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 – 2021

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

We Have Ways Of Making You Jolly

Berlin_Checkpoint_Charlie_089

PART OF VISITING family for the Holidays is going to drop in on those relatives you don’t get to see very often. We devoted part of yesterday to that.

I must admit that Rose and Ray are the only people I know who actually live in a “Gated Community.”  Well, that is, if you exclude from “Gated Community” those places where the gates are topped with razor wire and all the residents have colorful nicknames. Rose and Ray don’t have colorful nicknames and I didn’t see any razor wire. But there was one disturbing element, not counting the fact that all of the homes inside the gates cost more than some U. S. Navy warships. Let me explain.

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Adventures in Real Estate

 

real estate agent

 

I’VE NEVER BEEN ONE to delve too deeply into the world of Real Estate. I just find it all mystifying, fraught with language designed to confuse (At least it seems to me that way), and absurdly expensive. The people who do it for a living, however, I find to be, generally, fascinating in their own gut wrenching way. Let me explain.

For any of you who work in Real Estate, I apologize in advance. I mean no harm and, heck, you’re working for a living.

Working for a living and relying on Commissions to pay the bills, is tough. I’ve done it, I know. It can be either feast or famine. One month you are eating prime rib and the next month you’re fighting with Fluffy for that last can of Friskies.

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Squirrels

squirrelNOW THAT CHRISTMAS IS OFFICIALLY over, and I really don’t give a rat’s behind about New Years Eve, I’d like to talk about something that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately – Squirrels.

After a lot of thought, and an exhaustive fact-finding mission to St. Arbucks, I have determined that squirrels are the dumbest animals on Earth.

Sure, I know that there aren’t many squirrels actually inside the Chapel at St. Arbucks, but it’s more fun than a fact-finding mission to Wal-Mart. Anyway, I think we can all agree – squirrels are dumb.

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The Gift

50th-Wedding-Anniversary

 GIVING A GIFT, whether it is at Christmastime, or for any other occasion, can be a tricky business. If gift giving was easy there wouldn’t be closets filled with truly ugly sweaters, neckties and the questionable objet d’ art.

We’ve all been on both ends of this process, the receiving of gaily wrapped packages filled with inedible fruitcakes, and the sending of a gift to a distant niece or nephew who would rather slit their wrists than be caught dead in the sweater you thought was just lovely.

I can innocently say that I was just a spectator when the Worst Gift of All Time was presented.

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A Christmas Story

FloridaWITH THIS BEING CHRISTMAS EVE and all, my thoughts turn to Family. Today, in particular, makes me think of my late Uncle Paul and Aunt Nellie.

It wasn’t that many years ago, on a Christmas Eve, when they seared themselves into both my memory and my gag reflex. Let me explain.

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Manna From Texas

Barbecue-_PhotoFOR REASONS THAT BECOME increasingly obvious as the temperature drops and Christmas comes closer – we will soon be heading to Texas for the holidays.

On Christmas Eve we will pile into the car after the Annual Christmas Eve Services at church and drive up to the Indianapolis area for the night. The next morning, Christmas Morning, we will get onto the Great Silver Bird called Southwest Airlines and fly to Texas.

Hopefully, all will go well and our flight from Indy to Houston will be uneventful and on time so that we can then get onto the Not So Great Silver Bird called by some other, less known name, and make the short jump down to Corpus Christi. Once there, we will collect our luggage and be met by an, as yet unnamed, family member who will drive us the final half hour to the Family Home. Read more…

The Time Between Tick and Tock

Wright FlyerTHIS PAST WEDNESDAY, December 17th was an anniversary. 111 years ago, in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright proved that Man could, indeed, fly – when Orville piloted their “Flyer One” biplane on a 12-second flight over the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The entire distance he covered in that first flight was less than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet.” Little did they realize how grandly they would change the world.

I remember my father telling me, back in July of 1969, that, in just his lifetime, he had seen the world go from horse drawn wagons to astronauts walking on the moon. And now there are men and women in their 50s who have not been alive in a time when people have not been venturing into space.

Time stretches out in an orderly, regular fashion, but events compress it into Ages, Eras, Seasons, and Periods. Next year won’t come until next year, but it is already part of what is called the “Space Age” and the “Computer Age.”

Christmas won’t come until later this week no matter how much a child may hope and wish, but it is already firmly locked into the “Holiday Season.”

When the Wright Brothers took those first, fledgling flights above the beach, they moved at a speed that could be exceeded by a child on a bicycle. Today there are aircraft that can outrun the sun, making the Day appear to expand to more than 24 hours.

