make instant and lasting impressions on us. How else would you explain “Love at first sight” or “I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley” reactions? I know that there have been people whom I’ve met and took an immediate dislike or distrust to. Those have usually been people running for public office. But there have also been some, a few, people who upon meeting I would have felt safe giving them the keys to my car or my bank account numbers.

Have I ever felt the “Love at first sight” reaction? On an hourly basis. I’m an easy mark. Of course it never gets beyond that initial hormonal backflip. Otherwise I would be known as a stalker. I just chalk it up to an instantaneous response to a collection of facial features that I find attractive; both eyes are in their proper location, the corners of the mouth stop before getting all the way to the ears, there are ears. I guess that I’m not all that fussy. I can think of only 2 or 3 times in my life when I acted on my “Love at first sight” reaction. That girl was gorgeous. She hit all my buttons. It didn’t work out well. Those fourth grade romances rarely do. I was a little older when I felt that immediate tumble again – but Ann-Margret didn’t feel the same way about me. The last time I fell head over heels in love with someone upon first seeing their wonderful face was with a real live person who existed in my real world. I tried to get her to notice me, but I really don’t think she ever even knew my name. if she had known it I don’t think that when she saw me she would have screamed, “That’s him Officer!”

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. That looking deep into someone’s eyes will tell you all you need to know. I don’t know about that. What with Lasik and cataract surgeries, colored contact lenses, corneal transplants and breast implants I don’t think that the eyes can hold my attention as well as they would have in Shakespeare’s time. Does that make me shallow? Probably.

Looking at someone’s face when meeting them is quite an exercise in human nature. It may have started as a survival technique. That first impression may have triggered a “Fight or Flight” response at some time before morphing into the social event it is today. What I find even more interesting is how the human face and it’s components change over time along with my ability to read them. That first impression may give me the basics, but over time the more subtle things can be learned with a quick glance at a face. I discern if the other person is angry or sad, feeling well or poorly, even whether I’m about to be kissed or I should get ready to duck.

The human face is a magnificent puzzle with so many pieces that can tell so much. Conditions can and do change not only what those pieces can tell you,but whether or not you can interpret them correctly. It is akin to trying to read someone’s mind and we all know how dangerous that can be. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read the signs to mean one thing when they actually meant the exact opposite and I end up running for figurative cover being followed by an icy stare.

While William Shakespeare may have written “The eyes are the windows to the soul” I tend to think that they are more like a chain link fence – allowing you to see whatever is made visible to you, but keeping you from getting too close a look at what is hidden away. We will all continue looking at someone’s face and making those snap judgments. It’s human nature and who knows – you might just fall in love. 

 

 

 

I Hope You Are All Still Out There

Dear and loyal readers,

I closed down this blog at the end of 2019 – I was tired and I didn’t have anything to talk about. Well that certainly has changed. We are now in a new world and what I would like to do is to kickstart a new version of “Down The Hall On Your Left.”

What I propose is a semi-regular format, no more than once a week. It would be a personal journey like the first blog was, but this time it will be different I sense.

So…Here is the initial entry. It is called:

THE WORLD

 

Oh, how the world has changed. My world, your world, our world.

In what seems overnight all bets are off. The game is canceled and don’t get close to anyone. Gee, Thanks, and have a nice day.

A Virus – an entity that is neither alive nor not alive has come into our personal world. It has barged into my world and…the only word I can think of is that I…RESENT it.

I have a life, my life, my only life and why should I have to withdraw into a cocoon, giving up everything? The virus can end my life the talking heads say. Isn’t that what all of the “Precautions’ have done?

I’m pissed! Can you tell?

I know! I know! Life isn’t fair. There are no sure things. There never have been and under the best of circumstances there never will be. But, Dammit, I have things I want to do, places I want to go, and I can’t accomplish any of this with everyone staying six fearful feet away from me.

I am not a youngster anymore and I’ve had a life filled with some fun and wonderful experiences, but I still have plans. I may be old, but I’m not dead. These things that I want to do are more than simple day dreams and wishes. They are things that I must do to survive. There are Stories to be written, Spotlights to be felt. There is Love to be made, and Beaches to be stretched out on. To borrow from Dylan Thomas, “I will not go gently into that good night.” I will have to be dragged away kicking and screaming.

