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

Archive for the month “October, 2020”

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln…

Seven score and fifteen years ago (that’s 1865 in case you don’t want to do the math) Abraham Lincoln had a bad experience at the theater. OK…so it was a bad night for Mrs. Lincoln too, but at least she got to sleep in her own bed that night.

It was not the best of marriages to be sure. He was rather busy with that war thing and Mary, from all reports, was very loosely wrapped. A nineteenth century Dr. Phil might have been helpful, but Abe was 6’4″ and Mary was 5’2″ and they just couldn’t ever see eye to eye.

They did get together on one thing however – having children. They had four sons. Unfortunately only one of them lived to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln. The family line continued with Robert’s children and does so until today. I know this because I stumbled across a little news item about  this fellow.

 His name is Ralph Lincoln, an 11th generation Lincoln and a third cousin of Abraham Lincoln. This split screen picture (that’s Ralph on the left) does show a bit of a family resemblance but I don’t know if I wholly believe this. After all there have been mornings when, before my coffee, I think that I look a bit like that guy from Game of Thrones.

      Me before my morning coffee

People are always trying to claim a connection to famous people. There have been any number of people who will swear on a stack of bibles that they are descendants of the last Czar of Russia (and therefore entitled to a piece of the action.) The British Royal Family is always having to deal with “relatives” who pop up on a regular basis wanting a Palace and a Title.  My favorite connection to fame has to be the Barack Obama Plaza truck  stop in Ireland. I’ve been there and it’s a good place to have lunch and top off your tank. Rubbing gas caps with the rich and famous.

Back to Ralph Lincoln…

In the exhaustive research that I’ve done on this story (all 7 minutes of it) I read somewhere that there are no direct descendants of Abe Lincoln still alive…so, this means that Ralph is an “Indirect” descendant. He claims to be a third cousin of the late President. My guess he is one of those cousins who have been removed once too often. As far as that goofy picture of Ralph alongside of Abe is concerned all you need to do is put on a scruffy beard together with a soulful look and my third cousin Margery would look like Honest Abe.

I don’t know for sure if Ralph Lincoln if actually related to Abraham Lincoln. If he is he certainly has the makings of a unique pick-up line. “Hi, there, Gorgeous. How about if I Proclaim your Emancipation?” Of course, if he is not really related to our 16th President the only advice I can give him (other than “Don’t forget to take your meds) is “Don’t go to the theater. It’s a trap!”

Abbey Lincoln: has never claimed to be a cousin of Abe Lincoln

 

As I Was Saying…

“Why use ten words when a hundred will do quite nicely, eh?”

Those words were spoken to me by my wife this morning. I had been trying to explain something to her. I was simply trying to make myself understood when she made the comment above. I must admit that her synopsis of my explanation, which took only twelve words, was perfectly accurate. Twelve words that clearly stated what I was halfway through page two with.

All I want is to make sure that both you and I understand fully whatever it is that I’m trying to say. I want there to be no ambiguity or confusion so I will present a complete explanation of all… OK, I’ll acknowledge that I do tend to ramble on.

I’m doing it right now aren’t I?

What can I say? I’m a fan of words. Language to me is a great and wonderful toy. On some occasions it is like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle that needs twisting and turning to find the solution. Other times the words, any words, are like a cryptic and mysterious code that makes no sense at all until you find the key, the right words to make it sing.

This is the reality whether you are writing Fiction or Nonfiction. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between them anyway. At least it is with me.

I started writing when i was just a kid. I’d started reading even earlier. At the age of six I had my own library card. Once I learned how to read the books in the “Children’s Room” I knew that I could write better ones. I found a collaborator (Marty who lived down the block) and we began cranking out Cowboy and Indian stories that we thought would take the world by storm.

We were wrong.

Like any writers, of any age, we were always looking for approval (Positive Reviews). Marty went to the public elementary school nearby. I went to St. Mary’s Catholic elementary school. What better places to find critics? Marty took our stories to his teacher. I took them to Sister Mary Butch.