Theoretical physicists and engineers talk about tomorrows when we will move at speeds so fast that Time itself becomes plastic – a day when the distance between “tick” and “tock” will be different for you and me, depending on how quickly we fly.

When Orville took his first ride on their “Flyer” he did more than test a new invention – he closed the door to the Past and opened the hangar door to untold, barely imaginable, Tomorrows.

At some point in the future Mankind may decide to measure time from a new starting point, ala the fictional “Stardate” calendar in the Star Trek TV series and films. I suggest that they could not choose a better Day One than December 17, 1903.

Fight Night in Omaha

boxing in OmahaTHIS PAST JUNE we had the opportunity to spend a week in Omaha. While there we found ourselves caught up in one heck of a fight on a Saturday night. It was a bigger deal than I had anticipated and noisier than I could comfortably tolerate.

It was a World Championship Title fight for the Lightweight crown and it took place at the Century Link Center, just across the street from where we were staying at the Hilton hotel. 

I should have become suspicious when the Baseball College World Series crowd moved out on Saturday morning and several hundred trainers, boxers, fans and hangers-on from all over the western hemisphere moved into the hotel. I haven’t seen that much scar tissue since I performed at a California biker bar in the mid 1980s.

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Sister Modesta – With a Black Belt in Theology

mean-nun GOD BLESS SISTER MODESTA. She loved teaching so much that she did it for 51 years. I had her for her 50th year at the front of the classroom in the basement at St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School. It was 6th grade for me. It was Hell for her.

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Exercising My Right to Not Exercise

mallwalkersI KNOW A MAN who has taken up a new hobby – using a portable metal detector to hunt for, well – metal. It gets him out of the house and all the walking around is good exercise.

Exercise is good for you, but it is something that I tend to avoid. I saw my doctor just yesterday and he asked me what I did for exercise. I told him that I stumble.

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Baristas in the Mist

Saint Arbucks

AS I SIT QUIETLY in the Chapel at St. Arbucks sipping on myVenti Skinny Pumpkin Pie Spice Viagra Latte I can see a man up on a ladder behind the counter. When I asked my Barista (Notice that I capitalized Barista – they deserve a little respect.) what was up I was told that the guy on the ladder was installing a camera so that the customer in the Drive-Thru could see the person taking their order. I’m not sure that this is a good idea.

My first reaction to this technological intrusion was that Patrick, the guy I see manning the window most days, was going to have to start wearing pants.

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The Eyes of Texas Were Upon Me

texas welcome sinI’M MARRIED TO A SOUTHERN GAL.  She is from Texas – a wonderful woman.

When we first met it almost never got off the ground. We were just talking, me being smooth and virile, and her being an adult. She asked me when my birthday was.  July third I told her. She got real pale and things got real quiet. The temperature in the room dropped 20 degrees.  It turns out that I have the exact same birthday as her ex-husband. How thoughtless of me to pick the same day of the year to be born.  It’s not my fault.

We got past that, and she has finally come to the realization that, fate being what it is, she only marries men born on July third. I’ve told her that if this marriage doesn’t work out her next in line is Tom Cruise. My wife is 5′ 2″. Tom Cruise is about what – 3 feet tall?  I figure I’m safe.

Of course, my wife says that she no longer believes in divorce.  She now believes in mysterious circumstances.

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To Boldly Go…

Star Trek Colonoscopy A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO my doctor decided that I needed to have a Colonoscopy.  Are you familiar with that most fun of all medical procedures? This where they insert a camera … A CAMERA… up into your body through your rectum to look for “anything unusual”.  If you can look up into someone’s butt and know that something is “unusual,” you’ve been doing that for much too long.

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The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Done

gorilla-gorilla

BEING HUMAN BEINGS, such as we all are, to the best of my knowledge, we tend to, on a fairly regular basis, do dumb things.

Of course, there are different Levels of Dumbness.  

For example:

Looking back to your Senior Prom and remembering how difficult it was trying to teach a sheep to slow-dance.

Making anonymous obscene phone calls to 911

At Christmas, giving your wife or Sweetheart a gift card – to the local Dollar General store.

Trying to impress your date by ordering in French – at Taco Bell.

Going into a Biker Bar and ordering an Appletini.

Going to college and majoring in Theater, with a minor in Political Science.

I did that one myself.  Smart move.  I still had the cap and gown on when I realized that the only things I was actually qualified to do were to either stage a coup or turn Ecuador into a musical.

But, perhaps, the dumbest thing I have ever done, aside from various interpersonal relationships with unstable, but attractive women, was the time I held hands with an 800# Gorilla.