My todays and tomorrows are the products of my yesterdays. There is no denying that. Some of my yesterdays weren’t too great and they have left my todays with some scar tissue. However, I refuse to accept that my tomorrows are to be dictated by something that started out dripping in a Chinese market.

OK, I think you’ve picked up on my thoughts – virtually all of them are negative about the virus and its impact on my life. I like it less than even cold weather and Blue Cheese.

So what? What am I going to do about it? There is no place for me to lodge a Formal Complaint. There is no person I can stand in front of to rant, rave, and shake my fist at. There is nothing I can do except take a walk and sit on a bench by myself. I’m not good at that.

“You have plans? Forget them. Stay home and don’t do anything.”

This whole virus thing is, almost universally, depressing. How could it not be depressing when every aspect of my life, your life, everybody’s life, has been thrown up into the air? I understand the reality that this is a sickness that can be fatal thereby ending any and all plans, but if I am going to be imprisoned inside an ever-shrinking solitary world I am going to let my feelings be known.

The frustration I have squeezing my head and heart is pushing me into acting in a way I do not like in myself. I’m letting everything translate into a short temper. I find myself lashing out at whoever gets too close without offering up a solution. I lash out at the television, the electric sputum box of our time. Even dogs and cats give me a wide berth.

I’m not like this, except now I am.

What do I propose to do about all of this? What can I do about this?

There are too many forces in play that are beyond my control and even my comprehension. Science, Politics, and Anger are all parts of what is happening. Which part has dominance over my world changes daily.

Just about every day I get my carcass out of a chair, put on my jacket and hat and go for a walk. Do I like going for a walk? No. But I do it anyway. It gets me out of the house/internment camp and I suppose it is good physical therapy. It must be good for me because it hurts like hell.

I am able to get some sunshine on those days when the sky doesn’t look like an extreme close-up of a bowl of mashed potatoes. Most days have been high-carb lately. Getting some sunlight is crucial to me. It is a good source of Vitamin D in non-pill form and it helps to keep me alive. I’m a lot like a sunflower. I turn to the sun for life giving light. Without it I turn toward other sunflowers for solace or I wither.

So, I dress appropriately and head down the driveway. If I turn left I walk 4/10ths of a mile down to a bench that is by a church and a small rock garden. I sit there until the swelling in my left ankle goes down and then I chalk up another 4/10ths to get me back home. If I see other people on the street they mostly turn to avoid eye contact. Those who do talk as they avoid me are babbling irrationally and grinning like painted clowns.

If I turn right at the end of the driveway I travel on uneven sidewalks for a few blocks and walk up to the drive-through window of a small coffee shop. I tell them that I’m out driving around in my new invisible car. They smile nervously and hand me my purchase. If I continue down the road I eventually end up at that same bench only I have a cuppa to go along with my swollen ankle.

This is how I am doing my part to “Flatten the curve” on this virus thing. I walk. I drink coffee.  I swell.

I’m being a responsible citizen they tell me.

What is the hardest part of this New World Order for me to live with? It is the edict that I am not to get any closer than 6 feet to another person. I’m already starved for human contact – this doesn’t make it any easier. The theory is that I might either catch a cootie or give a cootie to the other person who dares to get too close. Without human touch what is the point? Without feeling the caress or even just the incidental contact of another human I stop caring. I give up all hope, and the cooties win.

This is where I find myself today; alone in a crowded world, needing to reach out to another person who is afraid of living like a human.

And so I go for a walk – 4/10ths of a mile. I sit on a bench and look at the painted rocks in the garden while my ankle tries to heal itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Is Time

TIME PASSES. TIME ALSO ARRIVES. AND TIME HAS ARRIVED HERE.

This blog has been going since November of 2014 with well over 1500 postings of varying quality and meaning to be sure.

But now I feel that it is time to pull the plug. Today will be the last day for this blog.

I am tired. My mind is tired and my body is not as cooperative as it used to be. I feel unable to sharply observe the world around me and I don’t really have anything left to say.

To those of you who have been with me on this excursion from the early days – I thank you for your mysterious loyalty and the countless comments you have launched in my direction.

So, as I wrap up this chapter of my life, I urge you to love one another.Tell people that you love them. Hug them often. Don’t let them feel lonely.

Thank You and Goodbye.