Marty’s teacher thought that our stories were the best thing since School Lunch Macaroni and Cheese. She praised our efforts and encouraged us mightily.

Sister Mary Butch said that we were wasting our time and that we were both going to Hell.

Marty got support and encouragement. He grew up to be a Doctor. I was belittled and damned to eternal perdition. I’m still looking for a sympathetic critic who isn’t my wife. Thanks, Sister.

As a result of these early literary traumas I’m still writing. Behind me I have left a trail of Fiction, Nonfiction, Textbooks, Speeches, Five years worth of Blogging, Jokes for Comedians, and the odd Theatrical opus or two. All of it just because that nun didn’t recognize juvenile genius. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And so I keep writing.

I have a number of the proverbial Works In Progress stacked up awaiting editing, a second draft, or a future as kindling. I am determined to finish these stories, but I’ll tell you one thing – I’m not taking any of them over to Sister Mary Butch.

Cutting Remarks

 

“If you prick me do I not bleed?”

I have never seen the “Merchant of Venice,” but that line is part of a famous monologue from that Shakespearean play. It came into my mind recently when I went to get a haircut.

What with all of the disruptions to our lives this year the little things like haircuts have been few and far between. My last ride in the Barber’s Chair was in January of 2020. As I write this the calendar on the wall insists that today is September 9, 2020. That is a long time to go without getting a haircut.

I get haircuts not “Styling,” so I’m not terribly picky about where I get my hair cut. All I ask is that the person doing the cutting has been trained and that they listen to me. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

It was 10 AM when I trundled myself and my nine months worth of increasingly graying hair through the door of the franchise hair cutting place. I hesitate to call it a “Barber Shop.” There was no revolving barber pole by the door. There was no “Barber” in there, just a very nice young lady who looked about 12 years old to me. She was going to cut my hair. I’m sure she has never given anyone a shave…other than her own legs perhaps. I wasn’t there for that. It was my head or nothing.

Whenever I have a new person cutting my hair I always start by telling them that I have a bump on the back of my head. It’s not a tumor. It’s not going to explode. It’s not going to bleed unless you stab it (See quote at the beginning). It is just a reservoir of fat and miscellaneous tissue. My doctors have expressed no concern about it. The only uproar came a few years ago when a newbie haircutter freaked out in mid haircut.

But not today.

The 12 year old reminded me that she was the person who cut my hair in January. At least there would be no screaming today.

When I sat down in her chair she commented on the mountain of hair on my skull.

“Shall I just get out my Sheep Shears?”

“Ha…Ha…Ha”

Those Sheep Shears might have worked, but I didn’t want to get involved in all the wrestling on the floor I’ve seen in real sheep shearing.

That gal may have been younger than the shirt I was wearing, but she knew her way around a head. She had me shorn and shaped within fifteen minutes. It would have been quicker if I had not had ears that needed navigating around. Fifteen minutes (Van Gogh would have been done in half the time) after I sat down I was feeling the breeze for the first time in months.

 

I’ll tell you one thing – the next time there is a Pandemic around here I’m going to get my head shaved and start over from scratch.

A Little Face In The Crowd

I find that the older I get I spend more time, while sipping my coffee, thinking about my younger days. It doesn’t take much to get me wandering back to the days of my life when I lived in a narrow valley in Western Pennsylvania.

These days my time is filled with thoughts of hi-tech computers and low-tech viruses. Neither of these are the sort of things that make for lingering memories. The things that did, do, and will continue to generate memories involve the people I’ve known and the places I’ve been. Today and tomorrow interest me less than the thousands of my yesterdays.

When I woke up this morning and turned on the TV in the bedroom one of the first images I saw was of a classroom. It reminded me of one in the elementary school where I was introduced to the world outside of my family. St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School was already old when i was enrolled in 1952. The school was started in the 1870s.

I was born in 1946 smack in the middle of the first wave of the Post-War Baby Boom. The hundreds of thousands of soldiers returning home from the horror of World War Two were thankful to be alive and they celebrated by starting families. My father was too old to be taken into the military, but he  got caught up in the spirit of the day and there I was six years later sitting in a classroom alongside 59 other First Grade Boomers. I sat there with the others, all of us staring at Sister Avila standing by her desk in her black and white nun’s habit.

You read that right. There were 60 kids in my first grade classroom and there was another classroom just as full across the hall. We were packed into our rows of little wooden desks like sardines in a can.

And we learned.

We learned how to sit quietly with our hands neatly folded on the desktop. We learned to stand up every morning and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. We learned how to read. We learned how to write in cursive. We also learned how to get along with 59 other kids.

We learned how to be the good kids everyone expected us to be.

That expanding bubble of Baby Boom kids continued all through my school years and it is still there even now. Now, however, all of us who sat in that crowded first grade classroom are hitting 75 years of age. We are the Senior Citizens who are filling up the hospitals, nursing homes, and cemeteries.

Today the desks at St. Mary’s are occupied with a new generation born in this century. The classes are smaller now. There isn’t a rush to build new schools like there was in the 1950s. The old schools that had been filled to the walls with the sons and daughters of the returning veterans are being torn down and replaced with Health Clubs and Organic Food Stores.

My generation – The Baby Boomers are now fading from the scene. The nation’s population is still growing but at a slower pace. There might never be another classroom with 60 little kids squirming in their seats and practicing their penmanship. Today’s teachers are horrified when they are faced with more than twenty curious faces staring at them.

In 1952 our stern-faced nuns in black and white struggled through the turmoil and managed to have most of those 60 youngsters turn out just fine. If there was one most important thing we learned in those crowded classrooms it was how to work together and not be afraid to ask questions. Those skills have served us well over the years.

Thank you, Sister.

 

 

 

 

Old Dog … New Tricks

JUST BECAUSE I’m retired doesn’t mean that my brain is sitting on a shelf in a dusty glass jar labeled “Abnormal.” Far from it! I am always looking to add new skills – new arrows in my quiver if you will.

It has been almost eight months since some pesky virus I’ve been reading about began throwing monkey wrenches into everyone’s daily lives.

This stop at the Malfunction Junction in our lives has given me the opportunity to discover and master a new skill. It may be that a new avenue could be opening up before me because this Old Dog has learned a New Trick.

The reality is that we are all doing less out in the world and are relying on having the world shipped to us. We are getting groceries, clothing, books, cosmetics, medications, and some things that are none of your business, delivered right to our front door. Everything comes securely shipped in sturdy cardboard boxes.

I love unpacking all of our deliveries. It’s almost like Christmas Morning without the electric trains and the pine needles. I take the scissors and neatly cut the sealing tape, open up the flaps, and lift out our goodies. After that I set the empty cardboard boxes to the side, out of the way.

Aha!

It was on a day like that when the handsome young UPS guy stopped by our house so often that we considered adoption that we were faced with a pile of empty boxes. I spent a couple hours struggling with those boxes to get them crammed into our recycling bin. That was not a good solution to the growing population of boxes that were filling up the downstairs bathroom. They were coming in faster than I could get them out. This problem was going to require some thought.

I sat in the kitchen with a large box. There was not enough room for the both of us. One of us had to go. Finally, I saw the solution in front of me. I began to tear the blasted box to pieces. I was stronger

than the box and in less than a minute I had that humungous container reduced to a neat little stack of cardboard pieces no bigger than the crock pot. I was deliriously happy. I knew how Einstein must have felt when he realized the “E” did, in fact, equal “MC².”

It didn’t take me very long to get into a destructive groove and those boxes were disappearing faster than taxis in a thunderstorm. I was disassembling the boxes like a tornado going through a trailer park. That Recycling bin in the back yard was taking all I could give it with room to spare.

I am living proof that “Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks.”

I can already roll over, heel, stay, and sit up and beg. Now I can add “Knows how to destroy cardboard boxes.”

It may not be much, but it’s better than nothing.

Isn’t it?

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