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Thank You For Visiting Terre Haute

Terre Haute Police Car YESTERDAY WE HAD A BIT of Big City excitement here in Terre Haute. A couple of brainless gangbanger wannabees from Chicago came to town. They weren’t here visiting the Indiana State campus contemplating a transfer to get a degree in Law Enforcement. They weren’t here even looking to score some Square Donuts (a local delicacy) to take home.

No, they were visiting Terre Haute to rob a gun shop.

Silly Rabbits.

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Here I Am – There I Go

Harpo_and_Lucy

I THINK OF MYSELF AS A PRETTY ORDINARY looking person, not at all unique. However, I think things might be better for me if I did look less ordinary. Let me explain.

On a disturbingly frequent basis I am mistaken for someone else. It seems that I have a number of doppelgangers walking around out there.

Just a few weeks ago I was sitting in the Chapel at St. Arbucks, minding my own business, when a man walked up to my table and called me by a name other than my own. When I corrected him he looked at me like I was crazy. He insisted that I was someone else – a person whom he knew. The visitor to my table didn’t look like he was insane or drunk, just confused. I asked him if this other fellow, handsome devil that he must be, owed him money. He said, “No,” so I was grateful for that at least.

That was the third time this has happened to me since I moved to Terre Haute in 2002. I’d like to meet this other fellow just to see if he has people, stopping him, thinking that he is me.

Before moving to Terre Haute, when I lived in San Francisco, I had this mistaken identity thing happen another half dozen times.

The spookiest incident happened one day while I was shopping in the neighborhood hardware store. A man walked up to me and said that he was glad that I had gotten the cast removed from my arm. Cast? What cast? I told him that he had me mistaken for someone else, but he insisted that he had been with me just the previous week and that then I had a cast on my broken arm. This guy was a friend of my mysterious twin and he still mistook me for him.

When I insisted again that he was mistaken he became upset and wondered out loud why I was denying knowing him.

All I can assume is that either I have a long lost identical twin following me around the country or my father got around more than we thought. There was one occasion when this “twininess” scared me.

Back in the mid 1980s there was a story in the news about a man who had killed a Park Ranger and kidnapped a female Ranger.

After about a week the killer/kidnapper was identified and his picture shown on TV and in newspapers across the nation. When I saw his photo on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle my jaw hit the floor: HE LOOKED JUST LIKE ME. I was stunned. Several friends phoned me to tell me about the picture.

I didn’t know what to do. I had to go to work, but I was afraid to get on the bus and go downtown. This fugitive was considered armed and dangerous and I didn’t want some trigger happy Transit cop drawing down on me.

I had no choice. I got on the bus and went to work, but I did get several stunned looks from people.

The kicker on this was that when the bastard was apprehended up in Idaho or somewhere, he looked no more like me than Arnold Schwarzenegger looked like me. I’m just wondering where they got that picture of him – that picture that could have passed for my passport photo.

Some days it ain’t easy being me – or one of my many identical twins.

Baseball – I Love It

Giants MadBumHERE WE ARE IN DECEMBER. We are just a few days before Christmas and what am I thinking about – Baseball, that’s what.

Baseball – I love it. Read more…

God Bless Joe Sheridan

Today I thought I would post a piece from my short fiction file.

God Bless Joe Sheridan” is the story of the airplane flight from Hell.

 

God Bless Joe SheridanBox tied with cord

 

I’VE NEVER BEEN IN JAIL, but, by God, I’ve done hard time. So have you, if you’ve ever flown coast to coast, shoehorned into a seat next to someone who could be the lovechild of Carrot Top and Casey Stengel.

You know the type. They talk incessantly, but make sense very rarely.

It was on a flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. I thought it was going to be a pleasure trip: see the Smithsonian, admire the classical architecture, shake my fist at Capitol Hill – all the usual stuff. Then I saw “him” trundling down the aisle of the Boeing 7-something-or-other jetliner.

“Uh oh” I said to myself. Why do bad things happen to, basically, nice guys?

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Connecting The Dots

Connect the dots

“IT MUST BE TWENTY YEARS AGO…” At my age most things are that, or more. Twenty years seems like the blinking of the proverbial eye.

1994? Why, I have stuff in the refrigerator older than that.  The old saying goes that “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Trust me – it flies even when you aren’t having fun. It just flies – faster with each passing year.

It seems that it was just the day before yesterday when I was in high school, but I attended my fiftieth class reunion this summer. When did I get old? Or was I always this age, but blind to it?

I’m not complaining mind you. I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for all the silicon in San Jose. I wouldn’t mind being thirty years old again though. At thirty you are still in relatively good shape physically, but you are a better judge as to how the world works.

Thirty for me was in 1976 – the American Bicentennial year. There were fabulous celebrations all over the country. Personally, I had purchased a house, had a great girl friend, and I was doing some fun stage work. I was also trying to care for my parents. I didn’t have many celebrations that year.

In 1976 my father was dying and my mother was lost in it all and neglecting her own heath, her diabetes. My father died a few days before Thanksgiving. He was 65.

The house became very quiet.

I was thirty.

The next two years are a blur. In those two years; I lost my job and got a new one, I watched my mother deteriorate until she needed care I could not give her, I saw the girl friend close her door, and I sold the house. It was a house that had never been more than a way station. It was never a home.

I was thirty. I felt ancient.

I sold the house and drove as far west as I could go without falling into the ocean. I knew no one, had no job, no address, and no possessions other than what was in the back of my car. I arrived in California the week before Christmas. On Christmas Day I went to the beach. I froze my ass off, but it was a symbolic gesture. Looking back I’m not sure what it symbolized, but it sure wasn’t practical.

I think that the human body plays tricks on us as we age. It tinkers with our memories. I can give you incredible details about what I did during those first few days in California, but I have to stop and think to tell you what I had for lunch yesterday. But, as I think about it now, yesterday’s lunch was not very memorable. Perhaps the body knows what it is doing: remember what is meaningful and just trash the other stuff.

As I look back on it, 1976 was not a very good year for me, but it was the kind of year that made the next two years possible, vital even. Without my 1976 the years that followed could very easily have made yesterday’s lunch into a memorable event. One dot pointed the way to the next one until the picture became clear.

Thank you for allowing me to wallow about in this puddle of personal nostalgia.

Now – Carry on and do something to make us all laugh.

Some Days I Just Slap Myself Silly

Aeroflot airplaneGETTING THROUGH LIFE, or more specifically, getting through the Holiday Season can be quite difficult for some people. It is a time when loneliness can become quite palpable. The longest night of the year comes right before Christmas.  People look back over the successes and failures in the year and in their life.

But for others this season is the best time of the entire year. Why is it so much better for some people than for others? I think it all has to do with Attitude. A person can be in the direst of circumstances and have a positive attitude that helps carry them through.

Let me tell you about such a person – a friend of mine.

When I was living in California I had the pleasure of meeting a young man named Ernesto. Ernesto always seemed to be happy and to exhibit a truly positive outlook. Ernesto was a refugee from Cuba.

I asked him to tell me his story.

In Cuba, Ernesto had been an English teacher. He taught classes in schools and to government workers who needed English fluency. Ernesto also wanted to leave Cuba and come to the United States, but he knew that he was considered too valuable to be permitted to emigrate. He didn’t give up his dream, he had a plan.

After having worked diligently for several years without a break Ernesto sought permission to take a vacation – perhaps a vacation overseas. His wish was granted. He was allowed to fly off on vacation to sunny and carefree Moscow, Russia. Not despairing, Ernesto packed his cold weather gear and took off.

He noticed that his flight had a brief stop-over in Sweden.

When his plane landed in Stockholm Ernesto got off the plane and immediately asked for political asylum. Sweden in winter is not exactly Malibu.

To get political asylum in Sweden is not a quick and easy thing. There had to be an investigation and hearings first. It would take time and in the meanwhile Ernesto was sent to a Swedish prison. He was held there for a year – with a cellmate – who was a triple murderer.

When I expressed shock at this Ernesto assured me that he felt quite safe – after all, his cellmate only killed members of his family, not strangers.

After a year’s worth of hearings to determine whether Ernesto could stay the Swedish government decided – No. Ernesto would have to go back to Cuba.

Ernesto pleaded his case again and, while not changing their verdict, the Swedes came up with a solution. When they shipped Ernesto back to Cuba, they put him on a flight that had a stop-over in Puerto Rico. They figured that since he had been able to slip off of the plane in Sweden he should be able to do it again in San Juan. Never giving up hope, when his flight touched down on U.S. soil, Ernesto again asked for political asylum. This time he was incarcerated for only six months while his case was investigated.

After planning for a number of years and being imprisoned for about 18 months in two different countries, Ernesto was, at last, admitted to the United States.

Ernesto said that he never gave up hope, despite every delay and uncertainty. He had his goal and he kept his positive attitude intact.

When I met Ernesto he had a steady job and, after less than five years in this country, he was buying a house.

Ernesto was an incredibly brave young man. He left everything and everyone in his life behind to pursue his dream. He had the best positive attitude toward life of anyone I’ve ever known.

Whenever I get down about anything in my life I think about Ernesto and I intellectually slap myself silly. No matter what I am facing it is NOTHING compared to what my friend Ernesto had to endure.

Have a good day and, when the world gets to you, remember Ernesto.

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