John

Here Comes 2020….Duck!

THIS IS GETTING RIGHT DOWN TO THE WIRE. Today and Tomorrow and that’s it – a new year and a new decade.

2020? That doesn’t even look real. It looks like a date out of a bad Science Fiction movie.

“It was 2020 on the Third Moon of Zoltar.”

It may sound and look cheesy, but it is real and I’m sure it will take me until Mid-May before I stop writing 2019 on checks and other things. I tend to be a little behind the curve on those things. It will finally start to register in my brain when I start getting complaints from my bank.

2020? Doesn’t it seem like it was just last week that we were fussing and fuming about “Y2K” and how

the world was going to shut down? That didn’t happen, did it? I’m not sure.

2020? I’m not sure that I’m ready for it. 2020 sounds so…permanent, like it means business and isn’t going to take any more guff from people like me.

2020 sounds like a date doesn’t even need a New Year’s Eve to get people ready for the change. If you are not fully prepared for it 2020 will slap you around until you quit whining.

2020 sounds like a Mixed Martial Arts kind of a year – anything goes and you better protect yourself against those kicks to the groin. It reeks of, “I’m rough. I’m tough and I have a secret Sleeper Hold if you get out of line.”

2019 Going Down

If we can get through 2020 we will then bump into 2021. That year, on the other hand, sounds like a misstep, a stumble on a crack in the sidewalk. 2021 will just fill up a space in time. It’s 2020 we have to watch out for.

The term 20/20 also has a meaning referring to supposedly ideal vision. Since my cataract surgery two years ago I now have 20/20 vision, but it is far from ideal. I can now see more clearly the things that I cannot afford to have.

2020 is different things to different people. I have already received a new 2020 calendar and within thirty seconds it gave me a nasty paper cut.

I can take a hint.

The Habit Of Love

IN ANSWER TO A NUMBER OF REQUESTS FROM READERS WHO WANTED TO READ THIS ONE MORE TIME. 

FROM JULY 3OTH 2019

 

THE HABIT OF LOVE

I WAS IN A DISCUSSION THE OTHER DAY ABOUT GOOD HEALTHY HABITS. There was talk about eating the right things, seeing your Doctor regularly, and getting enough exercise. I can’t really argue with any of those things. They all come under the heading of “Duh!”

As this discussion went back and forth with people offering up their own special dietary favorites and exercise routines I sat on the sidelines. I was taking it all in, but not offering anything of my own. I was thinking. That can take some time. My brain has to warm up first. Trying to come up with an idea too soon and I could pull a lobe.

While I stood by listening to the others I noticed that all of their “Healthy Habits” had to do with the heath of their physical bodies, but none for their spirit or soul. That concerned me. My physical habits are generally pretty crappy so I try to take care of my Soul/Spirit/Being – whatever you want to call it.

Read more…

I’ll Be Back Someday

We are taking a break from Saturday Fiction while we come up with something worthwhile.

If you have any suggestions feel free to pass them along.

Meanwhile, I’ll be busy…somewhere, doing something.

Survivors!

WELL, I’M GOING TO ASSUME THAT, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, YOU ARE STILL ALIVE. In some cases I know that that may be a bit of a stretch, but it does look as if you made it through another Christmas.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Christmas Dinner – and then there is a day of Christmas Leftovers and Batteries not included. That seems to be the Order of Battle

For me that day after Christmas usually involves multiple trips to the supermarket for a can of this or that and a Dollar Store Safari for batteries of the size I failed to buy before Christmas. How was I to know that nothing uses “D” size batteries anymore? If you ever find that you need some “D” batteries let me know because I have a boxcar load of them out in the garage. Most of them may be thirty years old, but they can be yours at a reasonable price.

Read more…

Throwback Thursday From December 2016 – “I Have Not Done This Well”

new2OK, WE HAVE CHRISTMAS OUT OF THE WAY. The eggnog has been thankfully disposed of until next year. Christmas carols are over until Thanksgiving – except on the Hallmark Channel. New Year’s Day kind of takes care of itself with football, aspirin and drawn shades. I guess our next societal obligation is the making of New Year’s Resolutions. I suggest doing that before going out on New Year’s Eve. Doing it after that carries the danger of it being a product of desperation, shame, and physical pain.

Read more…

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: